Two Dog Nights Again At The Ranch Pen

As I mentioned a while back, our beautiful dog Nellie was ravished by a nincompoop and had puppies in a den she dug beneath a trailer top set four inches off the ground. (below)

We couldn’t see the puppies for several weeks, but then I thought–in my wishful way–I could detect four little heads back there in the dark den. The grandkids thought perhaps five. When the pups were about a month old they tottered into daylight. (below)


first glimpse of Nellie’s puppies

It turned out we had underestimated. Seven puppies crawled out of the den. The next week they looked like this:

And then like this:

Pretty soon we had this:

Blondie in puppy love

Then we had this:

And poor Nellie looked like this:

Nellie was a super-good mama dog, but her puppies were sucking the juices from her body, leaving her a shriveled up old hag before her time. They were also putting a big hole in Gramps’ pocketbook, taking down bag after bag of dog food. As for careworn ol’ Danni–who didn’t want to do a Cruella DeVil and make coats out of Nellie and Nincompoop’s puppies–the pups weighed heavily upon her heart. How would she find good homes for so many chow hounds? So, she did what she does and got busy praying.

As a result, the next week when the puppies were eight weeks old, the grandkids found homes for three of them with cattlemen attending the livestock auction, a friend adopted two of them, and then two young dads took the last two pups for their kids. I feel confident all went to good homes and that is much to be thankful for. 

Trace and Nellie, all the dogs a person could wish for

Trace and relieved Nellie, all the good ol’ dogs Gramps and Danni need

Thanks so much for reading. God bless all y’all and enjoy Matt Maher and his friends tearin’ up All the People Said Amen.

A Budding Young Novelist At The Ranch Pen

Einstein, the author

Einstein, the author


Today, I’m pleased to announce my collaboration with a budding young novelist on his first book, The Squirrel’s Happy Day. The novelist, our five-year-old grandson, Einstein, is a young man his gramps has likened to “a bagful of bobcats”, so his whacking out an illustrated book, the companion audiobook, and an interview with the author–all before lunchtime–was a breeze.

As most novelists have experienced, Einstein’s story started out about one thing–the evil horse named Vader–but changed in mid-stream to accommodate a different and better protagonist, Chippy the Squirrel. Einstein took this developement in his nimble-witted stride and just went with his gut. The result is fabulous and Einstein has left his options open for a series of tales about Chippy.

*Mistakes in the text are solely those of Einstein’s scribe, Danni.

Without further ado, I present The Squirrels’ Happy Day followed by an interview with the author.

Vader the Evil Horse

Vader the Evil Horse

Chippy and his father, Eye-Socket

Chippy and his father, Eye-Socket with their knives

Chippy's mother, Darlene, and the evil shark, Maul

The evil horse, Vader, plotting with Maul and the evil pig, Kyle Rent

The evil horse, Vader–with a slight anatomical peculiarity–plotting with Maul and the evil pig, Kyle Rent

Chippy's father, Eye-Socket, in his super powers lab

Chippy’s father, Eye-Socket, in his super powers lab

Chippy fights Maul the shark/bear

Chippy blasting away, Vader and Kyle Rent running away extremely fast

Chippy blasting away, Vader and Kyle Rent running away extremely fast

Victorious Chippy all grown up with a mustache

Victorious Chippy all grown up with a mustache. The End


Interview with the author, Einstein McGrifith.

Danni: Okay, we’re here today with Einstein who has written a fabulous book, The Squirrels’ Happy Day. How did you get the idea for this story, Einstein?

Einstein: Well…We had a pet squirrel before and one day, he came to our house and gathered nuts…a lot. One day, we moved to another house and we didn’t get to see him, so…

Danni: You always remembered that squirrel, didn’t you? Did it have a name?

Einstein: Fred

Danni: You changed his name to Chippy in the story, didn’t you?

Einstein: Yes

Danni: Well, that’s very cool. Do you have plans to write more stories about Chippy in the future?

Einstein: Yes

Danni: Do you have any idea what your second book in the Chippy series might be about?

Einstein: A book where Chippy is protecting his family from hunters.

Danni: So, it’s gonna be more geared towards human hunters rather than the evil types of animals that were in your first story?

Einstein: Yes.

Danni: Will Vader be in your second story?

Einstein: No.

Danni: Did Vader and Kyle Rent survive the battle, or did they crawl off to die?

Einstein: They came to a hill and used it as a camp. Hunters found them and hunted them down.

Danni: Oh, so, they actually aren’t a threat to the squirrels anymore?

Einstein: No.

Danni: It’s these hunters that turn on the squirrels, now?

Einstein: Yes.

Danni: Well, Einstein, it’s been a pleasure to visit with you today and I was really happy to collaborate with you on your book and write your words down. I thought your pictures were amazing…I really did. I think that I’ll keep them forever.


Let me just mention here that Einstein’s interview was truly a pleasure. He was extremely professional and heart-breakingly sweet.

As always, thank you so much for reading. If you want to encourage Einstein in the comments, I will pass them along to him. Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy the Oak Ridge Boys singing Thank God For Kids.


Stuffed Animal Thighs At The Ranch Pen

Most of us ladies worry about stuffed animal thighs at one time or other, particularly in January, but imagine my surprise when one 70* mid-winter day last week I learned our five-year-old grandson is well on the way to a troubled future with the blasted things.

The niece TL’s sow, Petunia, has a new litter of piglets (below), so last week when the grandkids Blondie and Git’R’Done were hanging out with me I decided–as a treat–we would walk the mile down the road to check out the new babies.

Following, is a close approximation of how that all went down.

Danni: Hey, grandkids, let’s walk down to Aunt Sis’s and check out the baby pigs!

Blondie: (smiles) Yay!

Git’R’Done: (infused genetically with his gramps’ abhorrence of walking anywhere he could drive instead, clutches head and reels around like he’s been shot through the heart with bad news) Augh! Why do we have to walk? Can’t we drive?

Danni: No. It’ll be fun. It’s a beautiful day. You’ve been cooped up inside. You look like a mushroom. It’ll be good for you.

Blondie: C’mon, Git’R’Done, don’t be such a baby.

Git’R’Done: (Puts on the horse-riding helmet for unknown reason) Augh! Aww!  Why? Oh, man…

Git’R’Done in the riding helmet, playing with some furry friends

Danni: Your head’s gonna get hot in that helmet then you’re gonna want to take it off and I’m not carrying it for you.

Git’R’Done: (Still reeling) Augh! etc…

We set off in the beautiful sunshine, Blondie and I chatting about many pleasant things.

Git’R’Done: Aww! I’m tired. My legs hurt. My feet are tired. I’m hot. I’m hungry. Are we almost there? (he’s stumbling along with his helmet over his face, now, because his head is sweltering) Nana, can you carry my helmet?

Danni: No.

Blondie: (whirling upon her brother) Git’R’Done, do you wanna have stuffed animal thighs? Do you?

Git’R’Done: I wish I had a motorcycle to ride.

Blondie: (Rolls eyes) Don’t be such a wimp. I’ve got steel thighs. I walk up hills. I ride my bike up hills. Skate up hills. You drive me batty.

Git’R’Done:  (removes helmet from face and takes a swing at sister with it) You’re a sizzling sausage!

Blondie: At least, I don’t have stuffed animal thighs.

Git’R’Done:  Sizzling sausage! Sizzling sausage…

The whole story ends in anti-climax. The nieces, JA and TL, drove up and offered us a ride home. Git’R’Done quickly crammed his helmet back on and hopped in with them before we could remind him he was just making his thigh problem worse. We set off for home,  abandoning the piglet expedition without a blink. We were sizzled sausages. None of us got grit in our gizzards, or steel in our thighs. We did not see the new piglets.

(I did, however, laugh a lot.)

As always, thank you for reading. Until next time, God bless all y’all and while you enjoy Rend Collective tearin’ up  Joy of the Lord, hop and jump around. C’mon! Get rid of those stuffed animal thighs.



Loving’ Me Some Technology At The Ranch Pen

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 2.36.07 PM

We love technology here at the Ranch Pen about as much as Kip of the Napoleon Dynamite movie, so when a few weeks ago on a cold Saturday afternoon my sister called asking if I wanted the link to a live video feed of a friend who was competing in the final round of a colt starting challenge in Nevada, I said, why not? Even though my sister and I are middle-aged, ultra-conservative Christian ladies, we are really with it technologically speaking. Why not put that to work for us on a cold afternoon and cheer on our young friend in his horse training endeavors from the comfort of our homes? It would be almost as good as actually being there in the stands.

I got signed up and settled in to watch on the computer where the live feed’s camera was trained on the exact center of the indoor arena. Nothing was happening, even though it was past time for the start. I didn’t give up, however. I’m familiar with country folks and our concept of time, and figured the camera guy had got held up shooting the bull with somebody. I went and fixed myself a cup of tea and settled in again. Still nothing but a narrow view of the empty arena. I texted my sister.

Danni: Hey, I’m not getting anything. Are you?

(Event starts about then. We think. But it’s hard to say since the camera is fixed in the middle of the arena and the competitors are evidently to one side getting introduced.)

Sis: What a lame-o video

Danni: might be awesome if they actually focused it and etc. Is our friend in it?

Sis: He’ll be going last since he’s in the lead

Danni: I only saw a few old guts getting introduced  (my phone corrected guys to guts.)

(First gut guy goes. From what we can see, he and his horse are pretty impressive.)

Danni: Wow. The horses only have 2 1/2 hrs work on them?

Sis: Yes. Pretty amazing

Danni: Yeah. I could do that if I didn’t fall off (horses) so much

(time passing. The competitor briefly flashes across the center of the arena)

Danni: Worst video ever

Sis: Gah!!

Danni: Augh…

Sis: Quick!!! Look! Whoops, too late. You missed him

(Time passes. We talk about other stuff.)

Danni: Did any gals get through to the finals?

Sis: No

Danni: I wonder if any gals make it through–hey! this guys in plain view!

Sis: They should hire a lady to run the video department

Danni: No kidding. Even I could’ve done better than this with my iPhone. Surely someone in the crowd has an ol’ iPhone

Sis: You’d think

Danni: Tell me if you detect our friend at any point

Sis: 10-4, good buddy

Danni: That’s a pretty nifty little roan I love blue roans.

Sis: Meh, I’ve seen better. Hahaha

Danni: Is this guy number 2?

Sis: I dunno. can’t understand hardly anything they’re saying.

Danni: They are speaking in ancient Egyptian. Maybe that horse is red. The video quality is as bad as the sound

Sis: Hahaha

(Time passing. twiddling thumbs)

Danni: Where’s the action?

Sis: On either side out of our line of vision is a tarp they have to step on, and over, and planks they have to cross. it’s a good thing we have imagination

Danni: It comes in handy at times like this

Sis: Also a small log they have to pull

Danni: I hope our friend wins or I will feel slightly ridiculous

Sis: This is a ripoff

Danni: Ok here we go! Got a picture of August on a horse

Oh. Never mind

Sis: Who in hooey is August?

Danni: Oh for pity’s sake. A GUY on a horse is what I was trying to say but the phone corrected me and besides that moment has long passed

(The competitor #3, or so, has disappeared beyond the camera view. Again we have an empty arena and garbled talking, but we are still hopeful to glimpse our friend eventually.)

Sis: Does your lame-o video go to commercials at maybe exciting times?

Danni: It’s hard to say, but I believe so. My live stream is junk as well

Sis: 😂😂😂


Danni: Who’s this guy? I had to restart (My stream kept freezing and needing lengthy restarts)

Sis: I think I might have been happier never knowing about this live feed

Danni: I need to check and see if the person in charge is an Okie. This is pure okie

(Lots of time passing, brief glimpses of competitors, garbled sound)

Sis: So far we’ve used up 2 hours that I will not get to live again, and ate almost 2 bags of a few chips.😳 (I crossed out the quantity of chips Sis consumed because I would’ve wanted her to do that for me.) 

Sis: This should be our friend (At last!)

Danni: Ok I’m all ears.…Seriously?!I get a glimpse on occasion but the sound is just garbage Ack! You’ve gotta be Kidding me! A commercial?!

Sis: Bwah What good??😩 We had to restart

Danni: Augh!

During that last, mad scramble, between the restart and the commercial, Sis and I managed to sorta see approximately thirty seconds (not the same thirty seconds) of our friend’s ride. But, hey…if not for technology, we would’ve missed it!

Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy The Isaacs tearin’ up Daniel Prayed.

*The text conversation was edited a little to provide clarity, cut out boring stuff, and protect the innocent.

**Our friend placed second out of the top colt starting dudes in the US





Not So Much Brain As Ear Wax At The Ranch Pen

Shakespearean insults and tea, anyone?

Shakespearean insults and tea, anyone?

As a tea drinker, I am all about just-right mugs, so imagine my delight when my nice sister-in-law gave me an amazon card for Christmas to spend in any way I pleased. I, of course, immediately purchased this Shakespearean insults mug, which allows me to chortle as I sip tea and plan ways to insert some of these beauties into casual conversations, arguments, letters to the president and congress, and my books.

At any rate, since my “mountain of mad flesh” is under the weather this week and I am “not so much brain as ear wax” I’ll just share these twenty-eight zingers. They’re all priceless, but my favorites are in bold.


  • Mountain of mad flesh
  • Light of brain
  • Bolting-hutch of beastliness
  • Not so much brain as ear wax
  • long-tongu’d babbling gossip
  • Thou art a boil, a plague sore
  • Veriest varlet that ever chewed with a tooth
  • I do desire we may be better strangers
  • You Rampallian! You Fustilarian!
  • Lump of foul deformity
  • Highly fed and lowly taught
  • All eyes and no sight
  • All the infections that the sun sucks up
  • Elvish-mark’d abortive, rooting hog
  • Foot-licker
  • Infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise breaker
  • O gull, O dolt, as ignorant as dirt
  • Clod of wayward marl
  • False of heart, light of ear, bloody of hand
  • Roast-meat for worms
  • Anointed sovereign of sighs and groans
  • Lewdly inclin’d
  • The soul of this man is his clothes
  • Quintessence of dust
  • Canker-blossom
  • Poisonous bunch-back’d toad
  • A fusty nut with no kernel
  • Beetle-headed, flap-eared knave

Isn’t that last one great?  I shall try it on Gramps someday.  “Why hast thou tracked through the cow pen and onto my clean floor again, thou beetle-headed, flap-eared knave?” I shall screech. Ha. We’ll see what he has to say to that.

If you have a favorite, go ahead and post it in the comments. Until next time, God bless all y’all and lest I get too carried away flinging around my Shakespearean insults, maybe I’d better end with this Phillips, Craig, and Dean song, Let My Words Be Few.

Never Too Late For Black Eyed Peas At The Ranch Pen

Nellie, portrait of a new mom

For the first Ranch Pen post of 2016, I’ve got great news. Just before Christmas, our border collie, Nellie, gave birth to her puppies in the dumbest spot ever, a den she dug under an old trailer top in the garden which sits FOUR INCHES OFF THE GROUND. Previous to the birth, the fit was so tight, she got stuck. After she finally managed to squeeze out, I blocked the entrance of her prospective birthing site with rolls of barbed wire secured by fence posts. Surely, that would force her to use her nice, roomy, warm doghouse for her maternal nest? Wrong. Somehow, she nosed the barbed wire and posts aside and continued her swell plan. Lying on her side, she clawed her way ten feet into the darkness where she had–I make it four, the grandkids make it five–puppies. However, we won’t know for sure until they appear at the mouth of the den on their own. At present, we can hear them grunting fatly and since Nellie scrapes out of her chosen home looking haggard and careworn, I assume she is mothering the little fellows in her addled way.

The den entrance where we will meet Nellie’s puppies in a few weeks, or a month

Granddaughters Ladybug and Blondie, and grandsons Roper and Git’R’Done

Christmastime brought grandkids for cookie making, and Son #3’s family came home for Christmas week. We had a blast. Christmas morning is so much better with kids in the house. Usually, it’s just Gramps and me.

Gramps on typical Christmas: (yawning) Thanks for the socks. I was needing some.

Danni: Yeah. Thanks for the gift card. I told you not to buy me anything.

Gramps: Ha. You didn’t actually think I’d make that mistake again, did you…?

This year was great, though. We woke to the grandson, Einstein, flinging open the bedroom door with a jolly, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” A few minutes later, the youngest grandson, Tater, took down a plastic candy cane full of Skittles and washed it down with Mountain Dew. The soda was the kind made from pure cane sugar instead of corn syrup, so we counted it as a health drink of sorts. It certainly seemed to give Tater an energy boost.



Later, while the daughters-in-law cooked Christmas dinner, three of the the grandson’s and I loaded up the BB guns and went rabbit hunting–the perfect arrangement since I do like to be outside with grandkids and I don’t like to cook.

Einstein, Kevman, and Roper examining a mysterious kill

Later that weekend, we got another storm even though we had barely finished cleaning up from the ice storm on Thanksgiving weekend. First, lots of rain, then an inch or so of freezing rain, then a blizzard with sustained high winds then another inch or so of freezing rain atop all that like frosting on top of our proverbial cupcake.  We lost our power again like we did during the Thanksgiving ice storm, but this time the problem was so widespread across the southern plains that the electric company told us it’d be two-three weeks before we got back online. Gramps hauled out the old generator once more and we were functional. But imagine our happiness when only five days later our juice was back on! Bliss. Our linemen are awesome. All us country ladies love those guys that get out there and work in truly wretched conditions to get us powered up again. Just for kicks, here’s a link to Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman which was one of my favorite songs when I was a girl. (Hm. Could that explain why I want to weep with joy when the lights come back on, and give the linemen cookies, and hug them, too?)

Gramps and Son #2 couldn’t get to some of the farms for several days because of drifts across the roadways, but all our cattle weathered the blizzard all right because they had windbreaks or shelter of some sort. Below, our other dog, Trace, (happily NOT the father of Nellie’s pups,) is waiting in vain for traffic to chase.

Snowdrifts completely filled portions of the horse pen, leaving the fences buried.

Frisco on a five foot drift

The grandkids’ pony, Frisco, on a five foot drift

My mare, Sis, considering escape

My mare, Sis, considers making a break for it

An oddity of ice

By New Years Eve Gramps had gotten us dug out, so as devout, ultra-conservative Christians, we headed for the bright lights of our church gathering and gorged ourselves at the snack table, washing our gluttony down with soft drinks and water. We joined our rowdy friends in raucous laughter amongst the puzzle-putting-together table, the intense Phase Ten (I believe) game, and the kids having a rousing snowball fight outside. After that, exhausted by our surfeiting, Gramps and I left our party and reeled home at 9:30 p.m. where we fell into bed and promptly zonked, seeing in the new year from the insides of our eyelids.

By dawn on New Years Day 2016, Gramps and I had pretty much recovered from the toll our New Years Eve festivities had taken on us, and we went back to work, making no particular concessions to the date except we took down a can of black eyed peas with our supper in the time-honored southern tradition of eating the nasty things for good luck. Last year I think we forgot, which might explain a few things. Anyway, we should be set to tackle 2016, now, and remember, it’s never too late to eat black eyed peas. They are seriously nutritious and if you add a nice ham bone and some cornbread, they’re actually fairly tasty.

Until next time, God bless all y’all in 2016 and enjoy Southern Raised doing an awesome job on I’ll Have a New Life.


Rough Drafts At The Ranch Pen


by EK Johnson

by EK Johnson

Danni whacking out a rough draft

There is an event for writers each November called NaNoWriMo  in which participants on Nov. 1, begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. I had planned to try that last November, but a drunk driver crashed into my son’s pickup at 85 mph+, disrupting many plans. (If you know anyone who drives drunk, do whatever it takes to stop them–the lives they ruin may be more than just their own.)

At any rate, nearly a year has passed and I’m gearing up to try NaNo again. My plan is to whack out the rough draft of the sequel to Agnes Campbell’s Hat while continuing to work on the third book in the Love Is Not Enough Series and do a bunch of other stuff, too.

Agnes Campbell’s Hat is aimed at younger readers who read books in the 35,000 word range, so depending on how the drafting process goes, I may not need to write the entire 50,000 words.

Unfortunately, I’m not hopeful. My rough drafts usually go something like this:

Melba runs into the tootntotem store. Harold I think I just saw that guy with the gun (the small mustachioed man with the orange hat?)

Harold is at chip display (pork rinds?) sullen look.

Why are you just standing there, Harold? Chop, chop. (is she trying to figure out why Harold’s mad? Argument over cracked iPhone screen again? Losing the dog?) (Look up what kind of dog from last book) What’s your problem Harold? Did u not sleep again?

Not after you dug your toe into my shin at three o’clock.

Melba stares. What’s he talking about?

You  woke me up doin’ this–Harold makes grinding toe motion–on my leg. Figured I was breathin on you or something. only got two or three minutes sleep after that.

Melba: Dug into you with my toe? (Is he kidding? The guy with toenails like daggers?)  I know nothing of this so called toe incident, Harold. Do you seriously think I wouldn’t just–makes jabbing elbow motion–and tell you to quit breathing on me?

Harold scowls? You got up and went to the bathroom after that.

Well, the clues are really falling into place, now, Harold. sarcastic You know what this reminds me of? That time I was talking in my sleep*–Melba looks over his shoulder at small guy holding gun coming out bathroom? Harold duck, she yells

Then the poison dart hits her in the forehead? Harold thinks, serves her right now she knows how I feel after toe incident?

What if the gunman rips off his hat and he’s a woman with a mustache? Real? fake? Harold suddenly remembers a recurring nightmare about a man with a little mustache? His mother? Did they think she died a long time ago from the freak farm accident? begins to suspect he was adopted?

What does Harold actually need in scene? Resolution from pain of his past? New cell phone so he catches podcast about missing mob boss for next chapter? Just pork rinds? 

And, on and on.

*Parts of Harold and Melba’s conversation may, or may not, have actually occurred one morning before breakfast. Some names may have been changed to protect the guilty.

I might not have many brain cells left for blogging in November, but we’ll see how it goes. As always, thank you so much for reading what I write. Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy Phillips, Craig & Dean doing You Are God Alone.