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.


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.

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.

Top Ranch Pen Posts 2016 #3


image via thegraphicsfairy.com

This post entitled Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Hey!What’re You Doing to My Tractor? is the third most viewed post at the Ranch Pen and has made it into the top five thrice in the past four years. (Since reading a book entitled The Adventure of English-The Biography of a Language by Melvyn Bragg, I–and anyone who would feel compelled to mess with Mr. Longfellow’s poetry–feel that “thrice” is a more interesting choice than “three times”.)

Anyway, I have no idea why the post garners its views, but the pictures are hysterically funny (unless any of those machines belong to you, in which case, you are still real mad) and the snatch of original Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poetry is very fine. Without further ado, here’s the old cream-puff.



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?



As always, thanks so much for reading. Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy The Gardiner Sisters with one of my all time favorite carols, Angels We Have Heard on High.

Green People At The Ranch Pen

Wind Tower

Since a lot of people are getting geared up for Earth Day, today is a re-post of one I did in 2013.


Contrary to what some in today’s media would have everyone believe, farmers and ranchers are not out to destroy the planet. We are the original earth people. Why? Because we make our living from…well, the earth, and we’d be the first ones to go down if we crashed the planet.

From time to time, Gramps and I might feel some annoyance with militant animal rights groups who make the difficult job of feeding the world even harder for livestock producers, but we’re actually very green out here in southwestern Oklahoma, living as we do in the midst of a wind farm.

The Rocky Ridge Wind Project has 93 turbines spread across about 18,000 acres, and it produces enough power for about 40,000 homes, harnessing our biggest resource out here–the wind.

However, like most concerned green people, I’m worried about the number of birds those massive wind turbine blades strike down. Our granddaughter, Blondie, and I sat out to investigate one day last week.

I am presently unmounted since I wrecked my horse–or he wrecked me, more accurately–but Gramps rides a Cat, so we hopped on it.

K On Four Wheeler

We visited several turbines and found no dead birds–not even love birds which was what Gramps was most worried about–but we scared up several large flocks of blackbirds, took note of happy meadowlark pairs, and even spotted a hawk cruising around. (On a sad, but related, note–there was a pile of scattered feathers in the yard of our house where a cat or dog had feasted in the past.)

These turbines are about 300' tall.

These turbines are about 300′ tall.

For those of you who wonder about the sound these turbines makes, I’ve included a short video.

The closest turbines to our house are a mile-and-a-half away, so I don’t mind them too much. The sun flashing off the blades as they turn is slightly hypnotic and they generate some badly needed revenue in our rural counties. The part I dislike most is the blinking red lights on top of the towers at night. Very distracting.

In conclusion, Blondie and I discovered Southwest Oklahoma birds are not dumb enough to let wind turbine blades cut them down, but they often cannot outsmart cats.

But What Do Y’all Think?

  • Would you like to live in a wind farm project?
  • Do blinking red lights distract you when you’re looking at the stars? (And…um…have you ever mistaken them for the mother ship’s landing lights? Just curious, because the other night–I mean… Oh, well. Never mind.)
  • Are all birds dumb, or just the…er…endangered ones?



Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy Tenore doing This Is My Father’s World.

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.

Top Ranch Pen Posts 2015 #4

Surprisingly enough–thanks to someone sharing it on Facebook–#4 of the years’ most viewed posts  is from a few years back. It is a tribute to my late father-in-law–the most aggravating man who ever lived–and could probably be a study on the complicated dynamics of father and daughter-in-law relationships. I certainly never would’ve guessed I’d miss the old feller every day of my life.

Anyway, I hope y’all enjoy the re-run.



Earnest and Tucker

My father-in-law, Earnest, was a farmer, and one of the most aggravating men who ever lived.

Earnest was born during the 1930’s Depression and Oklahoma Dust Bowl into a family of impoverished sharecroppers. His dad supplemented farming by working as a carpenter and on road crews to feed his family, but he didn’t get any richer. When Earnest was thirteen-years-old his dad got sick, so he left school to take his father’s place making a living for his four younger siblings. He hired out as a farm laborer, even plowing behind mules at times.

Along the way, my father-in-law learned other trades, including carpentry, which paid the bills much better than sharecropping. He married and had kids and lived his life, but he loved farming more than anything. He nearly bled red Oklahoma dirt. Finally, in his fifties, he got back into farming with some old machinery and a quarter-section of land (160 acres) on which he grew wheat and cotton. He ran cattle on other pieces of rented pasture and he was as happy as a king with a mighty kingdom.

Earnest was stringy and tough, with a work ethic almost unknown today. He was a gifted carpenter and cabinet maker. He actually believed the Bible as it is written, considering the commandments to be…well, commandments…not suggestions. He was violently honest, as in: “Yes, I do, too, owe you this penny. You can either take it, or have it for dinner, but I’m not gonna owe nobody nothin’.” He loved to tease and he laughed uproariously at his own jokes. He loved his family more than his life. He’d give anybody the shirt off his back.

He would’ve taken a bullet for me–his daughter-in-law–without hesitation. Still, he was one of the most aggravating men I knew.

He called me Snooks. (Imagine. Even today, my sons call me Snooks and snicker.) He stuck his nose in my business and made suggestions. He tried to sneak money to me–or even pay our bills sometimes–when he thought we were in a bind. He teased me when I had unfortunate mishaps with my cooking and many other things. He slipped his three grandsons candy, or coffee, or whatever they wanted. He gave me nutritional advice–he who ate sausage biscuits every morning at the gas station.

The two of us used to have heated political debates. An especially lively one was about Ross Perot. If you are less than forty-years-old, you probably have no idea who Ross Perot was, but if you are over forty and a Republican, you remember he was the little guy with big ears and a bigger mouth who got Bill Clinton elected instead of George W Bush’s old man, George H W Bush. I tried to tell Earnest he was throwing his vote away on Ross Perot, but once he got something stuck in his head, he’d waller it into the ground.

Technology baffled my father-in-law. The first cell phone he bought in 1998 took all my patience to watch him try to get it hauled out of the front pocket of his bib overalls, flip it open, and try to figure out how to answer. Every time. I mean, he wasn’t trying to de-fuse a bomb, or anything, was he? And then he yelled into the device like the person he spoke to was across the seas.

As someone who had plowed behind mules and worked on a harvest crew–using open topped combines and moving wheat with shovels instead of power augers–a combine like ours (below), was a marvel for him to behold. He’d go on and on about Gramps’ and my marvelous farming equipment, while to me, we owned aging pieces of junk that cost us a fortune in repair bills.

Summer 2012 545

The most aggravating thing my father-in-law did, however–hands down–was sometimes when I’d stagger out of the bedroom about daylight, he would be sitting on the couch reading the High Plains Journal. He’d look at me in all my affronted glory and make some remark about me sleepin’ all day. Then he’d laugh his head off, tickled to death. Very, very annoying.

The years passed and I was busy. I couldn’t pay attention to him all the time. Besides, aggravating old farmers tend to live forever, don’t they?

I don’t remember when he stopped teasing and laughing. When he lost interest in his cattle and how the cotton crop was shaping up. When he stopped sitting on our couch at daylight. Just, somewhere along the way, he gradually turned into a dried up old man who wasn’t happy anymore. I wasn’t wise enough then to see the agricultural, social, and technological revolutions he’d lived through in his lifetime had left him behind. Confused and alienated, he longed for a simpler time.

He died in 2004, but if he’d lived he would’ve been eighty-years-old last Sunday. And y’all want to know the strangest thing about that aggravating old farmer and me?

He gave me many of the best parts of my life–and now that it’s too late–I’d give everything I own to walk out of the bedroom about daylight some morning and find him sitting on my couch again.


Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy this super catchy take the Rend Collective lays on Hark the Herald Angels Sing (or Hark the Hairy Angels Sing as my boys used to call it.)


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.