Hazel And Ima Hogg Visit The Ranch Pen

image via youstabemweslabem funeral emporiums serving Southwest Oklahoma for a number of years now

image via U Stab Em We Slab Em Funeral Emporium serving Southwest Oklahoma for a number of years now. Member FDIC and AARP

Well, we’re kind of in mourning here at the Ranch Pen since ol’ Danni is turning fifty-years-old. I thought I might have some pearls of wisdom to impart after fifty years of bumpy roads, so I sat down to stroke my chin whisker and think.


Hmm. Waiting…

How did that whisker get so long already? I just plucked it three days ago.


Nope. Nothing. The older I get, the less I know.

HOWEVER, I’ve got a real treat for y’all–an interview with our very close neighbors, twin sisters Hazel and Ima Hogg. These precious ladies were early pioneers of the area and where I couldn’t think of a single worthwhile gem to share about my half-century of living, the Hoggs were actually eager to speak with me about life, love, and hard times.

Hazel, a large, somewhat intimidating woman, greeted me at the door of the humble home she shares with her sister, Ima, and their dogs, Tinkle and Sprinkle.


Hazel Hogg

Hazel told me in her brusque way to wait on the porch and went inside muttering something about Ima being late to her own funeral. The temperature was 102* on the shady porch, but I didn’t mind as I made friends with the Hoggs’ two delightful dogs.





Hazel returned and offered me a glass of sweet tea in her brusque way.


She hollered at Ima to get her lazy bones out there then told me we’d sit outside on the porch where it was cool. Ima, a tiny woman with a fade-away voice, eventually showed up, waving a paper and apologizing profusely that she had been so long trying to find the card the sweet people at the AARP had sent her earlier that day to celebrate her fiftieth birthday.


Ima seemed to be looking forward to her free travel bag and balloons if she replied by September fourth of the year, but when I snuck a peek at Hazel, I could plainly see she didn’t feel quite the same.

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Hazel Hogg at her we-are-not-amused-by-the-twits-at-AARP best

(Hazel really is a most intimidating woman. She is from old stock and hasn’t backed up from nothin’ since she was born in the last century. I will definitely tread lightly.) I took a gulp of sweet tea even though I prefer plain and cleared my throat.

Danni: Well, as you know, I’m interviewing you ladies as wise, old pioneers of the area and I’d like to start off by asking how you found life on the farm back in the early days?

Ima Hogg: Honey, it was hard. It just was. It was hard. Heat, dust, bugs. You name it.

Ima Hogg reminiscing

Ima Hogg reminiscing about the hard early days

Hazel Hogg: (snorts)

Ima Hogg: Well, it was, Hazel! It was. You know it was. Not ever last soul’s a strappin’ girl like you. I had trouble wrastlin’ them gears in that old Steiger tractor. You know I did. I got this one big shoulder, y’know.

Danni: Er…okay. (Maybe I’d better get the twins off the subject. I catch a glimpse of a man lurking in the yard) Did y’all know there is a man lurking in your yard?

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unknown lurking man

Hazel: (looks up and actually blushes)



Hazel upon seeing lurking man

Danni: Who is he?

Hazel: (titters) He’s an old coot is who he is. Been trying’ to run him off for years.

Danni: Uh…Hazel, I think he’s winking at you.


I happened to catch a glimpse of Ima, then, with her one big ear, super-sized shoulder,  and her eyes full of heartache, longing, and pain.


Ima: His name is Tuff Grampsi. (she said Grampsi’s name softly quivering with a catch in her voice like she…was in love with him. Well, well. What have we here…a love triangle?)

Danni: Do you want to talk about it, Ima?

Ima: (tears trickling down her face, crying so hard I can barely understand her) I don’t think I could say a word about it, honey. Not on my birthday. But it’s hard. It just is. Watchin’ him wink at Hazel like that. Seein’ her so happy. I’ve prayed and prayed he’ll wink at me, but he never has. Not once. It’s hard. It just is. Soon’s my AARP and travel bag get here in the mailbox, I’m gonna hit the road on my horse…see the world. Try to plug up this achin’ hole in my heart. Keep it from bleedin’ me to death like a stuck hog. I cain’t take it anymore. But Tuff’s such a fine figure of a man I doubt I’ll be able to forget him for a minute. He’s just there, like a knife in my poor ol’ heart. I’ve just loved him near all my life, honey. Practically worship the ground he treads in them ol’ boots of his. Oh, just look at him, now. A winkin’ and a winkin’ at Hazel. He cain’t see nobody but her. Oh, lands sakes, look at her. Smilin’ at him and gigglin’. She just leads him on that-away. Always been a big ol’ tease. Always overshadered me. It’s hard, honey. It is. It’s just hard.

Danni: (still in shock at one of the revelations) You ride a horse?

Ima: (perks up) Oh my, yes, honey. It’s hard, but when I can stay on one, I ride. Come on and let me show you my purty girl.

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Danni: (unable to see how Ima could possible keep her saddle from ending up around her horse’s ears) Well…uh…your horse is a beautiful color. And who’s little guy is this?

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Ima: (sniffs and points toward Tuff Grampsi still lurking around Hazel) Oh, that’s Tuff’s horse. He’s proud as if he had good sense of that lil ol’ midgit. Rides him over here to see Hazel might near ever day. Matter of fact, we’d best get back to the house and not leave them two alone. He’s liable to try to hold her hand.

(What does Grampsi feed his horse…rocks?)

We hurried back to the house, but Tuff Grampsi was just slithering rapidly for cover beneath a clump of Johnson grass and Hazel was cradling a BB rifle in her arms. It seemed Hazel had, in fact, run Grampsi off. I had a feeling it’d take more than a few BBs to the drawers to keep Tuff away from her, though. I had seen the unquenchable flame of love in his close-set eyes.

Danni: Well, bad as I hate to, I need to wrap up this interview so I can get it on the blog, but, Ima, is there anything you’d like my readers to know from the wisdom of your last fifty years?

Ima: Yes. It’s hard. It just is. It sure is.

Ima Hogg reminiscing

Danni: Hazel?

Hazel: You don’t have nothin’ to prove when you get my age and you for sure don’t need no AARP card. Hmmph. I’m near tempted to run over to the AARP place with my BB gun.

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Well, I appreciate the Hogg ladies joining me for this week’s post and hope you do, too. The interview was riddled with romantic tension and not quite as informative about the early years of settlement as I had hoped, but the Hoggs are up in years and tend to wander from the subject a little. Bless their hearts.

As always, I thank y’all for reading, and thank you, Grampsi, for being a good sport. Not every man would want to get caught winking at Hazel Hogg.

*Any resemblance the Hogg twins and Tuff Grampsi bear to persons living or dead is probably coincidental.

God bless all y’all and enjoy this Isaacs’ song my cousin sang in church the other day. After fifty-years of my life I’m grateful I can say, I Still Trust You, Lord.

The Boy Who Made A Difference–How Adoption Changed My Life


Son #3 and Kevman

Today, I’m beyond pleased to feature a guest post from our youngest son, Preston. He has been married to an awesome young woman for the past six years and is the dad of the grandsons, Kevman and Einstein. His experience in the food industry covers the entire range from the farm to the plate and he is currently retailing food to the health conscious of north central Oklahoma. His writing ability speaks for itself, and most of all, he has a heart for the Lord. Enjoy.


I am not a blogger or a writer. I can barely text. I am, however, the father of a boy who turns eleven today, and I have something that I need to share with the world.

     Eleven years ago I was sixteen years old. I was fixing to graduate from twelve years of homeschooling under the watchful eye of Mrs. McGriffith, and getting ready to spread my wings and change the world. I had a Dodge Intrepid that hadn’t been wrecked yet, a job at a small town steakhouse, and dreams of how I was going to make a difference in people’s lives. Little did I know that the person that was going to make the difference in my life had just entered the world.
     So I went to college, dropped out of college, and started running my own restaurant. I got married to the love of my life, and we were enjoying our first year of wedded bliss. Shortly after celebrating our one year anniversary, we got a call from my wife’s sister. There was a little boy that needed a home and would we be interested in taking him?
     Now, we had discussed adoption some and had decided that we would be willing to do it, but never thought that it would happen so soon. We prayed about it, felt good about it, and went to meet our son.
     You never know what to expect in those life altering moments. Will he like us? What will he be like? How will he feel about coming to live with us? We arrived at the trailer, where he was with his biological father and some family. We walked in, and standing there in front of us was a little boy that had the most penetratingly blue eyes you will ever see. He had sandy blond hair, pants that were too big and shoes that were too small. He came over to my wife and said, “You have blue eyes just like I have blue eyes!”
     We visited with his family for about fifteen minutes before they told us we could take him to the park. He has been with us ever since.
     People like for things to be clean and orderly. We like for situations to be pleasant, problems to be quickly resolved, and for abnormalities to be quickly changed into normalities. Adoption doesn’t work that way. Adoptive situations are rarely clean. Many times they are situations where selfish adults have trampled on the well-being of their children, leaving them hurt and broken. Someone may come along and try to help heal those wounds, but where there was a cut, there will always be a scar.
     We have loved our son from the moment we met him. We have struggled from the moment we met him. How do you compensate for the years of bonding time that you missed? I didn’t see his first tooth or help him take his first step. I missed his first birthday party. I didn’t get to spend sleepless nights holding him in the rocking chair while singing to him, or change his diapers, or give him a bath. I joked at first that getting a six year old would be great because you didn’t have to do any of that stuff, but I quickly realized that those times are times to be treasured. The only picture we have of him before he turned six years old, is a grainy black and white picture from off of a paternity test report.
     How do you answer when someone finds out that your son is adopted and says, “So he isn’t really yours.”? How do you explain to people that it really isn’t your fault that this little boy is throwing a tantrum in the middle of the store, because you have only had an influence on him for a week? How do you explain to the other kids that your son doesn’t play the same as they do because he wasn’t taught how to play by a loving mother and father? How do you deal with the fact that one day you know that your son may choose to leave the nest and go find his “real” mom and dad?
     What if he asks why? Why did my dad let complete strangers come and take me after only knowing them for fifteen minutes? Why did my mom never come see me even though she had visitation rights? How do you impress on this child that none of it was his fault, that the people that have missed out the most are his biological parents? How do you let him know that it is okay to ask these questions?
     I have always wanted to change the world, to make a difference in someone’s life. I didn’t know that someone could make such a difference in my life. My life changed when my son went from calling me “Boy” to calling me by the name I now go by: “Pops”. It changed when we went into the backyard to play catch and he actually caught the ball! It changed when I saw the look on his face when we got him a puppy, and when I heard him playing by himself and he was pretending to have a conversation with me saying, “Good job, bub!”. It changed my life when he hugged and kissed me good night for the first time. It changed when I would sing his bed time song, “Whisper a prayer in the morning, Whisper a prayer at noon, Whisper a prayer in the evening to keep your HEART in tune!” and I would grab him when I said “HEART” and he would shriek with laughter. It changed when I helped him pray for the first time, and knew that he knew who God is. It changed when I heard him talking to someone else about me and he told them that I was his dad. My life changed when I heard my son say “I love you” for the first time.
     Why is it worth adopting a child? Because it changes your life; and maybe, just maybe, it will change theirs too.
     I am so proud to be the dad of a boy that turns eleven today.
And Gramps and I are so proud to be the grandparents to that boy. Happy, happy birthday, Kevman. Gramps and Nana bless the day God brought you into our family.
Thank you so much for the awesome post, Pres. It’s my very favorite Ranch Pen post to date. God bless all y’all and enjoy #3’s song choice, Steven Curtis Chapman singing All I Really Want For Christmas.
*This artist doesn’t necessarily endorse my blog, we just love his songs.

Happy Birthday To An Oklahoma Country Girl


The grandson Einstein and Daughter-In-Law #3 doing one of the things she does best–her mama thing

I wouldn’t change a thing about you, #3, from your beautiful smile to your willingness to dive in to help anybody who needs it. I’m proud of the woman you’ve become and thankful you’re one of my girls. At first, I loved you because my son did. Now, I just love you.

God bless you on your birthday and always, dear #3, and enjoy this Rascal Flatts song that says it way better than I can.


An Oklahoma Firefighter Spills To His Home School Teacher


This week I caught up with Son #1 at the fire station where he is one of five full-time firefighters. Since #1 was celebrating his birthday, Gramps and I shared a pan of cinnamon rolls with him, our daughter-in-law, and his two children while we talked about firefighting and rural fire departments.

Son #1 grew up on the farm and like most farm kids his talents are many and varied.

  • He drove a pickup (stick shift) at age seven, restrained animals of different species for his home school teacher during operations to separate them from tails, horns, hooves, or–in the case of male animals–their “junk”. He also competed in a few jr. rodeos,  goat tying,  barrel racing, and mutton bustin’. (As his son, Roper, did in this post–Mutton Bustin’ In SW Oklahoma.
  • He burned up his first tractor motor when he was about age twelve, rode his bike three miles before daylight all summer to work for a crop duster (aerial crop sprayer), and drove a two-ton truck hauling corn silage for a neighboring farmer.
  • At age sixteen, he bashed in his first pickup chasing a crazy steer, worked at night all summer baling hay, and often spent twelve or more hours plowing with four-wheel-drive tractors (the big ones).
  • At eighteen he graduated from his grim-faced, squinty-eyed, and frazzled home school teacher’s class as her most difficult student. However, his grades were good enough to launch him off to college in Kansas. He worked his way through school, earning a degree in the John Deere program at Garden City. At some point he sold his cow herd, bought a house, and came back from college to live in it as a full-fledged ag mechanic specializing in combines.
  • At present, he operates his own mechanic shop and works as a full-time firefighter on a 48 hours on duty, 48 hours off duty schedule. He’s active in his church, a good dad and husband, and he’s nice to his old home school teacher.


Danni: So, why did you decide to become a firefighter?

#1: Felt like that was what God wanted me to do.

Danni: What is the first fire you remember fighting?

#1: The canoe fire.

(When he was six or seven he read a story about Indians burning the centers out of logs to make canoes. He found a log and a can of gas. You might be able to guess the rest. The incident could have been even worse if Gramps hadn’t arrived on the scene with a fire extinguisher when he did.)

Danni: How old were you when you joined the volunteer fire department where you grew up?

#1: You have to be eighteen, so…eighteen.

Danni: Why did you join?

#1: Seems like I was always the first one at the fires.

(We have big sky here in western Oklahoma and if there’s a smoke for miles around it’s clearly visible. Anyone who happens to be in a field nearby drives over to see what’s burning and call it in to the nearest fire department if needs be. Also, #1 was there first because many of the fires were his own farm accidents. I’m just sayin’.)

Danni: You were a volunteer for about five-an-a-half years and now a full-time firefighter for the past seven-and-a-half years…what do you like most about your job?

#1: Having the school kids here at the station to see the trucks and learn fire safety.

Danni: You have an alter-ego who is a clown named “Ducky”.  I have seen Ducky in his rubber ducky pants, his face paint, and his wild red wig. He seemed sinister to me. Does he ever scare the kids?

#1: (grins) Sometimes.

via wizzley

via wizzley

(The fear of clowns is called coulrophobia. Hey. It’s real. And real scary.)

Danni: What are some of the things Ducky and his firefighter friends teach the kids?

#1: Know how to dial 911, know their addresses, keep batteries in their homes’ smoke detectors, stop, drop, and roll, and get out, stay out. Stuff like that.

Danni: There is a lot more to the firefighter’s job description than fighting fire. What are some of your other duties?

#1: Vehicle extraction with the Jaws Of Life, body recovery for the OHP (Oklahoma Highway Patrol) and OSBI (Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation,) preserving the scenes of accidents or fires for law enforcement, search and rescue, rescue diving, storm spotting for tornados during severe weather, disaster aid, and welfare checks during disasters.

Danni: You also act as the department’s chaplain. Are you called into service much in that capacity?

#1: Not really. It mostly entails debriefing and sometimes if we’ve worked a tragedy somebody just needs to talk.

Danni:  I know you firefighters see some pretty gory sights. Do y’all get desensitized to such things?

#1: I guess so. We kinda have to. Sometimes we have to be careful because we are used to it all and joke around about stuff that others…the families…find offensive.

Danni: What makes firefighters run into danger while everybody else is running out?

#1: (grins) Low IQs.

Since this interview was too long for one blog post–and too interesting to skip–I’ll try to finish it next time.

And Happy Birthday, dear #1!


Your home school teacher

Until next time, thanks for reading. God bless all y’all and enjoy Third Day doing God of Wonders.


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

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Eh? What’s That You Say? Oh, Thank Goodness…Just Happy Birthday


Danni and Sis

Today on my youngest sister’s birthday, we mark–my sister and me–another milestone in our whirlwind descent into hopeless middle-age and senility. How do I know? Because we increasingly have conversations like the one below.

(Bear in mind, both of us are old farm girls, so we have farm and livestock related injuries possibly too numerous to mention in the limited space of the world-wide-web. For the sake of brevity, I will keep the sample injury inquiries in the following conversation to horse-wreck related.)

I call my sister on the phone. We both say hola (spanish for hello) in an amusing fashion. With that out of the way, we proceed.

Danni: Well, how’s the ol’ bohonkus today?

Sis: Not too bad. How’s your ol’ shoulder?

Danni: Tolerable. Gramps ain’t breathing real good today, though. (He was having allergy trouble.)

Sis: Really? What’s wrong with his breeding?

Danni: (stops in her tracks. Her blood turns to ice water while she stares in speechless speechlessness–as two ultra-conservative Christian women, that has never been a topic of conversation between her and Sis and she can’t understand why all of a sudden it should be.) Um…maybe we’ll not discuss that.

Sis: Why not? Where’s he bleeding from?

Danni: (jumps as though stung on the bohonkus) Oh! Oh…! Bleeding! I thought you said breeding!

Sis: Ack! No! Eeww!

So, Hermana, Happy Birthday. Let’s make a date to go to a town with a store. We will shop for matching nautical themed outfits. I call the sweatshirt with starfish and ship’s wheels. You can have the complimenting slacks decorated with lighthouses. Be sure to wear your old-lady shoes with the buckles.

I’m actually kinda thankful for you, but you know how we are about such stuff. So, here, have a blog post.

God bless, and enjoy The Lewis Family tearin’ up So Many Years, So Many Blessin’s.


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

Happy Birthday To A Southwest Oklahoma Country Girl Via Japan


Daughter-in-law #1 with Danni

I can’t claim to understand what it must have been like for you as a little girl to lose your dad, and then your mom, and come to a strange country to live. What I do know is it has taken a special kind of courage for you to build a life as a wife and mom from that beginning. I’m proud of you for that–and many other things–and I love you more than I could ever say to you, dear #1. I bless the day God brought you from Japan and placed you in my family as a daughter of my heart. Happy birthday.

God bless you and enjoy Josh Groban and this song that makes me think of you.

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

Happy Birthday To A New Farm Girl In Southwest Oklahoma


Daughter-In-Law #2 preparing to open her first box of baby chicks fresh from the hatchery with grandson, Git’R’Done

I couldn’t be more proud of you than if I’d hatched you myself, dear girl. You bless my life. The day you were born was a good, good day. God bless you always and please listen to The Canadian Tenors singing my thoughts much better than I can write them.

Forever Young

*These artists don’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like love them.

Happy Birthday To An Old Farm Kid

Son #3 making butter in a jar

Son #3 making butter in a jar. Photo courtesy of Granny McGriffith

For your 27th birthday, Son #3, I’m sharing this good old picture of a familiar scene from your childhood–churning butter in a jar while rocking out to cool tunes.

For those who might have missed that important part of childhood, I’ll fill you in on the butter making process of the family who keeps a milk cow.

1. The kid milks the family cow–preferably a Jersey–by hand.

2.The kid brings in the bucket of milk. Mom strains it into a gallon jar and refrigerates it.

3. Next morning, mom skims off the cream that rose to the top of the milk overnight. Kids drink the milk and eat it on their cereal.

4. Mom lets the cream sour at room temperature for a day or two.

5. Mom hands a jar half full of cream to a kid, who shakes it vigorously until butter forms and separates from the buttermilk.

6. Mom drains the buttermilk away then rinses the ball of butter until no buttermilk remains, salts it, then the family eats it. Yummy!

I credit your present occupation–providing organic food choices to the health nuts, hippies, and Mennonites of north central Oklahoma–with your growing up years on the farm where you helped produce food from the hoof to the plate and everywhere in between.


I’ve sent daughter-in-law #3 home to you with a cash gift. Don’t spend it all in one place. Have an awesome birthday. God bless you and enjoy Doyle Lawson doing one of your old favorites, When the Sun of My Life Goes Down.

(Sorry about the kid fussing in the background, but I guess you’re used to that.)

Love, Mom