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.


The Health Food Go-To Guy At The Ranch Pen


Son #3, our go-to guy inside the health food industry

Today, I’m happy to share an interview with Son #3 as he gives us insight into the health food industry in north-central Oklahoma. Whether you’re a health food nut who thinks Splenda and bug spray is evil, or deeply suspicious of any food that isn’t fried in hydrogenated oil with the shelf life of a twinky, this post is for you.

Son #3 was raised up on the farm where he developed a deep love of homegrown food and a hatred of the mechanical part of farming–repairing broken-down tractors, balers, swathers, combines, plows, etc. So, after he graduated from Mrs. McGriffith’s homeschool class he sold his Beefmaster cow, Radish, and her calf and worked his way through a few years at Southwestern Oklahoma State University before jumping into the restaurant business with his older brother. In addition to farming, ranching, and the restaurant business, he has been a waiter, pulled a short stint as a Wal-Mart associate, and once did a stand-up comedy show. He is married to a wonderful young lady and is the dad to two sons, Kevman (whom #3 wrote about in this post The Boy Who Made A Difference–How Adoption Changed My Life) and Einstein. #3 is active in his church, is an all around nice guy, and is celebrating a birthday today.

At present, he is employed at a family owned health food store in Stillwater, Oklahoma, as assistant manager and grocery buyer where he orders product from three main vendors besides small suppliers and family farms, buying locally when possible.

Danni: Okay, first of all, there is a place next to y’all’s store called a Boba Fusion Cafe. What in cat-hair is that?

Son #3: (laughs) Some kind of Asian place. They have something called bubble tea. Has tapioca pearls in it that you suck up through a straw.

Danni: (thinking she will not be ruining her tea, ever, with tapioca pearls) I see. So there aren’t hookah pipes in there? (hookah, boba, whatever)

#3: (laughs) I don’t think so, although I believe there is a place somewhere in Stillwater with hookah pipes.

Danni: Okay, now that we’ve got that cleared up… As an old farm kid, what drew you to the health food business?

Son #3: Well, one day, I was making a pot pie for my kids and I couldn’t pronounce most of the ingredients on the box. That’s when I decided to make a more conscious effort to learn about healthy food. In order to afford higher quality food, I decided to enter the business.

Danni: Who shops in a health food store?

Son #3: I’d say our clientele is what’s called eclectic. We get everybody from conservative religious people to devoutly atheist, vegans, vegetarians, and everywhere between. We get a lot of young families trying to ensure their kids eat good food. People with health issues, like cancer, whose doctors have advised eating organic produce and food without preservatives. Some people are trying to prevent health problems. Some people have food allergens. The common denominator between them seems to be the desire for a healthier lifestyle and distrust of industrialized farming and processing methods.

Danni: Some of your customers believe modern farming practices are evil?

#3: Yes. A lot of them are concerned about pesticides and genetically modified food.

Danni: Do you think they understand the magnitude of two percent of the population (farmers and ranchers) trying to feed the other ninety-eight percent (consumers) without using modern farming practices? (The current world population estimate is over seven billion.)

#3: Not altogether, but I think that most of them feel that there are alternative ways of farming that can still feed our population and much of the rest of the world with high quality food that is free of pesticides and genetic modification. I think that they also believe strongly in small family farmers, and they are highly disturbed that the average joe family farmer can become enslaved to an industry that tries to make it illegal to save seeds and sues farmers for having patented seeds in their fields even if the farmer didn’t plant them. They are greatly concerned that the genetically modified foods that we are consuming are not reacting well with our bodies and are causing hugely increased rates of food allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.

Danni: Do you think your customers would want to get out in the fields in the hot sun and hoe and pick bugs all day to avoid using sprays?

#3: (grins because he knows what that is like) Probably not. But some of them do work in the community garden here in Stillwater. I think there are some really good alternative ideas out there that are based in reality, too, (to keep people from having to hoe all day and pick bugs by hand) that aren’t just theories and ways to put people out of business. If you follow the money I think you will probably find the true enemy of the family farmer.


#3 with his OSU colors goin’ on. Also standing in front of the tea section, my favorite.

Danni: Stillwater is the home of Oklahoma State University. Do y’all get a lot of students in here?

#3: Quite a few. Faculty, too.

Danni: Are the young people’s attitudes toward food different from the older generation’s?

#3: Oh, not really. It seems to depend on how they were raised. Some of the students come from big population centers where there are a lot more food choices. They’re just glad to find a health food source.

Danni: You call where you were raised in southwest Oklahoma a food desert? Why?

#3: That’s what places are called where a lot of food is raised, but healthy food choices are  limited.

Danni: There are certainly very few health food stores in the western half of Oklahoma. But we have good ol’ Wal-Mart. You worked at Wal-Mart for a while. What difference do you notice in the food buyers at a supercenter and the buyers at the health food store?

#3: There’s a night and day difference in their attitudes for one thing. At the health food store I notice a zest for life. At Wal-Mart many of the people didn’t look healthy and they had a bad attitude.

*author’s note: I have been guilty of looking sick and having a bad attitude in Wal-Mart, myself. Particularly the time the associate was chatting on her cell phone instead of checking out my stuff and when I began to have steam coming out my ears, she looked at me like, hello, old lady. What’s your problem? Who even asked you to come in here and bother me anyway? But I digress. Back to the interview.

Danni: What are some of the main differences between the family owned health food store and big outfits like Wal-Mart?

#3: It’s an overwhelmingly more vibrant atmosphere. We get to know our customers on a personal level, learn about their families and their health needs. We treat our customers like real people.

Danni: What are some of your most popular items?

#3: Gluten free products are a big seller. The organic produce. The all natural, grass fed beef. The vitamins and supplements are big, too.

Danni: What do you sell besides food?

#3: All kinds of stuff. Natural cleaners, laundry detergents, housewares (they have some beautiful, handmade pottery) shampoos, personal hygiene products. Essential oils. Pet food.

Danni: Y’all also have an eatery. Tell me about that.

#3: The eatery is dedicated gluten, dairy, and nut free. A lot of families with food allergens come here for special events because we have treats their kids can eat. Dairy free ice cream, gluten free cupcakes, stuff like that. We also serve paninis, salads, gluten free cinnamon rolls. We’re always working on developing good food for people with allergies. We have some really tasty stuff.


#3 and family. Yes, we are looking forward to a new little McGriffith

Danni: Is tofu turkey really better for you than real turkey? (You can see what our dog thought about tofu turkey in the post The Phony Meat Project.)

#3: No. It’s mostly for vegans and people with allergies.

Danni: Do you sell much of the nasty stuff?

#3: (laughs) Not really, but we sell a lot of tofu pups and smart dogs. (hotdogs) And quite a lot of faux lunch meat.

Danni: (thinking, ew) Okay moving on. Let’s talk about real meat. What kind do you sell?

#3: Well, the grass fed beef. Free range chicken. Some bison. If someone wants other kinds we don’t sell, we try to hook them up with a local farmer.

Danni: What do you like most about your job?

#3: The variety of people we deal with and the numbers aspect of the ordering process I do.

Danni: Least?

#3: Our store is small and crowded and there is a lot of multi-tasking sometimes.

Danni: Would you want your kids in the health food industry?

#3: Sure.

Danni: What is one of the funniest things that happens in a health food store?

#3: Well, I find it funny when people come in needing a cleanse that’ll work in the next couple of days because they need to pass a drug test.

Danni: Yeah. Hello. Do you have a health food joke?

#3: Sort of. Why did the tomato blush?

Danni: I have no idea.

#3: (grins) Because it saw the salad dressing.

Danni: Oh, har, har…Do you have any parting thoughts?

#3: The health food industry is a big supporter of small family farms. There doesn’t have to be a conflict.

Danni: Everybody’s under the gun, aren’t they?

#3: Yeah. When people demonize farming, they don’t understand that the average farmers are just doing the best they can.

Well, happy, happy birthday, #3, and that wraps up the interview.  I enjoyed it very much and I hope all y’all did, too.

(Afterward, we celebrated #3’s birthday at a Japanese steak house and I would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t include this picture of somebody’s super cool wheels parked next door.)


Until next time, God bless all y’all and this song’s for you #3.


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

Interview With A Rural Water Guy On The Ranch Pen


#2 with Nellie

Almost all of us in the USA take our water for granted. We turn on a tap and there it is. The process isn’t that simple, however, and I enjoyed finding out what goes on behind the scenes to keep us in clean, safe water. I hope y’all will, too.


Today, I’m tickled almost completely to death to share a slice of my second son’s life as part of his birthday celebration this week. He is currently the system manager for our rural water district, but this is the winding road he took to get there:

#2 was born prematurely, but he soon took off and grew up doing the things most farm and ranch kids do. When he was a little pee-wee sized kid, #2’s nemesis came in the form of a big, white rooster with long spurs that cornered him up in the shed and soundly pecked his head. I don’t think he’s had much use for chickens–except the fried variety–since.

As soon as he grew big enough, he was riding a big gelding named Shorty in junior rodeos, milking our family cow, Peanut, slopping hogs, feeding cows, and hoeing in the garden. As a bigger kid, he rode motorcycles, took care of the overpopulation of varmints with his .22, used the roof of the house as a diving board to the trampoline, and did other stuff with his friends that seemed like a good idea at the time.

As a teenager, he worked on our family farm and cattle operation, logging in many, many hours operating tractors, combines, and hay swathers.  By eighteen, he already had a lot of experience with farm fires, so he joined our volunteer fire department and graduated from his home school as one of its best students.

In addition to his present occupation, he has been a farmer and cattleman, a custom hay harvester, a custom wheat harvester, a custom cotton harvester, a volunteer fire chief, a restaurant owner, has worked at a hot dog factory, and is a professional fence builder.

Presently, he lives on a small farm with his wife and the grandkids, Blondie and GitRDone. He is active in his church, and is an all around super-nice guy who loves the Lord.


One of seven stand pipes in the water district’s area. They are used for water storage and to regulate pressure in the lines. The fence is to keep out meddlers, livestock, and–post 9/11–terrorists. Looking at that fence, I can only say, “Yikes”.

On the beautiful, 20* morning of this interview, #2 picked me up in his truck and I went with him to collect a Bac/T sample to test the water for the presence of E coli. (And yes, the sky was that blue.)

Danni: I know the water district is pretty big, but how much area does it actually cover?

#2: It’s huge. Takes in parts of four counties and has over seven hundred miles of pipe. It’s not unusual for me to drive two hundred miles in the course of the day.

Danni: What are your main duties?

#2: I’m mainly supposed to oversee the operation of the system and deal with the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality), and contractors, but I’m shorthanded so a lot of my time is spent locating water lines and valves, and repairing leaks.

Danni: How many are on your crew, now?

#2: (grins) One besides me. I could easily use a four man crew, but the rural water districts out here (western Oklahoma) don’t have the money, or a pool of qualified people to draw from.

(The situation in many rural farm areas is pretty grim. Young people graduate high school and move away to college or better paying jobs, so there are few workers left to keep up aging infrastructures with money from diminished tax bases.)

Danni: What have been some of the biggest challenges you face aside from being shorthanded?

#2: Well, I wish I’d had somebody to show me the ropes a little when I first started, but the former manager was already gone. I’ve pretty much had to learn everything about water pressures and where all the lines and valves are by trial and error. Keeping up an old system is challenging, but I actually enjoy it.

Danni: Where does the district’s water come from?

#2: All of it comes from wells near the Red River that tap into an aquifer in the area. We have six active wells, two reserve wells, and three or four test wells

Danni: How is the water treated and filtered?

#2: Since it’s a ground water system (as opposed to lake water or another above ground source), we treat it with just chlorine gas. Sand traps are the only filters needed.


#2 sanitizing a hydrant with bleach before taking a water sample

Danni: Why are you taking a sample from this particular farm hydrant?

#2: The DEQ mandates two Bac/T samples each month from sites they choose. I also take two daily samples from random hydrants to test for residual chlorine.

Danni: Have you ever had a Bac/T sample show positive?

#2: Not yet.

Danni: What would happen if you did?

#2: Well, just a positive test doesn’t necessarily mean there is E coli present…it could just mean there’s a bacteria there that could harbor E coli. But the lab would test it again. If it came back positive for E coli, I would have to report it to the DEQ then test all the wells and take multiple tests throughout the district and warn the customers.


The Bac/T test jar is 100 ml and comes with a tiny white pill to neutralize chlorine in the water. Each jar is carefully labeled to avoid mix-ups with other samples at the lab.


#2 also took a residual chlorine test. This sample, at 1.4 ppm chlorine, was in the safety range between .2 ppm and 4.0 ppm. Hot weather dissipates chlorine so more is needed then, but chlorine gas is expensive, so #2 dials down the amount used in winter to avoid waste.

Danni: Do you test the water for anything else?

#2: Yeah. We test the wells for heavy metals like copper, zinc, etc, every three years and nitrates once a year.

Danni: What do you enjoy most about this job?

#2: That I’m outdoors. Trying to turn around an aging infrastructure is a challenge I enjoy. I get to see a lot of differing landscape from one end of the district to the other and meet a lot of the old timers around here. They have some pretty cool stories.

Danni: What is your least favorite part?

#2: I’m on call 24/7, so that means fixing leaks in the middle of the night sometimes. Probably what I hate most, though, is having to shut off someone’s water meter for non-payment.

Danni: Do you have any advice for us consumers?

#2: Well, in the current drought situation, everybody needs to conserve as much as possible and keep an eye out for leaks. Enjoy your good water.

Danni: Well, we’re about to wind up here, do you have any water guy jokes?

#2: (grins) No acceptable ones come to mind, but I found this story interesting: There are dive teams who will dive into water towers to inspect them and what not. One of these divers was talking to a district employee and said that in a large northeastern city, his team was up in one of those huge towers that looks like a bubble on a stem. They found sheets of plywood covered in styrofoam floating on the water inside the tower. It seems teenagers were climbing through an unlocked hatch and partying on those homemade rafts. (laughs) Lots of violations in that story.

Danni: Ew.

#2: Yeah. The thought of a bunch of teenagers partying in the drinking water is kinda scary.

Danni: No kidding. Gross.

Happy, happy birthday, #2, and thank you so much for doing this interview, it’s been my pleasure. I appreciate you and all your fellow rural water guys out there in the freezing cold nights, up to your eyeballs in mud, and with water sloshing around inside your rubber waders just to keep all of us in water. (I also appreciate y’all poking your hands down into scorpion and spider infested meter cans in the summertime.) I think you guys do an amazing job with what you’ve got to work with and if there’s one thing I know about you, #2, I know you’ll do everything in your power to keep clean, safe water flowing.


Thanks so much for reading and God bless all y’all. I hope you enjoy Jars of Clay doing Flood, because not only is it appropriate with all that talk of water and mud, it used to be one of #2’s favorite songs when he was younger.


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

A Charming Young Chicken Farmer In Southwest Oklahoma


Blondie, with her best chicken, Sage

Today, we here at The Ranch Pen are excited to host a special friend and delightful young chicken farmer who also happens to be Gramps’ and my oldest granddaughter, Blondie.

Blondie is the daughter of Son #2. She has a brother, Git’R’Done, who–according to her–is three-and-one-quarter years old. Blondie is six-and-a-half years old and is homeschooled by her mother. She is in second grade and claims her favorite subject is recess break–wait. No. Literature, she meant. One of her favorite things she has done in school so far is catch butterflies in her net and study them in her insect book. She is also learning to play the piano. To demonstrate, she hopped onto the piano stool and ripped out A Birthday Song, I believe it was called. In spite of some annoying interference by her brother’s toes on the keyboard, she persevered and the song turned out beautifully.

Danni: To begin…When did you first become interested in chickens?

Blondie: (speaking in her charming southern drawl) Well…when you got a batch of your chicks when I was little, Nana.

Danni: Where did you get your chickens?

Blondie: We ordered them from a hatchery catalog then picked them up at the post office.


Danni: You have several chicken breeds here. What are they?

Blondie: (she consults with her mom) New Hampshires, Easter Eggers, Rhode Island Reds…what are those kind you have, Nana?

Danni: Brahmas?

Blondie: Yeah. Also, Golden Laced Wyandottes and Delawares.

Danni: Do you prefer the chicks or do you like these, now that they are hens?

Blondie: The hens, I guess, because I can see Sage’s feathers, now.


Danni: What are some of your other chickens’ names?

Blondie: (This takes a while as she shuffles through the hens clustered around her, pointing to each one) Well, there’s Sage, Speckles, Wild Eagle, Lady Salt, Lady Pepper, Croissant, Golden Lace, Big Momma.

Danni: Which of the hens are your favorites, and why?

Blondie: Golden Lace because she lays pinkish-brown eggs. Sage because she has a sweet look and is calm. She lets me give her kisses.

Danni: (flinches. Ew.)

Blondie: (doesn’t notice) Wild Eagle lays green eggs. Croissant has some pretty, twisty deals to the back of her neck.

Danni: Which of the hens is your least favorite?

Blondie: Well…I don’t really have any. I like them all.


Danni: How do you care for your chickens?

Blondie: Every morning we dump their poopy water and give them fresh. They poop in the water and dip their toes in it, too. We give ’em food in their feeder and collect the eggs every day, too. We clean their coop once a month. No. Maybe a week. I don’t know.


Danni: How many eggs do you gather each day?

Blondie: Maybe fifteen? Sixteen? Maybe twenty.

Danni: So, what part of chicken keeping do you enjoy most?

Blondie: Collecting the eggs and picking up the chickens to love on them.

Danni: (flinches again. Ew.) Except for the Brahmas, my chickens aren’t nice like yours. They fly all over the place and don’t lay many eggs. Why do you think that is?

Blondie: Well, we picked ours up lots as chicks. I think ours are so sweet because I cradle them in my arms like babies. (her eyes flash) And I don’t like boys catching them by their tail feathers!

(She launched into a tirade against a boy named Lucas which was hilarious, but for the sake of brevity, best not included here.)


Git’R’Done, who would never pull a chicken’s tail feathers

Danni: Do you think my chickens should go in the stewpot?

Blondie: No.

Danni: So you’re not interested in helping me with that project?

Blondie: No, because I don’t like to see blood, and chickens scared and dying with their heads cut off.

Danni: I see. When do you think would be an appropriate time for people to butcher chickens for food?

Blondie: Well, we could butcher chickens that were already dead from sickness. Or if they walked out in the road.


Danni: What are some of the other dangers chickens face out here in the country? (aside from her Nana stalking them with a hatchet, illness, and speeding cars, that is)

Blondie: Well, Trace, our dog grabs them. And racoons. Disease. Maybe cats. Our rooster Little Guy died from something.

Danni: A person has to be pretty tough to raise animals out here in the country. What are some of the dangers you face?

Blondie: Dogs can jump on you. You have to see chickens die sometimes. Once, a chicken pecked my back and left a red mark.

Danni:  I hate it when that happens. Do you know any chicken jokes?

Blondie:  Yes. Why did the chicken cross its feather lines?

Danni: (feather lines?) Um…

Blondie: Because it had to go to the bathroom!

Danni: (laughing) Did you make that up?

Blondie: (with a big, gap-toothed smile) Uh-huh.

Well, thank you SO much, Blondie, for the awesome interview. I’m so proud of how you take care of your chickens I could just bust my buttons.  God bless you all the days of your life and enjoy this Tom T Hall song I used to listen to when I was your age, The Song About A One Legged Chicken.

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it, and God bless all y’all, too.


*This artist doesn’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like him and I appreciate whoever did the illustrations to go with the soundtrack then posted it to youtube.

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An Oklahoma Firefighter Spills To His Home School Teacher ll


Last time, I posted part one of an interview with my firstborn son and home school pupil who happens also to be a firefighter, which you can read in An Oklahoma Firefighter Spills To His Homeschool Teacher. Today, we’ll continue where we left off.

Danni: What is one of the benefits to being a firefighter?

Son #1: Well, I get to help people during the worst day of their lives sometimes.

Danni: What is the biggest drawback?

#1: The sacrifice my family makes because of my schedule. (He’s on duty 48 hours, off duty 48 hours, even if that falls on holidays and weekends.)

Danni: You told me last week one of the things you enjoyed most was teaching the youngsters about fire safety as your alter-ego, Ducky, the clown. What is one of the things you like the least?

#1: Stopping natural gas leaks.

Danni: What are some of the dumb things people do to start fires?

#1: Use pennies in their fuse panels and aluminum foil in the microwave, stuff like that. Usually alcohol is involved in dumb fires.

Danni: My opinion of arsonists is very low. What is yours?

#1: Scoundrels.

Danni: What is your advice to arsonists?

#1: Don’t get caught.


#1’s kids, Roper and Ladybug, giving the guided tour

Danni: Would you want your kids to become firefighters?

#1: (grins) Maybe Ladybug. She’s pretty tough.

Danni: (laughs, but is secretly praying #1 is not serious) Indeed, she is. Okay…I know you firefighter types are trained in all kinds of stuff. What is some of it?

#1: Basic CPR and first aid. Also operating the Jaws, conducting fire drills in the schools from head start to high school, rescue diving.

(Jaws Of Life cuts people out of wreckage)

Danni: All the firefighters donate a lot of time to causes and the community. What are some of the causes?

#1: Toy drive for the kids at Christmas, teaching fire prevention in the schools, raising money for the MDA (Muscular Dystrophy Association) and Relay for Life.

The firefighters’ ipad

Danni: I know you had to pass Firefighter l and now you’re almost certified to teach that yourself, but what are some of the qualifications firefighters must meet to get on the force?

#1: (grins) You have to be handsome and studly.

Danni: (rolls her eyes) Oh, brother.

#1: Well…You have to pass a physical and stress test. Some agility requirements.


The full-time firefighters’ gear. #1’s is the slot with wrong way sign upside down above it. I don’t know what it means.

Danni: Y’alls bunker gear is heavy. How much does it weigh by the time you’re all suited up?

#1: About fifty pounds with our SCBAs. (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus, which has an air tank)

Danni: Will your bunker gear burn?

#1: It’s made of heat resistant material, but it’ll burn if it gets hot enough.

Danni: The nineteen firefighters who died in the Yarnell Hill Fire tragedy in Arizona this summer deployed their personal fire shelters to no avail. Do y’all carry those? (The fire shelters are aluminum, silica, and fiberglass tubes to crawl inside which deflect radiant heat, convective heat, and embers, as well as trap breathable air.)

#1: On the grass trucks. (The trucks used to fight grass fires in the country.)

Danni: What are the most dangerous kinds of fires you go out on?

#1: Any fire involving petroleum fuel.

Danni: What types of fires do you mostly attend?

#1: Grass fires and gas meters.


The volunteer firefighters’ gear

Danni: Our rural fire departments rely heavily on volunteer firefighters. In fact, Oklahoma State Fire Marshall, Robert Doke was on the radio a few days ago saying seventy-five percent of all fire departments in Oklahoma are manned by volunteers. Does this fire department have trouble getting enough volunteers?

#1: It goes in spurts. Sometimes we have plenty, sometimes not enough. Right now, our roster is nearly full.

Danni: What do you see as some of the biggest needs for our rural fire departments?

#1: More money for salaries and equipment.


The firefighters’ bunks


Ladybug and Roper in the kitchen area

Danni: I’ve heard the fire station is haunted. I could almost believe it when we toured the deserted living quarters on the second floor a few years ago. Is that creepy CPR dummy still up there?

#1: (grins) Probably.

Danni: Do you think the station is haunted?

#1: No. I hear some strange noises, but I think people say the station’s haunted because the building used to be a funeral home. And there’s a gravestone in it, too.


Charlie, the only unclaimed body from the Babbs Switch school fire, a local tragedy.

#1: There’s a blood drain in the kitchen floor.

Danni: (growing pale) No, there’s not, either.

But, yes…


Blood drain plug from the old funeral home.

Danni: Well, that’s just too gross. Moving on. Have you ever rescued an old lady’s kitten from a tree, and if so, did you use the ladder truck?

#1: (grins) Actually, yes, I’ve rescued a cat, but I had to go home and get my own ladder.

Danni: Do you have a firefighter’s joke to end with?

#1: Sure. There’s this firefighter that needs brain surgery, so his buddies search around for used brains. The first ones they find are from a firefighter for $10,000. The brains aren’t a bad match, but they decide to keep looking.

The next brains are from a captain. These brains are a pretty good match, too, but they’re $50,000, so they keep looking.

Finally, they find some fire chief’s brains, but they’re $100,000 bucks!

Somebody asks, “Good grief, how come the fire chief’s brains cost so much more than the firefighter’s?”

“Because the fire chief’s brains have barely been been used!” is the reply.

(Sorry, Chief Lankford. Please don’t fire #1.)

Danni: Oh, hee hee, my goodness. Well, thank you so much, #1, for the excellent interview and the service you provide the community. I deeply appreciate all you firefighters out there. God bless and keep all y’all safe.

Learn more about volunteering as a firefighter in Oklahoma by calling 1-800-FireLine.

*Any mistakes in this interview are mine alone. My cryptic notes written in my chicken scratch handwriting baffle even me.

Until next time, God bless and enjoy Legacy Five tearin’ up Joy, one of my all-time favorites.


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

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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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If It’s Not About Farming In Southwest Oklahoma, Don’t Talk To This Kid


A Lad With Ambition

Today about daybreak, I caught up with m’ dear and dashing nephew, AJ, to talk to him about his hopes and dreams as a young man with farming ambitions.

AJ will be entering his junior year in the fall. He has been homeschooled all his life and I have actually heard his teacher refer to him as a “genius”. (I don’t know why she rolled her eyes.) But, really, AJ and his teacher are just plumb crazy about each other.

Sixteen-years-old this week, AJ is a regular church go-er, already a certified welder, a good enough mechanic to work on his own equipment, and has been building a stable of farm machinery which includes a combine, two tractors and hay balers, and a windrower. He also owns a Palomino filly, Sis, he’s training. And he’s been learning to rope calves.

He’s worked as a mechanic with his dad most of his life. In addition, AJ has worked for me–his nice aunt–as hired muscle around the home place and for Uncle Gramps as a plow hand. In addition, he’s worked as a farm hand, roofer, and barn builder.

Sorry Girls


Yes, girls, AJ is dashing and single, but this shirt I bought for his sixteenth birthday this week says it all, I’m afraid. Sorry.

Harvest Crew

Presently, AJ’s working on a harvest crew in the southwest Oklahoma wheat harvest for neighbors, Karen and Lester Burns with their crew of seven persons, four Gleaner combines, and two semis (trucks with grain trailers).

Danni: What’s your job description, AJ?

AJ: I pull the 850 bushel grain cart with an Allis 8070 tractor.**


Showing a neighbor’s grain cart for an example. Not the one AJ’s been operating.

Danni: Cool. Have you turned the grain cart over, yet? (I asked that because I once overturned our grain cart and dumped the wheat.)

AJ: (grins) Not yet. They did give me a scoop shovel, though, in case I don’t get close enough to the trailer when I dump. I did that last year. Had to scoop a bunch of wheat off the ground. Don’t wanna do that again.

Danni: That’s how all the grain used to be moved. With a scoop.

AJ: Glad we don’t do that, now.

Danni: How’s harvest going? We’ve had good weather for it. (Only farmers at harvest think this is good weather: 102* with 30 mph winds)

AJ: It’s goin’ good. Makin’ some average wheat yields, but a lot of it has been damaged by the late freezes and drought.

IMG_2553AJ and Sis

Hard To Get Started

Danni: Where do you see yourself five years from now in regards to farming?

AJ: Well, I’d like to have at least got started farming with two or three hundred acres and ten or fifteen head of cows.

Danni: What about working with horses?

AJ: I’ll probably have to just do that in my spare time or during the winter.

Danni: How difficult do you think it’ll be to get started farming from scratch? (No inherited land or equipment.)

AJ: Well, finding land and money. I’ll have to have a good job to fund it.

Danni: Yeah. That ain’t right, is it? Stinks. What job would you like to do to fund your farming habit?

AJ: Probably structural welding. Barns…stuff like that.

Danni: What challenges do you think you’ll encounter as a beginning farmer if land, machinery, and fuel prices continue to climb as they have in the past years?

AJ: Well, I’ll have to find other jobs besides farming, plus deal with bad weather. Freezes, drought.

No Joking Matter

Danni: Do you have to be crazy to farm?

AJ: (grins) Lots of people think so, but I really like it.

Danni: What’s your favorite joke?

AJ: I’m still too sleepy for jokes.

Danni: (laughs) Well, thanks for talking to me AJ. Auntie loves you and stay safe out there during harvest.

I hope y’all enjoyed this visit with m’ dear nephew as much as I did. He’s a good boy and as a genius, I expect him to go far–even though for lads trying to start farming these days it’s an uphill battle.

Until next time, God bless all y’all.

**For those unfamiliar with farming, the grain cart man, or woman, drives the cart into the field to fetch the grain from the combine to dump in a truck, which then hauls it to town to the grain elevators, or to farm storage. The carts save time and money in very large fields such as we have in SW Oklahoma. It’s not cost effective for the combine operator to stop cutting and drive to the edge of the field every little bit to discharge the grain tank onto a truck.

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Horse Girls Of Southwest Oklahoma l

Horse Girls Of Southwest Oklahoma ll

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Horse Girls Of Southwest Oklahoma ll

Horse girls of sw Ok

Today I continue my interview with the second of favorite horse lovers, my niece, TL. She’s home schooled–rides the short bus, as she says–loves her teacher, and is eleven-years-old. She started riding a couple of years ago even though she was really nervous about it. Her bay gelding, General, was purchased at a local horse auction and is ten or eleven years old probably.

Even though General is already trained, TL is using some of the Down Under Horsemanship methods to make him into an even better, safer, kids’ horse and teach him better manners.

Tessa and General

Danni: TL, do you love General and does he love you?

TL: (unhesitating) Yes and yes.

Danni: What do you see yourself doing with horses in five years?

TL: I’d like to learn to do cool stuff better…barrel racing, trick riding, authentic trail riding–wait. What does authentic mean?

Danni: The real deal.

TL: Oh, yeah. Authentic trail riding, cross country, jumping, dressage.

Danni: Alrighty. Do you plan to train horses to sell? And will it be hard to see them leave, if you do?

TL: Yeah, after I learn the method better, I’d sell. If we had enough room I’d just keep the horses, though. It’d be hard to sell if I was attached. But if I had to sell, I would.

Danni: Why do you enjoy horses so much?

TL: Well, one day they’re sweet and nice, the next, mean and grouchy, but I have a good horse. Really good natured.

Danni: How much does General eat each day and do you have to buy his feed?

TL: I don’t buy feed. He eats…oh…seventy pounds? Thirty? Quite a bit. I buy my own tack.

Danni: What kind of saddle do you ride?

TL: I ride a barrel saddle and use a regular brow band headstall with a curb bit. Five-inch shanks. Extra long nylon roping reins.

Tessa and General

Danni: What are your favorite breeds of horses?

TL: Oh, I like the generic cross-breds like General. He has a big trot and a good personality. I also like Thoroughbreds because they can jump and do dressage and cross country. Quarter Horses, too, because Mom has one and you can teach them western stuff. I like the western stuff.

Danni: What are some of your favorite horse books?

TL: The Saddle Club, but mainly the Felicity books because she has a horse named Penny.

Danni: Well, TL, what is your favorite joke?

(We wait quite awhile. She wants to use JA’s cowboys changing light bulb joke, but I won’t accept that.)

TL: Okay, I’ve got it…Knock, knock?

Danni: Who’s there?

TL: Banana.

Danni: Banana who?

TL: Banana Bandana.

Danni: Did you make that up?

TL: Yes.

Well, TL, that was hilarious. 🙂 Auntie loves ya and thank you for talking with me. May you always stay on top of your horse and I wish you the very best in all your horse dreams.

Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy Celtic Woman singing one of TL’s favorite songs,  Amazing Grace.

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

Horse Girls Of Southwest Oklahoma l

Horse girls

Today I’m talking to two of my favorite horse lovers, my nieces, JA and TL. Both of them are home schooled and love, love, love their teacher. They started riding about two years ago on horses purchased from a nearby horse auction.

The three of us had an informal interview session out at the round pen where they have recently started training their horses using Clinton Anderson’s Down Under Horsemanship method.

Jamie and Pache

JA is thirteen-years-old and the first horse she’s training is a Paint filly named ‘Pache.

Danni: Do you love your horse, and does your horse love you?

JA: Well, I love her, but I think she just likes me.

Danni: Okay, what is your goal for this horse, JA?

JA: I hope to train her to be a soft, supple horse anyone can ride.

Danni: Will you sell her, then?

JA: Yes. I hope to get a good price for her as a well trained horse.

Danni: Will it be hard to watch her leave after all the time you’ve invested in her?

JA: Yes.

Danni: What is Pache’s strength? Weakness?

JA: Her strength, hmm…She backs up good. Her weakness was her disrespect. She stepped on me if I didn’t watch her.

Danni: How much does Pache eat per day, and do you have to pay for her feed?

JA: Pache eats maybe twenty pounds of hay per day and a little sweet feed. I don’t buy it. I have to buy my own tack, though.

Danni: What kind of saddle do you ride?

JA: I ride a roping saddle. My headstall’s a regular brow band with a curb bit and Weaver Leather quick-change reins. Long.

Danni: What do you enjoy most about horses?

JA: They’re so fun if they don’t give you trouble. I also enjoy caring for them, brushing, etc. And their smell.

Danni: Where do you see yourself in five years as regards to horses?

JA: I hope to be a very good horsewoman and tearin’ up jack as my mom says. I also hope to be rich from selling horses, have horses out the wazoo, and a nice pickup.

Jamie and Pache

Danni: What is your favorite horse breed?

JA: Probably Clydesdales and Quarter Horses, because the Clydes are big and friendly and the Quarters are pretty built with good color and make good show horses.

Danni: What are your favorite horse stories or books?

JA: My Friend Flicka. The Misty books. Black Beauty. The Little Britches books by Ralph Moody. Oh…and Clinton Anderson’s Philosophy book. Oh…and Western Horseman.

Danni: And, finally, what’s your favorite joke?

JA: How many cowboys does it take to change a light bulb?  One to hold the bulb, three to turn the house.

That’s hilarious, JA. 🙂 Thanks a bunch. Auntie loves you and I hope all your wildest horse dreams come true. Hang on tight…the view’s better from on top of your horse.

Join me tomorrow for Part ll of Horse Girls of Southwest Oklahoma when I interview my niece, TL. God bless all y’all and enjoy JA’s favorite singers of the moment, The Judds, doin’ When King Jesus Calls His Children Home.

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