Top Five Ranch Pen Posts Of 2013–#1

And finally, I am tickled almost to death to say the #1 viewed Ranch Pen post of the year was the recent one written by my youngest son, about his son: The Boy Who Made A Difference–How Adoption Change My LIfe. Adoption has made all the difference in our family–from our grandson, Kevman, to our daughter-in-law #1 coming all the way from Japan to live with her aunt and uncle who also became her adoptive parents, and to me personally, an adopted daughter of the Most High God.

I loved this post and y’all did, too, so I trust you’ll enjoy it again.

*****

IMG_4636

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?
IMG_4635
     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 I am so proud to re-run this favorite post of 2013. Thank you all so much–new friends and readers, old friends, family, and church family. I appreciate your visits to this blog more than I can ever say. God bless all y’all and enjoy David Wesley singing Beautiful Things, which seemed an appropriate way to end this post and the old year.
[youtube.com/watch?v=BblhO2Wk_LY]
*This artist doesn’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just love his music.

Top Five Ranch Pen Posts Of 2013–#2

Gramps and I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends. We did and I made the blueberry lemon sweet rolls pictured in this post for Christmas morning. They were SO yummy. Just as good as they looked in the picture.

As promised, I’ll finish out December with the final two most viewed posts of the year. #2 is one from last February entitled Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Hey! What’re You Doing To My Tractor?

This post has had views from all over the world and I’m not sure what drives them, exactly. Are farmers from South Africa, or Canada, or Romania looking at the pictures, shaking their heads and chuckling because they’ve seen those types of wrecks on their farms? Or, oh my goodness…are those their machines?!

Perhaps rabid Henry Wadsworth Longfellow fans are gnashing their teeth at the desecration of his great poem, The Wreck of the Hesperus? Or, (how could it even be?) they like my rewrite, The Wreck of the Old Case International Combine, even though it’s kinda dumb and sadly out of meter?

My guess is that all around the world, an army of small-ish farm women have wrestled around huge old four-wheel-drive tractors and they are happy to see they aren’t the only ones who have accidentally climbed the grain bins.

Whatever the reasons, thanks so much for reading and I hope y’all enjoy it again.

*****

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 before 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 promise.) 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.

*****

Well, I hope you enjoyed this re-run of the #2 most viewed Ranch Pen post of 2013. You can let me know in the comments why you think people from around the world look at it.

God bless y’all until next time when I reveal the #1 most viewed post of 2013. Since this is a silly post, I’ll ask you to enjoy Christian comedian, Tim Hawkins, doing a silly spoof called Pretty Pink Tractor.

[youtube.com/watch?v=8uwddX1Mtf4]

*This artist doesn’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just think he’s funny.

Top Five Ranch Pen Posts Of 2013–#3

#3 in the Ranch Pen’s most viewed posts was the recent one, The Phony Meat Project in Southwest Oklahoma.

We are all about freedom here at the Ranch Pen: freedom to worship God without interference and to believe the Bible as it is written, freedom to speak our minds, freedom to own guns, and freedom to eat whatever we want, including meat and blueberry lemon sweet rolls. (Don’t those rolls make your mouth water? We’ve got to have those Christmas morning. With some bacon. Click the link, it’ll take you to the recipe)

Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 1.59.23 PM

Anyway, perhaps because Gramps and I raise cattle for food, we are more sensitive to the voices in the world nagging us to give up meat, which–those militant voices screech–will make us kinder, gentler, less judgmental folk. I could do an entire opinion piece on how that all connects to the freedoms–or lack thereof–mentioned above, but I wish for peace on earth and good will toward men here at Christmas time, so I’ll refrain for now.

And in the spirit of peace, if any of y’all want to eat tofu turkey, please feel free to do so–just be advised your dog won’t eat the leftovers.

*****

IMG_4543

A tofu “turkey roast” with wild rice stuffing

A Very Blessed Thanksgiving

I trust all my readers in the US enjoyed a blessed Thanksgiving holiday this past week. Gramps and I certainly did with our family. We had everything to be thankful for, including a rich selection of delicious food.

Phony Turkey Anyone?

Before the Thanksgiving holiday, when I began to plan the meal I wondered: What do non-meat eaters eat on turkey day? Well, to those of you who don’t wonder about those things, I’ll tell you anyway. Some of them eat a turkey replacement processed from tofu, which is a soybean product.

As beef producers, the ideas behind militant vegan-ism and animal rights are a source of indigestion for Gramps and me, but as a writer, I decided to do some research into the topic of phony turkey meat before I just tossed it off as no account. I called up my super secret source in the health food industry and he hooked me up with a tofu turkey “roast”.

Gramps Didn’t Just Fall Off The Turnip Wagon Last Night In The Dark. Hello

Gramps once told a sandwich person trying to talk him into trying turkey ham: “Listen, lady. I live on a farm. I have seen turkeys naked. They don’t have hams.” Likewise, turkeys don’t have roasts. Especially not fake turkeys. But I digress.

IMG_4544

What Gramps thought of the turkey-like “roast”

Should’ve Stopped At The Stuffing

I honestly approached my fake turkey with an open mind, however, the more I chewed the bigger it seemed to get, sort of like chewing on a sponge. The smell reminded me of moldy grain dust, and the meat-like portion tasted like salt and things cooked in a primordial soup. The wild rice stuffing was pretty good, though.

You Can’t Fool Kids Or Dogs

The next morning, I gave our border collie, Nellie, a slice to see what her reaction was to fake turkey. The result is captured and badly edited in the following video.

[youtube.com/watch?v=eYktS9rysV4]

Now We Know For Sure

After Nellie made clear her thoughts on the subject, I carried the remains of the “roast” to the chickens. They pecked out the stuffing first, but finally did manage to eat it all, proving my late father-in-law’s contention:

You cain’t poison a chicken.

The Results

So, there you have the results of The Phony Meat Project. I tip my hat to anyone who can actually eat that stuff in spite of the horrible taste and the uncomfortable aftereffects in the digestive tract. And I sincerely hope no one ever succeeds in banning real meat for those of us who choose to eat it.

*****

As always, I appreciate y’all reading so much. Next week, I’ll do only one post on account of Christmas, but will try to reveal the top two most viewed Ranch Pen posts the following week. Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy these Piano Guys doing a jazzed up version of We Three Kings.

[youtube.com/watch?v=qu5RY94ldDc]

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

Top Five Ranch Pen Posts Of 2013–#4

As I mentioned in the last post, for the rest of December I’m simply posting the five most viewed Ranch Pen blog posts of the year.

#4, A Charming Young Chicken Farmer In Southwest Oklahoma, was one of my very favorites, too, so I’m definitely not surprised that it came in the top five. Blondie’s teeth are growing back in now and her brother is nearly three-and-three-quarters-years-old, but this post comes at the handiest of times because our charming young chicken farmer turns seven-years-old this week. Happy, happy birthday, Blondie!

Enjoy this post from September again.

IMG_4024

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.

IMG_4019

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.

IMG_4022

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.

IMG_4026

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.

IMG_4027

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.)

IMG_4029

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.

IMG_4016

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. (I didn’t include the song this time so I could post a Christmas song, but you can listen to it on Youtube.)

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it, and God bless all y’all, too. I’ve chosen Jackie Evancho singing Silent Night because Blondie is a little girl who likes to sing, too.

[youtube.com/watch?v=PGjByOI9Iqw]

Top Five Ranch Pen Posts Of 2013–#5

Everybody is racing around like chickens with their heads off this time of year in preparation for gatherings of family and friends, and so am I. I’ll need a little time to pull everything off, and an occasional nap in my recliner beside the wood stove wouldn’t hurt anything, either. So, in deference to my advancing age and early bedtime, work load, and limited brainpower, for the rest of December instead of just not showing up on the blog, I’m posting the top five most viewed Ranch Pen blog posts of the past year. If I get a sudden stroke of inspiration I might write a new one, but that’s unlikely.

Next month should be exciting, however–I plan to interview Son #2, and Gramps might do a guest post–as long as I have full editorial privileges. I have no desire for him to start a riot on the Ranch Pen with his radical views. Gramps’ blog post may look like this by the time we’re done:

Document1BLOCK-1

While we look forward to all that, check out #5 from February, Duncan Oklahoma Horse Fair and Ranch Rodeo and the Passing of a Great Guinea Pig.

This post surprised me by making the top five. Do the readers love guinea pigs so much? Was it because Blondie couldn’t sleep and Gramps’ life was hanging by a thread?  Did elite chefs check out the picture of fried rodent and wish so much I had included the recipe?  I don’t know. Maybe people just like the rodeo team, Three Fats and a Railer. I know I did.

Whatever the reason, here we go. #5:

A Post of Three Parts

  • Wherein we attend the Duncan, Oklahoma Horse Fair and Ranch Rodeo
  • Wherein we receive sad tidings
  • Wherein we discover Gramps’ life could be in danger

 1. This past weekend Gramps and I, and some of the kids, grandkids, and the sister’s crew trekked to Duncan, Oklahoma for the horse fair and Chisolm Trail Ranch Rodeo.

Cow Dog Trials
Cow Dog Trials

The weekend kicked off on Friday with a new event–Oklahoma Cow Dog ClassicTrial. Each dog and handler have an alloted time to herd three calves through the course. I wish our dogs could have attended, as well. They could’ve used some lessons from those good working dogs.

The Littlest Cowboy
The littlest cowboy out there warming up the horses with Dad.

Ranch rodeo differs from just plain old rodeo in that the contestants are working ranch hands and the events are real chores done on a ranch: stray gathering, wild cow milking, branding, and ranch bronc riding.

Twelve teams competed each night. Each team consisted of four contestants. The first night I rooted for team Empty Pockets because I fully identified with their unfortunate plight. They did pretty good out there, too. I was proud.

Duncan Ok Horse Sale

The next morning, we attended the horse and mule sale. Didn’t buy anything but enjoyed watching.

Grand entry Chisolm Trail Ranch Rodeo
At the grand entry
Branding Event
Branding Event

The next night, I rooted for team Three Fats and a Railer, because, really…how could I not with a descriptive title like that? They put the skinny guy on the saddle bronc and ended up doing pretty good for three fat guys, (and proud of it,) and a scrawny one. We left before they’d figured all the scores, so we don’t know which team won.

2. At the rodeo on night one, Son #2 delivered sad tidings. Rusty, the great and noble guinea pig and long time pet of grandkids, Blondie and Git ‘R’Done, had passed away.

Not an actual picture of Rusty, but close enough.
Not an actual picture of Rusty, but close enough.

(Seriously, I found the below image while searching for a guinea pig photo. I hope I’m never hungry enough to look at it and say, “Mm…that looks pretty tasty.” Ew.)

Cooked Guinea Pig
Happy to say Rusty avoided this fate.

Okay, so I’m getting a little off target.

3. We expected tears from six-year-old Blondie and we got ’em for a while, but she recovered quickly. That night in the hotel room with Gramps and me, she woke me with her weeping, however.

Nana: (mumbling) Why are you crying, Blondie?

Blondie: (Crying harder.) I can’t help it. I’ve been trying not to all night.

Nana: (mumbling harder) Get up and go to the bathroom, see if that helps…

I guess it did because I didn’t hear her anymore, but the next day I asked Gramps if he’d heard her. He hadn’t.

Blondie: I wasn’t crying because of Rusty, Nana. I was crying because of Gramps snoring. I just wanted him to stop…

So, Gramps, sleep with one eye open. A little girl might be approaching your head with a pillow and crying into the darkness, “Make it stop! I just want it to stop…!”

So What do y’all think?

  • Is Three Fats and a Railer a good team name, or what?
  • Would Rusty have tasted like chicken?
  • Should Gramps worry?

Thanks so much for reading and God bless all y’all with peace, health, and safety throughout this Christmas season. Enjoy Casting Crowns singing I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day.

[youtube.com/watch?v=M7670CXvPX0]

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