Navajo Stuff At The Ranch Pen


Photo of Navajo farms on the floor of Canyon de Chelly (duh-shay) near Chinle, Arizona taken by Gramps and me in 2012

As mentioned in last weeks’ post Characters At The Ranch Pen, I get asked about where the ideas for the characters in my stories come from. Since I find my character, Annie, one of the most interesting, we’ll begin with her.

Many years ago, Gramps was a pipeline welder and if our little boys and I wanted to see him (we did) we had to follow his work.  As a result, we lived for short periods of time near many of the major natural gas production areas of the western United States. We spent a lot of time in towns near the huge natural gas field that encompasses parts of southern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, and southeastern Utah, and which also happens to be partly on the Navajo reservation. While beating around in Navajo country, I became one of author Tony Hillerman’s biggest fans, devouring–so to speak–all of his books about Navajo cops, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. (I still read Mr. Hillerman’s books sometimes when I am homesick for a mind-painting of that arid, beautiful country of breath-taking cloud formations and canyons.)

While in Farmington, New Mexico we usually stayed at a motel called the Anasazi Inn. At that time, the Inn had a restaurant with live piano music on certain evenings. One evening as we dined to piano music, I happened to glance across the room to where the most stunningly beautiful young Navajo woman sat eating with a man. I got the impression he was a white man, but I didn’t pay much attention to him. The young Navajo woman didn’t smile, and she barely spoke while she ate. She was tall and willowy and dressed like nearly any other white woman in the room rather than in traditional garb–loose blouse, full skirt, silver and turquoise jewelry, and wearing her hair in the traditional Navajo bun. (Many Navajo women dress that way yet.) Aside from that young woman’s beauty, nothing about her called attention, still…she was very different–remote, unreadable, and yet sad.

*Disclaimer: Bear in mind, I have a wild imagination and she might have been as happy as a clown that night. That was just my reading of her from across the room while I mopped up my boys’ spills and corrected their table manners with cries like, “Must you eat like a hog?” or, “Please remember you are not a barbarian who just came down from the mountains picking his teeth with a bone.”

Anyway, I never forgot that beautiful young lady. Eventually I named her Annie and she found her way into my book The Cedar Tree where she plays a minor character. (In subsequent tales, she assumes a role as a major character.)


Toadlena, New Mexico, Trading Post–a beyond interesting old place where Navajo weavers sell their rugs, handwoven in the Two Grey Hills style. The proprietor, Mark Winters, wrote a book on the subject called, The Master Weavers, which I love. (It also weighs approximately one-hundred-pounds, so it is very useful for defense, as well.)


Two Grey Hills Trading Post est. in 1897 is a few miles from the Toadlena post and is where my character, Annie’s, grandmother sold her handwoven rugs.


Looking southwest from the parking lot of the Two Grey Hills Trading Post

Annie, as a Navajo woman, happened to intersect very well with my interest in sheep and wool. Navajo society has revolved around their flocks ever since the Spaniards introduced sheep to the southwestern United States several hundred years ago.


Navajo women weaving  in the 1930’s via wikimedia

4ac54b470c60b6c37f042d91dae31163woman spinning with Navajo spindle via

I have the greatest respect for the Navajo women who still use those long spindles to spin their rug yarn. The task is incredibly difficult and time-consuming, says Danni whose yarn spun on her Navajo spindle usually resembled some particularly dreadful dreadlocks.

So, that’s where Annie came from. I guess it remains to be seen where she’ll end up.

As always, thanks for reading and until next time, God bless all y’all, and enjoy Acappella singing Rescue, my favorite since the first time I heard these guys perform live. They’re always awesome no matter which of the fellers they’ve got singing together.


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

Pithy Observations From The Ranch Pen


Stiff winds accompany this forecast, so…can anybody say convection oven?

It’s hot.

Very hot.

 So, lest I tip over dead during the heat of the day, I go inside and catch up on my reading–books, ranch and farm publications, and writers’ magazines. One of the writing magazines I used to love so much has changed this year in a disagreeable way. But, before I recklessly pulled the subscription plug, I decided to email the editor with my polite complaint: the magazine had become pedantic (an excessive or inappropriate display of learning) which almost always bores people stiff.

Super Smart Words

A few months have rocked along and I’m still riding the fence about discontinuing the subscription. On one hand, the mag seems to have more relevant information, but on the other is still pedantic. So, for today’s post I decided to sprinkle some of the superfluous words–which I will underline–throughout my ol’ farm gal post to see if my writing improves with the use of really smart-sounding words. If not, the magazine is…(finger across the throat)

I was partially homeschooled, so I had to look up the meanings of some of these babies. I used an online dictionary, but the politically correct dictionary dudes had already been there. They had changed the definition of marriage to meet an evolving opinion, so the definitions of the other words are perhaps suspect evolving, as well. Take them for whatever they’re worth. Here we go.


Monomaniac Waiting For A Pup

One of these cuties–a Mother’s Day gift from Gramps–is coming to live with us in a week or two. Which one, is yet to be determined. I’m fourth in line to choose. I want a female which makes things easier–the mama dog had eleven pups, seven females.

Shawna, at Yellow Rose Farm is the breeder and she’s kept me in pictures for the last two months. I’m so excited, I have become almost monomaniacal about these pups. The grandkids and nieces are impatiently waiting, too. I’ll keep y’all posted. Until then, take the kids, grandkids, even the neighbor kids to the library, or get online and grab Old Yeller or Savage Sam by Fred Gipson–two of my all time favorite dog stories. Reading good books will serve the youngsters better than bacchanalias with friends.

IMG_3148Do these freshly dug taters look dangerous to your health? No, they just look yummy.


The garden yielded up the first new potatoes of the year and I fried ’em up with a fresh picked zucchini and some onions. Then Gramps and I covered the whole mess with homemade sausage gravy and ate a feast fit for a king. Or, at least Okie farmers. I grow weary with hearing about how bad potatoes are for us: They’ll make us fat. They’ll raise our blood sugar. They’ll cause sinus blockage if small children poke the little taters up their noses. What side effects next? Depression? Incompetence Incontinence? Thoughts of suicide?

Tater Hating Causes Pithy Observations From the Ranch Pen

Food is fuel; it’s not the enemy and neither are the farmers and ranchers who grow it.

(No matter what you might read or see in the media.)


If you eat too much and don’t move around enough, you’ll get bigger than you want to be.

Pithy is such a great word

Short, to the point, and easily understood. Farmers and ranchers are good at pithy sayings and observations because they don’t have time to display their homunculus brain power all the time. I use homunculus  (an artificially formed dwarf or small man)here because it reminds me of the word humongous. But, I checked with the politically correct dictionary dudes–they said it’s fine to use those words interchangeably. Just follow my heart.

Phonemes: the special scent bugs send out to attract other bugs?

No, but the word fonemes phonemes is very difficult to drop into countrified blog posts. I defy anyone in southwest Oklahoma to fling the word phonemes around and not draw a blank look. My hearty congratulations goes to the fella in the writers’ magazine for wiggling that super-smart-sounding word into his article. Maybe I won’t pull the plug quite yet.

A Very Present Help In Trouble

Many farmers and ranchers who wrestle a living from the land to feed their families–and everyone else’s–depend on help from the One who never changes. Day in, day out, we depend on Him to help us when the rains fail…and when the rains won’t stop. We depend on His help to protect us and our families in our dangerous occupation…to keep our junk equipment functioning…to help us pay the bills when the harvest doesn’t cover expenses…on and on. Maybe that’s why a lot of us still use the old unabridged dictionary. We know some things never change.

Thanks for reading and until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy one of my favorite songs, Rescue, by Acappella.

*I plan to drop monomaniacal as often as possible into my writing and conversations, because, seriously…any word with the root maniac has to be a super cool word.


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