Emojis At The Ranch Pen

About three years ago, our oldest son showed me how to turn on the emojis on my iPhone and it changed the way I communicate. I love emojis. They’re great. (Or, Fantastic đŸ‘ŒđŸœ as the POTUS says.)

Like many writers, I write because it’s easier than talking. Left to my natural state, I can go days without opening my mouth to do more than mumble to myself. Imagine my delight to discover the emoji factory made it possible to communicate without the spoken or written word. đŸ‘đŸŒđŸ‘đŸŒ

I’m getting older and not very hip, so I fully identified with a funny post at the Babylon Bee (a Christian spoof news source), about a poor old pastor who responded to sad texts with the 😂 instead of the 😭 while comforting his parishioners.

One of the most enjoyable uses for emojis is conversing with the grandkids before they learn to read and talk and even afterwards. This is a portion of an emoji conversation I might have with the granddaughters:

đŸ’đŸ‘©đŸŒâ€đŸŒŸđŸ‘°đŸŒđŸ’ƒđŸœđŸ‘—đŸ‘ đŸ‘’đŸ‘›đŸ±đŸč🩋🩄

To which I might reply:


The grandsons communications go like this:

â˜ ïžđŸ•đŸŸđŸ”đŸčđŸŽŁđŸ„ŠđŸ€ș🏍đŸ”ȘđŸ’Łâš”ïžđŸšŹđŸ—Ą and đŸ”«

To which I might reply: 😳😊

(They’re all homeschooled or they would probably be expelled from their classes by now. That’s one of the disadvantages of homeschooling–mom can’t expel her students for chewing their pizza into the shape of a gun, and so forth. She would if she could some days. Don’t ask me how I know.)

The emoji factory used to include a real looking handgun in the weapons selection. It was always included in grandson transmissions to me and it was also a favorite of mine. It conveyed the expression I often use after a trying day and there is one more ridiculous thing to deal with. “Just shoot me now!” I sometimes screech. With emojis the expression could be conveyed like this:

😖 đŸ”«

Gramps or my sis would know exactly what was meant, but a while back, the politically correct emoji police took the real looking gun out of the weapons cache and I find it irritating 😠. (And really. A water gun? Just shoot me now with a water gun! loses something along the way.)

Do the emoji police not know âš”ïžđŸ—ĄđŸ’ŁđŸ”ȘđŸšŹđŸ€›đŸŒđŸ‘šđŸŒâ€âš•ïžđŸ”(bird flu ) âšĄïžđŸ”„(arson) đŸŒȘđŸŒ­đŸ„ƒđŸš—(drunk driving) đŸ„ƒ (alcohol related disease) 🚙 (auto crashes) đŸ“±(texting while driving) 🔹⛓💉💊 kill way more people than guns do? Where are the rubber swords, smoke bombs, candy cigarettes, hot wheels cars, cans of root beer? đŸ€·â€â™€ïž

I’m just saying. Violence is a problem of the human heart and if somebody is determined to shoot another human being, only having access to the water gun emoji in texts isn’t going to change that.

As always, thanks for reading 📖. God bless all y’all and until next time âœŒđŸŒ and enjoy The Isaacs doing The Three Bells a song popular back in the day when the Browns did it.


In A Nutshell At The Ranch Pen

comic in John Deere's magazine, The Furrow

I don’t have much time this week because spring has sprung in southwest Oklahoma, but I saw this funny cartoon in John Deere’s complimentary (with a fifty-thousand-dollar purchase) magazine called The Furrow and it inspired the blog post as the weirdest things sometimes do.

In a nutshell–or egg shell–we have good news. The lazy chickens finally got off their tail feathers and started laying after taking the winter off, so our eggs are rapidly becoming more affordable. The first egg or two we got a couple weeks ago probably came in at about eighty bucks apiece. Now? Approximately twenty-dollars a dozen. They’re really tasty, though.



fresh eggs

Also, we’ve got two of the finest things in life coming along–asparagus and rhubarb. Southwestern Oklahoma summers are unfriendly to rhubarb, but as a transplant from the cooler climes of Colorado, I’ve babied mine along for the past couple of decades. In a nutshell, the occasional rhubarb pie is reward enough for the effort.





I’ve decided not to grow a real garden because of a horrible tomato virus in the ground of my garden spot, so I planted some veggies in these grow bags.


kale, brussels sprouts, and tomato plants in grow bags

In a nutshell, I think those super nifty grow bags are destined to failure because of the gardening enthusiast pictured below. Many times, I have gone out of a morning to find Nellie has been busily uprooting my pots while I slept.  She always looks puzzled while I reel around clutching my head and howling with disappointment and rage.

Nellie, the nosiest dog in the world

Nellie, the nosiest dog in the world

Nellie’s brother, Trace, got an unfortunate haircut around the head and neck before I gave up and ordered some better clippers. He doesn’t seem particularly troubled about looking like he narrowly escaped Todd Sweeney, the deranged barber in the story The String of Pearls, who dispatches his victims by pulling a lever as they sit in his barber chair and lets them fall backward down a revolving trapdoor into the basement of his shop. Generally, the fall is enough to do them in, but Sweeney goes to the basement to make sure. If they haven’t croaked, he polishes them off with his clippers straight razor. After Todd robs his victims, Mrs. Lovett–his partner in crime–helps him dispose of the bodies by baking their flesh into meat pies and selling them in her pie shop. (You may read more about that in Wikipedia. That’s what I do.)

Unfortunate Trace

Trace, unfortunate, but not baked into a savory meat pie, at least

Speaking of unfortunate. A few days ago, I stooped to pick up something near the fish pond and almost picked up the garden snake pit viper lying there with a frog in its mouth. Both frog and viper seemed puzzled by me jumping around screaming and doing my freak-out dance. Apparently, the frog was too far down the gullet to spit out, so the pit viper hoisted it into the air using all the muscles in its thumb-sized neck and laboriously slid away to dine in private while I threw things at it. In a nutshell, it’s hard to hit a viper while leaping about.

Bearing that in mind, look at the box hedge below. Looks pretty harmless, doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s the home of that same pit viper, or a close relative. I did not know that until I was trimming the hedge with the electric hedge clippers and the viper poked up its head to warn me away. Screaming and jabbing with the hedge clippers clattering away on high speed, I determined to dispatch the puzzled viper for once and all. It’s hard to cut off a viper’s head while leaping about. I’m pretty sure it escaped, but I didn’t return to make sure. In a nutshell, I’m no Todd Sweeney.

The viper pit

The viper pit

The next two pictures are just for purty.

Winter wheat in southwest OK with wind turbines in background

Winter wheat in southwest OK with wind turbines in background

Cattle on spring pasture, a beautiful sight in southwest OK

Cattle on spring pasture, a beautiful sight in southwest OK

That’s it in a nutshell. Until next time, thanks for reading and God bless all y’all while you enjoy Geoff Moore doing When I Get Where I’m Goin’.





Sagging Middle At The Ranch Pen

IMG_2512 (1)

Sometimes in museums that showcase art, they will re-create the studio of a painter, sculptor, or writer and I always find those displays fascinating. I have no grandiose ideas that my studio might be re-created in a museum, but for anyone who’s interested
here y’go. Danni’s writing/art studio in living color. I’m gonna assume all countrified writers with a rabbit problem work with a rifle in easy reach. (Those rabbits! I’m not kidding. They have taken over the place.)

Today is just a quick update on where I am with the third book in the Love Is Not Enough series, which is titled Runs Alone Girl.

A little over a year ago, I had the startling revelation that the third book in my series is like the difficulties of bringing forth my third kid, (read the post here) but I was optimistic, hoping to finish the book that year.

Never mind, just kidding.

Back when I started writing this series, it wasn’t a series. It was one ginormous book. This book would lay Tolstoy’s War and Peace in the shade for weight and wordiness. If printed out, this book would’ve held it’s own against Obamacare’s reams of pages nobody wants to read.

Which reminds me of a joke.

Ol’ ranch gal to librarian: I’m lookin’ for a good book to read. Can you recommend one?

Librarian: Do you want something light, or heavy?

Ranch gal: Either way. I’ve got my pickup with me.

So, anyhow, to get a handle on this massive tome, I took an online class taught by the world’s greatest writing mentor, Terri Valentine. She gently told me I might have aholt of a lot bigger project than I thought I did, and she started helping me bust down the original book into a series.

People who write novels often hit what they call the “sagging middle”. The sagging middle is where the author basically flounders around for half the book with no direction and it’s SO BORING.

Reader, a few pages into saggy middle: “Are you kidding me? Did this author start taking stupid pills, or what? I’m not reading this junk, I need to wash my hair.”

Originally, Runs Alone Girl was the saggy middle of my massive book. Not only that, it centers on my character Annie, the Navajo girl. While I love Annie very much, she is emotionally frozen, stiff as a board, intensely personal, and an observer of life who doesn’t like to talk. Many of her scenes are written with her barely saying anything, or nothing at all. If you know anyone like that, you know how hard it is to interact with them and it’s just like that writing about them, too.

However, there isn’t anything more disappointing to me as a reader than an author who gets in a rush and starts cutting corners, so I’m going to put in the time to do Runs Alone Girl justice. I’m about 80% finished, and God willing I’ll be ready to release it later in the year. As they say, there’s light at the end of the tunnel
I hope it ain’t a train.

Thanks so much for reading. Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy Rend Collective singing You Are My Vision.

Only One Squirrel Had To Die At The Ranch Pen

Lunar Eclipse September 27

Lunar Eclipse images of September 27,  via daughter-in-law #1

While some Republicans have been watching the crowded field of hopeful presidential contenders with bated breath, Gramps and I have been just trying to live life, get our wheat planted, calves weaned,  watch lunar eclipses with our dogs, and so forth. We haven’t really made up our minds which of the hopeful Republicans we want to win, but we’ve agreed it’s not the one who looks like a squirrel crawled onto his head and died.

As I was saying, Gramps and I sat outside on the balmy night of the lunar eclipse and shared some popcorn with the dogs while we watched. Our daughter-in-law #1 took the awesome photos above. I took the one below.

Nellie, who is not really into moon gazing but is certainly an avid popcorn eater

Wheat planting time has arrived in the southern plains. We don’t grow wheat for grain anymore, but have been sowing winter wheat and triticale seed for grazing cattle through the winter.

The nephew, AH, loading seed treated with pesticide

Gramps supervising

Gramps supervising



Pasture already coming up. It’s a pretty sight to us

Gramps is a man of many talents and pretty handy to have around. He built a new corral, cow shed, and sorting pens on one of our farms this summer, which we got to try out this week as we sorted cows and weaned their calves. I took this short clip of Gramps freeing a heifer from where she had poked her head through the fence and couldn’t get it back out. He is not hitting her; he hit the bar beside her to give her some room to remove her head. The beautiful, new sorting pen is now bent.

Giant Brain–as I call her, now–is the one stirring up dust as she tries to shake off her bad experience.

We moved the weaned calves to another farm where Son #2 and Gramps ran them through the chute. The heifers got off with ear-tagging and treatment for parasites and flies, but the bull calves had the unhappy experience of getting separated from their…er…bull stuff.

My favorite shot of Git’R’Done, Ladybug, Son #2, and Roper waiting to run the calves through the chute

I’ve gotta git this time, but as always, thank you for checking out our slice of life from southwest Oklahoma. God bless all y’all and enjoy the guys of Alabama doing an awesome job on The Old Rugged Cross. 

Redneck Chicks At The Ranch Pen

In spite of my dark mutterings about hatchets and stew pots, my old hens have decided to mostly retire from the egg laying business and devote themselves to pursuing the stray grasshopper and luxuriating in dust baths. With all costs factored in, Gramps and I have been paying about twenty dollars a dozen for our eggs.

Seized by thrift and a hunger for eggs, I forgot how busy my schedule is at this time and shot off an order to Ideal Hatcheries in Texas–the surprise special, a grab bag of chicken breeds at a discounted price. The last surprise special I ordered grew up to be the worst laying hens ever and I had promised myself NEVER to be surprised like that again. Unfortunately for me as a middle-aged person, the memory ain’t what it used to be and I forgot what I had promised myself. The upside is, when the pullets start laying next spring, I can hide my own Easter eggs.

Hmmm…what was I talking about? Oh, yeah.

I had ordered a surprise and that is just what I got. For those who don’t know, you can actually get your chickens in the mail, but the mail carrier either isn’t allowed to haul them around in his car like the Beverly Hillbillies, or else he doesn’t want to listen to them cheeping, so at daybreak one day, the young lady at the post office called, wanting me to pick up my chicks. Surprise! Because I had forgotten the little gals were coming, they were essentially like the dove Noah sent out from the ark–they had no rest for the soles of their feet. Other than their small shipping box.

The pullets took up emergency shelter in the laundry basket in our house, but I needed to do laundry. The chicks had to change residences and the only place that was going to be protected enough was inside the hens’ run where raccoons couldn’t reach them. However, the hens posed as much threat as the ‘coons. Some people who aren’t around animals impart human emotions to them, which is usually a mistake. Lots of animals are just hard-down mean and old hens are some of the meanest. Most of the time, a helpless, human baby can be placed in a group of humans in safety, but baby chicks amongst the hens? No. The old hens will peck them to death. Chickens are where the term “pecking order” comes from, I believe, and newly hatched chicks from the Ideal Hatchery of Texas are WAY down in the pecking order–in fact, they look like chicken nuggets to the hens.

Aside from the danger mean, old biddies pose to them, newly hatched chicks have a need for heat. In nature, they are protected beneath their mother’s wings where it is just the right temperature. Ideal Hatchery chickens have to have a heat lamp or they will bunch up seeking warmth until they actually suffocate and trample each other. Their heat lamp can’t be in just any old place, either. If the hens can reach it, they will peck the bulb and break it, or–like the giant-brained hen I had one time–they might stand beneath it until it melts their feathers. In addition to heat, the young chicks need plenty of special feed, called chick starter, and fresh water–which they will not get if the old hens have access to it.

As a result, I sent out an emergency call to the nieces, JA, and TL, who in true good-hearted redneck girl fashion, rushed to help me whack together the shelter you see above, using old wire gates, pallets, paneling, truck tire rims, bungees, zip ties, wire, and feed sacks. We were proud of our building skills until we realized the little puffball chicks didn’t have enough guts (literally) for the wire barriers to prove an impediment to their freedom–they squeezed right through the holes. We spent a lot of time racing around, trying to capture the runaways, giggling while we darted this way and that with old hens squawking and scattering. We had a wonderful time and eventually got most of the holes plugged up by leaning old boards against them.

The chick on the right is making its gutless escape through the wire

Aw. Maybe that’s why I keep ordering the surprise specials.

All that trouble to eventually get this:

And finally just for fun, Danni’s nemesis, THE GREY HEN who flies like an airplane (almost) and eats eggs as fast as the other hens lay them while never bothering to lay one herself:

As always, thanks so much for reading. Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy one of my favorites of David Wesley’s, Whom Shall I Fear.

Countrified Marriage Advice From The Ranch Pen

Young Gramps and Danni

Young Gramps and Danni

I read somewhere or other recently that if the man/woman you are thinking of as a husband/wife isn’t someone you feel is better than you, someone who makes you want to be better than you are, don’t marry that guy/gal. In other words, don’t marry beneath yourself. It was like getting hit in the head with a bag of bricks. “Eureka!” I thought. “That is excellent advice and since Gramps and I have been married thirty-four years this week, I believe I’ll hand out some of my own.”

As evidenced by the photo from ancient times (above) taken not all that long before our marriage, Gramps and I were very young when we started our lives together. Nobody can say, “Well, sure your marriage worked, Danni. Hello. Y’all were in love, super smart, rich, and beautiful. Me and the moron I married didn’t have those advantages.”

First of all, we were both still teenagers (Gramps, 19, Danni,16) when we made our vows to each other and God, and nobody has the experience or wisdom to weigh all the pros and cons and come up with a lifetime of happiness at that age even if they love each other. So, no. We weren’t super smart. We were real dumb.

As for rich, Gramps had his pickup, a job, and a twenty-foot-long camp trailer. I had two fat steer calves ready for butcher, a couple hundred bucks cash, and a bike.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and while we were dazzled by each other’s good looks and charm, neither of us ever ended up with modeling agents clamoring at our camp trailer door.

Balanced precariously against our slew of disadvantages, we had one real advantage–we were committed to Jesus Christ and our shared belief that God hears and holds us accountable to our vows, taking divorce off the table as an option.

Along with divine help, some common sense always comes in handy. Therefore, I have included a partial list of people to avoid including in your matrimonial plans.

Danni’s List of People to Avoid Marrying Because That Would Be Marrying Beneath You

  • Addicts of all kinds–you will always come second, or third, or fourth to their addiction.
  • Liars–Liars lie. They’ll lie to you, too.
  • Thieves–Thieves take stuff that ain’t theirs, including services rendered, such as the utilities and items bought on credit. If someone doesn’t pay their bills, that’s dishonest and you can’t respect somebody like that.
  • Cheats–If they will cheat someone else, they will sneak around and cheat on you, too.
  • Lazy bums–A bone lazy person who sits around playing video games all day and breathing up good air instead of tending to business will always be dead weight to you. And everyone else, too. You won’t ever be proud of them.
  • Self-centered morons–you will want to jab them with your fork every day of your life.
  • Shallow–If someone doesn’t care deeply enough about at least one thing that they would plant their feet and take a stand for it against popular opinion, they’ll leave you hung out to dry when you do.
  • Gorgeous on the outside, empty on the inside. Or even worse, rotten at the core–If you judge the book solely by its’ cover, you’re gonna get a rude shock a few years down the road.
  • Disrespectful of human life–Someone who doesn’t respect the dignity of human life from the womb to the grave is not going to spoon feed you and change your adult diapers if you cease to be useful to them.
  • Know-it-alls–Someone who already knows everything is tedious in the extreme and (unbeknownst to them) at a grave disadvantage since life is one, long learning curve. But they already knew that.
  • An abuser–If someone belittles you or hurts you physically before marriage? Yeah. That ain’t gonna get any better. Plus, you might have some kids to worry about after a while.
  • Goober-heads–An occasional small gooberishness is tolerable, but if the person drives you nuts and makes you want to bring a cast iron skillet down on his/her annoying head before marriage, they probably always will.
  • Humorless person–Someone who takes themselves too seriously and doesn’t think you’re funny, either? Avoid them. Sometimes the only thing that makes life bearable is the ability to laugh at yourself and each other.
  • Finally, and most importantly, don’t marry someone who won’t pray or go to church with you–Life is just plain hard and you’ll need all the help you can get.

So, there you have it, ol’ Danni’s incomplete list of people not to marry. I hope it’s helpful. As an ultra-conservative Christian woman, I believe marriage between men and women is–and has always been since God ordained it–the foundation of civilization. When a marriage crumbles it’s like a small universe exploding and nobody knows who all is going to get hurt by the fallout. If your marriage is struggling, please don’t give up on it. It’s important in the big picture and if you can save it, one day you’ll be ever so glad you did.


Danni and Gramps, Lo these many years later

Danni and Gramps, Lo these many years later

(Gramps, from the wife of your youth, thank you for thirty-four years of your life. I married above myself.)

As always, thanks for reading and until next time, God bless all y’all–married or not–and enjoy Keith Whitley’s When You Say Nothing At All.  (It’s for you, Gramps, since I tend to nag if I say anything at all. Plus, it’s a good song from back in the day.)

*If you are interested in more things you should never do in choosing a mate, you might want to read my book Wailing Woman Creek, the second in the Love Is Not Enough Series.


Dogs Versus Frogs At The Ranch Pen

Nellie on the set of her new film, Dogs Versus Frogs

Nellie on the set of her new film, Dogs Versus Frogs

Big news at the Ranch Pen. Our two dogs, Nellie and Trace, are starring in their own movie titled Dogs Versus Frogs. The rains from earlier in the summer hatched a crop of tadpoles that turned into a plague of frogs similar to the one in Egypt in the days of Moses. Concerned about the possibility of a world-wide power grab by frogs, Nellie and Trace bravely blew off threatening phone calls from PETA and the Humane Society about cruelty to amphibians, and hurled themselves into this selfless quest to end frog overpopulation before it was too late. I, for one, applaud their ineffective heroic efforts.

As a visual aid before we begin today’s video, in the picture below I’ve circled a small sampling of disgusting frogs just chillin’ around ol’ Danni’s fish pond.


Now for today’s feature. Enjoy.



Nellie and Trace hope you loved Dogs Versus Frogs, The Movie Trailer and wanted me to say God bless all y’all and if anyone has a good recipe for frogs’ legs mail it to: Dog House A and Dog House B, c/o the Ranch Pen.


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.

IMG_0276 (1)



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.

Celebrating The Dudes At The Ranch Pen

Son #2, Gramps, Son #3, Son #1

Son #2, Gramps, Son #3, Son #1

Father’s Day is approaching this weekend and I’ve been blessed in my life to know literally tons of good dads. Thankfully, four of the best I know are pictured above, m’dear Gramps and our three sons.

For this week’s post, I just had a few bullet points on traits I’ve noticed in good dads.

  • These dads will show up at work even if they’re half-dead to provide for their families. They accept their responsibilities. They shoulder their loads. They don’t move back in with their mom and grandma and play video games in the basement all day while someone else feeds and clothes the children they’ve sired.
  • These dads aren’t hypocrites. If they tell their kids not to lie, cheat, and steal, they don’t lie, cheat, and steal themselves. They might sometimes yell dadgummit! and throw the hammer when they hit their thumbs, but they know the synonyms for the word honorable: honest, moral, ethical, principled, righteous, right-minded, decent, respectable, estimable, virtuous, good, upstanding, upright, worthy, noble, fair, just, truthful, trustworthy, law-abiding, reliable, reputable, creditable, dependable.
  • These dads face the same temptations as other men, but they guard their honor,  keep their marriage vows, and do one of the best things they can do for their children–love their kids’ mother.
  • These dads sometimes laugh at their own jokes and break wind at the dinner table, causing wives to squawk, daughters to roll their eyes, and sons to imitate, but by golly, they are there. The kids’ eyes might be watering from Dad’s noxious fumes, but they know he’s always got their backs and if the need ever arises, he’ll unhesitatingly take a bullet for them.
  • And, finally, even though the world all around them screams differently, these dads know they are accountable to God for the way they raise their kids. They take their kids to church. Their children see a humble man bowing to Someone mightier than himself and have confidence his prayers are as good as his word.

So, to my crew and all the rest of you good dads out there, thank you. We love you. We need you. We sometimes wish you weren’t so gassy, but you’re not expendable in our families–no matter what anybody tells you.

Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy David Wesley singing, How Deep The Father’s Love For Us.


You Ain’t My Mother At The Ranch Pen




As I mentioned last week, I’ve been participating in the Story A Day in May at storyaday.org. One day this past week the prompt was about memoirs and we were supposed to fictionalize a personal memory. (The idea being that fiction is much better than our boring lives.) I didn’t have time for that, so I wrote down my memories at six-years-old, meeting Gramps. (He wasn’t called Gramps, then, by the way.) I won’t bore everyone with that memory right now–except that I remember Gramps as a revolting, freckled young lad of nine who made me cry.

So, anyway. The prompt, along with Mother’s Day this past weekend, sparked a memory of another Mother’s Day which I will do my best to recount in a completely objective way.

For those who don’t know, Gramps and I embarked on the sea of marital bliss 33+ years ago at very young ages–he was nineteen, I was sixteen. We had barely hove off shore in our two person canoe when we realized that in about nine months, a baby in the form of a human, (which is what any normal person would think,) would be joining our clueless happy crew.

Danni: (upon discovery) Sweet! Just what I’ve always wanted, Gramps…your offspring.

Gramps: Er…I guess I’ll get another job. (But thinking: Gah! Are you kidding me? It will have two heads with an eye between them, skin like a crocodile, and cloven hooves. What else could’ve possibly happened between me and my wife, Princess Buttercup?)

Happily, he didn’t voice those thoughts for many years, thereby prolonging his lifespan.


Princess Buttercup, with a stringer of mountain trout


Time rocked along. Our first Mother’s Day on the sea of marital bliss in our two person canoe–starting to ride low in the water on my end–approached. At sixteen, girls are still all about romantic gifts from their Prince–particularly if she has gotten as big as a small cow carrying Mr. Charming’s monster baby. Naturally, these were my thoughts: Hey, I’m going to be a mother! Sweet. I’ll get a present from m’dear Charming who must certainly have stars in his eyes about me bringing forth his young ‘un, and so forth.

Charming hid the stars in his eyes pretty well, however, paddling leisurely along as though Mother’s Day wasn’t looming on his horizon like Alcatraz Prison Island. I began to worry. Even though I had known Charming since age six, I stubbornly loyally ignored the fact that hints were lost on him and started laying down a thick carpet of them in the bottom of our vessel. (In time, after we had portaged our canoe around a few dried up mud puddles of marital bliss, I realized he picked up on my direct demands with a lot less fuss. But as I mentioned, I was young and dumb still hoping for romance.)


Charming, with his stringer of little bitty fish

The fateful Mothers Day dawned in a stormy sky. No present.

Buttercup: (peeved, but still hoping)  “Today’s Mother’s Day.”

Charming: Oh, shoot. Did you get my mom something?

Buttercup: Yes, moron, but what about me?

Charming: You?

Buttercup: I’m going to be the mother of Charming Jr.

Charming: (looking puzzled) Yeah, but you ain’t my mother…

I think I burst into tears and made him very sorry-ish, or something.

Mother’s Day passed, somehow. The storm clouds rolled away. We said our prayers together and paddled onward, my end of the canoe taking on water now and then from my tears and the sea of reality washing onboard–possibly because of my weight gain.

A few months later, our first son was born–apparently as human as the next kid and a LOT cuter. Charming Sr. obtained extra jobs to keep Jr. in food, diapers, and shelter.  Sr. also bought a bigger boat with a super-duty patching kit for the next Mother’s Day. Just in case. The injustice of Buttercup’s overreaction continued to sting from time to time because, clearly, she was his soul mate and all that, but she STILL wasn’t his mother. Nevertheless, faced with the prospect of portaging that blasted canoe around other mud puddles, ever after, Charming did whatever floated her boat on Mother’s Day.

Who says memoirs aren’t as good as fiction?

(M’dear Gramps, just so you know, I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, there was that one little–No. Not a thing.)

Thanks so much for reading and until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy Kathy Mattea and Tim O’Brien doing Battle Hymn of Love.