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.

 

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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.

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asparagus

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rhubarb

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.

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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’.

 

 

 

 

Oh, Yeah? It Did Too Rain Again At The Ranch Pen

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Nellie, preparing for that cloud to rain the bottom out

 

Anyone who has read the blog for the past year or two knows we in southwestern Oklahoma–and basically the entire southwest US have been in a horrendous drought for years. Our farming communities have met to pray for rain, we ask for rain in church, in graduation invocations, farmer’s co-op meetings, football games, and rodeos. We have signs and billboards reminding us to pray for rain. Through the years when God has said no to our prayers for rain, we’ve then asked for strength to endure until better times come…and we’ve kept praying for rain.

Farmers live by the weather, so we know there are weather cycles, but some people and nations make the weather into a political issue, arguing about the future planetary destruction caused by global warming, climate change, greenhouse emissions, cow farts, ozone, etc. A few months ago, “they” (whoever “they” might be, meteorologists, scientists, weather girls, fortune tellers…your guess is as good as mine) issued a long-range weather forecast, which those of us in the agriculture community received with consternation in our drought stricken land of dried up rivers, creeks, ponds, lakes, and wells. The report read something like this:

Blah blah blah blah blah climate change blah blah formerly known as global warming blah blah blah blah blah Al Gore blah blah blah blah cow farts blah. Blah blah blah It’s never going to rain again in southwest Oklahoma blah blah blah end of civilization blah blah blah. The United Nations can probably fix it we bet blah blah blah. Blah blah cows are evil and smell bad blah blah blah.

(Al Gore might not have been specifically mentioned by name.)

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Son #1 holding a carp he found on a flooded road

Anyway, we kept praying for rain even with that long-range prediction hanging over our heads like a dust cloud and I’m ever so thankful to report that forecast wasn’t quite spot-on. Over the past several weeks, God has opened the heavens to us again, pouring out rivers, creeks, lakes, ponds, and wells full of rain.

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Grandson Git’R’Done prepared in case the water keeps rising

 

As always, thank you so much for reading. God bless all y’all with full ponds and enjoy Jeremy Camp doing Walk By Faith.

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning At The Ranch Pen

sign

clipart via clipart.co

Well, to catch up on the doings at the Ranch Pen, spring has arrived along with tornado clouds (below) and the recurring argument discussion between Gramps and me about the definition of junk.

An Oklahoma tornado hatcher

My domain is our yard–along with the garden–and it’s pretty big, including the super hairy elm trees I have to trim (below). I’m going to guess our yard at about an acre although I haven’t measured it out. I am somewhat given to repurposing containers, and so forth, for flower pots and antiques for yard art, but it’s in pretty good shape, usually. However, Gramps’ domain, his junkyard beyond the yard? Ridiculous.

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Hairy elm tree. My late mother-in-law was the only person I knew who could make a two syllable word out of elm. She always said, el-uhm tree.

Most of our altercations  discussions about junk start something like this:

Danni: I need a tractor up here at the house.

Gramps: (instantly wary) What for?

Danni: I’m gonna clean up that dump out there and I need a loader.

Gramps: Hey, whoa now…which junk are you talkin’ about?

Danni: Yours…

Happily, I’ve had access to not only one of our tractors, but also a truck (below) and a nephew, so the place looks marginally better than it did a few weeks ago.

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As illustrated by the mud puddle in the picture above, we have had some RAIN! We hardly remembered what it was, but we are certainly thankful for it, now. The moisture has made all the difference in the wheat crop and that will breathe life into some of us broke farmers and cattlemen. Those of you out there who like to eat bread, goodies, and beef should probably rejoice, too.

Oklahoma wheat. We grow what’s called hard red winter wheat in this area and the #1 grade is high protein and used for baking flour.

Springtime is also the time to buy chicks if you’re gonna grow some for laying or eating. The weird looking chickens (below) were spotted in the farm supply store recently.

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Oh, wait…I guess those are the grandsons, Tater, Kevman, and Einstein.

The barn cat recently went all strange, as well. For many months, he wouldn’t have anything to do with me, but suddenly one day, he decided he would be my pet. Now, he hurls himself to the ground in front of me and does his super cool cat trick (below). Since I am not a cat whisperer, I have no idea what his trick means, but he is proud of it. His name is Roger, now.

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Believe it, or not, Roger is going to be a dad. Perhaps that explains his happiness. His wife (pictured below with Nellie the dog) used to be named Sunny, but now it’s Stubby because Nellie broke her tail and then Sunny/Stubby chewed her injured tail off HER OWN BODY. She is also still best friends with Nellie. Go figure.IMG_1182

Finally, the grandson Roper and I stopped cleaning up junk for a while and took advantage of a beautiful morning to shoot some targets with the BB gun. I’ll just call him Buffalo Bill, now, because he is a pretty awesome shot at age six. It helps that he has the outfit for it. His main challenge is biting into apples with his teeth missing. He has solved that problem by confining his diet to meat and french fries as much as possible for the time being.

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I hope your spring cleaning is going well–or, if you’re in the southern hemisphere, your fall cleaning. As always, thanks so much for visiting the Ranch Pen. God bless all y’all and enjoy The Isaacs doing  I Know Who Holds Tomorrow.

Top Ranch Pen Posts Of 2014–#2

The second most viewed post of 2014 surprised me because its the exact same as last year’s–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow And Hey! What’re You Doing To My Tractor? I still don’t know what drives the viewers to this particular page, but they’re probably poets who appreciate my brilliant re-do of Mr. Wadsworth’s The Wreck Of The Hesperus–Wait. What’s that? You think my do-over stinks and is a desecration of a work of poetical genius? Oh, dear…Sorry. Lots of static on the blog. You’re breakin’ up real bad. Can you hear me now? No…?

Rats, must’ve lost her. Oh, well, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t a farm gal or she would’ve enjoyed the pictures, at least.

 

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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 berfore 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 pomise.) 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.

So What Do Y’all Think?

  • Is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow one of the best American Poets ever?
  • Do you have an explanation for number 6?
  • Should Gramps have fixed the brakes like I told him to, and why didn’t I name one of my boys Peleg?

 

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Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy the Gardiner Sisters singing A Strange Way To Save The World.

[youtube.com/watch?v=Dsh3MQQonYw]

*These young artists don’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just love their music.

Get Outta the Way Valentine You’re Blocking Her View of the Pony

I Love You, Frisco!

Gramps Don't stand a chance

Gramps and I have six grandkids codenamed Kevman, Blondie, Roper, Einstein, Git ‘R’ Done, and Ladybug. Some (or all of them), nieces, and assorted other kids show up on Fridays for an art lesson since most of them are home shooled.

Last art class, we made Valentine boxes. Later, Roper and Ladybug’s mom summed it up perfectly.

“Gosh,” she said, “it looks like a craft store threw up in here…”

Everybody had a wonderful time, but unfortunately, one of the laws of the universe states All Good Things Must End and one of the visitors, Sarah, aged 6.5 years (she’d want me to share that decimal), got into the vehicle with her Valentine box–and her mother–to leave.

Now, Gramps happened to be out in the yard working on his pickup, or something. (Doesn’t matter, take your pick from the fleet of old farm vehicles in the yard, they all need fixed.)

Sarah’s mom backed around in the driveway and Sarah leaned out the window, waving and smiling enthusiastically. Gramps is fond of little girls, so his old heart jumped for joy as he waved back at her.

“Bye, Frisco!” she yelled, craning her neck around Gramps for a better view of the grandkids’ Shetland pony.

Ouch.

Can anybody say, Awwww…poor Gramps?

Happy Valentines Day, Gramps, my valentine since I was SIX YEARS OLD! You still make my heart beat really fast. (At least, I think that’s you and not just the jalapeno peppers I’m not supposed to be eating.) I’d do the last thirty-one-and-a-half years of wedded bliss with you again without a second’s hesitation.

God bless all Y’all and enjoy Don Williams doing Gramps’ and my wedding song, Til the Rivers All Run Dry

*This artists doesn’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like him.

Duncan Oklahoma Horse Fair and Ranch Rodeo and the Passing of a Great Guinea Pig

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

 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.

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?

A big thanks to the Duncan, OK, Hampton Inn for the clean room, comfy bed, and surprisingly good breakfast.

Blondie and Git’R’Done, this song Where There is Faith by 4Him will comfort you about your good and faithful friend. Rest in peace, Rusty.

Until next time, God bless.

Cowboy Poetry and Culling the Ol’ Darlin’s in Southwest Oklahoma

 

An Old Darlin’ as depicted by the great cowboy cartoonist, Ace Reid

The drought has forced most of us Oklahoma cow people to cull our herds more effectively simply because we don’t have the feed–and in many cases, the water–to run retirement homes for our old darlin’s.

Now, this is a sad situation. A lot of our old cows–and horses–are like family to us. I think I’ll write a poem right now in memorium.

Ode to the Cull Cow by Danni McGriffith

Old Darlin’ it’s time for you to go,

before the snow.

Get off my toe–(No…)

I’ll need a tow,

or we can’t go–

Oh, boogers.

I guess I’m no poet, but I love cowboy poets, so I think I’ll–

“What’s that, Gramps? No, I didn’t either say cowboy poets. I said cowboy poetry. Now, where was I…?”

Oh, yes. I love cowboy poets poetry, especially Baxter Black’s.

I’ve included the audio clip here entitled “One More Year“. (It’s from an old cassette tape, Baxter Black Live. The sound quality isn’t great, but it’s worth the time to listen. Takes a second or two to load.)

*He uses a couple of words some may find offensive.

One More Year by Baxter Black–Quick Time Player

Bear in mind the purpose of a ranch cow is to produce calves. When she doesn’t produce calves anymore, she turns into a money suck, possibly with the personality pictured below.

Snarling wolf

Since this blog is supposed to be kinda extremely educational  to those who would like to know what goes on out here where your food is produced, I paraphrased Baxter Black’s words in order to explain the conversation between the eager young vet and the rancher. (My comments are in parenthesis.)

One More Year by Baxter Black

“Rancher: ‘What’s the story on that good old cow?’ the bowlegged cowboy asks.

Young vet: Well, she’s sorta gimpy on the left hind leg and her breathin’s kinda fast.”

(Cows get gimpy for the same reasons people do–old age, disease, injury, etc. She might be breathing fast from disease or old age, too…Not good, whatever’s causing it)

“Rancher: Shucks…(sniffs) I ‘member when she was borned….It wasn’t that long ago.
Young Vet: Well, somebody bobbed her tail last year, but $&@! I guess you’d oughta know.”

(Ranchers bob a few inches off a cow’s tail to mark her in the herd as a cull. If her tale was bobbed last year, she should have been culled from the herd then.)

“Rancher: You bet your life I know that cow. (Sniffs) She’s as good a one as I’ve saw.
Young Vet: Well, I just thought since she was gettin’ thin and got a big lump on her jaw…”

(Cows lose their teeth as they age. As a result they are unable to chew their food well and they get thin. A lump on her jaw could be caused from a burr or something of the sort lodged in the soft tissue under her tongue, creating an abcess)

Rancher: ‘That ain’t nothin…Just a little knot,’ the bowlegged cowboy said.

Young Vet: Yeah, but one eye’s blue, and she orphaned her calf, and she ain’t got a tooth in her head…”

(A milky, blue colored eye can be caused from an eye disease called pink-eye which sometimes leaves the cow blind in that eye. The cow wouldn’t take care of her calf, leaving it orphaned for the rancher to bottle feed. A giant pain in the neck and not cost effective. She doesn’t have teeth because they’ve all fallen out)

“Rancher: Listen kid. I ‘member that cow. I even milked her for a while!”

(There are a number of reasons the rancher might milk a range cow–her calf was too weak to nurse, or possibly he had an orphaned calf from another cow that needed milk, or maybe the family’s milk cow dried up and he needed the milk at the house for his kids.)

“Young Vet: Sure, but she’s got a swingin bag, and one big ***, and skin like a crocodile!”

(Swingin’ udders are caused by old age and gravity, and yes, we call ’em ***s and hers might be big because she stepped on it and injured it. At any rate, a calf can’t nurse it well–or at all–sometimes. Her skin may resemble a crocodile’s because of warts, or ringworm, or mange…any number of skin disorders)

 Rancher: (Getting all choked up) Kid you gotta admit she knows the range, and ever’ water hole.”

(She knows the range and the water holes because she’s been out there so long–like the rancher)

 Young Vet: Well, I hate to tell ya she’s open now and these prolapse stitches won’t hold.”

(When a cow doesn’t ‘breed back’, she’s called open. At some point in her career, her uterus has come out–she’s prolapsed–and a vet has shoved it back in and made some sutures to hold it in place. The prolapse will reappear next time she has a calf)

Rancher: Well, she’s nothin to me, don’t get me wrong. I know she’s gettin old.
Young Vet: Well, you’re the boss and if you wanna keep her whatever you say goes. But if it was me, I’d cull her fast and never shed a tear.”

(But, because some of our old darlin’s have a special place in our crusty old hearts, we park ’em out behind the house on their own retirement plot–and so does the bowlegged cowboy)

“Rancher: Well…I got a little grass out behind the house. Let’s run her another year…”

So What Do Y’all Think?

  • Do you have any ol’ darlin’s out behind the house? Horses qualify.
  • Is Baxter Black awesome, or what?
  • Oh, all right, I’ll ask–Did I really say I loved cowboy poets, or does Gramps have hair in his ears?

Answer these pressing questions below and until next time, God bless, and thank you to this guy http://www.youtube.com/user/mickey1960220?feature=watch for posting Alison Kraus andRobert Plant doing Your Long Journey, a moving tribute to another kind of old darlin’s.