In Memory of My Dad #10

written by Bob Briggs

I recently motored out to West Texas for the holidays.  I saw a bunch of old friends and made more than a few parties while visiting there on the Golden Spread.

One of the old friends I saw was Dave.  Dave was an old water well man and moon player, par excellence.  The only trouble was that you couldn’t tell which was his vocation and which was his avocation. 

I used to work for the guy, so I had more than a working relationship with the guy when he had a moon hand in front of him.  I think that Coy, a half mad guitar player is finally coming around to my way of thinking, after losing hundreds of dollars over the years to Dave.

When you live in West Texas, you’re a long way from big-city life.  If not in miles, then in a state of mind.  One day during a lull in the moon playing, Dave related this story to me.

It seems that years ago, when dinosaurs still ruled the earth, Dave was a pretty good cowboy.  But that was in the years when Dave was a lot younger.  Before he traded his string of rough stock for the spanner wrench and shop hammer. 

Old habits die hard, so when Dave gets all shined up to go somewhere, be it a country dance or a neighbor’s barbecue, he still dresses western.  Big Hat.  Lace up roper boot (cause they’re easier on the feet.)  Trophy buckle from one of those “punkin rollins”.  Like I say, Dave used to be a pretty classy cowboy.

Dave went to the Veterans Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico last summer to have RK surgery done on his good eye.  Dave only has one eye, so how he was going to get back to Pampa never entered his mind, seeing as how his roommate and best pal Nancy stayed home to work the first shift at Sandy’s Bar.

The first shift runs from around eight in the morning until one or two in the afternoon, due to the influx of shift workers that come in for an early morning beer.   Eight a.m. is early evening for many of the Celanese, Cabot, Ingersol Rand or MapCo workers there in the Panhandle of Texas.  Things tend to get pretty lively in the saloons about noon, especially if some fo the pulling unit hands are off that day and decide to spend the day shooting pool instead of mowing the lawn or some other honey-do chore.

Anyway Dave stayed there at the VA hospital for three days, when for lack of a better word, they unwrapped his eyeball.  Things were still pretty fuzzy from Dave’s side of the eyeball, so they decided that he should stay for the weekend.

Dave had a great-nephew stationed at Ft. Collins, Colorado.  So Dave got the doctor’s permission to fly up and see him that weekend.  “It was one of those little puddle jumpin’ airplanes,” recalled Dave.  So the first stop was in Colorado Springs, where the passengers had a twenty-minute layover.  So Dave got himself a carton of chocolate milk and a six-pack of Fig Newtons for a snack.

Dave then went to sit at a table already occupied by a businessman dressed just like Tom Bosley, reading a Wall Street Journal through a little pair of half glasses perched on the end of this nose.  Dave took little notice of the peculiar look that Tom gave him as he opened the Fig Newtons and scarfed one down.

Tom immediately reached over and got one of the cookies for himself.  Dave didn’t say anything, just thought, “strange custom” and went about eyeballing the fellow travelers as best that he could with the bum eye.

Dave then ate another Fig Newton this time noticing that Tom all but snarled as he quickly put another Fig Newton in his gaping maw.  “Must be some sort of practice that we don’t do down on the plains,” thought Dave eating the third of the Fig Newtons and pushing the remaining one across the table to Tom who was glaring openly at Dave now.  Tom took the third of the Fig Newtons and walked away all the time muttering to himself. 

“Well hell”, thought Dave, “no one in Pampa would think of eating one of your Fig Newtons without asking, and never without saying thanks.” 

Dave shrugged his shoulders and made his way to where they were boarding the plane. 

As he felt in his inner coat pocket for his ticket, Dave found an unopened six-pack of Fig Newtons.

Out My Window

I’d love to leave you the impression that I live on a sprawling, open, isolated huge amount of land out in the middle of nowhere.  But I’d be lying to you if I left you that impression. I live in a trailer house next to a highway, next to a railroad track. 

Joy.

There are things I love about living here and things I hate. 

 As I look out my window, propped up in my bed with a laptop on my lap, hence the name, I see Freak, Jason’s new horse trying desperately to get his freak on with a mare in the next pasture.  I called my husband earlier to say, “Hey, just so  you know, your next problem is that the mare is in heat”.  But it appears Freak has been cut, according to J-Dub, but they’re still necking across the fence, whinnying ever so lightly, and it’s actually making me a bit sick to my stomach.  I think I’ll go run him off.  It reminds me of the time as a young girl, I went barreling into my teenage brothers place to tell him and his teenage friends they must come quick.  I needed help.  Two dogs were stuck together butt to butt in the alley and wouldn’t come apart.  I can’t remember my brother’s response only the laughter from the friends as I left dejected wondering how in the world I would ever help these dogs unhook themselves from each other so they could get on with life.  I’ve learned a thing or two since then. 

Looking out my window tonight, I see 5 red angus calves in the neighbor’s pasture frolicking.  Their mothers chew their cud, shake their heads, and mutter, “those kids, whatever are we going to do with them?”  They actually run quite fast, especially when you’re on a horse chasing one.  I wouldn’t know, but my husband could tell you.  His tooth is finally tightened back up.  Recently, he chased a calf on horseback, roped him, dismounted his horse with a string doubled over in his mouth, ran to the calf  to tie his legs, only to find one of the strings to have fallen from his mouth.  He stepped on it inadvertently, while the other part remained in his mouth, and nearly ripped his tooth from his head.  It took a couple of weeks of eating gingerly before he could really bite into a steak again.

Looking out my window I see 14 chickens who make the most pleasant sounds in all the world clucking around in the their chicken yard as the sun goes down.  I’m working on a children’s book, The Crazy Chicken Lady.  Yes, it’s a tiny bit autobiographical. 

Then the train whistle blows, partially disturbing my peace, but I’m partially used to it by now. 

Sometimes I ask myself, like tonight for example, did I make the right choice? Leaving a moderately nice town home to move into a trailer house in the country?  We need a new roof, our fence is falling down, and water lines need digging.  The wind constantly blows, the dirt becomes a second skin, and the skunks’ odor burns my nostrils. 

Sometimes as human “beans “we yearn, don’t we.  Aren’t we always working towards something else, wondering what else is there, or is just my age and generation? Or maybe it’s just me.   Tonight I’m home alone, pondering all the world’s problems.  I’m reminded of a Bible verse: 

Phillipians 11-1311 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Isn’t God good?  Have you experienced the goodness of God?  I desperately hope you have.  The  things of this world are so miniscule compared to what we have to experience in the presence of the Living and Holy God. 

I haven’t turned my TV on to see the royal wedding.  I didn’t even know it was taking place until Wednesday when someone told me they were planning on recording it,  and then looked at me as if I live in a hole when I didn’t know of what they spoke.  Well okay, I do live in a hole,  a small one.  But my hole isn’t terrible and I’ve hung pictures finally, so it’s more like a homely hole. A homely hovel.  With a  leaning fence and shingles missing from the roof, and train whistles every half hour.  Oh well, it’s at least a roof over my head.  What else do I need?  

I hope you are happy today, dear friend.  Now I must go pen the chickens.

Until tomorrow,

Angel

What You Love

 

The sound of heavy bootsteps and the jingle of spurs woke me from dreams filled with high heels and travel plans. 

My husband was up, dressed, and stirring around the house, waiting on the “guys” to get here.  It was time for me to rise anyway. I threw the shoes I was trying on in my dream back into the closet,  pushed the cobwebs from my mind and rubbed the sleep from my eyes.

My husband’s day of  branding cows was soon to begin, and he was waiting on his friends/co-workers/fellow cowhands to arrive with their horses, pick-ups and trailers, so they could put the horses in one trailer, put the cowboys in one truck and head off as the sun was barely kissing the morning sky. 

It wasn’t much longer until the roar of diesel pick-ups and the rattle of trailers stocked with horses begin to break the silence of the morning. 

Cowboys have never had much appeal to me.  I’ve never been a cowboy’s girl.  In high school I always thought they were just a bunch of skinny boys with big belt buckles dressing up everyday.  Now nearly 20 years later, I find myself married to one.  Strange.

The cowboys greet each other, unload horses from trailers, and lead them to  my husband’s trailer to load.  They’ve got 3 different places to work cattle today.  

These are good men.  Actually, the best kind.  A dying breed.  Old-fashioned, hard-working, tough guys.  They love what they do, but it doesn’t always pay enough to do it.  These are men who take vacation days from their “real” jobs with health insurance in order to saddle a horse and swing a rope.  They may even call in sick just to get a workday off.  Sometimes they work the night shift at their other job, take an early morning nap, and then saddle their horse for the day.  They have a passion for this lifestyle.  It’s not about the money, that’s for sure.  

As I sit at the kitchen table, my coffee cup steaming, there’s only one word that describes me.  Proud.  I’m filled with a sense of pride.  Not because I’m doing anything.  Heck, I’m drinking coffee.  But because these fellows work hard, love their work, and do it for practically nothing.   They walk tall, perhaps even strut; dark silhouettes wearing cowboy hats starting their day.  

 I watched out the window until the heat from the house married the cold from the outdoors and steamed up the windows. 

Then I listened to the rattle and rumble of the pick-up  as four cowboys head out to do what they love. 

Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still~~Henry David Thoreau

A Marble Cake

She’s 12 today.

A beautiful joy.  Even with a wad of orange gum in her mouth.

She asked if she could have a marble cake.  Sure, you can.  And then she looked at her grandmother, and in her best 12-year-old, you’ve-got-to-be-kiddin-me, pre-teen, on-the-verge-of-knowing-everything voice, she said “You know that’s a KIND of a cake, not a cake with real marbles.”  She may have even rolled her eyes.  

Oh my.

As if my mother, her grandmother, has managed to live 60 some-odd years and not know what a marble cake is. 

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, Hey teenager! Tired of your parents?  Move out, get a job, and pay your own way while you still know everything.

Last night I baked a birthday cake for my niece.  It was one of those beautiful double layer chocolate cakes.  I wish I had a picture to show you, except it was an awful mess lying out in the pasture where I chunked it.  First of all, when I flipped the cake pans over, half the cake stuck to the bottom of the pan leaving lopsided, gouged out layers.  Not the total end of the world, I thought.  Maybe I could level it out and still make it look nice.  Icing it was another problem as crumbs mingled with icing causing a gloppy mess.  Finally to top it off, I picked up a big bite-size chunk of cake and popped it in my mouth.  It may look bad, but at least it tasted good.  Wrong.  I was talking on the phone when I was mixing the batter and, well, I must’ve been a bit side-tracked and doubled or maybe quadrupled the salt.  Salty cake just ain’t all that tasty, let me tell you.

After rinsing my mouth out under the faucet, I picked up the glass cake  stand by the pedestal, carried it out to the pasture, reached back, and slung the cake off the pedestal as far as I could.  I’m sure a coyote had a nice treat last night.  And probably a belly ache.  Today I imagine he’s suffering from hypertension due to an elevated sodium intake.

My husband, who hangs his Superman cap in the closet each night, cooked ribeye steaks, risotto, asparagus, and spinach strawberry salad for my niece’s birthday dinner tonight.

Oh yeah, and he stayed up until 1:30 IN THE MORNING baking  her a lovely cake.

One that came out of the pans beautifully,

Iced wonderfully, and

Tasted divinely.

The best  marble cake I’ve ever had.

Happy Birthday Ashy!

Cock-a-doodle-dude?

I don’t watch Dancing With the Stars or Gray’s Anatomy or American Idol.  Instead of sitting in front of the idiot box, I spend my evenings with chickens.  Yes I realize it leaves the question, “who is the real idiot here?”   They’re my form of entertainment.

Covered in feathers, with feet like E.T., and mostly green eyes, they are growing quite rapidly and are now in the stage of developing their combs and wattles. 

All my girls are maturing into fine young hens. 

Here they are preening,

and fluffing themselves.

Of course, Freedom just wants to sit in my lap all the time.

And then there’s this one.

This one is quite suspicious to me.

As you can see, if you look very, very closely, the black Australorps are barely developing their combs and wattles, like this one.

But this one.  See?  See how red and pronounced his, er I mean her, er I mean his, er her, wattle and comb are.

See the suspicious character in the back compared to the lady in the front. 

Do I have a rooster on my hands?

I think my secret desire might come to fruition.

Have I mentioned my secret desire?  My deep, dark desire?

No, you say?  Well perhaps now is the best time to break the news.

I secretly hope I have a rooster.

In Your Name, we ask these things

This post may not apply to you tonight.  But it’s heavy on my heart.

Tomorrow many children all across my town, and my state, will be taking their state assessments.  And although I don’t have children of my own, I have gobs that have passed through my classroom doors in the past.  I also have one very special student on my mind tonight, my niece Ashy.

Even though it’s “just” a test, for many it causes stress and worry.  The students have been working hard all year preparing and the tests are often long and laborious, taking several hours to complete. 

Ashy and I have been spending the last several days tutoring for the math test. Tomorrow is the big day. I called her a little while back to wish her luck, and to tell her I’ll be praying for her throughout the day tomorrow.

I do believe my anxiety is greater than hers.
I believe in prayer.  I believe it holds great power. Jesus himself intercedes for us to the Father.  I believe in praying scriptures. Jesus himself quoted scripture when tempted by Satan.

I compiled a few scriptures that I will lift up on behalf of my niece tomorrow while she is figuring circumference, finding common denominators, and choosing which expression can be used to solve the problems.  Perhaps it may be helpful for others as well.

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Scriptures for peace: 1 Corinthians 14:33a For God is not the author of confusion but of peace. 

Isaiah 50:7 For the Lord God will help me, therefore shall I not be confounded.

Dear Lord, grant her peace of mind.  Clear any confusion she may have during the test.  Make her mind free of hinderances.  Keep her focus where it needs to be and free the room from distractions that may interfere with her thinking.

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For confidence: Romans 8:37 In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Father God, in you, help Ashy to be more than a conqueror.

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For Anxiety:  Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

Dear God, take away any anxiety or fear she may have while taking the test.  Lord, give her  peace from You in her heart and her mind.

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For Stamina:  Matthew 11:28  Come to me all those who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 

Dear Lord, when Ashy gets tired, grant her rest and renew her so that she may finish strong. 

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For Success:  Phillipians 4:13  I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 

Dear Jesus, strengthen Ashy.  Grant her success with her tests.  Remind her, Lord,  that she can do all things through You.

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For myself: Matthew 6:34  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. 

Thank you Lord for your word and that You hear us when we pray.

Amen.

Hoppy Easter!

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Easter

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This is a truly touching story–perfect for Easter–about two brothers who were separated at birth.

It’s the story of one brother’s search for the other.

It’s a story of life and death.

And it has a cruel twist of fate.

Still, it is certain to stir your heart and touch your soul.
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I hope you had a wonderful, blessed Easter.

In Memory of My Dad #9

I love Saturdays for many reasons:  sleeping past the alarm, lounging in comfy clothes, a slower pace, slowly enjoying a second cup of coffee; sometimes even a third.  But right now in my life, I love Saturdays because it’s  a day when I hear from my dad.  His words, his stories, tell me more of his life I never knew.  In case you’re wondering, I read it for the first time right along with you.  I have a stack of typed stories and I pick the next one off the top and begin typing. 

  I dreamed of him last night, only the 3rd time since his passing.  The dream is sketchy and choppy at best.  I just know that he was back, only for a little while, and I got to tell him how much I love him and thank him before he left us again.  It was a happy dream.  I was a sad dream.  I awoke longing to return.  Somethings are impossible, aren’t they?

Have a nice Saturday, friends and I hope you enjoy the following story.

My uncle was my huntin’ and fishin’ buddy while I was growing up here in Eastern Oklahoma.  He was also a good guy just to hang with on those soft summer evenings.  He would tend his garden and smoke his pipe while I would just lay there in the grass swearing  I could hear the grass growing.

Whenever he’d take me hunting or fishing, which was pretty often back in the days before the “touristas” discovered Eastern Oklahoma, you could spend an entire day and night on the upper Illinois and never be in danger of being run over by a canoe full of tourists, never seeing anyone but your neighbor fishing for his supper, life indeed was good.

He could pack a pretty good “jungle” lunch too.  Sometimes it would consist of leftover “cathead” biscuits, slathered with French’s mustard and fried potatoes.  Or a piece of rat cheese and all the saltine crackers you could eat, but when the fish stopped biting or the bee tree that we’d planned to rob became unfindable, that grub certainly hit the spot.

He also taught me about using a Dutch Oven.  About using the coals from your burned down fire, spreading them across the top of the Dutch Oven so that you could cook or bake almost anything in one of the cast iron monsters. 

He used to say, “If there’s anything that can’t be cooked in a Dutch Oven, I don’t know what it could be.  And I sure don’t want anything to do with eating it, do you Bob?”  He’d always say that just before taking up a big batch of fried potatoes and onions.

A Dutch Oven will accomplish things that an equal weight of lesser utensils will never get done.  With a good one, you can bake bread or biscuits, cakes or cobblers.  You can boil, bake or fry potatoes in one.  Steaks, chops and roasts are a cinch in one while chicken can either be fried, roasted or baked in one, duck soup so to speak.  You can build a great stew in one, make a delicious fish chowder, steam corn or make “bean hole beans” in one.

He was the best shot that I had ever seen, also the very best at fishing, hunting or reading sign and as a trapper he had no equal.  I always wanted to grow up and be just like him.  Still do.

He always said that the Dutch Oven should go down as one of the great inventions of man.  Right up there with the axe handle and the clipper ship.  I never knew what he meant by this saying, but I’ll agree with him on the Dutch Oven.  If you find one at a yard sale, latch on to it.

As I grew older, he seemed to age a great deal and we hung around less and less often together.  Eventually we’d only see each other once or twice a year and we’d set around talking hunting or fishing or the price of furs while he would put a slow smoking on that old briar of his.  I feel bad now that I didn’t go visit him more after he was diagnosed with cancer, but I was already wrapped up in youthful endeavors such as fast cars and chasing skirts.  I didn’t get out into the woods again for several years, shelving all the good things that I had learned from him.

The main thing I liked about my uncle was he would never talk down to a kid who wanted to know things like I did.  When you get to being his age, you’ve already forgot more than most people will ever know and so you try to pass things along.  It’s too bad I didn’t listen closer.   He was a good friend and I’ll miss him….

Speaking of best friends and Dutch Ovens, my friend out West who knew that I was unequaled as a Dutch Oven cook, asked me to accompany him on an overnighter to this small island that set there in the middle of Lake Meredith.  I already knew the guy was crazy because of the three tours he had pulled in the Nam.

“Don’t bring anything to eat, we’ll make do with things I picked up at the Army-Navy store.  Be sure and leave that blankety-blanked Dutch Oven at home, too.”  Sarge like traveling light.

Sarge welded for the same pipeline company that I worked for so he knew I had a brush-hog type of dog that went with me wherever I’d go.  Looked like hell, but a real gentleman dog.

Sarge hauled me and Gus (the dog) out to this little remote spit of land in his flat bottomed boat and we pitched tents and prepared to settle in for the night.  Sarge opened up a couple of industrial sized cans of this C-ration glop (no expiration date included) for supper, you never smelled anything so bad in your life.

The smell was so bad that we fed the first can of glop to my dog.  He inhaled the whole can in a typical dog fashion and in two seconds was watching me and Sarge to see if we had more of the dreadful stuff.

We watched Gus for awhile to see if anything was going to happen to him. When he circled around a few times and curled himself by the fire and went to sleep, well that was good enough for me and Sarge.  So we went after the remaining can with the same gusto.  In all fairness to Sarge, it did taste better than it smelled and with a handful of Fritos, it wasn’t bad. 

We had no sooner finished supper and were just breaking out the bottle of Wild Turkey, when Gus sprang to his feet and proceeded to yuk up the entire contents of his stomach.  He followed this embarrassing performance by dry heaving for several minutes.

Sarge and I prepared ourselves for death.  Botulism.  Throughout the long night, it was hit the bottle and come up with a new diagnosis for every rumble and growl our stomachs made.  It was the worst case of psychosomatic food poisoning that has ever been recorded.

Gus made us feel a little better in the morning by licking the empty C-ration cans for breakfast.  Sarge and I decided to forego breakfast.  It couldn’t have been the Wild Turkey, could it?

Good Friday? Yes, yes it was.

1:  day off

14:  chickens that run to meet me

12:   Blue Spruce’s to plant in honor of Earth Day

50:  pages read in a book

35:  minutes spent napping

15:  dollars spent on barbecue take-out

4:  laps taken around a pasture on a bicycle

5:  big spoonfuls of Blue Bell’s Great Divide Ice Cream

7:  houseplants watered

1: set of sheets laundered and fresh on the bed waiting

13: pictures finally hung on the walls

2:  days until Easter

Eternity:  to spend with a Savior who died for me.

The Great Depression

Even though I’ve never really been a history buff, the period of the dust bowl and the Great Depression have me fascinated lately.  Why its on my mind, I don’t know, but I find myself thinking of the survivors of this period more and more.  I search their pictures and witness their struggles.  Travel with me, for only a moment, to a time of grave hardships.

The famous picture of a mother of seven during the Great Depression, taken by Dorthea Lange.

I’m sure you’ve seen this famous picture.  But did you know this mother of seven is reported to be only 32 years old? 

Picture of a woman and three children (close-up) during the Great Depression.

Picture of an 18-year-old mother from Oklahoma now a California migrant during the Great Depression.

This mother is 18.

Picture of a school in Alabama during the Great Depression.

A school in Alabama.

Picture of a dust storm in Oklahoma during the Great Depression.

A dust storm in Oklahoma.

Picture of a line of unemployed men receiving soup at a Volunteers of America Soup Kitchen during the Great Depression.

A line of unemployed at a soup kitchen.

icture of a family eating Christmas dinner near Smithland, Iowa during the Great Depression.

Christmas Dinner.

Picture of a man and his horse during the Great Depression.

A man and his horse.

Picture of an Arkansas squatter in a shack near Bakersfield, California during the Great Depression.

A squatter at her shack in Arkansas.

These pictures humble me.  And in a way they frighten me.  If history were to repeat itself, could this be me?  Could this be you?  I sometimes wonder why I was chosen to be so fortunate.

Alot of the people who are old enough to remember this time of suffering are no longer with us.  I think we should cherish the stories of the ones who are. 

(photos courtesy of http://history1900s.about.com)