Posted in Stories by my dad

In Memory of My Dad #23

You might think that with a family the size of the one I grew up in, we would eat anything that was put in front of us.  Not so.  Although we were avid partakers of our own favorite dishes, we had several idiosyncrasies that were unique to us alone. 

Steak was expensive, and I don’t remember eating much of it growing up.  But if we were lucky enough to have pork chops or something like that, you could bet that the fat was trimmed from the meat and it was cooked well done. 

Eggs were another thing that were fried well done.  It was difficult to fix eggs for us kids, because we wanted them fried really hard.

Mama used a heavy iron spatula and a cast iron skillet to fix breakfast in, and she cooked the eggs to the point that any nutritional value at all was cooked out.  They were black, tough, lacy edged, rubber-looking eggs, but man they were tasty.  You had to have a sharp knife to eat them and I had the debatable honor of being the only person at Briggs School to have broken a tooth on a fried egg.  I still like to eat eggs that way occasionally.

Once I went hunting with a favorite uncle of mine that had no children of his own, so I really took up with him because he talked to me like I was an adult instead of being only seven years old.  I think Ol’ Skeet was the favorite uncle of most of my siblings.  At times, my brother Leon will start a story with, “You remember when Skeet and Dude…..?” and then he’ll launch into an escapade from some long forgotten past.  Dude was another of my favorites, but that’s another story.

Anyway, we hunted all that day up on Badger Flats, I don’t remember what we were hunting.  I guess anything that stuck its head out of that shinnery brush.   When it came time to leave, Skeet blew long and hard on his horn to call in his dogs.  The horn was made from the horn of a cow or a bull that no longer had any use for the horns. 

The dogs all came to the sound of the horn except one of Skeet’s favorite hounds, Rock or Drum or something like that.  He allowed as how that was all right because we would come back the next day and pick the dog up.

Early the next morning Uncle Skeet, my dad, and I embarked on a quest for the wayward hound.  After looking unsuccessfully for the dog all morning, we arrived at a friend’s house, a long way back in the hills.  These hospitable folks invited us to dinner, which was what they used to call the noon meal.

Guess what was on the menu?  A huge platter of wide-eyed greasy, soft cooked eggs nestled on a platter of thick pink slabs of ham.  Great gobs of fat hung obscenely to the corners of the ham.  The crowning insult was a huge bowl of cream gravy that resembled wall paper paste.  I felt my stomach do a little turn at that point, not unlike the butterflies that you get when the teacher calls you to the blackboard and you haven’t been paying attention in math class.  Sort of a churning sensation that scares a seven-year old mind.

As the diners started passing the food around, a fat hen walked in the kitchen door.  There was no screen door and the chicken flew up onto the table and started pecking at the biscuits that were sitting by my elbow. 

I was unaccustomed to chickens walking about on the table, and it shocked me somewhat to see this happen.  The diners thought nothing of this and continued to eat.  Both Skeet and Daddy, living by the code of the hills, bravely placed food upon their plates and began to partake of the vittles.

I, being a weak-stomached child, did the only thing I could under the circumstances.  My breakfast came up the same way that it went down, in the most unpleasant way imaginable.

Daddy immediately grabbed me up, and Uncle Skeet started to castigate him for bringing a child out so soon after having the chicken pox.  (Daddy and Skeet could think fast on their feet when they had to, especially when faced with eating almost raw eggs and fatty undercooked meat.)  He told his friends he was sorry that his son caused so much trouble, and for them to stop in the next time they were down our way.

The search for the lost hound was over for the day.  Skeet congratulated me on the way home for my performance, and Daddy bought me an Eskimo pie for my trouble.

We got the old ’40 Ford pickup to about 35 miles per hour on our way home—-after all, we didn’t want to be late for supper.

story written by Bob Briggs

 

Posted in Animals

Eggs!!

I peeked into the chicken feeder to see how low the chickens were getting on feed, and just take a looky-look at what I discovered.

 

Yup, eggs.  In the feeder.  Our very first crop, if that’s what you call it.  I had been checking for eggs daily, but foolish me, was looking in the nesting boxes, not in the chicken feeder.

It’s a good thing I have this handy little egg basket. 

Since there were four eggs, I assumed they might be from one hen, and have possibly been sitting in a the summer heat for a few days, so my niece and I did the egg freshness test.

When you put the egg in a bowl of water, if it sinks quickly and lies on its side, it is good to eat.  If it ever floats, it needs to be discarded.  If it sits on the bottom of the bowl, but stands up on one end, it is not as fresh, but is still safe to eat. 

All our eggs aced the test.

 

They are quite tiny.  But the chickens are only 4 months old, and I’m hoping as they mature a little more, the eggs will increase in size. 

Despite their size, they made a good breakfast. 

With a taste nothing like store-bought eggs.  Much richer.  I was a bit leery at first, wondering if it’s safe to eat the first eggs, but we did anyway, and we didn’t even get salmonella or botulism or anything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Stories by my dad

In Memory of my Dad #22

Momma’s older brother had a lot of cowboy in him.

He worked for a large rancher east of Tahlequah, and I can still remember him riding up to the house at Briggs.  I remember the stories that he  used to tell us kids also, especially when he got in his cups.  That seemed pretty often in those days.

He also owned the only .10 gauge double-barreled shotgun I ever saw.  The .10 gauge is a very serious weapon indeed.

Speaking of serious weapons, I received an invitation to the Illinois River Militia and Garden Club meeting later this month at the club’s heavy weapons and bomb range on a deserted gravel road on the upper Illinois river.

Membership in the club is so secretive that no list of members is believed to exist, and the club’s president is not known.  Members communicate with each other by using code names, like Mr. Green, Mr. Black, Mr. White, just like in the movie “Reservoir Dogs.”  Meetings are shrouded in secrecy and conducted in total darkness.  Many of the members are prominent women around town that are known for their beauty.  “Loose lips will be dealt with accordingly,” says a club member.  “Privacy is our dominant domain.  That is all you need to know and all you will ever need to know….”

But I digress.

As a boy I heard many stories designed to scare the bejesus out of a young boy.  None scared me the way that the panther’s scream did.  The panther, or “paint her”  always stood ready to leap upon the back of a man carrying meat, or upon a woman entering a shed or just a kid out late in the evening.  I know now that the panther was just a plain cougar or mountain lion.  There probably weren’t even any left in this country during the early ’50s.  Anyway this story has no date—just a long time ago.

My uncle located a turkey roost one day while riding fence in the Copeland bottoms.  Knowing that his family needed meat, he decided to injun up on the roost about sundown.

He rode up to the fence and tied his horse about a half mile away so that the horse would not frighten the birds, and went on foot the rest of the way.  About dark, he heard the turkeys coming in to their sleeping place.  He waited for the moon to rise so that he could skylight the birds against the moon.  The birds took a long time getting settled and they were blending into the foliage when my uncle got the birds lined up and emptied both barrels.  Six turkeys fell groundward.

The turkeys probably weighed 12 to 15 pounds each, and the gun was big and cumbersome, so it took him a while to make it back to his horse.  That’s when he heard the panther scream.  It sounded as if it were coming from the brush right behind him.  The scream has been described as a woman in fright or pain and to say that it curdled the blood of my uncle would be an understatement.  Right away he knew what the panther was after so he dropped one of the turkeys.

He had gone but a short distance when he heard the panther scream once again.  Another turkey was dropped and my uncle was able to pick up a little speed because of his lightened load.  The next time the panther squalled it was off to one side of him and so another turkey was dropped.

The man had no more shells for the gun, and the gun’s weight would make it a poor choice of a weapon, even as a club and the panther’s screams were getting closer all the time.

And now the screams became louder, more pronounced, nearer as he dropped the last turkey just a few feet from where his horse was tied.  The horse was plunging and rearing against the reins, but thank goodness by now he was mounted and the horse was tearing a hole in the wind as my uncle whipped him into a flat-out run getting home.

After hearing this story—and it always seemed to be told after dark—-I lay in bed and wondered what would have happened if the man had a mile to walk instead of a half mile, or what would have happened if he had shot four or five turkeys instead of six.

I can never look at a mounted cougar in a museum without thinking of this story.  It’s too bad the taxidermist couldn’t have captured the scream also.  The mere thought of it lent wings to my feet many times on some of my late night forays.

story by R.L. Briggs  1943-2011

Posted in Uncategorized

Dem Dry Lands

My vegetable patch is green, luscious, fruitful, and multiplying.

I mean, the garden in my dreams.  Of course.

It’s difficult at best to grow a garden, or anything green, in a drought.

We’ve morphed into a barren desert land.

The horses search for anything green and tender, including the bottommost leaves of the trees, leaving all our trees looking a little bit top-heavy. 

We’re having a hot, dry summer in my area.

Our average rainfall is about 19 inches and as of June 6, we had received 0.68 inches of rain this year, making it the driest start to a  year on record since 1892.  1892!!  That’s a long time ago.  We’ve had the most days over 100 degrees since 1953.  We are shattering records in this unpleasant summer season.

But one thing I know, this too shall pass.  Soon enough we will be cursing the biting winds of old man winter.

Two positives to this negative weather pattern:  1)  nary a mosquito have I seen this summer and 2) I have not had to mow the grass yet.  I have a few horses and chickens to thank for that as well.

We’ve been getting some intermittent showers the last few weeks, and it has been refreshing.  And irony of all ironies, before the evidence of drought, my husband and a friend began a part-time business hanging rain gutter and have had a great start.  People are buying rain gutter in a drought!  So our next stop is Alaska to sell ice to the Eskimos.  I shall insert a small advertisement here:  Let me know if you’re in the market for gutter.  I can hook you up.

But seriously, mankind has great faith.  We, as humankind, are a resilient people.  A people who have seen trials and blessings, who have spent time on both the mountaintop and in the valley, who have experienced the harvests and the famines of life.  Throughout it all, we hang tough.  

And look for the life among all the dying.

Robert Frost said it best,

In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. 
It goes on.

I pray life is treating you good and you’re able to see the positive in your negative situation today.

God Bless.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Newness

See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  Isaiah 43:19

I awoke before my  husband.  Unusual?  More unusual than a flying armadillo.   Rather than rolling over and falling back to sleep, I groaned out of bed and crept through the dark house.  I laced up my tennis shoes and decided to greet the day with a walk. 

I was more than a little astonished to discover the sun does not rise before 5:45.  In fact, everything was still slumbering.  The horses, the birds, the sun, even the chickens.  But I do know  One who never sleeps or slumbers, no matter the time of day or night, this one is vigilant and waiting to hear from me, so He and I spent some time together.  And he put on quite a show. 

The morning was dark, but the moon was full, round and bright.  The eastern sky slowly began to lighten to a light blue.  I walked my driveway path that runs in front of my house from one gate to the next and then I turned around, back and forth, back and forth.  The sticks that lay before me on the dark path frightened me at first, until I realized they were just sticks laying in the dark and not the creepy snakes of which I first imagined. 

The chickens still slept in their coop, the horses stood as dark statues out in the pasture.  The whole world was quiet.  And dark. 

There is a sense of peace to arise before everyone else, to observe the whole day awaken, to experience the firsts. 

As the sun inched its  light upward, the world began to stir, slowly but then more increasingly.

Two birds sat on barbed wire; silhouetted against the early dark sky that began as deep blue, then transformed to light blue, pink, orange, red and then back to light blue as the sun found its place.

The birds in the trees began their morning songs, a few peaceful tweets soon turned into a cacophony of chatter and cheeps.

The chickens finally decided to make their morning debut with clucks of Good Mornings escaping into the air.

I walked my driveway observing the new day, thanking God for all things new.  Thanking Him for the opportunity to witness Him in action, as He brings forth each new day, each new breath, each new life.

He makes all things new.

The most miraculous of all perhaps being new life.  The little fingers.  The little toes.  The sweet pink lips.

Jason and I are on a new journey.  A journey of new life.  Of little fingers, little toes, and sweet pink lips.  We are bringing a new life into this world.

Partnering with God in the creation and witness of a miracle.

By His grace and mercy, we will hold this new baby in our arms come January. 

Jason is thrilled.  I for one, have been wrought with an array of emotions, predominately disbelief, shock and fear.   But I know whom I have believed, and I trust in the One who makes all things new.  It is in his working.  It is his timing and his plan.  I also understand the love and the blessing that this new creation is going to rock my world with is unfathomable.

If I may, I ask one thing of you.  When and if you think of us, would you speak a prayer on our behalf.   It would mean the world to us and our new blessing.

Blessings to you,

Angel

Posted in Stories by my dad

In Memory of my Dad #21

Written by Bob Briggs on July 29, 1995 before computers had really taken over the world and everyone carried one in their hip pocket.

Computers will lie to you.  Computers never apologize for their mistakes either.  Believe me they make plenty of them.

I just recently got my finances straightened out with Sports Illustrated.  I did it by cancelling my subscription.  I still get letters all the time offering me a free video or a free sweatshirt with the name of my favorite NFL team emblazoned across the front.  I can even take the E-Z payments plan, $4.49 for four months.

Farmers and ranchers today would be lost without their Apples or their Macintoshs, or is that the same company?  Anyway they would be lost without their computers. 

Long ago city dwellers sought out the quiet peaceful life that was offered here in Cherokee county.  Soon the city streets were clogged with people driving to where?  At any time of the day you can sit at any red light in town, and you never have the road all to yourself. 

A photographer recently told me that the population of Tahlequah was 10,000 people.  Hell, there’s that may cars parked at Wal-mart on any given day.

But to get back to computers, I never thought that a computer would replace the hired man.  I’m sure my dad felt the same way about the jet age overtaking the automobile.  He figured that the horseless carriage was merely an invention to take an afternoon drive in at the then unheard of speed of 40 MPH.

How does this new contraption work?  It’s a mystery to me.

You can’t keep a computer in the barn because the chicken would roost on it, and you know what happens when chickens roost.  So it will have to sit in your living room right next to your VCR and CD player.

I know nothing of computers except that you shovel in a lot of info, press a button and out comes your answer in a  few seconds.  The computer has put more people out of work than the welfare program.

My main connection here in Hulbert with a computer is that it calls me a liar saying that I didn’t pay for my subscription.  After sending in copies of my cancelled check, I did get a manager to say he was sorry for the inconvenience but nary a word from the computer.

Say the gentleman farmer wants to go to the coast for some deep-sea fishing, so he starts feeding the computer.  The calf that he has been fattening up must have cow-cake kicked out to it morning and night.  The birds must be fed along with the chickens.  Milk must be left out for the barn cats.  The horses must be curried and combed.  The cow must be fed.  The electricity must be turned off except to the deep freeze.

And so he takes off for the coast where the waves are whitecapping and the big marlin are jumping and the flounder are fighting to get hold of his line and are begging to be broiled according to his guide.  Just a couple of days for doing nothing except lying back and watching his troubles roll past like floaters on the Illinois. 

But what happens when he returns Monday morning?

Something has gone wrong.

He notices a smell like rotting meat when he goes to put his founder in the deep freeze.  The machine is silent, no reassuring hum.  Melted ice cream sloshes around the quail that he was saving for Sunday cooking.  The horse is staring at a can of Puss ‘n Boots atop a 50 pound block of salt.  The calf is trying to decided what to do with the small bit of birdseed.  At least the barn cats have a curry comb to play with.

It must have been the laundry list that was entered into the computer, how else do you explain the cat moving into the master bedroom and delivering a litter of kittens?  How else do you explain the laundry ending up in the tool shed?

Further investigation reveals the birds screaming at a bale of hay while the tomcat tries to chew some cottonseed cake.

The gentleman farmer mourns for the good old days before computers when Charlie or Ted worked the farm from first light until dusk taking care of the animals.

But that was before they were retired to the nursing homes and Social Security.  He can imagine what kind of homecoming he would have had if he’d have left Charlie in charge.  The cow would have been milked and the eggs gathered.  The parakeet would probably have escaped into the woods, but Charlie would have been anticipating an owl/parakeet mixture or at least a crow/parakeet dabbling.

The cats would have been chasing mice out in the barn as all cats should and the horses would have been muzzling hay in the confines of the barn.  The calf might have been overfed—but just by a little.  Besides the vet only charges $25 as a special favor to his cousin Charlie.

Maybe we should all become a little more computer friendly. 

Or at least buy flounder at the grocery store.

Posted in Animals

Country Troubles

Somedays the  J&A Chicken Ranch has more excitement than my feeble heart can handle.

This beautiful breezy morning I am waiting for the water well repair man as we have no water coursing through our pipes.  The precious commodity, the life blood, the toilet flusher has seized for reasons unknown to me, but hopefully not beyond the scope of knowledge of the water well man.  In today’s America, one does not realize how fortunate and blessed we are until one does not have running water.  It is taken for granted, assumed that at the turn of a faucet, we can clean our bodies, brush our teeth, water our plants, or rinse our dishes.  No less humble does one become than having to relieve themself outside in the middle of the night, saving that one last toilet flush for the inevitable morning poop.  Forgive me, but as is life.  But yea for the man who can repair the problem and I only hope he arrives before my bowel movement decides to. 

When I first began dating J-Dub, I would ride with him to tend to his cattle.  At the beginning of the trip, he would inquire, “Are you brush broke?”  At first I didn’t know what that meant, but quickly learned when you are miles and miles from modern conveniences, there will come a time when you have to squat in the brush and piss in the pastures or you’re going to be very, very uncomfortable for a very, very long time.  Yes, I am very brush broke.

I slept in a bit this morning but knew I needed to let my fourteen dear chickens out of their coop.  Not until you’ve watched fourteen chickens come out of a coop, do you understand the true meaning of the phrase “cooped up”.  The chickens have a coop that was an old metal garden shed with a sliding door.  It sits in a side yard, up against the edge of the backyard fence, but not in the back yard.  Surrounding the shed is a chicken pen, enclosed with chicken wire, and covered mostly over the top with protective wire.   I keep the sliding door to the coop opened enough so they can come and go freely into the pen to get fresh air or take a dirt bath or something equally chickenish.  Each morning, as early as possible, I open the door to the pen and let the chickens run out so they can free range around the yard and pasture.  Our back yard and our two dogs, Drew Miller and Grace, are enclosed directly behind the chicken coop and pen.  Never have the dogs and chickens come into direct contact.  I fear it would not be a pretty sight.

When the chickens eye me coming their way, they get so excited.  They know freedom is in sight.  They will run to the corner of the pen, clucking and bocking, eager to get out.  This morning, before I was about to open the door, I heard a commotion.  It sounded like chicken feet on metal and I assumed a chicken was inside the shed, trying to jump on the metal nesting boxes as they sometimes do.  With their chicken claws slipping and sliding and feathers flapping to maintain balance, it sometimes makes quite a ruckus.  The next thing I heard was a terrible sound like nothing I had heard before.  It was the sound of a chicken in distress.  The clucking was rapid and high-pitched.  I then noticed out of my peripheral vision, the dogs were agitated. Through a crack in the gate of the backyard, I saw 3 streaks of black running past, back and forth.  First a black  chicken, followed by Drew Miller, followed by Grace.  My first thoughts went something like this: Is there a chicken in the backyard?  how did a chicken get in the back yard?  There is no way possible that is one of my chickens.  It must be somebody else’s chicken in my backyard.  Mine are all right here in the pen.  With my hand on the door to the chicken pen, ready to push it open, I glanced over and did  a quick headcount.  1-2-3-4……  1-2-3-4-5……, 1-2-3-4 I began adding quickly:  4 Barred Plymouth Rocks + 5 Buff Orpingtons + 4 Black Australorpes = 13 total chickens.  THERE’S A CHICKEN MISSING!  And it is presently in grave danger.  Immediately I began screaming NO DREW!  NO GRACE!  and with ninja like skills I flung open the backyard gate, grabbed Drew Miller by the collar and tried to get the whole party to settle down.  The dogs were having no part of calming themselves, so I drug Drew Miller by his collar over to where his leash hangs, put it on him as he jerked about, acting a fool, and I tied him to a post.  He is the dangerous dog.  He is the porcupine attacker, skunk killer, possum murderer.  He loves the kill.  Grace, a heeler, doesn’t want to hurt the chickens, she just wants to herd the chickens as she slinks down, belly close to the ground, haunches shaking, eyes fixated.  She doesn’t even wear a collar or has never experienced a leash.  She is right by your side most all the time and if she wanders too far, a quick command draws her back to her spot.   So there we were in the backyard:  Drew Miller and the blue leash wrapping  tighter and tighter around a post, a chicken petrified yet unscathed, Grace slinking beside me towards the chicken and me a little afraid to try to pick up this chicken who just might turn into a fighting, pecking, scratching defender.  The little black chicken was behind the dog’s water dish.  I gave her some time and space to see if she could find her way out of the gate on her own.  I thought of trying to corral her out, but decided that might agitate her even more.  As I reached down, she hunkered close to the ground, terrified, but allowed me to pick her up, hold her to my bosom, caress her little back.  Her feathers were hard and stiff where Drew’s slobber had already dried on them.  He obviously had his mouth clamped on her at some point. 

It was a close call. Perhaps even a miracle.  I think I’ll call her Lucky.

I still don’t know how in the world she managed to get into the back yard.  I walked through the pen and the coop looking for holes.  I can only figure that she flew out the small opening in the roof, walked across the wire roof of the pen, walked across the roof of the coop, which was the commotion of chicken feet on metal that I heard, and flew over the fence into the backyard.  

Stupid chicken.  I hope she learned a lesson.  The next time she tries to escape, she better hope I’m squatting in the yard.