Friday, November 28, 2008



Sunday, November 23, 2008





ZACK (aka: Huck Finn) with his latest catch!

Jake and Jordan - All ready for theCandlelight Ball 2007

They say that time goes by so fast that one day they're in diapers and the next day they're shaving, driving, and dating!



Hey, Y’all: (Please bear with the complete lack of paragraph structure in this chronicle! I’m justa’ ramblin’ on! )
As I hunker closer to the keyboard, and gaze past the curtains out to the dry, lonesome expanse, I realize that everything but land and sky are scarce out on the plains, and that you can look farther and only see less. Only the hum of my PC and an occasional beetle ramming the window screen emits vibration. I feel at ease, knowing that there are now several moments of calmness with which I can call my own. With the rustling of a Wal-mart sack, and the slam of the back door, the boys journey down to the river road in search of wild plums. It’s July. It’s 100 degrees, but with the miraculous blessing of the recent, generous rains, we can somehow see past the shimmering heat waves. It has been numerous seasons since the grass has been as green as it is, and we are thankful. Mowing twice a week just doesn’t seem possible compared to the droughts of last summer, but again, we are emphatically thankful. The land continues to be chiseled by the constant winds. Backing up...By the time winter was ushered in, the traps were boiled, dyed and ready to be set.Dyke and the boys ran a full trap-line, mainly for bobcats, as their over-population was causing a habitat imbalance. With the help of 2 other wardens, they successfully trapped, skinned, and fleshed 35 cats, selling the dried/salted hides to a tannery in Idaho. The cotton harvest was chalked up as a complete loss—only producing 1 small bale for which we bestowed deep thanks for our crop insurance.

Following that, the wheat was promptly sewed and by early June, after daily drenching rains, our Canadian harvesters were finally able to get into the fields to reap the golden grains while the price was still high. One night around midnight when they started cutting on our farm, I rode in one of the combines for a few passes. The operator— one of 12—was a 20 year old guy from Ireland, who had found the job on the internet! I learned that once they’re finished and make their way back to Canada, they begin preparing for their winter job of providing fuel/supplies to the frozen diamond mines of the Arctic. I didn’t even know that we had diamond mines up there! What tough, burly men! Oh, the tales they could tell! I was reminded of Roosevelt’s words: that it’s not the man that makes the times, it’s the times that make the man. Those men have surely had their share. The warm winds of spring were immensely welcome after the stubborn winter drew its last breath.

Willy, an orphaned raccoon, with his eyes still closed and a voracious appetite, came to live with us in early April. Also both Penny and Cash became pregnant by error. The felon, being a Mexican pit-bull-cross, belonging to a farmhand to the south. Collectively they had 18 pups. Willy quickly learned where to find some real milk, but you could tell that Penny knew something just wasn’t right; she endured it anyway and allowed Willy a few meals. As always, Willy quickly captured our hearts, but then shattered them when he was accidentally run over in the driveway…Zack’s world crumbled before him, as we buried him in our ever expanding pet cemetery. Life and death on the farm visit frequently and the boys have certainly learned how fragile life can be.
Dyke’s brother rescued 3 young pigeons from his barn—his dogs had already eaten the others that fell from the rafters. By feeding them wet oatmeal every few hours, they grew stronger each day. Without the flight lessons fully mastered, our 3 cats systematically apprehended two of them, with the third narrowly escaping by his tail feathers and has become a hilarious addition to the menagerie! Whenever I head out to feed the chickens, or work in the yard, he swoops down and lands on my head to go along for the ride. He loves to sit on my shoulder and pick at my earlobes as I try to enjoy my morning coffee on the porch.

We now average about a baker’s dozen of chickens too—give or take 3 or 4 according to hatchings and catchings. The prime “layers” yield an average of 8-10 fresh eggs daily! There’s nothing like watching the sunrise over the farm with a hot mug o’ java and the smell of sowbelly and fresh eggs in the air!
This spring, four new calves shadowed their mamas as they made the rounds in the pasture, coming up to the barn each day to drink and relax in the shade of the barns.
Half of the calf population were bulls, so of course, we made the castrations a family affair. It was much better this year, as they were a lot smaller than last year’s lot! On the Mother’s Day, Zack set his alarm for 4am, got up, grabbed his spotlight and headed to the lower pasture to pick a huge Mason jar full of wildflowers for me. He hiked back to the house, put them on the kitchen counter and then went back to bed! What a romantic he is going to be! Jake had a terrific Freshman year; doing well in school and in athletics. He was invited to go to the Candlelight Ball—an elite dinner & dance. He and his date sure looked awesome! Everything seemed to be going the best ever until the first day of Spring Break, when he broke his right tibia while pole vaulting at a track meet. He can now say that he has broken his leg more times than he has legs (his left tibia was broken twice when we lived on the coast!) He now has 3 screws surgically implanted where the tibia connects to the patella-right below the growth plate. He has recovered miraculously, but is not able to participate in athletics this school year. He is in 10th grade now. It has been extremely difficult to not be able to play—especially the football season, but he’s still attending practice and working out with the team. He and Zack continue to ramble across the prairie, catching snakes, hunting,exploring and working on the farm. Jake has a great core group of friends & although it is difficult to imagine, he is...DRIVING (permit only)!!! YIPES! He’ll get his license at the end of April… Although he has been driving around the farm doing chores etc… since he was 11, there’s just something about driving on the “real” roads that just doesn’t seem possible! The school years are zipping by and Dyke and I marvel at how quickly the boys will be out of the nest.

When the weather warmed up, the boys decided to build a custom rope swing into the pond. Using an old telephone pole that they found in the pasture, they fashioned themselves a one of a kind swing! It worked for a handful of times until Dyke showed up on site and professed his opinion that it wouldn’t hold up for another swing. Of course, the boys totally disagreed and expressed that their dad didn’t know what he was talking about and then... BOOM...on the very next swing, the rope broke and Zack came up a little short on his water entry...kinda hitting more mud than water! Dyke just shook his head, turned around and walked back up to the barn—quickly and clearly making his point!

Zack had a wonderful 4th grade year, and is now in 5th grade: doing very well in academics as well as football. His team made it into the playoffs but lost by one game to play in the Toy Bowl. In the fall, he had to make a trip to the ER after his eyeball was punctured with a pencil at school. Thank God all was well! His love for animals, being outside, reading, rugged survival techniques (as learned on the show Man vs. Wild) sure is apparent in the lifestyle he has begun to carve out. The winter trap line was right up his alley! During one frosty February, while checking traps, he came across a skull of a horse head and immediately thought of his mama and her skull collection. He decided to pack it out and give it to me as a Valentine’s Day gift! He sure knows what his mama likes! Then, when the spring floods hit north Texas, Dyke was called out to duty. (Things always seem to break loose when he’s gone.) While making a fort down at the pond one Sunday, Zack found that Penny, who was nearby, had been rattlesnake bit in the muzzle. Her mouth and nose instantly swelled up to over 3 times the normal size and was having trouble breathing! She was foaming at the mouth and had panic in her eyes. Zack ran all the way home and we immediately loaded her up, and rushed into town, where the vet met us and gave her an anti-venom injection. Within hours, the swelling subsided and things started back to normal….sort of. I guess it just wasn’t Penny’s week, as she was kicked in the head by Hershey (horse) the next day, as she tried to herd him back to the pasture. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, the following day, on another one of Zack’s explorations, he found her with a mouthful of porcupine quills, with which I had to remove with pliers. They had embedded in her gums and tongue! Luckily, there weren’t any in her throat like there were one other time. She was miserable! That poor dog! That last episode ended her bad luck streak and life went on… Both boys continue to enjoy hunting and even helped their friends trap some wild hogs. They provided us with wild turkey and venison for the winter! About the time when the yearly cricket infestation hit, two other raccoons came to live with us...Bonnie and Clyde: brother and sister. They were a riot...until they started feasting nightly on my fattest hens! The chickens no longer trusted life in the henhouse, so they roosted everywhere else on the farm—including on the truck axles, which became a deathtrap to a few. By the end of October, Bonnie and Clyde’s hormones kicked in and they were off on their own, searching for suitable mates.
My school kids are doing great—always a daily challenge, but quite rewarding!
I traveled to Oklahoma City to take part in supporting my friend Stephani at her Deal or No Deal casting call. It was awesome and exhausting! What a process! They didn’t make it on the air, but her daughter won 50K!

Also, nine of the 2nd grade teachers went on a Carnival Cruise to Mexico last June! It was too much fun: unleashed and crazy! When I got home, I had to have a few days to sleep and wind down from all of the excitement and lack of sleep! I just can’t seem to dance ‘til sunrise anymore! Imagine that?! Sadly, though, as you may have heard, we were on the same cruise that the guy jumped from and was killed...very sad!
The winter brought a severe ice storm. The cattle were very hungry... all the time!

Also in the spring, I started a small jewelry business, making and selling belt buckles/jewelry. I recently, consigned with a western shop and museum in town. It’s mostly all turquoise which is my signature stone! Even my new glasses are turquoise—yes, ol’ eagle eyes is now middle-aged and needs aid to see in the distance!

Dyke is doing great and loves his job like it was his first! He has even been known to come to my classroom to show the kids a snake or two that he found! Some days, for him, it’s pretty low key, but at other times, we’re like ships passing in the night and the boys and I don’t see him for a couple of days it seems! During turkey season, Dyke’s partner, Matt, was attacked for the 2nd time by a large bobcat, while he was calling up turkeys. Last year, the cat pounced on his head, cut his chin open and bit his head, but this year, it just sliced his camo clothing to ribbons! This fall when the winds shifted, the bull was on the loose, and headed north. Luckily, Dyke found him 4 miles from the house headed to the Red River and Oklahoma beyond that.

Dyke took the boys survival beach camping on the coast last summer. They had planned to eat only what they caught, but the fishing was pitiful, and they all agreed that it was plumb misery! They lived in a tent on a mosquito infested island, ate sandy hotdogs for a week and all came back with 3rd degree burns and the runs! Yee-Haw, sounds like fun, eh?

Changing the pace...
We had 3 wonderful family reunions last summer: at our farm in Vernon, camping at the Nueces River in south Texas (see the rattlesnake that I killed as it slithered 6 inches away from my feet?)and on the Connecticut/Rhode Island coast. Our odysseys continue out here amidst the incessant, restless winds, howling coyotes and wild & wooliness of the prairie. Keep your infinite moments close and feed your spirit each day with the things you love. Give thanks in all situations. We love you and wish you the greatest blessings each and every day. Merry Christmas Y’all! Dyke, Su, Jake & Zack



Salutations from the sun-baked Texas Plains, (Yes, it is July and I have begun chronicling!)
March: With the warmer days upon us, fighting the rats for the daily-delivered newspaper is less and less of a challenge. During the winter, unless we got out to the road, as soon as the paper hit the dirt, the rats seemed to claim it as free and easy nesting material. I can’t count how many times we’ve found that the paper had been dragged down into the bar-ditch, only to discover huge gnawed holes in the mid-section of a newspaper that is already lacking substance as it is. After several months, we can now finally read entire, uninterrupted articles! The hot wires that encompass the farm have failed to do the job that we are paying them to do. With the ground being harder than a goat’s horn, due to the severe drought conditions, the cattle’s hooves have become “insulators” to the electric jolt they should receive when in contact with the wire; therefore, it is an hourly chore to gather them back where they should be and fix the fence. A pocket-sized pair of binoculars has taken up permanent residence on the window sill by the kitchen sink – easy to grab to get a precise gaze at the far northern pasture in order to determine whether our “precious, sweet” bovines are in or out. As winter – more mild than ever - took its last few gasps, the wheat entered its greenest time. Just beyond the wires, the wheat became prey to the voracious, obsessively addicted appetites of the cattle. Many a’ predawn school morning has been spent on the 4- wheeler, armed with the pellet gun, Birkenstocks, a faded Carhart jacket and flannel pajamas – whoopin’ and hollerin’ to drive the animals back into the confines of the pasture and then rig the escape route to prevent another jailbreak. I learned not to get dressed for school until the last moments before departure, as “my cows” needing tending to (as Dyke put it). Dyke has taken on the cook’s role while I fire up the 4-wheeler and set out across the dimly lit, pre-dawn pasture in hot pursuit. I have had to settle with getting to work later than my usual 7:15. Upon returning each day from school, much to the boys’ dislike, the priority chore has become the searching and gathering of the cows. The boys have even had to resort to the 20-gauge shotgun at times. With Jake at the helm of the 4-wheeler and Zack riding behind - shotgun in hand, they have teamed up and successfully keep the cattle at bay. Eventually, with the help of the 3 dogs and the sound of the 4-wheeler engine, the cattle soon knew what to expect, so the mission became easier and less stressful to complete. Things slowly changed when the few-and-far-between pre-spring showers created a better “ground” for the electricity, plus the investment of a higher voltage fence charger, that the fence miraculously became the stopping point for the tenacious beef-on-the-hoof! Early Spring also brought the weaning of Zack’s bull calf, one of the juveniles responsible for the daily escapes. Mabel, the calf’s mother, learned to get around the pens that kept them separated, parallel-park herself next to the corral where he was kept, and continue to allow him to squeeze his short-horned head through the fence and suck. Wasn’t able to catch them in the act all of the time, but the evidence was apparent from the frothy piles of milky saliva, left next to the fence.
Spring break brought his reproductive future to a screeching halt - a greatly needed castration. Devoid of a fancy squeeze chute, Dyke and Jake roped him and tied him off to the pipe fence that enclosed the corral that he was in. Zack took his perch on the fence to photograph the event. Time was of the essence, as he was being choked down with every struggling flop that he made. With the back legs pulled apart, I quickly opened my pocket knife, stepped closer to make my incision and “fish” the testicles out of the sack. He tried to flop and helplessly moaned while I performed this primitive surgical procedure. The blood came fast, and it crossed my mind that we were doing this in the wrong phase of the moon. Several “old timer” ranchers that I had worked for rely on the moon phases dictated in the Farmer’s Almanac to plan their castration or dehorning. Others think it’s hogwash. I hadn’t checked on where the moon was that day, so I knowingly cast myself into the “hogwashers” category. The first one, lying on top, was easy to get to. I had done this many times before, but not with a13 year old and a husband who just spent the better part of the week laying on the wood floor from an injured disk in his back. I grasped, pulled and severed the slimy white cords that anchored “it” in place, As I loosed “it” from “its” location, “it” filled my entire opened palm and was oval in shape, warm, white and slick. The calf was on the verge of being too old to cut- definitely not the frying size. My taste buds prefer them to be no larger than a Kennedy half dollar and these were like Confederate bills! As I slung the first one over the fence, Cashe quickly gulped it down, with Penny patiently waiting for the next. I noticed that the longhorns and other heifers had gathered at the fence with a look of horror on their faces. Oddly enough, it seemed that the longhorns were reflecting on their own past. I had cut them when they were young, and I couldn’t help thinking that they actually remembered! Before I had a chance to process all that was happening, Dyke yelled, “Hurry up, I think he’s choked down and isn’t breathing!” I moved as quickly as I could, reaching up into the opened sack to feel for the other one that had been sucked up into its warm, moist cavity. Losing my grasp several times, I was finally able to squeeze and pull it into view to do what needed to be done. The instant it was severed, I tossed it, released the loop from his neck and a small trickle of blood drained from his nostrils. He lay motionless. Silent panic set in. It had taken too long. He was gone. Jake fetched a pail of water from the trough and threw it on him as I started CPR, loudly hollerin’, “Come on!” After the fourth or fifth pump to his chest, his eyes rolled back down into proper position and he began to respond. A few dazed moments passed, as we all held our breath. I continued to massage him all over. Blood, black hair, water, sweat and dust coated my hands, arms and clothes as I knelt beside him. He stumbled to his hooves and stood stationary while he collected whatever was left of his bearings. Several attempts to clear his lungs and a step or two forward chased the fear of death away. Racing thoughts of how we were going to butcher him right then and there silently faded and miraculously, he was walking around and even eating some alfalfa by the time the two ropes were coiled and hanging on the fence post. I kept him in the corral overnight just for observation and by the morning, he seemed fit and eager to rejoin the others. The moon must have been in the right phase, as the blood stopped surging after several minutes. For some reason, Dyke and the boys kept their distance from me for most of the day! March also breathed life back into the ol’ henhouse. I didn’t want to deal with baby chicks, and try to outsmart the bobcats and snakes until the fowl were of laying age, so I asked a friend if she needed her flock culled. One night, we all went over to her farm and while shining a flashlight in their eyes on the roost, we were able to easily select the hens that we wanted and pluck them from the roost with little or no struggle. My antique chicken boxes, which have retired as porch end-tables sure did come in handy for the transport! So, as of this day, we have 6 laying hens and 1 rooster. Nothing beats farm fresh eggs! Other animal escapades… Somehow, Hershey, my colt, impaled himself on a steel fencepost in the pasture. I thought it odd that he didn’t come up to eat with the others one evening, but dismissed it to the sweet grasses in the pasture. It was the same story the 2nd evening. Upon searching for him, I discovered that he had spent the night and perhaps a good part of the previous day—in one spot, down at the pond, only able to pivot on his good foot—with a huge puncture wound to the chest (in the shape of a T post), as deep as my longest finger. I still don’t know how he managed that, but after several weeks of flushing it and doctoring it with injections and salve, he healed nicely. Exploration on a 6,000 ac. ranch near the Red River, lead us to a family outing: a buffalo bone hunt extraction. Dyke’s partner had stumbled upon a bone sticking out of a wash during a quail hunt. We were able to uncover many bones from what was perhaps an Indian camp “bone-dump”. Rib bones, leg bones and even a tooth! It was fascinating! We also saw an old wagon road that lead to the Red River where there was an old rock crossing allowing passage into Oklahoma Indian Territory. The road had been protected by a double fence, so the wagon ruts were still easily visible! Amazing! I was in heaven and instantly thrust myself back in time!

April: The guys were able to put 4 wild turkeys in the freezer this year. Zack shot his first one! It was a big one with about a 9 inch beard. Also, Dyke helped fill the freezer by providing some fresh buffalo. A local rancher needed help with herd management, so Dyke kindly helped out.

I don’t know how those Indian women fleshed and tanned hides with stone tools, but my respect and awe now run very deep! I fleshed 2 heads and 3 hides with several different steel knives and it took basically all day! The hides were smelly and VERY greasy! The flies had already started laying eggs on the raw flesh and after a couple of days…voila –there were handfuls of maggots dripping off the hides and wiggling throughout the brain cavities!

Jake turned 14 in April! I surprised him with my own rendition of the show The Amazing Race. It was: Vernon’s Amazing Race. The 4 teams were driven (by a parent) all over Vernon to complete 14 challenge tasks within one hour. What a time they had! In order to get started on their challenge, one person from each team had to eat and completely swallow a cooked calf testicle! We were astounded as to how fast and painless they met that challenge! To top it off, we wrapped up a big snake that Dyke had found… yes, alive, but non-venomous. When Jake opened that “present” the place cleared out! It was hysterical and Dyke, the King of Pranks, was LOVING it! To us, it wasn’t that big of a deal, but the guests were all from town and even the mothers who were drivers for the challenges were there to witness it! They had petrified looks on their faces and blood-curdling screams reverberated from the walls as Zack snatched it up and dangled it in front of everyone! The party was a huge success and his friends still talk about it!

By the end of April, Zack decided that he was willing to sell his bull calf at the auction. The boys and I hauled him to the sale, and said our last goodbyes while a cowboy slapped a sticky number on his hip and released him into a white pipe holding pen. After the auction, we picked up the check for the sale. Zack had become $600.00 richer and quickly decided that he wanted to continue his commitment to the cattle market. By the time spring was waning into summer, we made the plunge and bought Toro, the borrowed longhorn bull that you read about in the last chronicle. I recently loaned him out to a neighboring rancher for his first year heifers. He’s sired 3 more calves for us this year so far. It’s not a herd to call home about yet, but maybe someday. Penny and Cash are as exuberant as ever, but on a sad note, Bud, the young, down-on-his-luck bird dog, (from the last chronicle) took his last breath during this season. Dyke was trying to get the cows in with the use of the pick-up and Bud somehow slipped under the wheels and was killed. Zack’s world came crashing down around him. But, soon after that, we rescued an infant coon—eyes still closed, the size of your palm.-the youngest one we’ve ever rehabbed. Bottle feedings occurred every 2-3 hours around the clock. Zack and Budreaux (French for Bud), instantly became inseparable. They’d lay on the couch together to watch TV, wrestle in the grass, crawdad hunt in the creek and they became each other’s shadow. Cooner (as I call him), LOVES his daily bowls of Kix cereal and milk! It’s a riot to watch! He’s also taken a hankerin’ to Fritos and grapes!

May: At Jake’s 8th grade send-off dance, he was crowned King of the 8th grade. Apparently, during the school day, all of the 8th graders cast their votes and it was announced that night at the dance. He and the queen had to “slow dance” in front of the entire 8th grade! I didn’t even know he knew how to do that! Oh, I feel there is SO much I don’t know! YIPES! He stands just about 6’ now and is excited to play football at high school this coming school year. He has been undefeated in pole vaulting and has held the district championship title for 2 years straight! Zack will also be playing football (4th grade) for the first time and is so excited that he has been sleeping with his football EVERY night since the sign-up! He is still passionate about Indians and even made his own leather loincloth! Both boys love muddin’ on the 4 wheeler, wakeboarding at the lake and are still somewhat good about working on the farm without much resistance. During chores, Zack quickly switches into his opera rendition of, “Nobody Knows The Troubles I’ve Seen”. You can’t help but crack up at him. Jake is definitely more serious and exhibits more and more of his dad’s traits! This school year was a good one for me, and VERY FAST! I was grateful that summer had arrived! We all worked on landscaping the front of the house with indigenous Texas plants. We all agreed that it’s exactly what was needed and with the addition of an old freight wagon from the local auction, it certainly has that Texas farmhouse feel! The wheat claimed an untimely death just prior to harvest (end of May). It never grew tall enough to even reach the combine teeth, therefore it couldn’t be cut and after the visit by the insurance adjuster, we learned that it was claimed as a total loss. Our wheat crew traveled all the way from Alberta, Canada and with the crops in such poor condition, they were not happy campers. The cotton was planted soon after that, in hopes that the rains will come. We did not plant alfalfa this year. With the drought, no one is able to cut any hay and those that are able to, are charging a phenomenal amount! We’ll see what happens. We may have to buy some bales from OK.
June: For me, summer always brings the time to sit back and drop the reins a bit. The cool mornings and evenings are catalysts to relax, ruminate and reflect on the blessed life that God has placed before us. Following the morning chores, while the rest of the household snoozes, a good cup of coffee on the porch has become quite a pensive, spiritual experience for me. Gazing across the parched, flat, dusty fields, hearing the echoes of the coal trains traversing the vast expanse of the land and watching the earth awaken, there is such a powerful and almost tactile connection to life around me. As the day gets underway, we are blasted with 105+ degree temps with furnace-like winds that consumingly suck all moisture from everything that it breathes on. The tornadic storms that usually sweep through here at this time of year, have split around us every time, leaving us with only a spitting of rainfall; however, we did find ourselves in the cellar a couple of times as funnel clouds swirled only a few miles away. While the east coast is flooding, we are more than 10 inches behind. We really haven’t had any rain to speak of for 8 months! My best hen hatched 3 babies, but within 3 weeks, they had disappeared, along with the daily 3-4 eggs that I had been collecting. Dyke said it was due to a snake, so at various times of night and day, I crept out there to apprehend the criminal –but to no avail. When I noticed that the coon was not utilizing the hollow tree at the end of the porch, I peered down into the cavernous trunk and a very healthy coiled chicken snake glared back at me. No wonder! With the trunk being hollow, it took 3 days to finally catch it. As Zack flashed a light into the dark recesses of the trunk, Jake stuck his hand in and was able to grab its tail. Instantly it headed down a hole into the root system and although Jake pulled with everything he had, he could not pull the snake out. Finally, the 8 minute battle exhausted the snake and a 5 foot snake was extracted! The boys put it in a Wal-Mart sack, hopped on the 4 wheeler and relocated it down the road. As I later learned, the snake had somehow escaped from the sack as they drove and upon stopping to recapture it, it hurriedly slithered up into the engine! By the time the sun sank into the western sky, it once again occupied the Wal-Mart sack and the mission was underway! Since the apprehension of the offender, I am able to now collect eggs daily, until the next one makes its presence known. The boys continue to perfect their snake catching talents. With it being so dry, we are anticipating more and more of them coming around the house to find water. Our pond is completely dry now, so the cows have to come clear up to the barn to drink. Our neighbor to the north has to haul water in big tanks from town, since their well went completely dry at the beginning of the summer. I have heard that some wells are actually pumping sand because there is just no water! I thank God daily that we are not on a well. The courthouse steps have witnessed many prayer rallies for rain and it is a daily reminder in news- paper columns. As heard across the nation, the scorched expanse of land that we exist upon out here has been enslaved by the raging wildfires that have claimed life and property. With the extreme temperatures and shortage of rainfall, incredibly, the earth continues its long-suffering trauma. The farm is now home to 9 baby kitties! Dyke’s threats to use them as catfish bait don’t fall on deaf ears, that’s for sure. (I guess you can catch some whoppers on rat-sized cats!) The five that were born in the hay barn turned up MIA just a couple of days after they were born. We never found them, but assume that the large rat snake that we put in the trash compartment of the barn (to eat the rats), must have also snacked on the kitties. The 4 that were born on the porch survived and were donated to a friend. July found us in the 122 degree Phoenix heat picking up a 4wd Toyota truck that we were the highest Ebay bidders on! We drove out to Arizona, picked up the truck and spent the next 3 days making our way back to Texas by way of the Grand Canyon, Four Corners, Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings, Durango and finally Vernon. It was fantastic and WHAT A BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY WE LIVE IN! WOW! Fall: Cooler temperatures weren’t felt until the last days of September. This is also when Budreaux, the Coon began his weekly sabbaticals from the farm. Just as the others have done, the drop of the mercury and their hormonal changes, bring about more independence, which IS the whole idea behind rehabbing them, but it’s certainly difficult after they have become an integral part of the family. Within the space of 2 weeks, The crop’s lifeblood rains came and the gauge was filled to the 7 inch mark! The watering hole filled up, and the cotton bathed in the blessing! Both boys earned starting quarterback positions on their teams with successful seasons! We are so proud of them! My class is quite possibly the most challenging class in 15 years. Fantasies of being a stay-at-home mom/artist/B & B owner have begun to occupy my spirit more and more these days! When the time is right, Hershey will be sold along with the longhorns. We will add some heavy bred Angus cows and a bull to the herd—leasing the adjacent 40 acres, to try to make a go with a modest cattle operation. Fences/pens will be built, and the addition of “The Bunkhouse” for guests/horse hotel occupants will soon start—as soon as Dyke finishes with his rental property renovation. It’s slow, but steady in that department! With deer/duck season well underway at this point, Dyke’s “home time” is spread thin, like mid- spring ice. Looks like the cotton will be a total loss. The wheat has been slow in maturing, and is now yellowing due to the snows that have immobilized the plains. Many of the coyotes have disbanded in search of food and sieges of cranes and skeins of geese now cloud the airspace as they make the journey to better feeding grounds.

We continue to traipse across the prairie amidst the daily flurry of excitement; exuberant, giddy and at times reckless! May your dreams stay big and your worries stay small. The gate is always open—jus’ saddle up and git-on out here. We’re only two whoops and a holler away! Merry Christmas Y’all!
Dyke, Su, Jake and Zack