Sunday, November 23, 2008


With the outside mercury reaching lower ranking temperatures than the icebox, and the leaves dancing in the gusty prairie winds outside the window screens, the grasses turn a pale flaxen tone. I had always read in pioneer accounts that the wind on the plains is strong enough to force soil through the window casings...well, it is certainly true! Every other day, the window sills collect a dusting of a fine red silt, that can’t be wiped, but has to be vacuumed!. It’s a good thing we’re not living in a soddie! The movement of deer, bobcat, rabbits, coyotes and the like have become more and more apparent with the inception of each new day. October brought an early frost, forcing the cotton into an untimely death. The cotton harvest is usually around Christmas time, but this year it was in the beginning of December. Then, 45 mph winds hurled huge tumbleweeds across the fields. As they bumped and tumbled along, they acted like one of those lint rollers for your clothing. You could watch the precious cotton accumulate on the tumbleweeds as they swept through the fields! As much abuse as the cotton took this year, we were fortunate to have a fairly decent harvest– 4 modules and a trailer— even though it hadn’t fully matured when the frost hit. There’s a milky haze suspended in the air around the gin these days– so cotton’s definitely being processed. The gin’s been working around the clock, the module yard is full on a daily basis and the roads are laced in runaway cotton. It looks just like snow! The wheat fields resemble a deep emerald patchwork quilt, but more moisture would be greatly welcomed. After the last cutting, we plowed the alfalfa under and put wheat in its place, due to the weed invasion over the last couple of years. We’ll start a new alfalfa crop in a section up by the house so that we can improve the quality. We were still able to put up 100+ bales, which have come in handy already. I love our home and what it stands for. The rhythm of life around here is upbeat, free and open, like the Plains themselves. On cool mornings before sunrise or just as the first stars are peeking through the black velvety sky in the evening, I stand on the porch or out by the barn, scanning the horizon in awe of God’s blessed creation. With the coyotes yippin’ in the lower pasture, the tips of the Wichita Mountains in the distance and the breezes out of the north, I drink in the spirit of the Indians that once camped on that very land.
Zack turned 9 this September and has hit this “independent” phase of wanting to do only what he wants to, when he wants to! He reminds us of young bucks or turkeys who try to strut their stuff and go up against the elders, to only be pushed back in their place. He had a campout birthday in the pasture. Dyke and I roasted weenies and made s’mores with them and then at dark, we put the fire out, and got them settled in the tent, figuring that it would be an hour or so when we saw them next. Well, it only lasted 20 minutes and they were running up to the house in their underwear and barefeet never to return to the tent again!! We also went wolf hunting the weekend before with 2 more of his friends and they were scared to absolute death! We had 2 huge owls diving at us in the dark and the coyotes were only yards away! Blood was pumping and tears were rolling that night! He continues to make arrowheads, explore the farm (barefooted) with the dogs, ride 4 wheelers and has recently learned to make his own arrows for his longbow. He loves to rush home to rabbit hunt with his bow and homemade cedar arrows. His team won 2nd in the UIL Music Memory event and he is holding down the “A” honor roll at school! We are SO proud of him!!
Jake turned 13 in April and being 5’9” tall now, with size 10 feet, he certainly “thinks” he wears the pants in the house. I planned and pulled off a 3-hour Survivor (Surprise) Party for him and 16 of his friends. There were challenges that entertained both brawn and brain—fire building, accuracy with a bow/arrow, puzzle scavenger hunt, and more...even a sheet cake with a perfect Survivor logo. Each challenge was for points and the top point winners at the end received a free movie pass to the theater in town. THEY HAD A BLAST! His social life is brimming full—every weekend, he’s out with “sweet-thing” and a group of friends, going to the movies, having cookouts or just hanging out. For a while there, I was thinking that we should get an unlisted phone number! He and Bailey (his g-friend) made it to State with their science fair project: a comparison between archery, rifle and shotgun hunting and the pros/cons of each. His hair -primping/gel routine, braided rope necklaces and brand-name clothes are a daily source of interrogation by his ultra-conservative father. Dyke can’t seem to grasp the idea of wanting to look good and have peer acceptance at the age of 13. When Dyke was his age, he was basically living on the Red River, catching bobcats with his barehands, single-handedly pulling beaver out of their lodges, running winter trap lines and surviving on the flesh of birds, lizards and whatever else he and his brother could catch manually. Girls were the farthest thing from his agenda! I don’t think he even talked to a girl until his senior year! I think he would have become a hermit or river dwelling denizen or some other strange bit of humanity if I didn’t say “yes” seventeen years ago. Jake has mentioned that he would like some cologne for Christmas. Oh, that went over like a lead balloon! Especially when Dyke found out it was $30.00 for only 1 ounce! I won’t be surprised if Dyke buys him some doe urine. Dyke seems to swear by that stuff, but it doesn’t really do much for me...a bit too musky. Anyway, Jake has a great group of friends and it reminds me of the gang I ran with back in Yankeeland. I guess that’s why I find it easier to understand his heavy social life. He still enjoys hunting and farmwork (when he is home long enough to do it), as well as playing sports at school. He’s a natural athlete. He is on the National Junior Honor Society and holds a 90 average in his studies. We are SO proud of him!!
Hunting and fishing will never drain from Dyke’s veins. Although fishing up in this country is pitiful and sad, the saltwater still seeps from his pores, & the redfish and the movement of the tides is still fresh and alive within his soul. Every year at the same time, (I think it’s when the redfish are in the shallows), he hits this cavernous hollow where all he can do is mope around mumbling something about missing the coast and the fishing. Usually the planning of the annual elk hunt gets him over that hump, but this year with the hurricanes, he had to forego his elk trip. He headed to East Texas for a full week, to help out and said that things down there were really TOUGH! He was stationed at a prison and the town near the prison to guard against looting and escapees. With no electricity, they had to use spotlights to help prevent uprisings among the inmates. His brother was called to help in New Orleans and apparently that was quite an experience... We must be so gratefully thankful for all that God blesses us with, even during the trials that we go through and remember those less fortunate than us. Dyke’s work in the county has certainly picked up since deer season opened. He is only here to sleep, it seems. But, chasing outlaws, interrogating suspects, sneaking up on situations and trying to put an end to the meth users in the area keeps him incredibly busy. He loves what he does and the landowners speak very highly of him and his character. Even though he has enough to keep up with here at the farm, he recently, became a landlord. He bought a fixer-upper in Electra (30 miles) and has been trying to get it ready for renters. Apparently, the previous renters were into drugs, as he has found syringes and other paraphernalia lying around. Supposedly, this rent house will furnish him and the boys with some “hunting lease funds”. Mmmm, we’ll see! He and the boys have provided a good supply of venison for the winter though, so I’m not complaining. Duck season is upon us, so we’ll be adding duck to the menu soon!
Teaching is going great this year! I have a fun group of 17! They’re typical 2nd graders, so some days I am ready for retirement, at the thought of having 13 more years of the stuff, but the girls I work with are a hoot and we are very close! Laughter is the greatest medicine! A local gift shop welcomed 5 of my Santas, so we’ll see how those sell. Dyke built a simple wooden bench for me to “practice” carving some running horses on. The unfinished bench took up residence in the barn for the longest time. Finally, I found myself with the time to focus on it, and several days later, was completed! It was a fun project and I hope to do more carving in the future!
My passion for horses, cattle, cowboys and the Old West still consumes my spirit and always will! “My” time is from 4am-6am when I am completely alone—except for the distant, muffled snores from my allergy-riddled spouse. My usual routine is to awaken somewhere around 4am, stumble into my jogging attire and creep down into our 100 yr old storm cellar to robotically get on the treadmill to sweat through a 2 mile workout. It’s worlds apart from a spa environment...believe me! Scorpions, deadly brown recluse spiders and an occasional snake have kept me company while I “risk” my life down there. Who the heck would hear me if I was accosted by an arachnid and needed aid? For some reason, I have voluntarily decided to keep the quick-release clip unattached from my bobbling tank-top, as I have disconnected the magnet “key” several times by my flailing arms and then lose track of how far I had been to that point and my entire existence is out of whack for the rest of the day! (Those who have been on a treadmill can probably relate to this.) With the machine tightly backed up to the brick wall in the cellar, if I ever lost my footing and fell on the dang thing, I’d be slammed into the wall, my hide would be rubbed plumb off by the rubberized conveyor belt and the worst one would have an inkling of my demise! If I make it out of there alive, I crawl up the cobwebby steps to start up the Columbian java that my body has learned to crave each morning. After 2 Texas-sized mugs of the stuff, I am tanked and ready for lift-off! The bad part is that not one of the beings in this household are morning people like I am. They are all like diesel pick-ups on a cold morning: their glow plugs need time to warm up! They all slump around half asleep while I am caffeinated and ready to tackle the day with 3 hours of activity behind me before we even head out the door! Unfortunately, my energy lasts only as long as the sun is in our hemisphere, because ever since the time change, I have felt like I have become part chicken. I am up before the sun, but as the sun slides down the western sky, I begin yearning for my pillowtop mattress and by 5:30pm, when we finally get home, in the pitch dark, I am ready to forego supper and go to roost! It’s like Cinderella at midnight —I think I can actually feel the feathers starting to protrude from under my breastbone, and my toenails have taken the shape of claws! The boys and I took an amazing lifetime trip home to Massachusetts this summer. But only hours before our departure, they were barefoot, up to their hips in the creek water of the lower pasture. Their mission was to locate and take captive—for viewing purposes only— a soft-shelled turtle, as big as a tractor steering wheel, that had been seen lazily paddling through the murky, weed infested channel of the creek. Since the visibility of the water depths was so poor, the only means available to locate the mysterious creature was the use of their toes as feelers, through the squishy creek bottom. Several false alarms only produced red ears and snappers, and not the elusive soft-shell. The mission was never completed before they had to wash off, jump in the car and head to the Dallas airport, but plans to continue upon our return were made in the backseat as we sped down the dusty roads toward town. In our 9-day stay in the bustling East, we took a train into New York City, spent the night, saw Lion King on Broadway, watched the Yankee/Pirates game from 2nd row VIP seats behind home plate, took the bus through Central Park to a museum, and rode an infamous Big Apple subway. While we stood in Grand Central Station, waiting for our train, I scanned the river of people that raged by, I looked 3 feet behind me and locked eyes with Tom Westman—the winner of the last Survivor! He was just standing there! It was the oddest but neatest experience! He just appeared out of nowhere! We visited a little, snapped a quick photo and then he was off as quickly as he had appeared. Since we are such die-hard Survivor fans, the boys and I thought it was totally amazing! Then, it was on to Boston for the day. We ambled around the historic North End where we walked part of the Historic Freedom Trail, touring Paul Revere’s home, the Boston Harbor, various colonial buildings, the Old North Church where the lanterns were hung as a signal to Paul, the Granary Burial Grounds where we found the burial sites of John Hancock, Ben Franklin and the rest of the Liberty Boys. We even saw the vault where one of my mother’s ancestors were buried, as they came to this country in 1630 (with the Puritans) and lived for many generations in that area. The huge Boston Market area was fascinating with the sidewalk artists and performers. It’s basically an open-air market filled with aromas and sights of fresh fish, baked bread, sweet desserts and more! You could feel the thick patriotic history everywhere! We could picture the lobsterbacks gathering and patrolling the cobblestone streets, and the huge, wooden English supply ships sailing into the harbor with the precious cargos of English tea! Then it was off to Connecticut to a GREAT family reunion on my cousin’s pond, back to Massachusetts for a wonderful cookout and time spent at home with family and friends and finally to Albany, NY where we flew home to Texas. WHAT AN AWESOME TRIP! The boys couldn’t get over the busyness of the East-or how small the states are there...mere Texas counties! They were glad to get back to the farm, but we all LOVED experiencing the colonial history! The summer brought changes among the animal population here on the farm. We lost our sweet Dixie-girl to an apparent heart attack. She was 17 years old and went peacefully as she lay under the tree by the porch. It was very sad, but we all knew she had a wonderfully full life. Cooner and Heidi, the coons that we raised from infancy to adolescence, left for the last time and have not been back since. The yellow Tom cat that we had, turned up missing...perhaps a warm bobcat lunch. Kitty had 2 babies the morning that we flew home to Mass. They are teens now and still stay close to mom. Before sunrise every morning, they get treated to a bowl of milk and if you forget, they’ll sure remind you by clawing at the screen. Talk about spoiled! Hershey was sent away for some training, with a cowboy who trains for the Four Sixes Ranch. The training went fairly well, except that Hershey got crippled up from something. We added a German Shorthair Pointer pup, named Bud, to the lot. His life almost didn’t have a chance. Right off the bat, he was diagnosed with Parvo and the vet didn’t have much hope for him. Dyke hand-nursed him back from death’s grip with a concoction of peanut butter, pancake syrup and Pedialite over a course of a month or so. Then, when he finally had his strength and spirit back and wasn’t vomiting blood, Dyke accidentally ran over him with the big trailer and broke his hip. So these days, he is happy to be healthy, but is about as worthless as teats on a boar hog. His main goal in life is to torment the cats, and roll in the dirty laundry. You can’t hardly scold him for the horrendous start to life that he had. The beginning of the summer saw 11 chickens pecking in the chicken house, but by fall, there were none left. Dogs, coyotes and bobcats had their fill. Early one morning as the sun flooded the Plains, I shuffled into the living room, gazed down into the lower pasture and saw a crowd of dark figures in the grass. I quickly grabbed the binoculars and focused in on what it was. There was Cash, surrounded by coyotes nipping at her, trying to get her down. I threw on my boots, ran down the hill in my pajamas, hollerin’ as I ran. There were 4 of them. They hightailed it to the west and boy was Cash glad to see me. She doesn't go down there by herself anymore. Zack’s cow, Mabel had her 2nd calf, a bull. Her first calf is already bred back so we’ll see what happens there. The longhorns are fat and sassy, as well as the heifers and Toro, the borrowed bull. He came to us on loan from one of the local DPS troopers,. That dang bull has been the source of a lot of grief and frustration! It’s great to have free stud service, but we have spent many-an-hour traveling this country in search of his whereabouts when he decides to escape and visit the girls up wind. Luckily, he is not too aggressive and it has forced us to finally get the fences rebuilt. It’s a record –he’s been in for over a month now! Penny is still hyper, and is Bud’s partner in crime. Always winding something, rats, rabbits, grasshoppers and the like. The potential is there, but her ADHD behavior prevents her from staying focused on one thing too long. (Hmmmm… sounds like several of my students!) Cash is as loyal and loving as ever, but has really slowed down. She’s graying around the mouth and finds that it’s easier to say hello by a simple wag of her tail while she is laying down than get up and wiggle all over the place like she used to. The bunkhouse bed & breakfast plans are still fresh, but lacking organization. Between that, building a new carport, a stone patio, welding better cattle pens, buying more cows, building
a stone/cactus entrance and just the day to day life around may be half a lifetime before we get to it! We hope this past year has brought love, blessings and strength to all of you. Come visit us anytime and stay in touch!
We love you, Merry Christmas and a safe, healthy 2006 to you all!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice blog...


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