Sunday, November 23, 2008



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

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