Sunday, July 21, 2013

WHY I love WHERE I live.

My friend from Albuquerque came to stay the night last week, due to the hail storm (discussed later). She said that she was surprised she liked my home. I’m not sure what she expected. She also said that waking up in my house felt a little like camping; I’m hoping that refers more to the birds outside the window than the quality of her bed. Housing aside, I thought it would be worthwhile to describe a few of the reasons I love the community in which I live.

* The last week of school, my students did plays. They were short plays; I think all three together took about 10 minutes, but the kids worked hard and did well. I allowed them to perform multiple times for other classes, and encouraged them to invite their families, expecting perhaps the few most faithful parents. I never expected that a total of 33 parents, grandparents, and siblings of my 18 students would come in at various times to watch and clap and smile.

* Santa Rosa is on I-40. Sadly enough, that means there are often wrecks and some of those are truck wrecks (as in 18 wheelers). Now, I am not saying I’m happy that there is a wreck. What does make me happy is that in a small town, it’s not just the local garbage service hauling the cargo to the dump. That may happen, but let me tell you - our clean up folks know how to recycle. Everybody in Santa Rosa ate strawberries ‘til we turned red and started dripping earlier this spring. This summer - well, we’re working on turning green and softening up from the avocados someone rescued!

I only took a few. There were these times a hundred.
* On the 3rd of July, we had hail. Oh, did we have hail, and I was stuck in town. I’m sure the radio station reported on the hail, although I wasn’t listening, but I couldn’t help but compare the “news” with the news of storms I’d experienced in Albuquerque. There was no immediate TV coverage, no traffic reports, and, since it’s summer, no phone chains for school - but there were neighbors running down the street. “Can you reach ----? Their carport fell over!” Or calling to one another, “You can’t cross the bridge! But I’ll help you push your car out of the drift” Texts flew from one end of town to the other, reporting damage and traffic conditions, what could and could not be moved or changed. No one really needed the media. We had one another.

* On the 4th of July, we celebrated. We drove by the 3 foot high hail drifts and set off fireworks on the wet, wet ground. I must interrupt to describe the absolute most “All-American” meal I’ve ever eaten all at once: hamburgers, watermelon, corn on the cob, salad, and homemade ice cream... Anyway, Santa Rosa’s firework show was set off at the lake and watched from the church. We arrived as a group of friends and departed with a group of townspeople who liked the parking lot view (and our ice cream). The fireworks were huge and a long display for a small town, with individual individuals adding their home shows on the sides.

* On the 5th of July we had a parade. It was a fast parade and those of us who were going to walk beside the float could not keep up. We ran as far as we could and dropped off. Two 8 year olds had more energy than the rest and stayed with the float all the way to the park. They had to drop off too, and at the end, no one could find them. Let me tell you about life in a small town. These two 8 year olds are probably related to half the town, and despite the worry during the search, I think we all knew they were not really lost - we had simply lost them. (They wisely and safely returned to where the parade began.) 
Rural communities are more about people than place. And God's gift of community thrives in places where people cannot avoid one another.
These are my dad's cows after it rained. I had to put the picture somewhere.


Cool things can happen when you vacation on your own schedule with good friends. Here are a few of my favorites from my WY trip.

* My family loves to eat at Costco. Most of my friends look at me strangely when I suggest that as an option for eating out. On this vacation, I traveled with various members of a family of friends. There is a reason we are friends. It was THEIR idea to eat pizza and ice cream at Costco on the way to WY and pizza and ice cream at Sam’s Club on the way home.

It's nice to be friends with the famous.
Jessica and I have been friends since we were 3, with only a few scattered incidences of enmity in the years that have passed. Jess is going to have a baby, increasing enjoyment of our favorite shared hobby: eating. But...she’s probably the only person I know who will straight out tell me, “You put way too much butter on your food.” (Butter is a food, so I don’t know what she’s talking about!)

* Jess is a public relations volunteer for Cheyenne Frontier Days. One day, we got to hear her on the radio; another day we saw her dress up to do a tour (hence the pictures)

* My dog lives at her house. Really. His name is Uno. He is a giant lab who doesn’t look like a lab and is perfectly content to stand beside you with his head in your lap while you pet and he drools. When he was a puppy, Jess tried to send him home with me, but knowing how lonely he’d be, I’ve left him with her for 5 years :-).

Dianne working the water drill (to pump water up)

* I’ve yet to experience Cheyenne Frontier Days, being somewhat scared of the crowd, but Frontier Park is worth a visit at any point in the year. The gardens are beautiful, the historical markers interesting, but the free kids’ area competes with the Santa Fe Children’s Museum! There’s an aquifer system, a self propelled bridge, a water drill, a puppet area and a half dozen other fascinating activities.

Round 3
* I also went to Rock Springs for a day of the National High School Rodeo Finals. Rock Springs was hot, and there were a lot of people there (1300 contestants from the U.S., Canada, and Australia, and all the folks that accompanied them). Camping amidst the crowd, I heard a Mississippi accent trying to imitate a Canadian accent - priceless! I learned a little geography, a little history.... and a lot about the rodeo. The events are held in two arenas, with two events going on simultaneously - great boredom prevention! And I watched my friend trap shoot. It’s not nearly as easy as it looks, just for your reference, but all of the NM team were in the top half of contestants.

Road building?
* Coming home, we stopped at my friends’ family cabin in the mountains of Colorado. That is the stuff paintings are made of, I must say. After one of the best nights of sleep I’d ever had, we went on a mini “jeeping” adventure, courtesy of Caleb, who decided that dragging a tree from the area he was clearing constituted the beginning of a tour. We stacked tin in the barn and visited the rhubarb patch. No one knew there was a road to the rhubarb patch. There is now.

* And... rhubarb. Everyone pitched in to pick, but we could only bring so much because... 3 people, 2 guns, 3 sleeping bags, etc., etc., etc. kind of filled up my car. We didn’t pick a lot, and as I decided to snap a shot of the momentous occasion, I unwittingly stepped into an ant den. And stood there a minute. As I stepped backward again, I wondered why I was suddenly being bit. Everywhere. Joel spotted them and Dianne slapped me down. I stomped and pinched and fluffed - and narrowly avoided a strip down, escaping with only a dozen or so bites.

* We made our way back up to the cabin to begin our descent to NM. From Winter Park to Pueblo, a drive of about 3 1/2 hours, I used 4 gallons of gas. Thank God for gravity! I am also, truly, thankful for cruise control. It is the only thing that prevented me having a speeding ticket on that drive home and what would I have told the cop, “I’m sorry, Officer. It’s just that we’re all homesick and if we don’t get to Santa Rosa soon, bad things might happen!”?

One view from the cabin

Home to find green grass, I can say I am thankful to the God of creation who blesses in every way, shape, and form all the way from WY to NM. And I can say I am blessed far beyond what I deserve - now I better go out ready to serve!


We don't have tornadoes in New Mexico. The wind blows them all away.

This is the top of the very nice barn by my house.

This is where the wind blew the tin.

And this is the view from the bottom.

(It is fixed now).


Let me introduce you to adventure. My story is told in present tense to assist your imagination. We begin as my brother drives a gooseneck trailer loaded with their family’s belongings, and me (not in the trailer) to my parents’ house from their home outside Horse Springs, NM. That’s near Datil, which is by the Arizona line if you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting the metropolis. 

Anyway, the trailer has a flat. I’m glad I don’t have to change it, so I put the block where it belongs and he drives forward. The block moves forward, too. Tries 2 and 3 produce the same result. So do Tries 4-7 as he backs up onto gravel attempting to give the block traction. There’s no jack, but Try 8 is successful! Tire off... and we discover that for the first, only, and probably last time EVER Dad has the wrong size spare on his trailer. It had to be some subconscious knowledge of Colby’s eventual presence, because things like that only happen to my brother. Thankfully, there is another spare and onward we travel.

One week later and one day late, after Colby and family lived through a series of unfortunate events without my recording pen handy, they arrive at my house in Santa Rosa. I knew when they were close because my friend called from town to say she’d spotted them. Who else would haul a milk cow that looked confused through town? True enough, their rigs are remarkable enough to warrant photographs throughout the trip. A milk cow, 10 dogs, 3 horses, lots of furniture, and two bikes strapped on the outside. The following morning we set out from Santa Rosa toward Ada, Oklahoma, their home-to-be. My sister-in-law had been there once. Now, forgive any awkwardness in the tale that follows. It is true and important to understanding - the rest of the story!

Arriving in Ada a month before, Allison and her friend had to wait a few moments for the boss to arrive and tell them where to unload the flatbed trailer of outdoor and bulky items they’d brought ahead of time. They began to visit with the hired man who’d be moving out of the house they planned to move in. They asked him if he’d seen coons. He had, they’d dug under his house he said. But it was OK, he’d taken care of them and peed on all the holes so they wouldn’t return.

They changed the subject. Maybe they could talk about the garden he so loved. Yes, he described his garden in detail, but explained that he’d had problems with rodents in the garden as well. However, peeing the parameters had kept the rabbits from eating it out.  And the stories continued with the same theme, though I will spare you, my dear reader. Suffice it to say we were not eager to eat the lettuce from said garden and eyed just about every outdoor feature with a suspicious eye.

Now, returning to our saga of moving to Oklahoma, we are glad to meet my brother’s new boss on the road to their house. He warns us that he has just managed to move the former hired man’s belongings out of the house, but they are not packed yet. Rather hired man, his truck, and at least 3 pickup loads of “stuff” are on the lawn of their future home. My sister-in-law decides she can at least give me a tour inside...

“Look, how cool is this closet in the entryway!” She opens the door. 

I observe. “With stuff in it?”

“Oh.” We walk on to the bedrooms. “See how nice these closets are, they have a top shelf and - “
“Stuff in them.”

Allison is ever the optimist, so we continue to the kitchen. “Aren’t these two-way cabinets neat, with - “


We look at each other and cannot help but laugh. True enough, there is stuff in every crook and cranny of the house, owner apparently unknown. They decide a motel is in order for the night, but first Colby wants to back the trailer and arrange things a bit for the morning. 

He begins to back up... The hired man looks up anxiously and yells, “Now, Colby, be careful of my pansies. If you run over my pansies, that’ll be the end of this relationship.”

Moral: Relationships are fragile, like pansies.

Our motel stay was exciting in itself; the room for 3 adults and 2 children had 2 full-sized beds and a mattress in the window. How many of you have ever slept in your windowsill? ‘Cause I have!

The following morning we clean. I like to clean. This is good, because we do plenty. We learn that the bathtubs don’t drain well (that makes them almost impossible to clean, just so you know). We learn that the neighbors who love to visit are truly very helpful and the hour they spent explaining the steam cleaner will probably be worthwhile when you consider that we need it to remove the grime coating most areas near the kitchen. I also learn to not use oven cleaner without gloves. Your skin will begin to resemble a snake shed. Speaking of snake sheds, we learn that our favorite hired man collected snake skins and snake sheds and pinned them on the wall for our enjoyment. 

By evening, we... are hot, tired, and stressed. I thought a breather would be appropriate.... so I went south to Atoka to visit my friends: Brad, Brittney, and Becca Dubach all worked with me at Eagles’ Wings for several years, and Brad’s sweet family was willing to host us all AND let me enjoy their very-much-working air conditioner and shower. I arrived just as the rain was letting up and everyone had gone to the backyard. Brad’s two year-old twins were promptly confused.

“Whaz your name? Whaz her name? Your name?”


“Rebecca?” The dark haired twin turns. “Rebecca and Rebecca?” She turns again, and asks again. Her mom confirms,  “Yes, she is Rebecca and she is Rebecca.”

The small child looks suspiciously at Brittney, wondering if the strange name of these strange people applies here as well, but her attention is quickly drawn by a stray dog in the yard. Her twin promptly cries to be picked up, but Sara is curious.

“Whaz at dog? Whaz doggie?” I am pulled to go and follow the dog and attempt to answer the endless string of questions. As the dog goes back to the front of the house, we follow. This tiny stray “kick-me-dog” is soaked and ugly and promptly runs underneath my brother’s big Dodge pickup, which I’ve driven down for my visit. Sara continues her inquiries, “Tha doggy is with tha truck. Tha truck is tha doggy’s? The doggy is a truck’s?” 

“I don’t think so. I think the doggie just wants to be under the truck.”

“No, da truck is a doggie’s. Whereza man?”

“The man?”

“Yeah, whereza man? Da man wit the truck?”

Oh! I decide to not even try explaining that I drove the truck, and the questions recur throughout the weekend. The mysterious dog must be with the truck and somewhere, that truck has a man to drive it!

Interjection: The only other observation of my lovely visit with lovely friends is that Oklahoma rains release something into the air to which I am allergic, so I went to bed and woke up crying. Or maybe seeing friends is just an emotional experience. Either way, I took a Benadryl for the first time in my life on Sunday morning and fell asleep three times in church, despite hearing that the Bible is as necessary to a Christian as drugs are to a dealer.

Returning to our adventures with my brother’s family, I arrive Sunday night to find them in almost the same state I’d left them: tired, hot, and cleaning hard. By Monday afternoon, we are seeing progress. We’ve almost removed the layer of grease. To be fair, it had protected the cabinets from decaying, since nothing could penetrate! They leave to run errands. I stay... apparently to use the remainder of the water. By the time they return that evening, it is clear that the well has stopped.

I am so thankful to say that the house was pretty much cleaned, supper cooked, and no one’s sanity lost before the well stopped. The break in water changes our plans: my sister-in-law and I leave for NM Tuesday morning. While not quite as exciting, the trip home had its moments. The first was in Tupalo,, um, community nearest their house where we stopped for diesel. Apparently these two white NM chics aren’t redneck enough ‘cause we sure get a lot of “you look like a redneck” glances from the resident rednecks of Tupalo.

The better moment was in Groom, TX. Again, a diesel stop triggers the incident. Allison fills both trucks while I run across the street to the grocery store for water and munchies. The cashier starts a conversation. “You just passing through?”

“Yes, we had to stop for diesel. I guess y’all don’t get a lot of freeway traffic.”

“Nope, they usually look at the cross at the other end of town and just keep on driving.”

“Well, you have some nice little businesses.”

“They’re all listed on that sign at the end of the street.”

“Oh... cool. Do the locals keep you pretty busy?”

“Yeah, especially on Thursdays. ‘Cuz my boss cooks chicken on Thursdays back in the back. Folks can come in and get it. You know, kind of like a way for them to eat out.”

And the conversation proceeds as I learns all the local niceties (and they do sound nice!) of Groom, TX.

Long story short and most interesting parts related, I am happy to arrive Tuesday night. My brother’s horses finally learn that the grass is edible (the filly had been scared to jump out of the trailer into it) and his family is all happily settled. And I AM ASSURED that the best route to adventure - is the route to Colby’s house. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Someday I’m gonna be famous/ 
Do I have talent?
Well, no.
These days you don’t really need it/
Thanks to reality shows....
(from "Celebrity")

I think they’re going to make one here pretty soon. Really. I mean, surely, after the photographs in the Guadalupe County Communicator or from the random guy who stopped to watch branding, they’re going to want....

OH! I need to tell you that story. Indeed. A good part of my summer break has been spent working cows, or, as my Dad and I like to call it, playing cows. Dad branded two days, my landlords shipped, their friends branded, my dad shipped.  From these days, I could tell a million stories which would either bore or confuse most of you: how my rope got under my horse’s tail and he bucked and I was scared of running over our 3 over-75-year old-assistants, how hard it is to NOT get sleepy and inattentive when sorting pairs (that means choosing certain cows and their own calves to put through the gate) at noon on a hot June day, or how underfed cows have no energy to run away - they just kick a little more often with a little less spunk.

But I won’t. I will tell you that the first day of Dad’s brandings, our corrals were right by the highway. We were working hard when an SUV drove by, turned around, drove by, turned again and pulled up by the fence. A man proceeded to take pictures, from his car, from out of his car, by the fence, on top of his car. Hmmm... an interested tourist? An old wanna be? Or a PETA rep out to smear us? Finally we sent the little ones to invite him to the action. He came, he watched, he asked lots of questions (I don’t think he was from PETA).

“Are these ALL ranch hands?” referring to the crowd of 12 or so - men and women from age 5 up to age 82.
He’s from California. There’re no stereotypes there, I guess, but I still explained that we weren’t exactly “ranch hands.”

Then he wondered about the cows’ diet. I said, “Well... you’d be surprised. They can eat a lot of that,” pointing toward the gray grass, the cholla, and the scattered weeds. “Except - there’s not a lot of that right now. We’re in a drought.”
“What do you do if they run out?”
“Well, we feed them cubes and hay. We’re feeding a lot of hay right now.”
“That must be expensive. “

I think I missed my chance to let a rich donor contribute to the preservation of America’s family agriculture.

That wasn’t the end of our claims to fame. The following day a photographer from the Santa Rosa paper who was working on an article about drought came along to get some exciting pictures. She got excitement all right. Besides our normal impressive crew (Grandpa believes that branding is a good substitute for stroke therapy on his right hand) plus a few almost upside down brands and eartags, we had some tense moments when freshly castrated calves had a membrane break and the guts begin to fall out. 

The calves were duly flanked (that means someone picked them up and put them on the ground sidewise, while someone else grabbed the back legs and held them), the vet kit dug out, the guts gently massaged back in, and the membrane gathered and resewn. It was a sight most of us had never seen and would prefer to never see again, and a cause for much speculation as to why or how it happened.

 A picture of 5-year-old Ryan’s intense observation of Pops’ sewing made it into the paper. The drought is taking its toll on the whole community, so the actual article on the paper focused on that, and on the shipment of cattle away from another ranch. It’s dry, my friends. Dad is shipping some of his cattle to a feedlot. We hope it’s a vacation for them, a cruise where they can eat well, while we stay home and wait for rain. Somehow that part isn’t too glamourous. Nobody really likes to watch gloomy ranchers staring at dust devils that look like pictures from the 30s.

Who knows? Maybe someday we will be famous.

Quotable Quotes that Deserve to be Shared

Actually, most of these are a follow on to the fabulous compliments section....

J was told to write about the most memorable part of his school year:
A memory of mine is when my class and another class and I went to Sun and Sand...then when I go into the bathroom there's a picture of elvis and when I walk by it it and it looks like his eyes are following you.
Teacher: Look D----, a square and a rectangle are like you and your dad. Like you and your dad are both from the "Jones" family. So (while drawing a square) here's your dad, E. Jones and here's you (drawing a rectangle). I can call either of you Mr. Jones, but I can't call you E, only your dad.

Student D----: Are you saying my dad is a square?
M asks, "Is Rebecca really 108?" and hears, "No, she's 51."
He responds, "Oh! That makes more sense."
From a parent, as I tried to explain a note I'd sent home that day and apologized that she considered the writing on the note sloppy,
"Well, see there - you're certainly not perfect!"
From another parent, after he'd called in the evening and spent almost 45 minutes telling me how terrible a teacher I was for his child, "I hope there's no hard feelings or anything. I don't want you to be upset."
And in my summer pursuits, J tries to comfort me concerning some of my lacking skills in the cowboy world. "You're not that bad at heading. You just can't catch and you don't know how to handle. That's all heading is, catches and handles."