The good Lord is watching

The pens are now empty. There’s no more bawling calves or cows looking after their babies. The leftover bales of hay sit in the farm yard. The round top shed is a little emptier. Our souls are a little emptier too.

If you would have told me five and a half years ago this is how it’d end up I wouldn’t have believed you. But this is what it’s came down to. The cowherd is at the livestock auction as I type this. Some probably have already been sold.

There’s been an agreement reached and now we have to move on. We have to depend on ourselves more than we ever have. I took some photos on Sunday because the light was so very beautiful and I wanted one last reminder of the day. I posted them on social media and had more than a few people reach out with encouragement. One comment from a dear friend read, “This may not be the day you want, but the good Lord is watching.” She is so right. We have to pick ourselves up and do the right thing. We have to do what is right for us.

Nearly 3 months ago the ugly wildfires on the day I buried my Dad was the worst thing I’d been through in my 38 years on earth. Sunday when we hauled those cows, calves, bulls and heifers to town is squarely situated in second place for worst experiences of my life. I’ve hauled cattle to town before because of the drought, not knowing if Dad’s pasture would ever have momma cows and scampering babies in it. It did.

I was at a meeting a few weeks ago covering it for my day job. The speaker helped attendees gather the tools they needed to make hard decisions and remain profitable in ranching. One thing he said was, “those cows will be dead in 15 years, but that land will be there forever.” How true and it really struck a chord with me. It’s hard to look at life that way when the cattle who have been the center of my husband’s universe since 2012 are being loaded into a truck to be sold.

As we prepare to move on and become the people we want to be, I look toward the future. I can’t help but wonder how things will eventually turn out. Another good friend told me yesterday if this door you’re seeking doesn’t open, then maybe there’s something better coming. I sure hope so. I’ve had enough of the bad.

Dad would know

In the month plus since my Dad has died, I’ve had more than a few instances where I desperately wanted to pickup the phone and ask him something. Car is making a funny noise, ask Dad. Tires are wearing funny, ask Dad. The neighbor has a new pickup, ask Dad where it came from. He’d know.

My husband and I were coming back from the dentist office and noticed a shed along the highway getting new metal siding. I thought the property was owned by someone else, he thought the guy using it owned it. Without even missing a beat, I said, I bet Dad would know. Then I sighed. My Dad was a bit of a gossip and loved to find information out before anyone else.

The other day a coworker asked where my Dad’s name Valere came from. I don’t recall any conversation besides the one where we were told his mother came up with it. So off to Google it I go. Valere is Latin and means to be strong or be well. In French it means brave. I like the second meaning better. Dad was brave. He wasn’t always right, but he did what he wanted and lived life his way. To me that’s brave.

Lately I’ve been going through some issues in my personal life and they’ve all seemed to heap on me at once. I was looking for verses, quotes and sayings on Pinterest and the Be Brave ones just really struck me. I even created a cover photo for my Facebook page that says just that. I don’t like change. I don’t like stepping out of my comfort zone. I also don’t like people who are mean and do things to hurt others. I’m trying really hard to forgive a couple of those people, but it’s just easier to forget them. I have to be brave to do that.

I’d also been sitting on a couple of voice mail messages that I couldn’t make myself listen to. Mostly because they were from my Dad. My phone has been giving me the dreaded “storage is full” and I’ve been trying to clean it up since I’m too cheap to get a new phone right now and don’t want to lose any of the 4,000-some odd photos I have on there. So one night when I was feeling particularly down, I was brave and listened to them. Same old Dad message, “Kylene, this is your Dad. Call me back.” But this time I could hear the age in his voice. I could hear the sickness. I could hear all the things I never wanted him to be. Especially gone.

Those phone messages are still there. I was brave enough to listen to them again, but I’m not brave enough to delete them. They just might migrate to a new phone when I decide to purchase another. I’ve got plenty of room for the next photos for now. I don’t have to be brave all at once.

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Dad and I during the Father-Daughter dance at my wedding, July 18, 2009.

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I don’t get it

My 3-year-old son, Chance, has been saying, “I don’t get it” for the past couple of weeks. I’m not real sure when he picked it up or why he continues to say it. Makes me think he knows a lot more than I give him credit for.

Does he understand why his Mom and Dad have been stressed?

Does he understand his Grandpa Orebaugh died and he won’t see him any more? Does he understand why Grandma is sometimes sad?

Does he know the farm burned to the ground and he won’t get to spend the time in the same places his Dad did?

Does he know his Mom and Dad are trying to continue a legacy?

I sure hope he understands these things. Well not right now, but in time. I hope he understands we are doing the best we can for him and his brother.

Families sometimes suck. Friends sometimes suck. Some people just suck. When times get tough the true colors and friends will show. Those who care will be there. Those who have nothing to gain by helping won’t. Those who care will pray. Those who don’t won’t.

I don’t get why people change face and leave behind the ones they once cared for. I don’t get how people let money get in the way of their happiness. I don’t get why our most favorite people have to leave us and leave messes behind.

I don’t get it either Chance.

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The Lord will provide

I haven’t written in some time. Work has been busy. Life has been busy. I now have a tiny bit of time so I’m going to take it to write something about what we’ve been doing, and what has been on my mind.

My Dad, Valere Orebaugh passed away early on March 1. He’d been in and out of the hospital and was moved to a nursing home where he was supposed to get better and go home. He had days where he was better, but the bad days started out numbering the better ones. The day before he died Mom called us all in and I secretly hoped my boys being there would snap him out of it. But it really didn’t. I do know he knew we were there and he was surrounded by his family at least for a few hours.

This morning I was helping Chance get dressed and he said, “that smells like Poppa.” I’m not real sure what he smelled, but I didn’t catch a whiff of it, so I wasn’t for sure. I was telling an acquaintance at lunchtime about what he’d said and she shared her own wisdom on the subject. Chance and my Dad spent a lot of time together the past 2 years, and I’m not real sure how much a 3-year-old can grasp about death, but I do know he misses his grandpa.

When I was coming into the office this morning, I paused to gather my things and make sure I had everything and realized the song I heard the morning my dad died was again on the radio. I don’t know if I’d heard it since the day he died on the station, but there it was My Old Man by the Zac Brown Band.

And while I was working on pages this morning, I had my normal Pandora radio station playing and it was Stoney Larue’s “Forever Young.” That was the song I had played at my wedding for the Father/Daughter dance. When it was time to choose a song for the dance, I really couldn’t decide on one. A friend suggested one to me, and at the time it just fit. It still does. I think I chose it because I always wanted him to be forever young.

For as long as I can remember I thought of my dad as young, even though he was one of the older parents of my classmates. Maybe it was because he was tanned and strong, spending his days on the tractor or outdoors. Maybe it was because he liked new things. More than once I remember Mom cussing him because he came home with a new pickup or a new pair of boots.

But these last few years have been hard with his health. In 2007 he had a quadruple bypass surgery and even then they told him his time was limited. His heart was pretty badly damaged and they told him he wasn’t a candidate for the transplant list because of his age and health. Admittedly I was shocked we had him for 10 more years. I’m thankful for those extra years. He got to meet my two boys and become a part of their lives.

While planning Dad’s funeral we came across his wishes for the memorial and he wanted to be buried in a small country cemetery. The land around it was farm ground he used to rent and farm when we were kids. I remember helping him switch out anhydrous tanks at this particular place and watching the hose come off, spraying the noxious gas everywhere. He yelled at me, “get in the pickup!” It was a pretty scary situation, but we were both lucky to come out unscathed.

On the day of his funeral it was terribly windy. Gusty, nasty wind. But it was also nearly 80 degrees so it was almost tolerable during the graveside service. Once we’d returned to the church we all noticed heavy smoke clouds in the south part of town. It was not a good situation. After we’d returned home my husband’s phone rang. A family friend alerted him to a fire very near the Scott farm. It wasn’t good. In fact it was awful. The farmhouse, the barn, hay stockpile and grass all burned. The cows and calves managed to survive, but there have been a few that had to be culled because they weren’t going to have the quality of life they deserve.

I work for an agricultural publication and was asked to write about my experience. You can read my post titled, “The worst day of my life” on the High Plains Journal website. After I’d returned home after seeing the devastation with my own eyes, I called my mom and said, “I don’t know if I can even write it.” She said just do it.

This past week its been read and shared a number of times. I got to speak with Kansas Senator Pat Roberts about my experience and he even read my words on the floor of the Senate in Washington DC. Yesterday, I received a letter from Kansas Senator Jerry Moran. Both were moved by the strength in my words. I’m not real sure how much strength I do have, as it’s really a trying situation. But one thing I do know is farmers and ranchers are some of the best people on the planet. We’ve gotten truckloads of hay. Offers to help us pick up the pieces. All of it, we are so grateful for. Words cannot express how much we are thankful for these people. I thanked a few of them in my second blog for work, “Only thing I know.”

At the Roberts fire tour, I overheard a woman from Englewood, Kansas who lost her home and all her belongings. She told the senator, “the Lord will provide.” And I believe her. Ask, and He will provide.

 

Promise and peace

How does the saying go? “You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family.” Something like that I think. This past weekend, I tried like heck not to remember a certain date, but my Facebook wouldn’t let me forget. Neither would my Timehop app. Five years later it’s still hard not to remember the events of the last day my father-in-law Steve was still alive.

Before bed Sunday night, I was scrolling through Instagram like I do to let my brain disengage, when I happened across the words, “May every sunrise hold more promise, and every sunset hold more peace.” I thought, as much as I don’t want to write one more blog post about missing Steve and remembering the anniversary, I need to. I need to remember otherwise I just might forget.

The morning of Jan. 20, 2012, I captured several sunrise images out the patio door on the east side of my house. It was a Friday morning and I’m pretty sure I was the only one up. The sky radiated red. Now that I think about it, I should have taken that pretty sunrise as a warning – “Red sun at morning, sailors take warning.” It should have been my warning. Later that weekend our lives were forever changed.

Before my husband and I were married, I would have considered his family my friends. We weren’t officially married, but we might as well have been since we lived together for 7 years before deciding to make it official. I chose my friends to become my family when we decided to get married. As much as I hate to admit it, I got along with Steve a lot better than I did my own dad. We were a lot alike I think and although my dad and I share many similarities, we’re very different. Steve was often near by where we lived I could count on him being at the farm or work if I had trouble with something on the ranch or my way home.

The quote I found last night, “May every sunrise hold more promise, and every sunset hold more peace” makes me think that even with the red warning of the sunrise, by late that night even though we were heart broke at our loss, we had peace knowing he’d been found and didn’t suffer. I know in my heart he’s in heaven, but my head selfishly wishes he was still here. Here for my boys to get to spend time with their Grandpa Scott. Here for Chance to meet. Here for me to call when I need something or for me to tell him about the rattlesnake I killed or the tidbit of ag information I’d learned through work. Here for us.

 

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Steve Scott feeding Shaun Scott, Aug. 6, 2011.

Funerals

It’s not often I walk away from a funeral feeling good. That’s even if I go at all. I sometimes just can’t deal with the people, the fumbling of words and trying to remember who the guy in the blue shirt by the window is.

I think I got a heavy dose of funerals as a kid and it turned me off. I have a vivid memory of my grandparent’s funeral as a 9-year-old girl, and from that moment on, I just go through the motions when it comes to them. I don’t often cry at them, instead I have my tears on my own time. And I for darn sure don’t go look at the person lying in the casket. I get absolutely nothing out of it. Instead, if they have photos I focus on those, and remember for myself who the person was and what they meant to me.

I recently attended the funeral for my great aunt, Bonnie. Although I didn’t spend much time with her, she was one of the kindest, sweetest women on the planet. As a bit of a tomboy I admired her attention to personal detail. She always had a “big” hairdo and was always wearing makeup—even when she was riding the mower or working a farm field. I got a chuckle out of the memory the pastor relayed, saying how Bonnie regretted going to drive the tractor for the first time because she never got away from it. But she made it her home. I drive by their farmstead about every day and miss seeing her in her pickup.

I also got a chuckle at my mom’s expense on the way to the cemetery. I hate seeing people “done up” lying in the casket. I avoid the line like the plague. My parents and sister don’t see anything wrong with it, and chat about it afterwards. Mom said on the way to the cemetery that she only wanted a graveside service when it was her time. “Why?” I asked. “I  don’t want people looking at my lying there!” Ok, Mom, but you go look! We all laughed.

Before the funeral, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of family there. Then my cousin made the comment, “There’s sure not many left on Mom’s side.” And there’s not. Especially the ones I’d known. I also couldn’t help notice all the age in the congregation. With the exception of myself, my cousin’s children and a few others around my age, those in attendance were mostly of the older generation. It happens when the person being celebrated is 80 years old.

Mom and Dad’s neighbor passed away the week following my great aunt’s funeral and they had quite the obituary. I shared it on social media, calling it a biography and not an obituary. It definitely was the story of his life. From his days as a custom harvester, to meeting his sweetheart on horseback, to him going to nursing school all while continuing to farm – it was a perfect tribute to a colorful man.

In one of my college journalism classes we were tasked with the assignment of writing our own obituary. I pined over mine and made up a few things that were probably pretty far-fetched, but for a 19-year-old the accomplishments were probably something she had wanted. I need to dig that out and see if I have hit any of my marks yet.

The tone at Bonnie’s funeral really made me think about how I want to be remembered some day. I don’t have a plan per say, but I know I sure don’t want a stuffy church funeral and people crying over me. I want it to be a celebration. A remembrance. And the last thing I want people saying is, “Oh she looked so nice.” There won’t be any of that at my funeral! I may not even have a casket. But there will be photos. Lots of photos.

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There’s always something new

I’d started this post 7 months ago, and never finished it. Yesterday I had another idea that very closely related to this draft. So here I am, in June to finish a post I started in December.

In my house every day is an adventure with two young boys. Whether it be grandma calling to tell me “you know what your son did,” or how the boys are starting to interact (or fight) with one another.

In December it was one of those, “How did you do that?” nights. The youngest was nearly two years old, and as he was then and even now, he finds ways to keep us on our toes. On that night, I had changed his diaper and didn’t put his pants back on because bath time was nearing. In the 10 minutes we’d been back out in the living room he’d done something – probably screaming – to merit a few minutes in the corner to think about it. While he was in the corner I started to look for something to watch on TV. Then I heard a noise. I looked over there and Chance was sitting proudly holding up his diaper for me. I could do nothing but laugh. He was pretty dang proud of himself.

More recently the babysitter called right before noon to ask if the oldest went to school that day. Indeed he had, but the bus hadn’t shown up nearly 50 minutes after dismissal. I called the school (in a panic) and got transferred around, but finally found out his bus was delayed because of a parent who was late. By the time I’d gotten the babysitter called back Shaun had arrived safe and sound.

In early May we got a decent amount of rain and it filled the ditches on either side of our drive way. Even though it was still pretty cool, the boys decided it would be a good idea to play in the mud. Mom was not impressed when I opened the back door to call them in for supper and found them both standing in knee-deep mud and covered in it. I had to laugh. At least it wasn’t cow manure. (Speaking from experience.)

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And again this past weekend we had one more of those moments that merited a blog post. It was Sunday before Memorial Day and the boys and I headed out to feed horses. They enjoy going in the round pen next to the horses because it has solid metal walls that are about 6 feet tall. They can run and scream to their heart’s content. I’ve considered putting their toys in there to contain them, but after our experience Sunday night I’m reconsidering. I’d shut the gate on them and in the time it took me to dump one more bucket of grain and walk to the gate on the horse pen, Shaun was screaming, “SNAKE!” The boys have had it drilled into their heads to run if they see a snake. I went over there thinking it was a bull snake like we’d encountered a couple of weeks before. Nope, this time it was a baby rattlesnake. I instructed them (after taking a photo) to go get their dad. He happened to be outside and heard the commotion. He promptly told me to kill it. “With what?” I asked. Eventually the menace was removed from the round pen and life resumed. Although grandma isn’t quite so sure she wants to return to our house.

I’m sure I’ll have many more stories like the couple I shared in this post, and since I didn’t start the boys baby books, my blog will have to suffice. What have your kids done that left you scratching your heads? Share if you’d like!

Thank you

We attended my husband’s grandfather’s funeral on Monday, and it was a first for our young sons. The oldest had entirely too many questions and the youngest was more concerned about exploring and seeing what else I had in the snack bag. Since my husband was a pall bearer, the boys and I drove around the small town where the funeral was held to find a park. Although it was 28 degrees they were still excited for the thought of running around and I was hoping they’d burn off some excess energy before having to sit (hopefully) quiet during the service. Mom wasn’t thinking however and should have brought along extra pants. Yes, my boys were the ones with dirty knees at the church. But no one seemed to mind except me.

We’d managed to make it through the service and as the family was filing out behind the pall bearers, I stood up to gather our things, and an older gentleman behind me said, “Mom, you did really good today.” I smiled and said, “Oh, I don’t think so.” He replied, “No, you really did.” I smiled, laughed and said, “Thank you.” We by far had the two rowdiest kids in the church and I often describe them as not being “church broke” since we don’t get to church services very often. The oldest even let out a big burp during Christmas Eve services! We should probably work on that.

I was a little humbled and always have a tough time taking a compliment. Just ask my husband. When I was running barrels, and had a good run, a lot of the gals would say to me, “Nice run!” or “She’s so deceiving and fast!” It took me a long time to finally say thank you instead of smiling, nodding and saying nothing. It seems as though I still have a lot of self-doubt when it comes to my parenting skills just as I did with my horse training skills. The gray haired gentleman really made an impression on me and I am really glad to have had his compliment when I probably needed it the most. So Thank You, kind sir!

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Worldly possessions

I ran across a line this morning that summed up the thoughts I had last night as I rummaged through some stuff looking for a particular item. “It’s not what we take, but what we leave behind.”

What I don’t want to leave behind is a mess for my children and family to have to deal with. I don’t want them to have to sort through all the cards, pictures and miscellaneous crap I’ve managed to accumulate in my life. I don’t want them to have to choose what gets thrown in the trash pile. They really shouldn’t have to do that while grieving.

I always thought my Grandmother Orebaugh was strange for writing names on the bottoms of items she wanted her children and their families to have. It saved some strife in the trying days after they were killed in a car accident in February 1989. It was her way of making sure, in her mind, people got her prize possessions the way she wanted them to. I may not go that far, but I really should put some thought into it.

On a recent trip north of our house I noticed on a neighbors place they had the farm machinery lined up along the fence, almost like they were preparing for a farm sale. The owner was in a serious car accident last fall and has been in the nursing home since. At his advanced age, I really don’t see him returning to the farm. I don’t know if they’re having a sale, but from the looks of it, they just might be. And that makes me incredibly sad. The neighbor has worked his entire life for something, only to have it sold off to the highest bidder. I’ve written about farm sales and what they do to people before, so I’m not here to rehash that, but instead put down thoughts about my own junk.

I’ve only been on this earth 37 years and in that time, I’ve acquired more than enough “junk” or stuff I may or may not need. I hold on to something because of the memory it brings out. I still have my childhood blanket (tucked away in my closet) and up until I was in college it was on my bed. I have some of the first outfits my boys wore as babies. I still have the wedding shower, wedding and baby shower cards. I haven’t looked at any of them for quite a while, but I’d feel awful throwing them out. I also have clothes I probably won’t ever wear again, but hell I spent money on them and I may do something with them, even if my sewing machine is out of order and a project with them is saved for a long winter day.

But what I do know is I want to leave my kids the kinds of things most parents do. To know they are loved, to teach them to be kind and smart and not be assholes. I want them to have a sense of humor and know what it’s like to have fun. I want them to spend their money wisely, get an education and a good job. I don’t care if that job is cowboying, driving truck or writing and taking photos. If it makes them happy, I’m happy. But if they want my collection of rodeo photographs or my saddle and tack, I’d be happy with that as well.

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My sister tagged me in this on social media, and oh how it rings true!

January 21

Amidst the music, people talking and the normal sounds of a Friday night concert at a local bar I heard my husband say to a friend he hadn’t seen in quite a while, “everything I’ve done in the last four years hasn’t been by my choice.” I knew exactly what he was talking about, and have to agree with him.

Four years ago today his dad, Steve, died. Our lives were forever changed. I’ve started to dread this day simply because it’s such a hard day for me to deal with.

I’d known Steve while my husband and I were dating in high school and later when I was in college. After graduated college my husband and I got back together after being on again and off again. We lived together for 7 years before we got married in 2009. So it’s easy to say I spent a lot of time around my father-in-law. Probably more time than around my own parents just because we lived close together.

He helped cultivate my love for red beer and sitting in the shed shooting the breeze. I’d like to believe he understood my horse obsession more than my own husband because he’d go watch me run when he had time and he cried right there with me when she tried to cut her foot off and had to make a trip to the vet with his pickup since my new-to-me pickup hadn’t gotten fitted with a gooseneck hitch yet. (He later bought me a B&W turnover ball and helped install it.) A few years later her rescued my sister and I when we’d broken down in Ashland and needed some diesel fuel and help getting my sisters truck started. There wasn’t a time when he was not around. Hell, I still have his cell phone number saved in my phone and I’ve had two different phones since he’s been gone.

Even though I still miss him every single day, there are good things that have come from him being gone. My husband has had the opportunity to have a cowherd, managed the way he wants to and have produced some pretty nice heifers and steers. He’s also got to raise a wheat crop that was one of the best the Scott Farm has ever been able to – even after three years of ugly drought. He’s also gotten to show his boys what it’s like to be a part of a farm – both the good and the bad. And for that, I’m proud. It may not have been our choices to live without him, but we’ve been able to deal.

This quote popped up on my social media feed this morning and it helped get the tears out of my eyes and the lump in my throat. “If you don’t leave your past in the past, it will destroy your future. Live for what today has to offer, not for what yesterday has taken away.” As much as I don’t want to leave him in the past, I have to.

Until we meet again, you old fart.

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Steve at the farm with his dog Dolly.