Be still my heart

Wednesday was the last official day of summer. I love summer time. The extra long days and warm weather. Tan lines and swimming pools. I even love the heat. I’m not as used to it as I once was, but I still like a good, dry heat with a little breeze.

The boys and I had arrived home later than normal on Wednesday because they wanted to stop and see their cousin. My husband was abnormally early that day and rode out to check the heifers and get a good count. He was closing the pasture gate when we got home and the boys begged from the backseat to go ride. Dad obliged and saddled all three horses. I started supper and went out to check on them only to be promptly left afoot since there was nothing left to ride. I went back in the house to get something and looked out the patio door to see the most beautiful light and my three boys riding across the CRP grass east of our house. I immediately grabbed my camera and shoes and headed out. As they got back to the house, the heifers had lined up against the horse pasture fence and I walked out to get some photos of them.

I couldn’t wait to get to the office the next day to see what I captured. The images I recorded made my heart swell. Of course I shared them on my social media and I’ve had way more praises than I ever wished for. I enjoy photography and enjoy my loyal subjects. I’ve also been teaching myself Lightroom, so I edited my favorites as well.

Here’s a few photos from that evening.

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Losers live forever and the good die young

The title of this blog is a line from one of my favorite Jason Boland and the Stragglers songs, Pearl Snaps. I can’t help but think how appropriate it is for the last couple of weeks.  It’s always the good guys or the good horses who go too early.

A friend of mine recently lost her husband after a horse wreck at a ranch horse competition. He held on for five days before succumbing to his injuries. While I knew Nicole better than her husband, it didn’t help me from grieving. Today was the funeral, and I think for at least my husband and I it hit especially hard. Similarities exist that make it easy to compare.

Walking into the church I couldn’t help but notice the crisp, white pearl snapped shirts many of the pall bearers wore. Along with their tanned hands, sun-kissed faces and ears and the obvious dents in their hair lines from hats. Chris’ hat, rope and leggings had lovingly been placed atop his casket – never to be worn by him again.  Later I noticed a hat under a chair with a program sitting in it and behind me I heard the emotion coming from a friend. I’m not real sure why things happen to good people who have so much life left to live.

Usually I find comfort in knowing someone has gone “home” to be with the Lord, but this time I struggle with it. Those two boys need their dad. Nicole needs her husband. The boys need him to teach them how to hold a rope or become the horsemen he was. My husband said Chris would have made a good old man, like many who were in attendance today. I believe that too.

During the service the pastor read a prayer Roy Rogers would read before his Riders Club meetings. It sure gave me comfort today, and I’m sure it did others.

Lord, I reckon I’m not much just by myself,
I fail to do a lot of things I ought to do.
But Lord, when trails are steep and passes high,
Help me ride it straight the whole way through.

And when in the falling dusk I get that final call,
I do not care how many flowers they send,
Above all else, the happiest trail would be,
For You to say to me, “Let’s ride, My Friend.”
Amen

The family also prepared a video of photos from Chris’ life and I was ok up until they started showing photos of his young sons. Then it was all over but the crying for me. Literally.

As we were leaving the church, people were milling around and I heard the distinct sound of shod hooves on concrete. I looked around to see Chris’ horse saddled and being led by a family friend. How appropriate and sad all at the same time. We watched as the horses followed the hearse up the hill to the cemetery. We couldn’t bear going to the graveside service.

I often try to gather something from a church service (or a funeral in this case). I feel as though I need to be better at letting those around me how much I do care. It’s hard for me to physically say how I feel, when it’s much easier to write it down. Hence this blog. But I will try. You just never know when it will be your turn to ride away.

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Chris Moore with one of his sons. (Photo shared on Facebook.)

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!

Innocently enough

Last night while changing the youngest boy’s diaper, my oldest came in and asked, “Mom, why don’t you go to rodeos any more.” I’m sure the expression on my face told it all, but I said to him, “I don’t have a horse to ride.” He cocked his head and looked at me in disbelief. Then went on to tell me matter of factly, “You have a horse out in the pen.” He didn’t look like he believed me when I told him she was too old.

The rest of the evening I thought about what he’d said. After I had him my riding and barrel racing slowed way down. I went to a few races and rodeos for a couple of years, but injuries to my mare kept us on the sidelines more than I cared to admit. My horse was aging and I feared the day where I’d have to retire her. Fast forward nearly 5 years later and my horse is basically retired (and seemingly enjoying it) and I’ve gotten over (depending on what day it is) not getting to ride as much or go to a barrel race and enjoying my boys while they are still little.

After our conversation I told my oldest boy, some day I will have another horse and will go to some more barrel races. And no, it’s not something I am telling myself to keep me sane. When they reach an age where I won’t have to worry as much about sending them with their dad to the farm (which they kind of do already now) I will have a horse of my own again. When I gather enough pennies to buy a horse of my own again, I will. It’s just going to take time. And I have to be patient and have a plan.

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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.

Politically incorrect

I haven’t blogged in a couple of months. I will try to be better, I promise. I write for a living, so sometimes I just don’t want to write for fun. There are times where I think a certain subject would be a great blog, and never do anything about it and promptly forget what I wanted to write about. Story of my life.

Last night my oldest son and I made treats to take to his last day of preschool before the Christmas break. They were “reindeer pops” or simply reindeer cut out of card stock, noses cut out and covered with red tissue paper and a sucker taped to the back. I had emailed his teacher earlier in the day to get a headcount and hadn’t heard back so I gave it my best estimate. We had a great time and he was excited to share them with his school friends.

Before bed I checked my email one last time. There was her reply. Seventeen kids, but we can’t have candy in the classroom. Instantly I wanted to cry. I just knew Shaun would be crushed. Hell, I was. This morning when I woke him up, the first thing out of his mouth? “Mom when we hand out the suckers…” I had to break his little heart and tell him we wouldn’t be taking them. The school doesn’t allow special treats.

After speaking with the teacher this morning I was even more disheartened. I double checked the student handbook and found, “Birthdays and Special Occasions – Due to Head Start and federal health standards, we do not allow outside food to be brought to the classroom. Parents are welcomed to join the classroom on special occasions, but we do not encourage “treats” (food or nonfood items) at school. If nonfood (age appropriate) items are brought to school to share with the class, those items will be sent home with the students, but not passed out during the school day.”

The more I have thought about it, the more upset I become. I truly understand their reasoning behind the rules. I get kids have allergies and sometimes things just can’t be done, but there has to be a point where people have to stop and say, when is enough enough. I know I’m at that point. These were suckers. I could understand the reasoning of no candy if I had intended to hand out king-sized chocolate bars. But I wasn’t. They were suckers. A little treat for a kid to enjoy on the bus ride home or in the car headed home.

I’m not terribly old, but I remember in grade school parents bringing homemade cookies and cupcakes to celebrate their child’s birthday. I remember our “gingerbread” houses made out of graham crackers and frosting. Would that fly today? Probably not. Neither would our Kansas Day activities of making cinnamon rolls on the desks pushed together. We all survived the homemade treats. No one got sick or died.

I’m over all the rules because some parent got their panties in a wad over something another parent had done or made. Isn’t sharing what the holiday is all about? Giving to those around you? What are we teaching our kids when we can’t even allow them to give a treat to their fellow classmates? And besides, who wants another eraser, pencil or notepad? I know a sucker can surely sweeten my day and perhaps my attitude! Maybe I should have one of those “reindeer pops” to improve my attitude today. I will save the rest for Shaun to GIVE to his daycare friends tomorrow and cousins at Christmas time.

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Shaun’s reindeer pops intended to share with his preschool classmates.