Musings and Misadventures

Return to Sender

Investment property!

Ugggh! Those words tasted like bile bubbling up the back of my throat when I opened the nice little white envelope from some lady in Austin offering to buy our farm.

I wonder what she is willing to invest?

I think of all the evenings I couldn’t stand up straight after grubbing and dragging mesquite trees all day, hands aching with poison from mesquite thorns. I think of the evenings my eyelashes stuck together with backsplash from painting all day. The days I spend working on someone else’s animals all day just to come home and attend to our own in the dark of night. The endless circles on a back-wrenching, bouncing tractor trying to whack back summer weeds or coax winter grains to grow. Flat tires and broken pins and blades and axels, leaking hydraulics and another damn tire-maybe she could invest in these, because they certainly cut into our grocery budget….

I’m terrified of heights; I wonder if she would like to “invest” in the days Jeff and I roofed these buildings?

We fought ten years of drought on this place, trying to be good stewards of the animals in our care, most of whose bones are buried on this place, but because of the natural cycle of their lives, not because we failed to provide for them. I don’t recollect anyone offering to invest in their feed.

When the drought ended, it ended in floods. And tornados. Perhaps she would like to invest an evening laying over her child in an iron bath tub while a tornado tore this house apart? Or the hours of sweat and blood it took to rebuild it over the following two years?

Every room in this house was created by the three of us, every structure built with our hands. I wonder what that investment is worth? To me it’s worth more than life itself. My life is invested here.

My ancestors settled this country when they came here with Stephen F. Austin, and in all four cardinal directions, my neighbors are my friends and family. I have rescued their cows off the highway in the dark at two AM. We have weathered storms and droughts and fires and tragedy together, funerals and weddings and births. They have appeared out of nowhere every time we needed them most and helped to set the things right that life had left in disarray. I have educated their children and they have educated mine. When I die, they will be the people to throw dirt over my bones. These are not just the people with property in proximity: we are all invested in each other. I wonder what she would invest into their lives?

While I am sure a good real estate investor would pay their ad valorem taxes, there is a little more that our children need here. I wonder if she will bake for the Athletic Booster bake sale to buy our athletes new uniforms, or lead a 4-H group or sponsor an animal for an FFA kid? Maybe she could invest her time substituting at the school or helping a teacher with the expense and work of decorating and supplying a classroom?

I guess what angers me the most about some twat from Austin offering to buy our home is the social and political contradictions our state capitol has engaged in. Its population has embraced socialism as an ideology to assuage its guilt from engaging in the worst of capitalist greed. They decry the tragedy of environmental destruction but hesitate not one instant to seize natural resources to exploit for themselves. 

It seems you can’t turn on the news these days without hearing some silly story about something some urbanite has found to be offended about. A boy that wanted to be a girl but was actually a boy was offended by accidentally being referred to as a boy or some other absurdity. You would think that in a society that takes such pleasure at discovering new ways to be offended, it might occur to them that offering to make someone’s home an “investment property “ might be offensive, but I suppose arrogance and greed reign supreme.

I know, unless some drastic event changes our course, this type will eventually buy up all our lands and cover them with spec houses. They have already come for the minerals. Next they will buy “investment properties “ to capture our water rights and direct them to urban centers. Golf courses and swimming pools will abound, but our crops and animals will perish of thirst. 

Each year a few more of our kids are stolen by crime and drugs. We have to lock our doors now, where that was once unheard of. There are so many unfamiliar faces in town, but for now we have been able to open our arms to these new country dwellers and show them how our gentle rural community exists. One day the canker of urban sprawl will envelope us, but not today.

In the meantime, Austin doesn’t quite have what it takes to “invest” here.  Tomorrow I will get up and milk the cow and feed the chickens, then make sure ten ranch horses can play their role in feeding beef to an ungrateful urban world. Friday I will spend cooking for our sick and raising money for our 4-H children’s education. Right now, this is MY investment property and these people and animals are MY life’s investment.  

It’s God’s right to judge and not mine, but I can still hope that He sees fit to sentence a certain type of investor to a brief and scabious existence.

No, you fool. You cannot buy this farm from us. We are already quite invested here. My family explained that to Santa Anna and we can ‘splain it to you!

Musings and Misadventures

The Beautiful Country: Part I

There was once a free and beautiful land. The people were led by a benevolent king who did as the people suggested. 

The people worked hard. They grew magnificent crops and built huge buildings and clever machines. They worshipped a god of love and loved one another. They worked together and they played together and they worshipped together. They believed in being dutiful to their god and their country and their family. They thought of honor, and they thought of country.

Evil began to rise in far off lands and the beautiful country sent its army and navy to protect the world. A young man sailed with the navy. The  young man fought valiantly against the forces of evil. The war raged for years and it seemed as if the forces of evil would triumph when, in a final exhausted effort, the people of the beautiful land and their allies staged a final invasion and were victorious.

The young man returned home a hero. Years past. The beautiful country mourned its dead then settled into the serious business of raising children and growing the economy. Eventually, the people asked the young man to be their king. His beautiful wife became queen and his children became princes and princesses.

The young man was a good king and beloved by the people of the beautiful country. Alas, the evil forces from the war had been defeated but not destroyed. They seeped into the beautiful country unnoticed and intent upon revenge for their defeat. They lurked in the shadows and paraded in plain sight in disguise. When the young king threatened to expose them, they murdered him. The people wept and the music died with the king in the beautiful land.

His queen stood in defiance with her small children beside her, but they were swept aside. One small prince in short pants looked on soulfully as his father was laid to rest. It was a terrible time.

But that time passed and that prince grew to manhood. He understood the monster that had stolen his father and he began to poke at it, provoking the awful beast his father had once defeated, but not destroyed. He threatened to reveal it and called its name, promising to defeat it. He underestimated the power the beast held. 

One summer day, the Evil Ones tried to strike the young son down. His father’s generals rescued the prince saving his life. The generals convinced the young man the danger was so great that he must pretend to have died in the attempt. They disguised the young man and his beautiful bride and hid them among the good people of the beautiful land.

The prince became a bard. For nineteen years, he wondered across the beautiful land hidden as a poet. He was forced to watch from the shadows as the Evil Ones grew in power and destroyed the beautiful land. They grew toxic crops in the fields. They mocked the god of love and encouraged worship to a god of hate. They taught the people it was wrong to love their country and they destroyed the families. Honor was forgotten and duty was disgraced. The people replaced thought with hate. They became fat and indolent. 

The Evil Ones attacked the people of the beautiful land and laid blame on other nations to anger the people and cause them to attack other lands. Many people died. The Evil Ones sold weapons and reaped endless spoils of war.

The Poet Prince was saddened. One day he met a friend from his youth; a wealthy merchant’s son, who knew him through his disguise. As boys, they had known each other’s hearts; as men nothing could hide them from each other.

The Poet Prince told the merchant’s son he must become king and lead the beautiful country from its destress.

“But the people despise me!” said the merchant’s son.

“No matter.” said the Poet Prince.

“My father’s generals will stand behind you. And more people will love you than will hate you.”

“But if we are to save the beautiful country, I have to reclaim all the people, not just some.”

“Trust my plan,” said the Poet Prince.

In due time, true to the Poet Prince’s word, the murdered king’s generals elevated the merchant’s son to the throne. He proved to be a good king, even though many of the people despised him.

The Poet Prince knew the Evil Ones had lied to the people so often that nothing was left in their life they believed that was true. They were full of hate and lies and boredom. He knew his friend, the new king, could never lead them in this state. He had to change them. He had to teach them to think for themselves again, to love again and some how he had to show them everything they believed about their lives was a lie.

The Poet Prince began to change the people of the beautiful country with poetry. He hid secret messages for them. The messages were not ordinary poetry. They were riddles.

The people slowly became obsessed with the word puzzles the Poet Prince hid for them because they were great fun to solve. They poked fun at prominent people and hinted at foreknowledge of great events to come. They spoke encouragingly of a bright future full of unity and love.

To solve the riddles, the people had to work together. They could not gain fame, even if they were very good at solving the riddles, because everyone had to contribute anonymously. To understand the messages, the people had to be pure of heart. They also had to scurry about the beautiful country collecting clues. The clues they collected showed them the truth about the beautiful country and the sober truth about the lies they had been told. Some were very good at interpreting the riddles, some were horrible at the game, but together with each person contributing a little, and all relying on each other, they could decode the messages.

The Poet Prince left the people an inscribed bell from his father’s ship so the people could recognize each other by reciting the inscription. He gave them other ways to know each other as well. This empowered them because they felt special with this knowledge and were driven to learn more. In fact, the more the people understood about the riddles, the harder they worked to discover the next clue, and the more united they became.

The Poet Prince used poetic mystery to  restore the hearts of the people while the merchant son king worked to drive out the Evil Ones, who had gained power by their sheer willingness to commit evil acts, but were in fact fairly stupid people. 

The king and the Poet Prince contrived to convince the people to watch evil driven from the beautiful country as if it were a play performed on stage before them. This way the people would not be harmed as the battle between Good and Evil raged all around them.

The music that had died with the Poet Prince’s father began to drift back to the people:

Don’t let it be forgot

That once there was a spot

For one brief shining moment that was known as…


But the rest of the song would not come to them. Who had they been? What had they forgot?


The Serial Prankster

Photo credit: Ruby Lingo

Have you ever had one of those friends that is a serial prankster? You love them but sometimes you just wonder if you really want to be friends with them because constantly watching out for Whoopy Cushions and laxative-laced food is exhausting. 

I have a horse like that. I love Stormy Jo Mero beyond description. She is my best friend in a way a human can’t be. We know each other’s minds and bodies better than a pair of lovers. We can step up to do battle like a single formidable creature. She is me and I am her. My heartaches are cried out on her mane and I skirt her idiosyncrasies and support her psychoses. She does the same for me. We are a onesness. When the chips are on the table, she is the horse I count on…but when the pressure is off, she is a serial prankster.

This spring she tweaked a tendon sheath on a back ankle slipping on a rock while helping me sort out a colt. She took the summer off and is the size of three hippopotamuses, in spite of how hard I have tried to manage her diet to Jenny Craig standards. You should understand this mare can snatch a mesquite bean off a handy tree as she passes by it at a dead gallop to head off a cow and never change her stride or stop watching the cow. I have been trying to leg her up gently by leading her on long trots from another horse. Apparently this is boring for a serial prankster. 

This morning I saddled Annie, put Stormy on my left and Skeeter on my right. We made one half-mile lap around the pasture and I looked down and Stormy’s eye was twinkling. 

“Oh, Hell!” I thought. It’s gonna be one of those mornings with Stormy Jo. 

Sure enough, half a lap later, Stormy accelerates. I immediately took the bait and lengthen Annie’s step to match her then check her back to the rate I wanted. It would have been a smooth and correct correction with any other horse-just not with the horse that knows me better than I do. As soon as Annie’s stride lengthened, the trap sprang. Stormy locked up all four legs, the rope ran through my hands, and the triumphant victory dance of the serial prankster began.

Stormy has a special way of crow hopping where her back rolls elegantly and her following heel snaps just so in a way that is akin to a thigh-slapping he-hawing cackle of a successful jokester enjoying the success of a well-laid prank. The withers rolled. The heel snapped. I’d been had…again.

At least I was smart enough not to reward the fat leprechaun by acting like I cared and managed not to even look her way as she went rollicking off on her own. You have to maintain an air of some sort of dignity when you have been had…

I finished working the other two, went to the barn and unsaddled and sent Jeff to catch Clown #1…because I know good and well my bestest darling isn’t going to let me within 50 yards of her… it’s an intregal part of the game after all.

Jeff retreived her. I saddled herself, The Royal Queen of Jokes, because…well, a horse just shouldn’t be the size of three hippos. And…I was annoyed with the prank. I haven’t put a hackamore on Stormy in a long while. This morning I had one in my hand when I saddled her. I could ride her in anything from a spade bit to a hay string, so I just put what was handy on her head.

When Stormy was young, I had a little pencil bosal I rode her in. It was a little small to put a proper feador on, or maybe I was too lazy to rig it out right, but whatever the excuse I used was, Stormy, in her infinite pranksterness, discovered there was a quick bobbing motion she could make with her nose that would slip it over the top of her nose, then she could duck her head and leave me with reins in my hand watching her rollicking off to the mesquite brush with my saddle belly-laughing hysterically.

As soon as I turned to lead Stormy, the former escaped member of my trot set this morning, out of the barn to continue her physical education, I felt that nose-bob. It was hot. It’s been a long week. I was tired. I was done with pranks.

I spun on my heel to deliver a piece of my mind. The serial prankster realized she had taken her games too far, that I wasn’t laughing. I wasn’t playing along. I was angry.

There is a piece of telephone pole rolling around my barn about 18” long. I have used it to mount really tall horses or for a mounting block for guests. It had gotten moved out of place. When Stormy realized her jokes had gone too far and she was in real peril of my temper, she ran backwards as fast as she could from me, trying to figure out how to appologize in time to save her ample posterior from a bridle rein whopping up against it. In her haste, she failed to notice the mounting block in her flight path and reversed right over it, wrapping her back legs around it, flipping over backwards, rolling around like an upside-down cockroach until she fetched up against a support pole of the barn and stopped floundering, paused to look her deepest apologies to me, regain her feet and stand, sheepishly looking at me. 

It’s kind of like being married to an alcoholic. My best pony is a serial prankster. She isn’t misbehaving out of meanness, but out of pure humor and enjoyment of mischief. She opens the feed room door. She slips out of halters and bridles. She has about forty different strategies for slipping into other horse’s stalls to steal their food. She won’t come to the barn if the trailer is hooked on to the truck. She will plan an elaborate escape at a barrel race just for the fun of getting to show-boat her cleverness all around the parking lot. She just can’t resist the temptation for a good joke. I’m never really sure if I’m a victim, an enabler, or both. What I am clearly not is in charge…at least not unless a random chunk of creosote-soaked-pine randomly appears like a magical pumpkin to even the odds for me!

Notes From The Tailgate


Boy, the self-adulation sure gets rolling on the old Facebook machine on Monday mornings, doesn’t it? Every barrel racer in Texas wants to share her weekend. How that news is shared says a lot about the person. Some posts are humble and grateful, some are anything but.

I remember my grandfather telling me, “Don’t toot your own horn, cowgirl.”

I must have been about six years old and I probably have remembered it all these years because my little-girl mind took it quite literally. I looked down at my saddle horn thinking “I didn’t know it did that. I wonder how you make it work? Do you squeeze it or blow in it or what?”

I clearly missed his meaning, but the words left an impression that has kept me pondering his statement long after he died.

Remember, girls, the glory belongs to God and ponies. The sweat you invest in your animals and your sport will speak louder than any toot you could blow on your social media horn, and no amount of Tweets or posts can cover up for the sweat you didn’t invest-it’s as plain as the nose on your face. Remember the consequences of hubris in the Greek tragedies and don’t temp the barrel racing Fates to turn on you.

Your worth as a human has nothing to do with the quality of your last run. You will not be prettier or more popular, nor a better person when you finally clock that horse in the 1D. It is the grace, diligence and determination that you comport yourself with in the process that counts. The little choices this sport forces you to make every day are what builds you into a better human…or lets you be come a sallow, shallow shell. Be the lady your grandmother taught you to be, work hard, make sacrifices for others and winning will happen along the way.

The girls who win year and year out and every fall bring in a nice set of young horses to start the process all over again all share something in common in their attitudes. They are humble. They are confident. They take the ups and downs in stride with equal acceptance and go on and saddle their next horse. You never see them tooting their own horn…everyone already knows who they are.

My grandfather, Jack Love, with my aunt in a cow camp just after World War II.


Musings and Misadventures

Flattery or Theft?

Social media is a funny critter. It has the diurnal activities that are for public consumption and the more nocturnal texts and private-message side conversations that are hidden in the dark of the internet. 

This week I saw a blatant case of plagiarism among my barrel racing circles on social media, growled at it and decided to ignore it, chalking it up to a weak character trait of the plagiarist. Then  my inbox got flooded with some of those nocturnal communications-four different friends had decided I was the person to address the question of plagiarism-probably because they know I hate that particular type of theft.

Ugggh! Why am I always nominated the bad guy?

Maybe that’s the wrong question.Maybe  “Why do my friends know I hate plagiarism?” is a better question. 

I can’t answer for what goes through other folks minds, even my friends, but I do know what goes through mine. 

I love words. I love word-smithery; the pure art of putting syllables together to tell a story and play a reader’s heart-strings. I don’t figure I’m especially good at it, but I love it, I respect it when it’s done well and I dabble at imitating the skills of master word-smiths. Occasionally, very occasionally, I get it right. 

When I nail a good piece of prose that brings tears or laughter to a reader, a lot of stars have to align first. I need a subject that touches me deeply. I have to be inspired by the topic at an instant when I actually have time to write and enough creative inspiration to craft it. And the hardest element…enough courage to publish it. And just maybe something is receptive in the reader at the moment they stumble upon it.

It’s hard to put a piece of your soul on paper. It’s even harder to set it free on the wilds of the internet. Writing is a cathartic struggle. If it’s published, it’s a naked dance of the soul in a public place. Something intensely intimate and hard to share. If it is enjoyed with that understanding, it is art. If it is stolen, it is rape.

If you like words, you read and write. If you read and write, you gain an innate sense  of syntax and personality.  A piece of prose owns its author, and vise versa. A stolen piece of work just screams incongruity. It is an obnoxiously, glaringly wrong combination. In today’s digital world it takes less than 30 seconds to copy, paste, Google search and confirm an author has been violated.

The saying goes that imitation is the highest form of flattery. If you write something that someone else values enough to share-why that is a fine thing! But what are the rules of sharing? Do you like it so much you claim it as your own? Or do you share the discovery and credit the creator? The difference reveals  the quality of the admirer’s character. Are you going to rape and pillage an author or acclaim them and share the talent with the world? Are you a flatterer or a thief?

The difference between a flatterer and a thief is explicitly described by countless style guides: MLA, AP, ALWD, Chicago, blab, blah, blah… there are countless correct methods, but the bottom line between grounds for a lawsuit over intellectual theft and appreciation of fine word-smithery are are as simple as means to proclaim “I wrote this” or “I discovered this”.

I love the current theme I am using for Rural Redoubt’s way of setting off a quote because the format is unmistakable as intellectual property not my own.

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.“



I may have thought something similar, but I didn’t arrange quite the fantastic syntax that C.S. Lewis composed. However; I can share it with the world by the simple addition of quotation marks and the author’s name. That addition protects me from both lawsuit and moral corruption.This simple mark, “”, means a great deal. It is the difference between flattery and theft.

May God smite me if I ever steal from another in this way. You can bet your hiney I will hunt you down if you steal from me or in front of me!

  1. screams 
Musings and Misadventures

To Cowboy or Not to Cowboy?

I love words. Big ones. Little ones. Slang ones. Ones that are so seeped in regional dialect they don’t even have the same sound as their original version. 

I love how nuanced a word can be depending on context, inflection and tradition. 

Mija is a fine word if you live along the Rio Grande in Texas. It isn’t even actually a word,


but a combination of the Spanish words mi hija (my daughter). It packs a big wallop. If someone calls you that (or the male version, mijo), you are very special to them; inside their circle of protection. It is a very tender word used from older folks to younger ones.


Vuelta is another one of my favorite Spanish words that got mixed up in English. It means “turn” but turn is a dull word. But vuelta? That’s more like spinning and dancing! 

“I believe she is going to make a vuelta!”

“Let’s make a vuelta around town.” might imply a search for courtly love.

“I’m going to make a vuelta behind the mountain.” implies a search for adventure.

Anyway you turn it, that word is just waiting to be loaded with twinkling lights, smoky sunsets or wild cow chases in steamy mesquite thickets.

What a babydoll!

Baby doll is a term that just drips comforting Southern hospitality. If you get called that phrase, you just got wrapped up in a hug and a laugh. You mean as much to the name-caller as a little girl’s doll means to her. That’s a special kind of love!

Cowboy. Now that is a simple term with a complex array of meanings depending on context and inflection.

I often use it as a term of endearment to anyone young enough to be my son. It has something to do with the hordes of little boys in dirty hats and boots I live around who are constantly dragging a soft kids lariat rope around on and off a horse and attempting to trap the legs of dogs, chickens and adults wherever they go.

“Hey, Cowboy! Whatcha doing?” can go along with handing out cookies or hot dogs.


Of course, that exact phrase can be used as a come-hither in a more adult setting. 

Calling a man a cowboy is really pretty meaningless verbiage without context and inflection. 

“He is a heck of a cowboy” denotes rare skills.

“ Those cowboys are hands” indicates great admiration for skill and in fact may forgo gender in recognition of plurality of talent. The word “hand” in that context has nothing to with fingers and everything to do with describing a skilled horseman. It is a regional word used sparingly and only to describe great talent.

Cowboy may indicate someone whose western dreams fell short of reality resulting in a wistful sadness or a ridiculous pantomime. Cowboy can refer to someone who is more reckless than heedful. Cowboy can simply refer loosely to freedom of spirit. Cowboy is sometimes synonymous with poet. Sometimes it is just synonymous with America.


It seems these days there is always some hoopla going on because someone was offended by a word. It didn’t include someone or it included someone who didn’t like it. But see, here is the thing with words-their job is to describe. Some language is precise with no room for interpretation and is used for exact communication. Some language is vague and intangible. So are sunsets and dancing. So are a mother’s love and a child’s love. So is the poetry of graceful movement and the intrinsic nobility of a horse. If we cut away those words that have enough space in their meaning to encompass things that are ethereal and romantic, might we not lose the ability to share things that are ethereal and romantic? 

It is up to the wordsmith to weave words together to create meanings. It is up to the heart of the listener to find understanding.

Barrelhorse Bobbles

Winning and the Pearls of Success

Nearly thirty years ago, I sat on a bucket in a barn aisle. The barn belonged to a third generation polo family with plenty of experience in the sport and the pockets to support serious competition. The company was  a US Open team that consisted of some of the sagest American horsemen of their time, myself and a few of my age-mates (all of us hanging on their every word). The topic was what it takes to walk your way up to the top in the King of Sports. They discussed the mechanics of developing skills and horses and they finally came to the prerequisites to reaching the top of the sport:

“In addition to having the skills that place you at the top, you have to have every element of your life in perfect order. Your finances, your vehicles, your state of mind…and you have to have the willing support of competitors who are your most skilled peers” (sic).

The polo of that time was not today’s polo, nor was it barrel racing, but there was a wealth of wisdom in the philosophy of those horsemen that applied to many things.

I’ve noticed some self-congratulatory posts on social media from barrel-racers lately. They have made me chuckle to myself and to think on the difference between winning and succeeding. I don’t mean succeeding like “everyone gets a trophy “ succeeding. I mean like bearing the sometimes uncomfortable mantle of being the top of your sport kind of success.

There are lots of ways to win barrel races. Money, hard work, blind luck…but ultimately there are two paths to winning; you elevate a horse or a horse elevates you.  Whichever way it is, it will show. One is sustainable and the other is not. One path yields benefits to the whole sport, the other to just one person.

Elevating a horse to success is partly the skill to train them, but it’s a lot more. It’s ability to give them the confidence to compete and the desire to overcome. That character trait in a jockey will spill over from her horses (and she will have many good ones because she holds the keys to creating them) into every aspect of her sport. She will elevate her competitors and give them confidence. She will move the sport forward with her leadership, by her steadfast attitude, her efforts to organize events and, most importantly, the horses she adds into the sport. She will  be rewarded in her life with a very few horses who turn the tables on her and take the confidence she has given them and elevate her to a level she never dreamed….and that is a prize more precious than pearls. That is success.

Musings and Misadventures

Burning Daylight

I guess the work is never caught up on any farm or ranch. I get up every morning and start literally running from one job to the next, terrified of falling even further behind on my chore list until eventually by evening I tire and weaken, throw up my hands in the air and go in search of a glass of wine. First thing in the morning though, the pressure gauge is running way over in the WARNING range. I swear, I’m turning into my father. I didn’t quite grasp as a kid why Daddy was constantly running around saying “Come on! We are burning daylight!”

Ok. I get it, Dad.

The summer routine around here begins, after some fumbling around for coffee and rousing a sleepy teenage boy out of bed, with the feeding and milking chores. We inherited an older ATV four-wheeler from a sweet neighbor who no longer used it. It is our all-purpose ranch chore-mobile. This machine is a particular favorite with Ruth, the Leopard Catahoula dog. 

There are two things you should understand about Ruth. One, Ruth is a large gal. She takes up quite a bit of real estate. Two, when things go wrong, Ruth freezes. She just hunkers her considerable self down, digs in her claws and waits for the storm to pass. Forget telling her to vacate-it ain’t happening.

The chore-mobile is hooked to a ramshackle old utility trailer and we back this rig up to the front porch and drag the milking machine on to it, then away we go to the barn. I drive, Ruth insists on riding on the seat behind me, Quinten rides in the trailer, the two blue heelers trot alongside and the cows and horses fall in single-file behind us as we too-da-loo-da-doo down the road to the barn. I’m sure we are a sight. All we are missing is a sign proclaiming we don’t rent pigs.

One of the items on the endless to-do list that keeps getting skipped over is pulling the right front tire off the chore-mobile and taking it to town to Anthony at the tire shop so he can figure out what to do about the giant, albeit marginally sealed, hole a mesquite stump made through the rubber. We just keep airing it up one more day after one more day. 

This morning I headed out to the barn with the usual assembly, when I realized I had neglected to air up the tire. My mind running in full pressure gauge WARNING level, “burning daylight “ mode. I turned hard left, back to the shop for air, slid to a stop in the gravel not quite parallel to the side of the shop and leaving the engine idling and the transmission engaged, I raced for the air hose.

As I reached the compressor, it occurred to me that I had made a bad decision to save five seconds of daylight in my day. At the exact moment that I realized my error, I saw Ruth, in her excitement to get on with the morning ride on the chore-mobile, had turned around backwards on the seat. Her happily wagging tail thumping about wildly. Her tail hit the thumb-throttle. The chore-mobile jumped. Sensing an impending storm, Ruth hunkered down in the seat, digging all twenty toenails into the cushion and driving her butt firmly against the throttle.

VAROOOM! The chore-mobile climbed the shop wall. Ruth managed to keep her claws embedded long enough to ride it until it was parallel up the wall with the tailpipe in the ground before she was flung into the trailer, where she resumed her “shelter in place” operations. 

Quinten, who I’m pretty sure fell right back to sleep as soon as his boney behind sat down in the trailer, had been entirely dethroned and was sitting in the driveway with his lanky arms and legs askew and looking like a giant red-haired tarantula.

The white hen we call Chicken Little because of her constant fear of the sky falling, must have been pecking around the shop when the excitement started and been convinced her eschatological fears were coming true. Before Quinten could comprehend what had happened, Chicken Little determined the safest place for white chickens would be perched on top of the giant red tarantula in the drive and lept onto Quinten’s head screeching “Oh, woe-betide! Oh, doom!“ in loud chicken squawks.

The cows, who had been waiting in front of the house for the morning march to the barn, stood in the road observing the drama with the kind, cud-chewing placidity of Jersey cows. This must have enraged the two blue heelers, who took it upon themselves as the ranch law enforcement officers, to discipline the cows for loitering and took off after the cows nipping their heels.

Apparently Maybelle wasn’t quite awake yet either, because when she turned to flee the law, she spun straight into the side of the truck with enough apparent speed and momentum to roll herself over the side and into the truck bed, where she scrambled to her feet and recomposed her face into placid, doe-eyed Jersey cow expression.

The front door slammed open and I heard Jeff yell “WHAT…”. Apparently he had intended to inquire what the commotion was but could no longer form words with his jaw on his chest. 

The four-wheeler was on its rear wheels against the shop wall. The catahoula was cowering in the trailer, his son was sitting in the drive with a chicken on his head, the milk cow was standing in the back of the truck, and his wife was…disappearing as fast as possible behind the shop.


Author’s note


This story may or may not be fictional and names may have been changed to protect the identity of the innocent. Okay. It’s true right up to the point I reached the air compressor. The rest just went through my mind as I realized I left the chore-mobile in gear with a dog on it. The moral of the story is put the dang equipment in neutral!

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The Glory Before the Heat…

It never stopped raining, but it never rained. The specter of droughts past never leaves you. Blowing dust, hollow-eyed cattle and the fear and uncertainty of watching an unyielding hot and hazy sky day after day looms in your mind just on the other side of every rain cloud. This winter never could make its mind up. It brought day after day of cold damp days. The kind of damp that melts the flesh off shivering livestock, but doesn’t replace it by growing any nourishing winter feed. Early freezes burned off the remaining summer grazing before Thanksgiving and no moisture followed it to spark off wild rye or anyone’s winter small grain crops. The specter was lurking…

Then one solid, wet, cold front blew through in late February followed by several warm days and like a pack of runners released by the starters pistol-shot, every creeping, hopping, growing thing was racing to the equinox.

I love when you sit on the ground in a winter pasture and see the silvery-green loops of bluebonnet leaves clinging to the dirt under the dried grass. It’s like when you were a kid and you knew mom and dad had hidden Christmas gifts in the closet that weren’t wrapped yet; hidden, waiting, but you knew it was there.

First the dandelions bolt, right along with every cruciferous winter vegetable in your garden. Maybe they are like early Texas settlers alert for spring raids by Comanches, because about the time the garden bolts, Indian Paintbrush appear. Not the hordes of it that bloom later, but isolated flowers blooming alone like advance scouts for the raiding party that’s coming.

I wish I knew the history of the Latin American Cemetery north of Nixon, but I do know phlox blooms there first, and the phlox that grows on that hill is a slightly more intensely red-pink than the phlox elsewhere. I don’t know whatever put it in my head, but it’s phlox that makes me think of Texas history and especially the Runaway Scrape. Every single spring when the phlox begins to bloom around the time of the fall of the Alamo, I think of the terrible news of the Alamo and Goliad massacres reaching Gonzales and the people in Gonzales burning their homes and fleeing east. What a heart-breaking time it must have been. It must have been cold at night in those camps of fleeing Texians…but there would have been phlox on the ground.

Plenty of other early comers are in the vanguard with the phlox. The five-petaled white blossoms of wild dewberries begin to fill the fence-lines and plum thickets along the draws look like foamy pale pink quinceanera decorations.
Baby calves seem to pop out of the ground like little blooms themselves, all shiny and new.

Still to come are the bluebonnets. The hurricane dumped nearly twenty inches of water on us right at bluebonnet-rain time, so this year’s bluebonnets should be spectacular. With them will come winecups, star aster, spiderwort, primrose and verbena-Spring’s pink and blue phase. When the heat comes, Texas will put on its yellow spring dress; black-eyed Susans, indian blanket, sunflowers and a zillion yellow composite flowers.
What aalll that means is…it’s picnic time! I love to set a pretty table under the oak tree in the pasture, complete with wine glasses and candles and feed friends and family while the breeze ruffles the wildflowers all around us. I’m thinking of recipes…

Picnic time!


The Daily Snark

Guns, Dogs and Karl Marx

The past weeks have seemed so vitriolic. The endless gun control debate in the aftermath of the Margarie Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Florida, internecine squabbling in primary races, the pending SCOTUS hearing of Janus v. AFSCME and it’s potential outcome for both the First Amendment and the mid-term elections, the national news has spilled over on to social media and personal conversations and left me feeling that some unseen force is pulling ever more insistently at the fabric of our nation. I felt pretty sure that subversive element was Marxism, but to better understand that influence on our country, I decided a little research was in order. I started with The Naked Communist by former FBI agent, W. Cleon Skousen, who also authored The 5000 Year Leap. It biographs the lives of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels then follows the global advance of communism and its evolutions from bloody revolution to Cold War and on into a sneaky war of ideology in our country. I would absolutely rate it as a must-read and it is conveniently available on Audible.

To put Marxist ideology into dirt road context, I’m going to discuss it through two real-life small town scenarios that exhibit the innocuous ways Marxism is slipping into our culture without our even realizing it.

The first example is a local primary race for county judge. The incumbent is a lifetime resident rancher with a background in law enforcement running on his knowledge of the county and law enforcement experience. His primary opponent is a recent resident with a varied background and an interest in animal rescue and a proposed no-kill animal shelter.

“Good grief! What on earth could be Marxist in either of those candidates”, you are saying.

Individually, probably absolutely nothing, but let’s talk about property.

The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.

KARL MARX, The Communist Manifesto


I know- you are still scratching your head. How do you suppose Marx planned to divest the bourgeois of their property? By revolution of course! Yet, as Skousen reports, by the mid-twentieth century, the communist movement had experienced little success in violent overthrow of the property-holding bourgeoise in America. Peaceful take-over by political action seemed a more logical choice for a cultural revolution in the United States and countless organizations have popped up that hold significant financial means to wield a powerful political truncheon on the quiet behalf of communism.

By Sidney Joseph Greene
Originally published in The New York Evening Telegram 11/1/1919

One of these organizations is the Humane Society of the United States. Working hand-in-hand with other animal welfare groups, such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and the Center for Biological Diversity, the HSUS has slowly pulled lands from private ownership to public or NGO holdings. The mechanism is to funnel money and public support using feel-good projects like animal shelters into law suits. Suits typically involve wildlife welfare and are filed against the United States Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act.

This behavior is not random. It serves two functions. First, under the Equal Access to Justice Act, a party bringing successful suit against the U.S. government is entitled to have the cost of the suit remunerated to them by the government, thus animal welfare groups are able to keep attorneys on staff at no cost to the organization and keep a machine of constant litigation in motion. Secondly, the suits are “friendly” in nature because the outcome is to invariably bring more property under the control of government agencies and resistance to the suit is nominal. The consequences are that access to public land is diminished or private landowners are placed in untenable situations with greatly reduced land values where the Center for Biological Diversity or another pro-Marxist NGO can snatch it cheaply. Slowly private property is being consumed by the Marxist machine wrapped in the soft sheeps clothing of animal shelters.

This mechanism of moving from furry animals to land grabs is pretty well understood in western states where there is a large U.S. Fish and Wildlife presence and in areas where there are larger cattle ranches, but it is a little less familiar to rural counties with smaller properties like our county.

The moral? Be extremely cautious of projects promising a positive social change unless you can clearly link that project to Constitutional guidelines and be especially wary of feel-good projects like animal shelters where any objections to the entity’s behavior makes you an animal-hater and easily discredits you as a social pariah.

The second scenario involves a la carte ordering off the political menu. I recently debated with a school teacher, who was adamantly in support of total gun confiscation and a leftist political agenda all the while proclaiming his Christian faith and decrying broken families and parent’s disinterest in their children.

Let’s talk about religion; Marx’s “opium of the masses”. Marx’s dialectical materialism philosophy leaves no room for God, hypothesizing instead that religion is simply another way for the haves to keep the have-nots in check, therefore any morality associated with Judeo-Christian values is also a version of oppression and should be removed. The only moral struggle is the struggle against class oppression and thus anything done in that pursuit is moral.

Our Constitution is as well thought-out a document as Man has ever produced to preserve what our Declaration of Independence describes as “unalienable rights” given to Man by God.

Under our philosophy of government, you are absolutely free to think however you chose; however, to maintain that freedom, you have an obligation to examine its mechanisms in order to function as a logical member of a representative republic.

The poor teacher in question had absolutely no idea how deeply Marxism was driving his politics. The decline in parenting he sees in his schooling is well described in this article in The Federalist .

His view on guns was an emotional reaction to the Florida school shooting, and a reasonable reaction, if the concept of warring political doctrines is removed from the equation.

In reality, gun confiscation in America without bloodshed is a unicorn dream. What is possible, if you are thinking as a Marxist, is to cause such a hue and cry over the danger of guns that Americans willingly surrender them. The teacher has all the American freedom to promote and vote for just that hue and cry, and yet he is unaware that he is fighting the results of the same philosophy in his classroom and had no answer to what would protect his First Amendment rights to worship God were the Second Amendment removed.

The moral? You can feel any way you like, but in a representative republic, you can not vote la carte choosing bits and pieces from opposing philosophies. In the end, when all politics are boiled to their driest bones, the only question that remains is what you think of God and Man, the relationship between them, and whether each are inherently Good or Evil.

For those of us who live on dirt roads and want to maintain our rural American lifestyles, we should be ever-vigilant to not only the overt and obvious attacks on our Constitution, but also the subvert ones that we may ourselves be accidentally executing. I would advise my country neighbors to be bold in resisting furry, feel-good projects that may conceal a hidden red agenda.  Be confident that our generations of living with livestock has prepared us well to respond with compassion and vision to the needs of our animals and not be afraid to speak up against kind people with less experience in animal husbandry. We should  lead them rather than be led by fear of them.

Clearly  define your allegiances. Write them down. It will help you separate emotions from politics and get you off the a la carte menu.

These are mine in hierachial order:

The Constitution of the United States of America

Another day, I will explain the rationale for the order, but I wonder who can be the first commenter to correctly state why God and Freedom are co-equals in my hierarchy?

The Daily Snark

.~ Snark Mark~.

“Come, listen, my men, while I tell you again
   The five unmistakable marks
By which you may know, wheresoever you go,
   The warranted genuine Snarks.
-Lewis Carroll The Hunting of the Snark

The Daily Snark is not so much a call to action, or even necessarily a statement of my political opinion. It is meant to be a rebuttal to the typical binary political arguments lead by a disingenuous mainstream media through the application of rural logic.
While I do not wholeheartedly prescribe to any particular conspiracy theory, I do embrace the concept that when a body of people hold a belief to be true, they behave according to the influence of that belief and those theories become part of the political mosaic, regardless of the factual validity of the hypothesis, thus I try to look at our political landscape through numerous lenses.

Personally, I am first and foremost a Texian and all the conservative values that historical construct of the term implies. I am a pro-property rights, free-market, Constitutional, American nationalist and vehemently opposed to socialism. My political remarks are sometimes serious and sometimes pure snark, but are always driven by those basic principles.