Country Gal (2006) by Vanita Blundell, Comanche County, Kansas Vanita Blundell.
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Country Gal - 2006

by Vanita (White) Blundell

Country Gal is now available as a blog!

The web address is:

Please check the blog for the latest updates to Vanita's column if you don't see the column for the current week on the web page for the current year.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, December 27, 2006.

We have survived another Christmas. It is amazing how each Christmas is different. It is never how it was when you were a kid. It seems that maybe a little magic is gone. Maybe I just may feel that way since our kids are grown up and we do not have any little ones anxiously awaiting Santa. Or the look on the little ones face when you finally get the last ornament and the last string of lights on tree and it lights up.

I have received e-mails from families with their family photos. Those are so nice to look at and see how the children have grown and sometimes with kids of their own. I also received several e-mails from people that I have done business with in the dog world. Several had asked if I could send them an email with photos of my Great Danes. I thought I could do that fairly easy. That is my trouble, I think that most things are easy to accomplish. Well, they are not.

Jennifer and I thought that we would like to get a photo of the dogs by the Christmas tree. Not a good idea. First of all their tails are a lethal weapon and getting them to stand by the tree without them wagging their tails and nearly knocking the tree over or at the very least taking out the lower half of all the ornaments and icicles is an impossible task. We finally got the dogs safely away from the tree but close enough to make a nice background, we thought we were very nearly finished - wrong again.

Have you ever tried to get two not-so-bright dogs to sit or stand together and look the same direction at the same time for just an instant? It is almost impossible to do. When you get the right look, then the camera has shut its self off or the battery has run down. By the time I had worked with them, for what seemed like hours-it was not hours it just felt like that- I could care less if I ever took another picture again as long as I live. I had considered throwing the camera as far as I could and beating the dogs to death. But I did not do either of those things.

I really thought taking pictures of Jake and Josie (the dogs) would be easier to do than when Jennifer and Jeff (our kids) were little. By the time you get them cleaned up and dressed up and kept in a good humor, which rarely happened all at the same time. That was difficult to accomplish. It does not hold a candle to getting my dogs to pose for a snap shot. I now have a new appreciation for those people who take pet photos for a living. The worst thing is after we went through all of that, I found a decent picture that I had taken this fall that was better than any of the ones we took by the tree. Life is funny, right?

"Country Gal", The Western Star, December 19, 2006.

There are two kinds of people in this world -those who send Christmas cards and those who do not. I am one who does not. It is not that I do not like cards it is just that I can never get them in the mail. I can get them purchased, written on, signed, addressed and, yes, even stamped. But, to get them to the mailbox seems to be an impossible task to accomplish. I could lie and tell you it is just Christmas cards that I do not get in the mail; it is all mail in general. I still have Jennifer’s birth announcements to get off. I think that after 25 years that maybe I should take the stamps off and throw them away. Besides most of the people who I was going to send them to, either have moved away or have died. It is somewhat depressing when you think about it.

But Christmas cards are fun to receive. Christmas cards show your personality. Dad always agonized on picking out the right cards. He ordered from the Leaning Tree Company and he chose different cards for different people. Then he and Mom always wrote a little note inside. If he received a card from someone he had not sent one to, he made sure that one would be in the mail to them within a few days. He just loved getting pictures of families and school pictures of kids.

I just love the cards that people send that can make anything-sound good. Such as: a jailed son, has been away for awhile; if a family member is a wanted felon it could read like this- my sister and her family are enjoying living on an exotic island, not mentioning that there is no extradition there. Or when your daughter has gotten the father of her children to marry her it could read like this, our daughter has married the love of her life.

We have received the cards that do the opposite- Everything is doom and gloom. They report every ache, pain, and bad thing that ever happened to them. Instead of telling about a recent marriage of one of their children- they tell that they are having financial problems they had as a result of an over priced wedding that their daughter just had to have when a trip to the judge’s office would accomplish the same result and not drained their finances for the next ten years and they will never get their credit cards paid off. Not mentioning that she was lucky to find a man who loved and adored her. Or they would write about the child who would not leave home and was a parasite who was sucking the life out of them instead of telling about how nice it was to have someone who lived in the house who could help them out and drive them to their numerous doctor appointments. They might tell about their vehicle problems, instead telling about the nice neighbor that helped them out while stranded along the road- they tell about how the car factories cannot produce a good product and the repair cost more than the lousy car was ever worth. They may write about their near death experience, instead of telling about the great care that they received from the hospital staff and the EMT who arrived in just minutes of the call, they tell about how no one ever stays home anymore and they just spread germs and plagues everywhere they go. Instead of telling about having the grandchildren over and playing with them-they tell how tiring the kids were and they are not taught to mind. They are getting just a little bit tired of being a free babysitter.

I get a real kick out of those who love to tell about all of their misfortunes. However, when you think about it- Life is too short to dwell on the bad so I guess I prefer the optimistic to the pessimistic.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, December 12, 2006.

Have you gotten your Christmas shopping done? I think that I might have a couple more to get. One year we did not start until Christmas Eve. Waiting that long is not a wise idea. However, it is all over very quickly. It is like ripping the band-aid off really fast instead of the slow painful way.

One of my favorite things that I received at Christmas time was a little wind up dog. It really is not the dog, but the story that goes with it. Mom always tried to make everything equal among the three of us. Dad always purchased what he thought someone would like. This particular little wind up dog caught Dads eye and he bought it for me. Mom had thought that she was done with the gift buying then Dad showed her what he had found and she was irritated that she now had to even up the gifts once again. I do not think that she wanted Dad to go back to town in fear of what he might find to buy not just for me but anyone of us. I do not think that anyone enjoyed buying more gifts than Dad.

He always was asking me what I thought Jim might like to get for Christmas or his birthday. He would say after he asked me, "I want to get him something that would really tickle him". I told if I knew the answer to that I would get it for him myself. I have decided that there are different gift stages in your life. When you are a child toys are the thing that you receive then as a young adult you receive clothes and gift certificates. As a wife you get sweepers, mops, pots, pans and other useful items. As husband you would receive ties, tools, shovels, others things that the wife would like for the husband to get done for her and the tools to do it. Then as you get older you start getting toys again.

What we bought for Dad, was any kind of toy that would move, wiggle,light up, or make music. If you could find one that did all of the above, that would really please him. By now I hope you are through with all of your shopping and that you can sit back and enjoy the Holiday Season. HO! HO! HO!

"Country Gal", The Western Star, December 5, 2006.

By the time this article comes out we will only have a few days of rifle deer season left. I hope that you all survived it. This year it seemed that there were more out of state hunters looking for a place to hunt. I am surprised that someone would come from a long distance to hunt without any plan of where they are going to hunt or stay. It seems that some have no idea of our limited services and that most places are spoken for. All of us have family and friends who enjoy hunting and have promised our hunting to them. I have always said that hunters are the one thing that can reproduce without procreation and the gestation period can vary from just a few minutes to years and the number of offspring can be from one to twenty.

Dad had a cousin that came out during quail season and I loved it when they came as we did not get a lot of company. He and his son came out and I thought that it was nice that a father and son shared the same interest. They had bird dogs which I thought were really neat. Then in a year or two they started to bring out friends and business associates. The next thing we knew we had a bunch of guys out in our yard on opening day. Do not get me wrong we liked the cousin and all of his friends but Dad liked having his cousin come, so they could have some time together, but it got to where we did not even get to visit with him.

When they would bring in the quail and pheasant to clean, I always wanted one to see if we could save it. It bothered me that sometimes the birds were still alive. I thought that it must have been awful for the bird to be put in a bag with other dead or severely wounded birds. I know that I humanize the animal world a little too much but just think how terrifying it would be to be the quarry and be put in the vest or a bag with your fellow mates not knowing what would happen next. It always reminded me of the story that was told about my Uncle Gene Cary. He was in World War I and had gotten gassed. The military had put him in the morgue as they thought he was dead and when he came to he saw two dead guys next to him. Right then and there he decided to go back to his beloved home state of Virginia and he did. Because of the gas he always had breathing problems from then on. But he was lucky to be alive. So I always thought that when you shoot a bird go ahead and kill the poor thing so he will not suffer anymore. However, I am glad that they did not knock poor ole’ Uncle Gene in the head before they put him in the morgue, so I guess it is your call.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, November 28, 2006.

Life is full of puzzles and if your life is not puzzling enough - you can actually purchase any kind of torture you would like to mess with your brain - eyes - and patience. Not to mention it can drain your bank account. Mom started to do the crossword puzzle in the newspaper. She would ask me questions that she did not know. I was impressed that I actually knew something helpful.

What mom and I did not know we used the very ragged, cornered crossword dictionary unless Vickie is here and she knows stuff. Mom and I have always joked that we share a brain.

While I was cooking in New Mexico I found Mom a doubled sided, horse shaped, puzzle. It is really hard but she is getting it done. The Thanksgiving guests helped out some and gave it them something to do as we visited.

My niece, Wendy, does the sudoku puzzles. I had never seen one worked before. She was showing me how they work and how to do them. I thought that they looked like fun so I got a book and I think that I like the crossword puzzles better. But they are fun; even Jeff likes some of them.

Mother does not buy the crossword books- why you might wonder since she loves the do the one in the paper? Well, it is because my mother who I love very much is a cheater. If she has the answers in the back of the book she cannot help herself when she gets stuck on a word, she looks in the back and cheats. That is why she likes the puzzles in the paper since she cannot get the answers until the next day.

Mom and I work the crossword while we are on the road. We were traveling to Wichita the other day and I had given her an answer and Mom said, "Vanita, I think that maybe you might be a little smarter than we had thought." Thanks Mom, I think.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, November 21, 2006.

You know what? Thanksgiving will be here before we know it. I hope you are ready- I am getting in the mind set. However, it seems to be difficult since all of the stores have forgotten Thanksgiving and jumped ahead to Christmas. The reasoning must be that we have not commercialized Thanksgiving as we have Christmas; maybe we ought to be thankful of that. Turkey day is a wonderful day to get with all of those that we love and remember all of the happy times in your life. Maybe even write a letter to someone who has made a difference in your life. It is never too late to let someone know that they are important to you. We have many people in the community who do so much for so many.

I am excited that my sister’s family and my brother’s family will be here. I get to have Vickie and Randy’s family at my house along with Lori and Roy Claycamp. My house will be full of lots of fun and entertainment. Vickie’s little grandson, Michael Ethan, is a very busy little boy. He will add some excitement. Virgil and Karen’s family entire will get to be with us.Virgil and Karen have two grandchildren and they will both be here as well, so I will be blessed this year. Jennifer is planning to go shopping on Black Friday- you know- that Friday after Thanksgiving. I have absolutely no interest in going. I love to shop but in a mob of busy, pushing, people with no parking spaces except for the ones that are a half a mile away. In addition, the stores put on the sales that you just cannot say no to. It just exhausts me to think about it. So to all of you brave souls who are going out in the cold, cruel world on Friday- I send to you good luck and safe driving.

I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy your friends and family.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, November 11, 2006.

I am slowly getting back in to the swing of things. When I got back on Friday from the Gila Wilderness -we had to get ready to sell calves. The cattle truck was to be at the pens by noon so this fat girl had to get to moving. We got the calves in good time only because I had good help and then we had to get some bills paid just like everyone else. On Tuesday the calves sold and we worked on the trailer lights. I know what you are thinking why worry about the lights after we got the calves to town. We had to get the lights working so we could take the trailer to my brothers- Virgil’s- on Wednesday - to help him move all of his shop stuff. Or at least we thought we had the lights working- We had just left Coffeeville a little ways and we realized that we had no running lights on the trailer. We had brake and turning lights just no tail lights or clearance lights. We pulled over at a quick stop and tried to find where our problem was. Jim decided to just rewire the lights. We were working hard trying to get everything working when a fellow pull up besides us and saw our dilemma- he said, "you oughtta do what I do- just like *#** and get to where you are going". Jim told him that would work just fine if we did not have another four and half hours left to travel and we had to go thru Joplin and we would be on the interstate. The guy gave us his condolences and left. He was great help. But we got the lights working and we were on our way and made it without any more problems.

Virgil and Karen have lived in Waynesville for over a little over 25 years. They are moving to Minneola Kansas. Virgil will be the minister at the Christian Church in Minneola. What can I say- Virgil is Vernie Whites son. He had all kinds of stuff - but we did get it all in the trailer. It is amazing what one collects after a few years. One of the guys that was helping load up stuff ask if there was no scrap metal in Kansas. Virgil had everything organized and it did not take long to get things packed, tied, secured, and locked down. We left the next morning and so now I think that I am home for a while now. What is left to see is if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, October 7, 2006.

I am slowly getting back in to the swing of things. When I got back on Friday from the Gila Wilderness - we had to get ready to sell calves. The cattle truck was to be at the pens by noon so this fat girl had to get to moving.

We got the calves in good time only because I had good help and then we had to get some bills paid just like everyone else. On Tuesday the calves sold and we worked on the trailer lights. I know what you are thinking why worry about the lights after we got the calves to town. We had to get the lights working so we could take the trailer to my brothers- Virgil’s- on Wednesday - to help him move all of his shop stuff. Or at least we thought we had the lights working - We had just left Coffeeville a little ways and we realized that we had no running lights on the trailer. We had brake and turning lights, just no tail lights or clearance lights.

We pulled over at a quick stop and tried to find where our problem was. Jim decided to just rewire the lights. We were working hard trying to get everything working when a fellow pull up besides us and saw our dilemma - he said, “you oughtta do what I do - just like *#** and get to where you are going”. Jim told him that would work just fine if we did not have another four and half hours left to travel and we had to go thru Joplin and we would be on the interstate. The guy gave us his condolences and left. He was great help. But we got the lights working and we were on our way and made it without any more problems.

Virgil and Karen have lived in Waynesville for over a little over 25 years. They are moving to Minneola Kansas. Virgil will be the minister at the Christian Church in Minneola.

What can I say- Virgil is Vernie Whites son. He had all kinds of stuff - but we did get it all in the trailer. It is amazing what one collects after a few years. One of the guys that was helping load up stuff ask if there was no scrap metal in Kansas. Virgil had everything organized and it did not take long to get things packed, tied, secured, and locked down. We left the next morning and so now I think that I am home for a while now. What is left to see is if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, October 3, 2006.

I’ mmm Baaaaacccckkkk. Boy is it good to be home! I had a wonderful time cooking for the elk hunters. The first elk hunt was with bows and the last three hunts were muzzleloaders.

I also got to visit friends and family while I was away. Dan and Linda Winter send their warm regards to all of you. I spent some time with them and Vivian Ruth. Vivian is doing well and asked me to tell everyone, hi.

I had the opportunity to visit Jerry Ferrin in his home in Tucson, Arizona. I got to meet his lovely sister and visited with his mom and step-dad. Jerry had fixed lunch for us. Then Jerry and his friend, Tom, entertained us with a few songs. Jerry is quite an artist and he showed us some of his unique artwork.

My Aunt Hazel Renard lives in Mesa, Arizona with Joan and Bud Hickman. Joan is her oldest daughter. Aunt Hazel will be 93 years old this year. She looks good and seems to be in good health. Hazel is a sister to my dad.

It wonderful to be home in my own kitchen. It is amazing how much I appreciate little things like a sink and hot water coming out of a faucet. And waking up not seeing my own breath and getting out of bed and making it to the toilet without freezing to death. Our outhouse was so far from camp by the time I got there it was nearly too late or I decided that I did not need to go anymore. I have learned that it really is true that it is colder right before dawn than any other time of the day. It was also great to see a beautiful Kansas sunset again.

On the good side, the nights were beautiful and we saw several falling stars. I got to see my first javalina (it is like a wild pig). It was not in our camp, thank goodness as I have heard they can make a horrible mess. The elk were so massive and beautiful.

It was very peaceful in our camp and I had a lot of time to think about all sorts of things. I have decided that I am a lucky person to have the family that I have and to live where I live - life just seems pretty good.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, September 19, 2006.

By now, you probably know that I am out of the country. I have gone to cook for hunters in New Mexico. My first two camps will be on the Floyd Lee Ranch north of Grants, New Mexico. I think that this will be an interesting experience.

I am a little worried about being bear food. I have gained enough weight that a bear could hibernate long into the summer if he had me for lunch. I am hoping that the bears will be sleeping by this time. Probably not. Since I am the cook I will be where the food is -- I hope that I do not have to guard the food with my life. I was told by a friend that it is mostly small black bears that live around there and they do not eat all that much. So, why don’t I feel better? I think that if a bear is going to eat part of me, he might as well finish me off.

The other place that I will be going is in the Gila Wilderness the closest town is Apache Creek. The altitude is around 10,000 feet so it will be a little cool. One of the best parts of the whole thing is that I will get to see Dan and Linda Winter, Jerry Ferrin, my Aunt Hazel Barker, and several cousins that I have not seen in a few years. I will also get to visit Vickie and Randy along with her family. I always love going to see their families.

Vickie has a thrift store that she operates for their church. That is how they get money for their benevolence fund. People give all kinds of things to her store and she does quite well. She calls it "People Helping People". I love to shop there; I got a great deal on a copier that I use often and it was in new condition.

I hope to send you updates on my adventures but, in the meantime, Mom will write a column or two. Well -- wish me luck and I will see you when I get back.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, September 12, 2006.

When I was a little girl, my mom read to me the story of the town mouse and the country mouse. I always thought that being the town mouse was really cool. I have always been happy being a country mouse but I could see the advantages of the city life. I thought that having neighbors living close to you would be ideal as you would never be lonely having someone so close that you could visit with often. How nice it would be to call your neighbor to come over for coffee and they could be there in a matter of a couple minutes. That thought just made me feel good.

When I was five, I went to visit my Aunt Claudia in a suburb of Los Angeles. She had a neighbor who was very near to her home. Mom had brought farm eggs out from home and I thought it would be a good idea to share with her. Now this woman was somewhat cranky, I took that as a challenge and thought that she must be lonely and that was the reason for her moods. Actually, I found out later she was just cranky. I tried so hard to make her like me; I would go over to her home and visit nearly every day. I bet that was a long week for her. But now I know that sometimes when you live in a town, (and this happens in the country too) people have forgotten about what is important.

In the perfect world, which is where I would like to live, it would be nice if everyone would just play nice.

Dad found a saying that sums all of this up: "Live well, Love Much and Laugh Often."

"Country Gal", The Western Star, August 29, 2006.

The City Wide Garage Sale gave Jim's brother, John, and his boys a good excuse to come see us. After the shopping the kids, Jeff, Jennifer and Jason started to talking about what they used to do while we were out of the house. Johns oldest son, Jason, and Jeff are close to the same age. So when they came to visit the two boys found all kinds of things to do.

Jennifer was the oldest by five years and she watched out for the boys. I was unaware that she had been running interference for them. She went around and fixed what they broke and did not always rat them out if she thought what they were doing was not life threatening. There were a few times that she did tell on them. For instance - they had found some old shot gun shells and they thought that it would be fun to hit the brass ends with hammers. They did not want the adults to know what they were doing so they carried the shells and hammers out under an old tree and were pounding on the ammo. Jennifer did come and tell me what they were doing and we quickly put a stop to that. The old shells were some shells that the previous tenants had left behind and we had no idea that the ammunition was even there. They talked about how they tried to fly by using trash sacks, plywood, boards and paper. It was never successful. And all of the holes they dug in the pasture in their attempt to find China. They dug such big holes that Jennifer had to get a rope to pull them out. She made them fill the holes in as she knew that if we found out about the deep pits the boys would be in big trouble.

Since I was a "stay at home" mom, I thought that I knew most everything that went on in my house. That kind of thinking always gets you into trouble. Did I have a rude awakening! Sometimes we would go to town and leave the kids home for a little while. I found out this weekend that Jeff had broken a lot of my figurines. I had always told my kids that if something got broken it would be alright, just tell me and clean up the mess. I knew that accidents would happen. What I did not have any tolerance for was just doing things for no purpose. Such as swinging a bat in the house and hitting balls just to see where they might land. These are the things that Jeff did while we were away. Jennifer would glue the broken objects back together in hopes that I would never notice them. Jim had known that some things had been broken but he thought that I had glued them back together again. I had never noticed them until the kids showed me the cracks. I must say that Jennifer is a darn’ good gluer. Her only defense was that if I knew what she knew, Jeff might not have survived my wrath. And she might have been right.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, August 22, 2006.

Do you remember the sad song they sang on Hee-Haw: “Gloom-despair and agony on me- deep dark depression excessive misery - if it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all - Gloom, despair, and agony on me”. This has been a sad week. I have decided that I am not a very good nanny. The one and only puppy that I had did not make it. I know that people say that animals are dumb and that they do not have the capacity to reason. I do not think that is true. The mamma dog has mourned her loss, even Jake, who is not the brightest crayon in the box, knows that something is not right. It has been a little depressing around here.

Jennifer and Giz are anxious to get settled. They have been living in our basement and we love having them, but I think that they are wanting to get on with their lives. We have been looking for homes for them. It is sad to see where all of the old homesteads used to be. You know, that in those empty yards their was a lot of happiness that occurred there. Little boys chasing their sisters with frogs and bugs. A young lady’s first kiss on the porch, the tire swing in the tree, if you were lucky enough to have a tree in the yard. Kids anxiously awaiting their dad to come home from a hard days work. There are some large homes that are now beyond repair but at one time they were quite a show place. I can not imagine how people kept up the yards with everything else that they had to do with out the modern conveniences, such as gas powered lawn mowers and electric hedge trimmers and edgers. At my house I would just as soon turn the horses out and let them graze in the back yard, not to mention, I just like to see them. The horses not only mow they also trim and fertilize all at the same time.

When I was little when Dad mowed the yard it was a scary thing to watch. Mom would make sure that I was in the house and away from the windows. Our mower was open all the way around the bottom and rocks, wire, twigs, dirt flew in all directions. Even when I saw that grass eating- stick throwing machine in the barn or garage I would keep a safe distance from it, I did not want to take any chances. With my luck something strange might happen and Dad would have said, “Who would have thought that would happen?”.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, August 15, 2006.

It RAINED!!! I hope every one of you remembered to thank the Good Lord for the moisture. I have had a theory - the Lord gives us a little rain to see if we are thankful then he decides if he will gives us any more. Just a theory mind you - just a theory.

Friday we went to Tulsa to see Jim’s mom. She is still having Chemo-treatments one day every other week. On the way home we stopped and bought a damaged wading pool. This is for the up-coming puppies that Josie is to have. I got it just in time as she went into labor Saturday evening. Being the vet that I am not, this was a very long and drawn out ordeal. I have come to one conclusion: I would rather help a cow calve than to watch a dog give birth. Or I feel more confident in what should happen next or at least what things look like. I could get in more detail but I think you get the idea. Why is it that things like this always happen on the weekends and in the evenings?

Since I (really it was Jim) did not want Josie to have the puppies in the house we took the wading pool with blankets out on the deck and we waited. As Josie was trying to do her thing, poor Jake was the nervous daddy-to-be: he just paced back and forth and side to side. I thought that I should get him to boil water to keep him busy - but what would a dog do with boiling water? I made a pallet and slept on the deck with her all night long. No puppy. We went to Sunday school and Church, came home - no puppy - then we had company so Josie had more alone time and some peace. Still no puppy. I thought that she had lost her babies and I was in for a vet bill. When the kids were getting ready for bed they heard an odd squealing sound outside their window and, sure enough, there was one little black puppy.

So I am happy to report that I am the proud owner of one, just one, puppy so far. It was like Josie had one and she said that was enough. I can not say that I blame her- this is the noisiest pup I have ever heard. I would like to have had at least two but I will take what I can get. Jake was one of sixteen puppies. I do not think that I want sixteen puppies to contend with the first time out of the gate. But one pup will be hard not to get attached to since I have every intention of selling this one.

At our house this week it looks like it will be a ‘dogs life’, whatever that means.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, August 8, 2006.

It is that time of year again-it is the time of year that puts fear and excitement down deep in your bones. School is getting ready to start. I never was fond of school. I would have preferred to stay at home and helped Dad but Mom did not think that was a good idea. I went to Wilmore Grade School and I had a great first grade teacher - Lila Miller - she was wonderful. She taught first and second together. We had a large class there were 17 or 18 of first and second graders Mrs. Miller played the piano and we sang “Jumbo Elephant” among others and a good morning song we sang each morning before we started our school day. She also made sure that we washed our hands before we went to lunch and we prayed before we ate. Mrs. Miller sat at the head of the table at lunch to make sure we used our table manners and also showed us the proper way to hold a fork and a spoon. I can remember looking at the head of the table and it made me feel secure, kind of like being at home. I can not remember her ever yelling at us, I am sure that she must have - if we did not mind she was so disappointed and that made us feel bad.

Vanita White, 4th grade, 
Wilmore Grade School, 1968-69 school year.

CLICK HERE to view the yearbook. The school bus was something that we moaned over, but that is where I learned to play cards: Pitch, Crazy 8’s, War and Gin Rummy. We had great drivers - Wade and Ernestine Ziegler and Irma Downing. One year the school let the senior boys drive the little vans (this was before Suburbans. I can not imagine that happening now. So Zearl Ziegler was our driver. One time we got stuck in the mud out in the pastures and he radioed his mom, Ernestine, and asked her to pull us out and bring us food. She came and got us pulled out and brought us cookies and apples. What a great lady!

Wade, Zearl and Ernestine Ziegler, 
1959 Wilmore Grade School Yearbook.

CLICK HERE to view the yearbook. Every time from then on we were not worried about getting stuck because we thought that we just might get something great from Ernestine’s kitchen. We really had a good time on the bus. We kept track of the antelope in Gregg’s pasture and watched for other things out of the ordinary. When it was extremely muddy the driver would have all of us sit in the very back to give him more traction in the rear, either that or he was trying to get us as far away from his seat as he could. One time two boys were picking on each other and Wade got tired of it so he stopped the bus and had them get out and fight to get it out of their systems. When they got out they decided that they did not want to fight anymore. It was very quiet the rest of the way home.

My brother never got one school year without having a sister on the bus. That was cruel and unusual punishment. Vickie was probably better than I was, Virgil would pay me a nickel to not tell on him - I'd take the nickel and sometimes rat him out anyway. That really proves that I had a good brother, he probably should have pounded me a time or two and I would have thought twice about squealing on him. But he never did. I really do not remember him doing anything that would have gotten him in trouble but at the time it must have seemed important.

I can remember that when I got on the bus or went to school that the bus driver and the teacher could have ended my life at any time. I knew that I had to behave or else. School is where you learn to tell your folks what happened before someone else would tell them their version. I found that it was always better to fess up and let them know what was going on and why you did what you did. What is the saying better to be forewarned than forearmed?

The neat thing about starting school was school shopping. That was one of my favorite memories with my mom. We would take a whole day to shop for school and Mom would let me pick where we would eat. It was wonderful. My mom can spot a sale rack in a store across the street. She is a wonderful bargain hunter. We would check all the $5.00 racks and try on clothes all day. I always got new shoes and new gym shoes. Buying two pair of shoes was not a common occurrence. And a buying a new note book was exciting. Sometimes Mom would tell that I could use the "year before" notebook and I was horrified that everyone would know that I did not get a new notebook. We always got new crayons I thought that I should get the big box of crayons. Then when I would break the first one it was disturbing.

Remember: taking an apple or candy to the teacher is not a bad way to begin the new year.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, August 1, 2006.

There's an old saying that you can never go back home. This is so true, even if you do not go far away.

When I was a kid we had a tree about ¾ of a mile from the house, by a small creek, that we called the ‘picnic tree’. I would take a walk or go on horseback with a small picnic - I packed "Miracle Whip with green olives" sandwiches and, if I was lucky, I would have a Pepsi. My favorite time to go was after a rain when the water would run down the gyp and make little waterfalls. I thought it was beautiful, just like the waterfalls in Colorado. Actually, it was nothing like the falls in Colorado. But I had never been there so I had nothing to compare it to. But it was still pretty and unique. Under the tree it was gyp and very little grass. I would spread out a cloth and sit down and open my sack to see what Mom had put in it. I thought that I was really living. Sometimes if I walked Mom would go with me and we would look at the creek and collect some rocks.

Now the ‘picnic tree’ is gone and the creek is almost dried up. There is a little water but not much. Now I am going to have to move the cattle out or start hauling water. This pasture is a little rugged and you can see large pieces of rock that have fallen off the overhangs. It is mostly gyp. I always wondered if it fell all at once or if it fell slowly and how much noise did it make. Kind of like the saying: If a tree fell in the forest and no one was there to hear it, does it still make a sound?" Jim and I were out checking things out and there was this huge rock that we both thought would be neat to have in our back yard. The trick would be to get it loaded and hauled home. The boulder is probably better off where it is. You can look and see how the pastures are continually changing. Keeping the changing of the pastures in mind, I have some family who think that they know where some buried treasure might be. It was in the late 1800’s that a gold shipment was lost and some think that they might know where it is. I do not think that - after over 100 years - the landmarks are even close to being the same. The land has changed, not only in looks, but with owners as well. But it might be fun to look for it.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, July 18, 2006.

When I asked my kids in Sunday School what exciting thing they were going to do this week, one little boy said the Ice Cream Social was one of his favorite things to do.

I can remember when I was a kid the Ice Cream Social was almost as exciting as a holiday. We were curious as to what kind of ice cream would be there. I do not know why I was so excited: I always had chocolate, and it usually was my mom's. I could have had it at home but it always was better to eat it with my friends. Mom had her own milk and cream as most everyone else did, too. The kicker was ice: we would get the ice on Sunday after church from the locker. No, the locker was not open on Sunday - they had a coin-operated vending machine. It was really neat when you could get this huge block of ice - I think it was 50 pound block. Dad would wrap in burlap and put it in the trunk of the car and hurry home. We must have put it in the freezer until time to use it. Dad would come in early and put the ice in the burlap sack and smash it to smithereens so we could put in the ice cream freezer.

When we no longer had our own milk and cream, Mom froze our own ice in gallon milk cartons. We always kept our ice cream bucket in the horse tank year around. It was not very desirable to look at since it was all mossy and, now that I think about it, it was really gross looking. After all that we still had to crank the ice cream - this was before electric freezers. I sat on the freezer and Dad would crank. Most of the time I had as much ice on me as there was in the freezer. I knew I was growing up when I could help Mom crank the ice cream. That way Dad could stay in the field a little longer. Mom and I would take turns cranking. She would do 50 turns, then I'd do 50 turns - then, as it got harder, we would crank 25 turns each - then 10 each - then, hopefully, Dad would be in to see if it was hard enough to take the paddle out and repack the freezer so the ice cream could ripen.

The most memorable ice cream social that I remember was the year that Dad had just gotten a different pickup truck - bright orange. Mom and Dad put me in the back to keep the ice cream from turning over. Usually this time of year was very busy for us. We were trying to get the wheat ground worked and the feed planted. So Dad was not in an extremely good mood to start with. Mom was worried that we were going to be late and so Dad was not wasting any time. When we got to the bridge by the Dale's, the county was putting in a new bridge and the road was closed. Mom said she thought that we should turn around and go back just a little ways and take another route to town. Dad explained to her (in a tone that one never argued with but once) that they always put "road closed" signs up but it really was not closed. Mom told me to hang on and Dad backed up and got a good run at the huge ditch where the bridge was to be. We went down at a fast rate of speed and went up bouncing and throwing dirt, dust and rocks everywhere. Keeping the ice cream freezer upright was a trick but I managed it somehow. After we got back on the road we just went on in to town as if everything was just fine and dandy. Mom was a little frazzled and I just was that much closer to God. This was another experience that improved my prayer life.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, July 11, 2006.

Music has been a big part of my life since I was growing up. I think that you can tell a lot about the times that we live in by the music that is written. Take the roaring 20’s: it was a time that America was happy and the music showed it. The 20’s had the flappers and the music was lively. In the 30’s, during the depression, the blues were inspired. They sang of the hardships of the times. During war times, songs like “Don’t Sit under the Apple Tree” were popular. The fifties were exciting with the sock hops. I remember some of Woodstock - the Beatles - Elvis- Porter Wagner- Buck Owens- Loretta Lynn - Alice Cooper -Pink Floyd. (I thought I was a rebel for a while).

We lived over 20 miles from town so we had lots of time in the car going back and forth and we spent a lot of that time singing like ‘Found a Peanut’- ‘Mary had a Little Lamb’ -‘White Coral Bells’. Mom taught me how to sing a round. Dad sang a lot also. When Dad would rock me to sleep he would sing the Fly song.

Dad sang on horseback often. When he lived with and worked for Mr. and Mrs. S.A. Delair, Mrs. Delair taught him the song ‘The Unfortunate Man’. It was funny and fit Dad. I have never heard the song other than when Dad sang it, I don’t know if it was something that she wrote or something that she had learned as a child and passed it along to Dad. He liked to sing songs that would make me cry-like ‘Poor Charley’ and ‘The Baggage Coach Ahead’. He thought that it was so funny to see me bawling my eyes out about poor ol’ Charley dying and not being able to see his mother when the work is done this fall. Or about the poor baby crying on the train and the dad not being able to comfort the child because the mother was in the baggage coach in a coffin. I never could handle the song ‘Shep’. As I got older I heard the song ‘‘The Letter Edged in Black’ - that song broke my heart, too.

I got to thinking the other day that life is made up of music. When you are young you hear a song and think that you would like to have that sung at your birthday party, then you hear a song when you are dating and you have "your song", then you hear a song that is just perfect for your wedding. After that you hear a song and think that you would like to have that song sung at your 50th wedding anniversary.. years pass and you hear a song that is near and dear to your heart and you think: "This is what I want sung at my funeral".

Off-site links to lyrics of some of the songs mentioned above (links will open a new browser window):

"Country Gal", The Western Star, July 4, 2006.

This week I am getting all decked out. I have been wanting a deck since we built our home over ten years ago. I decided that it was time so I got on the internet and looked at a deck or two. We decided what kind of deck that we wanted and so we started to make out plans. I did not trust Jim's drawings and Jim did not think my ideas were quite right. I called Home Lumber and Mike saved the day - maybe even my marriage, or possibly kept one of us from homicidal actions. Since Jim has the lumber from the old Grade School we are going to put it to use. We looked at some plans for a deck and in big letters it said buy on Friday - build on Saturday - enjoy on Sunday. Well - that was a bold faced lie. I was hoping to have it completed by the 4th. That did not happen, but it should be done by the 7th. I am anxious to see what it will look like.

We had a great 4th of July. We had family and friends over for the evening. Jim and Jeff had gotten fireworks for the night show. The fireworks were pretty and it makes you wonder how any one thought to make a roman candle or any type of firework for that matter. I am guessing that it happened by accident. I can imagine that someone had some gunpowder and whatever else it takes and very nearly blew something up and it ended up becoming what we now call fireworks.

This is one holiday that my sister does not come home for. She has had too many incidents with firecrackers and she prefers to stay at home where she is safe and sound. In fact, she lives in a National Forest and no fireworks of any kind are allowed, which makes her happy. Towards the end of our fireworks display we noticed that God was having one of his own. When lightning lit up the sky, it made our fireworks look puny. It was nice to be reminded that He is still in control.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, June 27, 2006.

We had moisture!! I hope everyone remembered to thank the Good Lord for the rain. It bothers me to hear people say it was not enough to help. I think any thing beats the hot wind and dry air. We had 3 nice showers and it gave us a little over 3 inches in the past two weeks. I am certainly grateful.

Yesterday when we came home from Woodward I noticed that Billy - Mom’s dog - was all muddy and Mutt looked extra tired and the two Danes were out of the back yard. The Danes had lifted the back gate off its hinges and since the gate was tied at the opening it was hanging all whopper-jawed. I was wondering what mischief they had been up to. This morning I found out - I have never seen one of these up close - but by the look of Billy he got a real good look.

Anyway, by the horse tank there laid a very dead beaver. You maybe wondering why a beaver was this close to the house - I would like to know that as well. I have no ponds close or running water, except for the water that runs over the tank. And I do not think that it is enough water to make a beaver think he could have a nice home and raise a family. But maybe he was an underachiever, whatever the reason it was not a good one. I am sure that the beaver came to our house, because if the dogs ventured out and brought him home he would have been at the front door instead of leaving him by the tank. And I am not sure if they could have carried him as he looked like he weighed quite a bit.

I found him interesting looking with that big flat tail and those large front teeth and those very sharp claws. I do not how the dogs got him without serious injury. When I first saw him I thought that it was a coon, then I thought that it was a porcupine I would have never guessed it was a beaver. Things like this make me realize how much I miss Dad. He would have been amused and enjoyed looking over this strange creature that God had made. When we would ride out in the pastures he would always comment how God had a beautiful paint brush and imagination. He liked the wildflowers and the birds especially.

Thinking of the beavers- I had a neighbor once who declared war on the beavers and blew up their dams. It was an ongoing battle. The neighbor won a a lot of battles but I am afraid that he lost the war as where he used to try to keep the beavers out they are back and building one dam after the other. But at the Blundell household the score is Blundells 1 - Beavers 0.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, June 20, 2006.

It makes you wonder how dogs have survived as long as they have. My dogs seem to be -- delicate -- sensitive -- allergy ridden. Most of you know that I am in the process of raising Great Danes dogs. I am not convinced that pure bred dogs are as healthy as a plain ol’ mutt. I think that it must be the money. As I was growing up we had just plain ol’ dogs who seem to get along just fine. Well, that is not entirely true. I think that since they were either strays or "give aways", we always knew there were more where they come from. We did lose many dogs but I remember my growing up years by what dog we had. We did have a few pure-bred dogs. We had a cocker spaniel, a rat terrier, and border collies. Dad had a habit of naming any animal we had after the people that we got them from unless we could come up with a better name. Sometimes we named them by the way they were colored or marked - like Dottie, Blackie and Bobbi. We had one solid black border collie that Dad named. That name is something we do not say anymore as it is offensive to a particular group of people.

We had several cows that Dad had bought from Homer Reynolds and we called all of them Homer.

My earliest memory of a dog was a little rat terrier. We got her from Boz Richardson - we named her Pinkie because you could see her pink skin through her hair. We lost her when she came home with three punctures in her sides. We guessed they were from a hawk or other predatory bird. I was heart-broken when she died. I had my singing debut then. It was the first and only time I sang at a funeral. The funeral was attended by only Dad and me. Dad dug a hole to bury her and put her little body in a wheel barrow and I followed behind singing "Where, Oh, Where has my Little Dog Gone". I sang and Dad and I both cried as he plopped her in the hole and covered her up. That was my first experience with death that I remember. I have always felt that it is good for kids to have pets so they can have some idea of death. I would hate to think that the first time I knew of a fatality would have been a dear friend or a family member.

We had one dog that took up with the milk cow and preferred her company to ours. He would go out every morning and come in every evening with her, and he slept right by the cow in the barn every night until one fateful day he did not come in one evening.

We had several dogs that met their demise by chasing cars and trucks. We had a wonderful border collie named Happy who got ran over the County Gravel truck. I think that is was John Black who was the driver and he stopped and told us he was so sorry. We felt bad that he felt bad. It was a sad day, but, if dogs insist on chasing vehicles, it is more than likely that is what is going to happen. We lost a couple of dogs that way.

But the dog I grew up with was a little mutt Vickie brought home to me. I named him Snoopy. He lived until after I left home. He survived many difficulties. He chased and killed chickens, which was and still is, a bad, bad thing for a farm dog to do. My brother, Virgil, and my cousin, Johnny, caught him in the act of killing a hen so they spanked him and threw him over the fence, which broke his leg. Mom, Dad and I were not at home at the time. Virgil felt so awful about hurting the little chicken killer that they gave up their evening to take Snoop to Doc Allen to have his leg set. It was not long until Snoopy pulled the cast off and he healed up just fine, anyway. Ok, so he might have healed a little crooked, but it never seemed to bother him. But he never chased another chicken again.

Dad got a dog from Carl Keesee. It was a black lab cross. Dad ran over him with the pick up and horse trailer. If that was not bad enough, the trailer was loaded with cattle at the time. It should have killed him but he lived - without a Vet bill. However, life was not the same for Blackie.

Years ago, our dogs were lucky if they got vaccinated for rabies. Now we worry about every lump or bump they get. My dogs have gone to the Vet as much or more often than my kids went to the Doctor. I don’t know about you, but maybe life really has gone to the dogs.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, June 13, 2006.

On Sunday, June 11, I have hit another mile stone. I had my 47th birthday. It depends on where you are in life. If you are over 47 it is no big deal if you are a child, you might think that I am ancient. I never thought that I would survive my teenage years let alone my forties. But I can tell that I am not a spring chicken anymore. This had been a bitter pill to swallow. I always thought that I could do whatever Jim needed me to do- until- This past weekend we were moving twenty-five large poles that were at least 30 feet in length. They were stacked in a nice and tidy pile and in order to haul them we needed to cut them in half. This meant that we had to get them off the pile. Jim thought that we could man-handle them.( key word MAN- handle) This is where I explained to him that he should have married Olga the Magnificent. He sort of picked up his half and told me to pick up my half. Well, that was not going to happen - ever. Then he said that maybe we should get the tractor with the front-end loader on it. Gee, I didn’t I think about that? What a relief. Not only did it work great but it was very hot last Friday and it made quick work of it. I am not sure but think that the tractor might have saved my life.

Jim and I went to Woodward on Sunday. We noticed that the power company was doing some work on the power lines. They were replacing the wooden poles with metal poles. I have never seen them before. They are a lot taller than the ones they were replacing. I first thought that they were wooden poles covered with metal, but they are hollow inside. I find them very interesting. We discussed how the metal poles compared to the wooden poles. I have been told that the wood peckers cost the power companies an enormous amount of money each year. So the metal poles will an improvement- from our point of view- don’t think the wood peckers would agree.

We have certainly have seen changes along our roadsides. I know that my parents have seen different changes than I have. In my lifetime we always had telephone poles one side of the road and power poles on the other side. Now the telephone lines are buried along the road side. I am not sure what our electric company has in mind but if it is in our best interest to have metal poles I am sure we will get them.

Another change along the roadways is a roadside park with potties. Even though they were not too grand they were nice to have if you felt the need. Those are pretty much a thing of the past. I understand why they were removed but they did serve a purpose. When I came home from Ruidoso a while back I traveled from Ruidoso to Roswell to Portales. From about 20 miles out of Ruidoso there are NO restrooms till you get about 100 miles to a little town of Elida. It is a looonnng way to go especially if you take your time saying your good-byes and drink about a pot of coffee before you leave. I would have given a million dollars for a roadside park with facilities or a quick stop or a large tree (and I do mean a very large tree) or anything.

My kids have been giving me a hard time on aging. Anything that I do not do just right they remind me I am not getting any younger. I don’t care what my temperature is- It is never the same as anyone else. Jennifer tells me that it is to be expected. Well, it is not expected by me. Then she says, “There you go getting all emotional.” I guess I deserve it since I tease my mom about dropping food on her blouse when she eats. When Jim took me out for my birthday I somehow got my lunch all over my blouse. Jim just chuckled and said, “Welcome to 47 - this is just the beginning”. Isn’t he the sweetest thing?

"Country Gal", The Western Star, June 6, 2006.

Most people have memories of their grandparents’ home. At my grandma and granddad's home they had a garden water tank. The windmill pumped water into a 55 gallon barrel then into a horse tank. This was called the garden tank as they could connect a garden hose to and water would trickle out for grandmas’ garden. From the top of garden tank there was a pipe that ran about 2 foot above the ground it went into the stock tank. In the garden tank grandma had a couple of goldfish. They are the only thing that I have been able to maintain. And do I have goldfish! They are not the original fish but I think that I got some fish from Shala Unruh. If I remember correctly she had got them from her Dad's horse tanks. He apparently had an over abundance of fish and they needed to thin out a few. I still have the garden tank, but no garden, and the other stock tank is still connected to the garden tank. The goldfish were in the garden tank and now the smaller fish have gone thru the pipe and into the stock tank below. Now I must thin out some fish I have several other tank that I can put them in. I just need the ‘want to’ to do it.

One summer Robert Beatty was spending quite a bit of time out at the grandparents’ farm. He is the son on Mildred Klingensmith Beatty, his grandmother was Bessie Klingensmith. He was about two years older than I was. It was terribly hot out and he decided that we needed to hop in the garden tank to cool off. Grandma said that we had to clean it out first. It took us the better part of the day but we got the worst of it. Then we jumped in the nice cold water. We thought we were pretty clever. After thinking on this for a while - We must not have cleaned the tank too good, as we had tadpoles swimming around us along with the goldfish. That was the first and last time I ever played in a tank.

When the kids were small I thought that I would be a good mother a get a little wading pool for them. I bought the water toys and told the kids how much fun they were going to have splashing around. I got the pool filled the pool with water in the morning so it would warm up by the afternoon. The kids were excited about playing in the water. They jumped in and then ‘they’ came. The wasps, yellow jackets, dragonflies and mosquitoes came in droves. They were swarming around the kids, dipping the water and just being a nuisance. Jeff hating anything with wings, this was not a good thing. They started to yell and cry and then it was over. So at our house a wading pool was not the thing to do. I see several people with the above ground pools and once in awhile you will see a horse tank in someone’s back yard. I sure hope that they have better luck than we did.

I might say that the tanks that I am talking about are metal tanks, not a hole in the ground. When I lived in Texas I heard people talk about those who had drowned in stock tank. I found this odd. Even though I have heard of children who had fallen in horse tanks and drown, but never grown adults. They were telling about a man who had met his demise in a stock tank, being curious I asked how tall he was, when I was told that the man was average height, I was confused. Then I asked if there was a reason why he could not just stand up. After a strange awkward silence I was told that a stock tank in Texas is what we call a pond. Sometimes I would look a lot more intelligent if I just kept my mouth shut.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, May 30, 2006.

Memorial Weekend has always been extra special to our family. I have a fear that my generation will not observe the tradition of decorating the graves of our loved ones. I can remember how my dad would take us to the cemetery to put flowers on his grandparents, parents and other friends and family graves. Dad would see some of his aunts, uncles and cousins and visit with them as long as he could. I liked to go with him, but as always, there is a down side. I never could remember which direction the grave was from the headstone. We would be wondering around and all of a sudden Dad would very nearly rip my arm out of its socket and tell me in a disgusted and disappointed voice to quit walking on the graves. He had a great respect for the dead and one just never - ever walked on top of someone. Even though I am all grown up with kids of my own I still wince just a little when I go to the cemetery and walk around.

When we would get done with the flowers and remembering those who have gone on before us we would go to the Veterans Building for the Alley Family Reunion. When I was a kid we had a large crowd. But now most of Alleys are now at Crown Hill. Even though our numbers are fewer we still have a great time together. I have some cousins who live in Greensburg, just 20 miles away and about the only time I get to see them is this weekend. It is not that we do not like each other; it’s just that we all have such a busy life. The reunion is a good time to catch up on every one. We get to hear how great grandchildren are and now this year I heard all about great-grandchildren. Some of you remember Jane and Gary Trummel; they are now great-grandparents. That makes their two sons, Mark and Kent granddaddies and their daughter Teresa, a grandma. I love to hear all of Jane’s stories of her grandbabies. Jane is not the only grandmother who has great stories, her sister Edith is a proud grandma, too. John and Linda Alley are a lot of fun as well. Edna May Riggs was here for the first time in several years it was good to see her. Edna May’s daughter Rhonda brought her to the reunion along with her daughter and two grandchildren. I think that their car ride from Pampa Texas was not dull; it looked like they were having a good time and making good memories.

I missed my brother and sister’s family not making it this year, but Virgil has gone to Wyoming to visit their daughter’ family. Pamela and David are expecting their second baby just any day now. And Vickie was here a couple of weeks ago.

The wonderful thing about the Alley Reunion is that the Alleys are great cooks or they married great cooks. We never go away hungry or usually without a new recipe to try. From what I have been told our Grandma Alley was a terrific cook among other things. I have heard stories about her and how tough she was but that is another story.

I hope that you had a good Memorial weekend with your friends and family.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, May 23, 2006.

Two weeks ago my sister Vickie and her husband Randy spent a few days with us. Randy went on to their home in Ruidoso, New Mexico, and left Vickie to visit with the understanding that I would bring her home in a couple of days. Last Tuesday I took Vickie home and I got to spend time with her family. Vickie and Randy’s life is anything but dull. They have 3 delightful grandsons under the age of 4 that are full of life. Each one is so very different and oh, so very busy. A friend of theirs who works at a toy store had a display of a wooden train set which was already put together permanently on a base. The company was sending them a new display and they were to dispose the old one. Their friend did not want to throw it in the trash; she thought of Vickie and Randy and their industrious grandsons and called them to come and pick it up. There is a little train station house, bridges, a flat car loader, a car wash -- and, when the train goes over the tunnel or thru the tunnel, it makes all kinds of sounds. The kids enjoyed it after I got done playing with it. I was impressed that they did not fuss at each other. I have always heard that 3 never play well together. My Grandma Cary said that one child was a whole child, 2 children were a ½ child and 3 were no children at all.

The little boys were not the only ones who had a good time. This past weekend just happened to be the motorcycle rally in Ruidoso and Randy just happens to have a Harley Davidson Motorcycle. There were over 5,000 motorcycles in town. There was every color, style and brand -- even one had a set of longhorns on the front. I was amazed at the different bikes and trikes and the people who rode them. Not everyone is thrilled over the bikes coming into town. Some folks leave town when the bikers start coming in.

Vickie has helped her church open a Thrift Store. The store is open on Thursday thru Saturday. On Friday, while she was at the Thrift Store, Randy took me for a ride on the motorcycle. Vickie just knew that we were going to die and I told her that I had all of my affairs in order and not to worry. I was, however, a little apprehensive,as I have been known to get car sick, seasick, and any other kind of motion sickness. Randy really should have been the one to be uneasy. But I happily found out that being on the back of a motorcycle is the only way to go. As a passenger you get the best of everything. You get to enjoy the scenery while the driver works as not only your chauffeur but as your personal bug guard. If it rains you have him in the front to take the worst of it. We went to Cloudcroft where the elevation is around eight thousand feet. I thought I was going to freeze, but I was prepared. Vickie let me wear her leather jacket and I was glad to have it. We went over 250 miles and had a great time. I can not believe how out of shape I am in. I got a little sore, but it was worth every ache. If you do not have a horse to ride, a motorcycle is the next best thing. Seeing all the fun you can have on a bike, it kind of gives you the bug to want one of your very own. I do not think that Jim has gotten bit by that particular bug and I do not see that even being an option.

Ruidoso is facing the same problem the rest of us are having. They are really dry. It is so dry that they have closed the forest. I did not think that you could close a whole forest, but they have. In that area you can not use your grill to cook. Gas, charcoal and no fire of any kind is allowed. Even those people who smoke must smoke in their cars with the windows rolled all the way up. If you are caught smoking with your window down, there is a hefty fine waiting for you pay. They are not to smoke anywhere outside. I guess if you live down there it might be a good time to quit smoking; it would be profitable in more than one way. So, this week, please remember to pray for moisture not only for our area but for all those who need it.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, May 16, 2006.

Our community has been stunned of the death of Rocky Green. He will be missed by so many. He had a positive affect on all those that knew him. He was a wonderful coach and teacher. He was a pleasure to visit with always had a smile and had a good word to say about anyone or anything. During football season, Rocky’s parents would come thru the admission gate that I worked at and sometimes Rocky’s Mom would give us a bag of cookies. I do not think they ever missed game he coached. You could tell that they were so proud of him. Our hearts and thoughts are with his wife, Jamie and his family.

We were sad to hear that Virgil Cummins passed away. I always liked to talk with Virgil he had a kind heart. Virgil loved auctions about as much as I do. When the School had sold walls and things out of the old grade school, Virgil and Jim bought quite a bit of the interior. They decided to join forces and work together. Virgil and Jim worked many hours together knocking down walls and pulling nails. He was entertaining and we enjoyed his company. We will miss him, too.

Years ago in a ‘Blondie and Dagwood’ comic strip- Dagwood was confused about all the strange things that happened while he was away at work. While I have been away, I have wondered about some incidents. Once Jim and I had a Great Dane, named Josh and when we would leave home, we made sure that the dog was outside. One day we had been in town and when we got back, the dog was inside the house and the panel of the storm door was lying on the floor. We had a few ideas what had transpired while we were away but nothing that we could prove. Would just like to know exactly what really did go on.

Another thing I would like to know-Down home the house was rearranged and messed up. It is hard to tell whether the damage was done by man or be beast. We know that part of the damage is beast as they have left their calling cards, if you know what I mean.

Here is one more thing that I would just love to know what happened. We have a windmill by the road and in the past few months the pipe spout has come unscrewed and the water then just pumps on the ground. Once the pipe had been set upright on the outside of the mill the other times the pipe is just laying in the ground. These kinds of things are enough to make you go “HUH”.

I have thought that it would be fun to put up a camera to see what does happen while we are away. Perhaps we if we put up cameras around our pastures and empty homes and barns we could see just what is going on. If nothing else we might be able to answer the age-old question- If tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it fall does it make a noise?

"Country Gal", The Western Star, May 2, 2006.

Everyone has a favorite hobby to do in their spare time. Some like to play golf or cards or some kind of needle work or maybe just going to the coffee shop to see what is going on. At my grandmas house she did jigsaw puzzles. Granddad would try to help and get disgusted and suggest that he could use his pocket knife to make some of the pieces to fit. Granddad collected rocks, polished them and made jewelry. He just loved sawing a rock in two just to see what it looked like inside. He enjoyed giving them away as much as he did making the rings, bracelets, and necklaces.

My mom took up drawing and painting when we all left home. I guess she needed to peace and quiet to concentrate. As it turns out she was very good. She also liked to make doll clothes. Later on she started to do crossword puzzles, which just drove Dad nuts. I have found there are two kinds of people in this world, those who like to do crossword puzzles and those who do not. Dad and Jim definitely did not. They did not even like for Mom and I to do them when they were in the room. I like to do them right before I would go to sleep. One night as I grabbed my puzzle I found that it had letters in the boxes had been filled in. They were not words, mind you; just letters, and in some boxes there were more than one letter. As I was looking at it, trying to figure out what had happened to my puzzle, I heard a little snicker. Jim said that it looked like my puzzle is already done; Jim thinks he is sooo funny.

Now Mom is currently working on jigsaw puzzles. We got her a couple of unique puzzles for Christmas. She got one done with the help of the Spence kids at the Spence Family Christmas. Now she is working on the last one we gave her. It looked really different as it came with its own frame, glue and hanger so you can hang the puzzle when it is completed. The only kicker is - it is nearly impossible to do. She has gotten lots of help from her neighbors, Janis Allen and Darlene Caraway. I understand that there are plans to call in more reinforcements this week. With any luck it should be completed by next week at this time. I helped her little it is difficult and frustrating, maybe Granddad had the right idea, now where did that pocket knife go?

"Country Gal", The Western Star, April 25, 2006.

A little over a week ago I had a new experience. I got to watch my neighbors burn a CRP field. It was amazing to see how everything works. Those guys are really organized and know what they are doing. That was really a good thing as if it was left up to me I would either burn little tiny patches or burn from here to the Mississippi River depending on the wind. They needed someone to be a ‘gofer’. I thought surely I could do that, but as usual I was out of harmony and slightly unbalanced as my harmonic balancer went out on the Dodge pick-up. If you do not know what a harmonic balancer is, it is extremely important; your vehicle will not operate without it. When I told Jim, he said, “Well, what do ya know, never had one of those go out before.” This did not surprise me at all since unusual things happen to me all the time what did shock me is that Jim has lived with me for over 28 years and he has not gotten used to me tearing up things that are odd. Now that I finally found the part getting it in will be another grand adventure I am sure.

Watching the guys burn reminded me of when we had fires when I was growing up. Someone would call Dad and tell him that there was a fire to put out. Where we lived it was usually lightening that started it. He would run out of the house and get a bunch of gunny sacks and put them in the horse tank and he grabbed some 5 gallon buckets of water put the sacks in the buckets. Then he would either take off or someone would pick him up and off they would go to fight fire. I remember that Mom was a little concerned but we just went on with whatever we were doing. It seemed like it always happened at night and when we would look outside sometimes we could see the glow of the fire and we could watch it die down, then we would have an idea that Dad might be on his way home.

I was so thankful for the rain Sunday night. I hope everyone remembered to give thanks to the Good Lord. As I am writing it is looking like rain and I sure hope God sees fit to let us have another nice shower.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, April 18, 2006.

I have been to Ozona, Texas. My purpose for leaving home was to cook for turkey hunters. This was my second time to be down there. Last year it was green and probably about as pretty as it could be, but this year was a different story. They are in need of rain. The wind and the dirt blew and it was hot, last year I about froze to death. Once or twice the sky would build up like it was going to rain and it would even lightening but no rain.

It is so dry that the sheep and goats can not make it back to feed or water. About the second day 3 of the hunters came in with a little baby Billy goat. They said that they were on top of a peak and found a dead nanny with a baby and a ewe sheep and two babies’ dead and this one was being attacked by vultures and when that baby saw the guys he came a running and jumped in their arms. So they brought him into camp. I poked a hole in a finger of a new cleaning glove, and put some warmed milk in an empty water bottle, put the finger of the glove over the top of the bottle and he was a ‘happy camper’. When I asked the owner about the orphans he told me that if we would happen on to any more that we could take them home with us. He explained that since it costs more to feed and raise the little orphan than they can get for it at the market it is not worth the time and trouble. He did tell me that he used to give away all of his orphans but people would go out and find a baby curled up asleep and they thought that it was an orphan when in fact, it was a baby that the mother had left for just a short while. So he said he had to quit letting people take babies when he came up with bawling ewes and nannies. . This man owned several sections of rough and rocky land and it would be impossible to check on each and every goat, sheep and cow. I had given the baby the men had found to the hired man and he took him and was concerned and asked where the guys had found him. His kindness made me feel better.

The last day, one of the hunters bought in a baby nanny goat. The baby had been crying for her mother for three a days. The hunter could not take hearing the little thing cry any longer and bought it in for us to feed. I brought her home and found a good home for her. She was so cute and traveled better than most kids. (I made a funny, get it, kids.) Taking care of those little babies brought back memories, when we were raising sheep and goats. And Dad telling me not to over feed the lambs as too much milk would kill them. One year we had 13 orphaned lambs that we raised.

One of the guides brought in a six foot diamondback rattlesnake. They usually do not kill them, but this one was cranky and attempted to strike him, so the snake had to go. He brought the snake to camp and then when every one had seen it he left it coiled up by the gate where I passed several times a day. I told him that his dead snake had startled me a few times and asked if he could move it. He was very nice about it and he did move it, to a plastic bag and put it in the freezer as he has plans to have it made into a belt. At least it was not a clear plastic bag, but it did give me the shivers every time I opened the freezer.

It was so nice to come back and see green. So again I am happy to be home right here in Comanche County. Mom and I have always said this is the limit of our endurance. We can not take it any colder- hotter- wetter- drier; you get the idea. There is no place like home.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, April 4, 2006.

Easter Season is here again. This time of year is endearing to me. Do you remember when this was when we bought our white shoes? And new spring dresses with a bonnet and white gloves. Oh, Easter was wonderful. We got to boil eggs and decorate them, take them to school and some of the older kids would hide them and we would have an Easter egg hunt. Sometimes some of the kids did not boil there eggs and we would have leakage, if you know what I mean.

At our house we never ate the eggs I have heard that many people did eat their colorful eggs. But Mom was not fond of the idea. On Easter Morning the Easter Bunny would have been at our house and hid the eggs that we had colored. Then we would have such fun in looking for the eggs and a few little extra things would be hidden as well. After that we were off to church. This is where the new dress, bonnet, purse, shoes and white gloves came into play. My Grandma Cary always said that our dresses should be purple. One year Grandma and I had dresses made of the same purple material. I was so proud to match her. When church was over we would go to Uncle David’s, our house, or the Grandparents house for a wonderful meal we would alternate each year. When Jim and I were first married we went to Uncle David’s and Aunt Theo’s home for Easter Dinner. Aunt Theo always had a good dinner prepared and there was a bunch of us. Jim said that she always had something exotic to eat. But exotic to Jim was duck or lamb. Aunt Theo always had 2 meats- something like chicken or beef and then something a little different. And that was exotic to Jim, but it pleased her to know that Jim thought she was a good cook. So this year I wish you all a HAPPY EASTER and to all you kids good luck in finding those eggs.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, March 28, 2006.

My family is upset with the dogs in our family. Many years ago Jeff rescued a lab cross puppy out of the dog pound. We named him Mutt so we had Mutt and Jeff roaming out in the pastures and doing whatever a boy and his dog might do. Since Jeff was a Calvin and Hobbes fan he had lots of ideas, most of them were: let’s say creative. I could say more but I just do not have enough time right now to tell you about it. Mutt, on the other hand, was a little more helpful. Jack, the old dog that we had taught the pup how the kill raccoons and skunks. Now before all of you nature lovers get excited, the coons were a real problem and I do not think we put much of a dent in the population. The dogs just got part of the ones that were doing what they should not be doing. So Mutt was a wonderful asset to our family. The problem started with Mutt attempting to howl with the coyotes. He is not very good. He makes the most horrible noise than you can imagine. The howling goes as long as the coyotes howl. Even the neighbors have heard him from their home.

We took in Mom's dog, Billy who barks at everything and anything. The big thing with him is thunder, not that we have had a lot of that lately, but when it does he will chase the thunder all over the place. If thunder could be caught Billy would have had it. He has not gotten the knack of howling but he can out bark any wild animal. You would think that they would get hoarse from all of the noise they create.

Now that I got the Great Dane, Jake, Mutt has taken on the task of teaching Jake how to howl as well. Mutt should know that are some things that must not be passed on; howling and moaning is one of them. Jennifer makes sure that the Dane is in the house before she has her first attempt to sleep since he does not howl in the house, yet. Mutt could come in but since he is getting on in years instead of killing skunks he just annoys them at the front door of the house and of course he gets quite smelly not to mention the front door. I do not know if you realize that when a skunk sprays, if hits vinyl siding it is the most awful yellow oil that is almost impossible to remove. Jim and I have been trying to get it off but it is just terrible. If you come to my front door you will not want to stay long.

We do love our dogs but just like anything else they can be real stinkers.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, March 21, 2006.

When our kids got out of school I thought that the need for a mini-van was over. I was sadly mistaken. Now that we have a pair of Great Danes the need has returned. You may ask why. Well, if you ever hauled a pair of Danes in the back-seat of your car you would understand. It was just like when the kids were little. Jennifer went with me to take the dogs to Hutchinson the see Doc Lindsay. Josie, the female Dane, stretches out across the back seat with leaves little room for the male, Jake. One the reasons Jennifer went along is because Jake still thinks he is a lap dog. He is now over 100 pounds and since my lap is dimishing I do not have room for him especially if I am driving. Josie rides much better but Jake wants the window up then he wants it down, he is sitting on Josie or he is sticking his head in the back window, or he tries to stretch out on the floor in the back. It was certainly an interesting ride. We were really tired when we got home. Now I understand people who have dog trailers and special ways to transport their animals. It is not just for the comfort of the people it is for the comfort of the dog as well.

This incident sort of reminded me of when Dad and I hauled our lambs to market. Mom stayed home and prayed. We had to take them to the train in Maize, Kansas. It was extremely exciting as we never went to the Wichita area often. And we got to eat in a restaurant; if memory serves we ate in Attica. We did not eat out often and hardly ever just Dad and me. The down side was that we were in the pick-up, which is a wonder that we made it, which was one of the many reasons Mom was praying. The sheep were loaded in the stock racks in the bed of the pick up, this was before we had trailers. Dad would put one layer of lambs on the floor of the stock racks then he would put a floor of boards on top of them then another layer of lambs, I think we ended up with three layers of lambs. We were quite a sight to see. People would pass us and honk or pull us over as we had a lamb with his leg hanging out or it appeared that we were about to lose our load, which would not have been impossible. We terrorized most of the towns that we went through. It seemed like it took us four hours to get to Maize. We had to leave early in the morning as we had to meet the train on time and we certainly did not want to miss the train. We made it thanks to Moms prayers and it was a great father and daughter time. I think now days they call it quality time. It seems that we had a lot of that. I have a few more stock rack stories but that is another column or two.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, March 14, 2006.

It is St. Patrick’s Day again. Did your family have any traditions? We did not have anything that we did every year but I remember one year when my grandma put out her garden. This was at a time in our life when things were not the best as my granddad was confused and I think Grandma needed the garden to give her something else to think about. I think she must have been in her eighties and Dad called Charlie Lenertz to plow up her garden for her. Charlie had a little Ford tractor and it was small enough to get in her garden spot and her garden was large enough to require more horse power than we could muster to dig it up with a spade. It made easy work until I found out that we had to smooth it up with rakes. That was not so easy. But I was kind of a whiner, I know that is hard to believe but fact is stranger than fiction.

The plowing needed to be done by early March as Grandma said that we had to plant the potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day by the light of the moon. And we did. It is a fond memory that I have thinking about Mom, Dad, Grandma and I out in the garden in light of the moon planting all those potatoes. It seems that we planted two or three rows of spuds.

When I moved back I thought that I could carry on the Cary garden. That is when I discovered that I have not only one black thumb but two. I tried to garden like Grandma but I had to learn that there was only one Alta Cary. Grandma not only had a vegetable garden she also had two or three flower beds. I tried but I just can not get it done. I would like to blame the grasshoppers but I think it is more than bugs. I bet Alta could have outsmarted them. In the spring I just want to plant everything. Oh I get big ideas, this is the year for a nice big garden, then when it gets hot and the harvest winds start to blow it loses its appeal. I think there is a word for that but I would rather not hear it.

It was a sad day when I heard on the news that Don Knotts had died. Don Knotts brought a lot of joy and happiness too many people. He was a wonderful ‘Barney Fife’. One of my favorite lines was “nip it- nip it in the bud.” He will truly be missed.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, February 28, 2006.

My family is upset with the dogs in our family. Many years ago Jeff rescued a lab cross puppy out of the dog pound. We named him Mutt so we had Mutt and Jeff roaming out in the pastures and doing whatever a boy and his dog might do. Since Jeff was a Calvin and Hobbs fan he had lots of ideas, most of them were: let’s say creative. I could say more but I just do not have enough time right now to tell you about it. Mutt on the other hand was a little more helpful. Jack, the old dog that we had taught the pup how the kill raccoons and skunks. Now before all of you nature lovers get excited, the coons were a real problem and I do not think we put much of a dent in the population. The dogs just got part of the ones that were doing what they should not be doing. So Mutt was a wonderful asset to our family. The problem started with Mutt attempting to howl with the coyotes. He is not very good. He makes the most horrible noise than you can imagine. The howling goes as long as the coyotes howl. Even the neighbors have heard him from their home.

We took in Moms dog, Billy who barks at everything and anything. The big thing with him is thunder, not that we have had a lot of that lately, but when it does he will chase the thunder all over the place. If thunder could be caught Billy would have had it. He has not gotten the knack of howling but he can out bark any wild animal. You would think that they would get hoarse from all of the noise they create.

Now that I got the Great Dane, Jake, Mutt has taken on the task of teaching Jake how to howl as well. Mutt should know that are some things that must not be passed on; howling and moaning is one of them. Jennifer makes sure that the Dane is in the house before she has her first attempt to sleep since he does not howl in the house, yet. Mutt could come in but since he is getting on in years instead of killing skunks he just annoys them at the front door of the house and of course he gets quite smelly not to mention the front door. I do not know if you realize that when a skunk sprays, if hits vinyl siding it is the most awful yellow oil that is almost impossible to remove. Jim and I have been trying to get it off but it is just terrible. If you come to my front door you will not want to stay long.

We do love our dogs but just like anything else they can be real stinkers.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, February 21, 2006.

Have you ever thought about trash? I say that we have way too much. You know when you drive by other peoples homes and everything is just perfect. No trash-no junk lying around, no signs of pets, or anything out of place. And to top it off the inside of their homes are just as flawless. I wonder if any of those people sleep. I guess I am just a slob. There are certainly more ambitious people than me. But what I want to know are they happy? I know they must be exhausted, and when I get that tired I am cranky. So do you think that neat and tidy folks are miserable? There must be a down side to perfection.

The one reason that I like snow is that it is the one time that the outside of my house is just as pretty as it is anywhere else. It is like when my Granddad Cary would put on wallpaper, he would say that new wallpaper covers a multitude of sins. That is how I feel about a nice DEEP snow. I just do not know how to keep ahead of garbage. I cannot believe how much there is. Everything that you do creates trash.

I can remember that my grandma would wash and rewash her foil, plastic bags, even bread sacks. She had a miniature clothesline over her kitchen sink, after she washed her dishes she would recycle her way. She had a use for almost anything and everything. She did not have the garbage that we have today. But the garbage they did have, they burned. We are not suppose to burn our trash now, especially since it is so dry, but we use to burn everything. Most of us had places where we would dump our trash barrels or just something that would not burn.

That was the first time I can remember driving. It was Virgil’s job to haul our burned out trash barrels off. He would let me go with him and, if I remember correctly, we did not have a driver’s door on the pick-up and I do not think that the floorboard was much better, so I sat in his lap and he would let me steer the pick-up. Virgil was a great brother; we had a lot of fun together.

It was exciting to go through your old trash piles or someone else’s. Sometimes you would find something that you might want back. If you could find one of those holes now, you might find all kinds of treasures. Some of the treasures you could put on e-bay and sell it for more than it cost you when it was new and in working order.

I can tell you that people will buy anything. Since Jennifer has been here she has shown me the fun of the internet. We were just looking around the net and she wanted to know what kind of cats you can buy. We found Bengal cats. They are small domesticated Tigers. The thing that got me was the price. Those silly cats were selling from $1,200 to $12,000. I think we are all in the wrong business.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, February 14, 2006.

I have come an important conclusion. I should not have a more than 11 cows in one pasture, absolutely no more than 30. I have found that I have a terrible time counting. It gets very frustrating I count my cows and thinking that I have one missing, so I drive all over the pasture looking for one stretched out and can not find anything. This gets exasperating and with the price of gas it is expensive, then I go back to the herd and count again and find that they are all there. I would like to think that while I went off to look for the straggler she came in behind me. Or as I am counting I am looking out the window that will not go down, while not running over the baby calves who just love to get in front of me, while trying figure out if there is one or more cows behind the bull that stands in the most difficult position. Sometimes I think that Dad was right about those devils sitting on the fence posts. I am not a multi-purpose gal. I have also learned that is essential to string the feed in one line, when you feed in two or three lines the cows are inconsiderate and will not stay in one line, no, they move all around.

I have a framed picture that was Jim’s dads, it was an old calendar, it is entitled ‘Short Cut’. It is a cowboy on horseback counting the Hereford cows going out a pasture gate. The cows are just pouring out and the dirt is flying, but behind him the fence is down and there are cows spilling out the hole, so his count will not be correct.

Sometimes when I look at it, I think that is just about the way life goes. Even when you are doing the best you can and what needs to be done, nothing is for certain. One time my mom asked Keith Marsh if he felt secure with his job. He told her that the only thing that he was secure in was the Lord.

Other times I remember that Dad liked this picture. He thought it looked like Jims dad, Vernon, Dad would talk to the picture and say, “Vernon, your count will be off”. Then he would just laugh.

When we worked cattle for the other ranchers you knew that the day was almost over when we took the cows back to pasture and two cowboys would get on each side of the gate, we would slow the herd down as they wanted to get an accurate count as to what went back in. It was great when both of them got the same number. I was always glad to be in the back and not the counter. I have one neighbor that is gifted with counting. He gets a perfect tally almost every time. Sometimes I think it might be easier to count their feet and divide by 4.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, February 7, 2006.

Sunday evening Jennifer and I had decided to watch the Super Bowl. It is not because we like football it is because we like the commercials and the half time show. We have not watched one game on TV all season long so we were not excited about the game itself just what would come with it. In the future, I would not recommend this type of approach. It makes the football game last forever and it just does not work. We thought the commercials were sadly lacking and were not up to Super Bowl standards. We did like the Fed Ex cave man the best. We have been told that we have a sadistic sense of humor, which is probably true, since in the commercial the caveman was squished by a dinosaur. We thought the half-time show might be good after all, it was the Rolling Stones. I thought they looked so old, I just kind of felt sorry for them. I should not be critical of them since Mick Jagger said that they could have sung at the first Super Bowl 40 years ago. Not many bands are still together after 40 years. Jennifer has gotten me hooked on watching Grey’s Anatomy and it was continued which really depressed us so our Sunday evening was a little disappointing.

Jim came home at end of Super Bowl, he and his brother, John, had gone to Tulsa to see their mom. Donna is taking radiation treatments for the next 5 weeks.

It is that time of year again. Skunk season. I guess every farm has its problems. When I was growing up we had rattlesnakes but that was about it. Here we have wasps, bumblebees, grasshoppers, skunks and raccoons. I am not trying to tell you that we did not have these where I grew up but, as I remember not in excess. I have an excess of these varmints. The bumblebees worry me, as I am allergic to them. I think that I have every kind of wasp or mud dauber there is. However, the skunks are something else entirely. The skunks are so very busy and our dogs are so very stinky. I would like to know why my dogs chase the skunks to the house and corner them against the house, and annoy them so they will spray and smell up the entire house. I have tried to explain it to the dogs that you chase the varmints AWAY from the house not towards the house. Once I went to leave the house and they had a skunk trapped at the front door. That was just great. Our dog, Mutt, who has helped in the skunk department is getting old and just gets things stirred up. However, I have to remember I am not as good as I once was (I think there is a song for that) so I should be happy that he is trying to teach the new dog how to handle those smelly little creatures. So far, the skunks are 4 and the dogs are 0. I think we might need reinforcements.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, January 31, 2006.

This week we have been on the road. It seems that once you make plans, something else comes along to add to them. We had planned to go to Tulsa to visit with Jim’s mom, Donna, as she is there for more tests. We were to leave on Friday, so I got the feeding done, I had some things to do at the church, the rental house was having some problems we had to check out, had a low tire had it changed to find out that one tire was ruined and the other back tire had two nails in it. That meant we needed to buy two new tires. We finally got on the road a little after, 4:00. We got to Tulsa in good shape had a nice visit with Donna. Before we left we found out that Jim's uncle, Alvin Blundell, passed away. His service was to be in Ulysses and the burial in Springfield, Colorado, on Monday morning.

While we were waiting for the service to start one of the pastors looked familiar. I kept looking at her and I told Jim that I thought I knew her, Jim was not as sure. When the service was over I got a chance to visit with her and I was right I knew her, it was Suzie Woods. Suzie and Jack lived here for a few years. Jack worked at the Peoples Bank. Suzie is a pastor at a church in Walsh Colorado. You never know who you will see when you leave town. Suzie said to say hello to everyone so ‘Hello’ from the Woods Family.

Jim’s dad, Vernon is one of seven children 5 boys and 2 girls and this is the first sibling to pass away. He has lost one brother-in-law, Hank Eds. That is amazing that they all lived to see their children grow up and enjoy grandchildren. All families should be so lucky. The oldest son, Carl James, was born premature and they put him in a shoe box and kept him in the warmer of the stove. That was before you had babies in hospitals with all of the medical staff and equipment. The warmer was not entirely successful, but he did survive. I told Vernon that his mother must have been a great woman. She passed away in 1965 in a flood.

I cannot imagine having that many children. Having seven children means that poor woman was pregnant for 63 months. That is 5 years and 3 months of morning sickness, mood swings, food cravings, water retention just to name a few. Now most of you men may not think that is so bad unless your wife gets a little testy during that time. I know Jim would not go through it again as there were a couple of times his life was truly in jeopardy. My sister had a dog once that when she was expecting her litter of pups she would, if she could, lure a cat into her pen and would rip off the cat’s heads and play with it. That pretty much explains my attitude with my last child, who now we know as Jeff. So that would be why we only have two kids. Now you know the rest of the story whether you wanted to know or not.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, January 24, 2006.

We were sad to hear that we lost George Thompson this past week. George was a good guy. He was the kind of person when you asked how he was he would tell you the truth. Most of the time he would say he was fair.

There are two kinds of people in this world. Some who love yard sales and those who have either yard sales or who do not attend yard sales. George and I are in the first category. We love yard sales. You could always depend on George being at a garage sale or auction. It is a sickness, I know, but it is what makes us happy. Finding a good bargain is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. I do not know if George ever knew about e-Bay. Boy that is a completely new experience on so many different levels. You can buy stuff from China and all over the world. Jennifer is hooked on e-Bay. She introduced me and you can find almost anything you want or there are things that you have never heard of and have no idea what it does, but you can buy it. Jim has not said anything yet, but he is keeping his eye on us. Jims only saving grace is that he has never let me have a credit card so that slows the e-Bay thing down. He is a smart man.

This week has not gone by without incident. I bought some furniture with my Christmas money and we went up to get it on Sunday. We decided to take the Dodge pickup as it looks the best and is the most comfortable to ride in. But and there is always a but, I have been having some problems with the bale bed. It would not turn on. I thought it was the switch, Jim bought a switch and put it in, still did not work. So it must be in the wiring. Oh how I hate wiring problems! You never know where the problem is and it is always in the most difficult place to work on. Well, we got the bale bed to work just enough that the arms were in there proper place. So we were happy, thinking that when we get home we can address the problem later. Jennifer decides to drive the old people, Jim and me, besides she has not had a chance to drive this vehicle. We get just out side of Medicine Lodge and Jennifer says that there is something smelling hot. We told her that we have smelled that before but it goes away after awhile. We had not gone but a couple more miles and she says that there is smoke, this is something new. You know the saying, “where there is smoke there is fire”. I know this is very true, as I have burned up one pick-up because of a faulty heater, so smoke inside the cab of the pick-up gets my attention quickly. She pulls over and we start looking for the source of the smoke. Luckily, it was the wiring to the bale bed that ran along the side of the driver’s door. We took care of it rather quickly and were back on the road with out further complications.

This new bale beds are so nice and takes the work out of feeding as long as every thing is working the way it is suppose to. It seems you must keep at least one or two extra pick-ups around just so you will have something to drive.

I heard from my dear friend Linda Winter and she is progressing along fine. They had first thought that she had had a stroke but that is not what she had at all. She is having some back problems and is getting therapy. We had a good visit and I am anxious to see her and Dan when they come back.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, January 10, 2006.

The weather has been so nice that when I had a flat tire down home, it did not seem so bad. As I was changing the tire Terry Litwiller was nice enough to stop and help me with the jack. The jack was what came with the pick-up. The handle that turns the jack up is so flimsy that it bows as you are cranking. It could have been irritating but I was not in a hurry to get anywhere and I had just finished feeding the cows it was not big deal. It is nice that we live in an area that when you have trouble that someone will stop and help you out. As we were changing the tire it reminded me of how upset Dad got with the jacks and how hard they are to use. He would get a little frustrated with trying to them to work and sometimes it would get ugly.

Monday is Martin Luther King Holiday. We have all kinds of holidays, but I think that there are some important people who have never got the recognition they deserve. Just think of all of those people who have made our lives so much easier. Like the guy who invented the air conditioner, or the guy who invented the washer machine. What about the fellow who figured out the windmill. I bet it was a guy who got real tired of hauling water.

Jennifer thinks the guy who invented ibuprofen and the tissues with the lotion deserves his own federal holiday. She has been puny this past week so fever reducers and cold medicine has been an important issue. I was thinking how nice it was as I went out to feed that I was washing and drying a load of clothes and the dishwasher was running while I got into the pick-up with the bale loader on it. What I was doing in a couple of hours it took my grandmother and granddad all day, and it was a hard day’s work.

I know that we have sent a man to the moon and done all kinds of scientific things, but surely someone could come up with a better and easier way to do sheet rock work. That is truly one of the worst jobs to do as far as construction goes.

The man or whoever invented the fax machine was certainly much smarter than me, but what on earth ever possessed him to figure it out.

"Country Gal", The Western Star, January 3, 2006.

Happy New Year. One way one can tell you are getting older is how you celebrate Christmas and the New Year. When your kids are all grown and with no grandchildren with all of their excitement something just seems to be missing. As a child, New Years Eve was something I thought was kind of magical. When Bernard Plumb was our minister, we always had a New Years Eve party. We played all kinds of games with the adults. Everyone had a great time, and then when the New Year was here, Janice Plumb and her brothers Phillip, Bruce and Mark, and I along with the other kids would run out outside and ring the church bell. That was quite a chore as there was no rope to pull; we had to get it to swinging for it to ring. I am not quite sure how we accomplished that; the boys must have done most of the work. Then Mr. Plumb would let us pile in the back of their station wagon equipped with hand bells and he would drive around town while we would ring our bells and yelling Happy New Year. I think we only did that once as there might have been some complaints. Now this year Jim and I stayed home, could not find anything on television we wanted to see so we turned in early and greeted the New Year all rested and ready to go to church. One lady I was talking to was telling me about how they used to go to parties all evening but with the laws changing on drinking and driving, it has changed the way people celebrate. The law did not affect us in our party plans but it did make me think that perhaps the laws have made this time of year safer for all of us.

I received word from Dan Winter that Linda was having some health problems. They are in Arizona visiting Linda’s mom, Vivian Ruth, and her sister Sue Gaddis. Dan has family there as well, so they are having a good time. But that goes without saying as Dan and Linda bring fun and laughter wherever they go. Since both sides of their family are musical they have a wonderful time getting together and enjoying each others talents. Linda is a great friend and I hope that she gets to feeling better. In life friends and family are important otherwise we would be very lonely. So maybe a good New Year's resolution would be to mend any family differences and to make new friends as one can never have too much of a good thing.

Thanks to author Vanita (White) Blundell and publisher Dennies Anderson of the The Western Star for permission to reprint this column!

Vanita Blundell is also the Stage Manager and Program Director for The Wilmore Opry.

Vanita Blundell at the Wilmore Opry, 7 May 2005, Comanche County, Kansas.

Photo by Dave Rose.

Vanita Blundell at the Wilmore Opry, 7 May 2005, Comanche County, Kansas.

Photo by David Rose.

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