Monday, August 31, 2009

A Sunday Drive

The last few years organized tractor rides have become quite popular. Someone sponsors it, puts out the message and a bunch of old duffs on even older tractors show up and tour the area, some even stretch out into two dayers.

The local Elks lodge has been putting one on for several years, as it is held on a Sunday which was my day to take care of the folks I always missed it arriving back in town about the same time they were dispersing.

With the folks now gone there was nothing holding me back, I plunked down my thirty bucks and spent Saturday afternoon building a bracket for the back of my tractor so I could carry some essentials, tools, extra clothing, a chain, along with me.

Sunday morning came after a restless nights sleep.

When I am doing something special I think Dad would enjoy or approve of I like to wear something of his. Today seemed to be one of those day's, I put on one of his old plaid shirts,his big gold truckers ring and lastly his good brown leather jacket. I felt great.

6:30 found me airing tires, checking fluids and packing up. Half way to the Elks I ducked into a convenience store and picked up a pair of cheap brown jersey gloves.

Having forgot when it started and always in fear of missing events I arrived early, lots of banter as the other participants arrived. All interesting people. Of special note was the fellow from Kossuth county with the 504 International. Most tractor affectionadoes strive for stock, although, with the newer paints many look much shinier then the day Grandpa hauled them home.

This one stood out, on top of a super paint job this fellow had chromed everything he could get to the plater's, not cheap chrome either, deep deep chrome, big bolts, big nuts, little nuts, carb linkage, the supports for his umbrella, if he could get it off it was plated.

Next was his tandem Alum. trailer, he sanded and buffed the entire trailer until it was shinier then a proud truckers set of front buds.

Then there was the tow car, a two tone green 56 Dodge or Plymouth four door, push button trans, little three hundred something CI V8, again, over the top perfect. Chrome,what else, Cragers, couple of ever so small flames on the frt. fenders.

I wondered to myself what his shop looked like? His pickup? His other tractors? His dog? Did the man ever sleep? Did he buy his Mothers and McGuire's in 55 gallon barrels?

Moving on the other stand out tractor was a 43 MM R from Jackson Mn. with the factory cab, one slick nickel. Not only sharp but on this rather cool day I envied the man his cab.

Brunch was served followed by take off, I was in the first flight of fifteen the other two groups leaving at ten minute intervals. First off was a run thru our local state park then south to Lost Island Lake via blacktop roads. Courtesy dictates we travel no faster then the slowest tractor, which thankfully is not as bad as it could be as most pick a fast mount. Fast in this case being a relative term, one of the old boys had a little Ford equipped with a GPS, at the days end he proudly announced we posted a 11 MPH average speed.

Having gone five miles our convoy came to a stop, nobody seemed panicked, being at the rear I worked my way forward on foot to see what was broke and if I could be of assistance, turns out couple of the guys had to visit a cornfield and get rid of their coffee.

Bernie was in our group with his little B. I kid him a lot at tractor pulling time but but he takes his beating well and I have grown to like him, he has had many health problems, heart trouble ect. but always bounces back. He is quite proud of his little B as it has a aftermarket road gear allowing him to travel twenty if the need arises. We slowly make our way to Lost Island.

Following the flight leader we all pull into the lot of a resort at the lake, my good friend Dave and his wife and kids are standing there watching us dismount, I go over to visit, they have just finished their family vacation and are loading up to leave. Our visit is interrupted when fearless flight leader discovers we are in the wrong place and we all have to remount, fire up and travel another mile or so down the road.

Finally arriving we stumble from our tractors to drink pop, eat cookies and chips and make use of the restrooms. I walk around checking out the rest of the tractors spotting a nice MM UB. Oddly there are 48 tractors and not an Oliver in the bunch.

Fed and de-watered we climb up and head out, nice drive around the north end of the lake, many lake homes and everyone seems to be out on the back stoop to wave at us. Another mile and a half and we are back in the country homeward bound working our way through sloughs and government ground.

Tractor ride participants for the most part don't like gravel roads, flight leader had joked to one fellow we had one mile of them enroute. He lied, we had eleven. I don't mind them, even prefer them, certainly those traveling by car that had to work their way thru us would prefer we had used them exclusively. I had to wonder though as we wandered back how the fellow with the 504 felt about it.

County gravel roads are A,B or C. Most are A meaning they get regular maintenance and plowing, A roads are not marked as such, you are safe to assume an unmarked road receives normal plowing and work and offers no unwelcome surprises. Perhaps ten percent of the roads are marked B, these have no one living on them and receive no plowing and minium work, expect some surprises, in particular in the winter or very wet weather.

C roads are few and receive nothing, they are simply a right of way, many no doubt once held a couple of farms in their arms back when a family could scrabble a living off 80 or 160 acres. Now they are just there, barely, a couple of ruts stumbling between fields. We drove right by a peach of one, it beckoned me, take the road less traveled Roy it seemed to say. I badly wanted to wanted to turn off, to see what lay down it.

And therein lies my rub with organized tractor pulls, as pretty the country, as nice the day, your line dancing, move out of line, and, your out of line.

I finished the ride OK, 48 miles the Ford guys GPS said. Everyone is looking forward to next year, me, I am thinking of putting a double wide seat on my home built and just me and Rose taking a little cruise, I know right were that C road is waiting.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pulling the Rock- 09

Again how good it felt to be on the road in my old 88 Chevy homebuilt tractor in tow. Rose was occupied with a family reunion but 11 year old Briana was game and welcome company. We stopped at Cheryl and Rogers place to pickup second cousin Jordan, a happier bunch never graced the cab of the old Chevy. Grins and high hopes all around.

Learning from past mistakes we arrived early, I always get butterfly's though the stakes are rather low for me, at worst I bust and have to push back onto the trailer. This year is no different, I weigh in, 3230, sign up for two pulls, thirty bucks. Lot of pullers, nice crowd, weather is perfect, dry and cool. I pace, visit with some old friends. My sister Laura arrives along with nephew Travis and husband Darold, and lunch. Offered a sandwich or cookie I decline and continue to pace. I warm up the engine, if they had a drivers meeting I missed it. 3500 lb class is first off, I can not find the order posted, a modified B John Deere makes a run, sled looks tough to break loose but he has a good pull once rolling. I finally find I am pulling last in my first class and then coming right back to pull the second time.

I study every pull and find all have trouble breaking the sled loose but once free all make it to mid track and a couple make full pulls. I back up to the sled , they drop the hook into my clevice, I check for the uptenth time to be sure I am in low range then pull the slack out of the chain, I watch the starter, the flag goes from red to green. , I ease out the clutch, rev the engine, front tires lift everything strains, Damn but that sled is heavy, ten foot out and I am hooked up and on the gas.

The track feels a little loose I detect some slippage and am drifting right, dang I hate to lift but if I don't I am going out of bounds, I ease off just enough for the frt. tires to get some dirt and and ease back to the center, to my great surprise I get straightened up in good shape. Giving it the gas I can feel the big wheels churn and she pulls right again so I back off slightly playing with the throttle keeping just enough power on to hold to the track and not bust loose.

I have never had a track like this before, it is wonderful. If I go wide open the tires churn and I start to drift right, by just playing with the gas and keeping the right balance of power I can pull the load and keep everything straight. My straight pipe belies every move I make on the gas, I feel like I am playing a saxophone, what a pretty tune. The pull seems to last forever, like I am stuck in a good dream which just keeps on going, I look down and see the big tires turning, can see the slippage when I give even a tad more throttle then they will hold, everything is in slow motion, and perfect.

At two hundred feet it starts to pull down, no nuances now I bury the pedal and the motor screams the high notes as the front wheels wag up into the air. At 208 I the flag goes red and I ease it down..

Second hook was same although we were able to stretch it to 231.

The rest of the evening was very relaxing, Sis left early taking Briana with her, Rog and Cheryl came and picked up Jordon while Travis and I stayed till eleven just walking about and soaking up the ambiance. Saturday morning I taught Travis how to handle the little homebuilt and then let him drive it through the parade.

Sure wish Dad could have been there.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Blue Dress, Red Barn - Epilogue

Now, the rest of the story. What was it about this painting?
Why was I so strongly drawn to it at first sight, went back to it a couple times during our first
visit and then again when I went back to buy the small

I had mentioned the artist had two pictures of the same subject
this one being the more abstract. As nice as the
other picture was, this one is the one that seemed to hit a
chord down deep. . I really am not a big art fan, neverdid understand the draw of the Mona Lisa, what was it then?

As promised the painting showed up Friday, upon opening the box I again felt moved, why? Why this painting?

The one that got away and what could have been? Is that it?
Could it be so simple. I search my inner self but that is not it.

My mother, is it her on the farm when she was first married
to Dad? Again I look inside, I feel around, no, maybe a
little this time but no that is not it.

What about Grandpa? Yes, hit pay dirt, where the feeling is
coming from, my connection with Grandpa and the old family
farmstead. Let me explain.

Grandpa was a young man when he moved to Northwest Iowa from
Streator Illinois and started farming in 1889. Once established he returned home for his sweetheart Rezina, they married and had two little
girls. At 25 she took ill and was gone, he married
again, Minnie bore him five more girls before illness took her
also. Lastly he married my Grandmother who gave him two
boys, Uncle Charles and my father Duane.

I am the youngest son of the youngest son and only knew my Grandfather briefly before he passed on. I have two remembrances of him, one of
him holding me in his lap showing me the inner workings of
his pocket watch, the other of him sick in bed his family
gathered around. I recall clutching my Moms skirt and
watching intently as he joked with my Aunts and Uncles.

Even though I knew him only briefly something in him passed
to me, I have always had that sense, that connection. Dad
told of how he and Grandpa re-shingled the old corn crib,
as they were doing it Grandpa told when first built his first wife had helped him shingle it.

Dad said Grandpa cried as he told the story. I can feel
the pain he felt, the sadness of losing his first love.

Grandpa is buried in Lester next to his third wife, my
Grandmother Mattie, his first two wife's lie in Rock
Rapids sharing the same monument, just their names, a verse
I can not quite make out and a statement that they are the
wife's of Charles Gage. When his daughter, Aunt Alethia who
never married died she too was buried there . Every Memorial
day Dad would make the trip over to Rock Rapids and put
flowers on their graves, a week later he would pick them up.

Last year Dad passed away, the duty, no, honor fell to me, I placed the
flowers, then tried in vain to read the weathered verse, it seemed so sad they should
be all alone, three woman Grandpa had so deeply loved.
Two I had never known gone long before I arrived on
this earth. My heart went into my throat, tears ran down my
face. I could feel his immense sadness and sense of loss..

And that is the place this painting takes me, why it
is so much more powerful in it's more abstract form,
Because it makes me feel, just like I felt at the graves
that day. Yet it offers hope, a shrouded glimpse into a good life long past.

A powerful bittersweet feeling.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Blue Dress, Red Barn, The critics speak

While taking care of Mom our favorite hangout on Sundays was
the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls. Not only a lot for
the kids to do but it also houses an art gallery. I am not a
big art fan but it was something to do and on occasion I
spotted something I liked. Fun to look anyway.

A couple months ago we are at the pavilion with the grand
kids so Rose and I check the gallery's out. On display were
a number of paintings by a Tim Vogl from Rapid City S.D. the
title of his show was, Into the Red Barn, most of the
paintings dealt with his memories of growing up on a farm in

I was drawn to the paintings, bought one very small one for
50.00 bucks but had to wait for a couple months for the show
to be done to collect it. Fifty dollar painting in hand I
asked him by e-mail if he had sold another larger more
expensive painting I really liked, he had not so I bought it
also, got it this Friday, love it, I am including it for
your review.(-:

Friday morning Miss Connie calls up and tells me she is
setting a extra plate for me, noon I grab my new picture and
head out to the little Acorn. When the main meal was done
and dessert was being served I brought it in and set it on a
chair for review. John glanced at it and simply stated he
was not much for abstract paintings, John is nothing if not

The rest of the crew comes in, Will gives it a eyeball and
says can't tell what it is, Connie's first comment is the
lady is standing on the downwind side of the line and no
self respecting woman would hang clothes with them blowing
in her face. Barb agrees.

Will exclaims he didn't know it was a lady hanging clothes,
he thought it was picture of a statue or something.

I comment Rose had told me she didn't see the chickens till
I pointed them out, Will exclaims he would have never
thought them chickens, all he could see was the barn.

Connie cocked her head, grinned, and inquired, "what barn"?

Tough Bunch.(-:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Teasing Miss Connie

First, I need to give you, the reader, the lay of the land. My small acreage filled with horses and goats is on
the south edge of town. By good fortune and due to the fact
the last owner had sheep it is grandfathered in as farm land
even though it lies within city limits.

To the south of me, right across the railroad tracks, is
Will's place. Mostly pasture and river bottom land, actually
several chunks strung together, Shakey, the Trailer House
place, Elwoods, the Pond pasture, No Mans land. Go far
enough and you hit Wills folks place, Little Acorn Ranch.

When I am needed and when I can I help Will with his
cows and calves, we chase the occasional bull, fix some
fence when we have time. Not bad work when you can get it.
And, on a good day, we get to eat dinner at the Little Acorn with
Will's folks,John and Miss Connie.

This is good old farm noon meal eating, porcupine balls,
maybe Spanish rice, other day we had tator tot casserole
without the hamburger or tater tots just hunks of steak
with sliced potatoes on top baked in the oven, fresh
asparagus when in season, on a good day fresh rhubarb crisp. And then, "Roy finish up this, Roy have some more spargus"

When you think your all done Connie
rolls out a cart with ice cream and two kinds of topping,
butterscotch and chocolate, and nuts, can't forget the
crushed nuts. "Roy, would you like some tea".

As good as the food is the table banter is even better. Although
both in their seventies Wills folks act much younger, lots
of joking and kidding around. I should have known I couldn't
keep it for myself long.

You remember my son Alan the 31 one year old erstwhile
mechanic. Alan decided he liked being a auto tech as good as
anything but that as much as he liked it anything over three
days a week was simply too much of a good thing. He sold all his
crap, bought a cabin "trashed out trailer house" in the
woods, got his electricity usage down to thirty kilowatts a
month and started working for Miss Connie on Mondays and
Fridays, me, I get him Tuesday thru Thursday.

So what does he do at Miss Connie's? Oh they have funerals
for dead woodchucks the dogs kill, walk in the woods and dig
up protected flowers to plant in the garden, dig up shrubs
and plant new ones, make shade gardens, mow the lawn, wash
the motor home, clean the garage, hang bird feeders, study
birds and catalog bugs. In short they get along just fine
and seem to enjoy each others company. Miss Connie is
nothing if not a mother and like any good mother she makes
sure Alan is well feed. In short, the little fart cut into
my noon dinner franchise. John who buys the grocery's
grumbles but seems to tolerate the situation. Certainly
makes for some lively dinners.

The sting

So my best friend Jerry the parts man from the local GM
dealer retired and I lined him up to help Will pickup round
bales and tote them to Elwoods. 10AM Will calls and asks if I
want to join them for dinner in town, sure count me in, he
asks if I would please pick them up, making sure he has his
checkbook with him I agree to pick them both up at Shakey. A
hour later I come back from a service call and Alan tells me
Will called and they are now eating at John and Connie's and
to please pick them up at Elwoods.

I ask Alan if he is coming, he replies, sadly, that no, he
was not invited. I call up Miss Connie and ask if it would
be possible for Alan to join us. She replies that he is
welcome but their is hesitation in her voice, it is too late
to put on more potatoes, the meat is limited, yes, he is
welcome but we won't be able to eat as much as we normally
do she cautions. Sensing her weakness I say I will tell him she said there
is not enough food and he has to stay home, she makes
some protest but I assure her it will be OK and hang up.

Chuckling I turn to Alan and give him 6 bucks to go buy a
meal at Subway instructing him to show up ten minutes late
with his sack lunch in hand looking all sad and lonely.

Picking the boys up at Elwood I tell Jerry about my plans,
Will is riding in the back of the truck his legs dangling from
the bed and remains oblivious to the plot.

I am no more in the house then Connie starts to apologize
for Alan not coming out, I explain to her is was not a
problem, I had told Alan she had said there was not enough food and he
had to stay home, "but he could have come, I just meant there
was not a lot of food, we could have got by, he could have
come, he is always welcome " her voice trails off. I act unconcerned.

We all sit down for dinner and dig in, Alan's absence comes
up again, again Connie says he could have come, she didn't
mean to say he couldn't. Again I shrug it off, no big deal.

We are ten minutes into the meal when the dogs start
barking, Will gets up to look out the window and starts
laughing uncontrollably, "It's Alan and he has a sack lunch
with him" he yells out.

Connie rushes to met him at the door apologizing and giving
him a big hug, looking for all the world like a lost dog Alan says no problem but could he maybe havea glass of water to go with his sandwich?

At the table again Connie begs his forgiveness and explains
her situation, Will had called late, she hadn't planned on
so many, Alan is playing it for all it's worth, all I can do
to keep from losing it.

After five minutes Alan gave it up and told her it was a
setup, what a hoot, the whole table is roaring now.
Recovering Connie tells us a story of checking cows at two
in the the morning back in the day, not thinking much of her
flashlight one of the cows had stomped her into the mud
leaving her to crawl back to the fence. She was determined
to sell the offending cow but the next day one her her
neighbors had came to the cows defense. Surly she could
understand the cow had been affected by a hormone imbalance
as she was just ready to drop her calf? Connie replies she
had two children and she never stomped anyone into the mud,
that cow was hamburger!

With this story as a lead nothing could save Connie from my
favorite joke of all time.

"Connie, know the difference
between a enzyme and a hormone"?


“Can't hear a enzyme”.

The table again roars, Connie keeps shaking her head saying
"that's terrible, that's a awful joke” all the while she can't keep
from laughing.

Things die down a bit Alan offers up he told that joke once
to a fellow, guy replied back he never heard a hormone, Alan told him in that case he must be doing something wrong.

Table again erupts.

It was a good day
Regards, Roy

Writers note, Those familiar with the Greigs land will note a error in that No Mans Land is on the Little Acorn Ranch, not Will's land, This is simply a case of it is too good a name to leave out of the narrative. I firmly believe one should never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Up and In, Stoneys big big day.

Highway Nine runs right past the front office of my shop, the door open I could throw a donut out and hit the street. Yesterday , Friday, they started pulling into town, funky little livestock trailers, cobbled up home made jobs, 35 year old horse trailers, paint faded if they had any paint left to fade.

Exotic animal auction at our fairgrounds two blocks south of me. Friday nite and Saturday till noon. Had to get hay last night, by the time I got there the goats were all sold, lots of birds selling though, chickens, ducks, every kind of pheasant, guinea hens, peacocks. the variety and color of the birds were only matched by the variety of people attending. They don't call them Hill Billy auctions for nothing. In my straw hat though I guess I am the pot calling the kettle black.

I was drawn to the miniature donkeys, they had about twelve or so , one had just dropped her baby earlier in the day, Mom was rather nondescript, what a flashy little jack she put on the ground though, white face, white rump, white rear leg, some other nice white splotches. There is just nothing cuter on Gods green earth then a baby donkey.

Only a couple horses, one was 12 hands, underfed and untrained, not enough time in my life, sorry, surly it will go cheap if it goes at all, horses are worth little unless trained. It is a shame, people just should not breed a horse unless they have a good use for them.

The other horse is a little sorrel miniture mare. I go take a look, I already have three minitures and enjoy them . Stands about 36-37 inchs high at the shoulders. I like this one, friendly, not head shy, nice proportions, not fat, hoofs look good, she lets me pickup her feet.

Saturday morning I take another quick look around, watch them auction off some birds, get a bidding number. Then I turn my back and start to get serious about work, have to get my trailer load of hay backed out of the shop and across the highway, feed my animals, run down Will and see if we can get the hay put up in the barn, no bad work, but work, a busy day.

I am headed to Wills when I get thinking about the little sorrel, they don't eat much, or poop much, I know it would like my farm, feel confident it would fit in. I swing the truck back into the fairgrounds, they have just started on hoofed animials, the longhorns are first up, then the donkeys followed by my little sorrel.

I call Will and he says to go up to 350.00 on the Jenny and her newborn Jack, it goes for 360.00. By now my daughter Audrey has shown up, she knows her horses pretty well, I had requested she take a peak. We both kick ourselves for not throwing another twenty in on the Jenny and Jack, would have been worth it for Will to have it, surly we all would have enjoyed it's antics.

Audrey liked the sorrel, shortly before it came up we met the couple that was selling it, they too had a hobby farm, found out shes was 5, no papers, name is Peanut, had kids on her but not broke to ride, nice couple, I figured at least if she got no saled it would go back to a good home.

The hammer dropped at sixty bucks. I put a lead rope on and led her the two blocks home, not without some excitment. She doesn't lead as well as she could, took twenty minutes to get her through the gate. We put her in a pen by herself at first, sure had all the rest of my animals worked up.

Later I came back and put her into the barn pen where she would have more room, briefly she was with the other horses and they beat on her pretty good, just the way horses are. Kayla my 9 year granddaughter though was pretty upset. Almost as a after thought I put Stoney our little Buckskin gelding in with her so she would have some company. Stoney shows great interest from the get go, lots of sniffing and some tender biting, well for Pete's sake, I think that mare is in heat.

Couple hours later we meet Audrey at the farm so we can go get her hay, we are all watching with bemusement as Stoney does his best to get the job done on his little sorrel, Peanut was certainly cooperating by standing nice for him.

Could of knocked us all down with a feather when he got it up and in.

Back on all fours Stoney gave a soft nicker, it was not easy to pick it up but it was clear to me what he was saying, " Thanks Boss,I needed that"

Sunday, April 27th update.

Looks like today is going to be Pistol the gelded Donkeys
big big day. A cold rain started last night and is
continuing this morning, felt sorry for the rest of my
animals by now dripping wet so opened the gate to the barn
pen letting them all back together. Everyone was out went
in, Stoney stayed in, looks exhausted. Pistol is following
Peanut the new mare around the yard in the rain, holding his
head sideways, curling his lips into a big grin giving
everything a good sniff.

I feel like I dropped a hooker off at a Boy Scouts Jamboree.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tombstones and Epitaphs

The caskets were easy, Dad left us first, we spent some time
on that one, Mom's turn we just said get us another one just
like the other one. You put them into a concrete vault,then bury
them never to be seen again.

Headstones though they are forever. They put me in charge,
as usual I procrastinated, not that I didn't think about it,
just that I didn't do anything about it. This past week Sis put me on
notice, time to get it done, Memorial day is fast

The easy part was finding a company to deal with, a place
between here and the folks seemed right, they have all their own
equipment, do all their own work, I like the boss, Randy, he
does all the selling himself. I find the selection problem
difficult simply because the selection is so large. I
learn the granite comes from quarry's all over the world,
Cold Springs Mn., the Dakotas, Georgia, India. After three
trips I pick out a deep red from India. Finished on all four
sides, serpentine top. Randy explains it this way, you pay for the size of the stone, the quality of the stone and then the amount of finishing put into the stone.

Sounds easy,buying a headstone, it was not. Dad left us we still had Mom, still
had a home to go back to, after losing her it has been a
little harder. I find myself more emotional, more affected,
more introspective, I believe it brings ones own end into
focus a bit, at least it has for me.

There are grape vines, birds, butterfly's, a complete book
of clip art to choose from, fire engines, motorcycles, they
both liked birds so some finches seemed appropriate.

I have always liked epitaphs, thought there should be some
attempt to sum up your life, what you stood for.

Mom was easy, "Always a smile, never a harsh word, she was
our sunshine".

I had considered "They never gave up on us", although it
sounds good and certainly would apply to Mom I think Dad
gave up on us, at least my brother and I several times.

Saturday morning I made another trip to Worthington.
I called my brother and one of my sisters from
the office, need some help, what about Dad's
epitaph? Larry thought should be something about the
customer is always right, or about getting on the other side
of the counter something Dad was pretty vocal about.

He paused as he thought and then came up with this one which
he said Dad got from Grandpa, "You can judge a man by how
well he sweeps the floor". Larry went on to say he had seen
Dad use it when someone came out looking for a job in the
past, he would hand them a broom and tell ask them to sweep
the floor. If they felt it was below their station in life
or did it poorly, missing the corners, sweeping around
things instead of picking them up, well, that was what Dad
wanted to know.

I kind liked it, the fellow at the tombstone store loved it,
a call to my sister Laura and it was a done deal.

I finally got a hold of my other sister on the way home only to have it
nixed. Made Dad sound to judgmental and she pointed
out a man could be a excellent floor sweeper and still beat
his wife and neglect his kids. Points well made and taken. I start over.

Dad being Dad it is easy to come up with some that run true
but we can't really use like, "Never trust a stock broker".

He was adamant about us picking him a lot in the high ground
at the cemetery as the family plot Grandpa and Grandma and
Uncle Charles have is on lower ground which sometimes has
ground water at the 6 foot level. And Dad always made a
point of using high ground for any building he put up. Loved
nice views.

A engraving of a man standing upright with his hand over his
brow Indian scout style with the words "View is great from
here", makes me chuckle.

"It's not a good deal unless everyone is happy" comes to
mind as does,"Worked hard, played it straight, did good by
us and Mom".

Or maybe simply, "She was his Sunshine"

I kind of like that one.

Sunday,April 27th update

Looks like today is going to be Pistol the gelded Donkeys
big big day. A cold rain started last night and is
continuing this morning, felt sorry for the rest of my
animals by now dripping wet so opened the gate to the barn
pen letting them all back together. Everyone was out went
in, Stoney stayed in, looks exhausted. Pistol is following
Peanut the new mare around the yard in the rain, holding his
head sideways, curling his lips into a big grin giving
everything a good sniff.

I feel like I dropped a hooker off at a Boy Scouts Jamboree.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Billy the goat

Dad ran his business, a feed mill/farm store like ringing a bell, he had built it, nurtured it, poured his soul into it. He grew it every year, took no prisoners,the rhythm of his life was a constant drum beat of projects and deadlines. He vacationed poorly, seldom had time to relax.

Which is why I can't figure where the idea to get a goat came from, guess he just figured we needed to have some fun, that it was time to lighten up. He spoke of it several times, we pretty much all thought that was as far as it would go. Then one morning he comes waving around a classified ad from the Sioux City Journal, goats for sale. He motions to Leonard the bulk truck driver, gives him the address and a check. Just like ringing a bell, Dad was getting us into the goat business.

The laughs start right away, Marv, the feed mill operator didn't like the idea of goats, every time the subject had came up he would snort and say “you get goats next thing you know they will be shitting and pissing on the floor”. He was pretty adamant about it. Like I said, Marv didn't think much of goats.

So Marv had missed out on Dad's big conference with us about the Sioux City goats and sending off Leonard to fetch them, about 9 AM he asks “where is Leonard”? So, we tell him, “ he went to Sioux City to get goats” Marv thinks we are kidding him, asks again, we tell him again, Marv sputters something about being us being smart asses and goats shitting and pissing on the floor, giving up he stalks off..

.A hour later, in his best and most sincere voice “ no really, where is Leonard today?” we wince as we say it, “he went to get goats Marv, honest”. Marv walks away muttering to himself still convinced we are teasing him. Now down to a routine we go through it once more before the little one ton GMC with the flat bed bounces into the yard with a Nanny and Billy tied up in the back. Marv was speechless.

If this story was about nanny goats it would be a short one as she was sick and died shortly after coming to her new home. Billy on the other hand was not only healthy, he was full of piss and vinegar, the goat of Dad's dreams, just what our feed mill needed.

For starters he was friendly, had no fear of people, would follow you around like a dog, loved to get his ears scratched. We soon found if we wished to get him out of our hair all we had to do was bend over and pick up a rock or dirt clod, he would take off like he was shot from a gun kicking and skipping sideways as he scooted from view. We never threw a rock at him, guess the people at his old home had and he had just learned real good to scram.

There was never any attempt made to fence him in, Dad's shop, we always called it the shop, was on a couple acres of land west of town on highway 9, in all the time Billy was with us I never saw him venture on to the road, he just roamed around checking us all out. He would wander around here and there, loved people and very curious, any project he was in the middle of it, forty years later I ran into a fellow from Ireton, Iowa at a booth over at the Clay County fair. We get to talking and mention I am from Lester, he perks right up, yes yes he knew Duane Gage, yes he and his partner put up some steel bins for Dad. He then tells of his partner bending over to drive in a wood stake when Billy comes around the corner sees his butt sticking up in the air nice and pretty and pops him one. His partner jumps up and starts waving his hammer at Billy, Billy just backs off a little, sticks out his tongue and makes this bleating noise, sounds for all the world like he is laughing at him. Then the fellow looks around to see not only had his coworker witnessed the whole thing but Dad had just come around the corner and seen it also, both were laughing pretty good. He was pretty steamed by the incident, Billy just sauntered off looking for something else to get into.

We were getting our power service worked on, a lineman from the local REC had showed up, of course Billy wandered over to see if he could help. The fellow was surprised to see a goat and pleased when he turned out to be friendly, at any rate he was petting him and giving a him a good ear rub, finding it to his liking Billy jumped up and placed his hoofs on the fellows chest and was pretty much eye to eye with him when Dad walks by and says,” he will eat that cigarette your holding lit if you let him.” And he would, given a chance Billy would stick out his tongue and take short quick licks at a smoke until the fire went out, then gobble it up. Thinking this was just to cool not to try the fellow held out his smoke and Billy went to work on it. Some smoke got in Billy's his nose and he sneezed blowing goat snot all over the guys face.

Hung like a Billy goat, horny as a Billy goat, stinks like a Billy goat. We had all grown up with these phrases, used them even yet none of us really knew much about goats except Marv and he wasn't talking. If we had we would have got Billy fixed and this story would have had a happier ending, as it was our ignorance although it served Billy poorly generated some good stories.

Billy's first love was Arie who ran the portable mill, most days Arie would pull back into the yard at quitting time, often the rest of us would be standing up in the office watching him park at the bottom of the hill and make his way across the yard to the shop. I guess maybe his absence made Billy's heart grow fonder, anyway Billy sporting a full erection would try to chase him down, Arie would take off for the office turning and slapping at Billy with his hat, this seemed only to fan the fires in little Billy and by now he would be sticking out his tongue making his frenzied bleating “I will still respect you in the morning” noise. We used to laugh so hard the tears would roll from our eyes. Oddly Arie never saw the humor in it..

Another favorite of Billy's was Gary the Kent feed salesman, if he caught Gary in the open he would come up behind him stick his nose in the seat of his pants and take a couple good deep whiffs, as Gary said on more then one occasion ”it's none of that damn goats business if I use Preparation H.

Lavonne was was perhaps the most beautiful woman in our county, our state even, she had such rare beauty that most men, and I might add teens like myself were reduced to blubbering fools in her presence. To walk around a corner and bump into her was like having the brain plucked out of your head. You just knew something dumb was going to happen and there was nothing you could do about it but flee. She drove a dark colored Ford LTD four door,white top, in my minds eye I can still see her swinging it off the highway making a big loop in our yard then hitting reverse to back up to our dock to get some bag feed. And I can still remember the frantic sound of Dad scrambling out of the office running back to the feed room yelling in panic,” Lavonne's coming, Lavonne's coming, where is that damn goat, get him tied up!” I think Dad's worse nightmare was Billy would come around the corner see Lavonne and be smitten, unlike us mere mortals Dad knew full well Billy would act on his impulses.

Marv never did warm up to Billy, it was awkward, like having two friends that didn't get along. Wasn't Billy”s fault, he got along with everyone. Billy would wander over to Marv's world every once in awhile, Marv's world being the feed mill control panel and scale beam. You could hear it from quite a distance, a whooping noise not unlike Indians on attack in the movies, you would look up to see Billy tearing out of the feed mill at full tilt his little butt just a humping, Marv hot on his tail broom always raised up over his head, there are rare moments in life you really get to laugh, from the belly, from the heart, half of mine were compliments Billy.

The hardest we ever laughed though was the day I set Marv up. I was back to the shop early that noon, Leonard had ate in, Clint was back early too. I grabbed a cup of coffee and some goat turds and made my way to the scale beam and control panel. Right where Marv stood while he weighed the feed batch's I piled up the goat turds in a nice little natural looking pile, then spread the coffee out on the floor in three distinct lines. Any half blind tracker could clearly tell a goat had stood right there with a full erection, pooped on the floor and turning twenty degrees at a time sprayed out three good four foot squirts of pee. We go back to the office and to await Marv's arrival. Marv comes in a whistling and how do you doing, marks down his time and heads back to his control panel. It's not long and he is back, sticks his head in the door and looks at Leonard real serious and says, “ you come with me Leonard and let me show you something” with Leonard in tow they head back to the control panel. Clint and I sneak over to the window and watch, we can not hear them but can see Marv is serious as hell pointing at the mess on the floor, I don't know how Leonard kept a straight face, Clint and I are laughing so hard watching Leonard nod his head as Marv talks to him. We can almost read his lips, “ I told you Leonard ,get a goat and first thing you know, shitting and pissing on the floor”.

Poor Billy, he deserved better then he got, all that peeing on his face took it's toll and wasn't long he stunk so bad he brushed up against you had to burn your clothes. We had him staked out on a rope all by himself, at one time the offers to take him in would have been plentiful, now no one wanted him. Dad was working late one warm summer evening when some young kids pulled up all dressed up for a night on the town, told Dad they had heard he had a goat he wanted to give away, Dad pointed to Billy and said there he is, figured they would be back later in work clothes with a pickup, instead they put him in the trunk and drove off.

According to the police reports they dumped him in downtown Rock Rapids right in front of the bar, Billy fell in love with a gal walking down the street, whipped out his tiddlewhacker and treed her on top of a car, the cops got called and the chase was on, Billy gave them a good run by all accounts, nearly made it into the IGA food store before they tackled him. They threw him in the back of the squad car and hauled him off, end of story, almost.

Dad sort of winced when he heard about it, I am sure he felt bad for Billy, not bad enough to call up the cops and fess up to owning him though. One rumor had it he made it to a farm, we all figured we could live with that. Couple months later the gal did the Rock Rapids news for the radio station came on telling about how she heard a noise in her garage while making breakfast, opened the door to see a goat standing on the seat of her snowmobile, eating it, last we ever heard of Billy.

Several years ago I got thinking about Billy and all the fun we had and got a couple goats, one, Red, reminds me of of him, friendly and full of life. Wish I had known enough to take care of Billy as well as I do Red. Another of life's regrets.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

So that's How you get Marv mad

You may recall Marv, the 80 something salt
of the earth farmer friend with the cool junk in his grove.
So I am coming back from my folks today, eighty miles due
west. At the half way point I get a call from my son Alan
asking me about Marv, have I seen him today ect.. Not much
is making sense so Alan turns the phone over to Dan, Marv's
neighbor. Seems he looked out to see Marv parked on the road
for some time at the end of his lane. Worried he went down
to see what was up, Marv seemed scrambled and was unsure who
Dan was, said he was getting his mail and then drove off to
town doing a little bobbing and weaving pretty much taking
his half the road right out of the middle.

Dan thinking the better of letting him go followed but lost
him somewhere and couldn't find him back, wound up at my
shop and bumped into Alan, hence the phone call. I suggest
he cruise town to scout for him, he calls back no dice, I
suggest going back to check his house, calls back no Marv.
By this time I am only 5 minutes out, I offer to take over
and try to locate.

I think hard, sounds like blood sugar down or light stroke
that type of thing. Marv has no relatives left in town, one
nephew 1/2 hour away. After some wavering I make the police
station my first stop, give a description of the trouble and
tell them to be looking for a 85 beat to hell two tone
silver and gray F-150 4x4.

I hop back in my car and go looking also. Ten minutes later
I see him just down the street at the fleet store, cops have
him pulled over, relieved I go see how he is, big mistake,
should have just kept driving.(-:

He is blasting the cops who have by now told them a
concerned citizen thought he was driving funny and was
worried about him, I fall on the sword and tell Marv it was
me, now he is really sore, keeps asking the cop what should
he do, he can't even leave the farm without some damn do
gooders calling the cops.

I had thought pretty hard about ratting to the cops, my
reasoning was if it was a stroke and Marv was disabled
somewhere or confused and driving to Timbuktu the twenty
minutes or half a hour I spent looking first before getting
the cops involved could be critical.

I called Alan and the others as I left to inform them that
not only was Marv OK, he was mad as hell. Alan called back a
few minutes later to inform me he had just met Marv on the
road and his jaw was just flapping as he no doubt was still
venting to himself.

Sure hope he gets over it.
Roy Gage

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

We get educated, Beer spot again

So as I told in the earlier story we got to buying our beer from the drive-up window at the Beer Spot. Wasn't long and we had progressed to going on inside and making ourselves comfortable. Sort of a Cheers type of place, typically a Norm or two hanging around, if you recall the first couple years of the show Gramps and Coach bore a lot of similarity.

Most of us kids could have passed for Woody without much trouble. Marylin was a odd one, she always sat at the bar, maybe thirty, thirty five, always alone, made small talk with some of the truckers, seemed to play with her swizzle stick more then she drank. Had the country song, The Queen of the Silver Dollar, been made into a video she could have starred in it. She had little interest in us kids, we had no more then a passing interest in her, we coexisted in this manner for months, perhaps even years.

I don't recall who asked Gramps about her but the word spread like wild fire, Gramps reply to what she did for living? "Well hell boys I thought you knew, she's a hooker". And here all the time we had thought she was a school teacher or a file clerk.

We were just flabbergasted, wasn't like any of us ever tried her out, but we sure never looked at her the same again. No wonder she was always schmoozing with those truck drivers.

Gramps had connections in the force, somewhere. One night we had the place all warmed up, didn't take much, like I said earlier it was small, twenty was a crowd. In the midst of all the noise and jostling the phone rings, Gramps picks it up and is shushing us, he sits it down and yells out, "is everyone here over 19" we all responded to the positive, Gramps scans the bar and then tells us "you had better be cause the cops are coming". In tens seconds no more then three guys are left in the building, the rest of us are gone like smoke. Terry, Kenny and I had rode up with Festus who was of legal age and still in the bar. There were two doors out of the place, one to the south, one to the north. Terry and I had ran out the north door and jumped into the car to wait it out. We had no more then got set down when the black and white pulled up beside us and the cops ran into the south door, Kenny had dallied behind us to polish off the little pony pitcher we were working on, we figured he was toast, then we see his head pop around the corner of the building, he had slipped out the north door and was peaking around the corner while the cops entered the building. Once the cops hit the inside he ran over to our car which was parked right by the south door and jumped in.

We must of looked like choir boys when the cops came out of the Beer Spot and checked us out."No officer we have not been drinking, no officer we just came to see a movie with a friend and yes he is of legal age and we are just sitting here waiting for him". "yes officer, we will be good".

I don't think for a minute those cops were that dumb, or that we were that smart, it was just a simpler time and they cut us some slack, or maybe they were just taking it easy on Gramps. Chances are pretty good they were ordered to pull the raid and they were the ones called Gramps to tip him off. Like I said, Gramps had connections in the force, somewhere.

I have often puzzled about Gramps, about what his motive was in selling us beer. I don't think it was greed, he wasn't on commission, he seemed to genuinely like us. It sure wasn't cause his boss made him, or even wanted him to. All the older people liked him, wasn't like he was some old fool had to bribe kids so he could have friends.

We found out when his birthday was and one Saturday nite we all pitched in and bought him a nice cake with candles, frosting and his name on it. Those were real tears ran down his cheeks, you don't fake that. One night Mikes girlfriend who was all of 14 was hesitant to tell Gramps she was old enough to buy, Gramps looked at her softly and said, It's Ok honey, just tell me your 19". Like I said, I just can't figure him.

It all came to a end one Sunday nite, for some reason a couple of us tagged along with Loony Boone. Didn't normally hang with him, none of us were angels but trouble followed Loony around, big time. We got a table and a pitcher. Looney was sitting against some cases of warm canned beer and starts slipping them out when the barmaid wasn't looking and pouring them into our pitcher, we didn't think it was good idea, drinking warm stolen beer, but Loony thought it was and just kept doing it. It was a hard choice, drink warm stolen beer or rat out your buddy.

In hindsight we should have just got up and left. Next week a friend told me the barmaid figured out what was going on after we left and she was pretty sore, never went into the place again. Don't like warm beer to this day.

I think about the whole deal more then you would think I would.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Bud's Beer Spot

We spotted the 56 while we were cruising around Rock Rapids, just siting in the car lot, pretty as you please, two door hardtop, turquoise and white. We fell all over it my buddys and I, had a Hurst three speed mystery shifter, 265 V8. Dave rushed home got the 125 bucks from some where and laid claim to it. We were all a bit envious.

Between the three of us, Dave, Bill and myself I was the painter my Dad having a shop with a air compressor and a old spray gun. It was pretty big stuff painting cars and I already had a couple under my belt. We chewed on it some and settled on hugger Orange, it was a new color and it was loud. All a couple 16 year olds could hope for. We always painted Dupont Dulux, no spray booth, no respirator, no lights worth a tiddle. I would hold a trouble light in one hand, the gun in the other, bugs were always a problem, that and over spray, I would get a panel looking really good only to come back and find it fuzzy.

The 56 was the best I ever did. No over spray, no big moth tracks, as close to perfect as we would ever get..I coughed up orange phlegm for a week We pulled the bumpers, built some pipe push bars for the rear, painted them black, already had dual Smitty's. You rolled into town in the 56 and heads turned, seriously, it would turn heads today.

Bill, AKA ,Billy Smoke, was a little older then Dave and I and looked a lot older, by now we all shaved but Smoke was the only one had anything to shave.

We made the driver switch a block away from the Beer Spot, Dave road shotgun while I sat in the back, Smoke looked cool as a cucumber as we rolled up to the drive thru window.

About the Beer Spot, it was a small bar, two tables, a row of stools and a drive thru window, sat right next to Pete's 76 on east tenth street. I should add it was Bud”s Beer Spot, and Bud hated kids and never sold to kids, and we all knew it, just like we all knew Gramps ran the place on weekends, and Gramps loved kids and loved to sell beer to them. It was Sunday afternoon and Gramps 59 Chevy was sitting outside. Looked like a slam dunk.

We ordered a case of long necks, Gramps was all smiles and small talk, sure boys, no problem he says, as he bends over to grab our beer we see Buds car pulling into the parking lot. We are whispering to each other under our breathe as we make small talk to Gramps, he is sliding our beer out and then fiddling with our change, thru the drive-thru window we can see Bud entering the bar then stooping over to peer at us. Bud starts to yell,we yell at Gramps to keep the change the same time we are yelling at Smoke to drop the hammer, he dumps the clutch only to have the engine stall. Damn.

It should be noted at this time that between the three of us we never had a car would start with a hot engine, the 56 was no exception, it just grunted. In total panic Dave and I jumped out and started to push while yelling at Smoke to throw it into second and dump the clutch, by now Bud and half the bar are running out the side door after us. The tires squawked as Smoke dropped the clutch and the motor roared to life, Dave and I vaulted through the open side windows screaming at Bill to nail it. We left Bud standing there cursing and waving his arms. We got about a block and half down the side street before the rear tire went flat.

We were sure they would be following us, sweating bullets we quickly threw the beer in some bushes while we changed the tire, then throwing the long necks in the trunk we rolled out of town, as quietly as you could in a hugger orange 56 with dual Smitty's.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Losing Mom

We lost Dad in March of 08, Mom struggled with it, not just the loss of Dad but her memory of him passing. She always asked politely, gently, knowing she should know, sensing something was wrong or different but unsure what it was. We would always recite to her what happened that night, how we had all gathered round his bed, how he had pursed his lips for one last kiss from her, how he had passed peacefully.

She would nod her head, hang intently on every phrase, every word, trying so hard to put it somewhere safe. For some moments or even minutes the memory was hers, then it would float away like a balloon slipping into a cloud.

Caring for Mom never felt like a job, certainly she should have went to a home, we had planned on it. We just could not pull the trigger on the deal.

We patched things together, my son Alan stayed for awhile, My sisters Laura had a friend needed a job and was willing to pull some duty, my nephew Travis, his girl friend Mellisa and her 8 year old daughter Katlin took Saturday and Saturday nights, myself I came early every Sunday taking Mom to Sioux Falls for dinner with Laura and her family. Every month or so my sister Karen and Jeff would drive up from Kansas City. Mom loved her coming, Karen always gave Mom a manicure&pedicure. Mother would often look at the length of her fingernails and comment it must be time for Karen to come again.

It was the best team I ever worked with, we covered each others backs, no one ever complained, we called audibles, made running changes smoothly, little 8 year old Katlin dotted on Mom, she would stand by her while she used the bathroom, help her get cleaned up, pick out her clothes, help her get dressed, do things no 8 year old was expected to do. And little Katlin loved it. Watching her and Mom made my heart sing.

And Mom made it fun, we went for long drives, she loved to get out, , we always took the long way home, the road less traveled. We got our burgers in sacks and ate at old sand pits with the window open, I told Alan of my old haunts, he found them all plus many of his own. If Mom couldn't hike out and see the birds Alan found they could park at the river by Klondike and listen for them, catch glimpses of them flitting in the trees. Our trips were only limited by Mom's bladder and she had a pretty good one. Her smile was never bigger then before leaving town you asked if she would like to stop and get some ice cream. Her face would beam as she responded,”Oh, that would be nice.”

We made it through the summer, the fall was long and glorious the good weather holding on clear through October. When Mom lost her ability to walk any distance we shifted gears and started to use the wheel chair, far from being a hindrance we found it to give us a good deal more freedom. Once in the wheelchair my stamina was our only limit. My grandchildren Briana 10, Kayla 8 begged to come on Sundays, I always said no feeling there was no way I could handle both of them and Mom.

I started letting them come, taking turns one at a time, again everything fell into place, Mom loved having the extra company, things seemed just more fun, we searched out new places to go every weekend after our Sunday dinner. Downtown Sioux Falls was our oyster, with the wheelchair we could prowl the streets, look at all the sculptures, the kids loved to push Mom. My favorite thing to do was let her go on a slight decline like when we left the Washington Pavilion, I would run right behind Mom as she coasted, ready to grab the chair if things went amiss, knowing there was risk, that I could stumble and lose her, I was unable to keep myself from letting her go though, loved to hear the school girl excitement in her voice as she coasted free.

The Washington Pavilion was a favorite of ours, with three stories of science exhibits and fun things for the girls to do they always wanted to come. They had double features at the Cine Dome theater that were only about 40 minutes long, perfect for us. We went nearly every week. We were sitting watching kids and their parents work around a climbing wall, just Mom and I , I said to her “ it's a nice place to come isn't it Mom?, lots to see”. She responded, “It is nice but I wouldn't want to come every week, once or twice a year is nice though”. Cracked me up.

We drove by the war protesters every week, they set up out in front of the federal building only a couple blocks from the Pavilion. It seemed only decent we go pay them a visit. A friendly bunch, about ten or twelve strong,, one young man in a wheel chair the others perhaps my age, a little older, a little younger. We asked if they minded us joining , they welcomed us with open arms quickly supplying us with signs, Kayla was in her element, marching up and down the sidewalk lifting her sign, cars waving and honking at her, we gave Mom a sign, she had a little trouble keeping it straight, I looked in vain for a camera, it would be a priceless picture to send to Larry my conservative brother in Orange County Ca. I carry the image in my minds eye, smiling to myself every time I visit it.

When winter hit it hit hard, Mom's card playing was a good barometer of how she was doing, she loved Gin Rummy, at first I had to help her a little, now it was getting so we just laid our cards in front of us and I played for both of us unless Briana was there in which case she would help Mom with her hand.

I got the call from Travis about 8 o”clock Saturday night the weekend before Christmas. Mom was having trouble keeping her food down and Laura had taken her to the hospital in Rock Rapids seven miles away. I sat on the bed and thought it through, it didn't sound serious but might just as well go now, would be going in the morning anyway and in case there was trouble better for two of us to be there.

It wasn't fit for man or beast outside, blowing snow, a hard driving northwest wind. My first stop was the police station for a road report, I was headed 80 miles due west on highway 9, gal at the police station reported poor visibility with drifting snow but, yes, 9 was open.

The truck made a popping, thumping noise as we drove through the fingerling's or small drifts starting to stretch across the road. Alone on the road I drove as fast as I dared. At the halfway point I got a call from Laura, it was serious, Moms pulse was low, her temperature dropping. The roads being somewhat better as I got further west I cranked it up, the second call came in as I hit the county line 18 miles out. The Doctor wanted a answer right now, do we keep her in Rock Rapids or move her to Sioux Falls where they would pull out the stops. Laura was on the spot, all drifting was now gone, just blowing snow. I pushed it to the floor and told her I would be there in ten minutes. I called both my brother and my sister, Larry and I were inclined to go to Sioux Falls, I recall the wind absolutely howling around the drivers window making conversation difficult.

Finding the front door locked I hurried around to the emergency room door to get in. It was a relief to see Mom, chipper as ever even with a swarm of nurses over her. She recognized me and we made some small talk, somehow I understood immediately upon seeing her that Laura was right, staying put in Rock Rapids was the right thing to do.

The medical staff put Mom under a plastic sheet which was hooked to a heater/blower which blew hot air around her, they had IVs going to get her hydrated, they gave her a heart stimulant, the numbers started to improve. Somewhat stabilized they moved her into a room next to the nurses station.

With the nurses talking about what Mom could eat the next day both Laura and I thought we were over the hump. We both visited with Mom, her recall of times long gone seemed the best so that is what we talked about, her childhood, memories of her mother.

Laura, from God knows where, pulled out a gem, “ Mom do you remember the lady Grandma Oliver used to buy fresh green beans from, how she told Grandma that when she went out to pick the beans she never wore her panties so if she had to go while straddling the bean row she could simply pee on the row and keep going. And do you remember how shocked Grandma was, and that she never bought green beans from the lady again, ever?” Mom nodded, yes she remembered it well.

I was surprised, surprised they would keep a story so good from me for so long, also a little surprised that of all nights, this was night I would hear it. I smiled to myself, good stories are like nice smooth throwing stones you find them were they lay, I picked it up and put it in my pocket for later.

We watched the monitors, her heart rate was dipping again, they gave her more heart stimulant, again things improved. They also gave her some medication to let her relax, we were both by her side now, talking with her, holding her, her eyes closed, Laura asked if she could still hear us, Mom nodded yes.

Perhaps another hour passed, her heart rate dropped off again, the nurse came in and shook her head, we could give her more stimulant she said but it would only prolong what they felt was the inevitable. Laura asked if I would like to change places and stand at the head of the bed. We held her in our arms as she slipped away.

I was so thankful I had came, so thankful two of us were there for her. That Laura and I could be there for each other. It would be a hour or two before the undertaker would arrive, Laura wished to stay, after 45 minutes she said she was ready, we stepped into the waiting storm and drove my old Chevy back to Mom's.

Perhaps the toughest part was telling little Katlin, it was so hard for her to understand Mom was gone. At four in the morning we sat around the kitchen table, the same table we gathered around when Dad passed eight months earlier. With tears in our eyes and lumps in our throats we sang, ”You are My Sunshine, My Only Sunshine" .

Mom was Sunshine. Even when she had lost nearly all her memory her gentle sunny way remained as though it was so beaten into her being it was independent of her mind. It makes me feel good to know when Briana, Kayla and Katlin are 80 years old they will still warmly remember my Mother and all she taught them in her last six months.

I thank your for listening, Roy Gage, 2-22-09

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Screwing with Al

My son Alan is thirty, my daughter Audrey 28. They have always been close except for a period of about 4 years in their early teens when they detested each other. Alan has always been the pack leader, ran faster, jumped higher, somewhat bolder if not smarter. Audrey quieter, more thoughtful perhaps, softer spoken for sure. Alan was always the baby robin that could raise his head the highest and get the big worms.

When younger I taught the kids well, blamed the dog for my gas problem, took them two years to figure that one out, pull my finger, hey whats that on your shirt just before I snub their noses with my finger. Figured it was my job to not raise any rubes, my duty to sharpen their wits.

So, we all worked here together at Roy's Auto until Alan got restless sold everything didn't fit in his van and spent a few months exploring the world. Like the bad penny he did return. As he had sold his house he needed to find a new hangout, after a good deal of searching he found a old modified trailer house couple miles north of town. Real piece of junk but he was happy. It certainly seemed to fit his new lifestyle which could best be described as being a tight ass.

So old tightey he decides not to hook to rural water but patch his old well and jet pump up, he never even fires his furnace up to see if it works but installs a wood burning stove. Decides to heat completely with wood but refuses to buy a wood splitter instead opting to split all his wood by hand. Doesn't get a dryer, hangs his clothes up across the living room.

But hey he is happy, happy to just sit in front of his fire and read by the one energy efficient light bulb over his chair. He also is happy to tell me and Audrey all about it, all about how we waste too much, how we should be cutting back here and there. Gets a little hard to take, Audrey and I have real lives, we take baths every day, use a clothes dryer and don't like to split wood or stumble around in the dark. Heck we are even known to splurge and put insurance on our dwelling.

The tipping point was his bragging how much electricity he used in a month, what can yo do with nine dollars in electricity? I don't think the proverbial kid from India could get by on nine bucks a month, and if that is not bad enough he is bragging he is going go cut it back further yet, figures when the weather cools off his refrigerator will run less for Pete's sake. Very hard to take when you are supporting a real life and looking at triple digit power bills.

Audrey lives north of town also, in a real house, with lot's of light bulbs, a clothes dyer and rural water. Love that girl.

So old tight ass he leaves for a long weekend this fall and asks Audrey since she is driving right by his place if she could keep a eye on Rudy his dog while he is gone. No problem, what are sisters for she responds. The sweet part was the first time out she turned his light bulb on and left it on all weekend only turning it off just before he came back. I find this hilarious, we wait and sure enough, next month Alan is grousing about his power bill, not as cheap as it should have been. Actually went up a buck or so, can't figure it out. Somehow Audrey keeps a straight face. Every time I think about it I start to chuckle to myself.

It only gets better because Audrey and I tell everyone. They get together with their cousins for Christmas and Audrey let's them all in the secret, Alan tells his cousins about his new found passion for living cheap and they all have to struggle to keep a straight face.

Several weeks ago Alan got restless again and headed south, shut off his water, bled his lines, and headed out free as a bird. Speaking of birds he asks Audrey if she would again do the honors and watch his place and feed his wild birds. No problem, Audrey comes in after her first visit and informs me Alan doesn't have one light bulb but nine of them, and they are all on. We should be upset he is down soaking up the sun while we struggle through subzero temps but we are warmed at the thought of his 9 light bulbs glowing brightly.

We all know Alan has all his heat tapes off, the only thing he thinks is on is his fridge. We can hardly wait.

Last week he made it back. Today I came upstairs to the office, I am at my computer while Alan is rambling on to Audrey in her office , I pick up a couple phrases and then start to really listen, oh this is sweet, he is grousing about his power bill.

I don't dare look in the office and meet Audrey's eyes knowing she will crack up if I do, Alan's back is to me and I can not help but laugh. Al's story just keeps getting better, the bill was way higher then it should have been, he was having a bad day anyway yesterday, he had went to the power company to complain, he was rather sorry he had lost his cool, Billy Jo one of our customers was at the desk when he came in, after getting nowhere with Billy Jo she had given him appointment to see Peg at ten today. Oh boy I thought this is getting stupid fast, Peg is our customer also. I can imagine the conversations they are having today at the utility office. “ He always seemed like such a level headed boy” “ it was insane I tell you, a twelve dollar bill, who bitches about a twelve dollar bill”.

Wracked with laughter I step back into the shop, only thing seems to work is think about dead kitty's. I get it under control and step back in as Alan is coming out of Audrey's office. I ask him just how much money are we talking about and does he plan on leaving us with any customers or is he planning on losing them all. He seems to be a little ashamed to actually say the amount involved, certainly on one level he understand just how piddly it is, yet, he again clearly states it is the principle of the thing. I ask if he locked his place, he responds no, he had to leave it open for Audrey, I smile and suggest maybe homeless people are coming in at night and sleeping there. We leave it at that.

As I drive down the street I understand it has gone to far, we can't let him go to his appointment with Peg and make a fool of himself. Can we? I start to think about the next time he leaves for the weekend, I could put a couple half empty cans of pork and beans by his sofa, a stubby cigar and a beer can or two, maybe even a old Playboy.

When I got back to the shop I went to Audrey's office, to tell her we gotta give it up. Turns out Alan had found out about what we were doing from a friend while he was on his trip and his whole story about going on a rant was a effort to rattle me into thinking he was losing customers and force a confession.

He certainly was convincing.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Brains versus testostrone

I am going to include a cowboy story I wrote this fall, little long but it took little long to live it also. true story, as God is my wittness.

Brains versus Testosterone

Chapter One:

Good fences make good neighbors

A long and convoluted story, might as well get started..

In the beginning there were twelve bulls kept in the dry lot at Shaky, Shaky so named for it's finances which back in the seventy's were shaky by all accounts. I volunteered to feed them corn in the evening, Shaky is close to my place and figured it would be good for the grandkids. Mostly I carried the buckets while the kids did the head count, didn't take long to see we had a problem. The dry lot had old highway guardrail around most of it's perimeter but a 90 foot section on the west side was high tension electric fence. In the extreme northwest corner a board down low was missing. We named the red bull Houdini for his abilities to escape, his favorite trick being to get on his knees and crawl under at the missing board.

Couldn't blame him, what with a nice herd of cows only one pasture and a electric fence away. Will asked me to help get him put back in, again. I saddled up Molly and grabbed Kayla my granddaughter and off we went, once there we opened the gate to a second dry lot and ran the remaining bulls into it this allowed us to leave the gate open between the upper pasture and the first dry lot. Myself on Molly, Will and Kayla in the old red Chevy we went to the hidden valley pasture to round up the herd Will along the way assuring me he had the weak fence corner fixed righteous.

The logic to moving the whole heard up was simply no way Houdini was coming by himself. The round up went smoothly, after getting to the lot it only took a couple of tries to get Houdini and a few of his favorite cows in the dry lot, once in I was able to cut the cows out while Will and Kayla watched the gate, the key to the operation is to simply be smarter then the bull, he is just following his pecker, we got brains.

Shutting the gate to the pasture I am to ride Molly thru the mud, oh yes I am up to my ankles in mud and worse then open the gate to the second dry lot letting the other bulls back in to the first dry lot where we have old Houdini corralled, while I am doing this simple operation Kayla and Will are going to use the pickup to drive the cows back to the lower pasture, Kayla loves to chase and drive livestock often doing it just for the pure joy of it much like a mad dog chases sheep, to be able to do it lawfully is almost more joy then she can bear, they take off bouncing across the pasture the red Chevy's horn honking Kayla hanging out the window whooping like a mad Apache her blond hair flying.

I turn from this sight to open my gate, as I bend over I glance back into the dry lot, I quickly jerk myself upright and look again from side to side, end to end, Houdini is GONE.

I start running thru the mud towards the bouncing red pickup yelling waving and cursing, “it's a trick, turn back , turn back”, my efforts are in vain, Will and Kayla are having to much fun, cows jumping and running in front of them horn honking Kayla shrieking out the window. They never would have stopped except Houdini cut in front of the pickup, as Will tells it, “all of a sudden there was set of nuts swinging in front of me”.

We patched the fence, again, stuck old Houdini back in, again, went for supper and came back, again,I was right behind Will & Kayla when we pulled back into the yard, when I got out Kayla was jumping up and down yelling and laughing,”Will said the F word, Will said the F word”. I followed Will's gaze to see every bull we had out in the pasture. One of the bulls, let me guess, Houdini, had got his head under the gate and wrenched it off the hinges. We fixed the the gate and rounded up the bulls, again,or at least we rounded them all up except Houdini, he had made his way thru a 7000 volt fence and was back in the hidden valley pasture with his harem. Clearly it was going to be along summer.

Chapter Two:

The Black Sheep Land and Cattle Company

Got it's start the evening we rounded up the black Muscovy ducks, I never wanted them in the first place, Will had gone to a exotic animal auction a month earlier buying a goose, the four Muscovy's, two West Indies ducks and some fancy schmancy chickens. At the time his folks were in Mexico, my thinking is on the way home he got cold feet thinking they might not appreciate his purchases so he just dumped them off. I welcomed the chickens and the West Indies, the goose although welcome split after a couple days never to be seen again. The Muscovy's were the ugliest birds I had ever seen, not only that but they ranged over the whole neighborhood and of late had began to fly all over my end of town. Was clear the heat would soon be down on me.

I pondered the problem then recalled Will had a farm pond, after all they were not my damn ducks anyway, right?

Armed with a old fish net and small cage we scoured the hood for them finally finding them down in the little creek east of my place, certainly we never looked smarter then we did driving those ugly ducks back up to the catch pen in the yard. Sometime during the great duck drive the name Black Sheep Land and Cattle company was born, call it divine intervention if you wish, we sure liked the way it rolled off our tongues.

Fast forward to early fall, my daughter/office manager Audrey is ordering me up a new winter jacket, she asks if I want it embroidered, sure I say, then thinking even deeper, I say, hey what about getting it lettered ,Black Sheep Land and Cattle Company, oh how we laughed, hey we could get Will one also, I know soon a he sees mine he will want one too. We could have his all done and lettered up, then when he asks if he can get one we will just pull it out of the box. We order two.

We are sitting around the campfire at dusk last Wednesday. night, Kayla, Will, my son Alan and myself. I get up for more wood then hear Will talking on his cell phone, getting back to the fire Will is starting his old red Chevy and pulling away. I ask Alan, were is Will going?, Alan starts laughing hilariously then says “I guess Will is going to go work on getting his getting the cows back in patch”.

The patches were Audrey's idea, she figured since both Will and I had nice new jackets we could earn patches for them just like the Cub Scouts do. This never gets old, you got your, getting the bulls back in patch, your, I shut the damn gate patch, your fencing patch, your haying patch. The number of patches is mind boggling, as Alan said, “this patches thing is just never going to get old” We are even considering a sign on Wills Jacket like those that state how many days a business has gone without a work related injury. Wills would be how many days he has gone without having a cow out.

It has been two weeks since we got our jackets and neither of us has a patch yet, not altogether a bad thing, you screw up Audrey can take them away.

Chapter Three:

Challenges are encountered and overcome or Miss Connie gives up, on us

As the summer drifted by the number of bulls at Shaky dwindled, one by one they found ways to slip through the west fence. Most turned up with the cows in time, a couple took side trips, one taking a right rather then a left and turning up at my place, cops even got called out on that one. Then one day they were all gone. With the condition of the west fence a round up was pointless, Will and I buckled down and began adding steel rails to the west side, we used the cutting torch, the welder, we pulled broken posts, sank in new ones. The nights were getting shorter, the sun setting sooner but we kept at it,lastly we fixed the area by the water tank. Done we broke a bottle of root beer over the new railings and christened it Folsom.

Although getting a little long in the tooth Will's Mom, Miss Connie is still a pretty good horsewoman/wrangler in her own right so it was with great pleasure we welcomed her along on our big bull roundup. We met at her house for a dinner of porcupine balls and ice cream then saddled up our horses, adventure at hand our spirits high we hit the trail.

The round up went smoothly, both of my horses being indisposed I rode Wills paint, Lighting, Miss Connie rode her Gurila, B.J. while Will rode his new Palomino, Penny. The land we were on is as pretty as any in the county, rolling hills, hidden valleys, oak trees ,creeks and a river.

It was the first time I have sorted with three horses, seemed to make things go just that much smoother, The bulls although intimidating went well and were quickly sorted off, following them we sorted the heifers off and put them in another pen then ran the cows back out into the pasture. The hard part was over, all that was left was to ride the horses back to the home place then drive the pickup and trailer back, load the bulls and dump them off at Folsom, my minds eye could see Houdini laid out cold after ramming the steel in our freshly re-enforced corner. Most certainly our patches were within grasp.

Will backed the trailer up to the old barn, there are a couple posts three feet from the building you back into, these posts have wood sides from them back to the building forming a short loading chute. Inside the barn is a long chute that funnels the bulls to the loading chute, we drive 6 of the twelve bulls up the chute,they lumber along giving no resistance, if I can not see them walking on the trailer I can hear them their feet hitting the aluminum decking. Will is first out the door, his cussing the first indication something has went awry, sticking my head out I see two bulls on the trailer, four lounging about free as birds. Damn.

One of the bulls evidently got his head between the post and the trailer and snapping it off at the base gained their freedom, things looked pretty grim. Our horses back at the big house we grab some white cattle sticks and start rounding them up, carefully. We get two in a pen, the third heads for the grove, Wills goes after him, then goes for his four wheeler,about this time Miss Connie shows up in her white Jeep I give a brief explanation of what transpired and she leaves, one red bull hops into the feed bunk, then slips thru the cables getting in with the heifers, great. Will is a little sore now and really gives the last one a good run for his money before chasing him back into the pen, gate shut we head off for Shaky with our two remaining bulls. We feel our patches slipping away.

Will turns and grinning tells me it was Houdini slipped in with the heifers, that S.O.B.

It is a mile to Folsom, we pull in the yard, I get out of the truck just in time to see a big black bull step out of the trailer, Oh Oh. Quickly I go back to peak in the trailer thru it's gaping open back gate, another Oh Oh, bull number two ain't in there. I look down the long lane to see him standing dazed in the middle of it, to make matters worse right across the lane to the north Mert's cows are coming to the fence to check him out, all we need is for him to skip thru that fence and have his way with with them. About this time Miss Connie no doubt feeling guilty about driving off from the trailer house farm in our hour of need pulls up to survey the scene in her white Jeep then thinking the better of it drives off again this time without even rolling down her window. I can only assume she felt not only were we lost, but that she couldn't save us.

Well we sucked it up and got everything put right, the bull jumped from the trailer appeared no worse for it although when we pulled out we could see a pretty impressive slide mark in the gravel where he hit..Mert's cows seemed disappointed, thank God it wasn't Houdini on the lane, surely he would have put a big dent in Mert's breeding program before we got him out.

I got on the cell phone and told Audrey to not worry, she wasn't going to have to stay up tonight sewing patches. So close, so close, yet so far away.

I thank you for listening, Roy Gage

Christmas 93

At 56 I guess it is time to try to organize my thoughts, record some of my joggings in a orderly fashion. I have been writing now since 93, before that time I don't think I ever recorded a story or clear thought on paper.

I always waited till the last moment to buy my parents or for that matter anyone else gifts. Often it would end badly, a mad plunge through the stores finally in desperation buying something they didn't need or could not or would not use.

As I looked through a book store in Spencer Iowa it started to eat at me, how wrong it was to shop in this manner, how much more my mother deserved, how I could never find anything in this store worthy of her. Of how much she had done for me, how much she had sacrificed. I made my purchase and went home but the thought haunted me. I felt feelings I had not before and words and phrases seemed to come to me, finally I could stand it no more, alone at home I gathered up a loose piece of paper and started scribbling. When I was finished I cried like baby. It should be edited and corrected, have some phrasing changed, but I believe I will leave it stand warts and all.

Christmas 93

So it's Christmas, and I give you two books.I went shopping and looked and looked, and in the end I bought you two books.

As I looked I thought of all you have given me and nothing I saw was good enoughThought of all the times I've done less then the best and you bit your tongue.

Of the times you read me poems when I was young from index cards no less.

I know at times I'd get in trouble and seemed to never listen, I know I didn't listen well enough.But many times the Devil was pulling at my sleeve when I would ask myself,”what would Mom think" and I would turn away.

Yes, I guess you beat the Devil and didn't even know ,so, I bought you two books.

When I am older in the winter of my life and my children ask of me”what do you want for Christmas Dad?”I will smile and say, Two books bring me for Christmas, and set them on the shelf.

And then come sit beside me and and tell me how you have been. Tell me your troubles and I will coax you on. Tell me your successes and I will cheer you on.If your doing something you shouldn't I'll bite my tongue and and give you that look.

Cause that's the way your Grandma taught me and for her trouble she got two books.

Love Roy