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.