Friday, December 30, 2011

The China Cabinet

At the prompting (ok, it was mentioned) of a couple family and friends, I wanted to continue the story of the house and add the story of the china cabinet that is now in the corner of my living room.

Granny Cline was thrifty.  Dad says she was so tight she squeaked.  I can't say I ever actually heard the squeaking, but I remember it was pretty well known that Granny watched her pennies.  But there were a few things Granny thought worth spending a little extra on.  She believed in buying good shoes and I found a beautiful wool coat with a mink collar (not protected from moths) in the attic.  Dad said she was really proud of that coat.  I can see why.  I'm sure it was gorgeous.

But apparently, Granny also believed in dishing out a little extra for a good set of furniture.  Maybe it was something she'd always wanted.  I don't know for sure, but I do remember the matching cherry wood set she had at her house.  There was a lovely dining room set, buffet and china hutch. There may have been other pieces, but I just can't remember for sure.  At any rate, when she passed away in 1978, my grand dad insisted that the set be sold at the estate auction.  I think I know where all the pieces ended up, but I am certain that a lady named Esther Smith bought the china hutch.  Ironically, Esther Smith was Matt's maternal grandmother.

So all of Matt's childhood, he remembered the lovely china hutch in the corner of his grandmother's living room.  It displayed (among other things) his Grandad Fred's pocket watch.  And when Matt's Grandma Esther passed away nearly seven years ago now, there was again an estate auction.  And since it had meaning to both of us, Matt bought it ......for us.  We were not yet married and Matt had a home in town.  The hutch lived there until we moved to our new "house"......Granny Cline's old home.

So now, after many years, the old china hutch is back in it's original home and practically in as good of condition as when it left so long ago.  Funny how things sometime come full circle, isn't it?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

This Old House

I always wanted a house that faced the east so I could watch the sunrise from my living room window.   And truthfully, for a long while, I questioned whether or not that would happen.  You see, I lived in a "mobile home" for many years and didn't really see the likelihood of being able to move or build something more to my liking.  The trailer house had, for the most part, very small windows and only one that faced the east in a small bedroom on the far end of the house.  This left it, to me anyway, quite dark and dreary.  While it was quite modern and as trailer houses go, cozy and nice, it just wasn't a "house" to me and it definitely did not face the east.

But a few years ago, when we were able to purchase family ground which had been owned by my great grandmother, Jennie Calkins Doyle Cline, there was a glimmer of hope that I just might have that house facing the east.  The original house on the place was built about 1910 or there abouts.  Later, in about 1950, the house was added onto and a basement added.  Interestingly enough, my dad, who was a young whippersnapper at the time, helped mix the cement for the basement and the stairs leading to it.  Over the years, quite a few family members had called this house home.....but no one had lived in the house for at least 7 or 8 years and it had not received much attention in the years prior to that.  The living room ceiling was falling in, leaving a huge damaged area on the floor underneath, there were several vital stays that were completely rotten from moisture, the house had settled tremendously and we questioned whether or not the foundation, built of "sandstone" (native Sandhill sand rather than gravel) would have held up over the years.  We considered bulldozing it into a pile, burning it and starting over.

But I'm so glad we didn't do that.  After having a carpenter who sort of specializes in remodels of older homes (that's putting it lightly what he actually does to some of these old houses), we decided to "bite the bullet" and have the house rebuilt.

There were a lot of good things about the house also.  With the exception of the damaged area in the living room, the original hardwood floor there, many years before covered in carpet, was in pretty good shape.  The interior walls had much better lumber in them that what you can buy today.  The house had character.  It had family history.  And I really, really liked that.  I can remember being a tiny little girl and visiting "Granny Cline"  at her house.  It wasn't until we were redoing the floor that I remembered the sound her shoes made as she shuffled her poor arthritic feet across the hardwoods. faces the east.

We had several walls removed to make the house more cohesive, changed and added two bathrooms and utility as well as adding a two car garage.  Where once there were two windows facing the east, there is now a large sliding glass door, allowing lot's of sunlight in..........and..... I.... can.... see.... the sunrise!!!

Each morning as I look to the east, the shadow of the old farmstyle barn comes into view right in front of my sunrise.  Several old timers have told stories of the barn dances held in that old hayloft.  I think of the family members who have lived here and what that means to me.  There is family history here, joy and sadness, hard work and happy times.  And I think to myself that I got just what I thought I had wanted all these years.  And while many times a person finally gets that thing they'd longed for and it isn't what they'd thought it would be, that isn't the case for me.  It's all I'd hoped for and then some. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Beef....In the News

Ok, Ok....sensitive subject here.  For me and my fellow ranchers.  Beef safety.  It's a sensitive subject because for some crazy reason, one tiny little blurb in the news can send the cattle market into complete and "udder" chaos.  And that spells disaster for us and our livelihood.

A few years ago, the great and powerful, "Oprah" made the comment, "I know I'll never eat another hamburger again."  And the beef industry went into a tailspin.  Every so often, there will be an outbreak of e-coli or someone will see a cow down at the salebarn (which nowadays can't even be sold) and "mad cow" disease is the first thing that comes to mind. 

A few months ago, in "Prevention" magazine, I read an article about a morning talk show host who recently battled cancer.  She said in the article, she was "certain".....CERTAIN....the reason she "got" cancer was because she ate so much red meat.  Pardon me, but that is one of the most irresponsible statements I have ever heard.  If the wrong person got ahold of that statement, all hell could break loose in the beef industry.  Because, for some reason, this is what the media likes to do.  They seldom report on the nutritional benefits of beef, only picking up on the negative things someone who is absolutely uninformed says.  That makes me so mad.

It isn't really just the beef industry either.  But it does seem that beef gets a terrible rap more often, just because it's beef.

A few bad producers can spoil things for many of us.  I admit, there are a few who don't care about public safety and are driven by the almighty dollar. The fact is, MOST beef producers work hard to grow good cattle who will someday contribute to the world's beef supply.  It makes sense that we would put out the best product possible, if for no other reason, than to have more customers, more people consuming our product, more return customers.  And I truly believe those "bad" producers will get theirs in the end.

We raise "Certified" All Natural, Hormone Free, Aged and Sourced cattle.  What this means is that we go to a lot more work than most producers to verify what we are doing. This certification tells buyers the cattle were raised on our place and only our place.  It tells them we have never given them growth hormones or treated them with antibiotics. There is a ton of paperwork and audits by trained professionals to make sure we are selling what we say we are.  It's a pain in the butt, to be honest, but something I feel strongly about.  I don't want to consume hormones or antibiotics unless I absolutely have to and I don't want to sell that product to someone else that way.  And honestly, the buyers pay a premium for the extra work that we do.  So to me, it's a win-win situation.   

But so much of the safety of beef is completely out of the hands of the producer.  I can sell the absolute best product available (which I do) but after it leaves our place, I can't control what happens any longer. Proper storage, preparation and cooking techniques are imperative, as with any meat.  But if some (pardon me...) DUMB ASS  (thank you) can't wash their hands before they throw a hamburger on the grill at McDonald's and someone gets e-coli, suddenly it's my problem.  Seriously.  Even though I did everything I could to deliver the safest, best product I can.  And I'm not sure a lot of people understand that.

So, for those of you that EAT BEEF, thank you.  Thank you very much.  Please don't believe everything the media tells you.  Beef is a safe product.  It's a healthy product.  As with most everything in life, common sense is necessary.  Thank you.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Memories

Well, it's the Christmas season.  Since I don't get out much, it's sometimes difficult for me to grasp that it actually is almost Christmas.  Not that I miss the way retail has made this time of year something to dread for many.  I, of course, choose to focus on the birth of our Lord, Jesus and peace, joy and love that are here for our taking.  But I do enjoy thinking about my memories of Christmas' past.

Dad used to go out when I was really little and cut down a nice cedar for our Christmas tree.  One year, he went horseback and chopped it down and drug it in.  I was really little and I think my memory of that is more just from my folks telling me about it than me actually remembering.  But I do have memories of going to North Platte and picking out a tree and bringing it home and decorating!  I loved the lights!  My Mom was a HUGE Christmas decorator.  Everything in her house got changed around for Christmas......and she loved garland.  Silver garland and shiny red Christmas balls everywhere!!

As a little kid, I remember being so excited for Santa to come!  I don't have a lot of memories about gifts that I either wanted or that I received.  I just remember the "feeling" of magic and excitement of getting to open presents and waiting for Santa. We always left a thermos of coffee and usually cookies, but one year, I thought maybe Santa got enough cookies and should have a sandwich.  So I talked Mom into letting me leave that instead.  I think I was about 6 or 7 the year I begged Dad to bring a bale of hay up to the house for the reindeer.  And for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why he wouldn't put it up on top of the house and just left it on the west side. 

Music has always been an important part of my life, especially at Christmas time. I have great memories of going caroling when I was a little kid.  My first memories of that are with the Ringgold Church group, who would organize and go around to the local ranches and sing the traditional carols.  My mom was a very talented musician and while she didn't attend church every Sunday, she wouldn't have missed something like that for anything.  It seemed like a lot of people would gather together and load up cars and pickups and convoy to our neighbor's homes.  Afterward, there was always hot chocolate and cookies either at the church or at our place (another thing my mom loved.....baking and entertaining!). 

During my early college years, a local fellow, Jim Gragg, would bring his team of belgians and his wagon into Tryon and a lot of us would gather to go caroling.  That is indeed a great memory.  We had so much fun riding in the wagon and going around town!

As an adult, I'm sorry to say, for many years my Christmas memories are not terribly wonderful or memorable.  I have spent several years fighting snow, trying to get cows fed, missing sitting down with family for Christmas dinner. 

A reasonably new (for me anyway) Christmas tradition is going to the Eclipse Church Christmas Candlelight Service.  I have been attending and singing a song for  8 or 9 years now, I think.  Eclipse is a beautiful little one room, hardwood floor, no electricity, country church in the west end of the county.   Actually, I think technically it is in Hooker county, which is to the north of us...... It is surrounded by giant Sandhills and a tiny old cemetery,  literally out in the middle of nowhere.  One of the most peaceful places I have ever been  in my life.  Matt and I were married at Eclipse, so besides the fact that it is just a very neat place to go, it has a pretty special place in my heart.  Every year, it's a packed house for the candlelight church service and music.  I can't tell you how much I look forward to going every year.

I don't send out Christmas cards anymore and I don't get out to see folks much this time of year.  But I do hold this season as one of the most special times of year.  I know it becomes hectic for many and sad for others too.  This is the time of year I think most of my mom, so I'm sure there are others who find this a difficult time of year for that reason alone.  But I think if we focus our thoughts on what Christmas really is....the birth of Jesus.....and the love of our Savior.  If we think of the peace He can place in our hearts and joy of being with those we love, or those we miss, it can truly be a wonderful time of year.

Merry Christmas, every one.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Just So You Know.....

In my effort to be upbeat and grateful as much of the time as possible, I think I have committed a major error.  I'm afraid I have over romanticized ranching and what I do.  Please do not misunderstand.  I LOVE my job.  Truly.  However, I may have allowed you to think I spend most of my time galloping horseback over the hills into the sunset without a care in the world.....

For the most part, that couldn't be further from the truth.

I am the secretary, book keeper, decision maker, dinner cooker, laundress, floor sweeper (when it gets done), dishwasher, ice chopper, poop scooper, posthole digger, wire stretcher, windmill fixer (sorta), shot giver, phone call maker, cow feeder, calf puller.....and the list goes on and on.

I spend a good share of my time in the cold months so layered up I can barely move my arms and legs.  My fingers are usually so cold from gripping a 4 wheeler grip or ice bar that I can often cannot feel the ends of my fingers.  I am generally covered from head to toe with cottoncake dust and while I like the smell of it, it is gritty and dirty.  Which reminds me, most of the time, my face is dirty.  Really dirty.  Like sucking on a pig dirty.  Like my husband and Dad make fun of me dirty. 

In the summer time, I am usually sweaty, sticky and stinky and my ears are very often sunburned.  OR I wear an extremely flattering straw hat and ride the 4 wheeler down the road with the brim flopping up and down. 

There are many days that lunch comes at 3 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon.  And we are crabby when we haven't eaten. 

I spend a lot of time alone.  And I stay home A LOT.  There is always something that needs done and more often than not, I'm the one who has to do it.  I miss out on a lot of things with friends and family because I either need to work or am just too darn tired to go.

I have no control over the weather.  And weather has a  tremendous effect on my work.  It isn't much fun to work outside in the rain or snow or gale force winds.  And unfortunately, when the weather is the worst, well, that's when I need to be out taking care of things the most.  Things need done when they need done.  That's just how it is.  Moving cows in the pouring rain, slicker or not, is miserable.  Somehow a little puddle always manages to form right in the seat of your uncomfortable.  It feels like you've peed your pants.  For hours.  The snow pelts your face like little needles when you have to ride into the wind.  And speaking of the wind.....yes, we need it to pump the windmills, but, oh my goodness....I HATE riding in the wind.  Your horse, no matter how agreeable, needs to spook at everything and it seems like nothing goes very smoothly when it's windy.  Cows don't cooperate as well in the wind, either.  And in summer when it's hot....well, it's just hot.  Since cows don't sweat, they get hot really easily.  A nice day for me moving cows is generally way too hot for a cow.  So you have to start as early as possible and hope to get there before the critters get too hot.

And believe it or not.....I CAN get enough of riding a horse.  As Dad says, "my saddle can get tired."  After 6, 8, 10 hours in the saddle moving yearlings or trying to keep baby calves from going back where you started because they can't find their mama in the herd, a person can get enough.  Trust me on this.

Sometimes I have to make decisions that I would rather not make.  A cow that has lived here all her life, from birth, has done her job for many years, never left Doyle ground, raised a calf, kept her weight up and been cooperative....eventually gets old and lame.  She doesn't have a calf in her anymore.  She has to go to the salebarn.  It is a business, after all.  Much better than not being able to get to feed and getting weak when it gets real cold.  But it still isn't a decision I like to make. 

Critters die.  Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, critters still die.  That's one of the things I will never get completely used to in this business.  I have pulled calves and tried giving them CPR, getting all that icky "just born gunk" in my mouth, and they still die.  I have drenched scoury calves, given antibiotics to pneumonia-sick yearlings, tried my darnedest to make sure I haven't missed an old cow in the fall......and they still die. 

There are days when things just don't go right.  Moving cows, working in the hayfield ( that's a whole other story completely), checking water, whatever.  There will be days when it seems like NOTHING goes right.  Calves stampede into the neighbor's and we have to go sort on a day when we had other things planned, bulls decide they don't want to stay with our cows, they like the neighbor's better, equipment breaks down and you can't get things done, getting stuck in snow or sand and having to walk home to get something or someone to help......I could go on but I think you get the picture.

My point is this.  Don't fool yourself into thinking that ranching is always the romantic, happy pastime that is often portrayed in the movies.  A person has to really want to do this and there are a lot of things about this business that are most definitely NOT romantic.  Many days it is a very physically demanding, emotionally draining, stressful, heartbreaking job.  But it is a job I wouldn't trade for the world....mostly because the good days and all the rewards DO outweigh the negatives.  But.....I just wanted you to know.

Monday, December 5, 2011


One of my dearest friends on this earth is a lady named Margaret Hawkins.  She is a gem.  In a couple of weeks, she'll be 84 years old and I truly love her to death.  Margaret is a cowgirl and has been all of her life.  And I admire the things she has done in and with her life.  But that isn't the reason I love her so much.....she is one of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever met.  Truly, she is the salt-of-the-earth.

Margaret's dad raised horses from remount stallions back when Margaret was just a girl.  My dad remembers seeing those horses they raised.  He said they were better than anything anybody else had around here.  That was the start of a lifetime of raising horses for Margaret.  Some of the horses she raises today go back to some of those old remount studs.  Impressive........ 

She was an integral part of getting barrel racing introduced into the sport of rodeo.  We take that for granted now....barrel racing was not always a rodeo event.  But women like Margaret wanted to be able to show their stuff.  And they did something about it.  Up until just a few years ago, Margaret was still running barrels.  She has run and raised some awesome barrel horses.  She raised a stallion named Tiger Brazilius, aka "Brazilius" who took her to the Mountain States WPRA Championships as well as placing her at the acclaimed Cheyenne Frontier Days and other big PRCA rodeos.  Margaret's daughter, Virgilene, also one of my dear friends, has run some of those great horses too and been very successful. 

When Margaret was about 30 years old, she married a man named Virgil Hawkins.  I wish I'd had the pleasure of meeting Virgil.  I'm sure he was quite the man.  He passed away when Margaret was about 40 and left her a pretty big ranch to take care of.  Not one to shirk her task, Margaret took on the challenge and not only did she keep the place together, she added to it and did some pretty great things over the years.  Also pretty impressive..........

I don't get to go visit the Figure 2 Ranch very often anymore.  I used to go pretty often.  Let me tell you, it was an experience. Margaret and Virgilene would always take me out to look at the colts.  They can both tell you the lineage of every colt and tell you what that colt's relatives did.  They can quote speed indexes of the running horses and tell you how much money a lot of them have won.  They aren't bragging.  They're just stating facts. Another of the things I love about both of these women.  Regardless of how much success they have had in their lives, they are not braggers.  Both are extremely humble.  And grateful.  And Margaret  bakes a pretty mean pecan pie.  Almost every time I'd go up for a visit, she'd bake one....just for me.

Many times when I talk to Margaret on the phone she will tell me how grateful they are for the good things in their lives.  Virgilene often says to me, " we're busy or we're doing this or that.....BUT THE IMPORTANT THINGS ARE GOOD."  I love that.  I love it so much that I borrow it from time to time.  And almost always when we are ready to hang up the phone, Margaret will say to me, "Good talkin' to ya.  Love you dearly."  I love you dearly, too, Margaret.  Me, and about a million others.