The Conjunctivitis

PINK EYE or Conjunctivitis is funny, really funny –on somebody else.

Apparently, animals get it too.  They don’t have to spend $100 and two hours at the doc’s office to cure it.  Billy the Goat, Elsie the Cow, and Sea Biscuit trot on down to the local feed and grain store to pick up a BLUE bottle of PINK Eye Spray.  It is on the shelf right next to the Thrush-Buster and just down from where they display the half gallon “baby bottles.”

Real (and pretend) farmers frequent the Durand Feed & Grain Store for supplies: Purina Goat Chow,  Layena Crumbles for chickens (get it…LAYena–the name still “cracks” me up) and they have a nice selection of “Horse Candy.”  Everything is industrial strength and comes without warning labels.

Prior to embracing a farm life, the local pet shops would suffice.  Seeing a doggie in the window,  pushing a cart through the toys and treats aisle, and checking out the fish was the extent of it.  In my city slickers days I would get all horned up about going to the office supply store.  Well let me tell you, the feed Store and the hardware Store do it for me now.

The Feed Store doesn’t have a lot of fancy signs or displays; no shopping carts either.  You are supposed to know what you want.  You are supposed to know there’s a literal drive-thru (a giant barn) to get your big bags loaded.  Once you know these things, you feel like you belong.  If you want to know something, you just ask.  I like that.  Most are family operations.  I like that, too.

The Feed Store’s colorful shelves and shiny metal objects caught my attention today and I focused on the offerings.  Got Krud?  Spray on a little Cowboy Magic’s “Krudbuster” and no one will know.  Bleeding profusely?  Apply some Blood Stop Powder…a little dab will do ya. Stacked tall on wooden pallets are giant bags of pig chow, goat chow, horse chow, dog chow, and rabbit chow.  Did you know rabbits chowed?  I thought they nibbled.




Big Nasty and The Turd

Big Nasty

(Unfortunately) we like to name our vehicles on the farm.  Big Nasty is the stuff road trips are made of.  She’s sporting lots of chrome and someone has “Bedazzled” her dash.  BN is a Peterbilt 379 EXHD  18-speed fuller with Georgia overdrive, complete with a sweet set of chicken lights on the front bumper.  Last week she was hauling boats from New York to Florida and this week she’s all ours.  
Adam and I blew out of Flint on Thursday morning, running and gunning for the Jersey Shore.  (Slow it down now, Momma)   We made 700 miles in 12 hours with a couple of pit stops.  BTW… these people on the east coast need to take a Motor City driving class.  Despite several of their attempts to cause great bodily harm to us, the crash bar on my Ford Taurus sounded off just once, thanks to my superior driving skills.   After this experience, Adam and I made an executive decision to get a custom made image placed on the Ford’s rear window shade screen.  This screen moves up and down with the push of a button so we decided to leave it down until someone deserves to receive a message.
The truck yard where Big Nasty was parked was near Manhattan so, as luck would have it, we got a two-for-one on this trip.  My oldest son, John, (Adam’s bro) has a NY apartment  close by so we bunked down with him on Thursday night after a pizza treat and some small talk.   I brought John the perfect gift…two drinking glasses that said “Little Joe’s, Grand Blanc, MI” on them and some fresh baked cookies.  Ok, I wanted to bring fresh baked cookies, but I didn’t have time to bake so I bought them and made them look fresh baked.  There, I feel better.


We said our goodbyes on Friday morning and met up with the seller, Frank, from Cuba, who speaks just like Al Pacino in Scarface.  Our big adventure just got better.  Oh-Em-Gee!   Big Nasty was owned by a guy who “would cut ‘em up real nice for a Green Card.”   He started her 550 Cat Diesel engine  and a plume of grey smoke roared out of the dual straight stacks as the engine loped.  Her sound did not disappoint.  After a quick tutorial and a thorough inspection, it was time to test drive her up to the pumps.  “Tony Montana” was happy with himself because she only had about 50 gallons in her when we arrived at the gas station.  700 gallons later, we were westbound and down, bobtailing across state lines.
My Taurus averaged 29.3 mpg with BN as a wind break.   Adam is “The Green Hornet” and I am “The North Star”…our saweeeeeeet  CB handles.   10-4 back door.   TRIP REPORT:  We made friends with a Wiggle Wagon (truck tractors pulling two or three trailers –legal in OH), avoided getting any Driving Awards from Town Clowns in Plain Wrappers, and, luckily, all the Weight Watchers were closed.  We didn’t have to slow down in the Antler Alleys either.  We saw one Cowboy Cadillac going to the Pokey with a Smokey and Adam saw some nice seat covers from his elevated perspective.    We kept it between the ditches and put it to the floor, looking for more.   At 1:30 a.m. on Saturday morning we rolled into The Buick.
For more adventure, check out our YouTube video featuring “The Turd” at
Our motto:  If you aren’t laughing, you aren’t living.

Pearls Before Swine



Icy north winds blew snow across the endless Iowa prairie and over the backs of huddled up cattle as I headed eastbound, through the corn belt on I-80, from Coon Rapids, Iowa–back home–to Flint, Michigan.   


The landscape was surreal.  Nothing broke the plain except for a few clusters of twisted, gnarled oak trees and weather beaten grain elevators.  The main industry along my route was ethanol production.  Every so often a small town sprang up around a silver nucleus of massive corn silos.  “Colder than a well digger’s arse” came to mind when I saw the exhaled breath steaming out from frosted calf noses and each time a hard shiver made me want to turn up the heater in the truck.  

Coon Rapids has a vibrant, historic downtown shopping district sans a Walmart, KMart, or grocery conglomerate.  These are family-owned businesses where grandchildren work elbow to elbow with grandparents.  After being in town just a few days, I stopped up at the Hardware Store for some parts.  The woman behind the counter asked, “You must be Kelly?”  A big, fat smile spread from cheek to cheek as it dawned on me that just being new here made you special.

I came to Coon Rapids out of “necessity”….my husband was deer hunting in “Macke Land” –with a family he has loved to hunt with for the past 12 years.  This year, however, a business meeting cut his deer camp week short so, anticipating the inevitable (he doesn’t lack confidence or optimism) he recruited me to drive him to the airport at the end of his hunt and to deliver his deer meat, antlers, gear (oh, and his hunting dog) all the way back home, a distance of 700 miles.  At first glance, it seems I was doing him the favor.  As it turns out, the gift was mine.

I’ve lived with this man for 30 years and have listened to all of his big swamp buck stories.  This year I was privy to all the camp lingo and the strategies that make blood brothers out of men. Stuff like:  Day two, dark-thirty…BBD.  (Just to whet your whistle and show off some tough guy swagger that I picked up at deer camp.)  Big Buck Down.

Finally, I was able to get into a stand of precious timber, see this Boone & Crockett buck down where he was harvested, and witness the respect for the game and the chase that our group of hunters has.  Then came the fun part:  watching two grown men sweat and struggle to drag this monster buck some distance down a ravine, then back up a ravine, and finally heave it into the bed of a pick up truck on the count of three.  I played dumb and watched while their antics tickled my funny bone.  John climbed up into his tree stand and relived the action for me, minute by heart pounding minute.  I could see Christmas morning in my husband’s eyes.  When I put my arms around him for our picture, I felt him still shaking like a little girl from the adrenaline rush.  I smiled at him, on my inside.

Our hosts prepared a MAN CAVE dinner with 2″ steaks sizzling on the grill to celebrate.  The area Game Warden (Title always  capitalized here in Macke Land) stopped by for a bite and a story.  Gus entertained him with stories about how he “influences” trespassers (pumpkin heads) who “no speak-a-da English” to master the language REAL QUICK once they are busted on his land.  The whole camp is on a “swat team” high alert for Pumpkin Heads at all times.

The next day the meat packer sent out a 9-1-1 call to us saying that we had to get over to his shop before dark thirty, a day early, because he already had 35 townies come through, taking pictures of John’s deer, and trouble was brewing. EVERYONE heard about this buck.  He knew that someone would help themselves to these antlers before dawn.  He didn’t want to be responsible.
This was our cue. We said our goodbyes, collected our things, our dog, and our memories and left town with our buck of a lifetime.  On the way to the airport and just
outside of Iowa City, a frozen ravine caught my eye.  I looked down from the bridge and saw five perched bald eagles!  My heart skipped a beat.

By 2 p.m. John was on his flight and I was eastbound and down headed for the Michigan line.  FAST.  After a testosterone filled week, I was ready to “git-r-done”.  600 more miles to go without heat in the car (we have to keep the processed meat frozen and the hide from reeking–which was incentive enough for me to follow the rules–this time).  I threw up the radar detector and set the cruise at 84.  In no time, I reached the world’s largest I-80 truck stop.  They have three giant semi trucks in there on display, a laundromat, a hotel, several restaurants, a parts department featuring CHROME and a wall of rig lighting–plus a Ginormous gift shop.

Shopping at I-80 Truck Stop
“World’s largest”









So far, so good.  I passed the three I’s without smelling any bacon.  Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana.  At midnight I crossed the Michigan line, making time.   Yes, I listened to Dr. Laura, XM’s The Highway, Fox News Channel, and Blue Collar Radio.  I admit it.  With 50 miles to go, my phone rang.  It was John.  He was at his hotel and thought to check on….his Dear…his Deer.  You decide.

As soon as I bragged about my speed, my time, and my total awesomeness….I was attacked by big flashing cherries in the rear view mirror.  Yep, I took my eye off the ball for a minute and Porky came calling.  What to do, what to do.

He came along side the window and I told him I had guns… and bullets… and dead animals… in my truck.  Arnold asked for my license, registration and certificate of insurance, all business-like.  Then I threw down the trump card.  “Hey, do you want to see my 14 pt. buck?  He’s a Booner”  With a wicked grin and a twinkle in his eye, he said, “Sure, hop out.  Show me whatchagot.” I buttered his bread on both sides, telling him he got me fair and square.  The clincher was when I asked him if he wanted to hold the antlers.

After checking the tags, my new BFF shot me “The Look”  (I see it every time I get pulled over and work my magic)  and he said, “Just slow ‘er down, na.”

AND SO… Stay tuned as I continue to be a legend in my own mind.

The Last Supper

Practice Makes Perfect

From my desk upstairs tonight, well past midnight, I heard a ruckus going on in the side yard, near the barn.  This farmer’s wife knows the sound of livestock in trouble.  John had gone to bed so I, quick, grabbed his Kimber 45 with the laser grip, popped in a clip, racked in a shell and turned off the safety.  Whatever it was out there, it was gonna die.  Good thing I did some target practicing last week using an old campaign sign–kind of poetic, eh?


John made me laugh as he shot up his own sign. Love his tee shirt, too. That’s my man!

A heavy drizzle was coming down, creating ghostly shadows against the barn lights.  There was a small LED flashlight in my rain gear which came in handy as I neared the chicken coop and saw some of my girls running around outside in the dark. Chickens are blind at night and roost; this could only mean trouble and an unhappy ending for the trouble maker.   I was surprised that an intruder got through the coop’s electrified fence.

I killed the power, opened the gate, and peeked through the pop hole. The glassy eyes of a big ‘ol egg eating opossum stared back at me.  That explained the frantic cluckers and all their squawking.  The only good opossum is a dead one and this one was going down.  You can mess with a lot of things on my farm, but NOT my girls.

He found a hiding spot in the corner of the coop and it was a tough shot.  I put a red bead on his body and fired.  He began to drag his carcass out of the hen house and I could see yellow egg yolk all over his face.  That dirty ‘ol egg sucking bastard.  Opossums will eat the eggs first and the hens next.  My mind began to flash with movie quotes from Al Pacino in Scarface:  “Say hello to my little friend.”    I couldn’t believe the thing  was crawling right at me, almost over my boots.   “Oh, so you want to play rough.”  I popped another cap into him and thought “For a green card I would carve him up real nice.”

People think farms are happy places where the sun shines and the sheep,  pigs, and horses graze.  In reality, there is a lot of carnage as we try to protect the lives of our animals who can not protect themselves.  We worry about coyotes, skunks, and especially raccoons.   I did what I had to do and laughed to myself that my big, strong swamp buck hunter of a husband heard the shots and rolled over in bed, confident that The Farmer’s Wife had taken care of business.


Baby Rose

The Birds and The Bees

Our sweet German Shorthaired Pointer, Anna, was six years old when we drove her to Wisconsin to be bred to FC AFC Dr. N’s C. J. MH, VC  a  recognized champion in the National Bird Dog Hall of Fame.  350 miles, some Mickey D’s, and two pit stops later we arrived at his kennel ready to take a picture of the dogs when they met and mingled.  I figured there would be at least a half of an hour of photo ops as they became acquainted;  sniffing, greeting, and circling.  I wanted to pose them side by side for a picture we could frame.  Afterwards, I imagined both lovebirds would go into a private kennel while we owners drank champagne and passed cigars around.  

Dr. N’s C.J.

As soon as Anna hopped down from our truck, CJ was on top of her.  He is a boy who has been to this rodeo before.  John and I were equally shocked at the speed of connectivity.  Even Verizon Wireless would be impressed.  We locked eyes in panic and John rushed to Anna’s side.  The camera dangling around my neck was my only move…I was stopped cold, frozen in my tracks.    The kennel owner explained how important it is that we witness the blessed TWENTY MINUTE event to prove he used the correct stud.  (Jeez-Louise, I would have believed him anyway.)

After 25 years of marriage, we were honestly embarrassed in front of each other.  I thought I had seen it all, but had to laugh (inside) watching John hold Anna and whispering to her, “It’s okay, Anna, it’s okay,” as CJ’s tongue lolled out the side of his mouth.  Throughout the service, John locked eyes with me and I with he, and we did our best to feign dignity.   The stud’s owner shot me the skunk eye when she noticed the camera.   We were busted.   I didn’t bring it for the express purpose of doggie porn, I assured her.   We were totally green –and Anna was too by then.

May 1, 2003  -  Whelping Day

A few short months later, we had a litter of eight speckled pups and all the joy our hearts could hold.  Their little squeaks were music and they would cuddle in our arms for hours.  The first five weeks were a piece of cake; Anna did all the work.  After that, they figured out how to get out of their enclosure and left us gifts of every size.  One pup would be a keeper; a gun dog to take over momma’s job.  We had to pick. 

Ours had to have the best nose, lots of intensity, and we wanted a white-ish one, a real “looker”.     There was one pup in particular who was especially connected to Anna.  She kept by momma’s side and did a lot of sitting.  She was heavily ticked and the darkest dog–and some in my family thought she was the ugliest one.  She was fat, too.  A big, round, fat, full puppy.  As the rest of the puppies were sold to hunting homes, somehow Creekwood’s Ramblin’ Rose stayed behind.  My fat baby Rose–the dog only a mother could love.

Remi at 8 weeks

Nap Time in May

Rosie proved to be a solid hunter.  She had a great nose and made trips to Iowa and the Dakotas where she put up hundreds of pheasants.  John did a great job getting her ready.  Everyday we worked on obedience and field training.   Her deep chest was full of air and her stamina rivaled that of any professional hunting dog.  Everyone wanted to hunt behind John’s dog.

Anna and Rose, doing what they were born to do.

Fate Steps In

Anna, our sweet momma, grew jealous of Rose.  She began to take off with Rose and run away, trying to lose Rose.  They would be gone for two hours and Anna would come back first, feeling triumphant.  Then Rose would (thankfully) show up and we could all breathe again.  Our solution was to never to let both dogs out at the same time.  For months it worked until one day the housekeepers were here and they unknowingly let both dogs out at the same time.  Sure enough, Anna took off and Baby Rose followed.  It was a 20 degree November day filled with flurries and dropping temps as the night drew down.   No Anna.  No Rose.  Finally, John’s cell phone rang.  A frantic lady said, “Hurry, come out to Baldwin Road.  Your dog is hurt.  I hit it with my car.”

We shot through the front door, dropped the truck in drive, and fish tailed down the road spitting snow, ice and salt.  In a sad way both of us secretly hoped it wasn’t Rose.  When we got to the scene, Anna was standing and Rose was in the back seat of a car, wrapped in a red blanket.  Her upper thigh bone was snapped and exposed.  The opposite hip was out of the socket, rendering her a paraplegic.  The lady said that after she hit the dog, it spun around and was dragging itself across the icy road by it’s front legs and crying out.  She couldn’t leave it.  Using the information on Rose’s collar, she called us.  THANK GOD for responsible drivers!

At Michigan State’s Veterinary Hospital in East Lansing, we learned that her whole caboose was shot.  She was four years old, in her prime, and fully trained to do what she was born to do–hunt upland game.  We opted to have her leg surgically repaired with rods, plates, and pins and the hip was placed in a sling that we lifted each time she had to evacuate.  You learn those nifty words in the hospital.  After six months, the rod became infected and had to be removed.   The vets at State assured us that the bone had healed and it was strong.  The day we brought her home from the hospital, I heard a loud snap.  She screamed and hobbled on three legs.  John and I knew we were back to square one.  At this point, having gone through all the pain that I know we three could tolerate, we opted to put her down.

Fate Steps In

Training Day

Buckets of tears later, while staring out a window, a random thought popped into my head.  I wondered if Dr. N’s CJ was still at stud.  If we couldn’t have Baby Rose anymore, maybe we could get a half sister? (Anna was ten years old and wasn’t viable.)  At 13 years of age, trusty CJ had sired an impressive litter seven weeks earlier.  Off we went, hearts in hand, back to Wisconsin, where we played with a pack of puppies and picked a perfect pup– Remington’s Iron Maiden, Rosie’s sister!


3 Months Old: Our first camping trip!

Anna accepted Remi with a scowl, but soon enough everybody loved everybody.  Now fully trained to pheasant hunt, Remi has just turned four years old.  I tell her every day that her Daddy was a champion and her sister was loved.  She just looks back at me with impatient eyes that say, “So are you going to hand over that treat, or what?”




Eyes on the Prize

Remi honors Cash



Remi in Winter White

Remington’s Iron Maiden

Rose and Anna

The Story of the Broken Ankle

The only smart thing I did that day was to sneak off into the woods and relive myself behind the tent as soon as I woke up.  My brother was shuffling around down by the boat so I walked over to see what the commotion was.  Woody had just tossed back what we affectionately call a snake (an undersized northern pike) and was parking his fishing pole against a tree, all proud of himself.  It was around 9:30 a.m. on a chilly Yooper summer morning on a remote, wilderness island anchored two miles north of our base camp on the Michigamme Reservoir near Crystal Falls, Michigan.

Snake Extraction

“Our spot” had all the creature comforts any adventurer would expect from two seasoned campers.  A green, dented Coleman cook stove was percolating some cowboy coffee on top of a sturdy, white pine picnic table.  Nails were pounded into trees to hold ropes, lanterns and supplies.  The fire pit was protected by heavy stones of every hue and shape that we’ve carried in year after year and arranged as the years blur by.  There is a tarp covered cache for our food and we have a flat bench by the fire where boat cushions are stacked for extra comfort.  The best part about our camp is its location, on the back side of this island, hidden from view by a secret passage.

Oh yeah…deluxe!

Still in my sleeping shorts and tee shirt, I gathered up a Pop Tart for breakfast and sloshed it down with an ice cold diet Coke from the cooler.  Woody finished his coffee and wanted to head back to Way Dam Resort, our base camp.  The day was so perfect, so peaceful, so beautiful, so aromatic and satisfying that we struck a deal.  He would take the boat, go back to the resort, and return for me about five hours later, at 3 p.m.   I’m thinking, “I have my pop and my Reader’s Digest so I’m all set.  Go!  Leave me alone in paradise.”

Pure Michigan Sunrise

He wasn’t gone but ten minutes when I got to thinking about that fish he caught.  I figured if he could catch a fish from the shore right there, I could too.  I snagged his pole and walked down the steep, sandy bank to the water’s edge and began to cast and retrieve.  Nothing.  Again.  Nothing.  Then I got to thinking maybe the boat’s wake mucked up the water right there so I should slip over a bit and try my luck again.  My luck struck.  Instantly.  Before my mind could grasp the consequences of my actions, I was splayed out on the ground and my leg went one way while my foot went the other:  a washout was under the sand.  On the way down I was fortunate enough to hear two crisp snaps.  Uh-oh.

This was ugly.   I took an instant inventory as adrenalin spiked my senses.  I remember thinking, “This isn’t good.”  When the horror of it subsided, and without extra or really any thought, I grabbed my foot like one would instinctively swat a bee and snapped it back into place.  Within a couple of minutes, I had kankles!


Suddenly I realized how wet and cold the sandy shore was.  It didn’t worry me much because the sun was getting higher in the sky.  Screaming for help was not an option; I knew that no one could hear me or find me.  So I did what any Campfire girl would do.  I started to sing songs and make a mental note of the birds I saw flying overhead.  At one point a giant, white headed bird sailed low, very close and my thought was, “Buzzards!”  I continued to entertain myself and wait calmly, knowing that in reality, THIS was the best the day was going to be for me because, once I was rescued, doctors would be poking, prodding and pinching me.  I was in no rush, and, surprisingly, it wasn’t as painful as you might think.

The passing hours allowed me time to figure out a plan.  Our boat was a deep-V Lund aluminum one and my dad’s boat was a  bass boat with a flat front style.   Woody would be coming back in five (short) hours with our deep-V boat and I was intent on sending him back for dad’s.  There was no way I could move or crawl up on the bank back to the tents so there was no way I was crawling up into a boat with my ankle dangling.

Soon, I began to shiver…just a little at first, goosebumps, and then some violent shivering.  Hypothermia was setting in from laying so long on the wet sand coupled with the strong breeze and wet clothing.  Did I mention the nifty “Y” shaped stick I found to prop up my leg?  I lifted it out of the sand and dragged myself up the bank using my elbows and one good leg to reach a patch of tall grass and reeds.  They made a great blanket as I picked and wove them to cover my body and got the ‘ol leg propped back up on the stick.

Back at the cabin…how I spent my summer vacation!

Then he saw me.  Woody glided the boat to shore and instantly sprang into action.  I’m waving my hands and telling him not to worry and that I’ve got things all figured out.  He runs up to his tent, grabs his sleeping bag, and throws it over me.  Then my handy, awesome brother gathers two long, flat pieces of driftwood and some duct tape to construct a makeshift splint.  He springs back into his ride and blasts out of there as I’m yelling, “Tell Dad to get his van ready at the far boat launch so I can crawl into it.”

My day ended as you might suspect:  emergency room, x-rays, and glorious medications.   Doctor’s orders were to get to an orthopedic surgeon the next morning.  Diagnosis:  broken heel and small broken ankle bone.  Snap-Snap.






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