A Regular Outlaw

 The Strawberry Roan 

Well, down in the horse corral standing alone, was that old cavayo, a Strawberry Roan.   His legs were spavined, and he had pigeon toes, little pig eyes and a big Roman nose.  Little pin ears that were crimped at the tip, with a big 44 branded ‘cross his left hip. He’s ewe-necked and old, with a long lower jaw; you can see with one eye he’s a reg’lar outlaw.

Well I puts on my spurs and I coils up my twine–I piled my loop on him; I’m sure feeling fine. I put the blinds on him, it sure was a fight.  Next comes my saddle, and I screws it down tight. I gets in his middle and opens the blind; I’m in the right spot to see him unwind.  

He’s about the worst bucker I’ve seen on the range; he can turn on a nickel and give you some change.  He turns his old belly right up to the sun. He sure is one sun-fishin’ son of a gun!

He goes up on all fours and comes down on his side.  I don’t know what keeps him from losin’ his hide.  I loses my stirrup and also my hat, I starts pulling leather–I’m blind as a bat. With a big forward jump he goes up on high; I turns over twice and I comes back to earth–I lights in a-cussin’ the day of his birth.

I know there is ponies I’m unable to ride. Some are still living; they haven’t all died.  I’ll bet all my money the man ain’t alive that can stay with Old Strawberry when he makes his high dive. 


Moe Brandy, The Strawberry Roan
http://www.last.fm/music/Moe+Bandy/Moe+Bandy+-+Cowboy+Songs

 

Baby Chicks

Little Girl:  “Mommy, where do baby chicks come from?”

Mommy:  “From the Post Office, honey.”

The best part of winter is looking through chicken catalogs to pick out spring baby chicks.  I admit it:  I’m a chicken hoarder.  This admission is the first step of the 12 step “STOP IT” program that has just accepted me.  Oh, I didn’t sign up for it; my family held an intervention.

Here’s my dilema:  there are heavy breeds, light breeds, rare breeds, and fancy breeds.  There are Polish chickens and prolific chickens.  There are broilers (good eaters) and breeds who grow their own hats.  Some breeds are friendly and some are Pitt Bulls.   Darling pictures of chickens dressed in every solid hue pose as cover girls on these pages.  Other chickens, including, but not limited to, spangled, barred, spotted and chickens who lay colored Easter eggs are featured in the centerfold of the McMurray Hatchery catalog.  McMurray sells side orders of peacocks, guinea hens, ducks and geese, too.  My chicken catalogs are all dog eared and hiding in “the library” under the bathroom sink next to the toilet paper because God knows no one in my family will go in there to replenish a roll.

Day old baby chicks are shipped to homes from growers via the United States post office and some baby chicks (leftovers and overruns) are shipped to places like TSC or your local farm/feed store in bulk orders.  If you order chicks online or through the catalog, the minimum order is 25 of these mix and matchers.   If you are into picking up chicks, just a few at a time and not very picky, instant gratification is only a moment away at your local TSC or farm/feed store. 

Usually I will place an order for a couple dozen and when I open the box, I find a baker has been counting.

The postmaster has called me at 4 a.m. to come and get my chicks. NOW.  She will open the back of the post office for me.  They chirp a lot.  It drives the mail sorters crazy.    Generally I get “the call”  when standing in the checkout line at the grocery store with a full cart.   The Chicks are in!

EGGcellent!

 

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.

 

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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.  
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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.
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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.
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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.
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For more adventure, check out our YouTube video featuring “The Turd” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rYzbKdUotI
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Our motto:  If you aren’t laughing, you aren’t living.

Pearls Before Swine

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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”

Boda-boom-boda-bing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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