A Christmas Tale

IMG_8813.JPG

Nellie’s cookie tin . . . .

As Christmas and a new year approach, I become sentimental about seasons past and loved ones who have made life a little richer.  Recent musings about Christmas on Dry Creek led me to a time when I was the chosen child for a special mission.  I wasn’t in school yet and hung around the kitchen as my mother made an amazing array of cookies, fudge and pies.  My interest in all of this wasn’t culinary so much as waiting to lick a spoon or mixing bowl when she finished with it.

After many days of preparation, her Christmas goods were carefully wrapped in boxes and tins and placed in a deep shelf over the stairwell leading down to the basement.  In those days a small kitchen window looked out over the shelf and beyond to a summer porch.  It was cold on the porch and her treasure would be well preserved, if not literally frozen by the minus 30-degree temperatures that commonly occurred in Wyoming winters in the forties and fifties.

Getting to this temporary winter storage took a bit of daring.  The stairwell was a yawning chasm of steep concrete steps and if you slipped on the top stair or could not pull yourself onto the shelf, down you went.  I can vividly recall the fear and daring involved because as I got older, my brother and I were frequent visitors to the shelf, sneaking some pre-Christmas goodies and taking care not to disturb the wrapping so Mom could not observe through the little window what was going on.  But I digress.

As Christmas Day approached, my mother went into overdrive.  After delivering my older siblings to school in town, she began dragging her storage containers of baked goods to the dining room table.  She made a selection, wrapped everything in waxed paper, and filled a stack of cardboard boxes.  What a feast was laid out before my eyes!  Peanut brittle and red and green popcorn balls; penoche, peanut butter, chocolate, divinity and million dollar fudge; chocolate and vanilla pinwheels, peanut butter crisscrosses, mincemeat-filled and sugar cookies cut into bells, reindeer and Christmas tree shapes; pumpkin, mince and apple pies; and fruit cakes.  When she had her boxes filled she began carrying them out to the car, a black 1942 Chevy four-door sedan.

She bundled me in warm clothes and I don’t recall her saying where we were going.  As we bounced along on frozen rutted roads, I held my breath as she plowed through snow drifts, hard and crusted from the wind.  The car heater was just above the floor on the passenger side and the fan was rattling and wheezing on high, blowing warm air over me.  Frost melted on the car window, making it hard to see outside and I remember being too warm in all my winter clothes.  That would soon change.

Our first stop was in Antelope Basin just a few miles north and west of our house.  We pulled up to an old sheep wagon surrounded by a few rustic outbuildings which was the home of the Taylor brothers, Roy and John.  Two old bachelor sheep men who lived alone were at the top of Mother’s list to share her Christmas bounty with and as I surveyed the desolate scene, it sure looked like they could use a little cheer.  Mom carried the box of treats, and we stumbled through the snow to the steps to the sheep wagon.  I gave a knock on the door and then we waited while their herding dogs barked and raised a ruckus.  Finally, the fierce weathered face of Roy appeared at the door.  He smoked a little pipe and it was clenched in a notch in his lower teeth which were either worn or chipped away.  He had a hunch back which lowered his face down and forward a bit and he seemed quite close as I whispered “Merry Christmas” and bolted for the car.

The heater felt good as we headed to our next destination, which turned out to be another bachelor. Clyde Williams lived in a log house on a homestead just east of Dry Creek.  He had two maiden sisters, Maude and Gladys, who some years later moved to town.  He was always available to help us with the round-up and to brand calves in the spring and Mom invited him to dinner on occasion.  He praised her cooking and could lay away more mashed potatoes and gravy than anyone I had ever seen.  He was balding with tufts of white hair, red-faced, and wore wire spectacles that made him look just like how I imagined Santa Claus to be.  As we made our way to his cabin, I was relieved to see his ornery rooster was cooped up with the chickens and would not pose a threat.  Clyde was delighted to receive Mother’s annual Christmas box and handed me a little Snickers candy bar as his way of saying thanks.  It was old and hard as a brick but I didn’t mind as I knew I would get lots of sweets at home.

The trip into Kaycee was a little easier as we were on paved road–old U.S. 87 in those days.  We left a box with my great aunt Alice, who lived alone in a house next to my grandparent’s general store.  Her place was stacked so high with books, magazines, boxes and collectibles that she could barely make a path to the porch to greet us.  We made a couple more stops in town and I don’t recall who the people were.  Then we drove up Barnum Road to leave a box with Elmer Peters who lived in a dugout with a wooden camper shell for a roof.  Carved out of an embankment, Elmer’s abode wasn’t tall enough to stand in but he had a little wood stove that kept him from freezing.  He liked to joke that he did not believe in laying in too much wood–he might die and someone else would get to burn it!  Elmer worked for Dad off and on through the years as a hired hand and would often stay in our bunkhouse.  He taught us how to play Muggins, a card game that I loved.  When you had a Muggins you could yell, raise your arm and slap down your cards in a victorious assault.  I have tried to find someone who remembers how to play, but it seems to have been erased from all our memories.  One winter evening when Mom and Dad were away at the neighbor’s house for a Christmas party, we ganged up on Elmer and dressed him in our mother’s little red straw hat, high heels and a dress over his jeans and flannel shirt.  He had a purse over his arm and pranced around our living room, drawing hoots of laughter from us.  I don’t think our mother was thrilled when she learned what we had done with her finery.

As Christmas draws near I imagine somewhere in Heaven our mother is busy baking treats for all the bachelors, loners and misfits who made it through the pearly gates.

Porcelain Bronc

IMG_8816.JPG

The last ride . . . .

More — Travels With Sandy

A minor restoration project turned into a fairly major event, which was duly recorded by Sandy.  I had been scraping and cleaning up the bottom of an ancient claw-foot cast iron bathtub which had a white porcelain finish on the interior.  The tub had been sitting outside for quite some time before I acquired it and had quite a bit of rust on the bottom.  Chet the carpenter and I managed to get the tub upside down aboard a cart he made with wheels so I could move it around and pull it inside the shop in case of rain.  I removed the legs so I could soak them and scrape off the old paint and rust.  After several coats of stripping gel and a couple of weeks, I was finally ready to paint.  I applied two or three coats of enamel and waited in between coats for the paint to dry.

Throughout all this activity, Sandy and I had coffee together a few times and conversation usually centered around our latest projects.  Sandy was always busy with something and had no fear of any chore she took on.  She was a bang-up carpenter, seamstress and general all-around hand.  We both decided to paint our houses that summer and she went to town with me to pick up paint samples.  She wanted a particular shade of red and wore me out with her decision-making process.  It had to be just the RIGHT SHADE OF RED!  We decided to try power washing before scraping and priming, but that’s another story.

As Chet finished the bathroom remodeling, the day came to install the bathtub.  We bolted the legs back on and hauled the tub on the cart into the house and into the bathroom.  It practically filled the dinky room, just as the old tub it replaced had done.  You can only do so much in an old house!  We had ripped out the old plastic tiles on the walls, replaced the drywall, installed new wall coverings, laid a new tile floor and repainted.  After much chaos and hard work, I decided to try the tub and soak my aching back.

I ran the tub full of hot water and bubble bath, climbed in and leaned back to soak.  My tiptoes barely made it to the end of the tub and the sloped back was made for comfort.  I had barely begun my sudsy immersion when something resembling an earthquake took place.  The tub tipped, the bath water became a tsunami rising toward my head, and the faucets began to spew a stream straight into the air.  In no time, the room was engulfed in a downpour of record proportions.  The tub’s plumbing was a free-for-all and as I raced from the room for shoes and a robe, I could not even think how of where to turn the water off.

Later, after I had twisted every water line faucet in the basement, I was able to bring the disaster under control, sort of.  The water by now had reached other rooms in the house.  Fortunately the old floors sloped down to the east and a lot of the water ran down the hallway through the door.  I was finally able to see that one of the legs had come off the tub, causing the whole business to tip downward, disrupting the plumbing.

By this time I decided I needed to talk to someone who had been through a flood.  Sandy had saved and restored her historic home after a 100-year flood on the Middle Fork of Powder River.  My troubles seemed tiny in comparison.

“Guess what?”  That’s a good way to start a conversation on the telephone.  As I sat with dripping hair and a cup of tea, I recounted what had just happened with my new old bathtub.  She offered sympathy, advice and told me to go to bed and “forget about it.”  Later that week when the Kaycee Voice was published, there in bold print was an illustration Sandy created of a wild-eyed woman in a capsizing bathtub that brings me to laughter whenever I think about it.  Sandy added the title “Porcelain Bronc,” and her illustration was as good as any I’ve seen.

Sandy’s vision is limited due to a hereditary condition that makes it very difficult for her to read or draw.  She had to have labored over her cartoon and put in a great deal of effort.  But that’s the way she does everything she takes on, and her determination, grit and savvy have always pulled her through.

Postscript:    Turns out the legs are numbered to coincide with numbers on the tub.  I remembered seeing raised numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 as I scraped, but did not give it much thought.  After a great heave-ho, we got the legs to match up to the numbers on the tub, re-installed the whole thing and it works just fine.

Epilogue – Sandy left many good memories and I have tried to capture some to remind me of her.  She died October 6, 2017.

Incident At The Occidental

168s(10)

Occidental Hotel

More–Travels With Sandy

Helen could croon a tune and play the best honky-tonk piano any of us can recall.  She had a gig at the Occidental in Buffalo on a Saturday night, and she asked if I would like to drive her and hear her group The Homesteaders play some country music.  I agreed, and invited Sandy to ride along so I would have some company while Helen performed.  We would travel in Helen’s white Cadillac and I was the designated driver.

We drove to Kaycee to get Sandy and headed north on old Highway 87.  Sandy was riding in the back seat and removed her shoe and sock to work on her “sore toe.”  Dad used to say 87 was nothing but a paved cow path, and as I took a sharp curve and then suddenly braked to avoid a mule deer near the edge of the highway, Sandy yelled out in pain.  She was attempting to trim a toenail with her pocket knife and had inadvertently stabbed herself.  I think I knew then the evening was going to be somewhat unusual.

We drove into Buffalo and got Helen settled in the saloon at the Occidental, stopping to say hello to Dan Carlat and Charlie Firnekas, who would be joining her on stage.  Helen ordered dinner and hurriedly ate as there would be no opportunity later in the evening.  Helen was diabetic and missed meals were a big deal.  Sandy and I settled down at a table in the saloon, ordered drinks and were soon immersed in conversation with locals who were gathering for the evening’s entertainment.  We were having a thoroughly enjoyable time when a tall, good looking guy walked over to our table and said, “Hi, Sandy.”  She got all flustered she didn’t immediately recognize her boss from Sheridan who was having dinner dinner with a group in the restaurant (she later told me he had a mustache last time she saw him).  She declined the offer of a drink and I felt like kicking her under the table as she obviously wasn’t going to introduce me.  More about that later.

We managed to stretch out a couple of drinks, including ice cubes, for the entire evening and when 11:00 p.m. rolled around, the band dispersed and we were loaded in the car for the return trip.  We got a couple miles south of Buffalo, just at cruising speed when “BLAM!”  I hit a whitetail deer crossing the highway in front of us.  Stopped the car, jumped out to view the damage, worried over the deer, who disappeared.  A womanly huddle ensued and it was decided we should drive back to town since the damage might be more severe than we imagined and we could be left stranded on the interstate if the car somehow failed to make it home.  The huge dent in the right front fender and missing headlight were a very real problem, however.

Buffalo’s finest might be waiting for a dented Cadillac with a missing headlight driven by a designated driver who had at least two drinks (possibly more).  They might also be waiting for Sandy, who had enjoyed at least two drinks (possibly more) and whose license was restricted to Kaycee and environs.  They might also be waiting for Helen, who could no longer drive due to her diabetes but who had not been consuming any alcoholic beverages all evening.  Take your pick.

Helen got the short straw and climbed behind the wheel.  We drive slowly back into town, peering right and left for state highway patrol and/or city cop cars, all the while watching the white lines to determine whether Helen could actually see where she was driving.  At least I was watching.  Sandy could not see the white lines.

We parked in an alley so as not to be too noticeable and decided to return to the Occidental to call Helen’s husband a.k.a. my big brother Jim to report the good news.  A restroom break was the first order of business and Helen was digging fiercely in her over-sized purse for her insulin.  “I forgot to shoot up after eating tonight, and I’m real shaky!”  I scrambled to help her find her insulin kit, insert a needle into the bottle and measure out the dosage she thought she needed (she couldn’t see the markings on the bottle and a lot of guesswork ensued). That’s when it dawned on us she had been driving to town on the edge of a diabetic coma!  She went into the restroom to “shoot up” as she called it and came out looking very wan and weak.  We sat down in the saloon, which by now was nearing closing time, to wait for Jimmy to rescue us and to try and imagine how to tell him what our evening had been like and why his wife’s car had a banged-up fender and missing headlight.

Sandy called next day to say it had been “a hulluva good time.”  She wasn’t sure she wanted to go again any time soon, however.

Dirt Roads, Reservoirs and Rattle Snakes

IMG_8721.JPG

Prairie steed . . . .

More . . . . Travels With Sandy

Sandy was the Southern Johnson County water commissioner.  She invited me to ride along with her in the autumn of 2007.  Summer was about gone and her long list of reservoirs to be inspected was narrowing down to a few far-flung dry holes on the eastern edge of her assigned territory.  I was interested in the prospect of touring the prairie stretching from Nine Mile to the Pumpkin Buttes.  My family homestead lies just east of the Pine Ridge and it was a welcome opportunity to stir up a few memories and a lot of dust.

We loaded up some lunch and water bottles.  Her old Ford Bronco was already piled high in back with the tools of her trade: shovel; level; tape measure; “come along” to open gates; rope; and a cheater bar to loosen lug nuts in case of a flat tire.  She had a sheaf of plans and permit maps provided by the Wyoming State Engineer which we were supposed to decipher to locate the reservoirs.  After a quick look at some of those, I figured we were in for a long day.

As near and I can recall, our trip was a vast circle that took us down the Sussex highway east to Highway 50 and from there a series of graveled and dirt roads that led us back to Reno Road and home on old U.S. 87.  I was lost most of the time, but Sandy seemed to have an unerring instinct for locating the reservoirs, many of which were ancient and had not seen water in years.  Finding roads to the dams was out of the question and we bounced and bucked over sagebrush, up and down hills, across gullies and washed out dry creek beds.  The dust came in one side of the Bronco and out the other.  We had to keep the windows rolled down because Sandy chain-smoked as she drove along.  Since I didn’t smoke, she wanted me to “breathe fresh air and smell the sage.”

The dust didn’t seem to affect her vision.  Frankly, I believe she was driving from plain grit and instinct.  I offered to take the wheel but got a flat “no!”  After a great deal of trial and error, our search would eventually lead us to the designated reservoir.  We got out and after a firm warning to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, she would commence with her job to determine if there was any water (no in almost all cases); measure the height of the dam; check the spill way; measure the length of the dam; and look for any problems that may have cropped up since the last inspection.  Some were only required to be inspected every five years, which makes it difficult to remember where on earth they are located.

It would seem a simple task to check in with the ranchers and get clear directions.  Not.  Modern ranches are far flung and few ranch headquarters remain out in the prairie.  We drove past old homestead sites with little but foundation stones and rusting windmills left standing to blow in the wind.  Houses, sheds and anything that could be relocated were removed long ago and ended up in town or on somebody’s ranch many miles away, which was the case with our homestead.

Whenever we weren’t hanging onto the seats for dear life as we jounced across the prairie, we had a few moments to relax on smooth road and watch the antelope, who were gathering for their fall mating rituals.  We spied a magnificent golden eagle sitting high on a branch in a dead cottonwood tree.  One of two larger reservoirs that had water was teeming with an amazing number of ducks, geese and shore birds.  We had a bird guide book and tried to identify whatever we came across, although I don’t recall any of the names on the list we compiled.  The prairie was a beautiful golden brown and stretched uninterrupted except for patches of sagebrush and old cedar fence posts.

As our day was wrapping up we reached the asphalt on Reno Road.  We headed west to 287 and we noticed a huge snake stretched across the road catching a few rays of sun and gathering some warmth from the asphalt.  Having an intense dislike for and morbid fear of snakes, I was hopeful we would drive over it and keep going, preferably at high speed.  Not Sandy.  She hit the brakes and we skidded sideways over the top of the snake.  Not satisfied, she backed up and took another run at him, braking where she believed the “sweet spot” was to put the Bronco tracks across it one more time.  She then turned the engine off and sat listening for the hissing rattle of a thoroughly agitated snake.  All was quiet.  She leaned over the seat and grabbed her shovel, then started to climb out the door and step down to the road.  “Are you coming?”  “Hell no!”  She walked along the road until she found what was left of the snake, detached his rattles with her shovel, and crawled back into the Bronco, cuddling the rattles in her hand.

I was relieved the snake had come at the end of the day.  We were pretty close to home and I figured the chances of coming upon another snake were pretty remote.  In a move to settle my jitters, she offered to let me drive the rest of the way back to Kaycee.

The Parade General

IMG_8719.JPG

Powder River, Let ‘er Buck! . . . .

More . . . Travels With Sandy 

A cup of coffee and conversation at Sandy’s kitchen table got me into all kinds of trouble.  We were discussing the upcoming Deke Rodeo for 2007 and I casually asked the question “why doesn’t Kaycee have parades anymore?”  In years past, a parade of sorts preceded the annual rodeo and were always a lot of fun.  Some years they were a little skimpy on floats, but the community usually pulled something together.  I couldn’t remember the last one I had seen, although I had lived away for a long time and figured I had missed a few.

Sandy took a drag off her cigarette and ignored my question altogether.  So I asked “why don’t we put one together?”  She tossed her head back, rolled her eyes, and responded “because it is too god-damned much work–that’s why!”  I dropped the subject.  A couple days later I got a call.  “I’ve got a few people that have agreed to help – are you in?” I, and a few other good people, were on the way to becoming her slaves for the duration.  We didn’t have a lot of time before the rodeo and would have to move fast. I should have had some idea what it would be like.  For the ensuing weeks General Patton a.k.a. Sandy barked out orders and manned the telephone in a frenzy to get floats lined up and committed.  People came forth because, in my opinion, nobody wanted to tell her no.

I worked on developing a program, typing up descriptions of each float as the entrants came in and developing a script for the parade announcer.  Sandy’s granddaughter Savanah designed a program cover with pen and ink cartoon sketches.  We ran off a couple hundred copies to distribute.  The Jarrard family was chosen to be honored and recognized in the parade for their involvement in ranching and rodeo for many generations in Johnson County.  Harold had previously been awarded the Top Hand Award by the Museum of American Cowboys in 1996; the Western Heritage Awarded, 1997, Oklahoma City; and was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, 1997.  Our very own local celebrity!

One of our most interesting parade entrants was inspired by Don Meike who told a tale of local ranchers getting behind an artificial rain-making plan in March of 1951.  The ranchers raised $19,000 for this adventure, or misadventure as it became known.  Lee Keith was chairman of the rain making committee.  Don recalled a “Dr. Krick” from Denver who was hired to conduct the procedure.  (Doesn’t that sound just like a snake oil salesman?)  Anyway, Don described it as a smudge pot filled with a silver iodide mixture.  A fire was lit under it to cause the smoke to rise into the atmosphere.  The story got quite humorous as Don recounted Raymond Cash recalling that Fred Hesse insisted it “really worked!”  When asked, “where is the rain?” Fred replied, “well something went haywire, and the rain went to Gillette.”  Naturally we had to have a rainmaker float in the parade.  A request went out to Kaycee High School shop class teacher Milo Warren to build one.

Milo must have gone out to test his machine because the day before the rodeo the sky burst forth.  I was sitting in Sandy’s kitchen trying to keep up with the last-minute details, barked out orders and total pandemonium when I looked out her window at the sky.  “I’m going home, Sandy, those storm clouds look fierce!”  I don’t recall what she replied, and it wasn’t worth repeating.  I slunk out of her kitchen feeling like a rat deserting the ship, but by the time I got to North Fork I knew I had made the right decision.  The river was over its banks north and south of the bridge.  I wasn’t sure if I should try to cross, but figured if the bridge went, it would be better to be on the side of home.  At any rate, Sandy wouldn’t be able to come and get me.  Five inches of rain fell. Who knew?  Kaycee was spared another major flood on the Middle Fork of Powder River that day, but the North Fork flood swamped ranches all along the river banks.

The rodeo, and the parade would go on as usual, however.  Powder River has yet to wipe out a rodeo – the show will go on!  There were 43 parade entries in all, and Sandy had them lined up Old Barnum Road stretching all the way up the hill to the west.  Someone made the last-minute comment that just about everybody in Southern Johnson County was in the parade.  Would there be anybody left in Kaycee to watch as the parade traveled up Main Street?  No worries.  There was always a great crowd for “The Deke.”

 

Accordion Crimes

IMG_8709.JPG

a.k.a. “squeeze box” . . .

Travels With Sandy

     When Sandy was somewhere in her teens and I was maybe ten years old, we were asked to play an accordion duet for a gathering at the Grange Hall in Kaycee.  It was probably a mother and daughter banquet, which was an annual event, or some other civic affair.  I recall there was a very large audience and I was scared stiff.  It is not clear to me who invited us to perform, or who decided to pair us to play our accordions.  I didn’t think anybody knew I played.  I had taken no lessons and I had no accordion.  My older sisters each had one, though, and when I could sneak some time on them I did.  It set our dog to howling so I had to limit my playing time to avoid driving everyone in the household crazy.  I picked up some tunes playing by ear.  I certainly wasn’t ready for the stage–not even in Kaycee!

     Rodney Dangerfield gets less respect than accordionists.  Many acquaintances of mine learned to play in their youth, but don’t talk about it.  Some who recall an accordion performance are reminded of the Lawrence Welk Show on television (that they hated) or a mid-western polka band on RFD (which they also hated).  More recently, accordions are gaining some respect.  The popular Cowboy Junkies band has an accordionist, which is very cool.  And zydeco, Cajun and rock bands have discovered the magical sound of accordions!  Pulitzer Prize winning author Annie Proulx wrote a book entitled “Accordion Crimes,”   which I found fascinating as it seemed to elevate the image of this humble folk instrument and give it some mysterious respectability.

Sandy and I had never interacted in any significant way.  She did not attend the local high school and being older (and much wiser) than I, she should have scoffed at the suggestion that we play a duet.  I know we had to practice the number a few times and I believe it was a piece Sandy chose for us to play (although she professed ignorance of the affair later in life).  The song was the Julida Polka.  I am guessing at the spelling of the song’s title–I don’t believe I ever saw any sheet music for it.  Since I played by ear without music, that didn’t much matter.  I listened to her play it a few times and managed to get the hang of it.

Sandy was a natural performer.  Over the years she played her music for local gatherings, often paired with her father on violin.  She wrote and produced plays in which she acted and was a spark plug the community needed to keep things lively.  I was quite the opposite.  To this day I have vivid memories of trying to struggle through a piano piece, Beethoven’s Minuet in G for the President’s Tea in the east room of the Methodist Church.  I was in the 4th grade and my fingers seemed glued together.  I forgot where I was and lost track of the music, starting over a few times (that’s what comes from playing from memory rather than music) and I felt nauseous when the ordeal was finally over.  The ladies of the Matron’s Club were quite forgiving and thankfully they never asked me back.

Actually I think stage fright runs in our family.  When my older sister was asked to play an accordion solo for a graduation ceremony, she started off great, playing a Latin number Celito Lindo (I don’t think I know how to spell that title either) and then she looked out at the faces of the audience, which included our mother and father, and she just went blank.  She kept trying to start again, but finally gave up in despair.  Dad said that was the last time he wanted to attend any function where his children had to perform a musical number.

So we’re standing at the west end of the hall and the audience is sitting on metal fold-up chairs out in front of us.  Sandy signals me she is ready to begin and we went right to it.  Dad would have been proud, only he wasn’t in the audience.  I don’t think I made any mistakes, which was probably the first performance I ever delivered without any.  I don’t know if she gave me confidence or had me so scared of blowing our number that I had to come through on the occasion.  I believed if I hit a wrong note, nobody would notice because Sandy’s accordion would cover my crime.

A few years ago over a cup of coffee at her kitchen table, I reminded her of our accordion duet.  She asked if I still played and I had to tell her honestly that one of the family accordions was gathering dust in the basement and I drug it out once in a while.  She indicated she had been neglecting her accordion as well and we agreed to get together to practice and see what happened.  Good lord, what a racket!  I’m surprised the paint didn’t peel right off her house.  We had a lot of laughs trying to recall some of the old music we had heard on the radio or at the dance halls while growing up.  Our taste in tunes was different, but we found some songs to play together, mostly old folk tunes or country music from the 1940-1950’s.  We didn’t have sheet music, but played from memory mostly.  We spent quite a few hours reminiscing about old times.

Sandy never undertook anything without giving it her all and she persisted with her accordion until she had mastered quite a few great tunes.  Over the past ten years, she enjoyed playing with other musicians for events and to perform at the senior center in Buffalo.  One winter night we had a great jam session here on Dry Creek with Ross and Donna Mae, Erin and Bill, Helen and a few others.  I wish now we had done it more often.

I called her on the telephone a few months ago and she commented that she was worried about her group’s performance preceding the Chris LeDoux rodeo.  Each year Sandy pulled together a group to play on the porch of the Rusty Spur the morning of the rodeo, and this year she was facing a really tough challenge.  She wasn’t sure how to manipulate the strap on her accordion so that it would not interfere with the chemotherapy port on her chest.  But as always, Sandy found a way.

IMG_5925

Sandy and great grandson on stage at the Rusty Spur . . .

Never Leave A Knot In Your Lead!

IMG_6098

I just got a birthday present, I’m not all crazy about.

It seems that of all of the choices, this was one I could do without.

I was working with my young filly, trying to earn a little respect,

When my plans and hers for the round pen, simply failed to connect.

She took off for the barn in a hurry, leaving me at a loss for a plan.

And before I could get her attention, the long lead was sizzling through my hand.

You can argue that we are the bosses, and the horse just has to comply.

But a 1000-pound critter with an attitude, will soon convince you that’s a lie!

Now the interesting part is arriving, and as I look back on the scene,

I guess I was just in a hurry, and didn’t notice the knot in my lead.

It seemed as big as a boulder, as it rode on the rope through my hand.

And when it met up with my finger, well I guess you can sure understand.

That the pain was an intense sensation, put stars in my eyes I will swear!

When I finally let go of that lead rope, I struggled to hold back a tear.

I stole a glance down at my fingers, to see if I had any there.

Sure enough I had all my digits, but one looked in need of repair.

Third finger, right hand met disaster, that knot went by with such force,

As it followed the speed of my filly, that damnable spirited horse!

I suppose you’re thinking I quit then, to tend to my wounds right away.

But now I was mad as all thunder, at this pitiful equestrienne display.

IMG_4628She was standing in the barn at the window, two blue eyes were looking my way,

to see if the contest was over. But I knew that I had to stay.

I followed the end of my lead rope, and gathered it up from the dust.

I studied that knot for a moment, no wonder my finger was bust!

I pulled up some slack and untied it, trying hard not to wince from the pain.

I pulled on the lead and the horse at the end to to start all over again.

T