Monday, January 31, 2011

Through the Eyes of the Innocent

I prefer to think of Joshua as a trendsetter. He's in kindergarten and he's a Cloverbud in my 4-H club. Being a Cloverbud, some of you may recall from an earlier blog, means Joshua has yet to develop proper motor skills to handle livestock, even small animals such as guinea pigs, bunnies, and poultry. Now here's where the rubber meets the road. Joshua really enjoys "dressing to the nines", as my grandma used to say. It's not unusual to see him at church all decked out in a jacket and tie. Yesterday he took that one step further by sporting a fancy black Fedora that included a silver sash around its crown. This was a Christmas gift from one of his grandmothers. Now I'll remind you that most kids, especially that age, in this community wear cowboy hats. I'm thinking Joshua's dad might have been slightly more impressed if a 5X black Stetson was sitting on Joshua's head, but, nevertheless, the Fedora was acceptable. Joshua looked classy--he had on a tie and a snappy looking tailored shirt...and his Fedora. If he would have had a black, full-length coat, Joshua could have really topped off his "Dillinger" look. He even walks with that certain swagger that accompanies the Fedora. Ever since Joshua joined 4-H this past November, he can't seem to remember my name. He associates me somewhat with school. There, he refers to his teachers as Mrs. So and So. As a result, whenever Joshua sees me, I am Mrs. 4-H Leader to him. That's okay with me. He's always eager to come talk to me since he joined 4-H. He's got some story he desperately needs to share with me. I love that! So yesterday after church, here comes Joshua swaggering across the parking lot, hands in his pockets and Fedora on his head. "That's a sharp looking hat you've got there," I tell him. "Thanks," is his curt reply. He's deep in thought, so I give him a minute. Then he looks up at me. " Excuse me, Mrs. 4-H Leader." " Yes, Josh, what is it?" "You know my 4-H bunny, Sam?" He continues on without giving me a chance to acknowledge whether or not I knew Sam. "Well, he passed the dog. So I don't have a 4-H bunny any more." How do I handle this? It was all I could do not to burst out laughing at his seriousness, yet I needed to be sympathetic. "I'm sorry, Josh. But you might not have been able to take him to the fair anyway because you're a Cloverbud." He looks up at me and grins. "That's okay then." And off he trots, Fedora on his head, climbs into Grandma's car and looks out the back window--somewhat like I would have envisioned Dillinger to look out the window back in the day. Happy Sam and all of you.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Common Sense--Or Lack of It!

Let me get this right--some lady is suing a mall because she was texting while she was walking, didn't see the huge fountain in the middle of the mall, and fell into the fountain...because she was texting. Now the feds are proposing legislation to ban texting while walking. Of course, we all know that our legislators have nothing better to do than monitor the millions of people who own cell phones. There aren't more pressing issues out there, such as the national economy, terrorism threats, unemployment, education...the list is endless. And I ask, what type of scrupulous lawyer would even take on such a case? Oops, that might have been a oxymoron, huh, using scrupulous and lawyer in the same sentence? Furthermore, what kind of judge would even allow such a case to appear in the courtroom? Don't we have enough court dockets full of rape and murder cases? Next they'll be proposing that all potential cell phone owners will have to take a class on safe cell phone use before they can purchase said phone. Well, many of us took a driver's education course, but that doesn't make us safe drivers. I just really want to know--have we all gone brain-dead?  There seems to be absolutely no common sense in the world today. Taco Bell is currently being sued because they allegedly don't use 88 percent of 100% USDA inspected ground beef. What? Lab tests allegedly have revealed that there is only 35% ground beef in their products. My question is: are they using United States ground beef or is it imported? That's what is more important to me. Are they helping our economy and my industry by purchasing U.S. ground beef? Again, where's the common sense? I'd write more on this subject, but I just received a text and I've got to head outside to do something while I text back. Hopefully I don't fall into a stock tank or something. It'd be bad if I had to sue the owner who put the tank there--wait, that would be me! Oh, man, all this lack of common sense has me totally confused now. Happy trails!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


First of all, it's pronounced "po-pour-ree", not "pot-pour-rye" like a lot of my so-called redneck friends might like to pronounce the word. I believe it's French. It's a random mixture of things and that's what this blog is all about today. I listened with earnest interest last night (well, not really, but it sounded good) to the State of the Union address. A couple of things caught my attention: 1) there wasn't the yelling, screaming, massive numbers of standing ovations, loud clapping, and goings on as in the past. I think that's the way it should be. I have never understood why our legislators can't have common ground. We are all Americans and we are expected to push for a common cause, so why can't our legislators? If they would show more unity throughout the year and not just when a tragedy has occurred, perhaps more Americans would be inclined to get along; and 2) President Obama discussed our nation's education and how we need to be high achievers. I don't disagree with that at all. He singled out a Denver school that had gone from being one with low-achieving students and a high dropout rate, to one that is now graduating 97% of its senior class. That's wonderful. But here's my question--it has been proven that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Many kids do not eat breakfast, heck, many families don't even take the time. But those kids who have had breakfast or are offered a breakfast at school are ready to hit the classroom by storm, they are more attentive, and they have higher test results. But our lovely state legislature has decided that no longer can the state afford to dole out money to school districts for free breakfasts. Yet, our schools are to educate the students, give them a world class education, reduce obesity, and prepare them for the future. All of this starts with breakfast. Many schools are finding ways within their own budgets to keep offering breakfast to their students. I served 14 years on the local school board and I was amazed to see how our students began really excelling when we began offering breakfast at school. This is a no-brainer, people!!! And, while we're on the subject of breakfast, I have now found out what steel cut oats are. You might remember that question was posed to me when I was working the Farm Bureau booth at the Stock Show. Well, being the thorough reporter (yeah, right) that I am and the dedicated agriculturalist (is that a word?--must be, it didn't get a red squiggly line under it) that I am, I decided to check this out. I bought groceries yesterday and there they were, right there on the bottom shelf of the hot cereal aisle, right next to the Quaker. They are imported from Ireland. The outside hull is removed and the kernel, rather than being steamed and rolled, is cut with a steel disc so the oatmeal takes on an appearance somewhat like a cross between cream of wheat and grits. However, I will tell you it is very tasty, even more so than the regular oatmeal we're used to eating. So there you have it. Now if they would just serve these steel cut oats to our students at the schools to get their day started right, we'd all be in a win-win situation! Happy trails!

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Loving Relationship

Olivia wasn't much more than a smidgen over a pound when she was born prematurely. You know, even five years ago, there would have been little hope for Olivia's survival. All odds seemed stacked against her. But Olivia was a fighter, so was her family, so were her doctors, and her little, tiny newborn life was placed in God's hands. Only by the wonderful grace of God and through today's technological advancements that God gave us wisdom to invent is Olivia alive and thriving today. Now, I believe she tips the scales at over nine pounds. She is alert and interested in her surroundings. And, oh, is she a living doll! Sure, her parents are proud and very loving. Our community and church family has 'adopted' Olivia as we witness this miracle life. But I'm not sure anyone is more proud of Olivia than her big brother, Durham. Last night as I attended a church committee meeting, I watched with admiration as Durham cared for Olivia while his mother also attended the meeting. Durham is not a "typical" teenage boy because he always has time to speak to everyone--adults and children alike. He enjoys playing sports, hunting with his stepdad, playing practical jokes on friends, and just being a boy. But when it comes to Olivia, Durham seems to literally hold the world in his hands. His eyes lovingly gazed upon her as he gently bounced Olivia on his knee. She would look at Durham, then sneak a glance at her younger brother, Haden, who sat by Durham and busied himself reading a book. Durham would stroke her hair and then gently rub her back. And then he gathered that little bundle into his hands, pulled her near to his face, and gently kissed her angelic face. I felt the tears beginning to well within my eyes. It was beautiful--this relationship between a seventh grade boy and his "miracle" sister. It was a lesson that Durham, undoubtedly, had no idea he was sharing with adults in the room. There was a message in this relationship. I could tell that Durham thoroughly loved, not enjoyed, but loved his babysitting time with Olivia. He did not wait for his mother to hand Olivia to him--Durham took Olivia from his mother's arms. There was pure joy in this relationship. Nehemiah 8:10 states, "The joy of the Lord is your strength." Durham has realized the joy of the Lord and the joy of calling Olivia his sister.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Healthy Eating Habits

So I'm sitting here waiting on the last pot of 30 pounds of potatoes to finish cooking so I can throw together the potato salad for tonight's Farm Bureau dinner at the PRCA Hall of Fame, and I got to thinking about healthy eating habits. Yesterday I cooked 20 pounds of pinto beans and have them all ready to go. Our county is furnishing the side dishes for this dinner, which kicks off an educational weekend for young farmers and ranchers in our district area that covers three counties. Some of our other county Farm Bureau members thought we could go buy the potato salad, but I didn't think that was a good idea. I don't like ready-made potato salad and, on top of that, it's expensive. Heck, I can get 20 pounds of Colorado spuds at the farmer's market in Manzanola cheaper than what one bucket of potato salad costs in the store. So what's that got to do with healthy eating habits? Well, this potato salad doesn't have preservatives, it includes eggs from free range chickens (my hens...I have no idea where they 'range' throughout the day), Colorado potatoes, Colorado onions, (did I mention some of the products were from Colorado?), and it tastes pretty good, if I say so myself. The pinto beans are from the Boone, Colorado elevator, which means they were grown somewhere along the Arkansas Colorado. I think this is all food that is good for our bodies. I'd like to invite Mrs. Obama to come sample some. She's on this kick to make our school lunches more nutritious and to fight obesity in our children. I'm all for that...but not at the public schools' expense. Have you eaten lunch lately at your local public school? I have and I'm proud to say it's delicious. Our school cooks still know how to prepare meals from scratch and they know how to "disguise", if you will, food items they have to serve from a can. Our school doesn't have any convenience stores nearby. There are no fast food restaurants the students can run to. They either eat our school's lunches, or they pack their own. I ask you--how much lunch meat can you buy for $1.25? That's what our hot lunches cost at school. But if Mrs. Obama gets her way, the kids will be drinking water with a little white stuff splashed in that appears to be milk; they will get no salt on their food; the calorie intake will be closely monitored; no chicken nuggets, no pizza, restricted beef intake (we all know how bad that beef is for everybody!)...I could go on. Meanwhile, urban students can cross the street from the school campus and hit up any number of  fast food restaurants or convenience stores...who proudly cater to their orders of soda, french fries, chicken nuggets, etc. So who are the victims here? I say it's the remote rural school districts who have to follow these guidelines and the kids are forced to eat this cardboard-tasting food because they have nowhere else to go. It's up to the schools to turn this around...the parents wouldn't want to get involved and keep a watchful eye on what their children eat, would they? I stopped in a convenience store the other day to get, yes, a soda, and a youngster about junior high age was hitting the store after school. His arms were full of a 64-ounce fountain soda, large bag of chips, a hot dog, and a candy bar. I rest my case.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Stock Show

The blog is entitled "Stock Show" but, first, I've got to wish country singer Dolly Parton a happy 65th birthday today. I'm sure she's an avid fan of my blog and she'll get this birthday wish firsthand... Anyway, I could write something about Dolly, but I'm choosing to leave that to someone else. I do enjoy her singing, I miss hearing her on the radio (but then again I miss hearing lots of GOOD singers on the radio) and it's nice to know she's still out there plugging away. And with that I'm going to stop before I get myself into trouble. I went to the National Western Stock Show yesterday and worked in the Farm Bureau booth, watching little kids play in different samples of grain seeds that we had set on the tables. What is it that fascinates little kids about running their hands through a bowl full of seed? Then some guy comes along and asks me what is the best way to cook millet? He wanted to fix some for breakfast. Do I look like Rachel Ray? Martha Stewart? the chef on Hell's Kitchen? Mister, we don't cook the millet for our cows...we bale it up and feed it to 'em. Here's another one--what's the difference between steel-sharpened oats and rolled oats? I don't know, people, ask the Quaker! Again, we roll the oats into bales of hay and drop it off the flatbed. Or, if you're a horse, you might get a couple coffee cans full of it each morning. One of the questions on the scavenger hunt was "What plant produces yellow flowers that have seed pods with oil in them?" Corn? Uh, no, last I checked corn does not produce a yellow flower. Sunflowers? Well, that might be an intelligent guess. But if you'll look at the poster to which I am using my best Vanna White imitation and pointing to, it will reveal the answer of canola. You know, like canola oil, that is used for cooking. Supposed to be good for your heart and all that. And another thing--has a study been done on how much the NWSS, Greeley Independence Stampede, Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, etc. impacts western wear sales? I have never seen so many people wearing cowboy hats that really shouldn't be wearing cowboy hats. And cowboy boots with their pants barely long enough to touch the top of the boots. Well, the NWSS certainly is a learning experience...for all of us!!! Happy trails...

Monday, January 17, 2011


Tippy and Patches have been lifelong, faithful members of PETA. That's short for Pooches Eating Tasty Animals. Tippy and Patches do not discriminate when it comes to beef, lamb, pork, or an occasional jackrabbit, but they use some discretion when faced with sampling chicken or fish-flavored food. However, at the present time, the veterinarian is not Tippy's favorite person--she has made Tippy leave the PETA ways and become a vegetarian. It's not a weight issue but, rather, an allergy problem. Tippy has scratched herself raw and we can't seem to determine the cause. As long as she's on medications, she's okay. But the minute we begin weaning her from the meds, she starts scratching and biting again. Patches was okay with this initially because it didn't affect her eating habits. She saw, she conquered, she was that simple. But now that we're on the food allergy test, it has invaded Patches' world of eating. Trust me...the little Blue Heeler lives to eat. Other than swinging from a bull's tail, there is nothing Patches would rather be doing. The same is true for Tippy. If she's not bringing blood from a cow's nose, the Tipster is a food guru. So this vegetarian thing has truly impacted their lives. And now we have to measure the food as well. In their eyes the cup of non-meat based dry dog food is just a sample platter. They wait longingly for the main course...which never arrives. It also has affected the ducks because they love eating dog food. The battle is on in the morning when it's feeding time. Ducks and chickens line up in a row waiting for the food. Chickens attack the scratch grain, ducks dive into the dog food, cats scamper into their quarters for cat food, and the dogs historically have had to fend for themselves. So one would think this special diet is a good deal because they dogs are fed in separate pans away from everyone else. Not so. It doesn't contain meat and that's a problem. Just this morning I could see them plotting how they were going to get the juicy roast beef bone out of the crock pot. I could see the wheels turning. This sadness will continue for eight weeks. It is jeopardizing their PETA membership...and that's not good.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Motor Skills?

So the Colorado 4-H policy handbook tells us that Cloverbuds (ages 5-7) don't have advanced motor skills required to handle livestock. Basically, it says that those in grades Kindergarten through 2nd just can't grasp the concept of handling any livestock, including poultry or guinea pigs. But, by third grade, just one year later, they're all better now and can lead a 1300-pound steer or guide a 300 pound hog with just a piece of plastic pipe. Amazing how those kids mature in just one year, isn't it? I have a real problem with this policy. It's like telling us that all kids read at the same grade level and we all know that isn't true. Or that all kids have the same maturity level at those ages. I have sons who are 19 and 21 (in two days) who still don't possess the adequate motor skills to handle poultry. Try as I may to teach them differently, they are still determined to carry a chicken by its neck. I'm equally troubled by this because they both read at about fourth or fifth grade level while in kindergarten. While they can't seem to properly carry a chicken, they are quite adept at roping a hen...or a duck...or a cat. Now that, folks, takes some real motor skills! And they've always been able to do this, even as youngsters back in those days when those skills weren't quite developed (by 4-H standards).  As kindergarteners, they not only had motor skills, but they knew what the motor looked like on our feeding truck. They knew how to rev it up, how to spin a tire, and how to throw Dad or Mom off the back while trucking through the pasture. Things haven't changed much! I'm really wondering how both of them managed to get through 12 and 13 years of 4-H without having developed those critical 'motor skills' needed to be successful. Guess I'll never know. Happy trails...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I Fixed It Myself!

Life on a ranch involves a lot of teamwork. Well, we all know that any successful marriage requires an adequate amount of teamwork, but it seems that ranching takes that teamwork theme just a step further, especially if one of the partners involved is employed off the ranch.
I don't mind chopping ice (it was a whopping 24 degrees this morning when I went out at 7:30--a virtual heat wave!). I don't mind fixing fence; in fact, it's somewhat soothing if it's not interrupted by the impatient buzzing of a rattlesnake. But that's another blog. I don't mind feeding the cows, especially during calving season when all the little babies are scampering around, playing king of the mountain. Ever notice how the 'cattle cafeteria' is always open--even when the roads are closed, schools are shut down, and the rest of the world has come to a standstill?
But the true teamwork challenge comes when something breaks down. In the perfect world, everything should work according to plan on every day of the week. If there is a 'break down' time, that should be the weekend when the spouse is around. But noooo, it happens during sub-zero days when I'm trying to hurry around to make an appointment somewhere. This was one of those mornings. No water in the first stock tank. "Jean, you can fix this," I say to myself, half-heartedly expecting an answer or at least some type of argument. Didn't happen (the argument, that is). I took a healthy whack at the ice with the axe--minimal damage to the water spout located in the middle of the tank when an iceberg fell on it (kinda like the Titanic only in smaller proportions). Water trickled out. I patted myself on the back, thinking I was successful. But, wait, the water should GUSH out. Check the float chamber. Ahhh, there's the problem. Smaller whack with the axe results in a good water flow and absolutely NO damage to the float. Check the tank--water's now gushing into the tank. Oh yeah, Jean, you're good. And you didn't even have to call the hubby on the cell phone to tell him to come home and fix the tank. All is well, cows were impressed. So impressed, in fact, that they chose to water at a different tank. That's gratitude for you. Happy trails...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


As I was chopping through the layers of ice on the stock tank this morning, it dawned on me that a lot has changed over the past 50-plus years since I first made my mark on the Four Corners Ranch ( so aptly named because our ranch includes Crowley, Lincoln, Pueblo, and El Paso Counties within its boundaries).Over the years, that same type of ice has been used to make smooth, tasty homemade ice cream--in the dead of winter. Many of the stock tanks have changed appearances, and even new ones have been welcomed to the ranch, but their purpose has remained the same--supply the precious resource of water to our livestock. That resource also provided sources of recreation for my brother and me when we were growing up. Clad in shorts, a t-shirt, and cowboy boots, we'd ride our horses to a tank for a cool dip on a hot summer's day. We'd spend hours splashing and thrashing in those tanks--not once thinking about germs, possible (gasp!) deadly diseases we could catch, the effects of cattle occasionally licking us to check us out...the list is endless. I just celebrated another birthday last week so that means I'm still on this Earth to tell my story. I didn't get some mysterious disease from swimming in dirty stock tanks; nor did I die because I didn't wear a safety helmet while riding my horse, including the time we cleared a five-wire barbed wire fence (unexpectedly, I might add). So what's my point? Could it be our society has become so engrossed in "bubble wrapping" our kids that they don't know what it's like to get dirty, to use their imagination, or to simply be kids? I ate enough dirt when I was growing up that I might have sprouted a gizzard within (haven't checked lately). But it didn't hurt me any. I wasn't sick much, so maybe that was the key. And I loved those warm, summer days of swimming in the stock tanks. Believe it or not, I even admire the beauty of chopping through the thick ice on these frosty morns...even if it's just trying to, as my dad used to say, get a hole big enough to drop a straw through for the cows to drink from. Happy trails...