Cowboys and Pears

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I have been writing something about this black trucker/cowboy from around here for oh, say about 10 years. I got my stuff together last year and did quite a bit of research, talking to people and such. This fall I put together a couple of pages, including an excellent opening paragraph.

When I write it is like putting together a puzzle. I get the pieces down in writing, sometimes they are sentences or phrases or maybe just ideas, then I move them around to see where each fits best. Then I looked at this and thought to myself, “This is not a story, it is a report, and a boring one at that.” Arrgh. I had Mom look at it, and I think I know how to put things together, I just wish I had more to work with.

Ed (the rodeo guy) gave me a huge list of people I should ask, so I spent the last hour and a half calling people and getting very little information. I did get a couple interesting stories about my dad… one of the side effects of living in your hometown. Note to self: If you are planning to do primary research on a person, start before they have been dead 20 years. If Sharyn McCrumb can write The Rosewood Coffin while she is in grad school and has a job and two or three babies, you had no excuse. None.

I do have a couple of good leads, if they will only call me back. Heck, the guy at the funeral home told me he could tell me stories about him. That is my project tomorrow morning. Call these people. Then Monday work on getting my puzzle pieces all right side up and organized by color and border etc.

Is there anything better than pears with blue cheese? My kids even eat the stuff, and this was real blue cheese not just dressing!

Happy Dance

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I am doing some research about an old cowboy who lived near where I grew up.  He died an old man 20 years ago.  Today I was on the internet googling different things and I found where someone who was possibly his sister presented a program to the company her granddaughter worked at five years ago.  On a whim I called the company and the granddaughter still worked there.  She told me her grandmother is still alive and would love to talk on the phone with me.  The woman is 103 years old!  I am beside myself with joy.  I never would have guessed that his sister was still alive, he was eleven years older than her.  GD is bringing me a phone conversation recorder home from Radio Shack (or “The Shack” as the guy said when he answered the phone) this evening.  I had to call Dad so he could bring me down to Earth and help me jot down the right questions to ask her.  I love it when a plan comes together!

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My lunch with Mrs. Governor went well.  Etiquette question:  If you have two forks and are served a one-plate buffet, do you use your salad fork?  I did, but then forgot to switch off.  Oops.  I paid $20 for a potato bar.  It was good, but not that good. 

I made some great connections.  I found a writer with a lot more experience than I have living a short distance call away. I am hoping to forge a friendship with her.  She’s emailed me twice since Friday, so it shouldn’t be difficult. 

Today, GD started burning the trash then took off for the farm.  Jane came in to tell me that Mae and Leo were playing in the fire on the ground.  I told her to tell her father (since I thought he was outside).  By the time I made it out there, our house was about 15 minutes from burning down.  The fire had spread towards a haybale sitting 15 feet from the barn.  The kids were pouring water from a drinking glass on the fire.  Our well is beside the burn barrel, and we installed a hydrant at the well.  I grabbed a couple of buckets and got the fire out.  Luckily the grass is green and everything is wet, so nothing really burned much. Later we had a safety talk, stressing that if the fire is not in the barrel, and a grownup is not watching, get a grownup out there.DSC02827 DSC02828   The pickup was not there at the time, but you can see the bale sitting there under the cat looking all flammable and everything. 

I took a photo of December’s snowdrift in our yard yesterday.  The snow finally melted away today.  This week they are threatening upper 70s. Spring is here, even if we still have a pile of snow behind the north windbreak, I expect it will be gone in a couple of weeks.

DSC02826 GD is listening to the basketball game and I can’t even think straight, so I shall end here.

What’s up here?

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We filled out our census this week.  I let the ladies fill in their lines.  Jane got her two backwards.  Twice.  In the old censuses, I am thinking of late 1800s England, they asked you what you did for a living.  The children were all called “scholar” which sounds kind of smart, although I don’t know what else you would call it.  Student, I guess.

I watched a show about eating healthy tonight, some celebrity chef from England came over to one of the Carolinas to teach the community about healthy foods.  Not that I care, but for some reason we seem to believe what the English have to say to us (except when they say, “pay us taxes”).  I don’t watch The Nanny, but I might start watching this.  I hope he succeeds.  My husband goes years between seeing chicken nuggets on his plate here.  The kids?  Eh not so much.  I don’t usually “cook” lunch, but I nearly always cook supper.  GD takes leftovers for his lunch, so we don’t even get those at home. 

Tomorrow is Zumba and I am making myself go.  I seriously would like to not have to buy all new shorts because I am too lazy to lose enough weight to get into last year’s shorts.  Yeesh, self control girl.

A little girl in Mae’s class has a rough life.  Her mom is in jail for second offense Meth and her father has an ankle bracelet and may have had his computer removed from the home.  I told GD this and he said, “I wish we could be her foster parents.”  So I started looking into it.  I don’t want to get into the habit of being a foster parent, but I like the girl, and I would like to help her if we can.  She has said that she will go to Florida to live with an aunt if she is removed…again.  If she does this she will probably never see her mother again.  We did some thinking and some praying, God knows our family has our own problems…but I decided I would open the door by applying to be a foster parent and IF we are approved and IF she is removed, well the door was open, and if it is to be, then it will be.  The picture I have in my mind is the book Weekends at Belleview about the psych emergency ward where the Dr said, “what most of these people need, we can’t give.  They need a childhood transplant.”

So we are filling out masses of paperwork, with questions about how our parents raised us and what our parent’s shortcomings are.  Then they start in on us.  There are 150 questions, including questions about your kids’ strengths and weaknesses.  I have strengths on everyone, but I can’t put my finger on Leo’s weakness.  He’s a perfect three-year-old (just ask my grandma).

Mom was telling me that she has an interesting memory of the Civil Rights Bill.  If she gets around to writing it up, I will recommend it.  You can consider this a reminder Mom…

I am reading a book about China.  All other books I have read about China have been written by outsiders, I think even Amy Tan, one of my very favorite authors, is probably an outsider.  The lady who wrote this might have been raised in America, maybe not, but she has written an interesting book.  I can’t decide if it is a collection of short stories or if they will all end up connected in the end, but I had Mae read a sentence, the one about a girl named Fu Mu Lan.  Remember Mulan the movie?  Yep it is her.

Friday I am off to lunch with the Governor’s wife. (we do that a couple of times a year you know)  No, this has to do with the writing contest.  I will have to decide how to best pry my body into something remotely dressy (I refuse to buy any clothes when I have a perfectly good wardrobe if I just put a little effort into fitting into it) and then pull out my “company manners.”  It might be fun.  I will get to spend about four hours in a car with a woman who gets paid to write.  That part can’t be bad.

GD is getting calves right and left.  The longhorn bull did his work, and they are cuter than ever.  One little guy has black ears and a black nose and the rest of him is white.  I will have to take some photos.  Does anyone need a longhorn bull? 

g’night 

24 Hour Contest Results

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The results for the 24 hour writing contest came out about an hour or so ago.  Again, I got honorable mention, one of 30.  According to the judge, there were hundreds of entries.  Here is my entry,   and you can read the winners here: writersweekly.com 24 hour contest  Clearly I need to learn to write darker stuff for this contest…

(this story came in at one word under the max wordcount)

   The Prompt:

From her lap, his shiny black eyes stared up at her as
she admired his permanent red smile. Fingering his tiny
overalls, she pictured the little ones’ faces, pressed
against the icy windowpanes, waiting for her to arrive
with another basket of her lifelike, homemade gifts.
The last strand of hair was finally in place. As she
gently inserted the needle to tie a knot, he lurched
in her hand and a high-pitched voice said…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Doll’s Job

 

From her lap, two shiny black eyes stared up at her.  The last strand of hair was finally in place.  As she gently inserted the needle to tie a knot, the doll lurched in her hand and she comforted the doll, “Now you will have a new mistress, be a good little girl for her, always be helpful.  Helping your mistress is your new job.”

 

The doll nodded at her solemnly as the woman wrapped her and carefully placed her in a shipping box. 

 

Anne took the slip from her mailbox to the Post Office and slid it across the counter.  The clerk glanced at it and found her package.  “This must be my new doll,” thought Anne happily as she turned toward the door.

 

“Miss, you forgot your receipt,” called the clerk but Anne kept walking. 

 

When she opened the package at home, Anne touched the delicate lace and the cascading curls.  “What a lovely addition to my collection.  I wonder why she is sad, the advertisement showed her smiling.  She is still beautiful.”  Anne set her in the place of honor, next to her Dakin Sweet Dreams doll.

 

Anne woke up to the sun shining on her pillow.  She was hungry for bacon and pancakes. Stumbling into the kitchen, Anne poured herself a cup of coffee from her automatic coffee maker.  “The neighbors must be making bacon,” she thought to herself.  As Anne walked past the dining room, she noticed it was set for breakfast; pancakes, bacon and freshly squeezed orange juice.  She stepped in for a closer inspection and couldn’t believe her eyes, who had been in her apartment making breakfast?  She checked the windows and door and searched the apartment for an intruder, but she could find no way someone could get in.

 

In shock, Anne collapsed in her chair gazing at her shelf of dolls.  Suddenly she sat straight up in her chair staring, the new doll had just smiled at her. 

 

“Excuse me mistress, I made your breakfast, do you like it?” asked the new doll. 

 

As Anne watched, the doll’s mouth moved.  Dolls didn’t talk.  Anne could read lips, but the doll’s mouth was painted on and impossible for Anne to understand.

 

With a shudder, Anne ran to the kitchen for a plastic bag.  She wrapped the doll in the bag without touching it and took it to the dumpster.  “That was freaky,” thought Anne, still shivering.

 

The next morning Anne smelled sausage and gravy.  “What?  Not again.”  She opened her email account and emailed her mother that her new doll was making breakfast and talking to her.  Would she please come over?  Anne’s mother emailed back that she had a busy day but would stop by tomorrow. 

 

It was Saturday morning and traffic on the street was heavier than usual.  Anne stepped out to get her paper and noticed her neighbors were having a garage sale.  She took the doll to her neighbor’s garage sale.  She thrust the doll at her surprised neighbor and said “I don’t need the money for this, I just want to get rid of it.”

 

As Anne walked back to her house, a woman picked up the doll and asked, “How much for this?”

 

In her own apartment, she sighed with relief, the freaky doll was gone.  Anne went to bed that night and slept soundly.

 

The next morning she woke to omelets with mushrooms and cheese.  Furthermore the laundry she had left overnight in her drier had been folded and placed neatly on the counter.

 

Anne took a photograph of the new doll on her cell phone, so she could post it on eBay and send the nasty thing to another state.

 

Three days later, Anne packed the doll in its original box and mailed it to North Carolina, taking it personally to the Post Office.  “Good riddance,” she thought. 

 

Anne awoke the next morning to the scent of waffles.  A huge lump rose in her throat.  “Why won’t you leave me alone?” Anne asked the doll.

 

“You are my mistress, helping you is my job.”

 

Anne emailed her mother and told her about the doll.  “Are you taking any medication, dear, this really seems a little out of it, even for you,” replied her mother.

 

“No, mom, I am not taking any medication, this doll talks to me and cooks for me.”

 

Anne’s mother let herself in with her key, “Come with me,” she signed.  Anne got in the car like a robot.  She hadn’t slept well in a week.  “Let’s go for a little ride.” her mother signed.  Anne dozed in the passenger seat, waking up to find herself at the state institution for the mentally ill. 

 

Her mother admitted her matter-of-factly.  The orderly took her to a plain room with a bed and a narrow window.  Anne read her lips, “Get some sleep.”  Anne crawled onto the bed, curled up in a ball and wept until she fell asleep, her pillow soaked beneath her cheek. 

 

The sun streaming through the narrow window woke her.  Anne looked around with a sense of relief.  She sniffed for the scent of breakfast.  Nothing, the doll was gone.  With a light heart, Anne put on the sweat suit the orderly had provided her the night before and walked into the bathroom to find the doll, sitting next to her toothbrush, which had been helpfully tooth-pasted.

 

Pardon my ecstacy!

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I got an awesome letter in the mail today congratulating me on winning first prize in a writing contest, for two of my entries!!  Pardon the extra exclamation mark there, it was an accident.  My pieces will go on to the national contest now.  I have already cleared $100 this year for my writing, of course minus the $20 for entries and another $25 for joining the Nebraska section of this outfit so they can send my entries on to national.  Yeah, so we are looking at $55 but that still says dinner out to me!  You should see me turning cartwheels!  (oops there was another one)  One of these was a short story based on a story that an older friend told me, and the other was an article about left handed kids.  I will post them at some point, maybe protected, because I would like to sell them if at all possible and I don’t think they want published entries.  Oh, I need to finish making a birthday cake and cleaning the kitchen floor for tonight’s dinner guests now.  Thanks for listening.

Random Thoughts IV

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I made egg foo young today.  It is my favorite of all the foo youngs.

What is on the other end of your belly button?  I have given birth, I know what is on that end of it, but what about the other end?

 

Our last name is a little odd.  The spelling throws people off guard and they stress the wrong syllable.  When we go out to eat and are asked our name for the waiting list I tell them.  When they ask how to spell it I say, “I don’t care, just pronounce it right when you call us.”

 

Our school system has a robo-call thing to let us know when school is closed due to weather.  Our school system includes five schools.  One of these has a strangely pronounced name.  Why have they not taught the system to say the school’s name correctly, or spelled it incorrectly so it says it right?  It makes it sound like the guy on the weather alert is calling from out-of-town about school closings.

 

Do you think it is weird that our hospital advertises during Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice? Do our local doctors sleep around with each other too?  We do know one got caught pandering…

 

When picking out your email address, I suggest not choosing something using the words “male” and “hottie” and a number which suggests a sexual position.  It is hard to take someone seriously while typing in that email address.

 

Clearly the demise of the typewriter has led to the demise of standard letter folding.  My typing teacher in 9th grade taught me to fold a letter to be sent in a long envelope in thirds, parallel to the words on the page.  If a letter was to be sent in a smaller envelope, one should fold the letter in half parallel to the words then fold it in thirds crosswise.  To go in a card, a letter may be folded in quarters.  Never is it to be folded perpendicular to the words then folded four times until it is narrow enough to fit into your envelope. Neither is it to be folded in thirds then one edge folded in an additional quarter inch.  If you are using an envelope that is a hair short of a long envelope (you will notice this if you ever send out photo cards because the company wanted to save $.01 per box of envelopes) simply fold your letter like you are putting it in a smaller envelope.  It is interesting to note the origami that passes for letter folding these days.  

 

When I started eating good dark chocolate, it ruined me for everything else, like M&Ms.  Even Hershey’s dark chocolate is too sweet for me these days.

 

I heard on NPR that some football team, like the Vikings or something hired Prince to write their theme song.  All I can say is I am glad Nebraska had Alan Parsons Project.  When the tunnel walk came on during Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs I wanted to stand up and cheer for the Huskers and I am not really a fan…but it is a moving song.  I guess my blood is red after all.

 

Speaking of the Huskers, I believe they are slated to play not only Wyoming at the Cowboys’ stadium, but also Idaho in Lincoln next year. This means I will be attending two Husker games next year and not cheering for them either time.  I might have to muzzle my husband though.

 

We are off to the accountant tomorrow.  GD won some money gambling, enough that the casino made him sign a tax form, but not really so much.  Our acct suggested we save any proof of losses, like horse racing tickets and so on so we could minimize the tax hit.  I put all of that stuff in an envelope labeled “wages of sin.”  I don’t think the tax guy has a sense of humor, but we will see.

 

I am considering applying for a job at the race track this spring.  I would be one of the people who take bets. They are only open three days a week, and you don’t have to work all three days, so maybe I could work say, Fridays or something.  It would be a little extra cash-ola.

 

I pitched a weekly column to the local ag mag.  The ed was going to get back to me later this week.  I am very hopeful.  Maybe I could even syndicate it…I will let you know what happens.  I also entered two items in a statewide writing contest, so I have been busy writing even if I haven’t been blogging. 

 

I have writing goals this year.  I want to send at least one thing out each month.  That isn’t so very unattainable is it?

 

I have kinda missed reading the Bible this year, now that I am not forcing myself to read it. 

 

24 hour contest

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I ended up writing a practice story, but I didn’t finish it, and it was pretty choppy, so I didn’t post it.  I did however post my actual entry as protected.  If you aren’t on my list and want to see it, just let me know.  I just don’t feel like I want it out there for the whole world to see before the lady who will be judging reads it.

GD pointed out to me this morning that a magazine he subscribes to (a weekly farm publication which will print anything) is advertising for freelance writers.  I could probably pitch a column, if they have available space.  I used to write a wildflower column for them years ago, but I moved away from the wildflowers, literally.  They will likely be happy to re-print some of my blog posts too, they didn’t used to get excited about first rights or anything.  Whoo hoo!  I will be contacting them.

 

The laundry is done, mystery meet and greet

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Grandma seems to be done folding laundry.  My uncle said after she went to sleep yesterday, she would feel for the edge of the sheet, find the hem side like she was going to fold it.  Dad says she was a lot more coherent today.

My husband won tickets to a bull riding and a “meet-and-greet” the night before (which was tonight).  Well, the bull riding is tomorrow and you all know what else is tomorrow.  You don’t?  Seriously, you don’t follow Nebraska football?  Well the Big 12 Championship game is tomorrow and we play Texas in Dallas.  Apparently this is not a game to be missed, even for bull riding.  We gave the tickets to the only non-Nebraska-football-yet-cowboy friend we have and we went to the meet-and-greet.  Who do ya spose we meeted-and-greeted?  Bullriders?  Eh, not them.  We got to meet the bullfighter (clown) who was really nice and personable, and the DJ.  A stock contractor and another guy also showed up for the free grub.  Neither of them were in any kind of shape to ride bulls, but one said his semi had 2 million miles on it.  Two other couples won tickets to the meet-and-greet, one was a no-show, and the other gal who won brought a friend. I actually knew of them both.  They were writers.  Romance writers, so they pumped the bull fighter for information about the circuit so they could use it in future books.  He told them he didn’t have much information about romance, it was fun to watch. We went to the bar later and I pumped them for freelance advice before they started finding bullriders to interview.  They were Julie Miller and Sherry (Siwinski) James, for you romance readers.  I got to meet-and-greet writers instead of riders!  Then we bought groceries.  It was a fun date.

I found one of Sherry’s books on Amazon.  I just can’t bring myself to read it, it sounds…eh…not like my kind of book.  I should just read it, it is not like it is going to shock my sensibilities.  It would look much better for me if I could say I had read one next time I see Sherry (because I do every few months).  I just can’t see me reading Studs for Hire: Woman on Top.  Can you?  I can’t see me trying to explain the title to my now-literate daughter.  Maybe I could make a cover from a grocery sack or something.  If you read it, please let me know if I should.  Julie writes for Harlequin.  I am scared to look for her books; she’s written 39.

 

Mady’s Treasure

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They announced the winners of the 24 hour writing contest this evening.  Indeed a watched inbox never boils.  I got an honorable mention, in the top 31 but not the top 3 out of around 500.  I am esctatic.  I get a magazine subscription and a book.  Cool huh?  Well, it isn’t $300, but I didn’t expect to win, since I don’t write this kind of thing as a rule.  I read the top three entries, and at the end of two I said Eeeew. They were good stories…As good as this?

 

 

 

Mady’s Treasure

 

 

Mady crawled on the ground behind the woman she called Mam.  Mam was a poor replacement for her mother, but neither Mady nor Mam had another choice.  “I am lucky to be here and not in the fields,” Mady reminded herself as she sprinkled celery seeds in the trench Mam had just plowed.  Being a yard slave was much better than being a field hand, even if Mam was a harsh taskmaster.

 

“You putting dem too close together, lazy girl, spread dem seeds out more,” said Mam.  Mady sat on her haunches and stretched her back.  She had learned long ago to hold her tongue when Mam criticized her.  Any protest only brought anger.

 

The Georgia sun beat down on the kitchen garden, and created mirage lakes in the distant fields. The tiny leaves on the oaks trembled with a passing breeze and Spanish moss fluttered in the branches.  She could just see the south field where the slaves planted cotton.  The cadence of their song rang across the valley.  The throbbing rhythm pushed her to work at a steady pace.  It would be a lovely day if only she didn’t have to work.

 

With a sigh, Mady pushed her toes into the soil to bend over again when her toe bumped something hard. Turning so she could scoop the dirt aside with her fingers, she found a tiny, tattered purse. As she held it in her palm she could feel something inside it.  Glancing at Mam to ensure her secret treasure was still a secret, she slipped the purse into her apron pocket. 

 

Mady spent the next few hours wondering what could be in the purse as she helped plant the garden.  As she sowed carrots she wondered if she would find a coin.  What would she do with a coin?  While she followed Mam down the cabbage row she dreamed the purse contained shiny beads.  Planting lettuce reminded her that the purse might contain a lacy handkerchief.  The anticipation brought excitement to an otherwise routine day.   

 

Throughout supper, Mam complained bitterly about having to raise such a lazy child, who wasn’t even her own daughter.  “If that Molly hadn’t have gotten uppity, she would be raising her own chillen,” she muttered to her husband Felix, who grunted in reply.  Mady had been living with Mam and Felix for five years, and Mam had voiced the same complaints every night for five years.  Mam and Felix had been asked to take Mady in when her mother left, and Mam was none to happy about it years later, although Felix didn’t seem to mind.  Mady tried to be as good as she could, but it really didn’t matter, Mam just didn’t want Mady around.

 

After washing and drying the dishes, they usually sat around the fire for a brief spell.  Finally she couldn’t wait any longer.  With a yawn Mady stood and said, “I am going out to use the privy then I am going to bed.  Working in the garden all day plumb wore me out.”

 

“Don’t know how you could be tired with all that day-dreamin’ you done,” Mam replied tartly.

 

“Hush now, you two.  People is tryin’ to sleep,” said Felix.

 

As Mady stepped outside the shack, she slipped her hand into her apron pocket, the small purse felt like a secret fire.  The purse itself was exciting, but the thought of something in it was incredible.  She raced down the trail to the sprawling crabapple that guarded the privy.  At the base of the tree she collapsed, clutching the purse in her hand.  She held her breath and opened up the clasp.

 

Inside the purse she found a lump wrapped in paper.  She peeled back the paper and stared in amazement at the tiny porcelain doll in her hand.  Never had she seen anything so lovely.  It had black hair and pink cheeks and pouty lips.  Her dress was pale green with miniature roses on it.  Even her tiny black boots were perfect.  Mady had no idea such a beautiful thing could exist.  As she made plans for her new doll, Mady scratched a hole in the dirt and buried the purse under the tree where nobody else would find it

 

In the failing light Mady peered at the wrapping paper, she could see something written on it.

 

Follow the creek north until the second bridge, then, follow the woods to the west.  The third house you see will be a safe house.  Give them this doll as payment and they will take you to safety. Molly.

 

Mady decided to take the note to Jerome to see if he could read it.  It was rumored that he knew a few words, but nobody spoke of it since her mother’s banishment.  When Master found out that his children’s maid had learned to read he sold her to the first slave trader who stopped.  That had been so long ago Mady could barely remember her mother’s caress and soft lullabies.  Mady snapped back to reality.  What if the note revealed the doll belonged to Young Miss?  Mady would never see it again.  She couldn’t risk loosing this treasure.  Quickly she folded the paper and tossed it down the privy hole and pocketed her doll.

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