Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ranch Wranglin'

Our dear friends and neighbors to the south of us are cattle ranchers.  Theirs is a huge operation with hundreds of cattle and thousands of acres.  Their lifestyle is about 180* from ours: hundreds of cattle: bulls, steers, cows, and calves.

We have a dog and a cat.

This past season, my dear friend and neighbor was hospitalized for numerous weeks and months.  I sent out the neighborly "Yoo-Hoo!" asking how we could make their lives proceed more smoothly during this trying time.

We two invited their daughters over for weekday dinners when both parents were absent.  We adore their high school kiddos.  I sent over a few meals, whenever I ascertained there was a "big-durn-deal" day at the ranch.

This month, May, I got a call from the ranch folks: Could I help the next day in sorting cow/calf pairs?

I assured them that I could.  Yes!  I would be there: in my denim capris and Australian Blundstone boots from horse days of yore.  And a jaunty 36-year-old sun hat from my first visit to Australia. And a china tea cup full of coffee.  Yes!  I was ready for service.  I thought "service" would entail typing numbers into a laptop.

Typing, sipping, going home.

Case closed.



Apparently, there is more to cow/calf biz than typing in little numbers whilst sipping lukewarm Starbucks...

Stay tuned...

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Bull

I have had interesting activity in this, my rural Kansas life, of late.  At some point I will write about it, but for now, I will share my fun artwork.

One day last month I was perusing the Southwest Art magazine (which I love!) and saw an oil painting, a knife painting, of a Hereford bull.  I loved it.  So much so that I called my local rancher (and next-door neighbor/good friend) and asked if she had any bulls (albeit Black Angus) that I could photograph for such purposes as to play with knife and oils?

She indeed took me out to where four of the ranch bulls (500 bovine specimen totaled at this ranch) were currently located. She took me out to the bulls' temporary pen.  I was busy messing with two different camera lenses for my photos, and I asked her to hold the "spare".  (My spare is a little expensive, and I think she realized this.)  The two of us (50+ years old, both of us, but one of us is a marathon runner and one of us is a blog writer) ) climbed over the tall gate into their enclosure.  This is where I asked, "Is this safe?  Are we safe?  Am I safe?"   She smiled and said we were fine.  I replied, "Well, I am behind you.  And I can run backwards FAST. She replied, "And I have your camera lens with which to throw."

I took some photos of two of the bulls, and then asked if we could venture over to where the other two bulls were standing at attention towards us.  "Sure, " she replied.

No sooner than those words were out of her mouth, but the next words, much more urgent, followed:

"No, nope!  Let's back up!"

I turned to see Angus bull #A335 pawing the dirt.  Head down, pawing the dirt.

What the heck?!!  That's something that one sees in bull fight paintings!

I didn't want a photo of a bull fight bull.  I wanted a happy bull.

I immediately walked backwards, as did my rancher neighbor.  I softly reminded her that I was behind her and that I could run backwards really fast.  She immediately reminded me that she could throw my camera lens at the errant bull post haste.

Ha ha!

We both made it back over the gate without incident.  I got some terrific photos, which I will utilize later in a knife oil painting.  As for now?  

I made a fun picture of a fun bull.  I began with Guernica, and finished with Laurel Burch.  Whoa.


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Kansas Wind

That Spouse o' Mine is at Cornell University this week.

He called this morning, and during the conversation, queried about the Kansas wind.  He had heard "Wind" in the forecast.

"Well, it's blowing," I replied, "but nothing out of the extraordinary."

That was at 3:00 pm, Central Standard Time.

I called him back at 5:00 pm, CST, with the wind report:  25 mph, and 40 mph wind gusts.

What does this mean, you ask?

Very foul moods and a particularly bad hair day.

Monday, May 04, 2015


Months ago, I took a trip to Australia.  In that time, before, during, or afterward, I received in the mail a slim postcard that exclaimed that my Kansas driver's license was due to expire soon.  I am not sure I ever saw the postcard, pre-Australia.

I took my Aussie trip, returned home, and lived a normal life until weeks later when I prepared to go to Hilton Head Island, our family's annual Springtime haunt.

My flight reservation was made solely on the thought of when my Dad would be taking his tennis lesson, after which he could drive to Savannah, GA to pick me up.  So great in theory...

I glanced at my itinerary on Sunday night.  It said I would leave Kansas City at 8:00 am.


That meant I would have to leave the Flint Hills of Kansas at 4:30 am in order to make it through security on time.  I opted to leave the afternoon before, and spend the night in Kansas City.  This was not a big durn deal; I love spending time in KC.

Ok, ok, Go back to Sunday night, the night BEFORE I was going to KC to spend the night before my Tuesday flight to Savannah, to be picked up by my Dad after his tennis lesson on Hilton Head Island.  I was going through mail and bills and recycling so that everything would be "Ducksinarow" for my absence.

Whoa, there!

My driver's license!  EXPIRED!! NOooooooo!  How could this be?!!!

It was thus, because that thin little yellow postcard settled in quite nicely in-between my recycling of newspapers.  When I returned from Australia, I had a stack of newspapers, the innards of which I LOVE to read (Wall Street Journal).  And so I gleaned my papers and there was my Department of Motor Vehicles note.  Bah!!!

I showed that Spouse o' Mine the card. I said that I would renew it first thing the next morning, before I headed to Kansas City.  The next morning I drove the rural Kansas miles into town to run errands - one of which should have been the DMV.  Sheesh!  I forgot both the thin little yellow postcard AND some proof that I lived where I do.  I drove  the rural Kansas miles back home, mid-afternoon, about two hours before my planned drive the opposite direction, to Kansas City.  This day was already feeling old.

When I neared our home, I observed lots of big machines, Kansas Department of Transportation (K-DOT), very nearly blocking my drive.  Something about re-sealing the road?  I screamed shrilly at one husky driver on one husky machine, "Will I be able to drive back out in twenty minutes??"  And he smiled and smiled and smiled.  Too loud, too much hearing loss from riding loud machines, too much tar-inhaling, whatever.  I ran inside, had a drink (of water, people), took my documents and went out the door.  I had to drive across our front lawn and make a 4-mile detour because the big machines were indeed blocking the drive by then.  I drove back into town, to the DMV parking lot, and that's when I read the sign:

Open T_W_TH.

Huh.  Not Monday afternoon.  After driving 45 miles to be lawful in my driving pursuits...

So you know what I did?  I went on down south to Hilton Head and Savannah and drove all the way back to Oklahoma with my Mom and Dad.  So there.

Well, it just gets worse.  A day after I returned home to rural Kansas, I gathered all things needed to acquire a renewed driver's license.  I even made myself presentable, with manageable hair, and lipstick, even.  I was going to come out on top of this photo opp, because I knew it was going to be with me for six  more years.  Off I went, humming a lilty Cell Block Tango, to the DMV.

I walked into the place, and was dumbfounded.  There were three people working a giant 20-yard desk, and me.  That's all, just me.  No waiting.  Just me and the three of them.  So I walked up to the first guy, and LO AND BEHOLD, it's my son's Scoutmaster from years ago.  He used to be a police officer in the higher levels of the force way back when, and I assume he has retired and is now taking a second job.  I smiled and started to say hello when he barked, YES!! He BARKED at me, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, go back, step back and look at that wall.

What wall?  What the heck?!  I looked at the wall and there was some STUPID screen there asking me what I wanted to do.

I wanted to talk to the man sitting at the desk in front of me.  So I looked at him (again), and he said, "Pick which option you want to do."  I looked from him to the screen and back at him.  I didn't even bother rereading it because I was beginning to think I was on Reno 911. He asked, "What option do you want?"

And I smashed some button and walked right over to him.

"Hi!  I am Trish Armstrong.  Graham's mother.  How are YOU?!!!"

I may have been scowling.

Right after that, the lady (far end of the 20-yard desk, "called my number".  "Number 16."

Seriously?  I am the only one in the office.  Seriously?!

OK, so this is where I lost a little bit of control and did not utter, but DID say really loudly, rather scathingly, that "It would be really GREAT if we could just communicate like humans."

I was really angry. 

Well, BOOM!!!  That former Scoutmaster former cop practically loped the 20 yards down the desk to where I stood fuming.

He smiled and began asking all sorts of "get me up to date on your son, and your family" questions, and then the bombshell of "Do you have any grandkids?" Oh, seriously, this was just getting worse and worse.  I wanted to say "Not that I know of." but I smiled benignly and said, "No."

Just then the lady who called "Number 16" looked at my old license and remarked, "Patricia, I see here that your height is 5'2".  Is that still correct?"

I looked at her dumbly.  I thought to myself fleetingly, "Does she seriously think I would have grown any in the past six years?"

And then, I got it.  Sadly, I got it.  I am 55.  Even though I got up that morning and "spruced" and even put on perfume, I was still 55, and this lady thought I might be shrinking like a pathetic violet.  Then she motioned me over to the square on which I was to stand for my new photo.  She told me to lower my head and look into the camera.  Lower my head.  Lower it more.  A little more...  I didn't want to lower my head because then I have a double chin, lady. 

There was nothing, nothing atall pleasant about ANY of this Department of Motor Vehicles chapter in my life.

When I received my new license in the mail this afternoon, of course I eagerly looked at my photo.  I am frowning.  My eyebrows are greatly raised.  I look like a cross between the SNL Church Lady and my Great Aunt Alpha, who could express her opinion with a glance.

I'll take it.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Field Trip!

A week ago our rancher neighbor Joe took that Spouse o' Mine and me out for a Sunday drive around part of his ranch property.  This is a big ranch.  Thousands of hilly, flinty, Flint Hills acres.  And we drove over hill and dale of rocks and rills until I was very nearly sick to my stomach, weebling around in the back seat of this giant pickup, across land that had no discernible roads, only slight pathways through the tallgrass which defines the Tallgrass Prairie.

We always enjoy outings with our ranching and farming neighbors.  I learn a lot, having spent most of my life in city and townie-living.  That Spouse o' Mine grew up on farming, ranching lifestyles, both in the US and in Australia.  His work now is indeed in horticulture and agriculture, but his job title is Scientist, and he works in a lab.  These field trips out into the real deal of farming and ranching pull us into what is involved in the day-to-day work of the land.

And from our Sunday field trip last week, I have a photo to show and tell.  I had spotted an animal skull which looked to be impaled on a locust tree, exactly at my eyes' height.  (I spotted it because I nearly ran into the skull!!)  Locust trees have TREMENDOUS thorns.  How did this happen???
OK.  I think that Spouse o' Mine has come up with the correct conjecture:  An animal died.  The locust tree grew, and continued its growth through the eyes of this skull.  In later years, the locust limb got to be as high as my eyes' height, and therein lies the skull.  The skull, by the way, is unidentified.  It's larger than a skunk or badger.  It has molars.

And that's the end of this tale.   
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