Just rambling thoughts about anything that happens to be on my mind and that usually isn't much!
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Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas my way

As a young lad, 4th grade, I became disillusioned with Christmas.  It was my first year at a "city" school instead of the country school where I had been attending.   We had just returned from the Christmas break and each of us were bragging about what we had gotten.  I had gotten a Remington 22 squirrel rifle which had a 7 shot clip!

Mrs. Clower, seeing our enthusiasm, decided to have each kid stand in front of the class and tell about one thing they got for Christmas.  I think she thought that it would teach us a little about talking to a group.  And if we were talking about something we really liked it would be easier than "making up a speech". 
It didn't take much coaching to get started.  Many kids were holding up their hands to be selected.  Those of us that were a little more bashful held off until our names were called.  Jack Hudson was the only one that shook his head "no" when she called on him.  Mrs. Clower politely called another name and we went on down the list.
Now Jack was a real bashful kid.  He was a "country kid" and, like many of us, helped with chores before catching the bus to school and often his clothes showed it.  He was a slow reader and wasn't very good at math so he did everything he could to stay out of the limelight.
However Mrs. Clower came to the end of the list and everyone had been in front of the class, that is, except for Jack.  She called on him again and again he shook his head no.  Everyone in class then turned in their seats to look at Jack.  This udder defiance of Mrs. Clower was sure to rain down destruction and everyone wanted to watch the event.
Mrs. Clower then gave the "everyone has to take their turn" speech.  Jack just slide down a little more in his seat, his eyes focused on some imaginary spot on his desk.  He again shook his head no.  There was no rustle of paper or any whispering in the room.  The silence was deafening as everyone awaited Mrs. Clower's wrath.
Mrs. Clower then gave Jack the option of standing at his desk and telling his story.  Jack slid lower, his eyes still transfixed on the spot.  All eyes in the class danced back and forth between Jack and Mrs. Clower.  Jack never moved a muscle.
Mrs. Clower then rose from her chair, her eyes fixed on Jack and in one swoop grabbed the paddle from it's resting place on the window ledge.  She strode angrily back to Jack's seat and laid the paddle on his desk.  Jack didn't twitch.
"Mr. Hudson.  You will do as everyone else has done or you will suffer the consequence!" Her voice quivered with anger as she struggled to contain herself.
"Mrs. Clower" Jack's voice was almost a wisher, "I didn't get anything."
All eyes in the class now shifted back to an imaginary spot on our own desks.  Mrs. Clower stood there motionless for a few seconds then she ran out the door.  There was no talking, whispering or any movement within the room.  After a few minutes, Mrs. Clower returned through the door with a handful of Kleenexes, her eyes red and swelled.  She never said a word, just wrote our reading assignment on the blackboard and returned to her desk.  Mrs. Clower made several trips outside the room that day. 
That particular story took a lot of the "fun" out of Christmas for me.  As my girls were growing up, anytime Dad would be called a "scrooge" they would be told "The Story".  Finally, one of the girls came up with a plan of how to get the fun back in Christmas for ole dad and it is now a tradition.
We each draw names early in the year.  You look for a "cause to do good" for that family member.  Then on Christmas day you present that family member with a letter of what was done in his/her name.  It can be a donation of money for a specific charity or a donation of time in helping or anything in between.  The letter explains why you chose that event in their name.
Each Christmas I am amazed even more than the last at how creative the gifts can be.  Not only does it make us more mindful of being a good Samaritan at times, but it is uplifting to know how your "gift giver" sees you.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Shopping

This morning at the Stockman, the subject of Christmas shopping came up.  I mentioned I hated to go shopping and that the Warden would just as soon I didn't go with her.
Clem said, "Not my Claire.  She wants me to go with her every year."
"Really?" stated Chester, "She really values your opinion on colors and gift selection?"
"Nothing like that," confessed Clem.  "She just wants someone to push the cart, tote the bags and pay the bill!"
"Well I only buy one gift each Christmas and that's for Chloe" stated Chester.
"How do you decide what to get her," I asked.
"That's easy," explained Chester, "I just call up my oldest daughter and ask her how much I owe her for Chloe's gift."
And the Spirit of Giving continues another year.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Family Tradition

Back when the kids were small, it was "Dads" job to load up the bundled toddlers and go find a tree to trim for our front room.  Now this was pretty easy when the kids were just toddlers and would think ANY tree I got was "perfect". 
Now it's pretty simple for me to select a tree.  The first qualification was that it had to be where I could drive the pickup up to it, step out, cut the tree and drive home.  It didn't have to have "perfect branches" and couldn't stand over 5 feet tall.  Since it was already cut (and the small kids thought it was "perfect") the Warden couldn't turn it down.
But as time went along the "eye of the beholders" became a little more selective and the daughters take after their mother when it comes to "aesthetic beauty" and size.  They began to want one of the caliber that the White House would want!  This of course would take multiple negations during the selecting phase.  What had once been a 30 minute job now took most of a Saturday just to bring one home!
Those kids could spot a tree up to a mile from the nearest road!  I swear they had eagle eyes!  We would then have to trek out to examine the proposed tree, all the while me trying to explain that the distance made trees look a lot smaller.  Standing beside the towering tree, they would eventually agree it was too large and we would trek back.
Finally I spotted one right beside the road, 4 feet tall (maybe I could convince them it was 5) that I thought was perfect.  The sun was almost ready to set and I was desperate to find one and get home for supper.
"That's too small!" said daughter number one rather definitively.
"Isn't it suppose to be green?" asked daughter number two, being more sarcastic than for the gaining of knowledge.
"The bottom branches are even charred from the spring burns!" daughter number three pointed out.
I could instantly see that negations were going to be tough.  But being the resourceful person I am, I broke into the story of "The Littlest Christmas Tree".
I looked at the tree rather remorseful and started, "This poor little tree.  All it's ever wanted was to be selected some day to adorn someone's house on Christmas day.  Now deformed and not pretty, no one will ever pick it."
I glanced out of the corner of my eye to see the girls.  They were all looking at the tree, lower lips quivering.  I kept going.
"No doubt the little tree thought it would be able to some day have a star on top.  Bright lights would encircle it's branches and bring colored lights to someone's front room."
I heard a sniff, but I didn't look over thinking I might break the mood.
"It was hoping that some day it would be able to spread it's lower branches over presents that would bring laughter and joy to children."  I was almost in tears myself by this time.
Finally one of the daughters said, "It's good enough." and the other two nodded in agreement.  As quick as a flash, I grabbed the saw and put the fledgling tree in the pickup.  We arrived home, me smiling and the girls all teary eyed.
The story of "The Littlest Christmas Tree" was banned from ever being used again when the tree selection job came around.  As a matter of fact, Pappy has been banned from even telling his grandkids the story!!!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Prairie Air's Pumpkin Provender

A few days ago, November 25th to be exact, Prairie Air published a blog about her pumpkin bread.  You can read the blog for yourself. 
You could almost smell the aroma of the bread as you read the article.  And as you can see from the pictures, she not only bakes it, she makes a presentation out of it!!  She told of how it had become a tradition of baking this bread for family gatherings.  Then that tradition got extended to baking for friends, neighbors and acquaintances.  So I jokingly (actually it was a ploy to get on the list) left a comment, What are the chances of your blog buddies getting on that recipient list??? 
Well lo and behold, Jenni showed up at our church the next Wednesday night and presented the Warden with a loaf of the heavenly sustenance!!  Now I'm here to tell you ..... that is GREAT stuff!
But I must admit, I don't know which I savor the most .... the pumpkin bread ... or the budding new friendship of good people.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A vacuity of computerese

The guys at the Stockman are often caught in a time warp, some time between the frontier days and the space age.  Cattle still graze the flint hills requiring cattleman to brave the elements for their care.  Yet the cell phone and computer are becoming a necessity in doing business. 
Cattle are now commonly sold via satellite auctions to prospective buyers all over the nation.  Some local auction barns even broadcast their sales over the internet allowing for more distant buyers of the local ranchers live commodities.  However, for those that are stuck in this "time warp" ... too young to retire ..... and too old to grasp some of the newer electronic contraptions ... this proves to be a struggle.
This morning Clem was complaining that the Misses was wanting to replace their Dell computer.  "It's only 9 years old," he complained, "my tractor is 20 and I'm not ready to replace it!"
"What's the problem with it?" asked Chester.
"She complains that she can cook, eat and do supper dishes while it's warming up." He explained, "I don't see any problem with that.  What else would she be doing?"
A young service man, on leave visiting his grandparents and apparently with computer knowledge, asked, "What size processer does it have?"
Clem, not wanting to look like he didn't have a clue, answered, "About the size of any other computer I guess.  About 18 inches high and 6-8 inches wide.  Sets there on the desk."
"No No" the service man explained, "I mean the part that does the computing, the actual work.  Like the engine in a pickup."  Clem, now visibly clueless, just shrugged.
"Well, do you know what operating system it has?" continued the young man truly wanting to give some technical advice to his senior acquaintance.
Clem thought for a moment before answering, "Well, she uses a keyboard and mouse."
The young man tried desperately to contain his smile, but it was evident none the less.  So rather than to continue his questions, he began explaining the advancements made in the last 9 years in computer processors, internet speeds etc.  Everyone was tuned in to listen even though most weren't on the same channel and didn't understand anymore than if they had been listening about brain surgery.
Finally Chester ventured, "You seem to know a lot about computers and electronics, would you mind giving me a little help?"
"I've had quite a bit of training in computers and wireless transmissions" the young man explained, "how can I help?"
"Would you mind," Chester continued, "resetting the digital clock in my feed pickup now that daylight savings time is over?"