Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cattle Rustlers

     I take delight in the simple joys of small town living, especially the old-fashioned values and habits that still are a part of everyday life in a rural area.  I learned this week that even crime is still old fashioned in our area!  I heard a news report this morning that there were a couple of cattle rustlers caught this week.  Yes, this image is what popped into my mind:

    However, I doubt that is what the guys looked like.  They just took advantage of some unsuspecting cows.  Now, you have to understand that cows are pretty dumb animals.  They don't bark or sound an alarm if a stranger comes along.  They don't have the sheep instinct and only follow the shepherd.  If a person comes along and waves at them to move, they move.  And cows are pretty easy to care for. Just give them some room to roam and a field to graze in and they are pretty happy. Take some feed out to them in the winter time and you can leave them alone. 
     I imagine that these two cattle rustlers knew all about that and they hatched a scheme to go to some vast expanse of ranch land and take a few cows away.  It was reported that they took them immediately to the cattle auction where they sold them on the spot and took off with the profit!
     I have been to the cattle auction  a few times in my life.  It looks somewhat like a small amphitheater with steps/seats slanting up three sides of the room. There is a very strong odor of cigarette smoke, leather and of course, cow manure.  In the front of the seating area is a flat floor surrounded by cattle fence and off to one side, an elevated spot where the auctioneer can stand. A door opens and several very scared looking cattle charge in. The floor is a giant scale, so you look up on the wall and there is a "score board" stating the weight of the lot and average weight of each cow.  The auctioneer will name the rancher who is selling them and the type of cows that they are. He will then proceed to auction them off.  I learned quickly to sit very still and not to make a move or I might be the owner of thousands of pounds of hamburger.  These rustlers had to know what they were doing.  Each seller receives a check for the cattle that they sell that day. 
     Cattle rustlers are the reason that cowboys at one time branded their cattle.  They would brand them with the symbol of their ranch to prevent this kind of crime.  The ranch symbol was burned into the flesh of the animal making a permanent mark declaring who the owner was.  Then if the thief attempted to sell it, the buyer could beware of who they were really buying from!  Maybe the cattle ranchers in our area should consider going back to branding their cattle again!
     The news report mentioned that the rustlers were caught.  No doubt the sheriff rounded up his posse, hunted the culprits down and threw them in the hoosegow..............but you'll get that in a small town!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Redneck Grammar

     I saw this in our local want ad paper that comes out once a week. It is a collection of for sale and want ads that appeal mostly to the male population. My husband picks it up at the local parts store every week.  He loves searching through it for some bargain he thinks he could fix up and make it worth a whole lot more than he paid for it. It is humorous to peruse and see all the ads for guns, pickups and hunting dogs.
     Below is an ad that caught my eye. It is from a local specialty gun shop.  Can you spot the two mistakes?

     Now, if I would have mentioned the title of this post in our area ("Redneck Grammar"), someone may have thought I was referring to his granny who lives out in the sticks and rarely comes to town. But, no, I'm talking about good old fashioned spelling and pronunciation...and you don't always get that in a small town!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Only in the Country #3

     As my family was driving across Iowa yesterday we saw an amazing, stop-the-car-and-take-a-picture sight. It was a rather large group of bald eagles feasting on what looked like a deer carcass.

There is something about seeing an eagle that makes me feel so patriotic, and seeing a whole flock of them together was just such a great sight. I kept telling my kids that they would probably never see anything like this again in their lives.
We did a little research today and discovered that a grouping of eagles is officially titled a "convocation". 
When we had first stopped, we counted about 30 of them gathered there. The highway traffic didn't seem to bother them.  The longer we watched, the less there seemed to be.
 As the meat disappeared, so did the convocation.............but you'll get that in a small town.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Culture Clash

Two cultures came to a head this morning in our sleepy little town. 
'Wonder what they're saying?
"Is this how it goes up, Elmer?"
"Yah, dat so, Amos"
"Here we go!"

"Whoa, ain't never been this high up before!"
"Careful there, Elmer, there be a truck coming."
"I think we got the hang of it!"

"Do yah tink the bishop'd let us get one of these here contraptions?"
"Nah, Amos, it be too worldly."
.....but you'll get that in a small town.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Granny in a Grain Truck


     We met at the four-way stop the other day.  She waved a beautifully manicured hand. She was sitting high in an International grain truck, laden down with freshly harvested grain, headed for the elevator.  I had noticed earlier that there was a long line of grain trucks waiting their turn to be checked and weighed.  She knew what was ahead of her, but still, she smiled.
     This was a tough year for the farmers of our area.  We went for over 3 months with very little or no rain. Though it was an inconvenience to most of us wanting green lawns and healthy gardens, it spelled trouble for those who rely on the weather to help make their living.  Funds would be limited due to the extremely small crops this year.  This lady had very likely been through years like this before.  She knew that there were no extra funds to hire help and so, she was the help.
     I imagined what life must have been like for the  young couple many years ago.  It was probably fun for the newly married farmer to teach his wife how to drive a straight transmission; she, the willing learner; he, the patient teacher.  He may have made the first delivery with her, showing her the ropes of where to maneuver the big truck on the scales and what to tell the operator.  He most likely went in and introduced her to the workers. Her first trip alone may have been a worrisome one for the farmer, anxiously awaiting her return.  As the years passed, she became his trusted helper, always available to help when an extra hand was needed. She was proud of her part in the work of the field and filled the gaps when she could.  They kept together during the tough times, knowing that things would always get better.
     Today, she is still that proud worker.  Her perfectly coiffed hair and beautiful smile tell the tale of a lady, happy to be who she was meant to be. No need to find fulfillment elsewhere, her man is her job!  Pleasing him pleases her.  She grew up with the old time values that gave her the strength to stand by her man through thick and thin. 
     You go, granny!  Keep grinning and grinding those gears!  You are an inspiration to those of us who are also trying to keep the old time values and keep our men happy.  I'm glad that I had the privilege of seeing that granny in a grain truck........but you'll get that in a small town.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Redneck Computer Lingo

     Just for laughs: REDNECK COMPUTER TERMS

BACKUP - What you do when you run across a skunk in the woods
BAR CODE - Them's the fight'n rules down at the local tavern
BUG - The reason you give for calling in sick
BYTE - What your pit bull dun to cusin Jethro
CACHE - Needed when you run out of food stamps
CHIP - Pasture muffins that you try not to step in
TERMINAL - Time to call the undertaker
CRASH - When you go to Junior's party uninvited
DIGITAL - The art of counting on your fingers
DISKETTE - Female Disco Dancer
FAX - What you lie about to the IRS
HACKER - Uncle Leroy after 32 years of smoking
HARD COPY - Picture looked at when selecting tattoos
INTERNET - Where cafeteria workers put their hair
KEYBOARD - Where you hang the keys to the John Deere
MAC - Big Bubba's favorite fast food
MEGAHERTZ - how a real bad headache feels
MODEM - What you did when the grass and weeds got too tall
MOUSE PAD - Where Mickey and Minnie live
NETWORK - Scoop'n up a big fish before it breaks the line
ONLINE - Where to stay when taking the sobriety test
ROM - Where the pope lives
SCREEN - Helps keep the skeeters off the porch
SERIAL PORT - A red wine you drink with breakfast
SUPERCONDUCTOR - Amtrak's Employee of the year
LOG ON- what you do when it is cold
LOG OFF- it's gettin' too hot in here
'll get that in a small town!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Couldn't Resist.....

We are voting for a new sheriff in a month. I've seen these signs up all over town and couldn't resist sharing this with you:
        I absolutely love small town names.  It seems like we rural people love to pick unique names, and then when the child grows up they seem to pick an occupation that matches it (for instance, Dr. Molar was a dentist!!) Nicknames are a big part of life in a small town.  You hear them often on the radio when they read the obituaries.  I wondered if he tried coming up with a campaign slogan: "Vote for Digger.....", but what rhymes with "Digger"?   Bigger?  'Figger (as in "I figger on votin' fer this candidate..)?  The livestock trailer really is appealing, too...but you'll get that in a small town.

Friday, September 14, 2012

For the love of mules......

 This weekend, our county is hosting its annual celebration-- The Clark County Mule Festival. It is our nationally known festival that draws visitors from every holler in the nation. And of course, they all bring their mules
     The Clark County Mule Festival was established in September of 1986 for the purpose of celebrating the mule.  Our county is considered the mule capital of the nation and those who started it hoped to draw other mule enthusiasts to our lonely spot on the globe.
 About a week before the actual festival begins, our town is flooded with campers and travel trailers of every make, model and year lining up at the fair grounds just east of town.  They begin vying for their spot on the grassy lots where they want to set up house keeping for the next week or so. The camping is on a first come, first serve basis, so if you want electric, you'd better get here quickly! I've heard they have a decorated camper contest, so the residents of "camper city" pull out all the stops and hang their Christmas lights, signs, and yard ornaments with great gusto.  The other sites, labeled "primitive" (basically, no electric), seem to go quickly too.  And, believe me, they take primitive seriously!  Little tents and campfires dot the landscape.  Some even sleep next to their mule, using their saddle as a pillow. At night, you can hear bluegrass music played by the glow of the fire.
    If you need some vittles or other supplies during the week, the mule shuttle bus runs constantly making trips to town from the campsite.
  The town gets excited about the mule festival as well, selecting this particular weekend to hold its all-town yard sales. The mule festival participants drive their pickups and mules into town to boost our lowly economy.  It's great fun for all.
     During the day the festivities take center stage.  They start the morning with prayer and a devotion read over the intercom.  Then, the games begin.  All Friday, Saturday and Sunday the arena is filled with people on mules playing different games, just for fun.  I got to sit in on a few of them and this is what I saw:
     First of all, the egg/spoon game.  Each contestant is given an egg and a spoon. They are required to be on their mule for the entire game and keep the egg in the spoon.  Sounds simple, until the announcer says "Riders, walk". So all the mules walk.  As the game progresses you hear them commanded to "canter", then "trot", then finally "gallop".  Each one is eliminated as the eggs drop.  The winner receives the cheer from the crowd and his name listed in the newspaper.

   The competition heats up in the team division of the egg spoon game. The bearer of the egg has to remain standing in the back of the wagon balancing the egg.  We all know the stubborn tendencies of a mule, and when they will only move when they are good and ready, leaving the standing contestant at a quandary as to when they should be ready.  Often the mule jumps at just the wrong moment, leaving the bearer of the spoon with egg on his face, literally.

     The next game was the back-to-back competition.  Contestants had to be sitting on the mule with backs to each other. When they are prompted, they try and trade places without getting off of the mule.  So, people are going over, under and around each other all on the back of a mule. 

    Of course, there were husband and wife teams, brothers, sisters, friends, all doing acrobatics on the back of a mule.  I wondered what the mule must have thought, not only having 2 riders on its back, but also being wrestled and kicked with cowboy boots. There were several times one mule tried bucking its riders off, and a few contestants fell off in the process.   The winners were a mother and daughter team that had obviously practiced a lot.  The mother would grab the little girl and swing her around to the front of her and then just turn herself around, much to the delight of the audience.
     The fair grounds are also dotted with food booths, flea market tables and vendors selling their wares.  There are buildings with booths of crafts, handiwork, jewelry, western decor and other items for sale.  The antique dealers set up their displays and the toy tractor retailers are there to make a profit.
     So, ya'll come out for the 27th Annual Clark County Mule Festival this weekend in Northeast Missouri. We will welcome you with open arms, though there may be no vacancy at the campgrounds.  You could rent a primitive site on my front lawn, though the landlord requests no pets, including mules........but you'll get that in a small town.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Only in the Country #2

     Would you know what to expect of you saw a sign like this?  We see them quite often on our rural roads. I can think of at least 5 different one lane bridges on country roads within 30 miles of our town.  Our roads are not very busy, so you don't often have to "deal" with them.
     The one lane bridge has become a greatly debated topic among county officials. I'm sure the original reason for the one lane bridge was to save money. Now, there is more concern for safety, and the time spent "waiting" at one of these bridges (like there's really that much traffic on them!).
     After passing the above sign, you will soon see this:

     The picture doesn't quite do justice to what a one lane bridge looks like. They are rather thin and are only wide enough to accommodate one vehicle width at a time. The sign does however give you the appropriate directions on how to respond to a one lane bridge. When we country folks approach one of these and see another car headed for the bridge from the other direction, we respond in a number of  different ways.  The daredevils will try and beat one another to the bridge, often playing "chicken" to see who will give in and slow down first.  The timid drivers will slow down, or even stop to let the other driver cross first. The polite gentlemen will sit patiently and wave the other driver across.  Neighbors will meet half way, get out of their cars and have a little chat on the bridge.  I heard once of a man and woman who met on a one lane bridge and stopped bumper to bumper.  The man hollered out "I don't back up for idiots!"  The woman immediately replied, " I do!"   and quickly backed up .....but you'll get that in a small town.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fundraising in a Small Town


      Yes, raising funds for a particular need is much different in a small town area.  There are several different approaches.  Sometimes a church group or a club will attempt a big city plan and hold a car wash or sell candy bars.  The car wash doesn't get many customers, because we here in this stretch of the woods really don't have shiny cars to begin with.  Washing them just takes away the grime that hides the rust and the expired licence plates.  Candy bars are great, but once everyone sells them to their relatives, the whole town is covered and you can't sell anymore.
     Now, a small town area takes some ingenious thought to getting into that pocket to get the funds you need for some project or deficit.  A lot of times people take the direct approach.  Because of this, about once or twice a year, the traffic on my side street becomes unbearable. Those are the days that I know to avoid the four-way stop in town.  The four-way stop is an intersection in the middle of town.  Of course, there are 4 stop signs and each direction must stop there.  It gets humorous when all 4 stop at the same time we have to try and figure out who goes first, but that's another episode entirely.  But, someone a long time ago realized that they could make a profit off of this opportunity. It is usually the fire department guys or the ambulance workers who gather 5 gallon buckets and stand in the middle of the road at the 4 way stop and solicit funds right there. They are always dressed in their particular uniforms.  It reminds me of when I was in South America and the people would sell you some trinket or wash your window right as you were stopped in traffic.  I don't know how effective this method is.  I do know that a lot of people avoid the area when they are there! 
     And then there is the indirect approach.  I call it "Fattening for Funds".  At least once a week the sign at the 4 way stop announces some kind of fundraising dinner to be held at the Senior Center.  It will share the menu, time and who the funds will go to.  Often it will be announced on the radio as well, giving such information as: "free will offering" and "homemade pies".  This must be a rather effective way of raising money as often as they are held.  It goes back to the long held belief  that the way to a man's wallet is through his stomach.  Those who hold these meals have to get rather creative to draw a big crowd.  I'm sure they feel that their menu choice is of utmost importance.  Occasionally they will advertise "homemade noodles" or "liver and onions", seeking to entice a particular crowd. 
     The local high school has come up with some unique ways of raising money too.  Of course, we get the usual orders for fruit in the winter, cookie dough in the spring and candy bars the whole year through, but they came up with a new way a few years ago.  They advertised in the paper that they were taking donations for their  band trip to Hawaii.  Those that donated would receive a Hawaiian flower painted on their driveway, sidewalk or front curb.  And, for added incentive, each flower represented a certain amount.  So, it became a matter of pride.  Each business proudly displayed their collection of flowers out on the front sidewalk, loudly exclaiming their amount of monetary donation!  Those flowers are still visible in town, even after several years.  They have been joined by pictures of Indians, alligators and footballs, each designating different causes that were given to.
     Finally, there is the most effective approach, just plain need.  When a family has a tragedy or medical need or if their house burns down, the whole community joins in one accord to help in any way they can.  The method does not matter, whether it is a coffee can on the grocery store counter, a yard sale or just a clothing drive, we all chip in because we have seen the hurt first hand, or have been there ourselves. We are all familiar with the pleas for money that we are bombarded with daily.  We have our emotions toyed with; we are fed some sob story about someone who needs help. Our mailboxes teem with pleas for funds to be sent to hospitals, cancer patients and wildlife preserves.  Yet, when it comes to someone we know, our hearts are moved even more, because we have seen the suffering and the need first hand. We know that the gifts we are giving will really go to that person and not just to some corporate office.  This is a community of friends and family, and when one of us suffers, we all suffer........but you'll get that in a small town.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tired Old Truck

     At one time it was a brand new pickup truck.  A retired man drove it off the lot and took it home to his small farm.  It was a prize, a reward for years of hard work, a trophy from the sweat and tears spent in the past.  This was a truck to be proud of.  It took many trips through the man's watermelon fields, or down the road to the local cafe everyday.  It even was nice enough to drive the man and his wife to church on Sundays. Yes, it was a good truck.  The grandchildren would ooh and ahh over the shiny chrome, and fight over a chance to go to the sale barn with Grandpa. The finish was shiny; the vinyl seats were smooth and clean.

     Fast forward several years. The man had a teenage grandson who greatly admired the truck. Even though it had already racked up many a mile, it had the ruggedness that a teen, who had just received his license, looked for in a first vehicle.  It was now a trophy for a young man. But, it was also a lesson learned.  The young man learned the value of a dollar and the rewards of paying off a debt early. It became a vehicle to haul the young man's mowing trailer and helped him establish a reputation of faithfulness and hard work.  It was also the truck that he and his future wife dated in.  Though old, it was a good and faithful truck. It now had a CD player, instead of the old 8 track. The young man also added cruise control.  He put many miles on it travelling cross country to visit his future bride.  Besides the many miles, the truck now held many memories.

     The tired old truck still has a future.  It has listened in on many discussions between that young man and his son as they dream about the future and one day fixing it up together.  The young man knows the thrill of having a good truck when you are first driving and he wants that for his son. 

     The old truck no longer shines.  The chrome has rusted. The steering wheel is now shiny with wear.  The vinyl seats are now cracked and dull.  The original owner has now retired to heaven.  But the memories still remain.

     Today, the tired old truck broke down.  Working in 105 degree weather would cause any old timer to collapse.  Fix it? Of course!  This is a valuable family heirloom.  Sorry, old friend, you're not ready for the truck graveyard, yet, we have plans for your future.............but you'll get that in a small town.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Small Town News #1

I needed a laugh this week.  I found this among my files and thought I'd share. This is one of my favorite small town headlines ever............but you'll get that in a small town!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Tribute

     Actor Andy Griffith passed away today.  He was well known for his series "The Andy Griffith Show" which aired in the 1960's.  He was a small town boy who grew up in Mt. Airy, North Carolina.  His love of that town and its people helped to shape many of the episodes for the show. If fact, though there was an entire team of writers for the show, I have read that Andy had his hand in every episode, influencing the scenarios and adding that small town flair.
     His portrayal of a rural sheriff and the funny predicaments that accompany that job made us all love the homey feeling of the small town life and yearn to find a Mayberry of our own.
     Thank you, Andy, for reminding us that we need to look for the humor even in the difficult times of life.  Thank you for helping us smile at the joy of prize winning pickles and the antics of the local filling station attendant. Thanks for giving us an understanding of the simple law that rules in a rural area, that looks to build character more than serve the letter of the law, but you'll get that in a small town.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Stolen Vehicles

     I just read a report this morning about the cities in America that have the most stolen cars. I checked the list.  No, my town isn't mentioned. What a relief.   It got me to thinking about the reasons why vehicles don't get stolen in small towns.  Here are a few thoughts:

1. No one wants a car with camouflage paint details, extra large mudding tires or a license plate that says "Bubba".

2. The nosy neighbors next door are ALWAYS watching!

3. The sheriff and his 3 deputies all know the names, dates of birth and favorite hideouts of everyone in the area.

4. The gun rack in the back is a good indication that the owner has his weapon under his pillow and won't hesitate to shoot on sight.

5.  The local gossips would see your vehicle being driven by someone else and would either call the cops or start a rumor about an affair.

6. The sheriffs office actually answers the phone and responds rather quickly to calls.

7. There is a large, very loud attack dog on at least every block who would bark out a warning at any stranger within a block's radius.

8. No one wants a vehicle with over 284,000 miles.

9. The thief would worry that the dried deer blood on the truck bed might make the cops suspicious if he were caught.

10. The jumble of wires and duct tape on the door handle prevents them from even trying.

11. The battery cables just within reach are also a great deterrent.

And finally, the best reason that cars are very seldom stolen in a small town?

12. Small town people believe in good ol' fashioned right and wrong; and they just choose to respect each other's property..............but you'll get that in a small town!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Only in the Country....#1

'Saw this awesome sight this morning.

 As we came over a hill, we could see him high on the next hill.  Vultures aren't usually my favorite bird, but this guy was so huge, you could see him from so far away. 

     I have read that vultures dry off their wings in the morning sunshine, but had never seen it for myself before.  That's what I love about rural life. Where else do you get to see stuff like this?  And, where else could you stop right in the middle of the road to snap a picture???  But, you'll get that in a small town...  :)

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Dog and Gun


      If you were to go to a travel agent and sign up for a Hillbilly trip to northern Missouri, one of the activities on your agenda would have to include "The Dog and Gun".  'Round in these parts, it is an important ritual that takes place every other weekend in the summertime. Its official title is the "Rutledge Flea Market".  Its website boasts that there are over 1000 vendor spots available.  You will find "antiques, collectibles, crafts, relics, tools, horse tack, yard furniture, clothes, new merchandise, used items, farm supplies and much more". Much, much more.
      It had its beginnings in 1948 and was a dog and gun exchange and hillbilly auction.  Local men would meet to trade items, particularly guns and dogs.  You have to understand the importance of these items in a rural area.  Your gun is your constant companion and your dog is your best friend.  Of course, if you were to find one better, you would trade it.
     I have been to the Dog and Gun only once in my lifetime.  The ladies of our church volunteered to run the concession stand for a day. We arrived early in the morning.  As we approached, it looked like an old camper convention, with ages old rusty trailers lined up in formation.  We walked in to find an old shack where we would be working.  We were very busy the entire day, so I wasn't able to peruse the flea market.  The view from the snack shop window told me I didn't miss much.  I saw tables of flea market items.  There were long stands with tools and hunting items.  I also was a bit puzzled by the tables filled with stacks and stacks of used Tupperware.  Of course, there were those selling "antiques"-- like old rusty tools, chipped pottery and toys from the 70's.  There are also "crafts" which basically means anything made by hand, but typically means tables full of plastic canvas items, yard decor made out of old barn wood, and hand painted signs.  You can even buy chickens and goats, along with garden plants and vegetables. 
     Of course, there are guns........and dogs.  It is rumored that they don't really sell dogs, the owners sell the collars and the dog comes with them.  I guess that is a way to get around the laws.  I have often wondered about the selling of firearms.  Do they do background checks?  Or maybe, they sell the gun cases and you get a "free" gun with it!
   I did notice a certain dress code that is prevalent at this flea market.  The grounds are filled with people that would be considered "back-woods" type.  Think Grizzly Adams.  I actually saw a man with greasy jeans, an even greasier, tobacco stained beard, sporting an old, sweat stained cowboy hat.  His hat band was made from a snake skin and there was a huge turkey feather pluming out of the band. And, yes, there was a rifle under his arm and he had a hound dog on a leash. 
     There is also an unusual set of people that frequent this market.  There is a local group of Amish that settled in the area and they seem to enjoy shopping the tables of items.  Senior citizens from the area also make their appearance to check out the items for sale and to find that one-of-a-kind sign for their lawn. 
     You will see entire families piled onto a four wheeler or golf cart. They will drive to and from the tables viewing the items for sale. Many people camp there for the summer, so there is the smell of campfire smoke, mingled with wet dog, gunpowder and sweat.
     So, if you're needing to trade your Rover for a Ruger, you'd better check out the Rutledge Flea Market, known around these parts as the "Dog-n-Gun" (pronounced as all one word)-- but you'll get that in a small town.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Elections in a small town


     Voting.  It's one of those responsibilities that comes with the privilege of being an American.  I remember very vividly when I finally was able to go vote for the first time. How proud I was to have a part in voting for the President, and I somehow felt that my vote helped him actually win! 
     In a small town, voting is quite different.  If you were to run for some kind of public office, you would go to the court house and announce your bid to run and then begin your campaign.  If you wanted to "make friends and influence people" you would most likely put an ad in the local paper first, just to get your name out there.  You would then make a bunch of signs (spray painted on cardboard or plywood is the norm) and drive around the area to ask if you can put them in people's yards. If the race were very close, we would be able to tell who was "winning" by who had the most signs around town.  You would know that the most prominent places to put your signs would be at the 4-way stop in the middle of town, and outside of each cafe' and bar.  If you had some extra campaign funds, you  might be able to rent the flashing message board outside of the hair salon right next to the 4-way stop. Everyone in the county drives past there.  You might get really inventive and paint a large message on your back fence, house roof, or the side of your barn or your pickup.  If you really wanted to get on people's good side, you would order cheap pens with your campaign slogan on them and go door-to-door handing them out.
     When voting day finally arrives, each citizen goes to their respective polling place. It may be in a church, library or fire station.  The election volunteers get things ready the night before. They dig out the old, musty, red, white and blue striped curtains and drape them over the thin aluminum frames that stand in one corner of the room.  There are long tables set up near the entrance to the room where the election officials sit to check you in. 
     When you arrive, you may have to wait in line, especially if it is over the lunch hour.  You will pull up to the polling place and see several pickups (many with dogs in the back patiently waiting for their owners).  You will stand and chat about the weather and the crops this year while you wait your turn.  As you approach the election check-in, if the worker recognizes you, you don't need to show your picture ID.  They love to say "personal recognizance", as if they have been practicing those words for awhile.  They then announce (seemingly to the whole room), "republican" or "democrat", so the other person knows which ballot to hand you. You then take your ballot to one of the voting booths and shut the curtain behind you.
     There are no computerized voting machines. We have never used  punch cards nor had a problem with hanging chads.  When you pull the curtain behind you, there is nothing there but a thin Sharpie marker with which to mark your ballot that was handed to you. After you vote, you carry your ballot to the box and hand it in.  If your kids are with you they fight over who gets to put it in the slot.
     And then the wait begins.  The election officials are often busy until late into the night counting the ballots and calling in results.  Usually by the 10 o'clock news, they know the results.
     This last election was right in the middle of spring planting.  The farmers were all more than busy preparing and planting their fields before the next rain. There was no time to run into town to vote.  I was listening to some of the results on the radio the next morning. Here are a few excerpts: (Names of places and people were changed!)   "In the race for city alderman of Noville, the incumbent, Mr. Smith received 3 votes with Mr. Jones receiving 10.  Mr. Doe was a write-in receiving 2 votes." ( I wondered if it were he and his wife that voted for him!) 
     The announcer continued: "In the race for mayor of Hooperton, the top vote getters were Mr. Williams  and Mr. Michaels each receiving 50% of the vote with 1 vote a piece. The clerk announced that the results were contested and there will be a recount."..............but, you'll get that in a small town.


Monday, April 30, 2012

Adventures in Redneckhood: Episode #471

    I got to add another notch to my belt today.  I have been keeping a running tally in my head of all the redneck type activities that I have participated in since marrying my country boy.  Today topped the "Chevy Water Pump in the Kitchen Sink" incident by far.
     We had a pickup truck that apparently had the transmission go out this weekend. Of course it  happened in a town about 30 miles away.  The truck sat at a business over the weekend and so we had to go take care of it today. 
     We drove over there, hoping that the feared diagnosis wasn't true and that we would be able to just drive it home.  Stephen hopped in and started it, and, much to the delight of the crew with me, it took off down the road.  We stopped about 50 yards later and pulled off.  He couldn't get it far enough off the road, so I had to push him with my vehicle.   Fun.
     After much consideration and adding several bottles of cure-all that were suggested by some of his favorite car experts, we realized that there was only one thing to do. Since the truck would only go in reverse, that would be how we had to get it home. We figured out the best, most remote back roads to take.  I started singing: "Country roads, take me home."
     We consulted the GPS, (thankfully it had even the dirt roads on its map!), and charted our course.  Stephen led, and I followed.  He in reverse, me going forward, hazards flashing.

     When we were first sitting alongside the road, there were many cars passing us wondering what was going on.  Once we got going, we thankfully saw hardly any cars.  When one did pass us for the first time, the driver craning his neck to try and figure out what was going on, Stephen and I just grinned at each other.  Let them guess.
     Stephen is an expert at driving in reverse. He gets that from his many hours spent pushing snow in parking lots-- back and forth, back and forth.  However, I could tell his neck was getting tired after the first several miles. 
     It took us about an hour and a half to make a trip that usually takes us about 25 minutes. We drove many roads that I had never been on before.  We got a grand tour of all the farm land between Keokuk and Kahoka.  I'm sure we will be the fodder of many an interesting conversation over the neighboring fence as one farmer asks another, "Hey, did you see what drove past yesterday?"  Of course, our vehicles proudly advertise "S & D Seamless Gutters" on the side.  'Wonder how many calls we'll get from that area as a result?
     Our kids kept worrying that a policeman might see us.  I wondered what they might be able to stop us for. Maybe improper lane usage?  Maybe just driving too slowly?  I'm glad we didn't have to find out.
     We stopped just before reaching our town and added a tow rope and I pulled him the rest of the way.  We've seen many other vehicles pulled through town like that to know that it was all right. 
     Now the dilemma faces us, fixing the transmission.    I am starting to imagine more nights cooped up in the damp basement, Dr. D bent over a greasy pile of cogs and gears.  I, his trusty assistant, handing him his tools and holding the light trained on the interior of the beast.  Sounds like another episode of "Night of the Killer Transmission" is on its way.   But, you'll get that in a small town.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Old Country Church

The first church my dad pastored. I was "born" in this church.

"Oh, I'd like to go back
To that old country church,
Just to hear the songs of praise.
How the people would sing,
It would make the heavens ring,
At that old country church"

"Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms.
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms."

"Come to the church by the wild wood
Oh, come to the church in the vale
No spot is so dear to my childhood
As the little brown church in the vale"


"Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine.
Heir of salvation, Purchase of God.
Born of His spirit, washed in His blood."

The first church I remember being in.  I was "reborn" in this church.

"Now the years have gone by,
And so many have died,
At that old country church,
But they're on the other shore,
Where they'll sing forevermore,
As they did at that old country church!"

"I'm redeemed, by love divine,
Glory, glory, Christ is mine!
All to Him I now resign.
I have been, I have been redeemed"
At that old country church!

Friday, March 2, 2012



     On a cold November morning in 2010, our sleepy little community woke to a buzz of new gossip floating around.  It seems that a body had been found along the river.  The local cafe and the hair salons were extremely busy as people from town headed to where they knew they would hear some information.  We knew who the victim was, and there was speculation as to who the perpetrator was.  Phones were more than busy, texts were running rampant and ears were on high alert as we waited to hear more. 
     It was rumored that it was one of our own members of the community that had committed the crime.  Someone who had grown up with us, lived among us, spent time with our kids, sat at our kitchen table. 
As more details of the crime were uncovered, the story began to form. We wonder how he thought he would get away with it.

 Did he forget that he was from a small town?

Did he forget that even though this sleepy little town seems like Mayberry, the police are just a phone call away from leading pathologists and forensics experts?

Did he forget that anger and alcohol don't mix and that one's true character is revealed in a fit of passion?

Did he forget that his pastor and Sunday School teachers once taught him: "Be sure your sin will find you out"?

Did he forget that in a small town people will stand up for anyone they call kin?

Did he forget that even small town folk still have faith in the court system and believe that crime must be punished?

Did he forget that in a small town someone is ALWAYS watching?

     On February 29, 2012, a jury of his peers, after only 2 hours of deliberation, looked past friendship and favors and found the young man guilty of first degree murder.   Justice was served .... you'll get that in a small town. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

FFA Week


High school parking lot.

     This week was National FFA week.  For those of you who don't live in a rural area, you probably have no clue what I am talking about.  FFA stands for "Future Farmers of America" and is a vital part of the education system in a farm community. From what I understand, FFA is like 4-H--on steroids.  It is an agriculturally geared program to keep young people involved and interested in agriculture.  Every February, they celebrate this program with a series of events to keep the young people interested in the program and to recruit others to join.
     I looked up some information about the FFA and was quite pleased to read their pledge that they are required to memorize.  It includes such phrases as: "I believe in the future of agriculture with a faith not born of words, but of deeds.." and "I believe that to live and work on a good pleasant as well as challenging.." or "I believe in less dependence on begging.....".  Wow, if only we could instill those values in others across the country.
     Basically, FFA week is a celebration of the agricultural way of life.  A time to reflect on the values and ethics that the hard working farmer knows.  And the school students have fun ways of doing this.  They started the week out with attending a church service together.  They then have different themes for each day of the week.  Tuesday was "camo" day where they all wore their camoflauge clothing.  They had a dress-up day where the FFA members wore their uniforms and took time to present the program to the elementary age students.  I heard many of the officers from the surrounding communities interviewed on the local radio station.
     I was never involved in FFA, though I was in small town schools all of my life.  I never had the privilege of competing on the national level in contests covering different agriculturally related themes. I heard one young lady interviewed telling about the Dairy Foods contest. She had to know, by taste, different cheeses, milks, etc. as well as their grade and quality.  I was impressed.  I don't think I could do that.
     One of my favorite parts of FFA week is always on Friday.  They call it "Drive your Tractor to school" day.  My kids wait at the front door in anticipation of all the kids driving into town with their family's machinery and parading them from the town square, down Main Street to the high school.  I apologize for the blurriness of these pictures, but these kids are really trucking, full throttle down the street!

        I think it turns out to be somewhat of a competition among the teen guys, (what among teen guys isn't a competition?).  See for yourself:

                                                          The dirtiest.

                                                                          The oldest.

                                            The coldest. (It was about 20 degrees out that morning!)

                                          Of course, the one with the most wheels wins!

                                           Or, would that be the one with no wheels?

                                     And, of course, the smallest, brought by the class clown, no doubt!

     I do have to mention that these we not just driven by young men, but several were driven by young ladies.  The FFA is not just for guys! The local chapter is headed by an equal amount of guys and girls.
      I got to thinking about this whole scenario the other night and envisioned teen sons asking their dads, "Hey, Dad, can I drive that $125,000 piece of vital farm equipment you have out in the shed to school tomorrow?  We're just going to tear up and down the streets of Kahoka for awhile before school starts." I then wondered about them having to calculate the mph and the miles to town and figure how early they would have to leave the house in order to get to school in time.  
      I asked my husband (who worked several years for a farmer) if he would let his son do that and he immediately replied "Yes!".  So, I have come to the conlusion that a tractor is so much more than just a piece of equipment. It represents years of hard work and the rewards of that work.  It is more than a hobby, it is a way of life and FFA week celebrates the glory of the farmer and his commitment to doing things right; to working harder than any other occupation; to giving ones all, even when the yield may not be all you expect it to be. 
     So, FFA members, we salute you this week.  We are grateful for your commitment to the American farmer and the way of life that started this country.  We love the work ethic that constitutes your being and the pleasure that comes from doing your best and reaping the benefits.  But most of all, we love your tractor parades and look forward to them every year...........but, you'll get that in a small town!