family · Holidays · My Thoughts · Ranching · square dance

Why Celebrate Father’s Day?

The Last Time I Danced With Dad!

Having just returned from the Colorado State Square Dance Convention in Pueblo, Colorado, I choked back a tear or two and felt a little nostalgic about the influence my Dad had on my life. Father’s Day is a day to celebrate our dad’s, so I wanted to share some of my fond memories.

My cowboy Dad loved his wife, his children, his ranch and friends. My brother and I inherited the ranch my grandfather put together—the place my Dad worked his whole life. I just returned from a drive around the ranch with my brother in the early evening looking for wildlife. I feel a special connection to Dad any time I’m standing on a ridge overlooking the canyon or eyeing a windmill he put in many years ago. Dad is everywhere on that ranch for me, and it happened again tonight.

Dad left a small souvenir all over the ranch—wrapped up baling wire for hay bales that he tied in a certain way and pitched out the truck window. We have tried to gather them up over the years, but a stray one appears, and I smile.

Yes, Dad loved this ranch, but another couple of his passions were dancing and storytelling, and I inherited both of them!

Dad and Mom met dancing, and it continued to be their main hobby until he couldn’t dance anymore. They danced to many of the big bands in Raton, New Mexico—a Catholic priest brought these famous bands to town, and the folks were on the dance floor—the cowboy donned a suit and boots and danced the night away. They glided across the floor as smooth as any other couple. During this time, they danced to the bands of Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Glen Miller for sure, but I bet there were others.

It wasn’t until I took round dance lesson after Dad died, I learned that he did the Foxtrot instead of Country two step—that was so surprising to me, but he loved big band music, and he danced many a mile to them, so they influenced his dance style.

He had a special step he did in his jitterbug repertoire; he said he stumbled one night when he was drunk and liked it so much, he kept it. Mom and I tried to reconstruct it after he died, but we couldn’t, so that dance move died with him.

When I was growing up, Dad was our 4-H club square dance caller, and he loved to teach people how to square dance. For a couple years we took two squares to Fort Collins, Colorado for the state competition. We never won, but we had a lot of fun.

He also liked teaching folk dances. Dad and I did the Jessica Polka to any polka played at a local dance. He taught us “Put Your Little Foot” or the “Varsouvianna,” the “Lily Marlane,”  the “Schottische,” and many others.

In this video, Cal Campbell explains the origin of the “Varsouvianna.”

This is the music I grew up to doing the Schottische:

Because of my family’s interest in dancing, I learned to country swing in the 80’s. One time, I came home with my newest move—the snake. Dad and I moved to the kitchen, I grabbed his hands and whipped him around, and his old shoulders shouted at him and then he at me! He couldn’t move like that anymore, but he wanted to, more than ever.

My Dad’s other passion was storytelling and he was an expert. Many guests sat around the round table in our dining room at gatherings and listened to his tales. He told stories of growing up in a small country town in the 1920’s, the depression with the lack of tires and life as a rancher during the World War II. He had asthma, so he couldn’t go to war, but he told about working on ranches around the area for cattlemen whose sons did go. Dad got to know the parents of his buddies during this time by working with them–what stories!

Dad told stories of a time and an era long gone—helping Mose Russell drive a herd of horses from southeastern Colorado to Cimarron, New Mexico. He often talked of horses; he had two horse accidents to share. The life of a rancher never has a dull moment, so he spoke of cattle incidences and the wonders of his life—mother nature was his God, and he told of glorious sunsets and miracles with a hard birth for one of his favorite cows.

Dad’s health declined, and death came quickly—in August 1995 things changed, and by January 1996 he died.

“. . . he progressed to the point of not being able to talk—his lips moved to form words but they just wouldn’t come out, and his left hand curled up in a ball.
His intense, frustrated glaze locked in on me. His frightened eyes searched mine for the words. Sometimes I finished his sentences; other times I had no idea what he wanted to say. He struck the table with his clenched fist, more desperate each time it happened.”

A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir

Yes, he could no longer speak, and his stories ended; the last time he danced at our school gym to celebrate his 75th birthday, he gasped for air and couldn’t finish a complete circle around the floor. Every once in a while still, when the music is right, I can almost do his favorite move, but I haven’t yet!

When I come face-to-face with Dad in the hereafter, I’m sure the first thing we do after shedding a few tears and a bear hug is a glide around the celestial dance floor, doing his move once more and laughing and enjoying the beat of the music! And then he will tell me his favorite story once more, starting with “remember when . . .”

Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

FATHER’S DAY SPECIALS GOOD UNTIL JUNE 24, 2019: 25% off of 2 BOOK BUNDLE: This Tumbleweed Landed & When Will Papa Get Home? paper copies. The men in your life would love these two books. Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, to purchase my books.

Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read snteresting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

Do you want to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography? Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways! https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

family · Holidays · My Thoughts

Memorial Day or Decoration Day?

            As a child, we went to the cemetery in Des Moines, New Mexico and met my Mom’s parents on Decoration Day many times. The adults decorated the graves of family members, and we raced around dodging headstones and graves playing with friends. Many families brought picnic lunches and this allowed more play time for the children and more visiting time for the adults. This trip to a familiar cemetery meant the beginning of summer because school was over, and we headed to Amarillo, Texas to spend a week with my grandparents.

            Fast forward to my adult life. I watched my Mom and Dad religiously decorate family graves in Trinidad, Colorado and back to Des Moines. It was a family tradition, and their commitment to caring for deceased family members and their graves spoke deeply to me.

            When my Mom died six years ago, my cousin said she’d take care of the graves in Des Moines and I would do the ones in Trinidad, so faithfully I followed my family’s tradition for the last five years. I decorated my parents’ grave, my grandparents’ grave, and my Aunt’s all in Trinidad. I also decorated my sister-in-law’s in the beautiful quaint cemetery outside of my hometown of Branson, Colorado.

            This year I failed. I have been sick for the last three months and haven’t visited Colorado yet to decorate the graves. I will, but it will be late. This made me think about this tradition, its importance and the history behind it.

            What is Memorial Day anyway?

Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history

This is what I remember as Decoration Day! But it changed.

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Memorial Day 2019 occurs on Monday, May 27. 

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history

            I celebrate both of these commemorations: my family and friends that have passed and anyone in the military who has given their life so we can keep our democracy safe and sound.

Some of the soldiers I have known who have passed:

  • Uncle Tanky Doherty
  • Marshall Flippo
  • Leroy Ellis
  • Excel Smith
  • Donald Berg
  • Fred Buhr
Mom and Dad’s Headstone

Those major family and friends I have lost over my 65 years:

  • Harold and Elva Horner – Dad and Mom
  • Laurence and Pearle Horner – paternal grandparents
  • Virgil and Tresia Dickerson – maternal grandparents
  • Hughie and Willa Urbanoski – Uncle and Aunt
  • Gay and Helen Waldroup – Uncle and Aunt
  • Fred Horner – Half-brother
  • Jason Talley – nephew
  • Reu and Helen Waldroup – parents’ best friends
  • Millard Warner – Dad’s best friend
  • Millie Sheldon – childhood babysitter
  • Kathi Raver – best girlfriend in the square dance world
  • Lela Kaye Horner – sister-in-law
  • Candy Vargas – lifelong best friend
  • Gene and Carol Champion – square dance friends
  • Joel Walton – Square Dance Friend

Whew! That’s a lot of losses! I just heard today if you grieve many losses, that means you’ve loved a lot! What a comforting thought!

How do you celebrate Decoration Day/Memorial Day? What are your traditions? Make it more than just another day off. How can you make it memorable? Please share your ideas in the Comments!


Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

FATHER’S DAY SPECIALS: 25% off of 2 BOOK BUNDLE: This Tumbleweed Landed & When Will Papa Get Home? paper copies. Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, to purchase my books.

Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

Do you want to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography? Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways! https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

Holidays · My Thoughts · poetry

How Can You Make This Valentine’s Day Special?

For years when I was single, Valentine’s Day was the worst day of the year, magnifying the fact I had no one to share this romantic holiday with—I felt ugly, lonely and alone. I avoided any semblance of celebration of the day, but my Mom always sent me a card and tried to make it special.

Who was Saint Valentine’s anyway? Why all the hoopla?

Officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, St. Valentine is known to be a real person who died around A.D. 270. However, his true identity was questioned as early as A.D. 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who referred to the martyr and his acts as “being known only to God.” One account from the 1400s describes Valentine as a temple priest who was beheaded near Rome by the emperor Claudius II for helping Christian couples wed. A different account claims Valentine was the Bishop of Terni, also martyred by Claudius II on the outskirts of Rome. Because of the similarities of these accounts, it’s thought they may refer to the same person. Enough confusion surrounds the true identity of St. Valentine that the Catholic Church discontinued liturgical veneration of him in 1969, though his name remains on its list of officially recognized saints.


https://www.history.com/news/6-surprising-facts-about-st-valentine

Who helped create this popular holiday?

The medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer often took liberties with history, placing his poetic characters into fictitious historical contexts that he represented as real. No record exists of romantic celebrations on Valentine’s Day prior to a poem Chaucer wrote around 1375. In his work “Parliament of Foules,” he links a tradition of courtly love with the celebration of St. Valentine’s feast day–an association that didn’t exist until after his poem received widespread attention. The poem refers to February 14 as the day birds (and humans) come together to find a mate. When Chaucer wrote, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate,” he may have invented the holiday we know today.


https://www.history.com/news/6-surprising-facts-about-st-valentine

Since I have been married to Lin, we have had some fantastic Valentine’s. Tonight, I wrote him a poem, and I did it because I heard Jenna Bush Hager on the Today show this week talk about writing a love letter to your spouse this Valentine’s Day.

Here’s her story about the love letter she wrote to her husband this year. https://www.today.com/news/jenna-bush-hager-shares-touching-love-letter-husband-henry-t148549

I know it’s late—I was traveling today and have been thinking about this for a couple days. You can still do it! So, do it later tonight or tomorrow—write a letter, a poem, a song. Take a chance and in writing, share your heart with your someone special. There’s no better gift in the world than word from the heart.

Let me know what you think about this: have you ever written a poem for your spouse or significant other? If so, how did it go?

Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

50% Discount of A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir–both paperback and e-book versions–at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft.