How do you record life? Today I wandered through a journal dated August 1, 1999 to August 29, 2004 and found some poetry gems. It’s a large sketch book I dragged around with me those five years, writing poetry, taking notes and wondering about my life. I haven’t revisited it in years, but as I prepared for this blog post, something deep inside nudged me, “Look, browse! Be surprised!”
So, I did, and I am!
As I look at this chronicling of my life, I see a twenty-year time lapse. Yet, I recorded what was going on it the time, what I thought important! I have a stack of journals I’ve filled out over the years. I thought I had typed up all the poetry that had meaning, but my spirit knew treasures awaited me in this journal. That makes me wonder about those others on the shelf.
A Sampling of My Early Poetry
These three poems address attitudes of life and a specific life experience—branding.
Experience Life Totally
July 24, 2000
Anticipate the joy
Toes on the edge
Lingering ever so slightly
Life in its fullest
Step up to bat
Step into the swimming pool
No dive in head long!
Step out of the crowd
Step into the crowd
I must participate
I can’t watch
Wasn’t made to watch,
To be a spectator
I want my hands dirty
My neck sweaty
My feet wet
I want to experience life totally!
The Sound of Her Voice
August 24, 2002
The sound of her voice
Saying my name,
Reverberates back to
The very first time.
The time she held me in her arms
For that first time
And said my name.
No fruit tastes sweeter,
No bell rings clearer.
Nothing soothes my soul
Like hearing my mother
That Smell I Will Never Forget
August 29, 2004
A part of our work.
Branding day on a ranch
Is a day of celebration of ownership.
These are my cattle
The smell stays with me
Many years later
The bawl from the calf
The wrestle to get free!
It was painful
One day, I slept by the campfire
Three or four years old
I couldn’t miss today,
But I was sick!
Mom put me in a diaper
And let me go
To our special day.
I slept and smelled
My approach to life stays the same today. I look at life and capture it in poetry to record the feelings, the nuances. These three topics still resonate in my heart.
How do you record life? Do you write poetry? If so, what do you do with it? Leave a comment below.
Truth and fiction! My next two books again centered on ranch life and my family through truthful nonfiction and historical fiction. One was truth—how my granddad put our family ranch together during the depression when others were losing theirs. The other was historical fiction where I fictionalized a story I had heard my whole life.
The Truthful Nonfiction–Let Me Tell You a Story
My dad celebrated his 75th birthday on March 20, 1993. So, Mom and I worked together on producing a chapbook of the story of how our family ranch was put together for his gift, titled Let Me Tell Youa Story. Dad dictated the unique stories to Mom about the technique Granddad used to put together our ranch during a time when many lost their homesteads. Dad, the master storyteller, relished the telling and retelling of these familiar family stories. Then I typed them up on a 2E Apple computer with floppy disks. Then Dad helped me edit it, which was hilarious for this ole cowboy—he didn’t trust computers but immediately saw their usefulness. As a finishing touch, we added pictures to it.
Originally, I had copies printed for only our immediate family members and twenty-five copies for a classroom set for my literature class. Again, this lay aside for over twenty years. In 2016, I self-published it, again. It has become a favorite in Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft.
To tell the truth, this small chapbook warms my heart each time I reach for it because Dad’s words live on in it.
The Historical Fiction—When Will Papa Get Home?
In 1986, I taught my first year in Denver, Colorado, and the school district lent me a 2E Apple computer for the summer. I visited my parents on our family ranch, and we ventured to my favorite homestead on the place, the Philly Place. It got its name from the original owner, Philadelphia Cardenas. I had been there many times, but this time as I was leaving the homestead, I stopped out of what was the living room, looked down and found a blue marble.
I asked Dad about it, but he did not know. “Probably some arrowhead hunters out here with kids.”
I stuck that marble in my pocket, went back to Denver, and the story came pouring out of me, based on a story I had heard my whole life, told by Dad in Let Me Tell You a Story:
Charlie Garlutzo was working for the County Sheriff Department. Bob Gleason had “Phillie” (Philadelphio Cardenas) up on cow theft. Charlie got the one hundred and twenty acres bought from Phillie for seven- teen dollars and fifty cents an acre while he was scared about the charges. Garlutzo had the choice of selling the land to either Horner or Doherty. He chose to sell it to Horner.
Phillie was sentenced for a one-year term but got out in seven months for good behavior. Had Garlutzo not got the land bought from Phillie when he was scared, he would have been right back out there, back in business.
Larada Horner-Miller, Let Me Tell You a Story ( 2016): 15.
So, I fictionalized this true historical story and made the supposed culprit a horse thief with a twist. I told the story through the eyes of the daughter of the man accused of the thievery, and the blue marble belonged to her. The sheriff falsely accused her papa, and the story unfolds. Through extensive research, I wove their story of immigration from Mexico to the high desert prairie of southeastern Colorado. In doing that, I discovered how much I liked research and dove in. I researched adobe house building and much more.
For this book, I laid it aside for almost thirty years! After my successful stab at self-publishing, I released When Will Papa Get Home? in 2015. My aunt now owns the Phillie Place, and she gave me and my brother to revisit it to take pictures. So I took the picture on the cover. We had a delightful day rummaging through the ruins and marveling at how much of the original homestead was still there.
So, I featured truth and historical fiction in these two books. Retelling my family history in the one book encouraged me to jump into the historical fiction in the next. Enjoying both genres, I loved celebrating my country roots and heritage.
Do you have family stories? Truth or fiction? Share your thoughts! (Scroll down below!0
Because of the coronavirus’ restrictions in New Mexico, I haven’t been to my childhood home in Branson, Colorado since the end of February. Finally, I decided I could come, and it has refreshed my soul.
Currently, my husband, Lin and I live in a beautiful wooded area in the east mountains above Albuquerque, and I love it there, but my childhood home of Branson touches a deep part of me.
My time here has been filled with seeing friends (I social distanced and wore a mask) and reconnecting. I saw a 93-year-old friend who still lives by herself and is a live wire for sure! Finally, I met her five-month-old great-grandson and marveled at this little sweetheart.
My brother knows how much I like to visit our parents’ graves in Trinidad, so one morning we drove there and put out new flowers. It’s always a solemn event but so heartwarming.
During my stay, my brother and I have visited our family ranch each day—a couple days in the morning and one day in the evening. We’ve seen a plethora of wild turkeys, a few deer and antelope. What we’re looking for is elk and bear! I take my camera, and we search the prairie and canyon land for wild life on any trip out.
Memories of so many years here with dad, mom and granddad flood my mind as we drive along the rutted dusty road.
“Remember when. . .” starts many statements, then we are whisked away to a time long ago:
Our horse herd got struck by lightning one summer day, and it killed one mare and damaged two.
We watched a rain storm on a beautiful summer evening then jump in the pickup and drove out to the ranch to see how much it rained. We always celebrated rain!
Those good ole Branson dances where we all learned to dance to Eloy Gonzales & the Troubadours or Bob Jeffreys & the Nightriders.
So many good memories. Sadly, I leave on tomorrow, Monday—I arrived on Thursday afternoon. It’s never long enough!
I’d like to leave you with a couple poems I wrote in my first book, This Tumbleweed Landed, about my childhood home and life.
Horse Herd Struck by Lightning
One summer afternoon
after a severe thunderstorm,
Granddad, Grandma, and I
found several horses struck by lightning.
It killed Flicka, Sue’s mare,
by throwing her into
the barbed-wire fence,
wrapped up in the wire.
It hurt two of our horses:
Rusty, Dad’s favorite cutting horse.
It looked like someone had taken
his neck and twisted it out of shape
Prince, my 4-H gelding.
He was stuck in his tracks,
and his eyes were glazed!
Prince was never the same!
A devastating disaster
to our horse herd.
Nature’s cruel hand!
Branding day began early
with rounding up the cattle,
the cows, and the calves.
We had a cow/calf crop operation.
First, we brought the horses into the corral,
brushed and saddled them.
Then we rode out after the cattle
And herded them into the corral.
A quiet time of communion
We separated the cows from their calves
to work the calves;
that created a lot of noise.
The calves bawled the whole time,
wanting their mamas!
Dad and Granddad worked
like a team;
Dad branded and castrated on one side;
Granddad vaccinated and earmarked on the other.
At the branding table
I was Dad’s little assistant.
The smell of singed hair and
the sound of the calf squalling
filled my senses.
I held the rope tightly
that held the calf’s leg up.
I took my job seriously.
Bub and I played—
heated up irons in the open fire
and branded our imaginary brands on
the wooden boards of the chute.
Once I got sick at the branding;
I wrapped up in a blanket
and slept by the fire—
warm and comforted
by the familiar smells and sounds!
A step away from routine to this quiet village and familiar faces and surroundings has recharged me. Can you still go to your childhood home? Do you? If not, where do you go to get recharged?
~HAVE YOU ORDERED A PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website and pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com
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Halfway through our delicious, but modest meal, the much-feared event happens. Horses approach our house in a rush of noise from men and animals. The dreaded moment arrives and catches us all clustered together in the dark corner of our small kitchen. Three unfinished meals cover our deserted table.
Several loud men on nondescript
sweaty, panting horses ride up with shouting and cussing. A brisk pounding at
the door sends us further in the corner. Before Papa can open the door, this
mob forces the door open. What a violent invasion of our home! Six gringos fill
our small, modest house of stone and adobe with their foreign language and
foreign smells. One of these invaders is the sheriff of Las Animas County.
Peering from behind Mama’s
protective full skirt, I see the sheriff, now our enemy, argue with Papa in
English. Papa pleads. I don’t understand the words, but I do understand the
tone of his voice and theirs. Grabbing the sheriff’s hand, he begs, pleads, and
cries! And then, they laugh, a communication that crosses all languages. Their
laughter overflows with power, ridicule and anger. And all this is aimed at my
Papa, my hero! That laughter bounces off of our adobe walls and crashes into my
The sheriff and one man get on each
side of Papa and push him outside towards the corrals. The others move back to
their horses, light cigarettes and stand talking. Mama and I move closer to the
closed door, listening and trying to understand what is happening. I don’t
understand their words but I know they feel they have won.
In a loud voice, Papa continues to
argue with the two men who take him to the corral where the horses are. I hear
English words that I do know: “The Rose horse ranch” where we bought
Smokey as a colt. From the conversation, I see in my mind the two gringos
surveying our two horses, especially Papa’s horse. Papa continues his litany of
innocence with his voice growing louder and shriller with each statement, but
they ignore him. Laughter is their only response.
I hear Papa beg about something. The
two ruffians bring him back to the house for our tearful good-bye. The last
thing I remember hearing is his screams as they drag him from our
house. “Mi hijita, mi esposa preciosa–esperame, esperame!” His
screams for us to wait for him echo through my mind. I must have fainted
because the next thing I remember is waking to Mama and our neighbor and
friend, Pablo, standing over me with worried looks on their faces.
“Where’s Papa? Where’s Papa? ¿Dónde está mi Papa?” I scream,
demanding to know and trying to shake the cobwebs of uncertainty from my mind.
Mama falls across me on my small
bed, crying and sobbing out of control, “Papa, se ha ido! Papa’s
gone! He’s gone. Se lo llevaron. They took him away.” The weight of her body
and sound of her wails almost suffocate me.
Pushing Mama aside, I scramble out
from underneath her, search our two-room home and explode. Uncontrollable anger
rages from deep within me and I attack and destroy anything I can get my hands
on. My doll crashes against the hard rock wall; my marbles fly out the door in
Mama tries to console me in the
midst of my savage tantrum, but I push her away. I shove open the front door
and collapse on the front step. I scream, I cry, and I wail! Finally, I take a breath
and open my eyes—Paco is staring at me a few feet away. He seems apprehensive
about coming any closer. My tantrum has lost its power, so my little friend
ventures near and I scoop him up in my skirt. I gingerly hold him in my hand
while my sobs are subsiding. He seems to know that I need him close to me. I
sit there with him consoling me.
I look around and see my marbles
strewn around our front door; I don’t pick them up, but go inside, leaving Paco
outside. Mama and Pablo stop their conversation, and I slide into my bed fully
dressed. Pablo touches my brow with gentle rough fingers and whispers,
“Adios. Hasta la mañana.” I appreciate
his good-bye and the hope of seeing him tomorrow. Mama walks to the door with
him and says her good-byes.
She returns to my bed and repeats
what Pablo did; she touches my brow with her long slender fingers and whispers,
“Buenas noches.” I sigh my response and turn to the wall, heart-broken because
the most valuable person in my life has been taken away.
Sorry, readers, I’m changing horses mid-stream! I’m in the midst of writing a travelogue of our British Isles cruise, but these last couple weeks have been full. I don’t know what the word “bored” means! So. . . here we go! The trip will have to wait a week.
First and foremost—Monday, September 2 is Marshall Flippo’s birthday. He would have 92-years-old this year! Two years ago, Lin and I were with him in Paris, Texas at the annual Chaparral square and round dance weekend, and he was calling for the last time. Flip had called at this event for years! He was on his “Farewell to the Road” tour which would end up in Abilene, Texas to finish up his successful career where he started at the Wagon Wheel Square Dance Center. What a memorable time that was for sure!
I’m writing Flippo’s biography, and I had hoped to have him here to see the finished product, and he so wanted to do that! What a joy this project has been! If you knew Flip, you know he was a storyteller supreme, so I’ve had to drastically cut out some of his stories from the 37 interviews I did.
They are not lost though! I plan to put them on my website
for people who buy his book to read, so stay tuned!
Happy birthday, Flippo! We miss your raspy voice, loving heart
and quick wit!
On that same vein, yesterday I attended the funeral of John Clark, a dear 98-year-old neighbor, who lived across the street from me in Branson, Colorado. I witnessed my rich heritage in being a part of a loving ranching community that remembers and honors its own.
Yes, 98-years-old is quite elderly, and John had seen the
world change unbelievably, but he was ready “to go”—to be with his Lord and
loving wife, Betty who passed a couple years ago!
The gathering at his memorial touched my heart. Being a Navy veteran of World War II, two sailors in dress whites unfurled the flag ceremoniously, then refolded it and handed it to John’s youngest daughter with admiration and respect for John’s service to his country. Attendees listened as one of the sailor’s played taps on a bugle which brought tears to my eyes and many sitting around me.
John’s four daughters and their children celebrated his life with many friends from the surrounding ranching communities. I saw mostly cowboy hats held in hands or stashed under chairs and boots, cleaned up and proper to show respect for John.
During an open time to share memories of John, I heard platitudes
about his rich, full life. One friend shared one specific story about John
almost getting killed during the war if he had been standing where he normally
Others told humorous tales. Many honored the work he did for many ranchers in the area—John ran a bulldozer, fixing roads through dangerous canyons and moving miles of dirt from reservoirs. My Dad said watching him work was like poetry in motion!
Grandchildren, great grandchildren and nieces shared memories of a man who stood center in this fun-loving family. They talked of regular game nights when they were together in Branson; John didn’t participate but sat in his chair close by and enjoyed the activity, laughter and love that surrounded him.
It was a privilege to be present to see a man weep as he shared about his relationship with John–honest emotion that validated his loss.
After the service, I visited with friends I hadn’t seen for
years—a great time to reconnect and remember.
What a heritage I have where I can hear a 91-year-old woman who went to school with my Mom tell an 89-year-old woman, “Say hello to my younger friend!” Laughter exploded at this statement, but it made me think about the reality here! A celebration of age and longevity!
I drove home, marveling at the spirit of unity and love present at John’s service. After Dad died, John and Betty helped Mom. When Mom died, they did the same for me. At night when I locked the front door and saw the light in their bedroom, I always felt safe and secure and knew help was close.
One last musing—my brother, my husband and I attended the 6th Annual Cimarron Cowboy Music and Poetry Gathering in Cimarron, New Mexico August 22 – 25. We have only missed the first year!
We love this event hosted at Philmont Boy Scout Ranch, a
beautiful venue. Again, the poets and musicians entertained us Friday night,
all day Saturday and Saturday night. We laughed; we cried. We enjoyed those we
had seen before and celebrated new comers who brought a refreshing new flavor
to the event.
There’s no way I can list all of my favorite singers/poets—I tried, and I was typing everyone’s names! One new entertainer I enjoyed was Barry Ward, who spoke to my heart with his song, “That Old Barn.”
It’s a relaxing weekend in a slow-paced community. On Friday before the Gathering started, we drove to Eagle Nest to the Flea Market and had a blast shopping and listening to music! They had a one-man entertainer there singing old time songs, so we sat and enjoyed the beautiful Moreno valley scenery and the live music.
So, you can see—I have a rich, full life where I witness and celebrate life where I can which can be in the midst of death and loss. My country blood rages through my veins, directing me to slow down and enjoy this moment, these people, and this place.
So, join me on the front porch with a glass of ice tea for a chat! I would love to talk!
Curl up with
one of my books–either paperback or ebook format! 20% discount on all 4 of my
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Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I
thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the
Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s
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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
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 . . .”
FATHER’S DAY SPECIALS GOOD UNTIL
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Here’s the stereotype of what retirement looks like for many: an aged couple rocking chairs on the porch, relaxed, watching the world go by–no hustle, no bustle! Lots of people are retired and retiring, thanks to the Baby Boomers.
About 61 million people collect Social Security benefits each month, and they account for about one in five people in the United States.
I’m 65 years old, retired and busier than ever, and I don’t fit that stereotype and many of you don’t either! I retired in 2013, so this is my sixth year of doing exactly what I want to when I want—that’s the luxury of retirement. I’ve always been a busy person and feared that I was a workaholic! I have to be busy. This goes back to my childhood. I started knitting when I was 10 years old and started the habit of knitting and watching TV. To this day, I have a hard time just sitting and watching TV—my hands have to be doing something.
Today my life is full and rich! My husband and my normal weekly dance
schedule looks like this:
Wednesday – Round Dancing & Plus Dancing
Thursday – Advanced Dancing
Friday – Mainstream & Plus
Then, we usually attend an out-of-town square and round dance festival once
a month that begins Friday night and ends Sunday at noon—lots of dancing! The
dancing and friendships across the country feeds my soul!
When I’m home, I do Zumba two mornings a week. I love the movement to high energy Latin music–it feels like dancing to me!
I also am chairperson for two square and round dance festivals in
Duke City Singles & Doubles Spring Fling in
Hot August Nights in August
These festivals keep me busy hiring new callers and cuers for future events and planning the upcoming event. I’m so lucky to work with two great committees that make the work fun and effortless!
I attend Hope in the Desert Episcopal church and recovery meetings regularly
when I’m home.
After my Mom died in 2013, my brother and I inherited our family ranch, so I
visit our ranch and our small ranching community, Branson, once a month to
check on things. I love staying connected to that part of my life and my dear
For the first couple years of retirement, I was busy as the Executor of Mom’s will, and probate kept me hopping.
In 2013, I volunteered to be treasurer of our square dance club, Duke City Singles and Doubles. Now that may not sound like too daunting a task for you, but I’m a “Word Person,” not a “Numbers Person.” I did it because my husband volunteered to be President and I knew his time would be dedicated to the club, so I might as well join him. The first financial statement took me eight hours to resolve, but the last one was about an hour, so I grew as a “Numbers Person.” I did that for four years and helped revived the club and grow it.
Since 2014, I’ve self-published four books and three cookbooks:
2014 – This Tumbleweed Landed
2015 – When Will Papa Get Home?
2016 – Let Me Tell You a Story
2017 – A Time To Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir
I had two really positive experiences with hospice: when my best friend, Kathi Raver died in 2009, and when my Mom died. I knew that I would become a hospice volunteer, but I had to get some time and space from Mom’s death before I could handle it.
Last year, I started volunteering for Presbyterian Hospice, so I see a client once a week and have learned so much about the mission and importance of Hospice. My client is suffering from Alzheimer’s so it’s a roller-coaster ride of mood swings and communication issues, but what an education! My client’s daughter and husband so appreciate my time with her, and I love it. I’ve become part of their family.
I’ve also been a part of the committee that puts on the Branson-Trinchera Reunion every June in Branson. This is a celebration of the small country school I attended.
My husband and I love to travel, and we’ve done several cruises and trips in my retirement. My favorite was to England and Ireland two years ago for three weeks. What an adventure we had! (You can read about it here in my blog!) We have another cruise scheduled for this summer to the British Isle—back to England and Ireland and our first time to Scotland and Wales.
My current writing project has taken over my life! I’m writing the authorized biography of the most famous square dance caller in the world, Marshall Flippo, and I’m stressing out because I want to release it in September. As a self-published author, I’ve set up a timeline of production. Now I have to focus long hours to complete the writing by the end of April, to send it to a professional editor in May, to move the edited copy to a publication software and format it in June and July (our cruise is in July) and to order copies in August ready for distribution in September—WHEW!!!!
Someone said to me a couple weeks ago, “You’re not retired—you have two jobs: your books and your ranch. So, as you can see, I’m busy; I could never spend my days in front of a TV watching mindless TV. I may be retired; I may be 65, but I have energy and enthusiasm for life.
So, you may wonder why I’ve listed all I do in my retirement. I think many people have a skewed view of retirement. Yes, we anticipate the end of the grind—the 40 hours a week demands on our life and now the panacea at the end of the rainbow. I know many do retire and choose a much less active life than I have, but I wanted you to see the possibilities in retirement. You get to choose and the choices are limitless!
Windmills dot the southwest landscape. Their massive structure stands sentinel on the plains where I grew up. Dad and Granddad often spent hours fixing them, but I really had no idea of their value. How important are windmills to ranchers anyway?
My brother and I own a ranch in southeastern Colorado, and we have four windmills on the ranch. Three are operative, but last week in a furious wind storm, our main windmill in our summer pasture broke—the fan broke off and was hanging on the platform by the blades. It felt ominous for sure. With our raging drought, this windmill is a vital water source for part of the herd of cattle on the ranch.
Most windmills used in the Great Plains were of self-governing design. This means that they automatically turned to face changing wind directions and automatically controlled their own speeds of operation to avoid destruction from centrifugal force during high winds.
I’ve seen this happen–facing one direction, then another; however, the wind storm that broke this windmill must have been a mighty one then!
couple days, the windmill fixit man came from Folsom, New Mexico, and I had the
treat of my life. My brother and I witnessed the crew of three fix the
We stood to the side, wrapped up in our coats and hoodies with a cold breeze cooling the February morning. Every phase of the work fascinated me. I grabbed my iPhone and captured as many pictures as I could.
They had a boom on their truck to lift the broken fan off of the tower. This magical operation took three men: one agile small guy up on the platform standing below the fan who hooked a chain around the fan, two men on the ground with one running the boom and the other ready to handle the fan as it came down.
Here’s a diagram of the parts of a windmill:
Then the work began. The young man on top took off the broken piece that the fan attached to, dropped it down unceremoniously, and they hoisted a new one up to him. The two men on the ground fixed any break to the fan, using lots of oil and elbow grease. After the two below fixed the fan, they sent it up the tower with the boom, and attached it to the new piece.
Then they pulled out the sucker rod and the pipe it goes through. They measured the depth of the water, and the results were really sad to us. We’ve experienced a horrible drought the last couple years. We’ve received sufficient water to grow grass, but not enough to fill reservoirs and not enough deep water for the aquifer to fill the wells. A couple years ago, this well measure 17 feet deep; now it is 8.5!
My brother had witnessed windmill repair as a youngster, so this was not new to him. I stepped in closer to see the work. While they had the working parts apart, the young man offered to show me the workings of the guts of the mill and how a windmill works—I had no ideas.
wanted to see how many gallons the well pumped a minute, but there’s a strange
quirk with this well—it’s not straight down, so the pump they tried to put down
the pipe wouldn’t go.
I’ve always had an unusual attraction to windmills and taken lots of pictures. To me, a windmill silhouetted in a sunset makes a beautiful, peaceful photograph. For us on the plains and high desert, we depend on the successful operation of a windmill. We have no rivers or live water on our ranch—a windmill provides that much needed water for the livestock. My respect for these giant wonders has grown in leaps and bounds and the maintenance of them.
Have you ever been attracted to photograph a windmill? Have you ever wonder about how they work?
Here’s how a windmill works:
The wind turns the fan at the top of the windmill.
The fan turns a set of gears called the motor.
The motor pulls a pump rod up and down.
The pump rod operates a piston in a cylinder pump located in the well. This piston contains one o more valves.
As the piston descends, its valve opens to allow the piston to pass through a water column held in check by another, lower valve.
When the piston ascends again, the piston valve closes to prevent the water from flowing backward as the piston pulls the column up the pipe.
At the same time, the lower valve opens to allow water to enter the pump and fill the vacuum created by the upward motion of the piston. This is the new water column.
They have no control over what they need to prosper
They watch the skies, hoping and praying for rain!
They go about their daily business while their hearts ache for a reprieve!
My dad said repeatedly, “Ranchers and farmers are the biggest gamblers in the world–always depending on Mother Nature for the precious rain they need for crops, for reservoir water, and to grow grass.
Could you handle the stress? the strain? the not knowing? If you have a predictable payday, then you have no idea what these men and women face every day.
My brother and I inherited our family ranch five years ago, and the droughty years stress me out. This year we have gotten rain for grass but many of our reservoirs were empty all summer and finally have gotten a little in the last couple weeks.
We had a storm on Wednesday in the town I grew up in which is just 4 – 6 miles from where we need our ponds filled. We got almost two inches in town, but the storm lightened up the further east you went, so the reservoirs that need it right now preparing for the winter didn’t get it.
I agree with my Dad, a rancher his whole life, “Yes, they are the biggest gamblers, but the perks are worth it.”