This is a very special and personal post about my sweet mother and our first book we made together.
Growing up my mom would tuck my little brother and I in bed at night and we would beg for a bedtime story. My mom is the best story teller. And she would ask "Do you want a make believe story or a real story?" Meaning, do you want a fairy tale story or one about my childhood on the ranch. And 90% of the time we would yell "real story, real story!!"
Fast forward 20 years and now my children beg for bedtime stories, but not about MY childhood, but stories about their Grandma living on the ranch.
About a year ago I couldn't remember some of the details of my mom's stories and I asked her to write them down. Then we came up with the idea of turning the stories into a book for all the grandchildren with little illustrations.
We presented the books to my family for Christmas. A year later I still spy my children reading the stories and asking me to retell them over and over.
The book included 27 stories. I wanted to post just a few of my favorite ones. These are picture from the actual book.
When you see the words in italics, that's my mom telling the story.
My mom grew up in a little town in Idaho, and in the summer her family traveled 17 miles to a very, very, small community to farm. She always referred to it as "the ranch." Those few months of summer were her favorite and happiest times, and where most her stories come from.
"My dad farmed close to 1000 acres. He grew wheat, hay, barley, and oats. We had our own milk cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits, a horse, bum lambs, and lots of dogs and cats."
A real picture of "The Ranch"
My brother Kay was 5 years older than me. He had dark hair and girls thought him very handsome. His looks totally escaped me as a young girl. He was just my big brother. I am sure I annoyed him. I liked to follow him around because he was interesting.
When I was eight, Kay and two of his buddies were together and I wanted to play with them. They said, “OK, but you have to do what we do.” “OK”, I said. They proceeded to eat dry dog food. They said I only had to eat 4 pieces. So I did. Then I had to eat 4 worms because they had done it the day before. SO I DID! They took me to the barn and said I had to jump from the second story window eight feet to the ground. They jumped and by the time I had worked up enough courage to jump they were long gone. Aw, the good old days.
PERRY AND THE STEER
The year before this story takes place a calf was born to the milk cow. It was so cute and we played with it a lot. Dad had warned us it wasn’t a pet. We tried hard not to play with it, but it liked to follow us and be patted.
Winter came and went and now our calf was almost full-grown with budding horns—three-inch long horns to be exact. Well, we crossed the pasture to get a bucket full of water for mom, and started for the house. The calf, now a young steer, saw us and ran to play with its old buddies. I dropped the bucket and screamed for Perry (my little brother) to run. I made it to the closest wooden gate and managed to climb up and over it. Perry had stopped climbing and turned around to see just how far away the steer was. The steer was upon him in seconds and slammed its horns into the wooden gate and pinned Perry around the waist.
Perry was about eight years old and pretty skinny at the time. He just fit between the steer’s horns. Well, I started to tug on Perry, but couldn’t budge him. The next best thing I could do was scream for mom. I didn’t know I could scream so loud!
Mom heard me and came running out of the house. She had a broom in her hands because she had been sweeping. She jumped the four-foot gate and ran across the footbridge. She clobbered that steer over the head so hard she broke her broom. The steer didn’t know what hit him. He backed up and took off.
That night dad was mad because he would have to get rid of a perfectly good steer because it was now too dangerous to have around. Mom was mad because the steer had broken her new broom.
For a tiny 4’ 10” woman to jump a 4’ high gate to save her children was an act of bravery. In our book, our mom was our hero and still is!
THE SECRET PEAS
One evening Perry and I got a great idea how we could pick a few extra peas from the garden. I am positive we were well fed when we went to bed that night, but the temptation of eating a few more peas got the best of us.
We tore up a rag into long strips. We tied them together and made a rope and tied it around the neck of a quart jar. We lowered the jar out my bedroom window. Perry went outside to feed the dogs and cats and while he was outside he picked a few pea pods and filled the jar. I raised the jar up the side of the house and into my bedroom. When Perry came in we sat up and ate our peas. Only one mistake…
As we ate we would toss our pods outside the window. The next day while mowing there was all the evidence lying curled up on the grass. I am pretty sure we were not destined to become great criminals. We just didn’t have the minds for it!!!
Mom was a great cook. She liked me to help her in the kitchen. My first solo-cooking job was a bust!
Since mom got up so early in the day she liked to lie down in the late afternoon for a quick nap. I was going to surprise her with muffins when she woke up. I found the recipe and followed all the instructions, or so I thought. When the muffins came out of the oven they were golden brown and springy to the touch. I was ecstatic. With my first bite I discovered I had added one cup of salt instead of one cup of sugar.
Mom totally understood. She fussed over the color and texture and then made me try it all over again. The second batch was much better! Mom always saw the good in any situation and encouraged us to never give up.
MY JR. PROM
School dances can be great fun if one has a date, but if not, it can be quite devastating. My Jr. year I didn’t get asked to the prom. I felt bad for myself for a few days and then rationalized that I wasn’t missing much. I pretty much put it out of my mind and planned on spending some time with my family.
Well, my older brother, Kay, arrived unannounced from college on the night of the dance. Kay asked if I was going and I said, “No, nobody asked me.” Kay was mad that I had been overlooked and he wasn’t going to stand for it. He told me to put on a dress and he would take me.
My pride kicked in and I said, “Brother’s don’t take their sisters to dances and besides that, it is OK because I really didn’t want to go anyway.” (That was a big fat lie!)
Well, one thing led to another and I went. My sister’s mint green formal looked great on me. We arrived half an hour late, but what a grand entrance we made. I found myself on the arm of a very dark handsome college guy. Since Kay was five years older than me hardly anyone at the dance knew him. My classmates thought he was from out of town.
Monday they all gathered around me and wanted to know who my dreamy date was. I was proud to announce it was my brother! What a sweet thoughtful thing Kay did for my self-esteem! It was a memorable date, plus, I was with the best dancer.
When I turned 16, I started helping Dad more on the ranch. After Dad got the crops planted we focused on repairing and building new fence lines. One summer we built 6 miles of new fence line.
My job was to be the “Sighter.” Dad would place the posts in the newly dug holes and pound the dirt around the base with the back end of a shovel. He always said, “The first 6 inches are the most important, so pack it hard.” We would keep 2-3 posts between us and dad would have me check to see if the post was straight and in line with the other posts. He wanted a straight fence! The best compliment ever was when we finished a section and he told me to look back and see what a good job I had done.
While all the pictures were fun to draw this one was the most special, my mom's dad (my Grandpa Lloyd) is the only grandparent I have never met. He passed away when my mom was in her early twenties. He was a big strong man with a flat top buzz hair cut, and known for his boxing skills. My mom was very close to her father and talks with great love about him. As I was drawing this picture I felt a very strong, special feeling come over me. Tears started flowing. It was just a drawing, a doodle, nothing fancy, and yet I felt a strong love. And I wondered how it would be to meet this great man, my grandfather, one day in heaven. His big arms embracing me in a hug.
A few years ago my sweet grandmother passed away and was finally reunited with her husband. I look forward to seeing that wonderful tiny woman and giving her a big hug. I'm also looking forward to meeting my grandfather, but though my mother's stories it wont feel like I'm meeting him for the first time. I think he will feel like an old friend. I look forward to that special day.
My wonderful grandparents holding their first grandchild
Thank you mom for your wonderful stories. You made our childhood magical hearing your stories about the ranch.