Life on the X-Bar Ranch...

I am an ordinary woman, with an amazing family, serving an awesome God.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Psalm 116

1 I love the Lord, because he has heard

my voice and my pleas for mercy.

2 Because he inclined his ear to me,

therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

3 The snares of death encompassed me;

the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;

I suffered distress and anguish.

4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:

“O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;

our God is merciful.

6 The Lord preserves the simple;

when I was brought low, he saved me.

7 Return, O my soul, to your rest;

for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

8 For you have delivered my soul from death,

my eyes from tears,

my feet from stumbling;

9 I will walk before the Lord

in the land of the living.

10 I believed, even when I spoke,

“I am greatly afflicted”;

11 I said in my alarm,

“All mankind are liars.”

12 What shall I render to the Lord

for all his benefits to me?

13 I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call on the name of the Lord,

14 I will pay my vows to the Lord

in the presence of all his people.

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord

is the death of his saints.

16 O Lord, I am your servant;

I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.

You have loosed my bonds.

17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

and call on the name of the Lord.

18 I will pay my vows to the Lord

in the presence of all his people,

19 in the courts of the house of the Lord,

in your midst, O Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord!

Thursday, April 28, 2011


It was a sunny warm day in the Big Laramie valley. We had been living on the ranch for 3 months. We liked it. It was wide open and beautiful. Cliff could do what he loved - cowboy. I was living in the nicest, biggest house in my entire life. The kids loved the animals. Little did we know that our lives were about to change so drastically that they would never be the same.
It was Saturday. It was warm! One of the first warm days of spring for us, here in this high valley. My Cowboy was spreading manure on the fields. I was washing the minivan. The kids were helping me. Ever since the irrigation canal had started running several weeks earlier, I had been keeping my kids inside the house. I  was so paranoid that they would fall into the water. (its only a few hundred feet from my door.)
So, on this bright day, I took them all outside with me, and they 'helped' wash the van. they also played in the mud, rode pretend horses, and chased each other. It was good to be out in the sun.
When I finished washing the van, I needed to go in the house to start lunch. But the kids didn't want to go in. they wanted top play in 'Daddy's truck'. So I put them into the bed of the 4x4 truck, and closed the topper, so they couldn't get out. I went in and started lunch. After a few minutes, I went out and checked on them. Jenni told me that Andy wanted out, so I lifted him out. He was grinning from the sheer joy of living and playing in the sun.  As I set him down on the ground, I remembered the hot dogs I was frying in the house, and I thought I better go turn them off, before they burn. So I turned and went back to the house. I looked at the clock as I went it. It was 11:55. I don't remember exactly what I did in the kitchen at that time. stirred the mac-n-cheese? flipped the hot dogs? maybe washed my hands and put something away? Whatever it was, I have regretted those five minutes of my life more than anything else I have done all put together.
Because I suddenly heard a scream from outside. At first, it sounded so distant, I thought maybe I was imagining it. So I listened, and yes! There it came again! Franklin was screaming at the top of his lungs... "MOM! MOM!" and it wasn't a 'I'm mad at my sister' scream. It was a earsplitting-life-or-death-this-is-serious scream. I could tell right away. And I knew instantly what had happened.
I looked at the clock as I dashed out the door - it was 12:00.
"Mom! Andy fell in the canal!"
I pulled on some rubber boots as I tore out the door. I flew across the yard, and straight into the water of the canal, not even slowing pace.   I realized quickly that I would have to lose the boots, cause they just filled with water. I climbed out, jerked them off, and yelled at Jenni to get me the phone. I thought that since there was so many trees and bushes growing into the edge of the canal, that Andy would get trapped and stuck in under the branches. So I went along feeling under branches. But when I stepped a bit closer the center of the canal, and felt that current, I knew he had been swept downstream. The current was fierce. It nearly drug me under. I could barely stand in some places - it was so strong. And it was just above my waist.
By now Jenni had brought the cordless phone outside, so I called 911 as I was wading through the water and searching.
"911 - where's your emergency?"
I told her.
"OK, Whats your emergency?"
"My son fell into a canal and I can't find him!"
"He fell in what?!"
"The canal! The IRRIGATION CANAL!!! And I CAN"T FIND HIM!!!" I was in tears by now.
"Oh, ok, we will get someone out there as soon as possible!"
I climbed out of the canal, realizing I wasn't gonna find him by myself. I dropped the phone on the porch, and told the kids to not set one foot out of the house. I wasn't worried about them disobeying. They had just witnessed their brother fall into the canal - they weren't about to be next.
I jumped in the van, and drove like a crazy woman - all the way to the ranch headquarters. (half-mile)  I laid on the horn the whole way, hoping it would alert someone - anyone - to the fact that something was wrong. But the only person at headquarters was Cliff, and he was driving a tractor, so he didn't hear me. I drove right up to his tractor, horn blazing, and he just turned and smiled at me. I jumped out of the van, frantically motioning and half crying - half screaming at him. He realized something was wrong, so he opened the door and stepped down.
I had to do the hardest thing ever - tell my husband that one of his beloved children, the only one he had personally named, had fallen into the canal. On my watch. But at the time, I just did it, and he jumped in the van beside me, and we drove back to the house. Believe me, it was a fast drive, too. I pretty much held the pedal down.
 Back into the water. Cliff came to the same conclusion that I did - that Andy had been swept downstream farther. So he took the van as far downstream as he could, and began running along the canal. I kept searching the places closer the house. It seemed like forever, but in reality, it was probably only 20-30 minutes till the first responders came. The Fire Chief came to where I was, and I quickly told him what had happened. I told him that I thought someone needed to go 'way 'way downstream to get ahead of Andy. So he sent someone around by the road to a bridge further down, and he and some other worked it from our house. He told me to go back to the house and stay by the phone. So I did. I was still in socks, which were wet and nasty from all the wading. I was soaking wet and scratched from all the branches. I walked back to the house. Jenni and Franklin were playing, but they were confused about what was happening. I explained that Daddy and some other people were looking for Andy, and we just had to wait. Well, that was fine. They were very trusting. They started talking about what they would tell him when we found him. I didn't let myself think "death", but in my heart I knew we wouldn't be having a pleasant evening, discussing the whole issue.
I fed the kids, then sent them to bed for naps. Oh how trusting kids are!
I called my parents, Cliffs parents, and one of my good friends, telling them that Andy had fallen into the canal, and we couldn't find him. I took a shower. Somehow I knew I needed to get dressed and be ready. By now it had been  45 min or so, and I knew if he was in the water that long, he was either dead or brain damaged, In which case we would be in the hospital a long time. I was mentally preparing myself.
Then I went out and talked to a female first responder that the fire chief had sent to stay with me. She was sitting on the front steps, just waiting. I went and talked to her a bit. Then a sheriff's deputy drove in, and told me they had found Andy - did I want to go and see him? he would take me. Of course, I did. I jumped in his SUV. I assumed that we would be driving down the canal till we got to where they found him, but when he started to drive out the lane, I stopped him.
"Hey, Where are we going?"
"To the hospital."
"I can't go - I have other kids in the house!"
"Oh, well, we better go do something about them."
So we turned around and went back. The woman responder ( I wish I knew what her name is!)offered to stay with my kids while we went to the hospital. I reluctantly agreed. I had never left my kids with a stranger. But under the circumstances, I felt I had no choice. So we went. We drove around to the bridge where Cliff was waiting with some firefighters, and he climbed in with us. He was soaking wet, and looked weary. He had been wading water for 45 min or so. He had caught a glimpse of Andy as they took him to the ambulance, but was too far away to do anything.
We rode in silence to the hospital. An occasional blast on the siren broke the silence. I was silently praying that if Andy was too badly brain-damaged to live a normal life, that God wold take him to Heaven. (I found out later that Cliff was praying the same thing.)
We pulled up to the ER door, and would you know - when I tried to go in to see my son, who was dying, they made me stop and sign papers?? I was kinda mad about that. We did get in , finally. There were firefighters, and nurses, and Dr's around. But they were very patient, and let me squeeze in and touch my baby. He was cool to the touch, and I seen that he was gone. So I went out and let them try. Try with all Man's inventions to bring back a life that God had taken home already. It was futile. I knew it, Cliff knew it, and the Dr's knew it. But they had to try. They had to satisfy themselves that they couldn't do anything.
We sat on a bench outside the OR, and were silent. What was there to say? Our pastor, Phil Lapp, came in and sat with us. To this day, I will never know how he got there so fast. Maybe he wasn't the first one of our friends there - but he was the first I  remember. He sat beside us and there were tears in his voice as he read Psalms 23 to us. The words of that ancient Scripture were soothing to me. They allowed me to think of good things in that hour of waiting.
After awhile, the hospital staff took pity on us, and gave Cliff several blankets, since he was shivering from all the cold, wet, and nervous shock. They also showed us to a small waiting room. Soon several friends came to sit with us. I took my friends' small son, and held him, touching each tiny toe, thinking how warm and wiggly and alive he was. Some things you don't realize until you lose them.
The Dr's would come in every few minutes (it seemed) and tell us what they were doing, and they're sorry, but it isn't working. We assured them several times that we know they can't do anything, and that its ok. I couldn't look at Cliff. His son was dead, and it was my fault!
Finally, they came in the final time, and told us sadly that they did all they could, and it was beyond them. He was gone.
So we went in to see Andy one last time. The room was empty now. I sat beside my son, my baby, and held his hand. He looked like he was sleeping. I had always been scared to see a loved one in death. It seemed so eery. But when it was my baby laying there, eyes closed, cheeks still soft and cute, well, it wasn't eery. Just unbearably sad.
We went home then. Phil took us home. There were friends pouring in. It didn't matter that they drove 2 hours just to be with us for an hour or so. They came out of love. But a full house didn't ease the pain of the loss. I found myself counting the hours that had gone by since I had last held Andy - alive...4 hours, 6 hours, 10 hours... Today it has been four long years.
Years with alot more tears in them. Years that have added another sweet baby to my arms. Years that have taught me to be more loving and less judgmental with others. Years that have made me acutely aware of people taking their kids for granted. Years where I have perhaps been a little lax in the 'discipline' of it all, but trying to train them in the ways of their Father, God Almighty. Because who knows when one will be summoned to the Presence of God?
I never thought I could handle the death of a child of mine.
I can't. Only by Gods grace and mercy. He alone deserves any praise. He held me up through the prayers of the saints. He held me. I dealt with months and months of blame and guilt. He showed me He still loves me. Don't tell me I am strong. I am not strong. I only serve a strong God. I trust Him every day. He gives me strength every day to learn from this. Its Him - not me.

 Andy on the left, with his best bud, and cousin, Ira. They were two ornery little stinkers! :)

 Do you think he's rolling down hills of flowers in Heaven?
I have prayed many times that Jesus would pick Andy up for a minute and snuggle him - just like I used to do. This is how I like to think of him now.

Note: Jennifer was 5 at the time, and Franklin was 3. Almost four. Andy was 2 years and 2 months. He apparently climbed up on the concrete abutment of the bridge, and when he threw stones into the canal, he got overbalanced and fell in. Franklin was on the bridge at the time, so he seen it happen. Jenni didn't see it. Andy was swept downstream for almost two miles, and was in the water for 40+ minutes.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fried Chicken

I love fried chicken. It's probably my second favorite food.  (my favorite food of all time is Ice Cream!!)
Anyways, I have tried making fried chicken several times before, and it turned out pathetic. Never done inside, or if it was, it was so tough and overdone on the outside that I hated it. So I decided that I would give up. It was just not my thing.
I found the Pioneer Woman.
She gave me pictures.
She made me feel like I could make fried chicken.
So I did.
And it was wonderful.
I thought maybe you would like to try it as well, so I took pictures last night. Now, if you have the PW Cooks, just use her directions. It will be easier for you. But if you don't; try this. It just might make your kids love you more. My kids said it was 'better than Albertsons.' Which was the highest compliment they could give - because Albertsons has the best fried chicken I have eaten, hands down. (sorry, KFC) I don't think it beat Albertsons, but it was nice of them to say so. And My Cowboy liked it. He does like fried chicken, IF the crust is crispy enough, and IF it has no skin, and IF it is white meat only. We left the breast pieces for him. We don't like those so well, anyways. 
So, without further ado, here is the directions:
Soak 1 cut-up fryer chicken in 2 cups buttermilk.
The PW says to soak the chicken in buttermilk for 12-24 hours. Well, I didn't have that kind of time, so I just soaked it about 3-4 hours. It was fine. Although I will try to plan ahead next time.
I used skinned chicken, but you can leave the skin on if you like.
Preheat the oven to 350*.
Heat 1 1/2 inches oil to 365*.
Put the flour and spices in a big bowl. (I was missing the thyme, so I just made it without) Mix the spices well.


 Mix 1/4 cup milk or cream into the flour mixture. Mix it with a fork till it gets little crumbs.
Roll the chicken pieces in the crumb mixture.
 Pat some crumbs onto the chicken pieces if necessary, to coat them thickly.
 Put them slowly into hot oil. Fry about 5 min on each side. You want the crust golden, but not too brown. It will brown some in the oven. If you don't have a thermometer, you can set the burner to medium, and test it by dropping a small piece of the coating mix into the oil. If it sizzles good, its probably ready.

 Flip and fry the other side 5 minutes. I love my dutch oven, by the way. On the bottom of my dutch oven, it says: "Chicken Fryer". Ever since I read that, I have wanted to make fried chicken.
 Put the pieces on a baking sheet, or 9x13, and bake for 15-20 minutes. Cut into the fattest piece to make sure its done through.
 Enjoy! It is worth it, trust me. If you like fried chicken!
Fried Chicken

1 cut-up fryer chicken
2 cups buttermilk
Soak chicken in buttermilk.
Mix flour and seasonings together. Mix in milk with a fork.
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons seasoned salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (I used 1/4 tsp, cause I am a wuss about heat. It was about right.)
1/4 cup buttermilk or reg. milk
Roll chicken in flour mix, and deep fry for 5 min per side. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

I halved the PW recipe, to make it suitable for one chicken.
You can make a substitute for buttermilk by adding 2 tablespoons vinegar to 1 cup regular milk.
This chicken ends up being "crispy on the outside, and juicy on the inside", in the words of my 9 year old. :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Workin' heifers.

My Cowboy told me yesterday that he would be riding. Said he was gonna gather the heifers, take them to the corrals to do a 'procedure' on them, and then take them back out. I said: "Cool! Then I can take some pictures again!"
For some reason, he just laughed and said: "Yeah, right. We'll be gone before you get over there!"
 I assumed an injured air as I assured him that I would, indeed, be there before he left.
I was, too.
Well, sort of.

I drove up just as he was riding out...I wished mightily that I had a good zoom lens. It was just out of range to make a good photo with what I had.
So, then I took a picture of the ranch sign. Haven't really taken a good one in the 4+ years here.
 And one of Slim. The ropin' dummy.  And the other ropin' dummy. This is where the cowboys kill time when there's time to kill. I like how the dummies are facing off at each other... I think the big guy would win, don't you?
 I stopped on the way back to the house to snap a photo of some geese on the pond.

 I never did get pictures of the heifers being moved. And when I heard a description of the procedure they did on the heifers, I didn't even wanna be there, let alone take pictures. I don't know what they call it, but they were basically forcing them into heat, so they can all be A.I.'d at the same time. (artificial insemination) It sounded strange. And verging on mean. But then, what do I know? I am a softhearted woman.
So I stayed home in my warm house, and made bread. And meat pies. And took pictures of my kids.
Later in the day, the dog started barking, so I looked out to see what was causing it. I seen the cowboys pushing some heifers across the near pasture. So I told the kids I would be back soon, grabbed my camera, and jerked on a jacket as I ran out the door.
I ran beside the canal till I was parallel to the cowboys. I was still too far away, and the canal was in between us. I could not get closer. Oh, how I need a zoom lens!! But I still took some photos.

 So I thought this particular cowboy was my husband. I focused on him. After about 10 pictures or so, I realize that it wasn't my husband. It was, in fact, the new guy on the ranch. I have seen him around before, but never actually met him. I felt a bit foolish then, and started taking photos of Lane.

Still not My Cowboy, but at least I know him!
 Besides, he was acting weird! Why is he bowing to his horse?? It wasn't till I looked at the picture cropped and zoomed up on my PC that I realized that  he was fixing a waterer.

 As I walked back to my house, I snapped a photo of my backyard. Its prettier when its green. But I see green grass peeking through!! I am so excited! Soon we will be grilling and mowing and fishing and camping and all things warm and wonderful!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

DIY - Entryway

Today I braved the scary world of home improvement, and installed some shelves in my entry. The entry has looked better in the past. But over winter, the flood of snow, mud, coats, jackets, mitts, hats, scarves, shoes, etc has made it unbearable. The past month of sickness in the family hasn't helped. It was pretty bad. 
Here is the shelves. I am quite proud of myself. I am normally rather handicapped when it comes to DIY projects. Not that I don't do them - rather, I do them and am embarrassed by the shoddy results. But today. Today I measured, marked, remeasured, read instructions till I was sure of myself. But I still had a few extra holes to patch when I was done.
Don't worry - I have patching putty from another hole in another wall. No, I am not a carpenter. Why do you ask?? Note:: you cannot install sheet-rock anchors into a stud. And if you have a way of finding studs (other than  thumping the wall like My Cowboy does,) I'd like to know. Thank you.
I am gonna swallow my pride and show before/after photos. Mainly to prove to a certain person that I AM NOT SUPERWOMAN!!! I am a very disorganized, normal person.  (I am not sure if 'normal' people keep entry-ways this messy?) Well, I don't normally, either. See excuse above.
 After!! Yay!
 Before. Scary.

 This one breaks my little heart...
 Ahhh.... much better. That box is waiting My Cowboy's touch.
 Of course, while cleaning, it gets worse for a time....
 But  ends wonderfully better.

The K-Bar.

 In the Year 2008, I was pregnant with our 4th child ~ Lucia. In early September I was getting rather tired of it all. I was uncomfortable, huge, and couldn't sleep at night. I also had restless legs. Did you know there is a name for that in the medical world? Restless Leg Syndrome. Wow. Who thinks of these things? I heard just yesterday on the radio that it can be relieved by getting up and walking or jogging in place. (who would've guessed?) Anyways, I was bored and miserable, so when My Cowboy told me one day that he had to go put out mineral blocks at the K-Bar, I pleaded with him to take me along. He agreed. SO we all piled in the truck. All the trucks here have quad cabs, so the kids could sit in the back.
We drove north of town a ways, (don't ask me how far. I don't know.) and turned onto a dirt road. There is no one living on the K-Bar. It is used mainly for summer pasture, so the cowboys just take a horse up once in a while to ride through the cattle. Anyhow, we drove for miles that day.

                               These horse were photographed on the X-Bar - I just felt like sticking them in. :)
                                                       Photo credit goes to Axel Selter.
This is either the K-Bar or close to it. The country looks the same. I wish I had taken a camera with me, but my brain wasn't working to good. Plus, who would've known that i wouldn't ever get back up there? Babies limit me considerably...

Photo credit goes to Axel Selter.
Obviously, this wasn't the day we went there. This was a year later, when they were moving the summer yearlings down to the shipping pens. We drove down two-tracks that I declare were rougher than the field. We stopped every once in a while so My Cowboy could put out a mineral block and a salt block. After the first hour, I was beginning to wonder why I had wanted to come along. Ladies, imagine yourself 9 months pregnant, and riding...well, the roughest ride ever. it was starting to be more misery than fun. Before the ride became too unbearable, My Cowboy said he wanted to show me something. I was curious, what could there be seen back here? (besides the usual rocks, sage, rocks, cows, rocks, you get the idea.)
I was pleasantly surprised when we topped a hill and seen this cute cabin. We stopped and explored a bit. The kids explored the taste of salt blocks, and My Cowboy and I walked inside the cabin and imagined what it was like to be a pioneer couple, fighting the Wyoming elements to survive, when there was no running water or electric heat.

When my brother seen this picture, he said he doesn't think there is much 'serving the Lord' going on here - just some 'falling down'. Smartypants.

When we had stretched our legs sufficiently, we drove on. We drove through wide open pastures, crossed little creeks, so full of trout I could see them swarming as we drove over, around the base of a hill, watching herds of elk. My Cowboy took a 'shortcut', at one point. Now, he has been married to me for several years. Long enough to know I don't DO four-wheeling. I hate it, actually. I'm scared spitless of driving on a tilt, or over large rocks. Never-the-less, we take a shortcut. Which involves some large rocks and much driving on a tilt. I desperately try to keep from screaming or worse, blubbering. I admit, I have an irrational fear of rough roads. I can't help it. I try to keep silent when my kids are around, cause I truly want them to be balanced like their dad, and not wacky like me. But I think the paranoia must ooze out of my pores, because my daughter is becoming just like me, despite the tough front I try to portray. Its sad.
Back to the K-Bar - there was no road where we were driving. Just trees, rocks, and grass. Oh, and those awful, deep ravines. My Cowboy drove around them, sort of. But it would have taken too long to drive completely around them, (this was a shortcut, remember?) so he picked the shallowest part and drove through. I about had a heart attack.  You know when you drive so up-tilted that the ground dissappears, and when you look out the windshield, you see nothing but sky? I hate that. A bit later we were driving along the side of the hill, very tilted, when we spy elk. My Cowboy always is looking for elk, trying to get info for when he goes hunting.
"Look! There's a pretty good-sized bull." He says, leaning over and craning his head to look out the window.
"You look where we're going, and I will look at the elk!" I scream.
OK, I didn't scream.
I have never screamed at him. 
But I am sure the same idea came through.
He chuckled nervously, and looked away from the elk.
We made it. 
We didn't even pop a wheelie.
But I was exhausted. It is hard work to be nervous and up tight. I have decided that even if we all die  by rolling off the side of a mountain, I will never again be so scared. (ahem) 
We were driving around the K-Bar, dropping off salt blocks for 6 hours. By the time we got home, I was very sore from all the jolting. It may have helped. 3 days later Miss Lucia was born. 
Disclaimer: I don't remember the exact words or looks from that day. I tell as I remember it.  

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sunrises and Sunsets on the X-Bar.

This is not a sunrise - just a photo of This Day In History...April 16, 2009. Out my window, of course. Doesn't it look COLD? It was. And it was a sunday, if I remember right. We stayed home.
Sunset. Several years ago...I want to paint this someday. I love sky pictures.
 Sunrise. Several weeks ago.
 Sunrise. I don't remember when...
 Sunrise. In 2010 I think.
 Same sunrise. It was stunning.
 Sunrise. 2009. First snow of the season. So pretty.

 Sunset. I think.  I don't know when. Photo credit to Rose Miller. I love it.
 A storm photo. Again from Rose. I love the way you can see the whole storm system out here. Its beautiful.
 My favorite view of Sheep. When its GREEN. Love it.