Saturday, January 29, 2022

She was a most beautiful, affectionate girl

Sophie loved to be beautified and photographed.
On this date in 2020, our beloved Sophie died.

Sophie was the fulfillment of my wife’s lifelong dream of owning and loving a Standard Poodle.

Well, I guess she owned her, technically, and she certainly loved her. Sometimes, though, it seemed Sophie owned us more than we owned her.

Delaine, my wife, had fallen in love with the big poodle breed when she was a youngster and visited Texas relatives who had somehow wound up living in New York. They had a black Standard Poodle. Playing with that “dog” (we generally refer to them as babies, as we do not have children together) on that summer visit started it all.

Later, when she was a teen, Delaine worked and earned money to buy a poodle, although it was not a Standard Poodle. She loved that baby all of its long life, though.

For a long time, she wanted a Standard Poodle.

She later bought a Cairn Terrier and named her Katy. Later, he saved a mixed dog from certain death in an Arkansas dog pound. That was Dixie Belle, believed to be a mix of Sheltie and Pomeranian--I called her a Shelteranian--who was always cute and puppy-like, even at the end of her long life.

Those are the two Delaine had when I met her and persuaded her to marry me. We had both been through divorce, and she had no human children. I had two grown children. So, we had our two babies, Katy and Dixie Belle.

Within months, though, Delaine found online a notice that some folks way up in the upper peninsula of Michigan had some poodles for sale. The Reiniches (their name) were not breeders; they loved Standard Poodles, and their pair had babies. Mrs. Reiniche was intent on adopting out the babies they could not keep, to people who met her standards for Standard Poodle parenthood.

Delaine passed the test and we drove up to Michigan, the upper peninsula, way up there under Lake Superior, to get the baby we would name Sophia, Sophie for short.

The story of how she got her name is an embarrassment to me, but I’ll tell it anyway.

Talking about what we would name the new, black puppy that we were going to go pick up in Michigan, we tossed around some names. Delaine said the best names for canine babies end in “ie” or “ey” or “y.” She had read that the little ones respond best to names with an “e” sound at the end.

“Well,” I said. “She’s a black poodle. Let’s name her for that black blues singer, Sophie Tucker. Let’s call her Sophie. Her real name on her registration can be Sophia, but we’ll call her Sophie.”

Delaine thought that was a great name.

Imagine how I felt a couple of years later when I found out that Sophie Tucker was actually a white Jewish torch singer, not a black blues singer. But such a mistake was unimportant, and we didn’t care. We just loved our Sophie.

I called her the “clown of the canine world,” because she was comical. I don’t remember exactly now what she did that made me laugh; I merely remember a lot of laughing at her antics, a lot of it.

Such a beautiful girl.

It didn’t take much for me to laugh at her, though.  For instance, from my easy chair in the living room in our old house, I could look through the dining room into the kitchen where there was a window to the backyard, a window that Sophie could look through and see me when she wanted to come in.

“I see a big giant head looking at me,” I would say, laughing and getting up to go let her in.

She often slept between Delaine and me. I loved the times I woke up with a head next to my shoulder and soft breathing in my ear. Yes, it was always Sophie, not Delaine.

On Saturday mornings I would sleep a little later than normal and then let the babies out. Then we’d all get back in bed together. Sophie often would get back between us to be petted and talked to, first by her Mama and then by me.

She was the biggest lap dog I had ever experienced. When I was a kid, we had a little pound puppy named Susie who sat in my lap, but she was small. Sophie, though, was a 65-pound girl who would jump on my lap when I sat down in my recliner and put my legs up to read or watch TV. She would usually lie down lengthwise with her face down by my feet and her tail up on my chest. Yes, occasionally she would burn my nostrils and eyes. I’d gladly put up with that again, if I could.

Katy and Dixie Belle loved her. She was about the same size as they when we got her, but it was not long—too soon, in fact—that they were able to easily walk under her.

Sophie and her Mama loved to have matching
fingernails. Yes, those are fingers on Sophie's
hands, not paws.

Those were the three we had several years. Then Katy, a cantankerous old girl, died after a long life. We got Henry, a white Standard Poodle to fill that void, and he is the subject of many other stories. After Dixie Belle passed, we got Grace Claire, or Gracie. That meant we had three Standard Poodles at once.

Henry and Sophie loved one another, like a son and mother.  Sophie loved Gracie Claire, too. Henry tolerated her.

As Sophie aged, her black hair began turning gray. She seemed to begin losing her eyesight. Her hips began to fail, and she had trouble getting up to walk. That meant I had to lift her up to get her on her feet. She could walk to the back door and go outside. On the grass of the back yard, she seemed more sure of herself than on the hardwood floors of our old house.

Eventually, she was unable to walk on those floors without falling, so I would have to bend over put my hands, clasped, under her belly and hold her up while she walked to the backyard, like a wheelbarrow, where she could manage on the grassy surface.

Eventually, I had to carry her to the back yard, where she could walk, although that ability began to falter, too. I had to pick her up sometimes and put her back on her feet.

Many weeks, I picked her up and carried her to the back yard. I also picked her up and stood her in front of her food bowl and held her while she ate. I think I even fed her by hand sometimes.

Towards the end of her life, we adopted another baby from an animal shelter. That is Roland Dudenhoffer , the Little Dude, who is a terrier mix of some sort. He loved the big black Standard Poodle who spent most of her time on her mat on the floor, asleep; The Dude loves everybody and everything, including Buddy the cat.

Finally, on that morning Delaine two years ago texted me at work that our sweet Sophie had passed.

I really miss that baby. I give God credit for all the good things that come to or happen to me. So, I thank God for Sophie and the whole crew.

All of our babies are special to us, but Sophie might be the most special of all. She must have been, for she turned me into a poodle-loving man.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Happy New Year! Gracious sakes, it is 2022

To our readers around the world: Happy New Year!

Down here in the Ozarks of south-central Missouri, in the middle of the United States, it is late morning. With gray sky and rain, a-plenty, the temperature on the front porch is 39, having dropped from 40-plus when we got up early this morning. It is a couple of degrees cooler in the tree beside the back porch, which is where that sensor is hanging.

No need to sleep late this morning, for our New Year’s Eve party consisted of going home after work to pick up my wife, take her to the pharmacy with me where we got her antibiotics and womanly medicine, and I got my arthritis and blood-pressure medicine.

Then, as we were out and it being New Year’s Eve, we went to a Mexican restaurant ate some exotic food. Well, exotic for the Ozarks Boy; she, being a native Texan, is well familiar with the cuisine.

After that, we dropped by the big-box store where I work as a manual laborer and picked up the two dozen eggs I bought from a co-worker who owns chickens. I had forgotten to take them out of the refrigerator when I left a couple of hours earlier to go home.

We were home way before 6 p.m., and I was plum wore out and ready to go to bed. She hasn’t been feeling well for a couple of days, so she was also ready for sleep.

But we have three babies—dogs to some of you—and they need attention, so I fed them, poured fresh water for them, put them outside for their evening efforts. After they came in, we read and listened to the radio awhile, before turning off the light at 7:30. I put on a Bible podcast on my phone to listen to in the dark. Less that five minutes later, I was sound asleep.

That was New Year’s Eve at this house.

Now, today, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, we had scrambled eggs and biscuits—all shared with the three babies—and several cups of coffee. It’s too nasty outside to do any yardwork, so I’ve just enjoyed the morning with the babies, the radio and, of course, the wife.

Now, though, I’m going to have to do some household chores inside, setting the trend for 2022.

Whoopee and yeehaw!

And as my Ozarks grandma would have said: "Goodness gracious, sakes alive, it's 2022!"

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Let's hope Joe Miner stays the way he is

Joe Miner, image taken from S&T website

After hearing news about sports team names and athletic mascots that offend people enough to be eliminated and erased from memory, we’re concerned about the future of the mascot of our local university, Missouri University of Science and Technology.

We’re proud to have that engineering campus here, a university that started out as the Missouri School of Mines.

The teams are known as the Miners or the Lady Miners, and the school’s mascot is a character named Joe Miner.

Of course, Joe Miner attends games to support the team, and he occasionally is seen at community events. We enjoy watching kids react to the big fellow.

But look closely at Joe Miner and you’ll see several things wrong with him.

For one thing, he’s a man. We recall reading about the controversy surrounding a “cowboy” mascot at another university because such a character excludes the female students. It troubles us that someone might find Joe offensive because he is a manly man. Just look at that smoothly-shaved face and that strong jaw and chin..

For another thing, he carries a pistol. This is an homage to the days of mining in the west, we suppose, but now, a pistol-packing man on a campus is a frightful sight.

Joe also is wearing a cowboy hat, a relic that brings up the term cowboy again. He is not wearing a woolen stocking cap or a beret, both of which seem to be preferred by today’s young men.

On a related note, he is wearing boots, footwear for rough rubes. Today’s college boys wear sneakers or sandals, signs of their gentleness.

Joe is also carrying a giant slide rule and a pick. What in the world for? Shouldn’t he simply be carrying a cell phone -- and looking at it, both thumbs working the keys -- instead, to be reflective of today’s culture?

And, of course, he lacks melanin.

The description of Joe on the school’s website is also troubling to some, we fear. It describes Joe Miner as “rugged and individualistic” and a character who evokes “the spirit of the old west and the determination to succeed.”

Make no mistake, we here at The Ozarks Almanac like a character that looks like a man, dresses like a man and carries a firearm. We believe in the value of rugged individualism and in determination to succeed. We also are fond of the spirit of the Old West and The Cowboy Way.

But we wonder when Joe is going to be targeted by people who are offended and replaced with someone or something more "inclusive." We wonder when the S&T Miners will be replaced by the S&T Social Justice Warriors—and what that mascot might look like on the sidelines of a football game.

Let's all hope that never happens. 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Family keeps the past alive by making molasses

There was an interesting report in our county's weekly newspaper this week.

It was about the old-time way to make molasses.

There's a family that has been growing sorghum and then pressing the juice out to cook it down into the sweetener since 1978.

I've heard of at least two other families who have done that--and might still be carrying on the tradition.

Apparently it is quite a process, but it is worth doing because it brings the family all together to continue a tradition that is part of our Ozarks heritage.

It's worth reading. Here's the link to the website of the Phelps County Focus: Making molasses: Keeping the past alive | News | .

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Part of my lawn and garden crew

There's an unused fence post in my back yard, relic of a former gate and fence that was there before we bought the place.

I left it in place, figuring I would use it someday.

And, sure enough, I do use it. I use it to hang my sprayer nozzle, which I bought on clearance at Lowe's for a little of nothing.

Moreover, I am not the only one who uses the post. A little fellow sits there and waits for bugs to fly by, I suppose.

I left him alone--aside from photographing him--and went and found a different nozzle to use for watering the plants.

If he's killing bugs, I figure he's an important part of my garden work.

Along with the possum that kills snakes--I hope--and the cats that kill mice--though not well.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

You just can't beat farm-fresh eggs for breakfast


These farm-fresh eggs, unwashed for longer preservation,
obviously, came from multiple hens.
When you live in town,  as we do, it's good to know someone  in the country who keeps chickens and sells their eggs.

Fortunately, I do.

A young woman I work with, Amy, has a husband and two children and she keeps them busy with a flock of hens, no roosters. Every week or so, she brings me a couple dozen eggs with shells that are brown, blue, or some hue I can't quite figure out.

What's important, though is the color of the yolks. These eggs have deep, rich yellowish orange or orangish yellow yolks, so you know they have to be good.

I like to cook breakfasts on the weekends for my wife and our three babies (two standard poodles and a little terrier mix feller from the animal shelter), so we eat them fried or scrambled or as French toast. Sometimes I make pancakes and put an egg or two in the mix. No one ever turns a nose up at weekend breakfasts around here.

Sometimes, when I'm in the mood, I make fried egg sandwiches for supper. If they could talk, the babies would say, "Mighty fine, mighty fine."

Amy said she told her mother-in-law that I fed bites of egg to the three fur-babies, and her reaction was an aghast, "Farm-fresh eggs for dogs! What a waste!" When Amy told me that story, I said, "Dogs? What dogs?" She laughed and said that's what she told her mother-in-law.

Farm-fresh eggs are great for boiling, too--and to use in recipes.

So, if you live in town, find someone with a flock of birds.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Persimmon seeds tell us what to expect this winter

Persimmons hold the winter weather forecast inside.
A couple of days ago, we predicted that this was going to be a cold, snowy winter, not a mild season.

Why are we so sure of this?

Why, persimmon seeds of course.

We Ozarkers love to talk about the weather, gripe about the weather, predict the weather ourselves and gripe about the weatherman when he is occasionally wrong. And we rely on our folklore to tell us what to expect.

One way to predict the weather is to cut open persimmon seeds. The Ozarks Boy has done that before here at The Ozarks Almanac. Now, the local newspaper has a columnist called The Insider who also took a turn at it.

The Insider’s conclusion is about the same as The Ozarks Boy’s, i.e., it is going to be a cold, wet winter. And when we say cold and wet, we mean snow and, unfortunately, ice. There were some cold wet days in November and December, but in this part of the country, the cold really hits us hard in January and, especially, February.

Now, for you city slickers and people from other states who don’t have our rich hillbilly folklore, it goes like this: You pick a bunch of persimmons, take the seeds out of the pulpy fruit, cut them open and see what you find. You’re going to find a little depiction of a knife, a fork or a spoon. Or, perhaps you’ll just find a blank.

A knife means biting, cutting cold. A fork means moderate weather is coming through. A spoon means snow.

The Ozarks Boy and The Insider have found that the seeds this year contained knives and spoons. Nope, there was nary a fork. So, it appears that we need to make ready for cold, wet (snowy, icy) winter here in south central Missouri. If you’re interested in what The Insider’s column had to say, here is the link to click on: Out and About With The Insider.

For those of you more interested in science and data, rather than folklore, from S.A. Fraley, the weather observer at the Rolla (Missouri S&T) NOAA Co-Op Weather Station, here is the local weather data for the 24-hour period ending at 7:30 a.m. this morning, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021:

The seed halves in the middle appear to be spoons (snow)
while those on the right appear to be knives (bitter, cut-
ting cold. We don't know what the blank ones mean, and
we prefer not to think about the possibilities.
 Maximum temperature: 31 degrees F

Minimum temperature: 27 degrees F

Temperature at 7:30 a.m.: 29 degrees F

Precipitation: 0.05 inch

Precipitation for the month: 0.81 inch

Precipitation for the year: 0.81 inch

Snowfall/frozen precipitation: 0.5 inch

Snowfall/frozen precipitation for the month: 1.3 inch

Snowfall/Frozen precipitation for the year: 1.3 inch

Snowfall/frozen precipitation for the 2020-2021 season: 1.4 inch

Relative humidity: 99 percent. 

Friday, January 1, 2021

Snow and ice usher in the New Year

A little ice goes a long way. This
is pretty, but much more and limbs
break and power lines fall.
Here in Rolla, Missouri, we woke up today, the first day of the new year to ice on the trees and windshields, topped with a little frosting of snow that was still coming down—slightly—when The Ozarks Boy left for work at 5:30 a.m. Friday, January 1, 2021.

We expected to wake up to this, for it had started on New Year’s Eve.

Moreover, we expect to wake up to more snow on the ground and ice cracking on the moving tree limbs. We’re going to have to scrape the windshield many days, and we old-timers are going to have to drive even more slowly than we do during good weather. We'll tell you about that in the next day or two.

Bu right now, from S.A. Fraley, the weather observer at the Rolla (Missouri S&T) NOAA Co-Op Weather Station, here is the local weather data for the 24-hour period ending at 7:30
a.m. this morning, Friday, January 1, 2021:

Maximum temperature: 32 degrees F

Minimum temperature: 22 degrees F

The Ozarks Boy lets the motor and
defroster run to clear the wind=
shield. No scraping for him.

Temperature at 7:30 a.m.: 21 degrees F

Precipitation: 0.68 inch

Precipitation for the month: 0.68 inch

Precipitation for the year: 0.68 inch

Snowfall/frozen precipitation: 0.2 inch

Snowfall/frozen precipitation for the month: 0.2 inch

Snowfall/Frozen precipitation for the year: 0.2 inch

Snowfall/frozen precipitation for the 2020-2021 season: 0.3 inch

Relative humidity: 99 percent.

Happy New Year to all of you who read The Ozarks Almanac, wherever in the world you are.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Tonight, go outside, look up and find Mars

It seems like every fall, The Ozarks Boy's attention turns to the night skies. He reckons that is because in the summer, sunset is so late (thanks to Daylight Saving Time) that he is in bed asleep almost before the sun goes down. Then, in winter, it is too cold for that old man to stand outside looking up.

But fall is often perfect. The days shorten, and the temperatures lower, but not so low that The Ozarks Boy can't stand it.
He has an app on his phone called Heavens Above or something like that, and he gets outside and tries to find planets and stars that the app says should be there. Mars has been difficult to find, and it is the one object The Ozarks Boy wants to see. He doesn't have a telescope. Maybe someday he will.
But according to NASA, this month is perfect to see Mars, thanks to its proximity and something called opposition. Yes, being in opposition is sometimes beneficial.
Opposition is a technical term that means Mars and the Earth are passing by each other on their orbits. Earth is closer to the Sun in its orbit, while Mars in its outer orbit takes longer. Every couple of years or so, as Ozarks Boy understand it, the Earth laps Mars on the track and the two run along close together for a few weeks. That's what is happening now, so Mars appears larger and brighter because it is closer than usual.
Thanks to all that, Mars is the third brightest object in the sky, right after Venus,, which is right after the Moon. Usually, Jupiter is the third brightest, but Mars takes the white ribbon this month, and will hold it until early November.
"Because the Sun, Earth and Mars are lined up during this passing, Mars will rise at sunset, having a high overhead at midnight," according to NASA.
There is a great article about this event on the NASA blog, and The Ozarks Boy recommends you take a look at it. Here's the link: It’s All About Mars in October – Watch the Skies

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Ozarks Boy’s way to compost

First, dig a hole and put in your table scraps.
Serious gardeners compost their waste, according to what I hear, and if you go and search online it is true. Those people who compost are serious. They are willing to spend some serious cash, some serious time and some serious effort.

Now, The Ozarks Boy takes his garden and yard as seriously as he can, given his work schedule, family responsibilities and budget availability, which are heavy, multiple and low, respectively.

Consequently, the old boy has to compost quickly, easily, effortlessly and cheaply. He has a good way to build soil through composting, and he does it without spending much time, only a little effort and no money on a lot of expensive equipment like drums and tumblers.

He just digs two holes.

When he started composting a couple of years ago, The Ozarks Boy dug a hole about the diameter of

the length of his shovel handle and just shy of a foot deep. Into that hole, he threw a bunch of kitchen scraps—old leftover vegetables, peelings and rinds, empty corn cobs, lots of coffee grounds and paper filters from the coffee pot. He really guzzles the coffee.

Then dig another to cover it.Start filling the second
hole with garbage. is full of garbage, dig
out the first hole again, covering the fresh garbage.
Then, start filling that "new" hole with garbage.
When that hole was about half full or so, he dug another hole the same size next to it and threw the dirt from that hole into the first hole on top of the kitchen scraps. He then used that new hole to dispose of new kitchen scraps. When it was about half full of vegetable waste, coffee grounds and the like, he dug out the first hole and threw the dirt into the second hole.

He did that all summer long, back and forth, back and forth. It wasn’t that difficult. There’s only The Ozarks Boy and the woman he lives with, his wife, who make kitchen scraps. So, he wasn’t out there throwing dirt back and forth every day, just every week or two or sometimes three.

In the late fall, early winter, he dug out one of the holes just a little deeper, piling the dirt into the other hole, and then used that hole all winter to dispose of the garbage. By spring, it was pretty full and ready to be covered up with dirt from the other hole.

That dirt had been sitting all winter and into spring, so most of it was ready to be used for seeds and young plants.

Well, there you go. That’s all there is to The Ozarks Boy’s Way to Compost. That’s pretty simple and easy, perfect for The Ozarks Boy who is kind of lazy. He’d rather sit on the front porch with the dogs and cats, drinking coffee and reading the paper, than get out and do much digging.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

A Memorial Day memory

At the big-box home-improvement store where I worked in Pulaski County, Missouri, the corporate office gave store managers across the nation the opportunity to select a music channel for overhead system that would play American music on Memorial Day, Labor Day, Independence Day and, as I recall, Veterans Day.

Fort Leonard Wood is in Pulaski County, so the store managers who were there at the time I worked in that store always wisely selected to use that channel.

To the consternation of young people, it played Sousa marches, great old folk songs, patriotic country songs and the like.

I love that music, and I was glad the store managers chose that channel.

One year we had a new manager who was there on Memorial Day, if I remember correctly. He had not been there long, but long enough to know to select the American patriotic music channel for the overhead that holiday.

His name was Jared, and I had not introduced myself in the two weeks or so that he had been there, so I took that opportunity that day.

After introducing myself and welcoming him to the store, I said, “Jared, I think this holiday patriotic music is great, and I thank you for it. And I’d like for you to pass the word upstairs to the corporate leadership that I and a lot of other local people like it.”

He said he would do that.

Then, I could not help myself. I added, “The only thing I would change is that at noon, we ought to play the Chinese national anthem in honor of all the ‘Made in China’ products we sell here.”

He just looked at me, kind of quizzically.

I grinned and said, “See you later, sir,” and I went back to work.

A few days later my supervisor said at our morning team meeting, “Jared said to me the other day, ‘That Ozarks Boy is pretty opinionated, isn’t he?’ I told him you had been a newspaper writer for about 30 years, so opinions just come natural to you.” Then she laughed.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I avoided Jared after that, as often as I could.

I hope you had a Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, March 6, 2020

Poem: A visit from the preacher

Last month, I thought quite a bit about an old boy who I greatly admired and passed away on Feb. 4, 2019

His name was Lloyd Riley, and people at church called him “Bud.” He was a deacon at the small country church where I am a member and have attended off and on since about 1986.

Bud and I were in the Adult Men’s Sunday School class with a bunch of other old-timers. They’re all good men who work hard and have a lot of faith. I try to emulate them, and I usually fail.

Bud was a veteran; he was in the Army, apparently at the tail end of World War II, and he told of going by ship to Japan on a vessel that leaked so badly that everybody had to grab a bucket and keep bailing water to keep the old craft from sinking.

He owned a farm, raised cattle and hay. He told of raising hogs for a while, as well as dairy cattle. He told us about driving a truck for a dairy, going from farm to farm collecting milk in cans.

Bud and the other men in the class told me about days when everybody would raise hogs, milk dairy cattle and raise beef cattle. Having all three would help them to pay off their farms and maybe buy a truck.

Agriculture has changed a lot since then. Nobody here raises hogs or dairy cattle any longer. There is no dairy.

Bud and his wife, Doris, worked together on their farm. My wife always said they were the cutest couple she’d seen. Their children and grandchildren were involved in agriculture, too. I took pictures of their grandchildren who exhibited cattle at the county fair.

Bud also had a great sense of humor. We laughed a lot at the short stories and jokes he would often tell. He told me the best joke ever, in my opinion, one Sunday after church while we were sitting in the fellowship hall waiting for a church dinner to start.

I loved that joke, and I retold it in my column for the local daily paper years ago. I may have written about it twice in the paper, I can’t remember. I also wrote about it in my column for my own publication, The Ozarks Chronicle, a dozen or so years ago.

If I were a columnist for the weekly paper I now work for part-time, I’d write it up again.

I was unable to attend either the funeral or the visitation due to work requirements for my two jobs.

But since Bud’s passing, I’ve thought a lot about him, and I decided the only thing I could do to pay tribute to him is set his joke, my favorite joke, to poetry and retell here on this website.

So here is the poem, based on Bud Riley’s joke, with my enhancements based on my own grandparents and my imagination.

Yes, it’s a joke, but it has a lot to say about a particular Christian doctrine, which is referred to in the title I have selected.

I hope you enjoy the poem, look up the scripture in the title and think about it.

For best effect, read it aloud with great vigor and expression.

JAMES 2:17
Dedicated in memory of Lloyd “Bud” Riley, 1927-2019

Late Saturday morning, just ’fore dinner,
we were sweating out in the hot sun,
hoeing eternal rows in the garden,
it sure wasn’t a whole lot of fun.

We heard a honk, looked up and we all saw
a fancy-pants car turn in the drive
Grandma turned to grandpa, said, “Can that be
the preacher? Goodness gracious, sakes ’live.”

And sure enough, the ole boy that emerged
was the Reverend Brother Les Moore.
I guess as preachers go, he was all right,
but his very presence made me sore.

“Why, howdy, folks,” he said. “Gimme that thing.”
And grabbing Gramp’s hoe, he chopped some soil.
Thirty seconds later, wiped his brow, said,
“You work up hunger with honest toil.”

“Well, let’s go in for dinner,” Grandma said.
So we washed up and sat down and prayed
Then ate cold fried chicken, tater salad,
cornbread, tea, all of it Grandma-made.

The preacher was quiet while he wolfed it
down, then leaned back, loosened his waistband.
“Brother, sister, you and the Lord have done
a wonderful job on this good land.

You and the Lord built a fine cattle herd,
a beautiful house, large barn, good shop,
pastures of plenty and a garden, too,
and you will sure want to share your crop."

Grandpa heard all he could stand, then rared back
and said, “Preacher, I’m grateful to God
for all the blessings He has given us,
like good seed, nice weather and rich sod,

but most of all for our strong arms and backs,”
he said, grinning like a little elf.
“Cause you ought to’ve seen the way this place looked
when the Lord had it all to Hisself!”

The Good Lord God Almighty blessed Bud and Doris Riley and their family, and I hope you believe in Him and trust Him as they did—and do.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

A close encounter with a dreadful snake

The other night when I took the trash out I stepped or tripped on something. It was night, so of course the back deck was in darkness. I took a couple of steps, the motion-detecting light came on, and I turned around at the top of the steps to see what I had had stepped or tripped on.

It was a snake.

A dreadful snake.

An evil serpent.

I hate snakes whether they are venomous or not. I did not know what this snake was, but it was large, 3 feet to 4 feet long and as big around as my forearm at the fattest part. In my mind, the markings on the snake were hourglass shaped, and so my mind screamed, “Copperhead!”

Not knowing what to do, I stood and looked at it a few seconds, thinking, “It is against the laws of the Great State of Missouri to kill snakes. They are the state’s natural resources, and belong to the people of Missouri.”

Once long ago when I was a reporter/photographer/columnist/editor-of-sorts for the local daily newspaper, I wrote a column in which I mentioned my hatred of serpents, and I wrote, “I kill every snake I see.”

The following Saturday I was in the newsroom early, setting up the pages for the Sunday paper and listening to the local radio station, waiting for the Saturday Morning Bluegrass Show to come on. There was an interview with the local conservation agent on at the time, and the host asked the conservation agent about my column and my anti-snake stance.

“Ozarks Boy can be as boisterous as he wants in his column, but if I ever catch him killing a snake, I will arrest him,” the conservation agent said.

All of these thoughts went through my head while I looked at the snake, which I assumed was a copperhead.

The next day that snake was lying headless in the weeds next to my driveway. I cannot say for certain how it got there. Perhaps an owl swooped down on it and tore its head off. Or a possum strolled by and bit its head off. I do not. The wonders of nature are amazing.

I looked at it closely and took a picture of the carcass. Then I turned to the internet and began looking for a similar snake among Missouri’s venomous and non-venomous snakes. Nothing matched.

My wife sent a copy of the picture via Messenger to her brother in Texas.

“It looks like a boa constrictor,” he said.

“What in the sam hill is a boa constrictor, a tropical snake, doing in the Ozarks?” I asked.

“Probably someone had it as a pet and it got loose. Or they let it loose because they couldn’t take care of it,” he said. “Happens all the time down here.”

I put a picture of it on my Facebook page and asked my friends what they thought. A woman I used to work with said the same thing, “Boa constrictor. Somebody’s pet.”

Well, shoot, I thought. I hate that an owl or possum might have killed someone’s beloved pet, even if it was a dreadful snake, evil serpent.

But they should have kept it on a leash.