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.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

How I ruined Christmas for everyone

Raised by old-time Southern Baptists with a solid sense of right and wrong, truth and error, sin and salvation, I never believed in Santa Claus. My parents and grandparents did not encourage their young Ozarks Boy to believe in Right Jolly Old Elf, and as we did not have television out there in the middle of nowhere, I did not have a real sense of who he was supposed to be.

Oh, sure, I knew a little about Santa Claus. He was the guy in the Christmas parade who, when the parade in that small town ended, climbed off the fire truck, pulled up a chair next to the street and handed out little brown paper sacks of candy to each and every kid. I also was acquainted with the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer because we had a Little Golden Book, or something similar, about him and Santa Claus.

But even before I started school, I knew that Santa Claus was “just a story” for “little kids” whose “moms and dads tell them that’s where Christmas presents come from.” As those statements are in quotes from my memory, I suppose that my parents told me that. Or maybe it was my buddy Stevie Kay who lived up the road from us and at a year older was far more worldly and knowing. Maybe Stevie told me about the storybook quality of Santa and Mama and Daddy, Grandma and Grandpa just didn’t deny that he told the truth, so I drew my own conclusion. Memory is not quite clear at my advanced age.

Memory of the kindergarten Christmas party is quite clear, though, for it was traumatic for my classmates, the teacher, the room mothers, my mother and, of course, for me.

We had cupcakes and Kool-Aid for refreshments, and then the room mothers started asking kids what they wanted Santa to bring them for Christmas. When it was my turn, I did the right and moral thing, I informed everyone that “Santa Claus ain’t real.” The room shuddered and, after a brief gasp, cried. No, the room wailed. Everybody was angry at me. Mrs. Bloch, the teacher, and Mrs. Henry, the main room mother, were glaring at my mother. Girls were crying. Boys were crying. 

The party came to a quick end for me, as my mother grabbed my coat and ushered me the hell out of the school house.

“What’s wrong?” I asked on the quiet drive home. “There ain’t no Santa Claus, is there?”

I was deeply hurt that everyone was angry at me, and I was mystified why all the kids were bawling their eyes out and why the teachers and room mothers were angry.

My mother said I shouldn’t have told the kids that there was no Santa because it ruined Christmas for them. That mystified me even more.

“Well, it’s the truth, ain’t it,” I said, hoping perhaps that she would say, “No, there really is a Santa.” But she didn’t. She said, “Yes, it is the truth, but sometimes you don’t have to tell everything you know.”

That was an important lesson in life. Unfortunately, it was one lost on me, for I grew up to be a newspaper reporter who continued to tell everything he knew, trying to tell the truth with no regard for people’s feelings.

That would have been in 1958, a time of innocence for me, my family, our small town, the state of Missouri and our nation.

Our nation has been on a downhill slide since then; I hope I didn’t have anything to do with that.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Thank goodness, my wife paid attention to her Mama

There is no place I would rather eat than in my own home and no other cook whose food I prefer over that prepared by my wife.
She has told me how as a little girl, then as a preteen and even as a teen-ager, she would often help her mother prepare meals, watching and remembering every move her mother made, every egg she cracked, every cup of ingredient she added.
Often, perhaps always, her mother would add ingredients, experimenting with flavor, on the spur of the moment. My wife's memory is still nearly perfect, so she cooks the way her mother cooked, using some basic ingredients and adding more for flavor. I was fortunate to eat a little of her mother's cooking before she passed, and I am the beneficiary of all her instruction and all of my wife's observation of her mother's technique.
In short and in Ozarker: Boy, howdy, I eat good.
Tonight, she fixed lasagna, something I had been hinting at for weeks. Well, maybe I did more than hint. Maybe begging, pleading, bargaining  are the correct words.
I had to work part of the day, even though it is Saturday, and when I got home, she had already made the hamburger and all the additional fixin's. She was ready to layer it in the pan.
Here is what she told me would  go into it:
2.25 pounds of hamburger meat, 80 percent lean ground beef
One large container of cottage cheese
Three eggs
A whole package of grated mozzarella cheese
About 4 heaping tablespoons of minced garlic
Basil and oregano, no measurement known
Half a cup of parmesan cheese
A jar of chunky spaghetti sauce with herbs
A whole package of oven-ready lasagna noodles.
She mixed the cottage cheese, eggs, spices and parmesan together, then layered everythng, ending with a layer of mozzarella on top.
She baked it an hour at 350 degrees.
Wheweee! That and a salad with balsamic vinegarette filled this old boy up.
But more than that, it was all flavorful. I find that as I get older, I am even more interested in flavor. Perhaps my tastebuds are wearing out. Whatever the reason, I find that I am always looking for flavor.
A lot of restaurant foods, well for me most restaurant foods, especially fast-food restaurant foods, lack flavor. We have a new fast-food barbecue restaurant in town, and I ordered a Southern pulled pork sandwich. I couldn't taste anything except the sauce. The meat was all texture, no taste. I was so disappointed and likely will never go back.
Fortunately, I have a wife who paid attention to her mama, and likes to cook, so I have flavorful foods at home, the place where I am most comfortable.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A song that can calm a herd of cattle or an infant

The little guy was sucking on a bottle when I got to the house.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo
“Thank you for taking care of him tonight, Daddy,” my daughter said as she handed the baby over to me. “I’ll be back in about two hours. Just burp him and rock him and he should sleep the whole time.”
My little girl, Lisa, took off, leaving me alone with my first grandson, Joseph Michael, who my Texas wife had immediately “bubbafied” to Joe Mike.
Lisa was working as a teller in a local bank, and she had a training class to attend. Her husband, Frank, was working on his still-new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning business, trying hard to build it into a thriving enterprise.
My wife was sick, so it fell to me to take care of Joe Mike, something I didn’t mind doing at all.
Joe Mike finished his bottle and then whimpered. I put the cloth on my shoulder and burped the boy. Then I cradled him in my arms.
And Joe Mike immediately started crying.
I rocked him.
He still cried.
I gently bounced him as he lay in my arms.
He still cried.
I put him back on my shoulder and patted him on the back again.
He wailed.
So I cradled him again, and I began to sing.
“Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo roam, where the deer and the antelope play,” I crooned softly. “Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”
Joe Mike was silent.
Home,home on the range,” I continued. “Where the deer and the antelope play. Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”
Joe Mike was asleep.
I kept on humming, and I imagined that I was a night-riding cowboy, calming the herd.
My herd of one was asleep as a I sang and hummed quietly.
“Home on the Range” is one of my favorite songs. It was originally a poem, written in 1872 by Dr. Brewster M. Higley, of Smith County, Kansas. In 1947, Kansans made it their state song. It is one of the top 100 Western songs, as chosen by the Western Writers of America.
Dr. Higley moved to Kansas from Indiana, loved the place so much that he wrote a poem titled “My Western Home,” in praise of his new home in a cabin near a creek. It was published in 1872 in the Smith County Pioneer newspaper.
Higley’s friend, Daniel E. Kelley, later set the poem to music.
The song has a most interesting history, and I encourage you to read about it on the Library of Congress website, where you will learn that President Franklin D. Roosevelt said it was his favorite song.
You’ll also find out that other people have claimed to be the author, but Dr. Higley’s authorship has been verified.
“How did this song spread so far, become associated with so many locations, generate so many variations, and have claims of authorship by so many people?” the Library of Congress website asks and then answers this way: “Part of the answer lies in the Chisholm Trail, a route taken by cattle drives from southwestern ranching states and territories to the railhead in Abeline, Kansas, from 1867 through the 1880s. A song sung in saloons in Kansas could be picked up and sung by cowboys departing for home, quickly spreading it far from its point of origin. The song itself, which praises the virtues of the west and is sung to a melancholy tune, fits well into the repertoire of cowboy work songs.”
It's a wonderful song. I recall hearing years ago on The History Channel that President Roosevelt wanted to make it the national anthem.
Grandson Joe Mike found so much comfort in the song that he fell asleep while I sang it. When he was sound asleep, I stopped singing and continued rocking in the chair.
He immediately woke up and started wailing again.
“Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo roam,” I sang, and Joe Mike fell asleep again,
I stopped singing, and he woke and started crying.
I resumed singing and he went back to sleep.
For two hours, I sang “Home on the Range” over and over and over.
When his Mama got home, I handed him over to her. He woke up and was quiet.
Joe Mike loved his Mama, and still does, and he also loved “Home on the Range.” I’ll have to ask him if he still likes that song now that he’s in seventh grade.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

At death's door in a hospital back in '71

Death. Public domain image by WikiMedia.
As she entered the room, the nurse threw back the curtain in the center of the semi-private room.
“Good morning,” she said, cheerily, and handed me a warm wet wash rag. “Wash as far as possible from the top, wash as far as possible from the bottom. And then wash possible.”
We both laughed. As I washed, she emptied the urinal hanging on the rail of the bed.
It was a bright morning, and the sunlight streamed in the window where I was recovering from an appendectomy the day before, July 4, 1971.
I had just graduated from high school in May, and I was working for the public works department, cutting brush in the city’s creeks and streams, gullies and ditches, where power equipment could not reach. I and the other young guys who worked that job swung weed whackers all day, or cut with pruners and loppers. Then we loaded all the brush onto a dump truck, and our foreman would drive it off to the dump.
Looking forward to going to the university in August, I was grateful to have a good job to save up some more money for books and extras.
On the night of July 3, though, I stayed up late, watching television and eating apples. The apples were slightly green. Oh, heck, most of them were very green, so they were tart. They were tart and tasty, and I ate a bunch of them.
In the wee hours of the morning, I started feeling sick. I spent quite a bit of time in the bathroom, either bent over, puking, or sitting on the toilet, expelling the apples from both ends.
I kept getting sicker and sicker, and my belly hurt so bad that I couldn’t stand up. I was running a high fever.
My mother took me to the emergency room at St. John’s Hospital, because it was a weekend.
The doctors and nurses determined that the green apples had nothing to do with my sickness. I had acute appendicitis, and I needed to get my appendix cut out immediately.
So I did. Afterwards, they wheeled me to a room where there were two beds, both empty. They put me in the one by the window. I had never been in a hospital as a patient before, and I felt terrible, wiped out. I went to sleep.
A little later, I woke up when the nurses brought in another guy for the other bed. He was older, probably in his 30s, which for a 17-year-old seemed old. He was obviously in distress, for he groaned with each movement.
I don’t remember what I had for supper. I just remember wanting to go back to sleep.
Sleep was impossible, though, because of my new roomie’s groanings, moanings, wailing, crying and screaming. He was obviously near death.
Death watch continued for hours. Finally, I fell asleep.
Soon, or so it seemed, the cheery nurse awoke me and told me to wash up and get ready for breakfast. As I washed “possible,” I saw that the other bed in the room was empty and had been made afresh, awaiting another old man with one of his feet in the grave.
“What happened to that ole boy?” I asked. “Did he die? He was sure in a lot of pain.”
“Oh, no,” the nurse said. “He went home. He was just in here with a kidney stone, and he finally passed it. He’s fine now.”
“Good grief,” I said. “A kidney stone. I hope to God that I never get one of those. He was in so much pain I was sure he was dying.”
“No,” the nurse said. “Just a stone. No big deal.” And she left.
Well, guess what?
Yep, you’re right.
In my left kidney, measuring 13 millimeters. It’s a boulder.

They’re going to bust it up with sound waves tomorrow.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Nothin' beats beans

Here is a poem I wrote years ago. It is so doggone good that I have to bring it out every now and again just to dust it off. I hope you enjoy it.


It was my buddy Earl’s birthday
So I took him out to eat
“Order what you want, Earl,” I said.
“The lobster can’t be beat.”

But when the waitress arrived
And suggested leg of lamb,
Earl said, “Ma’am I believe I’ll have
“A plate of beans and ham.

“And bring fried taters, cow butter
“And cornbread baked golden brown
“And a tall glass of buttermilk, real cold,
“To wash it all down.”

“Earl,” I said, “It’s your special day
“And I’m offering you a treat
“Order some clams, shrimp, crab legs,
“Those things you don’t normally eat.”

“Now, Ozarks Boy,” Earl said, “I thank you
“For your thoughtful, culinary gift
“But if I don’t eat those odd foods you mentioned
“I hope you’ll not be miffed.

“See I’m just a plain old Ozarks hillbilly
“Who never ka-bobbed a shish
“Or fileted a mignon (whatever that is)
“Or ate any unusual dish.

“I grew up eating a simple diet
“That was within my parents’ means
“Every night it was beans and taters
“Or for variety, taters and beans

“I developed a taste for simple foods
“Served from kettles, not fancy tureens
“So just give me taters and cornbread
“And a heaping plate of beans.

“Oh, sure, I’ll eat a little sausage
“And no meatloaf’s good as Aunt Irene’s,
“But when it comes to real good eatin’
“Just give me taters, ham and beans.

“Rich foods make my belly hurt
“Like I’ve been kicked by a couple of fiends
“So I stick with God’s simple fare
“Cornbread and buttermilk, taters and beans.”

“Earl, my friend, I wholeheartedly agree,
“It must be in our hillbilly genes."
Then I turned to the waitress, smiled and said,
“Darlin’, two plates of ham ’n’ beans.”

I don’t care what foods are called the best
By professors and educated deans
Nothing beats a simple meal
Of cornbread, taters, ham and beans.

--R.D. Hohenfeldt