My dear Aunt Arlene, who I previously discussed in my post Letter from home, has decidedly been the most faithful letter writer of my life. From my earliest reading days I received the occasional note in the mail from Aunt Arlene, who lives two states away. Often her letters were written in two or more colors of ink — as though she sat down to write a sentence or two every now and then until she finally filled a card with words, which she then proceeded to stamp and mail. Her letters usually contained seemingly unimportant details about the life she led at a retirement home, i.e. “My neighbor Bob from downstairs (you don’t know him) went in for his prostate exam yesterday. Everything checked out.” (My 17-year-old self wondered, What’s a prostate exam?)
What made Aunt Arlene such a great letter writer was her faithfulness. I never doubted that I was on her mind because she kept in touch — even though I’m sure I rarely responded to her correspondence. Because she was so faithful about writing, her slanted cursive and shorthand-style abbreviations are now almost as familiar to me as my own.
I haven’t been a very faithful letter writer lately on this ol’ blog, and I worry that my imaginary readers think they’re not on my mind. Blogging is often on my mind — I write at least one in my head every day — but the trouble is all the real-life stuff that I need to accomplish every day! I have plenty of excuses for not writing… excuses that are made up of good and lovely people and pastimes… and I’ll bring you up to date on a few of them.
* We are still mourning the loss of our pretty little bay colt, a personal tragedy which I wrote about here last week. But life is moving on… and the kids tell me that their Uncle Will is probably riding Big in heaven right now.
* Baby Muggins has discovered the Johnny bolt covers on the toilet. You know what the Johnny bolts are — the bolts that hold the toilet to the floor. Anyhoo, we try hard to keep the doors to the bathroom closed, but with the other kids coming and going, it’s darn near impossible to keep the baby out of there. He watches for that open door and scoots through if the slimmest opportunity is offered, then straight for the toilet, and his chubby little hands reach for the closet Johnny bolt cover… and it goes right to his mouth. We’re gonna have to nickname him Johnny.
* The dog food has also established itself on Muggins’ radar. This morning I pointed out to him, “Bud, you have to stop eating dog food, or you might turn into a dog!” He grinned at me with six teeth.
* I think my old camera has finally, officially, bit the dust. Which means I no longer have the means by which to take 20 photos, each from a different angle, of the glass jar containing the caterpillar the kids found in the yard. Just as well — leaves me more time for important stuff like doing the laundry and teaching my kids.
* Speaking of teaching, homeschooling is kicking my butt this year! As I detailed previously, we had totally winged our kids’ educations until now, but for this school year decided we’d better get our poop in a group — and so invested in prestigious curriculums for Asher (grade 1) and Emi (kindergarten). Asher could’ve gone into grade 2, but I worried that in the midst of winging it we might’ve missed some fundamental building blocks in his education, so now we’re “officially” going through grade 1 with him. We’re coming across “rules” which I had indeed forgotten — for instance, did you remember that in addition the answer is the sum and in subtraction the answer is the difference? (I often wonder if this is the sort of drivel that kids retain until test-time and then promptly forget… the very sort of thing we hoped to avoid by homeschooling… but I am forging ahead anyhow, doing what the curriculum tells me to do for this year. Along the way I am reminded that teachers certainly deserve their pay, because it is a lot of work prepping these formal lessons — not to mention teaching the lessons with the help of our two class clowns, a.k.a. Baby Muggins and 3-year-old Marsi.) The good news is that the kids are doing great. Emi is a rip-roaring kindergartner, smart as a whip, and I think she wishes I could teach her faster than I am doing it. But life gets in our way…
* Weaning season is upon us and even almost finished up! There are three bunches left to wean here on the ol’ PV this fall. It’s been a pleasantly smooth season, largely because we have enough help this year to keep a separate crew at home in the feedlot to receive calves and ride pens while Beau and the camp guys focus on gathering and preg-checking out in the pastures. I am tethered to the ground by four children so haven’t been riding at all, but dang am I a great cook! I’ve hauled lunch out to the crew several times and often feed a couple extra guys at our lunch table. Cooking is my way of being involved with ranch work at this stage of my life, so I’m pleased to do it.
* I wrote in my last letter that our weeks ahead promised to be full of ranch rodeos and kid rodeos, and indeed they were. Ranch rodeo season has come to an end now, as it does every year, until next spring. Meantime, Beau lives in fear of losing his good town horses, just as fast as he can finish them, to our growing brood of kids. Another mom took this picture of Asher on Jiggers at the Wild ‘n’ Woolly Custer Youth Rodeo in September:
* In my last letter I also wrote that the ranch’s bum calves needed a new home. Bums can sure be handy for grafting onto heifers during calving season, and our bums this year sure lent a lot of joy to the families living here on the ranch… but as the summer wore on and the bums guzzled eighty-dollar-bag after eighty-dollar-bag of milk replacer, Beau and I wondered at the wisdom of keeping them, especially since bums don’t often convert well to feedlot life once the other calves start coming off the trucks in the fall. Beau tried to contact his general manager concerning the quandary of what to do with the bums, but never got a reply. Finally my dad, who worked for that same general manager for many years, said to me, “You know what he’d say if you ever got ahold of him about the bums? He’d say, ‘Shoot ’em or sell ’em.'” So we did sell them, to our good friend Tiff Ogren, who made it to the NRA finals this year in breakaway roping… and so needed a few good practice calves. That’s like a double happy ending, right?
* And Thanksgiving. We spent a lovely day at my sister’s house in Miles City, ate too much, probably had more kinds of pie at our meal than you did, and made it home long after bedtime. And yup, I turned on the Christmas music this morning! Happy holidays, everyone!
© Tami Blake