Oklahoma Country Wonderings

Country Crab Crackers

Oklahoma Country WonderingsI host a family reunion dinner at my house for my husband’s large, extended family. Generally a catered event, it still means a deal of work and organization. The last one was no different, except this time we had a crab and shrimp boil with fried catfish. Now if anybody’s ever eaten crab they come in a shell, armor. It takes some kind of manipulation to remove the meat in the crab, and there began my dilemma.

We were going over last minute details, when she asked “Do you have crackers?” Oh sure, I entertain with such regularity they’re right next to my fondue fork and serrated grapefruit spoon. Of course not, and my mind started clicking. How were our attendees going to eat crab, and I get out of buying high dollar crab cracker I may never use again? My solution: Pliers. When I mentioned it to my caterer, she quipped, “Do I need to clean out the toolbox?”

Maybe on your place or home resides an easy found, clean pair of pliers? Not so at my house. I’ve often wanted to arrange a pliers concession to follow my spouse around the farm, gathering them up, and reselling them, at greatly inflated prices. The one pair of equipment they actually wear strapped to their belt, never seems to remain there. After this brainstorm I sent a text to my husband and son. Pliers needed for crab Saturday night!

If I expected a quick response of “They’ll be there immediately and how many,” I would have been terminally shocked. As anticipated, the response was more like, “I think I have a pair in the pickup somewhere.” Or the always standard answer “why don’t you just buy some.” The standard response, “Can’t you have the ones you squirreled away in the house?" Since I hope to be considered thrifty and responsible with my money, I urged them to look in barn, cow pens, and the black hole of pliers and screws, the pickup floorboard. I only have one pair I keep for emergencies (refer to earlier post about country woman survival). After much scrounging, grumbling, and searching we found enough to accomplish the task at hand.

I do wish I could say they were all gleaming, steel alloys of vanadium and chromium; they were not. Most came dirty, covered in grease or indefinable grime. We had slip joint, needle nose, one pair each of crimping and locking pliers. I scrubbed, washed in hot water and for final sanitary conditions, I dipped them in alcohol. My motley collection never looked so good. 

When the evening was in full swing, I pulled out my redneck country crab-crackers. There were guffaws, gasps and laughs. My favorite remark that I felt really captured my thought process was, “What ingenuity, Rhonda’s a resourceful woman.” The event turned out successful, the redneck crab crackers got passed around. The most sought after pair were the needle nose pliers. My caterer was so impressed, she said she might consider buying a pair of dedicated country crab crackers. I’m now convinced that women are the resourceful ones. My crab crackers got returned to their original owner, and I’m sure they’ve taken up residence in the floorboard once again; but much cleaner.

Visit my other blogs at rhondashephard.com and rileybanks.com/gypsygirl.

Oklahoma Tornado, Oklahoma Spirit

Rhonda ShephardI generally write on the humorous aspects of country living, but this time, I write about my state, and the things that make it a special place.  We once again are recovering from a tragic natural disaster that collided across our landscape, and left behind an unbelievable landscape of destroyed homes, demolished business, and devastated schools.  We lost friends, family, and loved ones, but we will survive, because of that undefinable quality we as a state own: Oklahoma Spirit.

Oklahoma frequently is the joke of the country cousin or rural rube.  When your identity is defined for generations as dust covered, hollowed cheeked vagrants struggling for the land of milk and honey in California you are behind the eight ball. We are defined by three commonalities:  the Oklahoma land run, the Murrough bombing, and tornadoes.  Our uniqueness and our tragedy melded and molded us into a people strong and tempered by wind, dirt, and death. We accept with stoic knowledge that’s our Oklahoma spirit.

That’s why I stand so amazed at national newscasters surprised in Oklahoma we stand capable, prepared, and ready.  When others ran from the twisting menace, we ran toward them to save our loved ones. When the danger past, Oklahomans dug and clawed with their bare hands to find neighbors.  We live in Tornado Alley the mythical place where war and cold air masses meeting to birth capricious weather.  The seasons are repetitious, the winds never change, except direction, but we accept that the only thing that stands between nature and our own lives is our Oklahoma Spirit.

Oklahoma is sometimes condescendingly called the heartland.  From my Oklahoma perspective that doesn’t mean we are stuck in the middle of nowhere or lie at the buckle of the Bible belt, our heart, shaped by our pain made us resilient.  The people struggling to survive the Depression and stayed behind built our character.  Small towns almost wiped out of existence by twisting winds, returned to shine brighter When the building fell and evil incarnate called our slaughtered children collateral damage, we survived, thrived, and brought honor to those we lost.   I read once that in Oklahoma a tornado will touch down in every quarter-section of land.  So for an Oklahoman it’s not a matter of if, but when they come face to face with a tornado.  We will face another EF-5 tornado.  We will lose our citizens, family, and children, but we will be ready because of our Oklahoma spirit to honor them, and continue being strong in Oklahoma.

http://rhondashephard.com 

BARN ARCHEOLOGY

Rhonda ShephardThe proliferation of trash turned to cash reality shows on television makes you afraid to throw away anything.  Recently my son decided accumulation in our main service barn since 1968 needed thinning.  Part of me applauded his enthusiasm and energy, the other wondered if something of great value might be hidden among worn-out tires, dried out fan belts for a long forgotten tractor, or odds and end bolts.  So he started excavation of the barn, and I almost hoped some roaming picker might stop and offer thousands for soon discarded junk.

They say archeologists learn of the past from cultures trash piles.  In the same strange way, I saw my son learning about his grandfather’s farming practices from the layers of debris and accumulated parts and pieces.   He learned his grandfather and father never knew quite what they should discard.  They maintained a penchant for worn refrigerators.  The wall lined with a timeline of refrigerator colors.  They stood as an appliance graveyard intended on storage.  Belts housed­­ in the freezer, filters in the refrigerator, and odd parts in the produce drawer seemed a terrific solution for an airtight storage.  In theory yes, in practice, the parts, belts and filters took on the out of sight out of mind proposition.  Then the hooks with the great purchase in 1979 of tractor belts that became dried out, and the tractor they were intended long sold off. 

But ever hopeful that a model T Ford, a classic car, a refurbished two cylinder tractor got lost in the passage of time and willy-nilly scrap lumber and metal tossed into corners.  Where I hoped they might find some long forgotten folk art treasure, they found empty paint cans. I waited with anticipation of a vintage bicycle in almost pristine condition, and they found a three speed bike from my college days; too old to fix, and too new for vintage.  The only furniture that came out of the hidden recesses was an old Case Steel desk and a desk chair that kept generations of field mice happy.

The size of the barn, long debated began to take on dimensions forgotten since the first blueprint made its appearance.  The son’s amazement grew with each load taken to recycling or the dump.  Hidden corners stacked with lumber and scrap metal unfortunately didn’t hide a vintage vehicle or artistic treasure, but offered space.  So much space, the daughter in-law managed to park her car in the barn for a change.  Finally it reached the barn  looked like a woman with a face lift; restored and rested.   The refrigerators disappeared down to only the working models.  The filters, belts, and parts found a new home, easily seen, not forgotten so soon.  The workbench previously cluttered with discarded bolts and washers now could be used without chunking clutter to the side..    Now the barn is ready for another 40 years of farming and savings. 

In the end we found no valuable assets, other than the scrap value of some of the refrigerators and metal.  There were no treasured artifacts waiting for a museum, or vintage vehicles, other than the broken down lawn mower.  Space reflected from every corner, where lumber and useable metal were stacked, easily accessible and recognized.  The one valuable thing found was more sentimental than ready for a collector to write a big check, was a great grandfather’s old-fashioned scythe used years ago for cutting wheat.   I guess some people’s barns are meant for finding treasurers, ours is for collecting stuff to be discarded in some distant time.

www.nbran.org 

www.southwindphotography.com 

RADIO FLYER MEMORIES

A wagon full of memorieds 

Did you ever have a red wagon?  This was a gift to our son on a second or third birthday and a staple of his childhood.  Though worn and rusted, this icon of all our pasts has many stories to tell.

It spent its early days pulling children up and down country roads on nature walks. Cats and dogs received rides around the yard, whether they wished it or not. The little red wagon saw adventure on beautiful spring days, and occasionally made it into the house on rainy days. 

As my son grew, the wagon went on new adventures. Tricycles gave way to bicycles the little red wagon traded places as a means of transporting children to hauling. Securely tied to the handlebars with a piece of  discarded baling twine the wagon accompanied
him about the drive on pretended safaris, reenactments of bygone pioneers, or landing on a distant planet. The wagon carried all the important equipment needed for an adventure. When he located the perfect hill for rolling down, the red wagon filled the bill.  Rolling down, shrieking in joy, rumbling stop, then pulling it back up the hill for another swoosh.  As my son grew, the red wagon
stopped playing and started working around the farm.

Instead of carrying children, following behind the bicycle, or rolling down the hill, now faded and a little rusty, the wagon worked.  It carried fertilizer, potting soil, and buckets of paint, tools, and groceries.  The wagon rumbled over frozen ground with logs for the stove.  Again time changed and a wheel barrow took the wagon’s place.

The wagon faded more, the wheels froze from lack of use, and rust marred the handle. It sat idly by collecting, dust in the barn.  Finally it moved to the front porch to hold flower pots in the summer, and set empty in the winter. 

Life cycles and my son, now a man, had his own son.  The little boy at two discovered the wagon one day.  We removed pots, brushed away rust spots, and added some red paint to renew the seat and fixed the handle.  The wheels sprayed with lubricant and a few adjustments returned the wagon to working shape.  Now the wagon again serves for nature walks and hauling.  The old wagon is now new again.

COUNTRY WOMAN SURVIVAL: HIDE IT

Rhonda Shephardhttp://rhondashephard.com 

A recent snow storm dumped ten inches of snow on western Oklahoma, reaffirmed my beliefs certain things must be hidden. If you have a spouse like mine, nothing is sacred in the ownership department: brooms, cleaning supplies, cookie dough.  Over the course of our marriage power outage sometimes take on the days to a week proportion, so I learned the value of reserve items.

If you live in the country, a good generator is a must.  I can’t take credit for this one because the valuable nature of keeping cattle watered at the corrals near our house was the foremost concern, not my comfort level.  When the comfort factor was established it was easy to convince my spouse our son and  partner, really needed one at his house. Besides sometimes its like opening Shephard B&B when the electricity goes out for extended lengths of times with the neighbors.

When the electricity is out, and you live in a total electric home, the central system pulls too much electricity, and is the first to go.  If you have a wood stove, and wood, that’s golden.  At my house it’s an iffy situation. I purchased ceramic heaters over the years, and thought we had plenty units during our last outage to keep the house toasty.  Not so, my son forgot to buy them, and disappeared with mine from the travel trailer. I couldn’t deny my grandson warmth, and I had two extra. Not exactly, one I thought well hid ended up in the pump house. We survived until the morning light with one heater I reserved.

Flash lights or lanterns; never store them where somebody can find them. Over my married life, I might have provided runway lighting with disappeared flashlights. There was always a valid promise to return to the specified drawer and protests they needed light now. A broken swather sitting in the dark didn’t earn money in a summer alfalfa field. Lesson learned, purchase a good lightening source, and hoard it, no matter what the protests for illumination. Next time you won’t be stumbling around in the dark.  Burned fingers and dripped wax happen less frequently with battery operated lights.

A good shovel or snow scoop, this has wide and varied uses; clearing the walk to the doorway, or a path pampered pooches to do their duty, or an inspired snow sled for my two year old. The wide bladed wheat or snow scoop is another item that disappears.  I think I might have dug a horizontal oil well with all my missing equipment.  I won’t mentioned household pliers, rakes, hoes, and hammers.

My point, living in the country is often  survival of the fittest, but the winner of the best hidden. If I sound inclined not to share, that’s not the case. I could continue my diatribe about cookie dough, cleaning supplies, cleaning clothes, cookie dough and pecans that
disappears from the freezer, even batteries taken from the TV remote to power the GPS device. I learned my lesson well. After years of bumping around in the dark, huddling under blankets so the water pump doesn’t freeze, and sitting in the dark because the flashlight
borrowed in July never saw the inside of my storage spot again. The best path I found was hiding.

RURAL WOMAN SURVIVAL: HIDE IT

  

  

 

 A recent snow storm dumped ten inches of snow on western Oklahoma, reaffirmed my beliefs certain things must be hidden. If you have a spouse like mine, nothing is sacred in the ownership department: brooms, cleaning supplies, cookie dough.  Over the course of our marriage power outage sometimes take on the days to a week proportion, so I learned the value of reserve items. 

 

 If you live in the country, a good generator is a must.  I can’t take credit for this one because the valuable nature of keeping cattle watered at the corrals near our house was the foremost concern, not my comfort level.  When the comfort factor was established it was easy to convince my spouse our son and  partner, really needed one at his house. Besides sometimes its like opening Shephard B&B when the electricity goes out for extended lengths of times with the neighbors. 

 

   When the electricity is out, and you live in a total electric home, the central system pulls too much electricity, and is the first to go.  If you have a wood stove, and wood, that’s golden.  At my house it’s an iffy situation. I purchased ceramic heaters over the years, and thought we had plenty units during our last outage to keep the house toasty.  Not so, my son forgot to buy them, and disappeared with mine from the travel trailer. I couldn’t deny my grandson warmth, and I had two extra. Not exactly, one I thought well hid ended up in the pump house. We survived until the morning light with one heater I reserved.  

 

    Flash lights or lanterns; never store them where somebody can find them. Over my married life, I might have provided runway lighting with disappeared flashlights. There was always a valid promise to return to the specified drawer and protests they needed light now. A broken swather sitting in the dark didn’t earn money in a summer alfalfa field. Lesson learned, purchase a good lightening source, and hoard it, no matter what the protests for illumination. Next time you won’t be stumbling around in the dark.  Burned fingers and dripped wax happen less frequently with battery operated lights. 

 

     A good shovel or snow scoop, this has wide and varied uses; clearing the walk to the doorway, or a path pampered pooches to do their duty, or an inspired snow sled for my two year old.  The wide bladed wheat or snow scoop is another item that disappears.  I think I might have dug a horizontal oil well with all my missing equipment.  I won’t mentioned household pliers, rakes, hoes, and hammers. 

 

     My point, living in the country is often not survival of the fittest, but the winner of the best hidden. If I sound inclined not to share, that’s not the case. I could continue my diatribe about cookie dough, cleaning supplies, cleaning clothes, cookie dough and pecans that disappears from the freezer, even batteries taken from the TV remote to power the GPS device. I learned my lesson well.  After years of bumping around in the dark, huddling under blankets so the water pump doesn’t freeze, and sitting in the dark because the flashlight borrowed in July never saw the inside of my storage spot again. The best path I found was hiding. 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

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Dirt Roads

Rhonda ShephardMy sister and I visited relatives in Florida not long ago. We left a forecast of snow and cold behind and enjoyed 82 degree days.  Located in an affluent area near Orlando, I came face to face with the adage, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, or in this case: dirt roads.

Our hostess drove through an idyllic town with charming two story homes and wide porches, and dirt roads. When the cloud of dust whirled around the car I stated the obvious “The streets are dirt.”  She replied “Oh, that’s the way the residents want it. The town thinks it increases privacy.”

Spending the majority of my life on red dirt roads all I could think who wanted dirt roads?  Nobody near my rural home petitioned to leave my country roads unpaved.  Visions of roads resembling powder sugar during droughts coating the car, tracking in houses, smudging the windows played in my head.  I envisioned red clay bogging vehicles to the rims, then leaving rutted tracks to jar your body.  I remember dancing on the freshly paved road when the County completed the job. Now I heard people actually wanted it that way.  I felt confused.

I found it perplexing folks living on the fringe of a metropolitan area yearning for blowing dirt and ruts.  I found it strange some notions it added charm of their property.  Did they want the pace of a rural lifestyle?  Did they want to live a country song of dirt roads going home?  Did they feel this separated them from problems the encountered in their metropolitan sprawl?  In my rural location, twenty miles from a pharmacy or grocery store, we thrilled to drive on pavement.  Happy is what a person perceives it to be; my brand of happiness includes my black-topped country lanes twenty miles from civilization.  I think the folks living in that town are happy because they have their dirt roads.