Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Draining the Bunk

In 48 hours we have gone from a purebred cattle operation to a full-blown mud ranch. 

It really is amazing what 3+ inches of rain can do to a place in such a short amount of time. Nothing looks pleasant, everything is brown, and everyone moves slower than normal – humans included.

The mud doesn’t bother the kids, of course, until they’re face down in it. Otherwise, they appreciate puddles and endless brown paints to smear on the side of vehicles. 

I buckled them into the Kubota last evening to do chores and began filling buckets of feed from the bin. Because of the depth of the mud, I opted to carry buckets everywhere rather than attempt to drive an ATV through it. I let the kids know I was going to start carrying buckets and they could watch but they were not to go anywhere. This instruction was easier before Caroline learned how to undo seatbelts on her and her brother. 

I got about twenty yards into a lot when the mud got really bad; soupy, deep, bad. My pace slowed as every step was harder to lift my leg out of. I suddenly heard a strange noise coming from back in the barn lot. I stopped in my tracks and listened – it was Caroline, but what was she screaming?

“Gooooo Mommy! Don’t get your feet stuck!” Over and over again. I had my own personal cheerleader for MudFest 2020. That somehow made me stronger. 

Fifteen minutes later we moved over to the next lot where we feed our steers. I began carrying the buckets to the metal feed bunk and arrived to find it had standing water in it. The drain holes on each end of the bunk were plugged by sediment; remnants of feed, hay chaff, or mud that one of the stock had flipped into the feeder. I removed my glove and ran my hand along the inside of the bunk, finding the plugged hole. As soon as I cleared the blockage, brown water began draining from the bunk. The rain was still coming down steadily while I was draining this water, but I wanted to ensure it drained completely before putting anymore feed into the wet bunk, as cattle don’t like to drink their dinner. I stood in the rain and let it unload while the kids watched from afar. 

In those long minutes (maybe four, but it felt much longer), I thought about the things that take up space in life that need to go away so something better can fill it. 

Our house, especially after the holidays, has become a point of stress for me. Because I have a terribly hard time tossing anything related to our children, we now have double the toys any two kids could play with. We have books we haven’t read in months, but I can’t toss them because they bring back a special memory of two sets of footie pajamas on my exhausted lap. We have art brought home from Sunday school where Jesus’ head is missing because someone was curious and teething, and I cannot put that piece of paper in the trash. Don’t get me started on tiny tractors with only two tires remaining.

Then I thought about how I spend my time. I should probably cut out Facebook, but then how would I know what my second cousin twice removed had for supper? I should probably cut out Pinterest, but then how would I find hundreds of recipes for the four open containers of dry mustard I have in my kitchen cupboard?

What about you? 

Is there anything in your life, filling so much space or your precious time, that the things that bring you peace can’t fit in? Maybe it is clutter, knick-knacks you never even dust, clothes you’ve not worn in a year, or shoes that hurt your feet. Maybe it is time-wasters such as apps that consume your time and attention, taking you away from life happening right in front of you. Or perhaps, even, it is simply people who drain you, rather than fill you up. 

It’s ok to pull the plug on anything that is filling your bunk that shouldn’t be there. Could now be the time to finally make room for what truly belongs?

Of course, I pen this with a stack of Country Living magazines dating back to 2016, the year I had Caroline. I have saved them with great intention to “get back to them when things slow down.” 

When I have more time. 

Who am I kidding? I’m writing a newspaper column from a cattle pen in the pouring rain.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Draft

Well, I survived the holidays, but two poinsettias and my jeans did not. 

I pen this on January 4th. How can two plants die and that many pounds be gained in such a short period, you ask? Come to the farm and I'll coach you. We've been living on cheeseball, black coffee and FFA fruit for 15 days. Turns out, poinsettias hate black coffee. And children under 4 only eat the bacon off cheeseball. Then Mom is left to clean up the rest. 

I love a challenge.

Things really began going south when I was washing the bacon grease off a pan and felt wind blowing through my hair. The kids were playing in the living room and Cody was leafing through an Angus Journal in his chair. He was supposed to be watching the children.

"Everybody STOP" I yelled. "Someone has left a door or window open," I continued while drying my hands on a dishtowel. I have a genetic advantage that allows me to feel minimal drafts of air move through areas where they should not. 

I once toured the White House at Christmas in 2007 and let the tour guide know the Map Room had a draft coming from the most northwest wall. That sure cut my tour short, but I do hope it saved Barack Obama a few bucks after he moved in. 

As it turns out, I was right about someone in my family leaving a door open. 

I turned away from the kitchen sink to find my beautiful, tiny, biting 1 1/2-year-old toe-head son standing (STANDING!) in the refrigerator with the door wide open. He was holding the middle shelf with his left hand, waving his right hand to the top shelf, trying to reach the blueberries. 

Of all things he had the audacity to waste energy on, he picked blueberries? There were buckeyes made by my mother two inches to the right. Rookie mistake. One day he'll learn. 

Of course, after quickly removing him from the Frigidaire, swatting his diaper-padded bottom in the same way one might swat a fly which had a pet name, I escorted that little boy into the living room. Then I really let his dad have it. 

I may have mentioned things such as:
You had one job. 
Cyrus not only left the room, but he also found chaos in another. 
He was STANDING IN the refrigerator. 
He was probably there for 15 minutes, I don't really know, I was busy washing dishes. 
We’re so lucky he didn’t open all the salad dressings and spray V8 in every direction!
What if he would have gotten a concussion?

After my tirade, I looked at my beloved husband. 

Boy, has he got some nerve. He calmly responded with, "If it is any consolation, I sold our grain bin on Facebook 5 minutes ago. At the price we hoped for." 

I have never wanted to kiss and kill someone at the same time, until this moment. 

That night I put both kids in fleece footie pajamas, covered them in handmade quilts and wiped noses that were not running. I checked them for hypothermia-like symptoms, fed them only milk that had been warmed and asked both if they'd like to sleep in their favorite toboggan. 

They both declined. They’re tough as nails, to brave the 69-degree second floor. 

Once they were both soundly asleep, I checked the second-floor windows for a draft, and found none. I went downstairs and checked under the bathroom sink because my feet get chilly while starting coffee in the morning, behind the clothes dryer because I don’t trust an external vent that large and every west window. All appeared well sealed. The new year draft did, in fact, only come from an open refrigerator door from a curious toddler. How do you cure curiosity and hunger from a toddler in order to preserve the heating of a farmhouse? I guess I need to read to him more often and I’ll probably go make another cheeseball after I wrap this up.  

I suppose I could just up the thermostat, but that costs too much money. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Christmas with Children

Having children has really changed the Christmas game. Before becoming a mother, I’d turn our home into a scene out of a Norman Rockwell print. At the time of this writing, I still have a Thanksgiving wreath hanging on our backdoor. 

My indoor decorations are minimal this year because I’m still pulling foam winter berries from last year out of Cyrus’ mouth. I cannot figure out where he is finding them. Probably the register now that he’s learned how to remove the grate. Additionally, the bottom three feet of the tree is bare because he has an incredible reach for a 1 ½-year-old. The thing is awfully top-heavy, but when I found a red glitter bulb floating in the toilet, I knew something had to change. 

Caroline has really put a festive spin on her daily questions. Last week she asked the following: 

  • Is there a baby in Santa’s belly?
  • Does Mrs. Claus go to the grocery when he delivers presents?
  • What kind of animal is the Grinch?
  • Should Cyrus get no presents since he pee-peed the bed again?
  • Should I just get Cyrus’ presents?
  • If Jesus was born in a barn did he smell like a cow when he came out?
The list goes on.

I tell the kids every evening before bed that they need to pick up their toys, so Santa doesn’t trip on them if he shows up tonight. Caroline continues to convince me that “we’ve still got time” while she climbs the stairs, toys still scattered across the living room floor. One day she’ll be a mom and will understand the pain of stepping on a pocket tractor in the 2:00 am darkness. 

 Because there are so many toys packed into this old farmhouse, we’re keeping our Christmas buying to a minimum this year. One toy, one book, one outfit and a new plate/bowl set for each. If you see our kids between now and the 25th, please don’t tell them. As these things are purchased, I’ve had a heck of a time hiding them throughout an old house without closets. And I’ve reached the age that I’m afraid I’m never going to find the Christmas presents I’ve hidden. Cody asked last week why there was a new pair of footie pajamas folded and placed in his farm filing cabinet. I told him because that’s the last place Cyrus will ever look. He just shook his head and went back to the barn. 

We went to see Santa last week and that was a real treat. Cyrus went right to the jolly old elf, sat on his lap and proceeded to take Santa’s hat off, with the hair attached. Talk about traumatic childhood experiences. I jumped inside the wintery scene and tried to get it back on the man before any other children saw the situation. Caroline, watching this unfold, instantly clammed up and wouldn’t mutter a word to Santa when she got her turn. She didn’t mention the horse, puppy, or Barbie dream house she’s bent my ear about for the last month. We proceeded to get both kids on his lap for a photo and I think it would have been easier to baptize a cat. While we were trying to get both of them to smile - or even look in the general direction of the camera – Santa’s helper elf reminded us that we couldn’t use cell phones to snap a shot. Professional pictures only with the mall Santa. $29 later, we have a 5x7 and six wallets to commemorate one of the worst experiences of their lives to this point. 

Christmas with children is a thousand times better than without. The magic, anticipation, and spirit of the season only get better with time. Hopefully, mall Santas do, too. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Kitchen Table Conversation

We recently spent Saturday playing hard with cousins who live on the east side of Indianapolis. Our two children, ages one and three, are still great nappers for the most part. When they both forfeited an afternoon nap, I knew the bedtime routine would need modification to meet my selfish, personal needs:

1)    Feeding four pens of cattle four different feed regiments
2)    Checking said cattle eyes, noses and stools
3)    Getting frozen clothes off the line
4)    Loading the dishwasher
5)    Unpacking the travel bag and washing any cloth casualties (we’re in the thick of potty training – day 334)
6)    Rest in general

I carried Cyrus into the house, and he remained asleep, warm and ready for bed. Cyrus, who has fallen down the farmhouse steps twice and keeps his cheeks packed full of windowsill insects, is so surprisingly pleasant and easy at this stage. 

I carried Caroline in the house from the cold car, and as we reached the patio she asked through the cold darkness, “What’s for supper?”

I looked at the clock on the microwave. It was only 5:45. It was dark. She was tired. I was tired. I decided to use daylight saving time to my advantage. So I did what any optimistic, exhausted mom would have: I lied. 

“Honey. It’s the middle of the night. You slept through dinner. It is time for bed.”

“But I don’t remember dinner,” she responded, slumped over my shoulder. “And I’m hungry.” I knew then: If the kid talks about hunger in her sleep, it’s probably real. 

I sat her down at the dining room table and put a slice of leftover homemade pizza on her favorite plate and warmed it in the mircrowave. By the time I delivered it to her, she was wide-eyed, and far too curious.

This is a sampling of the questions Caroline asked over half-warm-day-old-pizza:

1)    Why can’t Cyrus have my pizza?
2)    Have you ever choked? 
3)    Are pepperoni and macaroni sisters?
4)    Does Dolla Genna (Dollar General) have horses?
5)    Can I have Amish horse?
6)    Why so many trucks go by in the middle of the night? (it was maybe 6:00 PM at this point) Where they going?
7)    Why does (cousin) have shineys on her teeth?
8)    Can I have them? 
9)    Am I pretty?
10)  Is Cyrus pretty?
11)  Whys he cry so much?
12)  Why didn’t you brush your hair today?
13)  Why don’t birds have teeth?

I sat there and watched her get marinara sauce in her hair, eating pizza and talking to me at the kitchen table like she was twelve. My mind flashed to a decade ahead when I will likely beg for my daughter to talk to me “in the middle of the night”. 

That’s why I didn’t shut her down or encourage her to hurry up and eat. I simply sat and listened. I studied her. I answered her curious questions to the best of my ability. 

That kitchen table conversation reminded me of the many precious conversations I had with my grandmother over the years. For some reason, I found it easier to sit at her kitchen table and talk to her about frustrating careers, disappointing relationships or life in general than anywhere else in the world. She was no counselor – things to her were very black and white – but she always got the full story out of me. Something about that picture window overlooking the farm and her listening ears kept me talking over the years. We consistently got to the heart of the matter and I always left there with clarity and knowing I had been heard.

So, I continued to listen to our three-year-old and answer questions. She thought she was experiencing a special privilege staying “up all night” having pizza with just mommy, but she had no idea how precious that leftover dinner conversation was to me.

That night, my daughter reiterated a lesson my grandmother taught me during my formative years: It is remarkable the things people will tell you if you simply sit back, shut up, and listen. Perhaps the toughest part of this act is simply shutting up. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Pear Tree

We have a pear tree in our yard, and like nearly every other tree on the farm, it was here long before we were. We didn’t plant the dream, but annually we look forward to its bounty. 

Over the last six years I’ve been in awe of how much fruit one small tree can produce. I annually pick up buckets of pears that hit the ground, and in some instances, they hit me on the way down. I consider it a small price to pay. This tree has an amazing ability to not only produce many pears, but they’re quite large, also. The majority of the pears that fall are the size of softballs. It is incredible!

Last year, the small tree produced so many large pears that branches began splitting and breaking off. I was so disappointed to see the tree literally break under the pressure of itself. It took on so much that it was simply falling apart. In an effort to save the beloved tree, my husband decided to take a pair of pruners and snip off the branches that were broken. I wondered if this was a good idea. Don’t things in nature usually just work themselves out? Once the pears all fell, wouldn’t it just spring back into shape? Do men really always find the need to get involved….with tools? 

I would never tell him this, but between you and I, I was sick watching the situation unfold. He is so good at many things, but I silently questioned his ability to trim the right limbs that would ensure we’d still have a fruitful tree next year. I’ve seen the man’s resume. Arborist was never on it. 

I watched from afar, trying not to be in the way. 

A branch there. 

Another on the north side. 

Two more close to the bottom. 

One more on the south. 

By the time he was done, the pear tree looked more like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree than it did the original, strong fruit tree. I smiled and told him that he’d done a great job, secretly certain I’d just picked my last crop of pears. Ever.

But guess what. A month ago, a neighbor stopped by and picked up a bucket of pears off the ground to use for pear butter. 

Two days ago, I picked two full buckets of pears off the ground, beautifully yellow and turning sweet orange. 

As I pen this, I’m looking outside and see at least a dozen more that have fallen in the last 48 hours. 

The tree is back to its old self; it just needed help. 

I can look out at the pear tree tonight and think about resilience, strength and bouncing back. But this fall the tree has taught me even more about asking for help. 

What is it about asking for help – or even admitting that you need help – that is so tough? I remember well when a neighbor stopped in while I was carrying two buckets of feed with a baby strapped to my chest. She asked if I needed help – I quickly declined any assistance. Why would I have done that? Was I crazy? Yes, probably. 

Decades ago, my grandmother got kicked by a Holstein cow, broke her arm, and finished the evening milking by tying a cutting board to her arm with a handkerchief. I’m not from the kind of stock that is comfortable asking for help. Or complaining. 

Vulnerability. Fear. Rejection. Weakness. We’re living in a culture where none of those things feel warm or inviting. Maybe they shouldn’t. But maybe that’s what we need.  

Asking for help: Vulnerability. Fear. Rejection. Weakness. The pear tree never felt those things, but I can guess that maybe you have. I have, too. 

It is acceptable to ask for help. It is acceptable to not do it all alone. It is acceptable to admit that you need support, large or quite small. 

And between you and I: It is acceptable for someone else to carry the bucket. 

In fact, could it be that much of what 
weighs you down isn’t yours to carry?

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A Girl and Her Llorse

As I pen this, the chilling October wind howls through the hundred-year-old pine outside our kitchen window, the clouds float across a moon-lit sky and I’m getting chills just thinking of Halloween. Not because the holiday creeps me out, but because my back is against the wall regarding the event.  

Two months ago, Caroline made mention that she wanted to be a horse for Halloween. We had barely made it through August, so Halloween wasn’t even on my radar. A month later I asked her what she’d like to dress up as. Same answer: A horse. 

Since then, I’ve tried convincing her to be a cowgirl, a farmer, a jockey, or even a princess (her resistance to this idea is genetic). I’ve had no success. She doesn’t want to be a person, she wants to be an animal, and a horse to be exact. She wants it to have a mane and a tail she can braid. She wants it to be brown. She’s not particular for a three-year-old, at all. My search for a horse costume began in late September and continues to this day, October 30.

I asked friends, visited stores and searched Amazon. The online site was the only place I could find one, and even then they were $40 and didn’t even have a braidable mane. Yes, I took her desires to heart.

One day at the co-op a coworker heard me discuss my dilemma and offered the use of a llama costume she had. Initially, I thought there was no way that would work, then I remembered that I only had brown yarn and a pair of Carhartts waiting for my creativity and (lack of) skill to kick in. I accepted the llama offer. 

I have hidden the costume in the spare bedroom for five days, peeking at it every so often to determine how I can transform the darn thing. It has a long neck, short tail, no mane, and tassels. Lots and lots of tassels. 

I went to Wal-Mart and found yarn which matched the multi-colored llama perfectly. I created a long tail and fastened on during the late hours of Saturday night. On Sunday I created a mane with the same yarn and I’m having a hard time figuring out how to secure it without damaging the co-worker’s costume. 

On Sunday afternoon I gave myself the, “Now or never” pep talk and decided to show the Llorse - you read that right - to Caroline. I brought it out of the spare bedroom, presented it to her and she studied it. I felt like I was waiting on the judge to examine my open show project at the county fair. I fully recognize how ridiculous that is. 

Then, with one squeal and a big squeeze, she hugged that llorse so tightly. She loved it. She loved it so much, that she has groomed the llorse extensively. I’ve reattached the tail once and the mane three times. Before tomorrow I must find a better way to keep the disguise up before my daughter figures it out. I’m telling you: as soon as the mane and the tail fall off at the same time, this charade is over.  

I’m only putting this in print because our daughter is three and is not an avid blog reader. I fully understand that as she grows she will be more difficult to fool and I’ll need to take her August warnings more seriously. 

Until then, if you see a young brunette running around town in a shoddy horse costume with a tail dragging across Mainstreet and strange tassels all over the ribbon halter, please just give her extra candy. She has a rough home life. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Auction Itch

You can travel all over the United States this season and find a cattle auction going on or approaching. Many beef cows, heifers, and bulls are sold this time of year, whether in the commercial, purebred or show cattle industry. 

Two weeks ago, our family of four traveled to the Kansas flinthills for our family’s production sale, then we went to the beautiful sandhills of Nebraska to another sale where we had beef embryos selling. Over five days, we logged 2,227 miles. That’s a lot of time in a car seat, just ask the kids. 

I love attending these livestock auctions. The atmosphere of the sale, the auctioneer’s rhythmic chant, and “HA! HA!” of the ring men who call the bids – it is truly an exciting event. It is amazing what some stock will bring, what genetics are sold for and how people select what they’d like to take back home to their operations. 

But I’ll tell you, there is something about a live auction that makes me itch. Seriously. 

When at a live auction, you should sit very still so the ring man or auctioneer doesn’t think you’re bidding on the lot. 
Do not nod. 
Do not wink. 
Do not move your arms. 

Not me. 

Put me at an auction and I itch, twitch, and simply do not have the ability to sit still. At the sale in Nebraska, I got something in my eye during the heat of the sale, and could not quit raising my arms to get whatever it was, out. Naturally, I kept blinking, winking moving my head back and forth to find comfort. My husband wasn’t terribly impressed that I almost bought a Hereford bull for more money than we have in our farm bank account. After a bit of confusion, I excused myself to the food line for the remainder of the event. 

A month ago, we went to an estate auction and I watched as they sold the 1989 Crown Victoria. It was at that moment that I saw an old neighbor and couldn’t help but wave. This was a bad, bad idea. Next thing I know, I’m “in” at $2,500 and the auctioneer asks if I want to take the bid to $3,000. I nodded “no” then again excused myself to the dessert line. 

Do you notice a trend?

On Friday night we went to an Angus sale outside West Lafayette. There I was, minding my own business and visiting with a cattle friend when I hear the auctioneer say in the middle of his chant, “Lindsay! You’re OUT!” I looked up to the auction block, and he was, in fact, looking straight at me. I wanted to respond with, “Frankly, I had no idea I was even in,” but I only nodded “no” and walked outside to get some fresh air. I think I use my hands too much when I talk. 

My husband attends these cattle sales for a living, in search of the next great beef bull. He’s taken me to three live auctions over the last two weeks, and I am fairly certain he’ll never again invite me to job shadow him. I’m just a risk that he (we) can’t afford. 

But if you do drive by our farm and see a Hereford bull, 1989 Crown Victoria or something else that just doesn’t fit in, please understand that it is probably a (/an expensive) result of me getting an untimely itch at an auction. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Mike the Mule

In the closing minutes of a recent meeting, a client of Sankey Creative remarked, “I enjoy reading your blog. I don’t know how you keep finding things to write about.” I told the gentleman that finding the uninterrupted time to sit down and write has always been the challenge, rather than finding things to write about. Somehow, stories or topics just always seem to...come out of nowhere. 

That was last Thursday. 

On Friday afternoon, the kids and I returned home from Ohio with a load of feed. Cody met us at the truck and said, “You’re not going to believe this. The strangest thing. I look out to the pasture and all the cows are stirred up, something really has their attention. And across the pasture goes a white horse!”

“What?!” I asked him. “Where did it come from? Where did it go?” Cody didn’t have solid answers for either of those questions. The white horse seemed to appear from nowhere, then disappear again. 

An hour later all four of us were working outside when Cody yelled, “Lindsay! Look at the woods! There it is!” And sure enough (Cody hadn’t been drinking in the middle of the afternoon), out of the woods emerged a large white horse. 

This is not the horse that emerged from our woods.
This is a result from Googling, "White horse woods"
The cows were stirred yet again, so we needed to take action by calling neighbors. The first neighbor just laughed and said it wasn’t theirs. The second neighbor just laughed and said yes, in fact, he was missing Mike the Mule. In our defense, we hadn’t been close enough to the majestic animal to determine it was actually a mule, not a horse. 

In the same minute that we determined where he belonged, Mike the Mule took off running north, then he cut across our yard. Then he did something really stupid: He stepped onto Highway 35. 

Here is probably where I should describe where we live. We live just west of the crest of a hill on a terribly busy highway. You can look west out of our drive and see ½ a mile, but looking east only grants you about 75 yards. That isn’t a long distance when trying to pull out onto a road where people may be going 60+ mph. Much to our dismay, we don’t have a dog because of this location. I’ve scraped enough barn cats off the highway with a scoop shovel to know that I don’t have the intestinal fortitude to own a family dog. 

So, when Mike the Mule stepped onto Highway 35, my heart sank for multiple reasons. Cyrus was on my hip and Caroline was by my side and they both thought it was pretty awesome that a magical white horse appeared out of nowhere and wanted to play with their cows. I had a bad feeling they were about to see something no child should. Then, my animal adoring husband decides to step out on to 35 and try to stop traffic at the crest of the hill so Mike the Mule doesn’t turn into Rex the Roadkill right in front of our farm. 

You have to understand Cody and horses. Having grown up on a Kansas ranch, horses are quite special to him. His parents still have his childhood horse, Socks, on the ranch and Caroline visits Socks and friends when we travel west. When Cody saw a horse(/mule) in danger, he stopped at nothing to try to get it out of harm’s way. 

So there I was. Baby on the hip, toddler on hanging on to my leg crying for her daddy, a white mule trotting a straight line down the double yellow of 35 and low and behold, a Red Gold semi barreling up from the other direction. 

“This is not going to end well,” I told the kids. “We’re going to the house.” 

Of course, I couldn’t, because while Mike did seem special, I also cared about the well-being of Cody, who had suddenly turned into Walker Texas Ranger right in front of our very eyes. He was going to save the world. And by the world, I mean Mike the Mule. 

Of course, my mind kept clicking back to how I was going to call my in-laws in Kansas and explain to them that Cody got into a tangle with a Tahoe because he was trying to save a random mule from getting clipped in front of Caroline’s concerned, and always curious, eyes. 

Quite luckily for all parties involved, I never had to make that phone call. 

A black suburban, silver Fusion and beige Buick all barreled over the crest of the hill but avoided Mike and Cody. The Red Gold truck slowed his ascent up the hill and pulled over the shoulder with his flashers on. Mike the Mule made a very smart decision and took a left through our double red gates and went back onto our property. Cody closed and latched the gate behind him.

Mike’s owner came a short time later with a halter and lead rope. Cody got Mike haltered and lead him back up our ditch to a pen where he would be safe until the owner returned with a stock trailer. 

While filling milk cups for bed, Caroline looked out our south window which overlooks the pens. “Look! Daddy got me a white horse!” she yelled out. I broke her heart by reminding her that was Mike the Mule and he’d (hopefully) be gone before she woke up the next morning. And he was. 

Every day since, we’ve traveled St. Road 1 and seen Mike the Mule out grazing where he is supposed to be. Caroline looks for him each time and she’s grown quite fond of the rogue rascal. I, too, look for Mike at every opportunity. Not because I necessarily like him, but because I want to ensure he stays where he belongs and doesn’t become the reason for a long-distance phone call back to Kansas.