Photos of Brady

Friday, April 30, 2004


Many of you have asked about the ghost that occupied the upstairs of our old farmhouse, and about the size of the pack rat that stole things from the house. I will attempt to tie up some of the loose ends.

After we found out about the ghost we asked our landlord if he knew any history of the house. He told us that there were two people that had died there. One was an older man, and the second was a young boy they remembered to be a pre teen. He had been bedfast, and the circumstances of his illness and death were a bit sketchy.

We had been occupying the upstairs rooms all summer. There were three huge bedrooms up there, and lots of windows to let in air. We had no air conditioning of course, so it was better than sleeping in the downstairs bedroom that had only one window. There were remnants of plastic that had been used for weather proofing the windows that flapped in the wind, and many times I woke in the night to watch that plastic moving eerily. I had thought at the time it looked like a specter, and many times that I thought there was white ghost like images in the room on a particularly moonlit night. There were always weird sounds that could be heard, but we had just dismissed it as old house noise.

We never had any adverse things happen with the ghost, and never knew who it was, but the fact that we were coexisting with Casper, as we named him, was eerie.

As for the rat, we never had any more trouble with things disappearing like we had experienced before catching the pack rat. We did however have more rats. There were so many mice that we kept poison out all the time and traps set. It became part of the daily chores for Hank to check and empty the traps. I could never even look at the traps let alone check and empty them, so it was a good thing it didn’t bother him.

In a previous post I had written about the time we encountered a rat in the house. Jonathan was just toddling around, and had wandered into the kitchen When he didn’t come back, and didn’t make any noise, I went to check on him. He was standing there looking at a big rat. The big rat was looking back at him. It was the biggest rat! I had never seen any up close, but I knew immediately it was a rat. What scared me more than the rat was the fact it was in the house and that my baby was standing not three feet from it.

I eased out of the room and motioned for Hank to come quickly. Evidently the rat had been into the poison we had on the porch and pantry. Hank thought that it was dazed from that, otherwise it would most likely have scurried away when Jonathan entered the kitchen. Hank grabbed Jonathan up and handed him to me, and waved us back into the living room. I heard a very loud noise, and then the sound of Hank leaving through the back door.

When he came back inside, he told me that he had kicked it into the cabinet and killed it. From that point on, we didn’t use poison any more. Hank cleaned it all up and borrowed some more rat traps from the landlord. He moved the dog food and rabbit food out to the hen house.

Just another day….here on our country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, April 29, 2004


It wasn’t unusual for Hank to take my good flatware, Tupperware, or dishes out when he fed the dogs. I didn’t mind that he took them out of the house, it was that they many times didn’t make it back into the house. Jennifer was also bad to pluck a serving spoon out of the flatware drawer to stir mud pies with. I loved my flatware, and had taken good care of it because the pattern had been discontinued and I wouldn’t be able to replace it.

The oddest things began happening. My flatware began disappearing. Jennifer’s barrettes went missing. Pieces of aluminum foil that I had saved for baked potatoes vanished. Even the flats and rings from canning jars. Plucked right out of the dish drainer. I began to suspect that Jennifer was using them to play with. It became a daily ritual for me to search for the missing items wherever she had been playing, or wherever Hank had fed the dogs. Nothing.

I thought that our ghost was messing with me. Hank wasn’t convinced, but he looked upstairs for me as I wasn’t allowed up the stairs until after the baby was born. He was never able to find anything up there. This went on for months. I began to cover everything in my drawers with dishtowels and store used aluminum foil under my cookbook in the kitchen.

One day I sent Hank out to the pantry to get some fruit I had canned for a cobbler. He brought the jars in for me but took my hand and let me out to the pantry. He had to squat down to the bottom shelf behind some of the canned fruit and jellies I was so proud of to show me what had taken his interest. Moving the jars out of the way, he pointed to a tangle of things. Some of Jennifer’s little socks, one of Hank’s handkerchiefs, pieces of material, plastic, paper, and one of my scarves. The odd collection of things was arranged into some kind of nest. You could see where something had been laying in there. Also present were several pieces of my flatware, barrettes, some of Hank’s shell casings from his reloading bin, canning flats and rings, and aluminum foil.

Evidently we had a pack rat. I had heard the term all my life, but had never thought anything about it really referring to something real. At any rate, Hank gathered my lost items, and I took them back into the house to sterilize them. He set a rat trap next to the nest, and the next day he had the rat. A big thing, he said. I wouldn’t know because I never saw it. Just one more thing I can’t deal with. Yuk.

Mystery solved, and once again things settled back to normal…..here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, April 28, 2004


I have talked about the big old farm house that Hank, Jennifer and I lived in for two years. There was virtually no insulation, but lots of room. When you walked in the front door there was a huge dining room. A flu divided the living and dining room. We had a wood stove in both rooms, and there were both burning most of the time or there was no way to tolerate the cold months.

On both sides of the flu there were two arched doorways that led from one room to the other. There was one bedroom downstairs that was located off the living room, and it was big enough for our double bed and Jennifer’s youth bed. We all stayed in the same room during the cold months so that we didn’t have to heat the upstairs where the other bedrooms were.

Hank put plastic over the windows on the outside so that some of the wind and cold would be blocked. The curtains still moved in and out. When the wind picked up the plastic flapped in the breeze. Evidently Hank was used to it, but it took a long time for me to get used to all the weird noises, creaks and groans of the house.

One day I was in the kitchen baking bread. The TV was on in the living room for Jennifer and she was playing. The kitchen was located next to the dining room, and the door to the upstairs was just inside the kitchen hall. We kept it shut with a lock Hank fashioned from a block of wood and a large nail. We kept it closed all the time so Jennifer wouldn’t go up the stairs and fall. I had just made out the loaves and set them to raise when I heard footsteps walking around upstairs.

Immediately I thought Jennifer had somehow opened the door and made her way upstairs. When I rounded the corner to the door, I could see the door was closed and the block of wood was in place. Thinking I was hearing things I went back into the kitchen and started the dishes. Once again I heard footsteps, this time going up and down the stairs. Fear gripped me. How could someone have entered the house and made their way upstairs but the door still be locked?

Fortunately it was almost time for Hank to get home from work. When he got home, I told him about what I had heard. Of course he thought I was crazy. I didn’t hear it anymore for a couple of days, but one night after we had gone to bed we heard it. Someone was indeed walking around the upstairs, and then up and down the stairway. Hank got up and got his flashlight. While he was investigating, I waited by Jennifer. Shortly he came back and said he had found no one upstairs, no sign of entry, and nothing out of place. He was satisfied, and laid back down and started to go to sleep. He finally told me, however reluctantly, that we most likely had a ghost.

Great. The only thing my life lacked was a theme song and commercials.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, April 27, 2004


“These are the times that try men’s souls…”

Truer words were never written.

It is a very accurate description of my life as I attempted to adapt to farm life. Living on the country road with mom and my grandparents when I first came to Smalltown was enough of a jolt, but at least I was with people whose thinking, life paths and lifestyles were familiar to me. When I married Hank I began a very long slide into a dark place.

Mom and Dad raised us to be positive and that we could be whatever we set our minds to be. In this instance I made the decision to marry Hank because it provided the security Jennifer and I needed, and a chance to make a new life for us. Foolishly I thought that if I could live in the country with my relatives, I could live in the country with a country boy.

Hank was a good man in many ways, but he never accepted me for who I was. He thought that the longer we were married the more I would come to resemble the country girl he needed and wanted for a wife. We were both doomed to disappointment, because I suppose I thought that the longer we were married, the more like my family he would become.

I did learn many things while we were married. Doing without financial security challenged my abilities as a wife and homemaker. I made gifts for birthdays and Christmas, made our clothes, and learned to clean everything with bleach, dish soap or vinegar. I didn’t have a vacuum cleaner, so I wore out several brooms.

Hank didn’t like to talk books, movies, current events or politics. Forget philosophy, psychology, religion, or self help issues. I splurged on a library card for the Smalltown library, and read books for company. After having access to a big city library had spoiled me. The library here is sadly lacking, many of the books old and outdated. Many of the newer books had been bought with memorial donations.

Although many of the memories I have of that time are good ones, most of that time is painful. The harder I tried to belong the more I was found lacking. It was a new experience for me. Had it not been for my mom’s support, my faith, and my friend Diane in K.C., I would likely have thrown in the towel years before I did. I just didn’t want to fail again. Once my son was born things improved for a while, but Hank and I had very different thoughts on child rearing.

I write about the things that were a part of my life at the time, because it represents ten years of my life. Many of the experiences will help my children know about my life at a time when they were too young to understand. And it helps me put in perspective a time of challenge, pain and growth. Character isn’t built on the mountain tops.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, April 26, 2004


Life on the farm fell into a routine. I was seven months pregnant with my son, and Jennifer kept me company while I was restricted to bed rest. During the day I rested on the couch while she played with her toys and watched TV.

After the incident with the chickens we didn’t venture out any more into the barnyard. Hank took care of the chores before and after work so that I wouldn’t be tempted, but he needn’t have worried. I had no desire to repeat that experience.

My refrigerator was bulging at the seams with cartons of eggs. We gave them away to anyone who needed them, but Hank gathered four dozen a day. After a while they just began to pile up. The older the chickens got the more feed they ate, and Hank began to talk about butchering some. The feed bill was getting to be a financial burden, and we needed the meat.

One Saturday Hank’s parents came. They never left their farm, so I was immediately concerned. Hank let them in and I made some coffee and sliced a cake I had made the night before. Evidently he knew they were coming. After we had our coffee and cake, Hank told me they had come to help butcher. “What?” I screeched.

Suffice to say I got a real education that day. I will never forget it. Ever. I can still see Hank and his dad ringing the necks of my prize chickens. His mother and I worked in the kitchen boiling water to fill five gallon buckets they had brought. They were on the covered porch where we had put the baby chick cages months before. Once we had several buckets full of boiling water Hank’s mom went out and gathered up several chickens in each hand. I couldn’t watch. They had no heads and there was blood everywhere. The sound of chickens squawking is something I will never forget. There was fear and pandemonium in the barnyard.

Once the chickens had been put in the boiling water for a few minutes they were removed and stacked on a tarp. When Hank and his dad had finished ringing necks, they carried the dead chickens up by the back door and began to pluck the feathers from the ones that had already been singed. The smell of those wet feathers and the sight of the dead plucked chickens drove me into the living room where I stayed for an hour in an attempt to settle my roiling stomach.

After a time I went to the kitchen to help. I didn’t want to do it, but Hank’s family already thought of me as a washout as a farm wife. I wanted to pull my weight. I was put in charge of cutting off the feet and legs from the plucked chickens. Hank’s mom showed me how to do it, and once she handed me the knife she went back to gutting the chickens. I didn’t want to touch the legs, but I had to do it as she was waiting for me to begin. I managed to do it, although the feel of those legs and feet was weird. After cutting them off they were dropped into a five gallon bucket next to my legs. When the bucket was full Hank dumped it and set it back inside the door. Once again I set to work cutting off the legs and feet and filling the bucket.

Once that job was done, I helped with the gutting process. I have to tell you that it is a wonder to me even now that I could do it, but my determination to show Hank and his parents I wasn’t a wimp overrode my fear. I was able to do several before the smell made me sick. Being pregnant worked against me, but it was just my luck to reenter the kitchen when it was time to clean the gizzards. Hank wanted the livers and gizzards saved because he liked to eat them. Yuk. I was shown what to do, and picked up a knife to begin. After doing several, I cut one open only to find a weird thing inside. I showed it to Hank’s mom, who started laughing. She told me chickens ate everything, and we were liable to find just about anything inside them. This turned out to be a slightly decomposed lizard. That did it. I lost my coffee and cake, and spent the rest of the day on the couch.

Hank’s mom fried fresh chicken for lunch. I wanted nothing to do with it. I couldn’t believe they could sit around the table and eat something that had been walking around the barnyard a few hours before. After the meal was over I helped clean up the dishes and the kitchen. The butchered chickens were stacked on the counter in plastic freezer bags to cool. Once the body heat was out of them we could tie up the bags and put them in the deep freezer. 57 of them.

Hank was very pleased with the day’s work, but I wanted nothing to do with the chickens. I didn’t cook any of them for several months. The thought of it turned my stomach, and I suppose that because I was pregnant at the time I will never forget it. He finally insisted on fried chicken, and the only way I could do it was to think of the day they had attacked me trying to get to the bag of chicken feed.

Just another day in the life…..here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Sunday, April 25, 2004


Hallelujah! I woke this morning to the sound of silence. The rain has finally stopped. There was also a wonderful gift that I have been missing for the past week. Sunrise. Two great gifts. Isn’t it funny what a difference seeing the sun makes? I threw the duvet back and jumped out of bed. Can’t wait to get started on my day.

This will be an abbreviated effort today, so that I can take care of some typing this morning for my book while the temperatures are cool. This afternoon, I will be hitting the yard. You can imagine what a week of rain does to the grass and weeds. I will need a hay baler to do the lawn chores.

For those of you that inquired, Tiny came home late afternoon yesterday. Both Tiny and Scaredy had a wonderful supper in the garage and I locked them in so that they could stay warm and dry. They have a great bed out there that they really enjoy. I am getting ready to go let them out, as I’m sure that all of the birds singing is driving them crazy.

Have a wonderful day, whatever your pursuit, and God Bless.
Becky Strain


Saturday, April 24, 2004


Yesterday evening was a good reminder of why living on our country road is so satisfying. I went down to check on Mom and Rocky after work. We were sitting there visiting when the neighbors I have written so much about pulled into the driveway. You may remember me mentioning Bob and Jeralene, who live at the fork in the road. Their land borders my yard, and were grandma and grandpa’s neighbors before I came to live in their home.

They had heard that Rocky had been in the hospital, and brought a fruit basket. We had a nice visit. I told them that I had written many stories about them, my grandparents and our life here on our country road. They laughed, as their stories all involve my grandparents and us. We have all aged a great deal, and my grandparents are gone now, but memories are timeless.

Rocky did find out what happened to the mysterious cows he had seen in Bob’s pasture. They weren’t Bob’s at all, but belonged to the man who lives down the road from Bob. They stampeded through the fence, ran across the road and through Bob’s fence into his pasture. That is when Rocky must have seen them. At any rate that question has been answered. Also explained was why Bob was putting in a section of new fence.

After Bob and Jeralene left I went over to see Davey and his folks. You may remember they live next to Mom and Rocky. Anyway, they are our adopted family. Dave and Patty’s parents are all passed away, so we represent Grandma, Grandpa and Aunt Becky for their family. Our conversations usually involve catching up with the day to day events between my visits. In Smalltown, and especially on our little country road, neighbors keep an eye out for each other.

Patty fell and tore the tendons in her arm, Dave has been chopping wood from a downed tree, and Davey has been busy being a four year old. They inquired about my cats, indoor and outdoor ones. One of my outdoor strays, Tiny has been missing for several days. We are all animal people here, and they were sad to hear that. They will watch for him, as he visits their cats each day. They also inquired after Scrappy, my indoor cat who is taking medication for his anxiety/aggression problem. He keeps chasing poor Paddy under the bed and attacks her anytime she gets near me. I have him on a natural homeopathic thing for that, and seems to be working fine. I can always tell when it is time for another dose, as I hear Paddy squalling wherever Scrappy has her cornered.

Today rain continues to fall. Our yards resemble swampland, and flash flood warnings abound. We plan to stay in where it is safe…..here on our country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, April 23, 2004


Last night severe storms really lit up the night sky. I am not sure why they always wait until after dark when you can’t see what is going on, but for us it is always that way. Early on there were reports of baseball sized hail and tornados, but I took heart that they were several counties to our west. Because of the lightening I turned off my computer early and went in to watch the local weather for the watches and warnings.

Usually when tornados occur they move from southwest to northeast. The storms last night were moving due east. Not a good thing. I watched as the counties due west of Smalltown lit up bright red, which indicated tornado warnings had been issued. Baseball sized hail occurred in some areas while softball sized hail fell in others. When tornado warnings were issued for the counties that border ours, it was eight thirty. Knowing the neighbors and Mom and Rocky usually watch cable and satellite programming I called to alert them to the weather situation.

By that time thunder was rumbling all around and shaking the ground. Lightening ripped across the sky. Rain began to fall, but not as violently as I anticipated. By nine thirty the storms that had been marching quickly across the bottom half of southwestern Missouri toward Smalltown seemed to be stalled. Tornado warnings were still in effect, but none was issued for our county. I had been laying on the couch with my tennis shoes on in case I needed to run down to the neighbor’s underground cellar. When the news came on at ten the storm had made a slight turn, and was advancing on the little town just six miles to the south of Smalltown. The threat of tornado had been downgraded to a severe thunderstorm warning. Although the storm was beginning to pick up in intensity here, I relaxed and went to bed.

All night long thunder, lightening and rain hammered Smalltown, but no severe weather. About midnight I finally took off my shoes and fell into a deep sleep. Reports of storm damage headlined the morning news, and there are still storms taking place, but our worry this morning is with flash floods. I work in a different town each day giving driver’s examinations, and today I work an hour and a half away. We have to negotiate several low water crossings, so it looks like we will have to take the long way around. Looks like rain all day, and more storms all weekend long with some severe weather.

Yes, it’s April in the Ozarks. Keep your eye on the sky. We do. It‘s a way of life…..here on our country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, April 22, 2004


Once again we were spared storms last night. We had nice gentle rain all night which we needed badly. Mother Nature is still in a tizzy. We are expecting severe weather and possible tornados this afternoon. This is normal for us in the spring, but I never get used to it.

I am trying to focus on what is glorious about the spring. Beautiful azaleas, forsythias, daffodils and tulips. The dogwoods are blooming here now, as are the redbuds. When I see the dogwoods in bloom it always feeds my soul. I don’t know why, but the woods full of the lacy dogwood trees is the harbinger of winter’s passing. In itself that is a very good thing for a child of spring. The new growth, spring flowers and warmer temperatures is a balm to my spirit.

After spending time in the neuro trauma intensive care waiting room for several days and seeing the trials that faced families there, nature is affirmation of life. Many of the families would not be taking their family members home. Many others were facing long recovery and impairments. Each day I watched the sun rise and set, and took heart. Faith gets you through the night, and joy comes in the morning. So it is with spring.

Although the skies are gray, the rain is falling, and the threat of inclement weather abounds, the sun is shining brightly….just behind the clouds. Knowing that, I can press on with a joyful heart. The birds are singing in spite of the oncoming storms. Can we do any less?

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, April 21, 2004


Last night we had our first tornado watch of the season. Last week we were running the furnace and digging out sweatshirts from the winter clothes pile that was destined for the garage until fall. Over the weekend temperatures soared into the low to mid eighties. Yup. This is the Missouri Ozarks, all right. As the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather wait five minutes.

We have been promised rain for a week, and yesterday was to be our best chance. The sun disappeared and gray skies prevailed while the wind kicked up a fuss. Although the wind has been blowing hard for weeks, it never brings rain. Last night was no exception. At least the tornado watches yielded no severe weather here in Smalltown. Thank goodness.

When I was in fourth grade we lived in Shawnee, Kansas. One sunny afternoon just before the bell rang to go home, the intercom interrupted our classrooms and announced that we were to line up with our teachers and walk in formation out to the playground. We were scared, but did as the teachers instructed us. Once outside we were put into block formation with our teacher.

Some distance away there were large clouds, which on our side were big puffy white wall clouds. Thank goodness we couldn’t see the black terror on the other side. We did however stand and watch as a white funnel formed out of the clouds. Two clouds came together and like a waterfall the funnel cloud turned down toward the ground before forming a hook and beginning a path of destruction.

The funnel was on the ground several minutes, and we stood there in terror. I cannot for the life of me figure out why the principal saw fit to put us outside instead of sitting in the hallway covering our heads in the building. Hard to say. At any rate, once the danger was passed and the funnel went back up into the clouds we were released to go home. We had a Camp Fire Girls meeting at our house after school, and it was the topic of discussion.

That evening on the news, we were all shocked to see the funnel from the dark side where the damage and destruction took place. An elementary school was destroyed, as well as the surrounding community. Many children were injured and killed, and it all happened only ten miles away. It is an event I will never forget.

As tornado season progresses, I am thankful for each day that goes by uneventful. Last year we had killer tornadoes that almost completely destroyed several towns to our northwest. A year later they are still rebuilding. How I wish I had a basement….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, April 20, 2004


Good Morning,

I heard from Mom last night, and she said that the Dr. will be releasing Rocky to come home today if the Dilantin levels are okay. If that is a go, they will be released around noon. They are really looking forward to getting home, and I am sure that Mom will be posting something for you as soon as they are settled.

Thank you again for your thoughts and prayers, and I am sure they will continue to need them as Rocky comes home. I know they want to sleep in their own bed and see their cats, not to mention real food.

Have a wonderful day. I hope to post a regular country story for you tomorrow. You have been very patient, and I appreciate your faithfullness.

God Bless,
Becky Strain


Sunday, April 18, 2004


Dear Blogging Friends and Readers,

I have just returned home from the hospital where I left Mom and Rocky. Since the hospital is an hour and a half away from Smalltown, Mom and I stayed there at the hospital. To say the least, we are worn slick, as they say here. Things went well except for some seizures Friday morning. Thank goodness we had just walked into the unit. The staff is excellent, and we soon had him settled again. They kept him another day in neuro trauma ICU for that. It was a very tense day. No more of those, thank goodness.

He was moved to a room Saturday afternoon, and today he got up in a chair and then for a walk this afternoon. Things are progressing well. Although he had a crack team of doctors and surgeons, we want to thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. We are aware that we were indeed blessed my God's grace and healing. You are the best, and we appreciate your support.

I am not sure when Mom and Rocky will be released, but I had to come home to work. Time does not stand still. I know that they would appreciate your continued prayer support. Mom is getting very tired.

Thank you all again, and God Bless You All!
Becky Strain


Thursday, April 15, 2004


Good morning,
Mom, Rocky and I are getting ready to leave for the hospital. He is to have surgery early this morning for a benign brain tumor. The neurosurgeon is very optimistic and we go with faith that God will see him through safely and with a good report. Since Mom and I will be staying at the hospital with him, we won't be home to post until Monday morning. Your prayers are appreciated, and I pray God will keep you all in the palm of His hand until we return.

Until Monday,


Wednesday, April 14, 2004

PASS THE ....... 

Hank’s family didn’t want him to marry me from the beginning because I was a city girl. I knew it, he finally came to agree, and it was just something I had to deal with. Once I found out I was going to have a baby, their attitude softened a bit. After all, I was carrying Hank’s child and their future grandchild.

His family must have saved up all the weird things for when I came out to visit. Each week after church I met Hank at his mom and dad’s house for Sunday lunch. (Or down here, dinner.) The whole family went to their house for Sunday dinner, and it was like a zoo. Including my daughter Jennifer, there were nine grandchildren running around. The adults ate at the big table in the dining room, and the kids ate at the kitchen table.

The entrée was usually questionable. Knowing that I came from a city, they always tried to serve the most outlandish things and pass it off as roast beef or chicken. One time I was passed the meat platter and the meat was almost black. It had been baked, and I was told that it was a beef roast. I knew I had never seen roast beef that dark, so I didn’t take any. Hank told me later that it was raccoon.

I have passed up goat, possum, head cheese, Rocky Mountain oysters, rabbit, squirrel, mackerel, and crawdads, among other things. Once I began to refuse the entrée, they quit playing that game. Things you never saw on their table included spaghetti, tacos, pizza, baked potatoes, casseroles, sour cream, chef salad, lasagna, sloppy joes, beef stroganoff, scalloped potatoes, or chili, just to name a few. The longer Hank ate my cooking the less we went out to his folk’s house to eat.

I did learn how to make several of his favorite dishes, and was thankful for the learning of it. My grandmother taught me how to make delicious deer tenderloin and deer steaks. It is the only way I would eat it, but there were many times that had we not had deer meat in the freezer we would have gone without meat. Grandma also taught me how to fry perfect whole catfish, although I never ate it, Hank loved it. I perfected the pot of pinto beans, although I would rather have white northerns. We compromised and I usually made our beans half white and half pintos.

One of Hank’s favorite dinners (or down here, supper) was hamburger gravy. He liked it served on bread, but I either made mashed potatoes or noodles to serve it over, which he liked better. That way you could hold bread in your hand. I did learn how to fry squirrel and rabbit, however I didn’t eat it.

I have learned many wonderful things living here in the country, but one thing remains a constant. I don’t eat it if I don’t know what it is and no one will tell me. Probably just one of the reasons I live alone…..here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, April 13, 2004


I wasn’t able to do many chores around the farm due to complications with my pregnancy. I was however, a wonderful cook and baker. I came up with so many ways to use eggs! We always had a big bowl of egg salad for sandwiches in the refrigerator, there was always at least a dozen boiled eggs in there as well for snacks or quick lunches, and I made homemade banana pudding every other day. Banana puddin’ as it is called here is a staple of the country diet. I always had the ‘nilla wafers on hand for Jennifer, Hank’s sister owed him money for something or other, so she paid us by bringing fresh cow milk and cream twice a week, so the only thing I had to buy was the bananas.

Before I quit work to have the baby, Hank and I went shopping every Friday night for canned goods and other staples such as sugar, flour, corn meal, dried beans, to name a few. I bought flour in the 25 pound bags, and you could buy that for $3.59. He bought a 25 cu. ft. chest deep freezer, and I went to work filling it up with things I would need for cooking and baking. Back then you could get canned goods seven and eight cans for a dollar, so I had enough canned goods to feed an army. Indeed it was good that we had so much food, as times got very hard.

I made all my own bread, hot rolls, corn bread and buttermilk biscuits. I always had a cake, cobbler or pies for coffee breaks and dessert. With all of the eggs I had, baking was no problem. I spent a great deal of time in the kitchen, more possibly than I should have when prescribed complete bed rest. Hank took care of the farm chores. We had two angus calves that we were fattening up for butchering, and all the roosters that I had raised. Until we butchered though, we lived off of the hog that Hank’s mom and dad gave us for Christmas each year. Since they raised hogs for a living, there was always meat. We had buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy a lot for meals.

Mom and grandma had taught me how to make jellies and jams when I first came to Smalltown, so I was able to make use of the grapes that grew along the fence out front. Hank repaired the sagging shelves in the pantry on the built in porch next to the kitchen, and I went to work filling the shelves with canning jars full of wonderful things.

We had a good deal of land with the farm house, and Hank had the landlord bring his tractor over and plow up a huge garden spot for us. We went to a town twenty five miles away to get bulk seeds for the garden. I loved the seed section of the old Farm and Home Supply. They had huge wooden bins with big metal scoops, and seed was sold by the pound. I made a list of what we were going to plant, and after careful selection, we came home with what would be our food supply for the summer and winter.

Our garden comprised almost an acre. Hank had an old garden tiller that my dad bought him at a yard sale when they had come to visit us here. (You will remember that visit from the dominecker caper where we got my chickens for the farm.) He tinkered with it almost every night before he could till the garden, but we were finally able to plant. Dad bought me an old pressure cooker at the same yard sale, and it was a huge one. I wasn’t allowed to help plant, but Jennifer and I sat on a stool at the edge of the garden and watched as Hank planted the precious seeds in each row.

We couldn’t afford to buy all of the canning jars and lids and rings that we were going to need, but everyone saved mayonnaise and miracle whip jars for us. That meant we only had to come up with the money for lids and rings. This would be a very large expense for us. We also had one other major problem. That year there was a shortage of flats and rings. We looked everywhere. After all that work, we hated for all of our vegetables to go to waste. Grandma and mom told me that anything I could can I could freeze. It wasn’t nearly as good for the green beans or tomatoes, but it did work. The only thing that went begging was the cabbages.

We had so many potatoes! Hank estimated we had three hundred pounds of potatoes, and he spread them out on the floor of the big abandoned barn to dry. We had white potatoes and sweet potatoes. The first time I sent him out to get some for supper, he came back up upset. It seemed the chickens found them and had pretty well wiped us out. We had some left, but the most of them were ruined or gone.

Life was very different for me on the farm. I learned a lot about how hard it was, about life, faith, and about myself. I appreciate being able to go to the grocery store now and not having to count pennies for milk or groceries. It is always good to be grateful for whatever provisions you have. I have many memories about those years, but I am very happy now…..here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, April 12, 2004


My chickens now had feathers and the roosters had learned to crow without squeaking. We no longer needed to set the alarm clock for Hank to get up for work. With fifty roosters there was no way you could sleep past dawn. The hen house was too small for all of the hens, so they just roosted around the farm. Wherever there was a tree, you could see chickens roosted in the branches.

Normally things went fine. I was four months along with Jonathan. I had been restricted to bed rest since my third month due to complications, so I didn’t do the chores too often. One fine January day the weather was unseasonably warm and Jennifer and I took the egg basket and went out to gather eggs. With the forty seven leghorn hens and the nine dominecker hens, I was getting better than four dozen eggs a day. My refrigerator was packed to bursting with eggs.

The trick with gathering the eggs is that the hens laid them wherever they wanted to. Hank was better about finding them than I was because he seemed to understand their habits. Being raised on a farm helps. I always started in the hen house, which was where the dominecker hens usually laid. Their eggs were brown, so I knew. It was probably because they had been cooped up in there while they got used to being at the farm that they returned to the hen house to lay their eggs. For whatever reason, they were easy to gather. The others was like a guessing game, and very much like an Easter egg hunt every day.

The minute we stepped out of the henhouse chickens came running from every corner of the barnyard. They always thought that they were going to get fed, and seeing the problem, I went back into the henhouse to get some feed out of the bin. When I raised the lid the bin was empty. Since I couldn’t lift Jennifer into my arms anymore, I had to think fast. Hank always waved his arms and shouted at them when they surrounded him, so I tried the same technique. They were unimpressed. Keeping Jennifer very close to my legs, we began to make baby steps toward the house. Halfway there I picked up a branch and waved that. They seemed to take better notice of that. The chickens parted like the Red Sea, and we finally made it to the house. It was really a scary thing for me, because I couldn’t run, and couldn’t pick Jennifer up. We were vulnerable.

I had the truck at home since Hank was delivering feed and should I go into labor again and need to get to the hospital. Jennifer and I loaded into the truck and headed to town to get chicken feed. Hank was out on a delivery, so I got the feed and headed home. Once there, I knew that there was no way I could throw it up on my shoulder and carry it to the henhouse. I also knew that I should be in bed. Being stubborn, I was determined to get the feed to the henhouse by myself. After rolling it off onto the ground I took a corner of the gunny sack and began to pull and tug it toward the coop.

This worked fine until I got into the barnyard. Once the chickens saw the feedsack, they came running. They were pecking at the sack, at my legs, and attempting to fly up at me thinking whatever chickens think. They succeeded in ruining a perfectly fine pair of pantyhose, and pecking a hole in the gunnysack. I was scared and crying, because I was still so far from the coop. I had seen the movie The Birds as a kid and it was like déjà vu.

Evidently the guys at the feed mill told Hank I had been there to get chicken feed when he returned from making his delivery, because I heard the big feed truck coming down the dirt road and turn into the lane. In no time he was running across the barnyard, scattering chickens everywhere. There I was, hair a mess, my best polyester maternity dress picked, and my pantyhose ruined. I had tears streaming down my face and I felt like the inept city girl Hank and his family always thought me to be. Picking up the feedsack he went straight to the coop and emptied the feed into the bin. After scattering some hen scratch for them, he took Jennifer and me back to the house.

After a blistering lecture, Jennifer and I were put down for a nap and Hank returned to work. We didn’t have to be told twice. I was never going to get the hang of being a farm wife, but after that experience I just didn’t care. When Hank came home from work, Jennifer and I were cleaned up and had supper on the table. He gathered the eggs for me and helped me clean them. All in all it had been a very long day.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Saturday, April 10, 2004


Since this is Easter weekend, I thought I would share a memory from my childhood. When my brothers and I were little, Mom didn’t work. She was what they call a stay at home Mom these days. It made for many hardships in the way of material things, but we had a very happy childhood.

The neighbor kids next door always got large baskets of Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies, and stuffed animals. We always woke to a Tupperware bowl filled with green Easter grass with jelly beans and non chocolate Easter eggs with yukky white stuff inside. I know that it probably upset Mom and Dad that the other kids flaunted their expensive Easter baskets in our faces, but we made do.

After we got up and looked into our Easter bowls, we loaded up in the family car and went to the sunrise service at the drive-in theater. This was great, because we could take our Easter bowls and wear our pajamas. After the service was over, we came back home and Mom fixed a nice breakfast for everybody. There were years that we dressed up in Easter finery and went to church for the Easter service. I remember one year especially. My dress was navy blue with white polka dots, and I had a white hat with navy blue streamers. Mom got me little white gloves, and I felt so grown up and fancy. Every little girl and woman wore Easter hats when I was little. I miss that.

We always did the traditional dying of the Easter eggs, and Mom hid them around the house for us to hunt. We sang “Here Comes Peter Cottontail”, which I still love to sing. We colored Easter eggs that Mom cut out of construction paper. I have wonderful memories of all holidays at home, and when my kids were small I tried to make them special as well.

Later in the day, after a noonday meal of ham and mashed potatoes with all the trimmings, Mom would make a white cake with white fluffy icing and cover it with coconut. It always looked like a big Easter egg. Sometimes she would put jelly beans on it. Several years she made a bunny out of the cake. For supper we would have ham sandwiches and potato salad made from the dyed Easter eggs. It always looked funny because the dye colored the egg whites on the eggs. It ended up looking like confetti.

Whatever your plans, and whatever your traditions, I hope that you will remember the meaning of Easter and the joy that it represents. I am so thankful that indeed the tomb was found empty and that Christ had risen. Have a blessed and joyous Easter.

Until Monday,
Becky Strain


Friday, April 09, 2004


Once we got moved to the big farm house Hank went to work at the local feed mill. He mixed the custom feeds and came home looking like father time. The fine dust covered him, and he was always coughing. Each year they promoted feed by having promotions. When it was time for Baby Chick Day, we ordered 100 baby chicks. They were to come by mail, but when they came, the rural carrier had so many people that ordered chicks, he left them at the post office and I had to go in and pick them up.

When I walked into the post office I could hear peeps like crazy. There were big boxes of baby chicks sitting everywhere. The postmaster helped me get our boxes of chicks out to the truck and I took them home. I had no idea what to do with them. When Hank came home he set to work building a cage for them and set up a heat lamp so that they could stay warm. The nights were still cold, so it was imperative that they be warm. Hank gave them the chick feed and told me to put some water in the cage. He went on out to feed the dogs while I cooked supper.

After supper we went out to check on the chicks and I was mortified to see three chicks floating in the water bowl. Hank was upset with me because I didn’t put the right water dishes in the cage. I was so upset the little guys were dead that I didn’t even take issue with him. Later I reminded him again that being a city girl, I had never taken care of farm animals before and didn’t realize the chicks would need a special dish. I learned quickly after that, as I had wanted chickens to go with my Domineckers. You have to use a special waterer for chicks, but because we couldn’t afford the extra expense we used lids from mayonnaise jars.

I worried that they would kill each other. When I went out to check on them the little guys would be piled up on top of each other. Oddly, we didn’t lose any more. The chicks grew so fast. I had ordered straight run, which was 50 each hen and rooster. Once the chicks were big enough to be turned loose in the barnyard, it was much easier. Or so I thought. They didn’t stay in the barnyard. Oh well. I tried. The funny thing was that they all knew to go to the hen house at night. Hank would go out and feed them, and they followed him right into the coop. He just shut the door and locked it. Amazing.

The first morning I was awakened by a weird noise in the yard, Hank just laughed and laughed. The roosters were learning how to crow. They sounded like squeaky door hinges. The chicks had lost their yellow fuzzy look and had begun to fill out with white feathers. They sure looked funny for a while, but soon I had white leghorns all over the place. They had bright red combs. Of course the Domineckers were my favorite, and I hoped that soon my flock would grow. The roosters didn’t seem to know the difference.

Then came the day we ran out of chicken feed and I had to go to town and get some. Oh my….but that is a story for another day.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, April 08, 2004


Hank and I had been married for a year when I found out I was going to have a baby. Since the house we were living in was only four rooms and the size of a postage stamp, we began looking for a house that had more room. Hank found a two story farm house in the country for fifty dollars a month. It had a barn and a chicken house as well. I wasn’t so sure, as the house was very run down, but it was in our price range, so we made plans to move. The week before we were to move, Dad and Red (step mother’s nickname due to the color of her hair), came for a visit.

One day we were visiting and noticed some chickens in the yard. It wasn’t long before they disappeared. When I went out to the shed to get dog food for the beagles, the chickens were in there pecking at the dog food sack for food. Red had the bright idea that we should shut the door to the shed and keep them in there. I knew that this was wrong, but she persuaded me with lopsided logic. They had after all wandered onto our property. We had no idea who they belonged to. So, the plan was hatched. Red and Dad caught them with the element of surprise.

I really liked these particular chickens. They were speckled black and white. The official name for them is Dominique, and their origins are from England in the 1800’s. How the name went from that to Dominecker, I have no clue. At least in the Ozarks, and more to the point in Smalltown, the name was tweaked a bit. When Hank came home Red proudly told him she had trapped the chickens in the shed. Back then feed still came in burlap gunny sacks, so he got a couple out of the bed of his truck and they went out to the shed. There was a lot of noise, squawking, and flapping about, but in no time at all we were on our way out to the farm house with two bags full of chickens.

Hank took them out to the chicken house and shut the door. He gave them some feed and water, and locked them in the chicken house. The next evening we would go out and let them out. In this way they would know to stay around the chicken house and the farm.

The next day Dad, Red and I were sitting out in the yard waiting for Hank to come home from work, and four more chickens and a rooster wandered into our yard. They were also Domineckers and they made their way right to the shed where the dog food was kept. No wonder we had been going through so much dog food! Red waited until they were all in the shed before she stealthily made her way to the shed and quickly shut the door effectively trapping the unsuspecting chickens inside. When Hank got home from work, he took more gunny sacks out to the shed and came back with two more bags of chickens and a rooster.

I ended up with nine chickens and a rooster, and when we moved out to the farm over the weekend, I had a nice group of chickens to lay eggs. It was quite an experience, and I loved those Dominecker chickens. When I was little I used to watch Lassie. I always liked to see June Lockhart come out of the house with feed for the chickens in her apron and she would toss feed to them. I tried that and they flogged me trying to get to the scratch grain. After that I left the farm chores to Hank.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, April 07, 2004


The calves have disappeared.

I suppose that Bob still has them locked up in the barn, however I am at a loss as to how he got five of them in there. He has a very little barn. I haven’t heard them mooing, so maybe I just dreamed the whole thing.

You know that you have lived in one place too long when the days and months are marked by familiar things. Bob gets his new calves in early spring. This varies with the weather, but usually late March or early April. They stay locked up in the barn for a week or two, and when he thinks that they are settled down enough he turns them out to graze.

His pasture isn’t large enough or good enough to support five calves, but even with two, they eat pasture until July. Usually by the Fourth of July, the grass is waist high. They lock the calves up in the barn and start feeding them grain. Once the calves are locked up Bob’s son comes over and mows down the grass. They don’t bail it, but turn the cows back out to graze. During the day the calves graze and every evening I can hear Bob calling, “Calf!”

He will be carrying a bucket, and like magic the calves come running. They get locked up to eat grain and are turned back out every morning. This routine continues until early fall. Again this will depend on the weather. One evening I will come home from work and the calves won’t be in the pasture. Bob won’t come out at dusk and holler “Calf!” This means the calves are gone to the processing plant to become food for the table.

Life is hard in the country. I could have never made a farm wife, having lived in the city for so long. Hank tried, as he wanted a wife that would clean squirrels, rabbits, doves, quail, or deer that he hunted and hauled home. Evidently his mother did. It was hard for me to even cook it, but I did learn to prepare savory dishes out of whatever he hunted. Many times it was the difference in whether we had supper or not. Now that I have a choice, you don’t see me heading out to the big woods with a shotgun over my shoulder.

Did I ever tell you about the time my dad and step mother came to Smalltown to visit Hank and I and she kept stealing the dominecker chickens? That is a story for another day…..here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, April 06, 2004


Every spring my neighbor Bob gets two calves. They are kept in the barn for a week before being turned out to pasture, which borders my grandparent’s property where I live. I have written many stories about my experiences with various calves he has had over the years. I hate to get attached to them because come fall they are loaded into a truck and taken to the processing plant to become hamburger.

Yesterday I came home from work the same way I always do. I changed clothes and went down to mom’s house. Rocky asked me if I had seen the new calves at Bob’s house. I hadn’t, as I am sure they were still shut up in the barn. Anyway, he told me this year they got five calves. Five!

The neighbors got home from their trip, and I walked next door to take their house key back. While I was standing there visiting with them their two beagles began having a fit and barking. They jumped against their pen and barked. They were looking up toward my place, but I couldn’t see any reason for their upset. Evidently Bob had let the calves out of the barn.

I ate dinner with mom and Rocky last night, and it was then he told me Bob had turned the calves out. He was laughing because that means they will be bawling all night long. Usually just two keep me awake all night. With a full moon, I figured they would be tearing down the fence. Evidently they were so happy to be let out of Bob’s tiny barn that they forgot to bawl.

Last year when he let the two calves out of the barn one of them was so upset he tore out of the fence. Bob would go find him and bring him back again. This was a pattern they went through a dozen times before he finally gave up. He must have been privy to the conversation Bob had about making them into hamburger.

Once these new calves understand what their destiny is, I will lose sleep. Until then, it is sweet dreams….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, April 05, 2004


Yesterday my son came over to visit. He brought his dog Zeke along. Zeke is a beautiful black Labrador Retriever. Last week I had gone out to visit the Jonathan and his wife Aimee. They were concerned about Zeke being gone from home for such a long time. They live out in the country, so it isn’t unusual for him to be gone several days at a time. This time he had been gone over a week. They were understandably concerned.

When Jonathan called me in New Orleans to wish me happy birthday, he told me that Zeke had finally come home. The bad news was that he had been mauled by a bear. He had taken Zeke in to the vet closest to his house, and although he didn’t want to commit to it being the work of a bear, did say that it wasn’t anything canine.

Zeke was released from the vet this past Friday, but he is a very lucky dog. He is sporting 50 huge stitches, but will not lose his left eye or ear as they first feared. You can see the claw marks, and I agree with the vet, definitely not a dog or coyote. The claw marks are also too big for a mountain lion. Although Jonathan didn’t want to do it, he spent the weekend putting up a six foot high pen for Zeke.

It is rare for there to be bears here, but there have been sightings of a bear in that area before. I worry about poor Zeke, but even worse for Jonathan and Aimee. Her mother lives up the hill from them, and they walk back and forth all the time. Mother Nature can be a cruel proposition. Both Jonathan and Aimee have lived in the country around Smalltown all of their lives, so they are more used to this type of thing than I am. It is like something out of Wild Kingdom for me.

I hope that poor Zeke has seen the last of the bear. If only he could talk, all of the questions Jonathan has would be answered. It may be a good thing, however that it remains a mystery. Sometimes not knowing is a kinder thing.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Sunday, April 04, 2004


I got up at the same time I always do, but I am already an hour behind schedule! I had intended to write yesterday afternoon, but I am feeling under the weather, and slept instead. In fact, I slept all the way to and from Springfield yesterday, and took a nap when I got home. I woke up at bedtime and went to bed, and here I am.

Today I am babysitting the neighbors animals while they are on a mini vacation. After I do that and a little light housekeeping here, it is going to be just me and the word processor for the rest of the day. I am bound and determined to get the four chapters I have written into the computer before something happens.

This afternoon I am going to take a break from writing and go out for a long walk. It not only makes me feel better, but clears my head. I so enjoy the feel of the sun on my face and the smell of the pretty spring flowers. Birds are building nests for raising families, and flit around looking for interesting nest building materials. I usually put out pieces of colorful yarn, and they pick it up and use it. It is neat to see the bits of yarn in their nests. I haven’t had time to do it this year, but they seem to be getting along just fine.

I suppose that I had better get down to the neighbors house and let the little poodle out. He will be needing to take a walk. You have a wonderful day, and I do hope that it is a good one. Whatever you choose to do, may you have a beautiful day. It sure is here….on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Saturday, April 03, 2004


Saturday morning. The birds woke me up singing so loud it broke through my sound sleep. I got up to see what the excitement was all about, and was happy to see a beautiful sunrise instead of the gray skies we were supposed to have today.

I love the early morning. Everyone is still asleep, and it is as though I am the only person awake. Still waiting on my morning coffee, because when I went in to get it I hadn’t flipped the on switch. I hope that isn’t an indication of how my day is going to go.

Today I am going to Springfield with Mom and Rocky for a day out. There is much here at the house to keep me busy, but it is such a beautiful day, I opted for lunch out and a little shopping.

I hope that whatever your plans today that you enjoy the day. For all of you northern and Canadian friends, I do hope that by now you are beginning to see some signs of Spring!!

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, April 02, 2004


We have a program in Missouri called Progress As Promised. You only see the signs when the roads are torn up and they are creating havoc with large equipment. Smalltown is, well, small. We have a population of 2046. For the past several years there has been a major construction project going on with the highway. It has been troublesome for those of us who live here, as the detours were a mess.

Last Thursday the new bridge and interchange opened. It is now virtually impossible to recognize the old landscape. Big machines have broken up the old roads and hauled them away. There are roads that lead to nowhere, they just stop. There are cloverleaves at three locations surrounding Smalltown, and more new stop signs than we have ever had in the whole town previously.

Smalltown used to have one road going through the center of town, and had dual names of Business 63 and Main Street. We had one traffic light, which is a four way flashing red right in the middle of town. We still have it, but nothing else is the same. Instead of attracting more people and travelers to Smalltown as they promised at the beginning of the project three years ago, we have effectively been cut away from access. The roads go right by us, and many of the businesses that have survived will not be able to withstand without accesses to their businesses.

It is the plight of many small towns across America. It is a disease that slowly kills small towns and drives young people and their families away in order to make a living. Smalltown took powerful hits to the local economy when the baby shoe factory closed down twenty years ago. Several years later, the Rawlings plant closed and moved to Haiti. Hank and I lost our jobs in that plant closing. The plant was torn down last year, and now there is a brand new Snappy Mart and McDonalds Express on that location. It opened while we were in New Orleans.

If we venture out after dark, we are likely not going to be able to find our way home again. There are no street lights yet, and it is hard to see where you are going. It is sad. My son, however, thinks it is great. He called me on my birthday and told me he had been to McDonalds to eat three times already, and it was only 2:00 in the afternoon. He has no idea what the town will look like next year, or the year after that. Progress As Promised.

I suppose that I am now lumped into the dubious group referred to as the Old Timers. When Mom, Rocky and I go to the gym or to Springfield, we talk about how the landscape has changed and how we miss the way it used to be. Oh well, while my son is ordering food at the new McDonalds, his mother will be attempting to figure out which exit to take to get back home…..down my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, April 01, 2004


There are few things better than coming home and sleeping in your own bed. I love to travel, but for some reason I have been sleeping more since I got home. I know, I know, it is because I am 50 now. I have been asked many times since returning from New Orleans how it feels to be half a century. Other than just being tired, I feel wonderful.

Age has never bothered me. I have earned each and every one of the years as they have passed. I may not always have been thrilled with my circumstances, but there was always hope of a better tomorrow. I have a good life. I am happy, working toward wonderful goals, and surrounded by fantastic friends and family. It really is an exciting time of life.

Today my daughter and her husband left for a 10 day cruise. I am happy that they can get away for an extended time, as they both have stressful jobs. I am expecting colorful postcards from all the ports of call. They are going to the Panama Canal, Cozumel, Bahamas, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica. They should have a wonderful time.

The cats were happy to see me. Many of you have inquired, and they are all present and accounted for. I have a bag of mail to go through, and blogs to catch up on. Have patience! I will get to it. Also waiting are rewrites on chapter 6 and getting chapters 7 and 8 typed into the word processor. Progress is slow now as the characters and plots are getting more complex. I’m hurrying just as fast as I can, I promise.

I can smell the coffee, so I had better get ready for that ugly four letter word called work. I am looking forward to the day I don’t have to answer the call of an alarm clock any more. How great that must be!

Thank you again for all of the cards, emails and comments celebrating my birthday. They really made it special. Have a wonderful day, and as my brother likes to say, Let the Good Times Roll!

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain