Photos of Brady

Monday, May 31, 2004


Today is Memorial Day.

Today is a day set aside to honor our soldiers and freedom fighters for their service and sacrifice. A tribute to those who have fought and fallen for freedom. One day.

When I was young Memorial Day was a major event. Families went to the cemeteries to place flowers on the graves of their loved ones. My Grandma Strain always called it Decoration Day. There were parades, ceremonies, and other events designed to honor our veterans. Towns were decorated in flags and red, white, and blue banners. Families gathered to have cookouts and barbeques. And paused to remember.

Time has passed. The veterans of the big wars are dying. The Greatest Generation is passing without fanfare. They have passed the torch, but our generation has not taken it up and held it high. We are not teaching our next generations about the service, sacrifice and price paid for our freedom.

There are no more parades, ceremonies or speeches planned in Smalltown for today. They quit planning the events years ago because of poor attendance. It is like that in towns and communities across the country.

One day.

I am thankful for my freedom. I cry when I hear the Star Spangled Banner and see pictures of those young men who left to take up the cause of freedom. Today we are at war. It is so important to remember. To be thankful. Take up the torch, and pass it on.

Today is Memorial Day. There is more focus this year because of the dedication of the new World War II Memorial. Thank you to all of the men and women who picked up the torch and fought for freedom and that we can enjoy life as we know it. God Bless you, and God Bless the fallen. With God’s help. we will not forget.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Sunday, May 30, 2004


Sorry I didn’t get a post in yesterday, but as is so often the case here in Smalltown, our server was down. It is so frustrating, and never any explanation. At any rate, it gave me the push I needed to get other things done.

Tiny has stayed around the house for two days now. I have to think it is because he can’t walk very well. He is still hopping along on that back foot. They are relatively wild, so I can’t take him to the vet. I did catch his mother, who was also very wild. I took her to the vet to be spayed after the kittens were weaned, but when I got her home, she ran away and I never saw her again. She had been scared to death, and at the first opportunity she got away. I have always hated it that she thought I had meant to do her harm instead of helping her. These wild little things have to live life on their own terms.

I also had a pleasant surprise Friday night. Mom, Rocky and I had gone out to eat for Mom’s birthday, and were coming back up the walk to their house when Mom stepped back. I thought she had seen a snake or something, but it was a big box turtle. Guess what? The turtle I had seen at my house earlier in the week had gone to their house. Mom told Rocky to take him out back to their big perennial garden. He now has a good home and will be an asset in the garden. Another mystery solved.

We have severe weather forecast for our area today, but until that happens I am going to get out and enjoy the day. Have a wonderful holiday weekend! Eat a hamburger for me.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, May 28, 2004


Last night Tiny finally came home again. He has a hurt back leg, and is hopping on it. Scaredy usually stays around the house, but night before last they were both gone. Tiny is a roamer. Being a tomcat he is also bad to be gone days at a time. He never learns.

Scrappy, my inside cat that is on the homeopathic meds for aggression is going in for blood work next week. They think he might have thyroid problems. What next? He has gained weight since I have had him on the medicine for the aggression, as it has to be given in canned food. He weighed eighteen pounds before he started getting the canned foods, so I can only imagine what he will weigh now.

I seem to be a haven for special needs pets. My West Highland White Terrier, Dara, had two bladder surgeries, was spayed, had terrible allergies, and developed diabetes and Cushings disease. I gave her insulin injections twice a day until she died. She was at the vet so much they had a cage with her name on it. After she died, I decided to get a cat. They are supposed to be maintenance free and less expensive. Don’t believe it.

Dogs can’t climb. I have had a terrible time getting used to cats, because I am a dog person. Mom says I just don’t understand them. I think the problem is that they don’t understand me. When I told Dara ‘no’, she got it. Scrappy and Paddy ignore me when I scold them. Mom said get a spray water bottle and spray them. This works for Paddy, but Scrappy is difficult. I think his thyroid is fine, it is his attitude that needs adjustment. I also think he needs kitty prozac. If not, then I need it.

Scrappy goes to the vet Tuesday night. I will pick him up Friday afternoon. I’ll keep you posted, but even if they don’t find what is wrong with him, the bill will remain. Good grief. I should have gone to vet school. Just another day....here on my country road.

Happy Birthday to my Mom, Esther. Drop her an email today! estherb@townsqr.com

Have a safe Memorial Day weekend everyone!
Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, May 27, 2004


Forgive me for straying from my country road format today. After months of ups and downs American Idol concluded another season last night by crowning the new American Idol. Congratulations to Fantasia, who absolutely blew away the competition.

I was so disappointed last year when voting irregularities cheated Clay Aiken out of the Idol crown. I have been happy however to see Clay outdistance Ruben Studdard in every way since. I think America knows who should have won season 2. Because of all the pain of last years final, I was hoping for a clear winner this year.

I had hoped that LaToya London would be in the final with Fantasia, but once again America screwed up. I was forced to choose another favorite to cheer for. I had liked Fantasia early on, but she won me over. After LaToya was voted out, Fantasia really poured on the talent. She is a natural star, and will most likely achieve more success than any other contestant in the previous two seasons.

I watched the two hour final last night with mom and Rocky, and we were all braced for another voting snafu. When the winner was announced however, all was well. Isn’t it amazing that a glorified talent show could grab the hearts of Americans and make us care about the contestants as they struggle from week to week toward the title?

Congratulations to Fantasia, America’s new American Idol.
Clay is still my personal favorite from all 3 seasons, but Idol Kelly Clarkson from season 1 is great, and Fantasia will be fantastic from season 3. Clay quietly goes about his career racking up record sales and awards, his star quality shining all the way.

Who is your favorite American Idol contestant?

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, May 26, 2004


There is little that comforts like routine. This morning the birds are singing although it is still dark, and robins are hopping around the front lawn hunting for worms. The coffee is almost ready and the dawn is coming. For me things are normal. Not so for a mother in a town twenty miles south of Smalltown.

Yesterday morning our local news reported a triple homicide. When they said where the murders had occurred I was shocked. Twenty miles away a father and two children were found shot to death in their apartment. The mother had returned from work to find her husband and two children dead. Questions abounded, shock set in, and the area has been waiting for answers.

Yesterday afternoon the answers came. The woman not only lost her husband and two of her three children, but her own mother was arrested for the murders of her husband and two children. I cannot imagine the shock and pain the poor woman must be going through. There are still a lot of questions unanswered, but the biggest one in everyone’s mind here is why?

Smalltown has two thousand residents, and the town the murders occurred in has ten thousand. Hardly New York City or Los Angeles. Many people come to this area to live because they want to get away from this type of senseless violence. When something like this happens in one of our rural communities it is a sober reminder that there are troubled people everywhere.

Following the arrest yesterday afternoon, the biggest question remains. People are still wondering what could have happened in the mind of a grandmother that caused her to take the lives of her two grandchildren and her son in law. Single gunshot wounds to the head ended the lives of her daughter’s family.

I cannot imagine the pain the remaining daughter and her young mother must be going through, or the horror in finding her mother arrested for the crimes.

There is comfort in routine. Today I will go about the normal tasks that comprise my day. Cherish every moment of every day. Take nothing for granted. It is a reminder how fleeting life is, and how important it is to be ready for the alternative.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, May 25, 2004


Yesterday morning I went outside to let Tiny and Scaredy out of the garage. I was admiring the sunrise and wasn’t looking where I was going, which is a dangerous here in the country. After seeing various snakes and numerous copperheads, I should have known. I looked down just in time to keep from stepping on a big box turtle.

I looked at it for a while mainly because it is odd to see one that size close to the house and on the sidewalk. I walked around it, continued to the garage to let out the cats, and went back into the house. A wary feeling passed over me, so I went back out the door and down the steps. I had only been in the house a few minutes, but the turtle and the cats were nowhere to be found.

There are several possible scenarios that swirled through my mind. I looked all over the yard, down the drive, and in the road. No turtle, no cats. Now then, I know in my own mind that neither cat is strong enough to carry off the turtle. The turtle was also large enough that there is no way he could have traveled fast enough to get over into the big woods so quickly.

The question remains. Where did the turtle and the cats go?

Part of the question was answered last night when I came home from work. Tiny and Scaredy were on the porch waiting for me. Hungry. After feeding them and locking them up for the night I had to assume that had they been successful in toting off the turtle and extracting it from the shell to eat it, they couldn’t have been that hungry. I suppose I will never know what happened. Just another unsolved mystery….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, May 24, 2004


Last night severe weather ripped through the Ozarks. There were several tornado warnings, lots of rain, hail and wind. The afternoon had been so still, and the sky turned an ominous green toward evening. Thank goodness the storms ran out of steam before they got here.

Today we have a rainy day forecast, with the promise of more severe weather. It is spring. It is a rite of passage to summer, and severe weather is part of it. I should have known that it was coming, because the birds don’t sing before a bad storm. They sense the turbulent weather and busy themselves eating and seeking shelter.

This morning we have fog hanging in the trees. It is still. The wren is singing to his mate, but there are no robins or cardinals greeting the morning. Not a good sign. Hopefully the day will progress without fanfare. If there are no storms, we are supposed to have heat and humidity, and hopefully some rain.

I have been chasing a mosquito around the house for three days. He always seems to disappear when I try to smack him. Slowly but surely he is eating me up while I sleep. The cats usually succeed in catching flies and mosquitoes, but this one has been elusive. It is a definite handicap to have trifocals, as I keep losing him. I am more determined than he is wily, so it is just a matter of time. Last week Scrappy and Paddy caught a wasp, two bees, and numerous flies. Obviously they didn’t get the mosquito. Maybe I should hold their food for a while. They would hunt better if they were hungry.

I had better go let Tiny and Scaredy out of the garage. When I raised the blinds a bit ago they already had their little faces in the window. There is much for them to explore….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Sunday, May 23, 2004


Mr. Wren has been up since before dawn singing to his mate. He has also been scolding Scaredy who likes to sit on the porch rail. The wind chime the wrens have built their nest in hangs right above the porch rail. Bad plan. Tiny and Scaredy both like to climb up the wooden supports for the roof over the mobile home and sit on the roof. That way they are closer to the birds and squirrels that like to sit up there also.

Animals are so funny. Mostly because you can see what they are thinking before they do something. Actually you can learn a lot about human nature by watching animals. Odd, but true. It is funny that animals don’t play silly little mind games like humans do with each other. If they don’t like someone or something you know it. They don’t pretend. If they like you, you also know it immediately. Children also have this quality. At least until they get old enough to go to school.

I have intervened often in order to save some little creature. I don’t really understand the law of the wild, so I can only respond in my own understanding. For instance several years ago when I was feeding the birds through a difficult winter. I had two bird bath heaters so that the birds could get water in spite of the freezing temperatures. I had hundreds of birds. All shapes, sizes and species. For some unknown reason I heard a racket going on out at the feeding station. I went to the window, and a half dozen birds were pecking a red wing blackbird to death. I ran out and scared them all away, but the poor thing looked half dead. The next few days, the bird stayed under the bush by the feeding station. I took suet and some feed and put over by him, and in time he was well enough to fly up to the birdbath to get water. He was missing a foot, and he was still swollen, but miraculously he survived. The other birds didn’t bother him any more. He came back year after year, and it always made me feel good that I was able to save one.

I lost many little goldfinches and house finches. I suppose they just weren’t strong enough to survive, I could tell when I had a sick one as they sat on the birdbath all day long. Evidently they were feverish and the water tasted good. Finally they would just get too weak to hold on, and would lay over on the cement rim. I would wait until I knew they were gone before taking them over into the big woods. I always thought they would rather be there than buried.

Anyway, I am keeping my eye on the wrens. The cats usually go out into the big woods all day, so they are just a threat morning and evening. I will keep you posted, as I have never had outside cats before, and when they wren couple push their little ones out of the nest, I will have to be watchful.

Have a wonderful day, and may there be something wonderful in nature to catch your interest today.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Saturday, May 22, 2004


We made it through another week and were blessed with a beautiful Saturday. What a joy to have two days stretch out before me. It would be better I suppose if I didn't have so much on my to do list. Where to start?

This morning Mom, Rocky and I are leaving to go to Springfield for the day. It is our bimonthly family day (previously girl's day. Mom and I will do any shopping we need to do and get a manicure. Lunch is the big treat. Today we are going to Fridays as we got coupons in the mail. Yeah!

Hopefully whatever you choose to do today will be relaxing and enjoyable. I'll be back in the morning with something with a little more substance. Enjoy your day!

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, May 21, 2004


Yesterday morning when I was running late for work I was treated to something wonderful. As I was busy transferring my briefcase and equipment to the state vehicle, I heard a racket down the slope from the parking area. A mother duck was trying to hurry her little ones along to get them away from what she perceived as danger. Usually they just have a few ducklings, but this little mother had nine. They all had their heads down and their feet were moving as fast as they could manage. It was a nice way to slow down and smell the roses.

Further down the road a ground hog waddled across the road. Twenty five miles later we saw a coyote, and we must have seen two dozen turtles between Troop headquarters and our destination. It is a joy to have little reminders that pull your priorities back into proper prospective.

State highway department crews were mowing the right of ways along the highway, and the smell of fresh mown grass filled the car. That smell instantly transported me back to our backyard when I was little. Summer evenings, swinging on the little swingset, licking a blue bomb pop from the ice cream truck. The smell of that freshly mown grass is a powerful memory of happy uncomplicated times.

Last night I finally turned on the air conditioner. It was 90 here, and after several muggy humid days, the heat finally made it unbearable. I closed up the house, put the storm windows back on and flipped the switch. Sometime today or tomorrow the house will finally cool down and be an oasis from the summer heat and humidity.

I hope that today you see something unexpected. Something that makes you smile and brings back a cherished memory. It is a good way to start the weekend…..here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, May 20, 2004


Today is getting off to a rocky start. The alarm didn’t go off, and I am rushing around trying to get ready for work. This is one of those days when I have to force myself to take deep breaths and strive for calm. There is a reason for everything, and I will just have to wait for it to manifest itself.

On the bright side we have a glorious sunrise for the first time all week. I love the sun streaking through the trees. The birds are happy and singing, especially Mr. Wren. I have heard him coming and going from their wind chime birdhouse. He must be bringing his mate food while she sits on the nest. That little house is only 4”x 6”, and today is supposed to be ninety degrees. I guess they will survive.

Just an update on some unrelated things for those of you who are wondering:

Patty went for her first therapy session yesterday for her arm. She was doing fine when I saw her last night. This is essential for her to get back the use of that right arm. It looks like things are going to be fine, and we are so relieved.

I have completed 16 chapters in my book and am working on the 17 chapter. This has been both an exciting and grueling process, but I am so glad I tackled it. We are a long way from publication, but one page at a time!

Tiny and Scaredy have been home all week. This is a record, as Tiny likes to be gone several days at a time. Must be where the term Tomcatting comes from.

Well, the day beckons and if I am to get to work on time I must run. Have a wonderful day, at least not as hectic as mine has started out…..here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, May 19, 2004


When I was a child living in Shawnee, Kansas, we had a lawn full of little white clover. The clover was a favorite food source and resting place for bees. Mom tried to keep shoes on me, but I was always running out into the front yard without them. This was not a good thing.

I remember being very small, maybe three or so. I loved the feel of the grass beneath my feet, and did not heed Mom’s warnings. I don’t recall the first time I got stung by a bee, but I do remember having bee stings so often my feet were always swollen. Mom doctored the stings with a paste of Arm and Hammer baking soda and water. You would think after a couple of stings I would have learned. My brothers never went out without shoes, learning the lesson from my folly.

When I was in elementary school I learned how to create things from the clover. The other girls would gather at recess around a patch of the clover and sit there. You had to be careful to pick them with the stems long so you could weave them or chain them together. I have tied them together as well, but it was harder to create a chain by splitting a small slit in the stem and feeding another clover through, and I loved a challenge. The puffy white bloom caught in the slit and then you made a split in the new stem and insert another clover, and so on. It was a game to see who could make the longest chain during recess. This really appealed to my competitive nature.

Once I learned how to make things from the clover, we didn’t have as many in the yard. Of course it didn’t keep me from being bee stung, but I was more mindful of the bees as I grew older. I made many necklaces, bracelets, crowns and chains with the clovers.

The other day I was down at Davey’s visiting him. While Patty and I were visiting, Davey played nearby. In a few minutes he came carrying me some little white clovers he thought were flowers. So cute. Anyway, I was reminded of the clover chains I had made as a child. He was thrilled to see you could make things from them. I taught my daughter how to create jewelry from the clover, and now Davey. Another generation of children will know how to make something from nothing, encouraging their little imaginations to grow and flourish. I warned him about running in the yard without his shoes, but alas, he will have to learn the hard way too, it seems.

Just an update on Patty’s arm-
She went to a specialist. She has two breaks in the bone that creates the ball that fits into the shoulder socket. She will not have to have surgery after all, as the two breaks have almost healed by themselves. Today she will begin a long and painful series of physical therapy to strengthen the arm so she can regain the use of it. Our many thanks for your good thoughts and prayers on her behalf.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, May 18, 2004



After walking my one bag of trash down to the end of the drive, I stood. Quietly.

The cardinals singing is the only sound that breaks the stillness of the morning. Dawn is still an hour away. The fog in the big woods hangs in the trees, but as I stand watching it surrounds me with cool misty fingers and swirls around me like a dream. There is peace. As I breathe in the cool damp air, I close my eyes. The tangy scent of the geraniums I planted tickles my nose. The musky smell of damp earth dances with the sweet perfume of the petunias.

The tinkling of the little wind chime that houses the wrens breaks the silence. I smile knowing he will soon be serenading his mate with a beautiful song. The quiet moment and peaceful interlude has passed. The day begins and time is fleeting.

Turning to walk back up the drive I hear a rooster crow in greeting to the coming day. As though waiting for the opportunity, a dog barks happily at the rooster. Robins are hopping around the yard searching for worms. A bunny crouches in the weeds by the yew bushes like a statue. Don’t worry little friend, I will not harm you.

The trees of the big woods are still. No breeze flutters the leaves. Nature waits for the storms that will come today, but for now, peace. Blessed peace.


And so begins another day of life….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, May 17, 2004


Last night I turned on the television to watch it while I ate my supper. On a Sunday evening there was nothing on, so I resorted to channel flipping. I found a movie with Steve Martin in it, so figured if nothing else it had to be funny. I had tuned into the last part of it, and didn’t know what was going on except that the woman he loved was going to leave on a plane for London.

The last ten minutes of the movie focused on Steve’s character sitting in a chair thinking about how miserable he was going to be without her. One of the best lines I have heard in a long time came from his quandary.

“You may not always know the exact moment love begins, but you always remember the exact moment that love ends.”

How true.

Years ago I watched a movie that yielded another favorite line that I have used many times since. It too was a love story that had resulted in a break up. I love the thought.

“I would rather be alone for the right reason than with someone for the wrong one.”

How true.

I have loved and been broken hearted just like everyone else, and both situations have their learning curve. I have grown and flourished in love, and I have grown through the pain and tragedy of lost love. If you are walking and breathing you also have experienced both ends of the spectrum.

Knowing both situations, I would rather feel the joy and wonder of love. I don’t know anyone who wants to experience the hurt and pain of a broken heart. Love is an emotion that is elusive to many and desired by everyone.

Be content in which ever situation you find yourself in. Learn, grow, and seek happiness as an individual. When love comes back around, you will be ready. In Steve Martin’s case, he loved the woman enough to let her go. In the last scene of the movie she got off the plane and took a cab to his home. He somehow knew she was coming and met her in the yard in the middle of a storm. Don’t you love happy endings? Happy Monday.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Sunday, May 16, 2004


Thank goodness the outside work is done and I can enjoy the inside chores today. It is a good thing because I woke stiff and sore and my lower back is on the brink of disaster.

It is good however, to know that there are new flowers in all of the half barrels to greet me each day as I return home. I was lucky that because the day was so pretty the nursery was open longer yesterday. Usually they close at noon. I was working along and got hungry,so I jumped in the car and went uptown to get a Sonic burger and some fries. As I was coming back by the nursery and saw the crowd I whipped in and picked out the most beautiful things.

I am happy that in just ten hours I got so much done. Cleaning the garage isn't one of my favorite things, but once a year, it is a necessity. Today is supposed to be even nicer than yesterday, and I will go out and finish some trimming and water the new plants.

This morning I will write while it is quiet and there are no distractions. I can do laundry and dust in between chapters when I get up to stretch. First, though, it is time for a cup of coffee and watching the sunrise.

Happy Sunday!
Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Saturday, May 15, 2004


Good Saturday morning to all.

I am getting ready to head outside into the rare Saturday morning sunshine for yard work and other chores. I couldn't do that without letting all of you know where I was or what I am doing. Like many of you I hear from on a regular basis, Smalltown has been flooded with heavy spring rains. Today is the first dry day with promise of sunshine we have had for two weeks. So, the outdoors calls.

Have a wonderful day, whatever you plan to do, and those of you who are doing nothing can provide the moral support. Happy Saturday.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, May 14, 2004


Yesterday was an exercise in frustration. As you know, I give driving tests on a traveling crew. Yesterday we traveled to the far reaches of our Troop to the county court house we would be working in for the day. Our room has been occupied by state auditors for annual audits for two months. It has been the same at every court house we work in, and when this happens we are displaced for the day.

Usually when we are moved to a different office, it is cramped and the facilities lacking. When the auditors are at this particular court house we usually use the court room, which affords a lot of space and more comfortable chairs. When we arrived yesterday after the hour and ten minute commute, carried in all of our equipment, and started up the two flights of stairs because the elevator was broken, we were told that a jury trial was being held. This was not good news.

When the court room is in use we usually use the commissioner’s office. We were told that the auditors were using that room since the jury room they usually occupy was in use. So. We ended up in a very small office used by the treasurer. It was painted a vivid yellow and looked as though there had been an accident with a herd of Holstein cows. Everywhere you looked there was cows, black and white everything. Even the picture frames were white with black spots painted on them.

The good thing was that the people in the court house came to the fore. We only had room to test two people at a time, which was a huge handicap. We only get to this particular station twice per month, and we had missed one of the days this month due to a state holiday. I knew we would be busy, and sure enough the hallway was full of people who needed a test. They did not look happy. The county assessor is a very nice lady and she offered us the use of one of her tables across and down the hall. This involved putting an examiner in there to supervise the applicants. This was fine, but we worked short handed all day because of it.

At lunch the three of us that comprise our crew went out to a little local hole in the wall restaurant for ribs. We got our orders to go, and when at last we closed the doors to eat our lunch it was wonderful. As we sat with our plates balanced on our laps, I picked up a rib to take a bite and looked right into the faces of several Holstein figurines. Gulp. Once I turned my chair where I couldn’t see them staring at me I enjoyed my rib platter. The baked beans are to die for, the ribs are smoked and then barbequed, and the bread is a chunk of homemade whole wheat still warm from the oven.

The beauty of working so far from Troop headquarters is that the work day is short. Before long I was thanking the ladies for our facilities for the day and we were headed home. Even though it rained hard all the way home, I was happy. Every time we have less than adequate facilities, the people in the offices help us get through the day. The spirit of hospitality and cooperation is what makes the day worthwhile.

I hope that you meet with the same ‘can do’ spirit today wherever you work, and that the last day of your work week (at least for many of us) is a good one. Today I am headed an hour and a half in the other direction to another court house. Thankfully the auditors haven’t made it there yet. Let us hope that today isn’t the day….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, May 13, 2004


Becky, Grandma Andersen, Esther, Grandma Strain, George
From left to right: Becky, Grandma Andersen, Esther (Mom), Grnadma Strain, and George (brother)

Yesterday was my Grandmother’s birthday.

She has been gone a long time now, but the lessons I learned from her are still fresh. I suppose that she is still a large part of my life because I live in her home, but I think of her and Grandpa all the time. Their footprints and fingerprints are evident everywhere I look.

Grandma is what I call a Gentle Spirit. I have a more outgoing personality, but I always envied her ability to hold her thoughts to herself. She puttered around the house, worked embroidery, needlepoint or quilted, baked and loved to read. I imagine I inherited my love of books and reading from her.

I used to love to visit her here, as it was so peaceful and quiet. She always had a cake or pie baked and a cup of coffee made a fine compliment. Many times she would bake something while I sat at the kitchen table and watched. I lived with her for a time, and we shared many things in common.

I remember her humming while she fried tiny buttermilk pancakes for breakfast, her special yellow coffee cup that sat by her place at the table, and the different colored embroidery threads she kept on the arm of her recliner. Whatever project she was working on, she had needles threaded with the colors of thread she would need, and saved a lot of time having to thread a needle with the thread required when the pattern changed.

She kept a list of every book she had ever read and when she read it, and kept it by her chair. Grandma was a clipper. If she read a thought, a quote or a poem in a newspaper or magazine that she liked she clipped it out. She also clipped recipes. And coupons. When she died, mom found a little keepsake book of all her clippings.

Grandma also like to keep things. She put gifts up in a safe place and didn’t use them. She saved string, rubber bands, and all the little condiment packets from restaurants. After she died there was a whole drawer of salt and pepper packets, mustard, ketchup, jellies, sugar, napkins and straws. I suppose it is natural that I have a burgeoning collection of Subway napkins. Can I help it that they give me so many? I eat there at least five times a week, so I just bring them home and put them in the napkin holder. Good for packing my lunches for work.

My very outgoing personality has mellowed with age. I suppose living alone and in the country has contributed to that, but also weathering the storms of life changes you. I have always aspired to be the Gentle Spirit that my Grandmother was, but somehow I just always fall short. Mom has written about her, as have I, but somehow it is the memories that I hold in my heart that describe her so well….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, May 12, 2004


After the chicken butchering incident, life settled into a more normal rhythm. The landlord’s son Tim spent a lot of time at our house, and we came to think of him as part of our family. When he was in junior high school his Future Farmers of America class gave an assignment for semester projects. He came over to talk to Hank about it.

Long story short, Hank and Tim went into the rabbit business. They spent long hours building the rabbit cages and planning the business. They started with four females and one male. The day Tim brought them over to put them in the cages, I took Jennifer out to see them. They were so cute. Little white bunnies with pink noses. They were soon hopping around in the cages, turning over their water and rabbit pellets. I had no idea what being in the rabbit business entailed.

Tim spent a lot of time at our house. About anytime I looked out toward the barn, I would see him taking care of the rabbits, making notes in his FFA notebook, or just holding them and scratching their ears. I have heard jokes all my life about how fast rabbits multiply, and indeed we had baby bunnies everywhere in no time. Good grief. It was a good thing that Tim’s dad was paying for the feed and the lumber for cages. Hank and Tim built new rabbit hutches to accommodate the new ones, and they planned how many to keep for breeding.

One Saturday Tim came over early. We invited him to join us for breakfast, and after we ate Hank joined him at the rabbit hutches. I was washing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen, and hadn’t really been paying that much attention to what they were doing. I decided to bake a cake since Tim was there so that when Hank came in for coffee we would have something to go with it. I had just put the cake into the oven and stepped to the door to let them know when it would be done when I finally noticed what they were doing.

There was a pile of little white bodies on the ground by Tim’s feet. They were taking the rabbits, knocking their heads on the side of the barn and cutting their heads off. I couldn’t believe it. I took Jennifer into the living room and cried until I couldn’t muster any more tears. I would never, never get used to the cruelty of farm life. They came in some time later to tell me how many rabbits would be going to market. There was a truck that went to MFA each Saturday to pick up the dressed rabbits. Today was evidently the day.

There is a huge market for rabbit, and the business was a lucrative one for Tim, but I finally put my foot down, and they moved the hutches over to Tim’s house. I don’t know why it wasn’t that way from the beginning except that Tim’s dad was elderly and also sick. At any rate, that was the last of the rabbit venture....on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, May 11, 2004


There is a very happy cardinal singing right outside my window. They have such a beautiful song. Last night when I came home from visiting mom and Rocky I peeked inside the little birdhouse wind chime that the wrens are nesting in. Sure enough there was dried grass sticking up where they are working on their nest. So cute. Mr. Wren hasn’t started singing to Mama Wren yet this morning.

The sunset last night was the most beautiful red rubber ball. I love those. Long after the red sun had slipped beyond the horizon there were pink remnants in the sky. It is one of the things I love about living in the country, because it is hard to see the sun rise or set in a city. I am waiting for the sunrise, and hoping for a pretty one. When the first rays streak through the big woods it is glorious.

The rabbits have had their first babies of the season, but it is a bittersweet thing. Our country road is has many cats, and they are voracious hunters. They have no discrimination about what they kill. They always get the song birds and not the crows. Of course it is easier to accept them killing moles, rodents and the like. Mother’s day I was sitting with mom and Rocky having pancakes when the neighbor’s mama cat came walking up from the big woods with a baby bunny in her mouth.

I guess the failings that kept me from making a good farm wife keeps me from being able to tolerate the brutalities of nature. I realize that animals have instinct that kicks in whether they are full of Friskies Tuna Banquet or not. I hate it. I feel the same when I walk out in the yard and see feathers where some poor bird met an end.

It is time for me to take a walk outside to watch the sun come up. Wherever you are in the world, I hope the sun comes up in a spectacular way to start your day on a high note.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, May 10, 2004


Last summer I wrote of the little wren who built a nest and raised a family in my wind chime on the front porch. I was given the little chime for my birthday a year ago March by Davey and his folks. The chimes dangle from a tiny painted birdhouse and is meant to be decorative only. The maker obviously had never encountered wrens.

Wrens are the tiny little birds with the perky upturned tail. They have a very creative nest building style, and you are liable to find their nest just about anywhere. I came to associate the chimes with the arrival or departure of the mother bird, and the beautiful song of the father as he serenaded his little wife on the nest.

While I was home this weekend and the windows were open, I began to hear the beautiful song of the wrens. It is so unique and special that it brought me to the window every time I heard it. It wasn’t hard to figure out that the little wren couple was house hunting. I have conflicting emotions about their nesting there, as the hole is so small I didn’t want them to get stuck in there. I am happy to report that once again, the little birds have chosen the wind chime for their home. This morning as I sit here writing this I heard the chimes jingle and now the father is singing to his little mama bird.

We call the wrens nature’s little constructionists. They will build just about anywhere, and often build in several sites before settling on a nest. I will keep you posted as to the progress with the Wren Family. Last year when I first posted this story, my brother John posted a comment asking about how much the wrent was. I laughed over that, so will borrow the thought for my title. I will answer his comment here by saying, The wrent is a song!

Wherever you call home I hope that you have little birds building nests and singing to you with beautiful songs. Spring is so full of life….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Sunday, May 09, 2004


The most important things in life we learn from our mother.

Love. Acceptance. Encouragement. Compassion.

There are other things I learned from my mom, of course. Homemaking, cooking, knitting, crochet, embroidery, sewing. I learned many skills, observed many times her imagination and joy in taking care of our family and making a happy environment in which to grow and learn.

I grew up with all the tools necessary to become the person I am today. We were encouraged to dream big things, to reach for the stars, and that we could be whatever we wanted to be if we just worked hard and long enough. Those lessons helped me to try, fail, and succeed.

As I had children of my own I used mom’s example as a guide. Somehow it was easier remembering how she did it. She also made it seem easier than it turned out to be. I struggled, but she has always been a cheerleader, and encouraged me when I didn’t think I could actually succeed. Eventually I got my children raised. Many joys and heartaches later, I think that they are going to be okay.

The card I got my mom this mother’s day had a very good sentiment. Since I gave it to her already, I will just have to summarize the verse. The love that she has always shown to me I will honor by passing it along to my own children. A friend of mine refers to this not as ‘paying back’, but by ‘paying it forward’. Although I try to be a support and help to mom, I have tried to pass along all of the wonderful things she taught to me in word and deed to my own children.

To all of you mothers, I wish a very happy Mother’s Day. Remember your own mothers, as they had influence over the type of person you are today. Celebrate your children, pets, and extended family. You may not have children, but you are a mother anyway.

God Bless Moms, and God Bless you.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, May 07, 2004


Life on a country road.

I have written many stories of my life here. Family, friends, critters and good food. Much of what is endearing about Smalltown, is also found within the blog world. People who care, are involved with our day to day lives, support, humor, and love.

I thank you for your good thoughts, comments, and prayers as my days unfold. It is much like sitting down with a cup of coffee and having a heart to heart talk with good friends. I have come to look forward to our daily chats, and your insights and shared experiences are both helpful and welcome. It is good to know that wherever blog pals live in the world, we are more alike than different.

In the spirit of answering your comments and questions, here are a few updates of things here on my country road.

Tiny has finally come home. After staying gone all last weekend when we were having heavy rain, he was waiting with Scaredy when I came home from work on Tuesday night. I suppose he got tired of sleeping out in the big woods as the water was rising around him. Anyway, he is back and they are once again bunk buddies. They like to get up on the roof of the mobile home, I would suppose to be closer to the birds that hop around up there catching bugs. I have never seen cats climb porch posts to get on a roof before, but there you have it.

Patty is in pain but is resolved to having the surgery necessary to repair her arm and shoulder. Homeowners insurance to the rescue. It will help, if not pay for all medical expenses. Time will tell, but at this point she is hurting so badly and the arm is useless, so the decision to go forward was simple.

Mom and Rocky continue to do well. He is improving, albeit more slowly than he would like. Patience is a much needed virtue with surgery. The body heals at its own pace. Many of you suffer daily with different ailments and disabilities and can relate. One day, one hour, one minute at a time.

Today is a gift. Thank you Mr. Truman for being born in Missouri and being a president, as it is a state holiday today. I have a list of things to do, so I’ll see you in the morning…right here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, May 06, 2004


If you take a stroll down my country road you would pass the homes of dear people I consider family. We share the every day things in life, the joys, the sorrows, the good times and the bad. Rarely does anything happen that the others don’t notice. It is the thread that binds the fabric of country living together.

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting with my mom on the deck after work. Davey and his mom and dad Patty and Dave live just next door to my mom and Rocky. Mom and I noticed that when Davey and Patty came out to sit on their patio that Patty sat with her back to us. It was unusual, as normally she would have waved and called out a greeting. She looked so sad. She was also wearing a dress, which was odd, as normally she would have been wearing shorts and a T-shirt. When Rocky came out to sit with mom, I walked next door to visit.

Davey was of course oblivious to his mom’s mood. While he played with his toys, Patty told me she had been to see the doctor. Three weeks ago she had fallen while helping Dave with yard work. She landed against a stump, and hurt her right arm. When the pain became unbearable and the bruising turned black and green, Dave took Patty to the local medical clinic. The doctor told her it was torn ligaments but didn’t x-ray it because of the swelling. She has been taking medication for swelling and pain, but over the past couple of weeks she has not improved. The pain has increased, and it is impossible for her to move the arm.

Yesterday the doctor x-rayed Patty’s arm. It is broken above the elbow. When she fell, and the break occurred, the bone was shoved up into the shoulder. She is being sent to an orthopedic surgeon. Normally this would have been good news and a great relief to finally know what is wrong and knowing steps could now be taken to fix the problem. Normally. Patty and Dave have no medical insurance.

You may remember that several years ago when Dave was a sergeant for the Smalltown police force he was injured making an arrest of the driver of a stolen vehicle. When Dave asked the driver to step out of the vehicle, he took off dragging Dave with him. It is a miracle that Dave survived the incident. The driver was arrested and is now serving time. Ultimately Dave had to retire early due to his injuries. Patty is needed at home to take care of things. Her worst fear was that something like this would happen.

At times like this I wish I could win the lottery, or that I had been born independently wealthy. It has been a struggle for them, and now when all of her energies are needed for the impending surgery and recovery, this cloud hangs over them. Normally there are avenues of help open, but it is not an option for them because they own their home. The system is so unfair. I deal with people every day who have never worked, but have more income and health benefits than a lot of people because they do not own a home.

I would so appreciate all of your prayers and good thoughts for Patty. The road ahead is uncertain, and there are of course decisions to make. These dear people are more than just friends, they are family….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, May 05, 2004


After the chicken butchering incident we had only forty eight hens and four roosters left. It was nice not to have all of the roosters fighting and crowing all the time, even though they had come to such a violent end.

I had to wait for Hank to come home each day to gather the eggs for me, as the hens were laying. To a city girl I saw no difference in this term and laying eggs. Evidently there is a big difference. The term laying refers to the time when the hen seeks out a place to nest and lay eggs to raise chicks. Since we had a hen house, it was silly to me why they would want to nest out in the barnyard. It was tricky as well, because every now and again Hank would gather an egg or two that he shouldn’t have. Let me tell you that the first time I cracked open an egg in the skillet and a half formed chick spilled out I got sick.

The thought of the hens raising the chicks instead of us was also nice. It seemed to be easier for them, and before long hens were perched atop their eggs all over the barnyard. When they started hatching, we liked to take Jennifer out to watch the little chicks with their mamas.

As each brood hatched I began to get uneasy. Before long we had more chickens than we had before we butchered. I loved my Dominique chickens, and we never gave thought to butchering them, but I knew Hank was counting drumsticks every time he fed the leghorns. I suppose that is the way of things on a farm. Things multiply and you butcher the excess for food, keeping the best producers for more meat, eggs or milk.

It is funny that after writing the story of how I came to get my Dominecker chickens to begin with I was coming home from work and there were four of them and a rooster on the side of the road. A new family had moved into a rental house on the county road, and they evidently have those pretty Dominecker chickens.

I had the ridiculous urge to find a gunny sack…here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, May 04, 2004


Prune plums are popular here in Smalltown and surrounding country. Hank’s mom always had cobbler or pie made out of them and I took an instant liking to them. This was probably more to do with my being pregnant than anything else, as I haven’t canned any since that time.

They were cheap enough, so I had Hank pick me up two cases. Jennifer and I washed them all one evening, and when Hank went to work the next morning, I had him carry them into the living room where I could pit them while Jennifer watched Sesame Street and other children’s programs. Once I had my bowl full I took them into the kitchen and put them into my big cooker. I did that all morning. After lunch while Jennifer was down for her nap I cooked the plums for canning. I couldn’t resist making a cobbler for dinner, hoping it would buy my way out of trouble for being up so much during the day. I had been restricted to bed rest until the baby was born, but with an active three year old and a home to run it was hard to comply with.

When Hank got home from work and had done his chores he carried in the canning jars I needed and put them on the counter. After dinner, a bowl of warm cobbler and a cup of coffee, I washed the jars and sterilized them. The next day was Saturday, so Hank put the cooker of plums into the refrigerator until the next morning. He could help me then. I needed to rest after being up all day.

After a hearty breakfast of buttermilk biscuits, fried ham, eggs, hash browns and red eye gravy, Hank got the cooker out and I began to heat the plums again. I sterilized the jars and lids, and by the time the plums were hot enough to can, we were ready. In no time the counter was lined with quart jars of plums. I could make pies, cobblers and plum butter for toast and biscuits for a long time…..here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, May 03, 2004


Spring brings many odd phenomenons. Each year there are a handful of beautiful birds that migrate through on their way north. Some of the more colorful ones are Evening Grosbeaks, Summer Tanagers, and Baltimore Orioles.

Yesterday morning I walked down to mom and Rocky’s to ride with them to Springfield. While I was waiting for them to get ready I was standing at the window that looks out on mom’s perennial garden admiring the view. The hummingbird feeder was right in my line of sight, and a big bird lit on it. I knew from having that happen at my house that it was an oriole. I was so excited that I could only say, ‘oriole, oriole!’. That brought both mom and Rocky to the window. Orioles like they sweet nectar in the hummingbird feeders, but have a hard time as they are so big.

Several years ago I noticed my hummingbird feeder was empty every night. For that to happen there must have been dozens of hummingbirds out there. After hanging the full feeder up one evening I stood at the front window and watched to see what would happen. Sure enough two large birds lit on it. By hanging upside down they could drink the nectar out of the feeder. I recognized the beautiful birds as Baltimore Orioles. They are so rare here that I called mom to tell her about it.

After doing a little research on how to lure them to the yard, I went to town and bought a bag of oranges and some grape jelly. After cutting the oranges in half I took them outside and hung them on a nearby post with nails. In no time there were several orioles feeding on the oranges. Once the rinds were empty I filled a couple of them with the jelly and hung out more orange halves. What a sight! For a couple of weeks I had orioles everywhere. Then one day I came home and the oranges hadn’t been touched. The next day was the same. After more research I had to accept the fact that some birds are just guests for a time before they move on to their normal territories.

Before we left yesterday, Rocky and I went out and put several orange halves on the deck rail by the hummingbird feeder. It was raining when we came home in the afternoon, but I am anxious to see if the oriole came back or moved on. The Evening Grosbeaks are here and have been for a week or so. You just never know what you might see at the feeders in the spring….here on our country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Sunday, May 02, 2004


I woke to fog hanging heavy in the trees of the big woods surrounding the house. There is so much moisture in the trees that I thought at first it was still raining, but it was just the dripping of the rain and fog from the sodden branches. It is quiet. Peaceful.

The fog in the huge white pines in the yard and in the big woods cloaks us in the serenity and silence of Sunday morning. Everything is so green. After a week of rain it looks as though I will get to watch the sunrise today. Now that the trees are leafing out, I can only see the sunrays radiating through the woods, but I can see the sun itself once it raises above the tree line.

Mornings like this I love to walk. Slipping on my shoes, I opened the front door and went out into nature waking. After letting Scaredy out of the garage, I walked around the yard. He wove in and out between my legs, stopping every now and then to stretch and yawn. Cats always look so lazy when they are waking up. Soon he was chasing a fat robin, but only half heartedly.

The flowering bushes are getting ready to bloom. I have pink and red spireas, wygelias in a beautiful magenta color, peonies, and flowering almonds. The rose of Sharon bush is leafing out, but it will be later before it blooms.

As the sky lightens toward dawn, the fog begins to lift. The birds are beginning to stir, hopping joyfully from limb to limb. Soon the day will begin in earnest and I will have things to do. For now, I am content to just stand here as the world awakes….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Saturday, May 01, 2004


We have been experiencing Blackberry Winter here. It is a term assigned by the locals as the cold rainy snap that happens about the time the blackberry bushes bloom. The temperatures have dropped twenty degrees and rain has been falling in buckets. All of this is very good for the blackberry crop.

My grandmother loves to pick blackberries. She made blackberry jams and jellies, and put up blackberries for cobblers and pies. Picking blackberries isn’t an activity for the faint of heart. They are the most prickly bushes, and always in the most out of the way places along the roads and in the woods. Our country road is blessed with blackberry briars, and made it easy to pick them.

Although Blackberry Winter occurs in the cold rainy weather, picking blackberries is a chore that occurs in the hot sunny days of early summer. You have to wear long sleeved clothes and wear plenty of mosquito and tick remedies. Watch for snakes, as you have to tromp through the weeds to get to the bushes. It is a slow going thing. It takes a lot of blackberries to fill a gallon pail. This is an ongoing thing. There is no way you can pick all of the berries you will need in an afternoon. Every day until the birds get them all or they go over the hill you have to pick while you can.

One year I decided to pick blackberries, but with two small children, it was an impossibility. Hank volunteered to pick them for me, so every evening when he got home from work he took two pails and went to the woods. It had been a wonderful year for blackberries. The cool wet weather early on and the hot dry weather later had made big blackberries. These wild berries are smaller than domestic varieties, but they were still a very good size. When he brought the first two buckets in I set them to soak in the sink. This is necessary to remove the dirt, small bugs and any worms.

I rinsed those berries several times, and every time I went in to check them there were white worms floating in the water. I called grandma, who told me to rinse them a couple of times and put them up. Since I had already about worn them out trying to rid them of the worms, she told me just to drain them and put them up. Evidently it is better to have a little protein with your berries than to ruin them in the water.

After that, I bought frozen domestic blackberries. Less problems. After that, whenever we were at Hank’s moms or my grandmas house and they had blackberry cobbler, I passed. Sorry, just don’t like worms with my pie. It takes a strong stomach to live in the country. That or it is a case of what you don’t know won’t hurt you…..here on our country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain