The Locals.

“Always remember to slow down in life; live, breathe, and learn; take a look around you whenever you have time and never forget everything and every person that has the least place within your heart.”
–Anonymous

Amidst the hustle and buzz of people talking, kids crying, cars pulling in and out and footsteps sounding heavy on the old wood floors as families shop and browse through Wall Drug .. I have learned one of the most fascinating stops may simply be a table in the restaurant next to a few of the locals.

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I hadn’t sat down for more than a few minutes when I heard, “Where are you from?” I look over at the table full of gentleman next to me and answer. I had already been quietly entertained by the conversations happening at their table but was trying very hard to focus on the work ‘to-do’ list in front of me.

I once again, picked the wrong place to sit, if I thought I was getting any work done.

Wall Locals

We chatted for a few moments, then I turned my attention back to my laptop and a series of emails I had to get out that morning. I wanted to get them out quickly and get back to family. But, my answering emails would only be momentary. More questions came, some chuckling and good old fashioned ribbing of the tourist sitting there trying to ‘work’. I looked up knowing my efforts at that moment were going to be fruitless.

There were three tables as I looked down the line, full of older local gentleman, gathered for coffee. All giving each other an incredibly hard time. Laughing all the while. They ranged between middle-age and older, many with weathered hands and obvious signs of hard work and a lot of sun over the years on their faces. But they were all smiling. And as they left, one by one, they were talking about who would be back again tomorrow.

Butch, Dan and I were the last three left sitting in our little area. I kept thinking they might head out shortly too and I could get back to work, but we talked for nearly an hour. As stressed as I was about work and about being away from the family for too long, I took a deep breath and realized instead, what a wonderful moment this was.

I learned quite a bit about Wall that morning. Names, history, who’s who sitting around those tables and what each of them have done in and around Wall over the years. Where they came from, family histories, some very interesting things unique to one of their jobs I was asked not to share. More about each of them, Butch and Dan. And they continued to inquire about me. It was refreshing, fun and made me feel that much more at home in my new home state of South Dakota.

A phone call from one of the women waiting on one of my emails snapped me back into the reality of my morning, of the time and what I had yet to get done.

“I’m sorry, guys, I’ve got to get back to work,” I told them. They reassured me it was fine and it was time for them to get to their days as well.

“We might be back tomorrow,” said Butch as the two got up to leave. “Maybe we’ll see you again.”

I am relatively certain, we will.

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Diesel.

I’ve driven a hybrid car .. oh, probably 6 years now.

It takes regular unleaded, like every other car I’ve ever driven.  While it gets great mileage and has been a wonderful car for us, the Prius doesn’t do all that great on ice.  And the warmer temperatures, melting snow, sleet and heavy fog recently have made for some slick rural roads.

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So I’ve been taking the truck.

……………

“Hey,” I said to the Cowboy over the phone .. “Diesel 1 or Diesel 2.  I can’t remember.”

“Make sure you’re not at the pumps for farm fuel!” said the Cowboy, somewhat in a panic I was at the wrong pump and may have already started putting gas in the truck.

“Don’t worry, I’m not,” I replied to him over the phone, not knowing what difference that would make.  (I filed the question in the back of my mind for later)

The Pumps

I had called to ask again, which Diesel for the Dodge.  Usually the Cowboy makes sure there is enough gas in it.  But as I have been the one to use the truck versus my Prius the past couple of days, I wanted to be sure to return the favor and fill it up.  Only the second time doing so on my own, I knew there was a method as to what went into the tank and why, I just couldn’t remember what it was.

What’s the weather supposed to be like, he said to himself out loud.

“I think it’s supposed to be nice,” the Cowboy continued.  “I guess you can go with Diesel 2 for now.  It’s not all that cold out so you shouldn’t need number one.”

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Diesel 2, he explains to me as I sit down to write for the first time in a very long time, apparently gels up if it gets too cold.  He let me know, I would most likely get stranded alongside the road if the wrong diesel is in the tank and the temperatures plummet.

Sincerely good to know.

…………

Also good to know why it mattered if I was at the Farm Diesel pump:

– Farm fuel is good for tractors and other farm related equipment.

– It is the same diesel, it just isn’t taxed.

– The Cowboy says there is about a $ .50 tax on every gallon of gas we buy.  I ask, are you sure it’s $ .50 and he says, pretty close.  (May differ by state.)  I don’t feel like fact checking this morning so I’m going with it.

– There is a dye in farm fuel and if you get picked up, police can check your tank.  If you have farm fuel in your truck, it is at the very least, a $1000 fine.

………….

The things we’re learning .. living on a dirt road.

My Mother …

Apartment is cleaned up.  Laundry is going.  Coffee is on.  Running clothes are on too so that I’m motivated to workout after writing this, before I run off to work.

Life’s been hectic lately.  A good hectic at times and at other times, exhausting.  More emotionally than anything.  But finally feeling like I have a moment to sit and write.

I wrote most of last week about the mom’s in my life.  And while Mother’s Day has come and gone and this was to be my post on Sunday .. my 100th post .. I’m actually thinking my mom would appreciate that I’ve been trying to take care of some other obligations and things that needed tending to, before taking this break.  Plus, she’d appreciate, I believe, the fact I’ve done nothing but think about her and what was important to write about her now for over a week.

There isn’t a day though that goes by, I don’t think of her and wish I could pick up the phone to actually call .. she was and will always be the woman who became not only my mom, but also eventually my best friend.

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Those of you who are a daughter or who have one now .. can imagine it wasn’t always that way.

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“I don’t have to listen to you!  You’re not my real mother ..” I remember saying to her more than once when I was growing up.

I’m not sure what she ever said or expected of me that warranted that response.

But I remember saying it.  And regretting it then and now with everything I have.  How often we say things, especially as children, we wish we could take back.  Thankfully I had the chance to make amends for that and any other trouble I may have caused her in her far too short a life .. over and over again.  I did my best anyway.

And even though my mom isn’t here to walk me through how she might handle some of the parenting issues I am now blessed and challenged with .. I believe I have some wonderful insight, hindsight and foresight .. as my daughter tries to get away with some of the same.

🙂

Back to my mom.

I may be looking at this through rose colored glasses .. but I don’t think so.  And even if I am, I don’t care.

Here’s what I remember of my mother:

She went by A. Eileen because she hated her first name.  And she never wanted anyone to know it was Agnes.  But I kind of like it.  Family name.  She was born in Maryland but raised in Madison.  Her own father, Paul died while she was very young of tuberculosis.  She ended up with TB because of it.  Scarring her lungs as a very young child.  She was lucky to have survived, herself.  But it would eventually make her more vulnerable apparently, to the cancer that took her life.  She grew up in both a single parent home and when my grandmother remarried at one point, from everything I understand, in an abusive environment.  She attended Business College.  Met my father in a soda shop on Madison’s east side.  Married and moved to the small town of Poynette where she .. and they would live and work and raise our family, most of the rest of her life.

Our first home was tiny, but from what little I remember of it, she made it a home.  Totally 70’s decor.  Sweet flower beds around the house.  Lilies of the Valley out the front window I still remember the smell of them as they would bloom each spring.  A play set in the backyard.  She was always very proud of how things looked, including herself.  She wasn’t a workout queen.  But she was slender, always kept.

And despite the fact she wore little other makeup, there was always bright pink or red lipstick that went on.

She was simple.  Didn’t need much.  Her closet was minimal.  I stood looking at mine the other day and even now, mine is half the size it was a couple years ago (in part because I keep most of my work clothes now at work because I have no closet space in my old school apartment) .. thinking about how I would like to get down to a wardrobe the size of the one she had.  Life.  More Simple.  I love the thought.  And I am going through my own things little by little doing what I can right now to minimize.  (How and when did we as a society ever go from something four-feet wide being enough to closets the size of an efficiency apartment being the norm?)

She was a wonderful woman with an infectious smile .. and a laugh that seemed to be heard around every corner.  When she was happy.  When she was stressed.  When she would hear us say things we shouldn’t .. knowing the consequence was coming.

She was stern, yet vulnerable.  Beautiful.  Outspoken yet often quiet, introspective and kept to herself.  She was helpful.  Had great penmanship.  I love how she wrote her name.  Is that silly?  Whatever.  She was hard working.  Always wanting to pitch in to help wherever it was needed but knowing when it was time to rest and ‘just be’, as well.  She was all about family.  And community where she could.  Volunteering.  Getting involved.  But she was equally good at hiding out and tending to her own well being .. and that of our family.

She preferred my dad do the cooking, she’d do the dishes or get us to do them.  She and my dad both worked hard.  And in turn, expectations of what we could do and how we could pitch in as a team were high.

Especially as we got older.  Older .. interestingly enough, meaning probably my dear daughter, about the age you are now.

During the summer and on weekends especially, mom wanted a clean house.  With or without company coming.  We were expected to keep our rooms clean, have the laundry done and folded, vacuuming done, floors scrubbed with a rag – not a mop, have the lawn mowed, weeds pulled, the garage swept out, toys put away and whatever our other jobs were, done.  We were expected (ahem .. encouraged strongly if we ever wanted money of our own, ever) to work on top of any of that.  We mowed neighbors lawns.  Had paper routes.  De-tassled corn.  Babysat.  My first ‘real job’ I’m pretty sure was at the flower shop/convenience store in town, where my mom would go everyday for her Pepsi and Hershey’s candy bar for a break from work.  It was right across the street from her office.

Work.  Then play.

Which we were given a lot of room to do as well.

(I had written a bunch about that, but thinking I’ll save that for a post all its own.  The importance of play.  And another .. about having a job when you’re young.  Both are so important, I believe.)

In having many expectations of us, we were also given a lot of freedom to mess up.  Figure things out on our own.  And reap the rewards of being good and doing well, earning trust.  Or suffering the consequences of not making wise choices.  And grounded.  For like .. most of my high school years.  All were gifts that helped us both grow into the people we’ve become.  Like us or not.

Travel.

Mom loved to travel.  But hated to drive (flying wasn’t an option back then on a budget).  And she was terrible about reading maps.  One of my fondest memories though is of her, wherever we would be, in the passenger seat with the map.

My dad would say to her, ‘Where next?  Where do we turn next?’

“Well, I think .. here,” she would say.  And she would almost instantly start laughing.

“You think there?!” my dad would say getting frustrated.

We ended up in places we should not have been traveling on more than one occasion because she would break down in a fit of laughter and tears and not be able to even read the map.  Ultimately ending up in the drivers seat while our dad tried to navigate us out of a mess.

I hear her laughter everyday ..

.. as I glance at the photo I took of her on one of the last road trips we would ever take together.

We were in Montana.  And while at this particular moment we weren’t lost, we were laughing.

The photo reminds me each day of her simple nature, her appreciation for life and finding beauty in the everyday little things, for exploring .. but also in coming home again.  And in being with family.

Love and miss you.

“Let there be more joy and laughter in your living” – Eileen Caddy

(A quote not my mom, but apparently another wise Eileen.)

April 30th .. and why you should hug your mother. Right now.

“No matter how old you get, hug and kiss your mother whenever you greet her.”

– from Highlighted in Yellow.

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April 30th has come and gone and I’m playing catch up ..

But I want to go back to that day here for a moment .. as it will always be a very special day to me.  To many, actually.  Because it would have been my mother’s birthday.

As I reflect each day on the mother I am or am working to be ..

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my mom and the kind of parent she was to us .. the kind of wife she was to our father .. and the person she was to the rest of the world.

I learned so much from her .. in life.

Perhaps even more, sadly .. in her death.

She would have 69 this week .. and was taken from us so young.

I’ll write more about her and some of the other women that have absolutely meant the world to me in life as we get closer to Mother’s Day as I want my daughter to understand the impact each of these women had on our lives.

But it was fun going back the other day looking for photos .. (something I was going to do anyway but also an assignment I’ve been given for work.)

Seeing her handwriting again on the back of the pictures ..

Thinking about how she spent her time here on this earth, where she felt she had made an impact ..

But also pondering where she decided to make changes, scale back, focus on the little things …

And the big thing.  Like time with family.  And why she hadn’t done more of it sooner.

It is a core value I contemplate often, work on always and believe any of us realize the importance of .. more and more as we age.

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Happy Birthday to one of the most wonderful, generous, understated, most likely underappreciated, sincerely beautiful women inside and out that I will ever know.

What I wouldn’t give for more time ..

And I will say now what I say always to family and friends who have the gift of their mother still with them .. always hug her and tell her you love her.

South Dakota Wind …

The mornings have all been fairly different here since we arrived early last Saturday .. sunny skies and warm, partly sunny and cool, cloudy and overcast ..

But the one thing that remains constant it seems here in South Dakota ..

The wind.

I had never thought much about how windy it is until this week, where for starters .. we have had a lot more time to hang out.  Usually we are passing through on our way further west.  Or here for all of about 36 hours, turning around and heading back home.

But each morning, when I look out the window, all I can tell for certain, is that it is windy.

And .. that .. if I leave my clothes on the line .. they may not be there when we I go to check on them again.

………..

It is relatively flat, this side of the state.  So there’s not much to stop the wind from gaining momentum and swirling around every corner, every tree, every building.  Watching the grass on days like today is mesmerizing.  The wind almost appears to make everything dance.  So, it’s beautiful on some respects.

It’s just, so windy.

Windy enough that I had no idea how sunburned I was getting the other day because everything still felt cool.  Until I came in out of the sun ..

And, the Cowboy’s ranch is located in only a Fair to Moderate part of the state where wind is concerned, according to http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/maps_template.asp?stateab=sd.  I can’t imagine if we were in the Excellent, Outstanding or Superb areas of the state.

“Every day in South Dakota is nice .. as long as the wind isn’t blowing,” says the Cowboy.

That has me wondering how many nice days there are here .. but he assures me, most are .. even with the wind howling over the plains.

It also has me thinking .. if the wind one of South Dakota’s biggest crops, is it being harvested to its fullest potential?

Minnesota Public Radio did this piece a few years ago now .. http://tinyurl.com/633srn 

Apparently there are significantly more wind farms in South Dakota today than there were at the time this piece was done.  The Cowboy says one of the biggest wind farms in the state is actually not far north of the ranch.

All I know at the moment .. is that I need to keep my hat cinched tighter when we’re out riding.  That the resistence training on my runs is au natural.  And while it has quickly helped to dry many a load of laundry, saving us from running the dryer .. we need to run the wash again.  Because that white clump out in the middle of the neighbors field indeed is one of my favorite shirts that blew away.

Staying put …

I was kind of sick to my stomach yesterday.. thinking about making a decision I knew was best to make for so many reasons.

But one that I just didn’t want to do.

We cold decide to stay put in South Dakota .. where we have settled in nicely these first few days of spring break.

Or .. we could head out, leaving the Cowboy’s like we had planned, for a few days in Montana.

……….

We go to Montana every year at least once if not twice. And that’s just the two of us. My 10 year old then goes one if not two more times with her father. I don’t ever feel I can speak on his behalf nor would I want to, but I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say, we all love it. The state. The state of mind. Being there moves me and I think all of us, like few other places.. something I never expected when I moved there so many years ago for my first job. It is where my ex and I met. I’m not sure a day has gone by that my ex doesn’t wish he had ever left. His entire family now lives there, without him. That’s a whole other story.

Regardless .. If we don’t go to visit family, we go to visit all the friends who are like family to us.

The annual roadtrip usually has us swinging a big loop to see friends in Big Sky country, The Bitterroot, Missoula, Ninemile, the Flathead Valley and back toward home .. it’s a lot of driving. And never enough time with any of them.

But this trip, I really wanted and quite honestly, felt I needed time with a woman who is like a second mom to me. The Hat Maker and her family. One stop. One stop I have been looking forward to for a very long time. We had scheduled three days there .. to fall in-between two very long, wonderful weekends at the Cowboy’s.

I didn’t want to back out… but my gut was telling me I should.

The Cowboy and I have had some much needed time together and conversations we just can’t seem to have in earnest otherwise .. since we have been here. All good things.

But until my daughter asked the other night.. “Mom, can’t we stay one more day here?” .. I hadn’t really considered simply staying put for an entire week.

Not only because I’d be changing loosely set plans .. (which I’m typically and all too often, good with)

Or missing out on an opportunity to spend time in a place and with people that feed my soul ..

But because it would mean I would actually stay put, in one place, with little to do other than rest .. regroup .. think .. and have absolute down time with people I love and adore and appreciate here as well. My daughter being one. The Cowboy another.

………..

Downtime is not something I give myself permission to have very often. And I hate to generalize but, I believe it’s actually something we, as a society have gotten so far away from. Many of us, anyway. The Cowboy has been good for me in that regard.

The Hat Maker agrees .. as she adores the Cowboy and what he’s meant for us. She told me on the phone as we were talking about the possible change of plans last night, that it was probably good for us to stay put for awhile. Stop running from here to there and everywhere inbetween because often it never gets us where we want to go anyway.

We woke this morning …

And instead of getting in the car for the twelve hour drive ..

We are enjoying staying put.. heading outside where there are two horses saddled, ready for my daughter and I to ride out in the South Dakota sun .. While we wait for the Cowboy to return home.

‘She didn’t call it that, did she?’ …

One of my favorite people sent a note to the Cowboy shortly after either reading yesterday’s blog or just looking at the title.

And I can just hear her low, rumbling, infectious laugh as she wrote to him, ‘She didn’t call it that, did she?’ in regard to yesterday’s post about the term ‘lasso’.  I am not sure yet if she is appalled.  Or in hysterics over what a greenhorn I apparently still am.

While living in Montana and every year since, I’ve spent (along with our family) as much time as possible at their ranch.  They have taken me in as family.  I couldn’t love them any more.  And they feel like home to me.  God, family, raising cattle, fun, friends and the rodeo have been a part of their lives for generations.  Maybe, but not necessarily in that order.  But most likely.  And having spent as much time with them as I have, one might think, before meeting the Cowboy, I might have been a little better versed in roping.

Regardless, as I was going to talk about something else entirely today (When a child walk in on… will be tomorrow) .. it struck me to write this post.  Both because of the comments exchanged between my dear friend/second mother and the Cowboy ..

And, that I ran across this link.

http://www.golfchannel.com/media/golf-in-america-2011-cow-pasture-open/

Wisdom, when I first met my dear friend and her family, is where they lived.  Where they ranched.  Where the kids went to school.  Where there was a hat shop.  Where around the corner was one of the coolest stores/galleries and a restaurant attached the locals and visitors loved to stop.  (Where I bought the purse so many years ago people keep asking me where I got it.)  And where during the deep snows of winter, it took a snowmobile to make the drive home.  Wisdom is like a little bit of heaven on earth.  Actually, a lot.  A lot of space.  Incredible beauty in ever direction.  And the people there would give anything to help family, friend or a stranger.

While a lot has changed;  there’s been a divorce, a remarriage, the kids have grown and now all have families of their own, the hat shop has moved to a new home and so has my friend .. snowmobiles are more for sport, than a necessity .. and the cafe/gallery has sadly burned down..

There is still a lot about Wisdom that remains the same.  The town.  Fetty’s.  The gas station.  The Antler.  The Cow Chip Open.  Most importantly, many of the same people.  How good and kind they are.  Open to visitors who become family.

And the mistakes they make, learning the ropes of being a cowboy…