Friday, January 7, 2011

You Don't Know.....If You Don't Look!

Merry Christmas to all.......whoops late on that one!

Happy New Year! ....a little late, however, appropriate with 2010 behind us.

There are hundreds of stories and sayings related to "Looking" or "Seeing" what is happening around us; "Look before you leap", "Look on the bright side", "You can't judge a book by it's cover", "Look both ways before you cross the street" (my Mother's favorite as me and my three brothers heard it so many times!), and the ever popular "What are you looking at?"

The perceived necessity of inventing "sayings" to remind us to look, must surely mean that most of the time we don't look. Go for a drive in your car and I am sure will notice a few drivers to prove my theory. They may be looking but not at what they should "the road!".

Then we have the not looking by choice. How many times have you past a store, cafe', museum, or other point of interest and have said; "I would love to stop there to see what that is all about." How many times have we said it, some maybe for years. Or maybe you read about an event happening near you that sounds interesting. Just STOP. Check it out. It's just that easily. You can take a minute to see if it is something you will really enjoy, if not, at least you won't be wondering about it. A few minutes to look may gain you  a new favorite place to shop, eat, have coffee, or whatever, to enhance your life.

I learned a valuable lesson on "Looking" several years ago when we lived on the ranch. We had 160 acres of rolling hills about 1/4 timber and 3/4 of open pasture of various grasses (none smokable), clovers, and the most beautiful array of wild flowers that only God could be the gardener. Several spring feed ponds and a small lazy creek that ran along the side of the drive way for the first 300 yards, then crossing it, you drove on up about 1/2 mile to the house up on the hilltop maybe 100 feet or so higher than the pasture. All the wildlife and wildflowers, Redbud trees, and Dogwood trees, make it a colorful and breathtaking little slice of heaven. It was nearly a daily experience to see our horses and cows grazing with near by, but not too close, deer, as many as 20 on any given day. Wild turkeys, raccoons, and foxes, were also out there every day. However, ranching is an all year job including winter.

We had cattle and horses to feed everyday, regardless of the weather. The weather in Northeast Oklahoma is, for the most part, extremely nice to be outside. However, there are a few weeks in the Summer that are so hot you could fry an egg on a rock (yes, I had to try it and the dogs loved my experiments and our hens always produced more than we could eat) and then there is the winter.

One February morning the sun was shinning as it does over 90% of the time, however, we got about six to eight inches of snow during the night and it was cold out there. Breakfast time for the animals. So in my three layers of clothes, carhart coat and pants, ski mask, and hood, out I go for feeding time.

 I got to the upper pasture and the horses were standing there waiting on me. They had been there for a while as each of them were covered with several inches of snow over their backs like a coat. They didn't seem to mind at all, they are a very tough animal. As I got closer to them, they were staring at me like " what in the world is he dressed like that for?".  I said my "good mornings" to them and proceeded to start the feeding. First I had to empty the snow from their feeding troughs. This pasture was for horses only so we just had an electric fence that the horses had a good respect. I don't know if I was thinking about their coats of snow or what, but I didn't turn off the fence, and yes, I slid into it! It's a darn good fence because ever with all of my mittens and clothing, I was levitated like a David Copperfield magic trip, vibrated the hell out of me, and threw me backwards landing flat on my back, arms and legs flinging out of control. I laid there for a moment, waiting for the horses to quit laughing, and then when I stood up, took a couple of shaky steps, and looked back at my landing place. Behold, there was a perfect and the most beautiful "Snow Angel" I have ever seen! I guess the involuntary reaction in my arms and legs fluttering out of control were perfect to create such a thing of beauty. Who says that God doesn't have a sense of humor. The horses continued to laugh until I got the food out, then hunger overtook comedy, as it does in most cases, for all creatures.

A couple of year later, in the Winter, I got my good lesson on "Looking". It had snowed hard for a couple of days, getting out only to feed, and the house, full of kids (school cancelled) playing with the dogs in the snow. With about ten inches on the ground, another overnight storm that continued all the next day dumped a record breaking fourteen to sixteen inches on top. Unheard of for this part of the country. The snow was so high that even if we could get into our Dodge Ram 3/4 ton 4-wheel drive, it would never make it to the little county road that led to and from, this now isolated, winter wonderland, and yes I did get out to feed the horses, the cows, the dogs, and the chickens.

Ever been snowbound with a house full of kids for a week? Don't get me wrong, we love our kids, however as parents all over this great land know deep in their hearts, we created schools to get them out of the house to somewhat save our sanity. Another day went by, a little more snow, but no melting as it remained very frigid. Then another day, and Lisa said: "we have got to go to the store, even if you have to go by tractor, because we both know even if we could drag the truck to the county road, it hasn't been cleared" My reply was we have plenty of meat in the freezer, the hens are still laying, and plenty of canned food. She countered with " I didn't see you growing any toilet paper out there!". I have never heard more powerful and inspirational words, because even if I could somehow convince the kids to return to the old days of using a page from the Sears catalog, highly unlikely, the thought of plugged sewer lines going to the septic system struck terror in my heart. So after several days, T.P. was the motivation for me to make a long drive to town on the tractor. I bundled up, filled the tractor with diesel, and headed out.

When I got to the gate on the top of the hill, I had to stop and just take in the snow covered lower pasture, the ponds still flowing as they are spring feed, and other than a few wild animal tracks, a perfect blanket of snow as far as you can see. It was so quiet. Not a sound. A nice change from the house full of kids! Definitely no sounds of trucks on the county road, because even though I hadn't driven the tractor down to look, I was sure it was still covered and treacherous. After a minute of enjoying the sight and lack of sound, I opened the gate, walked back to the tractor, and headed down the lane. Who knows, if I could make it out to Highway 10 (about 2 1/2 miles), I might be able to hitch a ride the other 16 to town. Wishing I had made a sign " Need ride, out of toilet paper".  Surely someone would relate to that.

As I made it down the drive, I had to find a speed that would get me there but not freeze me to death in the process. I drove a path that I thought was the lane, although no way to know for sure as the snow was so deep.  When I came to the creek crossing I knew I was on the right path as it was a narrow path only a little more than a truck wide. Up from the creek I emerged, right turn to the front gate, about 300yards to the county road. As I got a little closer, I saw my neighbor to the South out at his gate off of the county road. He was waving as he too had escaped a house full of kids! And what was that......his truck! It wasn't until I made it to the gate and LOOKED, I saw a perfectly scraped and clean county road. I got off the tractor and yelled " Hello Chad, when did they clear the road?" Chad is a man of few words, but I will never forget these. After a spit of his chew and a wipe of his mouth on back of his glove, he announced, "Three days ago". Not wanting to look stupid in front of my veteran cowboy neighbor, I checked my gate, asked how his folks were, mounted my tractor and up to the house I headed. When I got there, plenty cold, Lisa asked "Too cold to make the trip?" I replied "No. The road has been open for three days! Let's hook up a chain to the Durango or pick up and drag it to the gate." She chose the Durango 4-wheel drive as some of the kids wanted to go also. So chained to the tractor, we drug the Durango to the road. Wishing I had looked three days ago. Lisa drove to town, while I on my tractor with front end loader, made a path to the house the best I could. Hoping it would be good enough for Lisa when she returned. It was. Thank you Lord!

To take a look was five or six minute on the tractor. To not look cost us three days! Who knows, if it wasn't for the overpowering demand for toilet paper, we may have been there for another couple of days.

I guess the moral of the story is that you should stop to take the time and effort to look at the world around us. This includes our heath. If you have a strange lump, bump, pain, or change in your weight or appetite: Stop and have a Dr. look at it. It may be nothing, but don't put it off like I did, only to find Squamous Cancer in the 4th degree. Sure wish I would have caught it sooner.

Write when you can. I love hearing from everyone. And even though I have been in the hospital from Christmas Eve until now (with a while to go), I remain "Loving Life and Fighting Cancer". Love and best wishes to all,

John L.