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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Remembering Rick

Today, the day I am starting this entry, is December 21, 2018.  I probably will not finish tonight, or even this month.  I have to have time think things through.

On December 16th we lost one of the pillars of our little church; Rick Mills.  It was a blow to us all, but we rejoiced with him as well.  He'd spent the last few years battling an incurable cancer, was on meds for it and was sick most all the time.  He'd spent a great amount of in and out of hospitals this past year, and I believe he was ready to rest and meet his Savior.  The only reason he'd stayed was for his wife, Jane, and his family.

At any rate;  we had his funeral today, the 21st.  The family had a memory box there, with papers for us to fill out with memories of Rick for them to read over.  I took a paper, but couldn't get my thoughts into coherent words.  This funeral, though beautiful, was hard for me; almost as hard as my dad's was. 

That is what this blog entry is for; to give his wife Jane and his family my memories of him; whatever worth they may be.  The random subjects I share here were all mentioned at the funeral, or amongst our church family, so there are no shocks or surprises.  We all laughed, and I am sure he laughed along with us in heaven.


It wasn't long after I moved here in late 2004 and started going to Cedar Ridge FW Baptist Church that Jane and Rick moved into the area and started going to church there as well, maybe in 2005-ish, I am not sure.  Gary and I spoke today about how we remembered the Sunday when they first showed up.  Jane had grown up in the area, so there was much hugging,  talking, and nodding of heads as everyone discussed where such and such used to live and who was related to whom and how, by marriage or not, and on and on...

Today Gary said he remembers thinking back then; "Uh huh, they will come here to this little church once, and we will never see them again."  But he was wrong on that.  Rick died on Sunday morning in 2018, getting ready to go to church at Cedar Ridge. 


His driving foible was shared more than once today by his family, so I feel free to share this and laugh.

We lived between Rick and Jane and the church on a long curve in the road. 

Our family all drive like old grannies on a Sunday afternoon outing, putt-putting along enjoying the scenery.  Rick drove like a NASCAR driver out to set a new record.  If we got in his way he'd nigh try to hitch a ride.  When we finally got to the passing area a few miles away we'd eat his dust. You know what I mean? Rick was a crazy driver!  Even his family says so!

So for a few years Sunday mornings were always an adventure.  On Sundays as we were exiting our driveway for church "Look out for Mr. Mills!" became our cry. We either had to leave early for church, or wait 'til they went by.  We would see the little white station wagon coming around the bend, nearly on two wheels.  The wheels wouldn't actually leave the pavement, but you could see the chassis on one side underneath as the body of the car leaned into the curve.  Whee!  (Truth!  No exaggeration!  haha)


A year or two after Rick and Jane joined the church he started teaching the adult Wednesday night class.  I remember he was big into politics and anything and everything to do with the Middle-east and Israel; either current or historical events.  This exasperated me to no end because to me there is nothing as boring.  But I learned much from those lessons and I always appreciated the fact that he would bring in a sample ballot for us to go over just before elections. It was an enormous help and I will miss hearing him air his political opinions. 

Rick always put time and effort into his lessons; he usually had reams of paperwork and was meticulous about going over each point he had.  I appreciated that, too.

It wasn't long after he started attending Cedar Ridge that a little girl named Hannah, age 2, quite unprompted by any of her friends or relations, gave him the moniker, "Scary Church Rick."  We all got a kick out of that, as did he.  Not too long ago, he teased the now 14 yr old Hanna about it and laughed.

For a few years Rick taught the teen class during Vacation Bible School.  He did a great job at relating to them and they all loved him.  He was good at motivating them to learn, I remember he made them each take a day and teach that day's lesson.

He instituted a "Camo Day" during VBS, in which everyone was encouraged to wear some sort of camouflage clothing.  The kids all loved doing that as well; especially when they put on camo face paint to coordinate with their clothing.

It was also during VBS that Rick instituted Frisbee throwing out in the parking area during free times.  This was the aggravation of those of us out working the craft tent; life was harrowing enough trying to ride herd on 40 kids, much less have random Frisbees whiz through the tent.  Haha....  But we had fun; especially watching him get ticked when the kids would deliberately fling the Frisbee up on the roof so they could climb up there to get it.

Good times


I believe that I have shared elsewhere in this blog that over the years Gary and I have collected random catch phrases people have said that define a moment for us.  And we repeat them occasionally, remembering the pithy truth that they convey.  Rick gave us one of those.

It was a while back, after a Sunday night VBS program, when a lady named Ottilla was our announcer.  She loved details and made sure to be quite thorough in her appreciation speech after the program.  The kids were, of course, incredibly excited and worked up, but Ottilla kept going on and on with announcements and then thanking this person and that person and this group and that group and making sure she didn't forget anyone.  Rick was sitting with his class of teens behind the class of little ones, who were extremely restless and antsy.  He finally spoke up; "Ottilla, it's OK, they are going to blow;" a random, and extremely apt phrase which amused me to no end.  I still laugh when I think of it; "They are going to blow."   


Rick also was a man able skilled at multi-tasking.  His wife would probably laugh at that, but look what else can you call a man who can "bring home the bacon" as it were, enjoy his hobby and spend time rightly dividing the Word of Truth all at the same time?  Rick loved guns and he liked to hunt.  It amused me to no end when he would tell how he'd take his Bible along with him when he went hunting and read it up in his tree stand.  To me, that is multi-tasking!


I remember he spent many hours helping our neighbor prepare for our annual church hayride.  He loved doing that.  One time he mowed a spot in their field as large as Noah's ark would have been, and then put weather balloons at each corner, to be as tall as the ark would have been.  It was a nice visual.


I will miss Rick.  I am thankful I knew him and that he was part of our church family for as long as he was. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


All of our open heifers were bred to calve in November; at least we calculated that to be so when we put them in with the bull in February. 

All of them calved last month.  At least all but one.

This one was a hold out.

Imagine my surprise when I went up there Sunday and found this little girl:

She's another red one!  I could hardly believe it!

And I am a bit bummed that we had to sell the bull that sired the red calves.  This is our third little red calf this year. 

I told Gary that our calf buyers would be thrilled to get a little red heifer, as the other red calf they bought from us was a bull.

Gary said; "Maybe we will keep her."

If we do keep her I am going to call her "Lucy."  Don't you think that would be a good red-head to name her after? 

(Always thankful to the Lord for fun little surprises.  A healthy calf and new mama cow are also wonderful blessings.)

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Confessions of A Christmas Tree Grinch -Chapter 2: Just Desserts

Here in Missouri for many years my arch nemesis has been nothing more nor less than the proverbial Christmas tree.  For me it has been the fly in the ointment of my holiday cheer.  If you'd like to read more about this go here: Christmas Grinch

But here, before I go further, is a picture of my little Christmas Tree Grinch-let.  This was her first Christmas, 2007.  Haha...

We were at Gary's aunt's house, and Ellen was just not having any of this posing beneath the Christmas tree.  Nope, nope, nope!

Anyway.  I digress.

Here, also in 2007, is how I got our Christmas tree:

Look at that smile.  And the rather dull saw.  Little did I know this chore would become an overwhelming aggravation.

Fast forward to last year; 2017.  Mama had had enough.  Mama got a very nice fake Christmas tree from her Secret Pal in early 2018.

And the wailing began...  (see above Ellen picture for an idea).

So I said; "Fine.  I don't mind decorating it.  But I am NOT going to get it."

Last month, as is our tradition,  Ellen and I went up the road to the fence row and picked out a tree.  They are all getting super tall so we chose one where the top looked good enough to use.

I tied a plastic grocery bag onto one of the limbs.  I tell Gary the Tree-Getter the day before that the trees are all too tall so we are topping them.  Ellen tells him to cut above the plastic.

Today Gary takes the saw THE. CHAIN.  SAW. up there in the truck.  I waited and waited, took the dog for a 30 minute walk and wondered what was going on.  It's only a 3 minute drive and a 5 minute walk up the fence row.

I get back to the house and Ellen is on the phone.  "It's Daddy."  I call back.

He's walked both fence rows, toting THE CHAIN SAW.  He wasn't happy.  I told him where it was again.  "Oh, it's so tall I didn't think that could be the one."

A few minutes later he drags in this humongo tall tree with a trunk w/ a diameter the size of my open hand nearly.  Having done his duty he goes off to put out hay, rather disgruntled.  I forbore
to give any feedback.  I think he started to get the idea. 

I go get the dull saw and take off a chunk:

Then we drag it into the house and get it set up in the corner, having trimmed it so looks as wonky as possible.

Then Ellen and I listened to Christmas music while we decorated it.

And all is well Christmas-wise in the House of Howard; wonky and all!

I still intend to get out my fake tree and decorate it with random other decorations that I have always saved back.  But time is running out.  Maybe next year. 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Old Homestead Story

This barn is yea-and-I-don't-know how many years old.  It is up on the ridge above Four Mile Creek.  When I go there and visit it, I am always saddened that we are unable to keep it up.  It is almost inaccessible, and the way it is built prevents it from being moved and restored elsewhere.

Here is what I know of the story behind the old homestead.  I will edit this as I get more information.

This is the house as it is now.

The Howards originally came to this area in the late 1800s as far as I can gather.  They homesteaded up on the ridge; built a log cabin (no longer in existence) and a barn.  I do not know if this is the original barn, I would guess not.  I would guess the original was probably of logs as well, but I am not clear on that point.  There is also a pond to the west of the barn.

The original homesteaders of the property were Edward Spain and Rachel (?) (Haney) Howard, I believe, though I am sure someone will correct or concur somewhere along the line so I can edit this to make sense. 

At some point Gary's Grandma and Grandpa Howard lived here, perhaps not long after they were married.  She was expecting their first child, Marion, Gary's dad,  in 1918 when her husband, Gary's Grandpa Howard, was called off to serve in World War I.  He died in the flu epidemic in 1918 before Marion was born.  She subsequently sold the property to the Junkins sisters, who lived there in the house and farmed the place for many years.  Gary's grandmother remarried an Evans and from them stem several score of cousins of varying degrees who live all over Missouri.  (Gary's mom's side has probably a bajillion more, one uncle had 16 kids, but we aren't going to get into that story just now)

So however the barn got there, the Junkins sisters, Minnie and Bertha, lived there in the little house and farmed there.  These are the sisters; Minnie and Bertha are on the left, Martha Junkins Dugan is on the right. 

                                                        Photo courtesy of Janey Garrison

    They had long hair and braided and in a bun on the back of their heads they had several white faced cows, spotted hogs and White Rock chickens.

If you have read any of my other blog posts about the homestead, you have seen this picture.  The old pecan tree fell on the chicken house (on the left) back in the ice storm of 2007.

   The tree still bears pecans, and there is a smaller pecan tree growing up from near the roots of this one. 

They had a beautiful flower garden in front the house and a garden and orchard in back.  Their daffodils have run rampant and bloom all over around the house every spring.  They had a smoke house where they cured pork.  They stored some of their harvest, probably for the cows or horses, up in the barn loft.  I did not have to ask anyone about that; some of it is still up there from the last harvest in the mid-60s.  You can yet see the corn leaves hanging down. 

You can also see the damage time and weather have done to the SW corner of the barn.

When I go up there and look around the barn I always think of all the labor that went into it.  Someone dug the rocks for the wall supports and corners and positioned them just so:

Someone; maybe a group of men together, spent hours and hours falling trees, trimming logs and hewing notches.  Then they spent time and dripped sweat whilst positioning every log in its place.

 This is one of the stalls in the barn.  Look how the walls are balanced on the stones.

Someone fashioned the feed troughs.

It's not really clear in this picture, but they built a corral on the north side of the barn.  It was still fairly warm when I was up there this fall, so I didn't go exploring the corral, too weedy and potentially snake-y, but it is yet standing.

Gary says he remembers that his dad, Marion, helped put up tin up on either the house or the chicken house, perhaps even the barn, I am not sure.

Another interesting tidbit; Gary says that the well was dug by a blind man; last name of Eef, (not sure on spelling, Eiff, Eeff...?)  I believe it was hand dug, too.  Apparently he began his well business when he was sighted,  and eventually went blind, but his kids helped him stay in business.  

The sisters eked an existence up there.  Sold cream and eggs at the little store over on K Highway, a few miles from us.  They'd walk down there to sell things.  That was back in the days when stealing chickens was very close to a hanging offense. They had no electricity.

One sister died in the 50s (?).  The other lived there until 1968.  The daughter of one of them kept the property for awhile I think.  She knew that it was originally owned by Howards, so she contacted Gary and he bought it back.  I will have to look at the paperwork to find out the exact dates.  He has the original paperwork from the courthouse I believe. 

Random notes:

Janey says one of the aunts (they were her aunts) always had a chaw in her apron pocket.)

 Here is a painting of the place, also undated, but apparently done before the well was dug, as the wellhouse is not included in the painting.  A lady from Oklahoma painted it.

If anyone has any other info, or can add more details, please share and I will edit this to include it. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

These Hills Are on Fire!

Yet again Bella and I forsook civilization and fled to the hills. 

Well, really, I went over to the homestead to check on the pecans.  But let's not get technical.  The dog and I fled the confines of our usual routine and immersed ourselves in the beauty of the season.

This is probably the most colorful fall I have seen in Missouri since I came here.  There is no way to completely capture it on camera.  But I took a few shots.

Going up the trail to the homestead on the back ridge I got distracted because it looked like Midas had passed through.  The whole hillside was yellow!  It was lovely.

But Bella and I finally made it to our goal.  Though this guy was passing through: 
I told him he'd best run.

But then I reached the old pecan tree.  It fell over way back 11 years ago during the big ice storm of 2007.  There were 2 of them; huge, old.  The other one didn't make it, but this one lived and has thrived; miraculously. 
You can see that it's partly on the old chicken house.  In the pic you can't tell, but there is a young pecan tree growing up from the roots.  It must be 15 or 20 ft tall or so.  I couldn't see any pecans on it, but maybe they'd all fallen off already. 

I snagged a few off the limbs I could reach; most of them were way up in the air. 
Then I walked around taking more pictures.  I will share those in a later entry.  It was so beautiful up there in fall.  Well, here's one last one.  The old house.