Monday, October 4, 2010

I Just Wanted to Call...

As I sit here trying to find the words that I want and need to say, I see how totally surreal the past eleven days have been for me.  The last words he said to me were, "I just had to call and tell you, Aunt Robin, I'm starting to work on Monday at Willow Lake Mine!  I needed to share this with you because I knew you would understand how much I have wanted this.  I have to go now because I have another call coming in, I love you and I will call you tomorrow."

There was and will be no tomorrow's for him.  He died before 3:30 a.m. that next morning. 

I have to take comfort in knowing he is in a far better place.  His demons died with him.  

Even though I saw him there in that tiny ER cubicle, even though in my pained heart I know he is gone,
my mind keeps playing tricks on me.  I still expect my phone to ring and to hear his voice saying, "Aunt Robin I just wanted to call and tell you how much you mean to me..."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Trail of Tears sign to be unveiled in Pope County - Southern Illinoisan

  GOLCONDA - A new sign will be unveiled at 1 p.m. Wednesday (9/22) in Pope County (IL) to identify the original historic roads of the Trail of Tears and allow the public to follow the actual route.
  The sign unveiling ceremony will take place at the intersection of Illinois 146 and Homberg Road, about three miles west of Golconda.  Community members, including students, are invited to the ceremony.
  A number of local, state and federal officials will attend the ceremony, along with Cherokee Nation Principle Chief Chad Smith and Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Justice Troy Poteete,  Also attending will be Jack Baker of Oklahoma City, Cherokee Nation councilman and president of the Trail of Tears Association National Board of Directors.
  This official Trail of Tears National Historic Trail sign unveiling ceremony will recognize the first and longest signed original historic trail segment on the Trail of Tears.  Although many of the original roads of the Trail of Tears have disappeared, there are many places like the historic road in Pope County that have survived.
   "Marking this 8 1/2 mile stretch of original route of the Trail of Tears gives the American public an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the Cherokee, who traveled this stretch of road during their tragic removal in the 1830's, and helps all Americans to confront and understand a period of our history that many of us perhaps have tried to forget," said Aaron Mahr, superintendent of the National Park Service Trails Office, which administers to the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.
  For more information, email Sandy Boaz, president of the Illinois Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association, at

This article was taken from the Southern Illinoisan, Friday, September 17, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

2010 What a Year (So Far)

I thought it might be time for a new post, since I haven't done so in nine months! 

Where to begin?  2010 has been quite the year so far, with oil spills, floods, excessive heat and so many other happenings in this country and around the world.  Some days I just want to turn the television and the radio off and retreat to the woods.  Sounds like a wonderful idea, except for the ticks who like to leave me with a bulls-eye rash and 21 days of antibiotics. 

We did have a beautiful Spring in Southern Illinois, wish it could have lasted a bit longer.  I did manage to get my two year old gelding going really well under saddle.  I actually rode him in his first parade on the 4th of July.  One never knows how a young horse will deal with all the noise and movement.  I am pleased to say "A.J." did great!  Soon it will be time to take him on our annual "Nine Day Encampment" and following that, the annual Sikeston Ride.  Once these events are over it will be time for me to make the difficult decision to either keep or sell this beautiful boy.

Another happening for our household this year was the addition of a new dog.  This has been quite the experience!  I decided I wanted to adopt/rescue a Boxer, I have always liked Boxers but I didn't really want to start with a puppy.  My daughter and I drove to Evansville, IN to see some shelter dogs found on "Pet Finder", supposedly Boxers.  When we arrived at the first shelter we discovered the youngster I drove there to see was more Pit Bull than Boxer.  Now I personally have nothing against the breed but my husband will not have one anywhere near him or our property.  Sadly, we drove to the next shelter where there was a Boxer mix, probably some Pit here also.  This second one was a BIG dog!  I actually filled out paper work on this one but they turned me down because I don't have any of my 20 country acres fenced for a dog.  So we drove home without a Boxer, my daughter was not happy.  Mind you, she is grown, married and lives in another town but she wanted (me) to bring a dog home that day.  I told her it was just not supposed to happen yet and that when the right dog came along, everything would fall into place.

After this experience I thought I might just forget about the whole idea of getting a new dog.  We had lost one of our dogs to old age a few weeks earlier but we still had Spot.  Both the older dog and Spot were outdoor dogs, only outdoor.  I had no desire to have another indoor dog, especially a large one.  I have never had an indoor dog bigger than 10 pounds.  Addie and I talked about my looking for a Boxer and he said we really didn't need another dog, Spot was enough.  Then our daughter sent a text message saying her husband had found a full blooded Boxer in the shelter at Franklin County!  I wasn't sure what to do!  In the end (long story, short) I picked up my son-in-law and drove to Franklin County Humane Shelter where I met Bobby, a 2 to 3 year old, full Boxer boy.  Bobby was a beautiful, fawn and white, docked tail with un-cropped ears, neutered male who weighs in at 71 pounds.
When Bobby first came to live with us, he was to be an outside dog.  Did I forget to mention that before he came here he was an inside dog?  Did I also fail to mention he's terrified of thunder?!!!
Again, the short version here is, Bobby lives in our house and surprisingly enough, WE have adjusted.  The big boy is very, very well housebroken and very aware of his size in the house.  When outdoors, if it's not thundering, he loves to run and play with Spot.  We have had a couple of problems along the way and at first he was very depressed, looking for his former family.  Now, after almost three months with us, he is at home. 
Shelter dogs rule!!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Where Did It Go?

Well, my friends, I think summer is over. I'm not exactly sure how this happened so quickly, it's just gone! Don't misunderstand, I LOVE this time of year. The problem is the prophecy of my parents and grandparents has come true! Time now passes way to quickly. The days are way to short. Time flies, seasons come and are GONE and I'm left asking, "WHERE DID IT GO?". And with the time that has passed too fast, there are changes that have occurred. Family members age, and some have past away. Friends divorce or separate, move away or move back home. Children and grandchildren grow and change, too quickly! Beloved animals begin to "show their age", and so do we. I'm starting to dislike my mirror a great deal. The face I see in my mind and the one looking back at me from the mirror just don't jive! That person in the mirror has way too many wrinkles and bags beneath the eyes...who is that anyway?

On the other hand, I am much more comfortable in my skin than I was when I was younger. I may not appreciate the aging process but it certainly beats the alternative. I have learned to weed out the things in my life that not longer help me be me. Sometimes this can be a painful thing to do but one that we all face from time to time. Old clothes that no longer fit, due to redistribution of body parts. Old furniture, old ideas and some old habits must be sorted and discarded. Painful! All these "chores" are things we didn't have to face when we were young. I suppose they can be viewed as achieving another level. My question here is, just how many levels are there, anyway? Oh, wait! Maybe I shouldn't ask that question, maybe I should just relax and enjoy the ride.

Here is my inspiration:

Jake the mule is about 23 years old.  Chester, the Man is soon to be 92 years young!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I am in awe!!!

Can you believe this weather? Autumn is my favorite time of year and this year it seems to be arriving early. This is fine by me! The air is off and the fresh air is flowing in. I suspect the fall colors will be magnificent and the best part of it all, even the warmest days are pleasant. As far as I'm concerned it could stay like this year round!

Soon my mother and I will be traveling to the Smokey Mountains for a little vacation. She and I have never attempted this venture before, should be interesting. I'm praying she can stay healthy and enjoy this trip. Since my father passed in 2001 my Mom has wanted us to take a trip together but till now it has just never panned out. This may be a once in a lifetime adventure or could become an annual event. Time will tell. I'm not sure how I feel about going on vacation without Addie, it will be very strange. Actually I'm hoping to talk him into going along but I haven't won that argument just yet.

My Mother left the destination of our vacation up to me. She should have known that if I were choosing it would have to be the E. TN/NC area as this is where my heart is. For some reason, and I'm pretty sure I understand why but won't go into it now, when I first see those mountains come into view it feels as though I am returning home after a long absence. Those of you who know me well, understand.
It has indeed been some time since my last visit to this area. Believe it or not, Addie and I were on vacation in this area the week of 9/11/01. I have not had the opportunity to return since.

Next year several of my Cherokee sister-friends and I plan to backtrack the Trail of Tears, at least the IL/Ky/TN/NC part of the trail. Looking forward to that adventure and the time spent with the other women. Ah! Life is grand!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hay in the Field

Things are running a bit behind in Southern Illinois this year. I know I am!
Usually we take our horses to the Vet in May for their Coggins tests and shots but this year we didn't get it taken care of until this week. Hopefully we will get the Coggins results back in time for the 9 Day Encampment, formerly known as the 9 Day Trail Ride.
Here it is the second week of July and as we drove through the country on Wednesday my friend Chester remarked as to all the farmers still in the field cutting and raking hay. Normally by this time many would be almost ready for the second cutting of hay and they are just now working on the first. I suppose the good news is, there will be plenty of hay this year. A couple of years back many folks had difficulty finding hay for their livestock and when they did find it they had to pay a premium for it!
So this year there will be enough hay to go around even if it is late coming out of the field. Our horses have been tested, even if we were late getting them to the Vet to get the blood drawn. The 9 Day will go on one more year even if the name has been changed.

And so it goes.

I'm moving slower, it takes me oh so much longer to get things done, or even to get moving in the right direction. However, I have discovered that I am not alone! What is going on? The funny thing is, even though it seems I just don't get as much done as I think I should, I really don't care. I'll do what I must to take care of those who depend on me for whatever they depend on me for, but then, I'm done. And like all those big round bales of hay out there in the fields, I'll just be hangin' out, waiting for my turn to be moved to the next spot. I don't stress too much any more. What's the point in getting all stressed out anyway?
In the end, we're all just Hay in the Field!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Time Flies...

Oh My Goodness! It has been way too long since my last BLOG post! Not that I haven't considered posting a few times.
I think about it, but then life gets in the way. You know, work, no work, husbands work, husbands lack of work, INLAND HURRICANES. Just little things that life throws at us.

I prefer to post when I can be positive. I like positive. I realize that in the real world everyday can't be POSITIVE. Boy, do I realize that! If ever I doubted that, the events of May 8, 2008 along with the days leading up to that day and the weeks following that day have certainly reminded me. Inland hurricane? Who ever heard of such a thing?

First of all, in an effort to remain positive, I will say that my family, all of us, were very fortunate. None of us sustained any major structural damage to our homes. My husband and I live in a heavily wooded area and we do have many, many downed trees. We did also receive some roof damage to one of our pole barns due to a downed tree. We had no hail damage to the roof of our house and nothing fell on the house. The horse barn shows no signs of damage however one section of my fence will have to be rebuilt, again due to limbs and trees falling across it. The chicken pen is no more and we have given away our chickens, no more fresh eggs. We have loose siding on the west end of the house and the south side of the garage. Other than that and the fact that our once beautiful woods now looks like a war zone, we were really lucky.

Driving through my hometown post storm was a horrible experience. Unlike the tornado that ripped through Marion in 1982, claiming the lives of ten people, this storm was extremely wide spread. The tornado had a relatively narrow path, which at the time did not appear to be "narrow" at all. The twister however really only directly affected a few blocks. The storm that hit us on May 8th had no path or preference. While certain areas did seem to be harder hit, the damage was very wide spread. Many folks lost their homes and businesses. The loss of life was much less than the tornado of 1982, yet any loss of life is too much. No one in my hometown perished in the storm, however the nearby town of Murphysboro lost one of it's citizens.
Still, for several days I could not drive through Marion without crying. Seeing this type of change is difficult to accept, I suppose partially because it is so out of our control.

Life is trying to return to normal and soon I'm sure it will. It will be easier for some than others I'm sure. Looking out my kitchen window and seeing the huge uprooted tree as a constant reminder will be with me for some time to come. The barn roof will soon be repaired as will the fence and the siding. I'll get to bring my horses home but the chickens will not be returning. Isn't that how life is? Some things must change in order to go on, life is forever changing. Don't get to comfortable in your little niche, things can change at the drop of a hat or the puff of the wind.

Every time I think about those first few minutes following the storm, the goose bumps I felt when I looked around and saw
everything still standing (minus several trees)! WOW! Even my tipi withstood the wind. I use the word "luck" but I have to say it was not "luck", I don't really believe in luck. I believe in GOD. HE was watching over us once again!

So with that I say


Thursday, March 26, 2009

I Love Springtime!


Yes, that's me, breathing in that fresh spring air. And I do believe the sun is shining!
The wisteria is about to pop, as are so many other beautiful, bright, blooming spring beauties.


Need I say more?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Day in the Life...

I think today is Thursday. Yes, I'm pretty sure that's correct.
Today is, or was, Thursday, January 29, 2009. Twenty-nine
days into the new year and already so much has happened.

I live in the country, part of a small town community. There are many small towns in and around the area in which I live. When you live in small town USA you tend to know your neighbor, or at least you used to. It's a little different now than when I was a child. As a child, with my mother working at the local "drug store" and my father working across the street in the machine shop of the local automotive parts store, I felt like we knew everyone in our little town. After all most folks either came into the "drug store" for a sundae and some pinball or took their vehicle to my dad for repair, or both. By the time I was in Junior High School my mother moved "uptown" to a dress shop on the town "square" while my father continued to work as the shop foreman for the same company he'd been with since he was about fifteen. All the girls knew my mom because of where she worked and all the boys knew my dad because of his job. Needless to say my parents always knew everything I was doing, sometimes even before I knew it myself. If that wasn't enough my older brother, older by almost nine years, believed it was his duty to watch over me like a hawk and threaten any boy, who might look my way, within an inch of his life.

Growing up we lived next door to my paternal grandparents. Before I started kindergarden my grandmother kept me every day while my parents worked. I grew up thinking we had everything! After all we lived on a (small) farm with my grandparents next door and all the neighbors were friends. My grandparents had chickens and hogs and a few cows so we always had meat and eggs. My grandfather and I raised rabbits and occasionally he would manage to sneak a few of them off to the butcher. My dad and my grandfather grew corn and soy beans and there was a garden every summer with lots of goodies to eat, can and freeze. My grandfather liked to teach me about milking cows, churning butter, planting the garden and how to eat watermelon right off the vine. My grandmother taught me about chickens and a little bit about sewing and canning. I say a "little bit" because it was difficult to teach me anything that required my staying in the house to do "girly" things. I was a tom boy and proud of it! I wanted to help with the hogs and cows and follow my grandfather everywhere he went. Thank goodness he was a patient man! He was a very brave man too, so brave he was the one who taught me how to drive. But with all this, the love, the understanding, caring and lessons, there was one thing I always wanted but could not have. A horse.

I loved horses from the time I first knew what they were. A friend of the family who was a few years older than I, always had horses and I loved spending time with her. She taught me how to ride and this scared my grandmother to death. My grandmother hated horses and was quite sure I would be killed riding one. As the years went by I would choose friends according to what animals they had in their barn. I looked for people with horses, big horses, fat horses, ponies, it really didn't matter so long as they had four legs, a tail and smelled like a horse! When I was a senior in high school my dad and my grandfather bought me a brand new car for graduation. My mother was still driving a car that was six years old and didn't like that I got a new one. When my mother made a comment to me about my new car and how she would have liked to have one before I got one, I told her I would have rather had a horse! She still likes to remind me of that comment today. It was true however, a horse was all I ever wanted.

After I married and had the children I still wanted a horse. We lived in town for the first three years we were married then built a house on a little piece of land my grandparents gave us. Not too long after we moved in I talked my husband into letting me buy a horse, my first horse. We didn't have a pasture but our house sat at the back of my grandfathers five acres and next to my parents five acres, both of which were fenced and ready to pasture. I was so thrilled! My grandmother was so angry! But I was a grown woman with two small children a husband and a house and horse of my own.

I seldom had anyone to ride with. My husband would help me feed or care for the horses if needed but did not want to ride. My mother has always had back problems and just couldn't be comfortable in the saddle. My dad would ride with me when he could find the time, which wasn't too often with a full time job, farming and keeping up with the yard. So I rode most of the time alone. I would hear of rides taking place but never had the opportunity to participate. Riding was something I loved to do as well as just taking care of the animals so I was happy to just have horses.

Time passed and my girls were getting older and more involved in many activities. My time was spent driving to and from school, gymnastics, baton lessons and ball games. Before long I had little time to ride or spend with my horses. Eventually they were all sold and I was out of the horse business, I assumed forever. I would become so sad in the springtime when I would see foals running around in a pasture or someone out for a ride. Parades were tough too as I had always wanted to ride in a parade and had never had the chance. Another phase of my life had come and gone, or so I thought.

In 1995 our eldest married a young man from a neighboring community. The young man and his family had a horse, one that needed riding. When my son-in-law's family asked me if I would like to ride the beautiful sorrel gelding, I jumped at the chance! Oh how wonderful to sit on a horse once more. How terrific it was to smell the leather of the saddle, the hay in the barn and the smell of the horse, how I'd missed the smell of a horse! Again I rode alone but with no complaint as I was so happy to be able to ride again. The family had several acres and there were miles of country roads to be traveled. I would ride several times a week and go to the barn every evening to feed and care for my new friend. I was in love with a horse once again!

Now, again I repeat that living in a small community has many advantages. I soon learned one of the advantages is knowing a neighbor with horses, who loves to ride those horses and currently does not have a riding buddy. My son-in-law's family suggested I stop by their neighbors house and get to know him. They told me he was a wonderful older man who enjoyed horses and riding as much I and could probably use someone to ride with. They said his name is Chester and he is very nice. They were so right about all they said and the rest is history.

Chester and I began riding around the neighborhood, then on trail rides. One day he ask me if I would be interested in riding in the Creal Springs Parade and of course I was interested. Finally I had the chance to ride in a parade! We rode in parades, on trail rides, and anywhere and everywhere we could. After a couple of years I went to the Nine Day Trail Ride in Pope county, IL. I also began riding on the Sikeston Ride, a ride that takes place annually from Williamson County, IL to Sikeston, MO for the Sikeston JC Bootheel Rodeo. At last I had someone to ride horses with and I had a friend who loved horses as much I.

Chester and I got to know one another quite well through the many talks we had while riding. I learned about his son who had died at the age of 22, about his four sisters and their families, his wife's family and his very special friend Estes,who was like a son. I heard about the many horses he'd had throughout the years and how/why he changed from riding Quarter horses to gaited horses. Due to E.P.M., an illness that originates in opossums and ends up in horses, with the horse being the "dead end host" I could no longer ride Dakota the sorrel quarter horse. Chester offered to let me ride one of his mares, Tinker Bell. "Tinker" was a little black mare with a gait like a Fox Trotter, very smooth and easy to ride. Tinker carried me for many a mile on the many rides Chester and I took. He and I rode almost every weekend, sometimes both Saturday and Sunday and a day or two during the work week. I soon decided I liked riding gaited horses, a lot! In 1998 another of Chester's mares had a beautiful little red sorrel and white spotted filly and I fell in love. Two years later we broke and trained the filly and I purchased my first gaited horse. Tawodi's Fancy Dancer was the official name I gave my new horse, Fancy is what we all call her.

In many ways Chester had become like a second father, that is until my father passed away in 2001. I soon realized just how much time I spent with Chester and how much I depended on his advice and calm way of dealing with life. I learned so much from this man and had been able to spend time with him, riding horses, taking care of them, etc., doing the things I would have loved to do with my dad. When Chester's wife passed in 2000, he was so crushed, so heartbroken. I was afraid he would not recover from his loss, afraid he would give up. With time he improved and realized he needed to go on, that life continued and he needed to do likewise. In 2006, I believe it was, Chester had to have a "minor" surgery. Minor for a younger man perhaps but a little tougher on someone 89 years young. Again we all were afraid he might give up doing the things he enjoyed, his cattle and horses and especially riding. He continued to say that maybe it was time he quit (riding). Finally I ask him what he was going to do if he did give up his horses and riding? His reply, with a grin, was "well, I guess I'll just sit in my chair and die". We resumed riding the next week.

(This post was started on Thursday evening and completed Friday morning)

One week ago today the weather was beautiful, warm and sunny. This was the second such day and with weather like that in January, everyone was outdoors finding something to do. Chester and Estes were trimming trees on some of Chester's property, an old home place where some huge old maple trees still stood. I won't give the painful details of the days events but suffice it to say it ended badly. Trees are unpredictable at best and deadly at worst. The man who was like a son, in every sense, was dead and Chester witnessed it all.

The community out pouring has been amazing, small community with a huge heart. So many broken hearts, so many tears. One 91 year old man who feels lost, who can't help but think he is responsible for this tragedy. So many of us have prayed with him and for him. We tell him he must put this tragedy and his grief in God's hands. Still he has no desire to eat and the tears still flow frequently. Still the whole scene continues to replay in his mind constantly.

What can you say in a time like this? There have been so many words of wisdom spoken in the past week, so many folks trying to comfort. When we speak these words does he really hear? Can his bruised heart and mind really process any of what is spoken? I pray he hears and can feel the love the community holds for him. Most of all I pray he hears God's words and remembers how large His hands are.

My Cherokee Grandmother

My Cherokee Grandmother
Selva COX/Opal Nokomis SMITH Nolen

Enjoying the Ride

Enjoying the Ride
October 31, 2008

Daddy Cat, Jr.

Daddy Cat, Jr.
"You're blocking my light!"


Chester & Princess Out For a Ride