Tag Archives: father

Campfire Cooking

Today was one of the first very cool Fall days.  It got down into the high 40’s, low 50’s.  I love days like this where you can wrap up in sweatshirts or flannel and a pair of soft, warm denim jeans. Where you can walk outside and take a deep breath of the crisp cool air, so deep that you feel the air touch the very bottom of your lungs… and feel like your body, your mind, your whole psyche is being cleansed. It awakens and enlivens my senses and my spirit like no other season ever will.

It rained hard this afternoon, heavy thunderstorms that cancelled my son’s football game. A good day to be inside, watching movies or college football games, wrapped in a blanket. Tonight though was drier as the cells of storms had moved on earlier in the day. My wife and daughter went off for the closing evening of the county fair where they are participating in the 4H equestrian program.

When the girls are away, the boys like to do stuff… like make fires and then cook our dinner on the fire. I know, I know… you’re saying… why cook on a fire when you have a perfectly good kitchen available? I don’t know, it’s that primal urge that guys have to be and act like cavemen.

So here was our dinner for the evening:

In a large sheet of aluminum foil: Instant white rice (cooked), cannned chicken, frozen broccoli, a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a big dash of garlic pepper.

Wrap it up tight!

Spread out your fire so you have a nice bed of hot coals to cook on. Set the foil packs directly on the hot coals.

Turn on some music, grab a seat and wait patiently! You don’t need to be concerned, that’s not his beer bottle on the chair next to him.

Cook for about 20 minutes!

It’s all about the presentation! See how frickin’ good this looks!!

Okay, so this isn’t really what it looked like.  In fact, it was dark out so I’m not sure what it really looked like. But it sure tasted as good as this looks!

Because you know what? If I’ve learned anything in my many years of parenting…

… it’s not always about the food… you know what I mean?


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A Girl and a Horse

Madeline and Jack

What is it about a girl and a horse?

What brings them together, what powerful force?

Not the beautiful tack,

Nor the ride on his back,

But the unconditional love, of course!


Here’s my favorite song about horses. Written by the daughter of folk singer Peter Rowan and featured on a CD called “Daddy’s Sing Goodnight” which I’d encourage you to get a copy of if you have little ones!


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So Many Days Before

One day he woke up an old man.
He rolled over in his bed and saw his wife was not there.
But he knew she had awoken before him and gone downstairs.
Just as she had so many days before.

He rolled his old, worn body out of his bed.
And rubbed away the remaining sleep from his  eyes.
Arthritic pain and stiffness reared its ugly head.
Just as it had so many days before.

A glance in the mirror revealed deep creases in his skin.
He wondered where those wrinkles had come from.
He remembered the days when he seemed invincible to aging.
Just as he  had so many days before.

Downstairs the windows were opened wide.
And a fresh, cool, country morning breeze was flowing through.
He felt blessed for another day of reasonable health.
Just as he had so many days before.

His wife glanced up at him from the other room.
Her long gray hair in a  pony tail and glasses perched on her nose.
She paused from her book, smiled and said “good morning”.
Just as she had so many days before.

In the kitchen he poured a cup of coffee.
Into his favorite coffee mug with its brown stained porcelain.
The deep, rich aroma awakened his senses.
Just as it had so many days before.

As he took the first sip from the coffee cup.
He stared out the window at the fenced pasture outside.
Where his animals would be spending their day grazing.
Just as they had so many days before.

For a moment he thought about his children.
He wondered what they would be doing today.
Spending their hours working hard and raising his grandchildren.
Just as they had so many days before.

He wondered what the weather was like where they lived.
Whether it would be sunny and warm or rainy and cold.
And he missed them and wished they lived closer.
Just as he had so many days before.

He thought about what he might do today.
What activities would  fill the many hours available to him.
He remembered the days when so much freedom seemed implausible.
Just as he had so many days before.

He was reminded of those years when there just wasn’t enough time.
When excuses for putting things off were readily available.
He thought about some of the things that he’d never accomplished.
Just as he had so many days before.

But in reality he knew he had accomplished so much.
He knew that he had lived and loved and been a good husband and father.
He knew he could still write words that might have a small effect on someone.
Just as he had so many days before.

So he sat down at his computer and began typing.
The dark veins in his hands pulsed through his thinning, aged skin.
It reminded him of his grandmother’s hands when he was a boy.
Just as it had so many days before.

He typed a post about life and love and growing old.
A post about finding the time to do the things that are important to you.
The words flowed onto his computer screen effortlessly.
Just as they had so many days before.

When he finished he knew that he had produced something meaningful.
He knew he had written something small, yet substantive and important.
Words that would be eagerly read and digested by friends and strangers.
Just as they had so many days before.


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A lifetime of pets

Her name was Boo.

Boo was the first pet I remember in my life. She was a big, beautiful Maine Coon Cat, her fur a combination of Gold and Brown and Black and Yellow. She was not weird like a lot of cats can be. She didn’t scurry away from people when they tried to interact with her. She wasn’t arrogant and independent like so many cats are. She just lived. When inside, she was a lap cat, curled up with whoever would welcome her. When outside, she was a vicious hunter who would leave mice and chipmunks and birds and rabbits on our doorsteps… or at least the parts that hadn’t been consumed.

I don’t remember where the name Boo came from. I think the story goes that my brothers chose the name.  Our family adopted Boo from my grandmother’s home, either shortly before I was born or shortly after, I don’t really know. I imagine the naming was one of those stories that ends with the conclusion “don’t let your toddler children choose your pet’s name… you’ll have to live with it a long time!”

Boo was a family cat, but mostly she was my father’s cat. That he was so attached to her is notable because it is a side of him that growing up I really never knew existed, that sensitive, animal loving side.  He fed her and made sure she was let in and out of the house, and begrudgingly went into the basement and cleaned the litter boxes.  He cared for her in that way that fathers often show love for something… more as a responsibility than a joy.  But still he did it, day after day after day.

Boo died when I was in college when she was likely approaching about twenty years of age. She didn’t have to be euthanized, she just went down into the basement and quietly passed away.  Okay, it wasn’t really quietly, according to my older brother and my father, who were home at the time, she spent awhile making this horrible sound they described as “leedle, leedle, leedle”… and then she died.  I could never imagine a cat making that sound and suspect in cat speak she was saying “why in the hell don’t you people put me down!” But it’s hard to make that decision to put an animal down and I suspect, as is so often the case, denial was involved.  Immediately after she died, being the type of family who would rather celebrate life than mourn death, my brother and father cracked open a very old bottle of Johnnie Walker scotch that had been aging in the basement and proceeded to drink most of it. The wooden box that held the bottle became Boo’s casket and she was buried in the back yard.

I’ve had pets around my entire life, dogs, cats, fish… and now goats and a horse. I’ll admit I’m not an animal person like my wife is and like my mother was before she passed away.  It’s not that I don’t get attached to the animals that end up in our home, how can you not? If I didn’t have pet people in my life, though, I’m not sure I would ever take the initiative on my own to go out and get a pet. That’s not an anti-animal stance, just perhaps an innate laziness that pervades my life. But in a democratic family situation, the lazy traditionally get outvoted.

I tried writing down the names of all the animals that have been pets in my life and came up with the following list… not necessarily in the proper order.

Boo (cat); Smokey (dog); Tiger (dog); Little (cat); Sam (cat); Cadie, real name Acadia (Cat); Camden (cat); Hanna (dog); Gypsy (cat); Clio (dog); Mama Kitty (cat); Ashley (cat); Sarge (dog); Shadow (cat); Naughty and Heath (goats); and Jack (horse).

There are stories behind each and every one of these animals that will stay with me through the rest of my life. Tiger, the dog I grew up with, a grayish black cockapoo, in the throes of old age went outside and fell in our swimming pool. My grandmother who was visiting and the only one home at the time called 911 who responded, pulled the dog from the water and asked “do you want us to try to revive him?”

“No, I’m pretty sure he’s gone” my grandmother replied.

Gypsy was an outdoor black cat who showed up on our property shortly after we bought our house here on Brown Road. Upon initial veterinary inspection she was diagnosed with Feline Leukemia, a mostly lethal condition in cats. Then, upon a second veterinary inspection she had miraculously been cured! Although this didn’t change my beliefs in “miracles” we did get a few years out of her until she was hit by a car during one of our vacations. A few days after returning home and not finding her around, we called our neighbor down the street and asked if perhaps he had seen our black cat. In true country-bumpkin fashion he told us “yep, she’s dead, just down the road from your house.”  Thanks… ummm… were you planning on sharing that with us?

Of course, my regular readers have read a story or two about our goats, Naughty and Heath, two animals that I could never have imagined growing attached to, but who have now earned just as much respect in my family’s lineage of pets as all of their predecessors. The stories could go on and on.

About a month ago we had to put down our dog Sarge, the 2nd St. Bernard my wife and I have owned. Both of these dogs died early, as large dogs have a tendency to do. Although he was messy and often in the way, Sarge was a gentle beast, a 200 lb. animal with slobbery, dripping jowls, a head the size of an oversize football helmet and soulful eyes that allowed you to look inside his very being and see an animal that wanted only to be a part of our family. One day, he stopped eating, and eventually reached the point where he could no longer get up. Sarge was my wife’s baby and she, being the amazing, caring person she is, with the help of our veterinarian, managed to get him to the office where they discovered his heart was failing and he was euthanized.

In our younger days, perhaps we would have cracked open a bottle of Johnnie Walker scotch and drained the bottle and maybe we should have. We are still a family that would much rather celebrate life than mourn death, but these days our lives are so hectic that sometimes we even forget to spend a moment to memorialize a lost pet.  We now have the ashes of both St. Bernards in decorative boxes in our house along with a small canister of ashes from my mother who died in 2002. One of these days we’ll get around to spreading all of these ashes somewhere on our property. I’m reasonably confident my mother wouldn’t mind being buried with a couple of slobbery St. Bernards.  Not that Sarge, or any of our previous pets will be forgotten. They all, in their own way, have become memories in this script that we call our lives. A script that takes us through highs and lows and happiness and sadness and that unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, we don’t get the option of reading ahead to find out what will happen next.

Our pet count these days is down to only six, three cats, two goats, and a horse which is boarded at a farm a few miles away from us. I’ll be honest in admitting that right now I’m okay with temporarily not having a dog, not having to clean up the yard and having a slightly lower volume of pet hair in the house.

I use the word temporarily though because as I said before, in a democratic family situation, the lazy traditionally get outvoted.

I imagine that in the near future, there will be an election coming up.


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