Sparrow gives us new ending to sad story

September 17, 2014

When we first noticed the baby sparrow, here at the house, it saddened us all. He had fallen from his nest and was slowly walking around the front yard under the tree while his mother and father had an absolute fit.

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Chipper Invitational attracts good nuts

September 10, 2014

In honor of his entirely fictional pet squirrel, Doc is calling the annual golf tournament the Chipper Invitational this year. He’s thinking of making that a permanent name for his invention, the most unusual golf tournament in history.

Slim Randles, Columnist

Slim Randles, Columnist

Do you remember how it began? A few years ago Doc decided to raise money to buy winter coats for some of the local kids who can’t afford them. He figured a golf tournament would be just the thing.

But one of the things this valley has never had is a golf course. But that didn’t slow Doc down. With the laughing consent of two farmers whose land abutted each other, Doc got busy. He took a shovel and some long sticks and laid out an 18-hole golf course in less than two hours.

He’d dig a hole and put a long stick next to it. Then he’d walk a while and do it again. He did this eighteen times and the course was ready. So each fall on the day of the big tournament, the farmers moved their cattle to a safe pasture away from the possibility of deadly golf balls, and the fun was on.

Doc charges ten bucks a head for the tournament, almost every able-bodied person in the valley plays, and the kids get winter coats. Not a bad deal.

So this year, in honor of Chipper the non-existent pet squirrel, Doc laid out the course up by the forest. The hazards of this year’s course included an elk wallow, a rock face the size of a library and a thicket of manzanita that a mouse couldn’t penetrate.

Mrs. Doc and Anita got together and made a clay statue of the mythical squirrel sitting up chewing a nut for use as a perpetual trophy for the winner. They put a little engraved brass plate on it that reads “Chipper Invitational Golf Tournament: Dedicated to the nuts in the valley.”

We wonder, also, if Doc benefits any from the sale of golf balls down at the dry goods store.


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Aroma of autumn colors our days

September 4, 2014

It comes to us slowly and delicately, as all beautiful things should. It’s usually in the early morning. We can smell it. We can feel it. That little nip that teases us … autumn. Almost autumn.

Slim Randles

Slim Randles

Summer is heat and work and sweat and cold drinks of water and swimming and barbecues. But autumn is fall … the pinnacle. This is when people have the county and state fairs, because the vegetables and animals are at their peak and ready to show. The heat drove some of us into the house this stifling summer and led us to make quilts, make furniture, can fruit. And now, if they’re good enough (and we know, if no one else does) they can go to the fair, too.

In the mountains, the deer and elk are at their finest, with antlers dark brown with the patina of age and wisdom and those tips white as ivory. Polished. This is the polished time.

We are all at some kind of pinnacle in autumn. We have worked through the heat and now we can plan to ratchet it back a bit. We can take our skills to the mountains for hunting and fishing, or just discover a new hobby there at the house that will keep hands and mind busy during the cold to come.

The children are off to school, preparing themselves so someday their autumns will be like this, sweet with fulfillment, honed to a point, seeping with satisfaction the way ours are.

Autumn … come and whisper to us in the morning. I’m almost here. Almost here. Almost here.


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Folks keep in step to sounds of love and life

August 28, 2014

Mrs. Doc watched the dancers swirl around the cleared hardwood floor of the Legion hall, and smiled to see her husband, Doc, waltzing with Ardis Fisher. But Mrs. Doc was never one to sit out a waltz, so she looked around at the menu.

Slim Randles

Slim Randles

Over in the corner, smiling and tapping his foot, was Pop Walker. Pop and several other residents of the Rest of Your Life retirement home were there to enjoy the dance and celebrate summer.  Pop has a hard time with his memory, these days, but always forgets things with a smile.

“Pop,” said Mrs. Doc, “how about a dance?”

“Why sure … uh?”

“Mrs. Doc.”

“Right. Mrs. Doc.”

Pop had learned to waltz back when more people did it, and the decades had smoothed his dance steps with the fine sanding of time. It was a pleasure for Mrs. Doc to go around the floor with him.

She smiled and winked at her husband as she and Pop danced by. Doc grinned and swirled a fancy di-do with Ardis, just to show off. Then she and Pop got closer to the bandstand and there was Dud Campbell playing his accordion. He looked happy and surrealistic in the muted reddish lights on the stage. Next to him sat Carla Martinez, playing rhythm guitar and smiling out on her town and her life. Jim Albertson was up there, too, playing the waltz’s melody on the harmonica, and trading the lead with Jasper Blankenship on his fiddle.

As she and Pop Walker danced away, the bandstand receded in a blur of light and sound. Passing like ships in the night were Dewey Decker with Mavis from the Mule Barn truck stop. Mavis’s hair is growing back in since the treatments, giving everyone in the valley just one more reason to be thankful. Randy Jones and Katie Burchell sailed by on wings of love.

The waltz ended and Pop walked Mrs. Doc to her seat.

“Thanks for the dance, er … honey,” he said.

“Thank you, Pop.”

The people who dance through our lives give us the reason to get up and get dressed each day.

Listen to the “Home Country Hour” podcast on your computer or other electronic marvels, at


Speculating about Mrs. Doc again

August 20, 2014

The speculating began Thursday again. You see, when it’s either too hot or too cold or too windy or the snow’s too deep or we just get tired of thinking about work, we speculate.

It’s one of our favorite sports.

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Windy traps audience with words

August 15, 2014

Every hunter knows places to look for in the woods … places where game is more likely to be approached or surprised. It’s that way with Windy Wilson, too.

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Wishes finally wet our whiskers, trees and lawns

August 6, 2014

We walked quietly out and looked toward the west. It seems as though everyone did. Neighbors were out and the dogs were racing around trying to set new yard-to-yard speed records.

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Farmer enjoys musing in his outdoor reclincer

July 31, 2014

Harley pulled the tractor over to the ditch and cut the engine. He climbed stiffly down, walked to the water and soaked his head and shirt. Then he looked around.

No cars were coming down the county road. No one at the house could see him. So he smiled, sat on a rock and leaned back against the ditch bank.

A farmer’s recliner, he thought, wiggling slightly to avoid kidney puncture by a twig. He was smiling that dignified farmer’s smile on the outside but laughing on the inside.

“So nice to just rest here for a minute in the sun,” he thought.

Oh, he wouldn’t have done it if he’d left the engine running. Waste of gas. But the engine was off, all the seeds were in for this year, and all he was doing was plowing summer fallow now. No rush. Do it any time.

So Harley locked his hands behind his head, lay back against the ditch grass, and just looked around.

Marshmallow clouds today against a dark blue sky. Crows flying in to Harley’s fields from Roger’s. He paused a moment and went from pure observation to learning toward philosophy.

He considered that fences and land deeds and farming contracts meant nothing to these birds. There was more than a bit of envy there, but just for a minute.

Harley stood, stretched his back and drank from the canteen on the tractor.

Crows didn’t worry about deeds, he thought, but hey, they didn’t get to watch football in the fall, either.

All in all, on a nice summer’s day like this, there’s nothing wrong with being a farmer.


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Dud researches high and l’eau for his duchess

July 24, 2014

Dud Campbell, our resident would-be novelist, was busy on his day off. Anita watched him excitedly as he removed something from the box that had arrived. It was a CD.

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Slow business for love and fly-fishing

July 16, 2014

Things were going kinda slow down at the Fly Tying Love Center and it bothered Marvin Pincus a lot.

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