Tag Archives: Certain Man

The Noise of Something Breaking

I turned over in comfort of our warm bed.  There was unusual early morning brightness  when I tugged up my east window shade.  I stretched and put the one above my head up as well and saw the full moon hanging high above the shop roof.  It was strangely luminous in the beginning light of the approaching dawn.

It was freezing cold.  So cold that I had called DART and cancelled Blind Linda’s ride to Easter seals.  It was just too cold for anyone to be out unless it was an emergency.  That meant that I didn’t need to get up nearly as early on this Monday morning.  Certain Man and I had caught the Lunar Eclipse the night before and bedtime had been after its 12:12a peak.  The wind was whipping through the trees and around the corners of our bedroom with a wild savagery and it was so nice to just burrow in.

But then my ears caught the sound of something breaking.  It sounded significant.  Certain Man was already up, and I figured he was able to handle anything that happened, but this sound so impressive that I got out of bed and went to the top of the stairs to see if anything of importance could be seen or discerned.  All was quiet, so I did a quick morning brush up to our bedroom, grabbed my clothes and went down stairs.  I was totally unprepared for what greeted me there.

My beloved husband was kneeling in front of our hearth, and before him on the rug was a heap of rubble.  Wood and ceramic and glass in an impressive jumble.  He had a trash can and was methodically picking it up.

“What in the world is that?” I asked, my heart in my throat.

“A clock,” he said, in a voice that sounded strange.

“What happened?  Which one?  Oh, Daniel!”

“The joints gave way, I guess,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.  “What joints?  Did you fall?”

“No, no.  Not my joints.  The clock’s joints.”  All the while he was picking up the pieces.  “It’s one of the heavy clocks.  One of the marble ones.”

“Oh, no,” I said.  “Was it one of the family ones – the one from your Mom’s family?”  I held my breath because that particular clock is among his favorites.

“No,” he said, a bit ruefully.  “But it was the first one I got.  The one that Donnie Murphy gave me way back when I first started getting interested.  I was putting it back on the mantel and I was holding it by the sides, turning it around to set it on the side where it usually sits, and suddenly it all dropped off, leaving me with just the top of it in my hands.  I’ve never seen anything be so completely destroyed!  Everything is in pieces!”

When we decorate for Christmas, we clear the mantel of everything so that we can put our favorite large manger scene there.  It takes up the whole mantel, and is worthy of the space.  But when we took down the manger scene last week, the spot remained bare for the ensuing days while we moved Middle Daughter to her new home, Ambleside Cottage.  She was finally officially moved on Saturday, and then yesterday we had church and lunch guests and the day was gone before we got anything else done.  I guess that this morning seemed like a good time for him to start returning his beloved clocks to their usual spots.

This clock has been one of his more dependable clocks, keeping time and chime with almost no maintenance.  I remember when Donnie realized that Daniel was interested in old, wind up clocks and had brought it to him from his own collection.  I recalled how hard Donnie had worked on it to make it beautiful, fashioning missing pieces to replicate corresponding parts when he couldn’t find the exact fit from other clocks.  He carefully painted them to match, and a casual observer would not have even thought about it.  I remember his half bashful smile at Daniel’s delight in this antique timekeeper, given so generously by a neighbor who was a friend.  There was a sick feeling in my stomach as I looked at the dwindling pile of jumbled clock pieces.

“We are going to need to get the sweeper,” Certain Man said, jolting me back to the present, and I went to fetch our trusty Electrolux.  I swept up the small parts scattered on the rug and felt like crying.  Certain Man took his trash can out to the dumpster and came back in carrying the empty container and put it back where it belonged.

“It is just a clock,” he said,  a bit sadly.

“Yes,” I said.  “It is just a clock, but it’s been such a good clock, and we have so many good memories associated with it.  I feel really sad . . . ”  I paused a bit, then went on.  “I feel really sad, but I do feel glad about one thing –”

“That it was me and not you?” put in Certain Man, a little too quickly.  He wasn’t laughing.

“Yes,” I admitted.  “I feel really sad that it happened, but I’m so glad that it wasn’t me or anyone else responsible.  Was there nothing at all that you could salvage?”

“It’s in so many pieces,” he said.

“What about the works?” I persisted.  “Could there be any parts that John could use?” (This would be John Murray – his clock repairman of It’s About Time clock repair)

“Oh, I kept the works, including the pendulum,” he said.  “I might be able to build something to house it, or we can maybe find a housing for them.”

And that was pretty much the end of our conversation about the clock.  He fetched two other clocks to put on the mantel and I rehung a big picture that has been languishing in the study since early December.  There are plenty of things to occupy my hands on this cold January day but to tell the truth, I’ve been languishing a bit myself.

And all day I’ve been thinking about that noise I heard.  The sound of something breaking.  I’ve thought about how when we hear something breaking, it stops everything until we find out what it is.  Think about hearing something splintering into an irreparable mess in the grocery store several aisles over.   Or the noise of a glass shattering in a restaurant, or the noise of something calamitous in the kitchen of the same restaurant.  Several weeks ago, in my very own kitchen, there was the sound of a great breakage when a stack of serving bowls slid off the second shelf.  The noise was impressive, and five of my big bowls were suddenly gone.  The sound of something breaking is unmistakable.

But not always.

The sound of a heart breaking is not something that can be heard with our fickle, selfish, over stimulated ears that are so full of the noise of this world.  And even if we could, would we want to be bothered?

This I pray for myself, and for the rest of us who believe:

“May God give us the ability to hear with our hearts.  May the sound of a heart breaking be as attention getting as a the smashing of a crystal bowl on a tile floor.  May we mourn the pieces of the shattered heart even as we are motivated to pick them up and bind them up and comfort the wounded.  May the good, good memories remind us that every heart is worth saving, and that the Healer of Broken Hearts has a plan for the pieces.

And may we never give up on anyone’s brokenness.

Not even our own.

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Easter Grace, Gravy and Gifts

Sunday mornings are crazy at this house, anyhow, but on this particular morning, I was making sausage gravy for the church breakfast, finishing up some French Silk Chocolate pies for lunch, getting my ladies up, showered, dressed, fed, medicated, and I had a new person filling in for my regular Sunday morning gal, who was off somewhere for Easter – AND we needed to be at church a whole hour earlier than usual.  (We did not want to be late because we had friends with four young sons visiting Laws Chapel for the first time.)

I kinda’ stumbled down soon after six thirty and started the Sausage gravy in a big heavy pan, then got on with the chocolate pie.  Our Girl Audrey came out, then, and wanted some breakfast, so I got her some cream of wheat. and yogurt and a banana, green tea and water and her morning meds  the usual) — and kept an eye on my sausage that was browning nicely in my big heavy pot.

When it was all thoroughly browned, I dumped in the flour, and stirred that until it was all absorbed into the pan drippings and stuck to the sausage, and then poured in the milk and stirred it some more.  I had a very heavy bottomed pot, and I decided that it could cook on low while I did other morning things, so I turned it all the way down, put the lid on it and went about my morning.  Several “stirs” later, I noticed that time was getting away, and decided to inch it up a notch on the heat, and purposed to stir it more frequently.  I kept after the other kitchen things of the morning, and stirred it several times before going to get Linda up.  All was well.  So I got Linda up and on the potty and ready for the shower, then went to check something on my computer in the study.  (I don’t know what was so important right then, but somehow, I thought it was!)  It was while I was in there that I suddenly got a whiff that vaguely smelled like something was getting a bit too hot

To show how incredibly distracted I was, I must confess that, initially, at least, I was puzzled.  I came out of the study, into the kitchen and was greeted by the lid on my big pot sputtering away and the gravy bubbling up and frothy around the edges. I flew over to the stove, cut off the gas burner, grabbed my trusty wooden spoon and began to stir.  Oh, no!  It was really sticking.  I gave the pot a good sniff.  I could smell “burned” if I tried hard enough.  Oh, dear, oh, dear!  This gravy was surely ruined!  I grabbed another heavy bottomed pot from my cupboard and hurriedly dumped the gallon+ of gravy over into the other pot.  The bottom of the first pot sizzled and refused to give up a thick layer of gravy that was obviously “stuck.”  I gingerly ran my spoon over the layer, getting off what came easily, while my head raced a hundred miles an hour.  There was no time to make new, even if I had the sausage needed.  Which I didn’t.  If the gravy already tasted burned, it would only be made worse by scraping the bottom layer into it.  How many people would be at church for breakfast?  Was this going to be enough?  I looked at the thick layer on the bottom and tried to see if there was any black showing through.  There was.  Oh, dear, oh, dear!!!

I plunked the lid onto the second kettle and set it on an unlit burner.  I carried the first kettle over to my big kitchen sink and ran some water in it.  Running the wooden spoon across the bottom only added to my dismay.  It wasn’t coming off any time soon.  The blackest of black showed where the spoon scraped along the bottom and I pondered what in the world I should do on this busy Sunday morning.  I hoped that my house didn’t smell like burned sausage gravy, but I was pretty sure that if I lit into that pan and started to clean it, there would be no doubt.  I didn’t have time, anyhow!  When there was about an inch and a half of water in the bottom of that pan, I plunked that lid right on it and carried it out to my back deck and set it down close to the side of the house and closed the door so that Certain Man wouldn’t see it when he came in from morning chores.  Back in the kitchen, I stirred the gravy I had left, smelled it repeatedly, and prayed!  “Oh, Lord Jesus, PLEASE–!!!

And then, because there was nothing else I could do, I finished up my Linda girl, gave instructions to my Sunday helper, sent the gravy to church with Middle Daughter so it would be sure to be there on time and got Love Bug (who had spent the night) combed and myself dressed and we were ready to go.  In between, I asked Certain Man and Middle Daughter and Sunday Helper and even Love Bug if they smelled burnt sausage gravy, and they obligingly sniffed the air and said they didn’t really think so.  It comforted me enough that I decided that I wouldn’t mention it unless coerced into it by someone saying something like, “This sausage gravy tastes kinda’ scorched, don’cha think???”

So we went to breakfast at church and everything went smoothly.  Our hospitality committee did a splendid job of planning and the tables were decorated very nicely and food was plentiful and fellowship was warm and comforting.  When all was said and done, and the Gathering Place was back in order and the leftovers were being claimed, I went to get the pot that still had some sausage gravy in it.  My good cousin, Donna, champion of the Hospitality Committee, busy with washing dishes and putting things away, stopped in the middle of what she was doing to say, “Honestly, Mary Ann!  That was some of the best sausage gravy I have ever had!”

I stopped, my heart quiet in the middle of all the hubbub and Easter bustle, and heard a snatch of melody from somewhere in my brain, that was singing “Grace, grace, Wonderful Grace!”  And I said to Donna, “I’m so relieved!  I was afraid it was ruined!  It stuck really bad this morning, and I put it into another pot and hoped for the best – but I didn’t know . . .”  She laughed and reassured me that it was fine, and I began to wonder if (just maybe!) it hadn’t stuck as badly as I thought it had.

After a worshipful Easter service, we came home, and the afternoon was very full with company and an Easter egg hunt on the lawn for the children of my Bible study gals, and finally, when everyone was gone, Middle Daughter and I cleaned up the kitchen and put things back in order.  When we were almost done, I remembered my kettle on the back deck and went to fetch it.  I brought it in and pulled out a scraper to see if I could scrape it clean.

There was absolutely no reason for that gravy to not taste terrible!  The pan was burned so black that I couldn’t just scrape things off.  Oh, the first layer came off okay.  Thick, gunky strips of browned gravy, soggy with water, and smelling “burnt” peeled off beneath my trusty plastic Pampered Chef dish scraper, but what was underneath took a Stanley Stainless Steel Pot Scrubber, and Middle Daughter’s elbow grease and finishing efforts before the pan was shiny again.

The leftover gravy that we brought home was eaten by the household of Certain Man without any notice of anything amiss.  And through it all, I’ve heard that Melody of Grace Given.  Ah, what an incredible, unexpected (and truthfully, undeserved!) Easter Gift of a desperately needed “common thing,” given to a distracted Delaware Grammy whose heart gives Grateful Praise.

 

 

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Designs on the Resolve

It had been a long day.  And as it got later and later, I felt some dismay creep into my soul.  I took a quick appraisal and decided that there were still some things that needed to be done before I climbed the mountain to my sweet, sweet rest. Middle daughter was home, but working, Certain Man’s day had been physically and emotionally taxing and the two of them were out of sight for the duration of the evening it seemed. Certain Man was within shouting distance, but Middle Daughter was documenting a complicated Hospice admission that she had just visited, and that rendered her pretty much oblivious to the goings on down in the main floor.

I sighed a bit (since Certain Man was NOT within sighing distance) and looked at the kitchen that I had just straightened a few hours earlier.  Since then, I had made a coffee cake for Certain Man, fed my ladies, picked and brought in some garden tea, and the kitchen was in disarray.  Over 50 containers of strawberry jam sat on the counter, ready to be taken to the basement and the tea hadn’t been made, so there was a small, green mountain on the cupboard where there were some small beasties crawling around.  There was still laundry to be sorted for the morning washing, and I was really tired.

There is only one thing to do in these situations, and that is to get busy QUICKLY and do what needs to be done.  But I’ve found that, while the sighs don’t help, and neither does feeling sorry for myself, it does help to look for things to be happy about. So I got busy and sorted some laundry.  Certain Man had already fetched the laundry from our side of the upstairs and brought it down to the laundry room.  (He’s always done that for me, ever since our children were little, and it is a big help!)  Our Girl Audrey had also gotten hers and Blind Linda’s into a big basket and pulled it out to the laundry room, which was another gift to be counted.  And Middle Daughter would bring hers down later.  In case you’re wondering, my angst was not at any of them.  It was just that this needed to be done and there was no motivation on the part of the one who needed to do it!  Uh-huh!

So.  Since I felt like I was supposed to stop sighing and be cheerful about things, I turned on one of my favorite CD’s and sorted the laundry that was available.  That was easy enough.  I like sorting laundry.  Especially to music.  And then I looked at one of those yet unappropriated laundry baskets and decided to use it to carry the strawberry jam to the basement.  I would need to make a couple of trips, but not FIVE.  So I started some water for the tea and then loaded my first sturdy basket with thirty jars of jam and headed on down to unload it.  The freezer needed some rearranging, but it wasn’t too bad, so I smiled at it and resolved to be cheerful and did what needed doing and got my first layer of jam jars into the freezer and then went back for more.  The water was boiling and I had managed to strip the leaves off of enough tea for a gallon, so I got that steeping, and then took the second load of strawberry jam to the basement and got it arranged where it belonged.  Wow!  That was satisfying!

Upstairs again, I found that Certain Man was off his chair and winding his clocks.  He was working his way around the family room, living room and then into the sun room.  I stirred about in the kitchen, finishing the tea and getting it into the fridge.  Then Certain Man said something about thinking it was time to go to bed.  Which suited me just fine.  He came out into the kitchen to see how things were progressing, while I finished arranging things in the laundry room for the morning’s chore of laundry.  He was saying something to me, and I was replying in my cheerfullest, brightest voice while I stacked some wash baskets around the corner from him when–!

Ker-thunk!!!

Down came a heavy wash basket right on my toe!  Right on my big toe.  Right on my toe that I had done surgery on to remove an ingrown toenail two nights ago!  It hurt so much that I couldn’t see straight, much less talk in a cheerful, bright tone.  I kinda’ stopped everything in that split second and didn’t say anything out loud.  (And NO! I wasn’t saying any bad words!)  But in my swirling head where all the stars were milling about I was saying, “REALLY???  (Oh ouch!!!)  All this concerted effort to not feel sorry for myself, (Oh ouch!!!) to count the gifts and to be cheerful, and this happens to me???(Oh ouch!!!)”  And of course, I had to say to my Heavenly Father, with my face all scrunched up and water standing in my eyes, “I just don’t get it! (Oh ouch!!!)  And why is this hurting so much?  REALLY much!!!  (Oh ouch!!!)  What sort of unholy design is there upon my honorable resolve???)  Thankfully, I was around the corner from Certain Man and he was sleepy enough that he never noticed the abrupt (long) pause in my cheerful, bright conversation.

After awhile he said, “You ’bout ready to go up?”

I took a deep breath, and discovered I was not going to die of toe-itis-meyeomia and decided to go for it.  “Yup!”  I said in my cheerfullest brightest voice while my poor toe throbbed and I gave thanks he couldn’t see my face, “I’m just finished.  Let’s go get some sleep!”

And so, we did!

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Pickled Eggs and Chocolate Chip Cookies

I bought a five dozen case of eggs last week.  It’s getting on towards spring, and I like to make pickled (red beet) eggs.  I always do this with an eye towards the man of the house.  Certain Man does not like this particular delicacy.  In fact, I noted in a post back in 2008 that I had to endure persecution when I would “stink of the house”  making pickled eggs.  (You can read about that here; https://maryannyutzy.wordpress.com/2008/12/29/706/, as well as see a picture of a very young Lem and Jessica Yutzy, get the recipe for red beet eggs, as well as one for Graham Streusel Coffee Cake).

To be honest, not much has changed.

However, that beloved Eldest Brother, Clint Yoder, came to Delaware for a very fast trip this weekend, and he loves pickled eggs, so I weighed my options carefully and decided to make a batch on Tuesday.  I usually only make one batch a year, but some years I need more.  I suspected that without my Sweet Mama, I wouldn’t need more than one this year, though.  She was one who always loved them as well.  Perhaps that is one of the reason I make them  When the smell of beets and vinegar and cloves and cinnamon is “stinking up the house” it feels like I’m a little girl again, and it is almost Easter and my Sweet Mama is making up a batch of pickled eggs.  She always stored them in a big glass gallon jar, and the deep richness shone ruby-red through the refrigerator light at the back of our big old farmhouse fridge.  Something about that familiar jar with the same gold lid and the taste of pickled beets say “home.”  And so, probably for that reason more than any other, I feel compelled to make them.

Tuesday morning, the morning I decided that they needed to be made, was the same morning that Middle Daughter decided that she needed to replenish the supply of chocolate chip cookies in the freezer.  She baked over a hundred cookies while I moved around her and put together the beets. the  spices and hardboiled the eggs.  The eggs boiled and the beets simmered (well, in this case, pretty much boiled furiously) with the spices and Middle Daughter complained some about the fact that one of the smells that her Daddy hated the most was mingling with one of his favorite smells, that of Chocolate Chip Cookies.

“I know,” I said, trying to comfort her, “but by the time your Daddy gets home, the smell will be somewhat abated, and he will see that you made chocolate chip cookies and that will make him not fuss so much about the pickled eggs. I plan to have them out of sight by then, anyhow.”

We both know that he loves cookies or cake or baked anything with his breakfast.  His favorite thing is to put chocolate chip cookies into hot oatmeal and have the chips melt just a bit and then eat everything all together.  This is a Yutzy Family thing to do, although I suspect it may have its roots in their Amish heritage.  No matter what the baked good is, it is better with milk poured over it, maybe some fruit on top of that, depending on the baked good, but at least milk!  Yes, it’s a soggy mess, and yes, it can look pretty mixed up and disgusting, but that’s the way he likes it, and I’ve noticed when I’m with his family, that he’s not the only one that is of this persuasion.  I haven’t tried to change him.  It really doesn’t hurt anything.  And if a man can’t eat what he wants, the way he wants it, and when he wants it, in his own house, it’s a pretty sad state of affairs, if you ask me.  So Middle Daughter helps to maintain the supply and he eats chocolate chip cookies with his oatmeal and we are all content.  And he doesn’t eat pickled eggs, no matter what the supply, and as long as he isn’t called upon to defend his position, or smell them too long, or have anything to do with them, we are still all content.

And so the morning passed, both cooks accomplished their endeavors and by afternoon, the eggs were in the garage, cooling for the garage refrigerator, and the cookies were baked, packaged in morning breakfast bags of three each and in the freezer, and a plate for munching was sitting on the counter.

Mr. Yutzy was quite pleased with the beautiful cookies.  So much so that he didn’t say much about the pickled eggs.

But then there were several occasions to haul them out.  My Bible study gals and their children had some after Bible study on Thursday.  I had put two dozen eggs in that big gallon jug and I thought there was plenty to share.  The eggs and beets were exclaimed over and eaten and the jar went down considerably.  I checked my supply and knew that there were still plenty for today’s lunch, but not a whole lot more.  Maybe this was one year when I would be able to justify making a second batch!

Today’s lunch was another one of those wonderfully miraculous provisions for me.  Eldest Daughter has made Sunday lunch for us twice in the last few weeks, and the Sunday morning difference has been really special.  And this week at Bible Study, one of my gals said that she wanted to bring lasagna for lunch today, would it be okay?  Do we eat lasagna?  I was so excited, I hardly knew how to contain myself!  “Yes, we eat lasagna!  Yes, it would be okay!  Yes, please!  Yes, please!”  And so it was agreed upon.

She brought the lasagna, baked and ready to reheat, last evening.  And with it, a tray of homemade cream puffs.

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Wow!  What a treat!  With all the stuff that I  bake, these are something I don’t dabble with.  These looked absolutely delectable.

And so, at lunch today we had lasagna, a lovely tossed salad, the making of which was overseen by Middle Daughter, Deborah, Delaware Lima Beans, cooked the way we like them, and what was left of the pickled eggs.  Oh, and those cream puffs!  It was a wonderful dinner, shared by family and friends.  Oldest Brother, Clint Yoder, Eldest Daughter and Beloved Son In Law, along with our granddaughter, and Nephew Josh with his lovely wife, Lawina.  We had sweet conversation, enjoyed a dinner that was mostly donated, and got things cleared away in record time.  The company was delightful, the food was good, and one of the best parts of all was that the pickled egg jar was depleted of the last egg, and (almost) the last beet.

I looked at my almost empty jar and thought, “Wow!  This is one year I get to make another batch.  Maybe tomorrow I should get started on that, since Certain Man will be at work, and I can get it done early enough so as to not cause (too much) havoc.

So wish me the best, dear friends.  In this house of very little tolerance for the existence of pickled red beet eggs, I’m planning to courageously move forward and see if I can replenish my supply.  Easter is still three weeks off.  I might even have time for two more batches.  Especially is some of you would show up to help eat them.

Pickled Red Beet Egg Eaters Unite!  We are just as good as the others!  It’s time to let our preferences be heard!  Here’s to the glass gallon jar with the ruby red goodness shining through!  Here’s to the ones who eat them with relish!  May the tribe increase!

After Christmas Trauma 002a

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Snowy days and Doughnuts

“If it’s going to snow tomorrow,” said Certain Man to his wife last evening, “are we going to fry doughnuts?”

CMW, remembering the last time when the only help she had was his, and it was a bigger job than she wanted, said, ‘”Not if it it’s just you and me! I need more help!”

He looked a little hurt and CMW hastened to add that he had helped well, but it’s such a big job!  And between mixing and rolling and cutting and frying and dipping and such, it was really a big expenditure of energy. He said no more and she said no more and that was that.

Today, local family came and over the Shanghai game, the subject of frying doughnuts came up again. “Mom, are you going to make doughnuts on this snowy day?”  Said one of the offspringin’s.

Before CMW could say a single word, Certain Man uttered a very terse statement.  “I asked the same thing and was told that my help wasn’t good enough.  So I figured, ‘Oh, well!'”

Great was the general indignant outcry concerning the availability of help and the insistence that we should make doughnuts and how we NEEDED to make doughnuts.  I mean, it’s snowing, for pity sakes, doesn’t EVERYONE make doughnuts when it snows?  (Sue Kauffman, do you see what you started?!?!?!?  Honestly!!!)

So now there is doughnut dough rising, and CMW needs to go and get it rolled out and ready to fry.  Doughnuts sound really good to her, but how she wishes there were a way to get them without everything getting into disarray in her clean kitchen, and especially, she wishes there was a way to eat as many as she wanted without getting a pain in her gall bladder, and the lubs (lbs.) on her “Lubber!”

Wish us fair sailing, fine friends.  CMW is off to make doughnuts!

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2015 Yutzy Family Christmas Letter

*Christmas, 2015*
Shady Acres Farm *7484 Shawnee Road* Milford, DE*19963

Dear Family and Friends,
The year is fast winding down, and it is time to get this letter out once again.  What can we say about a year like 2015?  It’s hard to condense it down into a single Christmas letter, to catch the events, the various things that have influenced us and changed us, the losses, the gains, and the flavor of this season of our lives.  Whew!  But here goes.

Last year ended, and our new year began with our church family coming together in a reassuring way, showing unity and courage and foresight as we put together a plan for rebuilding our church house after the arson of December, 2014.  As a congregation, we worked through issues of forgiveness and reconciliation, as well as feelings of loss and violation.  We haven’t been perfect in this year of rebuilding, but God has been faithful to us, proving over and over again that “He meant it for our good!” This has made the most difficult days and the hardest times, hopeful.  On December 6th, four days after the first anniversary of the fire, we held our first service in our beautiful new sanctuary.  We plan for a public open house after the first of the year, but these first weeks, our church family is savoring this gift that has been given to us through what has proven to be a severe mercy.  Our small church family has been through a lot of changes in the past year.  We had three weddings, a birth, two funerals, and installed two young men (Caleb Bontrager and Tyler Schrock) on the Leadership Team.  All while using a facility shared with us by Grace Community Church in Greenwood. We are so grateful for their generosity and willingness to allow us such free access, but it is really nice to be back into our own space again.

Funerals.  As many of you know, there was one that affected our family directly.  My Sweet Mama, whose health had been in severe decline for the last year and a half, fell in May, broke her femur, had surgery, developed pneumonia, had a heart attack, and just didn’t seem to improve much over the 12 days she spent in the hospital.  On June 2nd, we brought her home to a big sunny room at Country Rest Home where we could spend time with her and have help with her many physical needs.  There were good days and bad days, as there always are in times like this, but on June 16th, she went home to Heaven while we stood around her bed, held her hands and reminded her of what a wonderful Mama she had been to us.  This entire letter could be about how that has impacted us – my siblings and their families, our family and me personally, but it’s been another odyssey of both splendor and sorrow.  It’s been one that has made me quiet and more introspective than is comfortable.  I keep reminding myself that I won’t always be this sad, and it won’t always feel this empty.  But I do know that I will always miss her, even while I’m hopeful for the future.

And then, there are some wonderful things to report on the family front.  Our youngest daughter, Rachel, graduated from Bryn Mawr College with her Master’s degree in Social Work in May.  A series of events made it possible for her to be home through her Grandma’s illness and death, giving her time to be with Grandma, and to lend a hand to the home front when I needed to be gone.  The rest of the summer she was home, checking out jobs, mowing lawn for her Daddy, babysitting some, applying for jobs, visiting friends, going to weddings, being interviewed for jobs, making two trips to the west coast this fall, and (finally!) taking a job.  Earlier this month, she accepted a position with Catholic Charities in Washington, DC, as a social worker/ clinical case manager.  She is working in their homelessness and housing department with children and families. She is living with three other girls in a row home, and seems to be settling into both the job and the living situation with alacrity.

Lem and Jess are in the same apartment in Alexandria, VA, but are actively pursuing home ownership for the near future.  Lem just finished course work for his PhD in Social Work at Catholic University and is carrying a full load as a psychotherapist at Alvord, Baker and Associates, while he works on preparing for comprehensive exams in February and March.  Jessica changed jobs this year, and is now working as a Research Analyst for the US Government Accountability Office.  She is enjoying this job immensely; from the people with whom she works, to the impact that the GAO has on improving life for average Americans. They continue to be involved at The Table, the church where they have found good friends and common ground.  The last few months have been very intense for them with Lem’s schedule, but one of the things that we’ve admired about these two is that they can endure hardship when they have a plan and a dream, and they have proved it to us again this last semester. Having them in the same area as Rachel has been a great comfort to these “elderly parents.”

Raph and Gina, with their three boys, Simon, Liam, and Frankie, have had an eventful year.  They are finishing this year with really good news on the job front for Raph.  As of January 1st, Raph will be a full-time employee of Grace Mennonite Church (a realization of a life dream).  His official title is Director of Students. He will be overseeing the junior high, high school, and young adults of the congregation with a focus on high school and young adults.  Gina, a wonderful mom, is also a supportive wife and best friend to Raph.  It’s been wonderful to watch how God has knit this family together in ways that seemed only remotely possible when the boys first came, nearly three years ago.  They are doing well, and even though there have been significant bumps in the road this year for this family on several fronts, there is hope and joy and so much love and laughter. One of our favorite things to do is to spend a weekend in Holmes County with the “Ohio Yutzys” and soak up the comfort and activity of life in their home.

Deborah’s year has been different than any other since 2007 in that she hasn’t been out of the country this year.  She enjoyed a trek to Mississippi and Louisiana with her friend, Liz Washburn Strite. They visited Deborah’s friends, Joel and Althea Bontrager and their family in MS, and a friend of Liz’s in New Orleans.  Visiting New Orleans fulfilled one of Deborah’s bucket list dreams (as did holding a real live tarantula while there).  She worked long hours for Delaware Hospice (now in her sixth year there) and has been very involved in the renovation of our church house.  She is taking a break from teaching the young women’s class at church this year, but remains involved in the lives and families of her friends.  In April, she discovered that there were some serious complications with her liver, and was advised to engage in focused diet and exercise.  She complied, even while more testing was being done, and the results have been favorable, health wise, and also flattering to her physique.  However, when the tests were all in, it was discovered that she is dealing with a genetic disorder called Alpha-1, which is best managed by doing exactly what she is doing: Watching her weight, exercising, not smoking, and not drinking.  (H-m-m-m-m-m.  The last two aren’t as big a challenge as the first two for a lot of us!)  The good news is that the last lab results show that everything is back within normal limits and we are all relieved.  She still has her living quarters on the left side of the upstairs landing in the old farmhouse at Shady Acres, and having her here has been a decided plus for both her daddy and me.

Christina and Jesse, along with Charis, are still on Bontrager Road, about 1½ miles away.  Charis is in first grade this year at Mispillion Elementary here in Milford, and does well.  She is learning to read and writes the most wonderful notes to the people she loves. (Dere Gemme you arE the Best Gremall ever.  Love Charis.)  (And if you can’t read that, there’s something wrong with you!) Christina, still a homemaker, is involved with school projects, transporting Charis to and from school, and is the motivating force behind several projects within our family as well as helping out at church.  Jesse, still our beloved son in law, is a valuable asset to Daniel and me on so many fronts.  He lends a helping hand when Daniel needs a strong arm for any of a number of projects.  He is my go-to tech when I need something in the world of computers and printers and the problems that come up there.  He is a systems engineer at Burris Logistics and his intelligence, aptitude for solving difficult problems, and loyalty have paid off in recognition and advancement.  He is a good provider for his family and is a creative and involved Daddy to Charis.

Daniel and I are still involved in life in ways that keep us interested and motivated and engaged.  Daniel continues in his job as Plumbing Inspector for the State of Delaware, raising chickens, gardening, taking care of our farm, and serving on the leadership team at our church as deacon.  I am still caring for handicapped adults (Linda, 16 years, and Audrey, nine) and leading a Thursday morning Bible study that has been meeting at our house for probably 20 years.  I’ve taught “The Littles” at our church part time over this last year, and that is probably one of my favorite things to do.  Children are so honest, interesting and beautiful.  I’ve not been writing or blogging as much since Mama’s death, but discovered recently that the therapeutic value for me personally is worth the time and emotional investment that it takes.  I’ve been blessed with a husband and family who are supportive, and I’m looking forward to being a bit more consistent with postings at https://maryannyutzy.wordpress.com/. (So if you want to catch up on what is happening in our lives before next year’s Christmas letter, you can check up on us over there).

We are enjoying the Christmas season here in our house on Shawnee Road.  We’ve already had some of our yearly gatherings, and Daniel has his huge Christmas Village set up. (Come and see it!  It will be up until late January.)  The Nativity scenes are scattered through the house, too, and the family comes for early Christmas this weekend (the 19th). We are always delighted for a reason to have our family together under one roof.

But the Christmas Village, the nativities, and even the offspringin’s and their families gathering in are only reminders that this special season points the way to Easter, the Cross and the Empty Tomb.  The Baby came to bring us hope.  In this year, when it has seemed that everything has been so different from what I may have chosen, the one thing that has kept me steady has been the hope of the resurrection, the promises that Jesus made to us that He will never leave us, never forsake us.  For this and for all the blessings that this year has held, my heart gives humble, grateful praise.

Have a wonderful Christmas season and a blessed New Year!
Affectionately,
Daniel and Mary Ann Yutzy

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“We need to hang it high . . .”

I looked at the beautiful wind chimes in the flat, heavy cardboard box that lay on my lap.  I had just opened the carefully wrapped present in our family Christmas celebration.  “Mozart” said the label on the box.  These would make some beautiful music.  I immediately began thinking of where I could hang them.

“Where do you want to hang them?” Asked Certain Man.  He had the whole week off and was busy getting things done.

“I don’t really know,” I said.  “I’ve been thinking about taking down the plant that Hortencia gave me last summer just before they left, and hanging them there, right outside my kitchen window.  I could hear them there.”

He looked at me with that look in his eye that said that he had a better idea.  (He really is like the old Ford slogan, He usually has a better idea!)  “I’ve been thinking, maybe,” he said, “that we ought to hang it off the upper deck, outside our bedroom window.  That way we could hear it at night.”

“That sounds fine,” I said.  “It would be nice to hear it at night.”  I thought about the fact that it was winter, and it would be spring before I could hear much of anything, and that if it was up on the upper deck near to the house (where I understood he wanted to put it) it wouldn’t get much wind at anytime and that wasn’t what I wanted, either.  But, still.  This Certain Man often thinks of things that never cross my fur brain, and I thought that he probably had a plan.

He did.

Yesterday, while I wasn’t looking, he put in a hook, up on the corner post of the highest platform, and hung the chimes right exactly where they should have been hung.

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The weather has been so strange this year.  Last night, it was so warm in our bedroom that I opened the window, and turned on the ceiling fan.  It had been a long day, and I lay there so tired I hardly knew whether I was going to be able to sleep.  And then, —

I heard the gentle noise of music in the night.  The chord was familiar and soothing.  The night was wild with the wind and rain, and I listened to the storm interlaced with the music.  A symphony, unscripted and unrehearsed emerged as if Mozart himself was composing in cahoots with the elements.

Certain Man said that we needed to hang it high so we could hear it from our bedroom window.  He was so right.  So very right!

And I slept the hard, deep sleep of the very weary, lulled by a melody that was provided by a gift from Youngest Son and his Girl With a Beautiful Heart, hung by that Man That I Love Best, and carried by a strange warm wind on a Delaware December night.

My heart could not have been more full of the grace and glory of this moment.

And I gave quiet, grateful praise.

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The Littles

We’ve started the new Sunday School year in our congregation.  Even before Mama fell in May, I had planned to take the month of June off from teaching The Littles because of family vacation and a Yutzy reunion.  With the passing of my Sweet Mama, it was easy to just let other people take care of things and to soak up time with my peers in an adult class of women.  I needed them.  I needed the time.  And it was healing and good.

But I missed my littles.

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We had many good times in the crowded room beside the kitchen at Grace Fellowship Church’s gathering place, where our church body has been meeting since the fire damaged out building on the corner of Carpenter Bridge and Canterbury Roads.  This picture was take the night we got together to pack a goodie box for another child.  It was only taken seven months ago (Actually seven months ago today!) but I cannot believe how much they have grown and matured in these short months.  Katie is a self assured kindergartener, Judah is talking and paying much better attention and Charis is more aware of the needs of her classmates and is less jealous of her Grammy’s attention.  All three are more participant.

The summer had passed so quickly, and I thought often and prayed that God would show me whether I should offer to teach the class for the year coming up.  We have some talented young blood coming up in our church, and teaching is a blessing that is often overlooked in the maturation process.  I know that not everyone is cut out to teach, but I also know that choosing to teach has been one of the ways that God has used in my life to encourage growth, personal study and reliance on HIM for wisdom and courage and strength and even results.  The blessings that I have reaped have been beyond what I have deserved.  And quite honestly, though I really wanted to teach this particular class again, I also didn’t want to step in and  volunteer when God had laid it on someone else’s heart to teach the class.  He may have had blessings abundant in store for someone else, I reasoned, and it would be wrong for me to grasp someone else’s opportunity.  And so, even though I thought the end of summer was coming quickly, I decided to hold my peace and wait and see.

Then one of our superintendents, Davey Burkholder, approached me last Sunday and asked if I would be willing to teach that class of Littles.  I was suddenly unsure of what I should do.  I asked for some time to think about it.  He said that was fine, and in the reorganization part of our Sunday Morning service, it was announced that they were looking for a teacher for the class and they asked for volunteers.

“Whew!” I thought.  “That will be a defining event.  If someone volunteers, I will know that it isn’t for me this  year.”

But I kept mulling it over and over in my head.  I asked Certain Man what he thought  I should do.  He didn’t know.  And he didn’t feel strongly one way of the other from what he said.  I asked Middle Daughter whether she had any advice for me.

“Well, Mom,” she said carefully, “I think that wanting to teach the class is a pretty good indicator of what you should do.  It’s something you enjoy, and if you want to, then I think you should!  I’m taking the year off from the young women’s class, and if you need me, I can help you out.”  And that pretty much did it for me.

So I waited a few days, then called and got the curriculum and found myself back in one of my favorite spots yesterday morning.  The lesson that we used on Sunday was one from the last quarter that hadn’t been used, and it was called “A song for walking outdoors.”  One of the activities that I decided to do was to take the three on a walk outdoors looking for different things that they could pick up in nature to put in their ziploc plastic bags to take home with them.  A flower, a leaf, a seed pod, bark from a peeling tree, a stone, berries. Grace Fellowship Church is located in an industrial park, and is surrounded mostly by concrete and asphalt, but there were stones, a few trees, lots of weeds, and  a couple of patches of grass.  Around a corner and past a chain link fence divider there were some landscaping bushes around another building that I hoped would provide some berries for variety.

I checked the time and then said, “Let’s go over there and see what we can find.  There might be something different over there!”  The three of them were delighted and we headed out across the asphalt patch that separated the us from the other building.

“We have rules,” said Katie confidentially.  “We aren’t allowed to go anywhere on this pavement over here without a grown up.”

“That’s a good rule,” I told her.  “You should never go anywhere without a grown up unless your Daddy and Mommy say it is okay.  And this isn’t a good place for you to go unless there is a grown up with you.”

“Yup,” she said happily.  “But you are a grown up!”

I laughed.  “Yes,” I said, “I guess I am!”

“You are a very old grown up.” She said. (Emphasis Katie’s.)

And I laughed again.

Oh, my Katie-girl!  If you only knew how it is.  Just yesterday, my own girlies were five years old and learning family rules.  The day before that, it was me.  I only turned around twice before I got “very old.”  But you and your brother and my granddaughter, all growing so fast, remind of once was and I feel the eternity of the spirit in these old bones.  You cannot imagine how it is to feel five years old in your heart, but almost 62 in a body that will not run and jump and dance to the music of our incredible world.   But I promise you this.  There is coming a day when this body will dance to the music of Heaven.  And my spirit, eternal and free, will be as young as yours.

And what is inconceivable to me now will be an actuality.

My heart sings grateful praise.

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Filed under Grace Fellowship Church, Laws Mennonite Church, My Life, Praise

Cutting the “Grumpy” Out

Some of the most exciting times of our lives as farmers have centered around the bovines that Certain Man raises for meat.  As noted in the last post, there was considerable excitement when one such animal jumped the fence and gave all of us a run for our money.  In another post, I may tell the story of the night we had that supper when we invited everyone who helped that day to a mystery supper — but there has been another story brewing over very recent happenings at the very same farm involving the same sort of animal.

Certain Man has gotten little Jersey bulls over the last couple of years because they were not as hard on his pocketbook as the ones of the Holstein lineage.  These beautiful little critters are smaller than their big boned counterparts, and CM was loathe to deprive them of their manhood, contending that they would “convert better” if they were given some time before becoming steers.  This has always been a point of concern to his wife, especially since there were times in the past when the intent was to wait until the last possible minute — and then, somehow, it got “too late” and then the last couple months of the lives of our two year meat projects were spent “being careful” whenever Certain Man was in the same pen or even pasture as the bulls.

And this happened again this year.  Our yearling Jersey bulls had escaped the precautionary operation and had matured at an alarming rate.  One of the three was docile.  He was actually the smallest of the three, and he spent his time quietly going about his business, eating grass, not paying much attention to anything.  The second of the three was suspiciously bossy, occasionally acting like he wanted to start something, and he wasn’t to be trusted too far.  The third one, the biggest and oldest, was a basket of fury and hormones and aggression.

From the time he was a small calf, he wouldn’t take much from anyone.  Spunky, feisty and strong, he grew worse as the months passed.  By the time he was nine months old, he was the boss of everything, even the older steers that were about to go to market.  But this spring and summer, he became incorrigible.  He would bellow and snort at anything that took his attention that was out of the ordinary that he didn’t approve of.  He would bang his horns against the fence and against the side of the barn, tearing holes in the tin on the side of the entrance to his pen.  He would dig big holes in the pasture and loudly make known his displeasure with anything and anyone.

“You need to do something about that bull,” I would tell Certain Man.  “He’s going to hurt someone!”

“I know,” Certain Man would say.  “I really need to do something, but I am pretty sure it’s too late to band them.  I think I’m going to see if Billy or someone will bring his chute down here and give me a hand.  I think I’m going to need to get the vet.”

And then more time would go by, and someone would mention something about that “bull sounds really cross!”  or “What in the world is wrong with that one of your cows?  He makes a terrible fuss!” or (the thing that really bothered me) “Our kids won’t go out there to talk to your cows any more.  They’re scared of them!”

“Daniel,” I would say on occasion, “I’m really afraid that someone is going to get hurt.  Most of the kids who come know not to get into the pasture, but what if one of them does?  Or what if he gets out?”

“I know,” he would say, impatient at my nagging, but also not sure of what he should/could do.  “I really need to do something.”

And then, one day while he was in the pen, the bull started at him, pawing and snorting.  Certain Man had the handle of a pitchfork at the ready, and he walloped him a good one and caught him just below his horns.  It was a hefty blow, and the bull backed up, shook his head and came at him again.  This time Certain Man got a solid whack across his nose and brought him to his knees.  He got up and turned away.  As he rounded the corner leaving the barn, CM saw that his nose was bleeding. This particular incident had two effects upon Certain Man.  He began to make sure that his pitchfork handle was always handy and he began to actively plan a time in the very near future when he could take care of this militant aggressor’s basic motivation.  As for the subject at hand, he appeared to be watching for his chances, but was always very respectful when he caught sight of the pitchfork handle.

The bellowing and snorting and pawing and clanging of the horns against anything close at hand was not lost upon our observant granddaughter.  Ever one to be at her Grandpa’s side whenever possible, she was very concerned about the state of affairs in Grandpa’s barn.  On more than one occasion, she complained to me about that fussy bull.  “I don’t like how that cow sounds, Grammy,” she would say.  “He sounds so mad!”

Then came the day when Certain Man’s vet, Dr. Christina Dayton-Wall stopped by to check on the newest member of Certain Man’s herd, a lively, beautiful little jersey bull calf.  She checked him over thoroughly, gave him a vaccination and a shot and pronounced him healthy and strong.  All the while, the belligerent fellow bellowed his protests at the intrusion into his domain.  Certain Man seized the opportunity to tell her about his troubles with the mad bull and asked her opinion about the feasibility of “banding” or whether she thought the present state of affairs would demand a knife.

“No question,” was her cheerful reply.  “They will need an operation.  And I wouldn’t wait much longer if I were you.  There’s no way I’d get into the same pen with those fellows without some kind of protection.  They mean business!”

“Would you do it?” Asked Certain Man. “I have a friend who can bring his chute that he uses for hoof trimming and we could contain them.  I’d like to do all three.”

“I’d be delighted to do it!” said his pleasant young female vet.  (He later told me that he just can’t figure out why the females think this is such a fun thing.  “They’re all tickled to death to help out with this,” he said woefully.  “They just don’t have a clue!”)

And so they set the date for a Monday at three in the afternoon.  But that Monday was still almost two weeks away.  I worried about whether we would make it that long without someone getting hurt.  It seemed like things were getting worse and worse.  Our neighbor, Mr. Fox, who cuts our pasture for hay, parked his tractor in the adjourning shed one afternoon and created an episode of pawing holes in the side pasture, great bellowings and clattering of horns that went on until dark.

“You’ve got yourself a crazy animal there,” Mr. Fox told Certain Man.  “All I did was park my tractor in the shed and he stood at the gate and acted like he was gonna’ come through it.  He acted like he was crazy.  And they have big holes dug in that back pasture that I cut for hay.  One was two feet deep.  Something’s wrong with him!”

That was the night that Charis and I were walking out by the garden, checking on the produce and watching Grandpa doing his never ending work in the shed and barn and chicken houses.  We had also been drawn by the racket in the pasture that just wouldn’t stop.

“Grammy, that cow is really grumpy!” Said Charis, a little apprehensively.  “I don’t like how he sounds.”

“I know, Charis,” I said to her, “He really is grumpy!  Grammy doesn’t like it either!  But do you want to know a secret?”

She looked expectantly up into my face. “Yes!”

“In just a few days,” I told her conspiratorily, “Grandpa’s vet is going to come and Billy Bender is coming to help and they are going to cut that cow’s ‘grumpy’ out!  And then he won’t be so grumpy!”

She laughed.  “Really, Grammy???”

“For real, Charis!” I promised.  “That’s exactly what they are going to do!”

She did a little happy dance and then she went home with her Mama and I told Middle Daughter and Youngest Daughter all about my wonderful explanation.  I was rather proud of myself for being able to explain such a delicate situation to a six year old.  I was surprised when Middle Daughter looked at me aghast.

“Mom!” she exclaimed with consternation.  “That was a terrible thing to tell her!’

I was surprised.  “Why is that so terrible?”

“Because that is what her Mama always threatens her with when she is being grumpy!  She teases her and says, ‘You better get happy, or I’m gonna’ cut your grumpy out’ and Charis is probably really confused about this whole thing.”

I decided not to worry about it.  Some things can just be handled by parents who made the situation in the first place.  Except that a few nights later, walking with Charis, I noticed that she was thoughtful.  And then, there came the question.

“Grammy, what is the ‘grumpy’ that they are going to cut out?”

(Gulp!  I don’t consider this my territory of responsibility!)

(Oh, Lord, what do I say???) “Well, Charis,” I began slowly, but was suddenly struck by a stroke of Providential brilliance.  “The boy cows have a gland that makes them act grumpy as they get older.  The vet is going to come and take that gland out and then they won’t be so feisty and mean.”  And that satisfied our curious six year old granddaughter. Let her Mama answer any further questions.

The day finally came without any damage to the humans that traverse the lands at Shady Acres, and the good vet came to find that Certain Man had done his work (as usual) with careful attention to safety and without fault.  The three bulls were shut in their pens with only one way out — and that was into Billy Bender’s sturdy chute.  Once they were securely restrained, Dr. Dayton-Wall gave a little shot of Lidocaine that they hardly felt and before they knew what had happened, they were out the other end of the chute, steers!

They were strangely subdued that first hour or so.  They grazed a bit, but there was no pawing or bellowing.  As the evening wore on, they were more and more languid. Eventually they stopped trying to motor at all.  The biggest fellow — the most maniacal, lay out in the field like he was dead, just giving an occasional melancholy flip to his tail — lifting it up about six inches and sadly dropping it down again.  There was no noise.  At all.  The pasture around Shady Acres’ barn was almost spooky with the change in atmosphere.  But eventually, they realized that they weren’t going to die after all, and began to graze and gingerly walk about.

“Any bellowing or carrying on?” I asked Certain Man two mornings later.  Dr. Dayton-Walls had warned us to be careful for ten days to two weeks.

“It will take them that long to get rid of the ‘boy stuff,'” she said cheerfully.  “Don’t trust them until you know how they are going to be.  Those guys, particularly the big one, could really hurt someone!”

Certain Man grinned.  “Nope!” he said.  “Not a bit.  No pawing, no clanging against the fences and buildings, no digging, no nothing!  These guys are different animals!”

“Do they seem to be okay?” I asked, suddenly wondering if such an alteration could kill them.

“Fine as can be,” he told me.  “They just don’t act like they care about anything.  They are eating and grazing and just as calm as they can be.”

Several days later, I was outside when I heard a noise.  It was a gentle mooing sound that our steers would make when they thought it was time for Certain Man to feed them.  I had never heard this particular sound from these animals.  I stood in the side yard and thought about what a nice sound that occasional, controlled mooing was.  I thought about how nice it was to not worry that someone was going to get hurt on our farm by an angry animal.  I thought about the meat that we should have to share with our family and others when these steers would be full grown.  I thought about how “cutting a grumpy out” can be so pivotal in the atmosphere of a family farm.  And I thought — well, I could draw all sorts of analogies, here, but I think I won’t.

And that is the news from Shady Acres where Certain Man continues to protect and provide for us in so many ways.  Where whatever it was that happened on that Monday afternoon was final — there was no more aggression on the part of any of the newly altered bovine males.

And where Certain Man’s Wife gives very grateful praise for a job well done.

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Filed under Family living, My Life, Stories from the Household of CM & CMW

Certain Man’s Wife Chases the Bull

This is an old story — as indicated by the date in the first sentence.  The reason I am posting it is that — I have another story about the bovine creatures at Shady Acres that I’ve been wanting to tell — and wanted to reference this story.  Alas and alack!  This story, though in my book, is so old, it never appeared in a blog posting.  Many of you have heard it.  Many of you have read it in my book.  But for those who haven’t — here is one of my favorite stories about life at Shady Acres and the neighborhood that we call home.  Sadly, two of the integral people who helped on this infamous day have gone to their reward.  I would just like to say that I deeply miss my dear friend, here referred to as “Good Wife Joan,” as well as our neighbor, Roland Willey, also a dear friend and trusty neighbor.

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Now it came to pass on the very first day of September, in the year of our Lord, 2004, that Certain Man’s wife was complacently enjoying a busy morning of preparing for State Inspection. On impulse, that very morning, she had hired a friend, Alma Miller, to help clean the kitchen cabinets, and CMW was working at cleaning the bedroom that was to be inspected.  It was a beautiful morning.  There was a good breeze, the sky was blue, and all was well.

CMW had other reasons to rejoice.

For several weeks,one of the male bovines that Certain Man kept for meat had been showing signs of aggression, indeed, had charged Certain Man on a number of occasions, with great bellows and kicking up of the dirt. Now this Meany Pest of a bull was only 18 months old.  Certain Man had not had him neutered because he had never had a problem with other bulls when he hadn’t,and he liked it that an un-neutered bull would convert better to meat.  Since he only keeps his meat animals for two years, it had never been a problem. Until now.

This turn of events had been enough disconcerting to Certain Man that he had called the Honorable Allen Beachy and had him come and “band” the two young calves that he was raising for the spring of 2006.  That done, he also called the butcher shop and arranged for the slaughter of Meany Pest.  Immediately.  With the traffic of people and children through the property of Certain Man, he didn’t want to take a risk.  It was too late to tackle the neutering business with Meany Pest.  Unfortunately,slaughter time was a few weeks out, so close watch had been kept until this very morning when Friend, Tommy Eliason had come with his cattle trailer and hauled him off.  CMW drew a great sigh of relief that was matched by her husband.

Now, at the same time that CM had procured Meany Pest, he had gotten another male calf which grew up along side of MP.  What Meany Pest had in aggression, Second Fellow, though also un-neutered,  made up for in friendliness and complacency.   When Tommy Eliason came to pick up MP, Second Fellow wanted to go, too, and tried to stick his head into the truck..  Certain Man and Tommy enjoyed a chuckle at the friendly fellow’s expense.  They had to chase him away.

When Certain Man came in from sending Meany Pest off, he said to CMW, “Now,I locked the other three in the front pasture. Second Fellow is pretty upset, and I don’t want him getting out.”

Certain Man has always maintained fences in proper order, and it is a rare day when any of his animals get out.  He learned the hard way that it is no fun to have creatures running around at night on busy roads.  So he has a high tensile fence that has electric on the inside of it, nearly all the way around his pasture.  He has a four foot high board fence that runs for a short distance between buildings, and he keeps all his fences in good repair.  He has a large back pasture,well fenced, where he allows the animals to run around and graze, but it is behind the chicken houses, and out of deference to CMW, who cannot see back there from the house, he decided to confine them on the smaller, front pasture,where they could get into the barn if they wanted to.

The morning was so pleasant that the windows were open in the house, and all morning, Second Fellow was protesting loudly.  Around eleven o’clock, he sounded louder and nearer, and Youngest Daughter of CM and CMW went to look what was going on.

“Oh, my goodness, MOM, there is a bull out.  A BIG Bull.  Oh, my, it is one of the big ones, Mom!!!”

Certain Man’s Wife went out the back door to the deck, and sure enough, there was Second Fellow, prancing across the yard.  Behold, her heart made a very fast trip to her shoes.  He looked so determined and “bullish.”   She looked around for ammunition, and laid her hands upon a Stanley broom that was conveniently leaning against the deck.  She hollered for Youngest Daughter to call her father, and took out across the yard as fast as her 50 year old body would allow her.  In the past,getting animals back into their pens has been challenging but not impossible,and she had a great deal of optimism as to how quickly she would conquer again.

But something had happened to Second Fellow.  He had caught wind of a heifer in heat who belonged to a neighbor.  He was determined to seek her out.  By this time, Friend Alma had seen the predicament, and had come to join the fray. CMW sent Youngest Daughter out to the cow pen to open the gate.  Youngest Daughter thoughtfully locked the two younger (now) steers in the barn, and opened the large gate wide to the front pasture.  Friend Alma’s young son stood on the deck and yelled.

Second Fellow saw two determined humans coming across the yard, and was suddenly urged to run in the direction of the road.  He lowered his head and charged blindly toward the poorly armed females who were supposed to be directing him in the way that he should go.  Whop! Went the broom, scarcely making contact, but diverting him slightly. Friend Alma and CMW ran to and fro, trying to herd obstinate Second Fellow towards the barn.  Every time they achieved a few yards, down would go the head, and with a bellow, back the bull would charge.  CMW noticed that he was not kicking up any dirt with his bellow, but it did not comfort her heart very much.  It occurred to her that there were many guardian angels standing between the bull and the two inadequately armed females, for time and time again, he would head for them, only to turn aside in the nick of time.  Unfortunately, it was pretty obvious who was winning the battle of the wills despite angelic protection.

After perhaps five or six time of attempting to head him off at the road, kindly neighbor, Eddie,noticed that there was considerable difficulty going on in the yard across the road.  He and neighbor Steve left their task of putting siding on the house and came to help.  One of them had a stick, and CMW had her faithful Stanley broom, but otherwise the crew was unarmed.

Said CMW, “I surely do wish Daniel would get here!”

Said Kindly Neighbor Eddie, “What would he do?  Does he have a secret?”

“Not that I know of,” said CMW heatedly, “but it would be HIS problem!”

About then, Kindly Neighbor Eddie’s wife,Joan, appeared to lend her strong arm, and a shiny  red convertible also stopped.  Friend Bethany had seen the dilemma and decided to help, too.  CMW thought ruefully that RED was not especially the color that she had in mind for the present situation, but there was no doubt that help was needed, so she welcomed the extra body.  By now there were fully seven people in hot pursuit of seemingly demented bull.

They managed to chase Second Fellow up the chicken house lane for a short distance, when he suddenly caught on to the idea that it was not the right direction.  He turned and lowered his horns and headed back out the drive.  Sticks and brooms and bodies had no effect upon him whatsoever, and the posse scattered before him in grave disarray.  He headed out towards the road again, and then turned and trotted along the edge of the fenced woods where he was sure that his intended was hiding.  He bellowed and stopped and sniffed and bellowed and trotted.  Of course, all the traffic on the busy road beside CM’s farm were beginning to take note, and cars were going by slowly while gawking at the motley crew, and some were pulling off to see if there was something they could do.  Chicken trucks and work vans, jalopies and mini vans, town cars and meter readers got all jammed up on the road.  CMW’s face was as red as a turkey gobbler, and not just from exertion.  WHY DIDN’T CERTAIN MAN COME HOME???

Then the owner of the heifer, Neighbor Willey, came forth from his house down the road.  He had probably heard rather than seen the hubbub, guessed what the problem was, and secured offending female far from the site of the battle.  He picked up a sturdy stick and came to help, too.

With his approach, Second Fellow decided to turn around and head back up the fence line towards Shady Acres.  With great difficulty and many yells and whops with the weapons, the Bull was directed towards the back pasture.  CM had been called again, and he informed frantic Youngest Daughter that he was heading for home (in earnest with his state truck and his flashers going). CMW was pretty sure that they would be getting the bull in right before he got there, and that is exactly what happened.  Just before he sped in the lane, Neighbors Eddie and Steve managed to drive him into the back pasture and hook up the electric fence.

Things started to calm down a little then.  CMW was panting and tired, and the neighbors were saying friendly things about how “That’s what neighbors are for…” and CM was going back to bring Second Fellow to the front pasture and secure him there.  CMW was heading out towards the barn when she saw Second Fellow come around the edge of the barn at a gallop.  At this inopportune time, she remembered that she did not know how he had escaped in the first place.  It suddenly occurred to her that the two little ones had been inside the fence the entire time he was out.  It didn’t make sense.  A great feeling of dread came over her as she saw him make a straight bee-line for the four foot wooden fence.  Was there a break in it somewhere?  She watched in disbelief as Second Fellow trotted up to the fence and in one smooth motion was OVER it!  If it hadn’t been so terrible, it would have been beautiful. A perfect Olympic jump.

Believe me, there was some shrieking going on then! Certain Man jumped in his truck and headed out the chicken house lane,trying to head him off.  If it had been his own pick up instead of his work truck, he said that he would have run into the critter, but since he needed to be careful with the state’s property, he was unable to stop him.  Once again, out on the road,traffic stopped, and neighbors running and helping.  CMW was inclined to go inside and pretend that she wasn’t home,but she ran and herded and whopped with her faithful Stanley broom until the entire group had successfully herded him to the entrance to the pasture.

Certain Man had gotten out his blacksnake whip and was making good use of it.  Just before going through the gate, Second Fellow made a mighty dash for freedom.  Certain Man snapped him soundly with the blacksnake whip, but lost his footing and fell into a very green, very stinky body of water that was left over from the latest rain.  His efforts to divert the bull were effective, though, and while he picked himself out of the muck, the neighbors closed in and Second Fellow went back into the pasture.

CMW and Friend Alma and Neighbor Willey, and Neighbor Eddie and his Good Wife Joan, took up positions along the board fence.  Good Wife Joan held the black snake whip, CM held the faithful Stanley broom and the guys stood there and looked MENACING. Youngest Daughter went into barn and called cheerfully to Second Fellow with promises of FEED.  Certain Man gave her instructions from the pasture. Second Fellow was drawn by the cheery voice.  He was tired from so much running.  He ambled over and looked in the door.  He went in a few feet.  She continued to coax and call him from behind the feed bunker.  Certain Man sidled over, out of sight, while she wove her deceptive web.  Finally, Second Fellow was far enough in to shut the metal gate behind him.  Oh,NO!  It was hooked to the wall.  Second Fellow acted like he was going to go out again.  Youngest daughter took advantage of the situation to scramble into the pen and unhook the gate so it could swing free, then went back to her wheedling, cajoling call.  Again, the pull was strong, and Second Fellow turned back towards the feed bunk.

Certain Man, muddy and stinky looked at the great mud hole between him and the gate and did not waver a single moment.  Good work shoes and all, he plowed through the mud that was deeper than his shoes and grabbed the gate.  Second Fellow made one final dash for freedom,but CM hollered mightily.  When Second Fellow paused, CM clanged the gate shut, and this time the offending animal wasfully trapped.  Metal bars and chains and cement would need to be moved for him to escape this time.

“Whew!” said everyone.

“That was fun,” said Good Wife Joan.  “Quite a diversion from a boring afternoon.”

Neighbor Eddie and Neighbor Willey did not say much.  CMW noticed that they were looking positively cheerful, though.

“I’m glad I was here!” said Friend Alma.  “I’ve had lots of experience chasing animals when I was a girl!”

“You aren’t half as glad as I am,” said CMW.  “What would I have ever done without help?”

“That’s what neighbors are for…” said Good Wife Joan, again.

“Well,” said CMW, “I am quite certain of one thing.  There is going to be a steak dinner one of these days and everyone who helped is going to be invited!”

That was well received, and the neighbors went back to their jobs and CMW went back into the house to cool off and rest her weary bones. CM, after making double sure of everything in the barn, came back into the house to change his clothes and shoes and to go back to work.  He would have to call this time at home his lunch hour for the day, and CMW felt sorry for him.  But the bull was in, he was cleaned up, and he could get into his air conditioned truck and leave.  That didn’t sound like too bad a deal to CMW.  She needed to keep on getting ready for the coming inspections.  But first, she needed to write a story.

So, that is the news from Shady Acres, where Certain Man is working on a new electric fence that will compliment a particular board fence, Certain Man’s Wife’s face still feels hot and her knees feel weak, and Youngest Daughter is the only one of the children who was witness to the events of this momentous day.

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Filed under Family living, Stories from the Household of CM & CMW