Voices In My Head

By Susan Metcalf

Chris Young had a hit country song entitled “I Hear Voices” and I think it was written for me! The first line is “you can say I’m a little bit crazy, you can call me insane”. Of course, these things are true, but he goes on to describe the voices of his ancestors in his head. Not only

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Remembering Anthony Bourdain

By Susan Metcalf

The world lost an entertainment icon last Thursday when Anthony Bourdain took his life in a hotel room in France. I am personally saddened by this news because he visited our ranch in May 2009 and we were featured on the August 24, 2009 segment of his show “No Reservations.”

Perhaps the price of fame is too high.  This

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Cookings With Susan

By Susan Metcalf

Since my Memorial Day column ran, I have received many nice responses from Veterans and just plain patriotic citizens. Many sent great e-mail photos, stories, poems, and songs. I wish I could share them all, but one that tickled my funny bone was sent by several readers, so I will pass it along this week. Unfortunately, the author of this great untitled piece has been lost

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Swimsuit Season is Upon Us

By Susan Metcalf

The “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition” came out last month.

This is always a big event at schools because librarians eagerly await to pounce on that edition of the magazine to keep it off the magazine rack. I did happen to glance at the cover this year and I  came to two conclusions.

I do believe the economy must be in much worse shape than even the

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Remember to Say Thank You

By Susan Metcalf

To many of us, Memorial Day has become a long, holiday weekend that marks the beginning of the summer season.  But, I hope that at some moment during the weekend, everyone will take the time to think of the sacrifices our service men and women have made, and continue to make, so that we can enjoy the freedoms

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Branding, as Told by the Cook

Many years ago, I received a hilarious self-published book from Maralee Robinson of Billings, Montana in the mail. It’s called “East Meets West: Real Dude Meets Real Cowboy: Indoor Plumbing Meets Outdoor Plumbing, and All the Things They Have in Common.”

The book is a collection of reflections of a city girl who married a cowboy. The book was somewhat longer than the title and

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Empty-Nest Mothers

Mother’s Day is Sunday, so I hope you have an amazing idea to celebrate. The best gift you can give your mother is to spend time with her. . . take it from those of us whose mothers have left us.  No one will ever love you as much as your mother.  If you don’t believe that, come to our

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I absolutely love kitchen tips. I try to pass them along without too much commentary, but sometimes I just can’t resist sharing thoughts about the actual practicality of those tips. For example, Martha Stewart claims that if you have a headache, you should rub a cut lime on it. That might work, but it is a bit messy when there

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Saved by the Mail

The best part about writing a weekly column is that sometimes in your darkest hours, before your drop-dead deadline, you go to the post office and your box is full of column material. Such was the case last week when I received three letters!

The first letter was from long-time faithful reader, Louise Ahart, of Marysville, California. She is one of

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Small Town Campaigning

As the primary elections in our state loom ahead, the candidates are all out pounding posts for signs, handing out brochures, and kissing babies. Having run for public office, I feel their pain. It is not easy to run for office and living in a small community makes it even harder!

Fortunately, I am running unopposed this term, but

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Dam funny!

It is getting pretty hard to be cheerful with the extended winter we are experiencing. With snowpack over 175% in the mountains on our drainage, I am sure we should be bracing for spring flooding, but we are too busy trying to keep baby calves alive. Nevertheless, I found this letter sent to me by several readers over the years

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Branding Pen etiquette…

One of the nicest compliments I have received as a columnist is when readers have told me they have one of my columns posted on their refrigerator. I don’t know whether any readers will want to put this on their refrigerator, but perhaps there are some ranchers who might want to send this (probably anonymously) to some of their branding

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No matter how you pronounce her name, Sacajawea was incredible…

Since the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial celebration back in 2004, I have been trying to read “Undaunted Courage.” My copy is dog-eared only from being packed around in my car for several summers. I spend the summer driving back and forth between our places near Bozeman, Big Timber, and Musselshell, Montana, and I vow every summer that I am going

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Contemplating chains of command…

It has been a long, nasty winter, so the first day of spring is a day we have looked forward to since the snow started to pile up in November. Perhaps because the weather has been nasty or perhaps because humans are supposed to sleep 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep in every 24, whatever the reason, it has become obvious

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The challenges of Grandmotherhood…

A couple weeks ago, my daughter Brooke and her husband had to fly to Kentucky for her father-in-law’s health emergency, and Remi and I were suddenly left with our three grandsons for most of a week. They are 2, 7, and 11, and they have a skosh more stamina than I do. In fact, they have been home for two

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The good ol’ days recalled…

We had our first calf today, so we are officially calving. I love calving season now, because I am pretty much a second string player in the calving barn. Since we have an adult son as a partner on the ranch, I don’t often get called out in the middle of the night or during a blizzard–unless for some reason

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The benefits of being nobody… Or boy oh boy, can Remi rope!

Since our son Bret is now half-owner in all those ungrateful cows we support, I have been demoted down to Nobody in our cattle operation, which is a great title. Shortly before calving every year, I come to the conclusion that I need to get a full-time job. The problem with a part-time job is that the ranch manager/ CEO/

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Less than miraculous…

I just cannot resist helpful hints (now known as hacks) or tips on how to remove every stain known to man or to cure anything from warts to arthritis with a home remedy. Sometimes though, I have to question the effectiveness and efficiency of the remedies and helpful hints. I have actually had less than miraculous results with many of those

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Happy Birthday, Gwen!

Big Timber, Montana’s First Lady of Entertainment, Gwen Peterson, is turning 90 years old this month. She is the most famous person I know, because she appeared on the “Johnny Carson Show.” If you want to wish her a happy birthday, she will be honored at the Grand Hotel in Big Timber on February 21 at 5 p.m. complete with

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A perfect example of Western humor…

This week all of us who champion rural education have lost a dear friend and respected advocate for rural education at the national level when our dear friend and esteemed colleague, Jules Waber, left us on January 31, 2018. As a tribute to Jules, I would like to share this column I wrote about him in 2011.

Jules Waber of the

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Stand-up cowboy comics…

Probably the question I am most often asked about my 23 years of writing a weekly column is this: “Where do you get the ideas?” Believe me when I say that they often just fall upon me—literally! Such was the case about three years ago right at the start of calving season when my son Bret burst through the back door

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A helluva wild ride…

There used to be a lot more adventures involved in feeding cattle when we fed loose hay with a team and a sled, or when we fed small squares off the back of the truck than there are now when feeding cattle is much more automated by technology. My husband and children had many misadventures feeding cows back before the kids

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Story problems in wind country…

For all but eight years of my life, I have lived on the east slopes of the Rocky Mountain front range out of Augusta and Big Timber, Montana. For the half century (approximately, in case you are doing the math) that I have lived in the wind, I have tried to get used to it, but I don’t think one

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When a chained-up F350 gets stuck twice in one day…

I am going to send a strongly worded letter to Al Gore as soon as the frostbite heals on my typing fingers. That man and his predictions have been a serious disappointment to me during the past couple weeks, and it is time to let him know. Therefore, what follows is my open letter to Al Gore!

 

Dear Mr. Gore, (I am

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Luddites, Metcalfites, etc.

As a new year rolls in, we all look forward with hope for a good 2018. As I sit here reflecting on 2018, my mind wandered back to Y2K. Remember Y2K? We thought the computers would not recognize 2000 because the dates were formatted in two digit numbers. We were convinced that we would wake up on January 1, 2000, in the Dark

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Technophobia…

The holidays are over, the tree is down, and most of its needles are vacuumed up, so the inevitable cannot be postponed… those two presents still sitting where the tree stood must be hauled out of all that packaging and put to use, despite our technophobia.

Every year it seems that we receive one or two high-tech presents that we have no

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The Christmas panic has set in…

Christmas is only 194 hours away as I sit down to write this week’s column. The only problem with that is that I have at least 195 hours’ worth of stuff to do to get ready for my Christmas company. I’m not really good at math, but even I realize that doesn’t leave much time for sleep!

Just this afternoon, I had begun to

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Bad Trips and other drug-induced horrors…

I have never really had a job description in this Cooking in the West job, but I think it is to try to provide a few laughs each week and to share some great recipes. Occasionally, I feel compelled to deviate from that mission, and this column is one of those occasions.

Our community of Big Timber, Montana, is reeling from

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The true cost of venison…

Finally, the regular hunting season is over. Fortunately, they have only extended shoulder seasons in some areas, because, if it had lasted any longer, I would have ended up robbing a bank or at least a convenience store to make ends meet. You see, phonier than any hunting or fishing story you have ever heard is the myth that hunting saves money. At our

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The trials & tribulations of grandparenting.

Today is “Jasper Day” at our house, which means our two-year-old grandson is here because his sitter is on vacation. It is only 9:30 a.m., but already he has locked himself in the pantry (where he did a lot of reorganization of food supplies before we could extricate him), dumped a whole shaker of salt over the three cans of Play-Doh

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How NOT to cook a turkey…

My favorite part of my County Superintendent job is getting out of the office and into the rural schools every week where I have found a lot of featured cooks. Several years back for a special holiday column, I decided to ask the primary students of each rural school to tell me how to cook a turkey for the holidays. The following are some

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Our scaredy-cat lives these days…

Facebook, Google, and e-mail are wonderful things, but I believe we are living more fearfully because of them. Every day I receive hundreds of messages, memes, and emails. Some of them are tips from readers who would like me to pass along life-altering information. Sometimes, I do check with Snopes.com, even though I have it on good Facebook authority that Snopes

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Susan, the scientist!

October was cold and windy, followed by these first days of November that have included winter storm watches, so many are predicting a bad winter. I decided to research some winter predictions on my own, rather than trusting the “Old Farmer’s Almanac.”

In my research, I found inconclusive evidence. First of all, I found the rhyme, “Squirrels gathering nuts in a

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Decoding tactful teacher talk…

Parent teacher conferences are traditionally held about this time of year, and I have to say they are one thing I don’t really miss about teaching. The parents of the good kids always show up, but the parents that you would really like to meet—to provide insight into the reason their children are the way they are—coincidentally don’t show up. My hat

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With tongue-in-cheek…

With the general hunting season getting underway, I would like to share an essay from my friend Bob Carver of Moscow, Idaho, that attempts to answer an age-old culinary debate. Thanks for sharing, Bob!

 

Venison vs. Beef Research

 

Those of you who have hunted many years and eat the product of your hunting expeditions have often heard hunters say, “I would rather

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Electric door locks can add to the excitement…

The callous hard-boiled exterior that cowboys exude is often a mask for their Tootsie Pop centers. Such was the case when my late father-in-law was approached by his granddaughter Michelle to dog-sit. She had brought a new, shall we say, “crossbred” puppy home from a high school rodeo that fall and asked her grandparents if they could help out on

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Social media…

Columbus Day and Labor Day are my favorite holidays, because they really don’t require planning, preparation, gift giving, decorating, or all of that other stuff that makes holidays stressful. They are simply days off to enjoy. Probably the most exciting thing about those holidays is what our President will tweet.

It seems everyone is tweeting these days except me. (Editor’s note: Oh

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The word “vacation” has a variety of meanings…

The elk are bugling, the leaves are turning, the nights are chilly, and I am not heading to hunting camp for the first time in many years. Although I don’t miss getting up at 2:30 in the morning or trying to keep meals warm until the last hunters stumble into the cook tent with a bloody elk heart wrapped in

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Rural Uber Options

Rural Uber Options

I was late for work at my town job today because the unpredicted heavy, wet snow bent all of the trees over, which effectively blocked our driveway from passage. I wasn’t very late, however, because we have farm implements! I backed up to the barn and summoned Remi who came out with the skid steer. He lifted up

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The dude horse phase of life… 

This week a wonderful new book came in the mail as one of the perks of writing a humor/ recipe column: “Making Tracks with Horses and Mules” by Jane Lambert of Stevensville, Montana. This book — edited by Editor Linda’s sister, Nancy Morrison, and proofed by our very own editor — chronicles the horses in Jane’s life. I could relate to

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You’re gonna need good luck if you steal an old farm vehicle…

Our ranch vacation guests are always amazed that we leave keys in all our vehicles. We explain that there are several reasons for that. One reason is that someone might come along that is in desperate need of a ride, so we want to accommodate them, but the main reason is that no one would steal most of our vehicles.

Faithful

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People are good when times are bad…

Watching all of the evacuations from Hurricane Harvey and from the wildfires in the West on television brings back the memory of the natural disasters we have lived through. When a plume of smoke rises, my heart begins to pound. We have evacuated from several fires and a couple floods, so I know the indescribable feeling of fear and helplessness

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No-win argument!

There used to be a show called “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?” I have always thought I was until the other day when I realized I am not nearly as smart as a second grader. Actually, in the spirit of full disclosure, technically I am not smarter than a first-grade graduate who had not yet begun second grade

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The trouble with testosterone…

My son has a 50-foot rope and a speedy horse, so he always wants to rope everything out in the open… even if it would be far easier and less stressful on his mother to push it to the corral. In fact, ever since he was in diapers, he has thrown rocks, sticks, balls, and anything he could pick up,

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Congratulations must be in order!

This week we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. I cannot quite wrap my head around how old that makes us. Of course, Remi robbed the cradle when he married me, as I am MUCH younger. Still, I am starting to be able to relate to all of the old people jokes shared on Facebook to honor our milestone. I decided

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Camp Cook Adventure #517

I have several part-time jobs, which alleviates any opportunity for boredom, but the one job I have loved the most is wilderness camp cook. It has provided me with thousands of memories of back country adventures.

One such adventure began as I found myself happily riding up the trail in the back of a string of horses on a quirky horse… it

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No, Susan, you did NOT pass… Remi’s just desperate!

It has been about 20 years since I was replaced in the hayfield by my son, and in those years, tractors have changed a lot in this operation. This haying season, I got called out of retirement mainly because we could not find anyone else to drive a tractor. So I stepped into the tractor for my 30-second lesson in

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Camp cooks come by their reputations honestly…

The strongest earthquake (5.8) to hit Montana in more than a half century had its epicenter in Lincoln, Montana, last week. Just four days before, I had been cooking in the K Lazy 3 Scapegoat Wilderness camp very close to the epicenter. I am really glad I was not sleeping in the shower tent when the quake hit. There had

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Class Reunion Reflections…

It is class reunion season, and I am feeling really old, since my baby just attended his 10th year high school reunion. My 40th reunion is coming up this weekend, and it reminded me of my 30th year class reunion 10 years ago. It was the event that inspired me to come home and make a bucket list. In my

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Children of the Great Depression…

Summer is the time when I decide to roll up my sleeves and clean out some junk. However, my parents were children of the Great Depression, so I can still hear their voices ringing in my ears when I think about pitching stuff that could potentially have some use in the future — even though it has received no usage

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When a bear visits…

When I was growing up on a guest ranch near Augusta, Montana, a book and a movie entitled “Night of the Grizzlies” struck fear in the hearts of nearly all of our guests one summer. It was about grizzly maulings in Glacier Park, and it was gruesome for the ’70s. Lately, we have been plagued by a bear on the

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It all started with missing socks in college!

There are aliens or some form of paranormal beings among us! I know this might be hard to believe coming from such a reliable source as myself, but I have conducted my own independent research on this topic and concluded, without a doubt, that we are not alone in this universe. My observational study of this phenomenon began many years

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Out West…

From Facebook, I pirated a great summary of what branding day is like in one paragraph written by Janie Carlson of Two Dot, Montana. She wrote, “L6 Bar branding 2017 Day went pretty damn well. I got cussed for the dry cow and tried to spill the herd. Jason got flattened and cussed Sid. Chase’s horse wanted to pig a

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Nothing worse than not enough water… except too much!

On Thursday morning, following our blessed three inches of rain, Remi came in from checking the creek level and said, “Well, I guess we won’t have to move to Ingomar.” It is not that he has anything against Ingomar, MT, but back in 2011, when we replaced our bridge after that “100-year flood,” he swore that, if this bridge, which

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Tip of the hat to Ed Shinn!

The best part of this job is hearing from readers and finding that something I wrote inspired them, such as this letter that came in a large envelope full of poems from Ed Shinn of Toppenish, WA. Ed wrote, “I am an old guy… turned myself out to pasture several years ago. My wife and I have been enjoying this

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Happy Mother's Day!

Florence Anna Bohlman Roberts April 18, 1922 to March 2, 2006

Sunday is Mother’s Day, so I would like to wish all mothers a special day. Those of us who have lost our mothers realize how time spent with our mothers is more valuable than any other gift we could give or be given. I have never written a column

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The legend of the Crazy Woman Mountains…

The legend of the Crazy Woman Mountains…

We have the privilege of living ALMOST in the shadow of the Crazy Mountains. There are several versions of the legend of the Crazy Woman Mountains, which were later named the Crazy Mountains. Last week, I featured a poem by Sandy Seaton Sallee of Emigrant, Montana, who won this year\’s Buck Ramsey Cowgirl

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Sandy Seaton Sallee, the real deal…

Sandy Sallee accepting her award.

Sandy Sallee and her very own version of “The Willy.”

Sandy Seaton Sallee, the real deal…

When I grow up, I want to be just like Sandy Seaton Sallee of Emigrant, Montana, whom I have admired since I first met her at a cowboy poetry gathering decades ago. Sandy, who grew up in Yellowstone Park driving four-up stagecoaches,

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With tongue in cheek…

With tongue in cheek…   I love it when I open my email and find a message from my editor saying, “You ought to use this for a column.” After reading it, I knew Linda was right, so here is a guest column from Julie Carter of Cowgirl Sass & Savvy entitled “Cowboy Cookin\’ …Making It Simple.” Thanks, Julie!

Cooking is

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Bathroom calamities…

Bathroom calamities…

I have developed a fear of bathrooms. After this week, I have much more empathy for people who suffer from phobias. In fact, my bathroom phobia is so bad that I am thinking about getting a Life Alert button to ward off any future bathroom calamities.

My brush with severe claustrophobia and deep humiliation came last Wednesday. I had popped

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More of the good, old days…

More of the good, old days…

After the last downturn in the economy, it became suddenly fashionable to be frugal and green. I grew up frugal and green, because my parents were 40 years old when they got around to having me, so they were children during the Great Depression. We have tried to raise our children frugal and green, but

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The dreaded spelling bee…

The dreaded spelling bee…

All across the country, kids are being traumatized… no, not by cyber bullying or the Pythagorean theorem, but for another reason… they are good spellers. Yes, in preparation for the National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. in June, every county in every state is hosting a chamber of horrors for their best and brightest. I can say

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The rapid escalation of inherent problems…

The rapid escalation of inherent problems…

 

I sat bolt upright in bed when the back door slammed the way it only slams during calving season. I could hear muck boots clomping down the hall, and then my dearly beloved husband barked, “Come help me get a heifer in.”

 

I thought about mumbling, “Please,” but I was busy getting all my joints working

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Do we really need over 450 new pieces of legislation?

Do we really need over 450 new pieces of legislation?

As I sit down to write this column, I realize that it is Dr. Seuss\’ birthday on Thursday. As an English teacher, Dr. Seuss\’ birthday is the most significant holiday of the year. He would have been 113 today… except that he died in 1991. This brilliant man, Theodore Seuss Geisel,

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Voices..

Voices…

 

Calving season is about to begin, and it is a sheet of ice everywhere… except where it is a bog of mud. Because we live in windy country and we haven\’t had a winter like this since 1979, I am not used to these conditions. I am pretty sure I am more of a liability than an asset out in

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A little cowboy poetry…

A little cowboy poetry…

I love it when readers send me great writing, and this poem from Tom Ogle of Paris, Illinois, comes just as calves are starting to hit the ground on many ranches. Thanks for sharing this great poem and tribute to a fine neighbor, Tom!

The Slow One

By Tom Ogle

Earl worked in town to make ends meet.
Feedin\’ cows after

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With tongue in cheek… and a little chicken wire…

With tongue in cheek… and a little chicken wire…

I absolutely love to receive letters from readers, but I am not sure how to diplomatically answer this letter I received from Don De Jarnett of Billings, Montana. Don is related to my sweet neighbor, Julie Sanders, who mentioned in conversation that Cousin Don was writing me a letter. I watched the

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Hashtags 101…

Hashtags 101…

Twitter has received a lot of attention lately, so I have been thinking maybe I should check it out. All I really know is that you use a lot of hash tags (which we used to call pound signs), and you can only tweet 140 characters per message. When I was visiting Melville School this week, the upper grade

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Susan, you'd better stick to Remi's plan…

Susan, you\’d better stick to Remi\’s plan…

Calving season is bearing down on us, and that means a shift in my world. I have to shift from physical fitness activities like power walking to the break room for a snack and lifting paper weights to doing things like lugging newborn calves into the heated tack room in the barn from the

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Cooking with Susan 12-25-14

Christmas crisis! Christmas is only 194 hours away as I sit down to write this week\’s column. The only problem with that is that I have at least 195 hours\’ worth of stuff to do to get ready for Christmas. I\’m not really good at math, but even I realize that doesn\’t leave much time for sleep! Just this afternoon, I

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Cooking with Susan

Grouchy Grandma\’s House Rules for the Holidays…

One of the nicest compliments I receive is when readers tell me that they have hung my column on their refrigerator or mailed it to someone (often anonymously) to try to make a point humorously and semi-tactfully. Since we are in the holiday feast season, I thought it might be an appropriate time to

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