At the outset, today, a BIG shout out to birthday No. 44 for our middle child, Allan!
He’s a married guy (Natalie Watson), his family living far, far away in Juneau, Alaska. The couple is the parents of our only grandchild, Maya, who is 10, going on 20. If I detect a slight grin across your face, dear readers, I know you know what I imply about those pre-teenage children.
Love certainly shows it’s beautiful head in many locations. Recently, on a mid-spring, 325-mile trip to rural Greenbrier, Arkansas, I took in all that love, and it was truly amazing.
My older sister, Beverly Eads, lives there, and being a widow lady, I thought she needed some brief companionship in these troubled COVID-19 times. I knew I could fulfill that bill by driving over for three days, while my bride, Debbie, stayed at our homestead with our two youngest boys, Spanky (French bulldog) and Tux (black pug).
Lady Debbie probably needed a break from me, too, with one month of us sheltering at home, the longest stretch I had gone without working for almost 40 years! Fortunately, the weather was perfect, the highway traffic for the five-plus hour drive light, and I also stopped off along the way in Henryetta to briefly visit with 50-year friends.
I did actually think the driving route seemed shorter. Why, shorter? My travel time seemed much less because I talked on my hands-free cell phone, having several lengthy highway conversations, both going and returning home. Cellphone conversations are a real added benefit to cross country, divided highway travel.
My incredible sis operates a mega-successful cow/calf operation on her large Circle Z Ranch in rural Faulkner County, not far from rapidly growing Conway, Arkansas. She has help with her approximately 400 head of livestock, but for an 81-year-old lady, she does a great deal of the mental and in-depth planning for her business operation. For just a little insight into her situation; the ranch contains 22 separate grazing fields, and she has to maintain over four miles of fencing, along with maintaining a great deal of complex operating machinery.
I am able to visit her place about once yearly, but this visit was extra special! The biggest factor was the novel COVID-19 viral pandemic, and all the incredible uncertainty and unrest this invader has brought to humankind all over Planet Earth. My little part of my world is certainly no exception.
From the instant I pulled my pickup truck down her long-approach driveway, up to her little beautiful home, perched on top a green little hill, the two of us began talking. And for three days, we didn’t stop the chatter. We talked about a myriad of topics, some without any depth, and others amazingly complicated. We agreed with each other, most of the time, but on a few issues discussed, we merely agreed to disagree.
We enjoyed visits from Beverly’s oldest child, Michael Chastain, 64, who lives about an hour south in Maumelle, Arkansas. Being my oldest nephew, Michael has always had a special place in my heart.
He visits his mother regularly, and provides her excellent insight into ideas for the ranch operation, in addition to routinely adding his physical labor. Beverly’s business partner, Terry, lives with his family in an adjacent ranch, and he, also, stopped by to briefly visit with us while I was there. He certainly is a valuable ranch asset, too.
A regular event each time I visit is the “grand tour” of the entire ranching operation, while riding in the four-wheel drive, all-terrain ‘Gator vehicle, “Ruby”. This is always a memorable experience, and because of the delightful weather, no bugs. and the fact we didn’t get stuck in the muck, all added up to another great family-bonding experience with Michael, Beverly and myself. We laughed, told numerous stories, and I took lots of great cellphone pictures of the expansive ranch.
Even though the trip was made while the daily news was being flooded with a bazillion stories and video footage of the viral pandemic, Beverly and I barely turned on any external distractions. That’s correct, almost no television, electronic device or even a radio, to sway us from our direct attention to each other.
We did, of course, thoroughly, enjoy her two 8-year-old sister dogs, Ruth and Ester. I told her, as my visit was coming to a close, I thought her girls were very well-trained, and outstanding companions for her. She absolutely adores the pair, and for good reason!
It was really difficult for me to leave her and her wonderful ranch. The absolute peace and beauty of it is certainly a 10/10. Add my sis to the mix, and the whole scene is a 20/10!!
I am truly counting the months until I return to see her, again, and her little piece of paradise. Thank you, big sister.