About karenrossepp

I'm an art educator and accidental author. As with art, I love to paint with words--descriptive writing that brings the reader into the story--feeling the humidity after a spring rain, the choking dust of a country road...seeing the subtle colors of a summer sunset. Travel with me to a rural Iowa farm in the 1940s and to the steamy jungle of South Vietnam.

SAYING GOODBYE Rip, Watson…1988-2017

Yesterday, we said goodbye to a dear member of our family. One who was loved by our children and grandchildren and was a fixture on our place for many years.

Watson, AKA, Co-stars BB Good, was thirty years-old… a handsome Palomino gelding who stole our hearts from the very first. He once belonged to Tom Watson, the golfer, as a show horse. We got Watson when his show days were behind him.

 

We loved the fact that he was gentle even though he stood 15 hands… that’s a horse’s measurement in height.
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Over the years, he toted our family around, grownups, kids, babies, and guests—and anyone who wanted a safe, comfortable ride.

 

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He was a calm and steady horse that made you feel at ease,  high in the saddle. You can feel when a mount has an even, smooth gate, and he had it!

 

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Watson’s devoted stable mate, Rhubarb/Ruby, a pretty sorrel filly, was very upset yesterday. She’s paced all afternoon, sensing something wasn’t right with her buddy. We don’t give animals enough credit when it comes to their emotional senses. They feel change, and loss. And, that was very evident yesterday.

 

 

As you probably guessed, we had to let our beloved Watson go yesterday, with the help of our local Veterinarian. As Ruby paced around the corral, whinnying for her friend, Dr. T knew just what to do. He went to her, put a halter on her, and let her say goodbye. A few sniffs and nudges later, she was much more content.

We’ve lived here, on our Ranchette, for many years. Pets have come and gone. We’ve buried three horses now, several dogs, and numerous cats.

When I was a kid, on our farm in Iowa, there was no ceremony or care to bury our animals. Large animals, like cows, sheep, and pigs were hauled off by the rendering works–huge trucks that were all too familiar in the farming community. You could actually smell them before you saw them. The sight of a cow or horse being pulled by a log chain into the back of those vehicles was sickening for me, but a way of life on the farm. That’s why we decided that we would never do that, so we have all our dear-departed animal family members buried where they lived most of their lives.

I imagine it won’t be too long before we start looking for another horse to fill the void left by our dear Watson. I know Ruby needs someone to keep her company. He or she will have to be ready to take on grandchildren and anyone else lookin’ for a sweet ride!

 

KRE

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Sanctuary

The word, sanctuary conjures up different meanings. It could mean an animal sanctuary, a place of meditation, or what we typically think of… a church sanctuary.

This little country church, pictured below, is the first church I remember attending. Green Mound Church is located in Southeast Iowa, in Henry county. It has stood for generations on this quiet, bucolic landscape where my Dad’s side of the family worshiped, observed baptisms, weddings, funerals, Bible School, and feverish revival meetings!

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Across the road, sprawls the cemetery for the church. Most of my paternal relatives are buried there, Uncles, Aunts, and Grandparents, and even some dear friends.

I used to walk the isles of grave stones looking for familiar names, but mostly trying to find the oldest stones. Some predate the Civil War. Some carved in ornate relief. Heavenly angels and cherubs, flowers, scrolls and terms of endearment that fill the surfaces of granite. Some are but white, chalky slabs slanting from the earth. Their faces unreadable from the elements and time. Babies and young children occupy many of the plots, their young lives snuffed out by influenza, measles, and other diseases that we give little thought to, now.

It is a peaceful place. An unusual spot to commiserate with my friend, Rita. But, that’s just what we did one summer afternoon. We settled on the lush grass and spoke of our boyfriends and the trials of teenhood! Away from the commotion of our busy, loud families we talked about whatever we wanted.

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While scrolling through my Facebook last week, I came upon a picture that my childhood friend, Kathy Gerig Wiley, posted. It was of the Green Mound sanctuary. I was awestruck at how familiar it looked after all this time. Like I could step into the picture and start singing, “Amazing Grace.”

The smells of wooden pews, song books, and other aromas came flooding back to memory. The closeness of robust Iowa farmers and their wives added to the soup of smells that hovered over us in the heat of summer. Over-applied toilet water could not mask the lack of deodorant in those days! Cardboard fans adorned with, Solomon’s head of Christ gave little relief to the still, humid air. Fidgeting children drew on the back of church bulletins, and played quietly with books or fell asleep on their Mother’s lap.

Babies cried. Nodding-off husbands were jarred back to consciousness with a poke in the ribs by their wives, and from the pulpit, the word of God came down…delivered through Reverend Hughes. He reminded us of our shortcomings and the damnation that awaited us if we didn’t head the warnings of the Almighty’s word!

An alter-call would conclude each service. For those of you unfamiliar with that tradition, it is an invitation to walk to the front of the sanctuary and confess your sins, and become, “Born Again!”

I always dreaded, alter-call. For one thing, they would play the hymn, “Just AS I Am,” which would tug at anyone’s heart, and if you didn’t come during the first go-round, they would play it again! As a child I would peak to see if anyone went forward. I’d think about all the things I’d done in the past week–lied to my mom, teased my brother, impure thoughts about an eighth-grade boy, and I’d sneaked mom’s Tangee. I’d worn it to school like a dance hall floozy on “Gun Smoke!” You know, the usual adolescent sins!

Bible school was the most fun for me.  The surrounding farm community, and some from near-by towns would attend. Games, Bible lessons, and sack lunches outdoors filled the typical day. At the end, those of us, new born-agains, would be taken to the river and dunked completely under the muddy shallows. Somehow, I didn’t feel, “Whiter than snow!”

My Aunt Geraldine,  Dad’s sister,  played the piano. She was born for the job! Always dressed to the nines, she sparkled and played her way through every service.

My cousins, Lucy and Harold Grant also attended our church. I always looked forward to seeing them. We’d conspire to get together after church, maybe go swimming in town, or just hang out. What a treat…getting to go to the big town of Wayland.  I’d walk the streets with my Cuz, stopping at the grocery or hardware store for candy cigarettes and something to drink. It was a simpler time, no worries…just be back by dark!

It was the time of the “Can-Can” petticoats– layers of Tulle netting sewn together. Sunday was the day to show-off our newest clothes. All the girls tried to have the fullest petticoat. The real test was how high the skirt flipped-up when you sat down! The higher, the better!

It’s good to know that there are some things from my youth that are alive and doing well. These days the congregation is smaller, but the fact that this church still stands is a testament to the steadfast goodness and spirit of a faithful people!

Green Mound will turn 170 years-old this year. What an achievement!

P.S. I’d love to hear from current parishioners as to how things are going.

KRE

THE FRAGRANCES OF OUR MINDS

There are things that triggers memories. Maybe its a song, place, or person. All can bring up memories long-buried, but smells– fragrances really do conjure up strong remembrances for me.

There is a farm about four or five miles from us. When the wind is just right…well you get my drift! I remember the barn lot where I milked cows, held new kittens and waded in sucking mud during the rainy days, of my youth. The images of me feeding my 4H steer and brushing his shiny red coat float above my head.

When our neighbor, up the road, cuts fresh alfalfa in the summer I remember my dad hauling heavy square bales from the field to our barn. Our Mom would bring out fresh squeezed lemonade and sandwiches for the men when a much-needed break was taken. Dad and his hired help, which included some cute-buff teenage boys, would enjoy the short recess under a shade tree.

Fresh brewed coffee brings me back to my Mom’s kitchen, where she would enjoy a cup, or two while sitting at our shiny formica table with its yellow plastic upholstered chairs. Grandma made the old-fashioned coffee–cowboy coffee, we called it. She’d just poured the ground coffee in pot of water and let it come to boil. Problem was…she had to watch it closely, or there’d be hot coffee all over her stove top!

Smoke from the recent fires around here brought back cool fall days of burning leaves in our yard, or a weenie roast with friends. The smokey smell hanging on our clothes and hair long after the event.

This morning my husband brought in some Lilacs. Our bush doesn’t usually produce a lush crop, but this year, for some reason…they are beautiful!

When I took a whiff of the lavender clusters, I was back in my Mother’s yard– to springtime in Iowa, and the sweet perfume floating on spring breezes through the weathered window panes of our farmhouse.

So, I set about trimming the woody stems…a bouquet for the kitchen table and one for my husbands studio. The aroma now floats between our two spaces and make me sigh, and remember.

KRE

WE’RE BEING WATCHED!

The creek, west of our Casa is home to many  transient guests. This is the latest interloper, Canis latrans.  I use plural because there were three of them.

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He/she knew I was watching. Those eyes…so penetrating and mysterious! A little skinny but a handsome specimen. Almost seems as though he has a furrow in his brow.

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The trio continued to sniff and look my way.

I may have to rethink my walks around our property. With these three lurking about, some precautions may be in order.

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We often hear their eerie yips and howls at night…sounds like they are right outside our window. But, out here on the prairie, what sounds close can be miles away.

It does give my husband and I pause. We have grandkids who love to explore on foot or on our trusty golf cart. Now, it might be a little risky. One coyote is interesting…three is a pack. We know they’re capable of doing harm.

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These wiley critters are a tenacious species, adapting as they must, be it here in Kansas or suburbia.

I love that we have wildlife all around us. It’s good to know not everything is domesticated. On this foggy morning they fade away into the late-winter landscape, continuing their search. 

The leader seems to be saying, “Come on, we’ve got rabbits to catch!”

KRE

EARLY MORNING VISITOR

One of the coolest things about living in the country is, the visitors we get. They follow the creek bed and leave the security of the tree-line to graze the short pasture grasses, or sample the hay bale our horses enjoy.

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Ever curious, but cautious, this buck tentatively ventured out of his shelter this morning. My husband’s studio looks out toward the creek and trees bordering our property. We know when they’re around because our horses ears will perk up and look in the direction they see or sense another creature invading their turf.

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Before my husband could secure his camera, he missed the harem that had been grazing with this good lookin’ guy!

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I’m sure  his highness has fathered a future crop of babies. Maybe we’ll get a glimpse of them this spring.

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My dad used to hunt deer and many other game, but when I see how majestic these creatures are, its hard for me to imagine shooting one. That’s just me! I’d rather see them in their habitat doing what they do. I’m sure my son-in-law and nephews are shaking their heads, when I say this.

I know the argument about keeping the population down and that many people are injured and killed each year from colliding with a deer.

My mind says, “You’re right!”

My heart says, “Nooo!”

So, we’ll just enjoy this beauty and his family. They’re safe with us!

KRE

 

 

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

This past week, Kansas and the midwest experienced the grandeur and the fury of nature.
“Beauty and the Beast,” if you will.

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We endured cold, then warm days of rain, anticipating the deluge that was headed our way. Weathermen and women were, “In their height of glory!” As my Mom would say. Minute by minutes reports in pink alerted us to the storm drifting ever closer.

I, like hundreds of others in our town, fought the lines for staples–things that would not require electricity to prepare them if we should suffer an outage. I was thinking of 2005, I think it was, when all hades broke loose and many of us were out of power for days, and some, weeks. Breaking branches and trees sounded like rifle shots in the dark.

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We waited and waited and waited for the ice. It didn’t come the first day, but we had a light coating on the second. It was a long weekend. My spirits were about as gloomy as the landscape framed by my diningroom window.

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But, when I looked outside I was inspired!

When Nature finally did her deed, here, it wasn’t so bad. Unfortunately, north and west of us was a different story.

Toppled trees, downed power line, no water, no heat, no plumbing…you get the picture.

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So I threw on a coat and went outside to capture the beauty that was left behind. I’m always amazed at the artistic splendor of nature. It’s like she says, “I’m going to hit you hard, but leave a little treat so you won’t feel so bad when I’m done!”

That’s what happens when rain turns to ice and coats everything in crystal. The most drab, dried, ugly bushes, branches and twigs become transformed into a beautiful sculptures.

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Fence posts and gates drip with diamond like jewels. It’s a wonderland. Luckily, here in our county, we didn’t have a lot of wind with this storm which helped to save trees and structures from real damage.

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As I reluctantly creep into a more mature age…a-hem…I am careful to watch my step. Especially when I’m looking through the camera’s eye…not on my next step!

 

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Stalactites of gleaming ice hung, and clung to everything! What was a drab landscape the day before, now glistened and winked like fairy dust. I had to think of my Mom. She loved times like this and loved taking pictures as I do. Thanks Mom, for passing it on!

KRE

The New Baby

It’s January 1954, in Iowa. My Dad says, “It’s colder than a well digger’s ass in Montana.” That means it’s really cold! My brother and I have been waiting for our Mom to come home to us. “She went to get a baby!” My Grandma Ross says.

She’s been staying with us for a few days. I don’t know why it takes so darn long to pick out a baby, but I guess when you’re making a big decision like that, you need to take your time.

Grandma won’t say much about where this baby is coming from, or what it is. I guess we’ll find out when dad gets home.

We live on the river bottom. Dad says, ‘cause our house is real close to the river. Sometimes it floods our barnyard and fields. I think its fun when that happens. We wade out in the yard in our bare feet. The cows are up to their bellies in muddy river water. Dad cusses a lot when it floods.

Our house is big and white, and has two stories. Don’t know why they call them stories, but they do. Grownups have funny words for things. Our windows go to the floor so we can see out really good.

Grandma just said she heard a noise. We all go to look out the North window, and dad’s car is pulling up.

Grandma says we have to be quiet, cause we don’t want to scare the new baby. She’s real bossy…grandma. I guess she’s knows a lot about babies cause she had eight kids. Our Dad is the youngest of the bunch! Grandma says, my Mom got the “pick of the litter!” See…there’s a funny word, for a bunch of kids.

Anyway, I watch dad walk around the Buick and open the door for Mom. She’s holding a bundle in her arms. She walkin’ kinda’ slow.

Grandma hurries to the door and in walks my Mom with the new baby. Dad gives me a wink and messes with my brother’s hair. Mom looks tired, but she smiles at me. She sits down and peels away the blanket. I look at her and say, “What’d you pick out?”

“We have a girl!” She answers. “Her name is Eileen.”

We’re all gawin’ at Eileen like she’s somethin’ real special, but I feel a little mad, cause now I’m not the only girl. But, at least it’s not a stinkin’ boy!

 

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So that’s the way it went, sixty-three years ago today!

 

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Happy Birthday, Sis. Love you!

KRE