Christmas Tree Traditons

Before my parents divorced when I was 12, our Christmas traditions centered around the Christmas tree. Dad, my sister Lacy and I always tromped through the snow in the mountains of our ranch to cut down the ideal silver-tip fir tree. We were a staunch No Fake Trees, Don’t You Dare Buy One From Town kind of family.

After my parents split, we still had the real-live tree tradition, but we three no longer searched the forest for hours looking for Mom’s perfect tree. During college one year, on the rare holiday when Lacy and I were in the same place, we tagged along with Dad to trim a couple horses. On the way home, we stopped the pickup and hacked down a fir by the side of the road. We’re not the kind of family that lets tradition get in the way of efficiency – or legality, for that matter.

Another year, my aunt and uncle were visiting from Oregon. On Christmas Eve, my dad took them to town, where they shopped, ate dinner, and swiped a discarded Douglas fir from a Dumpster. My first thought wasn’t “Oh, how embarrassing – my father Dumpster dove for a Christmas tree!” but “Wow, that is way too close to a store-bought tree.” What can I say? My parents raised me right.

Half the fun of hunting for our own tree (in the mountains, not trash cans) was debating the symmetry, height, and fullness of each potential tree. The other half of the fun was a proud refusal to purchase a Christmas tree permit. I’m sure this goes back to some self-sufficient, rural (backwoods, perhaps?) mindset of my dad’s. Or maybe it’s just more fun to feel like you’re getting away with something – the same theory that propelled Dad to teach us girls to sneak into the county fair, rodeos, and concerts. Paying admission was like admitting defeat.

Sometimes, we’d take a friend’s used permit and tie it around the trunk of our freshly cut Christmas tree. That way, if someone saw it from afar, they’d assume it was bought and paid for. Did you also know that at a rodeo, you can take an ink pen, color the design on your friend’s admission stamp, quickly press the back of their hand to your own, and forge your own admission stamp?

Did you know we are a bunch of mooches? If you invite us over for Christmas dinner, I guarantee Dad will eat all the lemon meringue pie and I will drink all the mulled wine. My aunt and uncle will wash and dry all the dishes. They’re pushy like that.

In high school, Mom and I got creative one year and had a themed tree. We used only blue and silver decorations. It was nice; very Martha-Stewart-meets-Walmart, heavy on the Walmart.

During a different holiday season in high school, Dad was too depressed to help me decorate. I had to set up a tall live Christmas tree by myself, which is extremely difficult. I cried a lot, and not just because the tree ended up crooked after dozens of adjustments of the screws in the metal base.

These days, we still have a decorated tree in the living room each year, its branches filled with ornaments made when we girls were in the single-digit years. The fun is I never know exactly what kind of tree it is until I drive home on Christmas Eve; sometimes it’s a thick, bushy Douglas fir, one year it was a Charlie Brown type, one year it was plastic and lit up in psychedelic colors.

Instead of a tree, Mom and I had a Christmas poinsettia one year. We stacked our gifts around it, propped an “Our First Christmas”ornament against the flowerpot, and laughed ourselves sick.

 

 This is Mom screwing my head back on after another gathering of our weird family.  Note the cowoy hat ornament.  It served the first part of its useful life hanging from the rearview mirror of my  Dodge Neon, wafting a pleasant fragrance throughout the cab.  Yes, we decorate with used air fresheners.  Is that tacky?  I don’t think that’s tacky.

Here’s me and my best friend, Casey, sitting in front of her parents’ tree and holding (of course) a wooden bowl over our heads.  I wish I could explain…an inside joke, bad instructions from our parents, an impending indoor hail storm…but I have no idea what prompted this pose.

I like how Casey is cowering on the corner of the couch, trying to blend into the furniture and out of the picture. Boy, Uncle Jerry and I are sure proud of our gifts we received at the White Elephant party! We do like our vino.

 

Dad's sure happy with his White Elephant gift. It's just what every 60+ year old ex-rancher wants: a Shape-Mate. Go buy one for the aging cowboy on your list today.

 

Dad and my oldest sister, Sara, demonstrating how to properly use the hands-free devices for their cell phones. Maybe they just shouldn't drive.

 

Mom, Sara, Lacy, me and Dad at my college graduation.

 

My stepmom, Susan, and my dad. She aged so much better than he did, don't you think?

 

Dad loooooves to put on a mask, casually sit down on the sofa next to me when I'm not paying attention, and scare the bejeebers out of me when I turn and look at his face. Notice how my mouth is screaming, but my body language says "I'm bored." He pulls pranks a lot. We get used to them.

 

Dad likes to tell people that I raised him through the divorce. I'm not sure I want to take the credit for this.

Well, I’ll find out what this year’s Christmas tree is like, plus see Dad’s new mask/snack food shoved in his facial openings, in a week and a half!  I’m pretty stoked.  I just hope Uncle Jerry brings more wine. 

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How Did You Get Here?

So, there’s a feature on wordpress.com that lets me look at all the phrases people have typed into a search engine that led them to my blog.  There’s the standard “jolyn laubacher” and “jolyn laubacher blog.”  There’s people who searched for my friends “tilly van norman” or the name of a specific blog post “sagebrush telegraph.”

Some people found me by searching for a blog’s specific subject, such as “national cowboy poetry gathering,” “jordan valley rodeo,” or “winnemucca ranch hand rodeo.”  Others found me while looking up completely unrelated topics, like “hot wheels 2011,” “cough cough hack hack,” “a virus with a silent cough” (what’s with this?), “hand engraving,” and a personal favorite: “old can openers.”

They really got to the heart of my blog: kitchen tools.

Wow, some people really got lost in cyberspace here!  My apologies to all of you who were looking for “performance horse breeders,” “buckaroo gift wrap paper,” “chuck milner music,” “paint rodeo pickup horses,” or “i’ll be your huckleberry montana t shirt.”

Some of the search phrases had a Native American sound to them.  Check out “gray short hair women walking a horse,” “make cuts saddle strings,” and “riderless horse.” 

Then there’s the plain bizarre.  “bridals with cows,” (what the heck was this person looking for, anyway???), “my daddy wears bras,” (sorry, Dad, I seriously have no idea how that led a person here!  You can read back through my archives – there is no mention of such a thing.  Besides, if there was, I definitely wouldn’t blog about it), “suicide attempt, elko nevada, august,” “lesson plans on river rocks for young children” (because I TOTALLY write those all the time), and a category winner: ” what is the difference between two title eat to live and live to eat.”  I don’t know the answer….because I can’t really figure out the question.

Finally, there are the dirty searches.  “lap dancing winnemucca,” “obscene cowboy poetry” (really?  And MY site came up???), “the yp and tim kershner,” (ok, that one’s not really dirty.  I just wanted to point out the Tim has a stalker), plus one that definitely wins the category but definitely won’t be printed because I’m a lady and neither say nor type such vile words.  Plus, I’m a tad embarrassed that such a search led someone here. 

So, next time you search the world wide web for “dear family christmas wishes,” ” cow camps owyhee desert nv ore,” “bed roll big lots” (do they sell bed rolls there?  Where, like right next to the flat screen TVs?  Or over by the Shakira CDs and half-priced DVDs?), “annie maddalena” (Annie Banannie, sorry for dedicating a post to you!  And for including your name again here.  Shoot), or “jolynn laubacher wa” (yeah, no clue what’s with the ‘wa’), you just might end up here.  Stay a while – read a few posts, laugh if the feeling strikes you, block me from your computer forever if you want.  It’s cool.  Ultimately, we’re all searching for the same thing: “jesus wrapping paper.” 

 

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Do You Ever….?

Do you ever apply makeup in the glow of artificial lights in your basement bathroom, look at your face in the rearview mirror of your pickup on the way to work, and think “Now that is the definition of too much bronzer”?

Do you ever hear a barking dog mixed with the song on your vehicle’s radio and freak out, thinking your brakes are screeching and about to go out and you will not be able to stop at the light on 5th Street, and you will be killed in a 4-car pileup?

Do you ever listen to the song Rock ‘N Roll Heart and wish you were a stoner, just because it seems like more fun to smoke a joint and bob your head along with the beat?

Do you ever ask your interview subjects for upcoming articles to pose so it looks like they’re resting their hand on a barn 500 feet away, purely for your own amusement?  His wife and I got the biggest kick out of this shot.

See how Mitch loves his barn so much, he affectionately and possessively rests his hand atop it? hehehehehe.....

 Do you ever wear huge, dangly earrings and turn your head really fast when someone calls your name, just so you can feel your earrings hit you on the side of the face?

If you did, would you EVER admit it?

Do you ever wonder how your boyfriend continually thinks of new, sweet things to say when he sees you in a skirt, such as “Wow, and I thought I had the whitest legs in North Fork”?

Do you ever eat Chex cereal out of a coffee cup with a scoop of peanut butter on the side?

Do you ever wish everyone would leave you alone, then feel unloved when your phone doesn’t ring?

Do you ever sit on your porch step in the evening, smoke a cigar, and pretend you’re Mark Twain?

Do you seriously wonder why your phone doesn’t ring?

All right, that’s enough lettin’ my crazy flag fly for today.  Trust me, there’ll be more.  Oh, boy, will there be more.  I specialize in crazy 🙂

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A Day at the Zoo

I’m such a weenie, I was wishing I had a zoom function on my phone’s camera so I wouldn’t have to stand so close to the cage to snap this picture.  I could scarcely believe the secretary was leaving me alone and defenseless in the Carlin Combined Zoo all day.

Actually, it was 7:20 AM at Carlin High School.  This dude (real name: “Dude”) greeted my arrival in a biology classroom today.  The class also housed a turtle, 2 chinchillas, a ferret (another reason Nevada is waaaayyyy cooler than California), and a snake.  The kids told me the snake had gotten out of its cage and was lost, but their teacher hadn’t told anyone because he didn’t want to freak them out.

“Did he ever find the snake?”

“Oh ,yeah, it’s back now,” they said.

“Good, because if it wasn’t, they’d be looking for a new sub right now.”

The furry animals were cute.  The ferret put his little ferret feet on the thin bars of the cage, quivering his whiskers and hoping a student would poke their finger through the bars so he could rub against it like a cat or lick the salt off with his little ferret tongue.

The chinchilla hunkered in the corner of his cage, nose twitching wildly.  When a person slithered a hand through the cage door to pet his downy soft fur, he clsoed one eye, flattened his bowl-shaped ears and dodged the hand, looking pissed off. 

I really wanted to pet the cute little sucker, but he was kinda scary.

The kids said, “Oh, it’s fine – you can pet him.”  After watching 2 high school girls successfully pet the chinchilla, I worked up my courage.  Yes, I will put the first ride on a colt and tie down an 8-weight steer outside, but I get trembly when petting a small indoor pet in a cage.

The chinchilla ducked my hand and darted across the cage.  I snapped my hand back so quickly it hit the door frame and rocked the cage.  I laughed, then made myself stick my hand back in for one good, solid pet on the back.  I couldn’t show fear; it would ruin my image as a strict disciplinarian. 

Actually, I’m pretty positive my propensity to blush 18 times per day has already done that.

Yesterday, I spent a day with zoo animals of the bipedal variety.  The Spanish and English classes I taught were impressively disorganized and chaotic.  The teacher left a sub note dated 11/13 (yeah, that was definitely a Sunday) and had written “Dear Bev” at the top. 

After a day of handing out worksheets only to have the kids tell me, “We’ve already done this one.  We turned it in 2 weeks ago.  Our teacher is crazy,” I did what I had to do.  I had them put away their papers, stack their textbooks, and we watched cartoons.  The animated Rio rocks!

Some of the boys wrote a message in Spanish on the whiteboard for the next class.  Literally translated, it  read, “Hello, class.  You love me because you are poor and white.”  Then they drew a ninja. 

Thanks for reading,
The zookeeper

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My Life as a Minnow

           Geographically speaking, Elko is aproximately 4 1/2 hours from anywhere.  It’s that far to Reno, Salt Lake City, and Boise.  I guess Twin Falls, Idaho (locally known as “Twin”) is a touch closer, but I’ve never been there so it doesn’t count.
           Being from California, where a person can go to Victoria’s Secret and buy a fancy bra any old time she wants, the distance of Elko from a shopping mall took some adjusting.  I have figured out the secret: shop online and don’t admit that I secretly love the remoteness.  You can’t go to Raley’s, church or the post office without running into someone you know.  The Sagebrush Telegraph never rests, churning out false truths and outright lies quicker than you can say, “Did you hear about….”  It’s like living in a fish bowl.

    The central gathering place for modern-day buckaroos.  10 minutes in here and you’ll be transported to a state of mind where hats are flat, the band is loud, glasses are filled with whisky, and the party stops when it’s time to catch horses for the day’s work.  Don’t wear your good jacket – you’ll never get the smell of secondhand smoke out of it.

      Conveniently located across the street from Stockmen’s, this is a fun place to play pool.  Drew and I like to run the table.  Never play shuffleboard with Tayler and Twain; they will annihilate you.  It’s not fun, and your self-esteem will suffer.

         Everybody loves a historic Basque house, especially one that’s smoke-free, clean, and serves Scotty’s delicious beverages.  Great place to play some Ian Tyson and listen to Chase Chapin sing “M.C. Horses” really loudly after 6 kalimoxtos.  Can be a highly entertaining section of the fish bowl.

        No one really goes here anymore, as it is no longer 1983.  Sad that I missed that era.

       Another terrific Basque house.  There certainly is no shortage of lamb chops, cabbage soup, fries, and garlic-based salad dressing in Elko County.  Great place for a first date, but only if you want to make a really good impression 🙂

        They make a delicious array of salads and have an extensive wine list; the menfolk call it the “chick bar.”  Katie and I love it.  Like, two-glasses-of-wine-say-hi-to-everyone-at-the-bar-as-you-walk-to-your-table kind of love it. 

        My Saturdays and holidays place of employment.  Come check out the gear, museum, and floor upstairs.  I scrub the floor with a rag and bucket of water, so I like to show it off.  I Pledged it once, but then the first person up the stairs instantly fell to the floor, so now I no longer use Pledge.  Just in case, better wear rubber-soled shoes.

       Perhaps the most fun place in the fish bowl.  You can ride, rope, brand, cut, sort, win, lose, or draw.  Bet on the ponies and drink an ET and water for the full Elko County experience.  Or, skip the ET because it’s nasty.  Either one. 

      The people in here are warm, welcoming, smiling, singing, and God-loving.  The place really does radiate God’s love and true joy.  I dig it.  Jim digs it.  Branden digs it.  Katie digs it.  Everybody digs it. 

So, there’s a little tour of my fish bowl.  It’s a great place to live – wonderful people, huge sagebrush flats, lots of miles to long trot, and branding contests practically every month.  It’s not bad, for a fish bowl.  Until the winter storms commence; then it turns into a snow globe.

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A Cow Camp Diary

This gal's cow camp necessities. The chocolate bar and reserve chocolate bar are not pictured, because I ate them.

After Week 2 at cow camp, I decided to keep a Lewis and Clark-style diary of my adventure, minus the bloodstains on the parchment paper pages and references to Sacajawea. 

Day 1: We depart from town to-day to ship cattle and spend a week at cow camp.  We are traveling with no doctor, translator, or scout.  This may be perceived as foolish by Eastern scholars, but we press on unafraid.  The cows do indeed outnumber us, but we have ropes.
         We have secured provisions such as wool socks, whisky, corn tortillas, and 3 pounds of Halloween candy originally secured by my boss’s children.  Our spirits are high; as of yet we do not know any better.

Day 2: This morning so cold I could not feel my fingers, complicating the process of checking my cinch after saddling my horse.  I finally resorted to jabbing my whole hand in the general direction of my latigo, then guessing that it “looked tight.”  After my lips turn blue, I cease to care whether I hit the ground.
          Shipped 5 truckloads of Mexican steers before noon.  Was wishing we had brought a translator.

Day 3: Traveled to Wells, Nevada to-day via a primitive gravel road.  The rigors of the journey were eased somewhat by the FM radio stations, padded seats, and diesel engine of a Dodge pickup, but complicated somewhat by my boss’s and my inability to agree on a comfortable setting for the heater.    
            Returned back to camp and no cell phone service, Internet or cable TV this evening.  Am wishing I had brought a ball to throw against the wall.

Day 4: Have exhausted all possible topics of conversation with my boss/camp-mate.  Am wondering exactly how many times per day the heater kicks on, how the chipped dinner plate received its chip, why we only have VHS movies from the late ’90s in the living room, how many rotations per mile a ’96 Dodge front tire makes on a gravel road, and why we didn’t pick up more toilet paper while we were in town. 

Day 5: Am learning to eat lunch in 7 minutes and 35 seconds while walking back to the pickup, as that is the time allotted by my boss for such things.  Am wondering why we get up at 4 AM when the sun does not provide enough gray light to see our horses until 6:25 AM.  Am wondering whose stupid idea it was to be a stupid cowboy and stay in a stupid camp.  Am grateful for my every-evening , long-distance phone calls to a certain Mr. Young.

Day 6: To-day proved to be the most ardurous and exhausting day.  We processed cows in inadequate facilities with an inadequate amount of help and an inadequate number of daylight hours.  I exhausted my body, my patience, my supply of curse words, and a plastic flag.  Upon arriving at the camp house, I devoured three tacos and a glass of red wine.  Upon discovering my life had improved considerably, I went to bed before it could deteriorate again.

Day 7: Why am I still counting days?  I no longer care.  Time has stopped; I could not report the actual date if requested to.  I return to civilization today, and cannot wait to experience all the conveniences again: cell phone service, my own shower, the latest issue of People at the grocery store, the grocery store, lines at the grocery store, stoplights, traffic, pages of  junk mail cluttering my inbox, overpriced restaurant food, secondhand cigarette smoke on public sidewalks, 2 for 1 bargain buys on items I never use, and nightly newscasts centering on kidnappings and murders.
            Camp really wasn’t all that bad.  I wonder if they’ll be needing more help any time soon….

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Cow Camp, Week 1

Cow camp essentials. They're practically mandated by the state of Nevada.

 

I just returned from day-working in the North Spring Valley, which is between Ely, Nevada and the Utah line.  The camp house was a very clean and comfortable 3-bedroom modular home assembled in 1972.  My favorite part was the neon orange Formica countertops in the kitchen.

Actually, my truly favorite parts were the pear and apple trees in the backyard.  They were next to a now-defunct satellite dish so large that I could’ve turned it upside down, thrown a tarp over it, and taken shelter for the night.  Fortunately, my sleeping arrangements didn’t come to that, as I brought my bedroll and had my own room.

The first morning, our go-getter of a boss man had everyone get up at 4:00 AM.  It wasn’t even light enough to see until 6:20.  I actually took a nap between breakfast and catching horses. 

Nights and early mornings were dirty cold.  Half the crew wore straw hats; I wore my Scotch cap with the earflaps down all day.  I pulled part of my 40″ wild rag up over my chin to shield my face from the icy wind.  Every time I turned my head while we held rodear, my wild rag fell off my chin.  I considered hooking it onto my ears.  Maybe next time I’ll bring a couple safety pins and attach it directly to my ear flaps.

I didn’t freeze in vain; I was fortunate enough to spend time with 2 handy cowboys who savvy the business world as well.  I tried to listen quietly and absorb their discussions concerning futures contracts, 10-year leases, the benefits of late calving and intensive pasture rotation, but my kindergartener-like hypercuriousity could only be restrained for so long.  At one point I had to ask, “Are all pivots the same length?”*

A handy, ambitious 16-year-old kid works for one of the cowboy/businessman.  Jonas (the kid) and I moved some pairs to the next field one day.  Not wanting to be a non-gate-opening princess, I trotted ahead to set a wire gate.  I wrestled and strained to open it.  I took my rope down on it.  I couldn’t budge it.

After Jonas opened the gate, I thanked him for helping me.

“Oh, shoot, it’s no problem,” he said.  “It’s getting me broke in for cowboying with my girlfriend.”

“Oh, does your girlfriend like to ride?” I asked.

“I don’t know, I don’t have one yet.”

His forward-thinking optimism isn’t totally unfounded; he has a nice yellow colt, a check from selling some cows in the bank, and a date on Saturday night.

I’m going back for more next week, with a little rougher cowboy company….as long as they don’t eat all my corn tortillas, we’ll get along fine 🙂

 
 

 

*The answer is “no.”

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