“Hi, I’m Jolyn, and I’m 24 years old.”

I try to arrive at sub jobs early, since it’s difficult to navigate foreign hallways crowded with pushy natives, but as I walked through the congested early-morning halls of Spring Creek High the other day, a thought occured to me: almost everyone here is taller than me.

My mom stands 5’5″, my older sister is 5’5 1/2″, and I’m 5′ 4 3/4″.  We make a very uniform Christmas card, and the contents of our 3 closets are so interchangeable it’s creepy.  Well, they don’t raid my wardrobe too much – we live in 3 different states, and I regularly wear jeans I bought when I was 19.  I had a pair of elastic-band cotton shorts my parents bought me for fifth grade track team practice that I wore until college.  They weren’t worn out (I used them for pj’s), but saying, “I’ve had these since I was nine,” was somewhat less cool than “I wear the same size as I did junior year.”

My very first sub job ever was for high school P.E.  I stood in the gym, clipboard and roll sheet in hand, as a student walked up to me and asked, “Where’s our teacher?”

“You’re looking at her,” I replied.  “Now take your hat off, spit out your gum, and get in line.”

Last week I taught special ed at a high school.  I needed to speak with another teacher, so I waited in her doorway while she finished a conversation with the vice principal.  I asked my quick question then headed down the hallway and back to my classroom.

“Thank you for waiting so patiently while the BIG PEOPLE finished talking,” the vice principal, a big, beefy male, said to me with an exaggerated grin and extra emphasis.  I smiled and laughed awkwardly.

“Oh, wait – you’re not a student, are you?” he asked, his face turning red.

I smiled and said, “No, I’m a new sub.”  I didn’t want him to feel bad, but this was the second time he’d mistaken me for a student.  Figure it out already!

Yesterday I walked with my first class to a nearby Head Start program, where the students were to spend half an hour helping the toddlers eat breakfast and dance the Hokey Pokey.  While the little guys ate biscuits and jam, a group of my students played catch with a soft football.

“Guys, take it easy.  We’re indoors,” I admonished when the Nerf game started to threaten the miniblinds.

“Oh, I thought you were a student!” a Head Start teacher said in surprise.

I smiled thinly.  They were eighth graders.

I’m commonly mistaken for a high school senior and asked about my college plans.  I put on my best grown-up smile and tell my questioner that I graduated college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture Business 3 years ago.  Their surprised look is fun, and I know I’ll appreciate my youthful appearance when I’m 40.  In the meantime, maybe I can get the under-12 discount at the movie theater.

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I’m THAT kind of wild

It has come to my attention that people who read my blog posts might believe I am somewhat “wild.”  In reading back through recent posts, I noticed a few emerging themes, including but not limited to: 1) staying out until early morning, 2) drinking gin, and 3) shooting pool.  I can see how 1+2+3=a wild crazy party girl. 

I stay out until the alarm clark rings because, well, here in Nevada all the casinos and bars are open 24/7.  There is no last call and irritated bartender turning the lights on and asking everyone to clear out.  Plus, my friends are wild and difficult to escape from.

I’d like to say this in defense of my gin consumption: I only drink Tanqueray. 

Last Thursday, I met a girl friend in town to shoot pool.  Some Starr Valley cowboys showed up, so we all had a few adult beverages and played partners.  Christina went home early, so I migrated with the guys to the Silver Dollar.  Another buckaroo joined us, and we headed to The Horseshoe.

We had staked out some barstools and were chatting when the TS crew showed up.  Chase sat down next to me and said, “Jolyn, I thought you were such a nice girl – how did you end up in a strip club?”

“I’m not sure,” I replied, “but you should’ve seen the last girl.  She was way hotter than the one dancing now.”

I reached behind him to grab my cup of water from the bar.  Yes, water – I’m THAT kind of wild.

One Saturday, a girl friend and I met at 4 in the afternoon to chat about the Bible and how we should go about being Christian women.  At the conclusion of our informal lesson, she grabbed a box of Jell-o, a bottle of vodka, made two dozen Jell-o shots, and stuck them in the fridge while we went for a walk.

After our usual 5-mile jaunt, we sat down with spoons to eat our shots.  After 3 apiece, we looked at one another and said, “There’s no alcohol in these!  I feel nothing.  Sheesh.”

After three more, we looked up at each other, spoons paused in mid-bite.  “My head feels huge!  These definitely have booze in them.”

We polished off 18 Jell-o shots, slammed back a couple Washington Apples, ate some rice and tortilla chips, spent an hour changing into town clothes and doing our hair and makeup, and headed for the bar.  We ran into a crowd of our friends (all with nicely shaped cowboy hats, might I add) and enjoyed a drink while visiting.

Still mindful of our desire to live morally, we skipped out of the bar with our friends (they’re wild!  beware!) and headed for the G Bar basement, not at all the usual hangout.  They’d never find us there.

We played a few games of pool, sobered up, and drove home.  I was snuggled into bed when a friend texted me at 12:07 AM asking if I was at Stockmen’s; everyone else was, and the dancing was great.  I said I was showered, teeth brushed, jammie-clad and down for the count. 

In bed by midnight: I’m THAT kind of wild.

Some nights, I’m tipsy by the time I’m done making supper at home.  Other nights, I’m stone-cold sober and dancing until 3:30 AM.  You just can’t know.

I’m THAT kind of wild.

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A Real Writer

Just when I had completely adjusted to life as a substitute teacher on spring break (wake up at 8-ish, watch daytime TV while eating lunch at 11:30, shoot pool and drink gin in the evenings, etc.), Monday morning rolls around and I’m back to drinking coffee at 5:30 AM and hoping for a phone call for a job.

While it feels good to rise before the sun once again, I didn’t get a sub job today.  Allie invited me to ride along with her to video sale cattle in the Independence Valley, so I said, “Sure, why not?  I don’t have any morning TV programs I’m hooked on anyway.”

I wore my Levi 501’s, button-down shirt, wild rag, polar fleece and vest.  I grabbed a pair of cotton gloves and a coat just in case.  I’ve never tagged along on a cattle videoing excursion, and I wasn’t sure how much audience participation would be involved. 

We arrived a half an hour early, and the calves were an hour and a half late.  Sitting in Allie’s SUV in direct sunlight, I peeled off my wild rag and vest within ten minutes.  Sharon, the ranch owner, joined us for a visit. 

We chatted about Japan’s increase in beef demand due to radiation in their oceanfish supplies, the Donald’s possible bid for Presidency, and the state of Nevada’s incompetency concerning their inspection of livestock scales.  I was wishing we had a thermos full of coffee; eating string cheese and drinking bottled water while checking my email on Allie’s iPad just didn’t feel as punchy.

Through my emails, I learned I had a couple new story assignments from national magazines. !!!!!!!!!!!  Not to mention any names, but Range and Western Horseman.  So, pretty much excited about that.

One positive thing about subbing being slow is I’m much more motivated to think of new ideas and reach out of my comfort zone by contacting editors and interview subjects.  I try harder when I get a little hungry.

Dealing with a different kind of hunger, Allie put a whole chicken and a bunch of yummy stuff in the crock pot today.  Two thoughts: 1) I totally want a candle that smells like simmering chicken broth.  To heck with Vanilla Raspberry Truffle!  2) I’m gearing up for another week of Me vs. The Crock Pot.  I haven’t eaten chicken in weeks….I can SO do this.  I’m ready.  CP’s goin’ down.

I better get to revising articles already in the works…and start in on two new ones for the local paper.  Now that writing is contributing significantly to my bill-paying abilities, I’m starting to feel like a real writer.  I could get used to this 🙂

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Spring Break

During college, spring break meant hurrying through a Thursday afternoon mid-term exam and skipping school on Friday to start the party early.  I was either excited to go home and ride colts, or anticipating a relaxing week of working at a downtown Chico western wear store and suntanning every afternoon. 

As a substitute teacher, spring break means “Oh, bleep, a week of unpaid vacation.”  Once I reminded myself there was absolutely nothing I could do about that fact, I decided to write a stockpile of articles and set up interviews; conduct myself as a legit freelance writer for one solid week. 

A person has to be a little bad on spring break, though, so I began the week by partying until 4:00 AM.  For some reason, I had an unusually good streak of luck shooting pool – I sunk 4 balls in a row, including a combo.  Even though it was a really easy combo shot that a minimally trained poodle could’ve made, one of my guy friends saw my performance and refused to play me because I was “too good.” 

I protested, insisting it was a random streak of luck and not to worry; things would change and he’d beat me pretty easily.  I must’ve drank too much gin to make a persuasive argument, because he handed his cue stick off to another guy, who beat me.  All I can say is: I told you so.

Once I realized the folly of excessive partying (I was reminded by my inability to drink water, stand upright, walk, or eat until 3:00 PM the next day), I settled in to work.  I wrote 3 first drafts the first day, typed up a real estate description, emailed the home folks, secured 2 more story assignments from the local paper, interviewed a saddlemaker, and read part of Arnold Rojas’ These Were The Vaqueros to research an upcoming article. 

I also baked candy, cookies and granola bars.  I walked 8 miles one day – I walked with Tilly when she got off work, and again with Katie when she got off work.  I made a Mexican beef stew, shot pool last night (sober, I’d like to add), stacked firewood, and have watched more reruns of The Nanny, Everybody Loves Raymond, and That ’70s Show than should be legal.

I’m sort of wondering how I ever had time to work.  I thought I’d be inventing things to do to fill my days, but now I’m considering setting the clocks back at lunchtime so I can have more hours in the day.  My most pressing task is finding a store in Elko that sells the new Glamour magazine.  It’s out – I’ve seen it online!!!  I’m hooked on the dose of feminity, style, makeup advice and girl talk in between those covers, which greatly balances out the whole living-in-the-sagebrush-with-no-Victoria’s Secret-or-Sephora deal for me, and really irritated that it’s already April 7 and not a single store in this town has it on the shelf.  It’s like I live in a remote Northern Nevada desert town or something!

Today it is snowing.  It’s cozy in the house, though, and I’ve got second drafts to write and Don Williams playing on the radio.  I think I’m gonna make it.

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Mama and Me in A to the Z

I drove to Wickenburg, Arizona last weekend with a dual mission: to pick up a horse for a gal in Elko, and visit my mom.  I hadn’t seen my mom in nearly two years.

After I checked into the motel and while I waited for Mom to arrive, I fixed my hair and touched up my makeup.  I was first-date nervous for some reason.  Mom and I talked regularly, but so much had happened in nealry two years!  What should I talk about?  Which stories had I told her over the phone, and which ones had a huge impact on my life but I hadn’t mentioned?  Would she want to know my big-picture “this is what I think is the purpose of my life” thoughts, or would she ask if I’ve been eating my vegetables?

I brought a couple publications containing my articles to give her.  Would she be proud of me?  Last winter I was too broke to afford kerosene for the heater, and I ate oatmeal twice a day when I was between paychecks.  Did she think, “That’s my tough, determined girl,” or did she think, “She had a Bachelor’s Degree at age 21 with zero student loans debt.  Why can’t she get a real job?”

Mom didn’t tell me her judgment on my life during our visit.  Her only comment directed at the state of myself came when we hugged a long good-bye.  “You’re so little!” I exclaimed.  “I was just about to say the same thing about you!” she replied.  We laughed.

We slept in, hiked through the saguaro cactus, split entrees at dinner, ate fried ice cream and margarita key lime pie, checked out the Wickenburg museum, and played a fair amount of pool in a dive bar.  My mama is a pool shark; Arnold Palmer on the table and pool cue in hand, she will take your money.  Luckily for me, she just gave me a lot of useful advice. 

In the afternoons we lounged on the motel beds and watched reruns of “Friends” and “King of Queens.”  I was thinking how different our visits will be in several years, when I’m sleeping in the next room with a husband (preferably my own).  When I wake up cold in the middle of the night, I won’t accidentally grab Mom’s sweatshirt in the dark and wake up smelling like her laundry detergent.  It won’t be me and Mom road tripping at the same pace (“the family that pees together gets there faster”), she with her chai latte and me with my decaf afternoon coffee moseying through tourist trap shops in Prescott. 

Or, maybe our relationship won’t be so different in a decade.  I’m sure I’ll still be pestering her with questions: Did you get along with Grandpa Joe?  How did you know you were pregnant with me?  What was Yreka like when you were my age?  Was I a good baby?  Can you research my thyroid disease and tell me what I should eat to help my symptoms? 

And I’ll still want to hear the same stories: How did you get kicked out of Iowa again?  What was Southern California like when you were a kid?  Tell me about playing pool at the Fish Hook when your parents owned it. 

She’ll always be my mom.  The original expert on me.


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Sub Jobs And Boiled Cabbage

Sub jobs are like dates: your phone is either ringing incessantly or you are tempted to buy a new battery “just in case this one isn’t working anymore.”  It seems like there is never a steady, manageable current.

I was truly disappointed that I didn’t have a job today.  My hair looks really good, which is unusual and I kind of wanted to take advantage of the occasion by making a public appearance. 

Yesterday, in lieu of a job, I emailed editors, lined up interview subjects, finished stories, copied down some parables from the book of Matthew, went to the bank, and read a 244-page book.  That Ann Leary can write!  I spent the afternoon in London in 1990, and now I know more about premature babies, the socialist British medical system, amateur comedians, and Mrs. Leary’s mother than the average Elko County resident. 

I also spent a fair amount of time contemplating the crock pot.  For you uneducated cooks, a crock pot is a wonderful device that, when food of any kind and any amount is placed inside its cavernous bowl in the morning, will produce a delightfully aromatic and tasty feast by suppertime.  You could pretty much insert an old tennis shoe into a CP, add a cup of beef broth, chop up some celery, sprinkle the whole thing with Lowry’s seasoned salt, and half the neighborhood will crowd into your house at six o’clock with their eyes closed and noses uplifted because “I smelled something delicious from down the street!”

When I first moved in with Allie, she would make a big CP full of something yummy and encourage me to help myself.  I barely knew her, so I politely ate one bowl the first night and then politely refrained from eating the leftovers.  I didn’t want to be a mooch.  After a couple rounds of this, which always ended with a mostly-full CP full of savory beef stew, pork roast, or chicken noodle soup being tossed into the garbage, I changed my tactic.

Now, I view the crock pot as a personal challenge.  Can I singlehandedly eat an entire CP full of food before it goes bad?  Allie seems to enjoy making large amounts of delicious food, but I have no idea what she eats, because it isn’t that.  It is up to me and me alone to defeat the crock pot. 

I ate roast for one week straight, then planned to roast a chicken.  Allie beat me to it: she put another beef roast into the CP.  Another week of roast.  I only left a ladleful of shredded muscle fibers (really, that’s what beef is), green beans and carrots in the bottom of the bowl.  Now I will get my chicken!

Saint Patrick’s Day got me first.  I have been eating boiled cabbage (I’ve given up on the corned beef) every day since last Thursday.  Today is the last day.  I can taste victory.  It tastes like brine.

While you are working today, think of me and my great hair sitting at home.  I’ll be eating boiled cabbage.

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Hit The Road, Jack

I took a cue from Dave Barry (motto: “I love mottoes”) and compiled this fictitious (please don’t sue me, city of Newport) travel guide.

Elko, Nevada: Motto “Our streets are more rutted than yours.”  Come experience the real Wild West, as it applies to eating at one of the many delicious and smoke-filled casino restaurants, playing the slots while grocery shopping, and hanging out with pipe line workers at the laundromat.  Local buckaroo sightings available in town every payday.

Montague, California: Motto “Weed has the college, Yreka has the Wal-Mart, but we have the roping club.”  In this quaint rural town, you can buy fuel (including diesel!), eat at one of the one downtown restaurants, or mail a letter.  Make a day of it and do all three.

Bozeman, Montana: Motto “We hate Californians.”  In this beautifully built college town, you can eat some truly terrible Mexican food, some truly delicious sushi (fried chicken rolls available) and fly fish within miles of the city limits.  Budget tourist packages consist of driving around local communities and taking pictures of multi-million dollar vacation homes.  Bison burger lunches provided; bring your own camera.

Newport, Oregon: Motto “Where the ocean meets the sky, and the sun never shines.”   Enjoy fresh-caught seafood in one of the many locally-owned restaurants, hike in the lush hills, watch surfers brave 2-foot waves in wetsuits (hypothermia optional; additional fee required), or count raindrops.  Annual temperatures fluctuate from 56-59 degrees Farenheit.  Rain expected 312 days a year, with special emphasis on July 4th.

Tombstone, Arizona: Motto “Wyatt Earp lives!  He’s just on meth with the rest of the population.”  A mere 15 miles from Mexico (as the crow flies.  As the crow drives, it’s about 40 miles down the interstate and through the Border Patrol checkpoint), T-stone offers visitors the unique opportunity to stroll down wooden sidewalks, buy a t-shirt that reads “I’ll Be Your Huckleberry,” and eat an ice cream cone while watching a gunfight.  Editor’s note: the $2 margaritas are mixed 50/50 and significantly raise the ratings for the entire town.

If this doesn’t inspire you to grab a change of underwear and your toothbrush, crank over the diesel engine and hit the interstate, you can always settle for the at-home cowboy vacation: buy a jug of Carlo Rossi and watch Lonesome Dove. Both discs.

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I Was Hoping You’d Ask!

In college, I worked part-time at a western store.  For various reasons, I really hated working there.  So, to lighten up the atmosphere, one day I started over-enthusiastically agreeing to anything my manager asked me to do.  When she asked me to clean the break room, I smiled so big my eyebrows shot up and said, “Yes!  I would absolutely love to!”  She laughed at me and I smiled genuinely as I walked up the staircase to the break room.

When my manager (whom I really liked and respected, along with my co-workers) asked me to take out the trash, I responded with a hearty “I was hoping you’d ask!”  My obviously contrived joy opened the door for authentic joy (or at least tolerance/amusement) in the workplace.

You can adapt this strategy to everyday chores.  I don’t go to the grocery store; I embark on a Food Procurement Mission.  I don’t sack out a colt; I teach a young equine the refined art and maneuvers of the straight-up bridle horse, only on a more elementary and basic level.  I don’t halter my horse; I capture the beast.  After a training session, I thank him for his participation in the day’s activities and tell him I look forward to resuming our innovative work in the upcoming morn.  That last part is especially fun if you say it with a British accent.

Why do we saddle and unsaddle  our horses, yet we catch and turn them loose?  Shouldn’t we catch and uncatch them?  It’d be a much simpler semantics system, plus eliminate several wasted words.  One of my favorite ways to waste words is by saying I have to “unsaddle my horse’s face,” meaning I have to take off his bridle. 

You know, I don’t think I’ve ever actually said that one out loud.  I’ve just thought it and derived considerable personal amusement from the phrase.

I also amuse myself by yelling at the car radio.  You know that Reba McIntire hit, “Why Haven’t I Heard From You?”?  Next time she belts out that line, holler at the speakers, “Because you’re a terrible cook!” and change the station.  It’s a great release for pent-up anger you didn’t even know you had. 

It’s easy to lift the mood of a routine day of drudgery.  You just can’t be afraid to smile like a rodeo queen or yell at a famous redhead 🙂


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Proud To Wear A Bra

Every once in a while, I try to be a feminist, but I just don’t get it.  What’s with the whole burning -(or at least taking off) the-bra-thing in the name of women’s liberation?  How does running down stairs with both hands clapped to your chest and gritting your teeth while long trotting advance the modern female?  We finally have a garment that stylishly supports, and we rip it off in protest?  What are we protesting – comfort?

Once in a while I go braless, and I can’t decide if I feel like a hippie or an Indian.  I settled on Pocahantas Goes To Woodstock.  It’s not a bad style, but I just try to stay on one level of the house.  It certainly hasn’t inspired me to rush out and run for political office or demand a pay raise.  It has inspired me to put on a heavier sweater and close a few windows, though.

I heard some girls are offended that guys check out a girl as she walks through a door he’s holding open.  I figured that was the whole reason he opened the door; I just stand up straight and try not to run into the doorjam.  Girls buy cute shirts, guys buy dinner.  Pretty simple.

Guys always roll their eyes and complain about girls getting out of traffic tickets.  As a person who has been pulled over 5 times and not a ticket to my name, I say “If women have been oppressed by men for several thousand years, and this is the one break we catch, let’s take it!”  150 years ago in the wonderful USA, women couldn’t vote or own property.  My gender was considered property of their fathers or husbands.  After all these years, we deserve to bat our eyes out of a moving violation.

My dad taught me to use my knees for leverage when stacking hay bales, but I’ll always be beat by a man of similar height and build in a hay stacking contest.  I realize my strength limitation, so I don’t mind fixing lunch and watching the toddler, since it’s legitimate work and my physical situation makes me better suited to it.  I could go all feminist and demand equal labor, but then I’d just get my butt kicked by a three-strand bale of alfalfa and look dumb.

I like working on a cowboy crew and riding with men all day, expected to gather my country, rope what needs roping and work the ground when I miss.  I’ll bail off my horse and reach for a wire gate, but I smile and say “Thank you” when a cowboy gets off his horse and helps me close the ones that are stretched too tightly.  I’m not afraid to admit I wear a bra the whole time.

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A kindergarten girl today told me she had money in her pocket.  After a short conversation about the coins, I asked her name.

“Gabby,” she replied, then threw her hands up in the air.  “It starts with a G and I don’t even know how to make a G!”

A fourth grade girl told me she and her brother were going to visit their grandfather in the hospital.  “It wasn’t that bad of an accident,” she assured me.  “He just caught on fire.”

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