Accidental Farmer

I never intended to be a farmer.  I was going to major in business and live in a big city like Dallas.

I was raised on a farm that has been in my family for over 100 years. My dad worked for the U. S. Department of Agriculture, taught a Veteran’s class at night and raised cows. Being the youngest of four and the only girl, I didn’t have to do a lot of farm chores, the boys got to do that. Mainly, my chores were to care for the zoo that Dad allowed me to keep.

There were times that he would make me “work” too. I went to the hay field a few times to do something… I’m still not sure what. I was too small to load hay bales and too young to drive. I carried water and whined as much as I could without get my jaws slapped.  I often checked cows with him, but I was scared to death of them and he carried me on his shoulders until I was about 13.

When I was 16, my brother James went to college leaving me the only kid left at home. This is when I became Dad’s farm helper. I checked cows for him when he couldn’t and helped him feed  in the winter.   I helped him get the cows up and “work” them, which might include vaccinating them, medicating them for various ailments, worming them,  getting them up to sell, etc. My dad had zero patience with cows and most of the time zero patience with me. He had one hell of a temper and it was always a good idea to do exactly what he said.

The most memorable cow experience we had was once when we were getting cows up to send to the sale barn. We had a Hereford cow that was a little high headed (wild and mean) that he wanted to send. Our corral was at the corner of the barn. We would get the cows in the barn lot and then separate them. The ones we wanted to keep, got turned out and the ones we wanted to sell got put in the corral.

The said Hereford decided she didn’t want to go. I let her get past me a couple of times. This meant she was running around like a wild animal and not going toward the corral and I was letting her.  I was 17 or 18 by this time and still had a respectful fear of cows. Dad was livid. His face and bald head were red as red can be, and I still remember his exact words.  “RENO! What the hell are you doing? Whatever you do, do NOT let that damn bitch by you again! Do you understand me??” Me: “Yes, Sir I do.” And I did…

As he brought her around the barn again, my job was to stand in an opening to keep her from going through. She was running at top cow speed and I got down in the defensive stance I had learned from playing basketball. I was NOT moving, she was not going around me again. As she got closer I  held my ground. When she was within about 4’ of me Dad started yelling again. “SISTER, get the hell out of the way!!!”  I never moved and by the grace of God, she turned and we got her in.

Once the dust settled, I thought I had done good. She was penned up and Jim Baxter would be to pick her up shortly. I was wrong. Apparently, I had scared my dad so bad  he couldn’t speak for several minutes. When he finally did, he asked me what I was thinking by not getting out of the cows path. There was a lot of cursing in there too. Since I was his child, I replied “YOU said NOT to let the damn bitch by again, and I DIDN’T!” He just shook his head.

When Phil and I bought our farm in 1988, Dad gave us our first two heifers. We still have descendants of  one of them and it has been nearly 30 years.  When we first got cows, Phil told me that I would never know they were there, that he would take care of everything.  That didn’t last long.

That first spring/summer when he got so busy with the watermelons, I got the job of checking the cows and I’ve been doing it ever since. I check them daily. I talk to them, walk around and through them. My face is typically the first human the babies see.  Phil does the hard stuff like pulling a calf that can’t be born on its own, giving shots, untangling wire from around a leg, etc… but typically I’m right there with him. He puts the hay out in the winter. He won’t show me how to do it, because he says if I can feed them on my own I will have no use for him. They bring me a lot of joy and sometimes a lot of sadness.

This morning Phi and I got calves up to sell, my least favorite thing. Phil is much calmer than Dad was and for the most part our cows are pretty easy to handle. Very seldom when we get the cows up do I not think about my dad.  He loved living on a farm and having cows. He was raised a “town” kid in Ash Flat and he wanted nothing more than to live on a farm.

A few weeks before he died I was visiting him in the nursing home. The nursing home can be seen from the school so I was there often. On this particular day he started talking about my brothers and me. He was talking about the things my brothers had done and the all the things they had accomplished in their careers. When he came to me, he paused. This made me so nervous, I was so sure I had been his biggest disappointment. He looked up at me with those blue eyes sparkling and said, “Then there’s you. I have 3 boys and you, my only girl, turned out to be my farmer! You turned out good Reno!”

Only because of you Dad. You gave me the best gifts of all, the love of the outdoors and animals. You taught me to care and respect nature and the land. You taught me in you own way that I can find God among the trees if I will just stop and look.  You taught me to be independent and stand up for what I believe in. You taught me to love deeply and that when you love someone so much, you will grieve for them everyday they are gone. You also taught me to curse like a madwoman, but we won’t get into that!

This is absolutely not the post I intended to write today. In my head, it was going to be a short blurb about farming and mostly about running and some of the new things I am doing.  I guess I will have to save that one for later… it has just occurred to me that Sunday is Father’s Day and that I’m missing someone a little more than usual today.

Run happy. Be fierce. Hug your daddy if you can.

I Don’t Know What To Call This One

To say it has been an interesting week would be an understatement.  It started with my elderly mother taking a nasty fall while out shopping and winding up in the ER. By the grace of God she didn’t break anything. She was badly bruised and had a huge knot on  her head, but otherwise she was ok. She refused to go to the ER in an ambulance so the owners of the store drove her to the hospital. She didn’t know them, they didn’t know her, they just did it. They are good people! They were probably amazed that she insisted on doing her shopping before going to the hospital. Only my mother would do that. My friend Lori was my lifesaver that day and went with me to drive Mother’s  car back to her house. Lori never blinked an eye when I asked her to go,  she just said, “Let’s go.” I am blessed.

That night I had a watermelon festival meeting. On my way home, I discovered one of our calves out on the road. Phil was at Melbourne, and since I have a tendency to be independent I decided I could get him in on my own… in the dark.  One thing I did have going was the moonlight. It was so bright and beautiful.  As I was making my way down the road walking behind this thing, a truck stopped. Most people would when they saw someone walking down the middle of the road at night with a flashlight herding a calf, but since this is the beer run road you never know.  I had no idea who it was since their lights were shining in my direction. A man’s voice said, “Hey Julie, want me to open this gate?” Absolutely I did and was so grateful these two men had shown up when they did. They parked their truck where the calf couldn’t get by, spread out, shined their lights toward the gate, and the calf went in as pretty as you please. I was so relieved by the ease of it all.  The man said, “You can take the man out of Sidney, but you can’t take Sidney out of the man!” To which I replied, “Who are you??!” It was my former neighbor and student Tyler and another former student Zack. I told  them they were an answer to my prayer. (The first thing I do whenever I’m in that kind of situation is ask God for help. He always supplies it too!)  They just laughed and said no one had ever said that about them!  I was so glad they picked that night to come to Tyler’s parents farm to coon hunt! I am blessed.

The next afternoon I had more cow drama. Walt and I went to the farm to check the cows. I noticed a cow laying on the creek bank, but didn’t think anything about it. It was pretty warm, and she was in a nice cool place. I had to make my way around the creek to see all the cows. When I got to the side of the creek she was on, I happened to notice her stretching her back leg out behind her. That’s not normal, cows don’t do that. As I approached, I saw she was tangled up in barbed wire. Phil was in the watermelon field and had sketchy cell service. Between repeated calls and texts I finally made contact and he headed my way. While waiting for him, once again I thought, I can do this by myself. Wrong. The cow was so calm, she didn’t even twitch when I started trying to free her. She had been there so long and had tried so hard, the wire was wound  tightly around her leg, there was no way I could do anything. I also realized Phil was going to need wire cutters and someone a little stronger than me to help him. So, I called our neighbor Chance and asked him for wire cutters. When I told him what was going on, his reply was “I’ll be right there.” He and his wife Kate pulled in when Phil did.

As soon as Katie saw the cow she said, “”You always have the oddest things happen to you.” She and Chance have helped me with coyotes a couple of times and a few other oddball incidents. Phil and Chance were able to free her pretty quickly. She had been down so long and the wire was so tight she had lost feeling in her leg. She was wobbly and we worried she would roll down the creek bank into the water, but she didn’t. Once she got her balance, she just stood still for a while. She is doing well. I am blessed.

If you follow me and don’t know me personally, you may not know that I am the IT Director for my school district. I have a degree in Business Education and taught for 17 years before taking my current job. I work at the school Phil and I graduated from. Many of my friends kids and  grandkids go to school there, so I take what I do extremely personal. Our area is very, very poor. I know that education is the only chance many of these kids have for a better life.  I will fight you to make sure they get the best education we can give them.

Since we are a small school, the staff is close knit,  like family. We will fight among ourselves, but NOBODY from the outside better mess with one of us.  That became very clear this week.

The end of the school year is filled with field trips. On one such trip this week, there was a little unnecessary drama. While playing at our local park, a few students called their parents to ask them to bring them drinks from the local fast food restaurant. They told their parents they had  playing and were dehydrated because they had no water. Which was not true. Instead of checking out the story, a parent took to social media to criticize the teachers on the trip and the school.  Several people chimed in on criticizing the teachers and the school as a whole. Then, someone posted that the “teachers at that school needed to have the crap smoked out of them….”

Needless to say all hell broke loose. When I was shown what had been posted about my “family” I got about as mad as I have been in a long, long time. The teachers felt threatened, I would have too. The person who made the post should have known better than anyone else not to post something so stupid. After a lot of talking and discussion the situation was resolved, but the damage was done. The person who made the statement has lost all credibility with a whole lot of people.

As a school family we all rallied around our fellow teachers and was reminded that we truly are a family. I can’t imagine working anywhere else. I am blessed.

*I guess I need to tell the entire story since I always try to give you the good, bad and ugly. In case you are wondering why the remark was such a big deal, it is because it was made by a police officer. We probably won’t have thought much about it if it had been made by just some good ‘ol boy in town.

Speaking of social media, I was blocked by an old friend this week on Facebook. My politics lean to the left. I don’t make any apologies for my opinions, they make me who I am and I have the right to speak them from time to time. But, since I live in a very conservative area, I don’t talk politics often. I have no desire to argue with people and do not feel the need to defend my political position.  If you want to know where I stand on an issue, ask. I will be happy to tell you. 🙂

My so called friend had posted a rant about respect. He said if you wanted respect you had to give respect and that liberals needed to learn that lesson. My co-worker and right hand man Jonas replied to the post with something like, “yes, that is true, but it usually doesn’t work that way and the Bible has that part about doing unto others…” That’s a bad paraphrase but you get it. I posted three words, “as do conservatives.” The friend blocked Jonas and I both. The irony is the friend is a preacher. 

I am constantly amazed by the intolerance of people these days. If you don’t go along with their way of thinking, you are an idiot. And they will tell you that. I love people who have different viewpoints and life experiences than me. I love to hear others opinions and thoughts. I love a good lively, but civil debate! Unfortunately, I am in a very small minority.

That is what I love about the running community. Runners stick together, runners encourage each other, they build each other up. In the nearly 3 years that I have been running, I have NEVER had another runner say one thing negative to me. If I say, “I’m not a real runner, I’m too slow.” They say, “You run. You are a runner.” They don’t say “Wow you had a slow run yesterday.” Instead they say “Great job, you ran 5 miles yesterday.” They look for the positive. I like that, I like that a lot. 

I think there is a life lesson there. Be like a runner, build people up, respect the differences in others. Be kind, be supportive, be a positive voice in the world of negatives.

Run happy. Be fierce.

Chasing The Crazies

This is one of the craziest times of year in my little world. School is winding down, and you would think this would be the one time of the year where I could take a breath. No such luck. Everyone is scrambling to get any leftover money spent, making technology requests for next year, and turning in all the broken equipment from the year.

On the farm, we are in the midst of planting watermelons, and winding up calving season. With Phillip in the melons, that leaves the cows and  yard work for me. Throw into the mix that I am one of the organizers of our local watermelon festival and we are two months away from the big weekend, I literally don’t know whether I am coming or going.

This year another “bump” in the road involves my sweet husband. Come July 1, he will be a full time farmer. After 32 years teaching agriculture, he is calling it quits…he is retiring. Quite frankly, I am more than just a little freaked out by this.

When we started dating 33+ years ago,  his dream was to farm full time. At that time, he knew it would be hard to make a living in Sharp County farming raising watermelons and cattle. The chicken business wasn’t what it is today, and that really didn’t interest him anyway. He thought that being an agriculture teacher would be the best of both worlds, and for the most part it has been.

Sometime in the  fall of 2015, Phil started talking about retiring in 2016. I pretty much fell apart. It had never crossed my mind he was considering retirement. We weren’t financially where I thought we needed to be, but mainly we were NOT old enough to be talking about retiring.

One of our good friends is our banker.  He is also a lay speaker for the Methodist church, and one of the most godly people know.  One day while I was in the bank, John came up and we were chatting. For some reason, and I don’t know how the conversation turned to Phil wanting to retire, I told him of my fears/concerns. John is just one of those people that knows the right thing to say at the right time.  Over the next few days, I pondered on what he had said, and prayed about it often. Soon, I was at peace with whatever Phil wanted to do and I knew that everything would be fine.  Plus, as Phil kept telling me he would be getting a retirement check and he would be farming, not sitting under a rock somewhere.

By the time the school year ended in May 2016, Phil decided he wanted to go one more year. By Christmas of 2016 it was pretty clear that this was it. It was time to do something else. And to my surprise, I have been very supportive. More than anything I want Phil to be happy. We are still healthy and not too old, so he will be able to enjoy his time farming.  He will finally get to live his dream, and do what he loves so much.  I will very happily continue working for another 9ish years, doing what I love.

What I’m not dealing with is how freaking old we are. (Shocking, I know!) For the love of cats, I do not know where 32 years have gone. It seems like we just started our life together and our careers.  The years are a blur, it’s like when you fast forward a video.  I get that the 50s aren’t old, it’s just that “retirement” word. <shudder>  We are calling it a career change instead!:)

I read a lot about running. I also follow Women’s Running Magazine on Facebook. The article “Slower Runners Live Longer–Here’s Why” showed up in my feed last week and the timing was perfect since I struggle with the aging thing and being a slow runner.

Researchers studied around 1,100 joggers and 4,000 non-joggers. The people were various ages, men and women in relatively good health.  Non-joggers were folks who did not do any type of strenuous activity. The joggers were put into 3 categories, light joggers, moderate joggers and strenuous joggers based on how often, how many miles and the pace they ran.

Ten years later researchers checked into the death rates of those in the study. Not surprising, joggers had a longer life expectancy than non-joggers. What did surprise researchers was that light joggers had the lowest death rate of the jogger group. Strenuous joggers life expectancy MATCHED that of non-joggers. *The full article can be found here:

I couldn’t believe my eyes! “…the ideal sweet spot for jogging and gaining full benefit was 2 to 3 times per week. The optimal speed was slow, and the optimal weekly distance? 1 to 2.4 miles!” It’s healthier to be a slow runner! I felt so vindicated!

The study proves (again) that exercise is key to good health and a longer life expectancy. I don’t see myself cutting back how often or how many miles I run, however, I am going to stop beating myself up for being slow.

As I’ve said before, running is as good for my mental health as it is for my physical health. Here are my top reasons for running (in no particular order):

  1. Running aids in weight loss, it burns more calories than most other activities.
  2. Running gives me the opportunity to push the rest of the world out and clear my mind.
  3. Running is cheaper than therapy.
  4. Running is better than going to prison.
  5. Active people typically have fewer doctors visits.
  6. Running strengthens bones.
  7. Exercise helps to boost memory.
  8. Running gives me confidence to tackle anything.
  9. There is a huge community of runners and they are the most welcoming, supportive group of people I’ve ever encountered. There are several folks I only know through social media because of running. They are so supportive and encouraging. Even though I have never met them and may never, I consider them friends.
  10. Running increases stamina and energy.

The weather is beautiful, the honeysuckle is in full bloom, nature is in its most glorious, get out there!


Run happy. Be fierce.


Sore Muscles and Laugh Lines

If you have read any of my past posts, you may have gotten the idea I’m not too keen on this getting older business.  Well, I’m not and I don’t plan on taking it sitting down.

Since turning 50, I have been amazed at how things are changing. I don’t know if I hadn’t been noticing or if things really did start falling apart at 50. Most of the time, I don’t think about aging. I just go about my merry way. But lately I have discovered my mind and body do not belong to the same person. My mind believes I’m 30ish. Because of this, I am constantly doing things that my body wants no part of.

For example, last Sunday morning I got up early to do the weedeating in our yard. It takes me  anywhere from 1 1/2 – 2  1/2 hours depending on the time of year and if I have used any Roundup. Because I weedeat such a big area, Phil was good enough to get me an industrial trimmer. It weighs about 40 pounds and I love it. Sunday, I worked a little less than 2 hours before I had to get ready for church. This was my first time this year and my arms were a little tired, but I didn’t think much about it.

Sunday evening rolled around and I had been planning a long run all week. The Sunday before I ran 7 miles and was shooting for 8 miles that day. The first couple of miles were good. At mile 3, things started getting harder. Mile 4 knocked me on my tail and I did the walk of shame home. All during miles 3 and 4 I was racking my brain trying to figure out where I had gone wrong. I was well rested, well hydrated, had a good lunch, was looking forward to my run, so what was it? Then it hit me, it was the weedeating.

Sunday night I made a post on Instagram and Facebook about my dismal performance. On Monday my friend Theresa asked me if I was still sore. I told her I wasn’t sore, that I was just old and couldn’t do both the same day. :-O  On Tuesday, my arms were so sore I had to wear a button up shirt, because I couldn’t raise my arms. (I told Theresa she jinxed me and it was all her fault!)

As I thought about it, it occurred to me that I am an idiot. I did relatively hard manual labor for nearly 2 hours and ran 4 miles. Not anything to be ashamed of. Especially if you consider before I started running I always planned my weedeating on days that it was the only physical activity I was doing because it would completely wipe me out.

I’m thinking as the mowing/weedeating season goes on, it will get easier and I won’t plan a long run on the same day. Plus, I may  have found an ace in the hole. Our neighbors have a grandson in the 7th grade who is wanting a job.:)

Since I’m on the topic of aging today, another thing I have been noticing lately is how deep the lines and wrinkles are getting. Good grief. The wrinkles are terrible around my eyes,  temples, cheeks, and mouth.  I read one time that many famous women don’t  smile, because they don’t want “laugh lines.” I guess all these lines mean I’ve had a lot to smile and laugh about in my 50 years, so I will wear them with pride.

To quote my brother David, “at the end of the day” I realize I need to be stronger and I need to be logging more miles.   I may not be able to jump in like I could have 20 years ago, but that’s life, and I’m ok with it.  Because “at the end of the day” it’s a good life, it is a very blessed life.

Run happy. Be fierce.

Kiss This

For as long as I can remember I have been unable to control how much sugar I eat. If I don’t start, I’m ok. But if I ever do, look out. I even have a secret candy stash. (I guess it’s not secret anymore.) In the last few weeks, I have faltered more times than I care to admit. 

Recently a group at school  sold Krispy Kreme donuts. Of course I bought a box,  I had to help a good cause. I didn’t touch them until the drive home. The smell was straight from the devil and I could not resist. By the time I got I home I was almost in a sugar coma. You don’t need to know how many I ate…let’s just say I didn’t eat them all. As I was getting out of the truck, the dogs knocked them out of my hands and onto the ground. Six dogs can make short work out of a box of donuts!  I think that was divine intervention.

On a recent trip to Walmart I discovered the most wonderful thing ever… carrot cake Hershey Kisses. Oh my, they are melt in your mouth good. Since I went to Walmart on an empty stomach I did what you would expect. I bought two bags…. and two bags of birthday cake Kisses. When I got home I hid them in a cookie jar in our dining room. It sits on a table with several other pieces of Fiestaware. Who would suspect anything sinister was lurking inside an innocent looking jar?

Since we don’t eat in the dining room and I only walk through there a couple of times a day, it didn’t seem like a problem at first. I would grab 2-3 and go about my merry way. That was ok if I was at work all day. But, when spring break rolled around it became a problem in a hurry.

Monday I probably ate 10 pieces. At the end of the day, I was literally sick. Too much sugar puts me in a funk and makes me physically ill.  You would think that would be enough to stop me. Wrong. I started to throw the kisses in the trash. But then I stopped. I realized it was time for me to stop avoiding my weakness and meet it head on. That’s when I got the bright idea to put a little note on top of the candy. 


I haven’t eaten a piece since. I will open the lid, read the note and either immediately close the lid or on two occasions I have taken one piece, took a couple of steps and put it back in the jar. I’m hoping this is the start of a new chapter in my thus far unending weight control saga.

I guess I’m finally making myself accountable. If I’m making more of a conscience effort and putting it out here for the world to see, maybe that will give me the incentive I need to finally beat this sugar obsession!  Does anyone else have struggles like this? If you do, how do you handle it? I would love to hear some other things that work.

One good thing that came from spring break was I didn’t leave the house for five days. I was able to get an enormous amount of work done in the house. I ran on the days I wanted to and had three good runs and 1 crappy one. But I finished the week strong and I was happy enough.

Me and kettle bells have parted ways. I hate them. I dropped them on my toes too many times to count. I do at least five days of cardio a week. Since we live on a farm, I do a lot of lifting of feed and others things. I know that is not comparable and maybe I will find some type of strength training that I like and will stick with. I’m considering yoga, so if any one has any advice on it, I would love to hear it.

Run happy, be fierce.

What Are You Afraid Of?

Fear can be a debilitating thing. I am terrified of mice. If you want to kill me, hold me down and put a mouse on me.  But, that’s not the kind of fear on my mind today. I’m talking about the fear that keeps you from doing things, keeps you from stepping outside your comfort zone and taking a chance.  When I think of all the things in life I missed out on because of fear, I cringe.

When I started college I really didn’t want to be a teacher, I loved science. Phil tried to get me to pursue a degree in science. Since I didn’t have a strong math background, I was afraid I couldn’t do it. Later, Phil and I had the opportunity to buy an established, successful business, but we were afraid to. We had good jobs, good benefits, why would we risk that?  We had the opportunity to adopt children, we didn’t. We were afraid to. If God had wanted us to have kids we would have been able to have our own.  And I could go on and on and on.

When I started the Ease into 5k app, I did not tell anyone, not even Phil, who I tell everything to (except how many running shoes I have). I was certain that I would fail. I would never be able to finish the program, I would never be a runner. Why would I tell him? He had watched me start so  many diet and exercise programs and stop after a short time. I didn’t want to hear “I told you so” again.  I didn’t tell my friends because once I failed, I didn’t want to admit it to them too.

Somewhere about week 2 of Ease into 5k, Phil came home early and found me “running.” He was very, very skeptical and I do not blame him. I didn’t have a good track record. Once the dust settled from the disagreement we had, I made a vow that I was going to succeed come hell or high water. I had to prove to him I could do it, that I could stick this out long term. Mainly what he did was light a fire inside me to do it for me. It was time for me to stop being afraid of failing and just concentrate on succeeding. Failure was no longer an option.

In the 2 1/2 years since I started running I have been thrown several roadblocks. The obvious ones like work and farming. Then there were the shin splints that sidelined me for 3 weeks last year.  More recently all the blood pressure issues I had and the difficulty finding the right balance of medicine.

Then there are the less obvious, all that sh*t that goes on in my head. That voice that says, “don’t run today, it’s too hot/cold/dark/rainy,” or “you really suck at this and are bat sh*t crazy for calling yourself a runner,”  “real runners aren’t as slow as you are,” “you know people are making fun of you, right?” “you can’t run up that next hill, you never will you fat, slow loser,” you get the idea. I have a really mean voice inside my head.

Even with all that, I have persevered.  Deep inside of me there is a place that I can pull out the strength, determination, and stamina I need to be a runner. Too bad it took nearly 50 years to find it.

Running has been great for my mind and body. I have lost 60 pounds since starting and I found that I no longer want to smack people after a run.;) But mainly, running has taught me I can do anything I set my mind to and to STOP being afraid. Running has given this 50 year old woman confidence that I NEVER had before.

Maybe my change in mindset is due to running, maybe it’s due to getting older. Regardless, I’m not letting fear stand in my way any longer and I’m going to keep running as long as I can. And if I ever get the chance, I’m skydiving!:) 🙂

Run happy, be fierce!

It Never Gets Easier, You Get Stronger

When I first started running I was under the impression that eventually it would get easy. I had read all these posts from runner’s about how they had ran 5 “easy miles.” I kept waiting for my easy miles. (I’m still waiting!)  Then I came across the statement, “It never gets easier, you get stronger.” Yes! Finally the truth!

Let me be clear, some runs are harder than others. Depending on how tried, stressed, hungry, or hydrated I am affects my runs. I have discovered the weather is not much of a factor. I won’t run on ice, I’m old, I might fall and break a hip. Even with my fear of lightning, I have run in it a couple of times. It was exhilarating! Not advisable though, and if it is lightning I don’t think “Yay, let’s get out there!” I just don’t freak out anymore about it.

On the days that I am well rested and feeling great, running is still hard. The thing is, regardless of any of that stuff, I still am able to run. I can run longer, farther and faster than I could 2 years ago. I have more stamina for day to day activities, and I feel 1000x better. I am stronger.

The title phrase also applies to life. My great uncle, Charlie Hall passed away recently. He was my grandmother Estes’ baby brother. He was born and raised in the Ash Flat area. He left Sharp County after high school. He  served our country in  World War II. He attended the University Of Arkansas, and received a PhD from Kansas State University. Uncle Charlie was such a sweet, humble,  wonderful Christian man. He also developed the Crimson Sweet Watermelon and several others.

He and his family lived in several different states during his lifetime and at the time of his death he lived in Colorado. A long time ago he told his family when it came his time, he wanted to be brought home and buried beside his mother. This past weekend his wishes were honored.

The Hall family is scattered all over the U.S., but many made the trip back to Ash Flat for Uncle Charlie.  I did not realize until this past weekend, that I am the last living descendant of my great-grandparents Dolphus and Hester Hall to still live in Sharp County.  As our family gathered to say our goodbyes I was hit with the realization that I may never see many of my relatives again. Uncle Charlie was the last “common denominator” we had.  Other than sentimental reasons, most won’t have a reason to come back to Sharp County.  We aren’t exactly a tourism Mecca here.

All of this weighed so heavy on my heart. Saturday night when we got home, it all finally hit me. Uncle Charlie’s passing made me think and miss my own dad and my grandmother so very, very much.  Knowing there was a good chance I wouldn’t see many of my relatives again, broke my heart. The Hall’s are such good people. Hard working, humble, kind and a joy to be around. I am so proud to be a member of this family.

The last conversation I had with Charlie’s son Marc, he said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do. We talked 2-3 times every day.” I thought about that a lot. My dad died 6 years ago this April. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and miss him. So often there is something I need to tell him.  I need his advice about a cow, consoling about an injured pet, to be the buffer between Mother and me, and to remind me that Phillip is a saint for sticking it out with me this long. But, I don’t get to. Grief doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger.

Run happy.