Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Hummingbird Tales

A hummingbird and his flowers. The image was t...

Image via Wikipedia

I love to wake up early. Seeing the first rays of light in the morning is a real thrill. When the earth is tipped at the right angle and there’s enough light for me to have my morning devotions on my deck early in the day before the rest of the world is out and about, life is just about perfect!

Last Sunday, Easter morning, I was up early, getting ready for the kiddos to come that evening. I stood at my sink, cleaning strawberries to have in Strawberry Shortcake. As I stood there on that chilly morning, looking out at the lake, a sweet little visitor zipped up to say hello.

My first hummingbird of the season! I was thrilled that, as cool as it’s been, the guys were back. 

Actually, he flew up to see if my feeders, which had been in the same place all winter long, had anything in them. Of course, they didn’t. I quickly brought both of them in, cleaned them up and filled them with the liquid food I keep in the fridge for the little guys.

By that evening, the scout was back. He filled up, then must have rushed out to tell his friends (or harem) because we’ve had several this week. They flash past me so fast, I’m never sure what it is until they’re gone.

One of my feeders hangs near my propane grill. When I’m fixing steak or burgers, they love to come in close to check out what I’m doing. Or maybe they’re trying to get me to leave so they can eat in peace. 😉

Did you know there are myths about hummingbirds? I’d never heard any like we did about bears and coyotes as kids, so I thought I’d look them up.

There are no European or African hummingbird myths because hummers only live in the western hemisphere. There are lots of Indian myths, starting with the Mayans.

You can find lots of hummingbird tales online. (That’s where I learned the following.) 

One Mayan legend says that the hummer is really the sun, courting a beautiful woman, who is the moon. That one doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I understand the hummer being the sun. They warm your heart and seem to move with the speed of light. And they’re as welcome as the sunshine after a month of rain.

An Apache legend tells of Wind Dancer, a young warrior, who was born deaf, but could sing magical, wordless songs that brought healing and good weather. He married Bright Rain, a beautiful, young woman whom he rescued when she was being attacked by a wolf.

Wind Dancer was killed during another errand of mercy. A bitter, death-bring winter ensued, but it suddenly and mysteriously ended after Bright Rain started taking solitary walks.

Tribal elders learned Wind Dancer had come back to her in the form of a hummingbird. He wore the same ceremonial costume and war paint he had worn as a man. In fields of spring flowers he would approach her and whisper his magical secrets in her ear. This brought her peace and joy.

When I lived in Pryor Creek, I had a single feeder on my patio. Every once in a while I’d have a little guest come over for a snack. I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have more birds until I chatted with a friend and neighbor whose house backed up to the woods. She and her husband had several feeders along the back of their house, which they were filling twice a day! That leads me to believe the more feeders you have, the more likely you are to have a crowd of hummers.

Hummingbirds are social little scudders, kind of like middle school kids. Where one goes, all like to go.

Here’s the official recipe for hummingbird nectar from a birdwatchers website.

I have found that this is the best recipe for making your own nectar–I feel the birds prefer it over the various instant mixes.

1 Part Sugar
4 Parts Water
Boil 1-2 Minutes
Cool & Store In Refrigerator

Never use honey or artificial sweeteners! Honey ferments easily, and can cause sores in a hummers mouth. Artificial sweeteners have no food value. DO NOT use red food coloring in your solution, as this could be harmful to your hummers. No testing has been done on the effects dye has on birds. Most feeders have red on them and that should be enough.

 I didn’t have that recipe, so a few years ago I made up my own. I’d see Ina Garten on TV making a simple syrup, so I used that. Then, since I didn’t have red dye (I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to use it) I put in a measure of pre-sweetened red Koolaide.

Hummingbirds fought each other to get to that food! They stayed at it day after day after day until G-Man asked me if I’d bought hummer cocaine and put in it. I told him I hadn’t, but I’d probably given several birds cavities. 😉

Once, when I was a kid, we found a hummingbird lying on Grandmother’s window sill in her garage. We didn’t dare touch it (If you can’t touch a baby bird because the mama won’t come back, like we’d been told as kids, you sure shouldn’t touch a bird. Right?) We called Daddy instead.

Now my dad is a very tender-hearted guy. He put the poor little thing in the palm of his hand and quickly realized it wasn’t dead. It had gotten into the garage when the big door was open. Then that door closed, cutting him off from outside.  He’d tried to exit through the window and, not realizing the glass was there, knocked himself out.

Dad put him where the cat wouldn’t get him and we left him alone. In a while, he woke up and flew away. (Probably with a big headache!) At least that’s what Mom and Dad let us believe.

Of course, they’re the same caring parents who, when they told me the story of Little Red Ridinghood, said the wolf locked the grandmother in the closet instead of eating her because when I heard it the other way, I cried.

I found these pictures online. This one came from  here. It doesn’t tell how the woman taught the birds to eat from her hand, but it mentions it’s during migration, so the birds aren’t mating, therefore not as territorial.

It’s a blessing to have these small creatures near our home. If you don’t have time to keep a feeder clean and filled, you can plant flowers that will attract them. Planting them in drifts (large groups of plants) is the best way to attract lots of hummers. Here are some of the plants the birds really like from

  • Azalea
  • Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)
  • Cape Honeysuckle
  • Flame Acanthus
  • Flowering Quince
  • Lantana
  • Manzanita
  • Mimosa
  • Red Buckeye
  • Tree Tobacco
  • Turk’s Cap
  • Weigela



  • Coral Honeysuckle
  • Cypress Vine
  • Morning Glory
  • Scarlet Runner Bean
  • Trumpet Creeper
Female Ruby-throat and Columbines
Photo © Ann D. Martin


Some may be annuals or perennials depending on climate.


  • Bee Balm (Monarda)
  • Canna
  • Cardinal Flower
  • Columbine
  • Coral Bells
  • Four O’Clocks
  • Foxglove
  • Hosta
  • Hummingbird Mint (Agastache)
  • Little Cigar
  • Lupine
  • Penstemon
  • Yucca


  • Beard Tongue (and other penstemons)
  • Firespike
  • Fuchsia
  • Impatiens
  • Jacobiana
  • Jewelweed
  • Petunia
  • Various Salviaspecies
  • Shrimp Plant


Beef Stroganoff Burgers

 This is a quick and easy meal. Mom used to fix it when she was running a little late, and we loved it! Once when she’d made it, she hadn’t added the sprinkling of sweet paprika. (It gives an extra special flavor.) Being the helpful number one daughter, I grabbed the paprika out of the cabinet and doused the concoction.

Picking up the spoon, I started to stir in the paprika, when I noticed it was moving. Ewwww! I had no idea that paprika could get bugs in it. 😦 “Mooooooom!”

Luckily, the paprika was all in one area. Mom threw out the spoiled part and heated the stroganoff really well, but I still couldn’t eat that night.

Here’s what you’ll need: 

1-1/12 pounds hamburger meat
1 can Mushroom Soup
Small container sour cream.
Sweet Paprika (bug-less!)
Hamburger buns

Brown the hamburger meat and drain well. Stir in sour cream and mushroom soup. Sprinkle with sweet paprika to taste. Toast the hamburger buns in the broiler, and serve the sandwiches open-faced.

These sandwiches are quick, easy and goooood! I always liked them best with plain potato chips and pop, but you can add cole slaw if you know how to make a good one.  


Grandma Stories

An adult male chicken, the rooster has a promi...

Image via Wikipedia

Grandma and Grandad Reeves used to live in Park Hill, Oklahoma. (Near Tahlequah.) Before that they lived in Stinnett, Texas, Olive, Sapulpa, and The Ford. After that, they lived in C-Town. 

Grandma’s philosophy was a person ought to move once every five years so she could keep her closets cleaned out.

Grandma raised seven children and worked alongside Grandad most of the time. After nearly all their kids were grown, they started a chicken farm at Parkhill.

Someone must have sent a memo that it was a fantastic time to get into the chicken business to all the WWI veterans.  Once the G’s got in it, the bottom dropped out.

They kept the farm, but moved back to Green Country to make a living in the oilfield.

After a while, though, they moved back to Park Hill and lived there until their house, which had eleven-teen chimneys, burned down. It must have burned to the ground, because we went to visit them not long after and I don’t remember seeing any of the house still standing.

Grandma and Grandad lived in the barn while they rebuilt. (Later, they lived in a garage while they built their house at Dog Center.) No matter where she lived, Grandma liked to keep a milk cow and some laying hens.

I don’t know where the milk maker and egg layers stayed after the G’s made the barn their bedroom/living room/kitchen. And I have no idea where they showered.

If I were guessing, I’d guess they bathed in one of those square metal tubs, but I really don’t know. 🙂

One summer while the G’s lived at Park Hill, Deb and I went to stay with them for a week. I hate to say it, but Park Hill could possibly be the most BORING place in Oklahoma–for a ten and seven-year-old at least.

We read the books we packed until we were cross-eyed. We played Grandma’s treadle sewing machine, pretending it was an organ. We walked to the mailbox and back several times a day. We climbed the tall trees in front of the house and tried to see all the way to Texas, looking for Aunt Carol. (She didn’t pop in.)

One day we climbed the peach tree, next to the bedroom window. It was big for a peach tree, but brittle. About the time I had my feet higher than my head, the brances I held onto broke and I landed on Debbie, who was sitting in the crotch of the tree. We were both about to tumble out, when Grandad, who was in the garden, ran over and caught us.

I was hoping to break an arm so we could go home, but I failed.

Then they took us fishing. Not in a pond. We went fishing in the Illinois River! That was either before the canoes started herding down the river or else we were on an arm where canoes didn’t go. 

I love fishing! Grandma said they took me fishing for the first time when I was 6 weeks old. (But I really don’t remember.) When I got big enough to hold the pole, they’d give me a cane pole with a weighted line on it, but no hook so I couldn’t hurt myself. She said I’d sit for hours, trying to catch something. Almost made her feel guilty.

Back to the Illinois River–We fished and fished, waded out in the river, waded back in and had a ball. We had a picnic, then fished some more. I don’t remember how many fish we caught, but we had so much fun doing it!

Grandad always kept hunting dogs, which he called wolf hounds. They chased coyotes rather than wolves, since wolves are kinda scarce in Oklahoma. He kept quite a few, and they always had a community pen where they lived.

Except for one dog. His name was Lightfoot–named after the people Grandad got him from. Lightfoot was impossible to keep in the dog run because his favorite thing was chasing chickens, and he’d tunnel his way out to do it.

As I said earlier, Grandma always kept laying hens, but she didn’t want anyone or anything chasing them. Not even her favorite grandaughter. She said it made them lay square eggs.

Finally, Grandma’d had it with Lightfoot. “Julius, if you don’t keep that dog penned up, I’m going to shoot him!”

“That shotgun doesn’t shoot straight, Abigail,” he answered with a slow grin. “You couldn’t hit him.”

“Oh, is that so?” Grandma gritted her false teeth. “See that branch on the tree?” (It was hanging right over the dog’s head about 10 feet high.)

“What about it?”

“Watch me hit it.” Grandma took aim at the tree branch and pulled the trigger.

They had Lightfoot’s funeral the next day.

To this day, when Dad tells that story, he laughs until he has tears running down his face. And to make matters even worse, Grandma made Grandad dig the grave for the hound.

Grandma and Grandad Reeves knew what it took to make a good marriage. Move often. If you fish enough, you can forget your problems. Protect your chickens and keep a shotgun handy to blow away sneaky varmints. 😉  


What’s Your Story?

So? How was your Easter?

Did your entire family get to be together? We were missing #1 and DIL, but we had a fantastic day anyway. Many thanks to Brother Jeffrey, who does most of the work for the family, feeding the calves, judging when they’re just ready and hauling them to turn into steaks. YUMMERS! 

The day started early, early, fixing strawberries and deviled eggs. (The eggs were a big hit before we were even ready for dinner. LOL)

As usual, Sunday School and church were wonderful. In SS we’re about to attack Phillipians 3. The teacher in that class is fantastic. He loves God’s word and doesn’t just whip through the Book. Instead, he studies it word by word, sharing with us the very marrow of the word.

Then worship service. The place was teeming with people. (Ever notice how so many people remember Easter is a day to worship, even if they are too busy the rest of the year? PTL!) This is the church where I grew up, but there were so many people I didn’t know! What a wonderful day!

One of my favorite things about worshiping with this group of Christians is that we know to expect the unexpected. As usual, we had a surprise yesterday.

I worked hard not to sob out loud (I didn’t want to frighten Dad and my long time friend, Trudy) as we saw Cardboard Testimonies.

I wanted to write a few down, but I couldn’t think about pen and paper as I read the stark truth of the statements on the faces of people I love. I can’t see when my mascara is burning in my eyes, so these aren’t direct quotes. They’re just the best I can remember. 

Changed by the Master 

Each person testifying walked onto the stage, holding a large piece of cardboard, which they held up for everyone to read, then flipped to the back. One said, “A Mess.” She flipped it and the back said, “God’s mess.”

A woman walked to the middle and lifted a sign that said, “My husband died.” She turned it to the other side. “We’ll be together again in glory.”  

Another woman’s said, “Alcoholic.” She flipped it to, “Sober in Christ, 28 years.”

“Convicted felon/Free in Christ.”

“Orphaned by alcoholism/Daughter of the King.”     

“People pleaser/becoming a God pleaser.”

“Devastated by divorce,” made me cry so hard I missed what was on the back.

On of my favorite people in the world was one of the first testimonies. After all the others, I’d forgotten exactly what hers said, but she put it on Facebook. “I was lost in despair…..with the Grace of God now I’m Hopeful with Promise.”

Then on FB she asked, “What’s your story?”

Put yourself in their place. Would you put your worst failure out there for everyone to see? Could you do it?  

“Fearful of dying/Secure beneath His wing.”

“Seeking approval from the world/The Lord is my righteousness.”

Have you been changed by the master? What’s your story?