Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Old Small Town World


Image via Wikipedia

Uncle Frank was at the office the other day, and I finally had the chance to catch a few of his memories. (Recorded on my iPhone so I won’t forget them.) Mike, one of my aunt’s sons, was hearing the stories for the first time.

At one point, UF kind of paused in his storytelling, so I said, “Tell Mike the story about Granddad Mitchell stealing watermelons.”

“I don’t know that story.” I was disappointed, but my suggestion sparked another memory for Frank.

“A man leased Granddad Mitchell’s place in the Basin after Granddad moved to town. The man planted several acres of watermelons, along-side the ditch.”

The area has changed a lot since Keystone was built, but if I remember right, there was a  road that went right beside Granddad’s house, and I think the ditch was next to the road. I should have asked, but I didn’t want to interrupt his story.

“I was working on the farm close by and kept an eye on that patch of melons. You know, you can smell a patch of watermelons before you can see them. I passed that patch day after day, until I thought they ought to be about ripe.

“Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer. One day when I’d finished working, I went to that patch and picked me a melon. I pulled out my knife and cut it right there. It wasn’t ripe, so I threw it in the ditch and picked another. It wasn’t ripe either, so I threw it in the ditch. Finally, I found one that was ripe.

“Boy, oh Boy! You know, a sweet melon is really good on a blazing hot summer day. I looked up, and there was that farmer, just awatchin’ me eat that melon.”

“He never said a word. Just turned around and went back to the house.”

♥ ♥ ♥

Here’s the story Uncle Frank said he didn’t recall. Learning that Granddad had leased his place to someone who farmed melons makes me think at least part of this story is true. I heard it from my dad, who probably heard it from his dad.

Knowing that, be warned: Part of it could be embellished.

When Granddad Mitchell was a young(ish) man, he loved to play practical jokes.

He and a friend decided to steal watermelons from a farmer one day. They sneaked up to the patch and, after checking to see that no one was around, they started pulling melons.

All of a sudden, the farmer ran into the field with a shotgun.”I’m sick and tired of you hooligans stealing my melons! Well, you won’t steal any more of them.” The farmer raised his gun and fired right at them.

Granddad Mitchell slumped to the ground. His poor friend  was so frightened, he didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t just leave his buddy to die in the watermelon patch, so he slung Granddad over his shoulder and ran with him. The sandy soil slowed him and watermelons and vines tripped him, but he struggled on.

Image via Wikipedia

I’m sure he sobbed, “Don’t die. Please don’t die,” as he scrambled to get out of there.

The man did his best to get my only-pretending-to-be-shot Gread Grandfather to help when he felt a warm liquid soaking the back of his shirt. “Oh, my God! Oh, my God! He’s bleeding to death!”

The guy probably wanted to make granddad bleed when he found out Granddad had peed down his back. It was only a joke.



Twenty Years

Friday was the 20th anniversary of The Wreck. Sister Amy has been in a wheelchair for two decades now–and without a whine. The Day is never easy, but the day after is usually even harder. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because we gear up for it and when we let down, we get hit.

We’ve learned not to dwell on what we lost. Instead, we try keep our great memories alive.

Going to market with Mom to buy for Four Seasons Fashions, and how she’d think of each of our customers and what they’d enjoy.

Vacations with the entire family–skiing, Yellowstone, Branson.

Weddings. Her hard work getting ready for them. (Wedding planners had no place at the Spess Girls’ nuptials.)

The day we moved to C-Town with all the packing and unpacking, Mama stopped working long enough to read to Sister Debbie and me. (I can still see all my books scattered across the new wood floor.)

Mama’s fear of tornadoes. And appendicitis.

Her ability to teach kids to dive, even though she couldn’t dive. (We didn’t find that out for years!)

Her love for her grandchildren and her entire family.

Celebrations at Christmas.

The few times I saw her cry. (Three, maybe?)

The way she could outrun me, way into my teens.

Her dreams. Her hopes for her kids.

Teaching my sibs to play basket ball.

Enjoying basket ball games, no matter who was playing.


Her love of God, and her joy at being in the Lord’s house every time the doors were open.

Her death was senseless and tragic, but her life sparkled. So that’s what we remember. Mom’s life and her heart.


♥ Wedding Days ♥

A long, long time ago in a world far, far away . . .  No, wait. That can’t be true It was really just last week, wasn’t it?

When I left Ozark Bible College (now Ozark Christian College) I went to school in Tulsa at Draughon’s School of Business. Mom had just opened our dress shop, Four Seasons, the year before while I was at OCC, so naturally, I studied fashion merchandising.

While there, I got to be really good friends with Mary.

Mary was fun to hang with and so very talented! We soon became really good friends. Several months later, she did me one of the biggest favors of my life–she set me up on a blind date with G-Man.

For our first date was to be with Mary and the man she married a week after I married G-Man. Although I’d never met either one of the guys, they came to pick me up first because the house Mary stayed in was hard to find.

The night was cold and windy, and I lived in an apartment building built in a huge square, so when the wind blew, it just kept on going around and around.

I wasn’t quite ready when they got there (not exactly a surprise, huh?)  so I called through the door (and very sweetly!) “Just a minute.”

Then I hurried. I sure didn’t want to go out with a pair of icicles.  

We had to drive a while to get to Mary’s house. I’d only been there once and I hadn’t written down the directions, but after a few wrong turns we found it. We were too late to go to the movie we’d planned to see, so we went to the Power Plant and danced.

We’re talking ancient history here, and Power Plant is long gone. But we had a lot of fun. The next night we went to the movie, then I didn’t hear from him again for a L-O-N-G time. Ten whole days (or so.)

When he finally asked me out again (He said he’d been calling and I hadn’t answered. We’ll never know for sure, will we?) he was smart enough to request the next date while we were out together.

He passed the trial by fire when he came to Christmas at Grandmother’s house. That was the day every year when Grandmother’s 4 kids, 19 grandkids and you-count-’em-I-can’t satelite relatives (spouses and kids and whoever else showed up) celebrated together.

G-Man made it through with flying colors. And five months later . . .

This was a candid shot, not planned by anyone. We’d just walked out of the sanctuary full of people, and I thought we had a quick moment alone. Caught by the photographer! (One of my favorite pictures!)

Here’s another– The only time I came close to crying was at that moment. I wish I had Sister Deb’s picture of that same moment. Dad is instructing her about something just before they walk down the aisle. He’s waving his index finger as he speaks. Visible is his shortened fourth finger, which he’d lost a portion of a few weeks earlier.

G-Man and I had a very small wedding. There were just a lot of people there. 🙂 I wanted to get married at home, but Mom said no. Then I wanted to get married in the church chapel. Again, Mom nixed it. After that, I wanted to just have family (which in our clan makes for a lot of people.) Mom decided “family” meant the entire church family (with my approval, of course) and put the invitation in our church paper.

At least the reception was at home–along with everyone who was at the wedding. Luckily the arrangement of our house made it easy to move through a huge crowd of people.

I had so much fun at the reception! It was like having a giant party with all our closest friends. 🙂 Every wedding should be that much fun.

Here’s a picture of me and my sisters just before the wedding.

 From the left–Cindy, Lisa, Susan and Amy in front of me, and Debbie.

That was then. This is now. (Well, last year.)

From the left–Cindy, Susan, Amy in front of me, and Lisa. (Deb was missing that day.)


Candice Pics

Funny picture, isn’t it? It’s a bird house on my deck with dill blooms in front of  it. I’m really not a great photographer. (If it’s good, it’s usually an accident. LOL) But just about anyone can make a picture look decent.

I use Photoshop Elements to fix most of my shots. (Cheating? Probably.)

Here’s another “fixed” one I like.

 It’s one I supposedly texturized, but I don’t see the texture. And, to be honest, I don’t remember how I did it. It’s an Elements thing where you layer the texture over the picture or the picture over the layer or something. 

One of these days I’ll get out my notes and give it another go. Right now I’m trying to learn how to use my camera the way it should be used. How to set the camera on the Program mode and shoot. How to get the lighting right.

I’m not the best in the world at reading how to and doing it. I’m better at learning with someone else teaching me. That hands on kind of thing.

I have several friends who are fantastic photographers. Some of them do it without thinking. Candice Orcutt, a friend from my Small Town World, is one of those naturals, and she works hard at it. She also has great taste in fiction. 🙂

Here are a few of Candice’s pictures from Facebook. (Hope she doesn’t mind.) I’ve seen some of her other pictures I like as well if not better. She takes wonderful pictures of barbed wire! I know it sounds odd, but they’re beautiful.

  Don’t you love the lighting in this one?

I love her “view” of life. It’s just enough different to make me say, “Wow!”

Good lookin’ couple she sneaked up on, huh?

Anyone who can make this look this good has real talent!


The Last Time . . . ?

A Short-horned Lizard on a rock. Either Phryno...

Image via Wikipedia

When was the last time–

         –you saw a horny toad? I know, they’re really horned lizards, but to me they’ll always be horny toads. 🙂

When Sister Debbie and I were little, our parents built a house and moved us from the Ford to C-Town. Our house was one of the first built in the “new addition” (aka Hillside Gardens) and most of the area around us was open pasture.

Dad used to catch horny toads for us. They were fat and so ugly, they were cute. We’d pet them (prickly little guys weren’t real wild about being stroked) and hypnotize them. Did you ever hypnotize a lizard? Just turn him on his back and stroke his belly. He’d go right to sleep.

We never kept our HTs very long. They weren’t a lot of fun, since about all you could do was chase them and catch them. I never could get one to squirt blood from his eyes, although at least four species really do. I’ve read they do that as protection. Guess we weren’t threatening enough.

The last horny toad I saw was one G-Man caught and brought home for our boys when they were little. He let them hold it and hypnotize it and then he turned it loose. (Little guys are so funny when they try to touch one and are afraid they’ll get stabbed with the prickles.)

I hoped it was a mama toad and would start a new colony out where we lived, but we never saw the little guy or his/her progeny after that.

♥ ♥ ♥   

           –you caught tadpoles?

These look like bull frog tads to me. They’re huge!

I always loved catching them! Daddy brought us some of these guys once in a jar. We had so much fun watching them grow and feeding them crackers. After a day or two, we forgot about them until they lost their tails, grew legs and we watched them hop away.

When my kids were little, one of our favorite spring pastimes was tadpole hunting. I saved big jars for the kids to use, and we’d watch as the tads magically changed into frogs.

Now I have a pond in my backyard, and every year tadpoles turn the bottom black. Mine aren’t big like those pictured above. They’re black, less than 1/2 an inch long, and the little frogs they turn into are so small, half the time when I see them in the garden, I think they’re spiders.

♥ ♥ ♥

The wild things in our lives–hummingbirds, butterflies, tadpoles–are blessings from God. He could have made a world for us that didn’t have color. It took the God of the universe to imagine and create the beauty of nature, the magical wonder of music, the fantastic fragrance of springtime in the air.

I worry that kids today will spend so much time playing video games that they’ll miss the wonder of what’s happening outside. I still save big jars so I can catch a few tads to share with the kids in my life. I’m just not sure they enjoy them as much as I do.

So when was the last time you hunted horny toads or caught tadpoles? Do you take your kids/grandkids/ggks out and let them do the things you did when you were young?

Don’t wait too long. The critters we knew might disappear, and your kids will certainly grow up.


♪♫ Happy Birthday to You ♪♫

Happy birthday, Debbie!

My sweet sister and first friend. Faithful Christian and prayer warrior; Mary AND Martha, all in one.

You’re what every parent wants in a daughter. Perfect and pretty, a mommy wannabe and wonderful mother. Cheerleader. Homemaker. Decorator.

A pal to be kids with and a friend to be pals with. You grew into a woman who’s just as beautiful as her reflection–an uncommon happening in a girl who grew up as pretty and talented as you.

Remember the games we played? Was that one called, “A date for Barbie?” We always wanted to “win” Ken and not have to go to the prom with Pointdexter. 🙂

Playing Jacks?

Remember the tent we built that summer in the back yard using a  bed spread thrown over the clothes line? And the silly straw hats Grandma gave us that we wore all summer long?

Remember riding bikes with Marsha H, swimming every day at the pool and helping take care of the little kids?

Remember when we had the measles and how mad Mama was because we walked in the rain from the movies to Mrs. Shriner’s for Piano Club just before we got sick and made ourselves even sicker? 

Remember the book Mama read us while we had the measles because the measles were supposed to make your eyes weak? (Tom Sawyer.) And the school bell we rang when we needed her?

Remember how I broke my nose?

How about when you were so sick that time so I stayed home from Mom and Dad’s Sunday School party with you and someone suddenly banged on the window and beat on the rain spout and just about gave us a heart attack?

Angie, Tiny, Pupstar, Monster Dog?     

Chi-Chi, Sparky, Susie-Q and Black Diamond?

May 20, 1991.

Luke 1:30–But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.”

I know without a doubt you’ll hear those words–“You have found favor with God.”

And when you do, you’ll answer–

Luke 1:46–And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.”

The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6: 24-26.    

Happy birthday, little sister!