Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Stormy Weather

The stormy weather we’ve been having in Okieland isn’t the same as Lena’s song, but it’s disturbing just the same.

Tornados have swept away parts of Moore and we’ve had tornado warning several days in a row. No! Fun! I even went to the cellar my folks had dug when I was a kid. (I usually plan to go under my stairs in case one hits.)

I don’t remember that kind of storm before we moved to C-Town when I was little. I have a slight memory of coming out of a basement once, but barely. I remember really well when Dad had some of the guys who worked on the cable tool rig dig the C-Town cellar.  By hand!

I watched the progress closely (of course.) I’d look down into that hole and thought it was huge! When it was finally finished and concreted, I even went down and tap danced a few steps. (The echo was great!)

Almost immediately, it started leaking water (our part of Okieland has a high water table) so from then on, there about a foot of water standing there. The fact that Dad didn’t get around to putting a door on it (until years and years later) didn’t help any. LOL. We had a great time “walking the tight rope” along the edge of that opening.

Once Granddad caught some catfish and put them down in the cellar. I had visions of nests of snakes living there, and even a few nightmares that centered around it.

Finally though, Sister Debbie moved into Grandmother’s house and decided it was time to make the cellar usable. She had the open window closed up, added a vent and a sump pump. Now the cellar is clean with no critters (except a few spiders) and Deb always makes sure there are plenty of snacks and games to entertain the kiddies who go down.

969748_666217840062234_602725260_n     Pretending we’re monkeys.

The weird thing about that cellar is, I think all the water over the years caused it to shrink! I didn’t know cement could shrink like that, but it’s not nearly as big as it was back in the beginning.

Where do you go during a tornado? Bathtub? Cellar? Or are you like so many of the men I know who go out to the porch and watch?


School’s Out, Summer’s Here!

School’s out in C-Town and (keep this a secret between you and me) I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Why? you ask. You don’t have kids still in school. Your g-kiddos are still yet to be. What difference does it make you if school is in session or out? 

Because, the kids in my life (that would be nieces, nephews, cousins’ kids, etc) come around a whole lot more when school’s out. And even if they don’t come to work, I get to hear about their exploits.

Wow. Do they have fun!

When I was a kid, we didn’t do a lot in the summer like people do now. The highlight of our normal summer week was walking to the Public Library to return/check out a book. And we swam. A lot. (LOVE that public pool!)

One of my most favorite things to do in the summer (or any time of year) was roller skate. I had two pairs of shoe skates growing up. The first pair didn’t use a skate key. It had leather that pulled across the toe and laced up to hold your foot to the skate. And while that worked, it was for babies. I wanted the real thing.


Skates with a key. My friends I skated with all had skates with a key, so finally Mom broke down and bought me a pair. (My baby skates got handed down to a younger sibling.) I was beyond thrilled! I was elated!!!


There were three of us girls who lived next to each other. Me, Susie Lunsford and Marsha Williams. We loved to skate. The trouble was, Marsha’s driveway sloped a bunch, so when we skated at her house we were mostly in the carport.

Susie’s driveway sloped quite a bit, but not as much.

Marsha Hagberg lived on up the street and had a really steep driveway. Her family owned Ben Franklin, so I’m sure she had the best skates of all. 🙂

My driveway was perfectly flat, but Mom had the cement guys put a broom finish on it so when it was wet, nobody slipped, but that made it really hard to skate on. If you fell, look out! You’d need a whole box of Band-Aids to cover the damage.

We had a couple of sidewalks that were good for skating, and after my grandparents built next door, one that sloped down to their driveway. That surface was p-e-r-f-e-c-t! Smooth and wide with two more sidewalks to zoom along. We had hours and hours of free fun there.

Kids today have never heard of shoe skates or skate keys, but we had a gas!

Do you remember shoe skates? What did you do in the summer to stay entertained?


Memorial Day at Old Mannford Ramp

This is a reblog from five years ago. Much has changed in those five years–kids married, friends passed, books published, a new hip–but memories remain the same. Maybe that’s the good thing about remembering. That’s the one thing in life that remains constant–as long as I don’t compare mine with someone else’s who was at the scene. LOL!

♥ ♥ ♥

5/24/2008– Whenever I think of Memorial Day, I think of the year I was pregnant with our first son (btw: that was 1977.) My DH had wanted a sailboat for sometime, so we finally bought one. A twenty foot Daysailer with a cuddy cabin. (You can see a picture of them here.)

Memorial Day dawned beautiful. The sky was brilliant blue with only a crown of clouds around the horizon. We went to his parents for lunch, then took out the boat. His parents and younger brother decided to go with us. His parents didn’t want to go in the boat so they stayed on shore. After insisting he wear a bright orange life jacket, Younger Brother, DH and I loaded up and took off.

New: We went to Old Mannford Ramp, which is no long open on Keystone Lake. While we were there, I pointed out the place where I’d lived as a little girl as well as the tree I could never climb because the branches started way too high.

I didn’t know that where we put the boat in was the same area where my parent had swum as kids, many years before that and very near the place where my mom had lived.

We went to the end of the area we were in. (I think it was near where that bridge was that scared me so much, the one we had to cross to go see Janie and Sally.)  We were turning around to sail back past his parents so we could wave at them when the wind died. And when I say died, I mean D-I-E-D. There wasn’t a breath of a breeze anywhere. It felt as if we’d all donned heavy wool coats.

“It’s hot!” YB complained. “Can I take off my life jacket?”

“No!” DH and I both answered.

Luckily, there’s a law that you must have a paddle in the boat, so DH, at the back of the boat, started working our way toward home.

That’s when I heard a distant roar. I had no idea what it was, but it scared me to death. “Can you hear that?”

“Hear what?” DH wasn’t in a really good mood with sweat pouring into his eyes.

“That sound. It like a great big wind, heading our way.”

“I don’t hear anything.”

“It’s either a great big wind or someone is riding a motor cycle down the middle of the lake!” I snapped.

Before he could answer me, the wind caught up with us. It filled the sail and the jib, and before we could catch our breaths, tilted the boat high on its edge. I sat close to the cuddy cabin on the low side, and when I glanced at YB to see that he was okay, I saw him bail off the high side into the stormy lake.

Then we capsized. I grabbed the two loose life jackets and put one under each arm to keep them from being washed away.

YB swam up close to me and grabbed the end of the boat. DH worked hard to pull himself onto the top of the bottom of the boat. While he was pulling himself up, YB said, “Quick, Susan, take this.”

“This” was the rudder–which is solid iron and acted like an anchor in my hand, weighing me down so low, I could barely keep  my nose above water.

Then DH said, “Hand me one of those life jackets, Susan. I’ll put it on.”

I started scissor kicking hard to keep the water out of my mouth. “I can’t. I’m holding the rudder. If I give you a life jacket, I’ll go to bottom.”

“Why are you holding the rudder?” 

I was a little irritated. “Because your brother pulled it out and I didn’t want to have to buy another one.”

He looked down from his safe spot. “Okay. Hand it to me.”

“Hand it to you? How? I can barely keep it where it is. I sure can’t lift it.”

Oh.” Getting on one knee, he reached down and took the rudder, placing it next to him. “You all get up here.”

YB climbed up and sat on the sloping portion, then we looked toward shore. DH’s mother was running up and down the beach as if she thought we were going to be swept out to sea at any moment. (Oklahoma is a long way from the sea, but that didn’t enter her mind. Her baby was in trouble.)

His father found someone who had a boat with an engine and sent them out to rescue us. But the waves were so high and the wind so bad, each time they got close, they almost landed on top of us. They had to give up.

In a while a man with long hair, wearing only a pair of cutoffs and carrying an empty gallon milk carton came wading into the lake, then swam toward us.

“Go back! Go back!” DH yelled.

The guy ignored him. When he got there, he told us he was with lake rescue.

“What’s the milk carton for?” I asked.

“It’s to tie to the mast in case we have to drop it.”

He told DH to get off the boat, go underneath and break the mast over. DH went under, but it took him so long to find the mast and do the necessary adjustments in the dark, the stranger thought he was going to have to rescue him.

DH finally popped back out, safe and sound. With the mast now hinged instead of fixed, the wind was able to blow the boat onto its side. We easily pushed it to shore.

A bit upset (and in my first trimester of pregnancy) I got in the truck and let DH and his dad load up.

Although we still own it, we only went out on that boat one more time. It was a Fourth of July when the wind blew so hard, it forced us against the rocks under the railroad trestle. Unwilling to chance capsizing again, I whistled down a passing boat (yep, I got the big whistle gene in this fam) and got us a tow back to shore.

What are your favorite Memorial Day memories? Sprucing up the cemetery with your grandparents when you were a kid? Going on picnics with your families? Vacations that span the weekend? Or for you, was Memorial Day just a day to catch up on yard work?



Jodi Thomas and Smart Women Who Write


Guess where I went last weekend? (Bet you didn’t even miss me.) I was the first writing conference I’ve gone to in years. And I have to tell you, I enjoyed it so much my tail is still wagging!

The balloons weren’t for the writers conference (there were about a thousand little girls there for a party) but they were apropos!

CelebratingI didn’t miss a session the entire time we were there. (I love getting my money’s worth. Don’t you?)

There was one session the night before the actual conference started that I didn’t sign up for,


but I got to eat lunch with the fabulous speaker, Jane Friedman, (she’s the woman on the left) the next day.


In case you don’t recognize the name, she used to be the publisher for Writers Digest and is now an editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review. (I would have been too intimidated to eat, but she was so nice, I chowed down!)

friday-lunch Yum. 🙂

I met my first ever editor AND the owner/publisher of Wild Rose Press, Rhonda Penders.

Susan,-Rhonda-and-LindaRhonda is the beautiful woman in the middle. (Don’t you love, love, love a redhead?) And she was just plain n-i-c-e! (She introduced me to one woman as one of their authors who’d been with them from the beginning. I loved that!)

Rhonda was very excited because Jodi Thomas  (a big deal in the writing world) told her Wild Rose Press isn’t a SMALL press anymore. They’re making a presence in the publishing world.

Rhonda-and-JodiThis is Rhonda and Jodi. Don’t you love it? (Rhonda said she planned to have a pillow made with, “‘Wild Rose Press isn’t a small press anymore.” Jodi Thomas.” on it.

I suggested she have T-Shirts made. (And, yes! I want one!!!)

Jodi Thomas is a multi-Rita winner, a RWA Hall of Fame inductee, a USA Today and NYT best selling author. In other words, she rocks!

She taught several workshops, sat in on others when she wasn’t teaching, and was more than happy to answer questions any time we saw her.

Jodi-&-JenniferJodi answering questions for Jennifer Matthews Adolph (aka T. D. Hart) BTW: Jennifer–I’d like a copy of her answers. 🙂

kathlyn-and-lindaThese Smart Women Writers signed books for people lining up to buy them. (I had to wait just to get this picture. I already have the books!)

Flash-Fiction-Writer Kathlyn Smith won an award for her fabulous Flash Fiction. (We’re so proud!)

I lined up the Smart Women for a picture or two (three?) after the awards ceremony. They are gorgeous, aren’t they?

OWFI was wonderful. I plan to return next year!

Leave a comment

Under the Stairs Hidy Hole

It’s Tornado Season in Okieland.

And you thought there were only four seasons–Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring–in the year, didn’t you? Actually, Tornado Season is sort of synonymous with Spring. Except when it’s not. 🙂

Some years we have only a close call or two.

Some years, it feels as if we’re dancing with tornadoes. 😦

The spring after Middle Son was born, we had twisters about every-other-night, all spring long. (At least it seemed like e-o-n!) We lived in a two story house with all the bedrooms upstairs and big windows on both sides of the stairway. Not the best choice on our part, but who thinks about nighttime tornadoes when choosing a house plan?

Our house was just about a mile outside of C-Town. Most of the time I could hear the tornado siren if I was awake (do towns in states outside the middle of the nation have those?) but just in case I missed it, I made a deal with one of my sisters to call me when the sirens blew.

We didn’t have a ‘fraidy hole. But because of the way our staircase was built–very, very sturdy–under it was even better than the inside room the big boys recommend you to hide in. G-Man worked twenty-four hour call at that time. Often, he was gone on a job when storms hit.

#1 son was five then, so he had a pretty good time under the stairs. (Actually, we waited in the small hallway next to the door that went UTS.) If the baby was sleeping, he had all of our attention and we would color or play games with him.

We had a small wooden cradle that I kept downstairs for Matt to snooze in next to the stairs.

We never had an actual hit from a tornado while we lived in that house. In my life, I remember very few times when a tornado got very close to us. There’s an old wives’ tale that because of the way our town is situated in the bend of the river and beneath South Hill, we’ll never be hit. While I don’t trust old wives’ tales, so far it’s proven true.

Of course, I don’t live in the city limits of C-Town now, so I keep a weather eye. (The house I live in was destroyed in 1991 by a twister.)

Funny how those frightening experiences turn into fond memories, isn’t it?


1 Comment

Coyotes, II

When I was a baby, Mom’s Uncle Henry gave me a puppy named Mike. I’m not sure who named him Mike (I really was a baby) but he was the best dog ever! One of those pets that you just think about and a smile starts way down deep inside you and doesn’t stop until your mouth stretches in a big old smile. He was the best!

We don’t have many pictures of Mike. (My family didn’t often waste film on dogs) but we have this one, courtesy of my cousins’ mom.

mike's-photoThis is Mike. He didn’t have white on his face, and I’m not sure why this picture looks like he did. It might be snow or maybe it’s the way the light hit his face and that old film.

Anyway, we lived on the farm in the Basin outside of Old Ford when we got him. He lived there with us, and when we moved into town where we lived with Grandmother and Granddad, he stayed at the farm. (The house in town was on the highway, so farm life was much safer.)

Mike did come to town every now and then. Once, when Dad went out and got the tractor to do something at the house, Mike followed him into town. Debbie and I were so excited to see him, even though we’d probably been out to see him just a few days before that.

Anyway, Mike lived on the farm where Uncle Frank and Uncle Paul and their families lived. Both families fed him. It’s a wonder he wasn’t fat, fat, fat, but he was too busy to get fat. Whatever was going on, Mike was in the midst of it.

mikeWilma Spess won an award with this picture.

This is a picture of a picture. I snapped it through the glass to share with you. The red on the coyote is my shirt, reflecting in the glass. (Sorry!)

For some reason, this coyote had been prowling close to Uncle Paul’s house, snacking on UP’s chickens. My uncle decided he needed to do something about it, and took the dogs to go after him.

BTW: So you don’t think too harshly of us, in Okie-Land there used to be a bounty on coyotes.

The coyote has turned on the dogs here, ready to do battle. It’s not a fill-you-with-glee picture, is it? So why did I share it?

Because Wilma took a great picture. (Wish you could see the original.)

Because I wanted you to meet my dog, Mike. 🙂

And because I wanted you to see how gorgeous the coyote is.

coyote    He’s a beauty, isn’t he?

I’ll bet nobody had to make him howl! 🙂



Balloon Dancer ;)

Isn’t it funny how the smallest thing can bring back full blown memories? Last night I was watching TV and saw a young woman in a dress a particular shade of dusty pink that reminded me of our first grade play.

I don’t have a picture from that play. This is a couple of years before.

When I was little, there were two lower grade schools in C-Town. Every year, we took turns having the Christmas and Spring Plays. The year I was in first grade, we got to do the Spring Play.

Of course, there weren’t enough parts in the play for everyone to get to be in it, so those of us who were left out got to be Balloon Girls.

Yes, I was disappointed, but since some of my friends were Balloon Girls, too, I didn’t mind too much. Another of my friends (who was in a higher grade) had a mother who volunteered to teach us our balloon dance.

We’d line up on the stage, and Jane would show us the steps, over and over. There must have been eight or ten of us little girls up there, bumping into each other and twirling around. And when it was almost time for the Spring Play, she brought real balloons for us to practice with. (Wow!)

Now I imagined in the real play, we’d each have a helium balloon that would magically float along with us as we danced. Naturally, I was way wrong. They were just round balloons that we held by the tail, and must have looked like a ball in all our little hands.

I don’t remember much about that dance, but I remember practicing the end. We stepped forward, dropped our arms down to our sides, then swung them forward toward the empty gymnasium. (They brought in chairs for the play.)

I’m not sure how oblivious I was when I was six, but I was really surprised when I  saw the costume I had to wear. I don’t remember Mama sewing it and I don’t remember trying it on or being measured for it.

The day of the performance, someone helped me put on a short pink dress with a very gathered skirt that was made out of crepe paper.

Yep, crepe paper. And we had a headband with pink crepe paper frills on it, too. I’m surprised they called us the Balloon Girls in the program. I’d have called us Paper Dolls. 😛

We wore lipstick (!) on our lips and our cheeks. I’m telling you, we were real dolls!

We took off our shoes so we could dance in our socks rather than clump around the stage in penny loafers. Just before we went on stage, Jane handed us each a balloon and said, “Now at the very end, when you swing your arms toward the audience, throw them your balloons.”

Bummer X 2.

Bummer 1: The one thing I thought would pay me for missing out on being in the play was that I would get to take my balloon home.

Bummer 2: The balloons were just balloons, not helium. And they weren’t magical. 😦

I don’t remember being nervous at all, but with the bright stage lights on and the gym lights off, I couldn’t see anything but the curtains the edged the side and back of the stage. Nothing to be nervous about.

I’m sure we did a perfect job. (Snort.) Afterward, one of my friends and I went with our moms to get our picture taken by another friend.

Somewhere there’s a picture of Marsha and me in our crepe paper costumes, if one of my sibs didn’t eat it at some point. (That happened a lot at our house.) Our cheeks are so red, we look as if we’d just finished running a marathon.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that picture, I don’t really remember it very well, but most likely my hair is a mess (it usually was if I had any time to play) and my headband, if I hadn’t lost it, is probably slipping over one eye.

Boy, was it fun. 🙂