Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

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TBT–Yellowstone Pt 2 and the Gang

I started this blog Monday.

We finally made it to Yellowstone. I think we’d worn the sickness out by then. We rented one cabin, where we cooked and showered and a few us us slept, and the rest of us slept in the campers.

Of course, we saw everything there is to see at Yellowstone. Old Faithful, who really was faithful back then. I don’t know how is he now.


The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

grand canyon yellowstoneThis  is that Grand Canyon. Picture from Wikipedia. Gorgeous, isn’t it?

dt.common.streams.StreamServerAnother place, we hiked down a wonderful, smooth asphalt path to a lower waterfall. On the way down, I saw my first Newfoundland Dog. (At first, I thought it was a bear on a leash.) When we got there, we marveled and exclaimed and climbed rocks. I decided I wanted another angle in a picture, so I climbed a little way up the rock wall beside the falls.

Of course, there was a heavy mist coming from the waterfall and the sun was shining bright on us. When I turned around to take the picture, I wasn’t surprised to see rainbows. What surprised me was that I saw a complete circle rainbow!

If there’s not something to stop it (like the earth or a building or cloud) a rainbow will make a perfect circle! Who knew? (Probably anyone who paid attention in science class.) I didn’t!

Hot springs.

hot springs

Tons of hot springs and mud volcanoes in Yellowstone. TONS!

I don’t know the temperature of the springs, but I’ve seen Dante’s Peak. I don’t want to test it! LOL.

So as I mentioned, Phyllis and Melvin went with us. A couple of things I remember about Melvin that made him one of my favorite people in the world. (I should have a category–My Favorite People. 🙂 ) Melvin ate popcorn every night. I don’t know if he had it instead of dinner, as an after dinner snack or just before going to bed, but I know he had it. And when I smelled it popping, it made me hungry! (I love popcorn.)

And he was a great fisherman. If I remember right, he didn’t like to eat fish, he just liked to catch them. I’d say that was where The Great Fisherman Jeffrey got his fishing gene, but Melvin wasn’t related except by marriage. Maybe Jeffrey caught it by osmosis.

The guys all went fishing while we were at Yellowstone, and left us womenfolk behind.

They drove a ways, parked and hiked a couple of miles up the river through CLOUDS OF MOSQUITOES. (They don’t do anything to kill off critters in YS.) From the way I heard the story, the guys nearly couldn’t breathe without sucking in several of the little varmints. (They might have made it worse than it was in the telling so I’d quit griping because they wouldn’t let me go. Yes, I pouted.)

Anyway, they finally got to the spot someone told them about, and after an hour or two without catching a fish, they hiked back to the truck, again through clouds of mosquitoes. (No wonder the trout didn’t bite, they were full from eating blood suckers.) At least one of the guys (Brother Jeffrey?) ran most of the way back and locked himself in the truck to get away from the bugs.

Can’t say as I blame him. 🙂

I’ve been to Yellowstone two or three times, but guess what? I. Want. To. Go. Again. (It’s just too gorgeous for words.)

Have you been to Yellowstone and seen the Natural Wonders God put there? Think He was showing off or just giving us a taste of Heaven?

What was your favorite part?

Oh, wow. I didn’t even mention the animals!



♪♫ The Eyes of Texas . . . ♪♫ or Yellowstone Pt 1

We’re coming up on the anniversary. Again. For family and friends of the Spess Gang, May 20, 1991, is a day that will live in infamy. Read about it here. 

But since Mom wasn’t a person who would not have liked us to mourn forever or go into retrograde for a week around that date, instead of going into all that, I’ll tell you about one of my shiny memories.

The family decided to go to Yellowstone on vacation. When I say the family, I mean The Family. The whole clan. Mom, Dad, all the sibs, married sibs, sibs-in-law, grandkids and (maybe) Grandmother. Aunt Phyllis and her husband, Melvin, went, too.

We packed into three pickup/campers and a car–complete with CB radios. 🙂 Everyone had “handles.” Mom decided to bleach her hair just before we went (not her best decision) so she was The Blonde Bombshell. G-Man is a pharmacist, so they called him The Pusher (short for Pill Pusher).

The first day we headed to Cousin Liz’s in Perryton, Texas. When we crossed the line from OkieLand in to Texas, I asked The Blonde Bombshell on the CB what Texas’s state song was, since she graduated from high school down there in Baja, Oklahoma. Without hesitating, she answered on the CB for all the world to hear,

♪♫ The eyes of Texas are upon you, all the live-long day! ♪♫

♪♫ The eyes of Texas are upon you, you cannot get away. ♪♫

Truckers cheered for her when she finished. 😉


I’m not sure why we went to Liz’s. When I map the way from C-Town to Wyoming, Perryton isn’t on a straight shot, but everybody LOVES being with Liz and her fam, so maybe that’s why.

By the time we got to Perryton, in the Texas panhandle, I was throwing up my socks. (And anything else remotely close to my tummy.) I was sick! Sick! Sick! for about twelve hours, then I got better.

G-Man came down with the illness next, and one by one, most of us caught it.

We left Liz’s the next day and drove into Colorado, and the scenery was gorgeous! I’m not sure where we spent that next night, but it seems as if we crossed a mountain and pulled into a camping area in a small valley.

Talk about beautiful! (If I could find the place on a map, I’d go back today!) There were mountains all around us. The clouds looked as if they tripped over those mountains, then sat there in the trees and laughed at us.

There was a large pond fed by a stream for us to fish in. A beaver the size of a Chocolate Lab (I promise, he was that big!) lived in the pond. So much fun to watch!

Brother Jeffrey was sick while we were there, and I’m sure he appreciated me having shared the illness. But he didn’t feel good enough to mention it. In fact, he was so sick, his moans echoed off the mountains and scared away the wild animals.

We usually cooked over a campfire on that trip. Aunt Phyllis was a marvel! She could fill a huge skillet with eggs, fried them just right (sunny side up and runny) then slipped the entire thing onto a plate without breaking a single yoke! That woman had talent!!! (You should have tasted her fried chicken! Y-U-M!!!)

We traveled on to Gunnison after that. Melvin had worked in that area on Taylor Lake back when he was a young man. It had been a job like the CCC, during the Great Depression, I believe, and he wanted to see it again.

Ever been to Gunnison or Taylor Lake? Oh, my stars! It’s one of the prettiest places on earth.

Here are a few pictures I found online. (Sorry. I wish they were mine.)

This picture is by Michael E. Gordon–


And this one is from Allison Bruning’s blog. 

allisonbruningIsn’t the lake surrounded by mountains just gorgeous? In case you go to Allison’s blog to read more about Taylor’s Crossing, what you’re reading is mostly fiction. We spent some time in the Taylor Lake area, and there’s nothing remotely scary. All my memories of the place are bright and happy! But if you like paranormal fiction, she has a good blog!

This post is getting a little long, so on TBT I’ll tell you more about our Big Yellowstone Trip.

Have you ever gone on a huge vaca with the whole family?

How did yours turn out?




Monument Moments

Want to see some of the pictures from the Colorado National Monument? I hope so, ’cause here they are.

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Isn’t it beautiful? Imagine living with that in your back yard. I could handle that–if they could move those mountains to Okie-Land.

We had a ton of fun driving through the monument. Sister Debbie and I both have a slight problem with heights. So much that we leaned away from the sheer drop offs along the road as if we could keep the car from going over.

Our toes tingled when we got close to the edge of a lookout. (I felt like crawling, but I didn’t. Really, I didn’t!) Sometimes our toes tingled all the way to our armpits!

Even though one of our shirttail relatives thinks Sister Debbie is shy (clearing my throat) I found her chatting up a couple of strangers while I was trying to get this little guy’s autograph.

That couple wanted us to take their picture and make it look “like a postcard.” Then they took ours.

If you notice, Deb is leaning ever so slightly away from the drop off.

I took their picture with their camera (makes sense, doesn’t it?) but I caught a picture of their motorcycle for you. Isn’t it cute?

Cute bike, isn’t it? They were from Texas–clear down around Galveston. I hope they didn’t ride that motorcycle that far, but they could have. (Hurts me to think about.)

Pretty soon, this group came tooling up.

I think they rode all the way there on those bikes, and probably camped out at night. One of that crew caught me drooling and taking pictures of the bikes instead of the million dollar scenery behind me. “I like your cycle,” I gasped.

He thought I was pretty funny.

There were men and women riding the Harleys from several different states, including Okie-Land and Missouri.

I loved this tag–

Cool bike, cool tag. Can you read it?

Love it!

I asked the couple on the white bike if they were with the crew on the Harleys. They weren’t. 🙂 But they could have been. The cycles made for some entertaining Monument Moments.

When we were all looking over a precipice that gave Deb and me tingles at least to our knees, we noticed a couple of huge birds sailing below us.

Yes, they were LOWER than we were, and gliding on the air currents. Gives me a tingle just thinking about it. Anyway, one of the biker women said, “I believe they’re California Condors.”

G-Man snorted as we went down the steps to get even closer to the edge. “They’re plain old vultures.”

Vultures? Ugly birds with red heads that like eating carrion–dead stuff. That made me think of G-Man’s show he watches–“I Killed My Wife, and Here’s How I did It.” Okay, that’s not really the title, but it should be. It’s really 20-20 or Dateline or something.

“This reminds me of some of those shows you watch,” I told him. “You know, where the husband tosses the wife off the cliff, then tells the cops she slipped.”

He nodded, telling me he remembered it. (Sometimes G-Man’s a man of few words, so I’ve learned to read his nods.)

I looked way, way down, past those gliding birds, all the way to the ground so far below us. As I did, I started tingling clear up to my shoulders.

“Uh, Gary? Don’t you think we ought to go?”

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Meet the Reeves Crew

A little over three years ago, I told you that my mom’s side of the family gets together only when someone dies. You can read it here.

I hated it then, and I hate more that it’s still true today. But at least those of us who are left get a chance to see each other. I mentioned my sweet Aunt Sally had died, so three of us Spess Girls and G-Man went to Colorado for the funeral and to be with fam.

On our way to Colorado, #4 texted me.

“Tell Bob-the-Plumber I said hello. I’m sorry I can’t be there.”

So as soon as we got there, I told Uncle Robert, “#4 says hello, Bob-the-Plumber. She’s sorry she couldn’t come.”

Uncle R laughed. “Did she tell you that story?”

“No. You tell me.” I love stories. Did I mention my family is full of storytellers? 🙂 I was in heaven!

“Well, she was at Lake City with her husband and boys, so I took them out to eat one night. We went to a steak house, and while we were there, someone waved and me and said, ‘Hello, Bob the Plumber.’

“#4 popped up and said, ‘That’s not Bob the Plumber. That’s my Uncle Robert!”

I thought I’d share some pictures with y’all. (Uncle Robert was back to saying y’all before we left.)

  Mom’s last remaining siblings, Carol and Robert.

Being with Aunt Carol is like spending time with Mama. She’s a fashion bug, for sure! If she weren’t so tiny, I’d go to her house and shop in her closet.

Uncle Robert is Mama’s baby brother. He grew to be the tallest of all the kids.

The smallest boy and girl in this picture are Robert and Carol. Mom is on the far right.

Everyone’s Favorite–Liz.

Liz is Mom’s oldest sister’s only daughter and youngest child. She was just enough older than Deb, Cousin LaDonna and me for us to idolize. If we played pretend, even when Liz was still a kid, we all wanted to be her!

She’s a woman I still look up to. Today she leads a BSF (a women’s Bible Study) in Houston. She’s even more beautiful now than she was as a kid.

These are the Reeves Women. I can see a little bit of Grandma in each one in this picture.

This picture is almost like the one before, but I wanted you to see LaDonna, standing on the far left. Donna is hard working and full of vinegar! LOL.

She lives near Gunnison on a ranch with her husband, and they have three children who all live close by. Her son works with them on the ranch. Her DIL sells real estate, so I’m to contact her if I decide to buy a cabin up there. (I’d LOVE to spend summers near Gunnison.)

My two sisters, Debbie and Cindy are next to LaDonna, and Julie Ann is on the far right.

  This is Donna’s husband in the cowboy hat. He’s a great guy and fun to be around.

This is Julie Ann. When she talks, if I close my eyes, I can see her mama, Sally. Julie doesn’t have that Texas Twang that Sally had, but she matches her in tone and quality! She has two sons, and is a very busy mama.

Oh, and she got her husband to do most of the cooking while we were there.

  Julie Ann’s husband, Bob. This was the first time I’d met him.

The first thing Bob told me was that he’s a coffee snob. Just my kind of guy! He buys special beans. So do I! He grinds his own beans. So do I! We had a great time together.

He’s interesting as well as interested in everything going on.

Uncle Robert has a time with his name. His father-in-law was Bob. He’s Bob (at least when #4 isn’t around.) His son-in-law is Bob. And the man who preached his wife’s funeral was Bob.

We’ll miss Sally so much. I loved the way she used to talk to me, even though I was part of a gaggle of kids. I was eleven when she and Robert married, so she’s been our aunt for a long time. I’ll miss her a lot.

Aunt Sally left a wonderful legacy, though, through her daughter, Julie Ann. Julie has two sons, Rowland and Walker. Rowland is a young teen, so I don’t have any pictures of him. Walker is still in grade school and is as rambunctious as my own boys were.

And there’s not a shy bone in his make up.

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Camera Catastrophe–Almost

After several days of tearing out my hair and banging my head on my desk as I tried to wrangle the sisters’ and my own schedules so we could fly to our aunt’s funeral, Dad (who probably got tired of the wailing coming from my office) encouraged us to drive.

But for some reason, he didn’t want us to drive alone. He might have been afraid we’d start shopping somewhere along the way and never get there. Or he might have been worried we’d find a cool old house and set up residence or even just keep on driving and never come home. I’m not sure why he thought we needed a man with us.

Naturally, I volunteered G-Man to be the guy at the wheel. We drove to Hays the first night, then on into Grand Junction the next.

I’ve learned a couple of things about the Spess Girls (at least the first three) on this trip.

  1. We’re fairly easy to travel with as long as you don’t let us get too hungry. (And with the travel snacks we packed, there was no danger in that.)
  2. We all inherited the gotta-take-a-picture-of-this gene.

When we got to the mountains, we all yanked out our cameras and started shooting out of the car windows. Here’s the picture I got.

I must have had an odd look on my face, because Sister Cindy pointed at my camera. “Oh, no. Look!”

Here’s what she saw.

At first, I was sick at my stomach. A trip to Colorado, and a broken lens was putting my camera out of commission. But I looked a little closer and saw it wasn’t the lens that was broken, but a protective thingy (I’m sure it has a name, but I don’t remember what it was) that was on my lens. I unscrewed it and was able to use my camera.

That’s when I remembered the strap of my camera bag slipping through my fingers. The bag is kind of a shield shape, with the lens end of the camera pointing down. When it hit the floor, that protective thingy must have shattered.

Time for a new bag!

This is everyday scenry for some Colorado folks. Imagine living where you had wonder-mountains like these, protecting you all the time. I could handle that!

As we drove, we were rained on several times! At first we were curious as to what that wet stuff, falling from the sky could be. Then G-Man, with his super memory, remembered. “I think it’s called rain.”

We immediately pulled the car over, got out and all four of us danced for joy in the downpour. Okay, not really. But in our hearts, we were dancing! 😉

Something else I learned on this trip–If you’re going to take pictures through the windows of your car, you should CLEAN said windows before shooting. This would have been a fantastic picture if it weren’t for the raindrop spots showing up.

And one last thing I learned–this one about me. I like to take pictures in tunnels. No, I don’t know why. It’s probably some dark, psychological thing and I don’t really want to know.

I like taking pictures of the light at the end of the tunnel best of all. Maybe because reminds me of the Happily Ever After in a good book.



Back in My Own Bed!

I’m back! (Did you notice I was gone?)

G-Man, Sisters Debbie, Cindy and I all made a zooming trip to Colorado for one of my aunt’s funerals. NOT the close part of Colorado, naturally. Uncle Robert (Mom’s bro) lives on the far side of that gorgeous state!

I have to tell you, I adore Colorado. Love seeing the miraculous sights. I took some pictures and I plan to share them as soon as I have the energy to download. Right now, I’m pooped.

We left here Friday evening, spent the night at Hays, Kansas, and drove the rest of the way the next day. (We’d originally planned to drive the entire way in one fell swoop. Argh!)

Uncle Robert has one daughter–Julie. Julie has two adorable sons, and they entertained us the entire time. One is a jewelry expert (he’s middle school or early high school age, so that’s pretty darn good!) When a woman walks into the room, he zooms in on their jewelry and starts naming the stones they’re wearing.

I think I disappointed him. I don’t wear many gems. I did have on turquoise (I love that stone!) when we met, but from his response, it was probably faux turq. I was a real disappointment to him.

The other boy reminded me of my kids when they were his age and super excited about having guests who automatically loved them like we loved him.

We had a few sword fights (pencil for swords) and I told him about how my kiddos used to use anything and everything they could get their hands on to make swords.

#1 son would have had a blast playing with this kid. They could have made lots of sabers together. And this one had a big love of Leggos. One of the neighbors loaned him a huge tub of them. #1 could have built an entire Pirate World with that pile of clicky blocks.

And I got to see my Forever Friend, Cathy. I’d never been to their town before, and I felt kind of out of place until Cathy came over. Her hometown hug made me feel like I was home.

I had a piece of the most delicious cake that Cathy made for the fam. It was baked in a bunt pan and looked like chocolate. But it wasn’t chocolate (not my fav). It was spice cake of some kind.

Cathy, if you’re read this, I NEED THAT RECIPE!

I got to hear the Real Story about how Cathy and Sweet Aunt Sally discovered their C-Town connection.

This won’t be perfect, but it’s as close as I can get. 🙂

Forever Friend Cathy went to work as a math professor in the college where Sweet Aunt Sally was the secretary for the math department. One day, Cathy was in the office on the computer and she muttered something that caught Cousin Julie’s (Sweet Sally’s daughter) ear. (I’m not sure if Julie was in college or just there because her mom was there.)

Anyway, whatever it was that Cathy said (I’m guessing it was something like, “well, I’ll swan!” but Julie couldn’t remember exactly.) Julie stopped and said something like, “I’ve only heard my cousins in Oklahoma say that. Where are you from?”

Cathy answered, “I’m from C-Town, Oklahoma.”

Julie answered, “So are my cousins!”

Cathy was surprised. “What’s the family name?”


“You’re kidding!” I imagine Cathy was astonished by now. “My forever friend growing up was Susan Spess!”

Cathy became part of Uncle Robert’s family. He called her his almost niece. 🙂 Now, I think they’ve decided to leave the Almost out. Cathy was with them right after Sweet Sally’s death, taking delicious food each time she went over.

She even spoke at the funeral. I’d mentioned to her how obits always disappoint me because they don’t share the real heart of the person who’s passed on.

The minister, Preacher Bob, opened the floor to anyone who wanted to talk about Sweet Sally. Several men stood up, many of whom had worked with Sweet Sally at the college. But none of them got to the heart of Sally.

Cathy did. And I’ll be forever grateful to her for it.

Uncle Robert let me look at their wedding pictures while we were there. He looked like a movie star from the ’50’s or early ’60’s, but I can’t remember the man’s name. Tall, slender, olive skin tone and black hair. That man was handsome!

And Sweet Sally was tall, so slender Robert could put his hands around her waist and touch his fingertips. In her wedding dress, she looked like a queen.

The funniest of their wedding pics was when Sally threw her bouquet. Sally’s sister and I are going for those flowers! Her sister was about twenty, and I was ten, going on eleven.

I’m not sure who caught the toss. I think the sister did–but she played dirty. 😉 (Just kidding.)

It was a bitter-sweet reunion. I’m hoping we can have a real one before someone else dies.

And I’m looking forward to that reunion we’ll have in the sweet by-and-by!

I always enjoy learning things about myself. Here’s what I learned on this trip–

  • I like sleeping in my own bed.
  • If there’s food, I will eat. (Whether I’m hungry or not.)
  • I don’t get car sick. (I can read or knit and it doesn’t bother me.)
  • I love sleeping in my own bed.
  • Free breakfasts are fantastic–even if they aren’t really good.
  • I like traveling best when I’m asleep.
  • I’m not afraid of heights . . . I’m terrified.
  • I adore sleeping in my own bed.




Like most families, my parents took us on several vacations while we were growing up But for us, vaca didn’t usually mean Disney. Often, it meant visiting relatives. The trips I enjoyed most were usually in Colorado.

Mama had a sister who lived out there, who had only one daughter–a year younger than me. We visited them when I was going into 2nd grade when they lived in Pueblo.

That year we had a red and white Pontiac station wagon. I don’t remember packing in suitcases. It seems as if Mom packed our stuff in a compartment, and they put the backseat down over it. They put in a mattress that filled the back so Deb and I could lay down, play or nap on the way. (Yep, it was before the day of seatbelts.)

I don’t remember much about Pueblo, but the Royal Gorge, Cave of the Winds and Pikes Peak made a big hit with me. In fact, on our way up the Peak, we followed a truck hauling a small jet. I couldn’t figure why anyone would take their jet for a ride to the top of PP, but Dad thought they were going to leave the jet up there and make it look as if it had just landed.

It was several years before we went out to visit my aunt and uncle and cousin again, and by that time they’d moved to Gunnison. That town is near Crested Butte, a ski town in the mountains, and goooorgeous! And even when Okie-land is hot, it’s cool.

One of our visits was the summer after my first year in college. I was still trying to decide whether to be a cheerleader another year in college or do something else, when my cousin greeted us with a wedding ring on her finger. She married straight out of high school, and she got lucky on her first try. He’s one of the nicest men I’ve known in my life.

We went to the Alpine Tunnel on that trip. If you haven’t been there or Pitkin or any of the old gold mining camps in the area, you’ve missed a great trip. On the way to the tunnel, I rode in the back of a truck up the narrow road. When you’re going up and meet a car coming down, you squeeze to the outside as far as possible.

We’d get so far over, we could see nothing but air on the other side of the truck bed. I spent a lot of time with my face on the floor of the truck on that trip. Makes my toes tingle just to think about it.

I like that area so much, G-Man and I went there on our honeymoon. We took his motorcycle along with us on a trailer, and rode it in the mountains. The beautiful scenery was all around us on the back of that bike! But in that part of the world, it still snows in May (our anniversary month) and the rain can be icy, which is painful when it hits you in the face and you’re moving at 4o mph.

We’d packed for Okie-land weather, and nearly froze to death. We quickly learned the merits of layering! When we tried to go up Pikes Peak on his cycle, we found they hadn’t opened the road all the way to the top.

We watched as a tour bus did a three point turn on that two lane road. Most of the people on the inside of that bus were on the outside before the turn was complete. 🙂

I love visiting Colorado, so I”m putting my bid in now to go back one of these days. I’d buy a place and live there in the summer if I could. 😉

Can anyone tell me Colorado’s state song?