Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Blasting the Past

This blog is a rerun from five years ago, and still as true today as it was then. I hope you enjoy! I have a wedding anniversary coming up in a couple of days so it’s a good time for it. 🙂

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As a writer, I’ve had to become an observer of life. You know, watch people, ask questions, peek into windows when no one’s looking. It’s all part of my job.

Okay, that’s a lie. I became a writer so I’d have an excuse because I’m incurably curious. (I never bought the cat story. I think someone ran over it and they blamed it on curiousity.)

BUT (and this is the truth) as a romance writer, I’ve had to observe relationships between couples. I need to know what it is that makes them good and what makes them not so good.

It hasn’t been as hard as you might think to find a perfect marriage to observe. I had a front row seat. No, I’m not talking about my marriage, although it’s pretty darn good. I’m talking about my parents’ marriage.

At 18, my mom married my 19 year old father, who was a college student at the time. Two years later, I was born. And their marriage was the closest to perfect I’ve ever seen. My dad gives my mom all the credit.

That’s when I get curious. Where’d my mom learn to be a nearly perfect wife? As the middle of 7 children, her mom didn’t take extra time out to teach her, although she set a great example. (There’s a family legend about Grandma scarring Granddad for life by whacking him across the knuckles with a butcher knife for bugging her one night when she was trying to cook. I don’t know if that’s truth or not.)

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How Do You Read?

A copy of Barclay’s Amoy translation, opened t...

I have a question for you:

When you read your Bible, do you ever find yourself reading with an outward view?

I’m embarrassed to share it, but if I’m not careful, here’s what I catch myself doing: I’ll be reading along in, oh, say Proverbs. As I read, I have a kind of inner dialogue with God. (Does everyone or am I the only person who has chats with the Almighty?)

13:1–A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.

Did you want me to jot that on a post-it, Lord, and stick it to my kid’s doors? I’m not sure they’ve read it, and they really should. Except, would it be okay to change father’s instruction to mother’s? Or even parents?

3– He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.

Oh, yes, Father! I know Terrance should hear that one. He had to have missed it. I’ll be happy to share with him.

4– The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

I know lots of people who need to hear that, Father! Thank you. I can share it with writers who don’t write and bloggers who don’t blog. So many people out there need to learn that lesson! 

7–One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.

Wow. People haven’t changed much, have they, Lord?

10–Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. 

Oh, I know people who should read that! And “pride goeth before a fall”. I know, because they’re too proud to listen when I share your stuff with them. Gotta write that one down!

13–He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded.

Oh, you want me to share with Rosemary, don’t you, Lord? Maybe I should drop her a note in the mail. I don’t have to sign it, so she won’t have to be embarrassed when I’m around.

See what I’m talking about? If I’m not careful, I’ll find myself reading to see who can use a verse so I can “share”. But what I should really be doing is reading to see what God has to say to me.

13– He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded. 14–The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death. 15–Good understanding wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard.

Good understanding of God’s word is what I’m praying for. I don’t want to scorn instruction that God has put in front of me. I hope I can drink deeply from the fountain of life and respect God’s commands so I can be rewarded.

I want to bring a smile to God’s lips (“at least the woman’s trying”) not make Him roll His eyes. (“She just doesn’t get it.”)


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Gone to C-Town

When I was a little kid, my parents decided to move from the ‘Ford to C-Town. The move was all of about twenty miles and I honestly don’t know why they decided to move. Maybe it was because they knew Keystone Lake would be created in a few years and the ‘Ford would have to move anyway.

So one Father’s Day, Mom dropped Dad off at the lot they’d purchased in C-Town so he could dig the footing for our new house. Then Mom took Sister Debbie and me to visit her aunt and uncle outside of town. (And to keep us out of Dad’s way.)

I’m not sure who poured the foundation, but the Smith Brothers in Pawnee were the carpenters. Dad did some of the work himself like the wiring, and he and Mom did the painting.

I don’t remember a whole lot about it, but I remember the cases of Nehi Grape Pop Mom bought for us to drink. (Daddy liked it, too!) And cans of Redwood Rez they used to stain the outside of the house. (The empty cans were just the right size to be potties for two little girls, too. LOL!)

When we’d leave C-Town and head for the Ford, we drove on a road that rose and dipped to cross the bridge and reminded me of a small roller coaster.

On our way to the Ford where we still lived, we drove along the river road. I always knew we were almost there when I saw the big rock at the edge of the river. Daddy still calls it the Jesus Saves rock, because someone painted Jesus Saves on it some time.

I remember it as the horse rock. Same reason. <g>

The house we lived in with G & G was great. It had a bedroom right on the other side of the living room. The dining room opened off the living room, too, as well as a hallway that led to two more bedrooms and Dad’s office at the top of a very steep flight of stairs.

The first bedroom had a window that actually slid up to open into the hallway, because it had been part of another house (or maybe the entire house.) It was added to that house sometime before I came along.

If I remember right, the house was either three or four buildings put together. 🙂 It might have been noticeable to someone else, but as a kid, it was just lots of fun. I remember the washer being in the bathroom along with a huge claw foot bathtub. (Wouldn’t I love to have that today!)

And the bed Mama, Daddy, Debbie and I slept in was really a pair of twin beds pushed together. (Debbie made it a habit of falling down in the crack.)

My favorite thing to do on a rainy day (when I couldn’t run in the pasture and get cockle burrs tangled in my hair) was to sit on the porch swing on the big front porch. I could swing it really high as long as Grandmother didn’t come outside. Sometimes that swing went to the moon with me on it, and other times it went to far away lands, such as California and Kentucky.

On Saturday night, the cousins, aunts and uncles all came to Grandmother’s to watch Gun Smoke on TV. (Only G & G had a TV back then.) I remember sitting in the dark, the light from that little screen the only thing in the room to see by. The kids sat on the floor while the parents carried chairs from the dining room to sit on after the couch and wingback chairs were full.

Were families closer then? Maybe. A couple of years after we moved to C-Town, G & G built a house next door to us and lived there until they died.

Now only one son lives in the ‘Ford. Many of the cousins live in C-Town. Of course, the cousins are all grown up and have kids and grandkids (many of them, anyway) of their own.

The river road is gone, I think. At least the river is gone. It became Keystone lake back in the ’60’s. And if the Jesus Saves rock is still in one piece, I imagine it’s gone under a ton of mud.

The original ‘Ford is gone, but the wonderful people and their hardy spirits are still very present in the people who lived and loved in that great place.

I’m really not sure trading the town for a fifty-year-lake was a good bargain.

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Dad’s Par-ty!

A hamburger with a rim of lettuce sitting on a...

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At last! I got the pictures from Carollea of Dad’s party.

Remember the Big Day? It was so much fun!

These two are deep in discussion. Never fails when they get together.

Of course, fun times were had at the party. Naturally, Dad shared in several hugs and handshakes.

Sparky was the name of Dad’s horse. (There should have been a comma after the you, but hey. Perfection is boring. LOL)

The cake was delicious! Half chocolate, half white and a cherry filling. Oh, baby! The girls at Homeland bake a mean cake.

Jeffrey and I grilled hamburgers, I caught my grill on fire. (Not my fault! There was too much fat in the meat. That’s my story and I’m sticking!)

Everyone in the office brought dishes to share. I’m telling you, these women can cook!

And this crew can eat! They didn’t even back off when they found out I was helping with the hamburgers. 🙂

But before a bite was eaten, before one person filled his (or her) plate, we thanked God– for health, and friends and, most importantly (in my book, anyway) for family, near and far, and those who’ve gone on before us, but shaped our lives and helped us become who we are.

The best gift of all.



Salt Can’t Save Her

Want to see something cool?

Really, really cool? (Well, I think it’s cool, anyway.)


This is my mom, dad and cousin, Lindy. It’s the summer before Mom and Dad married (September 30, on Dad’s birthday.) See the muscles on my dad? Not bad, huh? 

And my mom was gorgeous! (That’s a swim cap. Mom wasn’t bald. LOL) Mama loved babies–even the babies that weren’t her own. My cousins adored her, too!   

Here’s another one–

This picture is a couple of years later. That’s Mom and Dad with their clothes on 🙂 and me. Aren’t they beautiful? I’m the cranky kiddo in this picture. (Yep, I’m Alpha.)

When I was small, we were around Dad’s family all the time. Dad worked with them and we stayed with them a lot and even lived with them some. (Our house was out of town and didn’t have running water, they only had one car, so we didn’t stay there a whole lot. Instead, we went in to Grandmother’s house.)

Dad loves to tell the story about the time Mom’s family came to visit. I was very shy and wouldn’t do anything around those “strangers” except hide behind my mama.

It really irritated my mom’s sister who was just older than her that I wouldn’t come out and play. She finally gave up in exasperation. “Susan’s so spoiled, salt can’t save her!”

I don’t know how Mom responded that day, but I don’t think she ever got over that remark. 🙂 Knowing my mom, she told her sister, “Salt can’t save her, but Jesus will!”

Of course, I don’t really remember. 😉


Father’s Day

Did you celebrate Father’s Day? I know, it’s a Hallmark holiday (ie: made up to sell more cards) but I really enjoy having a day to honor our dads.

I spent yesterday morning worshipping My Father sitting next to my father. I love worshipping with the man who gave me life. Or would that be men?

Anyway, it was a great morning.

Here’s Dad acting silly at his office birthday celebration one year. He’s a great guy to work for!

Yesterday evening we went to #1 son and DIL’s house for a smoked rib dinner. #1 is (finally) in his new house, which is an older home that they’ve refinished. We loved the house. Loved the yard! (They’ve let the rear part of the big back yard naturalize, so it looks like the tall grass prairie. Absolutely beautiful!

I went out with #1 while he checked the smoking ribs and he told me that he plans to put in an outdoor kitchen and how he plans to do it. (I put in a bid on the plants they’ll have to remove!)

We got to meet Gozer, the newest member of the family.


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We chatted and laughed and had a great time. Oh, and G-Man opened presents and cards.

The food was delicious. The house was gorgeous! And we were all so comfortable, I thought we might just curl up and spend the night.

Instead, we took off our shoes, kicked back and had a wonderful time, being together.

Is there anything nicer than having the entire family together, enjoying one another? Not a whole lot, I’m thinking.

Oh, back to my dad. This is the guy who, when he wants something, he goes right out and buys it. One year, he said all he wanted for Father’s Day was a straw hat for working in the garden. So we got together and decided to give him six hats, one from each of his kids. 🙂 (He’s lucky we didn’t include the grandkids. LOL) If he gets something he doesn’t really want or thinks he won’t use, he’ll give it back or to someone else.

Not wanting to be the one to have my present handed off this year, I gave him eight pepper plants. (I heard him say he didn’t have any sweet peppers in his garden.) And I got him two bottles of a great new (to us) salad dressing. We love it, so it’ll be just fine if he gives it back. LOL!

I hope you had a fantastic Father’s Day and while you were at it, thanked your Father in heaven for the earthly father He chose for you. You’re a perfect fit!


Diamond T

Uncle Frank donated this cool old truck–a Diamond T–to the Mannford Museum. I’ve never seen the truck, but according to Dad, the tires are solid rubber. (Sounds expensive, but you’d never have a flat!) I think the spokes might be wooden.

If my sons are reading this, no, I didn’t drive it when I was a kid. LOL. The subject of this truck came up the other day at lunch.

“The hood ornament disappeared about as soon as it got to the museum and they turned their backs.” Makes me wonder what it looked like.

“We got that truck when we bought that shallow (five-hundred-foot) well from Lee Lunsford. He drilled it with that truck.”

An oil well, only five hundred feet deep? I knew North East Oklahoma was shallow hole country, but five hundred feet???

How’d they drill it with a truck? According to those close to me, “They used it as a power source to run the draw works and the walking beam (part of the drilliing mechanism) on an old cable tool rig.”

This is a picture of a cable tool rig that Marilyn Harvison Conrad posted on Facebook. (Thanks, Marilyn!) You can’t see much about it, but rather than rotating, a cable tool bit beats its way into the ground. And rather than have a string of drill pipe, the tools are on the end of a cable. It takes longer to drill with a cable tool than with a rotary.(In case you’re wondering, 1929 was before my dad was born.) 

The truck was also used to pump the well, so when the family bought the land and  the well, Diamond T came with it. One of those shallow-hole wells is still producing. Pretty good, after all these years!

Dad and Uncle Paul were hoeing corn on the Back Forty, about a half mile away, (as the crow flies) when Lee shot the well.

These are Ruby and Ray Spess’s boys–a few years later. 🙂 Dad, the youngest, is on the left (real men wear pink!) Uncle Paul, the middle boy, is in the middle, and Uncle Frank, who donated the truck, is on the right.  

The younger two brothers were working hard, hacking at those weeds, when all of a sudden, oil flew up into the sky and they heard a loud BOOM! The guys were probably still in their teens, and being normal, I figure they stopped and leaned on their hoes to discuss it. Before much time had passed another BOOM! Whoosh!

Back then, when they shot wells, they didn’t pack the and just let the oil go where it would. We know better than to do that these days, but then no one thought it was important.

See that board in front of the steering wheel? That’s the dash. Now I know why they called it a dash BOARD. Who knew? 🙂

I showed G Man a picture of the old truck (these were taken by Larry Lawrence. Thanks for letting me use them, Larry!) and he said, “Is that the old truck that was on the Back Forty?”

That’s the one.

This story was all new to me. Sometimes I’m amazed by how much I don’t know. Maybe by posting things like this, I can keep them from being lost in time.

Fingers crossed.