Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Lemons to . . . ?

You know the old question, What do you do when life hands you lemons? Make lemonade, of course!

I’ve heard several other answers.

  • Serve mine with a twist.
  • Stuff them in your, uh, ladies’ underwear and save money on padding.
  • Sell them on eBay.
  • Trade them in for ones that get better gas mileage. (I like that one!)
  • Make a helmet for your kitty.

Okay, this guy used a lime, but you get the idea.

My Granddad Ray was one of those guys who knew about turning lemons into lemonade. He was born in 1900, along with a twin sister, in this cabin.

 The cabin was built on the place my great-grandfather got in the opening of the Cherokee Strip. I believe Great-granddad Spess staked a different place, then traded a man for this one. That was seven years before Granddad Ray was born.

Granddad grew up on that land. When he married, he and Grandmother built a house there and had two children. They moved to town by the time they had their last child.

My dad was born in 1930, the last of Granddad and Grandmother’s four children–all six years old and under! (Oy!) 1930 was practically the beginning of The Great Depression, but Granddad figured several ways to turn the lemons of a depression into lemonade.

He raised and butchered his own animals and raised much of their own food on the Farm. (I have a hunch he was a pretty fair trader, too!) He sold insurance and got into the oil business.

When I was a kid, we always called the land where Granddad was born The Farm. (Original, right? LOL) The Farm is in the Basin, near Old Ford.

As kids, we loved to go there. Sparky, the horse Dad bought when he was twelve, lived there as well as two families of cousins. When we were there, we could fish in the best catfish pond in the world, and if we were very, very lucky, Granddad would pick a watermelon and we’d get to eat it, warm and sweet, straight out of the garden.

The soil near the river was really sandy, and while it might not be the best for raising some crops (kind of hard to keep watered) Granddad found it was a great place to plant watermelons.

About the only thing on The Farm I never liked was Bull Neddles. Know what that is?

This is from Plant of the Week on Facebook:

The entire plant is covered in glass-like hairs that when touched break off into the skin and act as hypodermic needles releasing a toxin that causes an intense burning sensation.  The stinging hairs can penetrate even the heaviest clothing such as jeans.  Depending on sensitivity of ones skin the affected area can remain red and swollen for a number of days after initial contact.

If you ever got too near one, you’d remember. Just brush against a bull neddle and your legs start itching and stinging enough to make you cry for a long time.

As kids, we wore shorts all summer long except when we went to The Farm. If we forgot and wore them and got caught by a bull neddle, we didn’t forget again for a long time.

But Granddad knew something about Bull Neddles that us kids didn’t know. It was good for food! Not the stinging neddles, but the seed pod.

Inside the seed capsule that bears a coat of armour more formidable than steel waits a delicious nut. (from Plant of the Week on FB again.)

I remember one year when Granddad brought home a bucket full of those seed pods. When he told us what they were, us kids gave that bucket a wide berth. We imagined that, even after they were off the plant, they’d cause itching like our on legs when we got too close in the summer.

I don’t know if anyone except Granddad ever ate those nuts he picked. LOL.

Granddad even knew how to find fruit in an old orchard that had gone wild, and how to turn the gritty pears he picked in that orchard into honey. Pear honey. 🙂

One more thing I know? When Granddad got lemons, he made lemonade but he added fresh orange juice to it and lots of sugar, so it wasn’t so tart.


Memory Tricks

Have you ever noticed that people with the same memories remember them in different ways? It happens with my sibs and me. None of us fib about what we remember, we just don’t have perfect recall.

Go figure.

For instance, the time Omega came home from playing with her BFF. Sitting at the dinner table, she said, “Pass the d*** corn.” (Today her BFF is a beautiful, talented woman who loves the Lord with all her heart. She just mimicked her big brothers once in a while when she was too young to know better, and Amy mimicked her.)

I remember the D*** Corn episode happening in our kitchen. Omega believes it happened at Grandmother’s house (next door) in the dining room. Where did it really happen? Since she was maybe two years old, and I’m a few (clears throat) years older, I believe I’m right. But in all honesty, I’m not sure.

Remember the story I told about Brother Jeffrey killing the squirrel and hanging it as a trophy from the ceiling light fixture in the middle of his room? After he read my blog that day, he told me it wasn’t a squirrel. It was a rabbit. (He did shoot it through the eye, I think.)

I probably should have asked Sister Debbie. 🙂 I’ll bet she never forgets.

We aren’t the only siblings who have these problems. Sometimes Uncle Frank will tell me about something he did, and when I recount the story to Dad he says, “That wasn’t Frank. I did it.”

When Dad was eighteen, he went to Oklahoma A & M in Stillwater for a year. (Now known as Oklahoma Spess University–at least in my mind.) When he first started, he often hitchhiked back and forth to Old Ford on the weekends.

Granddad didn’t like Dad hitchhiking, so he bought him a car.

Uncle Frank remembers it as being Granddad’s car rather than my dad’s. Dad disagrees.

It doesn’t just happen to siblings, either. In our romance writers’ group, we used to have a blurb writing contest for our unpublished members. In one hundred words or less, we had to tell what your book is about–like on the back of a book.

One year I won that contest. The next year when we were discussing it, someone asked, “Who won it last year?”

Without blinking an eye, one of my critique partners answered, “I did.”


“You did?” I thought about it really hard before I went on. “Then why did I frame that certificate saying I did?”

The only thing I could figure is that she thought she should have won. 🙂 Continue reading