Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

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Fried Chicken 4th

It’s nearly Independence Day, already! They’re even doing 4th of July weather reports, so we know it’ll be here in a matter of days. How’d that happen?

That means it’s time to buy a few chickens and haul out the cast iron skillets. Why? you ask. Because, in the Shay household, 4th of July means FRIED CHICKEN!

mom's chicken pan


I put flour, salt, pepper and a little garlic powder in a bag (paper or plastic) and shake my chicken up in it (a few pieces at a time) then fry the pieces in canola oil. With the heat on about medium, I cook the chicken with a lid on for a few minutes on each side, then take the lid off and turn the heat up a little to give the chicken a good color and great crunch. I’m not the best chicken fryer in the world (can’t be, since I only practice my magic one time a year) but nobody complains while they’re chowing down. LOL.

I’m not sure when it started, but sometime in the distant past, I started frying chicken one day a year. Only on the 4th of July. One of the first Fried Chicken Fourths I remember, the kids were all fairly small. (grade school/middle school age.) I fried up a few chickens and we loaded up and went to Oklahoma City. We found Thunderbird Park, which had old military equipment (tanks, jeeps, helicopters, planes) for the kids to play on, and some picnic tables, and had our lunch.

okc imagesO1XZL3TY

There was a military museum nearby, the 45th Infantry Museum, and since our family never saw a museum we didn’t love–at least that’s what our kids thought– we had to check it out!


Since G-Man’s dad was in WWII, our boys had a great time.

okc imagesYW0MT0Z9This is not a picture of Gary’s dad. LOL.

Finally, after our fried chicken and a stroll through history lesson, we all went to the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden.


Since we had three little boys in tow, you can probably guess how much time we spent in the Botanical Gardens. LOL. But we had a great time at the zoo. Especially when we found the Tiger Cage. (C-Town and Pryor Creek Tigers! Yay!!!)


I have some great memories tangled up with our fried chicken. Times when Mom and Dad came up for chicken, and afterward we parked on the Salina Bridge to see the fireworks, and times when we took our Party Barge out on the lake for tubing and chicken. I’m SO looking forward to grandchildren and the fun time we’ll have with them eating my fried chicken on the 4th! (And possibly any time they want it.)

Loving the Fried Chicken 4th!

Do you have any traditions you practice on the 4th that you can share? We might want to add them to our chicken. 😀






Picture the Celebration

We survived the celebration! (Yay!) One son and his honey were AWOL, but the other four came to our Small Town World.

The fried chicken, corn and ice cream came out tasting close to what Mama used to make, and we had perfect tabouli. Thanks, Matt!

And we had fireworks. In fact, fireworks were going off all over our Small Town World, and I just happen to have a few to share with you.

These were Roman Candles. No RC wars for my kiddos, thanks.

 I thought this was pretty cool. Wish I’d videoed it. I think it could have been a scene from Star Trek.

I liked the double blast in this one. 🙂

I learned some interesting things while taking these pics. I’ve probably read about them in the past, but until I experienced them they didn’t really register.

Shooting pictures of fireworks is unlike taking normal pictures. The lens stays open, so you have to brace yourself to keep the camera from wiggling. I leaned against the truck and held my elbows in tight against my sides and still had some shake. I did better than last year, though.

If they stay on the ground like this–

–or this, it wasn’t too hard for me. Just set the lens to stay open and try not to shake.

The ones that go into the air and those you don’t expect are a little harder. You never really know where in the sky they’re going to explode.

And rockets that are a little ways off are easier to get than the ones right in front of you. If I saw the starting fizzle, I could open the lens, follow the light trail into the sky and get there for the flash.

I tried that with the ones in front of me, and it didn’t work. For those, I had to just aim up and hope I got the lens to open in time. This one was right overhead.

 Next year, maybe I’ll use a tripod.

This is my favorite FWP.

 The blast came from down the street, and it was pretty but that’s not my favorite thing about it. On the left of the flash, you can see the bright outline and dark impression of G-Man’s truck. On the right side of the blast is the silhouette of the old oak tree in our front yard.

I like that.

Did you have time to grab your camera on the 4th? Did you share your pictures anywhere? All hints and suggestions for improvement are welcome!

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God. Bless. America.

Fireworks #1

Fireworks #1 (Photo credit: Camera Slayer)

Patriotism came naturally to me as a kid. Most of the kids I knew had dads who’d been in the service and every now and then even told stories about that time.

Susie Lunsford’s dad, Marsha Williams’s dad, Marsha Hagberg’s dad and Cathy Bayouth’s dad, and I’m sure several more of my friends’ dads, all served.

When the National Anthem was played, we stood at strict attention. C-Town twirlers even had a special salute they did during the song. (I was never a twirler with the band, but if I had a baton, I could show it to you.)

Each morning, we started school by putting our hands over our hearts and saying the Pledge of Allegiance. And we meant every word.

We didn’t have 4th of July parades, but we had lots of fireworks. I doubt if any of us grew up without having a Black Cat go off in our fingers. I remember silly boys who would pretend to smoke a lighted firecracker and end up with blistered lips.

My friend even had a dog who ate firecrackers before they could pop.

Cindy or Lisa (one of my sisters) bit down on a popper (a small, orb-shaped thing that made a tiny explosion when it hit a hard surface) because it looked like the cereal we ate for breakfast. I still wonder what that felt like. 😛

A family in our church sold fireworks every summer. I’m sure they  made a lot of money. They might even have paid their way through college doing it, I don’t know. I thought it would be fun to have access to that many explosives, but the long, hot hours in that little building didn’t attract me, and very few fireworks stands are air-conditioned, so I didn’t apply for a job. 😉

It’s funny. As kids, we say or sing the words, stand at attention and go through all the motions without knowing the full reason why. The real, basic, honest-to-goodness reason?


Oh, I know we aren’t REALLY free to do anything, say anything or act anyway we want. That would be anarchy. But we’re free from tyranny. We can remain seated when the flag passes, we don’t have to pledge allegiance or sing the anthem.

We even have the freedom to burn the flag in protest (although it infuriates me to the point I wonder if I have the freedom to smack the burner when I hear about that happening) and no one gets put in jail.

We can disagree with the government and not worry about disappearing in the night or being arrested and put in a concentration camp. Because we’re free.

God. Bless. America.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chr. 7:14

Praying for healing in our land.

And I’m praying for Lesta Kay.


What Goes Around . . .


Did you ever hear the saying, “What goes around, comes around?” I heard it first when we moved to Pryor Creek, but I’ve seen it lived out most of my life.

When I was growing up, the family and any friends we invited along went to a nearby lake to picnic and water ski every Sunday after church, and on the 4th of July. Of course, on the 4th we had fireworks. And firecrackers. And bottle rockets.

Mostly, kids handled the fireworks, but I have one uncle who loves to tease. His favorite thing to do on the 4th of July was to toss a firecracker right behind one of the kids and scare us out of three year’s growth.

I had several cousins around my age, but most of the fun ones were guys, and that summer they were into bottle rockets. Ever shoot a bottle rocket? They look like a firecracker with long tails.

Now there’s a firework I just don’t understand. Why do boys like them so much? Light one and it takes off. You can’t predict where it’ll go or explode. Kind of scary.

Rather than shoot them from a bottle, some of my cousins would hold them and let them take off from their fingers. Or light them and toss them into the air with a spin. I didn’t like being around when they were shooting bottle rockets.

That summer, I watched as a cousin shot one that landed in the lake, then exploded right next to a couple fishing from a small boat. When it went off, it splashed and startled the unsuspecting couple.

We ran.

I got my quilt and my book and laid down to work on my tan. I wasn’t very far into the book when another bottle rocket went off, right in the dry grass and, you guessed it, started a grass fire.

I think I mentioned the other day, I’ve always been a person who runs toward trouble. The parents were at the top of the hill under a shade tree, and the bottle rocket shooter hadn’t even seen where it went  off.

A grass fire can get out of hand quickly on a hot, windy day and July is nearly always a dry month in Okie-Land. I yelled for Dad, dunked my quilt in the lake and started trying to put the blaze out. My dad always could move pretty fast, and almost immediately took the little blanket away from me. “Go on. You’re making it worse.”

I wasn’t really, but I think it scared him to see me in the middle of those flames, even if they weren’t very big. I moved out of his way and he put out the fire, then told the boys to stop shooting the bottle rockets.

They stopped with the bottle rockets and started having Roman Candle battles–over the curve of the hill where the parents couldn’t see what they were doing.

We didn’t go to professional fireworks displays. Instead, all the families brought fireworks for the final deal at the end of the day. The dads and older cousins set them off for safety’s sake on hard packed sand near the lake while the rest of us stayed higher on the hill.

By the time we were through with the fireworks, the night was so dark we could barely see to get to the cars. Sometime in the darkness, the cousins had decided to get our teasing uncle back. They put something on his pickup that made it backfire, sputter and sound like it was having real engine trouble.

Funny thing about this uncle, he really hated payback. I think Granddad had to tell him to take a chill pill that night because it made him so mad. He might have mentioned what goes around comes around, but I doubt my uncle would have heard him, and Granddad never was one to waste his breath.

How did your family celebrate 4th of July? Any happy memories to share?


A Fried Chicken Fourth

Can you believe summer’s already a third gone? (Thank heaven!) Today’s July 1. (I checked my calendar.) It’s 4th of July this next Wednesday.

4th OF JULY. I love the idea of a day off in the middle of the week, but it’s not really a day off. We have a family tradition that I can’t escape. (Not that I want to.)

I fry chicken every year on the 4th. It’s good stuff if I do say so myself. (Aunt Phyllis, Mama and Grandmother all taught me how.) Here’s how.

Years ago, when the boys were all still small, we decided to go to OKC for the 4th and take a picnic, so I fried chicken. We went to a military park near the OKC Zoo. The kids had a great time, running around, playing army and getting in and out of the equipment.

I loved it. My kids couldn’t tear up military equipment, so I didn’t have to stay right on top of them. 😛 With three rambunctious boys, that’s a blessing!

After lunch, we visited the 45th Infantry Division Museum. G-Man loved it, I kind of enjoyed it, and the boys were bored. Remember I said we had rambunctious boys? We didn’t stay long.

The zoo was great, though. Zoo’s are built for buffalo and elephants, so kids can’t hurt them too much. All we had to worry about was the boys getting lost or climbing into cages. Thankfully, they didn’t.

Unless I have zoo confusion, they had a great aquatic show with dolphins. We loved it!

This 4th, I’ll be frying chicken again. I dream of S’mores every year, but don’t get around to preparing for it. Maybe Mama’s Icecream. 🙂 Here’s the link to the best homemade icecream recipe in my world. (Any flavor you want as long as it’s vanilla.)

Most of my kiddos will be here, which is the best part of that holiday for me now that they’re all grown up and I don’t have to worry about where they are and what they’re doing every second. With all the wives here to help, the holiday has become a joy!

And if I’m really lucky, we’ll have fireworks.

How do you celebrate our country’s independence?