Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

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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! 🙂



Got Game?

One of my favorite things this time of year?

Girls’ basketball.

Now don’t get me wrong. I was never a player (I was a cheerleader, though) because we didn’t have a girls’ team when I was the right age. And I don’t go to a lot of games, but I enjoy the ones I get to a bunch.

Hearing Mama talk about BB like I did when I was a kid was enough to make anyone a convert. She loved watching girls play. Even after she was an adult, she would go to all the games she could.

I never wondered why we attended Old ‘Ford’s games, even after we moved to C-Town. I just liked seeing my dad’s younger cousins play. Seeing those kids in their shiny/short uniforms and wearing big white knee pads was so much fun!

The gym in Old ‘Ford was more fun than you can imagine. I’ve never seen another one like it. There was one row of seats on the players’ level, and the rest were upstairs in the balcony area, where there were two rows of benches.

It was so exciting to get to go up there. According to legend (before my time) there was only a 2×4 rail, waist-high, all the way around the outside of the balcony. Nothing underneath to stop people from falling off.

Dad said that at that time, MOST people knew not to get so close to the edge, they fell off. He emphasized MOST because when his sister, Aunt Phyllis, was a kid, she sat on that railing, was playing around and fell off, onto the gym floor below. The fall broke her arm.

I didn’t know her at that time, since she’s my dad’s older sister, but from what I hear, Dushie (my name for her when I was a baby) was a very entertaining wild child and a ton of fun to be with.

My siblings all played basketball in high school, and most of them were pretty darn good.

This is my niece

Now we’re into the next generation. Dad’s youngest granddaughters are on the court these days. I got to see my first game of the season last night. I went by myself and thought I’d be sitting alone. Omega, score keeper for the middle school, saw me walk in and called my cell phone. “Come over here!” I looked up, and the refs were standing by her at the score keepers’ table, pointing at me (there she is!) and laughing at the look on my face.

Being the sweet sister I am, I traipsed around the gym. Ever feel like everyone in the place is watching to see if you’ll trip? 🙂

As I walked by the opposing team’s assistant coach, he said, “You look like a woman on a mission.”

“I’ve been summoned by my sister. What can I do but obey?” 😉

I got to sit right there, close enough to our team to hear what the coach yells at them. (I didn’t understand it, but I could hear it.) “High, low! High, low!” and “D-Up!”

The coach even hollered a couple of states. I think. I’m not sure if there are girls on the team who go by those names or if he names his plays, but it was interesting.

Got to meet his little girl, too. The tyke walked straight across the court at half-time to show Omega her sparkly black boots. (Now I want some!)

And I learned a thing or two.

  • There are different sizes of basketballs–one for girls, and another for boys. (I had to be careful writing that sentence!)
  • Refs have a sense of humor, even while they’re making bad calls. (Faith did NOT knock that girl down.)
  • Refs will answer the score keeper if she hollers that he made a bad call. “Stop it. That’s not your daughter,” they’ll say.
  • Spectators can’t get in trouble as long as they keep their mouths shut and don’t get physical. Mean looks can’t get you thrown out of the game. (I tested that theory when Faith did NOT knock that girl down.)
  • Refs have to be tough or they’ll get their feelings hurt bad. “Got a rope. Got a tree . . . Now all we need’s . . . (can anyone finish that cheer?) 😛

“Yeah, I’m told I made a bad call at nearly every game.” (He was cute, so it was okay.)

  • At tournaments, there’s usually a secret room filled with yummy munchies (they call it a hospitality room, but I can think of much better names for it) for coaches, refs and score keepers, ONLY. Players and spectators (and sisters of the score keeper) aren’t allowed.
  • After the game, every girl on each team slaps hands with every girl on the other and says, “Good game! Good game!” If there’s 15 girls on each team, and each girl says “Good game!” fifteen times, that’s 225 ‘good games’ all echoing through the gym at the same time.

I kept waiting for a Chevy-Chase-Christmas-Vacation-girl to go through the line. “Good game. Good Gravy. Good Golly Miss Molly,” but it didn’t happen. (Would anyone notice if they did?)

Have you been to a girls’ basketball game lately? Did you learn anything?  Can you finish that cheer?


Tar On My Tootsies

Sheepo's flip-flops

Know what? The temp is up! I’ll bet you noticed. I probably ask this every year but, Was it this hot when we were kids?

I really don’t remember.

We played in shorts and bare feet or thongs all summer long. (You call them flip-flops, we called them thongs.) Mostly we were barefoot. 🙂 I still take off my shoes as soon as I get home.

One day after lunch I asked, “Mom can we go outside and play?” (Yes, we really asked if we could go out and play. Almost unheard of today.)

“It’s too hot to go outside,” she answered, sounding tired. (She was probably pregnant, too.)

“It’s not that hot,” I answered. “The winds blowing.”

“But it’s a hot wind.”

We played out anyway. No playing nice girly girl games inside for the Spess girls. We didn’t embroider tea towels or crochet doilies. We went out and ran and played.

When we first moved to C-Town, the road in front of our house was gravel, but not long after they put tarmac on it. At least, I think it was tarmac. It was black and runny and HOT!

If we ran across it barefoot, we tracked it right into the yard. And at night, the bottom of our feet was as black as the street. Every summer, they poured tiny chat on top of that hot tarry stuff. The little gravel must have melted, because it wasn’t long before we were back walking on the black goo again.

With five kids in the house (the sixth didn’t come along for a long time) I just imagine we smelled like a tribe of puppies. Maybe that’s why our parents got a season ticket to the pool every year. We’d stay in the water from the time it opened until it closed, and sometimes go back for the night session.

I wished I could sleep in the pool, floating on my back. I loved swimming! We met so many friends there.

Ours is the only round pool I’ve ever seen. The deep end is in the middle–twelve foot deep. The drop off was steep, and if you could blow enough air from your lungs, you could slide right down it.

We took swimming lessons every year. The first year, I was so afraid to float on my back. I might get water up my nose. Soon I learned to not only float on my back, I swam a lot on it, too.

I took junior lifesaving when I was thirteen and lifesaving when I was older with #4 as my partner. When she had to rescue me, we cheated just a little–I kicked instead of playing dead. 🙂

Every once in a while, we had to mow the lawn. “No swimming until the lawn is mowed!”

Funny, how big the yard was on mowing days. Our mower was a push one (riding lawn mower? what’s that?) and on those days, I knew how hot it was. And how hot the wind was. And how much fun it wasn’t, having to work in the yard.

Mom and Dad did the trimming, thank heaven. I’m not sure I’d have survived a whole day working in the heat without time to swim.

When I was three and we lived in Old Ford, we drove into West Tulsa to New Block Park to swim. There was a whole row of shower heads you had to walk through before you could get into the pool. I hated the water in my face!

And anytime someone asked me how old I was, I told them, “Most of the time I’m three, but when we go swimming, I’m five.”

You think maybe there was a rule about swimming age for children? Maybe?

Some of my very happiest memories are summer ones. (#4 was born in summer.) I think I’ll take off my shoes and go outside now. 😉





Games We Played

English: Youths playing the Red Rover game.

English: Youths playing the Red Rover game. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember the days when the gang of kids in your neighborhood played outside together all summer long? We had so much fun, running, laughing and screaming our heads off until the sun went down and our parents flashed the porch light. (Time to go in.)

I found a button on the floor at work yesterday, so I went from room to room. When I got to the M & M office (Mallory and Mendy) I said,

Button, button–who’s got the button?

I got a strange–Do what?–look from M#1.

“Didn’t you play Button, Button when you were a kid?” I asked.

“I’ve never heard of it. How did you play?”

Surprise. “How about Drop the handkerchief?”


“I’ll bet you never played Good Egg, Rotten Egg either.” I’ve never heard of anyone who played Good Egg except the crew at Bible School in Old Ford one year before we moved to C-Town. (I don’t remember the Bible School lessons, treats or crafts but I loved the games!)

After I demonstrated the position for Good Egg, Rotten Egg (squatting with your hands clasped under your hiney and elbows used for handles) and explained that two larger kids picked you up by your elbows/handles and swung you (if your hands slip loose, you’re a rotten egg) she recognized it.

Different name, same game. And even young M#2 played it on the trampoline.

Since I had work to do, I didn’t ask if they’d played Farmer In the Dell. Besides, it wasn’t my favorite game.

My absolute favorite gaggle of kids game was Red Rover. “Red Rover, Red Rover, let Susan come over.”

(Does anyone know what a Red Rover is?)

Remember how we played it? The other side tried to pick the littlest, weakest kid because they shouldn’t be able to break through the wall of hands-holding kids.

I loved that game, because I was tougher than I looked. I liked being a surprise. 🙂

Tag was always fun for a while as was Hide and Seek. But another one of my favorites was The Ghost Don’t Pop. (Ignore the grammar–we were kids.)

Friend, next-door-neighbor and Monopoly player extraordinaire Susie Lunsford introduced us to that game. You couldn’t play until almost dark because, after all, it was a ghost game. And everyone knows ghosts don’t come out during the day.

A base was chosen, one person was it, and the rest scattered but had to hide in a specified area. (In one person’s yard and around their house.)

After “It” counted to a hundred while all the “ghosts” hid, she started walking around the house, always keeping an eye open for lurking “ghosts.”

Using a scary voice–“It’s one o’clock and the Ghost Don’t Pop. Two o’clock and the Ghost Don’t Pop. Three o’clock and . . . “

At “Twelve o’clock and the Ghost Don’t Pop,” all the ghosts popped and ran for base. “It” ran for base, too. I’m not sure how anyone was the winner or how somebody became “It”, but it sure was fun!

I don’t remember my kids playing a lot of big group games when they were little. Oh, they played Duck, Duck, Goose as preschoolers as well as Tag and Hide and Seek, but once they outgrew those games, organized sports such as T-Ball and Soccer are the only ones I remember.

So I have three questions for you today.

  1. Did you play gaggle-of-kids games when you were young?
  2. What was your favorite?
  3. How did The Ghost Don’t Pop end? (Susie Lunsford, are you there???)


We’re Gonna Celebrate!

When I was a kid, I loved family celebrations. I loved getting together with my cousins, who were also friends, aunts and uncles and grandparents and spending time, eating, playing, chatting and just having fun.

Of course, I was just a kid and didn’t know the kind of work it took to get ready.

When I was very young, we lived in Old Ford in a house with my dad’s parents, so most celebrations took place there.

All my dad’s family lived close-by, and the three brothers all worked together, so we saw them fairly often. Aunt Phyllis and her kids just lived a few streets over, so of course, they were always there.

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