Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Designer Chicken House


When was the last time you were in a chicken hen house? Unless you gathered eggs just this morning, I’ve got you beat! I was in one yesterday. 🙂

Technically, it’s not a chicken house yet since it hasn’t had any chickens in it. (Except me.) It’s a gonna-be CH. That’s G-Man up there, putting a vent in the roof so the chickens won’t melt in the hot weather.

And, no, it’s not a chicken mobile home so it won’t always have wheels. It’s on a trailer because it’s going to my dad’s house sometime in the near future so he and his wife (and kids, I’m hoping!) will have organic fresh, fresh, fresh eggs.

One of the things I like best about Dad’s wife is her healthy way of feeding my dad. She likes organic and fresh and healthy. Smart lady! So she’s thrilled to have fresh eggs in the near future. (I’m hoping to cash in on a few eggs myself.)

My man was hard at work (hence the serious look) but he stopped for a moment so I could take his picture.

These are the chicken boxes (nests) and roosts. If you were a chicken, wouldn’t you want to live here? I would!

I’m thinking I might campagne for a potting shed made out of one of these buildings. With G-Man’s carpenter skills, it could be perfect!

This is the front door. The one the humans will use.

The little hole at the bottom is the door for the chickens. And the picture window is so they can see the lake. 😉 Not really. It’s so they won’t smother in the summertime. (They’ve made sure it’s breathable in there.)

  It’s a good-sized picture window, isn’t it? I hope the chickens enjoy their designer house, because I plan to enjoy their eggs.

When I was a little kid in Old Ford, we had chickens that lived in a house out behind our yard, but it wasn’t nearly as nice a chicken house as this one. There were several little brown hens and one big, mean rooster that lived there.

I stayed far away from that rooster because he liked to flog humans if he could.

Once the bad boy just smacked me on the knee with his wing and it felt like I’d skinned it on the sidewalk. It hurt!

Then one day, Grandmother was outside hanging out clothes on the line and the silly rooster snuck up on her and started the flapping-kicking-pecking-attack-thing he liked to do.

The next day we had chicken and noodles for dinner–courtesy of Mr. White Rooster. 🙂 Grandmother made the best noodles in the world! (Click on best noodles and it’ll take you to her recipe.) And Whitey wasn’t so bad himself.

Have you ever been in a chicken house? Did you ever chase your grandma’s chickens to see if they’d lay square eggs?

Want to compare notes?



Thank Goodness It’s Friday!

Two young girls having fun in swimming lessons.


Does that phrase make your heart beat just a little faster? It does mine. I love the weekend!

For different people, the week’s end means different things. I have one writer friend who LOVES Mondays, because that means everyone goes back to school/work/whatever and she can get back to her life as she lives it.

Another lives for the weekends, barely making it through the days in between and reliving the weekend happenings as often as possible.

When I was in school, Friday meant beans and jeans day. Most of us loved having brown beans and cornbread at school, but for some reason, the cafeteria only served them on Fridays. (Maybe the gas building properties of the legume.) Being a devote britches girl, wearing a skirt every day was killer, so getting to wear jeans one-day-a-week some years and one day every-other-week others was a joy! So I loved Fridays even then.

Around the Spess house, we spent Saturday getting ready for Sunday morning church. When we were small, we took turns having Mama washed our hair in the kitchen sink. She’d roll it up on brush rollers, then we’d sit under the big old metal hairdryer until we were dry.

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Wedding Trads

The Spess Girls have a couple of traditions when it comes to family weddings.

Most revolve around our mom.

The first one started back in 1949, when Mama married Daddy. After Mama graduated from high school, she moved to Old Ford to live with her brother and his wife. Her parents still lived in Texas. They couldn’t afford to come to the wedding, but they sent her $50. That would be $468.20 today. (I looked it up.)

I’m not sure what Mama did with all that money, but some of it she spent on her wedding dress (bought at Lerner’s in Tulsa) and some of it she spent on a white Bible to carry in her wedding.

It’s not as pristine as it used to be, but remember–

— it’s survived six kids. One evil child even wrote Mama’s name in it.

She should have smacked me for it, but she didn’t.

Anyway, when I got married, Mama wanted me to carry her Bible in my wedding. I wanted a bouquet to throw, but I wanted to carry the Bible, too.

So Mama bought this cover. It hid the yellowing leather and my bouquet could be tied to it. (That’s what the ribbon on top is for.)

So I carried it and my sisters all carried it. (I think.) I’m not sure if Brother Jeffrey or his wife carried it. Mama wasn’t quite as pushy insistant helpful as her daughters are. 🙂 But my boys’ wives all carried Mama’s Bible in their weddings. And they not only liked the idea, they acted as if they were thrilled to have it.

Many of the grandkids have had it in their weddings, but not all. One sister lives outside of C-Town (When most of us moved home, Daddy moved to the Ford, but #4 stayed where she is.) so she might not have thought about it.

And once the Bible went home with the wrong MIL, so we didn’t have it for at least one ceremony. But many of the kids have carried it, too.

My #1 son suggested that we write the names of everyone who carried it in the Bible so we won’t forget the history of it. (I won’t be doing the writing. I promise.)

So that’s our most important wedding trad. I think the sisters tried to start one where they “fixed” the bride’s nightgown just before she left on her honeymoon, but that trad died out. Or maybe it was beaten to death. Anyway, I don’t hear about it anymore.

So, how about it? Do you have a wedding tradition you’ll share?


Do You Believe

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. (At least, that’s what the big boys tell us.) Kids who eat breakfast learn better. People who eat breakfast have fewer problems with their weight. 

I’m convinced. Breakfast is a good thing.

I believe in breakfast. Probably because I’ve eaten breakfast every morning of my life, with the rare exception of forced fasting days. (Days when babies, blood or surgeries are happening.)

Before we moved to C-Town, we lived in Old Ford in a house with my parents, my just-younger sister and my grandparents. Mom and Grandmother spent a lot of time in the kitchen at least twice a day, cooking big meals.

I have more memories of breakfasts than I do dinners. Even as I little kid, I could tell Grandmother’s biscuits from Mom’s. And who made the scrambled eggs. Dad made the best.

All the men in our family are wonderful cooks, in case you’re wondering. Sometimes the kitchen was crowded with cooks.

We had to be careful if Granddad was in the kitchen just after we’d butchered. He loved to fix scrambled eggs and calf’s brains. And while brains might be non-toxic, I never wanted gray matter in my mouth. Eeeeew.

One of my memories of Old Ford was when I discovered sugar. After the cereal was out of my bowl, I put in more sweetener. Now that was good! I kept adding until Grandmother said, “I think you have enough sugar.” She glanced into my empty bowl and immediately took the sugar off the table.

Mama’s favorite breakfast was pancakes. Blueberry, if possible. My favorite is biscuits and gravy with fresh side. (That’s probably Dad’s fav, too.)

Have you ever eaten fresh side? It’s the same meat as bacon, except it hasn’t been cured. To me, it tastes kind of like pork chops, except much better. Sometimes you can find it in the store, but not often. Usually, you have to butcher.

When you cook fresh side (if you ever get the chance) salt and pepper it well, then fry until the fat along the edge is well done. Oh! My! Stars!

Like my daddy says, It’ll make your tongue lap your brains out.

When we moved to C-Town, we had a neighbor who had kids some of my siblings’ ages. (With six kids in our family, we had someone almost everyone’s age.)

When the sibs stayed all night over there, they came home talking about eating Egg in a Well. (I think that’s what it was called.) It might be the dish that’s called Egg in a Hole or even Toad in a Hole. Whatever it’s called, it’s good!

We just called it Egg in Toast. Here’s how–

Butter a slice of bread and cut a hole in the middle. I put a little butter on the pan in the hole, then drop in an egg. (Try not to break the yolk.)  Salt and pepper egg to taste.

Lightly butter the up side of the bread. When the egg is set, turn the whole thing over and toast the other side.

I like to fry another slice of toast to go along with my egg in toast. 😉  Strawberry jelly is WONDERFUL on fried toast. Don’t ask me how I know that. And don’t tell Weight Watchers I eat it. I might get banned for life.

Some of my favorite breakfast memories are from our vacations. Sometimes my parents would take all their kids, Grandmother and Granddad, and whatever of the rest of the fam who wanted to go, and we’d travel in campers.

We camped out (if sleeping in campers is camping out) and cooked most of our meals over an open campfire.

For breakfast, we didn’t just have cereal. We had meals.

Aunt Phyllis could cook a half-dozen eggs at a time, baste them until they were just done perfectly and slide all six out of the pan in one motion without breaking any.

Mama took along a heavy cake pan, made of cast aluminum (I think) to use as a griddle for frying bacon or making pancakes.

I inherited my mother-in-laws pan like that. While I don’t often cook for a lot of people like Mama did, I take it along when I fix biscuits at our writers’ retreat each year.

It would be about the right size to fix cinnamon rolls in, too. I may have to try it later.

So how about it? Do you believe in eating breakfast or not?


The Little Shack Out Back

A coworker and I were discussing the logistic problems of having only one bathroom in a house, even if only two people live there. Especially if one has few schedules to keep and likes to make a little mischief.

It got me to thinking about the days before there were bathrooms inside houses. When you had to take a hike to get to the john. My parents experienced them more than I did, and their parents even more. And, of course, through the years the subject has come up from time to time.

So I have a question for you today, and I really hope you’ll answer it. Ready? Okay, here it is.

Have you every used an outhouse?

An outhouse is a small structure, separate from the house, placed over a hole in the ground, also known as “the facilities.” Please don’t confuse it with a porta-john from a catering service. They bring a fiberglass building with some kind of chemicals below to take care of most of the odor, and usually replace it once a week or so.

I’m talking about the old wooden structures.

A hole in a wooden seat (really, a hole in a board) was made for your convenience. Instead of toliet paper, you used a Sears-Robuck catalogue. 😦

 This picture is of a two hole outhouse. If one hole was larger, it was for adults, the other smaller one would have been for children. If the holes were the same size, I don’t know why there would have been two.

I read that a half moon cut in the door is the sign of an outhouse for the womenfolk. A full moon means it’s for the men. (Makes me wonder if that’s where the idea of mooning people came from.)

Imagine–two privies!–one for men and another for women, and a yard big enough to accomidate them. Had to be the rich folks in town.

BTW: Most outhouses weren’t as pretty as the log cabin one above. Most looked more like this–

 When we were kids, Old Ford still had an outhouse or two in town. I had a couple of onery cousins who loved to tip them over on Halloween. If I remember the story right, a church in town had a parsonage with an outhouse.

One Halloween, my cousins trick-or-treated a while, then decided to make some mischief. They shot out a streetlight or two, then decided to do a little small-house tipping.

They trekked over to the parsonage and snuck around back. When they got there, they very quietly crossed the yard and with a hard shove, turned that outhouse over.

What they didn’t know (but learned very quickly) was the preacher was USING the facility at the time!

I heard (but I’m not sure if it’s true) that the next Halloween, the preacher was ready for them. In preparation for the big night, he moved the outhouse over just a few feet. Then, when the evildoers came sneaking through the dark to tip over the little-house-out-back, they didn’t see that it had been moved. They fell in the yuck-filled hole.


Antique hunters love to find old home sites. They especially look for the spot where the outhouse was and dig it up. Why? Because before dirt was thrown in the hole when the privy was moved to a new spot, the hole was often packed with the day’s non-returnables, which are valuable now–old bottles.

A few years ago, clever homeowners collected outdoor johns–just to have that rustic look in their backyard. They didn’t use them for the purpose they were intended. (As far as I know, anyway.) I even found a website that sells outhouse decor. (Switchplates, shower curtains, towels, etc.)

Outdoor privies have always deeply impressed me, but not necessarily the good way. Why? (Glad you asked.)

  1. They stink! Actually, stink is a mild word for the way an outhouse smells. It’s awful. GAS-tly!
  2. Spiders love them. If you look closely, spiders don’t have noses. If they did, they wouldn’t hide in an outhouse. But they do. All kinds of spiders (and other horrible nasty biting, stinging ground crawlers.)
  3. There’s almost never electricity in an outhouse. I don’t know why, unless it’s because they have to be moved from time to time. At night, it’s really dark in one! How’s a girl supposed to see a spider or other critter without light?
  4. In the middle of a dark night (especially in winter) an outhouse is a long, long way from your bedroom.
  5. In the hot summertime sun, the facility is much too close, especially if the prevailing wind is from that direction. (Blech!)

So, how about you? Have you ever made that fun trip to the little girls’ (or boys’) back house?

 If we still used them today, do you think they might look more like this?

From Larry Lawrence–

I told you it was cold in the winter! 🙂

Santa doesn’t mind. (The elf does!)

I saw these at Lowes last fall. So funny, but really not the way I want to decorate for Christmas.