Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Happy Birthday, Grandmother!

Happy birthday, Grandmother!

We miss you and love you and can’t wait to see you again–in the sweet bye-and-bye. Thank you for your love, your friendship and companionship.

And the memories–

  • Living in your house (with Mom, Dad and Deb) until I was four.
  • You moving next door to us when I was six.
  • The only swat you ever gave me.
  • The day you were baptised.
  • Your interest in everything in life.
  • Your noodles.
  • Your pineapple chiffon pie.
  • Vacations.
  • Your love of cats.
  • And more than anything, your love for your family.

And the stories you told!

About the sister you never knew, because she caught her dress on fire and died.

Of having to carry Dad all over Tulsa when he was a big old five-year-old.

Milking the cow that time when everyone worked late into the night.

The night Paul turned the tractor over and you stayed home with Phyllis and Dad while Frank and Granddad rescued him. (How you did that, I’ll never know.)

I’m so glad I knew you. I love you!

Happy, happy birthday.


Cherokee Strip Fever

Oklahoma's heritage as a pioneer state is depi...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m really enjoying Zola’s book. It’s easy to tell she was a teacher. She does a great job of teaching me. 🙂

I really didn’t know how Tulsa got its name until this book. 

Once Charity got all wound up on how Tulsa Town was named. Bill had heard it called many names. Some spoke of it as ‘cow town’ by the river. But she had gone back to De Soto’s 1540 age quoting the Spanish explorer as saying the settlement was named ‘Talisa’, a fair city located in the northern Creek country, east of the Mississippi River, with buildings and cultiated fields. The Tul or Tal syllable means town and “ahassee”, meant old, thus Old Home Town. Other Creeks spelled the word Tallasi, Tulsa or Tulsii.

Who knew Tulsa what a Creek word? (Hands?)

And she tells several reasons men wore bandannas.

“He said a blue or red bandanna was as essential to the cowboy, miner, frontiersman or homesteader as his large sombrero.

“The bandanna is used to protect the back of his neck from the sun. Tied across the face below the nose it becomes a dust mask, or an oujtlaw’s protection from identity. It becomes a bandage in case of accident, a sling for broken arm; a blind for skittery horses, a strainer for drinking muddy water, and a towel. It can be used for signaling, a dish drier, for tying calf legs while branding; even for hanging horse thieves. He spoke jovial-like.”

 I love the way Zola writes. She talks about the evening after Thanksgiving and is so descriptive, it’s almost like being there. And since my dad lives close to where the Bellis’s homestead was, it’s easy for me to imagine.

Twilight came to the dense wooded area. Evening shadows spread over the bottoms. The velvet canopy of sky was studded with stars. The couple distinguished the bold evening star, the Seven Little Sisters, the Dipper, the North Star and the heavy sprinkled Milky Way extending from horizon to horizon.

Eventually, the harvest moon shed its golden glow for the happy family’s return.

The figures, sitting in the spring seat, formed a silhouette in loving embrace. God knew what He was about when He made a woman to walk beside her husband and be a helpmate. The two Bellis brothers could honestly vouch for this!

The Cherokee Strip and other areas of Oklahoma owe much to the Pioneer Woman. Rightfully, a statue has been erected in behalf of their enduring hardships.

Note: The Ponca City Pioneer Woman statue was donated by EW Marland, Ponca City oilman who later became governor. He commissioned the statue at an estimated cost of $250,000.00.

The cost included $10,000.00 paid to each of 12 sculptors, who submitted models in competition for the final selection. The winning entry by Bryant Baker of New York was dedicated on April 22, 1930, the 41st anniversary of the opening of Oklahoma settlement.

A crowd of 40,000 came to Ponca City for the dedication broadcast nationwide on radio. President Herbert Hoover opened the ceremony with a speech from Washington, DC. Will Rogers, Oklahoma native son, spoke at the dedication site.

My man and I lived in Punkin Center during the first years we were married. We bought our first home there. One of the first things I did when we got there was visit the Pioneer Woman museum. (Not to be confused with The Pioneer Woman blogger. LOL) 

The statue is in a beautiful park, but I can’t imagine 40,000 people crowding into it. Of course, back in 1930 they might not have had the streets, highways and businesses that arae there now.

I can’t ask my dad about it. He wasn’t born until September of that year.  


♥ Wedding Days ♥

A long, long time ago in a world far, far away . . .  No, wait. That can’t be true It was really just last week, wasn’t it?

When I left Ozark Bible College (now Ozark Christian College) I went to school in Tulsa at Draughon’s School of Business. Mom had just opened our dress shop, Four Seasons, the year before while I was at OCC, so naturally, I studied fashion merchandising.

While there, I got to be really good friends with Mary.

Mary was fun to hang with and so very talented! We soon became really good friends. Several months later, she did me one of the biggest favors of my life–she set me up on a blind date with G-Man.

For our first date was to be with Mary and the man she married a week after I married G-Man. Although I’d never met either one of the guys, they came to pick me up first because the house Mary stayed in was hard to find.

The night was cold and windy, and I lived in an apartment building built in a huge square, so when the wind blew, it just kept on going around and around.

I wasn’t quite ready when they got there (not exactly a surprise, huh?)  so I called through the door (and very sweetly!) “Just a minute.”

Then I hurried. I sure didn’t want to go out with a pair of icicles.  

We had to drive a while to get to Mary’s house. I’d only been there once and I hadn’t written down the directions, but after a few wrong turns we found it. We were too late to go to the movie we’d planned to see, so we went to the Power Plant and danced.

We’re talking ancient history here, and Power Plant is long gone. But we had a lot of fun. The next night we went to the movie, then I didn’t hear from him again for a L-O-N-G time. Ten whole days (or so.)

When he finally asked me out again (He said he’d been calling and I hadn’t answered. We’ll never know for sure, will we?) he was smart enough to request the next date while we were out together.

He passed the trial by fire when he came to Christmas at Grandmother’s house. That was the day every year when Grandmother’s 4 kids, 19 grandkids and you-count-’em-I-can’t satelite relatives (spouses and kids and whoever else showed up) celebrated together.

G-Man made it through with flying colors. And five months later . . .

This was a candid shot, not planned by anyone. We’d just walked out of the sanctuary full of people, and I thought we had a quick moment alone. Caught by the photographer! (One of my favorite pictures!)

Here’s another– The only time I came close to crying was at that moment. I wish I had Sister Deb’s picture of that same moment. Dad is instructing her about something just before they walk down the aisle. He’s waving his index finger as he speaks. Visible is his shortened fourth finger, which he’d lost a portion of a few weeks earlier.

G-Man and I had a very small wedding. There were just a lot of people there. 🙂 I wanted to get married at home, but Mom said no. Then I wanted to get married in the church chapel. Again, Mom nixed it. After that, I wanted to just have family (which in our clan makes for a lot of people.) Mom decided “family” meant the entire church family (with my approval, of course) and put the invitation in our church paper.

At least the reception was at home–along with everyone who was at the wedding. Luckily the arrangement of our house made it easy to move through a huge crowd of people.

I had so much fun at the reception! It was like having a giant party with all our closest friends. 🙂 Every wedding should be that much fun.

Here’s a picture of me and my sisters just before the wedding.

 From the left–Cindy, Lisa, Susan and Amy in front of me, and Debbie.

That was then. This is now. (Well, last year.)

From the left–Cindy, Susan, Amy in front of me, and Lisa. (Deb was missing that day.)


Grandmother’s Chili

Bowl of Chili con Carne, made of ground pork, ...

Image via Wikipedia

One of my favorite things to eat when it’s cold outside is chili. Chili, the real deal, made with red meat. (Chicken chili and white chili are very good, but beef chili is my all time fav!


There is a lot of controversy surrounding the origins of chili as well as how to make the dish.  It all seems to come down to how you like to dress up your favorite chili recipe.  If you ask anyone for a chili recipe these days, chances are that you will get a different recipe from every person. 

I remember making a special trip to the Big City when Grandmother and Aunt Phyllis were getting ready to make it. They’d go to Mecca Coffee to buy the freshest spices–oregano, chili powder and cumin.

More from FCR–

All chili recipes have changed over time with new recipes being created on a daily basis.  But where did it all start?  There are people that believe in the 1840’s Texas cowboys pounded beef fat and dried beef with chili peppers and salt to make a sort of trail food for their treks to the gold fields. They would boil this concoction to make a dish they called chili.

A variation on the cowboy origins of chili recipes says that cowboys would plant oregano, chiles, and onions along their well travelled trails in patches of mesquite to keep foraging cattle from eating them. As they moved along the trails, they would harvest the spices, onions, and chiles and combine them with beef to create a chili recipe called “Trail Drive Chili”.

They mention several ways chili might have been invented. A Texas prison, the army, even Canary Island transplants.

The most plausible origin of chili came in 1828 when J.C. Clopper observed the poor people in San Antonio cutting what little meat they could afford into a has like consistency and stewing it together with as many pieces of peppers as pieces of meat.

So here’s Grandmother’s recipe–

4 or 5 pounds of hamburger (or chili) meat
1 chopped onion
1 large can of tomato juice
3/4 C chili powder
1 T oregano
1 T cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the hamburger and onion together until all the meat is browned and onion soft. Drain fat. (I usually put the cooked hamburger/onion in a colander and rinse the meat to get rid of as much fat as possible.)

Put the meat back in the big pot and add the spices, salt and pepper. Stir to mix well then add tomato juice and simmer for an hour or so before serving.

To make the chili a little spicier, I sometimes add a teaspoon or two of red pepper flakes (like for topping a pizza.)

That’s it–the world’s best chili (as far as I’m concerned, anyway.) The fresher the spices, the more flavorful the chili.

I’ve heard of people who make chili without any tomato products in it at all, but I’ve never tried it. I’m willing, though, if someone wants to bring over a bowl.

Do you have a favorite chili recipe? Does it have ground hamburger in it or are you a “healthy” or even vegetarian chili eater?

If you have a favorite chili recipe, why not post it in comments? I wonder how many different chili recipes are out there?