Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

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TBT–Yellowstone Pt 2 and the Gang

I started this blog Monday.

We finally made it to Yellowstone. I think we’d worn the sickness out by then. We rented one cabin, where we cooked and showered and a few us us slept, and the rest of us slept in the campers.

Of course, we saw everything there is to see at Yellowstone. Old Faithful, who really was faithful back then. I don’t know how is he now.


The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

grand canyon yellowstoneThis  is that Grand Canyon. Picture from Wikipedia. Gorgeous, isn’t it?

dt.common.streams.StreamServerAnother place, we hiked down a wonderful, smooth asphalt path to a lower waterfall. On the way down, I saw my first Newfoundland Dog. (At first, I thought it was a bear on a leash.) When we got there, we marveled and exclaimed and climbed rocks. I decided I wanted another angle in a picture, so I climbed a little way up the rock wall beside the falls.

Of course, there was a heavy mist coming from the waterfall and the sun was shining bright on us. When I turned around to take the picture, I wasn’t surprised to see rainbows. What surprised me was that I saw a complete circle rainbow!

If there’s not something to stop it (like the earth or a building or cloud) a rainbow will make a perfect circle! Who knew? (Probably anyone who paid attention in science class.) I didn’t!

Hot springs.

hot springs

Tons of hot springs and mud volcanoes in Yellowstone. TONS!

I don’t know the temperature of the springs, but I’ve seen Dante’s Peak. I don’t want to test it! LOL.

So as I mentioned, Phyllis and Melvin went with us. A couple of things I remember about Melvin that made him one of my favorite people in the world. (I should have a category–My Favorite People. 🙂 ) Melvin ate popcorn every night. I don’t know if he had it instead of dinner, as an after dinner snack or just before going to bed, but I know he had it. And when I smelled it popping, it made me hungry! (I love popcorn.)

And he was a great fisherman. If I remember right, he didn’t like to eat fish, he just liked to catch them. I’d say that was where The Great Fisherman Jeffrey got his fishing gene, but Melvin wasn’t related except by marriage. Maybe Jeffrey caught it by osmosis.

The guys all went fishing while we were at Yellowstone, and left us womenfolk behind.

They drove a ways, parked and hiked a couple of miles up the river through CLOUDS OF MOSQUITOES. (They don’t do anything to kill off critters in YS.) From the way I heard the story, the guys nearly couldn’t breathe without sucking in several of the little varmints. (They might have made it worse than it was in the telling so I’d quit griping because they wouldn’t let me go. Yes, I pouted.)

Anyway, they finally got to the spot someone told them about, and after an hour or two without catching a fish, they hiked back to the truck, again through clouds of mosquitoes. (No wonder the trout didn’t bite, they were full from eating blood suckers.) At least one of the guys (Brother Jeffrey?) ran most of the way back and locked himself in the truck to get away from the bugs.

Can’t say as I blame him. 🙂

I’ve been to Yellowstone two or three times, but guess what? I. Want. To. Go. Again. (It’s just too gorgeous for words.)

Have you been to Yellowstone and seen the Natural Wonders God put there? Think He was showing off or just giving us a taste of Heaven?

What was your favorite part?

Oh, wow. I didn’t even mention the animals!


♪♫ The Eyes of Texas . . . ♪♫ or Yellowstone Pt 1

We’re coming up on the anniversary. Again. For family and friends of the Spess Gang, May 20, 1991, is a day that will live in infamy. Read about it here. 

But since Mom wasn’t a person who would not have liked us to mourn forever or go into retrograde for a week around that date, instead of going into all that, I’ll tell you about one of my shiny memories.

The family decided to go to Yellowstone on vacation. When I say the family, I mean The Family. The whole clan. Mom, Dad, all the sibs, married sibs, sibs-in-law, grandkids and (maybe) Grandmother. Aunt Phyllis and her husband, Melvin, went, too.

We packed into three pickup/campers and a car–complete with CB radios. 🙂 Everyone had “handles.” Mom decided to bleach her hair just before we went (not her best decision) so she was The Blonde Bombshell. G-Man is a pharmacist, so they called him The Pusher (short for Pill Pusher).

The first day we headed to Cousin Liz’s in Perryton, Texas. When we crossed the line from OkieLand in to Texas, I asked The Blonde Bombshell on the CB what Texas’s state song was, since she graduated from high school down there in Baja, Oklahoma. Without hesitating, she answered on the CB for all the world to hear,

♪♫ The eyes of Texas are upon you, all the live-long day! ♪♫

♪♫ The eyes of Texas are upon you, you cannot get away. ♪♫

Truckers cheered for her when she finished. 😉


I’m not sure why we went to Liz’s. When I map the way from C-Town to Wyoming, Perryton isn’t on a straight shot, but everybody LOVES being with Liz and her fam, so maybe that’s why.

By the time we got to Perryton, in the Texas panhandle, I was throwing up my socks. (And anything else remotely close to my tummy.) I was sick! Sick! Sick! for about twelve hours, then I got better.

G-Man came down with the illness next, and one by one, most of us caught it.

We left Liz’s the next day and drove into Colorado, and the scenery was gorgeous! I’m not sure where we spent that next night, but it seems as if we crossed a mountain and pulled into a camping area in a small valley.

Talk about beautiful! (If I could find the place on a map, I’d go back today!) There were mountains all around us. The clouds looked as if they tripped over those mountains, then sat there in the trees and laughed at us.

There was a large pond fed by a stream for us to fish in. A beaver the size of a Chocolate Lab (I promise, he was that big!) lived in the pond. So much fun to watch!

Brother Jeffrey was sick while we were there, and I’m sure he appreciated me having shared the illness. But he didn’t feel good enough to mention it. In fact, he was so sick, his moans echoed off the mountains and scared away the wild animals.

We usually cooked over a campfire on that trip. Aunt Phyllis was a marvel! She could fill a huge skillet with eggs, fried them just right (sunny side up and runny) then slipped the entire thing onto a plate without breaking a single yoke! That woman had talent!!! (You should have tasted her fried chicken! Y-U-M!!!)

We traveled on to Gunnison after that. Melvin had worked in that area on Taylor Lake back when he was a young man. It had been a job like the CCC, during the Great Depression, I believe, and he wanted to see it again.

Ever been to Gunnison or Taylor Lake? Oh, my stars! It’s one of the prettiest places on earth.

Here are a few pictures I found online. (Sorry. I wish they were mine.)

This picture is by Michael E. Gordon–


And this one is from Allison Bruning’s blog. 

allisonbruningIsn’t the lake surrounded by mountains just gorgeous? In case you go to Allison’s blog to read more about Taylor’s Crossing, what you’re reading is mostly fiction. We spent some time in the Taylor Lake area, and there’s nothing remotely scary. All my memories of the place are bright and happy! But if you like paranormal fiction, she has a good blog!

This post is getting a little long, so on TBT I’ll tell you more about our Big Yellowstone Trip.

Have you ever gone on a huge vaca with the whole family?

How did yours turn out?





When you’re on vaca, what do you like to do?

As an uber amateur photographer, I like to snap shots of the fam.

eureka-kissand friends


(Okay, I didn’t meet her, but I have a feeling we would have been friends if we’d had a chance. 🙂 )

I like to take pictures of old barns

cool-old-barnnot so old barns

barn,-barnand things in between.



And old homes.

eureka-buildingCool old place, isn’t it?

It’s even cooler like this–

eureka-building-2I like cabins,

eureka-cabinand teepees,

eureka-teepeewith their very own bear standing out front. (How cool is that?)

eureka-homeThis house is one of my very favorites. Know why?

Because, I’m practically positive, it has a story to tell. 😉

Besides fam, what’s your favorite picture topic?

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Granddad Ray & a Vaca

There’s a blog about vacations called Bucket List Publications. The author is an adorable young woman who travels all over, photographing the world and having grand adventures.

I’m willing to bet she didn’t have a granddad like mine.

The sibs and I grew up living next door to our paternal grandparents. If you ever wondered what it would be like to have two sets of parents, ask me sometime.

Granddad Ray taught his children and grandchildren a great work ethic, and he did that by LOVING his work. He had many jobs in his life (butcher, PA, grocery store merchant, rancher, farmer and You-Name-It-He-Done-It-In-The-Patch) and from what I’ve been able to tell, he loved the guts out of every one of them.

What he didn’t love–honestly didn’t understand–were vacations. It wasn’t that he thought something bad might happen when he was gone. He didn’t even worry that someone would steal what he thought was his.

Granddad just loved working so much, he wanted to be there. He thought everyone should. He didn’t understand why anyone ever wanted a break from it. Of course, that didn’t stop his sons from taking vacations. 🙂

Because my fam lived next door, if we took a vacation, we usually invited G & G to go with us. Often, Grandmother would go. Usually, Granddad did not, but once in a while . . .

One year, Granddad went to Branson with us. I’m not sure why, because we hadn’t been there long when he threatened to take his car (the one I was driving to college, and had driven directly there to meet them) and go home.

Another time, just after we got to Colorado, he wanted to head home.

Grandmother, on the other hand, loved going and happily stayed without complaint. She was a real trooper. Of course, she might have taken after her father.

Granddad Mitchell operated a filling station when my dad was a kid. Dad’s the youngest in his fam, and Uncle Frank is #1. When UF graduated high school, WWII was just underway, and his girlfriend had moved to California. (I’m guessing it had to do with her father and war work, but I don’t know for sure.)

UF missed her and wanted drive out to visit, so Granddad suggested Grandmother, Aunt Phyllis and Dad should go along, too.  As they were on their way out of town, they stopped to fill up at Granddad Mitchell’s gas station.

“Come and go with us,” Grandmother quipped as her dad filled up their car.

“I’ll be right back,” he answered.

Ten minutes later, they headed west. Grandmother, Frank, Phyllis, Dad and Granddad Mitchell.

First time I heard that story, I was more than a little surprised. Who can decide and get ready to go on a vaca in just ten minutes? What about having enough clothes? Planning which way and where to stay?

And what about money? Even though someone had already planned and was carrying enough money to pay for gas, etc. on the trip, Granddad would be an extra mouth to feed, and an extra bed to rent. They didn’t have credit cards back then. What did they do?

Dad said Granddad took a ten dollar bill along. I know things cost much less right after the depression, but three meals a day, all they way to California and back for $10? That’s some budgeting.

And what about the station? Who took care of it?

Grandma Mitchell, of course.

I asked Dad if Grandma M got upset with Granddad for taking off like that.

He said Grandma was never upset with Granddad.

“I never saw her mad at him. She was a hard worker, always busy with one thing or another, and she never complained. Anything Granddad wanted to do was ‘jake’ with her.”

On the way out there, they had breakfast in a small town in New Mexico. Aunt Phyllis ordered a hamburger for breakfast, surprising Dad and the rest of the vacationers.

When they were in the car later, Phyllis swore the burger tasted so bad, it had to have been horse meat.

He never did figure out how she knew what horse meat tasted like.

Our family vacas aren’t even close to the ones Lesley has on her Bucket List, but with relatives like mine, we go at them from a whole different angle. 😉

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Get the Roar

The first time I Roared was a long, long time ago. I was in college, and the drama group went to the Branson area to see the play, “Shepherd of the Hills.” If you haven’t seen it when you were visiting Branson, check it out. It’s great.

But before we got to the play, we stopped near Cassville, Missouri, at Roaring River State Park.

I love fishing, so when I found myself at a fish hatchery, I was in heaven. We didn’t stay long enough for me to wet a line, but I promised myself I’d go back someday.

I did. 🙂

The next time I went, I was MWOC. (Married Without Chrildren.)

We stopped by on our way someplace else. When we pulled up, they were moving the fish. They graduate by size from one pool to another.

The graduation ceremony was in a pickup. No kidding. They lined a pickup bed with a tarp, filled it with water, caught a bunch of fingerlings in a net and tossed them up and over, right into the bed of that truck.

It gave a whole new meaning to flying fish. 🙂

They drove to another cement pond, opened the tailgate and let them out.

I was amazed by the process. When they finished, we walked along the trails and found out way into a cave the river went into. You could see huge rainbow trout deep in the water.

No fishing allowed in that area.

Then several years later when we were MWC, we went again. This time we rented a cabin and stayed a couple of days. Nothing fancy, just a safe, clean place to stay.

The hatchery released fish early in the morning, and fishermen lined the river banks, trying to catch them.

Because our littlest boys were only about two and four, Gary, Danny and I did most of the fishing. Well, Gary and Danny did. I couldn’t get much fishing in because I couldn’t pay attention to my line and my kiddos.

And my kiddos were way more important to me than catching fish.

Matt, Gary and in the striped shorts, Danny.

Fishing probably isn’t the best vaca plan if you have fairly small kids, unless they’re like I was when I was little.

Grandma said she’d fix me a pole with just a weight and no hook when I was that small, and I’d sit and fish for hours. Made her feel guilty. 😉

Anyway, the little boys played way more than they fished. The weeds and wildflowers were about waist high on them, but they plowed right through and had a great time.

The only other people I remember fishing that day were Amish. I could tell by their dress and lack of buttons.  A very cute teenaged Amish girl with a man I figured was her new husband, because she flirted like nothing I’d seen in a religious girl. I figured they were on their honeymoon.

We didn’t catch any fish. No one near us caught a fish. In fact, I’ve never seen a fish caught there.

Why? I’m not sure. Maybe trout don’t bite on the days when I’m there. Or maybe the hatchery feeds those babies just before they release them.

Or maybe the trout are so smart, they’re making tracks for Kansas and don’t have time to stop for a nibble.

We caught something else that day, though. The world’s smallest ticks. Smaller than seed ticks. Smaller than flakes of pepper. So small, you couldn’t grab them with a pair of tweezers. They only way to get them off was by scraping with your fingernail.

And you know a tick’s favorite place to bite? Your tenderest parts.

Please, don’t visit Roaring River if you need to catch enough fish to feed you for the winter. Probably won’t happen.

Only go there if you want a laid back, easy time away from home. The area is beautiful. Hiking trails plentiful. There’s even a swimming area, although we didn’t use it.

You can see more pictures on their website. Some of these pictures came from there.

The one of my fam is mine. 🙂