Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Dangdest Thing

Mother's Day is passed, but my mom deserves more accolades. 

She's always shown God's love in action, extending it even to a doomed orphaned calf.

I wrote this story,  published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom, in her honor.

The Dangdest Thing

“You’re wasting your time. It’s going to die.” My father crossed his arms and
glared at Mom.
Photo courtesy of graur razvan ionut at freedigitalphotos.com

She poured milk into the baby bottle, screwed on the lid and said, “Yes, I know.”

Earlier that day Mom had taken me shopping at Phillips Department Store, the
1960’s equivalent of a mall. On the walk home we’d taken a shortcut through the Omaha
stockyards and noticed a newborn calf alone, bawling pitifully in one of the pens. Now as
we prepared to go back, my father scowled.

He worked innumerable overtime hours on the Post Office docks. On this rare day
off he needed to tackle his enormous honey-do list. The prospect of caring for their three
toddler sons while his wife fed a doomed calf galled him.

Mom touched Dad’s arm. “Honey, even if it’s meant for slaughter, it isn’t right to
let it suffer now.”

Dad rolled his eyes and stomped out of the kitchen. Mom tucked the bottle in her
back pocket, took my hand, and we headed out the door.
photo courtesy of imagerymajestic at freedigitalphotos.net

I skipped at her side, elated by our rescue adventure. “I’m so glad we’re going to
save the calf.”

Her grip on my hand tightened, but she walked on without answering. I slowed
down and tugged at her.

“Mom, it’ll be okay, right? We’ll save it, won’t we?”

My mother stopped and sighed. She reached down to brush the hair from my
forehead. “No honey, we can’t save it.”

I pulled away, tears welling. “But we’re going to feed it. It has to be okay.”

Mom cupped my cheek with a gentle hand. “We can’t save it. But we can help it
now.” She captured my gaze.  
“It’s important to always do the right thing, even if you can’t change the outcome.”

She clasped my hand again and we headed to our task, somber now.
photo courtesy of xura at freedigitalphotos.net

When we arrived the 250-acre stockyard teemed with activity and a smell that
carried for miles. Even my familiarity with that odor didn’t prepare me for the stench
inside the holding pens. Our calf huddled in the corner of one.

A stock handler rode over as we climbed the manure-splattered rails. “Ma’am,
photo courtesy of franky242 at freedigitalphoto.com
what are you doin’?” he called.

We perched on the top rail and Mom held up the bottle. “We’ve come to feed the
The cowboy shook his head. “Its mama birthed him then went into the
slaughterhouse. That little feller ain’t gonna make it.”

Mom allowed his horse to nuzzle her hand. “I realize that.”

The cowboy pushed his Stetson back and asked, “Then why bother?”

photo courtesy of  Gualberto107 at freedigitalphotos.net
She reached out, stroked his horse’s sweaty neck and said, “Because it’s hungry,
and feeding it is the right thing to do.”

The man leaned back in the saddle. “That’s the dangdest thing I ever heard.”

She petted the horse without replying. Whether it was her determination, her
evident appreciation of his horse, or her good looks, he finally shrugged and said, “Suit

He trotted away and Mom and I slipped into the enclosure. We avoided the flyladen
piles of manure and crossed to the calf. Despite its feeble struggles, Mom upended
the bottle and slid the nipple into its mouth.

She guided my hand to the bottle and steadied the shaky calf. It caught on quickly, and stared at me as it guzzled the milk.
Elated, I stroked its damp coat with my free hand.
Photo courtesy of graur razvan ionut at freedigitalphotos.com

The calf drained the bottle and plopped down, content. Mom smiled. “Let’s get
home before Dad pulls his hair out. We’ll come back tomorrow.”

The next day we hurried back, but found the pen empty. Mom’s shoulders
drooped. I buried my head against her side and wept. “It’s gone. It’s dead.”

While she comforted me our cowboy cantered over. “Ya’ll looking for that calf?”
I lifted my tear-streaked face. Mom nodded.

“It’s the dangdest thing. A farmer stopped by yesterday after you left.” A huge
grin crossed the cowboy’s face. “He took the little feller home to raise. Guess feedin’ it
was the right thing to do after all.”

That day Mom did more than save a calf’s life. Her actions impacted mine forever by imprinting the importance of doing the right thing. Her model has produced a legacy that’s been passed down to three generations.

And it all started with feeding a hungry calf.
It’s the dangdest thing. 

My wonderful parents, center front

On Thursday May 28th I'll share tips to get your stories published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. 
Visit the Wordsowers Christian Writers group from 6:00-7:45 PM at the Swanson library, 9101 W. Dodge Rd., Omaha, NE.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mothers and other Heroes

She crawled down the hallway toward her children. 

She ignored her roiling stomach, her fever, the pervasive weakness.

Her children needed her. And that kept her moving.

All four little ones suffered with acute stomach flu, as did she. So instead of collapsing into her own bed, she tended to them.

Between bouts of emptying her own stomach, she wiped small sweaty brows and spoke reassuring words.

At first I watched her brace herself against the wall to stagger from sickbed to sickbed.

Two days passed and she could no longer walk upright. She crawled from child to child in a nightmare cycle of emptying vomit-filled buckets and stripping soiled sheets.

Decades later the image of my mother dragging herself to our bedsides remains burned into my memory, a picture of selfless devotion.

Our beautiful mother, center, in red velvet blouse.
For my brothers and me, Mom has been a one-woman cheering squad, our confidant, and a fount of wisdom. Now she extends that same boundless love to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Proverbs 31: 26-28 describes our mother.

"When she speaks, her words are wise,
and she gives instructions with kindness....
Her children stand and bless her.

Mom, thank you for your diligence, your patience, and your love. You're the best.

Mom, center, at son Chris' wedding.