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I Saw God Today

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By Beth Watkins

Nature is so majestically breathtaking because it is the perfect balance of order and chaos; predictable yet ever changing. This combination creates an endless cycle of life and death that is both hypnotic and sobering. In nature we see the consistency of how everything works together to create something greater than itself. Well, unless you wonder why God created flies, ticks or mosquitos, spiders and snakes. Spending time outside surrounded by nature is generally always peaceful and awe-inspiring. I never really thought about how trees end up growing along a fence line until my life included cows. Sitting on a tailgate in a pasture eating lunch, you have time to question these things. The answer is birds! They eat seeds, and drop seeds literally from both ends all while sitting on barbed wire. Sitting on a pond bank fishing, pondering, how do fish get in a pond that has never been stocked? The answer again, birds and other waterfowl transport fish eggs from other ponds. Sitting on my porch swing watching the sunset, I came to the realization that sunsets and sunrises are determined by  where you stand on this big blue marble. 

I’ve seen a few sunrises in my many years of life. I’m not a morning person at all, so if I catch a glimpse of a sunrise, I’m in go-mode and there is most definitely a reason I am awake. I’ll confess I’ve probably seen the most sunrises in the fall on my way to Arkansas for a craft fair. Shopping is always a great motivator for early mornings. I do get up early on Sunday mornings, but I’m in a hurry to get dressed and make myself “public” presentable, so I don’t have time to check on the sunrise. Why am I in a hurry? Because I have hit the snooze button two or three too many times. Thankfully I have a cup of coffee on my twenty-five minute car ride to church, which gives me time to catch my breath and tune-up my social interaction meter.

From what I can tell most people fall into two categories: an early bird or a night owl. I’m here to tell you there should be a third option, and I shall name it poised peacock. A poised peacock is neither an early bird or a night owl, but is a unique individual that is highly functional from 10:30am till about 10:30pm. If you have to be classified as some sort of fowl, I would say that category best describes my routine. The feathers can be fully extended at exactly 10:30am and remain up for the next twelve hours but, at 10:31 I’m down for the count.

I’ve been told you get a lot more done in a day if you get up earlier. I understand that concept, I’m just not a fan. I’m not shallow or narrow minded. I’ve given it a try. I’ve had babies, they’ve gone to school, I had to be up early, and still didn’t function well until after 10:30am. For this season of my life, I’m an empty nester (there we go with the bird analogies again!) and very fortunate, I write my own schedule. Even in the summertime when my husband puts me to work; you can’t cut or bale hay until the dew dries up, so no early mornings for this princess.

 These days I prefer the time when evening begins closing in; time seems to slow down. The chores are finished for the day. It’s free time; time to choose how to spend the next few hours. If we compared our life span to the clock on the wall. I’m a few minutes after 6:00pm. For this analogy, ideally it’s a summer day that is coming to a close, which means the sun won’t set on my life till a little after 9:00pm. I am savoring these last relaxing hours, before the sunsets for good. A breathtaking sunset is the epitome of fading beauty. For a moment a glorious array of color is adored and then it’s over. Yet, the effects of admiration last long after the light has gone. My hope is that I have left an enduring impression on the hearts of my friends and family. 

Like each sunset, everyday is different, you can watch the sunset on the horizon from the same spot everyday, but it will never look the same. Oftentimes I’m overwhelmed at the amount of peace you can find from just taking a moment to breathe in the beauty that God has created. Some of the most beautiful sunsets are formed from the presence of clouds in the sky. Which reminds me of Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose. I can testify to this truth; all things are not good, but we have a good God in all things.

Maybe Sunsets are my favorite because no matter what you are doing you are instinctively drawn to admire nature’s beauty, the moment the world just stands still, you forget your worries and you can breathe deeper and become refreshed, you can’t help but see God in a sunset.  I’ve watched the sun drown in the Atlantic while traveling on a cruise ship headed west as Calypso music filled the air. I’ve caught a rather quick indescribable colorful sunset from Waikiki Beach as the Hawaiin drum beats livened the atmosphere. I’ve sat quietly on a beach in California hearing only the calming effects of the pacific waters as the sun slowly sunk. But still the grandest and most satisfying sunset of them all is the one viewed here, from home; where, in the summer, the frogs in the nearby pond begin their musical contribution to this glorious presentation; crickets begin warming up their instruments; cows eating grass close-by seem to keep the rhythm going as the colors in the sky begin to vibrate; as the sun sinks lower in the Oklahoma sky for the grand finale as the lights go down. Grateful for another inspirational end to an ordinary day, where the paved road ends.

Read more in the March 2023 issue of Oklahoma Farm & Ranch.

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Country Lifestyle

Western Housewives – June 2024

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Life consists of small events that define us. Sometimes, it’s something as simple as eating cake with your two-year-old at midnight at your sister’s wedding. Sometimes, it’s something as painful as taking your two-week-old to the emergency room with RSV and living there for a week. Both are moments that changed me, and both are moments that I’ll remember forever.

Often my defining moments have happened on the back of a horse. I guess that is because that is where I have spent most of my life. It has made me pay special attention to each horse I have ridden during different stages of my life.

My first horse was a big bay horse that was must have reminded me of Greek mythology because it took me about two seconds to name him “Hercules.” He was the perfect mount for a five-year-old that acted tough but was secretly scared of her own shadow. Once I got Hercules, I could start going to work with my dad. We gathered wheat pastures and road pens, and he let me sit in the round pen on Hercules while he worked his sale horses. At the ripe age of five I was a pretty seasoned pen rider and had the sour disposition to prove it.

One morning we had a lot of wheat pasture freshies to turn out. Naturally, they ran off as soon as they got off the truck. Babies cry, and wheat pasture cattle run off the truck; I don’t make the rules.

My Dad had to leave me and get in front of the herd to keep them from crashing into the fence. I’m sure he told me just to stay put, but Hercules got excited by all the commotion and started following the impending stampede. Now I realize that I was safe the entire time, but, at that moment, I was certain my life was over. I was dramatic even as a youngster. Would Hercules ever stop? Would he try and jump the sprinkler tracks? What if he runs through the hot wire? And most importantly, what will I tell my friends?

About the time I was ready to jump into the dirt my Dad ran up beside me and helped me stop Hercules. I was safe, my adrenaline was pumping and I was promised an Allsup’s Coke for all my troubles. That was a defining moment in my life. I realized the more danger you got yourself in to, the much bigger the condolence award. As long as I was able to keep it to an Allsup’s Coke level of danger I would be just fine.

The next horse I truly loved was named “Alotofbull” He was anything but full of bull. He was big, cowy, and athletic. He scared me just a little but that’s what made me love him the most. My Dad and I won countless events on Alotofbull. My Dad has true horsemanship pumping through his veins, but I can only credit my riding success to Alotofbull. He made things easy for me and I felt I was nothing without him.

Even after all the ribbons, the moment I remember the most about him wasn’t in the showpen. it was in the middle of nowhere on a place we called “The Cain.” The Cain was where I spent many fall afternoons and summer mornings. It was full of Sandhills, cactus that were found of my backside every time my seat left the saddle, and absolutely no sign of civilization.  We would push cows to water, move pastures, and do other slow-paced things that were good for the horse and for the mind. I loved it there.

One afternoon in the middle of June, my Dad and I were moving some cattle to water. After we were done we came upon a set of old pens that my Dad had branded calves in with his Dad a long time ago. My Dad got quiet and solemn. Traits that were unusual for him. He started to reminisce of times long ago and told me how much he wished all his kids had gotten to know his Dad before he had passed away many years prior. I was only 14 at the time, and I was having trouble holding back tears myself. I leaned forward and played with Alotofbull’s black mane. I knew my grandfather had been a special man and I knew my Dad had cherished him. It made me see my Dad in a different light going forward. Yes, he was strong and resilient, but he was also human, just like the rest of us. He had a vulnerability in his life, too. It was a moment that taught me not to be afraid to talk about the hard stuff but to always press on. No matter what.

Many years later, I found myself in beautiful Oklahoma on a horse named “Reuben.” He was my then-boyfriend’s horse and was the only quick and little horse I had ever ridden. He was spunky and made me feel like better help than I was as we gathered pairs to wean that morning.

The sun was just coming up over the cottonwood trees, making the dewy grass shine. I looked over at the man beside me and just knew I would spend the rest of my life doing this very thing with him. I didn’t care if we ever had money or much of anything, really. As long as we were together, loving God, and riding good horses, I didn’t care about anything else.

About 12 hours later, after a long day and a few incidents that may or may not have involved me getting run over by a yearling, that same man proposed to me. We had never talked about it out loud, but I guess God had put it in both of our hearts. It was a moment that, of course, changed the rest of my life. It taught me not to overthink things when they are right and that an Oklahoma cowboy was just what my life needed.

I’ve had many horses and many defining moments in my life. Sometimes, I have loved the horse, and sometimes, I have not. The same goes for the moments. Nevertheless, each horse and moment has taught me something. After all this time, I am convinced that no matter how old I get, I will never be too old to ride a good horse because I will never be too old for a defining moment.

That being said, if one or two of my life lessons could involve another Allsup’s Coke, that’d be all right by me.

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A Beginners Guide to Fishing

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It seems that the subjects of countless profiles in the past year have mentioned, whether in passing or as part of a larger discussion, that the COVID-19 pandemic changed Oklahoma’s landscape in numerous ways. By and large, the overwhelming observation is that Okies in urban areas have begun migrating to the country, and are embracing the rural lifestyle. Small farms are popping up with a variety of animals, and gardens are being planted where there wasn’t one before.

It made me think that there are likely people out there who don’t know the basics of one of Oklahoma’s favorite pastimes: fishing.

With countless lakes, rivers, and streams teeming with a diverse array of fish species, Oklahoma offers ample opportunities for anglers of all ages and skill levels to cast their lines and reel in memorable catches.

If you’re new to fishing and eager to dip your toes into the water, don’t be afraid. Here are a few basic concepts to get you started.

Understanding Oklahoma’s Fishing Scene

Before you embark on your angling adventure, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with Oklahoma’s diverse fishing opportunities. From largemouth bass in the renowned Lake Texoma to catfish in the Red River, each region of the state offers its own distinct fishing experience. Consult resources such as the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation website and local fishing guides to discover prime fishing spots near you and learn about the regulations and licensing requirements specific to Oklahoma waters.

Gear Up

One of the first steps in getting started with fishing is acquiring the necessary gear. For beginners, a basic fishing rod and reel combo will suffice. Opt for a versatile spinning or spincast reel paired with a medium-action rod, which offers flexibility and ease of use for a variety of fishing techniques. Additionally, invest in essential tackle such as hooks, sinkers, bobbers, and a selection of artificial lures or live bait, depending on your preferred fishing style and target species.

Learn the Ropes

Before you hit the water, take some time to familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of fishing. Practice tying basic fishing knots, which are essential for securing your line and attaching hooks and lures. Watch online tutorials or consult instructional books and videos tailored to beginner anglers to learn casting techniques, proper rod handling, and best fish handling practices.

Choose Your Fishing Spot

Oklahoma boasts an abundance of fishing hotspots, ranging from expansive reservoirs and scenic rivers to hidden ponds and urban lakes. Consider factors such as proximity, accessibility, and the type of fish you’re targeting when selecting your fishing spot. Popular destinations for beginners include Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City, Lake Thunderbird near Norman, and the Illinois River in northeastern Oklahoma, known for its scenic beauty and excellent trout fishing.

There are also countless farm ponds, but, I hope it goes without saying, you must obtain the land-owner’s permission to access their lands and fish their ponds.

Follow Fishing Regulations

Before you embark on your fishing excursion, familiarize yourself with Oklahoma’s fishing regulations and licensing requirements. The ODWC website provides up-to-date information on fishing seasons, bag limits, size restrictions, and license fees. Remember to obtain a valid fishing license and any additional permits required for specific fishing locations or species, as failure to comply with regulations can result in fines and penalties.

Practice Patience and Persistence

Fishing is as much about patience and persistence as it is about skill and technique. Be prepared to spend time waiting for the fish to bite, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t reel in a trophy catch on your first outing. Experiment with different baits, lures, and fishing techniques, and don’t be afraid to seek advice from experienced anglers or local bait shops. You’ll soon become more proficient and confident in your fishing abilities with practice and perseverance.

By gearing up with the right equipment, learning essential fishing skills, choosing the perfect fishing spot, following regulations, and embracing patience and persistence, beginners can set themselves up for a rewarding and enjoyable fishing experience in the Sooner State.

References:

Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). “Fishing Regulations.” wildlife.ok.gov/fishing/regulations

ODWC. “Fishing in Oklahoma.” wildlife.ok.gov/fishing

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Country Lifestyle

Lacey’s Pantry – Beef Chimichangas

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Servings: 8

Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

1-2 cups vegetable oil

½ cup diced white onion

2 tsp minced garlic

½ TBSP chili powder

¼ tsp oregano

½ tsp ground cumin

1 lb. ground beef

1 tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

½ to a full can of Rotel tomatoes and green chilis

8 (burrito-sized) flour tortillas, warmed

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Toppings: salsa, sour cream, guacamole, queso

Instructions:

Brown hamburger meat and onions in a large skillet until onions are slightly softened. Add in garlic chili powder, oregano and cumin. Stir and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in Rotel. Cook and stir another five minutes. Set aside.

Warm tortillas in the microwave. On each tortilla, place about ½ cup of meat mixture. Do not overfill. Top with shredded cheese. Fold sides over the meat and cheese, then fold bottom over the sides and roll up. Place all folded chimichangas, seam side down, on a large plate and repeat with remaining tortillas.

In a separate large skillet, pour enough vegetable oil to fill 2 inches full of oil. Heat oil over low heat. The oil needs to reach 375 degrees. Using tongs, lower one chimichanga at a time into the hot oil, seam side down. Fry until golden brown on both sides, 1-2 minutes on each side. Place cooked chimichangas on a paper towel lined place to absorb oil. Repeat with the rest of the chimichangas. Serve warm with your favorite toppings.

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