Magic of the Rocks

Thousands of glittering bits of light shone up at me, greeting my eyes with their iridescent appearance and reflection. Not that it was overwhelming – it wasn’t. It was that their lighted reflections were simply amazing. Their appearance was beyond belief and thought. They looked like stars against a sand-grained canopy of heaven – yet, I was looking down, instead of up. And it was daylight, or at least it would be for a couple of more hours before the sun finally set and declared that it was bedtime on my part of the spinning sphere we called Earth.

Light had suddenly torn through the sky in between gray clouds, across the dark green field, and onto the individual facets of mica-speckled gravel that dotted the road next to my house. Unbeknownst to me at the time, those rays of light had traveled for eight minutes through space to get there from the surface of the giant, heavenly orb in order to touch the tiny surfaces of the gravel and bounce up into my eyes. Some would say that the light was going to bounce up anyway – whether I was there to see it or not. But for some reason, I was standing in the right place at the right time. And as a result, I saw some amazing things.

It was well worth the arduous trip to get there – okay, it was really only a short walk from the living room inside the house to the dirt road outside. Still, it seemed like a huge trek since I didn’t want to miss watching some show on TV. Now, I can’t even remember what was on, but I’m sure it seemed extremely important to not miss at the time.

Despite the temptation to be lazy and stay inside, I mustered up some strength (or was told to go out) and left the comfort of the soft, interior of the house. And by doing so, I was richly rewarded. Within those next few minutes, I was allowed to see and enjoy wonderments that still reside in my memories, today.

Hundreds of rocks lined the road. Sure, I had seen most of the same ones multiple times before, over the years and earlier that same week. But this time, the rocks stood out as a momentary glance into the inner workings of the brilliance that goes on all the time in the background, yet typically remains unseen by eyes unaware.

A slight breeze blew through right then, too. It was just enough moving air to push tiny, leftover bits of water around on the thousands of facets that were causing the push of radiance from the ground up toward my face.

The gray clouds – that the sunlight was passing through – were the same ones that had just filled the sky and dumped buckets of rain in only a few minutes. Now, they were clearing out – blowing on to other parts East – to wet more fields and roads there and to wash the dirt from other rocks, so the sun could dance across those tiny mirrors and reflect up into other little boys’ eyes, as well.

Kneeling down onto the wet dirt road, I absorbed the sights that surrounded me. The sheer volume of reflecting light rays was overwhelming, yet glorious at the same time. I picked up a couple of the wet rocks and rolled them around in my small palm. With each movement side-to-side and back-and-forth, they convinced me that I now held some incredible form of magic.

All up and down the road, there lay before my eyes an abundance of shimmering, changing particles of light – bouncing here and there, as I walked excitedly. I soon learned that they would disappear and reappear with each drying out and subsequent rewetting. In the future, I anticipated the coming and going of each rainstorm, knowing that the magic of the rocks would return.

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This was adapted from one of my upcoming books.  For ones currently published, go to www.Amazon.com/author/reep

 

Writing Songs In 15

When we were little, my sister, brother, and I would challenge each other to adapt a song on the radio or make up a new one within 10-15 minutes.  The catch was you had to be able to sing it back before time was up.

“Song time! You’re IT!”  Whoever was “IT” would ask, “Okay, what do you want this one to be? Fast and happy? Or slow and sad?”  We would fire back responses at each other: “Tell a story; but you have to use names of random objects around you; also has to rhyme.”  “Ok. Challenge accepted.”

Then all of us would go back to doing what we were doing while “IT” was making up the song.  This would be done while we were hoeing the garden, milking cows, feeding calves, baling hay, or any of the other things we regularly did.

At the end of 15 minutes, somebody would yell, “Time’s up!” and “IT” would perform.  Usually though, the impromptu songwriter would be done in just a few minutes and start singing on his/her own.

The other two would listen for tune, rhythm, rhyming lines, and whether the song met all of the other requested conditions.  If it was bad, we would “boo” the singer and have them re-do it.  If it was good, we would pretend we were the audience in a giant concert hall and applaud like there was no tomorrow.

When we were in the barn milking with the radio on or at home in our room with the stereo, my brother would always say, “If you’re gonna sing along, sound like the song!”  So, if it was a new record or cassette, we would listen to the song with our eyes shut one time, the whole way through.  Then we would sing it back, sounding just like song.  After that, we were allowed to sing out loud anytime the song was on.

Part of our ability to “write” all sorts of songs was because of the old, beige radio in the barn.  It was always on to help hide the monotonous sound of the generator outside and to help kill the boredom of milking time.  Whoever was in charge of milking on any given day determined the flavor of music we listened to for the whole two hours.

If Clifford was in charge, the Country sounds of Hank, Merle, Dolly, Waylon, and Loretta filled the air.  We learned the songs and sang along (on pitch!).

If Bob was in charge, the R&B and Soul sounds of The Temptations, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Kool & The Gang, Four Tops, and Marvin Gaye filled the air.  We learned those, too, and sang along.

If Daddy was in charge of milking, the radio station altered between old-timey gospel and Prairie Home Companion (I think that’s part of where our storytelling side came from).  Again, we learned the tunes and the words, otherwise it would have been a very boring two-hour stint in the barn.

When Kelly was in charge, it was AC/DC, Def Leppard, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Foreigner, The Beatles, Boston, and Molly Hatchet full-on.  Those we knew the best because it was what we listened to the most, outside of the barn.

As we got older and our inventory of “music heard” increased, our ability to write songs improved.  We could think up lyrics on the fly, change them to rhyme, or add in a word that one of us (usually Kelly) would randomly throw out, to keep us on our toes.

While we were kids, we shared our “secret” with a few people over the years, but ironically it was met with fizzle.  We were repeatedly told there was no money in show business.  That always seemed a bit strange since we constantly heard new songs on the radio and watched movies on TV… hmmm.  So, we kept our little gift to ourselves and only wrote songs when the two or three of us were alone together at home or out working together.

However, over the years, Janet has been asked to sing a number of times at weddings, funerals, and in church services.  She’s even laid down some tracks in the studio.  I’ve quietly written 40 – 50 songs and have been looking for ways to “get them out there.”  Kelly’s ears and eyes of accuracy are still as sharp as ever.

Recently though, our secret came out. Somebody at work played an instrumental tune he recorded.  Without thinking about it, I started singing along, making up lyrics on the fly.  He stopped the track and asked, “What’s that?”  I said, “Oh, sorry. It just…sort of came out.”  He said, “No man, that was great!  Was that just a fluke, or could you do that for some other tunes, too?”  I grinned and answered, “Yeah, sure.  Let’s hear ‘em.”

So, there you have it.  If you’d like a song written for a tune you have, let us know.  My siblings and I will take our time and make it sound nice.  Or if you’d like to test us, we’ll write you one in 15 minutes.  ‘Cause we can still do that, too!

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You can email me at martyjreep (at) yahoo.com.  This article was adapted from one of my upcoming books.  For ones currently published, go to www.Amazon.com/author/reep

Lightning Storms in the Field

Every other weekend during the school year, it was our turn to milk. My brother and I would help Daddy milk Saturday evening, Sunday morning, and Sunday evening. We also fed the cows Saturday and Sunday, midday. Sometimes when people were out sick or on vacation, we helped during the week – but mostly every other weekend.

During the summer, though, it was a different story. Any morning or evening was fair game, depending on what was going on. If hay needed to be baled, then somebody milked while somebody else baled. If it was a silage-cutting time, one guy cut silage, one drove wagons back and forth to the field, and another packed the silo with a front end loader. Two others milked.

Of course, the wild card in all of that was the weather. If it was sunny and warm out, life was good. But if it was stormy or overly hot, that was a different story. Likewise, rainstorms were something amazing to watch. It was always interesting to see just how close the clouds would get before they unleashed their water from above.

Sure, most people look at rain clouds and think, “Oh look…how pretty.” But if you’ve ever been caught out in a storm, then you probably don’t automatically think that anymore. I can’t tell you how many storms I’ve gotten caught out in. A lot of times, they would come up so suddenly that I didn’t notice they were blocking the sunshine until they were already upon me. By then, it was too late. The big fear always seemed to be about getting struck by lightning.

We could be out in the field on any given day, and Daddy would come check on us periodically. He was usually easy-going and laid back – driving slow and rarely a worried look on his face. But baby, let the sky crack loose a couple of wicked, shimmering bolts of electricity and everything changed!

That blue pickup would come flying across the fields to snatch us off the tractor quicker than a rabbit running away from a combine in second gear. Depending on which field we were in, we’d wind up going to Mamaw’s house or to our house for the duration of the heavenly electric show.

I actually liked it when that happened, because going to Mamaw’s house meant getting to eat some of her pound cake and drinking cool well water from the kitchen sink. On the other hand, going home to wait out the weather meant peanut butter and crackers and sweet tea. So, either was a win.

Either way, though, it meant that the tractor seat was going to be wet when I got back to the field. Some things just couldn’t be avoided. Sure, in a perfect world, I would have known the storm was coming and was going to have lightning in it that time – meaning we would be leaving the field for a while. But also in a perfect world, the silage would have cut itself, and we wouldn’t have had to be out there in the first place. But, that’s not how it happened. We had to cut the silage to feed to the cows – just like we had to drive the tractors that got the job done.

I’m grateful that I had the chance to get wet, driving the John Deere in the rain. In a lot of ways, it made us better kids then and better adults now. None of us take dry clothes and hospitality for granted. We’re grateful for them all the time.

Once in a while, I’m guilty of complaining about something as simple as getting my sock feet wet in the kitchen if there’s something wet on the floor. But then I’ll stop, shake my head, remember the storms in the field, and smile because I’m not soaked from head to toe. It really is amazing how things in life shape who we are and how we react to them.

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This article was adapted from one of Reep’s upcoming books. To read ones currently published, go to Amazon.com/author/reep

Collecting Eggs with a Shotgun

“Boom!” went Ol’ Betsy, as I pulled both triggers of the double-barrel 12 gauge shotgun. The rats I was aiming at disappeared into thin air.

“Holy crap! Did you see that?” I asked my sister. “What?!” she yelled back at me. Both of us were a little deaf from the sound of the gun. “Where’d they go?” she asked. “I don’t know, but I don’t think they got away.”

Two rats had been in the corner trying to add to our consternation by increasing their population. We had entered the chicken house at that moment just to gather the eggs, but, well…timing is everything, I guess.

Meanwhile, all the chickens had fled to the other side of the building. They stared at us for a moment and then went back to pecking, cooing, and cackling. The amount of manure had increased slightly in that area for some reason, though.

We stood there for a few moments looking at the gaping hole in the back corner near the floorboards. Finally, I said, “I guess I should go find a piece of wood to nail over that.” “Yeah, probably,” was my sister’s reply. The corner where I had aimed and fired now had a jagged, new opening instead of a rough, closed look to it. We laughed, and then I added, “At least it worked.”

For weeks before that, the rat problem had been getting worse. The last straw came after I had shaken down the feeder and two rats jumped out instead of beautiful, golden chicken feed. That was when I had had enough.

It was one thing for the rats to live under the chicken house and mind their own business. That was fine. But when they started eating up the food that was for our livestock and taking baths in the buckets of water… oh, no… and then to scare us every day on top of that… yep, that was the last straw.

Yes, we had set poison for the rats, but instead of it killing them off, they just seemed to eat it like candy and stand around waiting for us to bring them another bag full.

When I realized that neither the poison nor the traps were working, I did what any 14-year old kid would do out in the country on a farm – I got creative. I started taking different kinds of sticks with me to the chicken house, but they proved to be either too short to reach or too long to swing.

So, I moved on to a bullwhip. That worked sort of okay, but it mostly just made the rats mad instead of taking them out of the picture. Next, my souped-up slingshot worked pretty good, as long as got ‘em square in the head, otherwise the rocks deflected and wound up hitting the chickens instead.

What to do…What to do? After thinking about my options for a while, it finally hit me. I went to the closet and pulled out a shotgun. It was a .410 single bolt action. My aim was good, but the pellets just seemed to bounce off the rats’ hide as they ran and ducked into their holes. And I wasn’t fast enough to unload the empty shell, reload, and get off another shot before they had scattered and run for cover.

That week, I happened to be down at my aunt’s house visiting and told her what was going on. A twinkle appeared in her eyes and an innocent, yet devious, grin spread across her face.

She said, “You could always borrow the 12-gauge if you like. Of course, it’s a bit more powerful than the .410, but if you use it right, it should do the trick.” “Can I?” “Sure. Just be careful.”

She handed it to me, along with a few shells. The smell of oil, use, old leather, and previous hunting trips poured off of the gleaming cylinders of steel and filled my nose. As I carried it home that evening, I decided that “Ol’ Betsy” seemed like a fitting name.

My approach to finding a solution to the rat problem seemed a bit eccentric – according to some other people I told at the time – but they weren’t the ones getting their feet overrun by hungry rats. And, it worked.

We weren’t afraid to go collect eggs anymore, after that. Every afternoon we exited the chicken house victorious with a shotgun in one hand and a basketful of eggs in the other.

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This story was adapted from one of my upcoming books.  To read ones currently published, go to www.Amazon.com/author/reep .