Cowboy chords

While my undying love of writer James McMurtry is hardly a secret (I swear you all down a shot every time I say ‘Lonesome Dove’), he’s only a ghost in this lovely piece about his son and grandson. They’re both musicians.

“…the son and grandson of Texas’s most-beloved living author swap songs and exchange badinage. “You told me that you can’t write a song about one girl,” James says, shooting Curtis a look. “You’ve gotta do a composite of about five of ’em.”

“I did tell you that,” Curtis admits.

“I realized you were right,” James says, flashing a rare grin.”

N Lonesome Dove

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Still my mother

In a few days, it will be the 15th anniversary of my Mom’s death. I’ll be on the road, but I’m reposting this because I want to. It’s from April 30, 2012

Are you my mother?

Remember that P.D. Eastman book from when you were young? A little bird that has tumbled from his nest approaches everything in his travels, wondering if one of them is his mother. I love that book. We still have it, and it’s the copy from when I was a kid. I knew it off by heart, and the ending, with the little bird hopping back in the nest to cuddle with his actual mother was always greeted with barely contained excitement. I know my father used to wonder how I could get wound up about a book when I knew how it ended. I just always felt it was me snuggling into that nest. I was so happy for that bird.

I play a version of that game myself, now. When I least expect it, I find myself searching for my mother. When my head is pounding from a never-ending migraine, it’s in the middle of night that I want her cool, cool hand stroking my head. My sons occasionally call for me if they’re sick, and I wonder how she did it all those years. She called me the Six Million Dollar Kid, a puzzle for modern medicine from my head to my feet. She was with me through all of it, including when I handed her Christopher, her first grandson.

“You look good in yellow,” said a friend the other day. When I hear this, I want my mother. She loved me in yellow or red, drawn herself to bright colours and happy when I’d finally ditch my ever present black. When we shopped together, if I chose clothing in yellow or red, she would always pay. I thought I was getting one over on her. Silly me; she was winning the whole time.
As I tug my yard towards spring, I carefully clear around the giant bearded irises that will soon emerge in their flirty splendour. That was my mother’s name: Iris. These are her flowers, tended by my father for decades. I want my mother now, to see that I’ve helped them spread throughout the gardens in spite of my limited skill and worse luck. These beauties will dance, just like my mother did.

It sneaks up on you, this searching for your mother. When I toss a box of granola bars into my cart, I remember how she used to bake batches and batches for us, altering the recipe for her picky brood. No raisins for Gilly, chocolate chips for me, almonds for Roz. A batch would show up on my counter while I was at work. I knew that tin would also signal the arrival of whatever was on sale that week: shampoo, detergent, soup, soap. I would sometimes find a bottle of Blue Sapphire in the cabinet, the cabinet otherwise empty because she knew I couldn’t afford gin. My mother was pretty cool.

I keep a calculator going in my head, drawn to women who are the age my mother should be. Gone at age 70, it’s now been 12 years. The women are getting older, and I worry what I’ll do when they too, are gone. “Are you my mother?” I ask them silently.

We had a rocky couple of years near the end, each of us making choices the other didn’t understand. It couldn’t be mended with red dresses and blue gin, and the only thing that would have helped – time – was no longer an option. She told me what I needed to hear just before she died. I looked at my sons differently after that, and I recently caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror.

Maybe I’ve found my mother.


(I know I’ve posted this pic a bunch of times. But I love it; it’s before all us damned kids came along…)

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maggie workingThis is one year ago. How do I know that? Well, it was tax time, and Maggie was, as always, helping. She was my junior accountant for 13 tax seasons.

Cairo workingThis is Cairo’s first tax season.

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Because trapping a child in a car while you smoke is perfectly okay

Dear Readers: Just a few responses to some of your questions of late. A columnist, that’s who I think I am. I’m aware you specifically might not have asked for my opinion, but my editor did: it’s why I’m a columnist. See that little picture up there? And that easy-to-Google real name? That’s me. You hide behind a pic of your (admittedly) adorable chihuahua, but when I asked that same editor if I could use a picture of my new kittens as my headshot, I was told no. It’s too bad; they’re darling.

I am deeply grateful for the links you helpfully share to refute whatever I have written. It’s cool that you read the Daily Mail; that’s the same paper that helpfully tells me that Princess Kate is fighting with her mother-in-law, and who died on Corn Street a year ago; such a drag we won’t see it until next year, but it’s rather fun watching the Christmas shows in July, am I right?

I’m aware you don’t like the evidence I use. That pesky StatsCan and the CDC and NHTSA. But you’re right, I have to become leery of StatsCan now that your hero, Stephen Harper, has cancelled our census. Those numbers may soon be wonky, and I might be better resorting to your method of asking everyone you go hunting with if women should be allowed to drive. Next think you know, those bitches will want to vote. What? Oh.

I’m sure when you were in school, your teacher taught you to come up with a catchy title for your work. She was right. My editors did so well in that course that you know everything you need to know from the headline! I too, like to read as much as I can to stay informed, and by sticking to headlines and pictures, not only do I not have to learn all the big words, I can form an opinion and start demanding the author answer very specific questions. Like the ones she answered in paragraphs 6, 7, 9 and 11. Oh, and 15.

One tiny caution, Dear Readers: accusing me of having no idea about things because I couldn’t possibly understand like you do is dangerous. I know you can see everything very clearly, but it’s only because you are sitting in a glass house. If you seriously think I have made it to 51 without being touched by tragedy, loss, bad times, and illness, you are mistaken. If you somehow believe I am judging you personally with my words, the answer to your anger is not in the comments section of a newspaper, but in the mirror.

Now, I have to go back to thinking up a bunch of big words you won’t read and finding stats you don’t understand in order to deliver a column you won’t like.

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They are getting ready to spring ahead

sleeeepingI woke up from really weird dreams – you know, those ones about people you don’t see and you’re so bothered you think, “should I call them  and tell them I dreamed some really weird stuff and if I’m actually Nostradamus you should be worried” but then decide nah, that’s just not right. Oh, and I woke up because I had a kitten on my face. Ari is at his girlfriend’s and they usually sleep with him, but I’ll do, apparently.

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Kitt-eh update

kittens box

Yeah, I know. But look closely: Her arm is around him this time. Heh.

We’ve already been to the vet. Not even a week, but sneezing means kitten colds (upper respiratory blah blah blah and yes it’s highly contagious check back with me about JoJo and Pea next week) which means pills twice a day. That is not a hit. There’s this goop they each get a dose of twice a day, too. You basically stick a blob on their paw and they lick it off. Mark-o loves it; Cairo, not so much. I look over today and see him licking her paw clean. Idiot.

Everybody is adjusting. Some better than others, but adjusting. JoJo is just walking around wearing a t-shirt that says Are You Effing Kidding Me? and Pea allows them to sit *exactly* 3 feet away from her in most parts of the house (any closer they get swatted), but Pammy and Christer’s room is off limits to anyone but Pea. She sits in the doorway and yells and hits the kittens if they go by. Pea sleeps with them, the kittens crash with Ari, and I get JoJo snoring sadly on the bed wondering what she did to deserve all this.

Oh, and you should see the boots that came in that box…I did it for the children.


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Wil S. Hylton

Longform has a roundup of Wil S. Hylton’s work; I’ve read much of it over the years, he’s really excellent. Check this one, Broken Heartland, out. You have to read how the old farmer dude beats an electric fence. The piece itself is a necessary, scary look at what’s happening across agricultural industries, from the water disappearing to the wind farms. Quite the commentary on Texas as well. Of course.

*Edit: I’ve just spent most of the day reading through these archives. Not a wasted moment: he’s written about so many great things.

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New babies!


I miss Maggie terribly. We all do. I’ve been trying to find a calico kitten, and it’s nearly impossible. Every time I call, they’re gone. Been making me crazy. Anyway. Yesterday, called and missed another one, but the lady at the rescue said, “we just dropped another calico off at Petsmart….” and I dropped the phone and ran.

When I got there, I found the little calico, but she was being hugged as she slept by another little dude. Turns out these two had been rescued from the streets of Cairo, Egypt, because Canada ran out of stray cats. Well, I dunno, but I’ve seen a few cats lately that have been rescued from there, so I’m guessing someone with a plane and a big heart.

I’d like you to meet Mark and Cairo. Ari named the boy. He’s announced his next three pets will be Steve, Greg and Jeff. No, I have no idea. I named Little Miss.

JoJo keeps eating the kitten food, and she’s already gained weight since Maggie died. Pea is not happy with the youngsters.

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“A non fiction account of an American crime”. Or not

We blame stunning errors in oversight and fact-checking on newsrooms that have been hacked to the bone. This piece proves it’s nothing new; Truman Capote, trying to follow up his In Cold Blood home-run, published a piece of fiction he called a true story, and nobody blinked an eye. Until now.

Fascinating read.

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Not even kind of funny, Mom

The cold water pipe under my kitchen sink froze for the first time a few days ago. Roz has been helpful; she deals with this all time, so she now calls me with temperature warnings. I had to spend a few hours with a small heater facing the pipes, and the cupboard doors open. It didn’t take long, but of course, now they’ve done it once, I’ll be worried they’ll do it all the time. Last night before I went to bed, I carefully propped open the cupboard doors as a precaution. I came down an hour later, and saw them carefully closed. I opened them again. I came down this morning to find them again closed. My kids choose now to tidy up.

Roz told me I could leave a heater going if Christer was going to be up. Instead, I proposed locking Pea and JoJo in the cupboard. I told her between their body heat and bad breath, maybe the pipes wouldn’t freeze. She laughed. I told Pea and Jojo what I was thinking of doing. This was their reaction:

pea and jojo

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