Heidi’s Response: Milking Stools and Trapping


I’m posting in self-defense, here. My trapping efforts snagged me two hides today! No kidding. I love trapping. My brother was fairly successful at it and used to take me with him on his trap line down by the creek on the Smith farm.

I seriously considered pictures but Debbie censored the idea. No sense in gloating, I guess. Plus there’s probably someone in blogland that thinks mice are people, too. We don’t need PETA on the trailer steps.

Milking stool? Ha. This is my baby booster that sat in the green kitchen chairs at the farm table. It was top of the line, being designed by Grandpa Smith Inc. He was a talented man with the usual Midwest farming talents plus some extra special skills that neighbors came for. He could shoe horses, build barns with the best of ’em, plow a line that looked like the work of a surveyor, erect fences that held for decades, plus weld and repair almost anything that needed it. He was also the neighbor tooth extractor in a pinch… (yes, people, not animals). Did I mention more left brained than right? Not a touchy-feely guy.

I not only know every inch under the belly of the RV, but I’ve even duct taped some of the steel wool I stuffed into seams, so I can tell at a glance if anything is messing with me!

I’ve taken Kevin’s advice and I’m headed for the little rod behind the pedal as I finish this. Of course I have duct tape and WD 40. If this doesn’t work… I also have Grandpa’s hammer.

Road Rules

Debbie and I started taking our seminars on the road before GPS was as reliable as it is now. We both love traveling but share equally in our struggle with maps. When we were in the green Camry tooling across the Midwest on the way from one small state to the another, we frequently would be lost. It took more than one trip around St Paul and Minneapolis to realize I’d never understand the highway signs. I also never was really able to understand how to correlate the maps with the road signs satisfactorily. There’s the key, I’m told.

That meant we stopped a lot. Talking worked a lot better for us than mapping ever did. We were communications trainers, after all, not schematics scholars. We slowly developed a method for arriving at our sessions without being too stressed.

Rule # 1: Never hesitate to ask for directions. Being women, we didn’t have any qualms or arguments about asking for help. Usually I would give up before Debbie did. I feel so out of control when I don’t know where I’m going. Getting nowhere fast doesn’t make me feel any better. Frankly, when I insisted on stopping and Debbie wasn’t uncomfortable yet with waiting to see if our destination was around the next turn, she was usually right. We called it my Almost There Syndrome. Usually it was only a block or two away.

Rule # 2: Enjoy the journey. We stopped to shop, eat and enjoy the local color. You know how some people want to get into the seat, buckle down and only stop for gas? Not us. Sometimes we would meander down side roads and get turned around and head out-of-town the wrong way. One time we realized were going into the wrong town right about when we were due to arrive for class 60 miles the other way. That was the only time we ever were late for a presentation. That led to the third rule.

Rule # 3: Always arrive a day early. We’ve driven in fog, white-outs, blizzards, tornado watches and flood warnings. We’ve had flat tires, run out of gas, had billfolds stolen, left purses in cafes, department stores and restrooms. The only solution for us was to be sure we were ahead of time so that there was less chance of not making it due to circumstances.

Nowadays, with the RV, we stick to the same rules, except that we don’t stop very often because—well you know, it’s hard to park an RV and just jump out to get directions! We plot our trips the night before, or Debbie uses the computer to map us as we go.

We use the air card and a laptop to chart our course. I see no need to struggle with paper directions in the form of maps.

She bought a Texas map when we arrived. Makes me cringe to look at it.

Texas Vs Minnesota

In many ways, being here with 40 some men is bringing me (Heidi) full circle with my upbringing. My brother and I, unlike many siblings, really were inseparable. I can see now that this was partly by design, as Mom wanted my tattle-tale attributes at her ready disposal. But beyond that, our growing up years in Iowa and Minnesota were a full of comedic adventure.

Bass caught on a live frog

We caught frogs along the lane in the swampy edges and used those for bait as we fished from the canoe for Bass. It was often a contest to see who could keep their frog alive the longest as we’d cast them under the birches along the bank, working our way along the edge of the lake.

We hunted squirrels and rabbits and other monsters in the woods with our modest .22’s and shotguns. We explored the bear trails behind the property for miles into the wilderness on a Trail Ram. (This was before I ever heard of a four-wheeler.) It was an off-road sturdy framed motorcycle with wide stump-jumping tires and lots of torque. Mom always asked which direction we were headed so she could send ‘someone to look for the bones’ if we didn’t show up again.

That was Minnesota. This is Texas. Both states, if truth be told, can be rather individualistic in a rough and rowdy sort of way. Lumber jacks versus cowboys, I guess. I find a lot of similarities, though. If boys will be boys, certainly rough-necks will be rough-necks. One of the riggers said he has a friend from Minnesota and I was curious what kind of comparison he was going to make in his comment. All he said was, “He was a nice enough guy but up in there Minnesota, their food ain’t got no taste: no Tabasco, no hot sauce, no spices, no flavorin’s!”

Rancher on drill site

The current crew at the rig bring my brother’s antics to mind. We have become more acquainted with the rough-necks and mudders of the company lately. Don’t you just love the mental images of rough-necks and mudders and tool-pushers? I see Bluto’s size and Popeye’s wiry bravado. Add to that Tonto’s survival tactics and Rowdy (Wagon Train) with his mischievous knack for getting into trouble and shooting his way out of it. Pretty good description of our crew, actually. Well, minus the shooting part. No weapons here.

The crew is starting to treat us a little like family. One of them said, “We’ve got sisters at home so you just tell us if you need any help. We’d be happy to do it.” I think they were referring to killing snakes and such.

My brother wasn’t always so helpful, of course. I was a crack shot and sometimes he’d get tired of the competitive spirit we shared. I was pretty easy to spook so he liked to share his Outdoor grizzly bear stories with me that came from our Grandpa’s collection. The grizzlier the better. He’d toss the extra gory magazines up into my loft. I can still see the cover story pictures of huge teeth and slimy wide-open jaws of the bears.

My bedroom was a loft accessible by ladder only and 4 foot at the tall end. I’d get dressed lying down on the mattress and keep my clothes in knapsacks along the side wall. I loved that room. At the end of the day, I’d have a lantern and a book. Lying in bed I could put my chin on the window ledge while I looked out through the pine needles at the lake. I remember trying to figure out what the noises were as I’d lie there. It’s not so different now as there is a window at the head of the bead in my RV. When it’s not too hot, I crack it open just to listen. Coons? Coyotes? Wolves? Bears? Bobcats? I’m used to all of those. Tarantulas? Alligators? Rattlesnakes? Wild Boars? Not so much.

Questions to Consider Before Gate Guarding


Since many who visit this site are considering gate guarding, here are a few things to ponder:

1.  Can you stay awake all night? This may be necessary on busy gates.

2.  Can you move in and out of your RV fairly quickly? You know you’re too slow if they beep their horn.

3.  Are you OK living in tight quarters? Even a 40 footer can shrink when you don’t leave except to pick up the mail.

Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter: no counter space

4.  Can you take the combination of heat, dust and critters? It’s the heat and the humidity and a wide variety of wildlife.

5.  Are you content with a quiet life, apart from the noise of the rig and the noise of the your generator? You’ll need to provide your own entertainment: reading, time spent on the computer, writing, TV, cards etc…

Is take-out okay?

6.  Do mind not eating out at nice restaurants together?

7.  Can you do the shopping, errands etc… alone? We’ve worked with gate guards have to pay someone to watch their gate so they can go do their laundry together.

8.  Is your idea of ‘night-life’ watching the coons and javalinas?

9.  If you aren’t already a full-timer, will all your gear fit into your rig?

How many more car loads will fit in this rig?










10.  Is technology a non-essential? This difficulty can usually be solved by buying a booster, but not always.

11.  Is a mild degree of physical danger acceptable? This varies by season and location.

12.  Do you enjoy challenging conversations? Remember, you have the accent!

Sorry, wrong gate!

13.  Are you willing to switch phone companies?

14.  Can you say ‘no’ to lost drivers and curious neighbors?

15.  Are you willing to be both friend and enforcer?

16. Can you keep smiling? No matter how hot or tired you are: your crew is hotter and tired-er!

17. Do you appreciate the joy in each day, regardless of your setting?

There are many ways to make money while full-timing it. Gate Guarding is just one option. We really enjoy the job. These questions address the areas I’ve heard the most complaints about from gate guards who don’t like it quite so much. Talk to gate guards about the pros and cons. You’ll find everyone’s perspective is different and everyone has stories to tell!

Mission Statements Out… Mottos In

When I moved to Texas and became a Level 2 Security Guard, I prayed that God would use birds to restore and encourage me. (Telling God how to operate…I know.) I’m thrilled to say that my prayers have been granted. Today I was lured outside by a Long-billed Thrasher, which I’d never seen or heard. This is it. You might have to use your imagination as it was early and cloudy.

Long-billed Thrasher

Compare that with last year at this time. I was about to turn 59 and having chest pains from anxiety. I had taken a writing and consulting job at a small beach resort in southern Oregon. That torpedoed into Asst Mgr in less than 2 weeks. I found myself in charge of far more than the proposed freelance ideas: social networking, mission statement, newsletters, and office forms.

Being an incurable problem solver, I was like a bee during pollination! So many flowers, so little day light. I had lost my goal. The whole idea of living full-time in the 32 foot RV was to escape the hectic professional life and simplify. Leaving the resort management position and becoming a gate guard has helped me regain the focus on simplicity.

After leaving Oregon, I wrote this post on the topic of RVing compared to bricks and mortar. Simplify is my chosen motto. It doesn’t suit my busy bee ambition very well, but I’m learning to modify the revving of my inner drive for accomplishment. My new life focus is to find ways of slowing down, reducing stress. I even like the way it sounds: simplify.

For years the word had taunted me. I read magazine articles about it, Googled it, bought books on the topic. It called me.

One year Debbie bought this Good Life* tee shirt as a gift for my birthday. I’m convinced it helped unclutter my life and spur me on in a new direction. Imagine cleaning your garage and stopping to wipe the sweat from your face when you look down and see this on your chest…

I don’t have the Adirondack chair in the RV, so how do I simplify?

Reducing the excess helps me simplify. I can focus on the essentials without being distracted by excess. In the RV, I quickly learned to keep only what was necessary. I have 3 skillets and two pans. Period. In my Iowa house that I’ve rented to friends, I had a whole cupboard of pots and pans. I still used only a few of those. Excess creates confusion and clutter.

Working the early morning hours helps me simplify. One of the riggers, a geological guy with two college degrees says he loves to work at night because people don’t bug him, there’s very little traffic around the rig and he doesn’t get distracted. I get that. I try to finish blogging before 8 when the gate traffic picks up.

Not having to multi-task helps me simplify, slows my mind. Being a gate guard at an oil rig can be fast-paced, but it happens in spurts, so I never become exhausted. It also never seems overwhelming because I’m not trying to answer the phone, prepare for a meeting, and be creative at the same time that someone walks through my office door and demands my attention. The job description of gate guarding is so basic. Get the information, get it down on the clipboard and let them in or out. I’ve rarely had a challenge.

I tried to think of one as an example and it took a while. That’s encouraging! Okay. One rough-neck wasn’t thrilled with having to stop at the gate and check in so one day he just buzzed on through. That same guy found me in the middle of the road the next time he wanted to leave the site. We came to an ‘understanding’ and now we’re on good terms. That’s easy to explain. ‘Don’t ignore the English teacher!’ It’s a former motto!

* I have obtained permission to use Good Life product pictures in my blogging as long as I make it clear they are not subsidizing me and that although we share a love for optimism, the views I express are mine, not necessarily theirs.

Frost and Fork

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

~ Robert Frost

Since we named our blog from a line in this, one of the most famous poems ever published, I thought I’d comment on the misuse of it. I was reading some modern commentaries about Frost (how do you think I made it through college as an English Major?) and realized what I’d forgotten about it.

Unlike the graduation cards that recite parts of this poem, the road less traveled by is not less worn, evidenced in because it was grassy and wanted wear; though as for that, the passing there had worn them really about the same.

The telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence actually is the author’s forecast of telling an untrue version of the walk in the woods. He is saying that in the retelling he will dress it up a bit, poetic license, if you will, gives him the right to say that he chose the one less traveled by. In fact, they were equally untrodden…. hmm.

For two grandmas who left the Midwest in 2008 in an RV, we’ve maybe chosen the path less traveled but it wasn’t because Frost or because M. Scott Peck made a fortune with a turn of the phrase, however inaccurate… but for other reasons.

What’s reasons, you ask? I don’t know. Let’s ask Debbie tonight when she takes night duty again. (When she gets up. She sleeps during the days while I guard the gate.)

Why Gate Guard in Texas?

I’ve been drawn to the simple life as long as I can remember.

“In the popular mind, the phrase simple living has often been associated with self-denial… In reality the phrase can just as easily be associated not with what is lost, but with what is gained.” Frank Levering.

It’s not what I had to lose that got me here, it’s what I hoped I’d gain.

  • No yard work means I’m picking the wildflowers and weeds from beside the road and in fields.
  • No basement, attic or garage means I’m free to make organization under the RV into art form.
  • No critical or nosy neighbors means I can be pleasant to everyone at the gate because they are transients like me and we’re not placing expectations on each other.
  • No walls to paint or wallpaper to strip means I can focus on the symbolic and treasured art I’ve chosen to hang in the RV.
  • No evenings planning ‘fix-it’ lists because I can fix things quickly or I call someone to help us.
  • No snow to scoop or leaves to rake means I have joy in taking pictures of the seasonal changes.
  • No bushes to trim or gardens to weed means I have fun collecting bits of nature and putting them outside on the bench or picnic table.
  • No holidays to plan means that whenever I want I have time call my son and my mom and I have time to pray for them during their hectic seasons or their crises.
  • No large surfaces to clear means my stuff is right where it should be and easy to find.
  • No bookshelves, display cases or end tables means I can rotate all my precious things and focus on them.
  • No weekends spent housecleaning because it takes 15 minutes or less to completely vacuum and pick up.
  • No dust collecting for weeks in a spare room. Now it takes 5 minutes to dust the whole RV.
  • No storage sheds to rent and sort out means I give my extra things to people along the way.
  • Fewer chores means I have time for writing, reading and praying.
  • DVR and direct TV means I never watch TV by accident anymore. I have time to listen to the birds.
  • No big closets or cupboards means I know where everything goes and I have only what I need or love.

Not attending to what matters little so I can gain freedom to do what matters most.

Life Is Good: Simple words from Jake and Rocket

Simplify. I could fall back into that word like a child leaning into a hammock: Swinging and gliding gently to rest.

What I Want In Life Part 2: The 4 B’s

This is the second part of the post, 12 Things You Want In Life

The first person to try it wrote me and thanked me for giving her a much-needed opportunity to focus on herself for a few minutes. Maybe you need a reason to do that as well.

Here are my results:


What I want In Life

  1. The chance to research
  2. Time for prayer
  3. To see green growing things
  4. To experience joy with peace
  5. To talk to friends
  6. To listen to God
  7. To sit in a window seat
  8. To hear the sounds of birds
  9. The freedom to read
  10. The inspiration to write
  11. Take occasional trips
  12. To frequently have change
  13. To feel serenity
  14. To eat the 4 B’s (bread, butter, brown sugar and beans)

How did others answer?

Interestingly, I heard from both my 7th grade boyfriend who wanted to experience firing a 1928 Thompson sub-machine gun and my high school boyfriend who wanted to fly his plane every week. The one colleague who responded said she would like to experience one day of being pain-free. I added her to my prayer list. A friend from junior high said she would like to spend time with a family member without having to be nervous about it. Someone from my family wants to frequently eat really good food (she’s a gourmet cook) and have enough time to exercise the calories off her thighs. Another friend wrote she would like to listen to many people tell their stories.

It seems the value of the exercise is taking the opportunity to look at what direction you would like your life to take.  Socrates is the one who said, “A life unexamined is not worth living.”

Go ahead, try doing the exercise. You might even be surprised at the answers that first pop into your head. One person took the quiz twice. Once for reactions and once for thought-out answers.

I developed the exercise because a close friend challenged me to list what I wanted in life. I then typed a list as quickly as possible. Maybe you would like to do that instead of the fill in the blank approach. I’m just hoping to encourage those who are able, to look at their life before it’s over!

When you’re on your deathbed, if you have a chance to reflect and don’t die instantly, what are you going to say to those who still seem to have plenty of time left on this earth? “I wish I had spent more time …What? And will it be anything that you did today or yesterday?

Have you tried the exercise yet? I’d love to hear from you. My email is listed in the Contact page. Let me know.

12 Things You Want In Life

I Like Change and I Change Likes. Do You?

Here’s a little exercise I designed to help you reflect on your life. The first person to try it wrote me and thanked me for giving her a much needed opportunity to focus on herself for a few minutes. Maybe you need a reason to do that as well.

What I What I Want In Life

  1. The chance to ___
  2. Time for ___
  3. To see ___
  4. To experience ___
  5. To talk to ___
  6. To listen to ___
  7. To sit ___
  8. To hear ___
  9. The freedom to ___
  10. The inspiration to ___
  11. Take occasional ___
  12. To frequently ___

What are the things you absolutely must have in this life in order to feel that you have lived the life you were meant to live?

I’ve had some interesting experiences with this. I emailed it to absolutely everyone that I thought might participate. Very few people actually did. From this I could only guess at the reasons. There are those that have already done something like this (ex: What Color Is Your Parachute) and don’t need to look at it again Some people don’t want to focus on what they have and don’t have in life. Some just don’t like to be analytical. Others are too busy living life to question it. A few might not want to face the answers. Others have a lot of reasons why they can’t live the life they always wanted.

“People either have results in their lives or the reasons why they don’t” from the business card of Bonnie Andrkopoulos as quoted in Living Simply.

I’ve always liked to ask myself, “How should my life be different?” I like change and I change likes. It works for me.

Take # 6. What I liked at 20 isn’t remotely what I like now. I would have said I like to listen to very loud Simon and Garfunkel, in my 30’s it was loud Billy Joel and so on. Now? Very loud bird songs and nature music, but only because I don’t hear as well anymore. Go figure.

Take # 5 Who do you like to talk to or who would you like to talk to? I would always have answered that with God. When I was very little, I played on a large moss-speckled rock in the woods just out of sight of my mom at the campsite in Northern Minnesota, south of Ely. God and I played house with pine cone food and leaves for dishes. My idea, I’m pretty sure, but He talked and I talked and it was great fun. Now I call it prayer.

So some answers change and some stay the same for me.

“Many of us go through life not clear about what we want but pretty sure this isn’t it.” Janet Hagberg and Richard Leider

You can answer this in the comment section here or email me privately. I’d love to hear from you. My email is listed in the About page. Let me know.

The Case for Change and Cheese Part 2

As far back as I can remember, I always embraced change. I read someplace that without change, creativity is snuffed. That might explain the surge of creativity or personal boost that people experience during a retreat or while surfing or mountain climbing.

Different Perspective

Makes sense. Debbie and I wrote most of our best material at any location away from the office. When we were at our desks, the expected things happened. Creativity dried up. One of our most popular classes Bullies, Backstabbers, Braggarts and Banshees was outlined at a buffet! (We called it the Royal Gorge) That spark of ideas ignited a 6 hour class that was fun to teach and easy to write. In fact, most of our communication classes were written on retreat at Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey. We would go there twice a year: in the Spring for ministry to clean the Stone House and in the Fall to have a spiritual retreat and start the outlines for our next class. Even during the Spring over fumes of vinegar and dish soap, we would be bouncing new ideas around.

So geographical change can invigorate and inspire creativity. But, I’m convinced, can do so only if we embrace it. My mom said, “Every time I move I look for something that I just love about the new place, even if I didn’t want to leave the old one. Before long, I’m really happy in the new place.” I’ve tried to apply that to more than geographical changes.

I want to be sure you know that I don’t believe all change is good. We can agree on that. Also, too many changes leads to instability and lack of progress. I once worked at a job where the staff stayed the same but the job description was in constant flux. It not possible to grow strong or perform well with incessant change.

Starting back into the maze from Part 1, I didn’t identify with Hem and we aren’t supposed to really like his whiny self. I could better understand Haw. His reaction was slow, but gradually he realized that he didn’t want to keep repeating the same behaviors and getting the same results, so he had to look at other options in the same maze. I’ve had to ask myself, where can I find cheese, aside from the same old corner?

I’m convinced it’s one reason I love living in my RV. I get to experience change more often than when I lived in my little house in the city. I meet new friends, eat new foods, see new places and hear new thoughts and ways of speaking. Right now I’m in the deep south and being a Yankee English teacher, I have no idea how they understand each other. With the drawl, the consonants are softened and drawn out till I have to have them spell things!

So change has it’s challenges. But I respect Haw for searching elsewhere for his daily cheese intake.

So far we have Hem, who complains about the missing cheese, keeps repeating his same daily trek down the maze to the same empty corner day after day. And we have Haw, who eventually starts to explore the maze and look for new cheese in another corner.  He, by the way, is an incessant scribbler and vandalizes the walls of the maze with bits of wisdom. I want to buy him a notepad or get him a smart phone so he can keep his notes handy. So Haw learns gradually to try new things and finds new cheese.

In this parable of the moving cheese, I would like to make a case for the missing character, Hee. Instead of refusing to look elsewhere for cheese, like Hem or look for new cheese, like Haw, this new character (a girl!) could take a leadership role and develop her own line of cheese or even find a new diet instead of cheese!

Of course Hee will be criticized by Hem for not ‘sticking it out’ and might be called any number of things: rebel, starry-eyed dreamer, or a quitter. Hee will be told that if she wants real change, she should stay and fight for it. (Change within is understood to be better than change from without.) Doesn’t that sound like Hem? He would be angry and hurt and disillusioned with her. She will no doubt be unfriended by Hem.

Haw, on the other hand may be open-minded enough to want to stay in touch and will continue to be friends on Facebook. Eventually Haw may even want to sample the new cheese from Hee’s company. I could even imagine Haw might submit a resume to Hee at some point after he’s worked through his resentments from the past.

So we have Hem and Haw, in many ways typical Flighters: those who run from change or those who go along with it and adapt well but don’t strike out on their own. The remarkable difference in Hee comes from being an independent thinker, not a follower. She’s most likely a Fighter. That’s the character I could identify with. Sadly, she’s not in the original parable, but she’s in this story and she’s still a character. She’s me.