A Farmers Prayer

The Miraculous Answer to a Farmer’s Prayer
by Nadine Pfotenhauer

In July 1973, when I was 17, a drought struck my family’s farm in Burnsville, Minnesota. It began with several days without rain. Normal for summertime. But the hot, dry days stretched into weeks. Our farm was our livelihood. We counted on the profits from the corn crop to get us through the year, and the corn was dying before our eyes.

My father was a man of faith. He prayed before every meal and firmly believed God would look out for our family. Each day, Mom and I would get up, hoping for rain. Each day, Dad would expect it, even though there wasn’t so much as a wisp of a cloud in the harsh blue sky.

Around the one-month mark without rain, Mom, Dad and I sat down to lunch one day and bowed our heads in silent prayer, as usual. Mom and I looked up, ready to eat. But Dad didn’t move. We waited so long that I asked if he’d fallen asleep. “Hold on,” he said. “I’m not done yet.” I looked at his hands, calloused and cracked from years of farm work, his nails permanently stained by dirt. They were clasped together so tightly that his knuckles were white. I’d never seen Dad pray so fervently. I knew it was about the drought.

After lunch, Dad returned to the fields, wandering through the yellowing stalks, doing what he could to try to save the corn, which was only a couple of weeks away from being ripe enough to harvest. He stayed out there while Mom and I had dinner. I finished my chores, wiping the sweat off my brow, desperate for a break from the stifling heat. I opened every window in the house, hoping to coax a cross breeze. The air was stagnant, save an occasional hot, weak puff. I sat in our living room, fanning myself and thinking about Dad, a man at the end of his rope.

I needed something to distract myself. I looked at my wristwatch: 7:55 P.M. I was expecting a call from my older sister, Celeste, who lived on her own. She’d promised to call for an update on the crops after she got home from her church choir rehearsal, which ended at 8:00. Hearing her voice would be a comfort.

Boom!

The noise startled me. The house shook. I jumped up and ran to the window. I stared in disbelief. It was pouring rain! My mom and I ran around the house, closing all the windows. Dad came running in, his shirt soaked, his boots caked with mud, beaming from ear to ear.

“Look!” he said, pointing out the front door. “There’s no rain anywhere but on our farm!” He was right. In the distance, on all sides of our property, the skies were clear. There was a rainstorm only over our crops. Eventually, the rain let up. But not before the corn was saved. Dad said the stalks would be healthy by morning.

Celeste called as promised, and we told her about the miracle rainstorm. “You’re not going to believe this,” she said. “We finished choir class a few minutes early. The director asked if anyone had a request for a song we could all sing in praise together. I asked if we could sing ‘There Shall Be Showers of Blessing.’”

I knew the song well. “There shall be showers of blessing / Precious reviving again / Over the hills and the valleys / Sound of abundance of rain.”

They were singing right when the rain started. Years later, the events of that day remain my strongest reminder of the power of faith. Dad’s dedicated prayer was followed up with a whole choir, and God answered with showers of blessing.

Halloween Hermit- Lou Dean

It was a week before Halloween when my new stepmother, Anna, called us into the kitchen of her house in Purcell, Okla., and laid down the law:”You kids stay away from the rent house. That old Indian man who moved in there is crazy.” Anna looked right at me as she spoke. She might as well have sent me an engraved invitation.I was 12 at the time, angry and rebellious. My mom had left us when I was seven. Since then, I’d experienced my parents’ divorce and custody battles in court. I’d been chief cook and bottle-washer for my dad and younger brother, David, on our Oklahoma farm. I spent any free time between school and housework riding our horse, Maybelle, across the meadows with my dog, Shorty, running alongside. I imagined I was Geronimo, and Shorty and I were the last of our tribe.Then in late August 1960 Dad sat David and me down and told us gently, “I’m marrying Anna. We’re selling the farm and moving to her house in Purcell.”The day of the farm auction, I’d watched my beloved Maybelle disappear in a cloud of red dust, her eyes wide and wild in the back of the horse trailer.I’d stumbled off to the far side of the farm, where I couldn’t hear the voice of the auctioneer or see the people leaving with our animals and cherished possessions. I painted myself and Shorty with pokeberry juice and sang an Indian chant. Before we left for Anna’s house in Purcell, about 150 miles away, I cut my hair with pruning shears in a straight bob that resembled Geronimo’s.Anna and I got off to a very bad start in Purcell. The first day, she took me to her beauty parlor and said, “Do something. Anything!” Then, in an attempt to help me adjust to my new life, she took away my cowboy boots, Levi’s and the special Indian war paint and “potions” I’d mixed in mason jars and brought from the farm.So, that fateful morning the week before Halloween when Anna warned us about the old Indian, I perked right up.”His name is Mr. Tyree,” she said. “He’s a hermit. Stay away from him and the rental house. Both of you.”Dad, having rented the house on the edge of Anna’s property to the old man, had spoken to him several times. He laughed when Anna called Mr. Tyree a crazy hermit. “He’s just a lonely old man. A little eccentric, maybe.”Words fascinated me, so I ran to the dictionary. “Hermit: one who retires from society and lives in solitude.”That made my heart pound with anticipation. I’d had about all I wanted of society. Every night I cried myself to sleep, thinking about the farm and my old life. I’d already considered running away with Shorty and living alone on the Arkansas River. My long-standing romance with Native American history made Mr. Tyree all the more appealing. Somehow, I had to meet him.For days I watched the rent house, letting David’s baseball roll close enough to peek, or walking Shorty down the sidewalk past it.Mr. Tyree was an owl, never coming out during the day. He didn’t have visitors. The mystery surrounding him seemed to blend nicely with Halloween, so I decided that night was the perfect time to make my move.David was trick-or-treating with friends as the Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, and Anna told me to dress up as Dorothy and go along with them. At the end of the block I stopped and eyed the rent house. “You guys go wherever you want. Meet me back here in an hour.”The Lion looked at Mr. Tyree’s dark yard and then at me. “What’re you gonna do, Sissy?””Go get you some candy and courage,” I said, pulling his tail. “Don’t worry about me, little brother.”I held my dog in my arms, like Dorothy, when I knocked at the door. Except for the full moon over my shoulder, everything was black. The rent house was the only one on the block not lit and decorated.I admit I was a little apprehensive. My first knock was feeble. I strained to hear any stirrings from within. Nothing. The second knock was stronger, but still no reply. I banged my fist until the screen door slapped loudly against the frame.Finally the door creaked open and a pair of cloudy brown eyes stared down at me. “What is it?” a voice barked.”Trick or treat,” I said, trying to get a good look at the old man while holding Shorty in a death grip.”What? What’s that you’re sayin’, girl?” He spoke loud and with an impatient edge.”You know,” I said, swallowing my fear, “it’s Halloween.”I saw the uncertainty in his eyes as we stared at each other. I began to explain. “All the kids dress up in scary costumes and go around to everyone’s houses and say, ‘Trick or treat. People give them apples and candy and stuff.””I have not candy,” he said. “Not apples.” He slammed the door. But before I could turn and leave the porch, the door cracked open again. “I do have juice, home-canned.”I accepted with an eager nod. “I’ll have to bring in my dog. He goes everywhere with me.”The door opened wider. What if the stories about him were true, if he were crazy? I said a little prayer and stepped inside.”Come on,” he growled, and motioned for me to sit. He had a wooden table and two spool-backed chairs, the only furniture I could see in the gloom.I told him how I’d read everything I could about Geronimo. He smiled and poured me a glass of juice. For a long time we sat in silence. Then, finally, he spoke: “Checkers?”That night when I curled up in bed, I didn’t cry. I wasn’t thinking about the farm and all the animals and the friends I’d had to leave behind. My mind was on an old Indian man who wore moccasins and had gray braided hair. The only thing mean about him was the game of checkers he played. He said four words to me when I left his house.”We will be friends.”A few days later, Mr. Tyree appeared on our front porch, banging his cane against the door.Dad was home. “What can I do for you, Mr. Tyree?””Where’s that girl?” Mr. Tyree demanded. “Said she’d come again and play checkers.” His voice boomed through the house.Dad shifted his weight, turned around and frowned at me. He knew Anna had forbidden us to go near the rent house. “Well, Mr. Tyree, I suppose that would be okay, as long as you two sit outside on the porch.””When were you over there, young lady?” demanded Anna later at dinner.”Halloween night,” I said. “I knocked on his door. He invited me in for some home-canned fruit juice, and we played checkers.”Anna shrieked and dropped her fork. “It’s a wonder she didn’t die of botulism.”Dad laughed, and a discussion followed about the impropriety of my befriending the old Indian. Dad, knowing I hadn’t made a single friend in Purcell, knowing how homesick I was for the farm, finally persuaded Anna to agree to the front-porch-only rule.My friendship with Mr. Tyree blossomed during the warm autumn afternoons, sitting at a rickety card table on his front porch playing checkers while Shorty napped at my feet. I told him all about the farm and how I felt I had the spirit of Indians in the deepest part of my own self.Mr. Tyree grinned, his gold tooth gleaming in the sunlight. “You have the gift of story,” he said, and he encouraged me to tell him more about the farm. Gradually living in Purcell became less painful, as if my time of mourning the farm was over. More and more, Mr. Tyree told me tales of his own, and I could tell he was enjoying himself too.On Thanksgiving, Anna fixed a huge platter of food and allowed me to take it to my new friend. Shorty and I helped him eat it, sitting on his porch and rocking together in the golden rays of late-autumn sun.Mr. Tyree died peacefully in his sleep many years ago. I think of him often and have come to believe that my knocking on his door that Halloween night was no accident. God knew how lonely and afraid I was, and that I needed a friend in the worst way.This year on Thanksgiving I’ll be sitting out on my porch with my dog, being grateful for the time God sent an eccentric old man to comfort me. I’ll remember how I’d considered closing myself off and becoming a hermit-and instead learned the value of opening myself up to friendship. And I’ll smile and whisper those four magic words that I too try to tell people who I sense may be lonely and scared:”We will be friends.”

Full Circle

A nearly full moon hangs low on the horizon, buttery yellow and hung with the shred of cobweb clouds. My footsteps stir the tang of fallen leaves. Woodsy, smoke-scented shouts of distant children drift on newly chill air. I lift the lid on a carved pumpkin and inexpertly light the candle inside. This watershed event is witnessed only by a passing ghoul who is clueless to the fact that this is the first year I’ve been deemed grown-up enough to do this job totally on my own. But the significance isn’t lost on me. I importantly monitor the flickering flame inside the jack-o-lantern and feel suddenly grown-up. I’m ten years old and responsible enough to use matches unsupervised to light a pumpkin I carved by myself with a real knife. In a few minutes I’ll even be going trick-or-treating with friends and not parents for the first time in my life. Euphoria fizzes through my body. I lose some of my elation by racing, skipping and dancing around our front yard, safe in its familiarity but exhilarated by its transformation to shadow, mist and moonlight. I am giddy on the rite-of-passage incense of scorched pumpkin.Twenty-five years later, a nearly full moon hangs low on the horizon on a Halloween evening. I’m in a different house now, in a different state. Being “big” isn’t quite as exciting as it once was. But the smells are the same. Earth, dew, leaf, smoke, flame. The scents of nostalgia. As usual, I am the self-appointed lighter-of-pumpkins. And this year my own children are old enough to be interested in my ritual. They crowd around: two medieval princesses and a knight in shining armor, jockeying for a good view. “Can I do the next one?” one of them asks eagerly. A chorus of, “Me, me, I want to do it!” ensues. I inform them they aren’t big enough yet. “Well, when will we be big enough?” one of my three-year-olds want to know.”Maybe when you’re ten,” I say, remembering. “That’s forever!” Rapunzel wails. I know otherwise, but I don’t argue. Instead, I divert the conversation. “Hey guys! Who’s ready to go trick-or-treating?!” As one, the three of them jump up and down shouting, “I am! I am!” If they were any more enthusiastic, they’d wriggle right out of their skins and shoot up into the sky like tiny bottle rockets. Instead they start racing around the yard after each other, not straying far from the safe pools of shadowy light cast by the lamppost and the jack-o-lanterns. In the thrall of their excitement, I feel suddenly un-grown-up, suddenly ten again. There is that same surge of euphoria, and I lose some of my elation by joining my children in their mad dance around the front yard.Pretty soon we’re shrieking, laughing, howling, cavorting in the mist and the moonlight. “Mommy! Look how big we are! We’re not even scared of the dark!” one of them shouts exultantly. How big indeed.And they, newly big, and I, newly little, dance on in the shadows of our common ground, intoxicated on the smell of scorched pumpkins.

Reprinted by permission of Karen C. Driscoll

Slow Cooker Chipotle Beef Burrito Bowls

  • PREP TIME:20 MINUTES
  • COOK TIME:6 HOURS
  • TOTAL TIME:6 HOURS 20 MINUTES
  • YIELD:6

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2.5lb beef chuck roast
  • 1 tbsp salt + more to taste
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 – 15oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 – 4oz can Diced green chilies
  • 1/3 cup Apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 water
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp chipotle powder or chili powder
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • sliced bell peppers and onions, for serving
  • romaine lettuce, for serving
  • salsa, for serving
  • cauliflower rice, for serving
  • guacamole, for serving
  • limes, for serving
  • jalapeños, for serving (optional)
  • cilantro, for serving

Method

  1. Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. While the pan is heating, sprinkle a half tablespoon of salt on each side of the beef. When the pan is hot, add the coconut oil. Sear the beef for 7-8 minutes per side until it’s golden brown. Remove the meat from the skillet and place it in the slow cooker.
  2. Lower the skillet heat and then add the apple cider vinegar to deglaze. Next, add the onions and garlic to the skillet. Cook 3-4 minutes and then pour over the beef.
  3. Add all of the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker. Cook on high for 5-6 hours until the beef is tender and easily shreds with two forks.
  4. Make the fajita veggies by sautéing sliced bell peppers and onions in a skillet over high heat. Finish the veggies with a little salt and fresh lime juice.
  5. Assemble your burrito bowls. Start with romaine lettuce and then top with salsa, guacamole, cauliflower rice, fajita veggies, and the shredded beef. Serve with fresh limes and lots of cilantro.

MY MOTHER’S KITCHEN James Colasanti, Jr.

I can still remember my 80-year old mother working at the Kitchen table the day after my father passed away. That fragile, diminutive lady sat in her chair crocheting a Scarf. Time and devotion had made this her domain. She had lived in This very same house for most of her adult life. Because she was Hearing-impaired, she didn’t look up from her work when I entered the Room. However, I could tell that it was here that she had found Peace with the world. In retrospect, it wasn’t our old rooster that woke me early Sunday mornings, even though he contributed loudly to the harmonics Of the dawn. It was the pungent aroma of the garlic and oregano from The smorgasbord unfolding in my aging mother’s kitchen. The smells wafted up the steep staircase to my bedroom. Their Essences then crawled under the door space and permeated the room. I immediately threw off the bedclothes, the cold tempered with The warmth of the culinary sensations. Next, I heard my mother yelling (sometimes in Italian, sometimes In English), “James, get up and get ready.” Neither needed Translation. Being Italian and Catholic, 8 o’clock Sunday Mass was a Weekly necessity — attendance required. Down the stairs I flew. On the kitchen table — a red and white Formica topped 1950’s piece — my cup and spoon would be waiting. I Had been allowed to drink coffee from a very young age. Although Meticulously clean, the white-painted plaster kitchen walls had a Shiny, almost greasy, patina from the years of perpetual cooking. Jars of spices and home-grown herbs circled the kitchen counter tops. On the wall facing the table was a 5-foot ceramic rosary with “beads” an inch in diameter — a Mother’s Day gift from me. It was Her prize possession. In her kitchen she could cook, and if she felt the urge, she Could pray. She knew her thoughts had to be heard by any available Saint on a rosary that big. My mother, already 39 at my birth, had Her graying black hair pulled back severely into a bun. She always Dressed in her housecoat while working in the kitchen and a flowered Red apron covered the housecoat for added protection. At dinnertime, my father, my mother, my Aunt Tina (my mother’s Sister), and I gathered together, but my mother always made enough Sunday dinner for an army. The dining room table was set with the Good China and the good silverware, and the extra place settings were Always stacked on the sideboard — just in case. Amazingly, friends and relatives knew to drop in (uninvited) at This particular time of the week. Flavoring the extra sauce was a Conglomeration of meats — big beef bones (one for the dog), hot pork Sausages, and a variety of chicken parts bubbled slowly in the big Dutch oven on top of the gas stove. Below, several loaves of bread and the main course, the lasagna, Baked happily away. Each layer of the lasagna was infused with a Variety of Italian spices (garlic, basil, and oregano), ground meat (both veal and pork), ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, home-made Tomato sauce, and a top layer of parmesan cheese. Although my mother was not the animal lover in the family Because she had been scared as a young child in Sicily by a pack of Stray dogs, she was in charge of making sure everyone was fed, Including the animals. On the day I was born, my parents received a small black and tan Puppy from a perceptive family friend who knew every boy needed a dog. Mother always spoiled Butchy and there were many days when I Thought Butchy was actually the favored child. As a baby, I would Lay in my cradle and Butchy, still a puppy, would curl up next to me. If I cried, she would lick away the tears, and if there was a Problem, she would “yap” for my parents. Because she knew the dog was my guardian and my protector, Mother treated her accordingly. And on Sundays, mother always fixed A plate of lasagna and an extra large beef bone especially for Butchy. Butchy was my first dog, and she was also my first best friend. Butchy was the very first in a long line of canines to teach me what I have experienced so many times. We don’t get over losing the dogs Who have been a part of our lives. We just get used to living Without them. In everyone’s life there are moments when a family shares a joy And everything seems to have a purpose. Those memories of Sunday dinners forged from love remain with me — lots of great food, good times with my family, and the animals With whom I grew up. And most of all, my mother.

James Colasanti, Jr.

Easy banana pudding


Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 quart milk
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/8 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 12 ounces vanilla wafers
  • 3 bananas, peeled
  • 8 ounces Cool Whip

Instructions

  1. Heat milk to 170 degrees F.
  2. Mix eggs, vanilla, flour, and sugar in a bowl.
  3. Slowly add the mixture to the milk and cook until thick and custard-like.
  4. Layer the vanilla wafers on the bottom of a baking pan.
  5. Slice the bananas and layer over the wafers.
  6. Pour the custard over the wafers and bananas. Cool for 1-1/2 hours. Spread the Cool Whip over the top.

~Brief Encounter~

Several Saturdays ago I was cleaning my car at a do-it-yourself car wash. As I vacuumed, I noticed a few wisps of yellow dog fur.I stopped my cleaning. I picked up the fur, placed it in an envelope and put the envelope in the glove compartment. The fur belonged to Buddy. As I went about the rest of the day, I couldn’t help but think of the brief encounter with Buddy and his “family” just a couple of days before.It was a Wednesday afternoon. I had just gotten off work. As I passed a truck stop, I noticed a man with a large backpack. There beside him was a dog on a leash sitting in the grass strip that separates the entrance and exit to the interstate. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon and quite hot. I stopped a few feet away and walked up to the man. “You and the dog okay?” I asked. I guess he was a little startled. “I’m not breakin’ no law sittin’ here, am I?” he asked.”No,” I replied, “I just wanted to make sure you and the dog were okay.””We’re okay, just a little hot.”I noticed a handwritten cardboard sign beside him saying something about working for food. My guess was that he hadn’t had a good meal in some time.”Look,” I said, “here’s a twenty – make sure you and the dog get a good meal tonight.””God bless you, sir,” he said as he accepted the money. I walked back to my car. As I turned around, the pair were headed under an overpass to the westbound side of the I-78 ramp. Somehow I felt I should have done a little more. I went into the truck stop, bought a large hoagie and soda for the man and a couple of hot dogs and water for the dog.As I approached the ramp, they were gone. I figured someone had picked them up. I got back on the freeway intending to get off at the next exit. There were my two “friends.” I pulled over. As we spoke, I gave pieces of the hot dogs to the dog along with a few sips of cool water. The stranger wolfed down the sandwich in two minutes.I asked the dogs name, it was Buddy.I don’t usually give strangers a ride, but I just couldn’t let them walk down the busy freeway at night. I offered to give them a ride, and they accepted. He instructed Buddy to get in the back seat, but I told him it was okay if Buddy rode in the front. Buddy put his head on my lap as though we had been friends for years. I knew he enjoyed the cooling breeze of the air conditioner. He very quickly fell asleep, as I occasionally petted him on his head.Buddy was a beautiful, noble dog, some kind of mixed breed although the man said he was a sheltie. His fur was soft and surprisingly well kept. The man was a drifter.He told me bits and pieces about his life. He said he didn’t have any sort of identification. He told me he had lost his wallet a few weeks back. My guess was he was about forty. He was tall and lean, with a beard. His piercing blue eyes seemed to hold pain, but he was a gentle person. He was born in Oregon and traveled around always looking for work, he said.I asked him about Buddy. He told me he found him in Alabama as a puppy about a year and a half before. From that day to this, they had always been together.There was a pause in the conversation and I asked him whether the dog was ever a burden to him, with all the traveling around. I would have gladly offered a great home to Buddy. There was a long silence. From the corner of my eye I could see tears rolling down the man’s cheeks.”Sir,” he said to me, barely above a whisper, “old Buddy is the only family I got. Some days, when food is scarce, I’d gladly go without, so long as Buddy has somethin’.”There was no doubt he spoke the truth. I felt embarrassed that I would even think of offering to take the man’s only worthwhile possession.The ride was all too short. I pulled over and the man got his backpack out of the back seat. Then Buddy hopped out. The man began to slowly close the door. Buddy turned, looked up at me and wagged his tail a couple of times. I’m certain it was his way of saying “thanks.”I turned around and headed east. I had one last look at Buddy and his “family.” As I drove off I was disappointed in myself; I didn’t even ask the man his name.That night I was out late watering the flowers. I looked up at the heavens. I wondered why it is that sometimes these brief encounters make such profound impressions on my life. I said a little prayer asking God to please watch over them in their travels, and to say thanks for just the few brief moments I was able to share with them.Without their knowledge, the two “world travelers” had enriched my life, touched my soul and heart. The wisps of fur will always be a reminder to me of the summer afternoon that I encountered Buddy and his companion.