It’s Rodeo Time

Once again, the Custer County Fair comes rolling in, and with it the wild fun of a ranch rodeo and the adrenaline rush of bull riding. The phrase “nothin’ more fun on dirt” still stands true, of course. Clean, wild, country fun.
Custer County Fair Ranch Rodeo 2016Ranch rodeos are practicality with a heavy dose of humor – You can’t go to an event with wild cow milking and steer trailering and range doctoring, and not expect a good amount of laughter. Because the cows don’t want to be milked, the steers don’t want to be trailered, and the animals don’t want to be doctored. The steers get into the game, giving the teams the runaround, racing like mad around the arena, nimbly dodging the ropes and the charging horses. Hats are flying, steers are hurtling themselves over 5-foot-tall fences, cowboys are wrestling with steers that somehow won’t go down, and really it is just plain fun.
Custer County Classic Bull Riding 2016Played out, though, are the real situations cowboys and ranchers face on a daily basis. Their stamina and strength are challenged, their precision and their patience are tested, and their hard-earned skills are on full display. Trailering a steer isn’t as easy as it might sound. Branding calves is a true team sport – in real life, as well as in the arena. Roping a steer while riding horseback full-tilt is an impressive precision skill. Sportsmanship is expected – from crowd and competitor alike. Nothin’ more fun on dirt.
Custer County Classic Bull Riding 2016And then there’s bull riding. A little less practical than a ranch rodeo. A little crazier. It’s an adrenaline rush. I sat myself down in the dirt right up by the fence – An excellent vantage point. Custer County Classic Bull Riding 2016If you’ve never seen bull riding, you’re missing out. I have a hard time understanding why people get worked up about baseball or football. But rodeo and bull riding? I get it. Mean bulls, bred to buck, with names like “Dreambreaker,” “Cigarettes and Alcohol,” and “Rattler.” Crazy cowboys, crazy enough to try to sit on a 2000 pound bull for eight seconds. Bullfighters, dipping and dodging and taunting the bull away from a bucked-off cowboy. Courage and crazy, guts and gumption, all in one. Custer County Classic Bull Riding 2016The cowboy gets himself situated in the bucking shoot, settling down on a bull that is already ready to buck but doesn’t have the room. Once the rider is ready, the gate is pulled open and those cowboys in the vicinity scatter, jumping up on the gates, getting out of the way as the bull explodes like hot shot from the bucking shoot. Whether the cowboy stays on for the full eight seconds or falls off in half a second, he is met with hoops and hollers from the crowd. He tried. That alone is crazy. Custer County Classic Bull Riding 2016Custer County Classic Bull Riding 2016One thing I particularly love about the sport of rodeo is that it starts in the right place – Love of country, love of fellow man, and (if the announcer is a Christian) unashamed love of Jesus, and a humbly eloquent cowboy prayer. Custer County Classic Bull Riding 2016That’s my kind of a sport.

Laura Elizabeth




People who hate cats just haven’t yet met the right cat. That’s all. My uncle’s cat, Kitty-Q, is one of those perfect cats. “Perfect” in that she is a delightful blend of normal cat and abnormal cat. She has all the grace and poise and haughtiness and independence and self-sufficiency of the average capable feline, but she has a desperately sweet side, the side that manages to knock down all sorts of barriers, even those created by cat allergies. She never gets tired of cuddling. She is quite the beautiful feline, and none of us would be surprised if she had a little bobcat in her.
IMG_9406No one knows where she came from. She adopted my uncle and his family about seven years ago – She wandered in as a stray and stuck around when they started feeding her. But for weeks she wouldn’t allow them to come near her. One day, my uncle was flat on his back underneath one of the tractors, and the cat came and sat on his chest. From then on, she was their cat.
IMG_9422Sarah and I are house-sitting for my uncle while he and his family are fishing in Alaska. Kitty-Q, without fail, greets us on the porch in the evening when we come inside, and greets us on the porch in the morning when we come out. She meows at us, begging for attention, roughly shoving her bony little head under my chin or into my hands, to insist on affection.

I can’t help but wonder if this is how Adam and Eve were able to interact with God’s creatures in Eden.

Laura Elizabeth

Summer Evening

One of the best things about Black Hills weather is the coolness of the summer evenings. Even a day that reaches into the 90s and 100s will cool down to a comfortable temperature by night. We’ve gotten into the habit of eating dinner outside, because by dinnertime it is often much cooler outside than inside the house. How lovely to watch the evening settle, to have our dog nearby, to watch for the cats coming prowling in from the pastures and sheds where they doze away their days, to see and hear the bluebirds and kingbirds and cicadas.
IMG_8522After dinner, we worked in the garden, pulling weeds, tilling, and watering. It is terribly dry in all of South Dakota, but the Black Hills region in particular is in a state of severe drought. Forest and grass fires are a significant risk right now, and ranchers are feeling the effects of the lack of rainfall. Hay crops have been a fraction of what they are in a good year, and gardens are hard to keep watered. There isn’t much of a happy medium in this part of the country. Either we’re getting hailed out and flooded, or we’re dry as a bare-picked bone.
IMG_8559The sun set in a blaze of glories and we began to head towards the house. I was inside doing dishes when Mom called to me. “There’s a bat colony in the Miner’s Cabin!” she called. We had suspected as much about a month ago, but hadn’t verified this. I ran outside as fast as my sprained ankle would let me. She had already counted twelve bats leaving the Cabin attic, and we watched eight or nine more leave. What a sight! We could see them away over the stock dam, and high above our heads. We could hear them scrabbling softly before they emerged from the gable, and I could hear the tiniest, highest little vocal pitches of these amazing creatures as they wriggled out of their roost and swooped noiselessly into the evening. Judging by the number of bats we saw leave, we could have a maternity colony of fifty or more bats, including babies! We’ll have quite the project this fall making the Miner’s Cabin bat-proof. If there weren’t health risks associated with leaving bats in the attic, my vote would be to leave them. I love bats. Fascinating, beautiful little creatures.

Sarah and I watched Master and Commander this evening while I picked over chokecherries. Hopefully we’ll be making jelly on Saturday!
Laura Elizabeth

Photoshoot | Lovely Girl

Pretty is such an overused term. It has its place: “That’s a pretty dress,” for instance. But to call a person pretty is to focus entirely on outward appearance, and forgets all about the soul. Beautiful is a little more appropriate. But I prefer the term lovely. Lovely seems to me to get below the surface of a person’s appearance, and touches on their heart. A person can be “pretty” but have a wicked heart. But a lovely person has to have a heart that is full of light. Someone else may have a different opinion on the syntax and connotations, but that is what they mean to me.
UntitledLast week, we were all at the Gaslight Restaurant in Rockerville, and both Anna and I felt the need to get outside for a few minutes. We got outside just before sunset, and the light was almost perfect. The light was just getting a little iffy, which accounts for some of the graininess of the pictures, but other than that, it was great. And with wonderful rundown buildings for a backdrop, we had a photoshoot ready to go!
UntitledUntitledUntitledAnna is my youngest sister, and I sometimes am surprised when I realize that she isn’t a kid anymore, but a young lady! And she is a young lady with a heart of gold. We have our moments and our relational difficulties, but I can see how God has been working in her heart (and in mine, for that matter), and we are closer now than we were a year and a half ago when we moved out here. This is one of the reasons I’m so glad to be living at home, even at the age of 25! If I had left home prior to college, or right after college, I would have missed out on this opportunity that I have had, to work to improve our relationship and to try to mend some of those areas where I’ve messed up, and to become better friends with her. UntitledSeeing the way the little girls at church look up to Anna is truly heartwarming. They adore her, and she loves on them like crazy. She has a great work ethic, a sense of humor, and an artistic flare that for some reason she tries to keep hidden. But you should see her drawings. But more than all of that, she loves Jesus.

She’s a lovely person.

Laura Elizabeth

Puppy Love

There is just nothing quite like the love of a puppy.
IMG_7825IMG_7837IMG_7835Pets are one of those little blessings that as children we instinctively know are a gift from God. We pray about them, thanking God for them, asking Him to keep our pets safe. But when we grow up, we lose something of that delight. “More important things” take up our thoughts, and we can lose sight of those little blessings and gifts from God that we experience every day. We thank God for what we might consider the “big gifts” (family, church, promotion at work, scholarships, financial security, the new car) but we neglect to thank Him for His little gifts, daily evidences of His goodness to us (the first breath we take each morning, the feel of a puppy’s fur, a cat’s purr, a baby’s smile, dewdrops on grass, fresh air, clean water). If God’s goodness is manifest in Creation, which it is, isn’t it also manifest in those little or individual things of His Creation, be it a flower or a rolling landscape or a waterfall or great creatures or small creatures?

James 1:7 says that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” Shouldn’t we thank God for all of His blessings, even the small ones?

Laura Elizabeth

Independence Day 2016

The Fourth of July is always one of my favorite festive days! We have so much to be thankful for, and it is good to remember and reflect on the blessings our nation has enjoyed since the first colonies were established 400 years ago.IMG_7749In 1620, the Mayflower Compact was signed by 41 men, Separatists and Strangers,  declaring their resolution to work together in the New World.  The Strangers were adventurers and soldiers, but the Separatists were Protestant men and women and children who were seeking a greater degree of religious freedom, out from under the authority and tyranny of the state-run Anglican church. Their agreement read:

“Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia…”

For the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith! And we are still reaping the rewards of that charter today. Independence Day isn’t just about the day the Declaration of Independence was signed. Independence Day is about our heritage of freedom, particularly our heritage of religious freedom and freedom of conscience, our heritage of heroism and bravery and virtue. Independence Day is about the Pilgrims and their blood, sweat, and tears, shed for “for the Glory of God”. Independence Day is about the glories and tragedies of the American Revolution, which was successful following national submission and repentance and fasting before God.  Independence Day is about “In God We Trust,” and “one Nation under God.” Independence Day is about love for a nation that was founded by men who adhered to the principles that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Independence Day is about Samuel Adams’ words on the day the Declaration was signed: “We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.” Independence Day is about men like George Washington, who believed that “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” Independence Day is about John 8:36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Independence Day is about the freedom to teach that to our children, to proclaim the truth of freedom in Christ to our families and friends and to total strangers.
Stockade LakeSo what better way to spend Independence Day than with family and friends, enjoying the freedom to assemble with our brothers and sisters of the faith?
Stockade LakeStockade Lake was bustling activity yesterday afternoon, tourists and locals camping and boating and enjoying the beauty of the Black Hills. The beaches were overrun with festive crowds, but our friends had managed to snag a pavilion earlier in the day, so we had a corner of the lake to ourselves.
Osprey over Stockade LakeWe enjoyed osprey and herons and ducks, and very few bothersome insects since it has been so dry. Trixie came with us, of course, and I think she met her match for energy in our friends’ youngest two. Calvin and Laurel couldn’t get enough of her, and I think she liked the attention. After all, they were just about her size!
Stockade LakeIMG_7578The kids swam in the lake, and Sarah brought her kayaks, much to the delight of the boys, so after dinner they hauled the kayaks down to the lake and were pretty much gone for a couple of hours. We all visited and shared good food and fellowship, and were showered on by a little thunderburst that came our way briefly. The storm didn’t last long, and the cool evening wound down to dusk.
IMG_7770Those of us who didn’t mind getting home late headed over to our pastor’s house to watch the Custer fireworks from his family’s backyard. They have a great view of the show, and it seemed like about half our church converged on their home for the evening! Our church is pretty geographically separated, many of us traveling 45 minutes or more to get to church. So those opportunities we have midweek to see one another, to see our brothers and sisters, are cherished dearly. We were treated not only to the fireworks, but also to beautiful lightning from another storm that slowly closed in. We were close enough to still feel the resonating explosions, the far enough away to be able to keep up our conversations. It was fun to hear the burst of applause from the whole town of Custer after the last flares of the finale. Custer’s fireworks are simple in comparison with what other larger towns can afford, but they are no less enjoyed.
IMG_7786We watched the traffic streaming out of town, and then it slowed to a trickle. The noises of the crowd down in Custer quieted. The lightning was flickering and flashing, closer now. Then the rain started gently. It was a good day. We have so much to be thankful for.

Laura Elizabeth