Is You Dead?

Marrying at the age of 19 is young measured by today’s standards, but in 1936, it was just perfect for my mother.  My daddy, age 21, took mother as his bride and they became a team. Faithful to each other for 61 years, they shared the highs and lows of marriage and family and faith. This photo taken in 1939, shows my parents with a herd of 600 sheep in the background. They spent that winter of 1939-40, on the Southwest Oklahoma range near the family farm, to make sure their flock of sheep survived. Mother was 22. Daddy 24. 

They took their baby son, my oldest brother, and set up camp in a tent out on the Oklahoma prairie.  Mother said the tent was so cozy.  Daddy dug a trench in the dirt and laid a stove pipe underground so they could have a wood stove inside the tent for mother to cook on and to keep their space warm. With the heat safely buried the hot pipe was insulated with prairie sand and smoke could escape to the outside through the underground stove pipe and mother and daddy wouldn’t be overcome with smoke.  I wish I could have seen the inside of the tent. I would love to know how she had the meal prep area arranged and their cot for sleeping and my brother’s little crib. Maybe they had pallets for sleeping on the canvas tent floor.  I don’t know.  I wish I did. She may have put a quilt over a couple bales of hay for a place to sit. I never heard her say exactly. However, I know my mother, and I know it would have been orderly and creatively arranged.  It was home for that winter and through spring “lambing” season. In the photo above I see what appears to be a water barrel by the tent and off to the far left a lean-to and small corral that was probably used to contain the ewes ready to lamb. I’m not really sure.

Everything I’ve heard them tell about the months they spent in the tent on the range, herding the sheep is a fascinating part of my family history; a history comprised of their memories and stories that I only heard and never got to experience.  But it was real life to me because it was mother and daddy and my brother. I’ve heard tales of blizzards and wind that would howl and create drifts of snow that covered  familiar landmarks, creating treacherous conditions for those trying to find their way. There were memories of dark and blinding sand storms that left a layer of dust and filth on everything in its path.

Coming from the throws of the “Great Depression” it was imperative that none of the sheep perish and that the farm investment was kept stable.  If that’s what it took, that’s what they did.

The tender shepherding of the sheep was so certain and careful, that this photo captures the essence of my parents’ work that winter when they caught my brother going around to any sheep he found on the ground.  Doubling himself over at the waist so he was face to face with each precious lamb, they heard him question the sheep, “Is you dead?” And then to the next sheep, again question, “Is you dead?” The three of them were right there in the field, on the range.  Whether it was sunny or dark, balmy or stormy, snowing, raining.  They were there…tending, providing, watching…caring. The sheep had no cares or wants because they had faithful attentive shepherds.

As I’ve walked my life’s path, I’ve thought of this story, and it speaks so much about who my parents were through and through.  Working hard, being creative, never giving up or giving in, even when it was tough and hard and painful and discouraging and just doing what it takes to tend the flock, manage the farm, raise the family, live by faith…they set that example for me…instilled it in me…birthed it into me…and my siblings. I see those traits now reaching into the 5th generation.

But their example also points me toward another Shepherd…

A heavenly Father, MY Shepherd… Who is ever mindful of me… of YOU… tending, providing… watching, comforting… bending over double…checking, “Is you dead?”

Knowing…knowing I’m not… your not, dead…

because HE is there… in the dark, when I can’t see the way, in the storm,

when I feel the wind and the rain, in the drought, when I think I’m going to lose my way,


And when I and you, have walked through that valley, that shadow, He will show us the green pastures, the table of plenty and His goodness.

Because He is our FAITHFUL Shepherd.

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  1. What beautiful memories of Mother telling about those times. When I was little we had some Army cots, from what military had used. They could be taken apart and rolled up for easy transportation. I’m pretty sure that’s what they had for their beds. Mother said that tent home was much warmer than the houses for the winter time.
    Thanks for the reminder of out loving Shepherd who cares, protects and supplies our needs.
    Have a wonderful day!

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