You punch me in the face, then on your way,

You and your band of thugs are out to play.

Cartwheels, giggling, you sabotage the day,

For the time being you are here to stay.


Your army spreads as far as the eye can see,

A flood of ocean waves engulfing me.

Here at home on my Dakota prairie,

Once to the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Ree.


Like quartz crystals of sand sharp on the go,

Minute throwing stars hurled from a wind’s blow.

But when the air sleeps your movement is slow,

Once horizontal now vertical flow.


Engulfing prairie rose and all smooth brome,

Total conversion the Great Plains Biome,

A tunneling vole nudges to its home,

Shouldering its way through chilled Styrofoam.


My movement glides with speed across your backs,

If with elbow grease I apply ski wax.

You’re imprinted with grouse and coyote tracks,

In a shelter of you we drop our packs.


Ah, the way you blanket and insulate,

Stick around my friend, for now spring can wait.

Bring Love to Fruition


I woke-up from a dream and painted this scene.

Last night I had a dream.  It lasted a nanosecond, I’m sure.  Nevertheless, it weighed heavy on my chest in the early morning darkness.  I woke with my gut wrenched and overturned. The pain made the details unforgettable.  Two brothers, now grown men, reunite after a long separation.  One reluctantly states they must go see their father after an even longer separation.

I remember them warily walking towards their father from a distance, in a Pacific Northwest forest.  Towering Douglas Firs draped in lichens—old man’s beard lichens—surrounded them.  Their mint green tone gave the forest a serene atmosphere.  The dark forest opened to a remote cabin.  Standing in front of the barn was their father, his back to them as he toiled over a project.  When both sons approach, the father turns and his face instantly fills with glee but, it is short-lived as he slowly turns back to his busy project—his unending projects—that consume his life.  The brothers scan around to see tools on benches scattered everywhere covered in snow.  Some tools have rust on them from being excessively exposed to the elements.  Unfinished projects.  Ideas.  Great ideas from their youth that dad never completed.  Toy guns half carved-out of pine, toy knives and swords not so near completion.  Piled-up projects.  Dad wanted these boys to have fun but life just got in the way.  He meant so well.  Appointments, major repairs needed on stuff, work demands.  My throat swells writing this as a lump lodges itself.  Not because of childhood memories instead, because these are the things that haunt me today.  I’m bothered by the machines we can easily become that fail to emit love because we are so busy creating good ideas that never come to fruition.

For every project that is completed and praised, a dozen whither and die either getting broken for being in the way or just set aside or lost.  Beaver fur mukluks for my wife have been around here for the past 5 years, one boot finished, the other now lost, everyone tired of moving it from one table to another.  Let me know when you find it, it has my good sewing needle, awl, and a roll of sinew inside.  We ended-up buying new boots for her this week.  Did I have priority issues?  Will this become a theme?  If so, what kind of memories will our kids have to look back on?  I’m definitely a project guru that loves to get new ideas rolling…That lump backflips in my gut then starts crawling up my back…

As I write this, I think I know the answer.  I think these projects don’t really matter as long as we are taking time to be together as a family.  The rest is just stuff.  Yeah, it would be fun to see kids battling with fancy wooden swords that look like they were handcrafted for King Arthur and his knights.  But, my kids sword-fighting with two chunks of lumber from the woodpile is ok too.  If dad can make time to grab a third stick and jump-in on the battle, now that’s even better.  Keep activities simple enough that they actually occur without significant strife.  Or, just be there.  Be present.  I mean really be present.  Nothing else on your plate or hanging over your shoulders. Forget about it. It has to wait. It’s guaranteed anything you hold onto will show.  Kids will read this on you.  It will not bring nightmares later like the kind where family-time was neglected.

And the two brothers, their long separation from each other and from their father.  For me it signifies the family turmoil in America and no one understanding why.  Not acting to “nip it in the bud” before it magnifies into a uncontrollable beast.  Forgiveness never carried out.

Rise-up and father with joy.  Purposeful parenting.  Accomplish life’s necessary feats and be productive with your family painting.  I mean paint it right.  This is our one chance right now to create the sweetest scene.  “Productivity has nothing to do with time and everything to do with choices.”—G. Pereira.  Choose loved ones.  My subconscious mind put me in my place once again.  Then my conscious thoughts deciphered and laid it all out.  I get another chance.  It was only a dream yet there is a hint of truth that is easily fixed.

Blizzard On Her Way


The start of a ND blizzard.

She’s a toothy witch that gallops on her gray,

A weather phenomenon with our breaths she will play.

Beyond the horizon chasing her stampeding white bison,

Anxious to trample into ground wife, daughters, or my son.

Models, predictions, and radar know with confidence,

Prepare your day my friend; this is not happenstance.

Wind or snow alone, are just another day of the week,

But paired as strays and roaming wide, havoc they will reek.

A prairie tsunami building, growing, snorting,

Travel not advised, meteorologists are reporting.

Play something, create anything, channel thoughts into a pen,

Calmly, peacefully enjoy your space like a setting hen.

Strum guitar, sing like a lark, or pull your bow across some strings,

Pull out old photo albums reminiscing these beautiful things.

Soon the house will shake and rattle, and while safely in abode,

She’ll sift-in Mount Everest that barricades the road.

Downwind of every tree or horse, living or frozen dead,

The landscape is consumed of color, her whiteness she’ll embed.

Birds and deer will die caught already weak and ill prepared,

Sniffed-out beneath the snowscape spread, another meal a coyote is spared.

She is a mortal—her hours are marked—and soon she will expire,

The sun will burst forth in blue sky and cremate her with its fire.

The frozen world will come alive with scraping shovels and snowblowers,

Wheels will sing their spinning sound, it’s slow-going for all the goers.

Protect Your Traditions


Our traditional family Christmas picture from 2014.

What would the world be like without traditions?  What if we never allowed ourselves to do the same things twice?  Always exploring virgin territory seeking fresh, new views and experiences.  Pursuing crisp, separate memories that never mingle.  I remember reading once that you should never vacation in the same location twice otherwise you’ll risk drowning-out the first memory and diluting it with a second visit.  But there is something special—something more than heartwarming—in familiarity.  An experience that is yours because you privately named that butte or bay.  Truly, without returning life memories, experiences that are relived, we don’t get a chance to feel those moments and places again together, except through a photograph or story.  Rarely does that revival of an experience through thought last more than seconds.  No, we have our favorite haunts we physically visit annually as well as sprinkle new experiences in between.  With each successive visit we build a knowledge base.  The best place to get water is from the spring that is seeping over there.  Right here is the best spot for the tent; that spot floods easily and the ground is much more lumpy, uncomfortable for sleeping.   Be liberal enough to try something new, yet conservative enough to protect your traditions.  

I prefer to be liberal in my thoughts but traditional in my ways.  Ways that are passed down from grandparent to parent, parent to child; methods that never carry written guidelines, only memories of how it was done before.  Symbolic events are usually the instigator, with the propensity to follow dependent upon our individuality.  Our family Christmas traditions are nothing unique yet our kids easily remind us they must be followed.  Besides outdoor family time such as sleigh rides or building snow forts, we always attend an evening church service and enjoy a Christmas dinner of coconut shrimp. When asked to name a Christmas family tradition, everyone in our home has a different idea of a favorite:

Mom  -Christmas shoebox event at our local church where shoeboxes are filled for the less fortunate

Dad  -Crafting Christmas ornaments as a family for decorating the tree

Elle  -Reading our favorite Christmas poem, Wilbur’s Christmas Gift by R. Nelson

Sawyer  -Making Christmas cookies, especially cookie dough truffles

Anna  -Incorporating spin-the-bottle to choose whose turn when opening Christmas gifts

Bridger  -Opening stockings early Christmas morning

Children thrive off of routine.  Outside influences work to put the kibosh on life’s rhythm.  Make time to protect your traditions.  

Happy Birthday Mom


My uncle sent this picture recently of my dad, mom, and me.  

Happy Birthday mom! Your unconditional love buffered with discipline never fades or grows weary, instead, over time grows stronger, no matter how mature or immature your son becomes. Ice skating on the Lincoln city lagoon, I broke through the ice, luckily toes touching bottom with my head still above gasping for air. I ran home, stinky and frozen, pants getting more rigid with each step. Tell mom I’m ok. Not caring that you will get in trouble because you want that affirmation of love so much during close calls. When people are seriously injured, they first call out for their moms. She has always been there.

Life can be painful and unforgiving yet, a mom makes those moments easy to breathe through; eventually a breeze. All you have to do is take the step to get your mom involved and that unconditional love will save the day. Phone calls, letters, or lunch conversations.

I’m saddened when I think of those who have to cope with a life with no mother—or worse yet, an abusive mother. Clear your mind and think about life’s true necessities. Food, water and shelter; a mother provides this from when we are fragile and innocent until we are taught to one day care for ourselves when she turns her children loose after graduating to the world.

And patience. I don’t know if you’ve always had it, but you sure have it now. Life of the party and high-strung… with patience? I remember the time you dropped a friend and I off at an Apple Creek bridge to later pick us up at another bridge while we enjoyed a true expedition. This was before cell phones. The creek was out of its banks during a spring flood of snowmelt. Already nerve racking I’m sure. “Meet us at the next bridge in five hours.” At 11 o’clock, 9 hours later, 2 hours of paddling in complete darkness in swirling currents and deadfalls galore, we arrived to see mom driving back and forth near the bridge—waiting.

Perseverance. When we fished as a family, it was intense. Spending countless hours bobbing in a boat with 6-foot waves from 6am until 9pm, to her husband’s joy, with no complaints witnessed by her three kids. Lake Sakakawea was our second home.

Definitely your most visible attribute is your sense of humor. Finding a niche of laughter, even during the most strenuous times. Hilarious costumes. Totes of wigs, costumes, and other paraphernalia take up a large sum of your house. It shows what you put your heart into, that is, keeping the air light and living not too seriously. People seek you out when life gets heavy.

Every action we do echoes into and shapes eternity. As long as we live, we are setting examples as mentors, every action emulated by our peers and families. You are a solid provider towards building a beautiful world. Happy Birthday mom! I am very fortunate!

A Friend I Think of Often


Armin, genuine at heart, simplistic in lifestyle.


I know this guy that lives alone high on the prairie coteau,

He’s genuine, with a simple house that is anything but a chateau.

When many of the small Dakota farms packed-up and said good-by,

He carved-out a living raising sheep and cattle, a granite cairn that won’t die.

With not a thing fancy like a heated cab or vibrating cellular phone,

Extreme changes now would be switching from a red to a blue roan.

With simple daily struggles that cause many to blow their top,

To him are just daily inconveniences to conquer and don’t stop.

Around his yard history is rich and signs of how life seems to have gone wrong,

Yet out of the barn he emerges with a smile, singing a new thankful song.

He starts the day milking the cow, pulling cold teats into a pail,

While cats figure-eight beneath, he is snapped on the ear by a half-frozen tail.

The rickety old barn is wide-open, not even all the walls remain,

When it’s 20 below, why most people would have gone to town insane!

But it’s the absolute simplest of things that he values so much,

A way of life he firmly accepts that I and others are so out of touch.

When you pull into the yard tools are quickly dropped and in for coffee you go,

While some other places frown then half-smile cuz you’re in the way don’t you know.

The fragile little table pushed tight under a window for the frosted morning views,

Of troublesome coyotes amongst the cattle, mules, horses, and ewes.

It’s the coyotes he’s concerned about, the reason he calls me up there,

One after the other, day or night, they file-in, lamb chops they prefer rare.

He should be raising these song-dogs, they are prolific and doing so well,

He’s got to stay on top of them, or with his sheep they’ll surely raise hell.

Then he pulls out recent mule magazines, the conversation flips to good,

We agree about God’s greatest gift to man and how tall mammoth jacks stood.

We reflect on the bay Percheron team of mules that once pulled his wagon,

Then jump to the comical names mules have like Bonnie or Ronald Regan.

He’s a friend I cherish that keeps me grounded, not numb, artificial, or fake,

Farewell and the screen door closes, into my world better decisions I will make.






Yard Light Dithers


Our yard light arches high overhead.

When man’s caffeine wears and he starts to digress and slow,

They all start to come alive when the sun sets below.

With a buzz or a hum, soft warm-up takes a little time,

Creeping up in brightness, soon their brilliant luminance is sublime.

Allowing the human-eye to see what lies hidden beneath,

Maybe a picturesque landscape or a heap of all you bequeath.

Walking, riding, driving is safer than a stumbling grope,

They provide the vulnerable nighttime traveler a glistening speck of hope.

On a desolate country road they are a flag of life calling up ahead,

A place for friendly laughter, steaming soup, hot cocoa, and a warm bed.

Sodium or mercury vapor, varying wavelengths of light,

Every mysterious passerby is glowing in plain luminous sight.

The deer mouse scurries across the immense openness to the coop,

As the great-horned owl, out of the blackness, makes his lethal swoop.

Or the vicious blizzard that builds engulfing drifts, with crystals shifting and curling,

Like nature’s villainous orchestra conductor, arms crazily whirling and swirling.

Relaxed in thought, peering outside from leather couch or window seat,

Wrapped in mom’s patchwork quilt and fuzzy slippers on your feet.

I count eleven yard lights twinkling from my garret window,

All at least an hour’s solitary walk across the midnight squeaky snow.

Our yard light is kept turned-off by a switch I had specifically installed,

So at anytime I can peer deep into the universe and be completely enthralled.

I wistfully desire to be a true member of the environment and all its intricate details,

Not an alien foreign to magnificent waterfalls, bur oaks or eastern cottontails.

As a nature guru and “of the land” I prefer to blend-in well,

Being comfortable in darkness is a great way to start, as far as I can tell.

But when it’s time to feed the mules and the pitchfork is hidden in the hay,

I flick the switch to the yard light and down shines its streaming ray.

It’s like a mini moon, of which I can control from new to full,

I’m torn between these two worlds, a simple light bulb takes its toll.

Just like Buridian’s donkey, I too have debates within,

Don’t dither or delay your time, just decide and you will win.

A Riddle Fer’Fun



Sawyer being goofy!

He has a twisted sense of humor,

Swimmers strive to make him high.

He has mastered the art of massage,

Yet likes to bloody noses and make kids cry.

His physique is rather bony,

Neither muscular nor chubby at all.

He was abused as a youngster,

Now scarred from many a fall.

Rarely in the glorious spotlight is he,

Do you know who this could be?

A Better Rhythm to the Day



Anna planning her next strategy with me.

Media, technology, “I’ll text you later” is ripping us apart,

With the chaos I see in this culture, I don’t know where to start.

With attention spans so short, we can no longer finish a book,

Don’t waste another second to this life-stealing crook.

Shallow relationships, as thin as a finger swipe,

This quality of living is no better than an addict’s with his pipe.

I too get caught up, cliff-bound like you,

Our intelligence peaked in the Victorian Era, now its down with our I.Q.

But hold-on, another chance remains up the path,

A chance to change the course away from this vicious wrath.

Get engulfed with a book, right in plain sight of your kids,

Show them your life is not worth auctioning off for bids.

Gather together cooking at the hearth of your stove,

Teach them when to add a pinch of turmeric, cinnamon, or clove.

Pull-out mom’s stained recipe from the era when they had to cook,

Reignite family traditions that now seem to be forsook.

When you pray around the table, hold hands to signify,

Your bond as a loving family and to God you gratify.

Converse at the table, find-out truly how their day went,

Listen deeply, give them a chance to cry or to vent.

Our culture squashes emotions, not giving time for the heart,

We’re too busy we say, from appointment to appointment we dart.

Thank God for the snowstorm, the kind that cancel and postpone,

Now out come the boardgames, heart-warming memories homegrown.

Take time to tuck-in little ones, another chance to pray and to read,

This is a better rhythm to the day, one that our culture does truly need.