Letter to My Dad

Jim & Harriett Craig

Harriett, Jim, Sherry & Pat Craig

Dear Dad,

Today I am 71 years old! I’ve been looking back over those years and I want you to know that the greatest birthday present I have ever received, was to be born to this beautiful couple. The second best present was the sister you gave me who has been my first and forever friend.

As a family we have shared more love and good memories than most people ever know. There have been good times and bad times. But even the bad times were good because we shared them together.

I look back on my life and I know God has blessed me so very much by giving me my birth family and also the family I raised with my husband of 50 years, come June.

You have been such a big part of both of my families. You have given me love and guidane as a child, and also as an adult. You have shown that same love and guidance to our children and their children.

There is a line in an old Paul Overstreet song that I think he wrote about our family.

“Forever’s in my heart and in my blood, you see I come from a long line of love.”

Thank you for that Dad…and because of that I can say, “Happy birthday to me!”

In our prayers always.

Love you,


Jeremiah 31:3

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfullness to you.”

My Heros Have Always Been Cowboys

I was born and raised on cattle and horse ranches. My Father, Jim Craig is a cowboy as is his brother Bob Craig, and as was their dad Ed Craig. My husband was born and raised on ranches and so was my son and our daughters. I have uncles who were true cowboys, and cousins, and now a days even have some grandsons following that lifestyle.

They are all my heros. But today I am going to talk about the cowboy who raised me. His name is Jim Craig and today is his 95th birthday! They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I am going to let pictures tell most of this story.

Dad was born and raised on the family ranch in Bruneau, Idaho.

His childhood was a nurturing ground for his love of horses, cattle, dogs, and all animals.

Dad and Nick
Dad on Nick
Dad on Nick with chaps his father made him
Dad and Clara Bell
Dad with his dad Ed
Jim Craig, Rosalie, & Shirley Hawes
Best friend Shep
Dad, Buster and pet rabbit
Chore time
Jim Craig 10th birthday
Dad fishing with brother Bob at Pole Creek
Jim and 4-H steer
More 4-H
Jim Craig, 15 years old on Pinky
Jim and younger brother Bob
Jim served his country in World War II in Hawaii
Jim in Bruneau, ID
A cowboy’s life is more than riding horses, It’s working and doctoring cows
And branding
And feeding and teaching your kids to love this way of life
And Sorting
My Dad Jim Craig, trained Quarter Horses. This picture was on the Double J Bar N Ranch in California.
Dad showing Dorado Pledge in California
Showing him at halter
Branding at Beartooth Hereford Ranch, Columbus, MT
Such a handsome man, my father!
Taking his grandson, Dustin for a ride on Roany
He always dressed in classic cowboy style
Because that is what he was
And what he always will be!

This has been just a glimpse of a man and the era he lived in. He has blessed me in more ways than I have words for.

He is the best father I could have asked for. He was kind and gentle and funny. He taught me to be honest, giving, and loving. He has helped me to accept whatever surrounding I am in and find the good and beauty around me.

It is because of this man, the way he lives, the way he treated not only me but everyone around him, because of his integrity and love of God’s creation of all kinds….This is why I can say MY HEROS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN COWBOYS!

Happy 95th Birthday Dad!


I know he was your world, Donna, because your love for him showed in your face. Your smile for him, and your sparkling eyes were truly a reflection of his love for you.  Together you both showed us what love, should be. Love for our spouse, family, and especially for God.

Johnny was so much more than a friend to us.  Speaking for myself he was a mentor.  No, he didn’t give me advice as to how to live. He didn’t give me advice on how to treat others or how to live out the love of Jesus in my daily life.  But he was indeed my mentor.

 He mentored me by his example.  His genuine, warm and caring smile every time I saw I him, made me feel loved. His hug which always followed gave me encouragement and a feeling of peace knowing I belonged in his circle of friends. And when he had no words for us when my husband and I were going through one of the hardest times in our life, his tears of compassion gave me comfort.

I know he treated everyone the same, because I witnessed it. That is how I know that there are so many who feel the same way about Johnny as I do.

I was going to say he will leave a hole in my heart, but I can’t. He filled me with so much love and so many good memories, that even death can not take them away.  They will walk with me forever on this earth, and I will take them to heaven with me where I can tell him thank you in person.

My heart hurts because I miss him so much, but it is so full of gratitude to God for letting him be a part of my life.

I pray God comforts you and your family Donna. Know we love you as well, and know that even in these hard times, as Johnny always said, “God is good.”

Down Memory Lane… The homestead

Old Bruneau Homestead maybe late 1890s 001
Holverson Homestead Bruneau, ID about 1800  – Gran,(Suzie Holverson) in pasture.

My life has changed the last few years.  It has changed from that of a simple country girl…woman ( I haven’t been a girl for many decades!) to that of city life.  I say city life, because that is what it is to me.  Actually, I live in what most would still consider a small town.

I am still the same person, but I am out of my natural element.  The things I do everyday are different.  The things my eyes see are different.  The things my ears hear are different.  The things I smell are different.  The way I feel here is different.  But memories….they haven’t changed!  I can take them with me wherever I go.  They can make me laugh.  They can make me cry.  They can make me feel young and carefree.  They restore my spirit when it needs it.

I’ve met a lot of different people since I’ve been living in town.  I’ve worked with a lot of young people.  I’ve learned a lot from them.  I’ve learned that not everyone has been as lucky as I have been.  Not everyone has good memories.

But I do.  My childhood was the kind that every child should have.  I was raised with loving parents.  My mom was such a sweet, kind, and patient woman.  My Dad was, and still is, always there for me.  His hands were gentle when needed, and strong when needed.  My parents loved each other and they loved us.

It was their foundation of love that blessed me with such a good life.  It was their foundation that overflowed to me and helped provide the foundation for my marriage, and I believe it has overflowed to my children’s lives, as well as my grandchildren’s lives.

Thank you Mom and Dad for such great memories.

And now I’d like to take a little trip; a trip down memory lane.

I’m going to share some memories with the help of old photos, and some that only have a picture in my mind and heart.

If any photos or memories I share spark memories of family members or friends, if you have any specific facts; where, dates, occasions, etc, please share on the comments of my blog.  I’d like this to be the start of a history for our family.

My memories started where my family started, in a little place called Bruneau, ID.

This is a picture of the family homestead.  I may be wrong, but I believe it was first homesteaded by my great, great, grandparents, Gran, (Suzie) and Ed Holverson.  That is Gran standing in the pasture.

I was only five years old when we left Bruneau, so I don’t have a lot of vivid memories from there.  Most of my memories come from returning visits over the years.  But I do have a few.

One of my first ones was when my sister Pat’s pony, Tootsie, ran away with me.  She was running down that tree-lined lane leading up to the house.  I can remember being so scared, and crying for my daddy to save me…and he did!  I can remember how warm and safe his arms felt around me.  Now I know that in reality, Tootsie was probably bearly in a trot, but in this little girl’s memory, she was in a dead out death run!  And my Dad was my hero!  Still is!

My sister, “Patsy” on Tootsie (Aren’t they cute?)

A Winter Wonderland

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Look at that picture.  Isn’t that beautiful?  Yes, yes it is!  It is a winter wonderland.  Mountains plastered with snow for all those who love to ski, are just waiting for you.  Everything you see is blanketed with the purest, sparkling, white fluff.  Trees couldn’t look prettier. Rivers are accented with snow-covered rocks and ice, filling you with pure awe at their beauty. Kids with rosy cheeks are bundled up, sledding down slopes, building snowmen and forts.  The world looks like a Norman Rockwell Christmas card.

The air in that picture is so chilly, no, downright cold, that you can feel it in the picture. Have you ever taken a deep breath in that kind of weather and had your nostrils freeze shut?  If you are lucky enough to wear glasses, like me,  two minutes in that air, and your frames are so cold they freeze your sinus cavities and give you an instant headache.  Even bundled up like an Eskimo, my fingers and feet turn numb in minutes, my nose turns redder than Rudolph’s, and my teeth start chattering.  I quiver so bad people must think I am having some kind of convulsions!

The streets and roads become skating rinks for cars.  Sidewalks provide plenty of material for pedestrians to fill a year’s worth of content for”America’s Funniest Videos.”

I’ve seen my Dad and husband come in from feeding and doctoring cattle with icicles hanging off eyebrows, beards, and mustaches.

Yes, it is a beautiful Winter Wonderland.  It is God’s plan to let nature rest, store up some snow pack on the mountains to fill summer rivers and creeks, to give us moisture we will need for spring and summer down the road.  It is pretty, that fluffy, white stuff, that’s a fact.

That being said, I’m flat tired of winter wonderland!  I am tired of being cold.  Maybe if I had a fireplace to snuggle up to, which I don’t, ….no, not even that.  I am ready to skip Spring and go straight to summer.  Forget these snow banks, and give me green grass.  Forget parka coats and snow boots.  Give me t-shirts and flip-flops!!

Winter Wonderland?  I just wonder…will it EVER end?

Sweet Smells Of Summer!

Hay field in Montana

Summer is almost over.  The days are still warm, the evenings are cooling down, and autumn is right around the corner.

I love fall.  In fact, it is my favorite season.  However, I don’t look forward to what follows it.  For that reason, I always cling to summer as long  as I can.  I cling to every moment of warm sunshine, the long hours of daylight, and the sweet smells of summer!

I love the smell of hamburgers and steaks cooking on the barbecue.  I love the smell of clothes hanging on the clothes line.  I love the smells of the flowers.  I love the smell of fresh dill and basil growing in the garden.  I love the smell of fresh mowed grass.  I love to sit by the creek or river, watch the water rush over the rocks, smell the freshness it imparts, and feel the peace filling my soul.  I love the smell of the summer air after a rainstorm.

But my favorite smell of summer is that of fresh mowed hay.  It fills me up with memories of my childhood; carefree, wonderful days!  It brings me back to when my children were young, and we would take lunch out to my husband, swathing or baling hay.  I relive the picnics we had in the hay fields.  Such good memories…..oh, how I love the sweet, sweet, smells of summer!

Uncle Eldred, (Curly) Wells

Curly Wilnter Camp
Eldred (Curly) Wells at Winter Camp, ID

I love everything about this picture of my Uncle Curly.  I love his pinto, I love his chaps, I love the corral, and I love him.  Doesn’t he look like Little Joe, from Bonanza?

This was taken in Winter Camp, ID.  My grandparents used to have a place there.  I was young the last time I was there, so I don’t remember a lot about it.  I would love to visit there again.

My Uncle Curly is such a neat man…and a man of many talents.  As you can see, his younger years he was raised in the ranching life.  He has also worked in retail a lot, and was a Realtor for many years.  Curly has always been a “handy” man of sorts.  Always good with carpentry projects, always fixing things.  I also loved to hear him play the guitar and sing.  He is a very sweet, humble man, who loves God, his family, and his country.

Curly is my mom’s younger brother.  When I was a teenager in California, my family, and his family would share great weekends together.  We had picnics at the ocean.  We had weekend trips to the local lakes, boating and water-skiing.  Well, others water-skied, I never got the hang of it.

The horse ranch we live on had a small reservoir.  We had lots of fun there.  We fished..a lot!   We had a canoe and a raft that was the center of much fun and many good memories.

I remember once Curly made a paddle-boat.  I was so impressed by his talent!  He brought it up to the reservoir for its’ maiden voyage.  It was so cool and I couldn’t wait to try it out.  That however didn’t ever happen.  He put it in the water and well,…..let’s just say it didn’t paddle quite the way it should have!  He ended up in the water!  I’m not sure if he ever got it “tweaked” to where it worked right or not.  But it was still a cool paddle-boat!

Thank you Uncle Curly for your example, and for so many good memories in my life!


One Amazing Lady

Nellie, Jim, Karl
Aunt Nellie, Uncle Jim, Karl

I love this picture of my Aunt Nellie, Uncle Jim, and cousin Karl Duffield.  Aunt Nellie looks so pretty and sweet in this picture. That’s because that is what she always was!

Aunt Nellie reminded me a lot of her sister, my Mom.  They both were kind, gentle, and loving.  They both always had smiles on their faces, and their eyes sparkled with joy that bubbled from their hearts.

My Uncle Jim adopted my cousin Karl when he married my Aunt Nellie.  They both wanted more children but weren’t able to have any of their own.

They did however have more children….lots of them!  Over the years they adopted seven more kids.  They adopted three boys; Michael, David, and Raymond,  who were just a few months apart in age.  Although they were not all adopted at the same time, they were raised basically as triplets.  A daughter, Susan came next.  A few years later they adopted a set of biological triplets, Ernie, Bill, and Vickie.

To this day, it amazes me how she was able to manage so many children so close in age!  I remember once when the triplets were still babies and we visited them.   The older kids were all at the table and she had the triplets lined up in high chairs.  It was literally an assembly line feed chain! She had a jar of baby food and went from one mouth to the next and started at the front again.  She made it look very easy, but believe me it wasn’t!

I also remember several years later going over to their house for dinner.  We walked into the kitchen and Aunt Nellie had a pot of stew on the stove.  Let me clarify when I say “pot.”  It was actually a large canning kettle, full to the very rim!  I thought, “they will be eating leftovers for a month !”  I was wrong.  At the end of the meal there was not even one tiny carrot left!

If the dinner preparation was a huge production, think about the laundry for that many; especially when they were little!  That was before disposable diapers!  You would think she would have been worn to a frazzle!  I’m sure at times she must have been, but you would never have known it.  She was always sweet tempered, smiling, and polite.  She was always neat and organized.  She welcomed company with open arms and heart.  She loved Jesus and her family was in church every week.

Aunt Nellie and Uncle Jim are both gone now, but they leave us many memories.   My Aunt Nellie was an amazing woman, and she is loved and missed by us all.

I Have A Country Heart

Fishtail Basin Ranch  Dean, MT

Oh how I miss the country!  My husband and I were both born and raised on ranches.  We’ve lived on ranches for almost all of our married years as well.

For the last six years we’ve been living in town, in an apartment, next to the railroad, next to an oil refinery, and the freeway.  To say the least it has been a culture shock to our well established country souls!

We did not choose this way of life we are living, but we know God led us here for a reason.  Here is where we will stay until he opens another door for us.

Life is not all bad here.  There are things that are nice about living in town.  It is literally five minutes to the grocery.  It does not take an entire day to drive to town for a doctor’s   appointment.  We have access to nice restaurants whenever we want to dine out, without having to drive a hundred miles.  We like that.

I always appreciated the country way of life.  At least that is what I thought.  I have come to  realize that it has taken a substantial amount of time living away from that lifestyle to acknowledge how much I took for granted.

Our daughter and her family live on a cattle ranch a few miles from where we used to live.  They took a mini-vacation and asked us to stay at the ranch and keep an eye on things.  Of course we said yes!  This is our mini-vacation!

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We got here last night at dusk.  It was so serene and quiet.  The crickets were making their sweet music.  A cow was bawling in the distance.  No other sounds, just peace floating on the evening air.

I slept like a baby.  No train whistles, no sirens, no city clatter.

This morning I woke to the same blissful peace.  The cool, clean mountain air filled the bedroom.  No smog, no stench from the refinery, just sweet, pure, mountain air!

Sunrises are a different experience here.  You feel God’s hand opening the curtain of the night and revealing his glory in all he has made for us.  In town we still can have beautiful sunrises, but it is more like God yelling above the hustle and bustle, the noise, and traffic, screaming, “Stop!  Look up!  I am still here!”

We took a few pictures of the ranch to capture some moments of country peace; nature in all its’ breathtaking beauty, just hoping they will carry us through a few more weeks of city life.

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This weekend has reminded me of the saying, “You can take the boy (or girl!) out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy!”   I have a county heart!



Grandma’s Apron

Ed and Odessa Craig   June 1957

She was born Odessa Pearl Drobny on December 17, 1905 in Ft.Bidwell, California.  Her younger years were spent in Ft. Bidwell.  The family later moved to Grandview, Idaho. In 1925, she married Ed Craig from Bruneau, Idaho.

Ed and Odessa lived on the family ranch in Bruneau for several years and later settled in Healdsburg, California on the Double J-N Ranch.

Grandma, as she was known to me, had the most beautiful yard I’ve ever seen. Fragrant colorful, flowers of every kind lined the entire perimeter. Butterflies, bees, and birds, filled the air, making her yard seem like a magic fairy land to a small girl!

Grandma died in 1966 from a brain aneurysm.

I was going through old photos the other day, and there was Grandma, cloaked in that familiar old apron.  It flooded my mind with so many memories, that I felt like that small child again.  What a special time that was!  What a special woman she was in my life.  What a special place her memory will always hold in my heart.

I began to think of the young women of today’s world.  So many work full-time away from home, either because they have to, or want to.  I bet most don’t even own an apron.  If they do, I doubt very much that it is an extension of them, the way Grandma’s apron was of her.

I know life is always changing.  That’s the way it has to be; we call it progress.  I know that progress has brought many good and amazing things into our lives.  I know that now that  we have those things, most of us, including me, wouldn’t really want to be without them again.  But sometines…..oh, how sometimes I wish I could feel the warmth and peace of those simple, uncomplicated times again!

Don’t get me wrong, Grandma may not have had a job away from home, but she worked.  She worked very hard; harder than most that hold jobs today.  Grandma’s work was centered on home and family.  She was chocolate chip cookies and milk after school.  She was apple pie, and cinnamon rolls in the fall.  She was fragrant flowers in summer.  She was warm hugs and tender smiles.  She was Grandma…and I loved her.

I wrote “Grandma’s Apron” in 2009.  It was based on memories of my Grandma Odessa, Grandma Lillie, and my mother, Harriett.

Grandma’s Apron

Grandma’s apron was a part of her.

She wore it all the time.

The pockets held the wooden pins,

when she hung clothes on the line.

They also carried fresh-picked peas,

and other garden fare.

It often hid a carrot treat

for Star, her favorite mare.

She used it when she gathered eggs,

if the bucket she forgot.

A pad and pen in the pocket stayed,

for a note that she must jot.

She could carry as many apples

in that apron that she wore,

as I could pack in a five gallon pail,

maybe even more!

She used the tail to wipe her brow,

while stirring a boiling pot,

or to protect those loving hands,

if the handle was too hot.

It wiped the tears from many a child,

of which I was just one,

and somehow turned the saddest day,

into one of fun.

I know it was meant to protect her dress,

that apron that she wore,

but it was Grandma’s favorite tool,

and to me…so much more!

It’s wrapped around her memories,

oh, such special things,

my childhood full, so warm, so blessed,

by Grandma’s apron strings!

Sheryl Craig Russell