Uncle Rog

Uncle Rog would be 93 years old today.  I can hardly believe he’s been gone for ten years.  There’s seldom a day that goes by that someone doesn’t say, “you know what Rog would say about that…”

Roger Claytor

Roger Claytor

He was my Grandma’s uncle, which I guess, would make him my great, great-uncle.  Uncle Rog and my Grandma were only five years apart in age and grew up together.  He would always say he thought of her as more of a sister than a niece. His obituary read like this;

Roger Claytor was born May 23, 1923, in Alcova,  the son of Mattie (Ervay) and Leon Claytor; was raised and educated there; and spent most of his life in Alcova, with the exception of his military service.  After graduating from high school in 1943, he entered the U.S. Navy and was honorably discharged in 1945.

On June 25, 1951, he married Margaret Jepson at First Christian Church in Casper.

Known as “a true cowboy,” he loved the ranching life and working with livestock. He had been employed by Miles Land and Livestock for the last 54 years.

Survivors include his wife of 54 years of Alcova; son, Elmer Taylor, and his wife of Kaycee; three grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; two sisters, Eva France of Belgrade, Mont., and Anne Miles of Casper; and numerous nieces and nephews.

An unremarkable life, it seems.  Except that, it wasn’t.  It was remarkable and extraordinary in so many ways.  Not in the big, flashy, Facebook post, viral sort of ways, that seem to be common these days but in humble, quiet, old-fashioned ways.

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Bug Roundup 1949 From left to right: Ben Roberts, Dick Claytor, Bruce Roberts, Bob Salts, Foster Claytor, Roger Claytor, Freddie Metzler, Don Roberts Photo taken by Ray Roberts on their way back to cook, Danny Morrison, and the chuck wagon on “the desert” Photo courtesy of Donna Roberts Hanson

The first thing you need to understand about Uncle Rog is that he was a Cowboy.  A real, rough around the edges, tough as nails Cowboy.  He could ride anything, rope anything and fix anything with barbed wire or bailing twine….seriously, anything.  He worked for my Grandparents on their ranch for 54 years but before that he worked at the 9A, the Circle Bar, and the Bug ranches.  He was always given the outside circle – the hardest, longest ride – because everyone knew he was dependable and capable and wouldn’t come back until the job was done. He lived through some remarkable times, WWII, the Great Depression.  He helped Ben Roberts trail 1700 head of cattle to the Big Horn Basin during the Blizzard of ’49.  Those are a few of things that got him inducted into the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame last year.

Rog on Neil at the government bridge

Rog on Neil at the government bridge

But these are the things that I will always remember about him.

He was always the first one to the barn.  No matter if we started at 6:00 am or 4:30 am, he was there at least an hour before anyone else.  By the time the bleary-eyed cowboy crew stumbled out to the corral, Uncle Rog would have wrangled and fed the horses, caught and saddled his horse and the boss’s, done whatever other chores needed done and be sitting in his pickup drinking coffee from the lid of his thermos.  You could count on that as sure as the sunrise.

He didn’t say much but what he did say was memorable.

He expected people to be ready to go in the mornings, after all, he been ready an hour or more before any of the rest of us had even thought to get out of bed. So he was never pleased to see someone fussing with their equipment when it was time to mount up.  If anyone made the mistake of trying to adjust their stirrups or fix a bridle rein, he’d very pointedly tell them, “you know that’s what the night before is for” and ride off without them.

Rog did whatever work needed to be done.  From time to time, there would be someone working at that ranch who only wanted to Cowboy and would look down their nose at irrigating, building fence and working in the hayfield. Rog would just shake his head at them, say “you know it all pays the same” and get to work.

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“Suit yourself” was one saying that meant the opposite of what it implied.  If there were any debate or questioning going on as to what the right decision was in a given situation, he would usually say something along the lines of “this what would I would do but suit yourself.”  The implication being that he didn’t have much of an opinion on the matter but what he meant was more along the lines of – if you do it the way your thinking, you’re dumber than that fence post over there, but you’re not going to listen to me anyway.  He had a way of getting his point across.

One time when Dad asked him if he was going to the funeral of someone who Rog was not especially fond of, his reply was, “no but I’m in favor of it.

Other often quoted Rog sayings include, “we’re burning daylight“, “you can’t save ’em all”, “Rome wasn’t built in a day, Jesus Christ can’t we do that tomorrow!“, “suffering Christ Almighty!” “Don’t be tying that coat on, you left the barn with it on, just wear it.”It will rain someday, it always has.” “Two men can do anything if they just work together.” ” It’s not what you put in a horses mouth; it’s how you use it.”

He could swear like no one else I have ever known.  It wasn’t even the words he used; it was the way he said them. In fact, some were entirely made up, on the spot, in a fit of frustration, and would not ever be found any dictionary.  And he put his heart and soul into it.  He could swear with his whole body.  I have the clearest of memories of watching Rog swear while holding herd, not being able to hear a word of what he was saying but knowing exactly what he meant.  I can still see him in the distance shaking his head, taking his rope down because now he was going to have to get back some cow or calf that someone else had let get through. More often than not it started off with, “Jeesus Christ!”...but then again maybe that was his way of praying.

He would always close his eyes when he told a story.  I don’t remember him being a big talker, but if someone asked, and eventually someone always did, he would tell stories about the “old timers.”  He would tilt his head up and squint his eyes until they were almost closed like he was watching the memories replay in his mind as he talked.

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He could make do with anything. Everything he owned was worn out.  His gloves always had holes in them.  So did his shirts and his boots.  His saddle would always have baling twine tied to it and you were never sure if it was just tied on in case he needed it some time, or if it was holding the saddle together.  It wasn’t that he didn’t have newer things.  Every year everyone gave him new gloves, jackets, shirts, all kinds of things.  But he just wouldn’t use anything new until he had gotten every single ounce of use out of something else first.  He probably had 50 pairs of brand new gloves but would wear the ones that the fingers were totally worn through because they were still technically holding together.  Once, someone noticed his boots had a hole in them and said, “Rog, I’ve got a pair of boots you can have.  What size do you wear?”  His reply was, “I can wear anything from a 7 to a 91/2.”  Maybe it was having lived through the Great Depression, maybe it was just Rog, but he used things completely, wasted nothing and was not taken in by things just because they were new and shiny.

He kept a rolled up pancake in his shirt pocket in case he got hungry and an old Clorox jug filled with water in his pickup in case he got thirsty.  And he was would always offer to share his pancake with you, although I don’t recall anyone ever taking him up on that offer.

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Rog, Dad and Jim at the Calving Barn at Alcova

One time, Dad, Rog and I were trying to load a mad cow at the calving shed.  It was not going well, and there was a lot of cursing and a lot of head shaking.  We finally got her run onto the trailer, but as Dad dismounted to shut the trailer gate, he landed wrong and went down hard.  Luckily, we got the gate closed before the cow could run back out over the top of him but it quickly became clear that he had broken his leg, badly.  Rog said some words and shook his head and hurried off.  He came back with a full 5-gallon bucket of water and set it down next to Dad.  “There!”, he said, “now I better go radio your Mother and get her to come haul him out of here.”  I still have absolutely no idea what on earth I was supposed to do with the 5-gallon bucket of water.

 

 

And then there was the goat incident.  When my sisters and I were in high school, we had a goat that we used to practice our goat tying skills.  The goat was a huge pain.  He would eat anything and everything and wreak havoc wherever he went.  One day Rog’s favorite horse was tied in the barn.  The goat ate the horse’s tail.  I’m not sure why the horse didn’t kick him across the barn, but he didn’t.  By the time anyone noticed what was happening, the horse had very little hair left in his tail.  This was not a good situation.  There was some epic swearing that happened, which started with, “The ONLY thing a man gives a GOD DAMN about and the GOD DAMN goat eats its GOD DAMN tail off!! Suffering Christ Almighty!!”  We walked on egg shells and steered clear of Uncle Rog as best we could for weeks.  But this is when I realized how much Uncle Rog loved us, despite his cranky exterior because that goat survived unscathed.

Uncle Rog didn’t have a lot of money, never owned land or cattle, wasn’t famous and never won any awards, but he sure did leave his mark.

He found something that he loved in life, and he did it well.  He worked hard and did his best even when things were challenging, especially when things were challenging.  He helped people whenever he could.  He never tried to impress anyone.  He never tried to act like someone he wasn’t.  He was content to just be Rog and to be doing what he loved.  And in the end touched more people than I’m sure he ever realized.

That is the biggest thing I learned from Uncle Rog.  You don’t need awards or money or any of the trappings of what we consider as”success” to make an impact in this world.  You just need to find something you love to do, do your best, work hard and treat people well along the way.

The day we gathered to say goodbye it was standing room only, and there were even people standing outside in the cold January wind, so that they could show their respect and say thank you.  Cowboys don’t often cry but that day, with their hats in their hands and thier heads bowed, tears streamed down the faces of two generations of cowboys and cowgirls.

During the funeral Bob Cardwell told a story that I’ve always thought says a lot about who Rog was (my apologies Bob if I’m not remembering it correctly).  Bob said that he had given Rog a new headstall for Christmas one year because he had noticed that Rog’s was getting worn out.  Rog thanked him, and that was that.  Several months later Rog had gone to Cardwell’s to help Bob move some cattle.  They hadn’t gotten far from the trailer when Bob’s headstall broke and he got off of his horse to try to repair it.  Rog said to just hang on and he trotted back to the pickup.  Bob expected to him to show up with some bailing twine but instead he showed up with that brand new headstall and said, “here you go, I want you to have this.”  Bob said, “Rog I can’t take that.  I wanted you to have it.”  Rog said, “But I’ve been saving it so I could give it to someone who needs it more than me.

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He was a gruff old cowboy with a big heart and a memorable way with words. He taught by example, things both practical and profound.  A life well lived and always remembered.  Here’s to Uncle Rog on his birthday and now we better get back to work and stop “burning daylight”

 

 

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Happy 12th Birthday Annie

Every year goes by faster than the last!  All of the sudden Annie is 12!

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She’s had a busy year.  Here are a few highlights.

 

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Saying goodbye to elementary school and hello middle school

 

 

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Cougar Pants

 

 

Sports

Along with sports there are injuiries and she’s tried her best to catch up with her brother’s injury count. There was the track meet where she literally ran out of her shoes which resulted in a nice case of road rash

Then she decided to ramp it up a bit during basketball.  A finger sprain, a finger fracture and an ankle sprain.

Lots of fun with friends, old and new.

Spending time at her favorite place.

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Fun times with family

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Cousins are the most fun

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And grandparents are the best

And then there was this goofiness

Happy Birthday Annie!  Can’t wait to see what happens this year!

But you can cool it on the injuires, okay.

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Back to School

I sent Max and Annie back to school this morning.

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Ok, so that wasn’t this morning, even if that’s the way I still picture them when they set off on their first day of school.

This was this morning.

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I don’t know how it happened.  The first day of middle school and the first day of high school.  I don’t understand how they grew up so fast!  Especially since I don’t feel like I haven’t gotten any older….well except for the aching in my feet and the stiffness in my hip but mentally I don’t feel any older.  In fact, I still haven’t decided what I want to be when I grow up, so how is it possibly that I have a middle schooler and a high schooler?

People warned me that this would happen.  When they were little, moms with older kids would say, “just wait, they grow up fast.”  But I all I knew then, was that some days lasted for weeks and I wondered if I would ever find my way out of the piles of laundry and legos and stuffed animals.  But it’s true.  Once they start school time goes by faster every year.  And now I feel like I’m standing at the edge of a vortex that is getting ready to suck me in and spit out at Annie’s graduation!

I would have never imagined that it was possible to feel so many conflicting emotions all at the same time.  Happy that they are growing up and becoming independent, sad that one day, far too soon, they will be all grown up and off on their own.  Excited about all the fun, new friends and experiences that middle school and high school bring but also terrified about all the fun, new friends and experiences that middle school and high school bring.  Relieved to have the house all to myself again but…..actually, no conflict there just relieved to have my house back to myself again.

Something about this year, probably because it’s a first for both kids, has me thinking back over their school years so far.  It makes me realize how many people have played a part in the lives of my kids.  And I wanted to say thank you.  My kids are so fortunate to have fantastic grandparents, aunts and uncles but also so many other adults who have added so much to their lives.

So, thank you to all their teachers, principles, coaches, small group leaders, scout leaders, pastors, neighbors and parents of their friends and teammates.  You have taught them, guided them, encouraged them and cheered them on in so many different ways.  It’s one thing to hear mom say, “good game!”, it’s another thing to hear your teammates mom or your coach say, “good game!”  Sometimes it takes more than just Mom and Dad, sometimes we need other adults to help us set an example and provide encouragement.  And we are forever grateful to have so many great people walking alongside our family and pouring love and friendship into our kids lives.  Thank you.

And now at the risk of being overly sentimental here’s a little video look back.  Happy 2015/2016 school hear everyone!

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Happy 14th Birthday Max!

It feels like this was just little bit ago.

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But it turns out it was quite a while ago because Max turns 14 years old today! Here’s a bit of what he’s been up to the past year.

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There was ranch work.

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A California vacation

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Spending time with family

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Good times with good friends

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But mostly there was basketball, basketball, and more basketball

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And what would basketball season be without a broken wrist?

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It’s been a fun year!  I just wish it wasn’t going by so fast!

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Happy Birthday Max!

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Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame

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The Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame was founded in 2013 to honor the men and women, past and present, who have had an impact on the cowboy and ranching community and culture of Wyoming.

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Every year cowboys and cowgirls are nominated from each region. The nominations are sent to the state board, who then verifies their qualifications and selects the inductees for that year.


The Natrona County inductees for 2014 and 2015 will be honored during the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo.  Please join us.

Tuesday, July 7th at the VIP tent on the west end of the rodeo arena beginning at 5:00 pm. Weinrichs food truck, as well as a cash bar, will be available to purchase dinner and drinks. There will be a ceremony to honor the inductees during the rodeo performance.               You will need to pay to get on to the Fairgrounds.


And now, I am proud to introduce to you the inductees for 2014 and 2015.

2014 Inductees

Jamis Johnson 1943-

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As a three-year-old James Edward “Jamis” Johnson would sneak out of the family ranch home and down to the barn where the horses were, setting a tone for the rest of his life. He has always had a love of and a way with horses.

Jamis attended school in Casper at McKinley Elementary and Natrona County High School, where he graduated in 1961.

Always interested in working with horses, he spent time on the family ranch and became a horse trainer. He trained the World Champion roping horse for Jimmy Grieve in Oklahoma City in 1966 and has spent decades training cutting horses and cowboying. He worked on and trained horses for a number of ranches including the 3J Livestock/Johnson Ranch, the Dumbell Ranch, Sanford Ranch, Taylor Ranch at Kaycee and the Tom Sun Ranch.

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Photo credit: Paws Fur a Moment Photography

Among his awards are the Legacy Award from the Central Wyoming Cutting Club and Masters Champion in 1994 from the Wyoming Cutting Horse Association. He has won over $100,000 in lifetime earnings from the National Cutting Horse Association. Johnson runs the family ranch and supports his sons Justin and Jhett, themselves award-winning Cowboys. He also paints and has been known to play the guitar and sing.

Billy Jean Shepperson Beaton 1919-2014

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Billie Jean spent her childhood and early years around Salt Creek Wyoming. She would ride out to meet herds at the nearby stockyards and help trail them to the railroad, where she would help work and load them onto the trains. She also spent summers trailing livestock from Midwest to Alcova and Mills to put on rodeos.

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She bought her first cattle and the diamond heart brand in 1937. When she married Frank Shepperson they lived in a sheep wagon and built reservoirs with horses. They raised horses and cattle. Not only was she adept at roping, riding, and handling cattle but she was also a great cook. She was especially known for her pies. She canned her own food, made clothes for her family and soap out of lye.

During the Blizzard of ’49 she was called upon for her knowledge of the countryside to ride in planes that were dropping supplies to sheepherders and ranchers who were trapped by the snow.   Her two great passions were working with livestock and her family. She rode horseback through her 93rd year and loved passing on stories and history of early ranching to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

2015 Inductees

Roger Joe “Rog” Claytor May 23, 1923 – Jan 24, 2006

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Rog was born into a pioneer ranching family the 7th of 8 children. He grew up on some of the most historic ranches in central Wyoming. During his lifetime, he spent time working on cowboy crews for the 9A, The Bug, Cross L, Circle Bar and Miles Land and Livestock Co.

He served in the Navy during WWII, stationed in the South Pacific. During the Blizzard of ’49 he helped Ben Roberts trail 1700 head of cattle to the Big Horn Basin.

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He was a true cowboy, and there was nothing he could not rope, ride or fix with a little bailing twine.   Always the first one to be saddled up in the morning and the last one to head home in the evening, he was as tough as they come but just as generous. He left a legacy of two generations of cowboys and cowgirls that he helped to raise and train up in the cowboy way.

James “Buck” Allemand

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Buck was born in 1931 and grew up on his family’s sheep ranch near Midwest Wyoming. As a child, he not only learned the sheep business but also broke horses and put up hay. He grew up at a time when the range was truly open; communication was by word of mouth only, transportation was primarily by horseback and supply shopping was done just twice a year.

He spent the blizzard of ’49 on his own in a sheep wagon covered with snow, with only the stovepipe visible. He did not see another soul for 36 days, while he forced his way out of the sheep wagon and rode 7 miles to make sure cattle were fed. His father flew over every few days to drop supplies.

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He served in the United States Air Force for the 82nd Airborne from 1952-1954. After returning from the service, he continued in the ranching business and raised his family. In 1969, Buck ramrodded the trail drive of 1215 head of cattle from the TTT ranch near Kaycee to the Bolton Ranch near Rawlins for Herman Warner. The manuscripts of the trip reside in the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. He has lived an exciting western way of life, including riding a bucking horse for a Marlboro commercial. He continues the cowboy life today and after trying to retire three times he still owns cattle and participates in ranch activities.

Charles Powell “Powd” Clemmons 1901-1987

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Powd was born in Rawlins WY in 1901 and would often tell people, “I got here as quick as I could.” He grew up when the West was still wild, and there was no telephone service, electricity or indoor plumbing. He often recounted how wolves would trail him while he rode long distances to fetch the mail.

He worked for the ID and Buzzard ranches, as well as for Ben Roberts, as foreman of the JE Ranch. He also operated his own ranch on Canyon Creek in the 1950’s. He worked through many difficult conditions, including the Great Depression, severe droughts, grasshopper plagues and the Blizzard of ’49.

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He was also an accomplished saddle bronc rider and competed in and won many rodeos throughout Wyoming. After retiring from bronc riding, he was often called on to serve as a rodeo judge. He also competed in roping and bulldogging

In the fall of 1961 he sustained life-threatening internal injuries when the horse he was riding fell and rolled over him. This accident forced him to retire from full-time cowboy work. After recovering from the accident, he worked for Alcova Irrigation District for 15 years. In 1976, he accepted a position as water commissioner and received a citation from Governor Herschler for his work.

Please join us on July 7th to honor these great Cowboys and Cowgirls.

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Dear Tom

Dear Tom,

I can’t believe it’s been a year.  It still doesn’t seem real that you’re not here getting ready to calve heifers, worrying about the weather, riding horses that no one else can or would want to, grinning from ear to ear as you watch your girls feed bum calves and learn to ride.  When I think of you, I still picture you doing all of that.  We didn’t see each other every day, you and I, we hadn’t for a long time, because I am here and you were there. So it’s easy for me to pretend that you haven’t really gone anywhere.  It’s easy for me to forget, for a moment, that things have changed, that you are gone.

But I know that you are.  And I know that it’s not easy, not for a second, for the ones who are used to seeing you everyday. For the ones who depended on you, who counted on your strength and your smile to get them through the day, they feel your absence every single moment. I can pretend that the world didn’t change but they can’t.

Some people will say that everything happens for a reason.  But I don’t believe that.  I don’t believe that God gave you cancer or chose not to cure you for some mysterious, so called reason, known only to him.  I don’t think God works that way.  You were too bright a light for God not to want you here in this world for as long as possible.  I think life just unfolds in front us and God is there to help us through it all but I can’t believe that there could be a reason for what you went through or what we lost when you left us.

Some people will say that God needed you in heaven.  I can’t make sense of that either.  If God is God than what help could he possibly need and even if he did, I know for fact he’s got a pretty damn good cowboy crew up there already.  We need you here more.

I will never understand why this happened.  I know it has something to do with cells dividing and treatments not living up to their promises.  But I will never understand why you and why now, when you still had so much to do.  What I want you to know is that we haven’t forgotten you.  We never could.  You are missed, deeply and often.  Life marches on but it’s not quite the same.

I don’t know what heaven is like but I hope there are green mountain pastures, and cattle to gather and horses to ride.  I hope you sit around under the stars at night and tell wild west stories with the rest of the cowboys up there.  And I hope that it’s not really that far away.  That you can look down on us once in awhile and maybe send us a sign somehow.  We’ll be thinking of you and watching for you every time we saddle up.

Tell we meet again my friend…..

video below, pictures courtesy of Toms’ family and friends

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Happy 11th Birthday Anne!

11 years ago this goofy girl showed up and we’ve been having a great time ever since.

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Here are a few of things that she’s kept us busy with this year.

Hanging out with grandparents and cousins.

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and with her favorite brother

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Spending time with friends

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Hanging with Aunt Casey.  The similarities between them, and I say with love and great anxiety, are frightening.

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Moving cattle and branding calves.

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Acting and singing with the POP worship team

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Basketball

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And just being her goofy, smiling, funny self.

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Happy Birthday Annie!  You are awesome and we love you!

 

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