Deer Season

Mason's 2015 buck

Photo of our 9-year-old nephew, Mason Dovel, with the 10-point IA buck he got this year.

In this part of the country, when the calendar rolls over to the month of October and the trees begin to change colors, many of the men, women, and children are dreaming of getting the buck of a lifetime. Or maybe just the first buck of their life. Some just want a nice doe to put some meat in the freezer. Whatever they’re after, it’s the thrill of the hunt and the feeling you get walking thru the crisp leaves after the first frost, smelling the fresh scent of clean country air as you walk to your stand, anticipating the feeling of pitting your skills against Mother Nature one more time that gets you out of a warm bed before daylight. For many, it’s a heritage passed down from father or mother to son or daughter for several generations from way back when it wasn’t just a sport to enjoy, but a desperate need to put food on the table. It’s a great bonding experience that many friends and family members enjoy year after year. Legal, ethical hunting practices and safety rules are taught each year to hundreds of young people in the area in order for them to receive their Hunter Education Certificates. Living in an electronic society as we do with everyone glued to their iPhones, iPads, or computers these days, it’s good to see that some are still hitting the woods each fall to get away from all that and commune with nature. Watching the sun come up over the horizon, listening to the squirrels scampering around in their search for more nuts to put away for winter, and the sound of the Canadian Geese overhead as they head to warmer climates, there’s something in it that touches your soul.
Deer season begins in our tri-state area of southwest IA, northwest MO, and southeast NE in the early fall, beginning with archery season followed by muzzle loader, rifle, and shotgun seasons throughout the rest of the fall & winter. Camouflage and Hunter Orange are the fashion colors seen throughout the area for the next three or four months each year. Pick-ups parked along the roads and in fields everywhere in the early morning and late afternoon hours are a common sight. The local restaurants are filled with hunters telling their latest hunting stories or showing off pictures on their cell phones of their biggest bucks or their grandkid’s first deer over lunch. It’s a great tradition that can be enjoyed by everyone and part of what makes life on the back roads a nice place to live!
By Debbie Dovel

October Memories

pumpkin patch

October brings with it so many memories of past Autumns, when our kids were small and life revolved around decorating the house for Halloween, finding just the right pumpkins, and carving them into look-alike Jack-O-Lanterns of each of us. The one of their dad was always the largest with the scariest face and biggest teeth. Of course, the one of me was usually pretty silly looking, as it’s hard to make a “mom” pumpkin look very scary, even if their dad said it should look like a witch! Then we had the girl and boy pumpkins with their own sweet or goofy faces according to what the kids thought they should be. We’d sit them all in a row on the front porch from the Dad pumpkin all the way down to the baby pumpkin, each with their own candle inside to light up every evening as dusk began to fall. We’d buy those cheap vinyl cling decorations to put on the windows, licking the backs to make them stick to the glass. The characters were always cute little witches, ghosts, and vampires with some pumpkins and candy corn or scarecrows thrown in, nothing like the ugly zombies and horror story photos they sell in the stores these days. Then we either made an outfit or bought one of the cartoon character ones at the local discount store. Our daughter was usually an animal of some kind. I remember dressing her like a black cat one year with a rope tail, and stepping on it all night while I followed her around town trick-or-treating. My son was every super hero that ever lived, but he liked Spiderman and Batman the best. When they got too old to make the rounds for candy, we started having a “Halloweenie Roast” in our yard, sitting around the fire pit, roasting hot dogs & making S’mores along with a big pot of chili for Frito pies and another of hot spiced apple cider. Family and friends stop by with their kids to show us their costumes and sit around the fire to visit awhile. We’ll hear the geese flying over on their way south for the winter and the rustle of the wind thru the corn stalks in the field where the combines have just picked the last of the crops for the year. As the sky darkens and the stars pop out overhead, we watch for falling stars and make wishes for life to stay this way, with all the ones we love nearby and safe until the next Fall brings us round the campfire once again. However, we all know that ultimately some will leave us and new ones will be born. Although they don’t replace the ones we lose, they give us hope for the future, and sometimes in just the right light, you will see their image in the faces of the young ones who will carry the traditions and memories forward to their own children someday. We just need to keep telling them the stories of our parents, grandparents, siblings, and the ones who died too soon, sharing our faith in a God who is always in control, until we are all reunited one day. There is a better world waiting up ahead if you follow His way, where life on the back roads will be a wondrous eternal experience.

–Debbie Dovel

Fall Favorites

Fall scenes

What’s your favorite thing about Fall?

The smell of decaying leaves and wood smoke in the air, or the sound of the Canadian Geese overhead as they fly south for the winter?

Maybe it’s raking up and burning the leaves and stray branches that have fallen for a wienie roast with your kids in the back yard, or the trip to the pumpkin patch to pick out a Jack-o-Lantern to display on your front porch.

If you have teenagers in school, then you look forward to standing on the sidelines at your local football field on Friday nights, cheering for the home team as the smell of popcorn and hamburgers waft thru the air from the concession stand.

Sunday afternoons, you’re an armchair quarterback watching your favorite NFL team try one more time to make it to the Superbowl, thinking “maybe this year”.

The smack of helmets and shoulder pads and the sound of the referee’s whistle, whether in high school or on the big screen in your living room, brings back so many wonderful memories of your own days either on the field or watching your son play, sometimes wearing the same number on their jerseys that you wore so long ago.

I enjoy the return of the crisp, cool air and the deep blue Autumn sky, especially after a long, hot summer, shut in the house with the AC on.

The fantastic display of the bright colors found everywhere in nature this time of year thrills the soul; red, yellow, and orange plus every shade in between.

Fall is sad in a way, as nature puts on it’s best show before the curtain comes down and hides all the beautiful colors, preparing once more for Winter, but without the dormancy of the cold Winter months, Spring would not come again with it’s fresh birth of new life.

Most of all, Fall is a time of harvest as the crops are gathered in, and we thank God for his abundant blessings.

I think we humans could learn a lot from the seasons.

Our Creator put within us the desire to work, but He also wants us to take time to rest and reminisce on life.

Perhaps He meant for us to start slowing down in the Fall in preparation for a restful Winter when we have a shorter amount of daylight and spend more time indoors with our families, living the simple life here on the back roads.

-Debbie Dovel

It’s Still Me In Here

It's still me

I’ve heard it said of someone who seems wise beyond their years
that they have “an old soul”,
But I wonder if our souls grow old.
People change overnight when you’re not looking.
The parents you thought would always be middle-aged suddenly grow old,
and the child you still think of as a teenager, now has teenagers of her own.
Even the face you look at in the mirror sometimes seems like a stranger
with new wrinkles and either more gray hairs or less hair altogether,
But it’s still me in here.
Maybe if we could see one another’s souls,
we’d see they haven’t changed nearly as much as our physical bodies have.
Maybe when we looked at our spouse,
we’d still see their youthful spirit and the exuberance they once had for life,
and we’d act accordingly.
Treat them like we did when we first met, when we couldn’t stand to be apart.
When we looked at our elderly parents, we’d see the wants and dreams they once had,
before life’s trials and illnesses changed their physical appearance.
Then maybe we wouldn’t be so critical and impatient with them.
Our children would still have the innocent soul of a newborn,
looking at the world with trusting eyes and full of hope for their futures.
We’d cherish each and every moment we still have with them,
and do the best we could to assure them of our love.
If we could look into the mirror and see our own souls,
we, too, would see an entirely different reflection.
One that reminds us of who we really are on the inside,
and not the person we pretend to be most of the time.
Maybe we’d love that person enough to treat them better,
not constantly berate ourselves for every little mistake.
I think we need to remember that when God looks at us,
He doesn’t see our bodies, but rather our souls.
Because that’s also where his Spirit lives if you let Him.
These tired old bodies will one day turn to dust,
but our souls will soar on wings like eagles into another realm
where they will never age, but live for eternity
in the light of His love.

– Debbie Dovel

Popcorn Day

popcorn day parade

Hamburg, IA, the home of Popcorn Day for 55 years! So many memories run thru my mind of Popcorn Day in Hamburg. It’s the big event of the year in this small rural community and will hopefully continue for another 50 plus years. These are some of the sights and sounds of Popcorn Day ~
The smell of popcorn in the air and the sight of the American flag flying high over Main Street as everyone crowds into our small town, trying to find a piece of shade to watch the Grand Parade.
School buses parked up and down the side streets bring marching bands from all the neighboring schools and the Flea Market stands at City Park where many arrived the night before to set up their wares.
Fire trucks and rescue squads from miles around blowing their horns and sirens as they move slowly down the street.
Politicians throwing candy to the kids as they walk along beside the big floats decorated for the Grand Parade.
High School Popcorn Day queen candidates looking beautiful in their long gowns and the adorable Little Miss Popcorn Day girls all dressed up in their best, hoping they are the one with the most money in their can at Stoner Drug to earn this year’s title and crown.
Family and friends home for the activities talking nonstop on the sidewalks as they catch up on the latest news.
Classmates we haven’t seen for at least a year or longer back in town for their reunions or the big Alumni Banquet in the evening recalling the “glory days” of their youth at Hamburg High.
Tractor Cruise with the red and green all waxed up and representing our farming heritage here in southwest Iowa.
Slow pitch softball tournament at Clayton Field for the baseball fans among us.
Car Show at the post office parking lot with some real beauties on display where for the second year, the Chad Dovel Memorial Trophy in memory of our son will be awarded to the Grand Champion. How honored and grateful our family is for Chad to be remembered in this way in his home town!
Chain Saw Sculptures to entertain, and the Pancake Man to feed the crowds. Performances at the Colonial Theater or the Dusty Blue Band at City Park after the parades followed by Karaoke and the Teen Dance on Main Street or the Velvet Crush at the Blue Moon in the evening bring plenty of music to the day.
For the runners, there’s the Flash Dash 5K at 8 p.m., plus many more fun activities and things to see at this year’s Popcorn Day.
What a pleasant feeling it is to be part of a community that carries on this wonderful tradition each year! Rubbing elbows with the people we live near, but so often don’t take the time to visit in the current technological age. The warm clasp of a handshake or a big hug cannot be felt thru cell phones or Face Book, and we all need this physical contact in the world we live in, more now than ever before.
So, let’s stand proud when we hear the National Anthem sung at this year’s parade, with our hat’s off and our hands over our hearts. As the American Legion fires their guns in honor of those who have paid the ultimate price, let’s remember them and pray that God will bless and protect our way of life here on the back roads of America. Have a great Popcorn Day!

— Debbie Dovel

Feels Like Fall

cabin in fall

The last few days here in southwest Iowa have felt more like Fall than late Summer. The trees along the back roads are still full of green leaves, but they are heavy with dust and look weary, like they are ready to fall to the ground for a long winter’s nap. The flowers of Summer are drooping and starting to fade while the Chrysanthemums are getting ready to burst forth with the bright colors of Fall. Of course there will be more hot days before the arrival of permanently cooler weather, but this is a nice reprieve and a promise of what’s to come.
The sight of the big yellow school bus on the country roads and children in town walking to school with their backpacks strapped on signifies the return of a more scheduled life for many. Sports practices and homework fill their days after school and weekends are full of activity getting caught up on what didn’t get done all week for both adults and children. Enjoy these times with your kids, because they fly by much too quickly. It’s hard not to get caught up in the hectic lifestyle and long for some rest when your children are young and involved in learning and participating in sports and other activities, but don’t wish away all those special moments; your kinder gardener’s first day of school, watching your second grader score in soccer, your daughter’s first crush in 6th grade, all those elementary concerts with them dressed in their best, the excitement of finally making it to Junior High, and all the great things they learn and experience in High School. Those really are the “glory days” before they are grown and gone on to life beyond their small towns and families. Enjoy their innocence and seeing the world thru their young eyes while you can.
Have you ever noticed how the sky becomes a brighter blue in the Fall? It’s like God adds a deeper color to the heavens as a backdrop for the magnificent shades He paints the trees in Autumn. Before long, we’ll be seeing the farmers out in the fields harvesting this year’s crop in their big green or red combines and trucks sitting in long lines at the grain elevators. The geese will be flying overhead to the warmer southern states for the winter, and the deer’s bright red coats of summer will be exchanged for the warm camouflage shades of Fall.
Until then, let’s enjoy the last days of Summer. Take one more trip to the lake or wherever you long to be over Labor Day weekend. Go fishing, camping with the kids, or to your favorite swimming hole one last time. Wear your flip flops or run barefoot thru the grass while you still can. As summer winds down, take the time to enjoy all it still has to offer here on the back roads of life.

– Debbie Dovel

Last Days of Summer

watermelon kids

Autumn doesn’t officially start until September 23rd, so we’ve actually got like six weeks left of Summer, on the calendar anyways, but when August begins, you start seeing the ads for school clothes and the countdown begins to the first NFL football games, so it feels like Summer is on it’s way out the door. Watching the first pre-season game this weekend, sitting in the air conditioning, it almost seemed like Fall was already here. Hearing the commentators that we’ve all become accustomed to on TV, the whistles blowing on the field, and the clash of helmets and shoulder pads, makes you think you can step outside and feel that cold snap in the air that signals the return of another hopeful season for your favorite team. Unfortunately, you will find many more hot, humid, late Summer days here in the Midwest during the month of August.
I remember as a kid starting to get bored about this time every summer. The happy-go-lucky days of freedom from school work that began in late May were turning into the boring sameness of long, hot days without structure and a longing to return to the company of my classmates once more. Of course, I grew up living in the country, so I couldn’t just run over to the neighbor’s house or down the block to a friend’s house to find someone to play with. It was just my brother who was one year older and me, and we were only allowed to watch cartoons for a couple hours on Saturday mornings, which by the way, were in black and white until I was 12 years old! So, we had to come up with our own ways to stay occupied and out from under Mom’s feet most of the day. I remember playing “Cowboys & Indians” where for some reason I was always the Indian who got captured and tied up. Then sometimes we played “War” and I got to be the bad Nazi who was blown up by a grenade. In our games of “Tarzan”, of course I had to be Jane, which in my brother’s opinion was second to Cheetah, whose part one of our hound dogs unknowingly played. As “Zorro”, I actually got to wear the mask and cape one time, and the reason I remember this is because on that particular day, I got stung by a wasp in the barn where I was practicing my swordsmanship. Oh, the joys of having a big brother who only had his little sister as a playmate during those long lazy days of Summer, and how I’d love to live even one of those days over again with him!
When I’d had enough of being his co-conspirator in all his “boy” games, I’d go play with my Barbie dolls for awhile, or find the kittens which we seemed to always have a litter of in the summer, and sometimes I’d dress them up in the doll clothes, too, but they didn’t like it much. I was mostly a tomboy, though, just as most country girls were, living on the back roads away from the “city” kids, as we called them back then. I was always ready for school to start and didn’t even mind riding on the bus an hour both ways clear up til my Junior year in high school. Mom would order us a new pair of shoes and some new clothes from the Sears catalog in August, when the sales came out, but a lot of times, I was lucky enough to get “hand-me-downs” from an older girl whose father my dad worked with. It never bothered me to wear second hand clothes. They were always in great shape and well taken care of, and I was proud to wear them. I hardly ever wore shoes much in the summer, unless we went to town, but I’d get a brand new pair of “penney loafers” or “saddle shoes” every fall, just for the school year.
We made do with a lot less back in those days, but I never felt deprived in any way. I was so proud of my hard-working dad who took the time after a long hot day to play catch or horseshoes with us and glad to have my mom home every day, cooking meals and keeping a clean house for all of us. Although we argued sometimes, I thought my big brother hung the moon. I sure hope Heaven is a lot like life on the back roads.

Grandpa’s Songs

iPhone Photos 199

Grandpa, play some songs for me
Like you did when I was young
The ones by Hank, Elvis, and others
“Hey, Good-Lookin”, “Jailhouse Rock” & “16 Tons”

You sang and played your guitar
While I tried to sing along
Just the two of us and the dogs
Making music and singing our songs

Sitting in front of the old wood stove,
In your overalls and John Deere cap,
I sat beside you in my NASCAR shirt
As you played the guitar on your lap

My years on earth weren’t very long
But I cherished the time we shared
Down in the shop at your farm
I always knew that you cared

Now that I’m in heaven
You might think I’m too far away
To hear your music and laughter
But it’s just like yesterday

You may not hear me singing
But now I can see and hear you, too
I’m waiting for you to join me
And until the time that you do ~

Please play my old guitar, Grandpa
I want Mom to give it to you
I’ll be listening for our favorites
Now, don’t let this make you blue

Cause Heaven is full of music
And there’s lots of things to do
Family and friends to visit with,
But there’s no one quite like you

So, put on a pot of coffee
And tune up those guitar strings
I’ll be sitting beside you tonight
While God’s angels listen to us sing!

Love, Chad
– Debbie Dovel

Live for the Moment

perfect moments

I have a saying posted near my computer that says “Live for the moments you can’t put into words”, and that’s how I feel many times when I sit down to write this blog. So many moments in life that are hard to define, but you just want to share with others somehow. They say “a picture is worth a thousand words”, especially for those of us who are visual learners, and I suppose that’s why Facebook is so popular with the unlimited ability to post photos and videos which tell their stories with barely a word being written sometimes.
I envy the writers who are so gifted that they can paint a picture with words every time they put pencil to paper. Sometimes, my words will flow from my mind onto the page like a smooth flowing stream, but other times, the words I need to express myself elude me somehow.
We all have those moments in our lives that are bigger than life itself, that stand out in our minds so brightly you can almost taste them. Like riding a bicycle as a kid on a hot summer day, the wind in your face and the smell of the dirt beneath your tires rising up in the air.
Or the long sunny days at the pool where the scent of chlorine and the sound of the water splashing and the children screaming takes you back to another time and place where you were either one of the happy kids enjoying the freedom from school or maybe a young mother with little ones of your own at the kiddie pool for the afternoon.
Then there are the family vacations where you all piled into a car and headed out west to see Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, or maybe even drive to the top of Pike’s Peak where you had a snowball fight in July, just so you could say you did. Remember fighting with your brother or sister in the back seat while your dad yelled from the front “Don’t make me come back there!”? And of course, the 15th time you ask to buy another souvenir, he says “Do you think money grows on trees?”
Another often repeated saying is “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans”, which is so true. How many times do we look back on our lives and wish we’d stopped and smelled the flowers a little bit longer, instead of being in such a rush to grow up, get a great job, make lots of money, etc.? One day, we turn around and suddenly we are no longer young with our whole lives ahead of us, and if we haven’t really lived and experienced each precious little moment of time the good Lord has given us, we will be full of regret and maybe even bitterness.
So the next time your child or maybe grandchild asks you to go for a walk, read a book, push them in the swing, or maybe come to their next baseball game or swim meet; you will turn off the TV, silence your cell phone, get off the sofa and experience life on the back roads before it’s too late!

By Debbie Dovel