Messes and Miracles (The Flood, Part 2)

The rain turned into a light mist and then dissipated. While enduring the waiting, all I could do was pace…or clean. The girls were inside with me and we were all restless. Little Luxe was feeling the vibes and constantly wanted me to hold her. Taegan decided that a rainy day was good day to go to Papa & Nanny’s, so she took off before Leslee came in the house.

When he walked in, I was ready to get in the side-by-side and go see the situation. He was hesitant to even go driving around because the sound of our Ranger is a call of sorts to our cows. They know when he’s driving around in it that 1) food is coming or 2) it’s time to go to the milk barn. Our stranded cows were already motivated to be milked—as they are every morning—and Leslee didn’t want that to entice them to attempt crossing the creek. It was way too deep and swift!

Not knowing cattle as well as he, I asked, “Are cows good swimmers?”

“Ehhh, they do alright. They really need to be able to bounce off the bottom while they swim to stay afloat. I don’t think they could ever get any footing with as fast as it’s moving and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 10 feet deep.”

Well, that settled that for me. Cows are big, but they’re not that tall. I was really hoping that even if some did attempt to cross this morning, worst case scenario would be getting washed down to a different property, not drowning.

“Can we go check on them? See if they’ve moved or maybe if they’re even there at all??”

He hesitated, but curiosity and concern won out. We loaded ourselves and Luxe into the Ranger and took off for the only vantage point Leslee was able to get to.

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Beauty amidst disaster

It was a muddy mess of a ride with little flood-made rivulets all over the property. Dairy farms tend to be muddy, anyway, so it made an everyday problem ten times worse.

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Sometimes disaster creates beauty.

As we drove through the first gate, the cows that had stayed on higher ground all night were gathered…just standing there. That’s not normal.

“See, look at them,” Leslee said. “They know something’s wrong. You should have felt the mood in the barn this morning. They were mopey and a little tense. They’re missing the rest of the herd.”

He called another cow by name and said, “She’s been bawling quite a bit this morning.” (Bawling means “calling by mooing” if you’re not familiar with dairy lingo). “The girls she’s with aren’t the ones she usually hangs out with.”

Cows have cliques. They stay together for the most part, but they have their certain little tribes within the group. Kind of like people. You tend to separate into different age groups, different likes/dislikes, etc.

Listening to him speak with such care and intimate knowledge of his cattle led me to think of all the bad press farmers get regarding their treatment of animals and the farming practices they choose to implement. I’m sure I could meet some farmers around the world that practice a moral or ethical code that I would not agree with. Show me a career field that DOESN’T have unethical or immoral people. But, THIS farmer on THIS day and every other day is what I know. And it’s worth sharing in a world that seems to be so angry all the time at the people providing them food. This man knows them all by name or number, knows whom runs around with whom, immediately realizes one might be walking with a limp, notices when droopy ears might be a sign of sickness…all of it. He cares.

We arrived on a high-point from which Leslee had last seen a few of the trapped cows. I’d never seen anything like it! Water was EVERYWHERE—to the point I was disoriented about location. I couldn’t pinpoint where exactly we were from where they were because all dry land was covered.

We looked through a gap in the trees and about 250-300 yards across the water, we could see some cows. Not all 36, mind you, but at least some. Leslee breathed a small sigh of relief and said, “They moved.”

“What do you mean they moved?”

“That’s not where they were when I came over here last. They were able to retreat.”

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“Ok, so that’s not the piece of land they were on before?”

“No, it’s covered now.”

I felt an overwhelming amount of gratitude to God then. A friend had told me she was praying for God to put “a hedge of protection” around our cows and seeing them butted right up to a line of trees immediately made me think of her wording. A hedge. That’s exactly what He had done. And whether He had given them some extra intelligence or moved them Himself, they were on higher ground.

Fortunately–and yet still unfortunately–we could only see 6 or 7. Although Leslee was glad to see some had survived, I could tell he was preparing himself for the worst. Thirty-six cows was over half of our milking herd. When you’re a small operation, every last cow matters. Six or seven of 36 was not going to improve our potential loss. Replacing thirty cows was not an option for us financially. The only option upon suffering a loss of this magnitude was selling out and starting a new, unknown journey.

“These are the same cows I saw earlier. I don’t see any new ones,” he said.

“At least these are still OK. We know He’s got these. Maybe we just can’t see the other ones. There’s a lot of trees and brush they could be hiding in. Or maybe they got separated from this group and they’re holed up in a different spot.” Positive Polly here…trying to lift her husband’s spirits.

I was choosing to believe it. I was still going to believe that God had saved every last one of those cows and I just couldn’t see them. So, I got back on the computer and updated our friends and family about the current situation while continuing to ask for prayers of protection. The tremendous outpouring of love, offers of help, and prayer was palpable. If it’s possible to tangibly FEEL the power of prayer and love, I was feelin’ it.

It gave me a good boost for what was next. More rain was coming.

 

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All in a Week’s Time

Taegan was home on Spring Break all last week and we always try to do some fun things when she has a little time away from school. Fortunately, she had several cousins staying right up the road at my mother-in-law’s, so that made it even more fun. We started off Monday with a nature scavenger hunt after the farmer finished feeding hay. I took these photos with my phone.

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We enjoyed it. They enjoyed it. And a good time was had by all.

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Also during this week, we jumped in full throttle with potty training Luxe. It wasn’t going well.

Me: Luxe, where do we go pee and poop?

Luxe: In the toe-wet.

Me: So, why aren’t you going in the toilet?

Luxe: ‘Cuz I don’t want to.

I was in need of some reinforcements and the timing of spring break couldn’t have been better. I suggested to Taegan that she might be just the right person for this job and she squinted her little eyes and gave me a look that said, “What are you trying to pull?”

Mind you, this is the child that consistently says she’s never having kids “because they’re too much work.” Astute and accurate observation. I’ll make sure I tell her that she better feel really fortunate that I was not as sharp as she is at 24…otherwise she wouldn’t be here. And then I did it again.

And again.

But back to my story, I decided a different tactic would surely work to get Taegan to give potty training Luxe a shot. She’s competitive by nature, so I said, “I bet you could do this way better than me.” She took the bait. Show Mommy up? I’ll play. She asked Luxe if she needed to go on the toilet. Luxe, of course, followed her back there and I sat her on her potty seat on the big toilet. We don’t use the little one…because she can get off it.

So, Taegan’s in there reading a book and I hear Taegan ask Luxe, “Do you want me to hide?” Luxe says, “Yeah.” Taegan opens up the cabinet door and gets behind it and what.do.you.know….Luxe goes potty!!! I’m whooping and hollering; Luxe is grinning from ear to ear; and I’m pretty sure a person couldn’t have wiped the proud smile off of Taegan’s face for the next couple hours. Because Luxe did it again and again for Taegan. To the point Taegan started referring to it as “working her magic.” She’d call from the bathroom with Luxe and say, “Mommy, I worked my magic again!” Luxe obviously thrives on pleasing her sister. Now, she’s going like a champ for all of us. We’ve had a few accidents since Thursday when we started, but many, many more successes.

So, thank you, Taegan. I gladly bow down to your potty training prowess. 🙂

Meanwhile, Luxe continues to work on mastering the very necessary skill of drinking out of the hose.

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You can’t be a farmgirl and not get this down.

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Then, on Friday, we decided to take the girls–namely Taegan–to chick day at the local feed store. I don’t like chickens. I’ve made that very clear in past posts, but chicks are cute and I thought I might be able to work a little photography around them in spring photos with the girls. Taegan is the farm animal lover. We would have everything if it were up to her. Chickens, bunnies, cows, horses, ducks, goats, sheep, pigs–you name it, we would have it.

 

I’m also the type of mother that has a hard time saying no to things that teach responsibility. Taegan is a very practical, responsible realist.She’s never really been into playing pretend or fairy tales. If she plays, it usually has a real-life component to it and she tends to  give things a long, hard think before she commits her time. And she really wanted some chickens. And she told me she would take care of them and gather all the eggs when they started laying.

Works great for me because I do like eggs.

So, here we are at the feed store with a box.

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This chick is ready for her chicks…even down to knowing what kind she wants. Yeah, we had to have all that figured out, too. We looked up every breed they had available and picked out our favorites. The farmer asked me, “Now, are the ones we’re getting good layers?”

My reply: “Oh, we don’t care about that. We’re going purely based on looks.”

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Here’s the whole fam.

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Luxe can’t figure out why Taegan’s so happy, what we’re doing here, and why there’s all this incessant chirping.

So, we get up to the chicks and they.are.cute!!

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They had ducklings, too! I’m getting some after researching why I would want them. Has anyone ever had duck eggs? I read that they’re more nutritious, better tasting, better for baking, and that ducks lay year round–never really going through a rest time. I also read that ducks are excellent pest controllers (bugs, ticks, grasshoppers, etc), won’t dig up your yard and gardens like a chicken will, and will even kill small snakes if given an opportunity. Sign me up!!! Sounds like the best pet ever!

Seriously, I’m totally getting some ducks.

We told the man what chicks we wanted. He placed them in the box. We paid for them. And now we are the proud owners of some pretty cute little chicks.

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If you ask Taegan, she will accurately tell you exactly which breeds are which, but we’ve got 2 Welsummers, 2 Barred Rock, and 2 Silver Laced Wyandottes.

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And one happy little chicken-loving farm girl.

She puts her shoes on every 20 minutes, opens the front door, and says, “I’m going to check my chicks. You gotta be fast if you wanna’ catch those Welsummers! I just have to swoop in cuz they run!” I think she’s holding a Silver Laced Wyandotte here.

It was an eventful, productive spring break. I miss Taegan when she’s gone. She creates so much material for my creative processes.

Calf Conversations

I like to talk for our animals. I know precisely what they’re saying. It’s a gift. So, I tend to take it upon myself to make sure their voice is heard around here.

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Hello there.You’re a face I’m not used to seeing out here. Hey, how about this warmer weather? Nice, huh? Look, I’ll cut to the chase. I know the farmer is feeding bottles right now and I realize that I’m a little old for that, but  could I trouble you to–“

“MOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

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“Dadgum it, Ethel! I was trying to win her over with my charming -innocent-cute face- pose!!

 

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“Get back in there!! This is my turf! You better check yourself before I wreck you with my horn nubbins, you obnoxious foghorn! Know your place, woman!”

Wow…the niceties literally went out the window. Note to self–49 has a temper!

I think I’ll just turn around and talk to a baby.

 

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Hey, little guy!

 

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“You got a bottle?”

Um, well…no, but it actually appears you’ve already had your breakfast.

 

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“What if I stretch my neck just a leeeetle longer?”

Nope, sorry, buddy.

 

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“You’re dead to me.”

Oh, it looks like we have a new ringleader at the window.

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“Yeah, you know what they say…50 is the new 49.”

I’m sensing a bovine hierarchy around here.

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“I’m gonna try this move one more time. No? Still not getting a bottle? (Sigh) Those were the good old days.”

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“Mmmm, 50, I just LOVE that new perfume you’re wearing. What did you call it again? Dolce and Gabarna?”

I tell ya, rarely a dull moment. This country air sure is good for a person’s sanity.

 

 

The Family that Hays Together

Last weekend was a momentous weekend in my years on the farm.

It all started with knowing Dad, Mandy, and the farmer would be gathering up all the square bales from a neighboring farm we cut hay off of and split between the owner and ourselves. So, I was aware of what Saturday’s plans were; I just wasn’t aware of what MY plans were until my dad informed me Friday night that I would be driving. Driving meaning I would pull the trailer with the truck as the rest of them walked along beside, picked up the square bales, and hefted them onto the trailer. Sounded simple enough even though I’d never done anything like that before.

So, what do I do? Arrive ready to do it straight up farm girl.
20160924_1157501Dad has to hook up the trailer and tells me to go ahead and drive the truck to the field. Since he’s in the passenger seat, I’m already feeling a fair amount of anxiety–because I have a good feeling he’s not going to get in the driver’s seat and back the honkin’ truck up to the trailer himself.

Me: “Are you going to back up to the trailer?”

Dad: “No, I’m going to coach you.

Oh no…said the city girl who 1) is not an expert backer and 2) cannot read hand motions or follow directions.

The farmer was already headed down the dirt road and saw us–or more importantly me in the driver’s seat–cross the road into the field. He later told me he wished he could have stopped and watched because he knew it would be good. Brat.

So, he has me swing around to where the hind end of the truck is in front of the trailer, hops out, and proceeds to wave me on back.

“Ok, straighten up a little! 

I straighten.

Straighten up your wheels!” 

I am straight.

“Straighter! Turn your wheels to the left!”

How is that straight?? He’s walking towards the driver’s side window.

Pointing at the steering wheel, he says: “When “Ford” is straight in front of you, you are straight.”

It wasn’t. I was looking at the tires the whole time.

Ok, so now that we got that part accomplished, he continues to hand motion me back ward and then throws up the fist that means stop. Well, I found that the difference between my husband’s fist and my dad’s fist is that Dad means for you to slam on the brakes while my husband means an easier stop.

Therefore, I have to pull forward again.

I think we did that about 3 times before Dad said, “Two inches. That’s all we need. Two inches.”

Finally, we got it as Mandy was pulling into the field on the side by side. Dad waves and points at the truck like “HA HA! Isn’t this a kick in the head?” Her expression mirrored his.

Little did I know he was going to continue to make me drive. He hopped back into the passenger seat and by this time, I’m being more vocal about my anxiety. “Dad, I’ve never done this before! I’ m going to take out every fence post from here to there! I’m not coachable!”

Long story short, I’ve watched my husband more than I realized, swung wide where I needed to, used my mirrors, and trusted Dad to tell me how best to maneuver through tight spots.

So, now it was my turn to learn what “bucking bales” was all about.

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Even though it was 94 degrees outside, look how beautiful it is! It was my job to slowly drive the trailer down the lines of square bales so all the farmer and Mandy had to do was walk along and throw the bales on the trailer. Then, Dad grabbed them–as I’m continuing to drive, mind you–and stacked them. He may be eeking ever closely to 60, but he’s still spritely. Staying on two feet while stacking 60 lb. bales on a moving vehicle is definitely for the sure-footed.

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I’m just guessing here, but the “bucking” part seemed to have to do with your knee motion as you heft the bale onto  the trailer. You use your knee for an extra nudge up.

You don’t know how many times I giggled thinking about making the farmer chase the trailer with one of those bales. If Dad and Mandy hadn’t been working like dogs themselves, I totally would have done it. Don’t feel bad for him. He’s ornery.

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There’s Mandy. I got the cush job, for sure. She’s She-ra.

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Fun fact: Mandy did not grow up on a farm and had no experience with farming until she met my dad. And yet here she is, buckin’ bales and later shouting “GIRL POWER!!” as she jumped out of the truck after grabbing a quick drink of water. I’m feelin’ it, man. I’m driving the diesel in 4-low with a trailer full of hay behind me.

The trailer soon grew as full and high as it could get. I gladly hopped out of the truck and into the backseat so Dad could drive. I wasn’t feeling so confident in my newfound skills to think I could maneuver the squirrely path back to the highway without losing half the bales. In no way did I want to be the person that made all this hard work for naught.

And when Dad lost about 8 bales in a ditch along said squirrely path, I was just thankful it wasn’t me.

We arrive back at my Dad’s barn where the hay will be stored…

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and go to work undoing all the work we did before. And by we, I mean not me. I have the VERY important job of making sure all of this gets documented.

First, one must pick up the bale.

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Then, one must throw it into the barn where the man in black awaits…

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to stack it all over again.

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Mandy climbed to the top of the heap to continue to push bales down for the farmer to throw. He likes to throw stuff.

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In other news, MUSCLESSSS!!!! I’m likin’ my job right about now…

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The sweaty assembly line. Mandy may or may not have tried to take my beloved out a couple times with a flying hay bale. Don’t feel bad for him. He’s ornery.

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Sweaty sweeper. Boots were not working in anyone’s favor that day. If you look at the two above photos, you’ll see that the truck and trailer is practically parked up a cliff. Slick hay + very worn boots = an extra element of fun while working. Sliding around like they were on slick floors with socks was not part of the objective that day. So, we look like OCD farmers instead. Something appears to have my dad very perplexed here.

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Mandy doesn’t take herself too seriously. That’s one of the things I like about her. Are we surfing or working here? Well, both…in an attempt to keep herself from sliding off all the bales straight into the farmer. I personally think Mandy and I add a lot of fun to the workplace. They wouldn’t know what to do without us. No laughter. No shenanigans. Possibly more productivity. I mean, can you imagine?

But seriously, Mandy’s one of the hardest working women I know.

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Last one of that load! Did I mention that I really like my job? This view never gets old. 😉

We still had some bales left to load, so back to the neighbors for the rest of them.

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After those were loaded, Dad and the farmer had some straggler hay in the corners of the field.

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In goes the hay, out comes a square bale.

 

The farmer hopped in one tractor and Dad had to drive this one out. Mandy was in the passenger seat of the truck. Who does this leave driving the truck with a trailer load of hay down the squirrely path to the highway? ME! This is bad…this is very, very bad.

But, you know what? I made it. I made it the whole way. Without losing ONE bale which totally showed my Dad up.

It mattered in no way that they double strapped everything that time.

Winning’s winning.

It was a good day.

 

Puddle Buddies

We had a puddle jumping session a few nights ago. My sister-in-law, Staci, is visiting along with my two nephews and naturally anytime there’s a good rain, puddles are going to happen.

Where there are puddles there will be muddy children.

Here’s the cast of characters:

Taegan:

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The oldest of the four and instigator of all things ornery. Look at those eyes. Mischief. Intelligence in spades. Spirit. Sparkle. Pray hard for us.

Drayson:

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Rough and tumble, fearless, all boy. There’s very few daring things I haven’t seen this little guy attempt. But, look at that sweet, mud-splattered face.

Carson:

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Carson has always been a calm, quiet type (at least around me). He’s shy, sweet, and is usually more content to observe from the sidelines  (sidelines meaning wherever his mommy is). Give him a rock and a stick and he’s good!

Luxe:

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Prissy. Purposeful. Pint-sized sweetness with a smidge of sass. Puppy dog eyes at level 10. Curls for days. Lover of all things cute and cuddly. This was taken after one too many times of being splashed in the face with mud. That’s a look of “Mommy, PLEASE! Can’t a girl get a little time in the mud puddle by herself??”

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To start things off, though, we’re all still relatively clean. Testing the waters. Onesies and shorts are remaining mostly white.

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Sticks and rocks again…Boy, they’re just the most interesting things!

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A good, dry time is being had by all.

And then…

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there were four.

Taegan thought a little too much good, clean fun was being had. If you’ve been following along over the years, you know my eldest has no problem getting as absolutely filthy as she can get.

Exhibit A.

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Exhibit B.

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“Walk with your nose in the air, little lady…even though there’s dirt all over your hiney.”

 

And the grand finale.

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“Dirt Road Camo”

Yeah.

Naturally, she took it up on herself to show everyone the joys of getting a run at the puddle from above in order to land in it with as much splash as possible.

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The race was on after that between Taegan and Drayson to see who could make the biggest splash.dsc_4330

 

On the days she’s not being heart-meltingly sweet and responsible, it’s this:

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A perfectly timed jump just to splash Little Sis. Even though I felt kinda bad for Luxe, I knew exactly what these kinds of antics do in the reward centers of an older sister’s brain. Let’s all just hope this is as bad as it gets and I don’t pay dearly for my raising…

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Whew! I finally got it to myself.”

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“Ohhhh, I see…feelin’ a little bad now, aren’t we?” Meanwhile, I can’t appreciate Luxe more for bringing out the affectionate side of Taegan. Not only does Luxe get the hugs and kisses that she dearly loves and bestows on all of us, but the farmer and I get to enjoy a few extra from Taegan, as well. That wasn’t the case before Luxe. You were lucky to get to steal them. “Hey, Mommy, is it just me…or would you say I won this?”

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At this point, I’m not sure Drayson’s boots are being effective at their job.

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Dirt roads…country kids…rain…boots…and a love of mud = puddle buddies.