WORDS: Stoney Stamper
IMAGES courtesy Stoney and April Stamper
In February of 2012, my job relocated our family (my wife April, and daughters Emma, Abby, and Gracee) from Northeast Oklahoma to east Texas. We had always lived in the country, and always had animals. Unfortunately, we had to make the move quickly, and a home in the area with any amount of land, not to mention barns, was near nonexistent, or at least WAY too expensive.
So, I found us a nice home in the suburbs. It was in a nice neighborhood, sat on a large acre lot – it was spacious, and beautiful. We moved in, made it a home, and enjoyed it. But still, something was missing. That country lifestyle we’d all grown up in just wasn’t there. We wanted to hear the horses whinny from the pasture, to smell the honeysuckle in the breeze, to look out the door and see the kids playing without a neighbor in sight. And I for one wanted to be able to pee in the backyard without anyone noticing.
I knew we had to get out of the ‘burbs. We found a place we loved, so we packed our things, grabbed our girls, and moved exactly four miles away to a nice piece of ground: seven acres, an arena and two barns. The house wasn’t as nice as what we’d been living in, more of a fixer-upper, but I was up for the challenge.
Now that we had all this room, with land and barns, what were we going to do? It didn’t take long for my animal loving girls to conjure up all kinds of ideas, and I wasn’t completely prepared. Every day — no, every hour, they had a new animal they wanted me to buy them. They spent hours looking online at every kind of dog, cat, pig, goat, cow and horse you could ever imagine.
I did my best to be somewhat open-minded. After all, that’s exactly why we chose to move out to the country in the first place. But at the same time, I wasn’t ready to buy every damned animal on the East Texas Swap n’ Shop website. “Stoney, look at this puppy!” “Stoney, look at this baby goat!” “Babe, look at this horse!” It was endless.
But, eventually, I decided to play along. First, we were adopted by a male blue heeler dog who made himself very comfortable at our place. He was a handsome, polite fellow. He knew basic commands, even how to shake. Since I’d lost my canine companion several months back, I decided to give him a home. No one knew who he was and he had no collar. He was lovingly referred to as “Dog.” We enjoyed having him around. Unfortunately, I don’t think he enjoyed us quite as much because after a week, he ran away, never to be seen again. We were a little bummed, but I guess he was just a rambler.
Now, the girls wanted a pig. Oh, but not your regular, everyday, run-of-the-mill pig. Nope, no way. Why spend $10 on a pig, when you can spend $175? We needed a black and white, spotted, micro-mini, potbelly pig. And that’s exactly what we got. Enter Maxwell. I’d had show pigs growing up, and frankly, I was never crazy about them, but that’s what the girls wanted, so I was begrudgingly on board.
When we brought Maxwell home, the girls giggled and goo-gooed all over him. “Oh, he’s so adorable! He’s just the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!”
And it was true. He was adorable. His pink little nose and fat round belly would soften the hardest of men. But, as it turned out, he was also an accomplished escape artist. No amount of fencing could keep his fat little physique in the yard. Every time we turned around, he was gone. The first few times, he was easy to find, but on the fifth day, he disappeared and didn’t come back.
We took to Facebook, texted and called friends and neighbors, drove up and down the road, screaming out the truck windows as we looked for him. And you know what? It worked! Someone on Facebook saw him down the road in one of our neighbor’s backyard — humping a basketball. When I got down there, I saw him. Hiding under their deck. But there was a problem. Maxwell didn’t want to be caught. And even though he was little and fat, he was as fast as a freakin’ mongoose. Me, April, and the neighbor chased him around the deck, the pool, and the house for over an hour, and I said words that would’ve made a sailor blush. Let me tell you, you’ve never really lived until you have chased a micro-mini potbelly all over God’s creation trying to capture him with a fishing net. Alas, we got him and took his fat butt back to the Ponderosa.
Next up the girls wanted a goat. But, just like the pig before him, it couldn’t be just a good ole $20 goat. Oh, no. We needed a pygmy FAINTING goat. You know those cute little goats that get startled by loud noises, and then faint? Yes, they’re cute. And it is hilarious when you drive around the corner on the riding lawn mower and the goat gets scared and falls over, stiff as a board. I mean, it’s super funny. But that little feller wasn’t very friendly. The girls wanted something they could hug and love and squeeze and play with. He was pretty standoffish so we started looking for yet something else. Something cuddly.
We settled on a kitty. He was an orphan, probably three months old when we got him. He was so friendly and cuddly and happy to have a home. He was perfect. We named him Goliath, and he and Gracee became instant best friends. He tolerated her rough handling and overzealous displays of affection. Not only did he tolerate them, but he actually seemed to enjoy it. The kitty was happy, Gracee was happy, heck, everyone was happy.
If everyone was happy, what more could we possibly need? Well, no farm is truly complete without a horse, right? I already had a quarter horse mare named Banjo that I’d been boarding at a farm down the road, and she was pregnant. On April 15, she gave birth to a healthy, lively baby boy. We named him Shooter — a pretty sorrel colt with a white star on his forehead. Thanks to the overbearing attention paid to him by all of my girls, he quickly became a spoiled rotten brat, his every move, buck, kick and whinny adored and laughed at on a daily basis.
I was beginning to think our farm was pretty much complete. We’d had a dog, and added a cat, a pig, a goat and a horse. What more could we want? Evidently the answer was chickens. My wife informed me that a real farm wasn’t complete until you had some. My thought was, OK, I can handle a couple of chickens. But then she informed me we couldn’t just turn the chickens loose as I had planned to do. Oh, no. We needed to build a coop. But not just any coop. No way, José. April had a picture of a coop with a chandelier in it. A CHANDELIER. Inside a chicken coop. You may be thinking to yourself, “That’s just crazy!” To that, I say, “AGREED!”
I had to ask April if she was freakin’ serious. Did she really want me to build her a chicken coop with chandeliers and wall decorations inside of it?
Yep. She was serious, and that’s exactly what she wanted me to do. So, I did what I always seem to do when my girls want something. I fuss and complain loudly about it for a while, and then I figure out a way to make it happen. We had an old tool shed on the property that had seen better days. It leaked, the doors were falling off the hinges, it had holes in the rotten floor, and there was mouse poop — everywhere. Somehow, when April looked at all of that, she saw a beautiful coop complete with a chandelier. And so, construction began.
The shed was cleaned, shelves ripped out, and the inside painted a very girly turquoise color. I built the coop the way April had imagined, cut a hole in the wall, and built a pen outside. With every crazy suggestion she made, I’d sigh, mutter something under my breath, and roll my eyes, just like I’ve seen my teenager do a million times.
But I did exactly what she asked. Because that’s what I do. I’m the husband. I’m the dad. And even though I may think the things they want from me are silly, or even sometimes downright ridiculous, if it makes them happy, at the end of my day, that’s all that matters. Welcome to our farm.
Stoney Stamper is the author of the popular parenting blog, The Daddy Diaries. He and his wife April have three daughters: Abby, Emma and Gracee. Originally from northeast Oklahoma, the Stampers now live in Tyler, Texas. For your daily dose of The Daddy Diaries, visit Stoney on Facebook or on his website, thedaddydiaries.net.