Meanwhile back at the ranch

Duane performs: \’Meanwhile Back at the Ranch\’

Those of you who go back to the days of cowboy shows on the radio may remember that phrase. The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, or some other straight shooter would be chasing bad guys on their latest adventure. Then to thicken the always thin plot, the announcer would take us back to the ranch for the sub plot developing there.

That would be The Three D’s scenario. Even when we were on the road performing, we were not as Willie Nelson sings, “like a band of gypsies going down the highway.” We were husbands and fathers enjoying our work, but also earning money to pay the bills, and constantly calling home to find out how things were going “meanwhile back at the ranch.”

As an entertainer and writer I have had and still have world class support. Diane didn’t just manage the home front while I was gone. She poured her love over our 15 children, the neighbors, and strangers. And, as Kenny Rogers sang it, “She believed in me.” After she died of cancer, I was privileged to marry Sharon., wonderful wife, marvelous mother and now grandmother, to our 52 and counting. As a bonus blessing She has a beautiful singing voice and talented fingers on the keyboard.

And incredibly our children always behaved with complete obedience and maturity. I firmly believe this. I also firmly believe that our goats never jump the fence and prune the neighbors’ landscaping, and that any child’s squabble in our family was always the other person’s fault. Under the tutelage of my children I almost believe that “F” on a report card means fine, “D” means dandy, and “I” stands for incredible.

So I was taken aback somewhat by some stories our children related this summer at our annual family conference. They agreed to share after I agreed that the statute of limitations had run out on all childhood mischief.

One of the rules our family grew up under was that you could watch anything on television. All you had to do was get it approved, and schedule it. We never had to worry about approving because nobody ever scheduled anything, ever. Except me; as a public service I scheduled Brigham Young University football and basketball games. This was to show other members of the family that television can be an educational and uplifting experience. If BYU wins. Otherwise the television set can make us grumpy for days. It could possibly even experience a shoe through its picture tube if we fumble on the one yard line.

I thought our children understood and supported this enlightened view of managing the television set until Sharon and I came home one night. As usual the children were reading, conversing, and studying, as uplifting music softly played in the background. But for some reason, two scenes popped through my mind, one was Jack Palance, one of my favorite gritty actors. In a war movie titled “Attack.” Sergeant Jack looks down on a small German town, turns to his patrol and mutters, “Quiet down there. Too quiet.” It was.

The second scene was from the old Lone Ranger radio shows I mentioned above. LR and his faithful companion Tonto were always riding up on an outlaw camp only to find the bad guys had left. Trail wise Tonto would leap off his pony, feel the ground under the ashes and report, “Not long gone Kimo Sabe. Campfire still warm.”

So Tonto-like, I felt the top of the TV and announced to the children, “Not long turned off Kimo Sabe. TV still warm.”

That solved the problem. After that, the TV was always cool on top when we came home. “Cool here, too cool,” I should have realized. “Campfire cold Kimo Sabe. Like maybe they left last winter.” Turns out, I learned from our family conference story times, that the children would still watch unscheduled TV when we were out, but they would put an ice cube tray on top of the TV to cover their tracks. The famous law of unintended consequences had kicked in. I was teaching obedience. They were learning creativity.

And I was learning that whatever important outside business we may be involved in, nothing is as important as what goes on “meanwhile back at the ranch.”