Spotlight: Lynn Smith (Valleylynn)

By Nancy Polanski (nap) on August 23, 2010

If you want to meet a sweet and loving person with a lifetime of fascinating stories to tell, then let me introduce you to Valleylynn. Have you ever had to defend your family from a bear? Kill a rattlesnake? Encounter an intruder in your home? Feed fish to water moccasins? Me neither. But Lynn has...........

I was rather surprised when Lynn started telling me some stories out of her past.  Her experiences are far less typical than most of the people I've met.  Lynn has experienced drama, joy, fear and heartbreak, and has done some things that most of us probably have not.  I have asked her to expand on so many specific topics, and her responses have been so very interesting to me, that I really don't think I should pare down this interview.  It may end up being very long.  You should probably go get a cup of coffee, kick off your shoes and get comfortable before you begin reading.

Nancy:  Lynn, we have so much to cover today, so please begin your story.

Lynn:  Nancy, I have always been such a private person, until I got here to Cubits that is. I have met so many wonderful people here in just these few short months, and feel the world opening up to me through all of them.  I will just ramble around with whatever comes to my  mind. That is the only thing I know to do. Maybe you can make something out of it. 

I grew up in City Terrace, CA until I was eight. It2010-08-21/nap/1e6ec6 was a tiny  town. We lived on the hills above town, in an old Spanish style house with a tile roof. I can still see the complete interior of that house in my mind, I loved that house. We had an ice box that the ice man came once a week to put ice in. He used to give me little chips of ice to eat. The milkman left our milk on the back door step.  The bottles had little cardboard stoppers. We had to shake the bottle to mix the cream back into the milk before pouring a glass of milk, unless mom needed the cream for something. : )

We had a huge fig tree in the yard that me and my sister used to climb up in and hide. I can still smell the sun warmed figs when I think about it, feel the sweet juice run down my arm as I ate them right from the tree. I don’t ever remember going in the house for a snack. We ate whatever fruit was ripe at the time, mulberries, pomegranate, figs, oranges, avocados, guava and even wild herbs. My favorite was sour grass.

My grandma lived further up the hill fro2010-08-21/nap/41f594m us, it was my favorite place to go. I spent a good bit of my first eight years of life at my grandma’s side. She taught me that God made all the creatures, all had a purpose and we are to respect them.  It was my grandma that taught me how to connect or communicate with animals.  I believe I learned to love plants from both my mom and grandma. The first thing I remember growing was a packet of Johnny Jump Up seeds mom gave me. It was like a miracle when the seeds germinated. I still remember how amazing it was.

We moved to Pico Rivera the year I turned eight. It was track housing, not my wide open, wild hills filled with herds of horses and cattle.  That is when I2010-08-21/nap/6ba93b started having the Wild Horse Dream.

I married in 1961. We moved from Southern California to Mississippi in 1962.  That is where Cliff was from. It was like taking a space ship to another planet, the culture was so different. That is where the real adventure started. For the first time I learned about racism. I did not know there was such a thing. I learned to say "yes m'am, yes sir" and "no m'am, no sir." I was brought up to be respectful of others, so this was an easy thing to learn, but I had never heard those words used when I was growing up.

I hunted and fished with Cliff on a regular basis, which was very unusual for women to do back then. I was not your typical Southern Belle, not even Southern California Belle. LOL.  I was such a puzzle to the women folk, but t2010-08-21/nap/6f4109hey loved and cherished me, even though they didn’t understand my strange ways. When I fished at the ponds back in the woods I always shared my first couple of fish with the water moccasins. I would sit on the bank cutting the fish into pieces with the snakes laying around me. They would wait patiently for their turn. That came to an end when Cliff came home early one day to find me at the pond sitting with the moccasins. He almost had a heart attack. As soon as they heard strange strangled sounds coming from behind us they took off for the safety of the water. Poor Cliff, it truly is a miracle he didn’t turn gray or drop dead from a heart attack.

We had our first child in 1964 amidst the turmoil of civil rights. We left Mississippi when she was five months old and returned to CA for two years. Our second child was born in 1965, and the third in 1966. So much to celebrate and be thankful for.

Nancy:  Indeed! When you left California, you began a life full of hard work and adventures.  I'd love for you to tell us about it.

Lynn:  In January of 1967 we moved to the Puget Sound area of Washington State. We bought an old Homestead farm. We farmed with horses as we did not have a tractor. We lived quite a distance from town, surrounded2010-08-21/nap/f4ade6 by woods, with clearings for pasture. We made a trip to town once a month for staples like flour, cornmeal, coffee, sugar, etc. Everything else we grew or raised (pork, beef, chickens, a couple of mild cows). Summer was very busy with canning and drying food to be used the rest of the year. We heated the house with wood we harvested from our property.

Moving to Eastern Washington, we lived on a ranch on the edge of the open range. Cliff rode for Wenas Cattle Company. I rode for Schneider’s Cattle Company part time, moving cattle from the range land down to the ranch for winter, and moving them onto the range for spring/summer.

Our last child was born in 1968. When he was three months old Cliff had a very bad work related accident that brought an end to talk of having a house full of children. For the first time in my life I realized I could lose my Clifton D.

Nancy:  And I know you have a frightful story about that time in your life, don't you, Lynn?

Lynn:  Yes.  As you know by now, we lived on an old homestead farm, far from town and surrounded by woods.  Cliff  spent three months in the hospital many miles away from where our farm was. The first two weeks we didn’t know if he would make it or not.

When he had been gone for about a week, I came home late at night from sitting at his bedside in the hospital, where I prayed that God would let him heal and come back home to us. He still doesn’t remember any of that time. I got back home about 2:00 am.

I fell asleep on the couch and awoke with our Boxer dog Schatz standing on my chest with her front feet and growling in my face. As soon as she saw my eyes open she sat on the floor pushing her back against me to keep me from moving. I could hear something in the porch/laundry room moving across the wooden floor, it sounded like boots moving quietly.

I softly touched Schatz and told her it was okay, moved carefully to the doorway that opened into the large farm kitchen and across to the windows looking into the porch/laundry room. I could see the form of a man with a cowboy hat on the other side of the windowed door. The door handle slowly turned and the door started to open. All this time Schatz was pushing against the front of my legs trying to make me back up, the only sound coming from her was a very low, ominous growl. I called out asking who was there. No answer, the door opened wider and a leg was sliding through the partially opened door. I called out one more time, still no answer. I touched Schatz on the back of the neck with a very slight forward nudge. She took off without a sound and had the man’s booted leg in her mouth.
At that time terrible sounds were coming from both Schatz and the man. He had pulled the door closed as much as he could with his leg in it, the dog had her front feet on the wall trying to lever him all the way into the room so she could get a hold of something besides a boot. He was screaming terrible at this point. I called Schatz to me, she immediately let go and came to me shaking. I called again for the person to identify himself. He said he heard Cliff was in the hospital and came by to see if he could help with anything. I told him to leave immediately, at which time he started coming through the door again. I touched Schatz with the same signal.  She ended up with his upper leg this time and had him part way into the kitchen and was doing some serious chewing at this point. I am not sure how long I let this go on before calling Schatz again, it was such a blur.

She immediately turned him loose, and he immediately left. When I saw his truck drive off the farm I turned the lights on. The wall by the door was covered in blood. I had to clean it all before the children woke up. I still find it hard to understand how they slept through all that noise. I guess God provides everything we need when we need it.  I know to some it may seem like Schatz was a dangerous dog. Til then, she had never met a stranger she didn’t like, lo2010-08-21/nap/01c979ved children and traveled all over the United States with us. You could not have asked for a more loving, gentle dog. A truly great dog knows when there is real danger present.

Nancy:  You have another story about when Schatz became your hero once again.  Will you tell us the story about the encounter between Schatz and the bear?

Lynn:  Cliff worked the night shift at Bremerton Naval Shipyard five days a week and got home about 1:30 in the morning. One night about 11:00 pm Schatz woke me up with her growling. I could hear our stallion out in the barn screaming in alarm and the milk cow Bonnie calling in distress. She had a new calf at her side that was born the day before and would be taken away from her the next day.  The dog became frantic at what she was hearing out in the pastures. I put a cord around her neck and went out the door into the very cloudy, dark night.

When I got outside I could really hear the commotion in the barn and pastures. I heard the stallion break through the barn door and could hear his hooves as he crashed through the barnyard gate into the bottom pasture. The cow was running and bawling in the pasture and I could also hear all the other cows and horses running and calling. Meanwhile Schatz was nearly pulling my arm off trying to take off for the pasture. I started to head down to where all the commotion was coming from when the clouds broke and allowed the moon to shine into the pasture. There was a very large dark shape running right behind Bonnie and her calf.

At this point Schatz really went crazy with her barking and snarling, almost sounding like a dog fight. It caused the large dark shape to stop, turn towards us and stand up on it’s hind legs, throwing it’s head from side to side and waving it’s very large paws at me and the dog. It started walking on its hind legs towards us. At this point I realized it was a bear, and it was now coming for us. I dragged the dog back into the house and propped a chair under the door handle. I was very afraid it would get in the house where my four children (three months, two years, three years and four years old) were still sleeping. The 2010-08-21/nap/372d6adog quit barking as soon as we entered the house, but continued growling.

I called the State Patrol (thank Heavens our phone service was working), it would be approximately 30 to 40 minutes before they could get out to where we lived. They told me to watch out the windows to see if the bear went after the livestock again. If so I was to hold on to the dog and repeat what I did the first time out, also if the bear got into the house to turn the dog loose and barricade the children and myself in one of the bedrooms.

I lost track of how many times I had to take the dog out and distract the bear. At some point I heard sirens approaching and could see lights approach our farm. The bear must have also heard them coming as it went up a steep bank and crossed the road right in front of the patrol car and disappeared into the woods on the other side of the road. The next morning Eddie Lo2010-08-21/nap/087779uis came with his bear dogs and took most of the day tracking the bear, then shooting it. Turned out it was a large sow that had a run in with a porcupine and was full of quills, she had infection and was starving. She had covered many miles in a weeks time killing livestock as she traveled. I felt very sad for her. I can only imagine her pain and hunger.

I never had fear of being alone with our ever faithful Schatz. We got Schatz as a puppy before we had any children, she was not quite one year old when our first child was born. She always acted like all four of them belonged to her. She helped all four of them learn to walk. We had to put her down when she was 11 yrs old.

Nancy:  You also owned a very special horse who meant a lot to you, didn't you?

Lynn:  Yes, Jaalah, daughter of Jaal. She was my first horse to be just mine, to care for, train and become one with in many ways. I felt she was also sent by God. She was seven months old when I brought her home to our farm. She had never been away from her mother, and was upset when we put her in the stall and left her in the barn. She kept calling out for her mother. I ended up taking a blanket and sleeping in the stall with her for three or four nights until she adjusted to her new surroundings. We kept her from the other farm horses for a couple of months to keep her from being injured, until she matured a little. She would follow the children around the yard like a dog. I remember looking out the window to see the two older children sitting in the dirt drawing with a stick. Beside them lay Jaalah with her head against them, napping. She was so very gentle with them.

By the time she was three years old and ready to ride she knew walk, trot and canter by word commands. Also whoa, back and side pass. All I had to do was get on her and give her the word commands along with the new cues, eventually dropping the words. It was all like play to her, never something to be feared. She taught all of our children to ride, and was always patient with them. At any time you could jump on her without any saddle or bridle, nothing but the bond of trust and obedience, and ride her anywhere.

One such time was when I went to the mailbox with her (no bridle or saddle). When I asked her to side pass to the mail box she cocked her head and one ear at the ground at the base of the mailbox, but quietly refused to move towards the mailbox. I looked around and finally could make out a large coiled rattle snake against the mailbox post. I moved her away from the snake, got off and found a big, heavy rock and a stick. I made the snake move out of its coil and dropped the rock on its head. I then took my pocket knife out and cut its head off and buried it. I put the four and a half foot snake over Jaalah’s back and, jumped on and rode home. When Cliff got home I had it all skinned out and ready to cure.

The first day I rode for Schneider'2010-08-21/nap/a88674s Cattle Company and showed up with my little Arab mare in the trailer, did I ever get teased about my fancy horse breaking down. They said she would never make it through the day. But by the end of the third day they all wanted to buy my little horse. She worked all three days in 100 degree weather. Jaalah was all calm work, no wasted time or motion. Just get the work done was her attitude. Every one of them had to change their horses half way through the work day, all three days. My fancy, tough little Arab mare never got sore legs or back, never got sweated up or sore feet, and always went to work with a willing attitude.

She carried me on a Competitive Trail Ride in the early 70's in the hills overlooking the Wenas Valley. Only two of us finished the ride. Myself and a friend. We chose to come to the finish line side by side as co-winners. All other competitors backed out of the competition during the first ten miles due to rattlesnakes everywhere on the trials. Both Judy's horse and my Jaalah new how to avoid them and never had fear of them, they new exactly where they were. Others had their horses buck them off and run, or rear up, all kinds of antics. It was a very exciting day for some. : )

She came when called by name, no matter where she was or what she was doing. I could turn her loose out in the mountains or out on the range land. She would never go any farther than she could see or hear me.  Jaalah lived to be 25 and was loved by many, not just our family.

Nancy:  Lynn, thank you my dear friend f2010-08-21/nap/21f667or warming our hearts with your memories.  You've made me feel like I was there with you through the events of your life.  I feel like we are old friends.  If you would, please leave us with a few closing thoughts.

Lynn:  Thank you so much Nancy. I'm afraid I tend to be a little scatter brained since I don't have all the responsibilities of a younger person. Almost feel like I really am having a second childhood. It's wonderful because I actually realize how blessed I am, unlike when we are a child. : )

For me, it all started with the wonderful mom and dad I was given.  Then four wonderful children, which over the years turned into eight children when each married. God truly has blessed us, each is a treasure. Then came eight grandchildren (soon to be nine, what a surprise announcement that was at our family gathering recently!) and three great-grandchildren. Blessing after blessing. Adventure after adventure. We have been truly blessed with such loving children

From there, who knows where the adventure will take me until my time to leave here.  Life is just too precious to worry about anything. It took me a lot of years to finally figure that out.


This has been a sample of the wonderful, exciting, downhome stories that I wanted Lynn to share with her friends here in Who's Who Spotlight.  I've asked her for more, and she has consented to hit the keyboard and send me more of her treasured memories. 

Lynn said, "I won't have time until some time next week to write more for you. We still have some of the children and grandchildren here. : )" 

So if you'd like to read them, please click Watch This Article so you'll be alerted in your thread watcher when new stories are added.  Also, remember that you can see descriptions of Lynn's photos if you allow the curser to hover over the image.


Valleylynn is the owner of Sedum, Sempervivum and Jovibarba.

Related articles:
biography, interview, Sedum, Sempervivum, spotlight , west

About Nancy Polanski
I live in Western New York. I'm retired, after working for 30 years in the Microbiology Labs at our county hospital. My time now is spent mostly with the Karen refugee population in Buffalo, advocating for them, teaching, helping and enjoying them. I've twice traveled to their camps in Thailand and experienced their culture. It seems they have taught me more about life than I have taught them.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
[Sticky] -- More About her own words nap Aug 12, 2011 9:26 PM 0
o.k. Ridesredmule Jan 31, 2013 12:48 AM 22
Interesting Life LuvNature Jun 8, 2011 8:09 PM 2
What a delightful way to know Lynn better Boopaints Aug 27, 2010 11:06 PM 3
GREAT article! vic Aug 26, 2010 2:20 PM 8
I'm Blown away... Katg Aug 26, 2010 1:32 PM 7
Fantastic! Patti1957 Aug 25, 2010 11:55 AM 18
Awesome starlight1153 Aug 24, 2010 11:46 PM 2
Amazing kareoke Aug 24, 2010 11:42 PM 1
very fascinating Lance Aug 24, 2010 11:38 PM 1
Pleased to know more about you Lynn! PollyK Aug 24, 2010 11:33 PM 1
Wonderful story gone2seed Aug 24, 2010 11:31 PM 1
The character within the character! JRsbugs Aug 24, 2010 7:29 PM 2
Wonderful kaglic Aug 24, 2010 7:21 PM 0
Well, just wow! weeds Aug 22, 2010 10:16 PM 4

Who's Who Spotlight

Who's Who Spotlight features weekly quotes of inspiration, information and humor. We also have a collection of interviews with various Cubits members.

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