I sipped at my coffee as I thought about my day. It was going to be another busy one. I was headed over to the diner to give a talk on my latest column, “Casseroles for Any Occasion”. I’m going to be handing out my recipe for Tator Tot Casserole. Ruby Green is always working on these lady’s club days so I promised I would drop off a copy of the recipe by her shop, The Best Little Hairhouse in Texas. I admit I’m pretty busy today, but a little secret that nobody else in this little town of Pecan Bayou Texas knows is that tomorrow I don’t have anything planned. No work, no errands, no little jobs for Zach, Tyler, Maggie or Danny. The day is mine. It seems like lately getting any time to myself has been next to impossible and I’m pretty excited that nobody else seems to have noticed. Shoot, I may get everybody out the door and go back to bed.
“Betsy you are such a sweetheart for bringing me this recipe. You know I tasted it when you brought it over to Libby Loper that day. Right then and there I knew I wanted this recipe. Delicious. Just delicious.”
“No problem. I’m surprised anybody wants this recipe at all seeing as I always show up with this dish any time there’s any trouble in this town.”
Ruby clucked her tongue, “Trouble is this town’s middle name. Oh, by the way Betsy, I was wondering if you would be interested in helping out tomorrow with my brand-new enterprise.”
“And what would that be, Ruby?”
“I like to call it Curls on Wheels. It’s built on the same idea as Meals on Wheels except in that I go out and put perms into people’s hair. Mostly for shut-ins that need somebody to brighten their day.” What a noble idea I thought.
“And what did you want me to do?”
“Oh I don’t know, you have that nice big van and I was thinking that maybe we could get a bunch of us in there. We can rename it the Curl Mobile.”
“Sounds like fun Ruby, but I already have something planned tomorrow.”
She looked a little disappointed, but then said: “oh my, I forgot you were a newlywed.” I blushed at her assumption. When would people stop assuming just because Leo and I are newly married all we do in our spare time is … newlywed stuff.
An hour later I was passing out copies of my recipe to the lady’s group at Birdies Diner.
“Now Betsy you say you can use beef or turkey ground up in this recipe? Which one do you prefer?” Libby Loper said as she feathered the fringe on her Western-style vest. She was the daughter of the late cowboy star Charlie Loper and sometimes I thought she was wearing one of her father’s old costumes.
“Well, I prefer the turkey because it’s lighter and healthier, but either one taste great.”
“Tastes real great.” Said my cousin Danny. He had come along with my aunt Maggie because today he had the day off from his job at the veterinarian’s office. He spoke with a slight speech impediment as is common with people with Down Syndrome. “Cousin Betsy makes this all the time. My mama says she doesn’t know how to make anything else.” Quiet laughter broke out among the ladies as my aunt Maggie told Danny to hush. She then turned and smiled at me and motioned for me to continue. Before I could speak, Libby Loper interrupted.
“Say Betsy, now that we have you here we were wondering if we could get you tomorrow as well to help us out at our bake sale for the next cowboy poetry event. All we really need you to do is sit at the table for a few hours,” Libby said. “We know what a supporter you of the arts.”
I shifted from one foot to the other. “Oh, too bad I already have something scheduled for tomorrow. I just love that cowboy poetry.” I lied.
After leaving the ladies luncheon, I spent the next couple of hours working on my latest column for the Pecan Bayou Gazette. I had been doing a complete series on * and this would be my final installment.
My son Zach and my step son Tyler came in the door at about 4:30 in the afternoon.
“Hey mom,” Zach said. “What are you doing tomorrow?”
I was sure another request for my time was brewing. I knew I could say no to Ruby and I could say no to Libby, but saying no to my own son was going to be pretty difficult.
“Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know really. I guess I just wondered. I always hear about what you’re going to be doing and you haven’t said anything.”
“Oh. Well, I’m busy.”
“That’s parents code for none of your business.” Tyler, my stepson cut in. It was so much fun being a parent to two middle school boys.
That evening Leo didn’t get home until late because he was out tracking a hurricane that had the possibility of entering the Gulf in the next week. He kissed me hello and yawned.
“Busy day?” I said.
“Very busy. We thought this might be a big one, but now it seems to be tracking up the Florida coast instead. I was all set to get over time, but now it’s just the reverse. They told me, I could take the day off tomorrow,” He said.
“Tomorrow? Really? ”
“Really.” He repeated. “Why, what do you have going on?”
I smiled as he put his arms around me, “Not a darn thing.” Maybe Ruby was right after all.
Betsy’s Tater-Tot Casserole
2 lbs ground meat (beef or turkey)
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 cup water
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 bag frozen tater tots
Brown ground meat and drain. Place in casserole dish. Combine soup and water; pour over meat. Sprinkle cheese over soup. Top with tater tots. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Serve hot. This recipe can be made lower fat by using fat-free cream of mushroom soup, ground turkey and fat-free cheddar cheese.
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You can read more about Betsy in Buzzkill, the fourth book in the “Pecan Bayou” mystery series. The first book in the series is A Dash of Murder.
Meet the author
Teresa Trent lives in Texas and loves writing about small town life. She first got the idea to create Pecan Bayou after visiting the Texas Hill Country to view the millions of springtime flowers alongside the roads and highways. The town of Pecan Bayou does not exist in Texas, but there is a body of water in the state with the name. Pecan Bayou does exist in Teresa’s imagination and heart. Buzzkill is the fourth book in the Pecan Bayou series featuring all of the crazy characters who live in this cozy little town in Texas.
Books are available at retail and online booksellers.