Spring 2017

Edited by E. B. Alston



Copyright 2017 by:

 Righter Publishing Company

1112 Rogers Road

Graham, NC 27253


Printed and bound in the United States of America


Electronic version at www.righterbooks.com


Righter Publishing Company

1112 Rogers Road

Graham, NC 27253




email: righterpub@esinc.net


Righter Quarterly Review – Spring 1917

March 1, 2017


ISBN 978-1-543069-17-4 


Table of Contents

March Promise by Joan Leotta. 4

Editor. 4

Writing Readable English in the 21st Century by Dave Whitford. 6

A Fresh Start by Marry Williamson. 12

The Path by Tim Whealton. 14

A Lover by Plato. 15

Hidden in the Fog by Joan Leotta. 15

Traveling Woman Blues by Peggy Ellis. 15

A Forgotten Landscape by Ariana Mangum.. 18

From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza. 23

Redneck Musings. 29

Say What! 35

Hammer Spade and the Long Shooter – Serialized Book. 40

Proverbs From Six-Year Old Children. 47

TV Scholar by Elizabeth Miccio. 48

Three Rivers to Cross reviewed by Joan Leotta. 49

14th Annual Virginia Four Wheel Drive Association Trail Ride by E. B. Alston. 50

A Good Old Man by John Earle. 71

After Mother Calls Me Home by Michelle Owens. 72

Age-Old Philosophical Advice. 73

Another Way by Ambrose Bierce. 74

Auto Trivia. 75

Evolution by Langdon Smith. 78

February Sun by Michael Warren. 81

The Andy Griffith Show and Mt. Airy by Rita Berman. 81

Growing up on a Farm by E. B. Alston. 83

The Parting of Launcelot and Guinevere by Steven Phillips. 86

A Modern Fairy Tale by Diana Goldsmith. 87

Advice from Minerva by Minerva P. Shaw.. 89

Just Plain Neat Information by Peggy Ellis. 92

Spring by Diana Goldsmith. 94

Another Kind of Walk by Sybil Austin Skakle. 95

Lexophillia - Who on Earth Dreams These Up?. 97

Why Keep a Journal? By Rita Berman. 98

The World in 2017. 105

Student Who Got Zero on His Answers. 106

Through Aristotle’s Eyes by Randy Bittle. 107

A New Beginning by Diana Goldsmith. 110

The Little 20 by Tim Whealton. 110

Contributors. 112



We express our appreciation for Betsy Breedlove and P. L. Almanza for the beautiful pictures we used on this month’s cover. We also appreciate the fine work of our contributors, without whom this magazine would be much thinner and abominably boring to read,


Bible Stories Retold by Young Scholars


"In the first book of the Bible, Guinessis, God got tired of creating the world so He took the Sabbath off. Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree. Noah’s wife was called Joan of Ark. Noah built an Ark, which the animals came to in pears, Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt by day, but a ball of fire by night.”

Richard Lederer




March Promise

By Joan Leotta


Throughout the garden, seeds hiding

in the ground from winter’s cold

hear wind rustle the grasses,

send out shoots to help

them make the long climb up

out of the ground to bring

Spring’s color to the world,





Samuel Johnson was a famous essayist during the late 1800s. He was famous for his wit and his erudition. Here are my favorites of his many sayings.

Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful. Praise, like gold and diamonds, owes its value only to its scarcity. To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labor tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution.  Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own. Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not. 

If your determination is fixed, I do not counsel you to despair. Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance. The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good. Courage is the greatest of all virtues, because if you haven’t courage, you may not have an opportunity to use any of the others. The mind is never satisfied with the objects immediately before it, but is always breaking away from the present moment, and losing itself in schemes of future felicity.

The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope. By taking a second wife he pays the highest compliment to the first, by showing that she made him so happy as a married man, that he wishes to be so a second time. 

The world is like a grand staircase, some are going up and some are going down. We are inclined to believe those whom we do not know because they have never deceived us. He who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts. Allow children to be happy in their own way, for what better way will they find? To keep your secret is wisdom; but to expect others to keep it is folly. One of the disadvantages of wine is that it makes a man mistake words for thoughts. 

A cucumber should be well-sliced, dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out. A fishing rod is a stick with a hook at one end and a fool at the other. A peasant and a philosopher may be equally satisfied, but not equally happy. Happiness consists in the multiplicity of agreeable consciousness.

Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then. As I know more of mankind I expect less of them, and am ready now to call a man a good man upon easier terms than I was formerly.

Do not accustom yourself to use big words for little matters. Don’t think of retiring from the world until the world will be sorry that you retire. I hate a fellow whom pride or cowardice or laziness drives into a corner, and who does nothing when he is there but sit and growl. Let him come out as I do, and bark.

Getting money is not all a man’s business: to cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life. He who makes a beast of himself, gets rid of the pain of being a man. If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone. A man should keep his friendships in constant repair. If you are idle, be not solitary; if you are solitary be not idle.

It is better to live rich than to die rich. It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust. It is the doom of laziness and gluttony to be inactive without ease, and drowsy without tranquility. Life affords no higher pleasure than that of summoning difficulties, passing from one step of success to another, forming new wishes and seeing them gratified.

Love is the wisdom of the fool and the folly of the wise. Men have been wise in many different modes; but they have always laughed the same way. Of all noises, I think music is the least disagreeable.

Of all the grief’s that harass the distressed, the most bitter is a scornful jest. People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed. The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken. The vanity of being known to be trusted with a secret is generally one of the chief motives to disclose it. The world is not yet exhausted; let me see something tomorrow which I never saw before. What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.

Wine makes a man more pleased with himself; I do not say that it makes him more pleasing to others. You teach your daughter’s the diameters of the planets and wonder when you are done that they do not delight in your company. Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good.

It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.

Men are generally idle, and ready to satisfy themselves, and intimidate the industry of others, by calling that impossible which is only difficult. Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome.

The act of dying is not of importance, it lasts so short a time.


Happy Spring

Gene Alston



Writing Readable English in the 21st Century

Dave Whitford


This article is for the survivors of modern USA public schools.  You who endured the “language arts” substitutes for what we older folk called English classes now need help in writing English proficiently.  This course has a prerequisite: The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White.  What I’ll add here is merely an adjunct to Strunk & White.

ad-junct: something added to another thing, but not essential to it. (Courtesy: Dictionary.com)

Small words are good.  Big words are for big egos when smaller words will do.  I’m at odds with Winston Churchill who once said about some other author, “He never wrote anything that would send his reader to the dictionary,” or words to that effect.  Mr. Churchill’s elitism was misplaced, I think, especially now.  No doubt that his writing was great.  It’s just old-fashioned now.  His most recent writing (1950-ish) is now more than 65 years out of date.

In his first speech to the House of Commons in 1940, however, Churchill concluded with this:

“You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realised; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say,  ‘come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.’”

Why this piece resonates is its richness in pure English, words rooted in their Anglo-Saxon antecedents.  Mr. Churchill was a brilliant writer and speaker who knew the power of pure English and had a well-tuned ear for using the language.

Most Americans don’t realize that the origin of our language is Germanic. Our language has expanded from its Germanic Anglo-Saxon (Old English) roots to include Latin and many other influences to form the biggest vocabulary of any language in the world.  We are thus able to state anything we want to with complete clarity by using the existing vocabulary.  Yet modern speakers continue to coin words and phrases in trendy efforts at self-importance.  Listen to any modern politician, for example, to hear what I mean.  Or just switch on your radio or TV to hear a non-stop stream of trendy verbal abominations.

My point is that you can write and speak the most clearly by reducing the rubbish in your syntax.  Get back to basics.  Reduce the Latinate and other intrusions into pure English.  Speak and write simply and plainly.  Stop trying to impress with flowery air around what you really mean to convey.  Listen to yourself.  Determine whether you sound phony as Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield was wont to say.  In short, do speak and write far better than your contemporary broadcast journalists, who suffer from the same substandard, latter-day public education that you endured.  Get intelligible.

What follows in no specific sequence is my collection of pronouncements on good usage.  By no means complete, this list is a compilation of things I learned during twenty-five years as a technical writer and editor and from more recent listening to the trashing of our language on current radio and TV.



Sentences – Keep them short and active.  Use active verbs.  Avoid complexity.


Paragraphs – 10-12 lines maximum for readability.  If a paragraph runs longer, find some subtle shift within it where the subject matter changes and break it there.


Verbs – Always active, never passive.  A passive-voice verb is one compounded with some form of the verb to be.  For example: The picture is drawn, and then  . . .    If you need to ask by whom? after a verb, then it’s passive, and you need to eliminate it and re-write the sentence to use an active verb.


There is, there are – Avoid this weak construction.  Lead with a noun instead.  For example, There are three things you should know about . . .  Replace with Three things you should know about . . . are . . .  


Very – Avoid this word.  If you need emphasis, quite often works well.


Word count – Always use the fewest number of words.  Reduce unnecessary words to the minimum.  Eliminate unnecessary words.  Don’t ever use too many words. 


Adverbs – Avoid using them.  They’re the words that end in ly.  Use adjectives instead, but sparingly.  For example, instead of saying, The professor looked over his students owlishly, you can write The professor’s owlish look over his students . . .


Beware your shuns and lees – Related to the hint above, the lees refer to adverbs.  As above, avoid them.  Shuns are words that end in cion, sion, or tion such as exclamation and defamation.  All these words come from Latin, often by way of French.  They are not English words.  If you want to write strong English, you’ll avoid using such words . . . within reason, of course.


Izes – Words that end with ize also come from Latin.  Little or no reason for using such words is in good English writing.  For example, utilize says nothing better than use, and hence has no real place in English writing.  It’s just effete and unnecessary.


Locate and find – You don’t locate a job unless you are trying to place where it is geographically.  Instead when looking, you try to find it.  A location is a site, a particular place.  That’s why it’s wrong to say locate when you really mean find.  This misuse comes from cop-speak and is related to utilize as an attempt to sound formal when you’re really just a high-school dropout with a badge. 


Sentences – A complete sentence consists of both a subject and a predicate.  The subject must contain either a noun or pronoun.  The predicate must contain a verb.  Sentences can be short.  For example: Music rocks.  That is a complete sentence.  Phrases that don’t have both a subject and a predicate, however, and start with a capital letter and end with a period are sentence fragments and hence incorrect. 


We see a lot of sentence fragments in modern literature, which is a shame because they are unnecessary.  The excuse for using them normally relates to pacing, to speed up the tempo and build excitement.  Short, complete, two- or three-word sentences can do the same thing yet remain grammatical. 


Complete sentences can also be long and complex and still be correct.  Run-on sentences, however, are not correct.  Run-on sentences are those that contain two or more independent clauses (complete thoughts with both subject and predicate) not properly separated. 


Here’s an example of a run-on sentence: “He shot and I ducked.”  It contains two independent thoughts, each with a complete subject and predicate, even though only five words long.  It is hence an incorrect run-on sentence.  Here are the three possible fixes:


1) He shot.  I ducked. 

2) He shot; I ducked. 

3) He shot, and I ducked. 


Notice the differences in punctuation and structure.  In example 1), I made two complete independent sentences.  In example 2), I made two independent clauses separated by a semi-colon, which is legitimate grammar.  In example 3), I used a comma and a co-ordinate conjunction to separate the independent clauses. 


You must memorize the eight co-ordinate conjunctions: and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet, while.  When I taught English, I routinely had my kids stand and chant those eight words repeatedly.  If I accomplished nothing else, I’ll bet they remember the eight co-ordinate conjunctions and how to use them.  Writing a run-on sentence in my Freshman English 101 class at college guaranteed an F every week, which is probably why I consider the discipline important now. 


Commas – Should normally be in use whenever you take a breath in writing.  This isn’t always true.  Subtle rules for using them exist.  It’s normally better to use too many than too few, to avoid ambiguity.  Commas are a clue to your reader about how you organize your thinking.  If you use too many, a good editor can remove the wrong ones. 


Hyphens – Use more of them than you think necessary.  Any time that you use two or more words to describe another word or concept, the descriptive words need to be connected with hyphens.  This highly underused technique resembles using commas.  You need to write a lot and “listen” to what you write to get the usage right.  If you use two or more nouns in front of another noun to describe it, you must hyphenate the noun-string adjective, for example the beef-stew flavor of the . . .  where both the nouns beef and stew form one adjective together to describe the word flavor.


Numbers – Write the names of numbers through ten in text or dialog.  Numerals are okay for technical matter, as in Draw a line 6-8 - inches long.  For literature, it’s customary to write the names of numbers through twenty, such as: She had a nineteen-inch waist. (Note my use of the hyphen.)


Parallel structure – Lists of items, ideas, and concepts should have similar and consistent phrasing.  Here’s a good example of what not to do:  To reload a cartridge, first you remove the old primer.  Secondly, insert a new primer.  Then you add the gunpowder, Four, seat a new bullet.  5) Go out and shoot it. . . . You get the idea.  (Is secondly even a real word anyway?)


Semicolons – are for more than just preventing run-on sentences.  Here’s an example of how to use semicolons correctly after a colon to make a list:  To reload a cartridge: 1) remove the spent primer; 2) insert a new primer; 3) measure and add the gunpowder; 4) seat a new bullet.


A number of -- Don’t ever use this phrase because it conveys zero information.  Instead, say the exact number, if you know it.  Otherwise, write several for numbers you don’t know in the range 3-10.  Or say numerous for numbers you don’t know greater than ten.  People normally understand that several means 3-10, and numerous means more.  Notice that I did not write 3 to 10 because that implies the range 3-9.


Up to – Don’t say up to 24, for example, because this technically means in the range of 1-23.  Instead say as many as 24 if you intend for the range to include 24.  Doing this eliminates any ambiguity.


Over and under -- Don’t use over or under for things you can count.  Over and under are for positions, locations: under the bridge; over the house.  For things you can count, say more than or fewer than, for example, I have fewer than eight crackers left for all this cheese.


Issue -- Don’t ever use this trendy word when you really mean a problem.  An issue is something you can discuss civilly.  A problem is bigger, something that really grinds wheels to a halt.  When your brakes lock up, that’s a problem, not an issue.  I think this euphemistic usage got started with office workers who have problems with their co-workers and want to minimize (soft-pedal) the confrontation with politically correct non-speak. 


I don’t think – Don’t ever use this construction, ever!  People aren’t interested in what you don’t think.  They want to know what you do think.  To be precise, you won’t ever write, I don’t think I like eating this raw oyster.  That’s imprecise.  What you really mean to say is: I think I don’t like eating this . . .  This habit is hard to overcome because it’s such an ingrained idiom.  But you can defeat it in precise writing.  With practice, you’ll speak it too.  Then no one can mistake what you mean.


Word sequence -- English is one language where word sequence reigns supreme because English structure is analytic, non-inflected.  In plain words, you need to be careful in sequencing your words to make sure that they mean exactly what you want them to say, under analysis (parsing).  


English didn’t start this way.  Anglo-Saxon (Old English) was highly inflected, which means that the nouns and pronouns had different forms (inflections: spellings and pronunciations) to indicate their usage (meaning) in a sentence.  Some Slavic (and other) languages (Russian, Serbian, Croatian, Czech, and Icelandic, for example) still use inflection this same way. 


In Old English, the sentence The king rode the horse could be written or spoken with the words in almost any sequence and yet remain intelligible.  That’s because the inflections (forms) of the nouns indicated who was riding whom. 


In contemporary English, however, we must put the words in the correct sequence to convey the requisite meaning.  One thorn in this rosebush is misplacing the word only.  Make sure you put only closest to the word or phrase you want it to limit.  That might sound or look funny at first, but only because the usage has been so sloppy in what you normally hear and see.


Difficult, Hard – Prefer hard over difficult.  Difficult is from French.  Hard is from Anglo-Saxon (Old English).  The words mean the same except that hard is English, difficult is not, and is two syllables longer, harder to spell, and less concise and hard-hitting.  Difficulty as a noun, however, is acceptable because it differs in meaning from hardness.


At the end of the day – Substitute finally, unless you really mean “at the end of the day”.


Whether or not – Don’t ever use this construction because it’s a tautology, a needless repetition, because whether already implies or not.  For example, replace He did so whether or not he wanted to with He did so, regardless whether he wanted to.


Due to the fact that – Substitute because.


The state of … Omit this prepositional phrase and just name the state, for example, California, Texas, or Iowa.  Note that saying or writing the state of Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, or Virginia is never correct because these are Commonwealths, not states.  New York State is acceptable, however, to differentiate the overall state from its biggest city: New York City.  Washington State is also okay to differentiate it from Washington District of Columbia (D.C.).


The month of … Same problem as The state of.  Just omit this noise and name the month.


In the period of – Substitute when or during as necessary.


End result – Substitute result.


Prior to – Substitute before because it’s one English word, not two words, one of which is Latin.


Have (has) the ability to – Substitute can to reduce the noise.


Allow, enable, permit – Be careful when selecting among these words because they are not interchangeable.  Allow and permit imply authority – some legal requisite from a higher power.  Enable implies a simple can-happen instance. For example, putting a battery into a car enables its electrical system to work.  It does not permit or allow it to.


Can, may, might – Always reserve may for “mother may I” kinds of contexts, that is where the concept of permission presents itself. Never use may for a possibility because it is imprecise and can be ambiguous. Use might instead of may to denote a future possibility and can to denote a certainty, that – for example – something can or might happen.


Down the road – Substitute in the future or later to avoid this trendy noise.


Back in the day – Another trendy abomination to avoid.  Substitute formerly, previously, in the 1940s, or some other appropriate and possibly more specific and enlightening construction.


At this time – Substitute now.


At the present time – Substitute now.


At that time – Substitute then.


Order, sequence – Use sequence when you mean to denote how things happen with respect to one another.  Sequence can be either a noun or a verb, but both forms denote the same thing.  Order, on the other hand, has several differing meanings and can thus be ambiguous.  Alphabetical order, for example (although you hear this all the time), is less precise than alphabetic sequence, which can have only one meaning.  Notice also that I dropped the frivolously unnecessary al from the end of alphabetic.


Sales event – Substitute sale.


Weather event – Substitute rain, snow, hail, or just weather, as appropriate.


And not only that, and moreover also too, as well – To avoid sounding ludicrous, limit how many such words or phrases occur in a single sentence or thought.  One suffices.


Down the road – Substitute later, unless you really mean “down the road”.


At some point down the road – Substitute later.


Going forward – Substitute later unless you really mean “going forward”, as opposed to backing.


At the end of the day – Substitute later or finally unless you really mean “at the end of the day”.


Currently, presently – Substitute now to avoid the ly adverb.  People will understand what you mean when you say now.

Smoke and mirrors – Substitute subterfuge.


This list will probably grow as I continue to be offended by what I hear or see in current print.  For the nonce, however, I hope you find my list instructive and perhaps somewhat amusing.




A Fresh Start

Marry Williamson


At the Sunset Lodge Christmas had been very successful. Nothing disastrous had happened. Everybody had behaved themselves, even Norman had not sung too often or too loudly. Alice was over the moon with her room under the eaves. There had been a bit of a ding dong when her mother arrived on the doorstep on Boxing Day morning demanding that she came home.

Alice had briefly gone home on Christmas evening to tell her folks that she was stopping at the Sunset Lodge and to collect her belongings which amounted to very little and fitted in one plastic bin liner. She had nothing of the usual stuff that normal teenagers surround themselves with. It now transpired that her mother was not so much concerned with missing Alice but rather with missing Alice’s wages. Mrs. Hartnell had opened the door to her and had called Alice who, for once, had stood up to her mother. “I am 18,” she said, “you cannot make me come back. I am stopping here.”

And” she had added triumphantly “I have my own room with my very own bathroom”. She had added proudly.

Alice’s mother had shouted “you ungrateful girl, that’s how you treat us, after all we have done for you”.

 Mrs, Hartnell had said that there was little evidence of that, considering the pitiful small collection of belongings that Alice had brought with her, at which Alice’s mother had started to rant at Mrs. Hartnell about how it was none of her business and when she called Mrs. Hartnell an ‘interfering old cow’ the latter had shoved her off the step and closed the front door. Alice’s mother had stood on the doorstep for a bit crying with frustration but in the end she had flounced down the drive.

The stepfather was waiting at the end of the drive and after some consultation had stomped up to the front door and had started shouting and banging but Mrs. Hartnell had ignored it.

By now Alice was trembling and Prudence had taken her into the kitchen and made her a mug of cocoa. The rest of Boxing Day had passed pleasantly by. That is, after they had stopped

Norman singing “Alice does not live there anymore”.

On the 2nd of January Mrs. Hartnell and Prudence armed with a notebook made a tour of the Sunset Lodge with the purpose of deciding which rooms needed re-decorating. Mrs. Hartnell had sounded out Derek earlier to see if he was willing to take it on. Derek had jumped at the proposition as the mini-bus business was always rather slack in the winter months. In the end it was decided that all the rooms needed doing as well as all the corridors, bathrooms, kitchen and stairwells. In short, the whole of the Sunset Lodge needed a face-lift. Derek was to start immediately starting at the top and Alice’s little room under the eaves.

Alice was beside herself. She had been told that she could choose her own colours for her room and she was to have new curtains. The other residents were all equally excited and the days passed in a haze of colour charts and sample pots and swatches of curtain material. Violet was trembling in eager anticipation at the thought that there were bound to be lots of scraps of material to spare for her quilting projects.

 She was planning to make Alice a nice new bedcover. Even Norman had been caught up in it all and if not quite grasping what all the excitement was about had cottoned on that it had to do with paint and colours and had had to be restrained from singing the Rolling Stones song ‘Paint it Black’ over and over again.

Derek started bright and early the next Monday on Alice’s little room under the eaves. Alice, surprisingly, had shown good taste and a flair for interior decor. She had instinctively chosen a superb colour scheme and matching curtains.

The others all loved her new room and they had all asked for her opinion and they had all let her choose for them. Mrs. Hartnell was pleasantly surprised and Alice was over the moon. The smell of paint permeated the Sunset Lodge for days on end but in the end it was all done. Even Muriel, as always ever so superior, conceded that a good job was done. Rose, of course, had no input but Alice did secretly confer with her and had advised on a soft greeny colour called ‘willow’ which met with Muriel’s approval.

The other outcome of this decorating spree was that Derek, emboldened by Prudence’s constant stream of coffee and tea and hearty lunches, had finally drummed up enough courage to ask her out. They had gone to the movies and seen a film about another painter, ‘Mr. Turner’, and even Norman’s persistent singing of ‘Saturday night at the movies’ did not take the gloss of their burgeoning courtship.

All in all, Mrs. Hartnell thought, the new year had started with a breath of fresh air and promising new beginnings. That is, until the beginning of February when something disturbing happened. It was all about Eleanor’s bag. It was redundant ever since George was allowed out of Eleanor’s big carpet bag and free to roam the Sunset Lodge. He was very good, behaved himself impeccably and everybody loved him, even Margery, a self-professed cat hater. Mrs. Hartnell had even installed a cat flap so George could come and go as he pleased. His favourite place was Alice’s room under the eaves, in particular Alice’s big comfortable bed with the colour co-ordinated cover, quilted by Violet. Alice had taken to leaving her door ajar so he could come in. He also sometimes sneaked out of her window if left open and disappeared over the roof.

So, Eleanor’s big carpet bag was superfluous and both Maud and Violet had their eyes on it. Maud, to put her various knitting projects in it and Violet to carry her scraps of material, cotton and needles. But Eleanor had started to carry her magazines in it, her ‘guilty pleasures’ as she called the glossy issues of ‘Hello’ and ‘OK’. In fact, the big bag carried more ‘guilty secrets’, namely a seemingly endless supply of chocolate bars and half bottles of whiskey. When she thought herself unobserved she sneaked a quick square of chocolate and a swig of whiskey.

Margery, who caught her a few times doing it, secretly thought to herself, “no wonder she is as big as a house” but never let on. She just smiled whenever she saw Eleanor clamp the big carpetbag under her arm while sitting on the sofa, never letting it out of her sight just as she did when George was still in it. The others had noticed her odd behaviour with the bag but had put it down to force of habit. Norman, also, eventually cottoned on and had started to sing “pack up your troubles in your old kit bag” whenever he spied Eleanor sitting on the sofa studying her Hello magazine clutching her bag for dear life.

As she was that morning. Sitting on the sofa, reading OK magazine this time grasping the carpet bag under her arm. Norman walked in, took a deep breath and started into “pack up your troubles’.

Maud and Violet, on either side of the fireplace, frowned. Margery, sitting by the window, was reading ‘Lord of the Flies” and muttering “what? ast-mar, ast-mar”. Jack and Brian were playing a game of backgammon and Rose, at the other end of the sofa was trying to be invisible as usual. Muriel sitting in the big armchair sighed, tsk’d and stood up impatiently. She shushed Norman and stomped over to Eleanor, arms akimbo. “Show him the bag, Eleanor, maybe that will shut him up,” she said and with that, she grabbed Eleanor’s bag, opened it and tipped the contents onto the floor.

Six month’s worth of magazines tumbled out followed by two half bottles of whiskey, one of which was half empty and eight ‘rich chocolate’ bars from the Liddl’s store

A dreadful hush descended on the Sunset Lodge lounge. Eleanor sat frozen, big silent tears rolling down her plump cheeks. The others sat rigid, their mouths forming horrified o’s. Just then Prudence came in with the coffee followed by George.

Both of them grasped the situation immediately. George jumped onto the sofa and Elenor’s lap, kneading his paws and purring loudly. Prudence quickly put down the tray on the table, walked over to the sofa, shovelled all the stuff back into the big carpet bag and stuck it firmly under Eleanor’s arm. “Coffee everybody. Bakewell tart or Victoria sponge?” she said brightly.

 Norman walked over to Muriel, stood right in front of her, looked straight into her eyes and burst into song, adapting the old Michael Jackson number “YOU’RE BAD, YOU’RE BAD”.



The Path

Tim Whealton


I wasn’t looking when I found it. It was inviting but narrow. I wondered what treasure would be waiting at the end. Maybe a camp or a stand, maybe a swimming hole or fishing spot. Whatever was there had to be nice to deserve such a trail.

At first the trail was easy to follow. Someone else had done the hard work. It was well marked and trimmed. Seemed the further I went the steeper the trail. Never too hard to keep going but I had to stay focused or risk getting off the path. Other trails crossed from time to time and I had to make sure I was staying on the right path at every intersection.

Sometimes there were signs and other times I was lost. The path carried me high and I could tell where I was then it would go into a valley and I had no idea. Obstacles were in the path, some small and some so large that I could scarcely climb over. I pressed on to find what marvelous thing would lie at the end to make a path like this worthwhile.

Finally I could see the end. I was puzzled at first. There was no prize, no treasure. It brought me back where I started. Then I realized the path was the treasure.



The Jews were a proud people and throughout history they had trouble with the unsympathetic Genitals. Samson was a strong man who let himself be led astray by a Jezebel like Delilah. Samson slayed the Philistines with the axe of the apostles. Bible Stories by Young People  Lederer


A Lover


(430-347 BC)


Thyself my star,

Thou gazest up into the starry skies:

Would I were Heaven,

To look on Thee

With all those myriad eyes!


Translated by Henry Alford.



Hidden in the Fog

By Joan Leotta


Purple fountain grass

whitened, bowed by dew

waits for sun to pull

back morning’s misty coverlet

to reveal its royal tones.



Traveling Woman Blues

Peggy Ellis


[S]he is truly wise who has traveled far and knows the ways of the world.


That’s a Hávamál Viking Proverb, and who should know more about world travel than Vikings, right? Those marauding, plundering, ravaging men of yore certainly had difficulties in their travel. Unknown territories, human resistance (weak though it was for the most part), storms at sea, carnivores on land. I’m sure the list goes on. What they did not have was airports. Our September retracing of Viking travels throughout the North Atlantic began with a mess-up of royal proportions in London and culminated in four airports in one day between Quebec and Charlotte. That was exhausting. However, nothing in that experience came close to airport travails in our holiday trip to Portugal and Spain in December 2016. A Blue Ribbon comes into play here.

Feel free to laugh at any time.

We’ve dealt with the Charlotte airport so many times it doesn’t hold surprises and little inconvenience. Check-in and security were a breeze, and we walked the concourses to get some exercise after the Black Mountain to Charlotte drive. We had plenty of time so we enjoyed the amenities of the club lounge before boarding for the long flight to London-Heathrow. Traveling Business Class gave dinner and breakfast, as well as a neat little toiletries bag for our convenience, so we arrived at Heathrow in a reasonably good frame of mind. That didn’t last.

We arrived at Terminal 3 and went through security. Jim sailed through without hesitation. I, on the other hand, was pulled aside for the arms-over-the-head x-ray machine, wand, shoe inspection, and pat down. Now there was an experience. The woman kept pawing at my waist. I’ve traveled enough to know to dress as sleekly as possible, including no lace-up shoes and no belts. She kept digging and informed me there was something there. Yes, Ma’am, there was. The seam of my wide-elastic waistband. (BTW, ladies, if you haven’t tried this recent innovation in ladies’ trousers, you should. They are ultra-comfortable. But back to my woes.) She finally decided I wasn’t carrying an Uzzi concealed around my waist and sent me on my way.

To ease my frustrations over that encounter, we decided we would go to the club lounge for a while. We’re reasonable people; we ask questions, politely, of course. We showed our boarding passes clearly marked Priority and received the prompt information from an airport employee that we needed to be at Terminal 5 because that’s where all flights to Lisbon originate. We decided to use our airline complimentary pass to the lounge on Three (not to be confused with our Priority access, which can happen only once per flight) before going to Five. After misdirection from two employees, we decided to go to Five, a 12-minute bus ride, after we found the right place. There, we received the frustrating news that Lisbon flights originate at Three.

So, back to Three, and guess who was pulled aside again at security! I explained to this different woman, who thought I had probably taken a wrong turn. Anyway, she cut the pat down short and ignored my shoes after she checked something on the computer.

So ended my woes at Heathrow.

Our cruise on Portugal’s Douro River was enjoyable the first week, then, naturally, I got a head cold beginning with chest congestion and moving upward. So did many people on the riverboat so I had company coughing, sneezing, and blowing. I wasn’t comfortable, but I soldiered on through the second week, which included the post-cruise days in Spain.

Alert! Airport woes again.

 Feel free to laugh from the comfort of your lounge chair.

We come now to our last night (December 31st) in Spain. For the record, we have traveled on New Year’s Eve and Day on several occasions with nary a problem. We were in Santiago, a large city, certainly large enough for an airport. We knew we were to fly out of Vigo to Madrid where we would board plane to JFK, that’s in New York, United States of America (long may she survive) for anyone who doesn’t know. We figured the Santiago airport was actually on the outskirts. Wrong. Vigo was an hour and ten minute ride in a crowded ten-passenger van through two road construction areas at FOUR O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING.

Vigo has a small airport, not crowded at that hour. Our pre-arranged flight information didn’t agree with the computer. We learned that the powers-that-be cancelled our Madrid to JFK flight and had changed our itinerary without our input. They booked Jim from Madrid to London to Charlotte. They booked me from Madrid to Chicago to New York to Charlotte. Jim kept his cool. I did not. I stated unequivocally there was no way, José, that I would travel, anywhere, anytime without my husband. Again, for the record, I have absolutely no sense of direction. None. I couldn’t have found my way from the Vigo ticket desk to the airplane without being tag-along-Tulu. As we stood at the ticket counter, debating the question (in their minds, not mine), a man came from the plane to ask why we were not boarding. Thereupon, airport personnel decided we would have to deal with American Airlines in Madrid, so to Madrid we went with no idea where we would go next.

After an hour and a half flight, we arrived at the Madrid airport. So what happened? A woman in Security pulled me aside. I must surely look like a terrorist. For whatever reason, she only asked me to set my feet, one at a time, on a small x-ray box, then she sent me on my way.

As I said, feel free to laugh.

When we finally found the right place, we stood in the Priority line for two hours. We were the fourth in line, so that indicates the difficulty the airline rep had finding business flights for stranded people. She kept insisting that we should take the scheduled flights. We kept insisting we would not. She told us she had booked every seat on every flight through January 3rd and repeated we should take our scheduled flights. Jim told her (again) the airline didn’t matter, the routing didn’t matter, just get us two seats in Business on the same airplane, arriving eventually in Charlotte. When she finally stopped arguing, she needed about two minutes to book us on Iberia to Miami then American to Charlotte.

The Iberia ticket desk was directly behind American. There were no people in the Iberia line, so we sailed through, and had boarding passes in hand at 11:10, only to learn that the plane was to lift off at 11:50. In the meantime, we had to go to the lower level (several levels, in fact by escalator) to get the train to the correct terminal. Madrid airport didn’t have those trolleys that barge their way through crowds, horns blasting, while they transport passengers from one gate to another much faster than walking. So, we hot-footed a considerable distance through milling crowds to our gate. Only one person boarded after we did.

So we were on the next leg of our journey home. Were our problems over? You gotta be kidding. Only a curtain separates the Business section from Coach. We had the seats next to the curtain. For the next nine hours, I listened to an infant cry just beyond the curtain, and a shrill-voiced toddler further back in Coach. Earplugs, which I used, were not sufficient.


Finally, we arrived in Miami. Passport control there requires we stand in front of a machine, punch in some information, and face the camera for the absolute worst picture in the history of photography. We stood in line for that. We stood in line for customs. We stood in line for Security. I held my breath. I didn’t get called aside. After all that standing, we still had to wait for our luggage, but, that, at least was progress toward getting me to a bed at the Quality Inn in Charlotte.

(Dear readers, do I need to remind you that I was feverish, coughing, sneezing, and blowing?)

Naturally, obtaining our boarding passes entailed standing in line at the ticket desk. There, we learned our pre-booked seats were not available – good old American Airlines had goofed some way – and we would have to wait another two hours for the next flight.

The Charlotte airport at nine o’clock at night is a breeze and we only had to wait for our luggage. Our trusty shuttle van arrived promptly. I finally lay my exhausted bones in bed soon after ten o’clock.

Between Spanish time (six hours difference) and EST, we had been up 24 hours.

There you have a saga of traveling woman blues. Viking proverb aside, wisdom may dictate that it’s time for me to stop traveling.



It’s better by far at the rainbow’s end to find not gold but the heart of a friend.


A grateful mind is both great and happy.


There’s nothing wrong with retirement as long as one doesn’t allow it to interfere with one’s work. Benjamin Franklin.



A Forgotten Landscape

Ariana Mangum


Part V – 1944

The End of the Beginning


Chapter 78

 February 1944

At the end of the January Father was still in England on sick leave. He wrote cheerful letters from an Army Hospital somewhere in the country. At last he was able to take care of his wounded ankle and malaria

“Dear Doc,

“It’s great having three squares and a soft bed. The nurses make attractive scenery and most are as bright as shiny new dimes. After the fever and shakes left I am able to perambulate through the grounds. It’s not half bad here, but I’ll be glad to get back into action and finish off the Bosche. Do write soon. Love Dad.”

“Apparently he’s getting better,” I assured Mrs. Houghton. “At least he’s out of the fighting for a while, and I can stop worrying.”

“It sounds as if he’s far away from London and those terrible air raids. I expect he can’t say just where the hospital is,” she replied, “but I’m sure he’s relatively safe.”

For almost a week I forgot about Father’s illness. Then on Saturday morning, I wrote him a long letter.

“I am glad you’re away from the fighting. Frances said you are feeling better and might even go into London. Do write me about London. What’s St. Paul like, and have you seen the King and Queen? Tell Mr. Churchill, if you should meet him, Mrs. Houghton sends her best wishes. I miss you. Love, Doc.”

I hoped he would receive this, because sometimes my letters did not always get through. Poking about in Mrs. Houghton’s desk drawer, I discovered two unused stamps, which I licked and pasted to my envelope, pounding them with my fist. Then I placed the letter on the kitchen table for Mr. Houghton to mail.

Valentine’s Day, that year, dawned snowy and cold. I gathered up the cards I had written to my classmates, put them in my pocketbook, then slipped out and ran across the frosty ground to the kitchen door. I had a great, red Valentine for the Houghtons, and wished to deliver it before starting to school.

“Mrs. Houghton” I shouted, “open the door. I’m freezing. I’ve got a Valentine for you, special delivery.”

“Hand it in here,” Mr. Houghton opened the window. “Really, Doc, it’s hardly eight o’clock, and you’re knocking on my door. Come by after school.”

“Tell Mrs. Houghton Happy Valentine’s Day, when she awakes, and tell her I’ll come by later to collect mine.”

You might not get one. Don’t be sure. Really, kids these days expect everything. Run on now so I don’t freeze to death.” He banged the window shut as I departed and ran back in the front door.

At school, the girls exchanged cards and wrote silly verses to each other. Mary Ann decorated a big box, and we posted our cards in it for distribution that afternoon. The halls of our school were decorated in hearts made from dollies with red arrows stuck through them. Everything seemed festive, and I felt unusually happy all day. That evening I knew Mrs. Houghton would have a special surprise for me. Delivering the Valentine so early would remind her that it was the fourteenth of February.

I had not thought of Father until that afternoon when I found a letter written in his scratchy hand propped up on the table in the kitchen. I tore the envelope open and a handmade Valentine fell out and wafted towards the floor. Excitedly I caught and read the heart-shaped card, “For my special Valentine, Doc, my little daughter.”

“Not so little now, Father. I’ve grown heaps recently. I’m almost a lady. In March I’ll be sixteen.” I had forgotten how he loved Valentine’s Day and used to slip cards under the door and play “valentine ghost.” Inside the card lay a crumpled dollar bill and a note, “Buy some candy. Little red hearts are good. Best love, Dad.”

“Look, look what Father sent. A whole dollar for candy,” I shouted at Mrs. Houghton as she came in from the living room.

On the kitchen table I found a cake, small and round, covered with nuts and cherries. Cherries saved for some special occasion because we could no longer buy them.

“How beautiful,” I cried. “How simply beautiful. A little Valentine Cake just for me.”

I threw my arms around her neck and squeezed as hard as I could.

“That’s enough now, you’ll choke me to death before we can enjoy the cakes. I made a second one for myself and an even bigger one for Mr. H.”

We sat in her living room before the fire. Carefully she poured us each a cup of tea and put mine down on a little table beside me. I sat as usual on my hassock.

“There,” she said as she settled herself on the love seat, “happy days to us, Doc.”

“Happy days to you, too,” I lifted my cup in salute. “What a special day this is.”

“Yes,” she agreed. “But it started rather too early to suit me. A little messenger arrived before eight this morning.”

“Yes, I did. I hope you liked your card. I made it myself with flour paste and some old silk of Mother’s. It’s all pre-war stuff and terribly good.”

“It is lovely. It took a great deal of thought and patience to design such a pretty card. And I appreciate you’re not long on patience,” she teased.

“I know, but I’m learning.”

Valentine’s was on Thursday and Bertha arrived as usual. But instead of her blue satin hat today she wore a new one of red felt. It had a perky feather, and a black ribbon. I noticed when she came to our house for her money.

“I like your hat, Bertha,” I greeted her, “it’s really stylish.”

“Yes, Miss Doc, it’s brand new. Store-bought with money Mrs. Taliaferro gave me. It came from Thalhimer’s basement, and it’s the latest, straight from Paris, France.”

“Happy Valentine’s. I made you a card, and I’ve left it on the washing machine. It’s handmade by me,” I told her.

“That’s real sweet of you to remember old Bertha. I do likes a pretty card, and Valentine is my favourite,” she sounded pleased.

“Father sent me a whole dollar all the way from his hospital in England.”

“I do declare you’s in luck this year, Miss Doc. All the way from England, think of that. Good Lord, and little cat fishes, who’d have thought it? All the way from England. My, my.”

“I think you’d better get Mr. Houghton to take me home, Doc. He’s late this evening,” Bertha watched as Mrs. Houghton gave her the money.

Friday was not a very special day, I remember, just an ordinary one. It was cold and wet, and the melting snow left rivulets in our orchard. Lady and Jackie played in the pasture, and for once I did not ride them when I returned in the afternoon. The ground was soggy and the air was damp. I flopped down upon the bed and tried to study French when the phone rang. It sounded too loud as I crossed the living room to answer it.

“Hello, Doc, this is Frances. How are you?”

“Oh fine. Mrs. Houghton’s not here, just me.” I explained.

“No, no, I wanted to speak with you,” Frances said. “I’ve some news about your Father.”

“Is he back with his First Army? Is he out of the hospital?” I asked her eagerly.

“No, not exactly,” she replied. “I’ve some bad news. Some very bad news.”

“Surely he’s all right?”

“ Well, no. He’s been killed in an air raid on London. I got a telegram today, and a second from the man he rescued, a Colonel with Army Intelligence like your Father. That’s all I know. I’ve heard none of the details. Just an air raid in London on February 14th.” Her voice faded away.

“Valentine’s Day?”

“Yes, that’s right, Valentine’s Day. Sometime in the evening, I think it was.”

I dropped the receiver back into its cradle. I did not want to hear any more. Perhaps if she did not tell me it wouldn’t be true. It couldn’t be true. I had not meant to hang up on Frances, just on her terrible news. I left the phone, feeling shattered. Killed in an air raid? Stunned and disbelieving, I ran to my room, the room Mrs. Houghton had fixed up for me. I could feel his presence all around. I stood in the middle of the blue fringed rug and looked at my familiar things. The curtains Father had selected, the white painted shelves, and the little ceramic animals his friends had sent from all over the world. Surely he was not dead, when he felt so close to me.

I didn’t believe it, and couldn’t cry. I sat down upon the bed and traced the pattern of the blue coverlet with my forefinger. Then I went across to the garden and found Mrs. Houghton.

“I’ve just had a phone call, and I need to ask you something serious,” I told her.

“What do you want to ask?” She replied.

“What happens when you die?” I asked, “I mean, people just don’t die and go away forever, do they?”

“What’s the matter with you, Doc? What sort of question is that?”

“Well, suppose Father gets killed, will he disappear forever and ever amen?” I repeated.

“I expect he must leave something of himself behind. Like love for his children and regard for his friends.” She looked at me quizzically from over her spectacles. “What do you mean? What was that telephone call about?”

“It was Frances, that’s all. She had some news from Father. Nothing much. He’s been in an air raid in London, that’s all she knew,” I lied.

“What you want to know about death for?”

“I want to know what happens to you. How do you feel when you die, and what becomes of you? Ben says you rest, but that would get boring after a while,” I persisted.

“I don’t know, Doc. You rest surrounded by love of God. You see your dead friends and relatives and have a grand picnic up there.” She began to sing softly,”


“I’m a poor wayfaring stranger,

I sometimes know nowhere to roam.

I heard of a city called heaven, called heaven

I’m trying to make it my home, my home.”


“You think it’s like that. Our home? But you don’t come back, do you? You never return here again?” I wanted to make sure.

“No, you never return here once you’ve gone to heaven. What’s all this talk about heaven?” She stopped humming.

“Nothin really. Just want to know if you thought Father would go to heaven if he died? You know, in London, in an air raid.”

“I expect he would, Doc. Your father is a brave man, and he’s a good man. Surely it’s only a short while before he comes home again.” Mrs. Houghton replied looking me straight in the face.

“I am not sure. I thought Frances said he’d been in an air raid and - I couldn’t finish. I just stood there looking at her frozen garden and the leafless orchard beyond. She and Peggy had come out for a little walk because in February everything was dead. It was too cold for my apple tree so I returned to the cottage. That evening Mr. Houghton drove me down to the store for a loaf of bread. Everything seemed as usual; the men talked about the war, the women did their shopping. I did not speak of the awful dread I felt around my heart. The following morning I went to school as usual with Miss Emma. Nothing seemed changed, but deep down I knew all had changed. Nothing would ever be the same again.

That evening I found Rudy and Mother at home. Rudy came across the orchard to speak to the Houghtons. I watched him come and dreaded his arrival at our door. Mrs. Houghton let him in. He stood in her living room with muddy feet and one of his bird hunting hats perched on the back of his head.

“Is Doc here?” He asked.

I came from out of the bedroom and stood before him. He came straight to the point.

“Frances called to tell us about your father. He’s been killed in an air raid. That’s why we came home.”

“I know. She called before to tell me, but I wasn’t sure.” My voice trailed off.

“I am sure. He’s dead. There’ll be a memorial service at West Point. You are to go with your grandmother.” he informed us.

“West Point?” I asked. “In New York?”

“Your grandfather’s buried there. Your Dad’s buried in England.”

“In England?” I repeated unable to believe what he said.

They don’t bring home dead soldiers in wartime.” Rudy drove home his meaning.

“You are to come over to the house dressed as a lady. We are receiving guests this evening. Your mother wants you there.” He turned on his heel and was gone out the door before any of us could reply.

Mrs. Houghton handed me a cup of tea and I sat down on my hassock to drink it. Mr. Houghton came in and took off his Wellingtons before he and Peggy sat in his chair. He switched on his radio and for a few minutes everything seemed the same as usual. I wanted it that way, as we had always been.

“I want to know about heaven. The kind of heaven that one has, buried in England. Is it as special as being buried in the United States? It’s terribly important that I know.”

I couldn’t let my feelings out. I wanted to suppress them and maybe they won’t be true. I knew it was true. I knew but I didn’t wish to know. As long as I held my feelings in there might be hope. Somehow, in all this muddle of emotions, Mrs. Houghton understood. She gave me the much-needed space I desired to come to terms with Father’s death. I loved her for it, but couldn’t express it, even to her.

She took my hand in hers and drew me close as I sat on the loveseat beside her.

“This is very serious,” she said, “isn’t it? More serious than anything else we have ever faced together?”

“Yes, it’s ever so serious. I must know what heaven’s like in England - for an American. For a soldier.”

She held me very close to her. She smelled of lavender and roses all mixed together. Her skin was soft against my face and her arms encircled me. Never had I felt so much love except from Father. And never had I felt so safe.

“Will you come with me to West Point? I don’t know when. Will you come?”

I put my head on her shoulder. Then I demanded once again to know what heaven was like in England.

“It’s very green. In spring there are many flowers, and birds sing in the trees. The fields are filled with young lambs and the cuckoo whistles his tune. The rivers are swift, except the Thames, it’s wide and rather slow, but is has many villages on it before it reaches London and the sea. You can go in a boat up to Hampton Court where Henry VIII lived. There is a maze there and I got lost in it once. I think you have to keep turning right to get out, sort of like the one at Tuckafaoe. In Kent, where I grew up, there are oast houses where the farmers store the hops from which they make the English beer.

“My own father’s there near the ruins of Cooling Castle in an old fashioned churchyard. There’s a lich gate with a little roof over it. This is where they used to leave the coffins overnight in case someone was still alive. They didn’t bolt down the lid until the next morning so if the corpse were alive he could get out.”

I laughed and she continued.

“In spring the robins come and build their nests in the oak trees. I am sure he’s content in those peaceful surroundings. One day I plan to return and see it for myself. It’s also beautiful in September when they gather the hops and the harvest into oast houses. There are great Shire horses to do the heavy work. It was a grand sight to see them in the fields. It’s beautiful, peaceful spot when it’s not wartime.”

“There are Military Cemeteries too, all over England with row upon row of white wooden crosses. There are English ones and American ones. They are beautifully kept and in the American ones the Stars and Stripes flies. It’s a piece of American soil.

“American soil?” I repeated, “In England?”

“Yes, Mrs. Houghton replied, “it’s a little piece of America.”

We sat there together in the late afternoon twilight before her log fire. She understood from her own sorrow how I felt. I could not cry. It seemed unreal, and I did not wish to think about it. I just wanted her comforting presence. Finally the darkness enveloped us, and she took me home.

Continued in the Summer Issue

A Forgotten Landscape is available on Amazon and Kindle



From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza


Heavenly Brownie Cups



1 box brownie mix (plus box ingredients)

24 oreos

1 1/2 logs store-bought cookie dough

1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 c. hot heavy cream


Preheat oven to 350º and line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.


·       Prepare brownie batter according to box instructions. In each cupcake liner, add an Oreo.

·       Top with a tablespoon-size ball of cookie dough and top with another Oreo.


·       Pour over brownie batter mix until each is  almost full, fully covering the top Oreo.

·       Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownie cup comes out almost clean, 20 to 22 minutes.

·       Let cool, then make ganache:

·       In a small heatproof bowl, add chocolate chips. Pour over hot heavy cream and let stand 3 minutes, then whisk until smooth and no clumps remain.

·       Spoon ganache over each cupcake and serve.


x  sdvs


Hot Dog Chili Casserole



2 (15 oz) cans of chili with beans.

1 (16 oz) package of beef frankfurters.

10 (8 inch) flour tortillas.

1 (8 oz) package of shredded cheddar cheese.


How to:

·       In a baking dish, spread 1 can of chili and beans.

·       Roll up the franks inside the tortillas and arrange them over the chili and beans.

·       Top with the second can of chili and beans and sprinkle the cheese over the top

·       .In a preheated oven to 425° bake covered for 30 minutes!

·       Easy and simple to make and yet so delicious!


  cv  vx


North Carolina Peanut Butter Sheet Cake


You will need (for the cake)

2 cups of all-purpose flour.

2 cups of sugar.

1/2 tsp of baking soda.

1 tsp of salt.

1 cup of butter.

1 cup of water.

1/4 cup of creamy peanut butter.

2 beaten eggs.

1 tsp of vanilla extract.

1/2 cup of buttermilk.

You will need (for the icing)

1/2 cup of butter.

1/4 cup of creamy peanut butter.

1/3 cups plus 1 tbsp of milk.

1 (16 oz) package of powdered sugar.

1 tsp of vanilla extract.


How to:

·       Preheat the oven to 350° and grease a 15×10 jelly-roll pan.

·       In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda.

·       In a saucepan melt together the butter, water and peanut butter over medium heat and bring to a boil.

·       Pour the butter mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.

·       In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, vanilla and buttermilk then add to the batter.

·       Spread the batter in the pan and bake for 25 to 28 minutes.

·       To make the peanut butter icing, melt the butter, peanut butter and milk in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and mix in powdered sugar and vanilla until well combined.

·       Spread the icing over the cake while it’s still warm and enjoy!

·       This peanut butter sheet cake with peanut butter icing is so elegant and delicious! You will love it!




Beef Liver and Onions




1/4 cup of flour

1 lb beef liver

1/4 to 1/2 cup of butter

1/2 tsp of salt

1/8 tsp of pepper

Oil to taste

1-2 tbsp of fresh minced sage

2 cups of thinly sliced onions

1/2 cup of beef stock

1 tbsp of minced  parsley (I use Italian)

1/4 cup of dry white wine (optional)



·       Mix together the flour, salt and pepper in a bag.

·       Cut the liver into 1/2 inch strips and shake in the bag to coat.

·       In a skillet, heat 2-3 tbsps of butter and a dash of oil and sauté the onions on medium high.

·       Once tender and glossy, place the onions in a dish and sprinkle with sage, salt and pepper.

·       Over high heat, add 3-4 tbsps of butter and a dash of oil to the skillet.

·       Cook the liver for 5 minutes or so until browned.

·       Once cooked, return the onions to the skillet and heat together.

·       Transfer the liver and onions to a plate. Use stock and wine to deglaze the pan and reduce the liquid until you get a thick sauce.

·       Pour over the liver and onions and sprinkle with parsley and serve.

·       This beef liver and onions tastes so good, the butter softens the liver even more. Enjoy!


Oven Style Chicken and Rice



1 box Uncle Ben’s Long Grain Wild Rice (original)

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of celery soup

1 can water

(You can add another can of water for moister rice.)

·       Chicken breasts or tenders (you can use beef tenders also)

·       Instructions:

·       In a greased 9 x 13 pan, mix the box of rice, cans of celery and mushroom soup and

·       one can of water.  I always add the extra can of water because I like moist rice.

·       Arrange the raw chicken on top of the rice mixture.

·       Cover and seal with foil.

·       Bake at 350 degrees for 2 1/2 hours and “Don’t Peek!”

·       Your house will smell so good!



Native Fried Cornbread



2/3 cup cornmeal

1/3 cup self rising flour

1/3 cup low fat buttermilk

1 large egg

3 tbsps coconut oil for frying (you can use whatever oil you like)



·       Combine first 4 ingredients together in a bowl, mixing well. Mixture should be very moist but not soupy. Heat oil in skillet and drop by spoonfuls into oil.

·       Cook until brown on one side and flip (it cooks sort of like a pancake) to brown on the other side.

·       Place on plate with paper towels and blot any excess oil.



Salisbury Steak



1 (10 1/2 ounce) cans French onion soup

1 1/2 lbs ground beef

1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 cup ketchup

1 -3 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, to taste

1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

1/4 cup water


·       In a large bowl, mix together 1/3 cup condensed French onion soup with ground beef, bread crumbs, egg, salt and black pepper.

·       Shape into 6 oval patties.

·       In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown both sides of patties.

·       Pour off excess fat.

·       In a small bowl, blend flour and remaining soup until smooth.

·       Mix in ketchup, water, Worcestershire sauce and mustard powder.

·       Pour over meat in skillet.

·       Cover, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Butterfinger Ecstasy Cake



1 box of yellow cake mix (eggs, oil, water).

1 crushed king size Butterfinger bar.

1 small (14 oz) can of sweetened condensed milk.

1 (12.25) jar of caramel syrup.

16 oz of heavy whipping cream.

1/3 cup of powdered sugar.



·       First, bake the cake as directed on the box, once baked, poke holes in the top and let the cake cool.

·       In a bowl, mix together the sweetened condensed milk and caramel sauce and pour over the cake.

·       In a mixing bowl, beat the heavy whipping cream with a hand mixer for a few minutes until it starts to thicken.

·       Mix in the powdered sugar and beat for a few minutes.

·       Spread the whipped cream over the cake and top with crushed butterfingers.

·       Simple, easy and very delicious!






No Yeast Dinner Rolls



2 Cup Flour

2 tsp Baking Powder

2 tsp of salt  (Optional - I never use)

1 Cup milk

4 Tablespoons Mayonnaise



·       Combine all ingredients, spoon in to a greased muffin pan, makes aprox. (10) rolls. cook in a preheated 350˚f oven for 15 minutes or till done and golden brown.


  da  e


Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps



2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 (1 lb) package sliced bacon

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons chili powder



·       Preheat oven to 350°F.

·       Cut chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes.Cut each bacon slice into thirds. Wrap each chicken cube with bacon and secure with a wooden pick inserted on the diagonal starting where bacon seam overlaps.

·       Stir together brown sugar and chili powder. Dredge wrapped chicken in mixture.Coat a rack and broiler pan with non-stick cooking spray.

·       Place chicken on rack in broiler pan.

·       Bake at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes, or until bacon is crisp.


  C  FS


Redneck Musings


Want to look young? Hang out with old people.


I went to see my first ballet. Saw a lot of pretty women dancing on their toes. What they needed was taller dancers.


He was so mad he was walking around with a snake in his hand looking for a stick to kill.


Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got. Art Buchwald

Every time you think television has hit its lowest ebb, a new program comes along to make you wonder where you thought the ebb was. Art Buchwald

I worship the quicksand he walks in. Art Buchwald


A bad liver is to a Frenchman what a nervous breakdown is to an American. Everyone has had one and everyone wants to talk about it. Art Buchwald

I always wanted to get into politics, but I was never light enough to make the team. Art Buchwald

You can’t make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you’re doing is recording it. Art Buchwald

The buffalo isn’t as dangerous as everyone makes him out to be. Statistics prove that in the United States more Americans are killed in automobile accidents than are killed by buffalo. Art Buchwald

Have you ever seen a candidate talking to a rich person on television? Art Buchwald

Tax reform is taking the taxes off things that have been taxed in the past and putting taxes on things that haven’t been taxed before. Art Buchwald

So far things are going my way. I am known in the hospice as The Man Who Wouldn’t Die. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I think some people, not many, are starting to wonder why I’m still around. Art Buchwald

Yesterday’s weirdness is tomorrow’s reason why. Hunter S. Thompson

‘Crazy’ is a term of art; ‘Insane’ is a term of law. Remember that, and you will save yourself a lot of trouble. Hunter S. Thompson

For every moment of triumph, for every instance of beauty, many souls must be trampled.

 Hunter S. Thompson

There is no such thing as paranoia. Your worst fears can come true at any moment. Hunter S. Thompson

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me. Hunter S. Thompson

Freedom is something that dies unless it’s used. Hunter S. Thompson

If you’re going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you’re going to be locked up. Hunter S. Thompson

As long as I’m learning something, I figure I’m OK - it’s a decent day. Hunter S. Thompson

Some may never live, but the crazy never die. Hunter S. Thompson

I learned a long time ago that reality was much weirder than anyone’s imagination. Hunter S. Thompson

If I’d written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people - including me - would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism. Hunter S. Thompson

The mind of America is seized by a fatal dry rot - and it’s only a question of time before all that the mind controls will run amuck in a frenzy of stupid, impotent fear. Hunter S. Thompson


We believe that electricity exists, because the electric company keeps sending us bills for it, but we cannot figure out how it travels inside wires. Dave Barry

The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion or ethnic background, is that we all believe we are above-average drivers. Dave Barry

The Internet is the most important single development in the history of human communication since the invention of call waiting. Dave Barry

If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings. Dave Barry

Snowboarding is an activity that is very popular with people who do not feel that regular skiing is lethal enough. Dave Barry

Sharks are as tough as those football fans who take their shirts off during games in Chicago in January, only more intelligent. Dave Barry

Although golf was originally restricted to wealthy, overweight Protestants, today it’s open to anybody who owns hideous clothing. Dave Barry

What may seem depressing or even tragic to one person may seem like an absolute scream to another person, especially if he has had between four and seven beers. Dave Barry

You can only be young once. But you can always be immature. Dave Barry

Never under any circumstances take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night. Dave Barry

Bride: A woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her. Ambrose Bierce

War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography. Ambrose Bierce

Conservative: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with others. Ambrose Bierce

Sweater: garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly. Ambrose Bierce

Laziness: Unwarranted repose of manner in a person of low degree. Ambrose Bierce

Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt. Ambrose Bierce

Childhood: the period of human life intermediate between the idiocy of infancy and the folly of youth - two removes from the sin of manhood and three from the remorse of age. Ambrose Bierce

Beauty: the power by which a woman charms a lover and terrifies a husband. Ambrose Bierce

Life : a spiritual pickle preserving the body from decay. Ambrose Bierce

Revolution: In politics, an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment. Ambrose Bierce

Egotist: a person more interested in himself than in me. Ambrose Bierce

Coward: One who, in a perilous emergency, thinks with his legs. Ambrose Bierce

Eulogy: Praise of a person who has either the advantages of wealth and power, or the consideration to be dead. Ambrose Bierce

Telephone: An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance. Ambrose Bierce

Dog: A kind of additional or subsidiary Deity designed to catch the overflow and surplus of the world’s worship. Ambrose Bierce

Saint: A dead sinner revised and edited. Ambrose Bierce

Cynic: a blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Ambrose Bierce

The hardest tumble a man can make is to fall over his own bluff. Ambrose Bierce

Ocean: A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills. Ambrose Bierce

Meekness: Uncommon patience in planning a revenge that is worth while. Ambrose Bierce

I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said. William F. Buckley, Jr.

The best defense against usurpatory government is an assertive citizenry. William F. Buckley, Jr.

Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views. William F. Buckley, Jr.

I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University. William F. Buckley, Jr.

I would like to take you seriously, but to do so would affront your intelligence. William F. Buckley, Jr.

I would like to electrocute everyone who uses the word ‘fair’ in connection with income tax policies. William F. Buckley, Jr.

Truth is a demure lady, much too ladylike to knock you on your head and drag you to her cave. She is there, but people must want her, and seek her out. William F. Buckley, Jr.

Liberals, it has been said, are generous with other peoples’ money, except when it comes to questions of national survival when they prefer to be generous with other people’s freedom and security. William F. Buckley, Jr.

There is an inverse relationship between reliance on the state and self-reliance. William F. Buckley, Jr.

Back in the thirties we were told we must collectivize the nation because the people were so poor. Now we are told we must collectivize the nation because the people are so rich. William F. Buckley, Jr.

It is not a sign of arrogance for the king to rule. That is what he is there for. William F. Buckley, Jr.

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, I used everything you gave me. Erma Bombeck
There is nothing more miserable in the world than to arrive in paradise and look like your passport photo. Erma Bombeck

The only reason I would take up jogging is so that I could hear heavy breathing again. Erma Bombeck

Never have more children than you have car windows. Erma Bombeck

Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died. Erma Bombeck

Housework, if you do it right, will kill you. Erma Bombeck

Never accept a drink from a urologist. Erma Bombeck

I never leaf through a copy of National Geographic without realizing how lucky we are to live in a society where it is traditional to wear clothes. Erma Bombeck

My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint. Erma Bombeck

For years my wedding ring has done its job. It has led me not into temptation. It has reminded my husband numerous times at parties that it’s time to go home. It has been a source of relief to a dinner companion. It has been a status symbol in the maternity ward. Erma Bombeck

I haven’t trusted polls since I read that 62% of women had affairs during their lunch hour. I’ve never met a woman in my life who would give up lunch for sex. Erma Bombeck

I was too old for a paper route, too young for Social Security and too tired for an affair. Erma Bombeck

I don’t like food that’s too carefully arranged; it makes me think that the chef is spending too much time arranging and not enough time cooking. If I wanted a picture I’d buy a painting. Andy Rooney

The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there’s a 90% probability you’ll get it wrong. Andy Rooney

The average dog is a nicer person than the average person. Andy Rooney

Happiness depends more on how life strikes you than on what happens. Andy Rooney

We need people who can actually do things. We have too many bosses and too few workers. Andy Rooney

It’s paradoxical, that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone. Andy Rooney
If dogs could talk it would take a lot of the fun out of owning one. Andy Rooney

Making duplicate copies and computer printouts of things no one wanted even one of in the first place is giving America a new sense of purpose. Andy Rooney

The only people who say worse things about politicians than reporters do are other politicians. Andy Rooney

My favorite animal is a steak. Fran Lebowitz

As a teenager you are at the last stage in your life when you will be happy to hear that the phone is for you. Fran Lebowitz

I place a high moral value on the way people behave. I find it repellent to have a lot, and to behave with anything other than courtesy in the old sense of the word - politeness of the heart, a gentleness of the spirit. Fran Lebowitz

If you are a dog and your owner suggests that you wear a sweater suggest that he wear a tail. Fran Lebowitz

Humility is no substitute for a good personality. Fran Lebowitz

Being a woman is of special interest only to aspiring male transsexuals. To actual women, it is simply a good excuse not to play football. Fran Lebowitz

Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses. Ann Landers

Maturity: Be able to stick with a job until it is finished. Be able to bear an injustice without having to get even. Be able to carry money without spending it. Do your duty without being supervised. Ann Landers

Class can ‘walk with kings and keep its virtue and talk with crowds and keep the common touch.’ Everyone is comfortable with the person who has class because that person is comfortable with himself. Ann Landers

One out of four people in this country is mentally unbalanced. Think of your three closes friends; if they seem OK, then you’re the one. Ann Landers

The Lord gave us two ends - one to sit on and the other to think with. Success depends on which one we use the most. Ann Landers

The trouble with talking too fast is you may say something you haven’t thought of yet. Ann Landers

Keep in mind that the true measure of an individual is how he treats a person who can do him absolutely no good. Ann Landers

Say What!



They Never Change: Bernle Madoff may be in ­prison, but he’s still running a racket—in hot chocolate. The disgraced money manager, 78, who is serving a IBO-year sentence for swindling inves­tors out of $65 billion in the world’s largest Ponzi scheme, has bought up “every pack- age of Swiss Miss fern the commissary and sold it for 3 profit,” says journalist Steve. Fishman, who interviewed Madoff “if you wanted aim you had to go through Bernie.” Fellow inmates at North Carolina’s Butner Prison don’t mind his profiteering. “He stole more money than any­one in history,” says Fishman. “This makes him a hero.” The Oxford Ledger, Oxford, NC


Even Turtles?: An Oversexed African Spurred Tortoise named Ben mounted so many females in a British animal  - park that he developed crip­pling arthritis and had to be equipped with wheels. Bert, 22 (tortoises commonly live to 60), began to experience swelling in his hind legs after servicing numerous females in a 2011 breeding program. When the condition wors­ened, handlers at the Dino­saur Adventure Park attached wheels to the back of Bert’s shell to take the weight off his legs and help him heal. Park officials say kids think Bert is “a bionic tortoise” www.thetimes.co.uk/


Hermit Wanted: Austrian officials have posted a job opening for a hermit to live alone in an ancient Catholic cliff dwell­ing in the mountains. The 350-year-old hermitage has a stunning view, but lacks heat, electricity, running water, and internet access. The Ideal candidate should have inde­pendent means—the position is unpaid—and should be “at peace with himself says lo­cal priest Alois Moser. Since visitors come to the hermit­age to pray, talk, and seek the meaning of life, Moser said, the resident hermit “has to be there for them.”



Hangover Bar!:The world’s first bar for treating hangovers has opened in Amsterdam, The Hangover Bar is open from Friday to Sunday and features all the comforts you need to recover from a night of alcohol-fueled partying, including cozy beds, vitamin-packed smoothies, and an oxygen bar to speed recovery. To enter, patrons must first fail a Breathalyzer test, in order to prove that they were over served the night before. www.metrotimes.com/


Get Your Pollution in a Can: A British expat living in Beijing is cashing in on the city’s notoriously polluted air by canning it. Dominic Johnson-Hill started selling smog-filled cans
dubbed Beijing Air as a “joke,” after seeing that sniffable canisters of fresh, “pure” air from countries like France and Canada were popular among residents of the Chinese capital, where pollution regularly reaches dangerous levels. Hundreds of cans of Beijing Air now sell every day, at about $4 a pop, to both foreign tourists and homesick Chinese living abroad, “When 1 really miss Beijing, I will open a can and sniff it,” said engineer Zhang Haiming. www.atimes.com/


Junkyard Guard Bull:A Spanish scrapyard owner whose inventory kept getting burgled has replaced his guard dogs with bull­fighting bulls. Emilio Cervero said his second-hand auto parts yard in Montser­rat, Spain, nearValencIa, was broken into seven times over the past few months, and that several of his guard dogs simply ran away after thieves cut holes in his chain-link fence. So he recently released a pair of toros bravos, the breed of bulls used in Spanish bull­fighting, to patrol the yard and scare off intruders, “All I am trying to do is protect my property,” Cervero said.  http://www.onlinenewspapers.com/spain.htm


Dead Fish Display: A Japanese amusement park shut its ice rink after visitors kicked up a stink over its unusual decor: thousands of frozen fish. Space World theme park bought some 5,000 dead sprats, mackerel, and other fish from a market and embedded them in the ice—some with their mouths open as if in suspended animation. “We wanted customers to experience the feeling of skating on the sea,” said general manager Toshimi Takeda. Instead, critics lambasted the display on social media, calling it “tasteless,” “sinful,” and “a desecration of life.” The park is now replacing the ice and says it will hold a memorial service for the fish. www.smh.com.au/


Squirrel Revenge: Chicago Alderman Howard Brookins Jr. will think twice before criticizing his city’s squirrels again. The politician went on a tirade last month about the “aggressive” fluffy- tailed rodents that scavenge in his ward’s trash cans. Just weeks later, Brookins was out bicycling when one of those squirrels ran into his path and got tangled in the spokes, causing the alderman to flip over the handlebars. Brookins fractured his skull, broke his nose, and knocked out several teeth in the crash; the squirrel died. “It was like a suicide bomber,” he said of the rodent, “getting revenge.” chicago.suntimes.com/


A Good Idea: A Georgia man is refusing to find out who won the presidential election. Joe Chandler says that on the day after the vote he woke up feeling happy and relaxed—and decided not to ruin his mood by finding out. Since then, the artist, who works from home, has avoided televi­sion, newspapers, and social media. When he leaves the house, he wears headphones and a sign asking people not to tell him who won. “It is very peaceful in my bubble of ignorance,” Chandler says. The Atlanta Journal, Atlanta, GA


Gourmet Cat Food: British company has created the world’s most ex­pensive cat food: a gourmet blend of caviar, line-caught Scottish salmon, hand-caught Norfolk lobster, and Devon crab. A month’s supply costs $950. Pet food firm Green Pantry started making the luxurious kitty chow, called British Banquet, for wealthy customers who wanted to treat “their cats to the finer things in life,” said company co-founder Simon Booth. Pet owners can also share in the gourmet meal, Booth said, because British Banquet is fit for human consumption and tastes absolutely wonderful. https://www.theguardian.com/uk/london


Bad Bet: A Bernie Sanders sup­porter who lost a bet on the presidential election now has a permanent reminder of the vote: a tattoo of Donald Trump’s face on his lower back. Iowan Zach Cobert was so certain that the Republican would be defeated that he made a bet with a Trump ­backing buddy, pledging to get a tattoo of Trump if the businessman won. A week after Election Day, Cobert made good on his promise and got inked with a “Trump stamp,” which he called, “the stupidest thing I’ve done.” His girlfriend agreed. “I’m not happy with [the tattoo],” said Jenni Gang. “I have to look at it forever.” www.vtdigger.org/‎


Propoganda Coup: “Kim Abundant III,” and “Kim Fat Fatty,” after complaints from their ally’s regime. The now-blocked nicknames poked fun at the Glorious Leader’s ever-expanding waistline—the cheese-loving Kim has reportedly gained nearly 100 pounds—and his status as the third generation of the Kim family to rule his country. Creative Chinese social media users now refer to the double-chinned despot as Chubby HI, Kim Fatty 2+1, and Kim Fat Fat Fat. www.huffingtonpost.com/


Poor Rat: A New York City woman is suing fashion retailer Zara after a dress she bought came with an unwelcome ac­cessory: a dead rat sewn into the hem. Cailey Fiesel, 24, noticed that a “disturbingly pungent odor” followed her around when she first wore the foreign-made, $40 dress to work. When she investi­gated, she found the leg of a dead rat protruding from a seam. Fiesel is suing for unspecified damages, say­ing Zara dresses should be “free from defects, including rodent infestations.” nypost.com/


Super Hero: A Toronto street performer dressed as Spider-Man be- came a real crime fighter last week, taking down a suspected shoplifter in front of stunned bystanders. Mark Zilio was working outside a costume store when a woman allegedly stole an expen­sive mask and dashed past security guards and into the street. Wearing his superhero costume; Zilio swoopectmto; action, grabbing the woman, holding her down until police arrived. “Typical day in the life of Spider-Man,” Zilio said afterward. “With great power comes great responsibility.”  thestar.com


Super Turkeys: The city of Davis, Calif., is being terrorized by a gang of aggressive wild turkeys. Dozens of the birds have set up a home in the city, where they patrol the streets, eat the landscaping, and bully local residents, “I got a turkey here that just won’t let me leave,” one desperate man said in a 911 call. “It just put me in a corner.” The town hopes to begin relocating the birds soon, and in the meantime is advising residents on how to behave around a hostile turkey. “Be the dominant bird John McNerney advised. Don’t let it intimidate you.” www.latimes.com/



Professional courtesy, after police issued NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. a warning for speeding on his way to watch a race at the Texas Motor Speedway. When asked how fast he was going, Earnhardt replied, “Not fast enough.” www.news-journalonline.com/


The good olde days, after a Boston University study found that medieval peasants in 13th-century Europe typically took 150 days off from work per year to celebrate holidays and other festivals. In 2015, the average American had just 16.2 vacation days. https://www.bostonglobe.com/


Canada, after Donald Trump’s victory sparked so much traffic to the country’s immigration website that it crashed for hours. Online, searches for “Canada” and “move to Canada” soared into the millions. chicago.suntimes.com/section/news/


The mainstream media, after The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal saw a 300 to 400 percent surge in subscrip­tion orders in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. “A lot of people feel compelled to respond in one civic way or another” said Richard Tofel of the investigative website ProPublica.org.


Going out in style, after developers in Texas announced plans for a $300 million luxury resort community for doomsday preppers, with underground condos connected by tunnels. “It’s going to be a five-star resort with DEFCON 1 preparedness,” a spokesman said. Product placement, after Ivanka Trump’s jewelry company sent a “style alert” promoting the new first daughter’s “favorite bangle,” a $10,800 diamond bracelet she wore during her father’s post-election interview on 60 Minutes. www.dallasnews.com/


Checking out, after entrepreneurs opened the first DivorceHotel in upstate New York, allowing guests to check in married and check out single, all in one weekend. “It doesn’t need to be the worst experience of your entire life,” said a divorce mediator. Alone time, after an international study found that highly intel­ligent people tend to be happier when they spend more time alone, working on their goals and interests, and less time socializing with other people. nypost.com/


Vengeance, after Donald Trump supporters started an online campaign urging like-minded coffee drinkers to use the name of the president-elect when ordering at Starbucks. The goal is to force the young, presumably liberal baristas to call out “Trump” every time an order is ready. www.huffingtonpost.com/


Crowdsourcing, after NASA announced that it would pay a $30,000 award to anyone who could help devise a hygienic way for astronauts to poop and pee inside their space suits, without having to use an uncomfortable diaper. https://www.nasa.gov/


Going gonzo, after Hunter S. Thompson’s widow, Anita, announced plans to sell strains of marijuana cultivated from the remnants of the writer’s personal stash. “I’m looking forward to being a drug lord,” she said. https://www.yahoo.com/news/odd/


Feeling the spirit, after scientists at the University of Utah discov­ered that engaging in prayer has the same effect on religious people’s brains as having sex. “We’re just beginning to understand how die brain participates in experiences that believers interpret as spiritual, divine, or transcendent,” said lead researcher Jeffrey Anderson. www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news



Media literacy, after a Stanford University study found that 82 percent of middle schoolers couldn’t distinguish a real news story on a website from a “sponsored content” post by a business. www.upi.com/Odd_News


Getting a callback, after a Japanese man admitted to stealing the Wallet of a company president during his job interview. “I wanted to work for that company,” said Shogo Takeda, 24; after confessing to the crime. “But since I haven’t got a job, I needed money.” news.sky.com/strangenews


Helicopter parenting, after a court in Switzerland ruled that a 7-year-old boy must attend a specialized school because his doting parents spoiled him so much that he can’t cope with the challenges of a regular school environment. news.sky.com/strangenews


Kind words, after Dictionary.com announced that “xenophobia” was its word of the year for 2016. The site saw a huge spike in searches for the term, which is defined as “fear and hatred of foreigners,” in the wake of the Brexit vote and as Donald Trump moved closer to securing the GOP nomination. www.the-tls.co.uk/


Love potions, after North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un ordered his country’s scientists to develop a cure for male sexual dysfunction using snake extracts, sea urchins, and mushrooms soaked in alcohol. news.sky.com/strangenews


Acting like a jerk, after French researchers revealed that poor driving habits run in families, with 75 percent of motorists who admitted to experiencing road rage saying that they had witnessed their parents hurling insults from behind the wheel. news.sky.com/strangenews


Divine intervention, after a Buffalo woman filed a federal lawsuit to stop last week’s presidential election because both can­didates’ characters fell “far below” a presidential standard.



Leaving the dishes in the sink, after a French survey revealed that the No. 1 cause of infidelity cited by married women was their husband’s failure to do his fair share of the housework. www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news


Foreign ticket sales, after Qatar’s World Cup organizers announced that drinking will be banned during the 2022 soccer tournament. “There will be no alcohol consumption on the streets, squares, and public places,” said one official, “and that is final.” www.thetimes.co.uk



“Americans will put up with anything as long as it doesn’t block traffic.” Dan Rather, quoted in


“People respond well to those that are sure of what they want.” Anna Wintour, quoted in lnc.com


“I will look at any additional evidence to confirm the opinion to which l have already come,”
British politician Hugh Molson quoted in The Wall Street Journal


“Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough” Franklin Delano Roosevelt, quoted in Hindustan Times


“The great enemy of communication is the illusion of it” William H. Whyte, quoted in the Montreal Gazette


“Some of my best friends are children. In fact, all of my best friends are children.” J.D. Salinger, quoted in The New Yorker


“The inability to find and speak the truth is a failing that no talent for speaking the untruth can disguise Poet Boris Pasternak, quoted in BrainPickings.org


“I regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi.” Mindy Kaiing, quoted in TheAtlantic.com


“When I get a little money I buy books, and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” Erasmus, quoted in BuzzFeed.com


“What you say about somebody else, anybody else, reveals you.” James Baldwin, quoted in TheParisReview.org


“A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.” Author Marcus Zusak, quoted in CountryLiving.com


“I prefer silent vice to ostentatious virtue.” Albert Einstein, quoted in Qz.com


“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” James Madison, quoted in NewRepublic.com


“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” Bertrand Russell, quoted in Hyperallergic. Com


“It’s obvious that women are smarter than men, Think about it—diamonds are a girl’s best friend; man’s best friend is a dog.” Joan Rivers, quoted in The Wall Street Journal


“You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” Carrie Fisher, quoted in MentalFloss.com


“If you want peace, don’t talk to your friends. Talk to your enemies.” Desmond Tutu, quoted in HuffingtonPost.com


“There is something maddening about mediocrity that calls forth the worst in those who are forced to deal with it.” Moss Hart, quoted in The Wall Street Journal


“Not everything is unsayable in words, only the truth.” Eugene Ionesco, quoted in TheBrowser. Com


“Nobody looks stupid when they’re having fun.” Amy Poehler, quoted inAllure.com


“Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never reach it.” Salvador Dali, quoted in Forbes.com



There’s nothing wrong with retirement as long as one doesn’t allow it to interfere with one’s work. Benjamin Franklin.




Hammer Spade and the Long Shooter


Part Four

Hammer Spade

Chapters 29-32


Chapter Twenty-Nine



It was midnight when my plane landed at the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, Peru. The runway was the longest I had ever seen. The stewardess said it was over two miles long.

Oscar Aguilera spotted me right away at the international gate. He looked young to be in this business but he acted confident when he helped me through customs. He resembled Clint Eastwood when he played Rowdy Yates in the television series, Rawhide.

After we loaded my luggage into an 80s vintage Chevy Blazer, we drove to the Miraflores Orient Express Hotel in the Milaflores section of Lima. He handed me my .45 as soon as we were underway. During the drive to the hotel, he told me what little he knew about Lady Fisher’s whereabouts.

Oscar seemed to be quick-witted and clever, something I was not at this hour after spending eighteen hours in the clutches of the airlines. He said we would leave after an early breakfast tomorrow.

He had arranged for us to meet some locals in the Trapiche Valley on Route 18. After that meeting, we would drive to a tiny town high in the Andes to meet another contact. I asked him how far it was and he said it was about a hundred and twenty kilometers northeast from Lima. He reminded me that the highways in Peru were some of the highest in the world and driving times would not compare to what I was used to in the States.

Lima was a pretty city with wide, well-lit boulevards, lots of monuments and parks. Like most Latin American cities, although the hour was late, there was a lot of traffic.

The hotel was modern and looked like a Holiday Inn. A sign in the lobby said that Spanish, English, French and Italian were spoken. There were a lot of people about when I checked in.

Oscar had put me into a room at the executive level. My single suite cost $416 a night. I guessed Oscar wanted me to live large. After I was settled in my room, he bade me goodnight and gave me a word of warning before he left.

“Do not open your door for strangers,” he said.

“I don’t anyway, not without my gun ready. What’s the reason for the extra caution?”

“Others are seeking Lady Fisher and they do not wish for us to find her first.”

“I was afraid of that.”

“We must be on the lookout for the lady’s enemies as much as for the lady herself.”

“What chance do you think we have of locating her?”

“Slim, at best. She comes in the night, extracts her vengeance and leaves.”

“How does she travel?”

“She came into Colombia with an Indian guide and a pack mule. We think she acquired a vehicle when she got to Peru.”

“So you think she’s here?”

“I’m pretty sure she is. Lady Fisher is familiar with the country. She speaks the language and she has friends all over South America.”

“She sure has an edge on me. I’ve never been here and I don’t speak the language.”

“That’s why they chose me.”

“What is your plan?”

“We’re going to visit a couple of her friends first to see if she’s contacted them.”

I thought that was a start anyway. “I’ll be ready whenever you are.”

“I will meet you in the hotel restaurant for breakfast at seven.”

“I’ll see you then.”

After Oscar left, I had that empty feeling you get when you’re shooting into the dark, or on a wild goose chase. Lady Fisher was a skilled mountaineer and hiker. She was at home in the open. She probably came and went without leaving any trace that she had been there except for the dead bodies.

I used to have a boring job making bonds for petty criminals. I knew what I was doing then and what the rules were. Now I’m in a foreign country on an unlimited expense account, looking for a clever woman, who has lots of enemies, and who does not intend to be found.




Chapter Thirty


We checked out of the hotel at nine and headed northeast on Route 18. Our destination was Trapiche, which is a farming area between two mountain ranges along the Huallega River Valley.

Oscar knew the short cuts to get out of the city congestion. After we got into the country, the scenery was gorgeous. We drove a good distance through some dry-looking countryside. I hadn’t thought a lot about how Peru would be, but if this is typical of a third world country, it was pretty nice. The road was good. The houses we saw were well maintained and I didn’t see anybody that looked as if they were destitute or hungry.

“Peru is pretty,” I said.

“Peru is lovely,” Oscar corrected me. “We haven’t reached the magnificent part yet.”

“Will we be in the mountains?”

“We’ll be on top of the world before you go to bed tonight.”

“Does it have a name?”

“Canta.” He grinned. “You have never seen a city like Canta.”

“I’ve never seen a city like Lima.”

Traffic was heavy for such a rural highway so Oscar tended to his driving while I watched the passing scenery.

Around noon we entered a richer, better watered area along a modest-size river flowing west between two steep mountains. The valley was beautiful. We passed by a number of large commercial farms and many smaller private ones. I didn’t see any oxen or mules pulling plows or farm implements. Farming in Peru was mechanized.

Just east of a place called Yangas, we turned off onto a dirt road that crossed the river on a one-lane homemade bridge without railings. Then we wound through some commercial farm buildings and passed through fields until we approached the sheer mountain that bordered the northern side of the valley.

We stopped beside a rustic brown bungalow surrounded by shrubbery, red flowering bushes and a well cared for lawn. The place looked like a picture postcard. 

A man who looked more like a university professor than a farmer came out to greet us.

“Oscar!” he said with a smile. “It is good to see you again.”

Oscar introduced us. “Hammer, this is Ernesto Caperan. Ernesto, this is Hammer Spade.”

“Pleased to meet you, Ernesto,” I said.

“Ah! Mr. Spade is an Americano.”

“He’s working with us,” Oscar explained.

“And why is he working with you?” Ernesto asked. Ernesto seemed to know Oscar well. 

“We’re looking for Lady Fisher,” Oscar replied.

Ernesto frowned and wrinkled his brow. “Why are you seeking Margot?”

“We’re trying to find her before some others who are unfriendly find her,” I replied.


“We think Lady Fisher is in grave danger,” I replied.

Ernesto found that to be hilarious. I thought he would never stop laughing. Finally, with considerable difficulty, he controlled his mirth. “If Margot was after you, it is you who would be in grave danger.”

“Be that as it may, my orders are to find Margot and take her home.”

Ernesto gave me a knowing smile. “Mr. Spade, if Lady Fisher does not wish for you to find her, you will not find her, and if she is not ready to go home, there is no force on earth that can make her go against her will.”

“I’ve heard that, but I have my orders.”

Ernesto studied me for a few seconds. “Mr. Spade, you seem to be an honest and dedicated man. May I invite you and Oscar to lunch?”

“Sure,” I replied.

Oscar nodded his head. It was obvious that he wanted to dine with Ernesto. We followed Ernesto into his house. A young Peruvian woman was in the dining room setting three places. She had known that Ernesto would invite us to lunch.

“Valentina is the finest cook in the valley,” Ernesto said proudly.

Valentina smiled when he said it.

After we took our seats, Valentina served us a fruity drink called chicha de jora and followed it with a soup called sopa a la criolla, a delicious beef soup with noodles and vegetables.

While we were eating, Ernesto explained that the three staples of Peruvian cuisine are corn, potatoes and chiles. He said nowhere else in the world could you find so many varieties or such creative uses for these ingredients.

The main dish was sliced, broiled beef heart, corn on the cob in the husk and sweet potatoes. Ernesto and Oscar pealed the husk off the corn and used it as a handle to hold the corn while they ate it. I followed their example. The kernels of Peruvian corn were huge by American standards.

While we ate, Ernesto entertained me by telling me the Peruvian legends about their cuisine.

The origin of our golden corn was the dismemberment of the god Pachacamac. His teeth were changed into grains of corn, and his genitals into yucca and sweet potatoes. This provided the earth with food so his people would not go hungry.

“Another popular legend tells the story of an Inca noble who fell into a well while walking. The sun god looked down sadly upon his imprisoned son, but could not save him. The tears of gold that fell from the sun god’s eyes reached the earth, irrigated it and made the fields flourish. The grains of corn that sprouted up were said to be the golden tears of the sun god.”

“This corn is delicious,” I replied.

For dessert, Valentina served us suspiro a la limena which looked like meringue on caramel flavored custard. It was soaked in a local wine called manjar blanco which was added to the custard made with sweetened condensed milk.

After lunch I thanked Ernesto for his hospitality.

“It was my pleasure,” he replied. “Valentina loves to show off her cooking skills and we don’t get much company out here.”

“Your place is very comfortable,” I said.

“We like it. Valentina’s family lives a few miles away.”

Ernesto rose and motioned us toward his living room, which was small but tastefully furnished with a window facing the south.

After we were seated, he said, “Margot visited me a week and a half ago.”

He noted my surprise. “If I didn’t trust you, Mr. Spade, I would not have told you, but your behavior at lunch indicates that you are an honest man.”

“Thanks for telling me. Did she tell you what her plans are?”

“No, she did not. Lady Fisher is too professional to reveal secrets, even to her friends, because she knows anything can happen.”

“I understand that,” I replied.

“You could have been her enemy and, if so, my knowing of her whereabouts might have compromised her.”

I nodded in agreement.

“Lady Fisher’s enemies have ways to make people talk.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “It’s a cruel world.”

“Yes, Mr. Spade, it is,” Ernesto said sadly.

“Why did she stop?” I asked.

“She is a dear friend and she needed rest, decent food and a place where she could relax in safety.”

“So it was an R&R stop,” I said.

“My good friend left rested, refreshed and determined to complete her mission.”

“You are a good and honorable man,” I said.

“Thank you, Mr. Spade.”

“Lady Fisher’s boss in London would agree with me.”

“I am pleased to hear that Lady Fisher is well regarded in London.”

“They are spending several fortunes to bring her home safely,” I replied.

Ernesto looked at the ground for a few seconds. Then he looked me in the eye. “Mr. Spade, may God assist you in your quest to rescue my friend. I tried to dissuade her from what she was doing but she is a most headstrong woman and would not listen to me.”

“I will do my best.” I rose to go. “Thank you for a delicious meal and your candid remarks.”

“You are welcome, Mr. Spade. May God bless you and your mission.”

He accompanied us to the Blazer, invited me to visit anytime, and waved when we drove away.




Chapter Thirty-One


“We spent too much time visiting Ernesto,” Oscar said.

“Why is that?” I asked.

“It is a long and treacherous drive to Canta.”

“I liked Ernesto. You two are friends. How did you meet him?”

“He was my boss when I worked for the secret police.”

“He must be retired.”

“We were fired after the elections a few years ago.”

“He seems more like a college professor than any kind of intelligence or law officer.”

“Ernesto was very good at his job and he was honest.”

“He seems to be handling his forced retirement well.”

“Ernesto is a flexible man. When the new regime took over, he lost his job, his wife and most of his possessions in one week.”

“He has a nice place.”

“It belongs to Valentina’s family. Ernesto is virtually penniless.”

“How did he hook up with her?”

“She was his mistress.”

“Then he must be a good man for the family of his mistress to take him in like that.”

“I admire Ernesto more than I admire any other man.”

“How far is Canta?”

“About forty kilometers.”

“Is the road paved all the way?”

“Yes, it is, but it’s also one of the highest paved roads in the world.”

“So we’ll see some tall mountains.”

“The peak where we’re staying tonight is almost five kilometers high.”

“If the town is on top of that mountain how will we breathe?”

“The town is not on the peak. It’s on a small plateau at about twenty-three hundred meters.”

“Tell me that in feet.”

“7,475 feet.”

“That’s a lot higher than Denver and Mexico City.”

Oscar laughed. “It’s a tiny village, not a big cosmopolitan city.”

“When I was in Mexico a few years ago, I stayed on the 21st floor of the Nikki Hotel and I’d wake up at night having to catch my breath.”

“I have the same problem here, too.”

“How do the natives stand it?”

“They have no problem because they were born there.”

“I bet some people need oxygen.”

“Truckers who drive over the Andes carry oxygen.”

“I guess we won’t go that high.”

“Not this trip. Route 20, which we will travel next, is at a much higher elevation than Route 18, but we’ll still be okay.”

“To think that Margot hikes up here is unbelievable.”

“That’s why I think Lady Fisher will not be captured. She will complete her mission and go home.”

We had come to the point where the road rose steeply before us. The Blazer’s engine began to labor as we started up a steep, two-lane road with a sheer mountain face on our right and a barricade-less, shoulder-less, sheer drop-off on our left. I was glad Oscar was driving and glad we were in a vehicle with lots of metal to protect us if we fell off the road. The further east and the higher we got, the more I worried about coming down this road after we finished our business in Canta.



We arrived at our destination after dark. In order to get to the village, we had to leave the paved road and drive on steep dirt tracks down into a small valley and then on switchbacks up the side of the mountain to a forty-acre ledge perched on the south side of a huge mountain. The only lodging place was full up so we had to sleep in the Blazer. Oscar was prepared because he produced two sleeping bags.




Chapter Thirty-Two


After a rough night with Oscar snoring and the thin air, I was glad to see the sun. When I got out of the Blazer to take a stretch, some other men who were doing the same thing approached me. I woke Oscar up.

Oscar gave the approaching men the once over, told me to get my gun ready and watch him. The men stopped close to the driver side door.

Oscar asked them what they wanted.

“Are you Raul?” the tall one asked.

“No.” Oscar answered.

“Who are you?”

“A visitor.”

“Don’t you have a name?” the irritated questioner asked.

“I do, but it’s none of your business.”

“What are you doing here?”

“That’s none of your business either.”

“Suppose I make it my business?”

“Go ahead,” Oscar muttered and produced a Remington 870 with the magazine extended to the end of the barrel. Oscar shucked a shell into the chamber and stuck it out the truck window. That got the man’s attention. I guess everybody in South America is familiar with the sound of a Remington 870 being loaded. I put my hand on my .45.

The man backed away. “I did not mean to rile you, Señor. No hard feelings, okay?”

“Okay,” Oscar replied. He opened the action of the shotgun and removed the shell from the chamber, closed the action and shoved the shell back into the magazine.

The two men moved away and entered a windowless building close to the edge of the drop off.

“That was an exciting way to begin my day,” Oscar said.

“Yeah,” I replied. “I didn’t like their looks.”

“They weren’t after much. Maybe they thought they’d shake us down to buy their breakfast.”

“Is there any place here where we could clean up?  I feel like I’ve got sand in my eyes.”

“Me too. We can clean up when we meet Vargas. He’s got an apartment in that adobe building over there.”

I looked in the direction he was pointing. It looked like something out of an old Poncho Villa movie. “When will we meet him?”

“He doesn’t get out of bed until ten.”

“What’ll we do in the meantime?”

“Find breakfast.”

“That is the best idea I’ve heard. I guess the thin air makes me hungry.”

Oscar laughed. “You’re thinking about the lunch we had yesterday. We won’t get anything like that up here. Follow me.”

Oscar got out of the Blazer with the shotgun. He motioned to a teenager leaning against a building to come to him. When the teen approached us, Oscar asked him something. The boy nodded and pointed toward a single-story building with a flat, pole supported roof and smoke coming out the chimney. He handed the boy some money. The boy nodded his head and thanked Oscar. Then we walked toward the flat-roofed building.

“What did you ask him to do?” I asked.

“I asked where we could get breakfast. When he told me, I hired him to watch the Blazer.”

“That was a good idea.”

“Blazers are very popular up here.”

“I bet so.  Are you sure he’ll watch it and not try to steal it?”

“I paid him half. When we return, and it’s still there, he’ll get the rest.”

There were half a dozen men inside the low room that had three rustic tables. We took a seat at one and a big Peruvian Indian woman wearing a greasy apron came to take our orders. Oscar ordered for both of us.

“What did you order for me?” I asked.

“Two eggs, tortillas and corn on the cob.”

“What if I wanted something else?”

He laughed. “That’s the only thing on the menu. It’s all they have.”

“Any coffee?”

“Nope. Either goat’s milk or wine. Take your pick.”

I thought the wine might taste better but the milk might be better for me. “I’ll take the milk,” I said.

Oscar laughed again. “I figured you’d go for the wine.”

“Who knows when or what I’ll have to eat next. I thought the milk might be more nutritious.”

“That’s the way I see it too,” he replied.

“How long will we be here?”

“It depends on whether Vargas knows anything or not.”

“Does he know Margot?”

“He’s worked with her twice. He worships her.”

“Maybe we’ll find out something then.”

“Maybe. Vargas wouldn’t sell her out no matter what they did to him.”

Breakfast came and I got to shuck myself an ear of breakfast corn and use the shuck for a handle again. The breakfast was quite good. I couldn’t decide if it was truly good, or if I was hungry enough to eat anything, or if it was the altitude and my brain wasn’t working. My cup of goat’s milk came warm and fresh, straight from the nanny goat.


Continued in the Summer Issue




Proverbs From Six-Year Old Children


A first grade school teacher in Virginia had twenty-five students in her class. She presented each child in her classroom the first half of a well-known proverb and asked them to come up with the

remainder of the proverb.


While reading, keep in mind that these are first graders, 6-year olds. Their insight may surprise you.


1. Don’t change horses...until they stop running

2. Strike while the....bug is close

3. It’s always darkest before.....Daylight Saving Time

4. Never underestimate the power of....termites

5. You can lead a horse to water but....how?

6. Don’t bite the hand that....looks dirty

7. No news is.....impossible

8. A miss is as good as a.....Mr.

9. You can’t teach an old dog new....math

10. If you lie down with dogs, you’ll....stink in the morning

11. Love all, trust.....me

12. The pen is mightier than the....pigs

13. An idle mind is.....the best way to relax

14. Where there’s smoke there’s....pollution

15. Happy the bride who....gets all the presents

16. A penny saved is.....not much

17. Two’s company, three’s....the Musketeers

18. Don’t put off till tomorrow what.....you put on to go to bed

19. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and......you have to blow your nose

20. There are none so blind as...Steve Wonder

21. Children should be seen and not....spanked or grounded

22. If at first you don’t succeed......get new batteries

23. You get out of something only what you.....see in the picture on the box

24. When the blind lead the blind....get out of their way


25. Better late than.....pregnant



TV Scholar

Elizabeth Miccio


She sits there

…ears alert

Head moving

…back and fourth

To the rhythm of the scene.


Intense, absorbed, enthralled

…long tail not moving

Looking, looking, looking.


Sifia Lucia Maria

…is watching

“Sesame Street”




Three Rivers to Cross

By Elizabeth Silance Ballard

Righter Books

Reviewed by Joan Leotta



Many people think they grew up on an island—alone and different from everyone else. But in the case of Ms. Ballard’s heroine, Charlotte Anne Gurganus, growing up on an island, (in “downeast” North Carolina), was a literal truth. This memoir style novel, written from Charlotte Anne’s point of view in the first person, takes you into the world of Rattlesnake Island and allows you to feel the pangs and joys of leaving its isolation and protection. Charlotte;s life poses the question: “Is it a blessing to grow up like this, or is such a childhood something that, like the name of the island, poisons you, making you unfit to live elsewhere?”

The ambience of this  river island, is skillfully drawn. I could smell the fish on Charlotte’s father’s clothes and smell the fear in her mother when they ventured into town for shopping. Charlotte begins to drift away when she goes to school. At first the island remains a protective castle to return to after days spent with some of the mean children in her class. However, Charlotte is different not only because of her clothes and ways and where she lives. She is a genius and intellectually far above most of her classmates. This, combined with the social situation begins to make her resent the isolation of her childhood. A kind teacher, Ms. Violet, helps her and several others at school both with her studies and with the uncomfortable social situations in classrooms, starting in the fifth grade and continuing through high school.

When Charlotte wins a scholarship, she goes off to college and decides that she wants to remain in a wider world. She is glad to leave the confines of her island upbringing and the small town across the river. At college she is paired with a roommate, Suzanne, who has grown up in equal isolation, but in the mountains of North Carolina instead of at the shore. The two become fast friends—such close friends that Suzanne helps her with a car to get to a job where Charlotte meets Greg.

Ballard draws characters you will want to love (or hate in the case of the nasty ones!) and at creating dialogue so real  you will think you are overhearing a conversation in a café.

As in most exciting books, true love’s path is not without its obstacles. I will share that, eventually Charlotte returns to the area where she grew up, reconciling herself with her past, and that the ending is full of hope. I don’t want to tell you more— the plot takes some twists and turns that keep you wanting to read, amaze you, and leave you satisfied at the ending—

a tribute to the skills of Ballard as a writer.

This is a book to savor, to pass on to friends. Tell them about it and they will thank you.

Ms. Ballard is also the author of, Three Letters from Teddy and Other Stories, Kate’s Fan, Christmas Without Kyoko, The Fourth Wife of A. Markham Gillespie, Welcome Home, Teddy Stallard and co-author of Whoopin’ and Hollerin’ in Onslow County. Three Letters from Teddy  has been translated into Chinese and is renowned internationally. Writing as Minerva P. Shaw, she has written Here Comes Minerva. All of her books are available from Righter Books.


14th Annual Virginia Four Wheel Drive Association Trail Ride

E. B. Alston


This is an account I wrote about this famous off-road trail ride for Topsail Island Info in 2006. It was not for the faint-hearted.

Nobody knows how tough Jeeps are until they see them in action doing what they were built to do.

The trail ride is held in September every year on Oak Ridge Plantation in Arrington, Virginia. It is booked solid before the end of February and every hotel room for 25 miles is rented. On check-in, every room door has a Jeep parked in front.

The Rubicon performed as advertised, but I had already gone this same route in a 1999 Jeep Wrangler Sport. It was easier in the Rubicon because I didn’t have to gun it to get up CJ-5 hill, which is reputed to have broken more Jeep axles than any hill in the United States.

My favorite sports have been quail hunting, High Power Rifle competition and trail riding on a Jeep.

Our first trips to Oak Ridge was to attend Jeep Camps, which were a party with trail rides and all sorts of other Jeep related entertainment, put on by Chrysler Corporation. Alas, the downturn in the economy cut out that benefit.




Oak Ridge Estate,

Arrington, Virginia:




It’s 07:00 and this twenty-acre field is full of four-wheel-drive vehicles. It’s two hundred thirty-three to be exact. Almost all are Jeeps of some variation.




There are a few highly modified Toyota pickups, I saw one eighties vintage Blazer, an old Dodge 4X4 pickup and one Range Rover. Jeeps are the only vehicles capable of this activity right off the showroom floor. Just about every variation of Jeep is represented. Most are Wranglers, CJ 5’s, CJ 7’s and a couple of CJ 10’s which are ex-military vehicles. There were also quite a few Cherokees, some Grand Cherokees and a few Liberty’s. Liberty’s came out in 2002 and it takes nerves of steel to put a new, plush, family vehicle out in this. But, like Grand Cherokees, a Liberty will get you places just like a Wrangler will. There were also a few WW II Willys Jeeps.




Cherokees are very popular, second only to Wranglers and CJ’s.


The ride was organized by the Tidewater (VA) Fourwheelers to benefit the VA4WD Association (http://www.va4wda.org/clubs.htm) and Nelson County food bank. This is our second year it is a fun trip. Last year my 2006 Wrangler Rubicon had less than 1300 miles on it when we put it through the test. Needless to say, it passed with flying colors. I knew it would. We had already been on most of the trails in my old 1999 Wrangler Sport.



You don’t have to be a person to enjoy trail rides. These two know what the score is. There are also lots of children on these trail rides and they have a ball.



We are on the old steel bridge across the N&W railroad following Tom Desmidt, an old friend from my metallic silhouette shooting days. He used to teach at VCU in Richmond, VA but now he lives with his wife a stones throw from the Blue Ridge parkway.

The first time we attended Camp Jeep, we signed up for one “Scenic” trail and two “Intermediate” trails. The other designation was “Difficult”. The trail numbering system that year was one up to something like thirty-six. The higher the number, the harder the trail, with thirty-six being the most difficult. We were assigned trail # 2. Meanwhile, somebody got the idea that the numbering system was wrong and the easy trails ought to have the biggest numbers.

About five minutes off the paved road and we were driving straight down a very steep rocky creek bank into water that was over the wheels of our Jeep and an even steeper bank on the other side. Barbara said if this was a “Scenic” trail, she wasn’t going on an “Intermediate” trail. After an arduous morning we had got through without wrecking, getting stuck or needing a tow, somebody told us about the change in trail designations. We were hooked!


Ten minutes later we are “on the rocks”, as they say in Jeep lingo. “Blood on the trail” means you’ve busted an oil pan or some other liquid filled housing.



Getting pretty tough already!




We’re still following Tom and I’m going down a steep dirt bank. Tom has pulled out of the ditch and is moving on.




This is a pretty, new-looking Wrangler Sport.





Back on the rocks!





Lunch Break. What a view!



Back on the rocks again as they say.



It ain’t so pretty now is it?




Grand Cherokees are more prominent than you might think. They are very capable off-road vehicles. That’s Tom Desmidt in the picture below.












Rocks are the order of the day.




Second day’s lineup. That’s Barbara standing beside our Rubicon.



This is a brand new Wrangler Sport. We will see it later.



The line was moving when Barbara took this out of the window.



This boy is going where he can see the action.


c xz

Lunch break the second day.




More rocks. Notice how dirty these Jeeps are now.



We are now at the CJ-5 Hill creek crossing. The camera does not show how steep the far bank is as you approach the water. I was standing at the top when I snapped this photo.



This one has crossed the river but that 35 degree solid rock creek bank is just ahead!

Not a place to gun the engine!


He made it to the creek bank. Now he has to get to the top.




That’s Tom in front. I’m ascending the rock bank behind him and the Jeep was bouncing pretty bad when Barbara took this photo.




Another victim inching forward.



One of several coaches. You get lots of coaching at obstacles like this.


Here’s that Grand Cherokee reaching the top in fine form.




A Rubicon makes it’s move.


Remember that pretty brand new Jeep. The CJ-5 Hill has claimed it’s victim for today. Here it is in the foreground with a broken rear driveshaft.  This is the first time I’ve seen a drive train failure in a Jeep on a trail. They get banged up, turned over and stuck but they seldom break down.



We got through that one and we had a great time. The mountain scenery was gorgeous and I didn’t hold up the line. Isn’t that the dirtiest 2006 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon you’ve ever seen? But this is what they were designed for and they are AWESOME machines.



A Good Old Man

By John Earle (1628)


Is the best antiquity, and which we may with least vanity  admire. One whom time hath been thus long a-working, and like winter fruit ripened when others are shaken down. He hath taken out as many lessons of the world as days, and learnt the best thing in it, the vanity of it. He looks over his former life as a danger well past, and would not hazard himself to begin again.

His lust was long broken before his body, yet he is glad this temptation is broke too, and that he is fortified from it by this weakness. The next door of death sads him not, but he expects it calmly as his turn in nature; and fears more his recoiling back to childishness than dust. All men look on him as a common father, and on old age for his sake as a reverent thing.

His very presence and face puts vice out of countenance, and makes it an indecorum in a vicious man. He practises his experience on youth without the harshness of reproof, and in his counsel is good company. He has some old stories still of his own seeing to confirm what he says, and makes them better in the telling; yet is not troublesome neither with the same tale again, but remembers with them how oft he has told them.

His old sayings and morals seem proper to his beard; and the poetry of Cato does well out of his mouth, and he speaks it as if he were the author. He is not apt to put the boy on a younger man, nor the fool on a boy; but can distinguish gravity from a sour look, and the less testy he is, the more regarded.

You must pardon him if he like his own times better than these, because those things are follies to him now that were wisdom then; yet he makes us of that opinion too, when we see him and conjecture those times by so good a relic, not youthfuller for them, but they older for him; and no man credits more his acquaintance. He goes away at last, too soon whensoever, with all men’s sorrow but his own; and his memory is fresh when it is twice as old.





After Mother Calls Me Home

Michelle Owens


I lay upon the mountain top; I drizzle

sweat, dropping dark spots on the rock;

my backpack opened, cookies, notes and poems

expose themselves to sunset, wind, whatever.

Below, small man, a mini man, forces

order from a tractor, closing in on

his narrow part of cleared land in the valley,

and lines of campers wearing navy blue

or maybe jet-black t-shirts march from wood

to road, they tramp like ants that trail by instinct,

and not by choice; their leaders in rust red

appear to scratch their heads, as if they’re lost.

I turn around to see the sea which will

not roll away, an ocean green and blue;

common people like myself can climb

these waves that rise above tsunami heights

but don’t come down again, always cresting,

never crushing, calmly cradling, cradling,

a world that’s at the bottom of this high hill.

I used to play a game called hide and seek,

when I was younger than those ant-like campers;

I hid so well my friends made me be “It;”

I always had to search for them, and I

would look until my mother called me home

and then a little longer, into twilight.

I could play the game alone, by searching

budding laurels which pastel the air,

or the pines, those evergreens proficient

at refusing every winter’s death;

instead, I take a stab at hiding under

orange-yellow clouds that are tomorrow’s

fog, their shadows veiling me from heaven,

which appears to be a languid searcher

for the minor matter of my life.

across the mountains people strew their weekend

retreat cabins, I come only when

it is that I am almost positive

God has given up on being “It.”

But the finding’s here -- and in this minute

longer, past the time my mom preferred

me out, when my papers slide and rustle

with mountain breezes which begin to blow

a little cooler with the coming evening --

I like the way it feels without a jacket,

the way it raises small chills on my skin.



Age-Old Philosophical Advice

Submitted by Anna Tritt


“Sometimes, when I look at my children, I say to myself, ‘Lillian, you should have remained a virgin. ’“ - Lillian Carter (mother of Jimmy Carter) 
“I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: - ‘No good in a bed, but fine against a wall.’“ - Eleanor Roosevelt


“Last week, I stated this woman was the ugliest woman I had ever seen. I have since been visited by her sister, and now wish to withdraw that statement.” - Mark Twain 
“The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible.” - George Burns 
“Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year.” - Victor Borge 
“Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.” - Mark Twain 
“By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” - Socrates 

“I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury.” - Groucho Marx 
“My wife has a slight impediment in her speech. Every now and then she stops to breathe.”
- Jimmy Durante 
“I have never hated a man enough to give his diamonds back.” - Zsa Zsa Gabor 

“Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat.”  - Alex Levine 
“My luck is so bad that if I bought a cemetery, people would stop dying.” - Rodney Dangerfield 
“Money can’t buy you happiness .... But it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery.” 
- Spike Milligan 
“Until I was thirteen, I thought my name was SHUT UP.” - Joe Namath 
“I don’t feel old. I don’t feel anything until noon. Then it’s time for my nap.” - Bob Hope 
“I never drink water because of the disgusting things that fish do in it.” - W. C. Fields 
“We could certainly slow the aging process down if it had to work its way through Congress.” 
- Will Rogers 
“Don’t worry about avoiding temptation. As you grow older, it will avoid you.” - Winston Churchill 
“Maybe it’s true that life begins at fifty .... But everything else starts to wear out, fall out, or spread out.” - Phyllis Diller 
“By the time a man is wise enough to watch his step, he’s too old to go anywhere.” - Billy Crystal 
“And the cardiologist’s diet: - If it tastes good spit it out. ”


Another Way

Ambrose Bierce



I lay in silence dead. A woman came

And laid a rose across my breast and said,

“May God be merciful.” She spoke my name.

And added, “It is strange to think him dead.


“He loved me well enough, but ‘twas his way

To speak it lightly.” Then, beneath her breath,

“Besides,”─I knew what further she would say.

But then a footfall broke my dream of death.


To-day the words are mine. I lay the rose

Upon her breast, and speak her name, and deem

It strange indeed that she is dead. God knows

I had more pleasure in the other dream.






Q: What was the first official White House car?

A: A 1909 White Steamer, ordered by President Taft.

Q: Who opened the first drive-in gas station?

A: Gulf opened up the first  station in Pittsburgh in 1913.

Q: What city was the first to use parking meters?

 A: Oklahoma City , on July 16, 1935.

 Q: Where was the first drive-in  restaurant?

A: Royce Hailey’s Pig Stand opened in Dallas in 1921. 

Q: True or False?  The 1953Corvette came in white, red and black.

A: False. The 1953 ‘Vettes were available in one color, Polo White. 


Q: What was Ford’s answer to the Chevy Corvette, and other legal street racers of the 1960’s?

A: Carroll Shelby’s Mustang GT350.

Q: What was the first car fitted with an alternator, rather than a direct current dynamo?

A: The 1960 Plymouth Valiant 

 Q: What was the first car fitted with a replaceable cartridge oil filter?

A: The 1924 Chrysler.

Q: What was the first car to be offered with a “perpetual guarantee”?

A: The 1904 Acme, from Reading , PA. Perpetuity was disturbing in this case, as Acme closed down in 1911. 

Q: What American luxury automaker began  by making cages for birds and squirrels?

A: The George N. Pierce Co. of Buffalo , who made the Pierce Arrow, also made iceboxes.

Q: What car first referred to itself as a convertible?

A: The 1904 Thomas Flyer, which had a removable hard top. 

 Q: What car was the first to have it’s radio antenna embedded in the windshield?

A: The 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix.

Q: What car used the first successful series-production hydraulic valve lifters?

A: The 1930 Cadillac 452, the first production V16 

Q: Where was the World’s first three-color traffic lights installed?

 A: Detroit , Michigan in 1919. Two years later they experimented with synchronized lights.

Q: What type of car had the distinction of being GM’s 100 millionth car built in the U.S. ?

A: March 16, 1966 saw an Olds Tornado roll out of Lansing , Michigan with that honor.

Q: Where was the first drive-in movie theater opened, and when?

A: Camden , NJ in 1933

Q: What autos were the first to use a standardized production key-start system?

A: The 1949 Chryslers  


Q: What did the Olds designation 4-4-2 stand for?

A: 4 barrel carburetor, 4 speed transmission, and dual exhaust. 

 Q: What car was the first to place the horn button in the center of the steering



A: The 1915 Scripps-Booth Model C. The car also was the first with electric

door latches. 

Q: What U.S. production car has the quickest 0-60 mph time?

A: The 1962 Chevrolet Impala SS 409. Did it in 4.0 seconds.

Q: What’s the only car to appear simultaneously on the covers of Time and


 A: The Mustang

Q: What was the lowest priced mass produced American car?

A: The 1925 Ford Model T Runabout. Cost $260, $5 less than 1924.

Q: What is the fastest internal-combustion American production car?

A: The 1998 Dodge Viper GETS-R, tested byMotor Trend magazine at 192.6


Q: What automaker’s first logo incorporated the Star of David?

 A: The Dodge Brothers.

Q: Who wrote to Henry Ford, “I have drove fords exclusively when I could get away with one.

It has got every other car skinned, and even if my business hasn’t been strictly legal it don’t hurt anything to tell you what a fine car you got in theV-8.”

 A: Clyde Barrow (of Bonnie and Clyde ) in 1934.

Q: What car was the first production V12, as well as the first production car

 with aluminum pistons?

A: The 1915 Packard Twin-Six. Used during WWI in Italy, these motors inspired Enzi Ferrari

 to adopt the V12 himself in1948.

Q: What was the first car to use power operated seats?

A: They were first used on the 1947 Packard line.

Q: Which of the Chrysler “letter cars” sold the fewest amount?

A: Only 400, 1963, 300J’s were sold (they skipped “I” because it looked like a number 1)
Q: What car company was originally known as Swallow Sidecars (aka SS)?

A: Jaguar, which was an SS model first in 1935, and ultimately the whole company by 1945.

Q: What car delivered the first production V12 engine?

A: The cylinder wars were kicked off in 1915 after Packard’s chief engineer, Col. Jesse Vincent,

introduced its Twin-Six.

Q: When were seat belts first fitted to a motor vehicle?

A: In 1902, in a Baker Electric streamliner racer which crashed at 100 mph. on Staten

Island !

Q: In January 1930, Cadillac debuted it’s V16 in a car named for a theatrical version of a

1920’s film seen by Harley Earl while designing the body, What’s that name?

A: The “Madam X”, a custom coach designed by Earl and built by Fleetwood. The sedan featured a retractable landau top above the rear seat.

Q: Which car company started out German, yet became French after WWI?

A: Bugati, founded in Molsheim in 1909, became French when Alsace returned

to French rule.

Q: In what model year did Cadillac introduce the first electric sunroof?

A: 1969

Q: What U.S. production car had the largest 4 cylinder engine?

A: The 1907 Thomas sported a 571 cu. in. (9.2liter) engine.

Q: What car was reportedly designed on the back of a Northwest Airlines airsickness bag and

released on April Fool’s Day, 1970?

A: 1970 Gremlin,  (AMC)

Q: What is the Spirit of Ecstasy? 

A: The official name of the mascot of Rolls Royce, she is the lady on top of

their radiators. Also known as “Nellie in her nighty”.

Q: What was the inspiration for MG’s famed octagon-shaped badge?

A: The shape of founder Cecil Kimber’s dining table. MG stands for Morris


Q: In what year did the “double-R” Rolls Royce badge change from red to black?

A: 1933 

 Trivia...Ford, who made the first pick-up trucks, shipped them to dealers in crates that the new owners had to assemble using the crates as the beds of the trucks. The new owners had to go to the dealers to get them, thus they had to “pick-up” the trucks.  




Langdon Smith



When you were a tadpole and I was a fish
In the Paleozoic time,

And side by side, on the ebbing tide,

We sprawled through the ooze and slime,

Or skittered with many a caudal flip


Through the depths of the Cambrian fen,

My heart was rife with the joy of life,

For I loved you even then.


Mindless we lived and mindless we loved,

And mindless at last we died;

And deep m a rift of the Caradoc drift,

We slumbered side by side.

The world turned on in the lathe of Time,

The hot lands heaved amain,

Till we caught our breath from the womb of death,

And crept into light again.


We were Amphibians, scaled and tailed.

And drab as a dead man’s hand:

We coiled at ease ‘neath the dripping trees,

Or trailed through the mud and sand.

Croaking and blind, with our three-clawed feet,

Writing a language dumb,

With never a spark in the empty dark

To hint at a life to come.

Yet happy we lived and happy we loved,

And happy we died once more:

Our forms were rolled in the clinging mold

Of a Neocomian shore.

The aeons came and the aeons fled,

And the sleep that wrapped us fast

Was riven away in a newer day.

And the night of death was past.


Then light and swift through the jungle trees

We swung in our airy flights;

Or breathed in the balms of the fronded palms,

In the hush of the moonless nights.



And oh, what beautiful years were these,

When our hearts clung each to each;

When hfe was filled, and our senses thrilled

In the first faint dawn of speech!


Thus life by life, and love by love,

We passed through the cycles strange;

And breath by breath, and death by death,

We followed the chain of change;

Till there came a time the law of life

When over the nursing sod

The shadows broke, and the soul awoke

In a strange, dim dream of God.


I was thewed like an Auroch bull,

And tusked like the great Cave Bear;

And you, my sweet, from head to feet,

Were gowned in your glorious hair.

Deep m the gloom of a fireless cave,

When the nights fell o’er the plain,

Arid the moon hung red o’er the river bed,

We mumbled the bones of the slain.


I flaked a flint to a cutting edge

And shaped it with brutish craft:

I broke a shank from the Woodland dank,

And fitted it, head to haft.

I hid me close to the reedy tarn,

Where the Mammoth came to drink:

Though brawn and bone drove I the stone, -

And slew him upon the brink.

Loud I howled through the moonless wastes,

Loud answered our kith and kin:


From west and east to the crimson feast,

The clan came trooping in.

O’er joint and gristle and padded hoof,

We fought and clawed and tore,

And cheek by jowl, with many a growl,

We talked the marvel o’er.


I carved that fight on a reindeer bone,

With rude and hairy hand:

I pictured his fall on the cavern wall,

That men might understand.

For we lived by blood, and the right of might,

Ere human laws were drawn,

And the Age of Sin did not begin

Till out Brutal tusks were gone.


And that was a million years ago,

In a time that no man knows;

Yet here tonight, in the mellow light,

We sit at Delmonico’s.

Your eyes are deep as the Devon springs.

Your hair as dark as jet:

Your years are few, your life is new,

Your soul untried, and yet—


Our trail is on the Kimmeridge clay,

And the scarp of the Purbeck flags:

We have left our bones in the Ragshot stones,

And deep in the Coralline crags.

Our love is old, our lives are old,

And death shall come again:

Should it come today, what man may say

We shall not live again?


God wrought our souls from the Tremadoc beds,

And furnished them wings to fly;

He sowed our spawn in the world’s dim dawn.

And I know that it shall not die;

Though cities have sprung above the graves

Where the crook-boned men made war,

And the ox-wain creeks o’er the buried caves,

Where the mummied Mammoths are.


For we know that the clod, by the grace of God,

Will quicken with Voice and breath;

And we know that Love, with gentle hand.

Will beckon from death to death.

And so, as we linger at luncheon here,

Over many a dainty dish,

Let us drink anew to the time when you

Were a tadpole and I was a fish.



“Guns are a lot like parachutes, if you need one and don’t have one, you’ll probably never need one again”


“To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did” Ancient Proverb



February Sun

Michael Warren


Not fierce is the pale February sun,

But a waxing reminder of solar fate,

Whose steady determination against the pitch,

Of snow laden roofs,

Offers daily proofs,

The frozen rule of winter is undone,

Not in flash, but in a stitch,

Deftly removed of late,

Unleashing a white cascade,

Plummeting across eaves,

Spilling icicles among leaves,

To lie shattered in warming shade.


So it is my darling one,

That my love and friendship may shine,

In measure constant and true,

On the precipitous tiles of your memories,

And help you, as you slowly incline,

To unburden darkness, gently as to please,

And plant seeds that happiness you will construe,

When you recall, through it all,

That like the mid-winter sun,

I was the one,

Who steadfastly loved you.



The Andy Griffith Show and Mt. Airy

By Rita Berman




The Andy Griffith Show first appeared on television almost 57 years ago, October 1960, and I still watch the re-runs several times a week. The quiet pace, courteous behavior, and old-fashioned attitudes portrayed in Mayberry are a marked contrast to our present day lifestyles.  Technology has brought us computers, I-pads, Facebook and Twitter to the detriment of face-to-face interactions.  I am not alone in escaping from the daily onslaught of depressing television news and programs that offer analysis of American politics as well as scenes of war, death and destruction around the world, and natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires, and other natural disasters.  There are now 1447 Chapters of the Andy Griffith Rerun Watchers Club since it held the first reunion of fans in Charlotte in 1990 and the Facebook page has more than 241,000 Friends.   Apparently, like me, they enjoy seeing the episodes again, know what is coming, and the interplay between Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife never palls.

I met Andy Griffith in the early 1980’s when I was writing a weekly column for the Durham Morning Herald called “Travel Views and News.”  The tourism department of the State of North Carolina invited the press to view a promotional film and if I remember correctly the song, “I like calling Carolina home”, was background to the film.    Andy’s remarks introduced the film and later I asked him to sign my program.  He didn’t have a pen so I offered the use of my gold Cross pen. He then went on to sign other autographs and eventually I asked for return of my pen.     

Earlier this year I read Andy and Don, a book written by Don Knott’s brother-in-law Daniel de Vise, in which he tells the inside story of the professional and personal history of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts.  Mr. de Vise wrote that in fall, 2012, after going to Mount Airy for the annual Mayberry Days festival, he set about interviewing everyone he could find who had ever been close to Andy or Don. His book gives details that while Andy and Don were friends as well as fellow actors, Andy did not accept Don as his financial partner on the Griffith Show, and it was a number of years before Don was given starring credit in the Andy Griffith Show.  Yet Don is the character that makes us laugh.  His over-eagerness to enforce the law, his over-reaction to some situations meant that while he carried a gun the bullet had to be kept in his pocket.  By the time he could load his gun the criminal would usually escape.

Andy was born in Mt. Airy, June, 1926.  As a teenager he bagged groceries at the Piggly Wiggly and later attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and majored in music.

Don Knotts was two years older than Andy, born on a farm outside Morgantown, West Virginia on July 21, 1924. Attended West Virginia University but was drafted into the Army in 1943 and served in Detachment X an entertainment company before returning to the University.  He appeared on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts show in 1949.  

Don and Andy met during rehearsals for the play “No Time for Sergeants.”  Sheldon Leonard was then producer of the Danny Thomas sit-com “Make Room for Daddy” and had the idea to make Andy Sheriff of a small town in a new show.  After seeing Andy on television, Don called him to inquire if Sheriff Andy Taylor needed a deputy.  Eventually he got the part.

Ronny Howard was the first actor to join the show.  He was a five-year-old who could learn lines before he could read or write.  Today he is a highly respected film director and prefers Ron to Ronny.  Next came Frances Bavier who had many screen and television credits, and then Don. “A man who could set off paroxysms of laughter even before he opened his mouth…. His gangly frame, wire but fragile, diminutive and stooped, seemed somehow trapped between adolescence and old age,” wrote de Vise.



Thirty-two episodes were planned for the first season in 1960.  Don won an Emmy in 1961 for his best performance in a supporting role and by season five had won five Emmys.  Don left the show after season five to fulfill a five-picture contract from Universal Studios.   Season six of the show was in color and while it continued for three more years it was never the same without Don, according to Ron Howard.  The Griffith show received several nominations for outstanding humor but never won.

For years Andy denied that Mt. Airy had been the inspiration for Mayberry but eventually in 2002 when he returned to his birthplace he admitted it might have been. 

In 1990 Mayberry nostalgia was a booming business noted de Vise.  The Griffith show was airing on more than a hundred stations. With the 30th anniversary coming up Tanya Jones of the Surry Arts Council organized Mayberry Days in Mt. Airy. At that time few Mt. Airy shops had reference to Andy Griffith but there were many inhabitants of the town with stories they could share.  Now Surry County has an $80 million tourist industry according to de Vise, much of it related to Mt. Airy. 

Mount Airy will be holding its 27th celebration 19-24 September 2017, and if past festivals are any indication crowds of fans will attend and for a few days participate in small town life.  Shows are scheduled throughout the weekend beginning with a parade on Saturday morning, autograph sessions, and performances at the Earle Theatre, Andy Griffith Playhouse, or Blackmon Amphitheater.

 For many fans going to Mayberry Days is tradition and hotel rooms are booked months ahead.  Look-alike characters from The Griffith Show, Otis, the town drunk, Aunt Bee, or Barney, even one or two of the original series actors may appear at various venues downtown during the festival.  Karen Knotts, Don’s daughter will speak at 11:30 a.m. Friday Sept. 22nd and Saturday 23rd tickets are $20. On Thursday, Sept. 21st The Emmett Golf Tournament includes dinner and entertainment for $100.  Tickets for other shows vary from $10 up.  More information is available on-line from the site www.surryarts.org/mayberrydays.


Photos Andy Griffith Museum - Squad Car at Wally’s Service.   Both supplied by the Mt. Airy Tourism dept.




Growing up on a Farm


E. B. Alston


I was eleven-years-old in the spring of 1946. We still did not have electric power at home. The war was over and my uncles and cousins came home from the service. For some, adjustment to civilian life was hard, especially for the ones who had seen actual combat and been shot at. One of my extended family cousins, the Guptons, lost a son. His mother was my grandmother’s sister, Maude Crawley Gupton.

My uncle, James Thomas Benson, mama’s brother, was on the first wave onto Omaha Beach. He must have distinguished himself because a month later he was a general’s Jeep driver. He still got shot at, strafed and shelled few times. The family thought he would be safer in that job than on the line in an infantry company, but I doubt if he was.

A general was an important target. Uncle James Thomas’s official weapon on the Jeep was an M-2 Carbine, but he told my dad that he “traded” it for an M-1 rifle previously carried by a dead soldier lying in a ditch. He also carried a 45 automatic pistol in a shoulder holster. Knowing him, the Jeep probably had spare ammunition stuck in every nook and cranny. He did tell Daddy once that he kept a box full of hand grenades in the Jeep. Makes me wonder where the General sat. He came home with a drinking problem and had trouble kicking that. He never said if he shot anybody but he did say a box of grenades lasted less than a week. He was in Europe all the way into Germany. He came home with a trophy Mauser rifle. It was brand new, unfired, in the original oily wrapping. He never shot it. After he died, I asked my cousin, Juanita, who was handling his estate, if I could have it. I ended up with it and had it appraised. It was valued between $12,000.00 and $15,000.00.

To finish this on a happier note, After a year or two of aimlessness, he met a woman who lived in White Oak, North Carolina while he was visiting my Aunt Vera. This woman straightened him out and to his death, he was as good an Uncle as any boy could have.

Speaking of bad luck, my cousin, G. B. Alston, Uncle Branch’s son, was an infantry scout in George Patton’s Third Army. The few times he talked about it, it was plain that he had a wild time and almost got captured behind German lines several times. He was a fast runner. He told daddy that he lost count of the M-1 rifles he threw away so he could get away. He came home with a drinking problem, too. He married a woman who didn’t straighten him out and he drank too much until he died.

My uncles Clarence and Clyde went into the Navy. Uncle Clarence was stationed at the Panama Canal but I think Uncle Clyde saw some naval combat, which he never talked about.

Daddy added two rooms to his house, making a two-room shotgun house into a four room L shaped house. And, somehow, Paul and I got the best room in the house on the west side of the L. We had two doors. One into Mama and Daddy’s bedroom, and another door to the porch! We could sneak in and out of the house.

Having lost his father when he was 17, which he blamed on the Depression, our daddy never thought big time in farming.  His mantra was stay small, control expenses, and make sure he would not lose everything he owned in another depression. He was the last farmer in the family to buy a tractor.

At 11, I was big and strong enough to handle a double plow pulled by two horses. So, that year Kenly lost his job. Daddy didn’t have to pay me. He still used Kenly sparingly, like at tobacco setting time and during the harvesting season.

I liked the work. Dealing with plow horses kept things from getting boring. I helped my Uncle Fort some, too, but he had mules. Folks, mules are exceedingly boring. They didn’t walk briskly like plow horses. They plodded slowly to the end of the furrow. It took them longer to turn around to go back than it took a horse team to plow the whole furrow. Horses had personalities. If mules had one, they never let it show. Bob Wood said a mule would patiently pull a plow for 20 years hoping for just one chance to kick a man.

Uncle Fort had a big family. All but one were girls. The boy, my cousin, Boyce, got everything he wanted. In spite of that, his sisters loved, and spoiled, him, too.

Speaking of Bob Wood, his mules plodded even slower than uncle Fort’s. My dad said the reason was Bob didn’t feed his mules grain every day, only when they worked, and grass and hay didn’t provide adequate nourishment for working stock. Daddy sure practiced what he preached. Our working stock got corn twice a day and a mixture he called “sweet feed” which was a mixture of oats, barley, some sort of powder and molasses. It sure smelled good enough to eat and the horses loved it. Daddy also fed them peanut vine hay, which was high in protein. None of daddy’s animals were skinny.

That year, I plowed with the broke team. He plowed with a new team that had not learned to work together, plus they didn’t get along, either. They would try to kick and bite each other at every opportunity. Even with that, Daddy could plow more than I could.

Speaking of draft animals, by then Uncle John Allen had quit farming, got a job at a sawmill, and moved to Battleboro, NC. He and Aunt Lossie, had three sons. Johnny, Billy, and Wayne. He had a good-sized garden behind his house and he plowed it with a goat named Gruff. Gruff was a big goat that was about four feet tall and probably weighed over 200 pounds. He was good-natured, too and my cousins played with him and rode him like a horse.

I don’t remember exactly which year, 1946 or 1947 when we got the big snow. It was before we got electricity, which was the summer of 1947. Over two feet of snow fell around the middle of March. Talk about low impact with that much snow. We didn’t lose power because we didn’t have power. The only routine change was I didn’t have to go to school. We were warm, dry and well fed. We didn’t have a phone either. The radio was battery powered and daddy hitched horses to the wagon and went to Essex to buy whatever mama told him she needed. I think the snow came Tuesday night and was gone by Saturday.

Me and Paul played in the snow to our heart’s content. Ma paid me a dollar to bring fireplace and cook stove wood into her house. Fireplaces are very inefficient but I remember Ma’s bedroom and kitchen were always cheerfully warm during cold weather. The house had four fireplaces and when she had company, she burned a pickup load of wood a week. 

School-wise, I was in the fifth grade, still at Hollister. My teacher was Miriam Anna Clark, mama’s cousin. She was the prettiest teacher in the school and she boarded at Ivey Crawley’s big antebellum mansion across the road from school. Ivey was Ma’s (My paternal grandmother’s) brother. Miss Clark also dressed like a movie star. Looking good did not make her any less stern, and since I was “family”, she held me to higher standards academically, and behavior wise. If I slacked off, Mama was informed.

School was interesting by then. We were into fractions and interesting reading both in English and History. Tom Sawyer was the best book I had ever read up to that time. We studied North Carolina history, which, at that time, was mostly about farmers.

That was a good time for me. I liked being active. I liked working with my father and he taught me a lot about life and practical things. Like caring for animals, maintaining equipment, counting your change at the store, and being polite. A lot of daddy’s farm help were black folks, to whom he was always polite, which he always treated fairly, never called them the “N” word. If I had called them one and he found out, a whipping was sure to come. Daddy said they couldn’t help how they were born and everybody ought to be treated fair, being nice never cost anything, and sometimes a favor was returned double.

One thing I ought to say about our father. Nowadays parents are hesitant and never sure how to discipline their children. That was a handicap my father never possessed. Any kind of willful misbehavior carried a cost that I learned quickly was not worth whatever mischief I was tempted to try.

By the time summer came, the corn was mature, tobacco was almost ready for harvest, we had cut hay once, and peanuts and cotton were “right on time.”

I felt proud for the part I played in making it happen. The best news was Daddy was looking for a stallion to breed Silver Spot, his fox hunting horse. I was going to get a horse!



A termite walked onto a bar and asked, “Is the bartender here?”


The Parting of Launcelot and Guinevere

Stephen Phillips



Into a high-walled nunnery had fled Queen Guinevere,

Amid the shade to weep, and to repent ‘mid solemn boughs, and love

The cold globe of the moon; but now as she,

Meekly the scarcely-breathing garden walked,

She saw, and stood, and swooned at Launcelot,

Who burned in sudden steel like a blue flame

Amid the cloister.

Then, when she revived

He came and looked on her: in the dark place

So pale her beauty was, the sweetness such

That he half-closed his eyes and deeply breathed;

And as he gazed, there came into his mind

That night of May, with pulsing stars, the strange

Perfumed darkness, and delicious guilt

In silent hour; but at the last he said:

“Suffer me, lady, but to kiss thy lips

Once, and to go away for evermore.”

But she replied, “Nay, I beseech thee, go!

Sweet were those kisses in the deep of night;

But from those kisses is this ruin come.

Sweet was thy touch, but now I wail at it,

And I have hope to see the face of Christ:

Many are saints in heaven who sinned as I.”

Then said he, “Since it is thy will, I go.”

But those that stood around could scarce endure

To see the dolor of these two; for he

Swooned in his burning armor to her face,

And both cried out as at the touch of spears;

And as two trees at midnight, when the breeze

Comes over them, now to each other bend,

And now withdraw; so mournfully these two

Still drooped together and still drew apart.

Then like one dead her ladies bore away

The heavy queen; and Launcelot went out

And through a forest weeping rode all night.







A Modern Fairy Tale

Diana Goldsmith


Here is the story of a dysfunctional family.

We have a widow called Mrs Twankey. She had one daughter Jackie who was an idle so and so who had left school without any qualifications. She found it so boring and she felt she had better things to do like hang with her equally dull friends.

Jackie or Jac as she liked to be known, was not good looking, very tall and too thin. She had one half of her hair cropped very short and actually shaved at the side. The other half was long and lank. It was also dyed bright orange. She had studs in her eyebrows and in her tongue. She had black eyeliner around her eyes and wore black lipstick which matched her nail polish.

She wore a long purple top which hung off one bare shoulder which showed a hideous tatoo,over  rainbow coloured leggings,and finished her outfit with ankle high red boots with very high heels.

She and her friends thought she was up to the minute trendy!!

Jac and her friends would be seen standing on street corners in the town shouting obscenities at the passing public.

Poor Mrs Twankey despaired of her. Her late husband Mr Dumpty had sustained an accident while resting on a wall during his lunch break and unfortunately met a very sticky end! This left her penniless as he was a gambler and had lost the family fortune. She had to take in washing in  order to keep the family fed and clothed and a roof over their heads.

She couldn’t get Jac to get a job as she said she didn’t want to climb up the ladder because there was always some ogre sitting at the top and it definitely wasn’t a golden opportunity.

Jac’s dole money didn’t even pay for her phone, makeup and coffee.

However poor Mrs Twankey was still up to her elbows in soap suds.

One day hope seemed to come to her. Her fame as a washerwoman spread wide and a BBC producer needed a lot of laundry done so he turned to her. When he received his goods all sparkling and beautifully ironed to boot, he also got a box of cakes.  I had forgotten to tell you that she loved to bake.

That led her to take part in ‘ The Great British Bake Off’ and win it!

She then gave up the laundry business to set up a cake shop instead.

One of Jac’s failings was that she had a sweet tooth but she hadn’ t been able to afford to indulge before as she was often skint and Mrs Twankey didn’t have spare money for any but the basics.

Now it was different. While on the Bake Off she would ask Jac to taste her bakes. Once the cafe was open Jac had decided to work in it only if she could have free cakes. She gorged herself and slowly but surely the pounds went on and on. I think she had inherited a few of her father, Mr Humpty( Mrs Twankey had always kept her maiden name) genes.

She had gone from a size 8 to 22!!

How would she ever meet a man who would love her.

Mrs Twankey on the other hand had many admirers because of men’s love of their stomachs!

She enjoyed herself going out when she had time and learnt to dance. Something her late husband refused to do. She soon was spotted and entered a dance contest and came first together with her partner Tom. They went on to be champions of ballroom dancing.

Jac was left to run the business.

Her dance partner whom she had met at a tea dance,had been  widowed too. Tom had twin sons a few years older than Jac.

He was one gentleman who wasn’t just attracted to her because of her cooking abilities. Through the competitions and practising they got to know each other very well. So it was no surprise to each other when Tom proposed and Mrs Twankey accepted.

They planned a large wedding with music and dancing of course! Tom came from a musical family, his father having played the bagpipes in his regiment. Now Tom played drums in a band.

His sons however were like Jac had been and didn’t do much as Tom was a wealthy man heading up a corporate business.

Unfortunately neither he nor his sons liked Jac. He kept telling his fiancée that she’d be better off letting him find a manager for the cafe and one who wouldn’t eat up the profits too!

She tried to defend her daughter but Jac was her own worst enemy eating even more to comfort herself from the jibes of Tom and his sons.

The invitations were duly sent off for the wedding but Tom didn’t want Jac there.

 Jac would have to cover the cafe on the Saturday when the wedding was scheduled.

However a few months before the wedding Mrs Twankey’s producer friend Mr Fairy called in the cafe and spoke to Jac. When he saw how down she was, not her usual cheery self, he asked her what the problem was and she told him. He told her not to worry as he would sort it all out. First she was enrolled in a slimming class and then when she had got down to a respectable size 16 he would arrange for her to be kitted out by a designer friend of his.  She was so thrilled that she lost her appetite and over the weeks and months she easily shed the weight. She met the designer and chose her outfit and to her surprise was told she would go as Mr Fairy’s partner as he had been invited by Mrs Twankey.

A temporary manager had been found to cover and Mr Fairy turned up in his shiny BMW to pick Jac up. She looked amazing,no rings in inappropriate places and hair restyled and discreet make up so that she had soft curls falling on her shoulders and the tattoo was covered by the beautiful dress.

On entering the  ballroom at the hotel where the wedding reception was held, all heads turned to see who this beautiful girl was. The press were taking photos because of Peter Fairy, the famous producer.

Well like all good fairy tales we have to have a happy ending and so there is. Peter Fairy proposed and was accepted by Jac.

Mr and Mrs Piper were reconciled with her daughter and even the twins had a change of heart and were given jobs in the BBC by Peter Fairy and the cafe prospered and is one of ‘The’ places to eat.



Advice from Minerva

Minerva on Dating and Relationships

Minerva P. Shaw




            No matter what age we are, women sometimes think that the two words, “dating” and “relationship,” are synonyms. They are not; and, that is what often causes so much weeping and wailing into our pillows after some man walks away. He is perfectly satisfied because he has had a pretty nice time “dating” you for a while, but he certainly did not consider that the two of you were in a “relationship.” He doesn’t understand why are you so upset that he has decided to move on.

            “Dating” implies going out together and having a good time in mutually enjoyed activities, whether those activities take place on the tennis court, on a surfboard, at a cute little Italian restaurant or in the bedroom. They are all the same to the man. However, a woman might interpret all this activity as a “relationship” which means she is already checking out the jewelry stores for engagement rings and has told her family all about this wonderful man she has met and from whom she expects a proposal “any day now.” Read on…..


Dear Minerva,

I just won the lottery but I don’t want my boyfriend to know because he’ll immediately want to marry me and go on a spending spree. He’s very good in bed so I want to keep him around; but, how am I going to keep him from marrying me for my money?

Monied but not Married


Dear Monied,

Even WANTING to keep something from your boyfriend is a sure fire indication that he is not husband material in your own mind, no matter how good he is in the bedroom. Listen, every other man out there has the same equipment as your Romeo and they all know how to use it, so that’s not really your problem, is it?  I think you just don’t like to share. Didn’t you go to Kindergarten or Sunday School?

Now, since he hasn’t already proposed, you can assume that he doesn’t WANT to marry you. So, go ahead! Tell him about the lottery. If he  does  propose, so what? You have legs. Use them to go in a direction that is not down the aisle.

 If he wants to go on a spending spree, go with him. Let him pick out all the merchandise he wants. Just keep your wallet and your checkbook in your handbag.


Dear Ms Minerva,

I am an Author Wannabee and I need some advice. A few years ago, I voluntarily committed myself because I just couldn’t seem to get over misplacing my cell phone charger and sort of went berserk, or so I was told. While I was in treatment, I met a woman (we’ll call her Lela) who was kind and sympathetic.

One thing led to another and we had a pretty hot affair—well, as hot as you can get in a nut house where the closest thing to privacy is a janitor’s broom closet. She was a great girl and she gave me a cell phone charger as a going-away gift when I was discharged.

About a year later, guess who moved into the apartment RIGHT NEXT DOOR? None other than Lela and her husband who is an undercover cop. We rekindled our affair and this has been going on two years now. I’ve started writing a book about me and Lela and I’ve titled it “Back Door Man.”  Do you think that is a good title?

The Real Back Door Man


Dear Back Door,

I don’t believe your next institutionalization will be voluntary! Pshaw! You won’t be going in the front door and you surely won’t be able to leave through the back door. That undercover cop will see to that.  I’ll bet he’s  already got a nice file on you with nary a trace of  his wife’s name in it.

Don’t count on her going to see you in The Big House where your next “pretty hot affair” will be with a guy known as Big Rig. My suggestion to you is: Leave in the middle of the night with just what is on your back. Head for the hills and don’t look back. Keep writing that book but you would do well to consider using an impossible to trace nom de plume.


Dear Minerva,

I have a man who cannot be trusted. He has cheated on me so many times that I’m not even sure he’s my baby Daddy. What should I do?

The One He Lives With


Dear One,

Oh, my! I take it you were not an “A” student in basic high school biology.  Listen to what you just said, my dear. HE has cheated on YOU so many times that you’re not sure he’s the baby’s father?  Now, does that make sense to you?  But let’s venture on…..

Why are you still with this Romeo? Since you don’t state you are his wife, I assume that you are simply “the one he lives with” and nothing more. Don’t you see??? He wants it all, Girly! He wants somebody to wash his clothes, cook him something to eat and put it on the table in front of him and clean up his dirty dishes.

He wants a place to come where he can put his feet up on the coffee table and then have a little sweetums when he hits the bed. Above all, he wants to tom cat around with a variety of women to keep his sex drive revved up. He feels like a king, my girl! Wake up! Move out or, if it’s YOUR house, kick him out! Then file for child support.

 You’ll have to have DNA testing to prove paternity but then you’ll know for sure if he IS the father of your baby. Above all, go talk to your Mama and get the birds and the bees story straight in your mind. Just show her this column.


Dear Miss Shaw,

I have been seeing this fellow for about a year and it has become clear to me that this is not someone I want around for the rest of my life. But, I can’t  get rid of him! He won’t stay away! He just won’t take the hint. I’m not unkind and I don’t want to hurt his feelings. What can I do?

Looking Elsewhere


Dear Looking,

Let me tell you something, my girl! If HE was the one who wanted out of the relationship, he would have no trouble getting out! You can count on that! Pshaw! Make it plain. Don’t try to be diplomatic.  Just state it outright: “I think it’s time we both moved on, Henry! Don’t call. Don’t come.  Don’t send gifts of any kind. Don’t contact my family in hopes they will talk to me about this. You and I have nothing further to say.”

Now, I wouldn’t advise this kind of bluntness except that you have already tried all the kind approaches, the gentle words, the soft touch. They didn’t work.  Say what you need to say, turn around and walk away and don’t worry about his feelings. He will survive! Believe me, my dear, he certainly wouldn’t be worrying about yours if the situation were reversed!


Dear Minerva,

Over 50 years ago I was engaged to a sweet little gal from Alabama. We’ve stayed in touch all these years and I still love her and wonder if there still might be time for us to get back together. My daughter, who lives with me, says that there’s a reason why things happen and there must be a very good reason we broke up.  She thinks I should stop having anything to do with my sweet Annie. Do you agree?

Still Smitten


Dear Smitten,

Your  DAUGHTER?????  Being engaged over 50 years ago would mean you are, at least, around 70 years old. And you are taking dating and marriage advice from your daughter???  Pshaw!!!!  My friend, you don’t deserve Annie!!  My guess is, Annie would probably prefer a man who has a brain and is not afraid to use it.  Have you ever considered why your daughter doesn’t want you to have Annie in your life? Personally, I can think of several doozies! 


Dear Minerva,

Thank you for answering my first letter but I’m still confused. I really want to marry Annie and have her come and live here with me and my daughter. I proposed but she flat turned me down and she won’t tell me why. What can I do to encourage her to tell me so we can work this out?

Still Smitten and Still Want Annie


Dear Smitten,

Are you sure you want to know the reason? If she has stayed in touch with you, it’s because she cares for you, probably even loves you. But do you live with your daughter? Or does your daughter live with you?   You might want to think about that.

Your daughter is probably somewhere between 40-50.  Now, do you honestly believe that your lady friend would even CONSIDER moving into a house in which another woman has held sway AND WILL CONTINUE TO LIVE THERE?  If so, you don’t know women very well.

And do you honestly believe that your daughter would stand for such a situation?  Ditto about knowing women! And if you think you would be happy in such a situation, you really do live in a fool’s paradise! Decide what you really want, my friend. And you might actually ask your lady friend what it is that she wants!



Just Plain Neat Information

Peggy Ellis


Glass takes one million years to decompose, which means it never wears out and can be recycled an infinite amount of times!


Gold is the only metal that doesn’t rust, even if it’s buried in the ground for thousands of years.


Your tongue is the only muscle in your body that is attached at only one end.


If you stop getting thirsty, you need to drink more water. When a human body is dehydrated, its thirst mechanism shuts off.


Zero is the only number that cannot be represented by Roman numerals.


Kites were used in the American Civil War to deliver letters and newspapers.


The song Auld Lang Syne is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world to bring in the new year.


Drinking water after eating reduces the acid in your mouth by 61 percent. Drinking a glass of
water before you eat may help digestion and curb appetite.


Peanut oil is used for cooking in submarines because it doesn’t smoke unless it’s heated above


The roar that we hear when we place a seashell next to our ear is not the ocean, but rather the
sound of blood surging through the veins in the ear.


Nine out of every 10 living things live in the ocean.


The banana cannot reproduce itself. It can be propagated only by the hand of man.


Airports at higher altitudes require a longer airstrip due to lower air density.


The University of Alaska spans four time zones.


The tooth is the only part of the human body that cannot heal itself.


In ancient Greece, tossing an apple to a girl was a traditional proposal of marriage.
Catching it meant she accepted.


Warner Communications paid 28 million for the copyright to the song Happy Birthday, which was written in 1935!


Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.

 A comet’s tail always points away from the sun.


The Swine Flu vaccine in 1976 caused more death and illness than the disease it was intended to


Caffeine increases the power of aspirin and other painkillers, that is why it is found in some medicines.


The military salute is a motion that evolved from medieval times, when knights in armor raised
their visors to reveal their identity.


If you get into the bottom of a well or a tall chimney and look up, you can see stars, even
in the middle of the day.


When a person dies, hearing is the last sense to go. The first sense lost is sight.


In  ancient times strangers shook hands to show that they were unarmed.


Strawberries and cashews are the only fruits whose seeds grow on the outside.


Avocados have the highest calories  of any fruit at 167 calories per hundred grams.


The moon  moves about two inches away from the Earth each year.


The Earth gets 100 tons heavier every day due to falling space dust.


Due to earth’s gravity it is impossible for mountains to be higher than 15,000 meters.


Mickey Mouse is known as “Topolino” in Italy.


Soldiers do not march in step when going across bridges because they could set up a vibration which could be sufficient to knock the bridge down.


Everything weighs one percent less at the equator.


For every extra kilogram carried on a space flight, 530 kg of excess fuel are needed at



The letter J does not appear anywhere on the periodic table of the elements.


Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them, but you know they are always there 




Diana Goldsmith


As Helen walked up her garden she caught sight of a snowdrop, it’s white head hadn’t opened yet as if it stayed tightly curled up it would be able to resist the cold frost and even snow, should it fall.

There were again tight, very small dormant buds on the rose bushes  giving hope of glories to come. As she listened in the quietness of the early morning she could hear the songs of birds as the sun rose .

She filled the feeders with nuts and seeds and scattered some meal worms out for the robins,who were frequent visitors. In fact she thought to herself that they believed the garden to be theirs!

She looked at the borders and let her imagination flow freely as she envisaged new shrubs flowering in groups producing a wonderful kaleidoscope of colour. She would have work to do, come Spring.

She shivered a little as the early mornings were still chilly.

She turned and walked briskly to the house.

Inside it was different. She took off her shoes and replaced them with her comfortable slippers. She hung up her coat and put on an overall. She went to the sink and carefully washed her hands. Her day had begun. She started to prepare breakfast. For herself just a healthy bowl of cereal, fruit and yogurt and a large mug of tea. She then started to make breakfast for her guests. She would give them bowls of steaming hot porridge, followed by a hearty plate of scrambled eggs on toast with more toast if they wished to have together with homemade marmalade,jams and locally produced honey.

Already she could hear the stirrings from upstairs as they morning ablutions.

She heard the cheery whistle of the paper boy,yes they still had one, and the thud as the daily paper dropped onto the hall floor.

She went out and took it into the dining room.

Her family had taken in paying guests for years but now after the death of her mother she decided that instead of retiring, she would carry on. She was a widow of many years with two sons who were very good to her but had their own careers and families. Of course they came to visit and sometimes the grandchildren would come and stay during school holidays.

She was very involved in her local church and especially in the ladies group. It was because of this that things had changed in her life.

She heard the creak of the stairs and the cheerful sounds of children’s chatter as the family came downstairs and made their way to the dining room.

She took in a tray with a pot of hot coffee and greeted her guests.

The Karam family all stood up and said “Good Morning” together.

Ishtar Karam and his wife, Amira and their two children Asher and Rima had fled from Aleppo and had miraculously managed to get over to England. The trip had been long, arduous and very dangerous. It is seldom that a whole family arrives together safely. Ishtar attributed it to the grace of Allah.

However although they loved their country and wanted to have stayed,  life there had become untenable. Neither of the children were getting any education, food became scarce and with the  continual bombing and  sniper attacks from the terrorists, it just wasn’t safe anymore. They arrived with just one bag each of absolute essentials, passports,papers a few photos and a phone.

Ishtar, a consultant oncologist and Amira being a primary school teacher meant it should be easier to get jobs rather than say a market trader. Although as they said “What is the difference in Allah’s eyes?” But people still stared especially because Amira wore the burqa when she went out. Helen said this was because her town hadn’t had many foreigners and  the few all wore western dress. Prejudice comes in many forms and she remembered the time when they had some Hungarians in the 50’s,and even black Caribbeans in the 60’s and not long ago Portuguese migrant workers. Then her mother had opened their home to strangers as her principles were that we are all part of the same human race wherever we happen to live or whatever language we speak or whether we are black or white. Helen had loved making friends with them as a child and still received Christmas cards from some of them to this day! This open heartedness of her mother meant that she took the same attitude and this was why she had decided that she would be one of the first to open her home to a Syrian refugee family. She would give them hospitality freely without charge to show them that we are a welcoming people without prejudice.

She knew that Ishtar and Amira would soon have good jobs and the two children were already enjoying making friends at their new school. It would mean they would be able to afford to rent a home of their own but she knew they would keep in touch and that would free her up to take in another family.

Yes this was Helen and the Karam’s Arab Spring!



Another Kind of Walk

Sybil Austin Skakle


            After my husband, Lee Stanley, died, February 1992, at the urging of my sister, Ramona (Mona) Hunter and her husband, Bill, I joined a special kind of walking club, with connections all over the world. Later, I learned that volkssporting began in Europe, actually Baden, Germany, in the mid-1960s, in response to a need for some type of non-competitive outdoor sport, appropriate for all ages. In 1968 the IVV, international group was formed to promote volkssporting throughout the world.  When I became a part of it, twenty-five nations were active participants. 

            In 1976, as part of America’s Bicentennial Celebration, a walk in Fredericksburg, Texas acted as the debut for volkssporting in the United States. Since then the concept has been widely accepted and in 1979 the American Volkssport Association became part of the IVV; in 1990 had grown to 550 clubs, which held thousands of events throughout our country.

            My first walk, with the Winston Wanderers, Bill and Mona’s club, was made in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In 1993 I tagged along with Mona and Bill to attend the AVA Convention in Austin, Texas. Dubious of volksmarching at that time, with them as my teachers I learned the routine of finding start points and checkpoints in Montgomery, Alabama; Pensacola, Florida; Ocean Springs, Mississippi; New Orleans, Louisiana, on our way to our destination in Texas.

            In Montgomery we visited the First White House of the Confederacy; Alabama’s beautiful capitol building; found Hank Williams’ grave, as a checkpoint, to prove we walked where we claimed; and walked the streets of Montgomery itself. We were a party of three volksmarches and the month was July.

            Next morning, we walked from the Bay of Pensacola to Pensacola, enjoying the flavor of the architecture along the way. The checkpoint was at an 1812 building, which was then a luxurious Hilton Hotel.

            Oceans Springs, Mississippi provided another unique experience. We were attacked by black flies and were caught in a thunder storm. We sought shelter at Gulf Island National Park visitor center, our first checkpoint. We asked help from a park ranger, who gave us a jeep ride back to Master Grill on route 90, where our walk began and terminated.

            Our start point in New Orleans was Fritzel’s Bar on Bourbon Street. Attempting to pick up cards there the afternoon we arrived to begin our walk, we confronted a barricade, which surrounded the area. A segment of a movie, The Pelican Brief, was being filmed. We begged past, but Bill walked into the range of the cameras. For all we know may have been included in the scene before he was politely asked to leave. 

            Next morning, we were up early for the buffet breakfast at our Holiday Inn. By eight o’clock we began our walk. Up one street, down another, along the Moon Walk, bordering the Mississippi River, within the sound of calliope music coming from two riverboats, we made tracks. We traversed the downtown area to visit the Superdome and ran into the same friends we first met in Montgomery. They were heading for Texas, as well.

            By the time we arrived in Austin. I had my first foot blister; had learned how to take care of it so I could continue to walk. I had suffered night cramps and pain in my legs and thought I might leave my companions and fly home, pronto, once we arrived.  However, by the time we left Texas, I had won my first special award: 1993 Ten in Texas.

            One of the convention events took us to Eagle Pass, Texas and across the border into Peidra Niagras, Mexico to experience another way of life and people.  That walk took us to another cemetery, as many walks do. Perhaps cemeteries reflect cultures and values. Artificial flowers, weeping angels, crosses, and elaborate tombstone spoke to me of the love of God, of honor, and of their dead. The display at Hank Williams’ gave was a great contrast and spoke of Hank Williams, with a cowboy hat, a guitar, and a musical score.

            I walked with a man in Mexico who had lost a leg to cancer. He had remarked, “It is better to walk than stay home and feel sorry for myself.”

            The idea of volkssporting, in our case volksmarching, is to improve fitness, expand interest, and foster new friendships. It does all those and I am glad I stayed to walk and walk and walk.

            There are tour companies that conduct tours for volksporters and before I aged out or lost interest I had gone on three tours, some outside the United States. One was the Olympiad in Europe when we traveled over 5000 miles by bus and walked in 13 countries. I only did 11, because Sunday is God’s day. I worship that day. Another was part of traveling by train across Canada. We stopped off to take volksmarches and see the sights. And, finally a tour, which began in Washington, D. C., with walks which included one in all the original New England states, as well as Niagara Falls, Canada for a lovely walk there.

            A couple from Wyoming joined us for that tour. He walked with two canes and she had braces on both legs. What an inspiration these were! It proves, volkssporting is for everyone. Children and dogs are included and welcomed.



Lexophillia - Who on Earth Dreams These Up?

A lexophile of course!


•    Venison for dinner again?   Oh deer!
•    How does Moses make tea?   Hebrews it.
•    England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool
•    I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.
•    They told me I had type-A blood, but it was a Typo.
•    I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.
•    Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.
•    I know a guy who’s addicted to brake fluid, but he says he can stop anytime
•    I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me
•    This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I’d never met herbivore.
•    When chemists die, they barium.
•    I’m reading a book about anti-gravity.   I just can’t put it down.
•    I did a theatrical performance about puns.   It was a play on words.
•    Why were the Indians here first?  They had reservations.
•    I didn’t like my beard at first.  Then it grew on me.
•    Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils?
•    When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.
•    I dropped out of communism class because of lousy Marx.
•    I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.
•    Velcro - what a rip off!
•    Don’t worry about old age; it doesn’t last.



Why Keep a Journal?

By Rita Berman


On March 9, 1962 I decided to start keeping a journal, not for day-to-day events but to record some of the special days in my life and my husband Ezra’s life.  I wrote “that my purpose in recording my thoughts and feelings was because I didn’t think I should trust to my memory in recalling these events for when you look back your perspective is different and you may not recall the exact emotions you experienced at the time.”  Later that day, about lunchtime, I wrote that I had been feeling a little queasy in the stomach the past few days and I was wondering if it is the flu or because I might be pregnant.  I intended to go to the doctor the next week to find out.

And so I began my journal.  At first it was handwritten but later I typed my entries and now use a computer.  I have a bookshelf of notebooks and binders that cover the past 54 years.  It is only now since I have begun to read them that I realize what a rich trove they are.

From looking at what I had written so many years ago I can see the direction that my life took and how it was shaped by others.  The needs of husband Ezra, and later two children, took precedent over my wants. Still, I squeezed out time to write not only in my journal, but I sent Letters to the Editor of various newspapers, and worked as a stringer for a local newspaper, The Reston Times.

In 1973 when my husband’s career as a United States Public Health Officer had us transferred to North Carolina I became a freelance writer and got paid for it.  For ten years I contributed business stories about the Triangle area for Prentice-Hall, New York, who published various motivational bulletins.  I also explored new markets and wrote articles about collecting sea-shells, real estate, education; anything that I experienced or heard about in my daily life could lead to a story.

In 1980 I got a contract from a Durham publisher to write a how-to reference book and the result The A-Z of Writing and Selling, became a featured alternate with The Writer’s Book Club in August 1981.

In later years, having written and published hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines in England and the United States I turned to writing fiction but found it was much more difficult to get short stories published than a feature article.  However, the increased acceptability of self-published books and the availability of Amazon and other on-line sites enabled me to publish several books.

I am most appreciative that Gene Alston, the editor and publisher of The Righter Quarterly Review provides another opportunity for publication. Not only are there readers who subscribe to the magazine but it is also available in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Davis Library.

Here are some of my journal entries.

September 20, 1962 Observations on some things currently of concern to Ezra and me.  First of all, I am now a housewife, a ‘lady of Leisure,” one of those millions who stay at home, clean house, prepare meals, and in general confine their world to the walls surrounding them.  We are the women who are then badgered, cajoled, encouraged, urged, pushed and pressured to do something with our lives and not let ourselves turn into house slaves instead of housewives.           

So far I have had too many things to do to get bored, but then again I only retired last Friday and already spent two days in New York City shopping.  Mostly window shopping and trying to get ideas for what we need and can afford for the apartment.  Yes, after all these years I am no longer a paid worker.  I wonder if I will be full of discontent in a few years, will I too allow my world to revolve just around the house, my husband and child/or children.  Will that be satisfying for me or will I wish I was doing something that would bring a visible sign of acknowledgement or recognition with it, like – fame, money?  Happiness is an invisible sign of reward.  If you don’t have it then it shows in your face and attitude – if you do have a happy life then what do the other people see – a healthy, shining, serene face.  I wonder.

Ezra and I are now at the second stage of our married life.  The first three years, spent with him as a student at Michigan State and me working for the school, were far from hard years. True, we had our difficult times.   The first six months adjusting to a new town for me – getting a job that paid enough to enable us not to worry when we would next eat, getting used to a schedule that included time for studying, time for ourselves together and apart.  The anxiety of wondering if we could manage a visit to my family in England before we started raising a family and England’s horizon grew further away with each succeeding year.

But we did manage, we visited England, we grew closer together, we built a good strong foundation for the future, our love grew deeper, stronger, and more reliable in a way.  No longer the little frail ‘will of a wisp’ that may disperse through distance, parting, boredom or the countless little things that wear away a love in this world of ours.

Marriage can be a prison but the kind of prison that locks in the good things and shuts away the bad.  So the two people live together building a defense against the rest of the world.  Then no matter what storms batter away they are safe and united.  Trust and respect are also prime qualities needed in a good marriage.     

November 24, 1962. Now I am beginning to feel in touch with the world. Jessica was born Thursday morning, November 15, at 7:02 a.m.  My labor started around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday with mild backache and by 1 a.m. I was crying so much that Ezra decided it was time for us to go to the hospital.

What a strange experience it all was.  A tightening tearing pain that was almost unbearable lasting for at least a minute, then the blessed calmness for about ten minutes and then again the pain.  Admission to the hospital didn’t take long and in half an hour I was all prepped and then sent then sent out to kiss Ezra goodnight! What diabolical cruelty to make one have to say goodnight or goodbye to one’s husband when all one feels is a tearing pain. 

Dr. Fogarty visited me and gave me an injection to make me sleepy and it certainly worked.  The next thing I knew I was being told that I’d had a baby girl and my husband had visited me and left earlier in the morning.  I felt awful!! I couldn’t think and ached and ached and it seemed that people were pulling at me and asking me questions about what I wanted to eat the next day. 

Hours later the baby was wheeled in and placed by my bed.  My first look at her and I thought she looks just like me – dark hair. I fell back in bed exhausted.

The about eight hours after she was born, two nurses helped me out of bed and made me walk to the bathroom   That too seemed cruel at the time but I didn’t faint.

Ezra came in the evening and I remember he looked so tired and drawn, we both talked nonsense and felt lost I think.  He didn’t see the baby until Friday morning and then he said she looked like his father!  The next day she looked like my Booba Mishkin to me.  Now I have decided she looks like herself and has dark hair, blue eyes, a pink complexion and rosebud mouth.

March 1, 1963.  Today Ezra got a letter which indicated that he has been accepted for the vacant position in Ohio pending final arrangements.  So that means we won’t spend another summer here on Long Island and will instead be in the Mid-West once more.  The one cheering thing is that Clyde and Judie Replogle are only an hour’s drive away and we won’t be completely alone there without friends to advise and help.

I think Ezra and I will both have a calmer state of mind once we are out of this situation.  I lost my temper and let rip at him this week about the way he refuses to get up in the morning.  It seems we have both changed since the baby was born and I just don’t have the patience or time to fuss over Ezra too, and that in turn makes him more stubborn in refusing to hear me….. The one good thing is that every time we have a disagreement we seem to draw closer together after we have talked about it.

November 22, 1963.  Terrible news – the President is dead.  Assassinated in Dallas, Texas. I just turned on the radio and was amazed to hear such news. It’s unbelievable.  A young man with so much work already done and more ahead of him, truly cut down in the prime of life. My thoughts go out to his wife and children.  The effects on the country and world are too vast to consider at this time.

March 19, 1965.  It has been nearly a year since I last wrote in the journal.  Much has happened.  Most of all Jessica has gone through a hectic, demanding, tiring, training year.  I think we can finally see the rewards for our efforts.  She listens more carefully and will sometimes refrain from doing an act with only a verbal admonition.  She chatters away these days and her mind appears to be a sponge waiting to soak up all ideas, sights and sounds that come her way…  We all went to England last September and had a fairly good vacation….

Today Ezra took me to the doctor.  I am expecting another baby in July and have had several episodes of hemorrhaging. This entails a few days rest in bed each time which is a little difficult to accomplish. Not only because of babysitter problems but I dislike being inactive.  We moved into our present house a month ago and there is much I could and want to do in making it an attractive home.

            October 31, 1965.  Well we had the visit of my parents, Ezra’s parents, Edie, and the arrival of Rebecca all in the past few months.  Rebecca was born on July 25th at 7:28 a.m. and weighed 6 pounds 11 – l/2 ounces.  I was surprised at how much quicker I recovered this time and think a lot was due to the presence of Mummy being here and better medical care.

June 2, 1966.  Today is my birthday – 34 years old. I never thought, in my younger days, that I would reach this age – somehow I saw myself dying prematurely. But here I am with another birthday, and as the years go by I find myself more scared of dying, more afraid of being no more.  I no longer look ahead impatiently but rather look back with wistful remembrances of happy days that I spend without realizing they were happy.  How rarely do we stop in the midst of something and say, ‘this is a happy day’.  All too often we only discover the good times when we view them against the background of past times.

(For the next 20 years there are fourteen more binders of journal entries.) 

Skipping ahead to July 1986 when Ezra and I were staying for the first time in the Peppertree time-share villa that we had bought at Atlantic Beach. NC, I wrote:

“My special project for this vacation, is to prepare a draft for my contribution to someone’s book.  The subject of the book was “Love”.  The author, editor is a more accurate title as this was his first venture into the writing life, had begun to gather his material by interviewing a variety of sources and asking for essay contributions.

At the beach, while the tide rolled in and out, I mused about love, how I fell in love, and what I had learned from love.  I hoped that my comments would be sufficiently interesting to be included in Ron’s book. I began with:

“Love means wanting to please the other person more than pleasing yourself.  It’s an unselfish feeling because you want the other person to be happy.”

My journal indicates that I finished up with three pages of notes, most of which upon re-reading could be scrapped.   I reworked the material and eventually sent one page of description to Ron and never heard back whether he used any of it or if the book got published.  But it wasn’t a waste of effort after all. By July 14, 1992 I had revised the “Love” material and sent it as a prose poem to a cousin on the occasion of his marriage. 

July 16, 1987: I wrote a long entry about Ollie North. (I include it here because the media attention reflects closely to recent events in 2016 during the recent election campaign.) 

  “Lt. Colonel North has left the scene. The man whose appearance before the Congressional Committee on the Iran-Contra affair pre-empted the day-time “soaps” on television for days, has departed. Millions of viewers watched him, me including and were fascinated not only at what he said, and did or did not reveal, but also at the way he said it. If his tone had been harsher we could have accused him or arrogance.  Instead, he used a mild, sometimes defiant tone to insult Congress and the elected representatives of the people.  And those representatives and Congressmen lapped it up.  Once they saw that the “American People,” that group whose name they invoke for all sorts of actions, was enthralled with Ollie, our elected officials sitting on the Committee positively oozed agreement and pleasure with Ollie and his cause.  Maybe one or two had a sharp word about some of the nefarious deeds that were carried out under the banner of “orders and knowledge of my superiors”, but these dissenters were swept away by the tide of popular opinion.

Here was a shining example of how television can shape public opinion. Oliver North sat in the hearing room, looking like a good Boy Scout in his Marine uniform.  Speaking earnestly and emphatically that the Contra cause was worth all of the conniving and dealing that he and others had carried out.  He admitted to some bad judgement when it came to shredding important documents, to concealing the activities of a cover operation from Congress and the enemies of our country.  He sort of lumped the two in the same group.  Still, as the polls were taken, day after day, and his popularity rose we could see a shirt in the attitude of the Hearing members. I tell you, they positively licked his polished boots.

Except for Inouye, who as Chairman of the Committee sat there stolidly listening to the flow of words from Col. North.  At times he appeared to be making a propaganda speech or lengthy statement instead of providing the simple Yes or No which would have sufficed in response to the questions. Now and then Inouye would take North to task for impugning that those who are not for North and his cause, are not loyal, they are against freedom and democracy.  Exasperated, Inouye begged to differ with North and described with pride his own history of serving this country. He lost an arm in World War Two.

Watching Col. North took hours from my day. It was hypnotic.  I would say to myself I will watch just for half an hour, and then not be able to leave the room.  Supposing he said something that was important, that would really tell us what had been going on.  As the days passed, it was evident that this was a story of shady doings, of intrigue, of money, of power, of devotion to a cause, assumptions in regards to the President’s wishes without being verified.  Far better than any soap.

But see how quickly the networks reduced their coverage once Ollie left the scene.  McFarland came back to rebut some testimony and then, once we got underway with Admiral Poindexter, the networks decided to share the coverage, each would take a third. So now, if anyone’s interested they can get back to watching the soaps. They’ll seem very tame after the Washington soap.”

May 1990: I began writing a short story that I called “In Sickness and in Health”.  I was angry with my father and his uncaring attitude towards my mother.  They lived in England and both Mum and Dad kept calling me to complain about each other.  I could do nothing from this distance.  She was 80 years old and was ill, she had been a good homemaker over the years but my father saw little of it as he grew blind from glaucoma.  I punished my father for his indifference by writing his character into the story set in Beaufort, North Carolina. 

At the time of writing the story, Gussie my cat was ill and somehow her actions and mine crept into the story and I believe helped to round it out and make the husband in the story a more human figure.  The cat may be seen as a symbol demonstrating that we cannot escape our responsibilities even if we seek to.

The scenes in story take the reader from the husband’s reaction to his wife’s illness after she breaks her hip to how he behaved towards the cat.  What he wouldn’t do for his wife he did for the cat.

 May 16, 1991:  In February when I called our friends and relatives to tell them that Ezra was undergoing tests and might have lung cancer their reactions surprised me.

My sister-in-law got angry with me and in later phone calls owned up as to how she had always disliked me.  I now wonder if that was her way of rejecting the terrible news.

My sister, who lives several thousand miles away, murmured vague platitudes. “It will all turn out for the best. Having cancer could enhance the quality of your lives,” she offered. “It gives you time to plan.”

What a ridiculous idea, I thought. I can’t imagine how Ezra’s cancer is going to enhance my life.  Ann went on to describe a funeral she had recently attended where the woman had chosen the music she wanted, the kind of service, and so on, so that her husband knew exactly what to do when she dies.  That phone call was of no comfort.

I wasn’t thinking of planning Ezra’s funeral yet, we had only been given a tentative diagnosis by his family doctor and he was scheduled to see a pulmonary specialist at the end of the week.

I spoke about it calmly to the others but in reality I was worried.  The sound of his cough fell like a sharp blow on my ears, reminding me that he was ill.

Earlier in the week I had tried to escape from the cough by taking all of my winter shoes down into the garage and polishing them.  Even with the door closed and the radio turned on, the sharp barking noise intruded. I couldn’t block it out.

At night it was worse because he disturbed my sleep with his coughing, twisting, and turning. Sometimes I had to finish the night sleeping on the living-room couch.

Some people fell silent when I told them Ezra’s news. I learned to wait patiently while they digested it.  Then they asked questions, mostly the same ones.  “How did he find out? When did it happen? Do you think it was his smoking that did it?”

After a few such calls I had my response down pat. “A bad cough in January. Could be the smoking.”

The advice came freely.  “Join a support group,” said someone. “It will help you get the anger out.”  What anger I wondered. I couldn’t tell what my feelings were.  Some people told me about their own cancers of which I had previously been ignorant, and I felt saddened because I had no comfort to give them.

I continued to go to work, maintaining the cheerful attitude that everyone expected.  Get-well cards and letters arrived in the mail along with books and articles on how to conquer cancer.  Ezra wouldn’t read anything about cancer, so I read them for him.

At night I stuffed myself with chocolates while watching television. Five minutes after turning off the TV I couldn’t remember what I had seen. I felt bone tired with the strain of it all.  

November 14, 1991.  Today is Ann’s birthday.  Tomorrow will be Jessica’s and we have ordered a cake to celebrate.  We are at Atlantic Beach in a timeshare exchange at Peppertree.  Rebecca and Mike joined us for the first part of the week and then Joel came down after he had attended the funeral of his Uncle Alan.  Jessica and Callie have been with us the whole time.

I have been unwinding using the trip to sever the past from the future. Ezra has completed all of the chemotherapy and 6 weeks of radiation and now it is only a matter of checkups that keep him seeing the doctors at Duke Hospital.

The latest prognosis is he has a 65% chance of surviving 2 years, the longer he goes without a reappearance of the cancer the more chance he has been cured. This is not one of those 5-year survival situations.

I have felt drained, or numbed, during the past months. Even our trips to Andros and Nassau, and Vancouver, did not stimulate me to the point where I could forget that Ezra is ill, that there is this terrible shadow hanging over him – and me – and there is nothing we can do about it. He looks better, his hair is growing again, he is cheerful, but nonetheless I feel that shadow.

I have left my job at CIIT and will start a new one at the University of North Carolina on November 18th.

July 28, 1992.  This week I have no appointments scheduled and no other outside activities so I should be able to get a lot of writing done.  But no, my imagination is dull and I feel very aware that any effort expended on more fiction will prove fruitless as far as getting published.  While I don’t have a story inside of me that is bursting to get out, I do know that if any of the pieces that are presently out for review were to be accepted it would be a terrific motivator.

 Some months later on December 2, 1992, my journal reports that I read an ad asking for writers to join a fiction group.  I wondered aloud if they might help me with the short story that was giving me trouble.  “You’ll be sorry,” Ezra said. 

“Why? They might have some good suggestions,” I replied. 

“You’ve always worked alone,” he said, and returned to reading the newspaper.  What does he know about it, I thought, he’s not a writer.  So I made the phone call and while I waited for the group’s first meeting I wondered what it would be like.

I had taught non-fiction workshops at conferences and in classroom situations, mostly with a how-to format.  Fiction was different, I reasoned. I had already discovered that it called for writing about what I thought and felt instead of writing about what I knew.  Therefore, a group of writers that gathered to assist each other would be, at the very least, sensitive and caring when it dished out criticism.       

(Note- although I didn’t put this in my journal I might have been thinking about hearing Louise Shivers explain that she was helped by her writers’ group in Georgia with her debut novella, “Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail,”, published by Random House in 1983.  She said that the group known as “The Six,” helped her over a number of years with her story that was based on newspaper reports of a murder on a tobacco farm in North Carolina. It was later made into a film in 1987 called “Summer Heat.”)      

1992.   The first meeting of the intended Chapel Hill fiction group went smoothly enough. Three of us attended.  A man and two women.  The other woman, the one who had placed the ad, was so successful in publishing that she even had an agent.  Lucky writer, I thought, she must be good.  She had worked with a group before, she said, and found it very helpful.  Her name was Margaret Maron. 

We set a few ground rules for the fiction group.  Be honest, don’t pick, and don’t argue with the criticism.  The writer is not under any obligation to heed any of the criticism.

When Margaret read her story I understood where and why it did not work.  The story rambled, then it skipped, half-way through there was a change of point of view, foreign phrases were included, the meaning of which I didn’t understand so I missed the point of the story.  I said as much, and she looked at me pityingly.

(Now some 24 years later (2016) I can report that she went on to become a very successful author of some 30 books, many of them in the Deborah Knott mystery series.  I recently read her Designated Daughters, published in 2014.)

After Margaret’s reading it was my turn.  As I read my offering aloud, the first time I had done this, I realized what needed to be done to correct its problems.  The comments of Margaret and the other listener supported my new approach.  I felt good about their remarks. 

Last to read was the man, he was a beginner he said, a sailing enthusiast.  He had taken a writing course and he wrote about the sea.  Well, his words may have been unpolished but that man could write.  He read half of his story, a tale about a captain and a woman in a small boat down in the Azores. It had suspense, possibly romance, and I longed to know what happened next.  I begged him to send me the rest of the story to read at home.

I went home thinking about his story, not mine, and enjoying the fresh viewpoint and wonderful descriptions that he put in his story.  I did my revisions and mailed out my story.  I could stop worrying about it and go on to the next.

Another woman joined us for the second meeting, so now we were four.

She was unpublished but made the comment that she knew all about writing, because she was a reader.  She read a short piece and when comments were made argued about them. She tried to explain what she had written and why.  Suddenly the group appeared to be one person too many.  I didn’t feel comfortable about this newcomer. Still, when she asked for a copy of the story that I had read at the previous meeting I sent it to her.  I got it back a week later.  All marked up. She didn’t like my style, what I think of as my writing voice, so she had totally rewritten the story – even down to giving a name to the cat in the story.  It was then that I knew I couldn’t work with that woman. If I had wanted to name the cat I would have done so, and for sure I would not have called it “fluffy.”

I resigned from the group.  I didn’t want, nor did I think I needed, such drastic criticism. I didn’t go looking for another group. My husband was right, some things have to be done alone.  I’m going to rely on my instincts to tell me if a story works or not.

July 25, 1993.  For two and a half years Ezra fought against the ravages of lung cancer. I’m not going to say the cancer won because he died on his own terms, at 10 a.m. on Thursday, July 8, 1993. He became ill with pneumonia on July 2nd and chose to remain at home staying active and in good humor until the day before his death.   There was not even time for Hospice to get fully geared up, so I was his nurse.  He faced his death as positively and upbeat in humor as he lived.  Two days before he died he completed the transparencies for some writing workshops I am to give in Muncie, Indiana in the first week of August. I am going to Muncie as planned – for him, and for me. 

In June 1994 my journal reports that I had written an essay for the North Carolina Literary Review after they put out a call for papers from North Carolina writers who had cats.  By then Gussie was almost 16 years old.  I wrote that she gives me a reason to go food shopping and reminds me that it is time to eat. She is my sole companion since Ezra died.  She stood at the closet doors and howled for two weeks, off and on.  When I cried she would meow as if to say, don’t.  She knows things are different, the house is very quiet, no one to chase after her and flap the newspaper at her which is what Ezra used to do whenever she got into the garage, a forbidden area.

After Ezra died Gussie got ill, and I found she has kidney disease. I asked her to give me a year.  She got ill again last month but after treatment rallied around and I still have her to snuggle up with.

July 4, 2003.  Getting ready to go to Chicago tomorrow to be with Rebecca over the tenth anniversary of Ezra’s death. I can’t believe that ten years have actually gone by.  The last few have gone very quickly but I can still recall all the emotional and physical pain I felt after he died.

I have “made a new life” as my father would say, one without Ezra and now I can report definitely without mental pain. I enjoy many good days and am thankful to be alive.  I spend time with people I like, and try to avoid any one who drags me down.  Self preservation.

(Note December, 2016 -the story about Gussie,  “In Sickness and in Health” received honorable mention in the 1991 North Carolina Mothers’ Association Literary competition and is included in my book, The Dating Adventures of a Widow published by Righter Publishing Co, 2013).

For me by keeping a journal I am now able to re-read and remember the facts and not merely the emotions associated with the events.  As Anthony J. Greene wrote in Making Connections, Scientific American Mind, July/August 2010, “memory is more like a web of connections between people and things.  We tend to remember the people and events that resonate emotionally. Remembering is reliving.”  





The World in 2017


March: Same-sex marriage becomes legal in Finland. Hong Kong chooses its chief executive. The Dutch vote in a general election. The binoculars come out for the world’s richest horse race, the $10m Dubai World Cup. The championship game of the World Baseball Classic a 16-nation tournament held once every four years is played in Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.


APRIL: Americans look back at the First World War, 100 years after Congress voted to enter it on April 6th 1917. Some 1 billion people celebrate Earth Day, the largest secular holiday in the world. Rather fewer people celebrate National. Jelly Bean Day in Britain.

MAY: France picks its president, in the run­off round of voting. Iran also holds a presidential election. The leaders of the G7 big Western economies gather in Taormina, Sicily. Contemporary-art lovers also head to Italy, where the Venice Biennale opens. B-movie time: both a “Baywatch” film and a “Barbie” one are scheduled for release.



Student Who Got Zero on His Answers


Q1.. In which battle did   Napoleon   die?  
* his last battle 


Q2.. Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?  
* at the bottom of the page 


Q3.. River Ravi flows in which state?  
* liquid 


Q4.. What is the main reason for divorce?  
* marriage


Q5.. What is the main reason for failure?  
* exams 


Q6.. What can you never eat for breakfast?  
* Lunch & dinner 


Q7.. What looks like half an apple?  
* The other half


Q8.. If you throw a red stone into the blue sea what will it become?  
* Wet


Q9.. How can a man go eight days without sleeping?  
* No problem, he sleeps at night. 


Q10. How can you lift an elephant with one hand?  
* You will never find an elephant that has one hand.  


Q11. If you had three apples and four oranges in one hand and four apples and three oranges in other hand, what would you have?  
* Very large hands 


Q12. If it took eight men ten hours to build a wall, how long would it take four men to build it?  
*No time at all, the wall is already built. 


Q13. How can u drop a raw egg onto a concrete floor without cracking it?
*Any way you want, concrete floors are very hard to crack.




Through Aristotle’s Eyes

Randy Bittle


They found him wandering around Carr Mill mall, speaking gibberish and wearing a sleeveless, loose-fitting white cloth robe.  He had no identification or money, and in fact he had nothing but the robe on his person.  Several annoying hours passed with this strange man wandering the mall talking in an unknown tongue.  Finally a shop owner called the police.  The police could do nothing with the out of place stranger.  They took him to the psychiatric ward at UNC Memorial Hospital for evaluation.

On the paperwork the man scribbled in characters recognized by one of the doctors as Greek letters.  None of them could read Greek, however.  They kept him for observation and were perplexed about what else they could do.  A few days later the doctors sent the Greek scribblings over to the Department of Classics to see if they could read them.  The doctors were surprised when they soon received acknowledgement that the writing was indeed ancient Greek, and although in a dialect unfamiliar to the professors, they could make sense of most of it.  The writing was mostly questions about where and what was happening.  Plato and Athens were mentioned.  The sample was too small to be relevant.

This was a most bizarre situation.  The doctors explained the scenario to the language experts, who decided to further investigate the puzzling case by meeting the patient.  They suggested giving the patient a blank notebook and a pen in the meanwhile.  Two days later a Classics professor visited the strange man who still wore his white robe.  He would not wear anything else.  The professor found a two-page letter written to Plato in the stranger’s dialect of ancient Greek.

The man had written to Plato about his unusual circumstances and asked for assistance getting home.  He complained about the food and lack of wine.  The professor was stunned at the consistency of the writing, clearly ancient Greek, and the sincerity of the strange man’s message.  The Classics professor could not understand the man’s speech since he had never heard ancient Greek spoken by an ancient Greek.  He had to communicate through written means.  He wrote down the question, “Who are you?”

The man wrote, “I am Aristotle of Stagira, son of Nicomachus.”  They discovered the man thought he was thirty years old and a student of Plato in Athens.  The evidence strongly indicated that this man was indeed the Aristotle from ancient times, but this was an impossibility that made no sense.  The professor did his best to explain the situation to the man, but ancient Greek vocabulary did not express modern state of affairs well, and he had no explanation for how or why a 2500 year-old man appeared here and now in his thirties.  He had to go teach a class and wrote the man to be calm, get some rest, and to write about his life and times in Athens.

The Classics expert returned in the afternoon with several books with ancient Greek writing in them, which he gave to the presumed Aristotle.  Then he spoke with the doctor in private.  If this guy was an imposter, if this was some kind of hoax, Aristotle would slip up and make a mistake sooner or later.  But what if this was somehow remarkably genuine?  What then?  The professor recommended playing along until Aristotle made a mistake, giving himself away as a prankster.  Classics students would visit the man daily, looking for evidence of fakery, while working to acclimate this Aristotle to the modern world.

A couple of weeks passed by without a hint of a hoax, and Aristotle was a fountain of apparently authentic information about ancient Greece.  The professor was astounded, and he couldn’t understand how a thirty year-old Aristotle showed up in modern Carrboro.  It defied common sense and was beyond belief.  The doctors said something had to be done.  They needed the bed and no one was paying for Aristotle’s care.  The Classics professor recommended they let Aristotle stay a couple more weeks while he and his students continued to work with the strange man to learn more about him and look for cracks in the theory that this was somehow a real phenomenon and not a hoax.

Other staff from the Classics Department visited the man and were astonished, as well as mystified, by the curious stranger’s sincerity and aura of authenticity.  The first professor spent the most time with him, and he began to learn to talk with Aristotle in his ancient Greek Athenian dialect.  He explained the nature of the situation to Aristotle, and eventually offered to bring him to his home and provide room and board until some other course of action could be figured out.

The summer break was coming up at the university, and the professor thought he could examine Aristotle over the summer and determine what kind of game was being played.  No explanation came to mind as to how a thirty year-old Aristotle could manifest himself here today, but if it was somehow true, then he could learn much about ancient Athens from the philosopher.  The professor discussed his plans with the doctors and solicited their backing and support in verifying the mysterious arrival of the man, if future questions arose concerning Aristotle’s origin in today’s world.

For his part, the philosopher was somewhat bewildered at first.  It took some convincing to assure him that the people around him were not gods and goddesses.  With TV’s, radios, cell phones, tablets, and computers, the new world Aristotle found himself in was a little bit overwhelming.  He adapted quickly, however, understanding that people were not going to hurt or threaten him in this new place.  He was glad to move to the professor’s home where he had more privacy and time to think and read and write.  Also he finally got some wine, which he preferred at room temperature.  Wine was the common drink of the ancient Greeks, and the philosopher was more at ease imbibing the alcoholic beverage.

The professor brought the philosopher to campus twice a week for the rest of the semester.  Students enjoyed learning spoken ancient Greek and teaching him English, and the staff studied the philosopher.  Every shred of evidence indicated Aristotle was for real.  The professor got several volunteer students, who lived locally, to work with the philosopher during the summer at his home.  They learned about ancient Greece while teaching him English and cultural skills.

In the fall, the professor set up three senior students with a special project, for credit, to prepare Aristotle for the GED.  Other students and staff continued to learn from his knowledge of ancient Greece and what Plato was like in person.  As Aristotle’s English improved, he began reading philosophical works on his own time.  His interest fueled his study efforts.  He thrived on the basic mathematics he learned as part of the GED project.  His thirst for understanding was unquenchable, and his mind and memory were solid.

The following year, the professor arranged for Aristotle to take a couple of introductory college courses to establish his competence for entering as a degree student.  The university set aside a special scholarship for him in return for his time educating students about ancient Greece and for working with the staff.  He decided on a double major in philosophy and biochemistry.  Aristotle did well in biochemistry, but he struggled a little bit in his philosophy courses.  It seems he was too independent-minded and did not passively give back answers the philosopher professors sought, but rather gave his own opinions, which did not reflect well on final grades.

He spent his summer breaks reading history, which absolutely fascinated him.  He was obsessed with learning and dedicated to understanding as much as possible.  One summer day, between his junior and senior years, he sat down on the professor’s back deck with a bottle of wine and reflected on his newfound life in the modern world.  Let’s look through Aristotle’s eyes as we eavesdrop on his thoughts.

“I do not know how I came to be here nearly 2500 years after my birth.  I would suspect the caprice of the gods if I could bring myself to the point of believing in them.  Anyway, it matters not how it happened.  That it has happened is sufficient and I must deal with these extraordinary circumstances as best I can.  Mankind has accomplished so much.  Humans have walked on the moon and currently orbit the Earth in a space station.  Hearts, livers, and kidneys have been transplanted from the recently deceased to the living in need of healthy organs.

“It boggles my mind to contemplate such things, but what is most surprising and perplexing is the lack of progress people have made in the moral arena.  Economic and political greed are no different today than in Greece 2500 years ago.  They are just exacerbated by sheer numbers of population.  Although goodness exists in a few people and is occasionally applied for the benefit of others, nonetheless unscrupulous people everywhere, worldwide, and at all levels of society, treat others poorly.  Plato was right to consider the nature of virtue and to value it above all else.  The world today is a mess with seven billion people and an extensive deficit in moral virtues.  I don’t understand it, and I doubt it will ever be understood.

“Democritus and Leucippus were correct in believing in atoms, although they had no way of knowing the complex truth of the modern atomic and molecular models.  Pythagoras was correct in believing in the pervasive role of numbers in physical reality, but he missed the mark in one respect.  Numbers are not the divine whole of reality, but rather they just define relationships of quantities of things.  The things themselves have an independent “it-ness” that relational numbers merely describe.  Numerical relationships can be measured with a high degree of accuracy and allow for refined, intricate manipulations of objects they describe.  But just what are the objects themselves, besides being conglomerations of atomic constituents?

“Two abstruse objects intrigue me, and I will devote my life to comprehending them.  One is the nature of gravity, and the other is the nature of consciousness.  Gravity cannot be explained.  It can only be observed indirectly through analysis of its effects.  Gravity warps space and time, and it imposes mutual attraction to all massive objects.  But how does it do what it does, and of what exactly does it consist?  The concept of gravity baffles me, and I will not rest until I come to some understanding of the “it-ness” of gravity.

“Consciousness defies comprehension despite its inescapable realness to me as I experience it.  Everyone experiences it, but no one knows precisely what it is.  Physicalists maintain that everything real has a material structure.  Is consciousness made of atoms?  I think not.  It has a physiological basis, but the mind itself is something more.  I do not believe it is entirely immaterial, however, as Plato and Descartes conveyed.  Organizational functionalism, in the context of mental processes within the physical brain, is the best I can describe it, but this is a fancy, incomplete way of saying I do not know.  What connects purely mental concepts, awareness, feelings, and attention to the brain physiology that makes them possible?  This wine is disappearing fast, causing a psychologically pleasant sensation through physiological means.  Most perplexing…”



A New Beginning

Diana Goldsmith


It was the Wednesday of the empty week, as I call it, the time after Christmas and Boxing Day and a few days before New Year’s Eve. It was sunless outside and the sky was leaden. You needed to keep the lights on inside if you wanted to see anything clearly. I find times like that depressing and especially so after the anticipation leading up to Christmas and the joy of the day itself. Now we enter into a time of ending. Once New Year arrives I feel we have turned a corner and I want to take down all the Christmas decorations, the cards, candles and the tree with its glitzy baubles .They seem out of place in the fresh newborn year. However what about the in-between time?

So I use this time to have a tidy up. I find it cathartic sweeping away the detritus of the old year. I like to rearrange the furniture. I watch the shoots in my bowls of bulbs turning green as they emerge tentatively from their brown papery blankets and I anticipate the heady scent of hyacinths and narcissi.  Daylight hours are short but I try to do as much as I can in that limited time knowing that we have passed the solstice and I can soon look forward to lighter mornings and evenings. I cut up the old cards and keep the blank sides to use for shopping lists and keep some of the pictures to make into gift tags for next year. I carefully fold good wrapping paper and peel off ribbons for re-use at a later time. Some presents that I know I can’t use, I put away to be recycled making a careful note not to give them back to their purchaser!

I also decide to look at my possessions. Is it time to make changes? Do I really need that coat or jumper? I have the urge to bring order into the chaos that has occurred due to my obsession with acquiring bargains! I must admit that I love to visit charity shops. I believe that I am doing good as well as being rewarded by getting something considerably cheaper than it originally cost. However recycling is good but only works when one is disciplined enough to return at least one item for everyone purchased. I move my clothes so that they are grouped by product and colour on the rails or in drawers. I sometimes wonder whether I have “o.c.d” as I believed everyone did this only to discover that my friends didn’t and thought it strange. Even as a child I liked to have things in specific places and in an order and got upset if they weren’t. Returning to new for old objects I believe we are releasing them and giving them a new beginning too! Their lives are being extended and where they may have been relegated to the back of a drawer or left neglected on a top shelf not being seen or used, they are now spruced up or put on show for all to admire!

I often wonder about the original owners. Who wore that jacket and why did they buy it? Was it for a special occasion or just one of many coats. It gives me an idea for a story I might write sometime in the New Year as I need to have some new beginnings.




The Little 20

Tim Whealton


I wasn’t looking for one. Matter of fact I had already decided I had too many. Seems like this has happened before. Somebody will ask me if I want something and I open my mouth to say no and yes comes out. The question was “Do you want a bird dog?”

The correct answer to that question should be NO! A bird dog in eastern North Carolina means quail dog. Since there are not enough quail left to hunt there isn’t a logical reason to own a quail dog. They have to be fed, housed and carried to the Vet. They are hyper, bark a lot and can break out of Fort Knox when they smell something they want. Even worse this dog was a field trial dog. That means he will be extra hyper and prone to run great distances. Well the reason wasn’t logical but it was in my head from 60 years ago.

I saw my Grandad the last time 60 years ago but I knew him through the stories his friends and my Dad told. He was an old farmer in eastern Pamlico County. He was mostly self-educated but evidently very smart. He was well read and subscribed to newspapers from Chicago and New York. My Mother said he was like Ben Cartwright on “Bonanza.”  Most important to me was the fact that he was a “gun man.” He was known for his shooting ability and literally hunted till the day he died.  He had killed two deer on the day he suffered a fatal heart attack in 1956.

Even though he hunted deer when the opportunity arose he was best known for his quail hunting. This meant he had bird dogs. Usually several of them from what I heard. Quail were plentiful then and the terrain was different. The wooded areas would have fires sweep through every year and burn the underbrush and briars. As a result the woods were tall trees and low grass or broom straw underneath. Perfect for quail!

Quail have an instinct to hide when anything approaches and unless you know they are there you will almost step on them without ever seeing one. This is where the dog comes in. The quail dog runs ahead of the hunter and when he smells the quail he freezes in place until the hunters can get in position to flush the bird. This is called pointing. Then after the bird flushes (quail launch like bottle rockets)  if the hunter brings one down the dog will locate it and bring it back to the hunter. This is the retrieve. If the first dog points and another bird dog approaches, he should immediately point when he sees the other dog on point, even though he hasn’t smelled or seen a bird. This is called backing. Point, back and retrieve are the holy trinity for a bird dog.

All through my youth I listened to countless stories about Grandad and his bird dogs. How his dogs were so smart they could do his taxes if they had thumbs and what a good shot he was with his “little 20.” That meant he was shooting a 20 gauge shotgun for quail. It took a little detective work when I was older but I found out the little 20 was a Lefever double barrel. He liked his big 10 gauge double on ducks and geese but said the 20 was just right for walking behind a dog all day. The choice of gauge or caliber for a gun was a big deal then. Frequent shortages made planning an important part of hunting. Ammo was rationed during war years and well stocked stores were hard to find during the depression.

My Aunt shared a story that I had never heard about Grandad. She said he would sit up at night during WWII and reload his shotgun shells. They were paper casings and would have holes burning through the sides before he would discard them. Grandad read in the Raleigh newspaper that a hardware store in Raleigh NC would sell a case of shotgun shells with every shotgun you purchased from them. First thing next morning he carried her (his daughter) to Bayboro and put her on the bus with instructions and money to purchase 5 single barrel shotguns and 5 cases of shells. A case was 500 rounds packed in a wooden box. She went to Raleigh and walked to the store and bought the guns and shells. Since she was quite attractive she convinced some young men to carry the ammo back to the bus (not everything has changed!) Grandad had enough ammo to last out the war! He gave away the shotguns to his favorite farm workers.

Rhonda went with me to meet Jay the bird dog. The owner had decided Jay had some faults that he would never overcome and was giving up on him as a field trial dog. He lived in the country and when you came down his driveway you knew you were in the right spot. Lots of dog pens, lots of dogs, horses, trailers and a quail house in the field. He met us and showed us Jay. He was total energy, jumping to the top of the fence. He put Jay in the box on the ATV and got two quail out of the quail house. After he released in the field we let Jay out of the box.

In less than a minute Jay was “on point”. Amazing to see that bundle of energy freeze completely motionless and wait for us. We took our time getting to him and he talked about Jay’s fault. When we approached the frozen dog and kicked the grass the bird exploded from the thick grass with wing beats too fast to count. As the bird flew away he fired a blank pistol to simulate the shot. Jay remained on point without blinking. He told me “now you will see what’s wrong. He approached Jay to touch him on the head and release him from the point. As he walked toward Jay his rear end squatted about an inch. That’s it! I can’t get him to stop squatting a little and it always takes off points. He told me he had spent eight thousand dollars on the dog but decided it was a lost case and better to move on.

Jay went home with me. Everybody else and every dog that hunts with me has faults that make squatting one inch look insignificant. I reasoned he would work for me. Rhonda is a push over for a pretty dog so that part was easy but I had another hurdle. Sammy and Dexter. Sammy is a 100 pound lab that is pure love. Dexter is a Yorkie that is focused on what he wants. He is 9 pounds of “ I want to do this my way.” You have to chase him down when he gets out and if he sees something he want,s like a frog, he will hunt it all day.

As I expected Sammy and Jay quickly became friends, but Dexter would attack him every time he got a chance. Since I have to pay the vet bills I will just keep them separate. As a group, bird dogs have a high opinion of themselves and won’t let another dog dominate. Jay is the same way. He doesn’t want to fight but he won’t let another dog push him around.

After an adjustment period of a lot of love Jay has become my dog. I know why Grandad loved quail hunting now. It isn’t the taste of quail (fantastic) but rather a chance to hunt with amazing dogs. The dogs hunt like they do because that is who they are.  They love what they do and it shows in their work. When they team up with a hunter he should feel honored to have a partner so dedicated and he will be humbled by their ethics.

We have already had a couple of good “hunts” on released quail. No it isn’t like hunting wild birds but it is our only option. Wild bird numbers are just too low for me to shoot one without remorse. And pen raised birds taste like chicken.

After the hunt last week I went back to work on guns. I was looking for parts for a double barrel on the internet and came across a gun for sale. I have more guns than I need and no way had I wanted to buy another one. In spite of that I looked just out of curiosity. It was a Lefever 20 gauge like Grandad’s little 20. It wasn’t perfect but the ad said a gunsmith should be able to correct the faults. It came yesterday.








P.L. Almanza: From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza; lives in Hamlet, North Carolina. She has been writing stories since she was four years old. Her first book, The East Side Killers came out in April 2014. Her cookbook, Family Meals and Desserts, came out in the summer of 2015. She is currently working on Cat Tales.


E. B. Alston: Author, columnist, literary critic, and sometimes poet. His work has been published in various newspapers, telecommunications trade magazines, and books. He is the Managing Editor of the magazine.


Rita Berman: The Andy Griffith Show and Why keep a Journal; was born in London, England, is a free-lance writer, lecturer, editor, and author of Still Hopping, Still Hoping, the biography of Carla Shuford, (2012), and The A - Z of Writing and Selling, a Writer’s Digest Book Club selection Sept, 1981. Her work has appeared in more than 500 travel, feature, business, and trade journal articles, as well as newspaper columns for diverse publications in the United States and Great Britain. Her other books are Dating Adventures of a Widow and The Key Her latest book, Parallel Lives came out in July.


Randy Bittle: Through Aristotle’s Eyes;  is a self-taught independent philosopher who is still learning.  He has two books, both collections of essays, available at Righter Publishing and on Amazon.com. His latest book, More Colors Through My Mental Prism was published  in January


Peggy Ellis: Traveling Woman Blues and Just Plain Neat Information; is a writer and editor who resides in Black Mountain, NC.


Diana Goldsmith: A Modern Fairy Tale, Spring and A New Beginning; Diana has been attending and now runs a shared learner's  'Writing for pleasure' group for the past 8 years.  She is an avid reader especially historical crime and loves Anne Perry's books about Victorian England. She lives in Chard, Somerset, UK.


Joan Leotta: March Promise, Hidden in the Fog and a review of Three Rivers to Cross; has been writing and performing since childhood. This award winning journalist and performer’s first poetry collection will be out in March--Languid Lusciousness with Lemon, and the fourth of her picture book series will be released then as well--Rosa’s Shell.


Ariana Mangum: A Forgotten Landscape; is a retired English teacher and author of When the Goldenrod Sang in the Meadows, A Forgotten Landscape,d Where the Butterflies Roam and Shenandoah Promise. Her latest book, The Misadventures of Agnes Randolph, came out in January.


Elizabeth Miccio: TV Scholar; spent her early years in Westchester Coy, NY, and now lives in Greeley, CO, near her children and grandchildren. She is a graduate of Rocky Mountain School of Art. Later on the staff of Colorado Institute of Art, she became head of Media and taught life drawing. She is an artist and a poet. Her work includes both word and pictures of people and places she has visited. Her work has appeared in Lest the Colors Fade and A Beautiful Life and Other Stories.


Michelle Owens: After Mother Calls Me Home; Michelle Owens loved stories before she started Kindergarten and writing since elementary school.  She majored in English in college and had a subsequent career as a journalist before returning to school for her M.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing.  She’s had several stories and poems published, and now, after years in marketing and PR, is finally turning all of her attention to words – where she belongs – and has found a home with Righter Books


Minerva P. Shaw: Advice from Minerva; Is a North Carolina writer and humorist.


Sybil Austin Skakle: Another Kind of Walk; Her first book, Searchings, poetry, was published in 2001. Confessions of an Outer Banks Filly, stories of growing up on Hatteras Island between 1926 and 1940, followed in 2002; Valley of the Shadow, a memoir about the death of her husband, 2009. What Came Next, published in 2014, is another memoir, about years between 1980 and 1993. After 23 years as a hospital pharmacist and retirement in 1990, her work began to appear in various periodicals, and poetry and prose anthologies, four  of  which  were published  by  The  Chapel  Hill  Writers’  Discussion  Group. Her most recent work is her compilation, edit, and contributor to The History of Amity United Methodist Church, to be published by Righter Publishing Company in 2017. 


Michael Warren: February Sun; is the author of the novel The Estrangement of the Rain God, 3rd edition, published by Righter Books. He maintains his author web site at http//:www.tiliks.com. His first novel is the first of a tetralogy, The Glory River Saga. His newest children’s book, Squeach and the Magical Starfish came out in 2015. His second novel, The Cripple Goat and The Nineteen Days of Yulemas were published last year.   


Marry Williamson: A Fresh Start,; lives in Chard, Somerset, England. She was born in the Netherlands and moved to Britain in 1966. She worked for an Anglo-Dutch company in London. In 1999, Marry and her husband retired and moved to Chard, Somerset. Her hobbies are writing, reading, bird watching, and exploring ancient monuments. She is a member of a local writers’ group in England.


Tim Whealton: The Path and The Little 20: writes a regular column from New Bern, NC. He is a gunsmith whose shop is in Cove City, North Carolina. His book, According to Tim was published in 2013.


Dave Whitford: Writing Readable English in the 21st Century; writes from retirement in Toano, Virginia after a labor lifetime that included kitchen scullery, soda jerking, radar maintenance, boat and marine-engine sales and repair, technical writing, wedding photography, golf-course maintenance, metal fabrication, and house construction and inspection.




Perpetua and Felicity – Martyr’s at Carthage