Righter Quarterly Review
Edited by E. B. Alston
And Michelle Owens
Righter Publishing Company, Inc.
1112 Rogers Road
Graham. NC 27253
Table of Contents
We thank Betsy Breedlove for the fence and fir tree photographs on the front cover. In addition, we thank Jane Foust for allowing us to use her paintings: Morning Glow and Tis the Season and P. L. Almanza for the winter pathway scene. A special note: The Palm Trees on the back cover is by seven-year-old Jewel Aurora Foust, who lives with her proud parents in Rock Hill, South Carolina. A heartfelt thank you for the edit by Lona Lockhart. Plus, special thanks to all the contributors whose creativity made this a most special issue.
Night Watch by Rembrandt
Why is this night different from all other nights?
Because tonight we drink to the health and happiness of our children,
And to the joys brought by them,
Each and every one.
And to ourselves,
For what we are,
And for what we may as yet become.
By Joan Leotta
It's already snowing
where the air is thin.
Opening my mouth
to suck in more air,
bits of icey flakes
that dance upon my tongue
so I can shout aloud
With this issue, I bid all of you farewell. Don’t be alarmed. I’m not going anywhere and plan to continue contributing to the magazine. However, I will no longer be editor-in-charge. That mantle is passing to Michelle Owens, who is assuming responsibility for managing Righter Publishing Company, Inc. My son Michial, will be the owner. Michelle will be running the business on his behalf. The name of the business will also change. Sixteen years ago, I choose “Righter” because “writer-books.com” was taken. Sounds the same but spelled differently. A few years ago, a Mr. Righter from California called to speak to the owner, expecting it to be a new cousin. The new name for the business is Writer Book Publishing, Inc. Here’s the link: www.writerbookpublishing.com. Michelle plans to make Writer Book Publishing a powerhouse in the business. I had limited goals. All I wanted to do was publish my books and books for my friends. She plans to look after all of our existing authors in the same way I have while she is growing the business. It will be a full time job for her.
The magazine was a side issue and came to be in a strange way. In the early 2000s, Elizabeth Silance Ballard and I were contributors to a downeast magazine called Topsail Island Info. I contributed a weekly column for about three years. The editor, Shereé L. Alderman, and I became good friends over the period and she wrote introductions for two of my books..
When Topsail Island Info ceased publication at the end of 2007, Elizabeth suggested that I ought to put out a magazine.
The first Righter Monthly Review came out in January, 2008. Originally Righter Monthly Review was meant to be online only. I was dumb enough to print out a few copies myself and all of the recipients wanted to subscribe. Until about three years ago, the cover image was a famous ancient Greek, the same image for a whole year. When I finally changed to the present style, everybody’s comment was, “It’s about time!”
The original editors and contributors were Elizabeth Silance Ballard, Hilda Silance Corey, Marian Dillahunt, Judy Jacobs and Lona Lockhart. Judy wrote a remarkable horoscope column for about six years.
Michelle plans to continue with the magazine with a title change to Writer Book Quarterly.
November 8, 2017
It Just Goes To Show You Never Know
I wrote my first MO’s Meanderings in 1988. It was for my high school newspaper. I continued my column for four more years with the college newspaper, determined to make my living as a writer by becoming a journalist first.
You never know.
In the 25 years since I last wrote a MO’s Meanderings, I’ve been fortunate to have many experiences. One thing led to another. I’ve been a journalist, an English professor, a marketing professional, and an executive director; a lucky momma to three great daughters who are themselves now in college. No matter where life took me, though, I never shook the desire to write. In-between everything else, I did as much as I could. I got some things published, including a serialized novel, poetry, and magazine articles.
Mostly, though, as my career and life took me in unexpected directions, I only had the opportunity to write for myself. When I wrote, I did it for the same reasons I first started writing in fifth grade. I wrote to celebrate the good times. I wrote to get through the hard times. I wrote to try to understand life. In that way, I think I am like every writer that has ever lived. I believe in the power of words to change lives, including your own.
But through it all, I never gave up the hope that someday I would do what I first set out to do when I was a bright-eyed teenager. Write and work with writers, full-time. Now with Righter Books (Writer Book Publishing), I have been handed the opportunity of my lifetime.
We continue to work on our website and service offerings, always keeping first in mind the needs of the writer. The magazine will continue to reflect the story-first look and feel you have all come to know and love. The next issue of Righter Quarterly Review will be called Writer Quarterly. Same thing -- just a little different spelling and editing.
In the coming months and years, I will be handling the daily affairs and continued growth of Writer Book Publishing, and as I take the reins, I do so thoughtfully. I will take the foundation that Mr. Alston built by hand and do my best to honor it with quality work, publications, and service to our customers and readers. You will be hearing more from me as we go forward, and I will deliver details as we develop what Mr. Alston started. Feel free to email me at:
Mr. Alston is an inspiration to me, and never you worry, I will not let him go far. He too is a man who spent a lifetime wanting to write, and in his later years, has done just that. Twenty-six books and counting. When I grow up, I want to be like him. I look forward to giving it my all, and to giving you everything you have come to expect from him as a publisher and fellow writer.
I sit here, astounded that I am once again writing a MO’s Meanderings. It feels good to be alive. It just goes to show. You just never know.
Keep writing. Keep reading.
Michelle Owens Writer Book Publishing
Like most kids I didn’t realize how blessed I was at the time. Growing up in the late 50s and early 60s was a good time to be a kid. Add to that having great parents and living on Neuse River and it just gets better and better. My best friend lived next door. My Pop’s shop was next to the house and my mother’s shop was in the house. While she was Mama to me seems like the rest of the world called her “Aunt Bessie.”
People might not appreciate how much it meant to get the title of aunt or uncle from people outside the family but she certainly did. She said it was just like saying “I wish you were kin to me.” A real compliment! My best friend called my Mom “Aunt Bessie” and I called his mom “Aunt Geraldine.” We could both go in and out of either house and eat at either table. No Internet or computers but we managed to have fun every day. Hard to imagine but it’s true.
Aunt Bessie’s “shop” was her kitchen. It was the center of life in the old Whealton house. Maybe a better word for it would be factory! It was nothing like the kitchen of today. Our kitchens have become storage bins for every sort of time and labor saving appliance made. The marvelous slicers, dicers and mixers sit waiting for that day when we finally decide it’s time for some home cooking. Then they are pulled out, washed, dried and used to grind or slice something for 15 seconds and then washed, dried and stored till next time. Our kitchens are designed around the open concept with lots of storage and counters with cabinets under and over. Her kitchen was tiny by today’s standards (8x12) and everything was done on the kitchen table or the back steps. Her kitchen was a place where small animals covered with fur and feathers would be dressed, skinned, cooked and consumed along with every sort of vegetable and seafood.
Mama’s never had the luxury of anything more that the most basic kitchen tools but boy did she know how to get the most out of everything. I still have and cherish her old hand crank meat grinder. I use it to make deer burgers and jerky but she would use it for much more. Pimento cheese, pickled peppers, fruits, nuts and more got ground or grated to her demanding specifications. I remember watching her make souse and sausage. People who like such things should never watch them being made!
Her meat tenderizer was a claw hammer. It did double duty as an ice crusher when the ice was wrapped in a dish towel. Crushed ice was rarely used in a beverage but rather for medical uses like sore throats and hurt elbows. All the cookware was cast iron that looked like Teflon because it was in constant use.
When I say constant use I mean as one meal was finishing the next would be starting. Nothing unusual about seeing steam rise from the stove while we were eating. When you cook from scratch and all you’re your meals are made at home that’s the way it works. 21 meals a week was the norm.
Lots of meals were prepared for takeout. Not for us but for anyone that needed to know somebody cared. Death in the family, hospital stay, shut in or just “stove up” for a while. Mama said when you don’t know what to do you can fry a chicken! It always seemed appreciated.
While Pop was the provider there was no doubt who ran the food department and that included skinning and dressing small game. Pop would come in the back door with squirrel tails hanging out of both sides of his coat and set it by the back door as he looked at Mama and “there they are!” She would empty the coat and examine each one as they talked about how blessed we were to have such a bounty. I never heard her complain about having to work even when we skinned fox squirrels that Uncle Johnny gave us. They were the hardest things I ever skinned next to snapping turtles.
As busy as Mama’s kitchen was you wouldn’t think it could do much extra for the holidays but that was not the case. Seems like she always had an extra job going from Thanksgiving to New Years. Extra cookies, cakes and pies on top of extra food for holiday dinners. You would think all that extra work would have made her hard to live with but it seemed to have the opposite effect. She was just plain happy during the holidays.
My Mama left all who knew her with a legacy of love for others. It affected more than her immediate family. Like ripples in a pond the things she did for others reached far beyond what we knew. I think the struggle that she and her brothers and sisters shared in their early years gave them all a sense of purpose and knowledge about life that only comes with overcoming hardship. They learned early that nothing is more important than love.
By Ariana Mangum
The train moved through the station, entered a dark tunnel, and finally came out into brilliant sunlight. Slowly we slid past endless ranks of drab row houses, all the same. Then gathering speed we raced along the Hudson River under the Catskills, winding like a snake through brown hills of early spring, past dark, leafless trees standing black against the mountains.
“What a landscape,” I thought. “How different from Virginia. This country is spooky,” I said aloud.
“And filled with ghosts like the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow,” Grandmother added. “It’s Dutch country, founded by those thrifty settlers with such names as Van Buren, Stuyvesant, and Roosevelt. Originally called New Amsterdam, it was bought by the English and renamed New York.”
“Why New York?” I asked.
“After the Duke of York, I suppose,” she replied. “Old York dates back to the Vikings. Have you ever heard of Yorkshire and the City of York with its famous minster?”
“Mr. Houghton comes from Yorkshire,” I said. “It’s in England.”
My thoughts returned to Father and his final journey home. Quite suddenly my bright morning, so filled with adventure, lay in tatters. All my sadness, forgotten in the excitement of travel, came rushing back. I found this strange, shadowy country with its dark mountains and grey river, foreboding. With all my heart, I wanted to go home. Shivering, I drew my jacket closer.
“Put your coat on if you’re cold,” Grandmother suggested.
“I don’t like this place. Is West Point like this?”
“No. It has fine stone buildings, green playing fields, and a chapel that sits high on a hill above the river. It’s a great fort built on a promontory guarding the Hudson.”
“I wish Father would return to Virginia,” I told her, close to tears.
“Your Grandpa’s buried here: it’s an honour to be interred at West Point,” she explained. “I wonder if your Father’s aunts will be there, those two remarkable old ladies who run a boarding house in Atlanta. Do you remember them?”
“Oh, yes, but they really must be ancient. Why do they always wear black?”
“It’s considered very elegant, my dear, and most old ladies are widows,” Grandmother replied.
“But you’d think they’d get awful tired of it. Black’s a terribly dreary colour, especially for old ladies who are all white and wrinkly.”
I wanted to escape from this gloomy, dark country with its threatening mountains and slate-coloured river. Everything about this place seemed cold and uninviting. Even in the morning sunlight the hills appeared black and their evergreens unfriendly. At home the Virginia pine woods remained green even in winter, and the sun filtered through them onto the ground making shadows. It seemed a far more hospitable place than these Catskills with their strange stories of ghosts from the Revolutionary War.
“Near here Benedict Arnold tried to give West Point to the British, and Nathan Hale gave his life for his fledgling country,” Grandmother explained.
“Let’s not spend the night here,” I said. “Let’s return to New York or even to Philadelphia.”
“We’ll cross the bridge at Tarrytwon near where the Tappanzee Ferry comes up from New Jersey. Then the train will head north on the east side of the Hudson towards Bear Mountain Park and Highland Springs, where we’ll get off.”
“Is it far?” I asked.
“It takes about an hour,” she replied. Then she told me a story, I suppose to distract my attention from the landscape. “When my grandparents came over from Germany they stayed in a village near here. But after a few months they traveled west to Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania, where they settled. My grandmother had a child that died and is buried here. With her husband, a young son of five, and a new baby she rode in a wagon to Gettysburg. That young child was my papa.”
“How did he get to Indiana?” I asked, not really interested.
“He grew up in Gettysburg, but before the Civil War traveled by riverboat down the Ohio to Evansville. Papa had studied law in the office of a Mr. Stevens, then went west to seek his fortune. He joined a law firm in Evansville and bought a large farm on the river. After his first wife died, he married Mamma who was ten years his junior. They had five children, and Mother raised the two young sons from the first family. With seven of us, we had merry times at our house. And Papa adored Mother whom he called his “Little Jewel.”
“Did you grow up in a cabin like Abraham Lincoln?” I asked.
“Not at all. We had a large, frame house with a garden.”
“Did you have an orchard?”
“Oh yes, a lovely one, with apple trees and cherry trees. We grew wonderful cherries and made pies and cobblers, more than we could eat. I used to climb those trees, just as you do, and my brothers loved them. They would climb up and shake down the fruit for us. Both my older brothers had jobs delivering groceries after school; my sisters and I minded the house. Papa insisted we learn to make money. I became a teacher, my sister, Nannie, was a nurse, and Elsie took a typewriting course and worked as a secretary in Papa’s office. The two older boys studied law like their father, and my younger brothers, Alf and John, became doctors.”
“Your childhood sounds ever so nice,” I replied, interested.
“It was very carefree. I had an idyllic childhood in the bosom of a large family. It was fun.” She seemed to forget me and drift back into her misty past filled with children, apple trees and cherry cobbler. I envied her.
At Highland Springs we got down. It was a poky little station in an equally poky town. Not at all as I had pictured it. Undaunted, Grandmother found a taxi and instructed the driver to take us to the Military Academy. At the main gates a soldier brought us to a halt, enquired our business, then waved us through. We drove around the playing fields, past White Point with its historic cannons, and finally headed up the hill to an impressive chapel. Here all the family had gathered. I recognized Frances. Beside her stood Uncle Edward, Father’s older brother, and his wife, Trudy. She was pretty and sweet, although rather flaky, I thought. She was always forgetting things. Today she came forward and gave me a big hug.
“My dear Doc, how did you get here from Virginia?”
“With Grandmother,” I replied. “You remember Catherine Ferrell?” Of course, my dear. How nice of you to come such a long way.” “Doc and I had a pleasant trip,” Grandmother said and shook hands. “How are you, Southern Belle,” Uncle Edward squeezed my shoulder as a sign of affection. He wasn’t much on kissing, but he pinched our shoulders until we wanted to scream. The harder he pinched the more he loved us.
“Don’t hurt me,” I begged, spun around and hugged him close. “My goodness, such affection. I’m overwhelmed,” he cried.
How like Father he looked, even his voice sounded like him. Although older, and less slim, and not quite as tall, for a minute I was sure he was Father, home safely from the war.
“Why couldn’t Father have your job here at West Point instead of going overseas?” I asked. “It’s not fair.”
“John would hate teaching Cadets and standing on the sidelines. A man’s work must be of his own choosing to be happy.” Uncle Edward put his arm around me. “Don’t grieve, Doc, for John got what he wanted most - adventure.”
“Yes,” I said, “but I’m only sixteen, and I need him.”
“Life isn’t always fair. It’s mostly chance and hard work. But chance is everything in war. You can’t control your luck.”
“I wish he’d been with his troops. An air raid, a stupid air raid killed Father.”
“It’s just as deadly as a battlefield. Deadlier because people caught in air raids are not armed. They can’t fight back; remember all those nameless civilians who have died in London?” Uncle Edward drew me closer.
“I know, that’s what’s so awful. He didn’t have a chance. I hate it because he couldn’t defend himself. It’s so unfair.” I hid my face in Uncle Edward’s sleeve.
“Yes,” he said. “That’s how I feel, Doc. But we must remain brave.”
“I am tired of remaining brave. I am sick to death of war, of rolling bandages and delivering eggs. Chickens are such smelly things, and oh, so stupid.” My anger boiled over. “I want to drive a car and go out with boys!”
I didn’t consider what I’d said funny, but Uncle Edward laughed. A great roar of a laugh, just like Father’s. Again he drew me close and held me in his comforting arms.
“You’re growing up, Doc. What a fine young woman you’ve become. I am sorry John didn’t know you as an adult.”
Then he led me gently towards the family grouped on the stairs and to the two awaiting aunts. How like black crows they looked. So different from Grandmother. “Here are the Merry Widows,” winked Uncle Edward.
“How do you like this Rip Van Winkle country?” Aunt Agnes greeted me. “You’ve read Washington Irving’s story set in these mountains? They’re haunted, you know, and appeared ever so romantic to our early writers.”
“Hello,” I said extending my hand. “I like haunted places, but these mountains are terribly spooky.”
“Hello, Doc,” Aunt Harriet kissed the air at my cheek bone. “My, how grown up you are! I’m nearly frozen to death in this Yankee weather. Let’s go inside. How are you, my dear?”
“Cold,” I replied. “It’s windy here on this hill.”
“And I have on my unmentionables, too. New York winters are very inhospitable. Now that we’re all here I think we could go inside and get out of this wind.”
“And how is your dear Grandmother?” Aunt Agnes asked. “She is such a love to bring you all this way on this sad occasion. You’re so like your mother, you know, with your thick blond hair and blue eyes. Really, my dear Doc, you are going to be a beauty.”
I blushed scarlet.
“The boys will be knocking at your door. What a Belle you’ll become.” Aunt Agnes twittered in anticipation. “We always claimed that Southern women were prettier than Northern ones. It’s the climate, you know, it keeps us young and soft.”
“I don’t really have any dates yet,” I tried to explain. “I’m too much of a tomboy.”
“That will pass. You will soon become a lady and put away your boyish games. It’s expected, you know.”
“I’m not sure I want to. You see I like my country life, riding horses and all.” I regarded Aunt Agnes standing there dressed in unrelieved black, a long veil thrown back, a hat perched high on her great mass of dark hair, and wondered if she dyed it. Surely at her age it should be gray. “Just like Mrs. Owens,” I thought.
Suddenly the rector appeared at the chapel door.
“Come inside,” he invited, “you must be frozen. If you take your places near the front I have the heat on there. Can we begin? Has everyone arrived?”
“Yes,” Uncle Edward said leading the way inside the elegant chapel with its stained-glass window - soft light and wooden pews.
Frances appeared and took me by the hand. Clad in severe black with a single strand of pearls, she looked gorgeous. Her pearls were real and all the same size. She wore a simple black hat and carried black gloves and a leather bag. It felt good to my touch; the leather was soft and supple. In her hand she held a white linen handkerchief and a small Book of Common Prayer, leather bound and trimmed in gold. She led the way to the front where we sat down. She beckoned Grandmother to sit beside us, while the family arranged behind. Frances then gave me an affectionate hug before she sat back and opened her Prayer Book. I opened mine, the one Grandmother insisted I bring.
The organ boomed forth and a small choir of men and boys appeared from a side door and entered the stalls. I did not recognize the first hymn, so didn’t sing it. Although the service was short I found it extremely somber. So I let my thoughts drift back to the day we buried Old Sally at St. Mary’s. I forgot about the impressive, cold chapel and remembered Father riding Cherry down to the river on summer evenings. How long ago it seemed, those halcyon days before the war!
Half-heartedly I listened as the rector intoned the service. Although the words sounded familiar, they had no meaning. I felt out of place, somehow, in this elegant chapel with strangers all around me. Even though I knew them all they didn’t belong in my church. I would have felt more comfortable with Mrs. Carthage, her red hair untidy, falling out from under her black hat, and with Colonel Hollis explaining in a loud voice his latest exploits on the hunt field. I even missed our out-offtune organ and Dorothy’s hillbilly voice. Then a well-tuned organ sounded some familiar chords. I recognized a hymn I’d always associated with the War Between the States, (as Mrs. Owens insisted we call it). Now it was played for Father. With tears swimming in my eyes I stood up to sing:
Lead on, oh, King Eternal The day of march has come.
Henceforth in fields of conquest The tents shall be our home.
The words choked in my throat. Father’s tent was no longer in Virginia, but in England. Tears streaked down my face, never in my entire life had I felt so bereft. I prayed that Father’s tent, gone from me on earth, was in heaven.
“Perhaps there isn’t a heaven?” I debated. “And if there is, will I end up there? Maybe I’ll never see him again. Maybe he’s in hell. Surely not. He must be in heaven - and I must go there and meet him.”
Overcome by these thoughts, I dropped my hymnal, knelt down and sobbed.
“Dear Doc,” Frances comforted me. “It’s all right.”
“Please, Frances,” I said between sobs, “tell me, where are God’s tents?”
“In heaven. It means your Father will share God’s tents in heaven.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m very sure,” she replied firmly. “And you, Doc, will share them one day too.”
I accepted her linen handkerchief and wiped my eyes. The music swelled to a crescendo and climaxed in a long Amen. I stood up, my eyes dry, my face red from crying.
“I’ve ruined your handkerchief. It’s all wet,” I said.
“Don’t worry,” Frances put her arm around my waist. “Just remember that in God’s tent your Father’s happy and will wait for you and me. There is room for us all, my dear.”
“ ‘His tents shall be our home.’ I’ll try ever so hard to become a lady so I’ll enter there one day.”
Outside on the steps of the chapel a bugler blew “Taps,” that plaintive song composed in Virginia during the Civil War and played when a soldier is laid to rest. Although sad and lonely sounding, I did not cry. Then rifle fire resounded across the valley. Finally silence. Frances stirred, placed her hand gently upon my shoulder, and led me forth down the aisle and out into the cold March afternoon.
“It was very impressive,” she told the rector when he came to say goodbye. “Thank you for doing the service.” “We’ll meet you at the Thayer Hotel for some soup and sandwiches.”
Uncle Edward appeared on the top step behind us.
“Yes,” Frances said, and then with me in tow she walked down the long flight of steps to a waiting car. “Driver, we are going to the Thayer Hotel, but first I wish to stop briefly at the cemetery. Doc, I want you to see where he’ll rest when he comes home.”
“Is it far?” I asked, not sure I wanted to go.
We swung down the hill, and turned left towards the river. The cemetery was beside the Hudson amid large trees surrounded by a wall and impressive gates. The car stopped. Frances got out and led me down the frozen paths to a grassy spot under a giant oak.
“He’ll lie here next to your grandfather. It’s peaceful and historic here. He’d approve.”
I knew she was right. Then without another word we drove to the Hotel to meet the rest of the family.
“I hope we’ll always be friends,” Frances remarked as we crossed the lobby. “You’re the daughter I’ve always wanted.”
“And you’re great fun,” I assured her.
Together we entered the dining room to find everyone already there. Soup, hot and tasty, soon warmed me up. I looked around at Father’s family. Teddy, Uncle Edward’s eldest son, was a favourite of mine. Even though I rarely saw him, he was good fun and always friendly. But he sat across the dining room. At my table I found Father’s two aunts from Georgia with Aunt Trudy and Uncle Edward.
“I wonder if I can have a hot toddy?” Aunt Harriet remarked. “Edward, please see to it. I’m frozen stiff. Do you want one, Agnes?” “I think not, Sister. I prefer hot chocolate. It’s equally warming.” “I would hardly consider it so,” replied Aunt Harriet. “There’s nothing like a stiff rum toddy.”
“I do hope it doesn’t go to your head. A lady should never display herself in such a manner.”
I could tell Aunt Agnes disapproved of alcoholic drink, but was far too polite to say so. Aunt Harriet was of a more daring nature. She had traveled all over the world, ridden a camel up to the pyramids and climbed around Katmandu long before women did such things. Now a retired teacher, as was Aunt Agnes, she still craved adventure.
“Harriet should have been a man,” explained her sister. “She’s really lost as a woman, with all the things she likes to do.”
“I am perfectly content to have been born a woman,” Aunt Harriet replied, “but I find the things men do far more interesting. I adored Nepal and India, and would love to climb Mount Everest.”
“I see where John got his adventurous spirit,” Uncle Edward remarked, offering his aunt the hot toddy. “You’ve missed your calling teaching school in Atlanta.”
“Not at all, I enjoyed that too. And of course I played tennis well enough to win several local tournaments. Now both Agnes and I play golf since the war has stopped us from traveling.”
“Oh, Sister, you know I am just terrible at golf. I only play for the companionship. I can’t really hit the ball worth a hoot.” Aunt Agnes, a younger, prettier edition of Aunt Harriet, protested.
In fact, Aunt Agnes had been married once for a short time to a boy from Athens, Georgia, whose father taught at the University. Both sisters had attended the Lucy Cobb Institute where they trained as teachers. While there Agnes had fallen madly in love with Cuthbert Webb.
“He was so handsome, and ever so clever. Really terribly smart. Papa declared he would become the greatest lawyer in Georgia and even a judge. We got married on a lovely April morning when all the dogwoods and azaleas were in full bloom. Cuthbert entered the law office of Jonathan Smith. They had such high hopes for him. He joined the hunt club, and used to hunt foxes in a wonderful scarlet coat. One wet day his horse fell on him. That’s how he was killed, you know, he broke his neck,” Aunt Agnes remembered.
“I am so sorry, I didn’t know you were married,” I said awkwardly. “Not at all, my dear, it’s a long time ago. You see, Harriet and I have made a good life for ourselves. We’ve traveled all over the world. And I even had a ship-board romance. But since he was English and I was American, Papa didn’t approve of our getting married. Rodney married Eleanor Ross, another American girl, and they came to live in New York. Isn’t that ironic? He’s kept in touch with me all these years. He is such a lovely man.”
“Oh, Agnes, you do go on so. Really, you’d think Papa prevented it. He didn’t, you know. It was your own choice,” Aunt Harriet interjected.
“I would love to have lived in England. It’s a very different life. I wonder sometimes if I shouldn’t have married him after all.”
“You would have been desperately homesick,” Aunt Harriet said. “What a romantic girl you are, Agnes. It was forty years ago.”
“And I remember it as if it was yesterday. Rodney has ten grandchildren now. And he still lives in New York State. Not too far from here,” Aunt Agnes giggled. “Perhaps, Sister, we could see him while we’re staying with Edward.”
“That would be fun. We’ll telephone him this evening and make arrangements.”
“Oh, Sister, what a daring idea!” Aunt Agnes’ eyes sparkled with delight. “And perhaps we’ll go over and pay him a visit. He only lives across the river in Poughkeepsie.”
“It’ll be a great adventure, after forty years. Do you think he’s lost his dark wavy hair and gone bald?” Aunt Harriet asked wickedly.
“Now what are you two ladies cooking up?” Uncle Edward wanted to know. “It sounds as if you’re heading for trouble.”
“How I love it!” Aunt Harriet crossed her arms over her ample bosom. “Edward, on the strength of Agnes’ momentous decision, please bring me a second hot rum toddy.”
“Oh, Sister,” Aunt Agnes protested, “really, you shouldn’t.”
“Stuff and nonsense. I can hold my liquor. Don’t be worrisome.” Uncle Edward regarded his aunt somewhat dubiously, but never questioned her demand for a second drink. When it arrived our formidable relative drank it down with considerable relish. Demurely, Aunt Agnes ordered another hot chocolate, and sipped it slowly, gracefully – every inch a Southern lady. I watched these two women, fascinated. Never before had I seen anyone like them.
“What did you teach?” I asked Aunt Agnes.
“English mostly, and some history. Sister taught chemistry and mathematics. She holds a post graduate degree, you know.”
“Oh, yes. She came North and studied before women in the South did such things. Papa thought it was very daring, but he let her come. He was proud of her accomplishments. Papa, you see, believed in the education of women.”
“Was that unusual?” I asked.
“Very unusual at that time. That’s why Harriet was such a good teacher.” Aunt Agnes assured me. “She was educated like a man.” “And her husband? Did she have a husband?” I knew this was a personal question, but I was dying to know.
“Poor Sister,” Aunt Agnes lowered her voice. “She married a darling man, a college professor from North Carolina who was even more brilliant than she is. He was an archaeologist, and they roamed around the world going on various digs. Sister still grieves for him.”
Aunt Agnes finished her chocolate, wiped her mouth with a dainty gesture and placed the cup carefully on its saucer.
“That was good,” she said, “very satisfying on such a blustery day. And now, my dear, when can you come to Atlanta and visit us?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “But I’d like to come.”
“Then you must, and meet all your Georgia kith and kin. I’ll get Harriet to make the arrangements. And your Grandmother must come too.” Aunt Agnes smiled.
Lunch over, and both her hot toddies finished, Aunt Harriet stood up. She was helped into her long black coat by Uncle Edward, and regarding us with satisfaction she remarked,
“This has been very enjoyable, seeing all the family. We shouldn’t just meet at funerals; it’s a rather barbaric custom, you know. We must go, Edward, please give me your arm.” Then without another word she walked from the room.
Aunt Agnes, as if afraid not to comply to her Sister’s wishes, picked up her coat and followed.
“Goodbye, my dear Doc,” said Aunt Trudy. “Are you and your grandmother leaving this afternoon for Virginia?”
“No, we’ll go back to New York City for the night. Then we return to Richmond in the morning. I hope I’ll see you again soon. Thank you for a lovely luncheon,” Grandmother replied.
“We didn’t have much time to talk today,” my Aunt kissed me goodbye.
I went to find Teddy. I found him talking with several cousins I hardly knew.
“How did you like the old Aunts? They’re out of the Dark Ages if you ask me. Here’re some more Yankee cousins, Doc. You should get to know them.” He put a friendly hand on my shoulder.
“Yes, I replied shyly, “I’d like to know you.”
“You, a real Southern Belle?” One of my cousins inquired. What do you think of all these handsome Yankee men?”
“I don’t know about that Southern Belle stuff. That’s more Aunt Agnes’ style,” I blushed. “And I’m not sure Yankee men are more handsome that Southern ones.”
“I’m sure they are,” said Teddy laughing.
We crossed the hotel lobby, where I kissed my aunts goodbye. Uncle Edward gave me an affectionate squeeze on the shoulder. A few minutes later they were gone. I was delighted when Teddy drove us to the station in Highland Springs, Grandmother, Frances and me. Here we caught the train for New York, and at last left this spooky, ghost-ridden country in which Father did not belong.
Spring 1944 Richmond, Va.
This is the last letter I’ll ever write to you, although you won’t receive it. At first I was furious at you for getting killed. It was a really stupid, jackass thing to do. Because you’ve left me when I needed you the very most. Bertha went around crying for days and looked terribly sad. I couldn’t stand being with her. Mr. Houghton just blustered, because he was afraid to show his true feelings. But Mrs. Houghton understood how I felt. Her dad died in England years ago, and she never got back to see him. She felt guilty about that for ages. I don’t feel guilty, but just angry that you could play such a dirty trick. Think of having to deal with Mother and Rudy alone, and you’ll see what I mean.
Jenny wrote me, and so did Cary. Mary Aim came out to spend the night, and we went into the woods where I cried. I feel so terribly cheated and alone. Even God had forgotten me. How could He have let you die? Now things are better, and I’m back in school trying to get ready for exams. Everyone has been extremely kind, and Mrs. Owens even gave me extra help in Ancient History to make up for the lost time. Mary Ann’s helping with math and even the ancient Mrs. Smith gave me two hours tutoring in French. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, she’s nearly in the grave herself. I was deeply touched by her concern.
I don’t know what the future will bring, but I hope it’s good. I’ve prayed about it enough. Oh, yes, God’s back in my good graces again. If there’s no God then you couldn’t be in heaven. And I couldn’t stand that. But I know you’re not playing a harp or sitting on a cloud. Mrs. Houghton says heaven’s beautiful, full of light and very, very peaceful in God’s presence. If it’s like that then I want you there, since you can’t be here. Oh, Father, Father, why couldn’t you have remained on earth just a little longer to see me become a lady?
I’ll have to become one now, you know. I’ll have to grow up and stand for all those things you believed in: Honesty, loyalty, and above all, patriotism. I’ll try to become what you wanted me to be and live each day fully as it comes and help build a better future. That’s what you died for. And I promise to become the great lady you’ll be proud of. Goodbye, Dad.
P.S. Everybody at Henley’s store misses you and sends their love. I never knew you had so many friends. I’ve decided to go live with Grandmother because I know that’s what you wanted me to do. I’ve made my decision and will live by it. I know my new life will be different and hard to get used to, but I shall do my very best to make Grandmother happy and you too. Goodbye again,
“The End of the Beginning”
In June Grandmother came to Richmond with a lawyer. He was also a family friend and a very pleasant man. Together we went downtown to a hearing when I was asked several questions.“Answer them truthfully,” Grandmother told me. “This is important, and concerns your future.”
“Your grandmother wants to take you to Indiana to live with her. With wartime problems and your father’s death you’re allowed to choose your future.” The lawyer took a paper from his briefcase for me to sign.
“What about the Houghton’s?” I asked, “Can they no longer keep me?”
“You need a legal guardian, a member of your family. Your grandmother is the logical choice. The Houghtons, although kind and loving people, are not legally responsible for you. You can stay with your mother and stepfather or go to Indianapolis to live.” The lawyer handed me the paper. “You sign here.”
I chose Indianapolis and Grandmother. I signed the paper and that was that.
Only it wasn’t. Saying goodbye to the Houghtons was the most difficult part of leaving Virginia. Mrs. Houghton and I both cried. She stood on the road waving to us holding Peggy when Mr. Houghton drove Grandmother and me to the station.
“Please stop, Mr. Houghton,” I begged. “I need to hug your wife one final time.”
He stopped the car, and I ran back up the road into Mrs. Houghton’s waiting arms.
“How do I say goodbye?” I cried. “How do I leave you?”
“Dry your tears, Doc. Your grandmother has promised you can come for the summer and stay with us. Didn’t she tell you?” Mrs. Houghton’s soft English voice whispered into my ear. “That’s something exciting to look forward to. You will always be our special girl, remember that.”
“Yes,” I said smiling at her, “you got the goodness out of me.” And we both laughed through our tears.
The End of A Forgotten Landscape
By Rita Berman
On April 19, 2013 I spoke about Emily Bronte who was born July 30, 1818 in Thornton, near Bradford, Yorkshire, and died December 19, 1848 in Haworth.
She was one of six children of the Reverend Patrick Bronte and Maria Bronte (nee Branwell). Patrick Bronte was an Irish Anglican clergyman whose original name was Brunty.
The first look at the Bronte lives was published in 1857, written by Mrs. Elizabeth Gaskell, a leading female novelist at the time. Mrs. Gaskell did not stick to the real facts, for example, there were originally five Bronte sisters, but two died quite young. After Mrs. Gaskell created the myth of the Brontes as “three lonely sisters living on top of a windswept moor with a mad misanthropic father and a doomed brother,” it was subsequently repeated by later biographers.
In 2001, Lucasta Miller, who was a former deputy literary editor of The Independent newspaper, published The Bronte Myth, which offered criticism of the Bronte works and stripped away the myth.
Ms. Miller declared the Brontes to be “cultural icons whose reputations were romanticized.” In other words their lives were not like the characters in their stories, they were not lonely and poor, and untutored.
Their mother never recovered from the birth of her youngest child, Anne. It was not known what was wrong with her, and her unmarried sister Elizabeth Branwell came to take care of Maria and the children. As Maria lay dying she was said to have uttered the words, “Oh, God, my poor children!”
The Reverend Bronte proposed to three women, one after the other, but they all turned him down, not wanting to take on a husband who had a small income and a large family. Therefore Aunt Branwell continued to live with the family.
There were few carpets in the parsonage, and no curtains hung on the windows because Reverend Bronte had a great fire of fire. He kept a pail of water on the staircase landing to be ready to douse a flame in a moment.
The children rambled on the moor, learned the calls of grouse, swallows, and golden plovers, and fished for tadpoles in a stream. They were not lonely, and untutored. At the age of six Emily was sent with Charlotte, Maria, and Elizabeth to the Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge. This was a charity institution, the buildings were very damp and cold and the food they ate was stale and rancid. Maria and Elizabeth were sent home because of their illnesses, and died of consumption soon after, in 1825. Then Emily and Charlotte were brought back home by their father, to be educated by him.
The Reverend was a very strict man and during the day when he worked in his office the children were required to remain silent in a room together. Back in the parsonage the girls read from the Bible and studied grammar, geography, and history. Later both girls studied German and French when they attended a girls’ school in Brussels.
The children were forbidden by their father to mix with the unwashed village youngsters so they played together. They invented games, and plays, they wrote stories, poems and histories of imaginary kingdoms.
Here is a poem that Emily wrote about Gondal, an island in the Pacific:
Come the wind may never again
Blow as now it blows for us
And the stars may never again, shine as they now shine.
Long before October returns
Seas of blood will have parted us
And you must crush the love in your heart
And I, the love in mine!
Almost everything that is known about Emily comes to us from the writings of Charlotte and others. All that survives of Emily’s own words about herself are two brief letters, two diary paper written when she was thirteen and sixteen and two birthday papers written when she was 23 and 27.
Most of her early childhood writings, the notebooks with the Gondal fantasies were lost. Here are some of Emily’s writings, as posted on the Internet. From a diary entry that was reported as being dated November, 1834, when she was about 14 years old:
“…It is past Twelve o-clock Anne and I have not tidied ourselves, done our bedwork or done our lessons and want to go out to play we are going to have for Dinner Boiled Beef, Turnips, potatoes and apple pudding. The Kitchen is in a very untidy state Anne and I have not done our music exercise which consists of b major Taby said on my putting a pen in her face Ya pitter pottering there instead of pilling a potate I answered O Dear, O Dear, I get up, take a knife and being pilling (finished) pilling the potatoes paper going to walk Mr. Sunderland expected.
Anne and I say I wonder what we shall be like and what we shall be and where we shall be if all goes well in the year 1874 – in which year I shall be in my 54th year Anne will be going in her 55th year Branwell will be going in his 58th year and Charlotte in her 59th year hoping we shall all be well at that time we close our paper. Emily and Anne.”
(Note: We know none of them lived that long. Interestingly Emily’s calculations of how old they would be are wrong. Off by a year or two in most cases.)
When she was seventeen Emily attended the Roe Head girls’ school, where Charlotte was a teacher, but she was unhappy there and returned home after a few months. Her sister Anne took her place at Roe Head.
When she was twenty Emily became a teacher at Law Hill School in Halifax, in September 1838. The long working hours were more than she could take. She complained to Charlotte that she had entered slavery. She was one of three teachers for 40 girls ages eleven through fifteen. Miss Patchett had her working from six o-clock in the morning until eleven at night. She made it through her first term but returned home once more, in April 1839. From then on she did most of the cooking and cleaning at home, and she also taught Sunday school. She was happiest in the parsonage at Haworth, and walking on the wild, windswept moors.
Even so, in 1842 Emily accompanied Charlotte to Brussels, Belgium, where they attended the boarding school run by Madame Claire Zoe Heger, whose husband Monsieur Constantin Heger taught literature to the girls, exclusively in French.
Emily and Charlotte’s intention was to perfect their knowledge of French and German and open a school. Emily found her knowledge of French was limited and in the first few months of her stay she persevered in speaking and writing French every day. She did not attempt to make friends, considered social intercourse a waste of time.
From accounts by those who knew her she was a reserved, courageous woman with a commanding will and manner. Charlotte described her sister as having “a secret power and fire that might have informed the brain and kindled the veins of a hero.” Monsieur Heger was impressed by her “powerful reason and strong imperious will.”
Charlotte was more ready to adapt the rules and etiquettes of their new society in Brussels. She imitated and adopted a new dress style, but Emily persisted in wearing the leg-of-mutton sleeves and petticoats which did not suit her tall, thin figure.
She found Monsieur Heger an exacting master, inflexible, irritable, and erratic, noted Charlotte. Emily did not like Heger’s method of teaching which was to assign them passages from masterpieces from French literature, discus and analyze them and then write their own essays, based on the style of the models.
Emily rebelled against this system, seeing no good to be derived from it, and said “by adopting it, they should lose all originality of thought and expression”. By that time she had already found her own voice and style. Still, in spite of her objections she produced the required essays and Heger was impressed. Her pessimistic and cynical view of mankind and shrewd understanding of the cruelty in the world around her, astounded, impressed and sometimes even shocked Heger. He began to value her qualities, and years later said, ‘She had a head for logic, and a capability of argument unusual in a man and rarer indeed in a woman.”
Emily did not make friends with her fellow pupils, but maintained a limited contact with a small circle of English acquaintances. Among them was Mr. Jenkins, the Anglican cleric, who invited Charlotte and Emily to spend Sundays at his house. But his wife stopped inviting them after a while as their shyness and awkwardness made the visits more and more painful. They were escorted to the house by the Jenkins’ sons, who found the walks tedious because the girls did not speak. On another occasion when Mary and Martin Taylor took the girls to visit their cousins the Dixons, for tea, Emily remained completely silent the whole evening.
When five English girls, the daughters of Dr. Tomas Wheelright, a British doctor, enrolled at the Pensionnat, they also tried to make friends with the sisters. They liked Charlotte, but could not invite her on excursions or for home visits because it mean they would have to invite Emily and she would ruin the occasion. The eldest Wheelwright daughter, Laetitia, who became a friend and correspondent of Charlotte later in life, wrote that Emily “taught my three youngest sisters music for four months to my annoyance, as she would only take them in their play hours, so as not to curtail her own school hours, naturally causing tears to small children…”
The one exception to the bad opinion of Emily came from Louise de Bassompierre, a 16-year-old girl who found Emily more sympathetic, kinder and more approachable than Charlotte. Emily gave this Belgian girl a signed pencil drawing of a damaged fir-tree.
Studying music she became fonder of piano arrangements of symphonies. She concentrated on pieces by Beethoven, Gluck, and Handel.
Madame Heger proposed to the sisters that they stay on an additional half year, offering them teaching posts in exchange for free board and education. Such a prospect did not please Emily, she became more withdrawn, wouldn’t eat, didn’t sleep properly and grew more and more weak and ill, wrote Charlotte in a letter.
After learning of the death of a friend’s sister and visiting the grave, and then learning that their Aunt Branwell was seriously ill, and the following day getting word that she had died, both girls knew it was their duty to return home to Haworth. Emily was happy to be back in Yorkshire and resume her old role as housekeeper. Aunt Branwell left a small amount of money to her nieces.
On Thursday, July 30, 1845 Emily wrote another Diary Paper, which summer up various events.
“My birthday-showery-breezy-cool- I am twenty-seven years old today – this morning Anne and I opened the papers we wrote 4 years since on my twenty-third birthday– this paper we intend, if all be well, to open on my 30th three years hence in 1848, since the 1841 paper, the following events have taken place.
“Our school scheme has been abandoned and instead Charlotte and I went to Brussels on the 8th of February 1832. Branwell left his place at Luddenden Foot. C and I returned from Brussels November 8 1842 in consequence of aunt’s death – Charlotte returned to Brussels the same month and after staying a year came back again on New Year’s Day 1844. Anne left her situation at Thorp Green of her own accord – June 1845 Branwell left – July 1845.
“Anne and I went our first long journey by ourselves together – leaving Home on the 30th of June – Monday sleeping at York – returning to Keighley Tuesday evening sleeping there and walking home on Wednesday morning – thought the weather was broken, we enjoyed ourselves very much except during a few hours at Bradford…
“I should have mentioned that last year the school scheme was revived in full vigor – we had prospectuses printed, dispatched letters to all acquaintances imparting our plans and did our little all – but it was found no go – now I don’t desire a school at all and none of us have any great longing for it. We have cash enough for our present wants with a prospect of accumulation – we are all in decent health – only that papa has a complaint in his eyes and with the exception of B who I hope will be better and do better hereafter. I am quite contented for myself – not as idle as formerly, altogether as hearty and having learnt to make the most of the present and hope for the future with less fidgetiness than I cannot do all I wish – seldom or ever troubled with nothing to do, and merely desiring that everybody could be as comfortable as myself and as undesponding and then we should have a very tolerable world of it.
“…We are now all at home and likely to be there some time …. I must hurry off now to my taking and ironing I have plenty of work on hands and writing and am altogether full of business with best wishes for the whole House till 1848 July 20th and as much longer as maybe I conclude. E.J. Bronte.”
(I’d like to make a few comments about these diary entries. One being that frequently Emily does not separate her sentences with a period. They run on. Rather like hearing her own voice. She notes that even though the school that they had planned to open didn’t materialize, they had sufficient cash for their wants. She is frank in describing her attitude towards life – to make the most of the present and hope for the future with less fidgetiness. And she notes she cannot do all that would wish.)
In 1844 Emily recopied poems she had written and created two notebooks. One was labeled “Gondal Poems”, the other unlabeled.
In the autumn of 1845 these notebooks were discovered by Charlotte who thought the verses were unlike any she had seen flow from a woman’s pen. She insisted they be published. At first Emily was furious at the invasion of her privacy and refuses, but when her sister Anne brought out her own manuscripts and revealed that she, too, had been writing in secret, she changed her mind.
The sisters’ poems, 62 in all, were published in 1846 in one volume titled “Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.” Aylott and Jones agreed to print the Bells’ book of poems, for payment of thirty-one pounds, ten shillings.
As we know, by using male names they hoped to overcome the prejudice about women writers. Even though women had been publishing novels, poetry, and nonfiction for a century there was still controversy about whether women should write. Only two copies of the book were sold. Charlotte had written about risking everything for love in “Passion.”
Some have won a wild delight,
By daring wilder sorrow:
Could I gain they love to-night,
I’d hazard death to-morrow.
A poem by Emily titled “Remembrance” to an imaginary lost love read”
Cold in the earth – and the deep snow piled above thee,
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
Severed at last by Time’s all-severing wave?
In 1847 Emily published her novel Wuthering Heights, under the name of Ellis Bell, as two volumes of a three-volume set (the last volume being Agnes Grey, by her sister Anne).
When it first came out Wuthering Heights received mixed reviews and was often condemned for its portrayal of amoral passion. The book subsequently became an English literary classic. In 1850, several years after Emily’s death, Charlotte edited and published Wuthering Heights as a stand-alone novel under Emily’s real name.
The title comes from a word that the locals used when the air was in an uproar and rainy squalls blew over the Yorkshire moors. This novel is said to bear similarities to Emily as a person. The housekeeper Nelly Dean is well-read and her role is similar to that of Emily’s life in Haworth. The anorexia of Catherine can be likened to that of Emily and her siblings who do not eat when upset.
Some skeptics maintained that the book was written by her brother Branwell, on the grounds that no woman from such circumscribed life could have written such a passionate story. But the main theme is not passion, it is one of revenge. It follows the life of Heathcliff, from about 7 years old to his death in his late thirties.
With that one story Emily has been praised for the strength of her vivid descriptions, her ability to portray the complexities of human emotions to the ordinary reader. Wuthering Heights has been described as a notable exception to the general pattern of Victorian novels. Its techniques and view of life, its disregard of society and of social and moral conventions, are said to have more in common with mid-century American fiction than with the English.
Branwell became addicted to alcohol and drugs, and died when he was 31 in September 1848. Emily fell ill during his funeral and went into a decline. She refused medical help and suggested remedies, saying she would have “no poisoning doctor” near her. In November 1848 she had difficulty in breathing and suffered pains in her chest, according to Charlotte.
Emily eventually died of tuberculosis on 19 December, 1848. She was only 30 years old. As I mentioned in Charlotte’s lecture, tuberculosis was rampant in England and Europe at that time. Probably nothing could have been done for Emily. She was interred in the family vault at the Church of St. Michel and All Angels, in Haworth, West Yorkshire.
Her sister Anne also became ill with tuberculosis and died some five months later on May 28, 1849.
I found that Emily’s novel, Wuthering Heights, requires a lot of concentration on the part of the reader. According to a summary that I saw on the internet it is a revenge story covering the life of Heathcliff, a mysterious gypsy-like boy who is adopted at the age of 7 and dies in his late thirties.
The story begins with a Mr. Lockwood, a rich man being snowed in at the farmhouse of Mr. Heathcliff, and having his curiosity aroused by the inhabitants. Mr. Heathcliff appears to be a gentleman but his manners and speech suggest otherwise. The mistress of the house is in her late teens, an attractive but reserved woman, and there is a young man who may be one of the family although he dresses and talks like a servant.
When Mr. Lockwood returns to the house that he has rented, he learns from the housekeeper that the Earnshaw couple had lived at Wuthering Heights with their children Hindley, a boy of 14, and Catherine who was 6. Mr. Earnshaw had adopted a young homeless boy during his travels to Liverpool, and named him Heathcliff.
Earnshaw’s son Hindley resents the newcomer, but Catherine grows attached to him and they spend much time together. Hindley is sent away to college but returns three years later with his wife Frances when Mr. Earnshaw dies. Hindley now becomes master of Wuthering Heights and forces Heathcliff to become a servant, no longer treated like a member of the family.
A few months after Hindley’s return Heathcliff and Catherine go over to Thrushcross Grange to spy on Edgar and Isabella Linton, the children who live there. They are seen and Heathcliff is sent back home, but Catherine is welcomed into the house. When she returns to her own home she has changed, acts now as a lady and laughs at Heathcliff’s unkempt appearance.
He dresses up to impress her when the Linton’s visit, but Edgar makes fun of him and Heathcliff is locked in the attic.
The following year Frances, Hindley’s wife, gives birth to a child that is called Hareton. Frances dies sometime later and Hindley takes to drink.
(You can understand by the similarity of names beginning with H how it might be difficult to keep track of the characters. Modern day writers are told to use different letters of the alphabet for the names to avoid confusion.)
Catherine has by now become close friends with Edgar, and ignores Heathcliff. She tells the housekeeper that Edgar has asked her to marry him and while she has accepted him she does not love him. She loves Heathcliff but because of his lack of social standing and education she feels she cannot marry him.
Heathcliff overhears part of this conversation and so he runs away. After three years Edgar and Catherine get married. Six months later Heathcliff returns as a gentleman, having acquired riches. Catherine is delighted to see him. And so is Edgar’s sister, Isabella who is now 18 years old. She falls madly in love with Heathcliff, seeing him as a romantic hero. He despises her but encourages the infatuation, seeing it as a chance for revenge on Edgar. He embraces Isabella one day when at the Grange, then argues with Edgar, and Catherine locks herself into her room and falls ill.
Meanwhile Heathcliff has been staying at Wuthering Heights, gambling with Hindley and teaching the child Hareton, bad habits. Hindley mortgages the farmhouse to Heathcliff to repay his debts.
While Catherine is ill, Heathcliff elopes with Isabella, and Edgar disowns his sister. A few months later Heathcliff and Isabella return to Wuthering Heights. With the aid of the housekeeper Heathcliff visits Catherine, who gives birth to a daughter the day after their meeting.
If you read the rest of the story you will learn how it turns out for Catherine, Cathy, Isabella, Hindley, Heathcliff, Linton, Hareton, and Mr. Lockwood.
It is a very Victorian tale, a story within a story, because we learn about events from Ellen, the housekeeper, after they have taken place.
As I mentioned earlier, Branwell Bronte was the only boy in the family. He was the fourth child to be born and was about four years old when his mother died. He received no formal education but is said to have been a capable scholar. He participated in the writing of the Gondal stories. When he was 19 he was proposed as a freemason and later became secretary of the Lodge. From June 1838 to May 1839 he worked as a portrait painter in Bradford, Yorkshire. He was dismissed from his job as clerk in charge of the Luddenden Foot station because of a deficit in the station accounts. Said to be attributed to his incompetence in keeping records rather than theft. He went downhill physically and mentally because he was addicted to drink and opium. He died of chronic bronchitis and consumption.
Haworth is a hilltop village not far from Bradford in West Yorkshire. In the 1970s it drew about a quarter of a million visitors every year but in 2012 the number was down to 75,000. It is probably easier to reach by car than by train. Haworth is said to remain pretty much like it was 100 years ago. It has old cottages, tea rooms, bookshops, and a cobbled street with a small card shop that has been in the same family since 1652 which also functions as a post office. According to a report by Daphne Merkin published in the New York Times, March 18, 2012, she first visited the place more than 30 years ago, and then returned early in March because of a resurgence of interest in the Bronte sisters.
There was a film remake of “Jane Eyre” in 2012 and a new version of Emily’s “Wuthering Heights” in 2013. The Bronte Parsonage Museum is said to have a bare, slightly scrubbed look. The rooms have been decorated in the period of the Brontes; the original sofa that Emily is thought to have died on is in the dining room. So is Anne’s art box, a pair of Charlotte’s white stocking and several of her almost child-size dresses. She was said to be less than five feet tall.
About a mile and a half from the museum is a ruined hilltop farm that is supposed to have provided the setting for the Earnshaw house in “Wuthering Heights.” In 1956 Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes visited here and both wrote poems about it.
A buddy of mine has two tickets for the 2017 Super bowl. Box seats plus airfares, accommodation, etc., but he didn't realize when he bought them that this is going to be on the same day as his wedding - so he can't go. If you're interested and want to go instead of him, it's at St Peter's Church in Osborne Park, Baltimore at 5pm. Her name's Louise. She will be the one in the white dress.
“No more things should be presumed to exist than are absolutely necessary.”
By Joan Leotta
What did you see little woodchuck?
How many days can the woodchuck, chuck?
How many more days of winter?
Groundhog Day will soon be here
We hope for sun, to feel spring near.
Yet, my friend not matter what you say,
We resumed the lookout schedule at day-break the next morning. That afternoon, Pablo alerted me that an old Ford pickup was driving up the trail from the west. We watched as the driver expertly maneuvered through the switchbacks and the ruts up the steep trail. An hour and a half later, it pulled off the trail onto the level area beside the road.
Since Pablo knew Margot, we decided that he would make his presence known first. I stayed out of sight because we had no way to chase her down if she spotted me and took off in the truck.
Margot stepped out of the pickup, took out binoculars and began to scan the area around where she had parked. She spotted Pablo as soon as he appeared above the low cliff. I was watching, and noted that she was displeased to see Pablo. She seemed about to get back into the pickup and drive off. They met, shook hands and had a brief conversation. I saw her shake her head twice. After a few minutes, Pablo pointed in my direction. This really upset her and she got back into the truck. He stood by the door, apparently trying to dissuade her from driving off. He motioned for me to come. I hurried up the steep mountainside to where they waited.
Margot’s backcountry travels had diminished her attractiveness. Her hair was stuffed under a floppy hat, she wasn’t wearing makeup and she hadn’t had a bath in days. She was wearing an old safari jacket, hiking pants and shoes. When I approached them, Pablo introduced me. When she heard my name, she looked perplexed.
“I have heard of you,” she said. “But I can’t remember where it was. I remember it because your name is unusual.”
“I’m not famous,” I replied. “Was it about a case in South Africa?” I asked.
“No, it wasn’t anything about business. I’ve been somewhere where your name came up in a conversation.”
“It had to be in North Carolina.”
“I’ve never been to North Carolina.” She wrinkled her brow thinking. “It was in Chile,” she said.
“I don’t know anybody in Chile except Pablo. I can’t imagine that anybody in Chile would know me.”
“I’ve never heard of a man named Hammer anywhere else.”
“Maybe there are two,” I suggested.
She changed the subject. “Pablo tells me that you were sent to take me back to London.”
“Those are my orders.”
“Who gave you those orders?”
She looked away. “Why does he care where I am or what I’m doing?”
“He must care a lot because he is spending a fortune to get you back home safe.”
“I don’t have a home. My home was murdered in cold blood.”
“I want to finish what I came to do.”
“I’ll help you. Then escort you home.”
She was astonished. “You! Help me!”
“That’s what I said.”
“I know nothing about you. Are you proficient? Can you kill in cold blood? You might be a klutz and get us both caught.”
“I might. But I haven’t been caught so far.”
“Who do you work for?”
“Phoebus Delius is my business partner.”
That got her attention. “You know Phoebus?”
“You’re an American, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, I am.”
“You don’t work for the CIA or somebody like that?”
“Did Clover order you to help me?”
“No, he didn’t.”
“Why did he send you instead of one of his men?”
“He thinks somebody outed you and he didn’t want to take a chance. Since I work for Phoebus, he knew we were clean.”
“Two of my partners were sent to other locations to look for you.”
“Who are they?”
“Dave Quigley and Jack Kane.”
“I’ve heard of Kane. He shot a helicopter down with a hunting rifle in South Africa.”
“I was with him when he did it.”
“I’d like to hear how he did that,” she said with interest.
“Then why don’t you join Pablo and me while you wait for your contact day after tomorrow.”
“How did you find out about that?”
“An informer at Chosica told Oscar Aguilera and me.”
She frowned. “How did the informer know this?”
“He wouldn’t tell us where he heard it.”
She stopped and looked away. “Some people talk too much.”
“Yes, they do,” I agreed.
She changed the subject. “Have you got rations?”
“MREs,” Pablo told her.
She got out of the truck. “Do you two have a camp?”
“Right over the cliff,” I replied.
She smiled for the first time. “I need to rest. Some armed, trustworthy company would be nice. I haven’t slept for twenty-seven hours.”
“You are welcome to join us,” I replied.
“Then I accept your gracious hospitality, gov’nuh,” she said with a grin.
I had won.
“Where can we hide the truck?” she asked.
“You can drive down to the camp where it can’t be seen from the road.”
“Pablo, would you mind? I’m too beat to do anything serious. I might drive it off the mountain.”
Pablo got into the pickup, started it and drove off.
“Phoebus’ sister has a place north of Santiago,” Margot said. “She had a party there for two friends a few months ago and I was a guest.” She paused as if she was thinking about something. “That’s where I heard your name. Alonia and a woman named Rachel were telling another guest that you were Alonia’s fiancé.”
So, Alonia promoted me to fiancé without telling me about it, although, according to her family traditions, we are already married.
I’ve known all along how assertive she is. Now I learn more about how much she takes for granted. I can’t say that I object.
Margot followed me down the slope to the little plateau we called home. It was about fifty feet wide and a hundred feet long. The slope Pablo drove down was pretty aggressive and I hoped the two-wheel-drive pickup would make it back up when it came time to leave.
After learning about my association with Phoebus, Margot became friendly and relaxed around us. Pablo and I helped her unload her gear and set up her tent. Margot was a proficient outdoorswoman. She expertly set up her living space and everything was arranged in a particular way. A long canvas case, that I took to be the one with her rifle, was easily accessible. She also had a Beretta 92F and a Sten gun. This aristocratic lady had a powerful sting!
When she saw our water jugs, she offered to trade a case of her bottled water for one of our jugs.
“I need a bath,” she explained.
“Si Señora,” Pablo agreed.
Then she removed a galvanized tub from the pickup, poured water in it and set it on her camp stove to heat up.
Meanwhile, Pablo brought out the MREs so we could choose our dinner entrée. After Margot got her stove fired up, she came over and chose one for herself.
“Do you like these?” I asked.
“Yes, I do. They are packed with nutrients and they are tasty.”
“Not many American G.I.s would agree with that,” I said.
“That’s because they haven’t eaten anybody else’s field rations, or eaten off the land. American troops are the best fed in the world,” she replied. “What did Kane use to shoot down the helicopter?”
“A Purdey .375 H&H shooting solids. He shot the transmission gears to the main rotor.”
“How many shots?”
“That was good shooting.”
“It helped me a lot. I was twenty meters from the chopper.”
“I was the bait that day.”
Margot laughed out loud. “You Americans and your deadpan way of expressing yourselves.”
Pablo laughed, too.
“Are you like this with Alonia?” Margot asked.
“What you see is what Alonia sees.”
She paused as if she was studying me. “You’re probably the only man who has behaved normally around Alonia.”
“That’s what she says.”
“How do you deal with her when she is in her demanding moods?”
“I tell her no.”
“I thought Alonia was more congenial when I saw her last. She’s finally found a real man instead of those lovesick puppets who chase after her.”
I couldn’t think of much of a response to that. “We get along.”
“I’m sure you do,” she said.
She finished her meal and cleaned up her trash. “Do you post a watch?” she asked.
“Yeah. I’m first watch tonight.”
“It is comforting to be around professionals who don’t have to be told to put out guards.”
“We’ll watch. Get some rest,” I said.
“Thank you. I’ll take a watch tomorrow.”
She went to her tent. We heard sloshing water while she bathed. Then things got quiet until we heard her snore.
Pablo bedded down, and soon he, too, was snoring away. Here I was in the most desolate place I could imagine with the most sought after woman in South America.
I shouldered my rifle, put a radio and phone in my pocket and hiked up to the watch location. The moon came out and its light created an eerie scene. I could see for miles. I didn’t see a single light or lamp in any direction. Why in the world did Margot agree to meet a stranger in this desolate place?
Margot was up at the crack of dawn, rummaging around in the MRE boxes for breakfast. I guessed she hadn’t eaten much during her twenty-seven hours without sleep. She looked better after she had a bath and wearing clean clothes. Her auburn hair was shoulder length and she tied it behind her head. Today she looked more like the photograph Clover had given us.
I was back on watch in position up the slope behind the bushes. I watched her while she heated coffee and warmed the food pack. She looked for me. I stood up and waved when she looked up the mountain. She waved back and smiled good morning.
After she ate, she cleaned up and dumped the trash in the trash hole Pablo had dug two days ago. She looked into our tent where Pablo was still asleep. Then she shouldered the Sten gun and came up the mountain to where I was.
“Good morning, Hammer,” she said.
“You were on watch when I went to bed.”
“We’re four on and four off. Pablo watched from midnight to four.”
“I’m ready to take a shift,” she said.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I feel much better after a night’s sleep without having to worry about being attacked while I slept.”
“I’m sure Pablo will appreciate the extra sleep.”
“I can relieve you now, if you like.”
“Naw. I’d rather keep to the schedule. You can take over at eight.”
She laughed. “You are so methodical.”
“Yeah, I am.”
“Alonia is impetuous. You are just the opposite, She must be fascinated by you. You would have told her the same thing you just told me, wouldn’t you?”
“What’s unusual about that? A schedule is a schedule.”
“I would love to be a fly on the wall when you and Alonia talk.”
I grinned. “She likes me the way I am.”
“I read somewhere that you caused a ruckus in Paris last year. I believe they called you Alonia’s bodyguard.”
“Some guy tried to take my picture and I threw his camera into the river.”
“Why did you do that?”
“Alonia is sick of publicity and she has tried to keep me out of the limelight.”
“Alonia has had a lot of press over the years. Most of it was about her romantic escapades.” She watched me to see my reaction.
“She’s tired of all the media attention.” I changed the subject. “Who are you meeting tomorrow?”
“A man named Dan Allen.”
“What’s he got to offer?”
“He said he knows where Raul Fuente is hiding.”
“Fuente is on my list too.”
“He planned my parents’ murder.”
“Which one of you chose to meet here?” I asked.
“He did. If you’re wondering why I agreed to meet here instead of closer to civilization, I avoid being around people as much as I can. He said he didn’t want anybody to know he was meeting me.”
“Is he an American?”
“Yes. He used to do contract work for the CIA.”
“Could this be a CIA operation?”
“I don’t think so. He was fired because he botched an operation. They thought he had warned their target.”
“So, he’s buyable.”
“Yes, he is.”
“There’s a million American dollars on your head.”
“I know that.”
“Do you trust him?”
“No. But he needs money and I’m paying him for information.”
“Somebody else might be paying him more?”
“I’ve considered that and I will be on my guard.”
“I recommend that one of us be with you when you meet him.”
“He expects me to be alone.”
“Then one of us had better have him in our sights.”
“I would appreciate that.”
Pablo emerged from the tent, looked our way and waved.
“I’ll go down to tell Pablo I’ll take the next watch,” she said.
I watched her maneuver gracefully down the steep slope. She moved about these rocks like a mountain goat. I detected a deep sadness in her, no doubt because the family she loved had been murdered. She seemed to like Alonia. They were intellectually similar. Both were headstrong women who were used to getting their way. But they had chosen wildly different professions.
Sybil Austin Skakle
Automobiles play roles in our lives. I have vivid and varied memories of cars, those known and owned. They included several models of Chrysler, of Ford, of General Motors, and I once owned a Cimarron- Cadillac, the neatest of them all. My latest is a blue 200 Chrysler. However, one that came into our possession due to our dire need on a weekend at the end of 1964 had the most character.
Our oldest son, Eddie, whose legal name is Donald Edmund Skakle, Jr. had reached his 16th birthday in July and was eager to have the car to himself. We had put him off until we renewed our car insurance in November, for the increase in premium was going to stretch our budget. And, we supposed the extra months driving with one of us would help his reaction time and experience.
Now, we were back from Christmas vacation with Don’s parents and it was the week end before the New Year. Eddie begged to have our only car for a night. He had driven on our trip to Florida and we conceded, cautioning him to stay in Chapel Hill.
Well, our car did not come home that night. Eddie, following a friend to Durham, took a corner too sharply. One wheel broke completely off the axle of the car. We would not hope for repairs until after the end of the year.
We had no bus service in 1964 and Severin Street was a long walk to Woollen Gymnasium for Don. New Year’s 1965 left the Skakle Family without transportation except for one bicycle.
Earl Bush, our neighbor, owned a Chevrolet station wagon of an unknown vintage, which he loaned Don, temporarily. Eventually, he sold the worn vehicle to Don for $150.00. We finally became a two car family, fifteen years after our first purchase of a 1949 black Ford Mainline, after Don graduated from Carolina. We dubbed our newest acquisition The Bucket of Bolts.
Don took the old car to work, loading all his tennis stuff in the back of it. Every time he pulled into a gas station for gas he added a quart of oil, as well. Fifteen years after our first car, a black 1950 black Ford Mainline, I had access to a car to be used at will to do my chores and transport Eddie to Pony League, Andy to Little League, and Cliff to sandlot ball, and all those other activities that boys do.
Don drove that relic for a number of years. Finally, he decided that he would get a car to replace it. He drove it to Greensboro, to see if he could trade it. My sister’s husband, Curtis Newton worked for a Chrysler dealership there. So, Don did and was given at least 150 dollars on a trade. The new car was a navy blue, Plymouth Fury.
Later, Curt told us what happened to our prize. A High Point man came in a showed interest in the old Chevrolet. However, he expressed doubt if it he could drive it back to High Point. Curt told him, “Well, the man who turned it in drove it from Chapel Hill.”
So, the man decided to buy it, probably for parts. Maybe he hoped to restore it. We don’t know what he paid for it, probably $150.00.
“Here lies the body of D.R.M. White, who stuck out his left hand but turned to the right.” He saw this on a tombstone in the cemetery of the small village in East Anglia where they were staying. He was intrigued partly because he was amazed to see that the Church Parish had allowed this inscription but mainly because he was so glad to see that he was not the only one stupid enough to have done this! Because that was exactly what he had also done last year. Of course, he was not killed like poor old
D.R.M. White but it had marked the demise of his keep fit regime and the cycling to work craze. Partly because he had been scared witless but mainly because he had broken his leg.
D.R.M. White fired his imagination. He decided to try and find out exactly who the hapless D.R.M. was (why no full names – Derek, Donald, David, Dennis?) and what had happened to him. It was going to be his Christmas holiday project to stop him from going stir crazy visiting the old dears the wife was dragging him out to. The trip to East Anglia had been her idea. She had a lot of relations in the area and thought it was a nice idea to visit them all before Christmas and since they were all quite ancient and living in various nursing and care homes she had booked them in some dull B &
B. They had her Aunt Ethel with them for whom he did not care very much and who, after a catastrophic event in Prague, which had not been his fault, absolutely hated him. Consequently they did not make for very happy travel companions. Anyhow, old D.R.M. was an absolute gift. He could leave the wife and Ethel scuttling about the countryside visiting the various aunties and uncles and cousins and he was left in peace to research the unfortunate D.R.M. White.
He started with the Church records and spent a very pleasant morning rootling through the records and talking to the vicar who turned out to be a lovely old fellow who offered him coffee and big slabs of home-made Victoria sponge cake baked by his housekeeper. Sadly, though, no record of D.R.M. White was found. None at all. The vicar was surprised. ‘Buried in the graveyard, you say? Then he must be in here.
He must.’ But after going through all the records once again he admitted defeat and went out with him to the grave. He stood there for a while deep in thought scratching his head. Then he looked up and said: “Well. I am stumped. I have no idea how this got here.”
The next line of action was the local newspaper. The vicar, who by now was as intrigued as he was, came with him. It was a bit tricky as there was no date on the gravestone but they persuaded the middle aged lady at the desk to let them go through the records from yesterday backwards. The fact that the vicar was with him helped enormously as the middle aged lady, who was incidentally also called Ethel, ( well nobody is perfect) was a big church goer. He thought perhaps she fancied the vicar but whatever, they found themselves in the back office behind one of those little machines that rolled page after page of back numbers. After about 3 hours he left the vicar going cross-eyed and went out to get some paninis (yes really, this little one horse town boasted a café that did paninis that were only just edible and lattes that were only just drinkable). When he got back the vicar had got to December 2012. He sat down with their lunches (next to a big laminated sign that said: ‘no food and drink to be consumed on these premises’) and took over.
And there it was. Bingo! 12 December 2012. An unknown delivery rider was knocked off his motorbike at 12 minutes past 12. The driver of the lorry that knocked him down swore blind that the rider had indicated left but had gone to the right and therefore right in front of his lorry. He was quoted as saying: ‘I could not do anything. He seemed to have had a dead wish. He just went. Boom.’ The rider had been taken to the nearest hospital – St. Georges – but was DOA. They could not notify his next of kin as he had no papers on him. Nothing whatsoever. No credit cards or driving license or indeed anything to identify him. In his backpack they found 3 unaddressed jiffibags. The bags each contained a book. A Bible, a thesaurus and a copy of Stephen King’s Needfull Things. The police record (when they looked it up) said: One IC one, male, unidentified. The hospital record said: Delivery Rider, Male, White. Both he and the vicar got it in one: Delivery Rider, Male, White.
D.R.M. White. Which leaves the question: Who buried him? Both the hospital and the police have no knowledge or record as to what happened to the body of D.R.M. White. None whatsoever.
He told the wife and Aunt Ethel to take their time over the family visits as his next project was to try and find out who D.R.M. White really was, the significance of his choice of books and who had buried him and put up the grave stone.
P. L. Almanza
Baked Burrito Casserole
1 pound of ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 pack of taco seasoning
1 can refried beans
1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1/2 cup sour cream
1 pack large flour tortillas
2 1/2 cups of shredded Mexican blend cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large skillet, cook the ground beef and onion until the beef is no longer pink and drain.
Add the taco seasoning and refried beans and heat through.
In a separate bowl, blend the mushroom soup with the sour cream. Then spread half of the soup mixture in the bottom of a baking dish.
Add a layer of 3 flour tortillas to the top of the soup mixture. You will need to cut or tear the tortillas and overlap them.
Spread on a layer of the ground beef mixture and top with about a cup of cheese.
Repeat all of these layers and top with the remaining cheese.
Bake for about 20 minutes until cheese is nicely melted.
Butter Pecan Cheesecake
For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
For the pecans:
2 cups pecan halves and pieces
2 tbls unsalted butter
3 tbls granulated sugar
pinch of salt
For the filling:
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
To make the crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter, and mix with a pastry blender, a fork, or your fingers until thoroughly combined. The mixture will be crumbly but should hold together when pinched.
Press the crust mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom or 9-inch springform pan.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
To make the pecans:
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans, sugar, and salt. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the pecans are toasted and the sugar sticks to them (about 7 or 8 minutes). Set aside to cool.
If desired, set aside some of the pecans for garnish. Once cooled, roughly chop the remaining pecans.
To make the filling:
Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until thoroughly combined and smooth.
In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer with a whisk attachment to whip the cream until soft peaks form.
Fold about a third of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Then gently fold in the remaining whipped cream. Stir in the chopped pecans.
Spread the filling evenly in the cooled crust. Garnish as desired. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving (overnight is even better).
Cook’s notes –
*A note about the crust: Shortbread crusts can be temperamental. Be sure your butter is cold and that you’ve measured the ingredients accurately. Avoid dark pans. Don’t over bake.
Easy Healthy Home-Made Ice-Cream
Note: This is a healthy version of ice cream! Four ingredients only... This would also make a great dessert to serve up after dinner.
4 Ingredient Ice Cream
2 bananas, cut into 1-inch slices (frozen)
1/2 cup frozen strawberries, sliced
2 Tbsp Almond Milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1. Place banana slices on a plate, separating each slice. Place slices in freezer for 2 hours (overnight is best).
2. Remove strawberries and bananas from freezer and place in food processor, blend until they are the consistency of soft serve ice cream.
3. Add almond milk (more or less for desired texture) and vanilla and blend until smooth and well-mixed.
4. Transfer ice cream to a freezer container and freeze until solid. You don’t have to wait if fruit is frozen, it will be like soft serve ice cream.
5. Scoop with ice cream scoop and serve.
You can really use any frozen fruit to make this...
Grandmother's Red Velvet Cake
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups cake flour
3 sticks butter, 2 for cake, 1 (softened) for icing
2 oz red food coloring
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 (16 oz) box confectioner’s sugar
1 cup marshmallows, melted
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
Preheat oven to 350°. Beat eggs; add sugar. Mix cocoa and food coloring. Add 2 sticks butter and egg mixture; mix well. Sift together flour and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Blend in vanilla. In a small bowl, combine soda and vinegar and add to mixture. Pour into three 8-inch round greased and floured pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until tests done.
Blend cream cheese and 1 stick softened butter. Add marshmallows and sugar and blend. Fold in coconut and nuts. Spread between layers and on top and sides of cooled cake.
Heavenly Baked Pork Chops
4 boneless Pork chops
4 thinly sliced medium potatoes
1 envelope Lipton onion soup mix
1 can cream of mushroom
1/4 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown pork chops in 1/4 cup oil then drain. Slice potatoes into a medium casserole dish in even layer. Place pork chops over potatoes, combine onion soup mix and cream of mushroom and milk, pour over top of pork chops. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.
Heavenly Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup dark brown sugar (may add up to 1/4 cup more if desired)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup uncooked rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup chocolate chips
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until melted. Remove from the heat.
Add the dark brown sugar and granulated sugar and stir until sugars are incorporated and smooth. Chill the mixture for 10 minutes.
Remove from the refrigerator and stir in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.
Add the flour, oats, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cinnamon and mix together.
Stir in the white chocolate chips and chocolate chips.
Roll by hand into 24 medium-size balls or use a scoop, and place on a light-colored cookie sheet.
Chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and bake for 12 to 14 minutes.
Heavenly Cream Cheese Pound Cake
1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese
1 1/2 cups of butter
3 cups of white sugar
3 cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp of vanilla extract
Cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth in a large bowl then add in the sugar gradually while beating.
Add two eggs at a time while beating then add in the flour and mix to combine. Mix in the vanilla extract.
In a greased and floured 10 inch tube pan, pour the batter and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes in a preheated oven to 325°.
The cream cheese adds an amazing flavor to this incredible pound cake.
Lemon Cream Pie
8 whole graham crackers
3 Tbsp. butter
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
Whipped cream (optional)
Begin by crushing the graham crackers by pulsing them in a food processor or putting them in a large Ziploc baggie and crushing them with a rolling pin or glass jar. Place the graham crumbs in a small bowl and add the butter. Mix until moistened. Press graham mixture into a 9-inch pie plate (do not use a "deep-dish" pie plate) and place it in the fridge until you are ready to fill it.
Mix together the condensed milk and 2 eggs until smooth and creamy. Add lemon juice and zest and beat all till combined. Pour this mixture into the pie crust.
Bake pie in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool your pie completely and then refrigerate for best flavor. After cutting and plating the pie I add a little dollop of whipped cream and a little lemon zest onto each piece.
This recipe is a blend of tangy and spicy flavors and it taste amazingly delicious. It is one of the easiest mutton recipes ever.
1.1 lbs (500 grams) Mutton
1 tsp Turmeric Powder
Salt to taste* optional
2 tbs Oil
Curry Leaves, a handful
2 tbs Roasted Gramdal
1 tbs Fennel Seeds
5 Kashmiri Red Chilli
2 tbs red chilli powder
3 small piece Ginger
6 garlic cloves
Take mutton in a bowl, add in salt* and turmeric powder and mix well.
Leave this to marinate for at least 15 minutes.
Now take a blender, add in all grinding ingredients and make it into a puree by adding some water.
Add this puree to the mutton and mix well. Wash the blender with 1/4 cup of water and pour that over the mutton as well.
Transfer this to a pressure cooker and cook it for 3 whistle, simmer it for 20 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the pressure go all by itself.
Open the pressure cooker and heat again, dry out the mutton.
Once it is dried, heat coconut oil. Add a handful of curry leaves in it. Add in the dried mutton and toss well for 5 minutes until it is well roasted.
Add in gram dal powder and toss again for 10 minutes.
Once the mutton turns golden and well roasted, turn off the heat and serve.
1 cup uncooked rolled oats (instant or regular, I used rolled oats)
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1/2 cup butter or 1/2 cup margarine
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup butter or 1/4 cup margarine, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cream or 3 tablespoons milk
3/4 cup flaked coconut
1/3 cup chopped nuts (optional)
In a shallow bowl soak oats in boiling water for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile proceed by measuring butter and sugars into beater bowl and beating until light.
Beat in eggs and vanilla.
Sift and measure flour, sifting again with the soda and spices.
By this time the oats will be soaked and cool.
Remove beaters from creamed mixture and fold in soaked oats.
Sift flour mixture over and fold in.
Turn in a buttered 9×9″ pan and bake at 350°F for 40-50 minutes.
Mix all the topping ingredients.
Do not remove cake from pan but while still hot spread topping over and put under the broiler until bubbly and tinged with gold.
Where “WWW” means “Wretched Writers Welcome”
The English Department of San Jose State University
Conceived to honor the memory of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton and to encourage unpublished authors who do not have the time to actually write entire books, the contest challenges entrants to compose bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Bulwer was selected as patron of the competition because he opened his novel "Paul Clifford" (1830) with the immortal words, "It was a dark and stormy night." Lytton’s sentence actually parodied the line and went on to make a real sentence of it, but he did originate the line "The pen is mightier than the sword," and the expressions “the almighty dollar” and "the great unwashed." His best known work, one on the book shelves of many of our great-grandparents, is "The Last Days of Pompeii" (1834), an historical novel that has been adapted for film multiple times.
As has happened every year since the contest went public in 1983, thousands of entries poured in not just from the United States and Canada but from such far-flung locales as England, Wales, Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Botswana
Selected 2017 Contest Winners
The Elven city of Losstii faced towering sea cliffs and abutted rolling hills that in the summer were covered with blankets of flowers and in the winter were covered with blankets, because the elves wanted to keep the flowers warm and didn’t know much at all about gardening. —Kat Russo, Loveland, Colorado
The winner of the thirty-fifth Lyttoniad is Kat Russo from picturesque Loveland, Colorado. Kat describes herself as having twenty-six years of experience in covering social awkwardness with humor and stories about her cats. She spends her time working in outdoor retail and at a wildlife rehabilitation center while trying to figure out how to use her art degree.
Grand Panjandrum’s Special Award
Francisco Franco's wife, seen smiling in all those photos with the same big hat on, was actually the brains behind the dictatorship, the concentration camps, torture, the brutal suppression, and so forth, but she was a shy lady, except when she dressed up in the binding closet for Franco, who listened a-quiver to hear what a very bad boy he'd been. — John Holmes, St. Petersburg, Florida
Dishonorable Mentions, Adventure
As Lewiston Creol plummeted down the sheer icy cliff he pondered on the word plummet, which quickly lost its meaning if you said it too much (plummet, plummet, plummet), but his pondering was interrupted by the surface of the water, at which point he ceased to plummet and began to plunge. — Jason Chandler, Saratoga Springs, New York
As he lay dying on the smoke-wreathed battlefield, General Winthrop finally realized the terrible toll the war had taken, and he wondered if the bloodshed had all been for naught as he exhaled his last breath in a sort of "meoooooh," actually very similar to the sound his cat Mister Jingles made when he wanted some food or was doing that thing with the drapes. — Mike Christensen, Washington, DC
Winner, Children’s Literature
Our tale begins in the Arctic, a boy and his dog riding out the blizzard in a windswept cabin, hackles rising as they face down the fearsome bear clawing at the door, courage their spear, fierce loyalty their shield; yes, this is the tale of Hazku, proud chieftain of the northern bears, who makes quick work of these two and spends a pleasant afternoon napping in the cabin. — Jacob Smith, Dallas, Texas
Detective Sam Steel stood at the crime scene staring puzzled at the chalk outline of Ms. Mulgrave's body which was really just a stick figure with a dress, curly hair, boobs, and a smiley face because the police chalk guy had the day off. — Doug Self, Brunswick, Maine
Dishonorable Mentions, Crime/Detective
She walked into my office and brayed, “I want you to put a tail on my husband.” — Steve Lynch, Tucson, Arizona
As hard-boiled detective Max Baxter ate his soft-boiled egg, he thought about the gorgeous dame he'd found last night lying in a pool of her own blood—it being inconvenient to lie in a pool of someone else's blood—and wondered how she liked her eggs.—- Pam Tallman, Huntington Beach, California
Replacing the Human Torch’s fireproof colostomy bag, teaching Iron Man how to use the TV remote, listening to Iceman complain that it’s too cold, searching in vain for the Invisible Woman after she’s wandered away yet again—life isn’t comical as a Marvel Universe hospice nurse. — Dan White, Clarendon Hills, Illinois
Dishonorable Mentions, Fantasy
Vadblad the Bad had known for centuries that impaling his victims before draining their blood was extremely wasteful but somehow he could not stop himself reaching for his spear as he rose from his coffin; bad habits never die. — Ann Wood, Corrales, New Mexico
Winner, Historical Fiction
It was said among the Khalid of the western deserts that a woman should be a hyena in the kitchen, a giraffe in the garden, and a pelican in the bathroom, although nobody now knew what this was supposed to mean. — Lewis Gurran, Wrexham, Wales
Dishonorable Mentions, Historical Fiction
Eleanor often thought when recalling the first Thanksgiving that it would all be so different today if that naked Indian, Squanto, and his friends had not showed up with a pigskin and talked the Pilgrim men into playing that silly game—before the women even had a chance to clear the tables and wash the dishes. — Myra Vanderpool Gormley, University Place, Washington
“Punishing you hurts us more than it does you,” said Mr. and Mrs. Borden who were scolding Lizzie for not taking proper care of her gardening tools (she had again left the lovely new axe she had gotten for her birthday outside on a dark and stormy night), and Lizzie thought: “Yes ... yes, I think it probably shall.” — Herbert Krimmel, Los Angeles, California
I looked up at her breathless “hello,” and knew I could never unsee her Bride of Frankenstein makeup, or the way she filled her clothes; which must have looked good form-fitting a younger, svelter her, but now resembled a sausage skin strained to its limits by a failure of the emergency stop on the filling machine; perhaps a developing grub, whose skin failed to molt, or a Michelin Woman, as imagined by Salvador Dali on acid. — Michael Newton, Vancouver, Washington
Dishonorable Mentions, Horror
Meeting his fiancé’s parents for the first time, Damon felt no fear because she had accepted his marriage proposal, but he still hoped for the parents’ approval, so it felt good that Mr. Dracula shook hands with one hand while his other hand squeezed Damon’s neck and then Mrs. Dracula proceeded to place a gentle kiss on his neck that intensified so much that it probably left a hickey. — Randy Blanton, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Winner, Purple Prose
A sweaty Hector threw off his shirt, passion burning, skin glistening, his deodorant congealed to little chunks ensnared among the matted jungle of his armpits like so many crumbles of blue
Cheese over a bed of sprouts, moistened with a dressing of perspiration, and lustily asked, "Are you as hungry as I am?" to the confused busboy. —Tyson Carele, Rochester, Minnesota
She was the most desired object in the room, not unlike the last deviled egg at an Easter Day potluck— Christine Hamilton, Atlanta, Georgia
She carried her breasts like two dirty diaper pails, the inertia carrying the three of them through one sexless day after another, until fate, blind ass luck, and a common interest in rehabilitating three-legged Peruvian turtles, put them on a collision course for love.— Richard Lozano, Clayton, Missouri
Having just celebrated the union of nuptial bliss with my dearest Vida not six hours before in the lush, green, variant gardens at Saint Benedict’s Cathedral, I watched the rise and swell of her white, wedding dress clad chest as die lay inert—still looking like an unconscious angel descended from the heavenly firmament, even while clutching an empty bottle of Thunderbird, and passed out behind the trash bin of our local liquor store, where our story begins. — Edward Covolo, Menlo Park, California
Dishonorable Mentions, Romance
Rock Hanson, his huge fists bunched and ready for action, stared balefully at the Good Humor man who had let his girlfriend Jannette board the van to ring his bells. — Edward Buhner, Camden, New Jersey
Winner, Science Fiction
Although the public's initial concerns about artificial intelligence and the "internet of things" had been troubling, its eventual ability to embrace those advances only underscored the greatness of America, mused Hoover Upright LXI as he took the oath of office to become the first cordless vacuum cleaner elected to Congress —G. Andrew Lundberg, Los Angeles, California
Dishonorable Mentions, Science Fiction
His pincer strategy had quickly crushed the peace loving Pistachion people of Rigel 7 and had also made short work of the neighbouring Cashewnians of Rigel 8, but something told Space Admiral Rodgers that the dreaded Macadamians were going to be a far harder nut to crack. —Phillip Davies, Cardiff, Wales
Pablo wrapped his arms around his dying Herman—the drone strike intended for cartel kingpin Miguel “El Jefe” Guzman had landed off-course, disintegrating Pablo’s casa—and as his fraternal soul mate’s life ebbed in his clutches, Pablo wailed heavenward, “He ain’t Jefe .., he’s my brother!” —Peter S. Bjorkman, Rocklin, California
Dishonorable Mentions, Vile Puns
She continued to work in the sandpaper factory, which was in a gritty part of town, even though her abrasive boss was wearing her down because she needed to take off the rough edges of her life and she needed the money for finishing school.—Willard Green, Saginaw, Michigan
Lois was essentially a tragic case, with her penchant for duck-hunting gamekeepers who inevitably departed with a feather in their cap, whilst she was left feeling down and picking up the bill. —Anita Bowden, Manchester, England
Baking under the blazing New Mexico sun as he stood in the dusty street outside the saloon, Old West certified public accountant Arthur W. Fetterman Jr. hovered his sweaty hand over the butt of his borrowed six-gun, advanced another reluctant step toward famed gunfighter John Wesley Hardin and wondered for the hundredth time what had possessed him to correct the man’s use of "supposedly" during their poker game. —Bill White Allentown, Pennsylvania
Winner, Dark and Stormy Night Category
It was a dark and stormy night, the wind at the windows demanded admittance, the rain beat upon the towers as if it and the very starry ceiling seemed as if it would collapse upon us from the sheer weight of the gloom; while from behind the bedchamber doors as well came frightful shrieks, but since my mother was in there with her boyfriend, I didn’t want to interrupt them just then. —Gregory Payne, Norwalk, Connecticut
Dishonorable Mentions, Dark and Stormy Night Category
It was a dark and stormy apocalypse, as zombie eruptions went, and now Misty Backbone found herself leading a confused band of survivors in a quest to reach humanity’s last bastion of intelligent thought, located in a pale mansion set back discreetly from Pennsylvania Avenue. —Peter Moss, Belfast, Northern Ireland
During sex, Carl, the adult son of a funeral home director, always insisted that his wife lie motionless with eyes closed, and while this always brought back memories of his teenage years, Carl still wished that Yankee Candles made a scent that smelled like embalming fluid. —Randy Blanton, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Jennifer Danford’s eye-popping body was known all over Hermann, the “sausage-making capitol of Missouri,” the county seat of Gasconade County, and one-time home of St. Louis Cardinals manager Ken Boyer (1932-82), who did not live long enough to see Jennifer’s body. —Craig Marshall Smith, Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Reprinted by permission: There are 17 pages of these. See the rest online at: http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/2017win.html
“The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity.” George Carlin
By Joan Leotta
January is the month
of new beginnings,
that each day
dawns fresh with possibilities.
This piece has nothing to do with winter. At least not directly. Okay, the American Power Boat Association (APBA) “takes the winter off” because winter water is either too cold or too solid in most of North America to support powerboat racing. The APBA calendar year begins on 1 November and ends on Hallowe’en, 31 October, for purely practical reasons.
My first APBA race was in August 1960 at Alexandria Bay, New York, right in the main shipping channel of the Saint Lawrence Seaway. It was in the middle of a proverbial “three-day blow”, and the channel water was more than just a turmoil. It consisted of four-foot whitecaps, more than daunting for even twenty-five or thirty-foot inboard cruisers and launches. The town fathers could’ve sited the outboard regatta in either the Upper or Lower Town Bays, but they wanted maximum exposure “right out front” in the main channel . . . gambling on (and losing a sucker bet!) for a calm afternoon.
The first race of the day was for the little 10-1/2-foot A-Stock Hydroplanes with 7-1/2-horse Mercury engines on them. On a good day in good water, these would race one another at about 50 miles-an-hour on the straight-aways. Each race consisted of two three-lap heats, and the winner of the overall race was according to points scored by finish in each of the two heats: 400 points for 1st, 300 for 2nd; 225 for 3rd, 127 for 4th, and so on down through 12th place.
During the first heat of A-Stock Hydroplane, three of the boats swamped in the rough water. One rig – both boat and engine – went right down to the bottom in 100+ feet of water and was never recovered. The driver survived because of his mandatory flotation jacket.
When the twelve-gage blank went off in Fisher’s Landing Racing Club’s Winchester signal cannon to start the five-minute warm-up period for the second heat of A-Stock Hydroplane, none of those drivers answered its call to go out onto the race course.
The next heat was for the race I entered: B-Utility, or “B-Stock Runabout”, its present name. The boats are runabouts, not hydroplanes, and hence marginally more seaworthy. My boat was eleven feet long, still really tiny for the water conditions. I had a hard time even getting the rig on plane and up to racing speed in the wind. I started in last place and limped along just trying to stay afloat and right-side-up for 2-1/2 of the three laps and then pulled off the course into the pits, almost swamped. I didn’t even try for the second heat. So my debut race was a disaster.
I was humiliated. While I was then just a novice racer, I was an “old hand” driving boats – and even my race boat in practice – on the Saint Lawrence River. That first race was my last until 1966, when I debuted as an “alky” hydroplane race-driver at the monumental Miami Marine Stadium.
I raced steadily from 1966 until the final APBA-scheduled race in October at Avon Park, Florida in 1986. I was then 47 and needed to stop. I wasn’t a champion, but I’d won my fair share and was a respected (maybe even a feared) competitor. I was never a consummate driver, but I was good enough, and I was a superior engine mechanic and innovator. That kept me going well in spite of new engine technology coming against me from Japan. But by 1987, the handwriting was on the wall, and my growing family considerations dictated that I stop . . . at least for almost 30 years.
Powerboat racing probably began in about 1900 when two or more boat drivers drew abreast of one another and decided willy-nilly to find out who was the fastest. By 1903, the APBA started as an organization and began organizing and sanctioning powerboat races. “Sanction” is a tricky word: it can mean either “prohibition of” or “organized support for.” APBA was and continues to be an organizer and supporter, the primary one in USA, and the one organization affiliated with the international Union of International Motorboating (UIM), headquartered in Belgium. Several other USA outboard-racing national organizations came and went over the years: Tennessee’s National Outboard Association (NOA), the American Outboard Federation (AOF), and the Midwest’s currently viable National Boat Racing Association (NBRA). Canada has its hoary Canadian Boating Federation (CBF), which co-sanctions several regattas with APBA each year along the Canada-USA border.
APBA evolved several divisions, or categories, of racing powerboats. At the top are the Unlimited Inboards, the “Thunder Boats”, big hydroplanes powered by mighty aircraft engines, both V-12 piston engines and turbine engines from helicopters. Then we have the numerous classes of limited Inboards, limited in each class by engine size and the state of engine modification . . . quite similar to the class structure in auto racing. And we have Offshore ocean racers and Outboard Performance Craft (OPC) boats, many of which are tunnel hulls. The smaller outboard racers comprise the Stock division, the Modified division, and the PRO (Professional Racing Outboard) division. The PRO division is the outgrowth of the original outboard racing, which before World War Two was the only kind of outboard racing, and in which pre-war factory sponsorship was heavily involved.
Although I stopped racing – I thought for good – at age 47 in October 1986. I am now once again a registered race-boat driver. I have been since 2014.
This foolishness began with a bucket-list item: building my own boat. During the many years when I actively raced in earnest, I always needed to go screaming off into the wilderness to find someone who could fix my boat if ever it got hurt. While I was a competent engine mechanic, I was a klutz in any woodworking shop.
My last work-for-pay job before utter retirement changed that. I apprenticed on a crew that framed new houses, acquiring more-than-rudimentary carpentry skill.
In the winter of 2013 I decided to tackle that big boat-building bucket-list item. By midsummer, Foo-Ling was complete and ready to run. She is a 1956-design, eleven-foot B Stock Runabout quite similar to my first race boat, the unnamed ParCraft runabout that I nearly swamped at Alexandria Bay in August 1960.
The following spring (2014) I dragged my final race boat out of storage. It was broken, but I’d stored the boat in three different houses since I quit racing it in 1986. While I never named this boat, I call it the BS Hydro, after a mentor in Florida, Buddy Smith, who built this one-off design probably in 1980-’81. The boat is unique. Its most singular feature is its sixteen-inch-wide tunnel running the full length of its bottom. This tunnel is in addition to the boat’s sponsors, which make the boat a more nearly traditional three-point hydroplane.
What have I learned? It’s harder to repair a broken boat than it is to build a new one from scratch. And 90-plus miles an hour two inches over the water is a whole lot more frightening now that it was when I was only 47. Back then it was simply a gut rush
Submitted by Ron Bremer
· I don’t have a big ego. I’m way too cool for that.
· I bought myself a Life Alert bracelet so if I ever get a life, I’ll be notified immediately.
· If all your problems are behind you, you might be a school bus driver.
· Absence makes the heart grow fonder. It also tends to get you fired.
· Many people don’t know this, but it’s possible to read something you disagree with and simply move on with your life.
· A dollar may not go as far as it used to, but what it lacks in distance, it makes up for in speed.
· Easy way to drop twenty pounds: go shopping in London.
· Kids these days don’t know how easy they have it. In my day we had to walk nine feet through shag carpet to change the TV channel.
· Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
· My therapist says I have a preoccupation with vengeance. We’ll see about that.
· Some guy is selling a video that teaches you how to test your dog’s IQ. Here’s how it works: If you spend $11.99 for the video, your dog is smarter than you.
· Any pizza can be a personal pizza if you try hard and believe in yourself.
· We have only ourselves to blame for all the crime today. We got rid of all the phone booths, and now Superman has nowhere to change.
· Never miss an opportunity to make others happy, even if you have to leave them alone to do it.
· If voting changed anything, it would be illegal.
· The fact that there’s a highway to hell and only a stairway to heaven says a lot about anticipated traffic numbers.
· Cupid’s arrows hurt a lot more coming out than they do going in.
· If I had to describe myself using only one word, it would be “doesn’t follow directions.”
· You don’t need spurs on both boots. If one side of a horse starts to run, so will the other.
· Camping: Where you spend a small fortune to live like a homeless person.
· How do you tell a plumber from a chemist? Ask them to pronounce “unionized.”
· Monday is one my favorite days of the week — the seventh favorite.
· The fact that jellyfish have survived for millennia despite not having brains gives hope to many people.
· I haven’t lost my mind. Half of it just wandered off, and the other half went looking for it.
· Confidence is the feeling you sometimes have before you fully understand the situation.
· I believe in sharing the road with other drivers. They can have the part behind me.
· To this day, the kid who used to bully me at school still takes my lunch money. On the plus side, he makes very good Subway sandwiches.
· My opinion offended you? You should hear the ones I keep to myself!
· The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.
· Hamburger Helper works only if the hamburger is ready to accept that it needs help.
· Don’t be ashamed of who you are. That’s your children’s job.
· I am an acquired taste. If you don’t like me, acquire some taste.
Winnie Dowden Wyatt
Ezima struggled all night while the first rains slashed at the thatched roof and winds shredded the blowing palm fronds. One of the old women attending her built a fire in the middle of the smoke-blackened hut, although Ezima, flailing about on her straw mat on the earth floor, felt no need of it. Sweat poured from her body, wet the worn mat, and seeped through the loosely woven grasses and soaked the hard packed floor. A column of ants diverted by the driving rain had made their way into the mud hut and marched toward the panting woman. One old crone flapped at them with a banana leaf, warding them away from her patient.
“It is coming now,” one old woman said, pulling at Ezima’s insides.
“Oh-h-h!” The sound came from her throat against her will as Ezima faced her fourth ordeal at aborning this worrisome child.
“It is the foot that wants to come first.” The old woman spoke quietly, but Ezima heard and her tired, tom body went slack with despair. Three times already this child had come walking into this room feet first; and those times had been desperately hard. The African woman braced herself for the pain that must come. If the child would not stay this time, Ezima wished that she might go with it; for another aborning of this fleeing child she did not want to face. Again the rasping strangle cry came unbidden from her throat, and then she lost consciousness.
Consciousness came to her with the slashing of the fierce rain and the wailing of the wind outside. But there was also a wailing in the room - thin, weak, complaining - a baby’s cry!
“So! He had come again! How long would he stay? Until morning?” Ezima wondered as she drifted off again.
“Do you think this time he has come to stay?” whispered one old woman.
“Sh-h-h,” the other woman cautioned her. “He may hear you and leave again.”
Ezima again returned to consciousness with the realization that the rain had stopped and the fire had gone out. Her feet were cold and her hands chilled as though she had been washing all night in the river. A wraith of light crept under the limp piece of cloth hanging in the doorway, but the village was not yet stirring. Ezima shivered in the draft from the shutterless doorway, and with great difficulty shifted her cold buttocks on the slippery mat. The old women were snoring in a comer.
A whimpering sound came from her left side, and there was a warm spot there. Ezima lifted her right hand and touched the soft fuzziness of new born hair. He was still here! Her fingers trembled as she stroked the baby’s head. The infant wriggled and emitted soft, sucking sounds. He wanted to eat! Ezima drew him to her breast. Never before had this child stayed long enough to take food from her body, but had left soon after each birthing, leaving her breasts hard and unrelieved.
There were sounds in the village now as the people stirred about in the damp morning. One woman in a nearby compound complained loudly of the wet, rain-soaked wood she could not get to bum under her rounded, black pot sitting on its three stones under her leaking palm-frond cook shed. Another shouted irritably at her whimpering, hungry children.
Ezima pulled her baby closer and nuzzled her face in its soft, crinkling hair. “I will never scream at you if you will stay,” she promised.
There was a rattling of hoes and cutlasses and the tramping of hard- soled feet on the path outside the hut as the villagers prepared to go to their farms. The limp cloth in the doorway was lifted and Ezima’s husband, Okonkwo, announced his presence.
With his sleeping cloth still around his shoulders, Okonkwo stood almost shyly, twisting the pockets of his ragged shorts as he looked down on his tiny, newborn son.
“I salute you for my son,” he greeted his wife.
Ezima looked at the baby to be sure he was sleeping before she whispered to her husband. “I think this time he wants to stay.”
Okonkwo nodded, but ventured no opinion on the subject. He believed, as did Ezima, that the baby lying there was the same child to which the mother had given birth before. Many African women had the dead bodies of stillborn children mutilated so they would not re-enter a mother and torment her by repeated, useless birthings. But Ezima had never consented to this practice.
Okonkwo stayed only a moment, and as he was leaving he drew his sleeping cloth from his shoulders and spread it over Ezima’s cold feet.
After he had gone Ezima thought about her husband. Life had shown him no favors. Orphaned at an early age by his mother, Okonkwo had not been treated with much kindness or pounded yam from his father’s other two wives. After his father had died, Okonkwo had lived with first one, then another relative making his welcome with his two working hands.
With no inheritance it was not until he was many years a man, almost old, that he had gotten together enough money to come to her father with her bride price. At first Ezima had been unhappy with her father for giving her to a shy, knock-kneed little man twice her age. For with all the other village
girls, she had slyly eyed the young men from their own and neighboring villages, speculating as to which might someday be her husband.
But the little man had been kind to her. Never, when she had been late with his soup had he done more than chide her in a jocular way. And when her friends wailed of their bruises and their miseries she could revel in her good fortune. Not once in all of her years on Okonkwo’s compound had he beaten her with even a small stick. Yet, for so good a man she had not been able to produce even one living child. Nor about this had Okonkwo reproached her, as many men would have done. Six dry seasons had she been on Okonkwo’s compound. This was the fourth time the child had come through the doors of her body.
The baby whimpered in its sleep and Ezima held it close. Then she drifted off into peaceful sleep while the sun dried the dripping leaves and coaxed the yam tendrils up the poles stuck in the great brown hillocks of mounded earth from which the yam tubers grew on Okonkwo’s farm
Okonkwo tilled his farm with a will that morning - whacking at the stubborn bush, winding a stray yam tendril up its pole. Perhaps, this time the child would stay, and in a few years there would be a son laboring in the yam patch beside him.
The baby’s face grew rounder and darker in the following weeks as it drank the warm milk flowing from Ezima’s ample breasts. Ezima cared for him anxiously, aided by advice from every woman in the village. Never was she separated from the child. Riding on her back, he seemed an appendage of her body. When she pounded yam he was rocked back and forth by the rhythmic swaying of her shoulders and the thudding of the long, wooden pestle as she prepared their gluey food in her log mortar bowl. When she washed clothes in the river, pounding out the dirt on a rock, the child rode behind her, lulled by the gentle rocking motion of her body.
On its first whimper, Ezima loosened the cloth strip tied under her hips and scooped him around to her dripping breasts. Ezima had never known such happiness as was hers in those first few weeks of the baby’s life as she pounded her yam, washed her clothes and swept her compound. And Okonkwo stood so tall that his knees scarcely touched as he greeted his friends come to salute him for his son.
When the child was several weeks old they decided it was safe to plan a “naming” ceremony and give him a proper name. Never had there been such a day on Okonkwo’s compound! The little man prepared enough kola nuts and palm wine to serve three villages around for the friends and relatives who would come saluting on the day of this special ceremony. Ezima prepared pounded yam and pepper soup in all the pots she owned or could borrow. It mattered not that the cost of the feast would have to be reckoned with for many months to come, for there must be nothing stingy about this ceremony in which Okonkwo’s only son was to be given a name.
It was during the festivities that the infant gave Ezima its first toothless chortle. “Now I know you will stay, for you have found laughter on this compound.” She was so excited she had to restrain herself lest she run out onto the outer compound where Okonkwo was drinking palm wine with his friends. They would think her crazy for babbling such woman’s nonsense in a gathering of men.
When the festivities were over, Okonkwo came late to Ezima’s hut and they sat quite formally in the sputtering light of an oil-soaked rag stuck in a Guinnes bottle.
“I salute you for the soup and yam you have prepared,” he said.
“I salute you for the many friends who have eaten it,” she answered.
Okonkwo glanced over at the sleeping baby on Ezima’s mat before he whispered, “I think the newly named Nwoye will stay.”
“I think you will want to be going for a time to your father’s village.” Ezima nodded again and since he said no more, she said it for him: “Yes. But before I go I will choose a new wife for you. Already I have one in mind, but there are some small matters I wish to attend.”
Okonkwo nodded and rose to go. Ezima was a good wife; she could be trusted to see to his needs.
In the quiet darkness of her room that night Ezima faced the unresolved dilemma of many African wives and mothers. If a baby were to survive, it must have food from its mother’s body for at least two years. Should the mother conceive and bear another child too soon, the first child would be pushed from its place at the breast. Deprived of vital nourishment, the first-born’s eyes would become listless, his skin dry and scaley as a Lizard’s. The tiny limbs would appear as old, brittle twigs, and the belly would swell to bursting. If the child were lucky, a fever would strike and death would come quickly. If no fever came to claim him, his body would linger - swollen, scaley, grotesque - in a gradual wasting death that the villagers aptly called - “the younger kills the older.”
This must not happen to the newly named Nwoye. Ezima would return to her father’s house and remain for almost two years until the baby had nourished itself sufficiently from her body. During this time no man’s shadow must darken the door of her hut. But while she was in her father’s village there must be a wife for Okonkwo; for no man can live so long a time without a woman.
Ezima had a wife picked out for her husband - a woman of small beauty, but with strong arms who could work well on the farm. This “second wife” would not be a gad-about who might go running from Okonkwo’s compound at her first invitation for a rendezvous in the bush; and the “bride price” was not too high. When Ezima returned to Okonkwo’s compound the woman she had chosen would not be quarrelsome or refuse to show respect to her as First Wife. Tomorrow she would finish the arrangements.
Ezima did not tell her husband good-bye, but left early before it was yet light so that she could reach her old village in good time that day. She carried her few personal belongings in an enamel pan on her head while Nwoye rode peacefully on her back during their twenty-mile trek.
In her father’s compound Ezima was assigned to her mother’s old room. Her mother had been dead for many years, but she thought of her as she unrolled her mat and lay looking up at the familiar crooked rafters in this once warm, comforting room. An old palm oil pot which had held red oil extracted from palm kernels by the dead woman’s trampling feet still sat in a comer. A loose piece of chinked mud concealed the secret place where Ezima had kept her childish treasures. “And now I have brought my new treasure to this place,” she thought as she drifted off to sleep.
The first days in the village were like a festival to Ezima. All of her old friends and relatives came to salute her, each bringing a gift of food. Ezima also enjoyed visiting with her father for the old man seemed to take comfort in her presence as she smoothed out his goat skin sitting mg and brought him a drink of palm wine. She could see that he was neglected and the members of his household no longer showed him proper respect.
One day Ezima’s oldest brother, ‘Zik, arrived in wide-flowing robes, his pockets stuffed with kola to greet her. “Zik had a thriving palm wine business and employed many tappers to climb to the daring heights of palm wine trees to retrieve the gourd full of fermented juice that bubbled up the tree’s trunk and spilled over into the vessel tied at the top.
Their father’s fourth wife eyed ‘Zik slyly from the comers of her dark, sparkling eyes and giggled like a silly uncircumcised girl when he glanced her way. He returned her glances boldly, measuring her youthful frame from barefoot to long, slender neck.
Ezima watched them with disapproval. Certainly on her father’s death it was Azikwe’s right, as first son, to have his father’s wives, for he would be responsible for their welfare and that of all their children. But it was unseemly that fourth wife and “Zik should be counting the yams in their field even before yam harvest! It showed disrespect for a man who had not yet been planted beneath his mud-walled hut.
Ezima would speak to ‘Zik about it! To others he might be a Big Man with many palm wine tappers and a pocketful of kola. But to her he was no more than the bare-bottomed lad she used to whack when he tried to run away with the mango she had knocked from the tree.
But after the first days of saluting and visiting with old friends Ezima found her position in her father’s compound to be a strange one. She was neither a guest or a full member of the family. It was a large compound filled with many children, chickens and goats. There were three living wives with a variety of children. Second Wife (who was now First Wife) she considered a friend, for she had been many years on the compound and was herself getting old. Third wife Ezima knew little, for she had come to the compound about the time Ezima was leaving. And Fourth wife was that silly girl!
Ezima went to the fields with them in the mornings; and although she had worked in these com and yam patches as a child they now seemed vastly removed from her. Here, as a child, she had marveled at the great size of the yam her father grew and had worked with a will at gathering in the com.
But now there was no joy at the bursting bigness of these com ears. And as she bent to her labors, Ezima found herself wondering at the size of Okonkwo’s com. Were his stalks sturdy and green? Were the ears filling out? Were his yam planted on the sloping hillocks as big as they had been last year?
In the evenings on the compound Ezima became more and more irritated at the bickering of third wife’s and fourth wife’s children. The children bothered her father, also, for he was getting old and liked to sit quietly in the shadowy comfort of his low hanging eaves and visit with his friends.
Ezima, as favored daughter, felt an impulse to rebuke the old man for his folly in marrying such young women to bear children in his old age. But when she placed a gourd of palm wine into his shaking old hand and saw his spittle dribble uncontrollably down his beard, she bit her lip. For what woman could understand the things of a man, anyway? Mostly Ezima kept apart from the others with only little Nwoye for company. The baby had grown round and fat and gurgled with laughter at the least provocation. Once on a moonlight night when many of the villagers were dancing outside the compound wall, the baby awoke quietly and in the dim moon-lit room began addressing its mother in soft throaty “coos.” Ezima laughed and hugged him to herself. She had not known that babies could talk in such a language. Again she had to restrain herself lest she run outside in the moonlight to tell everyone that her son had spoken to her.
But there was no one to tell! Her trembling old father with more children than he could likely name could scarce be expected to get excited about another grandson. Second, Third, and Fourth wives, busy with their own children and grand children, would be unimpressed that a baby had “cooed” in the moonlight.
In truth, Ezima missed her husband and the things of her own compound. There was a great loneliness in her which even a laughing baby could not fill... It was as if she were a coconut held high on a tree that was no longer growing, but which the wind could not shake down to the ground
Many more months to hang high and suspended, rattled and shaken by the/wind. When Nyowe was able to sit alone, Ezima fastened a string of red beads around his fat little belly; and as he grew bigger and fatter each month, a new bead was added. If there was a traveler between the two villages,
Ezima sent Okonkwo word as to the number of beads Nwoye required to encircle his round little body.
Twice Okonkwo came to the village to see his son. But he kept his distance, and husband and wife saluted each other as strangers.
Nwoye learned to walk earlier then most African children, and before the beginning of his second dry season, he was calling the names of most of the people on their compound.
“He will have many farms,” predicted his old grandfather clucking the child’s smooth little chin with a palsied hand.
“And many wives!” added ‘Zik, throwing his flowing robes over his shoulder with calculated eloquence as he took his leave after an infrequent visit.
Ezima smiled at their compliments and hugged Nwoye to herself. It was as if he had stored all the knowledge of his former birthings into one, small curly head.
The days of her self-determined exile ended at last and one streaming wet night when rains returned from the north marking the end of her second dry season, Ezima knew that tomorrow she could return to her own compound. It was almost as if she were a girl again and sleep would not come that night because of the thumping in her chest.
There was no ceremony for Ezima’s leaving, for many women came and went in this village. The miles to Okonkwo’s village seemed only an effortless walk, and the baby riding on her back was no more than a puff of kapok, so light was Ezima’s heart. She talked to Nwoye along the way, pointing out familiar things to him along the trail.
But when she got to the river that flowed at the foot of the hill on which Okonkwo’s village sat, she had to sit for a moment in the cool of the evening to ease the trembling that had come to her knees. In only a few moments she would wade the river and walk up the path to Okonkwo’s compound. She would unwind Nwoye’s hip-cloth and for the first time set his feet on the earth of his father’s hut. Tonight she would pound yam from her own pot and set a bowl of it before her man Okonkwo, whose shadow had not darkened her hut for many, many moons.At last the coconut had been allowed to fall - full-grown, ripe. And the wind blowing across the river was gentle now, bringing homey smells of wood smoke and boiling palm oil.
No other children came to Ezima, although in the next few years Second wife had to leave their compound and return to the village of her father on three different occasions. But Ezima did not complain or express envy. If only Nwoye would stay, she dare not covet another. The child ran at will about their compound, his little body naked except for the string of beads encircling his round little middle. Only at night when she feared the spirits of the river and the bad night air did Ezima keep him close-shut in her mud walled, thatched hut.
But one morning during his fifth dry season Nwoye did not come when she began pounding yam at mid-morning. Later she found him, his small body huddled on his sleeping mat still in the hut. And although the sun was almost directly overhead in the heat of the day the child was shivering.
“Go for Okonkwo,” Ezima ordered Second wife.
While she was going, Ezima counted on her fingers all the people who might despise them and seek to punish her by casting a spell on her child.True, she had shouted long and loud with the fish-seller yesterday over a piece of bony fish, but in the end she had paid a fair price... .Her goat had gotten into one village woman’s hut and chewed up her best cloth, but surely the woman would not measure the price of cloth against the life of a child. Frantically Ezima sought in her mind for answers to her question: “Who had done this thing to her child? For what reason?” She was a peaceful woman, and Okonkwo was the gentlest of men. As she hugged the child’s burning body against her own, she could not think of a person who might wish them harm.
Okonkwo came hurrying into the hut, fresh-dug earth still clinging to the thick, short-handled hoe he held in his hand.
“Who is our enemy?” Ezima asked him in desperation.
“I do not know!” And the little, frightened man began making his own calculations as he knelt on the floor and stroked the hot little body with a rough, calloused hand. “I will gather leaves from the forest and boil for him to drink,” he said and practically ran into the forest to forage, his knotty knees hitting one against the other in his haste.
While he was gone Ezima began casting about in her mind for the man with the strongest “medicine” in their village. Even they might have to go beyond their village for a man with stronger “powers,” to cast out the evil spirit that tormented her little one. But she could not bring herself to leave Nwoye even to summon help from the village medicine maker.
The herb brew that Okonkwo made for his son was bitter and burning, and it took both of them to force the scalding liquid down the choking child. All through the night they dosed him, keeping his hot little body tightly wrapped in Ezima’s best cloth to induce sweating.
Toward morning, limp and spent, the frail little body drifted off into a peaceful sleep. Ezima passed her hand across the cooling forward and noted the child’s slow, even breathing. “The evil spirit has gone,” she whispered to Okonkwo, lest the evil thing hear and decide to return.
“Our enemy has gone! Nwoye will stay with us a while longer. I must make a sacrifice.” Okonkwo left immediately to catch two cackling cocks scratching in the bush.
The first years of Nwoye’s life belonged almost entirely to his mother. She had fed him from her breast until he was almost three. He had ridden on her back, close and warm against her for many miles. Even when he was too big to carry, when she gathered twigs and bitter greens in the bush, he was with her. As she pounded clothes on a rock by the river he had been nearby - chasing soap bubbles down the stream. At night he slept on a mat beside her, and even their breathing had become one.
But in his eighth dry season two things seem to mark the end of this special relationship with his mother. He had his first suit of clothes made for him by the village tailor; and he started to the newly organized day school held under a palm frond arbor in the center of the village.
Ezima distrusted the school completely. But Okonkwo and most of the other villagers were quite excited about it and thought it a grand thing that “book” had come to their village. The school in the open air arbor was taught by a fast talking young lad from another village who had just “passed out” of Standard Six some months ago. Despite her reluctance, Ezima could scarce keep from laughing at Nwoye’s straight little back as he walked to school in his new clothes with the air of an elder marching to a great ceremony.
After he had gone, Ezima took her clothes and went to the river. But she felt lonely and somehow at odds with the world. She did not join in the chanting of the other women as they whacked at their clothes and spread them on the bushes to dry.
Her scanty wash spread to dry, Ezima decided to seek out Okonkwo who was clearing a new space in the bush to plant his com crop. She heard
his odd, nasal sing-song echoing through the rainforest before she came upon him. His song stopped abruptly when he saw Ezima.
“First Wife, what brings you after me into the bush?” he asked.
“I-I-I” Ezima stammered, unable herself to explain why she had wandered into the bush when her compound had not been swept and her cassava had not been put to soak. “I-I have brought you cool water from the river, “ she finished quickly, offering him a drink from the dripping pot atop her head which she had intended to carry from the river to her compound.
“Oh, that is good!” Okonkwo smiled and accepted the proffered pot. He smacked his lips in appreciation as the refreshing drops ran down his chin and onto his sweating chest. “This is a great day!” he said handing the water pot back to Ezima. “My son at this very minute is learning book!” Nwoye’s schooling remained a constant delight to his father; and Second wife’s children hung onto his every word when he told them of the wonderful things he had heard under the palm arbor that day. Before many weeks the child was able to scratch on the earth of their compound markings which he declared to be his name. Okonkwo cackled with delight; but Ezima was not taken in. He was Nwoye, son of Okonkwo and Ezima. What did it matter which way the marks scratched on the ground were pointing?
“But it is my name, mother, Nwoye exclaimed. “And soon I am going to learn to write the names of my father and my brothers.” He paused and looked up at Ezima’s doubtful face. “ I shall also learn to write the name of my mother!”
Nwoye was as good as his word, and with the aid of his Standard Six teacher he was soon able to write out the names of his family in an uneven scrawl. “Come!” he said to his mother one evening as she dipped steaming yam from her boiling, black pot into her log mortar bowl. “I have something to show you.”
He led his mother to the door of her hut and there he stopped and pointed to the ground. “There is the name of my mother” he said proudly pointing to his lettering in the doorway of her hut.
Ezima studied each marking carefully. A strange sense of excitement began welling in her breast. Here she stood - Ezima! And there in the earth of her doorway were scratchings that declared it to be so! Her flesh had become Word - and dwelt outside her hut.
Because it was midway in the rainy season in a period which the people called “the little dry,” when the rains abated for a while, Ezima’s name remained undisturbed for some “market weeks.” When she entered her doorway, Ezima was always careful to step over her name; and when she swept the compound with her short twig broom made of stripped palm fronds, she was careful not to disturb any of the lettering.
But when the rains returned one night to fill Okonkwo’s com ears to bursting, it was not of their crops that Ezima thought, but of her name.
“The Word is gone,” she thought sadly to herself next morning as she surveyed the rain swept sands. “Now I have no name again.” She thought several times of asking Nwoye to write it down again, but he might think his mother foolish and Okonkwo and Second wife might laugh, for their names had long ago been swept away or trampled flat in the dust of the compound.
With each full moon Nwoye seemed to grow taller. Already he had out-stripped the other village children in his school and the young teacher, himself scarcely more than a child, was hard put to keep him occupied. One night the young teacher came to their compound and stayed late talking to Okonkwo beside the glowing embers of Ezima’s cooking fire. Ezima kept her ear as close to the door of her hut as a good wife dared.
It seemed there was another school, bigger and better, several villages away to which Nwoye might go. The school was financed by the “government” and a number of boys from surrounding villages could obtain scholarships to go there at no expense to their parents except for food money.
The teacher had already talked with the village elders and it was their opinion that Nwoye should be the one to go to this fine school and get “book on book” to bring back to the village. They would all help with the food money. It would mean that Nwoye must stay at the school for it was a four- day market week from their village to the school.
A four-day market week away from Nwoye! Peeping through the curtain hanging in her doorway, Ezima saw Okonkwo nod. It was settled then. She lay long into the night staring at the thatched roof through which speckles of moonlight filtered in eerie patterns throughout her dusky room.
A four-day market week! She had never traveled such distance.
On the day that Nwoye left for boarding school, the entire village walked with him as far as the river. Drums throbbed; children banged on pans and shook calabash gourds. The women, hoes on their shoulders, chanted in a rhythmic dance as they shuffled along. Nwoye, tall and straight, his one book atop his head marched in front of the procession winding down the hill from the village to the river.
When Nwoye and the school master left them on the banks of the river and began wading out into the shallow waters, Ezima stood stock still - no tears, no hugs - for Nwoye no longer rode on her back.
Long after the others had turned back to their village and yam patches, Ezima stood gazing up the trail on the other side of the river. Nwoye became smaller and smaller until he was only a speck moving through the thin slice of a trail that slit the green jungle swallowing him up. She gazed until even the speck was gone. Not once did Nwoye look back.
A fish splashing in the river caught Ezima’s eye and forced her to look downward. She noticed her hoe. She picked it up and turned her feet toward the yam patch. Not once did she look back.
By Joan Leotta
Be sure when you cut out the hearts
On lace and red paper
Be sure when you tell of love
You make your plan to
Act on those words as well.
For not matter what you say,
Love's proof's in acts, not what you tell
“Nine times out of ten, a revolution-ary is merely a climber with a bomb in his pocket.” George Orwell
This is a tale. I’ll begin at the beginning which is often the best place to start. Although this is not always the case as often one reads stories which start at the end and work their way back to the start which can be very confusing; or even those which start midway and go forwards and then backwards!
However I digress which I have a habit of doing when I am sharing conversation with my dear friend Daisy. She is my best friend though you wouldn't always know it, as often we just ignore each other when we are together but that's the way of our species. She is a few months older than me and a little bigger as she is a Westie and I am a miniature Schnauzer. She thinks she is the boss because she is a rough Scot whereas I am a German aristocrat and I wouldn't lower myself to argue. I know that if I want to I can do a lot by just the look I can give with my eyes!
We get together from time to time, mostly when our owners meet up for a meal in one or other's homes. Afterwards we will join them on the settee and this gives us time to converse. We don't have to worry about being overheard as the humans don't understand us anyway.. We have managed to train them a bit to understand their role as our servants and carers.
They know to feed us and give us water to drink. They take us out for walks and we let them think that they are very clever when we catch the balls they throw or sit, come and stay when they tell us to.
Anyway the last time we met for our chin wag, an interesting saying which I believe is derived from us ourselves as quite often when Daisy and I talk we show approval by wagging our tails. However you may ask where does the “ chin “ come in? Well that’s because as we wag so our chins move automatically.
Anyhow I detract again!
The story that Daisy shared was told to her by her great uncle who still lives in the glens in the Highlands. He says that he can trace his ancestors back to the 18th century! This ancestor was called Archie and belonged to the Laird of Culloden. This Laird was a loyal supporter of the infamous Bonnie Prince Charlie. You of course have heard how he came to Scotland in 1745 from France where he hoped to gain support to further the cause of the Jacobite's who were Roman Catholics whereas the English king, George 11 was a Protestant.
However there was a bloody battle on Culloden Moor and the young pretender to the throne had to flee, often in disguise. Archie used to warn him of the enemies who were hunting him. On this occasion Archie saw this man hiding in the branches and thought it was the Prince and stood at the base barking a warning. However it wasn't Charlie but one of the enemy soldiers who had fled up the tree because he thought he heard a wolf! Anyway even though Archie barked up the wrong tree, it turned out to be good because it enabled the Prince to sneak down from a nearby tree and escape while this soldier was distracted.
E. B. Alston
Robots are taking over! They monitor our homes, our cars, mow our lawns, and vacuum our floors and carpets, without our supervision. Our cars can parallel park better than we can. They brake automatically to avoid hitting pedestrians. Nevertheless, as far as automation goes, our homes and cars are behind industry. Americans have lost more jobs to robots than to the Chinese and Mexicans.
What will happen to us, as in us humans, who have labored to build civilization, as we know it, from scratch over a period of millions of years? Today close to half of the US population either does not work at all or works for the government. Pretty much the same thing when you think about it.
What will be our fate? The robot revolution cannot be stopped, or slowed. The closest parallel is the fate of the horse. Horse employment was high at the start of the 20th century. There were 21 million working horses and mules in 1918. By 1960 the horse population declined to about 3 million. In 50 years, cars and tractors made short work of horse livelihoods.
Is this our future? Horses was economically indispensable until they weren’t needed any more. The experts say that such concerns are invalid because humans are more cognitively adaptable than beasts of burden. Are we? Really?
As robots become more capable, we are increasingly vulnerable. Look at drones. I wrote the futuristic Kingdom of America in 2003 without mention of industrial robots and drones, not to mention self-driving cars. We never heard much about robots and drones a few years ago and now just about every well-informed household has one. Between 1990 and 2007 each industrial robot added per thousand workers reduced employment in America by nearly six workers. In case you wonder about the number 6. It takes 6 workers to operate a machine 24 hours a day, seven days a week, counting vacations and holidays. One robot works 24 hours a day continuously.
We might not be put out to pasture, but we might ought to learn how to race and look pretty in pastures.
Robots are not the only new thing threatening people. There are smart robots and dumb worker robots which are automatically controlled and re-programmable; These are single purpose robotic equipment do not count. The worldwide population of them is about 2 million. Their numbers are growing, and so is the range of tasks they can tackle, so projections of robot-driven job loss must be taken seriously.
Quit worrying about trade with China, and off shoring. China is in the forefront of the robot revolution. Increased robot numbers will not increase employment levels among any group of workers, even those with university education. Since relatively few industrial robots are in use in the American economy, the total job loss from robotization has been between 360,000 and 670,000. Trade with China between 1999 and 2011 caused over two million America job losses. The Chinese trade shock has run its course. The robot era is just beginning.
Economically speaking for investors, this will be great. Automation will bring savings to firms and consumers, which can be spent on other goods or services. In theory, labor freed up by technology would gravitate toward tasks and jobs in which humans retain an advantage. However, that should also have been true of horses. The use of tractors in agriculture increased sharply from the 1910s to the 1950s, and vast numbers of horses were displaced. Some useful horse-work remained. The difficulty facing horses was the huge numbers displaced by technology to places where they could still be of use. Horse prices fell by about 80% between 1910 and 1950. My guess is this is about the same percent of wage losses in store for us. Even at lower costs, too few new niches appeared to absorb the workless horses. Eventually it was uneconomical for owners to keep them. Horses, so to speak, left the labor force, in some cases through sale to meat or glue factories. I need to stop here because this analogy with horses becomes disturbing.
The comparison is instructive. Automation reduces human wages; One industrial robot per thousand workers reduces wages across the economy by 5%. Real wage growth in rich economies disappointed economists for the past two decades. Low wages do enable some reallocation of workers.
The greatest share of the growth in employment in rich economies over the past few decades has been in services, nearly half in low-paying fields like retailing and hospitality. Employment in such areas has grown because there is plenty of cheap labor.
Horses would have fared better if savings from mechanization stayed in rural areas. Instead, soaring agricultural productivity reduced food prices. This gave urban workers more money to spend for a new suit or a car. They didn’t want a horse.
Financial returns from automation flow to profitable firms and their shareholders, who not only usually live apart from the factories being automated but who save at high rates, contributing to weak demand across the economy as a whole. About half of job losses from robotization (as from exposure to Chinese imports) are attributable to the knock- on effect from reduced demand rather than direct displacement.
Today’s horses are not entirely without work. Some still find gainful employment; a few are very valuable indeed. For people to fare better; and retain more than the small amount of work reserved for those of exceptional ability, they must prove a better match for clever machines than horses were for mechanical equipment. Society must respond with more thought than horse-owners did a century ago.”
Sources: Wikipedia and The Economist 4/1/2017
Philosophy intimidates strong and weak minds alike. At first glance, it evokes frightening images of complex and abstract ideas expressed in a convoluted fashion difficult to untangle and comprehend. Unfortunately, complex and abstract ideas are sometimes necessary ingredients, but the key to doing philosophy is realizing it is not a mysterious something “out there” that has no bearing on real life. Philosophy means love of wisdom. Both love and wisdom occur within a person’s mental/emotional realm. Socrates was so convinced that philosophy was an internal living process that he never wrote anything down. He believed that static written words could not adequately convey ideas experienced only within a living mind.
Philosophy is activity inside a person’s head, not something out there in the world. As such, it is a subjective experience. Although philosophy is a subjective mental endeavor, objective truths are the purpose and ultimate goal. Internally evaluated ideas require valid and sound reasoning to qualify as justified true belief. Once speculated or conjectured, subjective ideas can then be checked against real-world phenomena for confirmation of objective validity. The better that imagined truths you hold in your mind reflect reality as it exists, the more effective your philosophy.
Why bother with the hassles and tedious efforts of doing philosophy? The answer is because truth is a valuable asset in daily life and enhances the quality of human existence. People are so easily deceived by others and often deceive themselves when they lack the acquired skills of valid, sound reasoning. The long history of philosophy eases the burden on modern individuals by supplying evidence for truths from the greatest thinkers the world has produced--but only if you take advantage of accomplishments already achieved by self-evaluating these prior ideas. Remember, philosophical ideas are only realized inside a mind. The ideas of the great thinkers are useless if you do not internalize them into your own mode of thinking and incorporate them into your own philosophical outlook.
I’ve implied that objective truths are the goal, but that subjective action is the method. How do we subjectively extract objective truths? Peggy Ellis wrote a wonderful article in the Fall 2016 Righter Quarterly Review that provides a working example of seeking truth when conflicting opinions by various experts are more numerous than hard facts. Her article is titled Did Columbus Really Do That? I recommend you get it and read it. She references a variety of sources including a poem, school books, a novel, Google searches, Wikipedia, and the History Channel.
Peggy carefully cites every source of information and conjecture, and she leaves it to the reader to draw his or her own subjective beliefs regarding the truth. Be aware that belief comes in varying degrees of sureness when the truth is uncertain. When was Columbus born? Was he Catholic or Jewish, and why? Did he go to his grave believing he had sailed west to the Orient? Peggy Ellis’s article is an exemplary guide to extracting true belief from questionable conjectures about a topic that we all thought we knew the facts about.
This age of information teaches us that objective facts are scarce compared with the volumes of dubious conjectures and opinions. Learning to differentiate between facts and unsubstantiated opinions is an acquired skill that is invaluable to philosophical inquiry and good living. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle devoted their time to examining the facts and fictions regarding a good life. They sought to discover the best way for people to live, as individuals and as societies comprised of individuals. These questions covered the spectrum of human endeavors and are still relevant questions today, roughly twenty-five hundred years later. The best way for a person to live must be determined by each individual in every new generation.
Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are excellent resources for people serious about procuring a truly good life. Those philosophers examined and cross-examined the basic details of virtues, pro and con, as no other trio of thinkers has ever done. What is happiness? Why is mindless hedonism bad for us? Why is government necessary and what constitutes the best government? Modern science gives us considerable control over chemical and physical manipulations and fabrications. Do we have the virtues to use our control over nature wisely? Is the value of money the only value that makes life worth living?
We should seek a life of meaning that lifts ourselves and others to better understanding and appreciation of human life at its best. Philosophy is a gateway to such a meaningful life. Distinguishing truth from erroneous facts and speculation is essential to greater understanding and better living. For reader’s interested or curious about philosophy but in need of expert guidance, I recommend several courses from The Great Courses Company. The courses are available on DVD or streaming downloads and taught by enthusiastic, well-qualified university professors from around the country. Be sure to get them at the sale prices, usually at 70% or more savings. I have never bought a course at retail price. The Great Courses Company can be contacted at www.thegreatcourses.com or by calling 1-800-832-2412. Following are courses I recommend for serious budding philosophers. Other courses are available as well.
“The Philosopher’s Toolkit: How to Be the Most Rational Person in Any Room” taught by Professor Patrick Grim. Course number 4253. 24 half-hour lectures.
“The Big Questions of Philosophy” taught by Professor David Kyle Johnson. Course number 4130. 36 half-hour lectures.
“Masters of Greek Thought: Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle” taught by Professor Robert C. Bartlett. Course number 4460. 36 half-hour lectures.
It was still a few weeks before Christmas. Nicky was in the pub with the usual bunch of friends and she was annoyed. Everybody was laughing at her. They all thought it was hilarious. Nicky did not get the joke at all. She did not understand why everybody was rolling about laughing. All she had done was to jump into the canal after the man. She thought he was drowning. After all, it was very cold and he was wearing thick woolly trousers, a massive sweater and a fleece with the hood up over a beanie hat and he was flailing about frantically shouting, “help, help, I can’t swim.”
How was she to know that he was meant to fall into the canal, thrash about and yell “help, help, I can’t swim?” She had not noticed the film crew on the towpath. The bloke with the megaphone had been very rude to her. ‘Stupid woman’ he had called her. He had shouted at her through the megaphone. “You stupid woman. Now we have to do it all again.” They had hauled the young man out of the canal but they had left Nicky to get out by herself. She had swum to the edge and hoisted herself out and she had stood there, dripping dirty water. She had squelched home in her sodden clothes, stripped in the hallway and ran a piping hot bath. She’d be lucky if she had not caught Weil’s disease. The canal was full of rats. She had googled the subject and printed off pages of stuff on the disease just in case she was starting to get any symptoms. When she said this to her friends in the pub there was no sympathy. In fact, they laughed even harder.
And now she was sitting in the pub and the others were all falling about laughing at her. She frowned at them over her mulled spiced festive cider. “That’ll be the last time I will ever try to help anybody.” She was furious. “Even if the Queen is drowning in that canal I will not stick out a hand to help her.” That made them all laugh even harder. She sipped her cider, scowling.
The next day she walked the long way to work simply to avoid the canal in case they were filming again. She had no wish to encounter either the young man she tried to save nor the rude bloke with the megaphone. After about a week she deemed it safe to walk along the towpath again. She let out a sigh of relief. No film crew in sight. She was just about to turn into the little lane that led to her office when she heard the scream. It came from somewhere behind her. She looked round and there he was, again, the same bloke, dressed in heavy clothes, sweater and fleece again. He had been tripped up by a cyclist in a hoodie and had disappeared into the canal head first. The cyclist was furiously pedaling away from the scene along the towpath. The bloke in the canal was shouting for help, thrashing about and yelling that he could not swim. Well, she was not going to be caught out again. She was sure that the film crew were lurking somewhere, even if she could not see them. They had to be and without a backward glance she turned into the lane and walked to her office.
The next day she read it in the local paper under the heading ‘Life of promising young actor cut short’ Adam Bourne, the young star of the budget film ‘CANAL LIFE’ had been found floating in the same canal that was the subject of the film he was working on. The film company had stopped filming until after Christmas and he was hoping to meet the girl who so gallantly jumped in after him last week. It was said he could not swim. Nobody knew what happened and they were asking for anybody who had any information to come forward.
Peggy Lovelace Ellis
Over the past year, the English author, Jane Austen (12-16-1775 – 7-18-1817), has received a lot of attention in the literary world because of the 200th anniversary of her death. It appears every historical fiction writer in existence has taken liberties with her novels by extending the stories or giving an Austen character further life in every form from mysteries to mirth. A current, non-historical writer has brought Emma into the 21st century. I don’t care that the numerous writers give credit where credit is due. I consider their work plagiarism. I accept they believe they are honoring Jane Austen, but how dare they think they can match her characterization of her own characters?
Oh, well, they didn’t ask my opinion!
However, the current attention to her work reminds me of a silly bit of nonsense I wrote years ago. I copy it here. Feel free to laugh.
I'm writing this by the light of one candle – are we sure Jane Austen did it this way? My admiration for that venerable author grows by leaps and bounds. I admit right up front that my muse is not strong enough to insist that I write more than a few words by flickering light.
They – whoever they are – say confession is good for the soul, so here goes. I accept responsibility for the power outage that paralyzes Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Durham this evening. For posterity, let it be known this is December 15, 2000 AD. Mea culpa and all that jazz.
The authorities blame a construction accident, but I know better. As day fades into evening, I stand in my kitchen, slumped against a counter, and sigh. I’m tired. I don't want to cook dinner. I don't want to eat. I just want to go to bed and sleep. Nevertheless, I tell myself to get on with it. The longer I stir, turn, and baste, the more tired I get.
Then it happens. As if by magic, the lights flicker and go off, then come on again for a few seconds before giving up the struggle.
All right! No more stirring, turning, and basting. By the time Jim and I find and light numerous candles, the stove has finished my work for me.
Now, you need to understand something. My loving husband told me, politely but firmly, in the early days of our marriage that candlelight dinners were strictly taboo. He likes to see what he eats. Well, I can't argue with that because I do, too. The tiniest bit of fat meat in my mouth puts me off my feed for days.
However, on this auspicious occasion, we have no choice. It’s candlelight or no light. I'm sitting there, daintily using knife and fork on my grilled, boneless chicken breast when my always – well almost always – considerate other half tempts me from across the table. "Nobody can see you. Use your fingers."
Do I dare? Heavens no. As I've said many times, Mom stands at St. Peter's shoulder watching me, and I don't want her shooting lightning bolts in my direction. Some people fear facing God, but, hey, that will be a piece of cake compared to facing my mom.
I find ballpoint pen and paper, push the used dishes aside, and record these thoughts, for the pleasure (disgust?) of future readers.
Finally, I’m ready to take my weary bones to bed. But first, I must change the percale sheets for cotton flannel, and add another blanket. Jim shakes his head when I put a comforter on top of all that. He laughs out loud when I pull on a pair of his long johns. As you can see, I like to be warm, so I make a note to tell Santa to bring me some Cuddle Duds.
Santa. Oh dear. If this power outage lasts until Christmas Eve, will he be able to find me? Sure he will, I reassure myself. Santa doesn't need lights. He's magic.
At last, I'm ready to settle in for a long winter's nap. Wouldn't you know it? Like magic, the lights come on.
Only in This World
· Why do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.
· Why do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and a diet Coke..
· Why do banks leave vault doors open and then chain the pens to the counters..
· Why do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our useless junk in the garage.
· Why do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight..
· Why do they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering.
· Why the sun lightens our hair, but darkens our skin?
· Why don't you ever see the headline 'Psychic Wins Lottery'?
· Why is 'abbreviated' such a long word?
· Why is it that Doctors call what they do 'practice'?
· Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavor, and dishwashing liquid made with real lemons?
· Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?
· Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?
· Why isn't there mouse-flavored cat food?
· Why didn't Noah swat those two mosquitoes?
· Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections?
· You know that indestructible black box that is used on airplanes? Why don't they make the whole plane out of that stuff?!
· Why don't sheep shrink when it rains?
· Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together?
· If con is the opposite of pro, is Congress the opposite of progress?
· If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport the terminal?
Tall, dark and handsome. An aquiline nose, muscles rippling, and full lips! Yes, yes, yes! He's wonderful! Just like Michelangelo's David!
Emma put down her chisel on the bench, blew away some dust and stood back to admire her work. It had been a long slog but worth it or so she hoped. This had been the hardest commission she had been given. It wasn't that she doubted her talent or her ability to convert a photograph into a three dimensional form but more; to put a life into stone.
James was a normal middle class boy who grew up in a loving family
He loved playing boys’ games which often meant some play fighting. He was academically good at school and won a scholarship to the Grammar school and then with excellent ‘A’ levels went to Oxford University where he graduated with a first class honour's degree. His parents wondered what his career route would be but that had been an easy one for him. While up at Oxford he had been in the Army Cadets and so applied to go to Sandhurst. He loved the years there and although at times it was physically and emotionally hard he found that it meant he came out with a fit body and mind.
While at Oxford he had dated a few girls but he hadn't felt a strong attachment to any of them although they had been fun to date. That was until he was invited to one of his friends home for the weekend. They lived in Surrey. While there he was introduced to his friend's sister a young lady who was studying at art college.
He took a commission with the Queen’s, The first Dragoon Guards after passing out at Sandhurst and it was such a proud moment for his parents, his friend Pete and his sister and their parents too as he marched past them.
“How handsome he looks in his uniform,” mused Emma to herself. “One day I'll make a statue of him!”
About a year after he joined his regiment James and Emma married and had the reception in her family’s garden in a very large marque on the immaculate lawn.
Another year after that in 2010 they heard that James was due to be posted to Afghanistan.
Emma was glad that she now had her own business making sculptures as this would take her mind off the enforced separation. She had received some good commissions which kept her really busy. Sometimes if she felt lonely she would take some time off and go and stay with her parents. She and James were able to communicate by phone and Skype when he was at the base. While down for one of the weekends in Surrey she told the news first to James and then to her parents and her brother. She was pregnant! Everybody was so thrilled and there followed great celebrations.
The following Tuesday after her return to their house in the camp she received a call but not from James; it was from his commanding officer. It was the call no one ever wants to get. James had been killed by an Improvised Explosive Device while driving his land rover.
Emma now three months off her due date was understandably devastated. It was only because of James’ son inside her that kept her sane and going on.
She moved in with her parents and decided to stay there for six months after Harry was born. In the meantime she had moved out of the army accommodation and into a mews cottage with a studio attached. It was after then that she started to take on working again.
It was two years after James's death that she received a visit from her mother in law, Christine. Harry, who looked just like James at that age, greeted his Granny with enthusiasm. Christine had a special request for Emma. She asked if she could make a statue of James which she wanted to donate to James’ old Grammar school in memory of him. It was to be completed by Remembrance day, November 11th.
The Last Commandment
Easy to understand the 10 Commandments so how come man has never been able to live by these or any other rules? Basically it’s just a simple “Man doesn’t want to.” Accepting the rules would mean accepting that God rules over man and man doesn’t want that.
I have a treasured friend that calls himself an atheist. They are hard to find (4%). I made it a point to make him my friend because I want to know how he thinks. He is well educated, intelligent and articulate (all three better than me!). After long talks with him he admitted that he just doesn’t want to accept the idea that there is an authority higher than him that will judge him. It’s a huge difference to go from “I don’t believe” to “I don’t want to believe.” As long as you don’t want to believe it doesn’t matter what the evidence is you will find a way to not change your mind.
Study after study has shown that people will say that they investigate a matter and look at both sides of the issue before they make an intelligent decision but in reality they already have decided what they want and look for only for facts to support their decision. Many times all they need is a grain of truth and they have all they need. William Shakespeare said “People will easily believe what they wish was true.”
When it all started there was only one law. Don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. How easy was that! Do whatever you want just don’t eat the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Living in paradise, doing what they wanted, no needs, they had it made but they broke the law. Are we surprised? No not really. We see it every day. Tell someone something they can’t do and sure as shootin they will try it. Sometimes they won’t even consider it until tell them not to do it. If you have raised children you know! (Don’t forget there was another tree, more about that later!)
Next time we see laws they have increased to ten. Why did God even bother to give the 10 commandments? Did he really think people would live by them? Obviously he knew otherwise but they weren’t given to condemn us. They were given to give us a glimpse of how wonderful our God is. Ponder for a moment what a world would be like if everyone lived with the 10 commandments in their heart. Every person loving God and serving without selfish goals.
Maybe something like this: No poverty, No war, no hunger, by now with all assets used to fight disease it would have been eradicated. No need for military, IRS, homeland security. It would literally be Heaven on earth and we all know it would work but we know with our nature it won’t work.
Not many people realize that the 10 commandments were first given orally by God directly to his chosen people. They were so terrified that they asked Moses to talk to God and then come tell them what he said. Imagine a huge black cloud with lightning and a voice louder than thunder booming out THOU SHALT NOT …….. Pretty scary stuff!
The laws were simple and straight forward
1. No other Gods before me
2. No graven image
3. Don’t use Gods name in vain
4. Remember the Sabbath
5. Honor Mom and Dad
6. No murder
7. No adultery
8. No stealing
9. NO false accusation
10. No coveting what others have
I put them in short form so we can more easily see they are grouped. The first 4 concern your ability to have a relationship with God. The next 5 concern your ability to have a relationship with your neighbor. The last commandment looks like it was tacked on by itself. Almost like he was finished and then added it on at the last minute. Maybe it’s because it concerns your ability to live with yourself or basically your happiness. Study how much this one thing affects us all and you will quickly get an idea about how important it is to understand this. There is quite likely nothing larger that is keeping you from your own happiness.
So what made God tack on that last commandment? You shall not covet your neighbors stuff. Does it hurt God when you do it? No, God doesn’t need anything from us. He put it there to protect us from our own folly. How many times have you seen it happen? We have something that is just right. It works perfect and we are satisfied with it completely. That is until the neighbor gets one that looks better or cost more. Suddenly the joy of ownership is gone. Ours still works fine but we think about the one the neighbor has every time we look at ours. Soon we are looking for a chance to upgrade. It isn’t that ours is bad, it’s just the thought that someone else is doing better than we are. It’s called comparison and it is the “thief of joy.”
Your neighbor isn’t hurt if you want what he (or she) has. Most of us go to great lengths to get others to want what we have. The big house, the perfect spouse, good job, smart kids headed for greatness, etc., etc. We even go to the extreme of “bearing false witness against ourselves” to make others want to be like us. Just look at social media!
Jesus said he came not to replace the law but to fulfill it. The law was more than the 10 rules you couldn’t break. It also held a prophecy of a savior. The Messiah would bring salvation and Jesus fulfilled that prophecy perfectly. He also gave us a better understanding of the law. Two simple commandments but like all laws for them to work we have to have them in our hearts. We have to want them enough to change and follow the path Jesus has set for us. The 2 commandments are simply beautiful. Love God with all your heart, all your mind, all your body, all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Honestly if you love God you will love your neighbor, but I think he wanted it emphasized that loving your neighbor is God’s plan.
So what’s wrong with coveting? If a mother covets time with her children for example. The dictionary says to covet is to desire. Impossible to go through life without wanting anything. Truth is there is nothing wrong with desiring and wanting, it’s desiring what someone else has that makes us so miserable and unhappy. Not only will we be unhappy with what we have but we will become unhappy with the person that has what we want. Eventually the unhappiness we have internalized will find its way out as contempt for our neighbor. Then you are actually hating someone for just having something. Starting to see why God doesn’t want us to covet what others have? It could make a shipwreck of your faith and it will it make you and the ones you love miserable. It might even lead you to break all the other commandments!
Remember the parable Jesus told about the owner of the vineyard? He hired workers to work all day at a good wage. Then he hired more to work ½ day at the same wage and then more to work only one hour for the same. The workers that worked all day were furious that others were getting the same and working less but the owner said “what do you have to do with them? I paid you what you agreed.”(If you have ever been a fisherman you know how this parable gets played out every day at the fish house.)
Once we study how coveting what others have has affected us we start to see this monster problem in a new light. Why did Adam and Eve sin? They didn’t want to try a new fruit, they coveted the power of God. Why did Cain kill Able? He coveted his relationship with God. And it has gone on and on through history producing sin, death, disaster and destruction.
So what do we do to stay off the path of coveting our neighbors stuff? First recognize that you are coveting. As soon as that feeling creeps in before you make the first comment, own the fact that it made you unhappy or even angry to see someone else with something you don’t have or one better than yours. Then reaffirm to yourself that everything you own came from God and that you are the steward of God’s possessions.
Think about what you’re doing when you try to get others to covet what you have. Put your efforts into helping others see how many blessing they have received from God. Help them understand how comparing will only bring misery.
Remember that Eternal God has blessed you and his blessings are always instrumental. Meaning that God blessed you so you could bless someone else and show his magnificent love. If you can adopt the mindset of the steward the coveting will melt away and be replaced with a peace that passes all understanding!
Submitted by Anna Tritt
Signs of the Times
Submitted by Ron Bremer
· A SIGN IN A SHOE REPAIR STORE IN VANCOUVER READS: We will heel you, we will save your sole, we will even dye for you.
· A SIGN ON A BLINDS AND CURTAIN TRUCK: “Blind man driving.”
· In a Podiatrist's office: "Time wounds all heels.”
· At an Optometrist's Office: "If you don't see what you're looking for, You've come to the right place.”
· On a Plumber's truck: "We repair what your husband fixed.”
· On another Plumber's truck: "Don't sleep with a drip. Call your plumber.”
· At a Tire Shop in Milwaukee: "Invite us to your next blowout.”
· On an Electrician's truck: "Let us remove your shorts.”
· In a Non-smoking Area:"If we see smoke, we will assume you are on fire and will take appropriate action.”
· On a Maternity Room door: "Push. Push. Push.”
· At a Car Dealership: "The best way to get back on your feet - miss a car payment.”
· Outside a Muffler Shop: "No appointment necessary. We hear you coming.”
· In a Veterinarian's waiting room: "Be back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!”
· At the Electric Company: "We would be delighted if you send in your payment on time. However, if you don't, YOU will be de-lighted.”
· In a Restaurant window: "Don't stand there and be hungry; come on in and get fed up.”
· In the front yard of a Funeral Home: "Drive carefully. We'll wait.”
· At a Propane Filling Station: "Thank Heaven for little grills.”
· In a Chicago Radiator Shop: "Best place in town to take a leak.”
· Sign on the back of a Septic Tank Truck: "Caution - This Truck is full of Political Promises"
E. B. Alston
John Updike and John Milton. The author of Rabbit Run, John Updike, died January 27. 2009. I don’t read many novels but I did read about half of Rabbit Run in the 60s. Would that I could write with the effortless ease that his work reveals. (I understand that the appearance of effortless ease on any endeavor is a result of much hard and dedicated practice.) His next famous book, The Witches of Eastwick, came out in 1984. He wrote sixty books in all and was a longtime contributor to The New Yorker magazine where he wrote countless book reviews. I liked his book reviews better than his books. His critics, who I think were jealous of his writing skill, complained that his reviews were too something, they couldn’t quite put their finger on. His command of the language has few parallels.
One who was his equal was William F. Buckley, Jr., who for a number of years used a new word that he had never used before in his columns. He used some pretty strange words, always correctly, by the time I guess he ran out of usable strange words.
When Updike’s book, The Coup, came out, Buckley wrote an accolade to Updike naming him as his successor to the title of American Fountainhead of Recondite Words. Updike used harmattan, disphoretic, toubab, laterite, suras, euphorbia, extollation, jerboa, cussabe, sareba, bilharzias, pangolins, hyraxes, pestles, phloem, xylem, eversion, goobers, marabout, xerophytic, oleograph, cowries, chrysoprase, henna, scree, riverine, adsorptive, haptic, burnoose and sesquipedalian in The Coup.
Throughout his life, Updike believed that the world was a lovable place. I agree, but it is also a duller place with him gone from our midst.
December of 2008 marked the 400th anniversary of John Milton’s birth. I read Paradise Lost when I was 19 and in mechanic school in the Army. I read most of it hiding on a creeper underneath an army 2 1/2 ton truck when I was supposed to be learning how to work on the trucks. Milton was more interesting to me at the time than turning wrenches and getting grease on my uniform. My uniforms were clean when I went to the mess hall for supper. I agreed with Samuel Johnson when he wrote how glad he was that Paradise Lost was not any longer than it was.
Paradise Lost definitely affected my view of life. The only part I remember well enough to paraphrase is when Satan saw Adam and Eve making love in the Garden of Eden, he became jealous of their supreme joy. Satan hated them because he could not share their happiness. As a result of his disapproval of their joy, he plotted to deprive them of what he thought was undeserved pleasure by tempting them to disobey God.
Paradise Lost was not the only thing Milton wrote but it is his best work. He wrote a lot of forgettable poetry and tracts. He sided with the Republicans when they deposed and executed King Edward. He wrote a tract justifying regicide. But he soon grew weary of Oliver Cromwell’s government and complained that tyranny by religious bigots was no more preferable than tyranny by royalty. His fame allowed him to keep his head after the restoration and Edward II generously gave him an annual stipend.
Milton believed that the virtuous Christian hero shuns glory, sensual satisfaction, pagan learning and poetry. He also claimed that he spoke for the entire human race against the foes of liberty.
Here are a few lines from Paradise Regained,
But he though blind of sight,
Despised and thought extinguished quite,
With inward eyes illuminated,
His fiery virtue roused,
From under ashes into sudden flame,
And as an evening dragon came,
Assailant on the perched roosts,
And nests in order ranged,
Of tame villatic fowl; but as an eagle
His cloudless thunder bolted on their heads.
So virtue giv’n for lost,
Depressed and overthrown, as seemed,
Like that self-begotten bird
In the Arabian woods embossed,
That no second knows nor third
And lay erewhile a holocaust,
From out her ashy womb now teemed,
Revives, reflourishes, then vigorous most
When most unactive deemed,
And though her body die, her fame survives,
A secular bird ages of lives.
His famous contemporary, Samuel Johnson, didn’t like Milton’s personality or his politics, but said Milton’s work constituted “a full display of the united force of study and genius and the poet, whatever be done is always great. Paradise Lost is among the finest productions of the human mind.”
We Are Awesome!!!
OUR Lives are LIVING PROOF !!!
Submitted by Gerald Fehr
To Those of Us Born 1925 – 1955: TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED THE 1930s, 40s, 'and ‘50s!!
First, we survived being born to mothers who may have smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes. Then, after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets, And, when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps, not helmets, on our heads.
As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes. Riding in the back of a pick- up truck on a warm day was always a special treat.
We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter, and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And we weren't overweight. WHY? Because we were always outside playing...that's why!
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. --And, we were OKAY.
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem..
We did not have Play Stations, Nintendo’s and X-boxes. There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, and no video movies. Or DVDs, no surround-sound or CDs, No cell phones, no personal computers, and no Internet and no chat rooms. WE HAD FRIENDS. And we went outside and found them!
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits from those accidents.
We would get spankings with wooden spoons, switches, ping-pong paddles, or just a bare hand, and no one would call child services to report abuse.
We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, 22 rifles for our 12th, rode horses, made up games with sticks and tennis balls, and, although we were told it could happen - we did not put out very many eyes.
We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just Walked in and talked to them.
Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. And to try harder next time. Imagine that!!
The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!
These generations produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers, and inventors since the wheel was invented. The past 60 to 85 years have seen an explosion of innovation and new ideas.
We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.
If YOU are one of those born between 1925-1955, CONGRATULA-TIONS! You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives for our own good.
While you are at it, share it with your kids, so they will know how brave and lucky their parents were. Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?
E. B. Alston
Biologists say that most species that have ever existed are now extinct. That is also true of words. At least a fifth are obsolete of the Oxford English Dictionary’s 231,000 entries are obsolete. They range from “aa”, a stream or waterway (try that in Scrabble) to “zymome", “that constituent of gluten which is insoluble in alcohol”.
The English have a rich lexicon because first, they were conquered by the Vikings and Norman French. Then they took their turn conquering large swathes of the Earth, In Asia, North America and Africa. Thousands of new words entered the standard language as a result. Many more entered local dialects, which were rarely written down. The OED only includes words that have been written.
Researchers have identified some of the unwritten ones. For the Dictionary of American Regional English, researchers conducted thousands of interviews, usually with older country folks, who still spoke their regional dialect. They found such treasures as “to pungle up”, meaning for someone to produce money or something they owed, and "the mulligrubs” Young urban speakers are more likely to adopt metropolitan norms, whether “broadcast standard” in America or “BBC English” Britain. One factor that gave this homogenizing trend a boost was advertising, which tends to standardize the names of things bought and sold in national markets, and the rise of American popular culture and global mass media in the second half of 20th century.
A 2012 study found evidence for this homogenization. It looked through a huge trove of books published since 1800, scanned and made searchable by Google, and found that the death rate of words seems to have sped up in English (and also in Spanish and Hebrew) since about 1950. One cause is the death of perfect synonyms in an era of mass communications: the words “radiogram” and “roentgenogram”, both meaning the same thing, were eventually edged out by “x-ray”, the world having no need for three labels for the same thing.
Dare’s editors tried to resist the standardization hypothesis. What people call their grandparents-for example, “gramps and gram” or “mee-maw and pa-paw “is more immune to the steamroller of national norms, for fact, these words are especially stubborn precisely because they give people an emotional connection to where they come from.
Some words were never a great loss in “foe” first place. The oed hits “respair”, both as a noun and verb, meeting foe return of hope after a period of despair-an obvious etymological kissing-cousin. The great dictionary’s only citation for this dates back to 1425. For whatever reason, “respair” is a word that English-speakers decided they could happily live without. The OED also includes a host of terms from the “inkhom” period of English word-coinage, when writers readily made up new words from Greek and Latin roots. Good riddance to such forgettables as “suppeditate”, meaning “subdued” or “overcome”. Some words hang on in a sort of life- support state, frozen in a single usage but otherwise forgotten. Who uses the verb “to wend”, except in the fixed expression “to wend one’s way somewhere”? (Bonus fact the past tense of “wend” replaced the old past tense of “to go”, which is why we say “I went”.) Had Shakespeare not memorialized the name of a small siege explosive in the phrase to be “hoist with his own petard”, meaning a small bomb but also linked to the French word for “fart”, that would probably be gone, too.
Those who get the mulligrubs thinking about great old words dying can pungle up for a subscription to DARE, helping those lexicographers keep adding words to the online edition. But a word needs to be used to live. So DARE has teamed up with Acast, a podcast producer, creating a list of 50 endangered American regionalisms, and trying to get Acast’s podcasters to use them. Who can resist “to be on one’s beanwater”-meaning “in high spirits"? And isn’t “downpour" a but a work day for heavy rain, when you could be calling it a “frog strangler”? No one wants to see English submit to boring homogenization; using a few of these lexical rarities might offer some respair.
Excerpted with permission from an piece called Lexical Treasures in the Economist, March 4.
I hate winter now. Its dark nastiness depresses me.
It wasn’t always this way. As a younger man, I skied, skated, and played occasional amateur hockey. In plain words, I found ways to have fun in winter. Sadly, that was yesteryear.
The Winter Solstice on or about 21 December is, of course, the shortest day of the year. But did you know that after the solstice, the days get longer only in the afternoon? For thirty days after the solstice, morning sunrise is later by a minute or two or three than it is on the actual day of the solstice. Here in Toano, for example, sunrise was at 0718 (7:18 AM) this year on the day of the solstice. Then it slipped later and later each morning for awhile. It wasn’t until Saturday, 21 JAN, that sunrise returned to 0718. Then on Sunday, sunrise was at 0717. Sunrise has been getting slightly earlier every morning since . . . a promising sign.
Groundhog Day – 2 FEB – is my Favorite National Holiday. For one thing, it doesn’t disrupt mail delivery like MLK Day or Presidents’ Day. Also, you need not buy presents or mail cards. So it’s an easy day to be joyous about. It’s also a spring harbinger, denoting that at the worst, spring is only six more weeks away. If you count on your calendar, you’ll see that Groundhog Day is just six weeks give or take a few days, from the spring equinox, or resetting clocks for Daylight Savings Time. So Groundhog Day always lifts my spirits.
I’d be happier if we stayed on Daylight Savings Time year ‘round. Resetting clocks in my house is an onerous twice-annual nuisance. Counting the motor vehicles, microwave, kitchen stove, and coffee maker, I have sixteen clocks to reset. And this count omits the antique schoolhouse clock here in my study, which I no longer wind.
One scurrilous argument for reverting to Standard Time every autumn is that “Oh! The poor little children will be standing in the dark waiting for the school bus if we don’t set the clocks back.”
What a whole horde of horse manure that reasoning is! I drove a school bus in Charlotte for two years in the early-mid 1990s, picking up my first kids – the high schoolers – while it was still slap dark, even on Standard Time. Most of those slept on the bus until I got them to school and rousted them back awake anyway. Then they stumbled across the dark parking lot and into the schoolhouse. And don’t even get me started on my rant about why we should pick up the bouncy little grammar-school kids first while the teenagers sleep in, which they all need to do!
My “starter” bus was a reasonably recent diesel-powered Ford. Then I graduated to a seventeen-year-old International, which I liked better because it drove better. That bus was older than any of the kids who rode in it, with the possible exception of any high-school seniors who weren’t already driving their own cars to school.
On really frosty mornings, though, the International was a bitch to start. Its elderly diesel engine required an ether-injection boost to fire off. It was a three-hands-at-once operation. One hand turned the key while my third hand operated the ether-boost control. I forget now what my other hand was doing – probably pulling on the spring-loaded choke knob -- but trust me, it was quite a trick to get going on really cold mornings.
Even though Charlotte is more than two degrees north latitude south of Richmond and Toano, it gets colder. I recall one morning while I lived in Charlotte in the 1980s when temp plummeted to four below zero, and another two-below-zero morning. I’ve never experienced any sub-zero weather here in East Virginia. Even during the cold winter of 1956-57 the coldest was zero, right on the nose. Fred Hazeltine, the morning man on Richmond’s WRNL radio, quipped, “Better not put your brass monkeys out until noontime!”
I suppose that it’s because Charlotte’s weather is more “continental”, being farther inland than here in Tidewater, East Virginia. Richmond is right on the “fall line” that demarcates Tidewater from the Piedmont farther west. The James River is fresh in Richmond’s west end and then tumbles through all the rocks in city center to become tidal in the east end.
Groundhog Day is now just a week away. I look forward to it. When it arrives, I mentally turn a corner. I’ve spent far too much non-productive time since the Winter Solstice this year watching TV, reading books and magazines, working a Christmas jigsaw puzzle, cooking heavy winter grub, and generally avoiding useful activity in my workshop. It’s high time I got going again!
Submitted by Anna Tritt
Two informally dressed ladies happened to start up a conversation during an endless wait in the LAX airport.
The first lady was an arrogant California woman married to a wealthy man. The second was a well mannered elderly woman from the South.
When the conversation centered on whether they had any children, the California woman started by saying, "When my first child was born, my husband built a beautiful mansion for me."
The lady from the South commented, "Well, isn't that precious?"
The first woman continued, "When my second child was born, my husband bought me a beautiful Mercedes-Benz."
Again, the lady from the South commented, "Well, isn't that precious?"
The first woman continued boasting, "Then, when my third child was born, my husband bought me this exquisite, diamond bracelet."
Yet again, the Southern lady commented, "Well, isn't that precious?"
The first woman then asked her companion, "What did your husband buy for you when you had your first child?"
"My husband sent me to charm school," declared the Southern lady.
"Charm school?" the first woman cried, "Oh, my God! What on earth for?"
“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accepting both of them.” George Orwell
Elizabeth Silance Ballard
There are those who go about doing good with trumpet fanfare preceding them. Those are the ones we see in the newspapers, the magazines, and hear of as we go about our daily lives.
There are others who go about doing good but who make sure there is someone around who will spread the word subtly so they appear to be modest, humble men and women who only want to do good. Then there are those like Stanley G. Medderly, the barber, the only barber, in the small town of Babylon. It doesn’t really matter where you might find Babylon. It is Stanley who matters.
Stanley grew up on a small farm but decided early that he wanted to spend his life doing something that involved people. He didn’t want his daily work to be with horses, cows, hogs, and other farm animals. While his brothers seemed to enjoy the solitude of plowing a field and the wonder of seeing things grow as they walked silently among the plants, reaching down occasionally to clasp a handful of the good earth and smell its richness, Stanley craved people. He craved talk. No one was surprised when he left the farm as soon as he was of age to do so and went off in search of what he hoped was a better way of life for himself.
He made his way to that city which draws all who seek fame, fortune, and excitement in life—New York City. He sent postcards home almost weekly of every scene imaginable. He rarely wrote more than one sentence so six months later all they knew was that he loved the city, that he had been to the Empire State Building and other landmarks, that he enjoyed apartment living and had made friends in his building, and that he had become a barber. It set the little town of Babylon buzzing.
“Well, where’s the excitement in that?”
“If that’s fame and fortune, then I’m just as glad to be right here in Babylon, thank you!”
Of course, Stanley didn’t know he was the talk of Babylon nor would he have cared if he had known. Stanley loved being a barber. He loved talking to people who came into the shop all day long where he worked day after day. He loved listening, too, and he learned a lot in so doing.
Almost three years to the day after Stanley left Babylon, he returned. The people, those friends and family members with whom he had spent his first eighteen years, still knew nothing of his life in the Big City and soon realized they were unlikely to learn anything more now.
“What was it like mingling with the hordes up there in Noo Yawk City, Stanley?”
“About like here,” he would respond. “People are people. Just more of them up there.”
“Didja find you a gal up there, Stan My Man?”
“Can’t say as I did.”
“You’ll be going back, I reckon. Babylon won’t seem like much now that you’ve been up Nawth. When you going back, Stanley?”
Stanley would always smile but, one and all, they got no real answer to their questions. Stanley seemed the same and, yet, he seemed different somehow.
“Stanley, your old room is still right there for you,” Mama said. “I’m glad you’re back.”
Stanley had other ideas, though, and soon he was settled into the few rooms above the local barbershop owned and operated by Walter Bell, better known as Old Walt. His living quarters were furnished with items found abandoned there since before Walt had bought the building and with yard sale items from around Babylon. He was a minimalist before the term was used in home decorating.
Every morning he would go down and open up the shop, turning on the heat or the air conditioning, depending on the weather, generally getting the place ready for business. Old Walt would come in around nine o’clock and their day would begin. It was not the steady flow of customers to which he was accustomed in New York, but he was satisfied. He enjoyed hearing the local news and the fact that he knew just about everybody who walked in and just about everybody knew him.
He returned to the First Baptist Church where he had always gone as a child, joined the choir, the Baptist Men, and a Sunday School class. He also joined the Masons and the Lions Club. His social life flourished, since a single man in a small town is a greatly sought after entity.
In a few years, Old Walt decided to retire and sold his business and building, lock, stock and barrel, to Stanley. Nobody knew how much Stanley paid for it as neither man talked about their private affairs but nobody could deny that Stanley had done okay for himself. It certainly seemed that he was back home for good with a firm place in the community now; yet, Stanley remained something of a mystery in Babylon.
The first day of each and every month Stanley Medderly placed his “Closed” sign on the front door and left town. No one knew where he went and he would never say, no matter who asked or how many times they asked. He always smiled and said, “Oh, we all need a change of scenery from time to time, don’t you agree?”
As the years went by, Stanley continued to cut hair as his own grew thin, then receded, gradually disappearing into the male pattern baldness so many men fear. It didn’t matter to Stanley at all. He was happy with himself and his life.
He still sang tenor in the adult choir at First Baptist, he was a Past Master of the Masonic Lodge and a past president of the Lion’s Club. The “girls” who had once chased him shamelessly were now mothers and grandmothers but he was still single and still living in his above-shop apartment, though it was now tastefully furnished and comfortable enough for any man. If he was ever lonely, it was not evident to anyone. Stanley was still making his monthly trips out of town on the first day of each and every month but he was gradually slowing up on his outside activities and even retired from the choir.
“Stanley, will you sing ‘Oh, Holy Night’ again for us this Christmas?” he was asked early in October, when the choir director was planning the seasonal music for that year.
“No, “he said. “No, I think it’s time for one of the younger men to take over the solo work. My voice isn’t what it used to be, you know.”
Stanley was a man who knew himself and wasn’t afraid of the normal progression of life. The one thing that did bother him was who was going to take his place when he retired from barbering. Not one young man in town had shown the slightest interest when he tried to tell them of the good opportunity to be grasped when he retired. He had even contacted several schools, including his own alma mater in New York, trying to find someone who could take over his shop, but no one was interested, it seemed, in coming to Babylon.
Then the day came—Christmas Eve, it was, when the door to the barber shop did not open at its usual time. A couple of the townsmen stood outside the door until one of them said it might be a good idea to call Stanley.
“He’s never late. Never has been late in opening this shop. Maybe he just overslept.”
When only the answering machine took the call, the men called Stanley’s one remaining family member who came right over with the spare key.
When he got the news, Stanley’s friend and lawyer, Farley Mewborn, immediately took charge as the Executor of Stanley’s estate. He made calls to the Baptist pastor, the local funeral home and to a number in New York City per the written instructions made by Stanley many years before. He made arrangements for the obituary, complete with photo, to be posted in the Babylon Daily Register, the Raleigh News & Observer, and a couple of New York papers.
Christmas Eve church services and Christmas Day family celebrations went on as usual in Babylon but on December 26th, they began arriving at First Baptist Church, filling up the pews an hour before the service was to begin. The folks of Babylon looked at one another in perplexity as stranger after stranger came into the church. Who were these people? Some of them looked rather—well, not like someone they might expect to see at First Baptist Church on a Sunday morning. How did they even know Stanley Medderly, anyway?
Those arriving later found there was no parking space available. Cars were lined up and down the streets and people walked several blocks only to find there was also no seat available.
Inside, the service began but people paid little attention to the words of the pastor or even to the choir who sang, while one seat in the tenor section remained empty. The local eyes darted here and there at the strangers in their midst while the eyes of the strangers were red rimmed with tears.
The pastor had been alerted by Stanley’s lawyer, Farley, that there would be eulogies spoken but he was unable to give any names, so the pastor asked, “Is there anyone who would like to speak a few words?”
A man seated near the rear of the sanctuary stood and started down the aisle. His suit was rumpled, as if he had been in it for several hours, and he smiled as he reached the rostrum.
“Thank you, Pastor,” he said, and then turned toward the congregation. “My name is Joshua Allen. I have been a friend of Stanley Medderly for forty-seven years. We met when he went to New York as a lad of eighteen. We met at the YMCA where we stayed when we both arrived in the city. I was fresh out of college and was looking for a job in social work. Stanley wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He was looking for any job he could find, until he could decide what direction he wanted his life to take.”
The story unfolded as Joshua Allen told of his own work in a mission and working with the homeless. He told of Stanley’s visits to that mission and how touched he was by the plight of those he met.
“Now, this might not sound like much to some of you, but Stanley saw a need. In response to that need, he put himself through barber school by working in restaurants as a waiter, bus boy, or janitor, whatever he could get. He went to school five days a week. Five nights a week plus Saturdays he worked in any restaurant where he could get work. On Sundays, he went down to the mission area and began cutting hair of the men who were there. Now, as I say, that might not sound like a lot to you, but to a man who has no means to go to a barber shop or even shampoo his hair, it was a godsend and I see in this church today many men I recognize, many of whom came with me, who can testify how much Stanley Medderly’s service meant to them. I won’t point them out; but, if you care to speak to any stranger you see among you, you might be surprised to hear the stories they can tell about your friend and neighbor, Stanley.”
Then another man stood up and walked to the rostrum. “Hello, I am Luke Thomas. I am the director of the Golden Shears School of Professional Barbering. I have only been in this position for ten years, but Stanley has been a legend far longer than that. I am not sure exactly how much money he has spent in tuition for men to go through our school. He became acquainted with almost all of them down at the mission Mr. Allen just told you about. I doubt if even Stanley knew just how many lives he has changed over the many years he was a benefactor. He wasn’t one to keep count. He was too busy helping as many as he could.
“He wasn’t a wealthy man, of course, and you might be wondering how in the world he could afford such generosity.” The man gave a chuckle and continued. “The story I was given is that he drove up in front of the school one day with a truckload of what looked like old junk furniture. Went in and asked what the current tuition rates were and said he’d be back in a few days. Well, he took that load of “old junk” to one of the auction houses in the city and turns out there were some pretty valuable pieces in it. Somebody asked him at the time where he got the furniture and he said his barber gave it to him when he moved back to his home town.
“Well, folks, the next day, Stanley showed up in the business office with four men, all in their forties, saying they wanted to become barbers. Paid cash for their tuition in full. It was the first of many, many receipts we wrote for students sent to us by this good man. All of them were headed down a road from which there is seldom a return. Stanley found a way to bring them back. Those first four men are here today. They are all successful barbers with families and standing in their communities. Two of them own their own shops. Stanley Medderly knew how to make a difference. Many men talk. Stanley took action and never talked about it.”
On and on it went. It was the longest funeral service anyone could remember attending but no one got up and left. It turned out that those days Stanley closed his shop and left town were days he drove up to Raleigh to shave and cut hair for the homeless men, always promising he would be back in thirty days and urged them to meet him there again. He sent many of them up to New York to the Golden Shears School of Barbering.
“And he didn’t just help those in New York and Raleigh,” said the pastor, after all had spoken who wished to do so. “He did more in this town than anyone knew. He lived simply. Said being a single man didn’t cost a whole lot. The Bridge People, those who live under our bridges right here in this county, knew Stanley, too. In the cold months, he let them sleep in his shop to stay warm. Said he never had a single thing go missing. Said they were good people who had met with hard times and hadn’t had the knowledge, the means, or the confidence to get themselves back on track. He did what he could to help. This might not sound like much to you, either, but when you’re cold with no really warm clothing and no place to go, a warm barbershop floor and some blankets go a long way.”
Many are glad to go about doing good as long as there is fan fare and publicity. Others are glad to go about doing good without fanfare and publicity as long as someone knows they have done it. And then there are the Stanley Medderlys in the world. Stanley, who lived alone, died alone, lived for others and now lives with God. Stanley, whose simple headstone reads, He Made a Difference.
From the book, Christmas Without Kyoko Available at Writer Book Publishing, Amazon and any bookstore
Late summer evenings offer stillness
It presents a unique quiet
Even the sounds of the crickets seem muted.
It reminds us that autumn approaches
Brilliant colors filled with clear cool days
How I long for late summer evenings of days past
Those simple times presented only to childhood.
Thoughts & Recipes
Dutch Baby is a cross between a pancake and a popover. A light and puffy treat also known as a German pancake made with a batter of flour, eggs, sugar, butter, milk, cooked in the oven. Versions of this recipe have been around for a long time.
Wikipedia says, “A Dutch baby pancake, sometimes called a German pancake, a Bismarck, or a Dutch puff, is a sweet popover that is normally served for breakfast. It is derived from the German Pfannkuchen.”
We enjoy eating Dutch Baby on Sunday evenings. It can be served anytime with fruit, syrup, lemon sugar, or just a sprinkling of powdered sugar. Hope you will try it. You are in for a surprise!
Servings: 2 or 4 small
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar, for serving
While heating the oven to 375 degrees F. put 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 10-inch cast iron pan and heat the pan in the oven for 10 minutes. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and set aside to cool slightly. Pulse together the flour, sugar and salt in a blender or food processor. Add the eggs, milk, vanilla extract and melted butter, and blend the batter until smooth and frothy, 30 to 45 seconds.
Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and immediately pour the batter into the center. Bake for 20 minutes, do not open the oven while baking. The Dutch baby will puff up in the center and the edges will be dark and crispy.
Serve warm with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.
Mix together, sit aside, spoon on top of Dutch Baby after it has baked.
1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 cup blueberries
2 teaspoons sugar
Try topping with sautéed apples, caramelized bananas, or a spoonful of whipped cream and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.
Mother was a very loving, kind, and hard working woman. My brother and I were taught to respect her and our dad. We called her “Mother”, and we said “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am”. Growing up we ate a lot of good food. The next two recipes came from my mother’s recipe box. The cheese log is simple, but good and keeps well. Just thinking about that chocolate cake brings back memories of how good it smelled - one of my favorites.
Mother’s Chocolate Pound Cake & Icing
Cake - mix the following in order:
½ lb. butter (I used 1 cup softened butter and 1 tablespoon Crisco)
3 cups sugar
5 eggs (add one at a time)
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
Sift together and then add to the above mixture:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cocoa
Pour into a greased, lined tube pan and bake at 325 degrees for
1 hour and 30 minutes.
Let cool before icing.
Icing: Mix together to spreading consistency:
2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa
½ stick butter, softened
4 tablespoons hot coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla
Note: If icing is too thick to spread add small amounts of cream or milk to thin.
Mother’s Cheese Log
Makes 2 logs or balls.
8 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
2 – 8 oz. packages cream cheese
1 teaspoon each: finely chopped onion, green pepper, pimento
Dash of salt, cayenne, red pepper (opt)
Grate cheddar cheese.
Soften both cheeses in the microwave.
Add all other ingredients and mix well.
Shape into a log or ball and roll in nuts.
Wrap and refrigerate.
Serve with crackers.
These stories are just a few of the strange occurrences that took place in the Bahama, NC area. Some date back to the turn of the 19th century. Others date back to the 1950’s and early 1960’s. I hope that you enjoy them as much as my grandchildren.
My grandma told many stories of strange occurrences that took place near the old Sam Mangum house in Bahama, NC. However, my cousins and I got to have our own puzzling experience that has left us scratching our heads to this day.
On the West side of the Sam Magnum house was a farm road. During my childhood it was called “The Graham Duke Road”. Today it’s called the Dunwoody Road. I have no idea why its name was changed. At the corner of the Graham Duke and Hampton Road stood an old tenant house; that’s still lived in today. In the mid 1950’s my father and mother lived in the house; while I lived across the road with my grandma. In the early 1960’s a family whose last name was “Martin” were living in the house. Ironically, the house was only about half a mile straight down the Hampton Road from the haunted house in my grandma’s ghost stories.
The Martin’s had a bunch of young’uns ranging in ages from teenagers to about five years old. One day they (al,ong with one of my cousins), were playing in the yard. They were running around just having fun, cutting up and laughing. The five year old ran around into the back yard alone. All of a sudden he let out a scream that would raise the hair on the back of one’s neck. It was so loud that my other cousin and I heard the scream inside the Sam Magnum house. We ran upstairs, stepped out of a window on to a balcony. From that vantage point we could see the house clearly and the pine thicket behind the house. All of a sudden we saw a large mass that appeared to be walking. It was walking through the pines straight toward the old haunted house. The most striking feature of the mass was that its head appeared to be as tall as the eight foot trees. It walked over the hill and disappeared. After we got over the shock of what we’d seen we ruled out a bear. A bear could stand eight feet tall; but wouldn’t have walked that far on its hind legs. We just didn’t have a clue as to what that dark creature could be.
After the creature disappeared we ran across the road to see what the others had seen. We found the five year boy. He still had not spoken. His face was frozen in fear. Finally, he screamed “creature” and blurted out “pointed ears and “long teeth”. My cousins and I walked behind the house to the place he claimed to have seen this strange creature. Inside the shed were some wood crates. We couldn’t make out any tracks. Whatever it was, it had crushed the crates. There were two crates stacked one on the other and it crushed them both!
Soon after this event the Martins moved out to another county. We never saw the creature again. We never really figured out just what we’d seen. Was it an animal? Or could it have been some supernatural entity associated with the haunted house? I for one never want to see the creature again.
My grandparents lived on Sam Mangum’s farm in Bahama for a big part of their lives. Sam also had a farm about six or so miles, (as the crow flies), north of the Bahama farm. It was just inside Person County in a community named Moriah. They lived on that farm twice during my childhood. Granddaddy’s brother, (Uncle Claude), lived on Sam’s Moriah farm for most of my childhood. This farm was located smack dab in the middle of the WWII training area that was part of Camp Butner. Back then it was considered way past the boondocks. Our closest neighbors outside of Uncle Claude were miles away.
The first time they lived on the Moriah farm, I was five and lived with them fulltime. WWII had ended just eleven years earlier. I remember going hunting with my grandfather and seeing craters created by the artillery rounds and occasionally we’d run across an earthworks bunker. I also remember once granddaddy finding some unfired artillery shells when he cleared some land. Like most of the farmers around the area, he pushed them into the tree line out of the field. This probably was not the smartest thing to do; but like most he didn’t think much about the potential danger. On many of those hunts I felt like I was being watched. As a kid I rationalized that there was nothing to worry about. After all, anyone that could possibly be near was probably kin folks.
About six years later they moved back to the Moriah farm for their final time. I spent all of my weekends, holidays and summer with my grandparents. By now I would go hunting alone or with one of Uncle Claude’s sons, (Bobby). He was actually my second cousin. Again, I always felt like someone was watching me when in the woods hunting. The area was still isolated, there wasn’t even a paved road for miles. The areas we hunted didn’t have a house for miles, except my grandparent’s and Uncle Claude’s.
To go hunting I would leave my grandparent’s house, go through Uncle Claude’s backyard and pass through many fields to get to the deep woods. Every time I’d pass through Uncle Claude’s back yard he would always, (short of rain or snow), be sitting under a huge hickory tree. He never spoke. He just sat there either humming or just grunting.
One day I stopped by and asked Bobby if he wanted to go squirrel hunting. I had a .22 rifle and he had a shotgun. My granddaddy was part Cherokee Indian and would eat anything you killed and especially liked squirrel. It was winter and cold. When it was cold I used Bobby to double team the squirrels. During bitter cold squirrels would stay in their nest. When we found a nest I would shoot into the nest. The squirrel would run out and then Bobby could take them with the shotgun.
One particular hunt has forever haunted me. As always, I had this feeling of being watched. We had finished hunting and were moving out of the deep woods, headed to open fields and back to Uncle Claude’s. It was kind of cloudy and we were losing natural daylight. I could see through the trees and see the sky getting light where the fields opened up. On many of these trips I would often whistle my favorite tune of the day. This hunt was no different. I was whistling away and got to a natural pause in the song. Just before I was going to start back with my song; something or someone finished my tune. It was not a repeat of the song; it was the ending using different notes unique to the song. Out of some kind of instinct Bobby and I dropped to one knee. We ended up with our backs to each other. It got eerily quiet. The only noise to be heard was the clicks of the safeties on my rifle and his shotgun. Both safeties went to the fire position at almost the same time. I could feel the hair stand up on my neck. We didn’t move or speak for a few minutes. It was so quiet and I was looking for some movement, listening for a twig to crack or something to explain what had just happened.
We stood up without speaking and started walking toward the fields. I never have forgotten how happy I was to see the fields. Once we cleared the woods we tried to figure out what had just happened. We knew that we were miles from anyone except Bobby’s house. As soon as we got back to Uncle Claude’s; we asked him if he had seen anyone back in the fields. He told us that no one had been through the yard except us. We never told him why we asked.
Bobby and I never spoke about that day with anyone. I haven’t seen Bobby in over forty five years. I have often wondered if he thinks of that strange day in time. After my kids got grown, I told them about the whistler. It would be easy to say that someone played a prank on us. This was highly improbable. Eventually, the prankster would have laughed at getting our goat. Plus, our location was so isolated. I have often wondered if some spirit of a WWII soldier that had died in a training exercise, was the prankster. That would have explained why no one ever laughed to our face and made fun of us. Whatever it was, I made a point of never being in those woods that late in the day. I never whistled again while hunting in that area. Even so, the feeling of being watched never went away anytime I hunted those woods.
Stones and Horses
My grandmother Jacobs told me several stories that cause a person to question. Her maternal grandmother was Betsy Veasey and told her some true stories and she experienced much of it herself. Her maternal grandfather was Elisha Veasey. He was a Civil War soldier. He was in Company E, 23rd Regiment, North Carolina troops. They were called the “Granville Plow Boys”. He was considered a resident of Granville County (Durham County didn’t exist as of yet). Her other grandfather was named Willy Teasley and was listed as a resident of Orange County. Ironically, they could almost hit each other’s house with a rock. One (Elisha) lived on the east side of the Flat River and the other on the west side. They both came back from a cruel war that hardened both men and to women that were hardened by near starvation and trying to hold families together. In other words, it would take a lot to scare them.
Ironically, the stories that I’m about to tell took place near the haunted house from many of my previous stories. When my grandmother was a small child her Veasey grandparents lived on Hall Road, in Bahama, N.C. My Veasey great great grandparents are buried just in front of the same house in which one of the stories took place. By air it was only about one hundred yards through the woods to the house in grandma’s stories from the 1930’s.
Grandma told us children that her grandma Veasey would be sitting in her living room rocking. All of a sudden stones would fall from the ceiling and roll across the room. I remember asking my grandmother about the ceiling materials. She told me that it was made out of wanes coating, which was basically solid wood.
I asked “Did anyone throw the stones through a window”?
She said “No, it was usually winter time, the windows were closed and no windows were broken”.
I asked “How often did it happen”.
She said “There is no rhyme or reason to when it happens”.
She told me that it happened at times when she was present.
She said that granny would say “Just pick them up and throw them out the door”.
I remember thinking that I would have been totally freaked out. Stones just falling from nowhere and rolling around on the floor, I wouldn’t want to live in that house! It always amazed me that it didn’t appear to bother my grandmother nor did she indicate that it really bothered her grandma. I figured that they all had lived such hard lives that it must have taken a lot to shake their resolve.
Grandma told me of another strange story that took place near the Hall and Hampton Roads in Bahama. My grandma told me that her family would often take a wagon from Hall Road and cut over to the Hampton Road. Then they would take the horse drawn wagon and cross the Bahama Moriah Road. From the Hampton Road they would take a left split onto the Wilkins Road. As soon as they took the split there was a spot in the road where the horse would stop dead in its tracks
Grandma said “The horse would get all wild eyed and refuse to move forward”.
She said her father or sometimes her grandfather would lay the whip to the horse.
Grandma said “Most of the time daddy or papa would get off the wagon and pull the horse past the spot”.
She said that they would have to grab the bit in the horse’s mouth and force him to move forward. She said the event always took place at the same spot in the road. Sometimes they would take a different horse or a mule and none of the animals would want to pass the same exact spot.
I remember asking her why she thought that all the horses would balk at the same spot in the road.
She said “Animals can see ghost and I believe they can sense a spirit; especially an evil spirit”.
DECEMBER: South Korea votes for a new president. The latest "Star Wars" movie, the eighth in a franchise that began in 1977, is released. Kippis! Finland celebrates 100 years of independence on December 6th. The first human-heart transplant was performed 50 years ago, in South Africa. In addition, the first text message was sent 25 years ago: it said "Merry Christmas"
The preacher's 5 year-old daughter noticed that her father always paused and bowed his head for a moment before starting his sermon. One day, she asked him why.
"Well, Honey," he began, proud that his daughter was so observant of his messages. "I'm asking the Lord to help me preach a good sermon." "How come He doesn't answer it?" she asked.
“To be nobody-but- yourself in a world which is doing its best to make you like everybody else-means to fight the hardest battle which any human can fight” E. E. Cummings
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.
Elizabeth Silance Ballard: The Barber of Babylon, is a magazine columnist and author of Three Letters from Teddy and Other Stories, co-author of Whoopin and Hollerin in Onslow County, Kate’s Fan, Christmas Without Koyoko, The Fourth Wife of A Markham Gillespie, Welcome Home, Teddy Stallard and her latest, Three Rivers to Cross.
Rita Berman: A Lecture about Emily Bronte; 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: In Defense of Philosophy; 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
Kent Cash: Three Stories and Days Past; is retired from the City of Durham and among his pastimes is writing stories about his many experiences, which are available on Amazon Kindle. This is his first appearance in RQR.
Peggy Lovelace Ellis: Santa Doesn’t Need Lights; is a graduate of Blanton’s Business College, English emphasis, and from The Writer’s Institute, both fiction and nonfiction. She is a freelance editor working in fiction (historical and contemporary) and nonfiction (memoirs, academic research, devotionals, and Bible studies). Over the past 25 years, she has published regularly in many magazines including Good Old Days, Reminisce, Rock and Gem, Aquarium, True Story, Splickety (print and e-zine), Woman’s World, Highland Farms Weekly Review, and Righter Monthly Review, now Righter Quarterly Review (print and e-zine). She has compiled and edited three anthologies for her writers’ group: Challenges on the Home Front World War II (Chapel Hill Press, 2004), Lest the Colors Fade (Righter Books, 2008), and A Beautiful Life and Other Stories (Righter Books, 2010). Each contains her short fiction, memoirs, and research.
Jane Foust: Thoughts & Recipes; plus two of her paintings on this month’s cover, lives in Graham NC. Jane taught kindergarten and retired from UNC Chapel Hill. She enjoys sharing through her art, thoughts, and memories.
Diana Goldsmith: Statues, A Heart of Flesh and Barking Up the Wrong Tree; 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: Song of Winter Joy, Groundhog Day, January and Valentine’s Day,; has been writing and performing since childhood. This award winning journalist and performer’s first poetry collection is out -Languid Lusciousness with Lemon. You can order that and the fourth of her picture book series for children-Rosa’s Shell from her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ariana Mangum: A Forgotten Landscape; is a retired English teacher and author of When the Goldenrod Sang in the Meadows, A Forgotten Landscape, Where the Butterflies Roam and Shenandoah Promise. Her latest book, The Misadventures of Agnes Randolph, came out in January. Ariana died earlier this year. The Winter issue will contain the end of A Forgotten Landscape. The very first issue of Righter Monthly Review (January – 2008) ran the first chapter. We miss her.
Michelle Owens: MO’s Meanderings; 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, soon to be Writer Book Publishing.
Sybil Austin Skakle: Automobiles in My Life; 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, is now available.
Michael Warren: This Night; 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. His Wines of the Manticore was published earlier this year. His latest work, The Year, was published in November.
Marry Williamson: The Body of D. R. White, and Lifesaver; 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: Aunt Bessie’s Kitchen and The Last Comandment: 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: About Outboard Powerboat Racing and Winter Observations; 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.
Winnie Dowden Wyatt: For Everything a Time; was born and reared in Louisiana and is a cum laude graduate of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Wyatt served as a missionary in Nigeria, W. Africa where she worked with children’s literature. She has had numerous stories and articles published from that era. One story, “A Pot of Water for Bokkas,” was chosen for additional publication in a published collection, “Children All Over the World.” She has had five books published: “The Little Dry,” an African odyssey; “The Peeled Ones Have Come,” a meeting of cultures; “Three Glass Windows,” an American experience. Her books for young readers are: “Travis’ Ladder,” a boy meets the challenges of growing up; and “Folks Lena Knew,” a girl meets the variety of Americans. She has edited numerous articles published by her husband, a dentist, in a variety of professional publications. The Wyatt’s have four sons: two are dentists, one, a professor, holds a Doctorate in Mathematics, and one is a minister.
“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether you believe it or not.” Neil deGrasse Tyson
 The Bronte Myth, by Lucasta Miller, Anchor Books, New York, 2001.