Righter Quarterly Review

 Fall 2017

 Edited by E. B. Alston

And Michelle Owens

 ISBN- 978-1-974527-75-5

Copyright 2017

 Righter Publishing Company, Inc.

1112 Rogers Road

Graham. NC 27253


 logo 1in.jpg

Table of Contents

The Notebook’s Fate by Joan Leotta. 4

An Intellectual Oasis by E. B. Alston. 4

It’s Hunting Season by Tim Whealton. 6

Goethe: Life as a Work of Art - Reviewed by E. B .Alston. 8

Flaming June by Diana Goldsmith. 9

Life With Elizabeth by Elizabeth Silance Ballard. 11

Fall’s Creativity Fest by Joan Leotta. 11

A Forgotten Landscape by Ariana Mangum.. 12

October’s Farewell  by Sybil Austin Skakle. 17

Conceptual Leaps by Randy Bittle. 17

Erika’s Lament by Erika Juhlin. 20

Heaven by Sybil Austin Skakle. 21

October’s All Hallows’ Eve by Joan Leotta. 23

Life in Moccasin Gap/Sitting on the Front Porch by Brad Carver 23

Homecare by Michelle Owens. 24

Hammer Spade and the Long Shooter -  Serialized Book. 32

The Lays of Ancient Rome by Sir Thomas Babington Macaulay. 37

Minerva Checks Our Cyber-Dating by Minerva P. Shaw.. 37

Excitement at the Sunset Lodge by Marry Williamson. 39

Eyes Bright by Michael Warren. 42

October Shadows by Elizabeth Miccio. 43

School Days by Peggy Ellis. 44

Strange. 45

The Death of Icarus by Charles Darwin. 48

Patchwork by Diana Goldsmith. 49

The Past is a Foreign Country by E. B. Alston. 50

The World. 51

What to Do When You Start Getting Older by Tim Whealton. 52

Why Time Flies:  A Mostly Scientific Investigation. Reviewed by E. B. Alston 54

Camel Train by Anne Wallbank. 55

From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza. 56

Growing Up On a Farm – Fall 1946 by E. B. Alston. 64

My Experiences as a Freelance Writer by Rita Berman. 67

Greatest Headline in the History of Sports Journalism by  John Wall 70

A Different Sort of Man by Elizaberh Silance Ballard. 71

When to be Thankful by Joan Leotta. 74

Charlotte Bronte by Rita Berman. 75

A Weekend to Remember by E. B. Alston. 83

Contributors. 84



We thank world traveler Betsy Breedlove for the Outer Banks Lighthouse photographs on the front cover.  Thanks to romanticasheville.com for the fall foliage photograph taken at the Green Knob Overlook near Mount Mitchell. In addition, a special thanks to Jane Foust for allowing us to use her painting: House With Shutters, and poem on the back cover. A special thank you for the edit by Lona Lockhart.


Raphael and the School of Athens

The Notebook’s Fate

By Joan Leotta


My new notebook’s fate

is to be filled with

words painted

by pencils and pens

on rectangles of cheap paper

lined in the faintest of blue.

They are the wet paint

Of my mind. I must work

quickly to revise

my work before

the thoughts dry out.

An Intellectual Oasis

E. B. Alston


One of my favorite authors, I try to copy his style, is W. Somerset Maugham. He was an exceedingly candid person and wrote that he was never bored and only people who lacked intellectual resources (dummies) had to depend on the outside world for amusement.

Are you bored? Think hard before you answer for yourself. I am seldom bored and do not need human company around me in order to feel content. This confirms what the ancient philosophers said about human individuality. We are, all of us, islands. Technically, there is no such thing as “togetherness.” You are you and I am me. We can be brothers and sisters in mind and spirit but we are still, and forever, individually one. “Islands in the Stream,” as the story went.

I like people and I have a lot of friends. I enjoy being around people I like. It goes without saying that I am choosy in selecting my friends. I do not have any friends who are chronic liars, thieves, cheaters, boring, needy or untrustworthy. I try to be polite to everyone, including the above, but they can never be my friends. I will help some of the above if the help is beneficial. All of my friends are like me in this respect. We are birds of a feather, so to speak.

I didn’t know how choosy, selective is a nicer way to put it, we are about choosing friends until Gerry and I started taking in foster children in the mid 1960s. We kept some kids who already had a lifetime-worth of horror and mistreatment. I was amazed how quickly these children adjusted their lives and behavior to fit the home environment in my house. There was no chance whatsoever that my family would adjust to their lifestyle. Within two weeks, these 6-months to 8-year olds were acting like my children. 

We kept one 7-year old boy who, at his first supper with us, saw roast beef, string beans and mashed potatoes on his plate, said in a loud voice, “I ain’t eatin’ none of that crap.”

My children stared speechless at him with open mouths. My wife said firmly, “We do not speak that way. You will eat what is on your plate.”

A note of explanation: Over time, we learned that this child had never eaten anything but hamburgers and other fast food.

I think my children’s horrified expressions affected him more than what my wife said because he didn’t say anything else and when we saw how he handled his knife and fork, Gerry stopped to show him how they were used. When served pie for dessert, he asked what it was. This child had never eaten a slice of pie! Gerry had tears in her eyes when she explained pie was a dessert that we had after the main course. When he tasted the pie, he smiled and said, “I like pie. I ain’t never eat nothing this good in my whole life.”

In two weeks, he was calling Gerry Mama and me Daddy. One day my son, who was about 5, did something and I gave him a light spanking while telling him not to do that again. Later this boy did the same thing while making sure that I saw him do it. Knowing what was in his mind, I spanked him, too. The need to belong is a powerful thing.

Over the next few months, this boy blossomed and became a delight to be around. He loved church when we took him to his very first Sunday School and Church service. On his seventh birthday, he had his very first party and he got one exceptionally nice present.  In addition to clothes and a few toys, one of the engineers, who heard about him at work, gave him a Schwinn 26” bicycle that his children had outgrown. He must have ridden it 20 miles the first day.

We kept this boy for a little over two years while his parents straightened their lives out to the point that they were allowed to get their child back. It was a sad day when the welfare lady picked him up. I had told her he could have the bicycle but his parents would not allow him to keep it. What a sad outcome. We never learned what became of him.

His parents could never be my friends. But their child had learned that there were other types of lives than the one with his parents. He learned how nice people acted.

Today there are many divisions among our population. The range goes all the way from those who take pride in getting teenage girls pregnant and think robbing a convenience store is a career move to those who disdain anyone who works for a living and lives with a person of the opposite sex. Looking at this scenario, we had better be selective in who we associate with.

In addition, what used to be called B. S. has now become a lie because people are so dumb. I am sure that when you first read this, you thought “politicians.” While that is true, we expect politicians to lie. Or, in this sense, everything they say and think is B.S.

A better example is nutritional information where some paid actor in a TV ad gives us nutritional “advice.” They promote food products made cheaply in chemical factories and sold dearly as healthy food. Just about everything they say is dangerous for modern health nuts to eat is what I, and my generation, lived on. We ate things like real meat, with the fat, vegetables grown in our gardens. We drank whole milk from a real, living and breathing cow. Ate eggs from hens that marched up and down rows of garden vegetables eating bugs and worms. On Sundays we ate at least one of the chickens.

Soldiers who fought and won our 20th century wars ate this same stuff in military mess halls. I had no trouble adjusting to Army food because I ate the same things at home all my life.

Now, while I confess that I have not been bamboozled by these slick ads for fast food and all that other factory-made junk they call food, it is evident that this advertising has paid off because now the foods advertised in TV actually look unappealing to me. It is evident that it is appealing to today’s millennials. If food technology continues its present course, in another generation, the only naturally grown food on grocery shelves will be stuff like lettuce. And you would starve to death on a diet of lettuce.

I am in my 83rd year. I still shoot skeet. I mow my own lawn. Every food item that I like, and eat every day, is politically incorrect. Now that I think about it, every intellectual, religious, social and political belief I have is also politically incorrect. Literary folks would call me an anachronism.

When I look at the population around me, and the entertainments they are addicted to, the conversations I overhear and the junk on television, I realize that my friends, the fans of this magazine, and I, live in an intellectual oasis.

They laugh at us, but the truth is, the joke is on them.


Gene Alston

It’s Hunting Season

Tim Whealton


I grew up in the outboard motor business. Back then, it was a very seasonal business. We worked long hours in the summer and borrowed money in the winter. My Mother encouraged me to work at the Telephone Company so I would have paychecks year round. I have come full circle and I’m back to a seasonal business. I’m busy all year in my gun business but hunting season really changes things in the gun shop. I have to listen to so many hunting stories that most days I feel like I’m covered in blood and hair before I head home. Since I have to listen to everybody else’s hunting stories, you might as well hear one of mine!

I have always liked to hunt other game but nothing ever held my interest like duck hunting. The sheer insanity of getting up in the night, getting out of a warm cozy bed and going hunting is crazy. Duck hunters go far beyond crazy because they add cold water, ice, small boats and rough weather.

For a typical duck hunt, we would get up at 3:00 am; load the truck with decoys, guns, dogs, bags of gear and food. Then hook up the boat and drive an hour to a boat ramp. Wait in line, beat the dog for eating the food, unload the truck, load the boat, launch the boat, work on the motor that won’t start because it’s a cold-natured motor, take off in the stormy cold and run 2 to 15 miles to the hunting spot. Build a blind, set out decoys still tangled from the last trip, find the dog, eat the snack the dog missed and get ready for sunrise.

The actual hunt that you did all this work for will last about 20 minutes. That’s when the ducks are looking for a place to feed or rest and you hope your decoys look inviting. We did it and loved it for years but none of us knows why.

There are easier ways to hunt ducks. After getting up at 03:00 and freezing to death lost its appeal, we started hunting in swamps. No boat, maybe 3 decoys and a dog. The technique is to walk to the edge of a swamp where the ducks nest and rest between flying around to tease hunters. Simply wade out in chest waders just before daylight and wait for some ducks to fly by in range. We get up at 05:30, hunt, get a biscuit on the way home and are at work at 08:00. It’s easy and I had the perfect place, Weyerhaeuser Swamp.

It was a beautiful swamp about a mile long and maybe 300 yards wide. A dirt road makes access easy so we can walk the length of the swamp and wade out to favorite spots. I scouted out a couple of good-looking spots and told my hunting partner to get ready. John was my BFF long before anybody knew what that was. He was in good shape and he loved to hunt. His dog, Brant, was a huge black lab with that big blockhead that you see in famous duck hunting pictures. My dog, Nugget, was a small female with a little head. She didn’t care. She was good at it and would find every duck we knocked down and retrieve it. Her head would fit inside Brant’s mouth but she was the boss. The dogs were hunting partners just like John and me.

It was unusually cold on our first hunt to the new spot. We walked down the dark trail and let the dogs run ahead of us. They enjoyed the freedom and knew that soon they would have to sit motionless and shiver with excitement at the sound of rushing wings over the cypress trees. Finally, we reached the spot I had picked out for John. It offered a little clearing in the tree canopy where maybe a duck would actually want to land. I pointed it out with the beam on my flashlight and watched him start to wade out.

He had to go slow. The water was crotch deep with lots of tree limbs under the surface. You wouldn’t drown if you fell in but tripping and falling would mean waders full of ice water and a wet gun not to mention your wallet and everything else. After he was well away from shore, I hurried on to my spot.

My spot was about 100 yards away and out in the swamp about 50 yards. We were good time-wise because the first gray streaks of dawn where just beginning to show in the east. I found the spot I liked with a couple of openings in the trees large enough for a quick shot. The world has a peculiar type of quietness before sunrise in winter.

I was letting my mind enjoy a flight of ideas when a squeal unlike anything I had heard shattered the silence. It was a distress sound of some type. Deeper that a rabbit squeal and coming from where I had left John.

Then I saw John’s Maglite switch on. The squeal was getting more frantic and the light started waving. I thought it must be a signal and started back to shore.

Then I heard John yelling “No, No, No!” while his light kept going up and down. The light would go vertical and then horizontal.  He was yelling but hadn’t called my name or asked for help. So I stopped and watched as the spectacle continued for maybe another 30 seconds.

Then the light went out and things got quiet. Was John alive or had he been eaten alive! This swamp has huge gators but they are supposed to be sleeping in winter. Then, to my relief, I saw the light again and heard him call Brant and order him to stay.  

Slowly the sun began to rise and it was shooting time. Then, one minute till shooting time and ducks were quacking and flying everywhere. The limit is 2 and I had mine in the first few minutes.

I heard John shoot and saw a duck fall. I could see Brant standing on a stump with a duck in his mouth. It looked like he was waiting for an artist to come by and paint him.

Then, just like it started, the hunt was over. No more ducks flying and none in sight. I waded back to shore and headed back to where John was. John had just made it to shore when I got there and he had his limit as well.

I knew there must have been a story to tell so my first question was “What in the world happened just before sunrise?”

John explained that it was really hard to wade to his shooting spot. The tree limbs were thick and it was really hard to step over submerged brush with size 15 chest waders. Then he decided to move to a better spot when his dog spotted a young beaver swimming by.

Being a Labrador Retriever, Brant knew exactly what to do. His ancestors had been bred for many, many generations to do it. It was in his genes. Grab this thing and take it to his master. He grabbed the beaver in the middle and the beaver started squealing. Brant swam back toward John. John, being a smart doctor and having no desire to lose a finger, he did not reach down to take the beaver. This made no sense to Brant so he decided it would be best to push the beaver with the chainsaw teeth against John’s waders so he understood that his job was to take the game he retrieved and put it in his game bag, like he always had before. Meanwhile, the beaver was chain sawing holes in John’s waders at the water line while his feet were tangled up in submerged branches under the water. The light show I witnessed had been John trying to get Brant let the furry buzz saw go before it chewed through to his underwear.

Some hunts go like this. Some are worse. Some are better. And, sometimes you really hit a jackpot when all the pieces fall together. But, they are all fun. Maybe addictive is a better word.

My Uncle Johnny said, “If a man hunts and fishes for a lifetime he has a lot of stories to tell!”

There is no greater joy than to hunt with a good friend and a good dog. Well, there’s always fishing. And hitting an “X” with your first shot in a thousand-yard rifle match. Plus, a hug and a sweet kiss from your wife when you return from the hunt, fishing trip, or rifle match.


Goethe: Life as a Work of Art

By Rudiger Safranski

Translated by David Dollenmayer

Liveright; 551 pages; $35


Reviewed by E. B. Alston

goethe.jpgIn his biography of this great German writer and intellectual, Rüdiger Safranski wrote that Goethe was more than the sum of his works and that his entire life was a work of art. He quotes a friend of Goethe who said to him, “What you live is better than what you write.” Goethe replied, “It would please me if that were still true.”

Goethe attracted the adulation and respect of the greatest scientists, politicians, composers, and philosophers of his day. Schoolboys dressed like his fictional characters. Napoleon read his first novel obsessively. He was a prolific writer and wrote about everything from poetry to scientific treatises, novels and dramatic works. Indeed, Goethe’s unparalleled literary output would come to define the Romantic age.

Mr. Safranski is a German philosopher who has written books on Schiller, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and Heidegger. His sources were mainly Goethe’s own works, letters, diaries and conversations and some comments by contemporaries. The book was originally published in German.  This is a translation from the German by David Dollenmayer.

Although some considered Goethe a German latter day Shakespeare, Goethe is not as widely read in the English-speaking world as he is in Germany. Faust, the only book of his that I have read, is his most famous work. The rest of my readings were his essays and comments by others about him.

Goethe’s talents came naturally, like his interests, appetites. He lived in Frankfurt during a tempestuous period of wars and revolutions in Europe. He was born in 1749. His family was prosperous and well-connected. His first book, The Sorrows of Young Werther, completed when he was 25 estab­lished a glittering reputation for him. He wanted to ex­perience the world  first hand and went to work for the young Duke Karl August of Saxe-Weimar. He became fi­nance minister. He and the prince became lifelong friends.

Goethe continued to write while at court in Weimar, and worked to build up a network of relationships with the cultural and intel­lectual elite of the time. He became friends with Schiller, another poet, writer and member of the Sturm und Drang move­ment. Goethe also pursued natural history, anatomy and mineralogy, and developed a controversial theory of color. After a time, life at Karl August’s court became boring and he traveled to Italy for his own Grand Tour. Then he returned to Germany.

Goethe was also famous for the number and variety of his romantic pursuits, ranging from innkeepers’ daugh­ters to the cream of society. His romantic skill did not equal his literary skill and he lost a few romantic prizes. He didn’t have a long-term relationship un­til he was 40.  Christiane Vulpius became the object of his affections and the mother of his son, August. She was of a lower class and he didn’t marry her until 20 years later. He outlived her and kept on falling in love and pro­posed to a 19-year-old when he was 70. She turned him down.

By then Goethe was just another old man. Schiller had been dead for decades. His princely champion Karl August died in 1828. Goethe’s own son died in 1830. When he was 82 he took his two grandsons on to a mountain retreat where many years earlier he had scratched a poem into the wall. It was still there:


Peace lies over

All the peaks

In all the trees

You sense

Hardly a breath

The little forest birds fall silent.

Wait, and soon. You too will rest


Goe­the died six months later, in the spring of 1832. Years earlier, he had written to a friend that he wanted to “raise up as high as possible the pyramid of my existence”.  I believe he did.

Flaming June

Diana Goldsmith


A cloudless intense blue sky meant that the sun beat down unrelentingly on the parched ground. It was midday and there was no sign of life. What creature risks its life but tries to find somewhere it can hide away?

However, the places of sanctuary were getting fewer and fewer as time went on. Years ago there had been lush vegetation and trees which could survive a summer’s heat, but not now. Man had put pay to that. Urban sprawl radiated out from huge cities like the tentacles of a giant creature reaching out and ripping out fields, all green land, its offspring, concrete and brick.

In the cities there were streets of dwellings, all having basement car parks as all members of a family drove. With the development of the driverless cars even the children had their own vehicles. There were no gardens anymore because no one had time to work in them and also they would occupy space which could be used for additional housing.

Tree lined pavements were a thing of the past too as there were no need of them because no one walked anywhere anymore. The fields had gone as all farming was done in large factory units where animals did not go outside. All grain, fruit and vegetables were grown hydroponically inside large units.

There were no shops as all goods could be ordered online and delivered by drones.

 Ashley sat down in his air conditioned living room after getting a drink from the refrigerator. He looked again at his phone. He had to finish his report. He needed to ask Darren a colleague, some questions, so he turned on the wall screen by pointing his phone at it. Immediately it lit up and he could see Darren sitting in his lounge.

 Because of the great advances in technology, there was no need to go to work for many people. This saved time and money and meant rush hour commutes were a thing of the past. Ashley was a journalist on a prime time TV news channel. His reports were vivid, in depth and up to the minute.

Today he was working on the effects of Global warming, an ongoing problem, which with all advances in science they had failed to halt. In June temperatures above 40° C were being recorded more frequently. Two thirds of the polar ice cap had melted and that had had catastrophic effects on the ecosystems not only at the pole but elsewhere on the planet.

Many countries especially those in the African continent had seen populations cut by two thirds due to famine. It was only possible to live in the cities, so there were vast areas of desert on that continent greater than there had ever been. There were no more elephants, lions, gazelle, zebras, and wildebeest and again this caused massive irreversible changes to the ecosystem.

How had this all come about? Ashley wrote. He remembered reading something in the archives from 2017 about a group of World leaders who used to meet to discuss lowering the rise in temperature by a couple of degrees by cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

 He remembered that they were called the G7 and included his own country the United States. So what had gone wrong? He then recalled that a new President had pulled the country out of that accord as he said it was all a hoax and there was no such thing as climate change!



Advice for Old People

Submitted by Don Holloway

1. I changed my car horn to gunshot sounds. People get out of the way much faster now.

2. Gone are the days when girls used to cook like their mothers. Now they drink like their fathers.

3. You know that “thingy” little feeling you get when you really like someone? That’s common sense leaving your body.

4. I decided to stop calling the bathroom the “John” and renamed it the “Jim” I feel so much better saying I went to the Jim this morning.

5. Old age is coming at a really bad time. When I was a child I thought “nap time” was a punishment. Now, as a grownup, it feels like a small vacation.

6. The biggest lie I tell myself is...”I don’t need to write that down, I’ll remember it.”

7. I don’t have gray hair; I have “wisdom highlights.” I’m just very wise.

8. Teach your daughter how to shoot, because a restraining order is just a piece of paper.

9 If God wanted me to touch my toes, He would have placed them on my knees.

10. Why do I have to press one for English when you’re just going to transfer me to someone I can’t understand anyway?

11. Of course I talk to myself; sometimes I need expert advice.

12. At my age, “getting lucky” means walking into a room and actually remembering what I came in there for.

13. I am what is called a “seenager” (senior teenager). I have everything that I wanted as a teenager, only 60 years later. I don’t have to go to school or work. I get an allowance every month. I have my own pad I don’t have a curfew. I have a driver’s license and my own car. I have an ID that gets me into bars and the whiskey store. The people I hang around with are not scared of getting pregnant.

14. Life is great. I have more friends whom I should send this to, but right now I can’t remember their names.



Life With Elizabeth

By Elizabeth Silance Ballard


            I have decided that one of the greatest things about being beyond the Medicare threshold is being able to wear shorts! Let’s face it. We’re no longer trying to attract a man since most of us have already had at least one husband and many of us, more than one and we’re not interested in having another. We can, at last, be ourselves and please ourselves.

  If my thighs wiggle as I walk, well—who cares? I certainly don’t. If my behind looks like two large watermelons about to burst, well—I don’t have to look at it. Neither does anybody else, for that matter.  Just look away, if I’m hideous to you.

I like to be cool and comfortable; and, if I want to pretend every now and then that I am again a size eight—well, what of it?

            I actually remember being a size eight and looking at women of a certain age, weight and body type and commenting: “Why don’t they give it up?  They look ridiculous.”

            Little did I know that they didn’t care what I thought! They loved wearing shorts and they weren’t about to give them up for anybody! Especially me. They paid no attention at all to the looks and snickers as they pranced along, jiggling in every direction, happy as a Gold Medal winner at the Olympics.

 They knew  that I was the ridiculous one, worried every minute whether or not my hair was still in place, if my makeup still looked good, if my clothes showed off my size eight, even though I secretly felt fat, even then. I was the one forever looking at every boy I passed, trying to gauge the response to my cuteness.  Elated, if they even looked, much less smiled. Crushed if they didn’t even give me a glance.

No, those women didn’t care if a man noticed them or not. They didn’t even care what people thought as they headed to the Dairy Queen to sit and lick their cones while laughing, talking and having a good time with their friends. And now I’m in that group!

Even with all the aches and pains, seams stretched to the breaking point, gray hairs, and droopy breasts, this is a very great time of life! More happiness. Less sadness. More confidence. Less insecurity. More fun. Less work. Less time spent in front of the bathroom mirror trying to “improve myself.” More time for fun and friends.

You’ll have to excuse me now, while I go get my Pepsi and Snickers bar. It’s time for “Dance Your Ass Off.”  My TV and recliner await.



Fall’s Creativity Fest

By Joan Leotta


You may think pumpkins

Apples, or pretty leaves in fall

You take walks by the lake

To enjoy it all.


For me, autumn is time to

haunt the office store

where I find pens, pencils

paper and notebooks galore.


Yes, nature offers (10%) inspiration

But it is those tools of my trade

that support my efforts when

at night I’m applying (90%) perspiration.


“Pure and simple sorrow is as impossible as pure and complete joy.” Trotsky


A Forgotten Landscape

By Ariana Mangum


Mother’s  Revelation

AFL Cover.jpgThe next day Grandmother called to say how sorry she was to hear about Father.

“I’m coming down to take you to West Point. We’ll make the trip together. I love you, dear, remember that.” She sounded kind on the phone, and I felt grateful. “We have to change stations in New York City.”

“Can we see the Empire State Building? I hear it’s a wonderful sight. It’s the tallest building in the world, you know, and I’m dying to visit it?”

“Yes, I’m sure we can. We’ll have about two hours between trains,” she said.

Excited about my forthcoming trip I thanked her, said goodbye, and I hung up the phone.

“What will the weather be like in New York?” I asked Mother. “What clothes do I take?”

“It’ll be cold,” she replied. “Be sure to pack warm things.”

“Can you help me, please. It’s terribly important I get it right”

Mother sat in the living room, her cigarette forgotten in the ash tray. A book lay open on the bench in front of her, and she leafed through it looking at photographs of gardens.

“Please,” I said.

“I don’t see why you can’t do it yourself. Really, Catherine, you’re almost sixteen and can’t pack a suitcase.” She continued turning the pages of her book.

“I’ll ask Grandmother when she comes,” I said finally.

“Don’t bother her about your clothes. She’ll be too tired when she arrives to worry about such things. When are you going to grow up?”

I left the room and sought Mrs. Houghton’s help. She agreed gladly, and we spent the afternoon selecting skirts and sweaters, pressing and packing them. She discovered some tissue paper saved for a rainy day, and we laid it between the skirts. Then we packed Grandmother’s blue dress, the one she had bought me for Mother’s wedding. Mrs. Houghton thought it very suitable for a funeral. When we finished she took home my blue suit and coat to sew on a button and to repair them.

“I think we’ve broken the back of that job,” she said as we went downstairs together. “You should be the best dressed girl there.”

Mrs. Houghton gave me a hug, and I opened the front door and watched her walk home across the orchard carrying my clothes.

“You’re spending too much time with the Houghtons. You practically live over there.” Mother appeared in the hall behind me.

“Yes,” I said, “they care about me. And we have fun together. You’re always too busy to help, and we never sit down and just talk. Why can’t you play games like other mothers?”

“Why should I? Children’s games bore me. Really, Catherine, you expect too much.” She preened herself in the hall mirror. “I don’t know what’s become of you. You’re such a tom-boy. It’s not very attractive when you grow up to behave like a boy.”

“I don’t care. At least I have fun. And I like the things boys like; fishing, swimming, riding horseback. I don’t care for dressing up and acting like a lady. It’s boring.”

She stood before the mirror and regarded her image a little longer. Then she turned and without saying another word left the room abruptly.

“She just doesn’t like me, that’s all,” I reflected. “All she thinks of are her social engagements, her clubs and Rudy.”

And I couldn’t stand him.

Grandmother finally arrived from Indianapolis. She made the old house seem alive once more with her giggle and her corny jokes. She was happy and brought a totally different outlook into my troubled life.

“Oh, Grandmother, how glad I am to see you.” I kissed her wrinkled cheek.

“Yes, I expect this house needs a bit of livening up. Everyone looks like he hasn’t smiled in a year.” She walked upstairs beside me. “I expect I’ll have the front room again that looks out over the drive. That way I can see what’s going on.”

“I’ve helped Bertha to get it ready, and put some flowers in a vase for you.”

“Flowers?” Grandmother asked, surprised. “At this time of year?” “Mrs. Houghton has flowers at any time of the year.”

I watched as Grandmother took off her coat and hung it up. Then she started to unpack. Everything smelled like roses, and her underwear was in a silky-satiny bag with lace on it.

“She’s a real lady,” I though, “to have such nice things.”

“Well, my dear, where’s you Mother? Let’s go down and find her. Perhaps we can have a cup of tea. It would taste good on this cold morning. It’s very wintry for March.”

“Yes. I guess New York will be freezing. I hope I have packed enough warm clothes.” I took her hand, and we walked downstairs. Mother sat in the living room, lit a Chesterfield and blew smoke in white puffs.

“Really, my dear,” Grandmother objected. “Must you smoke so much? It’s very unpleasant and very bad for you. Do put it out.”

“I like a cigarette every so often; it calms my nerves,” Mother replied as she crushed the Chesterfield in an ash tray. “All the ladies of my age smoke. It’s a different generation. Besides it’s considered chic.”

“It’s offensive, Nancy, and I don’t like it.” Grandmother sat down on the sofa beside me. “Can we have a cup of tea? Shall I make it?” “No, Catherine can get it for us. She doesn’t mind,” Mother said. “We’ll get it together, then. Come Doc, let’s find the tea pot.” Grandmother led the way into the kitchen.

It was fun fixing tea with her. We put out cookies, lemon and lovely smelling gingerbread. We prepared a tray, and I put three cups on it. The tea hot and the cookies brown and inviting, we carried the tray into the living room.

“I did not mean for you to get it,” Mother said. “I just think Doc can do more around here besides spending her time at the Houghtons.” “I expect if things were more lively here she would hang around. Where there’s fun, young people are bound to join in. You have to make things enjoyable, Nancy. Not just for you and Rudy, but for Doc too,”

Grandmother replied.

“John provided the fun for her. But I never could. I guess I’m hot really interested in teenage pursuits. And Catherine’s too young for clubs and for social gatherings. That’s what I like, being the president of clubs and directing things.” Mother took the cup Grandmother offered and helped herself to a cookie.

“You should try to be more concerned about your only daughter. It’s really easy to like Doc because she’s good company.” Grandmother handed me a cup and a plate full of gingerbread.

Then she served herself, and sat back on the sofa to enjoy her tea. She had on a blue and white dress and her tiny feet looked pretty in navy shoes.

“How dainty she is,” I thought as I watched her sip the hot tea. “How ladylike, and careful she is of her clothes. Yet, she seems so natural.”

“Are you packed and ready to go tomorrow night? I hope you’ll bring the dress I gave you,” she said.

“Yes. Mrs. Houghton helped me pack with lovely tissue paper. I’ll wear it with my blue Sunday coat. I can’t wait to see New York City. It’ll be great,” I told her in eager anticipation.

“It’s a funeral, not a joy ride,” Mother said. “You’re disrespectful to talk like that.”

“Not at all,” contradicted Grandmother. “She’s just eager for new adventures. And you can’t have a long face all day, every day. I hope we can see the Empire State Building. That would be something to tell your friends about.”

“Won’t Mary Ann be envious! I know she’s never been to New York, although she’s been all the way down to Florida.” I wondered what Florida was like.

“That’s right, enjoy life. Do you know what the old man said to the rooster?” she asked.

“No,” I replied, although I had heard this joke many times.

“Stop crowing and get on with living,” Grandmother giggled.

“Mother, why do you love those old jokes? Everyone knows them, and they are not funny,”

“Nancy, corny old jokes are a lot better than your constant fussing.

Where is the joy in your life? You are the saddest person I’ve ever seen. What’s happened to you?”

“My happiness walked out with John. And Catherine is just like him. She reminds me of him, day and night.” Mother took another cookie. “Why must you be so like him?”

“Nancy, that is enough. You must not speak in this manner. It’s unchristian and extremely unkind,” Grandmother’s voice sounded cold and very firm. “You’ll not discuss it again except in private.”

I finished my tea. I know Mother did not like me. Now I realized why. I thought it was me. But suddenly I discovered it was her. She did not like me because I reminded her of Father. And I could never change that.

“She makes me feel guilty, that’s all. Terribly guilty. I’ve neglected her, and felt jealous of her love for John. He loved Doc more than he loved me.” Mother’s voice sounded out of control. “He was my husband, not her’s.”

I froze in my seat. Never had I seen Mother act in this manner. I did not like her - this strange, cold, unhappy woman. That was why I had sought the Houghtons’ company, they were warm and loving, and above all-they cared. Grandmother took my hand and held it tight. She said nothing. I watched in horror as Mother smashed her tea cup and walked out of the room.

Silently Grandmother picked up the broken pieces and put them in the wastebasket. I took a second cookie and bit into it. The clock in the front hall struck, sounding like a gong in the still house. After what seemed like an age Grandmother sat down and took my hand once more.

“It’s true,” she said softly, “it’s been true for a long time. Your Mother always resented you. I only hope she can turn her feelings around before it’s too late. Guilt and jealously eat into your very soul and make you bitter. Don’t ever become bitter, Doc, it kills all love. Your Mother had everything she wanted and did not realize it. Now she has almost nothing because she can’t love her only child and has lost the husband she adored. He was her great love, but she could not show it. Express your love, Doc. The Houghtons have given you a chance of expressing those fine feelings you inherited from your father. Always love him, and cherish his love for you. Not many girls are as lucky, to have been loved as much as you’ve been.”

I sat on the sofa next to her and cried. I felt ever so alone. I had lost both my parents.

The next evening, dressed in my suit, a white blouse, and my blue Sunday coat I drove into the Station with Grandmother. She also wore navy and looked terribly smart, I thought. In her hands she carried white gloves, two pairs for the train.

“I wish I could go,” Mother said as we rode down our lane. “I would love to see West Point again.”

“Maybe later you can go up. This is just a memorial service, dear, and Frances will be there. So it’s not appropriate for you to come.” Grandmother settled herself in the front seat and waited for the heater to come on.

“I didn’t realize when John walked out of my life it would be for good. It’s terribly sad to think of him gone forever,” Mother continued. “I shall miss him.”

I could tell from my place in the back seat that she was crying.

“Yes, dear, we shall all miss him. He was a good man and a very loving one. Everyone liked him,” Grandmother replied.

“It seems so final. So coldly final. I hate it, and I wish now I hadn’t married Rudy. I don’t love him, you know. It was just convenience.” Mother turned the car onto River Road.

“I realized that before you married him, and I could tell you nothing.”

“But an unmarried woman with a child is suspect. You’re not included in things, and you’re not voted president of the Women’s Club. I had to get married to save face. I wish Catherine weren’t so much like John. It’s very difficult for me.”

“You’ll have to face up to that, Nancy. You can make Doc’s life pleasant or unbearable. Stop and consider her feelings. Have you held her and allowed her to cry?” Grandmother asked.

“No, but then she has the Houghtons. She likes them better than she does me.”

“And whose fault is that? What do you expect her to do, sit still and wait for you to love her? Children don’t work that way, and you’d better

learn it. Soon it will be too late, and you’ve lost all those wonderful childhood years,” Grandmother said.

“She’s too much like her father. And I can’t forget it. She reminds me of him and of my failed marriage. I don’t like to be reminded.” Mother drove steadily towards town.

I realized they had forgotten I was along or they would not have continued with this conversation. I stayed very quiet and small in the back seat. I had never realized Mother had any feelings about Father and me before.

“You’ll have to change your attitude about things, Nancy, or you shall become a very bitter, unhappy person. You can’t live with such hatred and be a loving parent. And Doc needs a loving parent, especially now.”

We rode in silence for several miles. Grandmother made sure she had her tickets, and put on the pair of gloves in her handbag. Then she adjusted her blue felt hat and opened a packet of mints.

“Would you like one, Doc?, she asked.

“Oh, yes, please.” I leaned forward and accepted it from her.

“The train leaves at nine-thirty and gets into new York about eight in the morning. We have a lay-over in Washington and in Baltimore. Tomorrow morning we shall see the Empire State Building. I promise.” She turned and smiled at me. “What will your friend, Mary Ann say?”

“She’ll die with envy. But then she’s been to Florida, all the way down to the Keys. And I’ve never been there,” I confessed. “But I think New York is far more exciting.”

“At least you won’t become a fried lobster from being out in the sun. Fair people like you just bum and don’t tan. Too much sun is not good,” Mother replied.

“Yes, and I don’t like sand in my bed. It’s horrid in your bathing suit too. I hate that,” I said. “No, I prefer New York and getting dressed up in my best clothes.”

Finally we arrived at the station and boarded the train. Mother helped Grandmother with her suitcase, and I struggled with mine. We found our seats, and I watched as Grandmother drew her daughter close and gave her a goodbye kiss.

“Goodbye, Catherine,” Mother said without even shaking my hand and left the train.

I stood and watched her retreating back as we went down the platform. She did not turn to wave, she just left. The berths were made up so Grandmother and I prepared for bed. I wondered if Mother would ever grow to like me.

In the morning we arrived in New York early. As we stepped off the train a Red Cap came and offered to carry our bags. We followed him through the crowds and out to a taxi. Then we left Pennsylvania Station and flew up Fifth Avenue towards 33rd Street. Tall buildings surrounded us and horns honked as commuters, trucks, and automobiles all dashed forward towards oblivion I felt sure. I shut my eyes, but decided I’d miss all the wonderful early morning sights. Scared to death for my life I clung to the strap beside the window and clutched Grandmother’s warm hand.

“I never expected it to be like this,” I gasped with fear and excitement.

“It’s rather wonderful, isn’t it? Very busy this time of day,” the cabbie offered. “You’re from the South, ain’t you? A real Southern Belle, I’d say by your accent.”

“From Virginia,” I replied.

“Where the good horses come from. I like to bet on Virginia-bred horses. They have some good ‘uns down there. Ever been to the race track?”

He parked his car, and we got out. The Empire State building before us looked like white stone. It was sleek and new. We entered and because of wartime regulations we were not allowed to go up on the observation platform but we did look around at the main floor. Then we returned to the street and craned our necks so we could see the top.

“What a great spire,” I gasped. “It’s wonderful. And to think I’ve seen it here in New York - a place I never dreamed I’d be.”

Back in the cab we started up town once again towards Grand Central Station. It, too, was large and full of people scurrying to and fro. The cabbie helped us out and gave us our bags. Then Grandmother paid him, giving him a five dollar bill for taking us to the Empire State Building. Smiling, he tipped his hat and was gone.

At the ticket counter we bought roundtrip fares and hurried up the platform to a waiting train. We found seats and secured our cases under them. Out of breath we sat down and waited for the train to move.

“We shall spend the night near West Point,” Grandmother explained.”I’m not sure we can stay at the Thayer Hotel since it’s wartime. But we’ll stay nearby. You’ll like this trip up the Hudson River.

“Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States” Porfirio Diaz

Bubba and Billy Joe

Bubba and Billy Joe were on vacation, walking downtown, window-shopping, and they see a sign on a store which reads, “Suits $5.99 each, shirts $1.99 each, trousers $2.49 each.

Bubba says to his pal, “Billy Joe, Look here! We could buy a whole gob of these, take ‘em back to Louisiana, sell ‘em and make a fortune. Just let me do the talkin’, ‘cause if they hear your accent, they might think we’re ignorant, and not wanna sell that stuff to us. Now, I’ll talk in a slow Texas drawl so’s they don’t know we is from Louisiana.”

They go in and Bubba says with his best fake Texas drawl, “I’ll take 50 of them suits at $5.99, 100 of them there shirts at $1.99, 50 pairs of them there trousers at $2.39. I’ll back up my pickup and.....”

The owner of the shop interrupts, “Ya’ll from Louisiana, ain’t ya?”

“Well...yeah,” says a surprised Bubba. “How come ya’ll knowed that?”

“Because this is a Dry-Cleaners.” 

October’s Farewell

Sybil Austin Skakle

(from my kitchen window).


Two golden-clad trees

beyond my brown leaf-covered lawn

catch the sun and sing GLORY.

A dogwood tree, having a touch of red,

watches the breezes shuffle

the dry leaves and laments

the fading flowers and dormant bulbs.

Nature is preparing for bed.

Sleep will provide all that is needed

for spring’s blooming.


Conceptual Leaps

Randy Bittle


Love may have been the first conceptual leap experienced by the human race.  Of course it began as pure sexual instinct, but eventually conceptual habits of love developed, producing the social fabric surrounding family and friends.  Tribes of family groups lived together, hunting and foraging for food and looking to each other for protection and subsistence.  Along with symbolic vocal language and religious ideas, the habitual use of tools and fire evolved to assist in dealing with the challenges of daily life.  Each of these conceptual leaps in prehistory produced lasting changes for Homo sapiens, occurring over hundreds of thousands of years.

Following the last Ice Age, about ten thousand years ago, settlements were established along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Mesopotamia and independently along the Nile River in Egypt.  Agriculture became a new way of life.  Settlements grew larger and villages developed, followed by towns and cities.  Irrigation and other advances in agriculture, in conjunction with reliance on the major rivers, were conceptual leaps that altered the course of human history forever.

Speaking of history, around 3100 BC, writing on clay tablets originated in Mesopotamia.  Pictograms and ideograms emerged earlier, on less permanent mediums than baked clay.  Writing was a monumental step in the progress of humankind, although it was limited to a few priests, clerics, and government officials.  More than 90% of the various early civilized populations remained illiterate for thousands of years after the first evidence of writing surfaced.

The ancient Greeks revamped writing when they adapted the Phoenician alphabet in the eighth century BC.  By adding vowel symbols to the already existing consonant symbols, the Greeks could write down any sound that could be spoken.  This enabled them to record the epic poetry of Homer and Hesiod, and also allowed them to write any other ideas that came to mind, such as philosophy, history, and drama.  Several characteristics favored ancient Greece for cultural and artistic developments manifested in written works.  I wrote about these characteristics in essays previously published in the Righter Quarterly Review, but I will briefly outline them here.

First, the Greeks were a nation of city-states, each governed independently.  While they had a common religious heritage, no centralized national authority oversaw religious practices.  Each city-state administered religious duties locally, resulting in variety in regional and personal beliefs.  Also, for the first time in history, a larger percentage of citizens had the leisure time to learn to read and write.  Freedom of personal beliefs, combined with educated citizenry, led to a high level of individual creative thought captured through the art of writing.  Philosophy, history, poetry, and drama flourished in classical Greece.

Philosophy and history were arguably the most lasting and influential inventions of ancient Greece.  The works of Plato, Aristotle, and Herodotus in the fourth and fifth centuries BC represent another conceptual leap for human kind.  Thales and Anaximander were the first philosophers, and many others contemplated the nature of reality before Socrates’ time.  These early philosophers are now categorized as the pre-Socratics and primarily focused on natural phenomena.  None of them got it exactly right, but they made the first human attempts to literally, not mythically, comprehend reality.

Socrates did not write anything himself, but he is known to us indirectly and second-hand through the works of Xenophon and Socrates’ student Plato.  In Plato’s dialogues, Socrates’ character focused his attention on human nature, considering virtue, justice, and whether right and wrong could be truly understood and taught.  In Plato’s dialogues, Socrates sought truth although he claimed to have none himself.  This quest for truth separated philosophers from other people and brought to mankind a new level of understanding.  For Plato, justice and the virtues had pure and divine realities, which he called Forms.  True belief or true opinion was as close as humans could come to comprehending the divine Forms.  Plato’s works were influential, though not instigative, in Christian thought about seven hundred years later, most notably in the works of Augustine.

Aristotle, Plato’s student, spent less time questioning whether truth could be understood and just got on with the business of understanding it.  He single-handedly invented the basic rules of logic, creating a valid and sound avenue to truth.  Aristotle closely observed the world around him and wrote about the nature of being a good person, incorporating economics, politics, biology, ethology, religion, and the family in his analysis of what was best for an individual.  Aristotle qualified his conclusions, basing them upon observation.  He wrote in the middle of the fourth century BC.

1500 years later, Thomas Aquinas merged Aristotle’s works with Christian theological orthodoxy, a connection that dominated human intellectual activity for another 500 years.  The pivotal conceptual leap of philosophical inquiry, as demonstrated by Socrates and recorded in words by Plato and Aristotle, advanced and influenced humankind in an enormous manner that is hard to overestimate.

Herodotus invented history in the fifth century BC, another Greek accomplishment that changed the world.  He wrote about the causes of the Greek-Persian wars.  This initial historical account showed Herodotus’ biases.  Bias inevitably became a normal part of historical expression.  Thucydides and Xenophon are prominent history writers from classical Greece, following the lead of Herodotus.  History continues to fascinate people today.  Professional historians seek accuracy, but some truths are elusive in historical work, and some bias is unavoidable.  Despite inadequacies found in philosophy and history, both disciplines altered the way humans thought about the world.

Around 1600 AD, Francis Bacon started a movement in natural philosophy that placed skepticism, observation, and measurement at the center of scientific investigation.  In his book Novum Organum, he outlined a new methodology for understanding natural phenomena that broke away from the futile traditional method of theological logic-chopping.  Bacon did not make much progress himself outside of showing the way, but his new methodology inspired others, including Kepler, Galileo, and Newton.  Observation and applied mathematics became standard tools in natural philosophy, much to the benefit of mankind.

Appeals to authority and circular logical arguments that dominated human intellectual endeavors between 1100 AD and 1600 AD were slowly replaced with skeptical observation and mathematical analysis. Kepler had the advantage of Tycho Brahe’s recorded accurate observations of planetary movements.  Kepler mathematically worked out the laws of planetary motion based on those observations.  Galileo turned the newly invented spyglass (later called a telescope) to the sky.  He observed the phases of Venus, recorded the movements of Jupiter’s moons, and identified mountains and craters on the Earth’s moon.  Galileo even tried to calculate the heights of the moon’s mountains from the length and angles of their shadows.

Isaac Newton published Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687.  This work firmly placed observation and mathematics at the forefront of scientific investigations.  Newton defined the mathematical relationships between force and mass, and he expressed the universal law of gravitation.  Even as late as the seventeenth century, better than 80% of the civilized world’s population were illiterate farmers, soldiers, and craftsmen.  But the educated elite took notice of the work done by Kepler, Galileo, and Newton.

For the first time evidence overwhelmingly suggested the Earth orbited the Sun.  Mankind’s view of the universe shifted to a more realistic perspective because of this conceptual leap.  Natural philosophers across Europe eagerly applied the techniques of skeptical observation and mathematical measurement to everything they studied.  Astronomy, botany, alchemy, biology, navigation, and tool-crafting thrived as natural philosophers solved mysteries at an astonishing rate using the new methodology first proposed by Francis Bacon.

In the eighteenth century, the Age of Enlightenment followed the progress of the seventeenth century.  Increased education, proliferation of newspapers, and numerous book publications invited new curiosity and intellectual activity.  Thinkers of all kinds gathered in coffee houses throughout France and England to discuss politics, society, and the latest scientific discoveries.  Civilized society would never be the same.  Education continued to be emphasized and became more common.  In the nineteenth century, Germans took the lead in university level scientific inquiry, but France, England, Italy, and America all made contributions. 

Three more conceptual leaps concerning physical reality are worth mentioning: the periodic table, Einstein’s special and general theories of Relativity, and quantum mechanics.  All three led to radical changes in humankind’s perspective and understanding of natural reality.  However, the biggest conceptual leap in modern times involves the change in thought patterns of the population at large.  The industrial revolution, brought about by scientific advances, led to increased dependence on non-food consumer goods.  People took on occupations other than farming and soldiering.

The invention of radio and its commercial application in the early twentieth century made possible a wide dissemination of information to a greater percentage of the population than ever before.  Information for the masses became the norm by the middle of the twentieth century as radio and television grew in popularity.  Popular culture was shared by large numbers of people through these new media.  The growth of the telephone industry and its infrastructure linked people who previously were limited to local or regional community influences.  Automobiles and airplanes extended mobility.  Advancements occurred more and more rapidly throughout the twentieth century, altering the way common people related to the world and to each other.

And then the personal computer was invented.  Computers became affordable and the internet linked them and their users together.  Micro-electronics ushered in the early twenty-first century.  Smartphones and tablets got to be ubiquitous “must have” gadgets.  Twitter, Facebook, and their spin-offs connected people in an ever expanding network.  Where the future leads I cannot say, but the rapidity and comprehensiveness of modern technological advances is overwhelmingly changing the way an individual interacts with popular culture.  Conceptual leaps happen every five to ten years now and affect massive numbers of people.  I see good and bad in the events that shape society today.  My intuition tells me education, including philosophy, history, and the scientific method, is vital to successful social evolution.  How it all turns out remains to be seen and is a subject for speculation in another essay.



Erika’s Lament

Erika Juhlin


My wet hair hangs heavy

On my neck and shoulders -

The weight of failure,

The cold trickle of loneliness,

The loveless caress of never.


Gordon’s Pizza

Submitted by Peggy Ellis


Hello! Is this Gordon’s Pizza?
No sir, it’s Google Pizza.
I must have dialed a wrong number. Sorry.
No sir, Google bought Gordon’s Pizza last month.
OK. I would like to order a pizza.
Do you want your usual, sir?
My usual? You know me?
According to our caller ID data sheet, the last 12 times you called you ordered an extra-large pizza with three cheeses, sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms and meat balls on a thick crust.
OK! That’s what I want …
May I suggest that this time you order a pizza with ricotta, arugula, sun-dried tomatoes and olives on a whole wheat gluten free thin crust?
What? I detest vegetables.
Your cholesterol is not good, sir.
How the hell do you know?
Well, we cross-referenced your home phone number with your medical records. We have the result of your blood tests for the last 7 years.
Okay, but I do not want your rotten vegetable pizza! I already take medication for my cholesterol.
Excuse me sir, but you have not taken your medication regularly. According to our database, you only purchased a box of 30 cholesterol tablets once, at Drugsale Network, 4 months ago.
I bought more from another drugstore.
That doesn’t show on your credit card statement.
I paid in cash.
But you did not withdraw enough cash according to your bank statement.
I have other sources of cash.
That doesn’t show on your last tax return unless you bought them using an undeclared income source, which is against the law.
I’m sorry, sir, we use such information only with the sole intention of helping you.
Enough already! I’m sick to death of Google, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and all the others. I’m going to an island without internet, cable TV, where there is no cell phone service and no one to watch me or spy on me.
I understand sir, but you need to renew your passport first. It expired 6 weeks ago.


Sybil Austin Skakle


Heaven? Heaven fills my mind often these days. Maybe because so many I love now reside there and because it is my hope to reside there myself when I die and put off this body terrestrial for a celestial one. Maybe I am being prepared to let go of the earthly. 

One morning recently I was thinking about all those white robes. For some reason I have the impression they are the uniform in Heaven. Maybe it is because artists have depicted Jesus wearing a white robe. For whatever reason, imagine what a lot of washing would be necessary to keep all those robes shiny white! That brought up the question of laundry in general. Will we do laundry in heaven? Surely, there will be work for us in heaven. My mother wanted there to be. She did not think she would be happy without it. In the scriptures we are led to believe we will be engaged in praising God. However, that may not be our whole responsibility. If it is, it will not be burdensome!

Years ago I heard The Reverend Tommy Tyson talk about what happened to babies who did not live to be born, or those who were born prematurely and died. The belief he shared with us was that they would grow to maturity in heaven and that those babies should be given names to identify them. 

Paul in his writings talks of the difference of the bodies we use here and those we will have in heaven. Thinking about that, I concluded that the reason Jesus was not recognized that morning when Mary encountered him at the tomb may have been because he did not look the same. He did not look the same because he had a different body. Then I am faced with the puzzle of why she did recognize him. Was it his voice? Again, his disciples did not readily recognize him that morning as he awaited them, cooking fish for their breakfast, on the shore while they returned from fishing. Then he spoke.

After his death, Jesus did not need to open doors to enter a room. He appeared to those in the upper room as they had assembled, probably in fear, after his crucifixion. He appeared to the three on the Emmaus Road. We do not know how many more times he was seen. Some encounters were reported and recorded. Others may not have been acknowledged or shared. Distance and time were not factors of limitation for him.

When I think of seeing those whom I have loved here, in my humanity, I have had to admit and apologize to God that I want to see the man I loved here, who was the father of my three sons, more than I long to see Jesus or God. I want to see my father and mother, my brother and my sisters, and all those others I have missed since they went away.

Someone has suggested that every citizen of heaven will be perfect in appearance. They will be at their best. The crippled will no longer be lame. The blind will see. There will no longer be disfigurements of any kind. The writer suggested that everyone will be at full maturity and perfect in appearance. Does that mean there will be no children in heaven? And, what about animals?

            My brother-in-law and I had a discussion about the golden streets of heaven. He was opposed to the thought that people were possibly greedily anticipating heaven because of the gold and the precious stones that the writers have used to describe heaven.

            There is that passage that there will be no marriages in heaven. This suggests to me that there will be no physical to consider. If the celestial bodies are without substance, then there will be no need to consider bodily needs. Any clothing will be illusionary and not need to be washed.  No need for bathrooms?  Will we need food? Jesus ate that fish he cooked for his disciples on the shore of the lake.  

            I have grandchildren born prematurely I have never seen. Yet, if Tommy Tyson’s theory proves to be true, I will recognize them and they me. How can that be? In our humanity we look at what we see and feel and know and tend to judge everything by our own limited standards of measurement. Consequently, even in our daily lives, we limit God. Don’t we?

            In my questioning and pondering of the questions, I have decided that the relationships important to me here will be maintained in heaven in a form different from those of the physical realm. However, they will still be special and important.  I have concluded that the writers used earthly terms to describe Heaven, which is so beautiful that it cannot be described. The streets may not be made of gold nor the gates of amethyst, but my heavenly being will be entranced by the view, just as my physical eyes are here. I beheld a beautiful landscape in England as I rode on a tour bus going to the Lake Country, it literally took my breath away!

            With the new heart and heavenly consciousness, my emotions, if I have any, and my thoughts, if I need them, will be in synch with the Heavenly order and I will love God with all my heart, mind, and spirit as he requested I do here on earth, but never succeeded. Somehow, all the questions I have will be answered. All the hurts and trials of earth will not matter and like the old gospel song suggests I will understand the whole meaning of the life I have lived. I will be satisfied with the answers to all the whys I have ever had. With my will at one with God’s will, there will be no problem of disappointment or resentment. The hobbles of earth will be forever behind me and the knowing as I am known will be lovely. The physical, the emotional, the mental anguish of earth will be no more. Heaven!  



“Don't worry about avoiding temptation.  As you grow older, it will avoid you.”  Winston Churchill 



October’s All Hallows’ Eve

By Joan Leotta


Now I live where

October is warm.

Trick or treaters

come as ballerinas

butterflies and more.

We can ooh and ahhh

Over their costumes.

No need to wear a coat

or dodge snowflakes

showing down silvery

paths from the moon.

They laugh when I tell

them about cold Halloweens

as I fill their pumpkin

bags with goodies.

Their only worry is that

their chocolate hoard

will melt a bit before

they get home.

They do not miss chilly

or having to wear coats

over costumes, stepping

into hallways to reveal

their finery.

Still, all in all, I’d

rather have un-melted

chocolate and memories

of old times that now

seem not so cold after all.


Life in Moccasin Gap/Sitting on the Front Porch

Brad Carver

Life is so easy when you’re sitting on the front porch watching the sun set and making homemade ice cream, and surrounded by friends and family, and watching people walk by. That’s just about any day here in Moccasin Gap. We’re pretty laid back. Stress isn’t a factor in these parts. Hell, we don’t even know what stress is. To us, stress is what happens when you stretch a rubber band. The stress is what makes it break. I suppose in the bigger cities that’s what happens to people. They’re like rubber bands. They get so stressed out they break. In Moccasin Gap we never thought of looking at it as a way of life.

There goes Ol’ Clyde Hensley walking down the street with his wife Estelle. Now if there was anyone who has a reason to be stressed out, it’s Clyde. Estelle is the worst nagger in the county. (As Clem said, “Is she a nagger?” Clyde answered, “No, she’s white. But she nags all the time.) She nags about everything. Like the time Clyde went into the Army. She nagged for a month because he was leaving, yet he had no choice. He was drafted. It doesn’t matter to a nagger. All they want to do is nag, nag, nag. Clyde was in World War II. He got shot in the leg and had to have it amputated and Estelle nagged because he had only one keg. And then one night while she was sleeping, Clyde took his artificial leg and beat her over the head with it. She doesn’t nag anymore. 

And here comes Jasper and his wife Louise with their two little boys Aaron and Eugene. They should’ve named them after biblical characters like Satan and Lucifer, bless their hearts. I believe that God gives us children as punishment for all the hell we put our parents through when we were growing up. Those two boys could wreck an empty room.

I don’t know what they’re going to be when they grow up. All I know is if they were my two boys, they wouldn’t grow up.

Here comes Rita Muldoon prancing down the street. She knows every single guy in town and a few married ones too, but we won’t talk about that. We’ll save that conservation for the barber shop. The barber shop is where all the men go to gossip. They say that all women do is gossip, but if you’ve ever been in a barber shop, you know that men can gossip just as well as women.

And when a young person dies in Moccasin Gap it’s because of drugs. You see, that’s the only way you can grow old around here – never do drugs. If you died young, you were on something and that is all there is to it. I remember my Aunt Myrtle telling me, “You remember that Johnson boy who used to live up the street?”

I said, “Yeah, little Rickey Johnson. I remember him. What ever happened to little Rickey?”

Aunt Myrtle said, “Well, he was struck to death by lightning yesterday.”

I said, “Wow, what a terrible way to go.”

She said, “He was smoking that blamed ol’ Marijuana (or, as she calls it mar-ig-an-na), and just walk right into it.”

I said, “You mean to tell me that smoking pot will make you walk that fast? Most of the people I know who smoke can’t even get up off the couch. I’m guessing that Williams boy who was shot to death last week was smoking real good pot to walk in front of that bullet like that – SIX TIMES.”

But, as my grandma used to say, “We don’t do drugs around here. We take medication.”

Well from all us medicated folks here in Moccasin Gap have a great day and a great autumn, a time when all the leaves turn red because they’re blushing to think how green they’ve been all summer.

Y’all come back now, you hear?




Michelle Owens


Cecil Everhardt sits down, breathing deeply. The smell of his coffee is, as always, gratifying. Country ham, eggs, gravy and biscuits...with coffee. A real breakfast. A widower of forty years, he cooks for himself, when he feels up to it. The weather radio his youngest son gave him last Christmas is turned all the way up.

“Partly cloudy, chance of rain today.”

“Dumbass. There’s always a chance of rain,” Cecil says out loud to an empty kitchen.  Right after Mabel died, it helped his loneliness to speak his thoughts even though there was no one else to hear them. Now he’s spoken his uncensored thoughts for so long that he rarely even notices when he does it – even around other people.  It’s gotten him in trouble and almost got him tossed from the grocery store.  The store manager wasn’t too pleased when Cecil declared from the checkout line that “skim milk ain’t nothing but thin titty-water. Cholesterol my ass.”  For a while after one that he tried to watch it better, but when his eyesight went, his kids took his truck keys, the government took his license, and he was home alone so much he quit even caring.  If he did blurt something out when he was in public, he couldn’t see people’s reactions anyway.  A year or two before, his daughter had taken to bringing him groceries instead of taking him to the store.

He’s pushing his biscuit around his plate, sopping it in the gravy. He pops it in his mouth. “Hmmm mmm,” he says, feeling the warm bread turn slowly back into dough in his mouth.  He presses it against his gums for awhile, soaking up every bit of the salty-ham gravy flavor that he can. He swallows. 

“Now that’s some good eatin’ for a man with no teeth,” he says.

He waves his hand over his coffee, the steam rising up to meet it, letting him know the temperature is just right.  He takes the cup in both hands to make sure he doesn’t spill.  It’s a spring morning, and cool enough in the house that the heat feels good on his joints.  He takes a sip, sits back, and sighs in pleasure at its strength.  He’s usually not happy with how strong it is until its perked for hours on the stovetop.

As he mashes another bite of the biscuit around in his mouth, there’s a knock on the back kitchen door. He doesn’t answer. He knows who’s there. It’s his oldest daughter, Alice. She said she was coming today.  Swore she was going to bring some woman with her. The knock comes again, this time, louder.

“Daddy? Daddy?” she calls. “I see you eating breakfast. Can you hear me? I’ve got your new friend with me.”

He takes another piece of biscuit and drops it into the pool of clear brown gravy on his plate. He hears keys Alice’s jangling. His daughter unlocks the door and comes in with a tall blob following behind her.  All Cecil can tell is that she’s what he would call an injun, a red woman.

“No wonder you couldn’t hear us knocking. You had your radio blasting,” Alice says, crossing the kitchen and turning the radio down so low he can’t hear it. The red blob stays by the door, waiting without speaking.

“Well, Alice, I see you brought me an injun woman to shack up with,” says Cecil.

“Now Daddy, you’re not going to ‘shack up.’ We’ve been through that over and over. Isabelle Crowe is here to help you out.”

“I don’t need no help. I’ve done told all you kids that. Look here. What do you call this breakfast?”

“The first one you’ve cooked in months, Daddy. Usually it’s only coffee.”

“What’s wrong with that? Farmers from all parts used to drop by, just to get a cup.”

“That was a long time ago,” says Alice.

The red blob speaks. “It smells good.”

“I wish I could see you better,” he says. “Never had an injun woman in my house before. I’d like to know if she’s pretty, at least.”

“I’m only half Native American,” she replies, her voice steady. “My father was a Cherokee.”

“Half-breed. I’ve had one of those before. Bessie was a beautiful mule,” he says.

“A what?” asks Isabelle. 

“You know, you breed a horse and a donkey together and you get a mule.  Half-breed. Like you.”

“Really now,” says Isabelle. 

“Daddy, for the love of God. You’re going to run her off before the morning is out,” Alice says.

“Oh I doubt that,” says Isabelle.  “I like learning things. I didn’t know anything about mules before I walked in, and look, now I know what they are. So it’s a good day already. I will tell you though; that I knew what an ass was before I got here.  Those I spot real easy.”

“Seen any today?” asks Cecil.

“Give me a couple of minutes, but I’m pretty sure I just might have met one,” says Isabelle. 

Cecil grins.  He can’t see it, but Isabelle has a little smile on her face too.

Alice gives a nervous giggle.  Cecil can tell she’s nervous.  But then she always seems nervous anymore. “Would you like a cup of coffee, Isabelle?” Alice asks.

“Yes,” Isabelle replies, and Alice heads towards the stove and the pot.

“Sit down, ladies,” he says. “I can pour a cup of coffee.”

“Daddy, I was just trying to help,” says Alice.

“Imagine that,” he replies, rising from his seat. The two women pull up chairs. The red blob sits beside his place. He moves slowly across the kitchen floor. Doesn’t want to trip on the cracked linoleum again. He gets a cup and reaches for the percolator. He sets the cup on the stovetop beside the burner and squints as he pours, making sure the coffee doesn’t miss its target.

“You want some too, Alice?”

“Do you have any cream?” asks Alice.

Cecil sighs.  “No,” he says, “I don’t. Shame you always want to mess up your coffee with that stuff anyway.”

Alice ignores his comment. “No cream? I’ll pass, Daddy.”

“Suit yourself,” he says, heading back for the table, Alice’s full cup of coffee in hand. He snags his toe on a small taped crack in the floor and trips – not enough to fall but just enough for the coffee to splash out. Isabelle jumps up, grabbing napkins from the table.

“Are you okay?” Alice asks.

“Of course,” he replies, hot coffee scalding his hand.

The red blob is on the floor, cleaning up his mess. Alice takes the cup from him and puts it on the table. Cecil walks carefully to the kitchen sink, and rinses his hands in cold water. It’s not a bad burn. There’s been worse.

“See, Daddy? You could really get hurt,” says Alice. We just want to make sure--”

“I don’t kill myself,” he finishes for her, making his way back to his seat. The red blob has thrown the napkins in the trash, and sits back down at the table to have what’s left of her coffee.

“You know, I like my coffee black,” she says, taking a sip. “Always have.”

After they finish their coffee, Alice asks Isabelle if she can show her around.

“It’s important to know where everything is,” says Isabelle. “But how would it be if Mr. Everhardt shows me where things are?” 

“I think that’s a great idea,” says Cecil.

“But Daddy, you don’t know where I put everything.”

“Well Alice, somehow I manage during the day without you.”

“Daddy, you don’t manage.  That’s why Isabelle is here.”

“Still,” says Isabelle.  “Why not let him show me what he knows and I can call you with questions later.  Didn’t you say you needed to get to your grandkids’ school this morning?”

“Yes,” says Alice.  “There’s just not enough of me to go around.”

“That’s why I’m here,” says Alice.

And so, a few minutes later, Alice’s big new Cadillac was bumping and thumping back down the dirt road and away from the house.  Cecil is in his rocking chair next to the wood stove on the far side of the kitchen. It’s chilly enough that he’d like to see it going, but his sons had refused to chop wood for him this year.  Said he was going to burn the house down and had installed a heat pump, which he stubbornly refused to let go above 60.  His kids finally quit turning it up when they realized all he did was hit the down button after they left, and he didn’t see well enough to know how low he took the temperature.  After three January mornings of seeing her breath when she got to her father’s house, Alice finally got everyone agree to leave it on 60.  Cecil still wanted the burning heat of his wood stove, and wrapped himself in blankets in protest.  “Heat pump heat ain’t no heat,” he would say. 

Still though, there is smoke in the kitchen. Cecil’s having his after-breakfast cigarette.  Many pleasures in his life have come and gone, but the kick of smoke to the back of his throat has remained reliable. He exhales.  He misses seeing the clouds of it when he does. He looks at the red blob by the sink when she speaks.

“Your daughter’s car bottomed out several times coming up the road.  I’m glad you have a truck,” she says. She’s rinsing the dishes. A breeze is blowing through the window above the kitchen sink. He can see she has long dark hair--the winds picked it up, and the ends of it are lifted and waving. For a moment, he thinks of Mabel when she was a young girl with long hair.  He had grown up going to church with her, and remembers all the Sundays she sat by a window, her hair rustling about her shoulders.  Even before he was a teenager, all he ever wanted to do was touch it.

“Where do your coffee mugs go?” asks Isabelle.

“I told you I would do the dishes,” he replies.

“I know. But I got to earn my keep.”

“Be better if you didn’t.”

He could tell she had stopped rinsing and is staring at him. He puffs out smoke rings.  He doesn’t have to see them to know they’re perfect.  He finally speaks. “Middle shelf, on your right. Why are you so glad I have a truck?” he asks. 

Cecil is suspicious.  He’s thinking how you can’t trust anyone these days--especially a stranger--an injun stranger, at that. No matter how pretty a head of hair they’ve got.  Alice had given Isabelle his keys.

“My truck’s going to end up parked by some tepee across the country,” he says out loud.

Isabelle turns off the spigot.  “What?” she says.

“Nothing,” he says.

“Well a minute ago you were asking about why I’m glad you have a truck,” says Isabelle. “A Cadillac doesn’t belong on that road.  A country road like that deserves a big old truck like yours.” She holds up one of the few things he will recognize until the day he dies. “Where’s the coffee pot go?”

“It stays on the stove,” he answers.

“Okay. You want your radio back on?”


She’s draining the sink now.

“I thought I was going to have to fight your daughter over who was to do the what-goes-where show here. I’m almost finished washing up. I’d like you to take me on a tour.”

Cecil’s stomach lurches.  It’s been so long since he’s felt queasy that he hardly recognizes the feeling.  He’s careful not to say it out loud, but he’s thinking: “I’m no spring chicken.  Women can seem real sweet and innocent--but some--once they know where you put your towels, will be soon looking to see the sheets in your bed. And I know my history. Injuns are heathens. They have no respect for morals.”

He speaks.  “Look here,” he says. He’s got to set her straight, now, before she goes too far. “You don’t have to be so nice. You’re here to get a paycheck. I’m here ‘cause this is my home. Mine. That’s all you got to remember. I can’t pick who’s going to stay in my house anymore, but I sure as hell can pick my own friends, especially the woman kind.”

He hears her pop her towel against the cabinet. Her voice is still steady, but she’s turned up her volume a bit.

“Mr. Everhardt, I mean you no disrespect. Yes. This is your home, and we don’t have to be friends here. I don’t know what you’re thinking I’m out for, but listen, this is my job. Our relationship, whatever it may or not become, is business first, foremost, and always.”

“Feisty thing,” he says. “Not bad for a red woman.”

She ignores him, takes a deep breath and continues. “I need to know where you keep things to do my job. I think you would rather show me where they are, instead of having me shuffle through them. It’s more businesslike, right?”

“You’re a tough injun.” he says. “A big talker. But thirty years ago, my kids didn’t want me to remarry. I think they’re paying you to come here, ‘cause they feel guilty and now I’m too old to find a wife.”

Isabelle’s shoulders drop a bit. Her voice is lower when she speaks this time. “I don’t know your family well enough to say, sir, but I know I’m not looking for a husband. I’ve had one of those already, and that was more than plenty for me. I’m here because you need help and I need a job.”

“Didn’t I cook breakfast?”

“And you burned your hand with the coffee. You can hardly see any more--you fell and broke your arm last spring, you almost poisoned yourself and your daughter is about to drop dead trying to keep this place livable.”

He feels like a child that got tattled on. “For someone who’s here on business, you sure know a lot of private things,” he says. He throws his butt into a large ashtray. He coughs, looks in her direction, and concedes. “Alright injun, alright. I just don’t want a new female friend. Alice seems to think I do.”

“Business,” she says, sighing, again. “Business.”

“I hear you,” he says, still not totally convinced.

“And one more thing about being on business terms.”

“What?” he asks, weary. He’s not used to so much jabber.

“If you have a problem with my being Native American, fine. I’ll leave. But the agency has plenty of others to send you, and you might even end up with a black woman, heaven forbid. So now, if you’d rather I stay, please don’t call me ‘injun.’ I have a name--Isabelle.”

“Jesus, woman, fine, I won’t call you injun.” He squints at her and musters a little of his quickly diminishing authority. “But if this is business, I won’t call you by your first name.”

“Fine. Miss Crowe it is. Now. You ready to show me around?”

It’s a small farmhouse.  Two plain bedrooms, a functional bathroom, the kitchen and the den.  The den is last, and Isabelle is wandering about it, looking at pictures he can’t see anymore.  She’s asking him about every framed photograph.  With five kids and their spouses, eighteen grandkids, and many of them grown and married with children too, there’s a lot of pictures.  He’s tired.

“If this is business, why do you need to know my whole family?” he asks.

“Like I said, I don’t want to let strangers in the house.  I need to know who these people are.

Who’s this family with three kids? Two boys and a girl.”

“Is the father wearing glasses?” he asks. 


“The wife a redhead?”


“Then that’s my middle son--Wright. And his wife and kids. Are we about done?”

“You have a large family. It’s going to be hard for me to remember them all. Who’s this?” she asks.

“Who’s who?”

“I’m sorry. This woman -- she looks like she’s about fifty-five or sixty in this picture, and I think the picture’s pretty old. She’s got blond hair, pulled up, and she’s holding the reins to a horse.”

“That,” he says, “was--is--a friend.”

“A lady friend?”

“Yes.  You jealous?”  He’s teasing her now, just a little.

“Not in the least,” Isabelle says. “You still visit your lady friend?”  He can’t see it, but the sound of her voice seems like she’s smirking.  It pisses him off.

“Her name is Elise and you won’t see her around here. So you don’t need to know any more about her than that,” he replies, short, feeling the old familiar pain.

“No problem. If I don’t need to recognize her, it doesn’t matter,” says Isabelle. “But it is almost eleven. What say we go to the grocery store and stock up? I’ll fix lunch after that.”

“I’m almost out of cigarettes.”

“You should quit.”

“They haven’t killed me yet, and you know I’m almost ninety.”

Secretly, he wishes, as he often does, that cigarettes would’ve already done their job. He still holds out hope they might speed up the process.

“Point taken,” she says, “But don’t expect me to be in the room much when you smoke.”

“Then maybe I’ll pick up an extra carton.”

Isabelle sighs again, but she doesn’t say anything.

Soon enough, they are bouncing along the dirt road in his yellow ‘74 Ford. Isabelle turns on the radio, and starts singing a country tune.  Cecil believes that country music “ain’t what it used to be.”  It’s nothing like what it was back when he picked the banjo. The music is annoying, but he’d rather hear her singing than talking. So music, and sunshine, fill the truck cab. The day has warmed up.  The windows are down.  Isabelle’s hair is not blowing around – she piled it up on top of her head when she got behind the wheel.  He’s a little disappointed.

For the first time, he can tell she’s a small woman.  She’s on the edge of the vinyl bench seat, her body close to the wheel.

“A small injun woman driving my Ford,” he thinks but doesn’t say.  And then he thinks about how Mabel would turn over in her grave if she knew he was riding about with this kind of woman.

And then, his thoughts turn over to the woman in the picture.  To Elise, who he realizes would’ve found this whole thing funny.  “She still might,” he says out loud.

“What?” says Isabelle, turning down the radio. “You’ve got to speak up.”

“I didn’t mean to speak at all,” he says. 

She grinds the gears as they come to the end of the dirt road.

“Damn woman,” he says.  “Don’t tear up my truck.”

“What you said about you not meaning to speak?” says Isabelle.  “I’m suddenly kind of liking that idea.”

She eases the car onto the paved road and into gear so easily he hardly feels it.  He turns his face towards the open window, holding his hat onto his bald head, and feels the sun on his face. He breathes in deeply and lets out a small cough.  He can smell the coming summer, and remembers the crops that once filled both sides of the roads they are traveling. They’re on the main road now, going past the church.

“Take a left here,” he says.

“But that’s not the way to the store.”

“I know,” he says. “Turn left,” he repeats.


He snaps at her. “Just do it,” he says. But then he adds, “Please.”

She slows down. He hears the signal clicking, and relaxes.

“Okay,” she says, “but we’re heading away from town.”

“I know,” he says.

After about two minutes, Isabelle turns to him. “Are you ready to tell me where you are going? Or can we turn around, now?”

“No,” he replies. “We’re almost there. Did we just pass the old school?”

“It looked like an old school.”

“Thought so.  Okay then. We should be coming up on a big curve soon. Right past that, there’s a driveway on your right. That’s where you need to go.”

She slowed the truck to a stop in the road. “Mr. Everhardt, I’m not going any further until you tell me where you taking me.”

“I want to see an old friend. I need to tell her something.”

“Who?” says Isabelle.

“Elise,” says Cecil.



“The lady friend from that picture. The one you said I’d never meet.” A car stops behind them on the road and honks.  Isabelle waves it around but doesn’t move.

“The very one,” he says, grinning a little.

“Do you still see this Elise on the sly?” says Isabelle, grinning even bigger. 

“No,” says Cecil, his own smile disappearing.  “Only when I’ve run into her around town.  I haven’t called on her in twenty years. Not since Alice and my older boy pitched a fit about me planning to get hitched again.”

“And you didn’t get hitched because they pouted?” asks Isabelle.

“Well, you’re here and she ain’t.  That pretty much says it, now don’t it?”

“Ah,” says Isabelle. She taps her fingers on the top of the steering wheel, quiet for a moment before she puts the car back in gear.  “How much further?” she asks.

“Not far at all.  Look for the large red barn by the road on the right.  There’s a white two story house behind it.  It has three gables, if my memory still serves.”

“You spent a lot of time here,” says Isabelle.

“Yes,” Cecil replies.

His heart is pounding. They turn, and slow to a stop in front of Elise’s house.

“Would you mind staying in the truck?” he asks.

“Can I walk you to the door, at least?” Isabelle says.

“I’ll make you a deal,” he replies.  “You let me walk by myself this one time, and you can lead me by the hand from then on out, until I’m in a wheelchair. Then I’ll have you push it. Okay?”

“Is that an honest offer?” she asks.

“I’m a man of my word. I’ve only broken it once in my life, and it was to this woman. Now. Think I’m honest enough for you? Can I go?” he says.

“Okay. But don’t break your neck going up those stairs.  At least not on my first day. “

“I won’t.”

He opens the truck door. They’re parked a few feet from the steps of the house, and he makes his way to them, slowly, carefully. He reaches for the hand rail. Rickety, it shakes beneath his quivering hand. As he goes up the three steps, he realizes he looks like a toddler climbing them. Finally, he makes it up and crosses the porch. He knocks on the screen door. A blob appears.

“Elise?” he asks.

“No,” says the woman. “I’m her home care aide.”

“Not another one,” he says.

“Another what?” she asks.

“Never mind,” he replies.

“Well, who are you?” she asks.

“I’m an old friend. I’d like to see her.”

“She’s not well.”

“Ask her if she’s well enough to see Cecil Everhardt.”

“She doesn’t know anyone.”

His heart sinks, yet he also feels a little relieved. He swallows. “May I see her anyway?”

The nurse hesitates. “I guess so, but you really shouldn’t stay long.”

“I won’t tire her out,” he says.

The aide pushes the door open. “Fine. Come on in.”

“Thank you,” he replies.

The nurse leads him through a dark, musty hallway and into Elise’s den. The room is brighter. She’s asleep in a hospital bed. He removes his hat and moves slowly towards her. There’s a chair--he pulls it up and sits down by her side.  He turns to the aide.

“Could you leave us alone for a minute?” he asks.

The nurse studies him.  “A minute,” she says.  She leaves, closing the door behind her. Cecil wraps his hands around the cold steel surrounding her mattress.

“I’m sorry I’m a visitor here, Elise. They’ve got us both living with strangers. I’m shacking up with an injun, don’t that beat all? Can’t believe my kids would rather have that than you.”

He put his head on the railing.

He hopes she’ll say something, reach for his hand, anything, but she only lays there. He hears her snoring, lightly. The wind whistles through the room. It seems colder again. He looks up at her in the direction of her face. In this light, she is glowing.  “Bet you’re as beautiful as the last time I saw you,” he says.

He reaches for her hand. It’s cold, but still soft. He begins crying.

“Mr. Everhardt?” The nurse re-enters the room. He lets go of Elise’s hand and tries to calm myself, but the tears are too quick for him. “Mr. Everhardt, she needs her rest. I believe it’s time--”

He sniffs.  “Yes, yes, I know.  You’ll tell me what to do and I will.  That’s what happens when you get old.  You’ll be there someday too.  You’ll see.”

“I’ll lead you to the door,” she says.

“What’s the hurry?” says another woman.  Cecil recognizes Isabelle’s voice.

“Who are you?” asks the aide.

“Mr. Everhardt and I have a business relationship. What’s it to you?” says Isabelle.

Cecil wipes his eyes. Isabelle continues. “We were running an important errand, and he wanted to stop by for a quick visit.”

“Uh-huh,” says the nurse.

 “Mr. Everhardt,” says Isabelle, “We really shouldn’t delay our trip. Did you get to say what you needed to?” She addresses the aide, who looks confused, and adds, “We stay real busy.”

The aide doesn’t respond.

“Well, now that you ask that,” says Cecil. “Could I have just one more second?”

“Of course,” says Isabelle, taking the aide by the elbow. “Why don’t you and I just step out for another minute?” 

“Well,” says the aide.  “Just.” 

The two women leave and Cecil stands.  He leans over Elise and runs a curled finger along her brow.  Her hair is so much thinner than he remembered.  He takes his gnarled hand, lifts hers, and kisses it.  Against his lips, he can feel how wrinkled it has become. It nearly brings back the tears, but he chokes them down.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers. “I am so sorry.”

He puts his hat back on, turns away, and leaves the den.  When he reaches the hallway, he finds the two women, and one of them extends her hand. He knows its Isabelle’s, and he takes it. It feels strong.

“Thank you for your so-gracious hospitality,” says Isabelle.  Cecil likes the tinge of sarcasm he hears.

“Just doing my job,” the aide says.

“So it appears,” says Isabelle. “It must be tough taking care of the elderly.”

“It has…its moments,” says the aide slowly.

“Well, Mr. Everhardt here has few years on us both, but he’s the one that keeps me going straight. I couldn’t do my job without him.”  She turns to Cecil.  “Mr. Everhardt, did you get to finish your visit?”

“Yes,” he replies, “I think so.”

“Well,” says Isabelle, “We’ll still stop in the next time we’re in this part of the country.”

Cecil turns back to the den door.  He can make out the shape of Elise.

“Maybe,” he says. “If you don’t grind the damn gears on my truck again.”


Helpful Tips

Submitted by Jane Foust


Surprising uses for tea:

For tastier food: Use tea instead of beer or wine the next time you marinate meat And when making rice, hang a tea bag in the pot to add a subtle herbal flavor, such as orange blossom.


For pain relief: A cool wet tea bag can soothe pain or irritation from bug bites or sunburn. When you have an abscessed tooth, a tea bag can even help to draw out the infection.


For killing odors: A used tea bag in a cup or bowl will help freshen a fridge. A dry tea bag—fresh or used—can work the same odor-absorbing magic in a trash can. To freshen a carpet sprinkle on dry loose-leaf tea and let it sit at least half an hour before vacuuming.


 For polishing furniture: Tea cuts through dirt and grease. Use cooled tea to wipe down tabletops and mop floors, then use a dry cloth to buff the wood.

Source: Ufehadcer.com


Olive oil boosts the brain:

Nutritionists have long touted the heart-healthy benefits of olive oil, but a new study sug­gests this “super food” and its powerful antioxidants may also act to protect the brain from tumors. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh homed in on a key ingredient in olive oil, known as oleic acid. The team performed tests on living cells and human cell extracts to assess the effects of this fatty acid on a brain molecule, called microRNA-7, that helps stop the growth of tumors. They found that oleic acid prevents a protein, known as MSI2, from halting the production of microRNA-7. By indirectly supporting this tumor-blocking molecule, oleic acid may ultimately help prevent the growth and spread of cancer; reports NatureWorldNews.com. “Our findings do suggest that oleic add can support the production of tumor-suppressing molecules in cells grown in the lab,” says lead author Gracjan Michlewski. “Further studies could help determine the role that olive oil might have in brain health.” 



HSLS cover.jpgHammer Spade and the Long Shooter


Chapter Thirty-Six


We left early after an eggs, tortillas and corn on the cob breakfast. We drove up and up a narrow dirt track until it petered out and then we hiked the rest of the way to the top. I thought I was in shape but this was the toughest mountain climbing I had ever done.

When we got to the top, it was like a panoramic view of half the world. We could see hundreds of little roads in and out of the area.

Oscar asked Jorge if he knew what Margot was driving.

“We are looking for a beat up, dirty, green 1971 Ford F-100 pickup with an aluminum cover on the back.”

We got out two spotting scopes and a pair of binoculars. We saw a lot of beat up old pickups groaning their way along the roads but none that fit what Margot was supposed to be driving.

“What if she moves at night?” I asked.

“We won’t see her,” Jorge answered matter-of-factly.

“Might she have changed vehicles?”

“Could be. We don’t know. All we have is the ‘71 Ford.”

We spent all day on lookout looking for a needle in ten-thousand haystacks.

Jorge came up here to do this every day in all kinds of weather. If we were ever going to find Margot, we needed some kind of break.



We got that break after supper. Arturo called.

Xavier Caperan has disappeared,” he said to Oscar.

“Ran off or killed?” Oscar asked.

“He left to meet an informer at dusk yesterday and hasn’t been seen since.”

“Let me know if he shows up in a couple of days,” Oscar said.

“He won’t show up,” Arturo insisted.

“Why not?”

“Lady Fisher has passed through here.”

“Do you know that for sure?”

“Yes. And I know something else that you want to know.”

“What is it?”

“I cannott tell you over the phone. Meet me tomorrow at Santa Eulalia and I will tell you. Bring five thousand American dollars.”

“That is a lot of money.”

“If you want to find Lady Fisher, meet me tomorrow at noon with the money.”

“Come alone this time,” Oscar warned.

Oscar hung up and looked at us. “Is this a break, an ambush, or a rip-off?” he said to nobody in particular.



We were up early and on the road to Santa Eulalia. We intentionally arrived ahead of time and scouted the surrounding area thoroughly. I got out my rifle and a box of ammo.

Arturo drove up on his old pickup at twelve on the dot. He parked in the same place and sat on the tailgate waiting for us. When we approached him from behind, he was not surprised.

“You two are creatures of habit,” he observed. “That could be fatal in your business.”

Oscar was not into taking advice. He handed Arturo a fat envelope.

“Where is she going?” he asked.

Arturo was coy. “Is all the money here?” he asked.

“Count it.”

Arturo took his time counting the fifty one-hundred dollar bills. “It is all here,” he said after he finished counting the money, stuffed it back into the envelope and put the envelope in his pocket.

Arturo looked away towards the south. “Lady Fisher is meeting a man six days from yesterday at 19° 59’ 43.23” south, by 69° 09’ 14.66” west.”

“Who told you this?” I asked.

“I cannot tell you how I know this,” Arturo replied.

“He works for both sides, Hammer,” Oscar explained.

“That is correct,” Arturo agreed. “I cannot reveal my sources. It could cost me my job and my life.” 

“Suppose we go there, wherever that is, and Lady Fisher doesn’t show up?” I asked.

“You will be out $5,000 dollars. Unless Lady Fisher is intercepted by somebody else, she will be there on the appointed day,” Arturo assured us.

Then, without saying another word, or a thank you, he got into his pickup and drove down the mountain.




Chapter Thirty-Seven


“What do you think?” I asked.

“Arturo has been reliable in the past.”

“Where is 19° 59’ 43.23” south, by 69° 09’ 14.66” west?”

“I believe it is in eastern Chile.”

Oscar opened the back of the Blazer, rummaged around in a box and pulled out a topographical map of Chile. Soon we were looking at some very rugged mountains in what looked like a desert. When we pinpointed the location, the map detailed a dirt track on the edge of a cliff on the southern slope of a 15,000 foot mountain.

“Lady Fisher prefers solitude,” Oscar observed as he folded up the map. “This is out of my territory. I’ll get you back to Lima and send you off to Pablo.”

Oscar drove back to Lima. We checked into the Miraflores Orient Express Hotel again, then got on the phone to Clover’s office.

The duty officer thought I ought to fly that night to Iquique, Chile, meet up with Pablo, get equipped to take a helicopter out to the location, and the two of us camp there to wait for Margot to show up. He didn’t express any skepticism about our intelligence and seemed confident that I would finally meet her. His last instruction was for me to persuade her to come back to London at once because that was Clover’s order.

I checked out of the room without even getting a bath and loaded my stuff in the Blazer. Oscar whisked me to the airport in short order and I was on a plane to Iquique, Chile, two hours after I got to Lima. Oscar would ship my rifle and ammo to Pablo by diplomatic courier.

“Good luck,” Oscar said as I was about to board the plane.

“Thanks for all your help,” I replied. “And thanks for the tour of the Peruvian countryside.”

“I like you, Hammer. Maybe we’ll work together again someday.”

“Could be,” I replied. “This is a strange business.”

We shook hands and he left when I started to board the plane.

The plane took off toward the north and turned out over the Pacific to go south. I watched the lights of Lima slide by as we rose to cruising altitude.

This had been a weird case, or project, or whatever it was called. No wonder Phoebus was apprehensive. If ever there was a case with a slight chance of success, this was it. I figured my chances of actually meeting Margot were still not very good and if I did find her, my chances of persuading her to obey Clover’s order were probably zero.

A woman who could move around in South America the way she did was not a woman you could easily dissuade from something she was determined to do. I had no doubt that if she decided that I stood in her way, she would figure out how to get me out of her way, even if she had to kill me.



The plane landed at Chucumata Airport in Iquique at two a.m. Iquique was the capital of the Iquique Province. It looked to be about the size of Raleigh, North Carolina. From the air, I saw a good-sized port installation located on a small peninsula. According to a brochure I found in the seat pocket, the main exports were nitrates that were mined in the Atacama Desert to the east of Iquique.

Iquique was founded in the sixteenth century. It used to be part of Peru, but the area was annexed to Chile after the war of 1879 to 1894 between Chile, Peru and Bolivia. It was a dry area. Water had to be piped in from sixty miles away.

The area was subject to earthquakes, the most recent of which was in 2005. All we needed for this mission to be complete was an earthquake!



It was easy to spot Pablo when he met me at the gate. He was an older, calmer version of his cousin, Oscar. He helped me through customs and took me to the Cavancha Hotel where I finally got a shower and a few hours of sleep.




Chapter Thirty-Eight


Pablo and I met at eight to plan our day over breakfast. He had already started getting our stuff together, including four cases of MREs.

“I hoped we’d have something else,” I complained. 

“We thought we’d be good hosts and provide you with something familiar. Besides, MREs are better than most military rations.”

He had a tent, cots, sleeping bags and a camp stove. “It’s high and dry, cold at night and hot during the day,” he explained. “It is a very inhospitable place. I also packed twenty gallons of bottled water.”

“How will we get there?” I asked.

“Helicopter. It would take too long to drive. Lady Fisher habitually arrives early to scope places out for traps. We must be there ahead of time waiting for her.”

“Did you pick up my rifle yet?”

“They delivered it at four this morning. It is with your other gear.”

“We’ll need satellite phones and spare batteries.”

“I’ve already taken care of that.”

Pablo was one very organized guy. “What time will we load up?”

“We must leave here at ten to go to the military airport. We should be in place shortly after lunch.”

We finished our meals and I went to my room to get my luggage and checked out of the hotel.

I felt as though I was in a whirlwind.



The helicopter dropped us off on a most desolate ridge on the southeastern side of a huge mountain. After the chopper left, we moved our gear off the road, down the side of the mountain onto a narrow ledge with what looked like a mile drop off. I thought about tying a rope around myself in case I walked in my sleep. To make matters worse, it was on the windward side of the mountain. I tested the cell phone; it had no signal. The satellite phone worked, so we had communications.

Pablo was a good camping companion. We had the whole camp set up in an hour with the gear and supplies stowed. The altitude was over 10,000 feet. I had to stop and catch my breath several times while we worked.

After we finished putting everything away, we scouted for the best spot to watch for Margot. A little higher up the mountain we found a ledge with a depression that was behind some scraggly vegetation. We could see the switchbacks coming up the mountain from both directions. After some discussion, we made a watch schedule of four hours on and four hours off. I wondered if Margot might arrive at night, but Pablo thought the roads were too treacherous to navigate at night. I wasn’t sure about that. The fact that Margot planned to meet somebody up here in this barren, high altitude wilderness made me believe that, for her, driving at night would be a cinch. She would have to use lights at night and the noise of her vehicle might be loud enough for us to hear over the wind. This was not going to be fun.

By the time we got set up and finished scouting, it was dinnertime. We broke out the MREs and dined high in the mountain fastness of Chile. I asked Pablo if he had met Margot.

“I have worked with her three times,” he said.

“How was she to work with?” I asked.

“She is very demanding but fair. She always carries her share of the load. She is very thorough and detailed and she expects you to be just as careful and diligent as she is.”

“Why does she prefer to travel up here on top of the world?”

“Mountain climbing is Lady Fisher’s hobby. She loves it up here. She will live up here for weeks at a time.”

“In this business, that makes her very tough to catch.”

“Lady Fisher will not be caught by anybody,” he said confidently.

“She has eluded everybody so far,” I admitted. Then I added. “We might be chasing a false lead and she’s somewhere in Colombia, Bolivia or Brazil.”

“I believe she’s coming here but I wonder who she is meeting.”

“Why is she meeting anybody?” I asked. “From what everybody says, Margot doesn’t need anybody’s help.”

“I don’t like it. We must be on our guard because the person she meets may be an enemy.”

“I thought about that too.”

Pablo excused himself to take the last watch before nightfall. Other than the howling wind, it was a peaceful place. I wondered what Alonia was doing.



Just Thinking

Submitted by Gerald Fehr


·       I was thinking about old age and decided that old age is when you still have something on the ball, but just too tired to bounce it.

·       I thought about making a fitness movie for folks my age and calling it ‘Pumping Rust.’

·       When people see a cat’s litter box they always say, “Oh, have you got a cat?” Just once I want to say, “No, it’s for company!”

·       Employment application blanks always ask who is to be called in case of an emergency.   I think you should write, ‘An ambulance.’  

·       The older you get the tougher it is to lose weight because by then your body and your fat have gotten to be really good friends. 

·       The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement. 

·       Did you ever notice: The Roman Numerals for forty (40) are XL.

·       The sole purpose of a child’s middle name is so he can tell when he’s really in trouble.

·       Did you ever notice:  When you put the 2 words ‘ The’   and ‘ IRS ’ together it spells  ’Theirs...’

·       Break down Therapist and you get The rapist.

·       Aging:  Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.  

·       Some people try to turn back their “odometers.” Not me. I want people to know ‘why’ I look this way.  I’ve traveled a long way and some of the roads weren’t paved.

·       You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks. 

·       Ah! Being young is beautiful but being old is comfortable.

·       Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth.

·       May you always have Love to Share, Cash to Spare, And Friends who Care.

The Lays of Ancient Rome


Sir Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859)


Castor and Pollux──So like they were, no mortal

Might one from another know;

White as snow their armor was,

Their steeds were white as snow,

Never on earthly anvil

Did such armor gleam,

And never did such gallant steeds

Drink of an earthly stream.


Back comes the chief in triumph

Who in the hour of fight

Hath seen the great Twin Brethren

In harness on his right

Safe comes the ship to haven

Through billows and gales

If once the Twin Brethren

Sit shining on the sails.


Minerva Checks Out Cyber-Dating

Minerva P. Shaw

It all started at a little get-together at some place called Wild Wings.  A group of family and friends had gathered to fill up on every type of chicken wing imaginable and to solve the families, and worlds, problems.  The topic of conversation gravitated, as usual, to the only two single women at the table – my granddaughter, TaWanda, and me, Minerva. You know how it is with married folks. They can’t stand to see a happy single person but what they want to marry him or her off to somebody. I’m not exactly sure why they feel the need to do this!

Anyway, it seems that they had already talked TaWanda into signing on to one of the cyber-dating sites in the hopes of meeting Mr. Right and so the attention turned to me.

“I’m 74! I’d feel downright silly going on some dating web site, “I informed them all. (Not to mention how insulted I felt that they all thought I needed to advertise by putting myself up on an auction block, so to speak, to try and catch a man! Me! Minerva P. Shaw!)

 Now, I’ll admit I’m no great beauty and came in sixth in the only beauty contest I ever allowed myself to be talked into entering, but hey! How could they even think that I, Minerva P. Shaw, obviously a great catch for any man, would lower herself to put her picture out there with the obvious message: Look at me!  Or even worse: Please pick me!

Yuck, yuck and double yuck and I said a resounding NO. Even the workers back in the kitchen must have heard me and you know how loud they keep the music in those places!

 “Nana, I’m sure there are a lot of desirable men on the Find-’em-Here web site. I’ll bet there are a lot of really good looking men around your age who would just jump at the chance to get to know you. You really need to try it! I mean it, Nana. Do it tonight as soon as you get home!”

Of course, I did no such thing but after two weeks of family members checking up on me every single day asking what kind of response I had, I gave up.

“Okay, I’ll do it, but men my age have already been married and are now either divorced or widowed. Also, their Christian duty to “go forth, multiply and fill the earth” has been taken care of which means they can now put their big, clomping feet on the coffee table, or anywhere else they choose. Why, they can wear the same underwear for weeks on end if they are so inclined.

“Besides, it would be my luck to attract some axe murderer or other type of serial killer just looking for some woman they think is desperate and lonely and will be an easy mark.”

“No, Nana, there are nice, normal men out there just looking for somebody like you and you don’t want to deprive them of the sheer thrill of meeting you, do you?”

Well, that was hard to argue with so I signed on to Find-’em-Here and began the daunting task of telling all about myself.  Besides the basics of age, height, number of children, religious background, and a few interests,  we were to write some little blurb about who we are and what we are looking for, all of which the powers behind the scene at Find-’em-Here would search for matches for me.

 Though I am a modest soul, I felt sure that I would be swamped with male attention so I signed off and waited several days before checking back in to see my potential on-line dating prospects.

I settled back in my desk chair and prepared myself to pick and choose among the Great Ones, with just the slightest bit of smugness, I must admit. That smugness dissipated immediately.

The reports showed that six men had looked at my picture and profile.  Their choices regarding me were: Favorite, Secret Admirer, Send a Smile, or send a message.


Well, I have to say it was quite a humbling experience. Not even one man made any designation at all which meant they either really did not make an entry or that they simply hit the “x” key which meant No, Not interested, etc. Hmmmmmm.

I looked back at my photo. Well, I’ve never been photogenic but I didn’t think it looked THAT bad!

Over the following week, the only designations I received were that the staff of Find-’em-Here had blocked messages coming to me on four different occasions. They stated the messages were considered inappropriate and the senders had been suspended from the web site.

Well, that was good, I thought. By this time I had been on the site for just over two weeks with nary a sign of interest from anyone!  I went back and reread my profile and actually edited it a little and it went against the grain, I can tell you!  Minerva P. Shaw was actually trying to “present herself’ in such a way that more attention would come her way! How humiliating!

“Well, I feel ridiculous, TaWanda!  Why in the world am I on some impersonal web site trying to attract the attention of men I do not know, have never seen, and probably will never see, in this lifetime! This is humiliating and I’m getting off that web site this very night.”

“Nana, give it at least four full weeks! That’s only just what – maybe 10 more days? Did you see anyone who appealed to you? Didn’t any others check out your profile?”

I had to admit that the 45 men who looked at my profile seemed very normal. They were all attractive and seemed to have interesting lives. There were even a few whom I would definitely have been attracted to had I met them at some event or social occasion. So why didn’t any of them jump at the chance to even “smile” at Minerva P. Shaw?!?!

 “Nana, just give it ten more days.”

So, my friends, here I am at the end of 30 full days of partnership Find-’em-Here and I have to face the fact that I am just not Find ‘em material! Only one man contacted me and he was 51 years old. I answered him to say that the age difference was too great for us to have anything to chat about.  One thing I believe I have learned. We have to meet someone in person to fully appreciate him or her and to find, in a conversational way, if we actually have anything in common or not. i.e. Are we a match?

Uh, just a minute, folks, my phone is ringing.

“Hello? Calvin, is that you?  Yes! I apologize for what I said, too! Yes, you can come right on over! Yes, I’ve missed you, too!”

Sorry, that was my very dear friend, Calvin. We had a spat but everything is okay now. Calvin still adores me!

So, that was my experience with the on-line dating scene. I won’t be going back and all I can say is: Hey, all you fellas on Find-’em-Here, you made a big mistake! You actually missed out of getting to know and love the fabulous Minerva P. Shaw!


Minerva’s advice book, Here Comes Minerva is available on Amazon and Kindle


Excitement at the Sunset Lodge

Marry Williamson


The Sunset Lodge was quiet. Everybody was doing their own thing and life rumbled on sedately. That is until the phone call from ‘Help for Heroes’. Apparently Norman had been in the Royal Air Force before he became Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University.

Nobody knew this. But somebody from the Help for Heroes charity found out and contacted the Sunset Lodge to see if Norman could front some ‘do’ for charity. Mrs. Hartnell explained that Norman was not in a fit state and was no longer playing with a full deck or rather, in this instant, flying with all engines.

Evidently this had made no difference to the Heroes person because a couple of days later he rang the doorbell asking for Norman regardless. Unfortunately he came with a TV crew. The whole of the Sunset Lodge was agog and everybody was in a right state. Alice bit her nails, hopping from foot to foot, Maud and Violet sat by the fireplace, their busy hands idle for once, Margery messed up the Guardian sudoku. It was an easy one as well. Eleanor put down her magazine, Muriel and Rose were non-plussed and Jack and Brian could not concentrate on their game of backgammon.

Mrs. Hartnell ushered the Help for Heroes person and the camera crew into the little side room, which she used as her office.

 Norman, conscious of something going on stood on the upstairs landing singing: “Hero! I am holding out for a hero till the end of the night.”

Mrs. Hartnell said angrily: “As I have told you on the phone, Norman Sinders is in no state to be present at your fundraising let alone preside over it. I so wished you had listened to me. Now you have upset our residents and staff and Norman himself as you can hear.” “He’s got to be young and he’s got to be strong and he’s got to be fresh from the fight,” could be heard from upstairs. “That is Norman Sinders?” the Help for Heroes person said hopefully. The idea forming in his head was clearly visible on his face.

Mrs.  Hartnell saw it. “Oh no. You don’t. You are not making a programme about poor Norman’s decline. I know you heartless people. Anything for a miserable headline grabbing programme. Anything to boost the ratings. I want you all to go away now and leave the poor man in peace.”

She called for Prudence. “Prue, these gentlemen are leaving. Can you show them out?” Prudence hurried to comply, her eyes popping in her head and escorted them through the hallway to the front door. Unfortunately, she had left the door to the lounge open and the Heroes person and crew looked in on the other residents.

They were staring wildly at the visitors giving the impression of a bunch of demented monkeys. The cameraman quickly took out his camera. Prudence saw it and deftly brought up her arm and slapped it out of his hand. The camera flew through the air and landed in the porch where it smashed on the black and white tiles.

The residents in the lounge all gasped and clasped their hands to their mouths looking frightened. Except for Margery who let out a big chuckle. “Oh, well done Prudence,” she said. Alice, bringing up the rear ushered the visitor out through the front door. Prudence, having picked up the broken camera handed it to the cameraman without even a ‘sorry’. They stood on the drive gawping through the windows into the lounge, the residents staring back at them. It was stalemate.

Mrs. Hartnell, meanwhile, was looking for Norman thinking that maybe another of his little yellow pills was in order. Except, Norman was nowhere to be found. A search party was dispatched and eventually Prudence found him in the cellar where the resident’s excess belongings were stored in massive trunks. He had been rootling through his trunk and had just found his old RAF uniform.

He held it up in front of him and grinned at Prudence, whistling the ‘dambusters’ theme tune. Prudence could only just stop him from stripping off to put his old uniform on. She coaxed him and the uniform up the cellar steps. Mrs. Hartnell was waiting in the hallway with a glass of water and two little yellow pills.

Norman took them docile enough but would not let go of the uniform so he was put to bed with it crushed to his chest. Peace settled on the Sunset Lodge. But some time later Norman slipped unseen out of the house, in his old uniform, having left two little yellow pills, a bit soggy but still whole, on his bedside table. While the others were in the dining room having their lunch he was skipping down the drive singing: “she flies like a bird in the sky……”

 He was found eventually by Derek who was drafted in to help in the search, sitting on a bench in the park. Mrs. Hartnell put him to bed with the little yellow pills and he went out like a light, exhausted by all the commotion and excitement.

After that things were rather flat at the Sunset Lodge. The days passed by, one very much like the other until a few weeks after the Help for Heroes debacle. One morning the doorbell rang. Mrs. Hartnell went to open the door. On the doorstep stood two elderly ladies, both dressed in black from head to toe. Black hats, black coats, black gloves, black stockings and black shoes. They introduced themselves as Mabel Pearson and Ivy Sinders and said they were Norman’s sisters, widow and spinster respectively. They had come to inform Norman of the death of their other sister, Joan. Mrs. Hartnell looked at them, not quite able to take in what they said.

 “Norman?” she managed at last. “We did not know Norman had any family. His old Oxford College pays for his fees here. They organized his stay here when he needed living assistance. You better come in.”

She herded them into her little office where she sat them down. Meanwhile, in the lounge, things were buzzing.

Maud had been listening to the proceedings from the hallway and imparted the news to everybody. She was positively twittering. “Fancy that. Norman’s sisters. He never told us he had any.” “Well,” Margery observed, “he is no state to tell anybody anything but before he came here he lived in the University, so presumably he did not have much to do with them. I wonder what they really want?” she added suspiciously. Well, what they really wanted soon transpired. Joan, the dead sister, had left a will leaving everything she owned, including her house, to her only brother, Norman. And given that Norman was quite away with the fairies and Mabel and Ivy were living in the house and, indeed, had nowhere else to go it was a bit of a conundrum. They had been horrified when this solicitor turned up with the will and they learned of its contents. They now wanted Norman to sign everything over to them, seeing he was not in need and they were.

Unfortunately for them Mrs. Hartnell took an instant dislike to them. They were far too highhanded for her liking. How did they know that he was not in need of anything? They had not clapped eyes on him as long as he was at the Sunset Lodge or contacted him in any way.

“I do not even know you all existed,” Mrs. Hartnell said. “How do I know you are genuine?”

“You can contact the solicitor,” Mabel said. She seemed to be the spokeswoman. Ivy said very little, just nodded her head. “Anyway.” Mrs. Hartnell said “Norman is in no state to sign anything. Besides, your sister might have had a jolly good reason to leave all her worldly goods to him. She probably did not like you two very much.”

Mabel and Ivy looked pained. “You send that solicitor. Now, if we are finished. We are about to have our lunch.”

Mabel and Ivy had no choice than to shuffle off, muttering under their breath. Mrs. Hartnell closed the door behind them.

“Well, that was a turn up for the books,” she said to Prudence who had come into the hallway, alerted by Maud. The other residents were all bunched up by the open lounge door. They obviously had heard every word. It was as if a breath of fresh air had wafted through the Sunset Lodge. They were all excited and would be busy with this for ages. Especially Norman. He stood halfway up the stairs, arms wide, singing: “I am in the money.”

He had somehow gathered that all the excitement was about him. He kept singing songs about money. “Money, money, money,” and “money is the root of all evil,” reverberated through the Sunset Lodge for days.

Then, one day, around coffee time, the doorbell went and on the doorstep stood two gentlemen, dressed soberly in dark suits, white shirts and blue ties. They were wearing identical black coats, buttons undone and highly polished black shoes. They each had a black umbrella hooked over their arms.

They looked so alike Mrs. Hartnell first thought was ‘The Thompson Twins’. They introduced themselves as James Balfour and Timothy Balfour of Balfour, Balfour, Balfour and Coates, solicitors. Apparently, the third Balfour was their father, now retired and Mr. Coates had shuffled of the mortal coil some 10 years ago.

Mrs. Hartnell showed them into her office and called out for Alice to bring in some coffee. All the residents were gathered in the hallway in the hope of gleaning something of what was going on. Prudence quickly filled a coffee pot and arranged milk, sugar and three cups and saucers on a tray for Alice to carry in. Alice had by now mastered the art of carrying trays without mishaps largely due to the anti-slip mat thing. She sidled into the office holding the door open with her foot and managed to put the tray almost elegantly on the desk. She cast a furtive glance at the two gentlemen and sidled out again.

They all mobbed her when she came out. “Did you hear anything? What are they like? What are they here for?” All questions to which Alice had no answer. There was nothing for it. They just had to wait till the Thompson Twins left and Mrs. Hartnell saw fit to fill them in on the proceedings. Which she did, eventually.

After the gentlemen from Balfour, Balfour, Balfour and Coates left she called everybody together and explained that she had agreed with the solicitors on Norman’s behalf, for whom she had - it transpired - power of attorney, that the sisters could stay in the house for as long as needed but that the money that was left should go into Norman’s account. “So now you all know,” she said “because you were all wildly speculating and poking your noses into affairs that are really of no concern to you. But there you are. The horrible sisters are not getting any money but also we are not making them homeless. You can now all go back to whatever you were doing.”

But, of course, that was not going to happen soon. Not in the Sunset Lodge where tongues liked to wag. And wagging they did till well after lunch. Why did nobody know Norman had family? Why did they never come to see him? Did Norman actually understand what was happening?

The answer to the last question came soon enough with Norman bursting into the lounge singing at the top of his voice the old ‘Madness’ song: “My house in the middle of the street.”


They have made a Broadway musical about the Enron financial debacle.  I guess they’ll write musicals about Katrina and the latest oil spill next. You can see the Enron musical at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York. If you want to.

Eyes Bright

Michael Warren


In human eyes the spirit of sentient being takes refuge,

Because the eye is dedicated to hope,

And seeking fire for the soul is why the eye scans.

Danger rouses defense, beauty calms glands,

A mate triggers urgent lust.

Distant green among a vast landscape of taupe,

Conjures a dream of bounty from an unknown deluge.

In a secret drawer of your ebony chest of sorrows,

Lies the fiend of abandonment early loosed upon you,

By parents whose own hearts were crippled and drawn.

Thus your tender spirit could not revel in the wondrous dawn,

That love fires in the marrow of being human,

Filling the eyes with billowing skies of cerulean blue,

And dazzling visions of infinite goodness and endless tomorrows.

So it was I saw your eyes bright,

Conning the present while shimmering with the past,

Yearning for the golden, ever pacifying, light of the sun.

Shadow, I said, is but light substantially impaired by one,

Making way through fear and uncertainty,

Whose bitter tears are shards of purpose strewn before the mast,

By a life well sailed and charted right.

With a fair wind, in the end, your glistening eyes will create,

Against the ravages of fate, the paradise that within them lies.



October Shadows

Elizabeth Miccio


Late Afternoon

                        She sat there

The sun shining

                        On her shoulders

Casting  shadow

                        Across the grass

And over the geraniums.


The leaves of the peach tree

                        Shining yellow and gold

Shaped like curved swords

                        Of Gengis Khan

Fell silently amid green leaves

                        Not ready to take the leap.


Sunshine gently warmed the land

                        All blue sky, not a cloud

…where have they all gone?


Shadows of trees

                        Patterns of flowers everywhere

Traced by our Shining Star.




(Editor’s note: This is Elizabeth’s last poem. She passed year before last but had already sent me the poems we have used since her passing. She had a light, subtle, touch with words and called her poems “Word Paintings.” I miss her.  E. B. Alston


“Surgeons must be careful when they take the knife. Underneath their fine incisions, stirs the culprit─Life! Emily Dickinson


Pilot to Mechanic


Pilot: Test flight OK, except autoland very rough.

Mechanic: Autoland not installed on this aircraft.


 Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200-fpm descent.

Cannot reproduce problem on ground.


Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.

Evidence removed.


DME volume unbelievably loud.

Volume set to more believable level.


Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.

That’s what they are there for!


Number 3 engine missing.

Engine found on right wing after brief search.


Aircraft handles funny.

Aircraft warned to “Straighten up, Fly Right and Be Serious.”


Target radar hums.

Reprogrammed target radar with words.


Mouse in cockpit.

Cat installed


Sad News From Minnesota

Submitted by Gerald Fehr


Please join me in remembering a great icon of the entertainment community.  The Pillsbury Doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and trauma complications from repeated pokes in the belly.  He was 71. 

Doughboy was buried in a lightly greased coffin.  Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Butterworth, Hungry Jack, the California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Captain Crunch.  The grave site was piled high with flours. 

Aunt Jemima delivered the eulogy and lovingly described Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded.  Born and bred in Minnesota, Doughboy rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers.  He was not considered a very smart cookie, wasting much of his dough on half-baked schemes. 

Despite being a little flaky at times, he still was a crusty old man, and was considered a positive role model for millions.  Doughboy is survived by his wife Play Dough, three children: John Dough, Jane Dough, and Dosey Dough, plus they had one in the oven.  He is also survived by his elderly father, Pop Tart.  The funeral was held at 3:50 for about 20 minutes. 

Please rise to the occasion and pass it on to someone having a crumby day or kneading a lift.



School Days

Peggy Ellis


School days, school days,

Dear old Golden Rule Days

’Reading,’writing and ’rithmetic

Taught to the tune of a hick’ry stick



When Will Cobb and Gus Edwards wrote this song in 1907, they didn’t have school discipline in mind. Instead, it’s the story of an older couple remembering their childhood in primary school. That’s according to good old Wikipedia. Who knows what I would have found if I had researched further? Make of it what you will, but to me, the ‘hick’ry stick’ bit sounds like classroom discipline, about which there is much discussion today. I don’t recall that my elementary school teachers had difficulties with that. I attended a small community school, near Weaverville, North Carolina, that housed grades one through three in one room and four through six in another. Two other rooms, formerly classrooms, provided a lunchroom and a playroom, which we utilized when weather kept us indoors. There was a large auditorium in the middle of the building. I say large, because when I stood on the stage to recite poetry to the entire community, I was convinced it held at least 5,000 people, but in reality possibly a couple of hundred.

Miss Brittain, the beloved despot of the younger children, didn’t use a hickory stick, or any other corporal punishment instrument of torture. She used words to discipline. Words can hurt, too, but hers didn’t. Even if I couldn’t say anything else good about this woman (I can say lots), I can say she knew exactly how to mete out punishment.

Consider, for instance, undersized (I looked like a first-grader) eight-year-old Peggy. On the day in question, I had walked a mile down a snow-covered road to school, and, although warmly dressed, I was cold. Let’s face it. I was, and am, cold from the first nip of Jack Frost in the air through Easter, and often well beyond. Between you, me, and the gatepost, I will admit I was as stubborn as the mule our neighbor used to turn the thingamajig when he made molasses. However, be warned, if you repeat that, I’ll deny it to my dying day.

Let’s don’t chase that rabbit.

Our school had a pot-bellied stove near the front of the room. Miss Brittain allowed us to huddle around the stove for a few minutes before we went to our desk. Alphabetically, my name, Lovelace, placed me at the back of the room close to the outside door. The door didn’t fit all the way to the floor. My high-topped brogans were wet from walking in the snow. My tan corduroy overalls were wet to the knees from said snow. Okay, you get the picture.

I ignored Miss Brittain when she instructed us to go to our desks. I also ignored her the second time she told us. And the third. When I finally couldn’t ignore her any longer, I kicked a chair out of my way and dragged my feet until I reached my assigned desk.

Miss Brittain didn’t comment.

You need to understand that Miss Brittain kept a rigid schedule. The three classes each had two rows of desks. She always (I emphasize that) set the first graders to reading, the second graders to spelling, and the third graders (my class) to arithmetic. I liked getting that dreaded subject out of the way, so I could then enjoy my favorite class, language, as we called it. I had already decided there was nothing more fun than diagramming sentences. (Yes, I admit to being weird, but don’t hold it against me.)

On this infamous day, I pulled my arithmetic book from my desk and opened it to the correct page. I was in for a surprise. After assigning the two lower grades their tasks, Miss Brittain moved to her spot directly in front of our two rows and said, “Third Graders, take out your language workbooks. All except Peggy. When she’s ready to apologize, she can take hers out, too.”

I replaced the arithmetic book in my desk and sat there in sullen silence while Miss Brittain strolled around the room monitoring students’ progress. When she reached my desk, she leaned over and whispered, “Are you ready to apologize?” No words came out of my mouth, but I nodded and she told me I could take out my language workbook.

Miss Brittain’s wisdom in choosing her battles instead of automatically meting out discipline stayed with me throughout my years of childcare. Even today, her understanding of childish naughtiness guides me when I find it necessary to caution young mothers about instant disciplinary decisions.




From all over the Internet


A Scottish couple is offer­ing to pay a live-in nanny $64,000 a year and great benefits—so long as the new hire is willing to work in a haunted house. The husband and wife admitted in a job listing that their five previous nannies had quit the gig after getting spooked while tak­ing care of their two young children. Each nanny cited “supernatural incidents” at the family’s historic home as their reason for leaving, “including strange noises, broken glass, and furniture moving.” The couple said they wanted “to be as up­front as possible to find the right person.”


At the same time each night, Jerry Lynn gets a loud reminder of the mistake he made 13 years ago. In 2004, the Pennsylvania man tied an alarm clock to a piece of string, set it to go off at 7:50 p.m., and lowered it down an air vent in his home—hoping the alarm’s sound would help him find the right spot to drill a hole for a TV cable. But the clock came off the string and dropped inside the wall. “I thought maybe three, four months it’ll run out of battery,” said Lynn. “It is still going off every day.”


A South African man awoke after spending 21 hours in a locked morgue refrigerator, with his cries for help so frighten­ing workers they called the police to protect them from an irate “ghost.” The man had been sent to the morgue after an asthma attack seemed to leave him without a heartbeat.


Gregg Phillips, a voter-fraud activist who claims to have proof that 3 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election, was found to be registered in three states—Alabama, Texas, and Mississippi, “Why would I know or care?” Phillips said.


Trade your brother for a dog, after Cambridge University researchers found that children get more satisfaction from their relationships with family pets than they do from those with their own siblings. Dogs don’t taunt you, and they don’t steal your stuff.


Bad for optimism, after the scientists behind the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic measure of the impending likelihood of the end of civi­lization, set it at 11:57:30-—closer to midnight than it’s been since 1953. Scientists cited Resident Trump’s statements on nuclear pro­liferation and climate change.


Being too popular, after Starbucks claimed a recent dip in sales, which led to a drop in stock prices, was caused by “congestion” at its stores. Lines are so long, the company said, that some custom­ers are leaving without buying anything.


National security, after the U.S.’s bacon reserves plunged to their lowest levels since 1957 because of soaring demand. Pork belly prices jumped 20 percent over three weeks.


The CEO of a Connecticut marketing company is screen­ing out young job applicants with a “snowflake test” in which he asks when they last cried and whether they like guns. Kyle Reyes insists his test is not political, but is designed to avoid hiring can­didates who are “not proud to be an American,” and will “whine and complain and come to the table with noth­ing but an entitled attitude.”


Close encounters, after a new book cataloging UFO sightings found that the greatest number occur in California, with 16,000 between 2001 and 2015.


Local law enforcement, after a judge in Spain dismissed a law­suit brought by a 15-year-old boy who had accused his mother of “mistreatment” for taking away his mobile phone. The judge ruled that the parent was “well within her rights.”


A German-made robot shattered its own record by solving a Rubik’s Cube puzzle in 0.637 seconds. The robot is able to iden­tify the color of each square, apply a special algorithm, their use its six mechanical arms to correctly align the pieces in just 21 moves.


Symbolism, after the Statue of Liberty suddenly went dark one night this week. Officials blamed the “unplanned outage” On an emergency-generator maintenance project.


Rep. Jason Chaffetz, was photographed talking on his own iPhone after recommending that the poor give up their cell­phones when Obamacare is repealed. “Rather than getting that new iPhone they love,” Chaffetz said, “maybe they should invest in their own health care.”


Shedding pounds, after a new study found that a growing num­ber of overweight Americans have given up trying to slim down, despite the known health risks of obesity. “As more people around us are getting heavier,” a researcher said, “we simply believe we are fine.”


Seeking purity, after a Norwegian-based startup began selling, ‘iceberg water’ for $100 a bottle. Svalbardi water founder Jatoal Qureshi says the price is justified because the water copies from the remote fjords of Norway, and has the pure “taste of snow and air.”


An elderly Texas woman and her son had the ride of a lifetime when a tornado hit their home, lifted the bathtub they were hiding in, and put it down in the nearby woods. When Charlesetta Williams, 75, and her son saw the twister approaching, they clambered into the tub for protection and pulled a quilt over themselves. Moments later, the pair heard a “boom” and sensed they were flying. “I wasn’t looking—I was under that quilt,” Williams said. “I’m a tell you, I don’t wanna ride through another one.”


An Oregon farmer and yoga buff has combined her two passions to create a new exercise craze: goat yoga. The classes take place on Lainey Morse’s Albany farm and resemble a typical yoga session—except that Morse’s eight goats stroll among the participants and climb on their backs as they do poses. Goat yoga has proved a huge hit, and the waiting list for the class is now more than 1,200 names long. Morse says the sessions can work wonders for people struggling with depression or anxiety. “It’s hard to be sad,” she said, “when there’s baby goats jumping on you.”


A Massachusetts man attempted to appeal a speed­ing ticket last week by claim­ing in court that die police officer’s radar gun had in fact picked up a fast-moving deer, not his car. Dennis Sayers was fined $105 after he was clocked going 40 mph in a 30 mph zone. In court, Sayers asked an officer if he was positive that he had captured Sayers’ speeding vehicle and not a nearby deer. “You’re not contending the radar picked up the deer?” asked Judge Peter Doyle. Sayers replied that anything is pos­sible. The fine was upheld.


Tokyo street hustlers run­ning the notorious “shell game” had best keep an eye out for Snow the cat. The male feline has an uncanny ability to identify which of several rapidly shuffled cups hides a small plastic ball. Snow became an Instagram celebrity after his Japanese owner posted a video of him staring intently at as many as five moving cups before plac­ing a paw on the right one every time. The cat’s acute sense of sight, hearing, and smell—which evolved for hunting prey—undoubtedly contribute to his shell game prowess. “Gonna bring this boy to a casino with me,” Snow’s owner said.


If you ever wanted to own an entire town, Reduction, Pa., (population 60) is up for sale at $1.5 million. Built for workers at American Reduction Co., a garbage­ processing plant south of Pittsburgh that shut down in 1936, Reduction consists of 19 neat brick houses whose occupants pay rent to the Stawovy family. David | Stawovy, 67, said his late parents lived off the rent,


A pair of Scottish students who left a pineapple on an empty display stand at a modern art show for a joke returned four days later to find the fruit had been encased in glass and made part of the exhibition. Lloyd Jack and Ruairi Gray, both 22, said they left the $1.30 store-bought pineapple at the “Look Again” show in the hope gallery goers would mistake it for art—and were stunned it was being treated as a serious artistic state­ment. “It just goes to show the ludicrousness of concep­tual art,” said Jack.


A graceful gorilla at a zoo in southern England is dazzling visitors and handlers with his impromptu and elegant ballet-like dances. Kionda, a 15-year-old, 410-pound western lowland gorilla, has been spotted deli­cately pirouetting inside his enclosure at Paignton Zoo and appearing to execute a jump known as an Italian change- ment Ballet experts say the ape has talent. “He has good use of the epaulement,” said New York City instructor Peter Brandenhoff, using the term for die position of the dancer’s head, neck, and shoulders. But Kionda needs to “hold his stomach in,” he added, “because it’s hanging out”


Scoops, after TV evangelist Rick Joyner predicted that Christian prophets will soon be able to write news stories a week in advance. “You don’t need to watch the Super Bowl,” Joyner told his flock. “I’m going to tell you what’s going to happen.”


‘Sologamy with the news that longtime single people in places like Brooklyn and San Francisco are now marrying themselves in full ceremonies. “It means that we are enough, even if we are not partnered with someone else,” said Erika Anderson, 37, who recently tied the knot with herself.


“Avocado hand” after a reported rise in injuries resulting from people cutting themselves while trying to open the popular fruit. Doctors say they’re seeing a steady stream of people with “severe nerve and tendon injuries, requiring intricate surgery.”


Citizens in the town of Okizumo in Japan want to put underpants on their new 16-foot replica of Michelangelo’s David.


English woman Clara Cowell gave up smoking on her 102nd birthday because she feared cigarettes might shorten her life. 


Russian legislator, Vladimir Zhirinosky proposed legislation banning overeating and excessive sex. He blamed this for Russia’s low life expectancy. “Why should we perish?” he asked.


A Swedish murder suspect, Saleh Hadri, was turned away when he tried to surrender to Malmo police because the station was closed.


A new teenage girl fad in Japan is wearing their panties on their heads. (!!!!!!!!!!!!) “I really worry about this country,”


A Japanese chef has opened a restaurant that specializes in serving dirt. Meals begin with Soil Soup and ends with a light soil sorbet accompanied by a sweet dirt gratin. A dirt dinner costs $110.00. 


None of this was made up!



The Death of Icarus

Charles Darwin (1809-1892)


────with melting wax and loosened strings

Sunk hapless Icarus on unfaithful wings;

Headlong he rushed through the affrighted air,

With limbs distorted and disheveled hair;

His scattered plumage danced upon the wave,

0’er his pale corse their pearly sea-flowers shed,

And strewed with crimson moss his marble bed;

Struck in their coral towers the passing bell,

And wide in ocean toiled his echoing knell.



“Being beautiful over much, consider beauty a sufficient end. They lose natural kindness and maybe the heart rending intimacy that chooses right and never finds a friend.” William Butler Yeats



Diana Goldsmith

My life has been a patchwork.  There are repeating themes and then there are parts which are unique and stand out from the whole fabric of my existence. However overall when seen as a whole work, there is a harmony.

My first square is made of white new wool from my first blanket lovingly crocheted by my godmother. The softness of her cheek as she held me to her face mirrored that piece of love.

There were others like those cut from my christening gown, made of lace handed down for many generations of children.

 The gingham squares of red, blue and yellow floral patterns from various doll’s dresses, treasured companions on early life’s journeys.

A piece of black velvet is there to remember my mother’s dress that bitter winter when my darling grandmother could not resist the influenza. My patchwork has its dark pieces unfortunately reflecting my life.

A piece of father’s tweed jacket, coarse and hairy like the leathery cheeks of a man used to weathering the elements; my love of the outdoors coming from him.

In between the special samples were pieces of my everyday dresses in gingham, plain dyed and floral patterns that grew up with me, tenderly sewn by mother and Aunt Jane our seamstress extraordinaire!

Of course I had to include  a piece of navy gabardine from my school uniform, together with squares of striped red and green satin from my old school ties, signs of my subjection to authority and painful times of separation from my family.

Then there are the blue and white cotton pieces of my nurse’s uniform representing my life of work, still under authority this time instead of a headmistress the larger than life matron!

Now the khaki woolen serge is sewn in, memories of war, of unnecessary loss of life!

 But then out of tragedy came joy!   

And squares of finest embroidered silk shine out like jewels against the multi coloured other portions. These are from my wedding dress! One of the happiest days of my life. I added in pieces of my dear husband’s cravat he wore, in cream silk too.

There are many portions of colourful satins and brocades from my various ball gowns, happy times of dancing and entertaining and meeting and making new friendships.

Again I have sewn-in cream lace christening gown pieces and parts of navy children’s sailor suits from my little ones.

There are pieces of fabrics from furnishings chosen with care to make my house a home.

Again there are black lace pieces amongst the joyful colours. They are from the veils of mourning the passing of those we love and only have memories of now.

As I look at the whole patchwork I see on one hand a combination of different colours and materials all fitted together to give a pleasing pastiche.

My life has been an assortment of events some more dramatic than others. There have been dark moments which seem to have been many but when arranged among the good and happy times somehow don’t seem to have been so bad and do lend contrast. The patchwork is ongoing and always being added to but a thread of gold will join all the pieces together and when finished it will be bordered and backed with love.

“We are never single-minded, like migratory birds.” Rainer M. Rilke

The Past is a Foreign Country

E. B. Alston


“Plan ahead” is good advice. This is true in business, in government, in war, diplomacy, and your personal life. Even God looks upon our mortal existence as a forward moving kaleidoscopic panorama, ever changing, moving forward at the rate of one second per second. The past is set in stone, as immovable as an 8,000 year-old Egyptian monument. The past on this piece was set at the last period. It is now a monument, just like all the moments before.

I had not thought of it this way until I read the comment I use as a title for this ramble by Greek philosopher, Solon in his discussion of Metaphysics, which is a branch of philosophy exploring the fund-amental nature of reality. Metaphysics seeks to answer two basic questions: 1) Ultimately, what is there? and, 2) What is it like?

Topics of metaphysical investigation include existence, objects and their proper-ties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility. A central branch of metaphysics is ontology, the investigation into the basic categories of being, and how they relate to one another. Objects studied by metaphysics exist independently of any observer. Some modernists say that the objects studied by metaphysics only exist inside the mind of an observer. I disagree. The past is there independently of my mind. It is not independent of God’s mind, which is eternal.

Philosophy is used to make sense out of the world in a non-religious way. It deals with political philosophy, ethics, meta-physics, ontology, logic, biology, rhetoric, and beauty.

Xenophanes is one of my favorites because he said there was only one god and the physical world was a whole in itself.  He ridiculed the Greek pantheon claiming that cattle would claim that the gods looked like cattle, horses like horses, and lions like lions, just as the Ethiopians claimed that the gods were snub-nosed and black and the Thracians claimed they were pale and red-haired.

Pythagoras lived at roughly the same time that Xenophanes did and he sought to reconcile religious belief and reason. Pythagoras believed that behind the appearance of things, there was the permanent principle of mathematics, and that the forms were based on a tran-scendental mathematical relation. Kepler and Einstein thought the same thing.

Heraclitus said that much learning cannot teach a man to think. He said one stable element was the root of all being and that “everything flows” or “everything is in flux,” the closest element to this flux being fire. All things come to pass in accordance with Logos which must be considered as plan or formula. 

Parmenides said that there is no coming into being or passing away, genesis or decay. Just like the Chaos Theory, which says that mass and energy is the basis of the physical universe. Things appear to come into being and pass away because the elements out of which they are composed assemble or disassemble while themselves are unchanging.

Socrates, born in Athens in the 5th century BCE, marks a watershed in ancient Greek philosophy. Socrates taught that no one desires what is bad, and so if anyone does something that truly is bad, it must be unwillingly or out of ignorance; con-sequently, all virtue is knowledge. He frequently remarks on his own ignorance (claiming that he does not know what courage is, for example). Plato presents him as distinguishing himself from the common run of mankind by the fact that, while they know nothing noble and good, they do not know that they do not know, whereas Socrates knows and acknowledges that he knows nothing noble and good.

Over the years, I have spent many hours poring over the thoughts of these ancients and my admiration of them knows no bounds. I recognize that they were products of their time and scientific evidence has disproven some of their ideas. Aristotle thought the world was flat but this does not take away from his understanding of time and eternity, which Kepler proved.

On a more mundane level, I now understand that my past is history. It cannot be changed. Unkind things I did and said are part of the monument along with the good and positive things I said and did. From infancy, I was always mentally and physically active. When I was 4 or 5, I was in Grandma’s cotton field where my Aunt Mary and Aunt Pat were chopping cotton. Aunt Mary asked me if my tongue ever got tired. I replied that, “My tongue wasn’t chopping any cotton.” I’m sure I don’t actually remember this but Aunt Mary told it to everybody. That was the “me” all my life, never afraid to express myself or take a chance.

I had a lot of personal adventures, met, liked and admired a lot of wonderful men and women. My jobs were interesting and engaging and retirement has been busy. I am now winding down and one day I’ll stop playing. What I miss most of all is my good friends who are gone.

My past is a foreign country because I don’t live there anymore. It is a great country, and if I could, I would gladly do another visit. Some things I would do differently, but all in all, I liked the country I lived in and the people who lived there with me.


“When you get to the point where you cheat for beauty, you are an artist.” Max Jacob

The World


SEPTEMBER: Austin, Texas, grooms itself for the world beard and moustache championships, with categories ranging from “Dali” to “Garibaldi.” Prince Charles becomes Britain’s longest- serving Prince of Wales, overtaking Prince Albert Edward’s 59 years and 45 days. General elections are due in Germany, Norway and New Zealand.


OCTOBER: On a track at the Hakskeen Pan in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa, Bloodhound, a Britain-based team, plans to break the world land-speed recordof763mph, (1,228kph) set in 1997. Revolutionaries of the world unite to hail Che Guevara, who died 50 years ago. It’s 500 years since another revolutionary, Martin Luther, nailed his 95 “Theses” to the door of the church in Wittenberg Castle-starting the Protestant Reformation.


NOVEMBER: Leaders of 21 Asia-Pacific countries fly into a newly built international terminal in Da Nang, Vietnam, for the 29th APEC summit. Russians, some with nostalgia, look back to the revolution of 1917, which brought the Bolsheviks to power. The distinctly un-Marxist Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, is due to open its doors around now. The National Hockey League, born in a Montreal room on November 26th 1917, celebrates its centenary.



“As I was going up the stair,

I saw a man who wasn’t there.

He wasn’t there again today.

I wish, I wish he’d stay away.”

Hughes Mearns

What to Do When You Start Getting Older

Timothy P. Whealton


You might not realize it but I am actually a very organized person. You might even laugh at that statement if you look at my shop. To the untrained eye, it looks like chaos but you have to understand my system.  It is pure genius. It is a simple system that I learned from my Pop. Rather than have a hundred different categories to sort out there is only one category for everything. That category is named “deal with it later!” Told you it was genius!

As brilliant as that sounds now that I’m 66 I have to decide a few minor details. Things like what am I going to do, where will I do it and how will I afford it? People tell me it’s time to slow down, I’m not as young as I use to be and enjoy the time you have left. Since these questions are so important, I started looking for answers in the Bible. Sure enough, I found answers.

I was looking to see what kind of jobs God would give to guys my age. Maybe something with a little less stress and easy on the joints. Something that pays reasonable with benefits. Oh yes, and lots of personal time, vacation and holidays. You guessed it, God showed me the stories I needed to read, not the ones I wanted.

He started my lesson with Moses. Moses was 80 when God called him. He had been hiding out working as a shepherd for 40 years. He had killed a man 40 years earlier and ran away to avoid the death penalty. Probably got up that morning and had an espresso before he picked up his stick and headed off to spend another day with the sheep. He knew his people back in Egypt were living in slavery and suffering but he was just a shepherd so what could he do?

On the mountainside, he saw the burning bush and his life is forever changed by God. Why on earth would God pick such an ill equipped man? He was 80, was slow of speech and had no position of influence. In short, he was a nobody, with nothing or at least that was what he tried to tell God. God told him that with His help he will have everything he needs.

At 80 years of age, Moses did the impossible and rescued the slaves of Egypt without firing a shot. If guns were invented back then, I’m sure he would have had one. Not only did he get the Pharaoh to release his fellow Jews, he kept them safe and provided food and water when they traveled to the Promised Land that was flowing with milk and honey. His assignment was supposed to take a few months but it turned into 40 years.

I joined the National Guard to dodge the draft and it took me 24 years to get out. Ever notice how God doesn’t actually change much but he handles our changes with perfection?

The reason it took Moses 40 years brought me to my next person that showed me what to do when you get older. Moses led them to the Promised Land but something we leave out many times when we tell this story is that the Promised Land was already occupied. Not just occupied, but populated with mean, warlike people. Moses sent 12 spies in to find out if the Israelites could defeat them and take the land. Only 2 of the 12 said they could win with God’s help. The other 10 convinced their people they would all die if they tried so the people voted to move on.

For their disobedience God made these fearful Israelites wander in the wilderness until all had died, except the 2 “good” spies. Their names were Joshua and Caleb. There is no need to remember the other 10!

After the 40 years in the wilderness, Joshua became the new leader and he took the desert-hardened descendants into the Promised Land. Following God’s will, he led them in a string of victories against unbelievable odds. Joshua’s tactics were unheard of in that time and so brilliant that they are still studied today in military academies. After Joshua had conquered the land God said to conquer, he divided the land up among the 12 tribes. When it was time for the tribe of Judah to pick their leader, Joshua’s old friend, Caleb, stepped forward to be the head of the tribe.

Caleb reminded Joshua that God had promised that he could have the ground he walked over. Caleb was 85 years old at this time. You would expect him to choose fertile farmland. Maybe something ADA compliant. Someplace where life would be easy.

Instead, Caleb requested that his family be given the land of Hebron. This was mountainous! Not just mountains but mountains occupied by the dreaded sons of Anak. Ever heard of a dude called Goliath? This is where his ancestors lived in fortified cities. So Caleb headed off with his tribe to fight uphill against giants living in forts. Caleb knew God would never leave his side as long as he did God’s will.

I didn’t need to go any further. The Bible has story after story about people we would call past their prime doing the impossible to make other people’s lives better with God’s help. The key seems to be helping others and depending on God. When I stop to think about it, it’s easy to see why. You only have one life or to put it another way you only run one race. If you have ever been in a race or even watched one you know what happens at the end. You don’t walk across the finish line. As you approach the finish line, you give it your best burst of energy. There is no reason to save.

For most of my life, I have been involved in competitive shooting at a high level. When Uncle Sam was paying, I had access to some of the best shooting coaches in the world. The great coaches didn’t waste time teaching me how to shoot or what physical factors are involved. The great coaches taught us how to manage our minds. How to believe in ourselves and push ourselves to do something that seems impossible. The X ring is 3” in diameter at 200 yards. That means it is 1.5 inches from center to the edge. We used military rifles with open sights and fired them standing without a rest. If the sights are misaligned, .004 of an inch or the gun moved that much you missed the X. That is the diameter of a human hair! Every shooter can tell you whether he or she had fired an X when the gun went off.

Even better was the fact that we learned how to coach ourselves. We learned that you can’t have any negative thoughts. You didn’t just hope you wouldn’t mess up. You knew that you had to do everything with a positive mindset. Bad shots were discarded and didn’t matter anymore. The next shot didn’t matter either. The only shot that mattered was the one you were firing now. Even the best shooters have bad shots but top shooters will score higher on the shots fired after a bad shot. They know how to focus and get back to what they know. Like everything in life that really matters, it’s a mind thing.

So how do we do it? Don’t wait for God to ride down on a cloud and tell you. Or try to help you. You might never know what God wants you to do for the rest of your life but I am willing to bet you know what he wants you do today. That is all you need to know. Just do what God tells you to do today, and get up tomorrow and do it again. Forget about the bad shots. Focus on making something better today, right this minute. That will make God smile!


“Three silent things: falling snow, the hour before dawn, and the mouth of one just dead.” D. R. P. Marquis

Why Time Flies:  A Mostly Scientific Investigation.

By Alan Burdick

Simon & Schuster

320 pages; $28

Reviewed by E. B. Alston


Time haunts Alan Burdick of the New Yorker magazine so much that he set out on a journey through the “world of time”. It is a long trip that covers everything from Zeno’s paradoxes to the latest neuro­science. What he learned was, “If scientists agree on anything, it’s that nobody knows much about time.”

time flies.jpgTime ticks away like something slippery thing. It also flies, stands still and slips away. Sometimes its lost then found. A day seems like forever and a month can gal­lop by. The question is, can time ever be perceived objec­tively? Are our ideas about time learned or organic within ourselves?  How long is “now”? Time has had philosophers and scientists scratching their heads over 2,000 years.

Us humans are poor judges of the duration of time. Minutes seem to drag when we are bored, tired or sad, yet they fly by when we are busy, happy or socializing. Humans and many animals have internal mechanisms to keep time, which turns out to be as reliable as a vintage cuckoo clock. Dan Lloyd, a philosopher and time scholar at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut said, “It’s a mystery to me that we function as well as we do.”

St Augustine, a fourth-century philoso­pher and theologian, was the first to recognize that time is a property of the mind. Like an experience of perception and, like memories, variable. Augustine realized that what was thought of as physics turned out to be psychological. William James wrote that the brain does not perceive time itself but is aware of its passage only when something is important. He tried to quantify the present, observing that the instant melts in one’s grasp and is “gone in the instant of becoming”.

Of all interior docks, the circadian is understood best. Nearly every or­ganism has a molecular rhythm cycle that roughly tracks a 24-hour period. In hu­mans, bodily functions oscillate de­pending on the time of day. Blood pressure peaks around noon; physical co-ordina­tion crests in mid-afternoon; and muscles are strongest at around 5pm. Night-shift workers are not as productive as they think they are. Human error, like accidents, Chernobyl and the Exxon Valdez, all occurred in the wee hours, when workers are slow to respond to warning signals. Long-distance travel upsets the body’s clocks”, disrupting our sleep and metabolism. A jet-lagged body recovers at a rate of about one time zone per day.

Mr. Burdick spent a lot of time writing a discursive journey through a vague and slippery subject, a thoughtful ramble across decades and disciplines. Although it’s short of firm conclusions, one lesson is certain: most people complain that time speeds up as they age. Mr. Burdick agrees and says, “Time matters precisely because it ends.”

An opera about Herman Melville’s Moby Dick has opened in Dallas, Texas. Reminds me of the yokel who thought Moby Dick was a sexually transmitted disease.


“ Life’s a tough proposition, and the first 100 years are the hardest.” Wilson Misner

Camel Train

Anne Wallbank


In the shimmering heat of the steppes of central Asia a small caravan of camels and horses appeared in the distance like a mirage.  Their progress was almost silent except for the shuffling feet of the camels and the plodding of the horses’ hooves. 

They were following the ancient Silk Road, a trade route across the desert which had been used for hundreds of years.  The camels were laden with goods of all kinds, including exotic food stuffs as well as decorated fabrics and of course swathes of silk, and the men who rode alongside mounted on sturdy Mongolian ponies wore Arab dress.

One day a terrific dust storm blew up, the first of several they encountered on their journey.  The air was thick with blinding dust and sand and the sun was blotted out.   Men and animals came to a halt and in the lee of a rocky outcrop took shelter.  The camels lay down and the ponies stood with their backs to the wind, their heads lowered; the men drew their robes close around them and covered their faces with their hoods as they waited out the storm.

Well into their journey the guide, Daniel, noticed one of the camels was limping.  The camel objected to being examined and spat in his face.  When he finally managed to inspect the foot Daniel could see that a broken piece of thorny scrub had become embedded in the soft pad.  He carefully removed it but, as animals often do, the camel continued to limp and Daniel was afraid the foot could become infected.  He got one of his men to look at it, a man who had dealt with camels all his life and he applied a noxious mixture to the camel’s foot and bound it with some grasses tied with raffia.  They proceeded on their way and, as the man had predicted, when Daniel removed the binding a few days later, the foot had healed completely.

One morning he woke up and with bleary eyes opened the tent flap to find that two of the camels had gone missing.  Leaving the others in charge of the remaining animals, Daniel set off on one of the ponies to look for the escapees.  He had not gone very far when he spotted the two camels grazing on some scrub.  Approaching them he realized how unkempt they looked, the hair on their bodies hanging like torn velvet drapes where they had rubbed themselves on the thorny bushes.

“Not an attractive animal,” Daniel mused, but how they depended upon them for transport and baggage carriers.

As they left the mountain passes the countryside opened out before them, a patchwork of agricultural fields on the low land abutting the coast with pastures and citrus groves.  As the camel train made its way down the slopes people came out of their houses and farms to greet the travelers, bearing baskets of fruit and jugs of water.  Children ran alongside the animals and sang and did little dances.  The camels flared their nostrils as they smelt the sea and the horses quickened their pace.  Daniel’s heart lifted in a surge of joy and relief.  They had made it and the journey’s end felt more precious because of the problems along the way.


A German mother and her daughter were arresting for trying to smuggle a dead man onto an airliner. They were trying to fly the mother’s recently deceased husband from England back home to Germany because it was cheaper than flying a coffin. “He was a little pale,” the mother admitted to the investigators.



And Jesus said to them, “It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, but I am REALLY, REALLY rich. D. Trump


And Moses went to Pharaoh and said to him, “Let my people go!” and Pharaoh did because Moses knew how to negotiate. D. Trump


Don’t get me wrong: Jesus? Great guy, classy. But a terrible executive. I would never tolerate a traitor within my organization.  D. Trump


“I’m not saying Jesus wasn’t born in Bethlehem. I’m just saying show me the birth certificate. D. Trump


I lost a lot of respect for the Pharaoh. Never should have let the Hebrews go because of, what, hail? D. Trump


“My death will probably be caused by being sarcastic at the wrong time.” Don Rickles


“The Bible will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Bible.” Dwight L. Moody



From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza


blue Cotton Candy Lemonade.jpgBlue Cotton Candy Lemonade


Yields about 9 cups   


Lots of ice

6 cups cold water

1  & 1/2 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice*

1 & 1/2 cups Cotton Candy Snow Cone Syrup

Cotton Candy, pink or blue (at least 10-12 ounces)

more lemons to garnish straws


Add ice to a 3-quart pitcher.

Add 6 cups of cold water to the pitcher.

Juice the lemons. It's much easier to use an electric citrus juicer, but elbow grease works fine too. Add the lemon juice to the pitcher.

Add the Cotton Candy Snow Cone Syrup to the pitcher and stir.

Pour each glass and garnish with lemons in the glass or on the rim. Add two straws to each glass: one to sip from, and the other to spear your cotton candy. The cotton candy can't touch the lemonade, it dissolves instantly! Let your guests add the cotton candy to their glass, it's so fun. You will want about a fist size hunk of cotton candy for each glass. I used a candy-apple stick to hold the cotton candy in a few of the photos above, it worked great.

Recipe Notes:

A large lemon has about 1/4 of juice, if you're lucky. Buy at least 6-7 lemons, 8-9 to be on the safe side (just for juicing. Buy more for garnish)

This lemonade is QUITE sour as written. The cotton candy sweetens it, so each person can adjust the sweetness level as they like. Start tart. You can always add more. More syrup, or more cotton candy, either way.



Carrot Cake Cheesecake

carrot cake cheesecake.jpgINGREDIENTS:

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup canola oil

4 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 cups shredded carrots



2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp kosher salt

2 large eggs

1/4 cup sour cream

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream



1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup heavy cream

4 cups powdered sugar

1 cup chopped pecans



Prepare the cheesecake layer first. This can be done early in the day, or the night before. If freezing the cheesecake, can be stored 1-2 weeks in the freezer.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using a large roasting pan, add 1 inch of water to the pan. Place it on the lower 2/3 of the oven! Allow it to preheat in the oven.

Prepare 9-inch springform pan by wrapping bottom of pan (outside) with double layer of foil. Line bottom (inside) with a circle of parchment paper.

Beat cream cheese with granulated sugar for 2-3 minutes until creamy. Add in salt and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat in sour cream and heavy cream, until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Pour into prepared 9-inch springform pan. Place pan in center of preheated roasting pan in the oven, making sure to be careful not to spill water.

Bake cheesecake for 45 minutes. Turn oven off and let cheesecake sit in oven for an additional 30 minutes. Remove and cool completely on counter.

When cooled, remove outside portion of the springform pan and place into the freezer for several hours or overnight. I put it in freezer for about 2 hours. If using within 24 hours, feel free to just refrigerate cheesecake!



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. I use Wilton Bake even strips to ensure nice, even cakes. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, oil and eggs until blended. Add in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Beat for about 2 minutes. Add in shredded carrots. Pour into prepared cake pans.

Bake for 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack for ten minutes. The remove from pans and cool completely.



In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and butter. Beat with whisk attachment for 3 minutes. Add in sugar, vanilla, and heavy cream. Beat for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy. Fold in chopped pecans.

To assemble the cake, layer one layer of carrot cake. Add the cheesecake then top with second layer of carrot cake. Spread on the frosting, first on sides then on top!

Store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days.


Cinnamon Apple Bread

Cinnamon Apple Bread.jpgIngredients:

1/3 cup brown sugar (not packed)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2/3 cup white sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup milk

1 apple, peeled and chopped



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl and set aside. Beat white sugar and butter together in a bowl using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until incorporated; add vanilla extract.

Combine flour and baking powder together in another bowl; stir into creamed butter mixture. Mix milk into batter until smooth. Pour half the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Next add half the apples and half the brown sugar cinnamon mixture. Lightly pat apple mixture into batter.

Pour the remaining batter over apple layer; top with remaining apples and add more brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Lightly pat apples into batter; swirl brown sugar mixture through apples using a finger or spoon.

Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean 35 to 45 minutes.


Cornbread Taco Casserole


Cornbread Taco Casserole 1.jpgIngredients:

1 package of cornbread/muffin mix.

3 cups of cooked taco seasoned meat.

1 (8 oz) cup of light sour cream.

1 cup of colby jack, cheddar or mexican cheese, shredded and divided.

½ cup of chopped onion.

1 medium chopped tomato.

1 cup of shredded lettuce


Prepare the cornbread in a large bowl according to the package instructions then spread it in an 8×8 sprayed pan.

In a preheated oven to 350°, bake the cornbread for 20 minutes.

In a bowl, mix together the sour cream, ¾ cup of cheese and onion.

Spread the meat over the cornbread then top with the creamy mixture.

Bake for 15 more minutes then sprinkle with tomato, lettuce and ¼ cup of cheese.

Simple, easy and cheesy...


Creamy Homemade Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies


creamy homemadeand chocolate cheesecake brownies.jpgThis recipe for brownies is a heavenly combination of chocolate and creamy cheesecake. A box brownie mix with an easy cheesecake topping.

Cooking time: 35 mins

Yield: 24 servings



1 (19.8 ounce) package brownie mix

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese

1 egg

1/3 cup white sugar



Prepare the brownie mix as directed by manufacturer.

Preheat oven to temperature indicated on box.

Grease a 9x13 inch pan.

Spread the brownie batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Using an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, egg and sugar until smooth.

Dollop the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie batter. Swirl together using a knife or skewer.


Bake according to manufacturer's instructions. Brownies will be done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool in the pan, then cut into bars and serve.



If you want your brownies thicker, use a 8x8 inch glass or baking pan. It will take extra time to cook them through but they were well worth the wait.

It tastes even better after you've let it refrigerate overnight.


Cucumber Tomato Salad



Cucumber Tomato Salad2.jpgFor the salad:

Approximately 3 cups peeled & sliced cucumbers

3 Roma tomatoes, sliced into chunks

1/3 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

For the dressing:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dill weed

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt & pepper, to taste (I never use salt)

Place salad ingredients in large bowl and toss.

Mix dressing ingredients in small bowl; stir to combine well & drizzle over salad.







Delicious Raspberry Scones

delicious raspberry scones1.jpgPreheat oven to 400.

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (from 1 medium lemon)

1/2 teaspoon fine salt (optional)

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 1/2-inch cubes and then chilled

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

1 cup frozen raspberries, kept in the freezer until ready to use


Combine measured flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar, the baking powder, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to break up any lumps. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until small, pea-sized pieces remain.

Pour in 3/4 cup of the cream and, using your finger, mix until just incorporated and a rough, slightly sticky mound has formed (not all of the flour will be incorporated). Turn the dough and loose flour out onto a work surface and knead until most of the flour is incorporated and the dough just holds together (be careful not to overwork it). Lightly flour a rolling pin and the work surface. Using your hands, roughly form the dough into a rectangle, keeping the long edge toward you. Roll the dough into an 8-by-10-inch rectangle (if the dough cracks, push it back together), again keeping the long edge toward you.


Remove the raspberries from the freezer, evenly arrange them in a single layer over the lower two-thirds of the rectangle, and press them into the dough (it’s OK if some break).

Starting with the top, berryless third, fold the dough lengthwise into thirds, pressing on the layers as you go (use a spatula or pasty scraper if the dough sticks to the work surface).

Flour the rolling pin again and gently roll the dough into an even 1-inch-thick block. If the ends become tapered, square them with your hands. Slice the dough crosswise (do not saw back and forth) into 4 equal pieces. Cut each piece diagonally to form 2 triangles.

Transfer the scones to the floured plate and place in the freezer for 5 minutes.


Remove the scones from the freezer and transfer to the prepared baking sheet, setting them 2 inches apart. Brush a thin layer of the remaining 1 tablespoon cream over the tops of the scones and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake until golden brown on the top and bottom, about 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


Easy Orange Juice Cake


easy orange juice cake.jpgIngredients:

1 -4.6 ounce- package instant vanilla pudding mix

1 -16.25 ounce- package yellow cake mix

5 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup cold water

1/3 cup butter

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup orange juice


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a large bundt pan.

Combine the cake mix, pudding mix, water, oil and eggs together.  Mix with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes. Pour batter into bundt pan.

Bake for 35 mins or until knife inserted in cake comes out clean

Combine the butter or margarine sugar and orange juice in a saucepan boil this mixture for about 3 minutes.  While still warm, poke holes in the top of the cake with a fork. Pour orange juice mixture over cake. When the cake is saturated place it on a plate and dust top with confectioners’ sugar.


Healthy Carrot Cake

healthy carrot cake.jpg 



3 cups blanched almond flour

2 teaspoons celtic sea salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

5 eggs

1⁄2 cup agave nectar

1⁄4 cup grapeseed oil

3 cups carrots, grated

1 cup raisins

1 cup walnuts



Place the lid back on and continue to process while slowly drizzling in the oil and process until the mixture is smooth, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Place the peanut butter in an airtight container and store in there for up to 2 months in the refrigerator


homemade peanut butter.jpg 


Homemade Peanut Butter



15 ounces shelled and skinned roasted Peanuts

1 teaspoon kosher salt (I don't use salt)

1 1/2 teaspoons honey

1 1/2 tablespoons oil (vegetable, canola coconut or peanut) (I use coconut)



Place the peanuts, salt and honey into the bowl of a food processor. Process for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.






Wit & Wisdom


“The practice of deception is not particularly exacting. It is a facility most of us can acquire.” John Le Carré, (footnoted in The Wall Street Journal


“What’s the difference between a cannibal and a liberal? A cannibal doesn’t eat his friends.” Lyndon Johnson, quoted in NYMag.com


“The trouble with life isn’t that there is no answer, it’s that there are so many answers.” Anthropologist Ruth Benedict, quoted in The Washington Post


“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” James Baldwin, quoted in The San Diego Union-Tribune


“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?” Jane Austin, quoted in TheAtlantic.com


“Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemies.” Nelson Mandela, quoted in USA Today


“It’s better to live as your own man than as a fool in someone else’s dream.” Actor Martin Landau, quoted in IBTunes.com


“Others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”  Richard Nixon, quoted In the Toronto Globe and Mail


“To be a good reader doesn’t mean being a discriminating reader, it means being an omnivorous reader.” Critic Adam Gopnik, quoted in the Columbia Journalism Review

“Americans learn only from catastrophe, and not from experience.” Theodore Roosevelt quoted in NPR.org


“What we wish, we readily believe, and what we ourselves think, we imagine others think also.” William Shakespeare, quoted in NewRepublic.com


“A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers but borrowed from his children.” John James Audubon, quoted in the Sauk Valley, ILL., Weekend

“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” Winston Churchill, quoted in Qz.com


“Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.” Psychologist Daniel Gilbert, quoted in BrainPkJdngs.org


“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.” Saul Bellow, quoted in The Weekly Standard


“Shyness has a strange element of narcissism, a belief that how we look, how we perform, is truly important to other people.”  Andre Dubus, quoted in The Wall Street Journal


“Though the world cannot be changed by talking to one child at a time, it may at least be known.” Grace Paley, quoted in NewyMcer.com


“A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.” Eleanor Roosevelt, quoted in Bustie.com


“Americans who overslept invented the word brunch.” Joan Crawford, quoted in VanityPair.com


“The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.” James Buchanan, quoted in Businessinsider.com

“A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity; it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.” Agatha Christie, quoted in ALcom


“You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” Leon Trotsky, quoted in Slate.com


“The art of the creative process is not seeking and finding; it’s bumbling.” Jonathan Safran Foer, quoted inTheGuardian.com


“Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent.” Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, quoted in TheBrowser.com


“Don’t get me started on the prevalence of ignorance among people with access to instant information.” Harper Lee, quoted in The Economist


“Don’t cry over spilled milk. By this time tomorrow, it’ll be free yogurt.” Stephen Colbert, quoted hiffeadersDigest.com


“The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.” Carl Sagan, in



“Behind every failure there is an opportunity someone wishes they missed.” Lily Tomlin, quoted In People.com


“If I don’t go in to work a little scared, I don’t have any interest in it.” Mary Tyler Moore, quoted in USAtoday.com

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” General George S. Patton, quoted in HuffingtonPost.com

“Even though you can’t expect to defeat the absurdity of the world, you must make the attempt. That’s morality, that’s religion, that’s art that’s life.” Folk singer Phil Ochs, quoted in Buzzfbed.com

“Democracy, in its essence and genius, is imaginative love for and identification with a community with which, much of the time and in many ways, one may be in profound
disagreement.” Novelist Marilynne Rob-inson, quoted in lithub.com

“Those who have talent must hug it embrace it, nurture it, and share it lest it be taken away from you as fast as it was loaned to you.” Frank Sinatra, quoted in the BelfastTelegraph

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” Plato, quoted in MontrealGazette.com


“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams, quoted in Forbes.com


“The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” Muhammad Ali, quoted in the New York Post


“Whatever you tax, you get less of.” Alan Greenspan, quoted in Barron’s


“Free your mind of the idea of deserving, the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think.” Ursula La Guin, quoted in Hyperaliargic.com


“Stupidity is the same as evil if you judge by the results.” Margaret Atwood, quoted in TheBrowsar.com


“Whatever inspiration is, it’s born from a continuous ‘I don’t know.’” Poet Wisiawa Szymborska, quoted in BrainPickings.org


“Don’t let the same dog bite you twice.” Chuck Berry, quoted in Billboard.com



Growing Up On a Farm – Fall 1946

E. B. Alston


Fall weather was very welcome in a house without electricity and running water. The tobacco crop was harvested and cured. Mama sorted the leaves in an old slave house that daddy used to store feed, seed and fertilizer. I never thought about it at the time and I don’t remember anybody calling it a slave house. It was a well built log building with homemade doors and shutters. There was a loft upstairs with room for 2 or three beds and it had a hand cut shingle roof. It had to have been over 100 years old. The fireplace had been taken down and the hole boarded up with sawmill cut planks. Daddy had added a car shed on the west end where the old fireplace had been.

At the time grandma had behind her house a bigger log building constructed in much the same way. It was called “The Kitchen” and Ma (Grandmother Alston) told me that she and Grandpa lived in that house while their two-story house was being built. That log house had a big (Est. 5’ deep and 6’ wide.) cooking fireplace with all the arms and potholders to swing a pot over the fire and an iron oven that was on an arm that could be moved in and out of the fire. There is no telling what all that hardware for open flame cooking and baking hardware would be worth today. Ma had a wood burning cookstove in the big kitchen that had been added to the house. She still used the fireplace on wash days to heat water to boil clothes.

I was in the sixth grade and still in mama’s cousin’s classroom and she still kept mama updated on my behavior in school.

My aunts, Mary, Pat and Bernice still lived with Ma. Aunt Mary had married a soldier a couple of years earlier. Uncle Henry was a widower and had a daughter in an orphanage while he was in the army serving overseas. After they married, Aunt Mary took her out of the orphanage and I got a pretty new “cousin” who was about three years older living with Ma. Gladys embraced the family and blended well with my other thirty-odd cousins.

When my new Uncle Henry Woodall came home from the service, he and Aunt Mary and Gladys moved to the farm my Uncle Branch owned before he died. It was through the woods about a half-mile east of Ma’s house. Uncle Branch’s widow, Addie, had moved back to her parent’s farm near Whitakers, NC, with her two beautiful daughters, Evelyn and Clentie (Emma McClennis). Her oldest, a son named Gideon Branch Alston III, was still in the army. We called him G.B.  He was an infantry scout in General George Patton’s Third Army and he came home with some wild stories of being behind German lines.

Before the 1929 crash, Branch’s house and another one like it were built by Grandpa “Bossy” for Uncle Branch and Uncle Gordon. Grandpa owned all the land south of Bob Wood’s property to Highway 561 and my guess it was close to 1200 acres. After the financial fallout, all that was left was about 100 acres. The homeplace was 40 acres. Uncle Branch, Uncle Gordon, Daddy and Uncle Jack got 15 acres each. Uncle Jack sold his 15 acres to daddy because it was all woods and adjoined daddy’s farm. I think, but don’t know, that somewhere Uncle John Allen had some land but I don’t know where. I think it was corner property east of Uncle Gordon’s piece. Uncle Fort’s farm (Southeast of Uncle Branch’s) was lost and he moved to a farm east of Hollister owned by his wife’s family.

The land didn’t mean much to Uncle Gordon and Uncle John Allen because they sold theirs, took jobs at sawmills and moved to town. Uncle Gordon moved to Rocky Mount and John Allen mover to Battleboro. Uncle Jack bought a farm close to Halifax.

When all the smoke and dust cleared in 1946, Daddy lived on land he inherited, Ma, Aunt Pattie and Aunt Bernice lived on the home place. Uncle Fort and Daddy farmed the homeplace land. Daddy took the tobacco allotment and Uncle Fort planted corn and cotton on the rest.

I was 12 years old in September. I didn’t know it at the time, but 1947 would bring several changes. Silver Spot would have a colt. We would get electricity, and my sister, Carol Leigh Alston, would be born July 22.


Following are two incidences that I could put here except they have already been published. I have added them below in their published form.


Learning the Hard Way-the Movies Again


   I know you’ve seen it many times in western movies. Two horses hitched to a buckboard are running away with a pretty schoolmarm in the wagon looking very scared. Usually they are running as fast as they can toward a mile high cliff with a little rocky stream at the bottom.

I have witnessed two horses running away, except there wasn’t a pretty schoolmarm in the wagon. It was loaded with manure. They were running across a plowed field. And, they tried to go on different sides of the only tree in three hundred yards. The tree stopped the runaway abruptly. Remarkably, the horses were not injured. They were not going very fast because a wagonload of manure is hard to pull across a plowed field.

Back to the story. My father used to own a high-tech horse drawn cultivator requiring two horses to pull it. It could be steered by two pedals and had a seat to ride on. It plowed both sides of the crop row. The plows were raised and lowered by a lever. It was about as complicated as any horse drawn implement I have ever seen.

On that fateful day, I was plowing corn in the field closest to the road and when Mom rang the bell for dinner, I stopped and turned the horses towards the house. In modern lingo, I was driving up the driveway but back then we called it by what it really was: the path to the house. It was about three football fields long and passed through a tobacco field, a peanut field and a cotton field. My dad grew anything that made money.

In the movies, the intrepid cowboy hero would have been wearing a white hat and two heavy Colt pistols on a heavy leather belt. He would have been riding on a horse almost as pretty as Silver Spot. After he caught the runaway buckboard, he would jump off his running horse onto the tongue of the buckboard, run up the tongue, straddle one of the horses and bring them under control six inches from the canyon rim.

A close examination of the scene would have revealed many serious flaws in that method of stopping runaway horses, but I had not applied any analysis at this time. Besides, I already knew how to stop runaway horses. It was boneheaded simple. Pull on one rein and make them run in a circle until they stopped or got too tired to run. Even a pretty schoolmarm could stop runaway horses that way. It worked every time. However, at that particular moment, I wasn’t dealing with runaway horses.

Anyway, on this fateful day, with two plow horses anxious to get to the barn to be unhitched, watered and fed, I chose to get off the seat, run up the tongue and sit on the left side horse. It was a big mistake. The instant I straddled the horse I realized that from that position, I had zero control of the horses. Naturally, they took off for the barn as fast as they could go. The barn was to the left of our house. When they got to the house, the horses, which by now were running at a full gallop, turned left toward the barn. They were going so fast the plow flipped.

Mom heard them coming and screamed because she thought I was on the plow. By the time the horses stopped of their own accord, my dad had figured out what had happened and made sure I got what was coming to me before we unhitched the horses.

It took my father and me two days to repair that plow. 


Alley Oop and the Sweet Gum Flyer


My children asked me to write about when I was growing up. They heard snippets from my parents and those anecdotes whetted their appetites for more. Before this goes any further, I ought to say that I don’t remember my father ever telling my younger brother that he ought to be more like me.

I grew up on a farm in the western Halifax County community of Essex, North Carolina. When I was ten, one of our favorite comic book heroes was Alley Oop, who was a caveman. In one of the stories, he needed to get over a castle wall to deal with some bad people. Cave men didn’t have ladders but the intrepid hero was not deterred. He found a nearby tree with vines growing to the top, pulled the top of the tree over to ground level where he balanced himself on the trunk near the top and cut the vines with his flint knife. The tree catapulted him over the castle wall where he landed on his feet and dealt forthrightly with the bad guys.

Fast forward to 1944. My cousin, Joseph, our friends, Donald Ray and C. W., were exploring the woods beside a small stream at the southern edge of my parent’s farm. A younger boy named Preston was with us. His parents were visiting my parents that Sunday afternoon. We got to talking about the “Alley Oop” story and looking at the young saplings growing beside the stream. We decided to test the theory by using a sapling to catapult one of us across the stream. I went to the barn to get a rope because there weren’t any vines on the trees.

While I was gone, C. W. selected a sweet gum tree about five inches at the base and maybe fifteen feet high. When I returned with the rope, C. W. climbed the tree and tied the rope near the top. After a tremendous struggle (this should have been our first indication that there was a flaw in the theory), we got the tree bent over to where the top almost touched the ground. Then we tied the rope to another tree to hold it while we decided who was going to be catapulted over the stream. Everybody wanted to be Alley Oop. We had to draw straws. We let Preston hold them because he was the smallest boy. He was still wearing the clothes he had worn to church, so it didn’t occur to us that he would want to be Alley Oop.

Well, Preston ended up with the short straw AND he insisted on being Alley Oop. Donald Ray threatened to go home if he couldn’t do it and C. W. got pretty upset too. The only way they would stay was to agree that everybody would have a turn. Plus, they wanted to see how it worked. 

Preston, a chubby boy, was wearing white shoes, navy pants, a white shirt and a tie. Anyway, after quite a scuffle, we got him balanced on the treetop with his feet on limbs and holding the tree behind his neck with his hands. We couldn’t cut pop’s rope, so we had to untie it quick. C. W. instructed Preston when to let loose and how to land on his feet.

One, two, three. Joseph untied the rope. Sure enough, the top of the tree rose up with a “whoosh.” But Preston didn’t fly across the stream like he was supposed to. He didn’t land on his feet either. He landed face first in the mud about ten feet from the base of the tree. It scared the heck out of us. We rushed to pick him up out of the mud. He wasn’t hurt, but he was scared to let his parents see the mud on his Sunday clothes.

We spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning him up, including washing his shirt, tie and pants in the branch. The water turned his white shirt a kind of brownish yellow. There was nothing we could do about his white shoes.

Words cannot describe how upset Preston’s mother was when we sheepishly led him into my parents’ living room.


Originally appeared in Topsail Island Info. Also in Telling it Like it Was.



“You have all the characteristics  of a successful politician: a horrible voice, bad breeding, and a vulgar manner.” Aristophanes


Things You Never Hear a Southerner Say


 I love New York.
 I'll take Shakespeare for 1000, Alex.
Duct tape won't fix that.
 Honey, I think we should sell the pickup and buy a family sedan.
 Come to think of it, I'll have a Heineken.
 We don't keep firearms in this house.
 You can't feed that to the dog.

I thought Graceland was tacky. 

My Experiences as a Freelance Writer

Rita Berman


 Righter Publishing Company has published several of my books on Amazon in paper-back and Kindle versions. However, my first book The A-Z of Writing and Selling was published by a traditional publisher that I met at a writing conference.  He gave me a contract in 1981, but no advance money. This book was based on my experience of ten years from 1971-1981 when I had been working as a professional freelance writer receiving payment from various newspapers, magazines, and was the Southern regional writer contributing business articles to Prentice-Hall’s Bureau of Business Practice various bulletins.

 This publisher who had already published more than one hundred authors attempted to produce a magazine. The publishing company went into bankruptcy while my books were in press. Almost one hundred copies had been sold in advance and paid for but I received none of that money.  I, like the other authors, had to go to the bankruptcy auction and bid for the total print run in order to meet these orders.  The details of how I set up a distributing company, my visits to bookstores and how I sold two thousand copies of this reference book to various outlets have been published in the December 1984 edition of National Federation of Press Women, Inc. Vol. 47, No.12. Of most significance is that after seeing a copy of The A–Z of Writing and Selling, the Writer’s Market Book Club selected it as their September 1981 Featured Alternate and they bought about one thousand copies. I continued to work as a freelance writer and in more than 40 years have published over 600 articles and lectures.    

Some of my advice articles have been published in books by The Writer’s Market. Travel articles in The Best of Britain by International Travel News and family history in Celebrating Family History, an anthology edited by Beth Maltbie Uyehara.

I am now designing and editing a book of stories and poems for the Society of Military Widows to be published by Righter Publishing next year. These are heart-warming memoirs written by military wives and widows that tell of the joys and sorrows of living with a service member, raising children during employments abroad, and in some cases answering that dreaded ring at the doorbell.  On seeing two individuals in military uniform the worst is known before a word is spoken. The titles give a clue as to the content and the various wars and conflicts.  Helicopter Crash in Afghanistan; A Vietnam Widow’s Words; I am from Laos; My Hawaiian Hero; Killed in Operation Freedom; Missing in Action; Agent Orange caused Lung Cancer. Many of these widows speak of the support they received from joining Gold Star Wives or The Society of Military Widows that have chapters in many States. The title of the book will be, “Military Wives and Widows Tell Their Stories.”   



Weather Forecasting

Submitted by Elizabeth Ballard


The king wanted to go fishing, and he asked the royal weather forecaster the forecast for the next few hours. The palace meteorologist assured him that there was no chance of rain. So the king and the queen went fishing. On the way he met a man with a fishing pole riding on a donkey and he asked the man if the fish were biting.

The fisherman said, “Your Majesty, you should return to the palace! In just a short time,   expect a huge rain storm.”

The king replied: “I hold the palace meteorologist in high regard. He is an educated and experienced professional. Besides, I pay him very high wages. He gave me a very different forecast. I trust him.”

So the King and Queen continued on their way. However, in a short time a torrential rain fell from the sky. The King and Queen were totally soaked. Furious, the king returned to the palace and gave the order to fire the meteorologist. Then he summoned the fisherman and offered him the prestigious position of royal forecaster.

The fisherman said, “Your Majesty, I do not know anything about forecasting. I obtain my information from my donkey. If I see my donkey’s ears drooping, it means with certainty that... it will rain.”

So the king hired the donkey. And thus began the practice of hiring dumb asses to work in influential positions of government. The practice is unbroken to this date.



Halloween Jokes

Q:  What is a Mummies’ favorite type of dance music?
A:  Wrap!!!!!


Q:  Why aren’t there more famous skeletons?
A:  They’re a bunch of no bodies!


Q:  What do little trees say on Halloween?
A:  Twig or treat!


Q:  Why do ghosts and demons get along so well?
A:  Because demons are a ghost’s best friend forever!


Q:  What do birds give out on Halloween?
A:  Tweets!

Q:  How do you mend a broken Jack-o-lantern?
A:  With a orange pumpkin patch!


Q:  How do you know your doctor is a vampire?
A:  He draws your blood  from your neck with a straw!


Q:  What do blondes and Jack-O-Lanterns have in common?
A:  Both have blank smiling expressions and are hollow inside!


Q:  Why do witches need to wear name tags?
A:  So, they would know which witch is which!


Q:  What is the largest building in Transylvania?
A:  The Vampire State Building!


Q:  What do you do with a very green monster?
A:  Wait until it ripens!


Q:  What happened to the guy who couldn’t keep up payments to his exorcist?
A:  He was repossessed, again!


Q:  Why doesn’t anyone like Count Dracula?
A:  He’s a real pain in the neck!


Q:  Why did the witches have to cancel their baseball game?
A:  Because they ran out of bats!


Q:  What goes Ha-ha-ha-ha!, thud!!! and keeps laughing?
A:  A monster laughing it’s head off!


Q:  What do you call a man who lures women into his place and turns them into ghastly freaks?
A:  A 1980’s hairdresser!


Q:  How do vampires get around?
A:  In their bloody mobiles!


Q:  How many witches does it take to change a LED light bulb?
A:  Depends on what you want to change it into!!


Q:  When does a spooky skeleton laugh?
A:  When something tickles his funny bone!


Q:  What is Dracula’s favorite position in baseball?
A:  Batboy!


Q:  Who did the scary ghost invite to his party?
A:  Any old friend he could dig up!


Q:  What did one little girl ghost say to other little girl ghost?
A:  Do you believe we use to be people?


Q:  How do ugly witches tell time?
A:  With a witch watch!


Q:  What does a cute baby bat say before going to bed?
A:  Turn on the dark! I’m afraid of the light!


Q:  Do spooky scary monsters eat hot popcorn with their fingers?
A:  NO, they eat some poor guy’s fingers separately!


Q:  How do you upset a blood sucking vampire?
A:  Go to his house and install a large skylight!


Q:  What kind of monsters like hard core rap music?
A:  Mummies!


Q:  Why can’t mummies go on vacation?
A:  Because they’re afraid they’ll relax and unwind!


Q:  How do vampires invite each other out for lunch?
A:  Do you want to go for a bite?


Q:  What kind of shoes do baby ghosts wear?
A:  Boo-ties!


Q:  Why did Dracula have to go to jail?
A:  Because he robbed the blood bank dry!


Q:  What do you get when you cross a super computer with a bloody sucking vampire?
A:   A know-it-all, that’s really a pain in the neck!


Q:  Why didn’t the skeleton dance at the Halloween party?
A:  It had no body to dance with!

Source: Halloweenjokes.com

Greatest Headline in the History of Sports Journalism
John Wall


(Note: For those who are not Southern Football fans, the teams are the Georgia Bulldogs, called the “Dogs” and the South Carolina Gamecocks, called the “Cocks”.)

            A kid named Happy Dicks was a linebacker at Georgia in the mid 60’s, which will make this article about the journalist from Georgia, the late, Lewis Grizzard, AÖ’68, that much funnier.

On the eve of the Georgia - South Carolina game 41 years ago, I was hanging out with three Sigma Pi brothers (the Hound, Tex, and Bake), drinking a few cold PBRs at the old Callaway Gardens Apartment on the Atlanta Highway. We were discussing the upcoming game against the Gamecocks and lamenting the fact that we were going in with several key players out with injuries, including our starting DE, Billy Payne (who ran the Atlanta Olympics and is now Chairman of the Board at Augusta National) and his roommate, MLB, Happy Dicks.

About 10:00 that night, another fraternity brother, Lewis Grizzard, came in after he got off work. Our buddy was inactive at the time because he had gotten married over the summer to his high school sweetheart, Nancy (the first of many--all with the same name--Plaintiff). In addition to taking a full load at the University, he was working two jobs to help pay for (as he
called it) “this expensive habit.” A talented young man, he was writing two columns daily - one in the morning for the Athens Banner Herald and one in the afternoon for the Athens Daily News.

Lewis walked in, went straight to the refrigerator, got a beer, plopped down in a chair, pushed his glasses back up his nose and announced, “Gentlemen, with any luck at all, tomorrow morning you’ll witness journalistic history. I have submitted my column and if it gets by my editor - and there’s a good chance of that happening, since he looked drunk earlier this evening - you’ll enjoy the greatest headline in the history of sports journalism.”

He refused to tell us what it was, and to be honest with you, we all forgot about it. As Lewis went home to his lovely, young bride, the four of us went back over to the Fraternity house to get a head start on the weekend.

The next morning, as usual, I went straight for the Sports Section. As I pulled it out, I could do nothing but smile, because our buddy had pulled it off. To this day, Vince Dooley calls it his most memorable column ever - all because of the headline, which read: DOGS TO PLAY COCKS WITH DICKS OUT.

There’s no doubt about it, it was “the greatest headline in the history of sports journalism.”


A Different Sort of Man

Elizabeth Silance Ballard


They had always disliked Kuder Ledfelter, disliked him intensely, but they continued to slap him on the back and to offer him a beer around the campfire for Allie’s sake.

“How in the world could such a perfectly nice, normal, decent human being like Allie actually marry a clod like Kuder?” They would ask each other.

As for Allie—well, Allie had a theory that she had never shared with anyone:  She secretly believed that had this man of hers been called John or Charles or Gregory he would have been different, a very different sort of man entirely.

“Why did your parents name you Kuder?” She had asked when they first met.

Kuder didn’t know, said he hadn’t really thought about it; and, since the elder Ledfelters had died in a car accident before Allie came onto the scene, she was destined never to know and always to wonder.

Yes, Allie had a real thing about names and believed that a name could limit one’s opportunities in life—especially a name like Kuder—and so early in their marriage she encouraged her husband to legally change his name. After all, no bank president was ever named Kuder, nor a doctor, nor any other business or professional man.

“Well, just what do you expect me to change it to?”  Kuder asked one night at dinner amid bites of roast beef and green beans.  “Kuder is who I am and I can’t see that it has ever hurt me any.  I don’t want to be a doctor or a bank president and I already am a businessman.  I’m in the plumbing business and I can’t tell that my being named Kuder has prevented you from having everything you need and most of what you want!”

It wasn’t that Allie didn’t appreciate how hard Kuder worked and there was no denying that his business was good.  Still, she couldn’t help but think, as she watched him smacking his food, that had Kuder not been named Kuder, he would have been—well, different.

He can’t help it, she thought to herself, cringing at the sight of Kuder’s meat and vegetables being ground to a mush literally before her eyes.  No, any mother who would name her son Kuder wouldn’t be likely to teach him table manners.  Allie was sure of that!

Allie was unaware that their friends disliked Kuder so much.  They had all been camping together for some time.  One of the couples had a tent, two had pop-up campers and there was one small motor home.  For meals, all of them spread their food on the picnic tables and ate together, something that Allie dreaded at least three times a day.

Kuder was simply disgusting as he sat there talking non-stop, chewing and attempting to swallow, all more or less simultaneously. The others appeared to take no notice but this lack of table manners, coupled with Kuder’s poor grammar and four-letter vocabulary, bothered Allie more and more as time went by; so, she would quietly urge him to close his mouth while
chewing or not to say “ain’t” or not to use certain vulgarities.

It was after one of those times that Kuder stated his philosophy of life to the group at large.

“I tell you one thing,” he said, “with all the gripping, bitching and complaining that a man has to put up with, life wouldn’t even be worth living without a cold beer and a good horizontal fit!”

Well, the men got quite a charge out of this and from time to time, they would deliberately get Kuder talking about the meaning of life, but the women began to distance themselves from Kuder, treating him politely, but with a certain coolness.  As for Allie, she had begun to admit to herself that she truly disliked Kuder Ledfelter.

At some level, Kuder realized all of this but it didn’t really bother him too much until Allie stopped correcting him quietly and began to laugh and point out his social failing’s right in front of them all.  It was more than he could stand and he began to retaliate.

“Women with no breasts ain’t got no business in a bikini,” he commented to the men loudly when Allie, sporting her new emerald green swim suit, headed toward the lake with the other women.

By the next camping trip, it was obvious that Kuder was slapping Allie.  First it was a pop on the behind which he laughingly called “just a little love tap, honey!” Later, there were slaps to her face or shoulders.  One day Allie came camping with a swollen eye and bruises on her neck.

“Why don’t you leave him?” The other women asked Allie, while the men were gathering wood for the campfire.

“Don’t be silly! I fell off the ladder when I was trying to paint the kitchen cabinets,” she said. “Hey, let’s talk about my good news. I’m pregnant.”

Allie drew the line at calling their son Kuder, Junior; and, before Kuder knew what happened, the birth certificate was already prepared stating his son’s name was John Randall Ledfelter.

“And I had better not hear anyone call him Johnny,” she said to their friends.  “I don’t want him to be just Johnny. I want him to be called John.  It’s a fine, strong name.  Think about John Kennedy, John Glenn, and John Wayne. Names are important and he will be called JOHN!” And that was that!

Kuder was excited about having a son and did all the usual things: He passed big, expensive cigars all around, bought all kinds of sports equipment and remote controlled vehicles, the kind of things he never had as a boy, and  began rough-housing with John early “to make him tough.”

Allie was more than excited. She was on a mission. She intended to bring up her son to be the complete opposite of his father and from birth on she was ever vigilant for signs of Kuder-like behavior.

Kuder was furious every time Allie snatched little John away from his rough and tumble play.

“You’ll turn him into a sissy. A mama’s boy! A mama’s boy can’t make it in this world,” he yelled.

“He ain’t nothing but a mama’s boy,” he told the campers one night around the campfire, shortly after John’s fifth birthday.

He and Allie had a particularly bad fight that day because he wanted to take John out on the lake fishing but Allie said it was too chilly and that John already had a runny nose.  The fight continued as the evening wore on and they could hear Allie being slapped later and things being broken in the camper.

One of the women held John close to her and the men had just about decided maybe they should go on over there and intervene when Kuder and Allie came out to the fireside.

“It’s not over,” one of the men whispered. “Look at Kuder’s face.”

They all felt it.  Overriding the laughter and the toasting of marshmallows, the tension was unbearable and Kuder drank too much which always made him surly.

Allie decided to put their son to bed early and when John went to say goodnight to his father, Kuder pulled him up on his lap.

“Hey! That’s my big boy! Here, you want a sip?”

John had been curious about his daddy’s beverages for a long time and given not only approval, but encouragement, to drink from the bottle, he greedily tipped it to his lips.

“It tastes bad,” he said, pushing the bottle away.

“Drink it!”  Kuder said, his eyes glassy and grip tight on the boy’s arm.

Allie yelled at Kuder to let John go and the others shifted uneasily.  This wasn’t good.  Not good at all.

John tried to drink the bitter liquid and Kuder was delighted, refusing to let John stop drinking.

“John, come here,” Allie demanded, but Kuder tightened his grip and continued to hold the bottle as the little boy gulped and coughed and tried to break free.

“Uh, Kuder, better let him stop now.”

“Yeah, man, the kid will be sick.”

One by one they joined Allie in trying to stop what was happening and John began cry and choke.

“I—I don’t feel good, Daddy.”

Somehow, through the fog in his head, Kuder realized they had all openly turned against him now and he exploded.

“Hey! I ain’t raising a mealy-mouthed mama’s boy,” he yelled, slapping John. “Now you drink this up or I’m going to whip you within an inch of your life. And you,” he said, looking at Allie, “just shut your mouth!”

They were all alarmed now and Allie was sobbing when John suddenly went limp.  They all pushed closer, not sure what to do, and Kuder said they were all “making a to-do over nothing” when they finally took the little boy from him and headed for the nearest hospital.

By the time they reached the emergency room, John no longer needed one. After the convulsions, he lay lifeless and pale in Allie’s arms before they reached their destination.

The police were called and they all drove back to the campground and watched as Kuder was taken away. Silently, they all packed up and left though it was still several hours until dawn. One of the men promised to come back for Allie’s camper the next day and she rode home with the others without saying a word, even when they insisted she take a sleeping pill and helped her into bed.

Kuder went to jail to await his trial and one by one they all sold their campers. Allie’s sister came from Tennessee to stay with her for a while and they all took turns visiting with Allie to give the sister a break, but everyone agreed it was for the best when they were told Allie was going away.

“You know,” said the sister, “where they know how to help her.  She’s been through so much.”

“Yes,” they all agreed. “Kuder was something else.”

Allie didn’t speak at all as she sat rocking, just rocking, saying nothing, her eyes staring at nothing.  It wasn’t until she was getting into the car for the long drive to Memphis that she turned and said to them quite clearly, “It’s all in our names, you know.  He would have been different.  Oh, yes, a very different sort of man.”

She smiled at them through the vagueness of her eyes, not really seeing any of them, those friends she had known so well. She might have been commenting on the weather. “If only they had not named him Kuder.”


“In the welfare state, not to take away is more blessed than to give.” Enoch Powell, former Minister of Health in the UK.


When to be Thankful

By Joan Leotta


Each morning.

Each evening.

And for all that

comes between.

Every day.


The Bag Piper

Submitted by Gerry Fehr


Time is like a river. You cannot touch the water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of life. As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper’s cemetery in the Nova Scotia back  country. 

As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost and, being a typical man, I didn’t stop for directions. I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch. I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn’t know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this poor homeless man with no family and friends. I played like I’ve never played before. And as I played “Amazing Grace,” the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished, I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head was hung low, my heart was full.

 As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, “I never seen anything like that before, and I’ve been putting in these septic tanks for twenty years.”


Charlotte Bronte

By Rita Berman


This essay is reprinted from a series of lectures I gave from 2007 to April 2013 called The Lives and Works of Famous Writers. The audience was Shared Learning of Chapel Hill. I presented writers beginning  with the Victorian Era and extending into the 20th century.

On March 15, 2013, I spoke about Charlotte Bronte.

Born April 21, 1816 – March 31, 1855, in Thornton, Yorkshire, she was the third of six children of the Reverend Patrick Bronte and Maria Bronte (nee Branwell). [1]  Patrick Bronte was an Irish Anglican clergyman whose original name was Brunty.

One of the first things you need to be aware of is that the story of the Bronte sisters as poor, sheltered geniuses, romantics living a life of isolation is a myth.  While it is true that they wrote stories and poems which were considered coarse and shocking at that time, we must remember that almost two hundred years ago writing was not considered an appropriate activity for women.  So in order to get into print at first they used male pen names.

Bronte.jpgThe first biography about Charlotte Bronte, published in 1857, was written by Mrs. Elizabeth Gaskell at the request of Patrick Bronte after Charlotte’s death.  Mrs. Gaskell was a leading female novelist.  Her fiction, which she began as a distraction after the death of her baby son, related to social and political issues, not passionate love.  Her novel Mary Barton was set in the northern part of England, the manufacturing area.

  With her Bronte biography, Mrs. Gaskell did not stick to the real facts, for example, there were originally five Bronte sisters, but two died quite young.   After she created the myth of the Bronte’s 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 2003, Lucasta Miller, former deputy literary editor of The Independent, published The Bronte Myth,[2] which offered criticism of the Bronte works and stripped away the myth.  However, she points out that Gaskell’s book was highly popular because of the myth.  Miller’s new, well-researched biography of the Brontes declares them 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.  Indeed, Charlotte Bronte had read Byron and George Sand.  She and Emily studied German and French in a girls’ school in Brussels when she was 25 years old.

  True there was much sorrow in Charlotte’s life. Her mother died when Charlotte was five years old, her older sister Maria, who was born in 1814, died of consumption (now called tuberculosis) in 1825, as did Elizabeth, born in 1815. 

 Brother Branwell, the only boy, became addicted to alcohol and drugs, and died when he was 31 in September 1848. Charlotte’s younger sister Emily, went into a decline after Branwell’s funeral and got consumption. She died in December of that year.  Her sister Anne, also became ill with consumption and died some five months later on May 28, 1849.

 Charlotte Bronte blamed the poor conditions at the Clergy Daughters’ School for the deaths of Maria and Elizabeth but we now know that a bacterial disease was most likely the cause. 

 Tuberculosis was a killer before the Middle Ages, spread rapidly in the 18th and 19th centuries when field workers moved to the cities to look for work. In the 1880s it was established that the disease was contagious, and people were told to avoid spitting in public. Here in the United States people were told not to spit except in spittoons.

  In the 19th century, this illness was called the white plague and seen as a “romantic disease” because of its slow progress and the pale appearance of those infected. 

Lord Byron popularized the idea of it being a disease of artists when he wrote “I should like to die from consumption.”  The writers D. H. Lawrence and Katherine Mansfield both died from tuberculosis.

 It wasn’t until 1944 that streptomycin was isolated as the first antibiotic effective against this disease.

 After the deaths of Emily and Anne, Charlotte went back to writing her novel called “Shirley”, as a way of overcoming her grief and sorrow.

 It wasn’t until after Shirley was published that she revealed herself as the real author instead of Currer Bell, the name she had used for that book as well as Jane Eyre and other works. 

 Jane Eyre had been called coarse and so full of passion and violence that some thought it could not possibly have been written by a woman.  At least, not a woman in Victorian times for they were expected to be modest and refined, pure and nonsexual, except in marriage. Thomas Hardy’s “Tess”, portrayed society blaming a woman who was raped and had a child out of wedlock.  

  Given society’s attitude in those days, it is not surprising that the three Bronte sisters decided to hide their gender.  So they published their writings as the authors Ellis, Acton and Currer Bell. They knew that what some thought of as shocking and unladylike, writing about passion and love, might be acceptable if the reader thought the book was written by men but not if written by women.

   In order to deflect any criticism, when it eventually came out that the Bells were three women, Charlotte passed them off as being unobtrusive, unknowing, uneducated country girls, instead of the ambitious, intelligent writers that they really were.

 Mrs. Gaskell, who befriended Charlotte and was in her life for a while, believed what Charlotte said. Mrs. Gaskell was also a writer, she and her husband, a Unitarian minister, lived in Manchester, a large town in northern England. Gaskell has been described as a warm, if sometimes interfering woman.

In a letter to a friend, she expressed her opinion that “artistic work, writing, painting could enhance the lives of women but should not intrude into their responsibilities at home or their duties as mothers.” In other words talent must be sacrificed to Victorian responsibility. [3] One could question if Gaskell carried out these lofty aims herself.

 After meeting Charlotte Bronte, Gaskell described her appearance in another letter to the same friend. Charlotte, she wrote, was a “little lady in a black silk gown, a lean figure… undeveloped, thin, she had soft brown hair, expressive eyes, a reddish face, large mouth, many missing teeth, plain forehead that was square, broad and rather overhanging.”

What a dreadful portrait. It is nothing like the person in Branwell’s painting.

Now let’s try to separate fact from myth, by reviewing the life of Charlotte.

 We know that her mother died of cancer in 1821, and her aunt Elizabeth Branwell came to the home to raise the six children.  Patrick Bronte proposed to three women but all turned him down for he had a small income and large family.  So Elizabeth Branwell stayed on and taught the girls how to sew. Their father taught Branwell Latin and Greek. 

Charlotte was 8 years old when she was sent with Emily, Maria, and Elizabeth to the Clergy Daughters’ School to learn to be teachers.  A charity institution, the school buildings were very damp and cold and the food they ate was stale and rancid.

When Maria and Elizabeth were sent home ill, and died soon after, Emily and Charlotte were then brought back home by their father. 

Back in the parsonage the girls read from the Bible and studied grammar, geography, and history. They and Branwell created their own literary fictional worlds, and wrote about an imaginary kingdom called “Angria” and its inhabitants.

Emily and Anne wrote articles and poems about “Gondal”, an island in the Pacific. While the childhood writings of Charlotte and Branwell were saved, the early chronicles by Emily and Anne were lost or destroyed.  All the children read daily newspapers.

 By the time she was 14, Charlotte was sent to Roe Head School to be prepared for a life as a teacher. There were few opportunities for work for unmarried women in those days.  Married women stayed home and kept house for their husband.

Charlotte was 16 when she wrote a novella, called The Green Dwarf using the name Wellesley. At the Roe Head School she became friends with Ellen Nussey and later worked there as a teacher from 1835 to 1838. For several years after that she worked as a governess to families in Yorkshire.

In 1842, Charlotte and Emily traveled to Brussels to enroll in a boarding school run by Monsieur Constantin Heger and his wife. In return for board and tuition, Charlotte taught English and Emily taught music there.

 They were only at the school for a short time when they had to return to Haworth because Aunt Elizabeth Branwell had died.   She left a small amount of money to her nieces. Some three months later, Charlotte felt an “irresistible impulse,” to return to Brussels and Heger’s school. Emily, however, stayed behind at the parsonage.

Charlotte took over teaching of English at the school, and resumed her private studies with Monsieur Heger.  She began using her essays to express her feelings.  He presented her with books to read. Evidently Madame Heger noticed Charlotte’s deepening attachment, and withdrew her friendship by no longer inviting her to enter the sitting room.

A friend of Heger’s viewed the situation differently, writing that Heger was a “worshipper of intellect and he worshipped Charlotte Bronte thus far and no further.”

When the school closed for five weeks of summer holiday, Charlotte stayed in Brussels alone, and made up her mind to leave. In December Madame Heger accompanied her to the port of Ostend to make sure she boarded the boat home.

Back in England she kept up with her studies by memorizing a passage in French every day.  She also wrote letters to Monsieur Heger. He tore them up but Madame Heger found three of Charlotte’s letters thrown away in a wastebasket.  She stitched them together and told her husband that if he and Charlotte were determined to stay in touch they must each write no more than one letter every six months.

By June 1845 Anne Bronte had returned home and Branwell followed soon after.  The women continued writing.  Their first publication, a joint collection of 61 poems, appeared in May 1846 under the names of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell and cost them 31 pounds, ten shillings to print. 

Only two copies of this collection were sold, and the women realized they would not support themselves by writing poetry so they began to write novels. 

Jane Austen’s works had appealed to readers but Charlotte disliked them. She described them as “delineating the surface of the lives of genteel English people curiously well, but the passions are unknown to her.”[4]

Jane Eyre: an autobiography, was Charlotte’s second manuscript and it was published by Smith, Elder & Co, of Cornhill, six weeks after they received it. George Smith had been so intrigued by it that he canceled plans to go horseback riding, gulped down his dinner and stayed up until late at night reading Jane Eyre. He offered Currer Bell, (Charlotte), one hundred pounds for the right to publish this book.

Obviously, the book drew on Charlotte’s experiences as a governess.  The story is about a plain governess who falls in love with her employer, Mr. Rochester. A dark, brooding man, much older than Jane, he has a mad wife, kept in an attic and she dies in a house fire. Rochester is injured, but Jane and he eventually marry. 

The book was an instant success and received favorable reviews at first. “No such book has gladdened our eyes for a long while,” wrote one critic. It broke new ground by being written from a first-person female perspective.  

Speculation about whether Jane Eyre was written by a man or a woman increased after the publication of the novels Wuthering Heights by Emily, writing as Ellis Bell, and Agnes Grey written by Anne under the pseudonym of Acton Bell. Her novel described everyday behavior in well-to-do households as seen by a governess. Wuthering was the local name for rainy squalls that blew on the Yorkshire moors.

After writing Jane Eyre, Charlotte began work on Shirley, but put it aside when she was faced with the death of her brother and both sisters in a span of eight months.

 Eventually she resumed work on the book, which was a far less emotional story than Jane Eyre. It was written in third person about industrial unrest and the role of women in society.

Although her father was aging, Charlotte left him for a few weeks at a time to visit London. Here she met Harriet Martineau and Elizabeth Gaskell.

She also visited William Makepeace Thackeray.  His daughter recalled Charlotte as being a “tiny, delicate, serious, little lady, with fair straight hair and steady eyes.  She enters in mittens, in silence, in seriousness; our hearts are beating with wild excitement. This then is the authoress, the unknown power whose books have set all London talking, reading, and speculating. Some people even say our father wrote the books …everyone waited for the brilliant conversation which never began at all.”

“Miss Bronte retired to the sofa in the study, and murmured a low word now and then to our kind governess…the conversation grew dimmer and more dim, the ladies sat around still expectant, my father was too much perturbed by the gloom and the silence to be able to cope with it all…After Miss Bronte had left, I was surprised to see my father opening the front door with his hat on.  He put his fingers to his lips, walked out into the darkness, and shut the door quietly behind him.”  Apparently he went off to his club to recover.” [5] Charlotte’s third published novel, during her lifetime, was Villette. 

The main character, Lucy Snowe, again a teacher in a boarding school falls in love with a man whom she cannot marry.  Written in first-person, it again drew from Charlotte’s own life.

Her life, however, was not devoid of proposals of marriage. Sometime in 1838 or so, Charlotte received a marriage proposal from the brother of her closest friend Ellen Nussey.  Henry Nussey was a clergyman, 27 years old, and proposed in a letter.

He earned enough money to support a wife but Charlotte asked herself if she “loved him as much as a woman ought to love a man she marries?” And secondly, “Was she the person best qualified to make him happy.”  She concluded the answer was “no” to both questions and turned him down. 

She wrote “I will never for the sake of attaining the distinction of matrimony and escaping the stigma of an old maid take a worthy man whom I am conscious I cannot render happy.”[6] Henry promptly proposed to another woman who accepted him.

 In May 1839, Charlotte took a temporary job as a governess. She returned home in July and received a second proposal of marriage. This was from David Bryce, an Irish clergyman, who had met her only once at the Haworth parsonage.  She turned him down and he died several months later.

She confided to Ellen Nussey that she was convinced she would never marry.  After she cut her ties with the Heger household she resigned herself to life in Haworth. Her father’s vision was failing and a new curate who arrived in 1845 took over many of his pastoral duties.

Arthur Bell Nicholls was 27, and came from Ireland.  He was the son of a poor farmer, who had been adopted by his uncle after his parents died.  He was serious and preferred dry books on church governance to the kinds of writing that the Bronte siblings were producing. 

 Charlotte’s publisher of Jane Eyre, George Smith, was a young man to whom she became attached.  She visited his mother and went with him on a holiday in Scotland, and at one time expected to receive a proposal of marriage from him.  Her novel Villette has a character who is said to be charming but superficial and does not return her love, this is supposedly based on George Smith.

Meanwhile Arthur Nicholls had been in love with her for years, but it wasn’t until she heard that George Smith was engaged that she accepted Nicholl’s proposal. Initially her father had objected to the match on the grounds of Nicholl’s “utter want of money.”

Hearing of this Mrs. Gaskell asked a friend of hers if he could use his influence to help the impoverished curate, but Nicholls turned down two curacy offers because they were not near Haworth.

Charlotte’s father finally gave his blessing several months later, in April, 1854 and the couple were married in June.  She wore a white dress and white bonnet.  The villagers said she “looked like a snowdrop”. They honeymooned for a month in Ireland where Charlotte met his family and liked them. They were wealthier than she expected.

Charlotte’s last meeting with Mrs. Gaskell, took place before June, and at that time Mrs. Gaskell viewed the marriage as a happy ending for Charlotte. This is questionable for some biographers say that Nicholls refused to allow Charlotte to continue writing fiction and even censored her letters to her best friend, Ellen.

After the marriage, Mrs. Gaskell lost touch with Charlotte and was shocked to receive a letter in the spring of 1855, from the local stationer who sold paper to the Brontes, telling her of Charlotte’s death on March 31, 1855, shortly before her 39th birthday. This was less than a year since her wedding and it was thought she was in the early months of pregnancy.  She is said to have suffered from nausea, then grew feverish and went to bed.

By March she was vomiting blood and the local doctors had no idea what was wrong.  It was speculated that she may have tuberculosis, possibly complicated with typhoid fever.  Charlotte scrawled a last note to her friends. It read “no kinder, better husband than mine…in the world.” Charlotte was buried in the family vault at Haworth.

Mrs. Gaskell felt that had she been in touch with Charlotte she might have induced her to end the pregnancy and thus save her life. In a letter she expressed a similar sentiment to George Smith. As she couldn’t save Charlotte’s life Gaskell decided to save her reputation. “Sometime, I will publish what I know of her, “she wrote.

Deciding against offering the public a critical analysis of the novels, she instead focused on the lives of the Bronte’s. To create a story about them, as a family of condemned genius, living in a painful and romantic solitude.

This was in her mind and she was surprised, but no doubt pleased, when Patrick Bronte wrote to her asking her to take on the role of official biographer. He indicated “that a great many scribblers, as well as some clever and truthful writers, have published articles in newspapers and tracts respecting my dear daughter since her death. Many things have been stated that are untrue. Not wanting an ill-qualified individual to write her life, he suggested that Mrs. Gaskell was best qualified to write the account.”

An example of the scribblers that Patrick was referring to was Harriet Martineau, who had published an obituary giving her views of the Bronte novels as being coarse and morbid.  She asked her readers to remember their experience of living in a “forlorn house, in the dreary wilds.”              

Martineau assumed that Charlotte had been cut off from cultural norms, but on the contrary, she had been an avid follower of contemporary politics and current affairs, and read newspapers. Martineau portrayed her as being too feeble to walk on the moors, and said she could see her sisters’ graves from her window, all of which was totally inaccurate.

Even    Emily Dickinson’s tribute poem was wrong, it indicated that Charlotte’s tomb was overgrown by moss, but in fact her grave is inside the church.

Mrs. Gaskell learned that Arthur Nicholls did not want a biography written about his wife, but being dependent financially on Patrick Bronte he gave in. The biography was published in 1857. Arthur Nicholls lived with Charlotte’s father until 1861 when Patrick died, at the age of 84.

Arthur returned to Ireland and became a gentleman farmer. He married again and lived until 1906. (More about that later).

Gaskell’s biography included details which, Lucasta Millers writes, “Would never have made their way into the biography of a famous man”.

Some of the quotations from letters that Gaskell included in the biography were merely between two women, about purchases of clothes. For example, Charlotte wrote she had bought a bonnet with a pink lining, and she changed a black lace cloak for a white one as it went better with her black satin dress.

She even wrote intimate comments about wearing “chemisettes of small size, (the full woman’s size not fitting her).”  Mrs. Gaskell’s biography gave the readers homely details about clothing, or housework, and thus created a womanly atmosphere for her story. She was selective about what she included in the biography, and kept silent about the possibility that Charlotte had been in love with her tutor Monsieur Heger.

It wasn’t until 1913 that four letters written by Charlotte to Heger were published in the Times. From their passionate content and her complaints it was evident that Charlotte’s feelings for her former tutor were not reciprocated.  It was known that Heger enjoyed reducing his students to tears “at which point he would melt and become gentle.”  It is possible that Charlotte misconstrued this type of bullying behavior as being loving.

When Madame Heger died in 1890 her daughter Louise went through her mother’s papers. She found some of Charlotte’s letters, the ones that had initially been thrown away by Heger, and then had been found and saved by his wife.  Louise gave them to her father, and again he tried to throw them away, but Louise rescued them as by then she knew they were important literary documents.

After Constantin Heger died in 1896. Louise discussed the letters with her brother Paul. He decided to donate them to the British library. Eventually Paul decided they should be published to show that what had been called ‘The secret of Charlotte Bronte’ was nothing -- his father had not returned Charlotte’s feelings.    

After the deaths of Louise and Paul, the Bronte manuscripts and letters were sold off to private collectors. Most recently Christine Alexander and Margaret Smith have been searching out this correspondence and doing serious research and publishing Charlotte’s own words.      

An English film producer, Alison Owen, said that when she needs order in her life she reads Jane Austen.  But when she is feeling more emotional and needs that passionate punch, she turns to Jane Eyre.   

Jane Austen’s characters are well-mannered, they go to balls, seeking husbands, and find them.  The Bronte characters are rough, Rochester and Heathcliff (in Wuthering Heights) are brusque in manner, are secretive. After Rochester proposes to Jane we learn that he has a mad wife shut up in the attic.

It has been said that the Bronte books are not easy to adapt for film.[7]

There have been at least nine attempts with Jane Eyre beginning in 1934. Then 1943, followed by a gap of more than 25 years until 1970, 1973, 1983, 1996, 1997, 2006, and now 2013. Some said the worst adaptation was the 1934, almost like a parody.  The one in 1943 with Orson Welles is said to be Byronic but not so attractive.

Timothy Dalton played Rochester, in 1983 and that didn’t work either. The 1996 William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg movie was described as “a disaster.” Apparently, this was attributed to an incorrect quote supposedly by Charlotte as Jane.  Hurt was reported to have clomped through the movie in a floppy Klonopin haze delivering all his lines with the same eye-rolling, double-chinning sarcasm.  (I don’t know what a Klonopin haze is).         

An A&E production in 1997 described as “threadbare” was said to make Jane Eyre a smug character. She always seemed to be on the verge of giggles. Caran Hind played Rochester as a “honking leech, blustering and bloviating beneath the carpet swatches on his face as if he is auditioning”. (I got these reviews from the Washington post and slate.com sites on the internet.)

The latest version of Jane Eyre was offered in March 2011 by director Cary Fukunaga, produced by Alison Owen and it starred Mia Wasikowska, previously seen as Alice in Tim Burton’s “Wonderland.” Comments were that Mia’s appearance while not plain offers a tight-lipped frown, a creased brow and severely parted hair, to illustrate the poor governess. Michael Fassbender played Mr. Rochester as sexy, cruel, and mangy.

I mentioned doing research on the internet and it is astounding what one can find.  Next month when I talk about Emily Bronte I will share information from the brusselsbrontegroup, who posted photo-graphs of paintings that show the Heger’s boarding school in Brussels and gave details about her stay there. 

Perhaps even more exciting was to find and see on the internet an actual newspaper clipping from 1906 that someone had found in a used bookstore in Hay-On-Wye, Wales.  When this individual opened the front cover of Clement Shorter’s Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, a folded clipping fell out that was captioned, “The Rev. Mr. Nicholls, husband of the Author of “Jane Eyre,” died only last week.  That is, he died December 3, 1906.

The word “only” refers to the surprise of the reporter that Nicholls had lived so long.  The reporter’s generation and that of the one before had been accustomed to considering the Bronte people as being of a bygone time. But Nicholls lived more than 50 years longer than Charlotte.  To the age of 90, which was unusual in those days.  

Next month I will talk about Emily Bronte. On Friday April 19 at 11 a.m.  That will be my last lecture in this series about the lives and works of famous writers.  I have given 23 lectures since 2007, beginning with writers from the Victorian era and extending into the 20th century.  Of those I presented, Daphne du Maurier, Dylan Thomas, Somerset Maugham, and Gertrude Stein. Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, F Scott Fitzgerald, and D. H. Lawrence are writers whose lives, I think, were as interesting as their works.  I found it informative to read biographies on these writers and learn what was going on in their life while they were writing their books.  



A Weekend to Remember

E. B. Alston


September 1, 1973

Butner, North Carolina


Have you ever had a day when the gods smiled on you, the wind was at your back, your boat traveled downstream and your planets were in full alignment? I have. Actually it was Labor Day weekend forty-four years ago.

On the first day of dove season in 1973, Black Industries, a contractor for the telephone company, invited a number of telephone company employees to a dove hunt on their farm near Butner, North Carolina. People came from as far as Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia to attend. The day began with a quail breakfast followed by adult refreshments and card games. Then there would be a pork barbeque lunch. After lunch, we would shoot doves until sundown. Then the games and adult beverage consumption would begin again. At the time I was technical training manager for the seven-state operating company so I knew all of the attendees.

I lived in Butner at the time, so I left the house at seven to go to the breakfast. On the way out the door, I told my wife that I’d be back at noon to get the boys and take them to the barbeque lunch and the dove hunt. This was the first she had heard about this plan and, to put it mildly, she was quite upset. Not a very happy start for “my day.”

The breakfast was gourmet grade. Then the play began. I was at a table with eight card players. One of them was Bruce Knott, budget manager for the Plant Department. A piece of good advice: never play poker with Bruce Knott. Things went well for me, too, but I can only win at poker if the other players are drunk. Since Bruce and I didn’t indulge in the adult beverages, we cleaned house. I was up over four hundred by the time I had to go pick up the boys. Bruce did twice as well as I did.

When I arrived at home to get the boys, they were waiting expectantly, but my wife and Lynn had gone to visit my wife’s family. They left about five minutes to twelve. There was a note telling me where they had gone and they would be back Sunday afternoon.

The boys had a great time at lunch. They enjoyed mingling with men, doing “manly” things. They were the only children at the function, so the other guests made a lot of them.

After lunch, the sober guests shot a few rounds of skeet from the electric skeet trap that Craig Black had installed. Both of my sons hit their clay pigeons when their time came up to shoot.

After the skeet shoot, we were taken to the hunting field where we were assigned our stands. Our host, Craig Black, had taken quite a fancy to my son, Michial, and put him on a choice stand all by himself. Michial made his father proud. He shot a single barrel H&R shotgun and I didn’t see him miss a single dove that flew over him. Gary Lee was overheard telling somebody that if that boy had an automatic shotgun, nobody else would get a shot.

At the end of the day, both my boys and I had limited out on doves. By the time we left to go home, my sons were glowing with pride from the complimentary remarks the men had made about Mike and Carl’s shooting.

I didn’t stay for the evening of card games and adult beverages.

Since I was responsible for supper, the boys and I went to a restaurant in Creedmoor to eat. On the way home I remembered there was a rifle match at Winston-Salem the next day. I got the boys to buy in on going to the match by taking them and a picnic lunch. The range at Winston-Salem had a large open area behind the firing line and usually other shooters came with their families so the boys would have other children to play with while I shot the match.

We got up early the next morning. On the way we stopped in Greensboro at the Spring Garden restaurant for their famous country ham and eggs breakfast. When we arrived at the range, there were other children already there and mothers to look after them, so the boys were taken care of.

I shot very well that day. My classification was Expert at the time and I was pretty sure I’d shot good enough to win the Expert class. But when names of the winners were called out, my name was not called. I started moving my gear to the truck when they called my name. I was match winner and they presented me with the biggest trophy I have ever received.

The boys and I had another nice restaurant meal on the way home. When we drove into the driveway at home, their mother and sister were already there. As soon as the truck stopped moving, the boys jumped out, dashed into the house and began regaling their mom and sister about all the fun things they had done over the weekend. Then I walked in with that big trophy.

It truly had been my weekend.




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: Life with Elizabeth, and A Different Sort of Man,  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: My Experiences as a Freelance Writer and Charlotte 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: Conceptual Leaps; 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


Brad Carver: Life in Moccasin Gap-Sitting on the Front Porch, is deceased. He was a regular columnist until he passed. His book, Daddyhood, was published in 2007. Brad was a humorist who lived in Semora, North Carolina. 


Peggy Ellis: School Days; is a writer and editor who resides in Black Mountain, NC.


Diana Goldsmith: Flaming June and Patchwork; 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.


Erika Juhlin: Erika’s Lament; is an auto mechanic and high power rifle competitor. Nobody else knows that she is also a poet.


Joan Leotta: The Notebooks’ Fate, Fall’s Creativity Fest, October’s All Hallows Eve and When to be Thankful; 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 joanleotta@atmc.net.


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 will miss her.


Elizabeth Miccio: October Shadows; spent her early years in Westchester Coy, NY, and now lives in Greeley, CO, near her children and grandchildren. She is a graduate of Rocky Mountain School of Art. Later on the staff of Colorado Institute of Art, she became head of Media and taught life drawing. She is an artist and a poet. Her work includes both word and pictures of people and places she has visited. Her work has appeared in Lest the Colors Fade and A Beautiful Life and Other Stories.


Michelle Owens: Homecare; Michelle Owens loved stories before she started Kindergarten and writing since elementary school.  She majored in English in college and had a subsequent career as a journalist before returning to school for her M.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing.  She’s had several stories and poems published, and now, after years in marketing and PR, is finally turning all of her attention to words – where she belongs – and has found a home with Righter Books


Minerva P. Shaw: Minerva Checks Out Cyber-Dating; is a down-east humorist whose book, Here Comes Minerva, is available on Amazon and Kindle.


Sybil Austin Skakle: October’s Farewell and  Heaven; 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: Eyes Bright; 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 latest work, Wines of the Manticore was published earlier this year. 


Marry Williamson: Excitement at Sunset Lodge; 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.


Minerva P. Shaw: Minerva Checks Out Cyber-Dating; Is a North Carolina writer and humorist. 


John Wall: Greatest Headline in the History of Sports Journalism; John was a co-worker at the telephone company. He was an Engineer who graduated from the University of Georgia. One of his college drinking buddies was the, now deceased, famous humorist, Lewis Grizzard.


Anne Wallbank: Camel Train; Anne is a member of Chard U3A writing for pleasure group.  Her main hobbies of dog walking and gardening provide inspiration for her writing.


Tim Whealton: It’s Hunting Season and What to Do When You Start Getting Older: 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.


old cars 9.jpg  oldcars5.jpg

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte_Bronte

[2] The Bronte Myth, by Lucasta Miller, Anchor Books, New York, 2001.


[3] The Bronte Myth, by Lucasta Miller, Anchor Books, New York, 2001.  39

[4] Ibid.

[5] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte Bronte

[6] Ibid.

[7] The Bronte Sisters, by Catherine Reef, Clarion Books, New York, 2012.