Edited by E. B. Alston


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Copyright 2017 by:

 Righter Publishing Company

1112 Rogers Road

Graham, NC 27253


Printed and bound in the United States of America


Electronic version at www.righterbooks.com


Righter Publishing Company

1112 Rogers Road

Graham, NC 27253




email: righterpub@esinc.net


Righter Quarterly Review – Summer 2017

June 1, 2017

ISBN 978-1-546646-77-8 


Table of Contents

Editor 3

60th High School Class Reunion. 5

Remembering Ariana Holliday Dickson Mangum  by Rita Berman. 5

Cowpoke Meets Hurricane Bob by Sybil Austin Skakle. 7

Easter Dinner by Joan Leotta. 10

A Forgotten Landscape by Ariana Mangum.. 11

Cove City by Timothy P. Whealton. 18

Do you Know Everything?. 19

If I Should Die To-Night by Arabella Eugenia Smith. 20

Asparagus Abundance by Joan Leotta. 22

Who am I? by Diana Goldsmith. 22

The Legend of Fire by Charles Reed. 23

Do you Know Everything?. 24

From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza. 25

Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation  Review by E. B. Alston. 32

Oldest Person in the World Diesby E. B. Alston. 32

Say What! 34

Growing Up On a Farm – 1946 by E. B. Alston. 37

Mother's Day by Joan Leotta. 38

The Key by Diana Goldsmith. 39

Hammer Spade and the Long Shooter Serialized book. 40

Growing Older 45

Eyes Bright by Michael Warren. 46

Something for Seniors. 46

Random Thoughts. 48

Southern Grandma. 50

Summer at Sunset by Marry Williamson. 50

Ten Things That Will Disappear In Our Lifetime. 54

Highway 50-Warsaw, North Carolina by E. B. Alston. 56

Their Special Mother by Elizabeth Silance Ballard. 66

Thought Experiments Regarding the Mind by Randy Bittle. 68

Colonial Justice by E. B. Alston. 70

World Events. 74

Independence Day by Mary Noble Jones. 75

Defining a Family by Danny Key. 76

Contributors. 78


We express our appreciation for Betsy Breedlove and Jane Foust for the beautiful pictures we used on this month’s cover. We also appreciate the fine work of our contributors, without whom this magazine would be much thinner and abominably boring to read. We thank Lona Lockhart for her edit.


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Photo by Tim Whealton





Warning! This is not a high-minded essay. It is also not a very kind essay. It does not speak well of me, personally. Its only virtue is it is true.

I need to say up front that throughout my whole life, I have tried to be fair with everyone, whether I liked them or not. I don’t mess with other people if they don’t mess with me.

At work, I hired people I didn’t like because they could do the job. Some were surprised to receive a job or promotion offer from me. My reply was work was more important than personal opinions and preferences. This paid off big time career-wise because I got a reputation for getting things done. I could get things done because I chose capable subordinates. I respected their efforts and accomplishments and rewarded them for doing well. A couple advanced further up the ladder than I did, deservedly so.

One of my other characteristics has always been, when I have been messed with, I try to get even, and, on a few occasions, I have gone to great lengths to do so. Messing with me always carries a cost. There have been very few instances of this in my personal life, and they were pretty minor in a global sense. And, I will not name any names.

My greatest annoyances over the years, and it has gotten worse lately, have been junk emails, junk calls and junk mail.

Junk emails are hard to deal with and, because someone said unsubscribing only generated other junk mail, I just let them come and deleted them.  However, a couple of weeks ago, I counted a day’s worth of emails and 87% were junk. Since then, I have been on an unsubscribe binge and this morning there were only two junk emails, to which I unsubscribed. Now I’m feeling lonely because I only get seven or eight personal emails a day. The book business gets more emails but this is expected. I am beginning to think that I now have this annoyance under control.

Junk calls have been around a while but the volume seems to have increased the last few months. Right now I’m getting several calls a day where the caller, with an Indian accent, tells me the US Government wants to award me a grant of $9,200.00. This is really annoying because my house calls are forwarded to my cell phone. I get them twice. I thought just blocking these calls was too nice so I chose the option of sending them to voicemail. Guess what? The same callers with the same message call from another number and now I have twelve numbers going to voicemail for this one message. Twelve must be some kind of limit because now the numbers that show up are just numbers like 123456 and 987654. These are not the only junk calls I receive but they are by far the most persistent.

Now I answer and wait for the message to end and press the number to speak to a representative but I don’t say anything. After I burn up a couple of their minutes, the caller hangs up. I have a referee whistle. Sometimes I blow it into the receiver when their rep comes on.

Junk mail is easier to deal with because I have a shredder. There is a real risk here because someone could steal the mail out of my mailbox, fill out the application, change the address, and get themselves a credit card in my name. A few years ago, credit card offers got to be so many that I called the numbers to ask them to stop sending this junk. Most of them did after one or two calls. Capital One did not stop, even after four calls.

The offers came with a postage paid envelope. I started stuffing their prepaid envelope with junk mail from other offers, being careful not to put in anything that could be traced to me. Plus I did not fill in the return address.

Then I had an idea. I spoke to the local postmaster about shipping a package using that postpaid envelope as postage. He said it would go right through.

I drove home and filled a 16 by 20 pasteboard box with scrap paper, pieces of wood scrap and a few broken bricks, sealed it and taped the postpaid envelope on top. When I delivered it to the post office, the postmaster said they would pay $39.86 to the postal service for that first-class delivery, and he thanked me for my business.

A few days later, I received another offer from Capital One. I called the number and asked to speak to a supervisor. When I told her what I had done, she said, “Oh, my God!” Then she assured me that I would never receive another offer from Capital One. She kept her promise.

Sometimes getting even is fun and it still makes me feel good when I fill a postpaid envelope with somebody else’s offers. If I can, I try to put enough in the envelope to make it cost extra. Don’t mess with me. The older I get, the meaner I am.


Gene Alston



60th High School Class Reunion

Submitted by Ray Dean


He was a widower and she a widow. They had known each other for a number of years, having been high school classmates and having attended class reunions in the past without fail.

This 60th anniversary of their class, the widower and the widow made a foursome with two other singles. They had a wonderful evening, their spirits high, with the widower throwing admiring glances across the table and the widow smiling coyly back at him.

Finally, during one dance, he picked up courage to ask her, "Will you marry me?”

After about 6 seconds of careful consideration, she answered, "Yes, yes I will!"

Needless to say, the evening ended on a happy note for the widower. However, the next morning he was troubled. Did she say “Yes" or did she say ‘No‘? He couldn't remember. Try as he would, he just could not recall. He went over-and-over the conversation of the previous evening, but his mind was blank. He remembered asking the question, but for the life of him could not recall her response.

With fear and trepidation, he picked up the phone and called her. First, he explained that he couldn't remember as well as he used to. Then he reviewed the past evening. As he gained a little more courage, he then inquired of her, "When I asked if you would marry me, did you say “Yes" or did you say “No”?

"Why, you silly man." she replied, “I said Yes. Yes, I will! And I meant it with all my heart!"

The widower was delighted. He felt his heart skip a beat.

Then she continued. "And I'm so glad you called. I couldn't remember who asked me!"



Remembering Ariana Holliday Dickson Mangum

March 26, 1928 – March 2, 2017

By Rita Berman


            Ariana Mangum and I were friends for more than 25 years.  We were readers and writers and shared many hours discussing books we had read and what we were writing.  For almost twenty years we were neighbors and in earlier years took walks together in the neighborhood.

            A mutual friend, Carla Shuford, said “what Ariana and I shared was not only an ability and skill at writing, but even more importantly, a NEED to write that was as necessary as food, water, and shelter.”  About fifteen years ago when Ariana and I were both in England we attended the week-long Writers Summer School in Derbyshire.

            Ariana fought through declining health to keep on writing.  In spite of her hospitalizations she took a lively interest in current events and persisted with her efforts to express her opinion on many subjects.  Her columns and Letters to the Editor for the Chapel Hill News drew the reader’s attention to current events, sometimes relating them to her own life. Mark Schultz, editor of the newspaper, handled her letters.  In a tribute he noted that she wrote about war, politics, social mores- “each short essay as fixed as her gaze.”

            As Chapel Hill changed from a village she commented, “It is poor planning to gobble up every bit of land for housing.” The building under construction on Elliot Road was “too high and not in harmony with the rest. The council and city planners can only see dollar signs.” 

            One Christmas she wrote that the world would be a happier place if there was universal peace.

            Ariana and I shared a fondness for Ireland and England. I was born in London and immigrated to the USA as an adult.  Although Ariana was a Southern woman her mode of dress was very English.  Always a dress or a skirt. Pink must have been her favorite color for she wore it often. She was a prolific letter writer and stayed in touch with the many friends she had made over the years.  She also liked to host a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner for her local friends, some of them from Shared Learning of Chapel Hill where she attended and gave classes.  In earlier years she had volunteered at Glenwood Elementary school helping the young students with their reading. 

            Ariana was raised in Richmond, Virginia and graduated with a B.A., in English Literature from Penn State College (now University).  She married William Goodson Mangum of Chapel Hill and had five children; Margaret Ariana, William Preston, Alice, Laura Jane, and Beth.  In the late 1970’s or so she moved to Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland where she spent many years teaching and writing there before moving back to the United States.  She was in Ireland when Belfast was bombed and Ulster was in a turmoil with sectarian hatred. Many of her life experiences were later included in her books.  

            Carlos, The Mouse Who discovered America, was published in December, 2008.  She said she began this book while living near Dublin in the 1980’s, studying literature and writing, and finished it in America after twenty years of revision.  Included in the book are drawings of Carlos and Fredrico by her husband William Mangum, a retired professor of art history, sculpture and paintings.

            When the Goldenrod Sang in the Meadows, was published in March 2009. It was a book that drew on her experiences as a young girl in Virginia as well as during World War II and living in Ireland during the 1980s.  The final section contains stories she wrote for her grandchild, Celia.

            After I moved from Chapel Hill to Mebane in 2013 our contact was by letters or telephone.

            Another book, A Shenandoah Promise, was published January 2014. It was dedicated to her granddaughter, Celia Perry, “who also made a transoceanic voyage as a small child to begin a new life in America.” This is a historical novel about an injured Welsh miner who in 1828 accepts a land grant of one hundred acres in the New World.  He sells up and takes his wife and daughters to begin their new life in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

            Most of her work was done in longhand or on a typewriter though she did attempt to master a computer program. I helped edit the Shenandoah Promise book and know she was obsessive about being accurate even when the story was a novel rather than a factual history.  When writing that story she spent hours tracking down such details as the kind of wagons used, or the music that was played at dances. She was generous in acknowledging assistance and included two pages of appreciation in that book.

            Visits from her children gave her much pleasure. In December, 2014 she wrote to me that, “The family will come for Christmas.  Alice came for Thanksgiving with her family.” Beth was unable to come because she got a throat infection. Her daughter Ariana’s birthday had been celebrated on the Friday after Thanksgiving at the Red Lotus restaurant. 

            Later that month the Chapel Hill News published a letter she had written about spending Christmas without her husband Bill who had died the previous year.  “I stood in front of a Christmas tree with red balls on it and winking lights…I stood remembering our almost 61 years of marriage before he left us last December 30.  I find the Christmas decorations look old and tired and the spirit of Christmas is missing. The turkey must be ordered and the gifts bought, yet I hesitate. It‘s not the same.  Bill’s gone…Christmas is all topsy turvy.”

            At the beginning of January, 2016 she sent a card and wrote that she had heart valve surgery and will be going in for surgery for kidney stones. “Then no more.  I shall hibernate from doctors and hospitals.”  She was looking forward to the first weekend in April when “the family will come for my birthday.”

            By the middle of February, 2016 she told me she was slowly getting better and was still writing for The Chapel Hill News.  She was ready for Spring and some flowers on her front lawn.

            I wrote that I would be away in Mexico towards the end of February but would be in touch on my return.  

            After that we had several telephone conversations and then she wrote on September 17, 2016 expressing her hope that I was enjoying my move to Mebane and thanked me for my book, Parallel Lives, of which she had read the first page with interest.  At that time she was slowly recovering, she said.

            Her last written communication was the Christmas card she sent to me in December, 2016 saying she had recovered from three operations and cancer treatments and was at last getting better. She had taken the time to read my book with interest and more fully. “My brains are working, and I can write again.” She closed wishing me a happy holiday.

            When I attempted to reach Ariana by telephone in January and February of this year she did not answer.  I left messages and later spoke to her son William.  Her publisher, Gene Alston of Righter Books told me her last book, The Misadventures of Agnes Randolph was published at the end of January, 2017.  Like her other books it is available on Amazon.com.

            I miss our lively discussions but take comfort in that while her voice may be stilled her words are still available to readers. 



Cowpoke Meets Hurricane Bob

Sybil Austin Skakle


Others were leaving Hatteras Island Saturday, August 17, l992  as Lee and I headed south toward Herbert C Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet. We had visited for a couple of days in the Norfolk, Virginia area with family and met heavy traffic as we left Norfolk.  When I switched on the radio we heard storm reports and understood we were meeting the exodus of vacationers from The Outer Banks.

We had promised to go to Hatteras to see the new business my son Eddie and his wife Diane had recently started, as a conclusion to our vacation. Named Austin’s, the business occupied the space where Austin’s General Store, my father’s business, had been years before. So, we continued down the beach, planning to return to Manteo later that evening before going home to Chapel Hill. 

We arrived to eat fish from the community fish fry, held every Saturday from June through Labor Day at the Hatteras Fire Station, just across the road from their business. The proceeds benefit the firefighters and Hatteras United Methodist Church on alternate Saturdays. So, we bought our plates and sat on the remodeled porch to enjoy the good fish and fixings.

An occasional person dropped by to chat and to confer on the status of the storm and strategies for keeping damage minimal. Sitting on the porch we looked east toward the ocean and saw a complete rainbow, formed after a shower. My son’s two little girls, Snow and Brooke, were delighted. So were we. We never cease to be thrilled by the rainbows and the promise God made to man. That pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow excites our imaginations. Perhaps Bob would not be such a bad storm.

Hurricanes were part of my childhood memories and since I am living away from Hatteras Island, the curious have asked me from time to time what it was like to survive one. I usually replied: "I had rather be there than not. The news makes it sound worse than I ever knew it to be."

So, when my sister Josephine invited Lee and me to stay overnight with them to wait out the storm, we accepted her invitation. Our appointment to attend the 57th Daniels' family reunion at Wanchese did not begin until Monday afternoon at four o'clock, August 19, 1991.

Jo’s home is built by the Slash, a body of water that runs north and south through the village. After moderate rain during the evening and night, torrential, wind-driven rain troubled the surface of the Slash and splashed loudly against the windows and sliding glass doors of the bedroom of Jo and Carlos’ home. It awakened us Sunday morning. Momentarily, the rains stopped and we drove to the Hatteras United Methodist Church to attend worship, where visitors, seemed to outnumber members.

That afternoon Carlos took Jo and us down to the lower end of the village, beyond the Ocracoke Ferry Dock and beyond the pavement.  We hoped to go to the very end of the island for a spectacular view of the angry Atlantic surf surging through Hatteras Inlet into Pamlico Sound.  However, he had gone only a short distance when the tide, breaking through the sand dunes, met us.  Raging surf, frothing with foam, battered the shore.  Darker gray lines streaked the somber sky as Carlos turned the jeep around to return to dry ground and safety.

We had been warned, so we were not surprised when the lights at the house went off early that evening and water became a mere trickle from the faucets.  A gas-run generator provided lights awhile, but we had no television.  Radio coverage repeated earlier reports.

After the generator had been turned off, good light was provided by a kerosene, mantle lamp. We visited while we waited for the storm to pass.  Their sturdy home, with double paned windows and insulation, prevented our hearing the full fury of the wind.  We tried to reassure my husband. Lee had spent many years in Kansas City, Missouri, where tornados are the rule.  Surrounded by the tides from The Slash, supplied by the Pamlico Sound, the house seemed afloat. It was an unnerving experience to Lee Stanley, landlubber.

Our host and hostess were amused by Lee’s fear of floating out to sea during the night. Cowpoke had never seen anything like Hurricane Bob. He was truly frightened by seeing all that water and kept getting up during the night to check on its status.  

 Water had advanced over the dike, covered the grounds and advanced up onto the second out- door- step of the house.  The night before, Lee confessed to feeling both anxious and awed; both fearful and excited, as we had talked of the storms of the 30s that we remembered, before hurricanes were given names.

One in 1936, especially violent, gusted up to one hundred miles an hour, taking railings and the chimney off the old Weather Bureau, located across Aunt Martha Oden's yard from our home.  It had blown out the window in the upstairs hall at the top of the stairs in our home. We ate breakfast with our feet in the water that morning and the tide rose to the third step of the stairs.

Able bodied men had volunteered or been recruited.  The piano and the kerosene-run refrigerator had been raised to the ceiling, wooden bottle crate by wooden bottle crate. Doors had been opened to reduce the likelihood of our home floating. Open doors let the tide come into the house.

As a ten year old, I had been frightened by the advancing tide. I had heard the story of Noah's Ark in church school. I had not remembered the promise of the rainbow. I had buried my face in the neck ruff of our small, white dog Dobby and cried and prayed. When I came down the stairs from an upstairs bedroom, I was relieved to see that the tide had lowered on the stairs.

When the tide began to recede enough, every available broom had a person sweeping the silt and remaining tide out the doors. Water in the cisterns could no longer be consumed. It could only be used to clean the remaining mud and grime from the floors. The smell of tide-wet paper and mold, so distinctive, lingered long after the hurricane had passed.

  In 1936, few homes in the village had bathrooms. While the outdoor toilets did not require water, they were a hazard when tides rose. They overflowed and the possibility of contamination to the water in the cisterns brought the threat of typhoid fever to everyone. Emptying the cisterns of the contaminated water as soon as possible was essential. The water could have only been used for non-consumption uses. It was most important to pump, dip, and wipe away all the water and disinfect the cistern itself as soon as possible, before the rains came.

                  My younger sister Mona and I donned bathing suits, lowered ourselves into the cisterns to help with the cleaning job. It was exhausting work, dirty and tedious. It took Clorox and much scrubbing, wiping,  and rinsing to rid the bottom of the cistern of the silt that had settled out of the water from the house roof. We tired quickly. Our older sisters, Margie and Jo, took over the task from us.

                 The American Red Cross took responsibility for the immediate need for fresh water. They brought it over Oregon Inlet by ferry, down the beach over rutted sand tracks to deliver it to us in five gallon jugs from the back of a large truck.  They continued their service as long as needed.

The County Health Department or the Red Cross provided typhoid vaccine to Dr. H. W. Kenfield, our local doctor, to administer to all the residents of the village. We were given the first shot and two weeks later we were given a second. We stood in lines on his lawn, outside the door of the small office adjacent to his home, dreading the needle as we waited.

Rains did not always come right away to give fresh water. Clothes had to be washed.  On a small knoll, higher than most ground in the village, near the Atlantic View Hotel, renamed Hatteras Island Inn in recent years, someone put down a pump point.  Women of the village gathered near the old dipping vat with galvanized tubs and buckets, soap, bluing and Red Devil Lye. The clothes were boiled in a tub over an open fire and scrubbed on wash boards.  Near the old dipping vat, where cows and horses that roamed free had been rounded up from time to time to be herded through a solution to kill lice and other vermin. The women worked in the shade of the youpon bushes on the sandy hill, while we children played nearby. We were allowed to spread small pieces on the bushes to dry.        

When the first rain came, Mona and I would rush to put on swim suits to take advantage of fresh water again. Standing under a roof that had not been guttered, with a bar of Ivory soap, we reveled over our first baths with rain water since before the hurricane.

After the immediate, other tasks required launching the Cathleen, which ran fish and freight between Hatteras and Elizabeth City. Homes had to be hoisted back onto their foundations.  The old Methodist Episcopal Church South, down the road, had washed off its foundation and was later torn down.  No bridge spanned Oregon Inlet. 

Ice storms, tornados, erupting volcanoes and other natural disasters hurt other areas and bring hardships similar to those people of the under-developed countries of the world suffer routinely. Perhaps the American Red Cross, or some other organization, still teach disadvantaged people, as they did my mother, grandmother and all others who would be taught in 1924, about Home Hygiene and Health Care. Hurricanes meant economic loss to the people of the Outer Banks. 

Dripping faucets, water running away to waste, seems like throwing away gold to me. When it is not available, it is worth more than money. It is one of the treasures we take for granted and waste.

It is history that Hurricane Bob passed the Outer Banks and Hatteras forty miles out in the Atlantic Ocean and dealt considerable devastation to the coastal areas of Massachusetts.  By the time we slept on Sunday night, the wind had died so we could open windows. We needed the outside air. Interior air could not be artificially cooled until electricity was restored. .

Monday morning we awoke to find water back in the Pamlico Sound and The Slash where it belonged. Fresh water flowed freely from the faucets.  It seemed hard to believe the deluge of the night before.  Tree limbs and leaves were scattered about.  Debris left by the water lined the ramp of their garage.  Later we saw trees uprooted and signs, as if cardboard instead of metal, crumpled. We learned that multiple small tornados had passed through Frisco, the village five miles north of Hatteras. The cross had blown off the Hatteras United Methodist Church again.

Storage tanks would quickly drain without electricity to pump more water.  Therefore, people who left before the storm expecting to return, as well as those having reservations, were prevented from coming onto the Island until electrical service had been restored.  Motels stood empty. But all knew it would only be a matter of a few more hours before life would be back to normal. In the meantime, generators kept frozen food in stores and homes. Time had improved even the aftermath of hurricanes. Soon water and electricity would be restored by the turn of a faucet or switch. It had not been so in 1936. 


(Incorporated in What Came Next, a memoir by Sybil Austin Skakle, available at Amazon or Westbow Press.)



“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost.” J. R. R. Tolkien

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


“What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.” Lao Tzu 


“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.” Reba McEntire


Easter Dinner

By Joan Leotta


Bees flutter about the blooms

on my rosemary bush.

I call out to warn them I am

coming to pick .

They depart with chiding buzzes

while I pluck the

needed  needles for my

roast lamb.

As I finish, I call again.

"You are welcome to the nectar

in the purple blossoms."

That afternoon we both

enjoy a feast.



A Forgotten Landscape

By Ariana Mangum


Chapter 79

“Is There Room Enough for Me”

Negro Spiritual


AFL Cover.jpgWhen we reached the house it was filled with people. Several of our neighbours had arrived. Rudy met us at the front door.

“Where have you been?” he demanded.

“She’s been with me,” Mrs. Houghton explained.

“You shouldn’t have gone out and worried your mother. She’s very upset.

“So is Doc,” Mrs. Houghton snapped. “You’ve only one father in this world however long you live.”

Without saying another word she guided me upstairs.

In my bedroom with the door closed on the chatter below us Mrs. Houghton drew me to her.

“This is going to be a very tough time for you, dear. But I’ll be here whenever you need me. Now change your dress and get yourself washed. You have to go down and greet your neighbours. It’s expected, and you must be polite.” She sat down in the blue chintz chair and waited while I washed and selected a Sunday dress. She combed my hair and pulled it back in a barrette away from my face.

“White socks and party shoes,” she said as I slipped into the dress.

“Do I look all right?” I felt terrified by the prospect of talking to all those people about Father. “What do I say?”

“Just wish them good evening and that you appreciate their coming. Don’t look sad, and don’t cry.” Mrs. Houghton hugged me affectionately.

“I can’t cry, because I don’t believe it. He’s here all around me in this room. And until I’ve proof I won’t believe anything Frances says.”

“Now, then, we’re ready for the grand entrance. Don’t get into an argument with Rudy and above all be sweet to your mother. She’s feeling awfully sad.” Mrs. Houghton took my hand and together we walked downstairs.

The living room was filled with what seemed like dozens of neighbours, all chatting and telling Mother how sorry they felt at this terrible news.

“My dear Nancy,” chirped Catherine Hollis, “do let me know if there’s anything I can do. Just anything. Good evening, Doc, how are you?”

“Fine,” I replied in my politest voice, “how are you?”

“There’s my fine horsewoman,” the Colonel gave me a hug. “When are you coming hunting again?”

“When Mrs. Craddock brings me, I guess, since Cary’s gone overseas.” I squirmed free from his arm. “It would be grand to go out with you again, Colonel, I’d like that.”

“How are you, Doc?” Jean Taliferro tugged at my shoulder. “We’ve brought you a casserole. Where shall I put it?”

A casserole? What in heaven for?” I wondered.

“It’s customary,” Jean replied. “Don’t you remember bringing me one?”

“Yes,” I said, but that was when your father had a stroke - before the funeral.”

“That’s right. It’s a Southern custom.”

“Oh, of course, but this isn’t the same thing at all. Not really. We don’t know for sure - about anything.” I stared at her in disbelief.

“May I put this in the kitchen or do you wish to take it?” Jean asked.

“I’ll take it. Thank you. It smells good, and I love chicken.” Holding the hot casserole by its padded carrier I left the room.

The kitchen counters were covered with food. Cakes, pies, sandwiches, a roasted chicken and a small ham. I couldn’t believe my eyes, and put Jean’s casserole on top of the stove. A large pitcher of iced tea stood on the table, and I poured myself a glass and gulped it down.

“Whatever will we do with all this food?” I wondered, rinsed the

glass and re-entered the dining room. Mrs. Sparrow stood beside the window talking with Alvira Carthage.

“Oh, Doc,” Anita Sparrow caught my arm. “I am so sorry to hear this distressing news. How in the world did it happen? He was such a fine man and so terribly handsome.”

We don’t know the details yet. Just an air raid in London, Frances said. It may even be a mistake. You know, telegrams can get mixed up sometimes.”

“Not from the War Department. When you get something for those people it’s for sure.” Mrs. Carthage pointed her finger at me. “Don’t get your hopes up, Doc. It’s not good.”

“No,” I agreed, “but there could be a mistake even so. I’ve heard of such things happening. I read about it in the paper

“Doc, don’t believe what you read in the newspapers. They don’t tell everything and not always the truth. They have to sell their rags to the public, you know, so don’t take them as gospel,” Mrs. Carthage said. “It’s a terrible loss all the same, and I know you will miss him. He was a different sort than Rudy.”

“Yes, he was - very different from Rudy.” I left the room.

In the hall I found Rudy collecting more offerings of food.

“Here, take these back to the kitchen,” he commanded, handing me two more dishes.

“Where’s Mother?”

“In the living room, don’t bother her now. She’s busy with Mrs. Crosbie and Alice Dubois. Put that salad in the refrigerator and come back and get those plates I left on the hall table....” He turned his back on me, and greeted some more guests. I picked up the plates, crossed through the dining room and entered the kitchen. Alvira Carthage and Anita Sparrow were sorting out the dishes and put several in the refrigerator, and others in the cupboard. They had taken off all the cards and were entering the names in a book. I returned to the hall to collect the remaining plates. Then, confused and exhausted, I finally slumped into a kitchen chair and put my head down on the table. A few minutes later Mrs. Houghton came and took me home with her to bed.

The next morning Bertha arrived early dressed in a black uniform with a white apron and cap. She looked ever so fine, I thought. Much too dressed up to do the laundry.

“It’s not Thursday, is it Bertha?” I asked her upon entering the kitchen.

“No, Miss Doc, it’s Saturday. Hurry now and eat your breakfast. I ‘spect there’ll be a crowd of peoples here today. And I needs to get your room cleaned up and the dishes washed.” She bustled about.

“What for? I don’t feel like a lot of company. I just want to be alone and think.” I sat down and ate my cereal. “I’m tired.”

“Your mamma is receiving this morning, honey, and you’s got to get ready.” Bertha washed up the breakfast dishes as I used them.

“I am going out. I shall either go to the Houghtons or over to Emma Craddock’s house. I can’t stand this confusion. And we’re not at all sure if Father’s really dead. It’s not right to bring food until we’re sure,” I protested.

“But honey, we is sure. The telegram told us so. Your Daddy is dead and will be buried in England. Ain’t that what Frances said?” Bertha held the dish towel in her worn brown hand and rubbed it over the plates, “when you goin’ to believe it, honey?”

“I don’t believe it. And what’ll happen to me? Who wants Rudy for a Father? He’s stupid and mean.”

Bertha did not answer. She started to hum an old song way down in her throat:

“Lord, is there room for me in dem pearly gates?

Lord, is there room for me?

My Lord says there’s room enough,

Room enough in the heavens for you.

My Lord says there’s room enough Don’t stay away.”

“Is there room enough for me here, Bertha?” I asked her. “Is there room enough for me, now, in this house? I don’t want to go to heaven. I’m not old enough to worry about that yet.” I took her my cup and saucer.

“Room enough, Miss Doc, what’s you saying. Sure, honey, there’s room enough for you.” In spite of her fancy black uniform she drew me to her and gave me an affectionate hug. “Now you goes and gets dressed.”

I started upstairs to do as she requested and met Mother half way.

“Where have you been? Rudy wants you to help him get the dead flowers out of the house,” she said crossly. “And you’re not even dressed. Don’t you realize we are expecting people?”

I stared at her. She had on a black afternoon dress, and carried a lace handkerchief. Her face was powdered too pale, and she wore only a faint pink lipstick. She looked awful, wan and fragile.

“I just had breakfast. I haven’t been any place at all,” I replied.

“Do hurry. Put on something nice and comb your hair, and brush your teeth,” she said. “There’s not time for any visits to the Houghtons this morning.”

Then she swept past me down the stairs.

Once in my room I remained dressed in a wool skirt and sweater. I crossed the hall, putting on my coat, went through the back bedroom and down the back stairs, which ended in the laundry. I knew Bertha was not there.

“It’s Saturday,” I reasoned. “I must help deliver the eggs. I’d like to visit Mrs. Harris and see Angelo.” I wanted to get away from Mother, her friends and Rudy and find some place where I felt safe.

In the laundry room I pulled on my Wellingtons, quietly slipped out of the back door and ran towards the woods, to my secret trail. I followed it around the bluff until it dropped down into the woods and rose again behind Mrs. Houghton’s kitchen door. The path was muddy but I ran, slipping and sliding, in the red clay. My boots heavy, I stopped at the edge of the woods and scraped off the mud. I finished cleaning my Wellingtons on Mrs. Houghton’s whitewashed fence. Globs of wet clay hung to the rails, so I knocked them off and tried to clean the fence with my mitten. Finally I entered the handsome wrought-iron gates.

Mr. Houghton was on the back porch counting his egg cartons into a large crate. He did not look up as I entered.

“Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen,” he marked them on his calendar. “Seventeen dozen this week. Eight dozen for Manakin and Henley’s Store and seven dozen for customers in Richmond. What do you want now?” he asked finally.

“Just to go with you and deliver the eggs. Mother’s got company coming. There go the ladies now who are supposed to open the door and answer the phone.” I pointed across the orchard at an old black Ford headed up our driveway.

“Just like a regular funeral,” he commented under his breath. “Who’d thought there would be all this fuss?”

“I just got to get away from that house and Mother. She looks like a ghost this morning with he face all powdered white and only a little lipstick. And she’s got on a black dress like she’s in mourning.”

“Well, Doc, I suppose she loved your Dad and naturally misses him.” Mr. Houghton picked up his egg crate and entered the house. I followed.

“But it’s like she’s on stage or something. Like she’s acting out a part. With her lace handkerchief,” I protested. “I don’t believe it. It’s like being in a dream, and I know it’s not true, and I’m going to wake up.”

Mr. Houghton placed his crate on the kitchen floor and then sat down to take off his Wellingtons. He wiggled his toes and then put his gray-socked feet into his more comfortable shoes.

“People act funny sometimes, Doc. Sure, come along with us. At least you can act natural and be yourself. It’s hard being on your good behavior all the time.” He picked up his crate. “I’ll go tell the missus. She’ll call home for you. Get Peggy’s leash from behind the door and let’s go.”

Mrs. Houghton came into the kitchen. She smiled at me and gave me a quick hug.

“Want to come?” she said.

“That’s the idea, Clara, she’s on the payroll again. It’ll cost me a whole dollar today since she’s grown so big.”

Mr. Houghton and I left the house. Mrs. Houghton made the necessary phone call and locked the front door. Peggy followed at our heels. Then we all climbed into the old Chevrolet and were off to deliver our eggs. It all seemed perfectly normal, like any other Saturday, and I felt better.

We drove through the country and as the brown fields slipped by surrounded by bare dark trees I knew this land was part of me. It spoke its own special language, not always a peaceful one, since the War Between the States was fought here, but not always violent, either. Today the fields and streams lay placid along the rolling James River, and I felt

the great power land can have on people. Acres of com and oats would soon be planted and the cycle of the seasons would start again. Finally we turned into Mr. Harris’s dirt road, and Mr. Houghton brought his car to a halt under the large, leafless pecan tree.

“My goodness, Harry, you have a crowd with you this morning,” Elizabeth Harris greeted us. “How are you, Doc?”

“I’m back in the chicken business again. We’ve come out to deliver the eggs. How many do you want this morning?” I jumped out of the car and handed her two dozen I had taken from the crate at my feet.

“Clara, how good to see you. Come inside, Doc, and I’ll get your money. Let me see if I can find Tom and Angelo. Run down to the bam and see if they are there,” she suggested.

I dashed off over the wet ground and jumped upon the pasture fence. Across the field I recognized Angelo gently moving the milk cows towards the better grass. In a few weeks now the pastures would be green once more.

“Angelo, it’s me. How are you?” I called to him.

“Get down off my fence, Miss Doc, before I paddle you. You know better than to climb on fences, it breaks them down.” Mr. Harris poked his head out of the bam. “What are you doing here?”

“Delivering eggs, as usual. I want to talk with Angelo, but he didn’t hear me.”

“He’ll be back in a minute. Now get off my fence. You’re getting too heavy for climbing around on gates. How’re things at your house?” He regarded me from under the brim of his battered hat.

“Busy. Really hopping last night when everyone in the county came. But I’ve escaped and came out to see you.” I jumped down from his fence and straightened my jacket. “I’ve brought your eggs, and need to collect my money. Tell Angelo I’m here, will you please,” I said with dignity.

“Why, you little princess, you tell him yourself. I’ve got work to do. This dairy doesn’t run itself. Is Harry at the house?” Mr. Harris added.

“He and Mrs. Houghton both. We all came just to visit you, aren’t you pleased?” I dashed off across the field towards Angelo before the dairyman could utter another word.

“Angelo, Angelo, how are you?” I caught up with him finally,

A Forgotten Landscape

out of breath.

“My goodness, what’s the hurry?” Angelo asked.

He turned from the cows and came back down the field towards me “How’s the egg business?”

“Booming. Mr. Houghton’s hens lay like crazy, and we have Richmond customers now. They like our double yoke eggs.” I walked in front of him through the pasture and entered the bam. “Angelo, I need to ask you something. What’s it like being in an air raid. What happens?”

“Why you ask?”

“Father was in an air raid in London on Valentine’s Day. I just wondered.” I sat down on a bale of hay while Angelo took up his broom and hosed down the milking parlour.

“They can be bad, very frightening, you’re Father in an air raid? I know. I remember them, and my parents are still bombed in Firenze.”

Water splashed on the concrete floor as the Italian swept out the manure. Then he put down disinfectant and hosed some more. He did not say anything, just worked steadily.

“I want to know, Angelo. Tell me, please. It’s very important that I know.” I stood up and pushed the hay into the feed room away from the cascading water.

“Air raids are bad. Planes drop bombs and sometimes fire bombs. Everything lights up and people are killed. Buildings fall, crash down, and families in them are trapped. You must not think of such things, Doc. Let’s talk of something else,” he suggested.

I watched him turn off the water, and put his broom and disinfectant away then we left the bam.

“Angelo, you don’t understand. Frances called me and said Father was in an air raid in London and was - hurt. I must find out what happens. You’re the only person I know who has ever been in an air raid. Please, Angelo, tell me. Is it a quick way to die? I stood on the muddy path and pleaded with him. “I must know, I must know.”

The tears finally came. They flowed down my face like a river. I stood on the path and silently cried, great salt tears that smarted my eyes. My face felt sticky, and the cold wind hurt.

“Doc, mamma mia, what is wrong?” Angelo sounded alarmed. Then I felt his arm around me, and we continued to walk up the path towards the house. My tears made everything blurred, but once inside Mrs. Harris led me back into her bedroom where we sat down.

“I’m not allowed to sit on the bed,” I protested. “It spoils the mattress Mother says. Perhaps we could sit in a chair.”

“It’s all right this time, Doc. It’s good to sit together on the bed because I can put my arm around you. Now, what is it you need to know?” Mrs. Harris held me close and gently patted my back.”

“I want to know about an air raid. How it works. What happens. Angelo knows. He says it’s full of fire. I wonder if that’s the way it was in London on Valentine’s night,” I sobbed.

“Don’t allow your imagination to run away with you. We’ll hear how it happened and then you’ll understand. Every air raid is different. There are no two the same. Perhaps even this coming week we shall hear. I know you want to know, and I appreciate it seems unreal to you sitting on my bed here in Manakin. It’s a long way from London. But you’ll be told, I’m sure.”

A thought struck me I had not considered before. Perhaps I did not really want to know. Perhaps it was too awful to know. Maybe he had suffered and screamed for help and no one came. A fresh batch of tears flooded Mrs. Harris’s shoulder.

“I hope it wasn’t too awful for him. Perhaps it didn’t really happen. Maybe there’s been a mistake.” I used the handkerchief she gave me and blew my nose.

“That’s right, Doc, dry your eyes.” She smelled of cookie dough and roses.

“Would you do me a favour?” I asked. “A great big favour. Can I have a cup of tea and a sugar cookie?”

“Of course.” We stood up, smoothed down the bed and started back towards the kitchen.

“Is he really not coming home, Mrs. Harris? Will I never see him again?” I asked.

She squeezed my hand ever so tight, and her voice came in a hoarse whisper.

“I hope not, Doc, I hope not.”

That evening after we had returned from the Harrises and delivered our eggs in Manakin, Mrs. Houghton asked if I wanted to spend the night with her.

“No,” I replied calmly. “My room is filled with Father’s presence. He’s there and I want to be with him. I’ll come another night if I may, please.”

Mrs. Houghton understood and for several days she left me alone and I returned to school. Ten days later Frances called again. Mother and Rudy had gone out, and I was alone in the house with Bertha who was staying the night.

“I can tell you what happened, Doc. I’ve received a nice letter from Colonel Bennett who was with your Dad that night in London. Would you like to hear?”

“Is it awful? I don’t want to know if it’s terrible. I’d rather not know.” I hesitated.

“No, dear, he’s a hero. He saved another man’s life. You should be proud,” Frances replied.

“Saved another man’s life? How? How do you save another man’s life in an air raid when buildings are falling on top of you?”

“Colonel Bennett’s letter says: “We had gone to the theater, to the Windmill, where they still have variety shows in spite of the war. John, Cliff and I met at the hospital and we all went. You see, John was returning to General Bradley at First Army, and we went to London to celebrate. We had a pleasant afternoon and arrived at the theater in great spirits. The show was good. We started walking towards Victoria Station to catch the train home. I fell on my game leg and sprained my ankle. Sirens wailed and search lights illuminated the sky, warning of an air raid. John threw me across his back, dead man style, and with Cliff on ahead we raced for the first underground station. The noise was deafening although the bombs sounded further down the river.

“Put me down, put me down,” I shouted. ‘Duck into the tube station. Quickly.’ But John insisted upon carrying me. When we reached the tube where I jumped down, I though John was coming behind. I stopped and looked back. The next instant dust and debris flew everywhere, throwing me down the steps into the underground. Cliff was there, but John never followed. We crouched in the tube all night, and finally the All Clear sounded and people began to leave. Outside we found a sea of devastation and ambulances lined the streets. John had been picked up and placed in one of these. Cliff and I identified him. That’s about it, ma’am, I am very sorry, but I thought you would want to know.” Frances stopped reading.

“Are they sure it was Father?” I asked, sitting down on the floor in the upstairs hall.

“Yes, they are sure,” she replied. Her voice sounded infinitely sad and thousands of miles away.

“What do we do?” I wanted to know. “Surely we must do something.”

Yes, there’ll be a memorial service at West Point Military Academy at the end of March, just before Easter. I hope you can arrange with your grandmother to come.”

“I don’t think she knows. At least I’ve not heard from her. I thought she would telephone. Will you call her tonight and read the letter?” I tried to sound practical.

“I will,” said Frances. “Goodnight.”

I put the receiver down and went into my room and packed my bag. I wrote Bertha a note and pinned it on her closet door beside the laundry. Then I slipped out the front and walked down the driveway towards the Houghtons.

“I’ve come to stay with you,” I said when Mrs. Houghton opened the door. “Frances called and it’s true. Father is dead. How can I live without him?” “I know just how you feel. I had to leave my Dad in England, and I never saw him again.” Mrs. Houghton shut the door and took me in her arms


Cove City

Timothy P. Whealton


A lot of people thought it was intentional that the initials of Atlantic Shooting School spelled ASS. I was surprised that people thought I would do something like that just to sell T shirts! My shirts plainly read, "It's more fun shooting at A.S.S." not ASS. It's the periods that make the difference.

If I was that type of person the shirts for the Peanut Shoot would have read "I shot at one of Tim's nuts" or, something like that. They just said "300 yard Peanut Shoot" but more about that later. There are times when you just have to call an ass an ass and we had one of those a few weeks ago.

I was working in my shop when my phone rang. It was the woman that runs the flower shop across the street. She asked me to come outside. She was outside and pointed to the side of her building and asked

"Who's ass is that?"

It was a jackass eating grass next to the building.

I told her I didn't know but Myron had an ass and it might be his. Myron raises cattle and he keeps a jackass in the pasture with the cows for protection from wild dogs and coyotes. They will also tie a cow to the jackass when halter breaking the cow.

Another woman came over and she said, "That's Myron's ass, I know his ass when I see it!"

I called Myron. I said, “I think your ass is out.”

He wanted to know if I was drinking but I told him about the jackass across the street. He asked what he was doing and I told him he was running down the railroad headed towards the sawmill. He explained his ass was too old to run and it must be Heath's ass. He asked me if I could stop him. I told him I had a 35 Remington, but he said that wouldn't be necessary.

Myron told me Heath’s ass had tried to kill his ass. Apparently Heath’s was known to be a mean ass. He also said he was hard to catch and get back in the corral. Myron said he would get help.

By now the mean stubborn ass was at the sawmill. The entire crew at the sawmill realized there was an ass on the loose and tried to help corner the donkey. It doesn't work. When they tried to approach him, he moved away. I have seen pictures of Mexicans holding a jackass but I guess somebody else must catch them first.

Eventually the ass left the sawmill and went into the yard of a young single woman that lives close to the sawmill. He was eating grass when she came out of her house and calmly walked to that mean, stubborn ass and gently slid a rope over his huge ears. We were expecting to see a scene from a John Wayne western when she started to pull gently on the rope but the donkey just walked quietly beside her and she lead him back to his corral.

"Well I guess you could say he’s a smart ass too!" Myron observed.

It's nice to be in a small country town where people know your ass and aren't afraid to take care it.

When I’m at my range, I can hear that ass from over half a mile away when he starts to bray.  It's  amazing how far ass sounds carry in open country. 

I heard lots of groans but no ass sounds when we had the 300 yard peanut shoot on the last Saturday of March. A lot of folks took the challenge and showed up with their favorite tack driver rifles. The match was 5 shots at a bulls eye target for score and one shot at a peanut glued to the center of a target at 300 yards. There were no sighting shots so competitors had to know how to adjust their sights or hold for the distance. Most rifles will strike 10 inches lower at 300 yards. Wind also becomes a factor since a 10 mph cross wind will move bullets 8 inches. Then there is the matter of holding and shooting. If a shooter moves the barrel more than 1/10 of the diameter of an eyelash he will miss a peanut at 300 yards.

Although several came close, no peanuts harmed during the match this year. Our winner came within 1/2 inch and took home the trophy from the first ever peanut shoot. Maybe next March we will have someone be the first to make peanut butter in the match.

I have to say "in the match" because when the shoot was over my wife came out to the range and brought us some chicken. I had my loaner gun sitting on the bench. It was built by John Crawford years ago. He called it "Old Ugly". It is a model 70 Winchester in 308 WCF with a 24x Leupold scope. I asked Rhonda if she wanted to shoot at the peanut since the rifle was ready and she said sure.

Yea, you guess it. My wife hit the peanut. I doubt if she has fired a rifle 10 times in her 49 years, but that didn't stop her from trying. And, no it was not just pure luck because her second shot was close to an inch away. She just hadn't shot rifles enough to learn how to flinch.

Maybe next year you would like to be the first peanut hitter. All you have to do is get a rifle with a decent scope and start shooting. You might even find out shooting for sport is fun. And remember, like the T shirt says "shooting at A.S.S. is more fun."

Plus, maybe by next year I will be used to my new hearing aids. I didn't realize how bad I needed them till I got them. Birds are singing, songs have words and those little silent poots I did in the grocery store weren't really silent! If your mate tells you to get your hearing checked go do it. The world is wonderful and you don't want to miss a single sound.



"Do you Know Everything?"

Submitted by Elizabeth Silance Ballard


A dime has 118 ridges around the edge.

A cat has 32 muscles in each ear.

A crocodile cannot stick out its tongue.

A dragonfly has a life span of 24 hours.

A goldfish has a memory span of three seconds.

A "jiffy" is an actual unit of time for 1/ 100th of a second.

A shark is the only fish that can blink with both eyes.

A snail can sleep for three years.

Al Capone's business card said he was a used furniture dealer.

All 50 states are listed across the top of the Lincoln Memorial on the back of the $5 bill.

Almonds are a member of the peach family.

An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.

Babies are born without kneecaps. They don't appear until the child reaches 2 to 6 years of age!

Butterflies taste with their feet.

Cats have over one hundred vocal sounds. Dogs only have about 10.

"Dreamt" is the only English word that ends in the letters "mt".

February 1865 is the only month in recorded history not to have a full moon.

In the last 4,000 years, no new animals have been domesticated.

If the population of China walked past you, in single file, the line would never end because of the rate of reproduction.

If you are an average American, in your whole life, you will spend an average of 6 months waiting at red lights.

It's impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.

Leonardo Da Vinci invented the scissors.

Maine is the only state whose name is just one syllable.

No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver, or purple.

Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never stop growing.

Peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite.

Rubber bands last longer when refrigerated.

"Stewardesses" is the longest word typed with only the left hand and "lollipop" with your right.

The average person's left hand does 56% of the typing.

The cruise liner, QE2, moves only six inches for each gallon of diesel that it burns.

The microwave was invented after a researcher walked by a radar tube and a chocolate bar melted in his pocket.

The sentence: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" uses every letter of the alphabet.

The winter of 1932 was so cold that Niagara Falls froze completely solid.

The words 'racecar,' 'kayak' and 'level' are the same whether they are read left to right or right to left (palindromes).

There are 293 ways to make change for a dollar.

There are more chickens than people in the world.

There are only four words in the English language which end in "dous":  tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous

There are two words in the English language that have all five vowels in order:  "abstemious" and "facetious."

There's no Betty Rubble in the Flintstones Chewables Vitamins.

Tigers have striped skin, not just striped fur.

TYPEWRITER is the longest word that can be made using the letters only on one row of the keyboard.

Winston Churchill was born in a ladies' room during a dance.

Women blink nearly twice as much as men.

Your stomach has to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks;  otherwise it will digest itself.

Now you know everything



“The opinion which other people have of you is their problem, not yours.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
“Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.” Thomas Szasz

 “Behind every failure there is an opportunity someone wished they had missed.” Lilly Tomlin

 “What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.” Lao Tzu 



If I Should Die To-Night

Arabella Eugenia Smith


If I should die to-night

My friends would look upon my quiet face
Before they laid it In its resting-place,

And deem that death had left it almost fair;

And, laying snow-white flowers against my hair,

Would smooth it down with tearful tenderness,

And fold my hands with Angering caress,—

Poor hands, so empty and so cold to-night!


If I should die to-night

My friends would call to mind with loving thought
Some kindly deed the icy hands had wrought,

Some gentle word the frozen lips had said.

Errands on which the willing feet had sped;

The memory of my Selfishness and pride,

My hasty words would all be put aside,

And so I should be loved and mourned to-night.


If I should die to-night,

Even hearts estranged would turn once more to
Recalling other days remorsefully;

The eyes that chill me with averted glance

Would look upon trie as of yore, perchance.

And soften in the hid familiar way,

For who could wit. With dumb, unconscious
So I might rest, forgiven of all to-night.


Oh, friends! I pray td-night,

Keep not your kisses for my dead, cold brow:

The way is lonely, let me feel them now.


Think gently of me; I am travel worn;

My faltering feet are pierced with many a thorn.

Forgive, oh, hearts estranged, forgive, I plead!
When dreamless rest is mine I shall not need
The tenderness for which I long to-night.



I had never had surgery. “This is a simple, non-invasive procedure,” the anesthesiologist said reassuringly. I felt better until he continued with, “Heck, more people die from the anesthesia than from the surgery” Readers Digest



Asparagus Abundance

By Joan Leotta


Short is the season for

the long green spears

I love.

Many are the ways

we enjoy their amazing

astringent delights—

fried with breading crust,

tossed lightly in a pan

with pasta,

steamed then wrapped in

prosciutto blankets,

steamed then sprinkled

on salad and more.

In the fight for my

culinary attention

those green spears

win every time.

There can never be enough.



Who am I?

Diana Goldsmith


What is my position

It's hard to make a decision

When you're so little

But oh so cute

Everyone loves me

Wants to cuddle me

I can't get enough but

Why I here and what should I do?

I have known bigger species who

Are hunters, retrievers and herders.

Smaller ones are ratters

Or even French trufflers!

Oh tell me what am I?

But wait a minute I do know

Because I stick to the one who owns me

Feeds and walks me

Grooms and plays with me.

I am the Velcro dog!




The Legend of Fire

Charles Reed


In the twilight time before the earth, sea and heavens were started, there existed the blackest of voids called chaos. According to the Greek legend, it was in this universe of nights that the gods and nature had interposed to create order. They diverted channels of the sea to form rivers and bays, to raise up mountains and to smooth fertile plains.

Fish took possession of the seas. Birds filled the air. Four footed animals roamed the land. Man soon joined them.

Prometheus, a member of the giant titan clan sent by the gods to oversee this creation, was ordered to give man and all other animals the faculties necessary for preservation.

Prometheus began to bestow gifts on inhabitants, a sharp beak to the eagle, strong limbs to the ape, speed to the jaguar. When it came time to provide for man, nothing was left for man, whom the gods had ordered should receive a gift to surpass those given all other creatures.

Prometheus turned to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, for help. She told him to light a torch at the chariot of the sun god and to bring to earth fire as a supreme gift to man. Prometheus did this—stole fire from heaven and returned to earth where man used it to cook his food, heat his dwelling and fashion tools and weapons to subdue other animals.

Zeus, the king of all gods, saw man with fire (which he perceived as an instrument reserved only for the gods) and was furious with Prometheus. So great was his rage that he ordered Prometheus chained to a rock atop of Mt. Caucasus and each day sent an eagle to torture and torment him.

Prometheus could have ended his ordeal at any time by telling Zeus how he came to bring the gift of fire to man. But he would not. And as the days of his ordeal increased in number, Prometheus grew in strength and Zeus knew the punishment would not succeed.

Thus Zeus proclaimed that the man must pay for his intrusion upon the properties of the gods.

While Prometheus had brought fire to man as a blessing, Zeus now ordained that it should become a curse as well. For every hearth it warmed, so too would it bum another home to the ground. For every forge to make weapons, another would explode in conflagration to destroy men. For every field tilled with tools forged from fire, another would be ravaged with fire that would sweep beyond into forests, blackening the earth and all in its path. Thus Prometheus’ gift became a mixed blessing for man. It has contributed undeniably to the advancement of civilization, but it has likewise produced some of civilization’s greatest disasters.

Today man still grapples to sort the good from evil in fire. Last year, in the United States alone, more than 8,000 people died, at least 100,000 were injured, and more than $3 billion in property was destroyed. Within the hour that you read this, one person will die in fire and 34 will be crippled or disfigured. No less than 300 fires of destruction will rage within the hour.

A gift from Prometheus or a curse from Zeus? Fire will be what you let it.



Amen! - 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.” The Week



"Do you Know Everything?"

Submitted by Elizabeth Silance Ballard


A dime has 118 ridges around the edge.

A cat has 32 muscles in each ear.

A crocodile cannot stick out its tongue.

A dragonfly has a life span of 24 hours.

A goldfish has a memory span of three seconds.

A "jiffy" is an actual unit of time for 1/ 100th of a second.

A shark is the only fish that can blink with both eyes.

A snail can sleep for three years.

Al Capone's business card said he was a used furniture dealer.

All 50 states are listed across the top of the  Lincoln Memorial on the back of the $5 bill.

Almonds are a member of the peach family.

An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.

Babies are born without kneecaps. They don't appear until the child reaches 2 to 6 years of age!

Butterflies taste with their feet.

Cats have over one hundred vocal sounds. Dogs only have about 10.

"Dreamt" is the only English word that ends in the letters "mt".

February 1865 is the only month in recorded history not to have a full moon.

In the last 4,000 years, no new animals have been domesticated.

If the population of China walked past you, in single file, the line would never end  because of the rate of reproduction.

If you are an average American, in your whole life, you will spend an average of 6 months waiting at red lights.

It's impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.

Leonardo Da Vinci invented the scissors.

Maine is the only state whose name is just one syllable.

No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver, or purple.

Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never stop growing.

Peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite.

Rubber bands last longer when refrigerated.

"Stewardesses" is the longest word typed with only the left hand and "lollipop" with your right.

The average person's left hand does 56% of the typing.

The cruise liner, QE2, moves only six inches for each gallon of diesel that it burns.

The microwave was invented after a researcher walked by a radar tube and a chocolate bar melted in his pocket.

The sentence: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" uses every letter of the alphabet.

The winter of 1932 was so cold that Niagara Falls froze completely solid.

The words 'racecar,' 'kayak' and 'level' are the same whether they are read left to right or right to left (palindromes).

There are 293 ways to make change for a dollar.

There are more chickens than people in the world.

There are only four words in the English language which end in "dous":  tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous

There are two words in the English language that have all five vowels in order:  "abstemious" and "facetious."

There's no Betty Rubble in the Flintstones Chewables Vitamins.

Tigers have striped skin, not just striped fur.

TYPEWRITER is the longest word that can be made using the letters only on one row of the keyboard.

Winston Churchill was born in a ladies' room during a dance.

Women blink nearly twice as much as men.

Your stomach has to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks;  otherwise it will digest itself.

Now you know everything



From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza


Bacon Cheddar Twice Baked Potatoes

10 medium Idaho russet potatoes washed and dried

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 slices hickory smoked bacon

1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 1/4 cups milk one half cup butter 1 stick melted

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

1 pinch ground nutmeg

one container (8 ounces sour cream)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Poke each potato three times on each side with a knife to vent.

bacon cheddar baked potatoes.jpgRub potatoes with oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Place on large rimmed baking pan. Bake potatoes 60 to 70 minutes, or until potatoes are pierced easily with knife, turning once halfway through the baking time.

Remove from oven and let cool reduce heat to 350 degrees.

Place bacon in single layer on rimmed baking pan while potatoes bake, cook bacon in oven 15 minutes or until crisp.

Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. When cool enough to handle, crumble bacon.

Starting on top and approximately one-half inch from the sides of each potato use a small sharp knife to cut out an oval shape about 1/2 inch deep along the length of each potato.

Scoop out inside portion of each potato and place in large bowl including skin on top of potato

Leave at least a 1/4 inch wall remaining on the inside potatoes return potato shells in 2 rimmed baking pan with fork mashed potatoes into Bowl until small lumps remain.

Stir in one Cup cheese milk butter chives nutmeg and remaining 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper mix well spoon potato mixture into potato shells top with remaining one fourth cup cheese and crumbled bacon 15 to 18 minutes until cheese melts and potatoes are heated through.

Served with sour cream.


Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta



10 ounces of uncooked elbow macaroni (Spaghetti can also be used)

Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta1.jpg8 slices of diced bacon

1 ½ lbs of ground beef

2 sliced onions

2 tbsps of chili powder

1 tsp of salt (optional)

1 tsp of pepper

1 (14 ounce) can of chopped tomatoes

½ cup of tomato sauce

½ stick of unsalted butter

1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

½ cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese


Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta2.jpgInstructions:

Cook the macaroni according to the package instructions and drain it. Replace the pasta in the pot and mix in ½ stick of the butter.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy then mix in the ground beef and onions and cook.

Mix in the chili powder, salt and pepper and cook for 5 more minutes.

Mix in the tomato sauce and chopped tomatoes until well combined then stir in the warm macaroni with the shredded cheese and parmesan cheese.

Cook the mixture over low heat and enjoy!




Cauliflower Casserole.jpgLoaded Cauliflower Casserole is unbelievably tasty, full of fantastic flavor, and tastes like loaded potatoes, but without all the carbs! Cauliflower, bacon, cheese, and green onions make a wonderful combination!


2 lbs cauliflower florets

8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

8 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided

8 oz block cream cheese, softened

4 tablespoons heavy cream

2 bunches green onions, sliced (1 1/2 cups)

6 sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 clove garlic, grated

Salt & pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Steam cauliflower florets until tender, about 5 minutes.

While cauliflower steams, cream together 6 oz of the shredded cheddar, 6 oz of the Monterey Jack, cream cheese, and heavy cream

Stir in sliced green onions, chopped bacon, and garlic. Set aside.

Drain any liquid from steamed cauliflower and add to cheese mixture.

Stir cauliflower and cheese mixture together.

Taste for seasoning, and add as necessary.

If you want a finer texture, give a few mashes with the potato masher.

Pour into a 2-3 quart casserole dish and sprinkle on remaining cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese.

Cover dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes; remove foil and continue to bake until cheese is brown and bubbly.


Cheddar Beef And Rice

cheddar beef and rice.jpgIngredients:

1 pound of flank steak

2 cups (dry) long grain rice

1/2 cup each carrots

Chopped peppers

Green Onions (or ramps)

1/2 TBSP "Mrs. Dash"

Chicken broth

Unsalted Butter

1/2 pound sharp cheddar

Parmesan (to taste)


Slice the flank steak across into 1/4" × 1.  Flash sauté in butter to rare/medium rare.

Prepare rice using chicken broth in rice cooker.

Lightly sauté the vegetables in butter, until warmed through.

In a 9x14x2 inch greased baking dish, spread the rice evenly across the dish, then the mixed vegetables and then the beef.

Across the top, spread the shredder cheddar to cover the beef.

Bake covered at 300°F for 20 minutes (to melt cheese).

Serve with parmesan and fresh crusty bread.

Cherokee Bean Bread

cherokee bean bread.jpg 1 Cup cornmeal

1 Cup flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 Tsp sugar

2 Cup milk

1 Cup melted shortening

1 beaten egg (I use 2 egg whites)

2 Tsp honey

4 Cup drained brown beans (I use black beans)


Mix all of ingredients except beans thoroughly, and then fold in the beans. Pour into greased, heated pan. A cast iron skillet works well for this. Bake at 450 until golden brown (usually 30 minutes or so). Test for doneness with a toothpick (done when the toothpick inserted comes out clean).


Creamy Corn Casserole


corn casserole 2.jpgIngredients:

1/2 cup milk, divided

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 Table  butter, unsalted

1 1/2 Tbsp  sugar

2 Tbsp  flour

1 tsp salt

4-5 cups  corn kernels, fresh or frozen (thawed) – well drained

2 large eggs

1/4-1/2 cup shredded Asiago (optional)

Chives for garnish



Preheat oven to 400 F with rack in the middle.

Lightly spray a 2 quart baking dish.

In a medium-to-large saucepan over medium heat add in the cream, 1/4 cup milk, sugar and butter. Bring to a boil.

While the cream mixture is heating up make a slurry of the flour and remaining 1/4 cup milk by whisking together until well combined.

Whisk together the eggs until well beaten.

Once the milk comes to a boil, add in the flour slurry and whisk until thickened slightly – 30 seconds to a minute.

Remove from the heat and add in the corn and salt mixing to combine.

Slowly add in the eggs while mixing the entire time – you do not want the eggs to curdle.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is puffy and golden brown. *See note if using cheese

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving so it can firm up and set.



Easy Shepherd's Pie



2 pounds potatoes, such as russet, peeled and cubed

2 tablespoons sour cream or softened cream cheese

1 large egg yolk

1/2 cup cream, for a lighter version substitute vegetable or chicken broth

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan

1 3/4 pounds ground beef or ground lamb

shepherd's pie.jpg1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup beef stock or broth

2 teaspoons Worcestershire, eyeball it

1/2 cup frozen peas, a couple of handfuls

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves


Boil potatoes in salted water until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain potatoes and pour them into a bowl. Combine sour cream, egg yolk and cream. Add the cream mixture into potatoes and mash until potatoes are almost smooth.

While potatoes boil, preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil to hot pan with beef or lamb. Season meat with salt and pepper. Brown and crumble meat for 3 or 4 minutes. If you are using lamb and the pan is fatty, spoon away some of the drippings. Add chopped carrot and onion to the meat. Cook veggies with meat 5 minutes, stirring frequently. In a second small skillet over medium heat cook butter and flour together 2 minutes. Whisk in broth and Worcestershire sauce. Thicken gravy 1 minute. Add gravy to meat and vegetables. Stir in peas.

Preheat broiler to high. Fill a small rectangular casserole with meat and vegetable mixture. Spoon potatoes over meat evenly. Top potatoes with paprika and broil 6 to 8 inches from the heat until potatoes are evenly browned. Top casserole dish with chopped parsley and serve.



Easy Welsh Cakes


3 cups flour

welsh cakes2.jpg4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cubed, plus more for cooking the cakes

3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling (optional)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 eggs, beaten



In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the cubed butter and using your hands, rub together until a coarse crumb mixture forms. Using a fork, stir in the sugar, spices, raisins and cranberries. Pour in the beaten egg and stir again with a fork to form a dough that holds together when pressed. If you find the dough to be too dry, add a bit of cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, just until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly-floured work surface and gather into a ball. Flatten the ball gently with your hands and using a rolling pin, roll it out into a rough circle that is about 1/4-inch (about 5-mm) in thickness. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut circles out of the dough and set aside. Re-rolling the trimmings until all the dough has been used.

Melt about 1 – 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the cakes to the skillet. Cook on the first side for about 3 minutes, then flip and cook for additional 3 minutes on the other side, or until cooked through. (If the cakes are coloring too quickly, turn down the heat slightly). Once cooked, transfer the cakes to a wire rack and sprinkle with some sugar to garnish, if desired. Repeat with the remaining cakes and enjoy warm.

You can skip the sugar and serve these cakes warm with some butter, jam or syrup.


Fried Hominy



2 strips of good bacon (thick)

fried hominy.jpg2 Cups cooked hominy or one 15 oz can, yellow or white

2 or 3 green onions or a good handful of wild onions

Top with sharp cheddar




Fry bacon while cutting green onions into small pieces. Remove and crumble bacon, set aside. Add onions to drippings to cook. When the onions begin to sizzle, add hominy and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes first on high heat, then on low. Add bacon back to the mixture and top with cheese... serve hot.




Fry bread is not a traditional Cherokee recipe. It's often served with brown beans or as the base for an 'Indian Taco.' There are many recipes and lots of disagreement on which is the best. Here's a simple recipe that is tasty.

fry bread.jpgYou will need:

2 Cup flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 Cup water

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 Cup instant dry milk

2 Cup shortening


Add the flour, baking powder, salt, powdered milk and water into a bowl and mix just enough to form a dough ball. Don't overwork the dough or it will become tough.

Heat shortening until flakes of flour start to bubble when dropped into it. While shortening is heating, pull off a palm-sized mound of dough and roll it into a smooth ball, then flatten into a disk shape. Size is a matter of preference.

Put dough disks into hot shortening one or two at a time (don't let them touch), cook until brown, turn over with tongs and cook other side until brown. Watch carefully--they can get away from you and burn!

You can take a brown paper bag and place a few sheets of paper towels on the bottom and drop finished fry bread into bag to let grease drain. Makes about 6 servings.



Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight.  Blue sky at night, day. Tom Parry


Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation

By Peter Marshall

652 pages - $40.00


Reviewed by E. B. Alston


heretics and believers.jpgMost of what has been written about King Henry VIII’s revolt against the Pope and the Catholic Church has been pretty tame compared to what really went on. Serious historical accounts have painted a grimmer picture. Generally, most people know that the break was initiated because the King wanted a new wife and Pope Clement VII refused to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. This political dispute happened to occur during the beginning of the protestant revolution and Henry used this lucky break to justify establishing what was at the beginning, an English version of the Roman Catholic Church. Few serious churchgoers in England were dissatisfied with being Catholic. However, Henry was determined to marry Anne Boleyn. 

When you start something, you never know how it is going to end and, in this case, the Christian Church was forever changed.

Peter Marshall has filled in just about all the blanks in his prodigiously researched account. The English Reformation was violent, and in many ways a civil war. Serious Christians on both sides committed heinous acts against each other while the background politics that started the whole thing evolved in the expected way. Henry established the Church of England, appointed his own church officials, who reported to him, instead of the Pope in Rome. The Pope lost the considerable English revenues.

The writer writes of these trials and tribulations of the people during this period in detail and with historical accuracy without being boring. Establishment of the new church in England emboldened other’s who were dissatisfied with the Roman Church and within a hundred years, Protestant Churches dotted the European landscape.

Henry got to marry Anne, who, too, failed give birth to a male heir to the throne.  She was the mother of Elizabeth, who became Queen and became one of England’s greatest rulers.

All Henry wanted was a pretty young wife. Look at the earthshaking events that occurred because of it.


morano1.jpgOldest Person in the World Dies

E. B. Alston


Emma Morano has died. She was 117 years old. She was born November 29, 1899. She died on April 15. She lived, fittingly, in Italy and seemed as ancient as the hills of her home area. Funny how these ancients are never famous until they die. The next oldest person is Violet Brown, who lives in Jamaica. She was born March 10, 1900.  There are no living Americans in this age league and no men on the top 100 list at all.

None are famous and, and as a group, they don’t know much of the world. Emma Morano never visited Rome, and never left Italy. Her world was Pallanza-Verbania on the shores of Lake Maggiore in northern Italy. Although she could walk, she did not leave her apartment her last 15 years.

Those who live to be very old  have not led glam­orous lives. Miss Morano’s job, from the age of 13 to 55, was in Maioni’s jute factory, sewing sacks for potatoes. After that, she worked for 20 years as a dinner lady at a lo­cal college.

When she was young, Emma had a lovely voice. Men in the street would stop and listen when she sang “Parlami d’amore, Mariu” from the window.

morano2.jpgShe lived through monarchy, through fascism, to the many different republics. She saw King Victor Emmanuel III, and the queen too. She loved to dance and her legs bore the scars from her mother’s switching’s because she had slipped out of the house to go dancing. The first war was memorable only because her boyfriend, Augusto, was called up and did not re­turn. When his letters stopped, she as­sumed he was dead, and never learned what happened to him, because no one told her. He had left town to work in the steelworks in Milan.

She remembered the black shirt parades. She was abused by her husband, She  married Giovanni in 1926 after he had threatened to kill her if she didn’t marry him. She did not want to marry him, but could not escape because he lived in the same courtyard, and both sets of parents pressured her. In 1937 she had a son who lived from January till Au­gust. The next year she kicked Giovanni out, and they separated. Divorce was not yet legal, and separation itself was rare. She thought this made her a sort of pioneer. She lived alone for the rest of her long life.

She told researchers that a single life definitely helped. She never allowed anyone dominate her, including the man­ager of the jute factory where she worked. He was madly in love with her and wanted them to run away together. This was in the days when lowly female workers did not dare answer back to superiors.

She prided herself on working hard to pay for things she wanted, like her hand-carved bedroom suite; and at 112, when she still maneuvered heavy cop­per pans on the stove and put down news­paper to save her floors from muddy feet.

 The family genes were good, with several members living to advanced old age. But as a girl she was often ill. The doctor diag­nosed anemia and advised her to move to the lakeshore. She did and never moved again.

He also advised her to eat three eggs a day, two of them raw. (UGH!)  She kept to that diet for almost a century, usually scooping them up with biscotti from a bowl. For lunch she had pasta with raw minced meat, for sup­per a glass of milk. At night she would raid the biscotti and the large tin of Gianduiott, local hazelnut chocolates, that sat on the sideboard.

The doctors said her diet broke all the rules for longevity. Its only virtues were simplicity and regularity. Those same things applied to her life as a whole. It had three pillars: family, self-sufficiency, and faith. The Madonna and child watched over her bedside table, where she kept the anti-ageing cream she faithfully smoothed on each night. She liked to watch Mass on Channel Four, because it was short.

Old age did not affect her impish streak. As for dying, she said “quand la vegn, la vegn” (“When we go, we go.”), while her prized collection of chiming clocks ticked her way towards it.

On May 12th 2016 fame and glamour ar­rived together. Emma Morano became the world’s oldest person. Officials bought certificates to her. The gas company thanked her for her loyalty, and the mayor publicly congratulated her. She received a huge cake on her 117th birthday. At her party in her flat she sang “Parlami d’amore, Mariu” again, though she was cross that her voice had gone. “My word,” she told a neighbor, “I’m as old as the hills!” The hills she had never been beyond.

You have to be proud of her because she was satisfied with the life God gave her. She was kind, honest and never harmed or cheated anybody. Think how many are alive today who will never deserve to fill her shoes.

Sources: Wikipedia and The Week



Say What!


Elon Musk, whose company had developed a gigantic boring machine, is considering naming the business “The Boring Company.”


Man Shoots Squirrel with a Bow and Arrow for ‘Giving Him a Look’. “I took it personal,” he said, according to a criminal complaint. (Editor comment: Dumb reporter! Technically you don’t shoot bows. You pull back the bowstring with the arrow notched in it. Release the string and it launches (shoots) the arrow toward the target.  Huffington Post


A Real, Functional Banana Phone Is Coming Soon. If you remember the classic 1994 hit by Raffi, “Banana Phone,” you’ve likely been wanting a Banana Phone to chat with friends on ― and now you can actually pre-order one! The fruit-shaped phone, which can be pre-ordered for $40, won’t allow you to forgo your current phone. Instead, it will connect to your smartphone and send your calls to the Banana Phone. According to the Indiegogo campaign, the phone will likely be available in Sept. 2017, and will be able to send and receive calls, feature 10 hours of talk time, have access to Siri, and have a built-in rechargeable lithium battery. So, yeah, it’s another thing to charge at night, but think of the benefits! News and Observer


Booze Might Be A Great Painkiller, Says Most Obvious Study Ever. It may even be better than Tylenol, the researcher says. A new study provides scientific evidence that alcohol may be effective at relieving physical pain. According to research London’s Greenwich University published in the Journal of Pain, patients whose blood alcohol level is .08 percent have a higher pain threshold and a reduction in pain intensity. The downside, of course, is that .08 percent is the level considered to be legally drunk in the U.S. Dr. Trevor Thompson, who headed the study, is high on the findings, which strongly suggest alcohol can be an effective painkiller. Thompson told the Sun that alcohol’s pain-killing effects are comparable to codeine, and said the findings suggest the effect is more powerful than paracetamol [generic Tylenol]. However, he was quick to tell HuffPost that his study didn’t directly compare booze with any over-the-counter drugs. “As far as I know there are few, if any, studies that make this head-to-head comparison,” Thompson told HuffPost. Researchers analyzed 18 studies of 404 subjects and found that a .08 BAC is the level at which pain relief really begins to take effect. “Some studies used higher levels and some used lower levels, and this tended to reflect in higher and lower levels of pain relief respectively,” Thompson told HuffPost. Researchers wrote in the study’s abstract that the pain-relieving effects of alcohol could “potentially contribute to alcohol misuse in pain patients.” They suggest “raising awareness of alternative, less harmful pain interventions to vulnerable patients may be beneficial.” “If we can make a drug without the harmful side-effects then we could have something that is potentially better than what is out there at the moment,” Thompson told the Sun. More research is needed to determine whether alcohol reduces feelings of pain by affecting brain receptors or by lowering anxiety, and making people think the pain isn’t as bad. David Moye


Iceberg Stops By Canadian Town, Just To Chill. “It’s the biggest one I ever seen around here.” A town in Newfoundland received a high-profile visitor this month: a massive iceberg that has turned the little community of Ferryland into a tourist hotspot. While the region is known for icebergs during this time of year, Canadian Press reported that this one drew hundreds of people over the weekend. “It’s a huge iceberg and it’s in so close that people can get a good photograph of it,” Ferryland Mayor Adrian Kavanagh told the news agency. “It’s the biggest one I ever seen around here.” By Ed Mazza


LANCASTER, PA. A Pennsylvania man trying to scare away opossums by setting a fire has destroyed his home. LNP reports (http://bit.ly/2pM3Xg8 ) the row house blaze on Wednesday in Lancaster began when a man used butane to light a pile of leaves in his backyard. The man apparently hoped the smoke would help rid him of the marsupials, which are known for playing dead. A city fire marshal says the fire got out of control and spread to the home, which was built of wood. The building was condemned. Three people were displaced as a result of the fire, which did $50,000 in damage. A firefighter required hospital treatment for a shoulder injury. Officials say the man had problems with bees also. Yahoo.News


CHALKHILL, PA (AP) — Authorities say a drunken driving suspect who was chased by police from Maryland into Pennsylvania identified herself as Hillary Clinton. Pennsylvania State Trooper Robert Politowski says the woman he arrested early Tuesday is actually 36-year-old Holly Lynn Donahoo, of Louisville, Kentucky. She was being chased by sheriff's deputies from Garrett County, Maryland, and Maryland State Police when she drove into Wharton Township, in Pennsylvania's Fayette County. Politowski joined the chase and used spike strips to flatten Donahoo's tires. She was taken to a hospital, where police say she refused drugs and alcohol testing. She has been jailed on charges including driving under the influence and fleeing or eluding police. Donahoo doesn't have an attorney. Her preliminary hearing is set for May 9.  


CLEVELAND (AP) — A Cleveland police dispatcher heard snoring on a recorded 911 call has been suspended for six days for sleeping on the job. WJW-TV (http://bit.ly/2prEYy7 ) reports Jasmin Thomas pleaded no contest to internal charges from the department's investigation. The local police union president, Steve Loomis, says Thomas is a single mother who was working full-time and attending college. Loomis says those aren't excuses but the reality of Thomas' situation, and the concerns about her sleeping on duty have led her to change her lifestyle. On one recorded call, Thomas answers but no caller speaks, and then Thomas is heard snoring. In another call about a burning stove, Thomas takes 10 seconds to answer and 40 seconds more to transfer to firefighters. The police chief declined an interview to discuss the matter. Fox 8


(Reuters) - Police and townsfolk in Waynesboro, Virginia, are trying to figure out why someone is abducting pet cats and returning them with hairless underbellies. Since December, at least seven cats have suddenly shown up at their homes with shaved belly, groin and leg areas, Waynesboro Police Captain Kelly Walker said on Friday. "The shaving appears to be almost surgical," Walker said. No harm was done to the animals, but they "seemed a little skittish" after the curious incidents, he said. The occurrences came to the attention of police when an owner asked about posting flyers to encourage the public to report suspicious activity to authorities. "Shaving Cats!!??" says the poster in Waynesboro, a city of 21,000 about 140 miles (225 km) southwest of Washington, D.C. "Several neighborhood cats have been ABDUCTED and had their lower abdomens and groin areas SHAVED. This is very upsetting to the cats and their owners," the poster says. Walker said the cats were collar-wearing, well-groomed pets, not strays or feral cats, although some were outdoor cats. All of them had been either neutered or spayed before the shaving incidents, he said. The investigation focuses on five cats - some of whom were shaved twice - from one household and two cats from another, who came home partially hairless three weeks ago. "Probably the best solution is for whoever is doing this to just stop," Walker said. (Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Matthew Lew)


AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Police say an Ohio man called 911 to request a police dog to help track down heroin allegedly stolen from him. WEWS-TV (http://bit.ly/2pnvmVR) reports a 20-year-old man in Bath Township, near Akron, made the call in January. The recording was released this week. When the call operator asks why the caller needs a police dog, he replies that a female stole heroin from him. Bath Police Chief Mike McNeely says it's among the most bizarre things he's heard in four decades of policing. McNeely says the man is expected to face a drug charge after he pulled a brown, waxy substance from his pants while being interviewed by police. The substance was seized and sent to a lab for testing. The caller was released pending the test results.


VIENNA (AP) — He who burps loudest laughs best — at least in this case. Nearly a year after a policeman ticketed Edin Mehic for loudly belching next to him, the Vienna bartender has won his appeal. Mehic was fined 70 euros ($75) for a sonorous post-kebab burp next to the officer at an amusement park. The ticket said he violated "public decency with a loud belch next to a police officer." But a court document Mehic emailed to The Associated Press on Friday shows authorities have ruled in his favor. It says there was "never proof" that he burped to affront the officer. Mehic's belch resonated in Austria long after it was emitted. Groups organized to support him, and a kebab chain paid for both his ticket and an all-expenses trip to Istanbul.


Suicide bombers in Britain are set to begin a three-day strike on Wednesday in a dispute over the number of virgins they are entitled to in the afterlife. Emergency talks with Al Qaeda have so far failed to produce an agreement. The unrest began last Tuesday when Al Qaeda announced that the number of virgins a suicide bomber would receive after his death would be cut by 25% this February from 72 to 54. A spokesman said increases in recent years in the number of suicide bombings has resulted in a shortage of virgins in the afterlife. The suicide bombers' union, the British Organization of Occupational Martyrs (B.O.O.M.) responded with a statement saying the move was unacceptable to its members and called for a strike vote. General Secretary Abdullah Amir told the press, "Our members are literally working themselves to death in the cause of Jihad. We don't ask for much in return but to be treated like this is like a kick in the teeth". Speaking from his shed in Tipton in the West Midlands, Al Qaeda chief executive Haisheet Mapants explained, "I sympathize with our workers concerns but Al Qaeda is simply not in a position to meet their demands. They are simply not accepting the realities of modern-day Jihad in a competitive marketplace. Thanks to Western depravity, there is now a chronic shortage of virgins in the afterlife. It's a straight choice between reducing expenditures or laying people off. I don't like cutting benefits but I'd hate to have to tell 3,000 of my staff that they won't be able to blow themselves up." Spokespersons for the union in the North East of England, Ireland, Wales and the entire Australian continent stated that the change would not hurt their membership as there are so few virgins in their areas anyway. According to some industry sources, the recent drop in the number of suicide bombings has been attributed to the emergence of Scottish singing star, Susan Boyle. Many Jihadists now know what a virgin looks like and have reconsidered their benefit packages.  BBC News


Editor’s note: When we first started the Say What! column, there was a lot of funny stuff out there on the internet to choose from. You might have noticed that in the last few issues, these items were more odd and weird than funny and comical. If I cannot find more funny items to list, I plan to discontinue this column. If you have any suggestions, send them to me.



Growing Up On a Farm – 1946

E. B. Alston


By 1946, I was old enough to go places on my own, when I wasn’t working. My mode of transportation was my Western Flyer bicycle. I visited friends in Arcola (3 miles), Essex (1 mile) and Hollister (1 ½ miles), and my cousins Joseph Powell and Dorothy Alston. They visited me, too, and at dinnertime I always got a good meal.

The closest hamburger/hotdog place was in Warrenton, about 15 miles, and I didn’t have any money if they had been a mile away. There were no fast food restaurants in 1946. The first Hardee’s I ever saw was in Jacksonville in 1964.

My favorite gathering place was Stanley Hamlet’s one pump Shell gas station. I doubt if the store part was bigger than 12’ by 12’. Stanley said, “Fill’er up with Shell and it’ll run like hell.” He sold soft drinks, nabs, candy bars, pork and beans, baloney, fatback, bread, motor oil and a few staple groceries. He gave away advice.

The crowd was always outside because Stanley’s store was not big enough for more than 3 or 4 people at the time. A lot of gossip was passed around and mischief planned outside Stanley’s store. I tried to make it there on Saturday afternoons. At the time, an 11-year old boy could learn a lot at places like this. Most wasn’t worth knowing but it was a lot of fun.

Farm work-wise, when I wasn’t working for my dad and Uncle Gaston (for nothing), I was big enough to help Uncle Fort harvest tobacco and he paid me 50¢ an hour. I drove the slides full of tobacco leaves from the field to the barn. There the leaves were tied to tobacco sticks for hanging in the barn to cure. Uncle Fort would pick me and Joseph up in his 1941 Dodge pickup.

Harvesting and curing tobacco took 90% of the time from June until August.

Yesterday, (April 11), I remembered another activity that was unique for the time. It was baseball. Every community had an informal baseball team. Hollister had a good one and my daddy’s Crawley cousins were prominent baseball players. My cousin Boyce was old enough to play and Arthur Lee Wollett’s older brother, whose name I cannot remember, was a player of renown. Men older than my dad played, too. Arcola had a team. I could ride my bike to Hollister and Arcola. There were teams at Inez, Centerville, Grove Hill, Wood, Brinkleyville, Airlie, Inglewood and Afton.

Games were on weekends after dinner. There were no ball fields. The games were played in pastures. There were no umpires or referees. The competition was intense. Some players played without a glove. Most of the time only infield players had gloves and mitts. Sometimes both teams used the same gloves and mitts. If a player didn’t have a glove, they played barehanded.

There were no stands. Most observers sat on the hoods of fenders of cars, Pickups provided good places to sit also. Other than that, it was a standup affair. I don’t remember seeing anybody in a chair or on a bench.

A local man would be the home plate umpire and there were a lot of disagreements over calls.

These games were the most enjoyable sports events I have ever watched. This was partly because I knew all of the players on both teams. A couple of times there must have been 50 people watching a game. Women brought half-gallon jars of iced tea and ham biscuits for snacks. No chips (This was BC, ‘before chips’) and no beer on Sundays. A “cooler” was a bucket with ice in it. They, as in the whole family, drank the tea out of the same jar. Sometimes another person would take a sip of tea. It was baseball like it was played at family reunions.

What killed it? Television!

My line foreman, Bill Goodwin, told a tale about the down east version of these baseball games. They had a rule that a runner could circle the bases until the opposing team found the ball. At a game between Lowlands and Oriental in Pamlico County, a Lowland player hit a line drive and circled the bases 35 times before an Oriental player found the ball after the tide had receded. The ball was three inches foul.

I didn’t make any of this up.


Gene Alston



Mother's Day

By Joan Leotta


No matter the arguments

No matter the upset

No matter, no matter.

Your love was


though often unconventional

in how it manifest.

So now as a Mom myself

I understand much more.

No need to say, "no regrets"

indeed you were for me the best

A Mom may be imperfect

but as long as love

is unconditional

the bond is strong, long,




The Key

Diana Goldsmith


Robert had always been his favorite uncle. Johnny had loved it when it was time for the long summer holidays and he was allowed to go and stay down in Sussex at Uncle Robert's house.

Both his parents worked so he had a whole month there. It was sheer bliss for him and his parents would come and join them for the last two weeks of the holidays before they had to return to London and Johnny back to school.

Uncle Robert was an avid collector. The rooms in his house were crammed with all sorts of things which he had bought at various auctions and sale rooms up and down the country. It had all started before he retired when he worked in the diplomatic corps and travelled all over the world. He would always buy or acquire objects to remind him of the places he had visited. Now he would buy things just because he liked them.

He was well read and had an extensive collection of books including the Encyclopedia Britannica and Shakespeare's plays and of course Byron and Shelley and other famous poets. He even had some Greek manuscripts.

Johnny loved animals but he didn't have any pets at home so he especially loved Ulysses, his uncle's Siamese cat. He had chocolate points and a beautiful soft creamy coat. He followed Johnny all around the house and into the large rambling garden. He was easy to find because as with all of his breed, he sang. Ulysses was very agile too and was very adept at jumping and climbing often sitting statuesque like, amidst the plaster busts on the book shelves! To all intents and purposes he just looked like a large china cat.

Diana photo.jpgOne day when he was looking for Ulysses he heard his plaintiff song and saw him sitting on a bookshelf next to a bust of Helen of Troy, quite apt for a cat named Ulysses! He was worried about a vase of flowers next to it and thought he might knock it over so he went to lift the cat down. As he did so he noticed a key, with a tag attached. The tag had "no27" written on it He asked his uncle what it opened but all Robert would say was that it was a mystery and one day he would find out.

Twenty years later…..

Johnny was now a successful journalist, well known for his documentaries on the television. This may have stemmed in part from those visits every year when he was young, to his Uncle Robert's house, in that he developed a fascination for history and travel.

Now he had a son of his own Jeremy, to whom he had recounted his descriptions of the house. Jeremy hadn’t been there as Uncle Robert had become too ill and frail to host a lively four year old. Now five years later Robert had sadly died and Johnny and family went to his funeral.

Although Uncle Robert had so many objects and books he had catalogued them in various files.

This made disposing of them much easier for Johnny

Some went to museums and others were bought privately at sales and auctions as he had required in his will.

However Johnny got the house to live in or to sell as he saw fit. He also was given an envelope by the solicitor. On opening it he found it contained key number 27!

He decided to take young Jeremy with him to find what this mysterious key opened and what they would find inside too!

They tried it in various cupboards and then they went into Robert's study. This was a room where Johnny had never been allowed as it was Uncle's private space.

In it was a large lacquered cabinet.

Yes, the key fitted and the doors opened and in it were some magnificent objects, but what stood out to both of them was this beautiful statuette of a Siamese cat. It was the spitting image of Ulysses.

Johnny took it out lovingly and told Jeremy that he was to have this as a remembrance of his great uncle.

Johnny wondered if Ulysses had known this when he sat on the shelf next to the key those many years before!



Hammer Spade and the Long Shooter

E. B. Alston


Chapter Thirty-Three


HSLS cover.jpgVargas was one rough looking dude. I thought he was an American but I wasn’t sure. He wore a patch over his left eye, a month’s beard and the most mismatched wardrobe I had ever seen. He wore a lime green golf shirt that was about three sizes too small, a pair of baggy, brown wool trousers and blue cowboy boots.

Oscar greeted him as if they were friends.

“What underhanded deviltry brings you way up here?” Vargas asked.

“We’re looking for Margot.”

“Maggie? Why?”

“Mr. Spade has been sent out here by her boss with orders to find her and bring her home.”

Vargas squinted at me. “Her boss, eh! Maggie ain’t got no boss but her.”

“I think he wants to promote her,” I said. “But she’s got to come back with me for him to get her approved.”

“Promote Maggie? Maggie ain’t cut out for no desk job. Besides, she’s on a little mission of her own.”

“I know.”

“I helped her last week. Man! That Maggie is good!”

I finally felt like I was getting somewhere. “You’ve seen her?”

“Yeah, we took a little ride and a long hike last week and she waxed some dude that paid somebody to kill her family. Got ‘im at 700 meters too. Maggie is good. She shot ’im in the hip first so he couldn’t get away. Then when he looked her way, she nailed him right between his eyes.”

“Do you know which way she went after she left you?”

“Maggie’s too smart to tell anybody her plans but I think she’s headed south.”

“Is she alone?”

“She’s got an Indian with her.  I think he’s from the Chimila tribe in Colombia.”

That made me feel better because she had somebody she trusted to watch her back. “Were they hiking or driving?”

“She’s got an old Ford pickup.”

“What’s her mental attitude?”

“Maggie is mad! You don’t ever want to make Maggie mad at you. She’s got a list of six more people who ain’t got long on this earth.”

My list had only five. I wondered if the man she killed was on my list.

“If you had to find Margot, what would you do?”

“I wouldn’t look for her. Maggie is my friend. I ain’t gonna help you find her either.”

“I’m trying to help her.”

“I don’t know that. Oscar thinks you are, but I don’t trust you or anybody else sent out here from London. Ain’t nothing good ever come out of London.”

“Margot is highly regarded in London.”

“You say that but you could be lyin’. I don’t trust nobody from London or Washington.”

We had reached a stalemate already.

I pulled Oscar aside. “Am I wasting my time?”

“He’s a stubborn old rogue. You won’t get anything else out of him.”

I went back to Vargas. “I won’t take up any more of your time. Thanks for telling me that Margot is alive and well.”

“Maybe you’re a good guy. Maybe you ain’t. But I know Maggie and I trust her. I ain’t gonna put you on her tail.”

“I understand. We’ll be on our way.”

When we walked away, Vargas called out, “If you do find Maggie, be sure to tell her I didn’t help you.”

I laughed. “I’ll be certain to tell her that.”

Oscar and I made our way to the Blazer.

“What’s next?” I asked.

“If we can get up Route 20 tomorrow, we might intercept her.”

“Let’s go.”

The teen was sitting on the hood of the Blazer when we returned. After Oscar paid him, we loaded up and drove away.

The way down was much worse than the way up because we were on the side of the road with no shoulder and no guard rails. At times it looked as if we could fall a mile without hitting anything if Oscar ran off the road.

It was eleven when we got to the hotel. It felt good to be able to sleep in a bed and to breathe again.




Chapter Thirty-Four


Route 20 was more heavily populated than Route 18. We stopped for breakfast in Chaclacayo. Route 20, called the Nicolas Allon Highway, followed the Rio Rimac Valley and the river was pretty shallow along the route. After we left Chaclacayo and passed through Chosica, we took a steep, rough, rutted dirt road north towards Santa Eulalia. The area was so deserted I wondered why there was a road.

Oscar put the Blazer through its paces as we climbed up and down and wound around sharp switchbacks until we came to a deserted-looking low building off to the left of the track. Oscar parked the Blazer out of sight behind the building. As soon as he parked the Blazer, we got out to stretch our legs.

“Who are we meeting?” I asked.

“Arturo Menendez.”

“Does he know Margot?”

“No. He’s a local informer. He provides information for pay. He might know if she passed through.”

“Who does he work for?”

“Everybody. He’ll report seeing us to somebody.”

“Who does he think you work for?”

“The Cartel.”

We heard a vehicle laboring up the steep road. Oscar got out his shotgun. Following his lead, I chambered a round in my .45 and engaged the safety.

Pretty soon an old ‘54 Chevy pickup chugged into view. My first thought was these old Chevrolets never die in a junkyard; they just go south.

The driver parked in front of the building. Two men got out, sat on the tailgate of the pickup and waited for us to drive up.

“I don’t like him bringing another man,” Oscar whispered. “Something might be up.”

We walked around the building and approached the pickup from behind the two men.

“You’re early,” Oscar said.

The two men were startled. They stood up and turned to face us.

“Didn’t see you back there,” the one I took to be Menendez said.

“Who’s your buddy?” Oscar asked.

“Xavier Caperan.”

Caperan was on my list! I wondered if this was a setup. Obviously Margot hadn’t gotten him yet.

“Never heard of you,” Oscar lied to Caperan.

“Why is he with you?” Oscar asked Arturo.

“We were just hanging around and I invited him to come with me.”

Arturo held out his hand. Oscar handed him some money.

“What do you want to know?” Arturo asked.

“Have you heard anything about a white Englishwoman passing through here?”

“I heard one was coming.”

“Where did you hear that?”

“Scuttlebutt. A mad white woman has been killing policemen all over South America.”

“Has she killed anybody in this area?”

“Not to my knowledge. Why does the Cartel want to know about this woman?”

“I pay for answers. I don’t answer anything.” Oscar gave Arturo his cell phone number. “Call me if you hear anything about this woman in the next five days.”

Then Oscar gave Arturo another wad of money.

Arturo smiled a greedy smile. “Si, Señor! I will do that.”

“You and your buddy stay here until we are out of sight,” Oscar said.

“For what you paid me, I could wait up here the rest of the day.”

We backed away and walked to the Blazer. “Get ready to shoot,” Oscar said.

We got into the Blazer and drove down the mountain, looking in the rear view mirrors until they were out of sight. Then we relaxed. They had resumed their places on the tailgate of the pickup and watched us drive away. All Arturo wanted was money.

Xavier Caperan is on my list,” I said.

“Yeah, I know. That means we have gotten ahead of Lady Fisher.”




Chapter Thirty-Five


We continued on Route 20, which followed the Rio Rimac Valley east. Our destination was a little town called Chicla that was high in the Peruvian Andes. The farther east we traveled, the more rugged the terrain became, with sheer-faced mountains of gigantic size on both sides of the road. We passed through farming areas in the narrow valley and many clean looking, picturesque towns and villages. Municipal buildings were colorful and most of the houses, no matter how small, were surrounded by flowering shrubs and had brightly colored roofs. We passed through another village or town every five or ten miles. I lost count of the tunnels we passed through and I was surprised how many people lived in this valley.

According to the map, Chicla was about thirty-five airline miles from Chosica but with the curves and switchbacks we must have traveled twice as far. It was slow going. The higher we traveled, the more I wondered how Margot moved about so easily in this rugged terrain.

We had lunch in a little roadside restaurant in San Mateo. A few miles east of San Mateo, we left Route 20 and continued our upward climb.

At four p.m. we arrived at Chicla, a small mountain town nestled between two huge mountains. A sign said the elevation was 3,761 meters. No wonder I was short of breath and the Blazer labored up the road. We were at 12,000 feet.

Oscar stopped to ask for directions. Chicla wasn’t much of a town. All the houses had an acre or more of cultivated area beside each house. It was more like a settlement of little farms. We were directed to a house in the northwest corner of the settlement. When we drove into the yard, a big strapping young man came out to meet us. He grinned when he saw Oscar.

“They told me you were coming,” he said when they shook hands.

Oscar introduced us. “Jorge, this is Hammer Spade. He is an American working with me. Hammer, meet Jorge Alonzo.”

“Pleased to meet you,” I said as I shook his big hand.

“Come inside,” Jorge said.

We followed him inside a bungalow full of little kids.

“How many do you have now?” Oscar asked.

“Five and one on the way.”

A young, very pregnant Peruvian Indian girl emerged from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel.

“Maria, you are as beautiful as ever,” Oscar exclaimed.

Maria patted her belly. “I must be to Jorge,” she said with a demure smile.

“Have you eaten?” Jorge asked.

“We had lunch in San Mateo,” Oscar replied.

“Then you must have dinner with us,” Jorge said.

“I hate to put Maria out,” Oscar replied. “We can eat in town.”

Maria chimed in. “I will be angry if you do not eat with us,” she said with a pretty pout.

Oscar caved in. “Okay, okay, I’d rather eat Maria’s cooking anyway.”

After a few more friendly remarks, Maria went back into the kitchen and took the children with her. Jorge led us into the living room and motioned for us to sit.

He became serious. “Margot has not come,” he said gravely. “I fear the others may have found her.”

“What is the last word you have?” Oscar asked.

“That she has left Colombia.”

“Vargas helped her a few days ago.”

“So she is in Peru?”


“I do not trust Vargas,” Jorge said.

“He’s okay. Just odd,” Oscar replied.

“Vargas is in it for the money. He would betray his mother for enough money.”

“You may be right, but he respects Margot.”

“Still, I do not trust him.”

“Have you been watching the trails?” Oscar asked.

“Every day.”

“Have you seen anything?”

“Only the others who are seeking Margot as we are.”

Xavier Caperan is still alive, so I believe we are ahead of her,” Oscar said.

“But have you seen him?”

“This morning.”

“Why did you not kill him?” Jorge wanted to know.

“Our job is to find Margot. Caperan was not alone. Killing him would have compromised the operation.”

“He, too, seeks Margot before she finds him. He has many men out looking for her.”

 “I think Margot is coming through here. Can we go with you tomorrow?”

“Yes, we must leave before light so the others will not see us leave.”

“Ride with us. Leave your truck here.”

Jorge looked at me. “Mr. Spade, are you a mountaineer?”


“Then you will be one by the end of the day tomorrow.”

Maria called us to dinner. After a delicious meal, Oscar got out the sleeping bags and we bedded down in Jorge’s living room for the night. It sure beat sleeping in that Blazer.



“All pro athletes are bilingual. They speak English and profanity.” Gordie Howe, hockey player



Growing Older

Submitted by Elizabeth Silance Ballard


My goal for 2016 was to lose 10 pounds.  Only 15 pounds to go.


2. Ate salad for dinner. Mostly croutons & tomatoes. Really just one big round crouton covered with tomato sauce and cheese.  FINE, it was a pizza.   I ate a pizza!!!


3. How to prepare Tofu:

    a.  Throw it in the trash

    b.  Grill some meat


4. I just did a week's worth of cardio after walking into a spider web.


5. I don't mean to brag, but I finished my 14-day diet food in 3 hours and 20 minutes.


6. A recent study has found women who carry a little extra weight live longer than men who mention it.


7. Kids today don't know how easy they have it. When I was young, I had to walk 9 feet through shag carpet to change the TV channel.


8. Senility has been a smooth transition for me.


9. Remember back when we were kids and every time it was below zero outside they closed school? Nah, me either.


10. I may not be that funny or athletic or good looking or smart or talented: I forgot where I was going with this.


11. I love being over 70.  I learn something new every day and forget 5 others.


12. A thief broke into my house last night.   He started searching for money so I woke up and searched with him.


13. I think I'll just put an "Out of Order" sticker on my forehead and call it a day.


14. March 12 was the end of Regular Time.  I hope you didn't forget to set your bathroom scale ahead 10 pounds on Saturday night.


15. Just remember, once you're over the hill you begin to pick up speed.



“I bought one of those tapes that teach you Spanish in your sleep. The Tape Skipped.  Now I can only stutter in Spanish.”  Steven Wright



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.



Something for Seniors

Submitted by Dave Whitford

Keep those "aging" gray cells active!


1. Johnny's mother had three children. The first child was named April. The second child was named May.

...What was the third child's name?

2. There is a clerk at the butcher shop, he is five feet ten inches tall and he wears size 13 sneakers

....What does he weigh?

3. Before Mt. Everest was discovered,

.... what was the highest mountain in the world?

4. How much dirt is there in a hole

...that measures two feet by three feet by four feet?

5. What word in the English language

...is always spelled incorrectly?

6. Billy was born on December 28th, yet his birthday is always in the summer.

....How is this possible?

 7. In California, you cannot take a picture of a man with a wooden leg.

...Why not?

8. What was the President's name

.... in 1975?

9. If you were running a race,

...and you passed the person in 2nd place, what place would you be in now?

10. Which is correct to say,

.... "The yolk of the egg are white" or "The yolk of the egg is white"?

11. If a farmer has 5 haystacks in one field and 4 haystacks in the other field,

...how many haystacks would he have if he combined them all in another field?


Here are the Answers


1. Johnny's mother had three children. The first child was named April The second child was named May. What was the third child's name?

Answer: Johnny, of course

 2. There is a clerk at the butcher shop, he is five feet ten inches tall, and he wears size 13 sneakers. What does he weigh?

Answer: Meat.

3. Before Mt. Everest was discovered, what was the highest mountain in the world?

Answer: Mt.  Everest; it just wasn't discovered yet. [You're not very good at this are you?]

4. How much dirt is there in a hole that measures two feet by three feet by four feet?

Answer: There is no dirt in a hole.

5. What word in the English language is always spelled incorrectly?

Answer: Incorrectly

6. Billy was born on December 28th, yet his birthday is always in the summer. How is this possible?

Answer: Billy lives in the Southern Hemisphere

7. In California, you cannot take a picture of a man with a wooden leg. Why not?

Answer: You can’t take pictures with a wooden leg. You need a camera to take pictures.

8. What was the President's name in 1975?

Answer: Same as is it now - Donald Trump [Oh, come on.....]

9. If you were running a race, and you passed the person in 2nd place, what place would you be in now?

Answer: You would be in 2nd. Well, you passed the person in second place, not first.

10. Which is correct to say, "The yolk of the egg are white" or "The yolk of the egg is white"?

Answer: Neither, the yolk of the egg is yellow [duh!]

11. If a farmer has 5 haystacks in one field and 4 haystacks in the other field, how many haystacks would he have if he combined them all in another field?

Answer: One. If he combines all of his haystacks, they all become one big one.



My three-year-old daughter stuck out her hand and said, “Look, Mommy, I killed a fly.” She was eating a juicy pickle. I rushed her to the sink and made her wash her hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap. Then she sat down and finished eating her pickle. “What did you kill the fly with?” I asked. “My pickle,” she replied.

Cindy Yates



1) You can't count your hair.


2) You can't wash your eyes with soap.


3) You can't breathe through your nose when your tongue is out.


Put your tongue back in your mouth, you silly person.


Ten (10) Things I know about you.


1) You are reading this.


2) You are human.


3) You can't say the letter ''P'' without separating your lips.


4) You just attempted to do it.


6) You are laughing at yourself.


7) You have a smile on your face and you skipped No. 5.


8) You just checked to see if there is a No. 5.


9) You laugh at this because you are a fun loving person and everyone does it too.


10) You are probably going to send this to see who else falls for it.


You have received this because I didn't want to be alone in the idiot category.



Random Thoughts

Submitted by Elizabeth Ballard

·       Just read that 4,153,237 people got married last year, not to cause any trouble, but shouldn't that be an even number?

·       If I had a dollar for every girl that found me unattractive, they would eventually find me attractive.

·       I find it ironic that the colors red, white, and blue stand for freedom until they are flashing behind you.

·       When wearing a bikini, women reveal 90 % of their body...  men are so polite they only look at the covered parts.

·       Relationships are a lot like algebra.  Have you ever looked at your X and wondered Y?

·       America is a country which produces young citizens who will cross the ocean to fight for democracy but won’t cross the street to vote.

·       You know that tingly little feeling you get when you like someone?  That's your common sense leaving your body.

·       Did you know that dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish?

·       My therapist says I have a preoccupation with vengeance.  We'll see about that.

·       I think my neighbor is stalking me as she's been googling my name on her computer.  I saw it through my telescope last night.

·       Money talks, but all mine ever says is good-bye.

·       You're not fat, you're just...  easier to see.

·       If you think nobody cares whether you're alive, try missing a couple of payments.

·       Is it good if a vacuum really sucks?

·       Why is the third hand on the watch called the second hand?

·       If a word is misspelled in the dictionary, how would we ever know?

·       If Webster wrote the first dictionary, where did he find the words?

·       Why do we say something is out of whack? What is a whack?

·       Why does "slow down" and "slow up" mean the same thing?

·       Why does "fat chance" and "slim chance" mean the same thing?

·       Why do "tug" boats push their barges?

·       Why do we sing "Take me out to the ball game" when we are already there?

·       Why are they called "stands" when they are made for sitting?

·       Why is it called "after dark" when it really is "after light"?

·       Doesn't "expecting the unexpected" make the unexpected expected?

·       Why are a "wise man" and a "wise guy" opposites?

·       Why do "overlook" and "oversee" mean opposite things?

·       Why is "phonics" not spelled the way it sounds?

·       If work is so terrific, why do they have to pay you to do it?

·       If all the world is a stage, where is the audience sitting?

·       If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?

·       If you are cross-eyed and have dyslexia, can you read all right?

·       Why is bra singular and panties plural?

·       Why do you press harder on the buttons of a remote control when you know the batteries are dead?

·       Why do we put suits in garment bags and garments in a suitcase?

·       How come abbreviated is such a long word?

·       Why do we wash bath towels? Aren't we clean when we use them?

·       Why doesn't glue stick to the inside of the bottle?

·       Why do they call it a TV set when you only have one?

·       Christmas - What other time of the year do you sit in front of a dead tree and eat candy out of your socks?

·       Why do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway? I dunno, why do we?      



What kind of exercises do lazy people do?  Didly squats. Valerie Hunt


Southern Grandma

Submitted by Paul Alston

    Lawyers should never ask a Southern grandma a question if they aren't prepared for the answer. In a trial, a Southern small-town prosecuting attorney called his first witness, a grandmotherly, elderly woman to the stand.

He approached her and asked, “Mrs. Jones, do you know me?”

She responded, “Why, yes, I do know you, Mr. Williams. I've known you since you were a young boy, and frankly, you've been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, and you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you're a big shot when you haven't the brains to realize you never will amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you.”

The lawyer was stunned! Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, “Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?”

She again replied, “Why, yes, I do. I've known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. He's lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. He can't build a normal relationship with anyone and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him.”

The defense attorney almost died.

The judge asked both counselors to approach the bench and, in a very quiet voice, said, “If either of you idiots asks her if she knows me, I'll send you to the electric chair.”



Summer at Sunset

Marry Williamson


There was great excitement at the Sunset Lodge. Mrs. Hartnell had a great idea to engage her residents in some outdoor activities now that summer was coming. She thought that she could do more with the large back garden and create a little ‘countryside’ rather than the stiff bushes and gravel paths. Maybe grow a few vegetables and have a few beehives in the back of the garden. She decided to consult Prudence. Unfortunately Alice was also in the kitchen. Prudence thought it was a brilliant idea. Alice did as well until bees were mentioned. “Oh no! Not bees!” She looked horrified. “Why not,” Prudence said, “it makes sense.” Alice looked at her with big scared eyes and scrambled to the lounge. Mrs. Hartnell looked after her thoughtfully. “She looks a lot better in those sandals. Less like Olive Oyl. Those big trainers looked ridiculous with her skinny legs.” She made a mental note to get her something to replace the limp flowery skirt and old-fashioned cardigan.

Meanwhile, Alice burst into the lounge where they were all having coffee. “Bees”, she screamed. “Mrs. Hartnell is going to have bees at the bottom of the garden.” Maud and Violet looked up from their handiwork. “Damn,” Violet said. She had pricked her finger and ‘damn’ Maud said as she dropped a stitch in the sweater she was knitting for Alice. Margery looked up from ‘Anna Karenina’, Eleanor’s magazine slid off her knees, Rose bent down to pick it up and Muriel put her coffee cup down. Brian and Jack put down their cards and looked up at Alice. “Really,” she wailed. “I am not kidding. She told Prudence. She liked it.” They all looked at Mrs. Hartnell who had just come in. “It is only an idea so far.” She outlined what she wanted to do with the garden.

“I would appreciate all your input on this.” Considering what happened with the ‘neighborhood facility for the memory impaired,’ she thought to herself.

Well, the cat was firmly amongst the pigeons. They all started to talk at the same time until Margery banged her book on the arm of her chair and shouted: “order, order! Let’s have a civilized discussion here - for and against - and have a proper vote. I for one love the idea of a veggie garden but I am not too fond of bees.” Brian stuck up his hand. “If you have a vegetable plot it makes sense to have bees. Pollination, see.” “That’s exactly what I said,” Prudence had come in and joined in the discussion. Alice stood by her side, wringing her hands, jiggling from one foot to the other in extreme distress. “Bees” was all she managed to bring out. It was clear that she had a very bad case of apiphobia. And what about Norman? They all presumed he was undecided because he was standing halfway up the stairs, giving a perfect rendition of Hamlet’s speech from Act III scene 1: ‘TO BEE OR NOT TO BEE.”

The voting took place and the vegetable garden and the bees won. Brian and Jack were spending hours making lists and plans as to which produce would be suitable for the limited space. They were poring over seed catalogues all day, their cards, backgammon and dominoes forgotten. The ladies were getting excited, too. Alice was pacified with a promise that the bees would stay at the bottom of the garden, a pair of new skinny jeans, a T-shirt and a fleece hoodie. She did look a heck of lot better in them and more of a normal teenager rather than some 1930’s throwback. Prudence offered to take care of the bees and Mrs. Hartnell sent her to beekeeping classes. All was set. A team of gardeners were hired and under supervision of Derek work on the garden was started.

After a week the ornamental bushes and gravel paths had all disappeared and the vegetable plots were created. Raised beds for herbs and strawberries were taking shape and a little greenhouse was erected for tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. The ladies were all given a large ornamental pot each to plant up as they wished. These were to border the patio outside the dining room. An outing was planned to the local garden centre so they could all choose their own plants. Alice in particular was beside herself with anticipation. “I have never been to a garden centre. What is it like?” She had forgotten all about the bees. Not so Norman unfortunately. He was driving them all up the wall with his rendition of the old Arthur Ashe song, “oh what a glorious thing to be, a jumped up, trumped up little bumble bee. Buz, buz, buz, buz.” Mrs. Hartnell had to give him two of his little yellow pills so they could all get some peace.

Finally, the garden was ready to plant. Derek and the minibus arrived at 9:30 to take them all to the garden centre. Mrs. Hartnell had some misgivings about Norman but thought she could not leave him out, especially as Prudence was staying at home taking delivery of 2 beehives and all the gear. A special shed had been built to house the coveralls and masks. They arrived at the garden centre half an hour later. Derek swung the minibus along the entrance and they all disembarked. He pointed to where he would wait for them in the car park and Mrs. Hartnell told them all to re-group in the cafe at 12 o’clock for lunch. Brian and Jack went straight to the vegetable section and the ladies made a bee-line for the bedding plants. All except Margery who had decided to grow herbs in her tub. As she said: “Flowers are all very nice but what do you do with them?” Mrs. Hartnell asked Norman whether he wanted to go outside to look at the trees and bushes but he said no, he wanted to look at the books and toys. Mrs. Hartnell sighed: “ok, but no singing mind.” Norman did not hear her as he was already hurrying to the toy shelves and the large display of felt ducklings that sang and hopped about when you pressed their wings. Within seconds all the ducklings on display were hopping and singing: “there once was an ugly duckling” all at different stages of the song. A shop assistant was looming and Mrs. Hartnell quickly steered Norman towards the books. Big mistake. Before she cottoned on to what he was doing he had already filled in half the sudoku in a puzzle book. She had no option but to buy the book. She took Norman by the hand and guided him towards the tills, paid for the book and took him to the front of the shop and the water features. She then had a job dissuading him from dismantling a solar frog sitting in a ceramic bowl, spouting water from its mouth. By the time 12 o’clock came round she was exhausted. They met up with the others and she left him in Alice’s keeping while she went to buy coffees, sandwiches and bags of crisps.

Alice was buzzing herself. She had never seen so many lovely things all under one roof. She had helped Eleanor chose trays of geraniums and begonias and marveled at Margery’s knowledge of herbs. She had listened patiently to Violet and Maud agonizing over petunias and lobelias and color schemes. They then helped Alice choose a selection of marigolds and salvias for her pot. Muriel said her and Rose did not need any help. Muriel chose a selection of herbaceous plants for them. Rose, as usual, had no input at all but professed to be quite happy. Alice had gone in raptures over a pink handbag and Margery had bought it for her. Alice’s ecstasy knew no bounds. She glowed. Norman looked at her and smiled, showing her his new puzzle book. Brian and Jack showed up just as Mrs. Hartnell returned with the food. They had had a great time looking at hoes and rakes, cold frames and cloches. They had also bought some tomato and cucumber plants for the new greenhouse. All had had a marvelous time except for Mrs. Hartnell who was totally wiped out by the effort of keeping Norman on the straight and narrow. Derek was waiting with the minibus and after the trolley with all the purchases had been off-loaded and the stuff stowed in the hold they set off for home. Prudence was waiting, George by her side. The hives, bees and bee paraphernalia had arrived and been installed at the bottom of the garden. She glanced at Alice, still glowing and parading her new handbag. Alice seemed not to have heard. Norman had, though, he stood in the hallway singing: “let me tell you about the birds and the bees.”

Two days later, on 21 June, everything was ready; all planted out and put into place. Everybody was thrilled. It was the best thing that had ever happened at the Sunset Lodge. The tubs looked lovely, the greenhouse was amazing, Prudence was pleased with her bees. Norman had surprised them all by knowing quite a bit about beekeeping and insisted on helping Prudence with them.

“You know, Prudence, you have to tell them everything. The bees have to know what is going on.”

They were going to have a barbecue on the new patio to christen the new garden. Derek had volunteered to be chef. Prudence with Alice’s help had prepared the salads, sauces, french bread and the various plates of sausages and burgers to be barbecued. Again, Alice was agog. She had never been to a barbecue and was looking forward to it in eager anticipation. The bees were completely forgotten. The barbecue was a big success initially. Everybody enjoyed the food and the lovely puddings that Prudence had conjured up. It was afterwards that it went wrong. Margery suggested that since it was midsummer night they should have a bit of Shakespeare. She actually had her book of collected works ready on the dining room table. They all groaned, except for Norman. He jumped up and hurried indoors. They heard him rummaging in the basement and some minutes later he stumbled out of the patio doors wearing a big donkey head. He burst out into scene 11 of Act 1 of Midsummer’s Night Dream: “Let me play the lion, too. I will roar, that I will do any man s heart good to hear me. I will roar that will make the duke say; let him roar again, let him roar again.” He then let out a big roar and started to howl and dance about. It took them all some time to work out that his wild gestures had nothing to do with Bottom and that he was in real distress. A bee had got into his mask and stung him right on his nose.

After they had got the mask off, Norman’s nose was about three times its normal size. He was not singing. He was worried about the bee that had stung him and was sure to die now. Big tears stood in his eyes. Prudence checked his nose to make sure the barb was no longer in it and dispatched Alice upstairs to get the ‘sting-easy’. Alice had been looking on with big frightened eyes. “See,” she started, “told you all. Bees!” Prudence cut her short. “Upstairs. Now! Get the stuff.” Alice fled. They could hear her scrambling up the stairs.

The rest of the evening was rather flat. They had all somehow lost their appetite. To make matters worse, the weather turned nasty as well. The sun went in, clouds were gathering. George, who had been asleep between Maud’s and Margery’s tubs got up, stretched himself luxuriously, yawned wide showing all his little pointy teeth and sauntered into the dining room. They all decided to follow him. Prudence had ministered to Norman and taken him up to bed with a hot rum toddy and two paracetamols. Outside the wind had got up and Derek finished off cooking the last of the sausages and doused the barbecue. They all helped him carry the food and the wine into the dining room. They were only just ahead of the first big fat raindrops, it had got very dark outside and Mrs. Hartnell closed the dining room doors and drew the blinds. They all trooped into the lounge with their drinks and food. Outside the wind picked up and the rain intensified. Derek was offered the sofa for the night. “It really is not safe to try and drive through this,” Mrs. Hartnell said. Prudence made hot chocolate for them all and brought in a tray of cinnamon biscuits. Alice took hers up to her bedroom under the eaves. She slowly sipped her drink before taking a long hot shower. She sighed and very nearly purred with pleasure as she snuggled into her nice comfortable bed.

Slowly, one by one, the others retired upstairs and Derek made himself comfortable on the sofa with some blankets and a pile of cushions. He was joined by George who jumped up with him, turned round a few times until he had found a cozy spot and settled, purring loudly. Peace settled on the Sunset Lodge.

It was Alice who started the ding-dong. At some point in the night she had woken up. The rain and wind had turned into a thunderstorm. It raged outside her window under the eaves. She got up to close the window and looked outside. Just then a bolt of lightning lit up the garden. She thought she could see something by the greenhouse. The next lightening showed it again. A white form floated through the vegetable garden. It hovered about a foot above the ground. Alice started to scream. She hurled herself out of her room and down the stairs, yelling as she went. “A ghost, a ghost! In the garden!” Everybody emerged from their rooms. Derek, on the sofa, swore as George, startled, dug his nails into his leg. Prudence, enveloped in a voluminous purple dressing gown resolutely opened the patio doors and marched up to the ghost, her dressing gown billowing in the wind. Everybody was crowding in the dining room except for Alice who was cowering in the hallway, biting her nails. Derek, meanwhile, followed Prudence together with Mrs. Hartnell. The ghost retreated behind the greenhouse and floated towards the beehives. Another bolt of lightning showed up the ghost. It was Norman. Norman wrapped in a white sheet wearing black Wellington boots. Derek ran up to him. “Goodness, man. What are you doing? You’ll catch your death. In fact, we will all catch our death.” He waved Prudence and Mrs. Hartnell back into the house and laid his arm around Norman who, for once, was not singing. He was trembling. “The bees,” he said. “I must tell the bees. That poor bee died. His mates have to know.”


Ten Things That Will Disappear In Our Lifetime

Submitted by Elizabeth Silance Ballard

1. The Post Office

Get ready to imagine a world without the post office. They are so deeply in financial trouble that there is probably no way to sustain it long term. Email, Fed Ex, and UPS have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive. Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills.


2. The Check

Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with check by 2018.  It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process checks.  Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the check.  This plays right into the death of the post office.  If you never paid your bills by mail and never received them by mail, the post office would absolutely go out of business.


3. The Newspaper

The younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper.  They certainly don't subscribe to a daily delivered print edition.  That may go the way of the milkman and the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance.  They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services.


4. The Book

You say you will never give up the physical book that you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes.  I wanted my hard copy CD.  But I quickly changed my mind when I discovered that I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music.  The same thing will happen with books.  You can browse a bookstore online and even read a preview chapter before you buy.  And the price is less than half that of a real book.  And think of the convenience!  Once you start flicking your fingers on the screen instead of the book, you find that you are lost in the story, can't wait to see what happens next, and you forget that you're holding a gadget instead of a book.


5. The Land Line Telephone

Unless you have a large family and make a lot of local calls, you don't need it anymore.  Most people keep it simply because they've always had it.  But you are paying double charges for that extra service.  All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes.


6. Music

This is one of the saddest parts of the change story.  The music industry is dying a slow death.  Not just because of illegal downloading.  It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it.  Greed and corruption is the problem.  The record labels and the radio conglomerates are simply self-destructing.  Over 40% of the music purchased today is "catalogue items," meaning traditional music that the public is familiar with.  Older established artists.  This is also true on the live concert circuit.  To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book, "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "Before the Music Dies."

 7. Television Revenues

To the networks are down dramatically.  Not just because of the economy.  People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers.  And they're playing games and doing lots of other things that take up the time that used to be spent watching TV.  Prime time shows have degenerated down to lower than the lowest common denominator.  Cable rates are skyrocketing and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds.  I say good riddance to most of it.  It's time for the cable companies to be put out of our misery.  Let the people choose what they want to watch online and through Netflix.


8. The "Things" That You Own

Many of the very possessions that we used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future.  They may simply reside in "the cloud."  Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents.  Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be.  But all of that is changing.  Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud services."  That means that when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system.  So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet.  If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud.  If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud.  And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider.  In this virtual world, you can access your music or your books, or your whatever from any laptop or handheld device.  That's the good news.  But, will you actually own any of this "stuff" or will it all be able to disappear at any moment in a big "Poof?"  Will most of the things in our lives be disposable and whimsical?  It makes you want to run to the closet and pull out that photo album, grab a book from the shelf, or open up a CD case and pull out the insert.


9. Joined Handwriting (Cursive Writing)

Already gone in some schools who no longer teach "joined handwriting" because nearly everything is done now on computers or keyboards of some type (pun not intended)


10. Privacy

If there ever was a concept that we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy.  That's gone.  It's been gone for a long time anyway.  There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone.  But you can be sure that 24/7, "They" know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View.  If you buy something, your habit is put into a zillion profiles, and your ads will change to reflect those habits.  "They" will try to get you to buy something else.  Again and again and again.


All we will have left that which can't be changed.......are our "Memories".



“The average age of people in our retirement community is 85. Recently a neighbor turned 100 and we had a big birthday party for him. His son came. ‘How old are you?’ a resident asked. ‘Eighty-one’, he answered. The resident shook her head. ‘They sure grow up fast don’t they.’” Thomas Clements



Highway 50-Warsaw, North Carolina

July 15, 2006

E. B. Alston


wa 5Editor’s note: This is one of a series of columns I wrote for Topsail Island Info about Highway 50, which meanders from Creedmoor on the northern side of North Carolina to Topsail Beach on the Southeastern side.


I am entering the fair city of Warsaw, North Carolina.

The Stats: On route 50, Warsaw is halfway between Faison and Kenansville. It is in Duplin County. The latest census estimates a population of 3,280. The median resident age in Warsaw is 33.5 years old. It’s a guy paradise because 54% of the population is female. Warsaw occupies a land area of 2.8 square miles and it is160 feet above sea level

The area that constitutes Warsaw was originally called Mooresville. When the Weldon-Wilmington railroad came through during the 1830’s the name was changed to Duplin Depot.

It was through a series of illogical thought processes that the town got its present name. A man named Thaddeus D. Love, who was a conductor for the railroad, moved to the area in 1838. He talked constantly about his favorite novel, Thaddeus of Warsaw. The book’s namesake was the Polish aristocrat named Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a Polish national hero who had served as special aide-de-camp to General Washington during the American Revolution. His logistical skills turned the tide at Saratoga. Thaddeus Love’s friends began calling him Thaddeus of Warsaw. The name, “Warsaw”, was so engaging that by 1847 the settlement was being referred to as “Warsaw Depot.” By the time the community was incorporated in 1855, the name had stuck, and they named the town Warsaw.

You can see already that the citizens of Warsaw started a tradition of being out-of-the-box thinkers. You’ve got to agree that Warsaw is much more engaging as a name for a town than Duplin Depot.

The Baptists built a college in Warsaw in 1856. Students came from Duplin, Sampson, Wayne, and as far away as New Hanover and Brunswick Counties.

Today I-40 runs close by Warsaw and the railroad still hauls freight to and from the area. Rail service today is provided by CSX. Major industries are Agriculture and manufacturing.

The citizens of Warsaw are acutely conscious of the Warsaw’s heritage and are working to restore its once thriving central business district to its former glory.

Veterans day is a big deal in Warsaw. On November 11, they celebrated Veterans Day for the 86th year.



The railroad made Warsaw. This is a view of downtown looking north on Front Street. The street across the tracks is called Railroad Street.

wa 32 wa 30Going inside to meet the town officials. Town Manager, Jason Burrell had set me up with a fine host and tour guide.  He was a crusty WWII navy veteran named Lee Brown, who was assigned to LST 919. I got a first class tour of Warsaw in his Lincoln Town Car.

 Lee was an excellent choice. He told me that Warsaw was a nice town full of friendly folks. In the old days there were several tobacco warehouses, a cannery, a number of cotton gins and every Saturday the town was crowded with country folks wa 1looking for a good time. There’s not much about Warsaw that he doesn’t know.

The first thing Lee did was take me to visit his friend, fellow WWII veteran Jimmy Strickland who was recovering from a minor ailment. Jimmy was on Guam with the Army Air Corps during his WWII stint. Both men came back from the war with their patriotism undiminished. They became active in the National Guard in Warsaw serving until they retired.

Jimmy told me of an incident in 1937 when a local guardsman, W. G. Batts, had been activated into a Calvary unit. This was a Calvary unit with real horses. During maneuvers Batts had been part of a four-man machine gun crew. Their job was to gallop to their assigned post and deploy the machine gun. Batts’ assignment was to hold the horses. Jimmy remarked about the irony of training for WW I tactics that were never used during WW II.

Jimmy, a.k.a., Lieutenant Colonel James F. Strickland’s house is a veritable museum of military plaques.


wa 2

This was presented to Colonel Strickland by the first black man in the North Carolina National Guard.


After we said goodbye to Colonel Strickland, Lee took me on a tour to see some of the elegant old homes in Warsaw.

Here is a sample.



 The 112 year-old  L. P. Best house is home to the Warsaw Veterans Museum.



It is as lovely on the inside as it is on the outside.




It is full of mementos reflecting Warsaw and Duplin County’s illustrious military heritage.


 Did I say illustrious? Duplin County was the childhood home of eleven generals. I doubt if many other counties in the United States can say that.

Duplin County native General Dan McNeil is currently serving in NATO

We’ll begin our tour. I showed up at a bad time to do a leisurely private tour of the museum. A previously scheduled guided tour was in progress and I was just moments ahead of them when I took the photos.


Moving upstairs to the displays.

Duplin County veterans or their families provided the uniforms. The photos in front of each display are of the veteran represented. The folders on the stands contain personal information about the veteran.



Another room full of military mementos.



More Duplin County veterans are represented in the hall.




Yet another room full of mementos. The Civil War era pistols are authentic.


(wa 23)



This was an elegant old-fashioned room with a table, a couple of chairs and the furniture shown in the photographs.





This ended my lightning tour of the L. P. Best house and the Warsaw Veterans Museum. This is a place you could spend a whole day and not see everything.



wa 31

Back at the town hall we’re looking at the city zoning map.



The Mayor was waiting for me.

wa 33The mayor of Warsaw is a man named Win Batten. He is a man of many careers and how he ended up in Warsaw is as illogical as how Warsaw got its name. In what I’ll call his main career, Win started low and ended up as an executive with Sears Roebuck Company. Like me, he moved around a lot. After retiring from Sears Roebuck, he became a logistics consultant for businesses. While in this capacity, he served as a part-time instructor and as Chairman of the Small Business Advisory Committee at Guilford Technical Community College near Greensboro, NC.  Later he was lured to Duplin County to work his magic for James Sprunt Community College. Now he’s retired again and is the Mayor of Warsaw. Win Batten is not a man interested in slowing down.

The National Guard has closed the Warsaw Armory after these many years. The mayor has been doing quite a bit of research and discovered that the deed conveying the land to the state for the armory had a clause that if the state stopped using the armory the property and all improvement would revert to the town. The mayor says everything has been worked out and soon he expects Warsaw will own a nice facility for community purposes.

His enthusiasm about making Warsaw everything it can be is contagious. He is a man of vision with the talent to make his vision real while managing issues that all elected officials deal with every day. Warsaw is in good hands.

Linda Kitchin, manager of the Warsaw Chamber of Commerce, set up a meeting for me with Susan Greenhill, chairperson of the Warsaw Historical Committee.

Susan loaned me a copy of The Historical Architecture of Warsaw North Carolina published in 1983. This book lists eighty-five buildings of historical or architectural merit.  Susan lamented that many of these are gone today, torn down, burned down or simply victims of neglect.


One that is gone is the old Warsaw Inn, which was a jewel in its heyday.



Susan is proud of Warsaw’s old homes and she is working to keep the ones that remain for the enjoyment of future generations.

Time was up and I had to leave. On the way out of town I passed the monument commemorating the old Warsaw High School (1924-1957), which is also gone, a victim of modern “progress.”





Next stop: Kenansville!





Their Special Mother

Elizabeth Silance Ballard


A year passed before I wept for my sister, Lana.  A year of adjustments, feeble attempts at understanding and finally what I thought was acceptance.  But I was wrong.  I had not reached the point of understanding her death, if indeed anyone ever does nor had I attained any measure of acceptance.  Strangely enough, her husband, Tom, showed me the way. 

Tom’s company transferred him to another office three hundred miles away shortly after Lana’s lingering death from cancer.  None of us wanted him to move.  It seemed unwise to pick up and go so far away with three little girls who had just lost their mother.

“Take the children so far away from all of us?  So soon after......?”

“It’s an opportunity that may never come again,” he said, brushing aside our protests.  “The girls will adjust.”

“Maybe in a new environment with new friends the girls will adjust even more quickly than they would have where somebody bursts into tears whenever they appear,” my husband, Greg, remarked.

I was angered at his words, yet I knew he was right.  Tom needed to get his children away from us. Our stifling love only fed their grief.

He brought them back for a visit every now and then on weekends. Each time they seemed a little more distant, more like strangers than the little towheads we had cuddled, scolded, and loved. Tom was polite and friendly but very noncommittal.

“They’ve come through it pretty well,” he would say and that was about the extent of his conversations with us on the subject.

Slowly, but surely, the wounds began to heal. I felt that I had accepted the loss of Lana and the girls at last--until the Saturday afternoon I met the woman who was to become Tom’s second wife.

Greg and I were renting a beach cottage for two weeks and had taken the children to the amusement park to ride the Dipsy Doodle.  We stood there eating ice cream cones when we saw the vivacious redhead laugh as Tom leaned down to give her nose a light kiss.  Fury enveloped me.

“Let’s get away from here!”

But Greg took my arm firmly and we made our way through the crowd to where they stood sharing a foot-long hot dog.  Tom was surprised to see us but showed no discomfort. I smiled and said all the right things and I held my emotions in check until we left the park and drove back to the cottage.

Throwing myself on the unfamiliar bed, I sobbed. Without a word, Greg handled the baths and got the children into bed but the tears still poured from the depths of my unresolved grief as he came to lie beside me.

The image of Tom and Lana so happy together swam before my eyes.  Now it was Tom and Grace.  I hated him for his happiness, for replacing quiet, sensitive Lana with someone else, someone so different.

“Maybe if she were more like Lana,” I cried, “but it’s as though he tried to find someone totally different.”

“Marge, you would find it hard to accept anyone Tom might marry,” he soothed.

He was right, but somehow I had never even considered the possibility that Tom would remarry.  Surely not so quickly!  It had only been a little over a year!

“So it’s off with the old, on with the new?  Just like that?”

“Tom has three little girls who need more than he will ever be able to give them as their father.  And he has a right to his own happiness, doesn’t he?  And you saw how much the girls liked Grace.”

Yes, that was another thorn in my side. How much my nieces seemed to like Grace.  Before we left the amusement park they had come running to us, excited about their ride on the Dipsy Doodle.  They referred to Grace as “Mom” and, though they seemed glad enough to see us, it was obvious they had given their allegiance to Grace.

“But how could they forget their mother so easily?”

“They haven’t forgotten her,” Greg said, always the sensible one.  “It was bound to be awkward for them at first.  After all, when Lana died, Tom lavished everything on those girls.  Every nonworking minute the man had was spent with them!

“Then Grace came on the scene and they had to share him with her.  That’s good, Marge!  That’s the way it should be.  Don’t you see?  They’re a family again and you’ve got to put your emotions aside.”

I knew he was right but I remained bitter. I couldn’t forget how much in love with Tom my sister had been.  I could still see them that Christmas she brought him home from college to meet the family.  Before New Years Day she was wearing an engagement ring and they were married the following spring, three days after graduation.

Lana’s husband. Lana’s children.  Everything she had loved and treasured all belonged to Grace now and I hated her!

A letter came from Grace shortly after we returned from the beach. Just a note, really:  “So glad to have met you.  The girls were delighted to see you again.  We hope you’ll come for the wedding.” That sort of thing.

I threw it and the others, which followed into the wastebasket unanswered.  Each one reminded me of what Lana had missed and I would lapse into another weeping spell.

It was during one of those spells that Tom appeared at my door.  He was in town on business.

“But I had to see you, Marge. I know how you must have felt meeting Grace.  You’re bound to resent her.”

“Yes, I resent her,” I said coldly, not wanting to talk to him at all, yet wanting to lash out at him for Lana’s sake and so it all poured out of me until there was nothing left to say.

“You’re right in everything you say, Marge, but you’re also wrong.  I loved Lana.  I still love the life we had together and I’ll never completely get over losing her.  But I also love Grace.

“Yes, it’s true she’s totally different from Lana; but, no one could take Lana’s place anyway. Grace has her own place in our lives, the girls and mine. She hasn’t tried to usurp Lana’s place with them either.  She wants them to remember their mother.  Her own mom died when she was quite young, so she knows how important it is for them to remember the good times they shared with Lana.

“There have been problems but we’ve been able to work them out as they arose. I believe this is what Lana would have wanted. Don’t hate us anymore.”

When he left, I sat down at the kitchen table and wrote to Grace for the first time. We have gotten together, our two families, several times in the two years since that day. It has been a joy to see Lana’s children growing and expanding in the love Grace showers on them.

She’s into everything, Grace is:  Room mother at school, Brownie scout leader, and Sunday school teacher, just everything. Outwardly there are no problems but I know better. All families have problems.  My nieces could be more than a handful for Lana and I know they’re bound to give Grace a rough time now and then.    

But I’m not worried about them and I no longer have any resentment toward Grace. You see, I recently read an essay that my niece had written in school this year on “My Mother.”

My mother has lots of love for everybody and she’s lots of fun to do things with.  Some people call her our stepmother, but we don’t.  We call her our “special mother.”


From Three Letters From Teddy and Other Stories. Available at Amazon.com



Thought Experiments Regarding the Mind

Randy Bittle


I love philosophy so much I thought it would be fun to teach it to my cockatiel.  His name is Sassy, and he already says “pretty bird.”  I set about teaching him to say “cogito ergo sum,” which is Latin for “I think therefore I am.”  Sassy picked up on “cogito” and has said it several times.  He hasn’t mastered “ergo sum” yet, but my cockatiel can now say “I think” in Latin.  He’s a smart bird. 

Sassy has limitations, though.  He can say “cogito,” but I’m certain he knows not what he says.  He may be thinking something in his bird-brain mind, but it’s not “I think” in Latin, even though he clearly says “cogito.”  He simply mimics the sounds, devoid of meaning.  Despite not understanding the implications of human philosophy, birds nonetheless exhibit intelligence all their own.

Another cockatiel of mine, a female named Jude, died in 2001.  I knew the people who owned her parents, and I had this bird since she first began eating seeds.  She lived in a one-bird cage and still laid unfertilized eggs.  Without being taught by another bird or a person, she instinctively knew how to care for the eggs as if they were fertilized.  Jude gathered them together and sat on them, getting up to eat or stretch, and then sitting back down on them.  No one taught her how.  She somehow intuitively knew how to handle the eggs, as if her brain was prewired with the knowledge.

This intuitive understanding in birds fascinates me and causes me to question how my brain is prewired for certain kinds of knowledge, like language.  My brain had the capacity for learning language built in to it, located in the Broca and Wernicke parts of the left hemisphere of the brain.  However, my brain did not come with words and grammar pre-installed.  I had to learn them from experience.  Comparing how birds think with how I think gives me insight into what it means to think.

Thought experiments are another way to gain insight into mental nature.  Substance is a fundamental issue in philosophy of mind.  What the mind is made of is uncertain.  The question of mind-stuff centers on material and immaterial options.  Physicalists believe the mind is physical material stuff, while others think the mind is a kind of immaterial essence that transcends physical materialism.  Teleporters, familiar to Star Trek fans, offer a thought experiment that challenges the nature of mental substance.

Suppose a teleporter machine maps the body, dematerializes it, and sends the information to another machine which reconstructs the body, causing it to materialize in another place, perhaps thousands of miles distant.  If the mind is immaterial and not physical, how can it be mapped, dematerialized, and then reconstructed?  If the teleporter tests effective at teleporting mice, would you be willing to be the first human to try it and determine if a possibly immaterial mind travels with the physical body and brain?  I believe the mind and brain are integrated and probably would travel together, but I wouldn’t want to go first.

This next thought experiment, first proposed by Australian philosopher Frank Jackson, challenges the nature of conscious content versus knowledge of physical facts about consciousness.  Suppose Mary has never seen colors.  My suggestion is to imagine Mary has worn electronic goggles since she was a baby, goggles that render her visual world entirely black, white, and shades of gray.  Now, Mary is a brilliant woman and studies color.  She learns everything known about colors and color visual processing in the human brain.

Mary knows light consists of electromagnetic radiation at various frequencies which distinguish the colors, and the eyes have sensors that detect these frequencies and manifest conscious awareness of colors in accordance with physiological processes inside the brain.  She fully understands everything about color and mental visual processing, yet she has never seen or experienced color perception.  Can Mary deduce from all she knows about colors how they will look consciously?  My guess is no.  She cannot know what colors look like from mere knowledge, comprehensive though it may be, about the physical peculiarities of color.  No knowledge can prepare her for the conscious experience of colors resulting from removal of the goggles.

I wrote about this next thought experiment in an essay for the Righter Monthly Review several years ago, but let’s look at it again.  The problem of having too much information is examined.  It is a thought experiment that you can do at home if you wish.  You can better visualize the experiment if you are familiar with the card game called Texas Hold ‘Em.  Steve shuffles the cards and deals two cards to each of four players, one at a time, face up.  Then he turns five cards face up, side by side, in the middle of the table.  The players now enter the room and sit in their preselected places around the table.

A full hand of Texas Hold ‘Em has been dealt with the cards face up.  The players can see the winning hand and no betting is desired.  The fun of the game lies in not knowing what other players’ face down cards are, or what face up cards will show up as the game progresses.  Steve reshuffles and deals two cards face down to each player and three face up in the middle of the table.  Now the fun begins as the players evaluate their face down cards in conjunction with the face up cards in the middle and make their wagers.  Not knowing other players’ face down cards enhances the enjoyment of the game.  Winning is pleasurable, but it is the playing of the game that makes the time spent worthwhile.

And so it is with the game of life.  We do not know everything as we conduct our daily activities.  Other peoples’ thoughts can only be guessed indirectly, sometimes right and sometimes wrong.  But it is the not knowing that makes the game of life worthwhile.  You choose your actions based on the best information available to you at the time.  The cards you are dealt in life are seldom changeable, but what you do with those “cards” is up to you.  Again, playing the game, that is living, provides value to your conscious experience, win or lose.  Endeavor to increase pleasurable thoughts and feelings even when the cards are stacked against you.



Colonial Justice

E. B. Alston


The year was 1691. They had been missing for two weeks when they sheepishly crept into town at dusk. He was arrested the moment they stepped into the town square. Her father had seen to that. The girl was firmly escorted home and confined to her room. 

Abigail had been the apple of her father’s eye. He insisted that she had been kidnapped, but this was obviously not the case judging by her behavior when she had to be torn from the arms of her lover. 

Cooler heads were advising him to let them be. They were old enough to marry and everybody knew they were in love. She was a mature girl of fifteen and he was almost eighteen. Let them get married right away. Then the legends of their elopement would grow into a happy story to be told at family gatherings. 

Her father would have none of that. When his wife sided with the cooler heads, he went into a rage. She had seen him like that before and retreated back into her kitchen. She had lost too many of those battles and she had no stomach to fight this one.

He raged like a mad bull and would have hung the young man on the spot if the sheriff hadn’t forcibly prevented him from doing it. They persuaded him to wait for the magistrate from Concord who would arrive next month. Her father was determined to use every bit of his considerable influence to see that the boy was convicted. Then he would let frontier justice be exacted in the fullest sense.

Seth T. Wagstaff was the most prominent man in this little Massachusetts settlement. A lot of the local men worked at his sawmill. Retail merchants were dependent on his business. None of the townspeople had the fortitude, or were in a position, to oppose him.

The boy’s family lived a few miles away in the fishing village of Green Harbor. He was the youngest of six sons and three daughters. All of the sons were big, strapping outdoor men who fished and farmed with their father.  

Their father was a taciturn man. When his father tried to reason with Wagstaff, he refused to meet him. His father then went to the sheriff but the sheriff was afraid to release the boy for fear of angering Mr. Wagstaff.

Everybody in town, except Seth Wagstaff, agreed what should be done but nobody had the courage to act.

Seth had not come to this new world to allow it to become a cesspool of sin like the England he had left fifteen years ago. He had come to a clean, new place free from the sin and degradation of the old world. Except for the godless natives, it had been pure and unspoiled.

He and his wife had seven daughters and no sons. Abigail was the youngest and by the time she arrived, he had given up on having sons and focused his affection on her. The other six daughters thought their father was cold-hearted and escaped into marriage as soon as they could entrap an eligible young man. It helped that they were, including Abigail, comely and well groomed, thanks to their mother who was the daughter of an obscure aristocratic family back in England. 

One of Seth’s daughters had already caused him great embarrassment. She had blossomed into a statuesque and flirtatious beauty who wore tight dresses and stylish hats to church. Her husband relished his wife’s attractiveness and approved of her showing herself off.

Oddly enough, the one who complained most about her was his brother who told everybody that would listen how his brother was besotted of this flouncing, jiggling Jezebel. She had a sensuous walk and she would flip her dress in a way that showed her ankle and the calf of her leg. The tavern window was full of faces when the lookout announced that she was passing by.

Alas, the man she had married was oblivious to the slings and arrows of a Puritan population. He was having a grand old time and didn’t care what anybody thought of his prize. There were plenty of other men in their little community who were willing to take his place.

The girl’s mother had encouraged the relationship between Abigail and the boy who was named Nathan. He was good-natured, clever, and he had learned to read and do math on his own. Abigail’s mother thought that was a noteworthy achievement and this boy might go somewhere in this god-forsaken backwater settlement.

Abigail’s mother’s plan backfired when their passion got out of hand and they ran away. Now, there was literally hell to pay. Abigail was probably pregnant. The shame of being an unwed mother with a bastard child in a Calvinist environment was too awful to contemplate but she doubted if Abigail had thought about the consequences.

Seth’s anger prevented him from looking to the future in a realistic way. The shame of what a pregnant unwed daughter would do to him in his position as elder in their church had not yet entered his mind. What he would do when that occurred was not pleasant to think about.

Things calmed down over the next few weeks while the town waited for the Magistrate from Concord to arrive and try the case against the boy. As the big day approached, an undercurrent of anticipation began to envelop the little community. 



On the day of the trial, the magistrate wearing his judicial robes and powdered wig set up court in the local tavern.

Magistrate Thomas Echols was of sober demeanor and not given to officiousness or legalistic finesse. People thought he had a lot of common sense. 

He was an easygoing, rotund man who enjoyed a fine meal served well and a pint of local stout afterwards.

Everybody wondered how Magistrate Echols would fare when Abigail’s father lit into him. Would he cave in like everybody else or would he possess the mettle to pronounce a just verdict and allow the young couple to get on with their lives?

The tavern was full that morning when Abigail’s father arrived in time to see Nathan brought into court in shackles. The boy’s father and brothers filled the benches behind the accused.

The Magistrate banged the gavel.

“We are here to try a kidnapping charge brought by Mr. Seth T. Wagstaff against Mr. Nathan James Williams of Green Harbor,” he announced. “Will the accused stand?”

Nathan stood up.

“Son,” Magistrate Echols said sternly, “You have been accused of kidnapping. Do you understand the severity of the charge?”

“Yes Sir,” the boy answered with a clear voice.

“Then how do you plead?” the Magistrate asked.

“I am innocent, your Honor.” 

“Who brings these charges against this young man?”

“I do,” Seth Wagstaff growled.

“Who is your witness?” the magistrate asked.

“Don’t need a witness. Everybody knows he kidnapped my sweet Abigail.”

The magistrate paused. “I wish to question the victim.”

“Why, your Honor?” Wagstaff asked. “He kidnapped her.”

“This young man is being tried for a capital crime. Don’t you think we ought to hear from the one witness who knows what happened?”

“My daughter has suffered enough. I see no need for dragging her before this court.”

“Is your daughter in the courtroom?”

“My daughter is at home. She did not wish to relive her shame and disgrace.”

The magistrate called the bailiff. “Bring the victim to the courtroom.”

Seth objected strenuously and threatened to have the magistrate removed from his post.

The magistrate announced a recess while the bailiff went to get Abigail and escort her to court.

An hour later the bailiff returned with Abigail. She was crying as she approached the bench. The magistrate motioned her to a chair beside the table he was using as his judicial bench and waited for her to regain her composure.

“What is your full name, miss?” the magistrate asked gently.

“Abigail Porter Wagstaff,” she replied softly.

He pointed toward Nathan. “Do you know that young man?” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

“Do you know that he is being tried today for the crime of kidnapping you?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Did he kidnap you?” the magistrate asked gently.

Wagstaff protested. The magistrate banged his gavel for quiet.

“No, Sir,” she replied in a trembling voice barely heard in the courtroom. 

Wagstaff rose from his seat in fury. “She knows not what she says.” Wagstaff shouted.

The magistrate banged his gavel. “Mr. Wagstaff, you are intimidating the witness,” shouted the magistrate. “If you persist, I will order the bailiff to remove you from this court and have you locked up.”

Wagstaff became livid and was barely able to force himself back into his seat.

The magistrate turned to Abigail. “So you willingly left your home with Nathan?”

“Yes, Sir,” she admitted in a trembling voice.

“Why did you go with him?” the magistrate asked gently.

“Because I love him,” she replied tearfully.

“Did you obtain permission from your father to leave with Nathan?”

“No, Sir.”

“Why not?”

“Because Papa hates Nathan and said he’d kill him if he came to see me anymore.”

“Do you know why your Father dislikes Nathan?”

“Yes, Sir.”


“He wants me to marry somebody with more money than Nathan’s family has.”

“Do you realize what you have done by defying your Father’s wishes?”

“Yes, Sir. After what we have done no decent man will want me for his wife.”


“Nobody but Nathan.”

“Is Nathan a decent man?”

“He is to me.”

“If your father agreed, would you marry Nathan?” he asked gently.

“Yes, I would.”

“Does Nathan want to marry you?”

“Yes, he does.”

“I wish to ask you one more question. Will you swear that what you say will be the truth?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Did Nathan kidnap you?”

“No, Sir.”

“Did you go with him willingly?”

“Yes, Sir. It was my idea. He did it because I begged him to take me away from Papa.” She paused to wipe tears.

Wagstaff protested that she was lying. The bailiff shoved him back into his chair.

Abigail continued. “Nathan tried to talk me out of it and promised that he’d wait for me as long as it took for me to get Papa’s permission.”

“Is what you said the truth, Abigail?” he asked gently.

“Yes, Sir.”

The Magistrate looked at the boy sitting on the bench. Nathan felt agony for Abigail in her defiance of her father.

The magistrate addressed Nathan. “Has she told the truth?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Do you love this girl?” he asked.

“Yes, Sir,” he replied without hesitation.

The magistrate paused and appeared to be studying some papers on the table before him.

Wagstaff was adamant in his accusations. If he found the boy innocent, there was no telling what he would do to obtain retribution for the wrongs he felt must be punished.  He was now concerned about the girl. She had embarrassed her father in front of everybody in their community. What could he do to protect the young couple and at the same time give Wagstaff time to cool off and accept the reality of the situation?

It was clear that the girl loved the boy and a month of being locked up a prisoner in her home had not diminished her affection for him. He admired her spunk in the face of a livid parent who was determined to hang her lover.

While the magistrate reflected on his burden, everybody else in the room awaited his verdict with breathless anticipation. Would he bow to Wagstaff or would he do the right thing and declare the boy innocent of all charges? The magistrate absentmindedly shuffled the papers on the rough table while he thought.

Tension in the courtroom was high when he asked the boy to stand.

Without further ceremony he announced his verdict. “Nathan James Williams, I find you guilty of the charge of kidnapping Abigail Porter Wagstaff.”

A low murmur swept through the crowd. Wagstaff smiled broadly. He had been vindicated. The crowd was stunned.

The magistrate continued. “I sentence you to thirty days in the county jail.”

Somebody in the back of the room laughed. This was not the penalty Wagstaff had expected.

Then the magistrate faced Abigail. “Abigail Porter Wagstaff, I find you guilty of aiding, encouraging and abetting your own kidnapping.”

Wagstaff rose from his bench to protest. The magistrate banged his gavel for silence.

“I also sentence you to thirty days in the county jail.”

Abigail broke down in tears. Wagstaff was enraged. The crowd clapped and hooted Wagstaff down. Nathan looked stunned. Pandemonium reigned in the courtroom. 

The magistrate banged his gavel for quiet.

“Both sentences are to begin today,” he announced. “The bailiff is ordered to remove the prisoners from this court and take them to their place of imprisonment.”

Then he motioned for the bailiff to approach the bench. “Put them in the same cell away from the other prisoners,” he whispered. “Have the jailer’s wife prepare their meals.” He paused. “And they are not allowed to have visitors.”

The bailiff couldn’t help smiling as he led both prisoners away.

Abigail was still crying. Nathan put his arm around her shoulders to comfort her.

The magistrate called for the next case.


First appeared in 4 Women by the author. Available on Amazon



World Events


JUNE: Europe's football season reaches its climax with the final of the UEFA Champions League in Cardiff, Wales. The world's most glamorous yacht competition, the America's Cup, races to its finish in Bermuda. Europeans rejoice as the EU abolishes roaming charges for mobile phones.


JULY: Germany welcomes leaders of the world's biggest economies to Hamburg, for the annual B20 summit. Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of the British North America Act, which united three British colonies as "one Dominion under the name of Canada". "What are men to rocks and mountains?" – or, to Jane Austen, who died 200 years ago.


AUGUST: Kenyans vote in a general election. Americans can see a total eclipse of the sun on August21st. Princess Diana died 20 years ago. England defends her crown at the Women's Rugby World Cup in Ireland.



Independence Day

Mary Noble Jones


As a youngster, I took so much for granted, such as the significance of independence or the magnitude of our forefather’s efforts so that we may have freedom. Freedom to be what we are today. Freedom to live in a country where we can live our lives the way we choose and not be mandated by an aristocracy.

As a matter of fact, I took for granted freedom and independence that our forefathers fought and died for us (you and I) to keep us free. 

 We are very lucky to be living in this great nation where we have freedom, though freedom is not free, but rather, at the cost of lives, bloodshed and sacrifice of those who were and still are willing to defend and protect you and me, even if it does mean possibly losing their lives save ours. We have what we have today because of what our forefathers, leaders and brave service men and women did and still do to keep us that way.

There is so much controversy in this present day in which we live. There are those who disagree, others want to but   really don’t even understand why or what they would be fighting for if given the opportunity. They just want to make a noise, others gripe but couldn’t run a rats race if they were top cat!

Our country has stood against all odds. We’ve lost good men and women whom were defending us. They did so because they believed in this great nation. What has happened to the rest of us? Are we ready to give up the fight? So far we still have our freedom and our independence. Our country is still one to be proud of. We still have men and women who believe in this country enough to risk their lives to spare yours and mine. All I hear now-a- days is what has happened to this country of ours? Well, if she is ours, (yours and mine) are we willing to die for her? Are you willing to fight for her? Or are we the kind to stand back and complain about what poor situations ‘we’ are in, yet never lift a hand to help.

If you really believed that we were sinking would you get aboard that ship? Is your willingness to defend her enough to keep her afloat? Or are you one of these who just loves to gripe and let others take the wheel.  On the other hand, if you are proud of this great nation, let it be known. On this Fourth of July let the praises ring. Let’s celebrate. Let us join forces and rejoice for our freedom of independence. Here’s to the land of the free and the home of the brave!                         

TO God be the glory and to our men and women who have sworn to defend this great nation, we thank you. 



“The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so.” Gore Vidal



Defining a Family

Danny Key


My mother put the telephone receiver back in place and stared at the phone for a few minutes.  I saw her eyes moisten with tears.  She got her coat and car keys and told me that she would be back in a few minutes.  I knew better than to ask any questions.  I had seen that look before.  Sadness mingled with anger.  It would be an hour before I discovered the source of her deep emotions. 

When my mother returned, all of our lives changed.  She brought with her a cute, perky, energetic blond-haired little girl with a smile that warmed an entire room. Her name was Patsy and she would become my new sister.

In reality Patsy was my first cousin.  Her father was my dad’s youngest brother.  He was only married to her mother for a very short time before he joined the Army and was sent away to fight in World War II.  When he returned from the war he acted like Patsy or her mother never existed.  He had been courting another woman before he went overseas and when he returned to the states, he returned to her instead of Patsy’s mother.  Ironically this other woman lived a few blocks from Patsy and her mother. 

The first time Patsy saw him was when he walked by her house on his way to his new love’s house.  He didn’t even look in Patsy’s direction.  Come to think of it, that would describe his whole relationship with her; he just never looked in her direction.

His second wife was the love of his life and they adored each other.  Their daughter received all the attention and affection two parents could give.  Being born to the woman he adored made her the rightful heir to his love and devotion.  He showed this in a thousand ways with little regard or remorse as to how this affected my sister, Patsy.

I hated him for his negligence and coldhearted behavior.  In his later years, he made a feeble attempt to make up for the past but he failed miserably.  Try as he might, it was evident that he did not love Patsy and no manner of guilt or shame could change that fact. 

His willingness to give Patsy up granted my family the privilege of having her in our lives. I fell for her instantly. She was everything I wasn’t. She was outgoing, resourceful, outrageous, lively, cunning, worldly, and full of life.  Our home was transformed by her presence and we  loved her. 

My dad had always had a special place in his heart for her and worried about her all the time.  When she came to live with us, Dad seemed at peace.  She was with him where he could watch over her, protect her, and try to make up for the love that her biological father refused to give her. 

My mother adored her too and they bonded immediately.  Mother never referred to her as her husband’s niece but as her daughter.

Once in a while I would ask my mother to recall that night when she went to pick up Patsy. It never failed to get her blood boiling.

When my mother arrived at my uncle’s house she found Patsy locked out and sitting on the front porch steps in the cold.  Her clothing had been stuffed into a paper bag.  She was scared, hurt, cold, and lonely.  Coming upon that scene proved too much for my mother to bear. She went into a rage and beat on the front door until my uncle opened it.  When he did, her contempt and anger boiled over and she let him have it with both barrels, castigating him for his cold-hearted cruelty.

I wasn’t there and Patsy doesn’t remember it, but my mother will never forget it.  After my mother cursed him and his wife until they turned pale, she loaded Patsy into the car and came home.  Mother vowed then and there that as long as she had breath in her body Patsy would have a loving home and family.

Thus began our lives as a family of four.  I was proud to brag to everyone that I had a sister. This was confusing to my schoolteacher who was puzzled that my mother had given birth without anyone knowing she was pregnant. It took a some explaining by my parents because I went around telling everyone that my sister had arrived and she was 12 years old. 

Patsy brought a whole new meaning of fun and laughter into my life.  She challenged me to do things that I had been too scared to try.  She teased me and coached me through my first crush, although she lamented the fact that I was too shy.  We never fought or argued.  No boy could have asked for a better sister.

With my sister’s keen sense of adventure it was inevitable that we would get into trouble.  Once when both my parents were working on the second shift at the textile mill, Patsy and I pulled one of our most spectacular stunts. 

Mother had supper cooked for us when we got home from school. All we had to do was eat it and wash the dishes. We had strict orders to be in bed by nine p.m., a curfew we never met. 

One night we didn’t like what mother left for us for supper. We threw it away and decided to fix something on our own.  Patsy thought that we should have a slumber party, and cook and eat in her room.  She got the electric frying pan going to make fried potatoes and she brought the popcorn popper into the bedroom to heat up some soup.  We had the television going as well as the radio.  Patsy had taught me to dance, something that our church forbade. We laughed and carried on in wonderful abandon. Suddenly the house went dark. Our electrical appliances had blown several fuses. We didn’t know anything about fuses or even where the fuse box was located. We went to bed and waited for judgment day.

Our parents arrived home from work a little after eleven p.m. I couldn’t hear everything they said but I knew we were in a heap of trouble. 

Our punishment the next day was to spend the whole day outside without the use of anything requiring electricity. We were allowed three bathroom visits but could not turn on the light. We were allowed back in after the sun went down but we were still refused access to anything that need electrical power. Now that I think about it, it was quite a fitting punishment.  We misused the electricity and had to go 24 hours without it.

I was glad we didn’t screw up the toilet!

We both grew up and my sister found a new hobby:  boys.  I was jealous of those awkward creatures that came calling for her.  I tormented them and tried to drive them away.  Some things are more powerful than the antics of a little boy. I had to give up and resign myself to the fact that one of those morons would actually take my sister away. 

Patsy fell in love, got married and became the mother of three wonderful children.  Ii is hard to believe that she is now a grandmother.  When I close my eyes, I still see us at that slumber party, laughing and singing and eating.

I am glad that love, not biology, defines a family. Love is still the strongest force in the universe.  It will never die and will outlast all the guns, weapons and evil that men do to each other.  Love created a family that included my cousin-sister, Patsy.

This was an example of love in action. When would the whole world learn that lesson?


From Hallelujah, Pass the Grits Available on Amazon




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: Their Special Mother,  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: Remembering Ariana Holliday Dickson Mangum; 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: Thought Experiments Regarding the Mind;  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


Diana Goldsmith: Who Am I and The Key; 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.


Mary Noble Jones: Independence Day, is a writer and artist who lives in Amelia, Virginia.  She is the author and illustrator of the six-book Itsy Rabbit series. Her latest book, Childhood Memories was published in 2008.


Danny Key: Defining a Family, is retired and lives in Salisbury, North Carolina. His book, Hallelujah!Pass the Grits, was published in 2008.


Joan Leotta: Easter Dinner, Asparagus Abundance and Mother’s Day; has been writing and performing since childhood. This award winning journalist and performer’s first poetry collection will be out in March--Languid Lusciousness with Lemon, and the fourth of her picture book series will be released then as well--Rosa’s Shell.


Ariana Mangum: A Forgotten Landscape; is a retired English teacher and author of When the Goldenrod Sang in the Meadows, A Forgotten Landscape,Where the Butterflies Roam and Shenandoah Promise. Her latest book, The Misadventures of Agnes Randolph, came out in January. Ariana died earlier this year. We will miss her.


Charles Reed: The Legend of Fire; Lives and writes in Chapel Hill. His book, A Full life, was published a few years ago and is available on Amazon.

Sybil Austin Skakle: Cowpoke Meets Hurricame Bob; 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: Summer at Sunset; lives in Chard, Somerset, England. She was born in the Netherlands and moved to Britain in 1966. She worked for an Anglo-Dutch company in London. In 1999, Marry and her husband retired and moved to Chard, Somerset. Her hobbies are writing, reading, bird watching, and exploring ancient monuments. She is a member of a local writers’ group in England.


Tim Whealton: Cove City: 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.