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RPG Digest

Anything Fit to Read

September 2018



Copyright 2018 by the RPG Partnership

All rights reserved


No portion of this work may be reproduced without prior written permission from


RPG Partnership

1112 Rogers Road

Graham, NC 27253


 September 2018




Thanks, for all the contributors who jumped in to the August issue with such enthusiasm.

Thank Rita Berman for the beautiful beach photo we used on the cover.



Table of Contents

Editor 3

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Life and Works  by Rita Berman. 4

Glastonbury  by Marry Williamson. 9

Natters of a Nomad by Peggy Ellis. 10

Full Moon's Glow by Joan Leotta. 11

My Beloved Alethea by Randy Bittle. 12

Playing with Fire by Sybil Austin Skakle. 13

Howard Who? by Elizabeth Silance Ballard. 14

What Are Grits?. 17

It had to happen sooner or later; Blonde Men! 19

Black Jack – Excerpt from the Venus Chronicles by E. B. Alston. 21

From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza. 23

Childhood Memories by Jean Barnes. 27

Hammer Spade and the Long Shooter - Serialized Book. 37

How the Internet Started According to the Bible. 40

New poems by Greek poet Sappho Discovered by E. B. Alston. 41

On Reflection  by Marry Williamson. 43

Redneck Engineer Exam.. 44

The Artist by Diana Goldsmith. 45

Three Rivers to  Cross – Serialized book by Elizabeth Silance Ballard. 46

How We Live by Tim Whealton. 50

Contributors. 51

Gene Alston


Somewhere around five a.m. on September 12, I will have lived 30,681 days, counting leap years, 726,344 hours and 44,180,640 minutes. Seems like a long time. When I think about it, it has been a long time. I still remember a lot of what happened during all of those days. Some of it wasn’t favorable, or fun, but, my life has been pretty good. I have learned to accept my lot in life and to make the best of it. Is that wisdom?  C’est la vie.  

I am a project oriented person. Give me a defined task and I strive to meet the goals of the project. I guess part of it is because I grew up on a farm. Farming is project oriented from sunup to sundown. Break the land, plant the garden, plant the corn, plant the cotton, plant the peanuts, then set out the tobacco.  After this was done, we had to plow it and weed it until it was ready to harvest. We had to top and sucker the tobacco. Tobacco harvesting began first and took the longest. Tobacco made more money than any other crop but back then, it was labor intensive.

I told people that I went to work for the phone company so I wouldn’t have to pick cotton. Picking cotton paid by the pound and the goal was to pick 100 pounds in a day. A black woman who picked cotton for my father could pick over 200 pounds and take a break to nurse her baby. One day she picked 300 pounds. Pop paid 5 cents a pound. She made $15.00 on a day a good carpenter might have made $4.00.

My father was critical of me (I’m saying this nice.) because I let this woman pick more cotton than I did every day. One day I got up early and started picking cotton before the dew was off. I ate breakfast in a hurry, worked all morning, ate dinner quickly and picked cotton until dark. When pop weighed my sheet of cotton, it weighed 91 pounds, including that dew-wet cotton. My nemesis picked 228 pounds and she didn’t start picking until nine in the morning. She was good at it. Her fingers flew like spindles when she picked while, except for that one time, I didn’t try very hard.

Working for the telephone company was more interesting than most people think it is. I actually don’t remember a dull day. Some was humorous. When I taught pole-climbing, one of the questions students asked every class was, “What if I freeze on top of the pole?”

We tried to be nice and reassuring but they weren’t convinced. Then one day I answered it this way. “Don’t worry. They replace the poles every other class.”

What brought me to think about projects was I have started a new book called the Venus Chronicles. It’s set in the far, far, distant future when 40 hardy pioneers take a rocket to Venus. There, they begin new lives on a planet where the sun rises in the west and a year has two 5,608 hour long days. My mind wanders at times and it is dangerous for humanity for my mind to wander.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Life and Works

By Rita Berman


F. Scott Fitzgerald was born on Sept. 24, 1896. The 22nd Annual F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival will be held in Rockville, MD, on October 20, 2018 to celebrate his birthday.  It was founded in 1996 as a conference to commemorate his 100th birthday and in 2013 the name was changed from conference to festival.

The purpose of the festival includes honoring the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald and other American fiction writers, poets, playwrights, and screenwriters as well as promoting the written word by presenting seminars, and lectures. In addition there is the presentation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature.  William Styron was the first recipient in 1996, followed by other distinguished writers including Norman Mailer, John Updike, Pat Conroy, Elmore Leonard, and Annie Proulx.  The 2018 recipient will be Richard Russo author of 8 novels who in 2002 received the Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was named after Frances Scott Key, the author of the National anthem who was a distant relative of his father. 

Younger than Virginia Woolf, yet both died within months of each other in the early 1940’s.  And how different their styles.  His novel, The Great Gatsby, published in 1925, has been translated into 42 different languages and remains a classic best seller. It is a much easier read than Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.  That doesn’t detract from The Great Gatsby being of great significance because of the background it provides of the 1920’s. Fitzgerald’s legacy is that he is known as the chronicler of the “Jazz Age.” A wild time of prosperity, booze, and organized crime.

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in January 1919. It forbad the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors. The Amendment was widely and openly ignored. Many historians believe Prohibition opened the doors to organized crime.  The figure of gangster entered American cultural life and was seen sometimes as a nonconforming hero and sometimes a predatory villain in the movies and fiction of the 1930s.[1]

In The Great Gatsby there are hints that Meyer Wolfshiem, a business partner of Jay Gatsby, is involved in organized crime.  Many of the scenes in the book describe wild parties with ample liquor.

The 1920s in the USA, were also a time of change in sexual mores.  The 19th Amendment had given women the vote and women not only sought out opportunities in education, and employment, they felt freer in dress. Fashion changed from long, heavy, restricting garments to short, lightweight, easily worn store-bought clothing.[2]     

Books too underwent change. By the end of the Victorian era, the three-decker novel spanning generations had gone. Stories were being told in fewer words and underlying themes became more obtuse. These works represented  the breakdown of traditional society under the pressures of modernity.[3]

A distinct feature of the modernist novel is its construction out of fragments, the work may seem to begin arbitrarily, advance without explanation, and end without resolution.  The reader has to dig the structure out because what used to be found in traditional literature – the explanations, interpretations, connections, summaries, and distancing is omitted.[4]    Modernists, in general, used sensory image or detail as symbols.

However, F. Scott Fitzgerald was not a true modernist.  Although he wrote in that time period, he had a wonderful way of using words, brilliant in his ability to create a scene, an atmosphere briefly.  John Chamberlain said he had the ability “to catch the flavor of a period, the fragrance of a night, a snatch of old song, in a phrase.”

To me, he had such a light touch, that it was as if he was talking out a story rather than writing it down. Fitzgerald’s novels and short stories tell about the private lives of his characters, the struggles they undergo, how they react to others. Not to society but to other people.

Much of Fitzgerald’s boyhood was spent in Buffalo and Syracuse, New York. The family was not prosperous and it took an aunt’s support to send him to the Newman Catholic School in Lakewood, N.J. in 1911.

Here he apparently spent more time in fooling around than on his studies.  He entered Princeton in 1913 with the intention of making a career as a writer of musical comedies.  He spent most of his first year writing an operetta for the Triangle Club, and consequently “flunked” in several subjects.

He quit Princeton in 1917 to join the Army.  The captain in charge of Fitzgerald’s training platoon at Ft. Leavenworth was Dwight D. Eisenhower but neither man made an impression on the other. Fitzgerald served as a second lieutenant and then as a first lieutenant in the 45th and 67th Infantry Regiments and then as aide de camp to Brig. Gen. J.A., Ryan, but the war ended before he saw active service

While stationed in Montgomery, Alabama, he met and courted Zelda Sayre, a popular girls, known as a good sport who would do anything for the fun of it. When her father, an Alabama Supreme Court Judge, forbade her to do something she would ignore his prohibitions.

“Zelda possessed the qualities that Fitzgerald required in a girl.  She was beautiful, independent, socially secure (although not wealthy) and responsive to his ambitions….She and Fitzgerald wanted the same things – metropolitan glamour, success, fame…”[5]

Nonetheless, during the summer of 1918 she continued to date other men, for she was cautious about marriage to an unpublished writer and her family did not encourage the match.

While serving in the Army Fitzgerald wrote a novel that he called “The Romantic Egotist.”  He submitted it to Scribner’s but it was rejected. 

In his own words he said, ‘the history of my life is the history of the struggle between an overwhelming urge to write and a combination of circumstances bent on keeping me from it.”[6]

“Six months after this rejection I arrived in New York and presented my card to the office boys of seven city editors asking to be taken on as a reporter.  I had just turned 22, the war was over, and I was going to trail murderers by day and do short stories by night.”

“But the newspapers didn’t need me.  Instead I became an advertising man at 90 dollars a month, writing the slogans for display on rural trolley cars.”

“After hours I wrote stories, the quickest written in an hour and a half, the slowest in three days. No one bought them, no one sent personal letters.  I had 122 rejection slips.  Near the end of June I sold one story for $30.”

Disgusted with himself and all the editors, he went home to St. Paul and informed his family and friends that he had given up his job and come home to write a novel.

He reworked material from “The Romantic Egoist” and named it “This Side of Paradise”. It was about the post-WW1 Flapper generation, and this time it was accepted by Scribner’s in the fall of 1919, after Maxwell Perkins, editor, urged publication.

“The book is so different that it is hard to prophesy how it will sell but we are all for taking a chance and supporting it with vigor,” said Perkins.[7]

Fitzgerald recalled later, “That week, I paid off my terrible small debts, bought a suit, and woke up every morning with a world of ineffable top loftiness and promise.”  His short stories began to sell, among them “The Ice Palace,”   “Winter Dreams’  “The Beautiful and the Damned” and “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” to mention only a few.  I like the Bernice story because it has a nice twist at the end.

This Side of Paradise, was published on March 26, 1920, and became one of the most popular books of the year. Scott and Zelda were married on April 3, 1920. They spent wildly and drank heavily; they were careless and outrageous and brilliant in their self-display.  In 1921, October 26, they had a daughter, who was named Scottie after her father.

The Fitzgerald’s moved to Europe, Paris, and the Riviera and back to America. They knew everyone: Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein, and Archibald MacLeish and the Murphys.”[8] 

Fitzgerald had gathered material for The Great Gatsby novel while living on Long Island after the war, but he wrote most of it in Rome or on the Riviera.

He and Ernest Hemingway met in Paris and became friends with Fitzgerald trying to act as Hemingway’s mentor and promote him.   

Leicester Hemingway, Ernest’s brother said “Ernest’s first books, published in France, made only a few hundred dollars. But that spring, Scott Fitzgerald came to Paris as a successful young American writer. He had heard about Ernest, read some of his work, and wanted to talk to him.  The two proceeded to think the world of each other while occasionally testing each other’s capacity for strong drink.”

Fitzgerald had been an alcoholic since his college days, and became notorious during the 1920s for his extraordinarily heavy drinking, leaving him in poor health by the late 1930s.  He is said to have suffered from a mild attack of tuberculosis in 1919, and in 1929 had “what proved to be a tubercular hemorrhage.”[9]    

Gertrude Stein praised Fitzgerald as the most talented writer of his generation, “the one with the brightest flame.”  Fitzgerald was upset by the compliment as he saw it as a slight to Hemingway. Hemingway’s reaction was that he didn’t feel any resentment or sense of competition because any comparison of flames was “pure horseshit.” 

Here is part of a letter that Gertrude Stein wrote to Fitzgerald after she read The Great Gatsby.  Anyone who has read, or tried to read Stein, will recognize her style immediately.

“My dear Fitzgerald,

Here we are and have read your book and it is a good book.  I like the melody of your dedication and it shows that you have a background of beauty and tenderness and that is a comfort. The next thing is that you write naturally in sentences and that too is a comfort.  You write naturally in sentences and one can read all of them and that among other things is a comfort.  You are creating the contemporary world much as Thackeray did…”

Comparing The Great Gatsby to This Side of Paradise she wrote, “This is as good a book and different and older and that is what one does, one does not get better but different and older and that is always a pleasure.”  Stein plays with her words, repeats them for effect. In her introduction to The Collected Writings of Zelda Fitzgerald, Mary Gordon wrote that Zelda had no use for Stein and considered Stein’s conversation “sententious gibberish.”  

Before her marriage Zelda had shown no evidence of literary ambitions.  Her publication career spanned only a dozen years, from 1922 to 1934.  Mary Gordon suggests that it was a quest for identity apart from her status as “wife of”, as well as evidence of the rivalry that had developed in the Fitzgerald marriage.  Marriage to a celebrated writer made it easier for her to have her work published.  Some of her stories were published under his name, or jointly.  Their daughter Scottie said that Fitzgerald spent many hours editing the stories that Zelda sold to College Humor and Scribner’s Magazine.  “Southern Girl” is her best, in my opinion, because it has leads up to an amusing end.”    

Scribner’s published Zelda’s Save Me the Waltz, in 1932, after it went through revision and five sets of galley proofs.  Even then it was sloppily edited.  It was estimated that only 3000 copies were printed, and 1400 sold.

Some writers have suggested that Zelda contributed to Scott’s work but having read Save Me the Waltz and her short stories, I found the writing style of husband and wife very different.  As Mary Gordon noted, “her prose is uneven; her flights are high and wild and the form draws its strength from the enigmatic appeal of the fragment.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing is carefully shaped.

Edmund Wilson, a friend of theirs, said Zelda talked almost exactly the way she wrote – in the nature of free association of ideas and one could never follow up anything.”

Scottie observed, that it was her mother’s misfortune, “to be born with the ability to write, to dance, and to paint, and then never to have acquired the discipline to make her talent work for, rather than against her.”  At the too late age of twenty-seven, she tried to become a ballerina. She began to have breakdowns and in February 1932 was hospitalized at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.   In 1936 she entered the Highlands Hospital in Asheville, N.C.  

After his first book was published, Fitzgerald wrote 8 others, four being collections of short stories including Flappers and Philosophers (1920) and Tales of the Jazz Age 1922.  The Beautiful and Damned was published in 1922, in part an account of his own dissipation, it was a failure but he was in great demand for his short stories.

In 1923 he published a satirical play “The Vegetable, or From President to Postman,” and then for two years he worked on The Great Gatsby. That was published in 1925, and another short collection All the Sad Young Men in 1926. Tender is the Night was not published until 1934 as it took him eight years to complete because he interrupted it to write short stories in order to pay bills - many of which were for Zelda’s psychiatric treatment. His last book, published in 1935, was called “Taps at Reveille.”

For several years after “Taps” was published, Fitzgerald lived near Baltimore, Md, where he suffered a depression of spirit which kept him from writing.  He made several efforts to write but failed, and in an autobiographical article in Esquire likened himself to a “cracked plate.”

When he was more than $22,000 in debt, Fitzgerald went to Hollywood in 1937 to work for M G M.   He owed money to his publishers for advances and loans and was behind in payments for Zelda’s treatments at the Highlands Hospital. His weekly paycheck in Hollywood was to be $1,000.

His first assignment was to polish the screenplay for “A Yank at Oxford”, but he never got screen credit. He was then assigned to write the screenplay for “Three Comrades,” For which he got screen credit. It was a major movie with four stars, Robert Taylor, Margaret Sullivan, Franchot Tone, and Robert Young.  It was a box-office success and ranked as one of the ten best movies in 1938.

In Hollywood he became involved with Sheilah Graham and began drinking again.  Fitzgerald needed Sheilah but his puritan streak disapproved of their arrangement. They maintained separate residences but had a relationship. Sheilah insisted she was not his mistress because he never supported her.   He was still married to Zelda and paying her expenses. Zelda presumably never learned about Fitzgerald’s relationship Sheilah, although she suspected he had someone in California. He thought any definite knowledge about Sheilah might cause Zelda’s complete collapse.

Fitzgerald suffered two heart attacks in late 1940.  After the first heart attack at the end of November, he was ordered by his doctor to avoid strenuous exertion and to obtain a first floor apartment.  He moved into Sheilah Graham’s apartment to avoid climbing stairs.

He felt he was making good recovery and in a letter to Zelda wrote, “The novel is about three-quarters through and I think I can go on till January 12 without doing any stories or going back to the studio.” The manuscript he was referring to was edited by the literary critic Edmund Wilson, and published in 1941 as The Last Tycoon.  In 1944 the book was reissued under Fitzgerald’s original title “The Love of the Last Tycoon.   

On Friday, December 20, 1940, as he and Sheilah were leaving the premiere of a movie, “This Thing Called Love”, he had a dizzy spell and experienced trouble walking to the car.   The next day, Saturday Dec. 21, he waited for a visit from his doctor, and sat eating a chocolate bar while making notes in “The Princeton Alumni Weekly” on the 1941 football prospects.  Suddenly, he started out of his chair, clutched the mantelpiece and fell to the floor.  Sheilah ran to get the building manager who then said Fitzgerald was dead. His physician Dr. Clarence Nelson signed the death certificate noting he had died of a heart attack.  He was 44.

The newspapers gave Fitzgerald’s death prominent treatment.  His obituaries combined nostalgia with a patronizing tone.  The New York Times wrote, “The best of his books, the critics said, was “the Great Gatsby”….this ironic tale of life on Long Island …. received critical acclaim. In it Mr. Fitzgerald was at his best.”[10]           

Dorothy Parker was one of those who went to the visitation at a funeral home in Hollywood and she was reportedly crying and murmured” the poor son of a bitch,” a line from Jay Gatsby’s funeral.

Fitzgerald’s remains were then shipped to Maryland, where his funeral was attended by very few people. The church would not allow him to be buried in his family’s plot in Rockville and he was originally buried in Rockville Union Cemetery.

Zelda died in a fire at the Highland Mental Hospital in Asheville, NC in 1948.  Their daughter, Scottie Fitzgerald Lanahan Smith, gave permission for the Women’s Club of Rockville to have their bodies moved to the family plot in St. Mary’s Cemetery, in Rockville, Md.  

During his lifetime Fitzgerald thought he was a failure but he has now been recognized as one of the great literary figures of the 20th century.

More is known about the professional life of Fitzgerald than about that of any other major American author because so much of the evidence has been preserved.  The year-by-year autobiographical, financial, and bibliographical records he kept in his business ledger include his every sale in the literary market place.[11]  His total income from 1919 through 1936, before he went to Hollywood, was $374,922.58 (after his agent’s commissions) according to his Ledger; an average of $20,829.03 over 18 years.  Between 1919 and 1929 Fitzgerald’s “Saturday Evening Post” story price rose from $400 to $4,000. The Post and the other “slick” magazines paid well because pre-television Americans had a large appetite for magazine fiction.

In 2013 the film based on The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby and Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan opened the 66th Cannes Festival and led to a jump in sales of the book.DiCaprio’s performance was said to be magnificent and the granddaughter of Fitzgerald praised the style and music of the film. 

In April 2017 Fitzgerald’s previously unpublished stories were published by Scribner, U.K. in a 384 page book edited by Anne Margaret Daniel titled I’d Die for You and Other Lost Stories. 


   The poet Sylvia Plath will be discussed next month.  She was born October 27, 1932.     




Marry Williamson


At the end of July we had a wonderful and interesting time at the 29th Glastonbury Symposium. Three days of lectures on all sorts of topics. It is a brilliant work-out for the brain. The theme of the meeting is “Truth, Mysteries and New Frontiers”. You might not agree with all of the viewpoints but they are always interesting and thought provoking. It is also a wonderful opportunity to meet up with like-minded people from all over the world. This year they came from Scotland, Wales, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden. Australia, Canada and, of course, last but not least the USA. We came only from 35 miles away in Somerset. (Our main interest are ancient monuments, megaliths, standing stones, crop circles and their possible messages. Living near Stonehenge, Avesbury and Stanton Drew is a bonus but we have been as far afield as the Callanish Stones on the Island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides and the Men-an-Tol and Merry Maidens in Cornwall.)

Of course, Glastonbury is the ideal place for such a meeting. Glastonbury is unique. It is steeped in myths, mysteries and legends. One being that Jesus visited Glastonbury as a young man with his uncle Joseph of Arimathea. William Blake mentions it in the poem that became the popular hymn Jerusalem. (And did those feet in ancient time). Glastonbury is reputed to be the birthplace of

Christianity and remains a centre of pilgrimage to this day. Joseph is said to have founded the Abbey which was destroyed by King Henry VIII during the dissolution. Although a ruin it is still very impressive and managed today by the National Trust. The Abbey is also reputed to be the last resting place of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. This is very tongue-in-cheek though because they are a legend themselves and there is no concrete proof that they ever existed.

There were two skeletons found in a cemetery in the 13th century thought to be those of King Arthur and his Queen. They were taken and buried with great pomp and ceremony in the Abbey grounds in 1278 attended by the then King of England Edward I and Queen Eleanor. Of course, the skeletons could have been anybody’s. What is true, though, is that the find and subsequent visiting pilgrims swelled the Abbey coffers considerably and was probably a brilliant PR stunt of the Abbott at the time.

Glastonbury has approximately 70 different faith groups - some of which met at a special ceremony in 2012 in the Chalice Well Garden which became a World Peace Garden in 2001. The Chalice Well is a holy well at the foot of the Tor. Iron oxide deposits give the water a reddish hue and it is believed to have healing qualities.

The Tor is an iconic landmark. It stands on a hill high above Glastonbury and can be seen from miles around, overlooking the Isle of Avalon, Glastonbury and Somerset. On top is the roofless St. Michael’s Tower. The site is also now managed by the National Trust. It is the place where the last Abbott was killed in 1539. Richard Whiting refused to submit to Henry VIII and he and 2 other monks were marched up the Tor and hung, drawn and quartered.

Apart from being a melting pot of christians, pagans, druids and goddesses Glastonbury is a lovely place of about 9000 very friendly inhabitants and apart from the usual small town shops it is also crammed with crystal and jewellery shops, bookshops, art galleries, cafes, pubs, other eating places and has more than its fair share of vegetarian and vegan restaurants.



Natters of a Nomad

Peggy Ellis



September means returning to school. I think back over the years at the education I’ve received in various forms, the teachers who sometimes struggled to keep my attention, and the amenities that the buildings provided. Those years are far behind me and I marvel at the educational resources available to students today.

On a recent trip to Costa Rica, I met a group of children who proudly showed my travel group around their facility, sponsored by the Grand Circle Foundation. Since 1992, this foundation has pledged almost 100 million dollars for education and preservation in more than 30 countries. Each land trip by Grand Circle and its partner, Overseas Adventure Travel, includes a visit to one of their sponsored schools.

First a bit of history about the most colorful of the 38 countries I’ve visited. The first settlement in what is now the Republic of Costa Rica was in 1563. In 1821, it and several other Central American provinces declared independence from Spain. The federation dissolved in 1838, and CR, to use their abbreviation, proclaimed its sovereignty. Today, it has a population of around 4.5 million, living primarily in San José. Twenty-five percent of CR is protected land, the largest percentage of protected areas in the world.

The school we visited was in the village of Sonafluca, where all the residents formerly worked on a hacienda. When the owner passed away, he gave the hacienda to the community. Today, every family owns a small plot to farm. While too poor to support themselves individually, they work together in a communal fashion to support the community as a whole.

On our way to Sonafluca, we visited briefly with a kindergarten class who welcomed Christmas in pajamas and Santa hats (girls) and reindeer caps (boys). They enjoyed themselves so much they paid us little attention.

At the Sonafluca School, which, then, accommodated 209 students, children ranging in age from seven to twelve met us at the van, one child for each two visitors. The girls wore long skirts in checked fabric and white blouses edged to match the skirt. The boys wore dark pants and white shirts with red sashes and scarves. They first escorted us to the modern toilet facilities, then we went to their gym for the children to entertain us with dancing. They danced three dances then invited us to dance the Hoky Poky with them, fun but very active. Girls enjoyed the dancing more than most of the boys. The smallest boy was the exception. He whirled the girls with abandon. The children led us by the hand to the various places in the school, including classrooms, library, lunchroom with posted menus, and their computer room, which boasts one for each child. A chain-link fence surrounds the school and there are covered walkways between all the buildings. Solar panels supply much of the energy. The foundation plans to support a micro-farm. In time, the school will plant crops and raise livestock to provide meals for the children. The foundation already supports this endeavor in one other school in Costa Rica.

Today all children begin learning English in first grade. I don’t know when this practice began, but we met adults who could not speak a word of English.

The public has access to the Reading Room, their name for the library, where they can practice reading. Senior adults show no interest in learning English or in reading. However, one would think younger adults with families would want to learn. Apparently, they believe education is for the young.

Education in Costa Rica holds promise for a successful future in all lifestyles for the entire country.



Full Moon's Glow

Joan Leotta


Full moon draws me outside, into its glow.

Over and over I snap photos,

Like a new mother with her first child.

Moon, my full moon, glows

and shimmers casting its glow over all I love,

near and far here and passed on.

Moon's full light marks our rendezvous point in the universe—

 that Eden, that paradise,

the place where we will gather

when life is done on earth.



Silver Crescent Lullaby

Joan Leotta


Moon’s curve cups the stars

gently in its cradle.

By morn, they will sleep.


My Beloved Alethea

Randy Bittle


Beautiful Alethea is a bewitching seductress, always tempting and teasing, but rarely and only begrudgingly yielding her charms to the ardent enchanted romancer.  Years ago I succumbed to her alluring attractions, but she eluded my grasp even as she flirted relentlessly and shamelessly.  Alethea is the ancient Greek word for truth, and it is truth that I fell for despite its elusiveness.  The difficulties inherent in building a meaningful relationship with truth are daunting, sometimes overwhelming, but the rewards of even minor intimacies are worth the arduous efforts.

It is no surprise that the tumultuous love affair between mankind and truth began with the ancient Greeks when the first philosophers wooed Alethea in earnest.  Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were the most effective suitors of Alethea in ancient Greece.  They failed to win her hand, but their efforts initiated the ever-changing and tenuous relationships between humans and truth.  Homo sapiens began a quest for truth in ancient Greece that cumulatively advanced for 2600 years and will continue to grow and be refined into the indefinite future.

Love for Alethea is an affair marked by individual infatuation, but everyone benefits whenever a given individual advances understanding well enough to record and transmit hard-won knowledge to other suitably receptive people.  Plato courted Alethea when he separated truth from the realm of corruptible material things and placed it in the divine realm of ideas and essences he called the Forms.  No earthly material manifestations could equal the ideal truths of the Forms.  Saint Augustine adapted Plato’s corruptible material world versus ideal divine truths to Christian ideology in the fourth century AD.  The Augustinian marriage of Platonic truth with Christian theology flourished for hundreds of years and traces of it still exist today.

Aristotle took a more teleological approach.  Teleology means goal or purpose oriented.  Aristotle thought that movement was the result of objects purposely seeking their natural place.  He believed every object, living or non-living, had a soul.  Drop a rock and it falls to the earth’s surface.  The rock’s “soul,” purposely seeking its natural teleological place, caused it to move toward the earth.  The ancient Greeks knew the earth was round.  If at any point around the globe you drop a rock and it moves down, Aristotle reasoned the earth must be at the center of the universe.  He considered celestial bodies to be perfect and divine, both circular themselves and following perfect, if sometimes complex, circular motions.

Because of the seminal work of Saint Thomas Aquinas, which merged Christian theology with Aristotle’s understanding of logic, ethics, and nature, Aristotle’s science became the groundwork for natural truth as understood by humanity’s brightest minds in the Middle Ages between 1200 BC and 1600 BC.  The emphasis at the time was on theological truths, but practical natural truths were part of the universe even though few inquiring minds sought to understand them.  Aristotle’s natural philosophy was the most advanced truth in 350 BC, but it fell short of true knowledge and in the 1600’s AD a new approach to science was introduced by Francis Bacon.  The proposed methodology was based on experiment and observation.

This new scientific method tried to separate truths about natural philosophy from supernatural theological truths, but it was not a clear cut separation.  As Kepler applied rigorous mathematical analysis to celestial motions and Galileo turned his spyglass to the skies in the early 1600,s AD, the Aristotelian and theological consensus of perfect celestial bodies and an earth-centered universe became threatened.  The flirtatious allure of Alethea seemed to be toying with the affections of mankind.  The authority of Aristotle as viewed by Church authorities was considered THE unquestionable truth.

Kepler and Galileo disputed Aristotelian truth with observational facts, such as evidence that the earth orbited the sun, and that Venus had phases like the moon and thus orbited the sun, and that moons orbited Jupiter.  These observations challenged the Church and Aristotle’s belief that the earth was the center of God’s universe.  Kepler died before the Church authorities could get to him in distant Germany, but Galileo faced an inquisition and was forced to recant what his observational evidence told him was true.  He died after several years of house arrest by the Church, and he was not allowed to continue his blasphemous studies and research.  Turns out the Church and Aristotle were wrong.  The earth is not the center of the universe.  In 1992, Pope John Paul II made a declaration acknowledging the errors of the Catholic Church in its persecution of Galileo.  Alethea surrendered some of her charms to her suitors.

Then along came Isaac Newton.  He applied rigorous mathematical analysis to basic notions of motion and discovered the universal law of gravitation and the three laws of motion involving force, mass, inertia, and acceleration.  Natural philosophical truths were given a sound mathematical underpinning.  The distinction between supernatural theological truths and natural truths grew more disparate.  It may be that humans need both theological and natural truths, but believing the earth is at the center of the universe for theological reasons does not make it so.  The evolution of natural mathematical analysis, in place of misguided theological beliefs about natural philosophy, made possible the advances in technology in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that led to the industrial revolution.  Mankind’s increasing competence in manipulating the physical world reduced suffering and advanced human understanding, thus pushing man’s relationship with sweet Alethea to new heights and intimacies.

My own individual courtship with Alethea was aided by all previous efforts to render truths knowable, but much still needs to be done.  Physical manipulations of nature are astoundingly advanced in this twenty-first century, but psychological, social, political, economic, and religious truths remain elusive.  Truth is shunned in politics.  Economics depends on the value of the dollar instead of the value of truth and the right thing to do.  Other valid truths get lost in the political, economic, and social shuffle.  Power, greed, and corruption overwhelm Alethea’s delicate nature and cast her aside with little consideration, at the expense of the well-being of billions of people.  For myself, I will court Alethea until my dying day.  The beauties and intimacies of our relationship make life worth living.



Playing with Fire

A Near Disaster of Childhood

Sybil Austin Skakle


Fire fascinates children. Telling a child of its dangers rarely, if ever, stifles their curiosity. To be satisfied they must discover truth from experience. I suspect everyone has had an experience of flirting with danger of some kind similar to mine. A young cousin built a fire under his parents’ home, which resulted in the house catching fire and burning to the ground.  

There were five children in our family, three older than my baby sister Mona and me. The day that Mona and I were outside in the backyard about to get in trouble, they were probably involved with their own interests or were helping Mama in the house, or Daddy in the store.

I was nine or ten and Mona four of five that cold winter morning- we would have been dressed warmly. The two of us were in the backyard, which was directly behind the store part of the building that included our living quarters, as well. We were looking for something to do. I know it was cold because ice had formed on the water in the galvanized washtub tub that Mama had placed to catch the rain from the roof of a shed, which stood in line with and directly behind the washhouse. In the 1930s Hatteras Villagers depended on the rain for all their water needs.

Mona and I decided it would be nice to have a fire. The yard behind Daddy’s store was large and open, no grass, but sand and the chicken yard beyond where we were. Had Daddy been in his office in the back of A. S. Austin, General Merchandise Store, he would have surely seen us and intervened. Mama’s view, unless she had been looking out the back window at the top of the stairs on the upper floor of the house, was not a good one. But, no one saw or apprehended the two little girls as they assembled the things they needed to start a fire. 

We found a five gallon metal can, which once held lard. We collected sticks and paper to place in the bottom of the can. One of us, probably me, went into the house for matches from the big box in the kitchen, the kind used to light the kitchen stove and begin fires in the coal-burning heater in the living room.  They would ignited by friction on almost any surface.

We started our fire, but it would not blaze to give us warmth we craved.  So, we decided to borrow a bit of kerosene from the 50 gallon barrel, with a pump in the hole, standing on the back porch of the store. So, we found an empty tin can for the kerosene and took turns supplying our need. Mona believed she got white gas, but I do not believe so. That barrel resided in a garage at a later date. 

Even with the kerosene, we were unable to make it thrive. Unaware of the need of air from the bottom of a fire, we began to blow on the struggling embers. Mona, not much taller than the 5 gallon can, leaned over and blew and the blaze hit her in the face, burning away her eyebrows and caught the edges of her curly hair afire. I grabbed her and pushed her face into the tub of icy water.

I must have gone into shock after that, for I can imagine the excitement it must have caused. I do remember sitting with Mona in the upstairs bedroom, with her propped on pillows in Mama and Daddy’s feather bed with a very red face. Thankfully, it did not blister or scar. It may have been a form of penance for me and therapeutic, to assuage my guilt.

I am grateful I did not drown Mona that day. I have learned that running cold water is the best first aid for first and second degree burns. Mona, who left this earth a few years ago, always said that her memory of the incident was always accompanied by the smell of Noxzema.



Howard Who?

Elizabeth Silance Ballard

(*See note at end about picture)


I once took an Art Appreciation course at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. We were to write a paper on an artist and  I was assigned to write about a folk artist.

“Ms. Ballard,  is there a  particular folk artist you’d like to explore and write about?”

Not afraid to sound ignorant, I blurted out that the only folk artist I had ever heard of was Peter Hunt. Oddly enough, I got the impression that the professor had not heard of Peter Hunt. Of course, I was roughly thirty years older than the professor so that might explain it.

“You’ve never heard of Howard Finster?”


I admitted once again to ignorance and was promptly assigned a paper on the folk artist, Howard Finster.  At that time, all research  was done in the library and the ODU library  was a very good university library. However,  there is so much more available today on this remarkable man.

At that time, Howard Finster was considered an “outside” artist and was quite well-known even then.  An “outside” artist is one who is untrained and paints outside the normal styles of mainstream art. Today,  he is known around the world and his work is in art galleries and museums of art far and wide.

Now we can see much of his art through Google and I personally found it exciting to be able to see videos of conversations with him talking about his work and his “calling.” There are many other YouTube selections  about his work but I was only interested in seeing and hearing the man himself.

You see, Howard Finster was like hundreds of uneducated, self-proclaimed “preachers” in small country Baptist churches in the South , many of whom can still be found in every state through the Bible Belt and beyond.

With only a  sixth grade education, he felt the call to  preach  early in life and by age seventeen he was doing so.  Do not think that he had no credentials, however. Indeed, he seemed to have a special credential as a man of God: He had visions. His first vision was at three years old when his dead sister appeared to him but throughout his life his visions abounded in angels, family members, former presidents, even the devil and the devil’s wife!

At first, I began to wonder when poor Howard found the time to work in his ministry, spend time with his family or even associate with mere mortals, so besieged was he by visitors from the other side.  But this was a very special man, and the more I learned about him I began to wonder how much the rest of us have missed in our lives simply because we were not attumed to God’s leading as Howard Finster, who saw signs and beauty and calling in his daily living.

We  might never  have heard of Howard Finster had  he been  too busy, too educated, too “important” to receive the messages he believed was sent to him from God and had he not been attuned to seeing beauty everywhere and in all things that came his way.

One of  his greatest visions came to him after he retired from the ministry. He was working in his bicycle repair shop one day where he rebuilt and repaired bicycles  which he sold cheaply to families who could not afford new ones.  While he was painting one of  the bikes, he dropped a blob of white paint on his finger  which appeared to be a face. At that same moment he heard a voice informing him that he was to paint sacred art.

Until that time, the closest Howard had come to any artistic endeavor  was what he called his “visual reminders” which he made to reinforce the message of his sermons. They were simple drawings and Bible verses painted with tractor paint on any material  he  found useful, often the backs of old TV sets.

Now, Howard Finster had always believed that when the Lord calls, the Christian responds, so he gathered paint brushes and went to work! At that time he was sixty years old and had no training  in art whatsoever. It just wasn’t part of his life but he embarked on his art career for the Lord, anyway, and painted on any surface he could find.

Most of us would sign up for art classes, buy oils, pastels, and all sizes of canvas. Oh, and we would want an easel, a space in which  to paint with just the right light and we would expect to be recognized and appreciated, the sooner the better.

Not so, Howard. He painted on walls, broken boards, cement slabs, garbage cans. Much of his inspiration came at night in his dream life which is why he said that his work was not just something he imagined and then painted.  The inspiration in dreams came from the Lord.

 He also did not copy the Masters or anyone else. He  didn’t need to copy anything. He never had to wonder about what he would paint next because his inspiration, in addition to his dreams,  was the Bible, his visitations of various personages long gone from Earth, AND his visions.  Howard was certain that he had lived on another planet and sometimes had memories and glimpses of that planet.

 Now, don’t immediately quit  reading  thinking this artist was really a crackpot because his body of work, his worldwide renown, and the inclusion of his work in art galleries and museums of art around the world indicates that Howard Finster was no crackpot. Bear in mind that he did not set up to make himself known as an artist. He was simply following the Lord’s directive to paint sacred art.

What makes his art so different, even from other outside artists is the “writing” part. He never simply “painted.” He absolutely had to inscribe Bible verses or other messages in his own words (poor grammar and spelling prominent) across the face of each work. Remember, he only had a sixth grade education. The errors in grammar and spelling are greatly overshadowed by his art and the way he chose to present it!

The  messages which accompanied his art, were the messages he gave in his sermons as a preacher: Repent.  You have a choice of heaven or hell, choose eternal life. The message was the important thing to Howard.   His art had become his vehicle for ministry and he was just as fervent about it as he had been in the pulpit. 

One art gallery in D.C. wanted the art but no message on  it, no writing at all. Howard refused and referred to them as infidels .  They would not display his work under  those conditions.

It didn’t faze him a bit. He was too busy working on his art and getting his message out to care what one place of business thought about him.  After all, they had come to HIM. He hadn’t taken his art to THEM!  I’m sure he never gave them another thought.

For him, it was not just about the art. It was about getting the message from God out to the people.  He firmly believed that his job was  to do what he had been told to do by God without question. He always believed that if God has called you to do anything, he will give you the wherewithal to do that thing. That’s why he didn’t see the need for art classes. God told him to paint, not to learn to paint, so he painted and included his special messages.

It’s enough to make anyone a believer in his calling.  When a totally unknown person, with no training, no contacts and doesn’t even see the need for either,  in five years goes from  anonymity to having his work in galleries across the country and is invited to appear on the  Johnny Carson Show and a year after that his art  is shown in Venice? Well, how do YOU explain it?  I have to believe he had a real calling, recognized that calling,  and let the Lord stay in charge. He simply obeyed.

Howard Finster might be in the “outside artist” category but it has also been said the he may have been so far “outside” that he was “in.” Of course, any time anyone is “outside” anything, he or she is often labeled “odd,” “a little crazy,”  and often an embarrassment to family and friends.  I can’t say for  certain that was the case with Howard, but, human nature being what it is, I’m sure that might have been the case, at least until he became famous.

This artist considered his major work to be his greatest vision which became his Paradise Garden. “Paradise Lost” might be a title that came to mind for some visitors who wandered  through , what some called early in his art endeavors,  “this glorified junk pile” which was built on a two acre swamp behind Howard’s own home in Pennville, Georgia.

There are life size clay figures and towers of bicycle frames. His sculpture, “Seppents Mound,” (Serpents Mound) is a study in the gross and grotesque. Looking much like a pile of dung with snakes crawling around and through it,  the message is woefully obscure to most.

Does it represent death? A fate worse than death—eternal horror in hell? Is it a message that we have made the world a dung heap and the low life has taken it over?  Another sculpture of wire and filled with old dishes, plastic items and odds and ends is topped by an agitator from an old washer. What does it mean?  A statement on the environment and our throw-away society? Before these sculptures, Howard placed  the sign, “Jesus Wept.”

If Paradise Garden were all we had of Finster, he might could easily be dismissed as a crackpot. Fortunately, it is not all we have. We have his paintings. They are appealing and definitely take him out of the crackpot category. His work is strongly and strangely visionary and it is intensely personal. It represents his beliefs.

Howard Finster never “decided” to be an artist. He never decided to “try” to paint. He never put himself on the auction block.  There was a popular  idiom a few years ago,  “Bloom where you are planted.”

Howard Finster, through his strong and unshakeable belief that when God calls we must answer and obey, bloomed where he was planted. He never set out to make his work known worldwide. He didn’t have to do anything except what God led him to do. He painted sacred art and used that art to get the message he was given. When he was called to preach in his teen-age years, he could never have envisioned that he would be preaching with a paintbrush and that his messages would be sent  around the world, a world filled with people he was trying to save.

Howard Finster died October 22, 2001 but his work continues to be seen and appreciated by many. Some may laugh and some may scoff  but the fact that his work has been shown far and wide and that he remained such a humble man just doing what he believed God told him to do has to make us wonder:  What signs and messages have we missed in our lives because we were not listening when God spoke to us?

What beauty have we missed in our lives because we were not attuned to the beauty of the nature and our fellow human beings?   What might we have been able to accomplish if we were not so caught up in the rat race pressure to achieve and accrue?

Howard who? Howard Finster, man of God, creator of beauty out of the trashpile at times, a  humble man on a mission who never failed to believe that he was “called.” He had to answer. He had to obey.


·       The Image is a tribute to Howard Finster by Don Swartzentruber - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,



“Humanity’s greatest weakness is its tendency to delude itself as to the veracity of unexamined convictions.”


What Are Grits?

Source Unknown

           Some folks believe grits are grown on bushes and are harvested by midgets by shaking the bushes after spreading sheets around them. Many people think grits are made from ground up bits of white corn. These are lies spread by Communists and terrorists. Nothing as good as a Grits can be made from corn. Research suggests that the mysterious Manna that God rained down upon the Israelites during their time in the Sinai Desert was most likely Grits. Critics disagree, stating that there is no record of biscuits, butter, salt, and red eye gravy raining down from the sky, and that God would not punish his people by forcing them to eat Grits without these key ingredients.

How Grits are Formed:

Grits are formed deep underground under intense heat and pressure. It takes over 1000 years to form a single Grit. Most of the world's grit mines are in Georgia , and are guarded day and night by armed guards and attack dogs Harvesting the Grit is a dangerous occupation, and many Grit miners lose their lives each year so that Grits can continue to be served morning after morning for breakfast--not that having Grits for lunch and dinner is out of the question.


Yankees have attempted to create a synthetic Grits. They call them Cream of Wheat. As far as we can tell, the key ingredients of Cream of Wheat are Elmer's Glue and shredded Styrofoam. These synthetic grits have also been shown to cause nausea, and can leave you unable to have children.



Historical Grits:

As mentioned earlier, the first known mention of the Grits was by the Ancient Israelites in the Sinai Desert. After that, Grits were not heard from for another 1000 years. Grits were used during this time only during secret religious ceremonies, and were kept from the public. The next mention of Grits was found amidst the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii in a woman's personal diary discovered in the seat of an old sedan. The woman's name was Herculania Jemimana, who was known as Aunt Jemima to her friends.


The Ten Commandments of Grits:

I. Thou shalt not put syrup on thy Grits
II.Thou shalt not eat thy Grits with a spoon or knife
III.Thou shalt not eat Cream of Wheat and call it Grits, for this is blasphemy
IV. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's Grits
V.Thou shalt use only Salt, Butter, and red eye gravy as toppings for thy Grits
VI. Thou shalt not eat Instant Grits
VII. Thou shalt not put ketchup on thy Grits
VIII. Thou shalt not put margarine on thy Grits.
IX. Thou shalt not eat toast with thy Grits, only biscuits made from scratch .
X. Thou shalt eat grits on the Sabbath for this is manna from heaven.

How to Cook Grits:

For one serving of Grits: Boil 1.5 cups of water with salt and a little butter. Add 5 Tbsp of Grits. Reduce to a simmer and allow the Grits to
soak up all the water. When a pencil stuck into the grits stands alone, they are done. That's all there is to cooking grits.
How to make red eye gravy: Fry salt cured country ham in cast-iron pan. Remove the ham when done and add coffee to the gravy and simmer for several minutes. Great on grits and biscuits.


How to Eat Grits:

Immediately after removing your grits from the stove top, add a generous portion of butter or red eye gravy. Do NOT use low-fat butter.
The butter should cause the Grits to turn a wondrous shade of yellow. Hold a banana or a yellow rain slicker next to your Grits; if the colors match, you have the correct amount of butter. In lieu of butter, pour a generous helping of red eye gravy on your
grits. Be sure to pour enough to have some left for sopping up with your biscuits. Use biscuits made from scratch. Never, ever substitute canned or store-bought biscuits for the real thing because they can cause cancer, tooth decay and impotence. Next, add salt. The correct ratio of Grit to Salt is 10:1 Therefore for every 10 grits, you should have 1 grain of salt. Now begin eating your grits. Always use a fork, never a spoon, to eat Grits. Your grits should be thick enough so they do not run through the tines of the fork. The correct beverage to serve with Grits is black coffee. DO NOT use cream or, heaven forbid, Skim Milk. Your grits should rarely be eaten in a bowl because Yankees will think it's Cream of Wheat.


Ways to Eat Leftover Grits:

Leftover grits are extremely rare and may only be a rumor. Spread them in the bottom of a casserole dish, Cover and place them in the refrigerator overnight The Grits will congeal into a gelatinous mass. Next morning, slice the Grits into squares and fry them in 1/2' of cooking oil and butter until they turn a golden brown. Many people are tempted to pour syrup onto Grits served this way. This is, of course, unacceptable but delicious.


Blessings Before Eating Grits


May the Lord bless these grits,
May Yankees never get the recipe,
May I eat grits each day while living,
And may I die while eating grits.




“Mass democracy’s individual freedoms will become restricted  by a “tyranny of the majority.”

John Stuart Mill


It had to happen sooner or later; Blonde Men!

Submitted by Dave Whitford


A friend told the blonde man: "Christmas is on a Friday this year." The blond man then said, "Let's hope it's not the 13th."


Two blond men find three grenades, and they decide to take them to a police station. One asked: "What if one explodes before we get there?" The other says: "We'll lie and say we only found two."


A blond man is in the bathroom and his wife shouts: "Did you find the shampoo?" He answers, "Yes, but I'm not sure what to do... it's for dry hair, and I've just wet mine."


A blond man goes to the vet with his goldfish. "I think it's got epilepsy," he tells the vet. The vet takes a look and says, "It seems calm enough to me." The blond man says, "Wait, I haven't taken it out of the bowl yet."


A blond man spies a letter lying on his doormat. It says on the envelope "DO NOT BEND ." He spends the next 2 hours trying to figure out how to pick it up.


A blond man shouts frantically into the phone. "My wife is pregnant and her contractions are only two minutes apart!" "Is this her first child?" asks the doctor. "No," he shouts, "this is her husband!"


A blond man was driving home, drunk as a skunk. Suddenly he has to swerve to avoid a tree, then another, then another. A cop car pulls him over, so he tells the cop about all the trees in the road. The cop says, "That's your air freshener swinging about!"


A blond man's dog goes missing and he is frantic. His wife says, "Why don't you put an ad in the paper?" He does, but two weeks later the dog is still missing. "What did you put in the paper?" his wife asks. "Here boy!" he replies.


A blond man is in jail. The guard looks in his cell and sees him hanging by his feet. "Just WHAT are you doing?" he asks. "Hanging myself," the blond replies. "It should be around your neck," says the guard. "I tried that," he replies, "but then I couldn't breathe."


(This one actually makes sense...sort An Italian tourist asks a blond man: "Why do scuba divers always fall backwards off their boats?" To which the blond man replies: "If they fell forward, they'd still be in the boat."




“Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” G. K. Chesterton


The Venus Chronicles

E. B. Alston

My new project, which has passed 40,000 words.


The incident described below takes place in the third century after human colonists landed on Venus to begin a new civilization. Aristocrats are direct descendants of the original colonists. Commoners are the result of human boys and men mating with aboriginal females. The aboriginals call themselves Eterti. At the time humans landed on Venus, they were pre-agricultural and knew nothing of herding. They kept fire to cook un-slaughtered meat but did not know how to start a fire.


Black Jack

David Jackson


I had planned a road trip to Essex to see their annual art exhibit.  Before I left, a commoner named Velturia, asked me to deliver some items to a human hermit who lived at an Eteriti place called Scuna, which was on my way. The day before my friend Richard and I left, she delivered a sack of flour, another of rice, some canned and dry food and some magazines. The amount was enough food for a month and I complimented the woman for her generosity.

She was a very attractive commoner woman of middle age whose attire was more tasteful and matched her figure and complexion much better than many aristocratic women. She was also well spoken and polite, as befitted her class.

I was interested. She said the hermit had lived by himself in this remote and tiny, grimy, isolated place for thirty years. When a traveler was going by a land vehicle, it was a chance to send pro­visions given to him. He was a human from Black Mountain, but in Scuna he was called Black Jack. When I asked what his real name was she said did not know his aristocratic name.

She told us that he had been a humanoid robot programmer. He had grown tired of this boring job and, to break the monotony, he mischievously programmed a few robots to think and act like aristocrats. He even assigned sexual identities, making some act like aristocratic females and some like very eccentric males. Plus, their appearances were superior to actual Aristocrats. The only real difference was they never slept or ate human food, although he designed them so that they could appear to eat and drink. They had prodigious memories and knew all the best jokes and funny stories from all time.

On other words, they were delightful people, or rather, they looked and acted like delightful people. They were so much like the real thing that, dressed in clothes, they were almost indistinguishable from actual Aristocrats.  

Without telling anyone, he sent two to a big aristocratic shindig where two prominent aristocrats were getting married.  They were, spectacularly, the life of the party and the bride fell in love with the male robot. When it was discovered that they were robots, Black Jack got demoted.

He didn’t like his new assignment either so he moved to Scuna with nothing but the clothes on his back. He acquired a couple of Eterti women and produced a whole herd of highly intelligent, highly mischievous commoner children.

 He told everyone that he despised his fellow men and would never to live among them again. Now and then some official would offer him an opportunity to return to a productive human life which he scornfully turned down.

After telling us this, Velturia, thanked us and wished us bon voyage.

After we left, Richard commented how sad it was that commoners today have better manners than aristocrats.

I replied that they were also more generous.

He agreed and said he did not know a single aristocrat who would have done this for what was really another aristocrat.

We continued this discussion for some time on our long drive to Scuna. We thought it sad that the revered aristocratic heritage that was bequeathed to us by those long dead heroes had been ignored and forgotten by their ungrateful descendants. They had risked their lives to found a new civilization in a new world. Now it was being degraded by their lazy descendants.

Black Jack seemed to be a strange man and his life was a strange story. I forget if it was four or five days before we arrived at the hermit’s little kingdom. We had some bad weather on the way and had to take shelter and had spent a couple of days at a Hospitality House.

Finally we arrived at the little hut, sheltered by trees, where Black Jack lived. When we got out of the vehicle, he sauntered down slowly to the forest edge.

He didn’t answer when we greeted him.

He looked to be over seventy, not a single hair on his head, hatchet faced, had a grey beard. He walked and moved like a robot! His blue eyes looked very pale because of his sunburned face. They were surrounded by wrinkles, no doubt because of the long years he had spent looking at nothing but a bare, vacant landscape.

He wore dungarees and a short sleeve shirt, patched, but neat and clean. He led us to his hut which was a single room with a rusty tin roof. There was a fancy but unmade bed in it. Also some rough stools, which obviously he had made. On a table beside the only window were his household uten­sils. Another table and a bench were outside under a tree. Behind his hut was an enclosed run where he had chickens.

Black Jack didn’t act as if he was glad to see us. He took Velturia’s package without any hint of appreciation, as if it was his as a right. He complained because he expected more canned meat and he needed toothpaste and shampoo.

He showed no pleasure in our company or appreciation for the gifts we delivered from a beautiful, kind and generous woman.

Instead, he was quiet and morose. He was also not interested in any Venus news. He was not even slightly concerned about what was happening in the outside world.

The only thing he cared about was Scuna. He called it his “health resort.”

 He said he was worried that some damned logger might see the huge, thousand-year old trees and cut them down.

He asked sus­piciously for us to explain why we were going to Essex. When I said we were going to see an art exhibit, he sneered and called all artists a bunch of sissies.

His manner of speaking was odd. He spoke with diffi­culty as if he was talking to himself rather than to us.

It was uncanny to hear him mumble away as if we were not there. The only emotion he showed was when Richard told him that an old man of his own age, whom he had known for a long time was dead.

“Old Charlie dead—that's too bad. Old Charlie dead." He repeated it over and over again.

I asked him if he read books.

“Not much,” he answered indifferently.

His entire world consisted of nothing but his hut, his food, his Eterti women and his chickens.

If what we read in books was true, his long communion with nature and the forest should have taught him many subtle secrets. But It hadn’t. He was an ignorant savage with an unpleasant disposition. He was noth­ing but a narrow, ignorant and cantankerous computer programmer.

When I looked at the wrinkled, mean old face, I wondered what had made him accept this long imprisonment. What secrets might be hiding behind those pale blue eyes of his? Whatever they were I bet he would carry them to his grave.

Then I visualized the way this would end.

One day a visitor like us would stop by and Black Jack would not be waiting, silent and suspicious, at the forest’s edge. The visitor would go to the hut and find him lying unrecog­nizable on his bed. He would see all that remained of what had once been a man. Then the visitor might look to see if there were any valuables that hermits of legend are supposed to leave behind.  I doubted if he would find anything.

If there were anything, Black Jack would have made sure that nobody would ever find it. The traveler would get back into his vehicle and Scuna would again be deserted of man.



From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza


Butter Pecan Cheesecake


butter pecan cheesecake 1.jpg



For the crust:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

For the pecans:

2 cups pecan halves and pieces

2 tbls unsalted butter

3 tbls granulated sugar

pinch of salt


For the filling:

16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup heavy cream




To make the crust:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter, and mix with a pastry blender, a fork, or your fingers until thoroughly combined. The mixture will be crumbly but should hold together when pinched.

Press the crust mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom or 9-inch springform pan.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

To make the pecans:

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans, sugar, and salt. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the pecans are toasted and the sugar sticks to them (about 7 or 8 minutes). Set aside to cool.

If desired, set aside some of the pecans for garnish. Once cooled, roughly chop the remaining pecans.


To make the filling:

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until thoroughly combined and smooth.

In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer with a whisk attachment to whip the cream until soft peaks form.

Fold about a third of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Then gently fold in the remaining whipped cream. Stir in the chopped pecans.

Spread the filling evenly in the cooled crust. Garnish as desired. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving (overnight is even better).


Cook’s notes –

*A note about the crust: Shortbread crusts can be temperamental. Be sure your butter is cold and that you’ve measured the ingredients accurately. Avoid dark pans. Don’t over bake.


Carrot Cake Cheesecake


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2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup canola oil

4 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 cups shredded carrots



2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp kosher salt

2 large eggs

1/4 cup sour cream

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream



1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup heavy cream

4 cups powdered sugar

1 cup chopped pecans



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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

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

Creamy Homemade Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies


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

Cooking time: 35 mins

Yield: 24 servings


1 (19.8 ounce) package brownie mix

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese

1 egg

1/3 cup white sugar



Prepare the brownie mix as directed by manufacturer.

Preheat oven to temperature indicated on box.

Grease a 9x13 inch pan.

Spread the brownie batter evenly into the prepared pan.

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

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

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

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



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

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


Creamy Homemade Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies

chocolate chesecake.jpg

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

Cooking time: 35 mins

Yield: 24 servings


1 (19.8 ounce) package brownie mix

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese

1 egg

1/3 cup white sugar




Prepare the brownie mix as directed by manufacturer.

Preheat oven to temperature indicated on box.

Grease a 9x13 inch pan.

Spread the brownie batter evenly into the prepared pan.

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

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

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

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



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

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



Childhood Memories

Growing Up in Tennessee during the Depression

Jean Barnes


Part One


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I was born at home in the Ivy Bluff Community of Cannon County, in middle Tennessee, Nov. 8, 1927, to Cyril and Frances Hartman Banks.  “Old” Dr. Clark from Morrison delivered me.  He was later shot and killed during a bank robbery by the Rains’ Gang in front of his office there in Morrison.  The “Rains Gang” consisted of Jay Rains, who was raised in our community, Clifton Cotton, a former school teacher at Geedeville, and a Tucker.  I believe Mama said I was born about six o’clock in the evening.  She said I weighed about six pounds, and that a lot of people came to see me. When she would turn back the covers, “those little dark, beady eyes” were almost always open.  I was named for famous movie actresses of the time, Norma Shearer and Jean Harlow, Norma Jean.  These were silent movies, too.  Mom said she had never known anyone named Jean before.  I believe it was Adath Swanger who came and stayed with us for about a week and did the cooking, washing, etc., and took care of Mama and me.

Mama was raised in the Geedeville Community, which was five or six miles from Ivy Bluff.  Her parents were Alvin and Minnie Smith Hartman. Mom went to college at the old Normal in Murfreesboro a couple of years and got her first teaching job at Ivy Bluff.  Her parents moved to Old Hickory that year where her Father had gone to work at the old Powder Plant that later became DuPont, so Mom boarded with Dad and Ma Banks, Oscar and Fannie Brown Banks, my grandparents).  This is where she and Daddy met. They married the next year on December 21, 1924. After Mama and Daddy married, Daddy learned to drive a car and bought an A-Model Ford.  The first thing he did was take it all apart to see how everything worked.<;

Mama and Daddy owned about twenty acres of land that Daddy farmed, and he also did all the farm work on his parents’ farm about two miles away. They had a nice, white two story house and about 120 acres, but Mama said Daddy only made enough money to buy seeds to start out the next year! I think Mama resented the way his parents depended on Daddy for so much, and she never thought they paid him as much as he deserved.   Daddy only had one sister, Irma, and she was nine years younger, so they looked to Daddy for everything.

Mama taught school, but she only made, I think, about $12.00 a month.  The county didn’t always have the money to pay teachers, so they paid them with a “warrant.”  It was up to the teachers to get someone to cash their warrants who always charged them a fee to cash them.  I think Uncle Bob Brown usually cashed Mama’s.  Not too many people in the community had the money to cash them, because they had to wait until the county got the money to redeem them.  Having cash was almost non-existent

Mom always wanted Daddy to go to Old Hickory and get a job at Dupont where all her family worked and always made good money. MaBanks just would not hear of him going away from Ivy Bluff so he stayed there.  They really were very selfish about Daddy and his family.  Mom said he did go to Old Hickory once and applied for a job, but when they called his name, he didn’t answer.  She didn’t know about this for years. and when she learned about it, she was not happy about it.

We lived in an unpainted, weather stripped house with two rooms and a lean-to across the back: This was the kitchen, dining room and back porch.  We had a front porch with a swing and two front doors.  Our water was drawn from a hand-dug well with a bucket and rope pulley.  Later we installed a pump to get the water out, but it usually had to be “primed”. Water was kept in a bucket with a dipper which everyone drank from – visitors, kinfolks, or anyone else who wanted a drink!

In our lean-to kitchen, we had a wood cook stove with a warming oven on top and a water reservoir on one end.  We had a kitchen cabinet with a flour bin on one end in the top.  This is where mom made biscuits every morning and lots of pies.  We also had a table in there with the water bucket and wash pan on it.  We also had an upstairs, of a sort.  It wasn’t floored except some boards lying across the beams and you could walk on that part.  We even had a bed up there that I remember Warren Duke sleeping in when he stayed with us for a while.  He helped Daddy in the shop.

My Daddy was very innovative and intelligent.  He put up a windmill which generated enough power to charge up batteries.  He even wired our house for electric lights. We had a bulb hanging down with a pull chain in each room.  Of course, if the wind didn’t blow enough to charge the batteries, the lights would be too dim to use.  We were able to have a battery-powered radio.  Not many in the community had a radio, so we had a lot of company to listen to the radio. It was a phenomenon that people from Nashville or some other distant place could be heard at Ivy Bluff through a box!  We listened to the Grand Ole Opry every Saturday night, and when Joe Louis had a boxing match, the house would be full. When Mom would be ironing or something in the house, she would always listen to Ma Perkins or some other “soap.”  Also, weather permitting, we had a lot of card games.  They played draw-pitch or rook.  These games were usually played on Saturday nights, and everyone always liked to come to our house.  Mama and Daddy both were good players.  I learned to recognize numbers off playing cards.

Mom washed on a rub-board.  Water drawn from the well was heated in our big, round, iron wash kettle.  She used homemade lye soap, and the white clothes were always boiled in the wash kettle, then rinsed and hung on the clothes lines to dry.  Anything that needed to be starched and ironed was starched in homemade starch made from flour and boiling water.  Then they had to be sprinkled, rolled up and ironed with a flat iron which had been heated on the wood stove. Of course, there was no such thing as “drip-dry” or polyester material.  Mom said many times in the winter, she would have the clothes freeze to the line before she could get a clothes pin in them.  Then they would freeze dry.  She had to do the wash after she got home from teaching.  Daddy would have the water hot when she got home and she would wash clothes, cook supper on a wood stove and wash dishes before she could go to bed.  I was probably eight or ten years old when we got a gasoline powered wringer washing machine.  It sat out in the yard not far from the wash kettle where the water was heated.  This was such a blessing to Mom.

We all slept in two double beds in one of the two front rooms.  We had a rectangular wood stove with two eyes which Mom cooked a lot on in the winter months. The old house was awfully cold.  Mama said at night she had had eggs freeze and burst sitting under the stove, and the dipper would freeze in the water bucket sitting on a stool behind the stove.  I always slept with Daddy and Mom slept with the two little ones after they were born.  Daddy was so warm to sleep with.  He always slept on his right side with his face to the outside, and I would put my cold feet to the backs of his legs.

We had a wooden ice box on the back porch.  In the summer time, the iceman came by once every week or two.  We would leave a sign out letting him know how many pounds we wanted.  The iceman provided the sign which had a 25, 50, 75 or 100 at the top as it was rotated.  You put the amount you wanted sign with the pounds “up.”  They delivered it with large two handled tongs.  We had to use an ice pick to chip off ice for tea, etc.  Maybe once or twice each summer, we would get enough ice to make homemade ice cream.   We had a hand cranked freezer which seemed to take forever to freeze hard enough to eat!  Then it was wrapped in an old quilt and had to sit for a while to harden.   But, boy, was it ever a welcome treat!  Of course, we didn’t get ice every week, but when we did it was nice to put our milk and butter in the icebox. 

Many years later when they lived in Old Hickory, my Daddy made the first electric ice cream freezer I ever saw.   He “rigged” it up on the backend of an old flat-bed trailer in the back yard using an old washing machine motor for the power to turn the crank and welding rods that would shear off when the ice cream was hard.  He had to experiment with a lot of different rods to get the right hardness.

We made our own butter and buttermilk.  Whole milk was put in the churn and put in a warm place so the milk would “clabber.”  Butter was made by churning the dasher up and down until the butter would gather on top, then it was taken off, washed, drained and put  in a bowl;  worked out and salted.  Churning was a boring, monotonous chore, and I didn’t like it.  Of course, we had no refrigeration, so it was usually very soft.  I remember Mom also making cottage cheese.  I don’t know how she made it, but she would hang the cloth sack filled with the clabbered, scalded milk, on the back porch to drain.  She liked it, but I didn’t really care for it. I like it now.  We always had plenty of whipping cream which was used in a lot of ways, especially in making ice cream.

I remember “Hog Killing Time.” This usually involved Dad and MaBanks too.   It had to be done in cold weather, but not cold enough to freeze the meat.   This took place in the back yard near the smoke house.  After Daddy slaughtered the hogs, they were hung on a scaffold and gutted.  Water was heated in the wash kettle to scald them so the hair could be scraped off.  Fatty parts were used to make lard by boiling them in the wash kettle.  This made the cracklin’s which we used in cornbread.  Then the hog was sectioned into shoulders, hams, and sides for bacon.  Back bones were removed and cut into sections.  The tenderloin lies on each side of the backbone and is usually the first piece of the hog to be cooked.  It is most people’s favorite part of the hog. We always made souse meat with the hog’s head.  It was seasoned with salt, pepper, sage, red pepper and onions then pressed into a dish or mold.  Daddy also cleaned and cooked the pig’s feet, liver and brains.  He said the only part of the hog he didn’t use was the “squeal,” but I don’t remember him ever cooking the “chittlins”, i.e. hog intestines. The scraps and trimmings were ground up and made into sausage.  Sometimes Mama canned it and she always made cloth sacks to sack some of it.  The sacked sausage was hung in the smokehouse along with the hams, shoulders and sides.  When she canned it, she fried the little balls of sausage, put them in a glass jar, usually ½ gallon size, poured the hot grease over them and cooked them in a pressure cooker. Then, to store them, she always turned the can upside down so the grease went to the top. Daddy always “salted down” the hams and shoulders for a few weeks, then washed them off, peppered them and hung them.  I remember him smoking them sometimes in the smokehouse, but usually, he sugar-cured them.  Pork was our primary meat year round.  Every year, Daddy would buy a hind quarter of goat from a neighbor, and we had lots of wild game.  I especially remember the quail and the frog legs.  We never had beef to eat.  We raised hogs to kill, but the only beef we had was our milk cow.  Of course, we had chickens in the spring and sometimes a hen or rooster with dressing and dumplings. The only shortening we ever had was lard or butter.

Mom made biscuits every morning for breakfast.  We usually had meat of some kind, gravy, eggs, butter and jelly.  Sometimes we would have fried apples for breakfast or fried potatoes.  When fresh corn came in, we would have fried corn and tomatoes.  That was the best breakfast I ever ate.  When she wasn’t teaching, Mom almost always cooked a big meal at lunchtime, and we would have leftovers for supper.  We had some kind of dessert almost every day.  By cooking in the morning, the house would be cooler for sleeping.

We had several out-buildings on our place.  We had a barn and a crib for the corn; a smoke house; an outdoor toilet in a lean-to woodshed attached to the smoke house; a nice hen house out in the orchard; and a chicken / brooder house.  The brooder house had a concrete & brick heat unit with a flue to build a fire in so they could start setting eggs early and keep the room warm enough for them to hatch.  I remember “candling” eggs.  You would look through an egg which was held up to a light to see if it was fertile.  Only the fertile eggs would be used for “setting.”  It was always a treat to have frying chickens in the spring.

We had a horse named Jim and a mule named John, he was mean, which Daddy used to pull the farm equipment. Mom said that Daddy was plowing behind the barn one day and that the mule just stopped. Daddy couldn’t get him to move, so he looked up and I was playing in the dirt under the mule’s belly, between the front and back legs! I must have been around two and a half.  Daddy was horrified.  I was always out with Daddy. 

There was an under-privileged family who lived in a rent house behind us and they had some children.  I never had anyone to play with so one day when Daddy was working in the potato patch and I was with him, I proceeded to tell him that I was going over there and get me a drink of water.  He said, “No, if you want a drink, you go to the house.”  Well, that wasn’t my plan, so I crawled through a hole in the fence and went on over there.  I played a little while then decided I’d better go back.  Just as I raised up from the hole in the fence, Daddy picked me up.  He hit me one lick on the bottom and sent me to the house.  It just killed me and I cried all the way home.  That was the only time he ever spanked me.  He never remembered that, but I did!  He used to laugh when I would tell it, but he didn’t remember it.

When they were building the new highway 53 from Woodbury to Manchester, Daddy got a job driving a bulldozer.  The best I remember, he made $2.00 a day, which was “big” money.  It was hard work and I remember all the mud.  Daddy had never had any experience with heavy machinery, but he acted like he did and got the job.

Life was hard, but I was happy and we always had plenty to eat.  Remember, this was during the “Big Depression” and many people did not have enough to eat.  We never had anything much, but I didn’t know the difference because we had as much or more than most of our neighbors. 

Mom made all the clothes she and I both wore and she made my dresses with bloomers to match.  I remember that I didn’t always have toothpaste.  I brushed my teeth with baking soda.  Daddy said he took a dozen eggs to the store to sell one time and they only offered him ten cents. He wouldn’t sell them.  He said they were worth more than that to him to eat!  I have heard Mama say that there were times when she didn’t have three cents to buy a stamp to mail her mother a letter.

I don’t remember much dissension between Mama and Daddy.  Everything was usually pretty calm and peaceful.  Of course, I’m sure there were problems that I never knew about, but they kept them from me.

Rural Electrification Area (REA) or the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was trying to bring electricity to our part of the country. Everyone who wanted it had to sign up for it and promise to pay I think $1.00 a month. Well, Dad Banks refused to sign up for it.  He was afraid of it.  He said “Everything will burn up!”  Daddy forged his name on the application and I still have that document! It came from Irma’s belongings.  Daddy was really excited about getting electricity and bought a refrigerator which sat on the front porch until the current was turned on.

I think I was about twelve years old when finally we got electricity.  All of my grade school studying had to be done by a coal oil lamp.  We did, at one time, have an Aladdin lamp.  It was a good light, but the little wick was so fragile, it didn’t last long.  They were expensive to replace I think they cost 79 cents, so we didn’t always have one for light. This was when the battery-powered lights didn’t work.

We had some odd home remedies for just about any ailment.  Going to a doctor was out of the question.  Nearly every summer, I would step on a rusty nail, or step on the sling blade, or something traumatic.  The injuries were treated by soaking them in kerosene, and when I sprained my ankle, it was wrapped in vinegar-soaked brown paper. I remember us using Epsom Salts for doctoring, but don’t remember exactly what for.  I think it would draw out infection.

When I had a cold, Mom mixed up a concoction of turpentine, camphor, and lard.  She put it on a heated wool cloth and put it on my chest. Sometimes it would blister the skin, but I guess it would break up a cold.  When I had a cough, she used to give me a few drops of turpentine on a spoonful of sugar.  It really wasn’t all that bad tasting, and helped a cough.  Dad Banks always kept a mixture of whiskey and horehound candy for his cough, but I don’t remember them ever giving me any!

I remember once in a while, Mom would make me take a dose of castor oil.  I don’t remember what for, but I hated it.  Daddy said his mother never let the castor oil bottle get cold at their house.  It always sat on the back of the wood stove in the kitchen, and she gave him doses frequently.

When I was about three years old, we moved enough furniture to get by down to Dad and Ma Banks’ old store house.  They had previously run a general store for several years.  Mom and Aunt Joie Lee Brown were teaching school at Sheboygan, pronounced Sheboggy, about ten miles away and they were “batching” in an old storehouse there.  They traveled in a horse-drawn buggy, leaving out on Sunday afternoon and coming back Friday afternoon.  This was so Daddy could do the farm work, and Ma Banks could take care of me.  This was before Highway 53 was built, so they traveled an old dirt road. In the wintertime, the ruts in the road were sometimes up to the axle in mud.  Aunt Joie Lee was Uncle Herbert Brown’s wife, and she was one tough cookie.  She was the school principal, and really ran a tight ship. A lot of people were afraid of her, even those six-foot eighth graders.

It was during this time that Mom said one morning she didn’t have any flour to make biscuits for breakfast and made some sort of cornbread.  She said that I told her that I wished she would raise me on biscuits and light bread and stuff like that.  It was also during this time that Mom left her wedding rings on the dresser when she went back to school. I couldn’t have been over three years old, but I remember pushing a chair up to the dresser and getting her rings. I went to the barn across the road and lost the diamond ring. Of course, I don’t remember much else about it, but Mom said when she got home and noticed it she started questioning me about what I did with them. She said I denied it – that I didn’t have them!!!  She would try to get me to just tell her where I had been, but I still denied it to the end.  About six months later, the county was grading the road and changing the location of a curve and some guy who used to work some for Dad and was on the road gang came up to Irma with something on his little finger with red mud on it and said, “Look what I found.”  Irma said “Lord have mercy, that’s Frances’ ring!”  Then when Mama asked me about it, I said “I ‘flyed’ through the gate and lost it.” 

MaBanks fooled with me all the time.  She taught me my ABC’s, and I could count to 100 when I was three.  She said one day I got mad at her and was going home.  I started out down the road.  She called me back and I wouldn’t come, so she came after me and when she caught me, she spanked me all the way back to the house. I never tried that again!

MaBanks’ grandparents, Redmon & Phoebe Roach Brown had owned some slaves, so when the Civil War was over and the slaves were freed, my great-great grandfather Brown gave some of his farm land to the former slaves.  The place was called Browntown and was located only a few miles from Dad & MaBanks.  They had their own school and church and several families lived there. Browntown is still a community of blacks in the edge of Cannon County, near the Warren and Coffee County lines, and they still have a nice Church of Christ building. All of those black people really loved my grandmother.  She hired them to work for her occasionally.  I remember Net.  Her father, or grandfather, had been a slave and she was very old when I knew her.  However, the one I remember most vividly was Laura Crisp.  She was a big, black, heavy-set lady who laughed a lot.  She used to trot me on her knees and I loved her and called her “Aunt Laura.”   I used to say I had two Aunt Laura’s because MaBanks’ sister was Aunt Laura Lusk.  Many years later when I was working for Quim Bryant at Reliable Furniture Co. in McMinnville, Quim came into the office one day and said “negro Laura” is in the back looking at linoleum.  I went back there and she had her back to me, so I just said “Hello, Laura.”  She turned around and grabbed me and hugged me and said, “Laws have mercy, young-un.”  She was really tickled to see me and I was surprised that she remembered me.  The slave’s families are buried in the Brown cemetery where my great-grandparents Lafayette, called Fate, and Sarah, who was called Espy, Brown) are buried.  There is a cedar tree in the middle of the cemetery that separates the graves of the whites and blacks.

Mom learning to drive was another story.  Since Daddy had bought that A-Model, he was going to teach Mama to drive.  One day on our way home from Dad and MaBanks’, he stopped on top of the hill about ¼ mile from our house and Mama got under the wheel.  Of course, being a straight-shift, Mom let out on the clutch too fast.  We bucked and jumped and then the motor died.  Of course, Daddy started mouthing and criticizing her so much that Mom stopped, got out of the car and started walking on to the house.  I piled out to go with her.  I was trying to console her and she said I said, “Daddy just fusses and fusses about everything!”  She said not long after we got home, she heard me out with Daddy and I said, “Mama never will learn to drive, will she?”  She called me a “little two-faced heifer.”

Daddy trained bird dogs for other people for several years, and he owned several different ones, too.  I used to follow him quail hunting before I was big enough to carry a gun. Later, he let me carry a gun and hunt with him. I especially remember rabbit hunting in the snow. I loved to watch the dogs work when they pointed birds.  He was a good shot and we had quail to eat very often during season, along with lots of rabbit and squirrel.  We often had other wild game:  sometimes raccoon, opossum, frog legs, duck and fish many times.  I even remember us having turtle a few times.

I remember two bird dogs Daddy had named Mike and Daize.  Daddy had been offered $75.00 for Mike and wouldn’t take it because that was a lot of money back then.  About two weeks after the offer, Mike followed Daddy down to MaBanks’ on foot.  He said on the way, Mike attacked one of Uncle Ode’s dogs on an adjoining farm, which was very unusual.  For some reason, Mama and I were already down there and had the car.  On the way home, I rode in the back seat with Mike.  When we got home, Daddy said, “There’s something wrong with him and I’m going to put him in the Brooder House.”  When he went out to feed him, he was gnawing on the door.  Daddy concluded that he had hydrophobia.  He put Daize in the house with him and she was paralyzed.  He had to shoot them.  When he stuck the gun barrel through a crack in the door, Mike tried to bite it. Guess I just “dodged the bullet” another time in my life, because I had ridden in the back seat with him for about two miles just a few minutes before and he didn’t offer to bite me. At that time, hydrophobia was a “death sentence” if you were bitten.

Daddy trained two beautiful Irish setters for Mr. Frank Dedman one time, the funeral Home owner from Manchester, named Jake and Belle. It’s funny how I can remember the names of dogs!  Mr. Dedman used to come out and go hunting with Daddy occasionally.  So did Mr. John DeGeorge, an Italian restaurant owner from Murfreesboro.  Several of Daddy’s first cousins hunted with him a lot, too.

I had two great-uncles, MaBanks’ brothers, Uncle Bob and Uncle Herbert Brown, who always called me “Minkeyes.”  In fact, the last time I ever saw Uncle Bob, which was a long time after Mama and Daddy moved back to Ivy Bluff, I saw him at church there at Midway where Mama went and he said, “Hello, Minkeyes,” and just laughed.

We used to go to Old Hickory maybe once a year.  That was an all-day trip getting there.  Of course, there were no interstates and only narrow two-lane roads.  I remember one time when we started down there in the wintertime.  Mom heated bricks and wrapped them in something to keep our feet warm, and we wrapped up in quilts.  Of course, there was no heater on the car, and we had five flat tires before we got to the highway.  Tires had inner-tubes that had to be patched, so Daddy spent a lot of time patching tubes.  The windshield wipers didn’t work, and it started snowing.  Every few miles, Daddy would have to get out and clean off the windshield to see.  That was one more trip.  I can see why Mama didn’t get to go see her parents very often.  We always enjoyed going to Papa Hartman’s, especially when the whole family gathered for Christmas.

It was always exciting when any of the folks from Old Hickory came to see us.  The only mental picture I have of my Grandmother Hartman is one time when they came to see us. I remember her bringing Mama some pink flowered material to make me a new outfit.  She was sitting in a straight-backed chair leaning against the wall.  This is all I remember, but in my mind’s eye, I can still see her.  She died when she was 57 of a heart attack.   I was seven years old. 

Uncle Bud and Aunt Vinnie, with daughter Marion, Uncle Roy and Aunt Bonnie, and children Pat, Becky, and Libby, Uncle Powers and Aunt Pearl, with sons Doug and Phil, and Daisy, who was my idol, would come and spend the night with us every once in a while. One couple at a time, of course.  Sometimes Dolen and Nell Rollins, my Mama’s first cousin, and their children, Dave and Joe, came.  Since I was the oldest grandchild on either side, they petted me a lot and I guess I was a little spoiled. 

Mom said I always loved fried chicken and of course, in the spring we always had chickens we had raised.  She said one time Uncle Bud and Aunt Vinnie were there and she called me off before dinner and told me that since we had company, I could only have one piece of chicken.  Well, she said I gobbled it down and was just sitting at the table rather downcast and Uncle Bud asked me what I wanted.  I said, “Well, I wanted another piece of chicken, but Mama said I couldn’t have but one!”  It embarrassed Mama, but Uncle Bud laughed and gave me another piece.  Mama was only seventeen months older than Uncle Bud and they were always very close.  They all called her “Sis” and him “Bud.”  Her nieces and nephews always called her “Aunt Sis” and he was “Uncle Bud.”

We moved back to our house before I started school when I was four.  My first year, I rode to school in a covered wagon.  We lived less than half a mile from the school house, but they picked me up.  Mom taught that year at Ivy Bluff, and I don’t remember how she got to school.  Guess she walked.  Miss Julia Swanger was my teacher.   Mom said she caught me one day out behind the schoolhouse with probably eight or ten kids lined up and I had a sucker.  I was giving each one a suck and then I would take a suck between each one.

During my first year of school, we met in the “Old” schoolhouse.  The next year I went to Sheboygan.  Then they built the new schoolhouse at Ivy Bluff, so in my third year we met in the new building.  It was a three-teacher school with one teacher for the first and second grades; another for the third, fourth, and fifth, and the principal taught the sixth, seventh and eighth.  We did not have a hot-lunch program to in the beginning.  Everyone carried their lunches in boxes, paper bags, newspapers or buckets.  I always carried mine wrapped in newspaper. For some unknown reason I wouldn’t carry a biscuit. I had to have light bread sandwiches or crackers. Funny that I would take my country ham or peanut butter or egg sandwiches and trade them with Willie Mae Haley for a fried potato cake with a piece of onion on it between a biscuit!  Mom never knew that.

When I was seven years old, LaDarce was born; then two and a half years later, Patsy was born.  Since Mama Hartman had died just before LaDarce was born, she was named for her, “Minnie” LaDarce.  When Patsy came along, Mama, Daddy and I all wanted to name her different names.  Mama wanted to name her Sarah because both Daddy’s grandmothers, his mother and sister had Sarah in their names.  Daddy wouldn’t hear of it.  He said she would be called “Surry” and he didn’t like it.  He wanted to name her “Floy” something and neither Mom nor I wanted that.  I wanted to name her Jerry Louise because Mom’s sister Daisy’s name was Daisy Louise and she was my idol. So we drew straws and I got the shortest one, so she was named Jerry Louise.

The name Jerry was for Mama’s grandfather, Jeremiah Hartman, and her brother “Uncle Bud” whose name was Elton Jeremiah. When she was very little we started calling her “Fatty;” that got changed to Patty, then somewhere along the way, we started calling her Pat, then Patsy.  That is what she was called the rest of her life.

Mama never made me help take care of the little ones very much.  She said she didn’t want to “burden” me with them.  Well, it would have probably been better if I had been given some responsibility for them, because they were always in my way.  They would get into my lipstick, nail polish or whatever, and I never had much.  We had nothing in common until they were grown.  The only time I ever wanted to hold one of them was when Mamie Lusk came down and wanted to play with the baby.  I didn’t like her spending her time with them, so I would reach for them.  Of course, they would come to me because they knew me.  I never changed a diaper, fed them, or anything.  I should have had to help take care of them some, anyway.  I think we would have had a closer relationship growing up.  Of course, after they grew older, they became my “sisters.”  They were very close to each other when they were small, and always getting by with things that I was never allowed to do.  Patsy was very stubborn.  Usually when something was done wrong, each would blame the other and Mama would have a hard time determining which was guilty.  She would say, “OK, I will just whip both of you and that will get the right one.”  She would start spanking Patsy first, and LaDarce would just jump up and down crying and screaming.  She would say, “Patsy, don’t say it, don’t say it!”  She knew Patsy was going to say, “That didn’t hurt!” and Mom would just keep spanking.  Mom said she seldom spanked LaDarce as much because she had already had her punishment through Patsy.  I would also spank them a lot.  They really bothered me, and what one couldn’t think of to get into, the other one did.

Daddy described the personalities of his three girls:  He said, “Jean is the type who never misses anything, but doesn’t say anything; LaDarce is the inquisitive one, she asks questions about everything; Patsy just doesn’t give a damn.”

After Patsy was born, Mama said she told Daddy that she wasn’t going to teach anymore, that she had a school at home and he would have to do something else to raise his family!  Daddy had always liked to tinker with cars or anything that had a motor.  He worked for a while one time for Jennings Motors in Woodbury as a mechanic.  When I was about eleven years old he built himself a shop.  It was probably about a 25x50 building and he built a ramp about five feet high beside it for a grease-rack. The store didn’t have electricity so he had Sinclair Gas Company install a hand-operated gas pump out front and sold gas for 25 cents a gallon.  He also sold tires.   He began working on other people’s cars and began to make some money.  I remember when he told Dad and MaBanks that he wasn’t going to farm anymore.  They came up to our house in the wagon and Dad was so mad at him.  He stormed out at Daddy that “he would starve to death.”  Daddy stood up to him and told him that we might do it, but he had to do something to make a living besides farming.  This is when Daddy made the “famous”  statement:  “If I ever say ‘get-up’ to another mule, it will be when the S.O.B. sits down in my lap!”

The shop was a favorite gathering place for a lot of the young people.  In fact, at one time, they called it “Little Chicago.”  I stayed out at the shop helping Daddy most of the time.  I operated the gas pump for him, and I knew the names of every wrench he called for.  He would be down under a car which was hoisted up with a chain, and need a certain tool or a certain size wrench which I would get for him.  After he started selling animal feed, I would carry the 100 pound bags of feed from the shop to people’s vehicles.  I learned to “double clutch” trucks, drive cars up onto the grease rack, and really help a lot.  Daddy had the reputation of being an excellent mechanic.  They brought cars to him from all over middle Tennessee.  He really started making a good living.

We took our “weekly” baths in a washtub in front of the oven or sponge baths in the wash pan.  All of us used the same water in the tub.  I got one first, then LaDarce and Patsy, then Mama, then Daddy.  I guess we kids were the only ones who could actually get in the tub!  Don’t know how they managed!!!

I was the oldest grandchild and following is the order in which the others were born:

Doug Powers was three years younger than me; LaDarce was next; Marion Hartman; Phil Powers; Patsy; then Patrick, Rebecca and Elizabeth Hartman.  We were always happy to see each other.

I used to get to go to Old Hickory and spend a week during the summer.  That was always exciting for me.  Daisy was working, but they had a housekeeper named Pearl Bush who was at the house all the time. I would ride Daisy’s bicycle up to Booker and Hazel Smith’s Booker was Mama’s first cousin who lived in the village and sometimes, Hazel’s sister, Gladys Allmon, would be spending a week with them. She lived not too far from me up in the country, and was only a year older than I was. We would go to the swimming pool and have a good time.  Daisy would take me to the movies at night, or take me somewhere.  It was always a fun time for me because I didn’t have the opportunity to do anything like that at Ivy Bluff. 

When I was in probably the fifth or sixth grade, they started the hot lunch program at school.  The Government provided some of the food and you could take canned goods from home to pay for your lunch. I remember taking a can of tomatoes or beans and eating for a week. It seems I remember it cost ten cents a week if you didn’t take canned goods.  I remember liking it, because I have always liked most foods.  And it was better than a cold sandwich, even a fried potato cake!

There was no such thing as Welfare, Social Security, Food Stamps or any government-subsidized program.  Families and neighbors took care of their own.  I remember this one girl, Berchie Young, used to come home with me sometimes from school and spend the night.  Her Father must have been dead, because they had a hard time living.  I think she was one of the youngest in the second family because she had half-brothers and sisters who worked up north and would sometimes send money to her Mother.  She moved away from Ivy Bluff and I didn’t know what happened to her until one time after I married and was living in McMinnville, I got a letter from her.  She was living in California and wanted to come and see me when she was back in Tennessee.  Of course, I was delighted.  She came one day with her two children and spent the day with me.  She told me then that she would never forget my mother who was her teacher.  She said that one time when she went home with me from school that Mama made her a new dress to wear to school the next day.  I didn’t remember it, but she surely did.  I guess Mom recognized the need and just did it.  Mama had the reputation in the community as being a very kind, helpful and compassionate person.  Berchie later moved back from California to Smithville where she owned and operated a successful restaurant for years.

I am sure that I was a handful, but I was always afraid of Mama to some extent.  She used to whip me it seemed every day with a little keen switch.  It would leave red streaks on my legs.  I hated switches, and promised myself that I would never use one on a child of mine, and I NEVER did!  Mom was not very demonstrative toward me, and I don’t remember her ever telling me that she loved me.  I knew she did, and she showed me that she did in so many ways, but she was just not the type to express it.  I never felt very close to Mama when I was a child.  Daddy was my rock.

We had some neighbors, the Newt Mills family, who lived across the creek and you could walk over there by crossing the creek on a foot log.  To get there by car, it was probably a mile or so.  They had several children and I loved to go over there.  Mom didn’t let me go very often, but I remember one time.  It was in the spring and they had farm hands working for them.  Mrs. Dolly had cooked dinner for all those work hands. Their garden had come in so she had green onions and lettuce with fried meat grease poured over. Our garden hadn’t come in yet.  That was one of my favorite things to eat, and still is, so she said I ate through three tables full of people. I know that embarrassed Mom.  Another time, I went over there and was supposed to get home before dark.  Well, a big rain moved in and I was still playing when I should have been going home.  When I decided I had better go, I went down to the creek and the water was almost up to the footlog.  I was sort of scared anyway because it was almost dark, so I just went back to their house.  In a little while, Daddy came after me.  He was mad, and I told him I had been down to the creek and was afraid to walk across the footlog, so he said, “Well, if you hadn’t been down there and tried, I would have to whip you”.  But, of course he didn’t.

(Continued Next Month.)



Hammer Spade and the Long Shooter

E. B. Alston



The December 2017 issue of Righter Quarterly Review ended with the 41st chapter. This is the next chapter. Chapter Forty-Three will be in the October issue of RPG Digest. It is the climactic scene in this adventure.


Chapter Forty-Two


Pablo relieved Margot at noon. When she came down to the camp, I was checking out my rifle.

“What kind of rifle is that?” she asked.

“A Remington Varmint Special.”

“Is it stock?”

“It’s got a custom barrel, trigger and a lightweight firing pin.”

“Is it like the M40 Sniper Rifle?”

“It’s a short action Remington.”

“Have you used the M40?”

“I did when I was in the army.”

“How far are your zeroes?”

“Out to a thousand.”

“What was your longest shot?”

“1,125 yards.”

“Was it with the M40?”


“Was it a man?”

“Yeah. What was your longest shot?”

“1,350 meters.”

“Did you use a 308?”

“No, I used a 300 H&H.”

I changed the subject. “What time tomorrow do you expect Allen?”

“Around noon.”

“Have you thought about how we’ll set up?”

“I’d like for you to be on watch up there with your rifle.” She pointed to where Pablo was sitting. “And Pablo just out of sight below the ridge above the camp.”

“What if Allen’s not alone?”

“I’ll call Pablo out if he’s not alone.”

“Why don’t you have Pablo armed with the Sten?”

“That’s a good idea.”

“Is Pablo a good shot?”

“He can hit a man close up. What kind of scope is that?” She pointed to my rifle.

“A Weaver T-24.”

“Then you’ll be able to see everything.”

“Yeah, I will.” I replied.

She thought. “So, if he comes alone, we have him by two. If he brings one, we are still three to two. What if he brings more than one?”

“If he does, he came to kill you and we ought to start shooting right away.”

“I agree.”

“If I see something developing, I’ll radio Pablo to start moving. If shooting starts, you take Allen out first.”

She smiled at me. “I agree with Alonia. I like your no-nonsense approach.”

“After you take out Allen, my first shot will be to disable his vehicle. If there are two, I’ll get the other man. If there are more than two, I’ll take them out in proximity to you, closest first.”

“Good. We are thinking along the same lines.”

“We don’t want to leave any witnesses.”

“No, we do not.” She paused. “Are you ready for lunch?”


We rummaged through the boxes for an MRE that we liked and heated water on her stove for coffee. Margot was as down-to-earth as any woman I had ever met. While I heated our entrees, she fixed the coffee. We used the tailgate of her pickup for a table.

“What will you do when you get back?” I asked.

“I haven’t thought that far ahead.”

“Will you keep working for the unit?”

“I don’t know. What happened to my parents is still foremost in my mind. I don’t know if I’ll ever work again.”

“Clover wants you to take his place.”

“I know. He spoke to me about it earlier this year.”

“It might be good for you to get out of the field.”

“Logically, you’re right. But if I was in an office, I’d have more time to think about my family.”

“Margot, you have got to put that behind you. It wasn’t your fault and you can’t bring them back.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” she shot back. Then she paused, composed herself and said, “And you are right.”

“You’re a young woman. Your life is ahead of you. Take the job. Get married. Have a family. That’s the only way you can heal.”

She stared at the mountain in the distance for quite a while. Then she took a sip of coffee and looked at me. “Hammer, I was wrong to do this. I ought to have let the department handle it.”

The strain of these last terrible weeks in her life surfaced and she started to weep. I let her get it out without saying anything. A few minutes later, she composed herself.

“Sorry,” she said as she dried her eyes.

“Margo, we can pack up and leave now.”

“No. I want to get Raul Fuente. Then we’ll sit down and re-think the plan.”

“We can re-think it now.”

“No!” she replied with determination in her voice. “We will get Fuente first!”

“Okay,” I replied. I thought about saying something about following her intuition but her attitude made me believe I was wasting my breath.

She changed the subject. “Are you a Christian?” she asked.


“Have you studied your faith?”

“Not in any scholarly detail. I’ve read Augustine and Aquinas and C. S. Lewis. That’s about it.”

“I’ve studied most of the world’s religions.”

“Clover said you were quite a scholar.”

“The loss of my parents and this mission has made me think about things more seriously.”

“I guess it would.”

“We are losing a war against hordes of lawless little madmen who are part of mad little movements. They use bombs instead of pistols and seldom kill anybody important. They are happy because they killed somebody.

“It is crazy,” I agreed.

“Leaders of these vicious, silly movements ought to be dispatched before they destroy civilization.”

“That would be quite a project,” I observed.

She looked toward the mountains in the distance.

“Hammer, I fear that the west we love is crumbling before attacks by barbarians. For over a hundred years, our Christian beliefs have been attacked by atheists, agnostics, scientists, and materialists. Nobody is arguing back. Christians fall back on, ‘Well, it’s right there in the Bible.’”

She laughed. “When the idea of original sin was attacked, I couldn’t understand how anybody could make such a statement and get away with it. Original sin is the only aspect of Christianity that is scientifically provable.”

“You’ve thought a lot about this,” I replied.

“I have. Consider the idea of beauty. If the beautification of the world was a mere chance of nature it would be a random, plan-less, knocking down and building up while it froze or burned. Our universe would look like a junkyard or a slum. Instead, the universe is beautifully organized. It is a work of art and a work of art requires an artist.”

I nodded.

“The greatest gift that God gave us is the gift of free will. The greatest miracle of Christianity is the immortality of souls.”

She paused and stared into the distance for a long time. Then she turned to me and said, “Our lives hang by a thread over a precipice. All talk of philosophies and union of souls, of the age and ages and synthesis is arrogant fatuity. A Christian lives for the instant because this instant is all we have. Our lives are a story. God gave us a chance to make our story end the way we want it to end.”

“That’s pretty heavy duty,” I said.

“Yes, it is,” she agreed. “For some reason I’ve thought a lot about my faith lately. Sorry.”

“There’s no reason to apologize. That’s natural, considering what you’ve been through.”

“The leaders of the Western democracies have lost faith in their culture and they have chosen a multitude of mirages to take its place. Because they are hollow inside they seek consolation in chimeras. Psycho-analysis, multiculturalism, radicalism and the pharmaceutical Eucharist of the anti-depressant tablet. Cocaine and heroin are nothing but vain attempts to escape the reality of our existence. The old Western culture, in which they have lost confidence, is the source of our freedom. It is more vulnerable than it has ever been.”

“I believe what you say is true.”

She looked sad. “Thank you for listening, Hammer. You’re the only person I’ve been around since my parents were killed who would understand.”

“By the way,” I said with a chuckle. “Vargas told me that if I found you to tell you that he didn’t help me.”

She laughed. “He is a staunch, but unrefined, ally.”

“I didn’t trust him.”

“Why not?”

“I believed he worked both sides.”

“He’s not clever enough to get away with that.”

“Vargas is very clever. He wants you to think he is not.”

“I don’t know. He was always dependable.”

“I’m sure he was. But I terminated our conversation.”

“Why did you do that?”

“Because we were wasting our time.”

It was getting close to the time for me to relieve Pablo. “I’d better get up the hill. Pablo’s probably ready to take a break.”

“I’ll brief him on the plan and we’ll choose a spot for him to hide,” she said.

“I’ll see you at eight.”

I shouldered my rifle, stuck my phone and the radio in my pocket and hiked up the mountainside.


Next Month: The Last Chapter



"America is at that awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards." Vermont State Rep. Fred Maslack


How the Internet Started According to the Bible

Author Unknown

Thanks to Sherry Whitford for sending it.

Please do not Google or check this with Snopes. They will lie to you. Trust me!

In ancient Israel, it came to pass that a trader by the name of Abraham Com did take unto himself a healthy young wife by the name of Dorothy.   And Dot Com was a comely woman, large of breast, broad of shoulder and long of leg. Indeed, she was often called Amazon Dot

And she said unto Abraham, her husband, "Why dost thou travel so far from town to town with thy goods when thou canst trade without ever leaving thy tent?"

And Abraham did look at her as though she were several saddle bags short of a camel load, but simply said, "How, dear?"

And Dot replied, "I will place drums in all the towns and drums in between to send messages saying what you have for sale, and they will reply telling you who hath the best price. The sale can be made on the drums and delivery made by Uriah's Pony Stable (UPS)."  

Abraham thought long and decided he would let Dot have her way with the drums.  And the drums rang out and were an immediate success. Abraham sold all the goods he had at the top price, without ever having to move from his tent.  

To prevent neighboring countries from overhearing what the drums were saying, Dot devised a system that only she and the drummers knew.  It was known as Must Send Drum Over Sound (MSDOS), and she also developed a language to transmit ideas and pictures - Hebrew to the People (HTTP).  

And the young men did take to Dot Com's trading as doth the greedy horsefly take to camel dung.  They were called Nomadic Ecclesiastical Rich Dominican Sybarites, or NERDS.  And lo, the land was so feverish with joy at the new riches and the deafening sound of drums that no one noticed that the real riches were going to that enterprising drum dealer, Brother William of Gates, who bought off every drum maker in the land. Indeed he did insist on drums to be made that would work only with Brother Gates' drum heads and drumsticks.

And Dot did say, "Oh, Abraham, what we have started is being taken over by others." And Abraham looked out over the Bay of Ezekiel, or eBay as it came to be known.  He said, "We need a name that reflects what we are."

And Dot replied, "Young Ambitious Hebrew Owner Operators."  "YAHOO," said Abraham. And because it was Dot's idea, they named it YAHOO Dot Com.

Abraham's cousin, Joshua, being the young Gregarious Energetic Educated Kid (GEEK) that he was, soon started using Dot's drums to locate things around the countryside. It soon became known as God's Own Official Guide to Locating Everything (GOOGLE).

That is how it all began. And that's the truth. I would not make this stuff up.



The bad thing about the future is that it seems to get here a lot quicker than before


Humor is to life what shock absorbers are to automobiles.


Don't believe the world owes you a thing. It was here first.


New poems by Greek poet Sappho Discovered

Source: The BBC


3-14 sappo.jpg

A fragment of an ancient papyrus given to an expert, Dr. Dirk Obbink, Christ Church at Oxford University, contains two previously unknown works by Greek poet Sappho. Obbink asserts they "clearly come from Sappho's first book", one of nine volumes the writer is believed to have written. Only one of her poems survives intact, although fragments from other poems remain. Sappo was renowned for her musings on love and desire. She was born on the island of Lesbos between 630 and 612 BC.

One is called The Brothers Poem, giving advice and warning him not to succumb to the likes of Helen. Here is a fragment.

Αλλαϊθρυλη ς θαχαραξονελθην

Ναϊςυμπλέαι·ταμε οι μ ιζευς

Οιδεςυμπαντεςτεθε οι ς ε ’ ουχρῆ





Foolish one!

I am shamed that you are my brother

Why, O why do you seek love

In the arms of other men’s wives.

Ancient Troy fell

Because Helen yielded

To the charms of a coward.

Honest women desire love, too.


Sappho was famous in her lifetime. Herodotus, in book 2 (section 135) documents a song in which Sappho criticized her brother Charaxos, a trader in Lesbian wines, (Lesbos was a country and Lesbian wines were not tailored for gay women.) because he conceived a violent passion for a notorious courtesan, then a slave at Naukratis, sailed to Egypt, ransomed her at a great price, at which Sappho gave vent to her indignation in a song.


Oh, not again – ‘Charaxos has arrived!

His ship was full!’ Well, that’s for Zeus

And all the other gods to know.

Don’t think of that,


But tell me, ‘go and pour out many prayers

To Hers, and beseech the queen

That he should bring his ship back home

Safely to port,


And find us sound and healthy,’ For the rest,

Let’s simply leave it to the gods;

Great stormy blasts go by and soon

Give way to calm.


Sometimes a heavenly helper comes, if that’s

The way Zeus wills, and guides a person round

To safety; and then blessedness and wealth

Become one’s lot.


And us? If Larichos would raise his head,

If only he might one day be a man,

The deep and dreary dragging of our soul

We’d lift to joy.


Translated by Christopher Pelling

Poem from TLS February 7, 2014



On Reflection

Marry Williamson


The long mirror in the lady’s changing room was in a reflective mood. She had seen so many of them, reflections. Big ones, small ones, fat ones, thin ones Beautiful reflections and plain ones. All sorts. Sometimes, she reflects, she might me one of those funny mirrors in the Fun Fair’s ‘house of mirrors’ when she sees very short squat or very long and thin ones. But she knows that she is a normal mirror in a changing room of a department store. She has seen many happy sights and many sad sights and also many funny sights. The oddest was where a girl, size 18, is trying to squeeze into a size 14 skirt and cries out that there is something wrong with the store’s sizes.

This happens quite a lot and the mirror wishes that she could laugh or cry or pull a face instead of just calmly reflecting what she sees. It amuses the mirror to try and figure out what the new outfits are for. For instance, why is this lovely young woman trying out these boring drab suits? Trying to impress a prospective mother in law? Going for a first proper job? Or perhaps she just likes beige.

And what about the middle aged bottle-blond lady torturing herself into a pair of ridiculously tight jeans with sown-on butterflies, two sizes too small for her and artistically ripped across the thighs. Toy boy? Competing with a grand-daughter? A bet? Holiday to the Costa del Sol with the ladies from the bridge club? Or a last ditch attempt to fire up a boring old husband? Who knows. The mirror shudders.

A few well chosen pieces of lingerie would be a much better bet, she thinks.

The other day she witnessed a terrible row between a mother and daughter over a red dress with a plunging neckline. A very plunging neckline, actually. The mirror reflects that the ding-dong is all back to front. It is the mother who wants to buy the dress but the girl is having none of it. She is stamping her feet “I will not wear it. It is obscene. I would not feel comfortable in it”.

The mother was pleading. “You must be daring sometimes. Please wear this to the party tonight. Good heavens, girl. Your grandmother would not be seen dead in that last suit you bought.”

The mirror recognised the nice girl and the beige suit from a few days ago. She reflects that she probably knows the grandmother, too. She is almost sure that it was the lady who came in last week and tried on a very loud dress, all red, blue and green swirls on a billious green background. The friend who was with her was very diplomatically trying to tell her to go for something else a bit calmer but grannie was not listening. “I like this dress. I am not old enough to go for boring. You are like my granddaughter. All greys and beiges.

Then there was the skinny girl in a big dress several sizes too large who put on 3 dresses, one over the other, then her own dress again and walked out. The mirror rather thinks that she did not get away with it as almost immediately there is a hell of a ruckus somewhere in the shop. Alarm bells go off, there are raised voices and the shop assistant, the mean one with the pinched face, comes in collecting the hangers. The mirror wonders what will happen to the girl. She rather liked her but “there you are”, she reflects, “crime rarely pays”.

As the day draws to a close the mirror reflects on her day and bemoans her lot. It is not easy to be a mirror. You have to be bright and shiny all the time and look at all that passes in front of you, nice or nasty, and take it all in and reflect it back accurately and without distortion. You cannot put your own take on it.

Alas, reflectiveness is the lot of a mirror and she has to stay in the here and now but she often thinks that she would give her last piece of silver backing to be able to look into the future or reflect back on the past.



Redneck Engineer Exam

Submitted by Don Davis 

I, for one, am sick and tired of hearing about how dumb people are in the South, and I challenge any so-called "smart " Yankee to take this exam:

1. Calculate the smallest limb diameter on a persimmon tree that will support a 10 pound possum.


2. Which of these cars will rust out the quickest when placed on blocks in your front yard?

      (A) '65 Ford Fairlane

      (B) '69 Chevrolet Chevelle

      (C) '64 Pontiac GTO


3. If your uncle builds a still which operates at a capacity of 20 gallons of shine produced per hour, how many car radiators are required to condense the product?


4. A woodcutter has a chainsaw which operates at 2700 RPM. The density of the pine trees in the plot to be harvested is 470 per acre. The plot is 2.3 acres in size. The average tree diameter is 14 inches. How many Budweisers will be drunk before the trees are cut down?


5. A front porch is constructed of 2x8 pine on 24-inch centers with a field rock foundation. The span is 8 feet and the porch length is 16 feet. The porch floor is 1-inch rough sawn pine. When the porch collapses, how many dogs will be killed?


6. A man owns a Georgia house and 3.7 acres of land in a hollow with an average slope of 15%. The man has five children. Can each of his grown children place a mobile home on the man's land and still have enough property for their electric appliances to sit out front?


7. A 2-ton truck is overloaded and proceeding 900 yards down a steep slope on a secondary road at 45 MPH. The brakes fail. Given average traffic conditions on secondary roads, what is the probability that it will strike a vehicle with a muffler?


8. With a gene pool reduction of 7.5% per generation, how long will it take a town which has been bypassed by the Interstate to breed a country-western singer?


I betcha thought that this test was gonna be an easy one, didn't ya? It's okay if y'all didn't do all that well. Just goes to show ya there's a whole heap of things that big city book-learning don't prepare ya for in this life. 



The Artist

Diana Goldsmith


It all started when his father had given him a box of coloured pencils for his birthday. They weren't just any old cheap ones but special artist quality. He used to go out into their large garden and draw the flowers and trees. He even did some very life-like pictures of their dog and cat.

As time went on, he progressed to using pastels too. David's relatives and his parent’s friends used to remark about his talent and ask if they could have one of his pictures. He had now mastered painting and used watercolours as well as acrylics. He mostly did wildlife and birds. Many of his works appeared in local exhibitions.

His art teacher at secondary school was so impressed with him that he suggested he should do a fine art's degree.

David had decided to take some time out and go travelling instead. He did just that and visited some unusual places like some of the lesser known islands in Indonesia. He also went to places of conflict like Iraq and Palestine. Wherever he stayed he would pay for his food and lodgings with a sketch. Sometimes he would paint actually on the walls of the house where he stayed! However, these murals just appeared and no one saw him doing them!

On his return, David decided not to do art but to go to the London School of Economics where he studied sociology and human environment. He mixed with many students from all backgrounds many of whom had lived in the countries where he had lived and worked. This made it easy for him to have meaningful conversations with them. He shared a flat with four other students and they took it in turns to cook. They had an open door policy and often there would be someone extra sleeping on the sofa after they had shared a meal together, David volunteered at a homeless shelter and in a food bank.

He signed online petitions and went on political rallies and lobbied his MP. He was very aware of the unfairness of society in Britain. He drew cartoons for the student newspaper. His art had turned from very traditional into an expression of the frustrations he felt with society in general.

After graduating, he married a fellow student in his year, who was from Sudan and they spent their honeymoon travelling in east Africa including Sudan where he met his in-laws and extended family and received their blessing. He left some murals on the school classrooms as a gift.

David and his wife moved to Bristol where he got a job as a lecturer at a local college teaching sociology and politics. They were both involved in local social initiatives as his heart was still in giving a voice to the vulnerable.

It was at about this time that murals would appear on buildings in the city and no one knew who was responsible. The signature was always “The Artist”. Photos of them appeared in newspapers and there was quite a following with people flocking to visit the sites of the murals.

Eventually appeals went out for the artist to come forward for various prestigious awards. However it has never happened and as to who the artist is still is a mystery and to this day David denies any knowledge of his involvement. However there are those who have known him and his work for sometime and they have their own suspicions!

A tribute to “Banksy” the street artist?




Three Rivers to  Cross

Elizabeth Silance Ballard

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28 KJV


Chapter One

3 rivers.jpg

I stood on the banks of the Bluefish River staring across at the island that was my home for eighteen years.  Rattlesnake Island, it was called in those days, those days when I walked barefoot along the shore at low tide, looking for treasures, a little girl with her hair in braids to keep the wind from making a mass of tangles.

Our island was large enough that I could walk all over it, pretending I was having all sorts of  adventures, yet small enough that Mama could stand on the porch and call for me, knowing I would hear her and come running.

The island, which is roughly the length of three city blocks and just about two-thirds as wide as it is long, is called Paradise Island now. The new owners have even taken the necessary steps with the Powers That Be in town to have the name legally changed so it will never again appear on any documents as Rattlesnake Island.

Though beautiful, the new structure, which the people of Meadow View were already calling “the castle,” looked so out of place to me. It was simply too grand for our little island and that wasn’t just my opinion. It seemed to be the consensus of the citizens of Meadow View, the town just across the Bluefish River.

It made me wonder what they had said those many long years ago about our house, the modest dwelling we called home. Not a showplace. Not grand. Just the simple home of a fisherman and his family, his happy family, for we were most certainly happy in those days of my childhood, happy in that house on our island.

Mine was a wonderful childhood, having been born in a place where it was safe for me to go out the back door, yelling, “I’ll be back after a while, Mama!” Mama would smile and wave with never a worry. That’s how safe we were out there in the middle of the river.

I don’t know how official the name was but Rattlesnake Island was the only name we ever knew.  I’m not going to say we never saw rattlesnakes there, but it was rare and they were done away with in short order by Daddy, usually, though Mama was not afraid to tackle that job, either.

Daddy said once that he thought the people of Meadow View started calling it Rattlesnake Island to keep their children from rowing over to do “God only knows what.”  If so, it was a good decision because Daddy and my brothers were not friendly to strangers who even came near our shore, effectively making it perfectly safe for even a little girl to roam. 

The Bluefish River began somewhere way up in the Blue Ridge Mountains and made its way to the North Carolina coast, surrounding our island on its way to the Atlantic Ocean.  To my knowledge, no bluefish was ever caught there so the river’s name, too, is a mystery.

Our house stood right in the middle of Rattlesnake Island. Looking out our kitchen door, we saw the sun come up each morning, for we were early risers. In the evenings, we could sit on our front porch and watch the sunsets with coral pinks, pale yellows, and purples.

This, of course, meant that our backs were turned toward Meadow View, which lay between Rattlesnake Island and the Atlantic Ocean. In later years, I learned there was significance in the placement of our home.

Daddy said he built our house that way because he wanted to sit out on his front porch and look across the river at the thick pine forest with its deer, rabbits, and squirrels. That, of course, meant the back porch of our house actually faced the town side of the river.

“I didn’t want to look at the town from my front porch. I didn’t want them gawking at me, either,” he said.

 Being a commercial fisherman, he left out before just about anybody in Meadow View was awake. He was long gone by the time the sun cast its beams through the huge oaks, bent over from decades of wind. It was unthinkable that we would not be up to see him off.

By the time he was dressed, Mama had breakfast on the table and a great big box of food for Daddy and Uncle Leonard, who fished with Daddy on the boat they bought together—the LouBarb. The Lou part was named for my mama, Louisa Eleanor Gurganus, and the Barb part was named for my Aunt Barbara, Uncle Leonard’s wife.

None of us knew what Aunt Barbara’s middle name was. She refused to tell us and Uncle Leonard said she swore him to secrecy and threatened to leave him if he ever told anybody. He must have believed her because he never told and he died before she did.

Many years later, her gravestone only read, Barbara Gurganus, Beloved Wife and gave her dates of birth and death. I still wonder what her middle name was. How bad could it have been? Mama said probably some children teased Aunt Barbara about her name when she was little and she never got over it.

“Quit fretting about it, Charlotte Anne. Aunt Barbara’s middle name is not something we need to know.”

It was the end of that conversation as far as Mama was concerned and so I headed out to the river to see what might have washed ashore. I loved the river all the time but I especially liked it at low tide.

There was something so fascinating about walking barefoot with the wet sand squishing up between my toes, walking along where, only a short time before, the water had hidden even the tallest grass as well as whatever treasures might have landed there.

I never found anything valuable; or, if it was, none of us recognized it as such. Still, sometimes there were things people either dropped or threw overboard as they rode up and down the river on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, laughing and pointing at our house. If we were out in the yard, they would wave. We never waved back.

Occasionally, I would also find an unusual shell or a bottle. I always hoped I would find a blue bottle or a green one that had a secret message in it like I read about in one of my favorite books. About all I found, though, were Pepsi-Cola bottles and once a beer bottle.

I didn’t even know what beer was and had to go ask Mama what kind of bottle I found. That’s how sheltered I was, growing up there on Rattlesnake Island. The strongest thing I knew about was the very black coffee, which Daddy drank, morning and night, not to mention the big thermos of coffee he took with him every day.

Looking back, I think Daddy must have had his suppertime coffee in order to stay awake and be there in the moment with all of us because he always looked so tired when he came home from the day of fishing. He and Uncle Leonard would already have taken the day’s catch to the fish market except what he brought home for our use.

If he came up the path whistling “The Wabash Cannonball,” we knew the catch had been good. If, however, he was whistling “The Tennessee Waltz,” the catch was less than good. As far as I know, none of us, including Mama, ever asked Daddy about the catch.

I would sit out on the back porch steps in the late afternoons, watching and listening for him, then run while yelling, “Daddy’s home!”

Daddy would ride me piggyback to the house, never missing a note of his whistling. Then he would burst through the door calling out, “Where’s my bride?”

Mama would be standing at the table that was already set with bowls and platters heaped and steaming. She would have the big gray coffee pot in one hand while she hugged Daddy with the other arm.

“Coffee, Norbert?”

That coffee always smelled so good and I wanted to hurry up and get old enough so that I could have a cup, too, though I was sure I would want plenty of milk in it, the way Mama enjoyed hers.

One day, at low tide, I found a necklace on our shore. It wasn’t very pretty but I didn’t have a necklace so I wore it and pretended it was the jeweled necklace of a princess who had been kidnapped. She threw her necklace overboard rather than let her mean old captors have it.

“There ain’t no princesses in America, Charlotte Anne,” Mama said. (She always said my name as if Charlotte Anne were one word instead of two.)

So, I pretended I was in some far off place, a country where there were kings and queens and princesses.  My river was full of pirates and I, Princess Marvelaina, had been kidnapped and taken away to some unknown land. I had jumped overboard to escape my kidnappers and every day I walked beside the river hoping to find my beautiful and valuable necklace—which I did, of course!

“Charlotte Anne, come help me hang these clothes.”

 I had no trouble switching from my life as a kidnapped princess to plain old Charlotte Anne Gurganus of Rattlesnake Island. As I plodded toward the back yard clothesline, I pretended that I had never told this family I was really a princess, so they had adopted me and named me Charlotte Anne. I had a very vivid imagination back in those days. After all, we were the only family on the island so I had no playmates. I had to make them up and they seemed very real to me.

My twin brothers, Lenny and Lonny, were ten years older than I was.  I was a late baby, Mama said.

“You were a complete surprise, Charlotte Anne, but a wonderful surprise. I’m not sure I could have handled having another boy!”

I knew she was just joking, but the boys were so much older than I was that I never really paid too much attention to them and vice versa. I would envy them, though, because they went across the river every day to school. I liked having the island to myself on school days, but I still wondered what adventures they were having across the river in the town of Meadow View.

I would stand on our dock every morning as Mama took them across to school in the boat Daddy had built just for her. I would wave as the little boat putt-putted across and then back to our dock. That’s why my brothers named the boat, the Putt-Putt, because of the sound it made making its way across the river. There was no mistaking it with any other boat.

The Putt-Putt was our only means of getting to town because there was no bridge. Daddy didn’t want one. Said he couldn’t afford it even if he DID want one. Years later, I learned that, because we owned the island, any bridge would have been at Daddy’s expense.

“We don’t need a bridge,” he would say.  “We get across that river just fine.”

 It wasn’t far across the river from our dock to the dock belonging to Mr. Sonny Williams who was good enough to let us tie up there at no charge.  I could see the boys get out of the boat and watch Mama make her way back home which she did no matter what the weather.

Daddy made sure each us learned early how to run that boat.  The summer before I started school, Daddy took me out in the Putt-Putt and began my training.

“You have to know how to do this, Lady Baby. What if something happened to your mama and she couldn’t take you across the river to school one day?”

“I’d just stay home that day!”

“But, what if you were halfway across the river and Mama somehow hurt herself and couldn’t run the boat?”

I had no answer for that one so, by age seven, I could run that boat right by myself from the island, pull up to Mr. Sonny’s dock as pretty as you please, loop the stern line around the pylon, jump out and tie the bow line, and walk away with the old men at the bait shop just grinning.

Daddy had been taking the boys out on some of his fishing trips since they were old enough to walk, he said.

 “They might not end up fishermen, but they’re gonna  know how, just in case they do go in that direction!”

I would beg to be taken along, too, but Daddy would not hear of it. “Little girls got no business out on a fishing boat with a bunch of men. You stay here with Mama. Learn how to do other things. You won’t ever have to fish for a living.”

What bunch of men? I wondered. It was just Daddy, Uncle Leonard, and my own two  brothers.

Daddy didn’t see it my way, though, no matter how much I fussed and fumed. When he had finally had enough, he’d turn to me, point his finger, and say, “Charlotte Anne, I told you!” And that ended that and we all knew it.

Except for that, life was good on Rattlesnake Island—until I turned six and had to cross the river with my brothers to start first grade at Meadow View Elementary School.


Next Month: Chapter Two



How We Live

Tim Whealton


In my past life I was a phone man. Not anything special just a regular phone man that came to your house to fix your phone or put in a new one. The job title was Installer-Repairman. Now the phone man didn’t just come to your house, he went all over and under it. In the garage, closet, pulled out the bed from the wall and in the attic. After many years a man in that job I learned a lot about how people live.

It was fascinating to me. People come in so many variations that you never knew what you would see. To add to the mixture my zone covered everything from a poor ghetto to the New Bern Country Club and a little bit of everything in between. Rich, poor, middle class, single, retired, widowed, newlywed, GLBT they all had to have a phone.

Did you ever ride by a beautiful home and wonder what it looked like inside. If the phone man did and wanted to know he would just pull up and test the phones. Instant access if he was wearing tools and carrying a test phone. We were so accepted as crucial that local drug dealers instructed the street thugs to “leave the phone man alone cause we got to have a phone.” After everybody got a cell phone that ended.

My interest in how we live taught me a few things. Number one is don’t judge the inside till you see it. I can’t tell you how many times I went to a house in an expensive neighborhood and the rooms were empty with bed sheets for curtains. These people wanted a house to impress so bad that they didn’t have any money left for furniture. They would usually be getting their phone disconnected for non-pay the following month.

Some of the apartments in the low income area would be neat and clean but that was an exception. Generally the low income side wasn’t very clean but a lot of them had nice stuff. Especially cars. You just couldn’t tell till you went inside.

I could also tell a lot about the people that lived there without meeting them. Golf clubs, duck decoys, type of boat, tools, etc. told a lot about what they liked to do. From how much it was worn I could tell how much they liked to do it. The one that always puzzled me was the “Nothing” man. You could hardly tell the man lived there. No boat, no hunting gear, nothing out of place, no tools or any sign that he did anything but go to work. I always wondered what his life was like. Was that the way he wanted to live or was he a prisoner of a dominant mate? Since I have accumulated enough to fill a warehouse I certainly will never know!

After years of looking at how people live I was surprised to come to the conclusion that most of us live very similar lives. Whether the house looked like a mansion set back from the road so far that you were in front of it for ½ mile or it was a tiny little rental with 10 feet of yard there was a similar life going on. Most houses had someone that went to work and came home at the end of the day. Most sat down for a minute and decided what would be for supper then after eating turned on the TV for a while before calling it a day. I saw it over and over year after year.

It didn’t seem to make much difference if the man was a lawyer or drove a Pepsi truck. Yes the lawyer had a huge house but the way he lived wasn’t  that much different. Maybe his chair was more expensive and his TV was a little wider but his experience was very similar.

 He even had the same phone call before he came home. Every phone man overheard this call several times a day.

“What you doing?”

“Nothing, what you doing?”

“Nothing, what you want for dinner?”

“I don’t know what you want?”

“I don’t know, we’ll pick something out.”

“OK bye”

Finally I learned to stop thinking about how other people had it made. We all have it made if we are smart enough to realize it!  If you don’t believe it talk to someone that has been out of the U.S. to a poor country.




September Horoscope

(Source: Horoscope 2019 guru)


September 2018 starts with a conjunction between Venus and Jupiter. This could be lucky for some, but encourage others to over-indulge!  Saturn and Pluto combine to cause upsets and changes, then Jupiter and Pluto give you the additional energy to cope with this. In the latter half of the month, Saturn and Uranus align to give us a strenuous, nerve wracking few days followed by Jupiter and Uranus combining to produce a period of sudden opportunities or impulsive action.


Mars, your ruler, continues its journey through Taurus. Much of your energy is likely to be expended with your possessions and your income and during this lengthy period. You will have to  fight to keep what you feel is rightfully yours. You could see a sudden opportunity that creates a profound change in your life.


As Mars continues in your sign you may prefer to be left alone with your own. You should guard against being insensitive to the needs of others. During the second week of the month, Venus moves on into Scorpio and close relationships benefit from your amiability and willingness to compromise. During the third week, you may have to cope with difficult new circumstances in he home .


Mercury, your ruler, moves out of Leo, fairly rushes through Virgo and ends the month in Libra, meaning that for you, for most of the month, it is your home life which is the focus of your attention. Be careful that in your quest for greater freedom, you consider your options first and you don’t act too impulsively!


Your social life will have a buzz to it for most of the month and the New Moon in Virgo suggests that you could find yourself in a new locality or spending time with new friends. Balancing the accounts could become even more nerve wracking in the third week of September, when Saturn makes an uncomfortable alignment with Uranus. A sudden change is offered to you, with the Full Moon in Pisces shining its light on the route you need to take.


This is not going to be an easy month for you, although you will see more clearly your way forward by its close. Although Venus and Jupiter continue to make your social life very pleasant, with Saturn in your sign your current responsibilities are likely to be heavy. You are likely to find it difficult to adapt to new circumstances, although the hard work you put in now could certainly be to your long term advantage.


Both  the Sun and Mercury, your ruler, in your sign for most of the month, you are once again at the top of your form, ready to share your views and expecting to be listened to! And financially, the meeting between Venus and Jupiter at the beginning of the month indicates good fortune, although you will have to resist the urge to spend. A difficult aspect between Jupiter and Uranus again highlights tension in financial and partnership matters and could mean the occurrence of a sudden opportunity that changes your life.


Venus, your ruler, meets Jupiter in your sign at the beginning of the month, indicating a very pleasant interlude, although you should guard against going to excess in anything. You may have the urge to acquire possessions simply for the joy of owning them too hard to resist.   Jupiter’s alignment with Pluto signifies a time when you should grab the opportunities to make the changes in your life which will give you the freedom you need. If you can resist the urge to act impulsively and make your plans carefully, then you will succeed in realising your dreams.


Venus moves into your sign on the 11th, which creates tension between you, is mitigated by your amiability and your desire to compromise. You may feel blocked in your need to make changes in your life, either by circumstances or by other people. Consequently, the changes you have to make in the way in which you earn your income may not be of your choosing. It may be tough going, but be reassured that the changes could be to your long term advantage.


September 2018  starts with Venus and friends, acquaintances or business colleagues are imbued with warmth and affection. The New Moon at the beginning of the month allows you to make a new start where either your career or your public image is concerned, The Full Moon in Pisces, together with an alignment between Jupiter and Uranus, makes for sudden opportunities that could change your life for the better. .


The meeting of Venus and Jupiter in Libra affect your chart connected with your career, professional life or public personna and never have you been held in such high regard nor has your reputation been better. Pluto suggests a difficult few days when you may not have the resources to cope with the sudden pressure under which you find yourself.



Mars continues creating a certain amount of tension, particularly if there is opposition to your ideas and plans. Demands by those close to you may be heavier than normal. Concerns over finances or property become more of an issue, creating conflict between you and someone close. The Full Moon promises that a resolution to your financial or property concerns is on its way.


Venus and Jupiter combine in connection jointly owned property and shared resources, bringing good news in this respect. But you may also be tempted to overspend at this time too, as these planets between them can encourage excess. In the latter half of the month a difficult period of sudden changes when you will have to adapt to new circumstances which may not be of your choosing. However, even the Full Moon in your sign indicates that you are about to make up your mind one-way or the other.





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 two new cookbooks 


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.


Jean Barnes: Childhood Memories; Worked at the telephone company. I first met her in 1968 in Cookeville, Tennessee. Our paths crossed several times over the years and she worked for me as the Tazewell, VA, Exchange Manager in the late 1970s. She was a crack shot with her .243 Winchester rifle and never missed a groundhog when we hunted together. She also shot skeet with a Winchester Model 12 shotgun and I heard she was good at that, too. She passed away in 2012. She is another friend that I still miss.


Peggy Lovelace Ellis, Natters of a Nomad, has been a freelance editor for 46 years, and a published author for considerably less. Over the past 25 years, she has published regularly in such magazines as Good Old Days, Reminisce, Reminisce Extra, Rock and Gem, Aquarium, True Story, Splickety, Woman’s World, Highlights, and Righter Monthly/Quarterly Review. She publishes in the Divine Moments series, Merry Christmas Moments (November 2017) and The Right Words at the Right Time (forthcoming). She has compiled and edited three anthologies for her writers’ group: Challenges on the Home Front World War II (Chapel Hill Press, 2004), Lest the Colors Fade (Righter Books, 2008), and A Beautiful Life and Other Stories (Righter Books, 2010). Each contains her short fiction, memoirs, and research.


Elizabeth Silance Ballard: Howard Who? and her book Three Rivers to Cross is being serialized, 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: Scott Fitzgerald’s Life and Works; was born in London, England and now lives in Mebane, N.C. Her business, travel, and writing advice articles have been published in more than 500 diverse newspapers and magazines in the United States and Gt. Britain. Her reference book, The A-Z of Writing and Selling,  was a Writer's Digest Book Club selection for September 1981.  Her other books, available on are Still Hopping, Still Hoping, (2012), The Dating Adventures of a Widow, (2013), The Key, (2014), Parallel Lives, (2016), Ariana Mangum's Books and Columns (2017),and Military Wives and Widows Tell Their Stories, (2018).


Randy Bittle: My Beloved Althea; is a self-taught independent philosopher who is still learning.  He has two books, both collections of essays, available on His latest book, More Colors Through My Mental Prism is also available.


Diana Goldsmith: The Artist; Diana has been attending and now runs a shared learner’s ‘Writing for pleasure’ group for the past 8 years.  She is an avid reader especially historical crime and loves Anne Perry’s books about Victorian England. She lives in Chard, Somerset, UK.


Joan Leotta: Full Moon’s Glow,; has been writing and performing since childhood. This award winning journalist and performer’s first poetry collection is out, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon. You can order that and the fourth of her picture book series for children-Rosa’s Shell from her at


Sybil Austin Skakle: Playing With Fire; 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.


Marry Williamson: Glastonbury and On Reflection; 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:  How We Live: 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.



[1] The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Vol. D, 6th edition, 2003, New York, p.1074.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Some Sort of Epic Grandeur, The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Matthew J. Bruccoli, University of South Carolina Press, 2002, p. 87.

[6] F. Scott Fitzgerald on Authorship, ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli, University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SC, 1996, p.38.

[7] Some Sort of Epic Grandeur, p.99.

[8] The Collected Writings of Zelda Fitzgerald, ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli, University of Alabama Press, 1997. p. xvi.

[9]Wikipedia, F. Scott Fitzgerald.


[10] Some Sort of Epic Grandeur p.4.

[11] Ibid.