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RPG Digest

November 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

 November 2018

 November is month number eleven: 11th day times the month, 11 times 11 = 1234321. All combinations of 11 produce palindromes.  In 2011, it was 11/11/11. That times 111111=12345654321.


      Thanks to all these talented writers who have contributed to every issue of RPG Digest with such enthusiasm. We thank P. L. Almanza for the beautiful front cover and Betsy Breedlove for the beautiful mountain photo we used on the back cover. We welcome Dr. David Chambers for his Thanksgiving Devotional. We haven’t had a religion columnist since my pheasant hunting buddy, in Wichita, Kansas, Ed Short, aged out at 97. He is now in his 101st year. Ed is a man who is always right, or never wrong. I miss him a lot. Diana Goldsmith is not with us this month because she had knee surgery. Enjoy!

Table of Contents

Thoughts of Fall by E. B. Alston. 3

Robert Louis Stevenson by Rita Berman. 3

Full Moon’s Glow by Joan Leotta. 6

Natters of a Nomad by Peggy Ellis. 7

Message to Youth by Randy Bittle. 8

Skin in the Game - Reviewed by E. B. Alston. 9

The Full Moon Rises by Joan Leotta. 10

Lindisfarne by Marry Williamson. 11

Thanksgiving Devotional by Dr. David Chambers. 12

Ah Fall!!! by E. B. Alston. 12

The Black Riders by Steven Crane. 13

America’s Thanksgivings by Sybil Austin Skakle. 14

Haiku by Marry Williamson. 15

Music  by Sybil Austin Skakle. 15

Space Aliens Are Here for Our Toothpaste! 16

The Criminal Justice System with A View from the Bottom - Review by Rita Berman. 17

Thanksgiving Day, Past and Present by Laura Alston. 20

The Storm: My Guns Got Wet! By Tim Whealton. 21

Three Rivers to Cross – Seralized book by Elizabeth Silance Ballard. 22

Hammer Spade and the Inca Curse – Serilazed book by E. B. Alston. 31

How Do You Decide Whom to Marry?. 37

Two Bird Hunting Stories by E. B. Alston. 38

From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza. 41

Moccasin Gap - Thanksgiving 1973 by Brad Carver 44

Contributors. 45



Thoughts of Fall

E. B. Alston

 I grew up on a farm. By November most of the hard work was finished, the crops sold and the weather was more pleasant than summer when we had to work hard. In retrospect, none of it seemed bad. Since we all worked, there was a shared sense of accomplishment when the crop-year was over. The work horses certainly appreciated the relief. We lived in the country and everybody knew everybody else. This means that a mischievous boy could not get away with anything. Neighbors had no reluctance at reporting some of my shenanigans to my parents. I didn’t get away with much but I had a lot of fun.

When I look back on those days, I feel sad for the plight of today’s children. At 13, I had a horse to ride, a bicycle, and a year later, a Whizzer Motorbike. When chores were over and on weekends I could visit my friends. A group about my age gathered in Hollister every Saturday when weather permitted. There may have been more but all I can name today are 14. Sometimes my tomboy cousin, Dorothy, would join us. She could outride any of the boys on her horse. She was handy with her fists, too. Plus, she was very, very pretty. My two best friends, Donald Ray Satterwhite and Joseph Powell (cousin) are gone now. Dorothy is still as feisty as she was back then.

From what I wrote above, you might think that my family was well-to-do. This was ludicrously not the case. We didn’t have electricity until I was 13. My parents didn’t have running water until I had married and left home. Most of my friends’ families were in the same boat.

My extended family, on both sides, was close and there were not many weekends that we didn’t visit, or be visited by, my grandparents, uncles and aunts. My father and mother had several friends who were not family members. Since most were farmers, weekday visiting was common.

What we didn’t have was TV, smartphones, facebook, twitter and all that other useless modern trash. What we had was friends. We laughed a lot. We had a lot of fun.

I had 38 cousins. Every one of them finished high school. Some went off to college and did well. All of them had respectable careers. Most of them are still alive. We still have family reunions that began when I was an infant.

Sadly, not many of today’s families can say this. And, today they would be alarmed at the freedom we had back them. I could ride my bicycle, or horse, alone, without any supervision, 12 miles on public roads to visit my cousin, Joseph. If I had trouble or needed help, I could stop at any house along the way and get all the help I needed. I will add here that it would not matter whether the family was black or white. The rule was I had to be home by suppertime.


Robert Louis Stevenson

Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer.

By Rita Berman

G. K. Chesterton who reviewed Stevenson’s varied output said that “he could put into a line what other men put into a page.”

I carry a slip of paper in my wallet with one sentence by Stevenson that I came across while staying with a friend in England in 1995 after the death of my husband. It reads “My past is myself, my own history,” and I found it of great comfort as I struggled to cope with the future. I thought the quote came from a book by Stevenson called “Essays of the Road” but I couldn’t find a copy.

Some 20 years later when searching on the Internet I located Professor Barry Menikoff, one of the world’s leading authorities on Robert Louis Stevenson.  He in turn put me in touch with Professor Robert-Louis Abrahamson, who with others is working on a long-term project to publish five volumes of the essays of R. L. Stevenson.

To my joy Abrahamson sent to me a copy of Stevenson’s unfinished essay called “A Retrospect” that was written in 1870 when he was only nineteen. It appears that Stevenson had read an essay by Hazlitt, written in 1821-22 and was expounding on it. Professor Abrahamson was also kind enough to send me a copy of Stevenson’s published essay that appeared in the Edinburgh Edition XXI (1896).   

When I was younger I had read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and other of Stevenson’s works but now the essay stimulated me to learning about Stevenson’s life.

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was born 13 November 1850 and died 3 December 1894. Although christened Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson, when he was about 18 years old he changed the spelling of “Lewis” to “Louis” and in 1873, he dropped “Balfour”. His most famous works are Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and A Child’s Garden of Verses.  He became a literary celebrity during his lifetime

Stevenson was tolerant of many societies and interested in many men, noted Chesterton, and decried that “after his death one person after another turned up and wrote a book about meeting Stevenson on a steamboat or in a restaurant; their interest was overdone.”

Stevenson’s father Thomas was an engineer and his mother Margaret Isabella Balfour came from a family of lawyers and church ministers.  He was a sickly but precocious child, much influenced by his nurse, Alison Cunningham who filled his mind with stories and fears of damnation.

He attended Edinburgh Academy in 1861 but left after two years and was then educated privately.  When he was 17 he enrolled in Edinburgh University with the intention of studying engineering, but in 1871 he switched to studying law and so did not follow in his father’s footsteps. In 1873 he had an essay called “Roads” published in Macmillan’s Magazine.  Although he was called to the Bar in 1875 he did not practice law because he had decided to become a writer.

His, ill health, that may have been tuberculosis, led him from the cold grey climate of Edinburgh to seek warmer climates and some of his early published works related to travel.  An Inland Voyage describing the journey he made by canoe from Antwerp to northern France was published in 1878.  A companion work, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes, (1879), was based on the notebook he kept while being accompanied by Modestine, a rather single-minded donkey.

In the 20th century, a reprint of this book the Penguin classic edition, was edited by Christopher MacLachlan who noted “this example of 19th century travel writing reveals as much about the traveler as the places he travels to. The book became a highly entertaining account of the French people and their country.”  

Stevenson traveled from Scotland to Europe and to America, going there, according to Chesterton, partly because he was an adventurer and partly because he was an invalid. “His journeys were, all in one way or another, related to the problem of his health as well as to the cheerfulness of his curiosity.”

Chesterton describes Stevenson’s romantic life as being unconventional for the times.  “He had met, first in Paris, and later in America, an American lady married to a seemingly somewhat unsatisfactory American gentleman, against who she took proceedings for divorce. Stevenson at the same time precipitately crossed the seas and in some sense pursued her to California…. The escapade brought on him one of the worst and sharpest of his attacks of illness; the lady, threw herself into nursing him; and as soon as he could stand on two rickety legs they were married in 1880.”

Fanny Stevenson (nee Van de Grift Osbourne) had three children but divorced her husband Samuel because of his infidelities that led to a number of separations.

In 1881 Stevenson began writing Treasure Island. In an essay he recalled he first drew a map, for his 12-year-old stepson, and then “the future characters of the book began to appear.  The next thing I knew, I had some paper before me and was writing out a list of characters. It was to be a story for boys.”  It was published in 1883. This book gave Stevenson his first real taste of widespread popularity and his career as a profitable writer had finally begun. 

In spite of episodes of illness, Stevenson continued to write because it was one of the few activities he could do while confined to bed.  After Treasure Island he produced a play, the book, A Child’s Garden of Verses”. His father died in 1887 and Stevenson then followed the advice of his physician to try a complete change of climate. After a cruise to the southern Pacific Ocean, in 1889 Stevenson, Fanny and her son Lloyd reached Samoa and there he bought some land. By October 1890 building had commenced on his house in Samoa, to be called Vailima.

The Master of Ballantrae (1889) was considered by Calvino and Brecht to be the best of Stevenson’s works. Henry James praised it.  He had not taken to Stevenson when they first met in the 1880s, but admired his fiction. They argued and corresponded on literary as well as personal subjects until Stevenson’s death.  

In 1891 Stevenson’s book on the history and customs of the Pacific Islands and his travels amongst them, called In the South Seas was published in instalments in America. A collections of essays, Across the Plains and a survey of Samoan history and politics called A Footnote to History were published in 1892.

A few months later he caught influenza which brought on another lung hemorrhage. Civil war broke out in Samoa in June 1893.  Stevenson visited Hawaii a few months later but returned to Samoa. On December 3, 1894 he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage at his home and died within a few hours.  His body was carried up Mount Vaea and buried at the summit.

The novel he was working on when he died, Weir of Hermiston was published incomplete and posthumously in 1896. It was set in Scotland in the not-too-distant past and has also been praised and seen as Stevenson’s masterpiece. 

His wife, Fanny, died in Santa Barbara, CA on 19 February, 1914 and was buried with Stevenson on Samoa.

Interest in his works after his death subsided for some years but he is now ranked the 26th most translated author in the world, ahead of Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe. 

In a relatively few years, Stevenson had written over one hundred essays. The Lantern-Bearers, edited by Jeremy Treglown, 1988, is a collection of nearly three dozen of the best essays. Treglown says that Robert Louis Stevenson’s work “has paid the critical price of being both very popular and, on the face of things, quite simple.  The simplicity is deceptive: his essays make clear how much painstaking art went into his stories…. Much of what he wrote, including his essays, has long been out of print: a complete new edition is now needed.”

This suggestion may be carried out for Professor Robert-Louis Abrahamson and Professor Richard Dury, with several other General Editors, have been working since 2007 on a more complete edition of Stevenson’s essays and works, to be published by the Edinburgh University Press. “The whole edition will come to forty volumes, and Stevenson’s writing career lasted only twenty years, with him laid up in bed for several months each year. Amazing output,” Abrahamson told me. 

To commemorate Stevenson’s birthday, the RLS Website was launched on 30 November 2009.  At the event that was held at the National Library of Scotland the original Treasure Island map was displayed.  Speakers included Professor Robert-Louis Abrahamson and Professor Richard Drury who maintains the RLS Website.          

For those interested in Stevenson’s short fiction, the Modern Library Paperback Classic, published in 2002 the Complete Stories of Robert Louis Stevenson, edited by Barry Menikoff.  It includes the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and previously uncollected short stories.     


Jane Austen was born 16 December 1775.  Look for my article about her in the December edition of RPG Digest.  



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.



Apparently nobody involved in TV news casting, with their constant head wagging, has ever read "Body Language" which indicates that they don't believe what they are saying (My opinion: they don't). I once took a class at the phone company where that book was the textbook. They were training us how to act when making presentations to potential customers, in this instance, the federal government. The instructors advice was never wag your head except to indicate "no" or nod your head except to indicate "yes".  Another piece of advice was don't wave your arms because it distracts from your message. At that time nobody was moving their face in circles. I don't know what that could mean. Gene Alston



Natters of a Nomad

Peggy Ellis 

November means Thanksgiving, which in turn, means food. In our travels, food has been an adventure in itself at times.

We’ve heard many complaints about airplane food. Jim and I travel business class and can pre-order our meals from their menu. We have never been disappointed in either the quality or the quantity of the food and our chosen beverages.

We don’t travel large cruise liners. We prefer riverboats (fewer than 200 passengers) or very small ships. Regardless of size, food is available constantly and reflects local cuisine. Even the paddle wheeler we traveled on to Alaska boasted trained chefs. Riverboats and paddle wheelers have open seating, a blessing because meals with strangers are not necessarily pleasant.

Most of our trips include educational home meals. In these instances, our guide divides our group into four people each and arranges for a local driving service to escort us to a pre-arranged home for dinner. In Buenos Aires, the van was too small for everyone to have a seat. Three people sat either on the floor or on someone’s lap. The local driver didn’t speak English and didn’t know his way to the four host homes. When he finally reached the correct area, he couldn’t find the addresses. The situation involved cell phones and emails. After 2-1/2 hours, we reached our destination. Our official hostess didn’t speak English, but her daughter was there. Our hostess served us, rather than eat with us, creating some awkwardness. The food (beef empanadas, meat loaf, cheesy potato casserole, and flan) was overcooked but still tasty. Rather than risk calling the driver, we chose to walk the 12 blocks (in almost a straight line) to our hotel.

On our way to Machu Pichu in Peru, we traveled by motor coach through the Sacred Valley. Poverty is common throughout South America, but here it was the worst we’ve seen. We had a pre-arranged home visit to see how these people live. We stepped inside a small, one room, dirt floor hut, which housed six people. Chickens, guinea pigs, a puppy, and a kitten ran around our feet. The homeowner pointed to a guinea pig and said that one would be their dinner. I avoided guinea pig on the dinner menu that evening. Jim tried it and said it was boney.

After those two dismal memories, I will include a very pleasant one in Akureyri, Iceland. Conversation with Dori (an engineer) and Anna (French teacher) and their quiet seven-year-old daughter and active five-year-old son covered their lives. Anna prepared a dinner of salmon in a cream sauce, the best salmon I’ve eaten anywhere, baked sweet and white cubed potatoes, and salad. Anna played an electronic keyboard and sang a couple of Icelandic songs in her native tongue while Dori cleared the table and set out the dessert, a mousse made with skimmed milk (not yogurt) with blueberries and raspberries. The top was a designed swirl of raspberry sauce. This was one of our most enjoyable meals on our travels, helped I’m sure, by the gracious hosts.

In Melbourne, Australia, a singing Italian waiter serenaded us with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin songs while we enjoyed an elegant five-course meal featuring roasted kangaroo loin, on a tram that traveled around the city while we ate. Food and service were impeccable.

Two alfresco meals stand out in memory.

In Australia’s Uluru National Park, the red monolith known as Ayers Rock presents an outstanding display as the sun moves into sunset, changing the face of the rock. A mimosa at “The Rock” at sunset is a tradition. Our guide set out a table of food and drink including kangaroo appetizer, smoked salmon pâté, assorted Australian cheeses, and Lamington cake.

An Easter Island tradition is a sunset picnic on a narrow point where we enjoyed three kinds of empanadas (shrimp, tuna, and cheese) and assorted beverages as we watched the sun set behind five ahu maoi. Quiet music set the stage for the sunset and the rising full moon.


Message to Youth

(And Their Children’s Children’s Children)

Randy Bittle

 I am impressed and encouraged by the optimism many youths display in the face of a world swirling with seemingly insurmountable problems.  Besides the pressure and stress heaped on young individuals by family, peer-groups, and schools, even the world at large seems in chaos.  Relief and escape are not viable options.  Yet portions of our youth strive to do the right thing and refuse to cave in to the pressures of growing up in a world gone mad.  May I offer some advice to youths involved in the struggle to better their world.

First and foremost, do not let rote memorization of schoolwork destroy your spirit and crush curiosity out of you.  Always remain curious.  Ask why the sky is blue and marvel at the answer (shorter wavelengths of blue light penetrate the atmosphere better than the longer wavelengths of other colors of light that are more readily absorbed and scattered).  Schoolwork gives you tools to follow your curiosity wherever it leads.  Math, language, science, and history can be intriguing and exciting subjects when removed from the drab context of school, but only after you have developed the fundamental school-taught skills necessary to independently pursue your curiosity about reality.

This happened to me in the eighth grade.  I checked out a book from the library about Galileo and Newton.  I had learned the basic math in school to understand Galileo’s and Newton’s ideas regarding the real physical world, ideas which were revealed in the well-written history of science library book.  I remember thinking I was only twelve years old and I could understand what two of the world’s most gifted thinkers thought.  What a thrill that was.  My studies of Galileo and Newton were carried on outside the boring classroom.  Those guys knew truths about the real world, and my curiosity about reality drove me to figure out these truths through independent study.  Schoolwork was boring, but learning about reality on my own time fascinated me.

Follow your curiosity and interests.  Socrates was curious and he wanted more than anything else to understand the world and the people in it.  What did he do?  He asked questions of everyone whom he thought knew the answers.  Turned out that no one knew the answers he sought, but his burning desire to understand drove him to seek those answers everywhere he went.  The Socrates character in Plato’s dialogues is an excellent example of how to question people and use logic to pursue truths.

Logic is vital to understanding reality and its implications.  I recommend you pay close attention in geometry class when learning Euclidean proofs, which are beautiful presentations of logically derived truths from self-evident axioms.  If you have already had geometry, read Euclid’s book “Elements.”  Do not underestimate the power of logic to understand and explain reality.  Inherent in logical analysis is the concept of cause and effect.  Any given event has a cause, or sometimes multiple causes, and logically tracing the causes of effects is a fine way to get closer to the truths of reality.  The sky is blue for a reason.

Always ask someone if you do not understand something.  Google is a useful tool if you stick to the goal of understanding reality, but you must realize not everything on Google is true.  Consider sources and reliability of information carefully and wisely.  Social media has few truths to offer beyond the fact that people will go to great lengths to manipulate your emotions and actions.  Beware of unwarranted emotional influences from social media sources.  You can get better quality emotional satisfaction from face-to-face interactions with real people not distanced by social media interfaces and questionable intentions.

Read the writing of the world’s greatest thinkers.  Filling your mind with the ideas of Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, St. Augustine, Francis Bacon, Descartes, Galileo, Newton, Locke, Hume, Kant, and Einstein is a great start on building your mind’s reasoning abilities.  Some of their ideas fall short of truth, but the methodology of their thinking and presentation of their ideas is admirable.  Make the logical thinking of the world’s greatest thinkers a habit of mind and you will be better off.  Of course, it won’t be easy.  As body-builders say, no pain, no gain.  The same is true for mind-builders.  Exercise your reasoning often and good thinking will get easier and eventually become habitual.  Understanding Kant will not tell you how long to heat a frozen biscuit in the microwave oven, but you will understand deeper concepts about reality that microwaving a frozen biscuit could never reveal.

One last bit of advice.  If your curiosity inspires you to embark on a quest for understanding the deeper truths of reality, realize that these truths probably will not put food on your table or a roof over your head.  You must learn a sellable trade or skill.  Do not mistake your livelihood, or source of income, with deeper meanings about reality.  In most cases the meaning of “life” differs from “livelihood.”  However, your livelihood makes the continuation of your meaningful life possible.  Reality is inescapable though few recognize it or deal with it appropriately.  Do not try to run away from or avoid reality, but rather seek to embrace it, relish it, understand it, and change it for the better if you can.



Skin in the Game

Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Random House 304 pages; $30

Reviewed by E. B. Alston


skin in the game.jpgRisk and rationality. In 2001Nassim Taleb published “Fooled by Randomness”, (reviewed here in 2008) an entertaining and provocative book on the misunderstood role of chance. He followed it with The Black Swan, which brought that term into widespread use to describe extreme, unex­pected events. This was the first public in­carnation of Mr. Thleb, idiosyncratic and provacative, but with plenty of original things to say. As he became well known, Mr Taleb was recognized as someone who indulged in bad-tempered spats with other thinkers. Judging by Skin in the Game, this second Mr. Thleb is the real one. He deplores Steven Pinker.

Actually reading this is like being trapped in a cab with a talkative, over-opinionated driver. At one point, Mr Taleb posits that people who use foul lan­guage on Twitter are signaling that they are “free” and “competent”. Another interpretation is that they resort to bullying to conceal the poverty of their arguments.   This is a shame, because the first, submerged, Mr. Taleb is still audible, and still has interesting things to say. Broadly, his concept of Skin in the Game says that the extent of people’s, stakes in particular outcomes is an underrated determinant of events. It can be applied to a wide range on subjects, from financial markets to businesses and religion, and the author illustrates it well. One neat concept is the “dominance of the stubborn minority”—ie, that a few individuals who will not change their behavior can force everyone to ad­just to their tastes. An example is that “a ko­sher (or halal) eater will never eat non-kosher (or non-halal) food, but a non-kosher eater isn't banned from eating kosher.” Ca­tering companies can thus switch to serv­ing halal meat because it makes life easier.

In his last two chapters, Mr Taleb draws together the book’s ideas with some of his previous work. The more Skin in the Game you have, the greater your exposure to Black Swans. He concludes that the folk wisdom handed down by grandmothers concerning the virtue of birds in the hand-shows an awareness of extreme risks not found in economists’ models. “Rationality is avoidance of systemic ruin,” Mr. Haleb writes. He recommends suspicion of armchair experts who are de­tached from their subjects: “Do not pay at­tention to what people say, only what they do, and to how much of their necks they are putting on the line."

Even here Mr Taleb applies different standards to his own arguments and those of others. When he criticizes Western poli­ticians for intervening in Libya, he has no skin in the game. He has not run for office or been obliged to put policies into action. The group with real skin in that game were the citizens of Benghazi, who might have been slaughtered had NATO not shown up. Failing to intervene in (for example) Rwan­da had consequences too. Humbler an­alysts would acknowledge such awkward counterfactuals. But there is little humility on display here.



The Full Moon Rises

Joan Leotta


The moon rises

out my back window

bright and round,

bigger as the sky darkens

seeming close but

out of reach.

Its twin rests softly

 in the waters of

Caw Caw creek.

That shimmering

badge of light

remains still, captive.

 Mine to enjoy

 in sky and water

 until the curving of the

 earth's rotation

pulls it away.




         A gushy reporter told Phil Mickelson, "You are spectacular, your name is synonymous with the game of golf. You really know your way around the course. What's your secret?"
Mickelson replied,  “The holes are numbered."




Marry Williamson


In September we went on a 5-day coach trip to Northumberland and I was very pleased to tick off two items on my bucket list in the one trip. One was to see ‘The Angel of the North’ which is the enormous statue by Antony Gormley that dominates the landscape just outside Gateshead near Newcastle. It stands 20 metres (66 feet) tall with wings measuring 54 metres (177 feet).

Like most of Gormley’s other works, including ‘Another Place’ it is based on a cast of his own body. We had visited ‘Another Place’, a group of 100 cast-iron statues standing in the surf at Crosby beach near Liverpool a few years ago. We were unlucky that we arrived there at high tide and most of the figures were half submerged. But even so it was still an awesome sight.

But the main reason for travelling all the way ‘up north’, a long way from the south west of England where we live was to visit the island of Lindisfarne, also called Holy Island. This is a tidal island off the northeast coast of England. It can only be reached by road at low tide so visits to the island are tidal dependent. Lindisfarne has a recorded history from the 6th century AD. It was an important centre of Celtic Christianity. The Monastery of Lindisfarne was founded by the Irish monk St. Aiden, who came from Iona off the west coast of Scotland to Northumbria at the request of King Oswald.

Monks from the Irish community of Iona settled on the island. Northumberland’s patron saint St. Cuthbert, was a monk and later Abbott at the Monastery before he became bishop of Lindisfarne. He died in 687 and was originally buried at Lindisfarne. However he became a cult figure when in 698 his coffin was opened and his body was found to be perfectly preserved. This apparent miracle led to the growth of his posthumous fame.

When in 875 the Vikings invaded the island and the monks fled abandoning the monastery they decided to take St. Cuthbert’s remains with them to various places. They eventually settled on Chester-le-Street but in 995 after another Danish invasion St. Cuthbert’s remains were taken to Durham. In 1104 his tomb was opened again and his relics placed in a shrine in the then recently completed Durham Cathedral where they remain to this day.

The priory on Lindisfarne is now a ruin but a lot of the walls are still visible and we walked amongst them and tried to imagine how the monks lived on this island buffeted by the wind coming off the cold and grey North Sea. In the middle stands an imposing statue of St. Cuthbert looking out to sea.

When the monks fled Lindisfarne in 875 with the remains of St. Cuthbert they also took with them the famous ‘Lindisfarne Gospels’. This is an illuminated manuscript gospel book probably produced around the years 715-720. It is presumed to be the work of a monk named Eadfrith who became bishop of Lindisfarne in 698 and died in 721. It is believed that the gospels were produced in honour of St. Cuthbert.

The book is richly illustrated and was originally bound in fine leather covered with jewels and precious metals. During the Viking raids the jewelled cover was lost. After the dissolution in 1539 the manuscript was taken from Durham Cathedral. It then turns up in the early 17th century in possession of Sir Robert Cotton and in 1753 was given to the British Museum where it still is, in remarkable condition, the text complete and undamaged. However, the original binding was destroyed and in 1852 a new binding was commissioned. A copy of the gospels was presented to the island in 1971 by professor Kaufman of Rockford, Illinois, USA. It is on display in the priory museum.


Thanksgiving Devotional

Dr. M. David Chambers


We may not have what we want, or think we deserve, but in Christ we have all that is necessary.

 1 Thessalonians 5:18 In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 


         Gratitude and contentment should go together like turkey and dressing. They feed each other, and are both fostered by faith. When we remember how God has so richly blessed uswe should be utterly overwhelmed by His generosity. For example, for our salvation by His son Jesus, we should be eternally grateful. For His gift of grace: we should be grateful for and bask in its  freedom. For His forgiveness: we should be eternally grateful for guilt-free living. For His love: we should be grateful for the ability to love and be loved.

  For His holiness: we should be grateful His character can be trusted and is transformational. Stuff is secondary, while the blessings of faith, family, friends and health grow our contentment. We may not have what we want, or think we deserve, but in Christ we have all that is necessary. So, be humbly grateful to God, and contentment will increase its influence. And sway over your life until you are able to say as did Paul in Philippians 4:11- I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

  The fear of the LORD tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil. (Proverbs 19:23).

 Contentment is to rest in Christ, trusting He is in control. Circumstances, good or bad, are an opportunity for Him to show Himself faithful. So, once you go to God in gratitude, you can live life in contentment knowing Christ is in control. Contentment is not passive and uninformed, but rather engaged and educated. It is not anxious. It replaces worry with work, pity with prayer, pride with humility, and grumbling with gratitude.

No …We may not have what we want, or think we deserve, but in Christ we have all that is necessary.



Ah Fall!!!

E. B. Alston


Ah, fall. By the time you read this, leaves will be at their height where I live. A few years ago, I would be exercising my quail dogs to get them up to speed for quail hunting season. They knew just as well as I did that the fun was about to begin. Mentally, they would have come out of the summer doldrums, and, with cooler weather, their spirits would be high. For dumb animals, bird dogs are surprisingly sophisticated.

I moved back to North Carolina from my assignment in Southwest Virginia in the summer of 1979. The first August after we moved was exceptionally hot. This was back during the time when nuclear winter was the hot-button issue in the news. Just like now with global warming, the news media blamed the hot weather on the nuclear winter, which was just around the corner.  Then global warming took over. This is why we older folks appear to be cynical. We have listened to at least three earth- transforming predictions, which were eventually discredited, and a new scare hatched up in some over-educated idiot’s fevered brain. Anyway, it was very hot.

One hot Sunday afternoon, Randy Guthrie called and suggested that we take our hunting dogs to the lake and let them cool off. Capital idea! We met at the bridge where Roberts Chapel Road crosses Lake Butner. When I let my pointers, Lucky and Buckley, off the pickup, they immediately knew what was in store, dashed down the steep bank and sailed into the water. Lucky took a short swim, came back to the shore and up the bank to thank me for bringing her.

Randy’s Lab, Butch, and his pointer, Heidi, sailed into the cool water as soon as they arrived. The dogs appeared to be having such a good time, Randy and I joined them and pretty soon Randy was holding on to Butch’s tail while he towed him around in the water. It was a banner afternoon.

To be honest, I like all four seasons. Each has its own special appeal. I would not like to live in a place that had no seasons. The competitive shooting schedule begins in spring. Summer brought vacations and trips to the lake with the kids. Then fall with the invigorating weather, the fall leaf show, then winter and hunting season. Life was good.

Today, there are only memories of those wonderful times. Because those times are past, does not mean I feel a sense melancholy. I loved those times when I lived them and today the memories are happy ones. I have lived a full life, with few unpleasant times, but I seem to remember only the good ones.

Our lives are what we make of them. Fall is here. Enjoy it.


 The Black Riders

Steven Crane (1871-1900)


The ocean said to me once,


Yonder on shore

Is a woman weeping.

I have watched her.

Go you and tell her this—

Her lover I have laid

In a cool green hall.

There is wealth of golden sand

And pillars, coral-red;

Two white fish stand guard at his bier.


“Tell her this

And more—

That the king of the seas

Weeps too, old, helpless man.

The bustling fates

Heap his hands with corpses

Until he stands like a child

With surplus of toys.”



America’s Thanksgivings

A History Lesson

Sybil Austin Skakle


Americans think of Pilgrims, Indians, yams

Of roast turkey as Thanksgiving draws near.

Colorful paintings of that first American gathering

Glamorize that first corn harvest feast.

Reconstructed Salem Village in Massachusett

Showed me how those pilgrims fared in 1621, when

I imagined homesickness and hardships they endured.

Facing another bitter winter, survivors' hearts

overflowed with graditude as they recalled

earlier English harvest-home festivals.

Indians, the corn givers, loved fetes and came

with wild turkey and venison to share.


During the Revolution, New England colonies

observed eight special days of thanks.

President George Washington on November 26, 1789

issued a general thanksgiving proclamation.

By 1830 New York had an official Thanksgiving

and other northern state followed.

In 1855 Virginia became the first southern state

to proclaim a Thanksgiving Day.

For thirty-nine years, Sarah Josepha Hale promoted

the idea of a national Thanksgiving Day.

President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation in 1863 –

The last Thursday of November to be a "a day of thanksgiving

and praise to our beneficent Father."

For seventy-five years our President formally

proclaimed Thanksgiving Day should be

Celebrated on the last Thursday of November,

Which it now is, again.

However, in 1939 President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed

it should be celebrated a week earlier.

Finally, after 1941, Congress ruled Americans celebrate

Thanksgiving Day on the the fourth Thursday of November

and that it would be a legal holiday.

We follow the example of those first Plymouth celebrants

under Governor William Bradford,

Who gathered, in spite of threats and harsh realities,

To give thanks and praise God at Thanksgiving.




Marry Williamson


A haiku is a 3 line poem of 5, 7 and 5 syllables originally developed by Japanese poets, often inspired by nature.


Here are some:


A walk in the woods

Is like a breath of fresh air

Watch out for the roots


High up in the clouds

See the seagulls in full cry

Like darts in the sky


All night and all day

The mice in my garden shed

Eat my seeds and play


They stand in the glade

Tall silent trees side by side

Like soldiers on parade




Sybil Austin Skakle


Music and math are the same in every language I am told. Lyrics have been added to some musical compositions; some, sung in various languages. Perhaps in grade school, when we had assembly once a week, I may have sung Italian or Spanish words, a word of French, or Italian may have been voiced. However, I claim no proficiency, even in English. Gratefully, I can carry a tune. A bit of piano instruction, and many hours learning to play hymns and popular music on my own is my experience. Nevertheless, I feel music to the core of my being. Some say the angels in Heaven sing. I shall be disappointed if it is not true.

In the living room of our home there was an upright piano, the second that Mama had owned. I remember the day the older one came downstairs from the upstairs parlor, situated at the front of the house. That instrument survived hurricanes and aspiring pianist, as well babies’ exploring fingers.  It was still there, badly out of tune, when Mama died in 1969. One summer Dr. Edouard Lippe of New York City, who joined Nelson Eddie in Hollywood to continue teaching him voice, played Mama’s piano. I expect that summer was the first and last time that Mama’s piano knew its possibilities. Neglect, it never knew. There were five of us, four girls. Mama and the four of us all played a little. My brother said that he would not have had chance to play, had he taken lessons. My father’s patience was infinite as he sat reading in the corner of the living room. He could not carry a tune himself and he endured a lot of bad notes by us.

My mother’s father, George Charles Daniels, claimed to know 500 songs by heart. Mama said that at night he would sing all the old ballads while her mother spun cloth or knit socks, with the children all gathered with them in the old house at Wanchese. I tried to learn as many as he had, but never counted. I still have many lines in my memory. I have read that our brains, like computers, store all our information. So much has been added and I have forgotten some titles, but I find some lines in my memory when I hear the music to which it belongs. 

My friends and I loved performance and “Frankie and Johnnie” was a favorite one for us to perform on our front porch and out in the yard. There were the operettas that were prepared each school year and choruses in upper grades at Hatteras School. Every Sunday found us sitting in the dark pews singing the old hymns of faith. In the upstairs room added to the old white Methodist Church was an old pump organ that I pumped and played for Epworth League, it was called then; MYF now. We sang lustily! “Beulah Land” was the favorite of Cousin Maurice Peele, who stuttered when he spoke. His nice voice was freed by music! 

My youngest son, since he was two years old, craves music. I enjoy visiting him. I have spent many days alone with the music he programs for me while he and his wife go to their jobs. At Carol Woods, we are blessed by the many artists who come. We are treated to music by different instrumentalists and famous composers. Some I like. Some less well. Music! Make mine mellow, please! Haunting! Sweet! Sentimental! Strident? No!



Space Aliens Are Here for Our Toothpaste!

(Unknown British Newspaper)


They're Light-Years Ahead of Us in Space Travel - but Not in Dental Hygiene, Say Experts. SPACE aliens are not visiting Earth to plot the conquest of our planet or use their wisdom to guide mankind. They're here for our toothpaste!

That's the controversial theory of a British dentist, Dr. Alan Prestwood, the leading expert in a new field he's dubbed "exo-odontology."

"We are thousands of years behind the extraterrestrials in space travel, but we're way ahead of them in dental hygiene," declares Dr. Prestwood. Such discrepancies occur in many civilizations, the expert maintains.

"By the eighth century A.D., the Chinese already had gunpowder and rockets, yet for centuries to come they used chopsticks to eat because they hadn't invented the simple fork," the Manchester expert points out.

Dr. Prestwood believes the E.T.s have been stealing our toothpaste and applying "reverse-engineering" to try to create a substance that will be as effective on their own choppers.

"It's taken decades because their physiology is so different," he explains.

The exo-odontologist cites the following evidence in support of his theory:

FACT: Widespread UFO sightings in the U.S. began in the early 1950s -- soon after fluoridation of the water helped eradicate tooth decay.

FACT: Classified photos of alien remains recovered from the famous Roswell, N.M., saucer crash show the E.T.'s teeth are yellow and uneven, with several missing. "The photos also show blackened gums," says Dr. Prestwood, who has seen rare copies of the top secret autopsy report.

FACT: While embarrassing rectal probes grab a lot of media attention, far more UFO abductees report having been subjected to oral exams. "Almost 90 percent say aliens closely studied their teeth," Dr. Prestwood reveals.

FACT: When abductees are returned to Earth, a single item is often missing from their pocketbooks and suitcases: A tube of toothpaste.

FACT: Photos of teeth marks left on the arm of an RAF officer who unsuccessfully tried to capture an E.T. in 1971 show five teeth are missing.

FACT: The prevalence of UFO sightings is 20 times the norm in areas where major toothpaste makers have their manufacturing facilities.

Some fellow UFO investigators criticize Dr. Prestwood's research. One says that according to many descriptions, aliens don't have any teeth at all.

To which Dr. Prestwood replies, "That only serves to prove my point."


 The Criminal Justice System with A View from the Bottom

by Joseph A. Marro.

Reviewed by Rita Berman


This book was published in in 2013 by Righter Books. It is available on  Excerpts are presented here with the assistance of Rita Berman.

Joseph Marro wrote: I retired from the criminal justice system in 1977, after 23 years of dealing with the criminal element of society as a United States Probation/Parole Officer.

Each day was different from the last as I worked with a wide range of personalities, among them probationers, parolees, prisoners, lawyers and even judges.  Everybody’s life has some trials and tribulations, but most of us don’t allow these to control our behavior or affect our wellbeing.  Unfortunately, for Al Sailer and others, they failed to overcome such setbacks in spite of the help offered by the Federal Justice System.   In Al’s case he spent a total of 27 years in various penal institutions before he learned how to manage his life outside of prison walls. 

Al’s story is particularly heartrending for he was an intelligent and extremely talented self-taught artist as revealed in his manuscript and drawings that are include in Appendix 1. In order to present Al’s story I must first give mine.

I enlisted in the U. S. Navy at the age of 18. Around August 1945, I was listed for transfer to San Diego, California, finally being granted my wish to be shipped overseas, but Japan surrendered on August 15 and the war having ended, my transfer order was rescinded and I was discharged on April 30, 1946.

Soon after my return home, I enrolled in a program under the GI Bill, and I was able to complete my high school education and receive my diploma. I then enrolled in a junior college program and was accepted as a sophomore at Temple University and earned a BA Degree in 1952. After graduation I first worked as a caseworker in the Pennsylvania Department of Public Assistance in central Philadelphia. Later I was hired by the Pennsylvania Board of Parole and became a Probation/Parole Officer assigned to the Philadelphia District in full charge of my caseload.

During my years with the Federal Justice system, I dealt with many defendants who were well known professionals, some famous, some infamous (Rocky Graziano, Frank “Blinky” Palermo and others), and I also became acquainted with some influential lawyers and politicians. 

Of all my cases, Alfred Sailer is the most memorable.  He was the son of a former newspaper editor who had a very strong, domineering personality, and according to Al, she exerted extreme control over her children.

Sailer’s failings began when he went AWOL from the U. S .Air Force and found it easy to exist by writing false checks.  He was on probation for check writing and had been committed to Federal prison for violating his probation sentence.  I became acquainted with him when he was released on parole.  He was to live with his mother whose residence was in the area assigned to me.

He was under my supervision for only a brief period before he broke into another auto and stole a check book which he used to his advantage.  This was his typical modus operandi.  At this point in his life, when I met him, he had served at least 20 years in various prisons for similar thefts, as well as forgeries; and the interstate aspect of his dalliances brought him to the attention of Federal authorities.  The county revoked his probation and imposed the 5-year prison term that had been originally suspended.

Three months later, Al sent a hand-drawn Christmas greeting card to me, with a drawing of the face of Santa Claus, and the message that he wanted to assume that he held himself responsible for his return to prison.

Upon seeing the detail of the drawing on that card I sent him a letter complimenting him on his artistic ability and originality.  Thus began a long and valuable correspondence.

During his incarceration on this particular sentence, he drew several pieces with the pen and ink medium and sent them to his mother’s home suggesting that I visit there to comment on them.  I did so and reviewed five different pieces he created. In my opinion these were truly artistic drawing that should be evaluated by authorities in the art field.

With Al’s permission, I made an appointment with a member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art and took these 5 drawing there for review. Several days later, I received a call that they were available for my pick-up. They had been seen and determined to be true works of art… it was suggested that I speak with the owner of the Walnuts Gallery in Philadelphia for possible display and perhaps even sale of this art work. I wrote to Al reporting the comments…. These favorable reports caused Al to become more dedicated in his efforts and allowed him to produce some very interesting pieces.

His letters were sometimes several pages long but I found them always interesting. During his time serving terms in various prisons, both local and Federal, Al compiled a rather impressive manuscript of the institution’s programs, general conditions with an alpha omega view, by an “inside man” of the justice system as a whole and he titled this manuscript “A View from The Bottom”. Because it presents the criminal justice system as seen by an inmate it is an apt title. It is included as Appendix 1. 

His parole term expired without further incident and he subsequently developed a relationship with a woman his age.  We continued to correspond fairly regularly and his mother and sister also kept me informed as to how well things were going for Al.  He appeared to have made a new life, happy with work and love.  Just when things were going so well he fell on an icy walkway and fractured his spine.  Not long afterward I learned that he died from complications and was buried in his hometown in New England.

Al’s sister, Zeletta A. Sailer, inherited his manuscript and drawings and gave Joseph Marro permission to include it in his book. Here are some of Sailer’s observations from Appendix 1.  A View from the Bottom by Al Sailer.

The majority of people in our prisons today are persons who are confined as a result of aberrant behavioral patterns or guilty of defective judgments.  We see the criminal here as a professional whose primary concern is the successful commission of a crime.

“Successful commission of a crime” is to be defined in terms of escaping detection. Apprehension, prosecution and punishment.  The professional criminal weighs every aspect of his act, prior to taking action and he will consider that the crime must meet at least three major requirements” (1) sufficient personal gain, (2) ample opportunity of fulfillment and (3) minimum possibility of detection. Next the possibility of being caught and punished must be considered.  Here the risk involved coupled with the penalty for the crime must be weighed against the gain to be realized from the crime.

 In the following 70 pages Sailer wrote that the government as well as society has given pragmatic sanction to a system of treating criminal offenders and the system has proven itself quite unsound.  He explained in detail, from his perspective, why those incarcerated find it hard to adjust to life on the outside.

The staunchest champions of “the system” are those who profit it the most by it; the true criminal, the professional…. The intelligent and better informed take a different attitude. The readily admit the failure of the system and unhesitatingly point out its injustices and inequities.  A wealth of magazine and newspaper articles have been written on the conditions in the jails and prisons.  These institutions are painted in the most favorable hues and are reported to be as good, if not better, than most inmates are accustomed to enjoying in the free community.

Almost ninety percent of those who can afford bail and have the financial resources to employ competent legal representation enter “not guilty” pleas and stand trial are acquitted.  It has been a long established practice for a defense lawyer to “bargain” or “deal” with prosecutors, who in turn act as liaison between the Judge and the defense.

Sentence imposed rarely bears a reasonable relationship to the crime from which they issue.  It is doubtful if anyone who has not served a year or more, as an inmate, inside a penitentiary, could imagine what it is like.  Imprisonment is a traumatic experience of such magnitude as to permanently scar the mind, the body and the spirit.

  Many inmates after serving several years in prison, are totally institutionalized and are incapable of making even the most rudimentary kind of an adjustment to the “free world”.  Tensions and anxieties mount as the release date approaches.  The closer an inmate gets to release, the more apprehensive he becomes, subconsciously he fears freedom, for with it comes the responsibility for himself; that has always been his nemesis.

A person who has been unable to manage his life outside of prison is considered to be acclimatized to prison life and in a sense it has become a refuge.

Shortly after his last spell in prison Al Sailer was interviewed by Gerry Oliver, a reporter from the Delaware County Daily Times.  He spoke about the 27 years he spent removed from society.  This newspaper report is included as Appendix 3. 

“When you spend a lot of time in prison, it’s almost easier to go on living there than to come out,” Sailer said.  “It becomes kind of a haven, a way of life and lonely and meager as it is, you don’t have to worry about the necessities of life – a place to sleep and food to eat.” 



Thanksgiving Day, Past and Present

Laura A. Alston


The toddler sat expectantly in her high chair.

She noticed a festive air that she did not understand.

The smells in the room were so very enticing.

Someone called out “Happy Thanksgiving!”


A few years later she was an active seven-year old.

She now understood that Thanksgiving Day is special.

She got lots of hugs and kisses, and the food was good.

The meal over, she ran and played games with cousins.


She grew into a lovely and intelligent teenager.

She really looked forward to Thanksgiving Day,

For she would see her family and friends there

And would laugh and dance with other teenagers.


As a young adult, she still was filled with anticipation,

For she could contribute a dish to the Thanksgiving meal.

Afterwards, she helped remove plates from the table,

And she willingly helped with clean-up in the kitchen.


Now she sits at the head of the table at Thanksgiving.

Her eyes are dim and cloudy as she looks at loved ones.

With head bowed and arthritic hands folded in prayer,

 She gives thanks for Thanksgiving Day, past and present.



1.    The fattest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.

2.    I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

3.    She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

4.    A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption.

5.    No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

6.    A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

7.    Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

8.    A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

9. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

10. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

12. If you jumped off the bridge in Paris, you'd be in Seine.

13. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, 'I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.'



The Storm: My Guns Got Wet!

Tim Whealton


It happens when storms flood. Here's what to do:

1. Blow out the water, if you have an air compressor use it to blow as much water as possible out of every little hole. Do this at least twice as long as you think you need to. One little drop of water in a hole with a spring will cause you headaches. Pay special attention to inside the barrel and chamber. A hair dryer blowing inside till the whole action feels warm to the touch will help even more. Wipe the bore and chamber with dry patch of cloth till they come out dry.

2. Oil liberally with a water displacing oil if you can find one. Birchwood Casey sells Barricade that works well. Old WD40 isn't a good gun oil but will be 1000x better than letting it rust. WD40 works but it turns gummy in a year. Again, pay close attention to the chamber and bore. One pit in a chamber can ruin a firearm.

3. Stand the gun on the muzzle (barrel). This will let residual oil drain down the barrel to the floor so stand it on a dry rag. It will also prevent oil soaking into the grip area of the stock (ever wonder why Grandad's gun was black in the grip?).

4. Inspect several times in the next few days with a good light. If it was submerged and you know how to remove the stock take it off and the butt plate to allow water to leave the wood through the exposed end grain.

5. If fixing your own gun was fun then sign up to take Gunsmithing next semester at Lenoir Community College. Old friends will start coming to see you. Family will start coming over in September and you will always have something to do. I can get you started 252-635-7246

No automatic alt text available.Here is picture of a gun that was flooded. Notice what happened inside. This was only 2 days after getting wet. Flood waters are not just water; they are a corrosive mixture of everything. Don’t wait!


I posted these a couple days after hurricane Florence changed Eastern NC. Seems every storm has its own character and this one was a real game changer. Here are a few of the things we learned.

It doesn’t matter what the category is, the angle of approach and duration are the predictors of disaster. The angle of approach determines the direction of the wind. That determines if the water will be blown up a river and make for serious flooding. Florence would have only been another storm if it was traveling 20 mph. Slowing down to a crawl made it a rain event like no other.

Just because you have never flooded you are not safe. Flood zones change. The town of Trenton had a record breaking flood. For several years they have been cultivating the Hoffman forest as a tree farm instead of a natural forest. Roads were built for logging operations and huge canals. This large area drains into the Trent river basin. Being small compared to the Neuse it quickly flooded with the enhanced runoff. Look at your location in relation to the river basins. Know your elevation and history. If you were ever close to flooding before you need a plan.

If you plan to evacuate plan ahead with more than one plan. Some NC people went to SC. Bad choice. Think about Pets before the last minute.

Know that the future always holds a storm worse than anything recorded.

When you move to a new place find an old person that has been there a long time. Your Real Estate agent doesn’t know!

It was interesting to me when I asked My father about growing up in Pamlico County close to the salt water. I said it must have been terrible when the hurricanes would come.

He said, “No not really, Granddaddy would look at the sky and say it looks like a September storm. Lock up the animals and come to the house. The storm would come and the water would rise and go back out and we went back to work. The electricity was not a problem because we didn’t have any. Same for air conditioning, TV, insulation, duct work or carpet. Grandaddy built his house in 1913 so high that it would never flood. He was right for his life and my Dad’s but Irene flooded it 1 foot deep.

The old house has been abandoned now but it is still standing. My cousin owns it and it will eventually be torn down. In the meantime she has told me I can go in and remove any of the wood I want. My Dad told me there were 22” wide boards in the attic for making coffins. The other wood is heart pine that was hand planed by Grandad. I can’t wait to see what I can find. Just looking at nails he drove one at a time will be a treat for me. There is also an old piano in the parlor. Maybe some Ivory or ebony for knife handles? Maybe take some of the nails and make some Damascus steel. No wonder I always have something to do!



Three Rivers to Cross

Elizabeth Sliance Ballard


3 rivers.jpg

Chapter Four

 “What happened, Charlotte Anne?  Did you fall and get hurt?  Didn’t you have a good time at Margaret’s house?”            

For days, Mama and Daddy tried to get me to tell them what happened, why I came home early and crying but I couldn’t tell her or Daddy what happened. I wasn’t even sure what happened to me or why. I didn’t know how to explain how I felt so I just didn’t say anything. I felt sure that it was all my own fault and that Margaret would never be my friend again.

Even my brothers tried to get me to tell them about my visit but I just walked away and said nothing.  I believe they might have had their own ideas about what happened but I realize now they didn’t quite know how to put it into words either. Instead, they blamed me.

“She’s just spoiled,” Lenny said “She’s used to being the Queen Bee around here and having everything her own way. When she got over there, she wasn’t the Queen Bee and she didn’t know how to handle it. If it had been me or Lon, you would have whipped us for that kind of behavior. You know you would have, Daddy! You know it!”

“It’s true,” Lon said. “Charlotte Anne has been spoiled from the day she was born. You and Mama have never been as hard on her as you’ve always been on us.” 

“You’re boys,” Daddy said. “My job is to make sure you become strong men, able to hold your own in the world, strong enough to earn your living, to take care of and protect your own family one day. I told your Mama right from the beginning that I would be the one raising you boys and she was not to interfere. I didn’t intend to have no Mama’s Boys!”

“Charlotte Anne has never got the belt. Not once!” Lon declared. “I don’t remember your even yelling at her.”

 “I didn’t need to do any of that. She was your Mama’s to raise and I think we both did a mighty fine job with all of you.”

In a way, I could see what my brothers meant. It was true: Daddy was always gentle with me. Neither of my parents ever paddled me once, whereas Daddy would wallop one of the boys frequently.

“Charlotte Anne is a good girl,” Mama said. “Never gives me a minute’s worry about anything.”

“Ah, yes,” Len said. “Charlotte Anne: Helpful, quiet as a mouse, never argues, never sasses, makes good grades. She’ll soon sprout  angel wings, I reckon!”

“Knock it off,” Daddy said. “Stop acting like jealous sissies!”

It was years before I realized what my brothers were trying to say that day. By that time, I could recognize that my brothers grew up confident, strong, and could work hard and play hard.  Their lives, at least off the island, were easier than mine because they were better prepared.

Even at a young age, they were out on the boat with Daddy, working right along with the men. They would go with Daddy into town and stand around while Daddy visited with the men at the Bait and Tackle or over at the feed store. They were used to being out among other people. Also, being twins, they were never alone because they did just about everything together.

I may have had it easy growing up on the island, but I was rarely around anyone except the family. Usually, it was just Mama and me. When I began school and had to leave the island, I was lost around other people. I had no shred of the toughness my brothers had. I had no defenses. For many years, I had no sense of how to find my way in life off the island.

Across the river, I was shy and introverted. I never felt as if I were a part of that world but was something like the tide left along our shore, something wet, dirty, and ugly, something no one wanted.  School was only just across the river, yet it was a world apart, a place where I did not belong, a place I did not want to be. I loved the school work but I hated having to go, hated being an outsider.

I felt safe on our island where no one thought I was different or odd. I was loved and the island was my cocoon.

When I went back to school the following year for second grade, I had decided that, even though I might not be pretty and wear matching bows in my hair, or take dance lessons and all the rest that set me apart, I could and would be the best student in the class! That became my promise to myself  every school year.

As the years passed, the taunting gave way to grudging admiration when I consistently made perfect, or near-perfect, scores on any and all tests. It wasn’t that I was any smarter than the rest of them. It was that I was just so determined to be at the top of every single class every single year and was willing to work like mad to do it. I was motivated all right and I stayed motivated!

I crossed that river every morning studying the whole time. Even though I still felt like an outsider and had no real friends, as soon as I walked through the door and started for my desk, it was as if I went on autopilot. Nothing fazed me. Nothing mattered except that I excel.


By the time I was in the third grade, I had discovered that my mama was different from other mothers. I had seen the mothers of many of my classmates who came to the school to bring cupcakes for classroom parties.  They didn’t look like my mama.

When I asked her once why she never went to the school for anything, she said she was happier on the island.

“I don’t belong over there anymore, Charlotte Anne. It’s been so long since I’ve really been around people, I would feel like a—well, I don’t know what. Maybe like one of the freaks your Daddy and I saw at the county fair one time before we were married. I love being here on the island.”

It intrigues me now to remember that she admitted this to me. Any time I had ever tried to ask about Mama’s life, she simply would not answer. Even Aunt Barbara, Uncle Leonard’s wife, wouldn’t talk about Mama’s life.

“Charlotte Anne, your mama is happy here in her own little world.  She has a husband to protect her. She has a home of her own in which she is happy and loved. She has you children and she has hopes and dreams for you. 

“As long as she stays on the island, she’ll be all right. For her now, anything across the river, including the town of Meadow View, might as well be in China.  She doesn’t want to deal with the world anymore. She just wants to be here.”

“She goes over with Daddy to the grocery store sometimes, though,” I said.

“Charlotte Anne, someday you’ll understand better. Right now, let it go. But—hey! Let’s go out and see what the tide brought in today.”

She hugged me and said, “Just remember this, Charlotte Anne. Different does not mean weird. We’re all a little bit different from everybody else.   Let your mama be happy in her own way, okay?”

But I was only eight years old. I wanted Mama to look like the other mamas and one day I tried to get her to cut her hair. Mama had always worn her hair the same. It was long, really long, past her waist long.

She would sit in front of her “vanity” (really just two wooden crates shoved together with a mirror on the wall over it). She would pull her hair to the sides and just cut it a little shorter so that it wouldn’t be too far past her waist.  Said she was just cutting the “dead ends” off her hair. Then she would put it back up in braids, which she sometimes coiled on either side of her head or piled in a big circle, like a crown, on top of her head.

“Mama, why don’t you go to the beauty shop and get your hair cut short?”  I asked her one day. It seemed that all the mothers who came to school had short curly hair. Mama didn’t miss a stroke.

“Now, why in the world would I want to do that?”


Chapter Five


By the time I entered fifth grade, I had been taking myself across the river just about every day. I was pretty proud of myself and glad Daddy had insisted I learn to run the boat.  The fact that he trusted me with it alone was a real confidence builder.

At the end of the school day, when I crossed the river going home in our little boat, still putt-putting year after year, my mood got lighter and happiness welled up in me. I could hardly wait to step foot onto our island again.

My teacher that year, the year I entered fifth grade, was Miss Thompson. From the first day, I knew I was going to like her and I truly felt that it might be a good year for me. By that time, I knew most of the others who filed into the classroom that first day. We were still not friends, not real friends, but life was better for me and I didn’t mind going to school any longer.

Unfortunately, the two girls who had taunted me so ruthlessly during my first and second grades were, once again, in my class. Most of the kids called them The Two Mean Girls, though I heard a teacher on the playground one time refer to them as the Terrible Twosome.

They were as cruel as ever but they left me alone that year. Instead, they found another target, a boy named Teddy Stallard.  

Teddy hardly ever said anything to anyone, but they focused on him from the beginning and, before long, they were calling him Teddy Smellard or Stupid Stallard when he would not do well on a test. One of them sat directly behind him and never failed to lean up to see his test papers when they were returned.

The Two Mean Girls were always picking on him about his clothes, or how long his hair was, or telling him he needed to take a bath. It was always something. Of course, I was just glad they were ignoring me but I felt sorry for Teddy. He always looked as lonely as I felt.

“One day I leaned across the aisle and said, “Hi, my name is Charlotte.”

“I’m Teddy,” he mumbled.

“I know. Listen, don’t pay any attention to those girls. They’re not worth thinking about. They pick on somebody all the time.”

He didn’t answer but I wasn’t surprised. He rarely spoke to anyone and, even when Miss Thompson called on him in class, she had to ask him to speak up so that we could all hear him.

She tried to get The Two Mean Girls to leave him alone and finally moved one of them to the front of the class and the other one all the way to the back. Teddy and I sat sort of in the middle.

It did make class time more bearable for him, I’m sure, but recess and lunchtime were still bad. That changed a little after our Christmas party.

I had always dreaded Christmas at school.  Starting in the first grade, I had told Mama that I needed to get a present for the teacher. She said we couldn’t afford to do that so I appealed to Daddy.

“Let me think on that, Lady Baby. I’ll get back to you about it.”

Well, Daddy’s idea was that we would draw a sort of certificate that would be good for a “mess of fish” whenever she needed it for the rest of the year.

So, I didn’t give anything to that first grade teacher, or any teacher after that, but Miss Thompson was different. We all loved her and we knew she loved us.

She would get angry at the Two Mean Girls and with Teddy, too—maybe because he wouldn’t take up for himself. It was obvious, though, that she felt really bad about the fussing and always tried to do something nice for Teddy later.

Anyway, it was clear that I would be the only one in the entire class who would not give Miss Thompson a gift but I knew better than to mention a teacher’s gift at home again. I just hoped that no one would notice and resigned myself to it.

The Two Mean Girls brought very nice presents. Even I could tell they were expensive and the beautiful wrapping paper and bows were like none I had ever seen. 

Teddy, on the other hand, had made his own wrapping paper out of a brown grocery bag by coloring snowmen and Christmas trees on it. Wrapped inside were a bracelet and bottle of perfume.

Miss Thompson really liked that gift and the Mean Girls were jealous.  They pointed out that the bracelet was missing some stones and the perfume bottle was not full but it didn’t matter to Miss Thompson. She smiled and thanked Teddy for such a nice gift and even had him fasten the bracelet on her wrist. She then put a dab of the perfume on herself and us girls, too. Teddy actually smiled that day.

We all hated to leave Miss Thompson’s class. She still stands out as the best teacher I ever had.

The following years went by with little change in my life.  By the time I reached high school, I was still a loner but it didn’t bother me. I knew school would soon be over, over for good, and I would be able to go home to Rattlesnake Island and never go back to that school building again.

I was still free to be me on the island, free to enjoy the breezes without worrying about my hair being a mess, free to go barefoot and walk at low tide, and look for more “treasures” even though, by that time, I was a practically grown girl of seventeen.

The other girls were talking about boyfriends and dates,  and  went wild over football games and dances, but I was never at any of those events. I was home, home on my island, right where I wanted to be.

Then, in September of 1960, I began my senior year at Meadow View High School, which was really just two flights up from where I started first grade.  Meadow View was still a very small town and all twelve grades were still housed in a three-story building with the lower grades on the first floor.

To me, being a senior meant only that I would no longer have to go to school every day once that year ended.  I guess I just wasn’t ambitious. All around me, my fellow classmates were talking about colleges and what they were going to study, or about the jobs they hoped to get, if they were not planning to go to college.  There were two girls even planning to be married after graduation.

  I had not thought beyond graduating and going home.  Others had different plans for me.


Chapter Six


“Charlotte Gurganus, please remain after class.”

It was only the first week of my senior year and I couldn’t imagine what I had done to warrant being kept after class.  I had committed no infraction of the rules but I felt guilty anyway and held my breath as I approached Mrs. Cabler’s desk.

“Charlotte, have you decided on any particular college? Here, have an oatmeal cookie. I find that I need a little snack this time of day.”

I exhaled. “No, thank you, Ma-am, and I haven’t thought about college at all.”

 “But, why not, Charlotte? Your record from the first grade right on through your junior year is impeccable! Don’t you have some idea of what you might want to do in life? Some career?”

Now, I knew that some of the girls were going into nurse’s training at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte. One of the boys said he was going to Carolina and could hardly wait to get to Chapel Hill “to party and join a frat.” He said his Daddy had told him that, “Carolina equals fraternity equals contacts equals success, period.”

It sounded a bit silly to me but that’s what he said. A couple of the other girls were going to be teachers and planned to be roommates but they couldn’t agree on a college. One wanted to go to Peace College and the other was insisting on St. Mary’s. I had heard enough talk to know that both colleges were expensive girls’ schools. My parents could never afford that.  Besides, if I didn’t fit in at Meadow View, why would I want to be a misfit for another four years at some college? But Mrs. Cabler, my Senior English teacher, was obviously expecting some answer from me.

“Well, when I was in fifth grade, I wanted to be a teacher just like Miss Thompson, but that was fifth grade. I was ten years old!”

“Miss Violet Thompson? Well, you couldn’t have a better role model and you would make an excellent teacher. I take it that you haven’t applied to any colleges?”  

“Mrs. Cabler, my parents can’t afford all that.”

“Charlotte, remember the test you took last spring?”

Yes, I remembered. I had taken it only because our principal had insisted I do so. It was for a scholarship I had never heard of but four of us in the junior class took it. It didn’t really mean anything to me. I knew I wouldn’t win, not with students all over the state trying for it.

“Charlotte, you won! You have four years of college covered. I thought you understood that! All you have to do is decide on which college, apply, pack your clothes, and go! Do you understand now?”

I did sort of understand months ago when I was told about the scholarship, but it just didn’t seem to pertain to me at the time.

“Charlotte, if you could do or be anything at all, what would you want to do with the rest of your life?”

My face was getting hot. I knew I should have an answer, but I just didn’t. I had no idea what I wanted to do in life except go home and live on our island.

“Well, I did used to imagine that I was a teacher like Miss Thompson. I never seriously thought about it, though. Not really! I couldn’t do that.”

 “Get your things, Charlotte. I’m going home with you and talk to your parents. Let’s go!”

She was already turning off the classroom lights and had her keys ready to lock the door. All I could do was follow while my mind raced with apprehension.

What will Mama say? How will she react to somebody coming to the island? And Daddy? He’ll just think Mrs. Cabler is a busybody trying to tend to our business. Oh, this is NOT going to be good.

“Now, Charlotte, I’ve never set foot inside a boat before so you’ll have to direct me on how to get in and where to sit.”

It had never occurred to me that there were people who had never even been in a boat! I could see she was scared by the way she was gripping anything she could get her hands on; but when we reached our little dock, she had no trouble getting off the boat! I couldn’t help but smile.

“It wasn’t too bad, was it, Mrs. Cabler?” I asked, helping her out of the boat.

“Delightful,” she said, her voice quivering ever so slightly. “Now let’s go see your parents.”

It was almost dark when Daddy finally got in from fishing and, by that time, Mama had a full understanding of my teacher’s purpose for being there and condensed it quite well for Daddy.

“Norbert, Charlotte Anne has won a four year scholarship to any college she wants to go to and, according to her teacher, Mrs. Cabler, here, she has made the highest grades of anybody in her class during her first eleven years at Meadow View School.”

“And, Mr. Gurganus, Charlotte scored higher than 98% of all those students in the state who took that same test for the scholarship,” Mrs. Cabler added.

She gave Daddy a minute to digest all that and I could tell Mama’s mind was made up.

“Norbert, Charlotte Anne will be the first member of my family, or yours, to go to college and I, for one, am proud of it.”

Daddy was clearly uncomfortable being there in his work clothes. We were all accustomed to the smell of fish but he knew our guest was not accustomed to it at all.

“Lady Baby, is this something you want to do?”

In that moment, I knew that I most certainly did want to go to college. For what? I wasn’t sure, but I also knew, looking at Daddy, it was a “done deal.”

Yes, it was decided right then and there by all of us sitting at our battered kitchen table with the blue-checked oil cloth cover:  Charlotte Anne Gurganus was going  to college.

All of a sudden, everybody was hugging and smiling and laughing and thanking Mrs. Cabler.

“Don’t thank me! It’s Charlotte who studied and made the grades. She earned it herself. Now, I just happen to have several college brochures for you to look through because she truly does have her choice. None of them would turn this girl down!”

“Is one of the brochures from the college where Miss Thompson went?”

“Yes, she went to Meredith College, but you look at all of them. If you want to see others, we can get others.

“Charlotte, you and I will have some more talking to do about the course of study you’ll want to pursue. You think about it over the weekend and read over the brochures carefully.

“Mr. and Mrs. Gurganus, don’t you worry about a thing,” she said. “It’s all going to work out beautifully.”


I felt as if I were in a whirlwind.  After looking at all the brochures, I went to Miss Thompson’s classroom one day after school to ask her about Meredith College. It was the first time I had actually talked to her since the fifth grade though I occasionally saw her around school.  

“Oh, it’s a wonderful school, Charlotte. At least, it was for me. I met many friends there but I have to tell you, it’s a strict school. It’s a Baptist all-girls school.  Curfews and other rules are strictly enforced, as is chapel attendance. At least, that’s the way it was when I was there.

“Since it’s in Raleigh, there is always something to do—museums, shows, concerts, movies. I can’t say anything but good about it. I wouldn’t trade anything for my four years there. I tell you what. Why don’t we plan a trip some Sunday? You can look over the campus. Your parents can come, too. I would be delighted to introduce you to my alma mater.

As it turned out, Daddy and I visited three different schools before Christmas vacation: Meredith, East Carolina College and Campbell College. I have to admit they were all exciting but Meredith seemed right to me. Yes, it might have been because of Miss Thompson having graduated from there; but for whatever reason, Meredith was the only one to which I sent an application. I received an acceptance letter in March.

I wasn’t the only one. I overheard two others say they were going to Meredith and my heart sank. It had not occurred to me that I might have the same classmates in college as I had the previous twelve years!

No! I want a school where I won’t know a single soul and not a single soul will know me or anything about me. I want a fresh start!

“A really fresh start,” I told Mrs. Cabler the next day. “Do you know if anyone from Meadow View is going to Waverly College in South Carolina?”

“Waverly is a very good school.  Not one person from this graduating class will be going there. Now, it’s not a girls’ school like Meredith. It’s coed but there’s nothing wrong with that.”

“Is it too late to apply there?”

“I’m sure it’s not too late for YOU to apply there, with your GPA and scholarship. You still don’t understand how prestigious the Boardman Scholarship is, do you? My dear, you could walk through the door on opening day and apply and you would be accepted on the spot.

“But, Charlotte, don’t give up on going to Meredith, if that is really your choice. Even if there are one or two girls from Meadow View there, you’re going to find that college is very different from high school. I doubt you would even see them every day. It’s a big school compared to Meadow View. I truly don’t think it would be a problem for you. However, consider this, Charlotte.

“Since Meredith is your first choice, why not go there your first year no matter how you feel right now?  If you find that you really aren’t happy there and want to try another school, you can always transfer the next year.”       

I did take her advice about Meredith and, with that issue resolved, I just concentrated on keeping my grades high. I would never have admitted it, but I was determined to be Valedictorian. If all it took was studying, I was sure to make it.

While the others were going to football and, later, basketball games, dances, and even later the Senior Prom, I was home studying through all of it. Even my parents urged me to “lighten up and get out in the fresh air!”

So, I pulled an old picnic table onto the porch and took one of the kerosene lamps and studied “in the fresh air” from the time I got home from school until bedtime, which at our house was 9:00 pm.

I did concede to go sit at the supper table with Mama and Daddy but so focused was I on whatever subject I was studying at the time, that I scarcely noticed what I was eating or how it  tasted. It paid off.


Chapter Seven


High School graduation was a Very Big Deal in Meadow View and it looked as if the whole town had crowded into the auditorium. Even the old fellows from the Bait and Tackle Shop were there.

Strangely enough, it was the first time I had ever truly felt like an equal to everyone around me. Perhaps it was because we all looked alike in our white caps and gowns.  No one could see the simple white “graduation dress” Mama had made for me.

I knew she was disappointed when I insisted on putting my gown on as soon as we arrived at the school, but there was no way I was going to walk inside that auditorium in that dress. I actually hid behind the truck door as I hurriedly slipped my gown on over the dress Mama was so proud of and which I didn’t want anyone to see. I didn’t want to hurt Mama’s feelings, though, so it was a relief when we walked in and I saw that most of the others already had their caps and gowns on, too.

I don’t believe Mama ever gave the dress another thought because she was clearly uncomfortable in that auditorium with so many people around her. It was the first time she had been off the island in four years and it made me sad to see how frightened she looked.

I had expected the ceremony to be pretty cut and dried. I had never attended a graduation before since my brothers had dropped out during their senior year and joined the Marines. As Valedictorian, I had to make a speech, which would probably be the shortest speech by a Valedictorian in the history of the school.

The Salutatorian, a boy named Josh, would be making a speech, too, but he showed me his final draft and it was even shorter than mine was. After our speeches, what else could there be except handing out the diplomas? That certainly wouldn’t take much time since there were only forty-three graduating seniors that year.

However, I found there was a lot more to it than that. They presented several awards as well as announcing the scholarship winners. The Salutatorian was awarded a music scholarship to East Carolina College and then they announced mine. The entire audience went wild. I looked around in a daze.

All those girls and boys, who had treated me so awful in elementary school and ignored or outright shunned me in high school, were clapping, throwing kisses, and smiling as if I were their best friend.

Something flip-flopped inside me, something mean and ugly. Hatred. Hatred filled every cell in my body and I didn’t smile at any of them. I hated them with the passion of twelve years of feelings, which I had ignored, pushed down, and denied that any of it had mattered. The hatred gave me a pleasure I had never known. So did the awards I won for English and Science.

Josh leaned over and whispered, “Are you feeling what I’m feeling?”

I didn’t whisper back. I spoke aloud. “If you’re feeling total hatred, than I’m feeling what you’re feeling.”

“No,” he said.  “We’re feeling the power of revenge and one-upmanship! Or is that a word? You got the English award. Is   one-upmanship  a word?”

1st River-bw.jpgFor the first time that evening, I smiled. Hatred or not, I truly felt like a winner and I was going to cross the Rattlesnake River  in August and move into my new world, my new life away from Meadow View!  I knew it would be strange and frightening; but I also knew, deep down in my heart, that good things were going to happen for Charlotte Anne Gurganus.

Little did I know that when I left my island and crossed the Bluefish River in August 1961 that my life would truly never be the same. It would be many years before I had the same feeling of security, safety, contentment, enjoyment, and belonging as I did on Rattlesnake Island those first eighteen years of my life.

In a sense, Charlotte Anne Gurganus would be crossing that river for the last time.  Charlotte Anne would quickly cease to exist as Miss Charlotte Gurganus would begin to find and take her place in the world.



There were three Indian squaws. One slept on a deer skin, one slept on an elk skin, and the third slept on a hippopotamus skin. All three became pregnant. The first two each had a baby boy. The one who slept on the hippopotamus skin had twin boys. This just goes to prove that the squaw of the hippopotamus is equal to the sons of the squaws of the other two hides.


A skeptical anthropologist was cataloging South American folk remedies with the assistance of a tribal Brujo who indicated that the leaves of a particular fern were a sure cure for any case of constipation. When the anthropologist expressed his doubts, the Brujo looked him in the eye and said, “Let me tell you, with fronds like these, you don’t need enemas.”


A thief broke into the local police station and stole all the toilets and urinals, leaving no clues. A spokesperson was quoted as saying, “We have absolutely nothing to go on.”



Hammer Spade and the Inca Curse


E. B. Alston




hsic cover.jpg



This story begins where The Long Shooter ends. Hammer, Jack Kane and Dave Quigley were working for the British MI6 to locate their agent, Lady Margot Fisher. Hammer was alone on a desert mountain in eastern Chile. He planned to make his way back to Iquique in Margot Fisher’s old pickup. The events of the past day had shaken him to the core as he had left Lady Margot and Pablo Aguilera in unmarked graves on a desolate Andean mountain


Chapter One

 I drove down the road about a mile to where a footpath that must have been designed by goats, angled down the side of the mountain. I parked the pickup in a wide spot off the road about two hundred yards from the path, got my rifle, the .45 pistol, and a canteen and put two MREs in Lady Margot’s backpack. I figured this hike would take a while because the creek where Dan Allen’s body rested under a pile of rocks was almost a mile down. I knew Clover would want proof that Allen was dead. I wanted to be sure myself, although it looked as if twenty feet of rocks covered him.

The hike down was every bit as tough as it looked. I estimated, with all the switchbacks, I must have scrambled three miles down that rocky trail by the time I got to the creek bed. Then I had another quarter of a mile upstream to the pile of rocks where Allen had fallen. The pile of rocks had collected at the bottom of a small crevasse where creek made a sharp turn into the base of the mountain. Vegetation was sparse at this level, not enough to hide behind, but it was a welcome relief from the arid mountaintop. I stuck my hand into the water. It was very cold but it was clean and good when I dipped a handful from a shallow pool and tasted it.

The rock pile was bigger than I expected and appeared to be over forty feet high. I thought about how that baseball-size rock at the top had caused this huge pile of rocks at the bottom.

I scanned the pile with binoculars looking for some sign of blood or cloth. About two- thirds of the way up the left side I thought I saw something that didn’t look like a rock. I scrambled up the pile until I could see a hand sticking out, with the palm up as if it was waiting to receive a gift. I climbed up to it and laid a big flat rock on top of Allen’s hand to hide it.

While I was climbing down, I thought how silly that had been. Who in heck would ever see that hand out here? I remembered Margot’s comment about me being too methodical. She would have been standing at the bottom of the pile laughing herself silly. Even that brief memory of her made me sad. What a tragedy.

I started back up the trail. Coming down was hard but going up was harder and I had to stop to catch my breath every few yards.

A third of the way up, I saw movement. Looking through the binoculars I spotted two men with shotguns coming down the trail. I tried to come up with a reason for them to be armed, and the only one that made sense was that they were hunting me because I was the only other living thing within miles. I slipped off the trail and hid behind some rocks.

I didn’t have to guess when they got close because they were talking loud. I let them pass and go out of sight before I moved back to the trail. Before I had climbed twenty feet, a third man with a shotgun appeared in the path ahead of me. He pointed the gun at me and called out to the other two men.

I dropped him with one shot from my .45, then I turned and saw the other men coming toward me as fast as they could climb the steep trail. The area was too open for me to hide. They were only seventy yards away and I was not in good enough shape to outrun them up this mountain. I chambered a round in the Remington and dropped the man in the rear. The man in front thought I had missed him, and through the scope, I saw his confident grin. The second shot erased the smile on his face as the impact of the 308 slug knocked him off the trail and his body tumbled down the side of the mountain. I walked down to the first man I shot, collected his wallet and shotgun and shoved his body down the mountain with his buddy. Then I walked back up the trail to the third man, collected his ID and shotgun and shoved him over the edge too.

Phoebus was right. This was dirty business.



It was dark by the time I got back to the pickup. I did a quick check from behind a rock to make sure nobody was waiting for me. I saw a Chevrolet Suburban parked a few feet behind Margot’s Ford. I sneaked up from behind it to see if anybody was inside waiting for men who would never return. When I didn’t see anybody, I took out my .45 and opened the passenger side door. I breathed a sigh of relief when I found the vehicle empty.

I went to the Ford and put the shotguns under a tarp in the back. Then I got the two satellite phones, switched batteries and called MI6 in London.

“What’s up, 0061?” a man’s voice asked.

“I’m still on the mountain. I climbed down to verify that Allen is dead. On my way back up to the road, three men came after me.”

“What happened?”

“They’re dead.”

“Anybody else see it?”


“Are you driving 0057’s vehicle?”


“So they’re after you now.”


I heard him speak to somebody in the background.

“How far are you from Iquique?”

“About sixty-five miles.”

“Are you in condition to drive there tonight?”


“Can you start right away?”


“Will you have to stop for fuel?”


“How did your attackers travel?”

“In a Chevrolet Suburban.”

“Where is it?”

“Parked behind Margot’s truck.”

I heard him repeat what l said to somebody else.

I couldn’t hear what the other person said.

He came back to me. “Can you hide it or shove it down the mountain?”

“If I take it out of gear, it’ll roll down the side of the mountain.”

“Do that.”

“Where will I go in Iquique?”

“We’ll have a man meet you at the edge of town. He’ll direct you to a warehouse.”

“How will I find him?”

“He’ll be standing beside a highway sign that says, ‘Iquique 5 km’ wearing a wide-brim black hat. Stop and pick him up.”

“What’s his name?”

“Judge N. O. Hart. He’ll ask you for a name. Say ‘Fisher.’ Ask him for a number. He’ll say ‘0057’.”

He disconnected.

After I moved Margot’s Ford out of the way behind the Suburban, I got inside to see how I could get it moving. I turned the front wheels to the left, engaged the parking brake, moved the shift lever to neutral and got out. Then I reached through the open driver side door and pulled the parking brake release. The heavy vehicle started moving slowly at first, and then gained enough speed to sail off the edge of the road. I heard it banging all the way down and the crash when it hit bottom.

I got into the pickup and drove away into the night.



As I got closer to Iquique, I saw a surprising number of men in sombreros standing beside road signs. I felt better when I saw the sign that read, ‘Iquique 10 km.’ At last I, saw a man wearing a wide brimmed, black sombrero and a black serape leaning on the 5 km sign. When I pulled over, he opened the passenger door.

“Give me a name,” he said.

“Fisher,” I replied. “Give me a number.”


“Get in,” I said.

He slid into the passenger seat and extended his hand. “N. O. Hart.”

I shook his hand. “Hammer Spade.”

“Lonely out there isn’t it?”

“It has been for the last few hours.”

“Bad about Lady Margot.”

“It has been tough.” I mumbled.

“You must have liked her.”

“She was a remarkable woman.”

“I’ve been told she was a legend in the business.”

He directed me to a warehouse in the industrial part of town. He called somebody on his cell phone as we approached a large, one-story, non-descript concrete building. “We’re one minute away,” he said.

I saw a big rollup door open and as soon as I stopped the pickup inside the building, three people stepped out of the shadows. I recognized Clover and Oscar Aguilera. The third person was a strikingly attractive woman. Clover shook my hand and introduced me to Isabela Salazar.

“How are you doing?” Clover asked.

“Pretty beat right now,” I replied.

“Are you up to giving us a quick debrief so we can start work on a new plan?”


He led me into a small, windowless room in a corner of the warehouse. When we entered, I saw that it was set up like the room we used in the British Embassy in Washington where Clover first briefed us what seemed like a lifetime ago. Clover took a seat at the head of a table and he motioned for me to sit at the other end. Isabela took a seat to my right; Oscar and Hart were on my left.

“What went on up there?” Clover asked.

“Margot had a meeting with a man who was supposed to give her information about where to find Raúl Fuente. Because of information that Oscar got from an informer, Pablo and I got to the meeting place ahead of her.”

“What was her reaction when she saw you two waiting for her?”

“She was pretty upset. Pablo had a hard time convincing her to speak to me at all.”

“What did she do?” Clover asked.

“She got back into the pickup as if to drive away.”

“What did you say that prevented her from leaving?”

“She changed her mind when I told her I worked with Phoebus Delius.”

“How did she act after you told her that?”

“She became friendly and relaxed around us.”

“Did she confide in you about her plans?”

“Some. She was pretty tight-lipped.”

“Did you try to dissuade her from what she was doing?”


“What did she say?”

“That after she got Fuente, we’d rethink the plan.”

“What went on the day of the meeting?”

“She told us that Allen expected her to be alone. Our plan was for her to wait in the open for him. I stationed Pablo just out of sight below her with the Sten. I was up the mountain about 125 yards away behind some bushes with my rifle.”

“Suppose Allen had arrived with accomplices?”

“Our plan was for me to radio Pablo and start shooting right away. My first shot was to disable his vehicle. Then Margot, Pablo and I would pick them off.”

“Refer to her as Lady Margot. Did Allen come alone?”

A few hours ago I watched her die and now Clover’s badgering me over protocol?

 “I didn’t see anybody else,” I replied.

“What happened when he arrived?”

“I was looking at his face through the scope when he got out of the Toyota pickup, and by his expression I realized that he didn’t come to talk. I radioed Pablo to get ready. When Allen was ten paces from Lady Margot, he drew a revolver. I radioed Pablo to move. When Pablo topped the ridge a few seconds later, Allen killed him. Margot, or rather, Lady Fisher, knocked Allen’s gun over the edge of the ridge and drew her Beretta. Allen knocked her gun away and pulled her down when she tried to retrieve it. I put two shots into the Toyota, laid my rifle down and ran to help Lady Margot. When Allen saw me coming, he broke off and went over the ridge. When I got to Margot—Lady Margot—she yelled at me to ‘get him’.”

“Was Lady Margot wounded at that time?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t know she was and she didn’t tell me.”

“What happened to Allen?”

“He went over the edge and started down a mile high cliff.”

“Did you shoot him?”

“I shot at him but he was out of range and I missed.”

“What happened to him?”

“After my gun was empty, I threw a rock at him. It started an avalanche that carried him off the mountain and into the bed of a small creek at the foot of the mountain.”

“So, with all those guns,” Clover remarked sarcastically, “you had to get him with a rock?”


“Are you certain he’s dead under that pile of rocks?”

“I made sure he was dead before I left. I saw his hand sticking out about halfway down in the pile.”

“You reported that Lady Margot died in the line of duty. How did you come up with that?”

“She was defending her life. I believe that is an agent’s duty.”

Clover looked as if he disagreed, but let it go. “Tell me how Lady Margot died.”

“It’ll be tough,” I said.

“It will be tough for all of us,” Clover replied. “But we must know.”

The memories were too fresh and it took me a while to get started.

“When I realized that Margot didn’t follow me down to the camp, I was afraid she might have been injured and ran back to her. When I got to her, she was sitting in a puddle of blood and I saw at once that Allen had cut her femoral artery. It was too high inside her thigh for a tourniquet. I knew, and she knew too, that she was going to die. She asked me to help slow the bleeding enough to give her time to pray. I applied pressure to the cut while she prayed. Then she smiled, thanked me and told me I could remove my hand.”

Isabela had begun to weep and Oscar had tears in his eyes.

“What did she say then?”

“She asked me to thank you and Jack and Dave for helping her. She told me she wanted to buried with her rifle in a spot up on the side of the mountain above our camp.”

“Did you remove your hand from her wound?”

“Only after she ordered me to a second time.”

“How much longer did she live?”

“About five minutes.”

“What did you do then?”

“I picked her up and carried her body to the place she wanted to be.”

“Did you bury her there?”


“Then what did you do?”

“I spent the night beside her.”

Clover looked away and didn’t say anything for a long time. Isabela and Oscar were weeping.

“When this is over, will you take me to her grave?” Clover asked.


Clover struggled to maintain his composure. With a hoarse voice he asked, “What went wrong up there?”

“We failed to consider a knife attack.”

“Can you think of a contributing factor?”

“If Oscar and I had not been there, Lady Margot would have been more alert. She would have had the Sten. I believe her guard was down because we were backing her up and it slowed her response.”

“That is a most candid assessment, Hammer.”

I couldn’t expand on that so I changed the subject. “I promised Lady Margot that I would finish the job and get Fuente. I’d like Jack and Dave to help me.”

“Unfortunately, Jack was wounded in Colombia and he’s fighting for his life in a hospital in Bogotá. Dave is in a British submarine traveling to a base in Bermuda.”

“What happened to Jack?” I asked in alarm.

“He was wounded by a roofing nail coated with poison from the South American golden poison frog.”

“Will he get well?”

“He’s still in intensive care but the doctors think he’ll pull through. He was lucky. One of the attending doctors was familiar with the poison and quickly recognized the symptoms.”

“Why is Dave on a British submarine?”

“We had to spirit him out of Honduras quickly.”

“He must have done something good.”

“Your friend is now a legend in the service.”

“I’m sure he’ll brag about it when he sees me.”

“You know him better than I do, but reports are that he is quite opinionated and confident of himself.”

“Then they know the same Dave that I know.” I paused. “I still want to go after Fuente.”

“Getting Fuente is your new assignment. You will begin at once and your new team is with you here now. You already know Oscar. I believe Hart will meet your standards. Isabela is fluent in all of the South American languages. She has been assigned a double-0 number for this mission.” He paused. “Your new orders are to avenge the murder of Lady Margot Fisher.” He paused again and his countenance mellowed a little. “You must be dead on your feet. We have a room waiting for you. Get some sleep.”

A British Marine appeared and asked me to follow him. There were tears in everyone’s eye when I left the room.

Continued next month


How Do You Decide Whom to Marry?

Written by Kids    
You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming.   Alan, age 10

·       No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with.  Kristen, age   10

·       What is the right age to get married? Answer: Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then. Camille, age 10 

·       How can a stranger tell if two people are married? Answer: You   might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids. Derrick, age 8 

·       What to you think your parents have in common? Answer: Both don't want any more kids.    Lori,  age  8

·       What do most people do on a date? Answer: Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough.  Lynnette, age  8     (isn't  she a treasure)  Second answer: On  the first date, they just tell  each other lies and that  usually gets them interested enough  to go for a second  date.  Martin, age 10   

·       When is it okay to kiss someone? Answer: When they're rich.  Pam, age 7  Second Answer: The law says you have to be  eighteen, so I wouldn't want to  mess with that.    Curt, age 7 Third answer: The rule goes like this:  If you kiss someone, then you  should marry them and have  kids with them. It's the right thing to do. Howard,   age 8 

·       Is it better to be single or married? Answer: It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them. Anita, age  9   (bless you child )   

·       How would the world be different if people didn’t get married? Answer: There sure would be a lot of kids to  explain, wouldn't there?  Kelvin, age 8


Two Bird Hunting Stories

E. B. Alston


Famous Amos, a Survival Story


When I lived in Creedmoor, a friend told me about a lady that lived on Brassfield Road who wanted to find a home for her deceased husband’s English setter. The dog was supposed to be trained.

I pay real money for English pointers, but I will take a free, trained English setter anytime. I called on the lady, who had heard about me because I was on the town council at the time. She told me her husband had loved “Randy” and they had been inseparable companions. He had taken the dog with him everywhere he went. The dog even stayed in the house watching television beside his master until bedtime, when “Randy” was put into the kennel.

Her husband had become ill the previous September and died right before Christmas. After his master became ill, nobody spent any time with the dog. When I arrived, her husband had been dead for four months. She took me out to the kennel and there stood a pretty, three-color English setter. I could tell the dog had become kennel crazy and with good reason. He had had no human contact other than being fed and watered for almost nine months.

The lady and I made an agreement and I became the conditional owner of Randy Amos, which was his registered name. The deal was, if it didn’t work out for me, she wanted him returned to her. There are no hunting dog deals better than this.

His name presented a problem. My hunting partner’s name was Randy. I couldn’t be yelling at Randy the dog while hunting with Randy the man so, on that spring day, “Randy” became “Amos.” I took Amos home and put him into my kennel. 

Then our ordeal began. Amos had become so mentally unbalanced in his isolation that he wouldn’t pay attention to me or my other dogs. He didn’t hear me call him. He didn’t look for me. I had to keep him on a leash when I exercised the other dogs and a couple of times he got loose, but was too mentally disorganized to run away. He would even soil his own feed bowl.

I worked with Amos all summer and into fall, trying to bring him up to speed. The biggest problem was he had forgotten how to listen for commands. So Amos and I engaged in a contest of wills every afternoon until finally, by late October, he had reached a level of obedience where I could exercise him without a leash. He would come, heel and retrieve the dummy. Not very much for a mature bird dog, but it was somewhat of an improvement. The big question was how would he do in the field?

My neighbor took a lot of interest in my Amos project. He was a psychiatrist and understood the psychological trauma that Amos had experienced.

Opening day for quail season was the Saturday before Thanksgiving. It was time for the acid test and I would find out if all that work had paid off.

It was horrible. Amos wouldn’t come, he wouldn’t point, he wouldn’t back the other dogs when they pointed, and if he got to a downed quail first, he took it somewhere and hid it. He acted like a maniac dog running at full speed in every direction, disrupting the other dogs and chasing quail all through the woods and fields. When we wanted to move to another field, I had to catch him and put him in the dog box in the back of the pickup.

I left him at home in the kennel when I visited my parents home for Thanksgiving dinner and to hunt with my dad, who would not have tolerated Amos’s misbehavior. I took Amos hunting again on Friday with the same result as before. This was a real bummer.

Amos b&w.jpgThe next few times I hunted, I left Amos in the kennel. One day I noticed that he was upset about being left behind. I thought about it one day at work and decided to give Amos one more chance. I took off that afternoon and went hunting, just Amos and me.

Amos was a changed dog. He found and pointed four coveys. He looked for singles.  He retrieved seven quail so carefully that their feathers were hardly ruffled. He even obeyed hand signals. Amos was well again. 

I suppose leaving him behind caused him to think about things, or maybe he sensed that this was his last chance. Dogs are ultra sensitive to their masters’ moods. If he blew it that day, he was finished as far as I was concerned.

My psychiatrist neighbor saw me when I got home and came over to ask how Amos had performed. When I gave him the report, he patted Amos on the head and said, “I knew you’d make it, Amos, because you are a survivor.”

You can read more about Amos in my short story Afternoon Hunt in The Emerald Necklace and Other Stories.


How My Bird Dog Made Me Look Foolish


Trinity United Methodist Church on Goshen Road northwest of Berea, North Carolina, used to have a hunter’s lunch on the opening day of quail season, which was also the first Saturday of deer season. They may still have it but since I quit bird hunting, I’m not around to partake.

They put out a fantastic country-style feast that hundreds of hunters came to enjoy. The church grounds were full of pickups. The ladies who took my money always remembered me because I bought plates for my bird dogs.

My dog team on this day was Zak and Amos. My hunting partners were C. V. Conner and Tom Pierson. Tom likes to eat and he gave a good account of himself at the lunch.

Tom admired the way Zak methodically quartered a big soybean fields in a way that maximized coverage and minimized effort. If he didn’t find quail, Zak made his way back to the pickup so we could go to another field. Tom was a telephone company engineer and understood the importance of analysis. He commented that Zack was smart enough to work in the PBX department at the phone company.

Zak was one of three bird dogs that I owned that hunted thoughtfully in an organized fashion. Buckley and Fred were the others. You walk a lot less when you have dogs like them. They would hunt a big field while I stood beside the pickup. If they found birds, they pointed and held them until we got there. If they didn’t find anything, they came back to the truck. We loaded up and moved to the next field.

One time on a sweep like this, Buckley held a covey so long that the quail had forgotten he was there and they had started to move about. He was in heavy cover and we had to use another dog to locate him. When we finally walked up, he looked at me as if to say, “Where in Hades have you been?”

These dogs were aware of time and they made sure you saw them about every four minutes. If they were out of sight more than their cycle, you could be sure they were on birds. Then you went looking for them. It is a pleasure to hunt behind dogs like that.

My friend, Randy Guthrie, had one that would break point, come find us and lead us to where the birds were. But the most remarkable thing I saw him do was when we had a covey running ahead of us. His dog broke point and ran in a big circle to where he blocked the running quail. Dogs like that are born. There is no way a man could teach a dog how to do that.

Anyway, on this day, we had done pretty well that morning. Following that big lunch we were full up. It was a brisk afternoon but the sun was out and, with our hunting clothes on, it was balmy out of the wind.

We planned to hunt a field close to the church next and on the way, we passed an inviting, wide, sunlit, grassy road shoulder that looked like a good place to rest and digest our lunch. I parked on the shoulder and let the dogs out. All of us lay down in that warm sun and went to sleep.

Passing cars blowing their horns woke me up. One passed about the time I sat up and a grinning woman pointed towards the edge of the thicket. I turned around and looked. There was Amos, locked up in a rock-solid point. There is no telling how long Amos had been pointing while strangers rode by and saw us sleeping. Zak, Tom and C. V. were still asleep. I woke them up. Zak went straight to Amos and backed him in another rock-solid point. We quietly got our shotguns and loaded up. When I flushed the biggest covey we had seen all day, we got a measly two birds. Amos gave me a look as if to say, “I stood here all that time for you to get just TWO BIRDS!”

At least the passersby had something to laugh about.  They probably still laugh every time they remember it.



From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza


Tea Cakes


tea cakes 2.jpg


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick (1/2 c) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs, whisked

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 - 2 tablespoons whole milk



Prepare a lightly floured work surface. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease it. Preheat oven to 350° F.


Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl and using a hand mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and whisked eggs until creamy. Beat in the vanilla, milk, and flour mixture until well blended, adding another tablespoon of milk if needed for the dough to come together.


Dump dough onto the floured surface, sprinkle flour over dough then roll out to about 1/4-inch thick, or a little thicker.


Cut dough out with a 3" cookie or biscuit cutter - OR roll into 1 1/2" balls. Place on baking sheet.

Bake for about 12-14 minutes (balls may take a bit longer), or just until bottoms are very lightly browned.


Let cool on pan for 1 minute then remove tea cakes to a wire cooling rack. If desired, while they are still hot, sprinkle or dip tops in sugar. Or cool completely and ice/decorated as desired.



Sugar Cookies


sugar cookies.jpg


2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 sticks (1 c) salted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 extra-large egg

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract



In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large bowl and using a mixer, cream together the softened butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.


Gradually, beat in the flour mixture on low speed.


Preheat oven to 375° F.


Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls (about 1"), and place onto ungreased cookie sheets, spacing about 2" apart.

 frosted sugar cookies.jpg

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are golden.

Let stand on cookie sheet for 1 minute then remove cookies to wire cooling racks. Makes about 48 cookies.



When cookies are completely cool, frost with simple icing (confectioners sugar and enough cream for desired consistency. Icing can be tinted with food coloring) and decorate tops with sprinkles or sparkling sugar, OR dip cookies half way in melted milk chocolate chips. Allow time for icing to harden before serving or storing.


Soft and chewy, They're always a favorite on holiday cookie trays and for gift giving. I love them plain.



Chocolate Chip Cookies




1 cup softened salted butter or margarine

chocolate chip cookies 2.jpg3/4 cup sugar

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 extra-large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups uncooked quick-cooking or old-fashioned oatmeal (not instant!)

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (I used pecans)

1/2 cup shredded sweetened flaked coconut



Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper or use silicon mats. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F.


chocolate chip cookies 3.jpgIn a large mixing bowl and using a hand mixer, beat together on medium speed the butter/margarine and both sugars until pale and creamy, 3-4 minutes, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Beat in one egg until incorporated, then beat in the other egg and vanilla.


Beat flour mixture into the creamed mixture just until well blended.

Stir in oats, chocolate chips, nuts, and coconut until well distributed.

Drop by heaping tablespoons onto the baking sheets.


Bake for about 15 minutes, or until center is set. (For chewy cookies, they need to seem a bit undercooked.)


Cool cookies on pan for 2-3 minutes then carefully remove cookies using a thin metal spatula to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.


I chopped the pecans fairly fine. Also, I didn't want long strands of coconut in the cookies so I pulsed it a few times in the food processor before measuring it out.


These big, soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies are chocked full of oats, pecans, and coconut, making them the Best In The World.




Moccasin Gap - Thanksgiving 1973

BC Carver


This month’s article is short and sweet; Happy Thanksgiving to all.

       We all have a favorite Thanksgiving story. Mine is the Thanksgiving of 1973. Mama’s family all met at Aunt Edna’s house for Thanksgiving Dinner. Uncle Clyde was out back in the barn fixing some Thanksgiving shine. Most of the women didn’t drink – MOST of them, but all the men at the dinner did and Clyde’s moonshine was the best in the area. Their mouths were watering for some of Clyde’s moonshine. They wanted that more than the turkey.

     Aunt Edna had spent all day slaving over the kitchen stove fixing a spectacular meal; turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, punkin pie, fried apple pies, green beans and turnip greens. She had fixed corn, corn bread, hoe cakes and cookies for the younguns. I’d never seen so much food since Uncle Morton died.

    When everything was ready, Aunt Edna went on the back porch and rang the dinner bell and all the men and Aunt Flossie came in from the barn – all about half smashed on Uncle Clyde’s shine.  They were all staggering, laughing, singing, having a good ol’ time. Aunt Flossie ripped off her blouse and showed everybody her butterfly tattoo, the one she got on her left boob back in ’64. Now, in 1973, that butterfly was dragging the ground. It was not a pretty sight.

    Did I mention that Aunt Edna also invited the Preacher to Thanksgiving dinner? They all sat at the table and the preacher said grace and everybody dived into the meal. Aunt Edna made a big bowl of gravy, after all, this is Moccasin Gap, North Carolina. We put gravy on EVERYTHING, including ice cream. Aunt Edna doesn’t have the same flair for gravy; her family is from the Midwest. But everyone else put gravy on everything they ate.

  After about fifteen minutes, Uncle Willie Joe jumped up on the table and started singing Hound Dog by Elvis. Then Aunt Hattie Mare started running around the table making noise like a wild pig. Then Mama started laughing so hard she fell out of her chair and her legs went over her head along with her dress exposing way too much. The preacher started condemning Aunt Edna for killing the turkey, shouting, “You’ve killed one of God’s fine feathered friends. You’re going to hell in a hand basket.”

  Aunt Edna, the only sane person at the table, looked at Uncle Clyde and then she looked at the gravy, and then it hit her, he had put moonshine in the gravy. When she found out she grabbed a turkey leg and started beating Uncle Clyde over the head with it, the whole time the preacher condemning her for killing a turkey. Mama was lying on the floor laughing outrageously and Uncle Willie Joe was now singing Don’t Be Cruel. Hattie Mae was running around outside like a chicken with its head cut off, and me? I was in the corner eating all of Aunt Edna’s punkin pie and fried apple pies. They were so good.  Mama was gonna whip me for it the next day, but she had such a hangover, she just stayed in bed. That’s the only time I had ever seen Mama drunk. She was quite different then when she was sober. For one thing, she kept calling me sugar instead of bonehead and hardhead and moron. And it was really funny watching her take one step forward and three steps backward. All I could think was, if Mama drinked more I wouldn’t have gotten nearly half as many whipping’s as I did.





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.


Laura A. Alston: It’s Worth the Journey, lives and writes in Henderson, North Carolina. Her first book, My Pet Rocky Renee, was published in June 2010. In addition she has published Too Many Goodbyes, You Gave me Wings and a book of her collected poems, From My Heart to Yours


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.


Rita Berman: Robert Louis Stevenson and a synopsis of The Criminal Justice System with a View from the Bottom; 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: Message to Youth; 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.


Brad Carver: Moccasin Gap - Thanksgiving 1973; was a regular columnist. His book, Daddyhood, was published in 2007. Brad was a humorist, and friend who lived in Semora, North Carolina.  This is a reprint from November 2012. He is now deceased and I still miss him.


Dr. M. David Chambers: Thanksgiving Devotional; is Senior Pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Timberlake, NC. Pastor Chambers holds a Doctoral Degree in Ministry from Master's Graduate School of Divinity, is a Board certified Christian Counselor, and is currently seeking to further his vision of Growing the Christian Family at Home and Abroad. He is the author of The Best Is Yet to Come and Perpetuity


Steven Crane: The Black Riders; Famous Author of The Red Badge of Courage, One of my favorite authors. Long deceased.


Joan Leotta: Full Moon Glow and The Full Moon Rises,; 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: America’s Thanksgiving and Music ; 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: Lindisfarne and Haiku; lives in Chard, Somerset, England. She was born in the Netherlands and moved to Britain in 1966. She worked for an Anglo-Dutch company in London. In 1999, Marry and her husband retired and moved to Chard, Somerset. Her hobbies are writing, reading, bird watching, and exploring ancient monuments. She is a member of a local writers’ group in England.


Tim Whealton: The Storm-My Guns Got Wet: 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.