RPG Digest

Anything Fit to Read


October 2018

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October 2018


Thanks, for all the contributors who have contributed to every issue of RPG Digest with such enthusiasm. We thank Betsy Breedlove for the beautiful fall photos we used. P. L. Almanza sent this photo of her grandkids, Ellie and Neriah that we must share here. One great advantage of being online and printing it myself is we can add color. Enjoy!


NERIAH AND ELLIE Halloween 2016.jpg

 Table of Contents

Then and Now by E. B. Alston. 3

Sylvia Plath by Rita Berman. 5

Bits and Pieces by Joan Leotta. 14

Natters of a Nomad by Peggy Ellis. 14

I Didn’t Know by Tim Whealton. 15

Going On Holiday by Marry Williamson. 17

A Dog and His Bone  by Thomas Soewll 18

Childhood Memories  by Jean Barnes. 18

The Timeaholic  by Grace Thompson. 29

A Talking Centipede Story 29

An Afternoon Off by Marry Williamson. 30

Evensong by E. B. Alston. 31

October’s Farewell by Sybil Austin Skakle. 31

Independent Philosophers by Randy Bittle. 31

Yellow by Diana Goldsmith. 33

Three Rivers to Cross – Serialized book by Elizabeth Silance Ballard. 34

By the Sea by Mary Noble Jones. 38

Lessons Learned from a Hurricane by Tim Whealton. 39

Halloween... The Night They Never Came Home! by P. L. Almanza. 41

From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza. 42

Hammer Spade and the Long Shooter – Serialized book by E. B. Alston. 44

October Horoscope. 47

Traveling by Train by Sybil Austin Skakle. 50

Poetry for Seniors by Grace Thompson. 51

How’s Your Day Going?. 51

Contributors. 52


Then and Now

E. B. Alston

Most of what we discuss today when we talk about then and now deals with general social mores and technology. We don’t get into much discussion about our relationship with domesticated animals in years gone by. The smartphone crowd is content to take selfies while dining on fastfood. Would that one of them could ride a good horse that could jump over a four-foot fence from a standstill. They would toss that smartphone away and buy a horse. I hasten to add that a smartphone is a hell of a lot cheaper than a horse.

Today’s books, movies and television try to make animals seem human and that they can possess a close personal friendship with us. People today believe this stuff. Animals react to stimuli and they learn quickly what gets the result they want. (Actually, they manipulate us!) They don’t love us. They act certain ways because we reward them when they act such and so, and they have been relentlessly bred for thousands of generations to behave certain ways and perform certain tasks.

I’m most familiar with hunting dogs. More specifically, pointing bird dogs. English setters and English pointers have been bred and selected to the nth degree and they are bird-finding and game-retrieving machines. I had a lot of affection for my bird dogs. They gave me many hours of pleasure in pursuit of bobwhite quail. What they got in return was a chance to do what they had been selectively bred to do and plenty of high quality dog food. One of them liked to have a beer after a hard day’s hunt. They weren’t pets and they didn’t act like pets. They never jumped up on a visitor. The few times they were inside a house, they behaved.

On a positive side, they were ferocious protectors of my family when the children were small. If they were outside the kennel, nobody could have kidnapped my offspring, or injured them without paying a heavy price. God help a stranger who made one of my children scream or cry. One time Gerry, Carl’s mother, had to take Carl inside the house to spank him because Buckley growled at her when she tried to spank him in the yard for misbehaving. This is the same dog that chased a salesman over the porch railing when he put his foot in the door preventing my wife from closing it. When Gerry screamed, Buckley came from the backyard at a gallop with teeth bared.

I grew up on a working farm that used draft animals instead of tractors. None of the farm animals “liked” us. The big draft horses certainly didn’t. The milk cows didn’t. My dad had one big, powerful plow horse that had to be kept in the stable if he was supposed to work during the day. If he was in the pasture, he couldn’t be caught until feeding time.

I can’t even say that my favorite horse, Scout, actually liked me, or anybody else. He was certainly no pet and I didn’t expect him to rescue me if I got into trouble. He would bite or kick any animal or anybody who annoyed him.

My father preferred horses over mules because horses walked faster and obeyed commands more readily. Mules, walk, stop and turn in their own good time. Our neighbor to the north, Bob Wood, used mules exclusively because they were easier to manage. He was fond of saying a mule is content to work hard all his life for just one opportunity to kick a man.

We could never completely relax around our workhorses because they would bite and kick on occasion. My father’s favorite fox-hunting horse ran away when she was fifteen-years-old. Our milk cows would try to hook you with their horns if you annoyed them.

Why did our parents put up with this? I’ll tell you. They chose saddle and work horses because of their athletic ability. A fast, but hard to manage horse, was preferable to a slower horse that was “gentle.” Good-natured horses with superior athletic ability were then, and now, a rarity. A plow horse with a bad disposition but strong was also more preferable than a weak but more manageable horse. That big, mean, horse could pull a double-horse plow. My father’s focus was on getting the most work done, not having pets around.

Really powerful cars today don’t handle as easily as more sensible models. Even today at my advanced age, I like Jeeps and pickup trucks. A Jeep doesn’t ride as good and is not as quiet as most other personal use vehicles. I don’t care. It also requires more maintenance. I don’t care. I like the way they drive and if I have the urge to drive across a ditch or up a steep rocky bank, I can, and will.

My father’s bird dogs were utilitarian in the extreme. They were expected to stay out of the way until hunting season when he needed them. Their off-season responsibility was to be watchdogs but they had to be careful who they barked at. They barely noticed my uncles and aunts’ presence when they visited. But if an insurance salesman drove into the yard, he’d be afraid to get out of his car.

When I got to high school, Dad bought a tractor. Tractors seldom bite, kick or run away but dad’s reason for buying his was he didn’t have to feed a tractor when it wasn’t working. Over time, the horses and mules were phased out. Dad kept his horses during this transition. They didn’t have to work anymore but Dad kept them around “in case he needed them.”

My favorite, Scout, lived the longest and we still had him when I went into the Army. Dad sold him while I was in basic training. One day Scout got out of the pasture while Dad was away. When my mom tried to put him back, he kicked her. Dad sold him the next day. A man who lived about five miles away bought him. (It’s always easy to sell a pretty horse or dog.) 

About ten years later, when my daughter was four, I took her to visit Scout. He was his same old self and he remembered me. He put his head down and looked her over. She petted his nose. He nuzzled her stomach and made her giggle. Then he looked at me as if so say, “Now I know what you’ve been up to all this time.”

After letting Lynn pet him a few minutes and give him an apple, which was his favorite snack. When I sat Lynn on his back, he took off. I had to grab her. He took off, just like he did when I used to put my foot into the stirrup. He hadn’t changed one iota. He still had a lot of class, head up, nostrils flared, prancing and dancing sideways across the field showing off. He was 16-years old. I called him back and he let Lynn pet his nose again before we left.

I’d have to look long and hard to find the likes of him today. Truthfully, I think they broke the mold he came from. I wish I still had him and my favorite bird dog, Buckley. It is a shame that our favorite animal friends don’t live as long as we do.

Sylvia Plath

Prize-winning poet, novelist and essayist.

By Rita Berman

 Sylvia Plath, was born October 27, 1932. A writer whose talent was recognized   when a teenager.  Her stories were published in the magazine Seventeen and after her third year of college she was awarded a coveted position as guest editor at Mademoiselle magazine. By the time she was thirty she lost her battle with depression and committed suicide on February 11, 1963. Although still legally married she was living apart from her husband the British poet Ted Hughes. He inherited all of her written works and oversaw their publication.  

In the same month as her death, her collection of poems in Ariel was published. It became one of the best-selling books of poetry of the 20th century. These intimate and personal poems, relating to her frustration in marriage and motherhood, were written in her highly productive period of a few months, from October 1962 to February 1963.

Her most well-known works are the autobiographical novel The Bell Jar, 1963, and the book of Collected Poems, that was published posthumously in 1981 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Plath was born in Jamaica Plain, Mass., to Otto and Aurelia Plath. Her father was a professor of German and entomology. He was much older than her mother. Her brother Warren was born on 27 April, 1935.  In 1936 the family moved to Winthrop, Mass, to be near Aurelia’s parents.

Otto Plath died in 1940 of complication of diabetes and surgery after a leg amputation. Sylvia’s mother returned to work as a high school teacher and Sylvia and Warren’s grandparents moved into the household to take care of them.

Sylvia was only 8 years old at the time of her father’s death and her confusion, anger, and hatred towards both parents is expressed in her journal entries and poems.  She wrote that her mother “woke me up and told me Daddy was gone, he was what they called dead, and we’d never see him again, but the three of us would stick together and have a jolly life anyway… He didn’t leave hardly enough money to bury him because he lost on the stocks, and wasn’t it awful…Life was hell… She had to work and be a mother too.”  Sylvia blamed her mother for marrying an old man “it was her fault.”

When she was 15 she wrote in her journal that “I have a good self that loves skies, hills, ideas, tasty meals, bright colors.   My demon would murder this self by demanding it to be a paragon...Talking about my fears to others feeds it.  I shall show a calm front and fight it."

In 1950 she attended Smith College and excelled academically.  She wrote to her mother “the world is splitting open at my feet like a ripe, juicy watermelon.” By May 1951 her story, “Den of Lions,” was a third-place winner in the magazine Seventeen,’ short story contest and was published.

In late 1951 she wrote “looking at myself, in the past years, I have come to the conclusion that I must have a passionate physical relationship with someone – combat the great sex urge in me by drastic means. …I am obligated in a way to my family and society…to follow certain absurd traditional customs – for my own security, they tell me.  I must, therefore, confine the major part of my life to one human being of the opposite sex.” 

After receiving the guest editorship at Mademoiselle Magazine she spent a month in New York City.  The experience was not what she had hoped it would be, and it began a downward spiral. She was furious at not being at a meeting the editor had arranged with Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. She hung around the White Horse bar and the Chelsea Hotel for two days hoping to meet Thomas, but he was already on his way home.  Many of this summer’s events were later used in her novel, The Bell Jar.  

On learning that she had not been accepted into the Harvard summer school fiction course taught by Frank O’Connor she felt that she was a complete failure and all the prizes she had won were forgotten as she continued to feel depressed. She slashed her legs to see if she had enough courage to commit suicide.  When her mother saw the gashes, Plath said to her “Oh, Mother, the word is too rotten! I want to die! Let us die together.”  Her mother took her to the family doctor who referred her to a psychiatrist. He recommended shock treatments and she received out-patient bipolar, electroconvulsive shock, with no preparation and no follow-up counselling.

She described this in a poem:

“By the roots of my hair some god got hold of me,

I sizzled in his blue volts.”

 More treatments took place and by August 14, 1953 she took a full bottle of her mother’s sleeping pills, left a note saying “Have gone for a long walk.  Will be home tomorrow,” and then went into the crawl space of the house.  She was found by her brother after he heard moaning coming from under the house.   She had been lying in the crawl space for three days.  Her disappearance was reported in national news. After six months of psychiatric care, electric and insulin shock treatment she seemed to have made a good recovery and returned to Smith College in February 1954.  One of her previous friends said it was as if Sylvia was a different person.  In April she wrote her first poem in nearly a year.  It was published in Harper’s magazine.

She dated a number of men and enjoyed expensive weekends with Richard Sasson, a history major at Yale, which she described as “living as man and wife.” When he went abroad she became involved with her physics professor. During her senior year she did not keep a journal but her work appeared in The Atlantic, The Monitor, Mademoiselle, and Seventeen.  In January 1955, she submitted her thesis, The Magic Mirror, about two of Dostoevsky’s novels and she graduated from Smith with highest honors in June.

During the summer of 1955, Plath’s relationship with her mother was fragile.  According to Linda Wagner-Martin’s biography of Plath, Peter Davison another of Sylvia’s lovers, thought this was because Aurelia could never accept Sylvia’s sexual involvements.

The poems Plath wrote during 1955 reflect the tensions in her life. “Aerialist” is about a tight-rope walker, an acrobat doing an amazing balancing act.  Horrible things happened to the woman, trucks crush her, weights fall on her bowling balls threaten to smash her. Staying alive is her feat.   Which is what Plath was trying to do.

Other poems, such as “Temper of Time,” convey a fear of death and loss, said Wagner-Martin, speculating that Plath may have been looking forward to living in England for two years, but was no clearer about where she fit into the world than she had been before her breakdown.  In September 1955, when she travelled to England on the S. S. United States she spent much of the voyage flirting with men and then making love.

Her aims in England were two-fold. She was going to get the best possible education, and she was going to find a husband.   She attended Newnham College in Cambridge, on a Fulbright fellowship from October 1955 until June 1957.  Here she continue actively writing poetry and publishing. Her work appeared in British magazines as well as The New Yorker, Kenyon Review, The Nation, Partisan Review, and Ladies’ Home Journal.

During her time at Cambridge she met Ted Hughes, a northerner, described as a country boy from Heptonstall, Yorkshire, not far from Haworth, Bronte country.

Hughes, also a poet, was working in London, as a reader for the film production company of J. Arthur Rank. His poems had been published in a new literary magazine, St. Botolph's Review. Sylvia Plath had seen them and wanted to meet the author.

Plath went to a party that was celebrating the new magazine and there was Hughes.  In her journal she confided that he was “that big, dark, hunky boy, the only one there huge enough for me, who had been hunching around over women,…came over and was looking hard in my eyes, and it was Ted Hughes.  I started yelling about his poems and quoting…and he yelled back, colossal in a voice that should have come from a pole. “You like.”  From then on we were drinking brandy and he backed me into room.”

“Then he kissed me bang smash on the mouth and ripped my hairband off…I shall keep, he barked. And when he kissed my neck I bit him long and hard on the cheek, and when we came out of the room, blood was running down his face.”

The incident quickly made the rounds of the Cambridge gossip.

Even though Sylvia thought she had found exactly the sort of man she had long sought for a husband, she continued with plans already made to meet Sassoon in Paris, and Gordon Lameyer for a trip through Germany. The night before she was to leave she saw Ted Hughes again. They spent the night together, reciting poetry and making love in his flat.

The next morning she went to Paris but Sassoon was absent and on March 31 she received a love letter from Hughes, telling her that her memory went through him like brandy.  As Gordon was expecting to meet up with her she did not give in to her impulse to return to England immediately.  But within a week she flew back from Rome and joined Hughes.  She wrote to her brother that “Hughes is the only man in the world who is my match…He tells me endless stories, dropping his voice to a hush and acting some out, and I am enchanted: such a rare spinner…He is a violent Adam.” 

After seeing each other nearly every day that spring they were married on June 16, 1956 in the Church of St. George the Martyr, Queen Square, a short walk from Hughes’ London flat.  Her mother was present, a curate was witness, but otherwise the marriage was secret, even from Ted’s family and friends.  Sylvia was afraid she would lose her Fulbright scholarship if people knew she was married. They returned to England after a summer honeymoon in Spain and were completely broke. They went to visit his family in Heptonstall, traveling by train and bus, dragging their cumbersome luggage with them. 

At first Sylvia loved the countryside, the moors dotted with sheep, wild beautiful and trackless.  They took day trips to the Bronte house. When she returned to Newnham College Ted stayed in Yorkshire.  After he got a job with the BBC they realized they couldn’t stay apart and so Sylvia told her mentor about her marriage.  The college and the Fulbright committee allowed her to complete her year, so she stayed in university housing until December and then she moved in with Ted.

That first year of marriage Sylvia typed his manuscripts and sent them to magazines. He was published in Poetry, The Nation, and The Atlantic Monthly, as well as British journals. 

An entry in her journal read, “Here I am: Mrs. Hughes. And wife of a published poet. O I knew it would happen… but never thought so miraculously soon…Today,  while Ted was tying his tie in the living room, and me heating milk for coffee, the Telegram came.   Ted’s book of poems… The Hawk in the Rain has won the Harper’s first publication contest. Even as I write this I am incredulous.”

Still, they were worried about money, and applied to various schools for teaching positions.  After Smith, her alma mater, invited Sylvia to teach Freshman English, at a salary of $4000 for the year, they packed up their books and sailed to the States, in 1957. 

They found a three-room apartment close to campus and Ted wrote at home while Sylvia taught at Smith.  She found teaching difficult, had seventy themes to read, the interaction with students was draining and she could not write, couldn’t think, according to her journal.

Illness with influenza and pneumonia had her laid up in bed.   She was exhausted and unhappy.  Decided to give up her job at Smith.  Ted won some money prizes for his poems and though the original plan was for him to look for work, he didn’t.  And Sylvia resented this. 

They moved to Boston and she took a part-time job in the psychiatric clinic of Massachusetts General Hospital, transcribing the dreams of patients, and acting as receptionist and general office clerk, but soon quit as she became depressed again and returned to seeing Dr. Beuscher, her therapist.

Her moods were up and down.  In May 1959, she was disappointed when she did not win the Yale Younger Poets contest. In October 1959 she got word that The New Yorker had accepted a poem, called “Winter’s Tale.”  Yet this did not cheer her.  She felt oddly barren.  She wrote” my sickness is when words draw in their horns and the physical world refuses to be ordered, recreated, arranged and selected.  I am a victim of it then, not a master.”

By this time Ted Hughes felt he needed to live in England, but before moving they spent some time at Yaddo, the writers’ colony. Sylvia began a new book called The Colossus which is apparently about her father. It contains many poems.

When they sailed to London in December 1959, Sylvia was feeling happier, and she was five months pregnant. They found an apartment in Bloomsbury, she signed a contract with William Heinemann Ltd to publish The Colossus and her first child was born April 1, 1960.  She was named for Frieda Lawrence, D. H. Lawrence’s widow.

By 1961 Plath was working feverishly on The Bell Jar.  In many ways The Catcher in the Rye was the model she used for structure and for some events.  Her autobiographical novel written in interior monologue tells of her summer as guest editor at Mademoiselle, her first serious romance and its breakup, her depression, attempted suicide, and what was most important to Sylvia – her recovery.

She wrote for three or four hours each day.  Her mother visited and Sylvia felt she could not live up to her mother’s expectations that she should excel in everything, including motherhood.

When Sylvia found she was pregnant again, she and Ted decided to look for a house in the country.  They moved into a ten-room house in Devon that was in need of repair. She received a Saxton grant of $2000; which made it possible for her to get child-care while she finished The Bell Jar.

Their second child, Nicholas, was born in January 1962.  By the spring, although she was writing again, she was also depressed, trying to keep up with the chores of caring for two small children. She became jealous about Ted’s friendship with a neighbor’s teenage girl, and felt there was a distance between herself and Ted.  He was either off working or in London, or Exeter much of the time.  Her poems in May 1962 were about the female speaker’s role as lonely, wistful wife.

In May 1962 David and Assia Wevill, a couple who had sublet their London flat, came to Devon to spend a weekend with them.  The day after they left Sylvia wrote two angry poems, that indicated Ted was interested in Assia, either seeing her or was planning to. Assia (who is referred to as “Olga” in Edward Butscher’s biography titled Sylvia Plath Method & Madness, published in 1976,) had boasted earlier to friends that she would seduce him, and had told Sylvia that her present marriage to David, her third husband, was little more than a loving friendship. 

On July 9, Sylvia intercepted a mysterious phone call for Ted and was so enraged she tore the telephone wires from the wall.  She then left the house taking the children and spent the night with some friends.  The next day after returning home she burned Ted’s letters, drafts of work and papers and a manuscript of what would have been her second novel. She wrote only two more poems that summer.  One was called “Burning the Letters.”

For a while Ted and Sylvia pretended to others that they were a happy couple, but he kept leaving without explanation and by August Sylvia wrote to her mother she had decided to separate because Ted lied to her and betrayed her. He was living in London with friends. However she also wrote she would never return to the States to live. The Bell Jar had been finished and accepted for publication by Heinemann.

In spite of her early desire to find one man to love and marry, Ted Hughes may have been the wrong man.  A fellow poet, not only did he compete with finding time and a quiet place to write, but he helped her even less after they had children.  One might say was also a domineering, selfish individual. Certainly his unfaithfulness with Assia Wevill contributed to the break-up of their marriage, even if Sylvia’s suicide arose from the demons that plagued her.

Plath wrote many more poems, and asked for help with the children saying “I am a writer… I am a genius of a writer…. But do need help for the next two months. I am fighting now against hard odds and alone.”

From October 21 to December 11, 1963 a young nurse came to care for the children while Sylvia worked on writing poems.  Elizabeth Compton, a friend, thought she looked ill. She was thin, coughing, running a low temperature but flushed with the joy of successful work. Other friends remember her frantic need to talk, her nonstop delivery of story after story, just as she had after her 1953 breakdown and recovery.  Clearly she needed someone to listen.  She went to London on October 29 and 30, taped an interview with BBC producer Peter Orr and read from her new poems.

In the interview, she spoke about herself as an American poet, and about the vitality of some recent American poetry. She admired the fact that it drew on “interior experiences” and on “private and taboo subjects. She criticized British poetry for its gentility.

She returned to Devon, triumphant and flooded with compliments from friends and acquaintances about her appearance and her work. She had decided that living in London would continue to be exciting. So she looked for an apartment and found one just around the corner from where she and Ted had lived in 1960 and 1961.  It was the top two floors of “Yeat’s house.” Ted went with her to the agent because, in those days, as a single woman she was considered a bad credit risk.  He agreed to pay a year’s rent in advance.  In mid-November she assembled a second book of poems, change the title several times and settled on “Ariel.”

Plath wrote to Dr. Beuscher that she was coping with the changes and was intent on making a new life for herself and the children in London.

The lease to the flat was signed on December 3, and four days later she had moved in but was waiting for the telephone to be installed. It was very cold in London that winter. Her downstairs neighbor, Professor Thomas, saw her carrying in food, pushing the children in a large, old-fashioned pram. They were very quiet and she appeared to be erratic, one day charming, another bad tempered.

The week before Christmas London was shrouded in fog.  The children were ill, and she went to see her former physician, Dr. Horder and asked for sleeping pills. On December 21, she learned The Atlantic had accepted two of her poems.  But The New Yorker, which she had counted on as a source of steady income, had rejected ten large groups of poems.  This was compounded by a rejection letter from her Knopf editor, that The Bell Jar manuscript was not acceptable for American publication.

Plath quickly sent it to Harper and Row. Ill again in January, a terrible snowstorm and they were housebound.  Still, she tried to maintain a regular writing schedule. She had blackouts.  On January 14, The Bell Jar was officially published, with the author’s name as Victoria Lucas.  Two good reviews appeared on January 25, but Sylvia felt they missed the point of the ending, which was the recovery of Esther, the main character.  She was so upset that she went downstairs to talk to Professor Thomas, weeping uncontrollably.

A week later she had recovered from the flu and hired a Belgian girl to live with her and the children.  She wrote many more poems, some of which expressed the sense that death is a reasonable alternative to life. Her last poem was about a woman who is now “perfect” because she has died.  Called “Edge”.

Sylvia wrote to her mother that she saw the “finality of it all.”  She was becoming depressed, wondering how she would live as a single parent with the two children for the rest of her days.

During the last week of her life, Plath continued to fluctuate wildly in her moods, running mysterious temperatures and terribly aware that a breakdown was imminent.  The au pair girl was gone and Sylvia missed her help and companionship.    By Friday, February 8 she saw Dr. Horder several times that day.  She was thin and anxious, the sleeping pills did not work any longer.  Dr. Horder concluded that her depression had reached a dangerous low point.  He tried to find a bed for her in hospital for the weekend, without success.  Later that day, she assured him she was better and agreed to see him the next two days.  He arranged for a nurse, a Miss Myra Norris, to come to her flat on Monday morning.   

On Sunday February 10, Dr. Horder thought she was responding to her antidepressant medicine.  But that evening about 11 p.m. she went down to Professor Thomas’s flat to buy postage stamps from him.  Later he recalled thinking she looked very ill.  She refused his suggestion that she should call her doctor.

At about 6 a.m. on the morning of Feb. 11, Plath knelt beside the open oven in her kitchen and turned on the gas.  She had left cups of milk beside the children’s beds. Before turning on the gas she had put tape around the doors and towels at their base to protect the children from escaping fumes. She had also taken a quantity of sleeping pills, and left a note asking that her doctor be called.

At 9:30 .am. Miss Norris found her with her head in the oven, and tried to apply artificial respiration until the ambulance arrived. The police were called, as was Dr. Horder. At 10:a.m. Katherine Frankfort arrived to babysit. Ted Hughes came soon after. On February 15 an inquest was held. The verdict was her death was a suicide.

Sylvia Plath Hughes was buried in Yorkshire, in St.Thomas’ Churchyard, Heptonstall. The name Hughes was repeatedly chiseled off the headstone by her supporters. It now appears in bronze lettering to prevent it being removed.

Ted Hughes inherited all of Plath’s written works as they were still legally married at the time of her death.  In the year 2000, her unabridged journals from 1950-1962 were published by the Estate of Sylvia Plath, Random House, New York. Missing from the record are two journals that Plath wrote during the last three years of her life. One of them was said to have “disappeared” according to Ted Hughes.  The last journal which contained entries to within three days of Plath’s suicide was destroyed by Hughes because he said, “I did not want her children to see it.”

Her journals, described as probably the most famous and honest papers ever penned by an American poet, reveal Plath’s fears, doubts, and joy of some events in her life.  She wrote about the struggles she had, the uncertainty and torment that plagued her, wondering whether she could achieve anything significant and the depression she was unable to overcome.   

Smith College acquired all the manuscripts remaining in the possession of the Plath Estate in England, but two of the journals in the archives written between August 1957 and November 1959, were sealed by Ted Hughes until February 11, 2013. However, they were unsealed by Ted Hughes shortly before his death in 1998 and Karen Kukil the editor of the journal included them in her book.

Plath’s book, Collected Poems that was published posthumously in 1981, won the Pulitzer Prize.  The Bell Jar was reprinted by Faber and Faber under Sylvia Plath’s name in 1966. The American edition appeared in 1971 under Harper and Row’s imprint. Ted Hughes had tried for seven years to prevent its publication in America because of what was written about real people even though they were portrayed as characters.

Hughes became Britain’s Poet Laureate in 1984.  He had been publishing poems since 1954, and over the next 41 years he wrote more than 90 books including a dozen collections of poetry, books of prose and a number of books for children. In the years after her death he wrote very little about Plath and nothing about their life together.   He refused to speak to biographers, scholars, or journalists.

However, in 1998, when he was suffering from terminal cancer, he published his own collection of 88 poems in The Birthday Letters, a book about his relationship with her, it gave scenes of their marriage from his angle.  Some of these poems, written long after her death, deal with him trying to find a reason why Plath took her own life.   He wrote about how she looked and moved and talked, her pleasures, rages, uncanny dreams, what was good between them and where it went wrong.

In defense of Hughes, his brother Gerald published a memoir in 2014, Ted and I: A Brother’s Memoir, which Kirkus Reviews called “a warm recollection of a lauded poet.”

The Plath’s children, Frieda 3 years and Nicholas l year old, at the time of Sylvia’s death, were not told of their mother’s suicide until they were in their teens. They were at first raised by Assia Wevill, the woman who precipitated the breakup between Ted Hughes and Plath.  According to Assia she began the affair with Hughes after she and her husband, David, visited Ted and Sylvia at their home in Devon, in 1962.

Assia said that Hughes kissed her when they were alone together in the kitchen.    Assia’s husband, learned of the affair and took an overdose of sleeping pills, but survived.  He sent a note to Hughes that read, “If you come near my wife again. I’ll kill you.”  But the Wevills separated, and Assia moved in with Ted Hughes after Sylvia’s death.   She had a child with him, called Shura.

Hughes did not want to marry Assia and in 1968 he embarked on another affair.  Assia left him and the following year, in March 1969, she committed suicide by gas, taking 4 year old Shura with her. Wevill blamed the ghost of Plath for making her suicidal.  In 1970 Ted Hughes married his second wife, Carol.

Ted Hughes’ mother had just had an operation prior to Wevill’s suicide and he was afraid that the news might affect her recovery.  In the following weeks he shunned his parents, and did not visit, phone or write to them.  When his father asked Olwyn, Hughes’ sister, what the matter was, she told him, but made him vow to keep it a secret. But he could not keep silent and told his wife.  Edith suffered a thrombosis, lapsed into a coma and died three days later. An article in The Guardian, in 2006 reported that Hughes was certain that Wevill’s suicide was the final blow.

Assia’s biography, in A Lover of Unreason published in 2006 is told by two Israeli journalists who spent 15 years researching it. This book, portrays Ted Hughes as a domestic tyrant.  He issued a “draft constitution” written in 1967 when he banned her from staying in bed beyond 8 a.m. ordered her to get dressed straight away, that she should teach the children German, play with them for at least an hour a day and introduce at least one meal with a “recipe we have never had before on a weekly basis.”

When Assia’s biography was published, novelist Fay Weldon, who knew all three people, reacted by saying that “Assia was the sort of person who expected a maid to do everything. Ted probably wondered how he’d cope so he sat down and typed two pages of instructions.  This doesn’t mean he’s any more of a domestic tyrant than all men were in the Sixties, when the men went out to work and the women looked after the home.”

Weldon, thus states the problem that Sylvia Plath had struggled with-- how to become accepted as a woman poet in a man’s world.  While Plath sought love, and marriage, she resented that her role then became like the average woman – a housewife and carer of children. When she first learned she was pregnant, she was devastated.

In 1974 the Journal of American Medical Association published an article by N.J.C. Andreasen, M.D. who questioned if her suicide could have been prevented if she had been hospitalized and given antidepressants. “Her death was both a literary and a human loss,” he wrote, “for she left behind two young children and the aborted promise of poetry yet to be born.”

In March 2009, Nicholas Hughes, Plath’s son, took his own life in Fairbanks, Alaska. He was 47, a fisheries professor.   Carol Hughes, who had raised Nicholas and his sister Frieda as her own after marrying Hughes in 1970, said that “Nicholas’s tragic death is devastating…  He had been suffering from depression.”

Frieda who became a poet and painter, was angered by the making of entertainment featuring her parents’ lives.  She accused the “peanut crunching” public of wanting to be titillated by the family’s tragedies. In 2003, she published the poem “My Mother” in Tatler:

Now they want to make a film

For anyone lacking the ability

To imagine the body, head in oven,

Orphaning children.

…they think

I should give them my mother’s words

To fill the mouth of their monster,

Their Sylvia suicide doll.

I saw the first film that was based on The Bell Jar and found it very depressing.  I have not seen the film Ted and Sylvia, made in 2003 that starred Gwyneth Paltrow as Sylvia.

“Plath has become such an icon since her death that often her reputation gets in the way of any kind of true knowledge or appreciation of her work,” suggested Jessica Ferri in an article on bustle.com, 2015.  She recommended 10 books to read that celebrated Plath’s words, life and legacy. They include books written by Plath and several books on Plath written by others among them Her Husband, by Diane Middlebrook, from the point of view of Hughes; The Silent Woman by Janet Malcolm, on the art (or lack thereof) of biography, memory, and celebrity; and Pain, Parties, Work, by Elizabeth Winder that described the cultural atmosphere in New York City in the summer of 1953.

Local access to Plath’s writing is available at UNC’s Wilson Library in Chapel Hill, in the Rare Book Collection. It is a gift of the James R. and Mary M. Patton Collection.


The November RPG Digest will contain Robert Louis Stevenson, another in this series of birthday articles.    



A lady was picking through the frozen turkeys at the grocery store but she couldn't find one big enough for her family. She asked a stock boy, “Do these turkeys get any bigger?” The stock boy replied, “No ma'am, they're dead


I've learned.... That I can always pray for someone when I don't have the strength to help him in some other way.


Bits and Pieces

By Joan Leotta


Cool, crisp air and its brilliant

fire hues

are hard to find where

heat simmers until well

into December.

Here, long still-hot

days of October and November

allow early darkness to eat

out the green,

leaving mottled brown

arrayed on branches until

storms wash them

down onto my lawn.

Yet, now and again,

bits and pieces of

autumn glory appear—

a vine, a baby tree hiding

in my palmetto grass,

burst into red

or bright yellow,

defying heat,

proclaiming, “Fall is here.”


Natters of a Nomad

Peggy Lovelace Ellis

According to Wikipedia, “autumn leaf color is a phenomenon that affects the normally green leaves of many deciduous trees and shrubs by which they take on, during a few weeks in the autumn season, various shades of red, yellow, purple, black, pink, magenta, blue, and brown. The phenomenon is commonly called ‘autumn colours’ in British English and ‘fall colors’ in American English.” The procedure has to do with various pigments. I won’t go into that. Look it up for yourself if you just can’t live without cluttering your brain.

Okay. Do we really need to know all that science stuff when we pile into our cars and become ‘leaf lookers’ here, there, and yonder? Let’s just appreciate God’s creation as the blessing it is.

My husband, Jim, and I normally travel during the holidays, but we occasionally exercise our nomadic tendencies at other times, especially in the fall. We travel on secondary roads as much as possible, their sides lined with brilliant reds and yellows with dappled sunlight filtering through them.

On one such trip, I learned there are several varieties of beech trees, none of which resembled the species that gave its name to my home community. I gobbled the tiny nuts from those between Sunday school and worship service throughout my childhood. The Canadian species are quite different, some with variegated leaves, predominantly pink with narrow green edges, and vice-versa.

One of my favorite places to visit is Maine’s rocky coastline in the Bar Harbor area. The town has become a tourist trap, so we don’t go there. It’s just as well I’ve never cared about going to a beach because there is none here, only huge boulders with surging water crashing around them. Turning my back to this roar before the water mesmerizes me, I face the quietness of the Acadia National Park with its hiking and biking trails.

Throughout Maine, logging is a major industry, therefore destroying the forest growth of hardwoods. Nevertheless, new growth is in various stages and produces the brilliant fall colors of maple trees, in particular, even if not yet the mature trees.

When we think of leaves changing color, our first thought is of deciduous trees. However, let’s think about the pine forests, particularly of eastern Canada and Maine. Unique in my experience is the Eastern larch, a conifer also called Tamarack. Its soft blue-green needles turn golden and drop in the fall. I suppose there are other pine species that lose their needles, but I haven’t seen them.

Throughout Canada, especially the eastern third, and New England, we enjoyed the spectacular color display of many of the same species we have here in the mountains of North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. Jim, my forester husband, easily identified alters, aspens, birch, basswood, and several others, including the various maples.

Since this is MY essay, based on MY travels, I’ll offer MY opinion that, beautiful though fall foliage is in other areas, none is more so than those here in Western North Carolina! October is with us again. Now is the time to come visit the Garden Spot of the World.

I Didn’t Know

Tim Whealton

I have always studied other people. Especially older people. I wondered what it was going to be like when I got old. Would I be able to have any fun or would I just sit and complain about how bad everything was? I saw some that just seemed to quit living. They had a heartbeat and respiration but that was about it. Then there were some that seemed to pick up speed in later years. I always wondered why. What could make such a difference?

Some of those old people made lasting impressions on me. Most were eager to share what they had learned if anyone took time to listen. Today it seems we are eager to judge the people that came before us. We try to condemn them for decisions they made and blame all our current problems on them. I often wonder if they were brought back to life how they would judge us.

Old Tom lived in Lowland. I met him when I worked on his phone around 1972. He was in his nineties. He lived in a modest house that was built in the 1800s. The first thing I noticed was a cutout in the corner of the room ceiling. It had a 7 foot ceiling and he said it was for the old duck gun that was too long to go in the corner. The gun was long gone but his mind was sharp and he recounted many stories about the gun and killing ducks for the market. I could easily tell he knew what he was talking about and was telling the truth. He told me about how they would mount the big gun in a little boat and paddle to a flock of ducks at night and fire. He said a good shot would be 12 to 15 but many times it would be only 3 or 4. I told him I had heard stories about people killing a hundred with one shot. He told me stop listening to liars!

Tom was the youngest boy in the family and his father would take him and his brothers to Engelhard to goose hunt each fall. Since he was the youngest his job was to skin the geese and pack them in salt. He hated every trip because it took a week to travel, a week of skinning and a week to get back. They would stay with farmers they knew along the way and usually sleep in their barns. I thought about how many times I felt like a victim because I had to go back to the store and pick up a chicken after I got home and it was already picked and cleaned!

 One of Tom’s friends told me in the 1950s they got a new game warden. The new warden knew Tom shot ducks out of season whenever he wanted to eat duck. It was a cold blowing day in February after the season was closed and the warden figured Tom would hunt since his house was next to the bay. The warden drove to within a mile and then walked in darkness to the edge of the woods where he waited for Tom. Before dawn he saw a light inside Tom’s house and watched him working in the kitchen as he shivered in the darkness. After a while Tom came out on the porch held up his coffee cup and said “mighty cold out there, might as well come in and have a cup.” The warden was stunned but figured his cover was blown so what the heck. He came in a warmed up with coffee and finally asked Tom how he knew he was there. Tom said “Didn’t, figured you would get around to me sooner or later, been doing that all winter!” The warden left him alone after that.

I would always try to stop and see Tom when I could. He was always glad to see me and wanted to know about what was going on in my life. He would talk about his life if I asked but he was never a chatter box. One day I stopped and some people were moving out his stuff. I still miss him.

Old Bill lived in Jones County. He was what they used to call a “rascal.” He was crippled and held up his withered hand and said “some people got this way fighting wars, I got this way fighting whores!” His daughter that stayed with him would say “Daddy!” and he would grin. He was a veteran that had fought in WWI and WWII. He was gassed in WWI and hit with shrapnel.

 He was an engineer and it was his job to find land mines. I asked if he had a mine detector and he said “oh yes, still got it, want to see it?” I said sure and he got his daughter to fetch it from the closet. It was a long bayonet. He would crawl out of the trench at night and crawl on his stomach as he probed the ground for mines. When he found one he would mark it with a little flag. If they shot up any flares he would have to lie still till they went out. This could be a long time. If he moved while the flare was burning or the German snipers spotted him he would be shot. In the morning they would blow the whistle to attack and the men would go over the wall and run while they dodged the mines he had found and marked. When he missed one people died.

Bill told me when WWI was over they stopped the train in Cove City and he had to walk the 14 miles to his home in Jones County with his duffle bag. I said that was terrible but he just smiled and said “It was the best day of my life. Never thought I would live to see home and every step was a joy!”

When Bill found out I liked to work on guns he gave me a little cheap revolver. It was tiny and had a folding trigger that popped out when you cocked the hammer. Told me he took it off a prostitute in Paris France in 1918. Told me to keep it and think about him whenever I looked at it. I still do.

The thing that sticks in my mind about these old guys isn’t the amazing stories or even the times they lived, but it was how much they had learned to treasure every day. Life itself had become precious to them.

I understand that now. Life has changed me as well. I see it in everything I do. Even when we go shooting. I use to shoot and a couple of bad shots would make me mad at myself. Now I dismiss the bad shots and think about how much fun those good shots were. How those sights moved across the target and then like magic stopped in the center for a second and the gun went off.

It’s a better way to live. Think about the good things, let the bad go away and enjoy each day as a precious gift. It was God’s plan all along. It just took me 67 years to figure it out! 


Going On Holiday

Marry Williamson


We packed our things and filled the boot

With the dog, his bed, his bowls and his food

When the car was full and could take no more

We set the alarm and locked the front door

The sat nav was set and we drove for a while

In fact the meter said we had gone for a mile

When I had a bad thought and what it was

I could not recall if I turned off the gas

A lot of swear words and for heaven’s sakes

A big fish-face and a slam on the brakes

We turned round and drove back for a mile

Amidst more fish-facing and sighs all the while

Of course I had turned off the hob and the gas

The house was fine and secure as it was

We set off again and were well on our way

All was good again and it was a nice day

The sun was shining and we felt allright

Then we turned a comer and were met with a sight

An accident? No! Just the road being jammed

With car after car and the road was crammed

There were stop/go boards and road works signs

And a man in a little cart to guide you round the lines

Further on there were traffic cones and contraflows

Yellow diggers and drills to add to our woes

For an hour we inched our way through this jumble

With the radio on loud to drown out the rumble

We cleared the last sign “sorry for your delay”

We heaved a big sigh and were finally on our way

But by now were hungry and in need of some tea

And the dog needed air and a walk and a pee

At last we were all relieved, watered and fed

The dog was happy and back on his bed

We set off again along the motorway

Looking forward to finish the journey and start the holiday

But because of all the delays and trouble on the road

We got to the port too late and missed the darned boat

We could just see it leaving to our dismay

We did not get to France until the following day.



A Dog and His Bone

Thomas Sowell


Many years ago, as a small child, I was told one of those old-fashioned fables for children. It was about a dog with a bone in his mouth who was walking on a log across a stream.

The dog looked down into the water and saw his reflection. He thought it was another dog with a bone in his mouth-- and it seemed to him that the other dog's bone was bigger than his. He decided that he was going to take the other dog's bone away and opened his mouth to attack. The result was that his own bone fell into the water and was lost.

At the time, I didn't like that story and wished they hadn't told it to me. But the passing years and decades have made me realize how important that story was, because it was not really about dogs but about people.

Today we are living in a time when the President of the United States is telling us that he is going to help us take that other dog's bone away-- and the end result is likely to be very much like what it was in that children's fable.

Whether we are supposed to take that bone away from the doctors, the hospitals, the pharmaceutical companies or the insurance companies, the net result is likely to be the same-- most of us will end up with worse medical care than we have available today. We will have opened our mouth and dropped a very big bone into the water.


Thomas Sowell in Fables for Adults in Townhall.com


Childhood Memories

Jean Barnes

Part Two

barnes 4.jpgI made first and second grades in school the first year.  I was ready for the third grade before I was six and Mom wouldn’t let me advance.  She always regretted not letting me go ahead.  She said I just wasted that year because I already knew the second grade.

I always had a sweetheart in school.  Odell Taylor was my sweetheart from first through eighth grades.  We used to sit together in the first grade.  We would take all the books out of the old desks and put our feet up in them and talk about getting married.  He was always talking about getting drunk.  I don’t know if his father was a drinker or where he got the idea of getting drunk.  I had never seen anyone drunk, so I didn’t really understand what “getting drunk” meant, but I remember him talking about it.  He didn’t go on to high school so I never dated him, but he was my sweetheart all through grammar school.

The old school house was very cold in the winter.  I remember Mama making me wear long cotton stockings.  I hated them, so when I got to school, I would roll them down to the tops of my shoes!  Can’t you imagine what that “big” roll looked like?  I had trouble walking!  In fact, I remember wearing long- handled underwear too.  You had to wrap them around the lower legs and pull your stockings up over them.  Of course, they had to be rolled “up” when the stockings were rolled down.  I’m sure they were meant to help keep me warm but I didn’t like the way they looked.  Our school house had wood stoves in each room.  We had outdoor toilets.  I always dreaded going out in the snow to the toilet.

The year I started the second grade, Mom was teaching again at Sheboygan.  She traded grades with Miss Mamie Parker to keep from having me in her class.  She said she didn’t think it would be fair to me because she would have to use me as an example.  Mom drove us to school in the A-Model.  We went through Hollow Springs, and it must have been at least ten miles.  I remember once, the Rains’ Gang (supposedly) had murdered a man, I believe his name was Clendenon, and dumped his body in the “big woods” which we traveled through every day.  We came through one afternoon when the investigation was going on and the woods were teeming with people.  It was scary to me, but Mom just kept going.  She was “gutsy.”  The old dirt road we traveled would get really rough in the wintertime.  We would almost get stuck lots of times, but Mom always maneuvered it around and we made it.

I still have scars on my knees where Erin Lusk acted like he was going to pull me across the stove one morning, and I stuck my knees out to brace myself and really burned them.  There was snow on the ground and Esther Banks was my 3rd grade teacher.  She wouldn’t let me go to the First-Aid cabinet in another room and get anything to doctor my knees and they were burning me up.  I would send other kids out to the toilet to bring me back snow balls to hold on my knees.  That would help a little.  This is the only time either of my parents ever said anything to one of my teachers.  Esther was Daddy’s first cousin, and when I got home and told them what happened, Daddy went down and really bawled her out.  She apologized, but there was nothing to be done then.  She was an “old maid” and really didn’t have much compassion for kids.  This was the year that someone got lice in school.  The teachers had a good idea who had them, but they had to examine each head privately.  I just knew it was me!  My head started itching and I started scratching! (Esther told Mama later that I had my scalp red from scratching).  I fully expected to get sent home, but, of course, I didn’t have them.  

Esther Banks was my teacher the third and fourth grades, Miss Hattie Mae McMahan (Pendleton) in the fifth grade, Beecher Bowen taught sixth, Freeland Adamson taught the seventh, and Hilary Parker the eighth.  I really liked him.  He was such a good teacher.  He made everything interesting and made you want to learn.

Freeland Adamson was a weird sort of guy who came in there from Watertown and taught the one year.  I was sort of the “class clown” and was always getting people tickled.   I would make all sorts of ugly faces, and do contortions, etc.  It would make Mr. Adamson very mad.  One day, he was on the stage writing something on the blackboard and I got a bunch tickled.  He spun around and pointed his finger at me and told me I had better shut up.  Well, that just made it worse and everyone kept giggling.  (With three grades in that one room, that made several kids in there.)   It was about four steps from the stage to the floor, he turned around and jumped off that stage, came back to me and grabbed my head and shook me real good.  He didn’t hit me although I know he wanted to, but he shook the fire out of me.  He always walked home from school as he was boarding with the Hilary Parkers’ about a half mile up the road from our house.  That afternoon he and Mildred (Cooper) were walking home.  I saw them coming and ran down the old road (across the main road) on the way to our pasture where there was a bank.  I got me some rocks and hid behind that bank, and when they came by, I threw a rock at him.  He said to Mildred, “Where did that rock come from?”  She said, “I thought you kicked it”.  He said, “No, I didn’t.”  I could hear him walking to the edge of the road toward me and, believe me, I was “hugging” that bank.  I don’t think he saw me, but I know he knew I threw it. (Didn’t try that again either!).

I had one fight that I remember.  I was either in the 7th or 8th grade.  We had an outdoor basketball court and I always played basketball.  One day, we were having a game.  I played forward and Jewel Smith played guard.  We had a jump-ball and when we jumped, as we came down, she came around with her left arm and “walloped” me in the side.  I jumped on her and took her to the ground and was beating on her when the teacher, who was refereeing, made us get up and sent us to the school house.

Ma Banks used to call Mama and see if I could ride the bus from school and come spend the night with them.  She would then call Mr. Willie B. Hibdon at the store across the road from the school house and ask him to come over to the school and have me call her back.  It was probably at least 100 yards from the store to the school house, but he would come and get me.  She always wanted to know what I wanted for supper.  It was always fried chicken and chocolate pie.  I always slept in a big, fat featherbed in the wintertime and MaBanks would pile so many quilts on me that I could barely turn over, but it surely was warm.  She taught me to play dominoes and we would play after supper.  Irma had the road graders grade off where the old road had been and she put up a tennis net.  It made a good tennis court.  She taught me to play tennis, and when the weather was nice, we played.  She was fourteen years older than me, but she fooled with me quite a lot.  She was taking French in high school and she taught me some French songs and how to count in French. 

Some of the games we played in school were Hopscotch, Jump rope, Tag, Annie Over, Ring Around the Roses, Dodge Ball, Hide and Seek, May I,  Blind Man’s Bluff,  Red Rover, Softball, and of course Basketball.  There were others, but I don’t remember what they were.  We were never bored.  I had a boy’s bicycle at home that I practically wore out.  I bought it with my own money for $7.00 from Orville Smith.  (I think I had $5 and Daddy gave me the other $2.)  I rode that thing all over the country.  Sometimes I rode on the handle bars; then I would sometimes stand up just in front of the seat, or in the seat while I was going really fast.  It’s a wonder I didn’t break some bones, but I had fun on it.

Since I seldom had anyone to play with, I was usually around grown-ups.  One Sunday, we had company for Sunday dinner.  When we finished eating, Mama said, “You can clean up the kitchen.”  Well, I almost died!   What a mess? We had to wash dishes in a dish pan, rinse and then dry them.  It was a big job.  It made me mad because I wanted to be in on the adult conversation.  I went into the kitchen crying and picked up a paring knife and slung it toward the floor.  Just at that time, “old Tom” our cat ran under the knife.  It struck him squarely between the eyes and stuck.  He squalled and ran through the screen, out onto the back porch and ran up the wall, still squalling and the knife still stuck in his head.  I was jumping up and down screaming and Daddy came out.  I told him I “dropped” the knife and Tom still had it in his head.  You could hear it hitting the walls as he went down between them.  He went all the way down and was under the floor, still squalling.  He got close enough to an opening under the house that Daddy reached under and got hold of the knife and pulled it out.  Daddy said “He’ll die under there and run us off from home.”  Well, the next morning, he came out for breakfast and lived three or four more years.  To this day, I do not like cats.  I guess I have a guilt complex. When I was younger, I had loved cats and have several pictures of me with kittens and cats.  (I didn’t tell Daddy that I threw that knife until after I married.)

I always had chores to do.  When we put out the garden, I had to help and had to set out the onion sets in a bed.  That brings on another story.  I have always loved onions, and back then, when we ate up all we raised, we did without.  So, one year we had eaten all we had, and when Mama bought the sets to put out, I slipped and ate about half of them before garden time. 

It was my job to bring in all the wood.  Every afternoon I had to bring in the stove wood to cook with and part of the time, I would have to split it.  Daddy bought this slab lumber which had to be split and he didn’t always get it split before we ran out so I had to do it.  (I was always scared to death I would get bitten by a black widow spider, because I have seen several of them under the wood.)  In the winter, I had to bring in the heater wood and stack it on the front porch.  It was kept in the barn lot.  I had to do a lot of hoeing in the garden.  At one time, we had a strawberry patch and Daddy always said, “When you pick a berry, you pull a weed”.  There was a black raspberry patch in the corner of the garden.  We also grew rhubarb. In the fall, Mom would bury turnips in a hill of straw covered with dirt in the garden.  They wouldn’t freeze, but they sure were muddy to dig out. 

  Daddy always did the milking, and if he couldn’t, Mama did.  I never learned to milk, but one night Daddy couldn’t go milk and Mama said I could stay at the house with the kids and she would take Warren Duke (he was a young man who lived with us a lot and helped Daddy in the Shop) and go milk.  I didn’t like the idea of staying with the kids so I said I would go with Warren and milk!  Well, he didn’t know how either, but we got a bucket of corn nubbins and went to the pasture.  It was dark and we couldn’t see.  We both tried to get some milk to come out and didn’t have much luck.  The old cow got tired of us and started walking off.  We had to go back to the crib and get some more nubbins, go back to the pasture to try some more.  She had gone to the back side of the pasture by the time we got back, so we ran her down and tried some more.  We finally got about a cup or so of milk and went to the house.  Mama said we only got about half what we should have.  I never wanted to try again!  Milking just wasn’t “my thing.”

I had to gather the eggs from the hen house every night.  I had to shuck and shell the corn to feed the chickens, slop the hogs and feed them a bucket of corn which was kept in the crib.  The crib was not very near the hen house nor was the hog pen, and in the winter, these were dreaded chores.  Daddy’s bee hives were in the orchard and I had to go through them to get to the hen house.  At one time he had 22 hives.  I was extremely allergic to bee stings, so lots of times, I would crawl on the ground between the hives to get to the hen house.  It seemed like the bees didn’t get in my hair and sting me as much if I was not standing up.  When I would get stung, I would swell something terrible.  I’ve had my eyes swollen together, and my lip hanging down – just anywhere I got stung there was a lot of swelling.  Daddy had some sort of head-gear with an opening he could see through that he would wear when he robbed the beehives for their honey.  I have seen him pick the stingers out of his arms, and they never seemed to bother him.  They would have killed me.

I had measles one Christmas and was very sick.  I had to stay in a dark room because measles can damage the eyes.  I remember waking up on Christmas morning and sitting beside my bed was a little red wagon.  I got up and got in it and just sat there a while.  I was very pleased.  I never got many things for Christmas, but I always got something.  I don’t remember asking for anything that I didn’t get, but I never asked for much.  I never liked to play with dolls.  I got several dolls, but I don’t remember ever playing with them much.  I liked to cut out paper dolls from the Sears, Roebuck catalog, but cutting them out was the thrill, I don’t remember playing with them.  I always liked to build playhouses.  Never wanted to play in them, but liked to build them.  I remember one time, I took some macaroni from the kitchen, put it in a can lid with some water and pretended to be cooking.  Well, the next day, the macaroni had absorbed the water, and looked like it had been cooked.  I was excited.  I made a lot of mud-pies.  I would much rather play with my little red wagon or be out with Daddy than playing by myself.  I remember getting my Kodak camera one Christmas and a Bible with my name on it.

Every 4th of July, we picked blackberries.  We would rub kerosene around our ankles, waists, wrists, etc. to try to ward off the chiggers, but inevitably I’d get some chiggers.  They would itch like crazy, and we doctored them with fried meat grease or salt.  It didn’t stop the itching, but seemed to help.  We picked berries all season and I remember Mamie Lusk and I going berry picking once and decided we would smoke some rabbit tobacco.  We found some brown paper somewhere out in the field, but had no matches.  An old lady, Mrs. Summers, lived by herself out near where we were picking.  We decided to go up to her house and see if we could borrow some matches.  Well, she wasn’t home so we went in anyway and found this box of stick matches in a metal match box on the wall.  (No one ever locked their doors back then.)  We stole some of them to smoke our rabbit tobacco.  It didn’t taste good and burned our tongues, but it was exciting.  I don’t think we ever told anyone about stealing those matches.

I always made good grades and excelled in spelling.  I won the spelling contest at school in both 7th and 8th grades. (History and English were my favorite subjects.)  I competed in the County Spelling Bee when I was in the 8th.  Didn’t win, but stayed in the competition a long time.  I believe the word I missed was “ballot.”  Don’t think I had ever heard the word before!   I came in third in the County.

I was in the 4-H Club and went to 4-H Camp two years in Columbia.  That is where I learned to swim.  Daddy was trying to build his shop and he didn’t have much money.  I wanted to go to Camp and it cost, I believe, $2.00.  The last day that you had to get the money in, I didn’t know if Daddy was going to give it to me or not.  Mama woke me up and told me that I had better get up and go with Daddy to milk the cow and see if he was going to give me the money.  He was sitting on a bucket with his billfold out holding it, and I thought he was never going to give me the $2.00.  Of course, kid-like, I didn’t understand why he had it and was so reluctant to give it to me.  I learned later he was trying to build his garage and he only had $12.00.  He ended up having to borrow $16.00 from Aunt Laura.  He never wanted to borrow any money for anything, but he gave me the $2.00 anyway so I could go to Camp.  That was my Daddy!  (When I was younger, and would go to milk with Daddy, he would squirt milk in my mouth from the cow’s teat!)

Everyone else my age just looked forward to going barefoot, and Viola Cooper could walk on that gravel road like she had shoes on.  Mama told me that I could go barefooted on the first day of May no matter how hot it got before then, I had to wait. The day before, I would go out and sweep me out a clean path all the way around the house.  Then on the first, I would pull off my shoes and run around and around the house.  I can still remember how cool the ground was on the north side of the house under some trees.  It was exciting.

Daddy put me up a tire swing in a big polonia tree in the front yard.  I would swing for hours, and beg anyone around to swing me.  He also built me some stilts to walk on.  He took a couple of poles (boards or something) about six feet long and would nail a tin can up about six inches from one end.  You could stand on the cans and be up high.  I could walk all over the yard.  Really felt like I was doing something.

Viola Cooper lived about a mile up the road and she would come by at least once a week on her way to the store.  Well, one day she came by and I didn’t have any money (of course), but I wanted to go with her and buy me some candy.  I decided that I would go out to the henhouse and steal me a couple of eggs.  She had a little pink lunch box full of eggs to sell, so I would just put me a couple on top of hers and Mama would never know the difference.  Wishful thinking!  I can still see the prints in that paisley dress Mama had on as she was looking through the window.  I knew I was caught!  When we got to the front of the house, Mama came out and asked me what we were doing.  I told her I was just going to the store with Viola.  Mama said, “You just bring your eggs in, you’re not going anywhere”!  (I never tried that again.)

I do remember going to the store a lot.  I can remember going after coal-oil (kerosene) to go in the lamps or to start a fire in the cook stove.  We had a coal-oil can but had lost the stopper for the spout, so we just put a raw potato on the spout to keep from spilling it.

Howard Duke (Norman’s brother) used to work some for Daddy.  I remember him plowing in the field down toward the pasture and sending me to the store to get him some “Run, Johnny, Run.”  That’s what I asked for at the store and everybody laughed.  I was embarrassed and didn’t know what was so funny.  I didn’t know that Run, Johnny, Run was a sack of RJR smoking tobacco.  He has pulled me many miles in my little red wagon, and I really liked him.

The only church near enough for us to go all the time was the Methodist Church at Ivy Bluff.  Aunt Laura and Mamie used to stop by in their buggy and pick me up to go with them.  At times, I went with the young people at church there to other places.  I remember going to Morrison with their MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship).  I got to meet a lot of young people that I would have never known otherwise.  After we got the A-Model and Mama learned to drive, we would go to the Church of Christ at the Mack House (McMahan) or to Pocohontas.  (I never liked to go to Pocohontas much because their preachers always preached too long.  I remember one preacher named Gilley who preached so long one Sunday that we didn’t get home until 2 o’clock!)

I was baptized in a creek near McMahan Church by Bro. O. P. Baird when I was fourteen.  He was holding a revival there and James Haley and I were baptized at the same time.

Hilary Parker, who was a distant cousin and the school principal, lived probably ½ mile up the road.  Down behind his house in the creek was a swimming hole.  In the summer, a bunch of young people from down the road would come by going swimming and I would go with them.  The water came from a spring and was sooooo cold.  It was hard to even get wet.  But when you finally did, you could swim a while.  I almost drowned there one time.  Someone put a log in the water and I tried to swim over it and got my feet caught on top of the log and it threw my head under.  Thought I was not going to get it kicked out from under my feet, but I was almost a goner.  Nobody was paying any attention, so it was up to me.  I finally made it, but never tried that again either.  I have learned a lot of lessons the hard way in my life!.

Daddy and I used to fish in this same water hole in the spring and fall.  Daddy would be working out at the Shop and he’d call out to me, “Tooter, go dig us some worms and we’ll go fishing tonight.”  I would dig and dig for red worms so I could go fishing with Daddy.  We fished with cane poles, and I always had to bait my own hook.  We never caught very many except suckers.  They were so full of tiny bones, that it was hard to eat them.  Sometimes we would catch catfish and we could really enjoy eating them.  It was always fun anyway to go sit on the creek bank with Daddy.

Every summer, for several years, Hilary Parker would open the schoolhouse and lead us in folk games, or square dancing.  He had a Victrola and both young and old participated.  This was just after we got electricity, and we would meet on Saturday nights.  Some of the older folks in the community didn’t believe in dancing of any kind, so he called them “folk games” (which was alright).  Some were like the Virginia Reel and some others that I have forgotten, but primarily, it was square dancing.  Grady Haley had been off to college and had learned how to two-step.  We would slip off into another room where we could still hear the music and he taught me to two-step.  I was probably about twelve years old.

We also had Singing Schools for about two weeks each summer.  Mrs. Sarah Sanders from Manchester came out and taught us how to read music in shaped notes, (which I can still do).  We also learned the number of beats each note got, in what key it was written, and the tempo.  We learned how to direct songs according to the tempo.  Daddy really insisted that I go to the singing schools.  He had a beautiful tenor voice and sang in a quartet for years.  They were the Banks Quartet and were very much in demand for Singing Conventions and funerals.  Vernor Haley sang the lead; Esther Banks, alto; Daddy, tenor; and Herman Banks, bass.  They did not have a piano, or any other musical instruments, (it was always acappello) but their voices blended beautifully.  After they moved to McMinnville, Daddy sang with a quartet on the radio twice a week with a group from there.  I wish we had been able to record or tape some of their singing, but did not have the capability.

Of course, First Sunday in May has been a Singing Convention tradition since early 1900’s at Ivy Bluff.  We used to meet at the schoolhouse which would hold more people than the Church, and had gospel quartets from all over the state and even adjoining states.  It was (and still is) a big day with “dinner on the ground.”  It has become more of a home-coming and decoration day in the last several years, but still an All Day Singing.  I have never missed going but three times in my life.  Of course, I don’t know many people up there any more, but get to see some of the “oldies.” Almost every year, there will be someone there who was raised in the community and has not been there for years. I always take flowers for Mama and Daddy’s graves that day, too.

During World War II, Daddy taught a Mechanic’s school for the Government to the young men in the community.  To teach them to overhaul a motor, he bought a little old A-Model Ford.  When they finished with it, he let me have it!   This is when I learned to drive.  (Daddy wouldn’t teach me, I guess I made him too nervous).  Warren Duke and Ellis Spry really taught me to drive what I called “The Skeeter,” and I drove all over the country with it.  Usually Torchy (our little dog) would ride with me with her front feet on the dashboard and her back feet in the seat.  It didn’t have a windshield, fenders or doors, but had a little truck-like bed on the back.  I could haul several people.  (I even lost the hood).  We used to take it down in the pasture after a rain and drive it real fast down the hill, cut the wheels really sharp at the bottom and slide around sideways.  Daddy liked to play on it, too.  Once we were out riding and he drove it off into a big puddle of water beside the road.  We had to go get someone with a tractor to pull us out.  Several times, I would load up a bunch of young people and go to Woodbury or Manchester to the movies.  None of us had driver’s license, so we parked it outside the city limits and walked in.

When I quit sleeping with Daddy, I slept in the other front room.  We also had a sofa and some chairs in there and that was our living room. I used to have parties frequently.  Don’t remember us ever having anything to eat at them except maybe popcorn, but I would get out in my “Skeeter” and invite all the neighborhood kids to a party.  We played “Spin the Bottle” and some other games.  I had a wind-up Victrola in there and we would dance.  Mama said if I was going to dance, she had rather I was at home than at some “Honky-Tonk.”  Mama was really broadminded in a lot of ways, and Daddy didn’t care.  I had the record “South” and we could jitterbug to the music.

When I started High School, we rode a bus about twenty five miles to Woodbury.  There was no heat or air of course on the bus, so we had to endure whatever the weather was.  I made a lifetime friend on the school bus, namely, William Sadler.  He was in my class, and became a class leader.  His Mother was dead and I used to worry about him when he didn’t catch the bus.  We played cards (Crazy 8), sang, laughed a lot, and really had fun on our bus ride both morning and evening.  I remember one time Mr. Homer Parker was driving the bus and he tried to dodge a pig in the road and drove off into a ditch.  It threw us all over the bus, but no one was hurt.   Don’t remember who pulled us out, but Viola Cooper said, “Wouldn’t it have been awful to have been killed playing cards and singing “Elmer’s Tune!” Her Mother was a very strict, religious woman who thought playing cards was wrong and dancing was downright sinful!  She is the only person I ever saw shouting.  This was at Ivy Bluff Church one Sunday, and it sort of scared me. 

High School was quite different from Grammar School, but I really enjoyed it.  In my freshman year, I met and became friends with Nettie Lou Underhill from Short Mountain.  That was sixty-eight years ago, and we are still best of friends. (How’s that for longevity?)  She, Margaret Todd and I were together all the time.  She used to go home with me for weekends at least a couple of times a year, and I would go home with her about the same.  She actually lived in Dekalb County but the Cannon County school bus didn’t go by her house, so she stayed at her cousin’s during the week and went home on weekends. (She said she only did this one year, then she got to stay home during the week.) She had a very handsome brother three years older, and it was always exciting to go to her house.  Once, we went to a “Pie Supper” at the Schoolhouse there at Short Mountain.  Mrs. Underhill fixed us each a “pie box” which was auctioned off to the highest bidder.  Whoever bid it off got to eat with the owner.  I remember that someone nominated me for “prettiest girl” and I won! Nettie Lou remembered who bought my pie that night.  It was Paul Bratcher.  He was good looking and I had a crush on him at one time.  He went to school in Smithville, so I didn’t see him very often.  He did, however, come to Ivy Bluff to see me one Sunday afternoon and I wasn’t home.  It was 25-30 miles from Short Mountain to Ivy Bluff.  I was sorry I missed him.

Usually, when she came home with me, we would either have a party or go possum hunting!  We would gather up a bunch of young people, take our lanterns, flashlights, etc., and strike out for the woods.  Jim Lusk had a possum dog and we were really “in business.”  We would build a fire on the bank of the creek and roast marshmallows.  I don’t remember exactly who would be along, but I do remember Jim Lusk, George Brown, Grady Haley, Leonard Banks, Claude Hibdon, Esther Winnett, Mamie Lusk, Nora Cooper, Nettie Lou and I.  We always had fun.  I remember one time, we crawled down a tree which had fallen to cross the creek, then realized we were on an island.  We had to crawl back. (We didn’t tree many possums!!)

I was popular enough in high school.  Always made good grades, and had a lot of friends, both boys and girls.  I played basketball, and got to dress-out part of the time for games.  I was elected treasurer of the sophomore class and was on the Pep Squad who had rallies at the football games.  The only “F” I ever made in school was in my freshman year.  I made 70 in Deportment!  Marshall Duggin was a teacher.  I was in Study Hall sitting near Allen Bryson when Mr. Duggin went down the hall and caught us talking.  He wheeled in that set of doors, pointed his finger at us and said, “That will be 20 points off your deportment for talking!”  He went on down the hall, and I guess Allen and I looked at each other and grinned so when he went by the next set of doors, he came in and said, “That will be 10 more points for thinking it is so funny.”

Viola Cooper and I sang a song one morning in Chapel.  We sang “I’ll Give to You a Paper of Pins If You Will Marry Me.”  It was hilarious.  We acted it out, and I answered her with “I’ll Not Accept Your Paper of Pins and I’ll Not Marry You.”  I have many fond memories of Woodbury Central High School and lifetime friends.

On Sunday afternoons, Nora Cooper (and sometimes others) and I would take a walk.  We would walk from my house around by Pocahontas, out to the highway and back home.  It was probably a five-mile walk.  Sometimes some of the young boys would come by, stop and talk a while.  We were taking our walk the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Dec. 7, 1941.  We didn’t know about it until we stopped at Thurston and Pearl (Bush) Banks’ house about 3 o’clock in the afternoon to get a drink of water.  They had heard it on the radio.  We were scared to death and started running down the highway home. Everett Sissom came by with a big flat bed truck and stopped.  We jumped onto the back and rode home.  Of course, we could imagine being bombed ourselves that day!  It really was an unsettling time for everyone.  All the young men were drafted to go to war.  I believe they quit drafting men who were 38 years old in July of 1942 and Daddy was 38 in August.  We were scared to death, but they never called him.

I had dated Joe Paschal some and he went into the Air Force.  He really seemed to care a lot for me and asked me not to get married, that he “might get to come home.”  I also had been dating Eldie Davis some for a couple of years.  They were both nice guys, but I wasn’t in any hurry to get serious about anyone.

It was about this time that Grady Marshall ‘Bill’ Barnes came into the picture.  He was from Jacksboro, about five miles down the road, and had come home from California for his father’s funeral.  He had a 1936 Ford and brought it up to Daddy for some work.  I met him, and he was back several times to see about his car.  After a while, he asked me for a date.  He was almost ten years older than I, and Mom didn’t much like the idea of me dating him. She finally gave in if I would get someone else to go with us.  He said he had a brother if I had a girlfriend, so I asked Nora to go with his brother.  They didn’t hit it off very well and Ray wanted to go with someone else, so I asked Uva Jean Lewis and she went.  They got along great.  Bill had signed up for the Navy so he got his call to report for duty.  He was sent to Norfolk, VA.   He gave me an engagement ring before he left.  I didn’t tell Mama and Daddy, but Jim Lusk found out about it and told Aunt Laura.  She told Mama and when she asked me about it, I had to show it.  He was supposed to be gone two years, and Mama said that if I would keep it two years, that I could keep it.  Well, he got hit on the head boxing in the Navy and was sent home after two months duty.  Ray and Uva Jean had been dating while he was gone and when he got back, he wanted to get married right away.  I didn’t really want to get married, but Ray and Uva Jean did, so they all talked me into slipping off to Rossville, GA and getting married.  The world was in such a turmoil of uncertainty; all the boys were gone to war except the ones with something wrong with them, and it seemed that everyone was grabbing onto anything for a little happiness.  We didn’t know if we would have a “tomorrow.”  We planned it and I was supposed to tell Mama & Daddy that I was going home with Nettie Lou for the night.  Bill and Ray picked Uva Jean and I up after school and we slipped off for Rossville, GA, and got married on October 22, 1942, in a double wedding ceremony with Ray and Uva Jean.  (Georgia did not require parental consent.)   I lacked two weeks being fifteen years old and it almost killed my parents.  I have always regretted hurting them so badly.  We were married for thirty-two years and I divorced him. 

My life has not always been easy. I have wished many times  I could do a “Rewind” from here, but then I wouldn’t have my three wonderful children, my four wonderful  grandchildren, nor my six precious great-grandchildren!  (Plus all the great in-laws.)  There have been peaks and valleys, which I guess is part of life for everyone.  My faith in God has sustained me through all the heartaches, trials, and disappointments, as well as the many joys, pleasures and successes.  I have a world of friends and relatives who have stood by me and for which I will be eternally grateful!  I have been blessed beyond measure!

This as far as I want to go with this story.


A Bit of Older “History


When Mama was six years old, Papa and Mama Hartman took their children (at the time which was Mama, Uncle Bud and Aunt Pearl) and rode the train to somewhere in Texas where Papa worked on the levee and Mama Hartman did the cooking in a tent for all the workers.  I think they stayed out there two years.  Papa worked a lot of the time away from home to make a living.  I’ve heard her talk about him working at something down in Mississippi one time.  He was raised in Michigan and was eighteen years old when he moved with his parents to Tennessee.  His parents, Jeremiah and Ida, knew a family in Michigan who had moved to Tennessee so they moved in a wagon.  A doctor had told my great grandmother, Ida, that she had to move to a warmer climate or she wouldn’t live. Papa had two brothers, Floyd and Charlie and sister, Florence, who were younger than him, so they all moved.

One time, Papa bought a threshing machine and traveled through the community threshing wheat for the people.  Uncle Bud was old enough to help him so he worked with him.  Uncle Bud was always very particular about cleanliness and Mom said on one of their jobs, the lady of the house had a reputation of not being too clean about her cooking.  It was a common practice that when they worked at your place, you cooked dinner for them.  Well, this one place, Mom said Uncle Bud would not eat anything except baked sweet potatoes.  He said he could peel them and he knew she hadn’t touched that part.  Another time, Papa ran a sawmill.  She used to tell how this man who worked for him cut one of his fingers off by getting too close to the saw.  Papa asked him, “How did you do that?”  So he proceeded to show him and cut another piece off!

After they moved to Old Hickory, Mama Hartman ran a boarding house.  They bought this twelve room house and rented part of the rooms, so she did the cooking for the tenants.  Uncle Roy and Daisy were still living at home and Papa worked at Dupont until he retired.


End of That History


Here are some other incidents we have always laughed about and passed on:


Humor has always played a big part in our lives. Mama had a great sense of humor and Daddy had a hilarious dry wit about him.

In thinking about Uncle Bud and me with the fried chicken episode, I must have been like my Daddy. When Daddy was a little boy in school, MaBanks said they had company one morning for breakfast and she had scrambled some eggs.  When they passed them by her, she said, “I don’t want any eggs.  I just eat so many of them that I don’t want any.”  She said Daddy piped up and said, “Pass them over here to me, I don’t get enough of them to get tired of them!”  Well, Ma Banks fixed him so many eggs in so many ways, that he did get tired of them.  She sent them every day in his lunch until one day she said he came in and said, “Mother, please don’t put me in any more eggs for my lunch.”

Daddy never drank whiskey. One time, after they moved to McMinnville, he took a terrible cold and went to Dr. Smoot.  Dr. Smoot told him, “I can’t prescribe this for you, but if I had a cold like you have, I would get me a bottle of whiskey.  I’d take me a big swig, cover up head and ears, then when I woke up, I would take me another big swig, and sweat this cold out”.  Daddy looked at him and said, “Why, Doc, I had rather have the disease than the cure!”

After Daddy retired and they moved from Old Hickory back to Ivy Bluff, they had built a new house.  Once when Uncle Bud and Aunt Vinnie were up there, Mom and Aunt Vinnie were sitting in the den when they looked out and there was a snake crawling up the leg of a chrome chair in the back yard and its head was sticking up.  Mom said “I’ll get the rifle and see if I can shoot it.”  She cracked open the den door and shot.  She asked Aunt Vinnie, “Did I hit it?”  Aunt Vinnie said, “Just in the head”!  They went out and she had shot its head off.

Another time in Ivy Bluff they had some peach trees out behind Daddy’s shop.  They had been waiting for them to ripen and were going to save some for me.  (A farmer had been working the field near the orchard and Mom had been taking her knife and walking down there about every day and peeling a peach, standing there and eating it.  Daddy didn’t know this.)  One day, Daddy came in with a big bucket full of the peaches before they were really ripe.  Mom said, “I thought you were going to save them for Jean.” He said, “I might as well pick them - some S.O.B. is going to eat them all.  There are peelings all over the place.”  Mom said, “Well, I’m the S.O.B. that’s been eating them!”  He was shocked and embarrassed.

Another time, when I was living in Virginia and went to see them, Daddy had him a five-gallon bucket sitting in front of him in the den and was intently whittling on a cedar stick.  It was about the length of a knitting needle and I thought that was what he was making.  I said, “Daddy, what are you making?”  He never cracked a smile and very seriously said, “Cedar shavings!”  I just cracked up.

Daddy said one time when he was a boy, his Dad took him to the woods to cut wood.  They cut down a tree and Dad had Daddy using one end of a cross-cut saw helping him cut up the log.  Daddy said he would “jerk” his end every few minutes.  Dad stopped once and told him to quit jerking the saw.  After a while, he jerked it again.  He said Dad stopped, pointed his finger at him and said, “If you do that again, I’ll be over this log on you like a duck on a junebug.”  Daddy said, “Yeah, and I’ll be over there on you like a duck on a calf.”  He said Dad didn’t come around the log, he came over it!  Daddy said, and I quote, “He tore me up!”

When Dad would go to Morrison, about twelve miles away, in the wagon to pick up supplies for the general store he ran, he would take Daddy.  MaBanks would fix them each a lunch.  They said Daddy would have his eaten before they got half-way to Morrison and Dad said to him, “You won’t have any lunch.”  Daddy replied, “I’d rather have it on my stomach as my mind”.

Yes, we endured a lot of hardships, but I would not take anything for the way I was raised.  It taught me to be proud of my heritage; to respect authority, the value of honesty and to be helpful to others. It taught me a good work ethic and to always pay my debts; that things don’t always go my way; perseverance; to laugh at myself and listen to others; and that having fun is an important part of life. It was just a good wholesome environment to be raised in, and I will always be grateful for my parents.


The Timeaholic

Grace Thompson


I had a friend who loved to talk

No commas gave her sentence pause

She prattled on from dawn to dusk

Just flapping her opinionated jaws.


I had no time to waste back then

A job and family filled my day

With where is this, and why is that

With never one spare hour away.


But, then one day they were all gone

And I was free to do my thing

No interruptions, just myself

Until I heard that awful ring.


And as she spoke I knew somehow

She’d sensed my happy hour alone

Her greedy mouth latched on my hour

And she devoured it over the phone.



A Talking Centipede Story


A single guy decided life would be more fun if he had a pet. So he went to the pet store and told the owner that he wanted to buy an unusual pet. After some discussion, he finally bought a talking centipede, (100-legged bug), which came in a little white box to use for his house.

He took the box back home, found a good spot for the box, and decided he would start off by taking his new pet to church with him.

So he asked the centipede in the box, "Would you like to go to church with me today? We will have a good time."

But there was no answer from his new pet.

This bothered him a bit, but he waited a few minutes and then asked

Again, "How about going to church with me and receive blessings?"

But again, there was no answer from his new friend and pet.  So he waited a few minutes more, thinking about the situation.

The guy decided to invite the centipede one last time. 

This time he put his face up against the centipede's house and shouted, "Hey, in there! Would you like to go to church with me and learn about God?"  ...


This time, a little voice came out of the box, "I heard you the first time!  I'm putting on my shoes!"


An Afternoon Off

Marry Williamson

It took Robert some time to get over the injustice of it all. Here he was. Standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom holding a large bag of frozen peas to his face, blood pouring from his nose and a split lip. He was still not quite sure how it had all happened.

The day had started so well. His wife had gone to her reading club clutching the latest Victoria Hislop novel recommended by the Sunday Times literary supplement. His teenage daughter had been taken to her ballet lessons by her friend’s mother and for once did not need picking up as Sally would be dropping her back afterwards. His monosyllabic son had taken himself off goodness know where. He did not want to know. As long as he was not coming home for a while. For once he had the house to himself. A very rare occurrence indeed. He had just settled down to watch the Test Match - a forbidden pleasure as everybody hated cricket. No matter that he had to watch endless stultifying hours of tennis which everybody loved. He was just nestled comfortably into his chair, dog by his side, remote in hand - another rare pleasure not often granted - large glass of whiskey by his elbow and the sound of leather on willow.

Then, just as he was about to take the first sip of whiskey the doorbell rang. The dog went berserk, he uttered an expletive too bad to write down and went to answer the door. On the step stood a handsome woman in a smart trouser suit wielding a clipboard. “No thank you” he said “whatever it is.” “Oh, I am not selling anything” she answered. “ I am just after a few moments of your time”. “Oh yes, I have heard that before” he thought and arched his eyebrows. Meanwhile the dog saw his chance and bounded out the door, down the path and being unfettered by collar and leash jumped over the gate and galloped over the road. Robert uttered another expletive too bad to write down and ran after him.

There was no mistaking where the dog had gone. The house opposite. An enormous racket emanated from it. Dogs barking combined with a woman screaming and what sounded like two hundred children screeching. It turned out it was only about thirty. A kid’s party was in full swing on the lawn behind the house. A birthday party by the looks of it. There were lots of balloons and a clown. Balloons were bad enough. He hated balloons but suffered very badly from coulrophobia. The sight of this particularly lurid specimen gave him an acute attack and he prostrated himself shaking and whimpering onto the lawn. While he was lying there with his head in his hands he missed the spectacle of the dogs getting on with the business in hand - or rather some other parts of their anatomy - in front of about thirty pairs of extremely googly eyes. The clown tried to separate the dogs by throwing a jug of lemonade over them while the mother of the birthday boy stood screeching like a banshee.

Eventually it was all sorted out and he legged it back over the road with the dog. The woman with the clipboard had disappeared. Peace restored he sank down in his chair, swearing at England losing 2 wickets during the time that he had been away and took a large swig of his whiskey. Ten minutes later the doorbell went again. On the step stood a large burly man who he recognised as the man over the road. The bloke was very red in the face and started shouting the second he opened the door. It sounded like: being responsible for the puppies if there were any. Also he apparently was going on about the son’s party being spoiled and his wife being terribly upset and having to lie down. Robert did not hear this last bit properly and mumbled that he was sorry, that it was not his fault and how was he to know that she was a bitch.

And that was how he came to stand in the bathroom pouring blood from his nose and lip and holding a large bag of frozen peas to his face.

But that was not all. Worse was to come. It was bad enough when the wife came home that she was very unsympathetic about the damage to his face but she was furious when she noticed that her best and most valuable piece of Meissen porcelain - a shepherdess - an heirloom from her grandmother was missing from the hall table along with her grandfather’s silver cigar box.





Who’s got the heart to mind the time?

When you know the wine is nearly finished

And the evenings gone

Where all the evenings finally go.




October’s Farewell

(from my kitchen window).

Sybil Austin Skakle


Two golden-clad trees

beyond my brown leaf-covered lawn

catch the sun and sing GLORY.

A dogwood tree, having a touch of red,

watches the breezes shuffle

the dry leaves and laments

the fading flowers and dormant bulbs.

Nature is preparing for bed.

Sleep will provide all that is needed

for spring’s blooming.




Independent Philosophers

Randy Bittle

I am referred to as a “…so-called independent philosopher…” in the blurb on the back cover of my paperback book.  What does it mean to be a self-styled independent philosopher?  A serious thinker with reality in view as the ultimate goal for understanding and expression best explains the independent philosopher phenomenon.  So many people go through life unaware.  They unthinkingly and reflexively react to their digital virtual environments with no clear direction or self-control, and they do not consciously consider reality at all.  In fact, many people purposely seek to escape or avoid reality at all costs, usually devastatingly detrimental to their overall quality of life.  A philosopher first and foremost is concerned with comprehending reality, and motivated philosophers extend their hard-won comprehension to the expression of what they have learned for other thinkers to ponder.

I currently write for the general reader in a non-philosophical magazine, and thus my essays are toned down somewhat from pure philosophical musing.  My essay “In Search of Consciousness,” in the August issue of RPG Digest, was more complex and technical than most of my essays.  It is a good example of exploring reality at its foundation, the aspiration of all philosophers.  Because I write for a general readership, my best, most fundamental ideas have yet to be written and would likely be appreciated only by other philosophers.  I have plans to write an article for the magazine Philosophy Now in which I can be more overtly philosophically complex.  The expression of my ideas is limited and differs from my unrestrained experience of reality.

Philosophy is not an ideology or system of thought unassailably resistant to revision.  Philosophy is a way of life, an immersion in the quest to comprehend reality, justice, and virtue, whatever they may turn out to be.  An independent philosopher that I fancy myself to be does not subscribe to a single school of thought and rote memorization of someone else’s philosophical maxims.  Previous thinkers’ written thoughts are important stepping stones in the direction of truth, but Plato’s Socrates said it best: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  I take nothing for granted, regardless of who said it, and I question any and every concept, including those conceived of by me.

For example, the school of thought called Utilitarianism holds that the greater good for the most people is the only acceptable course of action.  This sounds great, and if the greater good for the most people can be determined, it would seem to be the right thing to do.  Consider this thought experiment that challenges this Utilitarian creed.  You were cleaning your gutters and fell off the ladder, injuring your arm.  You go to the emergency room and they x-ray your arm to find you have fractured it but not completely broken it.  Your arm does not even need to be set.  You are given a cast to protect your arm and facilitate healing.

Looking over your records, the doctors notice that you are a perfect match for five people who need organ transplants to continue living.  You are in good health and your heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys could provide life preserving health to five other people.  The Utilitarian creed of the greater good for the most people compels the doctors to sacrifice your one life for the lives of five others.  Do you still find the Utilitarian creed of the greatest good for the most people acceptable, or do you think perhaps other factors should be considered in determining the right thing to do?  Reality is complex, and the right thing to do is not as easy to choose as the maxim of the greater good for the most people would imply.

Difficult decisions about the right thing to do are interwoven throughout society.  As an independent philosopher concerned with truth, justice, and virtue, I find political, social, and economic based decisions sometimes lacking the philosophical foundations for being the right thing to do.  However, I am not so divinely blessed to know myself what would be the right thing to do in all circumstances.  From my vantage point, all I can do is urge those responsible for political, social, and economic decisions to utilize their best judgement in their efforts to do the right things.  I may have some hints and tips for them in future essays.

I would like to thank Gene Alston for giving me the opportunity to grow as a writer over the past eight years.  Although his literary periodicals are not the best match for my ideas, he gracefully invited me to write whatever I wanted for publication.  I am a better writer now than when I began.  Following my natural inclinations as an independent philosopher, I hope to delve deeper into realities we should all be considering and contemplating.

Thanks to all those who read my essays and who strive to understand the universe, at all its levels.  We need more independent philosophers.  Superficially it would seem that a large number of independent philosophers would lead to anarchy.  This is an illusion dispelled by the fact that truth underlies all independent philosophy.  Ignoring or straying from fundamental truths leads to anarchy, not the genuine quest for comprehension of fundamental truths by independent philosophers.



Diana Goldsmith


I'm sitting here thinking about yellow. My walls are painted yellow and my yellow blinds  are closed to keep out the heat from that large celestial ball called the sun, which is always coloured yellow by children in their primitive drawings of a house and garden.

 I like yellow as a colour as it is a cheerful and bright colour. Many flowers are yellow to attract the pollinators apparently.

Yellow speaks of light but unlike white which isn't a colour anyway. it isn't hard. It comes near reds and oranges on the colour spectrum but can also lean towards the greens. In fact yellow when mixed with blue, it's complimentary colour, becomes green.

Why the expression to be yellow means being cowardly, I don't know. A white flag was raised if you wanted to surrender.

Yellow is the colour of sunshine and is a happy colour unless it is a very watery version made by diluting it  with a great deal of water and this makes it almost transparent, or with white which would have given it a milky effect.

Golden yellow is a strong colour and raises the spirits like a host of golden daffodils does on a early Spring day, with the hope of things to come. Even the pale yellow primroses which cover the banks make one smile.

Why even men prefer blondes!

Yellow is a good colour to give a contrast to black, brown or even blue.I wonder what the other colour was on the little yellow polka dot bikini?

Unfortunately if we are looking yellow we may have problems with our liver!! This being due to having too much billirubin a yellow pigment stored in our bile duct.

I think of foods I like such as custard, sherbert and cheese. Of lemon meringue pie and lemon curd. Bananas, grapefruits, pineapples, squashes and sweetcorn; also butter and sponge cakes.

Apparently yellow is a safe colour for a car as it is visible in most dull light and rain.

Luminosity and fluorescence are added to it to make it even more visible and therefore protective clothing and warning signs are more often yellow and also highlighting pens.

I wonder if I can bring in gold?

It is yellow but a shiny version of it!

Now who doesn't like it? It speaks of wealth and prosperity. Of pomp and ceremony. Of royalty, palaces, thrones and crowns.Of rings and jewellery.

Craftsmen have used it from the ancient times and we can all possibly remember photos of the burial mask of Tutankhamen from Egypt. I have a feeling he was known as the sun god?

I am having thoughts of yellow and recently the first Welshman won the famous Tour de France cycle race where the winner  of the race wears a yellow jersey.

Another yellow sporting emblem is the yellow card. This is given by the referee for fouling in a game of soccer.

Maybe I should end my ramblings on the colour yellow with the famous Beatles hit “ We all live on a yellow submarine”.



Three Rivers to Cross

Elizabeth Sliance Ballard

Chapter Two


3 rivers.jpgI was an oddity in my class being the only one who came to school by boat.  There was nothing to it, really. We had been coming into town by boat as long as we were alive. I’m not sure how long our parents had been making that trip before we made our appearance on this earth.

Odd, now that I think about it. I know almost nothing of my parents’ lives before they were married and had the three of us kids.  Excuse me, I mean children. Mama hated to hear us called “kids” and didn’t hesitate to correct anyone who did so.

“My kids?  We do have kids on the island from time to time. We do enjoy goat’s milk but, beyond that, our goats are really pets. Or were you speaking of my children?”

You can imagine the embarrassment she caused—to us! Everyone else tended to look at her as if she were from another planet or perhaps speaking in a foreign tongue. They also tended to move quickly away, which might account for why not many people approached our family when we all went into town for groceries.

 Having experienced more than a few of these encounters in which my mother was inclined to speak her mind, I was aware that we were certainly—well, different.

Anyway, I got off the boat with my brothers that first day of school with fear and dread of the unknown, feelings that manifested themselves with sharp pains in the pit of my stomach.

“Lon, I’ve got a stomachache. I have to go home.”

“No, you can’t go home. You’re just scared because it’s your first day. You’ll be okay once you get there.”

 I wasn’t scared about class work. Mama had taught me to read more than a year before and told me I was a very quick learner. I was just afraid of everything else: So many people I didn’t know.  Such a big building. Our school was three stories and housed all twelve grades.

We walked those two blocks from Mr. Sonny’s dock to the yellow brick school building and Lon walked with me to the first grade classroom to make sure I didn’t turn around and race back to the boat.

It was truly the worst day of my six-year-old life. I had never been around other children. I had never had any occasion to be around them. Oh, I saw other children when we went into town for something Daddy needed but I never had any real contact.

Before the end of that first week of school, though, I realized just how different I was from the others. Every other student in my class either lived in town and walked to school, or lived in the country and rode the big orange school buses.  The school bus children seemed to stay together as did the town children. No one knew me so neither group was friendly to me, and I didn’t know how to be friendly to them.

 They all talked about Sunday school, birthday parties, and dance lessons. All of this was alien to me. I didn’t fit in and I knew it. What’s more, they knew it.

Lenny and Lonny had each other when they started school. I had nobody. I was truly an outsider and alone.

Two of the girls, the ones with pretty hair bows that always matched their dresses, the ones who wore the Buster Brown shoes with straps and buckles—they were the ones who called me the Fish Girl.

I hated my ugly brown boy’s shoes and begged Mama to buy me a pair of Buster Browns. She didn’t know what I was talking about. Daddy always bought my shoes, going up a size each year, and he thought boys’ shoes were sturdier and would last longer.

“They’re better for her feet. Gives  more support.”

More than I hated my ugly shoes, I hated being called the Smelly Fish Girl.  It was the way they said it, like they might have been talking about animal droppings.

“Don’t pay ’em any attention,” my brothers told me. “They’ll give it up if they see it’s not bothering you.”

It did bother me, though. I dreaded going to school every day that first year, yet I actually loved school, itself.

I loved that the teacher was surprised when she saw  I could already write all the letters in capital and in lower case. I loved that I was the only one who could already actually add numbers; and, I really loved being the only one in my class who could already read. My favorite place in the classroom was the shelf of storybooks.

Instead of always reading a book to the class during our special story time every Friday, my teacher would sometimes have me read it to the class instead.  I heard her tell another teacher one day that I was the most advanced student in first grade.

“And she didn’t even go to kindergarten,” she said.

When I asked Mama later what was kindergarten, she had no idea what I was talking about. I didn’t ask Mama many questions after that. Lon explained about kindergarten and what “advanced” meant.

That year in the first grade, I did sort of have one friend for a while. Margaret was very pretty and she was everything I wasn’t and wanted to be but did not know how. Margaret knew just about everybody whereas I knew nobody. She wore pretty clothes and bows in her hair.

My clothes were made by Mama on her Singer treadle sewing machine. They looked nothing like Margaret’s clothes but Margaret didn’t point at my clothes and laugh and whisper like the other girls did. 

Until I went to school, I thought my dresses were pretty.  Mama made them from the feed sacks that Daddy brought home from the Farm and Barn Store. Some of them had pretty flowers on them (my favorite) while others had stripes or polka dots. Since we had several animals, we were always getting new sewing material. Mama would wash and save the sacks until she had enough of a particular type to make the garment she was planning.

In those early years of school, I never said anything about my clothes or anything else that bothered me. I didn’t want to hurt Mama’s feelings.

But there came a day, a big day with a big revelation, a day in which I felt truly set apart, inferior to the core. Not only did I not belong at school, I became certain that I did not belong anywhere in the world except   Rattlesnake Island.

Chapter Three


Margaret had been asking me to go home with her after school and play with her new dollhouse.

“We can walk over to Pop’s and get snow cones on the way,” she said.

I had no idea what a snow cone was but it sounded good so I begged Mama until one day she said I could go.

“We’ll have so much fun,” Margaret promised.  “I’m so glad you’re coming.”

Now, I was used to walking from school down to the wharf where I sat on the bench until Mama came over in the boat to get me but I had never been in the part of town where Margaret lived. Our trips to town were pretty much limited to the C&B Grocery store, the Bait and Tackle shop, which stood right by the dock, and, rarely, the doctor’s office.

The further away we walked from school that day, the more fearful I became. I kept looking back to make sure it was still there. When we turned a corner, my heart began to pound. I was truly in strange territory but Margaret did not seem to notice that I was scared.

She was a chatterbox with a bubbly personality, the kind of person people like to be around. Just to see Margaret was to smile. She had that effect on people.

“We’re here, Charlotte Anne. Hey, Pops! This is my friend, Charlotte Anne.”

The old man who stood just inside the door smiled and said, “Hi, Margaret. Back for snowballs again?”

He did not appear to see me.

“We want—is red okay, Charlotte Anne?—cherry snow cones?”

I nodded though I still had no idea what a snow cone was. Pops looked at me then but he did not smile.

He knows I don’t belong here, I thought to myself.

He said nothing as he shuffled to the back to make the snow cones. We followed and watched as he scooped the crushed ice, which I thought was real snow, into the paper cone and filled them with the red liquid, which Margaret called cherry syrup.

“Here, Margaret,” he said. “Enjoy.”

Margaret paid him the dimes for our cones and was already nibbling hers when I reached for mine.  He handed it to me without a word but my hand was shaking so hard that I dropped it. I watched in horror as the ice flew everywhere and the syrup ran across the floor.

“I’m s-s-sorry,” I stuttered, but he had already made another cone. He handed it to Margaret that time.

“I-I-I-I’ll clean it up,” I said but he just waved us out as if to say “Shoo!”  He still wasn’t smiling.

 “Oh, don’t worry about it,” she said, handing my cone to me.  “Let’s go home. Do you like the snow cone?”

I nodded as the red juice dribbled down the front of my dress.

“So do I.  Cherry is my favorite.  What’s yours?”

“Cherry,” I said. No way was I going to admit that I did not know until that day what a snow cone was! But the worst was yet to come.

“Here we are!”

Just walking up the sidewalk, I was already intimidated. The house was so beautiful, all snowy white with beautiful black shutters (I did not know at that time that they were called shutters, though). At the shiny black front door, there was a doorbell! I had never seen one and was startled when Margaret rang the doorbell several times as we went inside.

“Margaret! You stop ringing that infernal  doorbell!”

“Hi, Ida Mae. We’re home. This is Charlotte Anne, my friend from school.”

The woman did not smile but looked me up and down as if I were something dirty that just came into her spotless house on someone’s shoes. Inside myself, I shrank into a tiny ball. I was certain that the woman thought I shouldn’t be there.

“Y’all behave yourselves, now,” she said. ”Don’t mess up nothin’!”

“Why do you call your mama Ida Mae, Margaret?”

“She’s not my mama,  silly! Ida Mae is our maid. My mama works up at the store with Daddy.”

What’s a maid? I wondered.

“Come on, Charlotte Anne, let’s go to my room. That’s where my dollhouse is.”

My senses were in overload as were my emotions. Never had I seen such a house. It looked nothing like our house. Nothing. I was afraid to step on the soft rugs, which I later learned was carpet. Margaret’s bedroom was even prettier than the bedroom I had imagined as a princess.

I had to use the bathroom but was afraid to go outside by myself.

That’s when I learned that their bathroom was not outside. It was inside and not at all dark and scary like our outside one. There were pretty blue rugs, pretty flowered towels, and a big curtain covering what I thought was a mighty big window. When Margaret pulled it aside, though, there was a big tub behind it, all shiny and white.

“I’ll sit here on the bathtub and we can talk while you do your business,” Margaret said, sitting down on the edge of the first bathtub I had ever seen.

We took our baths in the zinc washtub in the summer. In the winter, we stood by the pot-bellied stove that heated our “front room” and took a bath out of a wash pan, which sat on the top of the stove so the water would stay warm.

I began crying then. My senses and my emotions had reached the critical point and I was totally a mess.

 “I have to go home,” I kept saying. 

Margaret called her mama who said to tell Ida Mae to walk with me to the Bait and Tackle shop so Mama could come get me. Ida Mae didn’t like that one bit. Even if she hadn’t grumbled all the way, her eyes and mouth would have told me how much she hated me and hated having to walk down to the wharf.

Margaret didn’t notice and kept up a steady stream of chatter saying she hoped I would feel better soon, that it was probably the snow cone that made me sick, and that I could go home with her  another day.

I nodded but was so glad when we reached the river and the two of them turned back.  Mr. Sonny sent up the blue flag to let Mama know she needed to come across.

“Did you get hurt, Charlotte Anne?”

I shook my head and wouldn’t speak so he let me just sit by myself until Mama came across to get me.

 I never went home with Margaret again and never again was I invited.


Continued Next Month

By the Sea

By Mary Noble Jones


Dark as winter’s night

The waves rush and roar

To beat their chest

With foamy fist

And storm across the shore


With white cap teeth

They stalk the beach

Probing rock and sand

Like noses sniffing fingers

Of an unfamiliar hand


Angry clouds with furrowed brows

Plow bullish through the sky

With lightning shards

They chase the stars

And crash against the night


The rain blows in on dancing feet

Then surfs the wind in silver sheets

It pecks on windows, knocks on doors

Then pirouettes on down the shores


Fear not the rain and wind my child

Fear not the thunder loud

Fear not the lightning bright my love

Fear not the waves and clouds

‘Tis naught but Mother Nature dear

Straight’n up her house.


I've learned.... That the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.

I've learned.... That when you're in love, it shows.

I've learned.... That just one person saying to me, 'You've made my day!' makes my day.

I've learned.... That having a child fall asleep in your arms is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.

I've learned.... That being kind is more important than being right.


Lessons Learned from a Hurricane

Tim Whealton


Hurricane Florence brought back a lot of memories of storms and hurricanes through the years. Some of my earliest memories are hurricanes and storms in the 1950s. For me as a child a hurricane was pure excitement. Usually my cousins from Mesic in Pamlico County would arrive to ride out the storm at my house. They lived one foot above sea level and even a modest hurricane could bring real problems for them. But it wasn’t the threat of the storm that caused the excitement for me. It was having rowdy boys and girls that were going to spend the night at my house that made me look forward to the first rain bands. People sleeping on the floor, extra food everywhere, storytelling, gas lanterns, kerosene lanterns and a boat tied to the front porch all seemed to add to the atmosphere of a special time.

After the storms of the 1950s, it seemed like things sort of calmed down as far as hurricanes go. Oh, we had some near misses and a few hurricanes, but nothing like those big storms in my early childhood. I grew up listening to stories about the storm of “33” and many others that made it sound like it was just a “mullet blow” when a tropical storm or category 1 hurricane was on the way. It hardly seemed worth the effort to do any storm prep unless the winds were over 100 mph. Since I was a telephone man, I was going to be living in a phone truck for weeks anyway, so we just sort of shrugged off getting ready unless it looked really bad. That was until something started to change in the 1990s. All of a sudden, hurricanes became serious matters again.

My parents were experts at survival and getting through hard times so I didn’t have to worry as a child.  But with me being the one responsible for safety, damage control and anything else that popped up, hurricanes became less fun. I tried to remember how the old folks prepared but there were so many new things to think about. Pop said when a storm came through in the old days you just went back to work when it was over. With no phone, central heat or air, internet, and only electric lights (remember, they called it the “light” bill!), losing power was no big deal. Things are not quite the same now. Our insulated homes become small ovens without electricity and we don’t keep stores of preserved food like they did so a few adjustments have to be made.

Here are some of the things I have learned about hurricanes and being prepared:

Food- I haven’t heard of anybody starving in modern times from a hurricane but you can make things a lot more comfortable with something to eat. Stock up on a few days’ supply of staple goods and things that don’t require refrigeration. You have to do this early because Yankees will buy all the baked goods in sight at the first mention of a hurricane. Plan ahead so you will be able to cook without electricity. A gas cylinder and burner will be a good investment.

Water- Have a few days drinking water for each person that will be holed up at the house. If you are in a rural area and have a water pump, you already know about losing water when the electricity is out, so add some extra water to the list. It is a small investment in our area to drive a well and install a hand pump. Mine is 22 feet deep and the water is good after you pump off the first 5 gallons.

Lighting- The old hurricane lamps are nostalgic but can bring disaster if you are careless. Low cost LED bulbs can be powered for several days with a small 12 volt battery. I got mine from EBay for $1 each. No smell, no extra heat and no flame all seem to make more sense.

Medical needs- make sure you have your medications refilled and enough on hand for the next week. Have a first aid kit and know how to give good first aid.

Vehicles- Gas tank filled, parked on high ground away from trees.

Generators- get expert help with this one. Generators can be dangerous if you are careless and don’t follow directions. If losing power is a frequent problem in your area, you might want to consider having an electrician install a switch to throw your house to generator power. One of the reasons it takes the power company longer to restore power now are the extra precautions they have to take because generators can energize power lines if not properly connected and they have to lock out both sides of the downed power lines before working. If you have a generator, it will need to be grounded properly and set up away from the structure, cranked frequently and not allowed to sit long periods with gasoline in the carburetor. If the generator is small you might just use it to keep the freezer working a few hours a day so that old leftover turkey won’t go bad before you throw it out.

Work area- clear an area for any emergency work that might need to be done during the storm. Preferably near a window and equipped with extra light for night work. It might be a carburetor off the generator or anything else, even small medical problems like splinters and cuts might need inspection and care with good lighting.

People: If you have a choice, pick the best ones you can to stay with during a storm. During hurricane Floyd we left home during the eye and rode out the second half of the storm at the Zip Mart rather than stay home and listen to our guest!

When we went through hurricane Irene, it reaffirmed something that I learned long ago about tropical cyclones. Each one has its own distinct personality. You can never know until it arrives what type of damage or how bad it will be. The angles of approach and duration have more to do with damage delivered than category or wind speed. I didn’t suffer any loss, but with the power out in Cove City, my alarm system at the shop was out. I had to spend the night at the gun shop on guard duty for three nights. Since my daughter Courtney from California was here for vacation, my Grandson Joey went with me to stay at the shop. My fourteen year old California boy was amazed how dark the world was without electricity. He was waking me every few minutes to tell me he heard something. I reassured him it was normal and he had nothing to worry about. He asked what to do if anyone broke in so I told him not to worry, I had everything under control and he should just stay face down and not move. “Why Grandpa?” he asked, with his usual worried look. He didn’t seem relieved when I explained that I would be shooting, but without my glasses, I would not be able to tell who was who until I rolled over the bodies. He didn’t seem to sleep well for some reason.

We were blessed and suffered only inconvenience but many of my relatives and friends in Pamlico County lost everything. My grandfather’s house in Mesic was built in 1913 and was built high to escape hurricane flooding. It had never flooded until Irene sent water two feet deep. It is a total loss and will be torn down or burned by the fire department for a drill. The community of Goose Creek Island, which includes Hobucken and Lowland, had 292 out of 300 homes flooded. Imagine your neighborhood if only 8 homes were left. They coped with lost clothing, food, appliances, vehicles, heat and air conditioning along with keepsakes and important papers. Adding insult to injury is the worst mosquito infestation in memory. When I stopped to look at Granddad’s house it looked like I had on gray fuzzy pants within the first minute! Most of these people have never had a handout from anywhere and won’t ask for help. They just go about helping each other and making the best of a terrible situation. Remember this was only a category 1 storm but the flooding was the worst in over 100 years in this area! Great effort was made to give a helping hand and anyone who had the means, would try to find a way to help. The Baptist Harvest Connection has started a relief effort and knows what needs to be done. It did a great job finding out what is needed and getting it to the right place. You can find them at www.theharvestconnection.com.

No matter how bad the situation, it will show something positive if you look hard enough. My relatives and friends who lost all their possessions talk about how much it means to be alive and how wonderful it is to have neighbors that are willing to help. Even my family learned how nice it was to have a conversation with someone without them glancing at the television or computer every three seconds. Maybe a little time disconnected from everything except the ones you love the most, could make your life a little better. You can do it yourself without waiting for the next storm!

Halloween... The Night They Never Came Home!


P.L. Almanza


For some people, Halloween is the scariest time of the year. For others, like myself, it is simply thrilling, exciting even! I still can remember one particular Halloween when I was thirteen years old. I had gone out trick-or-treating with my friends. We all had scary costumes, none of that baby fairytale stuff that the rest of the kids were wearing!

We started out at 6:00 p.m. Our first stop was at Mrs. Ghoully’s house. We walked up the long cemented driveway to her front door and rang the door bell. She came out and we yelled, “TRICK-OR-TREAT!” Mrs. Ghoully seemed overwhelmed by the looks of our costumes.

She spoke up, “Children, you have such scary costumes, you nearly scared me to death!”

“We’re sorry Mrs. Ghoully,” we chanted all together, “but it’s Halloween and we’re trying to scare everyone.”

“Well, remember,” she told us, “if you keep those costumes and masks on after midnight, they’ll turn real and you’ll be stuck with those faces forever!” she laughed out loud.

We just stood there looking at her and shaking. Why in the world would she be telling us this if it were not the truth! Needless to say, we left there frightened. We walked in silence to the next house on our list, almost wishing that Mrs. Ghoully’s house had been the last one. It was already 6:30.

When we got to the next house, Mr. Patterson greeted us with a smile. He was a very jovial man and he always gave us apples and oranges. Never candy. We used to tease that he probably ate all of the candy by himself! But he was such a nice man.

By 9:30 we had visited every house on our street except for the one at the end, on the corner of Tragedy and Nightmare Lane. We’d heard such scary stories about that house. It looked as if no one lived there at all except there were lights on inside every night. They never cut their grass or bushes. It just looked like something out of a Freddie Kruger movie!

My friend Chucky wanted to go over there and he dared us all to go with him. When we got to the front gate, surprisingly it was wide open! I told Chucky that we’d better hurry and get out of there because that gate was never open!

“Boy, come on,” Chucky taunted. “It’s Halloween. They probably opened the gate so that we could come and get candy.”

“Or so that they can eat us as their Halloween treats!” I said swallowing hard. “I’m not going in there!”

So Chucky and the other kids taunted me and walked through the gate. I waited outside on the street corner for them to come out... They never did... Not as children anyways!

The family that lived in the house had made them stay there until after midnight with their costumes on. When they finally let them go it was too late and their costumes had become real. They had become real little monsters just like Mrs. Ghoully had said! Boy I was glad that I had remembered what she told us and removed my costume and mask at 11:30 that night. When I saw them I got so scared that I ran all the way home! I never saw Chucky or any of my friends again... at least not as children!

The next day I saw posters with pictures of all of them that read: HAVE YOU SEEN THIS CHILD? I’m really sorry about what happened to my friends, but for me, Halloween is still the best time of the year!



From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza

P. L. Almanza


Pumpkin Pancakes13It's Fall and what better way to celebrate your Fall mornings than with this Fall pumpkin pancakes recipe.


Fall Pumpkin pancakes



1/2 cup pumpkin purée (I use canned)

2 eggs

2 cups milk


2 cups flour,

3 tablespoon. sugar

3 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon nutmeg.




Whisk pumpkin and egg together until smooth. Add in remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth. Cook batches in skillet or pancake or waffle pan for a delicious fall breakfast treat. You can cut this recipe in half and make less, but we always made more for the next day! (You can also vacuum pack and freeze them!)



Easy Pumpkin Pie


Makes 1 9-inch pie  (double the ingredients for two pies)


 2 eggs

 1 (16 ounce) can pumpkin puree

 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)

 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

 1  unbaked pie crust



Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Combine eggs, pumpkin puree, sweetened condensed milk, and pumpkin pie spice in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

Pour pumpkin mixture into the pie crust.

Place pie on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake until filling is set, 35 to 40 more minutes.  

Enjoy! You may also substitute sweet potatoes instead of pumpkin!


HALLOWEEN WITCHES BROOMSTICKS 1Halloween Cheese Witches Broomsticks



5 String Cheese Sticks (I use sharp yellow cheese) Instruction:



12 Pretzel Sticks

Fresh Chives or Green Onion



Cut a cheese string crosswise in thirds. Then cut lengthwise ¾ of the way through the cheese, splaying the ends to make them look like brooms.

Press a pretzel stick through the end, and tie a chive or piece of green onion around the top to complete the broom effect. Makes 12 servings

It was meal time during an airline flight. “Would you like dinner?” the flight attendant asked John, seated in front. “What are my choices?” John asked. “Yes or no,” she replied

Hammer Spade and the Long Shooter

                                                                                                                                                   E. B. Alston

Chapter Forty-Three

9781934936184.jpgMargot was sitting in a camp chair when an old Datsun pickup wheezed up the steep trail, pulled into the wide spot off the road and stopped thirty feet from Margot. I watched through the riflescope as a blond-haired man got out and approached her. He had a slight limp. He tried to smile but he was too tense to make it look genuine. I whispered to Pablo over the radio to get ready because this man didn’t come to talk.

Margot rose to meet him. Apparently, she too sensed he was uptight and put her hand on her pistol.

When Dan Allen was ten feet from Margot, he pulled out a revolver.

I called Pablo. “He’s pulled a gun!”

I watched as Pablo charged over the cliff with the Sten. Allen spotted him, turned the pistol his way and shot Pablo between the eyes. Pablo fell backwards and rolled down the cliff. Margot knocked Allen’s pistol from his hand and it too went over the cliff into the camp area. Margot drew her pistol but Allen was close enough to knock her gun away. When she ran to retrieve her pistol, Allen grabbed her by the waist and pulled her to the ground.

I couldn’t shoot Allen without hitting Margot so I put two quick bullets into the engine of the Datsun. Steam billowed up from under the hood. He would not drive that pickup back down the mountain.

Then I laid my rifle down and started running as fast as I could to where they were struggling on the ground. Allen heard me coming, broke off from Margot, and went over the cliff into the camp.

“Get him!” Margot cried out.

I followed Allen over the cliff. When I got to the camp, I saw him drop over the edge. He was trying to escape by going down that steep mile high cliff. By the time I got to the edge where I could see over the side, he was already a hundred yards down, running, falling, sliding, and catching bushes, anything to slow his descent.

My rifle was up on the mountain. I pulled my .45 and held as hard as I could. I fired seven shots trying to hit him, but his movements were erratic and my shots ricocheted harmlessly off rocks. I emptied the second magazine in frustration as he got farther and farther down the steep slope.

I stood there with an empty gun and watched him slide and fall farther away. I picked up a baseball size rock and in a gesture of senseless futility, threw it with all my might in his direction.

To my amazement, the rock looked as if it was on a trajectory to hit him unless he turned. Then it struck a rock outcropping and glanced to the left where it landed in a pile of loose shale. I watched Allen getting farther away. Then I noticed that the rock that my rock had hit had broken off and was rolling down the mountainside gathering other loose rocks and broken limbs until it quickly became a small avalanche. I heard another sound and saw that the rock I had thrown had generated its own mini-avalanche. They merged into a rock-strewn swale where the two avalanches combined to become a big pile of rocks and debris cascading down the mountain straight toward Allen.

He had stopped on a small ledge to catch his breath and I guess he heard the avalanche coming. Just as he looked up, the now huge pile of rocks swept him off the ledge and carried him down the mountain.

I watched in amazement as the pile of rocks with Allen in it rushed toward the little stream in the valley below. I caught glimpses of Allen as he tumbled down until the whole pile came to rest, partially blocking the stream.

I found some binoculars and looked to see if he crawled out of the pile. After a few minutes of searching for some sign of him, I decided he was buried under the rocks.

Margot had no reason to worry about Dan Allen anymore. He was gone for good.

I glanced around looking for her. I expected her to follow me down but she wasn’t here. I threw down the binoculars and rushed back up to the road to find out why.




Chapter Forty-Four


Margot was pale as a ghost by the time I got back to her. She was sitting in an awkward position in a puddle of blood. 

“What happened?” I asked.

“He cut my femoral artery.”

She said it matter-of-factly, like she had broken a fingernail. It was the most ominous sentence I had ever heard. We were on a mountain miles and hours from any kind of help. I was in turmoil inside while I tried to remain outwardly calm.

“I’ll make a tourniquet.”

“It won’t help. The cut is too deep and it’s too high up on my leg.”

I was in despair. She could die. “What can I do? Can we do some kind of pressure bandage?”

“It won’t work, Hammer. I’ve tried everything already. It’s a main artery. I can’t stop the bleeding.”

“Let me try to tie it off.” I said in desperation.

“Hammer, if I was in a hospital emergency room, they couldn’t save me.”

“Can’t I do something?” I asked helplessly.

She thought a moment. “Would you put your hand over the cut to slow the bleeding so I can pray?”

I moved to her and tried to pinch off the artery quickly when she removed her blood soaked hand. She must have bled a pint before I got it slowed.

She closed her eyes and whispered to herself for a long time. Then she made the Sign of the Cross, opened her eyes and smiled at me.

She nodded her head toward the mountain. “Lay my body in the depression we used on watch. Put my rifle beside me and cover me with rocks. Don’t make it look like a tomb. Tell Michael I wanted to be left up here. He’ll understand.”

I felt numb, “Okay, Margot.”

“Thank you, Hammer. I’m ready now,” she said.

“Ready?” I asked, knowing, but unable to say the words.

“You may remove your hand.”

I couldn’t do it and I couldn’t look at her.

“Hammer, we can’t stay up here on top of this mountain forever with your hand on my crotch while I slowly bleed to death. It’s okay. You have done your duty. I’m ready.”

“I’m sorry, Margot.” She had more courage than I did.

“Goodbye, Hammer. Thank you for what you did for me. Thank the others too.”

“Goodbye, Margot,” I said with a lot of difficulty. Then I added, “Goodbye Longshooter.”

I removed my hand and looked away while she lay back on the ground. When her breathing stopped, I looked back. She was chalk-white and the ground around her covered with blood.

I closed her eyes and sat beside her while my nerves settled. Then I picked up her blood-soaked body and carried her to her mountaintop resting place. While I worked on her grave, I made a promise to her and a vow to myself that, one day, I would get Raul Fuente.



It was dark by the time I finished building her sepulcher. I took a break, ate a ham, egg and cheese MRE and drank some water. Although the moon was bright, I thought it would be better to bury Pablo after daylight.

I went back to the place she lay. Time passed. I couldn’t make myself leave her side. I felt as if Margot and I were alone in the universe. In the moonlight, the mountains seemed like the landscape of an alien planet. Every trace of the luminous, red-tinted sunset had been swept away and a naked moon stood alone in a naked sky. The mountains were illuminated by an unnatural twilight. The bleak scene was as empty as the mountains of the moon and the stones reminded me of the thrones of ancient, heathen kings.

We were alone. Nobody would ever find us up here. I sat beside her and thought about all that had happened to her and her family. She had a melancholy sadness for which there was no cure. If she had lived, she couldn’t have had a normal life.

I lay down beside her and tried to sleep. It was cold in the thin air. I don’t know whether I slept or not. It seemed as though I was awake and asleep at the same time. I awoke once with a start, feeling as if I was not alone.

I dreamed that Jesus came and asked me to remove the rocks so He could wake her. I told Him if He did, she could never be happy unless He gave her a new life without her memories.

Jesus looked at me sadly and replied, “What is past is finished. It cannot be changed.” Then He was gone.



Dawn came without the sun. A low cloud hung over the mountain. I found a hollowed out spot where we had camped that would be suitable for Pablo’s grave. I dragged him to it, laid him in it face up and covered him with his sleeping bag. It took me two hours to cover him with rocks to make it look natural.

I tried to call the number Clover gave us to contact his agency but the battery on my satellite phone was dead. I tried Margot’s phone and got dial tone. I punched in the number. A man answered.

“Long time, no hear, 0057. What’s up?”

“This is 0061. My phone battery is dead. 0057 died in the line of duty yesterday. Tell 0031.”

“What about her killers?”

“He’s dead.”

“What about recovering her body?”

“She wanted to be left up here.”

 “Did you take care of her?”

“I put her body in the place she asked me to.”

“Any trouble with the locals?”

“None yet.”

“What about 5381?”

“Pablo was killed at the same time.”

“Does anybody else know what happened?”


“Do you need assistance getting out?”


“I’ll tell 0031. Good luck.”

I ate a chicken chow mien MRE and drank some more water. Then I took down the tents and packed everything in the back of Margot’s truck.

It took three tries to get back up to the road. Before I passed out of sight, I looked back and saw a shaft of sunlight beaming through the clouds, illuminating the place where she lay. I remembered the line from The Web and the Rock: “Death bent to touch his chosen daughter with mercy, love and pity, and put the seal of honor on her when she died.”


The End




Next Month: Hammer Spade and the Inca Curse


October Horoscope

The month of October is the tenth month of the Gregorian year, but it is also the first full month of Fall in the year. The early nights and breezy temperatures of October perfectly capture the spirit of autumn. As the month ends, children are given one of their most loved holidays, as they dress as their favorite frightful characters on Halloween. October is also home to numerous other national and international holidays, including Leif Erikson Day, Columbus Day, Canada's Thanksgiving and Free Thought Day. 
The two signs associated with the month of October are Libra and Scorpio. People born from October 1st to October 22nd are members of the Libra sign. As a Libra desires security and harmony above all else, those born under the sign can be identified by the organization applied to all aspects of their lives. For those born from October 23rd to October 31st, they are members of the Scorpio sign. The Scorpio is resilient and opinionated, which explains why they are amongst the most driven of the zodiac signs. For more information on those born in October, consult the horoscopes listed below.


Libra season just began, and you may feel like everything is placid. But that’s not the case. A lot is happening below the surface for all signs—your subconscious is whispering, not shouting, at you. That’s why it’s so important, this month, to pay attention to small signs, feelings, or coincidences. This is a building month, and the full moon on October 5 is a great time to set intentions for the next few weeks.


Aries October Horoscope
The October 5 full moon energizes you and asks you to take a look at your social circle and consider adding someone new. On October 11, a Mars-Saturn square may bring an unexpected disagreement up between a close friend or coworker. Listen to what they say. Rams always like to be right, and this time you may agree they have a valid point. The new moon on October 19 spotlights romance: You’re charming all month long, so use that mojo for good. 
Taurus October Horoscope
The full moon on the fifth brings some dreams to the forefront of your mind, and if you have a personal project or goal you’ve been putting off, the stars say this is the time to get it done, and even baby steps will be extra productive.  Find someone to cheer you on: Sometimes, relationships need compromise. Take a deep breath and don’t take anything too seriously. 

Gemini September Horoscope      
The full moon on October 5 lights up your social sector. Social Gemini is always friendly and always has plans, but this is a great time to make sure that your plans, activities, and friends energize instead of drain you. Don’t take things too seriously, and see what happens—next month will bring more clarity.

Cancer October Horoscope
All your hard work has paid off, Crabs! On the fifth, the full moon brings good news, related to a goal or project you’ve been manifesting all summer.  On October 12, Mercury sextiles Saturn while the Moon is in Cancer. This combination may cause some drama in your home sector; ride out the waves and don’t get too upset, especially about situations you can’t control.

The more you love yourself, the more love and energy you can bring to others. 

Leo October Horoscope
The full moon on the fifth says to get even bolder, Lions. Make the first move, send an intro email, or do something to say that you are here! The new moon on October 19 will remind you to pay attention to your extended family. On October 26, the sun conjoins Jupiter. What this means? You are lucky at month’s end! Take a risk; it’s time!

 Virgo October Horoscope
The full moon on October 5 shines a light on your finances, and you’ll see that small lifestyle changes add up to big savings. The October 19 new moon may give you even more incentive, as well as some ideas for how to generate extra income. On October 24, a Mercury-Neptune trine casts a golden light on the week ahead. Shine bright! 

Libra October Horoscope
Libra, this is your month! The October 5 full moon shines bright on your heart, Libra, and you are ready for love. The new moon on October 19 energizes you and makes you feel 24/7 charming. This is a golden week; soak up every single second!

Scorpio October Horoscope
The October 5 new moon lights up your sector of self improvement. Scorpio is known for being perfectionistic, but you may be getting in your own way. On October 10, Jupiter enters Scorpio. This is a great configuration and brings good luck and fortune for the next year. Be proactive and make a one year plan, now. When you put your mind to it, you can absolutely manifest those goals. Again, taking the lead is key. 

Sagittarius October Horoscope
Creative Archers have spent the past month focused on nuts and bolts of certain plans, ignoring their creative side. The new moon asks you now to honor that side of yourself. Where am I, and where do I want to be in five years? Journaling and connecting with friends can help you answer these questions. The October 19 new moon asks you to break free of routine.. And if you can, go solo. You need that time in your head!
Capricorn October Horoscope
The October 5 full moon urges you to pay attention to your home sector. Buying something especially for fall is a nice treat and can make your house even more of a happy place for you. You’re always so careful with money, which is a great thing, but at the beginning of the month, a minor financial outlay can result in a serious happiness boost—spending money isn’t “bad!” On October 24, as the moon conjoins Saturn, your relationship takes priority.


Aquarius October Horoscope 
The full moon on October 5 urges you to spend time with friends and family—and this time, do what they want. You’re great at planning the itinerary and pace of the day, but your friends want you to indulge in their interests, too. On October 15, as Mercury opposes Uranus, you may have second thoughts about a project or idea. It’s okay to shift directions, and the work you’ve done hasn’t been wasted. Acknowledge what you love in life—you may find your passions and professional life can find a way to work together. 

Pisces October Horoscope
Money matters are illuminated by the full moon of October 5. On October 10, when Jupiter leaves Libra and enters emotional Scorpio, you may feel weepy, nostalgic, and sad about missed opportunities. Let yourself feel. On October 19, the new moon asks you what you can give to another person, even a stranger. The more you give, the better you’ll feel. 

Traveling by Train

Sybil Austin Skakle

During the gasoline crisis in the 70’s my husband Don and I made two trips by Amtrak from Raleigh, North Carolina to visit his father and step-mother in Florida. I remember riding on a train only once before that, during World War II, in 1943, the year I graduated from Hatteras High School. My mother and I were in Durham, North Carolina, after I had eye surgery and she had surgery to correct a deviated nasal septum, at McPherson Hospital. She and I took a bus from Durham to Bainbridge, Maryland Naval Station to visit Sister Josephine and husband, Carlos. When our visit was over, we took a night train to Norfolk, Virginia. That train was dirty, and noisy; crowded with men in uniform and other passengers. Some even sat on upturned luggage in the aisles. Cinders from the train engine flew in the open windows to cover our faces and clothes.

On one of our Amtrak trips to Florida, Don and I left Raleigh, North Carolina on a night train, we did not have Pullman arrangements. We sat in the coach behind a man and a woman. Soon, Don fell asleep and, as the night wore on, the couple ahead of us became more amorous. They were engaged in a very long kiss. Waiting for them to break for air, I became uncomfortable and moved to one of the empty seats farther back. Eventually, I must have fallen asleep.

Early next morning we arrived in Winter Haven. As we approached the door to join Don’s father awaiting us, I saw the amorous man go down the train steps. However, the woman was not with him.

Since then there have been many train rides. In 1980 my brother’s widow Ruby and I left our tour group to continue our trip plan and boarded a night train from Germany to Paris, France. To my consternation, when the conductor came for tickets, I discovered the money I paid was for sleeping arrangements did not cover the cost of train tickets. The conductor threatened, in jest I hope, to put us off at the next stop, while I sought desperately to find a way to pay for our tickets. He could not accept a traveler check. Luckily, I had just enough to pay for both our fares from money I cashed for Ruby and me to have a final cup of coffee in Germany.

A friend, Willie Mae Jones and I traveled to Washington, DC to take part in Close Up, a weekend event. In 1995, I traveled with a Volksmarch group, which included Sister Mona and husband Bill Hunter, across Canada, from Nova Scotia to Vancouver, British Columbia. In November 2011, two of my sons, Andy and Cliff, and I rode from Paris to Aix en Provence, France on a very fast train for a holiday in Southern France. My most recent train ride was to Virginia to be with Sandy Prokopetz, the daughter of my friend Leo Rycasky, for his memorial service and interment next to his wife, Minerva, a Virginian by birth.  

After all these years I still wonder about that woman on the train going to Florida in the 70s. Did that man commit the perfect crime, one that left no evidence?  Did he swallow the woman, or did she disembark while I slept? 



It should probably be called Unplanned Parenthood.
I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

Poetry for Seniors

Grace Thompson


In my ripe old age of 90,

The age I’m not so “pert,”

I’m grateful for a simple thing –

That wrinkles do not hurt.


I ate my spinach, rich in iron

When suddenly I found,

I could lift my heavy husband

Five feet above the ground.


I use to do aerobics

When I was young and able.

But, now I exercise a bit, while

Holding onto the table.


God will take me when He’s ready,

When the angels sing “Hosanna.”

But, I’m just a little skeptic

About buying green bananas.



How’s Your Day Going?

There I was sitting at the bar staring at my drink when a large, trouble-making biker steps up next to me, grabs my drink and gulps it down in one swig. 

"Well, whatcha' gonna do about it?" he says, menacingly, as I burst into tears.

"Come on, man," the biker says, "I didn't think you'd CRY. I can`t stand to see a man crying." 

"This is the worst day of my life," I say. "I'm a complete failure.  I was late to a meeting and my boss fired me. When I went to the parking lot, I found my car had been stolen and I don't have any insurance.  I left my wallet in the cab I took home.  I found my wife with another man and then my dog bit me." 

"So I came to this bar to work up the courage to put an end to it all, I buy a drink, I drop a capsule in and sit here watching the poison dissolve; then you show up and drink the whole thing! 

But enough about me, how's your day going?



A police officer got out of his car as the kid who was stopped for speeding rolled down his window. “I've been waiting for you all day,” the officer said. The kid replied, “Yeah, well I got here as fast as I could.”  When the cop finally stopped laughing, he sent the kid on his way without a ticket


 P.L. Almanza: From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza and The Night They Never Came Home; lives in Hamlet, North Carolina. She has been writing stories since she was four years old. Her first book, The East Side Killers came out in April 2014. Her cookbook, Family Meals and Desserts, came out in the summer of 2015. She is currently working on two new cookbooks 


E. B. Alston: Author, columnist, literary critic, and sometimes poet. His work has been published in various newspapers, telecommunications trade magazines, and books. He is the Managing Editor of the magazine.


Jean Barnes: Childhood Memories – Part 2; Worked at the telephone company. I first met her in 1968 in Cookeville, Tennessee. Our paths crossed several times over the years and she worked for me as the Tazewell, VA, Exchange Manager in the late 1970s. She was a crack shot with her .243 Winchester rifle and never missed a groundhog when we hunted together. She also shot skeet with a Winchester Model 12 shotgun and I heard she was good at that, too. She passed away in 2012. She is another friend that I still miss.


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


Elizabeth Silance Ballard: Her book Three Rivers to Cross is being serialized, is a magazine columnist and author of Three Letters from Teddy and Other Stories, co-author of Whoopin and Hollerin in Onslow County, Kate’s Fan, Christmas Without Koyoko, The Fourth Wife of A Markham Gillespie, Welcome Home, Teddy Stallard and her latest, Three Rivers to Cross. 


Rita Berman: Sylvia Plath; 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 Amazon.com 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: Independent Philosophers; is a self-taught independent philosopher who is still learning.  He has two books, both collections of essays, available on Amazon.com. His latest book, More Colors Through My Mental Prism is also available.


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


Mary Noble Jones: By the Sea; Now deceased, was a writer and artist who lived and wrote in Amelia, Virginia. Her Itsy Rabbit Series was published in December 2008. 


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


Sybil Austin Skakle: October Farewell and Traveling by Train ; 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.


Grace Thompson: The Timeaholic and Poetry for Seniors; lives and writes in Wake Forest, North Carolina


Marry Williamson: Going on Holiday and An Afternoon Off; 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: I Didn’t Know and Lessons From a Hurricane: 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.



Reverend Ole was the pastor of the local Norwegian Lutheran Church and Pastor Sven was the minister of the Swedish Covenant Church across the road. I saw them yesterday pounding a sign into the ground that read: “Da end iss near! Turn yourself around now! Before it’s too late!”

A car sped past them. The driver leaned out and yelled, “Leave us alone, you religious nuts!”

From the curve I heard screeching tires and a big splash.

Reverend Ole turned to Pastor Sven and asked, “Do ya tink maybe da sign should yust say ‘Bridge out’?”

John Hornby in the Brownells newsletter.


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