RPG Digest

August 2020


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Table of Contents

Looking Up At the Sky by Laura Alston. 3

Church and State by E. B. Alston. 3

Creativity – Quotes from Famous Writers by Rita Berman. 5

Is This a Diamond? by Peggy Ellis. 6

Vine and Branches by Sybil Austin Skakle. 9

Global Warming vs. Solar Cooling by Marti Weisberger. 9

Darwin, His Daughter and Human Evolution by Sybil Austin Skakle. 10

August Bounty by Sybil Austin Skakle. 11

A Man With a Dog by Marry Williamson. 11

Pandemic  Memories by Ruth Whitsel 13

How to Get What You Really Want! by Tim Whealton. 14

Reality for Seniors. 16

Hummingbird Watching by Sybil Austin Skakle. 17

Human Reality by Randy Bittle. 17

More Progress on My Environmental Journey by Carol A. Rados. 19

Paradigm by Howard A. Goodman. 19

Hammer Spade and the Four Horsemen. 26

14th Annual Virginia Four Wheel Drive Association Trail Ride by E. B. Alston. 38

The Diary of Samuel Pepys. 48

Contributors. 51


Looking Up At the Sky

Laura A. Alston


Whenever I look up at the sky,

I feel awe and deep respect for God.

One time I had stopped looking up,

And kept my head turned toward the ground.

My eyes did not seek the beauty found above.

My world had gotten narrow and dim.

There was no peace within my reach,

And inertia was my constant companion.


Then one day I lifted my head toward the sky

And beheld its blueness, so clear.

The world opened up for me that day,

And I felt God’s presence without a doubt.


Even when the sky is stormy and gray,

I know that the blue sky will return.

With this knowledge I can withstand the darkness

And wait patiently for the storm to pass.


Church and State

E. B. Alston


Most Americans don’t realize how marvelously unique the United States’ concept of separation of church and state is. We view it today as a protection from interference by the government of freedom to practice our religious observances and beliefs. But the idea originated not from protection of religion but from protection of individuals from a government imposed religion, or the compelling of religious observances by your friends and neighbors. Early Colonial American settlements were sectarian and different Christian groups settled different colonies. The most rigid were the Puritans in the Northeast area centered around Massachusetts Bay.

When the rebellious colonies started to organize, a way had to be found that allowed Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Calvinists, Quakers, Catholics, Episcopalians and heathen non-believers to work together to avoid hanging together on a British gallows. As Sir Winston Churchill said early in World War II, "The prospect of being hanged in a fortnight concentrates one’s thinking remarkably," hence the resolve of the new country to try to keep religion out of the Government.

Thomas Jefferson had a few apt, but pungent, comments to make on the issue. I quote, "it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." In the preamble to his famous statute for religious freedom in Virginia that passed in 1786, he stated, "that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry."

We owe a debt of gratitude to those great men because they gave us two wonderful benefits. The first was that they did not give any religion permission to enforce orthodoxy by methods more stringent than ostracizing. They wisely made sure that the legal monopoly on killing humans remained with the government. One, possibly unintended, side effect of this generosity has been a proliferation of religious sects when those ostracized members of the faithful started their own brand of orthodoxy. You see the results of this everywhere in the United States. But the founding fathers didn’t anticipate the growth of evangelical Christianity and the effect that it has on the culture today.

The second cherished benefit was the freedom NOT to participate in politics. Fellow citizens, that is a gift that keeps on giving. Can you imagine how horrible it was in Russia during the Stalinist years when nobody could just say to heck with it and drink vodka instead of attending the party meeting? And if you were the first to stop applauding after the speaker finished his scintillating description of the latest five-year plan, the secret police arrested you and hauled you off to Siberia.

Ukrainian farmers, poor people, just couldn’t get it right. One year they didn’t plant their spring crops on the prescribed date in spite of a government directive to do so. The fields were covered with snow. Their leaders were executed for not obeying orders. The next year they planted on the dates prescribed by regulations. But the snow was on the ground this time, too, and no crops came up. Not to be put off by that, their leaders were executed for excessive zeal in obeying orders in a way that was detrimental to the state.

I hate to say it, but some of our legislators think like that today, and quite a few federal bureaucrats do, too. Especially the ones in FEMA. Can’t you just hear them in New Orleans after Katrina? "Here, take this cash card. If you don’t, I’ll have you arrested." And to the truckers trying to deliver all that ice, "If you bring that ice into New Orleans, I’ll have you arrested and cancel your company’s contract."

Thank God for our founding fathers.

I know you’ll find this remarkable but I think Napoleon Bonaparte is the only ruler in history who actually figured out what to do about church and state. The church in France had suffered along with the monarchy during the French Revolution. Over time, the children of the revolution grew up to be undisciplined ruffians who were amoral and did not respect their elders. Such men do not make good soldiers. Nor do they make productive citizens. Napoleon was not an advocate of any religion except in his own imperial importance but, seeing the condition of French youth, he invited the Catholic Church back into France and ordered them to begin teaching the nations’ youth how to behave. Napoleon did it because it aided the state, not because he had become a believer but the Church fathers chose to accept his decision in the best light. Napoleon never allowed the church to affect government policies.

Our government, the media and the courts are wrong in pressing their anti-Christian themes because it inflames over eighty percent of the electorate. Things are stirred up enough already. Why pick that fight? They ought to be neutral. But I think we play with fire when we get too excited about imposing our religious orthodoxies on everybody else in the United States. Besides, even our Christian orthodoxies are all over the map and not even Napoleon’s famous diplomat, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, could come up with anything like consensus.

When you add Hindus, Moslems, Animalists, Environmentalists, Jews, Scientologists, PETA, Buddhists, Atheists, generic non-believers and those who subscribe to no moral code, I want it to stay like the constitutional framers planned it.

The government’s job is to protect us from all the other believers. That is good enough for me.


Creativity – Quotes from Famous Writers

By Rita Berman


Readers are a diverse group.  Some people read just enough to get by in life, to do their job. Others read for pleasure, to be amused or learn more about the human condition.  Based on my many years of being a reader and nearly forty years of being a writer, I know how difficult it is to attract readers and get them to continue reading to the end of the story.

Much depends on whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction.  Fiction is based on “What If”. The form of fiction is Conflict-Crisis-then Resolution. The writer has an idea and explores the possibilities. “Fiction is licensed lie-telling,” wrote William Amos in his book, The Originals, published in 1985.  He listed hundred hundreds of real-life examples, people who were used as characters in novels.

Non-fiction, however, has to stick to the facts. Here the writing is based on “What Happened.” Events are described, problems discussed and possible solutions.  It is easier to stay on track with non-fiction because all you have to do is remember the 5 W’s of journalism, the foundation of newspaper and magazine articles.  They are: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. The form of many business articles is Problem-Solution-Result.

Many writers can identify with Winston Churchill’s comment that, “writing a book is an adventure.  To begin with it is a toy, an amusement, then it becomes a mistress, and then a master and then a tyrant.”

A writer is always experimenting, and always has to struggle with the invisible opponent that is his or her subconscious.  Lillian Ross wrote a long profile of Ernest Hemingway for The New Yorker magazine.  They had corresponded for eleven years until his death.  Hemingway wrote to Ross that he “wanted to be the Champion of the World, the best writer, but I have that son of a bitch Tolstoy blocking me and when I get by him I run into Shakespeare.” 

It is a writer’s curiosity that begins a story, but then usually the story is made up out of what he or she knows.  Hemingway’s stories are lean and terse, the emotional impact is understated – much like a piece of non-fiction.

William Faulkner said, “He listened to the voices in his head and when he puts down what the voices say, its right.”

Eudora Welty wrote many essays and commentaries on other writers. She liked Faulkner’s writing and said, “No man ever put more of his heart and soul into the written word than did William Faulkner.”  Welty’s opinion of Jane Austen was that she was a writer of comedy, that she saw the absurd in human behavior.

Muriel Spark was one of the great novelists of the 20th century.  She used a diverse array of characters and had an astringent way of looking at the post-war world.  She was a Catholic and her fictional world was a highly moral one, examining matters of right and wrong, consequences of human behavior and God. Her best-known novel is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. This was made into a superb movies with Maggie Smith cast as Miss Brodie.

Another writer I enjoyed reading was Katherine Mansfield who was best known for her short stories.  Mansfield attributed Chekhov to stimulating her imagination.  In her stories the emphasis is not on plot and character, which are the traditional concerns of fiction, but rather on the presentation of an event, a summary of human life in a single significant scene.

In 2004 I participated in the week-long Writer’s Summer School in England. As most writers work alone this is a fine opportunity to learn the tricks of the trade, share writing secrets, promote our books, and just talk.

I met Silwyn Williams from Wales, who had written some 200 short stories.  He said he builds the plot in his mind and then goes to paper.  He suggested that, “fiction is real life with the dull bits taken out.”

When chatting with Silwyn he told me he went to school with Anthony Hopkins.  I was impressed.  Then he said he also went to school with Richard Jenkins (who later changed his name to Richard Burton and became an actor). When the beautiful Elizabeth Taylor became engaged to Burton and visited his family in Wales she took off her rings and did the dishes in the sink.  That impressed Silwyn.



Editor’s note: As this is written, Rita’s health is not good. She is a determined and heroic woman. Please pray for her,



Is This a Diamond?

Peggy Lovelace Ellis


August was the month for our travels for many years. My husband’s professional organization, Soil and Water Conservation Society, held a week-long conference somewhere in the United States or Canada during the first week. Jim was on the faculty for seminars or workshops most years. After the conference, we would vacation in the general area for a couple of weeks. I wrote the original of this in the early nineties and had it published in Rock and Gem magazine. I’ve decided it’s time to give people an opportunity to laugh at or with me again, so I’ve added to and deleted from the original. This is the result.

Vacation? Well, it was for Jim. My view of a vacation did not include sitting in blazing hot sun turning over dirt looking for something he considered a precious gem. Just don’t try to hand me a pick axe. I might use it on you.

Someone once said only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun. Well, I’m here to tell you that whoever wrote that song was wrong. There is another creature who goes out in the noonday sun. Also, the noonday rain and any other phenomenon the weatherman might conjure. That creature is a rock hound.

That set you back on your heels, eh? How do you like the “eh” bit? I picked that up on a trip to Canada where we heard it right and left. I nearly drove Jim crazy with my indiscriminate use of it, but I decided that was okay. Tit for tat, you might say, eh? since he nearly drove me wild in other ways. His obsession with rocks, for instance. Well, rocks to us normal people, minerals to him and his ilk. I used a derogatory tone the first time I called him a rock hound. He didn’t hesitate to inform me that if he’s a rock hound, it makes me a rock bitch. Okay. I admit I sounded off on his penchant for collecting rocks. More than once.

Perhaps you’re not sure the person who faces you across the breakfast table is, in fact, a rock hound. Well, far be it from me to cast aspersions toward anyone, so I’ll let you decide for yourself if he/she meets the following criteria. If so, be warned and take appropriate action before it’s too late. As Don Knotts says, “Nip it, just nip it in the bud.” Or in this case, the pebble.

A rock hound is a two-legged creature, male or female, any age that includes the ability to walk, stoop, and bend. A rock hound is a critter that sees value in ordinary rocks. Of course, your true rock hound does not recognize rocks as being rocks—they’re gemstones and minerals. A rock hound is a creature that walks with his or her eyes gazing at the ground, carefully examining every rock (excuse me! gemstone or mineral) that might hide in its depths a tiny sliver of color indicating something precious in that otherwise dull mass of hard stuff.

And how did such a creature come into existence? Picture this otherwise sensible human being who places a handful of marbles in his pocket and goes for a walk. Every time he picks up a rock, he loses a marble. When he loses all his marbles, the creature has become a rock hound.

I’ll clue you in on what I found to be the best thing about our few days in Bancroft, Ontario one year. The beryl pits. No, not for the beryl which Jim found there in good quantity and quality. Inspiration. On our first visit to those pits, I was moved to write about my experience with automatic toilets in Toronto, a story printed in these annals some time ago. On our second visit, two days later, I found a shady spot, propped my back against a tree and jotted down these thoughts about the trials and tribulations of life with a rock hound. The sound of a rock hammer striking stone and the grunts of honest labor are an excellent accompaniment to writing. So, if you have writer’s block, find a beryl pit.

Although I lost all my marbles long ago, it had nothing to do with rocks. I am not a rock hound. As far as I’m concerned, the only logical reason for the existence of a rock is to throw at cats that use my flower borders as a litter box. I am, however, the sister of a couple of rock hounds and I’m married to one. I didn’t marry a rock hound, you understand. I didn’t learn about that quirk in Jim’s personality until it was too late to back out. I married a forester and soon learned that he is the only human alive who can inspect the tops of trees while his eyes scan the ground. For 50 years, I trudged up hill and down dale as my particular rock hound searched for that elusive gem quality rock. Stone? Whatever.

My brothers long since gave up hope I might display any intelligence on the subject, but Jim perseveres. One of his early efforts to educate me began on a trip to Alaska in 1972.

A Virginian by birth, Jim had worked for the Alaska Forest Service before moving to North Carolina, but I had never been there, so I planned a surprise trip for his birthday present. Have you ever tried to save a lot of money without your spouse knowing it? It took three years but, finally, travelers’ checks in hand, we loaded our 1971 Mustang and started on a six-weeks, 11,000-mile trip. By journey’s end, I really blessed Ford for making the Mustang so small. Do you have any idea how many rocky streams there are between Chapel Hill and Fairbanks? I don’t think we missed a one and, naturally, Jim gathered rocks at each. Rocks? Well, those things, whatever you choose to call them.

It was a memorable trip in many ways, but the part I remember best was panning for gold. We’ve all heard of the old-timers who made fortunes this way, and perhaps there are still those hardy souls who work at it. Personally, I found it boring. Utterly boring. Until, that is, I saw the bear. There’s nothing boring about being in the wilds and seeing a bear coming toward you. Trust me on this. Been there, done that, have the tee shirt. My first scream didn’t reach Jim, just a few feet away, but I assure you the second one was heard in Haines, 35 miles down the road.

Jim graciously informed me it was only a cub and calmly proceeded to watch as it circled around us. I must admit it was a pretty creature, a golden-brown color and cuddly in appearance. Hindsight tells me it was more scared of us than I was of it, but at that point I just wanted to put distance between us. Jim decided we probably had its fishing hole, and knowing that Momma Bear might not have abandoned her baby yet, we casually retreated. Sure enough, when it reached where I had been crouched, it ignored us and started searching for dinner. Jim said it was never closer than 50 feet. I can only say that was the shortest 50 feet I’ve ever seen. And can you believe, that was the only day Jim was not carrying his camera?

So much for gold. Maybe diamonds would be easier to find. Yeah, sure. Any woman who believes diamonds are her best friend hasn’t sat in the hot Arkansas sun in August, turning over dirt looking for them.

Our first trip to the diamond mines near Murfresboro, Arkansas was in 1975. I had a reasonable amount of enthusiasm as we gathered the required paraphernalia and chose a likely spot to dig. Twenty minutes later, I was ready to leave. A thermos of water didn’t help. Pepsi might be the right one, baby, under most circumstances but definitely not on that day and in that place. I found a lot of small shiny things, but Jim was never satisfied. About the tenth time I asked, “Is this a diamond?” and he replied, “No, it’s quartz,” I, in my infinite wisdom, inquired, “It glitters, so who cares?”  He gave me a thoroughly disgusted glare and didn’t bother to answer. After a couple of hours, Jim decided he’d had enough of my repetitious question for one day and we left, sans diamonds.

On our next trip to the mines a few years later, Jim chose a shady area and we were there a large part of the day. Ever helpful, I pointed out he didn’t need to do any digging and sluicing, there were “diamonds” scattered all over the top of the ground. He was not amused. The diamonds eluded us once more.

Since gold and diamonds are so elusive, maybe we should just get some petrified wood. That seemed reasonable enough a few years ago when we were in Montana and learned it was legal to gather it in Gallatin National Forest. So, with permit in hand, we drove the 12 miles on a not-so-wonderful gravel road and parked at a campground, from which we were assured a short hike would take us to the wonderland. Apparently, they meant as the crow flies. We climbed a steep, and this mountain woman knows steep, hill. And climbed. Jim walked ahead and then came back to pull me along, assuring me our destination was just ahead. After being told this several times, I decided enough was enough. We climbed for two hours and never reached the promised land. While I rested, Jim filled his pockets with rocks. I seriously considered rolling down the mountain, but Jim declared that was not one of my better ideas. My knees protested every minute of the hour and a half return to the car. I still think I should have rolled.

One year, while spending a few days in southwest Texas, Jim located the Woodward Ranch where he intended to search for agate. We walked all over that pasture and I dutifully picked up rocks after making sure they were, in fact, rocks. None were pretty on the outside, but a visit at the gift shop convinced me that the insides were pretty and apparently that’s what counts. I’m still waiting for Jim to slice and polish some of “my” rocks and make wind chimes. Hope springs eternal. Momma knew what lay ahead for me when she gave me ‘Hope’ as a middle name.

And then there was the time we went to the salt plains in northcentral Oklahoma to get some selenite crystals. I wish I could say we went to a store and bought some, but, no, that is not what a rock hound does. We dug for them. Rather, Jim dug and I watched. In case you haven’t been there (how lucky can you get?), the plains are perfectly flat, not a tree in sight naturally, and the sun reflecting off the white salt surface is blinding. To obtain the crystals, it’s necessary to dig a hole and let it fill with water seeping in from below. Then, practically standing on your head, you splash water against the side of the hole until the soil washes away from the crystals. When a crystal formation is found, the splashing continues until the formation is free of the supporting sand and clay. Then it is gently removed and placed on the surface where it will dry and harden. What fun. After an hour and a half, even Jim admitted he’d had enough.

Intermingled with these rock-hunting episodes, we pursued opals and garnets in Idaho; topaz in Texas; smoky quartz in New Hampshire; petoskey in Michigan; geodes in New Mexico; agate in Utah and Alberta; fossils in Colorado and the Northwest Territories; and so many others they run together in my mind.

Much to my relief, my rock hound has stopped braving the elements in search of rocks to add to the bejillion he already has. He maintains their value and I don’t argue. However, I still think the only thing rocks are good for is to throw at cats.



Vine and Branches

Sybil Austin Skakle


Spirit flows through many branches

On My Lord's vine. Through

thin, cellular cambium and

between xylem and phloem

to form new tissue.

Its leaves receive rain

and sunshine and by


produce chlorophyll

to nourish the vine.

Roots are supported.

Tiny leaf stomata

use carbon dioxide and

Release oxygen for all life.

Branches are important

but must be connected

lest they die.

There is only one Vine. Its

Omnipotence taps eternity.

Its branches produce fruit

to nurture others.


                    *John 15:1-8


Global Warming vs. Solar Cooling

By Mindy Weisberger


Are you worried about how much hotter it will be in 2021? I have good news. The slowdown will begin this year, thank goodness. A periodic solar event called a "grand minimum" could overtake the sun perhaps as soon as 2020 and lasting through 2070, resulting in diminished magnetism, infrequent sunspot production and less ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching Earth — all bringing a cooler period to the planet that may span 50 years.

Original article published in Live Science 12/27/2017



Darwin, His Daughter and Human Evolution

A book report by Sybil Austin Skakle


Darwin, His Daughter, and Human Evolution: Keynes, Randal ...

My stepdaughter gifted me with a book, Darwin and His Daughter and Human Evolution. The author, Randal Keynes, is a great-great grandson of Charles and Emma Darwin. The death of their daughter, Annie, at 10 years greatly influenced Darwin’s work and his outlook on life and death. 

Having finished the book, which I found interesting and absorbing, I was disappointed that the good man, a loving father, husband, and friend, never came to resolve his doubts concerning the benevolence of God. He longed to believe, but his mind always drew him back to his primary focus, the evolution of man. Darwin, said of himself: “I think that generally, and more and more, as I grow older, but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.”

Darwin reminded me of myself, when I was most like him, looking for proof before surrendering and trusting God’s loving acceptance of me. I expected to be convinced. Darwin never denied God as Creator. It puzzled me that his study itself did not convince him that God was also loving and caring. 

He and Emma became curious about spiritualist and attended a séance. They observed physical activity and heard sounds, even violence and breaking, produced by unseen presences. Had he been interested in Bible study he might have come to the conclusion that there is a spiritual world beyond the physical and been prompted to trust more. There are good spirits and bad spirits.

Darwin observed his own children and compared their adaptions to those he observed in Jenny, an orangutan at the zoo. He concluded that each animal made adaptions in order to survive. His intense work with this theorem blinded him to other possibilities, seemingly. Physically the natural man is very like other animals, skeletal, digestion, nervous systems, etc. Darwin never applied intensity of study to the spiritual form of man, but did explore emotions and facial expressions related to them. Too intent on observing man, thinking his thoughts and coming to a conclusion, he did not study man’s consciousness of God.

Jesus came and lived among us for 33 years. He learned all the complexities of being human before he was freed from the earthly body. He faced the temptations we face. Because Jesus knows, God and the Holy Spirit know the difficulties mankind has and what mankind struggles against during their normal lifespan. Jesus experienced the hardships and was tempted in all ways as we are.  Therefore, I believe the nun who told us: “No one can stay in hell unless they refuse to come out.”

Darwin loved, but seemed not to know he could choose to believe. He had only to accept the faith God wanted him to have. It was offered to Darwin many times. Faith enables us to believe God cares, loves us, and helps us face pain and suffering of earth. God took care of the part that Emma worried about. God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn mankind, but to save them. (John 3: 16-17)

I think that when God welcomed Charles Darwin into the state of being beyond physical death that Darwin was delighted and grateful. Perhaps Emma already expected to find Charles waiting for her. Our spiritual growth progresses, even beyond our physical and emotional maturity.


 August Bounty

Sybil Austin Skakle


Every August figs and sugar, in large pot,

Bubbled on our kitchen stove,

Above a blue gas flame and the

Brown mass emitted steam and a

Sweet aroma and memory

Of peanut butter and figs, its tiny seed

Cracked between my teeth, on a biscuit

Late at night with best friend, Marian.

Mama gave fig preserves to visitors and

Sister Jo continued her tradition.

At Christmas, she included figs preserves

Her gift evoked again the memory

Of our sweet treat and Mama’s

Wish for us: “Sweet dreams!”



A Man With a Dog

Marry Williamson


They had rented a holiday chalet in Cornwall.  The four of them had driven down from London. But the minute they got to Mevagissey it started to rain and it had now been raining solidly for three days. They were not able to go out and were stuck indoors all this time. The first day was not too bad. They played games. Neil did not mind the word games so much. They worked their way through ‘Boggle’, ‘Balderdash’ and ‘Who am I’. The chalet was amply stocked with board games. In the evening they cooked a big fry up and polished off 2 bottles of wine and a bottle of brandy between them. On the second day somebody suggested a game of ‘Trivial Pursuit’ and Neil had opened a bottle of whisky to dull his senses. “I cannot play this game stone cold sober”. In the afternoon somebody produced a ‘Monopoly’ board. The most boring game of all time. He put a brave face to it and played with them for two hours but then his brain and temper went into meltdown. He got up suddenly and said: “right, sod Mayfair, I am going for a walk”.

The village looked abandoned in the rain and he was the only person about except for a man with a large, black dog. There was no activity among the fishing boats moored in the harbour except for their rigging clanging in the wind and the whole place looked dejected. That evening they braved the relentless rain and went to the pub for their dinner. On the third day the morning dawned dark, cold and wet. They did not even attempt to amuse themselves.  Nobody wanted to play a game, read a book or even do the Times killer sudoku. They all just lounged about in their chairs, looking at each other and listened with growing impatience to the relentless optimistic Tom who stood looking out of the window, peering up into the grey, sodden sky announcing every ten minutes: “I do think it is getting lighter in the west”. At about three o’clock Neil thought that if he said it once more he just had to kill him. So when Tom got up again, moved over to the window, took a deep breath and opened his mouth he got out of his chair, moved over to the door, put up his hand and went out. The rain was still coming down and the streets were still deserted except for the same man with the large dog whom he spied at the end of the harbour road by the little museum. He put up the hood of his anorak and walked over to the museum. The man and the dog had vanished. He did not know where they had got to unless they had gone into the museum. He tried the door.  It was open and he went in. There was a man sitting in the nearest aisle reading a book. The man and the dog were nowhere to be seen. The museum looked quite interesting so he spent an hour admiring the exhibits and chatting to the guard at the door, lamenting the weather. The chap said that it was clearing up and should be better tomorrow. Neil said he had seen a man with a large black dog but that he had vanished at the end of the harbour. The man frowned and said that he must have been mistaken. No man with a dog had come by. The rain must have been playing tricks. Neil was not so sure but agreed nevertheless.

That evening John and Tom made a large pot of spaghetti bolognese for them all and afterwards they went back to the pub for a drink. As they walked through the village Neil saw the chap with the dog again just in front of them also walking in the direction of the pub. “Hey” he said nudging John, “do you see that bloke there with the dog?” “No” John said “your dreaming man, no bloke with dog there”. Neil blinked. The man and the dog had gone. He thought he might have gone into the pub ahead of them but when they got there the place was near deserted.  As he was ordering their drinks Neil struck up a conversation with the landlord. “I keep seeing this chap walking a big black labrador around the village”. The landlord frowned more or less in the same way as the guide in the museum had done. “Man with a large dog? Rain must be playing tricks.”

Neil asked for a tray to carry his drinks to their table. He was so deep in thought he nearly bumped into the only other occupant at the bar, an old man in a worn wax jacket. “Trevor” the man said, “You’ve been seeing Trevor. Not good, mate, if you have been seeing Trevor. Are you depressed? If you are depressed and you see Trevor it is not good. It is the black dog, see. Like old Winston Churchill. He had the black dog. You got to lighten up.” At this stage the landlord butted in. “Leave the man alone Stan”. But Neil was intrigued. He quickly took the drinks to the others and went back to Stan. “What happened to Trevor then”. Stan wiggled his empty beer glass. “Fill me up and I tell you” he said, “and I would not mind a whisky chaser”. Neil gestured to the landlord who complied all the while shaking his head, blowing out his cheeks and rolling his eyes.

Stan cleared his throat, took a large swig of his beer and a nip of his whisky and said: “well, it was like this. Trevor and his black labrador, George. George was the dog’s name. Trevor was a miserable sod. Always moaning. He had lost his job on a fishing boat because half the time he did not show up for work or if he did show up he was half cut. He was depressed, see. But nobody cared. His wife had left him taking his children with her. She went to live in Truro.  Trevor slid into a dark depression. Took to walking through Mevagissey at night with George. One night, nobody know exactly what happened, but he disappeared. George was found howling at the harbour wall.” Stan took another swig of his beer and a sip of his whisky. “What happened to the dog?” Neil asked. “George? The wife took him back with her to Truro but apparently he ran away and disappeared. Stan took a large gulp of his beer and another swig of whisky. “He was never found either.” He filed up his empty beer glass and peered into his empty whisky tumbler and waggled them about. Neil was just about to order him another round when the door opened and the bloke and the black dog entered in a gust of wind and rain. The landlord smiled. “Hey, Trevor.

Your usual?” “You have been had, mate” he said to Neil. “Tells a good story, does Stan”. Stan winked at Neil. “Works every time”.


Pandemic  Memories

Ruth Whitsel


THE U.S. POST OFFICE: I put on my mask and gloves and head toward the post office.  The sign outside of the door reads, “Masks are required in the lobby.” Happy to see that, I enter and go toward the desk. In front of me stands an unmasked customer.  At the desk is a USPO employee, without a mask.  I decide to speak up, saying, “I thought we were supposed to be wearing masks.”  In a somewhat surly tone, the employee states, “NOWHERE in the country has the U.S government ever required masks.”  I assume that maybe I have read the sign incorrectly.

As I leave, I check out the sign.  It clearly says that masks are required.  I return to the desk, saying, ”Your sign says, masks required.”  As the man behind the desk snaps back,”Recommended!” another female employee advances toward me heavily asserting, ”The sign says recommended!”  Determined to prove me wrong, they both march to the door with me and point to a sign INSIDE the door (the flip side of the one on the outside).  IT does indeed say “recommended.”  So, I take them outside to show them the opposite side that says “required.”  The male employee looks at the female employee, and somewhat meekly says , “It says required.”  They leave without a word to me.  No apology for their slightly surly demeanor.

I write to the Postmaster General.  Within 24 hours I receive an apology.  Today the signs at the post office, from the U.S Government say, ”Masks Required.”


THE SUPERMARKET: At Food Lion all the employees are masked and very helpful.  I can only conclude that the man I meet in one of the aisles is a vendor .  Halfway down the aisle I plan to enter, he stands facing me without a mask, as he talks to another person, whose back is to me.   I look at him pointing to my mask.  He decides to play dumb and says, “What?”  I gestured again, and he replies, “What?”  After I tell him, “You aren’t wearing your mask,” he laughs, sneers at me, walks right toward me and passes within a foot of space without putting his mask on.  Even if he is a vendor, I should have told the manager.  I won’t make that mistake again.


THE TRAIL: My friend has been committed to serious exercise for many years.  He is also on chemotherapy for the rest of his life.  Recently, while hiking on a wide trail, a man approached him without moving aside.  My friend asked him to give him 6 feet of space.  The man did not move.  Then my friend said, “I am sorry. I am on chemo and I need the space.”  The man’s reply?  ”So why don’t you stay home?” When did we lose kindness and civility?


THE FAMILY: My newly married granddaughter and her husband had been living in a west coast city area, one of the Covid 19 hotspots.  For several months of the pandemic, they had been very careful. Driving across country, they slept at the homes of friends who had been observing shelter-in -place rules. Their next destination was a northeast city where her husband was to begin a difficult graduate program. The students there are all working on- line.

For the Fourth of July weekend and a few more days, they were headed to visit his family.  They had not seen them since their winter wedding. Prior to the visit, his parents, a brother, sister-in-law, and their children were headed to Texas, another hot spot.  They arrived back home the day before the couple arrived.  He had spoken to his mother about wearing masks, staying at six-foot distances and not going inside to eat at any restaurants.  She appeared to agree, but shortly after the couple arrived, they discovered that none of the precautions had been taken, including eating indoors at restaurants in Texas.

When he quietly confronted his mother, what was her reply?  “We don’t want to live like that.”  Given that her son has been so cautious, and he is in a strenuous academic program, I do not understand the logic of risking his health at such a critical time in his life.  I cannot help but label this behavior as selfish, thoughtless and uncaring.  It is difficult to believe that this comes from his own family, and it is likely to create family, or marital conflict over every holiday until this virus disappears.

In context of these stories, I try to remember, all of the kind and thoughtful people I have met along the way; the roof repair man who arrived in mask and gloves; the many people on the trail who automatically move six feet away to pass; and those who say, as they pass by, “Thank you for wearing a mask to protect me.”


How to Get What You Really Want!

Tim Whealton


It’s at our very core. Something so basic that we all accept it without question. The founding fathers even wrote it into American DNA when they wrote that we were entitled to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Read that again and you will notice you are entitled to life, liberty and pursuit. Happiness is not an entitlement. No one can give it to you. You have to find it for yourself.

Most of us seem to have a hit and run record with happiness. A few seem to have it running over, some seem to have every reason to be happy but live in misery and others just can’t ever seem to get a break. Is happiness elusive?  Some seem to find it for a short while and then something happens and happiness vanishes. Maybe replaced with grief, loneliness, shame, anger, hate or just a sense of empty. Bad substitutes for happiness. The enemy is always ready to give you a substitute!

Before we go any deeper we better decide what happiness is and just as important what it isn’t. Happiness is hard to define for everybody because it is a feeling. You never know what another is truly feeling. We only gauge it by what we feel or think we would feel but we can only define it for ourselves if we are willing to go deep in our mind and explore places we rarely go. Like a diamond it probably won’t be on the surface!

Ask someone what they want and you will get a broad range of responses. If they say “A million dollars” ask them why? When they say to buy everything they want ask them why? When they say so they can do whatever they want ask them why? About now you will be getting close to what they are seeking. The true desire is buried deep. It will be the things they really value. Respect, Love, friendship, purpose and other lofty goals that are integral with that sense of well-being and contentment.

Just as important is how we define what happiness isn’t. We use some terms like pleasure when we speak of happiness. Pleasure isn’t happiness! Pleasure is a short term intense experience. It leaves us wanting more. Not more just like we had but even more intense and longer. It is a high! A rush.

How many times have you seen someone get what they thought they wanted only to find out later it wasn’t what they really wanted. How many times has it happened to you? It happens to every one of us.

It gets so tricky when we want because we attach emotion to the item. We think about getting something (or someone!) that will make everything better. Being seen as a success with a new car, house, and boat or having that mate that everybody wishes they had. We start to believe that not having that thing is making us miserable and that thought becomes self-fulfilling. Then we get afraid of what will happen if we never get it and fear always turns want into need. Told you it was tricky!

This problem was explained by Paul in Romans 7:15. This could be a life verse for me. You know like that one verse that really defines you. It says, “what I do I don’t understand!”

Paul explains that he wants to do good and then doesn’t do it. He then turns and does the very thing he hates. Sound familiar? Why? If you know the right thing to do why not just do it? Oh were it so simple. Something is obviously in the way.

It’s back to the basic question of do we want pleasure or happiness? Which is better? Can we have both?

1. Pleasure is short term, Happiness is longer

2. Pleasure is taking, Happiness is giving

3. Pleasure can be achieved with substances, happiness cannot

4. Pleasure is experienced alone. Happiness can be experienced in a social group

5. All extremes of pleasure leads to addiction. No such thing as being damaged by too much happiness.

6. Pleasure is dopamine, happiness is serotonin.

Dopamine and serotonin are brain chemicals the brain cells excrete to send a message from cell to cell. Its how the brains thinks. Actually sort of similar to a modern computer when it communicates. Its either on or off for the cell. Why do we care

Dopamine is the pleasure monkey drug of choice. It excites the cell and makes it go. The brain knows something is wrong when cells fire too much. The brain turns off some of the receptors to keep this from happening. So next time it takes a bigger hit to get the same rush. And more and more. This is called down regulation. Eventually the cell dies from over use and this is addiction.

Serotonin is a chemical that inhibits the cell and keeps it from firing. It causes a peaceful state of mind that says everything is as it should be. You can’t overdose. You can’t be harmed by too much happiness! Now there is one thing that will down regulate serotonin. You guessed it, dopamine! That’s right, too much pleasure will destroy happiness. The Bible tells it and modern science backs it up! (Isn’t it amazing how smart the ancient Christians were?)

Paul gives an example of immediate desire for pleasure destroying happiness. It’s an Old Testament story that you have probably heard before. It’s about a dysfunctional family. Isaac and Rebecca had twin boys. The first baby was hairy so the named him---Hairy. In Hebrew Esau means hairy. The second born was born holding his brothers heel. He was named Jacob which means one that is pulling something. Isaac and Rebecca made a parenting mistake, they played favorites. Esau grew up a favorite of Isaac and hunted the fields. Jacob was a foodie (like me!) and stayed home with Mom learning how to cook.

You probably remember the story. Esau came home hungry and went in where Jacob was cooking a stew. It smelled sooo good. He had homemade bread and the stew ready and Esau said gime, gime, gime or I will die. (If you have ever been a bird hunter you know how he felt. Walk behind a bird dog all day and your dog’s food will smell good!) Jacob said “sure, just give me your birthright as firstborn and you can have some.

Esau said “Sure why not, I will die anyway if I don’t get some.” Now I know Jacob couldn’t believe his ears. So he made him swear and he traded off the birthright for a bowl of stew! Who would do such a thing? He wasn’t dying. It takes over a month to die from starvation.

 The first born received a double portion of the inheritance. Money, status as head of the family and prestige. All for a bowl of stew. Who would do that? Only someone who let the desire for immediate pleasure override his thinking. It’s just as true today, getting what we want many times keeps us from getting what we really want.

Paul knew it way back then and so did a lot of others. There is a battle going on inside our minds. Doesn’t matter if you are aware of it or not. The battle is real! So how do we start scoring some victories in this battle? First we have to dig deep into who we are and know what we value. We all have values. It might take some work and it might not be comfortable to admit some things but if you are going to get what you really want you have to know what it is.

Then we start asking God for his help. We accept that Gods plan is the ultimate path to happiness. We pray and ask God for knowledge and courage. God has the knowledge, but do we have the courage to walk away from that next pleasure high? Maybe now that we know it is always at the expense of happiness we might.  Remember, happiness is longer!


Maybe you have been searching for happiness for a long time. Maybe you gave up the search and learned to live without it. You don’t have to live without it anymore. Jesus made it simple for us. All he said was “Follow Me.” Not fix yourself and come back (as if you could!), just “Follow Me.”


Reality for Seniors


1.     Talk to yourself. There are times you need expert advice.

2.     “In Style” are the clothes that still fit.

3.     You don’t need anger management. You need people to stop disagreeing with you.

4.     Your people skills are just fine. It’s your tolerance for idiots that needs work.

5.     The biggest lie you tell yourself is, “I don’t need to write that down. I’ll remember it.”

6.     “On time” is when you get there.

7.     Even duct tape can’t fix stupid—but it sure does muffle the sound.

8.     It would be wonderful if we could put ourselves in the dryer for ten minutes, then come out wrinkle-free and three sizes smaller.

9.     Lately, you’ve noticed people you age are so much older than you.

10.  Growing old should have taken longer.

11.  Aging has slowed you down, but it hasn’t shut you up.

12.  You still haven’t learned to act your age, and hope you never will.



Hummingbird Watching

Sybil Austin Skakle


Seeking to see if true that

Hummingbirds fly backwards,

I watched one at the feeder

Which had food for other birds.

A gang of the tiny creatures

Zipped back and forth to

Sip sweetened, red nectar.

One lingered longer and

Afterwards flew backwards.

Then up she flew and darted away.

God created whales, sharks,

Orioles, loons, and the

Amazing hummingbird.

I can move in every direction.

I, too, am fearfully and

Wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)



Human Reality

Randy Bittle


The first thing to understand about human reality is that it differs, sometimes significantly, from actual reality.  Human reality is a mental construct of the brain and mind, which try with limited success to make sense of the real world.  Reality is all around us, if we could but perceive.  Perceiving is where the problems and complications involving human reality occur, where human reality diverges from true reality.  Let’s examine a concrete example of human reality that was once far removed from actual reality, to better understand the fallibility of perceived human reality.

In the sixteenth-century AD the greatest human minds were in general agreement that the earth was at the center of the universe.  Well educated men learned this earth-centered human conception of reality in universities where Aristotle’s cosmology was considered, with little or no challenges, to be true reality.  Think about that for a moment.  The very best human minds on earth believed in a conception of reality that was entirely false and untrue.  Human reality differed drastically from actual reality in sixteenth-century cosmology.

One man, a university educated functionary of the church named Nicholas Copernicus, asked the question “what if” the sun was at the center.  He worked out the mathematics of circular planetary motions, including earth, around the sun.  The results of his heliocentric system were as good or better at predicting future planetary movement than the Aristotle/Ptolemaic system based on earth as the center.  Being a prudent man, aware of the church’s propensity for torturing and murdering people who did not agree with its doctrines, Copernicus never published his work during his lifetime.  Only after his death in 1543 was the heliocentric system he devised published.

Human realty perceived by this one man, Copernicus, challenged the human reality perceived by those who favored the authority of Aristotle’s world view.  Notice that Copernicus and Aristotle were two individual people, two human minds, with vastly different conceptions of cosmological reality.  At the time of Copernicus, the entire educated portion of western civilization wrongly believed in Aristotle’s earth-centered conception of reality.

The Copernican heliocentric world view using circular orbits was only minimally more accurate than the earth-centered world view in predicting planetary motion.  Therefore it was repeatedly discarded whenever the two systems were debated by educated men. Then came the seventeenth-century and a man named Johannes Kepler.  In the decade leading up to the year 1619, Kepler used the most accurate data then available for planetary motion to derive the three laws of planetary motion based upon elliptical orbits around a central sun.  His elliptical heliocentric system worked and provided a markedly more accurate predictability of planetary motion.

Also in the first half of the seventeenth-century, a man named Galileo made telescopic observations of Jupiter’s moons and the phases of Venus, both of which indicated the earth was not the center of the solar system.  Galileo published a book arguing in favor of the Copernican heliocentric world view for which he was persecuted by church officials.  He recanted under the threat of torture and/or death at the hands of the church.  However, human misperception of reality under the Aristotle world view was shaken.  The new indirect observational evidence was contradictory to Aristotle’s conception.  The evidence favored the Copernican heliocentric view.  Perceived human reality, absolutely wrong at the time, was undergoing a dramatic shift in perspective that would align it more accurately with actual reality.

Isaac Newton sealed the deal with his universal law of gravitation in 1687.  Galileo had said that the language of the universe was mathematics, and Kepler and Newton showed that the heliocentric hypothesis was the more mathematically precise model of planetary motion.  It is important to note that all human conceptions of reality regarding the solar system were completely wrong in the sixteenth-century.  Copernicus and a few of his devoted friends had a better idea, but it was undeveloped and fell short of true reality.  The transition to a more accurate human conception of reality was slow, spanning about a century of perspective-shattering work by three individuals in the course of the seventeenth century.

The story of how this happened and what it meant is a good one, and I recommend you research it further, but this essay is not intended to be a lesson in history or science.  Rather, this essay intends to demonstrate how human reality, always a construct of the mind and brain, can radically differ from true reality.  Today, every eleven-year-old child knows that the planets, including the earth, elliptically orbit the sun.  But there is so much about reality they don’t know and may never know.  At 61 years of age, I still struggle daily to make some kind of reasonable sense about the world around me.  Human reality and true reality often differ.  I strive to make my all too human conceptions of reality more congruent with true reality.  I guess it is the philosopher in me.  Knowledge can be defined as justified true belief.  Always try to legitimately justify your beliefs and seek the truth.


More Progress on My Environmental Journey

Carol Rados


·       These are things that I have done since my last article published in the July 2020 RPG Digest.

·       Metal measuring cups have replaced the plastic ones.

·       Soda in a glass bottle was found at Lidel.

·       Metal tongs have been found.

·       Always 3 in 1 pantyliners are my choice because they are packaged in paperboard.


I volunteered with R.A.W. Plastic today to clean up litter on the Greenway here in Greenville, NC.  This organization accepts plastic to be used or recycled that is not accepted by the Greenville Utilities Commission with curbside pickup.  I am excited that I have found an organization that will help me keep plastic out of my garbage.

Bad news from my city, Greenville, NC!  Our recycling contractor is no longer accepting a long list of items that are recyclable.  More recyclable items will now be in our trash.  I don’t like this at all.  I spoke to the director of Solid Waste in Greenville.  He explained that glass was no longer being recycled because when it broke, it contaminated all of the items nearby, and it had no value in the market of selling recyclables.  We are no longer recycling paperboard and magazines also due to lack of value.  He suggested only using products that are packaged in recyclable containers. This suggestion is contrary to all my anti-plastic practices.  My concern is that glass is forever in the landfill, as is plastic, although glass is not toxic.  He advised me that paper and paperboard also remain in the landfill for along time because they are covered.  I would like to see in my community a resource to recycle glass, paper board and magazines.I note that Publix recycles paper bags.  I will check carefully to see if they recycle other paper products.  I plan to talk with them about considering recycling glass, since they sell many products that are packaged in glass: wine bottles, beer bottles, spaghetti sauce jars, etc.

I have to keep all my recycling in different bags in my garage and then put them in my car when I am going to the site that accepts those items.  It is certainly easier to just throw it in the trash.

I hate to put things in the trash, and I will continue to advocate for less plastic and more and easier recycling resources in my community.




Fiction by Howard A. Goodman



Dear Treesa:

Thank you so much for responding to my personals ad at Singles in the Triangle. I was flattered by your wanting to know more about me. I had a chance to look over the descriptions in your profile, and you sound very fascinating. I hope we can meet sometime.


Here's some stuff you'd probably like to know about me beyond "White Widowed Professional Male, 55, seeks..." I'm doing this off the top of my head, so please bear with me; I may sound like I'm rambling.


I grew up in Philadelphia (attended undergrad school there) and have lived in New Jersey and New York State. But I much prefer the Triangle and hope that my job situation will allow me to remain here. This coming weekend, actually July 4th, will be the tenth anniversary of my having relocated here from Poughkeepsie.


Job-wise, I found myself suddenly at the crossroads when my long career at Big Blue came to an abrupt end in April of '96 during their second or third "downsizings." After the initial shock and denial had passed, the six months I spent "reconfiguring" myself was truly an opportunity to figure out what it was I wanted to be when I finally grew up.


The answer, I discovered, was sprinkled through every assignment I ever had. Whether an engineer or planner, I'd always be willing to step up to any task which involved anything to do with testing the validity of something. So here I am today, a computer validation consultant, and with nearly all of the required credentials!


Currently, I'm working for a pharmaceutical manufacturer in RTP by way of Telecommuting — using PC, modem, second phone line, voicemail, etc. — from my home. Oh, by the way, it is my daughter who now works for Big Blue!


My personal interests are not what many consider to be middle-of-the-road. Generally, I tend to avoid things which are designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Musically, I enjoy jazz with a passion.  Not that whiny Kenny G. stuff they push on WIND-FM, but the real thing. Some twentieth-century classical, too, especially wind ensemble arrangements.


I like a good story now and then, mostly fiction. I'm far from being an avid reader. I guess I'm a bit lazy, but I actually prefer listening to books on tape. That way, I'm free to do something else at the same time.


I favor small, family-owned restaurants. Also diners, like Elmo's in Chapel Hill. But I don't eat out very often unless I have someone to go with. A bottle of wine is nice every once in awhile, but only if there's someone nice to share it with.


When it comes to the dancing you mentioned, I enjoy slow, contact-style the best, especially that wonderful feeling that comes from holding my partner in my arms. Also, less chance of appearing clumsy. LOL!


Six months before my working career came crashing to a halt, I lost my dear wife, the only woman I ever loved. Just after she became ill, she told me if something were to happen to her, I would for certain seek out another relationship, despite my insistence that I would live the rest of my life alone. Now it seems she knew me better than I knew myself.


Before my time is up I hope to find that "special someone." Also, I’d like to accomplish something that is perceived as more than ordinary and will be long remembered. Maybe that will happen in my new career.


I noticed that the range of interests you listed in your profile was much broader than mine, some being quite different. That's good, because I happen to believe that two people seeking a relationship will have a much better chance if their personnel interests do not match exactly.


Okay, Treesa, you've probably heard more than enough from me for awhile. Now it's your turn. Don't be shy. I'm a very good listener.


Best regards,




Dear Michael:

I'm glad you enjoyed reading my profile. I am curious about a couple of things. Your profile didn't mention what instrument you play. I studied piano and music theory growing up (like every other kid) and later on took up the saxophone for awhile. Also, what type of music do you play?


I laughed at your description of an ideal date. "One in which the woman says she wants to see me again?" Surely you wrote tongue-in-cheek? Surely, it can't be that bad.


I'm from New York originally, but lived in California for ten years. I've been in Raleigh now for five.


I, too, enjoy reading and corresponding very much. Most of my family is on the Internet and I have a few pen pals as well. Currently, I am reading a book titled, "Women Who Run With the Wolves." And you?


I am relatively new to this Internet singles thing and not sure about the rules. I have figured out a few things though. Everyone is terrified. Most men definitely want to see a photo. In fact, so far exchanging photos usually happens first.


I once corresponded with a man who related to me that he had gone to meet a woman he had hooked up with on the Web. At the coffee shop, he spotted her before she had a chance to identify him, and said that she had been less than honest in her self-description.  In fact she looked exactly like Mrs. Claus. So he left without even acknowledging her. In his letter, he then cautioned me to always get a "pic."


I guess you know, pic is slang for picture. Although I understand and may even have wished to do the same on occasion, I thought he was terribly rude and haven't written him since.


Thus, I like to get the photo thing out of the way right off the bat. If someone is going to be repulsed by your appearance, better that it should happen before you ever meet. Many years ago, before I had been married, I responded to the personals ad of a man describing himself as tall, dark and handsome. We spoke at length on the phone several times, and eventually decided to meet for coffee. (A low risk proposition -- and I think the best way to meet for the first time.)


I saw him walk in, and he was, in fact, tall, dark and handsome. He sat across from me in the booth, and I couldn't help but notice that his incisors hung a good quarter inch below his pale lower lip. Indeed, he bore a remarkable resemblance to the Prince of Darkness. I am always courteous, and mortified as I was, I managed to make polite conversation with him for twenty minutes, working very hard to keep from staring at those incisors. On occasion, this same man, even after all these years, shows up in my nightmares.


I don't guess there is any way around the basic element of physical attraction in a relationship… although I am convinced there is someone for everybody regardless of height, weight, hair color, age, etc.


Well, I've got to get back to work. At any rate, my JPEG photo is attached to this email. Feel free to write to my work address as well.  I love getting email at work. Hope to hear from you soon.  Have a great Fourth!






Dear Treesa:

This Internet Singles thing, I've found, is not really much different than Personals Ads in newspapers, like the Spectator or Independent. It does, however, offer a subscriber the opportunity to review the profiles of other members without the money meter ticking away at $1.99/minute. Right now, I'd say you and I are in a sort of "Close Encounters of the Second Kind" phase: corresponding but as yet no personal contact.


Some people are terrified, yes. Most terrified, I've found, are the career bachelorettes, those single women who, when faced with the possibility of an actual relationship, panic and suddenly back away. I don't profess to know the feelings of men who have never been married. I am, at times, a little nervous, but never terrified. What's to be terrified? If you hadn't volunteered the fact that you had a JPEG photo, I would not, as a precondition of meeting you, have asked for one. I guess I'm just not that way, but I can empathize with one who is.


During my sporadic dating over the past nine months, I can recall only two meetings in which I discovered that the woman had either totally misrepresented herself (60 years old as opposed to 50) or used someone else's ad to arrange the date (details at eleven). But in both cases, we enjoyed a meal and a nice chat. I don't care for the idea of backing away from a commitment.


Treesa, It was nice to hear you say you laughed after reading my description of an ideal date. But that description also has a sober side. I haven't had all that much success with this dating thing, so if a woman I like tells me voluntarily that she wants to see me again at the end of our first meeting (or calls me the following day), well for me, it just doesn't get any better than that.


By the way, to answer a couple of your earlier questions, I play piano, too, a little (I emphasize the word "little"). Mostly jazz ballads. Not currently reading a book.


As you can probably already tell, Treesa, I'm not the most adventurous guy in the world. I've always been kind of the "good boy," but I've always cared very much for people and have been extremely loyal to those in my small circle.


I enjoy receiving Emails while I'm working, too, now that I figured out how to do it. Since I work at home there's no "boss" to snoop on me. LOL! Sometimes, though, I may be a little slow in responding, especially when there are business deadlines to be met.


Sorry, I haven't yet had an opportunity to view your photo; having a little problem with my JPEG viewer. If you still want a photo of me, please let me know and I'll arrange to have one made. How about a Glamour Shot?


More later…



Dear Michael:

Regarding your photo, I wouldn't go to all that trouble. Just stop by Kinko's and have them scan one in of yourself as a JPEG.  Mine was not professional — just a shot taken with a digital camera by my sister… too fuzzy and far too serious, but who cares?


Speaking of photos, why is it that guys always send these photos to you of them standing next to their cars. Can you explain that?  They are never smiling and they always have one hand on the car. The other photos I hate are the studio kind where a person is all dressed up and standing next to a palm tree with a blue speckled background.






Dear Treesa:

I was just kidding about getting a glamour shot. And I laughed when I read that part in your last note where you described the kind of photos men send you. Then you asked me why they do that. I don't know whether my explanation will be worth anything, but I'll be glad to try.


As to why some men like to pose with their cars, I think they may feel self-conscious about appearing in a photograph in which they are the only object (besides the background). Maybe they think they need to have company and a car is a safe companion. I say companion because you mentioned that they always have one hand on the car. Granted, they would probably like to be photographed with their arm around another woman, but that would defeat the purpose of the photo, wouldn't it?


Other men may lack self-confidence and need the car as a prop to divert a woman's attention away from them while viewing the photo. Still others, those at the bottom of the barrel, do so to try to impress you with the make of car they are driving. But I know you have too much integrity than to buy into that. As for why men don't smile, I don't know for sure, but I suspect it may be for the same reason that men don't smile during sex.


My main point, Treesa, is that we're talking about SOME men, not ALL men. You wouldn't ever catch me hugging a car in one of my photos! But if I should decide to have a photo taken to send to you, you might see me standing in front of my house with my dog, Jake.


Until next time…




Dear Michael:

I missed your call last night - was at the gym.  You have a nice phone voice, by the way. Did you ever get to see my photo?






Dear Treesa:

Still having a problem viewing your photo on my computer. But I may forward it to a friend and view it there.



Dear Michael:

This is from your last email:


> For me, it's more like when I meet a woman for the first time,

> within about ten seconds I can tell whether or not I can "see"

> myself as wanting to be with her. It is, alas, based on how I

> am affected by what I can immediately take in about her.


Why do you insist then, that a photo is not important? How someone looks is, it would seem, is the determining factor for you if it's a go or no go!


If you are deeply affected by physical appearance, then you should insist on a photograph, and also be prepared to send one in return. That is just my opinion. And as to the "alas" - hey!  Join the human race. EVERYONE (male and female) is dramatically affected by appearance… even those that say they are not.


Here is my advice to you... if you are going to do this singles thing. You should have a digital image of yourself. Just do it for yourself and for the experience. Learn how to use a scanner. And for heaven's sake, DON'T scan a photo of your car or a group shot of you, your kids and your nephews and nieces.


Did you have a chance to look at my photo? Did you make that ten-second decision? Since you don't have a photo, why don't you just describe yourself? You didn't in your profile.






Dear Treesa:

Whew! A self-assessment of one's own looks has got to be less than objective, to say the least. Well, here goes.


I'm six feet two inches tall, average build, blue eyes, salt-and-pepper hair, alas thinning a bit. Friends have described me as not classically handsome but definitely better than average.


I didn't mean to say a photo isn't important. It's just not important to me. I've already "seen" enough about you through your emails to know that I would like you, feel comfortable and at ease, yet stimulated by your interests and opinions.


Any plans for this weekend?





Dear Michael:

My mom and dad are stopping by Friday evening on their way home from the beach. Also, my brother may fly in from Atlanta.


Otherwise, I live a very quite, simple, peaceful life. Early to bed, early to rise. On occasion, if I'm in the mood for watching people, I go to the Long Branch (a real parade).


How about you? What are you up to this weekend?





Dear Treesa:

Not a whole lot. Practice the piano (I've been neglecting it lately). Pay bills. Maybe go for a walk around Shelley Lake with a male friend.



Dear Michael:

Well, it looks like my plans for this weekend are going to fall through. Mom and dad will not be stopping here, so I doubt my brother will either.


So, I was thinking... you seem like a really decent guy and I would like to meet you after all. How 'bout dinner Saturday night?





Dear Treesa:

I realize the place I chose for our first meeting is probably much closer to my house than to yours, but I feel comfortable there and know the wait staff. So if it's too not much of an inconvenience, I'm asking you to join me at Vinnie's. It's located in Peachtree Market on Six Forks Road.


Will seven-thirty be good for you?





"Excuse me, Sir. I'm looking to meet someone."


"Well," the bartender drawls, "to tell you the truth, ma'am, I hear that all the time, but from men, not women."


Treesa manages a gaspy laugh. "No, what I mean is, I'm meeting a man here for dinner and I don't know what he looks like."


"Oh! You must mean Michael. He did tell me he was expecting someone."


"Yes, that's him! Michael. Where is he?"


"Over there,” the bartender said, gesturing. At the other end of the bar."


"But… the only man I see has a cane and a seeing-eye dog."




Hammer Spade and the Four Horsemen


Chapter Seventeen


Aama Tahar spoke English for the first time in Dave and Jim’s presence. He had a good voice and spoke with a cultured British accent. Although dinner was served late, Aama Tahar kept them captive for four hours. Dave asked the king about his tribal history.

“We are an Aryan people descended from the ancient Hittites. They were driven out of Greece by the Dorians, then out of Palestine by the Persians. We are cousins of the Bakhtiari tribe in present day Iran.”

“It’s remarkable that you have managed to maintain your cultural identity and cohesion all this time,” Dave observed.

“We strive to pass our heritage on to our descendants.” He paused then continued. “It is fortunate that we live in a place nobody else wants to live.”

“What is your religion?” Dave asked.

“We live by the ancient Hittite beliefs and the teachings of a Zoroastrian missionary who lived with us a few years before the Christian era.”

“We were told that the Algerian government pays you an annual bribe not to cause trouble.”

“They fear us,” Aama Tahar replied with a sly smile. “And we make certain they continue to fear us. We also possess lands with substantial oil reserves. It is a happy balance. We are dangerous enough to fear, yet we are remote enough and our lands are arid enough to keep us from being worth the effort, expense and the inevitable loss of lives if we were attacked.”

Shrewd guy, Dave thought, and then said, “You have nothing to fear from us. We came on a fool’s errand and I don’t believe you or your people will suffer because of our visit.”

“Well said,” Aama Tahar replied. “And you are a most honest man. I thank you for your candor.”

“I like it here,” Dave replied. “I have never seen such austere beauty in any other landscape.”

“Have you traveled much of the world?” Aama Tahar asked.

“I have seen many places, but never a place of such beauty and tranquility as this.”

Aama Tahar was moved. “Then, Mr. Quigley and Mr. Travis, you may be our welcomed guests any time your busy lives allow you to be in our presence.”

“Thank you, Your Highness. We are honored by your gracious hospitality.”

“And we are honored to be in the presence of such friends as you,” Aama Tahar replied.

It was past midnight. Aama Tahar bade everyone, except Cleopatra, good night.

As they rose to leave, Aama Tahar said, “Tomorrow, we will play cards.”

Aama Tahar and Cleopatra were having a private conversation when Dave, Jim and Cheriet left.

“You and the man were laying it on pretty thick back there,” Jim said on the way to their rooms.

“It didn’t do any harm,” Dave replied. “The way the world is going, we may one day wish we were here in this quiet corner of nowhere.”

“You’re gettin’ mighty philosophical in your old age,” Jim replied.



After being awakened at nine for breakfast, they arrived and took their places on the cushions. They were startled to see that Aama Tahar had shaved his beard. He looked younger and he was quite handsome, resembling the movie star, Omar Sharif.

“He’s after Cleopatra,” Cheriet muttered. “We’ll be lucky if we can get her out of here when we leave.”

Cleopatra strolled up, dressed in another clingy, flowing robe and took her place beside Aama Tahar.

She smiled at him and told him he looked handsome without his beard. He smiled broadly at her and replied that she looked very lovely.

“From the looks of things, she might not want to go,” Jim observed.

After a breakfast of dried figs, bread, goat’s milk and coffee, the table was cleared and a servant placed a thousand dollars’ worth of poker chips before each guest except Cleopatra. Then Aama Tahar produced a deck of cards.

They began to play seven-card draw poker with nothing wild. Play stopped at three p.m., for lunch and exercise. By then, several of the tribal guests had been cleaned out and their chips were in Jim’s and Aama Tahar’s piles. Play resumed at five p.m. and by dinnertime, the game had narrowed down to two players, Jim and Aama Tahar.

During a break in the play, Dave said to Jim, “He is the luckiest poker player I have ever played with.”

“He cheats,” Jim replied.

“How did you do so well?” Dave asked.

“I cheated.”

“Who is the best?” he asked.

“Don’t know. I made sure he’s ahead so far.”

“He has something up his sleeve,” Cheriet said. “I do not trust this man.”

“Neither do I,” Dave agreed.

Play resumed at eleven p.m. At midnight, Aama Tahar stopped play and ordered coffee for all. Although the game was over for them, the tribesmen continued sitting dutifully at their places watching the game.

“We seem to be evenly matched, Mr. Travis,” Aama Tahar said.

“We seem to be,” Jim agreed.

“What say we forget these valueless piles of chips and raise the ante?”

“You’ve got the deal,” Jim replied. “You can call any game you like.”

Aama Tahar whispered to the man who had met them at the gate when they arrived two days ago. The man left and returned a few minutes later followed by a young tribal girl dressed in a robe similar to the one Cleopatra was wearing.

“This is Nisreeno,” Aama Tahar said. “She is my niece and she is of royal blood.”

Nisreeno removed her shawl and revealed that she was a dark-eyed beauty with a lovely face. Dave guessed she was nineteen.

“Is she not lovely?” Aama Tahar asked Jim.

“She is very pretty,” Jim agreed.

“We will play seven-card draw,” Aama Tahar said with a serious expression. “I will deal first. After I shuffle, you may cut the deck before I deal. We will keep either three or four of the cards that I deal. Then you will shuffle and I will cut the cards. You will deal the remaining cards.” He paused, “The wager is this. If you win, the beautiful Nisreeno becomes your wife. You will take her with you and do with her what you will.”

He paused again, looked Dave in the eye, and dropped the bomb. “If I win, Cleopatra is mine.”

Cleopatra’s jaw dropped. She tried to stand up but the robed man prevented her from rising. She stared speechless at Aama Tahar as he coolly and expertly shuffled the cards, and passed them to Jim to cut. Jim coolly tapped them without cutting. Then Aama Tahar dealt seven cards. They checked their hands. Aama Tahar threw out two cards. Jim threw out four. Aama Tahar passed the deck to Jim to shuffle. Jim shuffled clumsily, dropping a couple of cards out face up. Both Dave and Aama Tahar noticed, and thought Jim was nervous.

“Not a good sign,” Dave thought. Cleopatra was staring into the distance.

Jim finished the shuffle and passed it to Aama Tahar to cut. Aama Tahar, with a confident smirk, waved his hand in a gentlemanly way for Jim to run the cards as they were.

Jim dealt. Aama Tahar checked his cards and smiled broadly when he laid out a queen high diamond straight flush. Cleopatra saw his cards and blushed as red as a beet. Jim fumbled a bit, looked at his hand and rearranged them a couple of times. The tension was unbearable by the time he laid out a royal flush in hearts!

The smile left Aama Tahar’s lips. He rose without a word and stalked out of the tent. Nisreeno looked shocked. The tribesmen rose quietly and left. Cleopatra regained her composure and tried to comfort Nisreeno. Dave, Jim and Cheriet were trying hard not to yell and celebrate.

“That was slick,” Dave whispered to Jim and patted him on the back.



Before daylight the next morning, Cleopatra slipped into Dave and Jim’s room and woke them up.

“We have a problem,” she said.

“What is it?” Dave asked groggily.

“It’s about Nisreeno.”

“What about her?”

“We must take her with us.”

“Why?” Jim asked.

“Because she now belongs to you,” Cleopatra replied.

“Is this a joke?” Dave asked.

“This is not a joke,” Cleopatra replied solemnly. “Nisreeno is Jim’s property, or wife, whichever fits around here. It’s the same to them.”

“How can we do that?” Jim asked.

“How is not the question. We have no choice. We cannot leave her here.”

“Why not? They are her people,” Dave replied.

“Nisreeno told me that a rejected wife becomes an outcast. Nobody would associate with her or even care for her. Lower class men could rape her with impunity.”

“All because I won her in a poker game?” Jim asked incredulously.

“It is their custom. It has been for thousands of years. She’s now your wife. Jim, are you married?”

“I’m divorced.”

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

“Naw. What’s that got to do with anything?”

“According to their law, you are married now, and it wouldn’t matter if you had a wife back in the United States.”

“I don’t like this,” Jim said. “We can’t even communicate.”

“You lucked out,” Cleopatra replied. “She has a western education. She attended a convent school for girls in France and an exclusive girl’s finishing school in Geneva. She speaks her native language called Tamazight and she is fluent in Arabic, French, German and English. She is a very intelligent girl.”

“They do that for girls?” Dave asked.

“Only for the royal family. They say she is a princess of the blood.”

“And they will just throw her away if Jim doesn’t take her with him?” Dave said disgustedly. “What kind of people are they?”

“They are not like us, but they are very civilized in their own way,” Cleopatra replied. “They have a four-thousand year history and they have never been conquered by outsiders,” she reminded them.

“What do they call themselves?’ Dave asked.

“They call themselves the Imazighen. In antiquity the Greeks called them Libyans.

“I’m close to thirty,” Jim said. “She looks like a teenager. How old is she?”

“She’s twenty-two, which is way past marriageable age for them. She was betrothed to an older man who died before they were married.”

“How can we do this?” Dave asked.

“Just do it,” Cleopatra replied.

“How can we get her out of the country?” Jim asked.

“She has a passport.”

“What about clothes and woman stuff?” Dave asked.

“All of her things are in my room.”

“Is she there too?”

“She has been there all night, weeping.”

“Well, I understand that, being lost in a card game and thrown out of her home and all. That would upset anybody.”

“That’s not why she’s upset.”

“Then, what is she upset about?” Dave asked.

“She’s upset because her new husband did not spend their wedding night with her.”

“So, this is not some kind of farcical game,” Dave observed solemnly.

“This is not a game,” Cleopatra replied. “Jim has a wife, whether he wants one or not, and it would be cruel for him to leave her here.”

“I’m sick of being a secret agent,” Jim said. “Can I quit now?”

Dave laughed. “Jim, it is your duty. You must do this for God and Country. You can’t let them down.”

“Yes, Jim, it is your duty,” Cleopatra said with a smile. “You have married a princess of the royal blood for God and Country.”

“I will never again cheat at poker,” Jim replied.


Chapter Eighteen


Cleopatra’s problems were not over. A robed figure was waiting beside the door when she returned to her room.

He stood up when he heard her approaching footsteps and called her by name in an American accent. He looked familiar but he was dirty and had a scraggly beard.

“Who are you?” she asked.


“Jeff! You don’t look like yourself. What are you doing here?”

“I was told to come to this room to meet someone who could get me out of this mess I’m in.”

“How did you get way out here?”

“I was kidnapped and sold to these people.”


“Yeah. I’m a slave.”

“What do you do?”

“I herd goats.”

Cleopatra laughed. “So they have promoted you into a job you can handle.”

“It’s not funny, Cleopatra.”

“I spent all of my money to keep you out of jail. That was not funny either.”

“I couldn’t help it.”

“You left me stranded in Tamanghasset without enough money to go home.”

“How’d you get here?” he asked.

“I’m working for two American agents.”

“What do you do for them?”

“I’m their interpreter.”

“Do you think they might help me?”

“I don’t know. I can ask. But if you get out, don’t expect any help from me. You will be on your own.”

“Agreed. I have learned my lesson.”

“I doubt that. Wait out here. I have to speak to someone in my room.”

She went inside to find Nisreeno sitting on the same piece of luggage she was sitting on when Cleopatra left. She was not crying but her face looked puffy. She looked inquiringly at Cleopatra.

“Nisreeno, I have spoken to your husband, Jim. I know this is hard for you to understand, but this is not the way Americans do things. Jim is a good and kind man, but he is upset over what has happened. I have spoken to him and he has reluctantly agreed to let you leave with him, but that is all.”

“Will he allow me to be his wife?” Nisreeno asked with a trembling voice.

“I don’t know. First, we have to get you safely away from here. I have done my best to convince him, but I cannot promise that he will make you his wife and take you with him to America.”

“Then it is in God’s hands,” she said.

“Yes, it is,” Cleopatra agreed. “But you must present yourself in the best light to convince him that you will be a good wife.”

“I will be a good wife,” Nisreeno declared emphatically. “No woman could be as good a wife as I will be to him.”

“On the plus side, he’s not married and he does not have a girlfriend.”

“Then I will behave so that he will only have eyes for me.”

“That’s the spirit,” Cleopatra said, but in her heart, she was not confident it would work out because the societal and cultural gulf between Nisreeno and Jim was a chasm of Grand Canyon dimensions.

By then the sun was up and it was time for their last meal with Aama Tahar. Cleopatra was afraid he might not let them leave on schedule because he had been very upset about losing the card game with Jim. With Nisreeno, Jeff and Aama Tahar’s disposition, she felt as if the weight of the world was on her shoulders.



On their last day in Aama Tahar’s domain, breakfast arrangements were different. A western style table and chairs were set up in the palace courtyard. Two finer, more formal, chairs were in places where Aama Tahar and Cleopatra usually sat. When Cleopatra arrived, she was directed to sit beside Aama Tahar.

She had not had time to brief Dave and Jim on the issue with Jeff.

Aama Tahar seemed to be in a jovial mood. After everybody had taken their places, he proposed a toast in English to his honored guests. “To our newest friends, may they safely return to their homeland.”

They held up their cups of warm goat’s milk to a chorus of “Hear, Hear.”

The breakfast menu was also different. The usual dried figs and flatbread were present, but platters of fried eggs and a meat that resembled corned beef were passed around the table.

“I ain’t seen any cows,” Jim whispered to Dave.

“You’ve seen plenty of goats, haven’t you?”

“So this must be corned goat.”

Dave nodded.

While they ate, Aama Tahar made small talk with Cleopatra and those sitting closest to them. After the meal was over, he rose to speak.

“Members of my cabinet and honored guests, it is with sadness that our new friends must leave our presence today.” He paused. “It is also with sadness that my favorite niece, Nisreeno, will be departing with her new husband, Jim, to his home in America. I wish them great happiness and many handsome sons.”

“I thought she had to leave,” Jim whispered to Dave.

“Beats me,” Dave replied.

“He’s acting like it’s a happy occasion.”

“Maybe it is for them.”

“What a weird bunch,” Jim grumbled.

Aama Tahar then asked if they had any departing requests to make of him.

Dave stood and replied, thanking Aama Tahar for his generous hospitality.

“We will remember with fondness our most pleasant visit with the great Aama Tahar.”

Aama Tahar changed the subject. “We have examined the contents of your truck,” he said to Dave. “We are profoundly interested in certain rifles in your possession.”

“They are very accurate rifles,” Dave replied. He was not surprised to learn this.

“We would like to acquire rifles such as these. Can you help us do that?”

“Sure,” Dave replied.

“Would you train us in their use?”

“Yes, we would, but we must wait until our current case is finished.”

“My informers have told me that you have done very effective work in South America with rifles such as these.”

“I’ve made a few lucky shots.”

“Your reputation is one of competent effectiveness,” Aama Tahar replied. “I am honored by your presence.”

“Thanks,” Dave replied and sat down.

Aama Tahar, turned his attention to Cleopatra. “Do you have any favors to ask of me?” he asked with a sly smile.

“I don’t like that smile of his,” Jim whispered to Dave. “Something else is up his sleeve.”

Cleopatra was on the spot, and for the first time, they saw hesitancy in her demeanor.

“I too have enjoyed our visit,” she replied with her best smile. “And I thank you for your personal attentiveness.” She paused to gather her thoughts before she continued. “You have an employee within your domain that was brought here against his will. I happen to know this man and I ask that you release him and allow him to leave with us.”

“Who is this man?” Aama Tahar asked, feigning surprise.

“He knows very well who it is,” Dave whispered to Jim. “He’s pretending he doesn’t for some reason.”

“His American name is Jeff Green,” Cleopatra replied.

“I know of no man named Jeff Green. What work does he do in my domain?”

“He is a goat herder.”

Aama Tahar feigned the act of suddenly remembering. “I do know of this man. We cannot just let him go.”

“Why not?” Cleopatra asked.

“We have an investment in him.” He smiled slyly. “What do you have to give me in return for his release?”

“I can pay $1,000.00,” referring to the money that Dave owed her.

“We have plenty of money.  I do not want money.”

“What do you have in mind?” Cleopatra asked.

“If you will agree to become my queen, I will release Mr. Green to leave with Mr. Quigley.”

“Your queen!” Cleopatra exclaimed.

“Yes. I desire that you become my queen.”

“You are proposing to marry me?”

“If you are my queen, we must be married.”

Cleopatra paused to think. “I don’t like Jeff very much. He is untrustworthy.”

“I agree that Mr. Green is not worth much sacrifice. However he is my only bargaining chip to obtain the one that I most desire. But I offer you a queenship.”

“You desire me?” she asked.

“In a most romantic and practical way,” he replied.

“Now we know why he was pretending,” Jim whispered to Dave.

Cleopatra thought a long time while everyone around the table waited in tense anticipation for her verdict. Dave and Jim thought she might be wavering toward saying yes.

“I am an independent woman. I wish to retain my independence,” she said.

“I admire and treasure your independent attitude and I will honor your wishes,” Aama Tahar replied.

“Will you allow me to visit my family in America one month of every year?” she asked.

“Yes, I will,” he replied with a smile, and waved his arm around the table, “and these are my witnesses.” Then he added, “I have discussed this with my cabinet and they have voted unanimously for you to become their queen.”

“Will you go with me to America when I visit my parents?”

“I will if my duties allow.”

Dave had been observing this exchange closely. He interrupted their conversation and spoke to Aama Tahar. “Will you allow me to have a private conversation with Cleopatra?”

“Yes, you may, Mr. Quigley,” he said.

Dave motioned for Cleopatra to join them beside the truck.

“Do you realize what he wants?” Jim asked.

“Yes, I do. And I’m interested. It’s not every day that a Mormon girl from Salt Lake City is asked to become a queen. Aama Tahar is an attractive man and I’m an adventuress at heart.”

“What about living out here in nowhere?” Dave asked.

“I like it here. Utah’s dry, too, and nobody in Utah has offered me a chance to be a queen.”

“So, you’ve made up your mind,” Jim said.

“He’s been trying to get you the whole time we’ve been here,” Dave observed. “That oasis trip was for you. We were just furniture. The card game was another attempt but Jim messed that up. Is this guy you’re trying to rescue worth rescuing?”

“He’s an incompetent jerk, but I don’t want to be responsible for him living the rest of his life as a slave in a foreign country.”

“Cleopatra, you have been a lot of help to us,” Dave said. “This is your decision. We will honor whatever you choose to do.”

He handed her eighteen one-hundred dollar bills. “This is your share of the two thousand for getting our equipment back and for eight days as an interpreter.”

He also gave her his card. “If you ever need rescuing, contact me and we’ll find a way to come and get you.”

“Thank you!” she said with tears in her eyes.  “I’ll miss you guys. You two have been like brothers to me.”

She turned to Jim. “Promise me that you will give Nisreeno an honest chance. She is a very beautiful and intelligent girl. She will be a devoted and faithful wife for as long as you live and will revere your memory after you’re gone. I believe God is somehow working to help you both. The cultural gulf between you two is enormous, but, in my heart, I believe it will be a blessing on both your lives.”

“I’ll try, as a favor to you, Cleopatra,” Jim replied. “Right now I’m not in much of a romantic mood about this.”

“Try, Jim,” she said. “Just give her a chance. That’s all I ask.”

“I’ll keep him on track,” Dave assured her.

“We had better get back to the table,” Cleopatra said.

“Yeah, we better,” Dave agreed.

She hugged them both and returned to her place at the table.

“And what is your decision, Cleopatra?” Aama Tahar asked as she took her seat on the throne beside him.

“I agree to become your queen,” she replied with a smile.

The whole courtyard erupted in hurrahs and hosannas.

Dave held Jim back at the truck.

“What’s the problem, Dave?”

“Let’s give Aama Tahar the M-40s and the ammo as a wedding gift.”


“They were shipped to Tamanghasset as diplomatic luggage. We are gonna have a big problem shipping them back,” Dave pointed out.

“You’re right. We don’t want to alert the Algerians that we’re spies.”

“Yeah. The Algerian government is not friendly to the U.S.”

“I see what you’re getting at,” Jim replied. “Plus we visited Aama Tahar’s camp. That might look bad to the local authorities. We might as well get some PR advantage with Aama Tahar out of this.”

“It’ll make you look good to the family of your new wife,” Dave added.

“I don’t know, Dave. That’s a really long shot.”

“If it doesn’t work, giving Aama Tahar the rifles won’t cause any harm and if it does work out, you’ll have a big leg up family relations-wise.”

“Besides,” Jim added, “he said he wants to buy some of these rifles and have you come back and train his guys. This might grease the skids on that.”

Dave laughed. “And you can help me while your new wife, that you won by cheating in a poker game, gets to visit her family and brag about what a swell husband she’s got.”

“You are really stretching it, Dave.”

“Let’s get ’em out and present our generous gift to the newlyweds.”

By then a crowd filled the courtyard. Apparently there was no formal wedding ceremony and the public commitment to marriage was all their custom required. The chief of Aama Tahar’s council made a formal statement of loyalty to Queen Cleopatra which was seconded by the remainder of the council. The man who met them at the gate on the first day produced a golden crown and placed it upon Cleopatra’s head to the applause of the bystanders. Then a line formed to congratulate the new bride and groom and bow to their new queen.

“This is an informal bunch,” Jim observed.

“You know, it makes a lot of sense,” Dave replied. “Cuts out a lot of useless and expensive formal crap.”

They got in line with the rifle cases and ammunition carton. Nobody paid attention to the fact that they were standing in line with guns.

When it was their turn in front of the royal couple, Dave made his speech.

“To King Larbi Aama Tahar M’hidi and to Queen Cleopatra, Jim and I wish to present these humble gifts in honor of your wedding.”

They laid the gun cases on the ground and opened them up to reveal two professionally built telescopic sight-equipped rifles. Then Jim opened the box containing the ammunition.

Aama Tahar, overcome by their generosity, smiled broadly. Cleopatra showed shocked surprise.

“I am blessed to receive such handsome gifts from our newest friends,” he said. He then congratulated Jim and wished him and his favorite niece a safe journey to America.

“We wish you and your new queen long and happy lives,” Dave said, before he moved to Cleopatra.

“You gonna be okay?” Dave asked her.

She was beaming, “Yes. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”

“If it makes you feel any better, Cleopatra, you are the prettiest queen I have ever met.”



By the time Dave and Jim made it back to the truck, Nisreeno was waiting for them with eleven big suitcases. It was the first time they had seen her up close. She was very well groomed and moved about gracefully.

“I’m not feeling as sorry for you as I was,” Dave muttered to Jim under his breath.

Jim behaved awkwardly around Nisreeno and she looked down shyly when he spoke to her. While Cheriet and Dave loaded her luggage into the back of the truck, a woman they took to be her mother embraced her tearfully and made a long speech in their native language. Then her mother bowed to Jim and made another speech that he didn’t understand. Her father introduced himself to Jim and spoke English when he assured Jim that she was an obedient girl and she would be a hard-working, loyal and devoted wife. He hoped she would produce many strong sons for him.

Jim helped Nisreeno climb up into the truck bed, and then climbed into the truck with her. He wiped dust off one of the overstuffed chairs and motioned for her to take a seat. Then, instead of staying in the back of the truck with his new wife, Jim took his place in the cab beside Cheriet, leaving Dave the other chair in the back.

Cheriet started the truck, turned it around and drove down the boulevard past cheering crowds. The tall man in the brown robe, who met them the first day, ordered the gates to be opened. About time they started out of the gate, they heard shouts.

An unkempt, dirty, white man dashed up out of breath and yelled that he was Jeff Green and they were supposed to take him with them. Cheriet stopped the truck while Jeff scrambled into the back and took a seat in a corner of the truck bed.

Nisreeno’s relatives crowded around the truck, and as Cheriet drove off, they kept walking beside the truck for a half mile before they stopped and waved tearful goodbyes. Nisreeno stood with tears in her eyes and waved until she no longer saw them.

Dave watched Nisreeno as she waved at her family one last time. Her humility and sincerity touched him. He worried about what was in store for this beautiful girl set adrift in a wider world, far away from family and friends.

“Jim is a good man,” Dave said reassuringly, hoping that Jim would prove him right.

“I know in my heart that my new husband is a good man,” she replied. “I will be a good wife to him.”



It was mid-afternoon by the time they left and they only had a few hours before it would be time to make camp. After they traveled about an hour, Jeff asked Dave if they had anything to eat. Dave handed him an MRE packet. Jeff opened it, found the spoon, opened the entree packet, took one bite, got a disgusted look on his face and tossed the whole packet out of the truck. Dave yelled for Cheriet to stop the truck.

“Get out and pick that up!” Dave demanded.

“Why?” Jeff replied.

“You threw good food away.”

“It tasted like crap,” Jeff retorted.

“I lived off that crap for a year. You go get it and you bring it here.”

“I will not,” Jeff retorted.

Dave stood up, picked Jeff up and threw him out onto the ground.

“Pick it up,” he ordered.

“I won’t and you can’t make me,” Jeff replied insolently as he stood up dusting himself off.

Dave sailed out of the truck and strode menacingly up to Jeff. “Pick it up!”

Jeff refused. Dave tried to grab him. Jeff stepped back and took a swing at Dave. Dave blocked his swing with his left arm and punched Jeff in the belly so hard that Jeff fell to the ground doubled up in pain.

“Pick it up,” Dave ordered.

Jeff jumped up and charged Dave with fists swinging. This time Dave blackened his left eye. Jeff fell backwards screaming in pain.

“You’re not strong enough to act like that,” Dave said. “Pick it up and get back in the truck or we’ll leave you here.”

Dave climbed into the truck and told Cheriet to drive away. Before they had gone far, Jeff picked up the package and ran to catch the truck. Cheriet slowed, but didn’t stop, for him to climb into the back. Jeff caught the tailgate, swung up into the bed and resumed his position in the back corner.

“He was not a good goatherd either,” Nisreeno observed.

“So the great Aama Tahar traded this jerk for his new queen,” Dave replied with a grin.

Nisreeno smiled shyly. “My uncle is a very shrewd man.”

She had a pretty smile and a pleasant, well-modulated voice. Dave now felt even less sorry for Jim.

“Jeff, you won’t get anything else to eat until you have consumed every crumb of what’s in that packet,” Dave said.

Jeff didn’t reply, but continued to stare sullenly into the distance.

This was a bad start for their return trip.

 Continued Next Month



A History Lesson

E.B. Alston


“The Moslem conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precarious thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty, culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within. The Hindus had allowed their strength to be wasted in internal division and war; they had adopted religions like Buddhism and Jainism, which unnerved them for the tasks of life; they had failed to organize their forces for the protection of their frontiers and their capitals, their wealth and their freedom, from the hordes of Scythians, Huns, Afghans, and Turks hovering about India’s boundaries and waiting for national weakness to let them in. For four hundred years, 600-1000 AD, India invited conquest; and at last it came.

The first Moslem attack was a passing raid upon Multan, in the western Junjab (664 A.D.). Similar raids occurred at the convenience of the raiders during the next three centuries, with the result that the Moslems established themselves in the Indus valley about the same time their Arab co-religionists in the west were fighting the battle of Tours (732 A.D.) for the mastery of Europe. But the real Moslem conquest of India did not come till the turn of the first millennium after Christ.

In the year 997, a Turkish chieftain by the name of Mahmud became the sultan of a little state of Ghazni in Eastern Afganistan. Mamud knew that his throne was young and poor, and saw that India, across the border, was old and rich; the conclusion was obvious. Pretending a holy zeal for destroying Hindu idolatry, he swept across the frontier with a force inspired by a pious aspiration for booty. He met the unprepared Hindus at Bhimnagar, slaughtered them, pillaged their cities, destroyed their temples, and carried away the accumulated treasures of centuries.
        Each winter Mahmud descended into India, filled his treasure chest with spoils, and amused his men with full freedom to pillage and kill. Each spring he returned to his capital richer than before.
         Six years later he sacked another opulent city in northern India, Somnath, killed all its fifty thousand inhabitants, and dragged its wealth to Ghazini. In the end he became, perhaps, the richest king that history has ever known. Sometimes he spared the population of the ravaged cities, and took them home to be sold as slaves; but so great was the number of such captives that after some years no one could be found to offer more than a few small coins for a slave.”


The Story of Civilization-Our Oriental Heritage by Will Durant
Simon and Schuster-New York 1954. Pages 459-460


“Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.” Herodotus

None of our political leaders know this, or, if they do, they haven’t taken its lesson to heart.

The clock is ticking. Will we, can we, rise to the challenge. We don’t have four hundred years.



14th Annual Virginia Four Wheel Drive Association Trail Ride

E. B. Alston


October 11, 2006


Oak Ridge Estate, Arrington, Virginia












It’s 07:00 and this twenty-acre field is full of four-wheel-drive vehicles. It’s two hundred thirty-three to be exact. Almost all are Jeeps of some variation.

Just about every variation of Jeep is represented. Most are Wranglers, CJ 5’s, CJ 7’s and a couple of CJ 10’s which are ex-military vehicles. There were also quite a few Cherokees, some Grand Cherokees and a few Liberty’s. Liberty’s came out in 2002 and it takes nerves of steel to put a new, plush, family vehicle out in this. But, like Grand Cherokees, a Liberty will get you places just like a Wrangler will.

On a special note, there were also a few WW II Willys Jeeps.


Cherokees are very popular, second only to Wranglers and CJ’s.



Topsail-Island Topsail-IslandThe ride was organized by the Tidewater (VA) Fourwheelers to benefit the VA4WD Association (http://www.va4wda.org/clubs.htm) and Nelson County food bank. This is our second year and it is a fun trip. Last year, my 2006 Wrangler Rubicon had less than 1300 miles on it when we put it through the test. Needless to say, it passed with flying colors. I knew it would. We had already been on most of the trails in my old 1999 Wrangler Sport.


We are on the old steel bridge across the N&W railroad following Tom Desmidt, an old friend from my metallic silhouette shooting days. He used to teach at VCU in Richmond, Virginia, but now he lives with his wife a stones throw from the Blue Ridge parkway.


The first time we attended Camp Jeep, which is a party put on every year by Chrysler for Jeep owners, we signed up for one "Scenic" trail and two "Intermediate" trails. The other designation was "Difficult". The trail numbering system that year was one up to something like thirty-six. The higher the number, the harder the trail, with thirty-six being the most difficult. We were assigned trail # 2. Meanwhile, somebody got the idea that the numbering system was wrong and the easy trails ought to have the biggest numbers.


About five minutes off the paved road and we were driving straight down a very steep rocky creek bank into water that was over the wheels of our Jeep and an even steeper bank on the other side. Barbara said if this was a "Scenic" trail, she wasn’t going on an "Intermediate" trail. After an arduous morning, we had got through without wrecking, getting stuck or needing a tow, somebody told us about the change in trail designations. We were hooked!


Ten minutes later we are "on the rocks", as they say in Jeep lingo.

"Blood on the trail" means you’ve busted an oil pan or some other liquid filled housing.


Getting pretty tough already! Topsail-Island


We’re still following Tom and I’m going down a steep dirt bank. Tom has pulled out of the ditch and is moving on.




This is a pretty, new-looking Wrangler Sport.



Back on the rocks!


Lunch Break. What a view!

Topsail-Island Topsail-Island

Back on the rocks again, as they say.      It ain’t so pretty now is it?

Topsail-Island  Topsail-Island

Grand Cherokees are more prominent than you might think. They are very capable off-road vehicles. That’s Tom Desmidt in the first picture.

Topsail-Island  Topsail-Island

Topsail-Island Topsail-Island

Rocks are the order of the day.        Second day’s lineup.

Topsail-Island Topsail-Island

These are Jeeps highly modified for rock climbing

Topsail-Island   Topsail-Island

The line was moving when this picture was taken out of the window.


Lunch break the second day. Notice how dirty these Jeeps are now.

We are now at the CJ-5 Hill creek crossing. The camera does not show how steep the far bank is as you approach the water.

Topsail-Island  Topsail-Island

This one has crossed the river but that 35-degree solid rock creek bank is just ahead!  Not a place to gun the engine!

Topsail-Island  Topsail-Island

He made it to the creek bank. Now he has to get to the top.

This is a highly modified Toyota pickup that has just topped the solid rock creek bank.

Topsail-Island Topsail-Island

That’s Tom in front. I’m ascending the rock bank behind him and the Jeep was bouncing pretty bad when Barbara took this photo. Another victim inching forward.

Topsail-Island     Topsail-Island

One of several coaches. You get lots of coaching at obstacles like this.

Remember that pretty Jeep. The CJ-5 Hill has claimed it’s victim for today. Here it is in the foreground with a broken rear driveshaft. This is the first time I’ve seen a drive train failure in a Jeep on a trail. They get banged up, turned over and get stuck but they seldom break down.


 Here’s that Grand Cherokee reaching the top in fine form.  The inscription on the picture says, "Yes children, that’s your mama’s Grand Cherokee."



A Rubicon makes its move.




The Diary of Samuel Pepys


4th. Lord's day. To Mr. Gunning's, an excellent sermon upon charity.

5th. To Westminster by water, only seeing Mr. Pinky at his own house, where he shewed me how he had alway kept the Lion and Unicorne, in the back of his chimney, bright, in expectation of the King's coming again. At home I found Mr. Hunt, who told me how the Parliament had voted that the Covenant be printed and hung in churches again. Great hopes of the King's coming again.


6th. Shrove Tuesday. I called Mr. Shepley and we both went up to my Lord's lodgings, at Mr. Crewe's, where he bid us to go home again and get a fire against an hour after. Which we did at
White Hall, whither he came, and after talking with him about our going to sea, he called me by myself into the garden, Where he asked me how things were with me; he bid me look out now at this turn some good place, and he would use all his own, and all the interest of his friends that he had in England, to do me good. And asked me whether I could, without too much inconvenience, go to sea as his secretary, and bid me think of it. He also began to talk of things of State, and told me that he should want one in that capacity at sea, that he might trust in, and therefore he would have me to go. He told me also, that he did believe the King would come in, and did discourse with me about it, and about the affection of the people and City, at which I was full glad. Wrote by the post, by my Lord's command, for I. Goods to come up presently. For my Lord intends to go forth with Goods to the Swiftsure till the Nazeby be ready. This day I hear that the Lords do intend to sit, a great store of them are now in town, and I see in the Hall to-day. Overton at Hull do stand out, but can it is thought do nothing; and Lawson, it is said, is gone with some ships thither, but all that is nothing. My Lord told me, that there was great endeavours to bring in the protector again; but he told me, too, that he did believe it would not last long if he were brought in; no, nor the King neither, (though he seems to think that he will come in), unless he carry himself very soberly and well. Every body now drink the King's health without any fear, whereas before it was very private that a man dare do it. Monk this day is feasted at Mercers' Hall, and is
invited one after another to all the twelve Halls in London. Many think that he is honest yet, and some or more think him to be a fool that would raise himself, but think that he will undo
himself by endeavouring it.


7th. Ash Wednesday. Going homeward, my Lord overtook me in his coach, and called me in, and so I went with him to St. James's, and G. Montagu [George Montagu, afterwards M.P. for Dover, second son of Edward, second Earl of Manchester, and father of the first Earl of Halifax. being gone to White Hall, we walked over the Park thither, all the way he discoursing of the times, and of the change of things since the last year, and wondering how he could bear with so great disappointment as he did. He did give me the best advice that he could what was best for me, whether to stay or go with him, and offered all the ways that could be, how he might do me good, with the greatest liberty and love. This day according to order, Sir Arthur [Haselrigge.] appeared at the House; what was done I know not, but there was all the Rumpers almost come to the House to-day. My Lord did seem to wonder much why Lambert was so willing to be put into the Tower, and thinks he had some design in it; but I think that he is so poor that he cannot use his liberty for debts, if he were at liberty; and so it is as good and better for him to be there, than any where else.


8th. To Westminster Hall, where there was a general damp over men's minds and faces upon some of the Officers of the Army being about making a remonstrance upon Charles Stuart or any single person; but at noon it was told, that the General had put a stop to it, so all was well again. Here I met with Jasper who was to bring me to my Lord at the lobby; whither sending a note to my Lord, he comes out to me and gives me directions to look after getting some money for him from the Admiralty, seeing that things are so unsafe, that he would not lay out a farthing for the
State, till he had received some money of theirs. This afternoon, some of the officers of the Army, and some of the Parliament, had a conference at White Hall to make all right again, but I know not what is done. At the Dog tavern, in comes Mr. Wade and Mr. Sterry, secretary to the plenipotentiary in Denmark, who brought the news of the death of the King of Sweden
[Charles Gustavus.] at Gottenburgh the 3rd of last month.


9th. To my Lord at his lodging, and came to Westminster with him in the coach; and Mr. Dudley and he in the Painted Chamber walked a good while; and I telling him that I was willing and ready to go with him to sea, he agreed that I should, and advised me what to write to Mr. Downing about it. This day it was resolved that the writs do go out in the name of the Keepers of the Liberty, and I hear that it is resolved privately that a treaty be offered with the King. And that Monk did check his soldiers highly for what they did yesterday.


13th. At my Lord's lodgings, who told me that I was to be secretary, and Crewe deputy treasurer to the Fleet. This day the Parliament voted all that had been done by the former Rump against the House of Lords be void, and to-night that the writs go out without any qualification. Things seem very doubtful what will be the end of all; for the Parliament seems to be strong for the King, while the soldiers do all talk against.


14th. To my Lord's, where infinity of applications to him and to me. To my great trouble, my Lord gives me all the papers that was given to him, to put in order and to give him an account of
them. I went hence to St. James's to speake with Mr. Clerke, Monk's secretary, about getting some soldiers removed out of Huntingdon to Oundle, which my Lord told me he did to do a
courtesy to the town, that he might have the greater interest in them, in the choice of the next Parliament; not that he intends to be chosen himself, but that he might have Mr. Montagu and my
Lord Mandevill chose there in spite of the Bernards. I did promise to give my wife all that I have in the world, but my books, in case I should die at sea. After supper I went to Westminster Hall, and the Parliament sat till ten at night, thinking and being expected to dissolve themselves to-day, but they did not. Great talk to-night that the discontented officers did think this night to make a stir, but prevented.


16th. To Westminster Hall, where I heard how the Parliament had this day dissolved themselves, and did pass very cheerfully through the Hall, and the Speaker without his mace. The whole
Hall, was joyfull  thereat, as well as themselves, and now they begin to talk loud of the King. To-night I am told, that yesterday, about five o'clock in the afternoon, one came with a ladder to the Great Exchange, and wiped with a brush the inscription that was on King Charles, and that there was a great bonfire made in the Exchange, and people called out "God bless King Charles the Second!"


19th. Early to my Lord, where infinity of business to do, which makes my head full; and indeed, for these two or three days, I have not been without a great many cares. After that to the
Admiralty, where a good while with Mr. Blackburne, who told me that it was much to be feared that the King would come in, for all good men and good things were now discouraged. Thence to
Wilkinson's, where Mr. Shepley and I dined; and while we were at dinner, my Lord Monk's life-guard come by with the Serjeant at Armes before them, with two Proclamations, that all Cavaliers do depart the town: but the other that all officers that were lately disbanded should do the same. The last of which Mr. R. Creed, I remember, said, that he looked upon it as if they had
said, that all God's people should depart the town. All the discourse now-a-day is, that the King will come again; and for all I see, it is the wishes of all; and all do believe that it will be so.


21st. To my Lord's, but the wind very high against us; here I did very much business, and then to my Lord Widdrington's from my Lord, with his desire that he might have the disposal of the writs of the Cinque Ports. My Lord was very civil to me, and called for wine, and writ a long letter in answer. 22nd. To Westminster, and received my warrant of Mr. Blackburne, to be Secretary to the two Generals of the Fleet.


23rd. My Lord, Captain Isham, Mr. Thomas, John Crewe, W. Howe, and I to the Tower, where the barges staid for us; my Lord and the Captain in one, and W. Howe and I, &c., in the other, to the Long Beach, where the Swiftsure lay at anchor; (in our way we saw the great breach which the late high water had made, to the loss of many 1000£. to the people about Limehouse. Soon as my Lord on board, the guns went off bravely from the ships. And a little while after comes the Vice-Admiral Lawson, and seemed very respectful to my Lord, and so did the rest of the Commanders of the frigates that were thereabouts. We were late writing of orders for the getting of ships ready, &c.; and also making of others to all the sea-ports between Hastings and Yarmouth, to stop all dangerous persons that are going or coming between Flanders and there.


24th. At work hard all the day writing letters to the Council, &c.


25th. About two o'clock in the morning, letters came from London by our Coxon, so they waked me, but I bid him stay till morning, which he did, and then I rose and carried them into my Lord, who read them a-bed. Among the rest, there was the writ and mandate for him to dispose to the Cinque Ports for choice of Parliamentmen. There was also one for me from Mr. Blackburne, who with his own hand superscribes it to S. P. Esq., of which God knows I was not a little proud. I wrote a letter to the Clerk of Dover Castle to come to my Lord about issuing of those writs.


26th. This day it is two years since it pleased God that I was cut for the stone at Mrs. Turner's in Salisbury Court. [Mrs. Turner was the sister of Edward Pepys.] And did resolve while I live to keep it a festival, as I did the last year at my house, and for ever to have Mrs. Turner and her company with me. But now it pleased God that I am prevented to do it openly; only within my soul I can and do rejoice, and bless God, being at this time, blessed be his holy name, in as good health as ever I was in my life. This morning I rose early, and went about making of an  establishment of the whole Fleet, and a list of all the ships, with the number of men and guns. About an hour after that, we had a meeting of the principal commanders and seamen, to
proportion out the number of these things. All the afternoon very many orders were made, till I was very weary.


27th. This morning the wind came about, and we fell into the Hope. I sat the first time with my Lord at table since my coming to sea. All the afternoon exceeding busy in writing of letters
and orders. In the afternoon, Sir Harry Wright come on board us, [M.P. for Harwich. He married Anne, daughter of Lord Crewe, and sister to Lady Sandwich, and resided in Dagenham, Essex; he was created a Baronet by Cromwell, 1658, and by Charles II., 1660. about his business of being chosen a Parliament-man. My Lord brought him to see my cabbin, when I was hard a-writing. At night supped with my Lord too, with the Captain.





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


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


Rita Berman: 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: 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.


John Burns:  As a graduate student I could not afford to run the electric baseboard heater furnished by my landlord. Fortunately, my death was never recorded and I was able to earn my degree once I thawed out. “


Peggy Lovelace Ellis, has been a freelance editor for 48 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.


Howard A Goodman: A veteran of corporate society his entire working life, Howard discovered his passion for writing—an occupation that had lurked subliminally in his subconscious—thanks to the grim reality of suddenly being forced to make a major mid-life career transition. Though he didn’t grow up in the South and is not particularly partial to grits, Howard considers himself a Southern author of sorts. In contrast to those who spin tales of being raised dirt-poor on a tobacco farm, Howard's focus is on the lives of corporate professionals and their families—the thousands who flocked to the upscale cities and towns surrounding North Carolina’s high-tech Research Triangle Park—the Neo-Southerners. Howard resides in Cary, North Carolina.


Carol Rados lives in Greenville NC with her husband.  She grew up in Hollister, NC.  She worked as a Rehabilitation Counselor for the North Carolina Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.  In December 2015 she retired.  Her interests are doing volunteer work as a member of the Service League of Greenville, participating in Life Long Learning classes through ECU, reading, water aerobics, playing Mahjong, and she is involved at Congregation Bayt Shalom, her synagogue. She is very interested in using less plastic, and doing other things to improve our environment.  She is the sister of Gene Alston, the publisher.


Sybil Austin Skakle: grew up in Hatteras, NC, born January 10, 1926, was a hospital pharmacist for 23 years, has published poetry, Searchings, 2001; a memoir, Confessions of an Outer Banks Filly, 2002; another memoir Valley of the Shadow, 2009. Her work has appeared in periodicals and numerous poetry and prose anthologies, four of which were published by The Chapel Hill Writers’ Discussion Group. She has been a member of Friday Noon Poets for more than thirty years.    


Tim Whealton: 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.


Marry Williamson: 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.


Ruth A. Whitsel is a former English major in undergraduate school.  In 1977, she obtained a Masters' Degree in clinical social work.  For twenty five years she was employed as a psychotherapist at her local mental Health center and in a part time private practice.  She was an adjunct instructor training graduate students in mental health practices.  Now retired, she has invested in her first love, writing, which she does weekly f