RPG Digest

June 2019


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Thanks to all these talented writers who have contributed to every issue of RPG Digest with such enthusiasm. Photos by Betsy Breedlove



Table of Contents

Clubs – Two by E. B. Alston. 2

Thomas Hardy, a Victorian Novelist by Rita Berman. 4

Natters of a Nomad by Peggy Ellis. 11

Summer by Laura Alston. 12

Bravery by Tim Whealton. 13

The Cabbage Patch Doll by Marry Williamson. 15

Boating Safety by Dave Whitford. 17

Meaningful by Randy Bittle. 22

Food for Thought by Peggy Ellis... 23

May's Story by Diana Goldsmith. 24

Life in Moccasin Gap by Brad Carver. 26

Wisdom.. 27

Up. 27

The Volunteer by Salvatore Scibona. 28

Three Rivers to Cross – Serialized book by Elizabeth Silance Ballard. 29

40 Things No Real Southerner Will Ever Say. 38

A Talking Dog Story 39

Hammer Spade and the Inca Curse Serialized book by E. B. Alston. 40

Remembering My Daddy by Prilmer Clayton. 49

Country Wisdom.. 50

From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza. 51

Contributors. 513



Clubs - Two

E. B. Alston


Last month’s column about clubs omitted the most famous American literary club of all time. The Algonquin Round Table was a group of New York City writers, critics, actors, and wits. They started their meetings as a practical joke, calling themselves "The Vicious Circle."  They met for lunch every day at the Algonquin Hotel from 1919 until roughly 1929.

The original group included Franklin Pierce Adams, newspaper columnist, Robert Benchley, humorist and actor, Heywood Broun, columnist and sportswriter, Marc Connelly, playwright, Ruth Hale, freelance writer who worked for women's rights, George S. Kaufman, playwright and director, F. Scott Fitzgerald, North Carolina author and his wife, Zelda, Dorothy Parker, critic, poet, short-story writer, and screenwriter, Brock Pemberton, Broadway producer, Harold Ross, The New Yorker editor, Robert E. Sherwood, author and playwright, John Peter Toohey, Broadway publicist, Alexander Woollcott, critic and journalist

Many of these are still famous today. My favorites are Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley. In my opinion, she is the wittiest woman who ever lived, and Benchley was almost her male equal.

At these luncheons, they engaged in wisecracks, wordplay, and witticisms that, through the newspaper columns of Round Table members, were disseminated across the country. Daily association with each other, both at the luncheons and outside of them, inspired members of the Circle to collaborate creatively.

The entire group worked together successfully only once to create a revue called No Sirree! which helped launch a Hollywood career for Round Tabler, Robert Benchley.

In its ten years of association, the Round Table and a number of its members acquired national reputations, both for their contributions to literature and for their sparkling wit.

The whole thing was not a “club” in the usual sense. They had no officers, kept no minutes or records of attendance. In reality, they were just an extremely talented group of people who met to talk. 

Young Dorothy Parker.jpgOther famous people attended at times.  Some of these were Tallulah Bankhead, actress, Noël Coward, playwright, Blyth Daly, actress, Edna Ferber, author, playwright Herman J. Mankiewicz, screenwriter and Harpo Marx, comedian and film star.

My favorite member is Dorothy Parker. She was a founding member of the Round Table. She was a poet, writer, critic, and satirist and was best remembered, or more correctly, famous, for her wit, wisecracks, and eye for 20th-century urban foibles.

She rose to acclaim, both for her literary works published in such magazines as The New Yorker. After the breakup of the Round Table, she moved to Hollywood and became a screenwriter.  She received two Academy Award nominations.

She was dismissive of her own talents and deplored her reputation as a "wisecracker." Both her literary output and reputation for sharp wit have endured and will endure for a long time.

Here are some samples of her wit:


“Their pooled emotions wouldn’t fill a teaspoon.”

“You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think.”

“Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.”

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at those he gives it to.”

“That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: ‘Wherever she went, including here, was against her better judgment.’” 

“That woman speaks eighteen languages, and can't say 'No' in any of them.” 

“If you wear a short enough skirt, the party will come to you.” 

“His voice was as intimate as the rustle of sheets.” 

“Of course I talk to myself. I like a good speaker, and I appreciate an intelligent audience.” 

“Mrs. Ewing was a short woman who accepted the obligation borne by so many short women to make up in vivacity what they lack in number of inches from the ground.” 

“Never throw mud. You may miss your mark, but you will have dirty hands.” 

“She runs the gamut of emotions all the way from A to B. (About actress Katherine Hepburn)




Razors pain you,

Rivers are damp,

Acids stain you,

And drugs cause cramp.

Guns aren't lawful,

Nooses give,

Gas smells awful.

You might as well live.




Four be the things I am wiser to know:

Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe.

Four be the things I'd been better without:

Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt.

Three be the things I shall never attain:

Envy, contentment, and sufficient champagne.

Three be the things I shall have till I die:

Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.


And last: “The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.”



Thomas Hardy, a Victorian Novelist

By Rita Berman


Thomas Hardy was born June 2, 1840 in Stinsford, Dorchester, England and died Rita on way to Hardy 001.jpgJanuary 11, 1928 in Dorchester.  His parents were Dorset country people, his father a builder, also named Thomas Hardy, as was his father before him.  No middle names to distinguish them.

Hardy’s mother Jemima was 9 years old when her father died, and her mother was left with seven children and no income.  The children wore other people’s cast-off clothing and often went shoeless.  Jemima’s brothers grew up to become drinkers like their father, but Jemima learned to sew, to cook and to clean, and to read.  At the age of 13 Jemima took her first job as a domestic servant in the household of a clergyman.  She was promoted to doing the cooking for the family and accompanied them when they went to Weymouth, the largest town in Dorset.

After her employer died Jemima then worked for the vicar of Stinsford.  She was attending Stinsford church when she saw Thomas Hardy and became involved with him.  She was 26 when she found herself pregnant and her family pressured him to marry her. They were married on December 22nd, 1839.  Thomas Hardy was 30 years old.  He had a lifetime lease on his cottage. 

His son, Thomas Hardy, the writer, lived an unusually long life for someone who when born was thought to be dead.  After caring for his mother, Jemima Hand Hardy, the midwife took another look at the tiny baby and called out, “Dead! Stop a minute; he’s live enough, sure!” 

Hardy spent his childhood and some years as an adult in his birthplace.  It was a seven-roomed thatched house that had been built for his grandfather.  After the Hardy family left the house in 1912 a series of tenants lived there until the National Trust acquired the house in 1948 and it was opened to visitors.  It is one of the smallest of the National Trust’s houses but is important because it is here that Hardy wrote his early poems and books, Under the Greenwood Tree and Far from the Madding Crowd. 

In 1984, the only way to see inside the Cottage was to request in advance for the custodian to give a tour.  My husband and I were visiting the Dorset area and so arranged for a private tour on June 12th.     It was located a short distance from the main road into Dorchester and to reach it we had to walk through the woods from the car park.

The custodian said she also took care of gardens, and that the previous year 14,000 people had come through the cottage and many more came to look and photograph the gardens. 

In Hardy’s bedroom I saw the window seat in Hardy’s bedroom where he had sat to read and prepare his lessons before setting out for school.       

While many readers know Hardy for his novels Far From the Madding Crowd (1874), Tess of the d’Urbervilles, (1891), and Jude the Obscure, (1895), they may not be aware that he preferred to write poetry instead of fiction.  It was only when he was financially successful after publication of Jude that he gave up fiction.

As a child, he was reading by the time he could walk.  When he was ten he was enrolled in a school in Dorchester that offered Latin lessons.  He had to walk three miles to school each day.   His experiences in walking the roads, meeting others on the road, exchanging news with traveler being overtaken by riders, carts and carriers, show up in his fiction.

In 1854 he won a school prize, a book, for his diligence and good behavior.  By the age of 16 his parents agreed he should not work in the family firm but should become a working pupil with James Hicks, an architect.  By the time he was 20 he was earning 15 shillings a week, and living in a room in Dorchester, going home only at weekends.

In April 1862 he decided to move to London to find work.  He also wanted to experience all that London offered.   For the next five years he went to exhibitions, galleries, churches, libraries, museums, dance halls, theatres and opera houses.

Someone suggested that he do some drawings in John Norton’s office for token payment and that led him to Arthur Blomfield, one of the most successful architects in London, who needed someone to do Gothic ecclesiastical drawings.  Hardy started work at a salary of one hundred and ten pounds a year and shared lodgings with another trainee in Blomfield’s office.  He wrote poetry and began to submit to magazines but everything he sent was rejected.

By 1867 he had returned to Dorchester to work part time as an assistant to Hicks. He was also working a novel, he called “The Poor Man and the Lady”.  It had a social and political message an attack on the indifference of the middle and upper classes towards their workers and servants.  He was told not to publish this book as it might damage his future chances as a novelist.

He began writing another novel in 1869, called Desperate Remedies.

A lurid plot that had a mystery, and some elements similar to Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone.

The novel was almost finished when he traveled to Cornwall to survey a church that needed restoration.

At the rectory he met Emma Gifford, the rector’s sister-in-law. This was the first time he had met a young woman of similar age and class.  She knew how to draw, paint watercolors and play the piano.  And she liked poetry.

Hardy’s attitude towards writing poetry was that it came naturally to him.  He said he was prouder of his poetry than any of his prose, even of his great novels, because he felt that in all the novels there was an element of compromise.  He had to struggle against publishers who were determined to censor what he wrote, and also endured the lofty disapproval of the critics.

William Tinsley agreed to publish Desperate Remedies, but Hardy would have to pay seventy-five pounds towards the cost of an edition of 500 copies.  He paid this in January 1871, but did not earn this back in sales.  Tinsley, however, offered thirty pounds for the copyright of Hardy’s new book, Under the Greenwood Tree.  This was published in June 1872, anonymously, and was well reviewed.  Tinsley then asked if Hardy would provide serial instalments for his magazine and Hardy began with A Pair of Blue Eyes. 

When he asked Mr. Gifford for Emma’s hand in marriage he was refused. He never communicated again with Emma’s parents. She left her home and went to stay with old friends who approved of the match.

Hardy was 32 when he returned to his home in Bockhampton and decided to become a full-time writer.  He completed the instalments of A Pair of Blue Eyes,  and worked on an outline for Far From the Madding Crowd .

Hardy was offered four hundred pounds for serial rights to Far From the Madding Crowd, by Leslie Stephen, the father of Virginia Woolf and editor of the Cornhill magazine.  The first instalment of Hardy’s book was to be published in January 1874. 

With the prospect of money coming in he had to persuade his mother that Emma Gifford was a suitable bride.  Jemima felt she was well born but penniless and too old.  They were, however, married on September 17, 1874 in St. Peter’s Church, Paddington, by her uncle, the Reverend Edwin Hamilton.  They spent the weekend in Brighton before going on to Normandy and Paris.  In her diary Emma recorded where they went and what they did, but expressed little of her feelings and rarely mentioned Hardy.

After marriage they lived in rented houses until 1883 when they moved into Max Gate a few miles from his birthplace. When Hardy grew old he would bring his friends up by car to show them the house where he was born. When he was 86 he recorded in his diary for November 1926 that he “went with Mr. Hanbury to Bockhampton and looked at fencing, trees, etc. with a view to tidying and secluding the Hardy House.”  

In 1891 after 17 years of marriage Emma was expressing in her journal her disappointment about the marriage.  About this time he was spending a lot of time  with a Mrs. Florence Henniker but she only wanted friendship. 

In 1896 the Hardy’s house at Max Gate was enlarged, extra rooms added in the attic and Emma began using these as a daytime retreat and eventually slept up there.  

She died November 27 1912, at the age of 72.  They had been married 38 years.  (Sept. 17, 1874).  After her death Thomas Hardy forgot their differences and began writing poems that remembered her as a young girl:


“With your nut-coloured hair,

And gray eyes, and rose-flush coming and going.”


Remembering when he first saw her, on the remote coast of north Cornwall riding on horseback with her hair blowing behind her, he wrote a series of poems that he called Poems of 1912-13.

Hardy’s second wife, Florence Dugdale, was a friend of Emma Hardy’s and had met him 1905 when she was 26 and he was 65, old enough to be her grandfather.  She was about 35 years old when they married in 1914.  She had been living in Max Gate working as his secretary.  She resented the poems he wrote about Emma, saying that they “are a fiction”.  Florence and Thomas Hardy were married 14 years but this marriage too did not produce any children. 

Henry James reviewed Far From the Madding Crowd, for the Nation magazine, and called it “second rate, fatal lack of magic, a verbose and redundant style, ..everything human in the book strikes us as facetious and insubstantial; the only things we believe in are the sheep and the dogs.”

But he was wrong.  The public enjoyed reading about the rural landscape and the country people.  Afterwards all of Hardy’s best novels, The Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge, The Woodlanders, Tess of the D’Urberville’s and Jude the Obscure, were built on this foundation.  Other books that he wrote were not as successful.

His will requested that he be buried in the churchyard at Stinsford, in the same grave as his first wife, Emma. But his literary executor, Sydney Cockerell was convinced that he should be buried in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey.  Hardy’s body had to be cremated because there was only sufficient room for a small urn containing his ashes.  The vicar of Stinsford suggested that Hardy’s heart should be cut out and buried where he had asked, in Stinsford and Florence agreed to this. .

In my possession I have some monographs that I purchased either from the custodian of Hardy’s Cottage or the Dorset County Museum that has a large collection of Hardy memorabilia.

These monographs were published by J Steven Cox in the early 1960’s after he realized that he needed to record the memories of the few remaining persons who had known Thomas Hardy dating back to 1900 before it was too late. My quoted sections of these remembrances presents their varied impressions of Thomas and Florence Hardy.  

Lillie May Farris was born in 1892. Thomas Hardy’s mother, Jemima and Lillie’s Gt. Grandfather Christopher Hand were brother and sister.

Lillie wrote that from a very early age her mother used to talk to her about Thomas Hardy, “how he was very clever and he would become very great as years passed.”

Writing in 1968 she remembered that she went to stay with her grandmother who pointed to a little road through the hedge and told her that was where the house where Cousin Thomas Hardy was born.      

She visited all the relations when she was ten years old and took a basket of apples to Aunt Jemima “and we were lucky for all the Hardy family were there.  Thomas Hardy’s mother was very much like my own mother, rather on the small side.  She wore a very tight fitting bodice of dark blue satin with dozens of tiny buttons down the front….I was taken out to the garden and shown the tree under which Hardy had written part of his novel, Under the Greenwood Tree.”

On another visit to her grandmother, she and her aunt met Thomas Hardy while they were going to a sweet shop.  “He put his hand in his pocket and gave me a two-shilling piece and said it was something towards keeping the trade going. He laughed, asked how grandma was and said goodbye.”   The last time Lillie saw Thomas Hardy was in 1923. “He was at Puddletown opening a church fete and we called also to see my Grandmother.”

W. M. Parker wrote about a visit to Thomas Hardy in September 1920. Parker was the co-editor of “The Letters of Sir Walter Scott.” (12 vols, 1932-37) and numerous articles on Scott and Thomas Hardy.

Parker was on a walking tour through the Hardy country to see many of the landmarks associated with Hardy’s Wessex Novels.   At his hotel he received a note from Mrs. Hardy inviting him to call and partake of afternoon tea at Max Gate.

“Within two days I should be in the presence of the greatest imaginative genius of modern times. It seemed incredible!”

On the appointed day the housemaid answered the door and he was ushered into the drawing room. Mrs. Hardy greeted him and told him not to ask Mr. Hardy for his autograph; he was so pestered by autograph hunters.

“My attention was suddenly but quietly arrested by the entry of the great man. He seemed to come tripping into the room like an elf; as if he had just forsaken converse with ethereal woodland creatures and returned to the everyday world. He gave me a handshake. His magnetic personality made itself felt moment by moment. The atmosphere was as if charged with the aura of personality.”

Parker described Hardy’s appearance.  “A high domed head, sparse hair, thick behind the ears. I could not rid me of the impression how much it resembled Wagner’s, as depicted in profile photographs of the great musician…. The object of surpassing interest was the face itself…. A certain likeness to a large withered walnut.”

Hardy spoke about his work.  “At that time his interest had deserted fiction and centered on poetry. To learn style, he thought the reading and writing of poetry were more serviceable than the reading and writing of prose.”

“The new methods of novel writing and the so-called realism of the younger generation made very little appeal to Hardy.  His chief points of criticism against the younger novelists of the period were with reference to their want of plot and lack of romance.”

“From fiction our talk drifted to criticism.  He did not think we had a great critic in this country, and certainly there were none in America.”

At the end of Parker’s visit Hardy walked him down the pathway towards the gate.

Noting that Hardy was over eighty Parker thought his years sat lightly upon him. “His intellect was as keen as ever in tackling modern problems and in viewing the condition of things from a universal and all-embracing standpoint.”

On November 1, 1920 Florence Hardy wrote to Mr. Parker saying they “well remember your pleasant visit and hope that if you are in this neighborhood again it may be repeated….We hope that you keep well and that your literary career is progressing to your satisfaction.”

Joyce Scudamore’s monograph presented a less flattering portrait of Thomas Hardy.  She was in her early twenties when she was introduced by her Uncle Herman, an intimate friend of Thomas Hardy, to the second Mrs. Hardy (Florence), and was often asked to Max Gate.

She was an intimate friend of Florence Hardy from 1916 until Mrs. Hardy’s death in October, 1937.  From the early days Miss Scudamore guessed that Mrs. Hardy was not, in every respect, a really happy woman for she was always at the beck and call of Hardy.

Richard Curle commented in his introduction to Miss Scudamore’s remarks that the Hardy dog, Wessex, actually belonged to Florence Hardy, who at one time, wished she had never brought it into the house to torment Hardy with its barking.

From hating the dog, Hardy gradually came to adore it and in his later years sat in his garden chair with the dog on his lap stroking its head.  Curle noted that “Miss Scudamore’s admitted dislike of Hardy, which runs through her writing like a thread, would appear to have been reciprocated.” 

Miss Scudamore wrote that in all her many visits to Max Gate she never had any real conversations with Hardy. “Although he would mutter a formal greeting to me, he usually behaved as if I was not there. He seemed to resent my presence, as indeed he resented anyone who took Mrs. Hardy’s attention, as she was not then immediately available to him at his beck and call.”       

“In after years I have heard it said that Hardy only married Florence to still the wagging tongues of local scandalmongers….Local gossip can be cruel and bitter…”From the way he treated her, it must have been more a marriage of convenience than an emotional union, at least that is how I saw it.”

According to Miss Scudamore, Florence regretted introducing her dog Wessex to Max Gate as his barking and the need to take him for walks was distracting to Hardy.  The other mistake of Mrs. Hardy’s life was buying a pianola for the noise had a distracting effect on Hardy and he objected to all noise. “For an imaginative writer, he showed little imagination in life for some of the living.”

On the rare occasions that Mrs. Hardy travelled to London to see her relatives, she was never away for more than a few days. “Hardy would not spare her. He wanted her there at Max Gate always available for writing, typing or running errands. She was fond of her husband, but it was a lonely, dreary life for her, poor soul….Very few women today would put up with the life she had to live.” 

Each monograph offers a different impression of Thomas Hardy and Florence.  Gertrude Bugler wrote about being Hardy’s personal choice for the part of Tess in the original production of Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

She first met Thomas Hardy in 1913 during a rehearsal of The Woodlanders. Later, Mrs. Hardy asked her if she thought of taking up acting as a career. When she was rehearsing with the Hardy Players in 1924 she was asked to play Tess in Dorchester and later in the Haymarket Theatre in London.

She visited Max Gate in 1925. In a talk given in April 1959 she recalled Hardy sitting in a low chair with his knees crossed and his hand resting idly on the head of Wessex. “He was not a tall man, rather spare, quick in gesture and animated in conversation. His face was wrinkled and his hair was white when I knew him.”

That night he insisted on seeing her to the car. “We walked half-way down the short, winding drive in silence; then suddenly he said “If anyone asks you if you knew Thomas Hardy, say ‘Yes, he was my friend.’”

Hardy died January 11, 1928. In the summer of 1929 Bugler was surprised to receive a letter from Mrs. Hardy asking her to come to Max Gate. There she was asked if she would care to play Tess in a revival at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London.

“The first night came and I was surprised to find the rest of the company as nervous as I was myself. They told me first nights are always an ordeal even to the most experienced actors and actresses.”

Bertie Norman Stephens was Thomas Hardy’s gardener during his last years.  He was recorded talking to Mr. Cox in 1963 about the enjoyment Hardy got from his daily walk viewing the cultivated and wildflowers that grew on his land.

Stephens’ observation of Mrs. Hardy’s destruction of Hardy’s effects after his death differs from information provided on Wikipedia and some biographies.

Stephens was an apprentice gardener, earning 24 shillings a week, 24 years old when he answered an advertisement for a gardener at Max Gate.  He was interviewed by Mrs. Hardy who discussed his responses with Hardy. The upshot was that Thomas Hardy had agreed to hire Stephens for 32 shilling a week.

Singlehandedly he had to control the one acre of garden and paddock, the greenhouse and conservatory; the cleaning of knives and shoes; the cutting of wood for fires; the lighting each morning of the boiler to provide hot water for the household, and pumping each morning 500 strokes to fill the house water tanks.

His hours were to be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. but on Saturday and Sunday he had to return in the afternoons to feed the chickens; and in the growing season to attend to the watering and ventilation in the greenhouse and conservatory. It was not until after Hardy’s death in 1928 that he was given a holiday. After this he was given one week’s holiday a year which he had to take in the autumn or winter, when gardening activity was relatively quiet.

Stephens’ recalled it was Hardy’s habit to leave his studio in the middle of the morning and come down to the garden to see him and give any special instructions relating to planting or collecting crops or blooms.

“When he was working in his study he wore an eye-shade and a shawl. I could see him from the garden sitting in his study writing, with his eye-shade adjusted. He could look down and see me working in the garden.”

“Although a naturally placid man he had his moods, and sometimes if he was in one of his bad moods he would not go down to lunch when called.”

“At no time did he express any appreciation or give any praise for anything that was done in the garden. He took everything for granted. This didn’t bother me much.  I just took Thomas as my boss and that’s all…. After Wessex died in 1926 it was my task to bury him in the animals’ graveyard at Max gate.  By the time I buried him there were already some 12 or 13 dogs and cats there, each with its own tombstone.”  

When there were guests at Max Gate Mr. Hardy gave instructions to Stephens to be very quiet. “I had to creep about the garden like a little worm. No grass cutting could be done, nor any job that made the slightest noise. Mr. Hardy wanted his visitor to have complete quiet, that quiet which he himself always demanded of life; and that his wife saw that he got.”

By late 1927 Mrs. Hardy had to give her husband physical help during his walks in the garden.  She would take his arm and together they would slowly walk around the wooded path that encircled the garden.

On Wednesday, January 11, 1928 Hardy died. “On the morning of his heart funeral there was a noticeably beautiful sunrise which threw a strange red glow on Max Gate. Early that morning reporters from the London and Provincial newspapers, photographers and even a cinematograph recorder, had gathered at Max Gate.

“The hearse for the removal of the heart-casket arrived at about 7:55 a.m. and as it was driven up the drive towards the porch this horde of pressmen and photographers began to follow, and in accordance with Mrs. Hardy’s instructions I intercepted them and asked them please to return to the road.  This they did.”

“I carried on as usual after Hardy’s death, and remained in the employment of Mrs. Hardy at Max Gate until she died on Sunday, October 17th 1937, and for some months after that.”

Stephens said that within a week or so of Hardy’s death there was a grand clearance of his clothes, and masses of letters and other papers from his study. He was given the task of burning his clothes and bundles of newspapers on a bonfire in the garden.

“Mrs. Hardy stood by the whole time and watched, presumably to ensure that nothing escaped the flames. All was burnt in her presence except a scarf which she gave me for my use.”

Mrs. Hardy herself burnt, on another bonfire, baskets full of the letters and private papers that Stephens had carried down from the study to the garden.

“She would not let me burn these, but insisted upon doing it herself, and after all the papers had been destroyed she raked the ashes to be sure that not a single scrap or word remained. My impression was that she did not want any of the letters or papers to be seen by anyone and she was very careful to destroy every trace of them.”

 “....Whether she was destroying them on her own initiative or carrying out the wishes of her late husband I never knew, and the world will never learn what went up in flames on that ‘bonfire day.’”



June 1984. Rita Berman on her way to visit Hardy’s cottage.



Natters of a Nomad

Peggy Lovelace Ellis


I include the Sterrenberg castle and the Liebenstein castle in one review because of their historical nature. These two castles perched high above the town of Kamp-Bomhofen have the legendary name “Hostile Brothers.” There is no record of a divisive family. The general belief among scholars is there were disputes between different owners of the individual castles. This bit, and the saga itself, took the time the historian allotted to these castles.

Being the history buff that I am, I searched the internet for a better history of the two castles than the legend. There is very little, but I incorporated it in my journal entries from the cruise.

Records from 1034 indicate Sterrenberg is the oldest Rhine Castle in Exostence. These castles are closer to each other than any other two castles ever in the Rhine River Valley. The castles were expanded over the centuries, but in the 14th century, a wall was built between the castles and became the basis for the myth of the family feud, which dates to 1587.

In reality, Liebenstein Castle, built in the 13th Century and therefore the younger one, was the forecastle of Sterrenberg Castle. The two shield walls served as improved defense of Sterrenberg.

In 1529, the castle was barely habitable and was abandoned by the end of the century. The property fell once again into inheritance disputes this time between Emperor Ferdinand II and the House of Nassau-Saarbrücken. Finally, in 1793, Baron Preuschen acquired the castle and his descendants oversee it today.

Preservation and restoration works were carried out in the 1970s restoring it to its medieval condition. This includes crenellation and white plaster in the tower. Numerous timber holes and chimneys in the inner and outer shield wall indicate there have been further residential buildings opposite to the wall.

Today there is a hotel and a restaurant in the main tower. One distinctive feature of the grounds is the wall between the two castles, which plays an important role in the saga.

As with most legends, there are several versions but with one basic plot. Following is the saga as the onboard historian told it.

As adults, two brothers, Henry and Konrad, built castles a few hundred yards apart. Each fell in love with their foster sister, Angela. Henry was outspoken and became engaged to Angela. Konrad was shy, and with an aching heart, decided to join the crusades. Henry wanted to do the same, so he left his fiance and joined the crusades first. With his elder brother gone, Konrad had to remain home to care for their ailing father. In a fit of anger, Konrad built a wall between the two castles. Angela remained faithful to Henry through the following years.

Henry returned home with a Greek bride. Devastated, Angela entered a convent. Konrad died of a broken heart. Henry didn’t survive long. His wife eloped with someone, and Henry threw himself off the cliff.

Okay, there’s time to wipe your tears before you read next month’s segment about the largest castle overlooking the Rhine.



Laura A. Alston


Summer sunshine streams through the windows

Of my mind and awakens lost laughter

And tears also- but oh! - the tears are opening

The locks that are kept on my heart.


My shutters are now open to summer breezes

Which dry the tears that flow from my eyes.

These tears work a magic on these summer days

To heal my bruised heart and wounded mind.


The warmth of the summer sun is felt

Upon a once cold and lonely spirit

That was often in a dark and dreary place

Where sunlight dared not to shine.


The fragrance of like seems sweeter now,

And for all the lost days and nights

Of the winter of my loneliness,

In summer I can bloom anew.



Tim Whealton


It's almost time to stop and remember D-Day. I have been priviledged to talk with several old soldiers who were there. They are gone now but their stories are in my mind forever. They were called our greatest generation. We forget that most were teenagers! The stories vary but they are original and straight from the young men that lived through it.

James was the janitor at the phone company when I started in 1969. He found out I worked on guns and asked me to help him find a bolt for a Jap rifle. He brought it the next day and I looked it over. He said it had shot him and they gave it to him for a souvenir. I asked what happened and he said they were in line for dinner and a sniper was in a tree and shot the man in front of him through the head. The bullet was coming down and went through his thigh. He showed me the scar. He said the captain was in the front of the line and he ran under the tree the sniper was in and fired a full magazine up in the tree. First the rifle fell out and then the sniper. The captain had reloaded and gave the Jap another good "squirt" with the Thompson. The rifle had two 45 rounds imbedded into the wooden stock. I asked James what rifle he carried and he said 1903 Springfield. He said they wouldn't let black troops have a Garand. He was a good friend for many years

Roy was a local Cove City man and customer of mine. He was also on a Navy destroyer that was sunk on D-Day. Roy said they were running close to the beach and shooting all guns point blank into the German bunkers when there was a large explosion and the destroyer immediately sank. They were so close to shore that it only settled  five feet and was on the bottom. They abandoned ship and were immediately covered in thick black oil. He said the water was so cold and bullets and shells were hitting everywhere. The water was full of floating dead and dying sailors. He knew he was going die any second and prayed it would be fast. Then he saw a British trawler coming straight at them being hit with many bullets. They came and pulled as many as they could fit on the decks and carried them back out to sea. He said the British Sailors were bravest people in the world.

Frank was a double veteran. He was in WWI and II. Frank said WWII was easy because they had trucks. His unit had 80% casualties in WWI. His job was detecting land mines. I asked if he had a mine detector back then and he said, "yes and I brought it home". I asked to see it and he pulled a long bayonet off the closet shelf. His job was to crawl out of the trench at night and crawl through no man's land between the trench and the enemy. He would crawl and probe the ground with the long knife going in at an angle and hope he didn't hit the trigger on top. He carried flags to marks the trail he crawled. In the morning when they would blow the whistle for a charge the soldiers would run down the trail he had flagged. If he missed a mine somebody died. The last time I saw him he gave me a small pistol with a folding trigger. He waited for his daughter to go outside before telling me he took it out of a "lady of the evenings" garter belt in Paris. He said he didn't understand war. He said he didn't understand why so many had to die to make a few say stop. I don't either.

Mr. Cecil would never let you call him a hero. He didn't say anything about even being in the Navy much less WWII. It was a friend that was at his funeral that told me about him. Mr. Cecil was a frogman. We call them Navy Seals now. His job was to swim in close to shore with dynamite and blow holes in the reef so the landing craft could make it to shore. Imagine swimming in total darkness with bags of dynamite and timers in salt water. Sharks, unknown currents, Japanese patrols and booby traps. No way to know how many soldiers and Marines would have died before reaching shore if he hadn't done his job. Like a true hero, nobody ever knew it.

Uncle Ceph wasn't a blood uncle. He lived next door and his son was my best friend. I lived in their house as much as mine growing up. After I had been in the National Guard several years, I went to the armory for a Christmas dinner and there was Uncle Ceph in Dress uniform. He had been in WWII in the Navy and Korea as Army. In spite of all those years he was lacking 2 years enough time to qualify for retirement and the local Guard unit  let him enlist a third time. He was 59 at the time. I sat at the table with him and looked at the ribbons on his uniform. Seemed like they were about to run over the top of his shoulder. I asked what the brown one was and he casually said "assault on a fortified position”. Then he asked me what was the blue striped one on my uniform? I answered "summer camp in Germany". I said it seemed silly to get a medal for summer camp and it was a worthless award. He smiled and said all of them were worthless to us, he explained that we knew what we had done that mattered in life and what didn't. The ribbons were for people that didn't know. Hopefully it would make some of them want to do something that would matter. He said wear it and maybe just maybe something good will come out of it. I was blessed to get to know him as a man. He shared with me many private things about his struggles after so much war. He always cared more about others than his own well being.

Ben was a friend that I had heard about before I knew him. He had been a policeman, dog catcher, trapper, fur buyer and maybe a dozen more things in his life. He started coming to my gun shop on the days we had lunch and would stay and talk when everybody left. He told me about shooting down a Jap zero after I had know him a long time. I thought, oh yea I'm sure you did but his story convinced me. If you aren't a shooter you might not realize how hard it would be to hit a fighter with a bullet. If the plane is a half mile away flying 350 mph (top speed) and you are shooting a 50 cal how far in front do you need to aim? If you guessed around 600 feet you are close (two football fields). Of course that depends on the plane flying straight and level and you not moving. In combat the planes were never flying straight and Ben was on a tanker ship that was constantly turning and zig zaging to avoid being an easy target. Ben's job was machine gunner on the tanker. He was on one of two machine guns behind the main superstructure of the ship. He told me his partner on the other machine gun had a bad problem with combat. He said when the planes would come they would scout the convoy for the tankers. The planes would circle out of range low on the water and then you would see them flare and turn when they picked out the tanker. The tankers had the fewest guns and carried the most precious cargo for making war. Ben said every time when the planes flared his partner would crap in his pants. He would stay at his post and shoot until it was over but he was going to mess up his pants every time. He said if you laughed or said anything he would black your eye but it was just going to happen. One day they got hit really hard and one plane had already shot them up twice. Ben said it just seemed like the bullets from his gun were not working as the plane twirled and dived towards them. He said it looked like sparklers on the wings while he was shooting at them and there were hits all around him. He felt a piece of something hit his leg. This pass was lower than before and when the Zero passed over the ship, he was going straight away. Now It was just shoot straight at the plane. No judging how far in front, just shoot. Ben and his partner were both shooting and things started coming off the plane as they hit it. Then it nose dived into the water and the pilot jumped up on the sinking plane. Ben said we both opened up on him and finished it! I asked Ben how close the plane was when it came by him and he said "close enough I could see the bastards yellow teeth!"

Ben came home with problems after the war. He couldn't sleep without dreams where the Japs were coming after him. He asked for treatment and they told him to just get over it. He would stay up and walk the railroad tracks at night for fear of sleeping. After taking a job as a policeman, he killed an armed robber holding a gun on a store keeper. Ben came in the back door and just propped on the door frame with his pistol and shot him behind the ear. It was ruled a good shooting but it bothered Ben so much he quit and became a dogcatcher. 

All these men were just the ordinary men I grew up around and lived with. If you didn't ask you would never know they had ever done anything but live an ordinary boring life. They were ordinary men but they responded to life when the call came for them to do something. All paid a price. Oh yea, that little thing that hit Ben's leg was a bullet passing through! I asked if he got a Purple Heart and he said, "naw, it was just two holes, didn't hurt nothing."

There were several more, Troy was an infantry scout with 3rd Army (General Patton). Kilmer was blown out of his foxhole at Hamburger Hill. Henry rescued soldiers about to be executed in The Battle Of The Bulge. Several of my students were hit with explosives in Iraq and now deal with PTSD and physical disabilities. Each one gets my respect for showing up, doing what had to be done and staying in the fight. 

So who did I admire the most? I'm not really sure but I really admire the one so scared he crapped his pants but so committed that he stayed in the fight! It's not bravery to not be scared, it's bravery to be scared to death and do it anyway.



The Cabbage Patch Doll

Marry Williamson


We live in South West Somerset near the Jurassic Coast which is a World Heritage Site and stretches along the Dorset and Devon coastline. Between Charmouth and Lyme Regis in Dorset there is a place high up on the cliffs called Stonebarrow.

One day walking on Stonebarrow I saw the remains of a Cabbage Patch Doll stuck halfway up a gorse bush. I remembered these dolls.

In the early 1980’s friends of ours went to New York and having three daughters came back with three of these dolls. At the time they were not available in Britain yet and something of a novelty. They were easily the ugliest things I had ever seen. The little girls, however, were thrilled with them.

Seeing this pathetic specimen hanging in the gorse made me feel sad and I started to wonder what had brought her to such a low point. So I thought of a story for her.

Here goes. After I parked my car at the top of Stonebarrow and climbed down the slope towards the lane via the meadow with the cows, I saw it. At first I thought it was a heap of rags tied together and abandoned by the side of the path but as I got nearer I discovered that it was a cabbage patch doll, decidedly the worst for wear. It, or I should say, she, was lying face up, her clothes were torn, sodden and discoloured. How did she get there? Had she been abandoned or simply lost?

She looked so sad and forlorn. I looked at her stupid, vacant round face and into her expressionless piggy eyes and realised with a shock that she was winking. I peered at her more closely because it was rather hard to tell a wink from a stare in that moonlike face. Some of the foamy plastic was torn away on one cheek, but yes, she was definitely winking.

Then, shockingly, she spoke. “Psst” she said “do you want to hear my story?”

“Erm.. yes” I said hesitantly with a growing sense of otherworldliness. This was bizarre.

“Sit down there” she said pointing to a clump of grass by the side of the path. “But before you do, do you think you can prop me up against that stone? I am rather fed up lying on my back all the time.”

I propped her up.

“Well,” She began “at first it was all rather fun. There were lots of us, all dressed differently, in our individual boxes. It was a bit warm and stifling mind, in that box, because of the cellophane on the front, see. But it was not as though we needed to breathe, of course, being dolls. But we were safe, we felt safe and we could see what was going on through the cellophane.

“Then, one day a man and a woman walked into the store. The woman clapped her hands and exclaimed: ‘Oh look. I have heard about these. Cabbage Patch Dolls. You cannot get them in the UK yet. The girls would love them. Nobody in their school would have one’.”

“The man looked at us. ‘They are not very pretty, are they.’”

“He peered at the price tags stuck to the front of the boxes and said: ‘They are positively ugly. Let’s get something else. Maybe a bit cheaper?’”

“But the woman was determined. The girls  would like them so the girls were going to have them. Two of my sisters and I were chosen, taken off the shelf, no time to say goodbye to the others. ‘Adoption papers’ were taken out and filled in. We were stuffed into a large plastic bag and carried away. After that things got very traumatic. It was dark in the bag. We were put, bag and all into a suitcase. There was sick making movement, it was hot, there was no air and at one stage it became incredibly noisy. We were tossed this way and that. It was interminable. Finally it came to an end. Daylight! We were taken out of the bag and unwrapped. Three little girls screamed: . ‘Cabbage Patch Dolls. Oh thank you Mum and Dad. We love them’. And for a while it was fun. We went everywhere with the little girls. To an old woman called ‘grandma’, to other little girls, to bed and once even to school. We were poked, prodded, our clothes examined, even our knickers. We were hugged and kissed. Then, and I am still not sure what it was we had done wrong, but after a while we were left in the toy box for long periods. The girls got a thing called ‘tamagotchi’ and they spent all their time with that. They looked after it and fed it and put it to bed and all sorts and if they could not look after it they asked their mother to feed it  otherwise it would die. As if it was a real person.

We were left longer and longer in the box and in the end we were given to the charity shop. We sat on their shelf for a long time. I got so depressed that I stopped caring what happened to me. I was separated from my sisters. To this day I do not know what happened to them. Eventually I was bought and given to another little girl. My name and adoption papers were long since lost. She called me ‘Cabbie’. Actually she was not very nice. She used to carry me by one arm. Boy, that hurt. Two weeks ago she left me on this cliff. It rained and I got soaked. The next day the sun dried me but it was very hot and I was scorched in the bright sunlight. A big gull pecked at my cheek. Yesterday a horrid little boy picked me up, carried me up unto this path and then kicked me to the spot where you just found me. It rained again overnight and I am very cold and wet…..”

This is the story as told to me by the cabbage patch doll. It is a desperately sad tale and although I felt very sorry for her I could not listen to any more of it - depression overload - and walked away her plaintive voice following me down the path. I continued on my walk and remonstrated with myself for being so stupid and fanciful. As if a doll could wink, or talk or even have a memory. Even so on my way back I looked out for her. She was not where I had propped her up against the stone. I looked round and found her halfway up a yellow gorse bush. How did she get there?

She winked at me again. I looked at her more closely this time. Of course she was not winking. One of her eyes had gone altogether. She did say a big gull pecked at her….

As I climbed back up to the car park, I overtook a woman. She was going very slowly, shaking her head and looking very upset.

“Are you allright?” I asked.

“Oh, don’t mind me” she said. “I am just being daft. Imagining a doll can talk. How stupid is that? She asked me to put her in the gorse bush. She said she fancied a change of scenery”.


Boating Safety

Dave Whitford


Powerboat racing is dangerous.  If you survive the crash, you can still drown.  Drowning is what differentiates powerboat racing from all other motorsports.  They can scrape up your broken bones after a motorcycle, race-car, or even an air-race crash, and trundle you to the hospital to try to put you back together.  But if you drown after a motorboat crash, it’s just plain body-bag time.

Drowning is an especially hideous way to go.  Experts say that air hunger is our strongest drive.  You thought it was sex, huh?   Shame on you.

6-10 boat safety 3-bwNow, on this frilly note, I’ll tell you that I shut this bleakness from my mind for 26 years of powerboat racing.  Losing my life was an abstraction.  Boat racing was an addiction.  Giving up cigarettes in 1970 took only a year to end the craving.  That was easy compared with giving up boat racing in 1986.  Beating that craving took five years and a new hobby: rifle competition.

It took three crashes in fewer than eighteen months to illustrate that my luck was running out when I was in my mid-forties.  Each crash put me in the water with eight other race-boats bearing down on me.  Each such incident put me where I could drown if some competitor’s lower-unit gearbox didn’t pierce my chest, or if a propeller didn’t pulverize my face, arm, leg, or whatever.  All my death would’ve needed was to be unconscious from even a minor hit, and the weight of my racing helmet to draw my face down into the water.


Early morning Fog at Hinton, WV, 11 August 1985

I raced in a minor league that you can equate with Go-Kart racing: small boats with small, high-output engines that use a base of methyl alcohol, rather than gasoline, for fuel.  Why alcohol?  Old story: more power and speed.  While I began racing with gas-and-oil Mercury “stock” engines, the seduction of speed and power in the alcohol PRO (Professional Racing Outboard) division was a siren song I could not resist.

I had three kinds of outboard engines during my twenty-year PRO-racing career.  The first and last were from Quincy Welding, a tiny firm in Quincy, Illinois.   The first was an innovative adaptation of Mercury Outboard technology called the Looper, which held sway for several years in the 1966-1973 eras.  These were dominant until Koenig – in Berlin, Germany – introduced a vastly improved 250cc engine.  I bought a Koenig in 1971 before they were even legal to race in the USA.  They were legal in Canada, however, where I did half my racing anyway.  I was amazed at how much faster they were: six miles an hour right off the bat, more later, after additional testing and tuning!  The American Power Boat Association legalized them for the 1972 season.  My racing the new Koenig in Canada in ‘71 gave me experience with it that most American racers missed. 

I was in front at the Canadian National Championship with this Koenig in June 1972 when my boat flung me out in a turn ahead of nine onrushing competitors.  My (now dead) friend, Armand Hebert, from Quebec, retained his Canadian Championship by winning the race from behind me.  He told me later, “Dave, you drive too fast into the cor-corners, and your boat’s no-no-no good for that!  You need a diff-diff-different boat, may-may-may-maybe like mine.”   Armand always stammered in English but was right about that, and I spent several more years before I understood why and bought a better boat. 

Ironically, Armand drowned – not by racing boats – but by diving drunk into the St. Lawrence River one night and hitting his head on submerged pilings.  Before that, Armand was one of North America’s foremost powerboat racers.  He was only thirty-odd-years-old.

My last alky engine was a “Quincy Z” (aptly named), based on a Yamaha road-racing motorcycle.  I got it early, serial number 5. 


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Testing the Quincy Z in Rondout Creek,

Kingston, NY, 1978

The Z engine in 1978 produced unprecedented torque and horsepower for the era at a rather low 9000 RPM.  I was then in close dialog with O. F. Christner, the grand old man of American Horsepower at Quincy Welding.  He and I collaborated on a new exhaust system that put the horsepower peak at 11,500 RPM for hydroplanes, and we were off to the races!  Our supremacy’s life was short because new engines from Japan were running at 12,500 RPM or higher.   More RPM translates into more horsepower and speed.

Most of us burned a standard mix of 95% methyl alcohol (methanol) and 5% oil, which can be either the traditional castor oil or synthetic oil, or both.  Normal petroleum motor oil for cars won’t mix with methanol. 

Another thing we could do is to add nitro-methanol to the fuel blend.  The last year I raced (1986), I ran 5% nitro fuel to help keep my engine competitive against the increased capability of the newer Jap motors.  Nitro fuel can help level the playing field because it contains oxygen.  The power that any engine can develop depends directly on how much oxygen it can receive.  If you can add oxygen through the fuel to the oxygen that the engine can harvest normally from the air, you get a power boost, hence more acceleration and speed. 

The nitro kept me among the front four that last year – but the quart of nitro in my five-gallon can of fuel doubled the cost per can.  Pure nitro-methanol cost $40 a gallon then and was dangerous to transport.   Every time you see something on TV about nitro-fuel dragsters, start letting the dollar signs roll in front of your eyeballs like a slot-machine display.

Five percent nitro is a modest concentration.  For perspective, some of my regular North Country New York and Quebec competitors routinely set their engines up to run on 20%.  It’s hard to compete against that much “juice” with a normally fueled engine.  What was also normal was that the juiced engines would break more often, which increased my odds of finishing ahead of them. 

It was hard to be first against such competition, but you need to finish to win.  In the long run, finishing in the front four consistently piled up more points toward the seasonal high-point championship than a few blinding first places interspersed among failures to finish because of a broken engine.  The seasonal high-point championship earned you the right to display the prestigious numeral 1 as part of your boat number during the following season.

One reason why 20% nitro worked for my North Country and Canadian competitors was their short season of high-dollar races just in June and July up there.  They didn’t necessarily need to rely on their engines to last for the entire nine-month American racing season.  Or they had multiple engines in a high-dollar way for the American championships.  In racing, it’s always cubic money that wins, regardless of heroic effort by poorer sentimental favorites. 


I digressed, just so you’d have a proper appreciation about boat racing.  What happened in Sebring was my closest brush with tragedy.

Kay Harrison and I sprinted in front of the pack wide-open for the flying start.  I was on the inside.  Kay was maybe a mile faster, but I reckoned I could hold him off until we got to the first-turn buoy.  That’s right, I said him.  Kay suffered under a Boy Named Sue conundrum.  For the years I knew and raced against Kay, I always wondered how he got the name Kay.  Maybe I should’ve asked his dad, Millie.   Kay is stocky like me, but much prettier, with sandy-brown curls.  His name hadn’t hurt his sex appeal, apparently, because his wife was always one of the boat-race pit’s better-looking babes, a real blonde knockout!  If I’d said bombshell, it would’ve been a cliché, wouldn’t it?   But you get the idea.

Kay and Millie ran a machine shop and innovative small manufacturing business in Birmingham, Ohio, which is near Lake Erie, partway between Cleveland and Toledo.  Yeah, I had to look it up for you because I didn’t know where either.  They were heavily involved in boat racing before I entered the scene. 

One thing they did for awhile was to manufacture alcohol outboard racing engines.  These were an update of the British Anzani engines.  A legendary racer and Minnesota engineer, Bill Tenney, had introduced Anzanis into the American boat-racing scene in the late 1950s.  They were quite fast but broke a lot.  The Harrisons beefed them up and added many modern innovations.  For you motor heads out there, go figure how five carburetors can work on a two-cylinder engine … just for example.

The Anzani history and how it became British after its start by a genius Italian founder in 1906 and factories all in France in the 1920s is a story worth pursuing in itself.  That’s the homework for you history buffs.   Hint: start with Wikipedia.

Anyway, the Harrison engines were largely unsuccessful, except when Kay drove them.  Numbers count in motorsports racing.  When you’re the only guy (or gal) in a 12-boat race with a one-of-the-kind engine, no matter how extremely fast, the odds are 11-to-one against you.

When I digressed, Kay and I were sprinting toward that first-turn buoy wide open, sponsons flying high, boats riding on their props, boat bottoms floating scant inches above the water, toward a wide-radius turn that we both could float through without letting off.  While Kay was gaining ground, he had not quite developed enough overlap on me to cut me off, either physically or by our “overlap rule,” which required a clear boat length of space between us.

From the corner of my eye, I saw errant flecks of spray spurt sideways from Kay’s propeller: spit, sput, sput, spit, sput …  

I knew that danger sign.  Kay’s Jap motor was locking up.  Your mind goes into overdrive.  Everything goes into slow motion.   Brace! 

Each motor hiccup produced a death-throe spit or sput.  Kay’s engine died.  The propeller stopped.  The boat braked.  Out of control, it turned left quick, right into my path, flinging Kay out ahead into the water.

My boat smote Kay’s cockpit at 90 miles an hour, where he’d been a micro-second before, and soared into a lazy airborne loop above Kay, where I fell out into the water while my boat was upside-down.

As I came to the surface for air, the shadow of Buddy Smith’s boat bottom loomed over me.  He’d hit the wreckage, which launched his hydroplane high into the air too.  Whump!

Buddy’s boat bottom smote my helmet, driving me underwater and jamming my feet into the mud of the shallow lake’s bottom.  Being stuck saved me as seven other boats sped on overhead.

Kicking free of the mud before I drowned, I gasped my way to the surface.  Red flares were in the air.   Florida Outboard’s Boston Whaler with the rescue gurney on its bow sped toward me.  The racing heat was over before anyone got around the first turn.

“You okay?” the paramedics yelled as they submerged the gurney under me.   “Where do you hurt?”

“Don’t know yet,” I said.  “Think I’m okay.  Nothing seems to hurt.”

They winched the gurney up and crosswise onto the Whaler’s bow and sped toward shore.

“Oh, WOW!” the girlie paramedic said.  “Your left hand’s bleeding like a stuck pig!”

She wrapped it in a wad of gauze as the boat reached shore.  They loaded me into an ambulance.  At the hospital, a doc sutured the end of my pinky and slathered it with Silvadene Cream before re-bandaging it.  Normally a burn medicine, Silvadene Cream contains sulfathiazole, a marvelous healing agent.  They gave me the little jar of the stuff to take with me for subsequent re-dressing of my pinky tip.  I’ve kept that product around the house ever since for the inevitable cuts and scrapes I get while operating a household.  It is a prescription medicine, but well worth having for household use.

Back at the boat-race pits, I found that the gang had drained my broken boat and set it back on its little collapsible sawhorses on the beach.  In a lawn chair and nursing a beer, I contemplated my wreck.

“What are you gonna do about your boat, Dave?” someone asked.  I recognized him as one of the race organizers.

“I don’t know yet,” I said.  “It’s too badly broken to fix.”

“Well, just so you’ll know,” he said, “unless you cart it out of here, the Sebring City Park Commission will assess you a haulage fee to take it to the dump.”  Then he stalked off and left me to brood.

My pal, Henry Shakeshaft, helped me crank the water out of my engine.  Then we took off its propeller and ran it on gasoline and oil for half a minute or so to warm it up and chase out any remaining water so it wouldn’t rust inside.

“I think I’ll save just the hardware,” I told Henry.

“Good idea,” he said, a twinkle in his eye.  He sensed what I had in mind.

We removed the engine and its mounting brackets and put them into my truck.  Then we scoured off any other re-usable metal parts: steering wheel and cable, pulleys, hand throttle, fuel tank, carrying handles … everything. 

Henry’s wife, Renee, was cooking burgers for supper over a campfire.  “I have marshmallows for dessert,” she said.

After supper in the dark, Henry and I initiated a monumental, beer-boosted, boat burning.  We found a stick to prop my boat up on its edge and lit the boat ablaze.  You’d be amazed how fast and hot a spruce-and-plywood hydroplane can burn.  We made quite a show, drew a nice crowd, took color pictures, and roasted Renee’s marshmallows on the dying embers.  You’d also be surprised at how little ash was left – about a dinner-plate’s worth – not enough to upset the Sebring City Park Commission.  But I think it’s a good thing that we didn’t ask for a burning permit.  And no one arrested us before we left.


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Out Front at 88 MPH, Avon Park, FL

Before We Burned This Boat


Back in Charlotte, a hand specialist did outpatient surgery on my pinky a few days later, to pretty up what the Emergency Room folk had done in Sebring.  At a follow-up visit a week or so later, the surgeon – a guy younger than I was – said, “See how nice this is?  You’ve still got part of your pinky nail!”  Then he got a fingernail clipper from his pocket, grabbed my left hand, and began trimming my nail.

My pinky was still sore, I was horrified, and I thought I might puke.  “Wait, wait!” I yelled.  But, too late, he was already done.  I stuffed my left hand in my pocket, out of harm’s way, blushed at the doc, and grinned … about all I could do.  Then I scurried away.

My pinky’s too short to type with anymore, but that’s okay because I’m a hunt-and-pecker and never used my pinky for typing anyway, just four fingers on two hands and a thumb.

Remember this: the key to boating safety is remaining in the boat.  It’s when you hit the water that the trouble starts.



Don't worry about avoiding temptation.  As you grow older, it will avoid you.

 Winston Churchill 



Randy Bittle


What is the meaning of meaning? People think, and meaning is central to thought content.  Meaning is at the core of our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and opinions.  A common ritual greeting goes something like the following.

“Hello, how are you?”

“I’m fine, thanks.  You?”


What do the two people involved mean by the word “fine”?  Inside their minds, each person would have a different appraisal of their own personal awareness and sense of fine.  Frequently, neither would have many clues to the other’s sense of what fine means to them at that time.  As I said, it is a greeting ritual and is meant as a pleasant acknowledgement of each other’s presence. The ritual sidesteps the need to delve deep into the current thought processes and emotional states of the individuals.  While each person does indeed have current thought processes and emotional states, the word fine is used as a pleasantry intended to avoid awkward discussions about those internal processes and states.

In different contexts, fine means different things.  It can mean a fee for some infraction, such as a library fine.  It can mean fine (small) as opposed to coarse (large).  Stephen Wright has a joke that goes “There is a fine line between an idiot standing on the beach and a fisherman.”  The fine line in this case has a double meaning of a thin fishing line and a comically intended limited distinction between a fisherman and an idiot.  I bet you can think of other meanings and uses of the word fine.

The point I wish to make is that words do not have intrinsic meanings in themselves.  Word meanings, in all their complex shades, exist inside the minds of people who use the words, whether speaking, listening, writing, or reading. Context guides internalized interpretations of meanings.  Context is the situational framework from which meanings derive meaningfulness.  Words are merely the symbolic representation of interpreted or intended meanings.  Conceptual meanings inside minds are the purpose and reason for words used to express them.  The better a group of symbolic words evoke intended meanings, the more effective the communication of shared conceptual meanings between minds.

You can see why misunderstandings occur so frequently. People supply the meanings of words, and different people can apply different conceptual meanings to the same word.  One example, using a dog’s mind to keep it simple, is training your dog to sit.  When you say sit, your goal is a specific action by your dog.  When you say sit, your dog’s goal is the treat for doing the specific action you desire.  Sit means two different things in this case.  To you it means the dog sits, to the dog it means he gets a treat if he sits.

Although people (or dogs) supply the meaning of words, straying too far from a close approximation of reality leads to nonsense and erratic behavior.  Stick to reality as much as possible when applying meanings to words. Be particularly careful when attributing meaning to other people’s actions.  The meaning you attribute may not be the meaning they intend.  In other words, you could be wrong. That happens in a meaningful world where interpreted and intended meanings are generated inside minds.



Humor is to life what shock absorbers are to automobiles.


Food for Thought....

Peggy Ellis



Some people left their car in the long-term parking at the airport while away, and someone broke into the car.  Using the information on the car's registration in the glove compartment, they drove the car to the  people's home and robbed it.  So I guess if we are going to leave the car in long-term parking, we  should NOT leave the registration/insurance cards in it, nor your remote garage door opener. This gives us something to think about with all our new electronic technology.


2.  GPS:

Someone had their car broken into while they were at a football game. Their car was parked on the  green which was adjacent to the football stadium and specially allotted to football fans. Things stolen from the car included a garage door remote control, some money and a GPS which had been prominently mounted on the dashboard. When the victims got  home, they found that their house had been ransacked and just about everything worth anything had been stolen. The thieves had used the GPS to guide them to the house. They then used the garage remote control  to open the garage door and gain entry to the house. The thieves knew the owners were at the football  game, they knew what time the game was scheduled to finish and so they knew how much time they had to clean out the house. It would appear that they had brought a truck to  empty the house of its contents. Something  to consider if you have a GPS - don't put your home address in it.  Put  a nearby address (like a store or  gas station) so you can still find your way home if you need to, but no one else would know where you live if your GPS were stolen.



This lady has now  how changed her habit of how she lists her names on her cell phone after her handbag, which contained her cell phone, credit card, wallet, etc., was stolen. Twenty minutes later when she called her hubby, from a pay phone telling him what had happened, hubby says, "I received your text asking about our Pin number and I've replied a little while ago." When they rushed down to the bank, the bank staff told them all the money was already withdrawn. The thief had actually used the stolen cell phone to text "hubby" in the contact list and got hold of the pin number. Within 20 minutes he had withdrawn all the money from their bank account.



A lady went grocery-shopping at a local mall and left her purse sitting in the children's seat of the cart while she reached something off a shelf: Wait till you read the WHOLE story!

Her wallet was stolen, and she reported it to the store personnel. After returning home, she received a phone call from the Mall Security to say that they had her wallet and that although  there was no money in it, it did still hold her personal papers. She immediately went to pick up

her wallet, only to be told by Mall Security that they had not called her. By the time she returned  home again, her house had been broken into and burglarized. The thieves knew that by calling and saying they were Mall Security, they could lure her out of her house long enough for them to burglarize it.


Moral lesson:

A. Do not disclose the relationship between you and the people in your contact list. Avoid using names  like Home, Honey, Hubby, Sweetheart, Dad, Mom, etc. 


B. And very importantly, when sensitive info is being asked through texts, CONFIRM by calling back.


C. Also, when you're being texted by friends or family to meet them somewhere, be sure to call back to  confirm that the message came from them. If you don't reach them, be very careful about going places to meet  "family and friends" who text  you.



May's Story

Diana Goldsmith

May could hardly believe that it was only ten years since the war to end all wars had ended. She was twenty, in fact nearly twenty-one when according to tradition she would receive the key of the door! Her mother had promised her a big party and a properly decorated fruitcake with marzipan and icing now that rationing had ended two years previously.

May lived in Farnborough a small town in Hampshire, near to Aldershot an army town with barracks named after the Duke of Wellington. It is just over thirty miles from London and has two railway stations. Her father Ted worked at the Royal Aircraft Establishment known as the R.A.E. to the locals and her mother Edith was a nurse at the little cottage hospital. May sister Dorothy was twelve years older than her and lived in Leytonstone near London with her two children Edward and Sandra. She was tall with thick dark brown hair and big brown eyes and took after her father; whereas May was petite and had fine blond hair which she wore in a bob and her eyes which were small were a pale blue and yes, she took after her mother. Unfortunately Peter, Dorothy's husband had been injured in the war. He was just old enough to join up and got hit in his leg and although he was operated on the surgeons couldn't get all the shrapnel out hence he always walked with a pronounced limp. It was hard for him as a young man when he couldn't play football like his mates. However, he wasn't alone as all of them respected him for what he had done for the country. He used to meet up regularly with other war veterans at a special club.

If May had lived in London during the war, her parents would have had her evacuated to the country for her safety away from “The Blitz.’

Although Farnborough would have been an ideal target with the presence of the R.A.F., it fortunately never got damaged by enemy bombs. Dorothy used to come and stay with her parents sometimes while Peter was away, but what with her doing shift work in the munitions factory and with her mum working extra hours in the hospital this meant that it didn't occur very often. Those rare occasions gave her the chance to go for walks in Pinehurst woods or visit St. Michael's convent where Napoleon the third and his wife Princess Eugenie were buried. It was so good to get away from the ruined buildings and the acrid smell of war in London.

Dorothy had enjoyed her schooling but wasn't academically inclined. She was a very popular girl and always had plenty of friends. She was good at sport too which helped. She was popular with the boys too but she had eyes only for Peter whom she met at the church youth group. He was older than her but neither found that a disadvantage. Ted and Edith always made Peter feel at home when he visited. Dorothy got a job in Paige's a department store in Camberley. She worked in Ladies fashion department and took the bus to work. One asset was that she got a discount on clothes and knew what was the latest fashion. However during the war clothes were rationed too. People used to make “new” clothes themselves out of curtains or even parachute silk in fact that was what Dorothy did for her own wedding dress.

After having the children she only worked part time with Edward and Sandra spending holidays with their grandparents. Peter's parents lived in Epping near the forest so they loved going there and of course it was only a short distance from Leytonstone.

May loved school, passed her eleven plus examination, and went to Aldershot County High school. There was a special school bus, which started from Farnborough boys’ Grammar school and then picked up kids from around the town

She liked the green pinafore dress and white blouse. Then she had a tie and woven belt in the colour of your house. She was in Austin house named after Jane Austin and she had a red girdle or long belt which she tied around her waist and let the ends hang down

The ties were green with red diagonal stripes. She would wear a green blazer with the school badge on the top pocket. Also she had to wear a green beret on which was pinned the silver- coloured shield shaped school badge. In those days one wasn't properly dressed unless one wore a hat, both men and women! May also had to wear stout lace-up dark brown shoes in the winter with white ankle socks. In the summer the girls could wear brown sandals and wear a green checked gingham dress with the coloured girdle.

May got good ‘O’ levels and went on to the sixth form where she achieved her ‘A’ levels in English, History and Religious Education.

This meant that she could go to Teachers’ Training College for two years and achieve her ambition to become a teacher.

She was very lucky to get her first position as English teacher at Cove Secondary school. This meant that she could cycle there from her house in Orchard Road.

She had grown up in the cul de sac and played with other children whose families lived there.

Today being the month of August meant she wasn't working as it was the long summer holidays. She had some errands to do as she wanted to post a parcel and some letters. She went on her trusty bike and propped it up against the wall outside the shop cum post office in Cove. On her way there, she had met one of the girls from the church youth group where she helped on Friday nights. Maureen was very special as she had Downs’ syndrome and used to attach herself to May. She always had a hug with her when they met. Her house was on route from Orchard road to the Post Office. May waved when she saw Maureen in the garden and on enquiring about it, received a bunch of flowers that Maureen picked for her. She said she had grown them herself from seed.

The postmistress took May's post and handed over a parcel and a large envelope, which the postman hadn't been able to deliver at their house.

The envelope contained a book she had sent for and the parcel was a gift for her. It was from a friend called John.

She had met him at college and their friendship had blossomed into a loving relationship, she had met his parents who lived in Purley and he had been to stay at Ted, Edith and her place. They liked him very much. He was a woodwork teacher in a school in Bath in Somerset. She thought that this parcel was something he had made for her. She was secretly hoping that he would propose on her birthday.

It would mean that she would have to get another teaching position in or near Bath but it would be a new chapter in her life. The world had changed a lot. England had a new Queen, war had ended and there was everything to live for now.


Life in Moccasin Gap

Brad Carver


Scientists say the world is off balance. My Uncle Fester claims he knows why. “It’s because of all the fat people in the world.” Uncle Fester says that because people are getting bigger is why the world is leaning.  And he may be right.

He told me, “Go to Wal-Mart, sit on the bench out front and just look at all the people going in.  They’re huge. Some of them don’t even walk, they wobble. They need the carts where you can sit on to move around. Small people revolve around them.”

And he’s right. I went to the Wal-Mart in Durham and did what he said. I sat out front and all I saw were big people going in and out, big and sickly looking. It’s no wonder we can’t get new businesses to move their plants here. Who would want these people working for them? They can’t do a sufficient job when they’re this big and smoke and drink. These people are the reason medical insurance is so high.

I heard a lady on the news once ask, “How did we (America) become the bad guys?”

Actually, we’ve always been the bad guys. We’re living the seven sins in this country. Look around you. If anyone is living the seven deadly sins, it’s us. In case you don’t know what they are, they’re pride, covetousness (greed), envy, gluttony, antagonism (anger), indolence (sloth), and lust. That pretty much explains what America is all about, doesn’t it? Before we start to put somebody else or some other country down, we need to look in the mirror.

Speaking of gluttony, our Methodist church here in Moccasin Gap just had a dessert dinner with all kinds of fattening food: cakes, pies, cookies, candies, puddings, cobblers; all the things that make you fat and unhealthy. They’re actually trying to kill the congregation. I believe they’re doing it because they’re losing members and they’re trying to fatten up the ones they do have so the church will look full on Sunday morning.

But, that’s just my opinion. And an opinion and a quarter will get you a cup of coffee at the drug store. That’s right; we still buy coffee at the drug store. We don’t have Starbucks in Moccasin Gap. Around here, they think Starbuck is the name of the guy in the Star Wars movie.

We move slowly around here, too, but it’s not because we’re fat, it’s because we just don’t have to be anywhere really fast. Things are slow and the weather’s fine. Come see us sometime. We don’t have many fat people in Moccasin Gap. They work, they move and they eat their vegetables. Life is fine in Moccasin Gap.




“You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is.” Will Rogers.


“Marriage resembles a pair of scissors, so joined they can’t be separated; often moving in opposite directions, yet always punishing anyone who comes between them.” Sydney Smith


“I am continually fascinated at the difficulty intelligent people have in distinguishing what is controversial from what is merely offensive.” Nora Ephron


“Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a Sunday afternoon.” Susan Ertz


“Is it Colman’s smile that makes life worthwhile, or Crawford’s significant form? Or Lombard’s lips, or Mae West’s hips, that carry you through the storm?” Gavin Ewart


“Here lies Groucho Marx—and lies and lies and lies. P.S. He never kissed an ugly girl.” Groucho Marx’s suggestion for his own epitaph.


“Without you, Heaven would be too dull to bear, and Hell would not be Hell if you were there.” Epitaph for Maurice Bowra by John Sparrow.




Lovers of the English language might enjoy this There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is UP.

It's easy to understand 
UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list,

But when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP ?

At a meeting, why does a topic come UP?

Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report? 

We call UP our friends.

And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the
silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen.

We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP  the old car.

At other times the little word has real special meaning.

People stir UP  trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.

To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.
And this UP  is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP. We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night. 

We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP !  

To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary.

In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions.

If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used.

It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP  with a  hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP

When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP... 

When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP.

When it doesn't rain for awhile, things dry UP.

One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP   for now my time is UP, so........it is time to shut UP



The Volunteer

By Salvatore Scibona.

Penguin Press; 432 pages; $28.


The Volunteer: A NovelA  two-minute pause on a mountain road is long enough for an American unit to be blown up. As Vollie, short for Volunteer, realises, a convoy's orders could be distilled to one simple instruction: keep going, even if you get a flat tyre. This mantra shapes his life: "if it obstructs the road you push it off the cliff, don’t matter if your mother's inside.”

Vollie (a nickname from his childhood on a farm in Iowa) is one of three marines captured in the Cambodian jungle in Salva­tore Scibona’s second novel. Their pres­ence beyond the Vietnamese border is illegal, so they do not qualify as prisoners- of-war. In "the tunnel”, as the men call their subterranean prison, Vollie survives by eating his wounded comrades’ food. After his release and recovery in Saigon, he re­quests a "hard clearing”, meaning his re­cords and identity are erased.

This intricate book spans decades and continents and incorporates multiple, looping stories. Returning to America, Vol­lie is dispatched to New York as a covert op­erative for an unnamed agency, with in­structions to conduct surveillance on a supposed renegade Nazi. This assignment will haunt him. "The more excellent way is love,” insists a woman whose death Vollie witnesses but feels powerless to prevent. "Any one person is a grounds for love if you pick him,” his old friend Bobby tells him. "You have to pick him is the thing.” At a commune in New Mexico, where he wash­es up after New York, Vollie falls for Louisa, Bobby's ex, and brings up her son, setting in train another of the book’s tales.

A searing record of war and the lies peo­ple live by, "The Volunteer” is also a map of an alternative America, populated by men sleeping on the beds of trucks and women scrounging cigarettes and beer. Along the way Mr Scibona explores the process of for­getting, the longing to be singled out for love and the price of saying "no” when you want to say "yes”. He is as adept at conjur­ing memorable images and sensations as in conveying his themes: a wind rolling off a bay and smelling of molasses, an empty mailbox filled only with sunlight.

Despite all the destruction and despair, in this novel hope emerges as the wildest high. “Who among us", Vollie asks, "has lived only once?”



“Utopias of equality are the consolatory myths of the weak, anarchist cries of freedom from laws and government are the delusions of immature and autocratic minds, and democracy is a game used by the strong to conceal their oligarchic rule.” Napoleon Bonaparte


Ever wonder about those people who spend two dollars a piece on those little bottles of Evian water? Try spelling Evian backwards.



Three Rivers to Cross

Elizabeth Silance Ballard


Chapter Twenty-four


That year is really a blur in my memory. The calendar project was a success. The bridal image009shower for Melanie was a success. The wedding was perfect and the bride beautiful. After seeing the couple drive off in a shower of rice, and with the usual rattle of cans and heaven only knows what else, tied on the back of their getaway car, I drove home alone.

Laura and Ben were living in Quantico now and Melanie and Jack would be living in Wilmington. I remembered what Violet had said when Laura had married: When one’s friends marry, the friendship is never the same. They would gradually seem to have less and less in common with their single friends. I rarely heard from Laura now so I knew Melanie and I would also drift apart.

Melanie’s marriage ended the supper club as such but I continued to cook for myself and Violet on Mondays. Violet cooked for the two of us on Tuesdays and her friend, Minnie Ross, usually joined us.

The three of us began eating at the Wednesday night suppers at the church and, of course, there was our tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on Sunday.

It was still enjoyable but we missed the camaraderie that the original four, and later the three of us, had shared. It was about that time when Violet began urging me to leave Meadow View.

“There’s no future here for you, Charlotte. How long has it been since you’ve had a real date?”

 “Well, you know how it is. The older we get, the fewer men are available.”

“And you’re not going to find any in the fifth grade! Come on, Charlotte, you’re hardly over the hill. Move to Raleigh or to Wilmington. Anywhere! Just go where there are more single men. You’re too young to sit around by yourself or even with me.”

“I can’t, Violet.  Mama is worse than ever. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Daddy says he’s retiring soon, but that’s doubtful. I just hope he won’t be alone on the boat when he drops dead pulling on those nets. He doesn’t always have someone with him since Uncle Leonard had to retire on doctor’s orders.”

“What about your brothers?”

“Lon owns the tackle shop and Len works at the plywood plant. They have their own families. I need to be close by in case Mama and Daddy need me.”

The idea of moving away and starting over didn’t appeal to me and I had accepted the fact that I would never be married again. It wasn’t that I had no possibilities.  From time to time, a man from church, or a friend of a friend, would ask me to dinner. He was either divorced and occasionally without, but usually with, children; or, he was a widower, sometimes without but usually with, children.

 I steered clear of all of them. I had a good life and I had my memories of Greg. I was widow before I even had a chance to enjoy life as a wife and perhaps a mother. I had been a widow for eleven years.

“Maybe being single is my destiny, Violet.  If so, I can live with it. There are worse things than being alone, right?”

“Yes, of course, and I can’t say that I’ve been unhappy as a single woman. But, I just don’t think that’s the life for you, Charlotte. I really don’t.”

I will say that her words did give me a jolt. She wasn’t being facetious. She meant what she said but so did I. There was simply no way I could leave my parents. Yes, my brothers were there in Meadow View but they had families who had to come first in their lives. I knew it was up to me to take care of Mama and Daddy if the need arose.


I had just come in from school and was in the kitchen searching for a snack one afternoon when Daddy knocked on my kitchen door, calling out, “Charlotte Anne? Lady Baby, I need to talk with you.”

“Come in, Daddy. Sit here in the recliner and relax. You want a cup of coffee?  I have some made and pecan pie, too.  How about it?”

“Thank you, Charlotte Anne, but I don’t want anything and I don’t need to sit. I just want you to sit down and listen. Your mama’s fine. So am I but your mama and me—we’re at that time of life when we need to get things in order,he said, pacing up and down my living room carpet.

I had never seen him so anxious before, so nervous. 

 “Now, I’ve made a Will. I’m giving you a copy but the one I actually signed is in the lawyer’s office. Martin Douglas. He said you went to school with him.”

I nodded.

“Okay, now don’t say another word. I need to keep my thoughts straight. Charlotte Anne, I have left the house and one-third of the island to you. Your third is, of course, that part where the house sits.

“Lon and Len will each have the remaining two-thirds but I’m worried about it. I have a feeling they will try to sell and that could put you in a bad situation, depending on who might buy their shares of the land. That’s why I’ve decided to make you the beneficiary of the insurance money. Hopefully, after you bury us, there’ll be enough left to buy them out if they do decide to sell.

“My hope was that the three of you would settle on the island but I see that ain’t gonna happen. The boys own their own homes. Their lives are on the other side of the river now.

“Now, Lady Baby, you may not want the house any time soon, but we never know what may happen. The day may come when you either WANT the house or NEED it, whether you want it or not.”

“I hope by doing it this way, it won’t go out of the family. Who knows but what some of the grandchildren might want to live on Rattlesnake Island someday. I want it to be there for them if that should happen. There is plenty of room for at least two more houses without anybody feeling cramped.”

I urged Daddy to stay for supper but he said he had things he needed to do so we hugged and he waved as he drove away. “Love you, Lady Baby!”

“Love you, too, Daddy!”

There had been no indication whatsoever that I might be waving good-bye to my Daddy for the last time.


Chapter Twenty-five


It was two days later, a Thursday afternoon, and I was sitting at my kitchen table grading papers from a pop quiz when Lon came in the back door. One look at his face and I sat there, not moving a muscle, scarcely breathing.

“Charlotte Anne, I guess my job in the family is to be the bearer of bad news,” he said, before his voice broke.

I had never, even once in my life, seen either of my brothers cry but there was Lon, all hunched over, his body shaking as he tried to hold back the sound of his grief.

“It’s—it’s Daddy, Charlotte Anne,” he finally managed to say.

It had been almost forty-eight hours since Daddy had paced back and forth right there in my living room, telling me of his Will and why he had it written the way it was written. Had he known? Did he have a premonition? Was he in pain as he paced and talked?

“Lon, where is Daddy?” 

“It’s such a shock. I knew he and Mama were getting on in age but I didn’t know it would be so soon! No warning!”

“Does Len know?”

“Yes, he went to be with Mama and I came for you. Mama came across to the shop to tell me that Daddy had fallen down and she needed me to help her get him up and to the house.

“I called Len and then I called the doctor. I told Mama I was going across to see about Daddy and that she was to wait for the doctor. 

“It was obvious that he was dead, Sis. There was not a doubt in my mind. When Mama, Len, and the doctor all got there, I came to get you.”

“So he….”

“It looked like he was coming from the boat toward the house. Doc Pilson said it was probably a heart attack and that he was gone before he ever hit the ground, that it was fast and that he couldn’t have suffered much pain.

“Of course, he could have been saying that to make Mama feel better. She was standing on the porch and saw him fall. When she couldn’t get him to stand up, she thought he had hit his head and was unconscious so she came to get me.”

Mama. My worst fear had now come to pass. Mama had outlived Daddy and I had no idea how she would cope. He was her whole world, her life. She had nothing else.

“Okay, Lon, I’m going to pack some clothes. I’m probably going to have to stay out there with Mama for a while. I may even have to take some time off for—well, I can’t think about that now.”

I packed enough clothes to last at least a week.       

“Sis, we’ve got to go to the funeral home. I don’t know how we’re going to handle all this—financially, I mean. Oh, Char! How can I be thinking about money at a time like this? What kind of son am I?”

“A good son, Lon. A practical son. A son who understands responsibility and all that entails, the way Daddy taught you.  Listen, Daddy left some insurance so you tell them over there at Lawton’s that there is insurance and that the three of us will take care of it, okay?”

“They’re gonna ask where he’s to be buried. What should I say? I have no idea.”

“On the island, Lon.  Right next to Grandma and Grandpapa. Here’s my overnight bag. You can drop me off at the shop and I’ll take—well, your boat, I guess, while you go on over to Lawton’s.

“No, Mama’s boat is there at the dock. You take that and I’ll use my boat for the Lawton people. I guess we can work out the details once we all get there. My boat is big enough that they can bring Daddy back over to the funeral home to—well, to do whatever they have to do.”

Len didn’t like that idea. “I think he ought to have a proper burial at the cemetery in town!”

“It IS a proper burial, Len,” I said. “If it makes you feel any better, we can put up a nice picket fence, or even an pretty iron fence, around that area.

“This island was Daddy’s life. He never lived anywhere else.   He’s going to stay right here on this island. It’s what he would have wanted!”

Lon was too broken up to say anything. Mama just stared off into space. I wasn’t even sure she knew Daddy was gone.

As if she had read my mind, she stood up and started toward the kitchen.

“Mama, where are you going? We need to talk about all this. We have decisions to make,” I said.

“Decide whatever you want. I’ve got to get supper ready. Norbert’s gonna be here ’fore too long. He’ll be hungry. He likes supper to be on the table.”

“Mama,” I said, putting my arm around her, “come back. You don’t have to fix supper right now.”

“But your daddy will be hungry!”

“No, Daddy’s gone, Mama.”

“He’s not gone. He fell out there on the ground and he’s just resting a while ’fore he gets up. That’s all.”

I let her go then and we could hear her in the kitchen, taking out pots and pans.

The next morning, the men from Lawton’s Funeral Home came with Daddy and their equipment. They had tried, without success, to find someone with a barge to bring the equipment they normally use.

“It’ll take us longer, Miss Charlotte, but we can get it done this way, the way we used to do it. It’s the only equipment we can load onto a regular size boat. Let’s take a walk. I need to talk to you.”

Mr. Lawton didn’t speak until we were on the far side of the house, well away from the others.

“Now, Miss Charlotte, I’m going to tell you how it is and I’m begging you to never speak of this to your brothers. I don’t trust that Len. He’ll run to the sheriff as sure as I’m standing here!  I’m only telling you in case this all backfires and we’re called upon to do the unthinkable.

“It’s like this,” he said, lowering his voice so that I had to take a step closer to him. “The laws of North Carolina have changed, Miss Charlotte. The state has gotten persnickety about where a person can be buried. Supposed to be a so-called recognized graveyard.

Now, I know how important it is to you for your daddy to be buried here on his island and I know that’s what he would want. I’m going to do it because there are two other graves here. I’m not sure the state would recognize this as a legitimate place of burial but it is a family cemetery and, if anything comes up about it, I’ll handle it the best I can.

“It’s possible I could lose my license over this but I’m not worried. I’m close to retirement anyway. However, the very worst that can happen is that the state could, legally, make us exhume your daddy’s casket and move it over into the town cemetery.  Frankly, I really don’t think that’s going to happen. I do want you to be aware of the possibility, though, just in case it does come to pass.”

“Mr. Lawton, I don’t want you to get into any trouble because of us.”

“Hey! You know how it is. Those Big Wigs up in Raleigh don’t think we folks down here on the coast have the sense God gave a jackrabbit, anyway! Don’t worry. I have a few strings out there I can pull, if necessary! If anything does come up about this, we’ll worry about it then. Sometimes, living in a small town, and in a poor county, works to our advantage!”

That afternoon, after I read the thirteenth chapter of 1st Corinthians, Lon said a prayer and we all went back to the house while the workmen finished up at the gravesite and left the island on Lon’s boat.

We requested the casket to be closed so Mama wouldn’t see Daddy lying there; but, I’m not sure we did the right thing because she kept saying, “Wait! We have to wait for Norbert. He’ll be home soon. Let’s wait for him.”

“She’s gone stark raving loony,” Len whispered, as we walked back to the house.

“No, her mind is protecting her from a situation she can’t bear right now. Leave her alone. She’ll be all right.”

“It seems like we should have had a preacher here!”

“Len, Daddy was not a church going man. Besides that, you know how Mama is around strangers. He’s had a decent burial. We did what a preacher would have done and Mr. Lawton took care  of  the rest.”

“What are we supposed to do now?” Lon asked.

“What do you care?” Len asked.

“Well, I DO care. Don’t you?  What’s going to happen to Daddy’s boat and all his equipment? Who’s going to take care of this place? You selfish bastard! You never think about anybody but yourself! What about Mama? Remember her?”

My brothers, in their grief, were lashing out at each other. Mama came out to see what was going on.

“What are you boys fussing about? Charlotte Anne, don’t let those boys come to blows, now. If they do, your daddy will whip both of them when he gets home.”

She and I turned back and went inside. I fixed her a ham sandwich and a glass of tea and then went back outside to take Lon and his family back across the river. Len had his own boat there but he wasn’t ready to leave.

“Lon, you’ll need to call Martin Douglas tomorrow. Tell him about Daddy. He’ll set up an appointment for all of us to meet.”

“For what?” Len demanded. “What’s he got to do with anything?”

“He has Daddy’s Will.”

Chapter Twenty-six


Lon flew the blue flag the next morning to let me know he had news.

“Sis, we’re supposed to meet at the lawyer’s office at 3:00 p.m. today but I’m warning you that Len is loaded for bear.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, he’s all set to put Mama in a Home somewhere and sell the island and Daddy’s boat, lock stock and barrel. To hear him tell it, we’re all going to be rich. I think he’s lost his own mind.

“I’m just warning you not to be surprised at anything. I tried to tell him that, naturally, everything would go to Mama but he says she’s crazy as a loon and needs to be put away somewhere where people know how to deal with her.”

I was shaking hard by the time I got back across the river. Apparently, there was a side to Len I had never seen. When he heard the Will read that afternoon, he was going to be very angry. I had no doubt.

 Lon asked me if I was going to take Mama to the meeting. “Don’t you think she needs to know what’s going on?”

I was the only one who knew what was in the Will, the only one who knew Mama would not be involved in this meeting at all. What I also knew was that the worst thing we could do for Mama right now would be to take her off the island, even for a short business meeting, much less actually move her, bag and baggage, off the island for good. 

She certainly didn’t need turmoil and “turmoil” would be a mild state of affairs compared to what it was going to be like when Len heard the Will read.


Mama was standing on the dock, waiting for me.

“Charlotte Anne, have you seen your Daddy? His boat is there but I can’t find him anywhere. I thought he might be with you. You reckon he’d rather have pork chops or fried chicken for supper?”

“Let’s have pork chops, Mama, but it’s too early to think about supper right now, It’s not even noon.  I tell you what—let’s go in and I’ll make some sandwiches and we can sit out on the porch like we used to do, just us.”

We took fried bologna sandwiches (Mama’s favorite) outside and I went back for the pitcher of tea and glasses.  Mama was standing  in the yard  looking out toward Daddy’s grave when I got back.

 “Charlotte Anne, who’s been digging out there? Is your Daddy getting ready to finally build that new workshop he’s been talking about?”

“No, Mama. That’s Daddy’s grave you’re seeing. We’re going to put up a nice headstone there so maybe tonight you and I can sit down and decide what we want engraved on it.”


“Mama, Daddy died. Remember? The doctor said he had a heart attack.”

“No. Norbert fell down. Your daddy fell down. Didn’t Len and Lon get him up?”

“No, Mama. Daddy died.”

We stood, looking out at the Spanish moss blowing in the breeze and at the patterns the rays of sunshine made on the raw gravesite as the branches swayed.

“It will look better after the stone is up, Mama.”

Yes, it will look better then.”

Nothing more was said. I wasn’t sure that she fully understood at that point but I did feel confident that she was gradually letting Daddy’s death into her mind, that she was beginning to cope with it on some level.

I really wasn’t worried about leaving her for an hour or so while I ran over for the lawyer’s meeting. I knew she would be all right. She was home.

“Mama, do you need anything from town?” I asked, as she walked with me to the dock.

“Yes, Charlotte Anne, bring me a pretty rose bush so I can put it on your Daddy’s grave.”


“What? No! That can’t be!” Len jumped up and was pacing the room.

“What do you mean, Len?” Martin Douglas kept his voice low pitched and calm. This was not the first Will reading he had ever done.

”Well, you’ve just said that Daddy left the island to the three of us but that means we can’t sell it as long as Mama lives there, right? And we’d all three have to agree to it, right?”

“No, your Daddy told me he wasn’t going to make any stipulation of a “lifetime right” for your Mama. He said he trusted his children to do right by their mother,  that he wasn’t sure how the situation might be and he would not tie your hands where the property is concerned.”

“So, we can sell it?”  

“Yes, you can sell your individual portions of it.”

“Well, okay then! Lon? You’re like me. You already own a house. You don’t need that place in the middle of the river and,  Charlotte, what about you? You don’t want to live out there with Mama! You’d end up just like her so—I say let’s sell it!”

I looked at Lon. He nodded. “It’s time to let it go, Charlotte Anne.”

I looked at the lawyer. “Is there anything else? Daddy did tell me he had an insurance policy to pay burial expenses for him and for Mama.”

“Yes, he had two policies. A smaller one for burial purposes, he told me, and another one. He made you the beneficiary on both, Charlotte, and said he was going to tell you about those, that they were both for specific purposes.

He looked at me so I nodded and said nothing. I did not look at my brothers.

“We’ve all seemed to focus on the property but I want to be sure everyone fully understands how your father left things.

“The house and one-third of the property—that one-third portion where the house stands—goes to Charlotte.  One of the sons will have the south one-third of the island and the other will have the north one-third. Do you understand?”

The three of us nodded.

“Okay, the boat and everything connected to the business goes to Len and Lon equally as does the business bank account. The funds in the business account are Len’s and Lon’s to do with as they wish. He said this was because of the many years you both had worked hard with him in the shrimp and fishing business

“The personal checking and savings accounts are to be put into Charlotte’s name so that your mother can be taken care of without causing any undue burden on the three of you. I’m sure you will find there are adequate funds for this.

“Now, your father indicated to me that he believed his sons would want to sell their ownership in the property, both having children to educate, houses to finish paying for, and other matters. It sounds as if this is what you both want to do.  Am I correct?”

Both my brothers nodded.

“Charlotte, your father also related to me what he had expressed to you regarding this matter so here are the two insurance policies. Please look at them. You can file the claims yourself or I’ll be glad to do it on your behalf.

“Just in case Len and Lon might want to sell, your father had an appraisal done on the property a month ago and he was satisfied with the appraisal.”

He handed each of us a copy.


I could see that Daddy had planned well. There was ample insurance money for me to buy out my brothers’ ownership of the island.  I nodded and handed the policies back to him.

“Len? Lon?  You can see the appraisal. You see what your property is worth. Are you prepared to sell now?”

“Now?” Lon seemed devastated. “Len? What do you think?”

“The quicker the better, Brother.”

“You’re all three satisfied with the appraisal? It  is accurate and fair.”

“But how can we sell right now? I’m confused,” Lon said. “Hardly anybody knows Daddy died. Who could possibly be wanting to buy it already?”

“You will be selling to me,” I said. “Daddy told me he didn’t want the island to go out of the family and he left me an insurance policy just in case you both ever wanted to sell your shares. Martin can, I’m sure, get this all taken care of for us if you really want to sell.”

And just like that I became the sole owner of Rattlesnake Island.

“You’re not going to live out there, are you, Sis?”

“I’ll stay for a while until Mama gets her bearings.”

“But, what if that doesn’t happen? What if she never gets her bearings? Never gets back to normal?”

“I really don’t know, Lon. I’m just going to take it one day at the time.”


I was in a daze as I walked up the path to the house that afternoon. On instruction from the attorney, the three of us had left his office with certified copies of the Will, certified copies of the Death Certificate, and a letter on attorney letterhead confirming it all.      

In the brief span of twenty minutes at the bank, I assumed ownership of Daddy’s bank accounts, and his business account was divided between my two brothers. I believe we were all astounded at the amounts those accounts held.

“I guess we shouldn’t be surprised,” Len said bitterly. “Daddy never spent a cent he didn’t need to spend. Look at the way we always lived. With nothing! And they continued to do without any of the modern conveniences. For God’s sake! How many people do you know who still use an outhouse in this day and time!”

 “And he didn’t offer to help  either one of us boys go to college and  the only reason he didn’t balk or get mad when we told him we were quitting school was because he thought we’d go back to fishing with him,”  Lon added.

“That’s right, Brother, remember his face when we said we had already enlisted in the Marine Corps? You were just lucky you got that scholarship, Sis! If you hadn’t, you’d have been sitting out there on that island all this time and you’d eventually be as loony as Mama.”

“Well, maybe he thought—well, I don’t know what he thought,” Lon admitted.  “Let’s just be thankful for what he did for us in the end and let the past stay in the past.”

Everything regarding the property would be handled through the attorney who charged us no fee. He said Daddy had already paid him.

“According to your Daddy, there were no outstanding bills so that definitely makes settling the estate a pretty simple matter. He told me he was a big believer that you pay as you go or you don’t go.  He left this earth with all his property free and clear and, according to him, he owed nothing.

“He did leave another small insurance policy made payable to the estate and said that was mine on the off chance that there was more involved in the settling of matter than he expected.

“However, he has already paid me adequately so if we do determine that there are debts, it will be used for that.  If nothing turns up in the next six months, that amount will be divided among the three of you.”

Settling Daddy’s affairs would be no trouble at all since Martin was taking care of it. I knew, however, that getting life settled for Mama would not be so easy.

Financially, we were all three okay and there was enough to take care of Mama. My worry was about Mama facing the rest of her life without Daddy, alone on the island.

“Come in,  Charlotte Anne. Supper’s on the table.”

“Umm, Mama! Those pork chops smell heavenly!”

She had also fixed candied yams, string beans, and her buttermilk biscuits. 

“Mama, nobody cooks better than you do!”

She smiled. “I like to cook.”

I said nothing but she had only set two places, one for herself and one for me. I thought that was a good sign.

After we did the dishes and put them away, we sat out on the front porch to watch the sunset, just rocking and talking about all the funny things the boys and I did when we were little. I think Mama enjoyed all three of us when we were young children; but, even then, Daddy was her real love, her real world. Neither of us mentioned Daddy, though. Not once.

We went up to bed and as I turned to go into my room, she touched my arm.

“Charlotte Anne, I’m very proud of you and so was your Daddy. We both loved you very much.”

She turned away as I said, “I love you, too, Mama,” and went in to brush my teeth and get into pajamas. The stress had caught up with me and I could hardly wait to stretch out and read to take the events of the day off my mind for a while.

I slipped into bed and started Chapter One of Wuthering Heights for probably the tenth time in my life when it happened. The sound was deafening. I jumped out of bed and ran across the hall to Mama’s bedroom. There it lay. Daddy’s shotgun. 

“I want to be with Norbert,” read the note she left for the three of us.

“Oh, no!!  No!!”

I knew I had to do something, but what? They still had no phone on the island. Now, we all have cell phones but back then no one had even heard of cell phones.

I grabbed a flashlight and the house keys and ran down to Daddy’s boat, hoping I could figure out how to use the ship to shore radio. No such luck. I made my way in the dark to the other dock and took Mama’s Putt-Putt over to Lon’s shop. I knew Daddy also had a key to the shop and, after a few tries with my shaking hands, I found the right one and opened the door.

I was in the back office trying to call Lon when the police officer came through  the door, gun in hand. He recognized me and somehow I managed to blurt out about Mama and he called for an ambulance right away and then called Lon.

Before we got the shop locked up, Lon was already there and came straight to me. That’s when I fell apart.

“Len is on his way, Sis,” he said.

I was sobbing too hard to answer but all I could think of was that Len had wanted to put Mama away in a Home somewhere and now he wouldn’t have to think about her at all. That made me cry even harder as I clung to Lon who was, by that time, trying to tell the paramedic that we had to take him across to the island to pick up Mama. It was a nightmare of red and blue lights and people talking all at the same time.


We buried Mama beside Daddy, where she had always been, where she always wanted to be, and I took a week off before returning to school.

Violet was a Godsend in my life once more.  She helped me to keep moving forward. It was 1975. In the past fourteen years, I had graduated from high school, graduated from college, got married, became a widow, started teaching, lost my best friend in a plane crash, and now both parents were dead. I felt dead myself. I couldn’t see any purpose for going on. Why were so many people in my life dead yet I still lived?

Life goes on, though, no matter how much we question why. It goes on even when we wish it didn’t. I had a classroom of fifth graders and they don’t sit and wait. They meet life headlong every single day and I had no choice but to be there, in the moment, with them.

Any questions I had or wanted to ask or ponder—well, they really didn’t matter. My class stared at me every single morning, some of them smiling, some sullen, some angry.  I had to focus on their issues, not my own. It was vital that I be there for them.

Yes, life goes on with or without us, but it helps to have someone depending on us, needing us.  Trying to meet my students’ needs, smiling and laughing with them when I felt like crying, helped me to keep going and helped make my own days a little easier. 

I didn’t have time to dwell on myself.  I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I had to keep going.


Continued Next Month


40 Things No Real Southerner Will Ever Say

40. Oh, I like it.  it’s got four cylinders, not one of them big V-8s.
39. I'll take Shakespeare for 1000, Alex.
38. Duct tape won't fix that.
37. Lisa Marie was lucky to catch Michael.
36. Come to think of it, I'll have a Heineken.
35. We don't keep firearms in this house.
34. Has anybody seen the sideburns trimmer?
33. You can't feed that to the dog.
32. I thought Graceland was tacky.
31. No kids in the back of the pickup, it's just not safe.
30. Wrasslin's fake.
29. Honey, did you mail that donation to Greenpeace?
28. We're vegetarians.
27. Do you think my gut is too big?
26. I'll have grapefruit and grapes instead of biscuits and gravy.
25. Honey, we don't need another dog.
24. Who's Richard Petty?
23. Give me the small bag of pork rinds.
22. Too many deer heads detract from the decor.
21. Spittin is such a nasty habit.
20. I just couldn't find a thing at Walmart today.
19. Trim the fat off that steak.
18. Cappuccino tastes better than espresso.
17. The tires on that truck are too big.
16. I'll have the arugula and radicchio salad.
15. I've got it all on the C drive.
14. Unsweetened tea tastes better.
13. Would you like your salmon poached or broiled?
12. My fiance, Bobbie Jo, is registered at Tiffany's.
11. I've got two cases of Zima for the Super Bowl.
10. Little Debbie snack cakes have too many fat grams.
09. Checkmate.
08. She's too young to be wearing a bikini.
07. Does the salad bar have bean sprouts?
06. Hey, here's an episode of "Hee Haw" that we haven't seen.
05. I don't have a favorite college team.
04. Be sure to bring my salad dressing on the side.
03. I believe you cooked those green beans too long.
02. Those shorts ought to be a little longer, Darla.
01. Nope, no more for me. I'm drivin tonight.



A Talking Dog Story


A guy is driving around the back woods of Montana and he sees a sign in front of a broken down shanty-style house: “Talking Dog For Sale.”

He rings the bell and the owner appears and tells him the dog is in the backyard.  The guy goes into the backyard and sees a nice looking Labrador retriever sitting there.

“'You talk?” he asks.

“Yep,” the Lab replies.

After the guy recovers from the shock of hearing a dog talk, he asks, “So, what's your story?”

 The Lab looks up and says, “Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so I told the CIA. In no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping. I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running. But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security, wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals. I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I'm just retired.”

 The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.

“Ten dollars,” the guy says.

“Ten dollars? This dog is amazing! Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?”

“Because he's a liar. He never did any of that stuff.”



Hammer Spade and the Inca Curse


Chapter Fourteen


Colonel Shrimp and his men stayed at the house for the next two days, only venturing out hsic cover.jpgto buy groceries and have dinner at the Owl Beer House. Either this was Santo’s favorite restaurant in this very large city or he was an extreme creature of habit. We alternated dining in the restaurant when they ate there—Quigley and Isabela the second night—Hart and Oscar the third. Quigley and Isabela had quickly become friends.

We theorized that Colonel Shrimp was waiting for Saavedra’s customers to call because all the records had left, along with all that money, in the Jaguar with the pretty girl.  The guy with the Jaguar was sitting pretty. He had the girl, the money and Saavedra’s customer records.

The third morning after Colonel Shrimp showed up, Isabela made a suggestion.

“If we sent an anonymous tip to the little colonel that Saavedra is hiding out at the cabin where he was killed, maybe he would call Fuente directly and we could get the call traced.”

“That is an excellent plan, Isabela!” Dave exclaimed.

“What if he acted without calling Fuente?” I asked. “He’d find Saavedra’s remains.”

“I say it don’t matter,” Hart interjected. “Then he’d have to call Fuente.”

“But, he’d most likely call from his cell phone and we can’t trace that from here,” Oscar replied.

“We could be waiting for him there and kill him after he calls and take his phone.”

“Why not hide Saavedra’s remains and send word that he’s hiding out there with the girl and Fuente’s money,” Isabela suggested.

“That’s even better!” Dave said.

Isabela smiled. “We women can think, you know.”

“Some of us could be waiting inside the building when Colonel Shrimp roars in and shoot him when he kicks down the door to the building.” Hart suggested.

“It might work,” I agreed. Dave and Oscar nodded in agreement, too.

“Oscar, I’ll take your watch. You and Hart go out to the cabin and do something with the body if it’s still there. After you finish that, scope out the cabin, and find a place where we can cover the cabin with our rifles. Isabela, you alert London; Dave, get our equipment ready.”

Oscar and Hart got up to leave.

“Isabela,” I said, “Google the terrain at the site, print out the map and when Oscar and Hart return, we’ll work out the plan of attack.”

Suddenly we were energized because we could see a light at the end of this tunnel. Colonel Shrimp was bound to take the bait. The only concern I had was whether Fuente and Colonel Shrimp already knew Saavedra was dead.

I went to the lookout where I watched Colonel Shrimp’s goons kill time while they waited in vain for the customers that were already calling on the man with the Jaguar. What a coup on his part! Isabela’s idea had saved the day because even a methodical nut like Colonel Shrimp would finally figure out that Fuente’s customers had found another source.



After Dave relieved me I returned to the warehouse. Hart and Oscar were already there. They had found Saavedra’s remains where the little guy had left them. They dragged his body to a gully where they covered him up with rocks and brush. After they brushed away the drag marks, they walked over the area to locate the best positions for us to wait. The plan they developed called for Dave and me to be on the hill overlooking the house with our rifles. Hart and Oscar planned to be inside the old building to welcome Colonel Shrimp.

It seemed like a good plan, though no combat operation goes according to plan.



London called with startling news. The man in the Jaguar was an undercover operative with the Argentine military. The pretty girl and the guy that killed Saavedra were his agents. That explained a lot. We were ordered to avoid contact with him and if they found out about us, we were to leave the country at once.

“We have the briefcase full of money from Villa Carlos Paz,” Isabela told the man on the line. “Would it help if we turned it over to the Argentine government?”

“I doubt it,” the man in London replied. “Do not initiate contact with anybody in the Argentine government. That is an order.”

After he hung up, Isabela explained, “Argentina is still very much at odds with the British because of hard resentment about the Falklands war.”

We drove out to the cabin to look over the place. We found a spot to hide the vehicles and a good place behind some boulders for Dave and me. Hart and Oscar checked out the shack again. I saw that the shack was not built to withstand rifle fire. What if Colonel Shrimp showed up and started shooting first.

We were short-handed for what we were trying to do because somebody had to be at the lookout to alert us when Colonel Shrimp left.

Isabela wrote the message about Saavedra and added good directions to the cabin. Hart stuck it in the mail drop on one of the pillars beside the entrance to Villa Retiro. 

When we arrived at the Owl Head, Colonel Shrimp was already there bragging about his prowess as a leader of men and his skills in combat. If he took the bait, he and his goons would soon experience the ultimate test.

That night we packed everything into the van except Isabela’s sleeping bag.

Then we moved to the cabin and waited for the fireworks to begin.



Raúl had been in a terrible mood for over a week and he needed to unwind. He called Guadalupe at her apartment about dinner and making love afterwards. She seemed pleased that he called. That in itself was a welcome change. Guadalupe was always there for him, dependable, reliable and she alone understood the burdens he bore. The situation in Córdoba weighed heavily on his mind. Arturo Santos had reported that Saavedra had fled with all the records and the money. Millions of American dollars were gone. Then Santos had to go in like an idiot and kill everybody who knew anything about the operation. Now Santos and his clowns were cooling their heels, doing nothing in Córdoba during the day and eating and drinking until the wee hours every night. Santos was useful at times but he had no clue how to manage an operation.

When Raúl walked into Guadalupe’s cheery apartment, the smell of food cooking improved his mood. As soon as he sat down at the table, he got a call from Carlitos Figueroa, in Constitución, Chile.

“Santos says that Ronaldo Saavedra is hiding in a cabin in the country west of Córdoba with his woman and your money,” said Carlitos.

“When did he tell you this?” Raúl asked as his anger rose.

“He told me a few minutes ago.”

“Why didn’t he tell me?” Raúl demanded.

“You ordered us not to call you directly, but to send messages through another person.”

“That is correct, but this was urgent and the quicker I know the faster we can act.”

“Santos suggested that he go to the cabin. He will kill Ronaldo Saavedra and the woman and recover your money and customer records.”

“Call him back and tell him that I approve.” Raúl paused. “And tell him to think about what he does and not to barge in like a fool and get himself killed.”

“I will give him your message.”

Figueroa hung up the telephone.

“More trouble in Córdoba?” Guadalupe asked.

“That fool, Santos! He scares me, yet he knows what needs to be done! He reported that Ronaldo is hiding in the countryside with that whore and my money.”

“Why would Ronaldo leave the Villa Retiro?” Guadalupe asked. “He had his woman and your money where he was.”

“Because he ran away with my money!” Raúl shouted. He pushed back from the table.

“Where did Arturo say Ronaldo was hiding?”

“He is hiding in a log cabin in the hills northwest of Córdoba about two miles off a dirt road. He’s sitting there on my money, with that skinny whore, drunk as a skunk.”

Guadalupe didn’t ask any more questions. Raúl finished his meal in silence. After they had dessert and had a glass of wine, they retired to her bedroom where he made love to her. He was rough, like he always was when he was angry.



We made camp out of sight in the gulch behind the hill overlooking the log cabin. Isabela heard the call that Colonel Shrimp made to a man named Carlitos Figueroa and then she listened when Figueroa called to say that Fuente approved Colonel Shrimp’s plan. Then Isabela asked London to find out where Carlitos Figueroa lived and worked.

We expected them to come to the cabin like gangbusters any time. Oscar stayed at the Villa Retiro lookout that night. Isabela would relieve him at dawn and Oscar would come straight to camp. Isabela was to follow Colonel Shrimp and his men until she pulled off to our camp behind the hill overlooking the cabin.

We had MREs for dinner that night. At daylight, Quigley took his place at the top of the hill overlooking the cabin. Oscar arrived a little after dawn.

While Dave set up, Hart and Oscar went inside the cabin to work out their plan. I voiced my concern about Colonel Shrimp and his men just showing up and shooting at the cabin because that’s the way Colonel Shrimp worked. But, Hart pointed out how hard it would be to roust them out if they charged inside the cabin the way they did at Villa Retiro. Oscar agreed with Hart so I reluctantly let the plan remain the way it was.

Isabela called thirty minutes after sunrise to say that Colonel Shrimp and his men were on their way and armed to the teeth.

We had forty-five minutes to get ready.


Chapter Fifteen


Isabela followed the convoy of black Chevrolet Suburbans through Córdoba and out of the city on Route 38. They traveled slower than she had expected and a couple of times she got too close to them. After they turned off on the dirt road, she lagged back because she could follow their dust. Five miles before the turnoff to the cabin, two of Santo’s men flagged her down. Isabela disengaged the safety on her pistol and laid it in her lap. When she stopped both men produced pistols. One stood in front of her car and the other came to the driver side door.

Isabela lowered the window.

“What do you want?” she asked.

“You were following us,” the man beside the car said.

“I live a few miles up the road,” Isabela replied.

“You are lying,” he said. “You were following us.”

When he pointed his pistol at Isabela, he took two 9mm bullets in his heart. Then she shot the man in front of the car between his eyes.

Isabela figured that one of the Suburbans must be waiting for the two men farther down the road. She drove slowly ahead to the next curve, got out and peeked around the curve from behind some underbrush.

A Suburban with all four doors open, was sitting in the middle of the road with two men smoking while they waited for their partners. They had heard shooting but assumed that Isabela was the one lying dead in the road.

Isabela couldn’t sneak past them and the map didn’t show any way to get around them. She went back to the van, started it, put it into gear, accelerated so that she rounded the curve and flashed by them at sixty miles per hour before they knew she was coming. They slammed the doors and chased her for about a mile before they remembered the men back beyond the curve. They slowed, turned around, and went back the way they had come.



We were in place when the Suburban with Colonel Shrimp and his driver roared in. They jumped out of the vehicle in front of the cabin with guns drawn. I wondered where the other vehicle was. A couple of minutes later, Isabela joined us in position on the hill.

“Where’s the other vehicle?” I asked.

“Two of them tried to intercept me.”

“What happened?”

“I shot them,” she said matter-of-factly.

“You killed them both?”

“Yes. When I drove past the ones waiting beside the road in the other vehicle, they chased me a little way, then, went back to see what happened to their buddies. They should be along in a few minutes.”

Isabela had shot it out with two men, won, and remained as cool as a cucumber.

A few minutes later, the second Suburban barreled up the rough track and slid to a stop beside the other vehicle. Colonel Shrimp went back to meet them. He went into a rage after they told him about the men Isabella had killed. He stood beside the door of the Suburban yelling at them while they sat inside with bowed heads listening to his tirade. It was as if he had forgotten the planned surprise attack on the cabin with Saavedra and the dark haired woman inside.

If Saavedra had been inside the cabin, he had plenty of warning that the Little Colonel had arrived. That fact alone should have alerted the Little Colonel that something was amiss. This business did not attract the brightest bulbs on the planet.

The Little Colonel stopped ranting as quickly as he began and called a huddle between the vehicles. This prevented us from shooting them before they had a chance to attack the cabin. When the colonel had finished his instructions, one man went back to the second vehicle, opened the hatch and removed something we couldn’t see. He took up a position out of our sight beside the second Suburban.

“Get ready,” I whispered to Dave.

“Isabela, can you see what the man took out of the truck?” I asked.

Isabela looked through the spotting scope and replied, “No.”

Colonel Shrimp lined up with two of his men in front of the vehicles. After they were aligned exactly the way he wanted them, he called out, “We know that you are inside, Ronaldo. If you come out and give us Señor Fuente’s money, we will let the woman go unharmed.”

When no reply came from the cabin, Colonel Shrimp motioned for the man who was out of sight to come forward. What I saw sent a chill up my spine.

“It’s an RPG,” (Rocket Propelled Grenade) I whispered to Dave. “Shoot him now!”

The crack of Dave’s rifle shot sounded the same instant the man aiming the RPG pulled the trigger. Dave killed him but the grenade was already on its way to the building where it passed through a window, exploding inside.

Colonel Shrimp and the two men with him sprinted toward the log cabin and crashed through the door with guns drawn.



When the Colonel and his men charged inside, they saw Hart leaning over a wounded Oscar. Colonel Shrimp then realized that he was in a trap and Saavedra was not around.

“So,” he said with an ironic grin, “you must be the American, Señor Hammer Spade, who is so quick with his gun.”

Hart stood without speaking.

Colonel Shrimp saw Hart’s Colt revolver still in its holster. “You must be very quick with your gun today, Señor Spade,” he said with a wry smile. “There are three of us.”

They leveled their guns at Hart.



On the hill above, we heard a “pa- pa-pow,” followed by the clatter of weapons falling to the floor.

I raced to the cabin to find the Colonel and his men lying on the floor. He was clutching his chest while Hart stood over him without expression, aiming the Colt between the Colonel’s eyes.

“You are indeed very fast, Señor Spade,” he croaked.

“I ain’t Spade,” Hart replied, unsmiling.

Colonel Shrimp frowned. “Then who are you?”

“Judge N. O. Hart.”

“What a pity. I hoped you were…….” Colonel Shrimp stopped, gasped, and breathed his last.

Hart lowered the hammer on the Colt and holstered it.

“Oscar’s wounded,” he said. Then he went back to where Oscar lay on the floor and started giving him first aid.



I went back outside and called Dave and Isabela. “Oscar’s down!”

They sprinted down the hill to the cabin with guns drawn. Oscar was conscious when Hart began a professional examination of his wounds while Isabela and Dave stood by to help.

“He’s got shrapnel wounds all over his body,” Hart explained. “I can’t tell how serious they are but those in his abdomen concern me. If his intestines have been penetrated, we have a big problem.” He paused. “Dave, would you get the medical kit from the van?”

“Sure thing,” Dave replied and left at a run up the hill.

I called London.

“This is 0061.”

“What’s up?”

“5038 is wounded.”

“Is he transportable?”

“I think so.”

“We must get him out of Argentina for treatment.”

“It’s seven-hundred hard road miles across the Andes to Chile,” I reminded him.

“I’ll call you back after I work something out.”

He hung up. Dave came back, out of breath, with the medical kit. The three of them went to work on Oscar, trying to staunch the bleeding from his many wounds.

While they were working on Oscar, I left to bring Isabela’s vehicle to the cabin so we could move him to the van after Hart stabilized him.

While I was bringing the van around, the call from London came in.



“There is a small dirt airstrip called Coronel Olmedo about fifteen airline miles from you on the southeastern side of Córdoba. Take Avenida Circunvalación south to Avenida General O’ Higgins. Get off to the left at the second exit. Follow that road to the stop sign and turn right. You’ll see the airport on the left in a half mile. A private Beechcraft Queenair with a doctor on board will be waiting for you by the time you arrive.” 


“How is 5038?”

“He’s stable. Hart has medical experience and he’s taking care of him.”

“Refer to Hart as 5221.”

“I didn’t know his number. I will in the future.”

“What will you do after we pick up 5038?”

“We are packed and ready to leave Argentina.”

“Good. Call in when you arrive in Iquique.”

“Will do. We’ll have their cell phones.”


When I went back inside the cabin I asked, “How’s he doing?”

“He’s in a lot of pain and he’s losing a lot of blood,” Hart replied.

“What’s the plan?” Dave asked.

“Isabela, Hart and I will drive Oscar to a small airport about fifteen miles from here. There a private plane with a doctor will pick up Oscar. Then we are getting out of Argentina. You take the other van and go west on Route 20. Wait for us at Cosquín.”

“That’s good. He’d never make it if we had to drive all the way to the Chilean border.”

Isabela opened the back doors of the van and laid the seats down so Oscar could lie flat on the floor.

The four of us made a stretcher with our arms and moved Oscar to the van as gently as possible while he bore the pain with stoic silence.

As we drove away from the cabin, I reflected briefly on the terrible carnage we had left behind.

We split up at Route 20 with Dave turning west and us heading back toward Córdoba. We didn’t leave a minute too soon. The Jaguar approached the intersection and got off in the direction we had just left.


Chapter Sixteen


Forty-five minutes later, Oscar was on the Beechcraft taking off into the wind in a cloud of red dust. Hart stayed on the plane to help the doctor. Isabela and I retraced our path to Route 20 and headed west to meet Dave.

When the plane landed in Santiago, an ambulance was waiting to take Oscar to the hospital. As soon as he was in the ambulance, it sped away and the plane flew on to Iquique to drop off Hart.

We linked up with Dave in Cosquín and drove to Mina Clavero where we spent the night in the beautiful La Residencia overlooking the Rio en Mina Clavero. It was a beautiful location with spectacular mountain vistas in every direction.

After a luxurious bath and clean clothes, we had dinner in the hotel restaurant. We hadn’t had a gourmet meal in a long time so we dined on empanadas, which are pastries filled with meats, cheeses, and vegetables. Dave chose beef. I chose Patagonian lamb with a side of anchovy dip for the vegetables and bread. Isabela chose bariloche paella, a rice dish served with clams, scallops, red peppers, peas and fresh tomatoes. The next morning, Dave and I ate an American-style breakfast while Isabela had medialunas and coffee.

The next day, we followed Route 20 to Route 142 then on to Route 40 which took us into Mendoza. That day we passed over the divide between the eastern slope and the western slope of the Andes into a region of foothills and high plains. It was another long, hard day of mountain driving.

Mendoza is the provincial capital in the north-central part of the Mendoza province. A sign beside the road said the metropolitan population was close to a million residents and that greater Mendoza was the fourth largest metropolitan area in Argentina. Mendoza is on the main route between Argentina and Chile and a favorite stopover for climbers on their way to Aconcagua, which is the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere. It is a Mecca for skiers in the winter. Mendoza is also famous for its wines and olive oil.

Isabela passed up the Sheraton in favor of the Posada Borravino on Medrano 2658 Hacras De Coria. She said that it possessed old world charm. I got the impression she was trying to teach Dave and me a lesson because she told us she preferred a “tasteful cultural” setting over an “antiseptically modern” place to lay her head. Dave and I agreed that the Posada Borravino was both “tasteful” and “cultural” and definitely a far cry from “antiseptically modern”. Isabela made up for it by taking us to the Francesco Ristorante on 1268 Chile for a memorable dinner.

We had breakfast in the hotel dining room. The breakfast menu listed twenty kinds of bread, along with fruit, yogurt, coffee, juice, cereals, tortitas, eggs, bacon, prosciutto and ham.

After we checked out of the hotel, we took Route 60 west and at Punta de Vacas, we passed over a peak 2,930 meters above sea level. We took a break on top to view the spectacular mountain scenery. Isabela told us a 5,100-meter peak stood forty miles to the south. Dave did the math and said that was almost 17,000 feet and he was glad we weren’t going that way.

We drove into the Embassy compound in Santiago at 3:20 p.m. and by five, we were on a plane to Iquique.

When we landed at the airport, Don was there to meet us. Dave, Isabela and I were beat and ready to crash.

As we pulled away, Don said, “Alonia arrived this afternoon. She told me you were coming before London called.

How in the world does she do it!

Alonia was talking to Sally when we walked in. She jumped up, ran to me and threw her arms around me. Then she stood back to look me over while I looked her over.

“You’re dressed up,” I said. “What’s the occasion?”

“I didn’t take time to change. I rushed here from my assignment in Buenos Aires.” She struck a pose. “How’s this?”

“You’re the prettiest thing I’ve seen lately,” I answered.

“They thought so in Buenos Aires too,” she replied. “My next assignment is back there in four days.”

“How’d you know I was returning today?”

She gave me a mischievous smile. “Dearest, my soul is attuned to yours. Your soul sent me a message to come here because you needed me.”

“Yeah, right. And what is my soul telling yours right now?”

She smiled her most devilish smile and whispered in my ear. “That you’re ready to hop into bed with me as soon as you have dinner and take a bath.”

“You didn’t need supernatural powers to figure that out,” I said.

She gave me a mysterious look and whispered, “You’ll see.”

Then we joined the others in the dining room for a late dinner.



The next morning after breakfast, we moved to the conference room to plot our next operation.

“We need to replace Oscar,” I said.

Everybody nodded in agreement.

“I was thinking about Jerry Breedlove.”

Dave agreed. “We’ve worked with him twice and he’s steady as a rock, but can he get away?”

“He’s steady,” I agreed. “I don’t know if he is available.”

“Is he fluent in Spanish?” Isabela asked.

“No,” I replied.

“I can’t be everywhere,” Isabela reminded me. “Oscar’s replacement must be fluent in Spanish.”

“She’s right,” Dave agreed while Hart nodded his agreement.

“Who can we get?” I asked. “I don’t want to break in another stranger.”

Dave snapped his fingers. “Roscoe Tanner.”

“Who’s he?” I asked.

“He’s the man I worked with in Honduras.”

“Is he good?” I asked.

“He’s rough around the edges and he takes some getting used to, but he won’t let you down.”

“The rough part doesn’t bother me if he’s good,” I replied. “And you take quite a bit of getting used to yourself,” I said, with a grin.

Isabela laughed out loud.

“Hammer,” Dave replied with his most serious expression, “I am the most reasonable guy you know.”

That caused Hart to laugh and Isabela to hide her smile.

Isabela spoke up. “Tanner has a good reputation and, perhaps more importantly, he worked with Lady Margot more than any other agent.”

“That speaks well of him because her reputation was that she didn’t suffer fools,” Hart added.

“He admired Lady Fisher,” Dave said. “He’d jump at a chance to avenge her murder.”

“So he’d be motivated,” I said.

“I thought Tanner was in love Margot Fisher. I bet he would nail Fuente if it cost him his last breath,” Dave replied.

That was exactly what we needed, I thought. “Do you remember his number?” I asked.

“5470,” Dave replied.

I went to my office and called the London Operations Center.

“What’s up, 0061?”

“I need a replacement for 5038.”

“I’ll get back to you.”

“I know who I want.”



“Are you sure you want him?” the voice asked skeptically.

“Yeah. He’s highly recommended.”

“By who?”

“0062 and 0068.”

“I’ll have to get that cleared,” the voice replied.

“Work it out as quickly as possible. We need to move to the next target.”

“I’ll get back to you.” Then he hung up.

That conversation convinced me that Roscoe Tanner had to be my man.


Continued Next Month



Remembering My Daddy

Prilmer Clayton


Who calls their daddy Father?  Not me!  He was my Daddy!

A fun man, respectable man, and one who would put aside his own needs to help a neighbor.

I would like to say I remember my daddy before I was four years old, but my early years were spent during World War II, and my daddy being a part of the war. I only have pictures made from a Kodak camera for earlier memories. I think my very first memory of daddy involved all of my family and neighbors standing in our front yard one day and army troops marching by our driveway to Camp Butner. Of course I learned all this In better perspective later in life. The troops had gotten off the train in Rougemont, seven miles away  and were marching down the road.  We stood in awe watching the many different units pass by.

Troops, troops and more troops to be trained for World War II.  Little did I know this would disrupt my world two years later.  My daddy would be drafted into the United States Army. I was four; my daddy was leaving that particular day to go into the army.  I remember it vividly because it was the first time I remember seeing a dead person.  As daddy was preparing to leave we got news that his uncle had died.  Clinging to him, he took me to the family’s house to pay his respects before leaving.  I was hanging onto his neck as he held me in his arms when we walked into the house.  There upon the bed laid Uncle Tom, as daddy called him, his mother’s brother. He had two “shiny things” lying on his eyes.  I could not understand what was happening. Not until years later did I know the “shiny things” were silver dollars to hold his eyes closed.

I remember the next few years in bits and pieces; during 1944 to 1946 my daddy was gone.  Luckily he was stationed in Florida for a while before being shipped overseas.  I do remember my first taste of bacon when mama and I took a train to Florida to see him.  We stayed in a huge hotel with a restaurant on the ground floor.  I remember standing in the window of that huge hotel and singing “You are my Sunshine”, and “Pistol Packing Mama”. I remember this because mama tried to keep me quiet, as children were not suppose to be in the hotel and I guess mama had pleaded with the management that she was there to meet her husband who was in the United States Army, and probably promised them  I would be quiet! The first morning we went down for breakfast, we had scrambled eggs and bacon with toast.  Oh, it was so good!  A big change from the fat back and eggs we were use to eating back home.

Daddy did his duty and returned to us safely.  I had begun first grade at Mangum School in 1946.  when he came home.  I stayed home for a solid week just to be with my daddy. My first grade teacher, Miss Joyce Tilley sent word by someone that I needed to get back in school. My life from then through high school passed without me giving it much thought.  We did as most people,   tried to survive.  Living the farm life was hard, but we were together.

I was taught early on, that my help was needed and expected. No matter how small or young I was, there was always something I could do. I was taught to do anything and everything farm life required. Bringing in wood, drawing water from the well, working in tobacco fields, shelling corn for the chickens, running up the cow from the deep pasture to be milked.  We were not idle living on the farm.

As I grew into a teenager, I learned to drive the tractor, a favorite thing to do.  Driving the tractor prepared me to get my driver’s license once I turned 16. One cold fall day, the school bus had broken down.  We were probably about two miles from my house. Well, back then there were no phones, we had to wait until the bus didn’t show up at school before a mechanic truck was sent along our route to find us.  This cold morning, I decided I’d walk home.  Sitting by the warm heater and spending the day with mama and daddy sounded good in my thoughts.  It didn’t pan out quite that way.

Once in the house, explaining to my parents, the bus was broken down, I was cold and just didn’t want to go to school.  My daddy said without a pause, “well that’s good, change your clothes, get the tractor and trailer, and you can help pull corn today! OH No!  I guess my lips dropped to my shoes. But get up corn I did, all day long. Helping daddy by pulling corn from the stalks, throwing in the trailer, and taking to the corn crib. I thought twice the next time the bus broke down!

Daddy loved Christmas time. He loved music and dancing, we all did.  Christmas was a time to relax, be thankful and start planning for the New Year. Santa always came to see me, maybe not bringing much, but he always remembered me. One Christmas I got a shiny pink bicycle, I guess I was about 8 years old. That was a special year.  I loved riding my little bike. Another year when I was probably around 14, daddy sold tobacco and brought back a used bicycle with a “basket”!

I was so surprised and even though it had a few scratches here and there, to me it was perfect! I rode that bike up until I was 18 and married.

Leaving home in 1958, starting married life it was a happy time, but also a sad time.  I left my daddy in tears, mama in tears, and my brother and sister in tears.  We all eventually became normal again. I remember having my first baby and begging for a milkshake.  O course my daddy wanted to rush right from the hospital and get one, but NO, said the nurse, chicken soup was my diet for the day!

The Great Plan did not include my daddy living a long life. He died when I was just 23 years old, he was only 44.  I never lived my adult life with him. But he did experience the joy of being a granddaddy for just a little while. He was a good man, a good daddy who taught me you can blend work and play. He loved his neighbors, always ready to give a helping hand.  He was just a man, but he was my knight in shining armor.


Country Wisdom


·       Money doesn't bring you happiness, but it enables you to look for it in more places.

·       Your conscience may not keep you from doing wrong, but it sure keeps you from enjoying it.

·       Middle age is when broadness of the mind and narrowness of the waist change places.

·       Misers aren't much fun to live with, but they make great ancestors.

·       Be careful what rut you choose. You may be in it the rest of your life.

·       The trouble with bucket seats is that not everybody has the same size bucket.

·       When you see the handwriting on the wall, you can bet you're in a public restroom.

·       Opportunities always look bigger going than coming.

·       The real reason you can't take it with you is that it goes before you do.

·       Junk is something you throw away three weeks before you need it.

·       Hospitality is making your guests feel at home, even if you wish they were.

·       A closed mouth gathers no feet.

·       A man (or woman) who can smile when things go wrong has found someone to blame it on.

·       A modern pioneer is a woman who can get through a rainy Saturday with a television on the blink.

·       The world is full of willing people: some willing to work and some willing to let them



From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza

P. L. Almanza


Cucumber Tomato Salad

Cucumber Tomato Salad2.jpg 


For the salad:

Approximately 3 cups peeled & sliced cucumbers

3 Roma tomatoes, sliced into chunks

1/3 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil


For the dressing:

Cucumber Tomato Salad 2.jpg1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dill weed

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt & pepper, to taste (I never use salt)



Place salad ingredients in large bowl and toss.

Mix dressing ingredients in small bowl; stir to combine well & drizzle over salad.



Sweet Bread Rolls



2 1/2 cups warm water (110°)

2 pkg (4 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast

1 (15.25 oz) yellow cake mix

1 Tbl oil

sweet bread rolls 2.jpg5 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

4 Tbl butter, melted



In mixer bowl, pour warm water, sprinkle yeast over, then cake mix. Let sit 5 minutes. Add oil, flour, and salt, mix all together. Knead. Let rise 1 hour. Knead lightly again and turn out onto well floured surface.

Pat out and cut for rolls and place on sprayed baking sheet or divide evenly into 30 pieces, make balls and place in two sprayed 9″x13″ pans. Can also be made into two large loaves. Let rise until double.


Bake at 375° for 12-15 minutes for rolls and 30-35 minutes for loaves. Brush with melted butter as they come from the oven.


sweet bread rolls 1.jpg







No Bake Coconut Chocolate Bars


no bake coconut bars.jpgIngredients:

2 1/2 cup shredded coconut

1 (3 ounces) instant vanilla pudding

2 cup milk

7 oz cream cheese, room temperature

4 tbsp butter, softened

4 tbsp granulated sugar

Chocolate Frosting

8 ounces semi sweet chocolate, chopped

6 tbsp heavy cream



Line an 8x8 inch dish with parchment paper.



In a medium dish, mix instant vanilla pudding and milk, using an electric mixer, minimum speed, for about a minute, then for 2 more minutes at medium speed.

In a separate, large dish, put cream cheese, softened butter, sugar and vanilla and mix for about 2 minutes with an electric mixer, medium speed, until creamy.

Add already prepared vanilla pudding and mix until well combined.

Finally add coconut and stir well. Spread evenly in an already prepared dish, using some solid object to make a firm layer. Leave aside.



Put heavy cream in a small dish. Heat it on medium temperature.

When it starts to boil, remove from the heat and combine with chopped chocolate.

Stir well, so that all the chocolate melts. You need to be quick, if you don´t want any crumbs.

Spread evenly over the coconut layer. Keep refrigerated for minimum 4h.

Keep it in refrigerator in airtight container to maintain freshness.





P.L. Almanza: From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza; lives in Hamlet, North Carolina. She has been writing stories since she was four years old. Her first book, The East Side Killers came out in April 2014. Her cookbook, Family Meals and Desserts, came out in the summer of 2015. She is currently working on two new cookbooks 


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


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


Rita Berman: Thomas Hardy, a Victorian Novelist; 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: Meaningful; 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.


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


Prilmer Jane Clayton: Remembering My Daddy, lives in Roxboro, North Carolina. She is retired and working part time at a financial services company. Her hobbies are reading, gardening, crafts, dancing, and brain games. Her goals are to become a writer and learn to play a musical instrument.


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


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


Marry Williamson: Cabbage Patch Doll; lives in Chard, Somerset, England. She was born in the Netherlands and moved to Britain in 1966. She worked for an Anglo-Dutch company in London. In 1999, Marry and her husband retired and moved to Chard, Somerset. Her hobbies are writing, reading, bird watching, and exploring ancient monuments. She is a member of a local writers’ group in England.


Tim Whealton: Bravery : 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.


Dave Whitford: Boating Safety, is retired from IBM and now writes in Toano, Virginia