Righter Monthly Review

february 2014

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Articles. 1

Book Reviews. 7

Cooking. 10

Poetry. 11

Humor. 14

Stories. 20

About the Magazine and Contributors. 35





Editor’s Column


The month of February has a lot of notable days. Groundhog Day, of course. The anniversary of the founding of the Boy Scouts is on the 8th. Abraham Lincoln was born on the 12th and St. Valentine’s day is the 14th. For me, the 14th is also mine and Barbara’s wedding anniversary. George Washington’s birthday is the 22nd.

Groundhog Day is when, in several areas of the country, a groundhog (Marmota monax) is trotted out before television cameras where the presence, or absence, of its shadow will determine if spring will come right away, or wait six more weeks. The accuracy of this weather forecasting process is about equal to what we see on television. Those untold trillions of dollars worth of equipment, along with highly educated weather scientists, some of whom are very pretty, give us weather forecasts almost as accurate as the groundhog’s in telling us what to expect weatherwise. The only difference I can see is the pretty television weather forecasters do this every day, many, many times a day, while the groundhog is a once a year thing. This provides meaningful employment to many pretty women throughout the world, and, if you think American weather-women are good looking, check out the Mexican and Italian weather forecasters. It’s all harmless fun for everybody and, as far as I know, nobody has ever gotten sick, been injured or killed.

Using animals to foresee the future is a time-honored thing. When the ancient Romans had a dilemma when being right was important, they studied the entrails of birds and animals. Don’t laugh. It worked better for them and their thousand-year civilization than anything that has been tried since.

I have a lot of respect for the ancients. The basis of just about everything we know today was first invented or discovered by folks without a college education and no iPad or cellphone. Eratosthenes of Cyrene (270 BC – 194 BC), observed that on the longest day of summer solstice, the midday sun shone to the bottom of a well in the town of Syene in Egypt. The next year he was in Alexandra, 500 miles downriver from Syene, on summer solstice. He observed that the sun cast a shadow with the vertical equal to 1/50th of a circle (7° 12'). Using these observations, Eratosthenes concluded that, since the angular deviation of the sun from the vertical at Alexandria was equal to the subtended linear distance between Alexandria and Syene; 1/50 of the circumference of the Earth. His math worked out to 25,000 geographical miles (50 X 500). The circumference of the Earth is 24,902 miles. Do you know anybody today who could have figured this out?

Those wise ancients didn’t have much respect for representative government. Edward Gibbon ridiculed democracy in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Published in 1776).

The Ancient Athenian Greeks made the best go of it. During their golden age, their leaders were elected by the citizens of Athens. Of course, foreigners had no votes or rights in Ancient Greece. The remainder of the public servants who administered Athens were chosen by lot from among the assembled voters. Think about it. During Athens’ golden age, their legislators, judges, their administrators, lawyers and all other political functionaries were amateurs whose names were picked out of a hat. They had to serve a year.

When you think about it, this is not such a bad idea. Compare your legislative representatives with the next person you meet in Wal-Mart. If you notice any difference, you might think the Wal-Mart shopper would do a better job for the simple reason it would be pretty hard for them to do worse. Most states have a lottery machine. Every American citizen has a Social Security number. The next time they needed a new congressman, senator or Supreme Court justice, let the lottery machine pick nine numbers, which, by happy coincidence, would save billions of dollars normally spent on electioneering. Call the guy or gal and tell them when they report to their new job.


Gene Alston



Dave Whitford


Groundhog Day is my favorite National Holiday. It’s a tipping point. Okay, if you don’t like that cliché, try this one: Groundhog Day denotes light at the end of the tunnel. While it doesn’t forecast the end of winter – not by a long shot, regardless whether the rodent sees its shadow – Groundhog Day gives hope.

This holiday gets short shrift. It doesn’t get the misplaced pomp given to the holiday for a dreaming, 1960s rabble-rouser, for example. At least they collect my garbage on time and deliver my mail on Groundhog Day, except when the holiday falls on Sunday, as it does this year. We get the Super Bowl on Groundhog Day this year instead. That’s the bonus this year, just an added reason for me to adore Groundhog Day.

The days are noticeably longer by Groundhog Day, too, at both ends, morning and evening.  The morning sunrise has occurred earlier than on the Winter Solstice by eleven days when Groundhog Day gets here. That’s reason enough for optimism, despite the bone-chilling cold.

Another great thing about February is that it’s the shortest month.  It puts us two or three days closer to spring’s better weather than otherwise.

Other good reasons for February are skiing, skating, the Winter Olympics, and boat racing in Florida. 

I recall the February of 1971 with humor now. I was so careful about skiing that winter, almost curtailing that favorite activity entirely, so that I wouldn’t hurt myself on the slopes and then be unable to race my boat in Lakeland on Lake Hollingsworth’s surveyed-for-records course. As fate would have it, I blew my boat over backward and earned a trip to Lakeland’s hospital. It was an ugly spill, not a clean, airborne, loop-the-loop blow-over. My boat came up reluctantly and really crooked, tail-walking across the water, smacking me with every bounce. First it smote me in the face with such force that it smashed my spray visor and knocked my spectacles out of my helmet into the lake, even though I’d secured them with one of those elastic straps behind my head.

On the second hit, the boat spun me around backward. On the third, it hit me on the left side, dislocating my shoulder. That dislocated shoulder was the worst pain I’d ever experienced. The pain kept building all the while the shoulder remained dislocated. By the time an emergency room doctor got to me, almost an hour had elapsed. He merely rolled me onto my stomach on the gurney and just left my arm dangling toward the floor. Almost at once the shoulder went back into place by my arms own weight, and the pain stopped.

I almost cussed the doctor out.  “If that’s all there was to it,” I raged, “Why didn’t someone give me a clue?”

Back home in New Paltz, after almost two days’ drive, I left for work three days after my boat crash and sneezed as soon as I stepped over the threshold into the bitter freezing air. The pain from that sneeze knocked me whimpering to the ground. I took time off from work to get an X-ray at Poughkeepsie’s Vassar Brothers Hospital: two cracked left ribs.

“What’s the prognosis?” I asked.

“Your ribs will take the standard six weeks to knit back together,” the doctor said. “All I can do for you is to tape your side for a little extra support. But then it’ll hurt again when we pull the tape off to change it. And showering won’t be so nice.”

“Can we just leave the tape off, then?” I asked.

“Sure. That’s what I’d do if those were my ribs. Just try to avoid sneezing again.”

I look back at the irony of this episode and the care I spent to avoid hurting myself on the ski slopes so that I could race, and I can’t help but grin. Time gave me a different perspective. It wasn’t so humorous in 1971. And while I can’t really adore February, I can appreciate the optimism it now gives me.


 Some Thoughts Concerning the Information Age

Randy Bittle

 Living in the information age is exciting yet challenging.  Like a beautiful, sweet smelling rose with prickly thorns on the stem, the broadband information world beckons.  Enjoy the beauty and fragrance, but be wary of the thorns. 

Social media offers a variety of avenues for self-expression, in addition to regular email, blogging, and website opportunities.  You now have access to a large audience for your messages, but expressing opinions, thoughts, and feelings to the world exposes your mind for what it is.  Be sure you want the world to see who you really are.

On the other hand, beware that information has no intrinsic meaning.  It is inert symbology.  Meaning must be supplied by a person.  What you intend to say may not be how the recipient interprets your meaning, and vice-versa.

In this age of information overload, some people think education is thought control.  That’s not accurate.  Brainwashing causes thought control and emotional manipulation.  True education teaches a person to think for himself and to be resistant to blind, thoughtless agreement with poorly conceived, implausible ideas.  Be aware of that as you sift through the mass of information from social media, emails, blogs, websites, and news media.

Do not limit yourself to reading and reinforcing what you already believe.  Your beliefs could be mistaken, which makes reinforcement a waste of time that can damage your circumstances, since other people begin to command your thoughts and emotions.  Challenge yourself to entertain new ideas and consider their merits within the context of what you presume to know.  Don’t let others think for you.  Take a stand and make a habit of careful interpretation and comprehension of the steady stream of information, misinformation, and disinformation available in today’s society.


The GOOD WORD Corner

Preamble: “Here” After and “THE Hereafter!”

(KJV Scripture)

J. Edgar Short


 Believe it or not, we (that means you the reader and me the writer) go through life making "decisions"!  Early on, Santa Claus was one of the most important people to me "in the whole world": a decision.

When that ended at about age 7, roman candles and firecrackers were top attractions.  Another "decision".

Later in life I read a verse in my King James Bible (1st Corinthians 13:11) that says "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: But when I became a man, I put away childish things."  Another very, very important decision!

When I was about 9 years old, my (19 months older) brother and I started slipping around smoking cigarettes.  A "very bad" decision!

In high school, 11th grade, I was a guard for our senior boy’s basketball team.  The teams' captain called a meeting of our entire team and "suggested" that we all quit smoking for the next few weeks.  Just until the district tournament was over because we might be able to win it and go to the state tournament.  All of us quit smoking!  We didn't win the tournament, but 'common sense' told me not to start smoking again.  And I didn't.  A "great decision".  I am currently 96 1/2 years old, still alive and kickin', and the only surviving member of that team.

At age 22 I made the most important decision that any person alive could ever make. One Sunday morning I heard a sermon that included scriptures urging lost (unsaved) people to accept Christ.  I don't remember the entire sermon, but John 3:16 was one of the scriptures.  "For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  Another scripture passage included in the sermon was John 20:30-31 - "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name."

All of these passages contain God's promise to unsaved people.  Some days later that pastor came to my sister’s home (where I was living), in Kansas City, and talked to me personally out on our front porch.  He asked me if I wanted to accept Jesus as my personal Savior.  I certainly did and I told him so!  A great flash of feeling surged through my chest.  Right then and there, the "greatest decision" of my entire life had 'kicked in'.  Romans 10:10 says "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."  According to the scriptures, my name was right then written into the "Lambs Book of Life".  Jesus' punishment on that old rugged cross will blot out my sin on Judgment Day!  Thank you, Lord Jesus!!  Remember what Romans 4:12 tells us - "Neither is there salvation in any other: For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."  Hallelujah!!!

During the time all of the above was happening to me, a man by the name of "Adolph Hitler" was grinding out thousands upon thousands of "evil decisions" in an effort to create a super race of people.  In September, 1937 he formulated the "Berlin Axis Agreement" with Italy and Japan as partners.  Their intent was to whip the world, if necessary, to complete this great project.

In 1939, our congress ground out a decision to start in January, 1940, training American young men to be soldiers - with 12 months of training - because the war that that axis had going against England and France was "threatening".

Around November of 1942 I received my "1:A" draft classification notice and decided to join the Merchant Marine.  I was sent to Hoffman Island in New York for boot camp.  While there I opted for and completed engine room training.  Classes in electronic equipment; plumbing; boilers; reciprocating engines; turbines and refrigeration were included.  Four months of studying, cramming and written tests!

Upon graduation, I was certified to fill oiler, foreman or watertender positions on any Merchant Marine ship of any size.  They assigned three oilers to board trains and go to Charleston, SC port of embarkation to await assignment on a ship within a hundred (plus or minus) miles that might need an oiler.  I was one of the three!

About a week later, two of us were sent south to Jacksonville, FL to board the S.S. John F. Appleby as oilers.  Each oiler works, in port, one 8 hour shift daily.  There were three shifts - 8AM to 4PM, 4PM to Midnight and Midnight to 8AM.  I drew the midnight to 8AM shift.  Once we left the port and were in route, work assignments changed to 4 hour shifts (twice daily).  My shifts were midnight to 4AM and noon to 4PM.

On this first load, during my off hours, I watched very closely what was being loaded.  Approximately 10,000 tons of 500 pound bales of cotton and an equal amount (by weight) of pine rosin in 50 pound metal containers.  No one that I asked had any idea what pine rosin was good for.  Nor did any of us have any inkling that there was that much pine rosin in the whole world!  At any rate, several years ago I was talking about this in one of my Sunday School classes.  When I mentioned that I had no idea what is was used for one of my class members immediately spoke up.  He was a retired worker for the Southwest Grease Company here in Wichita.  He said "I can tell you exactly what it is good for.  It makes top quality grease!  I have made lots of it!"  Wow!

Remember, I've told you before that travel is educational.  While in Charleston, I learned that paper mills were there and that they stink to high heaven.  They made paper from pine trees, sap or rosin somehow.  Their air was stifling! 

Anyway, once we were loaded at Jacksonville and started northward down the St. John River toward the Atlantic Ocean I began to wonder.  Are the big waves out on the ocean going to make me seasick?  Will I throw up?  Will I get too sick to work?  Good Lord help me!!!

The S.S. John F. Appleby was a liberty ship, made by the Kaiser Shipbuilding Company.  They were nicknamed "Kaiser coffins".  It was funny when I first heard the term, but not so funny when one of the early ones split apart in rough seas in the very cold North Atlantic.  Wow!  Bedlam!

Well, sure enough, all of a sudden I felt the ship going up and down on a large swell while also being thrown sideways.  My innards immediately let me know that all is not well.

Before sweat could start pouring off of me, I grabbed the oil can, "oiled machinery like mad and started repeating out loud the 23rd Psalm.  "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the path of righteousness for His name's sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: For thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: And I shall dwell in the House of the Lord for ever."

I don't remember how many times I repeated those words, but my innards began to settle down, down, down!  Never again, in the 37 months that I served in the Merchant Marine, did I feel that same "innard" disturbance.  Thank you, Lord!!!

That's enough for today, I'll continue from there next month!


J. Edgar Short, Wichita KS 67213-3502, Phone (316) 722-1322


Wisdom of the ages: If you don't get anything else from the above article, please remember that the most important decision any person can make is to give their heart and soul to Jesus.  Don't miss out on the glory and joy of Heaven! 


And I'll leave you with a quote from Yogi Berra - "It ain't over 'til it's over"!




 Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov, age 94, died December 23rd 2013. He was the inventor of the famed AK-47 rifle.  Born a Kulak (Rich Peasant), Stalin deported his family to Siberia in the 1930s where his father died from privation and exhaustion. He spent his early teenage years trying to get back to his birthplace. World War II came and he was drafted, sent into battle and wounded at the battle of Bryamsk. During his recovery, he and several of his comrades complained about the uselessness of Russian rifles. He was a compulsive tinkerer and a skilled mechanic. He put his mind to work devising a better rifle to kill Germans with. After the war, he worked on his rifle and in 1947 his invention was approved. The gun copied the Browning Automatic rifles, the American M-1 Carbine and his cartridge was a 30 caliber version of a German round. At the time all Russian-built firearms were 30 caliber because Russia didn’t have barrel-making machinery for other calibers. Their Nagant revolvers, Tokarev and CZ pistols were all 30 caliber.

Mikhail loved order and simplicity and he liked to be surrounded by lovely objects and good books. He read Seneca, Montesquieu and the Russian poets, Nekrasov and Esenin.

His is the most widely distributed military rifle ever devised, with over 100 million and untold numbers of copies in service. It is the most reliable select fire firearm ever made, easy to use, simple to work on, although you won’t win any rifle matches with one. He did it all for his beloved Russia. Not one Kopeck came to him from the AK-47. It wasn’t even patented until 1999. He lived all his life as he was born, a wise peasant, with just enough to get by. That was all he ever wanted, or needed. Salute!


Book Reviews


The Traveler's Gift

By Andy Andrews

Reviewed by Judy Jacobs


What do Harry Truman, King Solomon, Joshua Chamberlain, Christopher Columbus, Anne Frank, and Abraham Lincoln have in common?  They were all ordinary people facing extra ordinary challenges in their lives.  Each of them accepted the responsibility of mastering the situation they were in by making a conscious effort not to give up or settle for mediocrity. David Ponder is at a low point in his life.  Through the genre of a near death experience he meets each of the aforementioned people.  Each person assures David that he has the ability to change his life, and each person gives David a different “decision for success” to use as a tool.    David is then charged with committing these decisions to heart and then sharing the value of these decisions with everyone he meets.

The intriguing thing about all the advice given to David is that not one piece of advice sounds too hard. Each decision sounds deceptively simple and at first glance one would not think a small change in thinking would make much of a difference in one’s life.  Some of the things told to David were: “The ultimate outcome of anyone’s life is a matter of personal choice. --   The responsibility for your situation is yours. --  I control my thoughts.  I control my emotions. –Guard your associations carefully.—I will choose my friends with care. – I will always choose to act. – I do not quit. -Getting started, getting finished – both ends of a journey require a demonstration of passion. –Choose to be happy.”

Many self-help books sound “preachy.”  By couching the advice into ordinary conversations, the author avoided this trap.  Andy Andrews’ choice of “experts” was inspired.  No one can know for certain what advice Christopher Columbus would give a person, but Andrews did a superb job of matching a personality with the advice given.

I enjoyed this book for two reasons.  One, the advice is applicable, even if you are not at a crisis in your life.  Two, the pointers given in no way detract from what we have learned about the various people featured in the book.  Rather, the words of wisdom add dimensions to their personality and makes one feel you have just had a conversation with a good friend.


Q: What do you get when you cross a groundhog with a pistachio?
A: A green beast who predicts a dry spring, and acts like a nut.

Q: On Groundhog Day, what does it mean if Punxsutawney Phil comes out and sees the village idiot? 
A: Within 6 weeks you'll have a village full of idiots.

Q; What's green, has four legs, and jumps out of its hole on Groundhog Day?
A: The ground frog!

Q: What is a groundhog’s favorite book?
A: Holes.
Q: What side of the groundhog has the most hair? 
A: On the outside.



The Meaning of Meat in the Structure of the Odyssey

By Egbert J. Bakker

201pp. Cambridge University Press


Reviewed by E. B. Alston

In the ninth book of the Odyssey, Odysseus and his companions landed on the island of the Cyclopes, an “insolent and lawless people.” The Cyclopes had no knowledge of agriculture, and lived as shepherds in a land of miraculous natural abundance. “They planted nothing with their hands, nor do they plough. They had no political assemblies  and no laws.”

Odysseus found the cave of Polyphemus the Cyclops, a creature that lived alone in nature, pasturing his sheep and goats. His cave was crowded with lambs and kids and baskets of cheese, and milk-pails “swimming with whey.” Odysseus said Polyphemus was “not like any man who eats bread.”

When Polyphemus finds Odysseus and his men in his cave, the Cyclops, like the wolves in Call of the Wild, considers men fresh meat. He ripped two of Odysseus' companions apart and eats their raw flesh “like a mountain lion,” and washed it down from a jug of milk.

Odysseus escapes and, in the process, steals some of the Cyclopes’ sheep. That ep­isode ended with Odysseus and his companions feasting on roast lamb and sweet wine - a wel­come return to normal Homeric cuisine.

To Ancient Greeks and Romans, pastoralists were barba­rians because civilization could not exist without agriculture. Homer's Cyclopes were pure pastoralists, “eaters of flesh and drinkers of milk.” When Roman historians wrote about the wildest periphery of the inhabited world, where there was no law and culture, they described pastoralists as men who never grasped a plough-handle, cultivated trees, or lived by tilling the soil. They roamed over empty lands, with no fixed abodes or laws. They lived upon game and milk and on wild herbs, and birds they captured.

In this excruciatingly detailed book, the author writes that cuisine, and meat-eating in particular, is a key motif running through the whole of Odysseus' epic journey from Troy to his home, Ithaca. The first lines of the Od­yssey focuses on the folly of Odysseus' compan­ions in eating the forbidden Cattle of the Sun. Some commentators have speculated in print that this mi­nor episode in the Odyssey was simply an incident added to get rid of Odysseus’s crew, who are destroyed by the gods as punishment for eating the Cattle of the Sun and Odysseus himself is dumped alone on Calyp­so's island for seven years of exile.

But Bakker writes that these forbidden cattle are central to the story’s meaning. On his re­turn to Ithaca, Odysseus finds his livelihood being methodically destroyed by Penelope's suitors, who are eating their way through his flocks and herds. Bakker argues that we are dealing with a recurrent moral theme in Ho­mer’s story. The gods punish those who eat food that does not belong to them. Then there’s the scene where Odysseus’ loyal swineherd scrupulously divided a roast boar with the other swineherds, Odysseus and the gods. Odysseus’ journey through the never-never land of the Homeric Mediterranean follows patterns of excess and restraint in meat-eating as he lives on the wild diet on the island of the pastoral Cyclopes, to Circe's magical island, where Odysseus gorges himself for a year on "unlimited meat and sweet wine".

Bakker explains that food was a mirror of society in the Homeric world. In an agrarian society, roast meat served as a status symbol. Through­out the Iliad and the Odyssey, beefsteak is a privilege reserved for heroes, distinguishing them from the grunts in the phalanx. The divi­sion of meat at heroic feasts was governed by so­cial status, with special portions set aside for chieftains and guests. Eating what is not yours to eat is an example of moral culpability. As in every other human exchange, if you didn’t earn it, you don’t deserve it.






Southern Pound Cake

By P. L. Almanza

This recipe has been in my family for more than 100 years and it's sooo good! If you've never made a pound cake, then this is the recipe for you! In today's healthy lifestyle fashion, I made a few changes that will allow everyone no matter what your health issues are to enjoy this wonderful cake. Perfect for your Valentine's parties!

1 cup butter (I use unsalted)

2 cups sugar or (any sugar substitute)

5 eggs or 7 eggwhites if you are on a low cholesterol diet

1 cup self rising flour

2 cups plain flour

1 cup milk or skim milk

Dash of salt* (optional)

1 teaspoon vanilla flavor (or flavoring of your choice)


All of the ingredients should be room temperature.

Cream butter and sugar together.


Mix flours and salt* in another bowl, and add a little of the flour, then an egg, don't over mix after each egg. Leave the mixer on low and alternate with the last of the flour going in after the last egg. Add the milk slowly while mixing, add the flavor. Mix thoroughly. Let the mixture rest for 4 minutes. Then stir with a spoon.

Pour evenly into a tube pan that's been greased. I use peanut oil. You can also use cooking spray but make sure that you spray evenly! Then shake in powdered sugar OR flour. You can use flour, but the powdered sugar leaves a sweet taste on the outside of the cake instead of flour taste if you have a super sweet tooth as I do! Also you can add a cup of flaked coconut to the milk for a real treasure of a cake!

Put in COLD oven on center rack, set oven 325 for 90 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.



Happy Valentine's Day



Q: Where do sick groundhogs go?
A: To the hogpital
Q: What do you call a groundhog adopted from the Humane Society?
A: A poundhog






Sybil Austin Skakle


Ah, Tinkerbell, a fairy to love a fellow?

No more appropriate than cat and bee.

Peter may grow up and you will see

An elf is the right mate for thee.

You may sprinkle stardust

Upon his precious path

And cherish him with your mind

And your imagination

Delight him with your flight

Be all you can be for him

But you cannot mate with Peter

Believe the magic that you are,

Given for helping mortals

Know the importance of love.

Even if unrequited

It is never either or. No!

Without love life is flat

Ambition is no substitute.

He’ll see!



Come Here on Valentine's Day

Laura A. Alston


Will you be here on Valentine's Day

To warm my heart so cold?

Or will you be absent from my life

That's colorless and full of broken dreams?


I'll look for you on Valentine's Day

With your touch of magic and cheer.

You will stir my soul on that day

And make me come alive once more.


So come my dear on Valentine's Day

For I fear that I've lost my way.

Help me find a place that's good and warm.

A place where once I belonged.



Valentine Day Musing

Sybil Austin Skakle


“Roses are red.

Violets are blue.”

Not wholly true.

The colors of roses

Vary in hue –

Yellow, white, pink,

Perhaps even blue.

Violets are purple!

But on Valentine Day

Roses must be red,

For that is the way

I love you is said.

Chocolates won’t do it,

Perfume, or some other flower.

When I want you to know

You’re loved every hour.



When Byron’s eyes were shut in death,

We bow’d our head and held our breath.

He taught us little: but our soul

Had felt him like thunder’s roll


He spoke and loos’d our heart in tears.

He laid us as we lay at birth

On the cool flowery lap of earth


Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)



Delving Into Blackberry Jam

Michael Warren


On the edges of light you will find them,

Dense, tangled, leafy ribs of briar.

If rooted in shade, longing inclines the stem

To arch its spiny back towards the sun,

For shadow captures not the essence of desire.


Sprouted at the rim of the pine wood ridge,

Encircling the spring hill beyond the barn,

The broad leaves of the cane seek to bridge

A germ of defiant growth secretly begun

With the prismatic glory of the dawn.


Above the drooped grass and unambitious shrub,

The headstrong stalk rises with thorns distended,

Sets fruit in proud clusters, tantalizing amid scrub,

Which distill pure sunlight, by earnest reach won,

Into the juice of journeying, of quest unended.


A woman may recognize herself in the blackberry yield

And hurry to gather baskets of tender, swelled globes,

Which, cooked, ladled into glass jars, capped and sealed,

Preserve the purple genius of her heart for the special one,

The man knowing luscious jam is the passion she disrobes.




Sparks Down

Elizabeth Miccio


Black Charcoal knives of wood

Parade across barren darkened soil

Rain clouds hover



Lightning flashing

Striking the air

With bright lines of gold

Thunder booming


The once emerald green forest


Amid small circles of hail

Dancing on the soil

Meadows of mud slide swiftly

Carrying with it, all in its path





Twenty of the Most Overused Words in 2013


1. Twerk, v. Dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.

2. Selfie, n. A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.

3. Passion, n. A strong affection or enthusiasm for an object, concept, etc.

4. Look..., v. (in imperative form). To direct one's eyes or attention (towards).

5. Robust, adj. Strong in constitution; hardy; vigorous.

6. So, conj. With the consequence (that).

7. Delivery, n. Handing over, or conveying into the hands of another.

8. Project n. A proposal, scheme, or design; task requiring considerable or concerted effort.

9. Hashtag, n. Word or phrase preceded by a hash sign (#), used on social media sites such as Twitter to identify messages on a specific topic.

10. Amazeballs, adj. (slang) An expression of enthusiastic approval.

11. Doing, v. Perform or complete; prepare or arrange; produce; also used as an auxiliary to replace an earlier verb and avoid repetition.

12. Absolutely adv. Yes, certainly, definitely; without a doubt. Completely or perfectly.

13. Fail, v. To be or become deficient.

14. Responsible adj. Capable of fulfilling an obligation or duty; reliable, trustworthy, sensible

15. Anyway, adv.conj. However the case may be; in any case; anyhow.

16. Yeah-no, Being affirmative while at the same time covering the opposite possibility. Particularly favoured by sportspeople during game time when it appears as though their team is going to score a point -(in unwords.com)

17. Legacy, n. Something handed down by an ancestor or predecessor.

18. Hipster, n. a person who follows the latest trends and fashions.

19. Geek, n. A person who is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about a specific subject.

20. Iconic, adj. A person or thing regarded as representative of a culture or movement.


The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

Wretched Writers Welcome


Editor’s note: This is a contest where contestants try to write the most awful opening sentence for a novel. Edward Bulwer-Lytton started it with, “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830). The Charlie Brown cartoon series popularized it by having Snoopy type, “It was a dark and stormy night…”


This is the winning entry for 2013: She strutted into my office wearing a dress that clung to her like Saran Wrap to a sloppily butchered pork knuckle, bone and sinew jutting and lurching asymmetrically beneath its folds, the tightness exaggerating the granularity of the suet and causing what little palatable meat there was to sweat, its transparency the thief of imagination. Chris Wieloch, Brookfield, WI


Winner Adventure: “I told you to wear sensible shoes, but no, your vanity would not allow it!” he yelled at me as if that had something to do with the airplane crashing into the jungle and all the bodies draped in the trees, but it was just the sort of nonsense I was used to from him, making me wish one or the other of us was hanging dead above us, instead of Rodney. — Thor F. Carden, Madison, TN


Dishonorable Mention: It was a tricky situation, given the complex behavioral instincts of the Lowland Gorilla, and this accidental group encounter with a silver-backed dominant male was taxing Professor Wiesenheimer’s knowledge of interspecies primate interaction to the limit, yet confidently and without hesitation, he turned to his startled pupils and whispered, “Run like Hell.” — Mark Watson, Raleigh, NC


Winner-Fantasy: The fairies of Minglewood, which is near Dingly Pool, were having a grand revel with flower-cakes, and butterfly dances, looking ever so pretty, while Queen Bellaflora swept her wand o’er the waterfall’s foam, making it pop like the snot-bubbles on your baby sister’s face. — Janine Beacham, Busselton, WA, Australia


Runner up-Crime: Seeing Mrs. Kohler sink, Detective Moen flushed as he plugged the burglary as the unmistakable work of Cap Fawcet, the Mad Plumber, for not only had her pool of assets been drained, but her clogs were now missing, and the toilet had been removed, leaving them with absolutely nothing to go on. — Eric J. Hildeman, Greenfield, WI


Dishonorable Mention-Crime: The dame was stacked, both conventionally and in that she was the third of five bodies piled against the wall, the wall’s earth tones reminding me of Grandmother’s house, which figured since it was her house, she having stacked the bodies there after poisoning them, so I studied the bodies as I munched on Grandmother’s ginger snaps and felt a twinge in my stomach. — Kenneth Bennight, San Antonio, TX


Runner Up-Horror: Count Glandula’s castle flickered with eerie lights, where the immortal villain slaked his evil thirst in the dungeons with innocent victims – two moldy old peasants because the virtuous maidens had all been taken by the hot teenaged vampires down the road whose breath wasn’t so icky. — Janine Beacham, Busselton, WA, Australia


Dishonorable Mention-Purple Prose: Mildred, sitting under the hair dryer at The Curl & Go and thumbing through a Victoria’s Secret catalogue, felt a shudder and a fleeting moment of commiseration when she saw those tiny thongs the models were sporting in the name of underwear because, as it happened, her own butt cheeks tended to gobble up her Fruit of the Loom For Mature Women white cotton panties like a pair of starving wolverines fighting over a flatfish. — Helen Grainge, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario


And last, but not least- Dishonorable Mention-History: General Lee arranged for the dreaded surrender, yet capitalized on his opponents’ weaknesses to the very end, striking a tiny parting blow for the Army of Northern Virginia (chuckling to himself) as he remembered from Academy days how many Union commanders had struggled with spelling even common words, and so ran his finger along the map and settled on Appomattox. — Randal Pilz, Milton, FL



Twenty-Five Puns

Submitted by Jean Barnes

(It’s Okay to Groan)


1.               When chemists die, they barium.

2.               Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.

3.               A soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

4.               I know a guy who's addicted to brake fluid. He says he can stop any time.

5.               How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.

6.               I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me.

7.               This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I'd never met herbivore.

8.               I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I can't put it down.

9.               I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words .

10.            They told me I had type A blood, but it was a type-O.

11.            This dyslexic man walks into a bra.

12.            I didn't like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.

13.            A cross-eyed teacher lost her job because she couldn't control her pupils?

14.            When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.

15.            What does a clock do when it's hungry? It goes back four seconds..

16.            I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me!

17.            Broken pencils are pointless.

18.            What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.

19.            England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.

20.            I used to be a banker, but then I lost interest.

21.            I dropped out of communism class because of lousy Marx.

22.            All the toilets in London police stations have been stolen. Police have nothing to go on.

23.            I took the job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.

24.            Velcro - what a rip off!

25.            Cartoonist found dead in home. Details are sketchy.



Q: What should you do if you find a groundhog sleeping in your bed? 

A: Sleep somewhere else
Q: Who leaps tall buildings with a single bound?
A: Superhog
Q: What do you call a groundhog who eats too much?
A: A roundhog

Say What!


The Written Word

“The word ‘gift’ means poison in German.” Michael Dirida


In the eighteenth century men’s testicles were called “twiddle-diddles” and “Johnny Bun” was used by ladies too cultured to say “jackass.”


Over-serious busybodies are still trying to make Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales a philosophical treatise instead of a bawdy tale. I think Virginia Woolf captured Chaucer’s work perfectly when she wrote, “Much of Chaucer – a few lines perhaps in each of the Tales – is improper and gives us the strange sensation of being naked in the air after being muffled in old clothing.”


The Origin of the Species specified a mechanism by which the complexities of life might be explained. This theory needs supplementing with a quantitative account of the ways in which natural selection can get to solutions that have the complexity shown by nature, while operating in the available time. Saying that natural selection explains the complexity of life is like saying that gravity and linear motion explain the planetary orbits.” Leslie Valiant in Probably Approximately Correct


These United States

DURR is a watch that shivers, every five minutes. That's all it does. No hands to tell the time. It just shivers at set, five-minute intervals. Its makers describe it as a kind of experiment to investigate how we perceive the passage of time: "We made Durr to explore how we perceive 5 minutes in different situations. By markedly shivering every 5 minutes, it creates a haptic rhythm to make us notice the changing tempo of time." They're currently sold out. So you'll have to wait to get yours. You can buy one at http://skreksto.re/products/durr


Wrong Line of Work: Four perps broke into the house of Joseph Torrez, who it appears was unarmed (except for his mixed martial arts membership card). By the close of business, one perp was dead, one in the hospital, the other 2 arrested. Las Cruces Sun-News


There’s “drunk” and then there’s “blitzed.” In the latter, you run away from a DUI stop by climbing a tree and pretending to be an owl, and when a cop tries to talk you down, you say, “Awwww, see, now you are just trying to get me to talk so you can add more charges.” WCVB-TV (Boston)


Stories That Never Get Old: In East Kingston, N.H., during Polar Vortex Week, “Maddie, 12, got stuck licking a flag pole. Excellent!” WMUR-TV (Manchester)


Of Course: Andrew Carreira, 23, was arrested for car burglary in Austin, Tex., though he denied it. Problem was, fresh doggy-doo on the ground, and on Andrew’s shoe, and inside the car. Austin American-Statesman


The Way Washington Works: The NASA space center in Hancock County, Miss., is the nation’s “premier rocket engine testing facility,” which is why, with utterly nothing to do since 2010, Congress ordered NASA to keep maintaining and improving it during 2010-2013. It’s named after the venerable ol’ segregationist John Stennis, and senators just couldn’t bring themselves to stop spending on it. Ya sorta hear them saying to themselves,” Jeez, We waste more money than this every Monday between 9 a.m. and 9:01 a.m. so what’s the big deal here?” Bloomberg News via Stars and Stripes


Seriously: (1) A pimp, in prison for beating someone with a Nike sneaker, is suing Nike for not putting a warning label on the shoe that it was a dangerous weapon. (2) A British woman is suing her divorce lawyers for negligence for not telling her that if she prevailed in the divorce (and she did prevail), she wouldn’t be married anymore. The Oregonian /// The Independent (London)


Readers’ Choice: Finally, here are two items not underreported, and if they are new to you, that’s a sign you need to get out of the fresh air, come inside, and spend more time online. A guy in Oklahoma killed his dad with what was reported as an “atomic wedgie,” suffocating him with the waistband pulled up in the back up over his neck. And the ex-wife of novelist Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men) was arrested for threatening her boyfriend with a pistol she had brought into the room inside her hoo-hah. [ed.: insert Bushmaster XM15 joke] The Oklahoman /// The Smoking Gun /// Vice.com [recommendations for vaginal-carry guns]


Randy Turner of very, very rural Pine, Idaho, was the only “lucky” landowner (among about 50 in the area) who did not get burned out by the recent Elk Complex Fire. Of course, his “neighbors” now are a bunch of cinders and tree trunks, but no matter: The area was scheduled for a 10 percent rise in residential property taxes, and he’s still around, so . . .. KTVB-TV (Boise)


The Rest of the World

Just one week after getting married, a woman in Kuwait has filed for divorce after discovering her husband prefers to use bread, rather than a fork, to eat peas. Traumatized by the 'shocking sight', she said she could no longer live with him, owing to his lack of etiquette. At least he doesn't use his fingers. That would be really barbaric. Weird News


A bull that had run loose in a German town since last summer has finally been caught. The owner tried a number of things to catch the animal, even attempting to get permission to put it down, which was denied. Finally a neighbor saw the bull eating grain on his farm and decided to try a new approach. He mixed a bottle of vodka with some feed and put it out. Unfortunately one bottle was not enough to put the big guy under the feed bag. Two, on the other hand, did the trick. Now the marauding beast is back in captivity, with a hangover no doubt. Weird News


Great Britain, in an obvious attempt to appeal to curmudgeons such as that which Your Editor is turning into, almost adopted a new legal tool: replacing the Anti-Social Behavior Order with the Injunction to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance. Really, who doesn’t want to stop “annoyance”? However, even the House of Lords thought that was dancing too close to arbitrariness and voted it down, 306-178. BBC News


The Femskin company (UK) makes special-order silicone body suits ($850) for super-transvestites for whom mere clothes, accessories, and makeup don’t make them look fabulous enough. The “rubber dollers”/ “living dolls”/ “maskers” wear the elaborate suit underneath--which comes with the payoff of rubber lady parts--to enhance their fashions, wigs, and paint jobs, but then the next day it’s back to work as property developer or forklift driver or whatever. World’s Greatest Newspaper /// Femskin. You can order yours at www.femskin.com.


Suspicion Confirmed: Of course almost all Americans believe they’re in the top half on good traits (driving, sexual prowess, etc.), but now a British journal study reported that prisoners say the same thing about themselves (in, for example, “morality” and “kindness”). (Only exception: In “law-abidingness,” they’re only “average.”) Pacific Standard


Nobody to Mess With: (1) A political opponent of Zambian president Michael Sata has been arrested for defamation, and by “defamation,” I mean calling Sata a “potato.” (2) Ms. Rhian Jeremiah is a nice-looking 26-yr-old Welsh babe that, on first impression, you might want to take home for the evening--until you see that she was in court last week for gnawing through the roof of a Fiat 500 after a spot of spirits. TimesLive (Johannesburg) /// WalesOnline (Cardiff)



For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone. Audrey Hepburn

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Experience is not what happens to you; it's what you do with what happens to you. Aldous Huxley

We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far. Swami Vivekananda

A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them. John C. Maxwell

I'd rather regret the things I've done than regret the things I haven't done. Lucille Ball


“Selfishness and narcissism result precisely from lacking a sense of self.” Erich Fromm


(The writer, D. H. Lawrence,) “Suffered an incapacity for what we call thinking.” T. S. Eliot


“They took all our rights and put ’em in a rights museum.” Mark Steyn in Bickering Genocides where he remarks that Europe venerates its dead Jews even as a resurgent anti-Semitism chases out its living ones.


Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom. Thomas Jefferson



Hammer Spade and the Midnight Treader


E. B. Alsron

Chapter Three


Alonia is a methodical person. She calls me every morning at six a.m. and every evening at nine p.m. when she’s on assignment. This week she’s in Belize. When she called last night, she seemed distracted about something. I asked her if she needed me to come, and she said no, she’d be all right. I thought about going anyway but decided against it. If Alonia wanted me to come, she would say so.



It’s ten past six a.m. now and Alonia hasn’t called. This is the first time she has failed to call me. Maybe she got up late and didn’t have time. But she never sleeps late either. I ought not to worry. Alonia is a woman who can take care of herself. But I am worried.



I got through the day without bothering anybody but her agent in New York. He said she was probably on location where there weren’t any telephones. He promised to call me if he heard anything. Alonia has a satellite telephone. Maybe the batteries are dead.



I was right by the telephone at nine p.m. It rang. So, I was wrong to spend my day worried for nothing. I picked up the handset.

“I missed you this morning.”

A man with a foreign accent answered. “Is this Mr. Spade?”

“Yes. I was expecting a call from somebody else.”

“I know that very well, Mr. Spade. Are you alone?”

“Yeah. What do you want to talk about?”

“Mr. Spade, we have your beloved Cytherea.”


“Cytherea.” He laughed. “Don’t you know your girlfriends real name?”


“That’s the name she goes by in America. But her name is Cytherea.”

“What is this about?”

“Mr. Spade, your friend, Cytherea’s brother, has been upsetting a lot of my friends. We have sent representatives to him to persuade him to back off but he will not listen to reason. We are upping the ante. Now he will be reasonable with us if he expects to see his favorite sister alive again.”

“Where have you taken her and what have you done to her?”

“Her location is secret. We have not harmed your lovely lady friend yet and we don’t plan to do so as long as there is a chance that Phoebus will be reasonable.”

“What are you asking of me?”

“I want you to go and tell Phoebus what I have told you and I want you to reason with him on our behalf.”

“What am I supposed to tell him to be reasonable about?”

“I am a member of a loose consortium of men who are in Mr. Tuazon’s business. You remember Mr. Tuazon don’t you?”

“Yeah, I remember Tuazon.”

“We fear you, Mr. Spade.”


“We know that you murdered our colleague but we can’t figure out how you did it. You are a surprisingly subtle operator, Mr. Spade. We want to be sure you are properly motivated and engaged in this matter. Since we have Cytherea, we believe you will be aboveboard with us.”

“So you and your friends are drug dealers who want Phoebus to turn a blind eye to your operations?”

“Mr. Spade, we are international businessmen who wish to conduct business without interference from governments who hire Phoebus Delius to advise them on how best to attack our operations. Mr. Delius and yourself are formidable opponents, Mr. Spade, and we want you to know that we mean business.”

“You had better not lay a hand on Alonia.”

“Mr. Spade, you are not in any position to dictate how we will treat Cytherea. We also know of her formidable talents and we have found a way to protect ourselves from her.”

I didn’t know what he was alluding to. “What’s your next step?”

“You will inform Phoebus of our conversation. We will call him at his home at nine p.m. the day after tomorrow.”

“Exactly what do you want from us to release Alonia unharmed?”

“We want Phoebus to guarantee that he will stop working against us and we want one hundred million dollars of his money to repay us for the damage he has inflicted upon our operations.”

“I’ll tell him.”

“You don’t seem surprised, Mr. Spade.”

“Should I be?”

“No, I guess not, Mr. Spade. I know what kind of man you are. Just remember, if you wish to see Cytherea alive, you will do exactly what we say. And I must warn you that any attempt to rescue your girlfriend will meet with failure and Cytherea’s death.” He gave an abrasive chuckle. “Mr. Spade, in spite of Mr. Delius’s many contacts over the world, we are taking Cytherea to a place that you will never find.”

He hung up.  I checked caller ID and the number was blocked.




Chapter Four

I called Phoebus as soon as I got dial tone.

“Alonia has been kidnapped.”


“Yeah, it’s me. Somebody has kidnapped Alonia.”

The line became quiet.


“Don’t know.”

“What do they want?”

“They want you to stop interfering with the illegal international drug business.”

“Is that what they said?”

“Yeah. Plus they want a hundred million in ransom to pay for the damage you’ve caused their business.”

Phoebus was quiet again.

“Did they say where she’s being held?”

“They said they were taking her to a place we’d never find.”

“Did they allow you to speak to her?”


“Did they say what they plan to do to her if we don’t comply with their demands?”

“He said they would kill her if their demands weren’t met or if we tried to rescue her.”

“They cannot kill Alonia.”

“They think they can. He called her Cytherea.”

“They know a lot about her,” Phoebus mused. “Anything else?”

“He said they knew about her formidable talents and knew how to neutralize them.”

“These are not ordinary men.”

“I don’t think so either but he is afraid of us.”


“Me, my team and you.”

“What did he say?”

“They are troubled about the way we handled Tuazon. He accused me of being surprisingly subtle.”

Phoebus laughed. “Hammer, you are surprisingly subtle. What about neutralizing her powers?”

“I didn’t know what he was talking about.”

“Did he say what they will do next?”

“He’ll call you the day after tomorrow at nine p.m. for your answer.”

Phoebus was quiet for a long time before he asked, “Hammer, what do you think?”

“You mean about paying up to get her back?”

“Getting Alonia back and stopping our work.”

“I would do anything to save Alonia. My friends would too on my behalf. But the man who called me is not trustworthy. I can’t put my finger on why but I believe he had another motive for kidnapping her. I’m not sure meeting his demands will obtain her release. Giving in and paying the ransom might only result in them upping the ante.”

“That is a very candid and hard-headed assessment, Hammer.” Phoebus paused. “I agree with you. What should we do?”

“When he calls, act like we’re considering doing what he asked to buy time. Trace his call to locate where the call originated. Then track him to where he’s holding her and rescue her.”

“Can you identify where his call originates?”

“I can’t but I have a friend who can.”

“Then we are of the same mind about what to do.”

“Yeah. Nobody messes with Alonia and gets away with it as long as I’m alive.”

“How soon can you leave for Atlanta?”

“There’s a flight out of RDU at eleven. I’ll be on it.”

“I’ll pick you up at the airport. I think we ought to start mobilizing.”

“I’ll call Jack and Dave. Jack can be in Atlanta tomorrow. I think Dave is still in Somalia so it’ll take a couple of days for him to get here.”

“Good. But you and I must speak privately about Alonia’s ‘special’ powers tonight.”


“Yes, Alonia is a special person and her being intentionally harmed will provoke unpleasantness far beyond the usual outcry.”

I guessed it had something to do with the conditions of their family’s exile. “I’ll see you in four hours.”


(Continued Next Month)


Love Is An Action Verb

Elizabeth Silance Ballard

“It would be so easy,” she said.  “Just swallow a few pills and simply go to sleep.  No need for violence or pain.”

I didn’t pay much attention to her words.  Gave them no thought at all, really.  We had been discussing one of the lurid articles that appear with disturbing regularity in our local newspaper about a young woman our age who had committed suicide by driving her station wagon off the side of a bridge after dropping her children at school.  A note had been found on her dresser.

“Well, I just don’t see how any mother can leave her children like that.  How can anyone be so desperate?”

“Maybe she did them a favor,” Janice replied.

I was to remember that day with anguish but at the moment I was preoccupied.  Besides, the woman in the newspaper had nothing to do with me.  I did not know her.”

I didn’t see Janice for several weeks.   We were both tied down with illnesses.  Chicken pox, flu and scarlet fever were making the rounds and our kids were exposed to all of them.  When we finally got them all back in school, I dropped by to have coffee with Janice and found her weeping and depressed, surrounded by piles of dirty laundry.

“I’m so far behind I’d like to throw it all out and start over,” she said, indicating the laundry and stacks of unwashed dishes.

“Oh, it’s not that bad,” I said, trying to laugh and make light of it all.  “Come on.  I’ll help you get straightened out and then we’ll go to the coffee shop.  It will do us good to get out.  Childhood diseases are much harder on mothers than on children.”

When we finished, she threw on an old sweater without bothering to change and we left for the coffee shop. She was quiet.  Too quiet.  I watched her out of the corner of my eye as I drove.  She sat staring out the window, barely commenting as I kept up a steady stream of talk.

I just couldn’t seem to stop talking.  I had been cooped up with only sick children for companionship and it was good to have another adult to talk with, but why, why didn’t I let her talk more? She didn’t seem to want to and I certainly didn’t give her a chance to say much.

“Well, how are you surviving these days?” I asked flippantly.

“Just barely,” Janice replied. “I’m not even sure I want to survive any longer.”

She spoke seriously, not smiling at all, but I laughed. I actually laughed! Oh, I was so cheerful, so gay.  I was glad to be out again and free of the sickroom.  I didn’t want to listen to her woes.  I didn’t want to see her depression.  Janice had been down before but she always snapped out of it.

Janice’s artistic temperament!  Even back in school, she was apt to become extremely depressed.  For days on end she would just sit around and sketch--faces, animals, trees--anything and everything.  She would sketch constantly, almost feverishly. Then one day she would suddenly snap out of her sullen mood and again be the girl who could do anything, could handle any number of tasks with proficiency.

“Janice, why don’t you make this your day?  Skip the housework,” I suggested as I dropped her off, our coffee break over.  “Just take this day for yourself.  Gather up your charcoals and sketch pads and just draw today.”

“Can’t,” she said, slamming the door a trifle harder than necessary.  “I threw all that junk away.”

Why didn’t I see it then?  Janice had always kept a sketchpad around and would pick up a charcoal as naturally as most people picked up a ball-point pen.  Why didn’t it bother me that she had thrown it all away?  But, no, I was exasperated because she had ruined my first day out after the long siege. 

The signs had all been there that morning.  How many signs had there been all through the past months?  How could I have missed them all?

I had known Janice a long time.  She was moody and became depressed easily, but it was understandable.  The deterioration of her parents’ marriage was bad enough but, in the end, neither parent wanted to keep Janice.  There had been no custody fight over the five-year-old child.  She was simply taken to a grandmother with whom she lived until she won an art scholarship twelve years later.

She never saw either parent again and she seldom spoke of them.  Yes, it was understandable that Janice had experienced many periods of depression during her life and I had grown accustomed to them.  They never lasted more than a week or two.

This time, however, she did not snap out of it and I only saw her once more.  It was on a Thursday morning and we had gone to a prayer group together.  Several of us had been meeting to share problems and solutions and to pray together.  The sessions had helped me in coping with things and I felt they would help Janice if she would attend regularly instead of once every two or three weeks.

We were a few minutes late that day and the discussion was already underway.

“Love is the greatest force there is,” someone was saying.  “To love people is all that is needed.  All our problems would vanish if we could just learn to love.”

Janice turned and calmly walked out without even sitting down.  I followed her to the car where she was waiting, staring straight ahead.

“What’s wrong, Janice?”  I asked.

When she did not answer, I slipped the gear into drive and eased away from the curb.

“Love!”  She blurted.  “That’s all they were talking about in there!  No one really loves anyone else.  No one cares what happens to anyone else.  Not really!”

She burst into tears and I had never heard anyone sob like that before--deep sobs that shook her whole body, a desolate sobbing.

Somehow I got her home and into the house and she sat at the kitchen table while I brewed tea.

“Is it you and Ron, Janice?  Are you having problems?  Are the kids getting on your nerves?  Is that what’s wrong?”

“I don’t know what’s wrong,” she said, putting her elbows on the table and resting her head on her hands.  “I just don’t know. I only know that to love is not enough.”

Finally I left her.  She had stopped crying and said she felt better but I felt uneasy and decided to call Ron as soon as I got home.  Maybe he would call her doctor.  Get her something for her nerves.

I didn’t call Ron, though.  I called Janice as soon as I reached my kitchen phone.

“Oh, I’m fine,” she said, cheerfully.

Cheerfully? Janice hadn’t even smiled the last two times I saw her and now, twenty minutes after I left her, she was cheerful?  Why didn’t I think that was odd?

“Don’t worry!  Really!  It’s going to be all right now.” 

Relieved, I said goodbye and went back to my never-ending stack of ironing.  I had just finished the last piece and was putting the iron away when the phone rang.  Janice’s two little girls had come home from school and found her on the bed.

“We can’t make Mama wake up.”

Chills ran over me as I quickly dialed Ron’s office but he had already been called. He was on his way home.  Snatches of conversations flooded my mind in the minutes before I reached their driveway:  It would be so easy.....Maybe she did them a favor....I don’t know if I want to survive.

So many clues Janice had given to me. Why didn’t I see it coming?  Why didn’t I know?

Ron asked that I sit with him and the children at the funeral. The church was almost filled with people and flowers covered the entire front section.

“She was loved by anyone who knew her,” the pastor said.  “A loving wife and mother.  A good friend to so many.”

At the cemetery many came by to speak to Ron.

“She had so many friends who will miss her.”

“We’ve prayed for her so often.”

“We loved her.”

I wondered if Janice knew she had so many friends. Was she at all aware of the prayers spoken in her behalf?  That so many cared?

We grew up together and I was her closest friend. Did she realize I loved her?  And if I did love her why couldn’t I see all the signs she left on her pathway to self-destruction?

Perhaps they are right when they say it all goes back to her troubled childhood, her rejection and sense of unworthiness.  I don’t know about all that but I do know Janice was right:  To love--to feel love--is not enough.  Love is an action verb.


From Three Letters from Teddy and Other Stories-Available at Righter Books and Amazon



When Dr. Clery Went to War

From A Forgotten Landscape

By Ariana Mangum



One day in early spring the church bell rang at St. Mary’s on River Road. The tolling lasted for almost an hour, and everyone wondered what had happened. Then word came, through the grapevine, that Dr. Clery was dead.

He was a young Episcopal priest when he came to our church, just out of seminary. He was dark, short and handsome. All the young girls thought so; they had a crush on him. But he stayed for only a short time before, early in 1941; he joined the Canadian Army and left for Toronto.

“We have so few priests now. Only elderly ones who supply, but no rector,” Mr. Wickham told him. “We need you here.”

Since Mr. Wickham’s family gave the land and built the church, he thought he owned it: Cross, pews and altar cloths. But Sally Anne took care of the altar cloths. She brought them home every week and washed them. She also arranged the flowers. One Sunday when Sally Anne used only magnolia leaves, Mr. Wickham declared this lovely arrange­ment was inappropriate.

“It’s winter, sir,” she protested. “There are no more flowers in our gardens. Surely you don’t wish me to buy some?”

The church was a mission and poor. It was a tradition for us to use home-grown cut flowers on the altar, a tradition which developed out of need. If there were no flowers, then greenery was used.

Mr. Wickham was the vestry. What he said was usually done, if only to avoid an argument. Dr. Clery dared to challenge this authority, and because he did, we liked our young priest more.

“It’s nice to have a rector with new ideas,” Mrs. Taliaferro told him one day after church. “We earnestly hope you will stay.”

But Mr. Wickham, his spats and his elegant vest perfectly fitted and spotlessly clean, felt the young rector was an upstart. When he intro­duced some new music, Mr. Wickham became furious.

“That’s not the way things were done in my mother’s time. That music is far too modern. I see no need for change.”

Dr. Clery was very serious, and one day last spring he joined the Canadian Army. He sincerely believed this was his duty.

“They need chaplains, and I must go,” he told us.

Today the bell at St. Mary’s tolled for him.

“Dr. Clery was killed,” Mr. Houghton said when he returned from Henley’s store. “That nice young man, who was so kind to Clara when she was ill, is dead.”

Mrs. Houghton tried to write to his parents. She called the church office in Richmond for their address, but no one there could find it.

“We’ll put a plaque up in the church,” Mr. Armstrong suggested.

“No, we won’t,” Mr. Wickham told him. “The only plagues in the church are for my parents. I won’t allow any more.”

“Then we’ll give a communion cup,” Mr. Taliaferro offered.

“No,” said the vestry. “There is no money for such things. We need to pay old Ben for cutting the grass, and to buy wood for the stove.”

So when Dr. Clery died, the sexton rang the bell for an hour on that fine spring day. Then the young man was forgotten. There was no me­morial put in his church for Dr. Clery.

“He was here less than a year. It is too short a time for memorials,” Mr. Wickham insisted.

The bell tolled on. The next Sunday someone brought white flow­ers and put them in a silver vase on the altar. But Dr. Price did not mention their significance. He did not know Dr. Clery.

The bell finally stopped; the flowers soon died, and Dr. Clery was forgotten. Then one day I overheard Mrs. Carthage as she greeted Mrs. Taliaferro after church.

“He was a nice young man. What was his name? I am so sorry he was killed.”

But I remembered. I stood with him the day we hung the bell that now tolled for him. We stood together in the sunshine on a spring morning, just a year ago, in the open porch between the church and the Sun­day school. I remember his dark hair gleamed in the sun. Then shortly afterwards he went away.

Soon Father will leave for overseas. I had not seen him for almost a year. Would he be killed like Dr. Clery? Could he also just walk out of my world like this young man, and never come back? What was it like to die? What was it like to believe in a just God and to go away to a battlefield? Did the Germans pray for their boys in uniform as we prayed for ours? Did they pray for peace?

That bell on the porch of the little country church tolled several nights for me after Dr. Clery died. It tolled for my father. In my dreams I heard it. I saw a young boyish face, Dr. Clery’s face, dead in Africa. I saw my father too. I saw guns and Germans and war. Then one night, several days later, it tolled no longer; it disturbed my dreams no more. And I slept once again - unafraid.


From A Forgotten Landscape – Available on Amazon and Kindle 


 Q: Why was the groundhog depressed about his den?
A: He was having a bad lair day!

Q: What do you call a groundhog’s laundry?
A: Hogwash


The Devil Covey of Mill Hill

E. B. Alston

 During the early 70s, my friend Randy Guthrie and I quail hunted a lot in northern Granville County. Harry Humphries, the farmer friend who liked Michial so much, who also hunted with us and sometimes Wayne Bradsher tagged along. One of the places we frequently hunted was Mill Hill, at the northern end of Daniels Road north of Berea, which is no more than an airline mile from the boyhood home of Frank G. Slaughter, the famous author from the 1940’s who wrote about doctors and nurses.

The farm was not tilled at the time, so there were plenty of places for quail to feed and roost. We enjoyed hunting there and had a lot of good hunts on that farm. The fly in the ointment, the one obstacle to quail hunting perfection, was one covey that we never managed to pin down. They roosted near the old house where we parked.

Normal quail freeze when something disturbs their environment. This covey flushed as soon as we parked the pickup. They flew into a thickly overgrown swampy bottom on Shelton Creek. We would drive up, get out of the pickup and they flushed when they heard the pickup door close, even when we tried to be quiet. These were very abnormal quail. They out-foxed us every time.          

One day, Wayne suggested that we ambush them by pre-positioning hunters on the edge of the swampy area and somebody drive to the old house so they’d flush. On the appointed day, we had four hunters positioned at the edge of the swamp. They sneaked in quietly thirty minutes before the decoy hunter drove into the farmyard. I lost the coin toss, so I was the one who drove up to the old farmhouse, parked the truck, got out and slammed the door. They flushed right on cue. But they flew the opposite way from the swamp.

After that we just gave up. We started slamming the pickup doors when we parked just to make them flush. Over time we forgot about how aggravated we were and just ignored them.

Sometime after our plot failed, Randy and I were passing through the area where the Devil Covey fed and roosted. Buckley pointed. Randy’s setter backed him. Both dogs were locked in solid points. Randy and I had the same thought. “It’s them,” he whispered. We got ready to get even.

I was shooting a double barrel shotgun and Randy had an automatic. We lined up and prepared to wreak havoc. A huge covey flushed. They flew straight towards the swamp just like we knew they would. We blasted away…

Not a single feather floated to the ground!

Randy and I stared at each other in disbelief. Buckley got mad. He left and stayed gone thirty minutes. Buckley was a hard taskmaster. When he found birds, he expected us to hold up our end of the bargain. When he returned, he didn’t even wag his tail in greeting.

We hunted listlessly for another hour and went home. The Devil Covey had won again.


Telling it Like it Was, available on Amazon and Kindle


 Thoughts on a Favorite Cat, Deceased

Carroll Chambers Moth  

 It was Friday. We had been home only a few hours from a trip and had just finished counting our cats.


“She’s never been here when we came home,” Ed said. “She’s probably roaming.”  He was right in his thinking; she did roam.

Saturday came and no Cocoa. We had a large piece of property full of nooks and crannies, a variety of trees to climb, seasonal ponds and puddles to jump; perhaps she was busy exploring.

Sunday came and we didn’t bother to look but we did call out to her. Squeaky, our black cat, raised from a baby, the size of which could fit in one’s hand, came. Bootsie, black with white covered shins, ran to the door. Penny, our calico cat, scampered home, and Tillie, our quiet, shy, gray cat, followed the already present parade of felines.

 Disappointed, we made ready for church but during the long ride to Franklin, we wondered aloud as to the possibility of ever seeing Cocoa again.

In church, I remembered a prayer I learned as a teenager for finding lost items, “Please St. Anthony, stick around. Something’s lost and can’t be found.” And so I prayed for the safe return of our cat. THIS was a desperate measure!                                                                                                                

After church, we picked up a few “essentials”, cat treats and a week’s supply of chocolate donuts for the grand kids.

By the time we arrived at my daughter Carol’s house, I felt a bit better about our cat, Cocoa. I rationalized that this was Sunday, a day of rest. Logically, I knew I had no control over this situation. I would enjoy the day. Ed was right. She was probably still roaming. We began our meal with Grace and remarked what a great choice Theresa had made as to her birthday meal. She had chosen tacos with lettuce, tomatoes, grated cheese, minced meat and salsa sauce. Theresa, the cook, magician, animal lover, God-mother to the cats, liked simple meals. “God bless Theresa,” I thought. From her side of the table Theresa announced, “Nana, I think there’s something for you under your plate.”

“There is?” I replied. Moving the paper plate, I found a message handwritten on bright orange paper. It read…


      “Dear Nana and Eddie: You are cordially invited to a birthday

      party for the cats on Thursday. There will be toys and much to

      eat. Love, Theresa. (Cook, Magician, Animal Lover and God-

      mother to the Cats).”


I replied, “I think that would be o.k. Thursday sounds good. By the way, I need you all to say a prayer to St. Anthony for me. I’m missing…something.” 

The meal finished, the candles blown out, the presents opened, goodbye kisses and hugs given, we returned to our house to “count cats.”

Sunday night came and I felt panic. I reread Theresa’s note. Theresa invited ALL the cats. Theresa had two cats left from the original litter, Kate and Seamus. We had received the two rejects, Tillie and Penny. Bootsie and Cocoa were from another litter. Theresa’s planned birthday party for the cats was fast approaching and still no Cocoa. Could I get out of this celebration without disappointing Theresa? Mary and Elizabeth would also want a party, and what about Joseph and Holly, ages five and eight. Again, I reread the note. Perhaps I could only bring Tillie and Penny to complete the original litter? That should be fine with Theresa. After all, Carol did say only the original four litter mates could reunite with their mother, Pumpkinseed.

One problem solved!!! Still, where was Cocoa?                                                                                                                     

By Monday morning, Cocoa still had not surfaced. I busied myself in the garden, moving compost, picking stones, avoiding the prickly arms of brambles. In time, the blackberries could make a nice wine as would the grapes. Everlasting was starting to root. The blueberries were half an inch in diameter. The five tomato plants yielded one pathetic yellow flower. A large cricket hopped from the cantaloupe plant into a small hole avoiding the sprinkling hose, while from the corner of my eye, I spied a black spider struggle to haul a bit of Styrofoam having mistaken it for a piece of food…  a lovely day despite a missing cat. Bluebirds fed at the feeder while an occasional goldfinch sang a merry tune. Yellow butterflies alighted on purple foxglove while orange and black beetles considered munching on blue salvia only to be distracted by large yellow and red zinnias.

I barely heard him when he spoke.

“Excuse me. What did you say?” I asked.

Gently, he said, “Cocoa isn’t coming home.”

“You found her? Where is she? What happened?”

“She was hit by a car, I think,” he said.

“Maybe we can bury her?” I said. Again gently as though he were speaking to a small child, he said, “There’s not enough left to bury her. An animal must have gotten her. All that’s really left is her tail, bones, and little brown legs with white stockings.”

I would not cry. Crying could only make the situation worse.

My husband, noticeably upset, went into the house, and I continued working in the yard. I pulled down the peak of my cap and wiped the sweat off my forehead and eyes; at least I thought it was sweat. I could hear in my mind my mother’s voice: “After all, it’s only a cat!”

My mother was not a “pet” person. She was far too practical. I remember other comments she had made: upon the death of the dog, “it’s only a dog.” On the death of the mouse, “It’s only a mouse.” When my brother John’s 37 fish froze because the aquatic heater failed: “They’re only fish. Stop complaining. You have 2 left.”

My mother had many good qualities but a “pet person”, she wasn’t.

I vowed, probably at age six, never to say to my children, “It’s only a …”

And so over the years I dragged home cats, dogs and some other non-descript critters. I became the official at neighborhood funerals even into adulthood. I buried anything that “passed on” and dispatched the clients to respective dog, cat, snake, mouse, and hamster heavens. A few birdies went on to become birdie angels – terrible theology, but I was sure, and still am, that God knows and understands. The only disheartening burial was when I buried a very large, stiff, white rabbit who was three inches longer than the previously dug grave. From time-to-time a number of defunct goldfish moved from one watery grave to a “swirling eddy” in the closest lavatory. Indeed, some goldfish miraculously reappeared just a tad more orange, with an explanation of vitamins added to the water.

My reverie ended with new resolve. If my husband didn’t need the burial, I certainly needed the funeral… perhaps with flowers! Old habits are hard to break, and some habits, however illogical at a certain age, give “closure” as the books say.

So I parked my shovel and pick, took off my cap, stripped off my sweaty clothing, showered and approached my very tolerant, good natured husband.

We spoke of Cocoa, our lovely, just one-year-old cat, her sweet disposition, how she’d curl up on our bed, her soft eyes, how gentle she was, how she curled up in our arms and looked up at us and purred. When Cocoa stopped being petted, she would reach up and stroke my husband’s beard for him to stroke her again. She was truly, as my husband said, more “human” than the other cats.

It was at this point that I reminded my husband that as badly as we felt about losing her, that we did have her for awhile and at least we have pictures of her which we didn’t have of our other cats. My husband agreed.

“I think,” I said, “that I would feel better if I buried her in our remembrance garden. She’s still ‘our’ cat.”

And so we walked to the spot where she met her untimely end, carrying a small cardboard box and protective gloves. We deposited our small parcel into a shallow grave which we covered with earth and red pepper. We walked back to the house while I planned an appropriate marker.

That night, we quietly ate dinner and watched TV. It’s interesting how many scripts have cats and the number of cat food ads that take up programming. When I fell asleep my last thought was that at least we buried our poor cat.

Early the next morning as light barely dawned, my husband, who had awakened early to walk our dog, burst into the room, a big grin on his face and announced, “We buried the WRONG cat.”

Half asleep and thoroughly disoriented, I felt my way into the kitchen, and there was Cocoa eating her cat food with some of the other cats. Evidently St. Anthony certainly did answer the prayers of small children.

Then my husband announced, “Now Tillie is missing!!!!!!!!!!”

At this point, not feeling up to the past week’s stress, I consoled myself with two thoughts:                  

It couldn’t hurt to entreat St. Anthony again…and 2), we are probably the only family in the country who has a grave, actually, a National Grave to an Unknown Cat.


Printed with permission by her husband, William E Moth


The author is now deceased. This is Carroll Moth's writing statement: “ I want to write, not the great American novel, but short stories for busy people, stories that will reveal everyday truth/wisdom and give people pause.  I want the reader to feel empathetic, refreshed, to take a chance on "hope", to realize that life is not a closed door. I want to write stories with characters who, because of their encounter with each other become more whole people; I believe people/readers still hunger for what was "true" in old movies and old books, - they want authenticity...not a copy and I want to write stories that will cause people to think, Yes, I will try again.” C. C. Moth   12 September 2006.



That's My Boy

Timothy P. Whealton

 When I look back at all my life memories they tend to be more like a box of snapshots than movies. Maybe memory movies would take up too much room on my antique hard drive! Regardless of the reason, those life snapshots are precious to me.

Anytime I want I can see my mom sitting at the kitchen table picking out crabmeat to make deviled crabs or my pop leaning over his work bench wearing that old blue coat with his wrenches sticking out of the pockets. No way you can put a price on that.

It just makes sense that if a memory stays fresh in your minds for years it must be important. You don’t always know why this happens but it seems I have had a lot of things stick in my mind for reasons unknown. Sometimes I eventually figure out why and sometimes I am left to wonder.

One of those memories occurred many years ago at a rifle match. It was a beautiful late spring day at Stone Bay Range. Stone Bay is a training range of the US Marines located near Camp Lejeune. Marines say it is the  training range since new recruits come there fresh from basic training to learn rifle marksmanship. Like all Marine ranges I have seen it is beautiful, clean, well-maintained and looks more like a country club golf course. It is a great place to see and a wonderful place to shoot.

Timmy was the son of one of my friends. He lived in Sneads Ferry, so the range was only 10 minutes from his home. Timmy was maybe 7 years old and loved to come to the Marine base and watch his dad shoot. He even had a camouflage uniform just like he was on active duty. He would bring his little bicycle and enjoyed riding up and down the berms. He was the kind of cool little kid that made you want one for yourself!

The firing line and match that day was under the control of retired Gunnery Sergeant Mack McClure. Mack had been a Marine drill sergeant and you could understand why. You could hear him yell from Stones Bay to downtown Jacksonville on a clear day! Even though he could be the most intimidating figure the Marines ever produced, when needed he always had a soft spot for kids. To give Timmy a true military experience Mack assigned him a job. Timmy was to take the score cards on his bicycle from the 200 yard firing line back to statistical office located behind the 600 yard line. 

"Raising the Colors" is an event in itself on a Marine base. If you can watch the Stars and Stripes go to the top of that pole and not feel anything special you ought to leave. Marines have been known to help people do this!  At exactly 08:00 hours every morning the doors open at the headquarters building and two very starched Marines march out in perfect step with the flag. When they reach the flagpole the loud speaker starts to play "To The Colors" and all activity stops while the flag is raised. All military personnel on the base are to face the flag, come to a position of attention and salute until the ceremony is complete and the flag is in position on top of the flagpole.

On this particular day, we were getting ready to begin firing from the 200 yard line when the time came for "colors". When the music started, Big Mack boomed out in his drill sergeant voice "Colors!" Everyone turned and faced the direction of headquarters and rendered their best version of hand salute. It was while we were saluting that we saw little Timmy and I got an image burned in my memory that will stay.

The little boy was caught all alone in the wide open area of the range between the 200 yard line and the 600 yard line. He had been doing his job as a courier and was taking entry cards to the stat office. Although he was just a little boy, he knew exactly what to do when the time came and he did it perfectly. He dropped his bicycle, came to the position of attention, and rendered a perfect military hand salute. The sight of that small boy standing as the only object in a huge open field and saluting his flag was awesome.

He held his salute until it was over, just like the starched Marines on flag detail. When the last note had sounded and we dropped our salutes I heard his dad say under his breath "That's my boy"!

When I resumed my preparations to shoot, I could see an old white-haired Marine still looking towards the boy in the field. He made no apology for the tear in the corner of his but simply wiped it away and said "That, Marines, is why we do it!"

That simple little memory has stayed sharp and well-focused in my mind for many, many years. I often wondered why my brain refused to erase that sight of a small boy standing alone in the middle of a rifle range honoring the United States’ flag. I decided my brain thinks that this is as good an example as I need for having the courage to do the right thing. He was just a little boy and he was not under any obligation to stop and salute but he knew it was the right thing to do. Seems that most of the time knowing what you should do is clear, but having the courage to do it and the persistence to see it through can be another story. My goal in this life is to have God look down from above when I am done, and say, "That's my boy"!



Growing Up Among the Herd

Danny Key

 My father was born and raised in the North Carolina Mountains. He had a deep attachment to the land all his life and he was an avid gardener.  His second passion was raising cattle which he did as a hobby in partnership with the farmer who lived behind us.

After he retired, dad bought his brother’s and sister’s share of their old home place in the mountains. He fenced it in and filled it with cows. He bought a second-hand mobile home and built a large room onto the front of it. Every Friday he hopped into his pickup and headed for the mountains to tend to his cows. 

My mom was still working at the time so she could only go with him occasionally.  Dad was as happy as a lark up there in the mountains. It was as if he could read the minds of those cows. His cows read his mind too.  They knew his voice, his walk, and his schedule.

I inherited a little of his empathy for cows. When I was growing up dad had cows in the farmer’s pasture that joined the rear of our property. During the summer months, I spent hours with those cows. I would follow them around, pull honeysuckle vines down for them to eat, and just hung out with them. 

Cows lay in the shade in the heat of the day to chew their cud. My favorite cow was so accustomed to me that I could lie down beside her, put my head on her shoulder and drift right off to sleep.  She wouldn’t move until I woke up.  The rest of the herd would be up and grazing, but she stayed perfectly still while I slept.  I spent so much time with the cows that my parents worried about me. 

“It isn’t normal for a boy to spend all day, every day, with a bunch of cows,” my mom said. 

“He ought to be playing with other kids his age, human kids,” Dad agreed. “The neighbors will think he’s weird. They’re probably already calling him calf-boy or something.”

In spite my parent’s concerns, I continued my carefree summer days among the herd.  It never occurred to me that dad was raising these cows for anything but to be my playmates. 

Then fall arrived and one day he announced that he was loading our cows on a truck and taking them a cattle auction to sell them. 

“Why?” I cried.  “Why are you getting rid of them? 

“That’s why we raise cattle, son, you raise them, you fatten them, then you sell them for a profit.” 

“But these cows are my friends. This is not right!   What will happen to them?” 

“Well,” my dad replied laconically. “They might be sold to a farmer or they might be sold to a meat processing plant.” 

“Oh my God!” I exclaimed. “You mean my cows might end up as somebody’s hamburger?” 

My dad went outside and started to get things ready to transport my cows to the auction.  Naturally, I proceeded to create a scene, weeping and screaming,  “Murderer!  Cow Killer!” 

I played the whole thing as if it was a Greek tragedy.  I ran to the pasture. Along the path from the farmer’s house to the pasture was a series of fenced dog lots.  The farmer was an avid coon and fox hunter and he kept about a dozen very expensive hunting dogs in those lots.  Each lot was about thirty feet long and twenty feet wide.  Growing on the back side of each pen were tall shade trees, perfect for little boys to climb.  In my desperation to save my cows, I climbed one of those trees and hid from my dad. I figured my parents would get so worried about me that they would forget this nonsense about selling our cows.  I said I was dramatic. I didn’t say I was smart.

I climbed higher than I ever had up the tallest tree, and perched up there among the leaves.  My plan would have worked if the tree limb hadn’t broken. I fell head first into a dog lot.  I was knocked unconscious. I laid there for hours before I woke up with a big knot on the top of my head. 

This dog lot was latched from the outside and I couldn’t get the gate opened.  I yelled and yelled but the dog lots were on the opposite side of the pasture from our house, nobody one heard me.

My dad thought I was off pouting somewhere and loaded the cows by himself and went off to the sale. 

I was still missing when my dad returned. The search began. I had given up on yelling and sat on top of the dog house to wait.  About dark I heard my dad calling me.  After he freed me from the dog lot he was about to pronounce my punishment when he noticed my mushroom-shaped knot. We trotted back to our house quick so that my mom could check out this giant gourd-like thing on my head. Mom almost fainted when she saw it. She grabbed me and away to the emergency room we went.

As it turned out, it was nothing serious, just a bad bump. Driving home from the hospital I remembered the cows.

“Where are my cows?” I asked.

“Your father took them to the sale.”

“My favorite cow?” I asked in a trembling voice.

Mom smiled, “No, Danny. Your father left your cow friend in the pasture.”

When we got home my favorite cow was standing at the fence waiting for me. Dad didn’t have the heart to sell her.

I heard him tell mom, “This will be the first cow to die of old age.”


From Hallelujah, Pass the Grits, available at Righter Books, Amazon and Kindle



About the Magazine and Contributors

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Righter Monthly Review

Copyright 2014

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About the Cover

Plato: 428/427 or 424/423 BC – 348/347 BC) was a philosopher in Classical Greece. He was also a mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the foundations of Western philosophy and science. The Platonic worldview pointed toward heaven. Plato sought to shine a path out of darkness toward the burning light of rational truth. He promoted Socrates’ idea that man possessed a rational, immortal soul which, upon death, gained full access to Truth, Goodness and Beauty.




P.L. Almanza: Southern Pound Cake, lives in Hamlet, North Carolina. She has been writing stories since she was four years old. She is currently working on a story titled Lucy Furr.


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


Laura A. Alston: Come Here on Valentine’s Day, lives and writes in Henderson, North Carolina. Her first book, My Pet Rocky Renee, was published in 2010 and her second book, You Gave Me Wings was published in 2012.


Elizabeth Silance Ballard: Love is an Action Verb is a magazine columnist and author of Three Letters from Teddy and Other Stories, Kate’s Fan and Christmas Without Koyoko, co-author of Whoopin and Hollerin in Onslow County and Make a Difference through Compassion. Elizabeth is editor of The Tar Heel Star News.

Randy Bittle: Some Thoughts on the Information Age; is an independent philosopher living in Raleigh and currently working on a beginner’s book about modern philosophy.


Judy Jacobs: Book Review: The Travelers Gift, is a literary critic, manuscript editor and associate editor of the magazine. She is a member of the St. Joseph Missouri Writers Guild and lives and writes in St. Joseph, Missouri.


Danny Key: Growing Up Among the Herd, is a humorist and director of the university library at Wingate University, Wingate, North Carolina. His book, Hallelujah! Pass the Grits was published in 2008.


Ariana Mangum: When Dr. Clery Went to War, is a retired English teacher and author of When the Goldenrod Sang in the Meadows, A Forgotten Landscape and Where the Butterflies Roam. Her new book, Shenandoah Promise, will be out early this year.


Carroll Chambers Moth: Thoughts on a Favorite Cat, Deceased, was an art teacher in New York and Tennessee. She was also a storyteller and puppeteer. She succumbed to cancer in March 2010.


J. Edgar Short: The Good Word Corner; is our Wichita, KS, columnist and our favorite pheasant hunting buddy.


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


Michael Warren: Delving into Blackberry Jam, is the author of the novel The Estrangement of the Rain God, 2nd edition, published by Righter Books. He maintains his author web site at http//:www.tiliks.com. His first novel is the first of a tetraology, The Glory River Saga. He has just completed the second novel, The Cripple Goat.


Tim Whealton: That’s My Boy, writes a regular column from New Bern, NC. He is the Program Head of the Gunsmithing program at Lenoir Community College. His book, According to Tim was published last year.


Dave Whitford: February, is retired from IBM and now writes in Toano, Virginia.







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