Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), and several Kindle ebooks.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Catty Remarks

The cat doesn't have my tongue, but Dylan and Eddie-puss have taken over my desk.

Writing while sharing the desk with a couple of felines can be challenging (plus my white keyboard stays covered in black hair).


When they're quiet, I can usually work around them. When they walk across the keyboard, they add or delete letters, words, sentences.

Sometimes their editing is an improvement. . . .

Monday, March 26, 2007

For the Birds


At noon last Tuesday, my yard looked like a scene for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

However, instead of attacking Tippi Hedren, my birds were busily involved in degrubbing the lawn.

This year I’ve had a LOT more birds than past years. The grackle population soared this spring. Plus I have a resident year-round mockingbird, Chubby, who guards the deck against jays and cardinals who would eat the sunflower seed I put on the deck rail.

Chubby has been around for a couple of years. He roosts on the propane line under the deck. (How do I know that? He leaves certain unmistakable signs on the concrete patio under the line.) While most mockingbirds are slender, Chubby is built like a softball.

When he hears me on the deck, he comes out and demands birdseed. He eats like a pig.

The grackles, however, are content to pig out on the grubs.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Show vs. Substance


Click picture to see larger view.

One of the signs of spring around here is the blooming peach tree. The tree was supposed to be an ornamental peach—all show and no substance.

However, the peach tree apparently doesn’t know it was supposed to be merely ornamental. Not only does it give a fine display of blossoms every March, but it also produces edible peaches in mid-summer. Last year the Japanese beetles ate the peaches; the year before we ate them.

The tree, standing guard between driveway and mailbox, offers a sign of hospitality to all who enter. It’s both show and substance.

If you look through the branches, you can see the latest arrangement of the “redneck chairs” across the road from my driveway. Besides sporting blaze orange streamers, one chair now contains an empty jar. A beer bottle lies beside the chair on the right. Mr. Redneck walks past most evenings and rearranges the chairs slightly. Is the chair arrangement a sign of inhospitality to all who pass by? Or is it perhaps a subtle advertisement for the design abilities of H-Bros. Construction?

Whatever its purpose, the chair arrangement isn't much for show, but it does show a distinct lack of substance.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Paper vs. Cyberspace

How long will a blog survive? Will it remain in cyberspace long after I'm gone?

But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think;
'Tis strange, the shortest letter which man uses
Instead of speech, may form a lasting link
Of ages; to what straits old Time reduces
Frail man, when paper even a rag like this,
Survives himself, his tomb, and all that's his.
—George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)
(Don Juan, Canto 3, stanza 88)

What lasts longer—words penned onto paper or words typed on a compute and flung into cyberspace?

I have been transcribing jpegs of Henry Brown Richardson’s 1865 letter to his parents, written while he was in the Johnson’s Island (Ohio) prison. Farrar Richardson, the great grandson of Henry, was kind enough to email me several jpegs which—when printed, cut apart, and pieced together—reveal a copy of the letter that was eventually published in a newspaper.

The letter is very long, and in it Henry explains to his abolitionist parents in Maine why he enlisted in a Louisiana regiment and fought for the South. I’ve been transcribing a column or two every so often and then putting it aside. A week or so later, I re-open the document and type in more of the letter. It’s slow-going.

Eventually I’ll write a story about how one word (Avenel) I wrote on my blog caused Farrar Richardson to find me, and how together—he in France and I in rural Virginia—we discovered a bit of a mystery and solved it. Eventually, as Farrar Richardson pieces together bits of his ancestor’s life, he will write a book about Henry.

What lasts longer—words penned onto paper or words typed on a computer and flung into cyberspace? Henry’s letter has lasted 142 years.

As for this blog, time will tell.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Union Hall Progress: Muddy Mess


Union Hall still looks like Ground Zero. I've heard that many problems exist with the site. EPA and other government agencies have done some tests. The drainage are used to be lower in this picture; then it was filled in and moved uphill a bit.

The antique store (old general store/gas station) and Pete's shop still stand. I took these pictures yesterday before I stopped at the antique store to enjoy the warmth of the wood-burning stove.


Anyhow, looks like Southlake Towne Center, isn't going to be ready to welcome shoppers and tourists anytime soon.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

ILP's Latest Scam

Poetry.com (aka International Library of Poetry) strikes again. They emailed this message to my dog Jack on March 8 and again yesterday. You gotta give ’em credit—they’re persistent.

Dear Jack,

Not long ago you sent me a submission for entry into the International Open Amateur Poetry Contest. Your poem, Wolflings, qualified as a semi-finalist, and you indicated that you might be interested in having your poem critiqued by a professional poetry editor. Since then, we have assembled an editorial staff whose qualifications and experience in the field of poetry is unparalleled. Our editorial staff consists of well-respected poetry professors with Ph.D.s in literature from leading universities and award-winning authors.

What are their names? I hope they write better sentences than that last one: “with Ph.D.s in literature from leading universities and award-winning authors.” How does one get a PhD from an award-winning author, anyhow? Oh, here’s that winning poem of Jack’s:

A howl!
Really a growl
For a snarl,
As gnarled nose
Reaches high,
Flings sound awry
And far. Shows
Rousing cries-
Foul.

Wolves wend wayward
Over tedious tundra
On their journey
Far and wide.

Yeah, real semi-finalist material! It certainly shows a certain doggedness, though.

All writers need editorial assistance from time to time, and all great poetic works have been written and rewritten many times before they were deemed finished by their author. That's why we have assembled an excellent staff so we can provide this service to you. Remember, this is your creative artistry, and our professionals are only here to help you become a better writer and to assist you in creating your very own poetic masterpiece!

The names of the excellent staff? Anyone actually on the staff? What’s with the exclamation point?

A limited time opportunity to have your poetry reviewed by professional poets!


You may submit any poem that you have written for this one-of-a-kind, personal poetry review from our professional editorial staff. Please type your poem in the form provided and proofread it before you submit it. Since we are only accepting a limited number of poems, we must charge a nominal fee to cover the cost and fees associated with having your own personal professional editor critique your poem. Just think, you will have your own one-on-one critique from a qualified editor who is well-versed in the literature and writings of great poets.

I’m waiting for some names. . . .

Within a few weeks of submitting your work , you will receive your poem printed on fine ivory linen paper with handwritten notations and a certificate showing that it has been reviewed by our knowledgeable editorial staff. You will also receive a full-page critique of your artistry in a beautiful presentation folder for you to keep as a valuable reference for future writing. Also, at no additional cost, we will provide supplementary information to help improve your poetic craft.

I’ll bet everyone gets the same “supplementary information.” Heck, I’ll bet everyone gets the same critique.

And there is more! We've created a special competition exclusively for those who had their poetry critiqued by our professional editorial staff . . . a contest for our elite and most talented poets . . . poets just like you! Jack, once you review your critique and make any changes that you feel improve your poem, then you will have the opportunity to enter this special contest. This competition will be our most competitive contest ever, and I know you are ready for this challenge. This exclusive contest has a Grand Prize of $1,000.00, and the winner will be interviewed for a feature article in the Poetry Today magazine.

C’mon. Jack is a dog. An old dog. “Elite and most talented poets”? Yeah, right.

There's one more thing that is included in this limited-time, exclusive offer . . . a special gift! You will receive The International Library of Poetry Pen. This fine writing instrument has been elegantly crafted using heavy metal casings, a silver chrome-finished cap, and a polished black lacquered barrel. The official logo of The International Library of Poetry is carefully etched on the chrome cap. In addition to its exquisite design, the pen contains refillable black ink. This smooth, tapered pen is packaged in a stylish black box with our logo stamped in gold. This piece has a retail value of over $35.00, and it can be yours for free if you proceed with this offer to receive a review of your poetry.

I hope the critiquers don’t indulge in such adjectival overkill: silver chrome-finished cap/ polished black lacquered barrel/exquisite design/smooth, tapered pen/, stylish black box. You’ve just described hundreds of generic pens.

Jack, your poetry is important to us and we know it's important to you also, so we are offering you feedback on your poetic writing from the most educated and experienced poetry editors available today. We are very excited to offer you this rare opportunity, and we are anxiously waiting to read what happens when you combine your talent with their expertise. The results will be phenomenal.

Sincerely,

Howard Ely
Managing Editor

P.S. Our professional editorial staff has a limited amount of time to devote to this very special opportunity, and we are only honoring this offer to those poets who act quickly. Please submit your poem now to receive the professional critique, including a review certification, the beautiful presentation folder with information to help you improve your poetry, and the free limited-time offer of The International Library of Poetry Pen.


Clicking the form leads to leads to the Personal Poetry Review Ordering Information
(A Limited Time Opportunity) which displays this message:

Yes, I have elected to receive a professional critique of my poem from a qualified editor who is well-versed in the literature and writings of poets. By critiquing my poem, the editorial staff will assist me in creating my very own poetic masterpiece. I will receive a full-page critique of my poetic artistry in a beautiful presentation folder, supplementary information, and The International Library of Poetry Pen. In addition, I may submit my corrected work to the exclusive poetry contest especially created for those who had their poetry critiqued. Since there are a limited number of poetry critiques available, there is a nominal fee of $79.95 to cover the cost and fees associated with this one-of-a-kind product.

Nominal fee?! Oh, my dog!

And what's an elderly mixed retriever gonna do with a pen anyhow?

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Prime Writing

My writing is getting out a bit this year. While I contributed to an e-book Self-Publish Your Book: Authors Share Their Experiences, that came out in February and received my contributor’s copy, the ebook is no longer listed on the web. (Can I say I was published in a very limited edition?) A Cup of Comfort for Writers (with my essay) and It Was a Dark and Stormy Night (with my dreadful “Worst Western sentence) will be both be out in August. I’m pretty sure I’m going the POD route with More Peevish Advice—Thursday I sent the manuscript to the copyright office for registration. With a little luck, I’ll have More Peevish Advice in print by the time the tourists return to Smith Mountain Lake.

I’ve also sold some writing-related articles Prime Living, a regional magazine for the 50-plus crowd, The February print issue contained my article on blogging. This month, “Blogging to Adventure” is posted on the Prime Living website.


The March Prime Living has a picture of my Lake Writer buddy, Sally Roseveare, on the cover. She work-shopped her article about her hot air balloon ride through Lake Writers and a bunch of us encouraged her to get it published. That Sally is both afraid of heights and a grandmother of ten makes her article especially interesting.

Sally is also one of the bloggers I mentioned in the blogging article, and she’s also my Beta reader for my middle-grade novel-in-progress. She has an eagle eye for spotting typos; I just can’t see my own typos. A mystery writer who can contrive intricate plots, Sally is a big help at spotting my plot inconsistencies, too. Maybe, with her help, I’ll have my novel written by this summer. I wanted to have it finished for the CNU Writers’ Conference because I have an appointment with an editor. My New Year’s resolution was to have two-thirds of it finished by July. I’ve got five chapters done, so I may yet achieve my goal.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep on writing.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Snarky Thoughts & Touching Hearts

I’m an avid reader. When I was a kid, I’d read anything I could get my hands on. But the older I get, the more persnickety I am about what I choose to read. I realize there are way more books published in a month than I’ll ever hear about, that book prices are going up, and—now that I’m “retired” from the part-time job I took after I’d retired early from public school teaching—I need to curtail my spending on books. Consequently, I don’t read just anything anymore.

For instance, I no longer read books written to appeal to major organs. I don’t want my guts wrenched by an author who has spilled his. I don’t want my spine tingled. Consequently I avoid books described as “gut-wrenching,” “spilling guts,” or “spine-tingling.”

I have no desire to read anything that will “touch my heart.” I don’t want my heart touched by anyone but a board-certified cardiologist. Ditto for books that “warm my heart” (sounds like an infection) or that are “heart-wrenching” or “heart-stopping.” I want a good, entertaining read—not cardiac arrest.

I don’t want to read books written by authors who write “from the heart” or worse, “from the bottom of my heart,” or who “put my whole heart into my writing.” (Eww!) When folks tell me they write “from the heart,” I imagine a person connected to a computer by various wires and cables that allow the heart to pump prose or poetry straight to the computer screen.

R. L. Stine (the Goosebumps author), in an interview in the June 2006 issue of The Writer, had this to say about the matter:

I hear other authors saying, “Write from your heart. Write what you feel.” That’s horrible. What a way to turn people away from writing. I’ve never written a single thing from my heart. I write to entertain people. I pick out an audience, and I learn about them and what they like, and I write the best book I can for them. You can make a really good living and have a lot of fun writing things for other people.

Good advice. I’m having fun with my writing, but I haven’t yet arrived at the “good living” part.

Actually, I have read books—OK, parts of books—by some of the heart-writing folks, so I know odds are good that their heart-touching books will be laden with superfluous adverbs (and most adverbs are superfluous!), unnecessary adjectives, misplaced modifiers, passive verbs, and excessive exclamation points. (Note: The exclamation point used in this paragraph is excessive.)

The more serious I become about my writing, the more detached I become from it—which is a good thing. I haven’t suffered from “Golden Word Syndrome” for years. If a publisher mails me a check, then the publisher can have his/her way with my particular arrangement of words. Plenty of other words await me.

Consequently, I was delighted to see this gem of wisdom posted by Miss Snark on her blog yesterday:

Passion, feeling and emotion are a glut on the market. Everyone has them. Everyone including Killer Yapp. [KY is her poodle.] I can't get you one thin dime for passion. What I can get you SERIOUS money for is well constructed brutally honed solid writing. If you think that compromises your emotions, creativity and originality you're right. Good writing is about making yourself and your ideas understood by someone else. It's entirely original to write nonsense verse. It's also meaningless.

Miss Snark, you go girl!

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Literary Day

Saturday was wonderfully literary. I attended the Hollins Literary Festival at Hollins University and heard three authors read from their works, talked with Amanda Cockrellchildren’s lit teacher, author of several novels including Pomegranate Seed, and the leader of the panel I’m on at the Children’s Literature Association Conference this June at CNU.

Several Valley Writers were there, too—Millie, Dick, Leonel, and Nancy—as well as former Valley member, Mildred Sandrich, whose work on her degree in English at Hollins now consumes much of her time.

I love lit conferences! Being around so many serious writers is always stimulating.

When I returned home and turned on my computer, I found that Valley Writers president Jim Morrison had sent me an email—my essay “Crit Group” had won the Virginia Writers Club “Back Page” contest. I’ll get some cash, and my essay will be in the next issue of The Virginia Writer.

Saturday was a good day.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Union Hall, VA—March 2007


I took this shot last Saturday from the Union Hall post office parking lot on the north side of Rt. 40. The antique store still stands, as does Pete's shop, but not for long. The new road will go through where those building are now. Union Hall still looks like Ground Zero.

The big hole was where woods were. Just above it—where the barn used to be, you can see some heavy equipment. In the distance is Turkeycock Mountain.

The house, the barn, the woods—all memories now.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Power of Stupidity

A lot of folks hate American Electric Power for jacking up its rates to never-before-heard of highs. Letters in the Roanoke, Franklin County, and Smith Mountain Lake newspapers criticize AEP for its sky-rocketing rates. Folks in Franklin County hate that the big power poles and lines will go through their property. I hate that I will have to see these poles and lines from my pasture.

This evening, I found a new reason to hate AEP.

When I went out to feed the horses and dogs, I saw orange plastic tape attached to my pasture fencepost. The foot-long streamers were blowing inside the fence. AEP had put them there as a reference point for their surveying.

Some folks say that horses can’t see color, but my two mares know the color of carrots. Years ago, I had to yank away a deflated orange balloon that Cupcake saw on the ground. I got it when her lips were within inches of it.

If a horse ingests something it can’t digest or something that blocks the intestine, colic results. Colic is a bad way for a horse to die. I’ve seen colicky horses. They throw themselves on the ground and roll; they sweat profusely. The blocked intestine is excruciatingly painful for them. When Cupcake was young, I watched the vet thread a tube through her nose and into her stomach to pump in mineral oil to displace a blockage. It wasn’t pleasant for me to watch, but fortunately it worked. Cupcake hated that vet ever after.

The mineral oil treatment doesn’t always work. My husband and I once transported a friend’s colicky horse to the Virginia Tech vet hospital in the wee hours of the morning. The horse lost a few inches of intestines; the owner had to pay several thousand dollars for the surgery. I’ve heard of people who had to put colicky horses down because they couldn’t afford the vet bills. Colic is expensive.

I try to keep the pasture free of harmful things that Cupcake and Melody might eat. I do a pretty good job. I know that horses can't digest plastic. Luckily I found the plastic ribbon before my mares did. I ripped the blowing ends off and slid the rest down the pole until it was behind the woven wire.

Now, if AEP is so stupid that it hires people who are so stupid they don’t know their actions can harm livestock, can we really believe AEP spokespeople when they say that the big electric lines are perfectly safe?

I suppose it's ironic that the electricity that powers the eMac that I'm using to complain about AEP is provided by AEP.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Self-Portrait

I wrote this poem twelve years ago and it was published in an anthology titled Womankind (Anderie Poetry Press, 1995). While it didn’t win any of the first three places, it was one of ten honorable mentions. (Two hundred twenty-four poets each submitted a poem or two.) Today, I read “Self Portrait” to some 10th grade English classes who were studying poetry and biography:

Sun-branded lines hide
in the corners of my eyes,
wind-washed blush
ruddies my cheeks.

I wear my age lightly
like a familiar denim jacket
grown old and soft
from too much washing.

To make up for what
I missed in childhood,
late in life—at an age
when most women would dismiss
such an urge as foolishness—
I took up horseback riding.

Two decades of riding horses
(and a half-century of life)
have taught me this:
Taking up the reins of a horse
is not unlike taking up a life—
taming it, bending it to your desire,
guiding it to go where you will,
knowing when to hold it in check.

If the wind isn’t at your back,
you ride easier if you lean into it;
if you are unsure of the footing,
don’t go too fast;
always walk the first mile out
and the last mile back.

When you go
with the rhythm
of the horse,
you ride easy.


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Monday, March 05, 2007

Winds of Change

Change is in the air, even if it’s a bit cold for spring. The pasture has some sprigs of green; a flock of robins have taken up residence down the road; a redwing blackbird perched in the remains of the dead birch tree the other day. This was the first redwing I’d seen for years. He flew away when I came out with the camera. Every evening about sunset for a week now, the spring peepers across the road start peeping. If there’s a sound of spring, it’s the peepers.

A spring sight I love is the flock of grackles. The grackles move into the pines every spring to nest and to raise their young. Saturday morning about 50 of them were marching across the yard and searching for grubs. They do a pretty good job of de-grubbing the lawn. Last year, not many showed up. This year, they’re back in force.

A lot more other birds are here, too. A militant mockingbird guards the back deck. He lets me get pretty close to him when I scatter birdseed. He dive bombs other birds, so the jays and the cardinals keep him busy.

The horses have already started to shed. Before long, the birds will gather the hair and make nests. I’ll find little red horsehair nests on the ground next fall.

On the farm down the road, the turkeys are back. Sunday, Maggie and I were on the rise above the creek when something caught her eye. I looked down through the still-leafless trees to see a flock of a couple dozen turkeys—mostly hens—walking toward the pine woods.

“OK,” I told Maggie, and she took off to herd them. The turkeys, of course, took flight. Until border collies learn to fly, they’ll never make great turkey-herders. But Maggie tried.

Maggie’s running is so beautiful, I can’t adequately describe it. Earlier I had watched her run big circles and execute perfect flying lead changes when she switched directions. Wow! I’d thought as I watched her legs rearrange themselves in mid-air. That moment paled when I saw her run the turkeys—one fluid motion of border collie perfection: a hard and low and fast run, a disappearance into the woods, a reappearance at the top of the opposite hill, and a run down to the creek. At the creek, she flopped into the water, and the magic of the run vanished.

We’ve had hard winds the last couple of days and nights, and we’re likely to have more.

But spring is coming. I’ve seen the signs.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Border Collie Report

by Maggie (15-month-old border collie)

I’ve been living outside in the kennel for about six weeks now. When the weather is cold, Mommy keeps the heat on in the house, and it’s way too hot for me. I try to tell her that we’d all be more comfortable if she’d just turn the heat off and open a few windows, but she doesn’t believe me. So I pant. A lot. Or else I stay outside in the kennel.

Mommy doesn’t want to have to take me out to walk when the temperature’s in the teens. She doesn’t even like to go out and play in the sleet. I try to tell her that it isn’t really cold—just brisk and invigorating, but she doesn’t believe that either. And I’ll never be able to convince her that playing in sleet is fun.

Of course, the cold temps can sometimes be a nuisance even for a border collie. A few weeks ago at the farm, I had to break the ice on the creek so I could have a good wallow in the water. Some days, my tubs have been frozen in the kennel and no matter how much I dug at the ice, I couldn’t get in for a good wallow. When they thawed last week, I was so happy I had to get in every few minutes and sling water.

Well, I spent much of the afternoon in the house today, and I had a lot to catch up on. A dog’s work is never done. How I got back inside today is that Mommy took me to the farm to play frisbee and to walk. (Well, she walks, but I run.) Yesterday, Jack went to the farm with us, but he was too stiff today to want to go. Anyhow, since I’d washed all my mud off in the creek (several times!) I was pretty clean, so she decided I could spend the afternoon inside.

I think I finally trained Mommy to throw my squeaky ball in the air so I can catch it instead of throwing it so I’ll have to chase it. It took her awhile to catch on. Anyhow, I have a lot to tell my faithful readers.

Emma had to go to the vet a couple of weeks ago because of her bad hair. She has really thick stock-dog hair—even thicker than mine. However, her hair mats up easily, and she had frozen “poopsickles” hanging from her hind legs. Mommy couldn’t stand it anymore, so Emma had to get some of her hair mats and the poopsickles cut off. And the long hair on her feet that would get full of ice or mud, depending on whether the ground was frozen or not. Don’t worry, Emma still has plenty of hair left.

Anyhow, Mommy didn’t want to take just one animal to the vet at a time, so the two most evil cats—Dylan and Eddiepuss—got to go, too. Emma said the vet told Mommy that Eddiepuss has a heart murmur. So, I shouldn’t plot against him anymore. Consequently I was nice to him today. Not that he noticed. Emma said Dylan was a coward and hid in Mommy’s coat. I’m not surprised. Dylan stayed with Daddy while I was in the house today.

Not long ago, I got to try my hand—er, paw—at herding. Once, when Mommy was opening the gate to put me back in the kennel, she wasn’t holding my leash very tightly and she’d forgotten to tell me to “sit.” Well, I saw those two horses up at the bale and decided to practice my herding skills on them. (My dog-mama Daisy was a cow-herding border collie and my dog-daddy Dillon was a sheep herder, so I have all kinds of herding skills in my genes.) I made a dash for those two horses. They weren’t really going anywhere, but Cupcake—the old mare who likes to tease Harley the Catahoula and make him bark—gave me an evil look and muttered that she didn’t “do” herding and I’d better watch myself. I ran half circles around the horses and tried to get them to move away from the bale and go to the shed, but they just wouldn’t listen. Still, I kept my eye on those stupid mares. Then Daddy came along and told me to sit. I did, and that’s when he grabbed the leash. Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Today, Mommy walked me past the horses and let me sniff Melody through the fence. Then Melody followed us to the barn. I wanted to make Melody move faster, but Mommy wouldn’t let me.

Before we started to the barn, we got to witness stupidity in action. Mommy had just put my leash on in the kitchen, and we’d no sooner walked through the garage when we saw Mr. Redneck across the road. He was moving the metal folding chairs closer to our driveway. He does this to make fun of Mommy. Sometimes Mommy doesn’t walk very well, so we have lots of benches in our yard and lots of chairs all over the farm if she needs to sit down. Right now she has plantar fasciitis again which slows her down a lot. (She was really slow at the farm today. I had to keep running back and checking on her.) Anyhow, Mr. Redneck looked up and saw us watching him. I wanted to go have a word with him (OK, I wanted to ask him why he was stupider than the average human), but Mommy ordered me to sit and stay, which I did. He started walking and didn’t look back. Everyday he walks past and moves the chairs. It’s good that he has a hobby that fits his intellect. Mommy’s friends think the chairs are funny, too. (One of her friends started calling “redneck musical chairs” because they get moved around by the rednecks, and now lots of her friends call them that) A lot of other people ask Mommy about them, too.

Fortunately, all our neighbors aren’t hateful like Mr. Redneck and his kin. The boy next door is very nice and a good farmer. He played ball with me the other day, and he throws a lot better than Mommy can. He and his mother were the ones who gave me my squeaky balls when I was a baby. I love those squeaky balls!

One other thing before I have to go back to the kennel: Saturday a week ago, I rode in the truck to the Union Hall farm. On the farm road, we saw a big flock of turkeys—about two dozen—cross in front of the truck. I barked at them and wanted to herd them, but Mommy and Daddy wouldn’t let me out. Later, Daddy tried to teach me to hunt groundhogs. He told me that Abby, the border collie before me, was a great and mighty groundhog hunter. Mommy worried that I’d try to go down the hole and get stuck.

I’d rather play frisbee or herd horses than hunt groundhogs, though.

Dark, Stormy, & Pricey



On August 17, 2007, the Friday Project in the UK releases It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: The Second Coming. My 1996 “Worst Western” sentence will among the other dreadful one-liners included in the book's 160 pages.

Speaking of dreadful, at £9.99, the book is rather pricey—about $20 in American money. Acckkkk!

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Rainy Days & Lit Stuff

I went to the “big city” today for the Penwomen’s monthly luncheon. Normally on first Thursdays, I stay over for the Valley Writers’ meeting, but tonight I was scheduled to do a reading at a local elementary school.

On my way to Roanoke, I stopped by Marion’s mailbox to leave a folder of essays from the Lake Writers' essay contest. I’m co-chair of the contest; I log the essays in as I receive them, package them into folders, and start them on their journey to a multitude of judges. Each essay is read by several people before a half-dozen of us meet to decide which should win. Thinking I might run into Jim, the fearless leader of both Valley Writers and Lake Writers, I took a couple of other folders with me.

Anyhow, after the luncheon, I stopped briefly in Salem to see how fellow Penwoman and fellow self-pubbed writer Peggy is doing with the house she’s remodeling into a craft shop. By then rain was falling.

I figured I might catch Jim at the Roanoke County Library, and I was right. I gave him the two folders of essays (one each of middle school and high school) and chatted with him a bit before I headed south of home. Rain was really pouring at this time.

When I went through Boone’s Mill, rain was pounding so hard I could barely see. Big trucks were flying on Rt. 220 and throwing up water onto my little PT. Just south of Boone’s Mill, the weather improved. I could see where I was going. Then I came upon what was left of an accident.

Near Wirtz, a half-dozen ambulances had their lights flashing, as did several cop-cars. Both northbound lanes were at a standstill; the remnants of a car still blocked them; northbound traffic was backed up for a mile. The southbound lane crept. I couldn’t tell from the crowd how many vehicles had originally been involved, but it must have been a messy accident. If I hadn’t stopped to give Jim the essays, I’d have been in the midst of it. Saved by the essays!

When arrived home shortly before four, the rain had tapered off. I left for my reading at five: good travel weather.

I had a wonderful time reading to elementary students, their parents, and grandparents as part of the “Read Across America” program. When I left the school about seven, rain was pouring again. I had 14 miles to travel on Route 40. Besides heavy rain, fog obscurred my vision, so I had to drive slowly at times.

If I hadn’t been doing a presentation at the school, I’d have stayed in Roanoke for the Valley Writers’ meeting. I’d have been on I-581, 220, and 40 much later, when the fog would have been much worse and more big trucks would have been on the roads. My odds of being in an accident would have been much greater. Saved by reading!

Saved twice in one day by writing and reading.

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