Peevish Pen

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

© 2006-2018 All rights reserved

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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), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Snow News Mash-Up

Spring is supposed to be here, but we've had snow a few times lately (see here), and we might get some this weekend. I've noticed whenever it snows that the local (well, nearest actual city—not local to my rural area) TV newscasts forgo other news and devote their show to snow news if snow is expected/falling/etc. It's like nothing else newsworthy is happening in the world. And most of the snow coverage involves numerous newspeople standing out in the snow at various locations and telling viewers that snow is falling.

Because I usually watch the local evening newscasts before and after reruns of The Andy Griffith Show, I got to thinking about how snow coverage would have been handled in the small fictional town of Mayberry if the town had a TV station—which it didn't—and if it ever snowed in Mayberry—which I can't ever remember it doing.

I think a local newscast in Mayberry would go something like this:

The show opens with May Berry, a perky blonde news anchor wearing a tight low-cut dress.

May Berry: Howdy folks! This is May Berry welcoming y'all to our morning downhome newscast where the big news is that it's snowing! Really snowing! In fact, because of the snow, my co-anchor and weatherman couldn't get here from Mt. Pilot this morning, but don't worry. We know what the weather is—it's snowing! And we have a guest co-anchor today—local boy Gomer Pyle, who was home on leave from the Marines this past weekend and whose bus isn't running because of the snow, just happened to stop by and agreed to help me out.  Welcome to station W, Gomer. (Camera widens to include Gomer, who is smiling and staring at May's cleavage.)

Gomer Pyle: It's a real pleasure to be here, Ma'am. But ain't you a mite cold in that skimpy little dress?

May Berry: I'm fine. (Whispering) And please look at the camera instead my chest. (Gomer looks up and waves.)

Gomer Pyle: Howdy everybody! I'm real proud to be here. (He waves again.)

May Berry: Tell me, Gomer, did you have any trouble getting permission to stay away from your base.

Gomer Pyle: Heck, no. I just called up the sergeant and told him what was going on with the bus and all, and he told me to stay as long as I needed to. He seemed real happy. At least I heard him laughing. Miz Berry, can I ask you something? (She nods.) Why is it that this station only has one letter? Don't most TV stations have four?

May Berry: Yes, they do. But we're real small. so the FCC only gave us the one letter. Now we need to get on to the news, which happens to be all about the snow. What was the weather like when you came in?

Barney, Andy & Gomer
Gomer Pyle: It was coming down at a pretty good clip, and I said to myself, "Shazzam! I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we're fixing to get a couple more inches!" Ma'am, I'm still worried that you might be too cold and could get a real bad chest cold. I could go get you a sweater if you want me to.

May Berry: I'm fine, Gomer. Now we need to visit some folks out on the street to see what's happening out there. Since we've only got the one camera and we can't take it outside, I'll just make a few calls and see what's going on. Gomer, since we don't have a window in the studio to show the folks at home what the snow looks like, could you hold up these pictures that the first graders at Mayberry Elementary School sent in? They all did snow pictures when they heard it was going to snow. (She hands him a pile of artwork.)

Gomer Pyle: Well, Golleee! That first one looks just like the one I did in first grade. I reckon there ain't many ways to paint snowflakes though. (He holds up the picture. Then he holds up another that looks just like the first one.)

May Berry (at phone): Sarah, could you get me the court house. I'd like to speak to Sheriff Taylor. (She waits.)

Andy's Voice: Court House. Sheriff Taylor speaking.

May Berry: Hello, Sheriff. This is May Berry calling from TV station W. We'd like your opinion on the snow. And do you know if school is closed?

Andy's Voice: Well, it's still snowing up a storm. Looks like we might have about two inches so far, give or take. School is in session like always. Miss Crump over at the elementary school said that if the kids got a day off, they'd just spend the day outside playing in it anyway, so they might as well come on to school. My boy Opie won't real happy to hear that, but he went on like always. He did take a snow shovel with him in case snow sticks to the sidewalk and somebody needs their walk shoveled while he's on his way home.

May Berry: Have any problems been reported?

Andy's Voice: Well, not so's you'd notice. We did have a problem with Ernest T. Bass throwing some snowballs, but he didn't hit nothing and got cold and went home. Most folks around here have the good sense to stay home when the weather is bad. My deputy Barney Fife is out by the highway running radar, but he radioed in a few minutes ago that there hasn't been any traffic a'tall. But he's gonna stay out for a while just in case.

Gomer Pyle: Hey, Andy!

Andy's Voice: Hey, Gomer. I thought you was headed back to the base.

Gomer Pyle: I was supposed to, but the bus ain't running. I was coming back from the bus station when I ducked in here to get out of the snow and Miz Berry asked me to help her out.

May Berry: Thank you for your report, Sheriff, but we need to move on to some other folks. (Into phone) Sarah, can you get me Wally's garage? (While she waits, Gomer keeps holding up pictures.)

Goober's Voice: Hey, Miz Berry. Hey, cousin Gomer! I just heard on TV y'all was gonna call and doggone if y'all didn't do it! Gomer, you're doin a real good job holding up them pictures.

Gomer Pyle: Hey, Goober!

May Berry: Goober, what can you tell our viewers about the snow from where you are?

Goober's Voice: Well, we ain't had much business this mornin. Just a few folks wantin chains put on their tires, so Wally and me done that. We just been settin here watchin TV. That's a real purty dress you got on, Miz Berry, but Gomer is right. You ort to put on a sweater or something. But the snow is still comin down.

May Berry: Thank you, Goober, but we need to talk to someone else now. Sarah, can you get me Floyd's Barbershop?

Floyd's Voice: Barbershop. How might we help you today? If you need a shave or a haircut or both, come on down. For some reason, we're not real busy today.

May Berry: Hello, Floyd. This is May Berry calling from station W, and we were wondering if you could tell our viewers how the snow looks from where you are.

Floyd Lawson, the barber
Floyd's Voice: Oh, my! This is a surprise! I'm a big fan of yours, Miz Berry. I'll be glad to help. (He clears throat.) Well, looking out the window, at the north end of Main Street, snow is falling hard. At the south end of Main Street, same thing. It's not sticking to the sidewalk yet, but it might. It looks to be piling up on the awning at the grocery store across the street, so if anybody is going to risk going out to shop, they might want to be careful that the awning doesn't collapse on them.

Gomer Pyle: Hey, Floyd.

Floyd's Voice: Gomer! What are you doing there? You said you were catching the bus back to base his morning.

Gomer Pyle: I was supposed to, but the bus ain't running on account of the bad weather. So I'm helping Miz Berry by holding up pictures so they can see what the snow looks like.

Floyd's Voice: Pictures?! Well, why don't they just look out their windows?

May Berry: Well, it looks like we're all out of time on our morning newscast at TV station W, so we're signing off now. Good day and good news to y'all. (In a whisper to Gomer, who is still holding up pictures) You can put down those pictures now. 


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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Bone's Gift

I'm a big fan of Appalachian lit and stories about characters who have special powers—think Sharyn McCrumb's ballad novels and her character Nora Bonestell who has the gift of second sight. In fact, my self-pubbed novel, Them That Go, is set in Appalachia and is told from the viewpoint of a character who has a special gift. So, when I heard that Roanoke resident Angie Smibert had a new novel that was set in Appalachia and had a character with a gift, I knew I had to read it. I pre-ordered a Kindle copy and read it in two nights.

(Disclaimer: I've known Angie for years, was in a crit group with her for a while, and have reviewed a couple of her YA dystopian novels on this blog: Memento Nora and The Forgetting Curve.)

Bone's Gift is a fine example of Appalachian literature. While it's promoted as a book for middle graders, it has something to offer readers of all ages. Set in 1942 in Big Vein, a mining town along the New River, the novel deals with young Bone's curiosity about her mother and Bone's releationships with other members of her family.

The back cover sets up the premise:

Bone Phillip's need to know drives the novel's narrative. Bone—real name Laurel, but called Bone from a kind of coal that contains rock—can receive impressions from things she touches, a gift that sometimes is unpleasant. Gifts run in her family—her Mamaw can use plants to heal, an uncle can diagnose problems that animals have, and her deceased mother could heal the sick or injured. Bone is curious about her mother's death. All anyone will tell her is that her mother died of influenza. Meanwhile, Bone's life is in turmoil. Her father is being called to report for active duty, so Bone will have to live with her religious-fanatic aunt who doesn't believe in the gifts. Bone's best friend Will drops out of school to work in the mine. Bone has been foridden to go across the river to visit Mamaw. A bright spot in Bone's life is that Miss Spencer, a collector of stories, has come to the area, and Bone—who likes to tell stories—offers to help her. And Bone finds her way around some of the obstacles in her path.

Bone's Gift is a wonderful story—rich in aspects of Appalachian lit—and it works on several levels. It' a book that mothers would enjoy reading with their daughters. And it would be a good choice for  a book club (it includes notes from the author). Although complete in itself, Bone's Gift is the first in a series of three "Ghosts of Ordinary Objects." I'm looking forward to reading Lingering Echos in 2019 and The Truce in 2020.

Note: I did notice an error in the ebook version. The link to Ferrum College's AppLit website is incorrect. it should be

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Sunday, March 25, 2018

Spring Snow 2018

Even though it's spring, last night's snow made this morning look like winter. We were expectrd to get from 2 to 5 inches here, but we got between 3 and 4. Here are some pictures I took:

First thing this morning, the world was blue and foggy. In this view from my front porch, Smith Mountain is barely visible at the right. Below, fog hides the road.

The back yard:

The driveway. The glow above the car is the rising sun.

I drove the golf-cart out to feed the barn cats. I wasn't sure the cart could make it, but it did. See our tracks in the side yard?


I took the road back to the driveway. Those wet-looking places are ice, I was surprised how well the cart did on ice. 

I didn't see any cows in the pasture beside the road.

An old border collie waited patiently in the driveway while I took pictures. Those small tracks in front of her are cat tracks.

Looks like there won't be any peaches on my little peach tree this year:

Nice to see that blue sky!

There's a road out there somewhere:

This isn't a good day to sit in the gazebo:

Here comes the sun! Let the melting begin.

Not a good day to sit on this bench either:

This looks more like a seascape with crashing waves than a view of the field across the road:

 The back yard again—this time with sunshine:

Let the melting commence! 

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Friday, March 23, 2018

Lost Inheritance

TANNER: "My favorite character was the cat Sugar Lips."

Recently I received an advance reader copy of Lin Stepp's latest Smoky Mountain novel, Lost Inheritance. Published by Mountain Hill Press, the book will be available on April 3, but can be pre-ordered from Amazon now.

I've had the pleasure of reading several of Stepp's other Smoky Mountain novels, and I've posted reviews of Daddy's Girl,  Welcome Back, and Saving Laurel Springs on this blog. The new novel is as enjoyable as the others for many of the same reasons. Like the others, Lost Inheritance has a strong sense of place, and Stepp's detailed descriptions add to the reader's experience. The main characters are interesting and complex, and the plot has a few unexpected twists.

The back cover gives a good summary without telling you too much:

Lost Inheritance deals with themes of loss and redemption. Loss affects several characters. Not only has twenty-five-year-old Emily Lamont lost the inheritance that was promised to her, she has lost her job in the Philadelphia art gallery she expected to own. She has lost the god-parents who raised her as their own after she lost her parents in a car crash when she was ten. But she has inherited a small gallery in Gatlinburg, so that's where she goes.

Though it's been years, Cooper Garrison hasn't come to terms with the loss of his father from a heart attack or his older brother from a motorcycle accident. He's also resentful that his mother lost the opportunity to own the Creekside Gallery she's managed for years. While he's attracted to Emily, he doesn't want to get too involved.

Cooper's mother, Mamie Garrison, doesn't mind that she didn't inherit the art gallery and she real likes Emily. While Mamie's come to terms with the loss of her husband and son, she still misses not knowing who her real parents are and why her birth mother gave her to an orphanage.

ARLO: "Tanner, are you ready to share that book yet?"
TANNER: "No, I want to re-read the parts about Sugar  Lips. I like that cat's attitude."

The story eventually has a happy ending, but there are surprises and complications along the way. I won't give them away here—discovering them is part of the appeal of this book. I enjoyed the inclusion of dogs in the story—especially Emily's standard poodle Mercedes.

CHLOE: So, Tanner, how did you like the book?"
TANNER: "It was pretty good. But the cat should have helped Emily instead of that dog."
ARLO: "Shut up, Tanner! You're giving away too much!"

While Lost Inheritance is primarily a romance, it also has a couple of mysteries. One involves a traveling exhibition at the Creekside Gallery. When Emily notices someting odd about a picture in the Norman Rockwell exhibition, she starts asking questions. But if I told you what resulted, I'd be giving away too much. Ditto for the mystery of Mamie's parents.

If you like romance and mystery, the Smoky Mountains, and an interesting story, you'll enjoy Lost Inheritance.

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Computer Scam Retorts

If you have a computer, odds are good you've gotten calls from scammers who want to "fix" the problem you didn't even know you had.

My computer, my cat Jim-Bob
A couple of weeks ago, I  got a call from some guy with a really heavy accent who wanted to help me with  my computer. Between the static in the phone line (which happens just about every time it rains) and his heavy accent, I never could understand what his name was—but I was pretty sure he was a scammer. You know the type—the ones who call to tell you that they "detected a problem" with your "Windows computer." 

But I didn't let him get that far. I wanted to know what company he worked for. It was something like "Rep Assist-something" or it might have been "Rep Asset-something"or maybe "Rat's Ass-something." Anyhow, I asked him what his company's website URL was. He tried to oblige me.

Between his thick accent and my deliberate mistakes as I slowly and laboriousy "attempted" to type the URL (while saying the letters I thought he said out loud and being corrected by him because I was saying the wrong ones), I wasn't able to get "your rep web assist (dot) com" (or something) and finally (in an exasperated voice after letting him know that I got "Rep Assist at Amazon") exclaimed, "There must be something wrong with my computer!" A moment of silence ensued. Then he hung up.

That was the fastest a scammer has ever hung up on me. Usually I can keep them going for a while. 

Sometimes I pretend I have to turn on my computer—which of course takes a while. And I push a bunch of button on the phone which makes little beeping noises for him. One guy had the nerve to tell me to stop doing that, and I had to insist this was how I started my computer. Then I have to put in the password which I spell out loud as I type it in: "S-u-p-e-r-c-a-l-i-f-r-a-g-i-l-i-s-t-i-c—Uh, oh! I think I left something out. Let me start again."

I kind of enjoy the Windows scam, wherein my "Windows computer" has gotten a virus or something, and the scammer will help me remove it. I try to drag the scammer out for a while (see password in previous paragraph), as he tells me to do such-and-such. One was flustered that I couldn't find a particular key, although he painstakingly described where it was on my keyboard. But I kept insisting it wasn't there. I knew it was't there because a Mac keyboard is different from a Windows keyboard, but it never occured to him I was using a Mac. I'm not the only Mac user who does this. Here's a pretty good YouTube video of a Mac user dealing with a Windows scammer: 

Recently I got a heavily accented computer scammer to hang up on me in less than 5 minutes! He didn't attempt to try my last name but asked if I was Miz Reee-beh-kuh and if I was the prime computer user. I agreed. That's when he told me they'd gotten reports of my computer downloading malicious downloads. 
Me:" Oh no! What's the name of these malicious downloads!"
He couldn't give me an answer. 
Me: "But if you know my computer has downloaded malicious downloads, you should certainly know the name of them! What are they called?"
I couldn't understand all he said next, but something to the effect that if I would turn on my computer, he would walk me through how to get rid of the malicious stuff.
Him (obviously reading from a script): "Now if you would step in front of your computer—"
Me: "Step in front of my computer? I don't understand!"
He repeated himself—
"Now if you would step in front of your computer—" and I cut him off again.
Me: "I have to step in front of my computer?"
Him: "Yes, and then—"
Me: "But I'm sitting in front of if. I don't understand what you're asking. Do you want me to get up and do something like an Irish step dance?"
Silence (well, except for all the other scammers in the room where he was). Then he hung up.

It was just as well. I can't Irish step dance. But if you want to see step-dancing, here's a video:


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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

In Like a Lion

We had some warm days in February—one even hit the 80s—and it seemed like spring was here. A lot of buds appeared on trees and some flowers bloomed. The crocus, of course was first,

It wasn't long until the forsythia bloomed.

The "ornamental peach" that produces wonderfully sweet peaches was covered in buds.

The old-fashioned lilac that I transplanted from Smith Farm years ago had green buds.

Of course there were daffodils . . .

. . . and bridal wreath.

But March roared in with damaging winds and peeled the roof on the shop. 

For two days and nights, the high winds blew and blew. We were lucky that we didn't lose power like thousands in the county did. But we did have a lot of branches down.

I suppose the early spring was short-lived. We're expecting snow this weekend.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Email Spam 2018

 Recently I received an email from a person I didn't know who was promoting his relatively new self-published book. As a self-published author myself, I wondered how this person knew about me. Had he perhaps read my CreateSpace-published books—Patches on the Same QuiltThem That Go, or Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories?

I'm pretty sure he hadn't. Since his email had also been sent to several others, it looks like he harvested my name and contact info from the website of a group where I am a member. 

Here's what he wrote—with name, title, etc., redacted. While I consider any email that hits my in-box fair game, I do not wish to embarrass those who don't know better. Hence, the redacted info in the email I'm publishing here for educational purposes:

I'm new to [BIG WRITING GROUP], having authored a non-fiction book on [Title redacted] available on Amazon in Kindle for $20 and a paperback version for $24.65, and soon a smaller paperback. 

There is no way that I would ever spend over $10 on an ebook by a well-known author, so I'm unlikely to buy an ebook by an unknown author on a subject that doesn’t interest me. I don't think I'm the target audience for this book. Plus, the following paragraph isn’t a book summary, nor is it a hook to entice folks to buy the book. I’m not sure what it is:

The current "batch" of Justice, FBI and Congressional "silence breakers" is for . . .  [employees who reported waste, fraud or abuse] who usually "blow their whistles seemingly too late", while really they are held in silence by government agencies. These were started by the First Continental Congress in 1777. That didn't work well, as 90 years later government fraud almost lost the Civil War for the Union until Congress passed and Abraham Lincoln signed the False Claims Act in 1862, "deputizing and rewarding all citizens reporting fraud". 

Commas and periods belong inside end quotation marks. Writers know that. Writers also know that over-use of quotation marks (unless quoted material is being cited) is really annoying to readers.

I left out some stuff in the next paragraph (which also isn't a book summary or an effective hook):

The threat and quick governmental legal action worked until WWII when public sources enabled hundreds of civilian [. . . ] cases to be filed [. . . ] on military contractors that were settled in courts before the Justice Department even knew about them, too late the Attorney General claimed to pursue criminal action, against large influential Corporate political contributors. So Congress made cases "secret", keeping them "under seal" in Federal Courts, where most stayed uninvestigated and untried in Courts. A few are settled after 5 years or so "under seal" but recovered less than 1% of what was accused of having been stolen from taxpayers. Mine was filed in 1998 [. . . ] It was supposedly "dismissed", I believe illegally [. . . .] Over $1 billion unpaid in Virginia!

From that paragraph, even with the deleted info included, I had a heckuva time figuring out what the book was actually about. Plus I'm even more annoyed by the comma/quotation mark misuse. The spammer changes tone in the next paragraph, though:

Being a novice, I thought libraries bought books, especially by local authors, and especially in eBook formats that take no room on shelves.

No, that isn't how it works at all. Libraries subscribe to a service that provides access to ebooks. The service gets to pick which ebooks. Your local librarian could have told you that. As a fomer member of my county's library board, I know that some libraries will buy print copies of books by unknown authors if several of library patrons request the book, but libraries have fixed budgets and must use their funds to buy books that will be checked out by more than a few card-holders.

However, if a library allows you to do a presentation about your book (which includes your selling/signing your book), you should donate a copy of your book as a way of thanking that library.

Since that is not the case, I next thought that joining writers groups who are non-profit and giving them half the profits would work, If I could stimulate sales of their books as well, in return.

I have no clue how that would actually work—and I've been a member of various writers groups since 1994. But I can tell you—from personal experience—that self-published authors have doggone few profits. Factor in costs to get to venues that aren't close to home and you could even end up with negative profits.

If you can't stimulate sales of your own book, you are unlikley to stimulate sales of others' books.

The basic concept is to "leapfrog" libraries who can't purchase anything and go directly to "Book Clubs", who I believe are not only looking for "local stories", but are or have contemplated writing one themselves. My experience is in order to complete a book you have to be persistent and are best served "buying from local experts".

There's that doggone comma/quotation mark error again. Arggghhh! I'm not sure what " 'leapfrog' libraries" means. As for book clubs (or, as you put it, "Book Clubs"), they are for readers—people who enjoy reading and discussing books with like-minded folks. People in writers groups are the ones who have contemplated writing books.

Many "Book Clubs" book clubs in my area choose their selections a year or so in advance. Most that I'm familiar with meet monthly, so they don't choose more than a dozen books a year. 

At my website, [title redacted] you'll see my target is a big one "the $20 Trillion National Debt" that shows it is "costing each American over $62,000" for which none received anything of value. Buyers do receive something of value in seeing all the information [. . . ], and $10 if they buy [my book] at my website to their charity of choice, which I will inform them [BIG WRITING GROUP] qualifies as, and I will target to each [BIG WRITING GROUP] Chapter areas and give names in my marketing to those who make presentations.
 My full information is on our [BIG WRITING GROUP] site.

Only basic information—not "full information"—for all members is on the writing group's site (where he found my contact info). And anyone accessing the site has to know an author's name to be able to look up the info. But—since I intend this post to be educational—let me digress into giving a bit of info that might be helpful to self-publishing novices:

Go to writing conferences and symposiums. I've blogged in the past about some writing events  I've attended, such as this symposium and this publishers' day at Virginia Festival of the Book.

Read books about writing. Your library should have some. Start there, but be aware of many articles, blog posts, etc. that exist online. Over a decade ago, I blogged about "Books that Every Writer Should Read." On this blog I've also reviewed some writing books—like Shut Up and Write and The Writer's Essential Tackle Box.

Read about promotion and marketing. Lots of online articles and blogs address marketing. The Behler blog is a good place to start. I've previously blogged about what I didn't want to do for book promotion ("Book Promotion—NOT") and what I might do ("Book Promotion—Maybe").

Join a local writers group. Members who have been there/done that can help you with your concerns and questions.  They can explain hat works and doesn't work for book promotion. But, please—don't spam them.

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Saturday, December 09, 2017

Early Snow Pt. 2

The snow continued on and off all night. When I took Maggie out at 7 on Saturday morning, our world looked like this:

The front sidewalk was at least clear.  But the snow was deeper than last night—and it was still snowing.

The road looked clear, too.

Could a gimpy old woman and her elderly border collie be able to golf-cart out to feed the barn-cats? The driveway was clear, so we could go down it to the road if we had to.

Chloe was able to go out on cat-patrol. If a small cat could do her chores, maybe Maggie and I could do ours.

Having a basic grasp of physics ("Stuff slides down hill"), I figured I could go around the front of the house and turn down the hill in the side yard. This is how it looked when we were at the top of the hill (picture of snow on dogwood limbs taken while Maggie made a comfort stop): 

We carted past the dogwood and the big maple. The going down was pretty easy. Twiggy, Spotz, and Sherman were waiting for us, and they were soon fed. (Skippy had already been to the house to eat; Wilbur was no doubt holed up somewhere.)

While I fed and watered the cats, Maggie guarded the golf-cart and looked back at the way we'd come.

We left tracks from the big maple on down.

We proceeded toward the road, so we could get the newspaper before we went in. It was clear to the right . . 

. . . and to the left. The paperbox is to the left at the top of the road. No traffic was in sight, so we started up the road.

The snow hung heavy on the pasture fence across the road.

Hard to believe that a railroad—the old F&P—used to pass in front of the old Novelty depot across from my mailbox.

After getting the paper, we started up the driveway for home.

The snow-covered crape myrtles that I planted years ago provided a photo op.

So did the big oak tree.

I think Maggie was impatient because I was stopping so often. Taking pictures isn't part of our daily routine.

So, having accomplished what we set out to do, we headed for home.

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