Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, genealogy and family history, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats.

© 2006-2021 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.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Eight at the Lake: A Book Review

. . . with a little help from the cats:

GROVER: Wake up, Rufus! You have to help Mommy review a book!

RUFUS: Can't I sleep a little longer, Grover?
GROVER: No! Here's the book. Now get busy reading it!

When my husband saw me reading Lin Stepp's latest novel, he thought the cover picture was Smith Mountain Lake, which is only a couple of miles from us. But it wasn't. Eight at the Lake, Stepp's latest Mountain Home novel, takes place in Dandridge, Tennessee—which is a real place. 

As she does in her other Mountain Home or Smoky Mountain novels, Stepp provides a map—a feature I find useful. Since her novels have a strong sense of place, it's nice to see where important locations are.

In Eight at the Lake, the two main characters—Samantha King and Ford McDaniel—are both in their late 30s, both have challenging careers, and both have known loss. And they're both attracted to each other, though they resist the attraction. The book's back cover introduces them and the complications in their lives:  

Like many of Stepp's novels, Eight at the Lake conveys a strong sense of family. Ford—with help from his parents and his housekeeper Juanita—raises his own four childen as well as Samantha's late sister's four children. Samantha, in town for the summer while she recuperates from serious injuries she received while covering Hurricane Andrew the previous October, wants to get to know her nieces and nephews better before she returns to her job in the fall. 

RUFUS: From what Mommy wrote about it so far, it sounds interesting.

When Ford's housekeeper won't let Samantha see her nieces and nephews, Samantha charges into Ford's office to protest. Eventually she is allowed to see the children if she follows Ford's rules, and all eight really like her. When the housekeeper has to take time off to attend to her mother's health problems, Samantha steps in to take care of the kids. With her experiece as a former camp counselor and her current job as a meteorologist, Samatha knows how to keep kids active and involved. Before long, the kids really like her and don't ant her to leave. Ford himself becomes attracted to her her, but he resists getting involved. Samantha is also attracted to him, but she'll be leaving in the fall and there's no way a long distance relationship could work. . . .

If you're a fan of small town fiction that features a strong sense of family, connections to the land, and two interesting and complex main characters, you'll enjoy Eight at the Lake.

RUFUS: I didn't think I'd like a book with a veterinarian in it,
but this 
veterinarian was really nice. It was a good book!

I've reviewed several of Lin Stepp's Smoky Mountain novels on this blog, and Eight at the Lake has now become my favorite. I really like Samantha—a strong, complex, and take-charge woman who is her own person, who enjoys her job, and who doesn't let setbacks get her down. Eight at the Lake will release April 1, but it can be preordered from Amazon.

OTIS: Dibs on reading this book next! Orville, you'll have to wait.


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Saturday, February 05, 2022

Tanner's Tower

 by Tanner (Chief House Cat)

I don't generally make two posts so close together, but I wanted to share the news that I got a cat tower. On one of the rainy days, when I couldn't go outside and do cat-work, a box that said Ama-something appeared. Daddy took a bunch of pieces out of the box and started putting them together

Before long, I could tell it was going to be a cat tower. 

It wasn't as big as my old cat tower, though. My old cat tower is real big, but the kitties have sort of torn it up. In front of the tower is Chloe's old bed that Arlo sometimes uses.

Claudine and Charlotte were kind of interested in the box it came in. Charlotte likes boxes.

Before long, Charlotte looked at the bottom of the tower, but she wasn't real interested.

I decided to let the other kitties try out my tower before I took it over. That is the polite thing to do. Rufus got in it, and his brother Orville came to take a look, too.

Rufus even put his high-beams on.

Their brother Grover soon had to try it out.

Then Arlo had to try it out.

Orville decided to sit on top.

While Orville was on top and Arlo was in the middle, I got in the bottom  to try it out for myself. I fit real good. The bottom is a nice place to hide, but I wanted to get on top.

Orville said the view from the top was real good, so I let him stay there for a while.

Before long, Claudine came to see what was going on. I told her she would have to wait for her turn. Even Skippy, an outside cat who used to live down the road and who is most likely Otis and Charlotte's father, looked in. My new cat tower was a big hit with everyone.

Eventually, I finally got to the top of my cat tower. But I looked down and saw Chloe in her bed.

Chloe and I have been friends for a real long time, so I asked her if she'd like to join me.

She hopped up, and we had a nice visit. We watched it rain for a while and then we napped together.

Some of the other cats decided they would rather nap in bed.

Chloe finally went back to her own bed, and I finally had my cat tower all to myself.

I like my tower. I think it was my birthday present because I turned 9 years old this winter.  



Friday, January 21, 2022

SOTK 2022

 State of the Kitties Report: 2022

by Tanner (Resident Cat-in-Charge)

I haven't made a report for a while, but I have been real busy. I work two jobs. During the day, I go outside and rat-patrol with Jim-Bob. At night I rat-watch in the garage. Skippy and Cedrick also patrol outside but they have a different territory. 

Here is Skippy is in his bed; Cedrick is rolling on the porch and trying to look cute, but I don't think he's cute at all.


I have mostly got used to Skippy as long as he stays out of my way, but I still don't much like Cedrick and Jim-Bob hates him. Sometimes they fight.

I like to ride the golf-cart with Mommy. Sometimes she drives me out to the field where I work.

Skippy wants to ride it too, but I don't like to share the seat with him. Sometimes we smack each other over who gets to ride shotgun Skippy is on the floor in the picture below. You can see his tail.


Things have been pretty quiet around here this winter, except we had some excitement on Xmas eve. Daddy came home from riding the tractor down the road and didn't feel very well, so most of us inside kitties kept quiet all through the house so as not to bother him. But soon after Mommy made a phone call, outside there arose a big clatter, so all the other cats and I sprang into hiding. There was some kind of big truck outside with lots of flashing red and white lights, and most of the kitties ran downstairs where the good hiding places are. I hid but peeked out every so often to see what was happening. 

Somebody carrying a big machine came right in the house—even though Mommy has not been letting people in because of the pan-dem-ick—and hooked Daddy up to it and said he had to go to the hospital right away. More big truck-things—bigger even than Daddy's tractors—were in the driveway with all their lights going. I was getting scared now myself, but I didn't want the kitties to see how scared I was because I am the cat-in-charge. A couple more people came in and they put Daddy on something like a bed with wheels but it didn't look very comfortable and said they would drive him down the road to where a hello-copter would meet them and he would ride the hello-copter to the hospital.

When I have to go to the cat hospital, Mommy just stuffs me in the crate and puts me in the car. I guess it's different when people go to people hospitals. I don't know what a hello-copter is. I wonder if it is anything like Mommy's golf-cart. I like to ride golf-carts.

Anyhow, Mommy and I worried for a couple hours until Daddy finally called. He told Mommy he now had two somethings (sounded like tents) in his artery now and he was going to get better. He came back home two days later, but a friend brought him so I didn't get to see a hello-copter. He feels a lot better now.

Another thing that happened is that cold white wet stuff fell all around outside on Sunday. It was in the front yard and the back yard. I looked in both places to be sure.


I knew it was snow, but some of the younger kitties weren't familiar with it. They watched from the window.

 Jim-Bob and I tried to go out on Monday so we could do our cat-work, but we had to keep coming back in. We asked Mommy to let us out another door just in case the weather was better through that one, but the weather was still bad. After we tried the third door, we decided we'd better settle ourselves for a long winter's nap. Except we got up to eat supper.

In the picture above is Orville in front, Jim-Bob and me in the middle, and my kitty Arlo in back. Below is Otis, me, Rufus (who is a real big cat), Grover, Arlo, and Jim-Bob.

Sometimes I snuggle my kitty Arlo to keep him warm. I raised Arlo from when he was a little kitty.

Finally the sun came out, but the snow didn't melt. 

It was hard to get any cat-work done, but at least I tried.

Skippy tried too, but he didn't get much work done either. The snow was frozen so he didn't sink in.

I decided it was best to stay inside and sleep in front of this vent that sometimes blows warm air on me. I like warm air.

Chloe got a new cat bed, so she gave up her old cat bed which some of the other cats—mainly Arlo and Rufus—had been coveting. 

I guess the other cats think if the old bed isn't good enough for Chloe, it must not be good enough for anybody else, so no one else uses it. Arlo has been coveting the new bed and sometimes sneaks into it and won't let Chloe have it back. That makes her real mad.

As for the outside cat population, our oldest cat Twiggy—who was a fine and noble ratter—vanished a couple of months ago. I don't think she is coming back. A young wild kitty named Max showed up last summer and pretty much lives here full-time, but Mommy says he is too old to tame. She took this picture of him last fall.

That is about all the news I have for now. 



Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Human Shield Ancestor

Part of the fun of researching your genealogy is not knowing what you'll find. Recently, I've been re-researching my Page line. My 8th great-grandparents were John Page who came from England to Virginia around 1650 and his wife Alice Lukin. The Pages first lived in the New Towne section of Jamestown, then York County in 1655, and finally Middle Plantation (now Williamsburg) in 1662. He also acquired other land in Colonial Virginia.

Since learning that I have several ancestors who were in Virginia when it was still a colony, I've been reading early Virginia history, like this book about Bacon's Rebellion. It's available on Amazon as a free Kindle download.

I had ancestors who were on both sides of the rebellion, but John Page was on Governor Berkeley's side, not Bacon's side. While there were several portraits of John Page online, I could find none of his wife.

John Page

But on p. 256 in the Documentary History of Jamestown Island, Vol. III: Biographies of Owners and Residents, by Martha McCartney, a publication prepared for the National Park Service and available online, I found an interesting mention of Alice Lukin Page:

My 8th-great-grandmother was used as a human shield! How did this happen? Was she the only one? I went back to The Story of Bacon's Rebellion ebook and looked to see if she was mentioned there.   She was indeed:

I wonder which one of the "fair ones" was sent back to Jamestown to tell Council members that their wives were hostages. Despite a bit of Googling, I couldn't find out her identity. 

I did find the incident mentioned in an article on the National Park Service's Historic Jamestown site: "He [Bacon] made several attempts at a siege, during which he kidnapped the wives of several of Berkeley's biggest supporters, including Mrs. Nathaniel Bacon Sr., and placed them upon the ramparts of his siege fortifications while he dug his position."

How long did Bacon keep them there? I have no idea, but I imagine only a day or so. Anyhow, his idea worked.

Bacon did not get to use his stolen artillery, though, because Governor Berkeley did not attack. When Berkeley's men started abandoning him, Berkeley—under cover of night—sailed away with twenty-some of his loyal followers. While they were gone, Bacon and his forces burned the city of Jamestown to the ground.

Fortunately, my 8th-great-grandmother would have been back home in Middle Plantation, aka Williamsburg, when Jamestown was burned. Did she see the flames and smell the smoke from where she lived? 

Alas, her reactions are lost to history.

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Monday, January 03, 2022

January 2022 Snow

Today—January 3, 2022—the first snow of the year began early in the morning. 

While the frozen stuff was still falling lightly, I ventured out to feed the outside cats but the golf cart started sliding in the front yard. I managed to turn it around and headed back to the garage but it soon slid again. By now, it was obvious that what was falling was sleet, and I wasn't going to get unstuck—so I had to abandon the cart. Fortunately I keep a cane in the cart, so I was able to gimp to the front porch. 

Eventually the sleet turned to snow and started to pile up on lawn and deck.

. . . and in the driveway, too.

Before long, the snow fell harder.

Some of the younger cats weren't sure what was happening, but they were glad to be inside.

Jim-Bob, however, kept screaming to go out.

The wind increased and trees bent low. Snow blew onto the front porch, and I couldn't see out the storm door.

The boxwoods out front were bending over, buthe golf cart was staying put on the other side of the tree . . .

. . . and the snow continued to pile up on the deck . . .

. . . and in the driveway.

Finally, my husband (who'd earlier walked out to feed the barn cats and his hound), got his 4-wheel drive truck and towed my golf cart out of the front yard. He tried to see if it could  go all the way down the driveway. It got stuck again, so he towed it back to the garage.

In early afternoon, the sun came out and melted some of the snow.

I'm no fan of snow. I think I've had enough of it to last me the rest of the year.


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