Peevish Pen

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

© 2006-2019 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.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Winds of Change

The weather is changing. The shirtsleeve weather we've had for the last week of so will soon be vanquished. This morning was bright and clear; this afternoon is cloudy. And windy. Very windy. Something's blowing from the west.

As Percy Bysshe Shelly once wrote:

O WILD West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being
  Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing. . . .

Meanwhile, the west wind howled around the corners of the house and the sky changed from sunny to cloudy in a matter of hours. Here's the view to the south:

Looking toward Turkeycock Mountain:

North toward the Peaks of Otter:

And to the southwest:

Enough sun lingered that Chloe could still see her shadow, though.

An hour later, clouds gathered over Turkeycock Mountain  . . .

. . . and over the Peaks of Otter . . . 

. . . and over Jack's Mountain to the west.

Another hour later and clouds were thick over Turkeycock.

Chloe couldn't see her shadow anymore.

She discussed the matter with Camilla, one of the old lady cats.

Camilla advised Chloe to get off the rail and get out of the wind.

Chloe wanted to sit on the rail, but the wind was getting stronger. And the sun was gone.

Camilla, wise in the ways of old lady cats, decided to seek shelter.

I don't know what's coming in from the west, but something surely is. The weather is sure to change for the worst, I'm afraid.

Better seek shelter. . . .


Friday, November 25, 2011

Maggie at Smith Farm

 guest post by Maggie Mae Mushko
(a six-year-old border collie)

Today, Mommy finally took me to Smith Farm. I hadn't been to that one for a while. (For those of you who have been reading this blog for several years, you probably know that Smith Farm is where I once went missing.) Mommy was going to take just me, but Hubert pushed through the kennel gate and ran to the truck and jumped in. Beagles can be pushy like that.

At the farm, the first thing thing Hubert did was take off and sniff things. The first thing I did was get my little orange football out of the truck. I love that little football. I've had it for several years and I always keep it in the truck. I make Mommy and Daddy throw it for me.

Finally Mommy got tired of throwing my little orange football. She hid it in the truck where I couldn't reach it without chewing off the door, so I decided to go walking in the woods with the humans. Hubert and I found a patch of running cedar, which humans like to use for Christmas decorations. I don't have any use for it, though.

With the leaves gone, I could look through our woods and see a hillside on the farm next to ours where all the timber had been cut. It made me sad. A lot of critters don't have homes now. There used to be beautiful woods on that hill.

Hubert and I ran through our woods for a while. Mommy says she won't ever cut our woods. She told me that'll she never need money that badly.

I ran so much I had to stop and pant for a while. I have a very large long and beautiful tongue to pant with in case you hadn't noticed.

I got so hot running that I had to get in the creek to cool off. I ducked my head under water. Water dripped off my face when I came up for air.

After I had cooled off, I decided to investigate a hole.

Nobody was in the hole, so I decided to soak in the creek again. I love getting in the creek. This time Hubert joined me.

Then I found another hole to investigate. Again, nobody was there.

So I found another hole. There are lots of holes in our woods, but I couldn't find any creatures in any of them.

Finally, we started walking again. Here I am between where the spring branch connects to Standiford Creek. Hubert is up the hill. He found something else to sniff.

Mommy sat down on a log to rest, so I had to snap my teeth at her to tell her to get going. She knows when I snap my teeth, I am impatient. After I wuffed at her, she got up. She is very hard to train.

Finally, we started back up the hill. The truck is parked near the old cabin. I wanted to get my little orange football out of the truck and play with it some more. Did I mention it is my favorite toy?

Mommy was so slow that I had to go back and make sure she was still following us.

She was, but she is so slow. When we reached the truck, she got my ball for me and threw it for a while. I made Daddy throw it too so he wouldn't feel left out.

I really like my little orange football. And I like going to the farm where Mommy's grandparents lived.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

$hopping $eason

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the season of need and greed is upon us. In a few hours (at least as I write this) hordes of shoppers, tired from Thanksgiving festivities, will descend upon the malls to spend money that many don't have for things that many others likely do not need. But they'll get great buys! Thursday morning's paper was loaded with ads showing what great buys folks can get.

The paper was over an inch thick.

Here are the only sections I actually read. There really wasn't much to read in them since the Roanoke Times never prints much actual news. 

These are the sections that I won't bother to read. Aside from the sports section, which I never read, they're all ads.

I'm not using three gallons of gas to drive in heavy traffic to Roanoke, fight the crowds, breathe mall air (and likely catch whatever respiratory disorder is currently going around), and spend money for the latest gizmos that ads say are a great bargain. I don't need anything that I can't get in Rocky Mount or at Westlake. Actually, I don't need anything.

One of the things I'm thankful for—not just on Thanksgiving, but every day—is that I already have everything I need. I have enough—probably more than enough.

Dylan might be looking through the ads, but he won't be shopping either. 

At least I'm not driving him to the mall. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Heartwood Signing

I've been on the road a bit the past few weeks. I did a book-signing at the VWC meeting on Nov. 5, went to Roanoke for a Pen Women meeting on Nov. 9, and did a reading at Riverviews Artspace in Lynchburg on Nov. 17. On Saturday, I took a longer-than-usual road trip—to Heartwood in Abingdon for a book-signing.

My table was all set up and waiting for me when I arrived.

Heartwood's book section features books by SW Virginia authors or books about the region. They carry four of my books—Ferradiddledumday (an Appalachian version of Rumpelstiltskin), my novel Stuck (which is set in Franklin County), The Girl Who Raced Mules & Other Stories (a collection of mostly rural stories) and Where There's A Will (a collection of Appalachian stories for kids).

In front of my table was this "tree" made of native woods of the region. TV screens showed videos of activities in the counties that make up the Crooked Road region.

Behind me was this display.

Other sections of Heartwood are devoted to music, arts, and crafts of the region.

Here I am at my table:

I met—or re-met—several nice people while I was there. One was Tammy Brown, whom I'd met at a Bedford Bookfest in 2006 where we both read from our books. Tammy wrote Too Sweet, a children's picture book to help young children understand diabetes.

Later, I saw Rebecca Elswick, whose novel Mama's Shoes won a Writer's Digest competition and will be out in a few weeks. I had originally met Rebecca at an Appapachian Writers Conference several years ago. It was nice to see her again and learn about her new book. Rebecca's blog is here.

I could have spent hours taking picture of all the neat things I liked at Heartwood, but I didn't. This picture of a bear was around the wall behind me. 

But it's more than a picture; it's also a sculpture!

Is that neat, or what? Another neat thing is the drive to Heartwood. I went over to Rt. 58 to I-77 to I-81. I hate driving interstates, but I love taking Rt. 58 over the mountain.  Because I get to see this:

Lover's Leap has to be one of the most beautiful scenes in SW Virginia.  

Is that neat, or what?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Vines & Stones

While I was at Smith Farm yesterday, I took a few pictures of the old grapevine. It looks like an alien being guarding the path up to the old graveyard.

A closer look:

It reaches across several trees and has encircled a few, causing them to die. I don't know how long the vine has been in that bottom. It was there when I inherited the farm in 1969.

Up the hill behind this vine is the old Bernard (pronounced Burn'-erd) cemetery where William Bernard and his wife Gillie Anne have lain for over a century.

When the Bernards were buried on the hill, the woods weren't there—only an open field. At the top of the path is Gillie Ann's original stone. It faces the path and the cabin William Bernard built in the early 1850s.

In the photo below, it's beside the "new" stone their children bought for the Bernards in the 1940s or 50s. The new stone faces the opposite way. William's original stone is there, too, but it has nothing engraved on it.

Outside the Bernard plot, two babies are buried. One is Clyde Wesley Pasley, the son of my aunt Myrtle. Clyde lived for a few months in 1924. His stone has only been there since the 1970s when his brother Grady put it there. Before that, it had been in Myrtle and her husband Tip's barn.

The other is my brother, Robert Lee Smith, who lived for a few hours on January 17, 1941. 

After Gillie Ann was buried, William Bernard cut a little window through the logs of the cabin, so he could sit by the fire and see her grave. 

The clapboards weren't there when he cut the window. My grandfather, who had a sawmill, added them years later. This is how the cabin looks from in front of the grapevine.

To the right is what's left of a huge black walnut tree. Ever since I was a little kid, the walnut tree has been big. Did William Bernard plant it? I don't know.

To the left of the cabin is all that's left of Gillie Ann's kitchen house—a pile of stones from the chimney and the lilac bush that was likely beside her kitchen door.

Brown visaged Autumn sat within the wood,
And counted miserly his ripened wealth;
The last crisped leaves sailed sauntering to earth,
The gentle winds stole by, and made no noise,—
Stole by on tip-toe. . . . 
—from The Hill of Stones and Other Poems, by Silas Weir Mitchell (1882)
While I walked my farm on this autumn day and looked upon vines and trees and stones, leaves indeed sailed sauntering to earth and the gentle winds stole by.