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.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Weather Matters

Yesterday was miserably hot. Temperatures went over a hundred in several places. The thermometer below hangs in the shade of my patio, one of the cooler places around the house.

The day began badly. A hot wind was blowing when I went to feed at 6:30 AM. It would have been a good day to cool off at the lake. No doubt a lot of people were doing that.

Later, John heard over the scanner that a girl who'd been floating in Smith Mountain Lake was missing. It wasn't long until her body was pulled from the lake. The Penhook Point neighborhood where this happened isn't that far from us.

During the day, temperatures climbed. We were thankful for air conditioning and, except for brief ventures outside to check on the critters, spent the day in the house. Most of the cats stayed inside too. Melody sweated in front of her fan. The kennel dogs dug holes in the mud. Emma the garage dog holed up in the bushes. A bit of a breeze would be a welcome relief.

About dark, I brought the last house cat in for the night. It was still oppressively hot. A few minutes later, when I went out to turn off Melody's fan, the wind began to blow in earnest. Trees bent low, but I made it to the barn. Melody wouldn't come into the shed, and I wondered if I'd make it back to the house. But I did.

Emma wouldn't stay in the garage. She sought reuge in the bushes up against the house. Inside, a restless Dylan paced back and forth, meowing to go out. The wind blew harder, and we momentarily lost power a few times. TV coverage showed that many areas were harder hit that we were. Facebook friends, among them a local meteorologist, reported wind damage around them. Things looked bad all over.

Before six this morning, I went out to check the critters and the damage. The deck was covered with leaves.

We were lucky. The damage to the property was minimal. The top had snapped from the big maple tree in the side yard.

My sunflowers were bent a little, but the pergola wasn't damaged.

Jim-Bob's hideaway in the gladiola patch was still useable.

All outside dogs, the barn cats, and Melody made it through, although Melody was moving a little stiffly. The roof over the dog stall part of the shop was peeled back a bit.

The silver maple in the kennel had a few branches come down.

 But the oak trees in the front yard only lost a few dead branches.

The glider under this oak was turned over but was undamaged.

The gazebo, which I thought might have toppled over, was fine. The cushions were dislodged from the chairs but didn't blow away.

My flowers were bent a little but were unbroken.

We are so lucky—and so blessed—to have weathered the windstorm with so little damage.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bad Writer

The other day, while going through a box of photos my mother had saved,  I came across a story I had written when I was apparently seven or eight. Since it was printed—and I learned cursive writing in the third grade, I figure I must have been closer to seven when I penned—er, penciled—it.

I drew this when I was about the same age I wrote the story.

I'm not surprised I wrote a horse story. I've always loved horses. Unfortunately, I wrote this story back in the day before I'd learned much about horses. Or spelling. Or the basic principles of writing. So I'm not surprised that the story is really, really bad.

One of the things that I hate nowadays is stories that get horse information wrong. I've blogged about this before: the wrong gender for a particular historically well-known horse, a cover photo that doesn't match the horse's description, or descriptions of riding and/or horse care so dreadful as to be totally unbelievable.

Here's my story. (You can click the pictures to enlarge.) How many errors—both factual and stylistic—can you spot?


OK, Tom's almost four years old (and they let him play unattended by the corral!) but he's given a newborn foal that roams the range by itself (Arrrggghhh!) and is captured by Indians. But four-year-old Tom just happens to be out on the range (Alone!) and finds Spot and leads him away (The foal is already trained to stand tied and to lead?!), but the chief captures Tom (He ties up a four-year-old?!). Tom's siblings search for him on a clift—er, cliff—because goodness knows that's where four-year-olds are likely to go, doncha know. Too bad I didn't describe how Jack and Janet rode down the cliff—that scene would have been better than the scene from the 1982 movie, The Man From Snowy River, where actor Tom Berlinson rides down the mountainside. In case you missed the movie, here's the scene:

Can't you just see a couple of pre-teen kids doing that? Me neither.

With such a bad beginning, I suppose it was inevitable I grow up to become an internationally ranked bad writer. Winning two divisions of the notorious Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which celebrates the worst opening line of a novel that hasn't yet written, pretty well established my reputation.

You can read my dreadful Bulwer-Lytton entries (1999 "Worst Western" and 2008"Vile Pun") at the bottom of this page of my website:

Looks like I've been a bad writer for nigh onto sixty years! Is that bad, or what?



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This Morning With Cats

This morning, I carried my camera with me when I went to get the paper. The flowers near the mailbox are getting a bit shabby, but they're still colorful.

On the way back, I noticed that my Natchez White crape myrtles are blooming. I bought them cheap at an end of the season sale in 2008, and they're finally getting some size to them. Across the road, the corn is growing higher.

 Halfway back to the house, I stopped at the gazebo where my first cup of coffee and Chloe the kitty awaied for me. Chloe likes to sit with me while I drink my coffee and read the paper.

Chloe usually amuses herself by playing with the wisteria. This morning was no exception.

Soon Camilla joined us.

After I finished the paper and my coffee, I checked out the sunflowers growing beside the pergola.

Soon Camilla checked them out too.

The sunflowers are volunteers, sprouted from seeds the birds dropped.

Soon Jim-Bob came to the pergola.

Camilla was busy checking under the other bench.

Soon Chloe came by.

After Chloe and Jim-Bob left the pergola, they visited the Rose of Sharon.

Jim-Bob observed the gladiolas in that vicinity  . . .

. . . and decided they'd be a good place for him to hide.

Meanwhile, his mother Olivia basked in the sun in the upper driveway . . . 

. . . and Dylan, the senior male cat of the household, hid under a table on the deck.

That's how this crisp bright morning began—with cats and coffee and a visit with my flowers.


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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rose of Sharon

My Rose of Sharon bushes are full of blooms this summer. My yard is full of Rose of Sharons.

Mama always had Rose of Sharon in her yard. My white ones came from a slip she had. Grandma grew Rose of Sharons, too. I remember when I was a kid that a lot of ladies grew them. They're pretty easy to grow.

I bought a lavender Rose of Sharon at the K-Mart in Roanoke years ago for 25 cents. All my lavender ones come from that plant.

I'm not sure how I got these pale pink double ones. This bush is growing near the while ones.

Do you see the Japanese beetles on the bloom below? (Do you see what they're doing?!)

I have other flowers growing near some of my Rose of Sharons.

I don't remember how I acquired my pink Rose of Sharon.

In my yard, it seems that everything's coming up Rose of Sharons.