Thursday, September 25, 2014

Heaven On a Hilltop



Appalachian life today

 By Richard “Clipper” Naegele



I dedicate this short story to "Boots and Foster" with love and admiration.


 
A mist hangs over the mountain top, and the air is crisp. Sammy saddles the old mule and heads down the holler toward the local store. Sammy is legally blind, and barely sees, but the mule is sure-footed and carries him safely down the hill past the other farms and out to the main road. It is quiet and peaceful as the mule clip clops along slowly. 
The birds are just starting to awaken, and stretch their wings. The doves can be heard rustling in the pine trees where they have roosted for the night. As he passes his neighbor Gerry's house, there are no signs of life yet, except for the riding horse grazing in his pasture, and the dogs that come to welcome Sammy and the mule, and to accompany them to the next bend in the road.
 

Sammy has to dismount to open the cattle gate, as he enters his neighbors land, and as he leads the mule through, he can smell bacon cooking at the Collier's farm. As he passes by, his neighbor waves from the back porch, and hollers a cheery good morning, while grabbing an armload of wood for the cookstove. The chickens scatter, clucking angrily, as Sammy passes through the Collier's dooryard.
 

As they round the next bend, a doe and her fawn are grazing on the lush green grass along the roadside, and scurry for cover when they see Sammy and the mule. As the road drops into the creekbed, the mule stops and sips from the spring fed, bubbling stream, where it meanders through a glade lined with hemlocks. A male cardinal, in all of his bright red plumage, perches on a fence post, and chirps them a good morning greeting. The mule picks his way carefully along on the gravel bottomed stream for about 100 yards to a point where the road once again climbs out of the creek bed and crosses one more pasture before reaching the hard paved road and civilization.

 

Continued CLICK




 

Dick Naegele, "Clipper," now hails from Tennesee, but most days find his heart in the Mohawk Valley of central New York State, where he plans to one day return. Living the life of the "Last American Cowboy,"  Dick was a trucker and logged over  3 million miles on the nation's highways.  He has owned his own business, been a government manager and also a professional firefighter.  A writer of many talents and experiences, his  writing sees the hearts of people that most of us often miss.  More of "Clipper's"  writing is located  on his blog,   "Along the Banks of Beaver Creek," at:   http://alongthebanksofbeavercreek.blogspot.com/

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Waiting For Me




 by David Griffin

Clocks intrigue me.  I have five or six hanging on the walls of my little cave where I write and ponder the universe.  None of them keep the same time.  My favorites don't even work.  There's something about a stopped clock that means more to me than anything as mundane as the correct time.  At this stage of my life I don't need to be reminded of time passing as much as I need encouragement.  That may have always been true.
 I brought a clock home from a flea market last month and centered it in the middle of my desk, where it did absolutely nothing but sit there glowing in the pride of its century old craftsmanship, a 12 inch high pendulum clock with a white face of Roman Numerals behind a glass door.  I didn't wind it, but let it sit silent.  It brought back memories of my father, who once rebuilt a similar old clock.   
After a few days, I opened the little door on the front, wound the mechanism, set the hands to the correct time and gave the pendulum a tiny shove.  The clock went tick, tock.  In a few moments,  I reached in and stopped the pendulum.  I closed the little door, leaving the clock silent, and sat there thinking about the man who had provided me with so many lessons, some unwittingly.  More important, he had been present, in the best sense of the word.
 The clock Dad rebuilt when I was in high school ticked louder than most as it sat on the mantel in our living room.  In the small flat, my brother and I were annoyed by the ticking at night, and would get up after everyone went to bed and silence the clock.  Dad restarted it each morning without comment.  As I turned from the mantel one night after stopping the pendulum, I saw my father sitting in the dark in his easy chair.
 "It was keeping us awake," I said.
 "It's not very loud," said Dad.
 "I can start it again," I said, without much enthusiasm.
"Never mind," he said, "leave it stopped.  It’s a nice piece to look at, but we've got other clocks to tell us the time."
 "OK," I said.  Wanting to leave before he changed his mind, I said, "Gotta go.  I have a geometry test in the morning."
 "You’ll do well,"  he said.
 "I’m not very good at math," I replied
 "I mean you’ll do well in life,"  he said.
 I've always remembered that exchange.  I wonder if my father realized how much I valued his encouragement.  It was so much more helpful to me in those days than a lecture about buckling down and keeping my nose to the grindstone.
 Dad let the clock on the mantel stay stopped. The hands said 11:34 for the next twenty years.  Our little family joke whenever anyone asked the time was to answer, "eleven thirty-four."  When the mortician was ready to dress Dad's body before his wake, he asked for his jewelry. I handed him my father's old watch after setting it to 11:34. 
 Perhaps a stopped clock serves our real needs better than a working clock.  A clock in motion is a taskmaster.  It sets the pace and counts the hours.   A stopped clock has wisdom, it does nothing but wait. 
 I'd like the clock sitting on my desk to be like the one on our mantel in my teenage years, silent and wise, its  pendulum stilled from constantly swinging left and right like an ego's incessant hunt to find its own selfish purpose.  My father's clock didn't count the time and it didn't pester me with the lateness of the hour.  It didn't note my wasted days while I sought the purpose of my life.  When I wasted time and at first refused to accept my burdens and my gifts, it allowed me to cope with life at the speed of my own heartbeat.   It waited for me like an old friend or a mentor ...  like my father, who stood back armed only with hope as I searched out my own paths. 
 My father and I walked different routes on our journeys through life.  He knew that would be the case, so he seldom offered advice while I hammered out my plans and lived my own life.  He trusted I would find my way.  I have indeed found my way, but I sometimes hear his gentle laugh from farther up the path as he waits for me to catch up.

copyright 2012, David Griffin 

 For MoreStories click on the following:
http://www.windsweptpress.com/essays.htm 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Picking Pickles



 by Delores Miller

 

     Poverty-stricken  mid-Wisconsin families began in the 1940s to look for ways of supplementing farm income.   Milk cows, pigs and chickens were not sufficient.   Cucumbers was a quick and easy cash crop, or so it seemed unless you were the poor individual picking pickles.

      A contract with the Bond Pickle Company and their representative Laura Mauel was signed.  Other receiving pickle stations were located at Big Falls with Otto Faehling as agent  and Eastling at Manawa.  Quarter or half  acre was the usual size.  Seeds were planted  with the crop maturing the end of July, and continued until frost, sometime towards the end of September.  Ten weeks of cucumbers.

      Picked and priced by size, ten dollars for a hundred pounds of two inch size gherkins.  A dollar for a hundred pounds of the over-sized pickles with various prices in between.  Hot, humid,  sticky days, rainy days, early morning, flies,  mosquito bites, made no difference.  The creeping vines, prickly, the blasted pickles still had to be picked.  I  was allergic, itched and suffered from hives, made no difference, rubber gloves solved that problem.

      Hauled in gunny sacks to the pickle factory, located near the railroad tracks in Marion, east of the Plywood  and the Ziehm Brothers livestock pens.  Laura Mauel  ran them through a conveyor belt and graded by size.  Put in the wooden barrels, to ferment with salt, dill  and vinegar, eventually being bottled and sold in stores.

      And what to do with all the money earned, you say?  Buy school clothes, supplies, perhaps a new winter coat and a few dollars to spend foolishly at the free shows.  Money was hard to come by in those early teen-aged days.

copyright 2014 by Delores and Russell Miller 


 Delores Miller lives with husband Russell in Hortonville, Wisconsin.    In the summer of 2007 they  celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a party hosted by their five children and ten grandchildren.  It’s been a long road.  Dairy farming until retirement in 1993, they continued to 'work' the land, making a subdivision of 39 new homes on their former hay fields.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Isle of Devils




By Peter Schaub



Beautiful Bermuda was on nobody’s bucket list in the 1600s. Named for Juan Bermudez, who discovered them about 1505, the islands were feared by the Spanish and Portuguese who rode the Gulf Stream from the Caribbean to Europe. The reefs surrounding the islands are treacherous, making a purposeful entry to harbor all but impossible in that era. The screeching cahow birds would have sounded to superstitious sailors like wailing demons. They called the place the “Isle of Devils”.



Sea Venture was the flagship of the relief fleet sent from England to Jamestowne in 1609. Hit by a hurricane, six battered vessels made it into Jamestowne with most of the provisions spoiled. The Sea Venture carried the senior leaders and wrecked on Bermuda. Even as the gunwales were awash, Captain Newport, Admiral Somers and Governor Gates must have been wondering which fate was better: drowning at sea or being wrecked on that abhorred shore.

Unlike those shipwrecked Jamestowne settlers, Connie and I arrived safe and dry in Bermuda with our friends on a lovely April day. Bermuda is not only pink coral beaches, gentle turquoise waves, and great golf courses. We spent the next week meeting interesting people, learning about Bermuda’s history, and sampling the local favorite, the “dark and stormy” made with Bermuda dark rum. Our interest in Bermuda started with our interest in Historic Jamestowne where the recent discoveries are showing the connections between the earliest British settlements in America. For example, Bermuda limestone was found inside the Jamestowne fort site in a 1610 context. This was ballast used in the new ships built by the Sea Venture survivors.
We began our visit attending an art auction at the World Heritage Center in the town of St. George

Continued HERE

Peter Schaub retired in 2010 after 40 years in management at the electric utility in Washington, DC. He and his wife moved to Williamsburg, Virginia where they enjoy the arts and the immersion in history available within a community that includes the College of William & Mary, Colonial Williamsburg, and Historic Jamestowne. They also enjoy travel, especially when it has a connection to history. Peter is a Master Gardener, and an amateur letterpress printer, continuing a hobby that began in his teen years. He is currently president of the American Amateur Press Association.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Very Special Dinner




By Maureen O’Brien



I was running late for work but felt an urgent need to check on Mom.  I don’t know why.  Just some intuitive thing which happens often, especially when it comes to Mom. 

Maybe it had something to do with our phone conversations lately.  I wondered what had happened to the long, news filled chats we used to have.  Just yesterday, she had dismissed me again.  “Marcus, I really can’t talk right now.  I have to go Sweetie.”  She seemed to be so busy.  Always on the go and in a hurry to get somewhere.  What was going on?

 I waited after ringing the doorbell.  No answer, so I let myself in.  As usual, the door was unlocked.  Mom has never believed in locking doors.  She’s always said that if someone broke in to rob her, he’d probably look around, feel sorry for her and leave something instead.

 I found her in the dining room where she seemed to be putting the finishing touches on her table setting.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Vintage lace covered the table and it was set for three, with fine china.  The centerpiece was an arrangement of colorful hydrangeas which I was sure, she had picked from her prodigious garden.  White cloth napkins, shaped in to swans peeked out of cobalt blue wine goblets.  I watched as she stepped back to admire her handiwork.  I detected her whispering something but I couldn’t make it out.    

 “Hey Mom,” I said.  “Sorry to barge in on you.   Hope I didn’t startle you but I guess you were so busy you didn’t hear the doorbell. By the way, your table looks beautiful.”

  She didn’t appear at all startled. Paying no attention to me, she continued to rearrange the flatware.  I had never seen so many different size forks on our dining room table and what were those little knives for?

“Well,” I announced, “set a pretty table and they will come.” 

I don’t think she heard me over the blaring television.  Matt Lauer of The Today Show was going on and on about how terrible it was that Lindsey Vonn would not be able to compete in the Sochi Olympics. 

“Oh Sweetheart,” Mom said, “What a nice surprise.  But isn’t this just awful?  That poor girl has been training so hard and now her knee went out again. I swear it makes me want to cry. Can you imagine?”



Continued, CLICK HERE.


 Maureen “Moe” O’Brien moved from Bethel, CT to Myrtle Beach, SC in 1988.   Her “claim to fame” as she likes to phrase it, is that she played professional basketball, touring with the Harlem Globetrotters in 1959. She is an avid golfer and won the SC Senior Women’s Golf Championship in 1993 and 2004.  Her book “Who’s Got The Ball?  And Other Nagging Questions About Team Life”, was published in 1995.  It is a “how to” book for team members in all work environments.  Maureen is the proud Grandma of eight granddaughters, ranging in age from fifteen to twenty seven.


Friday, July 11, 2014

The WW II Airborne Clicker

By Harold Ratzburg

 
History of the Clicker,  a.k.a. the "Cricket"

    Back in the 1920's, the clicker was designed and produced as a handy pocketsized signal device which band and orchestra leaders used to keep time for their players, and according to the records of the Acme Company who made the crickets, most of them were shipped to band leaders in the USA.  The official  company nomenclature was "THE ACME No. 470 CLICKER"
  
Come the WW II, and a vast amount of planning and preparation was being put into  figuring out how to launch the invasion into France in 1944.  One of the problems to be considered for the Airborne troopers was how to recognize friend from foe in the dark of night and surrounded by enemy forces.  Hollering out loud was NOT a good option.          
  
It is my understanding that some lowly Lieutenant in the Headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division, who probably had some musical background, suggested that a clicker would do the job, one click meaning "Who the hell are you/" and two clicks signaling "I am a friend, you Jerk, DON'T SHOOT!!!!"
  
An order was immediately placed with the English Company, J. Hudson and Co. (operating under the name of "Acme") for 10,000 clickers, and the factory jumped into production.  The Acme company had approximately 3000 clickers in stock which were nickel plated but to rush production, they started making them out of brass.  When they ran out of brass material, they made them out of biscuit tin metal.
  
The clickers were used during the night of June 5th / 6th, 1944, by the troopers of the 101st with the intention that they could be discarded after  that.  They were not issued to the 82 Airborne Division who also jumped that night, which must have led to some fatal confusions in the dark.  I have seen a photo or a museum display somewhere, where the clicker was taped to the stock of a Tommy Gun so that it would be handy in the dark.  Most photos however show that it was hung on a chain or string around the troopers neck.
  

Many of the men kept their "crickets" long after the war and the crickets have since become iconic symbols of the U.S. airborne brotherhood and indeed of D-Day itself.  Crickets have appeared in a couple of well-known feature films (The Longest Day) and the TV series (Band of Brothers) and other documentaries and they are now recognized the world over.

Crickets as a Collectible
  
Original Crickets are very rare because they were made to be discarded after the night jump on June 6th.  The remaining original ones bring very high prices because items from elite units like the Airborne always bring the best prices.
  
Because of mistakes in the earlier movie productions like "The Longest Day", where John Wayne is shown instructing the troopers with the use of a  toy cricket,------like the ones we used to get as prizes in Cracker Jack Boxes,------ the misconception was formed that toy crickets were used in combat.  Not so, only the Acme clickers were issued to the 101st.  At militaria shows I have seen toy crickets, painted OD, being passed off as issued equipment, and as recently as this week, a toy cricket, painted a bright orange, was listed as "Airborne" on Ebay.
  
Reproduction (repro) crickets are appearing on the market.  I found my first one in a museum store in Normandy, France, several years ago.  It did not click, but it kinda looked like the real thing.  Others have appeared from time to time and I'm sure they were and are being produced in India or China.
  
The best repro on the market is produced by the original Acme Company that produced them for the 101st.  These repros are produced on the original dies in England and they are so marked just like the originals.  (One wonders if this is the same "Acme" Company that produces all the Acme stuff that Wiley Cyotote uses to try to catch the Road Runner in all the "Road Runner" TV cartoons that are made for kids but what us growed up folks also enjoy tremendously.)
  
To minimize the chance of the new clickers being passed off as originals the manufacturers have stamped in an additional discreet pressing into the body of the clicker which can only be seen by looking inside the cavity.  (So, what does this discreet pressing look like you may ask.  It beats the heck out of me cause I looked, and without an original to compare it with, I have no idea.)
  
This measure does not detract in any way from the totally original appearance of the clicker which looks entirely authentic externally.  These genuine J Hudson and Co (Acme) clickers are the best available and are the must have items for the really picky airborne collector or re-enactor.
  
I bought my Acme cricket when I visited the Currahee Military Museum in Toccoa, Georgia, where the 101st got their Airborne basic training.  It cost $32.00 but it is the best and most authentic of any on the market.
  
If you gotta have one, and you are computer savvy, you can also find them for sale at:

www.airborne-cricket.com

You will also find more information on the crickets on that site.


copyright 2009 by Harold Ratzburg

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Blog Tour



My Thanks to Tibby Plants for inviting me on the Blog Tour.  Happy to be aboard.

I’ve been writing creatively for about 8 ears, but during my prior career I wrote often on technical topics.  Today my favorite subjects are whatever comes to mind.  For me, that is usually memoir and humor with occasional stories that often have a tinge of fantasy. My work has been published in hardcopy anthologies, magazines and online journals.  I self publish an anthology of my work each year, usually consisting of about 25 stories with a few essays mixed in.


What am I working on?    I continue to produce short stories and memoirs of about 1 to 2,000 words.  If the content of an article warrants, I call the piece an essay.  But frankly I'd rather write fiction or fictionalized “slices of life.”  In addition to short-shorts, I write an occasional 5,000 word short story and have turned a few of them into novellas, publishing these as individual hard-copy volumes and on Kindle.  


How does my work differ from others of its genre?    I should know, since I publish the work of other authors right here on the More Stories Place.  But I really would find it hard to differentiate.   Besides, I'm not sure I care.  We should write about what's inside us in the most honest way possible, practicing the best principles of our craft.  Who cares if it sounds like anyone else?


Why do I write what I do?   I'm retired.  I self-publish and I write what I want.  I don't expect Stephen King's agent to call me and I don't believe I’ll ever make any serious money from  writing. I have no need to be famous and therefore I am completely free to write what pleases me.  Maybe that's why I find writing relaxing and usually not a chore.  I’m simply a narcissist with a pen.


How does your writing process work.    I wait for the urge to write to descend upon me. I can feel it.  Ideas begin to drop into my mind and I begin to look forward to practicing the craft of writing.  Putting it down on paper, revising, making it sing.  (This blog entry will probably not sing; I’m writing it in a bit of a hurry.)  I start writing and I quit when I’m stuck or run out of enthusiasm.  I give the piece a working title, store what I have written on my computer and enter it into a log of “Starts.”  I have around 200 starts all stored in PC files and backed up.  Each Start may be a plot idea, some dialog or even a mostly complete story lacking a key ingredient.  When the urge to write strikes me with no accompanying story idea, I open up my Starts file and pull a few out on the screen and work on them.  The process often yields a story or at least some progress. 


I find I can make the characters sing more fully rounded notes when I let them take over the plot.  What results may be a story completely different from what I originally intended. And so, much of what I write is stream-of-consciousness.  As you might imagine,  I spend a great deal of time going back and making the pieces fit together into a sensible story.  Sometimes it works.

My master story list is here:
http://www.windsweptpress.com/essays.htm

My Writing Blog is here:
http://windsweptjournal.blogspot.com

And the Front Door to my website is here:
http://www.windsweptpress.com 
 

Information on next blogs on the tour will be available by the end of this week.