Friday, December 28, 2012

At Long Last...Book is PUBLISHED!!!

I can't believe it. At long last the book is published. If you are interested (and I hope you are), you can purchase it on Kindle, US and Europe, and I am very excited and keep going online to take a look at it to make sure I'm not dreaming. It was the best Christmas present ever and was published on Christmas Eve.

More will come later: I just wanted to pass the news. I am now working on Book Two: Iron Hands in Velvet Gloves.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas is Here

Some of the best memories of my life are those associated with Christmas. When I was a little girl my mom, two sisters and me would  be up by 4 a.m. or so and before long our living room would be one solid mass of ripped Christmas paper. Giggles, smiles, toys, sweaters and Christmas trees.

We had a myriad of Christmas trees in our home. One year we had a pink flocked tree. I vaguely remember a blue flocked one, a tabletop one, but the one that lives most vividly in my memory was our six foot aluminum tree with balls of blue that changed a few years later to Santa heads.I remember that tacky aluminum tree like it was just yesterday. I was mesmerized by it. IT seems to twinkle in the dark like so many stars in the sky. As an adult I promised that should they make a comeback such tinsel nonsense would never grace my home.

Another fond memory was of the yearly Christmas pageants at our little church in Cabot, Arkansas. My mother was music director there for a number of years and with the position came responsibility for the pageant. One year we did silhouettes. It was cool! A huge wooden frame was built that housed a gigantic white sheet. With each song the silhouette would change. Sounds boring, but in the mind of a child, it was AWESOME! How did they do that, I wondered.  At the end of the service, stockings full of oranges, apples, nuts and hard candies were passed out to the kiddies.

It was a simple life. I loved it then. I love it now. These days I make most of the gifts we give. Don and I live a very simple life up here in the mountains and I love the beauty of the scenery. For instance, last weekend a snow blanketed our area leaving us in a winter wonderland. Our Christmas lights (and yes, we call them Christmas lights) and greenery on the porch were covered in snow giving them a beautiful Christmasy look that made me feel all warm and cozy. Early Sunday evening I looked out the window and two enormous bucks were standing at the porch looking back at me. There are people who buy those deer that are made from grapevines or whatever, but we've got the real thing. Hopefully the attached picture will give you some idea of what we saw.

I know this is a rambling entry today; however, I just want to say one more thing. Merry Christmas. With all the political correctness in the world, I stand firm in my beliefs, no matter what others may think. I have a Christmas tree in my house. Not a holiday tree. The baby in the manger deserves our allegiance and I respectfully give it to him.

Having said my piece, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Short Story Published Today on WatchMeBounce

When the People Cried

Posted on: December 1, 2012
No comments yet

    By Hazel Wesson-Peterson

     The journey was gruesome. To think of it is sometimes more than I can bear. Most every night when I close my eyes, the pictures in my mind are those of the tragic sojourn the People made during the autumn and winter months of 1838 and 1839. Oh that all Americans would come to know and understand what really happened and be forever changed by the truth.

    The day began like any other. Up at the break of dawn and out the door to milk the cows. Even though Father and I pretended to be bored by this morning ritual, we enjoyed our time together, taking in the smells of the farm, the clucking of chickens, working the freshly plowed winter garden. I teased Father about how he danced around Mother’s authoritarian rule in our home. Father teased me about Charles, the brave living down the road who followed me around like a lost puppy.

    We had just finished milking our two dairy cows and were washing up for breakfast when we heard voices and the clomping of boots on our front porch. Mother, Father, my brother John and I all stood in the kitchen knowing what we had feared most was now upon us.

    Three uninvited soldiers with bayonets stormed the house and grabbed me by the arm forcing me out the door. Wincing from the pain, I watched my parents as they were pushed and shoved to the outside. Mother, stoic to the very end, stood in the yard, barefoot, chin out, eyes piercing the unwelcome men with imaginery bayonets of her own. The men jabbed us with their bayonets yelling in a language my parents did not understand. With fear and trepidation we walked to the dusty old road where we saw the fearful eyes of our neighbors also at the mercy of the soldiers. We were allowed only the clothes on our backs, the fear in our hearts, and the pride of our great nation…the Cherokee Nation. No doubt, these soldiers would try with their greatest Army tactics to break us…body and spirit.

    On foot we were led by soldiers on their horses for what seemed hours. A few of the soldiers laughed at us while others taunted the women and practically dared our men to do anything about it, calling us names, treating us like vermin requiring elimination. Their orders were to put us far away…out of sight. Savages, they called us. Only we were as European as any of the White Man. Andrew Jackson’s plan would be accomplished at the end of this journey. Or that was the hope. So many lies and broken vows, treaties signed then seemingly forgotten. What is it the White Man says? Out of sight…out of mind?

    We arrived at the first destination of detainment where we saw many people we knew and loved huddled together in stockades. Many were barefoot, not yet dressed for the day as it was early that morning when the roundup began. In the crowd was our Principal Chief, John Ross and his family. He and his beautiful, Christian wife were holding hands amid the people who were looking to him for guidance. A quivering chin and free falling tears defined the burden he felt. A suffocating quiet cloaked around us as if to mark the beginning of something sinister. Evil. Tragic. Criminal. The Indian Removal Act was now underway being enforced by the country’s new Chief, Martin Van Buren. What was to happen to us at the hands of this Administration?

    After all the People were gathered together we were taken to Indian forts all over the Southeast. Principal Chief Ross met with the new president hoping to sway him in our favor but it was not to be. The only concessions made would allow the People to be in control of their own removal, so the Chief and his brother set about with the burdensome task of dividing the tribe into detachments. When all was said and done sixteen groups of about a thousand each were formed.

    We later learned that three detachments went by barges, leaving New Echota at Chief Ross’s landing on the river, following water routes the entire way, never counting on dried up rivers from the droughts to prolong the journey. The remaining groups traveled in crowded wagons. I overheard one soldier mention there were 645 wagons altogether. The removal is seared into my memory as if branded there with iron and fire. Autumn 1838 marked the somber beginning of changes for us and future generations. Before the wagon trail began Chief Ross offered up a prayer to God. Then the procession began. As we moved onward many of the children waved farewell to the Great Smokey Mountains, never to see our homeland again. One soldier said it was the worst event in American history up to that point, a travesty that should make the White Man bow his head in shame.

    As the sojourn continued, grumblings increased amongst us about food. We had been given supplies, but of poor quality and not lasting long. We were hungry and soon began to show signs of starvation. Illness ravaged people one by one. My mother developed pneumonia dying before we reached the waters dividing the East from the West. She was buried in a shallow grave next to the trail along with several others who died during the night. Father’s grief was great and the loss of everything would prove too much for him in the days and weeks to come.

    I have heard it said by many that the Winter of 1938 and ’39 was the hardest one on record up to that time. When we reached the Great Rivers, the ones they call the Mighty Mississippi and the Ohio, crossing was impossible because they were frozen. The soldiers taunted us with their food and coffee, while we froze trying to make warm drinks from roots we found along the way.

    After mother’s death Father gave up. Never mind twelve-year-old John needed him desperately, or that I loved him more than life. While we were encamped on the East Bank of the Mississippi, he went to sleep one night and never woke up. The ground was frozen which made burial almost impossible. The soldiers didn’t care how devastated we were. Not one soldier consoled us when our parents died. Instead John was made to dig a shallow grave in the frozen ground.

    When warmer weather came we crossed the river into Arkansas Territory. It was in Little Rock that our Chief’s wife died of pneumonia after giving her blanket to a young girl who had none. With her passing, the chief was even more grief stricken. He begged God for help. He was a kind, compassionate man who lost everything just as we did. Being only one-eighth Cherokee the removal law did not apply to John Ross but he made the journey choosing to live or die with the one s who counted him as their beloved leader.

    Something inside of John Ross died in Little Rock with his wife. Like all of us he felt beaten, worn and devastated. But as time trudged onward he began to pick up the pace, going first to one family then the next, consoling and encouraging them. I think he knew everyone was looking to him for guidance. He realized that there was not one family exempt from loss on this trail. He knew he must bury his grief deep inside him until we arrived in Oklahoma. Then and only then could he grieve his love and loss….all of them..his wife, his land, his People’s lives and homes, the lies, the betrayals..all of it. For now, there was nowhere for him to hide. His life was an open book. So he moved onward, a mighty force for his People.

    As the days turned into weeks, then months, we learned to be quiet warriors like our ancestors. Never let the enemy know what you are thinking. Never let them see you cry. I tried never to make eye contact with the soldiers. In the beginning, some of them looked at our women hungrily, like wolves on the prowl. After traveling months with these same men, we didn’t seem to look so inviting to them. We were starving, exhausted, filthy, frightened, dejected. Name a negative human emotion and we felt it. But remember: we were not human to the men who led us across the country. We were savages! Squaws! Injuns! Malcontents!

    I would be remiss if I led you to believe all the soldiers were mean. That would be a lie. There was one, a man named John Burnett, who loved us. He even spoke our language. He was kind and treated us well. Why, he even took a hatchet to the head of another soldier who whipped an elder for being too slow. Rumor has it charges were never brought up against him. Many years later, during the War Between the States, some of our young braves who joined forces with the Confederacy happened upon Mr. Burnett remembering him fondly as “the soldier who was good to us.” I recall him sitting among the young girls who sang our songs to him as a way to thank him for his kindness. He fought our battles for us; he risked his reputation for people who were considered the lowest of the low; he shared his food with the aged and the children. And he carried a heavy heart for the brutality we suffered at the hands of his people.

    I often thought of the morning that seemed from another lifetime, when Father and I had milked our cows for the last time, joking and teasing about Mother. I would have given anything to have our parents back. Many evenings were spent around campfires singing hymns and thanking God for helping us through another day. The hardest thing was the rawness of the pain and stabbing grief we felt for our loved ones who went home to heaven before us.

    Just when I began to think the journey would never end we were finally greeted by another group of soldiers who took us the rest of the way to our new land. When we saw it there were murmurings that the same crow who carved out our mountains back in Georgia must have carved these out as well. They looked so much like the mountains in our memories. None of us would dare tell the soldiers what we were whispering for fear word might get back to Washington that we were actually pleased with our new land. And Washington would never have that!

    And now? Well, I am an old woman now. Life continued despite my doubt it would or could. I raised John as best I could and even though I begged him not to, he joined the Confederacy during the War Between the States paying the ultimate price with his life.

    I married Charles, the brave from childhood. We both went to the Indian School built for us by missionaries. Our education completed, we married and had four children, three boys and a girl, all of who made us very proud and have given us many grandchildren. Charles went home to the Great Spirit some time ago leaving me with my memories. Memories of the long walk from East to West, of starvation, tears, worries, fright and desperation. Memories of a new life the People built together from scratch while the government no doubt continued to think of ways to take this land as well. Memories of babies, laughter, love.

    The Cherokee remain a proud people. We survived in spite of it all. Hopefully people in the future will read about our crossing and see it for the travesty it was. Most people choose not to speak of it for fear of having to admit they live on land taken forcefully from the people it belonged to. One day a people will arise who will be able bring our injustice to light. Until that day remember this. Everything we overcame we did in memory of those we lost on the journey when the People cried.

© 2011-2012 Watch Me Bounce (.com) (Jeffrey Reichman).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

And This Year I am Thankful For....

So it's that time of year again. And just where did the year go? There's so much to be thankful for that I need to get these fingers moving before they move right on out of my brain! We serve a benevolent God who  blesses us over and above what we could ever hope or deserve.

The Summer of 2012 will ever be known as the time when Teller and El Paso Counties in Colorado were devastated by fires. Although Colorado Springs suffered the brunt of the damage, with close to 350 homes destroyed and two lives lost, I am thankful to see the people down there joining forces as a community and rebuilding their lives. I am thankful Woodland Park was spared. Every time Don and I drive  through the burn area my heart breaks all over again. It is then that I am reminded of God's mercy and all the first responders who worked tirelessly to protect us.

I am thankful for a community where people still recognize their neighbors and help one another out. Living in a smaller community once more reminds me of the little town in Arkansas where I grew up. Neighbor helping neighbor, people waving or speaking even though they may or may not know your name. I love the feeling of small town (and in our case, country) living.

I am thankful for my neighbors. I am thankful for doctors who take care of my autoimmune problems. I am thankful for a nice warm and comfortable home, for Facebook where I can connect with people I haven't seen in years, for email that enables me to connect in a moment's notice with my family during a time of trouble.

I am thankful for friends and family. I am doubly blessed and thankful for my wonderful husband, Don, who unselfishly takes care of me. I am thankful that I don't wear that boot anymore, even though I was thankful for it when I broke my foot.

I am thankful for God's love and mercy and how he loves a pathetic old creature like me.

I could go on and on, but you get it. I have a thankful heart this year. The heaviness of last year has passed; Don and I are picking up the pieces and moving on and we are thankful for the opportunity to do so.

Happy Thanksgiving,


P.S. I am also thankful for all my "deer" friends. They bring me many hours of pleasure as I talk to them and watch as they do whatever it is that deer do. Atlas, Molly, Not Molly, Bossie, John Jacob Astor, Spike, Jolene...these are just a few.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I'd Do It Again in a New York Minute, Part Deux

Here I am at 1 a.m. on Saturday morning...and I am WIDE awake. Oh, the life of an insomniac.

At any rate, now's as good a time as any to finish my blog about the trip Reflection took to Racine, Wisconsin. I must admit, when my husband, Don, got sick with the cold I passed on to him, and couldn't make the trip, I struggled with the reality I'd be making the trip without him. In all the years I've known him, we've only been separated three times: once when he went to a mens' retreat, once when I flew to Northern Virginia when my grandson, Marcus, was born, and the last time was for a business meeting I had in Dallas two summers ago. (A word to the wise: never, ever, ever plan a trip to the South in the dead of summer. You might just melt in the heat.)

On the way to Racine, I sat in the backseat of the vehicle I rode in and prayed for the couple who'd be stuck with me. I was very apprehensive about staying with people I didn't know because I present with a huge group of challenges all my own. With rheumatoid arthritis and interstitial lung disease anything can happen at any time and I was fearful I'd be a burden. But the minute I met them, all that abated.

John and Diana Wells, a lovely empty nest couple like us, were the perfect hosts. Diana shared with me that they'd never volunteered to host anyone before, but honestly, I was shocked! They definitely have the gift of hospitality. I have NEVER, in all the years I've traveled with singing groups and stayed in peoples' homes, felt so welcome and accepted.

Sunday morning, we arose early, before daylight, and drove to John and Diana's favorite local breakfast cafe. Every Sunday they eat breakfast there before going to church. I had a great time there. The minute we opened the door, I was flooded with bittersweet memories of my parents and their cafe, much like this one. But more than that, again, I felt welcome. It sort of reminded me of "Cheers" when Norm would come in and everyone would shout out his name. One of the elderly gentleman at one table asked Diana who her friend was. My heart was touched when Diana told him I was their friend from Colorado.  The man asked me "why in the world would you leave Colorado and come here?" I suppose I was seeing Racine from a visitor's eyes. It is beautiful there.

As we drove back to the Wells' lovely home, the sun was beginning its rise over Lake Michigan. I have never seen anything so breathtakingly beautiful. It took my breath away and I found it difficult to turn away. Pinks, purples, blues and grays filled the skies over the lake.

Later in the day we had lunch at the harbor and then I got a local's tour of the area. That night our group sang at their church, Calvary Memorial. One of the members of our group, John Friesma, grew up in that church and has many family members who still attend. John and Diana sat in the second pew and they beamed. I think Diana's sweet smile never left her lips.

When we left the following morning, I felt like I was leaving cherished friends; it was difficult to fathom that we'd known each other only a short 48 hours. Since then, I have plotted in my mind ways I can get them out to visit us in Colorado.

John and Diana, don't be a stranger. The porch light's on...just as yours was for me.

Until then, Godspeed, my friends.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I Would Do It Again in a New York Minute

As promised, I am here to fill you in on my recent trip to Racine, Wisconsin. A week ago today, Reflection, a group of singers from Woodland Park, Colorado, departed despite snowy roads and cold temperatures at 5 a.m. for the great state of Wisconsin. One of our members hails from Racine and was kind enough to set up some concerts for us.

I had never been to Wisconsin before and looked forward to the visit. We also drove through Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois coming and going, depositing tolls to support their economies all along the way. One thing I was just a bit concerned about was whether I'd be able to find vegetarian options along the way. To my surprise, Nebraska was the easiest place for me to eat. I laughed about it because my husband had said, "Don't expect too much from Nebraska. Beef is a huge industry there and they'd laugh in your face if you told them you don't eat meat. Just order dessert. Thankfully, I was able to find more than a good piece of apple pie. In a truck stop in Hershey, NE, I found the best loaded baked potato EVER! And it was my birthday, so it was a double treat!

I wanted to share a little about one of the places we sang over the weekend. We were scheduled to sing in an assisted-living facility in Kenosha. The activities director, a lovely young woman named Heidi, was gifted in both patience and tact and took care of her residents with great precision and compassion. The residents were all in varying stages of dementia or Alzheimer's Disease and tended to wander about aimlessly, some telling and retelling stories to their Saturday evening visitors. One kind lady told us of being born in Racine, yet growing up in Germany during WWII. Once the war was over, she was allowed to return to the States as she was a US Citizen (Her parents were German). She had a thick accent and asked me repeatedly from where I hailed. And each time she learned I was from Colorado, she relived her earlier years of skiing the slopes of Aspen and Vail.

Another lady, wandered around looking for her purse. She grabbed our director's bag and off she went, followed in hot pursuit by Heidi.

Once our sound system was set up and the residents were calmed, we began our concert. I was singing lead in one of the songs when a little lady came in from behind and weaved in and out of the singers.  Diana, one of our sopranos, danced with her and kept her busy. She even took my microphone and told me it was her turn to sing. Only she didn't sing. She said in full voice, "HELLO". Then she walked away.

At the end of the concert, which Heidi seemed to enjoy despite her aerobic workout, we were given a package of gourmet cookies in thanks. But the pleasure was all ours. The residents were a joy to sing for and I'd do it again in a New York minute.

Next time, I'll write about my host family, John and Dianna Wells. They were like visiting long lost relatives and I can't wait to find a time to visit with them again.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Racine Here I Come

I like to blog on Fridays but tomorrow I will be traveling to Racine, Wisconsin. My husband and I sing with a group, "Reflection", and I, minus my wonderful husband, who has a HORRIBLE cold that I shared with him (sorry, hon) will be in a car beginning at 5 a.m. on my way to Racine.

By the looks of all the pictures I've seen, it is a beautiful place located on the shores of Lake Michigan. That alone was enough to get me on board. I will do anything (well, almost anything) to see a new place, even though long car trips are tough on my joints. Living with RA is the pits, but deal with it, right?!?!? And stop your whining....I can hear you through cyberspace telling me to get a grip!!! And I will...and do...everyday.

Hopefully, I will get lots of pictures. One I'm especially interested in is the lighthouse. Can't wait to see it. The picture attached is compliments of google....

Until next time, know that the book is one week away from being in the hands of the publisher. Yippee!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Meet John Archer

Meet John Archer. John, a character in "The Disappearance of Simon Archer", is the 16-year-old son of Simon and Susan Archer.

John is a rancher through and through. Though young, he knows without a doubt his life will be spent on the S&S Ranch tending to cattle, land, and the beautiful palominos his father fell in love with and brought to the ranch.

Simon, in the import and export business, travels several months of the year entrusting the care of his palominos to John and no one but John. He calls them his best girls.

About girls....John is not your typical teen-aged boy. Very recently he began to notice some of the girls in town. Sure, he thought them pretty enough, but they giggled and acted silly when he came around, so he sat down on the steps off the back porch and made a list. A very long list of things he'd not compromise on when it came to the perfect girl for him. When all was said and done, he perused the list one last time and came to one very obvious conclusion: this person wasn't just any girl. It was his mother!

"Aw shucks!" he moaned. One thing he knew for sure: he didn't have an Oedipus complex. He just thought his mom was about the best woman alive.

Too bad dad doesn't realize it,  he thought to himself. He'd watched as his father grew more distant from the family and from Susan. The rumors around town were that he'd taken a mistress. And not just any old mistress...she worked on Second a house of....well, you get the picture.

John was furious and had trouble dealing with his father's indiscretions. Sometimes he just wanted to punch Simon in the nose, but there were two things wrong with that. One, Simon was his dad, and, two, Simon was always gone. Even if he could muster up the nerve, the passion would be gone by the time Simon returned.  He'd just left on a trip that would take at least four months.

So how would John work through his difficulties with his dad? Will he remain angry or choose to forgive?

In a few short weeks, "The Disappearance of Simon Archer" will be released and you'll find out.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Buck Stops Here

Animal Farm: that's the best way I can describe it. A couple of days ago, I was out in the front yard walking around when a couple of deer, a doe we lovingly call Bossy, because it's the best way to describe her, and her son, whose name has been changed from Buddy to Pushy Man.

It was the weirdest thing ever and happened like this: Bossy and "Buddy"  came trotting (yes, trotting, as if they had gone a whole day without seeing me and missed their old pal, Hazel) up the hill when they saw me come outdoors. I petted  Bossy on the head, then "Buddy". Satisfied, Bossy began to graze and I walked away headed to the side of the house to find a tool I needed for some yard work. Buddy followed behind. How sweet! He still liked his human friend. As I walked, he trotted  (they trot a lot) in front of me and stopped dead in his tracks, taking me by surprise.

Now, "Buddy" is a yearling, first RUT season of his short life, and a 2-point buck who is VERY proud of his new horns. 9I'm fairly certain he looks up to his father, Thor, and wants to be just like him when he grows up. Handsome, virile, rugged, a force to be reckoned with and a harem all his own.)  He and his brother, John Jacob Astor, can be seen periodically sparring in the back yard, which, I suppose, is their way of learning how to use those weapons to their advantage. And weapons they are!  But I digress.

So there we were just eyeballing each other, waiting to see who'd make the first move. When he didn't move, I took another step and he stomped at me. Hmmm....what to do...what to do! A dilemma for sure. A buck, with horns, who I've seen practically everyday of his short life, is suddenly being very weird with me.

I said, "What's up, Buddy?" (like he speaks English, you know) and stood there waiting for some sign that he was getting bored with all this. Only he wasn't. I took a deep breath and weighed my options. Here is an animal very familiar to me and I to him, but we've all heard horror stories about people who befriend animals in the wild only to have the animal turn on them. I decided to try once more. I took two steps and he jumped, yes jumped in front of me again, this time moving in even closer. HOLY MOSES! I felt trapped. So I turned slowly and started moving in the opposite direction and crept toward the steps to our front porch. They move quietly, so I wasn't certain if I was alone or had a horned stalker behind me. I stepped onto the brick walk and I heard hooves do the same. Yep...he was my uninvited escort. I turned around and he was about 2 inches from my backside and I put my hand out on his nose and said, "Buddy, that is enough."

I am not kidding when I say he looked like a wounded child. I don't know what he was up to but it could have been a number of things, the most obvious being the aggressive nature of a buck in the RUT season. All that testosterone and the only gals around were cousins, aunts and his mother. How frustrating, huh? Their need for mating outweighs any warm fuzzies they may have felt in the past and they become kind of mean and ugly.

Or it could be that he's been around me so long he now considers me a member of the herd. And sometimes they rough house. Or maybe he hates my cat who slaps him in the nose when he gets too close sometimes. Who knows? The only thing I know is that it was kind of creepy.

A couple of minutes went by and his mom, Bossy, played her mom card. She walked over to him and reared up and smacked him right in the snout with her front hooves and gave him a bloody nose. He tucked his tail between his long, skinny legs and high-tailed it out of here. She watched him go, then walked over to me as I sat on the steps, almost as if she sympathized with me. But more like she had just told her disrespectful son, "What's the matter with you, Buddy? I should knock you into the middle of next week."  So she did. 
Today Bossy came back but Buddy...I mean, PushyMan steered clear of the house on Obsidian Drive.

By the way, the buck in the photo? Pushy Man's dad. No wonder he has a bit of a complex. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Opening Night at the Butte Theater

Being a writer of historical fiction, particularly surrounding the mining towns of Colorado, I take every opportunity to make the short drive to Cripple Creek and check out the latest and greatest melodramas at the Butte Theater.

Tonight was opening night for the fall season with an original melodrama written by Chris Sorenson, a veteran of Cripple Creek theater. The offering this season is called "Haunting at the Old Homestead" followed by a Halloween Olio.

My husband and I love to go to the melodrama whenever we have the opportunity and even though we know the players by face only, they have come to feel like family members who melt our hearts each time they light up the stage.

Without giving away the plot, suffice it to say the melodrama surrounds paranormal activities of the Old Homestead, a true-to-life brothal on Myers Avenue, the Red Light District of 1890s Cripple Creek. The building still stands today as a museum. The house and its notorious madam, Pearl DeVere are the fixtures upon which the story is built. Ghostbusting is the theme of this fun-filled evening at the Butte. Filled with music, chills, thrills, laughter, fun, mystery and surprises, I am happy to report HAUNTING at the OLD HOMESTEAD is the finest piece of work I have seen come out of the Butte Theater since....well, EVER.

The Olio was hysterically funny, so much so that when the three male actors, Mickey Burdick, Rob Scharlow and Chris Joel Onken came out dressed in creepy, monster drag (yes, that means female monster drag) singing their own special versions of a few pop songs about "creepy, evil, seductive women", I laughed till I couldn't catch my breath. Chris Onken was my personal favorite, stepping onto the stage looking like a bizarre, young Stevie Nicks with a twist of gender bender singing Witchy Woman. Honestly, I laughed so hard the tears were rolling down my face along with all my eye makeup, no doubt making me look like a "Witchy Woman" of a different sort. It's safe to say that everyone in the theater was laughing just as hard if not harder than I.  When the troupe sang "Monster Mash" I found myself singing the do-wops (something I did in an Elvis band years ago, but that's a story for another day).

I sum it all up by saying this: if you live in the Pikes Peak Region and haven't been to the Butte Theater you are missing a treat. Especially with this production. BEST EVER! Check out their website for more info at or on Facebook (search "The Butte Theater"). This particular melodrama started today, October 5 and ends November 4.

Seriously, folks, you don't want to miss this one! Where else can you go to the theater, enjoy a snack and a drink (even alcohol), have good fun in a safe environment for less than $17 a person plus the cost of snacks/drinks? Nowhere I know of with live entertainment. You'll leave feeling great, even uplifted.

Way to go, Butte Theater and The Thin Air Theatre Company.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Meet Lydia, the Boisterous Cook of O'Keefe Manor

In The Disappearance of Simon Archer I wanted characters people could identify with. You know...a character or two who remind you of someone you know or perhaps even yourself; however, some needed to be eccentric, a bit off the wall, yet lovable. Enter Lydia, the non-Irish Irish wannabe.

Lydia is the boisterous cook of O'Keefe Manor. Hired by the house manager while Augusta and Reginald were still on their honeymoon trip to San Francisco, Lydia took over the kitchen early on in her employment, intimidating most of the staff so badly they avoided her at all cost. All the other employees did their work and stayed out of her way, knowing better than to do anything that might offend her, basically doing whatever she asked. Is it because she's a supervisor? Nope. How about seniority? No again. All the employees were on equal footing with seniority having been hired around the same time.

The thing she held over everybody's head was quite simple really. If they didn't stay out of her way, they didn't get fed. And from the onset of her employment, the agreement she made with her employers was that she would be the cook not only for the family, but the staff as well.

Lydia loved all things Irish. She fantasized about making a crossing to the Emerald Isle where she would meet the man of her dreams who would inevitably sweep her off her feet, taking her to his castle, complete with his very on loch, mind you, and teaching her the ways of the Irish people. She spoke with a faux Irish brogue, took the time to learn their most common phrasings, spent most of her time off in the local library studying Irish history and culture and would have moved heaven and earth if it meant she could become Irish. 

Augusta was mystified by Lydia, asking her time and time again if she was  certain there was  no Irish lineage. Lydia loved Augusta and there was nothing she wouldn't have done to ensure her happiness or her safety.

As Augusta's marriage suffered because of her husband's "imaginary friend" and incredible mood swings, Lydia was the first to ask if there was any family history of mental illness. Her younger brother grew up with a boy, who in his late teens began to have discussions with a friend named Henry. There was no Henry; there was no imaginary friend. The young man was committed to an asylum, which tore his family unit apart.

Struggling an internal battle over whether or not to tell Augusta the story, she finally decided it was better than allowing Augusta to live in a world of denial where Reginald was concerned. To Lydia's relief, Augusta was receptive to the idea of mental illness, having spent a great deal of private time tossing the idea around in her head and not knowing exactly what to do about her suspicions.

The two women form a bond, Lydia promising to stand by Augusta no matter what despite her conflicted feelings about Reginald. She felt sorry for him, stating he reminded her of a little boy who felt unloved and unwanted, simply acting out inappropriately. The only difference, she stated, was that as a grown man about to become a father, he needed to do everything in his power to assure his family's safety and well-being.

Lydia will be one of your favorite characters in this book, which is nearing publication. I apologize for the delay. It is of my doing. When I broke my foot, I simply didn't feel well enough to complete the rewrites. Without promising anything I cannot deliver, I intend to have the final rewrite to the publisher by the end of October.

I can't wait for you to read all about Lydia and enjoy getting to know her as much as I enjoyed creating her quirky character.

By the way....the photo I added has absolutely nothing to do with the blog for today....but I had to share it! These are two doe sisters who hang out in my front yard, who are grooming one another. Sweet, huh? They are named Molly Brown and Not Molly.

Molly Brown was the first deer I had the pleasure of meeting in my yard. She has a hole in one ear, much like a piercing. Not Molly, her sister, has the biggest head and ears I've ever seen on any deer. They are like friends and visit me almost everyday.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Everybody in the South Has a Mammaw, Part 2

Last week I blogged about my mammaw. Mama Carroll, the ladies at Mount Carmel Baptist Church used to call her. I've been thinking about her ever since I published that post. She's been gone since the second semester of my junior year of college, 1978.

I remember the day she died. I came home for the weekend because my mom called me and said Mammaw was near the end of life. She was in a nursing home with a broken hip and had begun to have mini-strokes in her throat. I packed a bag, loaded my '77 Powder Blue Pinto and made the 90 minute drive from Arkansas Tech to my small hometown of Lonoke, Arkansas.

When I arrived Mom had everything under control.  "Let's make chocolate turtles," she said. So she and I took over the small kitchen and began the long process of making a bazillion chocolate turtles. (For those of you who live inside a turtle shell and don't know what this delicacy is I speak of, it is caramel with pecan pieces mixed in it, then dipped into milk chocolate. TO DIE FOR! Oops...bad choice of words in this case.)

We were about half-way through our candy making when the phone rang. It was the nursing home letting us know Mammaw had just passed. I sat at the table and began to cry. Mother cried. Daddy came in the kitchen and said, "Don't you dare cry! I forbid you to cry!"

So we held it in. A few minutes later I heard Daddy's sobs from the family room. She was the only mother he ever really knew. His own mother died when he was two years old from tuberculosis. His father remarried a number of times (I say a number, because no one knows for sure how many exactly. But that's a story for another time.)

When Daddy began to cry, Mama and I felt the freedom to do likewise. When the day of the funeral was upon us, I remember thinking I'd never seen so many people in one building before. Hundreds of people put a hold on their lives to pay their respects. People drove from far and wide to help us lay her to rest.

Remember in the last post that I mentioned her favorite hymn was "In the Garden"? Well, someone sang it at her funeral. And I fell apart. My mammaw was gone and I didn't know it then, but soon my mother would follow. Two strong Southern women whose memories still live in the hearts of those who knew them.

Mammaw: Florence Ella Duncan Carroll. She grew roses and tulips, strawberries and corn, fished with a bamboo fishing pole, wore "stockings" rolled up and tied in knots just below the knees, chopped off rattlesnake heads with a garden hoe, made snowballs and kept them in her deep freezer to use in the heat of the summer to keep a Coca-Cola nice and cold, crocheted a blue streak around all the other women, loved to bake Better-Than-Sex cakes (and spelled sex in a whisper instead of saying the word), watched Lawrence Welk every Saturday night followed by My Three Sons and Petticoat Junction, slept with her head at the foot of the bed in summer to get the fresh air from the open window, never screamed or carried on but you'd best watch out when she growled out "Good Granny".

The longer I live, the more I remember her. I recall a huge arrangement of wax flowers she put in a beautiful vase my Aunt Prudie brought her from Japan.  After arranging the flowers just so, Mammaw placed them on a table that sat centered in front of a huge picture window in my grandparents' living room. One day a hummingbird was flitting about outside the window and saw those flowers and flew smack dab right into the windowpane and fell to the ground. Mammaw ran outside and dug around in the flower bed just outside the window until she found the bird. She watched it for a minute and then it flew away. She marched into the house and moved the flowers to the dining room table where they stayed for a long time. We laughed about that for years, but knowing her the way I did, I know her heart ached over that poor little bird. The only wrath I ever saw from her was chopping the heads off unwelcome rattlers or moccasins.

Mammaw, I love you dearly. I always have and I always will. Nobody ever loved me the way you did...nobody but the One you modeled your life after. One day, day...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Everybody in the South has a Mammaw!

Pronounced Meh-maw, everybody in the South has one. My mammaw was of sturdy stock, worked hard, grew beautiful roses and tulips and loved to sing "In the Garden".

"I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses. And he walks with me and he talks with me, And he tells me I am his own. And the joy we share as we tarry there none other has ever known."

I remember it well. Spending summers with them on their spread on Mount Carmel Road just outside of Cabot, Arkansas. Waking up in the wee hours of daylight to tend to the flowers and vegetable garden before the heat got too bad. Papa was off working in the fields, usually bailing hay or repairing fences or some such farm work.  Mammaw would work her gardens then head back into the house and make a breakfast fit for a king.

They never ate small meals, but if there was a small one, it would be breakfast. By today's standards, however, it was a feast. Eggs over easy, fresh homemade biscuits so fluffy and light nobody ever left the table after just one, freshly made jams and jellies from the strawberries in their enormous garden or from muscadines we picked out in the forest, ham, bacon or sausage freshly cured by a local butcher and milk either from their milk cow or the dairy just down the road. As a child I had a SERIOUS weight problem....I have no idea why!

Mammaw taught me how to fish with a bamboo cane pole. Lots of times in the summer months, whatever we caught in one of their fish ponds was what we ate for supper. But it wasn't always easy. I recall one afternoon when Mammaw and I went to the pond across the road from the house. We had just baited the hooks with these gross night crawlers (yuck and double yuck!), cast out lines and settled in being particularly quiet so we wouldn't scare off the fish. All of a sudden, this bullfrog comes hopping between us hellbent for leather into the water. Right after it came a water moccasin moving so quickly after it that he completely missed the fact that two humans were in his path. THANK GOODNESS! I guess it's true that the need to fill our stomachs outweighs any other challenge around us....same goes for snakes, I suppose.

Dinner was greatly appreciated that night. We told the tale for many years of the frog and the snake and two lady fishers who were spared the snake's venom that day. When I think back on my Mammaw I have only fond memories. Seems I stayed with them more than I did at my own home.

She played Candy Land with me for hours, letting her housework go. She always let me win at checkers. She taught me how to starch and iron sheets (seriously!) and cloth napkins. She drew outlines of houses in the dirt and demonstrated how she and her siblings played house when they were little girls. She sat on a blanket under her Mimosa tree in the still, hot southern afternoons with me and played Barbies or read to me or told me stories of "the olden days". But more than anything else, she showed me the love of God.

She didn't gossip, yell, scream, throw tantrums (much) or lose patience with me or the other grandkids and we all loved her more than life itself. She loved to watch her "stories", making sure all her morning housework was done before "The Secret Storm" came on in the early afternoon. And she loved watching the New York Yankees play ball.

Mammaw....everybody in the South has one. I just hope everybody's was as COOL as mine!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

This Week on Obsidian Drive

2 mommies and a baby

Not too camera shy....or people shy.

My favorite sitting place

Our driveway

Love the aspen grove

Okay, so I'm taking the easy way out, but it's autumn and the most beautiful time of the year in the Rockies. The aspens are golden yellow and beautiful, the does are bringing their babies out in public for us to see and life is good. Enjoy the photos. All were taken in our yard in Florissant, Colorado. Have a great weekend!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Where Did the Summer Go?

This afternoon after church, Don, my wonderfully patient, kind and handsome husband and I went for a ride over to Fairplay in Park County, Colorado. It's about 1/2 hour from our house, and for those who aren't familiar to the area, the home of the "original" South Park (yes...that one!) It's a great little town and a fabulous place to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Seems to me the aspens are turning fast and furious this year and while I was oohing and ah-ing, and OMG-ing at every turn, it began to sink n to me that summer in Colorado is just about done.  This may just be an old lady's rantings, but it feels like we, in the higher elevations, get a week of Spring, a week of Fall, two months of Summer, and the rest is Winter.

And this summer, we didn't even really get to enjoy our beautiful state because of local forest fires. All of us in this area spent the early part of summer glued to our televisions watching Ute Pass, Northwest Colorado Springs, and parts of Teller County go up in flames. Our roads were closed, the emergency rooms were only available for fire-related injuries and problems, our city was evacuated as was most of the west side of Colorado Springs. In fact, over 33,000 people were evacuated for several days as we watched Mountain Shadows subdivision burn to the ground. 436 people, many of them friends, lost their homes and one couple lost their lives.

Another fire, the Springer Fire was within 4 miles of our home and we were on pre-evacuation for that one. Plus a rogue arsonist set over 20 fires in our county in less than a week. For about two weeks, the highway just down the hills from us was a virtual whirlwind of emergency vehicles, sirens, and people evacuating their homes, seeking shelter.

During the Waldo Canyon Fire of El Paso and Teller Counties, I broke my right foot (none-fire-related injury, just in case you're wondering). Roads closed, emergency rooms off limits, I sat on the couch for over a week, waiting for an urgent care facility to open its doors.

Don and I love living here. It's beautiful, summers never get too hot, the people are nice and friendly, but the summer zoomed by in a flash and I am sad. Fires and a broken foot have dictated the whole season. And now the leaves are changing with a vengeance.

Soon the snow will fly, the snowboarders and skiers will dominate the slopes and ski towns of Colorado. Everywhere people go they will have their ski equipment on the tops of their cars and live for the weekend when they came make their escape to A Basin, Keystone, Breckenridge, Loveland or a host of other resorts. As for me, the lady with the broken foot, I will remain inside with my little arthritic joints, write about life and knit.

The good it in Colorado...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Everybody Wants to Be On the Ground Floor...

All of us want to think we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. How many of us have been tempted to jump on the pyramid bandwagon and make not only money from our own sales, but the sales of those we bring into the fold?  Amway, Tupperware, Herbalife, Shaklee, just to name a few. And the latest and greatest one out there is Gorilla-Gobbledee-Goo. I can tell you all about it.

Psych! No such goo-type product. Just something out of the mind of my husband to throw me off track.

I only wanted to blog today to say thank you to those of you who are reading my blog. I also have another one on a Christian writers website where I share my personal woes, beliefs, etc. On that site alone I have had several thousand readers. Who knew?!?

This blog was started years ago under the name Pikes Peak General Store, to help draw people to my online store of the same name.  But I digress. I changed the name of the blog to its current name quite recently because the focus of my blogging has changed.

Soon, I will have a book published on Amazon, Kindle and Nook entitled The Disappearance of Simon Archer. I have been blogging about the book, about life in the Rockies, about memories of my childhood, about a precious uncle of mine who recently passed on, and, oh, yes, about the notorious rogue bear who likes the food in my pantry and fridge.

I wanted today to simply say a huge thank you. I never knew people would actually read what I write, but I'm so glad that you do. You aren't investing in a pyramid plan, but you are sort of on the ground floor of my writing career, watching it emerge from the floor up.

So far around 6000 of you have read my musings between both sites. Please don't stop. I appreciate more than you know that you read my blog.

I remain, forever in your debt,

Until next time,

***Picture: bridge in front yard leading to drive. Love to sit there and write.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

How Does a Brain Store All that Info?!???

Back in 2006, I took a psychology course at the local community college and, much to my dismay, I was one of the oldest students in the class. This particular class was a night class, so it was safe to assume that most of us had day jobs. Out of about 50 students in the room, about a 1/3 of us were, shall we say, older than the other 2/3. (You know you're old when you and the teacher have A LOT in common!)

One day, the professor asked how many of us remembered where we were when Kennedy was shot? Giggles all around, as two of the students, who just happened to be grandchildren of the professor, said, "Geez, we weren't even born yet!"

But about 1/3 of the room (the Medicare-eligible crowd) raised their hands. She asked me. I shared my story which bewildered the "not-born-yet" crowd and I feared they were mesmerized because I hid my age so well. (Give me a break! It makes me feel better, okay?)

I was in Mrs. Butler's First Grade Class at Lonoke Elmentary School, Lonoke, Arkansas (home to the now infamous Paula Jones, thank you very much), when I looked out the window to see the U.S. flag being lowered to half-mast. Then the principal's voice came over the intercom telling us the President had been shot and we were to go home immediately. (Tell a bunch of first graders to go home from school and it's a vacation...not a national emergency.)

The next three days my sister, Libby, and I sat in front of the family's black and white television and watched all the pomp and circumstance from Washington as we lay the President to rest. Felt like a vacation to me. It was many years before I realized just what had happened.

The teacher asked me then about Martin Luther King, Jr. I felt like a movie star. I had these kids eating out of my hands. They just couldn't believe that there were people in the room who had first hand knowledge of "history in its making".

Martin Luther King, Jr. and his entourage were to march from Memphis to Little Rock and our little town was in the path. My dad owned a restaurant on the main drag of Lonoke at the time and the guys who worked the railroad ate there. The day before the march, a train pulled into town and stopped at depot. One of the workers took me across the street to sit on the caboose (I thought that was the neatest thing ever!!!) and we watched as storefronts began to be boarded up, in case of riots and looting.

That night, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. Coming from the South, during the time of the Civil Rights movement, I had heard every racial slur known to man. Some of the white people rejoiced, some, like me who never understood how people could be judged on the basis of their color, cried. Some of the African Americans quietly acquiesced to his death, others became so angry. Growing up in that climate, I saw the South burn in so many ways other than just fire. Overt racism, hatred, vengeance, destruction of property and society were all a part of that time. I didn't understand it then; I don't understand it now.

As I told the story I wondered how much information my brain could possibly store. I recalled where I was when Robert Kennedy was shot, where I was at the time the first shuttle exploded, where I was when the subways in New York City were riddled with shots that hot summer of 1981 (I was actually in Manhattan that day visiting in-laws), what I was doing when the first plane hit the World Trade Center in 2001.

The kids in the class, though young adults, were spellbound. It was then that I realized what a miracle the human brain actually is. We can pull from its recesses at any moment and recall information we haven't thought of in years.

How does a brain store all that info?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Medicare Cat, Please Listen...

We've all heard the Biblical phrase, "the lion lays down with the lamb". Quite a word picture of a docile little lamb next to the King of the Forest, a predator, whose mouth drools at the sight of its prey.

As children we were all taught that there are natural enemies in the animal kingdom. Cats chase mice, dogs chase cats, wild animals in the forest skulk about hiding from each other in their quest to eat or be eaten...aka, survival of the fittest.

With that in mind, I bring your attention to our cat, Medicare Man, Rowdy. He's approaching 18 now. Is feeble, grouchy, wants to be carried everywhere, whines constantly, and has a fit if he isn't outside in the late afternoon when the deer pass through our yard.  In the beginning, he just watched, keeping a safe distance from them up on the porch, and then something odd began to change in his attitude toward the deer.

I keep a water bowl on the sidewalk, by the steps leading to the front porch for the deer to drink out of, and , last summer, one particular doe came to our yard daily to drink from it. Well, that was then...and this is now. This same doe, Molly Brown, we've lovingly named her had twin bucks last summer, who are now yearlings and coming into their own.

Their names are Spike and John Jacob Astor. For young guys, they both have impressive racks. Speaks volumes, I suppose, of the studly buck who is their father, who chooses to remain anonymous most of the time.

John Jacob is a funny guy who comes into the yard, wants to be scratched between the ears and wants a drink of water, dang it!  That's all he wants and Rowdy won't let him near the bowl.

At first, I thought Rowdy went outside to be with his buds, but lately, my hubby and I have developed a much better understanding of what is actually going on.

Picture this, if you will: two yearling bucks, Molly, Rowdy and a water bowl, all within touching distance of each other. The deer are all looking wantonly at the bowl, as Rowdy sidles up next to it, daring them to come closer. If you strain your ears, you'll hear a low-pitched growl. "Who did that?"

It was Rowdy. John Jacob moves in for a drink. Rowdy raises his paw. John Jacob backs off and gives me a look like "can't you do something with him?" After a minute, John Jacob gets a little closer as Rowdy, lays his paw on John's snout. He didn't show his claws. He pushed him away, a little trick he learned at the food bowl when our other cat, Bob Anderson (God rest his soul) got in his way.

John moved away....far, far away. The others looked at Rowdy, looked at me, then back at Rowdy and slowly walked away, stopping every few steps to check out that little tiger cat fur ball with the big attitude.

Fast forward three days. Last night we were on the porch guffawing at the hummingbird wars in front of us, when John Jacob comes back. Rowdy moves in next to the bowl and meows at the deer. John looks up at me. He bent his neck toward the cat; Rowdy pushes his rack, then leaves the bowl and wanders around in the front yard. And who follows him but John. Rowdy turned around and they are nose to nose. I know Rowdy is coveting John's rack, and to prove how jealous and alpha he is, he pushed him again. And John ran away, his tiny tail between his....never, mind. Their tail ain't that long.

So today, John comes back. And wonder of wonders, the two of them are following each other around the front yard, and then sat together.

And the deer lay down with the Medicare cat.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Living With Bears 101

So those of you who read my blog know that recently our house was broken into by a rogue bear. BIG GUY. And according to the Department of Wildlife, this bear was well known by them...yet elusive when it comes to capture.

Our HOA sent out a blanket email to everyone in the neighborhood addressing some serious concerns about bears. I'm paraphrasing, but basically it went like this:  It has come to our attention, blah, blah, blah, that apparently, blah, blah, blah, a bear has been wandering the subdivision and has broken into some sheds and trailers and even a house (that would be us...just SO you know). Let me remind you that no trash receptacles should be out on the street before pick up day, no food should be left outside, and windows should be closed at all times. Just in case you hadn't thought of this before, we live in their domain and must learn to co-exist together in harmony, blah, blah, blah. (Close your eyes and picture Charlie Brown's teacher, who only ever uttered something resembling "Womp, womp, womp womp, womp womp and you'll understand how this letter came across.)

Color me flabbergasted! We take our own garbage three to four times weekly to the dump. We learned the hard way what a bear can do to a trash bin. (And for the record....there is NO SUCH THING as a bear proof can. You heard it first here.)

So my dear hubby fired off an email to the HOA rep who'd even gone so far as to say that "we love bears in our neighborhood. I love seeing them!" (Well, good for you. Move right on in their den with them, won't you?) My husband's response was that even though we live close to the national forest, there is a fine line between being one with the bears and keeping a safe distance from them. Whatever else he said to them, I'm not certain, but it got the desired response.

The Department of Wildlife, herein referred to as DOW, called, then came for a visit to find out about our experience. So this afternoon, the nicest man knocked on our door, and spent a good portion of the afternoon with us, hearing our story, learning our concerns and sharing information that we, and hopefully, you might find informational.

First of all, since this bear has even gone so far as to sleep on our front porch, he LIKES our house and will probably come back at some point. So here's what he told us to do. Make a mixture of 75 per cent water, 25 percent bleach and spray it around problem our case the windows. Run, don't walk to our nearest REI and buy some BEAR SPRAY. And make an unwelcome mat.

What is an unwelcome mat, you ask? You're gonna love this! Take a piece of plywood and hammer in one inch nails. Place the wood under a window (our bedroom, in this case. YUCK!!!!) with pointy side up. Sends a message. DOW likened it to us people walking around on gravel with no shoes. He said it works like a charm!

Also, he said some of my neighbors have gotten into the habit of feeding the deer. And I'm not talking about just a handful of grain or something. I'm talking about buckets full or troughs of grain that are left in their yards for the deer. But guess what, folks! Do you know what bear food is? Yes, you got it! It's anything left around that is edible! The purest definition of BEAR FOOD.

He told a story of a lady in Florissant, just down the road from us who was visiting her sister. Her sister was one of these "bucket feeders". He said one day while she was here, her sister wasn't around and the deer made their usual stop by the house, so she picked up the bucket and headed out to feed the deer. A big old buck attacked her, again and again with his rack and sharp hooves. This happened about half a block from the volunteer fire station and one of the firemen on duty saw what was happening, so he ran and when he was close enough he threw rocks and yelled until the buck ran away. While the fireman was helping the woman up, the buck came back and began to attack her again. So the fireman shot the buck for aggressive behavior.

I realize the topic is bears today, but feeding the deer is also a problem with regards to the bears. Bears and mountain lions (which we have both in our neighborhood right now) watch deer activity and where they are, predators are not far behind...especially in times of drought. The usual foods they look for are not as readily available so they come looking for what we can offer them.

So bears are not cute little touristy things to look for when you visit a forest. They are a predators. They are not pets; they are not our friends.

Now, I realize some of you are reading this and thinking, "well, duh!" Yeah, me too. But seriously, there are people who believe them to be their friends, their pets. But here's the thing about bears: give them an inch...they'll take a mile. THEY TAKE WHAT THEY WANT...and never ask questions later.

So the next time you're out hiking, or at Yosemite, or, in my neighborhood, and you see a big old black bear lumbering around, he ain't YOGI and he ain't SMOKEY.  He probably won't bother you, but, just to be on the safe side....don't stick around to find out!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Rest in Peace, Uncle Bill

I received news last night that my Uncle Bill Rice died this past weekend. I read about it on Facebook when a cousin of mine posted a prayer request for the family.

As a child, though he never knew this, Uncle Bill was a hero of mine. He worked for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and wore uniforms that I thought always made him look dapper, handsome and very important. I thought my Uncle Bill could probably save the world, if the task ever presented itself.

He had lived the last four years of his life in a nursing home, a victim of Alzheimer's. Upon his death, My Aunt Mary Lois, my mom's sister, said, "At least now he knows where he is."

Alzheimer's is the cruelest of the cruel in neurological disorders. Taking the mind of a person who has lived a long, productive life, filled with memories both good and bad, and erasing it all as if it were an Etch-A-Sketch waiting to be utilized as a blank slate. My eldest sister told me time and time again how sad it was to visit him.

She loves him like a father. And rightly so. Our father, ill-equipped to totally give himself to his three daughters, always kept us at arm's length. Uncle Bill and Aunt Mary Lois took her in at a devastating time in her life and treated her like their own. She told me today via email (I live three states away) that during her morning coffee just this morning she had a good cry recalling lots of morning coffee times spent with Uncle Bill ....just the two of them sharing stories early in the day before the busyness of life took them their separate ways.

His sons, Bob and Roy, have experienced the best life has to offer. Uncle Bill made sure of that. Their daughter, Eileen, as well. With a father like him, who took the time to participate in their lives, they grew up well-adjusted, intelligent and successful.

My heart hurts today. I haven't seen Uncle Bill since my own dad passed away back in 2001. That's my bad. But I have memories of a man who was good, honest, loving, caring and hardworking.

Rest in Peace, Uncle Bill. I'll see you again someday.

Photo: Lonoke Baptist Church, now torn down....the church our family attended in Lonoke.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

It's All in the Name

Babies are given their names at birth for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes babies are named after grandma or grandpa, mom or dad, Cousin Billy or Aunt Matilda (Lord....I hope not!). Other times because mom and dad simply like the name, the way it rolls off the tongue, because it's the most popular name of the decade, because our favorite film or sports star has the name.

My son was named after a surgeon who helped me out a lot when I was younger. Not only was he my doctor, but my friend, never allowing me to pay him, helping me through school, taking time to educate me on my health issues. He was, and is, a great guy! So I named my son after him: Austin.

I, on the other hand, being a child of the 1950s (and yes, I am aware that I am old), was named after a woman who helped my mom and sisters out while daddy was in WWII. My godmother was a great lady and someone I remember fondly, but let's face it. Hazel is NOT a name for a child.

It was torture growing up with that name (sort of like I imagine a Matilda might feel). As a child, I was subjected to such torment as being called Witch Hazel, Hazel the Maid, Hazel was LOADS of fun.

I remember when Hazel, the television series first aired. I was in the 2nd grade and the day after the airing of its first episode, was one of the worst days I can ever remember at school.  Lots of the kids teased me. And to an impressionable seven-year-old, teasing hurts. At recess, I tried hiding. But on a playground where there were no trees, all I had to work with was getting lost in a crowd of children, or hiding behind playground equipment. Guess which one I chose...

That's right! I chose trying to hide behind the steel poles attached to the the slide, the seesaw, the swings. All with the mentality of  "if I can't see you, you can't see me". I learned at the ripe old age of seven the fallacy in that school of thought. Everyone saw me. The teasing was endless and painful.

As I grew up, I became interested in the Drill Team at our high school in Cabot, Arkansas. I tried out, was accepted, practiced like crazy all summer, then our first routine was done at a Friday pep rally. We introduced ourselves out on the football field while the entire student body sat in the stands. When I called out my name, everybody laughed. My name was a joke! The football players were the worst. Great! My first week of high school and I was the laughing stock!  I wanted to march myself right off the football field and transfer to a different high school in another galaxy far, far away.

As time passed and I grew older, it wasn't so bad. I got used to the name...sort of grew into it. When introducing myself to strangers, I usually heard things like, "Hazel, now that's a really old-fashioned name!" or "I don't think I know any other Hazels," then there's "You don't look like a Hazel!" (Oh, really? What does a Hazel look like anyway? Long crooked nose, big black hat, broom?)  But  my all time favorite was "I have an Aunt Hazel. She's what? 85 now?" (Picture me biting my tongue and fighting the urge to roll my eyes and storm away from Aunt Hazel's precious niece.)

Then it happened! Julia Roberts named one of her twins Hazel. I honestly thought she was smarter than that. Does she realize that poor child has to grow up with that name? Right alongside all the Matildas, Chesters, Lars, and Gladyses of the world.

To all of us with odd names: hold your head high. There's one thing about having an absurdly strange name: people always remember us. And cheer up! Maybe in the next life we'll have really COOL names! Like Tiffany, Amber, Justin, Marcus or one of those unisex names like Gray or Sean.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Night at the Pizza Hut

My husband and I live in a small community. So when I have a craving for Pizza Hut Veggie's Lover Pizza and a salad, we have to drive about 16 miles to get it.

After a long day, of writing and rewriting, hanging out with my foot propped up in its boot on the coffee table, and listening to the jaybirds out our front window squawking at Rowdy, the Medicare Cat, I wanted pizza.

We drove into Woodland Park, put gas in the car before the thing literally stopped in the middle of the street, and scooted over to the Pizza Hut. Busy night! The parking lot was full. People were going in; people with to go orders were leaving. We were sure there would be a wait, but a young lady from our church who is a server there (and has a boot on, too, because of a broken foot) saw us, waved and smiled and motioned for us to find a seat. Gladly.

At first, I was almost certain there would be a riot of epic proportions because we went straight to a booth, but when everybody saw me hobbling, the would-be naysayers put a lid on it and went back to just being their normal selves.

Shortly, I could come to the conclusion that just because we were getting primo service, didn't mean it was the be all and end all of pizzeria dining experiences.

Sitting directly behind us was a thirty-something woman and a much younger, young man, who I was fairly certain...all right, maybe on partially certain...was her teen-aged son. From the moment I sat, until the time we stood to leave, the woman watched every bite I took and every sip of Diet Pepsi from my straw. Did I have a smudge on my face? Or did my makeup look so exceptional tonight that she wanted make up tips? Or did I remind her of a long lost cousin? Whatever it was, it made for uncomfortable dining.

If that weren't enough, another woman came in with her two children, one of which was severely autistic (and I know this because of all the letters behind my name, i.e., Hazel Wesson-Peterson, J.U.D.G.E., J.U.R.Y.).  At any rate, he was an adorable child, who screamed at the top of his lungs the entire time...except for when his pizza arrived.  He was an unusual study, and as I watched him, I reminded myself of the woman who was watching me and decided I'd be better served just enjoying the company of my husband and savoring the pizza when it arrived.

Then, a couple and their two children from Arkansas came in. How do I know they were from Arkansas? Is it because I am from Arkansas and we put off this secret aura that only other Arkansans recognize? Yeah, right! I know, because the woman had on a tee shirt from the University of Central Arkansas, her husband had the twangy Arkansas accent and their license plates said "Arkansas, The Natural State". When they first came into the restaurant, the family had a little squabble in their Southern twang, calling attention to themselves. (Great!) Realizing everybody was watching and listening, they took it outside where the argument escalated and one of the children was actually pushed by their dad. When Dad realized he'd caused a scene, he rallied his small family, managed to get them all back in the vehicle without loss of life or limb and scrammed out of the parking lot..  My husband wanted to know if they were cousins of mine. Really, Don?!?!?

If all that weren't enough, the man at the booth in front of us got tired of waiting for his food and began to make a scene. I suppose he couldn't see there was but one server on the floor, and she had a broken foot, and, that the restaurant was full. When the staff was polite to him, he simply chose to take his order to go. (I would, too, if I'd made such a scene. Maybe it just wasn't as much fun when no one would argue with him.)

Then a group of firemen came in. Our city and county was evacuated earlier this summer in the Waldo Canyon Fire, so these guys are like National Heroes around here. Everyone stopped eating to stare at the local celebrities. I was honestly surprised someone didn't offer to buy their meal.

Next, a woman and her very small son came in to have pizza. No big deal except she committed one of the most resented acts restaurant people deal with: she brought a soft drink in from a local fast food restaurant. Now, in my experience, that was a big no-no. So much so, that in my dad's restaurant, back in Arkansas (and yes, he had a huge accent just like the aforementioned dad in this story) customers were given two choices, should they commit such a travesty. Either pour the drink down the sink...or leave. It's simply not done.

The final blow was a man who was wearing a hat advertising his desire for the impeachment of our county sheriff. I also noticed his pick-up truck had sideboards built on it which were painted black with stenciled yellow and red letters that said "Impeach our County Sheriff and his SWAT Gang!"  Seriously? Oh, well, to each his own, I guess.

So there you have it...a Friday night visit to Pizza Hut. Something for everyone! OH...and just to set the record Veggie Lovers' Pizza? One slice had Canadian bacon. First bite of meat I've had in about 10 years! That's what I get for going to the head of the line, I suppose.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Gossiping 101

Gossip! We all do it! In one form or another, we all do it! But I'll bet there's something about gossiping that even the most gifted, experienced tongue wagging participants may not be aware of. 

My fictional character, Annie, was taught the art by her grandmother, who fancied herself professor emeritus in the psychology of gossiping. Her duty as the matriarch of the family was the instill into her daughter and granddaughter the art of the gossip, the psychology behind it, and the importance of learning all the latest tidbits without ever opening their mouths.

Interested? Well, let's hope so, because I'm about the share with you Gossiping 101: The Art of the Gossip in Victorian America.

First,  never, ever, ever, coax gossip out of anyone. If gossip begins to flow it is unladylike to ask leading questions and appear to be a gossip yourself. A true gossiper will tell the whole story simply because of the rush it gives them. Secondly, never let body language give the idea that any tale at another person's expense is being relished. Quite the contrary. As much fun as it is to gossip, there is something primal about it, makes us feel better about ourselves. Simply sit, sip your tea, eat your cookies and listen. Always have something in your hands because hands, Annie, are the key to a good tell. Women tend to use their hands when they become enthused or overly interested, encouraging the teller to go on and on. And our goal, the goal of a true lady, is to appear nonchalant and just a tad disinterested. The story will continue, but since you don't speak or give of the feeling of approval, the only thing said about you will be that you're a bore at tea. And that's not so bad. Better than being the focal point of a sermon on the evils of gossip at the next Sunday service. Finally, and most importantly, the eyes have it. Keep a blank look going, not one that says there's nothing behind the eyes, but one says, 'Gossip. I can take it or leave it.' Our eyes, dear one, can give away our every emotion. Especially excitement or sadness. Expressionless gazes can keep the gossiper gossiping, but keep them from asking you to participate.”

And there you have it: Gossiping 101 as told to Annie, by her Grandmother, Prudence Wickham, on the eve of her first formal tea. After all, grandmothers in Victorian America always imparted life's most important lessons to their granddaughters. Appearance was everything second only to not being called out for bad behavior by their parson.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Guess Who's Coming for Dinner?

There weren't three of them, but one seemed more than enough.

After church today, Don and I went to lunch with our good friends, Mike and Sandy Sickefoose. We were enjoying ourselves immensely, but when it came to be about 3:30 we all realized that our housebound pets were probably about ready to euthanize all of us, and, so we scattered, hurrying home to let Rowdy, our Medicare cat out of the house.

When we got home, the first thing I noticed was the hummingbird feeder taken apart and lying on the front porch. That's odd, I thought.  Don opened the front door and said, "Oh, no. No, no, no!"

I looked in to see what was the matter and to my distress, all over the floor was ALL the food from our pantry and refrigerator, a five pound sack of sugar, another five pound pack of Splenda, a sack of flour, a broken antique bowl, two strainers, a jar of peanut butter and a gallon container of raspberry iced tea and lots of cans. Down the hall was oyster crackers, Weight Watchers snacks and a loaf of apple crumb bread.

Following the food trail down the hall, it led to our bedroom. I'm calling for Rowdy, who isn't answering or coming to me. The window was intact, but the screen was torn out and lying on the ground outside the window. In the bathroom, the same thing awaited. A huge paw-shaped rip in the screen gave me the impression that the little bugger (in this case a BIG bugger) had tried to make it through our TINY bathroom window.

We both ran outdoors, called for Rowdy, all the while looking this way and that for the culprit of our break-in. Below the bathroom window was a blown glass bird. Obviously the sun had caused it to shine and our thief liked it very much. The only thing missing from the bathroom was the bird.

Back to the bedroom: whoever it was had to crawl over our ENORMOUS aspen king-sized bed, so I began pulling the bedding off to run through the wash. Next was the cleanup of all the food stuff on the floor. Pine-Sol, bleach and Murphy's soap combined to clean up all the yuck. There were prints all over the outside of the fridge, the stove and the cabinets.

I can't speak for my husband but I WAS TOTALLY GROSSED OUT! Tonight I am looking over my shoulder.

Who was it, you ask?  A BEAR! A bear broke into our home. Thank goodness we scared him off. I hate to think what could have happened if he had still been in the house when we walked in. We think he heard us opening the door and ran out the way he came in...dropping his bread behind him.

You may think living in the country might be boring but it is totally to the contrary. Most of the action around here comes from the four-legged members of our neighborhood. Just last week one of the deer I love so much was killed by a mountain lion just around the corner. The hummingbirds have a war going on outside our front window all day long vying for ownership of the feeder. They're like little stealth bombers. It's hysterical! The crows think they're all that and a bag of bird feed. Every morning about 6 a.m. they plan their strategy. One parks itself in every tree in the front yard and begin to "holler" at Rowdy, who, by the way, has more smarts on one side of his brain than all them put together. They squawk and caw and rattle the limbs of the trees, but Rowdy just ignores them...  The foxes wait just outside the perimeter of the front yard waiting for some morsel from somewhere to land on the ground. Stupid things don't know Rowdy's sitting right on the front porch. They grab anything and run like the wind down the hill. And the raccoons...well, they just climb up in the lawn chairs and peek in the window giving us a "what's up" kind of look.  But, as I've said, before, the deer are my absolute favorites.

The bears can just move along...go somewhere else...they're cute, but I'd rather not get to know them on a personal level. I name the animals I like. The bear doesn't have a name.

Oh...and Rowdy? Hiding under the bed. He may be old...but with age comes wisdom.