Nick Russell

Jul 032024
 

Between the two nerve block shots I received recently, and Terry getting her second one yesterday, the Spine Care Center in Tuscaloosa is starting to feel like home. Medicare requires two of the nerve blocks, done at least two weeks apart, before they will approve the RF ablation to sever the nerve and stop the back pain. Well, back pain in my case. Terry has both back and neck pain, and so far they’ve just done her neck.

As regular blog readers might remember, I had this process done a couple of times when we lived in Florida. The first time was fantastic and I went two years without any noticeable pain. The second time around really didn’t do me much good at all. Even with all the technology they have, it’s kind of a hit or miss procedure.

Anyway, that’s what we did yesterday. It’s really a pretty simple procedure. It takes longer to get the patient prepped than it does to do the nerve block shots. Here’s Terry getting ready to go in before the procedure yesterday.

When she was done, which took about 40 minutes including recovery, we went to Jalapeños Mexican Grill for a late lunch/early dinner. It was early enough that the place wasn’t very crowded yet, and as we were leaving a young African American couple sitting nearby said they had been watching us and it was obvious we had a good marriage. He asked us how long we had been married and Terry told him we’re working on our 27th year. The gentleman asked for any advice, saying they’ve been married four years so far.

I told him what my father told me when I was a young man – always treat your lady like you did on the very first date. I also told him that even if we’ve had the worst fight of our marriage, I still open doors for Terry every time, and that the first thing we say to each other in the morning is “I love you” and it’s the last thing we say at night. Terry added that communication and respect help make it successful. They both thanked us, and I hope they took our advice to heart.

From there we went to Publix to stock up on groceries, made a quick stop at the post office to drop a couple of things off, and headed home. It was miserably hot, and by the time we had everything unloaded from the van, the only thing we wanted to do was sit in our recliners and drink some iced tea.

In other news I’ve finished several more chapters of my new Tinder Street book, and today I will print them out for Terry to edit and proofread before sending them on to Judy and Roberta. I’m getting very close to wrapping this one up, folks. 😊

Speaking of Tinder Street, it’s Thursday and time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Tinder Street, the first book in my Tinder Street saga. Chronicling the days leading up to World War I and the events that followed, Tinder Street is the first book in a saga that will take readers from rural farms to a major industrial city in the Midwest, across an ocean where German U-boats lurk waiting for a target to come within range of their deadly torpedoes, to the bloody trench warfare of France, and home again. And of how, back at home, the soldiers of a victorious Army try to put their experiences behind them and pick up the pieces of the lives they once had, to look toward a future bright with promise. Lucas Morgan was one of those soldiers, a man who hated the thought of killing, but did his duty. A duty that would haunt him long after the last shots were fired.

This is also the story of the simple working class people who built America. Farmers, factory workers, streetcar conductors, midwives, and public servants. Their joys and sorrows, their wins and losses, and how these people who struggled together to build a better life for themselves and their children changed a place named Tinder Street to Tender Street, a reflection of one family’s devotion to their neighbors. This series is one I have wanted to write and have researched for years.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?

Jul 022024
 

Here’s another blog post from my days publishing small town newspapers

Back during my newspaper days on the Pacific Northwest coast, my headquarters was in Aberdeen, Washington, in Grays Harbor, which is located at the bottom of the Olympic Peninsula. Aberdeen is an old seaport and lumber mill town, and Gray’s Harbor is the largest natural deep water port north of San Francisco, and there is a lot of history there.

A young man named Billy would come by once a week, wanting to wash the windows in our office. Billy only charged a dollar or two, and he was a very nice man and a hard worker. He was developmentally disabled, but that never slowed him down a bit. Every Wednesday, right on schedule, Billy was there with his bucket, sponge, and his rags, ready to go to work. One week Billy came just as I was going out the door, and I handed him five dollars to do the windows. He said it was only two dollars, and I told him to keep it. This offended Billy. He handed the money back to me and said, “I don’t take charity, and I don’t want no more than what I earned.”

The women who worked in the office took a shine to Billy because he was always such a gentle soul, and when someone asked where he lived, they discovered he was sleeping in an abandoned house without any utilities because the abandoned car he had been living in had been towed away. That just was not acceptable, so they decided that they had to remedy that situation. At one time the building that housed the newspaper office had been a saloon and brothel, back during the wild and crazy seaport days (that’s an entirely different story I will tell you about someday), and there were eight small rooms on the second floor that had been the cribs for the working girls. They sat empty except for being used for storage, and the girls decided to clean one of them for Billy. It wasn’t fancy by any means, but it was warm and dry, and there was a bathroom down the hall.

As I said before, Billy had pride and wouldn’t take something for nothing, so he insisted he had to work to earn his keep. That was fine with me, and I told him that he could wash my car and pickup and the delivery van. He was meticulous about it and kept all three vehicles looking better than they did the day they came off the showroom floor. Billy also took it upon himself to clean the office every day and did a great job.

However, this was somewhat problematic because Billy may have had a good heart, but he was totally lacking in personal hygiene. So the girls had to explain to him that he had to take a bath and they gave him a bottle of cologne. The next morning he came downstairs looking clean and polished, but he reeked of cologne. Laurel, the office manager, asked him how much he had put on, and he told her the whole bottle. Okay, Billy, time for another bath!

My wife at the time was pregnant, and she usually went to the printers, about 30 miles away, to get every issue printed. Loading bundles of newspapers into the van was becoming difficult for her, so I asked Billy to go with her and do the loading. He was happy to have more responsibility.

Over time, Billy began doing more and more things around the office, and I decided we should put him on the payroll, which was fine with him as long as he was earning the money and it wasn’t a handout.

When the first payday came around, I handed Billy his check, and he asked what it was. I told him it was his pay for the week, and he asked, “Don’t I get any money?” Laurel explained to Billy that he needed to take the check to the bank and cash it, which he didn’t understand. So one of the girls in the production department took him to the bank, where Billy opened a checking account. That turned out to be a very bad thing. That hundred dollars was the most money Billy had ever had, and he thought the was rich.

Just as Billy didn’t understand that his paycheck was the same as money, when they told him that the checks were just like money and he could go to the store and buy things, that’s what Billy did.

You have to understand, this was in 1981 in a small town where everybody knew everybody. There was no such thing as bank cards, and no one ever asked for identification when you purchased something with a check. In fact, most banks had counter checks that you could just pick up and fill out when you needed cash. By the middle of the next week, our office phone started ringing off the hook. One store after another was calling to say that Billy had bounced checks. A lot of checks!

I went upstairs to his little room and knocked on the door, and when Billy opened it I thought I had walked into a Circuit City or Best Buy. He had two television sets, a VCR, a boombox, and two bicycles. He also had four or five pairs of new shoes, almost as many cowboy boots,  and a bunch of new clothes. The room had been small to start with, but now it was full! I asked Billy where he got everything, and he said he bought it. Knowing the answer even before I asked him where he got all the money, I wasn’t surprised when he said he didn’t need money, he had checks.

My office manager, my wife, and I spent the rest of that day and most of the next hauling things back to stores, explaining the situation, apologizing on Billy’s behalf, and then closing his checking account. After that, Billy got paid in cash. It just seemed to work out better that way.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – Camping is nature’s way of promoting the motel business.

Time Does Fly

 Posted by at 12:35 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 012024
 

Can you believe it’s not only the start of a new month, but we are halfway through the year already? How is that possible? Time really does fly, doesn’t it?

Speaking of time flying, I want to wish a belated happy 73rd anniversary to Terry’s parents, Pete and Bess Weber. Their anniversary was actually yesterday, but somehow I slipped up and missed it. Here’s wishing you two many more years of happiness. We love you.

I can tell you one area where time is not flying, the repairs to our Ram pickup. Back in early May somebody backed into us at an auto parts store, damaging the right passenger side door and fender of the truck. He quickly admitted that he was at fault, it was noted thus so on the police report, and his insurance company called me the very next day to arrange to get the truck repaired.

It took nearly three weeks for a body shop to get an opening to take it in, and I was surprised that what I thought was a mere fender bender actually came out to over $6,000 in damages. The other guy’s insurance company had no problem with that and we dropped the truck off. That’s when everything seemed to slow down.

Between problems getting a replacement door and some other items needed, and then the employee working on the truck quitting with no notice and another tech having to step in and take it on, we are still waiting. The last I heard was that they are shooting for a July 18th completion date. Everybody tells me the shop is very good, and I understand that they cannot control supply chain issues. But I sure do miss having a truck!

Congratulations Kathy Brophey, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of The High Ground, the ninth book in my friend Ben Rehder’s Roy Ballard mystery series. In a look back at one of Roy Ballard’s earliest cases, beautiful Kendyl Jordan’s eye-catching classic car goes missing, possibly with something of great value hidden inside it. Can Roy Ballard help her find it? Despite Ballard’s budding reputation, Kendyl learns he’s not even a private investigator, he’s a legal videographer with very little experience. Still, he seems to have a knack for the job, and it doesn’t take him long to identify a couple of dangerous suspects. That’s when the case takes more twists and turns than a winding Texas Hill Country road!

We had 25 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – I haven’t tried yoga, but I have tried bending over to pick up my keys, so I’m pretty sure I’d hate yoga.

Jun 302024
 

The possibility of rain was predicted for yesterday afternoon, but around here the weatherman is kind of like the little boy who cried wolf. You listen but you don’t really believe him most of the time. As it turned out, he was right this time around.

We had heard thunder rumbling most of the day, and in the early afternoon the clouds opened up and it began to pour. The sky got so dark you would have thought it was almost twilight, and when I looked out back, the normally dry ditch (in the foreground of this picture) that runs along the road back to the barn was overflowing and looked like a small river. I’m not complaining because it’s been so hot and dry that our grass and Terry’s raised planters really needed it.

The crazy thing is that my friend Donald Hann, who lives less than ten miles west of us as the crow flies, said they hardly got enough to make the grass wet at his place. Our son Travis, who lives about the same distance to the east, told me they didn’t get much more than a sprinkle.

Once the rain stopped, I took advantage of everything being so wet to burn a lot of cardboard boxes that had been stacking up in the garage. I would prefer to recycle them, but the county recycling center is always closed. So I hauled two loads of boxes down to the burn barrel and spent an hour or so getting rid of them.

Alli loves to play in the water, so while I was doing that she was jumping around and splashing in the ditch, having a wonderful time.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of The High Ground, the ninth book in my friend Ben Rehder’s Roy Ballard mystery series. In a look back at one of Roy Ballard’s earliest cases, beautiful Kendyl Jordan’s eye-catching classic car goes missing, possibly with something of great value hidden inside it. Can Roy Ballard help her find it? Despite Ballard’s budding reputation, Kendyl learns he’s not even a private investigator, he’s a legal videographer with very little experience. Still, he seems to have a knack for the job, and it doesn’t take him long to identify a couple of dangerous suspects. That’s when the case takes more twists and turns than a winding Texas Hill Country road!

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – Why do I have to use leaves as toilet paper when we go camping, while we have bears out there using Charmin?

Jun 292024
 

Yesterday was another hot, miserable day here in west-central Alabama. As I said I planned to do in yesterday’s blog, I took advantage of having to be indoors to get a lot more writing done in my new Tinder Street book. But it wasn’t always easy.

It didn’t help matters that our internet was flaky all day long, coming on and then dropping off again, which makes it hard to dictate into Word. I finally gave up and started using the hotspot on my phone, but it’s very slow transferring data like that. However, even with all of that happening, I still knocked out two more chapters, 6,425 words.

Sometime during the afternoon, we ventured out for a few minutes to check on Terry’s raised garden beds. This super hot summer has not been good for anybody’s gardens, and we may have been overcompensating. When Travis and Geli were here last week, they suggested that we might be watering too much, and to cut back from doing it every day to every other day or so. We did, and the results are definitely good. While we were out there, Terry harvested these squash. It’s always good to be able to bring something in that she grew herself.

The plan for the weekend is more of the same, assuming the internet will cooperate. I’m starting to get close to the end of the book now, and I’m eager to get it finished and in my readers’ hands.

Be sure to enter our latest a Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The High Ground, the ninth book in my friend Ben Rehder’s Roy Ballard mystery series. In a look back at one of Roy Ballard’s earliest cases, beautiful Kendyl Jordan’s eye-catching classic car goes missing, possibly with something of great value hidden inside it. Can Roy Ballard help her find it? Despite Ballard’s budding reputation, Kendyl learns he’s not even a private investigator, he’s a legal videographer with very little experience. Still, he seems to have a knack for the job, and it doesn’t take him long to identify a couple of dangerous suspects. That’s when the case takes more twists and turns than a winding Texas Hill Country road!

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – We forget that what we have is what we really wanted at some point. – Courtney Carver

Almost Tolerable

 Posted by at 12:22 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 282024
 

The weatherman had predicted rain and the possibility of severe afternoon storms in our area for Wednesday, but sometimes I feel like I could throw darts at a weather chart and do as well as those guys. It was the usual hot, humid weather all day and all evening, but they almost got it right except for their timing. About 1:30 AM on Thursday we got a serious downpour that lasted for about half an hour or so.

And then, yesterday was almost tolerable. I don’t think the temperature got anywhere past the low to mid 80s, and the humidity was not out of sight. It was definitely much better than we have had in a while, or probably will have for the next couple of months. But when I rolled our garbage can out to the street about 10 PM the humidity had increased considerably. By the time I got back to the house I was drenched in sweat.

I have been avoiding the hot weather as much as possible by staying inside and writing, getting about 5,000 words done in my new book in the last two days. Unfortunately, part of that included the death of one of the characters. That can be hard because I almost feel like they’re my friends. But that’s life, and by its very nature, in a family saga some people will pass on as the story unfolds.

Every day for the next week or so we are looking at heat indexes of 100° to 105°. I don’t plan to spend time outside any more than I have to, so I expect to get a lot more writing done.

Be sure to enter our latest a Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The High Ground, the ninth book in my friend Ben Rehder’s Roy Ballard mystery series. In a look back at one of Roy Ballard’s earliest cases, beautiful Kendyl Jordan’s eye-catching classic car goes missing, possibly with something of great value hidden inside it. Can Roy Ballard help her find it? Despite Ballard’s budding reputation, Kendyl learns he’s not even a private investigator, he’s a legal videographer with very little experience. Still, he seems to have a knack for the job, and it doesn’t take him long to identify a couple of dangerous suspects. That’s when the case takes more twists and turns than a winding Texas Hill Country road!

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – Don’t take people for granted. No matter how much they love you, people get tired eventually.

June Q&A

 Posted by at 1:00 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 272024
 

I’m back with more questions from blog readers about RVing, my writing activities, what’s happening in our lives since we hung up the keys, and all kinds of other things. While I try to answer all questions individually, I also share some here occasionally.

Q. For a while you were giving us updates on your barn renovation project. Has that stopped?
A. Just about everything outside has stopped for now, with our dreadfully hot summer weather. I hope to get back to the barn project when things start to cool down.

Q. A few months ago you released audiobooks of your Tinder Street series. Will you be doing them for the rest of the Big Lake and John Lee series? I hope so because I am visually impaired and can’t read printed or e-books.
A. I would like to produce audiobooks of those series, it’s just a matter of having time to do so. There are never enough hours in the day for everything I want to get done.

Q. Sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room a while back I read a magazine article about a Nick Russell who is apparently a big name in the snowboarding sport. I know it’s not you but wondered if it is any relation because I seem to remember that one of your kids or grandkids was a snowboarder?
A. Our granddaughter Hailey was into snowboarding at one time, before she got into barrel racing. I’m not sure if she still does it now that’s she’s married.

Q. I read that you got a new shipment of books in. I would love to have an autographed copy of one of your books. How much would it cost?
A. Cost for any of my novels, personally autographed, is $9.95 plus $5 for packing and shipping to any U.S. addresses. I don’t send them out of the country because postage cost is prohibitive.

Q. From time to time I have seen the names of people we both know from the RV community or who are mutual Facebook friends in your books. I think that is so cool. How can I get you to use my name sometimes?
A. Let me know if you want to be a villain or a victim. 😊

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The High Ground, the ninth book in my friend Ben Rehder’s Roy Ballard mystery series. In a look back at one of Roy Ballard’s earliest cases, beautiful Kendyl Jordan’s eye-catching classic car goes missing, possibly with something of great value hidden inside it. Can Roy Ballard help her find it? Despite Ballard’s budding reputation, Kendyl learns he’s not even a private investigator, he’s a legal videographer with very little experience. Still, he seems to have a knack for the job, and it doesn’t take him long to identify a couple of dangerous suspects. That’s when the case takes more twists and turns than a winding Texas Hill Country road!

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – Distance doesn’t separate people, silence does.

A Long Wait

 Posted by at 12:45 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 262024
 

I had an appointment at the Spine Care Center in Tuscaloosa yesterday to get another nerve block shot in my lower back. Medicare requires two of them with at least an 80% reduction in back pain before they will authorize an RF ablation to sever the nerve.

The nerve block I had two weeks ago was amazing. If it wasn’t a 100% improvement, it was darn close, and it lasted until Saturday of this past weekend before it started to wear off. They don’t usually last that long so I was happy with that.

My appointment was for 1:30 in the afternoon and we got there about 20 minutes early. The place was very busy, and it was well over 90 minutes before they took me back to begin prepping for the procedure. Prepping basically consisted of taking my vitals, asking a few routine questions, and then inserting an IV. When all that was done, we waited. And then we waited some more. And then we waited some more after that. It was 3:40 when they took me in for the procedure, which didn’t take more than 10 minutes or so. Then I was back in recovery for about a half hour. As I said in the blog’s title, it was a long wait. The good news is that it seemed to work and I don’t have any back pain at the moment. So I expect in another week or two they will be calling me back in for the actual nerve ablation.

I wasn’t supposed to eat or drink anything before the procedure, so by the time we were out of there, Terry and I were both hungry. We went to Dreamland BBQ in Northport for an early dinner. This is one of our favorite restaurants, and I ordered a full rack of ribs, which was enough to fill my large capacity stomach and still leave more to bring home for dinner today.

Terry went with the stuffed baked potato and fried green tomatoes, and she too had enough leftovers for today.

We got home about 6:30, and Alli was more than happy to see us, and even happier to get outside and go potty. As for the cats, their attitude was like, “What? You’re back again?”

It was 100° yesterday, and today we are looking at 101°. It’s definitely a day for staying inside and getting some more writing done. But before I do that, I have a bunch of emails to catch up on that I didn’t get to yesterday, and then I have several chapters of my new book that I sent on to Judy and Roberta after Terry edited and proofread them and I made the corrections she suggested. Judy sent hers back to me, so I will go through it and see what she found that we missed and take care of that before I start writing again.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. Every parent I have ever known needs this license plate.

Thought For The Day – You can’t always get what you want, but you just might find you get what you need.

Jun 252024
 

In an early Newspaper Days blog post titled Shortchanged, I mentioned an advertising salesman who worked for me at my paper in Grays Harbor, Washington. Steve was a very good salesman, but also cheap and always looking for a way to get something over on me. I had no doubt he inflated his expense account whenever he thought he could get away with it, but he routinely brought in double the sales of any of my other salespeople.

Besides being an advertising salesman, Steve also happened to be a minister. He did not have his own church but regularly filled in at area churches when their pastors were sick or otherwise not able to be there.

One evening Steve got a call from the pastor at a local church, asking if he could help him out. He was scheduled to perform an outdoor wedding ceremony in a local park the next afternoon, but a family emergency came up and he had to leave town.

Steve said of course, and quickly jotted down the details. But he had forgotten that we had an appointment the next afternoon with a large real estate developer who wanted to place some advertising with us at his office in Long Beach, Washington, 75 long, twisting miles south of us on U.S. Highway 101.

As it turned out, we would be able to do the wedding and then drive down to Long Beach. We got to the park and Steve introduced himself to the couple and their parents and explained the situation and why he was there. Then he made a quick trip across the park to the restroom to relieve himself.

I’m not sure exactly what happened next, maybe it was a missed communication in the schedule, or maybe the Little League kids who had just finished their game were all in line ahead of him. But at any rate, Steve was about halfway through his business when he heard the Wedding March playing over the PA system. Now, I’m not sure there is a delicate way to put this, but a man cannot just “stop the flow” on demand. Though I’ll give Steve credit, he tried.

The bride’s father had already walked her down the aisle to her waiting groom, and there was no minister there. Everyone looked confused until we heard a shout of “Hold on, I’m coming!” and a breathless Steve came flying across the park and joined the happy couple at the front of the assembled guests.

Yes, it was a wonderful wedding. The bride was radiant in her hand-sewn gown, the groom was handsome in his rented tuxedo, and everyone tried not to notice the big wet stain in the crotch of the minister’s light gray suit, and the fact that his zipper had apparently broken and was gaping open.

As soon as Steve pronounced the couple man and wife, we made a beeline for my car, rushed to his house so he could change clothes, and then sped south to our appointment. Neither of us said a word for the first few miles, and then Steve said, “Well, that was awkward.”

I’m glad that there was not a police officer following me that day, because we were laughing so hard I’m sure I strayed over the centerline and then onto the shoulder a time or two before we got it out of our systems.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us, courtesy of Rick Devoy.

Thought For The Day – Preschool and bar rules are the same. You pee your pants and you go home.

Writing My Days Away

 Posted by at 12:15 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 242024
 

Except for when our son Travis and his wife Geli came over on Tuesday, and taking Saturday off to spend time with Terry for her birthday, about all I have accomplished this last week is getting a lot of writing done in my new Tinder Street book. Yesterday alone was over 4,000 words, and previous days have been in the 2,000 to 3,000 word range. It sure beats trying to do anything outside in this oppressive heat and humidity.

Today I will finish proofreading and making corrections to yesterday’s word count, then I will print out several more chapters for Terry to edit and proofread before I send them on to Judy and Roberta. I’m a little over 73,000 words done now, and most of the previous books in the series have averaged out at a little over 100,000 words. I’m getting there, but it is not a speedy process because of all of the research that goes into each chapter.

Speaking of books, supply of my books was getting low. I like to keep several copies of each title on hand to give as samples to bookstores and libraries, for when people want an autographed copy, and to use as prizes in the weekly drawings. So I placed a big order with Amazon, and the other day UPS dropped off three boxes of books. Just a few minutes later the post office showed up with another huge box of them. It took most of the day just to sort through them, and to get everything organized and put away where I can find them when I need them. I have to admit, seeing them all in one place really surprises me. With over 50 books out, I can’t keep track of them all these days.

Congratulations Kathleen Voorhees, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of my friend Suzie O’Connell’s Mountain Angel, the first book in her Northstar Angel’s series. It’s a contemporary Western romance about a woman who returns to her roots, desperate for the tranquility of the secluded valley and plagued by memories of her dead boyfriend and the advances of an obsessive former friend. When her over-protective uncle sends Patrick O’Neil “on vacation” to keep an eye on her she is annoyed, but finds herself irresistibly drawn to the haunted man with a kind smile and sad eyes. He may just be the best thing to ever happen to her…if she can convince him to stay.

We had 24 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – Don’t be impressed by money, followers, degrees, and titles. Be impressed by kindness, integrity, humility, and generosity.

Terry Says Thank You

 Posted by at 1:12 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 232024
 

Terry says thank you to all of the people who left birthday greetings in blog comments, comments on Facebook, emails, and text messages yesterday. You all helped make her special day even more special.

I finally convinced her to let me take her out for dinner and she chose Los Tarascos in Tuscaloosa. It’s one of her favorite Mexican restaurants and we had a delicious meal. While we were eating we could not help comparing this location to their restaurant in Northport, which is actually closer to our home. We tried it once a week or so ago and the service and quality of food there were sadly lacking. It’s worth driving the extra miles to the Tuscaloosa restaurant, where we know we won’t be disappointed.

While we were eating, a very nice young African American family came in, mom, dad, two charming little girls, and a little boy who was no more than a toddler. We all know that sometimes when you go to a restaurant you wind up eating your meal next to a bunch of screaming little demons whose parents seem oblivious to their misbehavior. That’s never any fun. This family, on the other hand, was delightful. The two little girls were facing us and waved shyly several times, and the boy must have thought I was Santa Claus because every time he looked at me his eyes got big. On our way out I made it a point of complimenting the parents and telling them what a beautiful family they had.

When we left the restaurant, we made a quick stop at a friendly little shop called Guns and Ammo. I’m still looking for a lever action Winchester 30-30, without much success.

From there we drove just a couple of blocks to South’s Finest Meats, where I stocked up on frozen turkey necks for Alli. These are her favorite treat, and she loves them. While we were there, I was delighted to discover that they carry Circle J milk. It comes from a local family-owned dairy, and everybody says it’s the best milk you’ll ever have. I’ve been wanting to try it, so I made sure to bring some home with us.

Back at home we had a quiet evening, watching TV and just enjoying being together. Terry said that’s her favorite way to spend any day, including her birthday. Mine too. 😊

Today is your last chance to enter our our Free Drawing for an audiobook of my friend Suzie O’Connell’s Mountain Angel, the first book in her Northstar Angel’s series. It’s a contemporary Western romance about a woman who returns to her roots, desperate for the tranquility of the secluded valley and plagued by memories of her dead boyfriend and the advances of an obsessive former friend. When her over-protective uncle sends Patrick O’Neil “on vacation” to keep an eye on her she is annoyed, but finds herself irresistibly drawn to the haunted man with a kind smile and sad eyes. He may just be the best thing to ever happen to her…if she can convince him to stay.


To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – The best way to remember your wife’s birthday is to forget it once.

Not Just Another Day

 Posted by at 12:25 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 222024
 

Today is a very special day, because it’s Terry’s birthday. If you know Terry, you know she downplays it and says it’s “just another day.” Not to me, it’s not. Every day I spend with her is very special, but especially on her birthday, our anniversary, and Valentine’s Day.

The only problem is that Terry is impossible to shop for. She’s not a material woman. She has a couple pairs of earrings, her wedding and engagement rings, an opal ring she loves, and a necklace she never takes off. Other than those, she’s not into jewelry. When we first got together, I sent a dozen red roses to her office every week until she told me to stop wasting money because they only died. I know the truth is she had been single for fourteen years and she got tired of her employees teasing her about having a man in her life. She’s a jeans and T-shirt girl, so clothing is out. I thought about just wrapping a big red bow around my nekkid body, but do you have any idea what forty yards of ribbon costs these days?

About the only concession she will make to her birthday is to allow me to take her out to dinner. She just has not decided where. I’m pretty sure McDonald’s and Wendy’s aren’t on the list.

June 22 is apparently a popular day for amazing women to be born, because it was also my mother’s birthday. Don’t try to psychoanalyze me, my mom was gone for many years before Terry and I got together, and it wasn’t until afterward that I found out they have the same birthday. Besides, if you think you can figure out what’s going inside my head, you’re the one that probably needs to see a shrink.

Happy birthday, baby. Words cannot express how much I love you with all of my heart. I wake up every morning with a smile on my face when I see you in bed next to me, and I fall asleep with you in my arms and a smile of contentment on my face and a heart full of love. If we have to grow old, I am so very grateful we get to do it together.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of my friend Suzie O’Connell’s Mountain Angel, the first book in her Northstar Angel’s series. It’s a contemporary Western romance about a woman who returns to her roots, desperate for the tranquility of the secluded valley and plagued by memories of her dead boyfriend and the advances of an obsessive former friend. When her over-protective uncle sends Patrick O’Neil “on vacation” to keep an eye on her she is annoyed, but finds herself irresistibly drawn to the haunted man with a kind smile and sad eyes. He may just be the best thing to ever happen to her…if she can convince him to stay.


To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – It’s amazing how one day someone walks into your life, and you cannot remember how you ever lived without them.

Jun 212024
 

Digging in our hard Alabama clay is always tough work, but a while back, someone told me about a tractor implement called a stump bucket. I did some research and talked to some folks who have them and decided it might be a good investment. I ordered it from Good Works Tractors and it was delivered in just a few days. I didn’t even know it had arrived until I looked outside and saw the UPS man had put it in the back of the Kawasaki Mule for me. I appreciated that.

Yesterday I decided to see what my new toy was all about. It is made of solid steel, attaches to the front of the tractor in place of the bucket, has three heavy steel digging teeth in the front and then a series of sawtooth cuts on both sides.

Attaching it to the Kubota tractor was easy with the quick hitch, and when it was on I drove to a big pile of dirt in our back pasture that someone had put there a long time ago. Our son Travis and I used some of this dirt for the shooting backstop we put up a while back, and even with the teeth on the tractor’s loader bucket, it was still hard to break it loose and do anything with it. But it was a piece of cake with the stump bucket. I was surprised how easily it broke the clay dirt up.

This is going to come in handy for a lot of projects around here. As the name implies, it can dig out stumps, but is also handy for digging a trench, digging holes for trees, or anyplace else we need to dig something up or out. I’m impressed with it already!

Even though the temperature was in the mid-90s yesterday, there was a lot of cloud cover and the humidity was lower. Terry and I took advantage of that in the late afternoon to get some mowing done. With her on the Husqvarna riding lawnmower and me using the belly mower on the tractor, it took about three hours to get the front and side yards and the big pasture mowed. Teamwork at its best.

Whenever I’m mowing, I always try to leave some flowers for the bees, including these little patches of yellow flowers in several places. I’m not sure what they are, but I think they’re pretty.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of my friend Suzie O’Connell’s Mountain Angel, the first book in her Northstar Angel’s series. It’s a contemporary Western romance about a woman who returns to her roots, desperate for the tranquility of the secluded valley and plagued by memories of her dead boyfriend and the advances of an obsessive former friend. When her over-protective uncle sends Patrick O’Neil “on vacation” to keep an eye on her she is annoyed, but finds herself irresistibly drawn to the haunted man with a kind smile and sad eyes. He may just be the best thing to ever happen to her…if she can convince him to stay.


To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – No matter how much it hurts now, someday you will look back and realize your struggles changed your life for the better.

You Tube To The Rescue

 Posted by at 12:22 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 202024
 

The other day it wasn’t quite as hot, and I took advantage of that to replace the tire and wheel on the Husqvarna riding lawnmower. As I wrote before, the original tire had several punctures in the sidewall and was not salvageable. It was cheaper to buy a pair of tires already mounted on wheels from Amazon than it was to buy a single tire and have it mounted on the old rim locally.

I’ve changed more than a few car and pickup tires in my life, and at one time in my misspent youth I worked for Goodyear, maintaining and replacing tires at a bus garage. I quickly learned that I’m too lazy for physical work like that. But how hard could it be to change a riding lawnmower tire?

The first thing I noticed was that there were no lug nuts. No problem, YouTube is my friend, and I found several videos on how to do the job. It was actually pretty easy. The first step was to remove the rubber dust cap over the axle, then I had to remove a metal retainer clip that held the wheel in place, along with a washer.

Then it was a simple matter to pull the old wheel off, being careful not to misplace the long metal key that fit into slots on the axle and wheel.

Once I had it off, all I had to do was slide the key into the slot on the new wheel and make sure it lined up with the slot on the axle, and then slide the wheel on. The hardest part was replacing the spring steel metal clip. It had a little tab that also went into the same slot on the axle, as well as having to fit into a recessed circle on the axle. It took me several attempts to get it in place because it kept wanting to pop out, but I finally got it done and put the rubber cap back on and I was finished.

I want to replace the tire and wheel on the other side with the other new one I bought, and I’ll do that the next time it cools down a bit, whenever that might be

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of my friend Suzie O’Connell’s Mountain Angel, the first book in her Northstar Angel’s series. It’s a contemporary Western romance about a woman who returns to her roots, desperate for the tranquility of the secluded valley and plagued by memories of her dead boyfriend and the advances of an obsessive former friend. When her over-protective uncle sends Patrick O’Neil “on vacation” to keep an eye on her she is annoyed, but finds herself irresistibly drawn to the haunted man with a kind smile and sad eyes. He may just be the best thing to ever happen to her…if she can convince him to stay.


To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. This seems like a rather brutal way to deal with the problem if you ask me.

Thought For The Day – Sometimes the bad times in our life put us on a direct path to the very best times in our life.

A Running Start

 Posted by at 12:32 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 192024
 

I got off to a running start yesterday, and when I say running, I mean running. The doorbell rang, which set Alli off barking, and as I’ve said before, she sounds so intimidating you would think I have Cujo on a dental floss leash. I hurried down the hall from the bedroom to the front door before she scared away whoever was there. Of course, once I grabbed her collar and then opened the door and let her know that the person there was not a threat, she was fine. It was actually somebody trying to make a delivery to our neighbor, who got the wrong house.

However, in my haste to open the door, I forgot to turn off the security system and the alarm went off, which set Alli off again. I was running to the keypad in another room to silence it, but by the time I got there, Terry was able to use my phone to disarm the system. I got Alli quieted down, and as the deliveryman turned to leave, the UPS truck pulled in the driveway, so Alli had to sound off again. Of course, she knows all of the UPS men because it seems like they’re here every day, so once she recognized him, she was fine and just wanted to get her head petted and for him to throw a ball for her.

Our son Travis had a birthday two weeks ago, but unfortunately, his mother-in-law passed away just a few days before that, and they had family from out of town here for the funeral and it was pretty hectic. It took a while before things settled down and our schedules matched for him and Geli to come over, but they did yesterday afternoon.

Travis loves Terry’s vegan carrot cake, and she made one for him the night before. Now, I’m not any kind of a vegan or vegetarian, I’m more of a carnivore, but I do love that cake. I told Travis that if he was too busy and couldn’t make it over I would be happy to eat it for him. Besides, I told him, I’m already fat and if I ate it all he would not have to worry about putting on any pounds. After all, what are fathers for, right? For some reason he didn’t see it that way. Kids today are so darned ungrateful.

We had a nice visit, and while they were here, he went out to the barn with me to help me unload a heavy implement that I will tell you about in another blog. While we were doing that, Geli noticed an area at the back of our pasture that I hadn’t gotten around to mowing in a while had several squash plants and some other plants that might be pumpkins. We didn’t plant anything back there, so I guess they are just wild. Geli said she didn’t want to hurt Terry’s feelings, but it looks like the plants back there are doing better than the ones she’s been nurturing with fertilizer and such. Mother Nature is quite a gardener, isn’t she?

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time with more knowledge.

Jun 182024
 

In my last newspaper days column, titled Cinderella, I wrote about how small town politicians and bureaucrats always tried to avoid me because they knew I would ask questions they didn’t want to answer and print stories they didn’t want the public to read. I also mentioned that the school superintendent in our little Arizona mountain town refused to take my phone calls.

That’s right, in the seven years that he was school superintendent, not once did he accept a phone call from me. Several times I went to his office, and I could see him through the open door when I walked in, but he would quickly close it and the secretary would tell me he wasn’t there. I’d tell her I had seen him and I knew there was no back door, so he had to be there, and maybe she should check. The response was always the same. She would smile sweetly at me and say, “He’s not here.”

I don’t know what they were so afraid of, but they resisted having anything to do with the newspaper. And, of course, being the suspicious kind of guy I am, my immediate reaction was that if you don’t want to talk to me, there must be something you want to hide.

One year there had been a major remodeling project in the primary and middle schools during the summertime. When school started on the first day, the telephones in our office started ringing off the wall with phone calls from concerned parents asking if we knew what was going on at the school campus because there were a bunch of ambulances lined up there, some from towns as far as 30 miles away.

When nobody answered the telephone at the school district office or at any of the schools, I sent a reporter over to check it out. By the time she drove the two or three miles to the campus, they had pulled up several school buses and were loading kids and staff onto them and taking them to the hospital. When my reporter, a very sharp young woman named Tracy, asked what was happening, the school superintendent said. “Nothing. There’s nothing going on here.”

She asked him why there were so many ambulances and school buses there and where they were taking everybody on the first day of school. I swear to God that small town bureaucrat looked Tracy dead in the eye and asked, “What buses? What ambulances? Nothing’s happening. There’s nothing to see, so why don’t you just go away?” It was one of those “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes” situations.

Getting nowhere with him, Tracy started talking to parents who had come to pick up their children, and they all reported symptoms that included burning eyes and throats, and some kind of minor respiratory distress in staff and students alike. Someone from the school told Tracy she had to stop talking to people and leave, and she told him that it was public property, and she was a news reporter covering the story. He threatened to call the police and she asked him to please do so, because she had her camera with her and she was sure she could get a parent to take a picture of her being escorted off school property.

We never did find out what was happening, even though I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for any records. The school system said there were no records because there had not been a problem. The hospital told us that under HIPPA they could not give us any information. And the same parents who are were picking up their kids and telling us that there was a problem had all clammed up by the next day. A few would talk off the record, but insisted we not identify or quote them.

Unfortunately, sometimes that happens in small towns. People get intimidated because the folks who run the schools and the Town Council and things like that all own local businesses or have connections with people in the business community. And if you’re a working stiff, it’s never a good idea to make waves.

I guess I must be a surfer at heart because I love waves. We didn’t get much out of that story except a good picture of all of those ambulances and school buses on the front page, with the school superintendent standing in front of them with his arms outstretched like he could block Tracy’s view, and some incredible quotes of him denying that what was shown in the picture was actually there.

That didn’t stop us. We were back every time something happened at the school, and just like always, the school superintendent always told us that there was nothing happening. Nothing to see at all. I was glad that my kids went to school in the next town over. Because, it seems that the welfare of children doesn’t really matter much when it comes to the big picture.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

For The Day – If lying was a job, some people would be billionaires.

Porch Babies

 Posted by at 12:52 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 172024
 

Our house faces west, which means when we get up in the morning our back deck is getting the full sunlight. That’s nice in the wintertime, but right now it makes it dreadfully hot in our office, which is just off the deck. We have a  Black + Decker portable air conditioner that we have been turning off at night to save electricity, but for the last few days it’s been 88°to 90° when we go in there and turn the AC on to start our day. Even after running for 12 hours, it only cools the room down to 76°. I think we need to start leaving it on at night, too.

Because the back deck is so hot in the mornings right now, when I take Alli out for her morning potty and a little bit of ball playing, we go out on the covered front porch. Even sitting in the shade out there is hot and close to miserable, but we get by.

I noticed the other day that we have babies in a nest on the porch. I’m not sure what they are, because I’m not really a bird person. The adults are fairly small, look like they are gray or black, and fly really fast. At first glance I thought they were bats because of the way they darted about flying over the yard.

I think there are three or four babies in the nest, but this is the only picture I could get because mama was getting agitated when I tried to take pictures. As long as I stayed away, sitting in a chair on the porch, she would fly in and feed them and quickly take off again in search of something else for them. But when I walked up below the nest to take pictures, she clearly did not like that, so I moved away to let her do her thing and take care of her porch babies.

Besides not being a bird person, I’m also not a flower person. We have several of these plants growing next to the garage, and we didn’t get any flowers on them last year. This year one of them does, and I think they are gladiolas. I’m glad I didn’t think they were weeds and cut them down when we were mowing.

Before I let you go for the day, I wanted to tell you that my friend Ben Rehder, author of the excellent Blanco County mystery series, is currently offering #8 in the series, Stag Party, free now through Tuesday on Amazon. I’ve never been to Blanco County, except in the pages of Ben’s books, but I’m pretty sure game warden John Marlin and good old boys Red O’Brien and Billy Don Craddock would feel right at home in Big Lake. Check it out and get yourself a free copy while you can.

Congratulations Ellen Anita Mann, winner of our drawing for a Kindle Paperwhite e-book reader with a 6.8” display, adjustable warm light, up to 10 weeks of battery life, and 20% faster page turns than previous models.

We had 171 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – You can only be young once. But you can be immature forever.

Three Dads

 Posted by at 12:44 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 162024
 

Happy Father’s Day to all the great dad’s out there, including Terry’s dad, Pete Weber. At 94, he is still getting around well and is one of the most decent and honorable men I have ever known. Pete retired from the Air Force many years ago, but even now he has never stopped working. If somebody needs something fixed or a hand with a chore, Pete is always the first one to help out. I admire him as I have few men in my time.

And to our son-in-law Kenny, who works long, hard hours to provide for his family, always putting them before himself. Kenny was already a single dad with two kids of his own to raise, but he didn’t hesitate to open his arms and his heart to become the father he didn’t have to be to two little girls who needed a loving role model. Kenny is a giant of a man, head and shoulders above just about everyone else, and strong as an ox. But he has to be that big to hold that gigantic heart of his. He is someone else I admire for many reasons.

And then there was my own father. Growing up, I think every kid thinks his Dad is the best. I did, too, even though my Dad was not your typical father. By saying that, I don’t mean that he was an oddball or not present in my life or anything like that. I was the youngest of eight kids, and we were spaced so far apart that my oldest brother had a son three years older than me. So when I was growing up, my father was the age of most of my friends’ grandfathers. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t a great guy who didn’t work hard to take care of his family and to teach his children right from wrong. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Dad was a jokester, a storyteller, he could play any kind of musical instrument with keys or strings, though he couldn’t read music and never had a lesson in his life, and most of all, he was a man full of love. But at the same time, he had a set of rules, and he expected you to live by them.

Rules like, “if you drop it, pick it up” and “if you use it, put it back where it belongs” and say “yes, sir and no, sir” and “yes, ma’am and no, ma’am.” I was taught to always open doors for people no matter if they were younger or older than me, and to always treat women like ladies.

I got my love of books and travel from my father, but I got other things from him, too. One was a work ethic. The summer before I turned 16, I got a job in a local gas station. The owner was hesitant to hire me, but his wife and daughter were going back to see family in Europe for the summer and he needed a hand. I asked for the job, and he said, “No. Kids don’t really want to work” (yes, they said that way back in my day, too).

But I kept asking him to hire me, and he finally talked to my Dad and said, “Frank, if you tell me to hire him, I’ll hire him. But he has to come to work every day.” My Dad explained to me that it was a six-day a week job, and I couldn’t take time off. I had to go to work every day, so before accepting the job, I had to understand exactly what that commitment meant.

Well, I got the job, and I worked a week or two, then some of my friends decided they wanted to go to the lake one day, and asked me to come along. I told them sure, I’d see them first thing in the morning. When they left, my Dad asked me how I planned to be in two places at once because I was also supposed to be at work that day. I told him I was just going to take the day off. Dad said, “When you give your word to someone, you keep it. You gave your boss your word that you would be there every day, and you’re going to be there.”

Being young and thinking I knew it all, I told my Dad he couldn’t force me to go to work if I didn’t want to, and I’d just quit the job. Dad told me that I could do that, but if I did, I would spend eight hours a day, Monday through Saturday, sitting in my room. This was long before the days when kids had computers and TVs and things like that. I would spend the day in my room, and that was it, coming out only for meals and to use the bathroom. “One way or the other,” Dad said, “You promised 48 hours a week this summer to somebody, either to your boss or to me. So you can sit in your room and look out the window watching the grass grow, or you can go to work and earn some money. And more importantly, earn the respect of your boss and me because you kept your word” I didn’t go to the lake that day, and by the time my 16th birthday rolled around, I had enough money to buy a car and a motorcycle. Thanks, Dad.

Something else Dad taught me was that no matter who we think we are, there’s always somebody better off than us and some who are worse off than us, and you treated them both equally. There was a mentally challenged man in our neighborhood who was probably somewhere in his 40s, but had the mind of maybe a ten-year-old. He was fascinated by the sound of music, and if my Dad was sitting on the front porch playing his guitar or his fiddle (Dad would never play a violin) David would show up and stand and watch.

Most people thought he was a pest and shooed him away whenever he came around, but not Dad. He brought that fellow up on the porch and taught him how to play both instruments. Not only play them but play them damn well! Then he went to a pawn shop someplace and bought David his own guitar and fiddle. I asked him why he put so much effort into it and he said, “You can do so many things, son. You can read and write, you can tell stories, you can ride your bicycle, there’s nothing you can’t do. There’s not much that David can do at all. So if I can help him learn to play music and give him something to be happy about, it’s time well spent.”

Someone once said, “My father didn’t tell me how to be a man, he just lived his life, and I learned from watching him.” It was another lesson well learned. Thank you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day. I love you.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for  a Kindle Paperwhite e-book reader with a 6.8” display, adjustable warm light, up to 10 weeks of battery life, and 20% faster page turns than previous models.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

Thought For The Day – A father is neither an anchor to hold us back nor a sail to take us there, but a guiding light whose love shows us the way.

Brutal Heat

 Posted by at 1:00 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 152024
 

We’re experiencing a brutal heat wave here in west central Alabama. The high temperature yesterday was 88° with a heat index of 93, and according to the weatherman, it’s going to get worse. Next week it looks like daily temperatures will be close to the triple digits, and that doesn’t factor in the high  humidity!

I have used the time to get a lot of writing done, turning out just under 3,500 words in my new Tinder Street book on Thursday.

However, yesterday was not a writing day because I had a lot of other things to do. One was quite a bit of research on the Women Air Service Pilots (WASP) of World War II. These were the women that volunteered to fly airplanes from factories to military bases, test fly airplanes after they were repaired, and tow aerial targets for live fire gunnery practice. Last week I mentioned a great book called The Women With The Silver Wings about these brave Americans who battled not only the challenges of flying everything from fighter aircraft to huge bombers, but also a lot of prejudice from men who didn’t believe women belonged in the cockpits of airplanes. That wasn’t just the mindset of the military. At one time the government did not want women to be allowed to fly during their menstrual cycle because the loss of blood might make them lightheaded. It didn’t take long to shoot that idea down, fortunately.

We also had some deliveries arriving yesterday, including two tires for the Husqvarna riding lawnmower. I mentioned last week that we had a tire I couldn’t repair, and buying one locally was ungodly expensive. For what any of the local shops wanted for just a tire and then for mounting it on my rim, I was able to buy two tires already on rims from Amazon. Someone had suggested putting foam in the tires, but of all of the shops I talked to locally, only one had ever heard of it, but they didn’t do it.

Another delivery was a Gamma2 dog food storage container. It holds up to 50 pounds of dry dog food, but actually has a smaller footprint than the big bags of dog food I’ve been buying for Alli. And because it has a screw top lid, it keeps the food fresh, and ants and other critters from getting to it.

One problem we have purchasing online here is that Amazon sends everything they can by way of the post office. However, depending which mail carrier is on the job, sometimes they will not deliver anything large. For example, I ordered an aluminum alloy snake grabber, which weighs almost nothing, and it was supposed to come on Wednesday. But we had a different driver on Wednesday, and she will not bring anything that doesn’t fit in the mailbox. So I had to go to the post office to pick up the snake grabber. Our regular driver, who was on duty yesterday, brought the tires, which were in a big box and much heavier, and drove up the driveway to drop them off.

I got the snake grabber because this area is full of snakes, including venomous copperheads, cottonmouth water moccasins, and rattlers. So far, I haven’t seen anything dangerous on the property but I know they’re around and I want to be able to deal with them.

Like several German shepherds I have had, Alli is prone to carsickness. So occasionally I take her with me on short drives, stopping to let her out for a break before we come back home. I did that when I went to the post office, and she loves sitting in the passenger seat of the Pacifica, looking at the world going by. Unlike other dogs I have known, she doesn’t want the window down so she can stick her head out. I think maybe the noise of the wind scares her. I let her out to do some sniffing when I got to the post office, then put her back inside the van and turned off the engine and locked the doors with her in it. Then I used the remote starter on the key fob to turn it back on. That keeps the air conditioning running, but locks the gear shift so nobody can get in the van and drive away with it, and Alli can’t accidentally turn the knob to put it in gear. I wouldn’t do that for very long, especially in hot weather, but it was just a quick trip in and out, no more than two minutes total. She did fine going and coming, and I’m hoping as I continue taking her on short rides like that she will eventually build up more of a tolerance and not get sick.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a big one, a Kindle Paperwhite e-book reader with a 6.8” display, adjustable warm light, up to 10 weeks of battery life, and 20% faster page turns than previous models.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – A mind without a challenge is a dangerous thing.

Marblehead Lighthouse

 Posted by at 12:25 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 142024
 

Here’s another blog from our days as fulltime RVers.

Standing regally on a point of land at the entrance to Ohio’s Sandusky Bay, Marblehead Lighthouse has guided ships and sailors safely along the rocky shoreline of Lake Erie for nearly 185 years. Noted for its beauty by artists and photographers, this grand old structure is the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes, its beacon shining since 1822. Today the lighthouse, still in service, is the focal point of Marblehead Lighthouse State Park.

Marblehead Lighthouse came into being after Congress recognized the need for navigational aids along the Great Lakes and appropriated $5,000 for its construction in 1819. At that time, it was only the second lighthouse to be built on the American side of Lake Erie. Throughout the entire Great Lakes region, only a handful of lighthouses existed.

William Kelly and a crew of two men began construction of the tower on an outcropping of limestone on the northern tip of the Marblehead Peninsula in 1821. Construction progressed rapidly, and the project was completed in just eleven weeks. The base of the 50-foot tall tower measured 25 feet in diameter, with five-foot thick walls; the top tapered to 12 feet in diameter with walls two feet thick. The lighthouse’s inner walls were made of clay brick, while the outer walls were constructed of limestone quarried nearby on the peninsula. This region of Ohio was noted for its limestone and would later supply the stone used to build another famous landmark, the Empire State Building, in New York City. The total cost for the project was $7,232.

Originally known as the Sandusky Bay Light until the name was changed in 1870, it was the only navigational aid in the Sandusky Bay region for many years. A Revolutionary War veteran, Benajah Wolcott, was appointed as the first lightkeeper. One of the first settlers on the peninsula, Wolcott and his family lived in a small limestone home on the Sandusky side of the peninsula. The home is the oldest known residence still standing in Ottawa County, Ohio. Today, the Keeper’s House serves as a museum for the Ottawa County Historical Society.

Each night, Wolcott’s duties required him to light the 13 whale oil lamps that provided the light, which was projected by 16-inch reflectors of cut glass. Wolcott also kept a record of ships that passed, noted weather conditions, and organized rescue efforts when needed.

When Wolcott died in 1832, after ten years of service, his wife Rachel took over his duties, making her the first female lighthouse keeper on the Great Lakes. Thirteen more individuals would serve as keeper at Marblehead over the next century, including another woman, Johanne McGee, who held the post from 1896 to 1903.

In 1858, a Fresnel lens made of crystal and measuring five feet in diameter was installed in the lighthouse. The lens gave the beacon the equivalent of 330,000 candles. Another 15 feet was added to the lighthouse in 1903, bringing Marblehead to its present height of 65 feet. A rotating grandfather clock-like mechanism with weights in a large pipe in the center was installed to rotate the lantern, creating the appearance of a brilliant flash of light every 10 seconds. This system required the lighthouse keeper to crank the weights to the top of the weight mechanism every three hours through the night to keep the lantern turning. The lighthouse was converted to electricity in 1923.

A lifesaving station was built a half-mile west of the lighthouse in 1876. A local man named Lucien Clemons, who, with his two brothers, saved two sailors from death following a shipwreck off the peninsula on May 1, 1875, was named the first station commander. In 1880, the lighthouse keeper’s quarters was moved to a wooden frame home in a more convenient location next to the lighthouse.

During World War II the lighthouse became strategically important for national defense. The last civilian lighthouse keeper, Edward Herman, resigned in 1943 after ten years of service, and the United States Coast Guard assumed responsibility for the beacon. Marblehead’s beacon was automated in 1958, making the Coast Guard’s job easier. Time and Lake Erie’s harsh weather had taken their toll on the lighthouse, and the exterior of the tower was given a fresh coat of new stucco the same year.

In 1972 the Ohio Department of Natural Resources took over responsibility for the property surrounding the lighthouse. In January 1997, Marblehead’s tower and the small plot of land surrounding it were declared surplus property by the Coast Guard, and the state of Ohio took ownership of the Marblehead Lighthouse tower in 1998. The Coast Guard continues to operate and maintain the lighthouse beacon. Today a 300mm lens projects a green signal that flashes every six seconds, and is visible for eleven nautical miles. The distinctive green distinguishes the lighthouse signal from white lights coming from air beacons.

The Marblehead Lighthouse State Park is open daily from dawn to dusk. Tours of the lighthouse are held Monday through Friday, from 1 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. from May through August. Tours are also held the second Saturday of the month from June through October. Sixty-seven spiral stairs lead to the top of the lighthouse, where visitors are treated to spectacular views of Sandusky Bay, Marblehead, and the Lake Erie Islands.

The Marblehead Lighthouse can be reached by taking State Route 2 to State Route 269 (the Lakeside-Marblehead exit) and following Route 269 until it ends at State Route 163. Turn right and drive through the Village of Marblehead to the tip of the peninsula. Just past the Russian Orthodox Church on the left, you’ll see the sign for the Marblehead Lighthouse State Park. Parking is limited to automobiles only, there is no room for RVs to park at the lighthouse.

After 187 years, Marblehead’s faithful beacon continues to shine, protecting boaters from danger on Lake Erie’s unpredictable waters and along her rocky shores. The next time you visit northern Ohio, stop in at Marblehead and visit this historic lighthouse.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a big one, a Kindle Paperwhite e-book reader with a 6.8” display, adjustable warm light, up to 10 weeks of battery life, and 20% faster page turns than previous models.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – I got a new phone today. My old one failed the swimming test.