Well That Sucked

 Posted by at 12:45 am  Nick's Blog
May 102024
 

Overall, we live a blessed life. We have a nice home, some critters we adore, friends and family we love, and a wonderful marriage. But even in the best of lives, some days are going to suck. Yesterday was a good example.

Terry had not been feeling great for several days and my back had been giving me fits, but by yesterday afternoon we were both feeling somewhat better. Not like we were kids again, but not bad for old farts. We needed to get some grocery shopping done, so we left the house mid-afternoon to go to Publix.

I had mentioned to Terry that I wanted to get another yellow diesel fuel can so I would have two whenever the Kubota tractor needed fuel. We saw an O’Reilly Auto Parts on the way and pulled in, and I left Terry in the truck with it running because it was a very hot day. After I bought the can and came back out and got in the truck, I backed out and started to pull out of the parking lot, and as I did,  another customer began backing out and backed right into the side of our Ram pickup.

It caved in the bottom of the passenger side rear door and part of the fender behind it. The man who hit us got out and immediately began apologizing, saying it was all his fault. I told him that things happen, and as long as nobody was hurt, the rest could be worked out. He called the police department, and while we were waiting for an officer to arrive, he mentioned that he had been a sheriff’s deputy in the area for a while.

It probably took half an hour or so for the officer to get there, and he knew the man who hit us. He told the officer that it was his fault, that he had backed right into us without looking, we exchanged insurance information, and the officer gave us a case number and sent us on our way. I called our insurance agent and we have to pick up a copy of the police report sometime next week and take it to them, and then they will get the ball rolling on making sure we get taken care of. Since the fellow who hit us has insurance and admitted fault, our agent didn’t think it would be a problem, just an inconvenience.

The weatherman had threatened storms Wednesday night and Thursday morning, but they didn’t develop. However, by the time we got our shopping done it was late in the afternoon and our phones were giving us alerts for severe weather in our area. Sure enough, about ten miles from home it began pouring, with lots of thunder and lightning.

We got home, and by the time the groceries were unloaded we were both soaked to the skin. After we had changed into dry clothes and everything was put away we just had sandwiches for dinner, and not long after we ate the power went out. Fortunately, our Generac whole house generator system kicked in, and as I write this it’s humming along out there and we have plenty of power here in the house.

About 11 o’clock I took the trash can out to the curb and by then it had stopped raining, but the news said we could expect some more possibly severe storms overnight. We have our weather radio and phones set for alert, but hopefully it will pass over us without any problems.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small Ohio town in 1951. I have 55 books out, and I have to say that Dog’s Run is my favorite. It’s a gritty tale that is loosely based on an actual crime that took place in that part of the country when my father was a young police officer there, and I warn you in advance that there’s some rough language, but it’s appropriate to the time and place.

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 – There are over seven billion people in the world and I can only tolerate like six of them.

May 092024
 

Cyndi Lauper said it, so it must be true, right? I don’t know about all girls, but these three seem to prove her right. Our critters are always up to something, and they bring a lot of fun into our lives.

That’s BeeBee straddling the back of the chair and Mae Lin in the seat. And, of course, you all know Alli by now. If you ever see her without her orange Kong shaped toy in her mouth, you can bet it’s close by. She is sitting beside the bed with it in her mouth when we wake up in the morning, waiting for us to throw it for her with a look that says, “All right, guys, get with the program.” And when she goes to sleep at night, it’s either in her mouth or beside her in her bed.

If we are busy and she can’t get Terry or I to throw it for her, she will push it up onto one of the stools at the breakfast counter and nudge it until it falls off, or give it to Mae Lin, hoping she will push it off. Those two are good buddies and I think the cat likes Alli more than she does us. Alli likes to chase BeeBee around the house, and if she’s not paying attention, sometimes BeeBee will run up beside her to start the game. With these three hooligans, there’s never a dull moment.

After answering a few e-mails yesterday, I spent most of the day working on a timeline for 1942 for my current book, making notes of important events that happened in the country, and worldwide with the onset of America’s involvement in World War II. This isn’t just a war book. As much or more of the book will be about the people on the home front. How they dealt with rationing, shortages, and worrying about their loved ones in battle. Unfortunately, people die in wars, and that will include some people from Tinder Street, though I don’t know who or how it will happen yet.

Late in the afternoon, when the sun was low in the sky and it wasn’t so hot, we went outside and put the folding tonneau cover on the back of our Ram pickup. I took it off when Travis and I hauled a load of cement blocks to his place a while back and never got around to putting it back on. We like having it in place because then we can leave things in the truck’s bed, locked and secure.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small Ohio town in 1951. I have 55 books out, and I have to say that Dog’s Run is my favorite. It’s a gritty tale that is loosely based on an actual crime that took place in that part of the country when my father was a young police officer there, and I warn you in advance that there’s some rough language, but it’s appropriate to the time and place.

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. When Bob Martel sent me this picture, I thought he was getting recipes from the Cannibal Cookbook again.

Thought For The Day – It doesn’t matter how low the dollar will go, I will always bend down and pick it up.

Be Careful Out There

 Posted by at 12:35 am  Nick's Blog
May 082024
 

If you are among the millions of Americans in the path of the vicious storm systems that are tearing through the country, please be careful and take care of yourselves. Mother Nature seems to be on a real rampage.

Except for a lot of heat and humidity, and an occasional thunderstorm, our area of west-central Alabama has had it pretty good. The weatherman said that starting after midnight tonight and through the next day, we should see some storms with a lot of wind and rain and hail, but only the slight possibility of a tornado. Most of the bad weather is going north of us. But we are glad we have our tornado shelter in the garage just three or four steps from our side door, and our Generac whole house generator in case we lose power.

After this storm system passes through, Friday through Sunday are supposed to be cooler, with temperatures in the mid-70s. Hopefully, we can take advantage of that time to get Terry’s last three raised garden beds in place and filled. A combination of the heat, my bad back giving me a lot of grief, and some ongoing issues Terry has because of all the radiation during her cancer 20+ years ago, has kept us inside the last few days.

I’ve taken advantage of the time to get a lot more writing done on my new Tinder Street book, and yesterday after Terry finished editing and proofreading them and I made her suggested corrections, I sent seven more chapters off to Judy and Roberta to be proofread.

We have to make a trip to town one of these days to stock up on groceries, and I don’t know if that will be today or not. If so, I won’t get any writing done, but if we put it off for another day or two, I’ll be here at the keyboard, working my way through the events of World War II with the McNallys and their extended family. I’ve been writing about them for so long that they feel like part of my own family. That may be because I have incorporated some stories I heard from my parents and other relatives who lived during those troubling times in the book.

Besides all the editing and proofreading, and everything else she does to keep our home and business running smoothly, yesterday Terry made salmon patties for dinner. I haven’t had them since I was a kid, and they were delicious.

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 – All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure. – Mark Twain

May 072024
 

Here is anothre blog from my days publishing small town newspapers.

Publishing small-town newspapers on the Pacific Northwest coast and in Arizona was a lot of fun, and I like to think that sometimes my publications made a difference in the communities they served. I gained a reputation for stepping on toes, and that was all right with me because sometimes those toes really needed to be stepped on! I expected occasional repercussions, and I got them. Threats to kick my butt, to burn down my business or my house, and even death threats now and then. It only got physical a few times, which explains why I can hardly breathe through my nose and have almost no sense of smell.

But something I never expected in the small town newspaper business was the number of celebrities I would get to meet and interview.

They ranged from country and western bands and singers, including Crystal Gayle, Tanya Tucker, Don Williams, the Bellamy Brothers, Confederate Railroad, Tom T. Hall, and Michael Martin Murphy, with whom I exchanged Christmas cards for several years. And not only country acts, but also B.J. Thomas, James Taylor, one of the many incarnations of Herman’s Hermits, and Engelbert Humperdinck.

Musicians weren’t the only people I got to meet and interview. There were quite a few state and national political candidates, including two who were running for president. And occasionally someone from television or the big screen would wander into town and agree to give me some time. They included James Garner and Sally Field. One of the nicest men I ever met was Chuck Norris, who was nothing at all like the tough guy action figure that we assume he would be. He was humble, polite, and a lot of fun to hang out with for an afternoon.

Another Chuck who it was a thrill to meet was one of my own heroes, General Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier, way back in 1947, and a fighter pilot who shot down five German aircraft in a single mission during World War II.

This happened when I was running my newspaper in the White Mountains of Arizona. General Yeager liked to fish on the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation, adjacent to our community, and he became good friends with the head of the Apache Fish and Game Department. That gentleman’s wife worked at the high school in Pinetop-Lakeside, and she invited the general to come and talk to the senior class. I was surprised that he agreed to do it and even more surprised when they contacted me and the other local newspaper to attend the event and speak with General Yeager afterward.

Believe it or not, the other newspaper didn’t send anybody! When they were contacted, they asked who Chuck Yeager was, and when they were told, the response was “that’s ancient history.” That left me in the enviable position of being the only media person there.

General Yeager spent an hour with the students, telling them about some of his adventures and reminding them that if a poor boy from small-town West Virginia could make it like he did, even the sky was not the limit for them. He was a nice man, friendly and outgoing, and afterward, he opened the session for questions and answers.

I had an assistant with me on that visit. Not because I needed one, but because he insisted on tagging along. He was our local postmaster, who was also an accomplished hot air balloon pilot. I can’t tell you how many times I woke up early on a Sunday morning to the sound of Bill hovering over my house in his balloon, getting my German shepherd all riled up and barking its head off. It’s probably just a coincidence that I have a small-town postmaster who is a balloon pilot in Big Lake Lynching, the second book in the series.

Anyway, back to the general. As he was answering questions from the students, my friend, the postmaster, raised his hand and said, “General, if you have the time, I’d be honored to take you for a flight in my hot air balloon.” General Yeager, who still held a commission in the Air National Guard, looked at him with a twinkle in his eyes and said, “I flew here in an F-15, son. Balloons are for weenies.”

I don’t think the kids got the joke, but I laughed so hard I almost dropped my camera. While he still wouldn’t fly in Bill’s balloon, after the event at the school was over, the general autographed my copy of his autobiography, and we had lunch. I found him to be a lot of fun to talk with, and not at all impressed with himself or his many accomplishments. But that’s how real heroes are, right?

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 afraid to be open-minded. Your brain isn’t going to fall out.

A Stormy Sunday

 Posted by at 12:57 am  Nick's Blog
May 062024
 

I’m sure glad we got all of our mowing done on Saturday, because all day yesterday we had a series of thunderstorms, with lots of lightning and rain. It was definitely not a day to be working outside!

As seems to happen every time we have a bad storm, our T-Mobile internet hotspot went out and stayed offline for most of the day. Fortunately, we are able to use our cell phones as mobile hotspots, although they are not very fast. But it was enough to be able to get online to answer emails and do a few things we needed to get done. It was probably somewhere around 5:30 in the afternoon before we finally got the T-Mobile back online.

I managed to crank out about 3,200 words in my new Tinder Street book yesterday, but I need to spend some time online today double checking a couple of timeline facts to make sure I have them right.

While I was busy with all that, Terry was dealing with laundry and several chores around the house, and making a delicious shredded beef BBQ dinner that put to the shame anything you could buy in a restaurant.

We’re supposed to have more rain today, though not as severe. Terry has a dentist appointment, and I imagine I will be doing more writing since it’s too wet to do anything outside.

Congratulations Ronald Brazell, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Pirate Trials: Hung By The Neck Until Dead by my pal Ken Rossignol. The second in the series of Pirate Trials drawn from news reports of the days and actual trial documents. Join this bloodthirsty crew of pirates on ships which includes the dying declarations of the most brutal and vicious deeds ever set upon innocent civilians and merchant ship crews. The Demon Rum is cited as the chief cause by one pirate for his awful and murderous acts. Their day of reckoning came when they faced their final day of judgement when captured in Spain. In another tale, when a crew of passengers leapt from their disguises to overpower a steamship after it left New York on a trip to Portland, Maine, the pirates claimed the ship in the name of the Confederacy, at the height of the Civil War! Learn what happened to the ship and the pirates.

We had 13 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’m never wrong. I just have different levels of right.

May 052024
 

It was a beautiful day yesterday, with temperatures in the mid-80s and a lot of blue sky overhead. A perfect day for mowing, and that’s what we did for most of the day. But before that, I picked a few strawberries from one of Terry’s raised garden beds, and they are sweet and delicious.

Terry also found these mushrooms or whatever they are growing in one of her raised garden beds. She did not plant them and we don’t know what they are or if they are edible or not, so they will have to go.

We all know I love dogs, I tolerate cats because Terry says I have to, and I do love watching the deer who hang out in our pasture. Now snakes? That’s another story. I don’t like big snakes, I don’t like small snakes, and I don’t like sticks that look like snakes. There was a time when I would shoot any snake on sight, but now that Miss Terry has me house broken I don’t do that.

So when I encountered this garter snake in the backyard, I was not happy to see it. I wanted it gone before Alli started playing with it, because we have rattlesnakes, copperheads, and water moccasins in this area, and I don’t want her to think they are something she can mess with. Using the handle of a rake, Terry picked it up and got it out of the way before Alli saw it, and it promptly crawled under the deck and out of sight.

After filling the Husqvarna riding mower with gas and checking the oil for Terry, I got on the Kubota tractor and started knocking down some of the high weeds back by the barn with the bush hog. It did a very good job, but there are still quite a few downed limbs and branches in there from a big storm last year that I have to get out of the way before I can finish that chore.

Next, I wanted to mow the big pasture behind the house. The last time I mowed, it I left the back part of it alone because I wanted the bees to have plenty of clover, but by now it was getting really high and weeds were choking out most of the clover. In the meantime, other areas I had mown before had grown back up with clover, so I knew there would still have plenty for their needs. Again, the bush hog did a good job in that area.

However, when it came to mowing the rest of the pasture, I quickly learned that having the bush hog on while using the belly mower is not a good idea. The tail wheel of the bush hog turned sideways every time I wanted to make a turn and would dig a groove into the ground. It also seemed to use a lot more fuel with it dragging behind me. It will come off the next time I use just the belly mower which is easier in the pasture when the grass isn’t too high.

There were also some places where we had the new septic lines put in that still haven’t grown over, and when I tried to cross them to get to other areas, the wheel of the bush hog would dig in to the soft ground. If I raised it, I also raised the belly mower, making it ineffective.

Fortunately there wasn’t much of that area and Terry was able to get it with the riding mower after she mowed the front and side yards and the backyard between the house and pasture.

I would have liked to have gotten some more bush hogging done, but as I said, first I have to go through there and get all of the branches and tree limbs out that are hiding in the high grass and weeds. I also need to get some more diesel, because by the time I got done yesterday I was under 1/4 of tank and I don’t want to run it too low.

By the time we were finished everything looked a lot better and we were both more than ready to come inside and enjoy some air conditioning and drink some ice water.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Pirate Trials: Hung By The Neck Until Dead by my pal Ken Rossignol. The second in the series of Pirate Trials drawn from news reports of the day and actual trial documents. Join this bloodthirsty crew of pirates on ships which includes the dying declarations of the most brutal and vicious deeds ever set upon innocent civilians and merchant ship crews. The Demon Rum is cited as the chief cause by one pirate for his awful and murderous acts. Their day of reckoning came when they faced their final day of judgement when captured in Spain. In another tale, when a crew of passengers leapt from their disguises to overpower a steamship after it left New York on a trip to Portland, Maine, the pirates claimed the ship in the name of the Confederacy, at the height of the Civil War! Learn what happened to the ship and the pirates.

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. I bet this kid’s degree isn’t in English.

Thought For The Day – I’m at that age where the next day my body whispers to me, “Please don’t do that again.”

Bad Timing

 Posted by at 12:30 am  Nick's Blog
May 042024
 

Terry and I wanted to get some mowing done yesterday and figured we would wait until the late afternoon or early evening to get started, when it had cooled down a bit. That’s the great thing about this time of year, it stays light longer.

I figured that in the meantime I would do some writing, and I managed to get out another chapter in my new book. Part of writing a family saga I had not expected when I started the series is that as the children in the story grow up, they take on more active roles. It is interesting to see how their goals and dreams can be different from what their parents imagined. Sometimes this creates conflicts and at other times, it warms the hearts of the older generation. Just like in real life, I guess.

It was about 3:30 when I finished writing, and Terry had been busy with normal things around the house, including making a delicious loaf of banana nut bread. With those tasks out of the way, we decided to start mowing. But just about the time I got the tractor keys out of the drawer where I keep them and put my hat on, the sky opened up and it started pouring rain. I guess that was bad timing on our part, wasn’t it?

We’re supposed to have scattered rain showers for the next couple of days, and the weatherman says no one place around the region is sure to get any rain at all. Hopefully we’ll still be able to get some mowing done. The grass has grown up so fast you can’t even tell we did it just a couple of weeks ago.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Pirate Trials: Hung By The Neck Until Dead by my pal Ken Rossignol. The second in the series of Pirate Trials drawn from news reports of the day and actual trial documents. Join this bloodthirsty crew of pirates on ships which includes the dying declarations of the most brutal and vicious deeds ever set upon innocent civilians and merchant ship crews. The Demon Rum is cited as the chief cause by one pirate for his awful and murderous acts. Their day of reckoning came when they faced their final day of judgement when captured in Spain. In another tale, when a crew of passengers leapt from their disguises to overpower a steamship after it left New York on a trip to Portland, Maine, the pirates claimed the ship in the name of the Confederacy, at the height of the Civil War! Learn what happened to the ship and the pirates.

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 – Under everyone’s hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.

May 032024
 

Yesterday was interesting in more than one way. Soon after we got up, I took Alli out in the front yard so I could stay in the shaded porch and throw her ball to her. I also gave her a couple of turkey necks, her favorite treat.

While we were out there, a county pickup pulled in and David King from the property appraiser’s office got out. We first met him a while back when we went to file with our homestead exemption on our house. He came by to tell me that there was another form we could sign, something called a Continuous Use form for owners of seven acres or more, that could help reduce our property taxes. I’m all for saving a buck or two when I can and thanked him for going to the trouble of stopping to tell me. We visited for a while and Alli was happy to make a new friend.

Terry had a dentist appointment in the afternoon, and while she was gone, I wrote most of another chapter in my new Tinder Street book. I also realized I had neglected to confirm something in my research, which was when the M1 carbine was introduced for military service. As it turns out, I had something in the book that was jumping the gun (no pun intended) by several months, so I had to correct that.

After Terry got home, I went off to the barn to attach the quick hitch to my Kubota tractor, and then the brush hog mower. Because I recently used a plow attachment that was not compatible with the quick hitch and required some adjustment to the tractor’s three-point hitch, I first had to reset everything from that. Then, for some reason, the quick hitch would not grab onto one side of the brush hog. It was off by about half an inch, and I could use a pry bar to move the mower into position, but I couldn’t reach the lever to engage the quick hitch at the same time. Darn these short arms of mine!

I finally gave up and went up to the house to ask Terry to come and help me, and it only took a couple of minutes for me to move the mower with the pry bar and for her to raise the hitch and lock everything into place. By then it was late in the afternoon, and I made a couple of quick passes in some of the thick weeds with the brush hog to make sure everything was working fine, which it was.

Before I had interrupted her, Terry had been replacing our air filters and the water filters under the sink and in our Samsung refrigerator. Apparently the refrigerator filter didn’t seat correctly, and I didn’t give her time to make sure everything was okay before asking her to help me. So back at the house we realized we had a flood. The water filter had leaked to the point where the refrigerator’s large deli drawer was completely full and water was running out onto the floor. Talk about a mess!

It took us a while to clean that up, and for Terry to reinstall the filter. By the time she was done with that it was late and we were both tired. So we had a light meal of crackers and cheese, watched a little television, and called it a night.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Pirate Trials: Hung By The Neck Until Dead by my pal Ken Rossignol. The second in the series of Pirate Trials drawn from news reports of the day and actual trial documents. Join this bloodthirsty crew of pirates on ships which includes the dying declarations of the most brutal and vicious deeds ever set upon innocent civilians and merchant ship crews. The Demon Rum is cited as the chief cause by one pirate for his awful and murderous acts. Their day of reckoning came when they faced their final day of judgement when captured in Spain. In another tale, when a crew of passengers leapt from their disguises to overpower a steamship after it left New York on a trip to Portland, Maine, the pirates claimed the ship in the name of the Confederacy, at the height of the Civil War! Learn what happened to the ship and the pirates.

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 – The only thing you have to fear is fear itself… and spiders. And snakes!

May 022024
 

Terry has been putting off assembling the last three Vego raised planter beds she ordered a while back because she just has not been feeling up to it. But summertime is here no matter what the calendar says, and it’s only going to get hotter, so yesterday she decided it was time to get it done.

In the early part of the day I made a quick trip to CVS and the post office, then did some more writing on my new Tinder Street book, and by late afternoon the sun was far enough to the West that the old deck behind our garage was in the shade, making it a good place to assemble the planter beds.

We all know what a fumble-fingers I am, so Terry did most of the work, with me handing her pieces and nuts and bolts as she needed them. Alli loves being outside, no matter what we are doing, so she had a great time hanging out with us, chasing bees, and rolling in the grass.

By the time we got done it was after 7:30, so just enough time to have a nice dinner and watch a little bit of television before I had to write the blog and call it a day. Both our backs are paying for the effort, but it was worth it.

Today all Terry has to do is put the rubber trim pieces on top of the planters and then decide where she wants to put them. But of course, there’s still a lot of work to do. We have to fill the bottom of them with broken branches, mulch, and compost, and then cover it all with soil. And that’s before she starts planting anything in them!

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Pirate Trials: Hung By The Neck Until Dead by my pal Ken Rossignol. The second in the series of Pirate Trials drawn from news reports of the day and actual trial documents. Join this bloodthirsty crew of pirates on ships which includes the dying declarations of the most brutal and vicious deeds ever set upon innocent civilians and merchant ship crews. The Demon Rum is cited as the chief cause by one pirate for his awful and murderous acts. Their day of reckoning came when they faced their final day of judgement when captured in Spain. In another tale, when a crew of passengers leapt from their disguises to overpower a steamship after it left New York on a trip to Portland, Maine, the pirates claimed the ship in the name of the Confederacy, at the height of the Civil War! Learn what happened to the ship and the pirates.

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 – My phone just filmed a six hour documentary about life inside my pocket.

Jumping Joe

 Posted by at 12:25 am  Nick's Blog
May 012024
 

Note: Since I’ve spent most of my time writing lately, I don’t have anything new to blog about. So I thought I would repost a blog from 2018 about a small town museum where I learned some things abot my family that I never knew.

We have always loved exploring small town museums and have spent many delightful hours doing so over the years. Maybe it’s some kind of voyeurism to be able to look into the lives of people you never knew, in a community you’ve never been to before. We always come away feeling like we know some of those people.

But our visit to the small Ludlow Heritage Museum in Kentucky was a bit different, because we actually have a connection to the community and the people who lived there. My great-grandfather, John Sanders Stephens and his wife Laura lived in Ludlow and raised their family there. So we were looking forward to learning more about the town, and hopefully finding some information on my ancestors from Ludlow. Little did I know the story we were going to come up with!

Due to limited volunteer staffing, the Ludlow museum is only open on Saturdays for a few hours. We pulled up to the museum right at the 11 AM opening time to see somebody with a key in the lock. Terry said she hoped they weren’t already leaving, and I told her that I planned to chase the man down if he was. As it turned out, I didn’t have to go to that extent because Mark Mitchell, president of the museum, was just arriving.

Mark is a very friendly man with a keen interest in the history of Ludlow, and in genealogy. When I told him why we were visiting he really went out of his way for us, showing us all kinds of city records and periodicals and giving us free run of the archives to do any research we wanted to.

Like all small town museums, there were displays on local businesses that served the community and citizens who had served both the town and their country.

And, of course, there was a display honoring Ludlow’s firefighters and police officers.

Ludlow was originally established as a genteel retreat from the nearby big city of Cincinnati, Ohio, but that all changed when the railroad came to town in the late 1800s. The railroad brought industry to town, but also an influx of laborers, hard-working people who built modest homes and thrived in the riverfront community. One exhibit at the museum is dedicated to the railroads, with displays of the large tools used to maintain the equipment.

On a more personal level, I found this check drawn on the First National Bank of Ludlow interesting, because my great uncle, James A. Stephens, was the president of that bank.

This page from the city directory includes an ad for Stephens and Snyder, the real estate and insurance business that James A. Stephens was also a partner in, along with being the City Treasurer for many years.

While I found that information very interesting, it was something I learned about my grandparents while we were at the museum that made the whole trip worthwhile for me. Emma Stephens was the only sister of James A. Stephens, and she married my grandfather, Joseph Russell in May,1892. I was very young when my grandfather died, so I never knew him, but Grandma lived a few years longer and I do remember her.

What I did know of my grandfather, learned from my own father’s perspective, wasn’t all that positive. At one time he owned a large commercial painting company in Toledo, Ohio, and expected all of his sons to follow him into the family business. I remember my dad pointing out the tall smokestack at the old Willy’s Overland factory in Toledo and telling the story of how he and his brothers climbed to the top and painted that tower when they were young men working for their father.

It didn’t take my dad long to decide that the life of a painter wasn’t for him, which caused a rift between him and my grandfather that was never mended. So my image of my grandfather, right or wrong, was always of a stubborn “my way or the highway” kind of guy.

But while we were at the museum I learned about another side to the man, who became somewhat famous for his time and was known as Jumping Joe Russell. A while back I had come across a newspaper clipping from August, 1889 telling how at age 16 he had jumped from the 101 foot high Cincinnati Southern Railroad bridge across the Ohio River on a one dollar bet. At the time, I just figured that was teenage foolishness that he quickly grew out of. As it turns out, I was wrong.

His own father died while he was still a teenager, and apparently young Joe decided that he could make a lot more money jumping off of bridges to help support his family than he ever could working as an unskilled laborer. In those days the average hourly wage for labor was 15 cents per hour, while a machinist made 24 cents an hour, and a carpenter as much as 32 cents.

Back then there were people who actually went around the country organizing bridge jumps, charging people to come and watch a daredevil jump off of a high bridge. The jumper got a portion of the proceeds, and I’m certain there were many wagers won and lost on the outcome of a jump. According to several newspaper reports we found, Joseph Russell was rather successful at it. In August, 1890, a year after his first bridge jump, he won $500 jumping off the 169 foot high Cumberland Bridge in Pineville, Kentucky. He won the same amount in a jump from the Kanawa Bridge in St. Louis that same month. At a time when the average wage was six dollars a week, that was a huge sum of money! A newspaper article says that Jumping Joe was scheduled to go to New York City to meet with famous bridge jumper Steve Brodie to jump from the Brooklyn Bridge for $1000, but there is no record as to whether or not that event ever took place.

Of course, like everything in life, people’s opinions of bridge jumpers differed greatly. Anybody with a few years on them and some common sense probably thought it was insanity, or at least foolhardiness, not to mention not something “decent” young men would do. But if you were a girl from a small town on the Ohio River, it probably seemed daring and romantic. My grandmother Emma was just such a young woman when she fell in love with handsome Jumping Joe Russell. Her parents didn’t approve, so the starry eyed couple did what young lovers have done since the days of Romeo and Juliet. They eloped!

A newspaper article at the museum tells the story of how the bridge jumper made the jump of his life in May, 1892, when he stole away 17-year-old Emma Stephens, who was described as “pretty but giddy” and “one of Ludlow’s fairest girls” and a “foolish little girl.” Later in the article she is described as “a blonde of the purest type and as handsome as a flower.”

The newspaper was not as flattering to the young man from across the river, describing Jumping Joe as, “in addition to being a great bridge jumper, also entitled to all around distinction as a go-as-you-please liar.” (Yep, I can see the family resemblance already.) I love the flowery way they wrote things in those days, not trying to hide their bias in any way. The article went on to say that the combination of Joe’s talents won the heart of “little Emma, who believes Joe to be immeasurably greater than anybody who was ever allowed to live since the death of Adam.” The story also said that Emma’s parents were greatly distressed and planned to deal harshly with the young swain who had stolen their daughter.

I guess things worked out in the long run, because I know that my own father spent a lot of time with Emma’s family on summer vacations from school while he was growing up.

So obviously there was another side to the man I always thought of as the no-nonsense businessman who wouldn’t take no for an answer. He was quite the daredevil, and rather romantic in his younger days. Who knew?

And all of this leaves us with one burning question; why do I, the grandson of the great Jumping Joe Russell, have such a phobia about bridges? Maybe deep down inside I really want to jump off of one of them. Lord knows, more than one person has suggested I do just that!

Thought For The Day – On the other hand, you have different fingers.

Apr 302024
 

Here is another blog post from my days publishing small town newspapers.

In last week’s Newspaper Days blog, titled Jaws, I mentioned that Westport, Washington, located on the southern opening of Grays Harbor, billed itself as the Salmon Capital of the World in the late 1970s and early 1980s, due to the many charter boats that operated from there, as well as commercial fishing boats. People came from all over the world to fish from the charter fleet, bringing back catches of trophy salmon.

Quite a few of the charter boats advertised in my weekly newspaper, and I got to know many of their captains. Several of them kept offering to take me out on a free fishing trip. At the time, it sounded like a good idea. I’d get to go fishing and have a story for my newspaper, and the charter boat would get some free publicity. Everybody would win. So I went. Once. That was more than enough for me.

The day I went out, I was with my friend, the taxidermist I mentioned in the Jaws post, and his son, who was somewhere around 19 years old at the time. Everybody told me that when we crossed the bar from the harbor into the open ocean, it would be a rough ride and I might get a little queasy. Queasy? Me? No way! I used to jump out of airplanes for a living. But my friend still urged me to take a Dramamine that morning, just in case. Sure, whatever. Let me swallow the damn thing so we can get on with it.

Once we arrived at the docks and got on our boat, the captain, who was a friend of mine, told us that his daughter, who was home from college, was going along for the day. She was a very pretty young lady, just a few years younger than me, and very friendly. She said something like, “Don’t worry, guys, I’ve been fishing with my dad since I was a little girl. I won’t slow you down.”

We set out to sea, along with a dozen or more other boats  at the same time. I felt just the slightest bit of trepidation as we approached the bar, but as it turned out, I needn’t have worried about that. Standing there on the open deck, with the spray hitting us as we bounced up and down, it was one of the greatest rides I’ve ever had. This was what people were warning me about? Easy peasy!

Yeah, Nick, keep telling yourself that. Once we got out into the ocean and the boats started separating to give everybody plenty of room for fishing, the captain shut down the engine. That’s when I realized I was in trouble. They told me that the waves were running 10 to 15 feet that day, and I believe it. Drifting along, the boat would rise up on a high wave, then drop down the other side. It made any roller coaster I’ve ever seen in my life seem like child’s play. And then the damn boat did it again. And again. And again, and again.

It was a midweek day, and there were not a lot of other fishermen on the boat, just the three of us, another man and his son, the captain, his daughter, and a deckhand. I kept looking for someplace to focus my eyes on, and that was a mistake. It only increased the discomfort in my stomach. I asked how far we were from shore, and the captain said maybe three or four miles. Now, I can’t swim a lick, but I was giving some serious thought to strapping on a life jacket and jumping overboard. What’s the worst that could happen? At that moment, a quick death by drowning or hypothermia didn’t sound as bad as the way I was feeling.

No, I’m not going to do something silly like throw up. Especially not in front of this girl, who seemed to be doing just fine, smiling and laughing and joking around with everybody. We put our lines out and quickly somebody got a nice sized salmon, and then another. And then, suddenly, they stopped biting. I reeled in a small lingcod, and somebody got a small shark, and that was it.

By then, I felt like I was sweating, even though it was a cool day, and everywhere I looked was water. Lots and lots of water. Water that we were climbing up the side of on a wave, and water that we were coming down the other side of. So much water!

No, I will not do it. I’ll be okay. That’s when I noticed that the young lady was no longer laughing and joking around. In fact, she was not saying a word. Her lips were clamped shut, and she was looking a little green around the gills. I don’t know which one of us went first, but within seconds it seemed like we were projectile vomiting in sync. I won’t go into details, because some of you might want to eat sometime today. Let me just say that it was bad. Real bad. As I recall, the boat was somewhere around 50 feet, give or take, and they gave us one whole side of it. And we used every inch!

The young lady turned to me and said, “I had forgotten what this is like. I’m going to go lay down. Do you want to come with me?” That’s a hell of a position to put a guy in when he’s already in a situation like that! I started to tell her I was a married man, but then I realized that she was just looking for a way to ease my discomfort as much as her own. We went below deck, where there were two bunks across from each other, and crawled in on our respective sides. I’m sure she knew she did not need to worry about me being lecherous. I couldn’t breathe, let alone do anything else.

Amazingly, within just a few minutes, we both fell sound asleep. Don’t ask me how, because I can’t explain it to you. It was an hour or two later when her dad came down and told us that they had gotten into a big school of salmon, and if we wanted to catch one, we needed to come up and get our lines back in the water. I came on deck, and surprisingly, I wasn’t feeling too bad. Well, I wasn’t, until I noticed my friend’s son was eating a sandwich and had mayonnaise dripping down his chin. I was about ready to start chumming the water again when the deckhand yelled that I had a bite.

I was younger and a bit skinnier then and thought I could hold my own against just about anybody I needed to. I was wrong. It felt like it took me three days to reel that salmon up to the boat. My friend, the taxidermist, told me later that he estimated it probably was somewhere in the 45 to 50 pound range. I’ll never know because just as the deckhand slipped his net under it, the fish jumped sideways and pulled the net out of his hand. Fish and net disappeared below the surface, snapping my line.

By then everybody but the young woman and I had caught their limits. The captain offered to stay out a while longer if the two of us wanted to keep fishing. We both said “no” so quickly and so loudly that everyone on the boat laughed.

Back on shore, I took maybe half a dozen steps, and suddenly I wasn’t sick anymore. In fact, I was starving! Once the boat was tied up and secured, we all went to a little dockside restaurant to eat. While we were waiting for our orders to come, I told the captain that he and the rest of the people running the fishing fleet were doing it all wrong. At that time, they took you out for a half-day fishing trip for $50, as I recall. I suggested they start taking folks out for free, but then charge them $10,000 to go back to shore. Because believe me, friends, I would have gladly paid it, even if I had to mortgage my house and sell a kidney to raise the money!

That was my first and only deep-sea fishing trip. I decided that if God wanted me to kill a salmon, it would break into my house some night I would shoot it with my Colt .45 automatic.

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 – Words are nice. Actions are better.

So Many Rabbit Holes

 Posted by at 12:08 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 292024
 

The hardest part about writing the Tinder Street series is all the research that has to be done to get the historical events right. Actually, that’s not the hard part, that’s the fun part as far as I’m concerned. The hard part is that there are so many rabbit holes that I find myself going down in the course of the research. They are interesting and a lot of fun, too, but I have to drag myself back out of them and get back to work. That’s the hard part.

The current book in the series, The War Years, covers America’s involvement in World War II. I’ve written before about being surprised to learn how unprepared we were, and how our army ranked so far below most of the other armies of the world. During those days, America depended on its isolation for defense as much as anything else. Then when we realized we were going to be in the war whether we liked it or not, there was a massive mobilization like none before in history.

In my latest research, I went down a rabbit hole reading about women called Allotment Annies, who married soldiers to take advantage of the government benefits afforded to military spouses, including a monthly allotment and a large insurance payout if he was killed in combat. Apparently, it could be very lucrative, and some women married more than one soldier or sailor, drawing extra benefits in each one’s name.

One such woman, Elvira Taylor, married six different sailors. Ironically, her scam came to light when two American sailors on shore liberty were in an Australian pub and got to talking and shared pictures of their wives, only to discover it was the same woman!

Not to be outdone, an Indianapolis woman named Vivian Eggers married seven soldiers, including two of them on the same day. Talk about multitasking!

These women defended what they were doing by claiming they were being patriotic! When arrested for her crimes, one Allotment Annie said that she wasn’t doing anything wrong, she was just giving our brave fighting boys someone to think about when they were overseas battling the enemy, and a reason to come home. Of course, she didn’t mention that if they didn’t make it back, she would receive a heck of a windfall.

It’s interesting to note that this wasn’t just a World War II thing. When I was in training during the Vietnam War, it was well known that there were women around every base that wanted to marry a GI so she could get his benefits. A lot of those marriages never lasted. Gee, I wonder why?

Congratulations Sandy Swanson, winner of our drawing for a Camping Journal & RV Travel Logbook donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for campground reviews, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day.

We had 28 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 – Decaffeinated coffee is as useless as a hooker who only wants to cuddle.

Apr 282024
 

You know that joke where the Amazon delivery driver knocks on your door to ask if you are okay, saying he’s worried because he hasn’t had a delivery for your house in two days? It’s kind of like that with the UPS man here. We actually have three different UPS delivery drivers, and when we first moved in, one of them was kind of standoffish, bordering on rude. But he comes by so much now that he says, “Hey, Nick, what’s happening” and stops to pet Alli. I don’t know if he feels like he’s part of the family now or he just knows that without us he might be out of a job. 😊

Yesterday the UPS man was back with more goodies. I mentioned before that we have a 10×10 foot outdoor kennel for Alli at the back of the house. She loves being outside  and sometimes we leave her in it if we’re going to be gone from the house for a while. She has a large kiddy swimming pool in there with water, and it is covered to protect her from the sun, in addition to getting plenty of shade from the house and a large tree.

We wanted to figure out a way for her to get off the ground when it’s hot, so the air can circulate better and keep her comfortable, and Terry found the perfect solution, this Bedsure Comfy Pet dog bed. It has metal legs that elevate it 8 inches off the ground or floor and a water resistant breathable mesh surface. Alli was not 100% sure about it at first and it took some coaxing to get her on it, but then she was okay. The cats, of course, quickly took to it.

Terry also wanted something to wear when she is out in the garden to keep small tools and other things handy, and she found this heavy cotton canvas apron with large pockets and adjustable shoulder straps. I know she will make good use of it.

The other day I showed you a picture of some of the roses on our bushes out along the front porch. Yesterday they were fully opened and looking gorgeous. Terry says she needs to do some pruning and clearing around the rose bushes before they get away from her.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an Camping Journal & RV Travel Logbook donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for campground reviews, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day.

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 – Someone out there is holding their breath waiting for you to fail. Make sure they suffocate.

It Grows Fast!

 Posted by at 12:30 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 272024
 

In a blog post titled Books And Bees 10 days ago, I wrote that we had mowed our lawns and most of the main pasture, leaving the area where Terry’s fruit trees are untouched because it was full of clover that the bees were happily enjoying. I also left the back pasture behind the barn untouched.

It’s amazing how fast the grass grows here. All that grass we cut is already long again, and the yellow wildflowers and clover are coming back in the same areas.

Meanwhile, the area where the fruit trees are was getting so overgrown that we had to do something about it, and the road across the back end of the pasture was completely overgrown again. Yes, that quickly.

After quick trip to town yesterday morning for a doctor’s appointment, when we got home I got on the tractor and used the belly mower to mow the road again. Then I decided that with all of the new clover and flowers that had come up in the pasture and front and side yards, I could mow the area with the fruit trees and the bees would still have plenty to keep them going.

As it turns out, I probably should have put the bush hog mower on the back of the tractor, because the grass and clover were so high that I really had to struggle with the belly mower to get it cut.

Someone asked if we have beehives. No, we don’t. Our son Travis and his wife Geli do, at their place several miles away. I don’t know where these bees are coming from. Possibly someone’s hives nearby, or they may well be wild, for all I know. But I know how important those little pollinators are to life on earth, and I try to give them every break I can.

We had seen several areas where the grass was flattened where the deer were bedding down, and in one area between the fruit trees and the barn, where the grass was as tall as Alli, I spooked two cute little fawns. According to everything I’ve read, our whitetail deer population usually doesn’t drop fawns until late July to mid-August, although it’s not unheard of for them to give birth as early as April. I’m sure the fawns’ mama was somewhere around and moved them someplace away from me and my noisy tractor.

We did notice that the deer had chewed up several of Terry’s fruit trees, killing a couple of them. We like seeing all the deer in the evening and early morning, but they can be destructive.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a Camping Journal & RV Travel Logbook donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for campground reviews, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day.

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 – Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.

Friday Q&A

 Posted by at 12:40 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 262024
 

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. You wrote about the Real Relax massage chair that Terry got for you from Amazon. It seems very reasonably priced compared to some of the other brands. Are you still pleased after using it for a month? Are you pleased with the quality and ease of use? I’m thinking of getting one for my husband. I’m a little leery for myself as I’ve tried a couple in the past and the massage was too strong for me. Does Terry use it?

A. If anything, I am more impressed with the chair the more we use it and get familiar with the many different settings and programs. We can adjust the massage intensity from pretty light to very intense. Terry uses it, too, and our son, who was very skeptical at first, loves it. The quality seems very good. I would buy it again.

Q. Every time you show one of Terry’s delicious meals, you say it is your favorite. They can’t all be your favorite, so which one is really your favorite, Nick?

A. Whatever Terry makes tonight is my current favorite meal. That will change tomorrow night. 😊

Q. I am so happy that you are creating your own audiobooks, and I have to say that while I was not too sure at first, I think the AI narration is fine. Better than some books I have heard by live narrators. We bought all five of the Tinder Street audiobooks and are listening to them one by one in order. Will you please make them for the rest of the John Lee and Big Lake series?

A. I am glad you are enjoying the AI narration. I plan to produce audiobooks for all of my novels as time allows.

Q. I read where you put in an RV site on your property. Would you be interested in renting it out on a seasonal basis?

A. We didn’t put in a full RV site, just an RV electrical connection for friends when they visit. We don’t plan to have anyone stay long term.

Q. Does Terry allow BeeBee And Mae Lin to go outside on nice days like you have been having?

A. No, we keep the cats inside. We have a lot of hawks, foxes, coyotes, and other predators around here that would enjoy them for dinner.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a Camping Journal & RV Travel Logbook donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for campground reviews, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day.

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’m going to start a ride service for seniors and call it OldsMobile.

An Outside Day

 Posted by at 1:08 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 252024
 

The weather was beautiful yesterday, with a high in the upper 70s, which made it a great day for working outside. Like most people in the rural South, we have a burn barrel, though I would much rather recycle whenever I can. The problem is that nobody in Alabama seems to understand or care about recycling. The county has a recycling center at the landfill, but it has been closed for over a month as they are changing companies to administer it.

Meanwhile, I had so many flattened cardboard boxes stacked up that they filled Terry’s Chrysler Pacifica van and were taking up a lot of room in the garage, so I decided to put the match to them yesterday, since it was a nice calm day. There were so many that it took a couple of hours to get rid of them.

While I was doing that, Terry had the weed eater out, trimming up several areas around the house that are too tight to get to with a lawn mower. She did a great job and everything looks a lot better now.

Another task was emptying Alli’s swimming pool, cleaning it, and refilling it with fresh clean water. She loves getting in it on hot days to cool off.

Terry also did some trimming around her raised planter beds. The rosemary and rhubarb are looking good, and here are some of the potatoes she has planted in one of them.

More important are the strawberries. I love strawberries, and while we didn’t get any last year, it looks like this year we’re going to have a nice crop of them. I can’t wait.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, Terry used the leftover roast beef from dinner the day before to make delicious pasties, one of my favorite meals.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a Camping Journal & RV Travel Logbook donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for campground reviews, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day.

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 smart you are, you can never convince someone stupid that they are stupid.

Apr 242024
 

Yesterday was a busy day, and I actually managed to get quite a lot accomplished. The audiobook of A Changing World, the fifth book in my Tinder Street family saga, has been stuck in a bottleneck on Amazon for about a week now. They finally got that resolved, and it is now available to purchase.

The famous tram 28 in Lisbon.

During the morning my friend Scott Banks came over and we installed a 30/50 amp RV receptacle at the barn for when family or friends visit. I ordered it from Amazon and it has separate breakers for each outlet. It took a couple of hours to install, and that included fighting off the nasty inhabitants of the ever-present anthill. About the time we eradicate one colony, three more pop up. It’s just part of life in this area.

I also ordered another 990,000 lumens handheld spotlight from Amazon. I got one several months ago and I keep it on my desk so when we go out at night we can see the deer in the pasture. Sometimes there are only three or four, and sometimes there have been as many as fifteen or even twenty. We wanted another spotlight for our bedroom, which has a large sliding glass door looking out over the pasture. I was surprised that this one, from the same company, is about 1/3 smaller, though just as powerful as the one I already have.

Speaking of ordering from Amazon, Terry ordered a pair of heavy felted wool cat caves, and her cats love them. Sometimes BeeBee and Mae Lin will crowd into the same one, and other times they’ll each be in a separate one. Sometimes one cat will be in a cocoon and the other one will come in and chase it out or else sit on top of the cave with the other cat trapped underrneath. Cats are jerks.

I’m always looking for treats for Alli, and while we were shopping a while back I got some frozen turkey neck sections, which she absolutely loves and devours greedily. At the same time, I picked up some frozen pigs’ feet, thinking it would take her a while to chew up one of those. Pigs’ feet are really ugly. They remind me of my Aunt Mary’s feet. There’s a childhood memory I didn’t need to bring up.

Yesterday I gave Alli one of them and she wasn’t too sure about it. She sniffed it a while but then walked away from it. So I used my Buck pocketknife to slit the skin, no easy task by the way, so she could get to the meat underneath of it. Then she was one happy puppy.

While I was out on the deck with Alli, watching her gnaw on the pig foot, I used my Sony digital recorder to narrate another 2,500 word chapter in The War Years, my next Tinder Street book.

A man can work up a hunger doing all of that in one day, but I knew Terry would have something delicious for dinner, and she didn’t disappoint. She never does. She made delicious roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy, along with a side dish of peas for me and steamd broccoli for her. The perfect meal to end a busy day.

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 a little sad that today’s youth doesn’t get to experience a red rubber dodgeball to the face like we did.

Apr 232024
 

Here is another blog post from my days publishing small town newspapers.

I started my first newspaper when I was in my mid-20s, in Grays Harbor, Washington. The harbor is the largest natural deepwater port on the Pacific Coast north of San Francisco, and has been an important shipping center since the days of the earliest settlement.

Located at the base of the wild and beautiful Olympic Peninsula, the area is a sportsman’s paradise like no other on earth. The dense forests are home to elk, deer, black bear, mountain lions, and many believe the legendary Bigfoot lives there, too. The rivers offer fishing for everything from trout to steelhead salmon, or you can drive out to the beach and surf fish or walk out on a jetty to wet a line. If you like shellfish, you can dig for razorback clams during the open season, drop a crab trap off a dock and haul up Dungeness crab, or charter a boat out of Westport, on the south entrance to the harbor, and go deep sea fishing. When I lived there, Westport billed itself as the Salmon Capital of the World due to the many charter boats that operated from there, as well as commercial fishing boats.

I had a friend who operated a very successful taxidermy shop in Grays Harbor and was well known to sportsmen throughout the Pacific Northwest. I was always amazed at the number of people who caught a huge salmon and brought it in to be mounted and didn’t want the meat. All they cared about was a trophy to hang on their wall. Not wanting to see all of that meat go to waste, my buddy tried donating it to local food banks, but due to some glitch in the law, they could not accept it. So if you were his friend, you could expect your freezer to be well stocked with salmon steaks and salmon fillets, and you always had a good supply of smoked salmon. By the way, if you are ever friends with a taxidermist, don’t ask when he hands you a piece of meat and says, “Here, eat this.” Salmon were not the only animals that came through the shop!

One day my friend got a call from a commercial fishing boat that had netted a seventeen-foot great white shark offshore. They wanted it mounted and contacted him. Now, just how in the hell do you move a fish that big? I borrowed a big flatbed truck from another friend, and we went to pick up the shark. It took a forklift in the middle and several men on each end to get it onto the truck. Just seeing that critter was enough to keep me out of the water for a year!

Driving home with the shark in the back of the truck, we stopped for fuel. While we were filling the truck’s tank, the old gentleman working at the station asked where we caught that creature we had strapped down in the back of the truck. We told him it came out of a small creek a mile or so south of there. His jaw dropped open and his eyes became almost as big as saucers. “My grandkids wade in that creek all the time,” he said. “But they ain’t gonna do it anymore. No, sir, no more!”

Sometimes I feel bad for those poor kids who were probably never allowed back in their favorite creek. And I’m sure that old-timer got razzed by his pals about his wild story since the creek was no more than a foot or two deep. But at the time, my friend and I laughed all the way back to his shop.

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 – Apparently responding to a wedding RSVP with “Maybe next time” isn’t a proper response. Who knew?

First Rose Of Spring

 Posted by at 12:40 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 222024
 

Except for a pretty stiff breeze, yesterday was very nice here in west-central Alabama. There was lots of blue sky and the temperature was somewhere in the mid-60s. And if we can believe the weatherman, we won’t have any more precipitation until the weekend. Hopefully things will dry out a little bit between now and then.

While I had Alli out in the yard yesterday I noticed that several of the rose bushes along the front of our porch are budding out and a few are already blooming. I was able to get a picture of the first rose of the year.

We have a lot of work to do to get Terry’s other raised garden beds put together and things planted in them, and I still have a lot of branches to run through the shredder and other outside chores to attend to.

But much of yesterday was spent on the telephone dealing with Cove Security. We had their system in our house in Florida and it was excellent, as was their customer service. But something seems to have changed since then. Some of the door sensors for the new system we have here at our house have been problematic, sending false signals or no signal at all. They sent me a replacement set for one of our doors, but when I tried to connect it to the system yesterday, it would not recognize my username or password.

I called customer service and got someone who spoke very rapidly and in heavily accented English that I could not understand. I kept trying to explain to her what my problem was, and she kept talking over me, saying she was going to do different things to get the system working. By the time she was done, half of it was not working at all. I finally asked her for a supervisor and was told one would call me back. Hopefully someone who could speak English. I’m still waiting for that call.

While I was doing that, Terry was busy editing and proofreading the first seven chapters of The War Years, my new Tinder Street book. Once she was finished, I made the corrections she suggested, then sent the chapters off to Judy and Roberta to go over.

As if all of that was not enough, Terry was also busy with some other projects around the house, including putting some racks in the cupboards under the kitchen counter to make the space under there more usable. Then she made a delicious dinner of aglio e olio, which is one of my favorite pasta dishes. No matter how stressful life gets, we always eat good. 😊

Congratulations Kathy Voorhees, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Gone The Next, the first book in my friend Ben Rehder’s Roy Ballard mystery series. Roy Ballard is a freelance videographer with a knack for catching insurance cheats. He’s working a routine case, complete with hours of tedious surveillance, when he sees something that shakes him to the core. There, with the subject, is a little blond girl wearing a pink top and denim shorts – the same outfit worn by Tracy Turner, a six-year-old abducted the day before. When the police are skeptical of Ballard’s report – and with his history, who can blame them? – it’s the beginning of the most important case of his life.

We had 21 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 – If you’re really, really quiet, you can hear yourself doing the world a favor.

Class Clown

 Posted by at 12:45 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 212024
 

Since I’m a bit of a clown myself, it shouldn’t surprise anybody that my dog is also the class clown. When she’s not chasing a ball or waiting for us to throw one for her, Alli is either playing with Mae Lin, one of Terry’s cats, or out in the backyard trying to catch a bee or wasp as it flies by. I keep telling her she’ll regret it if she ever does snatch one of those little critters out of the air. She’ll think she caught a flying habanero.

She has a dog bed on the floor beside our bed. Occasionally she curls up in it like a normal dog, but more often than not, I’ll get up in the night and find her like this. What a goofy girl.

She’s not allowed on the bed, but apparently just because we say something doesn’t mean a lot to her. I take my shower and go to bed and watch TV while Terry is taking hers, and sometimes Alli will jump up on the bed with me, stretching out on Terry’s side. I guess she figures if Mom’s not there, that spot is up for grabs. And if I get up to use the bathroom at night, sometimes she will promptly take my place in bed.

She likes to follow me into the bathroom during the day, but yesterday I got in there before she realized I was out of sight. This is what greeted me when I came out. Doesn’t she look like she knows who is really in charge areond here, even if I don’t?

Speaking of yesterday, storms started rolling through our area overnight and it rained off and on most of the day. The temperature also dropped quite a bit. The weatherman says the system will move out by sometime this morning and the rest of the day will be clear and in the mid-60s.

Because our land is clay, and because the backyard was so torn up when we had the septic lines replaced, there’s a lot of mud back there every time it rains. Which means whenever Alli is outside, I have to wipe her feet off good before I bring her back in or she makes a mess. Last week Terry ordered a Dexas MudBuster portable dog paw cleaner to help with that chore, and it actually works pretty good. Alli is patient while I put each foot in the opening and then rotate it a few times while the soft bristles inside clean her feet. Then I dry them with a towel and she’s safe to come back inside without Terry having to mop the floor every time. Well, at least not as often.

Rainy days are always good for writing, and yesterday I wrote another chapter in my new Tinder Street book, then I printed out seven chapters for Terry to edit and proofread. When she’s done with them, I will make her corrections, then send them off to Judy and Roberta so they can go through them. As so often happens in my books, I had no idea the events of the last two chapters were going to occur until I was writing them. They cover a dramatic and terrifying incident for one of the characters that will give them some sleepless nights.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Gone The Next, the first book in my friend Ben Rehder’s Roy Ballard mystery series. Roy Ballard is a freelance videographer with a knack for catching insurance cheats. He’s working a routine case, complete with hours of tedious surveillance, when he sees something that shakes him to the core. There, with the subject, is a little blond girl wearing a pink top and denim shorts – the same outfit worn by Tracy Turner, a six-year-old abducted the day before. When the police are skeptical of Ballard’s report – and with his history, who can blame them? – it’s the beginning of the most important case of his life.

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 – When life gives you pickles, dill with it.