The Gin Bottle (fiction)

Image Borrowed from the Internet

Walter and Maud are settled on 25 acres located about six miles inland from the Pacific. Maud tends to her chickens, her garden, her canning, and her quilting. She’s content as long as Walter harnesses James and readies the buggy for a Saturday trip to town. However, the coastal winds tangle her hair and makes her eyes smart. So she keeps tabs on the Coast Guard’s Storm Horn. When she hears it sounding she knows a gale is blowing. She stays home, unless she’s out of pectin or vinegar or something equally important.

Walter is a logger. Working with a partner on a two-man cross cut saw. The job is demanding, but the pay is good. His only hobby is playing the banjo for the Saturday night dances at the grange. Most often, that one trip to town is plenty for him. But he on Maud’s beckon call.

By chance, Walter discovered that a partially filled a gin bottle can replicate the Storm Horn. Hence, Maud stays home when she hears it.

One given Saturday, after hearing the horn, she has given up her Saturday trip. However, she is out of everything – flour, baking powder, sugar. She must go to town, storm or no. Donning a heavy coat and scarf, she heads out to tell Walter to hitch James to the buggy.

As she rounds the corner of the barn she finds Walter blowing on the gin bottle.

57 years

Today marks 57 years for Barb and I. It was the day she became an air force bride.

Tomorrow marks the first time she saw Mount Shasta as we motored toward Beale AFB. He reaction is still as vivid as the mountain itself.


I bought my first motorcycle in 1957 while stationed at Charleston AFB, South Carolina. That was my first of 11 machines in 52 accident-free years. But I’ve had some very close calls, one being blowing a front tire at 70 mph.

In 1980 or 1981 Barb and I rented a room for the night in Challis, Idaho. Everyone was still talking about a group, a club, riding parade-style that very day. Someone experienced a problem. It became everyone’s problem and two riders lost their lives that afternoon.

While it’s exciting to ride parade-style, many things are left to chance – a small chunk of dirt in the fuel line, a flake of carbon shorting out a spark plug, a flat tire. And that doesn’t address the human factors – a bug in the eye, a hornet in someone’s jacket, or the guy coming from the other direction.

No one has provided an answer for why the seven marines were killed in New Hampshire Friday. But I’m assuming they were riding in military formation. Someone experienced a problem and in the blink of an eye it became collective.

Millie (fiction)

Image Borrowed From the Internet

I’d driven to the Humbug Mountain summit for breakfast one Saturday morning and I was headed into the Humbug Cafe when a covey of old men caught my attention. I was younger than most by decades. Still, curiosity pulled me to the thicket of Port Orford Cedar where found an ancient steam shovel. It was a hulk of rust, but on the side of the cab I could still make out the name “Millie”. Obviously, few could remember the last time Millie had seen a head of steam. But I was drawn to the owner, a bearded man in his late eighties, Clem Bridges. He was stooped and spoke with an thin, airy voice. His description of how he used this old girl to carve the first traces up the north face Humbug Mountain, a path that would later become US 101, was riveting.

We cut our wood from the right-of-way – cedar, fir, alder. Water was more difficult. It was fetched by horse and wagon from Pistol River ten miles north. The eight and ten percent grade used up a remuda of horses before we were finished and parked this old girl here,” Clem explained. “But that was actually the easier part. In many places we had to lash the shovel to stumps with cables to keep her from tumbling down the 1700 foot slope into the Pacific. We had our moments,” he added.

After awhile some followed Clem into his cafe where he promised them pie and coffee. Others got into their cars and headed down the mountain. I waited. After everyone was gone, I grabbed a handrail and pulled myself onto one of the tracks. In the silence I peered through the opening at the boiler and firebox. The levers controlling the cables were rusted fast, unmoved from where Clem left them when he parked Millie here.

The ocean breeze moaned through the cedars as I closed my eyes in an effort to relive Clem’s adventure. I’d liked to have been here.


Today’s Yahoo News makes me think I should always be prepared to prove my American Citizenship, no matter where or when.

But What Does Zeke Know?



A neighbor twenty years Zeke’s junior is starting college this autumn. Of course, the administrator suggests said neighbor should own a computer. Some basic computer knowledge, prior to first day, would be essential, in Jake’s humble opinion. But what OS would be the most friendly and compatible with those used at school?

Zeke knew little to nothing about crop dusting aircraft and even less about computers. Still, he shoehorned his way in as associate editor for Ag-Pilot International Magazine, working from home, in another state, using a Commodore 64, Paper Clip Word Processor and submitting his finished copy with a 300 baud modem, and/or dot matrix printer.

Then he upgraded to a DOS machine – a gigantic step. Then came Windows 3.1 and Zeke gave up chasing the windows systems by the time he owned a Windows 7. Now he’s added an iPad 2 and a Samsung 7” tablet to his stable – he often visits help files. Maybe he would be light years ahead if his mind were not cluttered with obsolete information and systems usually found in museums.

He can only imagine the battle he’d encounter if he were trying to generate a time-sensitive term paper on a machine fresh from the store.

Music Will Sooth the Savage Beast.

This afternoon, 29 May 19, while surfing You Tube I came upon Louis Armstrong singing Hello Dolly. He took me back to the days of the Cold War when Mr. Armstrong traveled to the Soviet Union. They loved the limited range of his gravely voice, his trumpet, his handkerchief., and his songs that came from the heart.

How could they not?



Son of Teed

Though not apparent to me, Teed, the mail carrier, became a self-made pecan expert. As told to me, during his forty years of mail service he taste-tested the fruit of ever tree that grew along his daily route, always asked permission before crossing over the fences and gather a handful, or a bagful of nuts. Of all the trees of which he grew familiar over those years – one hundred, two hundred – a very large tree growing along my grandfather’s lane won out over the others, offering thinner shells and sweeter flavor. Sometime during those years this giant became known as the Teed Tree.

Unfortunately, one stormy night it fell victim to a lightning strike. Early the following morning, my grandmother called those with an interest in the tree, my cousin, Jim, being one of them. Jim and his father, at first light, drove out to the old tree and cut off some large branches before the furniture man arrived.

Like many things in life, the limbs and nuts salvaged from Teed Tree were forgotten and lay in a vacant horse stall for some 40 years before Jim fabricated two three-legged coffee tables from the wood and then he planted the pecans.

One pecan became a seedling known as Son-of-Teed. Another eight years passed before it bore a pecan. Though it occupied a place of honor it provided none of the favored qualities of it’s fore-bearer.


Today’s Internet news features a postman who has served a community far beyond what was expected of him. As I read through the article I remembered Teed, our long serving postman I knew a lifetime ago. Teed was a slender man with round, John Lennon glasses. He was soft-spoken with a smile for everyone and I never saw him without his fedora hat. I was very young – preschool age – when the fetching of a pint of whipping cream first brought him to my attention.

Mildred, would you have a pint of whipping cream?” Mom asked of the dairy farmer’s wife she’d reached by phone.

Of course I didn’t hear Mildred’s response, but an hour later when we walked the quarter-mile to the mailbox Mom retrieved a pint canning jar of whipping cream with her name on the lid. Teed had delivered it as a neighborly gesture.

During World War II almost everything of any value was on the rationing list and if one didn’t have the proper stamp it couldn’t be purchased at any price. Yet, Mom found a way to purchase a broadcast receiver from Sears Roebuck. The year was probably 1942. I may have been five years old. Many things occurring in the adult world went unnoticed. Including the purchase of radios and the difficulty encountered doing so. I first became aware of this radio business after Teed left a note in the mailbox. It stated that a large package from Chicago was bound for our address. He would deliver it the following day.

The note caused a great deal of excitement and I was caught up in it.

The following morning we pulled my red wagon to the mailbox and waited for Teed’s arrival. Directly, I heard the chuckle of his Model A Ford and then the clatter of the bridge planks as he crossed over Walnut Creek. There were three dips in the road between the creek and our mailbox and each time he topped a rise his John Lennon glasses caught the light and I was reminded of the newsreels I’d seen of navy ships sending Morse to one another during radio silence. Soon, Teed brought his car to a halt and lifted a package from the back seat.

It’s a radio,” Mom said.

If weight is any measure of quality, it must be a good one,” he said, the veins in his forehead bulging as he carefully sat the package in my wagon. Then, touching the brim of his fedora, he slid beneath the wheel and set out to finish his route.

A few years later, Teed announced his forthcoming retirement. It did not go unnoticed. At the old one-room school, Greenview, an ice cream social and farewell party was set into motion. Like the featured in today’s Internet news, the many whose lives he’d touched were sorry to see him go.

The Color of Music

Most of us have grown up with music to one degree or another. But the protagonist in Ellen Glasgow’s Barren Ground, Dorinda, had not, with the exception of church hymns. Reared in rural Virginia, she was unprepared for the New York City Concert to which her young doctor friend had invited her. She was laboring over the program, the composer’s names – Beethoven, Bach, and Chopin when the concert began with a gray summer storm bearing down on the old pear orchard back home.

I was surprised when Dorinda’s visions changed to delicate green and amber, and then violent clashes of red and purple. These striking descriptions continue for two full pages. I was sorry when the concert was finished.

I’ve enjoyed classical music for more than seven decades, but I have yet to share even a brief glimpse of what this girl experienced.