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Friday, December 26, 2014

Eulogy for Corina Wright (my mother)

Corina was 98 years old in November 2014, as she was born in November, 1916.

In the year of her birth, cars were so new that nobody had one in Imperial.  Water was pumped from an outside well.  Laundry was done outside in a tub with a washboard.  There was no electricity in the ranch home.  Telephones were not available. World War One was underway in Europe. The dustbowl drought started around 1929 and lasted for about ten years. And the stock market crash threw America into the great depression.

Some of my dates may be off by a little bit, but it’s the best I can recall at this time Corina graduated from the old Rose School in Imperial Valley about 1934. She remembered the desperate wagon loads of people escaping the water-starved dust bowl area of the central plains, from Mexico, straight up the center of the U.S. and into Canada.  The dust was so bad there were days when the sun was blocked out.  The only thing for farmers in the drought states to do was to move west where farming was still being done due to available water, so great caravans of cars loaded with everything a family could load on them passed right through Imperial Valley and T.D.’s Rancho Corina.  If somebody appeared on the back porch needing a meal, Cora, Corina’s mother managed to supply them with something to eat.  At the same time, in 1929, the stock market crashed and triggered the great depression that threw the economy of the world into chaos, much like, but worse than, the “recession” America is just starting to come out of today.

After Cora and T.D. split, Cora worked in Imperial town at a hotel as a maid.  Corina lived with her after she graduated from high school in 1934.  The next part is fuzzy because I have no dates, but Corina and Cora moved to San Diego so Corina could go to San Diego State.  To pay for this enterprise, Corina worked in a “Five and Dime” Store as a clerk, in a theater as an usher, and any other job she could find.  Cora worked in a boarding house, which paid for her food, but not Corina’s food. So Corina had to make enough money to eat as well as to pay for her classes, in the middle of the dust bowl, the great depression and with World War II just raising its ugly head in Europe.

With the college teaching degree Corina finally managed to complete around 1951, she taught school in her beloved Highgrove Elementary School in Riverside, California.  She used very unconventional methods to get non reading children to be able to read and she never in thirty years was not successful with any child.

She was an American through and through and stood against all comers who dared to denigrate our flag or our country.  So much so that disparagers would be treated to a half-hour tongue lashing if they dared to complain.

Corina was a loyal McCall family fan who thrilled at all accomplishments of any McCall family member.  She loved each one of us fiercely, protectively, proudly, just as much as she loved America.  And she knew within her heart that there was no family that had been or ever would be as brilliant and delightful as her own.

If I could sum up Corina McCall Wright Graves, I would say “She endeavored to persevere against all odds.”

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Auraria Dead Has Been Reprinted

Goodreads now has Auraria Dead available through their website from Amazon. Mine is not to question why. It is currently ebook formatted but is soon to be in paperback.  Meanwhile, you can get a paperback directly from me.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Silver Strutter Dead Chapter One.



The women couldn’t get the horse to quit stomping on the man long enough to see if he was alive.
Realtor, Maria Sebastian, had an appointment to meet with her client, Donna Kelly and horse farm owner Dixon Whitmire. A never-ending season of foggy night time ice and stripping winds yellowed puddles, lakes and streams with pine pollen.  Everyone in north Georgia, depressed from constant sinus headaches, stretched tense hope for sunshine while winter teased. Its grip held with alternating cold nights, rainy days, five minutes of warm sunshine then back to the rain. During those five minutes some of the buds on the trees burst open. But those five minutes passed unnoticed when Maria and Donna heard the rampage going on inside the barn. Though Ms. Kelly owned Arabian horses, the Whitmire farm raised prize-winning Tennessee Walkers, and was the most beautiful farm in Forsyth County, Georgia. Also the most expensive.                                                      
Maria pulled up to the stud barn, expecting to find busy people brushing, working, and washing horses. However, no evidence of human life was found, only wild kicking, thrashing and whinnying instead.
Donna Kelly’s black F-10 pickup truck had parked beside Maria’s Jeep Cherokee.  Both out of their trucks, they looked at each other questioningly then hurried into the barn.
The horse that put Georgia on the TWA map this year, paused only a second when he saw them from his barred stall. A plaque over the door read, “Silver Strutter.”  Unconcerned with niceties the frightened animal aimed his big feet at a body lying in his stall, pulverized from the horse’s one-thousand pound stomps. Maria gagged and controlled a scream when she saw the bloody mass that used to be a person. The stallion in the neighboring stall was so upset by the odor of death and Strutter’s adrenaline rush that he also kicked the walls, bucked, reared, rolled his eyes and made the awful stench take second place to the horror.
Maria dialed Dixon Whitmire’s cell phone number, hoping he was not the dead man.  When a cell phone rang from somewhere in the barn, it set Strutter off again kicking the side of the stall, causing the next stall’s horse, Ambling Ambler, to do the same. 
“I think it’s my phone call that caused them to go off on another tirade. If this poor man is Dixon Whitmire, his phone is under him or somewhere else in the barn. If you’ll call 911,” Maria said, “I’ll see if I can find a way to divert the horses’ attention.” 
Donna immediately stepped back out of the barn to assure reception on her cell phone, and Maria searched for an oat bag to lure the wild horses into a lull. 
Maria checked the second stallion to see why he was following Strutter’s lead. The overpowering odor permeated the whole end of the barn where the stallions were kept.  Clean fresh straw bedding could not be smelled. The second stallion threw his head as if to get away from the stink. Maria gagged, then breathed through her mouth as she pawed through a grain storage room three stalls down. She poked her head into the storage room, flashed on hoof picks, various horseshoes, an ancient, ragged shoe puller nobody had ever cleaned, ropes, chains, leads, halters, bridles, dangling leather reins and two oatbags all hung on a dusty pegboard. She snatched the bags down, added oats from a fifty-pound bag lying on the floor and trotted back to the stalls thinking about mice probably nesting in the bag as well as the oats.
Donna, returned inside the barn, excused herself from the 911 operator, set the still live phone on a stall post and took one of the bags from Maria to swoosh enticing grain toward Ambler.
Strutter slowed his killing rage and perked up his ears at Maria’s offer of a treat, despite dripping sweat and blood from a hundred welts on his chest. He huffed at the oats, dived his head into the bag, snuffed twice and started chewing. Maria fastened the bag over his face and ears.
Amber had done the same with Donna’s offering. 
The women heard sirens in the distance, along with the sound of a tractor running somewhere nearby.
“I’m going to move the black out of this stall to that one over there.” Maria pointed across the barn.  First she slid the end doors closed and turned on the overhead lights.  Opening the stall door cautiously, she noticed Strutter’s shoulders had also been beaten pulpy, blood running down his legs to his heavily shod feet. He wore no halter. She patted his neck gently and fashioned a war bonnet over his head with a nearby rope. He cooperated while he still blew and munched while walking jittery down the barn’s center aisle to a clean, straw-bedded stall.
Now the women could check the man on the ground.
“Is he dead?” Donna asked
“I can’t tell, but he doesn’t seem to be breathing.” Blood ran out of his body in every direction.  Oh my God, there is no place to feel for a pulse.” It sounded like O by God, since she’d stopped using her nose to breathe. With nothing she could do to help the poor man, Maria backed away from the body.
*                                                                       *                                                        *
Sheriff Deputies swarmed the barn, stringing yellow tape as they cordoned off the body for the investigators. Emergency Medical Technicians carried a stretcher into the stall Maria pointed toward. Cameras flashed at the ghoulish center of attention.
A sheriff deputy stood with Maria at the outside door. His name badge read D Willis.  “Tell me why you’re here and everything that happened since you arrived.” Willis, with curly dark hair buzzed around his ears, wore green slacks and tie with a tan shirt. A fragrance Maria couldn’t place wafted from him but it didn’t help the odor in the barn.
Meanwhile, a woman deputy took Donna Kelly outside to question her.
Maria said, “I’m a realtor with Garrison Realty. She spelled her name for him as he wrote in a small notebook. “I had an appointment to meet my client Donna Kelly and Dixon Whitmire, the owner of this farm to discuss details for sale. Something looked wrong from the minute she and I pulled up.”
“How is that?”
“Nobody is here. The horses were rampaging in their stalls.”
“Ms. Kelly rode with you in your vehicle?” he asked.
“No, we arrived at almost the same time—both our trucks are parked outside the barn beside the emergency vehicles.”
Suddenly weak, Maria’s knees threatened to buckle, so she threw her arm over the top rail of a neighboring stall. She was about to lose her breakfast when the deputy moved them further from Strutter’s stall.
“We heard a faint cell phone ring from inside the barn. Every time it rang back, off the horses would go again, kicking, rearing, screaming.”
“You looked in the stall where the body was found?”
“Yes, to see what would cause the horses to go nuts. We saw the body. We couldn’t tell if he was breathing, so we managed to get the horse in the same stall settled down enough to move him down the way to see if the victim was alive.” She pointed toward Strutter. “But we couldn’t tell anything.”
“It’s too bad you messed up the crime scene.” His blank cop eyes looked at her.
“The horse wasn’t going to let us in to see if the guy was still alive.”
“Did you touch him?”
Maria gagged. “There was nowhere to touch that wasn’t covered in blood and...”
“Okay, I got it. Is the victim the man you came here to meet?”
“I don’t know. I never met him, only talked with him on the phone.”
“Did you go to the house?” he asked.“See if anybody was up there?”
“No.  I called the number I have but nobody answered.”
“Can you think of anything else you can tell me?
“Only that I heard a tractor running way off across the property. I don’t know if it was part of this farm or not.”
“You seem to know a lot about horses.”
“I was raised with horses. I sell horsefarms.”
“Why do you think the horse would kill a man?” The deputy tapped his notebook with his pen.
“I think the guy was beating the horse with a quirt. If that’s true then the horse did not accept the beating. You can see the horse’s chest and shoulders are striped and bloody.” 
“So you think the horse retaliated? Just turned into a killer, like a lion or bear sometimes does?”
e askH
“No, I don’t think so. Horses react to how they’re treated. If Strutter killed the guy in the stall, he was probably trying to avoid being killed himself. I hope your photographer gets pictures of Strutter’s open wounds.”
“Do you think somebody or something else could have killed him?”
“It’s just that the coroner needs to know that every horse’s shoes and feet are different from each other. Four different wounds, four different hooves.”
“Why were you showing a property when you hadn’t met the owner?”
“It’s not my listing. I represent the buyer only. Mr. Whitmire was expecting us.”
“You have the listing broker’s name?”
“Yes.  Her name is Rita Conyers with Blackman Realty.” Maria reached in her jeans pocket for her business card and took the other realtor’s card from her jacket pocket.  She looked up Rita’s phone number on her cell phone address book and wrote it on the card. “Here are my contact numbers and Rita’s phone number.”
“Why isn’t Ms. Conyers here today?” The deputy asked.
“She told me she had an appointment near Chattanooga she couldn’t break.”
“If you think of anything else, please call me at this number.” David Willis handed her his business card.
“I think I want this farm,’ Donna Kelly said as she and Maria waited for the emergency crews to move their equipment so they could get their trucks out. “But I realize that it’s going to be a problem if Mr. Whitmire is dead.”
“Yes.  It will probably be tied up in probate for awhile. And of course we have no idea if the heirs will want to sell it. I’ll call you as soon as I learn what the plans will be. I’m so sorry about this whole mess.”
“Pretty horrible,” Donna said. “I’ll want to see the farm again without the disaster.”
“As soon as I can set that up.”
*                                                                      *                                                                 *
The image of the dead man replayed over and over in Maria’s mind as she drove back to the city. She wasn’t likely to forget it. Ever.
The one phone conversation she’d had with Whitmire didn’t qualify as a relationship. She had never seen him. And now he may be the man with the pulverized face.
A few dark clouds still clustered on the east side of the lake moved on a new burst of wind Maria hadn’t noticed at the horse farm. The sky looked like a dirty pond. April had started in February and, like an annoying visitor, had stayed. Some day May would show up, hopefully dressed for spring. Maria dodged fat wet drops as she hurried into her office at Garrison Realty. “Michaela, I need to talk to you” she said as she passed through the front door. 
Michaela lived at the front reception counter. “Sure.  Meet me in the conference room.” She stopped typing and started her printer. Garrison’s office manager wore her red hair fluffed down over her shoulders in a retro style. Her long colorful skirt swirled around cream colored knee boots as she hustled into the meeting room and closed the door. The conference room had soft gold wallpaper with faux crown molding and deep gold carpeting. She turned to her friend. They sat down across the mahogany conference table from each other. “So. What have you been up to now?”

“I think you should know what happened today.”  

Thursday, June 12, 2014

My blog for 6/12/2014 Optimist Club of Cumming, GA.

Today I spoke at the Cumming Optimist Club and not only sold some books, but also was very impressed with their "Optimist Creed."  Please see it below:

The Optimist Creed

Promise yourself:

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health,happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

The Optimist Clubs:  Sponsor Oratorical Contests for children
Sponsor annual Essay Contests for High School Youth.
Sponsor Christmas party for Mentor Me with their sister club.
Sponsor a track and Field event twice yearly for elementary age children
Sponsor a Fishing Derby yearly.
Honors "Youth of the Month" monthly.
Donate funds to various organizations with Mini Grants.
Provides multiple college scholarships yearly.
Provide supplies for local youth organizations
Provides Christmas gifts for seniors at a local retirement home.

They also, for a small donation, they supply a US flag placed in your yard every President's Day, Memoriald Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Veteran's Day, which are delivered and retrieved till next holiday.

Monday, April 7, 2014

My blog for 4/4/2014 (Cavalier) King Charles Spaniels

English Toy Spaniel

I got my dog several years ago, and people kept telling me that my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was really a King Charles Spaniel (without the Cavalier part).  I did not know the difference between these supposedly two different breeds.  Since then I have learned the difference isn't very much except in size and to the breeders.

The English Toy Spaniel (above) Also called "King Charles Spaniel" are identical.  It is a gentle, happy and playful loving breed that is naturally well-behaved and intelligent. They are good family companions and play well with children. Their small size makes them ideal for an apartment. All varieties of the English Toy Spaniel are easy-to-groom and require regular twice-weekly combing and brushing.

In the late 1600s the King Charles Spaniels were interbred with Pugs, which resulted in a smaller dog with flatter noses, upturned faces, rounded heads and protruding eyes.  It was developed in the British Isles and was a favorite of British Royalty. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1886.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

If you are looking for one of the most charming companions in the canine community, consider the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Cavaliers are the largest breed in the Toy Dog category and make wonderful pets for people with many different lifestyles.

Cavalier Spaniels are indoor dogs that were traditionally bred as lap dogs. They become quite attached to their "people companions" and do not tolerate being left alone for extended periods of time well. If your pet will be alone often, particularly as a puppy, consider choosing a breed that has less separation anxiety than a Cavalier.

Cavalier Spaniels are indoor dogs that were traditionally bred as lap dogs. They become quite attached to their "people companions" and do not tolerate being left alone for extended periods of time well. If your pet will be alone often, particularly as a puppy, consider choosing a breed that has less separation anxiety than a Cavalier.

This is my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Abby.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My Blog for 4/2/2014 Cowboys and Indians

I was in a movie one time.  All our neighbors had horses for their only form of recreation, as we did.  One of the guys had a brother in law who lived in Hollywood and knew a lot of people who had access to film, cameras, projectors, and sound implements.  This was at a time before digital cameras, so all of this equipment was rare to the average person.
One day the brother in law decided we who lived in this neighborhood (about 20 of us counting the kids) should make a cowboy movie.  Anybody who could ride was dubbed either a “cowboy” or an “Indian.”  I was an Indian, so we donned warpaint, took our saddles off the horses and rode on blankets like the real movies.  Counting about three families per hill and there being four hills, we had people on all of the unpopulated hills running back and forth on rabbit trails with their scripts, and being filmed with a huge shoulder-held camera.  Others threw on anything they thought resembled their “part” and there were very few lines.  Like, a lot of “head them off at the pass,” “wash-da,” and “Um, kemosabe.”
I don’t know the plot, if there was one.  I just know all the Indians, on signal, came tearing up the hill on our horses and were filmed bursting out from a ravine, in our Indian stampede.
I was 27 years old and both of my small children had their parts on their ponies as well.
The “movie” was shown on a regular 76 millimeter pull down movie screen from Hollywood that was propped in the bed of a pickup truck at night in an arena we’d made by removing the sagebrush from a flat area.  We called it “the arena.”  Somebody made a huge pile of popcorn and we had cokes as well for that movie.  All the houses which were pretty far apart had people walking back and forth in the night with flashlights to use the facilities or avoid the insanity for a little while.
A lot more people than the actors attended the movie out of neighborly curiosity.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My blog for 4/1/2014 From Sea To Shining Sea Serial Part 16


Oct. 21.  Thursday
We stopped to see some friends in Park City, Utah (7000 ft.).  They both looked good though we’d caught them at a bad time.  They were just back from a couple of months in Hawaii and were leaving in a few hours to a funeral in southern California.  We only had a few hours to visit.  Their home is unlike any other I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of homes.  This one was probably worth five million dollars in an ordinary market.   We took pictures and lapsed into fun conversations about everybody we know.  They fell in love with Abby (normal course of events).  We went out for beer and Mexican food and laughed over all our old nonsense.

Today we’re headed to Laramie, Wyoming , as there’s a snow storm headed this way from the south.  It’s now 28 degrees and I nearly froze my hands getting us ready to go.  Trailers require a lot of work inside as well as outside whenever you want to move.
The rolling hills are perfect in the morning sun.  About fifty miles east of Park City the sky’s filled with smoke.  Out  in the middle of nowhere.  We can’t see a fire’s origin.

The whole road has turned wheat color.  Wyoming is only 400 miles wide.  The fire is a bit of a forest fire we see as we pass by.  Range cowboys are out there with massive herds of sheep.  I hadn’t associated Wyoming with sheep.  And  next appeared a small forest of windmills lines along the mesas.  I suppose this is because the wind whips up from the valleys and is at its best on the mesas.  Otherwise, the wild west is stark and scattered buttons of sage kept it from looking like moonscape.  Not even any billboards.

Snow fences run along the highway.  That fire we passed must have been pretty big for its smoke to spread out all the way to Ft. Bridger.  Maybe Ft. Bridger was once a military outpost.  Now it’s a little town of 400 people, situated at the base of  a vertical series of mesas with a river at the bottom.  Aspens and Cottonwoods soften the area’s presence.
People coming through here on a stage coach would either be tough cookies or lost puppies.  Canadian geese are hurrying south overhead.  A bunch of pinto horses were running  and playing that morning.  I wanted to stop and watch them but there really was no place to pull our rig off the road.  I wonder if the horses will be left out in the coming snow with the sheep and cattle.  I also wonder why people are all crowded into huge cities when so much of our country is absolutely empty.

Next we could see the mountains, striped horizontally from their different mineral generations.  They all had flat tops and thankfully no wind machines.  Fire smoke still followed us.  The sun is so far south that time of year that I had a ball of sun on my face all day in the Excursion.  Even sunshades didn’t help much.  Pretty soon I considered doing a mother and putting newspapers up to block the sun.

I don’t know how, but it was even more desolate near Granger, on I-80.  At Green River we spotted about ten chemical plants spread along the horizon north to south.  They were natural gas plants that are in time going to run from here to California.  We saw the other (west) end of the pipeline in Cedarville, where a whole village was being built to house the workers.  The pipeline sits like a snake along the top of the ground for a thousand miles where it’s being welded in sections then will be buried in the trenches also being run alongside it.  What a massive enterprise from Wyoming to central Oregon.  Its green line runs from both our horizons, east-west.  Green River town seems to be a giant ten-track trainyard.  The river itself is a beautiful big thing if there’s anything alive left down there.  You gotta wonder.  Train tracks squat, holding innumerable train cars spread out like dirty snakes along the valley floor.  Rock Springs is equally ramshackle.  This area is where the Oregon Trail, The Mormon Trail, the Pony Express Route, The Cherokee Trail, The overland Trail, Old Emigrant Trail and the California Gold Rush Trails converge.  A person could spend months researching the routes of all the trails still existing as well as their history.

I think the charm of the place must be that it’s between the Sierra Mountains and the Rockies and is basically flat and high.

We saw Pronghorn Sheep grazing along I-80.  Otherwise THERE WAS NOTHING HAPPENING out there.  I think we needed to find a back road so we could see civilization sooner or later.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My blog for 3/30/2014 Dahlonega Gold Coins

Above you can see what a Dahlonega Gold coin that was minted in 1855 looks like. " By law, gold coinage during the operation of the Dahlonega Mint (1838-1861) was 0.900 fine, meaning 900 parts per thousand  (by weight) pure gold.  The remaining 100 parts constituted the alloy (pure gold being too soft and malleable to prodce coins that would stand up to the rigors of circulation).  By law for that time period, the alloy for gold coins was copper and silver, provided that the silver did not exceed one-half the alloy.  Thus, the silver content could be up to 50 parts per thousand.  It was  therefore lawfully possible to have coins with varying concentrations of silver, about which we can today make observations relative to the coloration differences.
Generally speaking, a gold coin with 100 parts per thousand copper alloy is distinctly orange in color.  Gold coins with silver and copper tend to be less orange, and if the silver content is high enough, the coins do not look orange at all, possessing a light "green gold" color.  As a consequence of this imprecise specification for the alloy, the mints at Dahlonega and Charlotte had the flexibility to have a higher silver content than the parent institution, the Philadelphia Mint."  Carl N. Lester, GOLD RUSH GALLERY, INC.

Remember that when gold was discovered in Auraria, Georgia, in 1829 the subsequent gold miners had no place to put their accrued gold in a safe place.  There were no nearby banks.  No way to create their gold into coins.  If the miner traveled to a bank, then he might return to find someone else working his plot of land, i.e. stealing his gold.  Land with possible gold could only be obtained by lottery.  No choices of land parcels were available.  It was pretty critical that a mint be established in Dahlonega, about eight miles from Auraria.  The owner of a parcel won in a lottery could sell his parcel, often for an exorbitant price.  The owner would have to hide his gold, or possibly have it stolen or himself killed for it.  Auraria is actually quite small and there were some 5000 miners working to strike it rich at the peak of the gold rush in this area.


Monday, March 24, 2014

My Blog for 3/24/2014 Summer In The South

I'm so far behind with this travelogue, I've decided to put some new information that seems timely.

Summer In The South consists of fireflies darting through the lush forests at dusk; of air so humid it appears cloudlike in the heat and you can see what you are breathing.  There is a pervasive silence as the woods breathlessly await any passing gentle breeze for relief.  Even squirrels have better sense than the lazy bumblebees out making their living lethargically moving from flower to flower.

Begonias line my entry walk, thriving as usual, before the lavender Hostas and bright Day Lilies.  They all think they live in a greenhouse.  Canopy is the truly right description of the trees.  I look up through the lacy leaves to see the sky, grateful for the gentle filter of the heat.  My little Garden of Eden. 

The cicadas (also known as katydids) have at last begun their nightly chant, somehow relating that all is right with the world.  And the full golden moon now begins its helium ascent at 9:28 p.m.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Blog..New Series..From Sea to Shining Sea. Part 15

Rowena Wildflowers

October 18
The Columbia River gorge's cliffs are lined with windmills as it turns out.  The night before, all we could see were the lights at each one--they stood out like stars so far overhead.  The gorge itself makes you feel like you're at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  We found the windmills in daylight.  The river changes names as others merge with it.  We passed maybe four dams and locks, where ocean barges work their way inland against the current.  It's so amazing that the road we were on was cut through solid rock a couple hundred feet straight down, at the bottom of about 200' cliffs.  It feels like a huge wall.   At the top of Oregon, the river looks like an ocean and must be a mile wide.  It's all barren of trees and shrubs, with only a  little grass that shares space on the hills with windmills for another fifty miles or so.  A couple of green patches off on the Washington side must be watered from the river because they stand out like a couple of oases.  We think they're citrus orchards, but they were so far away we couldn't be sure, but there were jet engines planted we think to ward off frost.

We headed to Pendleton--the place where super well made wool clothing is made.  We hope to see a lot of woolens.  We next passed Arlington with its little marina full of sailboats.  We were in Umatilla County, which I suppose is a Nez Pearce name.  A friend, Jess Wright, had a horse named Umatilla in my past life when we rode with him in the 1970's.  Hmm.  Of course there is a railroad track running along side the freeway.  All the traincars have graffiti on them.  I guess nobody is exempt.  Right where the snake river comes in from the north the land has flattened to desert, again complete with sagebrush and tumbleweeds--also a bombing range.  Which is across the Columbia from Horse Heaven Hills.  Go figure.

Next we were in power line jungles.  I would think the dams we've seen could power the whole United States.  But it looks like a bad day in  El Paso, Texas, the ugliest town I have ever seen.
Scrubby trees suddenly appeared--and ah!  A reason for the smog--a huge chemical plant mixing in with the wires.  A good place to leave--ugh.

Suddenly desert forests of densely planted tree farm trees that looked about fifty feet tall appeared as farmed crops mixed with hundreds of acres of trees, onions, citrus, hay.  Monster commercial agriculture.  Pacific Albus Trees, a sign said.  Whatever that is.  This area look like Southern California rather than Western Oregon--arid but just enough rain to make parts of it green, with oleander bushes, bottlebrush, citrus trees and lots of decomposed granite.  The temperature was 47 degrees.

On the overpass railings/fences, are running horse sculptures.  I guess there are wild horse herds in this area.  The Umatilla Indian Reservation includes Pendleton.  Oregon soon looked like Iowa--farmland to all horizons.  Half of Pendleton is a prison.  Home of the Pendleton Roundup.  Home of Pendleton woolens.  So we stopped and bought a blanket at the factory.  It's a beautiful piece of work we intend to use for a bedspread at home.  Pendleton is a cute, old-fashioned 1950's style Western town.  It included the Wildhorse Umatilla Indian Casino.  Next we continued off the flat mesas into the Blue Mountain Umitalla National Forest--a bald forest that's east on I-84.  We saw the longest horsetrailer in the west, as well as a triple trailer longhauler, which we'd never seen before.  They kind of looked like trains.  Trees there are at about 4000 feet--which includes snow fencing.  The hills looked like gold cushions with pines, cattle, deer and antelope.  No higher mountains were around us, but chain signs were required and we saw the occasional Sno cat.  The temperature changed to 53 degrees.  Baker, Oregon, has a sign that says we were half way between the North Pole and the equator.  I've been wondering about that.  I-84 is a good place to be if you don't want any people. I have a hunch that area's weather is treacherous.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Book Review: The Dwelling by Catherine Cookson.

Book Review:  The Dwelling, by Catherine Cookson.

Review by Melody Scott



The Dwelling is a story about how it’s possible to overcome an adverse life.

I loved the “voice” of the story, which includes the “gutter” dialogue between half the characters.

            It seemed to have several stories interlaced into one book.  The beginning of a family of 18 children and two parents in early England, whose dad and children worked  in the coal mines as soon as they were old enough to hold open underground doors--about 8-10 years old.

            The story begins after nine of the children, the mother and the father have all died from the current rash of Cholera.  Nine children, the oldest one 14 are huddled together in a house where they were evicted from, since the father held the use of the house as long as he was alive.  With his death went the rights to the company house.

            The options the children had were all awful--from workhouses to indentured servants, and the gallant eldest, Cissie, refused to separate the family.  It seems the elder boys who worked alongside the father were among the nine who died.  Two boys, nine and ten were useable, but only for conditions like death traps.

            It seemed to be constant winter with the second main goal was to figure a way for the last nine to not freeze.  Cissie found a cave in the side of the “fells,” which I never figured out.  I assume a cliff face above swampland.  She took everything from the house they children could manipulate and moved into this cave.  It was very tiny for nine, but it was deep and rather out of the weather.

            The kindnesses they received were few and far between, the cruelty and selfishness they confronted daily was rampant.

            The fellow who saved them from starvation pinched foods from the mill-owner’s daughter, who was homely and about whom he didn’t care for particularly.  They just had good manners with each other.  This Matthew sacrificed himself to marry the millowner’s daughter in order that he could keep his true love (Cissie) from starvation.  I think this guy was the hero of the story, even though things changed regarding that issue later in the book.

            As soon as the reader felt these people are going to be okay, something else would happen to make things even worse, as life sometimes spins out of control.

            The hard to believe part was how a person who had actually raped a young girl and caused a pregnancy could end up being the one the girl fell in love with.

 Even if he had supposedly grown up to be a decent man.          The  child from the rape became as a pawn between divorcees--who would raise him, who would have what rights, etc.  Cissie, for her part, agreed to never see the child again in exchange for keeping her brat sister out of jail for stealing, and sealing a deal for pay to keep the rest of them alive, clothed and in a house of her choice. 

            Well, life became full circle.  The huge number of conflicts, with no outcome being a good choice but only the best of the worst, Cissie bumbled through, keeping all the children together as she had said, in a cave the children shored up with rocks  mud and industry, i.e. the Dwelling.

            This story brought out the class differences, the hardscrabble life with a dirt floor.

You were either born into the gentry or you were not claimed by them as humans with needs.  They were seen as somewhere between a dog and a slave.  How could a fine

family even live with a homeless person in their house?  Yet the unfortunates waited on them hand and foot, with ten more ready to take their places if they messed up or even looked like they might mess up.

            It was an excellent read, though the premise I mention above seemed unlikely.

Friday, February 28, 2014

My blog: New Series: From Sea To Shining Sea Part 14

Mt. Hood
 Columbia River

Sunday, October 17
We arrived in Bandon last Tuesday, found Gary (the brother ) at the state park.  Gary already had a site for us and the weather was sunny at 73 degrees.  We walked a trail through underbrush to the Pacific Ocean and we were rewarded with a deserted beach cluttered with driftwood.  Abby was a happy dog tearing around like a coocoo.  Richard, our nephew and excellent artist, was there to paint which he'd been doing for two weeks. He intends to be a world class painter and I suspect he'll do it.  Gary and wife, Jean, took us sightseeing the next day.  Some amazing state parks with majestic ocean views, harbors coves and rivers.  But the temperature dropped and fog rolled in so it never got over 48 degrees for four day.  We were glad to head to warmer weather.  Their puppy, "Precious," was excited to see us and Abby, Precious's mother.  Precious has never met a stranger.  By Saturday she and Abby were doing the tandem run thing Cavaliers do with their playmates.  Also playing chase, they found a neighbor dachshund who participated with them.  Fun! for them and fun for us to watch the glee.

On our way out on Sunday, we decided to go ahead north as planned, even fearing more cold weather. We've never been on I-84 and thought it was about time.  The bleak desert didn't sound so good to us and we'd have to retrace through the whole state if we had gone south.  So we hit 5 North to Portland, Oregon. The Unipqua is a major river running all over the place.  More lumber mills were at Roseburg--I think we've seen five of them.  I'm not sure how forestry works but I suspect it's 100% controlled.  All of Oregon seems to belong to the government.  Everybody seems to work for the state.  I'm not sure how the state owns so much land.  Oregon is all about mountains and trees, good roads, tourist oriented, user friendly.  Fall is turning leaf many different colors, except for the pines of course.  Wildflowers are in bloom in little meadows between the tree clumps of Oaks, birch and cottonwoods, and we're weaving between the mountains and hillocks.  It's no wonder I've always been enamored of Georgia's forests.  The only forests I'd ever seen till I was 33 years old were California Pines and Oregon Pines.  It came to me how much we must be like Europe--their counties and our states so different one from the next.  We are totally impressed with the beautiful cities of Salem and Portland.  The freeways are showplaces--of course they are on Sundays.  Rivers make the Chattahoochee look tiny and the trees make us feel we're driving through a park.  It's all mowed and landscaped--green, lush and inspiring.  45 degrees and sunshine at 4:30 p.m.
          We were stopped in a traffic jam due to a crash for about a half hour.  People all got out of their stopped cars.  A man saw Abby in our truck and asked if I had a leash he could borrow to walk his lab puppy.  I gave him one.  We were there long enough there was no problem with him returning it.  I expected someone to ask about our restroom on wheels (the Coyote) but nobody did.  Sunday was a slick day to get around Portland.  Traffic heave but flowing well.  Tons of state parks are on the map on 84 after the city.  We planned to use one with wifi for a change. 
          Mt. Hood peeks at us as we drive through/around Portland.  It's 11,239 feet--it looks like the perfect Littering fine--$6250.00. I think these people are serious greenies..$97.00 seat belt usage fine.  Hmmm.  Washington State was right over there on the next hills to our left.  The Hood River is as big as the Mississippi and navigable with a series of locks.  We're dwarfed by the massiveness.  We're in Lewis and Clark territory.  A canoe on that river which becomes the Columbia River, would look like a pebble on a beach.  Our road follows this river.   Perfect Christmas Trees are everywhere.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My blog--new series, From Sea To Shining Sea, Part 13


Tuesday, Oct. 12.  Last night we had dinner with cousins in Medford, Oregon. A lovely chicken stew with homemade noodles, which was a first for me.  Today we went to his sister's house and we met Cindy.  I find it interesting how differently people live.  On this property of a few acres, Ted keeps his huge shop.  He builds airplanes from scratch for people who can afford it.  Some say they would never get inside a plane that Ted hadn't built.  The owner has a problem and doesn't bend so well to get in and out, so Ted made doors that open upward, like a DeLorean car I saw once.  And standing outside this building was Ted's 28 foot boat that he took up to Vancouver Island on a five week trip.  It looked like a fishing boat with a cabin and very deep hull.

Medford is a gorgeous city, especially in the spring, even with all its growth.  It looks all brand new, like there's been no recession at all.

Mountains and hills endlessly spread around chains of valleys with rivers and almost solid trees.  I hadn't remembered just how beautiful Oregon is.   The next day we took off on I-5 for about 120 miles then West on 42 to the coast and Coos Bay.  We had called Darrel's brother earlier, who works as a campground host each October.  All we had to do now was find him.  So we looked for some bars on our cell phone.  We passed through Roseburg which is a whole city lumber mill--probably two miles of pine 2 x 4s and plywood stacked four stories high.  The little town is crouched around the lumber yard's perimeter.  Traincars stand  loaded with wood ready to be hauled to Iowa.  Huge pines that make 12 Georgia Pines each.  Gas is $3.48.  Hiwy 42 is a log truck road but incredibly scenic Aspens and Cottonwood trees are just coming yellow.  It's 61 degrees. Expresso kiosks are on every corner of the little towns.  The largest buildings are fire departments.  Pines are managed and mountainsides display stripped areas that have been deforested but looks like a green quilt with other stages of new growth remaining.  The current fire danger, which this entire state monitors, is low.  We felt lucky.

The closer we got to the Pacific ocean, the more lush and green the woods became.  Abby is still sleeping from her trauma with Grace the English Bulldog at Cindy's house, who smurfed Abby first then launched herself on her rope swing, hanging by her teeth.  Abby was mesmerized.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

My blog--New Series From Sea To Shining Sea Part 12

Mt. Shasta

Okay, I'm  very past my due date to continue this series:

Mon. Oct. 11  We headed back over the mountain to find some civilization so we could continue our journey, but stopped first to wash clothes at a Laundromat.  First thing out of the hat we ran across some people also over doing business from Cedarville.  Unfortunately I felt the need to keep a firm grip on my mouth--no easy feat.  Something had happened in the past with these folks that caused so many people to change their faith in mankind.  Rudeness didn't nearly cover the whole problem.  It's hard to erase people from your mind, but I'm still trying with these folks.

Today is 63 degrees and sunshine for a beautiful driving day.  However, Abby had decided to bathe in some serious caca, so she needed both a hosing off and a real bath.  I was not impressed.  But what are you going to do when you take a city dog into the country?  So now she's fluffy and looks like a molting sheep, and is sleeping off the 10-day party we had back in Cedarville with such loving friends.  She had to compete with two dachshund puppies.

Mike and Darrel were able to fix the Coyote's lift brake problem just before we left town.

The Oregon Mountains pine forests look almost exactly like southern Georgia's pine forests.  Northern California is a bigger political mess than Georgia.  Stupid is rampant everywhere, I guess.  But I understand they finally made a budget after way too long and much borrowing.  With this budget the young people in Cedarville will still have jobs, since the only employer of consequence is the Forestry Svs.  All their jobs were scheduled to terminate without that critical decision being positive.

In the National Forests, which is most of southern Oregon and Northern California, the BLM is cutting out all of the Juniper trees felled among the pines in all directions.  Apparently Junipers draw all the water from the soil and dehydrate plants and land.  We've picked up a peculiar smell in the air which turns out to be a million acres of harvested onions which grow near Klamath Falls.  Street banners advertise the potato festival in Merrill.  Piney hills gave way to farmland separating medium height mountains.  Klamath is known to be five feet deep in snow in winter.  Fortunately we're a little early for that.  From Alturas, Mt. Shasta's snow peak can be seen at its 14,162 ft. height.

Oregon law states a person may not fill his/her gastank with gas. Only the attendant may do that.  Maybe that's why the price is even higher there than expensive California gas.  I called my cousin Peggy in Medford Oregon to see if Abby will be a problem since she's a hair factory.  She said not if her cat doesn't attack.  So I warned Abby, who had never met a cat.

We went over the Klamath River then the GPS changed our minds for us and directed us through Keno and Ashland.  A beautiful mountain drive.  Darrel is only clenching his teeth a little bit.  an amazing amount of underbrush has been cut throughout these woods, we assume to avoid fire exposure.  The pines here are about a hundred feet high.  It looked like the road from Cumming to Hiawassee in every way but pine trees instead of hardwoods.  As the altitude decreased, the pines became shorter.  The Klamath River was again before us to be re-crossed.  My parents took us to these woods when we were children so we could camp in the rustic woods.  My mother canned blackberries which she had picked while I invented horses from fallen logs and my dad fished.  I have no idea what my brother did.  We were seeing what looked like creeping cedar along the roadside, which I didn't expect to find in Oregon.  This endangered ground cover shouldn't be in a dry climate..I will have to investigate that.  We were over the 4551' summit of this Cascade Siskiyou Mountain Road and back into pinelands along Oregon 66.  It looked like we'd left the desert behind on the other side of the mountains we'd just crossed.  Now I'm confused--in front of us were Oak Trees? and switchbacks as we head into Ashland on the steep grade (down)--so glad the brakes were repaired on the Coyote.  Ashland is the home of the Oregon Shakespere Festival then in progress.  We saw ski slopes you wouldn't dare to steer wrong or you'd plaster yourself on a tree.   Steep is in.  No more pines next--only scrub oaks.  Steep as the devil.  I'm glad we were on the inside lane as we entered the valley.  We were struck with golden hills and dense clumps of oaks both green and gold--my favorite.  The Pacific Coast must be right over those hills but it's really 70 miles away.  Monster clumps of mistletoe cling to the 20 foot oak trees.  Seriously dry "Emigrant Lake" was on our right. And breathtaking majestic land with towering mountains practically blocked the sky from the road.

We've only seen five cars since we left Ashland.  Could it be the winding switchbacks?  Then we were thrown back into the 5 freeway north to Phoenix outside of Medford where we parked for the night.  Not bad for one day.  Ashland is so gorgeous we were delighted.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

My Blog--Series: From Sea to Shining Sea, part 11.

This is the valley floor which has a saline lake that is about four inches deep and 120 miles long.  This is looking from the California side of the lake to the Oregon mountains on the other side.  When there is a drought, that lake disappears.

This is looking across the lake on a beautiful day, toward the Nevada mountain range.

This is half of Cedarville downtown.  The residential part of town  (about 50 houses) is tucked into the California side among groves of trees.

Donna, Mike, Kevin, Lorin, Cassie, Jackie and Eric, Charlotte, Kirstin , Can, John and Jess Wright were all there when we arrived for Thanksgiving.  Everybody had driven 16 or 12or 7 hours or  five days to get to Cedarville for Thanksgiving.  We sat around and told lies and ate Mexican food for Thanksgiving dinner.  We celebrated my and Darrel's anniversary again, and Kirstin's birthday.  Then we took five minutes to tour Cedarville, then had a constant game going on for several days in the center of the dining room table.  It was 40 degrees and snowing outside.  Two days ago we were all dying from the heat.  We parked the Coyote at the fairground, which doubles as an RV park when there are no rodeos in town.  But the wedding pavillion will be busy Saturday night.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

My Blog New Series--From Sea To Shining Sea--Part 10

Thursday, Sept. 30.
We got on the way north to Cedarville, a little place located right in the corners of Oregon, California and Nevada.  You can stand in the middle of the old volcano valley and see all those states at the same time.  We’ve got 200 miles to go up I-395.
Passing old desert homes, we preferred the front door, so to speak.  Gerlach is all we’ll miss, and there is so little traffic this way we’d all ready gone 100 miles by 11:00  The temperature is a lovely 74 degrees. There are truck weigh-ins from time to time.  Darrel thinks there should be people weigh ins too.

The valley near Susanville spreads flat and golden all horsefarms.  Alfalfa farms, great squares patch the whole valley in farmland.  Dotted for shade around the houses, are glorious clusters of trees.  Which, of course, makes me homesick for the used-to-be.

Just before Alturas the land is volcanic rocks, soft gold grass, short pines and sagebrush.  We were climbing--8000 ft and 82 degrees.  The old train track that used to run beside the road has been removed--at least the greenie Californians have taken the asphalt away.
But its old track bed is still there.  It’s probably a wonderful horse path.  I don’t know who “Lardass” is, but he’s apparently responsible for a store that’s too close to the road, according to the sign out front.

With 35 miles left to Alturas the trees are dense and taller.  We got over the edge and started down into Alturas’ volcano valley.  The town of Likely boasts a population of 200 and is straight ahead at 5000 feet elevation.  All that’s needed for a perfect picture is a tribe of Modoc Indians riding by on their pintos.
I ate my peanuts and watched the circling hawks shopping for lunch.  Ha!  Now we passed the “Most Likely” Cafe.  I love fun words.  We passed the school with two cars in the parking lot at 12:20.  A volcanic rim surrounds as, as I already mentioned.  But to see it seems kind of moon-walkish.  We saw a radio tower but no radio station beneath it.  The pond covered with ducks was more interesting to watch.