Nick Russell

Monday Q&A

 Posted by at 12:34 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 062020
 

I’m back with more questions from blog readers about RVing, 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. I am a member of the Living The RV Dream group on Facebook and we hope to become fulltimers in a year or two. There is a large Camping World near us and we have driven by many times and seen all the trailers for sale there. But I hear so much bad about the way they do business from sales to repairs that I am almost afraid to look at anything they have. Are they really that bad, Nick?
A. I have never purchased an RV from Camping World, but my sister-in-law did and it was not a good experience. We have heard from many readers who regret ever purchasing from them, as well as some (not as many) who said they were happy they did. We had work done at two or three different Camping World locations back in our fulltiming days, and every time we did, there were problems afterward that they did not remedy to our satisfaction

Q. What are you and Miss Terry doing while you are self-isolating? I know you’ve been doing a lot of writing and hope to hear she has been weaving. It’s been a long time since you have shown us any of her beautiful creations and I miss them. Please don’t tell me she has given up on it.
A. As you said, I’ve been doing a lot of writing and I am getting close to the end of my new John Lee Quarrels book, The Road to Wrinkle Ranch. Terry hasn’t been weaving in a while, though she has multiple projects on her different looms, and she tells me she has been researching some new projects, too.

Q. Have you been able to find any face masks for when you go out, or is Terry making any?
A. There don’t seem to be any masks available anywhere. We have not left the house in over 10 days, except for when I walk out to the mailbox, and have enough supplies on hand to be good for another week or two. Terry will be making us some masks before we do that.

Q. We are going stir crazy with four kids home from school. We were tempted to go to Disney, but with it shut down, do you know of any campgrounds that are open in central Florida where we could all escape the house for a few days? We feel very closed in.
A. You’ll be even more closed in when they put you in a coffin. What part of stay home don’t you understand?

Q. Someone told me not to fill out the new Census forms because then all of my personal information will be floating out there in cyberspace for any identity thief to steal. He said anyone can go online and look at Census records. Is this a real threat, Nick?
A. That’s nonsense. Anything the Census asks for can probably be found online anyway. They don’t require any banking or financial information. As for the records being online, they are only released to the public after 72 years. Nothing more current than that is available to would-be thieves.

Q. Do you think now is a good time to go RV shopping, with so many people not going out and doing things? I would think the dealers are hurting for business.
A. I think most dealerships are closed, and I think anyone who leaves home for anything not necessary to feed or care for themselves and their families or to go to work is a fool. How many germs could an infected person leave in the close confines of an RV that would be there waiting for you if you are the next person to walk in? Stay home. There will be plenty of time for shopping when this is all over.

Q. I have been getting a kick out of your blog posts about your newspaper career. You should put them in a book. I’m sure you must have more to share, and I hope you will. Can we expect more?
A. I have plenty of stories to tell about those days and will be posting some others in the blog.

Q. Do you know if the RV Museum in Elkhart, Indiana is open or will be anytime soon?
A. According to the museum’s voice mail, it is closed until further notice.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. This has to be the best strip club sign of all time.

Congratulations Barbara Westerfield, winner of our drawing for a USB drive with all eight years of John and Kathy Huggins’ one hour weekly Living the RV Dream podcasts and live radio broadcasts about the RV lifestyle. That’s over 400 hours of solid RV information, a $100 value, to keep you busy at home while you are social distancing. We had 70 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – I want to open a Two Dollar Store for folks who enjoy the finer things in life.

Millbrook Village

 Posted by at 12:48 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 052020
 

You can take a step back in time and experience life before the days of cellular phones and the other trappings of modern life with a visit to Millbrook Village in New Jersey’s Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

The original settlement began in 1832, when a farmer named Abram Garis built a gristmill on a small stream near the newly-built Columbia-Walpack Turnpike. Before long a few people had built homes near the mill and a couple of small businesses, including a blacksmith shop, opened. By 1875, the community that became known as Millbrook had reached a peak of 75 inhabitants. There was a Methodist Church, school, hotel, store, and a dozen or so homes. The village’s houses and shops lined both sides of the turnpike.

But, as was the fate of many small villages across the country, beginning about 1880 new opportunities in larger towns and cities began drawing people away. The gristmill closed around 1900, and the blacksmith was the only business that was still open by 1950. In the 1950s, the Columbia–Walpack Turnpike was realigned to accommodate stream impoundments and bypassed the community. A handful of die hards hung on for a while, but for all intents and purposes, Millbrook became a ghost town, all but forgotten.

Things began to change in the 1960s when the Tocks Island Dam project was proposed. The National Park Service, working with the Millbrook Village Society, moved several structures threatened by the project to higher ground at Millbrook to preserve them. Over time, more buildings were moved to the site and Millbrook Village was reborn.

The Millbrook Village Society has worked hard to bring the village back to life. Today the old turnpike is the main street and visitors can stroll its half-mile length through the village and see what pioneer life was like in the 1880s. The church, built in 1860, still holds services, and the old one-room schoolhouse is open to visitors. On weekends in the summer interpreters in period clothing demonstrate pioneer crafts and skills, and explain that while life may have been harder in the village’s heyday, it was also simpler, without many of the cares and worries we deal with today. Because the village is staffed by volunteers, different things may be on the agenda from day to day, as manpower permits.

Over time, many of the original buildings and those that were moved to the village fell into disrepair and were rebuilt, or replicas were built on their locations. So a lot of what you will see at Millbrook Village does not date back to the good old days. It’s kind of like what a tour guide told me once at another historic site, “This is George Washington’s ax, but the head has been replaced twice and the handle three times.”

The old village comes alive every year on the first weekend in the month of October for Millbrook Days, when more than 150 volunteers of the Millbrook Village Society give guided tours of the community, demonstrate the work necessary for rural living between 1850 and 1900, and often draw spectators from the crowd to participate.

Millbrook Village is located in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, approximately twelve miles north of Interstate 80, at Old Mine Road and State Route 602. Parking and admission are free. The village is open daily from dawn to dusk between Memorial Day and Labor Day and various buildings are open to the public on weekends, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The number of buildings open for visitation depends on the number of volunteers available on any given day. Visitors are free to explore the village during the offseason, though most of the buildings are not open.

Besides the village itself, the 70,000 acre Delaware Water Gap has much to offer, from fishing to more than a hundred miles of hiking trails (including over 25 miles of the Appalachian Trail), canoeing, and waterfalls. Birdwatchers love the area because of the huge numbers of species that can be found there during different times of the year, including Great Horned owls and Eastern Screech owls, a variety of warblers, thrushes, cuckoos, wrens, and hawks, to name just a few.

For more information on Millbrook Village, visit https://www.njskylands.com/hsmillbrookvillage

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a USB drive with all eight years of John and Kathy Huggins’ one hour weekly Living the RV Dream podcasts and live radio broadcasts about the RV lifestyle. That’s over 400 hours of solid RV information, a $100 value, to keep you busy at home while you are social distancing. 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.

Thought For The Day – Last year I joined a support group for antisocial people. We haven’t met yet.

More Newspaper Days

 Posted by at 12:15 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 042020
 

I got a lot of positive feedback from a recent blog post about the years I spent running small town newspapers so I thought I’d share another one. This story is also related to when I was publishing a weekly newspaper in northern Arizona’s White Mountains and an area east of the small town of Snowflake that attracted a lot of colorful characters, from doomsday preppers and anti-government militia types, to burned out hippies and hermits who lived in shacks they had thrown together, or old mobile homes, travel trailers, and school buses they pulled out there. As I said before, people “east of Snowflake” are suspicious of outsiders. And they can even make people they know uncomfortable from time to time.

One such character was what I would  call a camouflage freak. He ran around in military fatigues all the time, quite often with his face painted in subdued colors, and even his pickup was painted camouflage. He always packed a 9mm semi-automatic Beretta pistol in a belt holster (Arizona is an Open Carry state), and had a semi-automatic rifle that many incorrectly call an assault rifle,  in his truck’s gun rack.

He had two sons in their late teens or early twenties that were just about as whacked out as he was, and they decided they were going into the business of supplying equipment to people who wanted to be ready for Armageddon.

He called my office and asked if I would come out to his place and take a full-page ad, which was several hundred dollars even back then. A few days later I happened to be in Snowflake, so I drove out to his place, where he showed me several surplus CONEX shipping containers that resembled railroad boxcars and were full of all kinds of provisions – military MRE rations, bottled water, first aid kits, portable camp stoves, uniforms, helmets, and yes, weapons and lots of ammunition. He told me I needed to have one of these, which only cost $10,000, fully stocked. I replied that I wasn’t really that interested, and didn’t have a place to put a container like that anyway, wanting to get down to the business of figuring out what he had in mind for an ad.

He came up with something he had crudely sketched and asked how much a full-page ad was. When I told him the cost he about had a heart attack and decided he needed to rethink the whole advertising thing.

All the while we were sitting talking, his sons were playing with some type of semi-automatic handheld wannabe machine pistols, similar to a Mac-10 but cheaply built. I don’t remember the brand now, but they were basically junk. They were complaining that the damn things jammed all the time and they couldn’t hit anything with them when they did shoot. Knowing my background as a shooter and a firearms instructor, the father asked if I wanted to shoot one. I declined, but he insisted I at least watch them shoot, hoping I could see what the problem was. I already knew what the problem was. They were junk!

At any rate, we went out behind their place, past a pack of huge snarling dogs held back by heavy chains, to where they had set up an impromptu shooting range. They had silhouette targets set up, labeled Police, Swat, FBI, and CIA. The three lined up and began popping off with their crappy guns as fast as they could. By the second or third shot the recoil had them shooting in the air and missing everything, and then all three weapons jammed. They were cussing and frustrated, and I said something like, “Here guys, let me show you how it’s done.” I reached inside my jacket and drew my trusty Colt Government Model .45 semi-automatic pistol from my shoulder holster (I had a permit and always carried a gun in those days, and still do), took a two-hand hold, and casually put a round into the head of each target.

They seemed to be pretty impressed by that. But then I goofed big time and said something like, “See, I don’t have to buy a $10,000 container of supplies from you guys. I’ve seen the way you shoot, and if everything goes to hell, I’ll just come and take yours.”

Apparently fools like that don’t understand humor or sarcasm. The three of them looked at each other and back at me, and it was like masks had gone down over their faces. They didn’t blink, didn’t say a word, just stared at me. I felt chills go up and down my spine. Whoops, that was obviously the wrong thing to say!

I told them I needed to be getting on my way, and walked back to my truck, all the while feeling cross hairs in the middle of my back. I really thought at least one of them might try to shoot me and listened carefully to hear any of them trying to clear the jams in their weapons, figuring I still had four rounds of ammunition left in my Colt if it came down to that.

The father never did get around to placing his add, and though I saw him around town many times after that, I made it a point to avoid him whenever possible. Just another day in the life of a small-town newspaper publisher, I guess.

Be sure to enter our latest new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a USB drive with all eight years of John and Kathy Huggins’ one hour weekly Living the RV Dream podcasts and live radio broadcasts about the RV lifestyle. That’s over 400 hours of solid RV information, a $100 value, to keep you busy at home while you are social distancing. 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.

Thought For The Day – My decision-making skills closely resemble those of a squirrel when crossing the road.

A Dose Of Reality

 Posted by at 12:26 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 032020
 

Note: This is from a blog I wrote back in 2016, but it is in response to a question I have received many times since then, including just this week.

I get a lot of e-mails from RVers and wannabe RVers. Most of the time they are nice folks with legitimate questions and I try my best to answer them with advice, or if I don’t know the answer I try to point them in the direction of somebody who does. And sometimes I have to give them a dose of reality that they might not appreciate hearing.

I received an e-mail in the last couple of days from a couple who want to fulltime, who said they are a family with four kids and three dogs. Unfortunately they have big dreams and no sense of reality. And no money. They told me they had read the book ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income, which is actually a pretty good book on blogging, and were now coming to me for real-world advice on how to make money with a blog about their RV travels.

They said they need to make $3,000 a month with a blog, and added that their biggest expense will be their combined RV and car payments, which total $1450. “We know that some people spend a lot more money, but we are minimalists,” they added.

I’m sorry, but you can’t make that kind of money with an RV blog, nor can you support your family, pay for fuel and insurance, campgrounds, and other expenses on $1550 a month.

I’ve been blogging for a very long time. And while I do know a couple of fulltime RVers who get by on not much over $1,000 a month, they are not making RV payments and they don’t have kids to feed and clothe. When I replied and told this couple that, their answer was that, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and we will leave it in God’s hands.” Yeah, well I’m not sure God can help you out with that one, folks.

And as for their plan to make $3,000 a month with their blog, I’m sorry, but it’s not going to happen. For the last two or three years, this blog has had over 770,000 hits annually, and I don’t make $3,000 a month with it, or anywhere close to that much. There are thousands of RV blogs out there, some of them very good, but I don’t know of any blogger who is supporting themselves with just a blog. I’m afraid these people are in for a big letdown.

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.

Be sure to enter our latest new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a USB drive with all eight years of John and Kathy Huggins’ one hour weekly Living the RV Dream podcasts and live radio broadcasts about the RV lifestyle. That’s over 400 hours of solid RV information, a $100 value, to keep you busy at home while you are social distancing.  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.

Thought For The Day – “Engagement” can mean either planning to marry or initiating combat. Coincidence?

Worse By The Day

 Posted by at 1:01 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 022020
 

When I went on a rant about the cavalier attitude of so many over the coronavirus a while back, I said I reserved my right to climb back on my soapbox, and here I am again.

The spread of Covid-19 is getting worse by the day, as have the number of casualties. Here in Florida alone we have 7,770 cases and a hundred deaths as of last night.

I don’t know if it’s due to cabin fever or what, but I am seeing more acts of ignorance, too. Yesterday someone I know posted a picture online of her and three friends standing with their arms around each other at a drive-through liquor store with a caption saying they were having a “Corona Party.” This is not an irresponsible kid, but a 60 year old woman who should know better.

Later in the afternoon when I went out to our mailbox I saw four people who looked to be in their 40s walking down the street in front of my house, arms locked together, laughing and singing “We ain’t afraid of no virus!” I wanted to turn the hose on them. Total freaking idiots!

Last week I lost a good friend to the virus, and other friends are in the hospital fighting it. One of them is my cousin Bob Saxton, a decorated Vietnam vet who is in a medically induced coma from it. I am so damn sick of people posting that more people die of the flu or nonsense like that. Others see this and think it’s no big deal and start to ignore social distancing and other protocols we need to be safe. I don’t care to die because of their ignorance. You have a right to your opinion, but I have a right to block any fool who keeps downplaying how serious this is and I have started blocking anyone who posts that crap, whether it be friend or family.

The goods news is that yesterday Florida Governor Ron DeSantis finally issued a 30-day stay-at-home order for the state. The only exceptions are to go to or from work, to get food or medical attention, to care for an elderly or sick family member or friend, or to recreate. Now you just know a lot of fools will interpret “recreate” as getting together to party. Of course, the governor waited until Bike Week and spring break were over and the hundreds of thousands of visitors left. No need to miss out on all those tourist dollars, right?

Sitting home being grumpy isn’t all I’ve been doing. I wrote over 13,000 words in my new John Lee Quarrels book between Monday and Tuesday, and yesterday was spent going over those new chapters and proofreading and correcting errors made in dictation.

On another note, after I posted a picture of Terry’s banana bread the other day, several people asked me for the recipe. If you have her cookbook, Miss Terry’s Kitchen, it’s on page 53. And if you don’t have her cookbook (and why the heck not?) I also posted it on her page here at https://gypsyjournalrv.com/category/miss-terrys-kitchen/

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a USB drive with all eight years of John and Kathy Huggins’ one hour weekly Living the RV Dream podcasts and live radio broadcasts about the RV lifestyle. That’s over 400 hours of solid RV information, a $100 value, to keep you busy at home while you are social distancing.  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.

Thought For The Day – I need to work on controlling the look on my face when I’m talking to stupid people.

Apr 012020
 

 

Ingredients
½ C butter, softened
1 C sugar
1½ C very ripe bananas, mashed, approx. 3 large (can add in 1” chunks)
2 T buttermilk (regular milk is okay but buttermilk makes it lighter)
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
2¼ C all-purpose flour
¾ C chopped pecans (or your favorite, walnuts, macadamias…)
½ tsp cinnamon or cardamom, optional
2 T raw (Turbinado) sugar, for topping, optional

Directions
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×5” loaf pan and set aside. Beat together softened butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add eggs and bananas (I always just chunk the bananas in while the mixer is running and let it do the work) and add in buttermilk and vanilla. When blended, stop the mixer and add the salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon or cardamom (or both), if used. Mix together well. Carefully add in flour, all at once, while mixer is stopped. Very slowly stir in flour just until mixed. Add in nuts and blend gently, again, just until mixed. (Beating flour will toughen your banana bread. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and sprinkle Turbinado sugar over top of batter. Bake in preheated oven for 55 to 65 minutes until done or until a wooden toothpick, inserted into center top of loaf comes out clean when removed. Add 5 minutes at a time of additional baking, if needed. After 10 minutes cooling, remove from pan to a rack. Cool completely before slicing. Warm slices in toaster oven for 3-4 minutes if you like, and butter to serve.

Apr 012020
 

Note: This story is from my book Highway History And Back Road Mystery II.

The North Woods had Paul Bunyan, and west Texas had Pecos Bill, but frontier Florida had its own larger than life character, whose exploits were just as wild and woolly. The only difference was that, unlike those mythical folk heroes, Acrefoot Johnson was a real person!

James Mitchell Johnson was born on February 28, 1850, in Columbia County, Florida. He was the third of eight children of Elias and Elizabeth Johnson. The family moved to a homestead in Manatee (now DeSoto) County in 1866. His father, Elias, had been a sergeant in the Confederate army during the Civil War.

Big even as a child, his growth continued into adulthood. At 6’7” tall, and over 250 pounds, he was an impressive man. His size fourteen shoes earned him the nickname “Acrefoot” because, as one observer said, “that boy can cover an acre in a single step!”

Local lore says that he could chop more wood in a day than a crew of five men could in a week, and that nobody liked working with him because he could chop palmettos faster than any man could stack them. At the end of the day, while his co-workers could barely drag themselves off to dinner and bed, Johnson was just getting his second wind and was ready to play his fiddle and dance all night long.

James married Margaret Isabelle Chester in Fort Ogden, Florida on January 22, 1877. At that time, Fort Ogden was a small settlement of some forty families, a couple of stores, a blacksmith shop, a post office, and two churches.

Raising a family on the earnings of a small pioneer farm was challenging, so when he learned that an overland mail route was being established between Fort Meade and Fort Ogden, a distance of 75 miles, he applied for the position of mail carrier. The job paid $26 a month, a good wage in those days, and there were several applicants. James and a gentleman named Big Ed Donaldson, who had earned fame as an Indian fighter during the Seminole Indian Wars, made the final cut.

According to legend, Donaldson promised to make the round trip between Fort Meade and Fort Ogden once a week, regardless of “hurricanes, rattlesnakes, Indians, or robbers.” That was all the postmaster needed to hear, and he was about to award the contract to Donaldson, when James Johnson interrupted and said that if Donaldson could make the trip once a week, he (Johnson) could do it twice a week, and maybe even three times!

It was decided that the best way to choose was to have the two men each carry a mail parcel over the route, and whoever completed the trip first would get the job. Setting out at daylight the next morning, for the first ten miles they made the same speed, but as the terrain grew rougher, Johnson soon left the other man behind with his long strides. He delivered his mail sack to Fort Ogden by the end of the day, then played fiddle and served as the caller at an all night long square dance, before setting off on the return trip to Fort Meade the next morning. Partway into his return trip, he met up with Donaldson, who was finally nearing Fort Ogden.

Acrefoot Johnson was awarded the contract, and for the next ten years he made two, and sometimes three trips a week along the primitive mail route, always arriving on time. There are wild tales about his adventures, some probably true, and others more myth than fact.

One story has him swimming across a river and encountering three large alligators, which he quickly dispatched with his pocket knife, then climbed out on the far shore, shook himself dry, and continued along his way.

Another time, three outlaws tried to rob him at Joshua Creek. Johnson hardly broke a sweat as he beat them out of his way with mighty blows from his huge hands, yelling “That’ll learn you to try to rob the U.S. Mail!” as they retreated, licking their wounds.

Outlaws and alligators were not the only dangers to be encountered on the mail route. Once, a panther pounced on his back and mauled Johnson before he could reach back and break its neck. As the local doctor was patching him up, Acrefoot complained that it wasn’t “sportin” for the big critter to jump him from behind like that.

Johnson walked fast and could cover a lot of territory in a short time with his long legs. Once, he met up with Judge King, who was riding a handsome stallion, on the way to Fort Ogden. When King offered him a ride, Acrefoot said “Thanks, but I’m in a hurry.” This offended the judge, who spurred his horse into a gallop and left Johnson in his dust. But by the time he got to the little village, the mail carrier had passed him and was sitting in front of the general store, smoking his pipe and talking to some local fellows when King rode onto the scene.

Acrefoot could easily pass horse drawn buggies, and one story has him outrunning a steam locomotive. He once said that he turned down an offer to work for the Pony Express because he felt the horse would slow him down too much.

Legend says that, as his family grew, Acrefoot needed more money to support them, so he outfitted a wooden chair with shoulder straps to create a backpack, and began carrying passengers along his mail route until the postmaster decided it was a conflict of interest and ordered him to stop.

In the 1880s, the railroad began pushing into the area, and when Acrefoot lost his contract to the railroad, he moved to Nocatee, where he earned a living cutting cross ties for the railroad and supplying cordwood to fire the steam trains’ boilers. He also ran a blacksmith shop, and hunted snakes and alligators.

Johnson was getting up in years, but he was still a hardworking man when he suffered a fall from a scaffold while helping build a school in Nocatee when he was in his late 60s. He never fully recovered from his injuries but his fame never stopped growing, and even today, old timers in Florida enjoy regaling folks with stories of his exploits.

James Mitchell “Acrefoot” Johnson died in 1922, and is buried in Kabrich Cemetery in Nocatee. His tombstone is inscribed, “Cross Country Walking Mail Man. Affectionately Known As Acrefoot Johnson. His Creed – The Mail Must Go Through.” Florida’s fabled “walking man” was finally at rest.

Thought For The Day – It’s simple, if it jiggles, it’s fat.

Mar 312020
 

How are you handling being self-quarantined? I assume you are all self-quarantined, unless you have a job that requires you be out and about, or you have to go to a medical appointment or to get groceries. There is no excuse for it otherwise.

As for us, we are doing just fine. I keep hearing from people who are bored and have cabin fever and are climbing the walls, but not us. Around here’s it’s business as usual.

Yesterday I wrote another 7,500 words in my new John Lee Quarrels book, as well as making corrections to chapters I had written before. It’s moving right along, and I’m making up for time we lost last week when we had medical appointments four out of five days. We have cancelled all other upcoming appointments and now we don’t have to leave the house for the next month or so except for food, if we need it. But our larder is pretty well stocked so even that may not even be necessary.

And speaking of food, I could never go hungry here! Yesterday Miss Terry made this delicious loaf of banana bread. I’ll tell you right now, there’s not many things in the world that taste as good as a warm slice of Terry’s banana bread and a cold glass of milk!

Well, except maybe her pizzas. For dinner she made pizza from scratch, like she does everything else. I’m curious as to how this works once the quarantine is over. Does My 600 Pound Life call me directly or do I wait for an email from them or what?

Of course, some of us to have to be out and about, and one of them is our wonderful daughter-in-law Geli. She is the Clinical Director at a hospital in Birmingham Alabama, and as I said before, she’s been using the same face mask over and over. She got fitted for a hood and visor the other day, which will give her some extra margin of protection. It kind of looks like a spacesuit, doesn’t it? Be safe, Geli. We know you are putting your life on the line every day, as are your coworkers, to take care of others. All of you are true heroes and we love you.

I have heard from parents who say they are climbing the walls with kids home from school. My daughter Tiffany is not climbing any walls, but this picture makes me think her kids may be turning into monkeys. What do you think?

And speaking of Tiffany and her kids, she posted this on Facebook about my beautiful granddaughter Destiny and I hope all of you will do me a quick personal favor and take part. It will only take you a minute or two, and you will help brighten a young lady’s special day: Friends and family, I’m asking for your help! All of us know the current situation across the country. What many of you don’t know is this beauty turns 13 in a few days, which is a pretty special birthday. When I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she said, “I want Corona to go away.” I have set up an email account that I plan to give her on her birthday, which is the 18th of April. So please, if you have time, please send this girl a happy birthday to brighten her day in such a scary time. PS she loves sunflowers and potatoes. Strange, I know. Also, I will be screening the emails so please, keep it appropriate. The e-mail Tiffany set up for this is happy_13_potato@yahoo.com

Stay home and stay safe folks. The sooner we all do, the sooner this thing ends.

Thought For The Day – I know I make a lot of typos when I text, but in my defense, I do have to look at the road sometimes.

The Swamp Fox

 Posted by at 12:03 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 302020
 

When I was a kid my heroes were never ballplayers or athletes or musicians, they were real heroes. Men and women who put their country before anything else and earned their place in history. People like John Paul Jones, or Betty Zane, or Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. For as long as I can remember, I devoured history books and biographies of people like that. One of my favorites was Francis Marion, who won fame in the Revolutionary War as the Swamp Fox.

Born sometime around 1732 in Berkeley County, South Carolina, Marion seemed to have looked for adventure at a young age. He was shipwrecked at 15 and spent a week in a lifeboat before being rescued. Back on dry land, he later managed his family’s plantation.

He fought in the French and Indian War in 1757 and was called back to service in 1775, being commissioned a captain in the 2nd South Carolina Regiment. He saw action in June, 1776 in the defense of Fort Sullivan in Charleston harbor. Promoted to lieutenant colonel by the Continental Congress in 1776, he continued his service fighting against the British, including taking part in the siege of Savannah.

When Charleston, South Carolina fell to the British in 1780 and most Continental soldiers were called away to fight in other areas, Marion organized a small group of patriots to stay behind and wage war against the enemy. From that time through the end of the war, Marion’s ragtag group of men conducted guerrilla raids on British troops and Loyalists who supported the Crown, emerging from the swamps in brief, vicious attacks, often against superior forces, before fading away into the mists.

British military leaders and their troops, trained and comfortable in formal combat where long lines faced off against each other on battlefields, were disheartened and frustrated dealing with Marion’s brand of unconventional warfare. Over time, patriots and the enemy alike began to call him the Swamp Fox because of his cunning ways and how easily he and his men could survive without pay or rations, living off the land and from what they plundered in their raids.

By war’s end, Marion’s plantation had been burned to the ground and he was nearly destitute. But he managed to rebuild, marrying his cousin, Mary Esther Videau, and serving several terms in the South Carolina State Senate.

Francis Marion, the fabled Swamp Fox, died in 1795, at the age of 63, and was buried at his brother’s Belle Isle Plantation Cemetery in Berkeley County, South Carolina. Today the small cemetery is part of Santee State Park and is tucked away on a back road a few miles from Pineville, South Carolina.

Marion’s tomb is protected by a concrete slab and a wrought iron fence. Several family members are also buried in the cemetery.

I could not find an address when we visited, and it took a couple of false turns before we located it. GPS coordinates are 33°26’58.9″N and 80°05’14.4″W. The road into the cemetery is narrow and tree-lined, and the small parking area at the cemetery could be difficult for a large RV.

But if your travels take you through the lowlands of South Carolina, make the time to visit and pay your respects to the Swamp Fox. We need to honor our real heroes.

Congratulations Mark Little, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Cops and Writers: From the Academy to the Street by my friend Patrick J. O’Donnell. Patrick recently retired from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Police Department, and runs the Cops and Writers Facebook page, which is a valuable resource for anyone writing mysteries or crime thrillers. If you have ever wondered what it’s like to be a police officer, this is the book that tells you how it all gets started, from basic training at the police academy to hitting the streets as a rookie patrol officer working with a Field Training Officer (FTO), along with a lot of other information about things like arrest techniques, different types of police assignments, and stories from Patrick’s own experiences in the trenches. Even if you’re not a writer, this is a book you will enjoy. We had 49 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – Sometimes I like to surprise my neighbors by smiling and waving back at them.

Newspaper Days

 Posted by at 12:15 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 292020
 

After reading yesterday’s blog post Stepping On Toes, in which I mentioned receiving death threats and being assaulted during my time publishing small town newspapers, a couple of blog readers said they would like to hear some stories from those days. I’ve definitely got some stories to tell, and they don’t all involve death threats or things like that. Some are even downright funny.

For many years I published a weekly newspaper in northern Arizona’s White Mountains. East of the small town of Snowflake there is a rather desolate area that everybody calls “east of Snowflake,” appropriately enough. A lot of real Looney Tunes live out there because you can get land for almost nothing. Granted, most of it has no water or power, but if you are a doomsday prepper, an anti-government militia type, or just a hermit who wants to be away from people, that was, and still is, the place to be. People live in shacks they had thrown together, old mobile homes and travel trailers and school buses they have pulled out there, and at least one I know of lived in a cave. Yeah, he was a real caveman. These folks are suspicious of outsiders and even wary of their neighbors who live close enough to a road to have utilities and telephones.

One such character, a harmless but eccentric fellow named Ed, had a vivid imagination and I could tell you many stories about him. Early one Sunday morning I got a phone call at home from Ed, telling me that a flying saucer had landed on his property and that I needed to get an undercover reporter out there. I said “sure, Ed” and went back to sleep. A little while later he called back and told me that I needed to get an undercover reporter out there because the military was there rounding up all these little alien guys. I blew him off again and went back to sleep, or at least tried to. But Ed was persistent when he was on a roll, and he called a third time and told me that the soldiers were machine-gunning the little aliens in a dry wash on his property, and he again told me I needed to get an undercover reporter out there.

I told him that I already had a reporter on site, and Ed replied that he had not seen anybody. That’s when I told him he had not seen anybody because they were “undercover.” I guess that satisfied him, because I didn’t hear anything more from him that day. But I sure did other times!

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Cops and Writers: From the Academy to the Street by my friend Patrick J. O’Donnell. Patrick recently retired from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Police Department, and runs the Cops and Writers Facebook page, which is a valuable resource for anyone writing mysteries or crime thrillers. If you have ever wondered what it’s like to be a police officer, this is the book that tells you how it all gets started, from basic training at the police academy to hitting the streets as a rookie patrol officer working with a Field Training Officer (FTO), along with a lot of other information about things like arrest techniques, different types of police assignments, and stories from Patrick’s own experiences in the trenches. Even if you’re not a writer, this is a book you will enjoy. 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.

Thought For The Day – I’m not very good at giving advice. Could I interest you in a sarcastic comment instead?