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?

Stepping On Toes

 Posted by at 12:41 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 282020
 

Back in my small town newspaper days many editors and publishers, myself included, had a sign or plaque in their office that said some variation of, “The duty of the press is to print the truth and raise hell.” I have heard that phrase attributed to everyone from Mark Twain to a number of well known journalists, and I really can’t tell you where it originated from. But I always believed it was true, and I still do.

Miss Terry tells people all the time that one of the reasons she fell in love with me was because I was so outspoken and didn’t mind stepping on toes with my editorials. Quite often those toes belonged to politicians on the city, county, or state level. A lot of times people didn’t appreciate that very much. That’s one reason I can’t breathe very well through my nose and have little sense of smell. That happens when you get it broken a time or two.

Not only did I get punched out more than once by someone who was irate about something I put in the paper, I also had the mayor of a town in Washington state spit on me at a town council meeting, had my car vandalized a time or two, and somewhere in my desk I still have a tape recording of a county sheriff standing in my office telling me that some night he was going to pull me over and shoot me, and that his deputies would be the ones that investigated it and not a damn thing would happen.

Four nights later a carload of skinheads showed up at our house in the middle of the night, trying to break through two different doors. I put Terry on the floor on the far side of the bed with a .38 revolver and told her to shoot anybody who came to the bedroom door that wasn’t me. Then my 12 gauge riot gun and huge pissed off German Shepherd helped me get the message through that they were not welcome. Terry had dialed 911 saying that our home was being broken into, and three days later a deputy wandered by to take a report and casually mentioned that I must have made somebody mad. I guess that’s what happens when you step on toes.

Apparently, I stepped on some toes with yesterday’s blog saying that I didn’t want to hear any foolishness from people saying the coronavirus is not a big deal. Five people unsubscribed from the blog and told me that was why they did it. Depending on which of those five you want to believe, the mortality rate is either 3% or less than 2%. Okay, here’s an idea. Let me hand you a bowl of 100 M&Ms, plain or peanut, your choice. The only problem is that two or three of those M&Ms are poisoned and they will kill you. How many are you going to eat?

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that I have two different friends in different parts of the country who tested positive for coronavirus. One of them died early yesterday morning. Bill was two weeks shy of his 47th birthday and leaves behind a wife and three kids, one of whom is serving overseas with the military. But what the hell, he’s just a statistic, right?

Okay, off my soapbox for now, but I reserve the right to get back up on it again. If you feel you don’t want to read it, you certainly don’t have to.

In other news, apparently it was a bad reaction to the new pain medication the doctor put me on, because taking just one Wednesday night left me feeling terrible all day and evening Thursday. The doctor told me to stop taking them immediately and I did, and when I woke up yesterday I felt fine. Thanks to everybody who sent messages and emails of concern.

We needed some fresh air, so yesterday we went down to our community’s private fishing pier and sat for a while watching the birds flying and the boats passing by. It was pretty windy and we had it all to ourselves. We did not see any dolphins, which seldom happens because they’re usually out frolicking in the water. Most of the manatees have left by now, so we won’t see them until it cools down again. Or maybe they are all practicing social distancing, too.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is 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 Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Sometimes all you can do is step on their toes until they get the message and get out of your way.

Mar 272020
 

I woke up yesterday morning sick to my stomach and with a headache, my eyes were very light-sensitive, and it felt like I had not slept in a hundred years. The feelings persisted all day and into the evening.

I suspected it was a reaction to a new medicine my doctor put me on called Duloxetine (brand name Cymbalta), the first of which I had taken the night before (Wednesday night.) While this is commonly used to treat depression, they have found that it can also help with certain types of pain, including lower back pain.

When the symptoms did not let up I called the doctor’s office and spoke to a nurse, and shortly afterward the doctor called and told me to stop taking it. I had already made that decision on my own. Hopefully, today will be a better day.

As for the whole coronavirus thing that so many are discounting, don’t waste your breath telling me it’s just a flu, or not that bad, or that something else is/was worse. I don’t want to hear it. It was announced last night the the U.S. now leads the world in the number of diagnosed cases. And for me, is getting close to home. Two friends of mine in different parts of the country, one in his mid-40s and one in her early 60s, have both have diagnosed with Covid-19 and one of my daughter-in-law’s friend’s 24 year old daughter died of it. Meanwhile, supplies are in such short supply that my daughter-in-law, who is clinical director at a hospital in Alabama, is wearing the same mask over and over again. Talk to someone on the front lines battling this pandemic and tell me not to worry.

The way so many people are ignoring or downplaying Covid-19 reminds me of when everybody thought AIDS was not an issue unless you were gay. I was in the small town newspaper business and lost quite a few readers and advertisers who didn’t want to read about the “queer disease” that I kept saying was going to become a worldwide issue. A pastor at on local church urged his congregation to boycott my newspaper because all I cared about were “degenerates.” My answer to that was an editorial that I would rather have what they called degenerates as friends and neighbors than hypocrites. Do we ever learn from history? I would love to be wrong and for the naysayers to be right. I really would. But I don’t think I am.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is 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 Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – If I gave up sarcasm all I would have left is interpretive dance as my only means of communication.

Life Goes On

 Posted by at 12:44 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 262020
 

Even with more cases of coronavirus being reported every day, and with the death toll climbing, life still goes on. It may not be the life that we would like to have, and some people are having trouble getting used to what for now is the new normal, but this too shall pass.

We are doing our best to self-isolate as much as possible, going out only for medical appointments and groceries when we need them. Yesterday I had an appointment in Orlando with a doctor I was referred to for my nerve ablation procedure. With everything else going on I thought about canceling it, but it takes months to get an appointment so Terry urged me to go forward with it.

The good news is that after examining me and reviewing my medical records, the doctor feels that nerve ablation would do me a lot of good. It’s not a permanent solution, and results can last anywhere from a few months to a few years, but anything that gives me any relief would be welcome. The bad news is that nothing is being scheduled these days except for acute surgeries, so procedures like I need are being put off. How long? Nobody really knows at this time. So we are in a sort of a wait and see mode.

When we got back to Edgewater, we had to stop at Walgreens to pick up a couple of prescriptions, and lo and behold, they were stacking toilet paper on the shelves. There was a limit of two six-roll packages per customer, so we got them. We use a lot less now that we have bidets on both toilets, so this should hold us for a long time. Then we popped across the street to Publix, which was completely out of any kind of paper products, and bought groceries. Hopefully, we won’t have to go to a store for quite a while.

We are not hoarding because Terry has always kept a few weeks’ worth of food on hand, even when we were fulltime RVers, and replaces it as needed. It’s amazing what she can whip up with a little bit of pasta and homemade sauce, some ground beef, or whatever comes to mind. Anybody who knows me knows I never go hungry, and with her around I never will.

Good news for those who prefer a printed book over an e-book! The print edition of Big Lake Quarterback is now available on Amazon and you can order it at this link. The e-book version has been out for about two months now and I’m getting a lot of great five-star reviews for it. I always appreciate readers who leave reviews and tell their friends about my books. Thank you very much.

And speaking of books, it’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is 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 Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks. – Winston Churchill

Mar 252020
 

Movies and television would have you believe that ghost towns from the Old West era remain perfectly intact, with tumbleweeds rolling down their empty streets and homes and shops full of furniture and other items as if the residents just all got up and went away one day, leaving everything behind and never looking back.

In truth, that is pretty much a myth. In my younger days, I spent many years exploring the back roads of Arizona and New Mexico and have been to many ghost towns in that region. Even back then, most were no more than a few adobe walls crumbling into dust. Wood, hardware, and anything useful had been carted away generations before I ever got there.

One exception was the railroad ghost town of Steins, New Mexico, located just off of Interstate 10 at Exit 3, almost to the Arizona state line. A stagecoach stop was established there in 1857, and the town itself was founded in 1880. Unlike many boom towns of that era, Steins’ economy was not based solely on gold or silver discoveries, though there were some finds in the nearby Peloncillo Mountains, but more so as a stop for the Southern Pacific Railroad. A quarry and rock crushing plant produced track ballast for the railroad and jobs for the citizens of Steins.

Life was never easy in Steins. There were no underground springs to tap into, so water had to be brought in by train. In the early days there was always the threat of Indian attack, the surrounding desert was harsh and unforgiving, rattlesnakes and other animals could be dangerous, and outlaws from both sides of the nearby Mexican border passed through the area. Still, the lonely little town hung on through good times and bad, it’s population fluctuating but never very large.

That all came to an end in 1944 when the railroad announced that it no longer needed the materials from the quarry, and therefore trains would no longer be stopping there, even to deliver water. Residents were offered free passage away from Steins, but with the restriction that they could only bring along what they could carry. Many left behind everything from household furnishing to wagons and tools, turning the abandoned town into a time capsule of days gone by. Later a fire destroyed many of the buildings.

The town went through a handful of owners until Larry and Linda Link purchased it in 1988 and began restoring it as a tourist attraction. Old West reenactments were held, and even ghost hunters stopped by looking for paranormal activity.

Way back when we first became fulltime RVers, we met Larry and Linda and instantly felt a kinship with them. Larry was an outspoken man with a great sense of humor, and before they bought Steins he had operated a rattlesnake farm and been a butcher. I think he was never happier than when he was showing visitors around Steins, telling tales of the old days, some of which might even have been true, and sharing interesting bits of history. But Larry was also not a man to hold his tongue when he saw something wrong, and he told me he had stepped on a few toes in nearby Lordsburg.

Over the years we stopped in to visit a few times as our travels took us around the country, and we were heartbroken to learn that Larry had been murdered. His body was found in Steins on June 7, 2011. The autopsy report said that he had been shot five times, had a three-inch laceration on his head, and various scrapes and bruises on his body. A handgun was found nearby but attempts to trace it back to its owner were unsuccessful. To date, Larry’s murder remains unsolved.

There have many theories and rumors about what happened that day at the old ghost town. Larry and Linda were no longer living full time on the property and some speculate that Larry stumbled on a burglary in progress. A semi-trailer stored on the property had been broken into and some items from it were strewn about. Investigators also found graffiti sprayed on the trailer. Others believe that the killer or killers were illegal aliens passing through the area, or possibly drug mules. Or that perhaps the killer was a transient who wandered in off the highway. And there are some that say that maybe the outspokenness Larry was known for might have led to his death. There had been stories of an ongoing feud with a former owner of the property and others in Lordsburg. Could that have been what led to the brutal murder?

In an interview with the Las Cruces Sun-News, Larry’s daughter Pamela said she didn’t believe that her father was killed by an illegal alien since the ones who had come to Steins in the past only wanted water, food, or a ride away from the area. She also discredits rumors of a robbery, since her father’s wallet was found at the scene.

Nobody knows what happened except whoever was at Steins that terrible day, and though Larry’s murder is still an open case, it has grown cold as more recent crimes come to the forefront. I suspect whoever was behind the death of our friend will never be brought to justice.

There was some talk of Larry’s wife and granddaughter reopening Steins, but when we pulled off the interstate to check it out on our trip to Arizona in February of this year, there were a couple of RVs parked there that looked like they might be caretakers, and nobody else around. Sadly, I think there is a good chance that eventually Steins will go the way of other ghost towns and fade into memory.

Thought For The Day – I love my computer because all my friends live inside it!

The Boy Soldier

 Posted by at 1:43 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 242020
 

Some called him the boy soldier, and I guess that’s applicable since he was just a boy, like so many who have answered their country’s call to duty. And like so many of those who did before and after him, he grew up very quickly on the battlefield, his boyhood gone forever. But this boy, a Texas sharecropper’s son, came home as one of the most decorated American soldiers of all time.

Audie Murphy was born on June 20, 1925, the seventh of twelve children, and life was difficult from the very start. His father abandoned the large family, and the young boy was forced to quit school in the fifth grade to pick cotton for $1 a day to help feed his family. He was sixteen years old when his mother died and three of his siblings were placed in an orphanage. That still left many mouths to feed, and his excellent marksmanship and skill as a hunter was the only reason they had meat for their meals.

When America entered World War II, Audie Murphy tried to enlist in the military but was turned away because he was underweight and underage. With the help of his older sister, he managed to lie about his age and joined the Army just days after his 17th birthday. Though he was a headstrong young man, Murphy embraced military life and won the respect of his fellow soldiers and the officers over him.

His first exposure to combat was during the invasion of Sicily in 1943, followed by the Battle of Anzio and the liberation of Rome, after which his unit took part in the Allied invasion of France. Promoted to sergeant, Murphy’s gallantry and dedication to his fellow GIs was noticed by his superiors.

Wounded three times, each time he asked to rejoin his unit after being released from the hospital. Along the way he was collecting one decoration after another for heroism and was promoted to second lieutenant.

Though he had performed many acts of heroism ever since joining the fight to liberate Europe, Murphy is best known for his deeds on January, 26, 1945. With his company decimated in heavy combat in France’s Vosges Mountains, and with only nineteen men left under him, he ordered his men to take cover in a forest when the Germans attacked, knocking out an M10 tank destroyer and setting it on fire. Staying behind to protect his men, Murphy laid down a withering fire on the advancing enemy from on top of the burning M10. When his carbine ran out of ammunition, he used the M10’s .50 caliber machine gun to keep firing. Wounded again, he held his position for over an hour, killing or wounding over 50 German soldiers before they finally retreated. Then he jumped off the M10 and led his men in a counterattack. With the enemy routed, he refused to leave his men while his injuries were being tended.

Audie Murphy won our country’s highest military award, the Congressional Medal of Honor, for his actions that day and came home a hero celebrated from coast to coast and border to border. Besides the Medal of Honor, he was awarded two Silver Stars for valor, two Bronze Stars for valor, three Purple Hearts for his wounds, and every other award the Army had at that time. Not to mention numerous foreign awards for his heroism, including the French Legion of Honor and French Croix de guerre.

After the war, the young hero went to Hollywood and appeared in a number of movies, mostly Westerns, and starred in the 1955 movie about his wartime experiences, To Hell and Back. He was also a familiar face on television, starring in the TV series Whispering Smith.

But war left emotional scars on Audie Murphy as well as physical scars. Suffering from what today is known as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), he slept with a loaded handgun under his pillow, had frequent nightmares, and became addicted to sleeping pills. He repeatedly asked the government for help not only for himself, but for other combat veterans as well, but with little success.

Still wanting to contribute to his country, he joined the Texas Army National Guard and was recalled to active duty during the Korean War. His requests to be sent to a combat unit were denied, and instead he was assigned to help train new recruits. He eventually retired as a major in 1969.

With his acting career over, he also had financial problems and was hounded by the IRS. Even then, Audie Murphy refused numerous offers to appear in advertisements for alcohol and cigarettes, believing that would be a bad example to set for younger people.

Audie Murphy, the boy faced hero who helped turn the tide of battle more than once in the face of overwhelming enemy attacks, was killed in an airplane crash on May 28,1971 near Catawba, Virginia. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and his grave is the second most visited, following only that of President John F. Kennedy.

Today the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum in Greenville, Texas honors their hometown hero with displays on Murphy’s life before, during, and after World War II that include a ten foot bronze statue of him out front.

Exhibits inside include a display representing his many military medals and decorations, and of a soldier taking a brief and much needed rest during a break from the fighting. There are also weapons, military uniforms and equipment, movie costumes, paintings, photographs, and posters of or related to Audie Murphy.

The museum also celebrates the Texas cotton industry’s past, present, and future with a number of displays and educational materials.

Located at 600 I-30 in Greenville, Texas, forty minutes east of Dallas, the museum is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for major holidays. Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for senior citizens, veterans and college students, $2 for kids ages 6-18 years old, and ages 5 and under are free. For more information, visit the museum’s website at http://www.cottonmuseum.com.

Thought For The Day – A balanced diet means a cupcake in each hand.

Mar 232020
 

“Grandpa what did you do during the big coronavirus isolation of 2020?” Well, kiddies, grandpa didn’t act a fool like some people, running around grabbing all the toilet paper and cleaning supplies he could find and hoarding them, or hanging out with crowds of people at the beaches and bars. No, grandpa was home writing. And he did another 6,000 words in his new book yesterday for a total of over 10,000 words for the weekend.

While we were in Arizona in February, my daughter Tiffany turned us on to the British TV show Call the Midwife, which is on Netflix and we have been binge watching it. It’s a series about midwives in the slums of London back in the 1950s and early 60s. Coincidentally, because one of the characters in the family saga I plan to write is a midwife, I bought the e-book Call the Midwife from Amazon a couple of months ago to get some background on their work, but had not read it yet. Terry liked the show and the e-book so much that I ordered the other two in the series for her in printed format and she is enjoying reading them. It’s an interesting show and not just a chick flick. I find it very interesting to see what life was like back then for people in a country still rebuilding after the devastation of World War II.

Our only trips out in the last week have been medical appointments. We are trying to limit our time away from home, so that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing. We have four appointments scheduled for this coming week, and I’m not sure if we’re going to keep them or cancel, or whether the facilities we’re going to might beat us to the punch and cancel them for us.

The only time we went outside during the weekend was to check the mail and to talk briefly with our neighbors across the street, Jesse and his lady Jen, and Jen’s daughter, who is currently on furlough from her job at Disney. Jesse moved in a few months ago, and Jen got to town on Wednesday. It was nice to meet her, they’re both great people who I am sure will be good friends. And yes, we maintained the recommended safe distance apart. I’m not finding that very hard to do since most people shy away from me naturally.

I had someone tell me online yesterday, not for the first time, that we are being paranoid. No, we’re being cautious. We don’t think the sky is falling, but we’re both 67 years old, I have had two heart attacks, and Terry’s immune system is compromised from her cancer. We have plenty of food, we have toilet paper (we even have bidets), and we have most everything we need to get by. All restaurants are closed except for takeout, as are many of the stores, so where do we have to go? Most of the stores that are open have empty shelves, and if there is something still there that someone really does need, why should we buy it just because we can?

Folks seem to be divided on this whole Covid-19 thing. Some people I care a lot for and respect very much think it’s all a bunch of hype and there’s really nothing much to it. Others are taking every precaution they can. No matter what you think about it, there’s no question that it is a serious issue. My daughter-in-law Geli is Clinical Director at a hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, and my son tells me that they are so overwhelmed with patients and short of supplies that she is having to use the same mask over and over again, putting it in a sealed bag between patients.

And then you have the fools like the idiot in Tucson, Arizona who broke into a healthcare place and stole a bunch of Coronavirus test kits. I have no idea what he was thinking because unless you have a connection with a lab to process them, they are worthless. But I’m sure he’ll find somebody gullible enough to buy them from him.

No matter how long this keeps up, I would not be the least bit surprised if before too long we’re going to start seeing looting. Not for food or toilet paper, but for anything that can be stolen, just like we have every time we have a hurricane in this part of the country. Some take advantage of the fact that emergency services are tied up elsewhere and have a field day stealing TVs and stereos, small appliances, cell phones, and things like that from stores. A couple of hurricanes back, we actually had somebody drive a vehicle through the wall of a local gun shop and get away with a bunch of firearms and ammunition. The same gang hit other gun shops here in central Florida.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. I wonder if they have toilet paper?

Congratulations Wayne Shunamon, winner of our drawing for an an autographed copy of Outlaw Road, the second book in my good friend Billy Kring’s excellent Hunter Kincaid mystery series about a female Border Patrol agent who isn’t afraid of taking on the tough and dangerous cases, or of stepping on toes, to see justice done. We had 114 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon!

Thought For The Day – I run like the winded.

St. John’s Church

 Posted by at 12:59 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 222020
 

In Richmond, Virginia, a city completely immersed in history, we visited a church that traces its roots back to the founding of Henrico Parish in 1611, an outgrowth of the original church in the Jamestown settlement.

Richmond was established in 1733, and by 1741, St. John’s Church was completed and welcoming worshipers. Ever since then the church has played an important role both in Richmond and in the history of our nation.

The church had many names over the years; the New Church, Town Church, Upper Church, and Richmond Hill Church. The earliest known reference to “St. John’s” appeared in 1829.

Just as churches had traditionally served in England, St. John’s was not only a place of worship, but also a meeting house. It was here, speaking to the Second Virginia Convention in March, 1775, that American patriot Patrick Henry issued the bold challenge, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Over the years the church and the surrounding neighborhood have seen good times and bad, but for nearly 275 years it has been a hub of worship and community life in Richmond.

Many of Richmond’s elite, as well as generations of common people, have been laid to rest in the old churchyard, including jurist and statesman George Wythe, who was the first Virginia signer of the Declaration of Independence. Also buried at the church is Revolutionary War officer Edward Carrington, who served as jury foreman during Aaron Burr’s trial for treason in 1807; Elizabeth Poe, the mother of author Edgar Allan Poe, and many other luminaries.

The church is open for guided tours, which begin at the Visitor Center, housed in an old brick schoolhouse located to the right and rear of the church. Street parking is available for automobiles, but the area streets are not suitable for a recreational vehicle. The next time you visit Richmond, make time to tour the historic old St. John’s Church and experience the history that still lingers in the air there. The church is located at 2401 E. Broad Street in Richmond. For tour information, call (804) 649-7938.

Today is your last chance to enter our latest Free Drawing for an autographed copy of Outlaw Road, the second book in my good friend Billy Kring’s excellent Hunter Kincaid mystery series about a female Border Patrol agent who isn’t afraid of taking on the tough and dangerous cases, or of stepping on toes, to see justice done. A former Border Patrol Agent himself, as well as a writer and actor, Billy has worked as a consultant on terrorism and international border issues in such places as Mexico, South America, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pan Pacific. He’s also one of the nicest men you will ever meet and my favorite author. I read every book Billy brings out the minute it is available. 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 – Women are like cops. They can have all the evidence in the world, but they still want a confession.

Birdbrain

 Posted by at 12:35 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 212020
 

Birds are cool animals in many ways, not the least being that they can fly. Their brain may not be any bigger than a pea, but they can do something mankind has wanted to do from its earliest days. Sure, you can buy a ticket and go somewhere in an airplane, but you’re not really flying, you’re just riding. But you can flap your arms until they fall off and not accomplish something a sparrow does with ease.

As far as birds that people keep as pets, they can be cool too, as long as they belong to someone else. Birds are like babies and dogs – I’d rather play with yours and give them back than to live with one.

This is Jonathan, who our friend Nancy Kissack who writes the daily Kissack Adventures blog, raised from an egg. Jonathan is really a girl, and we get along very well.

I’ve had a couple of strange relationships with birds, even owning a few and always regretting it. At one time I owned an Amazon parrot that learned to imitate the ringing of my telephone (this was before the days of cell phones) and always waited until the wee hours of the morning to demonstrate his newfound skill. I’d wake up and trudge into the living room to answer the phone, only to be greeted with a dial tone and the darned bird grinning at me. (I call him “the bird” even though I didn’t know its gender and because I can’t use any of the names I called it in this blog.)

But that wasn’t the only irritating thing this bird was limited to. Always looking for ways to entertain himself, the feathered fruitcake discovered that wallpaper is tasty and proceeded to strip the wall behind his cage. I finally had to set the cage on the floor to keep him out of reach of anything his powerful beak could destroy.

At the time I also own a pair of very large purebred German shepherd dogs. Laser, the male, was a magnificent animal, well over 100 pounds and trained for protection. The bird learned to imitate my whistle and delighted in sounding off, bringing both dogs to full alert. The female, Sugar, was a bit smaller than her mate and a lot smarter, just like as is true in most human relationships. She quickly wised up to that game and just ignored it.

Not gullible Laser. He was ready to go play or fight every time he heard that whistle. The bird loved to wait quietly until Laser was asleep, dreaming doggie dreams, to whistle sharply, jolting him awake and ready for duty. This went on for a few weeks, and I knew a showdown was coming. Tired of my feathered companion’s maladjusted personality, I was already looking for a new home for him when he pushed the dog too far.

One afternoon I was reading and listening to some mellow music when there was a sharp alert whistle and Laser jumped to his feet, only to discover once again he had been tricked by a puny bird that weighed less than his favorite rawhide chew bone.

Another dog would have ripped open the cage and devoured the noisy critter in seconds and been done with it, but my dogs had a character all their own. Laser got a nasty gleam in his wolf-like eyes and strolled across the room to the bird’s cage, where he casually lifted his hind leg and did something he had been trained since puppyhood to only do outside. Seconds later the drenched parrot was shaking its head, blinking its eyes and spitting (if a parrot can spit) as it squawked in rage. Point made, Laser returned to his sleeping spot and resumed his nap, this time unmolested. The bird never whistled again.

Every once in a while in our travels we ran across RVers who traveled with birds, and I get the urge to have one. But then I remembered the noise and mess they made and decideed that I really don’t want a bird unless it’s baked and served up on a platter of Miss Terry’s delicious Basmati rice.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. I am excited about this week’s prize, an autographed copy of Outlaw Road, the second book in my good friend Billy Kring’s excellent Hunter Kincaid mystery series about a female Border Patrol agent who isn’t afraid of taking on the tough and dangerous cases, or of stepping on toes, to see justice done. A former Border Patrol Agent himself, as well as a writer and actor, Billy has worked as a consultant on terrorism and international border issues in such places as Mexico, South America, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pan Pacific. He’s also one of the nicest men you will ever meet and my favorite author. I read every book Billy brings out the minute it is available. 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’m in big trouble if people find out I really don’t have Tourette’s.