Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Consider This

Love And Marriage -- Allowed For Some, Denied To Others

This week’s column; where to begin? I never write about anything political because I’m not smart enough or savvy enough to pull it off. I’m always far too short on research and facts and far too long on knee-jerk, and I suppose I’ll be accused that this column is all written with my knees. So be it. I’ve been accused of worse.

But knowing that about myself, I still have to write it. I’m awfully saddened by the recent voting against the human rights of people who simply want to be married and to enjoy the same rights and privileges as one-man, one-woman marriages have. “Same-sex marriages.”
That very phrase apparently shoots cold terror into the hearts of all citizens who cannot and will not ever be other-centered; it’s literally against their inner religion. Thus I’ll write about this, send it in, and hope for, well what? At the moment “hope” is pretty dim and I know this column will be considered a poor-loser whine. That’s cool. I have the right to whine after all, have I not? I also know people are getting “sick and tired” of this issue. That’s because they are heterosexual and can’t/won’t relate.

I feel terrible disappointment because once again, Gay people have been denied what straight people get to have automatically without ever having to fight for it. Gays just want what we want, but they can’t have those freedoms of choice and yet it’s the basic right of straight people to have them.

Yeah, I’ve read all the arguments as to why Gays should not be allowed to marry even though it’s really no one’s business, and in thousands of homes where there are two parents of the same sex, there are children who are happy, strong, and well-adjusted-- but I guess they don’t count. I guess there can only be happy kids if they have two parents of opposite sexes. Or perhaps two divorced parents of opposite sexes. Or perhaps a “properly” married couple of opposite sexes who frequently beat each other or their kids nearly to death. All is well I guess, as long as these kids have married parents, one male, one female.
Well, I’ll tell you one thing; of the Gay couples we know who have kids, I just wish we’d done half as good a job at raising our children as they did and do at raising theirs. Their kids, ours too, grew up to have responsible, productive lives and great families and guess what folks? No one ever “forced” those children to “become Gay.” Can’t happen. Not possible. Read about it; this news isn’t new.

And of course the really big argument against all this, they tell us, is the Bible which the YES people insist says within the pages of that sacred rule-book that marriage cannot ever be between two people of the same sex. (Must be one of the newer translations. I don’t think I ever read that part.) Yes, the Good Book they so solemnly thump, that 2000 year old book that tells us amongst many hundreds of similar tales we must emulate, a woman who is discovered to have not been a virgin when she married must be stoned to death. Deuteronomy 22:22. (If people abided by the Bible today and followed that rule, we’d be clear out of stones.) Was that the Good Book on which they relied? The book that amongst many, many other things speaks of two naked people, an apple and a talking snake making the world the bad place it is today? That book? Wow. But at least one person in Eden was female and the other was male. Heterosexual, right? Do we know that?

And let’s chat about all those commercials stating our kids would be “taught homosexuality in school” or the really horrifying fear that marriage between two people of the same sex will also be “taught in the schools” along with the students being educated on what Gay people do in the privacy of their bedrooms. What? I mean what???? Have straight marriage and straight sexual habits been taught in our schools all these years? It has? What’s the name of that course? No one told me. Our kids never said a word. How odd! But, according to those scare commercials, homosexual marriage will be a taught subject. You’re kidding, right? Would special teachers be hired to teach those courses? Betcha they wouldn’t be Gay.
So can someone out there tell me why this vote thing has happened? I am sick and ashamed today that the world thinks that in my beloved Maine we’d do this kind of thing to good people who love one another and only want what rights we get to have by birth. They are once again not allowed to have normal freedoms, normal lives, or normal acceptances, so say the YES folks.

Maine took some pretty bad hits on all major networks the night after it happened, while lots of the self-righteous leaders of the YES mobs insisted on camera their YES campaign was not at all about hate. Oh come on. Please.

I can just hear the people from away saying once again that Maine is a backward state where no one does anything except to carve seagulls or make quilts and that the residents certainly don’t keep up with the times or the Times and probably don’t even read any newspapers at all. So wrong. Maine is such a progressive, educated and glorious place to live, extremely productive and modern where it has to be, and has everything anyone could ever possibly want to live a healthy, safe, informed and good life. So please tell me why Maine can’t do the right thing and grant equal rights to everyone? Who really was behind this huge fight? Who had all the money and the clout? Who promoted the fear? I know. You know.

Look. Marriage is about love, right? But the YES vote is about fear and hate. I will try to sympathize with those who fear, but I have no sympathy for those who promote groundless hatred. Religions preach love and acceptance, do they not? So because of this vote, may I infer that they are failing in what they preach?

Why do some humans feel entitled to deny the rights of other humans? They seem to have a genuine problem, do they not, in being able to walk in another’s moccasins, and particularly in Gay moccasins?

Email LC at lcvs@suscom-maine.net
See her on “incredibleMAINE”
on Saturdays at 10:30 AM on MPBN.
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Questions, Questions


Is there a question I should ask
That is keeping me from beginning my special task? 
Is there something that I should see
That is keeping me from what I should be?

What is setting the limits of my view?
I know it is me, and certainly not you--

Why does my ego tempt me to pride
Am I only trying to hitch a ride?

What do I deny that I should know--
Is it what I should say or where I should go?

Who says I cannot enter this life?
Only myself who insists upon strife--

What within me is staying concealed
That once unmasked would see me healed?

How can I call upon ease and grace
And keep contentment upon my face?

Is fear keeping me from going deeper?
No, only I can be my keeper.
©2008  Mary E. Adair 

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Be Thankful

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those

Who are also thankful for the setbacks.
GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.

Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
And they can become your blessings.
Author Unknown It’s o.k. to say thank you!  

My Mozart Rondo

A Mozart rondo I’ve been playing
More than fifty years
Accuses me again from my piano rack,
Reminding me how often I’ve abused it.

I’ll launch into the starting chords,
Rush along for several frantic bars,
Then get my fingers tangled
On the first chromatic run.

I’ll cuss and fumble to the repetition,
Take it from the top,
Then blow the entire piece
The second time!

But I know I shouldn’t fuss,
For how many things in life
Will afford me endless ops
To do them over?

©2006 By John I. Blair 

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Bottom Feeders

Bottom feeders eating other bottom feeders
Straight through the ground
Never making any sounds
Bottom feeders acting like trick or treaters
The rise and the fall
Endless charades in the stall

Why don't you grow up and not act so strange
Why don't you get a life and get on this same page
Why don't you take an inch instead of taking a mile
Why don't you wipe away the horrid look and wear a basic smile

Bottom feeders eating other bottom feeders
Living out their days
Eating the plenty and the strays

Bottom feeders living like bottom feeders
Nothing is ever learned
The innocent get burned

Why don't you grow up and not act so strange
Why don't you get a life and get on this same page
Why don't you take an inch instead of taking a mile
Why don't you wipe away the horrid look and wear a basic smile

And it goes on and on and on
©11/5/09  Bruce Clifford
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Explosions In The Night

Explosions in the night.
I wonder, should I look
Or simply speculate,

Explaining to myself
The night’s so black
I’d see no hard rain fall,

Wouldn’t see a thing
But flashes on the trees,
Descending into darkness.

Window blinds closed tight,
All the lamps bright lit,
I can think I’m safe inside.

But a quick glance down the hall
Reveals an undefended pane
Admitting night is in the yard.

©2007  John I. Blair

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Extravagant Love Song

True love is forever.
I’ve heard this said.

So many times
My mind grew numb,
Indifferent, incredulous.
More fool me.

Repeating may not make
A saying true,
But neither does it
Give the lie.

For I love you
In my meat, my bones,
My molecules,
My every atom.

And as my atoms
Go out to the universe again
They will form starstuff,
Radiant, eternal.

Then will my love
Forever be.

©2005  John I. Blair

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Lions And Tigers And Bears, Oh My

In 1944 my mother
Took me and my brother to the zoo –
A small zoo in a small park
With a small budget.

It was during World War II
And people craved amusement,
Even if the best that they could do
Was stare at animals staring back.

I was too young to comprehend
Why the breeze smelled so bad,
Too young to feel
How sad it was to watch

The proud cats pacing
Two steps one way, two another,
Trapped in their tiny, filthy cages,
Scarcely twelve by twelve;

The bears, groaning
As they licked at sores
Worn by endless rubbing
And sniffed the sour ammonia air;

And the monkeys, worst of all,
Seeming in despair, no longer cared
What they did, peeing, defecating
In their food, their water.

We hurried through the rest,
Grimaced at the alligators,
Stopped our ears
Against the roars, the screams.

After, by the duck pond,
A cool drink from a fountain
Helped us to forget, released
Some smiles just for our Kodak.

©2009 John I. Blair

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Ferry At Night, Port Aransas

We’ve traveled through the countryside all day.
Now it’s night, and for our final miles
Only oleanders along the way
And railings now and then
Shield us from the watery waste
That spreads beyond the mainland.

At the edge of Earth
Abruptly the pavement ends
And from the inky blackness
A boat draws near.
It bumps up to the road rim,
And a man in a yellow coat
Motions us to come aboard
Where we sit until the load is filled.

Shuddering, the vessel shoves off,
Rocking with the waves, forging forward
While yellow coat keeps watch.

But he is not Charon,
There is no triple-headed dog,
And this is not Hades. Instead,
As suddenly as we set out,
We arrive at the glittering lights
On the farther shore,
Down drops the boat ramp,
And we drive into Paradise by the sea.

©2002  John I. Blair

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Season of Laughter

Season of laughter
Take a bow
The quiet and lonely
Get through this somehow The echo of noise
Visions of the sound
The silent whispers
Walk together and proud
I can't make you change
Thinking of doing so is driving me mad
If you knew what I was going through
You still won't understand
Just where you and I stand
Season of laughter
Tomorrow comes around
Always remembering
Your will to defend
Season of laughter
Season of cries
Season of belonging
Season of knowing why
I can't make you change
Thinking of doing so is driving me mad
If you knew what I was going through
You still won't understand
Just where you and I stand
©11/20/09 Bruce Clifford
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Should I Meditate

Should I meditate or play Suduko
Sometimes I really don't seem to know

Putting worries up on a mental shelf
Could give me some time unto myself

And storing them there 'til a later date
Leaving them there as long as they'll wait--

The main idea is to shut off the mind
With what's ahead of the thoughts behind

It's not illegal and might save my hide
For a moment, to let the chores slide

For taking a nap was my G'ma's way
To level things out, calm down her day

Adjust the attitude, brighten the thoughts
Instead of dwelling on all the 'naughts'

To establish as routine I can't do
To keep me steady and not so blue

Since work with numbers is my vocation
Sudoko's not a real vacation

I'll listen to the cd for awhile
And if I doze off, don't you dare smile

For maybe it's a ticket to a nap
To set my mind sailing through the gap

Between this old world and the other side
Where joy and peace are said to reside--

So then I'll come back fresh as a daisy--
Though you thought I was being lazy!

©Nov 30, 2009 Mary E. Adair

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You And I

Let me tell you why
All the reasons we are left here to cry
All I can think about is when you and I
You and I Let me tell you why
All the enemies who left us here to die
All I can think about are all the reasons why
You and I
You and I remain on my finger tips
You and I are always the last words from my lips
You and I no matter how hard we try
You and I
You and I
You and I
Let me hear you say
All the things that got in our way
All I can remember is wanting to pray
You and I
You and I
You and I
Let me tell you why
All those many nights hung out left to dry
All I could think about was you and I
You and I
©11/26/09 Bruce Clifford
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Angel Whispers

In thinking about what I wanted to write about this month, I decided it had to be some sort of Christmas message that the angels wanted me to give to all of you. Then I thought of writing/channeling a poem or writing about the commercialization of Christmas. Then I thought about how Jesus would tell us how he thought about how we celebrated his special day. Did he have some suggestions as to how make changes or to make it better?
After some thinking about this column for this month I decided I would write a letter to Jesus wishing him a Happy Birthday and thanking him for his love to all on this earth plane.
Dear Jesus, I wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday on the 25th of this month. You have done so much for us and helped us in many ways, throughout the ages. Thank you for your love and support.
As I am writing this I am seeing a stream of water with a bridge over it. There is a clearing on the opposite shore and I am sitting down with you. We are having a conversation about the state of the world. I feel that you are a bit sad as we discuss this and I see that you are a bit frustrated with all that is happening, in the world today.
You are speaking of peace and love. You are speaking of the clarity that all men need to embrace so that peace can be brought into the world on a permanent basis. You are talking of acceptance of all mankind and how love is the key to peace. We are all one and there is but one God and he has different names. “My father asks that you truly see this for the sake of peace on this earth.”
We go over to the water and we see a waterfall close by. We go behind the waterfall and we sit on a rock and let the water spray all around us. As this is happening, bright light appears all around us and the angels surround us. Archangel Raphael is upon us watching the healing take place. His words to me are, “Be at peace my child, for you are a child of God.”
We walk back to the bench near the stream. As we sit there we are feeling very peaceful and loved. Jesus takes my hand and gives me a message. (What is your message?) He then says I have to go, but I leave you in peace and with much love.
Archangel Michael is walking beside me as I travel down the path. As he walks with me he sheds some feathers which cover the path. Then I notice an army of angels behind us who are also covering the path with feathers. Songs of praise and songs of peace and love are being chanted by the angels.
Thank you dear Jesus for listening to me and for helping me to understand what you would like for the world at this time. I wish you a Happy Birthday and know you are loved. Thank you for this vision as I have been writing to you.
Thank you for all that you do and all that you are,
Happy Holidays everyone. Love and Light

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Cookin' With Leo

Sister in Law as Guest Cook

Since I'm still a bit under the weather...plague take this rain, anyway!..here is my guest cook for the month. Melinda is the baby sister of editor, Mary E. Adair, and both she and husband Rod Cohenour are excellent cooks. Ain’t it great to have so much talent in one family? I guess I could take off more time and nobody would ever miss me… forget it. I ain’t ready to give it all up yet. Anyway speaking of talent, just make sure you read this special way to cook a Ham, no not me, a bone in ham that is. 
Rod bought a bone-in ham on sale. I baked it -- with a mustard, brown sugar and pineapple marinade. We sliced it and ate a couple of meals. We had a very large leg bone remaining with lots of meaty ham left on it, but not where you could slice it.

I decided to try my hand at a new dish I'd never prepared, but had always thought sounded delicious -- a ham chowder. It turned out really lucious, so I thought I'd share my recipe with you. Of course, I cook for a houseful -- and we don't mind leftovers (it makes my cooking chore easier if I have a couple of meals ready to just heat and eat with fresh salad and fresh fruit added........) We just finished off the chowder tonight, with a large fresh fruit tray (strawberries, grapes, sliced oranges, cheddar and pepper Jack cheese cubes and some low carb crackers......)

Anyway -- new recipe is here. You can cut the recipe down for your households since most of you are cooking for only a couple (Pat is solo; Melissa and Erin; Mary and Leo, but Kim may be able to utilize the full recipe with the bunch that shows up at her house all the time! Ruben, you might like something a little different.......

Melinda’s Cheesy Ham Chowder

    Meaty ham bone
    Water to easily submerge bone
    4 Irish potatoes – peeled and sliced in ½ “ thick slices
    3 carrots – peeled and sliced in ½ “ slices
    3 spines celery – de-stringed, sliced lengthwise and finely chopped
    1 large Bermuda or Spanish onion, sliced and diced
    Pepper to taste
    Celery salt – scarce ¼ teaspoon for this quantity
    1 cup butter
    2 cups flour
    Pepper to taste
    4 cups milk
    Shredded cheese, preferably cheddar – Monterey Jack blend – full 8 oz bag for this quantity chowder.
    1 can corn, drained
    2 Tbsp dried parsley (less for fresh)
Prepare ham stock:
Simmer ham bone in water until tender and stock looks hearty. Remove ham bone, cool until capable of being safely handled. Remove ham from bone and cut in ¾ “ chunks. Stock should be poured into tall, narrow pitcher and refrigerated until fat rises to top and congeals. Remove fat.
Prepare chowder vegetables:
When stock has been de-fatted, pour into bottom of large Dutch oven and add sliced and chopped vegetables. Cover, bring to boil, reduce heat and cook until vegetables are crisp tender.
Prepare classic b├ęchamel sauce:
When chowder vegetables are cooked, prepare cheese sauce. Place butter in sauce pan and melt. When butter is completely melted, whisk in flour, season with pepper and dash celery salt. Permit to cook 1 minute while stirring to prevent scorching. This prepares the roux and rids the flour mixture of its “raw” taste. Begin adding milk slowly, whisking while adding. Bring mixture back to boil, stirring constantly. Do not permit to scorch. When b├ęchamel sauce has thickened, remove from heat, add cheese and whisk briskly. This creates a thickened cheese sauce.
Add the cheese sauce to the hot stock and vegetables. Add the cubed ham, can of drained corn and parsley, then taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Stir until liquid is evenly velvety.
Serve hot with crisp salad, hot bread and fresh fruit for dessert. Serves 12 easily. To prepare for four reduce ingredient list as appropriate.
©September 2006 Melinda Ellen Cohenour

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Editor's Corner


The first day of December finds your editor scrambling to do all that is required of her in about eight different fields. One of the most important of these is keeping up with the doctor appointments for the household and seeing that the proper meds are taken at the proper time. Ah the joys of adulthood! That is the period between those years you long to be old enough not to be told you are Not old enough and when you wish you were still yearning for that status. So much of our life seems to be demands that have to be filled, rather than choosing which fulfillment we wish to demand.
Nonetheless, Thanksgiving was lovely and the first time we have spent it at home instead of traveling in many years. Sister shared some thoughts her company saluted their employees with as reminders for expressing sufficient gratitude in our daily lives. (OK, ok, I'm grateful that I'm the one counting out the pills, still capable of processing the information given by the doctors, etc., and able to care for myself and my loved ones.) You can see part of their message in the poem "Be Thankful."
Your editor is also thankful she can still enjoy penning verses and jotted down "Should I Meditate" while in waiting room while the cooking editor had some lab tests done. The other one by her is "Questions, questions." Bruce Clifford adds three poems to the lot with "You and I," "Bottom Feeders," and "Season of Laughter."
John I. Blair sends along a half dozen verses written over the years, with the latest scarcely two weeks ago. Our most prolific poet is also a romantic one and I was moved by the "Extravagant Love Song" for December. The remaining poems by him are: "Ferry At Night, Port Aransas," "Whooping Cranes," "My Mozart Rondo," "Explosions In The Night," and "Lions And Tigers And Bears, Oh My." (The zoo poem pretty much echoed my own childhood trip to the Seattle one during WWII when ration cards were used for meat, sugar, gasoline, and many other essentials, so we realize now what was the problem.)
The article "World's Greatest Invention" is by LC Van Savage who also is the columnist for "Consider This." Her column gives her a chance to air her feelings about Love and Marriage; you may share her viewpoint.
Other columnists this issue are:
    Peg Jones from Massachusetts with a special letter in her column "Angel Whispers."
    Leo C. Helmer featuring a Guest Cook (your editor's sister Melinda Cohenour) in "Cookin' With Leo"
    Mattie Lennon speaks of a worthy gift from Ireland, just in time for Christmas in"Irish Eyes"
    Thomas F. O'Neill from China, shares his "Songs of Angels" for his Christmas focus in "Introspective"
    Gerard Meister who usually does "Thinking Out Loud" is playing hooky this issue, and we will be happy to see him back in swing next month.
We continue to offer a place that is read internationally to showcase your compositions at no cost to you, where they are copyrighted, and remain yours to use in compilations or to send to other magazines. All we ask is that you mention they were published in the ezine Pencil Stubs Online.
See you in January 2010 !

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Songs of Angels

She listened somberly as the Priest read the prayers at the graveside. Her mother’s casket was slowly being lowered into the ground. A six year old girl grasped her Mother’s arm as the Priest slowly walked toward them, “She is with Jesus, now,” he said, but his religious platitudes rang hollow for the woman who just buried her mother. The Priest’s words and manner seemed somewhat rehearsed to Sally Stoner.
She tried desperately to hold back her tears, “Don’t cry, Mommy,” her daughter whispered.
Her family, friends, and neighbors walked stoically by her side as they turned from the graveside. They then quickly gathered at Sally’s home and spoke openly about her Mother. They shared food with one another it was their way of showing that they truly care for each other.
They shared stories as well about the old neighborhood were Sally and her friends grew up. She is one of the few that stayed behind in her hometown. Most of her friends after graduating high school and college left for better opportunities and a better life. They knew it was a rough year for Sally and her daughter, Morgan.
husband had left her, and the outsourcing of the local plant left her unemployed. Now the death of her mother only added to the fact that life was beating her down. She drew on every fiber of strength though, to remain strong for her daughter. She wanted desperately for Morgan to have a better life and future.
“Remember old Mr. Pompasko,” Sally’s cousin Fred said, “He taught Ninth grade English, whatever happened to him.”
“He retired long ago,” said Sally, “I remember the fun we had. The tricks we played on him. Remember when we glued his chalk to the chalkboard?”
“Boy did he get mad,” said another cousin, “I was too scared to laugh after that look he gave me.”
“Everything was so different then, the whole town is different now,” said Fred, “It sure changed from when we were kids.”
“I know,” said one of Sally’s neighbors, “this town is going downhill really fast.”
“I would give anything to move from here,” Sally said, “I want my Morgan to have better opportunities.”
“Nixon is resigning,” yelled Sally’s Uncle who was sitting in front of the TV, “do you believe it? Gerry Ford is taking over.”
“I don’t necessarily see Nixon resigning as the end of the world, Mr. Shishitski,” said Fred, “in a matter of time he would have been impeached.”
“Yeah, I suppose so,” said Sally’s uncle, “but Gerry Ford taking over, what the hell is this country coming to?”
Sally and the others continued to reminisce and laugh about their childhood experiences. The conversations stirred up deep feelings and emotions. Sally’s feelings welled up to the surface and she was unable to hold back her tears. She began to tell them stories about her father who immigrated to America from Poland. Like most of the immigrants in their hometown, they’d come there to work deep in the coal mines. But when Sally’s Mother died the coal mines had closed for twenty some years and their hometown has been on the decline ever since.
The stories stirred up some of her earliest memories as well. She told them how her father would sing Polish songs to her when she was her daughter Morgan’s age. One song in particular was of an Angel watching over a young orphan child. He sang the songs with such passion, love, and warmth. She still remembers how he would hold her in his arms as he sang. She would try and sing along with him. It was her father’s way of putting her to bed. The memories brought her both comfort and pain though, because her father passed away when she was only seven years old.
His body had been laid out in the living room and she could remember the miners dressed in their Sunday suits coming to pay their last respects. Her father only had one suit and that was the suit he was buried in. She had also grasped her mother’s arm at the cemetery the day her Father was buried.
At the age of seven she tried desperately to write the words of the songs her father sang to her. The harder the little girl tried the more the tears flowed. Her Polish mother held the grieving child in her arms. She told Sally, “Your father will always sing to you,” as she wiped the tears from Sally’s face. “Your father’s love will always be with you,” her mother told her once again in Polish.
While holding young Sally with all of her might, “his love will always be sung to you, you will see,” said her Mother with certainty, “Like the Angels in his songs, he is with you.” Young Sally with all of her might believed her Mother’s words. The thought of her Father watching over her like an Angel brought her great comfort.
A few days after her mother’s funeral, she moved into her Mother’s home. The house brought back so many recollections. They were memories of relatives and her Mother’s friends that have also passed away over the years. The memories came with each new discovery of old postcards, photos, and old letters from bygone days. Sally was an only child and the thought of not being able to talk to her mother weighed heavily on her.
It was just a few days after she moved, she enrolled her daughter in a new school. She was very much concerned about how Morgan was handling the change. Morgan’s father was no longer in the picture either. That just compounded the feeling of abandonment. She felt that she and Morgan were now alone in the world.
Sally decided a few weeks later to visit the school once again. She talked to Morgan’s homeroom teacher, Miss Crone.
“Morgan is such a bright little girl with an extraordinary imagination,” Miss Crone told her.
“My only concern” said Morgan’s teacher, “is your daughter has been sitting with the children during recess rather than playing the games they normally play. When I questioned them about it, Morgan said a nice man is singing songs to them. There’s never a man there singing. The others sing along with Morgan all huddled together. It’s been going on ever since your daughter arrived at our School. Her over active imagination is having an effect on the other children.”
“That doesn’t sound like my Morgan,” said Sally.
Sally called her daughter over to ask her, “Who’s the man that sings songs to you.”
“He’s such a nice man, Mommy, funny, and kind,” said Morgan. “He’s teaching me Polish too. He sings to me in Polish, and then he explains the songs to me in English.”
“That is what I mean,” said Miss. Crone, “your daughter has an extraordinary imagination.”
“How does this man look, Morgan?” Sally asked.
“He has a brown suit with stripes and a purple hanky sticking out of his pocket.” Morgan went on to say “he wears the same suit every day.”
Tears began to well up in Sally’s eyes as she knelt down to talk to Morgan.
“It’s normal for children to make up stories,” said Miss Crone.
“What songs does he sing to you,” Sally asked her with a tear rolling down her cheeks.
“Don’t cry, Mommy, they are happy songs,” Morgan said to her, “they are about angels and love. You find out at the end of one of the songs that only the children can see the Angel.”
“Wait here, Mommy,” said Morgan, as she ran over to her desk and grabbed her book bag. She then quickly ran back to her mother and pulled out a notebook from her bag and handed it to her.
“I wrote the songs down for us,” said Morgan, “one song is about an Angel watching over a young child but only children can see the Angel. The songs are about love.”
Sally began to wipe the tears from her face and she said to Miss Crone, “those were the songs my father sang to me when I was a little girl. I tried so hard to write down the words to his songs after his death. My mother told me his love would never leave me and I believed her.”
“Where did you get those songs, Morgan? At your nana’s house?” asked Miss. Crone.
“No the nice man sang them to me and he told me to write them down so I did,” said Morgan, “He said the songs are for the children.”
“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Stoner, I will get to the bottom of this and find out who that man is,” Miss Crone said.
“That’s quite alright I know who that man is,” said Sally, “and he can visit Morgan and the other children whenever he wants.”
As Morgan was walking home with her mom, she said, “Mommy that is Pappy that comes to my school isn’t it?”
“Yes it is,” said Sally.
“You are so lucky to have him as a daddy,” said Morgan.
Always With love,
Thomas F. O’Neill
(800) 272-6464
Skype: thomas_f_oneill
Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found at the links below.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Irish Eyes

Hand’s Turn

My late mother became visually impaired when I was a child. So, from an early age I was aware of the hardships of a person who was deprived of the gift of sight. During decades working in public transport I witness, almost on a daily basis, the value of the Guide-dog to those who live in a world of darkness. So it’s wonderful to see that Irish Guide Dogs will receive most of the proceeds from sales of a CD which has been brought out by an Irish sporting legend. Who is he?
If I said “Swindon Town”, “Dundalk FC” and “Portsmouth FC” you’d have a fair idea. And if I threw in “Shelbourne FC” or “Limerick United” you probably wouldn’t need to phone a friend but if I said “twenty caps for Ireland” (even without mentioning “Irish National Team Manager” or “1980 Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland Personality of the Year Award”) you’d know I was talking about Eoin Hand.
You are all well aware of Eoin’s prowess in places as far apart as Limerick, South Africa and Saudi Arabia but have you heard him sing?
His CD was launched by Jimmy Magee in Dublin's oldest pub "The Brazen Head". (Both Robert Emmet and Thomas Moore stayed there.) The pub holds special memories for Eoin as he was born there in 1946. His mother, Monica, ran the pub in the 1930s and '40s. She died in May this year and Eoin recorded “After the Ball” in her memory . It was recorded live in John B Keane's pub in Listowel. It’s produced by another legend, singer/songwriter and Fermanagh man exiled in Kerry, Mickey McConnell.
Eoin says, “My mother had asked through Pauline, my wife, if he could make up a collection featuring me singing some of her favourite songs. This lead to a very enjoyable live recording and sparked the idea to release it to the public for charity.”
The album has fourteen tracks, twelve songs, and two of Eoin’s own recollections “Lessons Along the Way” and “Reminiscences,”in which he proves his love for his mother, his natural talent as a storyteller and his capacity to forgive, (even the “bastard” who de-tuned his banjo on the night of his stage debut when he was twelve years of age.)
Brendan Behan once said that he was a drinker with a writing problem. Well, Eoin Hand is a singer/raconteur who happened to play football. Listening to this born storyteller I couldn’t help wondering if he was still Ireland manager at the time of the “hand-of-frog” would he have had a more colourful comment than Mr. Trapattoni?
Apart from the vocal and instrumental talent the inside sleeve is a collector’s piece. We are treated to a gallery of photographs of Eoin in the company of fellow-celebrities such as Jackie Charleton, Ron Greenwood, the late Luke Kelly and George Best. Eoin (who is not at all impressed by Wikipedia’s revelation that his full name is, Eoin Kevin Joseph Colin Hand) is lavish in his praise of Jim Gornall, Wayne Tarran, David O’ Brien, John O’Brien, Gabriel Fitzmaurice, Richard Casey and others involved in this very worthy project.
Eoin is now living in Moyvane, Co.Kerry and Paddy Coyle, Regional Development Manager (North East), Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, told me, “Eoin has allocated a supply of CDs to St. John's Arts Centre, Listowel, which will be sold locally, for their benefit. All other sales nationwide are for the benefit of Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind.” (On 24th November there was a “Kerry launch” in Saint John’s Art Centre, Listowel, with “The Bomber” Liston and the Sam Maguire Cup in attendance.)

Eoin with Joe Murphy at the "Kerry launch."
Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind relies almost exclusively on voluntary activity and donations for the bulk of its income. Today, 15% of its annual income comes from statutory agencies with the remainder from fundraising activities and donation. Currently, there are 171 working guide dogs in Ireland.
In 2008, work commenced on the €4,5 million redevelopment of the Headquarters in Model Farm Road and Training Centre aimed at increasing the organisation’s capacity to provide services to an increased number of clients. All their services are provided free of charge and they rely heavily on volunteers to support them through fund raising, the raising of dogs, and in many other ways.
They need your help and you are wondering what to get that special person for Christmas. Why not give them a “Hand.”
“After the Ball” is available
(the recommended donation is €15)
from http://www.guidedogs.ie
or lo-call 1850 506 300.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

The Greatest Invention Ever

Back when I was in college, and yes Virginia, they had colleges back then, I had my own radio show. Well, “my own” might be a tiny stretch—it was a course I opted to take called “Radio” because the other choices were calculus, chemistry, or law. I knew I’d pretty much excel at any of those offered curricula, but Radio was offered after 5 PM and even back then I did not believe in mornings, and particularly mornings that involved textbooks. So I signed on because that radio course actually gave credits, and I became a radio personality although I’m not sure anyone ever called me that except me. It was fun. I learned a lot, and I loved (and still love) being on the radio and would almost kill to be able do it again because, and the reasons are obvious, it really doesn’t matter how you look when you’re on the radio. You can be snaggle-toothed, ratty-haired, fetid, and covered with running sores the cause of which can’t be identified, but as long as your voice sounds good, and you can do commercials with some enthusiasm, you’re OK. I so wish I had my own radio show again—I’ve had 3, but luckily never had to learn “the board.” Someone else did that for me. Radio rocks!
But that’s not the point of this column, so just about here I’ll kind of gently segue over to the real subject; safety pins. OK, that was a pretty abrupt segue, but here’s the deal. When I was doing that radio show during my college years, Mr. George, our radio teacher guy, wanted us to interview a large number of people wandering around the campus for Parents’ Weekend about what they thought was the most important invention of the modern world. Some tried to be really brainy, spouting off things like Mr. Einstein’s theory, or maybe trying to be amusing like saying “toilet paper” or “the church key” (ask your grandfather) but one woman (it would of course be a woman) gave the best answer; “the safety pin.” And she was right. The safety pin is probably one of the best inventions ever.
Now be honest; how many of us have been grateful to have found a safety pin when the elastic in our underpants suddenly gave way in the middle of our very first date or as we’re walking toward a lectern? But then this isn’t a column about the badzillions of uses this gizmo has, most of which are in emergency situations; it’s about the history of that small bit of bent, pointed metal. And I’ll bet you’re really interested in the history of the safety pin. Am I right? Well, lucky you, I’m about to provide that.
Nope, sorry, we Americans did not invent the safety pin. It’s thought that the thing was created about 3K+ years ago in Central Europe. It began as a curved wire, probably bronze, with the point exposed which was likely a bit painful when people flew into an embrace, forgetting they were holding their garments together with that sharply pointed bit of wire. Ouch. Something obviously had to be done. Too much blood was letting.
Sumerians had created straight pins made of iron and bone and from their extant writings, they apparently invented the eye in those pins so they could be used for sewing. My second grade teacher, however, taught us that cave people used to thread some sinew, preferably not a family member’s, although maybe, into a sharpened bone with a hole in one end, and with that, stitched skins together, preferably not a family member’s, although maybe. And, some ancient writings on some cave walls somewhere show pierced fish spines for sewing.
Anyway, somewhere around the sixth century BC, Greek people used something pretty close to our safety pins of today. Togas and robes were a bear to keep on, especially on very windy days, so they fastened their robes with belts or ropes around their middles, and on the top of one shoulder with a thing called a “fibula” which until this instant I thought was a bone in the leg or somewhere. Well, the joke’s on me; apparently it’s both. Boy, you sure do learn a lot when you write a column. Anyway, this pin at the shoulders of Greek ladies, was a kind of coiled metal thing which would clasp together with tension and had a spring-open option. Man, you can always count on a smart Greek, right? Lord or Lady Grecian could then stroll with confidence around Athens or wherever Greeks’ favorite stroll areas were, and not be afraid they’d find themselves suddenly dishabille in the middle of something Olympics.
Your Greeks also used straight pins for ornamental jewelry. They could be made of anything valuable; ivory, bronze, and were called “stilettos.” And you thought those were shoes worn by hookers, right? This time the joke’s on you!
Pins were a huge deal way, way back. Always treasured, and in short supply, taxes were levied on the poor (nothing’s changed, right?) so that feudal lords could have money for pins. Pins became so important to people that they were hoarded and therefore became very expensive, so a law was passed that they could only be sold on certain days of the year. Women assiduously saved up their “pin money” so they could buy them on the allowed days. Then the price of pins dropped and “pin money” began to mean a wife’s pocket money, a tiny amount of lucre with which she could only afford to buy pins, because they were now not so important and therefore cheap.
The safety pin with its safety cover at one end began to gain in popularity and in fact became a tidy business for a couple of thousand years but then, uh oh, someone invented buttons, and safety pins as a clothing necessity began to go the way of the buggy whip. OK, maybe not that extreme. We don’t use buggies anymore, but we sure do use pins. I have a treasured collection of old diaper pins I use all the time; to hold my dust ruffle around my mattress, to pin tight my skirt waistbands when I lose weight, (I know what you’re thinking. Be nice.) To pin gloves together. To pin keys together. To pin together the cases on the electric hotpad covers I make that I keep under every chair in my house and in our bed because my feet are blue with cold for 10 months a year. TMI, right?
Just the right size, diaper pin uses are multifold in my home, along with Velcro, fishing line and Duct Tape. But just try to find old diaper pins with plastic shields on their ends anymore. And while you’re at it, try to find the old cloth diapers we used those pins on. Alas, I guess they’ve gone into the buggy whip and ear trumpet museums. But I’m OK. I have squirreled away many precious diaper pins and no one will ever find them. I’ll never share them either, so don’t ask.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
Email LC at lcvs@suscom-maine.net
See her on incredibleMAINE, MPBN,
10:30 AM Saturdays

Whooping Cranes

We stand upon the boat deck
Drifting slowly in the channel
At Aransas
Looking at the birds.

The captain tells us all the facts—
How many birds are here,
How many in the world this year.

They come in pairs or threesomes,
Having flown with mighty wings
Two thousand miles from Canada
To find one final sheltering place
Of all the coastal flats they once inhabited.

Oh, how lordly they do stand!
As tall as many men, regal, white,
Posing upon the marsh as if they still ruled here.

We know that they are fugitives,
Adrift precariously in the present world.
But as other royal refugees have done
They manage yet an air of majesty
Even in perilous times.
©2002 John I. Blair
Dec 2009 Publication in "Pencil Stubs Online"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Eric Shackle's Column

Every dog hath his day__ (English proverb)

Widespread confusion identifying world's oldest pooch

Editors of two of Britain's national newspapers must have very short memories. Five weeks ago the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph splashed a story about a lovable "terrier-mix" dog named Max celebrating his 26th birthday in New Iberia, Louisiana, USA.

"World's Oldest Dog Turns 26," London's Daily Telegraph reported in huge headlines on August 10. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/6001090/Worlds-oldest-dog-turns-26.html But by September 11, having conveniently forgotten about Max, it gleefully ran a story http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/6167492/Dachshund-from-Shrewsbury-may-be-worlds-oldest-dog.html about a 20-year-old pooch in Shropshire, with the headline Dachshund from Shrewsbury 'may be world's oldest dog'.

The rival Daily Mail also ran two conflicting stories: Max the terrier becomes 'world's oldest dog' as he celebrates 26th birthday was the headline on August 11 (click to see some great photos)http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1205517/Max-terrier-worlds-oldest-dog-celebrates-26th-birthday.html#ixzz0QlEX7QoB

By September 11 the Mail too had dismissed Max, boldly (and wrongly) claiming that Otto the 147-year-old British Dachshund is the world's oldest dog. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1212451/Otto-147-year-old-British-Dachshund-worlds-oldest-dog.html (The147 years was based on the mistaken belief that each year in a dog's life equals seven human years, and that Otto is now 21).
The story about Otto was originally posted in his hometown newspaper, the Shropshire Star, http://www.shropshirestar.com/2009/09/09/could-elderly-otto-hold-world-record/ on September 9 under the modest heading Could elderly Otto hold world record?

The two national sheets apparently made no attempt to check the facts, but pumped hot air into the story and told their myriad readers that the comparatively young Otto was indeed a world champ.
In America, the global news organization United Press International (UPI) based in Washington DC (motto: One hundred years of journaalistic excellence) compounded the error by picking up the Daily Mail's Shrewsbury story and posting it in its "Odd News" section, http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2009/09/10/UPI-NewsTrack-Quirks-in-the-News/UPI-11271252618281/ (second item) without checking the facts.

Media around the world (hundreds of them) blithely copied the UPI story without checking its accuracy. A typical example was the Karachi, Pakistan newspaper and online website The Nation, http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Entertainment/11-Sep-2009/147yearold-British-Dachshund-is-the-worlds-oldest-dog

Back in the Unites States, Danny Tyree http://www.marshalltribune.com/story/1569359.html wrote in the Marshall County Tribune, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania: "While folks argue whether Chanel (a 21-year-old dachshund who passed away in August) was really the world's oldest dog, a famous cartoon pooch will turn 40 on Sept. 13.

"Yes, Scooby-Doo and his Mystery Inc. chums (Fred, Daphne, Velma, and Shaggy) are celebrating their 40th anniversary and still going strong in the 'solving supernatural crimes' biz."

Steve Fritz has written an entertaining, nostalgic story in Newsarama http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32744582/ns/entertainment-television/  about the cartoon canine, "the true top dog of animation, a crime-solving man’s-best-friend whose fumbling and meddling has debunked ghost chasers, would-be werewolves and wannabe-witches since he took his first bow on the small screen back on Sept. 13, 1969. Generations of fans know this Great Dane of Saturday morning memories as Scooby Doo."
Scooby-Doo is undoubtedly The World's Best-Known Dog. But for real-life pooches, our money goes on Max as the World's Oldest Dog. He's the max!

* You can see a video of Max and his owner HERE: http://xmangerm.vox.com/library/video/6a00d4141bbfae685e0110160aba58860b.html
Posted by ERIC SHACKLE at 6:59 PM, Friday, September 11, 2009, in his blog, "LifeBeginsAt80" http://lifebeginsat80.blogspot.com/

Click on By Eric Shackle  for author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Fifties And Seventies

Being in one’s seventies, even when being that has happened greatly against one’s will, kind of forces one to look backward a lot. Because after all, let’s face it; in one’s seventies, there’s a whole lot more backward to look at than there is forward. We’ve crested that hill and we really have no choice but to look down. Sometimes. Moi? I rather enjoy looking backward because even tho there are those well- meaning dolts who think it’s riotously funny to shout out on a person’s 70th birthday party “Here’s to 70 more!!” we’re obviously not going to get another 70, and the shouter moron knows that and should be asked to leave. So those of us who have crossed over into our 70s, let’s look back at the good times, and come on, we’ve all had at least a few of them.

The fifties was a fascinating decade, right? We were so dumb back then, just as we’re so dumb now. We did such stupid things. For example, why did women wear those torturous Merry Widows? Remember them? Madonna calls them “bustiers” but we called them Merry Widows, although I can’t think why. Believe me, there wasn’t anything merry about them and maybe widows wore them. I can’t be sure. We’d wear them under certain dresses and within a short time, we were in terrible pain, but remove them? Never! Show the pain? Never! After all, our grandmothers taught us that “it takes pains to have beauty.” They should know. Don’t forget our grandmothers wore excruciating whalebone corsets that completely rearranged their natural born innards, and the whales didn’t much care for them either.

And speaking of pain, how about those strapless scratchy tulle gowns from the 50s? We’d struggle into them, and noticed immediately that when we turned to the left, our gowns turned to the right. Oh how they hurt. And those high heeled satin shoes we got dyed to match? Hurt? You bet, and constantly fretting about getting them dirty or scraped ruined prom night for a lot of young ladies. They could not be redyed.

And while we’re on the subject of sartorial pain, females in the fifties wore girdles. Yes we did. Nasty rubber things with four long ugly garters hanging down, and lest your mind is taking you to places where women wear things like that for reasons other than to have her skirts fit smoothly and her stockings to not fall down, then shame on you. Girdles were murderous, turning every woman’s body, if she wasn’t skeletal and yes, even skeletal women wore girdles back then because their mothers made them, into a muffin with legs. You know, narrower on the bottom, belly fat squeezing out of the girdle’s top. Awful. And those flesh colored (Caucasian of course—apparently African American women didn’t have to wear girdles) Playtex rubber girdles, punched through with air holes where one’s skin puffed out like dozens of flesh peas. Trying to pull them up on a hot humid day was, let us say a challenge quite often resulting in tears, screams and scissors.

And cinching up stockings to those garters—oh my, constantly worrying about those crazy seams that had to be razor straight or women risked a lifetime of shame. I will never forget seeing those poor Godly women leaning over the altar rail taking communion on Sunday mornings, flashing those garters, thigh backs and stocking tops while an embarrassed congregation turned politely away. At least the polite ones did. This awkward discombobulation vanished when women were finally permitted to wear pants in public, and oh phew, in church too.

Bras? Engineered so that a woman’s mammaries were apple hard, sharply pointed and reset to suspend directly off the collarbones. Why did we allow it? I know! Because that’s how movie stars looked. Janet Leigh could quickly punch her way through a thick plywood door without ever touching the doorknob.
We must have been seriously into points in the 50s, because women wore shoes so highly heeled and sharply pointed they could kill a wild pig with one smart kick to the jugular, if they ever found themselves in a place where enraged wild pigs roamed about.

Girls wore their cardigans backward, their jeans rolled up (but only for athletics of course) Peter Pan collars, gold circle pins on those collars, occasionally changed over to button-down collars, plaid skirts, penny loafers, saddle shoes, or tight skirts and black flats, and hair? Bobby pins clamped down onto viciously tight pincurls every single night; it was like sleeping on a pillowcase stuffed with nails, but oh, yes, we thought hard about how it takes pains to have beauty and if our being beautiful meant the occasional loss of blood, well, that’s the way it was. Bermuda shorts with knee socks, plaid belts, stupid bathing caps designed to keep one’s hair dry while swimming. Why? I never got that. Oh I guess it was hoped that all that blood and pain endured by sleeping with a head stabbed full of Bobby pins would somehow be saved by a brutally tight bathing cap, strapped under the chin. All they did was let a bunch of water into one’s ears and hold it there, temporarily deafening the wearer and giving ear doctors a good living. And oh yes, wearing gold and silver at the same time anywhere on the body was a social faux pas and was simply not done and never to be forgiven.

Sex? Everyone feigned big shock about anyone indulging pre marriage, and perhaps a few post. But it was big phony feign which covered big genuine curiosity. Movies, magazines, newspapers, everything talked and wrote about the sin and shame of anyone getting caught in flagrante delicto and while Big Red A’s were no longer compulsory, everyone mentally put them on women who did the deed without a marriage license, or with one but not with her husband’s name on it. Men, even in the fifties, got off scott free. Who’s that lucky dude named Scott anyway? He’s always gets to be free. Abstinence was preached even back then. Didn’t work then, won’t work now, and never will. Purchasing condoms in the 50s was a deeply humiliating experience for a young guy. Sex in the 50s, and as it always has been and always shall be, just would not go away.

Music? Rock and Roll swept across the land, and listening to it was another sin to pile on the growing pile of other sins. Listening to it, gyrating to it, was a ticket straight to hell. Parents and clergy fought the good fight but lost, and life for kids in the fifties joyfully became Grease.

Sundays were church days. Dressing up. No one went to the movies or to town or to anywhere, especially church, unless one was dressed up. Mothers put a huge roast into the oven on her way to church services, so she could come home and spend the Day of Rest cooking, scrubbing pans and pots and washing dishes, but oh the house smelled great when everyone tumbled back into the home after church. Occasionally a house or two would burn to the ground while the family prayed together and their ovens malfunctioned, but not too often.

I’m barely scratching the surface here. Anyone of my vintage could add pages and pages to this column about the mores and habits and styles of that strange decade where things were so rigid, so fake, so break-through, daring and fun. Were things better back then? Nah. Are they better now? Sure, in countless ways. It was the best of times and the worst of times. When isn’t it?

Click on  LC Van Savage  for author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
Email LC at lcvs@suscom-maine.net
See her on incredibleMAINE, MPBN,
10:30 AM Saturdays

The Little Quaker Bear Of The Miami

People who are familiar with Texas history have read the sad story of Cynthia Ann Parker, the girl who was kidnapped by Comanche Indians in 1836, adopted and raised Comanche, married to war chief Peta Nocona, mother to three children, one of them the famous chief Quanah Parker, kidnapped again with her daughter by Texas Rangers, against her will, in 1860, and finally died, of grief and depression, in 1870, her husband violently killed at the time of her capture, her daughter dead of disease, her sons forever kept from her.

I would like to share with you another somewhat parallel, but very different, story from American history, one with a special importance to me because of a connection to my own family’s history. And one, I believe, that illustrates the possible results of following some basic principles of how we humans should live our lives.

In 1774 a girl named Frances Slocum was born in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, daughter of a Quaker family who had lived there since being driven from Massachusetts Bay Colony by persecution for their faith. Drawn by the promise of rich, newly opened land in the Wyoming Valley of the Susquehanna River, near present-day Wilkes-Barre, in 1777 the Slocum family moved to what was then dangerous frontier wilderness, land that, as they soon learned, was in bitter dispute, claimed by both Connecticut and Pennsylvania, and also by the powerful Iroquois Confederation of Native Americans whose villages were located near the headwaters of the Susquehanna.

Even as the Slocum family was relocating, the colonies were in open rebellion from England. Battles had already been fought. And the frontier was not a safe haven from this conflict. The Iroquois and their allies had aligned themselves with the British. The colonists in the Wyoming Valley proceeded to build a series of small forts for shelter and mustered a ragged militia of untrained farmers, old men, boys, and rejects from George Washington’s army, “the undisciplined, the youthful and the aged” as they were later memorialized. A great-great-great uncle of mine was a “captain” in that militia.

In July 1778 attack came. A combined force of British troops, Iroquois, Delaware and other Indians moved down from the north to just above Wyoming. The settlers’ force marched out to attack, but were tricked into an ambush that left many of them dead and the rest in a disordered retreat. Before the fighting and its bloody aftermath were over, many more settlers, including noncombatants, were killed, and the rest were in panicked flight from the Valley.

One family that remained, however, were the Slocums. Frances’ father, being a Quaker, had refused to participate in the fighting and trusted to his peaceful and friendly behavior to protect them from harm. Unfortunately, not all the Indians recognized this trust, especially as one of the Slocum boys was known to have participated in the fight. Later that autumn, in early November, the Slocum farm was raided by a small band of Delaware. A boy staying with the Slocums was killed and Frances, found hiding under a staircase, was taken captive.

Only a month later, in a separate incident, Frances’ father and grandfather were killed as they worked a field. Frances’ surviving family fled for awhile, but returned to their farm when it became possible. And they never forgot her. As soon as they could, her brothers searched for her, but without success. Not until 59 years later did her family finally locate her and learn what had happened to her. And that’s where the rest of the story begins.

As I said, Frances’ story is well-known in American history. Her loss, the decades-long search, and eventual rediscovery, became a part of American folklore. She became “The Lost Sister of Wyoming.” Monuments exist to her memory. Poems were written. Parks and schools have been named for her. Her tale became mythic. But she was a very real person, who lived a long, productive life and made some strong decisions during that life. As I said, my family history touches hers. Not only did the family of my great-great grandmother, Catharine Marvin Baker Reeves, live briefly in the Wyoming Valley during the Revolution, Catharine herself lived for several years just across a small Indiana river, the Mississinewa, from the elderly Frances and may have known her personally. I like to think so.

But what was Frances’ story, and how was she “found” 59 years after disappearing into the wild forests of Pennsylvania, slung over the shoulder of a Delaware Indian, her auburn hair hanging down his back as her mother saw her tear-streaked face for the last time?

After her abduction, Frances was carried miles away, hidden overnight in a cave, then taken many more miles, ultimately as far as the Niagara River area. She was adopted into a Delaware family to be raised as their own daughter, replacing a daughter who had died. She was given the Delaware name We-Let-A-Wash. Her adoptive father, Tuck Horse, who spoke English well from contact with the British, interestingly also made chairs and played the violin skillfully enough to be asked occasionally to play for the local English. Her adoptive mother made and sold brooms and baskets.

During the unsettled times following the end of the Revolution, her new family moved farther and farther away from the eastern colonies, now states in the new country, eventually settling near what is now Fort Wayne, Indiana. Frances was taught a myriad of skills appropriate to her new life – how to cure and sew skins, how to hunt and fish, how to ride a horse, how to live a nomadic life. And she was brought also into the spiritual life of her new people. She became a Delaware in every respect but her skin and hair color and remaining memories of her early childhood.

During her mother’s lifetime the search for Frances was never abandoned. Several times her brothers, and once even her mother, traveled hundreds of miles by horseback through the wilderness, following up on stories and rumors, offering rewards for her return, with no success. Her mother died at age 71 in 1807, still hoping for her Frances to be found.

Years passed. Of her nine brothers and sisters, only four were still living. Then, in 1835, a trader traveling through the Miami Nation country along the Wabash in Indiana was forced to stop for the night at a Miami house. The people there generously gave him shelter and food, as was their custom. He noticed that the eldest of the family, a woman in her 60s who was treated with great honor by the others, had unusually fine-textured, fair hair and pale skin, even white where it was protected from the sun. After the rest of the family had retired for the night, the old lady stayed, asked him to listen and, reluctantly and with much trepidation, told him that she had been taken as a girl from her home on the Susquehanna and raised among the Indians, so long ago that she no longer remembered how to speak English. (He was fluent in Miami.) She remembered her family name, Slocum, and that her family had been Quakers, but not her given name. She had never told anyone before, as she did not want to be taken from her children, grandchildren and friends and the life that she had known for so long; but at this time in her life she was very ill and thought she was dying, so she felt the truth finally should be told or she “would have no rest in the Spirit World.”

On returning home the trader told his mother, who urged him to send a letter to Pennsylvania, advising of his discovery. He did, but through neglect it was another two years before the letter was made public, in a newspaper that found its way into the hands of a friend of the Slocum family. As soon as possible, three very excited members of the Slocum family arranged to travel to visit Frances at her home near Peru, Indiana. They were able to identify her without doubt by a mangled finger, injured in a childhood accident. At first Frances, known among the Miami as Ma-Con-A-Quah, or “The Little Bear,” remained stoically indifferent to their presence.

After a couple of days visiting, she relaxed enough to talk about herself with them; but at their urging her to come back to live with them in Pennsylvania, she firmly refused. She said, “No, I cannot. I have always lived with the Indians. They have always used me very kindly. I am used to them. The Great Spirit has allowed me to live with them, and I wish to live and die with them. Your looking glass may be larger than mine, but this is my home. I do not want to live any better, or anywhere else; and I think the Great Spirit has permitted me to live so long because I have always lived with the Indians. I should have died sooner if I had left them. My husband and my boys are buried here, and I cannot leave them. On his dying day, my husband charged me not to leave the Indians. I have a house and large lands, two daughters, a son-in-law, three grandchildren, and everything to make me comfortable. Why should I go and be like a fish out of water?”

She even refused to go visit her relatives in the Wyoming Valley, saying “I am an old tree. I cannot move about. I was a sapling when they took me away. It is all gone past. I am afraid I should die and never come back. I am happy here. I shall die here . . . and they will raise the pole at my grave, with the white flag on it, and the Great Spirit will know where to find me.” And her son-in-law added, “When the whites take a squaw, they make her work like a slave. It was never so with this woman . . . I have always treated her well.” The older daughter, Cut Finger, added “a deer cannot live out of the forest” and the younger, Yellow Leaf, repeated “the fish dies quickly out of water.”

As a later chronicler of the story commented, “they had found the long-lost sister Frances; they found and left her as an Indian. She worked like an Indian, lived like an Indian, ate like an Indian, lay down to sleep like an Indian, thought, felt, and reasoned like an Indian; she had no longings for her original home or the society of her kindred . . . she could only breathe freely in the great, unfenced out-of-doors which God gave to the Red Man.”

Two years later, in 1839, one of Frances’ brothers, with two of her nieces, again made the journey to visit her. The visit went well; and the nieces kept journals of their conversations and observations that have a woman’s perspective. For example, they comment on the cleanness and neatness of Ma-Con-A-Quah’s household, the excellent food served for meals, and the very fine needlework produced by her and her daughters, at least some of it evidently exhibiting skills she had learned as a small Quaker girl in Pennsylvania, then passed on. The grandchildren they met were named Corn Tassel, Blue Corn, and Young Panther. Ma-Con-A-Quah told them of her early life, moving with her Delaware parents from New York to Ohio, marrying a Delaware named Little Turtle.

But when he went west to war with the Americans (in which he was killed), she had refused to follow. Later, she said, while traveling down the Wabash, they came upon the scene of the very recent and bloody Battle of the Fallen Timbers, with bodies still lying on the ground. But one of the battle casualties was still alive, a young Miami chief named She-Pan-Can-Ah.

They rescued him, nursed him back to health, and Frances married him. Ultimately they had four children: two boys who died in childhood, and the two daughters who were still living with her in her old age. She-Pan-Can-Ah, later known as Deaf Man because of a hearing loss, was good to her and left her a wealthy widow by local standards. When her nieces visited her, she invited them and their father, her brother, to come live with her, as she had plenty of land and goods – even as she had been invited two years prior to come live in Pennsylvania.

The next year, 1840, brought a crisis for Ma-Con-A-Quah and her family. The Miami were talked, or coerced, into signing a treaty that required them to vacate all their lands in Indiana and remove to what is now Kansas. Frances and her children appealed to her Slocum relatives to help them in this crisis; and the Slocums submitted a memorial in her name to the United States Congress, asking them to find a way to make an exception for her and her daughters. The family tradition is that the elderly John Quincy Adams took an interest in the plea and supported it.

Left:  Kick-E-Se-Quah

The result was a special grant of a section of land to Ma-Con-A-Quah’s daughters alongside the Mississinewa and exemption from the requirement to move away. Later, when trouble developed with some of the new white settlers in the area stealing cattle and horses from Ma-Con-A-Quah’s land, she asked for, and got, a Slocum nephew, George, with his family, to come live near her, in 1846, as her advocate and protector. She lived a year longer, to the age of 74, and was buried in March 1847 with a Christian service (since her nephew was a minister); but her grave was marked, by her wishes, with a tall pole bearing a white flag in the Indian manner, “so that the Great Spirit should know where she was.” The grave site was on a beautiful knoll near the confluence of the Mississinewa and the Wabash, by the side of her chief and her children, including Cut Finger, who died four days later of “grief and care.”

A Son in Law

And the principles I believe are illustrated in the story of Ma-Con-A-Quah, “The Little Bear,” and her two families – one Quaker, the other Native American – principles evidently lacking in the story of Cynthia Ann Parker? Both stories begin with two apparently inimical cultures and belief systems clashing violently; but in the older story the two families learned eventually to accept one another’s inherent worth and dignity with equity and compassion, followed their conscience, and used a democratic process instead of violence to find a path to peace, liberty and justice. Perhaps there’s a lesson for some of today’s problems in this story.

And I really, really have to hope that my Indiana ancestors weren’t involved in that cattle stealing!

The book is Frances Slocum: The Lost Sister of Wyoming, compiled and written by her Martha Bennett Phelps for her children and grandchildren; second edition, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; published by the author 1916, copyright 1906 by Martha B. Phelps, Vail-Ballou Company, Binghamton and New York. This is a copy from the Google Library and is prefaced by a statement from Google that the book is in the public domain (i.e., the copyright has expired).

All the portraits are from the book and are copies of original paintings in the possession of the Slocum Family. The painter of the pictures in this article was Jennie Augusta Brownscombe whose early life sounds like the story behind one of her own pictures. Born in a log cabin in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, she was the only child of William Brownscombe, an English-born farmer, and Elvira Kennedy, a direct descendant of a Mayflower passenger, who encouraged her young daughter to write poetry and draw. Brownscombe won her first awards as a high school student, exhibiting her work at the Wayne County Fair. When her father died in 1868, Brownscombe began supporting herself through teaching, creating book and magazine illustrations, and selling the rights to reproduce her watercolor and oil paintings as inexpensive prints, Christmas cards, and calendars. More than 100 of Brownscombe's works were distributed this way, spreading her images into homes throughout the nation.

A prize-winning student at the Cooper Institute School of Design for Women and the National Academy of Design, both in New York City, Brownscombe in 1875 became a founding member of the Art Students League, where she later served on the faculty. Her oil paintings met with immediate success, as both her subjects (sentimental genre pictures and scenes from colonial American history) and her style appealed to prevailing Victorian tastes. Brownscombe studied art in France in 1882, spent the winters of 1886 through 1895 in Rome, and exhibited her pictures there and in London, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. She continued working until virtually the end of her long life, completing her final large oil painting at the age of 81 after recovering from a stroke. I found Jennie Brownscombe's signature on at least a couple more of the paintings and am pretty sure she did all of them. Not surprising, since she was well-known for painting American historical subjects for a popular market and has been referred to as "The Norman Rockwell of her era".

notes by  John I. Blair

©2009 John I. Blair
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Still I Know

I'd like you to tell me your mind
Are you living rough on the outside
Take a ride
Take a train
I'm not sure who is left to blame
Still know this is better than going insane It could have happened before it turned into this
Like a cosmic distraction and a scrape upon my wrist
I'd like you to tell me your story
Do you have any thoughts to help make things clear
Take a ride 
Take a train
I'm not sure who is left to blame
Still I know this is better than going insane
Still I know this is better than losing my brain
©9/10/2009 Bruce Clifford

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At War With Fire

At war with fire
The love you desire
Many different ways
The heart always stays
At war with fire

Feel the raindrops within the touch
Taste the nectar you love so much
Hear the endless crashing of the waves
See how we made it through the darkest of days

At war with fire
It seems to lift you higher
Knowing all the roads
Each and every way to go
All that's left for us to know
At war with fire

©10/12/09  Bruce Clifford

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I like choc'late,
yes, I do. 
I like choc'late,
how 'bout you?

Peanut butter,
choc'late crunch,

I like choc'late,
yumm yumm yummm
©2009  Kaitlyn 


Floating just above the ground,
Pervasive, evasive,
Fog dims lights, hushes sound,
Changes, rearranges
Familiar sights to strange,
Shifts, drifts,
Blurs the common,
Gifts it with grace,
Brushes new luster
On this dull place.
Fog helps me see with acuity
Past the crude face;
For, keenly viewed,
Everything’s a mist,
Intangible and unknowable.
©2003  John I. Blair
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I Think It's True

I think it's true
There's no you without me
There's no voice inside me
There's no reason for us to be
I think it's true
There's no vision ahead
There's no noise in my head
There's no living with the dead

I can't take it when things get this way
All the pushing and pulling stands in our way
Then you call me up as if nothing was ever wrong
Here we go again playing this same worn out song

I think it's true
There's no me without you
There's no deciding point of view
There's no reason to ever be true

I can't take it when things turn around
All the good times have faded when we start another round
Then you call me up as if nothing was ever said
Here we go again playing this story over and over again

I think it's true
There's no you without me
There's no voice inside me
There's no reason for us to be
©10/6/09  Bruce Clifford
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It Doesn’t Compute

The network is down,
No Windows allowed,
No “you have mail” bells.

Technology’s crown
Of which we’re so proud
Now just makes us frown.

An unnatural boon—
There’s no printer hum,
No CPU rush.

Since silence prevails
We exit our cubes
And gather to chat.

We’re slightly annoyed
When technology fails
And our lives have this void;

But only too soon
The system’s back up,
We return to our cells.

©2003  John I. Blair

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Just Casual

The clothes I wear please no one,
Least of all myself.
For while I may be comfortable
Within my skin, there is small comfort
In these tight pants that make scant room
For yesterday’s indulgences,
Held by a belt that hints of bondage,
And but poor grooming in this shirt
With sleeves that shrank
And stop an inch short of my hand.
In fact, were nudity
Not banned, the only garb
I’d bear today
Is none.
©2003  John I. Blair
Click on author's name for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.


I do not term them ties
(Ties sound so constricting),
But links, connecting
Friend to friend,
Lover to lover;
Turning isolates
Into a chain of being.
How precious each day
Just to place a call,
To send a card,
To make a letterbox clink
Or e-mail ring,
To lend ourselves,
Extend ourselves
And touch each other.
I think there is
No trivial way
To do this thing.

©2003  John I. Blair

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Long Ago

I remember when you broke me down
I remember when you came in to town
It started off with us just being friends
Things got tossed and it came to an end
I remember how you tied me in to knots
I remember the bells and the shots
It started off easy as if it was fine
Then things got crazy and ugly followed behind

Now I'm thinking about those days in our past
I'm not sure why this comes to me now or how long it will last

I remember the bench in the park
I remember walking hand in hand in the dark
It started off fine just two kids without a plan
Then one day it was too hard to understand

Now I'm thinking about those days in our past
I'm not sure why this comes to me now or how long it will last

I remember those days so long ago
I thought I forgot them and how they hurt me so.
©10/28/09  Bruce Clifford
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Once again my office place
Has been parsed as cutouts
Regimented on ruled paper;
And for a period no doubt
I'll feel patchy like these outlines.
Perplexed by this nomad mood
I could let it prune my life,
Capitulate to temporality,
Perceive my home away from home
As perennially impermanent.
But instead I find opportunity
To free my self expression,
Empower my personality's expansion
Inside an empty space, convert a void
Into a panorama of myself.
©2004 John I. Blair

Click on  John I. Blair  for author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Sail Squirrel

Speeding to get to work on time,
With a thump-crunch I drove
Over a half-seen object in the street.

Not a minute before I had swerved
To dodge a kamikaze squirrel
Dashing in fear across the pavement.

Soft as I am on furry animals,
I bought an instant menu of remorse
And self-flagellated all the way to Dallas.

To some my pain may seem unjustified,
Uncertain as I was if what I hit
Was bushy-tailed or PVC;

But in a larger sense, such thoughts
Are always justified, as evidence
That I still deem life dear.

©2003 John I. Blair

Click on  John I. Blair   for author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Think of Us

I try so hard
Often that's not enough
I can't go on
When things get so awkward and rough I try so hard
I don't think I'll ever let go
We've gone this far
This is the only way I know
Think of us then
Think of us now
Think of us when
Think of us how
I try so hard
Trying shouldn't have to be so tough
Until the end of time
Or until we've had enough
Think of us then
Think of us now
Think of us when
Think of us how
I try so hard
I don't think I'll ever let go
We've gone this far
This is the only way I know
©10/2/09 Bruce Clifford
Click on  Bruce Clifford   for author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.