Saturday, October 2, 2010

Editor's Corner

October 2010

If you find it in your heart
to care for somebody else,
you will have succeeded.

--Maya Angelou

Still summer here in Texas, but the Fall brings a lot of yearning into focus. Sometimes it is for a change of scene, or a different lifestyle, or that combination in longing for times gone by. Our authors have been bitten by that bug and their various compositions reflect their attempt to put such feelings into words and share them with you.

June Hogue's article is a loving tribute to "Royce" her husband. June wrote me saying, "my husband, Royce, is in a nursing home and has been for going on 3 years. I have rarely missed a day visiting with him and cannot imagine life without him. Yet I know that all good things must end, even our journey together on this earth. Over the years I have wanted to show him how much I have appreciated him and finally, after he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and his memory was beginning to fail, I suddenly felt I had to do something to show him how much I appreciated him while he could still understand things. The attached document tells the story. Royce was an only child and never had siblings to appreciate him. He grew up on a lonely farm and knew nothing but work…no outside school activities like we had, yet he was one of the kindest, most caring and finest gentlemen I ever met. Our two sons have aspired to be like him and that in itself is a wonderful tribute."

Helmer's article updates fans to the Fall Concerts scheduled in Texas. LC Van Savage tips her hat in her column "Consider This."

Helmer is Grilling Mushrooms in "Cookin' With Leo." Peg Jones' "Angel Whispers" discusses the Heart Place. Gerard Meister solves a packaging dilemma with suggestions from son and daughter in his column "Thinking Out Loud."

John I. Blair in "Always Looking" brings up the intriguing founding and history of Liberal, Missouri. Thomas F. O'Neill explains the 'new' Chinese take on spirituality, in "Introspection." Mattie Lennon offers us a look at two recently released Irish books in his column "Irish Eyes."

Before we leave the column's, we want to mention that our friend and author Eric Shackle is currently in a Rest Home and not doing any writing. His interesting articles have added glamour, excitement, awe, and astonishment over the years of our association, and we really miss him and his work. Thank you, Eric.

In addition to Mark Crocker's fourth installment in the Stories section of his "Rabbo Tales," he has a Poem. He explained it "is about My cat Lexi--I wrote about my cat that was one moment acting brave and the next moment she was all fluffed up and scared."

With Crocker's "Oh Pussy Cat," there are 12 poems for October. This issue marks ten years that Bruce Clifford has been publishing his work through Pencil Stubs Online, and he sends the following four: "Be Yourself with Me," "I Don't Believe in Miracles Anymore," "Meant to Be," and "Who's Going to Buy?"

Your editor added her own "Ozark Born and Bred" to the six from John I. Blair: "Breathe In," "Portuguese Man Of War," "Self Aware," "Waiting For Autumn," "Corresponding With JC," and "In Fact, I Am An Island."

Once more, remember you can be a fan for us at FaceBook. The issue appears in the ezine at and also in the blog with the capability of adding comments at the latter.

See you in November!

Click on  Mary E. Adair   for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Doughboys Fall Concerts

Autumn is here.

The smell of gingerbread is in the air, and
Art and The Light Crust Doughboys
are in concert promoting the fab, new album:

"Wills and The Light Crust Doughboys:
80th Anniversary, Together Again."

We'll see you in
Mesquite, Texas and Sunnyvale, Texas
for our biggest shows of the season.

7:30 pm
October 18, 2010

Reservations 972-285-5441 or TICKETS page 
Doughboys Fall Concert
McWhorter Greenhaw Music & Heritage Center
105 Broad Street
Mesquite, Texas 75149
This project is presented by ICREA, Inc.
and supported in part by an award from the
National Endowment for the Arts.

--update by Leo C. Helmer, honorary lifetime member of the Light Crust Doughboys.

Click on  Leocthasme for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Cookin' With Leo

Grilled Mushrooms

OK, so the last days of Summer are here and gone, but are there still some nice days left to be outdoors and grilling to your heart’s content. Well, I hope so an’ whatever I just thought that if that’s the case here is something to add to the grill while the steaks or ribs are cookin’. An’ this don’t take long or take extra time. This is somethin’ that will go along with whatever you are makin’, even hot dogs or hamburgers. Haven’t had no special visits from the figments of my imagination Fairies or otherwise so this is my special snack that will add to the feast of the day, whatever. An’ I’ll just have to call ‘em what they are, Grilled Mushrooms, an’ I love mushrooms in any way shape or style, whichever.

Here is how it’s done:
    Get a pound of Mushrooms, any type
    5 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
    3 tablespoons of butter cut up in pieces
    And salt and pepper to taste
And here is what you do:
Place the mushrooms, garlic, and butter on a large piece of foil. Wrap the ingredients well and place on the grill for about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how hot the grill is and where they are placed, until the mushrooms are tender. Open and add the salt and pepper to taste. And snack to your heart’s content while the grilling is finishing up.
Ice cold Mich or Bud goes fine with this and probably goes well with what’s on the grill too.

Take Care Now, Ya’heah!
An’ Enjoy Them Last Days Of Summer.

Click on Leocthasme for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Always Looking –

Always Looking – The Story of Liberal, Missouri

Not so long ago I wrote a column about the role of religion in the settlement of America, about its central place in much of our history and society. Most American towns have had churches at, or near, their centers.

But not every town.

Liberal, Missouri, is a quiet – almost somnolent – small town in western Barton County. Quiet people – many of them retired – quiet streets. You’d never in a million years think of this as a hotbed of radicalism. Unless you notice there is a street named after Charles Darwin, author of the Theory of Evolution; another named for Robert G. Ingersoll, 19-century freethinker, humanist, and brilliant orator; and a third evidently named for Peter Payne, 15th-century Lollard heretic (follower of John Wyclif), later a Taborite (part of the Hussite movement in Bohemia).

In fact, at its inception, Liberal was an extraordinary social experiment, unique (so far as I know) in America. Instead of being founded as a city of churches, it was founded, deliberately, to be a city without churches – a Utopian city of Freethinkers.

George H. Walser (after whom another Liberal street is named) was a poetry-writing attorney from Indiana. Following Civil War service, he moved to Barton County and set up what soon became a very successful law practice. Having already been a member of a local Freethinkers group in the county seat, Lamar, but finding his beliefs too unpopular there, in 1880 he bought 2,000 acres of prime farmland 17 miles northwest of Lamar and planned an experiment in intellectual community living, along the lines of the New Harmony, Indiana, community of a generation earlier. He wanted a place where atheists could come and live in a churchless – and saloonless – town where people could raise their children without religion, a place where freethinkers could live to their standards of decency and morality in a quiet, unmolested way, away from missionaries and the barrage of religion. Christians were not to be allowed. Liberal was advertised as “the only town of its size in the United States without a priest, preacher, church, saloon, God, Jesus, hell or devil.”

Liberal Sign
“With one foot upon the neck of priestcraft and the other upon the rock of truth,” he declared, “we have thrown our banner to the breeze and challenge the world to produce a better cause for the devotion of man than that of a grand, noble and perfect humanity.”

In harmony with the purpose for organizing the town, a number of unusual institutions, designed to promote the ideal community, were tried in Liberal during the 1880s and 1890s. The first of these was a Sunday Morning Instruction School, where children were taught from “Youth Liberal Guide” and from various works on physics, chemistry, and other sciences. In another class organized for older young people, elementary experiments in the physical sciences were performed under the supervision of teachers whose avowed function was to encourage and direct free, intelligent discussions. An orphanage was begun where Free Thought was the rule. In a structure called the Universal Mental Liberty Hall, lectures were given each Sunday evening, and scientists, philosophers, socialists, atheists, Protestant ministers and Catholic priests were invited to speak – respectable decorum being the only limitation placed upon any speaker. Large, enthusiastic crowds gathered there each week in the interest of mental liberty. The Liberal Normal School and Business Institute was another institution organized by Walser to promote liberal education free from the bias of Christian theology. This school was well-advertised and soon had a large enrollment. According to a tract published in 1885, the Liberal Normal School and Business Institute was “located in the liberal town, taught by liberal teachers and courted only the patronage of liberal patrons.” Out of this organization developed Free Thought University, which opened in 1886 with a staff of seven teachers and a course of study “untrammeled by Bible, creed, or isms.”

Free Thought University

There were actually people at the train station warning Christians that they were not welcome. So naturally some Christians barraged the town on missions to convert the heathens.

Shown above: MoPac depot Liberal, Missouri
Shortly after the city was founded, a Christian by the name of H. H. Waggoner bought a parcel of land to be an “addition” to Liberal for the express purpose of “living unmolested and watching with contempt the doings of their infidel neighbors” and “inducing immigration of Christians who would be strong enough to outnumber the Liberals and defeat the enterprise.” The new, Christian, community was named Pedro. The good (albeit non-Christian) citizens of Liberal (reportedly including even the women) responded by building a big barbed-wire fence to isolate the Christian missionaries.

In spite of the fence, and the warnings, more Christians came, bought homes, and quietly began holding religious services, although Walser more than once managed to put a stop to the services by proving he still had part ownership of property where they were being held, hence the right to control activity there. The services were moved to Pedro. (There still is a street in west Liberal named Pedro.)

People throughout the county, the state, and even other parts of the country, took interest and took sides – mostly the side of the Christians. Unfavorable, and perhaps libelous, articles, pamphlets, and books were written and published. Accusations of rampant drunkenness, divorce, loose morals, and even open practice of birth control, were made. For example, “In no town is slander more prevalent, or the charges more vile. If one were to accept what the inhabitants say of each other, he would conclude that there is a hell, including all Liberal, and that its inhabitants are the devils.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch 1885, in an Op-Ed piece quoting an anti-Liberal pamphlet]

Inevitably, with all the controversy, passionate opposition, and bad publicity, the town’s real estate values and commercial activity suffered and many of the settlers lost their investment. Ultimately both churches and saloons did move in. The Universal Mental Liberty Hall was sold to the Methodists. Walser was converted, first to Spiritualism, eventually, before his death in 1910, to Christianity. The experiment had failed. Only the street names, a few recycled buildings, and some unusual memories were left. Oh, and the cemetery specially designed by Walser in which all the markers are arranged in concentric rings around a central circular space where Walser himself was to have been buried, supposedly to be the first thing resurrected people would see when they arose from the grave. (He was actually buried in Lamar.) Nowadays there are seven churches in Liberal, one for every 100 citizens.

And why do I take interest in this obscure, somewhat bizarre, bit of American history? Liberal, Missouri, is the town where, when I was a boy growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, once or twice a year I traveled with my family to visit my one and only living grandparent, Grandpa Percy. If I gave any thought at all to the character of his hometown, it was to judge it as a conservative backwater where the town generator was turned off at 10:00 p.m. (and we went to bed by kerosene lamps), sidewalks were rumpled expanses of locally molded and fired red bricks stamped “Liberal” (I have a few of these in my garden walk here in Texas), half the shops on the two-block main street were closed and the others looked ready to close, and the closest approach to higher education was the old public school building down the street from Grandpa’s house where to me the main attraction was a big steel merry-go-round and an unusually high, hump-backed, slide on the playground. (See pic of Grandpa Ernest John Percy on the school grounds at bottom of Page.)
The moral to this story is (at least) threefold: (1) the story of America is richly textured, (2) even the sleepiest little backwater can hide a history you would never guess at, and (3) don’t try to start a radical social experiment in the heart of the Bible Belt and expect it to thrive.

© 2010 John I. Blair [with materials drawn from an article at, the article on Liberal in Wikipedia, and personal observation; there is a surprising amount of information on the Internet about Liberal for an obscure country town of 700 population]

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


Thinking Out Loud

Last week my wife and I called our kids in Long Island explaining that we were thinking about taking an aide into the house. Understandably they were both upset and asked what it was bothering us: driving at night; the cooking; taking care of the kids (two grandchildren live with us now, boys - 11 and 14 years old); the stairs (all three bedrooms upstairs), the laundry, the shopping; what?

“No, nothing like that, it’s the packaging.”

“The what?" they asked in unison, "We thought you said, packaging.”

“We did,” I replied. “It’s the packaging.”

“Dad, is this one of your jokes?” my daughter asked.

“No, I know it sounds peculiar, but that new type of blister packaging is murder for us. Last night mother – who’s fighting a bout of vertigo, as you know – took a sleeve of Dramamine upstairs. She figured if she got up in the middle of the night and was dizzy, she would take one or two of the pills and make it to the bath room.”

“Sounds easy enough,” my daughter said.

“Well, it wasn’t that easy. Seems that the plastic cocoon holding the pill was some sort of space-age material and mother couldn’t pry out the pill. She had to get out of bed, find her heavy-duty scissors and during the procedure had to cut the pill in half to get it out. She was very upset.”

“But, Dad," my son the logical lawyer asked, “what’s that got to do with having an aide in the house?”

“Okay, so I was venting to give you an idea of the problem, but in the morning I had to open a blister pack to get a new tube of dental floss and couldn’t handle it. As I was wrestling with tearing open the package I lost my grip on the floss dispenser, which fell on the floor came apart. So I had to ask Mother for a hand because I couldn’t get the spool to unravel.

Mother, as you know is very handy and keeps a pair of needle nose pliers in her jewelry box to cope with balky clasps. So between the pliers and a tweezers she got the floss started for me. See what I mean.”

“No, not really, Dad, but hooray for Mom,” my daughter said.

“Okay, second the motion,” said my son. “But it won’t solve the problem, Dad. You and Mom don’t need an aide; you need some decent tools in the house.”

“Oh, yeah sure, counselor, what would I need besides a blowtorch and a bayonet to make it through the day?”

“Dad, look,” my smart, sensitive daughter answered. "We know you can’t handle complex tools like a saw or a pair of pliers, but maybe …….”

“I got it, I got it,” my son shouted into the phone. “How about a Swiss Army knife, that’s a tool that even boy scouts can use and it's got everything.”

“Gee, I never thought of that,” I said. “I always wanted one since I was a kid; has a can opener and everything.”

“Yeah, that’s great, Dad,” my daughter said. “You can open a can of beans if you’re stuck on the trail, but one more thing – buy two knives, Dad. One for Mom.

Epilogue: In truth, I never bought the Swiss Army knife, but I did buy another pair of needle nose pliers to keep downstairs so mother wouldn’t have to run upstairs for her pair when she had to help me with something.

Click on Gerard Meister for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Angel Whispers

It’s one-day before publication and my angels have not revealed to me what they want me to write for this month’s Pencilstubs ezine. Therefore, as I am writing this I am asking my angels what they would like me to write about. Nothing like being late for a publication.

Finding Our Heart Place

I have been hearing the word heart, or heart place or even heart space.

We all have a heart that is working in keeping us alive each moment we are on earth. There is also the abstract heart place, where everything is positive and we feel much love. We all have this heart place too. Now not everyone acknowledges this place because some choose not to accept this place.

Let me tell you about this heart place. It is a place where we can go to at anytime that is deep within the core of our being and we can feel many different emotions. This is where peace, clarity, serenity, calmness, pure intention, and love are. In the heart place, you come to when you are in need of some comfort. This is a place where you go when you are in meditation or doing yoga. It is a place where clarity is clearly a reality. It is a place where the angels guide us through their messages and where we are at one with the universe.

Sometimes it takes a while to find our heart place. This is because we may feel anger, resentment, loathing, jealousy or hatred. It may also be hard to find this place because we are heavy into addictive substances, which numb our true selves. However, we can ask for help from others who want to help us to heal and from the universe where the angels and our higher power are.

There is such a relief to have found this heart place once we realize there is such a place that exists. When we find this place, we feel love and feel loved. We feel the bright light shining deep in our heart place. It is as if the light switch of love has been turned on and we once again feel alive again. How great is that?

The heart place is where our true authentic selves are. The heart place is found when a wakeup call has occurred or when positive changes want to be made. When healing has occurred then we find our heart place. At first, it seems quite impossible to know that place exists, but our heart opens up and we feel the love and the brightness of the heart place. A place we do not want to leave.

Trust and know that this place exists… you will feel the strength and the power of the heart place. We should ask our angels or our higher power for help in finding the heart place. They will speak softly to us and you will hear their message. It will be a new day for you and will be in a good place, as you shine bright light to all you meet. 

Click on  Peg Jones  for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Breathe In

And with each breath
Think “I exist.”
Think ”bird,” think “shell,”
Think any simple sound
To ride the rise and fall
Of my hot chest.

But think it
Brain and bone,
Sinew, cell,
Till “I” winks out,
No longer bound
By breath at all.

©2005 John I. Blair

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


This is another poem I wrote that I would like to share with you. Every year on Royce’s Birthday he asks me to read it to him again. It was truly written from my heart under a sudden inspiration (as most of my stuff is) late on the Saturday night before Royce’s birthday on Sunday. To know Royce and his background is to understand the poem. Royce was the only child of very poor share croppers. But they were staunch Methodists, steeped in the Bible and in church history. They instilled their Christian faith and love of the church in Royce from the time he was a little boy. To understand the poem you have to know the background. There is more to this story which is a story in itself that I will add later and you will see how God brought us together in a very unusual way….I saw Royce in a dream one night almost 3 years before I met him and when I met him the first time, I knew beyond any doubt that it was the man I had seen in my dream.

One year on Royce's birthday I wrote a poem for him. To understand it we must share some background with you.


It was Saturday night and I wanted to do something special for Royce’s birthday when suddenly I had an inspiration to write and I quickly wrote this poem. Then a plan as to what I was going to do begin to formulate in my mind. The next morning in our Sunday School’s Departmental Assembly I asked to speak and I explained that it was Royce’s Birthday and I wanted to share something with them, but that I needed to set the stage for it. First, I told a little bit about Royce’s background---how in those early years of the Great Depression, Faye and Howard Hogue, a young newlywed couple expecting their first child, suddenly found themselves with no money and no place to go. Although Howard’s parents were poor sharecroppers struggling to make ends meet, they generously offered to take the young couple in and welcomed them with open arms. Howard helped his father on the farm while Faye anxiously awaited the birth of the baby.

It was a very cold winter night on those high plains of West Texas when the baby signaled that his arrival was imminent. The radiator in the old Model T car was frozen and they had to take time to boil water and thaw the radiator before they could crank the engine to start the motor, but eventually, they got the old car started and frantically made their way to the doctor in Brownfield as quickly as the old Model T would run. Soon thereafter, Royce Lynn Hogue presented himself to them. His proud parents and doting grandparents returned to their drafty old farm house where Royce became a major diversion from the cold bitter winter that engulfed those high plains of West Texas. As there was no work to be had they all lived together until Royce was 4 years old. Howard helped his father with the crops and did other odd jobs that became available until they could finally afford to get their own place sharecropping at Meadow, a small settlement close to Brownfield. Though Royce knew only poverty as a child, he basked in the love showered on him both by his parents and his grandparents and those early years molded him into the wonderful person that he became. I must give credit to those fantastic Christian parents and grandparents for instilling in him a solid foundation of character building, honesty, thoughtfulness and kindness beyond measure.

As I spoke Royce sat very still, astonished and speechless while I continued. After telling about Royce’s early years, I explained that I had written something especially for Royce on his birthday and now that they knew what it was all about, I wanted to share it with them. . . . .and so. . . . I read the poem. When I had finished there was a stillness as Royce tried to absorb what had happened. The somber look on his face told it all. Gradually the room came alive with congratulatory messages from all and many questions to answer. Royce was simply overwhelmed by the moment and I had that warm feeling inside that I, with God’s help, had accomplished what I set out to do. . . .to Honor Royce on his birthday.

Today I feel so fortunate to have had the privilege of traveling life's journey with Royce as my wonderful companion, my soul mate and my husband for whom I am eternally thankful to God for a match truly made in Heaven. This poem is dedicated to him.

To Royce

February 19, 1996

Somewhere in the great and vast Domain of Infinity
God searched for that certain man He wanted to send to me.
He looked over every prospect in order to select the very best,
Because He knew the journey with me would be an arduous test;
For I was picky and hard to please (even “fickle” some chose to say).
They said I “asked too much and set my sights ‘a little higher’ each day”.
But God kept searching for He needed a very particular special soul---
One with compassion, kindness, patience beyond measure, a joy to behold.
At last He found him and then, perhaps for His own pleasure and delight,
He decided to reveal him to me in a special vision one wintry night.
I had gently drifted into peaceful slumber when a lovely dream came to me
I saw a man unlike any other I’d met—as plain as it could be!
And a voice said “This is your beloved—the man who will take you as his wife”
And in that instant I knew I had met him—that gentle stranger was God’s chosen companion for my life.
So I waited in quiet assurance a year, two years and finally three
Then quite suddenly YOU appeared and that dream became reality.
Side by side through the great Chasms of Time we came--
Always together through sunshine and rain.
And now that we’ve come full circle again and your birthday’s here
There’s something I’d like to say that simply won’t wait another year.
We’ve been together well over forty years, so I think I know you very well.
I can testify about your character and, believe me, there’s lots to tell!
I’ve never known you to lie or cheat or steal—you’re far too brave for that.
You’ve always kept your promises and generously gave your share whenever anyone passed the hat.
You’ve given so much love and kept so little for yourself
You’ve become a family legend with your picture adorning many a shelf!
They all point and say “That’s our favorite brother—Thanks to Sis
Who married him and brought him home to Mother.”
What more can a family say—he’s a jewel, one of the finest of stones,
God loving – God fearing – God dwelling in the very marrow of his bones.
Today I want to bless you—for all the wonderful things you mean to me.
I bless the day that you were born—surely angels must have sung your Lullaby
As a jubilant blast from Gabriel’s Horn set the stars to dancing in the sky.
I bless your mother whose heart must have nearly burst with pride
As she gazed upon the tiny infant she’d borne while still a first year bride.
I bless your father who sensed the awesome task and responsibility
Of raising a son in those Great Depression years and coping with a life of harsh reality.
I bless the memory of your parents who molded you into the man you grew to be.
I bless your wonderful grandparents who opened their home without reservation
Who gave to you their unconditional love and shelter from the economic crisis that gripped the nation.
I bless the great Chain of Events that God included in the plan He’d done…
That early nurturing, that Bridge in Time that brought us together as one.
I bless you for being a father so fair, so caring and kind---
I bless you for being the fulfillment of all the dreams I left behind.
I bless you all the days of your life though Time may take its toll,
For even the Angel of Death cannot obscure the beauty I see hidden deep within your soul.
And when before the Judgment Bar we stand at Eternity’s Rim
I know I’ll hear the Father’s voice echoing through the Corridors of Time
“I Find No Fault in Him.”
Happy Birthday, Honey,
I love you….For Time and Eternity
Your loving wife,

Click on  June Hogue for bio and list of othe r works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Corresponding With JC

JC won’t take shit from anybody;
He’s chilling, sitting under his tree
Writing me a letter.

Hallway fans just blow
Hot air round the cellblock;
Outside’s the only place to be.

JC needs an orthopedic boot,
Something to ease his injured foot,
So he’s asking my help again

In careful big block printing,
Words misspelled here and there,
But mostly straight and clear.

“Don’t mess with the assistants;
Talk right to the Man,” he says;
“That’s the only way to go.”

I’ve corresponded with JC
More than half a year
And nothing new has happened.

His relatives won’t speak to him;
His doctor won’t believe him;
His wife withholds his son.

But he keeps up his hope,
He keeps on chilling,
Keeps on writing me.

Three years to his next hearing
He gives me his blessing
And says “Talk right to the Man.”

©2005 John I. Blair

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

In Fact, I Am An Island

In fact, I am an island,
One no man can ever touch
But instead will only see,
Like Bali Hai, obscure,
Immured in mist.

For my part I only spy
In the encroaching fog
A ship or two sail by
That never turns about
And tacks to bay.

Most days my island’s calm;
But there are hours of storm,
Of gale or hurricane,
That scour my shore away;
And then comes restless night.

©2005 John I. Blair

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

Oh Pussy Cat

Oh pussy cat oh pussy cat what did you see.
Did you see that other cat that was so fat?
Oh pussy cat oh pussy cat what did you see.
Did you see that tree with that fat birdie?
Oh pussy cat oh pussy cat what did you see.
Did you see that dog looking at me?
Oh pussy cat oh pussy cat what did you see.
Did you see that rabbit playing near the tree?
Oh pussy cat oh pussy cat what did you see.
Did you see that squirrel in the tree?
Oh pussy cat oh pussy cat what did you see.
Did you see that rat looking at me? Pussy cat pussy cat where did you go?
Did you go up the tree?
Pussy cat pussy cat where did you go?
Did you go chasing on the grass?
Pussy cat pussy cat where did you go?
Did you hide under the tree?
Pussy cat pussy cat where did you go?
Did you hide up in the tree?
Pussy cat pussy cat where did you go?
Did you sneak off into the tall grass?
Pussy cat pussy cat where did you go?
Did you hide in plain sight?
Oh pussy cat oh wussy cat why are you scared?
Is it because that other cat is so fat?
Oh pussy cat oh wussy cat why are you scared?
Is it because of that big fat rat?
Oh pussy cat oh wussy cat why are you scared?
Is it because that birdie is so huge?
Oh pussy cat oh wussy cat why are you scared?
Is it because that dog looking at me was a coyote?
Oh pussy cat oh wussy cat why are you scared?
Is it because that squirrel in the tree as shaper claws than thee?
Oh pussy cat oh wussy cat why are you scared?
Is it because that rabbit popped into a hat and knew where it was at?

©Tuesday, September 14, 2010 Mark W.D. Crocker

Click on By Mark Crocker for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Ozark Born and Bred

Springs, creeks, and branches
Into Elk River flow
As on past Pineville
That tributary does go.

Big Sugar and Little Sugar
Creeks circled some land
Where strong old grape vines
Bound trees within their strand.

And you could cross at the ford
If the water was low,
Or else across the Swinging Bridge
You would have to go.

The longest of its kind
With steel cables strung
And a walkway of planks
Upon the lower ones hung.

Moma told us of crossing with
Young brother on her hip
Walking barefoot on the cables
Where the boards did slip

We took Moma back though
Sixty years had gone by
No egress to the island
At least that we could try.

Great-Grandma's farm also
Was posted "do not Trespass"
And we weren't even able
To picnic on the grass.

Along the highway
Outside of town,
An Adult Book Store
Made Moma frown.

When sister told her
It likely sold porn
I thought to myself
What a place to be born

Such decadence would
Not have been seen
When I lived there
While yet a pre-teen

The old folks are likely
'Rollin' in their graves'
And I'm glad that I can't
Hear their rants and raves.

That the residents now
Allow such a wicked display
Made me wonder if anyone
Had tried to say 'nay'

Pineville is nestled
Down from the road
Where lumber was once hauled,
Yes, many a load

There are hills with maple
And black walnut trees
Punctuated with shale bluffs
In perpendicular degrees

Caves and wooded hollers,
That's valleys, you know,
Offered good hiding spots
For the outlaws to go

For these are the Ozarks
Where Jesse did roam
And his brother often stayed
At the Younger's home

Kinfolks to me it's true
On my Daddy's side
And these are the hills
Where they did hide.

The first Jesse James movie
Was filmed in Pineville
And the ASPCA was begun
Because of the great 'horse kill.'

Forty were sent jumping
From the bluff--
Killing so many to get
Success was rough.

Townfolks who hired out to stroll
And other things extras do,
Included some of my grandparents
And great-grands, too.

The house I was born in
Seems very small now
Partly because the barn
Is all gone, I allow.

Grandmother tithed her garden
A tenth saved for all
The visiting preachers
Who came to call.

Yes, I was truly
Ozark born and bred,
Yet I wasn't reared there
But in Texas instead.

I'm forced to wonder
Looking back today
If rather than off to Texas
In Pineville we did stay

Would I maybe be
A different me
Cupped within hills
Instead of horizon free.

For here you can glimpse
The mountains 200 miles away
So for now, I'm glad that
In Texas we did stay.

©September 2010 Mary E. Adair
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Portuguese Man Of War

Blue jellyfish land
At Port Aransas,
Blown ashore here
By winter gales.

Their sacs pop
Under car tires
Or silently deflate
From sharp beaks.

Far from Kansas,
I speculate if
My own smear
Would stain sand.

©2004 John I. Blair

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Self Aware

Our worst,
Our best as species,
Is that we’re self-aware;
And this blessed curse
Has led to all the rest.
©2004 John I. Blair

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Waiting For Autumn

I’m waiting for autumn.

Dusk incrementally arrives
Earlier every evening.

Sudden, unfamiliar rain has flushed
Red oxbloods and lycoris radiata
From dry dirt where they hid all summer.

Grackles, white-winged doves
In ever-growing flocks
Feed beneath our windows
Where I spread sunflower seed.

And this very week the dawn arrives
When day and night come even,
Holly gains ascendance over oak,
Cold over heat, dark over light;

But dread never, ever, over hope.

©2010 John I. Blair

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Consider This

I Tip My Hat To You!

Hats, glorious hats! I just love them. No, not the baseball caps on the heads of everyone today, especially on men in restaurants, but that’s another column. I simply love hats!

One of my biggest regrets is that for me, an ardent hat lover, wearing them is a cruel joke. I have practically no neck and whatever one inch neck is there is now festooned with wattles anyway and hats accentuate that accursed wattlage, so I don’t wear them.

Ah, but this isn’t about wattles, it’s about hats. When I was growing up in the fifties, women wore crazy hats and rarely for warmth. They wore them to church, shopping, to have tea, to the city, to everywhere. We were all just beginning, back then, to realize it was wrong to slaughter the world’s glorious birds to near extinction just to get their feathers for hat ornamentation the way women did in the days of long skirts and bustles. No. Back in my day, fake flowers were used on milady’s hats, fake fruit, veils, lace, gauze, beads, velvet —everything. I wonder why ladies felt the need to decorate their heads so much. I’ve never been able to figure that out, but it honestly looked ever so cool! And in some cases, rather Carmen Miranda funny. (Look it up.)

But I’m still not answering the question as to why people, women mostly, wanted to adorn the tops of their skulls with gewgaws and stuff and impedimenta. Maybe because they thought it gave them queen like airs?? Some kind of cranial mating ritual? Who knows? But oh, how I used to love staring at lady’s hats. I wish women still wore big, interesting, gaudy hats but I guess they’d be just an annoyance now and an outrageous expense, too.

Are there any milliners left in the country? Coco Channel was a milliner before she made those women’s suits with the four pocket jackets, right? I’ll bet her hats were fabulous. And wasn’t there a milliner in the Alice in Wonderland book? A mad hatter? Yeah. No. He was a haberdasher. They make men’s hats, right? Want me to tell you where the word “milliner” comes from? Way back in ’29, that’d be 1529 Milan, Italy used to be big in the ribbon, gloves and straw business. Haberdashers back then were guys who made guy clothes. Anyway, they imported those great straws to make hats so the straws were called Millaners, from which came, yes, milliners. I love trivia.

Men wore hats all the time too back in the early years of the 1900s, kind of watered down versions of Indiana Jones’s. All men wore them ---were they called fedoras? I think so. Creased in the crowns. No one wore baseball caps back then unless they were playing baseball, and they were always worn bill-forward, unless you were the catcher.

Men’s dark grey fedoras were changed to straw skimmers in the summer months. Look at old photos from the 1930s and you’ll see what I mean. Hats everywhere. And while you’re looking at those old photos, go on back a few more centuries and study the paintings from the dark ages. Those people wore slammin’ hats, funny looking and probably not practical, but unique, weird, decorated, snobby, oddly shaped and impractical. But maybe warm or something. King Henry the VIII’s hats didn’t make much sense but the castles were probably cold and damp, so since much of the body’s heat shoots out of uncovered skulls, Henry’s headgear helped with that, although probably didn’t do much for his gout. And remember those tall pointed hats women wore with veils swaying from them? What was up with them? And what about the gigantic hats women wore at the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s. Women squished their waists in so tightly their organs were damaged, they wore tight high button shoes, big cages on their backsides, big puffed sleeves, loads of petticoats, and gigantic hairdos on top of which they pinned enormous platters onto which were sewn or glued dead birds and dead other things, ribbons, tulle, strings of pearls, fur, extra feathers, fake flowers and the kitchen sink. So it could be said that women back then suffered horribly for their perception of beauty.

Then in the 1920s, women decided to give up all that non-productive pain, they rolled their stockings down, showed and rouged their knees, shortened their dresses by 2 feet and loosened them, burned their corsets and bobbed their hair so those huge, magnificent hats covered with baubles and dead creatures could not stay in place anymore. Thus the hats became tight cloches which must have done a lot for the shampoo industry.

I once asked a man of the Episcopalian cloth persuasion why women had to wear hats to church and men didn’t. Didn’t seem fair. He told me that it came from the fact that women church-goers many years ago on Sunday mornings wore hats to make it clear that they were not prostitutes. Prostitutes, the good father told me, wore their hatless hair long, enticing men to have unchurchly thoughts in their pews with their heads bowed low. Thus, he told me, morally superior women wore hats back then to separate good wives and good women from the working girls. True? Who knows? Great story, though.

Head covering was invented by our foremothers in caves to keep the ice, snow and rain and maybe even the sun from hammering at their skulls, along with protecting them from falling rocks, parasites, creatures with large teeth, and clubs. The elements and life itself back then was pretty harsh on those early anthropoids, so head coverings helped. I wonder if they began to be decorated back then, maybe with a bit of bone perhaps, a few colorful weeds, maybe a couple of dried newts, several teeth from last night’s dinner, a handful of woven worms, a little fresh dung for leaving lingering memories, and a couple of sinews to keep it all tied in place. I’ll bet those cavers got into competition over their headgear just as women do on Fifth Avenue during the Easter Parade, or at the Royal Ascot horse races in England or the Kentucky Derby right here in the US of A. I’ll wager those people in caves began to adorn their headgear way back before BC was BC and started this whole fancy hat craze.

Plumes on hats, both for men and women, seemed to be some kind of status symbol. You had plumes, you were somebody back in the day, yet another hat mystery, but the plume business was a big one and guess what plume CEOs were called back then? Yep, plumassiers. And back in the Edwardian times, only beggars went bareheaded so I guess if you didn’t want anyone to know you were a beggar, you got yourself a smart hat.

The hat has got such a fascinating history and I wish I had the space here to write about all of it. So many styles; cap, bonnet, cowboy, hood, pillbox, Panama, yarmulke, sombrero, wimple, stovepipe, bowler, derby, beret, fez, toque, pith, dunce, beanie, porkpie, babushka. Hats are uniforms for the head and so tell a lot about a person. Wear one! Do it for me and the rest of the world’s neckless wonders. My hat’s off to you.

Email lc at
See her on “incredibleMAINE”
on Saturdays at 10:30 AM on MPBN.
Click on author's byline for bio.


Spirituality, a growing interest in China

I recently read a survey that was conducted in China in 2006 it measured the religious beliefs of the average Chinese people. The survey was conducted in five major cities in China and it revealed that 69 percent of people who took the survey consider themselves Buddhists.
Buddhism is the fastest growing religion in China. However, most of the Buddhist practitioners do not conceder Buddhism as a religion but rather a system of thought or Spirituality.

I have learned that the Chinese Government does not look at this resurgence in Buddhism as a threat. On the contrary most of China’s government officials understand the importance spirituality has on society. It provides the Buddhist practitioners with a deeper meaning and purpose in life.

The economic growth in China is providing people with more leisure time and a growing number of the Chinese are using that time for self-enrichment and for exploring spiritual matters. I found this to be intriguing because growing up in America I was told that China is a godless country. It wasn’t until I moved to China that I learned there is freedom of religion here and like America the Chinese government does not endorse one religion over the other.

The Chinese people have the freedom to worship as they please as long as they don’t use their religious freedom to organize against the Chinese government. Before moving here I was told the majority of the Chinese are atheists that statement is far from the truth. The majority do however view Christians as living in a superstitious mindset that does not necessarily make non-Christian believers atheists.

Many of the Chinese youth are turning to Buddhism as an intellectual pursuit - a way of exploring their spirituality. They are also searching for deeper meaning on their path in life. Most Buddhist make a distinction between religion and spirituality. In the west if you tell someone you are non-religious you will find yourself being labeled an atheist. Christian Fundamentalists in America have labeled China an atheistic godless country due to the fact that the majority of China are non-Christian Buddhists.

There is a growing concern among government officials here in China about the western cultural influence on China’s youth. They fear that as China’s economy continues to grow people here will become more, materialistic, and greed driven - with a winner takes all type of mindset. This stands in total contrast of the Chinese Government’s socialist philosophy.

People here certainly have more disposable income and the youth are getting caught up, for the first time, in the media glitter. We in the west have been exposed to the pop culture for generations now but China is beginning to see the negative effects of the western materialistic mindset.

Many Government officials in China have a naiveté belief that the popularity of Buddhism will somehow restore a balance in their society or place the Chinese genie back in the bottle. They desperately want the Chinese youth to understand the important role that they as individuals have on society as a whole. In other words their individual development is codependent on China’s national development. They are hoping the Buddhism of old will help the current and succeeding generations understand that Spirituality is not centric. It should not lead a person to be purely self-centered or looked upon as simply an intellectual pursuit. True spirituality should lead towards civic responsibility making our society in which we live a better place.

China, however, has been placed on fast forward for the past decade and many here are trying desperately to hold on to the traditions of old. They are seeing some of their traditions being discarded, and swept away by the media driven youth. There is also a huge gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have not’s.’ There are millions of people here who have very little in terms of the materialistic toys of the wealthy and the growing middle class. This dichotomy in China is also a concern among the government officials they want desperately to spread the wealth to raise the standard of living for everyone.

The officials here feel it’s the government’s responsibility to prepare their youth for a better tomorrow through education, moral, and ethical character building. They believe it’s also their civic responsibility to see to it that their nation as a whole is on the right path in order to enhance the lives of the many rather than the few.

I mentioned in one of my classes that it's also the parents responsibility to be their children's roll models rather than relying on the schools and government to put the polices into effect in order to mold and produce future leaders.

The Chinese also understand implicitly their economy is co-depended on being a major competitor on the global stage. Most people in China already understand the position China has on the global market. They can also see the road China is on towards global economic dominance.

China is far from being a perfect country but no nation is because nations are made up of human beings. In all societies there are people with severe character flaws. We as American’s witnessed those character flaws in many of our corporate heads. They savored huge bonuses while their companies were being driven into the ground by shear greed.

China, on the other hand will continue to grow as an economic superpower and more people will economically prosper. The divide between those who have ‘much’ and those who have ‘less’ will continue as well because greed is part of the human fabric.

The Wall Street bailout in America was due to corporate greed and most of our national struggles are due to greed. While the middle class in America is shrinking due to economic hard times. The middle class in China is growing exponentially due to profit-sharing. Most companies in China are doing well and everyone in the companies in China profit from the corporate wealth. Profit-sharing is intricately woven into China’s economy. China understands the profit-sharing system all too well because it’s part of the socialist model.
One of the fears China has over its growing wealth is that people will continue to want more. This will drive people to become more ego-centric. The government’s fear is that in time as people begin to prosper more they will have less concern for societies greater good. That is why the China government is encouraging Buddhist interests among China’s youth. They want the youth to grow in knowledge whereby they put the needs of society before their own wants.

The growing economy in China has become the government’s means to enrich society as a whole. They fear however that in the future it may become a means to enrich the few on the backs of the many. That is what we in America have witnessed time and time again. China feels they can learn from America’s mistakes and misfortune.

The question that some Chinese economists are asking,
    Will greed become an intricate part of China’s developing future, economic growth, and wealth?
I say only time will tell.
Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill
Phone: (800) 272-6464
China Cell: 011-86-15114565945
Skype: thomas_f_oneill
Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found on his award winning blog, Link:

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Irish Eyes

Irish Eyes

Words on Wheels

I'm but a poor cobbler that dwells on the Coombe
As good as they're made I safely presume
I frown not for riches nor seek not the "dole"
I'd rather be striving to save your poor sole. From early till late for to patch and repair,
I toil the whole week yet never despair,
On Sunday I'm off like the good sport I am
For a bonafide stunt on the Blessington Tram.

Above: Blessington Tramway logo.
In the mid nineteenth century a railway link between Dublin and Blessington was mooted by the "well-off" of both places.
In 1871 the Westminster Parliament passed the Light Railways Act which gave power to companies, through their local authorities, to run steam trams on public roads. The Terenure to Blessington tramline was laid and was ready for operation in 1888.
During its forty-four years of operation the Blessington Tram was the stuff of legend, folklore and tragedy. So numerous were the pedestrian fatalities that the road from Terenure to Blessington was known as "the long graveyard."

The last tram left Terenure at 06:15P.M. On Sunday 31st December 1932. 

Now retired butcher, enththusiastically historian and Blessington native Aidan Cruise has written a comprehensive account of the famous "Blessington Tram." There is a collection of black-and-white photographs dating from 1888. Through painstaking research over a number of years Aidan has accumulated a collection of stories, anecdotes, poems and legends from old people who remember, and a younger generation, to whom the tram lore has been handed down.
Mary McNally has vivid memories of when the tram-stock was sold off and her uncle bought two carriages to make a hen-house and a piggery.

Pat O'Neill tells of his sister's confirmation and the long walk from Cookstown to Tallagh to get the tram. 

"The Dublin and Blessington Steam Tram" edited by Jim Corley, with an introduction by Mick Duff, Mayor South Dublin County is available (Price€10) from; South Dublin Library Headquarters, Unit 1, Square Industrial Complex, Dublin 24.
It Happens Between Stops is a collection of short-stories, articles, essays, poems and a play written by employees and former-employees of the CIE group of companies. In the foreword written by American novelist Lawrence Block he says, "It Happens Between Stops is a splendid, selection of CIE literature. The quantity and quality of work produced by this group, taken from a workforce of a few thousand people, would do credit to a city of many millions."
There is something for everyone in this collection. Here’s a small sample:

Autumn Day
By Cathy Hickey

I am walking in the woods,
The Autumn wind takes the leaves from the trees,
They fall around me
And crunch beneath my feet.
I watch them dancing on the wind
And think of You.
You would wonder at this,
The sound of the river rushing by,
Breathing the sweet crisp air.
Absorbing the warmth of colour,
Enjoying the sight of a young squirrel
Busily preparing for Winter,
At the base of the magnificent old tree,
Simplistic, yet so complex,
This cycle of Life…….Nature…..
It saddens me to think, yet again,
You are missing this moment.
Then it occurs to me that you are not,
Because you are here, walking with me.
Sharing this joy !!!!!!!
(Cathy Hickey © published in "It Happens Between Stops.")


"The Eclipse on the Cheap”
By John Bolton

The morning news had a full load of Concorde passengers who had paid some £2,000 for a figure of eight over Tenerife to see the eclipse. This way you got to see it from both sides of the plane twice.
For me, I loaded up my single decker to go to Dalkey. I got to Booterstown when I got this eerie feeling. I noticed the light change, but before I pulled back into the traffic, I noticed the start of the eclipse in the dark glass sun visor. The time was spot on between 11.18 and 11.22.
While watching this, an elderly lady asked if I was OK.
I replied, “It’s the eclipse, do you want to see it?”
She and all the rest queued up the centre aisle to see this from the drivers’ seat. I got a great round of applause at 11.25 when it was all over.
I would be barking up the wrong tree to stick them for £2,000 each.
(John Bolton © published in "It Happens Between Stops.")

It is, in the words of Lee Dunne, "As an entertaining well written, dip in for a shot kind of book, this publication does not disappoint. So many tastes and flavours, none of them likely to give anybody indigestion. I take my hat off to the CIE guys and gals and congratulate all of them. I was very moved by 'Autumn Day' by Cathy Hickey, a well observed poem, free of artifice, her closing lines leaving me deeply moved. My best wishes to all of you. God bless
Irish Times journalist Fintan O 'Toole has this to say, "Witty and gritty, It Happens Between Stops is something rare in Irish fiction -- a view of working life from the inside. It combines the freshness, vigour, humour and hard edge of everyday speech with the determination to transform the mundane with the power of imagination."
"It Happens Between Stops" is published by Original Writing. You’ll get the information on their website:
or from
Book Cover shown at bottom of page.

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Who's Going To Buy

There are so many things that I wish I could say
So many hearts broken along the way
Give me just one chance to take this all in
The one that got away. The one that had to win
Finding a new place to begin

There's no life among us
No heaven above us
Who's going to cry
Who's going to die

There's no sense in the distance
No panic or resistance
Who's going to try
Who's going to buy

There are so many things, but can't I take this all in
Too much time lost trying to win win and win
Now I'm here with the backlash and the pain
Then it came over me just like a title wave

There's no life among us
No heaven above us
Who's going to cry
Who's going to die

There's no sense in the distance
No panic or resistance
Who's going to try
Who's going to buy

©9/27/10 Bruce Clifford

Click on aBruce Clifford for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

I Don't Believe in Miracles Anymore

Talk me down from this ledge
Show me there's more then what I believe in
I take these moments as if they were my last
What else is left that I'm not seeing

Once I could have pulled myself out of this hole
Now that I've been here for so long everything has spun so out of control
Out of control

I don't believe in fairy tales anymore
I don't believe in happiness or in what I live for
I don't believe one day you will come walking through that door
I don't believe in miracles anymore

Talk me down from this bridge
There's got to be a sign to make me want to live
Find me the escape hatch and throw me a rope
There's no other way I can find a reason to cope

Once upon a time I could have lifted myself out of this ditch
Now I see things differently, and life is such a bitch

I don't believe in fairy tales anymore
I don't believe in happiness or in what I live for
I don't believe one day you will come walking through that door
I don't believe in miracles anymore

I don't believe in treasures of the deep
I don't believe in sunshine everyday when I weep
I don't believe that faith can pick me up off of the floor
I don't believe in miracles anymore.

Talk me down from this ledge
Show me there's more then what I believe in
I take these moments as if they were my last
What else is left that I'm not seeing

©9/27/2010 Bruce Clifford

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Be Yourself With Me

It makes me dizzy
I try to please
When times get busy
Nothing comes with ease

If you want to be yourself
Then be yourself with me
If you want to feel the earth
move beneath your feet

Be yourself
Come be yourself
Be yourself with me

It makes me cry
I don't know why
My mind gets tired
The systems get wired

If you want to be yourself
Then be yourself with me
If you want to feel the earth
move beneath your feet

Be yourself
Come be yourself
Be yourself with me

©9/26/10 Bruce Clifford

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Meant To Be

Wish I could hold you
Wish you would care
The walls of defenses
The way you brush your hair

Wish I could sing our song
Wish you could believe in it
The dreams I'm dreaming
Are the moments when I've seen it

I don't know what brought me to here
The only chance I have to escape is to end this all, I fear
It's not like I've tried to feel the way I do
I can only think of one way out since I'm so madly in love with you

I never meant to push you aside
All I ever want to do is end this pain that I always feel inside

Wish you could have seen what I have seen
Wish I could show you the way things were always meant to be
The dreams I'm dreaming
And the moments that were meant to be

Wish I could hold you
Wish you would care

©9/5/10 Bruce Clifford

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Rabbo Tales - Chapter 4

Spring Time

The winter had been very hard for Merwyn, Athena, Cat and Rabbo and some day’s when there had been very little food, but with the help of Cat they had made it though the winter. Rabbo had continued his classroom time and had taken 4 exams over the winter and passed each one.
Each exam was harder than before and each set of lessons had gotten harder and harder to the point where Rabbo felt that all he did was sit in front of the computer read type, listen watch and learn. In fact at times his head felt so full that he would wake up with a start and find himself thinking about the lessons he had and was unable to go back to sleep.
In the dark winter nights when he would wake up and not be able to sleep Rabbo would sit on the window sill in Athena’s room and think about what had been done to him and why. He also started to understand that he needed a little more done to him so that he could do something’s better.
It was on a very cold day when he asked Athena to fix his paws so that he could hold things better in his paws and so that he could use the computer keyboard better. She had been in the bath when he had asked her and he had been floating in the nice warm water looking at her long fingers. The idea had come to him when he saw her picking up the soap to wash herself.
The idea was to add extra bones to his paws and that she could make muscles for each extra bone and graft them onto the bones so that instead of paws he would have hands.
Athena pointed out that it would take a lot of painful work to make him have hands but would be simpler to just add one extra bone to each of his front toes and to do something called cloning of the muscle of those toes. So the next day they had sat together and Athena had drawn on paper what they both thought and agreed should be done to make his paws hand like but still look more like paws than hands.
The following day they went to work. Merwyn was in the little room to help and once Rabbo was a sleep Athena and Merwyn started to cut into his paws. When he awoke his paws felt like they were not there and they had thick heavy bandages wrapped around them. The bandages at first were removed and changed three times a day and Rabbo could not at first look or watch as this was done.
Only once was he able to look at his paws when the bandages were being removed and changed. What he saw was bare skin and long looking paws that were red and swollen. They looked like huge red lumps and he had wondered if they would ever work right. So he turned his head away so that he would not be able to see them.
Yet he did not miss a single day of his classroom time as he still wanted to learn.
Athena and Merwyn spent week’s hand feeding him until the day came when the bandages were removed for the last time. Rabbo looked at his paws and apart from lack of fur they looked much better than the huge red lumps that he had last seen.
Gently he moved each new part to his right paw. They hurt a little but they worked like he and Athena had planned. Then he did the same with his left paw and was happy to see that they worked as well and that the pain was not as much as in his right paw
The next few days his classroom time was watching and listening to videos and answering questions that Isis would ask him. It struck him as strange that Isis would talk to him like her daughter yet seem to know that he was a rabbit at the same time.
He had asked Athena about it and all she did was shrug her shoulders and say that the programming was very good. He also asked Merwyn about it and he refused to talk about it and had changed the subject to what he was planning for the garden when spring arrived.
The weather slowly changed and the snow slowly melted away. The tree’s that had dropped their leaves in the fall started to sprout little tints of green and then full bright green leaves. It had been months since Rabbo had his operation to make his paws more useful for doing things and he had learnt how to use a pencil and hold things. He had found that he could pick things up and use them far better than he had ever been able to.
It was mid morning as Rabbo hopped down the garden path happy to escape from his morning class. Hopping down the pathway towards the garden Rabbo passed under an old oak tree.

Sitting under a tree in grass so tall
Eyes that watch all, seeing everything
Watching all that moves, everything is seen
Hidden in plain sight so none can see
coat of fur that blends in with all around
Ears sharp and pointed that hear all
Listening to every sound that is to be heard
Sleek and fit watching and waiting
Watching and waiting laying so still
Long ears with long legs and a white cotton tail
Bouncing, hopping along unknown of what a waits
Fat and fit on carrot tops, so well fed
Stopping and listening with ears so very long
Hopping and bouncing on powerful legs
Furs glistening as each bounce shows how fit
Nose sniffing the air seeking what danger there is
A hop a jump a gentle bounce seeking fresh carrot tops
Sleek and fit unaware of what is ahead
Sharp pointed ears picking up the sound of gentle hops
Muscle tighten and now the hunter hunches
Watching waiting as long ears hops closer
Eyes watching seeing only what comes near
Listening to each beat as long ears comes near
Powerful legs move ready to leap
Tensing ready to leap when long ears is in reach
Claws unsheathe ready for that leap
Licking lips at the thought of food so near
Long ears thinking of carrot tops hops closer to the tree
Stopping listening and then hopping closer still
Ears oh so very long scan and listen hearing only bees
Without warning a sound is heard
All is still as if a breath is held
Not a sound is to be heard all is still and waiting
Again a sound is heard and long ears stands so still
Without warning out it leaps “Good morning brother rabbit” “good morning brother cat
Again the sound is heard “Here kitty kitty kitty” and off goes the cat
Rabbo sat rather confused by that cat’s playful antic. It had given him a shock when the cat had leaped out at him and he felt like he should run and run fast. His heart beat fast at all the adrenalin that had suddenly dumped into his body. Rabbo reached down and picked up a small stone and threw in the direction that cat had ran off.
“Hey, silly rabbit. Watch where you throw stones that almost hit me” said Merwyn from beside the tree.
Rabbo lowered his head and then turned around and hopped to where the young carrots were. He remembered what Merwyn had told him about planting more carrots and that the seeds would be in the broken plant pot at the end of the row were the young carrots where. He also remembered that he was not to eat too many and that once he was done planting he had to turn the water on in the area of the carrots.
Rabbo enjoyed his time in the garden and had found that he was really good at digging. A few times he had not used the little shovel that Merwyn had made but instead his front paws. And that was fun so much fun that he would often dig using his front paws.
Rabbo stood up on his hind legs and looked around. He could see his mother cropping the grass in her run. The front was open but she would not come out unless he was very close or Merwyn or Athena was around. But if Cat was around she would stay in her hutch and just look out and watch until the cat went away.
Rabbo had just finished planting a second row of carrots and was taking a break as he had gotten warm while digging and planting when he heard faint foot steps in the woods.
The foot steps were far off but with his ears he could hear them very well. He guessed that they were not those of Merwyn’s or Athena’s as they were heavy and clumsy.
Rabbo hopped up the path as fast as his legs would go almost bumping into Cat who was running down the path as fast as he could go. At the same time they both said “people in the woods”. Rabbo laughed and the cat gave him a sour look and then headed off in to the woods as fast as he could go.
Athena was standing in the door way waiting for Rabbo to arrive. She wore a short toga with a simple belt of silver rope. Her hair was pulled back in a bun. Her sandals were simple sandals without any leg straps. Athena looked towards the woods and closed her eyes. Rabbo had seen her do this before but rarely while standing up. He did know that when she closed her eyes while standing up what she was looking at was not far away. Too far to see with the naked eyes so she was using what she called her inner eyes to see further.
Merwyn walked up next to Athena and Rabbo and waited until Athena opened her eyes.
“I will make the house and gardens invisible if you will blur their minds my dear daughter”.
“Dad, let’s wait until Cat gets back before we do anything. He might have information. And I think the older man is from the village”.
“Dam I knew this would happen. We might have to move again” said Merwyn.
They waited for Cat to get back and Rabbo could feel the unease in the air at the thought of strange people from the village coming to the house. It had to of been half an hour before Cat came running up the pathway and straight into the house where Merwyn, Athena and Rabbo were waiting.
“Three humans from village old man younger man and young woman with big belly. Old man wants advice and talk much with younger man about goddess helping. Young woman want to know about baby and that it not kick much. Old man not have working eyes, young man is helping him and young woman is grand daughter of old man” reported Cat.
“We have to help at lest the pregnant woman and advice we can give. That’s always helpful” said Athena in a sweet almost pleading tone.
Merwyn looked down at Cat. “How far away are they”?
“A mile maybe a little less” answered Cat.
“Ok this is what we will do. I will make the house and garden look different. And you will talk with them Athena” Merwyn thought for a moment then added “if they think you are a goddess we can go with that. It might be useful”? Merwyn looked down at Rabbo. “I have a job for you. Go and hide in the tall grass and listen for them. When they get close thump your hind leg hard so that your mother does like wise. That should give us warning. Then when Athena is outside waiting for them I will change the look of the house and she can play the goddess. Cat I want you to be close to Athena and listen to what the humans say and do. Rabbo you do the same”.
Merwyn looked at Athena Cat and Rabbo “Ok people ok people let’s move.”
Athena went and changed to look more like a goddess while Cat and Rabbo went back outside to keep watch.
Rabbo listened and could hear the people closer but they sounded as if they might be lost in the woods. Rabbo looked over at Cat and shrugged his shoulders as if to say “well”. Cat look backed and smiled and listened.
Soon the people from the village were close so Rabbo started thumping his right hind leg hard on the ground. Soon he heard his mother doing the same thing inside the house.
Athena came walking out of the house. She turned and faced the house and suddenly the house looked very different. It went from a simple cottage looking house to a house with white marble pillars and a tall white roof. In front of the entrance to the house two huge flaming torches appeared and started to burn. The garden faded away and was replaced with a meadow of grass and buttercups.
Athena had on silver metal shin guards a short silver metal pleated skirt a silver breast plate and a silver helm. In her right hand she held on to long spear. On her left arm was a huge round silver shield. Around her waist was a thick leather belt and from the belt hung a long sword in a leather scabbard.
Athena stood still and suddenly she seemed very tall. Her head seemed to be touching the sky and she seemed to be looking down on the whole world.
The three villagers came out of the woods and stopped and looked at Athena in total amazement.
“Who comes to the home of the gods” her voice boomed out across the meadow.
The villagers started to walk forward and again Athena’s voiced boomed out across the meadow “Halt”. She pointed the long spear at the villagers and spoke again in a loud booming voice “who comes before the gods and what do you seek”?
The villagers halted and knelt and bowed their heads low. “Oh great Pallas Athena we seek wisdom and knowledge. I wish to know if the people from across the sea will come again to raid. My grand daughter wishes to know if her unborn child is well as it is not kicking inside her”.
Athena looked down at the villagers and spoke softly her voice carrying on the wind “the people from across the sea will come again. Young woman come closer so I may look inside you”
The young woman walked forward and it was clear that she was very far along in her pregnancy.
Her belly was round but had not dropped yet. Athena shrunk down to her normal size and walked up to the young pregnant woman.
“How old are you” asked Athena.
“I am 18 summers” said the young woman. She stood proudly yet great fear was in her eyes.
Athena pointed to large round rock that was in fact a chair that had been transformed to look like a rock. “Sit please so I can look inside you”.
Athena closed her eyes for about 5 minutes and then opened them. “Your baby is ok. But you need to eat better and stop drinking wine. Only drink boiled water. Boil the water for as long as you can. Lastly no more eating laurel leafs”.
The young woman looked down at the ground with tears in her eyes. “Thank you Pallas Athena. But I must eat laurel leafs. I am a priestess in the temple we are building in thanks of you for driving the sea riders away. We have changed the name of our village in honor of you”.
“If you don’t stop eating those leafs you will kill your daughter and yourself. I forbid you to do so” this time Athena’s voice was not soft but once again boomed out across the meadow. “Now return to your village and do not return to the home of the gods unless your need is dire”.
The villagers started to turn. The blind old man turned back and spoke “We brought a gift but the horse pulling the cart would not enter the forest. We will leave the gifts at the edge of the forest”.
Athena closed her eyes for a moment and then opened them “leave only half of what is in the cart. Give the rest to the poor in your village”.
Later that day Athena returned in her cart loaded with fresh bread, fruit, vegetable, three very large sealed Anthropomorphic jugs full of wine, two live cows and one live bull.
She looked down at Rabbo and Cat “Not sure what we are going to do with the cattle as I don’t think dad has an area for them”?
Rabbo nodded and looked at the smelly cattle.
The cat walked over to one of the cows and sniffed her and then looked her up and down. Then the cat just walked away licking his lips and muttering “she know not what to do. Fresh milk fresh milk happy me”
It was well after sun down before all the food had been put away and room had been made for the wine and the cattle bedded down in the shed. The fire pit was burning bright and Merwyn Athena Cat and Rabbo were sitting around talking.
Rabbo hopped on his hind legs and started to dance around in circles. Out of the corner of his eye he saw his mother munching on fresh carrot tops. He was surprised to see that she was sitting near Cat and under Merwyn’s chair. But what caught is eye was that around her nose was a hint of gray.
Merwyn reached under his chair and picked up Rabbo’s mother. He looked at her and smiled. “Well girl, you don’t know what today is but I remember and so does Athena my dear daughter”. He turned and looked at Rabbo. “Come here silly rabbit and have some wine”.
Rabbo had drunk wine before and liked the taste and enjoyed the feeling it gave him as long as he did not drink too much.
Merwyn held Rabbo’s mother in his lap and poured three glasses of wine. “To the birthday boy Rabbo. Happy first birthday my dear rabbit”.
Athena stood up a little unstable on her legs as she had been sipping on the wine far more than Merwyn had. She spun around and started to dance around the fire pit. Her hair flying wildly and her skirt bellowing out as she danced lightly yet a little drunkenly around the fire. Rabbo put his glass down and joined her. His feet moving fast while he clapped his paws to make the sound of music.
It was early morning when Rabbo woke and his mouth felt as if he had been cleaning his own fur without washing his mouth out afterwards. As he sat up his head felt as if it was about 3 times heavier than normal and the pounding was not coming from Merwyn working on something outside.
In fact Rabbo was sure that throbbing sound was coming from inside his own head and the wine while tasting good was not the best that it could have been. Or was it the fact that he had drunk far more wine then he should have in the first place.
As he thought about drinking the wine he remembered that Athena had drunk so much that she just curled up on the grass and went to sleep.
He also remembered Merwyn reaching down and picking her up and placing her over his shoulder and taking her inside and putting her to bed.
Rabbo looked over at Athena’s bed and noticed that it was empty.
Rabbo slid slowly and weakly off the window sill and hopped very slowly out of Athena's bedroom and down the hallway. He could hear her in the bathroom so he hopped over and tried to push his way in. But the door was firmly closed and unlike all the other doors it did not have a second door knob that was at his height and connected to the main door knob.
From the bathroom he could hear softly giggling and splashing. As he sat there wondering what to do and how to fix the feeling of his very heavy head his mother hopped past him from Athena’s bedroom. She started down the stairs gently taking one step at a time. Rabbo looked at her and thought that it was too much work with his heavy head and the pounding in his ears.
Rabbo hopped over to his little elevator and pushed the levers so that he could go downstairs and not risk hurting his poor heavy head anymore.
He hopped over to the table and slowly like a very old rabbit he hopped up the ramp to were his breakfast bowl would be. Beside the bowl was a note that read “Silly Rabbo you drink too much. Please drink the liquid in the covered cup. Drink all of it before you eat. Love Athena”.
Rabbo looked at the covered cup and gently removed the cover and sniffed the contents of the cup. It smelt awful but Athena had never given him anything that had harmed him. So he picked up the drink and started to drink it slowly. It tasted worse then it smelt and getting it down was worse than how his head felt but Athena has said to drink it all. So that is what he did.
He then hopped over to his breakfast bowl and picked up the small spoon that Merwyn had made for him from wood and he started to eat slowly. As he ate his breakfast the heavy feeling and pounding in his head stopped but was replaced but a soft thumping sound. After a while that too stopped and Rabbo started to feel much better.
Athena came down the stairs into the kitchen wearing a towel wrapped around her and helped herself to fresh milk that was in the cooler. She looked over at Rabbo and smiled before she started too headed back up the stairs. But before she could head back up the stairs Rabbo’s mother hopped up to her and stood oh her hind legs as if she wanted to be picked up. Athena bent down and picked up Rabbo’s mother and went back upstairs to get dressed.
Rabbo finished his breakfast and was about to head into the library when Athena came skipping down stairs carrying his mother in her arms. She held up Rabbo’s mother and danced around with her. Rabbo had not seen Athena act like that before and his heart felt glad as it was clear to him that she was very happy and that the horror of the fall had gone from her mind. Or had at lest been replaced by something that made her happy.
Rabbo hopped into the library and hopped up the ramp to the computer. He sat down and gave the command to the computer to start his morning lessons. Isis spoke in her normal voice explaining to Rabbo his latest lesson and what he would be learning over the next few months. He would be learning history of the home planet that Merwyn and Athena came from, astrometry, physics and chemistry.
Rabbo was not sure what astrometry was and what it had to do with him but he liked to learn and it would be something new for him to learn. He did know a little about physics and chemistry as Merwyn and shown him a few things. His class had seemed longer than normal but at last it was over and Rabbo was free to eat take and nap and work in the garden.
Rabbo hopped into the kitchen had his lunch and then hopped outside to a nice shaded spot that he could nap in and see what was going on in the garden. As he hopped to his spot in the shade he saw Merwyn wearing the same style cloths that the young villager had the day before.
So instead of taking his nap Rabbo hopped over to Merwyn and asked him why he was not wearing his normal clothes?
“I need to go to the village. What they said yesterday worried me and I want a closer look at what I saw with my minds eye. I should be back by late tomorrow as I want to spend some time there and I need to blend in” answered Merwyn.
Athena came skipping out of the house and looked at her father and smiled. “I have brought you a cloak that will help you blend in plus it will be warm if you have too sleep under it”. She leaned in and kissed her father on the cheek before she skipped away.
“Women I will never figure them out” muttered Merwyn as he put the cloak on and started to walk off down the path into the woods.
Rabbo returned to his shade spot and curled up to sleep. But no sooner was he a sleep than Cat was pushing him gently with one paw.
“Come see” hissed the cat.
Rabbo got up and followed the cat down the garden path. At the far end of the garden Rabbo could see about 14 young wild rabbits hopping along though the tall grass. As he and the cat watched one rabbit stopped and sniffed the air. It stood up on his hind legs and scanned with his long ears. Rabbo hopped forward and slowly moved towards the other rabbits. The other rabbits all stopped and looked towards Rabbo and then as one they hopped right up to him and started sniffing him.
Rabbo was about three times their size but there was something familiar about 6 of the rabbits. Almost as if he knew them? Some of the rabbit started to eat the sweet grass while 6 of them looked at Rabbo. Then they started to make strange sounds to each other as if they were talking. Then one hopped forward and started to make the same sounds to Rabbo. At once Rabbo knew that they were speaking to each other but it was a language that he did not understand.
Rabbo moved closer to the biggest and sniffed his head. Then with one paw he parted the fur and saw a scar running the length of the rabbits head.
The wild rabbit chatted at Rabbo trying to make him understand something. Rabbo then hopped over to another rabbit and she lowered her head and Rabbo parted her fur and he saw the same scar along the top of her head.
Rabbo sat back and thought for a moment and the realized that these had to be his brothers and sisters that Athena had told him about. She had never told him what happened to them and now he knew. But what had she done to them? They were clearly able to talk among themselves but he could not understand them.
After he had checked 5 of the 6 wild rabbit who had separated themselves for the other rabbits he was totally sure that they were his brothers and sisters. The last one he checked had a very fat tummy and Rabbo placed his paw gentle on it to see why she had a fat tummy. One of the other wild rabbits hopped over and placed himself between Rabbo and his sister.
“Don’t worry I am not going to hurt her” said Rabbo to the wild rabbit that had placed himself between Rabbo and his sister.
His brothers and sisters started to look at each other and then chatted among themselves.
One of his brothers pointed with his head towards the end of the area that they had been hopping though and eating as if he wanted Rabbo to follow.
Rabbo shook his head and pointed his head towards the house.
One of his brothers stood up on his hind legs and looked towards the house.
Suddenly one of the other wild rabbits started to pound his hind leg on the ground and all the wild rabbit including his brothers and sisters bolted for a low mound that was far down the area in which they had been feeding.
Rabbo stood up on his hind legs and looked around.
Skipping down the pathway was Athena who was heading towards where Rabbo had been with the wild rabbits.
Athena skipped up to Rabbo and stopped. “They left” her voice sounded a little sad.
“Yes they left. Those where my brothers and sisters” asked Rabbo?
“Yes they were. We think that your mother came from the warren that’s in the far end of the meadow” Athena said as she sat down next to Rabbo.
As if reading his mind she added “When they were old enough we put them outside in a hutch until they were big enough too go to the warren. And yes I did some work on them. I wanted to make them smarter so that they could get out of trouble if they needed to”.
Rabbo looked up at her “Why are you so happy” he asked.
Athena laughed “because I got what I needed.”
“And what was that” asked Rabbo.
Athena just laughed and stood up “follow me down to the end of the meadow. I have my little watering hole I like to swim in”
“Swim - you do that in water”?
Athena got up and ran down though the meadow with Rabbo running along behind her. When they got to the stream Athena started to get rid of her cloths and then she walked to a rock and dived into a large pool of water.
Rabbo sat and watched as she swam around for a few minutes before she slipped totally under the water. After a few moments her head popped up and she swam back to the rock and pulled herself out of the water.
Athena walked over to a huge flat rock and laid down on her back to dry in the sun. After a few minutes she rolled onto her stomach.
Rabbo looked at her and mused to himself that without heavy clothes she looked very different and younger than the female with the fat tummy from the village.
Rabbo looked at Athena “How old are you” he asked. Remembering that the female from the village had said she was 18 summers.
Athena thought for a while and looked at him. “I am over 800 years old. When mom went away I was 8 years old and we had been on the planet for 3 years then” her face turned sad. “I don’t remember much about my mom just that she loved me”.
Rabbo hopped up close and placed one front paw gently on her skin to try and bring comfort.
From the flat rock Rabbo had a good view of the lower end of the meadow and saw the wild rabbits close by the low mound that they had headed to. He watched them closely and counted the heads he could see. He was not sure if they were his brothers and sister as they were too far away to get a good look and he did not want to hop down from the rock as that would mean leaving Athena.
After a while Athena stood up and walked back to her clothes. She turned and beckoned Rabbo to follow her. She reached down and picked up her clothes and started to walk back to the house.
As they passed the oak tree Cat hopped out and looked up at Athena. “No coverings” asked Cat.
“It’s a nice day and no one is here so I am doing as I please” said Athena with a laugh in her voice.
Athena then skipped off up the path and into the house.
Rabbo turned to Cat and looked him up and down.
Cat had a faint odor of blood about him and his whiskers had dark stains as well as his front paws. Cat sat down and started to clean his paws parting each toe and licking between then before moving up and biting and pulling at each claw.
Rabbo watched at how neat and tidy cat was about keeping himself clean and it reminded him that Athena was always washing her hands and took long showers and baths.
He thought about how keeping clean was important.
Neither Cat nor Rabbo heard the soft foot steps behind them and it was the nose pushing into his fur that made him turn at last.
A wild rabbit sat next to him and started to chat at him in the rabbit language of his brothers and sisters. He sniffed the rabbit and felt strange. The wild rabbit was female and Rabbo stood up on his hind legs to see if she had a scar along the top of her head.
There was no scar. The young female rabbit chatted again at Rabbo and this time she pointed with her nose behind Rabbo.
Rabbo turned and saw another female rabbit that was a little larger. He hopped over to her and sniffed her. She smelt different and very interesting to him. The smaller female rabbit chatted at Rabbo again and hopped off back down the garden path towards the meadow. The big female rabbit moved closer to Rabbo and sniffed him before she moved so close that she was pressing against him.
She looked at Rabbo and started to turn away. “Don’t go” said Rabbo.
And at the tone of his voice she pulled away. She looked around and stepped back away from Rabbo. Then she raised herself up and looked around.
Rabbo moved towards her again and wondered if he should make the chatting sound that the young female rabbit had made. But he was not sure if he would get it right and if she would understand. But she was so very interesting to him.
Something about how she smelt and looked that really got to him. He did not understand the feelings that he was having and yet all he could think about was how she smelt and how she looked.
She hopped back up to him and leaned close against him. She pressed her nose into his fur and sniffed.
“Hey, Rabbo, come inside you will be late for your afternoon class” shouted Athena from the doorway.
Rabbo turned to look at the female rabbit wondering if he could get her to come into the house while he was having his class but she was running down the pathway as fast as she could run.
Rabbo thought about chasing after her but well he like to learn things and he had been learning so much. He mused to himself as he hopped back up to the house “I must ask Athena about these strange feelings.”
It was at the dinner table that Rabbo finally got to ask Athena about his feelings and why he felt strange around the bigger female rabbit from the warren down in the far meadow.
She thought for a while and then started to explain about normal urges and spring time and what that might mean to wild animals. She went on for over two hours about the need of the species and offspring was what mattered and that was how a species continued after the parents had long gone and turned to dust.
Rabbo ate and listened while she talked and talked. And he learnt that Athena and Merwyn where not the same race or even species as the people on the planet that they were currently on. And while the peoples of the planet looked like Athena and Merwyn they were not the same.
In fact they were two very different species.
It was very late when Rabbo hopped over to his little elevator and went upstairs to sleep in the window sill in Athena’s room. Cat was already curled up on Athena’s bed with his tail over his nose and his front paws stretched out. His mother was curled up at the end of the bed as far away from Cat as she could be.
Athena walked in pulled off her shirt and slipped into bed to sleep she looked over at Rabbo, smiled, and turned off the lights.
For a while Rabbo sat looking out of the window thinking about the female rabbit that he was so interested in. Slowly sleep over came him and he drifted off in to the lands of dreams.
Don't miss "Rabbo Tales - Chapter 5" in the November issue.

Click on aMark Crocker   for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.