Not Just A War Story

 Posted by at 12:30 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 222024
 

Several readers have asked how soon my new Tinder Street book The War Years will be available. I received Judy’s suggested corrections and am waiting for Roberta to get hers back to me. Once I do and make any corrections she notes, Terry will give the entire manuscript a final read through. If she finds anything that was missed before, I will correct it, format the book, and upload it to Amazon. Hopefully all of that will be done sometime this week.

So far I have about half of the teaser chapter for the next book in the series written, which will go at the end of this book. I’m not happy with what I have so far, I need to give it some more thought and work. But I’ll figure it out.

In the meantime, here is the cover for the book, which was created by Elizabeth Mackey, who makes covers for several bestselling authors I know. Her work is always outstanding and sometimes I even think she can read my mind (which is a scary thought). All I have to do is give her a brief idea of what the book is about and maybe something I’m thinking about, and the next thing I know, I’ve got a cover. Out of the dozens of book covers she has created for me, I think there’s only been once or twice that the first one she designed wasn’t what I had in mind or that I didn’t fall in love with. Yes, she’s that good.

Two readers have asked if this book is going to just be about war. No, not at all. The series is about the history of two interconnected families through several generations. So far, World War I, the Roaring 20s, Prohibition, and the Great Depression have taken place, and the books tell about how the characters in the series handled things during those pivotal times in American history. It’s the same way with this book, the sixth in the series. Yes, there are some war scenes, because that was the big story during that time.

But I also write about what happened on the home front, how people reacted to the war, both good and bad, how people coped with things like food and gas rationing, shortages of everyday things we all take for granted, the loss of loved ones, the struggles and triumphs of the women of the WASP, who ferried aircraft all over the country for the military, people falling in love, babies being born, and everything else that happens in everyday life whether there’s a war going on or not. I hope people will enjoy reading it as much as I have had writing it.

Congratulations Barbara Bowers, winner of our drawing for a Camping Journal & RV Travel Logbook donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for campground reviews, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day.

We had 19 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – I seriously need a speed bump between my brain and my mouth.

July Q&A

 Posted by at 1:06 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 212024
 

I’m back with more questions from blog readers about my writing activities, what’s happening in our lives, and all kinds of other things. While I try to answer all questions individually, I also share some here occasionally.

Q. In yesterday’s blog, in your desk the cubbyhole on the right appears to have a wood carving of a cowboy. If so, do you remember where it came from or who carved it?


A. It is a sculpture of the late Arizona artist Ted Degrazia, who I knew when I lived in Tucson many years ago. I found one currently for sale on eBay at https://www.ebay.com/itm/284946879615

Q. With your new Tinder Street book coming out, I remember you writing something about a family tree for all of the characters. Did you ever put it together and will it be included in the new book?
A. I did make a family tree for the series, mostly to help me keep track of the main characters. However, I have not figured out a way to include it in the books. But it is on Ancestry as a public tree under the name Tinder Street Family Tree.

Q. In a blog post last week called What Could Possibly Go Wrong you showed a picture of a new knife you cut yourself with and said it was a switchblade. I’m confused on two things. It looks like a traditional Buck Folding Hunter knife, and I don’t think Buck makes switchblades. And aren’t switchblades illegal?

A. It is a Buck 110 (Folding Hunter) automatic knife. The same as the standard model but opens with the push of a button as a switchblade. There is no federal law prohibiting switchblades, and they are legal in 46 states, though some states have restrictions on blade length and who can legally carry one.

Q. Nick, would you mind telling me how much you had to pay for your whole house generator? Here in Central Florida my power company is asking $10,500 for Generac plus tank and propane.

A. Depending on the size, that sounds in the ballpark. Ours is a 24 KW Generac and was $15,000. That included over 150 feet of trenching needed to run the gas line. The tank and propane were extra.

Q. Why not get a pet sitter to stay at your house and take care of your animals when you go out of town instead of boarding them? Wouldn’t they be more comfortable at home than in a boarding kennel?
A. We live out in the country and finding a pet sitter with references is difficult. The boarding place we are considering does not keep animals in a kennel, they stay in a house, each with their own room, and are walked/exercised/played with several times a day.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an Camping Journal & RV Travel Logbook donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for campground reviews, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. I guess it’s all a matter of how you look at things.

Thought For The Day – They say don’t try this at home, so I’m coming over to your house to try it.

Nifty New Stuff

 Posted by at 12:42 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 202024
 

Yesterday Terry finished editing and proofreading the last chapters of my new book, and after I made her corrections, I sent them off to Roberta and Judy to have them go through them. I thought while I’m waiting for them to get the chapters back to me, today I will tell you about a couple of nifty new things we ordered from Amazon.

For years I’ve used an old-fashioned standing lamp with the light on a goose neck extension over my desk. It was never convenient, the light only shined on a certain area at a time, and the bulb shield could get very hot. I burned myself more than once reaching above it to get something out of one of the drawers of my rolltop desk.

So when I saw a video on the Lume Cube Edge LED desk lamp, I was impressed enough to do some research on it and decided to order one. It clamps to the side of the desk and has an adjustable swing arm, is dimmable, I can change the color temperature of the light for when I am doing a video call or interview, and it even has a USB charging port. I’m very impressed with it, and I think Terry might be considering one for use over her loom.

We all know it’s hot in Alabama, and anytime we’re doing something out in the garden or yard, or mowing, it can get downright uncomfortable. So Terry ordered us each a Comlife bladeless neck fan and they are well worth the price. They have a three-speed fan, are adjustable for any neck size, and put out a lot of air. I’ve only used mine a couple of times, but I know it’s going to be helpful when I’m out on the tractor. From what I’ve read, the 5000mAh rechargeable battery can easily go 8 hours or more without needing recharged.

Something else Terry ordered that is simple but very nice are these silicone can lids. I feed Alli half a can of canned food mixed with dry in the morning and again in the evening. I had been putting a zip lock bag over the top of the can and setting it in the refrigerator until the evening feeding. These are much neater, more econmomical, and fit three different can sizes.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a Camping Journal & RV Travel Logbook donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for campground reviews, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. Punctuation is so important.

Thought For The Day – You don’t get a body like mine overnight. It takes many years of neglect and bacon.

Life Besides Writing

 Posted by at 12:55 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 192024
 

While most of my time has been spent finishing my new book, The War Years, there is more to our lives than just writing and editing, believe it or not.

It was time for the cats to get their annual shots, so the other day we took them to Western Alabama Animal Hospital in Carrollton, where Doctor Lowe and his wonderful staff take care of all of our pets. Let me tell you, those cats did not appreciate being put in their carriers for the trip to the vet, and they let us know that all the way down there. I’m not sure I understood the term caterwauling until then.

Doctor Lowe gave them their shots and checked them out and pronounced them both in excellent health. Bee Bee weighs 10 pounds and Mae Lin weighed in at 10 pounds 10 ounces. It’s amazing, considering how tiny she was when we got her a year ago.

I also asked about boarding Alli when we have to go out of town for Terry’s annual appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, which will only be three days, four at the most. But we are also going to have to take a trip out to Arizona one of these days to see Terry’s parents and my daughter’s family. That will be a longer absence. Doctor Lowe boards dogs there, but they’re just in an enclosure like in an animal shelter, and he has a big fenced in outdoor run that they go out into twice a day for some exercise and to go to the bathroom. We left Alli there last year when we went to Mayo, but neither Terry or I want to do that to her for a long trip out West. So we are going to be talking to some of the dog boarders in the area. Travis and Geli told us about one they used in the past and were very happy with, and we will visit her sometime in the next couple of weeks to check things out.

Every day the weatherman is telling us we are going to get thunderstorms and rain, and every day we get some thunder and maybe a few sprinkles, but that’s it. Me thinks he speaks with forked tongue.

I’m also beginning to wonder what kind of tongue they speak with at the body shop that still has our truck for the repairs from the accident we got in back in May. The two to three weeks they estimated has turned into two months now. On Tuesday, they promised me it would be ready tomorrow. But when I called yesterday just to be sure, they said it won’t be until Monday. Hopefully. I’m sure getting tired of making payments on something I can’t drive.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a Camping Journal & RV Travel Logbook donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for campground reviews, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest. week’s prize is a Camping Journal & RV Travel Logbook donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground iters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. I knew the housing market was rough, but this is ridiculous.

Thought For The Day – Well, well, well, if it isn’t the bridge I said I’d cross when I came to it.

That’s #56

 Posted by at 1:03 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 182024
 

Because of all the research required, it took a little longer than I had hoped for, but yesterday I finished writing the last chapter of The War Years, the sixth book in my Tinder Street family saga. I started on the book April 12th, so a little over three months. It came in at 111,653 words before final editing.

This book in the series begins in early 1941 and ends with the troops coming home after World War II in 1945. Along with all of the regular Tinder Street characters readers have grown to know and love, much of this story focuses on the younger generation coming of age in a world so different than what they grew up in.

While it’s nothing I would be uncomfortable having my 92 year old church going mother-in-law read, there is a bit of rough language and more violence in this book than some of the earlier ones in the series. It’s not over the top, but war is an ugly thing, and some of the events from those days cannot be sugarcoated.

Today I will read through the last chapters I wrote and make any changes or corrections I see are needed, and then I will print them out for Terry to edit and proofread. Once I make her corrections, I will send them to Judy and Roberta to do their thing.

I’d like to say that now I get to kick back and relax a little bit, but as I always tell new authors, the real work begins after you write the book. In the next few days I have to write a teaser chapter for the next book in the series, which will be included at the end of this one, get my free author’s newsletter together and sent out to my subscribers, and work on publicizing the new book. There’s a lot involved, as you can see.

So what’s next up on the agenda? We’ll be going back to that charming but quirky little town of Big Lake for the 25th book in that series, Big Lake Sinner. I can tell already that Sheriff Weber and his crew are going to have a lot on their hands when a construction crew unearths the long-buried grave of a murder victim who was killed before many of Weber’s deputies were even born.

When I told Robert Thomas, one of my author friends, about completing the new book, he said with my output, he sometimes wonder if I’m real or AI. I told him to trust me, there is no intelligence here, artificial or real. 😊

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a Camping Journal & RV Travel Logbook donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for campground reviews, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – I’m humble enough to know I can be replaced, but egotistical enough to think it would be a downgrade.

Feeding The Troops

 Posted by at 12:41 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 172024
 

Note: In researching my new book The War Years, I was reminded of this story about the amazing people of one town who made sure each service member who passed through was made welcome. 

My father and uncles were part of the generation that liberated Europe from the Nazis and wrested control of the Pacific from the Japanese during World War II. When recalling their wartime experiences, I remember some of them talking about their troop trains stopping in the small Nebraska town of North Platte, and how the townspeople met them at the station with food, hot coffee, and warm smiles of encouragement and appreciation. For a soldier headed off to war, it isn’t the parades and speeches that are remembered. Sometimes it is the small acts of kindness from strangers that linger on when their days are long, lonely, and dangerous. Many GIs headed off to war took the memory of the good folks of North Platte with them when they hit foreign soil.

It all began ten days after the devastating attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. America was at war, and National Guard units from across the country were activated and on the move. Company D of the local National Guard detachment had been stationed at Camp Robinson, Arkansas training for the war everybody knew might soon come. When word reached North Platte that their local soldiers would be on a train making a stop at the Union Pacific depot just about everybody in town rushed to meet the train. Nearly everybody had a loved one or a friend on that train, and they brought candy, cakes, pies, cigarettes, and other goodies to shower on their fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, and friends. When the train came into sight there was a great cheer that did not stop until the massive locomotive had ground to a halt and the troops disembarked. Silence and disappointment followed for a moment, for these were not the North Platte boys, but a group of Guardsmen from Kansas. Somebody had gotten their information wrong.

Then the well wishers realized that it did not matter. These brave men were somebody’s fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, and friends, and they deserved to be made as welcome as they hoped their own men were being welcomed somewhere else! The townspeople cheered for the soldiers, pushed food into their hands and made them feel accepted and appreciated; all the while hoping someone somewhere was making their loved ones feel the same way.

From that day on, every soldier, marine, sailor, and airman on every troop train for five long years that stopped in North Platte, day or night, was met with a smile, a welcome, and something to eat. What began as a spontaneous celebration for the hometown boys grew into a highly organized civilian effort to support the troops who had left their former lives behind for the good of the nation.

The North Platte Canteen fell under the guise of the Red Cross, and they set up business in the old Cody Hotel, located across the street from the railroad depot. The hotel allowed the Canteen to use their kitchen facilities for over six months. A local boy, William Jeffers, had risen from station assistant to president of the Union Pacific Railroad, and when Jeffers learned of the efforts of the Canteen, he ordered the North Platte depot lunchroom to be turned over to the Canteen for the duration of the war. Jeffers continued to support the Canteen with financial contributions and donations of equipment until the last troop train rolled through North Platte, bringing the troops home at the end of the war.

The Canteen was organized like a small army, under the direction of Mrs. Anna Bogue, with seven “companies” of lady volunteers who solicited donations of food and supplies, prepared meals, met the trains, and fed and entertained the troops. For a lonely soldier far from home, a hot cup of coffee, a sandwich, and a pretty girl’s smile was enough to remind him of what he was fighting for.

The operation of the canteen was a monumental effort, especially in those war years when most items were rationed and supplies were hard to come by. 23 troop trains came through North Platte every day for five straight years. The Canteen volunteers served over six million servicemen during its five years of operation, daily pouring out over 14,000 gallons of coffee, another 527 gallons of iced drinks, feeding them 109,500 sandwiches, and nearly 50,000 donuts. To add to those staggering figures, 4,000 magazines were distributed, over 35,000 cigarettes, and over 41,500 postcards were handed out, not to mention hundreds of chocolate bars, oranges, apples, mirrors, handkerchiefs, soap bars, and bibles. This went on every day for five years!

Funding came from the American Red Cross, donations, and fundraisers by the local civilian population, and the aforementioned support of William Jeffers and the Union Pacific Railroad. One consistent fundraiser was a nine year old farm boy named Gene Slattery. During the war years, Gene raised thousands of dollars by gathering contributions of blankets and boxes of chocolates, which he sold through local auctions. One day somebody in the crowd at a sale yelled out “What are you going to sell next, Gene, your shirt?” Not one to miss an opportunity, Gene quickly ripped off his shirt and threw it on the auction block. The good natured bidding brought in much more than the shirt was worth, and Gene knew he had found a winner. Over the next four years Gene sold 120 shirts for sums ranging from $48 to $1,700 at auction sales and bond rallies throughout the region. Everybody wanted to get in on the good work, and Hirschfield’s Clothing Store in North Platte and the J.C. Penny store donated many shirts for Gene to auction off.

Those terrible years of conflict are over, but the memory of the contributions to the war effort are honored today at the Lincoln County Historical Museum in North Platte. Along with displays on all themes of local and regional history, the museum has a gallery devoted to the North Platte Canteen. Here visitors can see the faces of the young women who met the trains to offer the troops a sandwich and a smile, as well as the faces of those brave young men on their way to combat.

Exhibits include World War II uniforms, displays of military equipment, tattered battle flags, and items from the North Platte Canteen. Old photographs bring the stories to life and make you wonder what happened to the GIs they show. Did they make it home, or did they give their lives to protect their country and loved ones, including the citizens of North Platte?

Letters the Canteen received from grateful servicemen during the war years, and those that still arrive occasionally, are displayed in the exhibit. Today visitors include elderly veterans of World War II who come back to remember, and to say thank you for a kindness offered so long ago.

The museum complex also includes a re-created frontier town, with several original buildings moved to the grounds from other places in the region. Included is the birthplace and boyhood home of Union Pacific president William Jeffers, a railroad depot, barbershop, general store, school, church, and barn. Browsing through the museum’s displays and buildings is a wonderful opportunity to experience what life was like in earlier times on the prairie, and to learn about the men and women who lived and died here.

The Lincoln County Historical Museum is open May 1 through September 30. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. After Labor Day hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park, the home of the famous frontier scout and showman is just around the corner and is also an interesting place to visit. The museum is located a short drive off Interstate 80 at 2403 North Buffalo Bill Avenue in North Platte. For more information about the North Platte Canteen, call (308) 534-5640.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

Jul 162024
 

His name was Dave, and the first time I met him I thought he was an old geezer. What hair he had left was white and he walked with a noticeable limp, aided by a cane. But there was nothing old about Dave. Not at all!

His daughter was visiting from California and called my office because she thought the world should know about Dave. I asked her why, and she said, “Because my daddy says every time they start a war, someone shoots him.”

Well, that was enough to get my attention, so I made an appointment to come and visit Dave the next day. As it turned out, Dave was only 68 years old, and now that I’m well past that age, it doesn’t seem all that old to me. Dave invited me into his little apartment in the senior residential home, and Trisha told me I probably wasn’t going to believe her father’s story so she went to fetch some scrapbooks from the bedroom while we talked.

“So, I hear people keep shooting you,” I said. “What’s that all about?”

Dave laughed and said, “Yep, it’s true. Whenever somebody starts a war, the first thing they do is shoot me. I don’t think anybody likes me.”

Trisha returned with three or four scrapbooks that had a lot of family pictures and several newspaper clippings about her father, including one story about him being on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, put them on the coffee table, and then sat down on the couch next to him as he began telling his story.

Dave grew up dirt poor on a sharecropper farm in the Mississippi Delta. Some of his earliest memories were of his mother taking him out to the cotton fields and him sitting on the ground while she picked cotton. Dave didn’t know how old he was at the time, but he spent many days sitting in the cotton patch as a child. He said at one point, he thought he might have been four or five years old but really couldn’t remember, he saw something moving in the cotton plants, and always a curious child, he reached out to grab it. It turned out to be a snake, and it bit him on his hand. Fortunately, it wasn’t venomous, but it seemed to set the pace for Dave’s life.

Later, he thought he was probably nine years old at the time, he was riding in the back of the family’s old truck on the way to town when a hog ran in front of the vehicle. His father swerved to avoid it, and Dave fell out onto the road, breaking his leg. He said his parents got all the way to town before they realized he wasn’t with them and had to come back and find him.

Dave said he hated everything about farm life. He hated the cotton patches, he hated the stinky outhouse, he hated the little shanty his folks lived in that was hot in the summer and wet every time it rained from the many holes in the roof. He got a little bit of schooling but stopped going in the sixth grade. It wasn’t that he didn’t like school, but one day a prissy girl sitting next to him raised her hand and told the teacher he smelled and asked if she could sit somewhere else. Everyone in the classroom laughed at him, and Dave got up and left and never went back.

When World War II broke out, Dave went down to the recruiting office and tried to join up, but they laughed at him because he was only 14. So he waited until his birthday and then went to another recruiting office in another town, told them he was 17, and they said he would need his parent’s permission. He said the sergeant gave him some kind of form to fill out and he went next door to a soda fountain, borrowed a pen, filled it out and signed his father’s name to it. Dave said when he went back the next morning, he was pretty sure the recruiter recognized the fact that it was a forgery, but apparently he had a quota to fill, and the next thing Dave knew, he was in the Army.

After training at Camp Polk, Louisiana, they put his company on a train to California and then shipped them to the South Pacific. He said he went ashore someplace in the Solomon Islands a few days after the initial bombardment and invasion, and things were still pretty hot there. Dave was assigned to an infantry company, and their job was to check out enemy pillboxes built into the side of a cliff. “I was young and could climb like a monkey,” Dave told me, “so the next thing I knew, they had me crawling up the side of the cliff, clearing out those pillboxes. I’d get close to the entrance, throw a hand grenade in, and once it went off, I would poke my head in and look around with a flashlight.” Dave said he did this for five days, and suddenly as he was climbing up the side of yet another cliff, he felt a terrible pain in his left leg and was next thing he knew he was falling. The sniper’s bullet went in one side of his calf and out the other, and he was taken back to a field hospital.

It didn’t take long for the folks there to figure out that he was just a kid, and before he knew it, he was on a hospital ship headed back stateside. When he got to a base in California, a colonel chewed him out for lying about his age, then told him that as soon as he was 18 to come back because they needed soldiers like him. Then they put him on a train back to Mississippi.

He bided his time impatiently, and the day he turned 18, Dave was at the Army recruiter’s, signing up again. Based on his prior experience, Dave only had to undergo a couple of weeks of training before he found himself on another ship headed to the South Pacific. By then, it was 1945, and less than two months later the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, and the war ended.

Like so many soldiers, Dave mustered out but then didn’t know what to do with himself. He had no interest in going back to the farm so he worked in a factory in California for a while, then went to Arizona to pick melons somewhere around Yuma, but that was too much like picking cotton, so he gave that up, and within a year he reenlisted.

Dave said the Army was the perfect place for him, “I got three hots and a cot, free clothes, and they even paid me. I couldn’t complain about that!” Dave made a career of the Army, and when the Korean War rolled around, he was a sergeant in an infantry platoon in an area several miles behind the main lines and he thought he had a really cushy deal. But a few months later, he was checking the positions of the night guards, making sure everyone was awake and alert when a small group of North Korean troops probed their lines. That’s when Dave got shot the second time. He held up his left arm to show me where the bullet had gone in and broken one of the bones. He spent some time in a field hospital and had a lot of trouble regaining full strength in that arm, so the Army sent him back to the States for rehabilitation, and then he was a drill sergeant for the rest of war.

Dave said he bounced around from different posts, mainly teaching new recruits how to be soldiers for the next 15 years or so. He was married and nearing 20 years in uniform, and beginning to think about retirement when things were starting to heat up in Vietnam. Dave figured maybe he’d have one last adventure, so he volunteered to serve there. He said his commanding officer didn’t want him to go and told him at age 38 he should leave the fighting to the younger guys, but Dave thought that maybe his experience could help keep somebody alive.

David didn’t recall exactly how long he had been in Vietnam before he got wounded for the last time, but it might have been a month or two. He said they were on patrol when a machine-gun opened up on them from a hidden position, and he was hit twice in the legs. One bullet shattered his left knee, and the other took out a fist-sized chunk of flesh in his right thigh. He said he remembered the medic working on him looking up at one of the other men and shaking his head, thinking their sergeant was a goner because he had lost so much blood. But somehow Dave managed to survive and was shipped home. His wounds were so severe that he was not able to go back on active duty, but he had his 20 years in by then and retired.

That was 30 years before I met him, and David spent much of that time living in the Phoenix area and running an automotive parts store before selling out and moving to the White Mountains. He had been widowed and had three children, one of whom was a career Air Force man.

The years and his wounds had been hard on Dave, and somewhere along the line, he developed emphysema, so an oxygen bottle was his constant companion. I looked in his scrapbooks and confirmed everything Dave had told me was true. Every time they started a war, someone shot him!

I enjoyed visiting with Dave, and I stopped by several times after that just to shoot the bull and listen to his stories. Sometime in 1997, I got a call from Dave’s daughter, telling me that he had passed away. They buried him in Phoenix, next to his wife, and I went down to say my final goodbyes to my old friend, then I came home and wrote Dave’s obituary, including his line about every time they started a war someone shot him.

Time went by, and Dave crossed my mind once in a while and I felt honored to have known him. About 18 months after he died, I got a letter from Trisha. She opened it by asking me if I remembered Dave saying nobody liked him, because every time he went to war, they shot him. She said apparently he wasn’t very popular when he was dead either.

She had come to Arizona to visit her sister, who lived in Prescott, and they decided to drive down to Phoenix to visit their parents’ graves. It was the first time either of them had been there since Dave was laid to rest. When they got to the gravesite, they didn’t understand why their father’s headstone wasn’t there next to their mother’s, and they went to the cemetery office to complain. The manager insisted that the headstone was there, he had signed the papers when the headstone came in and put in the order for it to be mounted over the grave. The daughters insisted that it wasn’t there, so all three went back to the gravesite. As the sisters got out of their car and started walking to their mother’s grave, the cemetery manager asked where they were going. They said to the graves, and he said, “Your father is not over there, he’s over here,” pointing at least a dozen gravesites down. They insisted they had been to their father’s funeral and he was buried next to their mother.

Well, guess what? Whoever erected the gravestone put it in the wrong place. Some people would have been outraged by that, but Trisha and her sister, knowing their father’s history, thought it was hilarious. She said the cemetery manager probably thought they were crazy because they were laughing so hard they could barely stand up. When he asked what was going on, she just shook her head and said, “It doesn’t surprise us. Nobody likes Dave!”

The headstone was moved to its proper place, and as far as I know, wherever Dave is, he’s getting along with folks these days.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.There’s something to be said for a collage education.

Thought For The Day – Being old doesn’t seem so old now that I’m old.

A Wet Week Ahead

 Posted by at 12:36 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 152024
 

According to the weatherman, we have a wet week ahead of us. Or at least a good chance of a wet week. Starting today and tomorrow there is a 20% chance of rain, which increases to 80% by midweek. We won’t complain about that. The news says we are in a moderate drought, and our lawn and pasture and Terry’s raised planter beds certainly need it.

We got a late start to the day yesterday, and after a light breakfast of a slice of banana bread each, I tackled some e-mail and then started writing. Except for a few breaks to take Alli outside, that’s all I did, along with checking some facts about major battles toward the end of World War II for the book.

Terry decided I needed a special treat, so dinner was homemade pizzas from scratch. I’m an old stick in the mud and all I ever want is pepperoni and cheese. Terry, having a more adventurous palate, included black olives, onions, and mushrooms on hers, as well as the pepperoni. Trust me, they taste even better than they look.

She has a dentist appointment early this afternoon, and sometime this week we need to take the cats to Western Alabama Animal Hospital for their annual shots. Aside from that there’s nothing else on our schedule, and I’m determined to get this book done and off to the proofreaders for their final inspection after Terry edits it.

Congratulations Steven Tiefel, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake Scandal, the fifth book in my Big Lake mystery series. When the richest man in Big Lake is murdered on the night he announced his bid for State Senator, the list of suspects stretches all the way from the small mountain town to the Governor’s office.

Sheriff Jim Weber’s investigation reveals a web of secrets, illicit sex, and shattered lives that teaches him that nothing is what it appears to be and that sometimes the people we think we know are not at all what we believe them to be. Meanwhile, love has come to town and wedding bells must compete with the echo of gunshots. Many of the characters that made the first four Big Lake books so popular are back, along with some new ones readers will remember for a long time.

We had 30 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – I just read that someone is suing Canada Dry Ginger Ale because there’s no ginger in it. I’d like to formally announce my lawsuit against Panda Express.

Jul 142024
 

I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but yesterday was another good writing day, 2,250 words in my new Tinder Street book, The War Years. Previous books in the series have run from a low of 96,842 words (A Changing World) to 105,823 (the first book in the series, Tinder Street). I am currently at 102,034 words and the story is into January of 1945, the year World War II ended. As I’ve been saying, I’m getting close.

Besides the million and one things she does to keep everything running ship shape in our house and our business, Terry also found time yesterday to go out and pick some things from her raised planters. Yesterday’s harvest included jalapeno peppers, poblano peppers, sweet peppers, cucumbers, and some basil.

People always ask me how I find the time to write four or more books a year, as well as a daily blog of over 500 words. I tell them that the secret is you have to sacrifice some things to make the time. In my case, I gave up diet and exercise. Terry didn’t have to do that because the truth is, she is really the Energizer Bunny out of costume. She keeps going and going and…

And now for the title of today’s blog. A new swichblade knife and Nick. What could possibly go wrong? To my credit, I had it at least five minutes before I stuck myself twice. Then Terry took it away from and me put it up. She says I can’t play with my toys unless I have adult supervision. I mentioned to her that my blood and her fingerprints and DNA are on the knife, so if something ever happens to me, she’s the one they’re going to look for. She studied me for a long moment and said something about it would be worth it. I don’t know what that means, and I’m afraid to ask.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake Scandal, the fifth book in my Big Lake mystery series. When the richest man in Big Lake is murdered on the night he announced his bid for State Senator, the list of suspects stretches all the way from the small mountain town to the Governor’s office.

Sheriff Jim Weber’s investigation reveals a web of secrets, illicit sex, and shattered lives that teaches him that nothing is what it appears to be and that sometimes the people we think we know are not at all what we believe them to be. Meanwhile, love has come to town and wedding bells must compete with the echo of gunshots. Many of the characters that made the first four Big Lake books so popular are back, along with some new ones readers will remember for a long time.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn This  evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – You mean there are other ways to learn besides the hard way?

Jul 132024
 

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has been taking a lot of hits in recent years from customers unhappy with their service, or I should say lack of service. And in many cases, those hits are well deserved.

Back when we were publishing the Gypsy Journal, we started out sending the papers out by Standard Rate mail. We discovered that some post offices just would not deliver them, and when I talked to the postmasters, they all told me the same thing, they had no obligation to deliver anything but First Class mail or above.

Here in Alabama, our mail route has a regular carrier, and also at least one substitute. The regular carrier is great. Even though our mailbox is on the street, many times she has driven up the driveway with a large parcel and put it on the front porch for us. The substitute(s) could care less. If it won’t fit in the mailbox, they leave it at the post office and leave a note for you to go and pick it up.

There have also been days when we don’t get mail at all, even though the morning e-mail from the post office shows us what’s coming. That happened just this week. I guess if the route is taking longer than she wants to work, the substitute just takes the rest back to the post office for delivery on another day.

The problem is just not with our local carrier. The whole system needs an overhaul. Here’s another example. I ordered something online and got an e-mail with the tracking number for it. According to the tracking number, it entered the mail service on July 9th in Post Falls, Idaho. Later that day it arrived at the Spokane, Washington mail distribution center. It left Spokane the next day and arrived at the Birmingham, Alabama distribution center early in the morning on the 11th. We are about 80 miles from Birmingham. Later that morning, it arrived at our local post office in Gordo, Alabama, which is about 5 miles from our house. Two hours later, it left there and went to a post office processing facility in Moundville, Alabama, 40 miles away. Three hours later, it left Moundville and went back to the same distribution center in Birmingham. Late that afternoon, it was in transit back to Gordo, where it stayed for another hour or so and then went back to the processing facility in Moundville again. And guess where it went from there? Back to Birmingham! What’s wrong with this picture? When I called the post office, they had no idea why this is happening, but told me they were sure it was frustrating. Ya think so?

Since more and more customers are using e-mail to communicate, and commercial shipping services like FedEx and UPS rather than the post office, they found a way to offset the lost revenue. Starting on Sunday, July 14th, they are raising all their rates by an average of 7.8%. To give an example, a First Class Forever stamp is increasing from 68¢ to 78¢. A regular First Class stamp is going from 68¢ to 73¢. Other prices are raised at about the same rate.

What a way to run any kind of business, or any kind of public service. I know the post office is not funded by taxpayer dollars, and at the rate they’re going, they may not be funded by consumer dollars much longer either.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Scandal, the fifth book in my Big Lake mystery series. When the richest man in Big Lake is murdered on the night he announced his bid for State Senator, the list of suspects stretches all the way from the small mountain town to the Governor’s office.

Sheriff Jim Weber’s investigation reveals a web of secrets, illicit sex, and shattered lives that teaches him that nothing is what it appears to be and that sometimes the people we think we know are not at all what we believe them to be. Meanwhile, love has come to town and wedding bells must compete with the echo of gunshots. Many of the characters that made the first four Big Lake books so popular are back, along with some new ones readers will remember for a long time.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – Before you marry a person, you should first make them use a computer with slow internet to see who they really are. – Will Ferrell

Jul 122024
 

We had a rather unpleasant start to the day yesterday. We received a letter from the State of Alabama telling us that the $3,000 credit we were supposed to receive off our state income taxes for the purchase of our storm shelter was disallowed because the paperwork we sent in did not include a separate form we were required to get from another state agency to get the tax credit.

After several phone calls, I spoke to somebody to see how I could get the required form, and he told me that we could only do it in the same year that we had the storm shelter installed. Nobody told us that when we bought the shelter, we were just told to send the receipt in with the required documentation of design and testing with our our tax return, which we did. It would be nice if people in different branches of government talked to each other once in a while and got on the same page as to what their rules and regulations are going to be.

When you think about it, it’s kind of a dumb rule. What if we had a storm shelter installed on the last day of the year? How could we then send the receipt to the right agency to get the form for the tax credit?

In other news, it was another 2,000 word day in my new Tinder Street book. I’m at the last year of World War II now, and the end is in sight. As I’ve said many times, I love the research as much as the writing, but sometimes the things you learn are not pleasant. We’ve all heard about the horrors of the Holocaust, and I knew the Japanese had been just as brutal in the places they had overrun. But reading about some of the atrocities in China and the Philippines was enough to make my skin crawl. I’ll spare you the details, it’s too early in the morning for that kind of stuff. It may not have been politically correct, but I can understand why my father and others who served in that theater during the war hated the Japanese until the day they died.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Scandal, the fifth book in my Big Lake mystery series. When the richest man in Big Lake is murdered on the night he announced his bid for State Senator, the list of suspects stretches all the way from the small mountain town to the Governor’s office.

Sheriff Jim Weber’s investigation reveals a web of secrets, illicit sex, and shattered lives that teaches him that nothing is what it appears to be and that sometimes the people we think we know are not at all what we believe them to be. Meanwhile, love has come to town and wedding bells must compete with the echo of gunshots. Many of the characters that made the first four Big Lake books so popular are back, along with some new ones readers will remember for a long time.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. Apparently spelling skills are not required for some jobs.

Thought For The Day – Lord, whatever you’re baking outside, it’s done.

Still Not Done

 Posted by at 1:10 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 112024
 

We had a busy afternoon yesterday. We left the house a little after 1 o’clock for a 2 o’clock appointment at Alabama Dermatology Associates in Northport. Having had a bout of skin cancer once, I don’t want to repeat it, so I get checked semi-annually. I only had to wait a few minutes before I was taken back to see Nurse Practitioner Staci Hardwick. Staci is friendly and very thorough each time I go there, and never makes patients feel rushed. She froze a few precancerous spots on my head and hands, and I don’t have to go back until January, unless something comes up.

When we were done there, we tried a new to us restaurant called Local Roots, which many reviewers said had the best hamburgers and cheeseburgers of any restaurant in the area. I won’t say it was the best,because I haven’t been to all the others, but it was pretty good. I had a bacon cheeseburger and Terry had shrimp tacos, which she also said were good. The service was also very friendly.

From there we went to Lowe’s to buy some more Sun Drenched Oak Cabot stain. We need to stain the deck and pergola where the hot tub is and the little footbridge we had built a while back, the stair rails I had built on the side steps, and also probably do another coat on our big main deck. We have one gallon already, so we figured two more would pretty much do the job. But as it turned out, they had a special promotion going on that if you bought two gallons, you got a third one free. Since the stuff is nearly $60 a gallon, and yesterday was the last day for the promotion, we took advantage of that. We can always use the extra for touch up as needed.

While we were there, we also picked up some fire ant killer and Sevin dust, which is sprinkled on garden plants to get rid of bugs that eat the leaves. Like most stores these days, Lowe’s only has self-checkout. And like most self-checkouts, there’s always a hassle. This time around it wouldn’t recognize my military discount, which another customer in front of us was having the same issue with. So we had to go to customer service and have them check us out there. Sometimes it’s just not worth the effort.

Caliber Collision, the body shop that is working on our Ram pickup, is right across the street, so when we were done at Lowe’s we went there to check on the progress of our repair. Last week they had called to say they hoped to have it done the end of this week, but when I got there, the service manager said it will probably be another week yet, because the new tire and rim they ordered, and the running board have still not been delivered. Apparently supply chain issues are still a problem sometimes.

This shop also does not do ceramic coating, and I have not found anybody in the area that does. Since I had the truck ceramic coated right after I bought it in Florida, I need to get the repaired area done or it won’t look right. I have to call the insurance adjuster today to talk to her about that.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Scandal, the fifth book in my Big Lake Mystery series. When the richest man in Big Lake is murdered on the night he announced his bid for State Senator, the list of suspects stretches all the way from the small mountain town to the Governor’s office.

Sheriff Jim Weber’s investigation reveals a web of secrets, illicit sex, and shattered lives that teaches him that nothing is what it appears to be and that sometimes the people we think we know are not at all what we believe them to be. Meanwhile, love has come to town and wedding bells must compete with the echo of gunshots. Many of the characters that made the first four Big Lake books so popular are back, along with some new ones readers will remember for a long time.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. When DC Stultz sent me this, he said the Canal Museum needs to trim their shrubs.

Thought For The Day – If elected, the first thing I’ll do is demand a recount. – Kinky Friedman

Potpourri

 Posted by at 1:07 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 102024
 

Definition of potpourri – 1: a mixture of flowers, herbs, and spices that is usually kept in a jar and used for scent. 2: a miscellaneous collection. The second definition above pretty much describes today’s blog, a collection of miscellaneous thoughts and info that I’m sharing because I don’t have anything else to talk about today.

***

Like most people, we have been watching the progress of Hurricane Beryl and worrying about friends in Texas who might be in the path of the storm. So far everyone I’ve heard from has been fine, although a lot of them are without power and will be for a while. Here in west-central Alabama, we didn’t get a drop of rain as the storm passed west of us.

***

Though the remnants of the hurricane missed us, we were actually hoping we would get some precipitation from it. Except for a couple of days last week, we haven’t had much rain at all this summer. When you combine that with the extreme heat, everybody’s gardens seem to be suffering. Even so, Terry has been able to grow some squash, peppers, and tomatoes in her raised garden beds, along with herbs like rosemary, basil, cilantro, anbd chives. Here are some of her Roma tomatoes.

And jalapeno peppers.

Poblano peppers

And sweet green peppers.

Being a died in the wool carnivore, I don’t care about all that vegetation. But I sure did like the banana bread and banana cupcakes Terry made yesterday. They were yummy.

***

I got a panicked e-mail yesterday from an author who was contacted by somebody telling him he was going to sue him because the author used his name in his novel. He said he would drop the whole thing for $500. His name is Jim Walker. How many Jim Walkers do you think there are in the world? I bet quite a few. I told the author not to worry about it and not to send the jerk any money. Every novel is going to include the names of somebody. Unless you’re using an identifiable private person or public figure, it’s not an issue. Now, if he had written that Jim Walker of 101 Center Street in Anytown, Iowa was a fireman in his book, and there really is a fireman with that name who lives at that address, no attorney in the world would bother with a silly case like that. Well, let me correct myself. There is probably an ambulance chaser out there somewhere that might.

The reality is that in this country, anybody can sue anybody about anything. Back in my days publishing small town newspapers, I once wrote about a woman who sued her neighbor because she said the neighbor’s dog got her purebred Cocker spaniel pregnant, thus ruining the dog’s pedigree bloodline for breeding future show dogs. She wanted $100,000 in damages. However, the supposed offender dog had been neutered two years before. When informed of this, she wanted to sue the vet who neutered him, claiming he had botched the surgery. People. Go figure.

***

One way we have found to beat the heat is soaking in our hot tub in the evening. I know you’re saying, “wait a minute. how can soaking in a hot tub help you beat the heat?” Simple, I turned it down to 96° and now it’s not hot. We still get the benefit of the jets massaging our bodies, without the heat. It’s rather refreshing.

The other way I’ve been beating the heat is staying inside and writing. I’ve been able to turn out about one chapter a day, ranging from 2,000 to 2,500 words in my latest Tinder Street book. I’m getting very close to wrapping it up.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – I’ve reached an age where my brain went from “You probably shouldn’t say that” to “What the heck, let’s see what happens”!

Jul 092024
 

I have written before about an area in northern Arizona called East of Snowflake that attracts all kinds of weird people. If you’re a burned-out hippie, a survivalist, a conspiracy theorist, or any other flavor of eccentric, you can buy land east of the small town of Snowflake for very little money and live happily ever after. Or paranoid ever after, or whatever floats your boat.

For the first couple of years I ran my newspaper in the White Mountains, I did it out of an office we had built onto our house. One day I was out running some errands, and my secretary paged me. This was in the days before cell phones, so I found a telephone booth (remember those?) and called the office. Melissa told me to come home because someone was there who was making her feel uncomfortable. I asked if she needed the police and she said no, just get back as soon as I could.

When I pulled in the large driveway, there was a pickup truck painted in a camouflage pattern waiting for me. As I got out of my car, a man wearing all camouflage, including face paint, emerged from the truck and asked me if I was Nick Russell. Being the smartass that I am, my first response was to ask, “If you park that truck in the forest, how do you ever find it again?”

He didn’t have an answer for that, but he had something he needed to tell me about. He said he was there to protect me because there were 200 Russian troops and 17 tanks at the small airport in the neighboring town of Show Low. I asked him just what those tanks and Russian troops were doing there, and he said they were getting ready to take over.

“Okay fine, so why do I need protection?” I asked him. His reply was, “Because you’re a journalist, man! Everybody knows they always kill the journalists first! Don’t you know that?”

I told him I wasn’t aware of that and thanked him for informing me. He had some kind of pistol strapped to his hip, and I could see that there was an AK-47 sitting on the front seat of his pickup truck. I knew this guy came from East of Snowflake before he ever told me. I thanked him again for his time and told him that I appreciated him coming by. Then he said, “You don’t believe me, do you?”

I allowed as how I didn’t really see why there would be 200 Russian troops and 17 tanks at the airport, so he pulled out a folded piece of yellow notepad paper and said, “Here, look at this. It’s proof!”

The only thing I saw was a square, drawn with a pencil, taking up most of the page. Knowing I shouldn’t, I couldn’t help myself and asked what the heck that meant. He told me that it was the floor plan of a building they were putting up at the airport that was big enough to hold 200 Russian troops and 17 tanks. He added that he had asked the people on the construction crew what the structure was for, and they told him to go away. He asked, “What does that tell you?” I didn’t want to tell him what it told me, so I just said I’d look into it.

His quick reply was, “No, you have to stay at home until the threat has passed. If you go out there, They’ll get you.” Then he told me not to worry because he was my bodyguard, and it was his job to protect me until the all-clear was sounded.

I assured him that I really didn’t need protection, but he was pretty adamant about it, and I don’t make it a practice to argue with people with AK-47s and handguns. My street was the last road in a little subdivision, and it was only one long block and then turned to go up to the main road at each end. For the next two or three days that guy was parked at the end of the street in his camouflaged truck, and every time I went by, he waved at me and followed me to the post office or wherever I was going and then came home and took his position at the end of the street.

At that time, Terry Ringey was the chief of police in Pinetop-Lakeside, and a friend of mine. I mentioned my bodyguard to Terry, and he asked if I wanted him to have an officer come by and talk to the guy. Technically it was not illegal to park where he was, but if I was concerned, Terry would have someone visit with him. I told Terry no, I didn’t want him to do that. In fact, I didn’t even want the UPS man to come down the street. Anybody with a uniform might be fair game for that wackadoodle.

Apparently, the threat passed within a short time, and the all-clear sounded, or maybe he just got bored or ran out of MREs and went home, but by the fourth day he was gone, and things were back to normal. Or maybe he was still there and just blended in with the trees. Either way, every time I drove by the airport for the next week or so, I looked to see if there were any Russian troops or tanks, and there wasn’t one to be seen. I have a feeling he might have been mistaken.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – I really don’t mind getting older, but my body is taking it badly.

Taking Advantage

 Posted by at 12:47 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 082024
 

Yesterday was not quite as hot, with the temperatures in the upper 80s and the heat index somewhere around 95°. That’s not great, but much better than the triple digit heat indexes we’ve been having. We took advantage of the opportunity to get some mowing done, me on the Kubota tractor and Terry on the Husqvarna riding mower.

It took us close to three hours, but it was necessary because the grass everywhere was getting out of hand. Once I was done with the pasture behind the house, I went down the perimeter road that runs down on the south side of the property and then across the back of our property line.

It had really gotten overgrown there, and in some places the grass was over the hood of the tractor. I really would have been better off with the bush hog mower, but I didn’t want to take the time to attach it. It all looked pretty good when we were done, but we were both wiped out.

After taking showers to cool down we ate dinner, an awesome posole made of roasted pork, hominy, green chilies, and New Mexico red chili powder, with shredded cheddar cheese, and diced avocado (for Terry) on top. It took two days to prepare, soaking the dry hominy from scratch and roasting the pork overnight. But it was worth it because it was absolutely delicious. And there were leftovers for at least one more meal, if not two.

Congratulations Arley Running, winner of our drawing for an autographed copy of Tinder Street, the first book in my Tinder Street saga. Chronicling the days leading up to World War I and the events that followed, Tinder Street is the first book in a saga that will take readers from rural farms to a major industrial city in the Midwest, across an ocean where German U-boats lurk waiting for a target to come within range of their deadly torpedoes, to the bloody trench warfare of France, and home again. And of how, back at home, the soldiers of a victorious Army try to put their experiences behind them and pick up the pieces of the lives they once had, to look toward a future bright with promise. Lucas Morgan was one of those soldiers, a man who hated the thought of killing, but did his duty. A duty that would haunt him long after the last shots were fired.

This is also the story of the simple working class people who built America. Farmers, factory workers, streetcar conductors, midwives, and public servants. Their joys and sorrows, their wins and losses, and how these people who struggled together to build a better life for themselves and their children changed a place named Tinder Street to Tender Street, a reflection of one family’s devotion to their neighbors. This series is one I have wanted to write and have researched for years.

We had 98 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – To clarify: Teachers are not “off for the summer.” They are “in recovery.”

Sleepyhead

 Posted by at 12:41 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 072024
 

That’s about the only word for me in the last couple of days. My back has flared up and it’s giving me a lot of discomfort. I am back to the point where I’m using my cane again. I am scheduled to have my RF ablation August 8th and I really hope it helps.

In the meantime, sleeping has been difficult. I didn’t get much accomplished at all on Friday because once I got up and answered some e-mails I sat down in my recliner and tried to sleep for a couple of hours. I did manage to get one chapter written in my new Tinder Street book by the end of the day and that was about it.

Don’t ask me what happened yesterday, because after an uncomfortable night, I remember waking up when Terry did, and we exchanged our morning I love you words and a couple of kisses. and the next thing I knew Alli was howling at the closed bedroom door trying to get in, close to two hours later! Terry said she knew I needed the rest and let me sleep.

At least I was able to write another chapter once I was up and had a breakfast of berries and cream and half a bagel, and then I printed it out to add to the other chapters Terry was working on. When she was done editing and proofreading all of them, I went through and made her suggested changes, then sent them off to Judy and Roberta for them to go through with their fine-tooth combs. If I can manage to stay awake, I hope to get the book done by the end of the week.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an autographed copy of Tinder Street, the first book in my Tinder Street saga. Chronicling the days leading up to World War I and the events that followed, Tinder Street is the first book in a saga that will take readers from rural farms to a major industrial city in the Midwest, across an ocean where German U-boats lurk waiting for a target to come within range of their deadly torpedoes, to the bloody trench warfare of France, and home again. And of how, back at home, the soldiers of a victorious Army try to put their experiences behind them and pick up the pieces of the lives they once had, to look toward a future bright with promise. Lucas Morgan was one of those soldiers, a man who hated the thought of killing, but did his duty. A duty that would haunt him long after the last shots were fired.

This is also the story of the simple working class people who built America. Farmers, factory workers, streetcar conductors, midwives, and public servants. Their joys and sorrows, their wins and losses, and how these people who struggled together to build a better life for themselves and their children changed a place named Tinder Street to Tender Street, a reflection of one family’s devotion to their neighbors. This series is one I have wanted to write and have researched for years.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – I’m gonna need some of you people to start acting weirder. I can’t keep pulling all the weight on my own.

An American Hero

 Posted by at 12:30 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 062024
 

Given the patriotic theme of this week, I wanted to repeat a blog from a few years ago about one of the men who fought to give us the freedoms we have in the country.

On a trip through South Bend, Washington, I stopped to pay my respects to an old friend. Bob Bush owned the first office I rented for my first newspaper in Grays Harbor, Washington, a lifetime ago. He was a successful businessman who gave me some valuable advice that has served me well over the years. “Avoid negative people, they’ll drag you down every time. Associate with winners, not losers. And never take business advice from anybody who isn’t doing better than you are.”

Bob, who has since passed on, was a true American hero, the youngest sailor to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor during World War II, as an eighteen year old Navy corpsman. His hometown of South Bend erected this memorial to him, and Tom Brokaw included a chapter about Bob in his excellent book The Greatest Generation.

Bob was a very nice man who was proud of his service but never bragged about it, just acknowledged that yes, it happened. Here is Bob’s Medal of Honor citation:

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Medical Corpsman with a rifle company, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa Jima, Ryukyu Islands, 2 May 1945. Fearlessly braving the fury of artillery, mortar, and machinegun fire from strongly entrenched hostile positions, Bush constantly and unhesitatingly moved from one casualty to another to attend the wounded falling under the enemy’s murderous barrages. As the attack passed over a ridge top, Bush was advancing to administer blood plasma to a marine officer lying wounded on the skyline when the Japanese launched a savage counterattack. In this perilously exposed position, he resolutely maintained the flow of life-giving plasma. With the bottle held high in one hand, Bush drew his pistol with the other and fired into the enemy’s ranks until his ammunition was expended. Quickly seizing a discarded carbine, he trained his fire on the Japanese charging pointblank over the hill, accounting for six of the enemy despite his own serious wounds and the loss of one eye suffered during his desperate battle in defense of the helpless man. With the hostile force finally routed, he calmly disregarded his own critical condition to complete his mission, valiantly refusing medical treatment for himself until his officer patient had been evacuated, and collapsing only after attempting to walk to the battle aid station. His daring initiative, great personal valor, and heroic spirit of self-sacrifice in service of others reflect great credit upon Bush and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.”

Like most real heroes, Bob seldom talked about what happened that day on Okinawa. The only time I know of him recalling what happened was in an interview when he said, “The first grenade took my right eye out, and I put my arm up to hold it off and got some fragments in the other eye. Got a lot in my eye and shoulders. They hit me with three hand grenades in a matter of seconds. I was firing on them with [the lieutenant’s] carbine. Every time I saw a Japanese head pop up, I could see the star on their helmets, I’d fire one round a foot below where I saw that head come up, because I knew I couldn’t miss, I’d get ’em on the way down.”

Bob had dropped out of school to join the Navy, and after recovering from his wounds he returned home to join his high school graduating class and marry his sweetheart, Wanda.

He once told me that his biggest regret about all of it was that he lost an eye during the battle and the Navy would not let him return to duty. He felt bad that there were other GIs and Marines who needed a good corpsman and he would not be there to help them.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Tinder Street, the first book in my Tinder Street saga. Chronicling the days leading up to World War I and the events that followed, Tinder Street is the first book in a saga that will take readers from rural farms to a major industrial city in the Midwest, across an ocean where German U-boats lurk waiting for a target to come within range of their deadly torpedoes, to the bloody trench warfare of France, and home again. And of how, back at home, the soldiers of a victorious Army try to put their experiences behind them and pick up the pieces of the lives they once had, to look toward a future bright with promise. Lucas Morgan was one of those soldiers, a man who hated the thought of killing, but did his duty. A duty that would haunt him long after the last shots were fired.

This is also the story of the simple working class people who built America. Farmers, factory workers, streetcar conductors, midwives, and public servants. Their joys and sorrows, their wins and losses, and how these people who struggled together to build a better life for themselves and their children changed a place named Tinder Street to Tender Street, a reflection of one family’s devotion to their neighbors. This series is one I have wanted to write and have researched for years.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. This one is courtesy of longtime reader Rick Devoy.

Thought For The Day – Heroes don’t have the need to be known as heroes, they just do what heroes do because it is right and it must be done. – Shannon A. Thompson

No Fireworks Here

 Posted by at 12:52 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 052024
 

I hope you all had a safe Independence Day holiday, and if you played with fireworks, I hope you still have all of your fingers.

There were fireworks displays around the area yesterday, but we didn’t go to any of them. I was busy writing, getting another chapter done in my new book, and Miss Terry was doing all the things that keep our house and business running smoothly, along with making a delicious dinner of fried chicken and roasted smashed red potatoes. It is absolutely one of my favorite meals.

Even though we live in the country and it’s not uncommon to hear guns going off, we only heard a few yesterday evening. As I was telling our son Travis earlier in the day, I always worried when we traveled in our motorhome, because so many fools fire guns into the air on New Year’s Eve and the 4th of July, not realizing those bullets have to come down somewhere.

Many years ago, I had a friend who served a tour in Vietnam and never got a scratch but was left a quadriplegic because of a pistol that was fired in the air, and when the bullet came down, it hit him in the head. When we were RVing, we were at a Camping World and a mechanic showed us a bullet that had come through the roof of the building and through the roof of a motorhome and landed in the driver’s seat after a New Year’s Eve celebration. Who knows where it came from? Bullets can travel a long distance. And remember, what goes up must come down.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Tinder Street, the first book in my Tinder Street saga. Chronicling the days leading up to World War I and the events that followed, Tinder Street is the first book in a saga that will take readers from rural farms to a major industrial city in the Midwest, across an ocean where German U-boats lurk waiting for a target to come within range of their deadly torpedoes, to the bloody trench warfare of France, and home again. And of how, back at home, the soldiers of a victorious Army try to put their experiences behind them and pick up the pieces of the lives they once had, to look toward a future bright with promise. Lucas Morgan was one of those soldiers, a man who hated the thought of killing, but did his duty. A duty that would haunt him long after the last shots were fired.

This is also the story of the simple working class people who built America. Farmers, factory workers, streetcar conductors, midwives, and public servants. Their joys and sorrows, their wins and losses, and how these people who struggled together to build a better life for themselves and their children changed a place named Tinder Street to Tender Street, a reflection of one family’s devotion to their neighbors. This series is one I have wanted to write and have researched for years.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. Eddie always has the best fireworks.

Thought For The Day – Arguing is about who’s right; discussion is about what’s right.

Jul 042024
 

Don’t ask me how, but I managed to get my days wrong again and started this week’s free drawing a day early. Don’t ask me how, but I did the same thing last month. My only excuse is that I am calendar challenged.

Happy birthday, America. We have a lot of problems in this country, and so much division right now that it is saddening. But I’ve been to a lot of places and seen a lot of things in over seven decades on this earth, and there is no doubt in my mind that we still live in the greatest country in the world. And it’s our job, each and every one of us, yours and mine, to work together to keep it that way and to make it even better. But we can’t do that when we are so polarized. We have to do better. We owe it to our kids and grandkids, and we owe it to the brave men and women who fought and died over the years to keep America free.

What are your plans for the holiday? A cookout with friends and family? Are you going to take in a sporting event or watch the fireworks tonight? Or are you just going to have a quiet day at home? There’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

As for us, it’s too darned hot to do much of anything outside. Just walking down to the street to retrieve our trash can yesterday and bringing it back up to the garage was enough to have me drenched in sweat. Today is going to be just as bad, if not worse, so while Terry is editing and proofreading the latest chapters of my new book, I’m going to be right here in the air conditioning, writing some more.

While I was outside getting the trash can yesterday, I spied this fuzzy little fellow in the grass. I hope he made it somewhere safe before one of the local birds decided he’d make a good holiday dinner.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Tinder Street, the first book in my Tinder Street saga. Chronicling the days leading up to World War I and the events that followed, Tinder Street is the first book in a saga that will take readers from rural farms to a major industrial city in the Midwest, across an ocean where German U-boats lurk waiting for a target to come within range of their deadly torpedoes, to the bloody trench warfare of France, and home again. And of how, back at home, the soldiers of a victorious Army try to put their experiences behind them and pick up the pieces of the lives they once had, to look toward a future bright with promise. Lucas Morgan was one of those soldiers, a man who hated the thought of killing, but did his duty. A duty that would haunt him long after the last shots were fired.

This is also the story of the simple working class people who built America. Farmers, factory workers, streetcar conductors, midwives, and public servants. Their joys and sorrows, their wins and losses, and how these people who struggled together to build a better life for themselves and their children changed a place named Tinder Street to Tender Street, a reflection of one family’s devotion to their neighbors. This series is one I have wanted to write and have researched for years.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – You can tell a lot about a man by how dogs react to him. For example, if the police K9 is biting him, he may not be such a great guy.

Jul 032024
 

Between the two nerve block shots I received recently, and Terry getting her second one yesterday, the Spine Care Center in Tuscaloosa is starting to feel like home. Medicare requires two of the nerve blocks, done at least two weeks apart, before they will approve the RF ablation to sever the nerve and stop the back pain. Well, back pain in my case. Terry has both back and neck pain, and so far they’ve just done her neck.

As regular blog readers might remember, I had this process done a couple of times when we lived in Florida. The first time was fantastic and I went two years without any noticeable pain. The second time around really didn’t do me much good at all. Even with all the technology they have, it’s kind of a hit or miss procedure.

Anyway, that’s what we did yesterday. It’s really a pretty simple procedure. It takes longer to get the patient prepped than it does to do the nerve block shots. Here’s Terry getting ready to go in before the procedure yesterday.

When she was done, which took about 40 minutes including recovery, we went to Jalapeños Mexican Grill for a late lunch/early dinner. It was early enough that the place wasn’t very crowded yet, and as we were leaving a young African American couple sitting nearby said they had been watching us and it was obvious we had a good marriage. He asked us how long we had been married and Terry told him we’re working on our 27th year. The gentleman asked for any advice, saying they’ve been married four years so far.

I told him what my father told me when I was a young man – always treat your lady like you did on the very first date. I also told him that even if we’ve had the worst fight of our marriage, I still open doors for Terry every time, and that the first thing we say to each other in the morning is “I love you” and it’s the last thing we say at night. Terry added that communication and respect help make it successful. They both thanked us, and I hope they took our advice to heart.

From there we went to Publix to stock up on groceries, made a quick stop at the post office to drop a couple of things off, and headed home. It was miserably hot, and by the time we had everything unloaded from the van, the only thing we wanted to do was sit in our recliners and drink some iced tea.

In other news I’ve finished several more chapters of my new Tinder Street book, and today I will print them out for Terry to edit and proofread before sending them on to Judy and Roberta. I’m getting very close to wrapping this one up, folks. 😊

Speaking of Tinder Street, it’s Thursday and time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Tinder Street, the first book in my Tinder Street saga. Chronicling the days leading up to World War I and the events that followed, Tinder Street is the first book in a saga that will take readers from rural farms to a major industrial city in the Midwest, across an ocean where German U-boats lurk waiting for a target to come within range of their deadly torpedoes, to the bloody trench warfare of France, and home again. And of how, back at home, the soldiers of a victorious Army try to put their experiences behind them and pick up the pieces of the lives they once had, to look toward a future bright with promise. Lucas Morgan was one of those soldiers, a man who hated the thought of killing, but did his duty. A duty that would haunt him long after the last shots were fired.

This is also the story of the simple working class people who built America. Farmers, factory workers, streetcar conductors, midwives, and public servants. Their joys and sorrows, their wins and losses, and how these people who struggled together to build a better life for themselves and their children changed a place named Tinder Street to Tender Street, a reflection of one family’s devotion to their neighbors. This series is one I have wanted to write and have researched for years.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 30 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?