New Friends And Nosy Critters

We had quite the windy, cloudy day yesterday and our Internet wasn’t working for most of the day. Which was okay because we had friends join us for dinner and a nice visit after. In the evening we worked on a jigsaw puzzle. Thankfully this morning the wind was down and the net was up and running as usual.

Among the e-mails that came through was one from The Drabble, telling me they’re publishing another of my short stories today, titled A Friend Drop By. This one has never appeared on this blog so if you want to read it, Click Here.

We went to the city today to do some shopping. Among other things I looked at shoes, but would likely have to give an arm and a leg in exchange for a nice pair. (Around $130 CDN.) Tried to stock up on groceries to prepare for the coming writing marathon.

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow at midnight. Will anyone be up typing at 12:02 am? Here’s the synopsis for the children’s story I’ll be working on:

In the summer of 1957, 14-yr-old brother Gerry and 11-yr-old sister Joy take the train to their widowed Aunt Patty’s new home beside a small town. She’s hoping to earn a living for her and her two children by growing a market garden. Gerry and Joy are going to be her “hired help” this first summer.

Among the various characters living in and around town there’s a retired map-maker, now a famous writer of the “wild west” teen adventure stories —of which Gerry is very fond. Reginald Gentleman (who writes as Reg Savage) has just prepared a manuscript for posting when it disappears. Gerry and Joy help search for it.

I plan to work some other excitement to keep the summer hopping. A touch of romance, too. A widowed farmer from the district helps Aunt Patty whenever he can and talks the School district into having an old fashioned “Box Social” to raise money for sports equipment. Of course he’s hoping to buy Aunt Patty’s box and thus get to know her a bit better. Oh, do those plans go awry!

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Books: Reed Ferguson, PI

This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies
The Reed Ferguson Mystery Series, Book 1

by Renee Pawlish
Click here to view on Amazon.com

Reed Ferguson has always wanted to be a Private Eye and it looks like he’s finally getting his chance. Thanks to an inheritance from his grandparents he’s opened an office and hung out his shingle. Being a devoted fan of Humphrey Bogart and noir detective movies he hangs up a poster of Bogie and Lauren Bacall, as they appeared in The Big Sleep, on his wall “as a sort of inspiration.”

Enter his first real customer: a woman with a missing husband. Peter Ghering disaappeared on a business trip and his wife, Amanda, claims she wants him found. But does she really? Reed has some serious doubts by the time he’s heard her story. An inner voice is telling him to fear this femme fatale, but it’s his first real case, his first serious crack at being a professional gumshoe.

At least he tried to be professional but he’s new to this game and his skills are pretty amateur. Long on bravado, short on forethought. To complicate matters, what starts out as a simple investigation opens up a writhing can of worms for the new Sam Slade wanna-be. The wife hasn’t been up-front with all the facts; she’s actually hired him to expose the women her husband’s been dallying with on his business trips. Little by little Reed uncovers a plot and subplot that would tax Philip Marlowe’s private eye skills.

What really happened to the successful businessman? What will happen to his wife, who wanted him to disappear so she could inherit? And what will happen to Reed if he continues to be involved in this case? Some late night visitors make it plain that they won’t tolerate his efforts to ferret out the truth.

A very well written, well edited book. The writer obviously knows her craft and has constructed a plot that will keep a reader up late at night trying to find out how this story ends. No erotic or immoral scenes in this book, but some off-color language.

I’ve read several books now by this same author and one thing I do like about them is the paucity of dead bodies. There are some, but in the books I’ve read Reed mostly engages in finding lost spouses, pets (The Maltese Felon), etc. In that sense these stories remind me of the Hardy Boys. So if you like a tamer “noir fiction,” tones of Bogie mixed with the wit of Peter Falk and the impulsive courage of Frank & Joe Hardy, you will probably like this series.

Personal Note:
Up late last night typing up this book review when, around midnight, I started to notice a skunk-ish aroma. It grew increasingly powerful, must have had a disagreement with some other critter very nearby so we spend a pretty restless night trying to escape the smell. And with the temp outside almost freezing, you don’t open windows to air things out. 🙂

We’re also besieged by box elder beetles, a.k.a. “maple bugs.” They summer outdoors and once cool weather comes, thousands of them crawl into houses and other warm places to spend the winter. We vacuum them up steadily but there are always a dozen more when we look again.

Burying my head under the covers last night, I was wishing the skunk odor would at least fumigate the bugs. 😦

Free Book: Rescuing Finley

I have great news for readers who like an inspiring contemporary fiction story. Dan Walsh is one of my favorite writers and I see that his book, Rescuing Finley, is FREE today on Amazon.

Here’s my review of Rescuing Finley

Amy Wallace was a recovering meth addict, who lost her job and needed friends. Sad to say, two “friends” had in mind some shoplifting: they wanted to steal an expensive ring from a department store’s jewellery section. And they had in mind Amy should be the one to pocket the goods. Which meant Amy was the one who got caught and sent to prison.

Ever since he finished high school Chaz wanted to sign up with the Marine Corps. His mother protested angrily when he told her, “I signed up today. It’s for two years — but they’ll go fast.” She needed him to help her survive. And what about Finley?

Chaz was Finley’s whole world, the one human who loved him. Chaz’s mother barely tolerated Finley in her small apartment. We understand through his eyes how abandoned and confused he was when Chaz left — and never returned. Finley couldn’t know his master’s life ended on a battlefield, but he knew something was very wrong. Lost in her own grief Chaz’s mother couldn’t deal with a dog — especially a huge one like Finley. Feeling guilty but desperate, she dropped him off at an animal shelter.

Chris Seger’s life as he knew it also ended while on a mission in Afghanistan, when he stepped on a land mine. A permanent ticket home — minus one leg. Stateside, after months of therapy, he found work with an understanding and flexible employer, but he wrestled constantly with PTSD, depression and the nightmares. Then a pal suggested he look into this new program: service dogs for the disabled.

Dan Walsh does an excellent job of taking us through Chris, Finley, and Amy’s lives as they struggle to start again. Then he brings them together in a winning story of forgiveness and healing. At the same time he walks readers through a great program where prisoners work with dogs, training them as companions for veterans with PTSD.

I found this a terrific, heart-touching book and shed quite a few tears as I watched the story unfold. Five stars from me.

Canada Beaver Tale

One morning a Calgary police officer was cycling along on his usual beat when he saw a middle-aged man walking down the street. The man was dressed like a lumberjack and waddling along the sidewalk behind him was this beaver, eh.

The policeman braked and got off his bike. “Excuse me, sir, but what’s with this beaver and why is it following you around?”

The lumberjack looked back at the beaver. “He’s my pal, eh. I’ve brought him along with me so he can see what the big city looks like. But he’s having a hard time keeping up.”

“Listen,” said the officer, “we can’t have wild animals roaming around like this here in the city. You should take him to the Zoo.”

“That might be a good idea,” the lumberjack replied. “Where can I find it?”

The policeman gave the lumberjack instructions on how to get to the Calgary Zoo. “You’ll have to take the bus from here, but watch out that beaver doesn’t bite anyone along the way, eh?”

“Don’t worry. He won’t bite anyone unless they’re made of wood.” He chuckled, then turned to the beaver. “Come on, pal. We’re going to the Zoo.”

The next morning the policeman was patrolling his beat when he saw the lumberjack again. This time he was going in the opposite direction — and again the beaver was waddling along behind him.

The officer stopped short. “Hey, mister. I thought you were going to take that animal to the zoo?”

“I did.” the lumberjack replied. “And my little pal liked it so well I decided today I’d take him to the Stampede.”

🙂

This tale derives from an old English joke I read in an old Friendship Book of Francis Gay.
Since it’s Canada Day tomorrow I’ll give it a little tweak and serve it up to you. They say beaver tales tails are very tasty. 🙂

 

My Little World

Well, I made a very quick trip through the Cancer Clinic yesterday, getting there about 10:20 and leaving at 10:40am. I’ve never had an appointment go that fast before; I was barely into the building before I was called into the examining room and the doctor was in a few moments later.

My oncologist had great news for me: my blood cell counts are all normal. Now I can get on with life again for the next six months. 🙂

The more difficult diagnosis: she doesn’t think bouncing ideas around in my brain and running my fingers across a keyboard is adequate exercise for someone my age. If I want to build up my energy, she says, I really need to be more active. So I’ve resolved to get out and walk more. And this is the season to start.

We live in a mobile home on what was once part of a pasture. The farmer’s son fenced off these few acres from the main pasture when he got engaged and wanted a place to set up his trailer. He later moved away and we bought the place ten years ago. So on our west and north side there was a narrow strip of pasture; it has since been converted into a grain field in which the farmer has been growing canola these past few years.

On the other side of the pasture there’s a train track, so we sometimes watch and count the cars as they rattle past on their way to country grain terminals and oil fields. Some are potash cars.

To the east of us there’s a narrow strip of mostly poplar and willow woods between us and the farmer’s yard. To the south is a gravel road with minimum traffic; south of that is a strip of cultivated land, a hedge row of chokecherries, then more pasture. We often hear from this hedgerow and the pasture beyond, the conversations of coyotes in the twilight.

We are avid bird watchers; we delight in this little woods that abounds with a number of local bird species for most of the year and various migrating birds during spring & fall. We are right on the flight lane of the sandhill cranes; spring and fall they stop over for several weeks at a slough just north of us, or in the pasture across the road to the south. Many fall evenings are filled with their funny “throbbing” or hoarse honking as they settle in for the night. And what a racket if the coyotes pester them!

We’re also on the flyway of the snow geese: at times flocks of a thousand or more passed over our heads. Coming home yesterday we saw a flock of easily a thousand birds milling around and settling in a field right beside the highway. At times we’ve seen 10-20 acres white with “snow” in the early mornings.

We see killdeer, meadow larks, the odd nighthawk, tree swallows, a dozen different native sparrows, robins, brown thrashers, catbirds, wrens, warblers, orioles, hummingbirds — even golden and bald eagles, and the Grand Duke (great-horned owl) who lives in the woods beside us. Great place to live!

To the west of us, across the train tracks, there are large sloughs north and south of the highway, with their waters lapping away at both road edges. To the east of us, past the farmyard, there are a couple of other smaller sloughs. Ducks and Canada geese paddle around these bodies of water until they dry up in summer, if they do. We often see a snipe on a fence post beside the road and redwing blackbirds clinging to the bull rushes. One day several ducks came waddling down our driveway as if on inspection, checking up on what the tenants are doing.

I should mention the muskrat homes dotting the sloughs. Sometimes I surprise one paddling in the water or sitting on the bank as I approach. Sometimes all I see is a ripple of water if the animal spots me first. And there are a zillion frogs that fill our evenings with their songs. These are the “wetlands” our Canadian prairies are noted for, sloughs of all sizes teeming with wildlife.

Yes, it’s a great place to get out for a walk. And my oncologist says none of us — even she in her busy practice — has a just excuse not to get enough exercise. So I’d best follow doctor’s orders. It’s a great time of year to be alive. 🙂

Piglet Rescue Unravels

Tumpy Stays Home

Back in 1900 a young immigrant named William Story, working in Eastern Canada as a carpenter, met Ruth, a music teacher newly come from Scotland. Before long the two were married and headed for the prairies to claim a homestead.

Their oldest child was Tom, next came Ruth, her mother’s namesake, then little William, who for some reason was given the nickname “Tumpy.” This story takes place on a mild February day in 1921 when Agnes was a baby and Tumpy a lively five-year-old who did not want to get dressed up in his good clothes and go to town with his family.

Mom had ordered him to put on clean overalls and his woolen pullover and be ready when Dad brought the sleigh. But he hated that itchy pullover — and having to “behave like a nice boy” all day. Instead of going upstairs to his room he sneaked out the front door and ran to the barn.

He found his dad harnessing the driving horses and pleaded his case. “I don’t want to go along. I want to stay here with Norman.” He’d even fill the firewood box if he could stay home.

Norman, age fifteen, was an orphan his parents had taken in several years previously. He was one of the family now, a hard-working lad and Tumpy’s hero. If Norman was going to stay home and clean out the barn, Tumpy wanted to stay, too. Dad thought about this and gave his consent, along with the warning, “Stay out of Norman’s way when he’s working.”

After his family left Tumpy wandered around the barn checking on the animals. He’d heard his dad tell Norman that old Molly, their sow, was likely going to have her piglets today. “But she won’t need any help. You can leave her alone.” Tumpy went around to the “maternity pen” and watched multi-colored old Molly snuffing around contentedly. He and Molly were good friends. She was such a gentle sow he was able to ride piggy-back on her around the yard last summer and fall.

Next he wandered into the lane and got in the way as the work horses dragged the stone-boat out to the field with a load of manure. Norman told him to look out if he didn’t want to get splattered. “And stay away from old Molly. Remember what your dad said.”

Oh, the power of suggestion! Tumpy headed back to Molly’s pen to check on the sow. Sure enough, one tiny pink piglet had been born!

The Sick Baby Pigs

It didn’t seem to be moving very much. Maybe it was sick? In which case Tumpy knew exactly what to do. He’d watched his dad deal with sick piglets before. The tiny thing needed warming. So over the rails he went, snatched the piglet, stuffed it into his jacket and headed to the house. Molly offered a protesting squeal, then went back to the birthing process.

He ran into the kitchen and opened the oven door on the wood stove. This was piled full of green firewood to dry out for future needs. Tumpy tossed the logs onto the kitchen floor while the piglet squirmed and squealed inside his jacket. Thankfully the oven wasn’t too hot. His dad had told him how you need a gentle, even heat when you’re using the oven for an incubator. Just one log at a time. And you never close the oven door!

Tumpy needed rags, so he yanked open his mother’s towel drawer, grabbed several tea-towels drawer and laid them in the oven. On these he set the tiny pink piglet. Then he rushed back out to the barn to see if any of Molly’s other piglets needed saving. Maybe they all would? By the time he’d returned with #2 he could see the first pink piggy was warm and dry. He sat on the over door and stroked them for a moment before going for another.

On his fourth trip Norman caught sight of him at the pen and yelled, “Tumpy! Whatever are you doing with that? You’re supposed to leave Molly alone, remember.”

Even at his age, Tumpy understood how important Molly’s litter was to the farm income. “It’s sick and I’m taking care of it just like way Dad would do. And anyway, it was you he told to leave Molly alone.”

Norman didn’t see things that way and stopped his chores long enough to scold Tumpy every time he saw him dashing out of the barn with another squealing piglet inside his jacket. But Tumpy was saving their wee lives. Dad would surely be pleased.

A Speedy Recovery

After he’d stolen the seventh piglet old Molly was squealing angrily at his interference in her affairs, so he knew he’d better quit this rescue operation. And by the time he set #7 in the oven the others had miraculously recovered from whatever ailed them. Lively and hungry, they’d scrambled out of the oven and were exploring the kitchen, hoping to find their mom and protesting the lack of nourishment.

Tumpy decided to offer them some milk, but this didn’t pan out — or rather, it did “pan out.” He’d set a basin of milk on the floor and the babies overturned it, then waded through the puddle, spreading milk drippings all across the kitchen.

Whatever else might have ailed them, these piglets were blessed with healthy lungs. One little pig was wee-wee-wee-ing under the sofa. One was nuzzling a stick of firewood tossed on the floor. One was grunting from behind the wood-box. Another had gotten itself wedged under the treadle of her sewing machine and took this for the chopping block. It was squealing its little lungs out. Another had fallen down the cellar stair and was wailing about that. A couple more added their motherless cries to the racket.

Mother Almost Wept

Right about then the family sleigh pulled up to the door. Mother, carrying the baby, stepped into the kitchen. A wave of heat hit her from Tumpy’s faithful stoking of the wood stove. Then her jaw dropped as she saw the pigs, her once-clean tea towels, the milk — and heard the squealing.

Recovering from the initial shock Mom stepped carefully through the kitchen and set little Agnes down in the parlor. Then she returned to face the mess. By this time the rest of the family had come in and were staring at the scene. Dad took charge, ordering Tom and Ruth to “Go tell Norman to come get the sleigh and unhitch the team.” Then he turned to Tumpy. “How many piglets have you got in here?”

He spied Mom’s basket of ironing sitting on the counter, dumped out the clothes and started catching the squirming piglets. Norman came running in about then, saying, “I told him not to do it.” Dad assured him it was all right and asked him how many more piglets Molly had. “I think two, but I was scared to bother her.”

Soon the piglets were corralled in the basket, Dad tossed the ironing on top of them so they’d stay put, then he carried them out to the barn with Tumpy trailing after him. “You stay out of the way, Tumpy, while I get these pigs back into Molly’s pen. And don’t you go back to the house right now, either,” Dad warned him.

No doubt there was a happy reunion in the maternity pen. Tumpy doesn’t record what was said or done to him later as a reward for his efforts, but it had been such an exciting day that he was one hungry little boy at the supper table. But not for pork.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Historical note:

I read this account in the memoir of Bill Story, titled TUMPY, Stories of the Homestead Days, published in 1979. I’ve retold it in my own words.

WordPress daily prompt: Unravel

This is an extra-long blog post, I know. I debated whether to do this in one long post or divide it into two parts. What do you think? Would you have preferred half today and half tomorrow or are you happy with the whole account at one shot? Any comments?