Sandwich Spread

Sandwich.freeThe Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is SANDWICH

You’re all welcome to join the fun and post a poem, prose, photo, pertaining to the noble SANDWICH. And since I was the one who offered this prompt, I’d better respond, too. Here’s a little story my mom-in-law once told.

Years ago a busy mother, approaching middle age and broadening her…er…personal horizon, was visiting her doctor and he was concerned about her weight problem. (This was back in the 50s, while it was politically okay for a doctor to mention such things.)

“Your heart’s under too much strain, Helen. I think for your heart, and for the good of your overall health, that you’d better take off some of that weight.”

Helen sighed. “I’ve tried cutting back, but I just can’t seem to lose a pound. Even when I eat less and am on the run all day, I still don’t lose weight.”

“What foods do you normally eat?”

“Whatever I can put between two slices of bread.”

“Ah!” The doctor smiled. “Let’s start there.”

Fire in the Forest

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was COUNTLESS BRANCHES

A forest of living, greening branches can be an inspiring sight, but here’s an account of a raging blaze started in the felled trees on a homesteader’s farm. They were set ablze by the hired man, who had good intentions, but seriously lacked common sense. The REBLOG button on his post isn’t working, so I’ve reprinted this from Flatlander Faith.com. See the original post HERE.

[This is an excerpt from a Canadian Classic, Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie, first published in 1852.  At the climax of the crisis described here, she buries her head in her apron. It was her custom to  pull up her apron to cover her head for privacy when praying.]

The winter and spring of 1834 had passed away. The latter was uncommonly cold and backward; so much so that we had a very heavy fall of snow upon the 14th and 15th of May

A late, cold spring in Canada is generally succeeded by a burning, hot summer; and the summer of ’34 was the hottest I ever remember.  No rain fell upon the earth for many weeks, till nature drooped and withered beneath one bright blaze of sunlight; and the ague and fever in the woods, and the cholera in the large towns and cities, spread death and sickness through the country.

Moodie had made during the winter a large clearing of twenty acres around the house. The progress of the workmen had been watched by me with the keenest interest. Every tree that reached the ground opened a wider gap in the dark wood, giving us a broader ray of light and a clearer glimpse of the blue sky. But when the dark cedar swamp fronting the house fell beneath the strokes of the axe, and we got a first view of the lake my joy was complete: a new and beautiful object was now constantly before me, which gave me the greatest pleasure.

The confusion of an uncleared fallow spread around us on every side. Huge trunks of trees and piles of brush gave a littered and uncomfortable appearance to the locality, and as the weather had been very dry for some weeks, I heard my husband talking with his choppers as to the expediency of firing the fallow. They still urged him to wait a little longer, until he could get a good breeze to carry the fire well through the brush.

Business called him suddenly to Toronto, but he left a strict charge with old Thomas and his sons, who were engaged in the job, by no means to attempt to burn it off till he returned, as he wished to be upon the premises himself in case of any danger. He had previously burnt all the heaps immediately about the doors. While he was absent, old Thomas and his second son fell sick with the ague, and went home to their own township, leaving John, a surly, obstinate young man, in charge of the shanty, where they slept, and kept their tools and provisions.

The day was sultry, and towards noon a strong wind sprang up that roared in the pine tops like the dashing of distant billows, but without in the least degree abating the heat. The children were lying listlessly on the floor for coolness, and the girl and I were finishing sun-bonnets, when Mary suddenly exclaimed, “Bless us, mistress, what a smoke!” I ran immediately to the door, but was not able to distinguish ten yards before me. The swamp immediately below us was on fire, and the heavy wind was driving a dense black cloud of smoke directly towards us.

“What can this mean?” I cried. “Who can have set fire to the fallow?”

John Thomas stood pale and trembling before me. “John, what is the meaning of this fire?”

“Oh, ma’am, I hope you will forgive me; it was I set fire to it, and I would give all I have in the world if I had not done it.”

“What is the danger?”

“Oh, I’m terribly feared that we shall all be burnt up,” said the fellow, beginning to whimper.

“We must get out of it as fast as we can, and leave the house to its fate.”

“We can’t get out,” said the man, in a low, hollow tone, which seemed the concentration of fear; “I would have got out if I could; but just step to the back door, ma’am, and see.”

I had not felt the least alarm up to this minute. Judge then my horror, when, on going to the back door, I saw that the fellow, to make sure of his work, had fired the field in fifty different places. Behind, before, on every side, we were surrounded by a wall of fire, burning ferociously within a hundred yards of us, and cutting off all possibility of retreat.

I closed the door and went back to the parlour. Fear was knocking loudly at my heart – I felt stupefied. The girl sat upon the floor by the children, who had both fallen asleep. She was silently weeping; while the fool who had caused the mischief was crying aloud.

A strange calm succeeded my first alarm; tears and lamentations were useless; a horrible death was impending over us, and yet I could not believe that we were to die.

My eye fell upon the sleeping angels, locked peacefully in each other’s arms, and my tears flowed for the first time. Mary, the servant-girl, looked piteously up in my face. The good, faithful creature had not uttered one word of complaint, but now she faltered forth, “The dear precious lambs! Oh such a death!”

I threw myself down upon the floor beside them, and pressed them alternately to my heart, while inwardly I thanked God that they were asleep, unconscious of danger.

The heat soon became suffocating. We were parched with thirst, and there was not a drop of water in the house. I turned once more to the door, hoping that a passage might have been burnt through to the water. I saw nothing but a dense cloud of fire and smoke – could hear nothing but the crackling and roaring of the flames, which were gaining so fast on us that I felt their scorching breath in my face.

“Ah,” thought I – and it was a most bitter thought – “what will my beloved husband say when he returns and finds that poor Susy and his dear girls have perished in this miserable manner? But God can save us yet.”

The thought had scarcely found a voice in my heart before the wind rose to a hurricane, scattering the flames on all sides into a tempest of burning billows. I buried my head in my apron, for I thought that our time was come, and that all was lost, when a most terrific crash of thunder burst over our heads, and, like the breaking of a water-spout, down came the rushing torrent of rain which had been pent up for so many weeks. In a few minutes the chip-yard was all afloat, and the fire effectually checked. The storm which, unnoticed by us, had been gathering all day, and which was the only one of any note we had that summer, continued to rage all night, and before morning had quite subdued the cruel enemy whose approach we had viewed with such dread.

The imminent danger in which we had been placed struck me more forcibly after it was past than at the time, and both the girl and myself sank to our knees and offered up our hearts in humble thanksgiving to that God who had saved us by an act of His Providence from an awful and sudden death. When all hope from human assistance was lost, His hand was mercifully stretched forth, making His strength more perfectly manifested in our weakness.

“He is their stay when earthly hope is lost,
The light and anchor of the tempest-toss’d.”

The Corvid Clan

Tracy, the blogger over at “Reflections of an Untidy Mind” has just presented the blog-o-sphere with a new once-a-week writing challenge:

magpie-4661322_640Introducing – ta-da! – Corvid – 2020.
You can check out the details here, but basically you’re supposed to post something once a week about modus operandi of the family Corvidae.

Like the Borgia bunch and other nefarious family groups, this is a clan of clever, scheming thieves, including crows, ravens, jays, and magpies. But if you want to say something nice about them, I think that would be okay, too. Even the blackest of families have an occasional white sheep.

Blue Jay.croppedRaven

Sunday Prompt

Good morning everyone — or at least it will be when you read this, as I’m scheduling it for 8am. I want to set this up tonight because I’m not certain we’ll have an internet connection in the morning.

In reality it’s just past midnight here and I’m up late having a hot drink, watching the snow blow over the garage roof, hearing our windows and the internet dish on the roof rattling. Yes, our spring-like weather from this afternoon has vanished and March is coming in with a lion-like howling blizzard here.

The Ragtag Daily Prompt for March 1st is STENTORIAN. I’ve chosen this word and hope bloggers will respond favorably to it. Here’s my tale, which I’ve written as a response to this prompt.

Takes All Kinds to Make a World

Though they were only thirteen months apart in age and could easily pass for twins, Royal and his brother Abner were two completely different natures. Folks who knew the family claimed that when the boys were growing up, young Roy, as everyone called him, talked and his younger brother listened. And when Roy was done voicing his opinion, Ab would put in a few sensible words at the end.

Roy’s stentorian voice is the talk of the town. He only has one volume, folks say, and that’s the loudest. Folks say when the family comes to town they can often hear Roy a mile away, giving orders to his youngsters. And if one of them misbehaves the whole town knows it. And you sure don’t want to be in the same room as him when he gets to discussing politics!

Livery stable owner Frank Tompkins says his horses get so nervous they started kicking in their stalls whenever they hear Roy’s angry tones roll across town. That might be an exaggeration, but Widow Smith maintains that he made Duke, her old horse, bolt one day. She claims she was driving by Roy’s farm when Roy came out of the barn and started roaring at one of his boys for some misdeed. Old Duke jerked his head back and ran like the wolves were after it. She barely managed to get him slowed down again. It’s a wonder she didn’t have a wreck!

Pete Brown said he sure hoped Roy never came around his barn at milking time. “My cows won’t let down their milk if they hear that trumpet of his.” Someone wondered how Roy got any milk from his own cows and another farmer explained that Roy left the milking to his wife and girls. They were all good with the dairy. “He wants his cream check, so he stays away from the barn when the women are milking.”

Opposites attract, you know, and Mrs Royal is a quiet, shy woman. Folks who get to know her say she’s rather hard of hearing. Maybe that helps. We wonder, though, if listening to him has made her deaf.

Mrs Abner, on the other hand, is never reluctant to speak her mind. Sometimes she seems a little impatient to have Ab hurry up and say his piece, but you can’t rush him. If you take the time to sit and wait while he mulls the matter over, he will come out with some pretty wise words.

“Takes all kinds to make a world,” they say. You just don’t think that two boys so opposite could come out of one family.

The Signal Flag

The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is BEACON

This word makes me think of a short story I could write sometime. The main character will be a young man whose horse stumbles and tosses him, so here he is, following a faint prairie trail one bitterly cold evening. His eyes search the darkness for one glimmer of light, one hope of rescue. He’s very close to giving up and accepting the fate of freezing to death when he sees the far-off glow of a window. A homesteader’s cabin! Shelter and warmth — his only hope! but what kind of people live there? What fate awaits him when he gets there?

Yes, someday I’ll write that tale. 🙂

However, today I’m going to give you another quick story. I read this years ago in the 1972 Friendship Book of Francis Gay and am retelling here in my own words. This doesn’t involve a beacon — at least the rector never intended to display one…

Years ago the rector in a small English town took a notion that it’d make a nice touch for his church if they had a flag — something they could hoist for on special occasions. He shared his idea with his flock one Sunday morning and different ones nodded in agreement.

One elderly woman had a flash of recall: wasn’t there one around her house somewhere? She went home and rummaged through her attic, thinking she may have seen the flag in her father’s old trunk. Ah! Here it was.

She took it to the rector, who laid it out and studied it awhile. The design was nothing he’d ever seen before, but it had a unique, pleasing placement of colours. Sure, why not use it as their banner for special-occasions?

Calling a number of folks to come and see, he attached it to the rope and ran it up the flagpole. Folks nodded. It looked attractive enough…and would be a nice touch for the Feast of Saint Somebody a few weeks hence.

The rector decided to leave the flag up for the day and went in to tea. Early that evening someone knocked at the manse door; the rector opened it and saw a sailor standing there grinning.

“Excuse me, sir,” the sailor began, giving the rector a hearty salute. “I come to see if I could be of some help, seeing you have an emergency.”

The rector was startled. “Emergency? We have no emergency here that I know of.”

“But I’ve just read the signal flag on your church tower, sir. It’s saying that you are in great difficulties and urgently need a pilot.”

Ben Wicks and British History

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is ENGLISH

England.David Rock DesignAn ocean of ink wouldn’t cover this topic, but I’m going to tell you about several books I’ve enjoyed. When I was a teen Ben Wicks was a popular cartoon artist, drawing the life of the indolent Andy Capp and his long-suffering wife, Florrie. After he’d immigrated to Canada, Mr Wicks wrote or compiled a number of books centering around World War 2. Great for readers who are interested in British history through the eyes of those who lived it.

Wicks was a boy in London when World War II was declared and one of the evacuees, but made his way back home in time to watch the dogfights in the London skies during the Battle of Britain. He writes about his own experiences during those years, plus he has contacted and interviewed hundreds of other evacuees and shares their stories in his books, No Time to Wave Goodbye and The Day They Took the Children.

The English government feared—and rightly so—that major cities like London would be targeted for heavy bombing. If schools would be hit thousands of children’s lives could be lost. So the plan was hatched: as soon as war was declared all school age children, a number of teachers, also a number of young moms with preschoolers, would be evacuated from London and other southern cities.

It was fruit-basket upset. The children and their teachers marched to the stations one morning, given gas masks, loaded onto trains and shipped into the country. Many inner city children had never seen it before. Small town and country folks with a spare room or two had been ordered to take them in; at the train station it was “come and take your pick” from the weary, frightened lot that arrived. Cute little girls and big boys who could work were picked first. Siblings who clung to each other, refusing to be parted, and children with disabilities had to wait and wait, wondering if anyone would take them in.

I’ve read No Time to Wave Goodbye* and it’s a fascinating collection. The book is written in a positive note, but the stories are frank. Some children made friends for life, while others were starved, neglected, even abused. Some homes found themselves with slum children who’d never learned manners or personal hygiene; some children came from well-to-do homes and found themselves boarded with rustic families in cramped quarters. Many were evacuated to areas where they couldn’t understand the local dialect at all.
*© 1989 by Ben Wicks. My copy published by General Paperbacks, Toronto, ON

Promise Me You’ll Take Care of My Daughter* is another interesting book of experiences, this time those of War Brides who married Canadian soldiers. There were 48,000 women who came to Canada after World War II as wives of Canadian soldiers. Ben Wicks has managed to contact a good sampling of them and has sections of the different aspects of their experiences: meeting their soldier; the wedding day; the good-byes for home and family; coming across; the new home; meeting the in-laws.
*©1992 by Ben Wicks. Stoddart Publishing Co, Ltd., Toronto, ON

He also wrote Nell’s War and When the Boys Came Marching Home, the latter a book about the joy and turmoil returning soldiers experienced after the war was over.