Broken Arm

Whose arm is that? I think I know.
Its owner is quite sad, though.
It is a tale of woe,
They watch him frown. She cries hello.
He gives his arm a shake,
And sobs until the tears make.
The only other sound’s the break,
Distant cars and birds awake.
The arm is broken, swollen, and deep,
But he has promises to keep,
Until then, he shall not sleep.
He lies in bed with ducts that weep.
He rises from his bitter bed,
With thoughts of sadness in his head,
He rejoices at not being dead.
Facing the day with very little said.

Cake

There once was a lass who liked cake.
She said, “See the lovely bake!”
It was unusually flat,
Round but not very fat,
And ate it for goodness sake.

Cunning

Pay attention to the Ukrainian fighters,
The Ukrainian leadership is the most cunning non-revolutionary master of all.
“Silence.” said the Ukrainian government,
And “silence” then “silence” again.

Diner

The empty passenger cars
joined by the rotting diner.
It too is empty, bare
and abandoned, desiccating
In hot summer sun.
It is of that one greater generation gone,
How I mourned the awful sight.
Down, down, down into the darkness of memory’s tunnel,
Quickly it goes by, obscured, forgotten, a shadow.
Pay attention to these rolling ruins,
They shall never come ’round again.
How soon we forget the one-time living.

Comme Ci, Comme Ça

Update on my arm — upper left radial and lower humorous adjacent to the elbow. Damn, it hurts!

Since I cannot type with one hand, I thought it would be okay to remove my sling and the forearm supported by my desk and set to work banging out four-thousand words in various news stories.

It worked very well, thank you. I will say that my arm was slightly sore once done, but other than that, Comme ci, comme ça.

Then my wife asked me to bring a 24-can case of Pepsi into the kitchen. Without thinking, I lifted it with my left hand, attached to my left arm, and yee-ow-za!

The pain was blinding. After getting the case to the kitchen counter, I quickly sat down and let the sweat drip from me.

An hour later, my son and daughter-in-law came over for a visit. With them, they brought Honey, their dog.

With it being 80 degrees and the dog wearing a sweater put on her to battle the morning chill, I decided to remove it. That is when my left arm, still in the sling and yet in use, made an audible pop, and I nearly passed out from the pain.

Yup — I broke the effing thing. It is one more thing on a list of many things that have not gone well this year.

Glitch

Recently, I encountered a mountain lion as I was leaving the print shop one late night. Then the fed’s trapped one near Genoa, some 30 miles southwest of Virginia City.

While we don’t know if it is that cat, we did do some speculating that it could be. A news story about the capture and how I had seen one made the Comstock Chronicle, one of the papers I write for and print.

Bringing an extra copy home, one leftover from my delivery route, my wife took note of the story.

“You never told me about this,” she said.

“No, I didn’t,” I said. “I’m stupid, but not dumb. I figured it was better that you didn’t know since I had to be up there after dark the next week.”

“Oh,” she said. “Thank you, and I love you for that.”

I’m still wondering if there was a glitch in the matrix.

Friggatriskaideka

Yes, Friggatriskaidekaphobia is real.

For me, the date and day usually hold good things. The last Friggatriskaideka was no exception, but my good fortune did not come to me in the usual way.

While delivering newspapers, it is often hard to find a parking spot. Visitors and business owners tend to take up the available spaces.

There are five kinds of parking spaces — curbs without markings, curbs with red, yellow, or green paint, paid parking lots, and far-away parking spots.

The plain ones are the hardest to find. The red ones mark fire hydrants, the yellow is for deliveries, and the green, 15-minute parking.

Unfortunately, I pulled into a green spot the wrong way as a shop owner’s car and an antique bicycle blocked the use of the closest yellow zone. After delivering to a nearby saloon, I saw law enforcement roll up with flashing lights.

I let the pair in the car know I was delivering papers and I would be moving along in a minute.

That was not satisfactory as one got out of the unit and said, “I’m going to cite you for driving the wrong way.”

“You can’t do that,” I said. “It’s a misdemeanor and you have to witness me doing it to write me a ticket. I am parked in the wrong direction though, so you have every right to ticket me for that.”

“We have ourselves a lawyer,” the other said.

“Let me drop these off and then you can cite me,” I asked. “But when you do, will you please print both of your names and rank on it so I can write an article about how you are protecting the citizens of this town?”

“A threat?” the one with the ticket book asked.

“No,” I said, “I jus’ wanna explain how you two overlooked the two violations across the street since nine this morning only to ticket me while working.”

Both looked at where I pointed, “I’m sure it’s on surveillance somewhere, including how you’ve managed to ignore both since beginning your shift.”

The one with the citation book snapped it shut, saying, “Make it quick, then move on.”

Yup, Friggatriskaideka has always been good to me.

The Power of the Christian Hypocrite

Weeks back, I attended church with my son and daughter-in-law. It was a ‘Share Your Testimony’ Sunday, and being moved by the Holy Spirit, I did.

Unbeknownst to me, the entire service was video recorded for later Internet streaming. Anyway, I expressed how God talks to me like a drill sergeant would a Marine recruit, meaning he cusses and can be harsh when I fail to heed his direction.

My testimony offended many people attending through the superhighway, telling the preacher that God does not talk like that. So the powers that be edited me from the stream to quell the outrage.

It was easy to see the hypocrisy.

Then I learned the preacher also addressed the issue with the congregation, agreeing with the complainants. If I see this so-called preacher, I will ask about the old saw, “God meets sinners where they’re at” and how can anyone righteously judge my relationship with God, speaking for Him?

Actions like these are why I do not like organized religion and stopped attending church years ago.

My Cousin Elmo says, “They call it May because is may be be sunny, it may snow, it may be 20 degrees or it may be 90.”

Shifting Places

While I survived changing a tire without hurting my back, I did manage to trip over our front porch steps with both feet and fall. Fortunately, I did not break the arm I extended during the tumble.

And I’m unashamed to say that I lay on the cement for a few minutes than needed, enjoying its coolness. This evening though, I’m sorting an ice pack and sling.

Being a quick study, I’m learning how to type with one hand, finding it serious business but feasible. Drinking whiskey to deaden the throbbing of my heartbeat as it pounds through my arm is also doable and every bit as earnest.

My opinion is that I am no longer simply adulting but have taken up the more significant mantle of senioring.

Pliers

It is nice when I can find some humor in a situation I don’t particularly like.

Namely, I had to help my daughter-in-law change a flat tire on her already wrecked car. And as usual, it did not go smoothly for me.

First, I have to take care not to hurt my already fragile back any further than what sitting, standing, and laying do for it. Secondly, being rear-ended, the compartment holding the spare was crumpled.

On top of that, the screw securing the spare in the tire well was bent, and I could not get the fly-nut off. After pounding at it with that thing claiming to be a jack-handle, I asked my daughter-in-law if they had a pair of pliers.

She looked at me puzzled, “What do they look like.”

I suppressed a chuckle as I sent her to their apartment to find one.

She soon returned without the pliers, but by then, I had used the jack handle as a lever to loosen the fly-nut and pry the tire out of place. Within minutes I had the flat off and the donut on, and I did it without hurting myself.

Robert ‘Robby’ Van Dusen, 1962-2022

His last words to me were, “Very. Fung. Shway.”

It was a comment from Robby on a painting I had finished and posted to my social media site. Like everyone else, I had no idea it would be the final time I’d hear from him.

Before I get there, let me go here.

Fifty years before, we thought we had lost him. I say “we” because it was a small town, and our school was even smaller, so when tragedy struck, it felt like the world had crumbled on everyone.

Robby Van Dusen had drowned, was revived, and on life support. Reports were that he’d been in the water for over 20 minutes and that doctors had called time-of-death and were walking away when he coughed himself back to life.

It wasn’t his time back in the day, but that changed on Thu., May 5, when, for a second time, when doctors removed his life support. On that day, Robby returned home again.

Once he returned to school, Robby seemed slower than the other kids. He had to relearn to eat, walk, and talk before being released from the hospital.

While it seemed unfair and hard to watch Robby struggle, he was at peace with it all. He would later say that he had seen Heaven, a claim that elicited snickers and unmerciful teasing.

A few days ago, Robby fell off a ladder, breaking his pedicle, or partes interarticulares, of his axis vertebra, or the second cervical vertebra. The process is colloquially known as a ‘hangman’s fracture.’

At times like this, I tend to question God’s judgment, asking Him, what is the effing point?

Jus’ the Fax, Ma’am

It was another late night of printing the newspaper. It took about seven hours to finish up, meaning it was about 11 p.m. as I headed to the car and home.

Yes, I am still having my truck worked on. Once the price tag had reached the five thousand dollar mark, I decided I may as well break the bank and have the repair go through the aging beast with a fine-toothed comb.

At any rate, operating on only four hours of sleep, I managed to do my radio show, which I can’t find on the Internet and now feel compelled to ask about, and I delivered all of my papers. Then I did my best, and without breaking the law, to beat feet back to the radio station for a staff meeting.

Five minutes late, I arrived to learn of its cancellation, and an email dispatched telling me so. An email — I never thought once to check my email when a text is so much more common these days.

I’m surprised no one sent me a fax.

You Can’t Debride Some Memories

While in the Air Force, before the Marine Corps, I was called up by my squadron commander, Capt. Smith to help out at Brooke Army Medical Center because I had paramedic training. They had received a fight from Okinawa of 20 or 25 Marines severely burned in a JP4 fuel fire. Between studies and drills, I reported to the Army’s premier burn center to assist in debriding the dead or necrotic skin from these injuries.

The duty left me mentally scarred but gave me the desire to become a Jarhead myself, though I had no idea of this then. Odd, I know.

Then my wife came home from work with a deep burn to her left upper arm. She refused to go to the hospital, leaving it up to me to clean and dress.

While I did my best for her, she will have one hell of a scar once it heals. Third-degree burns are like that.

It was hard not to think about how those Marines sang the Marine Corps Hymn at the top of their lungs and shouted encouragement to one another as they endured the scrubbing and picking until raw, healthy flesh was all that showed.

Root Word

Ever since moving to Nevada and learning who Alfred Doten is, I have been an admirer of his. Known for his diary, Doten chronicles life in Nevada in general and the Comstock in particular from when he arrived around 1849 till his death in 1903.

With all that said, I have kept a journal since 1969. I say “journal,” because a friend of mine teased me severely once — “Diaries are for girls and sissies, which are you?”

It is only today, being this many days and years, and decades-old, that it dawned on me that journal is the root word for journalist. Duh!

Morning Show

Since beginning my so-called radio career in 1976, I’ve never been “good enough” to do a morning show. Sadly, my ego has always been at odds with that.

Finally, after 46-years, I am doing a morning show and doing it solo, meaning I have no one else in the studio with me. All I am doing is fulfilling the technical aspects of a radio jock.

Technical aspects? Yes, call letters or imager in and out of all spots-sets, where commercials play. I back-announce the song jus’ played, maybe say my name, tease two or three artists and then provide the weather or traffic.

It is a simple, music-oriented show and not personality-driven. It suits me fine as I don’t have a rapid-fire speech pattern, and I do not enjoy providing small talk unless I am face to face with another person.

Gaslit: Match is Struck

Having come home, I found the chip bag and the dip container on the kitchen counter and the missus with her arms folded beside them in the most menacing style.

Thankfully, she does not own a rolling pin.

Our next-door neighbor saw me put trash in her garbage can sitting at the curb in the street when I walked by it. She removed it from the can, presenting it to my wife unceremoniously, and told her that “he better not do it again, or I’ll call the cops.”

Not only is my wife unhappy that I gaslighted her, but it also left her embarrassed that I involved our shitty neighbor. I have whatever she’s got in store coming to me.

In practical jokes terms, this is called a bomb. And it has dropped on me.

BOOM!

From Dead to Killed

Decided that I needed a new electric razor. You know your razor has turned to the dark side when it begins nicking you to the point you bleed.

“I am your razor, Tom!”

“Nooooo!”

Okay, enough with the Star Wars-like dialogue.

Spent twenty bucks on one that I believed would last me at least a couple of years. Once home, I plugged it in and let it charge.

Twenty-four hours later, I unplugged it, flipped the tab to the on position, and nothing. Plugging it back in didn’t help it either.

Again nothing.

So I put everything back in the bag, including the hardened plastic that took me fifteen minutes to cut through, and took it back to the store. Finally, I get to the return counter and explain how it does not work.

The woman looked at the hardened plastic, back at me, then back to the plastic casing it was packaged in, and said, “We can’t take this back the container is too damaged.”

“Say what?” I shouted.

The assistant manager heard and asked, “What’s the trouble?”

The returns woman explained, I explained, and the assistant manager explained, “I’m sorry, but she’s new here. Come down here, and I’ll get you your money back.”

I felt suddenly killed with kindness.

Gaslit

To say that I overate today would be the most honest statement I’ve made all this week. The worst thing I did was polishing off an entire bag of potato chips and a whole container of onion dip.

Burp

Because of this, and knowing the wrath I would incur once my wife found out, I set out to hide the evidence of my ‘misdeed.’ It took her a day and a half to realize neither the dip nor the chips were where she put them.

Her focus turned to me.

“What chips?” I innocently asked. “What dip?”

She didn’t buy the doe-eyes I made at her but instead went to the kitchen garbage to look for the bag and the plastic container. Not finding either, she pulled all the trash from our large bin in the garage.

“I thought we had a bag of chips and some dip in the fridge,” she said. “I sorry I got mad at you.”

“It’s not a problem,” I smiled, knowing the evidence hides in our neighbor’s garbage bin.

Out of F Street

It’s a story you cannot share with my wife. She already worries about me when I’m out after dark and in Virginia City.

Because we had a massive number of ‘legal publishings’ inside our newspapers, I was at the shop until about 11 p.m. Once finished, I began loading the boxes full of print into the vehicle as I had to deliver them the following day.

As I opened the door, it became abundantly clear that there wasn’t a single light along F Street, save for the heavenly stars above. However, the single bulb from the office cast itself into the street right before me.

The first thing I saw in the light was my shadow, followed by a movement. That same movement stopped and looked at me as surprised to see me as I was it.

Without blinking, it darted off into the inky darkness. It happened so quickly that I had no time to react, and had it wanted to attack me, I would have been dead in my tracks.

A mountain lion.

My Cousin Elmo says, “My old age is gonna be rough. I spent ten minutes chasing a house fly with the swatter only to realize it was an eye floater.”

Sodded

My son and I were sitting outside on my front porch, enjoying the warming weather and a beer. We like to do this because, well — we like to.

We watched a semi-truck as it drove by, dragging a flatbed of rolled-up sod.

“That’s the first one I’ve seen this season,” I announced.

My comment met only silence, which is not unusual as my grown child has never been much of a talker. Instead, he took another draw from his beer bottle.

As I took a swig, he turned to me and said, “When I get rich, I want to do the same thing.”

Puzzled, I asked, “What same thing?”

“Have my grass taken out, mowed then brought back,” he said in his best dead-pan voice.

I snotted beer all over the two of us.

Busiest Man in Media

“I swear,” my wife said. “He’s the busiest man in media.”

She was talking to her sister or perhaps a friend. My heart swelled with pride that she found my work ethic worthy of a brag.

I was in bed, half-asleep, knowing 3 a.m. would come too soon.

“Oh, he’s not only a newspaper reporter, he also prints and delivers the papers,” she explained. “On top of that, he’s doing the morning show for a radio station in town. Not only that, but he writes a post to his blog nearly every day, takes pictures, draws, and paints.”

“Oh, I almost forgot,” my wife said, interrupting the person she was talking with, “He also writes and produces a podcast.”

Smiling, I snuggled deeper into my blankets, secure knowing that — the thought was cut-off as I realized I had forgotten to do my podcast for the week. Crap!

So much for a worthy brag.

Double Parked

Running two days late because of more printer issues, I finally delivered the week’s news throughout the two counties of Lyon and Storey.

On this occasion, I took the Missus, who is not used to being in the passenger seat. She is also not a fan of my driving, which depending upon her mood, can run from either “you’re such a grandpa” to “slowdown before you get us both killed.”

During our half-hour jaunt through Virginia City, my wife learned how crowded C Street can get in the early afternoon and how hard parking is when making a delivery. To wit: I double park when unable to find a yellow-painted delivery zone available because non-delivery vehicles are lawfully allowed to park in them on the weekends and at night.

Safety was not her prime concern in this case. It was the people ‘staring’ at her when I turned the flashers on and exited the car.

She later admitted, “I slunk down in my seat the second time, so no one could see me.”

TGIF and I Mean IT!

It is amazing what sleep can do for the brain and a person’s attitude. While I’ll admit that I am too lazy to get up out of my comfy studio chair to walk across the hall to get another cup of coffee, at least I can laugh at my silliness this morning.

Sleep came quickly last night after I laid down. I recall waking once because the wind slammed against the house and rattled the man-gate outside my bedroom window.

But I fell back into a solid slumber once I recognized the sound.

Anyway, I needed to prep my first ‘stop set’ for this morning’s radio show. A stop set is that point where the announcer speaks on air.

Thank goodness it’s Friday!

Early to Bed

So tired, I completely blanked out what day and date today was. That is not a good thing for a person trying to live a scheduled lifestyle because of their many facets of employment.

I had to check three sources before I was sure it was Thursday, the 21st. Then I had to go back and double-check another two or three times to be sure I had my first belief correct.

Ah-ha! You are as confused now as I was this morning. I finally got smart, wrote it down, and typed the piece of paper onto the computer screen.

I’m going to bed…early!

Ride Share

Oy Vey! As if I needed one more thing added to my plate.

Yesterday afternoon, I drove up to Virginia City because I had some work to finish at the print shop. I didn’t notice anything wrong with my truck other than the “check engine” light lit up again.

By the time I completed my air shift the following morning, I had gone over a hundred miles when the thing nearly refused to move. I nursed it to the repair shop.

So, I’m without a vehicle, and my wife and I will be sharing her car for the foreseeable future. She’s less than thrilled.

Practicing?

With my new schedule taking full effect, I have found myself on the short end of the blogging spectrum. It is here where micro-blogging comes in — if I can remember it.

Having an air shift in the smaller hours of the morning has left me very tired. I knew it would affect me, but I had no idea how fatiguing it could be.

Slowly, I will get used to it, but because of my age, it will be so much slower than it once was. I need to practice, HA!

Does anyone practice getting up at three or four in the morning? I didn’t think so.

Catch a Rabbit by Its Tail

It’s the day after Easter, and I’m finally finding time to sit down and chat with Buddy, our dog. He has been eager to tell me something since yesterday morning.

“So what’s going on?” I ask him as he curled up next to me on the bed.

“I talked to the Easter Bunny yesterday as he used our backyard as a shortcut to the neighbors house.”

“How exciting for you.”

“Yeah, first time I ever seen him, and I had to ask what he was carrying.”

“What was he carrying?”

“A big basket of colored eggs?”

“Did you ask him for one?”

“Yeah, but he said I couldn’t have any because they were for the kids.”

“I see.”

“I asked him where the eggs came from, and he said he doesn’t know.”

“I’ve always wondered about that myself.”

“I also asked why he delivers them.”

“What did he say?”

“He didn’t know that either.”

“That’s weird.”

“Not really.

“Why’s that?”

“Like you always say, most famous people don’t know all that much. I think it’s the same for famous animals. And he doesn’t speak German Shorthair very well either.”

The Duke of the Bluestone

My dear friend, Alexia Sober ascribes to the saying, “You have one mouth but two ears.” So do I, but I call it the “Louis L’Amour method.”

In his autobiography, L’Amour said he’d often go into a saloon or cafe and simply sit and listen to the “old timers” as they told their life histories. Though I am known for talking more than I ought to, I have learned to sit quietly and absorb the tales being told.

That’s what I was doing at the Delta Saloon one late afternoon and where I heard this piece of “forgotten” history.

The east side of the Singatse Ranch became a hive of activity following the discovery of copper in 1883. The claim became the Bluestone Mine, one of the oldest mineral patents in the U.S.

The blue rock from the mine became a component of the amalgamation process in extracting silver on the Comstock. The Mason Valley-Yerington Mining District formed shortly afterward.

He appeared in Lyon County at the end of the War to End All Wars. The caretaker of the mine, he was often in the valley helping on the ranches.

No one knew his name, so they called him “The Duke of the Bluestone.”

He was an old gentleman, unkempt and dirty, except for his hands which were always spotless. His hair was filthy and matted, and he swore not to cut it until the Bluestone opened up again. And every once in a while, the townspeople of Yerington would catch him and crop his hair.

Not much for socializing, he remained a mysterious personality.

Some believed “The Duke” escaped from Russia following the assassination of Tzar Nicholas. Others thought he had been a Russian ship captain and that this is how he had come to this country. And most believed that “The Duke” had a large sum of money buried near his hovel, a wooden shack near the Bluestone Mine.

After being in the hospital, “The Duke” died.

Shortly afterward, a group of high school students went to the Bluestone to look for his treasure. According to some, they found thousands of dollars. Others went up to the shack to search, tearing the building asunder.

Soon there was nothing left to remind people that “The Duke” had ever been alive.

Flier

There must have been something in the air as I lost my coffee cup full of coffee only to find it a short time later in my left hand.

About an hour and a half later, a neighbor knocked at the front door. She had in her hands a flier of her Calico cat named Stanley.

It had been three days since she’d last seen her feline, and she wanted to know if I’d accompany her on a trek around the neighborhood to hand out the homemade lost and found posters. I harnessed Buddy, and we spent the next hour knocking at doors and slipping fliers under windshield wipers.

Finally, out of fliers, we turned back to her home, where she offered me a cup of coffee. I rarely turn down coffee.

Once inside, I unhitched Buddy so he could roam around as she and I chatted about the missing Stanley.

Without warning, Buddy came flying from one of the back rooms, tail tucked and ears pinned back. Behind him was a mass of black, orange, and white, hissing.

Buddy found Stanley, and Stanley don’t like dogs.

Black and White and Red On Top

While visiting the Grass Roots book store, not only did I buy some great books, including a 188-year-old bible, but I met two people with whom I began talking.

After a few minutes, Bill said, “You’ve lived quite the life.”

Zoe had walked away by then.

I don’t think either one of them believed my stories.

That is okay, as no one understands that every moment alive is an adventure to be set down into words and shared as a story. For example, while printing, a problem developed with the magenta roller.

It began to leave a red streak across the upper portion of the newsprint, and no matter what I did to correct it, it got worse. Finally, I left it alone and finished the job with the discoloration still present.

When asked, “Why is it red?”

I answered, “Because we’re preparing for Easter, and that is our representation of the blood of Christ.”

Each time I got a good laugh from the person asking the question. Thus, I turned my frustration with the printing machine into an adventure and story.

It is how my imagination works and why I feel the desperate need to write as I do.

A Couple of Points on the Coming Elections

With Biden’s poor approval ratings, and high inflation a top concern for voters, Republicans will take control of the Senate. The GOP also has the advantage because the midterm elections are lower-turnout events and the GOP base is more fired up after the 2020 elections.

While the Senate is subject to less dramatic shifts, the party out of power during a president’s first midterm has won a net gain of two seats on average since 1950.

On the House side, Democrats now have the highest number of retirements from elected life since 1992. Add the known fact that the party in power in the White House usually loses seats in Congress in midterm elections, and the GOP will pick up enough seats to reclaim the House.

Enough about national politics. Let’s get to Nevada.

Biden won took Nevada by slightly more than two percent in 2020. Catherine Cortez-Masto won it by a similar margin in 2016 with the benefit of a presidential-year turnout. She has the money advantage over all Republican challengers, and Democrats have a strong base in Las Vegas and Clark County.

But with the passing of former Sen. Harry Reid, there is an open question of how that base will hold up.

When looking at the House races for the Silver State, the lone GOP incumbent Mark Amodei will be retired from office.

Amodei sits left of center from the Republican middle in his voting. From Sep 2011 to Apr 2022, Amodei missed 299 of 6,167 roll call votes, which is 4.8 percent, higher than the median of 2.1 percent.

He voted to renew provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA,) permitting the federal government to collect business records and other information during national security investigations without a warrant.

The FISA law allows a federal judge to approve such collections without notifying the target or hearing opposing arguments. The bill expands the circumstances that require FISA judges to hear from a government-appointed critic of such requests and increases the number of FISA courts.

Amodei voted for Biden’s 2,741 pages $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package with an attached $13.6 billion for aid to Ukraine. He failed to stand with the GOP against Biden’s COVID-19 federal emergency package and the vaccine mandates while doubling down on the Green New Deal.

I’ll say no more.

Big G, Little O

One morning at about six, my bedside clock/radio rudely awakened me. I had it set to one of my favorite radio stations, KFMI, which at that time broadcasted out Arcata, Calif.

I was doing a part-time gig at its AM sister station, KATA.

When the radio came to life, the punk rock band The Clash was banging one out. ♫ Sharif don’t like it 𝄞 Rockin’ the Casbah ♫ Rock the Casbah 𝄞 Sharif don’t like it ♫ Rockin’ the Casbah 𝄞 Rock the Casbah…

Immediately, I came straight up out of a dead sleep, fumbled for 10 or 15 seconds as I turned off the racket, and hit the shower. After a musical interlude like that, I was fully awake.

As I stood under the spray nozzle, I thought back to my time at KPOD in Crescent City, Calif., when the program director Greg “Big G, Little O” O’Neil called and balled me out for playing “Nothing but a Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley at 5:30 a.m. I chucked the rest of the morning, realizing O’Neil would have fired my ass if I had been scratching out “Rock the Casbah” at that hour.

Yes, we were still in the world of turntables.

Try, Try Again

This day certainly got away from me as I spent all of my time before the computer screen and keyboard, banging out news articles for the papers. I’ve been so focused that four, and maybe a fifth time, I warmed up the same cup of coffee.

It sits there still, a full cup, on the counter, by the coffee maker, undrunk. I’ll knock it back in the morning after one more nuking unless my wife finds it necessary to dump it out.

Thank goodness it wasn’t a distilled spirit, as that would be considered alcohol abuse in my world.

Pun Intended

Pranking has been a long-standing tradition on the Comstock. Sagebrush writers Dan De Quille and Mark Twain perfected the art of pulling someone’s leg, writing what are called ‘quaints.”

But a prank that runs for six weeks? I had never been the victim of such a long-running leg pull in all my living life.

Here’s the lowdown. Pun intended.

While working on creating a podcast reflecting on Nevada’s history, I wrangled my friend Tinker Moss into voicing them and then sending the recording to me for editing and publication. The first one I got blew my mind as his voice, inflection, and tone were superb.

It was great knowing I had made a sound decision. Pun intended.

Forward to the sixth week, that’s when I learned the truth. Tink was not doing the voicing.

He was using an artificial intelligence program. The AI sounded so close to his natural speaking voice that I never questioned it.

It was a prank on a grand scale. Tink laughed and laughed, and I laughed and laughed until neither one could hardly breathe.

Then — I fired him. Now I have to voice them.

Disgruntled

It was a few minutes ahead of noon when I stepped out of the printing office onto our boardwalk to be confronted by a disgruntled neighbor.

He was all hissed off, complaining how I woke him up. I gave him the respect he demanded by stopping in my tracks and paying close attention to his body language.

When he finished posturing, it became a stand-off, him looking at me and me looking at him.

He soon took himself across the street, disappearing into the brush, and I proceeded to grab my lunch from my truck, just in time to hear the noontime whistle. I remained on alert the rest of the afternoon, expecting him to return.

He didn’t. Had he come back, I might have put him to work.

In all honesty, I had no idea that rattlesnakes woke from hibernation so early in Spring.

Dust

It may only be an urban legend that a US servicemember working with a powerful military antenna array in Alaska turned to dust after walking in front of an active radar dish and his Zippo lighter was all that survived the ordeal.

Real or not, thank goodness, the lesson I learned yesterday, that the wand that comes with Swiffer wipes is there for a reason, was not half as deadly. It was so painful that I nearly named this piece “Man Nearly Killed by Swiffer Duster.”

No sense in exaggerating.

Seeing dust in and about the equipment, I began cleaning. That is what I was doing when I got one of the worst static discharges in my life.

It came in the form of a brilliant yellow-white flash, followed by a loud crackle and a jolt of painful electricity. It left me weak, trembling, and needing to sit down.

Surprisingly, I did not launch into a tirade of vituperations that would have melted the paint from the studio walls.

Worse yet, it shut down the two computers and the three screens in the office. While I had the passwords and such to restart them, one would not reboot.

Fortune smiled as our station engineer Daniel stopped by drop off some paperwork. Like most engineers, he quickly found the trouble — the keyboard — zapped to the point it froze.

A simple re-reboot of the system and the keyboard came back to life, and the computer lit up. Crisis averted.

I’ve also heard that dust particles contain cremated remains and that the urban legend is true. Either way, I ain’t dusting no more.

Cold Call

In the 1990 movie “Quigley Down Under,” there is a scene where Matthew Quigley, played by Tom Selleck, and “Crazy” Cora, played by Laura San Giacomo, get dumped from a buckboard wagon and left for dead.

“I wish people would quit hitting me on the head,” Quigley says.

“Don’t worry,” says Cora. “On a new job, it’s quite common for things not to go well at first.”

That’s how I felt on Mon., Apr. 4, 2022, the first day at my new part-time radio job at KUEZ. Don’t get me wrong, I love having this position after being out of the broadcast game since 2013, but I cannot think of a more difficult start to a post.

First, Elizabeth Rose, who had planned to spend this week showing me the ins and outs of the station operations, fell ill and was hospitalized. Thankfully, she is recovering and will be back to it soon enough.

Before going much further, during my job interview, I remember telling the station manager/owner that I had “a tendency to overstep my bounds,” acting without permission. It is not encouraged.

But by 10 a.m., I needed help.

So, I asked a former employee I had never formally met if he could assist me. It’s a helluva way to introduce myself.

Anyway, Dave Mencarelli said yes, came to the studio, worked his magic, and got things done. He had been gone just long enough from the station that he had to call someone for an assist.

Now to find a way to put my anxieties back in their Genie lamp and fast treatment for a stress-induced canker sore.

The Photo Booth

Stopping in to visit a minute or two with my friend Liza McIlwee at the Virginia City Tourism Commission, I saw that she was busy, so I took a seat to wait my turn.

Soon, a grandfather and grandson came through the door. While Grandpa gathered information about mine tours, Grandson inspected the free-standing building that adorns the south side of the former Crystal Bar.

Finished and well-informed, Grandpa joined Grandson, “Know what that is?”

“A photo booth,” the boy answered, “But I can’t find the camera.”

“A what?” a puzzled Grandpa asked.

“Yeah — it says sit down and get your picture taken,” the boy said, pointing to a sign.

Grandpa smiled, “It’s not a photo booth, that’s an outhouse, and someone else is supposed to take your picture when you sit down.”

“Oh,” the boy said, exiting the antique facility as fast as possible.

Then Grandpa added, “We had a three-holer when I was your age.”

Suddenly, a woman who had been checking out the books and tee shirts responded to the Grandfather’s comment in sweet Georgia drawl, “So you was considered the rich cousins?”

The Fool

Because I deliver the newspapers, the same ones I write for, I get up Friday mornings and immediately turn on the coffee maker that my wife sets up for me the night before. She’s nice like that.

Then I head for the shower.

By the time I get my shoes on, the coffee has finished making its choking sound, and I’m ready to pour myself a cup. But not on this day.

Since it is dark when I get up and can only vaguely see my coffee cup, I didn’t notice anything was off. But the first sip told me I had just taken a mouthful of a problem and couldn’t hurry fast enough to spit.

Then I turned on the light to discover the problem. Instead of coffee grounds, my wife had replaced them with dirt.

“Ingenious,” I think as I dumped and cleaned everything to begin the process over.

Once on the road and delivering the papers, I stopped at a place and accepted a small box of donuts. It wasn’t until I had finished the first half of my route that I opened the pastries.

A vegetable tray! I munched on the contents the remainder of the morning.

Come nighttime, and I am tired, so I climbed into bed to learn she got me again. This time my wife short-sheeted the bed.

Here’s the rub — I never got to pull even one April Fools Day prank.

I Spent a Year There, One Day

“I spent a year there, one day,” means you’ve been in a place you didn’t enjoy for far too long. That is how it seems to me, feeling like it has been forever since I last posted and realizing it has only been 11 days.

My computer crashed on Mon., Mar. 21, showing me the “blue screen of death.” It has taken that long for a new computer tower to arrive via Amazon.

During that time, I have written all of my newspaper articles using my cellphone. After a few hours and a couple of hours, my eyes hurt, my head pounded, and I had to check the mirror to make sure I wasn’t bleeding from my ears.

As the computer ordeal played out, my truck decided to have a system-wide failure, electrical to mechanical. I spent a week struggling to get anywhere while it was in the shop for repair.

But that is all behind me, and I’m happy about it. Now to figure out how to pay for it all.

My Cousin Elmo says, “I know people who have spent more time in Facebook jail for fake ‘fake news reporting’ than Jussie Smolett has done for real ‘fake hate-crime reporting.'”

An Unapologetic and Uncorrected Ramble About Mark Twain

“I am not alive. I am dead. I speak from the grave.” — Mark Twain

In his 70th year, Mark Twain would perform a show in his brownstone on Fifth Avenue in New York. He would tell stories, crack jokes, and cut the high and mighty of his time down to size.

“To-morrow I mean to dictate a chapter which will get my heirs [and] assigns burnt alive if they venture to print it this side of 2006 A.D.,” he wrote a friend, before calling the Bibles portrayal of the “Lord of Creation…the most damnatory biography that exists in print anywhere.”

Twain planned to share the dictated record of his musings and rants, but he knew that the publication would have to wait “at least a century after his death, give or take a few years.”

His audience consisted of two people, stenographer Josephine Hobby and newly appointed biographer Albert Bigelow Paine.

“We constituted about the most select audience in the world,” Paine recalled, “enjoying what was, likely enough, its most remarkable entertainment…It was absorbingly interesting; his quaint, unhurried fashion of speech, the unconscious movements of his hands, the play of his features as his fancies and phrases passed in mental review and were accepted or waved aside.”

He also seemed ahead of his time explaining how people take their opinions from others, then herd themselves into self-protective groups.

“We are discreet sheep,” he says. “We wait to see how the drove is going, and then go with the drove.”

On the subject of political behavior: “Look at the candidates whom we loathe, one year, and are afraid to vote against, the next; whom we cover with unimaginable filth, one year, and fall down on the public platform and worship, the next, and keep on doing it until the habitual shutting of our eyes to last years evidence brings us presently to a sincere and stupid belief in this years.”

He roasted John D. Rockefeller for preaching a Sunday-school lesson full of “twaddling sentimental sillinesses,” and Theodore Roosevelt for giving a patriotic gloss to atrocities committed by American troops in the Philippines. About Roosevelt, he proclaimed, he was “the most formidable disaster that has befallen the country since the Civil War,” the vast majority of the American people loved, and even idolized, him.

Twain declared Andrew Carnegie a bore, who took “juvenile delight in trivialities that feed his vanity,” adding that Carnegie keeps his place “on top of the wave of advantage while other men as intelligent as he, but more addicted to principle and less to policy, get stranded on the reefs and bars,” and by endowing libraries, “has bought fame and paid cash for it.”

He candid about his unscrupulous publisher, Charles L. Webster, and critical of the publishing world, he opens himself and his total output to razor-sharp sarcasm. He refers to his complete works as “a pile of paralyzed old books,” and describes his 1895 lecture and book tour around the globe as a “money-grubbing raid.”

Twain detailed what led him to fire his secretary Isabel Lyons calling her a “liar, a forger, a thief, a hypocrite, a drunkard, a sneak, a humbug, a traitor, a conspirator, a filthy-minded & salacious slut pining for seduction & always getting disappointed.”

Twain lost $250,000 on the Paine Typesetting Machine. Of the inventor, he stated, [“James W.] Paige and I always meet on effusively affectionate terms, and yet he knows perfectly well that if I had his nuts in a steel-trap I would shut out all human succor and watch that trap till he died.”

Speaking at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in Liverpool, England, in 1907, Twain compared himself to “the little skipper” of the Mary Ann. Exchanging greetings with the captain of “a majestic Indiaman,” her decks swarming with sailors and a capacious cargo of Canton spices, the skipper identified his vessel as “Only the Mary Ann, fourteen hours out from Boston — with nothing to speak of.”

For one hour in every 24, Twain indicated, he was as meek as the Mary Ann, 14 hours out, carrying vegetables and tinware. But in the other 23, he acknowledged, “my vain self-complacency rides high…and I am the Begum of Bengal, 123 days out — and homeward bound!”

By his admission, vain and lazy, Twain was a complicated man. For example, Twain explains that he wears white clothes in both the winter and summer because he wants to be “clean in a dirty world; absolutely the only cleanly-clothed human being in all Christendom north of the Tropics.”

He expands on the importance of “the pause” in public lectures. Audiences need time to absorb the absurdity of a situation. But if the pause is off, “by the five-millionth of an inch,” Twain maintains, the audience has time “to wake up from its deep concentration in the grisly tale,” foresee the climax, and the joke falls flat.

Twain added, “there isn’t any way to libel the intelligence of the human race.”

Awarded an honorary degree by Oxford University, Twain sought to rid himself “of thirty-five years accumulation of bile and injured pride” by noting that although American institutions conferred degrees to hundreds of individuals who were certain “to drift into obscurity…I have seen our universities…overlook me every time…This neglect would have killed a less robust person than I am, but it has not killed me.”

Twain at first advised American Rhodes Scholars upset over the selection of Alain Locke, a black scholar, who subsequently received a Ph.D. from Harvard, edited the literary anthology The New Negro, and became a cultural critic, that their opposition was neither wise nor just. When he learned Locke received low scores in “popularity,” a character trait valued by Cecil Rhodes, Twain decided not to refer to the matter in his talk to the students, even though he conceded that Locke’s unpopularity was due to his color.

His dictations ended in December 1909, following the death from an epileptic seizure of Jean Clemens, his youngest daughter. Already inclined to melancholy and still mourning the death of his wife and eldest daughter, Twain was inconsolable, yet hopeful, with Clara Clemens living in Europe, he had thought he and Jean “would be close comrades — just we two.”

Twain died on Apr. 21, 1910.

Penny Dreams

As a child, I dreamed of growing up and dazzling the world. But time and disappointment chipped away at me until only the real stuff was left, and it was not all that dazzling. Tired stories, a sack of regrets, and a reverence for the pieces of me that survived.

All this ruination has stranded me in a dark place where I stare at my fingertips, realizing I cannot offer the world what I had hoped. But I still wake up each morning and draw my hopes on the sidewalk, though every time so far, they have been trampled over or hosed off, or the rain rolled them into the gutter.

I am not all I wish I were, but I am here, trying, awake, and part of the story even if no one ever hears it.

I get it now.

1985

At a certain point, daydreaming will not do it. I had spent too much time in that venture as I sat at the dock looking out over the Pacific Ocean.

Penny slots, one-armed bandits, Nevada, and gambling that had been the dream and to make it rich and return triumphant. Lo! Life had another plan for me.

Rolling east across the Mohave desert, the once 19th-century farm wagon was no more, replaced by a late 20th-century Volkswagen Bug. Still hot, still dusty, less room but more efficient.

My travels came by way of my girlfriend’s family home, along the mixed-up track of several numbers roads and byways, until I sped down the ramp of Interstate 15. Because I had no firm plan other than to find lodging and seek work, I promised to call her once I got to wherever I was going.

My only company for the next few hours would be the AM radio, news/talk, classical music, and Jesus. I rotated through them as their signals weakened to a cacophony of garbled sounds or faded to a soft hiss.

Las Vegas came into view after dark. It was blinding and exciting, though still many miles away.

Housing was a series of motel rooms at first in the drearier areas of the city, not that the Strip was any better as I would soon learn. Whores and hustlers, loud noises, and even brighter lights.

All of this was before the transformation to a family-oriented village-like atmosphere. Casino guards still carried guns and would use them to defend their employer’s gambling chips without being asked.

Though November, wind blowing dust from everywhere, walking the sidewalks in search of my dream proved impossible. I took a job flipping burgers.

To work in the daytime, I saw stereotypical scenes.

A black man, a bright yellow Cadillac, a small fedora on his head, and fat stogie drooping from his oversized lips. Red Foxx onliners rang through my head.

I could hear the raucous laughter.

Chicano teens in bright white wife-beater tees and cream-colored chinos, decked out with gold chains, head bandanas, and Keds. Cheech and Chong, the Other White Album, “Dave’s not here,” skits.

This time I laughed.

Queers, Trannies, hustlers, crossdressers, the homeless, and others, avoiding or failing to find classification. They were societies jetsom and flotsam.

Nobody laughs.

From work, after dark, I would see other stereotypical scenes.
Women, women, and more dressed to the nines, standing along the boulevard they called the Strip. They stood amid the litter of handouts offering up the latest and best escort services, hoping to make some luck tourists day.

Around the dirtier corners and back alleys home to my one-room abode, the less fashionable of the trade wandering and shouting com-ons to lost the passerby and those simply trying to get home so they could do it all again.

It all fascinated me. What made these women sell their bodies, if not their souls.

One woman sees me looking out the window and waves. I return the polite gesture.

Still, she stands there looking at me. With an angry shrug of her rabbit-pelt-clad shoulders, she turns her back and steps into the gutter to talk with a “john” who has pulled up.
Abandonment, money, survival, it was always the same.

The sadness is so overwhelming I think of killing myself.

Two months, then three, and I was ready to return to the more genial life I had left along the Northcoast of California. But pride forbade me to go home, and instead, I packed my version of the Connie and headed north to the Biggest Little City.

No map, no plan, I went ‘north young man.’ No sooner had I debarked from Sin City than I came to an elevation that presented itself with snow.

Snow came from the east, from the west. It pushed at me from behind and bogged my little Bug down to crawling speed. But like the pioneers of yore, I pushed on.

Then my wipers died, and I had to reach out of the driver’s side window to remove the freezing snow as it slammed and stuck to the windshield. I cursed my rotten luck as I wheeled my way through one sleepy and darkened town, nearly striking a tree growing in the middle of the road.

Often I have wondered where that happened, but even with the advent of the Internet, I have never been able to learn its location and return to that near-fatal spot.

Then my heater followed the way of the wipers, and I cursed my misfortune even more as I now had to roll my window up after scratching out a viewpoint on my windshield.

A few months before, because it started leaking oil and blowing black smoke, the car received a rebuilt engine. It was no small task either, nor inexpensive as I had a 911 Porche mounted in the rear end.

Three years later, the same thing happened, and I ended up trading her in for a Hyundai. To this day, I still mourn for that Bug, not because of what it was, but for what it represented.

A simpler time.

As for the Hyundai, it ran like a champ for nearly 13 years. It began to overheat and blew two hoses to the radiator before it caught on fire along the Interstate, and I had to pull over and get my son and his stepbrother out of the back seat before completely being engulfed.

The fire department and police arrived about the same time, and while a friend was taking the boys to school, the cops cuffed me up for arson. It would take an act of God and the fire marshal to clear my name and prove it was not my fault.

Even though I studied to be a law enforcement officer and worked as a deputy reservist for a time, I have found myself on the wrong end a few times. I threw away $1,200, which became grand larceny-theft; nine years later, I received stolen property in the form of a video camera a manager loaned me without the proper paperwork. Finally, I called my son’s middle school principal a name, and I got busted for disturbing the peace.

There are two takeaways from the above tale: law enforcement officers will follow the law as long as they do not have to work to bring justice to a situation. And the justice system is rigged to force a person to act against their better judgment.

Unfortunately, I am not lubricated enough to make my argument sound any more uncomplicated than I have done. Maybe later.

All night I slugged my way north, through unknown towns and burgs, uphill, downhill, and sharp curves, both left and right. I saw only two other vehicles that night and into the early hours of the morn.

Both were parked on the side of the road, going no place, evidence of intelligence and self-awareness.

How I found Interstate 80, I have not a clue. I did have an idea of east and west, so I turned left. Still, I pushed on into the dark morning towards what I hoped would be Reno.

Suddenly, between two massive walls of a rocky canyon, I saw the first hint of my prize. Bright lights in an inkiness I had only experienced once before as I rolled east towards Vegas.

It would be another three or four months before I dove east on that piece of road and saw all the splendor I had missed in the dark. It is still a fascinating drive to this day.

My heart leaped for joy and my butt unpuckered. It would soon be okay, and I could find rest, relaxation, and refreshment after my long, freezing journey.

The price for a room at the MGM was far too steep for me, so I decided to sit down and toss a few quarters in a machine and hope a waitress would offer to serve me a cocktail for free.
Broke and still no waitress, still no cocktail. Only a rising ball of bile in my stomach, the ringing of bells, coins in the metal pans of the slot machines, “Cigarettes, cigars, gum,” and a dizzying world of lights and no way of registering the time.

Disappointed in myself, my weakness, my loss, I walked to the men’s room and splashed water on my face. I turned, and an old black gentleman handed me a hand towel to dry myself.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Sorry, I don’t have a tip to offer you.”

“Don’t worry, but let me offer some advice, do not gamble. The house always wins.”

“Thank you.”

As I walked by the seat where I had blown much of my cash, an older woman was beaming, having won the 100-thousand dollar jackpot and the new car sitting on the carousel, center stage of the bank of slot machines.

There is a reason they are called one-armed bandits. And there is the reason why I do not gamble.

Wandering the casino floor grew irksome, especially when told to move along by security officers. It would be a year before I understood the ‘eye-in-the-sky’ had been tracking my every movement in that cavernous room with the loud colored carpet.

Down the long walkway, I finally took to strolling. Posters of old movies, many I had seen, statuettes once owned by actors and actresses that I had watched on television, lined the walls.

Then there was the famous stairway, where at four in the morning, a lucky couple had their wedding photographs taken. Above them glimmered an opulent chandelier, beaming rainbow light streaks over the area below.

I have always wondered if their marriage succeeded, and what a shame if it didn’t.

Making an abrupt change of direction is dangerous business in a casino, especially when filled with hobnobbers seeking their next party. For me, my danger was Joe Montana, San Francisco 49er Quarterback, whom I walked into and who knocked me back on my derriere.

Not many without a jersey can claim such an embarrassing moment. I did get an autographed photo out of the ordeal.

For two weeks, I slugged it out with MGM security, moving my Bug from one lot to the next as I did my best to live from that cramped space. Finally, down to my last few bucks, I had a change in fortune and found a room at a boarding house for $50 a week.

By the way, as a side note, we went to work for the MGM in security, but only after it became the Reno Hilton. Talk about coming “full circle.”

With a place to lay my head and address to use for work, I quickly found myself employed as a writer. But do not get too excited about that queer descriptor, as I wrote keno at the Cal-Neva, not the career choice one selects when numbers look like scribbles and scratches.

“You are not dressed for work. Where are your ‘black and whites?’

“Black and whites?”

“Yeah, black pants, white shirt, black tie, black shoes.”

“I don’t own anything like that.”

“Well, go buy some or don’t come back.”

“You can get them cheap across Virginia at Woolworths,” someone offered.

As fast as possible, I rushed across the street and bought a shirt, a pair of pants, a belt, and a tie. Then I sprinted downstairs at the casino to change, so I might get a few hours in before I got fired.

The black man at the shoe-shine booth and guarding the bottom of the stairwell and restroom doors offered me a free shine.

“At least nobody gonna say you ain’t spiffy.”

Smiling, I handed him a two-dollar tip. Now, I had less than five bucks to my name, and I had to make that last through payday, still two weeks away.

Three months later, I had some more success. I landed a job doing radio overnight on the weekends.

He liked the letter I had sent to him and every other program director in the valley whose name I could learn. I also sent him an aircheck from a radio station I had worked for before I embarked on my magnificent journey.

He was less impressed with that than the fact that I had been the voice for Paul Bunyan for four years.

“I was the spieler for a tourist attraction.”

“A spieler? What’s that?”

“A P.A. announcer.”

“Oh, like a carnival barker.”

“Yeah, something like that.”

I got the job, but it did not last because I found another one, which did not last either.

Then I left the Cal-Neva for John Ascuagua’s Nugget in Sparks. Again, I was a writer, but not the kind of writer I dreamed of being.

Pitfalls to this job came daily, as I had a disability that prevented me from understanding numbers. I made many an adding error that the desk had to correct.

Further, twice in one day, I wrote a $50,000 ticket and was removed from the game to sit in a back room to ‘cool off.’ Worse still, I was not allowed to go downstairs to collect the $5,000 tip offered by one of the winners.

Blessed keno. I lasted another three years before finally landing a full-time radio gig, where at least I could rewrite some of the promotions I repeated from shift to shift.

Nightly, I returned home smelling like cigarette smoke and feeling so defeated that I could not find the emotional energy to pick up my pen. At least I had my radio show.

Before landing a full-time radio gig, I had a brief interlude where I came and went in the blink of an eye. Because I had worked in a couple of different professional photo labs, I had gone to a career placement center, and they sent me to a lab in Carson City.

I was there for only two days when the manager decided I was not a good fit for her business, leaving me unemployed for nearly three months.

Slowly, I became a night owl, sleeping during the day and working at night. It was not the penny slots that I had dreamed of all those years before. It was better because I also started writing for a radio magazine and nationally televised nighttime show host and comedian Jay Leno.

Watching someone open a secured door allowing a knife-wielding crazy man into the building, a shoe-box with electrical wiring hanging from it, coworkers found dead in an empty studio, and calls from listeners requesting to hear this song or that tune. It came with the territory, though save for the last of the list, never expected.

After bashing the knife-wielding crazy man in the head with a disused teletype machine and then having to pay for damaging it, I found myself canned. Another time I was in a recording studio when two women walked in off the street. Blamed for leaving the door unlocked, I got the ax.

Still, in our newly-wed phase, I came home one Saturday morning, stripped off my duds, and crawled in bed for a two-hour nap before having to go to my other job at the casino. I was snoring pretty hard when I was violently shaken awake by my bride.

“What is this?” she said, holding up a folded envelope I had forgotten was in my back pocket.

“Well…uh…I can explain.”

“You had better!”

“Every Saturday and Sunday morning as I start my shift, I say good night to the cowboys and truckers for the ladies working out at the ranch. And so, they sent me those free passes as a way of saying ‘thanks.'”

Never saw that envelope again.

Always wanting a touch more, I landed jobs working in the movies. It started before I left the Northcoast with a small film about an alien left behind and nearly falling into government clutches. My big break was shaking a two-by-four attached to a line of trees.

Ever struggling to make ends meet, I washed dishes, mopped floors, washed bedsheets, and then found myself on the set of the third film in a series of movies that I had never seen. Enter Mark Hamill’s stand-in and eventual stunt double.

I still have the autographed picture that reads, “To Tom (Luke II!) from a galaxy far, far away. Mark Hamill.” That and a handful of call sheets.

Carrie Fisher and I even became lovers for three weeks. Her boyfriend, singer Paul Simon wanted to fight me, he was so angry about our ongoing rendezvous.

“What would you like to do tonight after we wrap?”

“Same thing we always do, let’s fuck all night long.”

“Damn, you’re my kind of woman.”

“Hey, you, fucking asshole, you know who I am?”

“Yeah, and so what?”

“You’re screwing my future wife.”

“I doubt that.”

“Why, I’m going to kick your ass.”

Simon’s bodyguards, he had two of them, intervened by lifting him off the ground and carting him off. I had no idea he was such a short-statured man.

And I still think I could have beat him in a good old-fashioned fistfight. Hell, who knows, the two of us could have even ended up being drinking buddies afterward.

She was sweet, and I miss Carrie. And she never did marry Paul Simon.

Disappointment rolled in early the following year when neither my face nor my name appeared on film. It was hard to look my friend’s in the eye because I was sure none of them believed me.

Once settled in Reno, I found all sorts of movies to be a part of, from Starman, the T.V. show, to Pink Cadillac and Sisterhood, Cobb and The Cooler. There were others, all as an extra, and I have put them from my mind.

The Cooler is the closest I ever came to having a speaking part. As one of the two stickmen at the craps table, actor William H. Macy tosses me a casino chip, and I say ‘thanks’ before tapping the chip on the edge of the table.

The shot was so far away that not only could you not make out my face, but then the film was speeded up to show how a ‘hot’ game can ‘cool’ rapidly and then returned to standard speed as I tapped on the table’s edge.

One late night, after the set wrapped, I got on the elevator. Actor Alec Baldwin followed, moving past me to the rear of the carriage.

“Have a good night, Mr. Baldwin. Hope you get some sleep.”

Crickets and a side-eye were his response. I never spoke to him again, though we rode the elevator together several times.

Eventually, these things ran their course, and I found myself seeking work I would never have imagined doing when I was younger. Hired to drive fence posts into hardpacked earth, string barbed wire, chase cows and horses, I learned about cowboy poetry and collected ideas for a story or two.

At least once, I found myself wrapped up in my work, literally. That is to say, a rather lengthy piece of barbed wire came uncoiled and found it necessary to wrap itself about my body, head to foot.

It was a painful lesson, but not nearly as excruciating as being dragged through a cactus patch because your horse got spooked by a tumbling sage bush and decided to quit you. Days and weeks, plucking needles from places one cannot reach on their own come and go in uncomfortable ways.

But being wrapped in barbed wire happened only once. Getting knocked from a horse occurred with more frequency than my body would like to remember, and it was usually caused by my negligence, a failed tie-off on the horn, or a sudden but violent jerk down from a roped heifer or steer.

Dislocated shoulders and long, bumpy truck rides to the doctor are not fun. And it is hard to wipe your bum or even pick your nose with a handful of dislocated digits.

Other times stupidity followed where the whiskey and bottle flowed. A cowhand, recovering from the night before, was sure that the old and fragile mountain cat that was trailing us, and that I pointed out, was a danger.

It was all I could do to not laugh because I had been dropping bits of jerky for the old guy to eat since he was getting too weak to hunt anymore. I can be tender that way.

Perhaps, blowing up a privy by accident with someone seated on the hole and because he was plan ornery is not your kind of fun. Then neither will the tale of a guy getting knocked head over heels by a wild bull running through the outhouse that he is using, only to end up landing in the trench below.

Nor will I share my exploits as an emergency medical technician and the odd things I have witnessed over the years. Suffice it to say that violent death is the worse while live birth is often the best.

However, there was that one time when I was on the radio during a breech birth, and I had asked for another ambulance with specialized equipment to respond. I quickly learned that the baby was coming with or without their arrival.

“So you want her knocked her out?”

While waiting for a response, the ambulance driver clipped the mother on the chin, knocking her out. Had it not been for the headphone and mic set I was wearing, I would have murderized that man.

The headphones plugged into the overhead console prevented me from reaching him as he ran from me. I hit the end of the cord and bounce on my keester.

A poor choice of words on my part, but mom gave birth to a healthy baby girl anyway.

One afternoon a man exited his car into the street without checking what was coming up behind him. He bounced several dozen feet after a bus hit him and his car door.

Arriving, we assumed he had severe injuries, so we planned to ‘scoop and run’ instead of ‘stay and play.’ As we packaged him for transport, he asked jokingly, “Did anyone get the license plate of the bus that hit me?”

I knew at that moment that the man would survive his ordeal.

Being on an ambulance crew is fine for a while, but the burnout rate is phenomenal. I decided to save what sanity I had left and become an instructor. I even had the fortune of speaking to the legislature one Fall afternoon in an attempt to convince them that Washoe County should not have the final authority over who is qualified or not to be an EMT.

All my training came in handy as I spent four months nursing my parents back from the brink of death. It is the first and only time I returned to the Northcoast to live, and I never want to reside there again.

Writing it down makes it suddenly sad to say, but the truth is the truth. Besides, only my sister and her family live there. The rest are either dead, moved away, live elsewhere, or as in the case of my son and daughter-in-law, are less than 15 minutes from me.
It took me 20 years to finally find that sweet spot and land a cush job as a news reporter. It lasted less than a year, but what a wild ride I had in the meantime.

There is so much dirty politicking happening at the state and federal levels. I found my niche, and I rolled in it like a pig in a mud pit as I went after one bad apple after another.

Guys like the younger George Bush and Harry Reid were always in play, and I thought them fair game as they sidestepped the Constitution all the time and without a hint of remorse. I also found that I could become a target, so to speak, as Internet outliers used the web to beat me into submission.

After a local politician blamed me for his failing campaign in a letter to my editor, I lost my job. I did not help myself by having published that letter on my blog for all the world to read.
I take full responsibility for what went down.

Ah, the good old day.

That sent me packing back to radio, where I languished between swing and graveyard shifts for seven years. It was the first time in my career that I was happy to have been canned, though I did not enjoy how it happened.

Let me say this: if you call a spade a spade, do not be surprised when that spade tries to bury you.

2022.

Margaret (Babb) Martinez, 1957-2022

We all have our little superstitions, though many do not like to admit it. I have my own, including never wishing a friend a happy birthday on their Facebook page because it seems that every time I do, that person passes away.

While it isn’t true, it has happened enough times and registered so plainly in my psyche that I avoid doing it. And as I finally remove it from my mind, it happens again.

Last night I learned a childhood and lifelong friend passed away. Margaret Babb, now Margaret Martinez, had spent the last few years fighting cancer.

Happily, she was surrounded by family as she finally closed her eyes one final time on this earthly plane. I pray she is swimming with the whales that she dearly loved in the expanse of that big Pacific ocean she knew so well.

We first met in 1967 while moving into our new home, next door to the Babbs. They had four girls, and we spent the day playing more than helping pack stuff into the house.

One evening, a year or so after the family moved away following the father’s death, the girls and their mom came up for a visit. While away, she had developed into a young woman — but I did not understand this.

To me, she was jus’ Margaret, the same girl that roughhoused and played grab-ass with me for years. So, I commenced with roughhousing and grab-assery.

When she finally had enough, she spiked me in the grass, holding my arms down and over my head, and with her large breasts, that I had loosed a few moments before, began beating me in the face with them until I had a couple of fat lips and a bloody nose. When she finally got off me, I understood full well what “knock it off,” meant.

“What happened to you?” was the question when I walked inside the house.

“I hit myself in the face with the basketball.”

Hey, it’s difficult as a 12 or 13-year-old boy to admit you’ve been beaten up by a girl, let alone that her boobs left me bloodied.

She smiled at me as I disappeared to the bathroom to clean up. I learned my lesson and never played grab-ass with any girl again.

Later, she apologized, and I told her, “I’m the one who needs to apologize,” which I did.

When we reconnected a few years ago, we both had a good laugh over the incident. It is that laughter and those chats that I’m going to miss.

Ernie’s Advice is Crap!

“Write drunk, edit sober” is a maxim attributed to Ernest Hemingway. It may work well in fiction writing, but not for historical news articles.

Even though I took cold medicine before bedtime, I still could not sleep. What it did do was leave me feeling intoxicated and desirous for something to do.

I decided to write.

Within a couple of hours, I had tallied nearly seven-thousand words about mail trains. With the need for sleep finally kicking in, I saved my work, turned off the computer, and crawled between the sheets.

The following morning, I arose refreshed and ready to get back to the article. With coffee in hand, I powered up my computer, opened the document, and began to read.

“What in the…?”

There, somewhere between Neanderthal, Anglicised Cantonese in a Bavarian accent, and Washington DC idiocy was an editors nightmare. I discovered made-up words, words so poorly spelled that I could hardly make out what they were, and others made of random letters strung together.

And let us not get into the grammar of the thing.

It took me three hours of deciphering, rewriting, and deleting till I whittled the tangle down to 530 words, creating a cohesive article that even I understand now. I wish I could say I did this without cussing, but alas…

For my next news writing experiment: write drunk, and edit drunk.

Twice Shushed

So ill was I that I thought I was going to die, but it did not prevent me from dreaming or, at the very least, hallucinating. The two I recall most emphatically involved God or a being I believe is God.

I have flown in my dreams for years, sometimes high, sometimes low to the ground. I then read someplace that flying dreams are associated with God-like desires.

Try as I might, I tried to fly from the sidewalk in front of our home. The best I could do was jump a foot off the ground and maybe a foot or two forward.

Disappointed and confused, I sat on the bench on our porch next to a man. I hadn’t seen him there before I took a seat.

“What am I doing wrong?” I asked.

He looked at me, lifted his right pointed finger to his lips, and shushed me. I have not had a flying dream since.

The next is even odder.

The same being from the bench danced and twirled across my backyard, so I opened the door and shouted, “Hey, God, I command you you heal me!”

He appeared to ignore me, continuing across my yard. He then bid me be quiet, his pointer finger of his right hand to his lips, before touching the tip of a tree branch with the same finger, causing the entire tree to blossom tiny green leaves.

God shushed me — twice.

Do Your Homework Before Hand

Hired to take photographs of a Venezuelan military review earlier this century and fresh out of adventures, I took the assignment.

As the parade moved down the open court, passing the cheering crowds, I had a surreal moment of being pulled back through time. It was like watching an old Movie Tone newsreel, and I felt flushed with trepidation.

With their naturally tan skin, brown eyes, and black hair, these soldiers, some on horseback, some in tanks and other equipment, were majority goose-stepping to the steady rhythm of drums and trumpeters. Their crisp gray uniforms, bright insignias, highly polished knee-high black boots, and the traditional helmet worn by German soldiers during World War II took me complete surprise.

It was back to Nuremberg, Germany, and the 1938 Reichsparteitag, but in full color.

We Are Being Lied Too, Again

The same media that controlled the narrative of a pandemic is also using the same tactics to frighten us when it comes to Ukraine and Russia. Vladimir Putin is trying to halt a neo-Nazi movement ensconced in the Ukraine government while protecting the citizenry of two self-declared independent regions.

One sentence.

In 2008, Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two Georgia breakaway regions. Russia provided them with financial support, offered Russian citizenship, and thwarted Georgia’s NATO aspirations by denying it control of its territory.

The same applies to Ukraine.

The Donbas region of eastern Ukraine contains two provinces, Donetsk (DPR) and Luhansk (LPR,) bordering Russia. Citizens from these two areas declared independence right after the 2014 Ukraine revolution.

However, Ukraine has used military and paramilitary forces to regain control of the regions, killing about 14,000 people and displacing millions of residents. Russia has since prevented Ukraine from liquidating these regions, from joining NATO or the European Union.

The US media are not reporting that:

The United States backed the violent coup in Ukraine in 2014 to justify a new NATO military mobilization against Russia. Obama administration spokespeople announced that the administration had financed and orchestrated the organizations participating in the demonstrations on the public square, the Maidan.

President Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland visited rioters several times, refusing to acknowledge that in addition to peaceful demonstrators, there were openly neo-fascist gangs conducting an armed insurrection against the elected government. Nuland was also caught by wiretap instructing the US Ambassador to Ukraine who the new Prime Minister would be.

Referring to Parliament members Vitali Klitschko as “Klitsch” and Arseniy Yatsenuk as “Yats,” she stated, “I don’t think Klitsch should go into the government. I don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think it’s a good idea. I think Yats is the guy .”

Government military forces and neo-Nazi militias carried out perpetual warfare against the Donbass region of the country, which refused to submit to the illegal coup. Western media, meanwhile, continues to claim Russia caused the problem by objecting to the Kiev government, annexing Crimea, and invading the Donbass.

The coup d’état against President Victor Yanukovych succeeded on Feb. 22, 2014. His life in peril from commandoes of the so-called Maidan Self-Defense Forces, Yanukovych fled, ultimately seeking asylum in Russia.

The 2014 coup followed the example of the 2004 Orange Revolution, where maidan rioters claimed Yanukovych’s first election was fraudulent. In December 2004, they forced a revote, which Yanukovych lost.

Yanukovych ran again in 2010 and won.

However, his November 2013 decision to delay signing with the European Union became the pretext for a full-scale coup. Rioters moved into Kiev, saying they would not leave until Yanukovych left office.

As a side-note…

The color revolution method, as in Orange Revolution, is simple. “Color” refers to how a single color, symbol, slogan, or demand, promoted and repeated often enough, can inflame passion and retard reason. In its latest application, a color revolution operation was conducted in an attempted coup against the US manifesting in mob-think, mob-defiance, and mob-violence, funded by operations connected to Soros.

More than two thousand non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Ukraine, funded by the US, the UK, the EU, and Soros’ Open Society projects, continued to shape public opinion. Meanwhile, Nuland boasted that $5 billion had gone into Ukraine through State Department channels in the form of grants to develop an intellectual community of experts, oriented against the Russian Federation and directed toward shaping Russophobic attitudes in Ukrainian society.

Nuland addressed a Washington D.C. National Press Club event, stating, “Since the declaration of Ukrainian independence in 1991, the United States supported the Ukrainians in the development of democratic institutions and skills in promoting civil society and a good form of government. We have invested more than $5 billion to help Ukraine achieve these and other goals.”

While many people came to the Maidan waving EU flags, the paramilitary groups marched under the red and black flag of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), the mid-20th-century fascist movement of Stepan Bandera. The OUN had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II and carried out the ethnic-cleansing mass murder of Poles and Jews on its own, as well.

These neo-Nazi groups called themselves Right Sector; their formation and build-up from 1991 to 2013 came directly out of funding to Bandera’s followers by MI6 and the Allen Dulles wing of the American CIA during the Cold War.

Crimea seceded from Ukraine in March 2014, voting to join the Russian Federation. In the Donbass, the Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR) and Lugansk Peoples Republic (LPR) declared their independence, leading to 14 thousand killed by Ukraine army units and the Right Sector battalions.

Negotiations held in the capital of Belarus and conducted by the leaders of France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine, reached the Minsk II agreement between Kiev and the Donbass republics for a ceasefire and prospective political settlement in that region in February 2015. Controversy remains over the Minsk II commitment to Constitutional changes in Ukraine and autonomy for the DPR and LPR.

The radical nationalists in the Ukrainian Parliament, with Right Sector figures among them, have refused to revise the Constitution as Ukrainian forces staged a creeping offensive to regain control over the Donbass region.

Alexander Hug, deputy chief of The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe-Special Monitoring Mission for Ukraine, reported that forces in Kiev had positioned large-caliber artillery, including howitzers, tanks, and rocket systems banned under Minsk II in the open with impunity.

Senators John McCain, Lindsey Grahan, and Amy Klobuchar spent New Year’s Eve with Kiev troops near the front line with the DPR. McCain issued a letter to Trump, ignoring Hug’s report, blaming the Donbass escalation on Russia, demanding the US supply Kiev with “defensive lethal assistance” weapons.

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko then announced his intention to hold a referendum on joining NATO. Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman visited NATO Headquarters in Brussels to meet with NATO Deputy Secretary-General Rose Gottemoeller, formerly an undersecretary of state in the Obama Administration.

The media ignore this, focusing instead on Trump handing Ukraine over to Russia, as when Eurasia Daily Monitor analyst Pavel Felgenhauer complained, “If Trump hands over Ukraine, he will make Russia great again.”

Among the most aggressive in the maidan operations was the Right Sector, founded in November 2013 as a paramilitary confederation. Made of three groups, including the Tryzub or Stepan Bandera Trident, founded in 1993 by successors to the Hitler-aligned 1941 Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists-Bandera (OUN(b), named for Stepan Bandera, the Ukrainian Hitlerite, who founded this organization in Munich during WW II.

“The newly formed Ukrainian state will work closely with the National-Socialist Greater Germany, under the leadership of its leader Adolf Hitler, which is forming a new order in Europe and the world and is helping the Ukrainian people to free itself from Muscovite occupation,” states the OUN(b) 1941 proclamation.

National-Socialist is a Nazi.

In 1943, the military unit set up by Bandera’s OUN(b) carried out a mass extermination campaign against Poles and Jews in Ukraine, killing an estimated 70,000 civilians during the Summer of that year alone. By April 1948, Bandera was working for British intelligence, whose 1956 MI6 report described him as “a professional underground worker with a terrorist background and ruthless notions about rules of the game.”

In 1948, Bandera’s top lieutenant Mykola Lebed, who carried out the Ukraine exterminations, went to work for the CIA, heading the front company, Prolog Research Corp., controlled during the 1950s by CIA Director of Plans Frank Wisner. US Army Counterintelligence Corps (CIC) tried to stop Lebed from entering the US, but CIA Deputy Director Allen Dulles secured permission for him to come and go at will.

The other two constituent groups of the Right Sector were the Ukrainian Patriot (UP), and the Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO).

Founded in 1991 as the neo-Nazi youth wing of the Social-National Party of Ukraine, UP became the Svoboda (Freedom) Party, whose leaders were committed to Bandera in 2004. UP members were known for their paramilitary training and deployed to the Maidan in December 2013.

Likewise, the UNA-UNSO and its youth arm, Bily Molot (White Hammer), founded in 1991, entered the Right Sector in November 2013. Members occupied positions in the post-coup government, while their neo-Nazi organizations, like the Azov Battalion, were absorbed into the military and bureaucracy.

As a young Ukrainian emigré in London in 1984, U.S.-based backer of the coup, Natalia Diuk had very close contacts with Prolog Research, whose 2008 poster glorifies the Nazi 14th Waffen SS Division. She married Adrian Karatnycky, also of Prolog headed Freedom House, and took part at the Atlantic Council.

Dmytro Yarosh became the leader in 2007 of the Stepan Bandera Trident, then head of the Right Sector in November 2013. In July 2013, he called for a national revolution in Ukraine and an end to the “Russian Empire.”

Andriy Parubiy founded the Ukrainian Patriot (UP) youth group in 1991, which became a Right Sector unit in November 2013. He was Commandant of the Maidan. Following the coup, he became Secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council and later Chairman of the Ukraine Parliament.

Yuriy Lutsenko was the founder of TUR (Third Ukrainian Republic,) which cited the earlier two republics as, first, that of 1917, and second, the 1941 Hitlerite Bandera Stetsko Ukrainian State. In 2017, Lutsenko was the Prosecutor General of Ukraine.

Yaroslav Stetsko was Bandera’s deputy and the declared head of the 1941 state; his widow Slava Stetsko continued his work.

Oleksandr Turchynov, a parliamentarian for the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) Party, was Speaker of the Rada and was unconstitutionally installed as Acting President on Feb. 26, 2014, by a coalition of the Svoboda and Fatherland parties. Turchynov was Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine.

Arseniy “Yats” Yatsenyuk, a parliamentarian for the Batkivshchyna Party, was unconstitutionally installed on Feb. 26, 2014, as Prime Minister by the Batkivshchyna/Svoboda coalition. He held the position until April 2016.

Vitali Klitschko was a parliamentarian for the Udar Party (Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms,) a boxing champion, and Mayor of Kiev.

Oleh Tyanybok was a parliamentarian for the Svoboda Party.
He was Chairman of the Ukraine Parliament.

Holos Ameryky, security chief for Bandera, co-edited the Prolog-associated Soviet National Survey. She joined the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in 1990 as Vice President for Africa, Central Europe, and Eurasia.

Victoria Nuland was Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs from 2013 to 2017 when dismissed by the Trump Administration. Nuland was the lead liaison for the 2014 coup in Ukraine.

She was also a foreign policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney from 2003 to 2005 and Ambassador to NATO from 2000 to 2003, advocating out-of-area deployments and similar operations.

Her husband, Robert Kagan, is the co-founder of Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which included targetting Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen to destabilize Russia, India, and China.

Nuland’s Jan. 15, 2014 assertion that the coup was a spontaneous democratic upsurge, “[T]he movement that started as a demand for a European future grew into a protest for basic human dignity and justice, clean and accountable government and economic and political independence of Ukraine,” is disproven.

It is the same story as a YouTube video causing a spontaneous attack on a US embassy, leaving four Americans dead. US media outlets pushed that claim till it was proven false.

We are being lied to again, but few are catching on this time.

Grand Marshal, Almost

It is not every day that the swing-shift announcer gets asked to be the Grand Marshal for Independence Day. So I jumped at the offer.

It was early Friday evening, and I went to find my contact. That person turned out to be a rather wonderful-looking and wonderfully built rancher woman.

She showed me where I would be bunking for the night. It was a ranch house with several empty bedrooms and a large spread of food laid out on the table.

Up the street from the ranch house were the rodeo grounds where cowboys and women were in the finishing stages of a rodeo. I sat on the fence and watched, hoping someone would offer me a bronc to brace, but alas…no.

As night slipped over us, out came that weekend’s main attraction, the Ragin’ Cajun Doug Kershaw. We spent the night dancing around the hardpan arena and drinking beer.

My contact hardly let me out of her sight as we heel-toed to every tune that Louisiana fiddler knew and then some.

After midnight, I headed back to the ranch house. The food was gone, and so was the beer, so I retired to my room and climbed into bed.

Laying there, listening to the music, I heard a noise from the kitchen. I pulled on my jeans and tee-shirt and stepped out to see my hostess doing the dishes.

I helped her.

Once done, I left her to put away the dishes and returned to bed. Soon I heard her knock at my door, which she opened and poked her head inside.

“May I come in?”

“Sure.”

She didn’t turn on the light, which I thought was strange until I realized she was removing her clothes. We took our time making a mess of the bed linens.

Nearly dawn, she rolled from the bed and got dressed. Slipping into her boots, she leaned over me and kissed me deeply.

“Gotta go, my husband’s probably wondering where I am.”

After about two-and-a-half hours of sleep for me, I got up, cleaned my face in the bathroom down the hall, and finished dressing.

Coffee was already on, and I had a cup. As I stood on the porch hoping to see my hostess and learn where I was to be for the start of the day’s parade.

Then a guy came up on the porch, “There’s a change in plans. Doug Kershaw going to be our Grand Marshal. So we don’t need you now.”

When the Laughter Can’t Be Heard

Many people, including, and most especially including Program Directors, do not know how often we overnight jocks get a call from a celebrity appearing in town. It happened to me many times, and sometimes they were very memorable.

One such was the Sunday morning ring-up I got from Richard Colangelo, a comedian appearing at Sammy’s Showroom inside Harrah’s Reno or one of those places. That call led us to ride around that day, me telling him about Northern Nevada and him telling me off-color jokes.

He comes to mind as he took his life on Sat., Mar. 10, 2007. I think I still have his private number in an old inoperable cellphone, hidden away in one of my many junk drawers.

We knew Richard Colangelo by his stage name, Richard Jenni.

Bohemian

It was midsummer, and I’d been at the radio station for about five months. It was the first station to hire me since my moving to Nevada, and I was happy to be doing the graveyard shift on the weekends.

That evening, I decided to wear my Birkenstocks, an old pair of OD green jungle pants from my military days, a white knee-length shirt (otherwise known as a nightshirt,) and a black six-button vest that I left open to work. It was not my usual jeans, white tee-shirt, and tennis shoes or boots.

My coworker and friend Kathy McCovey looked me up and down, then said, “What in the hell are you wearing?”

I smiled and shrugged, “So, I felt a little Bohemian.”

Don Bennett, 1927-2021

As a child, should I stand outside my front door on Redwood Drive, I could see to my right the Philips’, the Salsbury’s, most prominently, Mrs. Keatings, and further in the distance, the Myers home, though it partly blocked by a small hill. The hill, at one time, had been a simple mound of dirt and one of three, left to nature, and because of that, wheat grasses had grown over it till it looked like the rest of the field.

If I were to stand at the end of my driveway, I would see the Babbs’ home, the Morgan’s, the Methodist house, because it was for the minister family to live in, followed by the Champion’s and the Peterson’s. Not in view would be Mrs. Van Vanten’s home, Judge Hopper’s, or the Walcott’s, and hidden by Mrs. Keating’s home was Wright’s house.

Such was the layout of homes in my neighborhood.

One afternoon I came home to find the field, with its hills, trees, and the bluff, a three-foot drop off where previous excavation had left off, razed. Gone too was the late 1950s model Coca-Cola machine with no doors, but filled with rainwater and home to tadpoles and Polly-wogs and frogs.

At first, it was upsetting, but then I learned it came following a burglary of Mrs. Keatings. The perpetrators, whoever they were, had used the nearby copse of pine trees to hide, leaving behind expensive Native American artifacts.

It was Don Bennett who cleared the field. With Mr. Bennett’s passing on Fri., Dec. 3, 2021, only Bonnie Peterson, Carolyn Seats, John Van Dusen, and 91-year-old John Arnold, that I can think of, remain.

The Price of Business

Years ago, one evening, a reporter raced out of his house to find his car would not start. He called a cab.

What was so important? A house fire on the fire/police scanner.

Paying the cab driver, he got out and went to work. Fire crews made short work of the structure blaze and returned to their station.

Suddenly, he found himself alone, miles from home, and since cellphones were not available, he had to walk the four or five miles back into town. Such is the life of anyone who works in the rural newspaper business.

After missing our publishing deadline, I knew I’d have to deliver the newspapers once printed. No problem, since that is part of my job.

It happens that on that day, my truck had broken down and was in the shop. Further, my wife’s car went crazy and all sorts of sensor lights popped on along her dash.

So, taking a cue from the reporter, I called for an Uber ride to help me get my delivery out. It’s the first time I used the service ever.

It cost over $200 to complete my deliveries, the price of doing business. As I finished, the repair shop called to tell me my truck was ready, so add nearly $400 to my spending for the day.

But it didn’t break the bank — I still have 56 cents to my name, so I’m ahead.

Regardless of Politics, Bullies Need Their Asses Whipped

Not what I wanted to write about today, but not unlike the 800-pound gorilla in the middle of the room, address it I must.

True, I did once tell him to “shut up, the woman is offering up a prayer,” at a Hungry Valley Reservation Numaga Pow Pow, before Steve Sisolak became Governor, but I’d never verbally assault the man or his wife like the two men at the restaurant did. And after watching the now-national video of the verbal assault, including a threat of lynching, I’m reminded of when my wife and I dined next to Nevada’s then-Democratic Governor Bob Miller and his family.

It was at Olive Garden, and while I admit that I did not care for Messr. Miller’s policies or politics, I did not present myself as a nuisance or threat. We even made polite talk about anything and everything, save politics. It was a pleasant outing for all.

While not a fan of Messr. Sisolak, his politics or policies, I am a fan of decorum. Those men’s mistreatment of the current first family of Nevada leaves me appalled, and had I been there, I would have stepped in the loud mouth’s way as I detest bullies of all stripes.

Yes, they would have stomped me into the ground, but not before I hurt one or both of them. I’m an old man, not a boxer.

First Night in the Biggest Little City

Through the middle of Reno, I drove. There were few people on the sidewalks, but soon that would change as it was five or six days ahead of New Year’s Eve.

From the neon of downtown to the outskirts of town, I drove in circles, chasing my tracks and feeling lost. My spirits lifted as I nearly raced over something in the street, a green and white sign that had most recently marked a street corner but now lay broken and discarded.

I stopped and brought it into my car with me: “Humboldt and W. Pueblo,” it read.

“A sign from God, perhaps,” I recall thinking, then chuckling at my wordplay.

Lost, I had no idea where I was in Reno or if I were even still in Reno. But I knew about Humboldt, a place I had left only a few months before, and I took it as evidence that if I should not find my way here, I could always return to the county from where I came and live out the remainders of my days on that coast.

Returning to the main drag, I had to find a place to stop, park, eat, drink, sleep. I drove to the edge of a cemetery and used its parking lot to turn around and head back.

I turned left only to be greeted by a flashing red light in my rearview mirror.

“Did you see the ‘no left turn’ sign?”

“No, sir.”

“Okay, I’m going to let you off with a warning. Please pay more attention.”

“Yes, sir.”

Fifteen minutes later, I returned and again turned and again met the nice cop. No warning. Instead, a 90-dollar ticket and confiscation of my newly found road sign.

I also had to explain where I found the sign.

“Where?”

“On Humboldt, I think.”

“Goodbye, Humboldt,” I whined as I headed to the MGM Grand, possibly the largest building in sight and had somehow missed.

The Check Must Still be in the Mail

We flew from Wyoming, through Colorado, to Arizona. After a short layover, we boarded the C-130 and returned to the air, crossing over Nevada, a portion of California, through Oregon, and finally into Wahington. It had been a long day.

My friend, Deanna Hurless, stationed at the same Wyoming base, and her family dropped me at the bus terminal. They were heading home, and I was on my way down the coast home.

It had been a bad year. Since the end of February, I’d been in trouble after turning my office into the inspector general.

The only good thing was the five-thousand-word story I’d written for Strategic Air Command following a flight in the SR-71. At six cents a word, I could see potential in becoming a writer.

As I settled in for the wait before my bus, I leaned back, and with my B-4 bag as a footstool, I fell fast asleep. A couple of hours later, I awoke, having to use the restroom.

Shortly after we pulled out of the terminal, I realized my valise, the one issued to me in basic training, was missing. I was sick to my stomach because it held two stories I was writing.

Even though my name was on the valise and I called the terminal several times, no one ever found it. And to this day, I cannot remember what those two stories were about or if they had potential.

By late June, I was out of the service, so I never learned what became of the SR-71 story, though I heard rumors Reader’s Digest published it in an issue I have yet to find. Plus, I never got paid.

The Annual Mouse Hunt

With the winter season comes mice, and with mice, mouse hunting, as I like to call it. It is not a sport, but rather a necessity, because if not done, we’d find ourselves overrun with them.

While serving in the U.S. Air Force, I learned all I ever wanted about ‘vector control,’ which was as little as possible.

The best-made mouse trap is the original design still manufactured by Victor, simple, elegant, and effective. I will not use the sticky bait traps because it is cruel to starve anything, nor do I like the idea of causing a rodent to bleed out its butt because of poison, and live trapping allows the mouse to find another home to infest.

Each class member received a white lab mouse, a ziplock baggy, and a single cotton ball one afternoon. Instructors told us to place the mouse in the bag, hold out our cotton, to which they applied a dose of Chloroform and dropped it in the bag with the mouse.

Seconds later, the mouse was dead, and our assignment could begin. That was to comb or groom the mouse searching for fleas, lice, or other bugs hidden in the animal’s fur coat.

Problem is these were clean lab mice, not wild, and therefore no one found a thing. Such is the training up of an Environmental Health Specialist.

Later, when it came to practical application and an inability to procure Chloroform, I devised a way of collecting the needed data. I laid Victor bait traps and waited the few minutes for them to be sprung.

From there, I dropped the dead mouse and trap into a single ziplock baggy and waited for the ‘bugs’ to leave the chilling body. Then, without opening the bag, I slipped it under a microscope or a magnifying glass if still in the field and completed my count.

Since the first of the year, I’ve slain five meeses, and the patrols continue.

Icicle

We were not going to write for ourselves today, but stick only to our employer’s need, but then we heard our wife talking to her sister.

Two nights ago, about dinner time, a knock came on our front door. Nearly dark, I looked through the peephole and saw the top of our neighbor boy’s, Chase, head.

Always polite, Chase asked if he could have the three-foot-long icicle dangling from the corner of our roof edge.

“Sure,” I said, “As long as you don’t stab yourself, your brother, or someone else with it.”

Chase chuckled, “I won’t,” as I broke it off and handed it to him.

“Thank you,” he said.

Before he could leave the front porch, I asked, “So, whatcha gonna do with it.”

“Eat it,” he smiled.

War is NOT Hell

Ulysses S. Grant is the first former U.S. President to visit the Comstock in Nevada after being stationed at Fort Humboldt in Eureka, Calif., before the American Civil War. Mark Twain also published Grant’s autobiography before the retired General died of esophageal cancer.

He is also quoted, after inspecting Gettysburg, as saying, “War is Hell.” If he were alive, I would respectfully disagree with his battlefield assessment.

War is not Hell. War is war. Hell is Hell because it sanctions the sinner, who it is said, deserves it, while war punishes only the innocent.

Get Some

Thank you to author, historian, and friend Janice Oberding for reminding me of this small memory involving one of my favorite wester-fiction writers.

We’d been out two and half days, trailing a smaller target and without interdicting them once. It was midday, and Skipper decided we’d set up a bivouac near a small brightly painted group of cinderblock huts.

It was the first time tasked with establishing a parameter. With the knowledge of some others, we got the job done, and I returned to the area with the idea of setting up a small clinic to treat villagers.

En route, I saw a two and half-year-old boy playing outside a home painted pink with lime green trim. He was finding delight in a pile of loose dirt he’d gathered and taking handfuls and sifting it through his fingers.

His laughter was contagious, and a few of us gathered around to enjoy it. Why I decided to get down on my knees, I’ve no idea, but I did, adding more loose dirt to his pile.

Quickly, Maxie joined me in front and on my left, then Purcell to my right and in front. The four of us were playing in that pile of dirt, children for the moment like the child we’d joined.

Ahead of me, against the wall of the hut, stood Blackwell. He was enjoying a cancer-stick and guffawing at our antics.

It was a ripple followed by a smashing blow to the top of my head as a rocket blew the hut apart.

Out cold, I have no memory until I awoke on a litter, prepped for Dust-off. I jumped up, removing the spike from my arm, and called for my piss-bucket.

Across the way, spread out on a woobie, a poncho liner, was our ammo dump. Unlike TV and movies, those in the field will pile all extra ammo, grenades, etc., together and then divvy it out depending on the assignment.

Loading a magazine, a nearby Lance Corporal asked, “Whatcha doing, Sarge?”

“Going hunting.”

“No need. We got the bastards, 11 K-I-A, one wounded and who might not make it, and two captures and already on their way to S-2.”

“What of the others?”

“Maxie has a broken left shoulder, Purcell’s ankles are busted, and Blackwell’s K-I-A.”

There was a hesitation in the young man’s voice, so I asked, “And?”

“The little boy, his sister, and mom are also K-I-A.”

“Thank you, Rich, good report.”

Turning, I came face to face with the Skipper.

“Sergeant,” he said.

“Skipper.”

“Standdown, every things been handled.”

“But this is all my fault, sir, and need to get me some.”

“They were already inside the wire, Tom, nothing you or any man-jack here could have done about it. So get something to eat and relax.”

“Aye-aye, Skipper.”

A small mess line, meaning select a C-ration and ‘cop a drop,’ was already established. Not feeling hungry, I found a small berm to lean against, and I pulled from my trouser’s side pocket a book I’d already read a couple of times, Louis L’Amour’s “Comstock Lode,” a book about Virginia City, Nev.

That Certain Coworker

There is little to be proud of in this narrative, and as my classmate and long-time friend, Laureen Kinnaman Roberts, said, “Sometimes you have to let God fix it because if you try, you are going to jail.”

The deputy lit me up as I turned left from the radio station’s parking lot and onto Highway 101. I pulled over immediately and gathered my license, registration, and insurance slip.

The deputy returned and asked me to exit my VW Bug. I got out, pocketed my keys, and moved between his cruiser and my car.

“I’d like your permission to search your vehicle?” he asked.

“Sure, but only if you have a warrant,” I said.

He took me by the left arm while reaching for his cuffs and tried turning me around. I swatted his hand away.

His response was to end my resistance, there and then with a quick but not very forceful punch to my throat. Before I could gag or cough trying to take a breath, or before my eyes filled with tears, I threw a punch that landed on the deputy’s chin.

He fell on his back and immediately began posturing. I went to the cruiser’s radio and called, “10-33, 10-33, officer down,” and the closest cross streets.

Across the highway, at the station, owned by Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, were some of the most dedicated rock groupies ever, Deadheads. Where they set up, they create a community, including first aiders.

These first aiders came over and began doing what they do. As this happened, law enforcement and ambulances arrived from all directions.

By this time, and knowing I had screwed the pooch, I had my hands on the hood of the cruiser, prepared for what was to come next. Handcuffed and seated in a CHP unit, deputies and police officers were still taking statements from witnesses when they whisked me away.

At the Humboldt County Jail in Eureka, Calif., they booked me for assaulting a peace officer, resisting arrest, and a whole host of other charges. But before taking me upstairs, I was relegated to the ‘chairs,’ where I called my job to tell them I was going to miss my upcoming shift and then a friend who worked in an attorney’s office.

She put me in touch with her boss, who took what information he needed from me then warned, “Do not talk to anyone about this case, not even your cellmates. I will see you tomorrow morning.”

Brief and efficient.

After the evening meal, I collapsed into my bunk and stayed to myself. I did the same thing after breakfast until told I had a visitor.

My lawyer, a small, stooped older man, told me that he had worked it all out and that the charges would ‘go away.’ Then he added, “Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see the judge until Monday morning.”

It was a long weekend.

Come Monday, they called me from the cell, gave me the bag holding my civilian clothes, allowed me a private shower and to get dressed. Then I was then handcuffed and escorted downstairs to meet my lawyer and the judge.

The judge made short work of the case, dismissing all charges with prejudice, meaning they could never be revisited or refiled.

Once on my way, I went to get my VW from the impound lot. That cost me $300 that I didn’t have, so I floated the man behind the counter a check.

Shown to my car, I learned they searched it anyway, finding nothing. Al the seats, door panels, the radio, and speakers had been removed and packed inside the vehicle.

It was a struggle to get the front seat on the track. Finally, I got a bolt in, but it still wouldn’t fit correctly, so I had to drive with it twisted and higher on the left.

Worried about my job, I hurried back to Garberville. There I found I needn’t have been concerned.

“Grab a cup of joe, I have something for you,” the man, who relieved me on Thursday, said.

Returning, he handed me a swollen envelope.

“The Deadheader’s took up a collection for you,’ he said. “Seven-hundred and twelve bucks.”

“Wow,” I said, taking the envelope. “I only need $300 for that check I wrote.”

“You’ll take it and that’s that,” he said.

Looking at the clock, it was a couple of minutes afternoon.

“Let me take over for you since you’ve covered my ass much of this weekend,” I said. “Take a whole 24-hours.”

“Sure kid,” he said. “Want me to drop some of that cash into your account before I do and bring you some food.”

“Please,” I said as I filled out a deposit slip.

Less than an hour later, he came be-bopping in, a Cheshire-kind-of-grin on his face and a bucket of chicken in hand, dropping my car keys on the counter.

“We got your Bug back together,” he said. “You put the wrong seat on the driver’s side.”

After he left and before it grew dark that November day, I went out to my Beetle and saw that the door panels were in place better than before and that my front seat moved back and forth with great ease and that I could even lay my back seat down. That was something I didn’t even know could be done.

Now jump ahead 36 years, and I’m sitting in the Cigar Bar in Virginia City talking with my friend’s Comstock Chronicle columnist Melody Hoover and her husband, Jim. I’m telling them about my strangest radio job in California before moving to Northern Nevada.

“What was your coworkers name?” Jim asked.

“Oliver,” I said, “But no one called him that. He was known as Ollie.”

The three of us looked at one another, knowing anyone with a long-handled feather duster could have knocked us over, as we realized I was talking about Jim’s older brother.

Five Bell Alert

2:32 a.m., pst., Five bell alert: Russia invades Ukraine.

My heart falls in sickness
My soul screams with agony
My spirit prays most earnestly:
“God, bless our children, our blood-treasure,
Those with boots on the ground
Standing where they need not be.”

Leyline

“You don’t choose Virginia City, the city chooses you,” goes the old saw. It’s true.

With a layer of crystalline snow on the ground and two small quakes, leylines are active.

Leylines are positive or negative energy bands circumscribing the Earth, shifting between the two energies. Where these lines intersect, an energy vortex appears.

When a positive and negative line cross, the energy is natural. If negative cross negative or positive cross positive, strange things happen.

Leylines have affected me all of my life, though I only learned the term and definition a few years ago. They may also have something to do with my mental health, as when positive, I am in a higher state of mania.

Over the years, I have learned to accept this. If I enter a vortex, I can find myself off-balance, confused, forgetful, and agitated, as my friend and VC resident Bill Finley can attest after one Hot August Night morning. It can also, I have taught myself, be turned off and ignored. Admittedly, this was easier to do when I was younger.

Here’s the rub: a leyline runs from Sutton and C Street, in Virginia City, through my Spanish Springs home, into the Pacific Ocean towards Juneau, AK, but not before passing within a few feet from the backdoor of my childhood home in Klamath, Calif. Incidently, this same leyline is intersected inside my Spanish Spring home with another leyline, running from Pyramid Lake to Lake Tahoe.

Sometimes, you don’t find weirdness, the weirdness finds you.

Long Way Around

Spooner Summit was slicker than I would have enjoyed, but we made it into the valley. From there, we caught U.S. 395 to U.S. 50, through Carson City, Mound House, Dayton, Stagecoach to the Infinity Highway, leading to I-80, and Spanish Springs.

Am I writing a travelogue, or what?

Between Dayton and Stagecoach, there were a couple of different bands of wild horses, a dangerous place for wild horses. They got me thinking of how I was ten or 11 when the Wild Horse and Burro Act came into existence.

That thought tumbled quickly into wondering if the act’s done any good.

In 1971, when the act became codified, the federal government said there were more than 53.4 million acres of acres for wild horses and burros on BLM U.S. Forest Service lands. Now there are only 27 million acres.

Worse yet, by 1976, only about 60,000 wild horses remained. The 2004 Burns Amendment to the act allows wild horses to be shipped from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico for use as a food source.

By the way, the Burns Amendment was never introduced to Congress, never discussed or voted on.

The original 50-year-old act has made things worse, and the best possible solution is for it to go away. In the meantime, my heart still thrills at the sight of a wild horse band creating a traffic jam as they cross a roadway.

Here’s Hoping for Hank

Outside my usual beat, I couldn’t sit home ignoring the cold air, which I find relieves my dry hacking. To that end, I harnessed Buddy, and we headed for Tahoe.

I drove right into a regular old dragnet as authorities hunt a large and rather hungry burglar.

He’s a 500-pound black bear, nicknamed ‘Hank the Tank,’ and he has raided 28 homes, the most recent on Fri., Feb. 18, in the South Lake Tahoe area since July.

Sadly, breaking into homes to grab a leftover or two could also be Hank’s undoing. Wildlife authorities have said the bear’s dependence on human food means they have no choice but euthanize him.

Speaking to one woman, she expressed concerns about euthanizing the bear: “He just sits there and eats.”

I don’t know Hank, but if he were human, he’s a fellow I could find myself being buddy-buddy’s with, especially at the local Smörgåsbord, though I might not want to reach in front of him.

Amuletum

Having purchased my Girl Scout Cookies from Monique Vasko, I allowed Buddy to guide us south on C Street towards the truck, where I felt like I was slipping through a busy dream state because of my medication.

From out of the Silver Queen stepped James Cleek and his lovely sister, dressed to the nines, ready for an 1870s early afternoon stroll. There, the three of us spoke for a few minutes before we excused ourselves.

“Hi, Mike!” I heard Jim say as a man, obviously of an Indigenous race, stepped up on the boardwalk to shake hands.

Intrigued by this man’s look, long, center-parted white hair, Elvis era glasses, tanned skin, and chiseled chin, I knew he was a warrior, shaman, or elder. I also knew I had to hear what he had to say.

So as Jim and his sister moved away, I introduced myself, saying, “So, you’re the Mike everyone speaks about.”

“No that one is in prison,” he said.

“I know,” I said, “But you’re the Mike they say that has a sense of humor and an opinion and that you can use both separately or together and with power.”

“That might be so,” Mike said. “I do remember when you said what needed to be said without worrying about whose feelings were gonna get hurt.”

“I remember that time, too,” I said.

“Perhaps we can sit down and talk of the old days,” he said.

“I’d enjoy that,” I said. “Anything else needing saying before we scoot?”

“Not really,” he said. “I do have an old piece of chewing gum, this chipped marble I found crossing the street jus’ now and a length of worn-out shoe leather.”

I accepted the three items before we shook hands and parted ways.

“Shaman,” I said to Buddy as I unlocked the passenger door of my truck, “But, I’m not sure if he knows it yet.”

I don’t remember driving home.

My Long Talk with that Fabled Boatman

A short sketch to catch up after coming down with whatever I have had since Wed., Feb. 2.

My sinuses are plugged to the point my eyes hurt, a dry hack from postnasal drip, and body aches with chills and fever. While all the symptoms pointed to acute sinusitis, others said differently, so COVID it is.

Besides, I felt like I was on my death bed, which gave me a chance to think or think I was thinking in between the weird medicated hallucinations and sickness-induced sleep. It all brought me back to a theory I’ve been working on since last year called Tanis.

In short, Tanis are those waypoints that connect us. For instance, while I grew up on the Lost Coast of California, I have found links between there and then to the here and now in the High Desert of Northern Nevada.

I want to share personal experiences, my strange humor, history, news, thoughts, and ideas before kicking the bucket for real and not in some abstract mismanaged diagnosis.

Cellophane

She untied the lightly knotted plastic bag and removed what it held, a medium container of LoMein, white rice, and several fortune cookies. One of the cellophane wrappers though still sealed and filled with air, was empty.

Daisy studied it, wondering if it might have a deeper meaning. Hunger stirred in her, and she forgot all about the wrapper.

Shortly after sunrise, she got out of bed and set herself to work. She did the washing and mending for the ranch workers of the valley, which gave her enough money to live on and then some.

The sewing table held an old Singer, and she ran torn shirts and ripped jeans under its dancing needle all that morning. It was the rumble of an old Ford that caused her to look up and know it was Lloyd before he even pulled up.

She pulled on an old sleeping gown she maintained in the front room for such an occasion. She heard the truck door bang shut.

“Good morning,” Lloyd said. “Here’s the laundry finally.”

“Morning,” she smiled. “No problem.”

As she took it from him, he asked, “Are you going be a the Hoot, this Friday night? They will have a live band.”

“Sure, if you’re gonna ask me for at least one dance,” she said.

“You betch’ya,” Lloyd said as he stepped back off the porch and got into his truck.

Soon she was alone again. The sound of birds singing, returning after the vehicle had left, filled the air.

She started to separate the clothing, darks, colors, and whites. As she did this, she also went through the pockets, removing items and placing them in a small basket on the table.

One item was a small handbill advertising a new Chinese restaurant named Ling Mai’s. “A full dinner for under fifteen dollars,” read the piece of paper.

She next took a load out onto the back porch where her washing machine and dryer were and began washing it. By the time midmorning came, she had everything out on the line drying.

With the exceptional heat, the clothes quickly dried. Daisy folded them and put the entire bunch back into the oversized gym bag from which they’d come.

Instead of returning to the mending, she picked up a 1969 Reader’s Digest Condensed Book and turned to the page she’d last been reading. She spent the rest of the day nose in the book.

Once night fell, she turned on her sewing lamp, which doubled as a reading lamp, and got up to fix herself something to eat. With dinner in one hand and a large glass of red wine in the other, she went outside to sit in her favorite chair on the front porch.

She sat in the half-light cast by the solitary lamp and watched as dry lightning shot its zig-zag fieries across the dark and distant skies. Before long, she’d drawn sleep and decided she should turn in for the night.

With daylight came more laundry and mending. Daisy worked at this until about noontime when she concluded she owed herself a short bike ride to the roadside market.

The gravel road was rough and bumpy, having been graded recently by the county, so she pedaled the heavy framed Schwinn as close to the large ditch that ran beside the road. The canal would soon be full of water come the first good storm.

She visited the store, purchasing what she could carry in her bike’s handlebar basket. Leaving, she saw Ling Mai’s across the highway and proceeded towards the restaurant.

“Will that be all?” the woman behind the window asked.

“Yes.”

“Fourteen, nintey-seven.”

She laid fifteen dollars in the window and was handed three pennies in return. She dropped the coins in the small try beside the register.

With the bag tied and carefully placed in the basket, she crossed the highway and started for home. Above and ahead, a large crow was suffering harassment by three smaller songbirds.

Her attention broke from this as she heard the Thatcher boy’s Cummins diesel truck. She did her best to prepare for what was about to happen.

The truck blew by her. The gust shook her and her bicycle, causing them to weave off the road and into the ditch.

She watched as the truck disappeared, bouncing over the road and out of sight. She could still hear the sound of the ‘Dixie’ music horn as she made her way back up onto the road and continued pedaling home.

By the middle of the afternoon and her dinner finished, she laid out on the couch and allowed herself to nap. She spent the rest of the evening and into the early morning hours sewing and mending clothes for her customers.

Again, the dry lightning announced itself in the distance with its brilliant and powerful display as she worked. As the sun came up, she fixed herself a couple of scrambled eggs and a small cup of coffee, then went to bed.

It was very late afternoon when she stirred. She laid in bed listening and thinking about that night and how she’d was supposed to go to the Hoot and meet Lloyd.

As darkness closed in, she got up and dressed in a yellow-floral print skirt she had made but had never worn. She added an oversize white button-down shirt that she knotted at her midriff.

Off the back porch, she stepped, heading across the open pasture and over two dells to Hoots. She could hear the band as she approached from the side of the roadside bar.

She had to shout her order twice to get a beer. She looked around for Lloyd, finding him crowded around by his friends and some women.

She sat at the end of the bar, waiting for him to acknowledge her, but he never even looked her way. Finally, with only half her beer drank, she slipped outside and started for home.

The night felt close and oppressive like a storm was about to bust loose. Then it came, that slightly chilled breathe that the air gives when signaling the moisture to leave its hiding place among the clouds.

The rain dropped in sheets, heavy and hard. Daisy slowed her pace, peeling off her shirt and then the shirt, leaving them where they fell.

With nothing left to get soaked, she raised her arms and spun in circles and danced like she hadn’t in years. She lifted her face to the downpour and shouted with joy until she could no longer make a sound but could only laugh.

The beer had left a sour taste in her mouth, and without bothering to towel off, she made a straight line for the cabinet that held a bottle of tequila. She didn’t need a glass or cup but would drink it directly from the bottle.

She listened as the rain battered the corrugated metal roof above her front porch. Accompanied by her bottle, she stepped into the shower and began to dance once more.

Soon the tequila and the rain were finished, and intoxicated, Daisy stumbled up the stairs, crawled in her bed, and fell fast asleep. Early morning came too soon and bid her arise, a command she hesitated to follow.

Instead, she lay between the sheets listened to her respirations, the gentle rhythm, the rising and falling of her chest. Light danced across her face, in dapplings issued from between the flittering leaves of the tree outside her window.

She felt content in the glory of such a morning but could not express why or how

An hour later, her bed sheet wrapped around her, she made her way downstairs. As she put on the water for a cup of coffee, she saw the still sealed, empty cellophane wrapper to the missing fortune cookie.

Daisy laughed at her thought, “Ha! I am the fortune cookie!”

The Fuller Brush Man

1965 and the stay-at-home mom and housewife were common, so too was a door-to-door salesman. Grolier, Watkins, Avon, Kirby, and Collier.

My favorite was the Fuller Brush Man.

The memories are little gems of a young life mixed with Kodacolored head pictures and internal feelings of wonderment. His name was either Mike or Mark, about thirtyish, balding with wire-rimmed glasses, and always wearing a short-sleeved, white button-down shirt and skinny brown knit tie.

Being so young, I never knew if he had an appointed schedule, going from area to area at certain times, or if he showed up out of the blue, unannounced. My adult self thinks he preplanned his visits as he always came when mom had freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookies.

I would not have cared anyway, because he always had fascinating gadgets in the big suitcase he hauled around.

Best of all, he would let me select one and give it as a gift to Mom. And that is where all of this is leading, my mother, Mrs. Arnold, and a childhood remembrance recently shared by Jeanie French, Mrs. Arnold’s daughter.

Had Jeanie never brought up how the same door-to-door salesman used to sit at her mother’s dining table and enjoy iced tea, I would have never mentioned how he’d sit at our dinner table and enjoy my mother’s cookies. In the end, I don’t know if he ever sold anything to our mothers.

What I do recall is the sweet, simple memory of our mother’s visiting porch-to-porch, laughing and clucking of how polite the Fuller Brush man was and how, if they had all the money in the world, they’d buy everything in his sample bag and help him through college.

We moved in the Fall of 1967, and with the enchantment broken, I never saw a Fuller Brush Man making the rounds after that.

COVID Toe

My friend came over limping, favoring his right foot.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he answered, “It’s COVID toe.”

“What’s it look like?”

He removed his shoe and sock. His big toe was swollen and out of shape.

“That looks like an ingrown toenail, to me.”

“He gave me a cream that is supposed to fix it.”

“If it doesn’t work, I can remove that piece of nail.”

He declined my offer.

Two days later, he knocked at the door.

“Are you still willing to help me?”

“Yup.”

With my small kit, I proceeded to lift the corner of the offending nail and clip it away. After the three-minute procedure, I cleaned the toe with hydrogen peroxide, then applied an antibacterial goop and a band-aid.

This morning he texted me to let me know his toe was better.

At-Home COVID Tests Arrive in Nevada, Remain Questionable

The first deliveries of the Flowflex COVID-19 antigen at-home tests ordered by Gov. Steve Sisolak arrived in Nevada on Thu., Feb 3. He utilized federal funding to order almost 600,000 at-home tests to support the demand for testing.

The test is the subject of a product recall over concerns the antigen test has not received proper U.S. authorization. The tests, also marketed under ACON, are produced by a biotech company in Hangzhou, China.

This is the second time, Nevadan’s have been put in harms way. In early 2020, federal officials warned Nevada not to use Chinese-made coronavirus test kits donated by the United Arab Emirates.

What became of those tests has yet to be explained by the Sisolak Administration.

My Cousin Elmo says, “You know shit is bad when Americans and Canadians get into an argument about whose ‘leader’ is the worst.”

My Cousin Elmo says, “A lot of people don’t realize that the character that played ‘Wilson’ in the movie ‘Castaway’ was also in the movie ‘Top Gun’ during the volleyball scene.”

No One Will Ever Believe Me Anyway!

While told it’s uncommon, it happens. Further, Doc says it could be a residual from having missed a few days of medication and not to worry about it.

She also told me that the drawing of the humanized bunny rabbit holding a carrot was pretty good. And with as much cheekiness as possible, I told her she was crazy because I believe the drawing is downright frightening.

I added, “It would have been better had I not been sleep-drawing when I did it.”

After returning home, I took Buddy-dog for a walk. We’d hadn’t gone far when I managed to pick up a pebble in my sneaker.

Sitting on the sidewalk, Buddy seated next to me, I pulled off my shoe and dumped the tiny rock out. Since I had my shoe off, I set it down and began readjusting my sock.

Then Buddy began to growl. As I looked to see what was setting him off, I saw this small human-like hand reaching out, pawing at the shoestring.

Grabbing my shoe as I jumped up, half-frightened, then half-amused at myself, I realized I was sitting partway on a drain, and the hand was that of a raccoon. By this time, Buddy was sprinting home.

Now, had it been a rabbit or a red balloon suddenly coming from the grate, I would have joined Buddy in racing for my life.

Eighteen Years Forward, Three Days Back

Yes, I battle mental health issues and I ain’t afeard to admit it.

Where, how, and who made the error does not matter, especially if I goofed. What matters is that my medication finally arrived from the VA after three days late.

The last time I was in this position, I did it to myself, falsely believing I didn’t need medication. My only symptom then was tremendous ‘anger.’

I struggled with and was royally wiped out by a new set of withdrawal symptoms this time.

The crinkling of paper or heavy plastics drove me wildly insane. My wife was opening a bag of chips (crisps for you across the pond,) and I swear to the Almighty, I about lost it because of how amplified the sound became.

The light was a difficulty too. Not only was it excessively bright, but it seemed to emanate from objects that usually only have a bit of reflective quality, and it made me sick to my stomach at times.

Lastly, color — my goodness — colors can be so loud without making a sound! My wife has an iPad with a light blue case, and it was this case that stabbed me through the head with its blaring.

It needs to be said, but I was tempted to self-medicate at various points but fought off the urge. The other is that I spent a lot of time hiding in my darkened office.

In explaining to a Marine friend how hard it was, he claimed he could tell. I must have wrinkled my brow or something because while I said nothing, I was thinking, “How?”

“Your hair is standing on end,” he answered to my unasked question.

I laughed hard at this because I have a crew cut, and while I am still not fully back to ‘myself,’ I am on my way to recovering my damned mind.

The Getaway

She desired a getaway from the hustle and bustle of her everyday city life, so she made the drive into the country, having booked a week’s long vacation at a small cabin in a forest above a river. The night was beautiful as she sat on the front porch, under the eve, enjoying the sound of a slight breeze rolling through the branches of the ancient trees and the splash and gurgle of the water from someplace below where she sat.

Having exhausted her basket of picnic supplies and the half bottle of red wine she’d brought with her, she drove into the nearby town to purchase a few supplies for the next couple of days. With plans to sit on the covered porch again, she had heard a long guttural cry from deep in the woods and believed it wise to remain inside.

Instead, after a steak dinner, she sat in front of a small blaze in the fireplace, sipping some inexpensive port and relaxing. Shortly after nine, she began her routine before bed.

As she stood in front of the mirror, patting her face dry, she heard a terrific thump on the opposite side of the building. Quietly, she turned off the bathroom light and approached the far window of the small interior, parting the curtain aside to have a look.

Lorri heard nothing.

She returned to the bathroom, switching on the overhead light again, as something once more thumped on the wall, only louder this time. Lorri froze in place and leaned out the doorway to peer at the window.

She quickly jerked back, sure she had seen a shadow cross from one side of the frame to the other. Again, she snapped off the light and listened.

Again, Lorri heard nothing.

But this time, she left the light off and walked over to where her purse lay. In it, she had two things she felt she needed, her cellphone and a snub-nose 38 caliber handgun.

She returned to the fireplace and added two more logs to the dying embers. Lorri pulled the quilted blanket that came with the rental over herself as she sat in the chair, half afraid to fall asleep.

Morning found her still in the chair, having fallen asleep. She woke stiff and tired, having slept poorly.

She got up and slowly moved to the window from the night before. As expected, there was nothing to see.

As Lorri showered, she concluded that it must have been raccoons that had made the noises from the night before. She made a mental note to double-check before she left to tour one of the many seaside villages.

Dressed, she went outside and to the far side of the cabin. As she was beginning to reassure herself that there was nothing to worry about, she saw something on the ground that looked like it did not belong.

Gray and fleshy, it appeared to be much like the upper portion of a squid, yet it had no tentacles and was missing that giant eye squid’s possessed. She picked up a stick and poked at it.

It did not move.

Still using the stick, she lifted it off the ground and returned inside, where she dropped the thing in the garbage can in the kitchen. She’d decided to deal with it when she returned from her outing that evening.

The sun was slipping beyond the horizon when Lorri pulled onto the gravel road that led to the cabin. It had been a full day, and she could hardly wait to get inside, prepare some dinner, and go to bed.

She grew alarmed when she saw the front window to the left of the door was ajar. She couldn’t remember if she had opened it and left it open or not.

Lorri got out of her vehicle, gun in hand, and approached the cabin. She turned the door handle only to find it still locked. She slipped the key in and turned the handle.

Lorri walked through the place, checking everywhere. The closet was empty, as was the bathroom and cupboards throughout the house.

Nothing.

Satisfied that she was alone, Lorri sealed the window and locked it. She also closed the front door, locking it and then moving a chair in front of it, tucking the back up under the door handle as an added measure.

That evening, Lorri had cooked a thick piece of salmon in the fireplace. It was more than satisfying as she again relaxed in front of the open hearth, sipping on the last of her wine.

Slightly after ten, she decided to go to bed, using it for the first time since she arrived. Within minutes after washing her face and brushing her teeth, she fell asleep, head comfortably deep in a soft pillow and under the thick quilt.

Something thudded against the house, and it woke her up. Lorri looked at the time on her cell phone; three in the morning.

She lay quiet and unmoving as the noise came again. She had her hand under her pillow, and in that hand, she gripped the snub-nose revolver.

Then the noise came again. But this time, it sounded different, closer, and less hollow.

Suddenly, Lorri scrambled from the bed and turned on her light. She had realized that the noise was inside the cabin.

Handgun at the ready, she tiptoed towards the front of the place. In the middle of the room stood a figure.

Without waiting or warning, she fired and watched and listened as it writhed and screamed before vanishing into nothingness. Lorri retreated to the bedroom, grabbed her cellphone and purse, and raced outside to her vehicle.

What she’d seen, she did not know and did not wish to wait to find out what it might be. She drove to the largest nearby town and checked into the first motel she found offering a vacancy sign.

The following day, escorted by a sheriff’s deputy and the cabin’s owner, Lorri returned to pack her belongings.

“You must have left the door unlocked and a bear got in,” the sheriff’s deputy said as he inspected the room.

“Yup,” the cabin owner agreed, adding, “Bears can even open a door like a human being.”

Lorri knew better but chose not to argue with the men. If she had shot a bear, there would be blood, if not inside the cabin, then on the porch or ground surrounding it.

She had already put up with enough questioning over the firearm she legally possessed.

She finished cleaning what mess she had made, dropping the trash in the kitchen garbage. It was then that she discovered that the thing she’d put in the plastic pail was what she’d seen that night.

As she got in her vehicle, but before closing the door, Lorri heard the deputy say, “Ph’nglui yaah ot vulgtmoth Cthulhu, any closer ng Y’ would mgep mgep l’ h’ ah’n’gha.”

“I know,” the other returned ominously. “C’ need l’ h’ or’uh’enah mgep nilgh’ri else bug wrong.”

“Weirdo,” Lorri said as she turned for home.

My Cousin Elmo says, “How am I supposed to relax when the word ‘truffle’ can mean both chocolate and fungus? And what do you mean by ‘chocolate covered mushroom?'”

Nevada’s 2020 Elections Keep Rearing Its Ugly Head

In recent months, clerks in three Nevada counties have resigned in the middle of their terms, and two more have announced plans not to seek re-election. Reasons cited include health issues, family, burnout, and threats.

Storey County Clerk-Treasurer Vanessa Stephens
Carson City County Clerk Aubrey Rowlatt
Lander County Clerk Sadie Sullivan
Mineral County Clerk-Treasurer Christopher Nepper
Nye County Clerk Sandra Merlino

Polls in both Clark and Washoe County are directed by appointed registrars, while in Nevada’s other 15 counties, clerks run the elections.

Congress Purposely Looking in Wrong Place

Amazon spent $20.3 million lobbying Washington lawmakers in 2021, while Meta, formerly known as Facebook, spent $20.1 million, the most either company has spent in a single year.

The Senate is taking steps towards passing the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which would ban large tech companies from using their platforms to give their products an advantage over competitors.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, if passed, would bar Big Tech companies from giving their products preferential treatment on their platforms. For example, Amazon couldn’t bump its products to the top of its marketplace ahead of third-party products.

Some tech executives have voiced opposition to the bill. Google’s legal chief, Kent Walker, published a blog post claiming the act will “threaten America’s national security.”

In April 2021, the European Union accused Apple of illegally disadvantaging music streamers with its App Store rules following a complaint filed by Spotify in 2019. In November, the EU denied an appeal from Google to overturn a $2.8 billion antitrust fine it received for favoring its shopping service in search results over competitors.

But not one word about Big Tech’s meddling in U.S. Elections by limiting political posts and news stories, deleting, blocking, or canceling voices they find disagreeable.

Tech Elites Help Communist China Achieve Supremacy Over U.S.

In 2015, the Obama Administration held an official State Dinner at the White House for Chinese President Xi. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla, seven months pregnant, were there.

When the Zuck got to speak to Xi, he asked the communist dictator to give his unborn child a Chinese name. Xi declined.

It was not the first time the Facebook cofounder extravasated over a Chinese official.

A high-ranking Chinese official named Lu Wei visited the social media platform headquarters in 2014, he gave him a tour, including his private office. On the Zuck’s desk was a book of speeches and comments made by Xi.

The Zuck explained to his guest that he bought the book for himself and his staff as a guide.

“I want to make them understand socialism with Chinese characteristics,” the Zuck said.

Facebook teamed with Google and its CEO Eric Schmidt in 2016 to build an undersea cable linking San Francisco, Hong Kong, and China. They chose to partner with the Chinese company Dr. Peng Telecom & Media Group to provide the link.

Dr. Peng, financially backed by the Chinese-linked China Securities Finance Corporation, worked closely with Huawei and military defense contractors in China. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission blocked the project, in 2020, saying it presented “‘unprecedented opportunities’ for Chinese government espionage,” according to the U.S. Justice Department.

In 2017, Google announced the opening of an AI research facility in Beijing. The Google AI China Center included “a small group of researchers supported by several hundred China-based engineers.”

Their research includes machine-learning that would classify, perceive, and predict outcomes based on massive amounts of data, precisely the sort of work that military and intelligence officials would want from AI. This cooperation happened the same year that the Chinese Communist Party laid out its “artificial intelligence development plan.”

The plan explains that “AI has become a new focus of international competition,” mastering that technology enhances “comprehensive national power,” and that it would lead to the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

Collaboration between American tech companies and Chinese military-linked research labs has enormous implications for our national security. As the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence announced in its final report, “Authoritarian regimes will continue to use AI-powered face recognition, biometrics, predictive analytics, and data fusion as instruments of surveillance, influence, and political control.”

The chair of that commission? Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk acknowledges that Chinese entities stole software code from his company Tesla, a competitive and national security problem. The same software used by SpaceX works closely with the U.S. military.

For years, Musk said he would never build a facility in China, claiming that he was happy with his production in the United States. But in 2015, transcripts of a meeting in China were leaked, indicating he had plans to build a factory there.

He quickly declared that the transcripts were inaccurate, refuting them on Twitter.

“My comments in China weren’t transcribed correctly. Tesla will keep making cars & batteries in CA & NV as far into future as I can imagine.”

Then in March 2017, Chinese government-linked Tencent Holdings bought a five percent stake in Tesla, followed by Beijing rolling out the red carpet as Chinese government-backed banks coughed up $1.6 billion in subsidized loans. And the regulatory red tape to build in China was eliminated by government authorities.

The plant got built in less than a year. And Musk has since become a Beijing booster.

In January 2021, he explained in an interview how Beijing was “more responsible” toward its people than the U.S. government.

“When I meet with Chinese government officials, they are always very concerned about this,” he said. “Are people going to be happy about a thing? Is this going to serve the benefit of the people? It seems ironic, but even though you have sort of a single-party system, they seem to care a lot about the well-being of the people. They are maybe even more sensitive to public opinion than what I see in the U.S.”

In Hand

“Don’t call the doctor,” she said. “I jus’ want to fall asleep with your hand in mine.”

So he continued to hold her hand as he told her about the past, how they met, their first kiss.

Then she whispered, “I love you.”

He returned her words and gave her a soft kiss on the forehead. She fell asleep peacefully and forever with her hand in his.

My Wife’s Sense of Humor

My wife, while at the kitchen counter, said this morning, “I am amazed when I look at you, not because of your looks, but because everything I have ever wanted is right in front of me.”

Because she sounded serious, I started to get all choked up over her words. Then I realized it was the bagel she had prepared for breakfast to whom she was talking.

We had ourselves a good laugh. Thank goodness I had not taken a drink of my hot coffee at that moment, or I may have given myself an unwanted but scalding nasal cleansing.

I’ll See

Indeed, I prefer to window shop as opposed to shopping for real. Unfortunately, window shopping does not work when buying groceries.

Today, I went to the market for a can of condensed milk but couldn’t find it. I finally asked a person stocking the shelves where I could locate it.

“I’ll see,” he said, disappearing around the corner.

He never came back, so I called on another employee.

She said, “I’ll see,” before walking away.

So, I decided to search a little more, sure that I had missed it the first time around. I had — it was on Aisle C.

In the Silence of the Nevada Printing Press

“A Nevada ink slinger working on a daily paper was required to stand, rarely to sit, before the type case for long hours every day, six days a week, picking up individual pieces of type, called sorts, and arranging them in a composing stick to make lines of type. It is no wonder, with the long days and wearying drudgery attached to the job, that when a printer found himself with no more ‘p’s’ or ‘q’s’ – and a real need for ‘q’s’ or ‘ps’ – he was said to be ‘out of sorts.'” — Chic Di Francia, Master Printer, Virginia City, Nev.

The past two weeks have been a time of worry for the Comstock Chronicle and the Dayton Valley Dispatch newspapers.

For years, a company in Carson City printed the CC/DVD. Unfortunately for us, this printer sold its press to an outfit in West Virginia. Along with our two papers, all newspapers in Nevada must go out of state for printing; California, Utah, and Arizona.

In short: no newspaper will be printed in Nevada as of Thu., Feb. 3. It is a disheartening realization for those of us who value the feel, odor, and sight of a printed news page or have ink coursing their veins.

I suggested to my wife that we buy a printing press and go into business, filling this niche, but the idea went over like a ‘fart in church.’

Here is the difficulty, the CC/DVD is not even a ‘Mom and Pop operation,’ but more of a ‘Mom operation.’ Other small papers in our area have people who can drive to out-of-state places to pick up and return overnight, but this paper does not have this capability.

Worse yet, we are in an area where snow, as we had last December when 16-plus feet fell in the upper passes, crippling the roads for days, leaving people stuck on one side of the divide or the other, and bringing commerce to a halt. Larger outfits overcame this by flying their papers in, but many of us cannot afford such an expense.

Anyway, things are looking up as ‘Mom’ in this ‘Mom operation’ is purchasing a Xerox machine, reducing the newspaper size to 11-inches by 17-inches single-page newsprint, and hand-folding the pages. All this after finding a new building from which to begin printing.

It means a little more work, but it will be well worth the extra effort.

 

 

Be the Light

When the man awoke, he was looking into the concerned face of a police officer. It took him a few extra seconds to understand that he was bleeding from a head injury.

“Do you remember what happened?” the officer asked.

“I picked up a rock that was painted black with yellow lettering that read, “Be the light.”

“What happened then?”

“A kid in a face mask asked if he could see it, so I handed it to him.”

“And then?”

“Then I saw a bright light when he hit me with it followed by darkness until I opened my eyes.”

Little Birdie

“I heard you lost a couple of sheep this week,” she said.

“Yeah, I did, a cow, too,” the farmer returned, adding, “Gone, vanished into thin air like they never were there. And who told you?”

“Oh, a little birdie told me,” she smiled.

“No, really, who did you hear it from because I’ve only complained to two people about it, and one of those was the Sheriff?” he asked seriously.

“I told you,” she said. “I heard it from a little birdie. Honestly, I am telling you the truth.”

Then he saw her Pterodactyl.

God’s Refrigerator

“Uh, Houston?” Baker asked, “Are you seeing this?”

“Affirmative,” Houston came back.

Baker was the Commander of Lunar Exploration One. His second in command, Wilson, was standing closer to the object inspecting it, and taking photographs.

They were inside the dark half of the moon, the beams of their helmets the only illumination available and then penetrating the black by only a few yards. Both men stopped, staring at what they had found in the immense darkness surrounding them.

“What does it look like to you?” Houston asked.

“It looks like my grandma’s refrigerator,” Baker answered. “But I don’t recognize the brand.”

“What is the brand?” Houston asked.

“Sierra, Mike, Echo, Golf,” Baker returned.

“It’s plugged in,” Wilson interjected.

“To what?” the voice from Houston asked.

“A rock,” Wilson answered. “Should I unplug it, see what happens?”

“Negative,” Houston said. “The brand is Italian.”

“Italian?”  Baker asked as if his hearing had deceived him.

“Yeah, Williams, in Flight Control has one,” Houston returned.

“Roger,” Baker stated, “I think we should open it, see what’s inside.”

“Standby,” Houston instructed.

The two lunar explorers stood silently, looking at the refrigerator than at one another, when Wilson asked, “You don’t think the Russians are playing a trick of some sort, do you, Cap’n?”

Baker didn’t get a chance to respond as Houston returned, “Roger, L-E One. Go ahead and open it.”

Wilson was standing in front of the refrigerator and was closest to the handle, so he grabbed it. Baker stood on the other side in case something should escape from it.

The inside light came on as the door opened. Wilson fully extended the door then came around to look inside with Baker.

Not only was there a bright yellow bulb emitting light, but the back of the refrigerator was also teeming with flora and fauna. Green leaves and grasses waved in a slight breeze as oversized insects buzzed back and forth.

There was a long silence as Wilson and Baker watched. Houston remained quiet as well.

Then a low growl came from someplace in the back of the refrigerator. No sooner had it faded than a large reptilian eye appeared, blinking, studying the two astronauts.

Wilson slapped the refrigerator shut and backed away.

“What the hell was that thing?” Baker asked.

“A velociraptor,” Wilson panted in fright.

The refrigerator shook and thumped violently for about fifteen seconds as the pair backed away from it and towards the Lunar Crawler. Then it went silent.

By then, the astronauts were aboard the crawler and making way for the relative safety of their Lander.

And Women are from Venus

“You know I don’t like crowds,” Les complained to his supervisor.

“Sorry, but you got the short straw, dude,” the other man said.

Thousands of people gathered in Las Vegas for the tech show, and Les was one of them. He did his four hours at his companies booth, then retreated to the privacy of his hotel room.

Day three and Les found himself restless. So he wandered about the convention floor, looking at the sights and checking out many of the new electronic gadgets on display.

That evening instead of staying in his room, Les visited one of the after-hour parties. While he was still uncomfortable in the crowded room, he did order a rum-and-coke, forcing himself to nurse the drink as he sat at the bar.

He watched and listened as people gabbed and chatted up one another.

Sheila had spent the day as a display model for the convention. She was hungry, and instead of going home, she decided to go to an after-hours party.

“Perhaps I’ll get lucky,” she thought.

Les was getting ready to leave when Sheila stepped up to the bar next to him and asked, “Is this seat taken?”

“No,” Les answered. “By all means, sit.”

Before he knew it, they were chatting and laughing, and he was buying their drinks. It was something Les had not enjoyed since his early college years.

“Wanna come back to my place?” Sheila asked. “I only live a couple of blocks from here.”

Not believing his good luck, Les sprang at the idea, saying, “I’d love to.”

Sheila quickly disappeared, saying she needed to slip into something more comfortable. As Les waited, he studied her unusual stereo equipment.

“Interesting,” he said. “Ham radio?”

Hearing her step into the living room, he turned to find Sheila standing in her bedroom doorway naked, smiling at him.

“Care to join me?” she asked.

Though Les tried to remain calm, he found himself fumbling to get undressed as she stepped back into the room. He could hear her pulling back the covers, exciting him even more.

“Where would you like to start?” Sheila asked.

“I have no idea,” Les blushed.

“Well, let’s start with a little ’69,'” she responded as she pushed Les back onto the bed.

He reached up and cupped her butt cheeks in his hands and greedily pulled her to himself. Les didn’t even have the chance to scream before his head disappeared into the sharp-toothed, eel-like maw.

A few minutes later, Sheila leaned back against a pillow, so full that she figured she wouldn’t need to feed again for another Earth month. That would give her time enough to clean up her mess and finish setting up the communication equipment to contact her home planet of Venus.

To Prevent a Murder

Lieutenant Edwige Barre found the wind from the mountainside much colder than she expected. It was nighttime, 19 January, and there was a blanket of snow covering the streets, and more was threatening.

She had to hurry, as she didn’t have much time and didn’t want to get caught. Her all-black bodysuit and the shadows would help camouflage her movements.

Though alone for this part of the mission, Edwige was a member of a much larger team. Five other time-transitioning units were training to continue the experiment, should this one fail.

“What happens if we change something and some members disappear?” she had asked.

“We don’t think anyone will be affected, but if that does, we’re five-deep, and someone will take our place,” the project director said. “That includes you and me.”

To know anything more beyond preventing the murder of this woman was above her pay grade.

Not only was she selected because of her physical skills and courage, but also like the woman and man she was tracking, she spoke French and Cajun fluently. She was also the average height of a woman for the time and could blend in if somehow she were to become trapped.

It had been a painful transition from where her journey started, and her body felt like a pincushion, her mind slightly muddled. She had never experienced anything like it during her lengthy training period.

Though disoriented, she found the female target’s home with ease. Entry was even less of a problem as she forced the backdoor open.

While the team had no idea of the home’s layout, it took Edwige seconds to locate the bedroom and slip beneath the bed. While she didn’t have any way of measuring time, she figured she had less than 30 minutes for her target to return home.

Juliette was angry. For all the good she did for Virginia City, its people still treated her like a two-bit whore.

She stormed down the hillside street from Piper’s Opera House, where Mark Twain was lecturing, towards her small home on D Street. On the opposite side walked Jean Marie.

He called out, “Bonjour, Mademoiselle Juliette!”

She did not return the greeting as she continued hurriedly down the street.

Jean Marie looked back at her in anger and gruffed, “Ignoré par une pute maudite.”

Jean Marie spoke no English and could barely order the beer he was drinking. As he stood, back against the far wall, the loner thought about Juliette’s snub and growing angrier by the minute.

After four more beers and six shots of whiskey, he left the saloon and wandered about the town, looking for a place to sleep that was out of the wind. Then he had an idea.

The door to the house opened and closed. Edwige could hear Juliette muttering about her treatment and how one-day people would realize how much she had done for this ‘trou de merde’ of a town.

Within a couple of minutes, Juliette was in bed, and less than half an hour, she was sound asleep. Quietly, Edwige slipped from her hiding spot and took a position in the far corner of the room, near the closed door.

Then there was a loud thump from somewhere beyond the bedroom.

“Jean Marie,” Edwige thought.

The noise startled Juliette from her sleep, and she rolled over to listen. Juliette pulled on a pair of crinoline drawers she had at the foot of her bed, then picked up a piece of wood as she got out of bed.

How she saw Edwige, the Lieutenant had no idea. She was practically invisible in her black clothing and the lightless room.

At five-two, Edwige was nearly a head shorter than the woman with the piece of wood, who was now swinging wildly at the dark figure cornered in her bedroom. The blows were landing, but not all of them with efficiency.

Edwige tried to get out the door but couldn’t as the woman would not let her near the handle. So, she decided she had to fight back, striking the woman in the head with the butt of her Glock pistol.

The blow sent Juliette back and against the bed frame, but it didn’t stop her. Instead, she rushed Edwige, and the two ended up on the floor, Juliette straddling her smaller opponent, manually strangling her.

Unable to breathe and amazed at how strong her target was, Edwige picked up the piece of wood and clubbed Juliette in the side of the head. On the fifth strike, Juliette finally slumped forward, unconscious.

Then Jean Marie tried to enter the bedroom, shoving the door against the still trapped Edwige. As Edwige wiggled from under the woman’s body, Jean Marie moved away from the door.

It took all of Edwige’s strength to get the half-nake woman onto her bed. It was then that she noticed that Juliette was bleeding severely.

She started to administer first aid, but the woman gained consciousness, grabbed a pair of scissors from her nightstand, and stabbed Edwige in the stomach. Surprised, Edwige tried to stand up, but again the scissors found their mark, this time in Edwige’s right shoulder.

Knowing she could die if she didn’t stop her attacker, she jumped on top of Juliette and pressed her left forearm into the woman’s throat. In response, Juliette rammed the scissors into Edwige’s lower back, piercing her left kidney.

Within a minute, the battle ended, and Edwige pulled herself from the unconscious body of Juliette, collapsing to the floor. Then she heard the door open and instinctively rolled over and clambered to her feet, prepared to defend herself.

“Mon Dieu!” Jean Marie exclaimed, springing on Edwige, punching her, and yelling, “Meurtrier.”

Her strength zapped, Edwige fell back on the hardwood floor and waited for the man to strike her again. Instead, he got to his feet and checked on Juliette.

Understanding that she was dead, Jean Marie turned back to Edwige and kicked her. He was in the process of kicking her a second time when she vaporized before his eyes.

The violence of his kick, married to the sudden lack of a target, caused the still intoxicated man to flop violently onto his back.

“Type A, stat,” said the emergency room doctor as she worked feverishly to save Lt. Barre’s life.

The injuries were many, and blood leaked from nearly all of them. The Lieutenant tried to remain awake but finally slipped into unconsciousness.

It would be two more days before she could speak and be coherent in doing so.

“So odd the way it went down,” the project’s director said.

“It was Jean Marie coming into the house as he did that caused everything to go off the rail,” Lt. Barre said. “It had to be.”

“Well, you’re fortunate to be alive,” the director said. “I guess we can’t change the past after all.”

“Yeah, why’s that?” Lt. Barre asked.

“According to the historical record Juliette Bulette still died in 1867, murdered, and Millain went to the gallows the next year for the crime, continuing to claim he was only there to steal, but that someone else killed Juliette,” he said.

“Oh chère Dieu,” the young Lieutenant exclaimed, suddenly feeling violently sick to her stomach.

The Doom of Sagebrush One

The craft glided gently to a stop exactly as programmed. Commander “Skeeter” Caster removed his helmet and smiled at the camera mounted over the control dash, happy that the first test of their hyper transonic-warp engine had worked.

“Sagebrush One to Groom Lake, I’m outside of our solar system, and it took less than 78 seconds, 77-point-7 seconds to be precise,” the Commander said. “I’d call that a success.”

Groom Lake was once known as Area 51, but that was years ago, and now the Sierra Nevada Space Agency, a private corporation, owned the property, using it to launch spacecraft. Skeeter had started with the company as a lowly flunky five years before the agency won its first federal contract, and now he was their lead test pilot.

After a minute of staring out into the darkest void he had ever seen, the test pilot looked back at the camera and said, “Okay, let’s get this baby turned around so we can come home.”

Skeeter pushed a couple of buttons on the dash, and the craft jumped to life, swinging to its portside with a violent shutter. Before the ship could line its nose up for home, half-a-dozen buzzers sounded, and several lights flashed on the dashboard and the side panels.

“Uh, Sagebrush One to Groom Lake, jus’ had a wicked shimmy as I started Charlie two-seven thruster,” he stated as calmly as he could.

As the ship continued to rotate to its left, he pulled his helmet back on and began the process of responding to the flashing bus lights and turning off the alarms that accompanied them.

“What the…” Skeeter began, “Groom Lake, I have a ‘collision imminent’ alarm that is refusing to turn off. And there is nothing out here to run into.”

As he said that, he saw the glass of the forward screen begin to cobweb. If it disintegrated completely, Skeeter knew he had made a one-way trip into nothingness, and no one would be coming to save his ass.

While betraying his fright, he said, “Groom Lake, we have a structural failure. The forward screen is fracturing, and I don’t think it will hold much longer. Please tell my wife that I love her and that…”

“That is it,” the Centers Director said into the hotline, “All communication ceased, and we have not been unable to reach Sagebrush One for the past 15-minutes. I don’t want to say it, but I know everyone’s thinking it.”

There was a long pause before the Director spoke again, “Yes, sir. I’ll notify the team.”

Andrea Caster was at the kitchen sink when the cat hissed, then jumped from the window sill of the breakfast nook and dashed into one of the bedrooms.

“It’s only a cloud crossing over the sun, you silly cat,” she laughed.

Then Wiley, their Doberman, began to bark as if he were in a panic. Andrea decided to investigate and stepped outside onto the back patio.

Above her floated a gigantic object, motionless and noiseless. It was so large that it blocked out the sun.

Behind her, she heard the telephone ringing, so she returned inside and answered it.

“Wait, what are you saying?” she asked her mother-in-law, who was on the other end of the line crying. “No, that can’t be. It was a test flight, that’s all.”

The front doorbell rang, and Andrea dropped the phone.

She knew it to be true. Her husband was dead.

Still, Wiley continued to bark. But jus’ as sudden his barked turned to a whimper, the kind of whimper he made when Skeeter arrived home.

Andrea rushed to the door and threw it open. There stood to solemn-faced men in suits and a youthful-looking priest.

“No, no, no,” she screamed.

“May we come in?” the priest asked.

Andrea stepped back, still screaming. They entered.

Suddenly the backdoor opened and banged shut. Andrea and the three men looked, only to see Commander “Skeeter” Caster standing in the dining area with a dazed expression on his face.

The shadow disappeared, and the sun was shining bright again.

Vanished Rock

Buddy and I are jus’ now back from our daily hike. We would have been home sooner had I not had to search for, but never find, what I was expecting to see.

For nearly a quarter-century, I have been going to the same place to sit and relax, meditate, pray and allow my imagination to go free. It is, or was, a large boulder that I could climb to the top of, whether raining, blowing, snowing, or in the blistering heat.

It took me over half an hour to fully grasp that the boulder, the size of an average home, was gone. There is nary a sign of it, not even a gaping hole where one should be.

Instead, the ground is flat and filled with Pinion and sagebrush.

Twine

Dad, can we stop and see that ball of twine we heard about yesterday?” my son asked.

“Sure,” I said as we approached Exit 13 that led to the town.

Twine Town isn’t its real name. I don’t want to remember the name, let alone have a desire to say it aloud.

We stopped there to see the world’s second-largest ball of twine. It was started in 1933 by Henry Johnson in memory of his two children, who died one early morning after they lost the guideline from the barn to the house in a blizzard.

The boy and girl froze to death, less than 10 feet from the back porch. Mrs. Johnson lost her mind with grief, dying a year later after being placed in an asylum.

Henry Johnson died twenty years later when the ball was only seven feet around. Since then, Twine Town has held an annual festival, said to be on the anniversary of the children’s death, adding twine and increasing its circumference a little at a time.

Taken by the huge Gordian Knot, my twelve-year-old son walked around it, running his hand over its rough and uneven surface. After a few pictures, I stepped outside for fresh air as the room had a funky rancid odor.

After a couple of minutes, I returned to where I had left my son. Only, he was gone.

Panicked, I raced around the small quad, searching for him. Finally, I headed for the police department to help.

“Are you sure he didn’t run away or something?” the officer at the desk asked.

“He wouldn’t do that,” I answered, “Besides, he doesn’t know anyone around here, and he’s rather shy.”

“Well, your boy wouldn’t be the first child to surprise his parents by running off,” he said, “I’ll get a BOLO on the air. I’m sure he’ll turn up.”

“I’m going back over to the ball of twine, in case he did wander away and returns,” I said.

“You do that,” the officer said.

While bothered by his attitude, I left and returned to the display. As I loitered about the place, I noticed town folk watching me, some looking away when I made eye contact, others staring.

As I tried not to notice the odd behavior, I turned to look at the twine. Something flashed, then fell to the floor with a metallic sound.

Walking over to look at the object, I instantly recognized it as the silver cross and chain I had given him for his last birthday. I studied the area to see from where it could have come.

Then it struck me. My son was inside the ball of twine.

Not taking the time to think about how he might have gotten inside it, I took out my knife and cut away. A reddish mist sprayed out and into my face, arms and hands.

I hacked until I could push the upper half of my body inside the sphere and grab my son.

He was being held fast by twine, which I chopped and cut until it released him. Free, I lifted him over my shoulder and dashed for my truck.

By the time I locked the doors, a crowd of people had gathered and began beating at the vehicle’s window.

Quickly, I started the truck, and without hesitation, stomped the gas pedal to the floorboard. And though I ran down two or three people, I sped out of the town’s limits within five minutes.

I looked at my son, and he gave me a goofy little smile as he recovered from his frightening ordeal.

“How did you end up inside the ball of twine?” I asked.

“It grabbed me, opened its mouth, and swallowed me,” he answered.

That night, being some 100 miles away from the place, I left my boy asleep in our motel room and drove back to Twine Town. The place was quiet, nobody on the sidewalks, and no vehicles in the street.

With the five-gallon gas can I had purchased beforehand, I slipped into the display area with the twine and doused it, using all the fluid in the container. As I prepared to strike a match to the ball, a general alarm sounded, and the quad suddenly filled with people.

Realizing I could not escape, I tossed the match to the twine and stepped back to watch as it turned into an all-consuming blaze. As it began to unravel, I saw, much to my fright, the gathering outside the display area begin to disentangle as well.

Taking a chance, I pushed my way out the door and through the now struggling mass of unwinding humanoids. Half a second later, I was in my truck and speeding out of town.

In my rearview mirror, I could see nothing but a conflagration as the entire town disappeared in a hellish wall of flames.

For a Bowl of Turkey Soup

A friend called his wife to say that she saw a horse stuck in the feet-deep snow about a quarter of a mile above her running path. She saw it two days before but thought little of it as wild horses are constantly traversing the hillsides.

“It looks like it’s trapped,” she said, “No trail showing it had moved either backward or forward, and the snow is over its rump.”

“Poor horse,” his wife said. “Is there anything we can do?”

“I called around, and no one’s answering their phones, so I’ve left a bunch of messages, but no one’s called back,” she answered.

His wife looked at him. He knew then that he would be the one heading up the rocky hillside to see if he could coax the animal down or learn that it might already be dead.

In no time, with his heaviest snow gear on and throwing rope in hand, he headed up the embankment. It took him about an hour to reach the poor beast.

It was good and stuck in snow that had thawed and refrozen for at least three days. When the horse raised its head and looked at him, he was amazed.

Moving slowly, not wanting to scare it and get a hoof in the head for his effort, he finally got the rope around its neck and then began the task of hacking out a path out of the ice that had formed around much of its body. It was easier said than done, and an hour and a half later, the horse took its first step out of its would-be icy tomb.

Together, and very slowly, they worked their way down the hillside. He stumbled and fell, as did the horse, but it stayed with him and didn’t drag him off as he had half suspected it might.

Once they reached the running trail, they gave the horse hay, some carrots, and bits of sliced apple. It turns out the horse was not wild but had escaped its enclosure a week before, and the animal’s owners were out searching for it.

Through an online message board, they heard about a horse stuck in the snow, reaching the base of the trail as the pair were coming to it. Another day and night, and the horse would have died, as it had already given up when he made his way to it.

Britches is now home and safe.

And while he’s cold, he is satisfied. His wife is making a large pot of turkey soup that will end his internal chill.

The One-time Town of Six Mile

The morning sun had been up about an hour when Arlo Mathers pulled up in his truck, got out, and stretched. Six Mile Canyon Road was quiet as he looked up towards the site and remains of Big Jim Davis’ 1870s silver forge.

That’s what Arlo liked about the Comstock, not only Virginia City but the entirety of the area. He had only hiked here once, near the base of Sugarloaf, and he was looking forward to what he would find heading into the gorge that held a gurgling stream.

The silence was desirable as he followed the stream further down and behind the most notable rock formation into the canyon. With Virginia City above him, he pressed farther into the cut made by a millennium of water runoff from the hills beyond.

Hours had passed, and still, he wandered through the many little side chutes and gullies that the land had to offer. Though the sky remained bright blue, a small cloud of trail dust could be seen to the south.

Arlo headed towards the dust until the land flattened out, and he could no longer see the tally of dust floating lazily away to his east. Still, his curiosity held him to his coarse.

As he broke the rise he’d been walking up, Arlo looked into a small valley. He saw a sunburnt town of older-looking wooded buildings and dugouts.

“I never knew about this place,” he mumbled, “Maybe it’s one of those old western movie sets from years ago.”

A quarter-hour later, he came to the outskirts of the place only to discover it was inhabited. In period costume, people moved between buildings, crisscrossing the wide, open dirt street. Immediately, Arlo looked for a camera crew but saw none.

He stepped up on the wood sidewalk, slightly elevated to keep the storefronts and hotels out of danger from flooding. A door to his right opened, and a woman reached out, grabbing him by the arm. At first, he pulled away, but there was something familiar about her, so he entered.

“Are you new to town?” she said, barely above a whisper.

“Only a minute ago,” Arlo answered, “What town is this?”

“Six Mile,” she answered.

“But…” he began.

“You won’t find it on any map,” she said.

“Why?” asked Arlo.

“Because it doesn’t exist, we don’t exist, you and I don’t exist,” she said, still whispering.

“You’re pulling my leg, aren’t you,” Arlo smiled, “This is a movie set or something, right?”

“No, no movie set, though I wish it were,” she said, looking away as if remembering something from long ago. Then she added, “We’re trapped all of us here, and there is no getting out.”

“Trapped?” Arlo said indignantly, “Jus’ walk out like I walked in.”

She sighed, “You don’t understand.”

“Well, then make me,” he said.

“Okay, the best I can do is that I think we’re dead, and through some sort of fate or failure of the universe, we wound up here in this place,” she said.

“You’re nuts,” Arlo said as he backed towards the door he’d had come in through.

“Am I?” she asked, “You recognized me when you first saw me — I know it.”

“Yeah,” Arlo said, “So?”

“Look at me, look at me real good,” she demanded.

“I see lots of faces every day…” Arlo began.

“Yes, I suppose you do,” she interjected, “But how many women with bleached hair and a beauty mark on her face like mine?”

Suddenly, Arlo felt dizzy. He sat hard on the wooden floor, polished smooth with age, and looked up at the petite-figured woman standing before him.

“Say my name,” she said coaxingly, “It’s okay.”

“Marilyn…Monroe,” he whispered.

As he battled to regain his composure, Arlo listened as Marilyn explained how she thought she had come to be in Six Mile, and the more she spoke, the more things made sense.

“I worked on a film somewhere near here, I sure of that,” she said, “I also stayed at a bed-and-breakfast in Virginia, and I always wished I could return to it. This is as close as I got to my wish, and honestly, I have no idea how long I’ve been here.”

“None?” Arlo asked.

She smiled, “None. But it isn’t all that bad, you see. I also wanted a simpler life, and how much more simple can one get living out here?”

“What do you do?” Arlo questioned.

“I run this mercantile during the day, and sometimes I sing at the saloon or the theater down the street,” she said, pointing further south as Arlo stood to look, “Are you hungry?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he responded.

“Don’t call me ma’am,” she giggled, “Makes me feel old. Call me, Marilyn.”

The food smelled delicious as she stood over the wood stove in the back of the store, frying up a steak and some potatoes. Arlo watched her move from the stove to the table as if he were dreaming.

“Eat up,” Marilyn said as she poured him a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

Arlo took a mouthful of potato and chewed. They had no taste.

He took a second fork full, and again nothing.

“I’ll admit that it took me a while to figure out the stove, but I don’t think my cooking is all that bad,” Marilyn said, trying not to sound hurt.

“No,” Arlo returned, “You’re cooking is fine — it’s that I can’t taste it.”

“Really?” she said with surprise.

Suddenly, she got up and disappeared into the store area, quickly returning with a short, stumpy bottle filled with a red liquid.

“Give me your finger,” she demanded.

Arlo put out his left pointer finger, and Marilyn shook several drops from the bottle on the digit.

“Taste it,” she said.

Arlo could smell Tabasco, knowing it would take his breath away if he could taste it, especially that much at one time, but he did as she bade him.

“Nothing,” he said, surprised.

“You don’t belong here,” Marilyn said as she took him gently by the hand.

Night fell over the quiet little town, and that’s when it seemed to come to life. There was the mixing of several ten-penny pianos playing, raucous laughter, clinking glasses, and gunfire. It was everything that Arlo had imagined about a frontier town.

He stood back in the shadow of the overhang near the door of the mercantile, watching. Marilyn had walked up the street to the theater.

“I don’t want to, but we all have to,” she said, “It’s a rule we have to abide by, and besides, Mr. Twain is tonight’s speaker.”

“Mark Twain?” Arlos asked, adding, “But he’s been dead since…”

“Yes, I know,” Marilyn responded, “That’s how this dumb blonde figured it out, that we are all dead — well, all of us except you.”

She looked back at him as she walked across the street and disappeared into the large building. Arlo stood outside, listening to the booming sound of the southern voice of Twain and the half-hearted laughter of the crowd that had gathered. He was presenting a lecture on his adventures in the Sandwich Islands.

Above the town were stars, the same ones he knew from his time at sea and then in this desert. He watched as they twinkled.

Then he saw something pass between the stars and his sight. It was a large winged creature, half-man, half something else, and Arlo felt his blood run cold.

“Howdy, stranger,” a voice said from behind him.

Arlo jumped and turned. A man had come from out of the dark, making no noise as he walked to within feet of the unsuspecting man.

“Names Jim Davis — and I own this town,” he said in a gravelly voice, “Let me buy you a drink and tell you about my rules.”

Feeling like he didn’t have a choice, Arlo stepped off the boardwalk and followed Davis across the street to a nearly vacant saloon. Davis entered and walked to the far corner. It was the darkest table in the hall.

He motioned to the bartender before sitting, indicating to Arlo that he should take the offered chair. Before he could sit, the man behind the bar had two drinks poured and on the small table before them. He left the bottle as he hurried away.

“Seeing that you’re new here, I’ll give you a few days to adjust,” Davis smiled.

“Newcomers always find it hard to get used to, including Miss Marilyn, whom you’ve already met. She’s my gal,” he added, “Don’t forget it.”

“What is this place?” Arlo asked.

He tossed a shot back, knowing he wouldn’t taste and unsure if it would affect his senses.

“This is my town,” Davis smiled, “I built it, I populated it, I run it, and that’s the way I like it.”

“So, why am I here?” Arlo asked.

“I don’t know yet,” Davis responded, “You’re not the first accident that happened upon this place, and I don’t think you’ll be the last.”

Davis poured them another shot.

“I’ll put you up at Julia’s,” he said, downing the whiskey, “She’s another one of my women.

She runs a nice respectable hotel these days, and I think Room 29 will do you just fine.”

Arlo tipped his glass back in a single move, then looked at Davis, “Are you the winged thing I saw earlier?”

“Perceptive,” Davis replied.

Though the answer was non-committal, he could read Davis’ body language well enough to know that the answer was a firm ‘yes.’ The two men had a third slug of booze in silence.

“Thank you for giving me the lowdown and for your hospitality,” Arlo said, “Is Mademoiselle Julia expecting me?”

“Yes, she is,” Davis answered, his eyebrow raised in surprise.

“Then, I’ll take my leave,” Arlo stated as he got up from his chair, “Again, thank you.”

Arlo walked out of the saloon, knowing the alcohol was both tasteless and ineffective on him. He strode purposefully to the hotel, aware that “Big Jim” Davis was watching.

“This way,” the woman with a slight Cajon accent said, “Welcome to Six Mile. I think this room will suit you very well.”

“You must be Julia Bulette?” Arlo said.

“Yes, I am,” she said, “Have we met before?”

“No, ma’am, and forgive me for being so forward,” Arlo said.

“Do not worry yourself,” she said, “And please, should you need anything, simply pull the rope to sound the bell, and Rosa May will gladly assist you.”

Mind swirling and still suffering from the shock of finding himself in a place so strange, Arlo laid back on the cot and tried to fall asleep. Next door, he could still hear Twain and the unenthusiastic crowd he was trying to entertain.

To Arlo, it seemed as if he had only shut his eyes for a minute, and now sunlight streamed through his room’s window. He was momentarily confused at his surroundings before recalling the ordeal he was in.

Because he had not undressed the evening before, he was able to quickly get downstairs and out of the lobby before anyone could stop him.

He looked at the still closed mercantile, then found a bench against the wall and sat down. Along the street, other people were beginning their day, and he wondered what they did for a living.

“If a living is what it was called or if Davis assigned each person a duty,” Arlo thought.

From his right, he saw a gruff-looking man walking hurriedly towards him.

“I heard we had a new person visiting our humble town,” the man shouted, a slight New England accent being noted, “Alfred Doten, and you might be?”

“Arlo Mathers, Mr. Doten,” Arlo answered.

“Come, let’s get a bite to eat,” Doten said, “We can talk about something more than the weather.”

They crossed the street to the diner. Inside, Doten took a seat, back to the windows and door, allowing Arlo the seat that afforded a view.

“What’ll it be?” the tough-sounding woman asked.

“I’ll have my usual, Pearl,” Doten answered.

“You?” Pearl asked Arlo.

“The same, please,” he answered.

She walked away without a word, and Doten smiled after her.

“Rough around the edges,” Doten said, “But I like them like that.”

Arlo sat, surprised that the woman he had ordered food from a few seconds ago went by her nickname and not her real name of Janis Joplin.

By this time, Doten was talking, and Arlo was not listening.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” he laughed, finding his inside joke funny.

Arlo remembered how Ruby, a nickname she had given herself before she had died, had been discovered at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City before heading to Haight Ashbury and wide-spread fame.

“So, as I was saying, Marilyn thinks you are here by mistake,” Doten said, “That unlike us, you are still living, and she believes you might be able to escape. Should she be correct, perhaps you are the key to everyone’s release.”

“We ain’t never getting out of here,” Pearl said as she put the plates filled with food on the table with a bang.

She turned and started away.

Arlo raised a finger to Doten, “Hey, Janis, do you still sing?”

The woman stopped and spun around.

“How in the fuck do you know I used to sing?” she demanded.

“Oh, I know!” Arlo said, “So, do you?”

“Only when I’m alone, which ain’t never,” she answered, “Jim don’t like my singing.”

“Well, I do,” Arlo said.

“Yeah, well, you don’t count,” she growled.

“I think it’s time for a new sheriff in town,” Arlo shot back.

“Don’t got one,” Ruby answered as she stomped out of the room.

Arlo removed his pack and unzipped it. After digging around, he found what he was looking for and clapped it down on the table in front of the still eating Doten.

Doten slowly reached over and picked it up, “Well, I’ll be. We do have a sheriff, after all.”

Arlo took the one-time toy badge from Doten and pinned it on his shirt, then said, “I have a plan.”

With Doten, Arlo wandered up and down both sides of the street, introducing himself as the town’s Marshal since that’s what the badge read. That evening, he went to the saloon where Davis held court and waited, sitting in the chair Davis had sat in the night before.

“You know he ain’t going to like it,” warned the bartender.

Arlo smiled, “I know.”

Soon it was dark, and soon Davis entered the saloon. By this time, Arlo had a bottle of whiskey and two shot glasses on the table. He motioned for Davis to join him.

“You got some guts,” Davis said, taking the seat, “Being a stranger and all and in my own town.”

“What can I say — I’ve always wanted to be a lawman,” Arlo replied.

“Dangerous line of work, especially in Six Mile,” Davis said.

“Yeah, but with you in charge, no one’s going to do anything to me,” Arlo returned.

“Well, what if I wanted to do something to you?” Davis threatened.

“That would be your prerogative, wouldn’t it,” Arlo answered.

“Yes, it would,” Davis responded.

“But then I have a little secret that you don’t know about and that you wouldn’t want anyone else to know about either,” Arlo said.

“A little blackmail,” Davis said, “You catch on quick.”

Suddenly, the saloon doors burst open, and in walked an older man with white hair, mustache, and white suit. He held a crooked cigar between his teeth while signaling with two fingers for the barman to bring him two drinks.

“Well, if it ain’t Jim Davis and the new town Marshal,” the man, Arlo knew as Twain, said, “Pleasure to make acquaintances.”

“We’re having a private talk, Clemens,” Davis said.

“Don’t mind me,” Clemens said, “I plan to get so drunk that I’ll barely remember who I am and this Hell in which we all seem to be stuck.”

“Seems you are a disrupter, Arlo Mathers,” Davis said.

“Marshal Arlo Mathers,” Arlo shot back.

“You think all of this funny, do you?” Davis said, ire in his voice.

“No, sir,” Arlo said, “It isn’t funny — it is sad.”

“Hark!” Clemens shouted, slapping the tabletop, “That’s what I’m talking about. Excitement, something more than a repeat of night after night, day after day.”

“Shut up, old man!” Davis yelled.

“Calm down and have another drink,” Arlo offered as he poured yet another shot of rot-gut.

Davis downed it and tossed the glass across the room.

“What is your damned secret?” Davis demanded.

“Not yet,” Arlo smiled, “First, I want a small favor.”

“What?” Davis asked as Arlo motioned the bartender to bring a new glass.

Pouring another shot for each, then filling the two empty glasses Clemens had in front of himself, Arlo measured his response, “I want to hear Pearl sing.”

“You got to be joking?” Davis said, “She doesn’t sing — she caterwauls!”

Arlo noticed Clemens face sour at the suggestion.

“No, I’m not joking,” Arlo answered, “I’d like to hear her sing and maybe put a smile on her face for once. Because you don’t let her sing, she is a miserable little cuss.”

“Fine,” he said, “But don’t blame me when your ears begin to bleed, and you go deff.”

Arlo poured one more round for the three of them before getting up and taking the short stroll down to the theater, where he took a seat in the front row of chairs.

Ruby sang for nearly five hours, and it was well beyond midnight when her voice finally gave out. Only a few patrons were in the theater opposed to when Twain appeared, but Arlo stood and clapped, whistling, stomping, and calling for an encore.

Davis appeared from outside and fairly hollered, “Okay, Marshal Arlo Mathers, you got what you wanted, now give me what I want!”

Taking his time, Arlo walked to the front of the building and into the early morning darkness. The air was chilled, and he found it galvanizing. Though frightened that his coming ploy might not work and would mean a painful death, Arlo started his bluff.

“You know that stash of gold and silver you are protecting?” Arlo started.

“What stash,” Davis said, in a poor attempt at a bluff himself.

“Come now, dishonesty does not befit a man of your stature, Big Jim Davis,” Arlos said.

At the mention of Big Jim, the man turned pale.

“Err…fine, I…uhh…do know what…umm…you are speaking of,” he stammered.

“It’s all gone,” Arlo said, “It was found about twenty years after you died in the dirt, back-shot while trying to rob that Well Fargo wagon.”

“No, it isn’t,” Davis said, “And they shot me for no reason. I hadn’t even drawn my pistol.”

“All the same, your dead, we’re dead, and that loot you think you’re protecting with this figment of a town is gone,” Arlo said, “Sorry, pal.”

It began as a soft roar, growing louder as Big Jim’s color went from pale to a bright red before he burst into flames. The flames lasted through the morning and turned to vapor as the sun’s rays touched it, and then, Big Jim was no more. As the day wore on, the street grew less busy, and the buildings started fading.

Before he vanished, Doten handed Arlo a paper, the Gold Hill Daily News, dated May 11, 1864, saying, “It’s the last one I have, and may she bring you a fortune.”

Down the street, he saw Marilyn in the window of the mercantile. She waved and smiled, then turned, disappearing into the fast-fading building.

Suddenly alone, Arlo Mathers pulled the toy badge from his shirt. He dropped it in the sand, knowing he’d never find it again as he walked towards the base of Sugarloaf and his truck.

U.S. Senator Harry Reid, 1939-2021

Flags are at half staff in memory of former Nevada U.S. Senator Harry Reid, who died at his home in Henderson, Nev., on Tue., Dec. 29, 2021, at 82.

His wife, Landra Reid, said in a statement that he passed “peacefully” surrounded by friends “following a courageous, four-year battle with pancreatic cancer.”

“Harry was a devout family man and deeply loyal friend,” Landra added. “We greatly appreciate the outpouring of support from so many over these past few years. We are especially grateful for the doctors and nurses that cared for him. Please know that meant the world to him.”

Born Dec. 2, 1939, in Searchlight, Nevada, to an alcoholic father who killed himself at 58 and a mother who served as a laundress in a bordello, Reid grew up in a small cabin without indoor plumbing. He hitchhiked to Basic High School in Henderson, 40 miles from home, where he met Landra.

At Utah State University, the couple became members of The Church of Latter-Day Saints and would marry in 1959. He worked nights as a U.S. Capitol Police Officer while putting himself through George Washington University law school.

As head of the Nevada Gaming Commission investigating organized crime, Reid became the target of a car bomb in 1980. Reid blamed Jack Gordon, who went to prison after a sting operation over illegal efforts to bring new games to casinos in 1978.

By age 28, Reid was a Nevada Assemblyman and the youngest lieutenant governor in Nevada history at 30, as running mate to Gov. Mike O’Callaghan, in 1970. Elected to the U.S. House in 1982, Reid would run and win a Senate seat in 1987, which he held until his retirement in 2017.

Reid leaves behind Landra, his wife of 62 years, their four sons, Rory, Key, Josh, Leif, and a daughter, Lana Reid. Funeral services are on Sat., Jan. 8, 2022, at 11:00 a.m. at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Las Vegas.

Chew Briskly

As a rule, I do not engage in New Year resolutions. What possessed me to do so yesterday morning, I cannot say.

What I do know is that I broke my lifelong pledge, and I possibly established a new world’s record for breaking a brand new undertaking. Like I always say, “Never do anything halfway.”

“I’ve decided that my New Year resolution is going to be working on not putting my foot in my mouth,” I said to my wife.

Silence met my sudden proclamation.

I should have stopped there as I added, “I’m guessing yours is to lose weight.”

Bringing in the Sheaves

No, I shall not divulge which Virginia City saloon this happened in, but it does need saying that the young woman tending the bar that afternoon was a Millennial.

Ordering an Irish coffee with plans to wait out the snowstorm slamming Mt. Davidson and the Comstock, she handed me my change. One of the coins stood out.

“Look at that you, rarely see old Wheat pennies these days,” I said.

“A what penny?” she asked as I handed it to her.

“A Wheat Penny.”

Turning it over, examining the sheaves on its backside, she said, “I thought they were copper.”

How It Really Went Down

I saw Daddy beating Santa Claus
Underneath a streetlamp last night.
He kicked him in his sprite
And I thought it plain effed up
As Santa fought jus’ like a wild pup.
I saw the cops clubbing Santa Claus
Underneath a streetlamp last night
They smacked Daddy all around
As they forced them to the ground
All because fighting is against our laws
I saw Daddy in jail with Santa Claus
Comparing notes and who can tell
If I’ll ever see another Christmas time
As the two get at the bottom of my crime
That Momma never kissed Santa at all.

The Christmas Letdown

It is less than a full minute from Boxing Day, and the trio has gathered together for one more visit, though it is brief. A sadness hangs silently in the fogginess of the quiet night, and not even the blazing lights of the twelfth day are reflecting on their loneliness.

Lo, Christmas has come and gone for yet another year. Put away for 364 days before being brought out in complete festive rebirth.

One by one, they turn and disappear at the old church bell’s sounding. First goes Christmas Present, followed by Christmas Present, both leaving Christmas Future.

Future stands alone praying for human enjoining, but it is for naught. Midnight, Future steps back from the light, disappearing, put away until the next time greed, materialness, and gluttony desire such company.

The Old Man at the Door

After a long Christmas eve day of moving cattle from the upper field to the valley and closer to our home, I was tired and ready for bed after a good supper. We’d been in bed for at least two hours when the dog barked, and a knock came on our front door.

“Who in the world could that be at this hour?” the missus said as she instinctively pulled on her robe and headed for the kitchen to warm up some coffee.

I answered the door to find an old man with a large white beard standing on our step.

“So, sorry to wake you, but I broke the trace on my sleigh and wondered if you might have one I can borrow or some way of repairing this one?” he asked.

“Sure,” I answered as we went to the barn, where I let him look over my tack.

It took him very little time to find a trace that would work for his sleigh and the team pulling it. I invited him back to the house for a cup of coffee, where I grabbed my truck keys to drive him back to where he needed to go.

Coffee in hand, he got in on the passenger side, and I climbed behind the steering wheel. As usual, I had a hard time getting the truck started as the engine had grown old and tired.

Finally, on the road, I smiled, “Maybe one day I’ll be able to afford a new one.”

He said nothing. But when he looked at me, I thought I saw a twinkle in his eye.

Less than ten minutes later, we pulled onto a side road, where he directed me to turn in behind a thicket of trees. I offered to help him set the traces, but he declined.

“Thanks,” he said. “I’ll look into that new truck for you.”

Returning home, I told the wife about what he said and explained that we may have met the real Santa. She laughed and returned to bed, and I followed shortly after.

That morning, with childlike anticipation, I went outside and found my old pickup truck parked right where I had left it shortly after midnight.

Merry Christmas

Fractured and missing pieces, I decided to buy the framed tile anyway. It bore this single word, “Grace.”

The clerk tried to talk me out of it, saying she’d send someone back to find a better one. I told her no, that it was perfect as is.

She frowned at me and tried again to get me to consent to a new tile. I explained to her that broken people are saved only by the grace of God, then she understood.

I paid the discount price for it.

“For it is by grace you have been saved…” Ephesians 2:8

Merry Christmas!

The Tricks the Mind Plays

Tongue in God’s ear, a true story…

We have had a thermal inversion over the area the past few days leading to pogonip. Pogonip, known more widely elsewhere as hoar frost, hangs low to the ground, thick and blinding in some areas, patchy and thin in others.

Buddy and I went out for a walk in it. Eerie, especially when there are few sounds of civilization in the background.

As we crossed over this hill and dropped into the valley below to the dirt road heading back towards our home, Buddy lowered his head, his fur hacked on his back, and he growled a low and menacing growl. Instantly my spidey senses went up, and I began watching for a possible threat.

Without warning, a small figure passed beside us, about five or six feet away, walking in the opposite direction along this road. The fog was so thick that it was difficult to make out the person, other than the fact they were very short compared to my five foot seven.

“One of Santa’s helpers, an elf, or worse, a gnome?” I caught myself thinking.

They said nothing to me, and I said nothing to them. I’m not even sure this person saw us through the thick fog each of us was wandering in. A bit spooked, we practically raced home.

This morning I learned a man with Dwarfism moved in down the street from us.

What the Dickens?

Where Chance O’Gregory was sneaking off to each evening, I had to find out, and so I pretended to be asleep when he slipped from our cabin and started up the hillside towards our claim. My colleague had the same idea as he rolled from his cot, fully dressed as well.

Quietly, we followed O’Gregory into the darkness, unsure where he might lead us.

At the mouth of our mine, we saw a light glowing. We became suspicious and prepared to take action.

Once inside the tunnel, we found Chance seated at a table with three others. He didn’t seem abashed at all as we approached.

“Meet my new poker-playing friends,” O’Gregory smiled. “That’s Christmas Past, he’s Christmas Future, and this is Christmas Present.”

Each stood to shake our hand.

A VC Christmas; or How to Use the Comstock Chronicle

He is one of those Virginy City folk who picks a person whose lot he thinks is a lump of coal, then goes to work, figuring out a way to make their Christmas special. This year Alibi Ames had Brutus Howl in his sights, whose job it is to write about the goings-on of the Comstock in all of its glories and pitfalls.

Alibi does not know Brutus well, although he has seen him wandering the boardwalk along C Street late nights and always alone. He also thinks he knows what this loner will like.

He pulls a deluxe three-volume set of the 1973 edition of the Doten Journals from his bookshelf. He carefully wraps it in the pages of the most recent Comstock Chronicle, tucks it under his arm, and heads to the Union Brewery.

Brutus shows off his new acquisition the following morning.

“Those are worth more than your typewriter.”

“They are worth more than my typewriter to me, too.”

“Were they a Christmas present?”

“I think so.”

“From?”

“Who knows? Maybe Sam Baker or Santy Claus.”

When Alibi hears how happy Brutus is, he smiles and takes a drink of his whiskey-laced coffee.