Not as Romantic, but Efficient

“And some days it don’t come easy
And some days it don’t come hard
Some days it don’t come at all
And these are the days that never end…”

— I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That), Meatloaf

It is an accurate statement when I can’t seem to get a good lead built for whatever news story I might be writing. At those times, I find it easier to pen a short story.

And when neither are available, my memory takes over, and I find myself talking aloud, outlining an event from my life that has been buried for years but has chosen to resurface for no particular reason. I find myself there right now.

Part of me wants to call this memory “The Night Wire,” another part says “By the Bell.” I can’t decide, and so that will have to come later.

“When I wasn’t much younger than you,” Gerald said. “I decided I wanted to learn to be a broadcaster, but I got more interested in the engineering aspect and eventually redirected my focus.”

I sat quiet, knowing he would do all the talking as he worked on the machine.

“Back as a kid, I found the telegraph to be fascinating,” he said. “Did you know that’s how most newspapers got their news back in the day? Well, that’s where I came in.”

“Not only was I good at using the key, but I could also type, and being the only male to apply for the job, I got it. Back then, men believed women’s constitutions were too delicate for all-night work or some of the news stories that might come across the wire. Posh!”

“By the way, we say “wire” today, but it isn’t. But it literally was a wire when I was a kid.”

“Anyway, I’d sit up all night long and listen to the wire sing one news story out after another. I had a supervisor who’d then come over and get the stack of copy I’d typed that hour and go through them to see which one was worth passing along. He’d do that.”

“Can you imagine sitting in a room with a single overhead light, a small lamp on the desk beside you for eight hours?” Gerald asked.

I shook my head “no,” as he continued.

“And think about this, the wires came wrapped in either paper or cloth, including my headset cord. That could have killed me at any minute.

He laughed at the thought.

“Come with me,” he said, breaking his rivery, “Let me show you a small prize I was allowed to keep from one of my last jobs at an all-night wireman.”

We walked down the hall to his office. And after a quick scan of a row of binders behind his desk, he pulled one down and flipped it open to show me.

It was a faded piece of paper, type-written words faintly visible. I couldn’t read a single word of it.

“This is about the moment that I knew our world was about to change,” he said. “Sputnik. The wire was heavy with traffic that night and early morning. Reports about the sound it made, reports of it seen as it sped by, reports of fear. What a shift that was.”

“Anyway, while I never got to see it myself, I knew this business was on the verge of change. I read Popular Mechanics, Scientific American, and I understood that the wire would be gone in a couple of years and that satellites would soon replace the telegraph key.”

“I moved on in my career, into engineering, because I knew my skills would no longer be needed, that whatever was to come along and replace the key would be faster than me. I was right about that, too. They called it the teletype machine.”

“Not as romantic, but very efficient.”

We returned to the machine he was working on, and I had to check the wire. I should say “wires” as the facility I work for had five of them, all operating at once.

That’s where the title, “By the Bell,” comes in. My duty was to pull the copy and separate it by bell status.

One bell meant the standard fare of this politician said this, firefighters rescue kitten, 95-year-old woman completes a marathon. Five bells were the big stories, terror attacks, space shuttle disasters, and presidential elections.

It has been years since I’ve worked in broadcasting, news, or music entertainment. When I left the business, all of those teletypes in the hallway were gone, replaced by computer and video screens. Instead, we kept a television on in the newsroom, tuned to one cable news outlet or another, sound off, of course, to give us a heads up about any major breaking news story.

“Not as romantic, but efficient,” I can hear Gerald saying.

Along with the constant clickety-clack of the old teletype machine, missing from the radio broadcast station, the on-air and sound studios have changed. No longer are live performances the norm like they were in the heyday of terrestrial broadcast.

Gone are the shelves of 78, 33, and 45 rpm (revolutions per minute) records, the bank of double reel-to-reel machines, the cart machines with their clunky-thump at re-cue, or the compact disc, and the stacks of players, all lined up and ready to play at the press of a button.

And I cannot recall the last time I saw a cassette tape or a cassette record. But then, Radio Shack, a mainstay for Baby Boomers, is gone, unable to keep pace with the changing of technology as it morphs from day-to-day into things we only read of in Dick Tracy comic strips or watched on Star Trek.

Gone is the mom-and-pop local broadcaster. Not even the voices you hear are live very often these days but prerecorded in a sound studio. No, much of it is computerized, and in some cases, radio signals are transmitted, not by line-of-sight or skip waves, but by satellites, by Sputnik.

Gerald was right, not as romantic, but efficient.

I Swear — There’s an Asshole Hiding in Me

The Lord knows that I hate myself for behaving so violently. Allow me to set up the situation so that you may better understand the previous statement.

After having finished mowing our front yard, I was sweeping up some random clippings. Buddy, our dog, was lying in the shade, on the freshly cut grass.

From our east came a bicyclist riding on the sidewalk. While I saw him, I thought nothing of it as Buddy got up and walked to the edge of our yard to greet the rider.

Without warning, he kicked Buddy in the face, causing the dog to yelp in pain. Seeing me and the broom, he tried to skirt me, thinking I was going to swing it at him, jumping his bicycle from the sidewalk.

However, I never intended to swing at him. Instead, I hiked the broom handle through the spokes of his front wheel.

The sudden stop not only destroyed five of his spokes, but it toppled him face-first to the asphalt, back tire in the air. When he jumped to his feet, his face, hands and elbows, and one knee were rashed up and bleeding.

He came off the ground, ready to fight. I flicked open my lock blade knife and stood my ground which was in my driveway.

Then the shouting commenced once he realized I wasn’t going to back down from his blustering.

“What the fuck, man!” he said. “What did you do that for?”

“You kicked my dog in the face, asswipe,” I answered.

“I didn’t mean, too.”

“Bullshit, liar!”

“Well, I’m gonna call the cops.”

“Do that, prick.”

“You ruined my tire.”

“Be happy I don’t ruin your life.”

He hobbled away, bicycle inoperable, in the direction he was riding and I have yet to hear from the law.

It’s All in the Name

Much is written about the Fremont Expedition into the Utah Territory back in 1843 and 44. To the Average Joe, John C. Fremont was a daring explorer sent to chart a new route through an unknown land to the Pacific.

However, some members of Congress believed his real mission was to secretly find an invasion route to Alta California, which was under Mexico’s rule. They thought him arrogant and called him an “upstart.”

While this remains speculation even to this day, Fremont had to name his discoveries. And instead of naming everything after himself, he christened most of Nevada’s famous landmarks after members of his party and other famous explorers, save for one.

When it came to Pyramid Lake, Fremont wrote, “It is a sheet of pure green water, some 20 miles broad. It broke upon our eyes like an ocean. We camped on the shore opposite a very remarkable rock which had attracted our attention for many miles. It rose, according to our estimate, some 600 feet from the water, presenting an exact outline of the Great Pyramid of Cheops. The striking feature suggested a name for the lake and I called it Pyramid.”

It was a harsh country that his party was crossing, and he knew it as he inked, “A great part of it is absolutely new to geographical, botanical, and geological science. We were evidently on the verge of the desert which had been reported to us. The appearance of the country is so forbidding that I was afraid to enter it.”

But he did enter it, and he named the Humboldt Sink and the river after a man in his party, German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. He then followed the edge of the desert, staying to the west, hugging the eastern slopes of the Sierra.

Making his way southwest, he named other landmarks after those in his group, including the Carson River, for Kit Carson and the Walker River and Walker Lake after explorer Joseph Reddeford Walker.

Then he led the group into the Sierra and Mexican territory. That’s where the expedition came to another lake.

This body of water he named Lake Bonpland.

For the most part, Aimé Bonpland’s name means little nowadays, but at one time, he was world-renowned. The author of several works on America’s plant life, he even teamed up with von Humboldt to pen a couple of books on this nation’s natural wonders.

His name didn’t stick to the lake, however. Settlers coming into the territory preferred the Native American name of da’ oh.

Fremont was not happy with the name change, and neither was one young Missouri lad who wrote of the name as an “unmusical cognomen,” or in lesser terms, an off-key nickname.

That new name — Lake Tahoe. But by then, that lad had also changed his name — to Mark Twain.

A Letter Home

Dearest Sweetheart,

Sorry that it has taken me so long to write, new promotion, new duties. Got the chocolate chip cooks you sent. Delicious. We got our 25th kill a couple of days ago. Command says that we’ve almost got it whipped. The Delta Variant Zed is getting bigger. Larger than that Woolly Mammoth we saw in captivity two years ago.  Will be home on the 20th, in time to fix that gutter again. The kids must be growing like weeds. Kiss them for me, tell them I love them. I love and miss you too.

Your devoted husband,
Francis

The Fish, the Dog and the Storyteller

Between shows of the Virginia City Camel Races, I found myself sitting in the shade, people-watching, done laissez-faire, without word or action. I was enjoying the warm breeze, one that both heats and cools, when suddenly my mind wandered off without me…

I am a storyteller
O’ I am a storyteller
O’ I am a storyteller
And I walked away from home.
O’ I am a storyteller.

I once was a big old dog.
O’ a big wet-nosed dog
O’ a big wet-nosed dog
And I wandered off to roam
O’ a big wet-nosed dog

I am a storyteller
O’ I am a storyteller
O’ I am a storyteller
And I walked away from home.
O’ I am a storyteller.

I once was little bitty fish.
O’ a bitty little swimmin’ fish
O’ a bitty little swimmin’ fish
And play in a sea of foam
O’ a little bitty fish

I am a storyteller
O’ I am a storyteller
O’ I am a storyteller
And I walked away from home.
O’ I am a storyteller.

The Morning After 9/11

About 0330 hours, twenty years ago, extremely drunk and feeling hopeless, I walked out into an open field, placed a 40 caliber revolver in my mouth, said a prayer for forgiveness, took a deep breath, let it out, and squeezed the trigger.

Nothing happened.

A friend had found me and grabbed the gun, placing the web of her right hand between the hammer and the cylinder. Her husband wrestled the weapon away from me.

I survived.

Many men and women are not so fortunate and succeed, ending their lives because the pain is too much to bear. I am neither proud nor ashamed of having tried, but I also realize that there is life beyond the pain and that while the pain may always exist, suicide is absolute and final.

If you have thoughts of suicide or know someone who is contemplating suicide (including mentioning it in passing,) take the comment as serious and seek help. You can call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or if you are a military veteran and prefer talking to another veteran, dial the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

There is no shame in asking for help. I have been there, done that, and I know.

My Cousin Elmo says, “Some guy tried to tell that Jesus would have practiced social distancing. Burst his bubble when I reminded him that Jesus touched lepers.”

Rapt

Work at times has been hard to find, and travel necessitated to find and make it a reality. That is the way of the world.

It was late because I started late, so I pulled off the side of the road, down a dirt road to the side of a creek. I had only a couple of more hours to travel before I got to the ranch on the other side of Elko.

Hurrying to beat the sunset, I pulled the plastic tarp over the bed of my truck, tossed in the extra blankets and my old military sleeping bag. With little time left before complete darkness, I opened a can of beans and ate until the can was empty.

Stumbling my way down to the creek in the warning light, undid my wild rag, dipped it in the icy water, and wiped the sweat off my face, neck, and underarms. Then returning to my truck, I climbed under the tarp into my sleeping bag and fell asleep to the gentle burbling of the creek.

I awoke from a dream of taking a hot shower, only to find myself still in my sleeping bag and cold.

Laying there, I realized my mistake. I had not thought out my parking arrangement very well and found the cab blocking the newly risen sun from shining on the bed.

It was a struggle to get moving. I opened the bed of the truck and scrambled out, finding myself to be stiff from the hard surface I had slept on and the morning chill.

As fast as I could, hoping to get my heartbeat up and blood flowing, I raced around my truck twice. Then I hoped in it, shoved the key in the ignition, and checked the time that flashed across the radio’s face.

Next, I got out my toothbrush and headed back to the creek’s edge. There I rested on my knees and brushed my teeth.

Tucking my brush in my shirt pocket, I pulled out my wild rag from the night before and dipped it in the water. As I started to wring it out, I heard a large cracking sound come from up the bank of the water from me.

“Bear?” I thought, listening for more sounds.

It was while listening that I saw the heavy mist-like fog curling and floating above the water. It struck me a magical, and I wondered at myself and why I’d hadn’t noticed it before.

My reverie was broken by yet another loud crashing in the trees up from me. I needed to get out of there and back to my truck before that bear discovered me.

It happened as I stood up.

The leader of a herd of wild Mustang stepped down the embankment and into the water. She looked in my direction and continued across the swift-moving waters.

Behind her came several more horses, all of them ignoring my presence and following their leader. I watched in awe as they moved through the water, hooves clickity-clacking on the stones in the brisk water that barely rose to their mid-hocks.

After counting about 50 horses, I finally came to my senses and stepping back to where I’d come, into the copse of trees. Loaded up, I turned my truck around and headed for the ranch and the possibility of work.

“I need someone to help stretch some new wire before the snow sets in,” the ranch foreman said.

I wasn’t listening, and he sensed it.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered, “Was thinking about what I’d seen this morning.”

“Do tell,” he instructed, leaning back in his chair.

I did.

He hired me.

My Cousin Elmo says, “One should always knock on the refrigerator door before opening it because there could be a salad dressing.”

Missed a Day and Didn’t Die

It has been a busy few days. I didn’t see home for nearly 19 hours one day, which was when I broke my record for consecutive blog posts, missing that day.

Because of the way my brain works, chemicals and proteins, and such, I was sure that missing a day would mean a certain kind of death. If you are OCD, you understand what I’m saying.

But honestly, I was so exhausted I didn’t even notice it until today. And as strange as it might sound, I feel relieved that it happened, that the pressure I put myself under is released.

The other thing is that you didn’t notice that I missed a day of blogging, or if you did, you said nothing. I discovered at that moment that you didn’t abandon me in my ‘failure.’

Finally, my work schedule is changing, and with it, the knowledge that I have to be more attentive to the job than other non-paying activities includes blogging, podcasting, and so forth.

With all this said, oddly, I am looking forward to that next stressor.

Heads or Tails, You Lose

When the U.S. entered World War II at the end of 1941, Jane Peters traveled to Indiana for a war bond rally with her mother and a business associate. She raised more than $2 million in defense bonds in a single evening.

She’d been scheduled to return to Los Angeles by train but was eager to get home and wanted to travel by air. But the others were afraid of flying.

Jane suggested flipping a coin; they agreed. She won.

Around four in the morning, January 16, 1942, they boarded TWA 3 for California. After refueling in Las Vegas, Nevada, the craft took off a few minutes after seven.

It crashed into Potosi Mountain south of the airport. All 22 aboard died.

Her husband raced to the scene, where he waited in Goodsprings, Nevada, at a makeshift morgue inside the Pioneer Saloon. He collected his loved ones and had them buried in Glendale, California.

The crash remains are still on Potosi, although they are hard to find because of the terrain.

Jane Peters may not be a name you recognize, but you know her screen name, Carole Lombard. Oh, and her husband’s name, you know that too — Clark Gable.

Mr. Adams’ Apple Tree

Buddy, my dog, and I headed down the trail. He raced ahead of me and over the downhill slope of a hilly rise.

Once over, I saw Buddy getting pets from a man sitting under a wild apple tree.

“Sorry about my dog,” I said as I called Buddy back to me.

“No problem,” he said. “He’s doing what dogs do. I had one like him when I was younger. Called him ‘Sonny.'”

He looked up, squinting because of the sun, and said, “I’ve never seen you before.”

“I’ve never seen you before either,” I said.

He laughed and tossed away the core to the apple he’d been knawing on. Buddy raced over and snatched it up.

“Names Benjamin Franklin Adams.”

“I’m Tom, Mr. Adams,” I said, holding my hand out.

“Call me Ben.”

“Okay, Ben.”

“Pull up a blade of grass and have a seat.”

“Okay,” I said, sitting under the tree next to him.

It was apparent that he wanted to talk. He spoke of life in general, fragments from living in the Spanish Springs Valley, history I had not known, and about the apple tree, we sat beneath.

“This is the last of them,” he said. “I was a kid when I helped Pa plant about a thousand of them. Pa sold the land a few years later, and in a few more years, it’ll be gone, like me.”

After a short pause, he added, “Like to come up here and listen.”

Quietly, I sat and listened too. Nothing. Not the sound of a motor vehicle, no children playing, or even a gas-powered lawnmower.

“Odd for a Saturday,” I thought.

For the next few minutes, we ate apples from the tree in silence. Each core, we tossed across the path to where Buddy lay, enjoying our leftovers.

Then Mr. Adams, Ben, pulled a pocket watch out of the top part of his bib overalls, saying, “Best be getting before all these apples turn into ‘the backdoor trots.'”

It was the first time that I had noticed that we were both wearing bibs. Even more astounding was the pocket watch, which appeared to be exactly like mine.

We compared them, agreeing that only a jeweler would be able to tell them apart.

“Mine doesn’t keep time worth a hill-of-beans, but it’s close enough for government work,” he said.

He started to get to his feet, but I was quicker and offered my hand to help him up.

“Hope to see you again,” he said.

“Same here,” I said.

“We should do more reminiscing under this old tree, and soon.”

“I agree.”

With that, he started down the hill along the trail.

“Come, Buddy,” I said, turning to head back the way we’d come.

Buddy raced ahead of me once again, disappearing over the slope. As I followed, I turned to look at Ben.

He was nowhere.

“For an old dude, he sure can hot-foot it,” I thought.

Glancing at the tree under which we had been sitting, it appeared skeletal.

“Must have eaten more than we thought,” I told myself as I followed in Buddy’s hurried footsteps.

Somewhere in the distance, I heard the sound of traffic moving noisily along the highway, the shrill cry of some children playing, and a gas-powered lawnmower as it came to life.

Made Late

Been on a poetry jag the last few days. Jotted this down while aboard the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, going from Carson City to Virginia City. Was late, causing Engine No. 18 to miss its departure time.

The train was leaving a bit late
Not much, only minutes eight
If you must blame it on this reporter
Relief to leave the Eastgate station
Cross Carson Range and Paiute Nation
Evil-eyed by the steward and porter

My Cousin Elmo says, “Statistically, using a gun in the commission of a crime happens less than the use of a politician.”

Red Sun

Forget Martian science fiction
Red planet, red moons, a red sun
Let Elon, Bezos, and Branson duke it out
Look out your front room window or the kitchen
And recall the smoky skies of 20-21

Thirteen

13 doorbells rang today
thirteen flags to be folded
13 families altered

At least 13 U.S. service members have been killed, including 11 Marines, a Navy Corpsman, and a soldier, in the two suicide bombing attacks outside Kabul airport Thursday, according to U.S. officials. Eighteen others were injured and have been evacuated for treatment.

WWJD?

“You should be more like Jesus.”

“I do the best I can.”

“No, you don’t.”

“You mean drinking wine, calling people hypocrites, and upsetting the power-base isn’t enough?”

“I give up.”

What’s This, He Snarked

Still sore, tired from a pain-filled restless sleep, and still I’m up at the crack of ass going to work.
Take that, you Millennial-pusses.
That is how we old fucks roll.
But I am staying away from hillsides, loose rocks, and dirt.

The Gravity of Picture Taking

Coffee, three aspirins, a hot shower, and I’m still stoved up and one hurting unit. It is no surprise after I tumbled down a minor incline, bounced into a cement retaining wall, and came to rest against a steel pole cemented in place.

V&T Engine 11, The Reno

Initially, this knocked the wind out of me.  All I could really do was relax and go where gravity insisted. Such are the adventures of a newsman in the pursuit of that perfect picture for an upcoming article.

Here’s the funny thing, as in odd, I had made it forty feet up the embankment using the deer trails that crisscross the hillside. I sat in the limb of a thorn-bush tree for nearly three hours, and using the same path to go down, I found a patch of loose earth and rock that slipped right out from under me.

My left wrist and middle finger on that hand are sprained and swollen. Both of my ankles feel as if twisted. Aside from minor scrapes, I have a bruise that aligns perfectly with my spine. It runs from the base of my neck to below my shoulder blade. And I know I hit the back of my head, but I cannot find a bump or sore spot, so go figure.

But, damn, I got the picture I needed.

Time to Zag instead of Zig

Aside from waiting for my very dead cellphone to resurrect, I have been doing laundry; white clothes, towels, and a shower mat. I’ve also been indulging myself with podcasts.

It started after I saw a social media post from my friend Lisa Jovicic about a podcast, where she talks about her photography business.

You can listen to the podcast here.

As I listened, I took in some of the things she suggested for “entrepreneurs.” I put that in quotes because I am by no means one of those, though I know many.

As I listened, I thought about this blog and how underutilized it is. Then it dawned on me that I should be doing “man-in-the-street” interviews, creating a short podcast of my own, which I can also supplement with my blog and more photographs directing people to the podcast.

Perhaps it is time to change direction. I’d like your ideas and thoughts on this idea.

Posted

For the past couple of weeks, I hadn’t seen my bartender friend. Her temporary replacement said she was on vacation, so I left it at that.

Finally, she returned.

“How was your vacation?” I asked.

“Wonderful,” she answered, adding, “Oh, I have something for you.”

“You shouldn’t have,” I said, secretly excited that she thought enough of me to get me a gift while on vacay.

“It isn’t much,” she replied. “But here.”

She handed me a postcard.

“Oh, cool,” I said. “How did you know I collect postcards.”

” I didn’t,” she smiled. “I jus’…”

I looked at it. The picture showed two giraffes on the Serengeti and Mt. Killmanjaro in the background, above the word “Tanzania.”

“You went to Tanzania for vacation?” I interrupted.

“No,” she smiled sheepishly, “California. Found it at the post office here.”

My Cousin Elmo says, “With all the smoke from the California fires blowing into Nevada, I’m beginning to think that black is the new green.”

Shafted

Mark Twain is thought to have said, “A gold mine is a hole in the ground with a liar standing on top of it.”

That attribution is unconfirmed and possibly itself a fib.

Twain did say in “Roughing It,” based on his personal experience of silver mining in Virginia City, Nevada: “You could … get your stock printed, and with nothing whatever to prove that your mine was worth a straw, you could put your stock on the market and sell out for hundreds and even thousands of dollars. … If the rock was moderately promising, we followed the custom of the country, used strong adjectives, and frothed at the mouth as if a very marvel in silver discoveries had transpired.”

The Seeing

One must be this many years old before learning that the viewfinder their Dad brought home long ago, warning us not to destroy, which we did, was never a viewfinder but a set of paper binoculars.

We tore them up trying to figure out how to fit two slides in it. And once we had forced the transparencies in it, they never matched up, like the rendering of the 3-D image that the classic plastic viewfinder created.

A friend whose father was a Northern Nevada alcohol distributor following World War II gave this 1948 set to me, advertising Old Crow Whiskey.

‘Pataphysics

Instead of the “Mandela Effect,” it should be called “‘Pataphysics,” a  “branch of philosophy or science that examines imaginary phenomena that exist in a world beyond metaphysics; it is the science of imaginary solutions.”

Thoughts?

Adventure at the Hardware Mega-store

He saw the pair exit the dark-colored sedan as he walked across the parking lot. They separated, the smaller of the two heading for the far door of the hardware mega-store and the other following behind him.

He was there to buy a kit to fix a broken shower hand, chalk, and a new caulking gun. He saw the small man at the end of Aisle 14, where the plumbing supplies were.

Fortunately, an associate and a customer entered the aisle, and he was able to walk by him. Though he refused to look, he could feel the man’s eyes burning into him.

In paint supplies, on Aisle 43, he picked up a tube of caulk and the necessary gun. He also saw both men entering the far end of the aisle.

“Time to take it outside,” he thought as he wandered out into the gardening section.

Finally, he found an open space between the ornamental trees and the decorative stones. There was are enough to move, and it was relatively secluded.

The small man rushed him with a carpeting knife. He side-stepped to the left, crouched, and came up swinging the hardened plastic casing holding the shower parts.

The plastic edge caught the man in the neck, and blood began squirting. He’d cut open an artery.

The larger of the two men grabbed him as he turned to face him. The man slammed him into one of the legs holding pallets of decorative rock and stone.

Having already developed a plan, he’d used the new gun to snip the end off the tube of caulking. He had loaded the caulk into the gun and charged it as he’d walked to the far end of gardening.

As the man continued to beat him against the shelving, he lifted the gun overhead and rammed into the man’s back beneath the left shoulder blade. Squeezing the handle, he watched as the man grew weaker as his lung filled with the silicon.

Finally, gasping for air, the man dropped to his knees, releasing his grip.

Had he not been so involved in daydreaming, he might have avoided the palletized rocks as they fell on him.

My Cousin Elmo says, “Soon we’ll have the COVID-19 Manero variant. It will give you a fever only on Saturday nights.”

Can You See Me Now?

The second-longest corridor in the VA hospital led to the mental health clinic. For Tom, it had always felt like a walk of shame.

This time he stopped dead in his tracks as he came around the corner. On his right was a long line of black and white photographs of happy, smiling female veterans. Tom read the words embossed on the first picture.

“I am not invisible,” the words read. They all read the same.

Tom stepped back from the wall and looked up and down the hall. There was no one was around.

Tom suddenly felt perfectly invisible.

On Assignment, a Haibun

A friend of mine, Valery Lyman, is on assignment and shared some prose that moved me to write a haiku and create this haibun.

the traveling nurse
must smoke, drink, tell bad jokes
no mask is required

this hotel is full of traveling nurses. they drink heavily at night and smoke cigarettes. ever so human in the morning. we’re all in a little lifeboat. such good company, i’ve never lived with so many hotel dwellers.

Stoned

The red sandstone rested nowhere near a hillside or rocks of the same material. Sam picked it up and looked it over.

The surface had a petroglyph of the humped back flute player, Kokopelli, in black and not the usual dark red pigment. Sam slipped it in his pack.

Once home, he placed it on his front porch. Shortly after midnight, Sam awoke to the sound of distant music.

He stepped out onto his front porch to listen. An unfamiliar blackness overcame him.

Once conscious, Sam found himself pressed into the stone and the flute player dancing around a fire.

My Cousin Elmo says, “Don’t let anyone take your temperature by pointing that thing at your forehead. It erases your memory. I went to the grocery store for beer and came home with tampons.”

Free Will

“It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” — Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia and Confession of Nat Turner.

James Froude, an English historian, and novelist gave a different twist: “Toleration is a good thing in its place, but you cannot tolerate what will not tolerate you and is trying to cut your throat.”

Either way, if you want to get the COVID-19 vaccine, that is your business. The same goes for masks.

Neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

Space Sickness

Since I’ve no family on Mars, been unable to befriend anyone, and bored inside my isolation chamber, I have begun writing.

A week into isolation and a week to go. It solves two things, the return of “space sickness,” this time akin to getting one’s balance back after being at sea for too long. The other is to keep any bacteria or virus from spreading to the rest of the colony.

The word “colony” sounds so quaint and old-fashioned. But don’t be fooled — I am told this colony is anything but quaint. However, it is old-fashioned in the sense that it is like a roaring 1800s boomtown.

Before I forget, I am using paper created here, on Mars, from a ponic process that takes plant material and pulps and presses it to form. It is a grayish-brown, rougher, and slightly thicker than the 20lbs stock I have been used to writing on.

As for a writing instrument, it is a remarkable invention. It is solid like pencil lead but flows like ink and housed a synthetic composite material that is refillable.

It took me less than two hours to pack everything I owned and have it at the Express Depot for a flight that was leaving three days ahead of mine. I was able to watch as the rocket lifted into space and disappeared.

It did not enter my mind to be concerned for myself until I strapped into a hard-framed seat and the rumble of the engine beneath me. My stomach turned, and my vision blurred as the ship lifted away from the pad.

I thought that we were all going to die.

My journey was only beginning, but already I wished for the three months it would take to be over. I cannot imagine how anyone could keep from going mad when such travel took over 200 days to complete.

Fortunately, I had found an inexpensive way to travel, a working-class vessel. It was a frigate where I would earn my passage as assistant to the medical doctor.

Illness quickly gripped me. Called “space sickness,” it is a loss of gravity, motion sickness, and a lack of navigational bearing brought on by not seeing sky, land, or water.

A new medicine patch every day and constant hydration helped me battle through it. But it took near two weeks before I was over the symptoms enough to leave my berth.

Land of the Vaccinated

Four thousand people or more gathered for events in Nevada must prove they have received their COVID-19 vaccinations, to avoid mask mandates.

“This is cutting edge,” Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak said. “There [are] no other venues in the country that are doing this. I think it is going to get people, more people, wanting to go to an event because they know that when they walk in that arena or that stadium, everybody is vaccinated.”

No, Mr. Governor, this is not cutting edge — it is still Communism as in, “Let me see your papers.” And it fails every time instituted.

Grokking My Way to Tanis

Robert Heinlein is one of the most controversial authors of hard science fiction. He set a high standard for science and engineering plausibility and helped raise the genre’s standards of literary quality. 

He was the first sci-fi writer to break into the mainstream, general magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940s. Heinlein also spent time with Parsons and Hubbard at Parsons home. 

Later, he would write “Stranger in a Strange Land,” a book referenced by Charles Manson, who believed he was both “Valentine Michael Smith” and “Jubal Harshaw.”

Valentine Michael Smith is a human raised on Mars, newly returned to Earth. Among his people for the first time, he struggles to understand the social mores and prejudices of human nature that are so alien to him while teaching them his own fundamental beliefs in grokking, water-sharing, and love.

According to Wikipedia: “Jubal E. Harshaw, LL.B., M.D., Sc.D., bon vivant, gourmet, sybarite, popular author extraordinary, neo-pessimist philosopher, devout agnostic, professional clown, amateur subversive, and parasite by choice.”

Neither character seems to mean anything to me, but the word “grokking” jumped out at me. It means to understand something intuitively or by empathy.

Time to return to the original story by Parsons.

Hello from Mars

Tired of waiting for something to happen on Earth, more directly in the U.S., to halt the ever-growing threat of runaway government, corporatization of liberties, and a frustrating lack of fundamental values like family, faith, and freedom, I left for Martian planet. It is here that I plan to kick-start my writing career.

Interestingly, letter writing is emerging as a popular method of correspondence on the Red Planet. Martians have adopted this for two primary reasons: embracing humanity’s written language tradition and establishing a “private life.”

Early Martians deemed that physical paper and writing instruments were a waste and used digital devices instead. However, the recent emergence of paper on Mars, made from hydroponic plant fiber, has allowed for letter writing to become a popular pastime.

Students as young a five are encouraged to write letters to each other in class, practicing penmanship, punctuation, and grammar. Because of this example, adults often write letters to their family, friends, and neighbors.

Martians have always held the “private life” as one of their guiding tenets. They define the “private life” as a life that cannot be observed or controlled by any form of a physical or digital entity.

The concept originated because of a lack of privacy on Earth, surveillance technologies, and digital systems/corporations that capture and use personal data. It has manifested into measures taken to safeguard peer-to-peer communications.

Although Martians have access to the Internet, email, and social media, many realize the importance of the written language and letter writing, opting to use letters as a more meaningful form of correspondence. As a result, Martians write one letter a week that will never find a digital platform.

Instead of a computer hard drive and monitor, I happily opted to ship reams of loose-leaf paper and thousands of pencils to myself.

Seventh Grade Reading Assignment

My brother and I transferred from public school to Catholic School. I quickly found myself in trouble daily for saying or doing this or that.

So the afternoon Sister Angela yelled my name, claiming I was not reading the book assignment in class as directed, I wasn’t surprised.

“Did anyone see Tommy reading like he is supposed to be doing?” she demanded.

Pam Kimble raised her hand and said she saw me. But because she was looking at me, she was sent to the office for not following the assignment as instructed.

“Anyone else?” Sister asked.

Silence followed as I looked around the room and watched my classmate’s eyes suddenly avert from mine. Anger overcame me as I was sent to the office for disobedience.

Minutes later, Sister joined Pam and me, telling us to return to class.

My jaw clenched, I glared hatefully at anyone who dared look at me. Pam was nearly in tears, mortified as she was never in trouble.

Sister soon came in and announced, “See how easy that was?”

Heads pivoted left and right because none of us had any idea about what she was speaking.

“Neither Pamela nor Tommy did anything wrong, but none of you wanted to say anything because you didn’t want to get in trouble,” she finished.

The reading assignment? The Diary of Anne Frank.

Purple Peanut Butter

A 13-year-old student was fatally shot by another 13-year-old at a middle school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I had to look it up online after a 30-something guy got angry with me for promoting Virginia City, Nevada on my personal social media site.

“They are some of the vilest human beings in the world,” he wrote in a message to me. “And you are no better. On the same day as another mass shooting at a school, the asshats in Virginia City had no shame in walking up and down the street brandishing guns of all kinds. They even had a gunfight in the middle of the street. They have zero caring for the suffering of our children because of gun violence. I will never return to that pile-of-shit town.”

Before I corrected his spelling, grammar, and punctuation, I answered back, saying, “First, it was NOT a mass shooting, but a shooting. Anyway, I’m sorry that you feel this way. While learning that a child shot another child is indeed heartbreaking, realize Virginia City has not had a child-on-child murder in years, despite the vast number of guns in the town.”

“While you are upset and feel that the historic ghost town should have put away all firearms out of respect for this act of senseless violence, it is because of those firearms that Virginia City is free of violence most days. While a double-murder was committed last year inside the city limits, it had nothing to do with all the law-abiding individuals openly wearing or carrying a firearm.

Perhaps you’re better off going elsewhere for vacation, a place where sidearms and long guns are prohibited, a place where you would feel safer. Remember, criminals do not act on feelings other than greed and jealousy, so you need to avoid those people as well. Thank you for airing your concern with me, and I will let as many people know as I can about how you feel.”

He responded, saying, “Don’t use my name!”

“I won’t because I don’t want to give any further acknowledgment to a snowflake, like yourself,” I said.

Then I blocked him.

Where’s a Cop When You Need One?

“You’ve heard the old joke, where can you find a cop at two-in-the-morning?” Nus asked.

“Yeah,” Dunoc groaned, “At the donut shop.”

Silence filled their unit instead of laughter.

The pair sat back from the trajectory line, tucked in behind Star-932-Bravo, hidden from traffic. They were watching for speeding craft moving from one worm-hole to another.

Interstellar cops.

They were not the only ones on the beat. Suddenly the two were joined by several pairs of Interstellar cops.

“What did I tell you, Dunoc,” Nus said. “We should have put mouth-cuffs on those scientists before they announced that the universe is a donut and stopped this from becoming a problem.”

“It’s only a case of miscommunication,” Dunoc replied. “They’ll quickly learn that the universe is donut-shaped, not a donut.”

“Yeah, but it’s also donut-filled, too,” Nus returned. “And I happen to like eating my donuts in peace.”

“Look, here comes speeder,” Donuc announced.

“Good,” Nus said, “Step on it, Doughboy.”

The pair laughed as they rocketed after the unaware speeder.

The Embassy House

For nearly two months now, I have searched for information on the historic home on the Comstock called “The Embassy House.” Among the many turn-of-the-century buildings in Virginia City, it appears to have never had a biography completed on it.

The homeowner grew up in the house, and she lives there with her husband. Purchased by her father shortly after World War II, the home came with a carved stone that read, “The Embassy,” with two crossed flags below the lettering.

The homeowner thinks that the stone is still on the Comstock, possibly in the Virginia City area. I want to recover it, then help her get her home listed on the National Registry of Historic Buildings like so many of her neighbors.

First things first, though.

Ghostlight

We used to play in the front and backyards, yelling, screaming, laughing, and chasing each other around. Alice, Johnny, and their mother Blaylock lived in the large home across the street and down the block from my family’s home.

We spent most days this way. When it rained, we raced from room to room, running up and down the stairs, or enjoying baked treats from Mrs. Blaylock’s baking.

The Blaylock children did not attend school with me as they were home-schooled. Nor did they attend church or other social functions as other families with children had a habit of doing.

None of this mattered to me, nor did it matter that that house was supposedly haunted.

“Is this home haunted?” I asked Mrs. Blaylock one afternoon before I had to be home myself.

“No, dear,” she smiled. “Not even the attic.”

I knew this was true, as we had often played in the attic on foul-weather days.

“You’re going to summer camp,” my parents announced before school let out for the summer of my twelfth year.

Though I said I didn’t want to go, they insisted, claiming that I needed to be around other kids my age. It would be three months before I saw home again.

As we passed the Blaylock House, I could see something was different about the place. Once home, I raced up the street to find the dwelling empty and quiet.

“What happened to the Blaylock’s, Alice, Johnny, and their mother?” I asked.

My parents acted as if they had no idea who I was speaking of and even told me that the house had been vacant for years. Though I argued that a family had lived there until I left for summer camp, my protestations fell on deaf ears.

By the time I was nineteen, my childhood memories of playing with the Blaylock children had faded. In college, I had come home on break.

It didn’t take long to learn that the local fire department would be using the now-dilapidated wood structure for practice. Sadly, I stood on the sidewalk across the street and witnessed the house set to blaze.

It was then that I noticed a little girl and her brother by one of the fire trucks looking my way. They smiled at me as a firefight passed between us. In the time it took for him to walk by, the pair vanished.

Seeing my two childhood friends stirred a long sleeping memory. It was then like, the 1940 movie starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, I realized I had been ghostlighted.

Bachelorized

Shorty worked year-round to save all the money he could. He gathered wild cattle, broke the rough-stock, and mended miles of barbed wire and wood fences.

He was to marry the woman that worked behind the mercantile counter. Shorty planned to use his savings as a down payment on a piece of nearby land.

After drawing his final pay, he drove into town. There Shorty picked up a newspaper and saw the announcement saying she had married the local bank president.

He returned to the ranch the following day after tying-one-on and asked for his old job back. The ranch foreman was happy to have him back, sending him out to line-shack once again.

Hours later, he arrived at the shack and settled in for the night. He had a long day plan beginning the following morning.

With the buckboard and mules, Shorty set out to cut some firewood. Three loads later, he was ready to build a fire in the shack’s old pot-bellied stove.

He left the door open so he could watch the flames burn up a set of initials bordered by a heart carved into the bark. It was the only way Shorty stayed warm that winter.

My Cousin Elmo says, “My friend said he wouldn’t eat the tongue my wife served for dinner because it came out of a cow’s mouth, so she gave him some eggs instead.”

A Day in the Life of JCH720

He rushed back to his unit as soon as work let out. JCH720 had a schedule to maintain.

He quickly got on his stationary bike and began pedaling. He had to turn the green light to red before he was finished.

As he pedaled, he thought about how he’d seen his reflection in a large pane of glass. The sight of his boniness caught him by surprise.

“It is unlawful to look at yourself in anything reflective,” a supervisor said over the address system. “Do you understand?”

JCH720 nodded his head sharply and returned to work.

As soon as the light changed color, he went directly to the shower to rinse his body off. JCH720 changed into clean clothes, got his food, and sat on the floor in front of the broadcast screen.

No sooner had he taken a bite than the screen whined to life, and the computer-generated individual began reading news briefs. This was the daily highlight for JCH720.

After swallowing his final bit of food and rinsing it down with water, the news-reader said, “And as a reminder, it is unlawful to view oneself in any reflective object. Violators will be severely punished.”

“Thank you for being a good citizen. Goodnight,” the reader said, and the screen went blank.

JCH720 scooted across the floor to his sleeping pad and laid on it. He had a little more than a minute to think about what sort of punishment he would receive in the morning.

He knew better than to say anything aloud as he was sure that “the walls have ears.” In the distance and growing closer, JCH720 could hear the soft thudding of the switches as power was cut to each unit in the complex.

Fatigue quickly caught up with JCH720, and soon he was fast asleep.

Those Little Shakers Add Up

Mag 0.9 earthquake, NW of Walker, Calif., Friday, 6 Aug 2021, 12:47 am
Mag 1.2 earthquake, E of Coleville, Calif., Friday, 6 Aug 2021, 8:07 am
Mag 1.4 earthquake WSW of Coleville, Calif., Friday, 6 Aug 2021, 1:08 pm
Mag 0.9 earthquake, NW of Walker, California, Friday, 6 Aug 2021, 8:06 pm
Mag 1.4 earthquake WSW of Coleville, Calif., Friday, 6 Aug 2021, 1:08 pm
Mag 1.0 earthquake, SE of Coleville, Calif., Friday, 6 Aug 2021, 9:24 pm
Mag 1.2 earthquake, ENE of Walker, Calif., Friday, 6 Aug 2021, 10:23 pm

Mag 0.7 earthquake, ESE of Walker, Calif., Saturday, 7 Aug 2021, 1:02 am
Mag 1.4 earthquake, SW of Dayton, Nev., Saturday, 7 Aug 2021, 2:15 am
Mag 0.8 earthquake, W of Walker, Calif., Saturday, 7 Aug 2021, 3:29 am
Mag 1.2 earthquake, W of Walker, Calif., Saturday, 7 Aug 2021 4:40 am
Mag 1.9 earthquake, SE of Markleeville, Calif., Saturday, 7 Aug 2021, 6:12 pm
Mag 1.2 earthquake, NW of Virginia City, Nev., Saturday, 7 Aug 2021, 7:43 pm
Mag 0.9 earthquake, SSW of Dayton, Nev., Saturday, 7 Aug 2021, 8:26 pm

Mag 2.6 earthquake, WNW of Ruth, Nev., Sunday, 8 Aug 2021, 12:01 am
Mag 1.6 earthquake, NE of Dardanelle, CA, Sunday, 8 Aug 2021, 11:19 am

In Between Star Runs

Have you heard the one where I went on a three-minute date with a time-traveling princess from the Old West?
Brittan makes for a good story.
She arrived forty years too early.
My coffee was still hot, as was she.
Her hand-carved ivory cameo brooch winked and whistled at me.
I was delighted.
This beauty, though, was less than thrilled.
She expected a much younger man.
I was already child-like with my gray hairs and white whiskers.
Our minds tried to meld, but my hands could not grasp the reality she was offering.
In the blink of an eye, she vanished, and I became older than my many years.
I wish she’d left my dog behind.
Loneliness does not suit me in any world, off-or-on.

Mystery of Saint Mary, Part 3 of 3

They were surprised to see me.

Between them sat a large, old-fashioned ribbon microphone. I could not see what it was connected to.

The duo opened their mouths, and as one, they spoke. A deep guttural voice came from their throats as spittle gathered at the corners of their mouths, “You have made it this far.”

“But I’ll have to go no farther,” I returned.

“I’ll burn this house down to kill you!” they screamed.

“No you won’t,” I said. “Besides, we’re not finished with you yet.”

“We?” they demanded.

Picking up and speaking into the microphone, I answered, “Patience.”

“You can’t tell us to be patient!” they shouted.

I ignored them, pushing the heavy red velvet curtain aside, revealing a spiral staircase that I followed upward to a small, unadorned door at a recessed landing.

When I opened the door, I stepped into the parking lot. And as I walked up the hill, I heard their screams and Patience’s laughter as she set about her chores.

“Now, to figure out what to do about this head,” I said, though there was no one I was talking to.

Later, I would realize that I had forgotten to take even one photograph or a single note.

Mystery of Saint Mary, Part 2 of 3

The head was on the third step down from the landing leading to the basement museum.

The plaster dust and wreckage in the narrow stairwell were undisturbed. There was no blood or gore around the severed head and no sign of a body.

Still, I stepped toward it with caution. The stairs quivered slightly beneath my foot.

When I reached the head, I lifted my foot to step over it, and a dry chuckle caused me to pause.

“Turn me over,” came a muffled command.

With the toe of my boot, I did so. I found myself looking into a desiccated, older version of myself.

“How do I look?” the head asked me.

“Dead,” I told him.

The head coughed and laughed at the same time, “Did you think you could ever end up like this?”

“You’re not me,” I replied

“But I am,” the head grinned. “Will you take me with you?”

“Nope,” I answered.

The head glared at me, “Why not?”

Without a word, I stepped over him, as the head swore at me in a cheerful tone, and continued to do so for as long as I could hear him.

Mystery of Saint Mary, Part 1 of 3

He stopped me along Six-mile Canyon to pass on a bit of news.

Bill had been born and raised in Virginia City and, when he was old enough, he had joined the Navy and left town about as quick as he could. When he was thirteen, he had the misfortune of watching a drunken miner kill his saloon-keeping father.

Eventually, Bill returned, and he settled down, but not in VC. He had taken up residence in Dayton, but he did find occasion to come into VC now and again.

I was looking for a news story when Bill pulled up beside me, his wife and their children with him.

“Jus’ the man I want to see,” he said.

“Why’s that?” I asked.

“Passed by St. Mary a few minutes ago,” Bill said. “The doors are open, and it looks like they’ve been open all night.”

“The priest?” I asked.

“No sign of him,” Bill said. “I took a quick look inside, and the place is pretty busted up.”

“Thanks for letting me know,” I said.

Bill tipped his hat and drove off.

I capped my camera lens, felt for my pen and pad before driving towards the historic old church.

Painful Waxing

Her mother drowned in the lake while saving her. For that, the six-year-old suffered both verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her father.

Daily, he shouted and cursed her, calling her a witch. In the evening, while drinking, he beat her with his hairbrush.

By the time she was ten, Sally believed that she deserved the beatings because she was a witch. Soon she began to dabble in the black arts, trying to learn any spell that might keep her from being harmed any further.

Time and time again, she tried one curse or another. Nothing seemed to stop her father from abusing her.

One morning, as Sally lit the candles she’d place on the points of the upside-down star, hidden beneath her bedroom rug, she hit on an idea. She could reuse the melted wax to create a doll of her father.

Throughout the day, she collected, heated, and molded the wax into the shape of a man. Then she found his hairbrush and pulled as many hairs from it as she could.

That evening she cut and sewed scraps of his old clothing into pants and a shirt. Once dressed and with hair in place, Sally knew she had the perfect doll for the next step in her plan.

The following day her father, hungover from the previous night, came down the hall to see her curled on the couch in front of the fireplace, holding the newly created doll. At the sight of this, he grabbed the figurine and dashed it into the flames.

She laughed wildly at his screams of pain, and his body both burned and began to melt.

“And you did it to yourself,” Sally smiled as the blaze became an inferno.

Those Hot August Spirits

Without spilling names, I had two incidents involving the spirit world and one involving the Holy Spirit. I’ll discuss them in order of occurrence.

While seated in a Virginia City, Nev., bar, I saw a man in what I believed to be a black trench coat on the far side of the saloon. The next thing I know, this man was next to me, leaning his face into mine as if he were trying to intimidate me.

When I looked towards him, he was not there, and then I knew he was a spirit and not corporale. I also realized that it was malevolent.

Three times this entity rushed me. I could feel it press me as if it wanted to fight.

All three times, I told it to leave me alone in the “Name of Jesus Christ.”

Since I would not be intimidated, it scratched the right side of my neck.

The second incident happened at the same saloon a few minutes after my initial run-in with this thing. While talking to one of the bar owners, his tumbler glass moved half an inch across the bar without being touched.

“Did you see?” he asked.

“I sure did,” I answered as I examined the glass to see if it had moisture beneath it.

It was completely dry where the glass sat. Further, it had moved towards the open doorway, the only draft available.

About 10 minutes later, the same thing happened. Only this time, the glass moved farther, and it spun in a counter-clockwise direction.

We decided it was time to find something else to do; he had a bar to run. I needed photos and quotes about the Hot August Night automobile event filling C Street.

Later, after the sun had dipped behind Mt. Davidson, I was seated on an outdoor bench chatting with friends, including a couple I had never met before. He did not talk very much, but she had plenty to say.

“I don’t know why, but I’m supposed to tell you this,” she started, “but don’t quit.”

Stunned, I looked at her and asked, “Quit what?”

“Don’t quit writing,” she returned.

Confession time — due to frustrations throughout July, I had thought of resigning from the paper and permanently archiving my blog. But after what she said to me, I have since reconsidered.

Dog-gone Accident

Standing at my office window, I could do little but watch as the situation moved from bad to worse. By the time I grabbed my first-out bag and made it to the scene in front of my house, it was nearly over.

He had fallen on his back when I rushed from the room. By the time I made the front door, the woman was facedown in the road.

Their little dog was happily running in circles. The big dog was running after the little dog.

All this began when the Rottweiler slipped his collar and leash. He had run back to the couple with the small dog to say ‘hello’ to the dog.

His size belies his gentle nature, and the couple mistook his running towards them as aggression. I know this dog, his name is Rosco and he’s a sweetheart.

The man stepped in front of Rosco and got knocked down for his trouble. The woman then tried to stave off the ‘attacking dog,’ and tripped over her own dog’s leash, falling.

She was bleeding heavily from a finger on her left hand. Stitches needed.

Neither she nor her husband wanted to take the time for me to bandage her up. Instead, they hustled off down the road.

So I went over to help the woman get the collar back on Rosco. She was shaking and crying, mumbling about getting rid of the dog.

“I’ll take him,” I said as she hurried away without a word.

That was two days ago. This morning I saw Rosco’s human again sans the dog, and I had to ask what had become of him.

“Oh, he’s at home,” she smiled. “I was jus’ angry and embarrassed when I said that. I didn’t mean it.”

“Good,” I said.

“And thank you for helping and offering to rehome Rosco,” the woman added. “You’re a good neighbor.”

Why I Like Dogs Better Than Most People

I spent my morning trying to help my wife understand why people do not live up to the promises.

She worked for a married couple for thirty years, managing their business. Back then, she could ask for help with minor home improvement projects and get all the help she needed as one of the business owners was also a contractor by trade.

That was then.

Now, though he promised to come by the house once again, he has failed to show or even call.

My wife cannot understand this. I had to explain the truth to her, “You’re no longer of use to them, so they have written you off.”

I have a lot of experience at being written off.

Science Can Mask-off!

During this past week, as we lived through heavy bouts of thick wildfire smoke in Northern Nevada, I watched people wearing masks choke on the odor. Their masking-up did them no good, physically.

Logic suggests that if they could smell the smoke, they were breathing in and choking on particulates. Now, the average size of a wildfire smoke particulate is about 0.3 microns.

Meanwhile, the larger Coronaviruses are around 0.2 microns, while most are less than 0.05 microns, smaller than the smoke particulate. So, it would appear that wearing a face mask is useless against both smoke particulates and the COVID-19 virus.

Science…

Another Worthless Post

It has been very hard to sit and write today. My mind is elsewhere, unfortunately.

So I am falling back on an old process I used back in the day, writing whatever comes to mind in five minutes. And I don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or punctuation.

I won’t be going that long.

Anyway, I find myself unhappy as we’re returning to wearing masks every place we go. My brain screams, “Fuck that!” while my mouth drones, “Yes, dear.”

Yeah, my wife and I don’t see eye-to-eye on the subject because she has to wear one anyway as she works for the school district. It’s best to go along to get along some days.

Along with the whole face diaper thing, I am struggling with work. Mistakes on my part have me down in the shitter, and I’m angry with myself because of it.

Plus, I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. And while I don’t mind my own company, I wonder why there are so few people I can associate with, either professionally or personally.

I know — boo-hoo and cry me a frigging river.

That’s enough. At least I got something written for a post which ain’t saying much.

Smoke

Independence weekend began with a plume of smoke. A wildfire that the forest service called the Beckwourth Complex.

Soon the Tamarack and the Dixie Fires followed. Each new blaze brought even more smoke into the valley.

Eventually, the haze grew so thick that he could no longer see the homes across the street. Not even his dog was willing to stay outside for any length of time, save to care for its business.

Soon a couple of days grew into a week and then nearly an entire month. The metallic hum began in that final week.

Day and night, it came and went until it never stopped. It was replaced periodically by a crying or a low guttural growl.

Unable to identify the sound, he ventured out onto his front porch to listen. He took a cup of hot coffee and his dog with him.

Together they quietly listened to the hum become a cry, become a growl. Then a new sound issued from somewhere deep within the smoke: a grinding.

The dog stepped back and settled near the front door waiting for its human to open it so they could go indoors. But that never happened.

Instead, the man stepped off the porch and into the black-brown hazy, ignoring the warning whine coming from the dog. Quickly he was enveloped by the stuff and could no longer be seen.

Panicked, the dog barked, howled, and scratched at the door until the man’s wife opened it. The dog darted inside and ran under the dining table for safety.

That was three days ago, and the dog still sits at the door whimpering for the man it will never see again.

Endless

She pulled into the parking spot and sent me inside the store to buy some condoms. I could not believe my luck on this full-moon night.

I looked back at her to make sure she was real.

As I passed through the doorway, I felt a sudden wave of nausea overcome me. Perhaps I was much more excited than I thought.

Quickly, I walked beyond the register, looking up at the signs above each aisle. I recall being a bit surprised by how big the store was.

It looked so tiny from the outside. The more I walked towards the back of the building, the farther it seems to be.

Was it my imagination, or was the building growing larger?

I turned to look back at the doorway.

I couldn’t see it anymore.

A sense of panic rushed through me as I stood still, trying to think what I should do now.

“Hello?” I called.

Nothing.

Frightened, I began jogging towards where the doors should have been. I could not see them, nor could I find the register.

Lost, I turned to my right along an aisle that ran lengthwise of the building. Then I saw it, a door with an adhesive sign across it, reading: “Door armed.”

As I reached out to push it open, a hand grabbed onto my right forearm. I struggled to pull myself free and open the door.

I pushed on the handle with my left hand, and the door swung open.

An alarm blared overhead as I ripped myself from whatever had a hold of me.

Beyond the door frame was darkness, and yet I still stepped out into it. The door slammed behind me, and I discovered I had entered an endless parking lot made of gray asphalt and white stripes.

Sex that night was out of the question. It would take me longer to understand how effed I was in the long run.

Death of the Gardener

Children were born, grew up, and moved away. When they returned to visit, they often exclaimed how the old man had not seemed to age since their long-ago childhoods.

One morning, some early risers, out for a walk, discovered him lying in his front yard. Soon the police arrived, and we watched as they carried him away in a black body bag.

Since he had no wife or known family, it fell to me, as the head of the community’s neighborhood watch, to begin the work of securing his home until the proper authorities could being their work of clearing out the house.

The following day, I decided to take a look in the backyard. I had no idea what I might find.

To my surprise, I discovered a beautiful garden. Well-tended and filled with both flowers and vegetables of all sorts.

I wandered along the narrow rows and marveled at the man’s skill.

It was near the back of the plot where I saw a set of strange green eldritch pods. Each one was larger than the next, with the biggest being the size of a grown man.

I touched it.

The pod jerked as if alive, and I took a couple of steps back from it. Then it disengaged from the stalk it grew from and began twisting, turning, and crawling like a worm.

“What in the…” I started to cry.

But before I could finish my sentence, the thing stopped and turned towards me. I stepped back even further as the greenish pod squirmed in my direction.

Suddenly it began to split open at a seam that I had not seen before, but I did not stay around to see what spilled from the thing. I raced from the yard and to my house across the street.

The following morning I looked out of my living room window only to see the old man, seemingly younger than ever, working in his yard.

About Those Flying Stegosauruses

Yes, I know about the podcast Tanis, and no, I do not know what it is about and nor do I intend to listen to find out. Because of the podcast, I had to double-check whether Where is Tanis? was written by someone else or not.

So far, Jack Parson does appear to be the author.

Now, for the second person in my most recent bit of research: Edgar Rice Burroughs. Aside from being in the U.S. Army, stationed in Arizona, and later owning part of a small mining operation in Idaho, there seems to be no direct connection between him and Parsons.

Nor is there a direct connection to Dr. W. H. Ballou, save for what Ryan Harvey, writes in Edgar Rice Burrough’s Pellucidar Saga: Tarzan at the Earth’s Core:

“The dyor, [is] a Stegosaurus that can glide through the air by flattening its backplates. This isn’t entirely Burroughs’s whacked-out creation: Dr. W. H. Ballou floated the idea in a Utah newspaper article in 1920. Burroughs clipped unusual news stories for ideas, and he probably pulled this from his dinosaur file one day and went with it.”

Pellucidar is a fictional Hollow Earth invented by Burroughs.

So, let’s look once again at Parsons and other people that spent time at his mansion in Pasadena.

Enter sci-fi writer Robert A. Heinlein, who lived at Parsons home for a time. It is Heinlein who connects us to Burroughs.

He did not complete the first draft of The Number of the Beast, as Alan Brown points out in Long-Lost Treasure: The Pursuit of the Pankera vs. The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein:

“No one knows exactly why Heinlein abandoned the original version of his book, although that version draws heavily on the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and E. E. “Doc” Smith, and there may have been difficulties in gaining the rights to use those settings.”

A lesser-known science fiction writer Smith lived in Idaho as a child and young man. Following his retirement as a chemical engineer, he split his time between Florida and Seaside, Oregon.

It is Seaside that my Uncle Orville first retired to before he and Aunt Francis moved to Salem. It gets even stranger.

In several interviews, Charles Manson said many of his ideas came from Robert Heinlein’s 1961 novel Stranger In A Strange Land. Mansion even claimed to be a combination of the characters Valentine Michael Smith and Jubal Harshaw.

Jubal means father of all, a role Manson assumed. He also named his son Valentine Michael.

Manson also found influence in Dianetics and something called the Process, founded by Robert and Maryanne DeGrimston in London in 1963 as an offshoot of Scientology.

Rabbit hole my ass…

Nameless

Finn and I were celebrating our final night of summer freedom at the line shack. Earlier in the day, we had helped count and load all the cattle the two of us had gathered over the last two and a half months.

“George,” Finn said, “I’m glad you held back on the good stuff.”

He lifted his cup, half full of whiskey, in salute. He then downed it in a single gulp. I poured him some more.

“Wonder what happened to old Nameless,” I said as I tipped my glass back.

Nameless was a large black bull, well known for his nasty temper. We couldn’t find him anywhere in our searching for the nearly wild cows that we’d driven into our stock pens in the many weeks we’d been working together.

“Probably got kilt by a mountain lion or something,” Fin answered. “After all he was pretty old as I understand it.”

“Yeah,” I replied. “More than likely he is a ghost out roaming around looking for someone to run over or something.”

“Now, don’t you go telling any spook-stories to me,” Finn demanded. “You remember that last one you told me. Nearly had a heart attack when you howled like a dog while I was in the outhouse.”

We laughed as we enjoyed another splash of whiskey.

“Won’t be trying to scare you tonight,” I said. “Not with old Nameless unaccounted for.”

“Stop it, damn you,” Finn shouted. “Not another word about ghosts, spirits or spooks or anything of the sort.”

“Okay,” I answered, “Want another snort of spirit?”

Finn laughed so hard he nearly fell out of his chair. I poured him another couple of ounces.

Once finished with that, he got up and went outside, announcing, “You only rent whiskey.”

I stayed seated, worried that the room might spin too fast for my balance should I stand up.

That’s when I heard a particular sound, heavy breathing, and a solid thump. I got up despite my possible intoxication and went to the cabin door.

Intoxicated or not, I recognized Nameless right away as he stood horns pointed at me. I quickly slammed the door.

No sooner had I closed it than the door and frame shattered as if in an explosion. Nameless had entered, and I sought my escape through the glass window above our washbasin.

As Nameless trashed the cabin, I sprinted around the front and downhill to the outhouse. As I tried to open the door, I heard Nameless racing behind me.

“Open the damned door,” I cried.

“Find your own spot to hide,” Finn returned.

The bull was nearly on me as I ran around the outhouse twice before deciding to climb on top of it. I watched in relative safety as Nameless disappeared into the darkness.

As I contemplated getting down and running up to the shack, I heard the brute come racing back. I had hardly focused on its black silhouette charging from the dark before slamming into the side of the outhouse, scattering boards, magazines, and I supposed, Finn.

The sun was coming up when I finally felt brave enough to lift my head and look around. I was stiff and sore from my tumble, and it was made worse from having played dead on the ground all night.

I could see neither Nameless nor Finn, so I crawled to my knees.

“Finn?” I called.

“Here,” he hollered back.

“You okay?” I asked.

“Do dandy,” he said. “You?”

“I’m still put together,” I answered. “Where are you?”

“In the shitter,” he said.

“No, you’re not, its spread all to hell and back,” I returned.

“Nope,” Finn said, “I’m definately in the shitter.”

Crawling, I made my way to the floor of what had been the outhouse. I looked in the privy hole and saw Finn looking back at me.

“How in the hell did you end up there?” I asked.

“When that freight train hit,” he explained, “It threw me in the air, and when I came down, I landed straight-legged in this here shit.”

As I started to laugh, I heard a sound from behind me that left my blood cold then I felt the ground tremble through my hands. Without hesitation, I jumped in the hole next to Finn.

Soon a face peered over the edge of the privy hole. It was McDaniels who had come back to help us pack out.

He pushed his lid back and scratched his forehead before exclaiming, “Boys, I don’t even want to know how badly you two tied it on last night.”

Death of the Morning God

Their day began as it always had, sunny and bright. By late noon though, that brightness had given way to a heavy gloom, dark clouds, thundershowers, and cold.

As few had paid note to its beginning, fewer paid heed to its ending. The Morning God has passed away, and now general darkness set in.

Still, the rains came as night settled on the land, and those that knew retired to their chambers in prayer and slumber.

Once again, their day began as it always had. A new Morning God showed its magnificent face on them, though they never took note.

Redheads and Runners

Usually, when researching, one tends to narrow down sources. However, I found two more persons of interest and must cover each as each relates to Tanis.

I’m starting with John T. Reid.

Reid was a mining engineer who grew up in Lovelock, Nevada. Not only did he find the petrified shoe print, but he also directed archeologists to the Lovelock Cave, where, in 1924, they unearthed several “redheaded giants.”

In the book “Life Among the Piutes, Their Wrongs and Claims,” Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins writes that these redheaded tule-eaters, or Si-te-cah, often ate their captives.

She also writes about a generational shirt handed down to her with red Si-te-cah hair woven into it. What became of that shirt is unknown.

In an article by Dorothy P. Dansie, titled “John T. Reid’s Case for the Redheaded Giants,” and published in the Fall 1975 issue of the Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, she writes:

“In 1929, Reid accompanied by John A. Runner, government surveyor working out of Lovelock, visited the University of California Archeology Building and asked to see the Lovelock Cave display.”

There are a couple of things worth unpacking in this narrative.

Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard (of Scientology fame) worked what they called “sex majik,” to call down an ancient redheaded Babylonian goddess to earth. Apparently, it worked.

From Martin Chalakowski’s October 2017 article, “The Rocketeer, the Scientologist, and the Lady in Between:” he writes, “A red-haired woman did knock on Parsons’ door, in the form of Marjorie Cameron, an aspiring actress, a beauty to behold and, interestingly, a Hubbard acquaintance.”

The other goes back to the original story, “Where is Tanis?” by Jack Parsons, who writes of a “runner.” Interestingly, in 1929, Reid is accompanied by a name whose last name is Runner.

It might seem like a stretch now, but it gets stranger.

Nevada’s Petrified Shoe Sole

After speaking with a Shoshoni elder about Tanis, she talked with a Paiute elder. Together, they put me on to the name Dr. W.H. Ballou.

According to The Journal of Wild Mushrooms, William Hosea Ballou was no stranger to incorrect opinions. In his 2007 article, Leon Shernoff further writes:

“Of his cockamamie opinions that made it into print, perhaps the one that got the most exposure was his notion that Stegosaurus used the plates along its spine to fly, an idea that was picked up by Edgar Rice Burroughs for his book At the Earth’s Core, where the heroes encounter a number of dinosaurs, including a flying Stegosaurus.”

Ballou also wrote an article that appeared in the American Weekly section of the New York Sunday American on October 8, 1922., titled, “Mystery of the Petrified: Shoe Sole 5,000,000 Years Old.

“Some time ago, while he was prospecting for fossils in Nevada, John T. Reid, a distinguished mining engineer, and geologist stopped suddenly and looked down in utter bewilderment and amazement at a rock near his feet. For there, a part of the rock itself was what seemed to be a human footprint!

Closer inspection showed that it was not a mark of a naked foot but was, apparently, a shoe sole that had been turned into stone. The forepart was missing.

But there was the outline of at least two-thirds of it, and around this outline ran a well-defined sewn thread which had, it appeared, attached the welt to the sole. Further on was another line of sewing, and in the center, where the foot would have rested had the object really been a shoe sole, there was an indentation, exactly such as would have been made by the bone of the heel rubbing upon and wearing down the material of which the sole had been made.

Thus was found a fossil which is the foremost mystery of science today. For the rock in which it was found is at least 5 million years old.”

Geologists inspected and said the print was authentic and that the rock was from the Triassic Period (205-250 million years ago). They could even see the twisted threads of stitching along the outer edge of the sole.

Discovered in Fisher Canyon, Pershing County, Nevada, the fossilized imprint was lost, and its present location is unknown.

Is this a Runner or a Seeker? Maybe John T. Reid or Edgar Rice Burroughs is the key to unlocking this mystery.

Between Reality and Fantasy

A friend, who knows I enjoy pulp literature and history, sent me this short story, “Where is Tanis?” by Jack Parsons. She also knows that my Uncle Orville Harrison worked on the Saturn V rocket project and knew Parsons.

Uncle Orville worked in the Spanish Springs area of Nevada during the rocket testing phase. I live only a few miles from where they conducted those tests.

I believe there is no such thing as “coincidence.”

A quick check of the fabulously unreliable Wikipedia shows that Tanis, a Greek name, is a real place. In ancient Egypt, Tanis was ḏꜥn.t, and in the bible, called Zoan. Having read and reread the story, which seems to be a mish-mash of Star Wars anthology, The Maze Runner, and a touch of Siddhartha, I cannot help but wonder: what is Tanis?

Do I chase it down the rabbit hole that I suspect Tanis to be or be satisfied to call it that place between reality and fantasy?

Lyon County Rejects Affidavit Requesting 2020 Election Audit

Two notarized affidavits have been file again requesting an audit of the 2020 presidential election, including one in Lyon County.

The filings follow an official notice of maladministration served on Monday, June 7, to the office of Gov. Steve Sisolak, demanding a full forensic audit of the 2020 election. Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s office, other state officials, and county recorders were sent affidavits by certified mail.

Lyon County Recorder Margie Kassebaum rejected the affidavit in a form letter, citing the possibility of criminal charges should the filing be unlawful.

Kassebaum responded to Mindy Robinson, Rhonda Rau, Bonnie Taylor, and Deana Villei’s filing, saying they “have the right to request judicial review of this denial,” adding that if the refiling was not done “in such a manner that it may be lawfully recorded” and if “knowingly procuring” or causing a “false or forged instrument to be filed,” those filing may be found “guilty of a category C felony,” unless “a greater penalty is provided.”

Robinson, a Nevada Congressional District 3 candidate, said the state constitution is clear about proving an election is valid.

“It’s not about pushing for a certain party or wanting one candidate to win over the other,” Robinson said. “It’s about making sure our votes matter. Unlike a lawsuit where it would be our job to prove anything, these affidavits remind the state that it’s their job to prove to us there wasn’t a fraud.”

Neither Sisiolak nor Cegavske has responded to the affidavits sent to them.

Bug Up the Ass

“I’m sorry,” the nurse said. “What?”

Jim repeated himself, “I have a bug up my ass.”

“Well, sir, you need to calm down so I can get some information from you.”

“I can’t calm down, he said a third time, “I have a bug up my ass.”

The nurse pushed a series of numbers on the phone, then hung it up. In less than a minute to burley uniformed men appeared in the waiting room.

The nurse looked at the pair, then at Jim. Within seconds they had Jim strapped to a gurney and were wheeling him into an emergency room bay.

The more Jim shouted about having a ‘bug up his ass,’ the more they ignored him. Nearly nine hours later, long after Jim had gone quiet, a doctor finally came to examine him.

“This man’s dead,” the doctor said.

A quick check revealed that Jim had choked on something still in his throat. With forceps at the ready, the doctor pried Jim’s mouth open.

Before he could react, the something in Jim’s throat leaped out and clamped its large pincer-shaped mandibles around the doctor’s throat. The doctor’s head popped off his neck before he could make a sound.

Welcome to iCOP

The U.S. Postal Service is running a covert operation called Internet Covert Operations Program (iCop,) which tracks and collects social media posts.

Using Clearview AI’s facial recognition database and Zignal Labs’ real-time keyword search software, investigators look for what documents describe as “inflammatory” postings. Then that information is shared with other government agencies.

“Analysts with the United States Postal Inspection Service Internet Covert Operations Program monitored significant activity regarding planned protests occurring internationally and domestically on March 20, 2021,” reads a March 16 government bulletin, marked as “law enforcement sensitive” and distributed through the Department of Homeland Security. “Locations and times have been identified for these protests, which are being distributed online across multiple social media platforms, to include right-wing leaning Parler and Telegram accounts.”

It begins with the USPS’ “Informed Delivery.” The app allows you to see what has been delivered to your mailbox by photographing the envelopes and packages, then sending them via text to your device.

By consenting to the use of this benign-looking app, it can, with an algorithm, alert inspectors to whatever “threat” they are searching.

Say you receive a mailer from the National Rifle Association (NRA.) You will be flagged and subjected to a warrantless search because you “consented” to using the “Informed Delivery” app.

The NRA is used here for demonstration purposes only because federal documents do not mention left-leaning organizations like Antifa or Black Lives Matter.

The Newest Member of the Third-World

“NV Energy is urging its electric customers in both northern and southern Nevada to conserve electricity today and tomorrow between 6 and 9 p.m. in order to offset energy supply issues caused by record-breaking heat and wildfires affecting electric transmission lines throughout the western United States,” reads the press release.

It goes on to offer measures to conserve energy during this period include:

  • Turn off lights.
  • Turn off pool pumps.
  • Unplug appliances, not in use.
  • Avoid using large electrical appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines, and electric clothes dryers.
  • Adjust the thermostat to 78 degrees or higher to reduce the use of air conditioning during this time, barring any medical issues, and use ceiling fans to cool people and pets. Pre-cool your home before 6 p.m.
  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible.
  • Draw curtains, shades, or blinds to keep out the heat.
  • Do not charge electric vehicles between 6 and 9 p.m.

Does anyone besides myself remember when the U.S. was considered the most prosperous nation in the world?

My Cousin Elmo says, “It’s July and over 100 degrees, so Walmart should be putting the Christmas stuff out any day now.”

The Story within the Story

A Washoe County, Nevada, School District counselor is in jail for possessing child pornography. Investigators found more than 250 suspected images and videos of child pornography in emails and electronic devices that Tyler Quinn Ball-Imdahl, 26, owned.

If guilty, he deserves everything that the justice system throws at him. However, I cannot tell which is scarier — a pedophile or the loss of liberty.

Buried in the same story is that Yahoo reported the man to authorities that he received emails with intimate images of juvenile males. Yahoo is searching his email, invading his privacy.

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety,” wrote Benjamin Franklin.

And claiming that the accused said yes to a user agreement is bogus because these so-called agreements are no agreement at all. After all, if you say no, you cannot use the platform. It is akin to saying you cannot use the road in front of your home because you disagree with paying taxes on that road.

We no longer live in a free nation. And it is only a matter of time before tech companies begin turning their algorithms on those critical of the U.S. Government, calling it “radical” and a danger to national security.

But then again, Facebook trolls are already online warning you not to think for yourself and how to identify and report people who are “radicalizing.”

Sheetless

In a better world, Jamison would not have been ‘off.’ But a traumatic brain injury received in Iraq had brought him to this point in his life if life is what one could call it.

When it began, he couldn’t remember. All Jamison knew was that hiding under the brilliant white sheet made him feel better.

And that’s how he moved around the house. He had cut-outs for his eyes and socks on his perpetually freezing feet, another oddity from the blast of the improvised explosive that discharged, killing nearly everyone in the Humvee.

Quietly he moved from room to room doing odds and ends. Other times he could be found standing at the window of his bedroom looking out at the rope swing he and his children once played on.

It was at the window where he first saw the other, a white sheet-clad person, like him, standing in their window some one-hundred feet away. The figure waved at him. Obligingly, Jamison returned the wave before turning away.

For the next two days, he didn’t see the person in the window. Then on the third, they were back.

Jamison smiled. He realized that it had been a long time since he’d last smiled or even had a reason to.

It was the fourth day when everything changed. He watched as the sheet-clad figure slowly slid the white cloth from themselves.

Horrified, Jamison jumped back from the window and quickly drew the blinds. Shaken by what he’d seen, he sat on the end of his bed, only to find himself awaking under the blankets the following day.

As he laid there, he thought. Soon, and without the security of his sheet, he walked into the bathroom to look at himself in the mirror, something he had not done in a long time.

Again, horror overcame him, but this time he stood his ground against shrinking away. He knew he had to face the truth, that, like the old lady across the yard in the other house, he too was dead.

Willie Pete

The white-washed hallway stank of antiseptic. Despite the overpowering stench, Owen could also smell the metallic odor of blood beneath the facade of cleanliness.

Ahead of him was a double door, and Owen had an idea of the sort of horror he might find beyond it. When he reached the door and opened it, he was not surprised.

The trio gathered around a patient strapped to an operating table, a light illuminating their surgery. It took them a moment to realize Owen was there, and it took him less time to see the patient was a distorted version of himself.

Owen fired his revolver.

The doctor went spinning back, half his head missing as blood, brains, and bone sprayed on the nurse closest to him. She collapsed in a heap as a slug caught her in the throat, partially decapitated her.

The other nurse escaped through a side door.

Owen’s gun continued to bark, and within moments, he alone. He pulled the ring free of the old M34 white phosphorus grenade and stuffed it carefully in the mouth of his growling doppelganger.

The smell of burning flesh, mingled with the “willie pete,” filled the air, driving Owen from the room.

By the Minute

It was a simple three-story one-room walk-up with a small interior bathroom. Terry Sutherland had lived there for nearly a decade.

He was comfortable with his batting-stuffed bed, an oversized wingback chair, a few old books, and an antique clock. He did not have a kitchen in his room.

Terry’s life was simple. His clothes hung in a narrow closet built into the wall along the narrow hall to the “water closet,” which consisted of a small sink and toilet.

He kept his life uncluttered out of necessity, as his obsessive-compulsive disorder could get out of hand. And he no longer had access to the medication he once used to control his condition.

As of late, however, the old mechanical clock was giving him fits. Five times since mid-June, it had fallen behind by a minute and no longer synched up with his pocket watch.

He recalibrated the two to match, only to wake up and find it had slipped back by that minute.

“What in the hell?” Terry said after getting up.

Once again, the clock was a minute off. After resetting it, Terry showered, dressed, ate the biscuit he purchased the day before, before leaving for the factory.

There he was considered an enterprising, clever, and hard-working man. Recently, Terry had earned a small raise after showing his inventiveness in repairing a faulty light switch in his boss’ private office.

Down the three flights of stairs, he walked to the front door. The knob rattled noisily in his hand as he twisted it and opened the door.

Beyond the threshold, it was still 1921, and still, he found himself trapped in the time loop. He had hated his life before, but other than the problem of the wind-up clock, his new life was perfect.

My Cousin Elmo says, “If I had a dollar bill for every woman who found me unattractive, I’d have enough money that every woman would find me attractive.”

Moved by Unknown Reason

Not once have I posted a story to this blog about an unknown person, save for a historical figure. However, while researching a news article for Dayton, Nev., I found this obituary from Fort Dodge, Iowa, newspaper, “The Messenger.”

I decided to only post a snippet of the obituary before I quickly don’t explain why I find it fascinating…

“Edith Ruth Bloomquist, 98, of Nevada, and formerly of Dayton, went home to be with her Savior on June 30, 2021. This is also the date, June 30, she married Paul Bloomquist in 1945.

Edith was born on her family farm south of Fort Dodge on April 16, 1923, to Anna (Jondle) and Laddie Fiala. Edith graduated from Otho High School in 1941, attended Iowa State Teacher’s College, in Cedar Falls, and then taught country school at Elkhorn #5 for three years.”

My dad was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, like Mrs. Bloomquist, and Dayton, Nev. is part of my primary beat as a news reporter. These two facts simply moved me demonstrating how the world has become such a small place nowadays.

Many condolences to Mrs. Bloomquist’s loved ones.

Merchant of the First Guild

“You’re the rudest motherfucker ever,” Mr. Black said to Mr. Pink.

“Why?” Pink asked, “Because I said what everyone was think, but didn’t have the guts to say?”

They were sitting outside, talking, enjoying beers, the night filled with glittering stars and a waning half-moon. It was Mr. Green that started the conversation.

“Have any of you seen the movie ‘Inglorious Bastards,’ by Quentin Tarantino?” he asked.

Some of us had, some had not. Black hadn’t.

“That movie gets me,” Green added, “After all, I’m the son of Polish-Jews who survived the Nazi death camps. Makes me wonder where he gets his ideas.”

“I can tell you,” Pink said.

“No you can’t,” Green said. “He doesn’t even know where he comes up with some the shit, himself.”

“What was the story you were telling us before you changed the subject?” Black asked.

“You mean about exterminating ground squirrels?” he said.

“Yeah,” Pink said.

“What about it?” Green said.

“You have a six-million dollar contract to kill them,” Pink said, adding, “How do you kill them again?”

“Dude,” Black said, “You ain’t going there, are you?”

Pink ignored him.

“We capture them in cages,” Green responded. “Then we empty the cages into what amounts to a garbage can, put the lid on it, and hook the can up to the exhaust pipe on one of our service trucks and gas them.”

“There you go,” Pink said.

“There I go what?” he asked.

“You’re a Polish-Jew that uses the same friggin’ method of killing squirrels that the Nazis used on your people,” Pink said. “Where do you think you got your idea?”

“Man, that’s some heavy shit,” Green said.

“Your jus’ like Quentin Tarantino  and you don’t even effing know it,” Mr. Pink said.

“Wow, thanks for the compliment,” Mr. Green said.

That’s when Mr. Black chimed in, “You’re the rudest motherfucker ever.”

Daedalus’ False Account

Icarus’ cause of death was always a lie.
He did not die flying too close to the sun.
Icarus was shot out of the sky.
His frightened death-screams long faded.

An ambitious dreamer dashed violently to the ground.
His drifting feathers meant to frighten us.
Icarus’ murder is a powerful message:
Dreams have a power of their own, even in death.

In the Earth, pt. 4

Daily, I earned slightly enough to buy groceries in the evening. Each day went by quickly.

But now it was October and getting much colder in the nights. The family next to my tent had a woodstove. I had nothing, and besides my tent and what was in it.

Bitterly I decided to leave. Soon the weather would change from cold to deathly freezing.

Returning to the highway, I passed water towers, homes, outbuildings, and a factory, then hitched a ride to Reno. The driver dropped me off in front of a Walmart.

Inside, I bought bread, baloney, and a beer, then sat on the low retaining wall in the back of the store and made a couple of sandwiches. As I ate in silence, I knew this was the end of something worth noting.

I could feel the pull of my own life calling me back.

In the Earth, pt. 3

When the sun grew high and the day too hot, we trudged to the end of the field. There we unloaded our burden and picked up my day’s wage.

Back across the highway, I borrowed a bicycle and rode to a mom-and-pop grocery store. I bought cans of Spam, Ravioli’s, baloney, bread, instant coffee, and a case of water.

On my little hiking stove, I warmed up the Ravioli’s, made instant coffee in the now-empty ravioli can, and ate one of the best meals of my life. Hunger satiated, but still, achingly tired, I reclined on my bedroll, sighed, and drift in and out of dreamless sleep.

Dogs barked in the distant cool of the night. Music twanged, vibrated, and carried across the fields.

All was right with me.

That morning I got up, put on my pants, which were all torn, went to the blockhouse to wash, came back, put on an old nearly worn-out straw hat, and went across the highway. Every muscle and bone in my body screamed for surrender.

In the Earth, pt. 2

In the morning, I got up, washed, and took a walk around the place because the work had not begun. That night I went to bed in the sweet night air beneath a dewy tent.

Three days and nights: no work, little food, warm beers, all freely given to me by others in the same shape as me. We huddled around a bond fire each night, where I would listen to their stories and the songs of a hard life.

Finally, we began working.

In a large tent near mine lived a family. They consisted of the grandfather, his wife, their son and daughter, their spouses, and half-a-dozen children.

Each filed every dawn across the highway to the field and went to work. And each morning, I followed behind them.

We bent down and began picking. Soon my hands began to cramp, fingertips to bleed; I needed gloves or more experience, and my back ached.

Each day I strived to catch up to the children as they moved along the cultivated rows. Each day, I fell behind and was never able to match their speed or skill.

But I never surrendered to the feeling of defeat that often overcame me.

In the Earth, pt. 1

The truck dropped me off in the early hours of dawn. I got out and roamed the quiet town of Yerington.

I chuckled about having talked of this place, actually making fun of it when I worked in radio, calling it Yeringtonburg, without ever having set foot inside the city limits.

As dawn began to break, I lay flat on my back on the lawn near the old courthouse. I could lie there all day but finally decided I should look for that farm labor job I felt I needed to be a man.

Along Highway 95, I went to find the mythical farmer and his fabled farm. The fields all looked long and wide, filled with clots of dirt, each growing vegetables and lonely.

He pointed me to a small, cement block building. Behind it was trailers and tents.

I set my tent up, and by nightfall, guitars tinkled, and harmonica hummed as I gazed at the stars.

Brian Ferguson, 1952-2021

Born July 12, 1951, in Arcata, California, Brian Ferguson passed away June 20, 2021, after a battle with cancer at 69 years of age.

He graduated from Arcata High School and attended Humboldt State University. Following graduation, Brian was a teacher and coach at Del Norte High School.

His two favorite sports were football and track and field. It was in track and field that I knew him.

In all that time, I never knew we were roughly eight years apart in age. I thought he was much, much older than me.

Back then, I called him Coach as he pressed me to better myself each time I took to the oval. While I often disappointed him, he never gave up on me.

After I graduated from high school in 1978, I never saw nor spoke to Brian again. Simply put, our paths never crossed again.

Sadly, only after his passing did I learn he was active in land rights following his teaching and coaching careers. For over 30 years, he sat on the Del Norte County Farm Bureau Broad and several times as President of the organization.

During his time as Farm Bureau President, he formed the Del Norte Resource Conservation District. Brian also served for several years as Chairman of the Del Norte County Fairs Jr. Livestock Auction Committee and as President of Lake Earl Grange #577.

Rest in peace, Coach Ferguson.

My Cousin Elmo says, “I told my wife it was okay for her to get rid of everything in the kitchen that did not bring her joy. Now, all we have is a cork-screw and an ice cream scoop.”

The Danger of Research

She vanished in the winter of 1990, coming to Bodie to research the history of the town. A snowfall hid Vancouver Martin’s tracks, and it was assumed that she had become lost in the ensuing blizzard.

The state park service towed her truck. Her family showed to it claim it after notified of her disappearance.

However, it wasn’t her family who showed up to claim it, but herself. She was a careworn woman, ragged, wary, and her story was plain.

She claimed that she’d heard a woman crying and had gone to help her. She never found the woman, and Vancouver Martin almost didn’t make her way out of the long-abandoned town.

She said she had walked endlessly for three years but refused to speak of what she saw, with whom she spoke, or what she had been forced to do to survive.

“But you were missing only nine-days,” the junior ranger said.

Vancouver Martin, her eyes vacant, said nothing.

“Are you going to write that book you were planning?” the senior ranger asked.

“Not that one,” she answered.

When she finished filling out the paperwork, Vancouver Martin stood up, left the office, got in an Uber, and never looked back.

The So-civilized Monster

John is a photographer, who records a lot of southern Nevada and who posts some great pictures. When he’s not off on some photo adventure, he also does some great editing. This is the edit that inspired the following story…

It was the quaking of the ground beneath me as I tried to get some sleep. I had wandered off someplace I should not have gone, and I was now lost.

No longer were there the friendly narrow trails to lead me through this forest. Instead, I found myself racing headlong through a brush that the hand of man had never touched.

Still, I could feel that rumble underfoot, and still, I ran and ran until exhausted. Finally, I collapsed by a stream, ready to accept my fate, whatever it might be.

Then I saw him as he lumbered ever closer to me, a cyclops wearing glasses. I breathed a sigh of relief.

“What are you running from?” the giant one-eyed fellow asked.

“You,” I answered.

“Then why have you stopped?”

“I’m too tired to continue.”

“I see. Are you not araid now?”

“No.”

“And why is that?”

“I have never met a so-civilized ‘monster’ in my life,” I stated, air-quoting the word.

“Really? And what makes you think I’m civilized?” he questioned.

“You’re wearing glasses,” I smiled.

Laughing, he picked me up and took me home, where he placed me in a stock-pen with the rest of his sheep.

My Cousin Elmo says, “Dear Jeff Dunham, please stop by Washington D.C. and take your dummy home. It ain’t funny anymore.”

Seventh-level Grand Boogens

You’ll probably think I’m pulling your leg or something, but here goes…

Two days ago, we had a large family gathering, the first since Grandma passed away. It did not end well, and here I am now, tasked with cleaning the barbecue grill.

The gathering fell apart shortly after my mother arrived. She was not a fan of Grandma, and every member of the family knows it.

Someone lifted a glass, as in a toast, to the old woman’s memory. That’s when Mom lost it.

“She was nothing but a witch,” she shouted. “A witch, I tell you.”

Mom does not cuss, drink, or smoke, so we all knew what she really meant.

“You’re off your meds,” some shouted back.

Chaos ensued. Now, I’m here alone with my thoughts and memories of Grandma.

Mom was right. Not only was Grandma a bitch, but she was also a real witch.

A Seventh-level Grand Boogens witch, whatever the hell that is, and to prove my point, her dentures are biting the trowel I’m using to clean her ashes from the grill.

“Why won’t she die!” I cried out before remembering that I need to check on her rump roast in the crockpot.

Talk Between a Shoshoni and a Paiute Elder

“All I want to do is walk in the land.”

“Be careful there is great power in the land.”

“There is great power in solitude.”

“Look at the Red-tail Hawk above us.”

“Ahh, great power.”

“I dreamed of you swimming in the lake. You were swimming against the current. We were all admiring your perfect form. Then you dived down only to come up by Stone Mother.”

“There is great power in Stone Mother.”

“Shh, they are listening.”

“I know, but they do not understand great power.”

My Cousin Elmo says, “My know-it-all neighbor claimed that only onions can make you cry, so I tossed a watermelon at him. Turns out he’s right, but his nose sure did bleed.”

Slats

“What in the hell blew through here?” he asked, though he was alone.

Manny looked at the damaged fence and shook his head. He did so in confusion as he had no more dogs, and the splintered pieces of redwood slats were shattered and strewn on both sides of the property line.

He remembered back when the new neighbors had decided to dig a new well in the corner of their property less than ten feet from the fence. They worked for two months boring into the hardpan with heavy equipment and never once touched it.

Now, this.

As he studied the damage, he noticed what looked to be claw marks in the remaining redwood slats. Upon closer examination, Manny realized they were tooth marks — as if something had bit into the wood.

While kneeling to get a better look at the odd damage, Manny didn’t see the long tendril-like creature slip from the rocky lip of the well. By the time he did, it was too late, and it took him without a sound.

Hours later, and after his wife had called the sheriff, two deputies and an investigator were searching around the still busted-up fence. They would solve Manny’s disappearance, but first, one of them kneeled for a better look at the marks on the remaining redwood slats.

Reflection of a Criminal

They chased after him. The three men had seen him snatch the purse from the older woman as she finished her business at the ATM.

He had made the first corner with no problem but had tripped over the curb as he round the second corning. Now limping, the three men were quickly gaining on him.

As he came around the third, he looked back over his shoulder. He never saw the large mirror being moved by the two workmen as they crossed the sidewalk.

He hit it at full force. He heard the sound of shattering glass and then darkness.

The purse snatcher was never seen again, and the fragments of the mirror were swept up and thrown away.


While visiting Wokatopia, former San Francisco Mayor Adolph Sutro takes time out to Congress what actual infrastructure work looks like.

Ju-Ju

Rusty believed himself to be a ladies-man. All the women in the office thought he was an ass.

His latest conquest, Ciana, had enough of his sexual innuendos and unwanted passes and had decided to put an end to his harassment. With that, she brought in 24 raw crystals and laid them end-to-end in a circle.

She was busy when Rusty entered and leaned on her desk.

“How you doing gorgeous?” Rusty asked. “Miss me?”

Ciana looked at him with a smile and cooed, “Sure, Sugar-shorts, all weekend long”

Surprised, Rusty asked, “R-R-Really?”

“Yes,” Ciana answered. “In fact, I’ve been thinking that with my help, you’ll be going places soon, and you’ll be on top in no time.”

“I love how you think,” he said.

“The only thing I ask is that you don’t do stand or even jump in that circle of cystals,” she said, pointing to the formation on the floor. “I’m experimenting.”

“Sure, Babe, whatever you say,” he responded.

“Now, excuse me, my little Pumpkin-butt, I have a load of filing to get done,” she said.

He watched her swish as she walked away. Once out of sight, Rusty went over to the rocks and studied them.

He looked to see if anyone was watching him before hopping into the center of the circle. No one was, so no one saw it when he disappeared.

Ciana returned to her desk, picked up the crystals, placed them in the plastic bag she’d used to bring them into the office, then tucked them in her desk drawer. Without a word, she returned to work.

Rusty was unsure what had happened. One moment he was at the office, and the next, he was sprawled on his back, stuck atop a 600-foot tall chimney rock formation in the middle of a desert.

Fear of Eyes

She no longer had to wear a mask, and that made Cheryl happy. She did not have a hard time wearing a mask but seeing others did make life difficult.

Cheryl suffered from childhood with ommetaphobia, a fear of eyes. Even the act of looking in a mirror with a mask on caused nausea, tremors, and sweat.

Someone discovered this fear and decided to torture her. Cheryl found a pair of eyes drawn in chalk on her front porch.

Not only did they trigger the usual symptoms in her, but the idea of the act also brought on severe anger. Cheryl even set up a security camera, but somehow whoever was responsible had evaded being seen.

Then last night, she heard a noise at her front door. Cheryl quickly opened it and found another pair of eyes drawn on her porch.

This time, and because the chalk used was still rolling across the cement, she rushed outside, hoping to catch the person. In her haste, she stepped on one of the eyes.

Without warning, she was dragged from her where she stood. Seconds before she slammed into the planet’s surface, Cheryl recognized her greatest fear in the Eye of Jupiter.

Death by Sprinkler Head

To call it anything other than horrifying would be an understatement. I tried calling it cruelty, even neglect, but neither word seems to fit the situation.

It is where nightmares come alive, adding to those that already haunt the short hours of unrestful sleep.

As I walked into the woman’s yard, I saw the live capture cage in the grass near the sprinkler head. The water was on, spraying directly into the metal enclosure.

Unfortunately, the cage had a squirrel trapped inside it. The poor animal was dead, drown.

It had put up a violent struggle to save its life. Its claws were still gripping tight to the grating of the cage, its lips a pallid waxy gray, eyelids tightly closed but puffy, body stiff.

I can’t imagine dying in such a manner, but my night terrors will resolve this.

The Smiling Woman in Yellow, pt. 3

As she struggled, her yellow dress, already short, was now over her hips. She was not wearing underwear.

Still haunted by the memory of what had happened in Iraq, he smiled at the thing in his bed, “I’m gonna fuck you till you scream with pleasure.”

Already naked himself, Nick stuffed his erectness into the woman, and she screamed so forcefully that the bedroom windows rattled. Within a couple of minutes, he released into her, and again she reacted with the same effect.

But Nick wasn’t done. He remained stiff and continued to pound away at her.

Fifteen minutes later, Nick felt her stiffen up. Then she bucked at him, bending in an arch that lifted him from the bed.

Still in her and balancing on her hips, he continued to thrust and thrust. Together, they came in a violent spasm that went finished she collapsed and he on her.

“I must have been dreaming,” Nick said as he climbed from the tangle of sheets.

Weak in the knees and his thighs sore, he walked into the bathroom. As he stood to pee in the toilet, Nick knew he had not been dreaming after all.

A panic set in, and he raced to the full-length mirrors of his closet only to see a woman standing in his place. His fear ebbed as his eyes began to glow red, and the smiling woman in him grew hungry for her next victim.

The Smiling Woman in Yellow, pt. 2

Once inside and with the door securely locked behind him, Nick relaxed a little. As he prepared for bed, he looked out his window at the street and where the woman had been.

He felt himself jump as he looked down on her, and she stood still, staring up at his window. Nick picked up his cellphone and prepared to call the police, but when he looked back, she was gone.

With his 9mm Berreta and phone on his nightstand, Nick turned out the light and settled in to get some sleep. Suddenly, his phone rang, and he picked it up.

“Hi,” was all the text read.

“Who is this?” he texted back.

“The woman under your covers.”

Nick reached over and turned on the lamp. Then he tossed back the blanket and sheet that covered him.

There was the woman in the yellow dress, eye aglow with red and growling. She sprang at him, and he twisted out from under her.

Now on top, Nick held her down at her biceps and refused to release her. Though possessed like a demon, she was no match for the Marine, who had maintained his physical strength since his days in the Corps.

The Smiling Woman in Yellow, pt. 1

The odd walk, the goofy grin, and the overpowering sense of danger were nothing new to him. He had seen it once before while on duty at a checkpoint outside Baghdad nearly 16 years before.

Back then, he was in the Marine Corps.

The night of the incident at the checkpoint remained burned in his memory. A woman, covered head-to-toe in a yellow burka, came out of the darkness and refused to halt before fired upon and killed.

Now he was watching a Black woman dance and pirouette along the sidewalk across the street. She also had the strange smile that the long-dead Iraqi woman had when her veil was finally removed.

Strangely, they had spent most of the last year and a half wearing face masks because of COVID-19. Nick wondered if the woman across the street was suffering some odd effect of wearing a mask for too long.

Still, he kept walking, his mental alertness at its peak and his folding lock-blade knife in his right hand. As he made the corner, he realized the woman was now behind him on the same sidewalk about 75 yards away.

He picked up his pace. Home and a sense of security were only a couple of hundred feet away.

Can’t Made This Sort of Stuff Up

A gunman held up a U.S. postal carrier in the early evening hours of June 7, along Kipling Drive in Dayton, Nevada.

Investigators with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) describe the suspect as a Black male, about 20 years old, five feet, seven or eight inches tall, last seen wearing a red hoodie, black shorts, and gold-colored shoes. The USPIS is offering $20,000 to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of the robber.

While there were no injuries during the robbery, the irony is that the U.S. Postal Service is advertising to hire another Dayton-area mail carrier.

Who Cares about Budgets?

Part of Center Street in Reno, between UNR and the railroad tracks at Commercial Row, was renamed University Avenue in 1920. Then in 1957, Reno renamed Center Street from Virginia Street north to the University as University Avenue.

Both times, Reno changed the name back to Center Street.

Now, in time for its 2024 sesquicentennial, UNR wants Reno to rename nine blocks between the Truckee River Bridge and the University gates along Center Street to University Way.

“The potential renaming provides a powerful testament to how important the University’s position as the doorstep to downtown Reno truly is,” said UNR President Brian Sandoval.

The Social Media Winner

Perhaps I’ve been slow in recognizing that people love to argue, win at all costs, and for no reason at all. Worse yet, we battle over unimportant stuff.

For example, I like to post historic photographs. I don’t post them without first vetting their background.

In the recent past, I’ve posted stuff without checking first, and some of my posts have come back to bite me in the ass. So I am careful.

Yesterday, a friend forwarded me a picture of a 16-mule team pulling two empty wagons up Geiger Grade in the 1870s. After researching it, I posted the photograph.

Within 24 hours, someone claimed that the photo was of “a 20-mule team returning empty from Daggett up the grade 1895.” Daggett is in the Death Valley area of California.

After following the link they provided, it was the same picture I’d posted. But once again, it is a 16-mule team and not a 20-mule team.

The person also claimed to know that the grade up the hill was “never that steep.” I wasn’t alive to know how steep Geiger Grade was in the mid-to-late 1800s, so I cannot argue that point.

But the clincher for me: They ended their argument with, “I got my information from an official government website.”

“There’s your problem, never trust the federal governement,” I wanted to argue but didn’t, and that makes them the winner.

The Wind

She awoke lying in the tall grass of the prairie. Despite being wrapped in a quilt tightly from head to toe and in the sun, Sarah still felt chilled.

It was much better than what she had been going through. The night before, she was deathly ill with a fever so high it was believed she would not make it till daylight.

Slowly Sarah pushed apart the blanket and sat up. She looked around but saw nothing save the high waving grasses.

The only sound was that of the unceasing wind that blew day and night, playing tricks on the mind. It was a maddening tumult that made a life among the Conestoga wagons nearly unbearable.

Though unnaturally quiet, Sarah did feel better and was soon on her feet. As Sarah pressed through the grass, she found no sign of the thirty wagons she had been a part of since St. Louis.

She called out to her husband. He did not answer.

Finally, she found deep wagon ruts gouged into the thick sod. She followed it for as far as she could before finally sitting down and crying in utter despair.

How long she sat there and cried and screamed and wailed, Sarah did not know. What she did know was that she knew the sound of a wagon train, with the plodding of the oxen hooves, the crack of the whip, the sound of the wheels creaking and cast iron pans clanking beneath the heavy wooden wagon frames.

Then she saw the first Connie of the westward-bound wagon train. Sarah scrambled to her feet, racing towards it.

The startled oxen tried to move off the trail. They were beaten back onto the path by a man walking on the left side of the team.

“Help me,” Sarah said. “They left me behind.”

The man failed to acknowledge her. He didn’t even look her way.

Sarah ran down the line screaming for help.

The fifth wagon back, where a woman walked beside a man, she wailed, “Please help me.”

“Did you hear that?” she asked her husband, her face a mask of fright. “It sounds like a woman crying.”

“It’s only the wind,” he said.

The Double-Slip

Wally Barrieau, Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps, returned from his third tour in Afghanistan a different man. He knew it, and so did everyone else, and that is why he felt it necessary to exit the service.

His sudden personality change happened after he became separated from his squad and ended up wandering around the desert, lost. During this time, April five through July 15, 2006, something so incredible happened to the Sergeant that he could not bring himself to speak of it.

It began with a massive dust-devil in the early morning hours. Once cleared, Barrieau found himself surrounded by wood-framed buildings, the kind he had only seen in old Western movies.

As he was assessing his situation, he heard a woman scream. Before he could react, he watched a man race from the nearby building.

Then he heard a door at the back of the building open and close.

“Where in the hell did you come from?” a voice asked from deep in a shadow of the building.

Barrieau paused, “You American?”

“Yeah?” the voice returned. “What else would I be.”

Barrieau had no time to answer as a man stepped out of the shadow and struck the confused Marine on the side of the head. Barieau dropped to his knees as a second blow fell.

Without thinking, Barrieau drew his service pistol and fired four times point-blank into the man’s body. The gunshots fell him instantly.

Bloodied and bruised, he was arrested while lying in the street outside the building with the man he’d shot on top of him. He was taken to jail to escape a quickly forming lynch mob.

That morning, Barrieau was presented before a judge, and a jury was hastily gathered.

“Why are you dressed so oddly?” the Judge asked.

“I’m a Marine and we’re at war,” Barrieau answered.

“What war is that?” the Judge asked, adding, “Not the Phillipines again?”

“Shut your mouth,” said Patrick McCarran, his defense attorney.

“Where am I?” Barrieau asked.

“Tonopah, Nevada,” McCarran responded. “Now shut up.”

The young man argued that his client had acted in self-defense against an attacker trying to avenge his mistress and not a lawman who was working in the line of duty.

Questions arose after Nye County Sheriff Tom Logan, a family man with eight children, was found dead clad only in a blue nightshirt. Logan had been spending the night with his mistress and brothel madam, May Biggs, not the heroic fight to stop a “pistol duel” between two “gamblers.”

Biggs claimed that Barrieau had been asleep in her parlor when she tried to rouse him and send him on his way.

“He elbowed me, and I yelled for him to ‘get out,'” she added.

“I was never inside any house,” Barrieau shouted before being ordered to remain quiet or be removed from the courtroom.

“At my scream, Tom burst from our bedroom and began beating him,” she said.

Seeing Logan had a gun and not knowing he was the county sheriff, Barrieau fired four shots, each striking Logan. The jury found Walter Barrieau innocent on July 13, 1906, and he became mostly lost to history.

Afghan sheepherders found Barrieau half-dead and informed a nearby Army patrol of his location. Barrieau laid in his hospital bed in Germany, not only suffering from a severe concussion and dehydration but unable to get the hallucination off his mind.

Eleven years later, Walter Barrieau saw the historical article in a newspaper column. And while his name was misspelled and the facts incorrect, he realized why he had disappeared from the pages of history.

“It’s one hell of a story and no one to tell,” he chuckled as he folded the paper up. “Besides who would believe me.”

As he left the casino’s restaurant, he walked to a corner store to buy a bottle of whiskey. Barieau would treat himself to a solid drunk because not only had he experienced a one-hundred-year-old time slip, he had also slipped the noose.

My Cousin Elmo says, “The only reason I speed is to get there before I forget where I’m going. Yeah, the cop didn’t buy it either.”

Bucket Listed

As I sat down to begin the job of researching news articles and seeing whom I might be able to call or visit to get a quote or statement, my wife came into the room, looked around, and sighed heavily.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“This mess,” she answered. “What am I going to do with it if you die before me?”

“Honestly,” I returned, a bit surprised, “I haven’t a clue.”

“Then we should get rid of it,” she said.

“That is easier said than done,” I protested.

“Why, if you don’t have any plans for all this crap?” she added.

It was my turn to sigh.

“All I want when I die is to be remembered for more than taking up space,” I said. “I don’t want to be famous, and I don’t need butt-loads of money, I jus’ wanna be remembered as someone who wore his heart on his sleeve and worked hard to make that happen by writing, painting, taking pictures and collecting stuff that people tend to no longer value.”

“So, in other words I’m stuck with all this shit until after your dead,” she replied.

“Pretty much,” I smiled. “Unless you kick the bucket first.”

Abductor Minimi Digiti

Instead of writing as I would have liked to have been doing, my day has been a myriad of chores. That is how Wednesday’s go as it is the only day I have off from my usual duties — in other words, I do not chase news stories on this day.

No. Wednesdays are filled with stripping the beds, washing and drying the sheets, and then remaking the beds. I also do all of the towels in the house, from both bathrooms to the kitchen.

I also wash all of the white cloths, fold and put them away.

Between washing, drying, folding, making, and hanging, I listen to music or do some reading. This morning I picked up my old copy of Gray’s Anatomy for no particular reason.

The book is a bunch of line drawings of the human body and labels. I used to use it for my emergency medical studies.

As I was looking at an illustration of the foot, I saw the name of the small strap of muscle that controls the outward flexion of the little toe. It is called the “abductor minimi digiti.”

Our hands have the same muscle, which also controls the outward flexion of the little finger. While I was quick to realize I could flex my little fingers outward from the accompanying four, I cannot move my little toes in the same manner.

Because I became obsessed with making my little toes do my bidding, I ended up behind in my chores. And this is why I am so late in writing this evening.

I have concluded that my little toes are not actually attached to my nervous system, and therefore the little band of muscle is as beneficial as a ruptured appendix.

The Politics of Plants and Drought

It’s been a long-held belief of mine that the politics between plants and drought are a double-edged sword that cuts both ways. Case in point…

A new Nevada law outlaws about 31 percent of the grass in the Las Vegas area to conserve water.

The ban targets what the Southern Nevada Water Authority calls “non-functional turf.” It applies to grass that virtually no one uses at office parks, in street medians, and at entrances to housing developments, but excludes single-family homes, parks, and golf courses.

The measure requires the replacement of about six square miles of grass in the metro Las Vegas area. By ripping it out, water officials estimate the region can conserve 10 percent of the water supply and save about 11 gallons per person per day in an area with about 2.3 million people.

When the ban takes effect in 2027, it will apply only to Southern Nevada Water Authority jurisdiction, including Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, Tiehm’s buckwheat, which grows only in Nevada’s high desert, should be protected according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The six-inch tall wildflower with yellow blooms is fewer than 30,000 individual plants and hasn’t been found growing anywhere else in the world. It can only be found along Rhyolite Ridge, west of the Town of Tonopah, in the Silver Peak Range.

This is “another man-made problem” problem.

My Cousin Elmo says, “I’m in Home Depot and some little shit called me an old fart. So, if you are missing your kid, they’re on aisle 17, red dryer.”

Up the Down Stair Well

It was jus’ before midnight as I left my friend’s home in Virginia City. Once out the front door, there is a set of well-lit stairs to the right of the porch.

The night breeze coming down from Sun Moutain, now known as Mt. Davidson, felt delicious, and so I paused, letting it cool me off. As I stood there, I saw a quick movement from the side of my eye.

Someone had peeked around the corner at the bottom of the stairs. I was sure they were planning to scare the crap out of me.

“Hello?” I called. “I saw you.”

No answer.

So I raced down the stairs to see if I could catch them. As I did this, I turned my camera on and let the flash engage.

My plan was to ‘blind’ them temporarily. It did not work out that way.

When the flash lit the area beyond the corner, I realized I was not dealing with anything ordinary. Whatever it was, it left my butt puckered as I stumbled up the stairs and ran to my truck.

The House of Lester

A tall, beautifully-built blonde with green eyes met him at her apartment door as he was preparing to knock. Vicky had a way of doing that to Tim.

Raised in what some would call a “commune,” but what followers believed was a “community, Vicky intrigued him, and he hoped that he did more for her than that. She was like two different people, one fun-loving and adventurous, the other academic, serious, and he was still learning to distinguish between the two.

She was fun-loving and adventurous today.

“I have a surprise for you,” she said as she pulled the door closed behind her.

Tim followed her out to her Mini Cooper, “But we can’t take my car, so we’ll have to take your truck.”

“No prob,” Tim said.

Forty-five minutes later and several miles of rugged dirt road behind them, they came to a rise that overlooked a ghost town hidden in the folds of the Nevada desert. Vicky smiled as she watched the look of amazement on Tim’s face.

“Wow,” he said.

“I knew you’d love it,” she said.

They slowly drove down the steep embankment and into the wide center strip of land that had served as the main street at one point. The buildings, though old and abandoned, were in good shape.

Tim reached behind the seat of his truck and pulled out his camera. Vicky could see that he was excited about the photographic possibilities of the place.

“How did you find this?” Tim asked.

“I didn’t,” she answered. “It found me.”

He wanted to ask her to explain, but it wasn’t the first time she had said this, so he knew it was useless. Instead, he allowed his mind to wander to a favorite subject, the Spann Ranch.

The ranch, as it was known, had been a one-time movie set. Forgotten since the hay-day of Western films, save for Charlie Manson and his followers, Spann was hardly used, except for a hang-out.

Not counting location, the abandoned town could be the same.

Without thinking, he said, “And to think I’m here with a woman whose family was considered ‘the Manson family of the East Coast.'”

The smile slipped from Vicky Lester’s face as she replied, “I know, why do you think I brought you out here.”

Tim felt a sudden chill of death’s hand surge over his body as he came to realize his mistake.

Exposing a Pattern of Fauci’s Fraud

It was no surprise that my wife knew about the possibility of having to get a booster shot for COVID-19. It was also not surprising that she did not know about the Freedom Of Information Act that netted three thousand emails from Dr. Anthony Fauci’s government account.

While I do not want to go into the email’s contents, I will say that Fauci’s integrity is under fire. They are online and searchable if you are interested in learning more details.

That aside, I have not liked the man since the AIDS ‘epidemic.’ I like him even less since I recognized a pattern.

In many of his emails, he seems to agree COVID-19 may have been a viral bat-to-human transfer. We know that is not untrue.

It is the same direction he took with AIDS. In 1984, the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases reported that HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) might be a monkey-to-human viral transfer.

Though no one knew it at the time, Fauci is the one who developed that theory. So when I heard of the bat-to-human viral transfer premise and that Fauci was involved, I knew it to be bull shit.