Five Days, Three Deaths, One Area

Passings like these do not happen very often. It is so rare, in fact, that it needed pointing out.

Sue Thompson, known for singing “Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)” and “Norman,” passed away Thu., Sep. 23, 2021, in Pahrump, an hour outside of Las Vegas. She was 96 years old.

Tommy Kirk, known for his portrayal of Travis Coates in “Old Yeller,” was found deceased at his Las Vegas home on Tue., Sep. 28, 2021. He was 79 years old.

Michael Tylo, who played Quinton Chamberlain on the soap opera “Guiding Light,” died Tue., Sep. 28, 2021, at University Medical Center in Las Vegas. He was 73 years old.

When Love Doesn’t Die

She came to him after dark, and he took her under his many blankets. Alice Roman Nose was immensely cold, and he did his best to warm her, though she was more interested in his intimacy.

Finally, Garrett Johnstone gave in, and they spent the remainder of the small hour making love.

It was nearing sunrise when he got up and stoked the tent stove to reduce the chill. Then Johnstone returned to the pallet where the war chief’s daughter still slept.

He laid beside Alice and thanked his lucky star that she finally saw his love for her before drifting back to sleep.

Johnstone woke overheated from the noonday sun, so he opened the tent flaps to cool the interior. Next, he moved to the stove and found his coffee pot.

As he placed it on the stove, Johnstone saw Alice was no longer among the blankets. He raced to the doorway and looked out, finding not even a footprint in the freshly fallen snow.

Puzzled, he quickly dressed and stepped outside. It took Johnstone no time to find the odd-looking snowdrift a few feet to the left of the tent and Alice’s body frozen from the night before.

Off the Beaten News Path

Over this last weekend, the Street Vibrations Fall Festival was in Virginia City. The town is part of my news beat, so naturally, I spent a lot of my time there.

It amazes me to walk into one of the local saloons and find myself in conversation with strangers. In this case, it was several members of a Marine Corps motorcycle club.

As we sat jawing, one guy asked me what I did for a living. I explained that I write for the local newspaper, and he asked, “You mean the one Mark Twain wrote for?”

“No,” I said, “That paper is no longer in print, but I do work for the one that took its place.”

He immediately turned to the other members of the club and hollered, “Sam Clemen’s replacement is here.”

Perfect Marine humor.

To that, the entire bar burst out in laughter, and I turned beet-red. And when I thought my embarrassment couldn’t get any worse, someone in the back of the bar shouted, “You mean Foghorn Leghorn?”

Dog Door and Nightlight

It was just before midnight when the dog hopped from the bed and started down the hallway. There was a brief light than a sound as the man gently returned to sleep.

As he slipped into unconsciousness, he was sure that the light was the hallway nightlight and the sound, the plastic flap on the dog door. Then it happened again, but he was too far asleep to realize the light had come before the sound when it should have been in reverse.

He felt the dog hop onto the bed and curl up. He’d learn the truth come daylight.

Petito Case Draws Renewed Attention to Missing Arizona Geologist

Over the last couple of days, I have seen a broad spectrum of complaints that a missing “white woman” is getting more press time than a missing “black man.” The blame rests with the national media and their reporting practices. Odd how half of the nation knows and understands how biased the media are and how the other half continues to defend these so-called journalists.

In 2019, Daniel Robinson graduated from the College of Charleston in South Carolina. Not long after, he was hired as a field geologist and moved to Phoenix, Arizona.

Co-workers last saw Robinson at about 9:15 a.m. on Wed., Jun. 23, 2021, testing groundwater near Sun Valley Parkway and Cactus Road. At some point, he got into his blue 2017 Jeep Renegade and drove away.

The Buckeye, Ariz., Police Department received the report of his disappearance that evening.

Authorities immediately checked with local hospitals and conducted a ground search for the missing man. Later, the Arizona Civil Air Patrol completed several rigorous air searches for Robinson.

Investigators spoke with his friends and family to gather information about him and where he may have gone. They learned that before vanishing, he had been “acting strange” and “seemed withdrawn.”

Detectives obtained cellphone and financial records but were unable to locate any information to aid in the search. They also tried to access the On-Star technology from his Jeep, but there was no power to it. Police pinged his cellphone but could not get location data because it was either turned off or out of range.

On Tues., Jul. 20, 2021, a cattle rancher found his Jeep about four miles southwest of his last known location. The Jeep appeared to have rolled 20 feet down into a ravine.

The airbags had deployed. But it was determined that Robinson had been wearing his seatbelt when the Jeep entered the ravine. The driver-side window, however, was smashed, and the windshield cracked.

His boots, safety vest, cellphone wallet, and keys were near the vehicle. Detectives conducted a ground search of the area surrounding the Jeep but came up empty.

The 24-year-old Robinson stands five-foot-eight, weighs between 150 to 165 pounds, has black hair and brown eyes. He was born without his lower right arm.

If you have information regarding Robinson, contact the Buckeye Police Department at 623-349-6400 or 623-523-0234. You can also contact Crime Stoppers at 1-888-274-6372.

Chasing the Hanging Pumpkin

Perhaps it was Buddy-dog moving, or maybe it was not knowing the sound as I slept. Either way, I woke up ever so slightly to listen.

Ah, the wind and the sound of bits of rock showering the side of the house, that’s all. I slipped back into sleep.

How much time passed, I have no idea.

It was the throaty growl of Buddy as he alerted. This time I got up, pulled on my nightshirt, slipped into my tennis shoes, and strapped my pistol and belt to my hip, picking up my mag-lite along the way.

Quietly, Buddy and I went to the sliding glass door and slipped into the back yard I was sure that the mysterious sound had come from the side of the house, and it was more than the sand and rocks whipped up by the wind. Nothing.

Buddy stood at the doorway as I searched the yard and the other side of the house. Again, nothing.

Heading inside, I secured the door and went to the front door. I stepped out onto the front porch and did a quick sweep of the area. I walked to the end of the porch, to the other end of the porch, around my pick-up truck and again found nothing that hinted the slightest to the sound I knew I had heard.

Buddy and I were standing on the porch. I was looking up and down the street, seeing if I could see even a hint of movement or hear the tiniest of sounds when a heavy gust of wind came streaming by. Both the dog and I jumped as from behind us a large thump emitted.

Turning, I pointed my pistol in the direction of the sound and flicked on my flashlight. Found it — my wife’s new green, glittering metal pumpkin welcome sign hanging by the door.

After holstering my sidearm, taking the sign down, and bringing it inside, I slunk back to bed, with Buddy close behind, aware of my silliness.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.