Jack Miner’s Discovery

Photo courtesy C E Ayr

Friday Fictioneers — for details about this group, see Rochelle’s blog.

My response to this photo may be WAY off from the general scene. However, I did see a Canadian grain hopper car in this picture, which reminded me of an incident Jack Miner related in his book, Jack Miner and the Birds, copyright 1923. Read this book years ago, so am retelling the episode as I remember it.

Solomon says, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard…” One could also take a tip from these ambitious field mice.

In the northern Ontario woods Jack and his fellow hunters made camp one autumn afternoon. Needing firewood, they felled a towering dead pine. Halfway up the trunk they discovered a field mouse nest with a quart of wheat cached inside.

Puzzled, Jack set down his axe and looked around. Where on earth… Ah!

Several miles north they’d seen rails. Grain cars from the prairies, carrying wheat bound for Thunder Bay terminals, bumped over rough spots. Kernels sifted through cracks, falling onto the tracks. These industrious mice were making that trip day after day, stocking their larder for the winter ahead.

Susan, Lady of Leisure #1


“Now don’t you be in here with sunstroke next week!” Lynn, the head nurse winked as she waggled her finger at Susan. She cut a piece of the celebratory cake, dropped it onto a paper plate, and handed it to Susan. “Here’s the biggest piece for our guest of honor.”

“Best of luck, girl. You’ll be a lady of leisure now,” said Ethel, another ward nurse. “I’m sure looking forward to joining you – but I’ve got ten more years to go,” she added with a sigh.

“Well, I’m cheating to retire at 55, but with the inheritance from my Uncle James adding a bit to my pension, why shouldn’t I?” Susan admired the neatly formed icing rose on her piece of cake and shoved it to the side of her plate to keep as a souvenir of this party.

Nurse Karen balanced her plate of cake in one hand and patted Susan’s shoulder with the other. “You just enjoy your retirement years. You’ve earned it. And just think: no cranky old ladies hollering ‘Nurse! I need a bedpan.’ Lucky you!”

“I prescribe sunny southern climates all winter for the next twenty years,” said one of the Residents as he shook Susan’s hand.

“That sounds great! But I probably can’t afford that lifestyle if I’m not working 8-5 every day.” Susan chuckled at the mental picture of herself basking in the sun at the Riviera. With her fair complexion, plus being rather pale from years of working indoors, she might look like a boiled lobster if she spent too much time in the sun right off the bat.

Susan’s daughter Rhoda, who had taken time off to join the celebration, told the group, “Mom may not be doing the South Seas every winter, but she’s bought a neat little bungalow in a small southern village right on the coast close to Bournemouth.”

“Good for her,” Nurse Amanda cheered. “When can I come for a visit.” Everyone laughed.

“Will you be renting out a spare room for guests?” Nurse Collin asked in a teasing tone. “My wife would love a weekend down at the coast. Stuck here in Aylesbury all our lives, never toured southern England yet.”

Susan looked around the staff’s lunch room at the coworkers, dear to her heart, who’d come to say farewell. She smiled at the “Happy Days Ahead!” banner someone had tacked on one wall. In spite of the joyful occasion, which marked the end of running back and forth along this ward, she felt tears prick her eyes.

Yes, she’d had her holidays and some hobbies that kept her busy, but the past twenty-five years of her life had been devoted to this place. She’d gone back to nursing to support herself and her two children after Harvey’s death and the work had been a lifeline for her in more ways than one. What would she do now?

Susan made up her mind right there: she would not become a lonely old widow. As she nibbled at her cake her mind started flipping through the possibilities — all the dreams she’d had, some of which she might now be able to fulfill. She chuckled. If she got too bored she could always enroll in university.

Stella, another nurse a few years younger than Susan, wrapped an arm around her and gave her a gentle squeeze. “We’ll miss you. You’ve been so good with the patients. You’ve definitely earned your day of rest, Susan. Put your feet up. Read some good books.”

Susan waved her hand upwards. “I sure will. The sky’s the limit!”

At the end of the party Susan circled around the lunch room one last time, gave everyone a hug and left them with a promise to follow the prescribed course of treatment: total rest. Together with her daughter she walked down the hall and pushed the elevator button, dabbing at a few lingering tears.

“This is so sweet,” she said to Rhoda. “Last time on this elevator. Freedom!” They got off by the staff exit and Susan walked out that door for the last time.

To Be Continued…

FULL HOUSE–Book Report

© 2012 by Maeve Binchy

This book is classed as a “Quick Read” and it was. I picked it up at the library last week and read it in one evening. It was also a delightful tale, the story of Dee & Liam, whose adult children still live at home and are totally at ease in the old nest. The young folks are totally focused on their own personal problems and take it for granted Mom look after all their physical needs: the cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.

Then Dee & Liam face a financial and emotional crash and Dee realizes this system can’t go on. But now, how to go about re-educating their offspring after years of “training” them to be careless and self-centered? A rebellion is in order here.

I think this story could be a great eye-opener for teenagers and young adults living at home as well as for parents of teens and young adults.

Back cover blurb:
Rosie moved out when she got married, but it didn’t work out, so now she is back with her parents. Helen is a teacher and doesn’t earn enough for a place of her own. Anthony writes songs and is just waiting for the day when someone will pay him for them. Until then, all three are happy at home. It doesn’t cost them anything and surely their parents like having a full house?

Then there is a crisis and Dee decides things have to change for the whole family…whether they like it or not.

The House that Tom & Susie Built

“Oh, to be more patient!” Susie sighed as she got ready for bed that night. If only Tom could see my point! I don’t want to be a nag but he needs to make some changes — for the good of our home.

For one thing, he could say ‘No’ to some of these pleas for help. Like this morning when Uncle Jim called. Could Tom do a few repairs for Grandma?

“Yes, we love Grandma,” Susie had countered, “but any of your cousins could help her. They just say they’re too busy; well, we’re busy, too! We’ll never get our own house finished if you’re always helping this one and that one. Say ‘No’ this time!”

And had he listened? No. Then he wasn’t home in time for dinner, either, and the children became whiny and hard to manage. Irked, Susie grumbled at him after he did get home until he snapped back at her and stomped out to mow the lawn. The girls stood looking at her in wide-eyed silence until she shooed them outside to play. And Javon started to fuss.

Susie warmed up a bottle for him. “I guess I should apologize,” she told Javon as she fed him his bottle. “But maybe your daddy will think about this, too, and see that charity begins at home.” She brushed away the feelings of guilt.

Javon fell asleep and she started to vacuum, but she found resentment a bitter companion and was very thankful when Tom came in to say he was sorry. She apologized, too, and they both agreed that they wanted a happy home.

That night Susie whispered a prayer into her pillow. “I do want to be a good helpmeet for him, Lord. But there’s so much to do around here and the children need their Dad and… Well, You know it all. Please help us.” Then weariness overcame her and she fell asleep.

Next thing Susie knew, she and Tom were walking down a long road that stretched out ahead of them, then started to curve.

As they walked along, she had a sense of years passing. She glanced at Tom and saw with surprise that he had a cane in his other hand and was leaning on it a lot. She saw the grey in his hair and knew that hers was turning white, too.

Suddenly from around the bend in the road a man came toward them. With a spring in his step and a cheerful hello, he beckoned them.

“You must be the Reeds. I’ve come to show you your new house.”

She and Tom looked at each other in surprise and delight. The man, who seemed to be a real estate agent, led them around the next bend. Beside the road they saw a lovely new cottage.

Susie gasped. “Is this ours?”

“No,” the agent replied, “this is the home of John and Linda Thomas.”

Right then an elderly couple opened the door and waved at them. It was indeed a couple they knew from their congregation, but they were both very old now.

“Well, they certainly do deserve that neat home,” said Susie. “They’ve been so faithful in the church and such a good example to us all.”

The man smiled. “Yes, they’ve been building well all these years.”

They walked along farther and passed other houses, some looking very good and some rather ramshackle. One place wasn’t much more than a heap of crooked boards tossed together. The couple outside were bickering with each other.

The agent shook his head. “Even in old age some folks are still trying to decide whose fault it is.”

“I hope we don’t have them for neighbours,” Susie said curtly.

A few miles later the agent stopped beside another house. “And here we are, folks. This one is yours!”

Tom and Susie walked over to the house and eyed it dubiously. The siding had some jagged edges, a few boards were put on at odd angles. The door frame wasn’t quite straight.

“This is ours?” Tom sounded puzzled. He studied it up and down, and wandered around to the back, leaving Susie alone with the agent.

Susie examined the house and said to herself, “Somebody sure made a mess of things!”
The man seemed to read her thoughts. “It has been fairly well built. A few flaws here and there, but most of it is quite sound.”

He opened the door and Susie followed him into the cottage. Floor tiles were missing here and there. The fireplace stones stuck out at odd angles; amazing they didn’t tumble down!

“Oh, there must be some mistake,” she protested. “This can’t be ours!”

“Madam, I assure you, there’s no mistake,” he answered politely. “This is the house you and Tom have been building all these years. And you’ve done a halfway decent job, too. Some really good materials here.” He rapped on the wall. “Most of the subfloor is good wood. Most of the studs are in place, though some are a bit warped. Most of the roof is intact.”

“But…we would never build a place like this!”

“This is indeed your work, Mrs. Reed. What you have here is what you’ve put into your marriage all these years. You reap what you sow, you know.”

He pointed to the floor tiles. “Most of the time you and Tom have spoken to each other with respect — but not always.” Then he indicated several holes in the ceiling. “You and Tom have patched up most of your quarrels, but not all of them.” He waved at the gaps between the wall and the ceiling. “Times when each of you insisted on getting your own way. A bit was lost in your building. Selfishness is such a thief!”

Susie examined the fireplace with its stones askew and he explained. “These are the times you’ve accepted each other’s faults charitably — or complained angrily. They’re all here, just as you’ve stacked them.”

Susie cringed. What he was saying was too true. Sick at heart, she walked into the kitchen. The cabinets looked attractive, except that some of the doors were warped.
She didn’t dare ask, but he told her anyway. “Most of the time you’ve been honest with each other, but not always.”

Susie blushed, remembering a few of those times. “If only we’d known it would all show up like this,” she wailed. “How can we ever live here?”

The agent drew himself up in a huff. “That’s not my problem, Mrs. Reed. I’m only the agent of Time. My job was to bring you here and I have. All these years you and Tom have been building your old age. And may I remind you that when you were young you thought these things were good enough. ‘About like other couples,’ I believe you said then.”

He walked over to the entrance. “If you’d wanted something better now, you should have started years ago. Remember the old proverb: A wise woman buildeth her house, but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.”

Susie hung her head in shame. “If I’d only known I was building I’d someday have to live with…”

“Perhaps you could still make a few repairs,” he suggested cheerfully as he opened the door. “And now, good day, Mrs. Reed. I have others to bring to their houses, too, including your children. They’re married now and are building their own homes.”

“My children! What kind of houses will they have? If only they could see…”

“No doubt they will be following the example you’ve left them, so their houses will be half-ways decent, too,” he assured her. Then he stepped out the door into a whoosh of wind and was gone, leaving Susie standing there contemplating his last words.

She turned around to look over the house again and a wave of despair overcame her. How many repairs could they make at this late date? She sat down in a chair and began to sob.
Then Tom was beside her and his arm was around her. “It’s all right, Susie. Don’t cry. We’ll do what we can.”

Suddenly she was sitting up in bed, with Tom’s arm around her. “It’s all right, Susie. Don’t cry,” he was saying. “You must have had a bad dream.”

Susie nodded, then thought again. “No, I’ve had a very good dream. and I hope I’ll remember it for a long time. She leaned on his shoulder. “Oh, Tom, I’ve been fussing so much about getting this earthly house finished and I’ve been neglecting the most important one!”

The Tenderfoot

The minute he stepped out of the stagecoach that morning we could tell he was a tenderfoot. A real lily. His boots were clean; his jeans had no holes; his hands had no callouses. After the first afternoon of riding the trail in the hot sunshine he says he’s feeling “a bit faint.” La-de-dah.

The second day on the trail he asked the cook if we’d ever be served oysters. Can you imagine? Cook’s roar of laughter almost spooked the cattle. But we’d break him in. We make all our new ranch hands into real cowpokes if we can and we usually have a lot of fun doing it. But this one was a real jewel – or should I say “a pearl.”

We were sure to warn him that when he used nature’s biffy he should turn over every rock around in case a rattler was hidden under one. After all, we’d say, “You don’t want any painful jabs in the behind and we don’t want to have to lance and drain ‘em.” Of course we all stood around sober as a judge as we told him, and he still hasn’t been informed that there are no rattlers in these parts.

After that I don’t know if he was more scared of the rattlers or of us; every time he lit off his horse he looked around real careful first. Well, that was just too good to resist, you know. One afternoon while the rest of us rode on, Art slips back and picks up this garter snake he’d seen beside the trail. Carries it along in his saddle bag until we make camp. When our tenderfoot goes off to dreamland, Art sticks this snake in one of his boots.

Next morning you should have heard him yell when he stuck his toe into the boot and the poor snake wriggled a bit. ‘Course we all offer to cut of a few of his toes if the snake bit him. Cook flashed a nasty-looking cleaver and we tell him it’s the only way to save his life. Thought he was going to keel over right there and then, ‘til he realized we were just funning him.

Early one morning, just for fun, Sam pours out a little gun powder around a dried up bush, then trails off behind a nearby tree. When our tenderfoot ambles off toward the woods for some privacy, Sam’s waiting, flat out, behind that tree. He lights the gunpowder and we all watch out the corner of our eye as this little flash of white zips long to the bush and gets there at exactly the same minute as our new cowpoke. Suddenly there was this poof and flash as the bush combusted. He jumped three feet and took off running. Did we ever laugh!

Oh, we had our fun with that guy in the four days he was with us. But he found the work too strenuous, so he quit and went to college. I believe he became a dentist; heard his name in the capital city one time I was there.

Look him up if you ever get a toothache. He was a good guy; probably didn’t deserve a bunch of rascals like us.

Short on Perception

Would-Be Writer Finds A Successful Career

Tony was born into a family of short people and received the physical genetics of his forebears. His great-grandfather was 5’2″; his grandfather was 5’3″; his father was 5’4″ and so was Tony.

His great-grandfather had built a home for his new bride some hundred years ago, built it to fit the size of people they were, and it suited them well. Tony grew up in this house and it was his idea of a great place to live, so he was delighted when he inherited the family home. It was the perfect fit for him and his short wife.

To earn his daily bread Tony took up building houses. He was a conscientious fellow, did quality work and built many houses. But his houses had what some people considered a serious flaw; they were built Tony’s size. For one thing, the doors in his houses were 6′ high and not an inch more.

People would say to him, “Tony, why don’t you put bigger doors in your houses? You know there are a lot of people higher than 6′ and they always have to duck to get in the door.”

“Those folks are too tall,” Tony would reply. “If they’re going to be so high-minded they’ll just have to bend a little. A little exercise would be good for them. My houses are simple and adequate; I’m building them the way the good Lord wants me to build them.”

“But Tony” argued one fellow, “surely the Good Lord knows there are people over six feet tall. If you’d just make a few changes, your houses would fit more people and your sales would be much better.”

“Nope,” said Tony. “Nobody needs a door over six feet high. I build what I build; take it or leave it. My sales are enough for me and my family and the house plan I’ve used for years works well for me. Why should I change anything?”

Tony built house after house and sold a lot to shorter people like himself. Unfortunately, no one over six feet ever bought a house he’d built. In fact – being so lofty and all – they tended to avoid even entering a house Tony had built. So his sales were modest; a number of his houses even sat empty because they just didn’t suit many people or their tall relatives who may want to visit occasionally. Tony just shrugged. That was their problem.

Tony retired early from the building trade. Later, wanting to add some zip to his retirement years, he decided to write his memoirs – then maybe even a few novels. Why, in time he could perhaps earn a nice income from writing. So he bought himself an up-to-date computer and spent hours completing his memoirs, then handed his manuscript to various relatives. They all nodded; it sounded good to them. Just like Tony himself speaking.

Then Tony got braver and sent his memoir to a few publishers, but no one was buying. After a number of rejections he decided he would publish the book himself. He was sure people would be interested in what he had to say, so he scraped together the cash and took it to a local printer.

The printer read the manuscript, then told him, “Tony, your memoir is interesting as a whole, but I find it hard to read. Your grammar needs help and some expressions you’ve used don’t compute with me. Maybe they are your family’s expressions but most people won’t know them. And some of those sentences should be gone over with a steam iron to flatten them out. Your clauses are as tangled and streamers in the wind.”

Then the fellow ventured to suggest, “Could you maybe find an editor to help you make this more readable? I think if your book were easier to read and understand, it would be more acceptable to a wider audience and your sales would be better.”

“Nope,” said Tony. “An editor would change too much. My family understand it. Other people just need to put forth a little effort and they could understand it, too. Anyway, the good Lord is my Editor. He’s told me what to write.”

“Umm… But surely the good Lord knows more about sentence structure and grammar than you seem do?”

“God doesn’t worry about such things. He’s only concerned with the message – and so am I. My writing is done in the simple, homespun style God loves. If people can’t understand what I’ve written it must be because they are too high-minded and vain. It would be a good exercise for them to read this; they need to come down to a more common level.”

So Tony had his memoir printed and he sold a lot of copies to his friends and relatives. He tried to sell it at various local Farmer’s Markets but didn’t have much luck. Many curious people picked it up, but after glancing through the first few pages they put it back on the shelf. Likely too lofty to appreciate such simple fare, Tony thought as he watched them stroll away. Not interested in exercises that would be good for them.

However, the poor reception did get him down some and one morning he said to his wife, “You know, writing just hasn’t done much for me. I haven’t ever recovered my costs from printing the first book, so there’s no point doing another. I think I’ll try something else – maybe small engine repair.”

So Tony bought a “Repairing Small Engines” manual and studied it carefully. He talked with other repair men and hung out in shops where he could watch engines being repaired until he got a handle on the process. Then he hung out his shingle; soon he had a great business and no spare time to wonder about spending. Tony had found his perfect fit.

He shakes his head when someone mentions his book. “I guess the good Lord just didn’t want me to be a writer.”

The Road I Did Take

No doubt everyone is familiar with Robert Frost’s lament in his poem, The Road Not Taken. Our writing prompt one day was to stand at that crossroads ourselves — and choose the other road. What do we find at the end of it?


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

My Own Imagined Journey:

I stood for a few moments contemplating the two roads, then chose to follow the one more travelled by. For hours I walked on the gravelled path, descending at times into little wooded valleys. At one point I caught the smell of the sea and concluded the coast couldn’t be far off.

Over one last hill I went, paused on its brink and took in the blue horizon. Then I spied near the shore below me a neat little town with folks strolling here or there. Beyond it I saw a busy harbor scene with half a dozen ships at anchor. Sailors were carting kegs and trunks off or onto several ships.

I quickened my steps and arrived in the town an hour later, feeling the need of some nourishment. I stopped a friendly-looking stranger to inquire where I’d find an inn and he steered me in the direction of the Crab & Crow. There I found a cheerful hostel with a decent meal on offer and a room where I could spend the next few nights.

For several days I wandered back and forth through the town, enjoying the feel of the place and the good humor of the inhabitants. I decided to put down some roots in this congenial spot, so I found myself a job braiding rope and located a tiny house for rent.

In time I made the acquaintance of my neighbor, a ship captain who told me of all his voyages across the seas. Something began to stir within me, a vague unrest I couldn’t understand, a feeling there must be something more for me than this quiet life.

Then one day the Captain says to me, “I’m to take another ship across to France. You should come along for the ride. We can always use a man on board who can mend our ropes.” My spirit was roused and I felt a yearning such as I’d never known before. Dreams of gliding over the briny deep and visions of exotic places filled my mind.

I walked down to the pier one morning with the Captain and stood surveying his vessel, its sails billowing in the wind. A surge swelled in my bosom and swept me up to castles in the air. I had the same sensation that I’d had a year before when I stood at the crossroads and chose the path that brought me here. Now my little home and present life were on one hand and another road was beckoning to me.

I quickly accepted the Captain’s offer. Had I only known where this road would take me!


And there I leave you to imagine a suitable ending for this tale.

Colourfully Created Crawlies

crab-298346_640“And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.”
Genesis 1: 20-22

Just think how much fun He must have had designing this one!

(Reblogged from Swallow in the Wind)
Crab from Equador; Photo from Pixabay

Leslie McFarlane: Ghost of the Hardy Boys

In the past year or so my grandson has gotten enthused about the Hardy Boys mystery series and I offered to write him a mystery like one of those, so have read a number of these books in preparation. A person could almost get hooked!

So on Thursday when I was browsing the shelves of the Saskatoon Library and spied the autobiography of Leslie McFarlane, entitled Ghost of the Hardy Boys, I brought it home and read part of it yesterday. Knowing the series he’s writing about, I found this book interesting. His writing style is lively and descriptive — though there’s a bit of off-color language.

In this book he tells about growing up in a northern Ontario mining community, the interesting characters who peopled his younger years, then how he got into writing for local papers. After this modest start he moved to the US and landed a reporter’s job in Springfield, MA. While he was covering the “Hotel Beat” for the Springfield Republican, he typed out a reply to an ad for a fiction writer, dropped it in the mail, and forgot about it.

A few weeks later he received a letter; he was offered an outline and should write a couple of chapters as a trial; if his writing was acceptable, he could do the whole book. He was sent two books as sample copies and given the outlines for two more. This started his ghostwriting career for the Stratemeyer Syndicate, where he first did several Dave Fearless books under the pen name Roy Rockwood, then the first twenty-two Hardy Boys books under the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon and four Dana Girls mysteries as Carolyn Keene. (He says he made his wife promise not to tell a soul about that one.)

After he’d churned out the first seven Hardy Boys stories and had sold a few freelance articles, he felt he was able to make it financially without writing for the Syndicate. In fact, he and his wife were planning to move to Bermuda where he’d continue his writing career — but before he’d sent his letter of resignation to Edward Stratemeyer something happened that shook the world. October 1929. “Black Friday.” Writing markets crashed along with everything else.

During those years of the Great Depression he was thankful for the Hardy Boys series that maintained even sales and kept the McFarlane’s larder supplied. In time the world recovered and so did his freelance writing prospects. Later he worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp, wrote and directed documentaries and dramas, was able to support himself comfortably with sales to magazines as well, and finally gave up his association with the Syndicate. Another ghostwriter — maybe even more than one —  became Franklin W. Dixon. This is apparently the best selling boys’ series ever with book sales in the millions.

McFarlane was born in 1902 in Carleton Place, Ontario, and died in 1977, just short of his 75th birthday, a prolific writer to the end.

Ghost of the Hardy Boys, by Leslie McFarlane
© 1976 by Methuen Publications

Day By Day Deeds of Kindness

An interesting thing happened one day at the Doughnut shop where I worked some years back. there were a few derelicts that came in from time to time, usually just to ask for a drink of water. One of them had come in and was standing beside a table when a car pulled up to the drive-thru window.

I had taken her order; now I handed the thirty-something woman in the car the coffee she’d requested. As she handed me her money she included another $1.50, pointing to the derelict and saying, “Give that man a coffee, too.”

I doubt if she knew him at all, just noticed his poverty and thought a cup of coffee might soothe it a bit. I also doubt he would have had the money to buy himself a coffee. He was very grateful when I called him over to the counter and handed him the beverage. Her small act of kindness happened in a minute’s time, but it touched me deeply and has stayed with me for years. Probably because it reproved my own attitude, my unwillingness to share with down-and-out types.

“Remember that the opportunity for great deeds may never come, but the opportunity for good deeds is renewed day by day. the thing for us to long for is the goodness, not the glory.”  F.W. Faber