They seem cruel now–but, back then they were attempts to gain control.  Different from admonitions, these were warnings; do/don’t do this, or this will happen.

“Come on, I’m going.  I’m not telling you again.  OK, you can just stay here at Aunt Edna’s.  Your Bubba bear is going to miss you.”

A few tears, later and the recalcitrant youngun’ came dragging along.  He wasn’t about to abandon his favorite teddy bear.

Behind Rose’s Market was an outhouse and a storage building.  The small town grocery store, was an after school meeting place.  Old men from town, met in the back, by the oil-burning stove, for their daily gossip fest.  Charlie Rose, the proprietor, gave a familiar warning.

“Get away from that shed–the boogeyman will get you.”

Grandparents gave an ultimatum or two.  Some of them quite macabre.

“Don’t play on the telephone.”  Or, Nelson Fenton, proprietor of the local independent telephone company, would come and, “Cut our ears off.”

Ultimatums came from everywhere, from aunts and uncles, teachers, townspeople.  They were battles of wills; attempts to maintain order.

“If you don’t stop crying and behave, I’m going to take you to the doctor and get you a shot.”

That usually did the trick.  No kid I knew liked getting shots.  Working in health care later, I discovered this approach, hindered more than it helped.

“Hit your sister again, and I’ll swat your butt.”  Direct and to the point–nothing else needed to be said.

Along the path to maturity, these ultimatums were no more cruel, than those elsewhere in the animal kingdom.  Mother cats cuffed misbehaving offspring; carried them by the scruff of their necks when necessary.  All creatures had to learn their places.  There were consequences for misbehavior.





fishing 1

I formerly resided at 128 East 5th Street in a small town.

As it turned out, the resident at 128 West 5th Street was a deadbeat and delinquent on his water bill.

When I returned home from work one evening there was no water.  I called the water department.

“I don’t have any water at my house.”  I told the clerk.

I went through the particulars, gave name, address.  “Uh-oh,” the clerk said.  “I think I know what happened.”

By that time, I could barely stand the suspense.  “What is it?  What happened?”

“Your address got mixed up,” She said.  “What do you mean–mixed up?  I haven’t gone anywhere.”

The next part was befitting the town of Mayberry and the Andy Griffith Show.

“The resident at 128 W. 5th, was supposed to have his water turned off, not 128 E. 5th.”

“Well, I need water–when can you turn it back on?”  I pleaded.

“I don’t know,” She answered.  “Lefty’s gone fishing.  I don’t know when he’ll be back”

In this one-horse town, Lefty was the water department.

I couldn’t wait for the conclusion of Lefty’s angling exploits.  My landlord and I turned the water back on.  I don’t think Lefty ever knew or cared.



Think about the town where you currently live: its local customs, traditions, and hangouts, its slang, what would be the strangest thing about this place for a first-time visitor?

canned peaches

There’s no mistaking, this is the Deep South–with cotton fields, boiled peanuts, and pecans.  They’re “pe-caahhns, ” and not “pe-cans”–like the “can” in “tin can.”

The village was named, Elberta, just like the varietal peach.  The orchards are no longer here.  Non-locals commonly change the name to “Alberta.”  We’re nowhere near the similar-sounding, Canadian province.

“You’re not from around here–are you?”  That’s a phrase you won’t hear in Elberta.  Most people came here from somewhere else.  The town was founded by German immigrants.  Elberta is best known  for German sausage festivals in spring and fall.

Elberta, is a wonderful mixture of funky, junky, home-grown, modern and old-fashioned, spread out along highway 98.  Signs of civilization are everywhere.  There are still plenty of wide-open spaces.

There’s a great little combo, gas station, grocery, and meat market. The “Road Kill Restaurant” is further down the street.  A nearby county heritage museum honors early settlers.

At “Grits and Gravy,” a favorite breakfast hangout, the proprietor carries a sidearm.  That could be unnerving to some newcomers. One of the restaurant employees was robbed on the way home from work.

“Elberta, Fur Das Gute Leben,” ( for the good life), proclaimed by welcome signs on both ends of town. 

I felt comfortable here–that’s why I stayed.




Today write about anything–but you must write for exactly ten minutes, no more, no less.

“Since you’re already in the kitchen, could you make me some popcorn?”  Sid asked.

“Make it yourself!” Mary answered.  “I’ve got laundry to fold.  If you need something to do–you could help me.”

Mary didn’t really want Sid’s help.  Sid was terrible at folding laundry.

The old house stayed empty after Sid died.  Mary, couldn’t stand the quietness–moved in with her daughter.

Dan found it hard to sleep–too many ghosts from the past. It wasn’t that long ago the plant closed forever.  The town was never the same.

Sid was the first to get furloughed. “Dan, I got sacked today,” He said.

“I’m sorry Sid,” Dan said. “Is there anything I can do?” Dan knew there was little that could be done.

“I don’t know how I’m gonna’ make ends meet,” Sid said, resigned to fate.

Dan found two-hundred dollars stashed away in a cookie jar–gave it to Sid.  His wife wouldn’t care.  “I know it’s not much–maybe it will help tide you over.”

“You could go back and work at the feed mill?” Dan suggested. “I know they don’t pay much and it’s hard work”

“I don’t want to, but it’s better than nothing,” Sid answered. “Thanks for the money, Dan. You’re a good friend–I’ll pay you back when I can.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Dan answered. “I know you’d do the same for me.”

Sid worked at the feed mill till his back gave out. Disabled–he never worked again. His wife took in laundry and did house cleaning.

Strategically placed area rugs hid threadbare spots in the wool Persian carpet.  The bathroom sink was stained with rust.  Neither seemed to notice.

There was never enough money.  Arguments about trivial things were common.  One of the worst was about popcorn.

Popcorn symbolized undeserved fate.  They were powerless–so they blamed each other.

A short fifteen years later, Sid passed away–complications from high blood pressure and heart trouble.

Nobody knew when the small community went from loved to unloved–from neat and clean, to dingy and run down.

It’s not always what’s there–but rather, what’s not there, that makes a difference.


front porch

Mostly, kept
To themselves
Watched, only
To see, if
Ms. Mary
Came out, on her
Front porch, today

She sat, in the
Same, kitchen
Chair,  on cool
Mornings and
Evenings, until
Bugs, no-see-ums
Became, too
Much, to bear

Legs, continued
A slow oxidation
Vinyl upholstery
Stylish during, the
Brady Bunch era
Was brittle
And, cracked

Gravel trucks
From the nearby
Quarry, rolled by
It sure was hot
Ms. Mary, reached
For the flyswatter
White dust billows
Settled everywhere