Big Canoe Writers

Words and Wit for the Ages

Welcome to the Big Canoe Writers!!!

Thanks for visiting Big Canoe Writers. Since 1999 our members have been working to help each other improve their writing skills.

To read the stories below click on the story title. To find a specific writer, click on Authors and Bios.

We hope you enjoy your visit. Your comments are welcome.

Full Circle

February 29
by Jim Smith

There are few of us for whom a particular plant does not evoke special memories. My memory was so touched recently as I sorted through a box of old forgotten books. There in that treasure trove was the first acquisition in my early library of nature and wild plants books. It was a U.S. Department of Agriculture Bulletin published in 1930 – American Medicinal Plants of Commercial Importance.

Tucked insiindian turnip root for bcwgde was a 1939 price list from Elliot Richard, a wholesale botanical druggist of my youthful acquaintance. Among the prices of “…roots, barks, herbs in clean whole sacks delivered…” was listed Indian turnip root at $0.40 per pound. By any other name, this is Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum.)

At the end of the depression, earning 40 cents per pound for anything sounded like a windfall. For a kid who knew where the Indian turnip grew in some abundance, it seemed like nothing less than

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Second Thoughts

February 22
by Anita Rosen

Daybreak, he walks into the diner, dirty blond hair caught back in a loose ponytail, pants hanging just right on slim hips. Every female eye drifts toward him.

Trucker, I think. Nice enough to make even my tired bones tingle. Reminds me of Herm, when we were starting out.

Millie and I glance at each other, but, before we can silently nominate one of us to take his order, here comes Alicia, all 110 pounds of her, bouncing along on the tips of her toes.

“I got it, girls,” she calls out.

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When the River Ran Backwards

January 8
by Jim Smith

Abner had about 10,000 acres of the best timber land in the County and was obliged to sell some to pay his taxes. He was tighter than a bull’s ass in fly season. On this Indian Summer day I dreaded trying to deal with him but did give him enough to pay his taxes, all while he complained that I was taking unfair advantage of him. After we struck a deal and signed the timber lease, I stopped at the Last Chance Café in Springfield, Georgia for lunch. The menu never varied from a choice between two meats and a plateful of three vegetables and as much ice tea as you could drink – all topped off with the customary banana pudding.

Pete Clifton hailed me from across the dining room and invited me to join him. He had seen me with Abner and asked if I had been fishing in Abner’s pond.

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On Being a Grandparent

December 12
by Anita Rosen

Never Trust a Grandchild

After having the pleasure of being a grandparent for a decade, it’s time to share some pertinent observations, which, I hope, may be of assistance to others who find themselves in this familial category.

While my childhood provided ample instruction in developing a parenting plan for my own children, who were, by and large, good children, little in life prepared me to be a grandparent.

Setting a dubious standard for behavior, my brother and I were known for the usual sibling rough-and-tumble fights augmented by special acts of mischief, like the time we took the goldfish out of the tank to see how they felt under our feet. Of this last, I admit, we did not confess until our father had died and our mother was too old to hit us.

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I believe in music

November 18
by Anita Rosen

I believe music lends beauty and solemnity to otherwise mundane occasions. I believe music has the power to unify diverse populations: Observe the effect of the 1812 Overture every Fourth of July on the Boston Esplanade or the singing of our national anthem anywhere, anytime. One need experience only once the swell and passion of Handel’s Messiah to understand the power of music.

Music always has been here. Well before Guttenberg tinkered with his printing press, humans were telling their stories through cadenced chanting.

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College Days Part Two: Hospital 101

March 11
by Bill Booth


In the spring of 1960, getting out of bed at 4 AM became routine and somehow didn’t even feel unusual.  The clatter of a Big Ben by my bedside startled me daily from deep sleep, and I learned not to use the snooze control. I had a job as an assistant laboratory technician at the newly opened CharityHospital in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Starting my second-semester as a Pre-Vet major at McNeese State College, my early morning responsibility was to collect blood samples for lab tests on all the wards in the Hospital..

Entering the multi-bed wards before daylight, I routinely announced at the doors, “Hello, your morning sunshine is here,” to arouse the patients before I checked names on their arm bracelets. “Time to rise and shine.”

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Clayton Fain’s Last Ride

March 5
by Travis H. McDaniel
Clayton Fain's grave marker

The author at Clayton Fain’s grave marker in the Hiwassee Cemetery, Ducktown, Tennessee.

My eyes strain to locate the marker as I pick my way through an overgrown thicket of briers, vines and saplings. An earthy odor fills my nostrils, and I begin to wonder if I have correctly followed directions. Finally, I make out what appears to be the object of my quest.

Scrambling on my hands and knees through the final 20 yards of tangled vegetation, I reach a gravestone well-camouflaged by vines and privet. A feeling of melancholy settles over me as I realize in all probability nobody has visited this gravesite since placement of the military marker here in 1974.

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The 1975 Saint Patrick’s Day Parade

December 4
by Jack Fay

A moment earlier the sky had been filled with twirling batons; the air with toots and tweets; and the clank of metal rifle butts on cold concrete. The marchers started nervously and out of step. South Boston’s 1975 St. Patrick’s Day Parade was on the move.

Andrew Cahill, a visitor from Belfast, watched from the doorway of Finneran’s. “An exuberant people my kinsmen are,” Cahill said to the frosted glass of ale.

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The Fat Kid

November 3
by Jack Fay

We called him The Fat Kid because he was fat, and none of us knew his name. We didn’t know where he lived, where he went to school, and why he walked behind us all the time. I’d spot him at the other end of the block, and if he saw me looking he’d jump into a doorway or run around a corner.

He always wore dungarees that were too big, and in the winter he’d wear a pea jacket that wouldn’t button in the front. Winter or summer, he wore a Red Sox baseball cap. From what I could see,

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Mr. Hurley Leaves the Hospital

October 7
by Jack Fay

The nurse walked past the end of the bed and tapped my foot. “Try to rest, Mr. Hurley.” Rest? Is she kidding me? How can a man rest when his daughter is leaning over his head with a handkerchief stuck up her nose and crying like there’s no tomorrow. For the love of Mike, it’s only an infected hip. I should tell Bridey to be quiet but I won’t treat her mean. She’s a good girl. The only time she ever got my dander up was when she

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Buck Pickens

September 2
by Jack Fay

Everything changed the day Daddy left us and went off with Tillie Dugan, the one that worked down to the Purina Feed Store. Grampa took us in right quick, and that’s when Mama’s bitterness began spilling out, never stoppin’ ‘til we put her in the ground. Pretty soon after, Mary went away too. Topeka, some say, but I say Californy.

That little sister of mine loved them movie stars.

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My Name is Bako

August 4
by Jack Fay

“I am Doctor Natalia Kinsky, head of the clinic. Your name, please.”

“My name is Bako, and I must protest being held here.”

“You are not being held, Mister Bako. You are free to leave whenever you like.”

“I am not Mister Bako. I am Bako. The villagers, kind people I am sure, say I must not leave until you have examined me. Why is this so? I ask you. Cannot people observe that I have two legs, two arms, one head? I see, I hear, I am aware of circumstances.”

“Circumstances, you say? They have been reported to me. But to my judgment the circumstances are outside the boundaries of belief. What have you to say to that?”

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Jayne Beske

April 11
by admin

Jayne Beske

Members of the Big Canoe Writers are saddened by the loss of  Jayne Beske. Since 2002 she has been a steadfast member the Writers Group and keeper of our scrapbook.  Jayne wrote sensitive nature poetry and enthusiastic narratives of her travels.

Jayne died at age 72, after a long and heroic battle with cancer on March 24, 2013.  She was born  and raised in Minnesota and received a B.S. in nursing from the University of Minnesota.  She and Alan met at the university and she worked as a nurse while he completed graduate school.  Jayne and Alan lived in numerous states due to corporate transfers, and relocated to Roswell, Georgia, in 1984.  They moved to Big Canoe in 2002.

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Don’t Mess With Uncle Otis

April 4
by Bill Booth

A low, throaty growl awakens me in the darkness of night. My dog Pat is standing, facing the landing below our campsite. Against the gray, moonless sky, all I can see are Pat and silhouettes of enormous cypress trees against a dark background with a million stars. A sudden breeze fans embers of my dying campfire, sparks glowing, drifting downwind.

“What’s wrong, Pat?”

Then I hear the soft “thunk – thunk — thunk” of a paddle bumping the side of a wooden boat. It moves closer to the landing with every stroke.

I roll over and fumble with Pat’s tether.

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February 25
by Vivian Sheperis

Jude shivered through narrow midnight streets.
Black pants creased in the right places
Butt tight,
On the prowl.
Slave to grinding pressure gnawing the back of his skull.
A freaking whistle blast hurtled him through moldering barrooms
With secret corners to touch, briefly, others in this clutching frenzy.

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Epiphany, Almost

February 17
by Bill Booth

Epiphany: a revealing moment

A sudden gust of wind shook the sides of the small tent, waking me in early morning light. I rolled onto my back and looked through the open front of the canvas relic that served as my shelter. Dark clouds, darker even than the old boat down by the lake, covered the sky and rolled south. It was a Wednesday morning in early August, the third day of what I hoped would be a week-long fishing trip in northern Arkansas. It appeared the weather might not cooperate.

The year was 1958, and I had hitch-hiked alone nearly four hundred miles from Marshall, Texas to Newport, Arkansas where I intended to fish the White River for its famous smallmouth bass. Since I had only recently turned seventeen, this trip required a little subterfuge.

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A Welcome Party For Lackley

February 4
by Vivian Sheperis

Lackley was exhausted, but he kept running. He stumbled over a rock in the trail and careened into a thorny bush before regaining his balance. The barks of the dogs pursuing him were growing louder.

Now was the time to bite into that little black vial under his tongue, but it was still in his left breast pocket. “Damn.” While running and negotiating the rocks and brush, he managed to fish around his pocket and hook the deadly vessel with his forefinger. He dragged it into his fist and gripped it, his one escape to oblivion.

It took several leaps at breakneck speed over the ruts and piles of dirt for Lackley to get up the nerve to bring the lethal object to his mouth. Only when howls and snarls of snapping teeth were yards away did he open his lips to admit the final solution. “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

He raised his cupped palm with the poison to his mouth just as he stepped with his left foot onto nothingness and tumbled headlong into a cavernous pit, landing on a soft pile of sand. High above him the hounds ringed the edge of the abyss, salivating and yelping their disappointment. Lackley still held tightly the little bottle and lay there, panting, unwilling to trust his unexpected escape and ready to blackout in case this lucky break was an illusion.

A whisper came from the darkness, “No need for that, now.”

He turned his head in the direction of the voice and saw a glowing, silver Deva gliding toward him from a large bright opening in the wall of the crater. Beyond her he could see several figures in robes of emerald green and violet, which reflected a peculiar luminescence.

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Hal Hart

January 10
by admin

Members of the Big Canoe Writers Group are saddened by the death of one of our long term members. Hal Hart died on January 1, 2013. Hal was always an ardent contributor to our group. His smile and can do attitude brought a ray of sunshine to our meetings.
Rest in peace, Hal.

Click on this link to read a sample of Hal’s writing.

Harold (Hal) Hartvigsen (a.k.a. Hal Hart), Lanier Village Estates, Gainesville, Ga., passed away on Jan. 1, 2013, from cancer. He was 86 years old and was predeceased by his wife Nan, in 1999. He was born in Maquoketa, Iowa, and grew up in Elwood and Iowa City, Iowa.  To read the complete obituary in the Gainesville Times click this link.


The Good Old Days

March 9
by Travis H. McDaniel

October 15, 2083 – Atlanta, Georgia
A sullen frown wrinkles the frustrated writer’s brow as he tears up yet another draft of a research article and flings it towards the waste paper basket sitting in the corner of his posh Buckhead office. The renowned freelance journalist, Alexander Carlton Ellis, known to friend and fans alike as “Ace,” sits at his desk, irritated at his inability to pull himself out of a slump, now in its third month. What he needs is a great story idea to put him on top again.

Ace has been in the game for over forty years, covering human-interest aspects of major international topics. He made a name for himself early in his career with hard-hitting stories relating to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab-Jewish conflict, the melting of the Greenland Ice Cap and the final clearing of what once was the great Amazon rain forest. He thought the catchy title for his rain forest article, “Amazon Green, vs. Chop-Sticks for China?” worthy of an award by itself. Yes, there were a million stories to be written, and Ace was proud of the fact he had always been out there on the edge … read the rest of this story online in Cynic Magazine

Oley and Marge

March 5
by Max Beardslee

Presenting a tongue in cheek love story, taking place in northern Minnesota.

I found myself chuckling for several days over the punch line I’d heard, then constructed a story to work it in. Hope you enjoy reading it as I assure you I did in writing it.

Oley’s three day old beard glistened from the frozen sweat he’d incurred while working his chain saw. Snot hung precariously from his long, narrow nose. But the giant of a man couldn’t be bothered by any of that on this January day.For he was in love.

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Carolina Wren

February 7
by Ken Reynolds

Some people have really interesting hobbies. Jim Tanner, a good friend and neighbor, shoots photos of the scenery and animal life in our North Georgia community. Jim says he has “been hearing and seeing this little Carolina Wren off and on for a few weeks.” Even now he is not satisfied. I think Jim’s assessment is modest.

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The Old Cabin

January 29
by Bill Booth

Late afternoon. Walking home through dry broom grass and fresh, soft snow. Shotgun feels like a bar of lead. Everything as far as I can see looks like a black and white photograph, 95 percent white.  Bare, black trees stand like sentinels against a pale blue sky. Feet started hurting three hours ago. Now feel like blocks of wood. Will be painful when they thaw. Hope I don’t lose any toes. I am tired.

Old cabin’s dark outline is a welcome sight when it appears just before the sun reaches the western horizon. Home at last!

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McNeese Days

December 26
by Bill Booth

part 1 -To Be a Cowboy

The inhabitants of my home in Lake Charles, Louisiana in fall of 1959 referred to it as “the roach palace”. It was one of four converted, two-story wooden Army barracks that occupied a low stretch of ground adjacent to the McNeese State College rodeo arena. Bobby Mustin, a slightly obese animal husbandry major from Big Mamou, shared a room with me on the second floor. I was a pre-vet major.

Bobby and I both aspired to become real “Cowboys” as many of the other guys who lived in the barracks were known, either because they rodeoed or played football. The title came naturally to those who rodeoed, but the football players were “Cowboys” because that was the name of the McNeese team. Cattle ranching and agriculture were big businesses in south Louisiana.

One warm evening, Bobby and I lounged in our twelve by fourteen foot un-air-conditioned dorm room trying to study.  A floor fan hummed and pulled air in through the open, screened window against which flies regularly buzzed and bumped. The familiar sweet smell of hay and cow manure was not unpleasant, and the olfactory ambience was alternated on occasion with heavy, salt air that drifted in from nearby Calcasieu Lake.  Bobby, as usual, lay on his bottom bunk in his underwear, and I sat at a small desk against the wall. We listened to The Platters sing “Twilight Time” on Bobby’s little radio.

“Why don’t we enter the rodeo next month?” Bobby asked out of nowhere.

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Will Amazon Consume Everything?

December 19
by Ken Reynolds

Once upon a time independent merchants comprised the hubs of neighborhoods and the centers of small towns. Chains and big-box stores and the internet have all but eliminated those focal points of community commerce. Even the government post office, once “the center” of every community, has become little more than an outdated relic. The world of commerce has changed and we are not likely to return to the old days, but that change has altered our sense of loyalty to the community.

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The Day I Got Dressed Up to Get Dressed Down for Being Undressed

November 30
by Harris Green

It was a warm Friday afternoon in San Diego, California at the Naval Recruit Training Depot (”boot camp”). We seaman recruits, now ”short timers” in our seventh week, were cleaning our barracks for the weekly Friday afternoon captain’s inspection.

In keeping with routine, we were washing the decks (floors) and bulkheads (walls) with soap and water (when the Navy says clean they mean clean). It being a warm June day, we being ”seasoned” recruits, and (most importantly) we being 18 years old, we found ourselves in a water fight. Before long there wasn’t a member of Company 159 that wasn’t drenched in soapy water.

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The Myth of the Self-Made Man

November 25
by Harris Green

We’ve all heard it said of somebody, “He’s a self-made man.” I beg to differ. Except for perhaps Romulus and Remus, who were suckled by a wolf, there is no such thing as a self-made man or woman.

Yes, most high achievers are more brilliant and hard-working than the average person, but none of them is self-made. Their achievement is due much more to what was done FOR them than for what they did for themselves.

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The Skater

November 17
by Max Beardslee


The following shows a slice of my life as an Air Force Lieutenant in a remote part of Germany.   It’ll portray a portion of my contribution toward keeping America safe, while in Germany, from the fall of 1962 to the fall of 1965.  Our President Kennedy managed the Cuban crisis and then got shot among other events in that time frame.  After a suitable introduction to the reader about life there, I’ll get to The Skater part.   It seems I managed to skate through many self caused mishaps, without damage, all the way until the IBM thing you’ve heard about.  Perhaps they all stacked up for one big fall through the ice.



The 50th Tactical Fighter Wing called Hahn Air Base its’ home.  Settled into a remote area of west central Germany, between Luxembourg and Wiesbaden, Hahn became noted for its lousy weather.   With fog hovering in below 32 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, it confounded meteorologists who said such a thing could not occur.  Hahn housed about seventy F 100 Super Sabre fighters and about thirty-five F102 Delta Dagger fighters.  The F100’s played offense, patrolling the border of the divided Germanys, and always ready to penetrate deep into enemy territory, the F102’s defended the skies of the West.   If Migs launched an attack, the 102’s job was to knock ‘em out of the sky. 

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Where we meet

October 31
by Ken Reynolds

photo by Jim Tanner

October is a beautiful month in Big Canoe. Topography, weather and colors combine to make this a wonderful place to live. The autumn beauty surrounding the Lodge where The Big Canoe Writers Group has gathered since 1999 is not an atypical scene.

photo by Randy Lewis

The seasons do change, and before too long the colors will fade and winter snows will drive us inside to the warmth. The Lodge and it setting remains an inviting and enchanting place for writers and artists and everyone who is not immune to the majesty and mystery of our surroundings.

Pocketknives and Slingshots

August 22
by Travis H. McDaniel

It’s easy to see why I loved pocketknives when I was a boy.  They were solid, had a nice heft to them, and the bone handle felt good and smooth when I turned the knife over and over in my right front pocket.  Other pockets might hold things like an “aggie toy” that helped win marble games, a lucky creek rock to rub whenever I made a wish, my favorite arrowhead, and other invaluable stuff like that.  And another thing about a pocketknife, it’s just the right size to take to bed with you every night.  Little boys like to sleep with at least one of their valued possessions.  But of course, you already know all these things if you were born before World War II and lived in the country, or a small town like I did.

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Mrs. O’Malley

August 15
by Bill Booth

Although traces of snow lay on the ground outside, most people would have thought the room far too warm. Flames flickered in a space heater and cast strange shadows on the wall beside the recliner where Mrs. O’Malley relaxed, twirling a lock of gray hair about one finger.

“It’s true, Marge,” she said into the telephone. “Me own daughter Angie told me about it. And Lucy herself said it’s the God’s truth.”

“Well! I would never have dreamed such a thing about Jim Sullivan.”

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Personal debt and remedial classes

August 8
by Ken Reynolds
We should rethink our national idea that everyone should go to college

What has happened to the solid old notion of avoiding debt? Repayment has been a nagging problem since the inception of the Student Loan program. But now the Education Department reports a dramatic rise in late payments of student loans and in the number of those loans referred for possible legal action. No doubt the current recession is contributing to the problem, but there is another less publicized cause. In my opinion, the false belief that everyone should go to college has led to unrealistic academic and career expectations.

Read more of this opinion on Ken Reynolds’ blog

Drawings by a Writer

July 31
by Ellie Holty

These sketches of some of the Big Canoe Writers were done by member Ellie Holty.
Click on an image to see a larger version.

Comment directly to Ellie via

Grandmom Thoughts

July 11
by Betty Smith

One morning at five o clock my husband, Leland, woke me with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face. “We have a grandson. His name is Adam” he said.

“But he’s not due until next month. Is he ok? Is Beth ok?”
“They’re both fine. The phone rang about four with their news.”

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Nature, the Racketeer, and His Players

June 29
by Vivian Sheperis


Red Eyes in a head of scales leads its tail and forks its tongue, thirsting for sun and chicks.

Hermaphrodite, without vision, corkscrews into the dark but knows to stop before it hits China.

Fiddleheads turn to the left, turn to the right, searching for their bows.

Rat-a-Tat plucks the Beetle from brown bark. Beetle doesn’t know.

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The Pimple on Sarah’s Cheek

June 26
by Jack Fay

I saw it for the first time on a Sunday morning. Sarah and I were sitting in our regular pew at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church on Old Jeff Davis Road in Hepzibah. It was Baptismal Sunday, and a long-time friend of ours, Nellie Gordon, was about to be born again. The porcelain tub had been carried in from the storage shed out back and placed in front of the altar. The tip of the garden hose that had been used to fill the tub was peeking out from behind the pulpit. I was maybe the only one there who took notice.

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Small Bookstores

April 14
by Ken Reynolds

I would prefer to buy my books in person from an independent businessman, but in reality it happens only when I travel to a town that still has such stores. Several of my essays are about some of those places and I lament their passing. Our culture is changing, and  we will be poorer for the loss.

In 2008 I wrote the following article for “Smoke Signals” in recognition that times have changed, it is included in my 2010 book, Turned Pages.   KR

Where Did The Small Bookstore Go?

Do you remember small bookstores? Fifteen years ago almost every town had at least one bookstore for new books and another selling used books. The stores with new books had limited inventory — the latest best sellers and some of the classics. The remainder of the stock was devoted to cooking, crafts, current fads and children’s books. A real advantage was they would order almost any book you wanted and have it to you within a few weeks. Now those stores are hard to find. They could not compete with twenty to forty percent discounts on best sellers.

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Ruby, My Dear

March 8
by Fred Shaw

An excerpt from “Two Dogs on a Couch”.
A memoir by Fred Shaw

I’m driving my little maroon Honda Civic out of the Oxford Valley Mall in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. My five year old granddaughter, Kelly, is in the passenger’s seat—there are no airbags. My dog, Ruby, who has been with me for less than a month, is in the back seat. I come to a stop sign and look up and down the street and then at my granddaughter. Trance-like she gazes through the windshield; she can only see the sky. It’s the same ethereal look she had on the Flemington to Ringoes steam-train ride earlier this year.

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A Step Back In Time

March 5
by Ken Reynolds

Atlanta Book Exchange

The exterior of the Atlanta Book Exchange belies the treasure waiting inside. From a cramped parking area barely visible steps lead to an enclosed porch that functions as storage and display of a few-less-than valuable books. But, passing into the main shop reveals something akin to paradise.

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Searching for the Sawtelle Dog

March 4
by Jim Elliott

This story has been moved by the author to his site at:

Searching for the Sawtelle Dog


North Georgia Foothills

January 31
by Jayne Beske

Within the rolling countryside of northern Georgia land,

Interwoven among farms, tall southern pine groves stand.
The mountains rise majestically, create a distant view
In misty shades of purple, gray and greens of every hue.

Hazy peaks form waves as far as the eye can see.
Eagles soaring overhead convey tranquility.
They are a mere reminder, if we pause for just a minute,
Of the magnitude of God’s great world and everything that’s in it.

Deep within the forest, soft, green fern protect the ground
And twisting roots of trees and laurel keep it firmly bound.
High ridges and crevasses transverse the rough terrain.
Waterfalls and rippling creeks move swiftly, swollen with fresh rain.

Indians lived in these hills before the white man came.
Then settlers moved throughout the land to occupy their claim.
Rich history embraced these hills, and remnants linger still,
Of homesteads, and tales of a people with a strong zeal.

Gold mining was alluring and settlers left behind
Log cabins, mills, moonshine stills, and quarries not yet mined.
As you walk along the trails, remembering how life grew,
Gather up the richness that these foothills bring to you.

Jayne Beske
June 2002

Read about Jayne Beske on the Writer’s Bio page

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