Member Monday: Dale Angel

How to Catch a Muskrat

By Dale Angeldale-angel

It was a shameless pond, sending seductive invitations by way of a gentle wind pushing wavelets carrying diamonds across the water. Birds flew in and out of the thick brush along the edge. The far end had ducks…fluffy baby ones.

“Stay away from the water!” was so much noise as our parents screamed the words on their way to the store. “Don’t go near the water!” They were barely out of sight. We were already there.

Something moved across the smooth surface, coming toward us and creating a V in its wake. We didn’t move. It came just within reach.

My brother leaped out with stretched arms to grab it. He finally surfaced. I pushed cattails with my foot. He seized hold and crawled out.

His sopping wet overalls was damaging evidence. We ran back and built a fire in the wood stove and shoved them in the oven.

Meantime, to mitigate my part I decided to peel potatoes for lunch. The family butcher knife in my hands was like using a machete to peel grapes. The potatoes were nubs.

My brother opened the forbidden crackers and wouldn’t give me any. He ate them all.

Dad came in carrying groceries. Smoke filled the air. He grabbed a broom and used the handle to fish out the burning pants.

Dad was stomping out fire as my brother told them I had eaten the crackers and wouldn’t give him any. He was seven going on fourteen. Already a hardened criminal. He invited me to play 52 pick-up. You know…he drops a deck of cards, and I have to pick them up. I hold grudges.

The nubs were boiling over while war was going on over new pants with a waist versus work overall, which my brother hated.

We went back to the fields to pick cotton. My sisters and I practiced harmonizing songs we heard on the radio. Meanwhile, my brother whispered “Let’s tie a rope to a figure four trap to catch that muskrat!”

Member Monday: Dale Angel

If I Had a Jeeves

By Dale Angel

dale-angel

He’d find my car that gets lost in the parking lot.

And when I’m waiting with my blinkers on, and a little car the looks like a shoe box on roller skates drives under me and gets my spot, he’d remind me how serious a parking lot homicide can be. He would say, “Just unfriend him.”

He’d graciously make me think I was doing him a favor by letting him fill up the car with gas. He’d know how much a hate to fill up the car.

Even though it would require hand-to-hand combat, he’d drag me out of bed for a two-mile walk every day. Plus forty push-ups.

He’d go through the corporate menu hour after hour searching for a human voice to settle their mistake. And he wouldn’t cuss.

He’d pry the spoon out of my fingers when I’m entertaining myself with a quart of ice cream.

He’d pull the little hairs on the back of my neck to interrupt my ‘Used To’s’. You know… “Used to be that they’d fill up your tank and wash the windshield and check your oil…Used to be able to buy a whole bag of fruit for what you pay for two pieces now…Used to be that a family could survive with only one phone in the house.”

When Jeeves takes me shopping, he’d remind me that the industrial sized packs are designed to feed institutions, and the pennies I save in the store become dollars I lose when I have to throw it out because of age or freezer burn or, worse, recycle it and feed it to my friends because I don’t want it to go to waste.

If I had a Jeeves, he wouldn’t allow me to stock up on 911 foods of the kind that sends one to the hospital for stents.

He’d say things like “The army uses little towels efficiently for thousands of men with no fatality.  Why are you interested in those beach sized towels it takes six dollars and two days to dry?”

When I decided to make jalapeno pickles, standard issue was not enough to do battle with. When he saw that I couldn’t protect myself, he’d yell “Disengage! Disengage!” He earns his money.

“Do you really need the set with all eight pieces? Do you really want to store all that stuff?”

When I cover over and coddle my children, he asks “Why would you be so unkind as to deprive him of the consequences and interfere, and thus delay his maturity?”

He reminds me as we drive past the fire station that there are two things you can drop off there: dead batteries and live babies.

He’d understand…I want to suffer empty nest syndrome.

He’d stand in long lines using his precious fleeting life to find ‘they’re out’ what they advertised and that they never even had. And he wouldn’t gripe.

Member Monday: Poetry by Larry Solberg

Today’s Member Monday features a pair of poems written by Larry Solberg. Larry read them at the last Read Around.

If you read at the Read Around and would like to see your piece on the website and in the newsletter but did not give us a copy yet, please send them to writersforumeditor@gmail.com .

Thank you.

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Larry Solberg

The Voice of a Parent

(Who has Lost a Child)

Upon the Sea of Life

I carried a soul in its tiny boat

To the shores of the Sea of Life.

The spirit sailed its growing bark

On The Waters both light and dark.

 

With energy it would float

O’er that Lake with meaning rife

Until it could make its mark

Upon the Waters of Strife.

 

And ever as I watched The Lake

To see the way the soul would take

I heard a note with meaning rife

(A message that cut like a knife.)

The wind above The Waters wrote.

 

I’ll review the life that soul bore

Whose raft to the dock draws near.

T’will sail The Sea of Life no  more.

I hold its essence most dear.

 

In my mind is now forever locked

The voyage of that ship now docked.

I’ll review the journey that boat took,

And see the soul’s shining look.

 

My soul will hold that soul most dear.

 

I Would a Sailor Poet Be

A sea of sound engulfed me

Just the Other day

It most carried me away

For I would a sailor poet be,

An endless sound to my sea.

 

And for freight a thought or two.

Misty thoughts for which I’d expound

Words would shower off my tongue,

A deluge for expectant ears.

All the while those memes would

Swim in that endless pond

While waiting proud masses to respond.

 

Member Monday: The Berghoff

Welcome back to Member Monday. Today we feature a memoir piece written by Writers Forum member Jeanne Crownover. Jeanne read this piece at June’s read Around. Welcome, Jeanne!

 

Jeanne Crownover

Jeanne Crownover

 

I was a young, single woman in Chicago in 1960, and my date took me out to dinner one night at the Berghoff, which he characterized as one of Chicago’s finest restaurants.

The downtown restaurant was lovely with a dark wood interior and murals of the city on the walls. The waiters were splendid in their black trousers and jackets. A real cosmopolitan experience for this small town girl from Wisconsin.

A few months later my mother came to visit me. I promised to show her the town. She bought a new black dress for the occasion, as I had warned her we’d be going out to dinner at The Berghoff.

As we perused the menu, I recommended the Dover sole, which previously my date had recommended to me. She took my suggestion. Later, she said she loved it. I felt so grown up, taking my mom out to dinner at what seemed such a classy place. And so proud.

Eventually I moved away from Chicago—from the whole Midwest. Got married, became a Californian, raised a family. A whole new life.

Twenty-five years after departing I returned to my roots for the first time. My daughter, a young adult at the time, joined me in Chicago. The Sears Tower topped our list of “must places to go” (it hadn’t been there in 1960), followed by the Art Institute and, of course, dining at The Berghoff.

The restaurant looked exactly the same and the menu prices appeared quite reasonable through my California eyes. The large building across the street was being demolished; a huge wrecking ball swung back and forth as we enjoyed our lunch.

Five years later I returned with my newly grown-up son. His sister had told him about lunch at The Berghoff, so naturally we had to dine there, too. The building and the wrecking ball across the street were gone, of course, but to my surprise it had not been replaced by another building. Instead, a temporary fence surrounded the lot.

Another five years passed, and I returned to Chicago with my youngest child, another son. “So where did you take the others?” he asked.

“Sears tower, the Art Institute, and The Berghoff,” I replied.

So dinner at The Berghoff it was. Only this time there were trees across the street, behind a wall. Not as metropolitan as the building, as dynamic as the wrecking ball or as temporary as the fence. A familiar room with yet another view.

My son excused himself from the table for a short time, and I found myself suddenly deeply nostalgic. I remembered, with considerable emotion, a young woman dining at The Berghoff with her mom, some thirty-five years earlier.

Mothers, daughters, children…Buildings, wrecking balls, fences, walls.

The inevitability of change. The constancy of The Berghoff.

Member Monday: My Mother’s Wedding

Welcome back to Member Monday. Today we feature a memoir piece written by Writers Forum member Jo Ann Perkins. Jo Ann read this piece at June’s read Around. Welcome Jo Ann!

Jo Ann Perkins

I was working in Denver, Colorado for United Airlines as a Stewardess, when George Perkins asked me to marry him. This was in April of 1955, and the Wedding was scheduled for September 10th. My mother demanded that I come home in June to prepare for the event. I had some trouble with this: why was it going to take so much time and what was I going to do about it? All I thought I had to do was purchase the wedding dress. I had never spent any time thinking about my wedding because I always thought I would be an old maid with a cat farm. I was unaware that my mother had been thinking about it for years.

Well, I came home at the end of June and actually didn’t do much about the wedding because my mother was into high gear on the subject. I spent a lot of my time on Battle Creek at the local swimming hole. In fairness to my mother, she did have a lot to do to prepare for the event. Because we owned Mineral Lodge, the reception would naturally be there (we had the cooks and plenty of help for this), but Mineral had no church, so there was no place for the ceremony except our front yard. The yard was big enough, and it was mostly lawn, but it was not as fancy as my mother would have liked it. It was hard to have flowers in Mineral, because of the black tail deer that loved to eat anything. My mother had cages built of chicken wire that she put over her flower beds every night to keep the deer from destroying everything. She had this problem licked, but the even bigger one was the land behind the house. It had been used to store auto wrecks from the Mineral Lodge Garage for several years. My father had promised her that these unsightly vehicles would be removed by the time of the wedding.

Well the summer went on and the vehicles did not move. To add insult to injury, a few more of the same were added to this menagerie. My mother almost killed the poor tow truck driver who delivered the last items. My father, bless, his soul, kept assuring her that they would be gone by September 10th. I am not sure what his plan was, but by the first of September, all the vehicles were still there, including the newest arrivals. As you can imagine, my mother was quite upset. She could not physically remove the unsightly items herself. What could she do? Bill Bruener, a close friend, came up with a solution. He put two strands of rope to screen off the offending items, then leaned cut Christmas trees against the ropes. This took some 50 trees which came from our own land. The cars could hardly be seen and peace was restored. I am sure that most of the guests never realized what was behind the trees.

Then there were the flowers for decoration of the lodge and reception area. Mrs. McQueen, who lived in the little fairy house on Scenic Ave spent all summer making imitation carnations out of Kleenex tissues. At the time I did not see anything unusual about this, I even helped sometime to make them and delivered all the Kleenex to her. I am sure the guests were not aware of these fake carnations either because they were backed by fresh evergreens from the forest.

George, the groom, was not planning on any wedding guests. He came from Chicago, his parents had retired to the Virgin Islands, and his one brother was overseas in the Air Force. Unannounced, the day before the wedding his cute blonde cousin Barbara* from Sacramento arrived. My uncle said he was there in quality, not quantity. So it was a great wedding. All my family’s relatives and friends from everywhere were there. The cake was the biggest cake the Red Bluff Bakery had ever made, and my mother could relax, she didn’t have to do it again, because I was the only daughter!

 

*Barbara Musler and her husband Jay retired to Mineral several years later. There is a plaque on the Mineral Lodge porch in his memory. He flew B-24 planes in World War II.

Member Monday: Then Will I Stand by Linda Boyden

Welcome back to Member Monday. Today we feature a poem by Writers Forum member, Linda Boyden. Welcome, Linda.

Then Will I Stand

By Linda Boyden ©2015

Night window, dark,

his profile etched

by the streetlight

he sits, hunched

in the wheelchair

hands clasped on top

of the warrior blanket

of stripes and buffaloes

I bought to ease his chills.

We wait for it to snow

though it is too cold.

We wait together

holding hands

we wait for the inevitable

for his long march to the stars.

Then will I stand,

his blanket around

my shoulders.

Then will I stand

under the myriad of stars

and hunt for his, for him.

Then will the wind bite

my cheeks and fingers.

Then will I bury my tears

in his blanket,

smell his memory,

hear his laughter.

Then will I stand

under the falling snow.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com. Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!

Member Monday: Over the Hill by George T. Parker

Welcome back to Member Monday! Today we feature a story by Writers Forum newsletter editor, George T. Parker. Here’s little more about the piece from George himself.

Author’s Note: This fictionalized story is based upon a true incident on a trail crew in Yosemite. I didn’t see it happen. It was a campfire story we heard from the trail workers leading our crew of an incident that had happened years before.

Over the Hill

by George T. Parker

Hammers clanged on rock. A faint granite dust fog hung low to the ground. Miguel and Bear each worked his doublejack on the weak, weathered, and rotten granite rocks in the trail tread. Neither spoke. They didn’t need to. The borders of the causeway section were finished. All they had to do now was break down the decomposing granite rocks to fill the trail tread, cover the crushed fill with dirt, and this section of trail would be finished. Miguel had been working trails in Yosemite for over fifteen years, had been a trail boss for three of those years, and this marshy section would finally be crossed off his ‘to do’ list. This particular section had been annoying him for a couple of years. This year, this section of high-traffic trail between Yosemite Valley and the Merced High Sierra camp had climbed to the top of the priority list. The rest of the crew worked about a half mile above them, closer to the Merced camp. When Miguel and Bear finished here, they would bump up ahead of the rest of the crew to the next trouble spot on the trail.

It was a hot August day. Miguel and Bear worked shirtless, and their blue jeans carried a lot of Yosemite dirt around with them. Miguel glistened with sweat. A green bandanna around his head kept sweat out of his eyes. Bear’s hairy mass covered up any sweat. His head was bare, but he did occasionally have to wipe sweat out of his eyes with a bandanna he kept tucked into a back pocket. This was the perfect life for Miguel and Bear. They could not imagine any life better than working on Yosemite trail crews in the Backcountry.

As their hammers clanged, hikers rounded the corner below. They appeared out of the trees, three of them. Two guys and a lady. All three of them could have just stepped out of an REI catalog. They sported brand new backpacks and hiking boots. They hiked with the latest style hiking poles. (Ordinary people might call them ‘ski poles’.) Colored piping around the top of the lady’s socks peeking above her low top hiking boots even matched the color of her hiking shorts.

Miguel and Bear saw the hikers right away. They took a quick look around at their work site. Their rock bars, shovels, singlejacks, and other gear were all off the trail and out of the way. They stopped pounding granite and moved to the uphill side of the trail to let the hikers pass through. The first hiker, one of the guys, said “Hi.” Bear said “Hi” as he pulled his bandanna and wiped his face. Miguel said “Como esta?”

The hikers carefully picked their way through the rubble in the trail. After they passed through, Miguel and Bear stepped back down onto the trail, preparing to start swinging again.

The lady hiker turned back to them and asked “Are you guys inmates? You know, like a chain gang?”

Miguel and Bear had been dealing with that question since they were Corpsmembers in the CCC. People often confused them with state prison inmates as they worked alongside California’s highways or state parks. Miguel and Bear were used to hearing that question. This time, though, Miguel had already planned a different sort of response.

Miguel dropped the head of his doublejack to the ground and said “Yeah. Didn’t you see the guard with the shotgun down there around the corner?” He looked at Bear. Bear grinned.

The three hikers stopped. The lady said, “A guy with a shotgun? No.”

Miguel said to Bear “You hear that?” Miguel threw down his double jack and ran up the hill. Bear was right behind him.

The three hikers stood frozen in place and watched the two men disappear through the trees.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com. Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!