Broadening Horizons — My Introduction to the Beard World

The first week of November found me dog and house-sitting for my daughter while she and her husband visited Walt Disney World. What does that have to do with anything about Broadening Horizons? Please, allow me to continue, because I had no idea that week would lead to a new journey and life adventure of sorts for me, as well.

Since they were on vacation I decided to also give my razor a break and didn’t shave for the week, just for the heck of it. No other intentions or plans at the time. Just tired of shaving every morning all my life, to be honest, and wouldn’t be seeing or be seen by anyone other than two German Shepherds for the week and they certainly wouldn’t be complaining about stray hairs. Didn’t bother to pack the razor, shaving cream, or aftershave.

When I got back home, I texted my three sons just for fun, saying “You should see me, I’m rocking a seven-day-old beard!” with the “Ha, ha, ha’s!” in parentheses. Before I could set the phone back down I received three immediate replies (most unusual, I hasten to add) saying –

  1. “Keep it!”
  2. “Keep it going!”
  3. “You can’t shave it off, it’s No-Shave November. You have to keep it!”

I hadn’t given any thought about it being No-Shave November, never having participated in it before. According to the site – “The goal of No-Shave November is to grow awareness by embracing our hair, which many cancer patients lose, and letting it grow wild and free. Donate the money you typically spend on shaving and grooming to educate about cancer prevention, save lives, and aid those fighting the battle.”

Well, that seemed like something I could and should support, so decided to go ahead and let my seven-day stubble keep on growing until the end of the month.

I had never tried to grow a real beard before except for a week at a time celebrating St. Patrick’s Day each March in college many years ago, and back then it could only be described as “patchy” at best. And, not that I missed shaving every morning, anyway. So, kept it was – a three-week extension to the end of the month. My razor was granted an extended vacation. Something new, something to do.

But, I was then soon informed that I had to keep it going for TWO months, because it supposedly takes that long growing a new beard in to see what you have to work with before trimming, shaping, or making the decision it was a misconceived, failed, and doomed project from the start and shaving it off all together. Letting it go at the end of November then became holding onto it until the end of December and thru the holiday season. Why not? “Razor, take a break and enjoy the holidays!”

Shortly after though, several others advised that a two-month period is really inadequate to base such a weighty, life-changing, keep or shave decision, and I must leave it alone to grow for a minimum of THREE months. Do you see where this is going?

Well, now I am about nine weeks into it and still growing, looking at the end of January now to be the end of the three-month analysis and all important Keep or Shave review.

Some family members seem to have formed opinions already, a few negatives right away, truth be told. But then, some in life are always resistant to any changes around them or affecting their lives, so not totally unexpected, that.

My own opinion varies thru the day, being much higher in the morning when fresh out of the shower and glimpsing the hinted suggestion of a distinguished college professor look in the mirror, than late at night appearing more of a tired and disheveled, ragged and worn, old wino reaching for his half-empty bottle of Mad Dog 20/20.

As I tell anyone who asks about it, the beard does not yet have a long-term contract and is here on a day-to-day, tryout basis only. It seems to comfort a few while worrying others.

Nevertheless, despite the beard’s uncertain status, I received a rushed early Christmas gift delivered by Priority Mail, an electric beard trimming razor kit from one supportive son who felt that I definitely should and would keep the beard. Followed by a steady stream of advice about beard oils, beard balms, moustache wax, and other such things I had never heard of, from another.

And then I was surprised by a 1 oz. vial of pine-scented beard oil in the mail from an unknown source, perhaps not wanting to be publicly numbered in the “keep the beard” camp. And yes, there are periods during the day when I smell as though I rubbed my face in a pine tree. Walking to the mailbox each afternoon, the birds seem to enjoy it.

Overall, it is turning out to be quite the learning experience. I learned right away that one is not supposed to use normal shampoos or conditioners made for head hair on a beard. Nope – too strong and they strip out the oils from facial whiskers, making whiskers tough and brittle. Head hair and whiskers are two entirely different things, it turns out, along with the composition of the scalp and facial skin.

One needs to purchase special, gentler shampoos and conditioners made specifically for beards. Who knew? At this point, I am guessing that the famously bearded Vikings may have used seal oil for their grooming regimens, but again – just a guess. The list of beard items seems much longer than my old shaving supplies list. And this all for a fellow who has never been into styling gels or sprays for my hair, never taking the time or liking the feel of all that gunk and muck in my hair. Towel dry, comb and go, that’s the way.

Beard Oils. Beard Balms. Moustache Wax. Beard Wash. Beard Softeners. Utility and Styling Balms. Most all in different scents and flavors. Not to mention the wide variety of Specialty Combs and Beard Brushes.

Did you know that plastic-toothed combs are not advised for beards because they may cause split ends? Split ends are bad because they must be trimmed. Trimming means bye-bye to beard length! Recommended – wooden combs with the teeth handcrafted to be perfectly round not to tear into the whisker cells. Whoever would have guessed that they actually make handcrafted wooden combs? Guess which is more expensive. And a hint –  it ain’t even close.

I have yet to take the step of purchasing and investing in specialty beard products. Again – here on a tryout basis only. And let’s just say the specialty products do not qualify for the “inexpensive” category in my budget.

One can use vegetable or olive oils in place of specialty beard oils for the same effect of keeping the underlying skin moistened. But who really wants to go around smelling like a salad all day? You can also use Coconut Butter, Shea Butter, or Cacao Butter as the base to make your own homemade beard balm at home. But the first batch will set you back about $50 in starter supplies.

What about baby shampoos? They are gentle. – “Well, yes,” they reply. “But the beard shampoos do not taste bad when you get them in your mouth, which is likely to happen since it is located right where you are shampooing.” Well, that makes sense. And, I don’t know if they make hair conditioners or softeners for babies, anyway. I tend to doubt it.

I do know that shampoos and conditioners made for dogs are formulated to be much gentler than those for humans, but that may be opening me up for more “scruffy” and “mangy” look comments. Attracting birds with a pine-scented beard oil is one thing, but attracting stray dog packs and coyotes with dog shampoos and conditioners would be another. I don’t really run that fast anymore.

Some use Mane and Tail shampoo made for horses on their beards, probably cowboys I’m guessing. But how would I honestly answer or reply if the friendly sales cashier at the store inquired while purchasing – “Oh, what kind of dog/horse do you have, sir?” Having neither, I will probably not be shopping in the dog and horse care aisles, even if they are cheaper than the specialty beard products.

Out in the West, it is an unwritten but well-known rule – “You don’t touch another man’s hat.” Apparently, there is the same rule governing beards – “Don’t touch my beard!” It is considered very rude, and after all the time and effort that some put into growing, trimming, shaping, and maintaining their beards, well – just please don’t do it. But, as for every good rule, there seem to be exceptions, in this case for ladies. But, by all means, don’t do it if you’re another dude, bearded or not. Just sayin’.

Other beard-growing advice and tips abound on the internet on just about any topic one searches for –

  • “My beard itches.” – Use beard oil to lubricate the skin beneath your beard and to prevent Beardruff, the bane of beardsmen everywhere it seems. (Beardruff — Think Dandruff but from the beard. Another new word learned and added to my vocabulary.)
  • “My beard still itches.” – Use more beard oil. Down deep. Work it in. It’s the skin itching. Whiskers don’t itch.
  • “My beard still itches.” – Use more beard oil, and keep it from drying out overnight.
  • “My head slipped off the pillow from all the oil.” – Try a beard balm. Balm it up good before going to bed and sleep on your back to give your beard air and to allow it to breathe.
  • “My girlfriend left because I was snoring while sleeping on my back.” – Find another girlfriend, keep the beard.

And other salient points –

  • “Growing a beard builds character. It teaches the art of patience.” –  I already consider myself a fairly patient fellow, so that’s a non-sell.
  • “Help your beard grow faster by eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep, and losing weight.” – I think I may have heard that same advice from my doctor last year, but I don’t recall him mentioning beards at the time. Interesting.
  • “Growing a beard, you become a member of the Beard Community, a Bearded Brother — a Beardsman.” – Not much of a joiner here, best left by myself with the bears. Hold the brotherhood club card and save the postage. I am a member of AARP only because they force me to in order to get the supplement health insurance. But wait — does the brotherhood offer Beard Insurance? Wondering about a fire hazard with all this oil and pine resin in it, to be honest.
  • “Keeping a beard helps your skin to look younger in the long run because it protects and shelters your facial skin if you shave it off when older.” – I am much closer to seventy than sixty and quit caring about what I will look like when I get old quite a while ago because I’m already there. The younger-looking skin ship already sailed. And sunk.
  • “Do not trim or cut anything, including your moustache, until the initial three-month grow-in period is over.” – Not sure I will ever get used to hairs in my mouth. Some mornings I wake up feeling like I kissed a Golden Retriever.
  • “Beards are warmer in winter and cooler in summer.” – Taking that summer part under advisement, with a good deal of skepticism. But, must add that the sensation of the wind blowing thru your whiskers on a chilly, breezy day is pretty cool. I’ll give you that one.
  • “To get an award-winning, competition quality handlebar moustache use a glue stick heated with a blow dryer to cement and hold the whiskers firmly in place.” – Seriously? A glue stick?
  • “With a white beard (which mine 98% is) you can make extra money during the holiday season playing Santa Claus.” – If I would have any goals about growing a beard, it would not be to grow a Santa Claus length beard, although fill-in work during the Christmas season might come in handy next year for a little extra pocket cash to pay for all the beard stuff. I always wondered why those gentlemen do it each year, spending all day with other people’s screaming kids in their lap. Now I know – they’re in it for the beard supplies money. What is the going rate for department store Santas these days? I may actually have to look into that as there may be an opportunity there. Making a note. I’m hard of hearing already anyway.

Eating and drinking apparently can be problematic with a bushy moustache or full beard. Experiencing a bit of that already, I must say.

  • “Learn to carefully lift and hold your moustache and beard out of the way when eating, not to mess them up. Always eat with plenty of napkins at hand. And cut your burgers and sandwiches into bite-sized pieces.” – There are videos showing how to artfully, albeit not gracefully, hold your moustache up and out of the way of food while eating, using one or two fingers of the opposite hand. I don’t know if I am that coordinated with the capacity of forethought when really hungry with a juicy hamburger in front of me to remember to lift and separate before each bite. That could be a problem. And as they say, it takes both hands to handle a Whopper. Cutting up a hamburger or other sandwich into tiny bits might raise some eyebrows around the table and restaurant, too.
  • “Learn to carefully lift your moustache up and out of the way when drinking from an open cup or glass. Always use a straw whenever possible, carrying one with you at all times. Or, use “To Go” cups with lids, sipping out of the little opening.” – Again, videos are available to show you how to lift up your moustache before taking a drink of coffee from a cup or a sudsy brew from a glass. I cannot imagine how any of this would be impressive on a date or on a dinner interview. Nor can I imagine sipping a cup of beer from a “To Go” cup or drinking it thru a straw. But, not to worry, there are moustache-saving specialty devices to carry along with you, if you choose. It appears there are specialty products for nearly every circumstance and occasion a beardsman might encounter. Men have obviously been at this beard game and problem-solving work for a long time. I do not ever recall seeing Gandalf, the Vikings, or dwarves struggle with these drinking and dining issues onscreen. So much for reality TV.  Well, Tolkien’s dwarves, though – never mind. I don’t think Gimli and the others really cared. But for the rest of us who do, there are ‘Mustache Guard Drink Attachments’ and ‘Whisker Dams’. You don’t have to take my word for it, just Google it. Go to Amazon. And they aren’t cheap, so don’t get drunk and leave them behind at the bar or on the table when you leave.
  • “Soups and such should be eaten only at home, preferably alone.” – Think lobster bibs if you have a full or long beard, to shield and protect it from staining (especially if white!), together with the pesky lifting the long moustache up out of the way of the soup spoon issue. Soups and the like seem to be pretty much a banned food group, at least in public. I wonder if the Campbell Soup Company knows about this and if so, why haven’t they come up with a solution yet? Possibly missing a large market segment here, it would appear. Beard-staining tomato soup thru a sippy cup, anyone?

I don’t know what happened between senior year of college and “almost-seventy”, but “patchy and sparse” back then seemed to have changed into “seeing a noticeable difference daily” over the years. And no patches, much fuller. So, if you are of young age reading this and disheartened dealing with open, bare spots and patches trying to grow a beard, or can only grow one of those scruffy and shaggy throat-beard things, have hope. Just wait until you are old and couldn’t care less about growing a beard in the first place, and then give it a week or two. I suppose the whisker-growing change probably happened around the same time that my nose and ears became involved in the hair-growth business. Just a guess.

Reaching the seven-week mark at Christmas, I was awarded the new nickname of “Grizzly” from two different people at holiday gatherings, both for my grizzled appearance at the time and for the obvious comparison to Dan Haggerty who played Grizzly Adams years back in the late 1970s, with my own affinity for bears and writing about them with Little Red Bear. I took it as a compliment and am honored to “bear” the name, having always been a fan of both the character and the actor. So, just call me “Grizzly”, folks.

And did you ever notice that the words “Bear” and “Beard” are identical in English, with only the extra “d” being the difference? Another of the English language idiosyncrasies. If “bear” is pronounced “bare”, then why is “beard” not pronounced “bared”? I don’t think it would be a problem to be consistent because I have never heard or seen the sentence – “The man was arrested and taken into custody after drinking all night when he later bared his beard in public” on an evening news report. No serious risk of confusion, I don’t believe.

More than exceptional beard length which I don’t care about and see only as problematic and likely more work trying to maintain than shaving ever was, my only “Holy Cow!” objective would be to grow an honest-to-goodness handlebar moustache. But not a Snidely Whiplash, curled up at the ends, “tie-someone-to-the-railroad tracks” type, or a Salvador Dali, not at all.

More of a bushy Texas Longhorn look. If I could pull off a Sam Elliott stache, that would be a keeper! Or perhaps a walrus moustache as a nod to one of my favorite authors and guiding examples, Mark Twain. Or William Farnsworth from “Anne of Green Gables”. Or Grandpa Walton, Will Geer. Pretty good company, those.

Admittedly at nine weeks right now, there is only a hint of a possible handlebar in the future. The beginning of a bushy longhorn, perhaps. At the least a good effort and hopeful indication of future possibilities, but nonetheless merely a start. And we all know that not all “prospects” make the big leagues.

I must add, that trying to train a baby handlebar moustache so far is about as easy as herding cats. Although despite the oft-used expression, I have never seen anyone really try to herd a mess of cats, even on video, so it’s all left pretty much to the imagination, I suppose.

But it sounds tough, and maybe that also explains why I’ve never seen anyone actually trying to do it. Regardless, you get the idea. It’s training time for the stache to separate it from the beard growth and guide it out to the sides into a brave new world. Hold the glue sticks, though. That’s not happening.

Some have tried to talk me into a Yeard (another new word), letting my beard go totally untrimmed for twelve months, a year’s length. Not going to be doing that, either. If I would end up keeping the beard at all, I would most likely end up with what they call a short, one to three-inch beard. Maybe in the style of Ernest Hemingway. He’s another writer I have always greatly admired. But with a full, bushy moustache borrowed from Sam Elliott or the others. That shouldn’t precipitate any sideways glances or comments, should it? I never was much at conforming. Might need the fellowship of that bearded brotherhood, after all.

 

As I keep pointing out, the beard and moustache are still trying to earn spots on the team and only here on a day-to-day tryout basis, anyway. I still catch myself wondering who that strange, seedy-looking character in the mirror looking back at me is occasionally.

Clearly, a mantra to keep repeating — “Time and Length Will Solve All Problems.”

The plan at this time, being just under a month away from the noted Three Month Benchmark, is to keep it all going until then, trying to guide, grow out, and train an unruly baby stache into a full and bushy handlebar moustache along the way. Herding whiskers trying to rope in a Longhorn.

Please do not write in and ask for any pictures yet. I do not do selfies and Little Red Bear’s paws are too large to work the tiny camera buttons. Just imagine Santa Claus on vacation at the seaside on a 104-degree day, beard trimmed shorter for summer, after a non-stop, three-day bender at The Shattered Shanty Beach Bar, and you’ll be close.

Maybe a picture later provided the beard, moustache, or both land a permanent appearance contract. In the meantime, here’s a picture of Sam Elliott. If the beard goes in the end but the stache stays and ends up anywhere close to Sam Elliott, well – I can live well with that. I already have a hat and boots. We can all dream.


Perhaps the most illuminating point of all this is how we so frequently make random, off-the-top-of-the-head decisions every day, never giving thought to how they could be possibly life-altering down the road. Even in a small way. I simply decided to stop shaving for a week, just for the heck of it and ended up being introduced to a new bearded brotherhood culture that I never knew existed, and developing a whole new level of respect for people with well-cared-for moustaches and beards. And although admittedly a slight change in the big picture view, possibly a different way of life for me. We never stop growing, changing, and evolving as we go along thru life. Nor should we.

Nor should we live our lives confined within the limits of the familiar and comfortable boxes we unconsciously seem to fashion for ourselves over time. Venture outside and go with the flow. I think it especially important to keep expanding our horizons as we grow older. Even if the beard goes away and is history come the first of February, I will have developed an appreciation for and learned a great deal about things and people I never knew before. And that’s always a good thing.

Thanks for visiting and spending part of your day with us! Is someone around you working on a change in their life, too? Maybe they could use a kind word, gesture, or encouraging support. Will you do that for them today? Maybe send them an anonymous vial of beard oil or a Whisker Dam, if appropriate.

‘Til next time! Happy Trails! – “Grizzly” Jim (and Red!)


“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” — Christopher McCandless

                                    “Kissing a man with a beard is a lot like going to a picnic.                                  You don’t mind going thru a little bush to get there.” — Minnie Pearl  


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps.” — Frank Herbert


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      “A dream is the bearer of a new possibility, the enlarged horizon, the great hope.”                 — Howard Thurman


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      “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”    — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.


 

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Happy New Year! — And Oh! Oh! Oh! — All The Places You’ll Go!

We’re venturing out into a shiny New Year,

Hopeful – Eager – Excited! There’s nothing to fear!

Perhaps many goals you’ve dreamed and then written.

But a word of caution, lest you be chased down and bitten.

 

It’s wise to pause a moment to think – plan – think twice – and prepare,

Before dashing out clambering and scrambling up the great winding stair.

Heed these words of advice, from famed Dr. Seuss,

Not to be jarred, shaken, or even knocked loose.

 

Resolutions and goals are truly worth every dime,

But not getting slumped saves a great deal of time.

So before running wildly out and about, to and fro,

Watch carefully now and observe – “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”

 

 If  bogged down in ‘The Land of Doubt’ or not sure where to start,

Simply take a moment to listen, and then follow your heart.

For if you do that, then there’s no more to say,

Because following your Spirit, you’ll be well on your way!



Happy New Year! To view the text of the video from Dr. Seuss and find out more about the ‘Burning Man’ annual gathering, visit my “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” page.

Wishing everyone a safe, healthy, and joyful new year! And whatever your goals and resolutions may be, please ensure that “Be Kind” is at the top of the list. Because that is where everything truly must begin. — Jim  (and Red!)


                                         “Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living,                                       and your belief will help create the fact.” – William James

    “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be Kind; the second is to be Kind; and the third is to be Kind.” – Henry James


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.” – Dennis P. Kimbro


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“There is no royal road to anything. One thing at a time, all things in succession. That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows slowly, endures.” — Josiah Gilbert Holland


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help to continue this as an ad-free site for everyone,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.


                  “Don’t confuse fame with success.  Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.”           — Erma Bombeck


 

“Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus . . . . . . and More!”

Most everyone is familiar with the phrase “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” but may not be familiar with the interesting historical information behind it.

The phrase comes from an editorial entitled “Is There a Santa Claus?” first appearing in the September 21, 1897, edition of ‘The (New York) Sun’ newspaper in reply to a question sent in by a young girl. The editorial response has since become the most reprinted newspaper editorial in the English language.

As the story goes, eight-year-old Laura Virginia O’Hanlon first asked her father the question “Is there a Santa Claus?”  Virginia’s father, Dr. Phillip O’Hanlon, a coroner’s assistant in Manhattan, suggested that she write a letter to the prominent ‘Sun’ newspaper, advising that “If you see it in ‘The Sun’, it’s so.”

There is some question due to the wording if Virginia actually completely penned the letter herself at age eight, or more likely with the aid of her father. Regardless, the query arrived at ‘The Sun’. Few may be aware of the rest of the story.

The editor who prepared the response to Virginia’s question was named Francis Pharcellus Church. Interestingly, Mr. Church had been a war correspondent during the devastating and horrific American Civil War and suffered from a great loss of faith and hope in society afterward.  He was a hardened cynic, an atheist not given to superstition, curmudgeonly, and wanted no part of writing the newspaper’s reply, to the point of initially not allowing his name to even be attached to the piece.

Nevertheless, Mr. Church’s response turned out to be a masterful testimony much more far-reaching than the original, simple Santa Claus question. Addressing the philosophical issues of not only the existence of Santa Claus, he uncharacteristically affirmed hope, encouragement, generosity, love, and faith, as well.

Despite being placed seventh in order on the newspaper’s editorial page, even appearing below an article on the newly-invented chainless bicycle, Mr. Church’s reply was both noticed and well-received by readers, taking on a subsequent life of its own which has endured over a century and still going strong.

Reprinting here for everyone, should you wish to share this inspiring piece with your family this holiday season . . . .


“We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

“Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

“We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

“Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

“You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

“No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”


Virginia went on later in life to become an educator, receiving a doctorate from Fordham University in 1930, with her dissertation on ‘The Importance of Play’, a theme later echoed famously by Fred (Mr.) Rogers, that play is actually the work of childhood.  Later in life, she credited Mr. Church’s editorial response to her Santa Claus letter to influencing and shaping the direction of her life in a positive manner. She passed away on May 13, 1971, at the age of eighty-one.

At the time of the editorial reply, Francis Pharcellus Church was fifty-eight years old. He passed away a few years later at the age of sixty-seven and is buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York. He had no children.

One wonders what forces of the Universe combined to bring together such an unlikely pairing? An innocent young girl and her curiosity about Santa Claus, and a childless curmudgeon, to inspire a timeless literary piece of love, generosity, and devotion.

What would the world be and what would we do without Santa Claus? Without Kindness, Hope, Faith, Love, Compassion, Generosity, and Charity? Without Santa Claus embodying the Spirit of Christmas?  Without our faith and belief in the unseen? Truly, there is nothing more real, indeed. May the Spirit of Christmas continue to live within and inspire us all.

Thank You always for visiting and spending part of your day with us! And in the words of Charles Dickens thru Tiny Tim —“God bless us, every one!”  — Jim  (and Red!)


“They err who think Santa Claus enters through the chimney. He enters through the heart.” — Charles W. Howard

“Of course there is a Santa Claus. It’s just that no single somebody could do all he has to do.            So the Lord has spread the task among us all. That’s why everybody is Santa Claus.        I am. You are.” — Truman Capote


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“Whenever you give someone a present or sing a holiday song, you’re helping Santa Claus. To me, that’s what Christmas is all about. Helping Santa Claus!” — Louis Sachar


“To say there is no Santa Claus is the most erroneous statement in the world. Santa Claus is a thought that is passed from generation to generation. After time this thought takes on a human form. Maybe if all children and adults understand the symbolism of this thought                             we can actually attain Peace on Earth and good will to men everywhere.”                 —  Charles W. Howard


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.


“Whenever anyone was unselfish, that was Santa Claus. Christmas Eve was the time when everybody was unselfish. On that one night, Santa Claus was everywhere, because          everybody, all together, stopped being selfish and wanted other people to be happy.         And in the morning you saw what that had done.” — Laura Ingalls Wilder


 

 

“That’s What Christmas Is All About, Charlie Brown . . . .”

The morning of December 9th, 1965 found me one week away from my 16th birthday, approaching nearly not fast enough at the time, as you may well imagine. That evening featured the debut of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on the CBS television network, based on my favorite comic strip “Peanuts” by creator Charles Schulz. The show remains a much-anticipated classic and delight each holiday season for millions of viewers to this day. Fifty-two years have not diluted the show’s message.

While there are many discussion themes running thru the story, the most poignant for me has always been Linus’s speech on stage, responding to a frustrated Charlie Brown’s question of — “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!?”

At this time of year, trying to keep our wits about us while navigating thru and around all the hustle and bustle of crowded malls, traffic, grocery shopping, cookie exchanges, decorating, children’s school plays and activities, holiday parties, family pictures and greeting cards, boxes, packages, wrappings, and bows, all while trying to out-maneuver porch pirates from swiping online deliveries, do you ever find yourself wondering the same question — “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

Sometimes we simply need to pause, taking a moment to catch our breath and reflect.

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought,                doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”            — Dr. Seuss

As one of my sometimes forgetful uncles used to say years ago — “I don’t need to be told, but I do occasionally need to be reminded.”

In reply to his friend Charlie Brown, Linus took the stage to remind us all —

“Lights, please . . . .”


“And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid.

“And the angel said unto them — “Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

“And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.””


And that is what Christmas is all about. For Charlie Brown. For Linus, Lucy, and Snoopy. For us all. The reason for the season, as they say. Christmas, it turns out, does indeed mean a little bit more.


Linus is famously noted for carrying around his trusted security blanket with him wherever he goes. Held tightly fast and never let go lest panic ensues. Have you ever noticed that at the point when Linus repeats the words of the angel “Fear not!” that the blanket is suddenly on the floor beside him, confidently lain aside until he once again retrieves it at the end of the speech?  There are subtle messages and lessons awaiting us in that simple action and demonstration of faith, too.


As Ebineezer Scrooge even came to realize in the end — “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year!”

Peace, Good Will, Kindness, Generosity, Charity, Compassion, Empathy, Love — none of these are or should be exclusive or seasonal things, as we should truly keep them in our hearts throughout the year.  The Christmas Season is an annual reminder of how we should be always, for everyone and all things in this miraculous and beautiful world we all share and call home.

Thank You for visiting and spending part of your day with us.  Wishing you and yours a very Merry and Blessed Christmas and holiday season! A simple act of kindness or encouraging word can change someone’s entire life around. Will you do that for someone today? In the Spirit of Christmas.  — Jim  (and Red!)


            “Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.”          – Peg Bracken

“Peace on earth will come to stay, when we live Christmas every day.” – Helen Steiner Rice


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.” – Eric Sevareid


“Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.” – Washington Irving


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.


“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.” – Dale Evans Rogers


 

A Christmas Poem — “Blue House on the Hill”

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  Photos, pictures, and works of art frequently inspire me to write stories or poems about them.  Such was the case recently when I viewed a wonderful artwork featuring a beautiful blue house in winter.

Offering a new little Christmas poem, inspired by the “Dusk” painting by artist Trisha Romance, below.

“Blue House on the Hill”

Our old blue house sat up high on the hill,

Inside warm and safe from winter’s raw chill.

Cookies, cakes, and pies all scented our home,

None of us a thought to venture or roam.

Recalling holidays in memories now,

And longing to return, if only somehow.

Our Christmas tree twinkling with lights shining bright,

We awoke Christmas mornings, filled with delight.

Brightly-wrapped packages beneath the tree,

We dove in to open them with happiness and glee.

Our parents observed (from a safe distance),

Unwrapping packages never called for assistance.

New clothes and gifts always gave me great pleasure,

But now looking back, it’s the memories I treasure.

Wrappings, ribbons, bows, and gifts — all works of art,

But the thoughts behind them are what truly warmed the heart.

Family would visit later to come Christmas Calling,

We always shoveled the sidewalk to avoid any falling.

Each person bearing gifts, as we had presents for them, too,

Every Christmas an over-sized sweater, handmade by Aunt Sue.

Gathered at the table for dinner, someone then to say grace,

Silent moments, recalling ones now in a Heavenly place.

Christmas with roast turkey, dressing, potatoes, hot gravy, biscuits, and more,

Grown-ups would then visit and chat, tired children napped — fast asleep on the floor.

Desserts, goodies, and treats would all then come later,

Even though still full, making waistlines the greater.

Spiced punch for adults, eggnog for those not of age,

Mother’s spiced fruitcake always taking center stage.

I would like to go back to our little blue house,

Sneaking in to watch from a corner like a mouse.

Again, seeing Christmas thru youthful, wide-open eyes,

Knowing now the gifts and presents weren’t really the prize.

Oh, the joy-filled Christmases of my past,

So many memories, and still they last.


 As always, Thank You for visiting and spending part of your day with us. Sending the very best wishes your way for a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!  — Jim  (and Red!)

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.”  — Bob Hope
 
“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.” — Roy L. Smith

Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“The smells of Christmas are the smells of childhood.”  — Richard Paul Evans



“Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.” — Charles Schulz 


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.


“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.”  — Andy Rooney


Christmas Trains — Tracking Memories Beneath the Tree

Looking back now over Christmases in my childhood, railroad trains were as integral a part and essential to the holiday itself as Santa Claus, Snickerdoodles, and Christmas trees. We are not talking 1940 as in Ralphie from ‘A Christmas Story’, but not far removed, being more early 1950’s for me, being born at the tail end of 1949.

Every year my family would devote one December Saturday for an annual pilgrimage to downtown St. Louis to see the big department store window displays with their trains running around and around, shop a bit, crane our necks up at the tall buildings, and have lunch at Miss Hullings’ Cafeteria. It was magical, at a time when all meals were made at home and “going out” was something that just wasn’t done except on rare occasion. The annual Train Window Displays certainly counted as a special occasion.

When very young, let’s just say around three to five years old for discussion purposes as memories before that are a bit more foggy, we lived in Kirkwood, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. Every year, Santa Claus would arrive at the Kirkwood Railroad Station on a train pulled by a huff-chuffing steam locomotive, complete with whistles and bells. Santa would be greeted by applause and cheers by the crowd, step out of the train, wave, and then come inside the station for each of us to take our turns sitting on his lap for a photo while confiding our seasonal wish list.  Memories like that tend not to fade over the years. And I still have the photos of me on his lap. Somewhere.

I have not submitted to an official DNA test but would bet the next rent check that I inherited my train-loving gene from my father. Beyond the real world Santa train and department store window displays, my father was as big a train fan as I remain today. My third birthday (yes, I remember because it was that special) brought a Marx Passenger Train set from Santa, just like the one he arrived in at the station each year. Within minutes my father had the little train circling around the base of the Christmas tree. There is no doubt that train logged as many miles circling the tree as Santa’s reindeer that Christmas.  For an over-the-road truck driver, my dad made a crackerjack engineer!

The following Christmas brought another train, a Lionel Freight Train with a huffing, puffing steam locomotive that actually had a working headlight and put out tiny puffs of smoke as it ran around the tracks. The technology was advancing by leaps and bounds in the early ’50’s! We had two trains circling the Christmas tree that year, in opposite directions so the make-believe engineers could wave at each other as they passed each time around. It was dizzyingly awesome.

That was to be my last complete train set package for many years, as each subsequent Christmas brought more Lionel train cars, buildings, tiny people to be painted, bridges, trees, telephone poles, tunnels, and accessories. Adding on to the established base. Before long, my father and I had a complete, working Lionel model train layout going each holiday, complete with plastic buildings, Cowboys and Indians, army men, horses, pigs, and cows. It continued to build and grow for several years.

Buildings were lit from the inside.  Working switches were added.  A new transformer arrived later with a whistle button and a cool, side-mounted throttle. Two pre-fab tunnels were added, one tunnel with a little blue lake painted on top and the other, longer tunnel curved to fit over a matching curve at the far end. A tall tower with a revolving red and green lantern at the top arrived one year, along with crossing gates that blinked red lights and went down and then back up as trains rumbled by. We had a long, silver metal bridge which merely sat on the floor, bridging over nothing, but it was neat to see the train travel thru it. A few years later, a new flat car appeared, which at the push of a button launched a helicopter flying off thru the air in someone’s direction. The future had arrived right in our living room!

Meanwhile, apart from the ever-burgeoning Lionel empire, the old Marx passenger train dutifully encircled the Christmas tree on our living room floor each year. I don’t think our Christmas trees would have remained upright without that Marx train holding their roots in place over the years. It had a job and it did it well.

At some point around the age of nine or so, my older sister moved out to be on her own, leaving her bedroom vacant. It was just the right size to fit a 4′ x 8′ plywood board atop sawhorses for a permanent set-up, and it wasn’t long before my father and I were hurrying to construct a bonafide model train layout to be ready by Christmas, just a few months away. It was awesome and took up nearly the whole room.

But, and please pardon me if I get a little technical here in explanation, it wasn’t long before we reached the inherent problem presented by the old Lionel trains, the point where the train layout reached its limits. There was no more room for expansion.

In model trains ‘Scale’ represents the ratio of the model size to the real-life prototype. Lionel trains were ‘O’ scale, modeled on a scale of 1:48, where 1 inch on the model equals 48 inches in real life, making for fairly good-sized model trains which required a goodly amount of space to operate. Especially around curves, since trains do not handle 90 degree turns as well as automobiles and bicycles, having a much larger turning radius. Which in turn limits how much track and modeling can be done in a given space.

Still with me? Good — because now we’re getting to the dramatic part. Reaching my eleventh birthday, buoyed by a decent fifth-grade education by this point and having been exposed to Boy’s Life Magazine and the modern world thru the Boy Scouts, I had become aware of the newest, modern new thing in model railroading — ‘HO’ scale — ‘HO’ itself standing for “Half of O” scale.

‘HO’ scale modeling was at a 1: 87.1 modeling ratio, meaning one inch of model equaled 87.1 inches in real life. The decimal point alone made it much more scientific and cutting edge to the knowledgeable fifth-grader. In short, ‘HO’ model trains were about half the size of the old (and “out of date” in my young mind) ‘O’ scale Lionel trains while at the same time being much more detailed and realistic. The early train sets were truly more ‘toys’ while the new ‘HO’ trains were ‘models’, and to me at age eleven and now a Boy Scout, a vast difference. Madison Avenue and the marketers had my full attention. “Models” were for serious folk, while “toys” were for kids. And at age eleven and going on campouts and hikes, I no longer considered myself a kid, already being a Second Class Scout, after all.

In addition, it was all supported by the obvious fact that our Lionel train ran around on three silver tracks — Three! — while the new ‘HO’ trains ran on two more realistic, copper-colored rails with faux-wooden ties. Two tracks, like trains in the real world. Not to mention that my best friend down the street had an American Flyer set which ran on two rails like the real trains, which he constantly reminded me of.

The new ‘HO’ scale meant that in the same amount of space one could do twice as much modeling, track, and scenery work, with a much more realistic than “toyish” (three rails!) layout. Converting to HO meant that suddenly our 4′ x 8′ layout would not be maxed out, after all. The wonders of the modern age!

But, this is where my father and I parted ways. His affection for our early Lionel trains was deep-rooted and his opinions set in stone. I suppose, looking back with an understanding not yet acquired by age eleven, that he was emotionally invested in them. By advocating for the new ‘HO’ model trains, as far as he was concerned my position was pure heresy spoken by a greenhorn still wet behind the ears who didn’t know anything.

But, of course, in the fifth grade,  if really not quite knowing it all, I was aware of the unfortunate fact that if anything ‘HO’ related was going to appear under the Christmas tree that year, it wasn’t going to be delivered by Santa Claus. I negotiated, bargained, pleaded, and threw myself on the mercy of the court that year to no avail. Ol’ Dad wouldn’t budge. — No ‘HO’ — period.

And that’s where it stood for another three years. In my mind, he was being hard-headed and unreasonable, denying modern science. In his mind, I was simply out of mine. The ‘Marx’ train locomotive eventually wore out and was dutifully replaced under the tree by the old Lionel train set each Christmas, no longer running along the rails on the bedroom train layout which had long since been dismantled following the Great ‘O’ vs ‘HO’ debate of a few years past. As well as our having grown bored with it since any more work or expansion was out of the question due to having run out of space. The big Lionel was reduced to annually running its course on the floor, around and around and around beneath the tree once a year at Christmas time.

My father and I still had a good relationship, mind you. We just seldom if ever spoke about trains anymore, except in debate. With the determination and fortitude of Ralphie and his “Red Ryder BB Gun With A Compass In The Stock”, each year I would ask, plot, scheme, and maneuver for an ‘HO’ train set for Christmas, only to find myself with a pair of gloves or something else “more my age” now.

And then something happened that still to this day I cannot explain. Perhaps it was a Motherly Intervention. I have no idea and can only relate the event as it occurred.

One chilly, late October Friday night my Scoutmaster appeared in our home for an inexplicable reason, with three ‘HO’ scale, little ore car kits he was working on and building. He was seated at the kitchen table with my mother and father, explaining all about them, showing a completed model, one in progress about half-finished, and the other in pieces, still untouched in the box. I was called in to see them, and of course, I was mesmerized. The idea of building your own rolling stock from kits was fascinating to someone already loving to do handwork, and this was all being demonstrated by my Scoutmaster, nonetheless. The man who had taught me how to put up a tent, build a fire, and to make a foil pack hamburger dinner in a campfire!

If I had ‘HO’ fever already, I popped the top off the thermometer that night. After a while and having talked about all things ‘HO’ over a few cups of coffee, the mysterious discussion was over and he left. None of it ever to be discussed or mentioned again over the following months. I can only compare the strangeness of it all to Thomas Edison suddenly appearing unannounced in a colonial town square, switching on a light bulb, and then everyone going back to their candles and never mentioning it again.

And then followed the Christmas of my fourteenth year, two months later. With my birthday on December 16th, nine days before Christmas, one soon gets used to birthday and Christmas presents being combined into one, which worked out well sometimes for a larger gift than one might expect singularly for either event on its own. Other times not. But number fourteen was one of those auspicious times when it did.

That birthday was a swing and miss with something I do not recall, being told that we were just exceptionally poor and money was tight that year. I understood as we were admittedly and firmly entrenched in the “middle class — lower third” and subject to its economic ups and downs over the years, never in that “upper class” which we talked about in school.

On Christmas Eve, I opened the unusually large package which had been cleverly buried and hidden behind the Christmas tree in utter disbelief and amazement to find a brand spanking new ‘HO’ train set including my favorite — a smoke-puffing steam engine! An exact, half-size version of the old Lionel steam engine! Birds sang — Bells rang — Angels smiled — and I did a Happy Dance! The Universe was once again back in order.

Over the next year, my Father and I worked together again, in the basement this time, on a new 5′ x 9′ layout even larger than the old one, with a special “quieter” board he had come home with one day from the hardware store made specifically for train layouts, he maintained. Later as we went along, Dad protested, grumped, and griped all the way in typical fatherly fashion, complaining about the tiny ‘HO’ parts and concept in general to save face, but couldn’t hide the fact that he loved it all every bit as much as I did.

We ditched the old, pre-fab Lionel tunnels and constructed towering mountains from screen wire and plaster in their place with cuts and tunnels at two different levels. We sculpted rock cliffs, constructed trestles, built buildings, and formed trees and bushes. We wired automatic switches and every building with lights, had a working sawmill with its saw going up and down on mock logs, and a turning water wheel on a riverside mill. We had a building which “caught fire” (flickering lights, of course) and at the turn of a switch, firemen pumped real water into it to extinguish the “blaze”. To top it off, right before the next Christmas, we added an honest-to-goodness working waterfall behind which the trains passed thru another tunnel while real water drizzled down the mountainside in front. We were back loving our trains. Trains had made us “We” again.

A few years later brought the most-prized Christmas present I ever received — ever. Something I had wanted for years and had little hope of affording myself at the time — “The General”. Unwrapping the package, I remember being so excited that my sock-covered feet slipped out from under me on the newly-waxed floor! I hung suspended in mid-air for a moment and then crashed to the floor in a heap, all while carefully cradling the box in my hands to protect my new prize.

“The General” was a famed, wood-burning steam locomotive involved in a daring raid in the Civil War, when on April 12, 1862, Northern infiltrators stole the locomotive and headed back north, intent on sabotaging rebel railroad lines and bridges deep behind enemy lines as they went. They were pursued by another locomotive, “The Texas”, and eventually captured before much damage could be done. But, Fess Parker, of Davy Crockett and Walt Disney fame, had made a 1956 movie about it, “The Great Locomotive Chase”, and that was enough to have peaked my interest. “The General” was not cheap, and there it was in my hands!  I still have “The General” safely stored in its original box. Best Christmas present ever. Magic under the tree.

Nowadays, the old Marx train, worn out as it is but much too valued to be discarded, rests in a box. Emotional investment again, I suppose. The old Lionel train, together with all the attendant pieces and accessories, waits in two boxes on top of it. My collected ‘HO’ trains and materials gathered over the years? They reside in three boxes alongside. Boxed treasures of Christmases and times past. I cannot think of Christmas without thinking about trains. And cannot think of trains without recalling the times with my father. And perhaps my mother’s inserted influence. Hopefully, all to be resurrected and shown the light of day again soon following another move in the coming year, even if inoperable.  Memories on display and stories yet to be told.

Memories. And stories. That’s what holidays and Christmases are all about, aren’t they? The cherished memories we build together in our families and with our friends over the years?  Most are good.  Others maybe not so much, sometimes.  That’s the way life is. But, some of them are outstandingly special that remain with us forever.  My fondest family traditions and Christmas memories seem to run thru tunnels, over bridges, and along train tracks thru the years.

What memories of Christmases and family do you hold close to your heart? What are your most-treasured holiday traditions and stories?  Please feel free to share them in the ‘Comments’ section with us! And, I encourage you to visit my wonderful author and blogger friends listed below as they each share their cherished holiday traditions and reminiscences with us, as well.

Cat Michaels — “Holiday Traditions To Ring In Our Season”

Sandra Bennet — “Tis The Season For Holiday Traditions”

Rebecca Lyndsey — “Let’s Talk Holiday Traditions”

Rosie Russell — “Holiday Traditions Blog Hop” 

K. Lamb– “The Smell of Christmas”

Thanks as always for visiting and spending part of your day with us!  Your visits here are special to us, and we hope that in some way we help to make your day special, too.  Wishing you and yours a very Happy, Healthy, and Safe Holiday Season from Little Red Bear land! — Jim (and Red!)


From home to home, and heart to heart, from one place to another. The warmth and joy of Christmas brings us closer to each other.” — Emily Matthews

“Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.” — Mary Ellen Chase 


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”  — Bob Hope


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The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree:  the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” — Burton Hillis


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.


“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ” — Norman Vincent Peale


 

 

 

 

 

“Once Upon A Time In A Very Special Woods . . . .”

Once upon a time in a very special woods . . . .

Once upon a time, quite a number of years ago in the Ozarks Mountain Country of Missouri, when steam locomotives rumbled over the rails huff-chuffing along leaving puffy billows and clouds of smoke behind as they went, and paddle-wheeled steamboats navigated their way past shifting sandbars in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers with calliopes playing jaunty melodies to waving folk along the riverbanks, and farmers still relied on wagons, horses, and mules to work the land, there lived three bears.

The three bears were by no means the ordinary, average, or run-of-the-mill bears as most may be familiar with visiting in zoos and observing in nature documentaries today.  Rather, they were quite remarkable. As it turns out . . . . uncommonly special.

The first bear was named Walter, but everyone called him Little Red Bear after an unfortunate run-in with a hive of angry bees one early spring afternoon.  Not to be confused by the name ‘Red’, as his friends frequently shortened his nickname to in conversation, his true color was more of a rusty, reddish-brown color.  Kind of an orange, red, and brown all swirled, stirred, and smushed together.

Little Red Bear lived in the log cabin he had built on Honey Hill, overlooking Hoppers Holler below, named for the large number of rabbit families who made their homes along Blackberry Creek, aimlessly meandering from one end of the holler to the other.

Little Red Bear had large vegetable and herb gardens, along with many fruit and nut trees. He allowed several rabbit and other families to make their homes and safely raise their families in the space beneath his cabin for protection against marauding packs of weasels, the scourge of the Ozarks Mountain Country backwoods.

In addition to being regarded as the top honey-gatherer in the mountains, Little Red Bear was equally famous for both the finely crafted bamboo fishing poles and for the flaky, buttery biscuits he made. The steaming hot biscuits drizzled over with plentiful amounts of sweet golden honey of course, and served with every meal.

Little Red Bear was also known for his weekly Friday night fish fries when neighbors from all over the Tri-County area would bring their families, along with their own prepared dishes and dinner contributions to share for the potluck dinner. Everyone, old and young alike, looked forward to Friday nights and Little Red Bear’s fried fish, praised by all as “staggeringly good!”

The second bear was named Bobo.  A black bear and somewhat larger than Little Red Bear in size, Bobo had retired following years of performing in “Barney’s Traveling Big Top Animal Circus and Sideshow” where his balancing feats were legendary. Bobo was widely renowned as ‘Bobo the Balancing Black Bear’ and he still liked to perform for folk whenever the opportunity presented itself. Bobo was rightly confident that he could juggle or balance just about anything tossed his way.

Little Red Bear and Bobo were the very best of friends, an interesting pairing with Little Red Bear being noticeably more calm and thoughtful, while Bobo could be, at times, a bit on the hot-tempered side. But always one to be counted on whenever a problem or threat arose. Or a gathering of onlookers to entertain. Bobo was a trouper and showbear, thru and thru.

Bobo the black bear was married to Lily, also a black bear retired from Barney’s Big Top circus. They had made an unexpected magical connection behind the circus tent following a performance years before when both had reached for a visitor’s discarded cotton candy at the same moment, touched paws, and had been together ever since.

Not to be outdone, Lily also was known far and wide for her performing skills in the circus ring as ‘Lily the Dancing Black Bear’. Her graceful and charming dance performances, balletic in style, received rave reviews everywhere the circus traveled, with her most famous dancing maneuver still known as “The Lily Bear Twirl” to this day.

Lily was also noted for her exceptional pie making skills, with her special Autumn Spiced Buttermilk Pie the most acclaimed. Lily and Bobo lived in their log cabin, not too far away from Little Red Bear’s cabin on Honey Hill, towards the western end of Hoppers Holler. The more secluded and wooded end. The eastern end of the holler, home to Little Red Bear on Honey Hill, was more open with meadows of tall grasses, clover, and wildflowers that rippled in the summer breezes.

One day, when traveling to his favorite fishing hole which he had named ‘Perch Lake’ because of all the tasty yellow perch fish swimming about in it, Little Red Bear had come across a  small young bear, scarcely a year old and certainly not old or large enough to be independent, or to be out all on his own yet. The little bear had been trying unsuccessfully to catch a fish, was very thin, ragged in appearance, ravenously hungry, and appearing in every way clearly the worse for wear. His name was Cinnamon Charlie, and his coat color was a brownish cinnamony color.

Little Red Bear befriended Cinnamon Charlie, gave him a home, and took him under his wing to look after, guide, teach, and instruct him in the ways of the world. And fishing.

Cinnamon Charlie was delighted to have a roof over his head, regular meals, and a comfortably warm bed of his very own near the fireplace. And away from Little Red Bear’s snoring on the other side of the cabin.

So, then there were four bears.

The four bears lived in an area of the Ozarks Mountain Country largely unchanged by time or the outside world where they all walked along upright on two legs, and where animals and humans conversed freely with each other and interacted as equals, living side by side as neighbors and friends as it had always been.

Little Red Bear wore clothes, most frequently a pair of worn, faded and loose-fitting blue denim overalls, accompanied by a wide-brimmed straw hat and a washed-out red bandana tied loosely around his neck or dangling from a rear pocket, its location more often than not determined by the temperature of the day.

Together, the four bears and their friends, animal and human alike, are the main characters in “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” tales — positive and inspirational fiction stories told in an easygoing, old-fashioned manner with a bit of down-home Southern flair and humor, which we simply call a Country Comfortable style. Themes of Kindness, Positivity, Helping Others, Spirituality, Conservation, and Mother Nature are interwoven throughout.

The multi-generational short stories are family-friendly, instructive for young middle-grade readers, and perfectly suited for reading to little ones on your lap by the fireside, while also being both humorous and enjoyably entertaining for adult readers on their own.

Discover what our readers have had to say about the Little Red Bear stories in their Reviews and Reader Comments, and tap here to enjoy a Free Preview for yourself.

“The Adventures of Little Red Bear” —  about an uncommonly special bear and his friends.  And where no story ever begins with — “Once Upon a Time . . . .”



Thanks as always for visiting and spending part of your day with us! We hope you will join us for Little Red Bear’s stories because everyone needs to step off the front porch for an entertaining and rewarding adventure now and then.

Just please remember to scrape the mud off your boots when you get back.  We’ve already gotten a few letters about muddy floors.  —  Jim  (and Red!)


“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” — Emilie Buchwald

            “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”             – Walt Disney


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

        “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.” — Erma Bombeck


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