A Dime Rhyme Poem — “Little Tommy O’Flanagan”

Sharing a wee bit of a poem for National Poetry Month in April — “Little Tommy O’Flanagan”.  It’s one of those short little poems just for fun.  Check out the Dime Rhymes page for more.


Little Tommy O’Flanagan

Oh, to see our poor little boy Tommy O’Flanagan,

Jumping a puddle and falling splat on his can again.

Off running and dripping now on his way home,

All mucky and muddy and covered in loam.

Tommy with all his wits now collected,

Is trying to sneak in undetected.

Our  dear sweet but splattered little Tommy O’Flanagan,

Hoping ne’er to be caught in his latest shenanigan.


Thanks always for visiting with us and sharing our writing journeys.  A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after a success. Be an encourager and the reason someone smiles today!  —  Jim  (and Red!)


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Chapter Four of The Ozarks Ostrich Crisis: “DAY 3 — Picketing Ostriches In The News!”

Note to Readers– This is Chapter Four of a continuing Weekly Serial Story freely shared only here for followers of my Writing Blog.  If you missed the beginning, you can catch up HERE for the first three chapters.


Still shaken by my Ghostly Cloud dream the night before and feeling as though I had gone ten rounds in the ring with a boxing kangaroo, I tried to put the picketing ostriches out of my mind and headed back inside the cabin, where Little Red Bear was already busily preparing breakfast.

“I will take care of breakfast this morning, Jim,” he called over from the kitchen. “You just set yourself down there at the table and rest your bones.  I don’t know what in the world you did last night but you sure look the worse for wear.”

He kindly brought a cup of breakfast tea over and placed a stack of morning newspapers in front of me.

“Some things in “Squirrelly World” you might find interesting this morning. They even came out with a special edition. And I’m going to close the window for a spell, if you don’t mind. Don’t want to listen to all that goofy ostrich chanting during breakfast. Bad for digestion. I’ll get to it as soon as I finish cooking over here.”

Boycott Bear Stories!

No Ostriches, No Stories!

What do we want? Ostriches!

When do we want them? Now!

“Yeah, Red. Shut ‘em down. I don’t want to listen to all that racket right now, either.”

Little Red Bear is fat, stupid and rude.

And we don’t like his attitude!

What’d you say? They didn’t hear.

Shout it LOUDER, there’s nothing to fear!

Little Red Bear is fat, stupid and rude.

And we don’t like his attitude!

“Sounds like they’re sticking with the classics this morning, Red. Hope whoever came up with these chants for the ostriches gets royalties every time they shout them out.”

“You don’t get royalties on your writing stuff, do you Jim?”’

“Nah. Never enough to buy a sandwich with.”

Hey, hey, ho!  That smelly bear has got to go!

Hey, hey, ho!  That flightless comment was really low!

Hey, hey, ho!  Come join us picketing to and fro!

Hey, hey, ho!  That writer guy shouldn’t write no mo’!

Not waiting for Little Red Bear to get to it, I closed the window myself. Looking out over the front yard area and hillside, it seemed birds and animals were arriving from every direction.

“I got the window, Red.”

Limping back to the table, I reached for the morning’s copy of “Squirrelly World.”  Little Red Bear’s ominous tone a few moments before had gotten my attention and made me curious. Picking up the newspaper the bold headline on the front page immediately captured my attention – “Lynch Mobs Gathering!”

It appears that the question of why the crowds outside the cabin continue to grow larger and larger had been answered – the squirrels and “Squirrelly World” had been busy chatting it up and spreading news about the ostriches and their irrational protest everywhere.

“I’m sure it’s just “Squirrelly World” bluster and nonsense, Red,” I called over to Little Red Bear, who was busy stirring another batch of waffle batter in the kitchen while the first batch warmed in the oven. “But just in case, do you know where all of our ropes are?”

“Yep. Already gathered them all in from the shed and locked ‘em up inside the cabin before you came down this morning,” Little Red Bear replied while still stirring, surprisingly calm given the headline.  “Just in case.”

Of course, I suppose it is probably pretty hard to get too upset over anything with the scent of Blueberry Oatmeal Waffles in your nose.

“Sounds like you have it all under control then, Red.”

“You betcha.”

“I’m sure there’s nothing to it. Just “Squirrelly World” doing what they do again.”

“I agree. But like I always say – ‘Why take a chance?’ There’s just some things you don’t want to be wrong about in life, Jim. And getting lynched is one of ’em.  Ropes – locked up.”

Following along with the events and so you understand why neither Little Red Bear nor I are too overly concerned about the lynching headline, it would be best for you to know that there are two primary news outlets here in Little Red Bear’s backwoods neighborhood.

The first, respected as being mostly factual and unbiased, is the “Owl Hoots & Toots”, a newspaper put out by a pair of owl brothers, great grey owls who also double as private investigators, private “owl’s” eyes, Artemis and Atticus.

It is without question the most reliable source of overnight news and developments, providing factual information of newsworthy events and happenings in an unbiased manner. And the most accurate fishing reports and prospects on local streams and lakes, normally the section Little Red Bear reads first each morning.

And then there is the other publication – “Squirrelly World”.

To be brutally honest – “Squirrelly World” is a gossip rag. A scandal sheet tabloid prone to featuring scandalous and sensational news in the backwoods, full of idle gossip, rumours, innuendo and chit-chat. Who was seen wagging their tail at who, which celebrity Nuthatch was seen escorting a cute Chickadee into their nest late at night, which doe batted her long eyelashes at a strange young buck, etc.

A newspaper, to use the term loosely, given to blowing events, real or rumoured, totally out of proportion and context to boost subscribers and ad revenues. Squirrels are insatiable in their quest for deep stockpiles and can never have enough nuts, it would seem.

The only reliable and generally trusted news reporter on the staff of “Squirrelly World” is Rusty the Fairydiddle, a red squirrel with a keen nose for news. Word in the woods is that Rusty is being recruited by Artemis and Atticus to jump ship and join the “Owl Hoots & Toots”.

That would be a good career move for both Rusty and the owls, removing his stigma of working for a gossipy tabloid to serving a true news organization of reputation and merit, while at the same time providing access to a broader area of news coverage and readership for the owls thru his established squirrel channels. But, like most things, it’s merely hearsay and conjecture until it happens.

With regard to the ostrich protest, each newspaper seems to have taken a different slant with the story – the “Owl Hoots & Toots” most accurately relaying the facts in small back page articles; while the squirrels, in their customary fashion in “Squirrelly World”, have sensationalized the story each day in bold, front page banner headlines. Additionally, they have editorially expanded the ostriches’ issues to all birds, flightless or not, while also hurling (what we feel) baseless and unsubstantiated accusations and allegations in the direction of Little Red Bear.

There is a growing clamor in the woodland today as critters seem to be taking different sides on the issue. Crows are being exceptionally raucous and disorderly in the treetops. A noisy cluster of blackbirds is assembling in a group of red oak trees in the distance, with more steadily arriving, traveling in giant clouds and swarms as they do.

And it would seem there is one rather confused looking turkey buzzard pacing back and forth along the roadside, first looking up towards our cabin and then looking over to the picketing ostriches, wagging his bald red head back and forth apparently trying to make up his mind of which side to join and unsure of how to proceed, understandably unaccustomed as vultures are to being caught up and involved with issues of the living, of course.

Or, there’s a chance that he simply showed up early to be first in line after the lynching, I suppose.  Hopefully the former.

As one might expect then from the headlines and crowds, as the day progressed tensions continued to escalate in the Ozarks Ostrich Crisis.

Large and intimidating as they are, the ostriches, in addition to picketing and chanting protest slogans, are now preventing our story characters from entering scheduled writing sessions, not allowing them to cross the picket line to come to work, and calling them “flabby grabby scabbies”.

Some feelings are being hurt because of that, but more worrisome perhaps has been the reaction and involvement of the local packs of coyotes and weasels.

Little Red Bear and I were concerned that the ostriches’ initial chanting, protests and discontent might spread to marginalized fringe groups, and there seem to be none more marginalized and disparaged than weasels and coyotes here in these parts, who in the interest of full disclosure – do not occupy a high standing in Little Red Bear’s view or stories.

So, they already have an ax to grind with Red and have predictably settled on the side of the obstreperous ostriches, joining in the picketing and protesting. The coyotes are creating a maddening racket and disruption with their howling. I am wondering how long we can keep the windows closed heading into summer, and what the cost might be to air-condition the place, if even possible to reasonably do that with a log cabin?

Groups of both coyotes and weasels have been going around trying to coerce other critters to enlist support for the picketers and join their side. Fortunately, most bystanders can escape into trees and avoid the blustering bullies.

Sadly, one intrepid “Squirrelly World” reporter may not have been so fortunate, having been carried away by a coyote under the pretense of an ‘exclusive private interview’ and not having been seen since. His editor is worried about the interview story being late for tomorrow’s deadline.

Prospective story characters still applying for jobs are finding it challenging to keep their place in line as well, with angry weasels and coyotes menacingly patrolling the path. Especially the slow and smaller critters. Frankly, I’m concerned about some of the turtles and porcupines, but then again, they are turtles and porcupines with their own defenses, after all. So, it will probably be all right. Hoping.

Both curious and disturbing, one of the coyotes even made a picket sign of his own and was carrying it around, deliriously pumping it up and down in the air over his head, trooping along in line behind the ostriches back and forth.

Fashioned after one of the ostrich signs, it read — “COYOTES ARE BIRDS, TOO!”

Which goes a long way towards explaining why coyotes occupy the role they do in Little Red Bear’s adventure stories.

The largest ostrich, presumably the leader, eventually persuaded the coyote to put the sign down; the ostrich appearing somewhat embarrassed by it all himself, as he then tried to ditch the sign and conceal it out of sight by jamming it into a large honeysuckle bush off to the side.

Silliness aside, with coyotes and weasels involved now, things have more than a fair chance of taking a turn for the worse. The coyotes always seem to have a certain edginess about them. And the local weasel situation, while never on friendly terms dating back to an incident a few years ago with Little Red Bear and a friend at the Triennial Swamp Tug, has markedly deteriorated over the past year.

Weasels pretty much had their way for many years in the backwoods and had been decimating the local bunny rabbit population. So much so that Little Red Bear felt inclined to invite bunny families to nest beneath his cabin for protection a couple years ago.

That all changed when the new, self-proclaimed Backwoods Sheriff arrived a little while ago, Albuquerque Red from New Mexico.  Albuquerque is a red fox, and both curiously and as one would not expect, a loyal friend and protector of rabbits. The little fox sheriff and the weasels have been at odds ever since. It’s all explained at length in Little Red Bear’s first collection of stories, “The First Holler!” should you wish to catch up on the background and history of it all.

So, hoping things do not get dangerous or truly ugly with the added involvement of the weasels and coyotes now.

“The coyotes had a head start on ‘truly ugly’ the moment they showed up.”

“Red, that’s not nice. Remember our young readers.”

“Well, just stating a fact. They’re ugly. Truly.”

“Red . . . .”

“Kids today know what ugly is.  And if they don’t, they just have to picture a coyote in their mind. Or a weasel. Either one. But not together. That’s too much ugly even for me to imagine.”

Well, I think everyone should understand how Little Red Bear feels about coyotes and weasels now. But as I keep explaining to him, coyotes are just another of God’s creatures going about their business as Mother Nature intended. I think they are frequently quite handsome creatures, myself, simply doing what they have been sent here to do.

That being said though, it’s difficult to sway someone to appreciate a creature’s good qualities while that very same critter is busy picketing in front of their home and hurling “fat and ugly” insults at them. So, I understand Little Red Bear’s position on the matter.

I have known Little Red Bear and some of his friends for years, and have always been urging Red to allow me to help him tell the world about his adventures. But never imagined our having to deal with protesting ostriches, coyotes and weasels around our home in the process. Along with the dubious threat of being strung up and lynched, of course.

Do romance novelists have to deal with this kind of stuff? Do jilted lovers bother to picket in protest or simply hustle on along to their next fling? I write animal stories, so honestly have no idea. But there are so many romance writers out there and so few animal story writers, that it would seem to beg the question.

Regardless, time marches on. Along with the ostriches, coyotes and weasels. Maybe they will all come to their senses and tomorrow will bring peace and calm again.

Wait! – Oh! – No!

There goes a weasel chasing my receptionist trying to get into work, a four-year-old rabbit with a nest full of bunnies to feed.

“Hey, you!  Stop that!  Run, Henrietta!  I’m coming!”

Gotta go!

To be continued . . . . . . . .


Thanks as always for following along and visiting with us! As a special ‘thank you’, Little Red Bear has included the Pinterest Recipe for those Blueberry Oatmeal Waffles he was making earlier. If you are unfamiliar with Pinterest, simply tap on the image to find the recipe.

Be sure to check in next week as events continue to unfold in the “Ozarks Ostrich Crisis”, a continuing weekly serialized free story available only here on the Writing Blog.  See ya then!

And please remember — Kindness does not cost anything and can change someone’s life in a heartbeat.  Be the reason someone smiles today!   — Jim  (and Red!)


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“Warning” Poem by Jenny Joseph — “When I Grow Old, I Shall Wear Purple”

With April being ‘National Poetry Month’ and a focus on spreading awareness and appreciation of poetry, it seems appropriate to share a few favorites along the way.

The “Warning” poem by English poet Jenny Joseph (born May 7, 1932 in Birmingham) is one such poem, because I hear her speaking to each of us, male or female, in an ode to nonconformity, one of my personal favorite rants and topics.   In a humorous, tongue-in-cheek and  fun way, Jenny Joseph conveys a serious message for all, to never take ourselves too seriously or lose the twinkle in our eyes.

Age, after all, truly is only a number.  Contrary to earlier admonitions in my youth to the opposite — “Act your shoe size, not your age!”  It’s a lot more fun.

“Warning” was penned in 1961 at the age of twenty-nine.  Although having published many works in her lifetime and having received numerous awards, Jenny Joseph is best known for this defining poem.  The second line became the inspiration for the founding of the Red Hat Society, the self-described playgroup for women where there is “Fun and Friendship After Fifty.”

“Warning: When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple” and Jenny Joseph’s other works are available on Amazon.


“Warning” by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple,
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves,
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired,
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain,
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens,
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
Or only bread and pickle for a week,
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
And pay our rent and not swear in the street,
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised,
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.


Interestingly, Jenny Joseph is apparently not a fan of the color purple in her own wardrobe (“It doesn’t suit me”), even though the two have perhaps become inseparably linked thru her poem.  But for her to now wear purple against her own personal tastes would be to conform to popular expectations, and that’s really what the poem is all about, isn’t it?

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us.  Always remember, one very small act of kindness can change someone’s whole day or life around.  Be the reason someone smiles today! — Jim (and Red!)


“Life is short, and it is up to you to make it sweet.” – Sarah Louise Delany

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein


 

The Legend of the Dogwood

Walking thru the woodlands in early springtime with a bit of chill in the air, one of my favorite sights has always been witnessing the annual blooming of the Dogwood Trees in gentle displays of pink and white, scattered over the hillsides. Along with early arriving songbirds back from winter migrations, the dogwoods each year signal the arrival of spring, with its promise of beauty, hope and new beginnings.

Being smaller and a spindlier understory tree, the dogwood is one of the very first trees to bloom in the warming rays of the early spring sun, before other much larger oak and hardwood tree neighbors have fully leafed out and cover it over in preferred shade like an umbrella, shielding dogwoods then from the blazing sunlight for the remainder of the summer.

There is a legend told of the Dogwood Tree, perhaps one of the oldest legends of the Christian era, that in the time of Jesus of Nazareth and the crucifixion, the dogwood was the size of mighty oak trees, so strong and firm that it was chosen as the timber for Jesus’ cross.

This story is not to be found in the Bible and the author is unknown, yet generations have told and retold The Legend of the Dogwood so that it has persisted thru time. If not factual, in the least that makes it interesting, that the story of the dogwood has meant so much to so many through the ages, that generations of repetition have served to have kept the legend alive.

To be used for such a purpose as the crucifixion greatly distressed the tree. Nailed upon it, in His compassion Jesus sensed the sadness, sorrow and suffering of the tree, and in His mercy assured that it would never be used for such purpose again.

Dense and fine-grained, dogwood timber has been highly prized over the years for small projects, fashioning the wood into such purposeful items as loom shuttles, tool handles, canes, mountain dulcimers, and more. Peeling off the bark and biting the twigs, early pioneers would use dogwoods to scrub and brush their teeth. But the dogwood tree never again to grow large enough to be used for purposes as it had been that day as a cross for crucifixion, according to the legend.

Even now as testament to the day, the petals of the Dogwood Tree grow in the shape of a cross, with each petal bearing the reddish stains of blood and a rusty nail, with the crown of thorns in the center, following the legend.

— “The Legend of the Dogwood” —

“And Jesus said . . . . . . . . . 

“Because of your regret and pity for My suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a cross . . . .

“Henceforth it shall be slender and bent and twisted, and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross . . . two long and two short petals . . . .

“And in the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints, brown with rust and stained with red, and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns . . . .

“. . . . and all who see it will remember.”

Thanks as always for visiting. Wishing everyone a beautiful and blessed Easter Weekend! – Jim (and Red!)


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“ . . . . and all who see it will remember . . . .”


Embrace Your Talents and Passion — Share Them With The World!

We hear it so many times going thru life. Nearly every day. And one reason why it is so important never to compare one child with another. We each are born with our own natural talents and flair for some things, while maybe feeling totally inept at others.

  • “That guy has a natural talent for playing baseball.”
  • “Her musical ability is a gift.”
  • “He/She has a natural aptitude for math and science.”
  • “That person has a gifted eye for photography.”
  • “That guy has a natural flair for public speaking.”
  • “She is naturally talented at fashion design.”

What is talent anyway?  Generally, it is regarded as a special ability which someone is born with.  A skill that someone seems to possess which allows them to do frequently difficult things more naturally and easier in one area than another person might be able to.

“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

Nevertheless, as my parents always reminded me, talent alone is no substitute for hard work.  Each of us is capable of doing pretty much anything we set our mind to.  We may have to work harder at it and settle for “95% great” compared to someone with “gifted talent”, but great and to our own satisfaction just the same.  Hard work beats natural talent every time, when talent doesn’t work hard. And if following our passion and doing something we love, it’s not “work” anyway.

Seek out and discover your natural talents and encourage children to do the same by exploring and trying their hand at a wide variety of activities. Everyone has a gift for something which allows them to be better and to excel in an area — be it sports, music, the arts, entertainment, science, cooking, parenting, teaching, and so many others.  Or, simply just kindness and being there with a listening ear for others.  Don’t minimize or discredit whatever may come naturally to you — it’s a gift.

Could Mother Teresa cook well or excel at soccer or painting?  I have no idea, because no one ever mentions it — only her kindness, compassion and love.  True gifts.

“Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?” — Benjamin Franklin

That being said, never let a perceived or described lack of talent ever stop you or your children from doing whatever it is you or they may want to do.  Your heart will always show you the way. If you have a dominant, recurring thought in mind of something you want to do, listen and do it. Not doing something because “I don’t have any talent” is an excuse, not a reason.

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”  — Michelangelo

Talent is nice to have, but it never makes up for heartfelt passion, dedicated effort and hard work to develop and grow the needed skills.  Just ask the guitar player or artist born without arms and creating great works with their feet alone.  If there is something you would really like to do or try — just do it.  And if doing it makes only you happy, that’s all that counts. If it happens to benefit others along the way, even better.

So, if you are gifted with a natural talent, embrace it and share it with the world.  But don’t let a perceived lack of talent in an area  stop you. Follow your passion, put in the extra effort doing something you love and do it anyway.  The world will be a better place because of it all.

Thanks as always for reading and visiting with us!  Share your talents and abilities with the world, and be the reason someone smiles today!  — Jim (and Red!)


“Believe in yourself. You are braver than you think, more talented than you know, and capable of more than you imagine.” ― Roy T. Bennett, “The Light in the Heart”

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


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About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

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Chapter Three of The Ozarks Ostrich Crisis: “DAY 2 ¾ — To Sleep, Perchance to Dream?”

Note to Readers– This is Chapter Three of a continuing Weekly Serial Story freely shared only here for followers of my Writing Blog.  If you missed the beginning, you can catch up HERE for the first two chapters.


Twas after midnight, before the dawning.

Before sparrows were stretching and sleepily yawning.


Following what seemed an endless day of ostriches picketing and protesting in front of the cabin and with ear-splitting ostrich chants still ringing in our ears (No Ostriches – No Stories!”), a welcome and restful night’s sleep was uppermost in our minds. I looked forward to hitting the sack early and pulling the covers up over my head with the same childlike eagerness and anticipation of Christmas Eve.

With a nightly cup of chamomile tea to soothe jangled nerves, I wished Little Red Bear “good night” and off to bed I went. Mentally and physically exhausted, sleep soon followed as peace and quiet had finally returned to Honey Hill, reassuring that even angry ostriches must rest their vocal chords at some point.

It didn’t seem long before a loud clap of thunder woke me from my slumber.

Sheets of rain mixed with small hail beat against the window, and I found myself bouncing up and down on the bed mattress as the floor of the cabin shook from the impact of a lightning strike nearby, followed soon by the creaking and crashing sound of tree limbs.

Then followed the unexplainable but unmistakable, moaning, groaning whisper of my name.

Jim . . . .”

And again – “Jim . . . . . . .”

I looked around but no one was to be found.  Lightning flashes illuminated the room, irregular strobe light bursts at once nearly blinding to the eyes yet revealing nothing save haunting shapes and shadows.

Jimmm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .”

Was I dreaming, or truly hearing my name being called, as though from both distant and near at the same time?

I rushed to the window, scanning the outside, squinting to focus in the stormy night, searching to see if anyone was in peril and calling my name in distress. The old white oak tree nearby twisted and strained in the howling winds of the storm. But I could see no further thru the driving rains.

Jiiiimmmmmm . . . . . . . . . . . .”

Louder. Clear now. The whispered call was coming from inside the room!

At once turning back around I found myself inexplicably looking upwards. I saw but did not believe. Surely, I must be dreaming.

This is not possible I thought, as a dark and ominous thundercloud, flickering on and off with flashes of internal red and yellow lightning, hovered above my head inside the room where the ceiling should have been.

Though – there was no ceiling, only the menacing and silent thundercloud with clear skies and distant stars shining behind, all while the unabated storm continued to rage outside the cabin walls.

“It’s odd Little Red Bear has not been woken by all of this,” I said aloud. “Wait until I tell him about this dream in the morning.”

“You are not dreaming,” came a sonorous voice from inside the cloud — resonant, deep, and authoritative in tone.

“Yes, I am.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes, I am.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes – I am!”

“No – you’re not!”

“Clouds thunder but do not talk. Therefore, it’s a dream. End of discussion. Good night.”

“YOU ARE NOT DREAMING!” thundered the cloud as lightning flashed and winds now rushed about the room, sweeping up clothes and papers, hurling them into the air and whipping them about in tornadic bursts. White hot lightning bolts, one after another, blasted the floorboards, causing me to leap and dance about to avoid them striking my feet.

“Dance, storyteller! Dance!” the thundercloud mocked.

“Okay, okay – not dreaming,” I acquiesced, though still really believing it was a dream while simultaneously wondering if one’s foot were to be burnt in a dream about lightning would it still be burnt upon awakening? Unsure of the answer, I felt it best to play along in my dream.

“Who or what are you? And what do you want of me then?” I inquired.

“Muucchhhh. I am the Ghostly Cloud of Untold Stories Passed.”

“Who’s past?”

“Not ‘past’ – ‘passed’. Well, I suppose in a technical sort of way ‘past’, for it is your past of which I speak this night.”

“O–kay . . .”

“So, more precisely then since you seem inclined to quibble and nitpick – You are being haunted by your past’s passed stories never written or told, and lost forever – The distraught man on the train. The sick child in the hospital bed. The boy pirate who became a mountain man. The lonely grandmother sitting alone on the church steps. The red-nosed circus clown running for Congress. The . . . ”

“Oh, get on with you,” I responded in defiance and losing patience.

“You do not believe in me?”

“Nope, not even a tidily bit.”

“What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your own senses?”

“Haven’t a clue.”

“Why do you doubt your own senses then, storyteller?”

“Because the slightest thing can set them off. An upset stomach. A headache. An over-toasted piece of bread. A moldy bit of cheese. An over-ripe and fermented apple. I’m tired. There’s more pain-in-the-butt than painful memory about you, whatever you are. Hogwash and horsefeathers, I say! Now let me get back to sleep.”

The thundercloud began to darken, rumbling inside and turning an unnerving purple. The very room about me took on an oppressively heavy and cold feel to the point where I could see my breath.

“Someone just picked the wrong mushrooms for the soup last night and I’m hallucinating again. That’s what you are – an apparition. An illusion. A figment of my overly stimulated imagination. A colorful sensory overload of psychedelic mushrooms. I’ve told Little Red Bear to be careful about that. I don’t do mushrooms well for some reason.”

I am not a mushroom!” the cloud thundered.

“There are mushroom clouds,” I countered. “Dreadful, devastating things not to be taken lightly.”

“Do not take me lightly, storyteller!” the cloud raged. “I am the Ghostly Cloud of Your Untold Stories Passed. Do you believe in me, or not?!?!?”

“Look, you can be the Easter Bunny if you want, for all I care. Just let me get back to sleep.”

“I am salvation!”

“For who?”

“You.”

“No time. I have a lot going on right now. I’m dealing with a work stoppage on my next book, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

“I am here for your salvation. And for the sake of stories yet untold.”

“I appreciate your concern, but I don’t need to be salvated.  I just need to get back to sleep.”

“Untold stories smolder within you, eventually igniting and burning, stoked by the fuels of neglect and indifference, searing and scorching from the inside out until they are released and told.”

“Yeah, that’s nice. Good night.”

Mark my words, storyteller! You will be consumed by the burning fires of your own imagination. Flames licking at your very soul. But salvation can be yours!”

“Maybe another time. I’m too tired to be salvated tonight. I just want to go back to sleep.”

I pulled down the covers to slip back into bed, wondering that if you go to sleep in a dream, would you then have a dream within a dream, or just start a new one entirely? Hoping for a new one.

“You will be visited by three Ostriches!” the cloud announced authoritatively, it’s prophetic words echoing around the room.

That perked my interest and got my attention. Back up out of bed.

“Come again . . . .”

“Ostriches three, will visit thee!”

“Well, that sounds a little Old Testament. What are you, the ghost of some old street corner oracle, Biblical poet or something?”

“Yes. We had better writing and greater use of dramatic flair back then.”

“Eh, to each his own, I suppose.”

“Enough about me.  You will be visited by Ostriches three.  Their stories to tell, will your job be.”

“Three ostriches. Really? Is that the message? The big chance and salvation you were referring to? That’s why you woke me up?”

“It is.”

“Uh-huh. Right then. Goodnight.”

“You still doubt me storyteller. Why do you continue to doubt your senses?”

“Well, because, it would be ‘non-sense’ to believe I am talking to a cloud? There’s one.”

Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled throughout the room.

“You might want to be a little more careful tossing those lightning bolts about so indiscriminately. Not that you care being a rain cloud full of water, but this is a log cabin comprised almost entirely of combustible wood, you know.”

“Rain cloud?!?!?  I am a Thundercloud!

A bolt of lightning struck the floorboards between my feet. The room’s walls shook as though in an earthquake from the thunderous blast.

“Yeah, uh, go on. I’m listening,” I responded, brushing burning splinters from my bare feet and staring down at the smoking burnt spot on the floor, thankful the cloud’s aim had been precise and not a little higher.

I tried to take a further step away only to put my left foot down atop a hot ember and found myself backed up against a wall. The smell of wood smoke filled the room.  With maybe a touch of third degree foot burns.

Mind racing, I nervously searched the twinkling stars in the skies beyond the thundercloud for a happier thought. “Third star past morning or something or other?” I wondered aloud, trying to remember and find any escape, or to switch the dream channel, wishing I had taken that Interdisciplinary Dream Studies Course instead of Advanced Cost Accounting years ago. Do you feel pain in a dream?

Rubbing my seared and painfully burned foot I turned my gaze back to the charred spot on the floor and the burning ember upon which I had stepped, sparks still glowing at the edges and smoke wafting into the room. Was that pieces of me burning or just the floor?

“Look at me!” the thundercloud demanded. “I bear your salvation!”

“Again — wooden building — please do be careful.”

“Salvation from your passed story torments!”

“Yeah, yeah – salvation. Got that part.”

“Do you?!?”

A second lightning bolt shattered an oil lamp on the nightstand, instantly bursting into flames and setting the curtains ablaze, and then just as quickly extinguished by a following gust of wind.

“Yes, yes. Please, do go on. Continue. I’m all ears. Hanging on every word. Waiting to be salvated. You were saying . . .”

“Very well then, storyteller. You will be visited by three ostriches.”

“Yep, ostriches. Three of ‘em. Got it.”

“Expect the first ostrich tonight, when the bell strikes one.”

“Ummm . . . ugh . . . gosh.  We don’t have a bell. I truly hope that’s not a problem. The mantle clock broke last year and we haven’t gotten it fixed yet.  So dreadfully sorry. No bells. But we do have a cuckoo clock.  It cuckoos. Might that work for you?”

“Whatever. Expect the first ostrich then, at the sounding of the first cuckoo.”

“Uh-huh . . . .”

“Look for the second ostrich with the second cuckoo.”

“And expect the third ostrich at the third cuckoo, I suppose.”

“No. That would be too predictable and unimaginative. Are you sure you are a storyteller, storyteller?”

“You’re sounding kind of cuckoo now yourself, cloud, to be honest. But perfectly fitting for the goofy ostriches. So please, go ahead. The last cuckoo ostrich, as you were saying . . .”

“Yes, yes . . . . The third ostrich, more mercurial, will appear in his own good time.”

“Yeah, you’re right. That is better. But, well, here’s the thing, cloud – I got news for ya. The ostriches are already here. They all three arrived together, all at once, two days ago, were upset by an off-paw comment made by Little Red Bear, and then picketed and protested all day long yesterday in front of the cabin. For a prophetic spectral warning cloud, you’re a little late, by two or three days.”

“Weather conditions over Montana unavoidably delayed my arrival.”

“My personal Spectral Early Warning System is subject to the whims of the atmosphere and weather delays? Perfect. That explains a lot in my life, actually.”

“We do what we can.”

“Uh-huh.”

“You have been warned, storyteller. Receive these ostriches well and mend your ways. Release and tell the stories inside and those that come to you, or you will continue to be haunted by the shadows and specters of untold stories passed. The ostriches have their stories waiting to be told. Tell them — or you will be consumed by your own internal creative fires!”

“Yeah, yeah, sure. Got it. I’m tired and now my foot hurts, thanks to you. Anything else or is that about it?”

“Now, look to see me no more.”

The thundercloud rumbled as it faded into the now starless and once again stormy sky above.

“Good. Nice chatting with you,” I muttered to myself, foot burning and limping back towards the bed. “A late warning is a wasted warning, you know. Might as well not even bother. Stupid ostriches already here and you show up three days too late to tell me about it. A lot of bloody good that did.”

Instantly a lightning bolt flashed, striking the old white oak tree just outside the window, mere feet from the cabin. Thunder rattled and shook the cottage to its foundations, repeatedly tossing me against the wall and thrown down crashing upon the floor only to be hurled thru the air and slammed against the walls yet again.

“Sorry,” I offered desperately, finally picking myself up and waving my hands in surrender while gazing upwards to the cabin’s ceiling, now returned to form. “Everybody’s so touchy and easily offended these days. I do appreciate the concern, if ill-timed. We’ll both try to do better the next time. Forgive and forget, yeah?”

The room convulsed and upheaved once again, and back to the floor I went.

“Characters . . . stories . . . untold . . . consumed . . .” – the final whispered reply, fading into the distance.

I awoke what seemed only moments later, but who of us truly senses the passage of time when sleeping, finding myself feeling cold, shivering and huddled in a corner on the floor. Struggling to rise, I used the chair as a prop to lift myself back up.

The first, welcome and comforting early rays of sunrise beamed thru the window curtains, not singed or scarred upon inspection. I was also relieved to find the nightstand lamp undamaged, nor any burn marks on the floor.

Convinced then that it all had been merely a stress-induced nightmare precipitated by the ostriches, I sighed in relief. Tired and feeling beat up and battered, after dressing and then slowly and gently slipping an unexplained aching left foot into my boot, I headed downstairs following a fitful and frightful night of storms and dreams.

Little Red Bear was sitting at the table, already reading the morning’s edition of “Squirrelly World” and appearing much chipper than the day before.

“How did you sleep last night, Red? Storms keep you awake all night, too?”

“I slept fine. And what storms? It was quiet and dry all night. The rain stopped well before dinner last night. Remember? The whip-poor-wills sang all night behind the cabin. Best night’s rest I’ve had in a month. You have trouble sleepin’, Jim?”

“Yeah, some. I suppose it had to be the mushroom soup at dinner then. You know mushrooms can cause problems for me.”

“What are you talking about? I made the spaghetti for us, and you made the salads and garlic bread to go with it for dinner last night. You feelin’ all right this morning, Jim? Why are you limping? You got a sore foot or something? Are those ostriches gettin’ to ya? You look like you already been down a rough stretch of road for someone who just got out of bed. There’s bumps and bruises all over ya. You didn’t go out and try to fight one of those ostriches after I went to bed last night, did you?”

“No, no. It was just a long night. ”

“Well, you look awful.  Maybe you should go back to bed for a while.”

“Not a chance.  But how about you? Any bad dreams or nightmares?”

“None that I recall. I started to have one dream that was a bit strange though, about a cloud talking to me.”

“Oh, yeah? Tell me about it.”

“Well, this cloud seemed to wake me up with thunder in the room and started mumbling something or other about ‘Adventures Untold’.”

Little Red Bear now had my full attention. “Really? Tell me everything. What happened?”

“Nuthin’. I reminded the cloud that it’s considered unwise to wake sleeping bears, dogs and babies. It replied, ‘Oh yeah, sorry, I forgot’, and then just disappeared. ‘Poof’ – it was gone. That was the only dream I had. Other than the usual dream about finding a giant ten foot beehive and honey, of course.”

“Oh, how nice,” I responded, recalling my own nightmares and wondering why only bears, dogs and babies seemed to enjoy the “don’t wake” protections afforded them. Well, babies I do understand of course, being the father of four kids. Yeah, never wake a sleeping baby. Doting grandparents dropping in for a visit seem to forget that one now and then. Dogs and bears are on their own as far as I’m concerned.

But, getting back to the story, I had come downstairs this morning half-thinking and half-hoping the ostriches might have called off their unreasonable picketing and protest, having no results to show for all their work and having moved on elsewhere. No such luck. Their voices carried thru the open windows.

Ostriches ready to challenge and put up a fight!
We’re back in the battle and going to rev up tonight!

Gingerly stepping out onto the front porch, there they were, all three of the ostriches energetically picketing and chanting across the front entrance to the cabin, exactly as they had the previous day. Determined birds, these.

The largest ostrich was carrying a new sign – “OSTRICHES HAVE STORIES TO TELL, TOO!”

And the chanting. The endless chanting, chanting, chanting . . . . .

Flap your wings and stamp your feet!

We’re picketing to the groove of the Ostrich beat!

Flap your wings and stamp your feet!

We’re makin’ new friends and gonna turn up the heat!

The crowd of spectators is continuing to grow larger and wondering why that is. Not overly concerned about it though, providing peaceful spectators do not become  belligerent participants, of course.

Hey, hey!  Whattaya know?

That writer guys movin’ pretty slow!

Hey, hey!  He’s all limpy!

 That old man’s lookin’ really gimpy!

Having already heard and seen enough, I turned to go back inside the cabin to begin making breakfast.

To the side, mere feet from my bedroom window, I caught sight of the old white oak tree, smoldering and split in two lengthwise from top to bottom, somehow mysteriously burning and being consumed from the inside out while still standing, flames licking at the edges. Smoke rose from the growing pile of ashes at its feet, forming grey and black clouds before the breeze took them off and away into the air.

“Now, that’s interesting,” I muttered to myself, limping back inside with a still clouded mind.

“Are you sure you didn’t hear any storms last night, Red?”

To be continued . . . . . . . .


Thanks as always for visiting with us!  This story part was prepared with a little tongue-in-cheek fun from the inspiration of Charles Dickens. Hope he didn’t mind.  Be sure to check in next week as events continue to unfold in the “Ozarks Ostrich Crisis”, a continuing weekly serialized free story available only here on the Writing Blog.  See ya then.

And please remember — Be the reason someone smiles today!   — Jim  (and Red!)


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About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

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April Is National Poetry Month — It’s Dime Rhyme Time!

April is National Poetry Month!  Organized by the Academy of American Poets, it is about increasing both awareness and appreciation of poetry.

National Poetry Month is described as the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, teachers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, bloggers, and poets acknowledging poetry’s important place in our culture and lives.  If you would like more information, visit the National Poetry Month Site.

Accordingly, Little Red Bear and I thought that we should step up and do our part to help foster awareness and appreciation of poetry.  Such as it is here, of course.

Growing up years ago on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri, during breakfast every morning the kitchen radio was tuned in to the dominant, powerhouse AM radio station in the city at that time — “KMOX – the Voice of St. Louis”, with a mostly news, weather, sports and all-talk format. The morning radio show, “Total Information A.M.”,  featured a pair of men who were stellar in their jobs and radio institutions throughout the area, Rex Davis and Bob Hardy, both still remembered and well-known, though now passed.

One of their ongoing features was a fun and highly popular little segment in which they invited listeners to send in their own original short poetry works to be read live on the air by them each morning.  They in turn sent the chosen submitter back a Thank You note on KMOX stationery which read – “From listeners like you, we both take heart. Here’s our dime and our thanks, for doing your part.”

An accompanying dime was taped to the note.  The daily radio segment was, of course, called — “Dime Rhymes.”

There are some longer poems for reading pleasure here on my writing blog, but I frequently come up with much shorter little verses and wonder what to do with them.   Then the answer came to me — set up a “Dime Rhymes” page in honor of these gentlemen who brought us so much entertainment on the radio years ago.  A page simply for fun, shorter and quick little verses to build up over time.  And perhaps to include some guest contributors along the way, as well.

So under the heading of “Short Works & Free Reads” at the top of the page, you will now find in the drop-down menu a heading entitled “Dime Rhymes.”  Free for personal enjoyment and reading pleasure, as are all things here. I have added a few poems to get it started, and here is a link to help you find it the first time — Dime Rhymes.  Hope you enjoy!

Thanks as always for visiting!  And if you feel moved to create a Dime Rhyme yourself, please send it in.  Who knows?  Little Red Bear might even send you back a dime.* — Jim  (and Red!)

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*Legal Stuff– Submission of a Dime Rhyme constitutes permission and rights to share on the blog. The dime remuneration is not guaranteed or promised, and entirely dependent upon the financial status of the blog holder at any given moment, which is never really that good, in forma pauperis.  All submissions must reflect the “G” rated status of the blog, no exceptions.  Not that it matters because it wouldn’t be selected anyway.  All questions or concerns to be addressed to our esteemed attorney, Bob the Badger, Esq., handwritten in triplicate.  Submission does not guarantee selection or use.  Yada, yada, yada, actori incumbit probatio, animus contrahendi, not excluding casus fortuitis, assuming compos mentis of submitter, all offers voided by malum prohibitum not excluding malum in se in perpetuity and nonsense forevermore.

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Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

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

Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.