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


 

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“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


Like and Follow My Writer’s Page on Facebook For Daily Inspiration and More!


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


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.


 

 

 

Happy Halloween! — A Nostalgic Look Back at Trick or Treating in Days of Yore

Happy Halloween!

          It’s that magical time of the year, when little ghosts and goblins appear.                                       Scampering up and down the streets, scurrying around with bags of treats.                     Trick or treating back when I was eight; oh, the candy bars then were truly great!

Halloween has changed much over the years. Halloween Trick or Treating in my neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri growing up in the 1950’s and early 60’s  frequently featured homemade baked goods like cookies, cupcakes, brownies, Rice Krispie treats, homemade popcorn balls, and more —  all carefully bundled in plastic wrap. Homemade candied apples were a real treat, along with homemade taffy and fudge at some homes.

And every year — without fail — a few slices of cake wrapped in plastic wrap which always seemed to find their way to the bottom of the treat bag to inevitably end up smashed flat or crumbled before I got home. But cake crumbs are cake nonetheless, so nothing ever went to waste.

Cupcakes, cookies, and brownies always seemed to survive better in the bag than a slice of cake for some reason. Despite being young, even then I appreciated the all-day effort of having baked and decorated what had to be several handmade cakes for slicing, wrapping, and handing out on Halloween night, and knew their hearts were in the right place with it all. But still find myself asking and wondering to this day — really, what were those folks thinking to hand out a wrapped slice of cake for a treat bag?

Appearing a few decades ahead of their time perhaps, there were also a few health conscious homes in the neighborhood who handed out fresh apples along with the occasional orange, banana, or assorted nuts tossed into the bag. We politely said “thank you”, never wanting ungratefulness to poison the well for next year in case they came to their senses at some point, but shaking our heads leaving just the same.

Older folks were known for frequently giving out pennies and other loose change, along with an occasional pencil or two. I always just figured they were older and not able to travel to the store easily to stock up on the really good stuff, but trying as best they could, nevertheless. And that was good enough for us, with “old people” perhaps more highly regarded and respected in those days. We don’t hear the term “hardening of the arteries” much anymore. I think that’s because the medical and drug folks can all charge more for terms like “arteriosclerosis” and “atherosclerosis” because it sounds much more serious. But, may be wrong. Getting back to Halloween, then.

Bubble Gum, Tootsie Roll Pops, Tootsie Rolls, Wax Bottles,  Caramels, Jaw Breakers (always a favorite of mine!), Sugar Daddies, Jelly Beans, Candy Corn, Boston Baked Beans, Milk Duds, Caramels, Saf-T-Pop Suckers with their looped handles, Circus Peanuts, Licorice, and boxes of Cracker Jacks helped fill out the treat bag. Red Spanish Peanuts were popular, too.  Many of the items simply tossed loose and unwrapped into the bag, of course. Individually wrapped packages were only just beginning to come onto the scene at the time.

Some folks didn’t bother with the process of making a popcorn ball, choosing instead to merely wrap the loose popcorn in plastic wrap gathered and tied with a twisty tie. I usually jammed those into a side pocket for a handy street snack along the way later. It was good because it was both filling and wouldn’t sticky-up your hands like candy.

All of this, and of course not to leave out the truly treasured and most sought-after Halloween prize — Candy Bars!  There were only two sizes of candy bars generally available at that time — ‘Full Size’ and the larger “I May Need Help Carrying This One Home Size”.

Some homes offered cold apple cider to refresh on an occasionally warm evening, or hot chocolate in paper cups on especially chilly nights.  Every home seemed warm and welcoming, and homes without a front porch light on to welcome and light the way for visitors were rare indeed.

Growing up in the Midwest, Halloween nights could and did vary from warm to chilly to bone-shivering cold. Nobody under the age of adult ever wanted to cover their costume with a raincoat or parka!

I remember trick or treating in the snow twice. How could one forget something so truly magical as that? And recall more than a few rainy nights in the time when trick or treat bags were truly paper bags in every sense of the word, long before plastic bags and plastic tote pumpkins arrived on the scene. More than a few friends had the bottom burst on a rain-soaked bag, dumping all of their Halloween treasures on the wet sidewalk.

Fortunately, I escaped that calamitous fate thru the years, likely due in no small part to my beloved Mother making me carry an umbrella with me, no doubt. Carefully tilted to protect the treat bag held high and dry, naturally.

It almost goes without saying that every stop required us to actually come inside the house and perform in the living room — tell a joke, tell a story, sing a song, dance, do a trick, stand on our head, or do “something” to earn our Treats. Unearned giveaways were rare. Somersaults were always a big hit for the littlest kids to do.

A good costume got you in the door, but that alone would not fill the treat bag. We were all expected to work for our candy and treats, patiently standing in line awaiting our turn to perform. With only three channels on the black and white television sets and dodgy reception most times, a steady line of kids performing was great entertainment rivaling and surpassing anything on the TV for the night. So, entertain we did. Milton Berle and Jack Benny would have to wait for their turns that night, too.

“Knock Knock” jokes, while usually not earning the highest performance awards of a candy bar, were always reliable in a pinch to rescue the situation when the strange kid in front of you stole your best joke or trick, so the astute Trick or Treater always kept a few entertaining jokes in reserve just in case.

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Orange.
Orange who?
Orange you going to give me some candy?

Although that particular little diddy ran the risk of getting you an orange instead of a Baby Ruth.

But a good “Knock Knock” joke could usually be relied upon to be rewarded with at least a popcorn ball.  If the household had just heard the same joke three times before you arrived, you were probably doomed for pennies, though. And maybe a short lecture about coming better prepared next year.

And it did happen occasionally, as hot new jokes seemed to cycle thru the neighborhood in a given year —“Better tell me another one son, or it’s three pennies for you.  I just heard that one five times before you got here!  What else you got in your trick bag?”

Holiday- Halloween- Art 4

Trick or Treating done correctly was literally a performance art, requiring hours and hours of pre-planning, preparation, and dedication.  And on Halloween night, it was a process that could not be rushed if anticipated rewards were to be realized.  A good performance took both time and commitment to the craft.  On a successful night, multiple stops home might be needed to offload full bags and then head back out for more.  Candy bars being the truly sought-after prize, of course!

It was good to work together, not only in your group so everyone had their own unique performance art for the night, but also coordinating with other groups on the street, as it could save a lot of walking and shoe leather. We never realized at the time that Halloween night was a great exercise in developing teamwork skills.

“Don’t bother stopping here, Jim.  Old lady Jones is already out of candy and dumped pennies in our bags.  But the Haskins has still got Snickers I heard.”

Forewarned, time could be saved by heading only towards the high rollers still handing out candy bars and cupcakes.  By 6:45, everybody on the street knew which house was giving out what, which naturally led to candy bar homes running out before the Bazooka Gum, safety suckers, and fruit houses.

When you spied groups of kids running towards a particular house, you knew to hurry there next.  When you saw kids walking down the driveway shaking their sacks and hearing “thump, thump, thump,” you knew they’d been fruited.  So unless really hungry for an apple, best to pass that one by and come back later.  Chances were pretty good they’d still be open for business at nine.

Can’t speak for others, but on a few occasions, I was treated with Silver Dollars. Honest-to-goodness, better-than-Musketeers, real Silver Dollars!  Sometimes it was wise not to be “too” disguised when visiting favorite neighbors, or those you had helped with summer yard work or fall leaf-raking.

But that was without a doubt at the same time both the awesomest and bothersomest treat one could receive, being simply too special to spend and convert to candy.  Gather enough pennies and nickles from the bottom of the bag and you could quickly convert that into cool, hard, candy. Not so with silver dollars. That just never seemed right to even consider doing.

I still have Halloween silver dollars stashed safely away in the back of a dresser drawer tucked beneath layers of underwear for safekeeping. Back in the day, no self-respecting burglar (or sister) would think of rummaging thru someone’s underwear drawer for loot.  The same silver dollars still tucked safely away from years ago I should perhaps add, not the same underwear, of course. Just, to be clear on that point.

It probably goes without saying, but that stashing away part never would have happened with a Three Musketeers.

Holiday- Halloween- Art 7

Costumes were usually homemade, wholly or at least partly by the kids themselves. Big-footed clowns, cowboys and Lone Rangers with masks, knights with aluminum foil helmets carrying cardboard or wooden swords and shields, Indians in feathers and war paint, policemen, miniature firefighters, princesses with capes and crowns, angels with halos and wings, red-caped devils complete with garden pitchforks, army soldiers in their fathers’ oversized WWII and Korean War gear and helmets, scarecrows stuffed with straw, and ugly-nosed, warty witches with brooms.  A few Tinmen from Oz here and there,  but that was a hard costume to pull off without a lot of help from parents.

Along with many a hobo, most patterned after Red Skelton’s famous “Freddie the Freeloader” character at the time. It was a fun costume which I employed a few times, raiding Dad’s closet for over-sized, baggy clothes, and a hat. He never would part with one of his cigars in order to pull off the complete ensemble look, though.

All accompanied by the predictable number of white-sheeted ghosts floating over the sidewalks, of course.  Skeletons were fairly rare in those days because that was mostly a store-bought costume that neither kids nor parents wanted to admit to having to resort to, as everyone took pride in their self-made costumery.

We talked about them a lot in name but no one ever really knew what a Goblin was to make a costume for it.  It was just a creature of myth and folklore that we did not want to run into on the street that night because chances were pretty good it wouldn’t be a kid in a costume.  Ghosts with eye holes were generally considered pretty safe to approach, though.

Clearly the most outstanding costume I remember was when the older, bigger, “I’m-better-than-you-are” neighbor kid across the street’s father made him the scariest and true-to-life realistic Headless Horseman costume since Ichabod Crane galloped on a plow horse thru Sleepy Hollow, complete with fake dripping blood around the collar and a glowing pumpkin carried on a stick for his head.

Apparently, his dad had worked on the Headless Horseman costume all summer in the garage, keeping it a secret from the neighborhood.  Yeah, every block had one of those kids.  Looking back on it now, he rather sadly always went out on Halloween as a group of one, by himself with his father in tow, helping to carry the bags of candy his son accumulated along the way. Yes — bags — plural. My father was at home, warm and dry, being entertained by endless troops of kids in the living room. His father was serving as a pack mule in the cold and wet. He only needed the costume, he was already doing all the work.

Sometimes I wondered if the Headless Horseman might have been happier in a white sheet running along with the rest of the neighborhood candy scroungers.  It was hard to tell, even back then, if a jerk was alone because he was a jerk or if he was a jerk because he was alone.  Whichever, receiving double rations and more from almost every house, the Headless Horseman made a record haul of candy that year that no one ever came close to matching and that we never heard the end of.

Runner-up for the best-ever costume was the same kid the year before, a square-headed Frankenstein costume his dad whipped up complete with bolts coming out of his neck and walking on platform shoes and getting double-treated again.  Jerk.

Stampa

Trick or Treating certainly isn’t anything like it used to be.  Many more costumes come off racks in the store or delivered straight to the door from online ordering rather than pridefully homemade nowadays. The only Super Heroes in our minds back then were the parents giving out candy bars on the block.

Kids in our neighborhood now look at you like you have worms crawling out of your ears (which might actually be a good look for Halloween) if you ask them to do anything beyond hold their bag open to toss the candy inside. Forget the carefully staged and choreographed song and dance numbers in the living room. Some don’t even hold the bag open, expecting you to bend over and do that, too.

And regrettably, there are all the safety issues that never even crossed anyone’s mind in our time. Carrying a flashlight in order to “see and be seen” was all we were warned about. X-rays weren’t for candy. They were for broken bones when you missed the last porch step in the dark.

Most curious of all, candy now comes in the “Fun Sized” version, which try as I might, I still don’t see much fun in it. Talk about the ultimate Halloween trick!

Times change. But the Halloween magic of little children trick or treating doesn’t, and they aren’t seeing the night thru our memories, busily having fun and making memories of their own.  Want to make a special memory for a little princess or cowboy?  Give them a full-sized candy bar and watch their eyes light up!  Although, you better be prepared for the onslaught up the driveway when the word hits the street!  Some things never change.


Here are a few Halloween Safety Tips and Guidelines from the National Safety Council to help keep your children and little neighborhood trick-or-treaters safe on Halloween night.


Happy Halloween!  Here’s hoping full-sized candy bars and overflowing treat bags for everyone!  Please keep an eye out for the little Trick or Treaters in the streets, keep the front porch light on, and remember to “Scare Safe!”

Thanks as always for stopping by for a visit and spending part of your day with us! Little Red Bear and I are off now to work on our costumes. Think I’ll be a cowboy this year. I was going to go as an author, but Little Red Bear quickly pointed out that I masquerade as a writer every day so should try something different for Halloween.  Yeah, that kind of took the fun out of that one, so a cowboy it is.

Happy Halloween!  — Jim (and Red!)


“Every pumpkin knows that a Smile is an inexpensive way to change your looks!”

“A full bag, tired feet, dry socks, and sticky fingers meant it was a Happy Halloween.”– JRM


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

“A grandmother pretends she doesn’t know who you are on Halloween.” — Erma Bombeck

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.

Little Red Bear’s New “Autumn Splendors” Video!

Happy Autumn!

The time of Autumn is our favorite season and time of year around these parts, beginning with the last marshmallow roasted on Labor Day and lasting thru to the first of December when we start celebrating the Christmas holiday and all things snow and winter.

Right now we are loving every minute of October and Autumn. Some early-changing leaves are just beginning to turn color and hint at the beautiful display soon to follow.

It has been a while since we have made a video, so Little Red Bear thought it a perfect time to fix that and create a new one to celebrate the beautiful season of Autumn to share with everyone.

We tried a few new things with this video, updating the playbook a little as we try to keep learning and evolving our technical skills, keeping in mind that this old writer went thru college using a slide rule at a time before the dawn of personal computers.

For the first time, we included a few “mini-videos” within the video, in addition to using a vocal backing soundtrack for the first time, with all previous videos having used instrumental tracks.

A big Thank You to members of our Patron community, whose support allowed us to renew our video creation service subscription which had lapsed a couple years ago, so looking forward to creating more presentations going forward now, with Halloween and Vintage Christmas themed videos already in mind as possibilities.

And, big Bear Hugs and Thank You’s to Matt and Delia of M&D Hills Photography, who allow me to share their beautiful photographs of the Smoky Mountains Region with you. Matt and Delia are truly “good folk” as we say, and I encourage you to visit their site and learn more about their talented work and offerings.

Little Red Bear and I hope you enjoy our new video and your Autumn visit to Little Red Bear Land. We would appreciate a tap on the “Like” button and a “Thumbs Up” on Youtube to let us and others know.  View on full screen with speakers and earbuds if you have them, for the best enjoyment, and please feel free to share with friends and family.

Do you like to chase after autumn leaves when they fall, floating in the air and blowing in the breeze, running to catch them before they land on the ground?  I invite you to join us for a comforting and relaxing Autumn visit to Little Red Bear Land.

The background music track to the video is “Like a Star” by Laura Ault, and it is available on Amazon for download if you would like.  If you would like to see videos about the characters and settings in Red’s stories, visit our Little Red Bear’s Videos page.

Thanks as always for visiting and spending part of your day with us! We hope that in our own way we help to make your day a little more special, too.  — Jim  (and Red!)

ps — Remember to join us here every Sunday morning for our regular “Little Red Bear’s Hand-picked Recipes” feature when we share the top special recipes which caught our eye during each week! Tap Here To See The Most Recent Recipes For Autumn


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.


“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” – Albert Camus

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers!” — L. M. Montgomery


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

“Autumn — the year’s last, loveliest smile.” — William Cullen Bryant