Little Red Bear Unable to Attend Book Signing Event

Still mending from a leg injury suffered on the writing set a week ago, Little Red Bear will not be able to make the scheduled book signing and personal appearance at “McNickle’s Famous Pickles & Pork Rinds” this coming Saturday, located on Shady Holler Road, just west of Knob Lick.  The country store is located about half a mile past Turner’s red barn and across from the split pin oak if you’re unfamiliar with the area.  If you find yourself sitting in front of the Post Office, chances are you most likely missed the barn and went too far.  Remember, the barn sits back from the road a bit behind the row of hedge apples, so you need to be on the lookout for it.  And if that’s the case, it’s best to just start over from where you left and try again.

Bobo and Lily, black bears and recurring featured characters in the “Adventures of Little Red Bear” stories, will be taking Red’s place and happy to do so, being the good friends and neighbors that they are. They will be bringing a good supply of autographed Little Red Bear pictures, along with pre-signed books available for purchase, and will be autographing books themselves, as well.  Lily has even volunteered to demonstrate the famous “Lily Bear Shuffle” if Earl and Lester bring their banjos along.

 Village Country Store, Cold Spring Village, Cape May, NJ

Village Country Store, Cold Spring Village, Cape May, NJ

Ethel McNickle will generously be giving away free samples of her prize-winning pickles and pork rinds, famous countywide, to all in attendance.  Ethel’s second cousin once removed  will also be there for the event, with samples of her new and locally grown “Lorene’s Greens & Beans”.  As you may recall, McNickle’s Pickles was founded many years ago by Ethel’s twin grandfathers,  Fickle and Tickle McNickle, who always used to say — “If your pickle don’t snap, it ain’t worth a cr–!”  (it’s a ‘G’ rated blog)

And be sure to check out Ethel’s blue ribbon Plumberry Preserves while there, too.   Bobo won’t be leaving without a few jars, so you might want to show up early before they run out.

So, we’re sorry to say that Little Red Bear will miss the event and he feels just gosh-awful terrible about it, but be assured that Bobo and Lily will more than make the trip worthwhile for you.  Not to mention Ethel’s pickles and pork rinds.  And if someone tosses Bobo a beach ball, well — there’s no telling the show he may put on!  As a note though, just so you’re not disappointed, Lily has been instructed not to let Bobo anywhere near a bicycle.  Our Backwoods Indemnity and Bite Casualty Insurance plan is stretched past the limits with Little Red Bear’s injury, and poor Aunt Ivy has nearly picked her herb garden clean already, this being so early in the season and all. Simply can’t risk any more character injuries at the moment and still meet the bills next month.

The Vermont Country Store

The Vermont Country Store, Weston, Vermont — September 2012 via The Mr. Hunter Wall Blog

And just one more thing before we let you go.  While he is laid up, now is a good time to remind everyone to send in their questions for the “Ask Little Red Bear” feature.  If you have a question that you’ve been sitting on about any of Red’s past or coming adventures, there’s no need to sit any longer waiting for it to hatch.  Don’t be shy — just ask away!  Red and I will be happy to try to find or make up an answer for you.  No dating or relationship questions though.  We need all the advice and help we can get in that area ourselves.

Thanks as always for visiting with us.  Hope you get a chance to drop by McNickle’s Pickles on Saturday!  If I can get away from writing with Little Red Bear while he takes a restful nap in the afternoon, maybe I’ll be able to drop in myself for a few minutes.  I do love those pork rinds!  And someone please save me a jar of Plumberry Preserves.  — Jim  ( and Red!)

Artwork -- "Mt. Airy Old Country Store II" by Dan Carmichael. (Prints available at dan-carmichael.pixels.com)

Artwork — “Mt. Airy Old Country Store II” by Dan Carmichael. (Prints available at dan-carmichael.pixels.com)

“The Adventures of Little Red Bear” Available on Amazon

Short Stories About An Uncommonly Special Bear & His Friends!

Trick or Treating in Days of Yore — Cookies, Cupcakes, Candies & More!

Halloween has changed much over the years.  Halloween Trick or Treating in my neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri growing up in the 50’s and early 60’s  frequently featured homemade baked goods like cookies, cupcakes, brownies, Rice Krispie treats, popcorn balls and more —  all carefully wrapped in cellophane, along with  apples, candied apples, homemade taffy, the occasional orange, banana and assorted nuts, and lots of pennies and other loose change. Some homes offered apple cider to refresh, or hot chocolate on especially chilly nights.  Bubble Gum, Tootsie Roll Pops, Tootsie Rolls, Wax Bottles,  Caramels, Jaw Breakers (always a favorite of mine!), Sugar Daddies, jelly beans, candy corn, Milk Duds, suckers and boxes of Cracker Jacks helped fill out the treat bag.  Not to mention the truly treasured prize, of course — candy bars.  There were only two sizes of candy bars then — ‘Full Size’ and the ‘I Need Help Carrying This One Home Size’.

Of course, every stop required us to come inside the house and perform in the living room — tell a joke, tell a story, sing a song, dance, do a trick or do “something” to earn our Treats.  Somersaults were always a big hit for the littlest kids to do. We had to work for our candy and treats.  “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 in reserve just in case.

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

Although that particular one did run the risk of getting you an orange instead of a Baby Ruth.  But a good “Knock Knock” joke could usually be relied on 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 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 lots 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 dedication 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 were the real 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 time.  “Don’t bother stopping here, Jim.  Old lady Jones is already out of candy and dumped pennies in our bags.  Haskins has still got Snickers.”  Forewarned, time could be saved to head towards the high rollers still handing out candy bars and cupcakes.  By 6:30, 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 Silver Dollars!   Which was without a doubt at the same time the awesomest but bothersomest treat one could receive, being simply too special to spend and convert to candy.  I still have them in the back of a drawer tucked beneath underwear for safekeeping.  Same silver dollars, not the same underwear, of course.

Holiday- Halloween- Art 7

Costumes were usually homemade, wholly or at least partly made 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, angels, red caped devils complete with garden pitchforks, army soldiers in their fathers’ oversized WWII and Korean War gear, scarecrows stuffed with straw, and ugly-nosed witches with brooms.  A few Tinmen 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.  And the obligate 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.  We talked about them a lot in name, but no one ever knew what a Goblin really 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 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 and “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 dripping blood around the collar and a glowing pumpkin carried on a stick for his head.  Apparently, his dad had worked on it 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.  Sometimes I wondered if he might have been happier in a white sheet 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 a jerk because he was alone.  Whichever, receiving double rations 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 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 rather than homemade with love nowadays.  Kids in our neighborhood 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.  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 crossed anyone’s mind in our time.  And most curious of all, candy now comes in “Fun Sized”, which try as I might I still don’t see much fun in it.

Times change.   But the little kids trick or treating aren’t seeing the night thru our memories, and are 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.

Happy Halloween to everyone!  Please keep an eye out for the little Trick or Treaters in the streets and keep everybody safe.  Thanks as always for stopping by for a visit! — Jim (and Red!)

Holiday- Halloween- Art 7

For some more reading fun, check out “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” on Amazon.   Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Adventures and Fun for All Ages!

New Little Red Bear Video– “A Visit to Farmer Turner’s Farm!”

Farmer Turner is a good friend and neighbor of Little Red Bear and one of the recurring characters in “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” short story collection.  Thru Farmer Turner and some others to be introduced in later story collections, we are able to introduce domestic animals, farming and agricultural topics and issues into the stories.

His farm is located a little ways from Little Red Bear’s cabin on Honey Hill, on the north side of Buttonbush Creek, and he has a little bit of everything going on there it seems.  Red thought it might be fun to take everyone on a visit to Farmer Turner’s to meet some of his friends and other animals living on the farm, and is hoping you might bring any little ones you may have along for the trip, too.

This video is dedicated to our wonderful and helpful friends– Marilyn Schroeder keeping it real growing wheat in Nebraska, and the author Kathleen Creighton, the self-described “Farm Tamer” herself.  Please check out Kathleen’s amazing collection of award-winning Romance stories on Amazon.

So here you go– “A Visit to Farmer Turner’s Farm.”  As always, Little Red Bear reminds to view on full screen with the speakers on if possible.  Have a nice time!  Careful where you step, and thanks as always for stopping by!   —   Jim (and Red!)

“The Adventures of Little Red Bear” Short Story Collection on Amazon.

Available for Kindle, eReaders and in Paperback!

Introducing “Howdy!” — the Burrowing Owl

“Howdy!”

That is how a new story character introduced himself to me several months ago. Out of nowhere, he just popped into my head one morning with a loud “Howdy!” and it has been a fun and interesting time ever since.

Red and I already had more story characters interviewed and on board for the first collection of  “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” short stories than we could fit into the first collection, and the stories were already well underway at the time. But then “Howdy!” strode in and made such an impression on both Red and I that we stopped everything right there, and knew we had to go back and make room for him. Fortunately, being a little guy, he doesn’t take up much space.

Burrowing Owl- Sneaking A Peek

Burrowing Owl- Sneaking A Peek

“Howdy!” is a Burrowing Owl from way out west in the Oklahoma Panhandle and has been thru quite a lot for a little guy. Burrowing Owls inhabit grasslands, rangelands, agricultural areas and other open, dry areas with low vegetation. From their name, they live in a hole in the ground, not up in a tree like other owls. Although capable and willing to dig their own burrows, more frequently they inhabit existing holes abandoned by prairie dogs, skunks, armadillos, tortoises and the like.

 Burrowing Owls via Cornell Lab of Ornithology  (© Ned Harris, AZ, Tucson, June 2009)

Burrowing Owls via Cornell Lab of Ornithology (© Ned Harris, AZ, Tucson, June 2009)

Unlike most owls, Burrowing Owls are active during the day, although wisely avoiding the midday heat. But like most owls, they do most of their hunting between the hours of dusk to dawn, taking advantage of their superior night vision and hearing. So “Howdy!” does not sleep a lot.  And he does it all without coffee, caffeine or chocolate, which is truly amazing in itself.

Living in open grasslands as opposed to forests, Burrowing Owls have long legs and short tails which allow them to sprint very quickly across the ground in pursuit of prey. They are small in size, about 11” long, a little larger than an American Robin when fully grown. When agitated, they bob their head up and down, revealing a white chin patch. But I cannot imagine this sweet little guy ever being agitated or angry.

Burrowing Owl in California on top of Burrowing Owl Sign Post  (by Jeff Cartier of Ventura, CA)

Burrowing Owl in California on top of Burrowing Owl Sign Post (by Jeff Cartier of Ventura, CA)

Burrowing Owls have no ear tufts, unlike many other owls. They feature prominent white eyebrow markings, and in color they are brownish, with lighter colored bars on the front and spots on the back.  They have noticeable bright yellow eyes.  No other owls are commonly seen on the ground or so frequently during daylight hours.  Here is a wonderful little video from the Smithsonian Channel if you would like to learn more about “Howdy!” and his Burrowing Owl cousins.

As with many birds and creatures, Burrowing Owls are threatened or endangered in some areas due to loss of habitat as more open nesting areas are plowed under for development and agriculture.

Burrowing Owl- Pinterest- found on tumblr unidentified

This half-pint owl immediately captured our hearts and is featured in “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” short story collection available on Amazon.  The Kindle version officially releases on Tuesday, June 23rd, and is available for preorder now.  The Paperback print version is available for immediate shipment.

With the stories out now Red wanted to introduce you to his new little friend to let you know a bit more about him, and we’re sure you will recognize him when he enters the stories. Not noted for stimulating conversation, he still makes quite the impression.

“Howdy!”

As always, thanks for stopping by for a visit! – Jim (and Red!)

Order Your Copy of “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” on Amazon

"Howdy!" -- the Burrowing Owl

“Howdy!” — the Burrowing Owl

“The Adventures of Little Red Bear” — Available in Kindle and Paperback

A New “Little Red Bear” Video!

Since “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” short stories collection published last week, Red has been so excited he couldn’t sit down. You can find the stories to order on Amazon, available for Kindle and in Paperback.

He finally decided to put all that energy to good use and went out with some other story characters and the backwoods crew and made another video for you, showing the area he calls home and some of his friends and neighbors.  Red apologizes for that Otter near the end, playing around as they do so much of the time.  As Creative Director, Little Red Bear always recommends viewing on full screen with the speakers on for the full nature experience.

Feel free to share with family, friends and neighbors.  Hope you like it.  And check out the page link above or on youtube for other Little Red Bear videos.  If he keeps going, we’re going to have a whole collection pretty soon.

On another topic, we realized something about “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” over the weekend.  Something we had not considered until now.  We’ll be talking more about that in a few days, so please watch for it.  There might be a fight brewing, but we’re hoping not.

Thanks for stopping by! —  Jim (and Red!)

"Hey, y'all.  Do you fellas know where they're showin' the new Little Red Bear video?"

“Hey, y’all. Do you fellas know where they’re showin’ the new Little Red Bear video?”

 

Meet “Whistlin’ Will” the Whip-poor-will

Old forests in the Ozarks Mountain Country, where the Little Red Bear stories take place, are home to Eastern Whip-poor-wills, one of my favorite birds.  Strictly nocturnal and calling all thru the night, they have serenaded me to sleep on camping trips on many occasions.

While you may hear the Whip-poor-wills thru the night, finding them in the daylight hours is very difficult as they are largely inactive, hiding on the ground or roosting in the trees.  Their mottled plumage blends perfectly with the grey/brown leaf litter and forest debris where they live, a natural camouflage.

A medium sized bird, the Eastern Whip-poor-will is a member of the Nightjar family of birds, sometimes referred to as Goatsuckers from ancient tales that they sucked milk from goats.  Also in the nightjar family is the Nighthawk, another nocturnal bird, along with another and one the Whip-poor-will is frequently mistaken for– its close relative the Chuck-will’s-widow, which has a similar but lower, slower call.  Both calls are hauntingly beautiful on an otherwise quiet summer night in the woods.

Whip-poor-wills are mentioned frequently in “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” stories, with “Whistlin’ Will” being one of Red’s friends, singing right behind his cabin on Honey Hill each evening.

Here is a recording for you to listen to the beautiful call of the Whip-poor-will.  Like the recording, they go on and on, tirelessly all thru the night, a calming reassurance that all is right in the woods.  Do you hear the “whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will” call for which they were named?

Sadly, as with many species, their numbers are in decline in several areas as open forests are converted for suburbs and agriculture, and as their primary foods- large moths and beetles- are also on the decline due to development.

More information and sound recordings may be found on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology page, and on the Audubon Society page.

If you would like to read more about Whistlin’ Will in “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” short stories collection, it is available on Amazon for Kindle and in Paperback.  Just click the link below.

Thanks as always for reading and following! — Jim (and Red!)

Order Your Copy of “The Adventures of Little Red Bear”

 

Image via American Bird Conservancy, by Jacob Spendelow

Image via American Bird Conservancy, by Jacob Spendelow

 

Available for Preorder Now — “The Adventures of Little Red Bear–The First Holler!”

Ladies and Gentleman, Girls and Boys, Children of All Ages–

Step right up and be ready to be Amazed– be Enchanted– be Mystified– be Amused!

Here Ye, Here Ye! — The big day is here! 

Little Red Bear and I are delighted to announce that the first collection of stories in “The Adventures of Little Red Bear, The First Holler!”  is available for Preorder NOW on Amazon!

AVAILABLE NOW!  OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY!

Calloo-Callay!   Oh Frabjous Day!

Red’s book is ready!  What’s left to say?

The hard work is finished and the stories are written,

Unfortunately, yes, a few folks were bitten.

But not by Red, who’s quite pleasant, you see.

Come meet him yourself, he’s sweet and gentle like me.

We’ve worked long and hard to bring stories to you,

So join us on an adventure and bring the whole crew!

Please tell all your family,  all your friends and your neighbors.

The stories are top notch, just go ask the ‘gators!

We have singing birds, some very worried bunnies,

And lots of bees buzzing, protecting their honeys.

There’s a pair of black bears who sometimes bicker and fuss,

But the stories are “G Rated”, so no one can cuss.

With a fox, and a pig, turtles, beavers and more,

Can’t tell you any others or we’ll spoil what’s in store.

Lots of flowers and trees cover beautiful Honey Hill,

That’s where Red’s cabin is.  Oh, you’re in for a thrill.

So grab up your overalls, old boots and straw hat,

Adventures are waiting, there’s no time left to chat.

The announcement’s right here so you’d be the first to know,

Now off to Amazon thru magical links you can go!

Little Red Bear and friends are anxious to meet you,

So hurry, use the link and that’s all you need do!

Order Your Copy Today!

Bear- Little Red Bear Hiding in Tree

A fun and captivating blend of humor and action/adventure stories featuring Little Red Bear–  a new kind of “Action Hero.” This collection of six short stories, the first in a series, features Little Red Bear, an uncommonly special bear living in the scenic Ozarks Mountain Country of Missouri, just a little south of the Sweet Tea Line, with a great number of friends—woodland critters, barnyard animals and human folk alike.

Exciting and heartwarming stories feature colorful, fun and loveable characters with positive themes of friendship, helping others, kindness and overcoming challenges in life; blended with educational information on the ways of nature, the environment, conservation and a love of the outdoors.

Family-friendly reading entertainment told in an old-fashioned, story-telling tradition in a style and pace we just call “Country Comfortable”, the stories are suitable and fun for all age groups.

Younger children will benefit most from having the stories read to them, as they are not written on a beginner reading level and are not picture book type stories.  Little Red Bear is a real bear living in the mountains and backwoods with real story character companions and activities.  These are not your mother’s cuddly little “Winnie the Pooh” stories.  Just sayin’.

“The Adventures of Little Red Bear” for Kindle will release on June 23rd and is available for preorder on Amazon.  The print version, 302 pages in length, is available on Amazon right now for immediate delivery.  Order your Print Copy today!

On behalf of Red and the whole backwoods crew of characters, thanks as always for following along and supporting us on the journey.  Little Red Bear can’t wait to meet you! —  Jim  (and Red!)

“The Adventures of Little Red Bear”– On Amazon for Kindle & Paperback

"Will someone please read me a story about Little Red Bear?"

“Will someone please read me a story about Little Red Bear?”

 

 

Springtime in the Ozarks with Little Red Bear!

Welcome to “Springtime in the Ozarks Mountain Country”, Little Red Bear’s newest video and book trailer for the soon to be released “Adventures of Little Red Bear” short stories collection!

With his first collection of short story adventures to be released very soon, Red couldn’t wait to show everyone springtime in his neck of the woods and all that is going on around.  As Creative Director on the video projects, Little Red Bear wanted it to be filled only with beautiful images and music for you, but our esteemed attorney, Brooks the Badger, insisted that he include a few promo texts for the upcoming book as well.  They finally agreed on just a couple.

If you enjoy Red’s video, please feel free to share and pass along to friends and family, and consider giving him a “Thumbs Up!” like on youtube.  It really makes his day as he watches the numbers go up and gets him out working on the next one even sooner.

Big bear hugs and thank you’s to fellow birder Adele Barger Wilson, author of “Bonding With the Barn Swallows” for permitting us to use some of her images, and to the Missouri Wildflower Guide for making their images available for use.

Hope you enjoy it. Thanks for visiting!  — Jim (and Red!)

Introducing “Little Red Bear”– the First Book Trailer Video!

Little Red Bear and I are excited to announce the release of the very first video trailer for the upcoming “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” stories!

“The Adventures of Little Red Bear” is a collection of six short stories about a bear and his many friends living in the scenic Ozarks Mountain Country, with the initial collection of stories entitled “The First Holler!” available on Amazon soon for Kindle and Paperback. Fun, family-friendly and entertaining for all age groups, the stories have underlying themes of positivity, nature, kindness, and helping others.  There is always time to stop along the roadside to smell a wildflower and listen to a songbird.  The stories are told at an enjoyably relaxing pace in a style I just call “Country Comfortable.”

Hope you enjoy the video. And if you do, please share with friends and family. Red had so much fun serving as Producer and Creative Director on this first trailer that he has the crew out working on more videos right now. He recommends viewing on full screen with the speakers on, for total immersion in the outdoor experience.

Please keep an eye out for more videos coming soon as we near the book release date, some featuring more information about the book and characters, and some others just for fun. You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks as they say, but perhaps an old man and bear– given enough time and aspirin– can figure out how to make a tolerably presentable video.

Some future videos will feature a number of photos from blog followers and Facebook friends allowing their own images to be shared for the enjoyment of others. As a testament to goodness in the world, every individual approached about sharing photos has agreed enthusiastically without hesitation. As you may expect, while flowers, plants and trees tend to be easier subjects, it’s very difficult sometimes getting a critter to hold still long enough to focus the camera and capture a good likeness, not to mention birds in mid-flight holding their position, not being helicopters as they are.

So Red and I truly appreciate those kindhearted and generous folks permitting us to share their photography work with you as we go along.  (And if we unintentionally step on anyone’s copyright toes, please accept our apologies and just drop us a note if there is something not to be shared before showing up on the front porch with a shotgun.  Or worse– one of those lawyer fellas.)

We both hope you enjoy these little videos as much as we enjoy making them for you.  So here is the first one– “Introducing Little Red Bear.”   Thanks as always for reading and following along! – Jim (and Red!)

The Lyric Wood Thrush

Of one of my favorite birds, Henry David Thoreau wrote–

“This is the only bird whose note affects me like music. It lifts and exhilarates me. It is inspiring. It changes all hours to an eternal morning.”

The wood thrush’s beautiful, lyric songs echo thru deciduous forests in the eastern U.S. in spring and early summer.  A bit smaller than an American Robin, the wood thrush will occasionally nest in suburban areas where there are enough large trees.

Numbers have seriously declined in the past decades due both to loss of habitat and Cowbirds laying eggs in the wood thrush nests, with the result of the thrushes raising more cowbirds than their own species.  New preservation and protection zones in the Adirondacks, Smoky Mountains and Ozarks National Forest will hopefully help these beautiful singers to rebound.

Check out the BirdNote presentation to learn more and hear the song of this glorious singer→ the Wood Thrush.

Wood Thrush- via National Audubon Society, by Brian E. Small/VIREO

Wood Thrush- via National Audubon Society, by Brian E. Small/VIREO

 

Lost in Quandary Without a Compass

The dictionary, or at least my handy-dandy little online reference source, defines “Quandary” as – “noun, plural quandaries– a state of perplexity or uncertainty, especially as to what to do; dilemma.

And there it is. That is where I am with the very soon to be released “Adventures of Little Red Bear” stories. Lost in “Quandary” without a compass. Don’t know the zip code for map finder, but think it’s just on the outskirts of “Perplexed.”

As I write this, magical little helper elves are furiously working to format the finished text of “The Adventures of Little Red Bear– The First Holler!” Preparing the collection of short story adventures for publication, fitting it into all the whatsits and whatnots for Amazon, while also designing a cover. But soon they will be finished and it will be ready to publish.

And there’s the dilemma– What genre to list the book in? What age groups might be interested in reading a novel length collection of short stories about a bear in the woods? How to categorize it? Basically– which virtual shelf to put it on so potentially interested folks may find it?

Reading- Boy in Bookcase

To be honest, I have no idea at present where to go with this. Apparently my writing muse doesn’t either, because she is being totally silent on the matter.

“The Adventures of Little Bear” stories were not written for or towards any target market or group in particular, probably breaking rule number one of the “Writing for Success” guidelines. But I don’t lose any sleep over that, because I make no secret about not following anyone else’s “rules.” And I’m too old to be overly concerned with building a “long term following and career.” Whatever.

I wrote the stories that were in my head as the characters revealed them to me because it was fun. It’s what I would rather be doing than most anything else right now. Who might be interested in them, what “target markets” or “demographics” never entered into it or influenced anything.

“Ready.      Fire!      Aim.”

As the stories turned out, they are probably not really wee kiddie type stories, certainly not on a “See Spot run” level. For comparison, Little Red Bear is about as close to Winnie the Pooh as a Grizzly Bear is to a Hedgehog. Not sure middle grade children would be interested, focusing more on becoming teens and such. As for young adults, probably no way to distract from fantasy and paranormal genres, lacking a heavy dose of either in the stories, and having no werewolves, walking dead or dragons either.

Suggested keywords to be included in descriptions in the Children’s Categories include such notable buzzers as sword, sorcery, magic, dragon, quest, adventure, detective, action, sleuth, spy, terrorist (believe it or not), secret agent, superhero, extraterrestrial, and time travel. The closest Little Red Bear comes to any of those is maybe an “Action Adventure Superhero”. In a bearskin. In the backwoods. Is there a category for that?

Bear- Peek a Boo- Pinterest

And that’s just talking about the Children’s age group. How then to also classify it? It’s not exactly a true-to-life “Nature” story book, featuring a fictional bear and characters. It’s much more fiction and made up than “Historical.” It is kind of “Action/Adventure”, but it features a backwoods bear, not Jason Bourne, Indiana Jones or Ironman.

The stories are set roughly in the early 1900’s, but not truly correct enough or concerned with historical details to be considered a “Period” piece. We are working on a story involving petty larceny for the next collection, but there is none of that tomfoolery or goings-on in the first set of stories so they do not fit “Crime Drama”.

The stories are set in the scenic Ozarks Mountain Country, but feature way too many made-up names and locations to be considered for the “Travel” or “Geography” categories. There is a good deal of useful nature information presented, but talking animals immediately kick it out of the “Science” category.

The word “love” is mentioned exactly once in over 65,000 words, so it surely cannot be considered a “Romance” work. And there’s no way a backwoods bear will compete with spicy Romance literature set amidst exotic locales to command attention from the romance seekers, anyway.

“Erotic?”     Mmmm —  No.

To the best I recall, there is no mention whatever about stars, the universe, aliens or time travel. So “Science Fiction” is off the list as well. There are some weak attempts at humor, but not the main focus or enough to qualify the stories as a “Comedy.”

So you can see the dilemma— where to list “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” when it is ready for release soon? The stories are simply about an uncommonly special bear and his friends in the backwoods mountain country. Boring themes like kindness, sharing, being good neighbors and appreciating the wildflowers, nature and such. Is that the stuff of “Superheroes?”

Maybe we just invented a new genre—“Fun Stories About Nothing In Particular”—but really don’t think I have enough sway with the Amazon folks to bring that about. Perhaps J. R. R. Tolkien or George R. R. Martin could. I am merely James R. Milson. Maybe I should consider adding another “R.” for a bit more literary clout.

Peanuts- Charlie Brown deep in thought

But it really doesn’t matter all that much. We don’t measure “Success” in dollar signs. Success for us is if the stories help brighten a few people’s days, and maybe a few kids learn to appreciate nature a little more. Hopefully, we have not set unrealistically high sales expectations for the book– again, sales not being the reason the stories were written in the first place. I went out on a limb a while ago and told Red if we hit a dozen sales or get a five star review, whichever happens first, we’ll celebrate with a pizza, and we’re both good with that.

But now thinking about it, not having a foggy clue where to classify or categorize the book for interested folks to even find it, we may have to peddle them on the street corner and in front of grocery stores to reach that lofty dozen sales number. It’s a good thing warmer spring weather is on the way. I may have overreached with that dozen sales goal, it maybe being an unrealistic, off the top of the head number considering the classification conundrum. Perhaps some kind-hearted person will rescue us with a good review, but not hanging my hat on that one, having only the one middle “R.” in my name as it is.

Peanuts- Charlie Brown- Anguish

I suppose if neither happens, if we don’t reach the high one dozen sales goal or receive the generosity of a five star review either, we’re okay with that too, really. Because we both know eventually we’re just going to go out and get a pizza anyway just to celebrate all the work in getting the book prepared to begin with. It’s really just a matter of timing and the accomplishment we’re toasting and lifting our Coke glasses to in the end.

So either way, however we categorize “The Adventures of Little Red Bear”, the writing trail ends at a pizza joint for Little Red Bear and me. And we both know our pizza categories very well.

In the meantime, we’re going to keep trying to figure this all out. Thanks as always for reading and following! – Jim (and Red!)

Hey LEO’s– I’ve Got Your 6!

Some days you get up and writing cute stories about squirrels and other furry critters just isn’t foremost in your mind.  The events being played out in Ferguson, Missouri right now are troubling on so many levels.  I’m just going to talk about one right now.  Generational poverty, disenfranchisement, quality educational access, and sundry other issues will wait for another time.

Four more Law Enforcement Officers (LEO’s) were injured in the line of duty last night in the civil unrest going on nightly in Ferguson, Missouri. Did you see that in the national news this morning? I’m guessing not. Here’s a link to a summary of the events from last night from the local newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. → St. Louis Post-Dispatch News, 08-19-2014

From the beginning, now entering the 11th day, law enforcement has stood patiently by while passersby poured water bottles, sodas, slurpies and anything else they were carrying on them. They have been enduring insults and verbal abuse I will not repeat here. They have been pelted nightly with rocks, bricks, bottles and other objects. They have come under gunfire nightly. They are dodging Molotov Cocktails nightly. Each night LEO’s are being injured in the line of duty while protecting those who come to protest and peacefully express their views, an ever-growing sea of journalists and media, neighboring homes and businesses, and themselves. While being spat upon. Their restraint has been remarkable. After eleven (11) nights of civil unrest and disobedience, not one person on either side has been killed. It’s amazing. And yet, the LEO’s are being criticized daily in the media. They have seemingly become “the bad guy” in this. How?

Last night, Monday August 18, 78 people were arrested, 75 for failure to disperse when repeatedly requested. Of those 50 were from the greater St. Louis area, and only four (4) from Ferguson itself. The remainder were from around the country, over 35%. These are not the peaceful protesters, and that needs to be understood. They had all gone home by that time of night. Many clergy and local community leaders are on the front lines with the LEO’s, working hard to maintain peace and whatever is left of the area’s image as it all plays out on national and international television and reporting.

“At least 12 people were arrested in a truck at Canfield. Two pistols were found on those arrested, and a Molotov cocktail was found in the bed of their truck.”– St. Louis Post-Dispatch, linked above

Unfortunately, this situation stopped being about Michael Brown a long time ago, when group after group arrived to hijack the story to further their own agendas. His family pleads daily for peace while trying to keep focus on the loss of their son.  Everyone wants justice in the Michael Brown shooting. Everyone. Because what affects one person affects us all. But there should not be a rush to justice, circumventing the process, in order to appease a noisy crowd. Nobody knows what happened that day. Nobody. The most intelligent piece I have read about the situation was in a blog by Matt Walsh. Here is a link to read it for yourself. He says it too well to try to repeat here. → Matt Walsh Blog- “You Don’t Know What Happened”

There is a decidedly criminal element that has arrived upon the scene here. By and large, Ferguson folks are not getting arrested, as shown by last night’s numbers. People from Texas, California, New York, Chicago and other places are, as there are those here now who obviously do not care about the safety of the legitimate peaceful demonstrators, seeking to foment violence and seek retribution from anyone in uniform for their own agendas and reasons. Unfortunately, there are those on both sides who would like to see this turn violent on a large scale to bring attention to their own agendas and messages, and the LEO’s risk their own safety night after night peacefully trying to prevent that from happening. The longer this continues, the less optimistic I become that they will be successful in doing so, while the President seems more concerned with ensuring the rights of peaceful protest than the safety of law enforcement and the right to peace and security for all the families in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Following a night of unrest and disturbance, every morning citizens of Ferguson and surrounding areas assemble early in the morning to clean up the debris and mess left from the night before, help vandalized businesses repair and clean up. Volunteering. Blacks and whites, working hand in hand together to try to preserve their community. Have you seen that on the national news? Have you seen those citizens of Ferguson? Living blocks from all that is going on every night, how do they go about a normal life right now? How do their children sleep at night with gunshots, explosions, fires, shouting, obscenities, looting, vandalism, sirens, tear gas and helicopters flying overhead all thru the night? Local schools, scheduled to open last week, remain closed with the school year yet to start. The Ferguson-Florissant School District, the largest in the area, has now cancelled classes for the remainder of the week. Little kids with new clothes and book bags, looking forward and eager to starting school remain at home. I know of one little girl starting kindergarten that was so excited to be starting school, and then when told she could not go burst into tears, fearing it was her fault. How does a parent explain this to their children? That their neighborhood is no longer safe enough to go to school—in the daylight. The right to peacefully protest seems unaffected by the “right to privacy” or the legal constraints of “peace disturbance” for these citizens it seems.

Living on the outskirts of the area I witness the live local news coverage each night as events unfold. The very first night I witnessed a man walking by a news camera, carrying a sawed-off baseball bat, taped around the handle, in his hands as he approached the police. One normally does not go to a meeting to peacefully discuss an issue armed with a sawed-off baseball bat. Some members of this criminal group wear bullet-proof vests. Now they are showing up in gas masks. They wear bandanas and pull their tee shirts over their heads to hide their faces. Printed instructions were found by a reporter on the street this morning- “How To Make A Gas Mask”. They are armed. There is no good or positive intent in any of that. “Shots fired” is a frequent call on the scene. Numerous people have been shot over the period. All by members in the crowd. None by the police. The LEO’s have not fired a single live round to my knowledge.

Last night a reporter remarked that drugs and alcohol were rampant throughout the crowds, impairing judgment and fueling anger even more. He stated that the marijuana smoke was so thick in the air that it was stinging his eyes and lungs. People were in a drug-fueled rage around him. Have you read that anywhere? These are not the peaceful protesters, several of whom have children with them.

The violent element seeks to mingle and hide among peaceful groups and journalists, launch their attacks at the police and then disappear amongst the crowd. Time and time and time again. Every night. I no longer know the number of police and ambulance vehicles that have been severely damaged, trying to respond to calls. In one instance a police vehicle came under heavy attack by members in a side street crowd from rocks and bricks, smashing its windows with officers inside. Other LEO’s fired smoke and tear gas to rescue the attacked officers. You can listen to one of the interviewed officers in the attacked vehicle talk about it here in a local radio show interview, a side of the “Al Jazeera Reporters” incident you may not have heard, along with other concerns. If the police were really trying to interfere with reporting, wouldn’t they just have quickly smashed the Al Jazeera lights and cameras, instead of taking the time and gently lowering them to the ground? → Officer Radio Interview.   On numerous occasions LEO’s have asked TV reporters to turn off their bright lights, not to illuminate either the reporters or officers as targets, only to be questioned about it.

“However, he said (Captain Johnson) some “criminals and agitators” threatened police, threw glass and plastic bottles — some filled with urine — at officers and hid behind members of the media covering the protests.”– St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 08-20-2014

Panic stricken employees of a McDonalds called 911 the other night and locked themselves in the cooler, fearing for their safety from crowds inside the restaurant. A side window was broken out. When the police arrived with guns drawn, not knowing what they might be facing, they were criticized by the press for excessive display of force and over-handed tactics while moving people out of the way to get thru.

Journalists have been requested to stay in designated areas after dark, marked off with yellow police tape. Police remain by these areas to protect them. I have seen LEO’s gather and rush journalists behind vehicles for their safety when shots were being fired in the area. Another time, to move journalists around to another side of a building because of “shots fired”. Some of the media seem more intent to become the story than to report the story while clamoring over each other for the big scoop or most sensational headline for the morning news. Have we not heard this before?

When a situation got dicey last night, the police moved towards a crowd and asked journalists to move to their designated areas, for their own safety. When someone has a gun and shots are being fired or there is danger, there isn’t always time to say “Pretty please, please move”. Last night I purposefully counted over 12 requests over the loud speaker before the LEO’s moved in to make arrests. “You need to disperse immediately. If you are credentialed media, move to your designated area. Do it Now!” Over a dozen times. Yet some members of the media refused to do so, for their own safety. So when they get caught up in the action, smoke or tear gas- who is to blame? The police? The police repeatedly position themselves between the media and shots fired and try to move media away before smoke or tear gas is deployed in an area, putting themselves at risk in the process. The police’s job would be a lot easier if they did not have hundreds of media members to protect in addition to everything else. But we do not read that side in the media because it does not fit the news angle of their story. Instead we read reports of law enforcement infringing on the freedom of the press. Really? The only thing that I have seen noticeably lacking in the media coverage is the LEO’s side.   And if, God forbid, something happens to a media member, you know who will be blamed and it won’t be them. The officers will inevitably be accused of not providing enough protection.

One of those removed from the crowd by officers last night was carrying a plastic gallon milk jug, presumably filled with gasoline or an accelerant. It was clearly not milk. Maybe it was diluted pink Kool-Aid in the jug. Maybe it was an accelerant. I don’t know. The police do not know either until they check. But the risk was there. So they moved in, repeatedly asking journalists to get out of the way so they could safely do their job. But which headline will garner the most attention the next morning—“Ferguson or Fergustan- Media Rights Trampled in Missouri” (a real article this morning, not made up) or “Police Move to Protect Journalists”? But when the police lecture the journalists about being in the way of the police doing their job, it’s the police portrayed as in the wrong.

“When protesters defied police orders to leave the parking lot of the burned-out QuikTrip, police fired tear gas Monday night after repeated warnings. (11:55pm)

Just before midnight, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson told reporters shots had been fired at Canfield and told the media to go to the command center about a quarter-mile away.

The St. Louis County Police Chief, Jon Belmar, echoed Dotson, telling reporters to move back to the command post because of gunfire.” – St. Louis Post- Dispatch, 08-19-2014, linked above

But yet they continue joining in the crowds placing themselves in danger.  Admirable and dedicated.  To a point.  Risking personal safety and interfering with the duty of LEO’s simply trying to do their jobs is beyond the point.

To my unofficial count, approximately 20 businesses have been looted and vandalized, with the Quick Trip Market burnt to the ground the second night. It is hard to keep track as some who have reopened have been hit a second time. Does that count as one or two? The first night was at least 12, then at least 2 more in South St. Louis the next night, then a few more, then 8 or so the other night. The fire in the barbeque place last night, the second time that poor fellow’s business was hit. (This time they ripped out the security cameras, just in case.) I lose track as the days go by. The majority of the stores victimized have been “mom and pop” establishments, someone’s business and family living. “Civil unrest” losses are not covered by the vast majority of insurance policies. You don’t hear that reported much. These business owners are just stuck with the repairs and losses. And if they close altogether, employees are out of work. More families affected and a further diminished tax base for the community.  Since originally posted, it has been reported that Quick-Trip has started pulling gasoline tanks out of the ground.  Looks like they are not planning on reopening, a business loss for the city and local neighbors who depended on it for fuel and supplies.

Every night the LEO’s are facing unruly crowds hurling insults at them, along with bottles, rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and gunfire. They respond by wearing shields and helmets, use smoke and tear gas when necessary in order to protect themselves, the peaceful demonstrators, members of the media, businesses and surrounding neighborhood families.  Among all the people who have been shot during all this, there has not been one “police involved” shooting that I am aware of.   A “gentler, kinder” approach last week was greeted with more bricks, bottles and gunfire the next night when the LEO’s were told to not wear riot gear in a more passive, understanding mode, putting themselves at incredible risk in order to be more “approachable”.  Indeed, they were.

Every one of those in law enforcement is someone’s son, daughter, husband, wife, father, mother or friend. The LEO families watch and witness this all unfold every night on live TV in their homes, in agony and anguish worrying about the safety of their loved ones while witnessing objects flying thru the air and hearing repeated calls of “shots fired”. Each officer wants to go home safely at the end of the day, just as you or I. They are placing themselves in danger and harm’s way, serving the public, every night.

The  LEO’s are doing and enduring all that they do and are being put thru, all while being criticized in the press for being “militarized”, accused of excessive force without a single “police involved” shooting or serious injury to a suspect, suppressing peaceful protests, infringing on journalists’ rights by trying to remove them from danger areas for their own safety, standing thru pouring rain and hot, humid days. They are furnished with equipment by the governments- federal, state and local- and then criticized for putting it into use and seeking to protect themselves from present criminals intent on violence. Most or all have probably not had a day off since this all started, into its second week. They are working long days thru the nights, tired, ill-fed, with no end in sight– and still show up for work.  Those LEO’s not directly involved in Ferguson are covering endless shifts in their home precincts for the officer’s who are deployed to Ferguson every day and night.  But law enforcement continues to get the heat and scrutiny because no one wants to risk pointing a finger at the protesters, demonstrators, the violent element hurling the bricks, bottles and bullets, or those coming to town to urge them on. The LEO’s are the easy target in all of this- literally and figuratively. And that is not right.

I am constantly amazed at how we are still able to stand upright, while somehow the world has gotten turned so upside down.

And now Amnesty International has arrived on the scene, yet another group with an agenda. Not enough going on in China, North Korea, Nigeria, Ukraine, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Russia, Afghanistan, Gaza, The Sudan and Central America to keep you busy? Ferguson, Missouri. Really? A member of Amnesty was asked by a reporter if he had seen rocks being thrown at police last night. His response- “even if a few rocks were thrown, it wouldn’t have made a difference. The police are in full body armor.” (from St. Louis Post-Dispatch, linked above) Is this the attitude we have towards our police now, the ones we count on for our own protection and safety every day? It doesn’t make a difference—because they are protecting themselves? They are damned for protecting themselves in the presence of clear and present danger?   If a crowd of hundreds or a thousand, some armed with bricks, guns, Molotov Cocktails, sawed off baseball bats and the like are marching down the street to your home, do want the police to show up in brightly colored tee shirts with smiley faces or riot gear to protect you and your family?

God forbid, but is it really going to take the death of a police officer in this to refocus the image and debate? How many—2, 3, 6, a dozen? Do we have to repeat a World Trade Center loss of such magnitude to regain respect for those putting their lives on the line every night in service to their communities?

It has been a number of years since the tragedy of 9-11. How appropriate- 911- the number we call without hesitation for LEO help, protection and assistance. Are any of these LEO folks in Ferguson in any less danger and any less deserving of our appreciation and respect than those who rushed into the buildings doing their jobs thirteen years ago? Have we forgotten already? These are the same people, showing up night after night after night to confront obvious and violent danger with immeasurable restraint, to protect and serve– us.  As well as the firefighters, paramedics and emergency personnel that show up to every call. Everybody celebrates the coming home of returning military and service personnel, as we should. But are the LEO’s doing their jobs each night any less deserving of our respect and concern?

It’s time to start a support line behind the LEO’s, just to let them know there is someone there. Someone who has their backs. For me, the only thing the LEO’s have been guilty of in all of this is not getting their side of the story out.

“HEY, LEO’s → I’VE GOT YOUR 6!”