Pausing To Savor A Special Moment — “Yeah, That’s Good!”

As a writer, occasionally you sit back, read what you have just written on the page, and declare — “Yeah, that’s good.”  It is at those infrequent and exceptional moments when you feel that you are doing what you are intended to be doing — writing.

So it was yesterday morning with the second collection of Little Red Bear’s adventure stories, “The Second Holler Over!”

With the next collection of short stories well more than halfway completed, a new inspiration came to me stepping out of my morning shower. It was so strong and compelling that a planned breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast was scratched in favor of a dry bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal to munch on in order to set to work immediately, not to lose the revelation.

Initial thoughts were quickly added to the end of the second story, already written.  Then they were refined, edited, refined, and edited again. Over and over thru the morning.  My normal process of writing, editing as I go.

When finished hours later just in time for lunch, I re-read what I feel are the twelve most well-crafted and impactful paragraphs I have ever written. Twelve short paragraphs linking two adversaries, establishing an ominous tone, and underpinning all subsequent themed action to follow in the ensuing stories and coming books.

Admittedly not one to be easily impressed, I myself felt the impact of the new addition on the stories and was moved. Where the sudden inspiration for the addition to something that was already “finished” came from, heaven only knows. Literally, perhaps.

And after years of progressive study, reading and examining the works of others, writing, editing, more writing, more editing, rewrite work and more, it suddenly occurs to you over a lunchtime fruit smoothie a few minutes later that your writing ability, just maybe, has taken another small step forward to being truly proficient at what you do.  And, yeah — that’s good.

If you are interested in what the twelve paragraphs were, you will need to wait until “The Adventures of Little Red Bear: The Second Holler Over!” is available in the fall. They will be the closing paragraphs of the second story, entitled “The Great Bramble Scramble.” I hope you are moved by them, too.

If new to Little Red Bear and his adventure stories, right now in the midst of summer reading season while even the leaves on trees seem to be melting on some days, it would be a good time for catching up with all the prior action, since the short stories run in sequence.  “The Adventures of Little Red Bear: The First Holler!” is available in both Print and eBook versions on Amazon. The book will also be available in a Large Print version soon, as requested by numerous senior fans of Little Red Bear.


By this time, a few may be thinking “this guy is a bit full of himself.”  But to conclude that would be to miss the real point.

Whether our main activity and focus be on career, child-rearing, hobby pursuit, or personal passion like my writing is for me, often as we go along it can seem like we ourselves are Sisyphus reincarnate,  doomed to repeatedly push a huge boulder  up a steep hill, endlessly for eternity, only to have it roll back to the bottom each time, never progressing or making a difference. The view on life’s treadmill can become monotonous and seem unchanging.

It is beneficial to be aware and recognize special moments when they present themselves, to press the “Pause” button, step off and realize that we have done something out of the ordinary, above and beyond expectations.  To savor the accomplishment and personally acknowledge that yes indeed, we are making progress on our journey, however small it may be. A step forward is however measured, a step forward nonetheless.

And then, purpose reaffirmed and heartened a bit, we get back at it with a refreshed energy and spirit to move forward another step. And then another.

Pause occasionally, to savor a special moment.


Thanks for visiting with us! We never know what very special surprise or revelation may be awaiting us as we begin each new day.

We hope that whatever your passion and pursuit in life, that you may also experience such uplifting and reaffirming moments.  So that you too, can say — “Yeah, that’s good.”

What can you do to help someone find a happy moment today? Share your smile or a kind gesture? Or an unexpected flower, perhaps?

A simple act of kindness has the power to be life-altering for someone. That is pretty special in itself, don’t you think?  — Jim  (and Red!)


If you enjoyed this piece, you may also enjoy → “Finding A Purpose Driven Life — What Would You Do If . . . . . . ?” 

(And if a new visitor — Welcome! To find out what we are all about here, please check out — “Welcome To My Writing Pages!” — and sign up to follow and be notified of every new post!)


“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” – Orson Scott

“If the book is true, it will find an audience that is meant to read it.” – Wally Lamb


Meet Little Red Bear & His Friends —  “Once Upon A Time In A Very Special Woods . . . .”


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

      “People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’  I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those        people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.”       –  R.L. Stine


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, because together we can do so much!

With the help of patrons, each month we are able to donate free print copies of “The Adventures of Little Red Bear: The First Holler!” to Senior Citizens,  School Libraries and Classrooms, and to those who could otherwise not obtain a copy.

Patrons also help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as a non-monetized, ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes while sharing positive messages of happiness, inspiration, and kindness with everyone. We invite you to join us in making a positive difference in the world!


                  “I believe myself that a good writer doesn’t really need to be told anything except to keep at it.” – Chinua Achebe


 

Meet Little Red Bear & His Friends — “Once Upon A Time In A Very Special Woods . . . .”

Meet Little Red Bear and His Friends —

“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, 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 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. So, if after hearing ‘Red’ you had in mind the bright red color of a fire truck, you would be much closer thinking of a rusty old metal wagon in the yard over yonder. That’s Little Red Bear.

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, meandering aimlessly back and forth, zigging and zagging around boulders and rocky outcroppings from one end of Hoppers Holler to the other.

Little Red Bear had large vegetable and herb gardens, along with many fruit and nut trees. He allowed several rabbits and other assorted critters 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. But for some reason, Little Red Bear never learned how to make a decent pie crust. Although he never stopped trying.

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 each week. 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 and given to bouts of occasional grumpiness. But, to his credit, always one to be counted on whenever a problem or threat arose. Or, it must be said, a gathering of onlookers to entertain. Bobo was a trouper and showbear, thru and thru, and could never decline an opportunity to perform for a crowd.

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. Lily walked away from the chance encounter not only with the cotton candy but also with Bobo’s heart. They are inseparable, and seldom is one seen without the other close by.

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.

Unlike Little Red Bear, Lily was renowned for her exceptional pie making skills, rivaling that of Myra Cookson who operated ‘Myra Cookson’s Pie Pantry & Goodies Shoppe’ over in the nearby town of Butterfield.  Lily’s special Autumn Spiced Buttermilk Pie was always the most acclaimed and requested at holiday gatherings. It should also be mentioned that Lily’s Persimmon, Gooseberry, Arkansas Black Apple, and Chess Pies were also award-winners at the Tri-County Fairgrounds over the years, along with her Elderberry Jam. No one could compete in the annual county pie rivalry between Lily and Myra, and few tried. Lily’s practice pies undoubtedly contributed to her husband Bobo being of noticeably larger girth than his friend, Little Red Bear, although Bobo always ascribed his ample waistline to “circus muscles”, with a “grruummpphh!” and snort to emphasize the point.

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 gentle summer breezes. Honeybees visited the clover and wildflowers to make honey, and as predictably as spring follows winter, Little Red Bear visited the bees.

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 ready or large enough to be independent, or to be out on his own or alone 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.

Upon learning about how he had been left by his mother and aware that young bears struggle mightily on their own with many not surviving, 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 once again, 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. Cinnamon Charlie had found a home. Even if it meant learning how to read the “Squirrelly World” newspaper each morning.

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 and as Mother Nature had originally intended before things got complicated.

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 season and 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, which we simply call a Country Comfortable writing style. Themes of Kindness, Positivity, Helping Others, Spirituality, Conservation, and Mother Nature are interwoven throughout, spiced with a little country humor.

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 enjoyable entertainment for adult readers on their own. The stories are intended to be Entertaining, Informative, and Educational.

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 still get a few letters now and then about muddy floors.  —  Jim  (and Red!)


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

            “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” — William James


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


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


“To read the front pages, you might conclude that Americans are mostly out for themselves, but you can’t travel the back roads very long without discovering a multitude  of gentle                            people doing good for others with no expectation of gain or recognition.”                     — Charles Kuralt


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, because together we can do so much!

The help of patrons allows us to donate print copies of “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” to Senior Citizen Centers and Residents, School Libraries and Classrooms, Hospitals, and to those who otherwise would not be able to enjoy or benefit from the stories.

Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes while sharing positive messages of happiness, inspiration, and kindness with everyone. We invite you to join us in making a positive difference in the world! 

As Little Red Bear says — “Think Globally, Act Locally. Tomorrow begins with You today!”


“Our greatest national resource is the minds of our children.” — Walt Disney 


 

 

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


Tri-County Storekeepers Line Up to Back Little Red Bear Adventure Stories!

When not standing in the ‘Strange and Silly Fiction Aisle’ at Barnes & Noble waiting for people to ask for our autographs, Little Red Bear and I are hard at work reenacting and writing about Red’s adventures.

The second collection of Little Red Bear stories well underway now will be somewhat different in approach than the first collection, which consisted of six short stories, each more of a novelette in length, truth be told. The second collection book will be noticeably longer with two additional full-length stories, along with much shorter stories which we have not agreed on a name for yet — Mini Stories or Interludes — positioned in between the longer length features.

What with the format changes, longer overall book length, and increased number of stories, it has become quite the project and undertaking. Add to that several new story characters coming from all over the U.S. and overseas, and it is readily apparent why we are running substantially over the production budget.  More characters to house and feed, additional writing sets to be constructed, landowner permits obtained for writing access, new character travel expenses, etc. Not to mention insurance, medical, and paramedic service costs while working with wildlife, some rather ill-disposed.

As luck would have it, the majority of our story characters are domestic animals and wildlife, so wardrobe costs are kept to a ‘bare’ minimum, so to speak. And while it is true that some of the characters quite literally do work for peanuts, it still does all add up in a hurry.

Scanty wardrobe and peanuts notwithstanding, the long and the little of it is that we found ourselves already way over the anticipated production budget for this story collection by the midway point, with critters eating us out of house and home.  And did I mention about the peanuts?

To their credit, a good number of businesses in the surrounding region of Little Red Bear Land in the Ozarks Mountain Country, which we refer to as the “Tri-County Area” in the stories, have stepped forward to sponsor our writing and story work. In exchange for an occasional mention of their enterprises in the stories, of course. Perhaps you may already be familiar with one — ‘McNickles Famous Pickles & Pork Rinds’ on the outskirts of Round Corners, where Little Red Bear has done book signings on occasion.

So, rest comfortably assured that writing and production work on the next collection of Little Red Bear stories is continuing unabated thanks to local shopkeepers and community support. Just letting you know so that you are aware what is going on when an occasional message from one of our sponsors appears here on the writing blog and elsewhere as we go forward.  It goes without saying that this still is and will remain a non-monetized blog in the traditional advertising sense, of course.

We will be updating story progress from time to time as we go along and get closer to the publication date, scheduled for early next year, barring unforeseen production delays.

If you are not already following my Facebook Writer Page, now would be a good time and I encourage you to do so.  As in the weekly recipes Little Red Bear shares here on the writing blog every Sunday morning, we find a number of wonderful, inspiring, entertaining, and educational videos and other items each week doing writing research. We are going to begin sharing the best ones on my Writer Page as we come across them. Most are short, focusing on our major themes here of Children, Family, Kindness, Positivity, Mother Nature, and Pets.  Pets and animals always make for a smile to brighten a gloomy day.

Thank you always for spending part of your day with us. We would be honored if you recommended our site and pages to friends and family.  Little Red Bear and I look forward to your visits here, and hope that in our own way we help to make your day special, too!  — Jim (and Red!)


“The Adventures of Little Red Bear” Stories —  Sponsored in Part by —
Bad Bob’s Bandit Bandanas — Furnishing the Finest In Must-have Accessory Items for Successful Highwaymen and Holder-uppers Since 1836. Conveniently Located next to the citizen’s bank of blusterville.

(Read about Bad Bob’s Bandit Bandanas in the coming Little Red Bear Stories!)


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. 


“Give light and people will find the way.” – Ella Baker

“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” – Peggy O’ Mara


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

       “It’s not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is — what are we busy about?”     – Henry David Thoreau


Chapter Six of The Ozarks Ostrich Crisis: “To Market, To Market”

Note to Readers– This is Chapter Six of a continuing Weekly Serial Story freely shared only here for followers of my Writing Blog.  If you missed the beginning, you can catch up HERE for the beginning and previous chapters. Follow the Blog now to be informed of every new post and update.


Pieces of glass flew everywhere as the window at first shattered and then seemed to explode from the force of a heavy, grey granite rock hurled from outside, startling everyone and causing all the bunnies to scurry in fright beneath the table to shelter from flying bits of glass.

Thump-a! . . . Bump-a! . . . Thump-a! . . . .

The rock hurtled, careened and bounced across the cabin’s wooden floor, finally coming to rest against the far wall.

Wearing boots and not wanting any of the others’ bare feet to be cut on broken shards of glass, I motioned Little Red Bear and everyone away. Carefully stepping around the larger glass splinters, smaller pieces crunched and crackled beneath my feet as I made my way across the room.

Reaching the rock, I carefully picked it up to find a message, painted in bold red letters on the flat bottom.

I held it up for Little Red Bear to see.

“LOOK OUTSIDE”

Little Red Bear quickly tossed me a broom from the corner.  I hurried to sweep up the shattered window glass pieces from seemingly everywhere, anxious to see who or what was to be found outside.

Had the weasels ganged up and overwhelmed Albuquerque while guarding the rabbits? Holding him hostage?  Worse?  Had the coyotes run wild and taken potential story characters? What had been done that they wanted us to see?  Thoughts raced thru my mind while hurriedly sweeping glass.

Before I could finish, another rock came sailing in thru the now open window space, striking the far wall and falling down in a loud “CLUMP” on the floor.  I walked over to find another message awaiting . . .

“WHAT’S TAKING SO LONG?”

I worked even faster to clear the remaining few pieces of glass from the floor and tops of tables.  

Emptying the last dust pan filled with broken glass into the trash can, I joined Little Red Bear, already slumped and frowning, at the broken window.

A short distance from the cabin, the smallest ostrich, the one whose protest sign Little Red Bear had ripped apart earlier in the day, stood with his tongue sticking out atop an upturned wooden rain barrel, forcefully waving a freshly painted new sign while wagging his head in an unhinged, wibbly-wobbly, deranged back and forth manner, taunting Little Red Bear.

RED BEAR IS SO UGLY HIS MOTHER

HAD TO BORROW A BABY

TO TAKE TO CHURCH ON SUNDAYS!

Then, aware that we had each seen the new sign, the ostrich flipped around, shaking his backside and tail feathers at us while displaying the reverse side of the sign.

AND HE SMELLS BAD!

“Sticks and stones, Red,” I reminded, trying to comfort and gently moving him back away from the window and sign message. “Sticks and stones.”

“My Mother never borrowed nobody’s baby — or cub — to take to church,” Little Red Bear grumbled in protest. “That little ostrich is just makin’ up stuff. To be hurtful. That’s not nice.”

“No, it’s not nice, Red. Don’t let it get to you. Just remember – ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.”

“I suppose,” Little Red Bear replied, rather dejectedly, “but right now I’d like to take a few sticks and stones to that guy’s bones.”

“You know that wouldn’t solve anything and just serve to make matters worse. Just let it go and be the bigger man.  Err, bear. Be the bigger bear. You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, yeah. Maybe the next sign will be about you, and then you can be the bigger man.”

“Well, Red,” I replied, patting and ruffling the hair on his shoulder. “There’s always tomorrow. Hold on to that thought if it cheers you up. We never know what the morning will bring around here right now, so we’ll see. Maybe they’ll do that for you.”

We both laughed.

“But in the meantime,” I continued, “we have a window to patch and guests to make comfortable for the night. It’s time to get bunnies in blankets.”

“Bunnies in Blankets! Oh, that sounds good.  Let me get this here window covered and I’ll get some started and made up real quick for us!”

“No, no, Red.  Not those Bunnies in Blankets.  Henrietta’s baby bunnies — I need to round up some comforters and blankets for them to go to bed and keep them warm tonight. It’s getting late. Do you always think about food?”

“Well, not always.”

“But maybe?”

“Well — maybe.”

We both laughed again.  Little Red Bear patched the broken window with some large sections of cardboard for the night, while I prepared bedding areas for Henrietta and her family of bunnies.

“Why did they have to bring my Mother into it?” Little Red Bear called over from the window. “She’d come straighten ‘em all out in a hurry if she knew about what they’d said.”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Yeah,” I agreed, still laughing. “She would reset their clocks all right.  There would be nothing left but a pile of feathers by the time your mother finished with them all if she knew what they’d been saying about her cute little baby bear.”

“Watch the ‘baby’ stuff,” Little Red Bear corrected, laughing himself at the thought of his mother dealing with the ostriches. “There would be feathers flying for sure! Don’t those ostriches know not to ever anger a mother bear?”

“Good thing for them she’s not around then,” I added while spreading the blankets and comforters on the floor for the bunnies.  Henrietta gently tucked each one in with a bunny kiss on the forehead.

“Maybe,” Little Red Bear answered. One could tell that he was still entertaining thoughts of flying ostrich feathers in his mind though, by the half grin on his face.  Then he unexpectedly burst into a fit of hearty and loud laughter.

“Wouldn’t those ostriches be sad to find out that after all of their efforts to make us mad and hurt our feelings, we were still inside here laughing and not crying into our pillows?” Little Red Bear managed to get out, between laughs.

Henrietta’s baby bunnies, snuggled in their blankets, were all giggling too, because laughter is contagious, after all. Henrietta shushed them, of course, while chuckling to herself.

“Yeah well, that’s what it’s all about, right?” I responded. “Not letting them get to us or ruin our day? It’s up to each of us whether we choose to be happy or give over control of our thoughts and happiness to others.  And with you laughing so loud right there beside the broken window, I’m guessing the ostriches might know.”

The prospect of the ostriches being aware that they had not affected him seemed to delight Little Red Bear still more, and he laughed even louder.

In a little while, with the window patched and bunnies nuzzled and settled in, Little Red Bear and I headed upstairs, deciding to call it a night after what had been another long and trying day.

We all awoke the next morning to find the sun peeking up over the treetops. Soon it was shining brightly, warming us on Honey Hill and burning off the night’s fog in Hoppers Holler below; with clear, cheerful blue skies overhead.  A beautiful Sunday morning.

Heralding spring, dandelions were popping up thru what open ground was left unoccupied by the encampment surrounding the cabin. Pink and white dogwood trees were in bloom, scattered thru the woods over the hillsides. The delightful sounds of birds singing, chirping, whistling and warbling filled the air.

There were many birds singing, in fact. The trees were chock full of them, all having come to see for themselves what all the uproar was about in the neighborhood. The encampment of wildlife had grown larger and even more spread out over the hillside as late-comers had continued to arrive all thru the night. Apparently, word of the ostrich protest and goings-on was still spreading over the mountains and thru the hollers.

This morning’s light revealed the construction of a rather large treehouse in the grove of trees on the hill slope out back. Raccoons can be just as busy as beavers when they set their minds to a task. Uncomfortable in their hastily constructed lean-to shelters with so many of Farmer Turner’s contentious hounds encamped nearby, Cooter’s raccoon platoon had constructed an imposing treehouse structure overnight, complete with a swing for the young-uns.

Speaking of the beavers, they completed and already rented out their second and third lodges, with new work begun on a fourth and fifth, with “For Rent” signs of course. Construction is booming it appears.

After spotting what the raccoons had accomplished overnight with their magnificent treehouse, the beavers, considering themselves to be highly skilled carpenters and builders not to be outdone, decided to try their paws at treehouse construction, as well.

Of course, the beavers needed to also construct a nice ladder in order to reach it, not having the natural ability to climb trees as do the raccoons.  A good number of trees would remain upright in the woods if beavers could climb, and not have to chew and fell trees in order to secure out-of-reach twigs and branches for food.  But they don’t, so they do, so to speak.

Little Red Bear and I both agreed the beavers’ treehouse resembled more of a traditional beaver lodge with a second story added than a true treehouse, but if you have a winning design why change it, I suppose.  And we certainly cannot argue with their success, having already rented the new unit out before work was even completed.

Securing the ostrich’s permission to cross the picket line, a family of enterprising chipmunks set up a Farmer’s Market on our front porch and yard. With the help of some beaver carpenters they had quickly assembled stands displaying and selling a large selection of various acorns, nuts, seeds, grains, berries, fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, earthworms, bugs, corn, juice, milk and eggs. A veritable little “Nature’s Wildlife Grocery Store” for the campers.

Critters have been filing in steadily to replenish supplies and to do their grocery shopping. Chipmunks are renowned for their food-storing habits and to their credit recognized a ready market for their warehouse of stores and supplies, but I didn’t ask them where they obtained the fresh produce, milk and eggs. Sometimes it is just better not to know. But with all of Farmer Turner’s hounds camping out back, I have a sneaking suspicion where at least some items may have come from.

Dealing with enough issues right now though as it is, and we were running out of food to distribute to everyone anyway. The chipmunks and their market were a welcome sight, to be honest. I will cover whatever is missing from the neighboring farmers after all this blows over. Though, it may get costly if this Ostrich Crisis goes on much longer.

I suppose the ostriches realized too, that it was best for all of us if the assembled friendly and so far, merely curious crowd of onlookers remained that way, and did not turn into an out-of-control hungry mob, so allowed the chipmunks to cross the picket line and set up shop.

Newspaper circulations and revenues are up substantially for both the owls and squirrels. And word has come to me that the weasels are still managing to clip unsuspecting visitors now and then for “camping fees” on the outskirts of the area.

It seems everyone is making money off the ongoing Ozarks Ostrich Crisis except those truly involved in the affair – Little Red Bear and the ostriches. And me – the meat in the sandwich caught in the middle as work has come to a screeching halt on new stories. Isn’t that always the way, though?

But thinking about it, somewhere in there may lie the grounds and basis for a future settlement to resolve all of this, perhaps. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem the ostriches have cared much about anything other than disruption of our writing work so far.

It is amazing how far down the wrong bumpy road one poorly chosen little word or comment can send us sometimes. Case in point – Little Red Bear’s ‘flightless’ comments to the ostriches.

Have said it before and will undoubtedly say it again – words are like toothpaste. Once squeezed out, toothpaste is all but impossible to get back inside the tube again. And thoughts and words are the same way – good or bad – and seem to take on a life of their own once let out.

Having been spoken and let loose, words are out running around on their own for all to hear, and then we must deal with the consequences because they cannot be unsaid. There are no ‘Cancel, Clear, Delete’ options on speech. We can be sorry and apologize for the poorly chosen ones right off, but the words are still out there floating around in the air, and hiding in folks’ memories looking to cause trouble at a later time.

Think twice, speak once. Or better yet sometimes, not at all.  My advice everlasting.

And in Little Red Bear’s case, the consequences of an off-hand comment came immediately in the form of picketing ostriches and an abrupt stoppage of work on his stories. Of course, how could any of us have predicted the ostriches’ reaction to being questioned about their useless wings? Ostriches are indeed “flightless”, after all. No secrets there. Little Red Bear was merely seeking information, even if not in the most delicate way, perhaps. Maybe the world is simply getting a little too sensitive, seeming to almost seek out things to be offended by at times.

Regardless, due to poorly-chosen words or over-sensitivity, the ostrich crisis lives on. New onlookers and campers are still arriving every hour, a steady stream of woodland shoppers keeps the chipmunks’ new market hopping, and the picket lines encircle and wind around the cabin.

Getting back to the ostriches, having observed that the encampment of observers had encircled my home, the ostriches decided that their picket line should also. Just so no one missed out on seeing their protests, I suppose. Instead of merely parading with their picket signs back and forth across the front as they had been the first days, they had by Saturday worn a path around the whole cabin, having taken advantage of the packs of coyotes and weasels to lengthen the picket line.

Today’s new development was discovering that a second circle of picketing ostriches, coyotes, and weasels had been added to the non-stop picketing parade around the cabin, marching in counter-clockwise fashion to the clockwise direction of the first, a circle within a circle rotating in opposite directions. Dizzying to watch.

With so many signs marching in different directions, it seemed that no matter where Little Red Bear went inside the cabin, he inevitably found himself at a window when a “LITTLE RED BEAR IS FAT, UGLY, AND SMELLS BAD!” sign paraded past.

Little Red Bear’s restraint to this point, although measured at times, has been admirable. I wonder myself, for the ostriches’ sake – how far do they really want to torment and agitate – a “bear”?

Thinking it might be time to draw the window shades and blinds before things get more out of control. As gentle and good as he is, even Little Red Bear’s tolerance level has limits, as do we all.

With tomorrow being Monday and the start of a new work week, if all goes well a sizable number of the spectators may be packing up and leaving to return to various woodland duties and jobs for the week, perhaps easing the uproar and potentially enabling some meaningful dialogue on the issues with the ostriches tomorrow.

The beaver lodges and the raccoon’s treehouse present an interesting legal quandary. They each constructed them using their own materials, but they are on our property without our permission.  I wonder if the beavers and raccoons would allow me to sub-let the new properties when this is all over? Getting ahead of myself there, probably. This all needs to be resolved first. Peacefully if possible, but with coyotes and weasels involved that’s never a sure thing.

At least, thru the efforts of the enterprising chipmunks and wildlife grocery though, everyone is getting fed now. And that’s always a good thing.

Except, the coyotes and weasels, who have displayed no interest whatsoever in the chipmunk’s market.

That is a worry. Weasels and coyotes are always a worry.  Hungry – doubly so.

But right now, I have to deal with a little piggy who appears as though he’s made one too many trips to the market.  I thought the chipmunks had only set up produce and dairy departments. Apparently there is a section in the back I may have overlooked.

Some critters seem to be enjoying the ostrich protest and events a tad more than others, it would appear. This fellow looks drunk as a skunk.  I had better go outside and get hold of this party animal before Albuquerque the Sheriff pulls him over under suspicion of SWINE – Shopping While Intoxicated Nearly Embalmed.

Gotta go.

To be continued . . . .


Thanks as always for following along and visiting with us! If not doing so already, Follow the Blog now to be informed of every new post and update.

As a special ‘thank you’ for everyone, Little Red Bear has included the Pinterest Recipe for Bunnies in Blankets that he mentioned earlier in the story, a nifty little appetizer featuring Caramelized Baby Carrots in Crescent Roll Wraps, just for fun.  You didn’t really think that we would be harming baby bunnies, did you? Find this recipe and much more on my Pinterest Boards.

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

Kindness costs nothing.  Be kind whenever possible, while keeping in mind that it is always possible.   Be the reason someone smiles today!   — Jim  (and Red!)


“Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith.” – St. Francis of Assisi

“Anger helps straighten out a problem like a fan helps straighten out a pile of papers.” – Susan Marcotte


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Chapter Five of The Ozarks Ostrich Crisis: “Day 3 Ongoing — The Encampment”

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


Panic.

Clearly not how Saturday mornings are supposed to start out, with – PANIC – inside and out.

Chased by the weasel, Henrietta the rabbit darted in and out between the legs of the picketing ostriches and coyotes, by now having lengthened their picket line to totally encircle the cabin.

Henrietta raced frantically to escape the weasel, whose plan, as always, was to chase and harry the older bunny until she finally wore down and collapsed, unable to defend herself from the weasel’s final onslaught and attack as he sought to wrap his muscular body around his victim to hold it in place in order to sink penetrating fangs into its brain like a jaguar.

Round and round they went at a breakneck pace, in a life and death agility race around the cabin.

The weasel, a compact ball of energy eating half its own body weight each day and much younger with more endurance, knew it was only a matter of time before the rabbit wore down and he would be able to pounce and claim her for breakfast.

But not this day. Spotting the chase from the window, I hopped as quickly as one good foot would allow, but Little Red Bear had already rushed out to our receptionist’s rescue before me.

Waiting for Henrietta to complete another lap around the cabin, Little Red Bear jumped onto the path behind her as she raced past, placing himself directly in front of the charging weasel.

Henrietta immediately veered right, changing course and making a break for the cabin, leaping up the front porch steps, thru the door I was holding open for her, and into safety. The pursuing weasel made skid marks in the dirt trying frantically to stop before crashing into Little Red Bear’s big foot, swerved at the last second and retreated into the nearby woodline.

“You can stay out here and picket in the hot sun and rain all you want, but we ain’t havin’ none of that!”

Little Red Bear admonished the ostriches and everyone within earshot, waving his right paw at them to emphasize the point in the same manner a mother might scold a misbehaving child.

Little Red Bear walked up to the largest ostrich and faced him, nose to beak. “If you want to carry on your stupid protest, that’s fine. Do it. But you WON’T be harming any of our friends or you’ll be dealing with me!”

He tromped over to the smallest ostrich, abruptly grabbing away the protest sign the bird had been carrying, the one saying that Little Red Bear was “fat, stupid and ugly” as you may recall, broke the stake handle over his right knee and crumpled the sign into pieces between his paws.

“That’s what will happen to you if you harass or harm any more of our friends or story characters!” Little Red Bear declared for all to hear as he hurled the sign pieces into the air, turned and walked away.

The gallery of squirrels, raccoons, possums, chipmunks and other small critters already chased up into the safety of nearby trees by the weasels and coyotes, burst into applause, whistling and cheering wildly for Little Red Bear as he returned to the cabin.

But it’s fair to say, that little ostrich was madder than a wet hen in a fox’s tote sack after his protest sign was destroyed!

Back inside, Little Red Bear calmly sat down beside me where I was checking over Henrietta to make sure she was all right, trying to reassure and soothe the old bunny’s jangled nerves.

“Guess I told them, huh?”

Little Red Bear laughed heartily – the loud, deep, belly laugh guffaw which he so often does and is known for.

“I suppose you did, Red,” I responded, chuckling myself.

Catching her breath after a short time, Henrietta patted Little Red Bear on the foot. “Thought that weasel might have had me there, Red,” Henrietta admitted. “I don’t run quite as fast as I used to, you know. I was starting to wear down. Thanks for saving me. I was just trying to come in to work, that’s all. Figured you boys might need a little help with all this rabble-rousing going on.”

“No need to thank anyone, Henrietta,” Little Red Bear responded. “We all stick up for each other and appreciate your dedication, for sure. You are family working with us here. And your bunnies back in the nest need you.”

“What about them, Red?” Henrietta responded, with suddenly a worried tone in her voice. “Will they be safe now? I should go check on them!”

Little Red Bear gently held her shoulder to keep the mother rabbit from rushing back outside to run and check on her family.

“They will be fine, Henrietta,” Little Red Bear reassured. “I never thought it would come to this but hopefully they all got the message to leave everyone alone from now on. But just in case, we’ll have Albuquerque stay closer now to help keep things in order. On the way back inside, I sent our friend Stanley the Cardinal to find him and to have Albuquerque bring all your bunnies back to stay inside here with us, just in case.”

“Thanks, Red. It’s really not nice or fair what those ostriches and other tormentors are saying about you out there.”

“Sticks and stones, Henrietta,” Little Red Bear replied, with a knowing wink in my direction.

It was at that time Little Red Bear and I simultaneously realized it was quiet. The protesting chants and howling coyote racket had subsided following Little Red Bear’s intercession on Henrietta’s behalf. We looked at each other and sighed. Could we be that lucky? Had Little Red Bear’s outburst ended it all?

Well, seems we’re never really that lucky, truth be told. A moment later the disturbance started up all over again.

Boycott Bear Stories!

No Ostriches, No Stories!

What do we want? Ostriches!

When do we want them? Now!

And continued.

1-2-3-4 – They’re scared and hiding behind the door!

5-6-7-8 – We’re gonna make their stories late!

1-2-3-4 – They’re not gonna be able to work no more!

5-6-7-8 – We’re gonna make their readers wait!

Arising once again to make sure the window was closed and looking out to see what was going on, Little Red Bear and I observed the ostriches and coyotes had resumed their picket duties, circling the cabin with protest signs being thrust up and down and waved about in the air for all to see. Except for the smallest ostrich, who was nowhere to be seen.

And now, for the first time, the noise was not coming solely from the front of the cabin, as there seemed to be a commotion going on in the back and from other surrounding areas, as well.

Looking out a rear window, Little Red Bear and I witnessed an impromptu village of woodland critters camped out not only behind the cabin, but also beginning to expand and surround it, seemingly growing in size by the minute. A few curious human onlookers were intermingled amongst the critter encampment to boot! The image of General Custer flashed uncomfortably thru my mind.

An unimaginable display of nests, burrows, bedding and other improvised shelters had sprung up overnight all over our property like mushrooms following a spring rain, and continuing to pop up seemingly in every nook and cranny right before our eyes. Activity and construction was going on everywhere, with more homes and housing than we could begin to count.

Several deer and elk had bedded down in what used to be a very nice stand of tall prairie grass in the back. The skunks and porcupines seemed to be enjoying a secluded area pretty much all to themselves off in the side yard to the right. Best for everyone, I suppose.

Ol’ Cooter’s ‘Raccoon Platoon’ had set up a row of lean-to shelters off to one side, with Farmer Turner’s prize hunting dog Blue and the hounds having raised a row of pup tents on the opposite side.

Grass and leaf huts seemed to be cropping up everywhere!  Find an open patch of ground, turn away for a moment and then look back, and a slapdash home had been erected on the spot in the meantime.

Long lines of varicolored little tents were arranged closest to the cabin in almost military-like precision, fashioned by rabbits from old discarded blankets. “Those add a nice touch of color to the landscape,” I mentioned in jest, nudging Little Red Bear for him to notice. Apparently, the bivouacked bunnies felt safer in considerable numbers.

“With all those rabbits, we are definitely going to need Albuquerque’s help keeping the peace and them all safe now, Red.”

Little Red Bear grunted and nodded in agreement, and pointed out a  very large, jumbled pile of sticks and twigs in the corner of the left side yard.

“Who made that mess?” I wondered out loud.

“That’s no mess, Jim. That there’s a beaver lodge,” Little Red Bear advised.

Indeed, it was a beaver lodge, constructed in hurried fashion overnight by our beaver neighbors in Hoppers Holler, who, as we watched, were busy simultaneously working off to the side on second and third lodges also, with “For Rent” signs in front of each.

“Beavers don’t build lodges on dry ground,” I observed.

“No, they don’t build on dry ground, Jim,” Little Red Bear agreed. “Think about it. It’ll come to you.”

And then it hit me. Flap and Slap, the beaver twins, are good friends, but if they even think about diverting a stream thru my yard to form another new beaver pond, I will . . .

Sorry. Got sidetracked there for a moment. It’s all starting to wear a bit, you see – the protests, chanting, picket lines. The dream that felt like a dream but which burnt my foot and set the old oak tree ablaze from the inside out. Almost losing our receptionist to a hungry weasel right before our eyes. Hundreds and maybe thousands of animals, birds and people encamped on our property, with more arriving every minute. And now the prospect of our side yard being turned into a beaver pond.

“All we need is a ringmaster and a few clowns to make this circus sideshow complete,” I muttered out loud.

“Careful what you wish for,” Little Red Bear deadpanned, with a vacant stare into the distance. He motioned again, to bring my attention to a distant hilltop.

Up on a back hill to the west and overlooking the unplanned and unauthorized campgrounds, teepees were hurriedly being erected. Recognizing the markings, it was apparent that word of the protest and goings-on had also reached Indian John and our good friends over on Bent Feather Creek.

I would never have expected Daniel Yellowhorse to bring along his pet bison though. Just hope those big fellas don’t wander down into the yard section we’ll be mowing later, if you know what I mean.

Off to the southeast I spotted a group of backwoods folk that I recognize from the next county over. Looks like they might be planning to visit and stay a spell, with what appeared to be several outhouses under construction as they were hurriedly throwing together a line of single-purpose buildings in the distance resembling a line of porta potties at the county fair, but disconcertingly more permanent in nature.

Although, I suppose we do need sanitation with all the unplanned guests continuing to arrive in numbers. Appreciate their lending a helping hand with that, after thinking about it more. But what happens to them all when this ostrich mess is over?

The hoped-for peace that I thought the weekend might bring has instead brought flocks and herds of onlookers and looky-loos wanting to be witness to what is turning into the biggest news event in quite a while here. With nearly every critter and human freed up from their weekday woodland jobs and having the weekend off, it appears the entire backwoods populace of the tri-county area decided this was the place to be.

I blame the squirrels.

“WEEKEND CAMPOUT AT LITTLE RED BEAR CABIN! Y’ALL COME!”

Yeah – that was the headline in last night’s special edition of “Squirrelly World”. Explains it all, doesn’t it? Apparently, “Squirrelly World” has a much more extensive reader and subscription base than I had been led to believe.

After the initial shock of discovering the overnight encampment in the morning, I started serving what refreshments I could gather to the potential story characters still waiting patiently in line beyond the picket line. Little Red Bear and I need to keep them on our side as this all unfolds, with still many unfilled story character positions needed for upcoming stories.

They always say the fastest way to a man’s heart is thru his stomach, and I have always found that approach works equally well with critters, too. So, refreshments for everyone in line seemed both the natural and prudent thing to do.

I did not feel comfortable asking Little Red Bear to do it since I feared his presence outside might provoke the ostriches even more after that protest sign smash up and encounter earlier, and to be honest I’m not sure I trust him in close proximity to them again, either.

So, I took it upon myself. While out, I chased off a pair of weasels who were trying to charge arriving campers a fee to enter the area. Weasels, true to their nature – trying to profit from uninvited campers on our property.

Since I was out there already, I tried to again engage the ostriches in dialogue to move this to a settlement and resolution, but they refused to talk at all, saying only that they have now filed a complaint with the NLRB—National Labor Relations Birds. I suspect a Venue of Vultures will arrive in a day or so to start the hearing proceedings, wind currents permitting.

Things will get out of hand sometimes. But tomorrow is Sunday. Certainly, peace and camaraderie can be achieved on a Sunday. So, keeping a good thought and hoping for better tomorrow.

With Albuquerque, the little red fox sheriff, having arrived safely with Henrietta’s little family of bunnies and now patrolling the bunny rabbit tents and campsite area out back to keep the weasels at bay, we all seated ourselves around the table for dinner. It had been another long and arduous day for all of us.

Little Red Bear distributed fresh greens and veggies for the rabbits, and some very special honey roasted carrots he had specially prepared as a treat for the baby bunnies, playfully teasing them with the honey jar while making sure each one took only a tiny piece for dessert, not to overload them on sugar highs and have baby bunnies bounding about the cabin all night.

Little Red Bear’s special carrot treat was never sampled though, as without warning a large rock came crashing thru the front window!

Pieces of glass flew everywhere as the window at first shattered and then seemed to explode from the force of a heavy, grey granite rock hurled from outside, startling everyone and causing all the bunnies to scurry in fright beneath the table to shelter from flying bits of glass.

Thump-a! . . . Bump-a! . . . Thump-a! . . . .

The rock hurtled, careened and bounced across the cabin’s wooden floor, finally coming to rest against the far wall.

Wearing boots and not wanting any of the others’ bare feet to be cut on broken shards of glass, I motioned Little Red Bear and everyone away. Carefully stepping around the larger glass splinters, smaller pieces crunched and crackled beneath my feet as I made my way across the room.

Reaching the rock, I carefully picked it up to find a message, painted in bold red letters on the flat bottom.

I held it up for Little Red Bear to see.

“LOOK OUTSIDE”

To be continued . . . .


Thanks as always for following along and visiting with us! As a special ‘thank you’, Little Red Bear has included the Pinterest Recipe for those Honey Roasted Carrots he made for Henrietta’s bunnies. If you are unfamiliar with Pinterest, simply tap on the image to find the recipe.

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

Random acts of kindness cost nothing, yet yield the greatest rewards.  Be the reason someone smiles today!   — Jim  (and Red!)


Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

“Every Spring nature writes a fresh new chapter in the book of Genesis.” — Anonymous


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About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

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

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


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

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

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

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

Boycott Bear Stories!

No Ostriches, No Stories!

What do we want? Ostriches!

When do we want them? Now!

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

Little Red Bear is fat, stupid and rude.

And we don’t like his attitude!

What’d you say? They didn’t hear.

Shout it LOUDER, there’s nothing to fear!

Little Red Bear is fat, stupid and rude.

And we don’t like his attitude!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I got the window, Red.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You betcha.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Red . . . .”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait! – Oh! – No!

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

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

Gotta go!

To be continued . . . . . . . .


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

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

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


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“The Legend of the Dogwood”

A weekend, early Spring drive to attend one of my sons’ weddings in Orlando, Florida could not have been more perfectly timed.

Driving south from Missouri thru the scenic mountain country of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia, and back again, revealed beautiful dogwood trees with white and pink flower blossoms on full display in otherwise open woodlands, with the much larger and later emerging hardwoods still bare of leaves to hide them from view. Driving thru the same locations a week earlier or later, and it may well have been a different scene, missing out on the blooming display.

Walking thru the Ozarks woodlands in early springtime with a bit of chill in the air, one of my favorite sights has always been witnessing the annual blooming of the Dogwood Trees in gentle displays of pink and white, scattered over the hillsides.

Along with early arriving songbirds back from winter migrations, the dogwoods each year signal the arrival of spring, with its promise of beauty, hope, and new beginnings.



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



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

This story is not to be found in the Bible and the author is unknown, yet generations have told and retold The Legend of the Dogwood so that it has persisted thru time.

If not factual, in the least it is interesting that the story of the dogwood has meant so much to so many through the ages, that generations of repetition have served to keep the story and legend alive to this day.



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

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

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



— “The Legend of the Dogwood” —

“And Jesus said . . . . . . . . . 

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

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

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

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


Springtime is always a special time here with so much to be thankful for. Winter snows, grey skies, and cold traded for warming days and sunshine.

Morning strolls and the return of beautiful songbirds to the area once again. Perky little daffodils emerging with bright bursts of yellow. And the gentle and peaceful flowering dogwoods in pinks and whites on the hillsides.

Happy Spring and thanks as always for visiting and spending part of your day with us here!

The Dogwood Tree and its blossoms are a beautiful symbol and annual reminder not only of nature’s gentle beauty, but also with the legend’s story and lessons of Mercy, Forgiveness, Compassion, Love, and Peace for us all to take to heart and share.

Will you visit with Mother Nature today?   – Jim (and Red!)


  “Sometimes Mother Nature has the answers when you do not even know the questions.”   – Keith Wynn

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

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


Twas after midnight, before the dawning.

Before sparrows were stretching and sleepily yawning.


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

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

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

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

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

Jim . . . .”

And again – “Jim . . . . . . .”

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

Jimmm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .”

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

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

Jiiiimmmmmm . . . . . . . . . . . .”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, I am.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes, I am.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes – I am!”

“No – you’re not!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who’s past?”

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

“O–kay . . .”

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

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

“You do not believe in me?”

“Nope, not even a tidily bit.”

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

“Haven’t a clue.”

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

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

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

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

I am not a mushroom!” the cloud thundered.

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

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

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

“I am salvation!”

“For who?”

“You.”

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, that’s nice. Good night.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Come again . . . .”

“Ostriches three, will visit thee!”

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

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

“Eh, to each his own, I suppose.”

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

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

“It is.”

“Uh-huh. Right then. Goodnight.”

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

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

Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled throughout the room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Salvation from your passed story torments!”

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

“Do you?!?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Uh-huh . . . .”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Weather conditions over Montana unavoidably delayed my arrival.”

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

“We do what we can.”

“Uh-huh.”

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

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

“Now, look to see me no more.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, no. It was just a long night. ”

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

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

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

“Oh, yeah? Tell me about it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flap your wings and stamp your feet!

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

Flap your wings and stamp your feet!

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

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

Hey, hey!  Whattaya know?

That writer guys movin’ pretty slow!

Hey, hey!  He’s all limpy!

 That old man’s lookin’ really gimpy!

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

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

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

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

To be continued . . . . . . . .


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

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


Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

Children + Nature + Outdoors = Happy, Healthy Balanced Kids


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

~ Think Globally — Act Locally ~


Chapter Two of The Ozarks Ostrich Crisis: “Day 2 — Birds On Strike!”

Note to Readers– This is Chapter Two of a continuing Weekly Serial Story freely shared only here for followers of my Writing Blog.  If you missed the beginning, you can Catch Up Here.


As you may recall, three Ostriches who appeared seemingly out of nowhere while seeking story roles in the Little Red Bear stories yesterday, became very upset and offended over some unintentional comments made by Little Red Bear about their being flightless.

During the interview to discuss their inclusion in one or more of the upcoming “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” stories and the roles they might play, things became rather heated between Little Red Bear and the ostriches. One word led to another and they threatened to walk out. Which they ultimately did.

But not before several more heated words were exchanged by both sides. Whispered comments I ruefully made to Little Red Bear about ‘sashaying’ and ‘strutting like peacocks’ were overheard as they went back down the path, which only seemed to anger them more.

Leaving the cabin, one of the ostriches had motioned towards a little teddy bear sign which I have hanging on the wall of the cabin, with the message “Don’t Feed the Bears, They’re Stuffed!”

The ostrich laughed and then mockingly implied the sign was referring to Little Red Bear because he was stuffed chockablock full with “Honey Fat” and, well—you can only imagine how that was received by Red.

When they departed and had ventured out of sight around the bend, I figured that would pretty much be the last of it, no ostriches in the stories. We had not been planning to add ostriches anyway. They are the ones who approached us to be in the stories.

To be honest, Little Red Bear and I have over forty Story Character job applications from other bird species wanting to be included, with more coming in daily, what with it being Spring now and the bluebirds, barn swallows, goldfinches, wrens and others arriving back from winter migrations. So, if the ostriches chose not to take part – so be it – and figured that was the end of it – “So long, thanks for coming.”

Heading downstairs to make breakfast this morning, the ostriches were nowhere in mind, having assumed that they would have simply returned to wherever it was they had come from.

I wished a “Good morning!” to Little Red Bear, already seated at the table, but with his head supported on his paws and not looking his normally cheerful self. The only reply I received in return was more of a grumble – “Grruummpphh.”

“What’s up with you this morning, Red?”

“Oh, you’ll see when you step outside.”

As I had been awoken by thunder rolling thru Hopper’s Holler below and it being an overcast, gloomy and rainy morning, I assumed Red’s rather glum response was more of a reflection of the weather conditions than anything else. We had planned an outdoor writing activity for the day, you see.

As every morning, I routinely placed the tea kettle on the stove to heat for breakfast tea, and stepped outside onto the front porch for my morning regimen of deep breathing exercises in the fresh morning air while the water heated to boiling.

And then, there they were – the three ostriches – picketing in front of the cabin – in the rain!

As it turns out, ostriches are not only somewhat difficult to deal with, but also resolutely single-minded in purpose. Angered, doubly so.

The largest ostrich, and most vocal in the meetings, was carrying a large sign, white with bold red letters which read – “ON STRIKE – UNFAIR TO FLIGHTLESS AVIANS!”

The second was carrying another sign which read – “FLY OR NOT – OSTRICHES ARE BIRDS, TOO!”  He was jauntily bouncing the sign up and down as he paced back and forth in line with the others across the yard.

The third, smallest of the three, was not toting a sign, but instead wearing an old-fashioned placard around his neck which on the front read – “LITTLE RED BEAR IS FAT AND SMELLS BAD!” – and when he turned around, on the back – “LITTLE RED BEAR’S MOTHER WAS AN UGLY ROOSTER!”

Now folks, I must admit, we can’t really figure that last one out either. Unless the ostriches got confused about hens and roosters, trying to imply that Little Red Bear is part bird, but that’s absurd.

Glancing around, there were “Don’t Feed the Bear” posters plastered everywhere – on the trees, fence posts and all over the front porch and walls of the cabin.

“Hey, y’all!” I called out, “I’m  fixin’ to put breakfast on. Why don’t y’all come on inside, out of the rain, get something to eat, and we’ll all sit down and try to talk this thing through?”

The only response came from the largest ostrich, again with that same (what I assume to be) obscene wing gesture he threw back at me yesterday. “Okay, then,” I muttered to myself.  “Have it your way.”

Coming back inside the cabin, I now understood why Little Red Bear was rather crestfallen, still sitting dispirited at the table, head in paws.

“Well, it’s raining anyway, Red,” I began, seeking to cheer him up. “Let’s just do our writing work inside today. If we don’t pay the ostriches any attention, I’m sure they will soon get bored and tired of just walking around in the rain, and then go on about their way. Whattaya say? Let’s just ignore them. ‘Don’t feed the trolls’, as they say.”

We prepared breakfast, which we (not being trolls) ate quietly at the table with no disruption. Shortly after, with a nice, quick little breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, pancakes, blueberry muffins, oatmeal, grits, cornbread, hashbrowns, bananas, half a dozen biscuits with honey, an orange, and two cups of English Breakfast Tea now inside him, Little Red Bear had perked up considerably and we were working on the “Sir Snapsalot” story together, for Red’s first story collection.

Outside, the soft morning rain continued, with the relaxing pit-pat, pit-pat, pit-pat drips off the porch roof splashing lightly onto the ground in front. On the hill behind the cabin, a song sparrow was singing, despite the light rain, and another distant thunder murmured softly over the holler. All in all, a beautiful spring morning for work and writing.

Then things took a turn. We heard it. There was no point at all in pretending that we hadn’t.

Little Red Bear and I both stopped working and simply looked at each other, each hoping the other might be able to possibly deny what we had so clearly and undeniably heard with our own ears, or at least have something intelligent to offer about it. Dumbfounded, we simply listened.

From outside and thru the half-open window, we could hear the ostriches begin chanting in unison at the top of their voices –

Boycott Bear Stories!

No Ostriches, No Stories!

What do we want? Ostriches!

When do we want them? Now!

“Really?” I said out loud. “They haven’t left yet?”

Boycott Bear Stories!

No Ostriches, No Stories!

What do we want? Ostriches!

When do we want them? Now!

“What did we do to deserve this?” Little Red Bear rhetorically asked of anyone who might respond, head tilted back and looking forlornly up at the ceiling. No one answered back of course, as we had requested the resident ghosts to relocate a few months before when it became apparent that they had begun keeping very different sleeping schedules than ours.

“I suppose maybe you should have simply apologized for your ‘flightless’ comment yesterday when they asked for it,” I finally responded, somehow feeling compelled to say something while pointing out the obvious. “Any time that we have a choice of being right or being kind, always choose kind. You know that.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know. But they didn’t ask,” Little Red Bear corrected. “They demanded. Neither you or me respond well to orders and demands. And you know that. That’s one thing you and I have in common – a wild, unfettered, independent spirit.”

“Yeah Red, I do know that. And it does sound better when you put it that way. As opposed to simply being prideful and stubborn. But unfortunately, the ostriches didn’t know about our unbridled independent natures.”

Who are we? Just one guess!

Ostriches refusing to be oppressed!

Ostriches live with lions and cheetahs.

So ain’t no way you’re gonna beat us!

“Wanna bet?” Little Red Bear snorted in reply, glancing menacingly towards the window.

I simply looked at him and shook my head. They had merely been unintentional off-paw, off-hand comments, after all. Who could know anyone would be so easily and irreparably offended simply by stating an obvious fact – ostriches are flightless.

Clearly, the ostriches do not embrace the concept of a ‘measured response’.

Who’s got the power? We got the power!

What kind of power? Ostrich power!

What do we want? Ostriches!

When do we want them? Now!

I began to think, and correctly so truth be told, that this could all get pretty old, pretty quick. Which it did.

“What are we going to do, Jim?” Little Red Bear inquired after several more minutes of chanting. “Clearly your strategy of ignoring them and hoping they go away didn’t work. If anything, they’re getting louder. So, what now?”

“Hope they get hoarse from chanting and yelling – and then go away?” I responded with a half-bemused chuckle, but actually having no idea of what to do.

1-2-3-4 – We ain’t gonna take it no more!

5-6-7-8 – We’re gonna set these story folks straight!

The calming pitta-pat of the rain between chants became less and less comforting, calling to mind more of a Chinese water torture, ticking off the seconds until the next verbal barrage from the front yard blasted our ears.

Hey, hey! – Ho, ho! This fat bear has got to go!

Hey, hey! – Ho, ho! That old writer is really slow!

“Oh, listen, Jim. They’ve included you now, too,” Little Red Bear said rather happily, appearing to perk up again at the new development.

Hey, hey! – Ho, ho! This fat bear has got to go!

Hey, hey! – Ho, ho! That old man is really slow!

Still shaking my head in bewilderment and confusion as to how we ever arrived at such a state, I could only and simply reply – “How nice. It’s good to be remembered, I suppose.”

It’s hot!  It’s hot!  It’s very, very hot out here.

It’s Little Red Bear’s hot air, polluting the atmosphere!

Global warming and pollution’s no joke, it’s real.

This bear’s bad breath lacks any civilized appeal.

“Well now,” I observed. “The breath comment aside, that one is both topical and catchy.”

Ummpph!” Little Red Bear grunted.

Little Red Bear is fat, stupid and rude.

And we don’t like his attitude!

What’d you say? They didn’t hear.

Shout it LOUDER, there’s nothing to fear!

Little Red Bear is fat, stupid and rude.

And we don’t like his attitude!

Little Red Bear pushed back from the table and began to rise.

“Where are you going?”

“Nowhere in particular, just out to strangle those guys! Be back in a couple minutes.”

“Red, you may outweigh one of them, but you don’t outweigh all three of them.”

“You ain’t comin’ along to help?”

“Sticks and stones, Red,” I replied. “Don’t listen to them. We must practice restraint. Ignore them. Don’t let them get to you. They’re merely making stuff up and saying things, throwing anything they can think of against the wall to see what sticks.”

Little Red Bear sighed, shoulders slumped, and returned to his seat at the table.

“Well, it’s easy for you to say – ‘Don’t pay them no nevermind’. They got the whole place covered in ‘Don’t Feed the Bear’ posters. Looks like they got those to stick up pretty well on the walls. And what’s up with that? I’ve been feeding myself as long as I can remember. I don’t need anyone to feed me!”

“It’s not about ‘feeding’ you. They want to cut off your food supply and starve you to death.  A blockade of sorts.”

“Well,  – that’s not nice. What’d I ever do to them?”

“Flightless, rude comments.  Remember?”

“Oh, yeah. Right. Well, it’s still not a good enough reason to starve somebody to death!”

Before I could respond to Red’s concerns again, the ostriches all began to sing. Vigorously. They echoed each phrase as they marched in line one behind the other in mock military fashion, waving picket signs thru the air like battle flags.

I don’t know but I’ve been told . . . .

(I don’t know but I’ve been told.)

That Little Red Bear writer is really old . . . .

(That Little Red Bear writer is really old.) 

I don’t know but it’s been said . . . .

(I don’t know but it’s been said.)

Old writers’ butts are made of lead . . . .

(Old writers’ butts are made of lead.)

Instinctively, I then found myself pushing away from the table to head outside and grab hold of a neck.  Or three.

“Your turn to sit back down now, Jim,” Little Red Bear advised, now doubled over laughing and mind clearly off the ‘Don’t Feed’ posters. “Ha, ha, ha! You don’t even outweigh the littlest one.”

And he kept laughing. “They got you good with that one! Ha, ha, ha, ha!  Haw, haw, haw!”

Little Red Bear pounded on the table in great delight, guffawing and yucking it up. Apparently laughing at another’s misery is great stress relief for a bear.

“Yeah, very funny,” I muttered, pulling my chair back beneath me.

“I feel a little better now, not the only one being tormented,” Little Red Bear managed to say, between laughs.

“Happy to help.”

What Little Red Bear knew and had picked up on, was that without knowing it the ostriches had actually hit pretty close to the mark, just citing the wrong metal. But then, in their defense, stainless steel and titanium are a lot harder to rhyme than lead, I suppose.

The ostriches continued their endless chanting, with both volume and vitriol seeming to swell as the day wore on.

Boycott Bear Stories!

No Ostriches, No Stories!

Boycott Bear Stories!

No Ostriches, No Stories!

We are left wondering and not knowing where this whole ostrich confrontation may be headed now, but with increasing concern, as they are beginning to draw the attention of local wildlife who have been overwhelmingly supportive of Little Red Bear’s adventures to this point.

Crowds are gathering, assembling in what appear to be small discussion groups off to the sides. Discontent, even unfounded, has a way of spreading like an uncontrolled virus at times, having a way of triggering dormant and unrelated emotions in others over long-ago slights, real or imagined. We certainly do not need a story character walkout or to lose support in the local community.

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

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

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

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

I now find myself dealing with a group of angry ostriches and an ever-growing crowd outside, and an insulted and agitated bear inside. And it now appears that I myself have become a target for their taunts and barbs.

Though unfamiliar with ostriches per se, these birds are displaying all the obstinacy and stubbornness of Missouri Mules, with whom we are fairly acquainted here. And that’s not exactly a comforting thought, given the independent resolve and strong-mindedness of Little Red Bear on the other side.

I am hoping we are well supplied with aspirin and antacid, because this distressing turn of events appears to have the makings of both an onslaught and a siege.

Ostriches are birds and have our rights.

We’re big and strong and willing to fights!

Good grief. “Willing to fights?” And they want me to stop writing?

Off for aspirins. Hurry nightfall. Maybe these ostriches will all wake up hoarse in the morning and go away.

Or not . . . . . . . .

To be continued . . . . . . . .


Thanks as always for visiting with us!  Be sure to check in next week as events continue to unfold in the “Ozarks Ostrich Crisis”, a continuing weekly serialized free story available only here on the Writing Blog.  See ya then!  — Jim  (and Red!)


Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

Children + Nature + Outdoors = Happy, Healthy Balanced Kids


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

~ Think Globally — Act Locally ~


 

Chapter One of The Ozarks Ostrich Crisis: “Day 1 — How It All Began”

Serialized stories have been popular in literature for a long time, going all the way back to the 17th century.  American writers publishing in serial form over the years include Henry James, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Herman Melville. One of the most famous radio program serials was “Little Orphan Annie.”  So, Little Red Bear and I thought it might be fun to bring back the weekly serial story.

Welcome to the first installment of a new weekly serial story to be published only here on the writing blog every Saturday morning over the next several weeks — “The Ozarks Ostrich Crisis.”  This is a story which first appeared in daily serial form on Facebook a few years ago, which we have dusted off, updated for developments in Little Red Bear Land over the years, and are recirculating just for fun.  This serialized story was received so well that it was the actual catalyst for starting this blog in order to share more creative writing and works.

We hope you enjoy and follow along every week as the story evolves.  Sharing with friends and family is not only very much appreciated, but strongly encouraged.  It’s always simply about the fun.

So then, here we go . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Note to Readers–  In the early months of spring 2014, Little Red Bear and I had been interviewing applicants for prospective characters in Red’s upcoming first collection of short stories — “The Adventures of Little Red Bear: The First Holler!”, due for release in the coming months.  Interviews, meetings and writing sessions had been proceeding smoothly and on schedule without incident. 

That all changed upon the arrival of three ostriches who expressed interest in being in the stories, despite the adventures taking place in the Ozarks Mountain Country of Missouri, not on the savannas of Africa. Where the ostriches came from, why they showed up on our front porch that spring morning, how they even heard about our stories underway — nobody knows.  What ensued altered lives and the landscape of the backwoods forever.

As most folk are aware, Ostriches are not native to the Ozarks, but as Little Red Bear and I always try to  keep an open mind for new ideas and suggestions, we decided to meet with them to discuss possible story roles.  But having neither included them in any story character recruiting lists nor having done any research in advance, we were admittedly taken a bit off guard and unprepared for their arrival.  And determination.  Any ground-dwelling bird that exists on the open African plains alongside  powerful lions, hyenas and speedy cheetahs, should not be underestimated or taken for granted.  Turns out, ostriches are born into a world of conflict, do not shy away from it and may even regard it as sport.  Lessons learned.

What follows is taken from the documented, blow-by-blow diary account of the events and developments that transpired over the following days.  The story you are about to read is true, to the best of our recollection, mostly. Only some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent.   


DAY 1– “And So It Begins”

If there were any readers hoping for an Ostrich to make an appearance in the upcoming “The Adventures of Little Red Bear: The First Holler!” stories, it’s not looking good after what transpired today.

The stories about Little Red Bear and his friends are generally based in the Ozarks Mountain Country of Missouri — mountains, farms, old mines, beautiful streams, forests, hollers, wildflower meadows, and the like. As such, the stories feature flora and fauna native to the region, as well as some interesting “imports” just for fun.  And education.

Albeit surprised by the arrival of three ostriches intent on interviewing for story character roles, Little Red Bear and I thought it might be nice to go ahead and add them into the stories even though writing work on Red’s adventures was already well underway. Obviously not native to the area but unusual and interesting birds nonetheless, we felt both children and older readers might enjoy having ostriches included in the adventures while possibly learning something new about them along the way perhaps.

And must admit, Little Red Bear and I were both rather charmed and taken in by the happy-go-lucky and out-going natures expressed in the headshot photos they submitted with their Story Character job applications.  Their motivation to appear in the stories seemed genuine, and it’s always easier and more pleasant to work with friendly folk.

To our mutual bewilderment and disappointment, it turned out ostriches may not be the easiest creatures to deal with, after all. During the interview, Little Red Bear made an off-hand (off-paw?) comment about never having seen a flightless bird before, and  innocently asked — “Why do you fellas have wings at all if you don’t know how to use them?”

Apparently, ostriches can be rather sensitive critters, at least about the non-flying thing anyway, and well — let’s just say the question was never answered directly, or at least we couldn’t hear if it was over all the loud clucking and ‘attitude’ that immediately followed.

As so often goes with misunderstandings, one thing led to another and before we knew it the ostriches threatened to walk out if Little Red Bear didn’t apologize for his thoughtless and cruel “flightless” comment.  That was our opportunity — our ‘out’ — if you will.  I can see that clearly now.

But some opportunities are very short-lived, and that one quickly slipped away when Little Red Bear replied that “Walk out” was the only thing they could do since ostriches apparently couldn’t fly, and that even tiny mosquitoes and gnats can fly, and bugs don’t seem smart at all getting trapped on flypaper all the time as they do so where does that rank ostriches on the Smarts Scale if even stupid bugs are able to fly, and he’d never known Mother Nature to be wrong about anything before so it must be something about them if they had wings and didn’t use them and what a creative waste that was, and, and  . . . . . . .

Let’s just say that Little Red Bear carried on a bit more as he and the ostriches thrust and parried insults back and forth across the table, and that about sealed it.  Whatever peace which we had enjoyed in the early morning was shot to . . . . , well — had been laid waste by noon.

Out the door and down the front porch steps the ostriches all went, one following another in line.  Walking — of course.  Rather briskly.  I could say that they “stormed” out, but that would be an exaggeration and hard to apply that term to giant, 9 feet tall birds weighing over 300 pounds, strutting out the door and down the path with white poofy tail and wingtip feathers flickering, fluttering, riffling, and whiffling in the morning’s spring breeze. Sashayed, perhaps.

One could conceivably and more correctly say their exit was closer to a sashaying out than a storming out.  There is a reason that the phrase “strutting like a peacock” is generally not a complimentary term, and in retrospect probably should have kept those thoughts to myself.

As it turned out, we learned that in addition to being hypersensitive and having excellent eyesight, ostriches also have excellent hearing, and having overheard me whisper those “sashay” and “strutting peacock” comments to Little Red Bear, it just seemed to incite them more.  Apparently, they may not be on the best of terms with peacocks either, jealous because peacocks are one of the largest flying bird species, a group that of course does not include ostriches.

I’m fairly certain the peacock comment was not received well, because that wing gesture was clearly intended to mean something other than friendly.  It was the body language of it.  I didn’t need to be able to speak ‘Ostrich’ to understand that.  Some symbols and gestures may be universal, it seems.

The picture taken following the morning’s meeting, by Rusty the Fairydiddle (the red squirrel reporter for the local “Squirrelly World” newspaper)  pretty much sums it up.

We were not seeking to include any ostriches in Little Red Bear’s stories to begin with, but nevertheless, I will try to smooth things over because we never like to see anyone go away mad, it’s just not in Red’s or my nature. And it’s pretty clear — they’re not happy.  And that there may be an understatement, unfortunately.

But, really.  What can they do that would cause any problems for Little Red Bear and I finishing his stories on time anyway?  They’re simply three strange birds in a foreign land, after all.

Three . . . . . giant . . . . . angry . . . . . very strange . . . . . birds.

To be continued . . . . . . . .


Thanks as always for visiting with us!  Be sure to check in next week as events continue to unfold in the “Ozarks Ostrich Crisis”, a continuing serialized free story available only here on the Writing Blog.  See ya then!  — Jim  (and Red!)


Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

Children + Nature + Outdoors = Happy, Healthy Balanced Kids


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

~ Think Globally — Act Locally ~


On Fly Fishing — Teach a Bear to Tie a Fly (And You Will Have Accomplished Something!)

Right off the bat, I must admit that the title may be a bit optimistic and premature, because I haven’t accomplished anything quite yet teaching Little Red Bear about tying flies and fly fishing.  But we’ll get back to that in a minute.

One of my favorite uncles, my mother’s youngest brother, was a first class fly fisherman in the day.  One of his best friends was a conservation officer with the Missouri Department of Conservation at the time, and they would spend every chance they got fly fishing the Ozarks streams. Like my mother, he had grown up in the country and was all about nature and the outdoors.  He had served in the Pacific on Iwo Jima and Okinawa among others in WWII not too many years before, and I always figured maybe the peacefulness of fly fishing is what may have so appealed to him after it all.

Uncle Paul firmly maintained that anyone could catch a fish if they hooked up a worm, used bait and fed them, but it was a true challenge and art to catch a fish on a lure that you had made yourself.  So he taught me how to make and tie my own flies and to fly fish as a boy.  He reassured me that the hungrier I got, the better I would get at making them.

I don’t know whose idea it was that I should learn how to tie flies at the age of nine, my mother’s or my uncle’s (it certainly wasn’t my father’s because he was a city kid, thru and thru), but there I was sitting at his kitchen table one Saturday morning learning all about the different kinds of flies and bugs to imitate. Shiny Mylar strips, tinsels, miniature corks, colored wires, hooks of all sizes, chenille stems, horse hairs, bits of assorted furs, spools of thread, and tools and miniature vices I had never seen before all spread out on the table before me.

And all sorts of wondrous feathers — peacock eye feathers, guinea fowl, pheasant, grouse, quail, marabou, ostrich, ducks, roosters, chickens and others.  Feathers from all over the world from birds I had only seen and read about in Encyclopedias!  All a small boy’s imagination could hope for and a whole new world suddenly opened.

As it turned out, fly fishing is the only kind of fishing I ever really enjoyed, to tell the truth.  And now steadfastly agree with my mentor.  Tossing a worm-baited hook into the water is not only lacking in challenge, but also an insult to the intelligence of the fish.  And since they spend so much time in schools, they do tend to take it rather personally.

There is just something about fly fishing.  The excitement and sudden rush of spotting a flash of silver under the water in the distance.  Working and playing out the fly line, back and forth, back and forth in a relaxing zen-like rhythm imitating soft lapping waves along the shoreline, the heavy line artfully arched over your head.  Cast out and land the lure in exactly the right spot where you just saw a riffle on the water, widening circlets across the way. Being at the water’s edge with the songbirds in the background while water ripples around you.  A turtle pops up to say ‘Good morning!’  and forest critters edge cautiously to the shoreline for a drink. Frogs croak their greetings as red-winged blackbirds cheer you on from the nearby reeds. Simply — magical. Nature speaks to you, if you listen. For myself, I just could never find that same joy in any other type of fishing.

I would spend hours on summer afternoons, just as Uncle Paul showed me, fly rod in hand in the backyard practicing to drop a fly inside a hula hoop target laid on the ground at the back of the yard. Eventually the larger hula hoop was replaced with a smaller metal bucket. I always look back on all that, together with the time my uncle spent with me infusing his love of the outdoors and respect for wildlife, as probably where my life-long love of nature and conservation got its start at an early age.  We never know at what precise moment the stars may align and how a few minutes spent with a child may influence their whole life to come.  And there’s a lesson there in itself.

We would visit my uncle’s home regularly thru the year on Saturday mornings, me in the kitchen learning to tie flies at the kitchen table with Uncle Paul, working side by side each of us with our own vise and every time a different type; while my mother visited with Aunt Laura in the living room. Wrapping and making the Wooly Bugger Worm was always my favorite.

It was Uncle Paul who gave me my first hunk of beeswax and taught me to always wax the sewing thread to keep it from tangling while tying the flies.  A trick I still use today when hand sewing teddy bears and things.

Some of the little tools, grips, vices, supplies and books used back then are still with me today.  We made frequent trips to visit the Culver Lures store on Missouri Avenue in south St. Louis at the time. A somewhat dark little store because the two smallish front windows were cluttered with merchandise, with a white wooden store front and wooden floors too, as I recall, overflowing with every fly tying and rod making item imaginable.  Stand at the counter, tell the man smoking the stubby cigar what I needed and he would go find it and ring it all up on the cash register.  Hand over the cash and away we’d go to make more lures. The store is long gone now and remodeled into a condo. A different time.

Used to have an honest-to-goodness fisherman’s straw hat with flies stuck in all over it, too. Don’t know where that might have went over the years, sadly.  I suspect my mother may have pricked her finger on a hook dusting it one too many times when I was away at college and it was shown the door.  But just a guess.  No one ever seemed to recall its whereabouts or fate later, whenever queried.

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It turns out Uncle Paul was right — there are few thrills in life to compare to catching and landing a fish on a lure that you have handmade yourself.  Marriage and the birth of children are certainly at the top, but that first fish is right up there on the list, too!

And that all brings me to Little Red Bear.  Being an avid fisherman himself with his assortment of bamboo and stick poles and always up for a challenge, Little Red Bear now wants me to teach him how to make his own lures and teach him how to fly fish.

Red has always been a “throw out the bait and wait” type, as he puts it.  Not my thing, as I said.  So I can readily see his wanting to move up the fishing ladder, so to speak.  The only problem is, with those big bear paws of his, I’m not sure that I’m up to the challenge of teaching him.  Showing him how to make biscuits is one thing, and admittedly his are better than mine now (although I still make the best cornbread). But Little Red Bear sitting and tying teeny little fishing flies?  Not so sure.

Still, I’ve yet to see Little Red Bear not accomplish something he sets his mind to, so we’ll see.  There was that time at Perch Lake when he hauled that giant, cantankerous and ill-tempered . . . . .   Well, I really should let you read and enjoy that ‘Sir Snapsalot’ story for yourself.  He even tells folk how to make their own bamboo fishing poles in that one!  Red’s famous for them in these parts.

In the meantime, I wonder what Uncle Paul would think now about the time he spent with a young nephew years ago, teaching him how to tie flies and fish, and who grew up to later write stories about conservation and an uncommonly special bear and his friends in the Ozarks Mountain Country that we visited and fished together ourselves? I like to think he might enjoy them. Time is never wasted when spending it with a child.

Thanks as always for visiting.  I will keep you posted, and we’ll see how this fly tying adventure goes with Little Red Bear, I suppose.  I can’t say ‘no’ to someone looking to learn and try something new.  Even if it seems as though it may be a mighty challenge along the way.  — Jim  (and Red!)

Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

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