A Time for Renewal

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Today’s guest is award-winning author Lena Nelson Dooley.  With more than 875,000 copies of her books sold, she has been on the ECPA and CBA Bestseller lists, Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller list, and several Amazon Bestseller lists. She’s won the Will … Continue reading

Tasmania – A Float Plane to the Interior

Before we go to Tasmania, here’s today’s paraprosdokian:  He who laughs last thinks slowest.

Quick, before I forget what I was going to say —

Before we stepped off the plane in Hobart, all we knew about Tasmania tasmanizwas that the Tasmanian Devil made its home there.

Tasmania is located about 150 miles across the Bass Strait from Melbourne, Australia. To its west is the Indian Ocean and to its east is the Pacific Ocean. It is about 225 miles from north to south and generally about 190 miles from east to west, and has a population of just over half a million.

The British settled it in 1803 and in the first 50 years, over 75,000 convicts were transported to Taz. One of the first places we visited was Port Arthur, just 35 miles from Hobart, and site of one of the most famous prisons in Australia.

floatplaneWe then headed into the interior, a thinly populated, but gorgeous area. (Another day, we’ll talk about Devils and mailboxes.) We made our way to Strahan on the west coast and made arrangements to take a float plane into the wilderness of the southwest part of Tasmania. Over one third of the entire island of Tasmania lies in reserves here, and there are no roads or settlements in this area.

Earlene and I and the pilot took off and circledtasmaniz-wilderness out over large fish farms in the Indian Ocean. Then we headed in-land. It is truly a pristine wilderness, with inspiring, untouched forests, and the white water Franklin River. After awhile, we were tracking another magnificent river, cutting between mist-covered mountains and dense rain-forest. We began to descend into the thousand-foot deep Gordon River Gorge and slowly settled down on the river.

tas-waterfallAs the pilot taxied over to the bank, a small dock came into view. He hopped out and tied the plane up and we deplaned. A short walk through the rain-forest took us to a magnificent waterfall. The only noise was the falling water. No boom-boxes, no cars, no people. Enchanting. Eventually, we walked back to the dock, got in the plane, and the pilot – standing on the dock, untied the plane. The swift current quickly began to sweep the plane away from the dock. What would we do if the pilot didn’t manage to get in before we drifted away from the dock? Earlene could fly the floatplane-on-riverplane, but could she take off from a rushing river? But, he managed to catch a strut, swing on to the pontoon and climb into the cockpit. Obviously, he’d done this before. It was a magical trip.

Our entire Tasmania visit was captivating.   If you get to Australia, allot ample time for Tasmania. We spent a week there, and would have enjoyed a month.tasmania-river

 

The Vanishing Horse

For some convoluted reason, Netfirms closed this site for a few days this past week.  So, I’m going to leave my Christmas story about the disappearing horse up this week.  And here is a very sincere wish that you and your family have a very happy holiday season, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’s.  But first, my thought for the day —

Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever.

My second Christmas in Connecticut promised to be special. I had bought the house on Great Hill Road just a hundred feet from a quiet lake with maple, birch and spruce trees growing almost to the water line. The kids had ten free days to enjoy The Dolphin, a small row boat which they had helped refinish and paint, and which they could easily manage. If it turned cold enough and the lake froze, the ice skates would come out. And, though they didn’t know it, they were going to have a spectacular gift.

Earlier in the month, after considerable research, I traveled into central Connecticut to look at horses. The selection process proved to be horse-angrycomplicated. A horse named Trouble pawed the ground, snorted, and would have bitten me had I not been considerably quicker than I am now. A second horse, Lightning, slept through the interview, barely managing to put two feet ahead of the other two. He failed to make the cut. The next candidate, Cara, passed with flying colors—until price entered the picture. Grace, a lovely sorrel, had two—no, make that four—left feet.

Eventually, I found a beautiful, if not young, roan with a gentle, if occasionally obstinate, disposition named Cheyenne. After a brief ride, I purchased Cheyenne.

Marvin Whittle, who was employed at the research lab where I worked, owned a stable right in town, not far from our house on Great Hill. We came to an agreement and I made arrangements to have Cheyenne transported from central Connecticut to the Whittle Farm.

Never in my life had I bought a saddle, but now I shopped and evaluated. What did I know about such things? There were western saddles and eastern saddles, but no southern saddles. Curious. I discovered that Western meant big and comfortable while eastern meant small and uncomfortable. Just like the states. I opted for a Texas style, not so big that the girls could not handle it, and with the proper leather smell.

Then came a bridle, blankets, and a source for hay.  Wouldn’t a dog have been simpler?

A week before Christmas, I had the present—Cheyenne and all the necessary items to outfit him, house him, and even feed him for the first month. Early on Christmas eve, I moved Cheyenne from the Whittle Farm to a neighbor’s near-by home. Things moved along as smooth as a well used halter.

christmas-tree-3The children were nestled all snug in their beds, with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. I slipped out, sneaked down a quarter mile to the neighbor’s house, and on tip-toes, lead Cheyenne to our place, and tied him securely to a bush outside the front of the house.

The land bordering on this part of Great Hill sloped down to the beautiful lake. Most houses, and ours was no exception, faced the lake. The main floor of the house, while at ground level on the side nearest the road, projected out eight feet above the ground on the lake side. Positioning Cheyenne in front of the house kept him well below the sight lines from bedrooms and the living room where the tree twinkled and presents waited impatiently to be unwrapped.

As was tradition, the kids arose before the sun, leaping from deep sleep to hyper-active as quick as a sneeze, clamoring to see what Santa had deposited in our living room. (They never expected to find only a lump of coal. In fairness, I guess they never deserved such.)

Christmas and presents, even if meager, generate excitement, screams of joy, and only occasionally envy. This Christmas was little different, if somewhat subdued. In truth, Santa had not been as generous as had been his habit in years past. Even those holidays when I was in graduate school looked somewhat fatter than this year. So, while it is not fair to say they were disappointed, well—it didn’t take long to open Santa’s leavings.

After a slight delay, wanting them to enjoy the non-horse items, I invited them to follow me outside. This produced a few groans, and actually made the Christmas offerings look a lot better and difficult to leave. But since I knew how excited they would be over the horse, I persisted. We exited the back and with a sly grin on my face I led them around to the front of the house.

Triumphantly, we turned the corner to find—nothing. No Christmas horse. No Cheyenne. No saddle. No blanket. No bridle.

To say I was stunned is to say the Sahara is a sand pile. Horse thieves in Connecticut? The kids, not knowing what to expect, just looked at me … expectantly. What was the big surprise? I knew what my surprise was. No Cheyenne.

Pulling myself together, not wanting to look too lost in front of the kids, I surveyed the area. Not only was the horse missing, the large bush he had been tied to was gone as well. Why would rustlers take my bush?

I mumbled some nonsense and sent the kids back inside to play with their meager cache. Slowly, I became a cunning tracker. Before long, I was picking out signs, some of which I will not describe, with the skill of an Indian brave trainee. After only a quarter mile, I heard the sound I had expected earlier: excited children. Rounding a clump of cedars, there was Cheyenne—as well as two young kids thrilled with the newfound present Santa had left for them.

I eased up, saying some soothing, cheerful things to the young boy and girl as I endeavored to take the reins. They clutched the leather tighter, accusing me of trying to steal their Christmas present. I bent low, hoping not to look like a towering monster, and spoke softly with an angelic smile on my face. Logic had always been a strong point for me, so I explained to them, in child-like terms, what had happened.

I remained the evil Grinch.

With some subterfuge, I got one end of the reins, and shielded it from the now screaming girl. But my gain amounted to little, as the boy instantly clamped his tiny hands around the stirrup. The boy’s cries now echoed hers and people on the other side of the lake came out on porches to see what malfeasance had come to Rainbow Lake.angry-woman2

Trouble was closer at hand. An angry mother burst out of the nearby house, ready to kill the miscreant trying to kidnap, or otherwise harm, her children. She was followed by a big, burly man, surely seven feet tall, who’s eyes did not exhibit the Christmas spirit.

paul-bunyonThe woman ran to her children, shielding them from scoundrel me, questioning them as to what I had done. The man, his Paul Bunyan legs requiring few steps to traverse the distance, grilled me. I quickly recognized he was a seven foot interrogator for the CIA.

At long last, logic arrived on the scene, tardy as usual in such situations. The children finally managed to sob that I was taking their horse. Santa had left their present outside, since it was too big to go down the chimney. They had found it, and now, Scrooge was trying to steal it.

With the aid of the one rein still attached to the bush, I described how Cheyenne uprooted his hitching post and wandered down to their yard.

The mother’s translation did not cheer the children. But they were somewhat mollified when I promised to bring Cheyenne down and let them ride him later in the day.

horse-1a           Needless to say, when I once more enticed my children outside to meet Cheyenne, Christmas became a lot brighter. He was an instant star, and continued to be their favorite even when, a year later, a younger, more beautiful buckskin named Major joined Cheyenne in the family circus.

James R. Callan

      A Silver Medallion, 2016

Cover - A Silver Medallion

 

Traveling and Writing–a good Mix

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Today, Carole Brown talks about the benefits of travel to a writer, giving examples of how it has helped her in many books.  She and her husband live in SE Ohio, but they have traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and … Continue reading

The Christmas Cat

But first, the paraprosdokian for this season –

Hospitality is the art of making guests feel like they’re at home when you wish they were.

Since we are nearing Christmas, I am reminded of —

The Christmas Cat

It was decided, by whom I have no idea, that the kids would get a cat from Santa. I, who had never had a cat and did not like cats, who was, after all, a “dog” person – who had happily gotten the dog about whom Jamie said, “I think we’ll call him Charlie,” and as far as I knew Jamie had never known anybody named Charlie, and possibly never even heard the name before — was sent to pick up the cat.

The house, no address, turned out to be a clandestine hideout for a member of the FBI or CIA. I was fingerprinted, subjected to search, and interrogated for three hours in a 2×2 room under hot lights, with lie-detector attached, questions being asked over a speaker hidden in the wall above the one-way mirror. No Dr Peppers. Suddenly, the voice stopped, the lights went cold and I sat in darkness. My life, short as it had been at that time, passed before my eyes, though without the lights, I only got a few glimpses of the brighter spots.

Finally, the door opened. I didn’t know what to expect, and was ready for it. Instead, blank sheets attesting to what I had no clue, were thrust under my nose (or perhaps my hand, I am no longer sure) and I was ordered to sign each and initial the back of the first one next to the initials of my interrogator, though his were in invisible ink and I might have actually put mine initials on top of his.

cat-eyeAnd then, the cat was released into my custody.

Little did I know, it was actually a suicide feline, barely out of commando training, who had never been in a car before. With the cat safely inside the car, I had backed up no more than ten feet when Kamikaze Kat was racing around the car, flinging itself against the glass, tearing at the seats and slashing at the driver.

In one of the most incongruous scenes ever video taped by the Agency,cat-2 the cat-unfriendly driver can be seen trying every seducing, soothing, baby-talking line known to mankind in the futile effort to calm down the run-away cat. Finally, by the end of the first block of a 5,000 block trip, the killer kitten settled down, still scared, but feeling somewhat secure by anchoring its claws into the top of the driver’s head. And it remained there for the remainder of the trip

.christmas-kitten

Christmas morning, the terrorist-cat had transmogrified into a small, tame kitten. The kids were thrilled.

 

But the cat was about to get a comeuppance, or a comeapartness. At last, Kristi (after all, the youngest is always last) got her chance to hold the kitten. Being no more experienced than I was, she grabbed it, got the kitten’s neck in the crook of her arm and locked her hands to her chest. The kitten, hanging down, but firmly secured by its head, immediately yelled for help. Older and more experienced sister Kelly came to the aid of the kittencat-3a-in-distress. She tried to take the kitten. Kristi was not about to have her turn commuted to such a short time. She held tightly. Kelly pulled mightily.   The kitten got longer. Only when an adult (who knew a thing or two about kittens and just how long they could be stretched) came to negotiate, did the kitten get off the rack.

Giraffe, Stretch, Longfellow, and The Cat in the Rack were names proposed by the adults. I don’t recall what the kitten was actually named by the kids.

The kids loved the kitten and learned to take special care of it as it grew into a cat. This was definitely a Christmas to remember. And to the day he/she died, I’m sure the kitten remembered it also.

James R. Callan, 2016

The Silver Medallion, A Crystal Moore Suspense
Cover - A Silver Medallion

Unplanned Kindness

But first, a PARAPROSDOKIAN —

Behind every great man is a woman – rolling her eyes.

Unplanned Kindness

Several years ago, we visited Chile. We stayed in Santiago and Vina del Mar for a couple of weeks, then headed south. We wanted to go as far as possible and still have roads back to Santiago.

The flight was in a small plane – one seat on each side of the aisle, maybesmall-plane-1 a sixteen passenger capacity. It delivered newspapers to every small town along the way, so it was up and down continually. Two young girls sat across from my wife and me. They were moving to Puerto Montt. Their father was already there and would meet them at the airport.

On final approach, the older girl, probably twelve, got sick. As the wheels touched down, she threw up. In the terminal, my wife took her to the restroom to help her clean up. The younger girl found her father. I went to rent a car.chile-map

Unplanned best describes our mode of travel. We fly into a city, rent a car, then look for a place to stay. No reservations. Though a bit risky, it always works out and quite often provides more interesting adventures than if we had planned things carefully.

I found Earlene talking with the father. I said there was only one car available and they wanted $250 per day. I was hesitant. The girls’ father said, “If you can wait until tomorrow, I can get you a much less expensive car. Where are you going?”

I said we had planned on going to Puerto Varas (about twenty miles away), but we could certainly stay here tonight.

“I’m going to Puerto Varas. I can take you.”

As we drove toward Puerto Varas, he asked, “Where do you have reservations?”

“We don’t have a reservation, but I’m sure we can find something when we get there,” I said.

“I can help you.”

Thirty minutes later, we were at a lovely lakeside B & B.

“Do you have plans for dinner,” he asked.

“No,” I said. “We’ll walk into the village and find a restaurant.”

“We’re going to Llanguihue for dinner. Why don’t you join us? I can pick you up in forty minutes.”

clake-clearAn hour later we’re in a beautiful tourist village on the shore of a crystal clear lake. He invited us to join his extended family for dinner. We didn’t want to intrude, so we found a different table. After dinner, we told him we were in no rush whatsoever but would wait outside near his car.

“Nonsense. There are very interesting shops along the shore. Wander through them. I’ll find you.”

We did find the shops and the surrounding area interesting. About thirty minutes later, he appeared behind us. As we drove back to our B&B, he gave us many interesting facts about Chile. We felt very fortunate to have joined this man and his daughters.

The next morning, during breakfast, the B&B owner entered and handed me a telephone. Who would be calling me in Chile? The caller wanted to bring a car over for us for our inspection. It a very nice car and only $80 USD per day. We took it.car-red

The father of the two girls went out of his way to be very friendly to a couple of foreigners he did not know. He could not have been more helpful if he had been a life-long friend.

Indeed, there are so many nice, kind, friendly people in the world, if only we are open to see them.

James R. Callan, 2016

Why not leave a comment and tell us about an Unplanned Kindness that happened to you.  It will make all of us feel better.  Thanks.

 

A Legacy

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Today’s guest is Jodie Wolfe.  She has been a semi-finalist in various writing contests.  Her second book, Love in the Seams, was released just three weeks ago.  She and her husband live in Pennsylvania.  Today, she asks what kind of … Continue reading

Christmas is Coming…

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Lillian Duncan is a multi-published writer with several Amazon bestsellers, including The Christmas Stalking and Betrayed. Lillian writes the types of books she loves to read—fast-paced suspense with a touch or two of romance that demonstrates God’s love for all … Continue reading

The Texas Chainsaw …

This week’s paraprosdokian —  Take my advice — I’m not using itchainsaw-1

I have to admit it. I was a city boy. I was raised in Dallas, but have over the years worked my way down until I’m no longer living in a town of any size. Here’s one of the situations that moved me away from being a city boy.

Some years ago, my wife and I moved into the middle of a forest in east Texas. We are surrounded by trees – pines, oaks, and hickories mostly. Our driveway is about three-quarters of a mile long. Our nearest neighbor is about half a mile away as the crow flies and about three miles by road.

One night some years ago, we came home from work, settling in for the night, not expecting to leave before morning. But then, Earlene said, “It’s your birthday. Let go out for a fancy dinner.”

tree-downWe traveled to Tyler, had a leisurely dinner and returned home about nine o’clock. But as we were driving in, a large tree had fallen across our driveway. It was too big for me to move by myself, but between the two of us, we were able to push it off enough to get the car by.

About five in the morning, Earlene woke me. She had severe pain in her abdomen. And it only got worse. So, I helped her into the car and raced to the operating-roomemergency room of the nearby hospital. They quickly determined she had a ruptured appendix and wheeled her into the operating room.

The next afternoon, I was sitting in her room as she slept. Suddenly, my eyes popped open wide. If we had not gone out to dinner, I would have first discovered the tree blocking the road at five in the morning. The tree was too big for me to move by myself. What would I have done?   While I had met a couple of neighbors, miles away, I did not have their phone numbers. I had a small hatchet and a machete. It might have taken me over an hour using only a hatchet to cut through the tree enough to move it .

I checked Earlene. She was sleeping soundly, heavily sedated. I told the nurses I was leaving.

I drove to the nearest farm store and bought my first chainsaw. I would not be trapped in our property without a viable means to get out.

chainsaw-2Now, years later, we have several chainsaws. We always have at least two good, heavy duty,chainsaw-3 working gasoline chainsaws. We have an electric chainsaw for light work close to the house or barn. We have a small chainsaw on a pole for trimming limbs on standing trees.

I have pushed my city boy persona out of the way, and the first shove came about five a.m. on a trip to the emergency room.

James R. Callan

Visit Callan’s author page by clicking here.

And leave us your thoughts on chainsaws. Thanks.