An Inrewrview with Eula Moore

Today I’m interviewing Eula Moore, the grandmother of Crystal Moore, heroine of A Ton of Gold and A Silver Medallion. Hello, Eula. How are you today?

EULA: I’m upright, and I’m talking, so I guess I’m doing pretty good.

JIM: Tell me about The Park, since it seems to play a big part in Crystal’s adventures.

EULA: The Park, that’s where I live, is where Crystal grew up. Her parents were both killed in a freak auto accident when Crystal was a little tyke. So she came to live with us at The Park. It’s 320- acres in the piney woods of east Texas. Dan and I bought it when we was first married. That was might near sixty years ago. Couldn’t afford it. But you know kids. We got it and made it work. It’s a beautiful places with a great lake, good fishing, nice hills, and lots a trees. Very peaceful. We named it The Park right after we move on it. Anyways, Crystal roamed around The Park from the time she was seven until she went off to college at S.M.U. and then Stanford. Course, now she lives in Dallas. Too much traffic and noise there for me.

JIM: You mentioned Dan. That’s Crystal’s granddad?

EULA: Was. He went to meet his maker a dozen years ago. My first and only true love. And a great Dad and Granddad for Crystal.

JIM: That must have been about the time Crystal left for S.M.U..

EULA: Right. S.M.U. and then rode off to Californi. Entered some kind a Ph.D. program or other.

JIM: Did she earn her doctorate?

EULA: Nope. Something happened just before she was to finish. Don’t know what, and she never would say. Didn’t want to talk about it. Never did. But, she thought she was just a few months from ending and she ups and leaves and comes home. Moped around The Park for months. Finally got a job at that info retrieval company where she works now. That has perked her up. She getting back to her old self.

JIM: This past year, she went down to Mexico to rescue some young girls. What did you think about that? I mean, she doesn’t seem like the adventure-seeking type to me.

EULA: She ain’t. And I thought it was a dumb thing to do. Could a got herself killed. But she’s got a soft spot for things that can’t help themselves. So, off she went.

JIM: Didn’t you try to stop her?

EULA: She a grown woman. And she’s got a strong head and, except for that fool thing, a good head on her shoulders. I told her it was a dumb idea. But she thought those kids would never be free unless she did something.

JIM: And she did rescue the girls and reunite them with their mother.

EULA: Yes sir. She did. Course then she had two crooks trying to kill here. Good thing she had her old Nana to help her take care of them skunks.

JIM: I’d love to hear the details of how you two captured two assassins.

EULA: And I’d love to tell you. But not today. I got a game of Mexican Train waiting for me. Don’t want to keep my friends waiting. You come on back another day and I’ll tell you how I captured those two bums. Well, actually it was Crystal and me. But right now, I gotta go. Bye.

JIM: And folks, she just took off. I never had an interview end so abruptly. We’ll get back with her on another day. Knowing what I’m finding out about Eula, I’m sure it will be an interesting story. That’s all for today.

 

 

 

 

 

A Greased Pig?

Many years ago, I was teaching in a private school. One year I was sponsor of what many of the faculty labeled as the most difficult of the senior classes. Actually, I found them to be a very energetic and imaginative group, perhaps less concerned with the rules than most, and certainly less studious. But they were interesting, fun and goodhearted. I never had a problem with any of this class.

So it was no great surprise when they proposed holding a greased pig chase as a fund raiser. I raised a number of objections, but they countered each with a reasonable answer. After seeking approval from administration, a date was set.

One boy in the class had an uncle who raised pigs, so that was taken care of. Posters were made. In fact, those in charge of publicity were very innovative . One day they were more animated than usual. The greased pig chase was being publicized on the local radio station most popular with high school kids.   However, only students from our school could participate in the chase.

Entries began immediately ,with an amazing number coming from the freshman class. Briefly, I wondered if there was any coercion, but dismissed that thought. In fact, the whole school was buzzing about the upcoming porker party.

The day before the event, I received a call from an animal rights group. They were concerned about the safety of the pig. I thought to dismiss that thought also. The pig was soon to be shipped off to the packing house which would be a much worse experience than being chased by screaming teenagers. But the animal advocate was very serious. I explained that the pig would not be harmed. Once caught and secured by one or more students, he would be quickly returned to his home on the range. The contestants were allowed no tools, no aids at all. They must catch the pig using only their hands, and maybe their feet. Instantly, the pig’s protector worried that someone might kick the pig. I assured her no kicking was allowed.

What were we going to put on the pig? Well, it was a “greased” pig contest. I guaranteed her it would be only natural products, quite possibly coming from the pig’s ancestors.

“This might be too tiring for the pig,” she continued. “I must insist you allow a rest period every five minutes.” I suggested every fifteen minutes and we ultimately compromised on ten minutes. I wondered how effective this would be. Would the pig understand a rest period?

The day finally arrived and Joe drove his truck in with a very sturdy cage in the back containing… The Pig. To many, it looked like a wild boar. It snorted and banged against the cage, and several of the small freshmen began to have doubts about chasing this wild animal. Some worried the razorback might chase them instead.

The class committee decided to use vegetable oil to grease the swine, assuring the pig would be very hard to hold. Ten minutes before start time, students lined up behind a rope marking the starting line, and Joe and two classmates poured corn oil on the shoat, who didn’t care for the attention. Hands would pop in and spread the oil and jerk back before the pig could bite.

Though close to eighty students had signed up, there were probably only fifty on the starting line. Possibly some had second thoughts after seeing this ferocious looking bovine. But there were probably another two  hundred and fifty spectators. On the count of three, the rope was dropped and the door to the cage thrown opened.

Porky just stood there.

After railing against the cage, it didn’t want to leave. Joe grabbed a pencil out of his shirt pocket, reached in the cage, and jabbed the pig in its hindquarters. The bore took off. And as the contestants started running and screaming, the pig kept running.

Two or three students got a hand on the porker, but the slippery oil let the swine escape. Several dove at the pig and got nothing but a handful of grass. However, twin brothers had devised a plan and simultaneously dove at the pig from opposite sides. As the greasy bovine slipped out of one twin’s hands, it put him in the brother’s arms.

In three minutes, the contest was over. The twins held the oil covered pig down for the required thirty seconds and were declared the winners.

This special class had once again deviated from the norm. During the week leading up to the event anticipation saturated the school and grabbed the attention of the entire student body and most of the faculty.

And though the contest was very short, everyone in attendance seemed to have a great time.

Except, perhaps, the pig.

 

James R. Callan

Callan is no longer teaching.  He writes mystery and suspense novels.  Thus far, none has featured a wild pig, with or without grease.  But he’s not ruling that out.

The Hard Work of Telling the Truth:

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D.R. Ransdell is a writer and musician. She spent five years in Mexico teaching English and learning folk songs. Now, she plays with a mariachi group and writes a murder mystery series about mariachi bandleader Andy Veracruz. She also teaches writing at … Continue reading

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

 

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

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.

 

Uber Good

But first, today’s paraprosdokian

  • I’m great at multi-tasking–I can waste time, be unproductive, and procrastinate all at once.  

In September, Pittsburgh, PA became the first U.S. city to have driverless cars used to transport people from one place to another – a service provided by Uber.  (Just one month earlier, nuTonomy offered such a service in Singapore.) Uber, is the world’s largest taxi company. Pittsburgh is significant because it is the home of Carnegie Mellon University, the leading university in robotics. Both the head of the Uber’s driverless auto endeavor and the head of Google’s division for driverless cars (considered the leader in the field) came from the CMU robotics department.

So, a customers in Pittsburgh can call Uber and order a driverless car to come to wherever they are and take them to any other place in the area. For the present, there will be a qualified, human driver sitting in the driver’s seat, ready to take control at any moment should the need arise. For the early part of this experiment, there will also be a second person in the front seat who will have a computer and will take notes on every aspect of the trip.

There is also a computer tablet in the back seat where the customer can offer any comments on the experience.

Initially, Uber will use modified Volvo XC90 sport-utilities outfitted with dozens of sensors, including cameras, lasers, radar, and GPS receivers. And while GPS is generally accurate to within ten feet, Uber systems strive for accuracy down to an inch.

Many experts in the autonomous car arena claim that self-driving cars uber-car-copywill ultimately save lives. For now, the efforts in this area are under close scrutiny. Last July, a driver using Tesla’s Autopilot service (not driverless, but driver assisted) was killed when the car collided with a tractor-trailer. The crash is still under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Google has seen a few minor accidents. At present, Google limits its cars to a maximum of 25 miles per hour. Uber has not sustained any accidents since road testing in Pittsburg began in May.

Uber is so committed to this endeavor it  is acquiring Otto, a company working on driverless trucks And it has plans to open two additional R&D centers.

Ford is also working right now to produce cars that would meet Uber’s demands. In a talk several months ago, the head of General Motors predicted they would have completely autonomous cars in production by 2021.

Before too many years, you will be able to order a car to pick you up and drive you to your agent’s office while you put the finishing touches on your manuscript. The car will drop you at the door and go away. When you have signed the contract and are ready to leave, another call will bring a car to the building and take you home.

Last week, I wrote about our robotic vacuum – that actually works. Now, if they would only make a robot that will make the bed and clean the bathroom, we’d be set.

Life just gets better.

James Callan, October 2016

Artificial (not so) Intelligence

Artificial (not so) Intelligence

But first, today’s paraprosdokian seems appropriate.

Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

I haven’t written much in the last couple of days. Why? I’ve been watching a vacuum cleaner. Now this may sound strange to you. Well … it is.

We bought a new robot vacuum. It has a laser to scan the room, memory to keep track of what part it has cleaned already, and the ability to go back and plug itself in when its battery need charging. Not only that, if it cannot clean the entire house on one charge of the battery, after it recharges its battery, it will go back and pick up where it left off and finish the job. You can schedule it to vacuum the floors every Tuesday, or twice a week, or every day if you are a clean freak, or room with Oscar of The Odd Couple..

How’s that sound?robovac

However, …

How do we know if it really cleans every square foot? Our floor is not that dirty. We thought about sprinkling sand all over and then we could tell what got cleaned and what got missed. A sure-fire test. As it began, you could actually see the paths it made through the sand. On the practical side, we would have to stop it and empty its dirt bin pretty often. Yes, it tells us when its dirt bin need emptying. But, what if it didn’t do a good job? We would have all this sand on the floor. Cancel that method.

We have a house a little larger than average. And it takes the little robot five hours to complete the job. That means three trips out the gate with a full charge.

random-walkIt’s not quite as methodical or orderly as a person might be, although this model is not just a random go, bump, try a different direction approach.   So say the ads and directions.   At times, it looks like an organized random method.   So, I am drawn to watch it and see what it is doing. Is it more methodical or more random? Does it cover all areas. (Remember, we decided not to put down the sand.)

At the end of its first battery life, it found its way back to the charge base, got there, turned around and snuggled its behind up to the charge contacts and settle down to be charged. This took about two hours – the charge, not the snuggling bit.

Once charged, it took off again to try to finish the job. I had spent some time having lunch and answering a few e-mails and was just starting to write when I heard it power up, ready to clean. I jumped up to see what it would do.

It had found its way back to where it had left off, and it started to clean. Shortly, it decided to clean under the bed. Now, I know we don’t do that very often. Okay, never. But the little robot decided to do a good job and once it finished, it stopped and displayed a message: “Please clean my dirt bin.” Well, it did say please.

Once the bin was emptied and replaced, the bot was on its way again.Except it didn’t know where to go next. It would turn in a complete circle, then stop and consider thinking-copy(or whatever bots do). Then survey the room again, stop and consider. After several of these, it decided to go left. That was okay, for the bathroom was to the left. It spent ten minutes in the bathroom, then came back to where it had done its contemplating before. And did some more.

You can see why I didn’t get any writing done. I tried talking to it on several (okay, many more than several) occasions. The day was beginning to fade and so was I. So, I paused it, and then instructed it to go back to its charging base. It took off like a shot, perhaps tired of our dirty floors.

It zoomed into the next room and stopped. Again, it displayed that bewilderment it had shown before. Survey 360 degrees, think (or whatever), spin around, cogitate, turn around and consider its options.

In fact, the base was no more than fifteen feet away, in plain view, an easy selection with a laser. Possibly the problem was, not once did I hear it say, “I think I can. I think I can.” And it didn’t.

So, if you’re thinking about buying one, I’d suggest you ask to see its resume or test scores.   I’m going to reset everything and give it another chance tomorrow.

Writing suffers tomorrow.

FREE!  Today, and through Tuesday, the Kindle edition of Cleansed by Fire is free.  Just click here to go to Amazon and download it at zero cost.  It has 63 reviews with an average rating of 4.7 out of 5.0.  You’ll enjoy it, or I’ll give you your money back.

James R. Callan, Oct. 2016

Cover - A Silver Medallion