1
Aug

Dead Bush Poker - A short cat story

I live in Dead Bush, a small town in the center of Texas. Our town sports three saloons, a general store, the bank, one church without a steeple, a blacksmith shop and another establishment such as nice folks don’t talk about in mixed company. Modern wooden slat sidewalks was added this spring in deference to the request of those specific ladies who live in the aforementioned establishment.

On Founder’s Day, the local farmer’s wives bake pies and hams and sweet potatoes for a giant banquet and sponsor a square dance out behind the Blacksmith’s shop. Bright and early this morning, neighboring families with all the kids trickled into town looking for a good time.

Not long after, several soldiers still wearing raggedy Civil War uniforms rode into Dead Bush on worn out horses. The soldiers commenced to drink and gamble and ordered steak dinners at the Dry Spell Saloon where, among other things, such entertainment and libation is encouraged.

I sleep in the back of the saloon, ever since the town sheriff found me, the lone survivor of a wagon train massacred by wild Indians.
I don’t belong to nobody, but Shorty, the barkeep saves me left-overs from the day’s leavings. That, added to my hunting prowess, fares me well. Since I’m the only cat for miles around, the regulars at the saloon adopted me as a mascot. I’m a fine figure of a cat, though some would say, somewhat on the portly side. It must be so, as to the validation of the roaming tomcat what comes through town every spring. Up until now, I haven’t given him a tumble.

Cats are almighty scarce and considerable valuable in this county. A number of local farmers have offered Shorty big bucks for me, beings as cats can keep a barnyard free of varmints without half trying. There are some folks from the big cities who haul cats in their saddlebags to small farming towns, assured of a quick sale and a $20 gold piece. The farmers soon learn they don't know nothin' about varmint huntin.'

Well, seems these soldiers what came to town sat and drank well past noon. I caused quite a stir when I wandered through the saloon. One soldier took a notion to buy me, having heard about cats being worth big money up the river. Shorty declined, saying I couldn’t be sold since I was a free spirit and didn’t belong to nobody.

As the gambling and drinking progressed, the soldier plied Shorty with enough palaver and drink that he was finally cajoled into a card game with me as the stakes.

I sat near the potbelly, preening my whiskers, somewhat amused by the stupidity of these humans what thought they could buy and sell another living creature. Wasn’t that decided by the Civil War after all?

The poker game progressed and it seemed my future as mascot at the Dry Spell Saloon was dependent on the turn of their cards.

Four players hunched over the poker table, cards fanned in their hands, empty glasses lined up in front of them. Shorty’s chips were going fast. Holding on to the Dry Spell Saloon mascot didn’t look promising.

The size of Shorty’s chips rose and fell as the afternoon wore on. I sat on a nearby table, commiserating with Mr. Casper, an old codger who operated a small gold claim in a nearby river. The old man was a fool, but he didn’t smell quite as bad as the other miners, as being tipsy a good deal, he fell in the river more often than most, washing away some of his natural man-stink.

In the late afternoon, the neighbor ladies announced their Founder’s Day supper was served. The saloon emptied except for the four poker players who found it harder and harder to sit up straight. Heads lolled and cards tumbled from their hands. More whiskey landed on the floor than in their glasses. Never in the history of Dead Bush had such a game gone on for so long or the stakes so roundly coveted. I was, indeed, a prize.

Eventually, Smitty Rosenblatt passed out. George Waddlebaker went broke. Shorty hung in there, though blurry eyed, he continued to fight for his meezer. Poor Shorty’s stack of chips got even smaller.

Seeing the inevitable handwriting on the wall, I slipped out the front door and headed out of town onto the prairie, intending on being absent for a few days. An occasional vacation is always revitalizing to one’s health and seemed particularly attractive today.

Besides, there weren’t no sense being around when Shorty went broke and the soldier attempted to claim his prize. I didn’t plan to spend the next week strung to the back of a saddle in a burlap sack until the old soldier found a farmer with a rat-filled barn and a $20 gold piece.

I’m the only cat worth her salt in Dead Bush, and I intend to keep it that way. At least until next spring, when that tomcat comes back to town.

21
May

Mrs. Odboddy and Life in the USA during World War II -

Mrs. Odboddy books: Hometown Patriot and Undercover Courier

While researching events during WWII for my humorous mystery/adventure, Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, and Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier, I found some interesting facts about life in the USA during World War II:

Rationing: Because vital supplies were needed for the troops, ration stamp booklets were issued to American housewives. Many items including meat, sugar and fresh fruit were in short supply and could only be purchased with the appropriate ration stamp.

Due to blockades affecting Brazilian ships attempting to bring coffee and sugar to the USA during part of 1942-43, coffee was rationed to one pound per adult every six weeks. (This alone was reason to go to war.)

Eggs were in short supply and costly, resulting in many resident chickens in suburban backyards. See Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv Amazon $3.99

Tires: A citizen was allowed to purchase only five tires during the entire war. By today’s standards, that sounds sufficient, but despite a 35 mph national speed limit, bumpy roads and poor quality rubber led to multiple flat tires. Doctors and public safety professionals were allowed additional tire and gasoline stamps.

Gasoline was rationed to four gallons per week per adult. Folks relied on car pool, buses, bicycles or walking. Men working out of town often boarded away from home and came home only intermittently.
Such shortages of food and other supplies led to black market ration books or ‘arrangements’ between friends willing to sell stamps they didn’t need.

Victory Gardens: Citizens appeared unpatriotic if they didn’t plant a victory garden. Suburban front yards were soon converted to rows of cabbages, zucchinis, tomatoes and carrots. Vegetables with a high yield requiring limited growing space became the main ingredient of Meatless Monday meals. Mrs. Roosevelt planted zucchini in the White House Rose Garden.

Watch Towers: Ever fearful of another Japanese air attack on the West Coast, and the limited availability of newly discovered radar technology, volunteers became the ‘early warning system’ in watch towers every several miles along the California and Oregon coastline.

Train Travel: Though trains traveled all the way across the U.S.A. there was no direct line and travelers often had to change from one train to another, with hours long layovers of hours or days between connections.

These events are highlighted in both of my novels. In Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, Agnes must take the blame for the destruction of a watch tower in order to prevent a 'top secret' from going public.

In the novel Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier www.http://tinyurl.com/jn5bzwb Amazon $3.99 Agnes and Katherine travel from California to Washington D.C. to accompany Mrs. Roosevelt on her Pacific Island tour. Carrying a package to the President she believes contains secret war documents, it is no surprise to encounter a man she believes is a Nazi spy. When she is witness to his ‘committing murder,’ she is sure she will be next on his hit list.

Join Mrs. Odboddy on her hysterical romp across the USA. Filled with laugh and suspense, you will enjoy a bit of history along the way.

17
May

Mrs. Odboddy - UNDERCOVER COURIER

About The Book
Asked to accompany Mrs. Roosevelt on her Pacific Island tour, Agnes and Katherine travel by train to Washington, D.C. Agnes carries a package for Colonel Farthingworth to President Roosevelt.

Convinced the package contains secret war documents, Agnes expects Nazi spies to try and derail her mission.

She meets Irving, whose wife mysteriously disappears from the train; Nanny, the unfeeling caregiver to little Madeline; two soldiers bound for training as Tuskegee airmen; and Charles, the shell-shocked veteran, who lends an unexpected helping hand. Who will Agnes trust? Who is the Nazi spy?

When enemy forces make a final attempt to steal the package in Washington, D.C., Agnes must accept her own vulnerability as a warrior on the home front.

Can Agnes overcome multiple obstacles, deliver the package to the President, and still meet Mrs. Roosevelt’s plane before she leaves for the Pacific Islands?

Mrs. Odboddy: Undercover Courier is a hysterical frolic on a train across the United States during WWII, as Agnes embarks on this critical mission.

EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER ONE
Agnes dodged puddles across Wilkey’s Market parking lot, struggling to balance her purse on her wrist, her umbrella and a bag of groceries under each arm. She lowered her head and aimed for her yellow and brown 1930 Model A Ford, parked two rows over and three puddles down. Why hadn’t she let Mrs. Wilkey’s son, George, carry out her bags when he offered? Maybe Katherine was right. She tried to be too independent. No harm in accepting a little help from time to time. Let the kid experience the joy of helping others.

As she approached her car, a black Hudson slowed and stopped alongside her. The passenger door opened and a man stepped out.

“You Mrs. Odboddy?” He ran his hand over his bald head. A scar zig-zagged across the back of his hand.

Agnes’s stomach twisted. “Depends. Who’s asking?” She took two steps closer to her Ford. “What do you want?” Her gaze roamed the parking lot. Not a man in sight, except the thug blocking her path toward her car.

The man reached out and grabbed her arm. “You’re coming with me!”

Blood surged into Agnes’s cheeks. She caught her breath. Wouldn’t you know it? Kidnapped in broad daylight and not a gol-darned cop in sight! No wonder, with every able-bodied man off fighting the war, leaving defenseless women and children victims of rapists and murderers. In less time than it took to come up with a plan, she dropped her grocery bags, wielded her umbrella and smacked it across the man’s shoulders.

“Hey! What’s the big idea? Smitty! Give me a hand. The old broad’s putting up a fuss.” Scar-Hand snatched the umbrella from Agnes and shoved her toward his car.

Oh, good grief. What shall I do?

Smitty ran around from the driver’s side.

Despite her struggles and a few well-aimed kicks, the two scoundrels shoved Agnes into the back seat and tossed her umbrella onto the floorboards. “Don’t give us any trouble, Mrs. Odboddy,” Smitty growled, rubbing his shins. “Like it or not, you’re coming with us.”

Agnes scooted across the mohair seat, huddled into the corner as far as she could get from Smitty’s leering grin. “What do you want with me?”

Smitty and Scar-Hand jumped into the front seat. Smitty gunned the engine and the car lurched through the parking lot toward the street. He glanced over his shoulder. “Don’t try any funny business, lady. The chief asked us to bring you to him, and that’s where you’re going."

11
Jan

Remembering Salzburg, Austria

In 1987, my daughter and I traveled to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. I kept a diary during that two week journey. Here are the entries from Salzburg, Austria.

Walking through the streets of Salzburg is like walking back into history. One sees houses with flower boxes, painted scenes on the exterior walls of the buildings, church steeples, roofs of clay tiles and bell towers. The streets are cobbled and many of the windows are made of leaded glass.

There are vineyards up on a nearby hillside and an ancient ivy covered building with sagging tile roof across the courtyard lends a medieval flavor to the view. Church spires peak out above the red tile rooftops on nearby houses and unconsciously we scan the faces of the passersby, perhaps expecting to see Mary Poppins. Dates carved on the churches range from the year 1200-1400. One church is said to be 1000 years old.

A kitty sits atop a nearby rooftop, meowing piteously, as tourists peer up and try to decide if he is stuck, hungry, or just bored and teasing the tourists.

We drive along a river and follow a road up the side of a grape-laden hillside to the very top. Below us, a park follows the curve of the river. We can see the tiny train below and churches steeples scattered among the rooftops. A storm is brewing and the sky darkens with rain clouds as we stand atop the mountain, looking down over the city which for hundreds of years is unchanging.

Yes, as modern times came, freeways and electric wires approached the city, the merchandise sold in the stores has changed, and automobiles replaced the horse carriages, which once clip-clopped along the cobbled streets. The narrow lanes remain the same, the lovely churches, fortresses, palaces, and hillsides are unchanged. The city will tolerate progress but it will not give in to it. Our modern conveniences are an intrusion on its medieval splendor.

Visitors from the United States marvel at the unchanging and apparently timelessness of this beautiful country. The land stretches out unspoiled as we compare it to our familiar busy cities. The mountains beckon hikers upward into the cold clean air. Though there are industrial areas, much of the land is still in its wilderness state, as it was at the moment of creation, lush and green and seemingly immune to modern marvels.

In the town of Salzburg, there is a town square where a street musician plays Ave Maria on a violin. Above us pigeons fly from rooftop to rooftop and the music echoes around the courtyard. I let my mind wander and it is easy to imagine the town filled with people coming and going up and down the tiny cobbled streets in horse drawn carts. Over here would be a peddler selling vegetables, and over there a princess is escorted by her ladies-in-waiting. Over here a group of soldiers march down the street, straight and tall, tired from slaying dragons on the hillsides.

Another day and music might have filled this same courtyard, not from the church but from the house down the street where a thin young boy named Mozart plays the harpsichord and writes melodies that will one day make him famous, even several hundred years later.
Over there a beggar sits by the church wall and begs for alms. Many pass him by, even as today, so many hungry people walk our streets and though we call ourselves “more civilized,” how many of us are guilty of turning away?

A horse cart clip-clops by, bringing me back to today as the last beautiful strains of Ave Maria fade into the sky. We give the musician money and move off down the street where we buy a watercolor painting of the church from a local street artist.

11
Nov

Christ the Redeemer Statue- Rio de Janeiro

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The statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro was recently voted to be one of the modern Seven Wonder of the World, alongside the much older Colosseum in Rome and the Great Wall of China.

It’s no wonder, when you consider that the colossal statue of Jesus Christ is the fifth largest statue of Jesus in the world. It is situated at the summit of Mount Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro, itself 2,319 feet high. The statue is 98 feet tall. It’s horizontally outstretched arms span 92 feet. It weighs over 1,400 tons, The statue is made of reinforced concrete clad in a mosaic of thousands of triangular soapstone tiles, and sits on a square stone pedestal base about 26 feet high.

Funds to build the statue were originally raised privately, principally by members of the Catholic Church following WWI and the separation of Church and State. It was not built as a Catholic idol, but rather a reminder to the citizens of Rio de Janeiro that she should not abandon Christianity. Jesus’ outstretched arms signify peace and acceptance to all who dwell in or visit the city.

Additional fascinating facts about the statue include:

The overall statue was designed by Heitor de Silva Costa. Paul Landowski is credited for the design of the head and hands. Landowski commissioned fellow Parisian sculptor, Gheorgehe Leonida, to sculpt the hands and face.

Construction of the statue started in 1922 and took nine years to complete. It was dedicated on October 12, 1931.

The inner framework is made of concrete, and outer layers are composed of mosaic tiles. All the construction materials and the workers were transported to the top of the mountain by a cog-wheel train. They had to prepare the cement on site with water from a fountain that was 984 feet away from the scaffolding.

Workers who made the mosaic tiles frequently wrote on the back, meaning Christ the Redeemer is littered with hidden messages…most likely prayers.

The statue was built in pieces and then assembled and transferred to the top of Mount Corcovado. (See pictures in the link below)
The stones used came from Sweden.

A chapel inside the pedestal can hold over 150 people.

Originally, visitors walked up 200 steps to reach the base of the statue. In more recent decades, escalators and elevators were added for the benefit of tourists making the pilgrimage. (Please check out the link below for fascinating pictures of the construction as well as beautiful photos from current days.)

The statue is visible from anywhere in Rio de Janeiro due to its commanding height.

Construction costs at the time were equivalent to $3,300,000 in 2015 dollars.

For more information and multiple pictures of the stature during construction and currently, copy and paste:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3740325/ How Christ-Redeemer-statue-came-dominate-Rio-skyline-Fascinating photos -iconiic-statue-built-story-it.html@ixzz4Piq2B4W4

Wouldn’t it be a grand vacation to visit Rio and view this awesome landmark?

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