A Book Recommendation–Price of Passage by Larry F. Sommers

Price of Passage is the story of an immigrant to the United States during the tumultuous 1850s.

The 1850s was a volatile decade: The Slave Act of 1850, Bloody Kansas, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the disappearance of the Whig party, the rise of the Know-Nothing party, The Dred Scott decision of 1857, John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry.

Anders Gunstensen plans to escape the indentured servitude to his uncle. He lights a lantern, his uncle sees the light and comes to barn to confront Anders about using the lantern, then tries to stop Anders from leaving. The two men fight, the uncle is accidentally knocked unconscious, possibly dead. Anders flees before anyone can discover his uncles body.

He boards the first ship, it’s sailing for New Orleans. He meets people who he will travel with to Illinois, assists a runaway slave, agrees to work for a farmer in Illinois.

When Anders decides to homestead in Illinois, he meets another kind of servitude, he borrows money from a local lender to buy equipment for his new farm.

Anders experiences the backbreaking work of a farmer, the joys and sorrows of family life, and then the Civil War erupts with more sorrows to come.

Anders is the main character of this book, but the women are not forgotten. Kirsten Haraldsdatter arrives at her husband’s farm to find that she became a widow a week before her arrival. She decides to stay and farm the land with her children.

Maria, the woman who marries Anders, becomes a widow, but decides to stay and farm the land belonging to her and her husband.

The women face the same hardships as the men, and when they have to stand alone, the persist.


A bit of melancholy

Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer. Last barbecues with friends and family. Trees turning color. The swallows gather on the electric lines to chase the bugs feasting on the ripening grain. Stores fill with families collecting school supplies. Soon September rains will fall, and the school busses will drive by past the house way too early in the morning. And the summer filled with plans comes to an end. Remembrance of those days bring a bit of melancholy, a token of the fun that we experienced. It takes a few days to store summer memories and make a list for fall, the brilliant autumn displays soon displace the joys of summer. The changing seasons are awe inspiring.

Life a roaming country cat

Life of an outside country cat is usually short and not often noticed. It is born. It dies. Everything else about its life is conjecture, pieced together when one cat catches the imagination of a neighborhood. That is what happened to the cat someone named Wally.

A neighbor tells of nursing a white cat with ginger colored markings but she hadn’t seen it for awhile.

It showed up on our farm, probably because I feed the feral cats.

Well, Wally wasn’t always present at feeding time came and went when he wanted. I’d see him in the ditches, looking for food in the fields and the hill beyond the barn. Winter time we’d see more of him, food was consistent, and the south facing parts of the barn warm. But come breeding time, he was always around, many of the new batches of kittens were mirror images of him.

Often I saw the healing gouges of fights, but he healed. Not today.

Wally hadn’t been around the place for a week, on Saturday he showed up covered in dried up blood, facial gouges. Tried to clean him up, give him food and water–he wasn’t accepting the care. He crawled away when we weren’t looking. We searched but couldn’t find him. We searched on Sunday. On Monday, the postman delivered a package and said there was an injured cat on our sidewalk. Somehow Wally had crawled to the house.

He was rough looking. Did he come to the house looking for help or a place to die? His breathing was normal. I decided that if Wally could make it to the house I had to give him a chance to live or relieve his suffering and pain.

Called a neighbor who is a vet, she wasn’t available. Called the vet in town, he got us in.

The cat stank, there were maggots in a few wounds and when the vet opened Wally’s mouth, half the palate was torn away. It was a quick and easy decision the euthanize Wally. The end came swift. His pain and suffering was ended.

The vet’s conjecture was that Wally had tangled with a coyote. Mine is that this big tom cat fought hard for his life and was able to crawl away. He crawled to us for help, we gave it. May he Rest In Peace.

Empty Nesters, Again

Forgot to take down the Christmas wreath before we left for vacation, this is what we came back to:

A robin’s nest. Every time we used the door, the mother robin flew away, squawking.

Did an internet search on robin and nesting, worked out that the fledgling would leave the nest around May 20–I was off by a few days.

We are missing those birds.

Catching up on books

There are many books that I will never have the time (or inclination) to read, but how did I overlook these?

Natalie Haynes’ A Thousand Ships started me exploring recent books written about the Greek and Latin classics told with women at the center, especially the women who were the collateral damage of the Trojan War.

Elinor Cleghorn, Unwell Women, Misdiagnosis and Myths in a Man-made World, about misconceptions of female anatomy and health. This triggered one of my short stories.

Madeline Miller, Circe This earned it wow from me, how could I overlook this book about the witch and goddess Circe. Her life as a daughter of Helios, her exile, then the time spent with Odysseus and the aftermath of that affair. A deep knowledge of the world of the classic literature and an excellent imagination of how women created a life in a world torn apart by war.

Natalie Haynes, Pandora’s Jar this book was published in the U.K. before it will be published in the U.S. next year. Haynes tells the stories of the women of myths and the curtains of history as regards those women.

I agree with Natalie Haynes that the classic literature should be taught, and language (when did Latin disappear from high school curriculums?)–maybe it can start with Emily Watson’s translation of The Odyssey.

I’m looking forward to reading more of the above writers. Hope you have time to make room to read these books in this very busy life.

What have I been doing with my time?

Every writer must have read about Shakespeare writing King Lear during a plague year. I’m sure that it was meant to encourage us to focus on our writing instead of focusing on the havoc caused by Covid-19, the divisions manifested in the elections of 2020, I’m not sure it did.

During that plague year, Shakespeare wrote his 28th play– King Lear, one more of his masterpieces.

What was my writing? A couple of kids books, a couple of short stories, a screenplay adaption of one of those short stories, finished the first draft of a novel, further drafts of that novel, research for future novels–an ok output, certainly not the masterpieces Shakespeare produced during his downtime.

But then I never claimed to be in Shakespeare’s league, just one of those stars to shoot for.

Hope you are at least hanging in there.

Winter doldrums

Looks like I hit the winter doldrums. It is that time of year when a whistling pig dictates your mood–six of winters v spring in six weeks. The cure is activity. But with Covid restrictions and a polar vortex that seems to have come for a long visit, there really isn’t much to do outside.

There are telephone calls to, zoom meetings, Skype, FaceTime to help get us through, cable, Netflix, favorite movies to watch multiple times, and for real excitement there is the trip to the store. It is a perilous adventure during this pandemic.

First thing in planning an adventure is to make a list. Second is deciding on the appropriate attire–go with the everyday attire or wear something to commemorate this great adventure.

The drive, it’s winter–we should all be used to snow and ice by now…unless you are working virtually, then you are up that proverbial creek.

Al last you are at the store, you enter with mask on, and can’t find your list or your phone anywhere…damn, you hope you remember everything because this adventure only happens once a week.

Then the return to a cozy home and anticipate the next great adventure to a store…unless the polar vortex heads north, then there is the great outdoors.

Hope you are finding your cure for the winter doldrums.

Election Fraud

Thousands of people across this nation manned the polls during the November 2020 election. We did it despite not knowing the Covid-19 status of the people voting and the other volunteers who were working with us. We did it so our fellow citizens could exercise their right to vote. I resent the accusations of fraud and irregularities being carelessly thrown around. It isn’t so.

And as for dead people voting, my polling place is near a cemetery, not one of those people crawled out of their graves to vote. Not one floated through the open door and windows. Not one.

We had a good election and a fair election. Stop saying otherwise.

“the new normal”

“The new normal”–I hate that phrase.

The safety measures we are using during the covid-19 pandemic is not the new normal. It is what we do until treatments are found and vaccines are developed to fight against this disease.

The phase we are in is a transition to a new normal. What that normal has not been agreed on by us.

Do we have the grit to get through this transition time?

The time will come again when we can shake hands, hug, meet our loved ones, our neighbors, our friends.

Can we stay the course?

See you along the way.



6 feet

6 feet apart.

6 feet apart is the distance that gives our doctors and scientists the time and space to find treatments and vaccines that work against cover-19.

6 feet apart is the distance that we show respect, concern and love for the people who live in this world with us.

6 feet apart may keep you and your loved ones safe.

6 feet apart will not last forever, unless you are 6 feet under.

Stay safe, stay 6 feet apart…and wear a mask which covers your mouth and nose.

See you along the way.