Let us put by some hour of every day for holy things...

I will not doubt, though all my ships at sea
Come drifting home with broken masts and sails.
I will believe the Hand which never fails,
From seeming evil, worketh good for me.
And though I weep because those sails are tattered,
Still will I cry, while my best hopes lie shattered:
I trust in Thee.
--Ann Kimmel

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labor of the olive shall fail and the fields shall yield no meat, the flock shall be cut off from the fold and there shall be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:17-18

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Farm Dog

Not All Heroes Are Human

     He was only a dog, just a plain ordinary dog. He had no pedigree, no papers, he was just a dog. Big and homely, his black and tan hide full of fleas, the lazy hound would never have won a beauty contest, but to his owners, he did not need a handsome appearance to win his way into their hearts.

     We saw him for the first time fourteen years ago on a Sunday afternoon, full-grown, lost, lonesome, and hungry. Several of the hogs had managed to escape for their sty, and our ancient collie, Elmer, despite his stiff muscles and aching joints, was trying to herd them back. In spite of our efforts, one or two of them eluded recapture, for old Elmer could not move swiftly enough to do the job. It was then the dog appeared, seeming to have sprung out of nowhere, and proceeded to herd the remaining livestock into their pen for us. He seemed to know from the start what he ought to do, and in no time had completed his task. Of course, we thought the collie, as usual, would send the stray packing, for he never allowed another animal on the farm. To our surprise, he made no hostile moves against the dog, but permitted him to stay. To this day, I think the old fellow knew a good thing when he saw it, for the stray stayed on the farm for fourteen more years.

     If an animal can think, this one did. What uncanny sixth sense told him to aid in rounding up the straying hogs? He seemed to grasp the situation at once, choosing to help, and asking nothing in return. As a result of his actions, the dog won for himself a good home, and all the love he wanted. We named him Harry, gave him a home for life, and never regretted the impulse. Harry, in return, faithfully guarded our livestock, people, and home, and, becoming loyal to his benefactors, was a family pet. He considered himself an important addition to the farm, and decided to make himself at home for life. If we had any qualms about his presence, they were forgotten when the loss of chickens by theft fell to nil from the one time high total of over one hundred at a time. Also, in several weeks, we did not worry about the loss of gasoline from the tank where it was kept for use in the tractor, for Harry kept watch.

     A great many lessons had to be learned by the stray, and it was really amusing to watch the old collie teach him right from wrong. For instance, there was the little matter of chickens. Harry,  no more than a pup, liked the questionable sport of chicken chasing, though I doubt he would know what to do with one if he caught it. Old Elmer, however, soon cured him of that by biting the dog whenever he started out after a chicken. From then on, however, Harry permitted no one to chase the hens, not even one of us. He had to be penned up on the back porch until the chicken was caught, or it would not be safe for the offending party.

     From the day he arrived, it became apparent that Harry loved the presence of children, for he romped in the yard with the younger ones, or roamed  the farm with older children. No man could spank a child when Harry was near, for he would simply place his mouth around the person's arm and growl, and, usually, the child was spared his whipping, at least until he could be gotten inside. He stopped more than one of my brothers and sisters from administering discipline to a child, and the youngsters knew they could count on Harry. 

    One by one they left the farm, and Harry decided he was my mother's dog, following her about the yard, or as she worked in the garden. In the evening he sat by her chair, receiving her caresses as if they were pure gold. When we had to be away for a short time, we always knew Harry would keep her safe. When she walked outside, Harry was there, wagging the long black tail he had situated there like it was a fan. If, as she patted his big, brown head, her hands, tiring, would stop, he gently pushed a wet nose under her hands, begging for more.

     He never allowed a stranger in the yard when she was alone, even, at times refusing to admit a neighbor. Sometimes a sharp word from one of us would suffice to stop him from attacking any stranger who came, but other times we had to hold him. Even my nieces and nephews held the big fellow,but woe be it to the stranger who tried to follow suit. It was somewhat unbelievable to see a small child holding the big dog and warning someone that he was dangerous and would bite. Once we let someone into the house, Harry ignored him, but, if the man happened to stop by again some other time, Harry did not great him any different than the first time. Harry knew who was a neighbor, who  had no business being there, and who he should admit.

     The years rolled by, and old Elmer died, leaving only Harry, who developed into quite a notorious character. He was well known in all of Preble County, Ohio (where our farm was located), in Indiana, Kentucky, and other states. Admired by some, hataed by many, and feared by the local population of thieves, Harry's fame kept many persons from attempting to trespass. Several people offered to buy him for use as a watchdog, but, of course, he was not for sale. Despite large amounts of cash which were offered, we could not give up the dog, for he not only was a good watchdog, he also was a family pet.

     All the pay he ever wanted was a place to lie his head at night, good meals, and a little love. In return, he was the perfect watchdog, keeping every inch of soil safe from prowlers, tramps, etc. He never forgot one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how far away they moved or how long since he had seen them. Even after he grew old, hard of hearing, and partly blind, he guarded the farm as best he was able, and I know we will never be able to fully appreciate what he did for us.

     When my mother passed away, Harry lay on the porch, not making a sound until someone came to him. Old then, and not able to see as well, he decided he was my father's dog, and guarded him as he had my mother. He was as safe in the yard alone as mother had been, and we knew Harry was on the job. 

     When part of our farm was used for a highway, Harry was an old dog, but he did not leave my father's side while the workmen were there. Though he did,  after a while, make friends with one of the men, Harry still remained wary of letting any of them in. After the highway was finished, our lane, which had been used as a transportation link between the back roads and the new highway, was a shortcut from the highway. People used it with or without permission, observed no speed limits, and ignored no-trespassing signs. Harry would snap at the wheels in an effort to fend them off, but he was frustrated in any further results, for most of them ignored any attempts to stop them.

     Shortly after the highway was completed, my father passed on I moved to town, and the farm stood empty. For some weeks afterward, all went well. My brother took Harry's food to him twice daily, and the dog had the entire run of the farm. As to his worth as a watchdog, we found that, though he was alone Harry still guarded the farm. One neighbor reported that Harry had chased him from the yard when he came to check on things. Another, who had been told to help himself to as many of the pears as he wanted, said that Harry did not let him out of the car.

     Things went along fine for some weeks afterward; then, one day my brother brought Harry's food to him, as usual, but the dog did not meet them at the gate. Worried, the searched for him, finding Harry on the porch, injured. His leg was smashed! Tracks in the lane revealed that a strange episode had taken place. A car, running some fancy curves, had evidently tried to run down the old dog. Taking him to the veterinary, the dog made little sound, for his leg was quite painful. When my brother arrived, the veterinarian said it was too late: Harry, fifteen years old, was too old to recover from his wounds. He was put to sleep, and would suffer no more.

     I only hope the person(s) who committed such a cowardly action know what they have done and repent. Why any man would deliberately destroy such an animal who never harmed anyone, is beyond me. Harry had always liked children and old people, and refused to harm them or let them be hurt by anyone. Tje man who did that must be a warped individual to let Harry be so badly wounded.

     Yes, he was only a dog, just a plain, ordinary dog. We could not claim him as anything else. He was a stray, with no particular pedigree or sign of any recognized breed. Although we had no idea of the ancestry of the dog, he did not need a long pedigree to win his way into our hearts. Harry was a friend of children, loyal to his benefactors, and protectors of my mother and father. He protected livestock, guarded property, watched over my mother and father, and won his way to our hearts. Many humans would be happier people, with more friends, if they were as grateful to those who help them.

     The farm is occupied by another family now, and Harry no longer roams the land, but somehow I feel that, if I do return some day, he will come bounding up to meet me as he used to do. I do know that none of us will ever be able to add the things he did for us, and never be able to repay him. As I said, not all heroes are of the human variety, and I believe that dog proved my words.

--Margaret House, R. N.
Camden, Ohio

Note: The above photos of farm dogs and their owners were found on Pinterest, a rich source of fascinating vintage snapshots. This account was written by my husband's aunt, and was found among her papers long after her death. I'm happy to say a photo of the actual Harry was just sent to me so I could add it to this post. This is Harry and my brother-in-law in the early 1950's. 

Harry, the coon hound, and my brother-in-law, circa 1953; Camden, Ohio.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Depths of My Depravity: The Flowers

Youthful disdain has a way of biting you in the backside as you grow older. When I think of all the things I mocked and sneered at in my teen and early adult years, and which I now avidly seek and long for, it's a humiliatingly long list.

For example, if you had told me in the mid-seventies that one day the sight of a mid-century kitchen dinette set would put me into a gibbering swoon, I'd have rolled my eyes and written you off as a complete crackpot. 

Melamine dishes? Yeah, right. And then one day I came around a corner in a local antique shop and beheld the very same set of pink Melmac dishes my mom used to have (acquired with Green Stamps, if you know what those were) and it was as though Cupid had shot his arrow straight into my rapidly fluttering heart.

There were no holds barred after this--I grabbed up every piece of aging pastel plastic I could lay my hands on.

We don't call our place "Melmac Paradise" for nothing!

Gravel art? Paint-by-number art? Don't get me started! Yeah, I've got it. In spades.

But nowhere are the real depths of my kitsch-loving depravity laid quite so bare as in the maniacal acquisition of mid-century artificial flowers. Plastic flowers, to be precise. 

When I think of the withering scorn these hated hokey horrors used to elicit, and my present doting fondness for them, I can only shake my head and wonder: What was I thinking not to have been converted to them sooner???!!!!  I LOVE this stuff!

Plastic mid-century flowers, some sold, some still available at SheerTrashRoadshow.etsy.com
I'm not sure when the transition occurred. I grew up across the road from a cemetery where I saw plastic flowers (and despised them) on a daily basis, so maybe it's a nostalgia thing. 
Graves adorned with plastic flowers were de rigueur in the 1960's. Most of them didn't look this good!

Or maybe it's because here in my little nook in the Pacific Northwest, if it weren't for fake flowers I'd rarely see anything in bloom. But whatever the reason, I've gone full circle and now clutch these things to my beating heart whenever I'm lucky enough to find them, which is not as often as you might think, by the way!

It's only been in the last couple of months that I've started listing some of my overflow for sale in my Etsy shop, and I've been amazed at how much of it has sold. Apparently I'm not the only tasteless clod! Seriously, these things are selling like proverbial hotcakes. 

I've managed to reduce my hoard by about half, but further than this I don't know if I care to go. I'm clinging tenaciously to my favorites, most of which are orange, yellow, or blue.

Here are two views of my biggest, boldest plastic flowers--poppies! They're massive, each blossom being about 9 inches across. I've got five or six of these orange ones, and somewhere around here I have a couple of white ones as well. It was a red-letter day when I found these at a thrift shop.

Size isn't everything, though. These petite yellow roses, mums, and orange marigolds are very special, also. I was particularly jazzed to find the marigolds--the only ones I've ever come across.

This bunch of peach and orange blossoms is waiting patiently on my mantle, until I can figure out what exactly I'm going to do with them. I found them jammed into an ugly piece of aging floral foam and arrayed in a hideous basket, sitting forlornly and unwanted amongst the freebies at a garage sale. They were grimy and dusty, but I could see their potential so I nabbed them. Once home I ripped them from the ugly green foam and gave them a sudsy soaking in my kitchen sink. Now they look marvelous! (Well, I think so, anyway.)

Now while orange is my passion, this mixed posy of blue plastic flowers is delightful, too. Look at those little blue bachelor's buttons top and center! Cute as cute can be.

Here we have orange, yellow, and blue plastic flowers together. I love this little arrangement!

Now these are some of the most unusual of my fake flowers--chrysanthemums in rare hues of green and turquoise. I may list them; I may not. Time alone will tell.

Another plastic flower wonder of mine was found in a garage sale free box--or rather, placed right beside the free box. I clutched it to my beating bosom with rapture and exclamations of joy that truly startled and alarmed the seller, but--oh well! Not my fault if someone doesn't recognize the desirability of their junk.

I love my freebie footstool!
This inflatable wonder is what's known as a "terrarium ottoman". And since I'm not about to let go of mine, here's one available from another Etsy seller (just in case you're in a swoon of envy):


Now, my most serious breach of self-respect came at an estate sale this past summer. Hidden in the corner of a dark garage, up on a shelf and nearly out of sight, was the most disgustingly dirty and cobweb-covered plastic pot imaginable. Drooping dejectedly over the side were three grubby plastic chains and a bevy of bedraggled, nasty-looking plastic blossoms. Even my stalwart junking buddy, Claudia, was aghast when I fished it out and proposed buying it. Why it hadn't been hurled into a landfill decades ago is anyone's guess, but I decided it was worth trying to salvage.

I shamefacedly purchased it for twenty-five cents or so (actually I should have insisted the seller pay me to take it, but I was already too embarrassed to consider doing any haggling.) Once I had it home I stashed it on the back porch for several days, being too mortified to face what I'd brought home. But eventually I steeled myself to the disgusting task and proceeded to soak and gently scrub it.

In retrospect, I should have taken a photo of it in its original gruesome state, but somehow I couldn't face the prospect of so graphically revealing the depths of my collecting depravity. I know you want to see how it turned out...  Here I happily unveil it.

No, the basket isn't still dirty; this is the original "antiqued" contrast color.

Voila! It's now one of my very favorite plastic pieces. Love the lovely blush-pink roses cascading over the sides.

All right. I've laid bare my soul. Feel free now to share your own eccentricity. I won't snicker--too much! I promise.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

An Ill Wind

 'Tis an ill wind that blows no one good.

It's been an edgy week here in southwest Washington, as our record-breaking dry conditions have finally culminated in raging brush and forest fires throughout the region. My little neck of the woods is not directly threatened at this point, but everyone is walking on proverbial eggshells, knowing the smallest spark could set off a conflagration. 

Over 100 years ago, this area was the scene of a devastating fire that destroyed over 200,000 acres of timber and took 38 lives, the "Yacolt Burn" of 1902 (http://www.historylink.org/File/5196). It was, in fact, the largest recorded forest fire in Washington state's history, and the scars of that destruction are still visible today, and though most of the evidence is mouldering away and grown over, we residents are wary that it could easily happen again.

So far, we've been spared anything more troubling than fine ash sifting down from weirdly yellow skies, an eerie blood-orange sun, and the omnipresent haze and smell of wood smoke, driven by east winds up the Columbia River Gorge and funneling into our valley. 

But yesterday, something unexpected and wonderful happened as a result of this upheaval: I had a garden visitor.

This is the first monarch butterfly I've seen in this part of the country, and I've lived here since the mid-seventies. My husband (the amateur naturalist) saw it first, and came in with some excitement to report what he'd seen. I dashed right out, and sure enough--a monarch, dining daintily among the zinnias, gloriosa daisies, and calendulas. Wonder of wonders!

It's been hanging out here today, as well, and I managed to capture a few photos, though it seems a bit leery of my getting too close. While there's no way of knowing for sure, we can think of no other explanation than that this pretty creature was blown here by the east wind, made more powerful than usual from the intense thermal activity of the fires in the eastern part of the state. 

This photo gives you some idea how dry it is here--that's my lawn in the background--
or what's left of it after three months with virtually no rain.
I was excited about the sighting and made the mistake of sharing the info on a local chat site, eliciting a variety of condescending remarks intended to set me straight on the matter of a monarch's rarity in this region. Apparently my remark struck most of the folks who read it as though it was the babbling of the village idiot. I even received a photo to prove my ignorance:

I was compelled to point out that this, though a beautiful butterfly indeed, was not a monarch but a swallowtail, and that if anyone was seeing monarchs, it was a fluke as we have no milkweed plants here for them to lay their eggs on. There was a noticeable drop in the online sniggering after that.

Today, my husband did some research and found an intriguing article about a Portland, Oregon woman who planted milkweed plants in the hopes of luring monarchs to the area. Maybe I got one of her hatchlings!



If you're interested in helping monarch butterflies increase in numbers, you can purchase milkweed pods/seeds from this (and other) Etsy sellers:


Tuesday, August 1, 2017


Last week on facebook I posted a series of photo examples* of the many miserable monkey-themed torments which were routinely inflicted upon Baby Boomer-era kids. It's one of my theories as to why the world is the way it is today. It's difficult to undo that kind of psychological trauma and its long-term ramifications.

But worse, far worse, than the monkey madness was the damage wreaked by the diabolical child abuse torture known as clown cruelty. I can only surmise that, having endured the physical and emotional scars of World War II, our post-war parents unwittingly sought to dilute their own pain by deflecting some of it off on their offspring. It was a case of being born at the wrong time.

This insidious practice typically began in infancy.

There were clown baby bottles. So much more nurturing than a silly old-fashioned mother.

Crib blankets and nursery decor were rife with the hideous creatures.

There were clown rattles to hang in the crib. (Choking on one of the small parts was the only option to limit one's exposure.) 


Sinister floppy clown toys were designed to leer alarmingly at baby during naptime. These were typically produced by the dozens for church and school bazaars by seemingly sweet grandmotherly types whose intentions remain unclear.

Even the nightlights and nursery lamps were clown-themed. (You'll notice how many of us are still afraid of the dark.)

But the torture didn't end in infancy.

Once we were on solid food, we ate with clowns.

Clown cereal for breakfast...

Served to us in clown dishes...

With, to keep us company in our high chair, yet another clown.

After breakfast, we were plopped in front of the television to watch the morning spate of kiddie programs.

From Romper Room...

...to Howdy Doody...
..to that nadir of ghastly boredom and grotesque dreariness, Bozo the Clown.

We kiddos were understandably cranky by that time, so Mom lulled us into an uneasy afternoon sleep by reading to us. About clowns.


When we awoke, we were patted on the head and encouraged to play.

With clowns.





Eventually, we were freed from our cocoon of clowndom and launched into the larger world of school. But even then, we were not quite free.

From the rude jolt of the clown alarm clock...

...to the lunchroom barrage of clown lunchboxes and thermoses...

...in lesson time and art class alike, we had clowns.

And then, when we finally returned home...

We got our afternoon snack: milk and cookies. Cookies--from a clown jar.

And for a special treat, we might be taken out in the evening for an exciting supper of hamburger and fries. 

Promoted  by a clown.

Needless to say, many of us baby boomers became raging alcoholics, forever attempting to escape the surreal images of our twisted childhood memories. Alas, I fear it is a forlorn hope.


So just hand over the obnoxious creepy chocolate dude and no one gets hurt.