The Spirit

This was written for my writers group which meets tomorrow in the new Berlin Library. The key word to use in anyway, shape or form was spirit.

I remember the Spirit. He had an underground home in a cemetery. Somehow, he was buried while still alive, supposedly killed by criminals. He escaped the grave and decided to fight crime anonymously. He wore a blue suit, a blue fedora and a small eye mask.

This was 1940. The Spirit first appeared as a Sunday supplement to the Sunday comic strips written and drawn by Will Eisner. It was not quite a comic book, it was more of a pamphlet with usually sixteen pages. Some of which were advertising and other comic strips

Dad would buy the Sunday paper at MacAllister’s Store on his way home from Church. It was either the Philadelphia Record or the Philadelphia Inquirer. Later it was in the Philadelphia Bulletin.

People of Worcester County were more attuned to Philadelphia than Baltimore. Whenever young men and women went to the city to find work, they went north to Philadelphia.

Lois, Dale and I would grab the funnies and sit at the round oak table. Most of my old favorites have bit the dust. Who remembers Smiling Jack or Tailspin Tommy? They were both pilots and flew the old double wingers. Terry and the Pirates was also about flying. If I remember correctly, it was set in Southeast Asia. We learned a little geography by reading the comics.

Wash Tubbs, Captain Easy and Dickie Dare were all about sailing the seven seas and finding adventure.

Flash Gordon was cruising the planets of the solar system and fighting Ming, the Merciless. Then he moved out into the galaxy with his girlfriend, Dale.

Nearly all the heroes had girlfriends almost as famous as the hero. The Shadow had Margo Lane. The Shadow stressed that “The weed of crime bears bitter fruit” and that “Crime does not pay” Alley Oop had Oola. Mandrake had Princess Narda. Dick Tracey had Tess and Moon Mullins had Miss Swivel. The Phantom has Diana and the strip is still running.

Red Ryder was the only cowboy comic strip that I remembered. His horse was Thunder and Little Beaver was his Indian companion. I would love to have a Red Ryder beebee gun.

Gene Autry Had his horse Champion. I don’t think he had a steady girlfriend. In films, he always won the fair maiden in the last reel. Roy Rogers had Trigger and a steady girlfriend in Dale Evans. Gene and Roy were more in comic books and not comic strips.

Bathless Groggins was another old comic strip. It started as Abbie and Slats. A young couple. Later Bathless emerged as the main character. Bathless always had little lines emanating from his body to show a strong odor.

Women were well represented in early comics. Lady Luck was also created by Will Eisner. She always wore a green dress, a green hat and a half vail. Like the Spirit, she was not a super hero with extraordinary powers. She and the Spirit were crime fighters and detectives. She appeared as a Sunday supplement in a small comic book format.

Ella Cinders comic strip was a take on Cinderella. Only Ella didn’t turn into a princess, she won a trip for a screen test in Hollywood. She and her brother go but find the studio in Hollywood has gone bankrupt. They stay and constantly try to break into the movies.

Dixie Dugan began in 1929 as a career girl. The strip varied from romance to comedy and crime fighting.

Brenda Starr, Reporter may be the only comic strip that was written and drawn by a woman. It started in 1940 and ran to 2011. Brenda exploits ranged from reporting, fashion and constant romance. She married and divorced in the strip. The creator and artist, Dale Messick, would draw cleavage and a navel. Editors at the time would erase.

I remember Little Annie Rooney and Little Orphan Annie. Orphan Annie came first. Annie Rooney came soon after as a copycat or knock-off. Both had dogs, Orphan Annie had Sandy and Annie Rooney had Zero. Both strips were highly successful. Running for a long time and making movies.

The Spirit had a lovely girlfriend. Ellen was the daughter of the city’s police commissioner. A little romance for the kids, but I don’t think she ever visited his home in the graveyard. Always the comic would show the Spirit leaving his home. His grave site, tombstone and all, would open upward and the Spirit would step out.

The Spirit also had a sidekick. A young black boy or man named Ebony White. There was also a flying car sometimes driven my Ebony.

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. (775)

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September story

Hansel and Rapunzel

Once upon a time, in a land far away

“Are you sure this is the right road?” She swatted at a cloud of gnats surrounding her head. “You said this is an enchanted forest. How come it has all these biting bugs and poisonous snakes?” She pushed a low branch from her face. “I’ve seen beer cans, coke bottles and hundreds of plastic wrappers. No real enchanted forest would put up with people littering like this.”

The young man stopped and pointed down the over-grown forest road. “It should be right around the next bend. Prettiest house you’ve ever seen.” A second later, he added, “That was a harmless garter snake back there. Wouldn’t hurt a flea.” He resumed walking toward the bend.

“It had a long forked tongue. You should have killed it.”

He was still shaking his head when he walked around the bend in the road. He pointed. “Here it is. The most beautiful house in the enchanted forest.”

She moved up beside him and folded her arms across her chest. “You got to be kidding. It’s ugly as sin, Look at it. It has broken windows, screen door off its hinges and shingles missing. We walked all the way in here to see this piece of trash.”

He was silent for ten seconds. He slowly nodded. “It is different. I remember it being beautiful with all the colors of a rainbow.”

The screen door was pushed aside. An old woman stepped out. “Who are you people? What do you want?” She walked a few steps out onto the porch. “Hansel, is that you?”

“Yep, it’s me, Esmeralda. Nice to see you again.”

“Is that Gretel? Looks like she has added a few pounds.”

The young woman pulled Hansel closer and whispered, “I don’t like this old hag. Let’s go back before she starts running her big mouth.”

“No, Esmeralda. This is my girlfriend, Rapunzel. She and I have come to the Enchanted Forest to visit you.”

The old woman took another step and leaned closer. “I remember Rapunzel. She was a nice looking little thing with beautiful long blonde hair.” She put her hand to her forehead to shade her eyes. “What happened to her?”

Rapunzel lowered her voice. “I’ve heard enough from this mouthy witch. Next, she’ll want to know why I sold my house.”

Hansel took his time answering. “Nothing happened. All of us are getting older and memories fade.”

“Why did you sell your place?” She waited a few seconds as Rapunzel studied her fingernails. “You started it all when you sold your home to a developer. Then Little Red Ridinghood sold out and moved to Vegas. Rumpelstiltskin swapped his land for a place in Florida.” She glared at Rapunzel. “It’s all your fault. Your tower is now a fake light house surrounded by a sea of ugly trailers and mobile homes. Disgusting.”

Rapunzel pulled harder on Hansel’s arm. “Let’s go. She’s lost it. She might be dangerous in her old age.”

Hansel didn’t move. “What happened here? Your house use to be so beautiful. The best in the Forest.”

She stepped off the porch and came closer to the two people. “I was doing alright for a while. The wolf, the ogre and the dragon were helping me some days. But then the EPA got involved. Then things went downhill in a handcart. The wolf, ogre and the dragon packed up and moved to Waco, Texas.”

Hansel shook his head. “What did the EPA have to do with you?”

The old witch wiped at a tear. “They came out here and condemned my home. They said I was polluting the forest. I tried to turn them into toads, but the condemnation had removed the enchantment. Nothing worked.”

Rapunzel whispered into Hansel’s ear. “The old biddy is over her head in the deep end of the pool. Let’s go before she turns violent. There’s nothing worse than a witch with an empty wand.”

Hansel ignored Rapunzel, “How did the Environmental Protection Agency say you were polluting. You weren’t growing anything, were you?”

“No, no. They said I was sugar polluting. Children, birds and other animals were eating my gingerbread house, the sugar plums, the M&M’s, the candy bars and crème pies. They said I was detrimental to the neighborhood. The obesity in the children was my fault. The increase in diabetes was my fault. They even blamed me for the birds being too fat to fly.” She stopped and studied Rapunzel for a few seconds. “Didn’t I see you nibbling on the corner of my house last year.”

“Can’t you shut the old fool up. They should have condemned her too.”

Hansel nodded toward the house. “What happened to it? It used to be so beautiful.” He paused a moment, “and tasty.”

She wiped another tear. “The condemnation removed all the enchantment in the forest including my home. My home reverted back to what it was two hundred years ago. The Ogre’s castle became a log cabin. Red Ridinghood was living in a cave. Poor Snow White was living with those horrid dwarves in a hole in the ground. I could just cry.”

The screen door swung open again. A young woman stepped out. Her skin was dappled in reds, browns and yellows. All the colors of autumn leaves. Her hair was green with evergreen leaves. Pine needles and holly leaves with thorns were woven into her curls.

“Aunt Esmeralda, who are these people?” She frowned at Rapunzel. “Is she-,” the girl started over. “Are they harassing you?”

Rapunzel pulled Hansel closer and barely whispered. “I don’t like her. She looks as crazy as her aunt. We should have left five minutes ago.”

Esmeralda waved at the girl. “Come here, GreenHester. I want you to meet an old friend Hansel and his friend.”

Leaves fell as GreenHester took a few steps. Green moss fell from her hair. A green tree lizard was perched on her shoulder. “He’s kind of cute for a town boy.” She stared at Rapunzel. “Who is she? I think I’ve seen her before. I can’t quite place her but I think she’s put on a few pounds.”

Rapunzel pulled hard on Hansel and whispered angrily. “That does it. I heard enough insults for one day. One is an ugly old witch, the other is an ugly young witch.”

Esmeralda ignored Rapunzel and talked to Hansel. “GreenHester is my favorite niece. She is a wood nymph. Her home was a huge red oak tree. The largest tree in the Enchanted Forest. Its crown nearly covered an acre. It produced a millions sweet acorns.”

Hansel watched the lizard disappear behind GreenHester’s ear. “You said was her home. What happened?”

“I don’t want to hear any sob stories from dumb witches. Let’s go right now.” Rapunzel backed up a step but kept her hand on Hansel’s shirt tail.

“Men came in the forest with a big loud chain saw. They sawed it down in the morning and pulled it away with a tractor. Then came a huge yellow caterpillar and dug up the stump. By nightfall, it was a small empty field.”

Pine needles and oak leaves fell around GreenHester’s feet. “My home. It was gone in a days time. All because someone sold their part of the Enchanted Forest to Dudley Developer.”

Hansel turned around. Rapunzel was running down the road.

Esmeralda took Hansel’s hand. “Come inside for old times sake and have some fresh gingerbread and sassafras tea with sweet GreenHester. You have a lot to talk about.” 1260

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Written for the First Saturday Writers, led by Liz Paterra

We grew corn. I don’t know the variety. It was just field corn as compared to sugar corn and pop corn. It was probably 95% yellow, 4% red and less than 1% would be multicolored.

Back when Mom and Dad bought the farm in 1910, corn was the only crop along with a huge garden. There was no place to take tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Plus they didn’t have a truck. No farmer had ever heard of soy beans.

Hominy was a major food for poor farmers. It is made from field corn and it is a long process to make it fit to eat. My mother said she made it only one time when she was a young girl. In the Southwest it is still a staple. Supermarkets have pallets of hominy in gallon cans.

Agricultural colleges had determined that it took one-third of what the farm produced to maintain the animals that made farming possible. We always had two mules, sometimes a horse and usually one cow. Always a yard full of chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese and guineas.

In the 1930’s we built a chicken house and began raising chickens commercially. Maybe raising a thousand at a time. They all needed shelled corn. We ended up raising fifteen thousand at a time, four broods a year.

Some farmers used their excess corn to make whiskey. I know Mom and Dad never made any corn whiskey, but their son did. He had a small still as far back in the woods as possible. Years later, he was always making wine; strawberry, grape, pear or apple. One summer, a friend in the produce section at the Acme Store gave him a lot of over-ripe fruit; bananas, oranges, apples, pears and so-on. He mashed it all up in a wooden barrel, threw in some dandelions and raisins. The raisins were to provide a natural occurring yeast.

The barrel sat in his yard all summer, covered with a piece of cloth to keep out flies and bees. The fermenting smell attracted bees from miles around. The end product was a strong yellow wine. Everyone loved his dandelion wine.

We used a lot of the corn plant. The younger children stripped the blades off, made a bundle, let it dry for a week or two hanging from a stalk. Then it was stored in the barn loft for winter fodder. My older brothers cut off the entire top above the ear. This also was dried and stored in the loft.

Near the house, we cut down the entire plant at the roots. These were arranged in a shock which you see on Halloween. The whole corn stalk was thrown into the pasture for the mules and cow.

The pre-WW11 corn plant was small and producing one small ear of corn. The farmer would be lucky to get forty bushels per acre. Both were getting larger through selective planting. When Spring came around, Dad would root through the corn crib, picking out the biggest ears. Mostly yellow with an occasional red ear. Kernels on both ends were shelled off for the chickens, leaving only nice, big healthy kernels to plant.

The field was ready. Dad had plowed the entire farm with a single plow pulled by two mules, walking behind the plow every step of the way. Next, the two mules pulled a drag over the field to smooth the ridges made by the plow.

During the early years of the farm, Dad used a one-row planter that was pulled by a single mule. Plant across the field and back, one kernel every ten inches. Then re-fill the corn and fertilizer hoppers or containers. Repeat the process over and over until you reached the end of the field.

The corn plant has both sexes. The tassel at the top is the male part and produces millions of pollen grains. The ear is the female part with each silk going to an egg cell that will become one kernel. If there was no wind during the time frame when the pollen was released, the corn may be largely self-pollinated.

If there was a nice breeze, the pollen would be blown all over the field and the corn would be mostly cross-pollinated. For this reason, sugar corn and pop corn were grown as far as possible from the field corn.

Dad would have a hundred foot wide strip of the field devoted to garden plants. There would be tomato patch, a watermelon patch, a cantaloupe patch and so on.

Dad planted an early variety of sugar corn first. Since he was huckstering in Ocean City he wanted sugar corn by the Fourth of July. Sugar corn seeds are sold by how long it takes to mature and be ready to eat. Ninety-day corn is the average.

The first planting would be an eighty-five day variety. Corn is actually a grass and can stand some cold temperatures. What would kill a tomato or a pepper plant will only slow up a corn plant, especially a variety bred for cold weather. The ripe sugar corn would only last about two weeks before it became too mature and hard to eat.

Dad planted sugar corn in two week intervals. This would give him fresh corn right up to Labor day. The old sugar corn was pulled and fed to the hogs.

Country Gentleman and Stowell’s Evergreen were the two varieties of sugar corn that we planted. The Country Gentleman kernels are not in rows. The kernels are scattered haphazardly on the ear.

Pop corn was planted last and in an isolated area. We didn’t want it to cross-pollinate with anything.

Up to and including World War11, we planted seeds from the previous year’s crop.

Then hybrid corn came to the farm. The new ear was larger and had more kernels. Some plants produced two ears of corn. Some matured faster. We had DeKalb, Pioneer and Funks to chose from.

My brother was the first farmer in Worcester County to grow a hundred bushels per acre on a selected acre around 1950. It was a small field that had been heavily manured and fertilized.

Henry Wallace was an early pioneer in hybrid usage and promotion. He was vice-president in 1940 under Franklin Roosevelt. He was booted off the ticket in 1944 in backroom skulduggery. Harry Truman was nominated instead.

In the late 1940’s we bought our first mechanical corn picker. It was towed by the tractor and picked one row. No engine, it operated off of the tractor’s PTO. (Power Take Off is a splined shaft protruding from the tractor’s rear end. Ford had over fifty implements that would attach to the PTO and the three-point-hitch. Other tractors also had a pulley coming off the side of the engine.) It shucked the corn and a conveyor belt dropped the corn into a wagon attached to the picker. When the wagon was full, it was taken to the corn crib and tossed in.

Even with a one-row mechanical corn picker, it took a month or more to pick fifty acres. Excessive rain or a strong wind would blow the stalk over making it impossible for the corn picker to get it. A hurricane was a disaster.

The corn picker missed a lot of ears. Ears that had fallen or broke off in the process of being picked. People would ask the owner to pick up this corn for half.

Today the farmer has a self-propelled eight row corn harvester that also shells the corn. It is sold that same day to a feed mill. It is harvested around Labor Day and picks 99% of the corn.

Now it is illegal to save and plant last year’s seeds. Monsanto owns the patent for the hybrid seed and will sue you in a heartbeat.

1300 7/14/18

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REA came to the Farm 6/2/18

Sometime in 1942 or 43 the Rural Electrification Administration decided to electrify Taylorville and bring electricity to the farm. Before that we had kerosene lamps. A few nickel lamps. They were made from a nickel alloy and wouldn’t rust. Three or four glass-body lamps and one Aladdin Lamp. The Aladdin lamp had a different wick called a mantle and put out three or four times as much light.

We didn’t use the lamps very much in the summer. Usually by dark, we were all in bed. Also it was hot enough in July and August without adding the heat from a lamp. I remember my brother lighting a cigarette using the kerosene lamp. He would lean over the lamp, cigarette in his mouth, place the tip of the cigarette over the rim of the glass chimney and puff. In a few seconds, his cigarette was lit.

In the winter the Aladdin lamp was placed on a round oak table in the sitting room. We would sit around the lamp and do our homework. Sometimes we would play old maid, fish, Chinese checkers or Parcheesi. We still went to bed relatively early. No lamps in our bedrooms. We would accidentally knock it over and burn the house down.

The old farmhouse had to be wired. Calvin Smack was a local man and electrician. He got the job.

Old houses were built different than houses of today. Today, the carpenter lays the floor joists and nails four by eight sheets of plywood to make a sub-floor. Then the walls are framed in with two by four studs and nailed to the sub-floor. Not a single hole in the floor. It is very hard for small animals to enter.

In an old home, the carpenter laid the floor joists and then nailed the wall studs to the joist. Then the sub-floor was laid. This made a hole or passage-way from under the house to the attic. All sorts of animals would crawl up these spaces; mice, rats, snakes and cats. When old homes caught fire, the flames raced up the inside walls. Each passage-way acting like a small chimney. No fire-stops were ever added.

Real old homes were wired with single wires, called knob and tube wiring. Our farm house was wired with two wires wrapped in plastic with a tough outer paper layer. One electrician was under the house, the other was on his hands and knees sawing a hole in the mold-board the size of an electrical box.

The receptacles were not put into the walls if possible. The walls were lathes and plaster with horsehair. The horse hair helped hold the plaster together. It was practically impossible to saw a hole without breaking the plaster loose.

To do the second floor, a wire was pulled up through one of the passage ways and on up into the attic.

Switches usually had to be put into the walls. You see a lot of re-plastering around switches in old homes.

All holes were drilled by hand using a brace and bit. All cut-outs done with a key hole saw.

Our farm house had three wires coming in from the transformer. Two hot wires and one neutral or ground wire. We had 220 volts with a 40 amp service. The house had four circuits with four screw-in fuses. The circuit box was outside on the porch. Some smaller farm houses only had a two wire service. 110 volts and two circuits.

The farm house was wired. We waited a few days for Choptank Electric to inspect the lines and to turn on the electricity.

Mom had bought floor lamps, table lamps and best of all, lamps that hung on the headboard of our beds. We could lie in bed at night and read as long as we wished.

Dad bought a piston type water pump. He and the older boys drove a new well and began running water pipes all over the yard. The hand pump in the pantry was replaced. They replaced the hand pump where the cow was watered. Replaced the hand pump in the chicken house and the hand pump a hundred yards away at the hog pen. We didn’t need a plumber. Anyone could dig a trench and screw pipes together.

With running water, Mom decided it was time to re-model the kitchen. She hired her uncle, Dennard Quillen, an excellent carpenter. The wood stove was thrown out, replaced with a propane cook stove. He built kitchen cabinets, a counter-top, installed a sink and a hot water heater. The wooden icebox was discarded and put in the barn. We had an electric refrigerator.

A new electric washing machine was installed in the pantry. The old washer with a Briggs & Stratton gasoline engine was thrown away.

We installed an electric fence around the cow pasture and hog pen. So much easier than a wooden or barb wire fence. It was only one strand of wire. The charger or controller was attached to the wall in the parlor. It sent out a pulse every two seconds. We baited the fence with a few ears of corn. Once the cow touched the wire with her wet nose or tongue she would get a hefty jolt. After two or three jolts, she wouldn’t get within three feet of he wire.

The Taylorville Church and the two room school house were wired. Now the Church could have festivals, suppers and hold revival meeting during the winter evenings.

We had indoor plumbing but no indoor bathroom. That was at least two years away. Brother Irving fixed us up with an outdoor shower complete with hot water. He put a fifty gallon water tank on the roof of the corn crib. He ran a water pipe to it, hooked up the necessary hot and cold controls and we were ready to take a shower. Only in the summer time. After a day in July and August, the water was scalding hot. If the early people were quick and stingy with the hot water, five of us could take showers before the hot water ran out. 1025 6/13/18

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I published my collection of short stories yesterday with Amazon/kindle. The whole process only took about an hour.

It is “Sex on a Distant Planet.” Sub-title is “Probed Again.” For the time being it is only available as an e-book at 99 cents on Amazon.

Keep on Reading and Writing


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Eastern Shore Memories

Yo gang

I think I was successful in uploading the manuscript and creating a paperback. (Eastern Shoe Memories) It is 6 by 9 inches, 231 pages and 88,000 words.

Amazon said it will be available in 72 hours. I set the minimum price at $6.04. Amazon said it costs $3.62 to print and make the book. Everything is free.

It is still available as an e-book at 99 cents.

Hot today at 77 @ 11.

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eastern Shore Memories

These are my articles and short stories that I published recently on Amazon as an e-book. Later, I hope to also publish as a paperback.

Eastern Shore Memories

Table of Contents

Taylorville and the War 5

Huckstering in Ocean City-Tomatoes three for a Dime 8

Spring in the 1930’s 11

Hog Killing Day 17

Life on the Lynch Farm During the Winter of 1939 23

Fish Pounds, Permanent nets in the Ocean 25

Building a Lapstrake/clinker Built Yacht 28

A Farm boy goes to College 31

A Taylorville Christmas 36

The big Red Steel PT Boat 38

Dale 42

Earth Day, A Trip to Assateague 44

Laid By 48

Thanksgiving at the farm 53

The Taylorville Church 54

A July Evening 57

Yearly Menu Around 1940 59

Ned France, A Berlin Icon 63

Tomato 65

My First Novel 68

Dad Captures a Swarm of bees 69

Our First Tractor 70

Visit to the Dover Livestock Auction 72

Fiction from here on out 75

Adder, A new beginning 75

Mrs. Pine and the CIA 80

Ancient Love: trouble with two women 88

Baghdad Café: close call with a scimitar 90

Borneo: sexual habits of the head-hunters 93

Cell Phone: one in the casket 95

Cosmic Egg: a new creation theory 97

Dreams: semi-true story about my parents and grandfather 107

The Feng Shui Woman: something has to go 112

Frogs, Kisses and Gin: old friends at a sidewalk cafe 120

Gospel Cafe: mistaken identity 123

Lightning Strike: aka Big Boob Blonde Bimbo 125

Revival Meeting: a newly saved man is accused of rape 134

Assateague Rum Runners: semi-true 150

Splash: his ex-wife made a better martini 155

Time: a new theory on how time behaves 158

The Cyclic Extinction of Life: theory of the missing dinosaurs 160

Tombstone Cleaning: boy wants to give excitement to the dead 162

A Classic Pickup Line: side effects of the IQ virus 166

Singing Fool: wounded soldier in Afghanistan 167

Volunteering for the First Saturday Writers 174

Tomato Plants: woman wanted heirlooms, not hybrids 178

Undersecretary: crazy people running our country 181

Dementia: three words to remember 197

Turkey Trot: a classic spy story 202

Panties: the panty bandit is at it again 207

About the Author: a good old Taylorville boy 219

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