Major Mitchell


Major's Blog

When the Storm Passes

The good news from California is that it isn’t raining today. That’s an odd thing to be saying about the state I’ve lived in all my life. As a child, I can remember honestly praying that it would rain, and being disappointed when it didn’t. On the few instances when it did, the first thing my two sisters closest to my age and I would do was  run to the street to play in the mud. We didn’t have a concrete curb and gutter or blacktop at that time, but we had plenty of mud. I’m sure our mother really loved doing our laundry. More rain is predicted for tomorrow and Saturday.

But such is life when you grow up in the Borrego Desert of California. While it is now known as one of America’s great farming areas, it once was known as a hot, waterless wasteland, only fit for rattlesnakes and lizards. The summer heat will rise to a hundred degrees by 12:00 noon, and keep climbing until around 4:00 p.m. In the middle of the summer, those who have air conditioners keep their doors and windows closed to keep the heat out. The rest just suffer.

Over the years we moved several times, until landing in Oakdale. It didn’t settle into my brain that I had moved to an identical place to where I had been raised. Of course there are a few differences. The San Juaquin Valley where I live has several rivers carrying fresh water, and is covered with wild grass and oak trees. The Imperial Valley had only two rivers, New River and the Alamo River, that carry sewage from Mexicali and are better left alone. Both of these rivers are fairly new bodies of water, having been created by a flood in 1905 when the Colorado River breached its banks in Arizona and rushed toward the lowest point, which happened to be the Salton Sea. But that’s another story for a different time.

Back to why no rain is good news for California today. We had some substantial rain, followed by an entire week of rain, followed by a dry day, and then followed by two more rainy days. The experts tell us to hang on, because we will have two more days of rain beginning on Friday. That’s both good and bad. It is good for the cattle and some farmers, but bad for the nut farmers and citrus growers. It all depends on who you are talking to at the moment. Sort of like politics. So, I’ve decided, at least for today, I’ll sit here in my recliner with a hot cup of coffee and watch a good western on T.V. and thank God I’m not out in the cold rain. God bless.


Take a Break

I’m sure that most of us have heard, and more than likely repeated, the old axiom I’m having one of those days. We instantly know what the speaker means when we hear someone repeat those words. We have all experienced a day where nothing seems to go the way we had planned it, and certainly not how we wanted things to turn out. We climb into the driver’s seat early in the morning, planning on going to work, only to discover the car won’t start. Okay, it sounds like the battery is low. We simply call our spouse, if they are available, or a friend, asking for a jump start. When the battery cables are connected, we discover the battery is fine. It’s the starter that isn’t working. What next? You call work and tell them you’re going to be a little late. How late? Who knows? You’ll do your best…maybe an hour or two.

Now, you are faced with a different problem. You can call a tow truck to take your car to the garage, and hope they can get to repairing it before next Tuesday, or remove the starter yourself and walk two miles to the local parts store. Then, if they have it in stock, return home and install the new starter. You quickly decide that doing it yourself will be faster.

That’s when you discover you’re lucky, because a buddy happens by and seeing you lying under your vehicle, asks what’s wrong. After hearing your sad story, he offers to give you a ride to the parts store and waits while the guy behind the counter goes into the back and returns with a box containing your new starter. Your buddy then gives you and your now-lighter wallet a ride back home and offers to wait while you install the new starter. With the new starter installed, you wipe your hands and insert the key into the ignition and shout when the car starts perfectly. You dash into the house and wash up. You’re only two hours late for work.

Grabbing your work folder and another cup of coffee, you dash back out the door, start the car and head out of town. Only you don’t quite make it, because the car with the blinking red light behind you wants you to pull over. The problem? You’re doing 35 miles an hour in a 25-mile per hour zone. The officer agrees that nearly everyone and their cousin drives down that street at 35 miles an hour, but you just happened to get caught. He also agrees the speed limit should be changed, and soon will be, but the law is the law. He turns out to be a nice guy and lets you off with a warning, telling you to slow down. So off to work you go.

But you have a different problem now. The two or three dozen people passing your car know you got pulled over, and will tell all their friends, who will tell their friends. By 6:00 p.m. everyone in the small town you live in will know you’ve been arrested for bank robbery. You’ll spend the next two weeks explaining that you got pulled over for speeding and you’re not really a bandit who kicks his dog.

Being an author, I will admit to embellishing some of this, but much of it actually happened. So, now I will pass along some sage advice. When you’re having one of those days, slow down, don’t fight it. Maybe drink that extra cup of coffee I talked about. Reacting in anger will only make things worse. Also, learn what you can. You can learn something in each and every situation. The lessons may not be pleasant at the time, but reacting in anger and frustration will only make things worse.

Finally, remember Christ’s promise that he will never leave or forsake you. It will somehow give you a different outlook on things realizing that Jesus is right there with you, lying under a greasy car installing a new starter, or inside a hospital room visiting that loved one with you. Grab another cup of coffee and sit down. Discuss the problem with Him. You might be surprised at what you learn.



Lessons From An Apple Tree


The apple tree Zachary planted in our back yard several years ago is telling us that spring is around the corner. And yes, I know they are forecasting another storm system moving into our area sometime this evening, dumping more rain in the valley and snow in the mountains. But still, the apple tree says be patient because spring is here.

What we see now are only the leaves starting to unfold. In a matter of weeks the tree will show its true beauty when it is covered with flowers. In the summer the apples will appear to be picked next fall.

Zachary’s tree is a constant reminder that nothing stays the same. Life is always changing, and what might appear to be a storm in your life today will be followed by something beautiful. If we are aware of what’s happening around us God can do some amazing things with very little. Don’t ignore the small reminders as you go about your daily routine. God hasn’t abandoned you in your storm, and He never will.


Beautiful Weeds

These plants are known as Datura Stramnonium, or more commonly called Jimsonweed or Angel's Trumpet. It is a summer annual broad leaf plant. All its parts, especially the seeds, contain alkaloids, and when ingested, are toxic to humans and livestock. The trouble is, they grow everywhere---along roadways, ditch banks,creeks, and they thrive next to wastewater. While being a nuisance, they take on a beauty when in full bloom, sort of like The Ugly Duckling.

Sometimes people are that way. Depending on how you look at them, they can be a troublesome weed, or something beautiful. You know the type---the relative that has caused you more trouble and pain than you'd care to mention. Or, maybe the obnoxious person who just cut you off and almost caused an accident, simply because they wanted to be one or two cars ahead. Or, they could be the homeless man or woman, wanting you to dig into your purse or wallet. These all can be bothersome weeds in your life.

I was rewarded in a strange way some time back. While spending a Sunday afternoon with Judy, bouncing from one antique store to another, a homeless man I had seen many times in Oakdale was shuffling along the sidewalk in front of us. It was obvious he had some severe mental problems. The weather was pushing the mid to high 90s, and he was fully dressed, including a full-length coat. As we crossed the street, on a whim I said hello and asked how he was doing. The man looked at me with a shocked expression, then grinned and told me he was doing fine and thanked me. He then shuffled on past without asking for a thing. It only took approximately thirty seconds, but it was easy to see I had made his day, perhaps his week or even his month.

A weed? No, I think he was extremely valuable to God, and at that moment to me also. Try it. Take 20 or 30 seconds of your time to give a smile and say hello. It won't kill you. And just maybe like the Jimsonweed, you'll get a glimpse of some hidden beauty.

Rainy Day Blues

Okay, I believe I've reached the point that all red-blooded men hate...that they are getting older...maybe even over the hill and sliding down the other side, without any brakes to stop you. In my case, it was always the other guy, but never me. I guess I was like the character Al Capp created named General Bullmoose, who at the age of 90 was still in the gym pumping iron and out-performing all the younger men. Not that I'm 90, or built like General Bullmoose, but I still walked 5 miles a day and exercised. In turn, I was the guy a lot of people called on when they were in a jam. Yep, I'll admit it, I'm at the point where I'm calling the other guy.

We bought an old Northern Lite cab-over camper for our ½ ton truck, knowing it needed some work. It seemed like a perfect fit, since I'm the one who insisted on a camper with a bathroom. Call it a phobia, but I've always hated taking showers in public restrooms and sitting on public toilets. I will if I have to, but I'd rather not. Well, what we bought will solve that problem. But, as always, it turned out to need a bit more work than we expected. We now believe the poor thing had been in a flood. Not a problem for the guy who does everything.

Replacing the floor was a little out of my line of expertise, but we know flooring contractors Tim and Ruth Bell. They had the new floor down in one afternoon. I kept pecking away with the other problems, like installing a new refrigerator and microwave . I also refinished the cabinets and hung new window shades and curtains. Judy was busy ordering items and pointing out things that needing fixing, and all was well in Major's land. Then we ran into a couple of things beyond my grasp.

The guy who had delivered it to our house, for some unknown reason, had placed some extra blocks under the left front jack, making it difficult to level. I was struggling with this problem when I got the bright idea of simply raising the other three jacks, which should allow me to remove the extra blocks. It was a good idea, except the camper slid off the unneeded blocks and fell against the side of our house. Oops! You can't simply move a 1,600 pound camper by yourself. That led to my first call for help. God bless our friend Onan Rice who ran to our aid with jacks and had the camper upright and on a pad of pallets in a matter of a half-hour. There was no damage to the house or camper, so things were back to normal and I got back on schedule. We were nearing the end of the remodel and deciding where we would like to take our first trip. Then I hurt my back.

Don't have any idea when or how, but I woke the other morning with it screaming at me. But, since I'd always secretly chuckled at people with back problems, thinking they might be looking for sympathy, I took on another project. Our kitchen faucet was leaking, so I took a trip to our local hardware and brought home a rather nice-looking unit and broke out the tools, only to discover some problems.

First, I discovered my eyesight ain't like it used to be. Even with my glasses, things looked a little fuzzy lying under the cabinet. It took a little longer to remove the old faucet than I thought, due to not being able to get the *#** wrench on the couplings. Had to be a faulty wrench, because I've never had that problem before. I finally removed the faucet and cleaned the sink, and it was time to install the new one.

Again, the stupid wrench had trouble finding the couplings. While lying in an awkward position, half inside the cabinet, my back began another protest that almost had me in tears. Finally, I had it all together...or so I thought. It's there, looks good, but has a couple of drips. While thinking of crawling back in the cabinet my back started saying “Uh-uh, ain't doing that right now.” So, after a call to another friend, I placed one of Judy's pans under the drip while waiting for his arrival.

Sitting in my chair and watching the rain outside my window, I admit I've learned several things this week. First, I am almost 73, and getting older like everyone else. Second, there is no shame in asking for help, and a little humility is a good thing. Third, back pain is real and I tip my Stetson to anyone who suffers from it. But I'm still gonna go camping here shortly.

Follow Your Own Advice

About ten years ago we decided to have an in-ground swimming pool installed in our back yard. After taking several estimates, we hired El Dorado Pools out of Modesto to do the job. The finished product was everything we expected --- a large kidney-shaped lagoon affair with a waterfall and lagoon bench and a six-foot deep diving area. We instantly began using it, and have had countless backyard barbecues with family and friends, adding an outdoor kitchen with a grill, a sink and refrigerator, then a gas pool heater to extend the swim season into the fall.

Needless to say, with a big family of six adult children, seventeen grandchildren and four great grandchildren, pool safety has been a priority. As an added precaution, we installed a safety fence, much like you see surrounding motel pools, which we have recently removed now that the young ones are a little older. The rule that parents must be present while their young children are in the pool still stands.  Climbing the rock waterfall is forbidden as well as diving or jumping into the pool while swimmers are in the diving area. There are also a few universal rules, such as no running around the pool and watch where you're walking. It only takes a careless second to inflict pain on someone and spoil an entire day. It might sound like a lot of rules, and I guess that’s true, but Judy and I want swimming and playing at Grandma and Grandpa's house to be a pleasant and happy experience for everyone, young and old alike.

There are times when the rule-maker fails to follow his own rules. A few days ago we woke to a cold rainy morning in Oakdale, knowing outside chores would be limited. One chore I had been postponing was cleaning the pool filter, simply because I didn't want to chance getting wet while it's this cold. However, the filter was dirty and prevented the pool-sweep from doing a proper job. About one o'clock, it looked like we might have a break in the weather, so I decided to chance cleaning the filter. Everything seemed to be going as I had hoped, and with the filter cleaned, the sweep began making a clean path across the pool bottom. While brushing the lagoon deck, I noticed a kink in the hose. Since the brush I was using has a telescoping pole, I hooked the tangled hose with the broom, and while walking backwards, stretched the kink out of the hose. Things were going great.

 The instant I hit the cold water I realized I had not been following my “watch where you're walking” rule. Forget drinking a cup of strong coffee as a morning wake-me-up. Jump into an un-heated winter pool instead. I was suddenly very aware of what I'd done. I was also aware I was wearing my leather jacket with my leather gloves in the pocket. I also realized I was wearing my battery operated wrist watch, and had my smart phone hooked to my belt. I was removing the watch as I climbed out of the pool, and instantly took the phone out of its case. Thank God I had unlocked the side door to the garage, since the next step was to remove my water-logged boots and clothes, a sight my neighbors didn't need to see.

I was drying myself with an old ragged towel, now used to dry the cars, when I opened the door and called for Judy's help. After she stopped laughing, she brought me some dry clothes and asked me to write this into a blog. I guess I need to mention that I also got a good laugh at myself, thinking what I must have looked like trying to walk on water.

 I need to close this session by tipping my soggy hat to Timex for making a watch that appears to truly be waterproof. I also need to give Otter Box two or three tips of the soggy hat for creating a  case that kept my phone fairly dry, only allowing a couple of drops to seep inside. The phone continued to work for a short period, then gave up the ghost. The killing moisture had evidently seeped through one of the ports used for earphones or charging. I am currently using my old cell phone while waiting for the new smart phone to arrive.

One last word of advice is to always look where you're going. I don't know how many times I've said that to our grandchildren. Maybe it's time to follow my own advice.


Adams Creek

Adams Creek winds a path from the hills to the east of Oakdale, across fields and pasture land, where it intersects Orsi Road at the edge of town. From Orsi Road, it cuts a gash in the earth for approximately a city block where it meets with an underground syphon, to be piped across town. On an early morning walk, you can hear the constant chirping of birds mingled with the occasional chatter of a squirrel. Most mornings you can hear the crowing of a neighbor's rooster and the neighing of horses and baaing of goats coming from Mo and Doreen Dumalo's ranch across the road. Over the corral fence from Doreen's ranch comes the mooing of cattle. As we wander south toward Sierra Road, the sun peeks over the distant tree-line and ranch dogs bark their greeting as we pass. The braying of a mule says good morning as a flock of pigeons swirl across the early morning sky. On a rainy morning such as this one, you are greeted with the roar of a small waterfall as the creek cascades into the pipeline.

The creek offers quite a study for those who take the time to actually look. On the surface, it only appears as a tree-lined dirt bank falling sharply toward a muddy stream, covered with a tangle of dead tree limbs and berry vines. But for the curious, it hold treasures untold.

One morning I encountered a feral mamma cat while walking Molly, and though cats will normally run from a dog, this black and white beast hunched her scrawny back and stood her ground. Molly, being the dog she is, smiled happily and trotted past the hissing cat to sniff the next tree. Once we were past, I turned to notice the cat carrying a kitten deeper into the brush. She returned seconds later to carry another away from what she considered danger.

On a different day, I spied what we used to call a hobo camp, tucked beneath some low-hanging oak branches and protected from the wind by the concrete siphon check-gate. It gave me a feeling of melancholy as I wondered how the person came to such a condition. While some prefer a hobo lifestyle, I have encountered others who are homeless due to situations not of their own choosing. With new houses going up hundreds of yards from this particular camp, I realized the tenant had chosen wisely. There was plenty of scrap lumber lying around, perfect for campfires to heat cans of beans or soup and keep him warm. The new houses proved to be a double-edged sword, in that the authorities arrived days later to close it down and evict the tenant.

In the warm summer months, hundreds of wild sunflowers decorate the creek bank, mingled with multi-colored wildflowers. The berry vines become covered with small flowers that quickly turn into tasty fruit. While the raspberries are inviting, several trees display yellow “Keep Out” signs for safety reasons. Considering the steep pitch of the bank, if one were to lose their footing, they would likely fall head-first through a jungle of thorns, dead branches and rocks to end in a cold, muddy stream. If they didn't drown, they would encounter the same tangled jungle climbing back out.

While Judy and I were walking Molly a few days ago we saw several young girls play on the opposite bank of Adams creek, drawing in the dirt, tossing rocks at the water, and doing what young girls do for fun when their parents aren't around. Yellow warning signs be hanged. Who cares about yellow signs when you have a world to explore. I will have to admit, if I were still a kid I would have been right there with them, maybe shooting at squirrels with my slingshot or playing cowboys with my Roy Rogers cap-gun. Please God, help us to never lose the ability to pause now and then and investigate the world around us. Who knows, we just might regain some of our youth, and become aware of our Creator's blessings to us.


Seeing Clearly

I woke to a chilly, foggy morning here in Oakdale. The damp air made me zip my jacket snugly around my neck while walking Molly. Funny how some dogs don't seem to mind damp, cold air or even a light rain, but when you show them a tub of warm bath water and a bottle of sweet smelling dog shampoo, they run and try to hide. We humans are like that at times. Not so much with taking a hot shower and shampooing our hair, but show us a gym or some exercise equipment and that's a different story. Oh, we'll readily give our assent to the idea of exercising, or talk about how we “used to do that,” but doing it now is a different idea.

I didn't realize how far I'd let myself slip until yesterday. I had a chance to join two other men in doing some volunteer work, doing a little maintenance work for a lady who needed a hand. I woke this morning feeling sore muscles where I didn't realize I had muscles. This coming from a guy who always took pride in what good shape he was in. I “used to” walk five miles a day, and “used to” do a half-hour workout every day. Maybe choosing to sideline the routine for the winter wasn't a good idea. Getting back into the routine seems to be the problem.

Evangelist Rick Davis once said, when things seem insurmountable, that's when you need to reach down inside your gut and pull the courage and willpower to the surface. Sounds easy … right? No, it's never easy, but sometimes it is exactly what is needed. If you want to stay in physical shape, you've got to exercise. And no, eating a large bag of french fries one at a time doesn't count as exercise. If you want to play an instrument, you've got to practice an hour a day. If you want to learn something, you have to look up the information, and probably read a book. And, if you're actually going to write that award-winning novel you've been planning, you need to actually start writing.

Most Americans will be making New Year’s resolutions in a few days, only to break them rather quickly, some within an hour or so. Most of us will step back and laugh at how fast we forget about our resolutions, simply because we did not take them seriously in the first place. But when it comes to the more important things in life, things like our physical, mental and spiritual health, we do need to reach down inside ourselves and pull up the resolve to actually do what's needed. Without it, we'll continue as we are, or maybe even regress a little each day without knowing it. Kind of like looking at ourselves through a fog.

Worst and Best Halloween Movies

Okay, the trick-or-treaters are gone and the candle inside the jack o’ lantern has been blown out. You’ve picked up the scattered candy wrappers and tucked the little ones in bed. Time to snuggle next to the wife or husband with a hot cup of chocolate or coffee and watch a good Halloween movie. Right? But you might not want to go to bed after watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or something equally as bloody. Let me offer some suggestions.


Movies Not To Watch

(Unless you want a good laugh)


Eegah One night after shopping, Roxy Miller is driving through California’s Borrego Desert near Palm Springs, to a party. She nearly runs her car into Eegah, a giant caveman. Wait! It gets better. She tells her boyfriend, Tom Nelson, and her father, Robert Miller, about the giant. Her father, a writer of adventure books, decides to go into the desert to look for the creature and possibly take a picture. When he doesn’t arrive at his designated pick up time, Roxy and her boyfriend go looking for him.

Well, as we can guess, pretty Roxy is nabbed by Eegah and dragged back to his cave, where she is reunited with her father, who is unharmed, and trying to communicate with the caveman. Eegah starts to feel sort of amorous toward Roxy, (after all, he hasn’t seen a woman in how many years?) and while she’s scared of him, her sweet daddy urges her to play along with him as much as she can.

Roxy’s boyfriend soon arrives and somehow helps Roxy and her daddy escape. Eegah really gets ticked-off, and follows them to Palm Springs, where he is eventually shot and killed by a policeman. You’ll find yourself wiping a tear at the end … mostly from laughter.

Eegah was voted as one of The Fifty Worst Films of All Time, and was pronounced the worst by several critics. It has, however, become a cult classic, and appeared on Comedy Central and Mystery Science Theater.


Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter is a low-budget western/horror film released in 1966. Jesse James has somehow survived being killed and rides into a small western town with his half-witted saddle pard. His plan is to join two other outlaws and rob an incoming stage of $10,000, they somehow know about. At the same time, Dr. Frankenstein’s evil granddaughter, Maria, has moved to the same area, to use the violent electrical storms to further her experiments of turning children they kidnap into slaves by removing their brains and replacing them with artificial ones.

The entire movie was shot in eight days, and I personally think it rates somewhere below Eegah for entertainment value. The film was featured in an episode of This Movie Sucks! I think that says it all.


Billy the Kid Versus Dracula Somehow, Dracula has arrived in the American west, and decides to make Billy the Kid’s fiancée his vampire wife. To do this, the Count poses as her uncle and wins her trust. Lucky for her a German immigrant couple comes to work for her, and sees through Count Dracula’s plot and warn her. She, of course, won’t listen to their warnings, so they tell Billy, but she won’t heed Billy’s warnings either.

Eventually, the Count kidnaps her and flees to an abandoned silver mine where he and Billy have the final showdown. Billy soon discovers that .45 cal bullets have no effect on a vampire. The Count subdues Billy, and sets out to transform sweet Betty into his vampire wife. The sheriff and country doctor arrive in the nick of time. The doctor hands Billy a scalpel and tells him he has to drive it through the vampire’s heart. (I always believed it had to be a wooden stake). In the end, Count Dracula dies, like he always does, and Billy takes sweet Betty away to live happily ever after.

This film was also shot in eight days and released with Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter. ‘Nuff said.


Movies You Want To Watch

(They Might Make You Grip Your Honey’s Hand)


Bedlam Starring Boris Karloff, Bedlam is loosely based on Bethlem Royal Hospital (also known as Bedlam). The film focuses on the mistreatment of institutionalised mental patients. But what happens when a sane person is declared insane and cast into one of these places? Nell Bowen, protégé to Lord Mortimer, finds herself in that exact situation. What follows is nail-biting, while retribution comes quickly and is thorough.

While the film recorded a $40,000 loss on its release in1946, it has more than recouped the loss through DVD releases by Warner Bros., as part of a double release with Isle Of The Dead and a part of the Val Lewton Horror Collection. It also garners a healthy 89% approval rating in polls as well as three out of four stars from critic Leonard Maltin for the film’s atmosphere.


Isle Of The Dead When General Pherides visits his wife’s crypt and discovers it despoiled, he hears a woman singing. The problem is, the island is supposedly uninhabited. He sets out with several others to find her, but to no avail. They do, however, discover retired Swiss archeologist Dr. Aubrecht and his Greek housekeeper, Kyra. Also on the island are British diplomat Mr. St. Aubyn and his pale and sickly wife, their Greek companion Thea and English tinsmith, Andrew Robbins.

One by one, folks start dying. Fearing a plague of some sort, they quarantine the island. In an attempt to halt the spread of the deadly sickness, they begin burying their dead immediately, only to discover that at least one has been buried alive. Not only is she alive, she has somehow freed herself from the crypt. She’s also armed, totally insane and really, really pissed.

Starring Boris Karloff, the film was completed in December 1944 at a whopping cost of $246,000. On its release, Isle of The Dead only earned a $13,000 profit for RKO, but it was re-issued in 1953 on a double bill with Mighty Joe Young and made its TV debut in 1959. It has earned an 86% approval rating, and three stars out of four. Director Martin Scorsese placed Isle of The Dead on his list of the eleven scariest horror films of all time.


The Body Snatcher, also starring Boris Karloff, was one of three films he did with RKO Pictures, which were produced by Val Lewton. It was the last film to feature both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi together.

Mrs. Marsh visits the house of Dr. Wolfe (nicknamed Toddy) MacFarlane to seek a cure for her paraplegic daughter Georgina. MacFarlane suggests surgery for the girl, but insists he cannot perform the operation himself, due to his post as a teacher. In the meantime, his prized student, Donald Fettes, tells the doctor he cannot afford to continue his studies. MacFarlane offers Fettes a job as a lab assistant to help with the costs. He eventually relents and decides to help the girl.

Fettes soon discovers that John Gray, a cab driver, delivers fresh bodies from the graveyard to the school in the middle of the night, which Dr. MacFarlane uses in his teaching young surgeons. He makes it sound somehow noble, but MacFarlane soon finds himself an unwitting slave to John Gray. Gray soon runs out of fresh bodies, and decides to make one by nabbing a woman off the street. MacFarlane decides he needs to make John Gray a body, if he wants his freedom. Trouble is, John Gray doesn’t want to stay dead.

The Body Snatcher received an approval rating of 81% and happens to be one of my personal favorites. Now, it’s time to snuggle up next to your honey with your chocolate and enjoy. I should give a warning. Please put the mug down when you suspect something is gonna happen. Your honey might not want a bath of chocolate.





Each of us form habits early in life. We learn quickly that certain behaviors will bring either a loving touch and smile from our parents, or it will quickly bring their wrath and displeasure. I grew up the youngest of eight children, and neither parent had time for childish fits of temper or pestering and whining. Such actions would never bring the desired result. Instead, they brought the wrath of mama quickly, in the form of a paddling on my behind or being sent into the bedroom, never to come out, until the warden working in the kitchen decided it was time.

The habits learned at that early age have benefited me through life. While working to support my family, I knew that the boss who had hired me, hired me for a reason. That reason was to make money. He had not hired me to pester him for raises, or whine because it was too hot or too cold (conditions that are common in construction). The fact was, if it happened to be hot or freezing cold, it was hot or freezing for everyone, and my whining was not going to benefit anyone. The bottom line was, if I refused to show up for work, or refused to complete the tasks given me, someone else would have to do the job. That meant the company lost money, and in reality, I wasn't needed. There was a saying among the American cowboys in the old west that said if you took a job, it didn't matter what the man was paying you, you worked as hard as you could every day, regardless; a standard that is seldom followed today.

It seems that many people think criticizing someone who has worked hard and sacrificed to build a business is somehow acceptable. Because someone has worked hard and been lucky enough to be successful, that does not mean he is cheating the public or is greedy and selfish. Some believe the company owner should be willing to give away his hard-earned money to people who have never worked for them, or provided a product or service the company uses.

In truth, most company owners work longer hours for less than most everyone working for them. I closed a company years ago, simply because I discovered I had averaged approximately $1.98 per hour the previous year, while paying my employees $15.00 per hour. This was after being in business several years. If everyone worked as hard as their boss, perhaps the company they work for would be able to hire more people or give raises to the existing employees.

The same goes for writing. Too many times an author will settle for a manuscript that is “just as good as,” instead of writing one that is “much better than.” Kaiser Permanente has the motto that “good enough isn't good enough.” Perhaps that is why they are the nation's largest health provider. As an author, I can testify that we've all been guilty of lazy writing, wanting to move on to the next story inside our head, then getting discouraged or complaining that the book hasn't sold as well as our previous one. Many of the books hailed as masterpieces were single books, where the author never wrote a second.

 Some of this, at least in my case, is due to life. We take on too much and get too busy. We need to create good writing habits. I wrote The Dońa at 4:00 am, a few pages at a time, before going to work. I wrote Mokelumne Gold locked inside a camp trailer, away from people and the telephone in the dead of winter. I haven't done so in recent years, but it’s a habit I should get back to. Not that we need to rise at 4:00 am every morning, but we do need to make time to write a few quality pages every day.


When I joined Western Writers of America I was privileged to learn from some excellent writers such as Elmer Kelton, who shared with me the message that it is hard work that wins the day.

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