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1. Hunting Lesson

The sound of crows sometimes takes me back in time to Russell County Virginia, 1950. A young boy is awakened by his mother well before dawn. Sleepiness soon gets pushed aside by his growing excitement. His uncle has come to take him squirrel hunting for the first time.

The pick-up bounces along dirt roads and stops across from a line of high ridges. The boy’s uncle reaches behind the seat and pulls out a rifle case. He unzips it and slides out the bolt-action 22. The smell of 3-in-1 Oil fills the truck.

They walk in silence to a stand of trees below the ridge. His uncle has been here before and crouches behind a rock outcrop. They wait. Dawn is still an hour away and night seems to suffocate any desire to speak.

The boy wonders why they’ve come so early. The whole woods are asleep and he wishes he were too. Above them the blackness begins to fade. The contour of trees becomes visible against a graying sky.

His uncle raises a finger to his lips and points up the ridge. He lifts the 22 and releases the safety. The boy squints into the hazy light but sees nothing. He feels a rush of excitement as his uncle takes aim at a large oak.

The crack of the 22 shatters the morning stillness. Its echo ricochets through the forest. The boy shudders. The smell of spent gunpowder fills the air. His uncle walks up the hill to the tree and reaches down.

He returns, holding a dead squirrel for the boy to see. This is not what he expected. He feels no joy in looking at the lifeless animal. What started as an adventure leaves him sad and confused.

They walk back down the hill to the truck. Dawn now gives detail to the forest, creek and bottom land. Their ancient beauty seems lost on the boy. Later, he will remember only one thing; calling down from the forest behind him, the sound of crows.

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2. Growing Pains

When I was nine or ten, my father gave me a Daisy Model 25 Pump-Action BB Gun for Christmas. I thought it was probably the best gift in the world a kid could get. With it came dad’s hand written note – “Aim high at the target of life.”

Although I was not sure what the message meant, I wasted no time taking aim at other things. In the woods across from our house, this pint-sized Gene Autry blasted tin cans, bottles, pine cones and tree branches. No bad guy could ever escape my Daisy sure-shot.

Spring brought more opportunities to go exploring and now I always took along my trusty gun. On the far side of the woods stood an overgrown and abandoned orange grove. Most of the trees had withered away, but here and there were a few still-hanging oranges. They made perfect targets.

After blasting the oranges to pulp, I noticed a covey of quail pecking for food under some trees. The odd little birds were far away and I wondered if the gun could even shoot that distance. Raising it up, I took aim at the nearest quail and fired.

I hit it and watched, horrified, as the poor creature jumped into the air, then fell back. The other birds flew away to the safety of the grove. Their wounded mate, still very much alive, could only scramble about, dragging its injured wing.

I thought if I could catch it, maybe the quail could be nursed back to health. Although hurt, the bird proved to be too fast for me. Not knowing what to do, I returned home and broke the news to my father. He stopped what he was doing and sat down by me on the couch.

“That quail is injured and will be unable to take care of itself. It will starve to death if something doesn’t get it first.”

“There is only one thing to do,” he added as I stared at the floor. “You have to go back and put it out of its misery.” I jumped up, wide-eyed and trembling. “No! I can’t do it!” I shouted and ran for the door. “It’s the only way!” my father called after me.

Miserable, I paced back and forth in the yard, occasionally glancing at the woods across the road. Maybe it could fly again and rejoined its friends. Maybe it was dead.

I knew I would have to go across and find out. It would be dark soon and impossible to see a hiding quail. Grabbing the stupid BB gun, I trudged across the road to the field, all the while praying that the quail would not be there.

A rustling in the grass put that prayer to rest. The quail was still alive and still able to run. I chased after it doing my best to pump, aim and shoot on the run. We ran clear across the field, the young hunter chasing the teacher. Gradually, the bird began to slow and I saw that some of my shots had hit home.

When I finally caught up to the wounded quail, it could only run in circles. Desperate now, I pumped BB after BB into its plump body. Yet, it would not die and continued thrashing about on the ground.

Dazed out of my senses, I understood the creature could only be killed with a shot in the head. But with my shots continually missing the mark, the only thing to do was somehow pin the bird down.There were no branches, no rocks, nothing. I would have to hold the quail still myself. 

Approaching the bird, I diverted its attention with the barrel of the gun and quickly stepped on it with my shoe.The quail struggled mightily but could not get away. With tears streaming down my face, I shot it over and over until, at last, the quail stopped moving. Stepping away, I looked down at what was left, in death, an unremarkable pile of feathers.

I don’t remember much after that except when I got home, I put the gun in the closet and never used it again.

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3. Small Talk

“What did you say?
I can’t understand you. You’re mumbling again.
Oh, you want breakfast. Why didn’t you say so, instead of pacing back and forth like that.
OK, you don’t have to get all pouty about it. I wish someone would wait on me like I wait on you. I’m really getting tired of it.
Yeah, I know you can’t cook. Every day you remind me of it. And another thing, could you please stop making those noises when you eat. It’s irritating.
Yes, I know about your condition. Just eat already, while I finish the laundry.
OK, once again I can’t hear you. I’m in the laundry room. What? Yes, I fluff dried your precious pillow. You know, the next time you decide to get sick, just maybe be near the toilet like everyone else. This stain is just not coming out.
No, I’m certainly not making light of your condition. I’m just saying….
Now wait a minute, what’s my mother got to do with this? Well, how could she know you’re allergic to tuna?
Why are you looking at me like that?
Oh, so now it’s the silent treatment. Look, I’ve just about had it with you. I’m getting out of here for a while.
All right, I thought that would get your attention. Where am I going? Where do I always go Tuesday afternoon? The grocery store of course.
Oh, don’t start on that again. I did not forget you last week or the week before. OK, smart aleck, here’s the grocery list. What’s the very first item? That’s right, Kibbles! I rest my case!"

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4. Island Beauty

“Beauty before me. Beauty behind me. Beauty above me. Beauty below me. Beauty to the left of me. Beauty to the right of me. Everywhere I walk, I am surrounded by beauty.” -Navaho wisdom-

Sixteen minutes from my front door lies a jewel of an island and a bit of Florida little changed since the Timucuan Native American people fished there. A sudden midday wanderlust took me across the Intracoastal Waterway to Honeymoon Island, one of many barrier islands coughed up by the restless comings and goings of the Gulf of Mexico.
My destination was out past the causeway restaurants and kayak rentals, beyond the beach with its gaggle of Canadians working on their tans. At the north end of the Island, I headed into the interior, a two-mile nature trail and home to an amazing assortment of critters.

There be Armadillos here and this trip I saw two of these prehistoric-looking beasties snuffling in the leaf litter for beetles and grubs. One even came out to have its picture taken.

Honeymoon Island might as well be named Osprey Island, for these big fish-hawks were everywhere – sitting nests too numerous to count, standing guard in nearby trees, or circling over the inlet, looking for lunch.

With my awkward point and shoot camera method, I was able to nab a few photos, but missed the highlight of the trip – a protective Osprey dive-bombing a Bald Eagle that flew too near its nest.
On the watery edge of Florida’s most densely populated county, I saw Swallow-tail Kites, White Ibis, Read-headed Woodpeckers, Brown Pelicans, Red-winged Blackbirds, Cardinals, Sea Gulls of course, and one lonely Gopher Tortoise.

I was not the love it was looking for, so I left.


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5. Is Pinellas County Still In The Bush League?

Pinellas, the breakaway county formerly known as West Hillsborough, is 100 years old this year. In 1912, tired of being under-represented and marginalized by Hillsborough County’s government, located in Tampa, Pinellas residents successfully seceded from Hillsborough.
Compared to older cities like St. Augustine, Pinellas County is still a young pretender. There are probably Live Oak trees somewhere around here that are older than the county.
Since there isn’t a whole lot of history associated with the county, you would think every effort would be made to hang on to our treasures from the past. That, sadly, doesn’t seem to be the case.
Two of those treasures, the Belleview-Biltmore Hotel and the Fenway Hotel, popped up again in separate stories in the Tampa Bay Times. Developers, local governments, and citizens have been dithering for years over the fate of these two historic buildings.
The Belleview-Biltmore in Belleair was built by railroad tycoon Henry Plant in 1897 as a lure to get more folks to ride in his trains. Hugely popular to a newly mobile middle class, the resort offered golf, tennis, fishing and sailing in the nearby Gulf of Mexico. The 850,000 square foot building is said to be the largest all wood structure in the world.
The Fenway Hotel in Dunedin was constructed in 1925, during Florida’s first economic boom. The Mediterranean Revival architectural gem has had its share of famous guests, including Clarence Darrow, Carl Sandburg, and Babe Ruth. Since closing as a hotel, the Fenway has been a bible college and later an international business school. The building, across from the Intracoastal Waterway, now stands empty.
At this point, it seems unlikely that either hotel will survive in their present forms. There does not appear to be enough money, power, or interest to pull it off.  A sense of sadness becomes all the more so when one realizes that Tampa Bay is home to more millionaires than other areas of the state. Perhaps what we need are more billionaires.
Money, of course, is not the sole answer to the hotels’ survival. There is also the shared commitment of all interested parties and a few people of vision with enough persuasive power and determination to make it happen.
In the past, Pinellas County was home to the International Golfing Association (IGA), the nascent Florida Aquarium, and more recently, Florida Gulf Coast Museum of Art, Wikipedia, and the Pinellas County Arts Council.
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6. Twelve Things We Did Not Learn In School

Here are 12 aspects of creative thinking I learned in 6 minutes. Putting them into action will take a bit longer.

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7. Fear Of Flying Book-Signings

Last summer and fall, I designed and had published Fear of Flying, a small book of my prose and line drawings. Now two other authors and I will be having discussions and book-signings in St. Petersburg, Gulfport and Tampa. Hope you can make one of these events. With the proper libations, I can talk on and on and on.

Denis Gaston, presenting his book “Fear of Flying” Prose and Drawings.
Diane Gugliotta, Presenting her Bag-Book “Told on the Atoll.”
Herman Thorbecke, Presenting his book, “So-Long Europe Hello South Africa-Tall Tales and Adventures.” A Fictional Memoir.

1. On Saturday, February 18th, from 3 to 5pm. At the private residence of Kadie and David Gruenewald, 5671 42nd. Ave. N. St. Petersburg, FL, Tel: 727 544-8775. Light refreshments will be served. R.S.V.P.

2. On Sunday, February 19th, noon to 3pm.at Tangelo’s restaurant, located at 3121 Beach Boulevard S., Gulfport, FL Tel: 727 894-1695

3.The main event will be held on Thursday February 23rd, , 7pm. At The Weinberg Village, 13005 Community Campus Drive, Tampa. Tel: (813) 969-1818

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8. Chance Meeting In Aisle Eight

I ran into an old friend at Walgreens the other day. It was while contemplating a cornucopia of stuff in the toothpaste aisle that my gaze fell on the bottom shelf.  There, looking forlorn and somewhat out of place, sat a tube of Pepsodent toothpaste.

"Wow, where have YOU been all these years?" And how had such an icon of past consumer products been relegated to the bottom shelf. Along with millions of Americans in the 1950's, I wondered where the yellow went when I brushed my teeth with Pepsodent.

Then I saw the price of a dollar and understood completely my old friend's fall from marketing grace. Very popular before the mid 1950's, Pepsodent was slow to add flouride to its formula and sales fell behind highly promoted Crest and Gleem. Today Pepsodent is sold as a "value brand", often half the price of similar sizes of Crest and Colgate.

Because of the price, I wondered that my dental buddy may no longer be up to the cleaning task. It was worth a try and I've since discovered Pepsodent is as good as ever even though it now too has flouride.

On my subsequent trips to drugstores, I've engaged in a homegrown form of marketing sedition. If no one is looking, I place the Pepsodent where it belongs, on the top shelf.

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9. Ram Dog

Ram Dog

He always knew he was different
Last to be fed, last to be let out
He perused magazines left on the sofa
Shunned at the dog park
He learned to appreciate small flowers
Once lost near a farm
He saw animals with horns
Animals like him came close
Barked and turned away
He felt a connection to them
Wanted to speak
But a dusty van pulled up
Door opened and he jumped in
Glad to be different
Glad to be going home

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10. 1, 2, 3, Blink

Facebook Vice-President of Operations Benji Gopal announced yesterday that tech support has finally discovered why CEO Mark Zuckerberg never blinks.

"It appears Mark has a corrupt visual cortex on his hard drive," said Gopal in a news conference at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California.

Zuckerberg's inability to blink has caused many outside of Facebook to wonder if he is really human.

"I'm sure I saw a USB port behind his right ear," said CSN reporter Clive Durkin.

"That's ridiculous!" said Gopal. "Mark is as human as you or I. He will be fine once we reconfigure his autonomic nervous system and reboot."

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11. Sad News

Please join me in remembering a great icon of the entertainment community. The Pillsbury Doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and trauma complications from repeated pokes in the belly. He was 71.

Doughboy was buried in a lightly greased coffin. Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Butterworth, Hungry Jack, the California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Captain Crunch. The grave site was piled high with flours.

Aunt Jemima delivered the eulogy and lovingly described Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded. Doughboy rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers. He was considered a very smart cookie, but wasted much of his dough on half-baked schemes. Despite being a little flaky at times, he still was a crusty old man and was considered a positive roll model for millions.

Doughboy is survived by his wife Play Dough, and three children: John Dough, Jane Dough and Dosey Dough, plus they had one in the oven. He is also survived by his elderly father, Pop Tart.

The funeral was held at 3:50 for about 20 minutes.

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12. The Enchanted Rock

An RAF pilot crash lands into a remote northern forest. Deep in the forest, he stumbles across a strange boulder. Exhausted, he falls asleep, and wakes surrounded by a dazzling blue light. He realizes the light is coming from the rock. Finally rescued, the pilot tells about the rock, but no one believes him.

Years later, developers build a resort on the forest’s edge. One night, hikers get lost and rediscover the glowing rock. Word gets out and people stream into the forest to see it. The rock becomes so famous the forest service builds a road.

Businesses spring up catering to visitors. Tract houses are built along the forest’s edge. Pollution fouls the air and an unexplained fire destroys more forest. The enchanted rock sits exposed to the elements. Its light gets dimmer and dimmer, and finally goes out.

Later, the new town of Rochelle builds a shopping center. No one knows what to do about the ugly rock. A demolition company agrees to haul it away. The rock is loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled to a distant railroad. There, it is hoisted onto a rail car.

Days later, the train arrives at a sea-port and the rock is loaded into a ship. The vessel sails into the vast ocean, and drops the great rock into the water. The boulder quickly sinks into the murky deep, coming to rest on the ocean floor. Now in complete darkness, an odd thing happens. The enchanted rock once again begins its beautiful blue glow.

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13. Fighting Continues In The EU Cheese War

The stinking Cheese War in the breakaway Republic of Cheddarstan is now entering its fifth year, with no end in sight. A tribe of indigenous goat farmers called the Feta Fighters is waging a holey war on their next-door neighbors, the Swissies. This is not Gouda.

Reasons for the violence are unclear, but many suspect bad feelings between Fetas and Swissies started with the formation of the European Union. EU bureaucrats immediately set about standardizing weights and measures, starting with milk products.

In a bold move at cost cutting, the EU announced that Swiss cheese must henceforth have at least twelve per-cent more holes. This, of course, infuriated the Swissies, who insisted their cheese would then be no better than goat droppings. The Fetas, historically no friends of the Swissies, took this as an insult, and the War was on.

Later, in the Treaty of Briebourg, EU president Herman Munster urged both sides to set aside bad feelings and put their curds on the table. The shaky ceasefire lasted barely six weeks.

One night a radical cheese head named Russ Limburger sneaked across the border and set fire to a Swissie cheese barn. The resulting Battle of Fondue Field broke the ceasefire and the Cheese War today continues to rage out of control.

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14. A Shout Out With Ashley Bryan

"It's not that every artist is a special kind of person; it's that every person is a special kind of artist. Each of us experiences the aesthetic, and possesses the creative". -Ashley Bryan-

Last evening, Dunedin Fine Art Center hosted master storyteller, teacher and artist Ashley Bryan. Described as a “force of nature,” Bryan is the illustrator of 30 children’s books and winner of numerous awards, including the 2005 Coretta Scott King Award and Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for achievement in children’s literature.

Surrounded by an exhibition of his colorful illustrations and puppets, Mr. Bryan quickly demonstrated why he is in such demand as a speaker. Within minutes this quiet and humble man had his audience shouting and clapping along, as they repeated after him several African-American poems and folk tales.

Each of us immediately sensed his joyful commitment to writing and the spoken word. Later, after most people had left, Ashley Bryan stayed on, amazing us with his energy and willingness to share.

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15. "I've Nothing To Say!" There's An App For That

We hear over and over these days how some marvelous new technological gadget will bring us together. From iPhones, Skype and YouTube to Facebook and Twitter, the mantra remains the same – “Stay connected!”

There are a lot of us who also use these same technologies to distance ourselves from others.

Take e-mail for example. Have you ever had a bit of unpleasantness with a friend and rather than meeting face-to-face or even phoning them, you instead tap out a quick impersonal e-mail. Confident the problem is solved; you are easily off the hook.

Facebook is an excellent way to stay tuned to what is going on in our circle of friends. Daily we learn of upcoming meetings, opinions or calls to action. But, as our circle expands, we become so inundated with opportunities to support worthwhile causes or attend urgent meetings that we automatically hit the “like” button and scroll on to the next news feed – a YouTube video of dancing dogs.

IPhone, with its e-mail and video functions, seems to be the ultimate connective tool. Messages and videos can be instantly uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, or a host of other services. Even video conferences are possible over these something-for-everyone marvels.

There remains in the world a group of people who do not function well in public situations. These are the folks who break into a sweat at the mention of the word “mingle.” At parties, they are the ones rooted at the food table, beer in one hand, stuffing canapés in their mouth with the other hand. They are thus spared the odious task of simple communication.

The iPhone turns out to be an excellent diversion for these silent types. I was recently at a dinner party with a dozen people seated at table, all trying to get a word in edgewise. One guest, however, did not join in the discussion and sat pushing bits of food around his plate.

Suddenly, grinning, he pulled out a shiny iPhone and immediately became lost in its multitude of applications. The man no longer felt the need to interact with his dinner companions. He had become an island unto himself thanks to his personal connection device.

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16. Lessons From Flo and Eddie

Sometime last year, two eastern grey squirrels decided to take up residence in my front yard – a small patch of peace and quiet one day and the next a chorus of chittering and barking as the two announced their presence to the world and the bored cat next door.

Squirrels have never come off as being overly intelligent, perhaps one notch above that moron of flying things, the mourning dove. Their alternating displays of spastic energy and trance-like stupor were amusing at first, but if those were all squirrels had to show, forget it. Besides, remove all their fur and what you have is a rat.

Refusing to let my mornings be ambushed by goggle-eyed rodents, I continued a long standing ritual of tea and solitude before heading off to work. My first mistake was the bag of peanuts, the raw in-the-shell kind, tossed onto the grass without a thought of the consequences.

To my surprise, Flo and Eddie scooted down the tree to investigate. The pair quickly realized a bonanza when they smelled it and eagerly scarfed down every goober. Afterward, they stared at me for a few seconds before going all spastic again.

It only took a few weeks before the couple had me trained to bring them peanuts every morning. After that, I had to remove squirrels from my dumb animal list.

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17. Hands Across The Sand

Hey BP, we don't want your stinking oil, except for our cars, trains, boats and planes, our lawn mowers, tractors, generators and furnaces, motorcycles, snow-blowers, and those damn noisy weed-eaters. So all you greedy petrol pushers, take your fancy oil rigs and go away, but don't go too far. We may need to gas up the SUV for a trip to the mountains over the Fourth of July.

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18. Letter To The Gulf of Mexico

Dear One,
Thought of you when I awoke this morning and turned on the air conditioner. Wondered how you were doing as I drove the car across town to the new Publix. On the way out, stopped in the produce section for Costa Rican bananas on sale.

"Paper or plastic?" the bag-boy mumbled and I remembered what you would say. "Paper of course!"

Hurried home to clean up the place before Laura flies in tomorrow. Remember we drove over to see you last time she was here? She dearly loves sitting by your side. That won't be happening this trip.

Well, I better sign off now. The lawn needs mowing. Dry-cleaning picked up. So many things to do. Just know that whatever I'm doing or where ever I'm going, you are always in my thoughts and prayers.

Get well soon!

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19. Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity

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20. The Third Eye Blinds

Today after lunch, I went for a long walk in the neighborhood. It’s an exercise I’ve been perfecting for twenty-four years, always following the same route, passing the same homes, people and landscapes. At the 1.5 mile mark I turned round and headed home along the postcard beautiful Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

I never tire of these forty minute immersions in urban nature, a landscape manicured yet still capable of stunning wildness. I have seen hurricane driven waves pound across the roadway onto waterfront lawns. Water spouts dancing near barrier islands. Nighttime electrical storms flashing webs of lightening.

Wild critters roam here too. Dunedin is home to ospreys and owls, coyotes, armadillos and raccoons. A run-over raccoon once dragged itself to a church entrance and died, stretched out in prayerful prostration.

Gangly wood storks took up residence after moving north from disappearing Everglades wetlands. Magnificent in flight, on land, storks shuffle along like old men at the mall. They are safe here and, armed with oversized beaks, no dogs dare attack.

These things I have seen and in every instance they have come to me unbidden. It’s amazing what one can meet when approaching nature without expectations. Tiny indigo wild flowers reveal themselves near a rain culvert. A belted kingfisher hovers inches above the water.

Today, for the first time, I took along a camera to capture nature. Throughout the walk, my attention remained focused on the next creative shot. I made dozens of photographs, hoping for the best exposure, composition, and interest. The session ended quickly and I returned home feeling like an intruder. Something special was missing and later I realized that today nature had been hiding.

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21. I See What You're Thinking

Apple this week announced the release of a new iPhone application that may be the ultimate in social networking. Named iThink, the free app will allow friends for the first time to know each other’s thoughts instantly from moment to moment, even while asleep.

IThink uses nano-technology in which tiny electrodes are placed in the cerebrum of user’s brains. Once implanted by Apple technicians, thoughts are wirelessly sent to friend’s iPhones and read as text messages.

Critics immediately complained that our thoughts, our last bastion of privacy, will now be on display to the world. But social anthropologist Barry Golson of Chicago’s Institute of Cognitive Behavior believes this may not be a bad thing.

“If everyone knows our every thought,” he said, “we will be forced to clean up our acts. We may be finally seeing the end of all negative thoughts.”

In a related story, Russian hackers have reportedly broken into thousands of European iThink user’s brains, wreaking havoc. IPhones across the European Union have now begun texting Slavic drinking songs.

When asked to comment, Apple’s EU Director of Information Nigel Perryman had this to say,
“Crikey, now I don’t know what to think!”

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22. Wild Wild Animals

Here is the latest revision of a sample page from my Wild Wild Animals Alphabet Book. This eight year project has been through more changes than a rainbow chameleon, the latest being a complete text revamp.

A wise editor at a SCBWI conference a few years ago suggested I use rhyming text as a way to give more rhythm when read aloud. Perhaps it was also a subtle challenge to see if I could pull it off.

I can now state that writing in rhyme is not for the impatient or easily pleased. It has been a bear of a job and on more than one occasion I've thrown up my hands in frustration.

Now, with plucked up courage and generous critiques from my writing group, the manuscript is well on the way to completion.

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23. Once Upon A Time In Atlanta

Yesterday’s gray blustery weather forced me to live up to a long standing promise – “On the next shut-in day I swear I will clean out my files.” My procrastinating skills could not even prevent the long dreaded moment and by mid-afternoon I found myself surrounded by piles of letters, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, receipts, and drawings – the forgotten stuff of pack rats.

Each piece that came to view brought a rush of memories and the short cleaning job stretched into early evening. A rediscovered magazine cover brought an end to the day’s labor and for that I gave thanks. A few hours remained to do what I wanted.

One of my first jobs out of college was a stint at the Atlanta Magazine, a glossy city tabloid put out by the Chamber of Commerce. To save money, all print preparation ended up being done in-house and that job fell to the advertising art department. The advertising director did not like his overworked crew taking on another job and directed them to bring in a free-lance artist. My college chum happened to be advertising art director and gave the job to me.

One week each month I pasted-up the Magazine at the Chamber of Commerce building in downtown Atlanta, just a short walk from so much Southern history. I loved that job and the opportunity to work in an office of wacky creative people.

I came up with the Santa Atlanta magazine cover and presented it to the editorial art director who passed it along to the editorial director. He shared it with his writers and they showed it to the advertising account reps. All down the line, everyone loved the idea, until it reached the advertising director. “We can’t have a cover without teaser copy,” he said. “Besides, no one will recognize it as Atlanta Magazine.”

Thankfully, the editorial department had final say and the cover graced the December 1972 issue. Looking at the cover today, I am struck by two thoughts – surprise that such a minimal design was accepted and a belief that my unique cover solution still holds up today.

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25. Back From The Edge

Mothers Day is the perfect time to hand out propers, to celebrate what didn't happen and be grateful for it. Once, many years ago, I came this close to rolling down a West Virginia mountain side. But for my wonderful and quick mother, I would, most likely, still be rolling.

When still a diaper boy, mom put me in one of those round baby walkers, so I could scoot around freely on my own. Little did she know my new freedom would soon take me right to the edge. One day, she left my sister and I to play in the living room while she took a shower.

At the time, we lived on the second floor of an apartment house in the town of Beckley. From our vantage point, there was no up, just a long way down the hill to the main road. Hill is a relative term here, because Beckley sat directly on a mountain top.

Mom felt secure, since the screen door was latched and she could hear anything going on in the living room. Besides, she would only be a few minutes. That turned out to be just enough time for my sister. My mother first heard silence and then the sound of a chair being dragged across the floor. When she heard the screen door swing open and my baby walker roll across the floor, she instantly knew what was happening.

She later told us she had never moved faster than that day. In an instant, she grabbed a towel and raced through the apartment to the living room. There stood my sister with the screen door propped open and me rolling out the door onto the second-story porch.

Mom made it out to the porch just as I approached the stairs. With her flapping towel providing little cover, she lunged and caught hold of me inches from the stairs' edge. Two old men sitting on the adjoining porch stared in wide-eyed amazement. One of them started clapping.

I'll never know whether he appreciated her quick courage or was simply grateful for the unexpected eye-full. I only know that on this special day many years later, I am still grateful for a mother's love.

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