Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ceidwad the Diatryma Reads Razzmorten's Comatose Mind

Diatryma_by_Christoferson
Part Seven
Without a word, Arwr, Lladdwr and Ceidwad sped away, pat, pat, patting over the leaves with Tors galloping furiously to keep up. Arwr lead them single file along the beginnings of a creek that was soon flanked with rock outcroppings which before long formed a deep hollow. Without the slightest hesitation to puzzle over landmarks, he took them directly to the foot of a huge sheer faced bluff of slate grey rocks which formed an overhang several rods long. At the back of the overhang a small cave ran in under the rock. In short order they had Razzmorten and Mary laid out on pallets of leaves.
Lukus knelt by Razzmorten and laid his hand on the old fellow's forehead. He closed his eyes and quickly set about calming himself as he had been taught in order to ready his images (5)magical energies to flow into his grandfather. He let these drain away until he began feeling the inevitable exhaustion which signaled where he must stop. He had no choice now but to rest before going any further. He opened his eyes and studied Razzmorten for any sign of success. He shook his head in weary dismay as he looked up at the hopeful faces gathered 'round him.
"I see no change at all," he said. "I'll have to eat and rest a bit, before I can try again." He stood up on wobbly legs and clenched his teeth. "I can find nothing wrong with him at all. I wish I could read his mind. Then he could tell me what's wrong."
"I can do that for you," said Ceidwad, lowering her head to peer into the cave.
"You diatrymas read minds?" he said, suddenly thinking about what she was saying.
"Yes."
"But why didn't you say so long before now?" he said before realizing that he just might sound as though he were making accusations.
"It wasn't possible with us fleeing for our lives," she said solemnly. "Mind to mind contact 4F14BB4B9with one who is unconscious is delicate business. It takes time and it's always best
to see if the unconsciousness one will come around on his own."
"Why? said Lukus. "Is it dangerous?"
"Not done right, no."
"So you have a certain expertise?" he said, glancing at Rose.
"I'd not attempt such a thing without being confident. Of course, I'll only proceed if you wish."
Lukus looked at Rose. She turned aside to Fuzz and Myrtlbell who each nodded encouragingly.
"Please do, Ceidwad," said Lukus. "We'll never know unless you do."
"Then please carry him to the mouth of the cave," she said, "we never go inside."
As soon as they got him moved, she slowly settled onto her keel, fluffed her feathers and gently laid her huge ebony beak across his forehead. After shifting her head a little, this way and that, she blinked a couple of times and then closed her eyes. Hubba Hubba leant so far forward on Rose's shoulder while watching that he tumbled off and landed on the cave floor with a feathery plop. Pebbles flew down beside him as he picked himself up and gave a shake of his feathers. Taflu snickered, but sobered at once at a look from Fuzz.
images"Do all diatrymas read minds, Lladdwr?" whispered Rose.
"Generally only the hens amongst us," he said softly. "They listen in on the dreams of our eggs and thereafter they keep track of the chicks in dead silence in the face of danger and while they forage."
"Then her mind reading won't heal?"
"I'm afraid it doesn't, at least nothing beyond the reassurance it gives. But Ceidwad will be able to tell you what ails them and find out what needs to be done."
At last, Ceidwad stood up and turned to face everyone, singling out Rose and Lukus.
"Your grandfather will survive and will indeed wake up in due time," she said, "but I've no idea at all how long that will be. Those bolts from the sorceresses were much like lightening. If one is struck by lightening, he either dies right then and there or he's left in a coma for who knows how long. Could be just a few hours; could be days. They got big jolts. Your Grandfather believes that they are both very lucky to have survived. They should be dead. In fact, he wonders if Demonica and Spitemorta deliberately let them live for some reason. So there's no damage, but I'd allow that he'll be asleep for some time to come."
"Oh thank you!" said Rose, as she hugged Ceidwad, muffling a sob in her fluffy neck feathers "You've spared us so much worry."
Ceidwad rattled her beak through Rose's hair as Hubba Hubba hopped onto Razzmorten's chest and walked up his beard to point one eye at his face. He stood there for a moment, then trotted back down his beard and flew to Lukus's shoulder. "He doesn't look any different at all, Lukus."
"I'm not worried now," said Lukus as he scratched Hubba Hubba's head. "Two very wise birds have just told us he'll recover, so I know he will."Stone_Heart_Cover_for_Kindle
"Righty-o!" he said with a proud flap of his wings and a whistle. He shook his feathers. "Now you're catching on."
"Absolutely," said Lukus.
Ch. 19, Stone Heart  (Click on Title or book image to download FREE from Amazon)

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Day My Brother Became My Hero

Momence train
It has been far too long to remember just what I was doing out in the yard amongst the bees and the dandelions, but it was a glorious spring day. I looked up at a rattle of bicycle fenders to see one of my brother’s chums hop from his bike, leaving its wheel spinning in the grass. "Hey Cricket!" he called, trotting straight up to my brother.

"Hey, what's up, Ronnie?" I hollered.

They weren't about to notice a six year old girl. After all, they were all of nine or ten. The screen door to the kitchen clacked shut behind them. I was on my feet at once to find out what they were up to.

"Yea?" said Mom, planting her ball of dough on the bread board as I stepped inside. "And Ronnie's welcome to stay here and play all afternoon if he wants."

"But how can he show me his new puppy? His puppy's at his house. That's why he came to get me."

"Take your sister if she wants to go..."

"No way!"

"Or stay here."

"She ruins everything," he said, throwing down his cap. "Can't she go to Kay's or something?"

"They're gone for a week, kiddo," she said, rolling out her dough this way and that. "So how about it Carol? Want to go with Greg and Ronnie to see a new puppy?"

"Sure," I said, in spite of Greg's smoldering look as they tramped out the door.

"You need shoes."

"Can I wear my brand-new red tennis shoes?"

"Oh...try to keep them clean."

"Goodie!" I cried as I dashed over to their cardboard box on the closet floor to sniff at their new rubber before tying them mercilessly tight, since they were a full size too large. I watched my two feet walk as I stepped outside.

"I'm ready," I said as I caught up with Greg and Ronnie at the end of the lane.

They kept their backs to me and set out, trading mumbles.

"Hey!" I cried, clopping to keep up. "This isn't the way to Ronnie's house. Mom's going to..."

Suddenly Greg wheeled about, giving me a shove that nearly knocked me off balance. "No she isn't, or I'll fix you up a whole lot worse."

"Why would she ever find out?" I said, knowing in my bones that I was still going to pay for this.           

“Good! Just stay far enough behind us not to be nosy and keep your mouth shut.” And with that, he and Ronnie resumed their saunter down the buckled sidewalk, past the catbirds and the daffodils, and past the privet and the picket fence which was at last replaced by parking meters and paving brick. They walked into a dime store and bought some candy.

"Could I have some?" I said. "I didn't bring any money."

Greg took a big bite of his candy bar. "Then you don't get any," he said, thrusting his chewing mouth into my face.

They looked at boy's toys for some time and then went to the park to spend the afternoon, playing baseball. No one was about to let a girl play. I looked all about for clover in the grass to make bracelets, but there was none. I might have gone home, but Greg would get into trouble and take it out on me.

Presently it was past time to go and Ronnie was convinced that it was at least an hour late. "We'll take a shortcut," said Greg with a wave, as he set out at a brisk jog.
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I ran along after them until we wallowed through some daylilies and clambered up a bank to the tracks with my side aching. A green heron called, somewhere beyond the chorus of cricket frogs. I could scarcely keep up. I watched the white toes of my red tennis shoes come down upon tie after tie. Once in a while, I'd slip off a tie and stumble. I was falling behind. Just as I heard a train whistle, my toe slipped off the back of a tie into a deep hole, catching me hopelessly fast by the heel and setting me down hard. There was the whistle again. I couldn't begin to reach my laces. Greg and Ronnie were getting too far away to hear. White hot terror flooded me as I yanked and yanked on my leg.

Suddenly they were running for me, wide eyed and waving their arms. "The train's behind you!" screamed Greg as he grabbed below my knee and pulled with everything he had. "You idiot sister!" he sobbed as Ronnie heaved from under my arms. Without warning, we were on our sides in the nodding weeds of the steep bank as the train raced by.
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"My shoe!" I wailed. 

Greg shot to his feet. "I'll get your damned shoe after the train's past," he said, furious that I'd brought tears to his eyes.

Mom met us at the screen door. "Just in time for supper," she said. "Did you have fun?"

"Yea," said Greg. "The uh, puppy's real cute and stuff."
           
"Can we get one sometime, Mom?" I caught Greg's eye. I could see that he was ’way more than merely glad that we got home. He might have had his awful moments, but he would certainly do for a brother.

Carol Marrs Phipps

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Razzmorten sets out to Ease Hubba Hubba's Mind

the-alchemist
Part Five
Razzmorten drew back the tall heavy curtain and tied it before stepping off the stool with a bound. Hubba Hubba winced at the sudden light. Razzmorten drug the screeching stool across the stone floor to the far side of the window before lunging onto it with one leg to grab for the other drape and tie it back. Hubba Hubba ruffled and shook off some of his stupor to glare resentfully at Razzmorten's cheery endeavors. He vastly preferred his wonderful dream about Pebbles to this blinding sunlight. "Thank you, old fart," he thought, settling his beak into his breast feathers with a shake of his head.
"What a beautiful day," declared Razzmorten as he peered out the window and took a deep breath.
"Yea. It will be when you close the drapes again," thought Hubba Hubba, as he wiggled his beak further into his breast feathers to close his eyes.
"What would you like for breakfast, fruit or vegetables?" said Razmorten. "Maybe some whole grain porridge?"
"I'm not hungry," rattled Hubba Hubba from beneath his ruffled crown feathers.
"I see. Are you not feeling well? Perhaps if you tell me just how it is that you feel poorly, I could mix up something for you."
By this time all the sparrows had come closer to listen. Hubba Hubba shook his feathers, flinging dander into the sunlight. Suddenly he sleeked down, pointing himself at them. "Now there are six nosey pests, rather than three. Do I need this? Well, I'll tell ye: no, I do not. And if you want to know what I do want, I'd just like to be left alone for a change. Peace and quiet. Is that too much? Go build your nests. Beat it!"
"Wrong side of his perch this morning, wouldn't you say?" said Razzmorten, sharing wide eyes with the sparrows. "I doubt that he'll be very proud of his outburst after he's had two shakes to consider things. Let's just leave him to himself for a bit." The sparrows flitted back to what they had been doing at their nests, while Razzmorten went to his bedroom to read, leaving Hubba Hubba to mumble by himself.
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"Lot o' 'preciation he has," he rattled from the very most guttural reaches of his crop. "Here I make my sacrifices, bringing messages about his grandchildren. And respect. I mean, what kind of respect is it to blind me with light and sadistic cheer, and six bouncy
goody-goody little slaves to rub it in? Six instead of three. I'm not getting twice as much
respect and service, here." With a huff and an especially thorough shake of feathers, he
turned his back on the brilliant morning and closed his eyes in search of his dream about
Pebbles.
"This isn't working," he thought. "Why don't those bean brained sparrows shut up? 'Tweety, tweety, tweet...!' Great boundless Joy! The local twitterpates are jabbering all over outside. This is not working." He turned back to point himself at the window. "I'll go tell them!" He paused, straightening up to shuffle from side to side. "Whoa! Too far to the sill." But now he was making lunging thrusts at the window at each end of his perch, and he was starting to flap his wings. Now he was flapping furiously. At the fleeting thought of Razzmorten's suggestion of exercise, he let go. Before he could quite appreciate that he was truly aloft, his feet were planting themselves upon the warm stone window sill. He'd made it, and he wasn't even breathing hard. He forgot all about sleep. He looked to see if the sparrows had seen. They had. Six heads, each gawking broadside, had stopped in astonishment to take in his unexpected feat. They ducked out of sight into their nests at once.
"Hey! You ones!" he called out. "It's all right! I'm not upset. In fact, I'm sorry about the things I said earlier. Really. Aw come on! Can't a fellow have a bad mood once in a while?"
Head by head they reappeared in shocked wonder. "That's the first time that you've ever apologized for your nasty tongue," chirped Tweet.
"Yea? Maybe so. Think there's some hope for me after all?"
"May be," tweeted Squeak, "but you still have a huge way to go."
"Maybe you're right, but old habits die hard, don't you know. Give me some slack. I'm working on it."
"Hey, the master's developing humility," squeaked Chirp. "And by the way, nice flight."
Hubba Hubba made an aloof about-face hop on the window sill, but he was beaming at the compliment. He fluffed up and preened here and there and then gave himself a thorough 5238538447_ef45b254a9shake. When he smoothed down his plumage, he discovered that his black feathers had already gotten quite warm in the sun. He basked, letting his mind wander to pleasant images of Pebbles. After a good long spell in the mesmerizing warmth, he even fancied he saw her in a nearby apple tree. It was almost as though he heard her say: "I love you. C'mere." It was so real that he found himself out the window, winging towards the apple tree. "My!" he said, coming to his wits. "I guess there's nothing for it but to see if I can actually make it to that tree." It was nearly a furlong away, but it was a downhill glide from Razzmorten's tower, and he dutifully flapped his wings the whole distance. The next thing he knew, he was landing on a broad limb right beside the very love of his life. This was no daydream at all.
Pebbles however, was not charmed by his arrival. She fluffed up as huge as possible and shrank her pupils to pinholes, making her eyes fiery red. "Bad boy! Bad boy!" she called out, madly wheeling and strutting back and forth. "Minuet! Minuet! Please get rid of this bad boy!"
"Hubba Hubba!" cried Minuet, as she looked up from her chair in the shade. "You can fly again. Wonderful! Come down here and see me. Pay no mind to Pebbles. She's just being a brat."
Just then, he looked beyond Minuet into the courtyard and saw a personage who made him go apoplectically faint. She was sitting calmly with two strangers and King Hebraun. "What are you doing here, Ugleeuh?" he croaked, as his heart pounded in his chest. By now everyone was looking right at him, and he shrank back into the leaves.
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"Is this filthy bird yours?" cried Ugleeuh, spitting with scorn as she sprang to her feet. "And how dare he call me ugly! You should have him destroyed this minute." The two strangers rushed to her at once, attempting to soothe her.
This was too much for Hubba Hubba. "Help! Help! Help!" he cawed as he leaped into the air, flapping madly for Razzmorten's tower. He had no problem making straight for the window, but loft was a poser. He thought his heart and lungs were both going to burst before he got far enough up to fly in. He banged his keel painfully on the sill, sending him inside in a tumble of feathers to smack into his perch, knocking it over with a crash before skittering to a sliding halt on the tabletop. Razzmorten burst into the room, quite wide eyed.
"Sorry for the mess, Wiz," croaked Hubba Hubba, as he heaved and gasped for wind. "But Ugleeuh's down there in the garden with the king and queen and a couple of strangers. There's no telling what she came here for, but you know it ain't good. And now
that she's seen me, she wants me destroyed. That's what chased me back in through the
window. Man! My keel bone hurts. Can't you get her with some kind of wizard fire from
the window here 'fore she does something terrible?"
Razzmorten scratched his head thoughtfully, then ambled over to the window and gazed out for long enough to exasperate Hubba Hubba. When he turned around, he was smiling. Hubba Hubba felt a scald of fear rush through this chest, convinced for the moment that Razzmorten had been smitten with a bewitchment by his evil daughter. As the urge seized him to fly back out the window and escape into the countryside, a meaty thump from Fifi's tail on the floor beside the table completely shattered his resolve. He looked from dog to window and back again, utterly befuddled. At the sight of Razzmorten mildly taking a seat at the table to patiently wait for the arrival of his composure, he opened up his feathers completely, hesitated, then shook himself resolutely and sleeked down. "All right, all right, Wiz!" he said. "I'm ready. End my confusion. Hey! This is real anxiety I'm suffering from, don't you know."
"The young woman out there does indeed look like the very picture of Ugleeuh, years ago," said Razzmorten, not smiling at Hubba Hubba's consternation. "She looks enough like Ugleeuh to be her twin, removed in time. Even her behavior, they act alike. In fact, I was so taken by this that I went to great pains to determine if she wasn't under some divination, some spell to condemn her to a life as Ugleeuh's echo, but I found no such spell. She truly seems to be one of those once in a millennium coincidences. She's Princess Spitemorta of Goll. She's come here with her parents in hopes of making an alliance marriage with Lukus to unite Niarg and their realm. You've no reason to fear anything."
"Maybe we have another coincidence here, Wiz. This girl said she wanted me destroyed, remember? Why would some total stranger do that? Hey, I'm a bird! Threats to my life leave a lasting impression, and her impression feels just like Ugleeuh. That's my reason."
"You don't deserve to be so upset. Why don't I just go down there and see what's going on? Would that ease your mind?"The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle
Hubba Hubba looked very doubtful, but Razzmorten was already on his way out the door. "Wiz!" he cawed out. "Be careful! And hey, take Miss Toothyface, here, why don't you?"
"I'm sure I can handle it myself," said Razzmorten, tossing back a wide-eyed smile as the door went closed.
Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps

Monday, July 21, 2014

Do We Have a Smoking Dragon?


            I used to teach at Ch'ooshgai Community School, a boarding school on the top of a mesa on the Navajo Nation. One spring morning when the students were in the hallway changing classes, one of the older boys began calling out: "Herald! Herald?" Soon there were others calling out to Herald, and in short order it became a daily routine during class changes. "Herald! Herald? Oh, Herald!"

            I had the older boy in one of my classes. "So, who's Herald?" I said, looking up from my attendance sheet.

            He shrugged his shoulders and grinned, trading glances with other kids in the room, but he had nothing to say.

            I got the same response from other students when I asked, but the calling out to Herald was to last until the end of school. I kept my ears open. One day whilst the students were visiting quietly as they finished up an assignment, one of them said to another, "When he lands on the roof of the school, you'll cry, Jerome."

            "No way," said Jerome. "You'll cry when it thunders and you get all your stupid hair singed off, dumb ass."

            "Who's he?" I said, ignoring the profanity. "Are you two talking about Herald?"

            All I got were cherubic grins and shrugs. 

            I had repeated instances like this. Nobody would answer my questions, but I was beginning to piece together a great dragon of a beast with a twenty foot wingspan, able to set fire to things from the air. Could this be the fabled Thunderbird? No wonder no one would tell me. Outsiders were always making fun of their legends, and they weren't about to give me the chance to.

            There were certain old people who swore that there was indeed a gigantic bird which flew up and down the Rockies before storms. Ornithologists scoffed at this of course, saying that somebody with binoculars would have seen it long before now. But could there ever have been? I well remember the bobcat that Dad shot in the chicken house which the Zoology professors insisted could not possibly have been there. I started doing some research. Soon I discovered Argentavis magnificens, a late Miocene monster of a bird with a 23 foot wingspan that weighed between 150 to 175 pounds, which flew the skies of Argentina, six million years ago.

            I finished my maté and went outside to a rock to eat my fry bread and mutton stew and to look out over the dry grass of the countryside. My head spun at the thought of it, as I sped south in my mind's eye into a never-never age of pristine wonder, past the tall trees of the White Mountains, past meadows and upland hills, long before there ever was a Nogales, and on down the great mountain chain, all the way to the slopes of the Andes Mountains in Argentina, where the great Argentavis soared on the updraughts of a gathering storm, just like the dragons in Good Sister, Bad Sister, except that our dragons are rather more Jurassic, with bony tails and mouths full of teeth.     

Tom Phipps
 



Friday, July 18, 2014

Blog Tour: John Priest, Author of The Curse of the Sea Shell Cave

Author Pic
I've been a children's author since 1985, with books traditionally and independently published.
I am one of seven children (three girls, four boys) and live with my wife and family in the West Midlands, UK (two daughters, their hubbies and three great grandkids).
I have written many different types of books and scripts over the years and besides children's books I have written adult horror, sci-fi and comedy thriller scripts.
I was invited to Pinewood Studios, UK, in the late 1980's after a Director had read my script and thought it showed great promise.  He sent it to the USA for another reading but unfortunately nothing ever came of it. I keep meaning to change the script into book form but other new ideas always take over.
Book Cover
My latest children's book is The Curse of Sea Shell Cave, a detective/whodunit for children.  Inside you will find the Jay-Pea-Eyes aka Junior Private Investigators searching for clues to solve another mystery.  It's the second book in the JPIs series and is available in paperback and various e-book formats.


John Priest is always pleased to hear from readers. Simply use the contact form at: http://www.johnpriest.co.uk

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pappy Taylor's 93rd Birthday

 Taylor_video
One evening on the first of October, better than twenty years ago, Gary Harrison and I drove down to Effingham to call on Pappy Taylor for his ninety-third birthday.
"Yea!" he hollered at our knock. "Come on in! "Grab 'ee a ch'ir!" He was sitting on his davenport, his ankles swollen with dropsy, coffee can cuspidor at his feet, when we stepped through the door. "Hand me that there fiddle, would ye, Gary?" He fingered its strings and tightened a peg as we hauled out our instruments and the evening began. "What do you ones want to play?" He leant forward and took a spit.
"What ever you feel like, Pappy," said Gary.
Pappy sawed haltingly for a bit, rummaging about through fragments of tunes. "I know all kinds," he said, "if I can just think of them. Here's one. Lonesome Indian." He commenced playing with a flourish as Gary and I followed along on guitar and banjo. With a scarcely a pause, he started another tune with the verve and abandon of a long lifetime of playing.
"Man!" I thought. "He must have been something in his prime."
"You know that one, don't ye Gary?" he said as he finished.
"King's Head, ain't it?"
"Yeap. Now this here's one," he said, striking up another piece.
"Now what was that?" said Gary.pappy02
"Six Pound 'o Feathers in a Cuckoo's Nest."
"I don't recall ever hearing that one."
"Yea.
"Theah was an old woman, wanted a new feather bed,
And an old man, white hairs upon his head,
Old man he come from the west,
Old woman, wouldn't have any but the best...
"Oh hell, I've clean forgot, but anyway he found six pound o' feathers in a cuckoo's nest," he said, raising his fiddle again. "This here 'n's pret' near my favorite." For a long spell he played an elaborate version of Turkey in the Straw.
"Now what was that?" said Gary.
"That there was the piece that Turkey in the Straw was wrote off of. It's called Natchez Under the Hill. Theah's fellows ask what that is, and I say: 'Ain't ye ever heard of Nachez Indians?' It was written 'way back in George Washington's time. See, the White man got to cheating them, and one thing and another, so they danced all night, a-getting ready for a big Indian war the next day. That's what that there tune is."
"Say Gary," he said, nodding at me, "what's his name?"
"Why, that's Tom Phipps."
"Well I know that, you fellows know what I mean, but I couldn't think of his name to save my neck," he said, leaning to one side of his fiddle for a spit. "Now here's one..." He put his fiddle to his collarbone and played Paddyin' on the Turnpike, a tune about the Irish who laid the first railroad tracks across Illinois. Then he played Flop Eared MulePicking Cotton Down South, Bear Pen Hollow and Devil in the Haystack. He played Sugar Foot Rag and West Coast Rag and somehow ended up talking about Buffalo Bill. "He was an Indian fighter," he said as he picked at some small something on the side of his bow. "Now that's the part that wasn't right. The White man wanted their land, and the damned government come in and killed women and children, by God, and old men. And they hadn't done nothing, nothing at all except to try to live peaceful. They killed women and children! That son of a bitch Custer got what was a-coming to him, by God!
"You know, the United States Government stole this universe from the Indian. No use a-saying they didn't 'cause they did, and now they're a-starting to acknowledge it. They stole it! A fellow asked if I wanted to see the monument out there, ye know, at Wounded Knee, and I said no, I ain't going to. That ornery cu'se Custer had it a-coming.
"You fellows got any Indian in ye?"
"Both sides, I think," said Gary.
"The Walkers," I said.
"Well I have," he said. "My dad was part Iroquois. He used to tell that they'd trade an old pappy01gun for as much land as a man could walk in a day. But then the White man went to cheating, and directly it was all gone." he raised his fiddle. "Here ye go. You ones know this one."
We played Cumberland Gap for quite a good long time. When we finished, Pappy stared off into days long gone. "Got married when I was twenty-four," he said to no one in particular as Gary and I refined the tuning of our instruments. "I married her in Arkansas, when I crossed the Mississippi to work on the railroad. She was awful pretty, and she was sure my wife. She was full blooded Osage. She died of tularemia when I was twenty-eight.
"She took a notion for to eat some rabbit, so I went out and shot her a couple. Now I don't eat no raw meat, but she did. In three days she took sick and died."
He raised his fiddle and played Payroll, then Hell Amongst the Yearlings, then Mockingbird, then Arkansas Traveler and Old Molly Hare. On and on, picking up momentum, keeping us on the edge of our seats away into the night. At somewhere between one and two in the morning, we rose to leave.
"No need to be rushed off," he said. "I can play all night if you fellows want to."
A train whistle blew, off in the night, as we stepped outside.
"You've still got trains a-running through here," I said. "We're losing everything these days, trains, middles of towns. And all the small farms..."
"Why them's the Hundred Cries," he said as he steadied himself against the doorway.
"Hundred Cries?"
"Yea. My Indian father-in-law used to tell about that. The Hundred Cries is the voices of the multitude, never to be heard, as they're driven from the wilderness for good."
The next February, Gary and I were pall bearers at Pappy's funeral. We rode in silence most of the way back to Effingham from the grave yard. "He was the last one wasn't he, Gary?" I said at last.
"Yeap. Sure was."
If Pappy (Harvey) Taylor was not the absolute last who had learnt his tunes from older mqdefaultfiddlers instead of from the media, he was without a doubt amongst the last. Pappy had tunes in his repertoire several hundred years old. King's Head, which he had learnt from his dad, was about the execution of King Charles I in 1649.
I cannot help but feel that the passage of people like him leaves us all impoverished. Tunes imitated from the media are not the same. However, the passage of the old fiddlers isn't the half of it. I grew up with regular square dances. The neighbors got together and had big sings. Dad sang with a barbershop quartet. We sang in church, a mile away. All this is gone. So what? We all know that the rural neighborhoods are gone, wiped out by centralization. But that's not all. We used to sing every day in music class at school. We looked forward to the traditional carols we practiced at Christmas. Several years ago, the music teachers replaced the old songs with shallow parodies of them from the media. Soon the schools stopped having music classes. Soon the grade schools gave up recess. This is 'way better for us, all sped up and modern, right?
Tom Phipps

Friday, July 4, 2014

Really Big Egg Causes Flashback



           

             Carol decided to make one of her fabulous omelets from the freshly laid ostrich egg that was given to us by someone who just didn't know what sort of treasure she had. One egg fills our big iron skillet. We always save the shell, which leaves me with the task of putting a hole in each end without getting shell fragments into the egg white. I found the right bit for my Dremmel tool. As I rolled the egg about in my lap, thinking about Olloo and the strike falcons, I had a flashback.

            Not so very long ago, Carol and I taught at Peach Springs on the Hualapai Reservation. We lived in a trailer with our son Will in the rocks beyond where the buzzards gathered in the morning to sun, far above the mailboxes in front of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building and the half dozen other houses called Valentine, Arizona. To avoid going crazy from teaching, we'd spend our weekends having adventures, wandering in the vacant lands round about.

            One morning, we started out at sunrise with Will in order to find a way up to "Car Top," the tallest peak in the Peacock Mountains, some miles away across the valley. Gamble's quail called from the scrub oaks in the wash as the first breezes came up the slope. We put our backpacks into our weathered Ford Festiva and set out along the roads, graded out of the sand of the valley floor, its wheels hammering along the endless washboard as we swerved here and there to avoid the worst of it.  

            Eventually we came to a cattle guard on the far side, swamped with sand and piled up on one end with tumbleweed. We could just make out the white of a house up in the feet of the mountains, beyond the mesquite and scrub oak as we began to climb, speeding through patches of deep sand and straddling gullies in the lane. Presently the lane reached  the house, windowless and forlorn, across from a grey barn and its fences, still able to hold cattle, but never to be part of a ranch again. On we went, lurching and climbing into the piñon pine, over a series of ridges, eventually finding ourselves churning our way up the sand of a dry wash for a very long time, until the thought of getting stuck made us turn about and park. We stepped out into the silence and mounted our backpacks. A canyon wren called. We sat on a glistening schist outcrop, tied our tennis shoes and set out, trudging through the sand of the wash.

            When the sun was overhead, a narrow lane left the wash to climb through the piñons and agave to a gravelly clearing with a squeaking windmill, still pumping water, and a stunning view of nearby Car Top. We spread out a picnic and studied the vista. It would be another day yet to reach its peak, if we were to go this way. It was past time to start back. Supper would probably be late.

            When we reached the car, I strained out from under the straps of my pack and set it in the sand. Undoubtedly was a waste of time, locking the car, I thought. We're at least a good six or seven miles from the nearest human being. Still... I reached into my pocket. "Oh no!" I cried, as I frantically grabbed at every sort of pocket I had. "Keys! I've lost the car keys!"

            Will started back up the wash, retracing our steps. He was gone a long time. We were sitting by the car in despair when he reappeared, shaking his head. What would we do, just walk home? It would take all night, at the very least. We were already nearly out of water, and there were a lot more hours of afternoon sun. This was the Mohave Desert, after all. Could we make it? Suddenly he stopped short. cover.jpg EK"Here!" he hollered, snatching up the keys out of the sand. "I found 'em!"

            Just like Olloo, I thought as I turned up one end of the egg and switched on the Dremmel, 'way out in the middle of the Great Strah in Elf Killers, finding the impossible one thing that saves everything.



Tom Phipps