Please be aware all the stories are under US copyright, and use without the consent of the author is illegal.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Fighting Bigotry with Words

When Edna Ferber (ed- nuh fur-ber) was born in Kalamazoo on August 15, 1885 - life was harsh. Anxiety ran high in the family home on South Park Street.


The Ferbers were Jewish. Many people disapproved of others practicing that religion. They hurled insults as the Ferbers went to school, their synagogue (sin-uh-gog) or worked in their store.

The repeated bullying hurt everyone, especially Edna’s father. He spoke with a Yiddish accent, was blind and in frail health. While Edna was still young, he died.

With a childhood filled with heartache, Edna could have become bitter and insecure. Instead, she picked up a pencil and paper and began to write.  Her first job was as a newspaper reporter. Edna then wrote novels, short stories and plays based on her observations of America’s working class. People of different colors and backgrounds who met their ordeals with courage. Their struggles were balanced with consideration for others.

Her book So Big won a Pulitzer (poo l-it-ser) Prize. Another popular novel, Show Boat, was transformed into a Broadway musical. Years later, it became a movie as did her
other books Giant, Cimarron and Ice Palace. 

Edna Ferber never forgot her unhappy youth. She fought bigotry, not physically, but with written words.  In 2002 the United States Postal Service issued a Distinguished Americans postage stamp in her honor.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Learning to Love with Pops

Along the snowy street a black limousine’s tires crunched slowly.

It was 5:22 in the morning. 

Under a street corner's light a flurry of snowflakes swirled around Daniel, Russell and Thomas. At first they did not notice the shiny car or its lone occupant as he got out of the car.

The trio were all newsboys.  Every morning in pouring rain, blustery winds or when the gentle calls of waking birds filled the air they always stood under the same light sorting out copies of the Star Journal and placing them into long canvas bags.  Within minutes the 12 year-old threesome would deliver the news to their Corona Queens' neighborhood of Corona in New York City.

The appearance of a man’s rubber galoshes with bits of slush made the boys raise their heads briefly.
A chorus of greetings left their lips.

“Hey Pops,”  “How ya doin, Pops?” and “’Morning, Pops”

To the rest of the world the man standing in front of them was the legendary jazz musician, Louis Armstrong. 

To the kids of Corona he was just “Pops”.  He and his wife Lucille lived on nearby 107th Street.

“Good morning my fine gentlemen” answered Pops.  His voice rumbled low and gravelly “What is the news of the world today?”

“The transit strike is almost over,” said Thomas his cold cheeks as red as his hair that peeked from under his wool cap. “The buses and subway trains should be running by tomorrow.”

“Boy, my dad will be happy,” declared Daniel.  “He said driving into Manhattan every day with Mr. Green was starting to affect his good nature.”

“Does Mr. Green have a nice word about anything?” asked Russell stuffing the last curled newspaper into his bag. “It seems he starts the day be breathing in all the negative air and then spends the whole rest of the day getting rid of it.”

Pops’ enormous white teeth shone as he laughed at the boys’ assessment of the unpleasant neighbor.

“He just has the miseries and instead of telling them goodbye, he says ‘hello’ come on in and stay a while.  Over the years he has become a true curmudgeon.”
"What's a crumb mud genie?"

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2011 © Words4Sail

The Three Sams of AngeIs Camp


A large wet snowflake fell into Little Sam Newfield’s right eye and temporarily blinded him.
His right foot missed the crude wooden boards that served as sidewalks in Angels Camp. Instead, he stepped into oozing mud and sank down to his ankle.

Flapping his arms madly to regain his balance he was about to tumble headfirst into the sludge when strong arms circled his chest to puII him upright.

"Today is too cold to be taking a mud bath.”

Little Sam’s brown eyes met a pair of similarly colored eyes under wild bushy eyebrows.

“Thank you kindly,” he breathlessly cried.

“Let’s find some cover,” said the stranger.”This freezing California rain has slippery slid under my collar and is playing an icy tune down my spine.”
Quickly, they sloshed their way to the covered entry of the Angels Hotel.

There the nine- year old dried his wet face and took a good look at his rescuer.

The stranger was about 30 years old with unruly brown hair that stood straight up as he took off his felt hat and shook off the snow. In his mouth was a corncob pipe.

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2011 © Words4Sail

Drawing with Mrs.Heelis

Courtesy of the Penguin Group
"Oh bother!"

The baby lamb Margaret Aldrich had been sketching suddenly scampered over to its mother at the field’s opposite end.

From behind her the eight year old heard a soft laugh.

“Aye, young Herdwick lambs can be difficult subjects when hungry for their mother’s milk.”

Margaret turned to face a tiny bent over old woman.  Chubby and dressed in a heavy mismatched tweed skirt and jacket she wore a shapeless navy hat with a frayed ribbon jammed over her short gray hair. 

“Can I see your drawing?” she asked walking over to the low stoned wall where the girl sat.
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Monday, July 29, 2013

Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox

On February 10, 1780, fast-moving footsteps kicked up dust on the wooden staircase leading to steeple of St. Michael’s Church.
Newspaper editor Peter Timothy, with a spyglass tightly clutched in one hand, grabbed the banister with the other as he bounded the steps two at a time.  

Like bees in a rose garden, rumors buzzed around Charles Towne. He needed to find the truth.
Sweat broke out under his gray wig and panting for breath, he finally reached the port city's tallest lookout. There he placed the spyglass against one eye.  Slowly, he scanned across miles of the Atlantic Ocean and South Carolina coast. with its low marshes and sandy beaches.

When he looked south towards some nearby sea islands, a shocked gasp escaped from his mouth.

Against the clear blue winter sky, wisps of gray smoke rose slowly from hundreds of campfires of soldiers warmly dressed in bright red coats.

The British Army had arrived.

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FDR at Warm Springs

Clank, clank, clank.

Audrey hated the uneven metallic sound her steel braces made with each of her lurching steps.
She hated the pain they caused where the top leather strap rubbed against her hips.

On the train bound for Warm Springs, Georgia, the seven-year old especially hated when people looked at her with curiosity or worse, pity, as Papa carried her up and down the bumpy aisles.
She hated everything about polio since contracting the disease last August.

The summer of 1927 had been the best in her young life.
Mama and Papa had rented a two-bedroom cottage on Kure’s Beach, 45-minutes from their home in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina. Painted sunflower yellow, it sat less than 100 yards from the Atlantic  Ocean.  

Early in the mornings, she and Mama went beachcombing.  Usually they found shells, but sometimes after a storm, interesting and strange things floated up to the beach. They had discovered coconuts, an orange, a deflated football and a rusted sign that said "Drink Ovaltine."

When the sun's rays grew hot, Audrey ran fast across the burning sands. Jumping in the Atlantic's crashing waves cooled her immediately. At night, the sound of the rolling surf lulled her to sleep.

Yes, it had been a perfect summer...until August 28,

Swinging her legs out of bed that morning, Audrey screamed when they failed to support her. She crashed hard on the wooden floor.

"I'm afraid your daughter has polio," said Dr. Nelson a few hours later.  His normally friendly face was very serious and scared Audrey. So did her mother reaction by bursting into tears as her father turned very pale. His Adam's apple moved violently up and down his throat.

They returned to their house off Market Street in Wilmington.  Starting second grade with her friends was impossible.  Instead, Mama and old Mrs. Strickland, a retired teacher, taught her while a private nurse applied hot steaming woolen blanket strips to her withered legs.

Audrey's life had changed drastically.

Now a few months later, she and her parents were heading south on the Atlantic Coast Line Railway.  Their destination was a place called Warm Springs.  Dr. Nelson suggested it could help.

The little girl did not know what to expect, but Audrey was sure whatever was at Warm Springs it would probably hurt too.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lion in Lake Tahoe


Grace’s canoe paddle cut through Lake Tahoe’s water and left a chain of sparkling rings on the blue surface.
“Is this a… good surprise?” she yelled again over her shoulder.

From the back of the flat bottomed canoe her older cousin Katherine sighed impatiently.
“Stop asking me.”

The canoe rocked as Grace pulled in her paddle.  She pivoted quickly around in her seat.  Water stained dark circles on her blue jeans.
She peered deep into Katherine’s dark brown eyes looking for any hint of the surprise.
There was none.
“Ask again and we’re going home. I mean it!”
Grace turned around and continued paddling.
“It better be good,” she mumbled under her breath. “My arms hurt.”

The nine-year-old looked up. 

Even in June the high peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains were snow covered.  They called this area  Da ow aga as their ancestors had for over 9,000 years.

The girls were Washoe Native Americans.  Like the ancient Washoe they spent summer and early fall by Lake Tahoe.
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2011 © Words4Sail