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Flooding; Houston and the coast Sept 1/17

My little town is giving and donating an amazing amount. These trailers are parked across from the general store; one left yesterday and this one is going today. People are giving hand over fist — and they are not asking for money but for flood buckets, clothing, baby formula (I have been told it is very expensive) lawn chairs, blankets tarps etc.

Some of it is going to the Houston depot and others to the coastal depot for Corpus Christi, Aransas Pass, Rockport. Aransas Pass is where it first hit, they said winds were 130 mph.

So Doug Rodger in Ontario (Canada) asked me to make up a flood bucket for him and he would reimburse me. Here it is, Doug!

This trailer load went to Houston.

I went into Bandera (30 miles away) for dental work and while there went to True-Value to buy stuff for the flood bucket and got a message on my phone to fill up with gas, as the one gas station in our little town was going empty. So I pulled into long lines of cars in Bandera also filling up. I guess they all got text messages too. A woman in front of me at the pump, driving an ancient looked like a 1957 chevy pickup totally rusted came back to me and said they only had premium, “Don’t hit the regular, it messes up your card”.  then she wrote on a piece of paper and taped it to the pump “Premium only” to warn people. Afterwards I went into the store and a sign said CASH ONLY; everything was down, the internet, phone lines and wifi. Interesting. Like some kind of post-apocalypse novel. I still don’t have wifi here at the house. Everything else is working.

Texas National Guard convoy truck, an M1078, flooded its engine and was pulled out by a Monster Truck. This was Houston.

I got an email from somebody I know in England and he was sneering at Melania Trumps’ shoes and her FLOTUS hat. Not fifteen minutes before I opened my email to read this, I heard on radio that two grandparents and four great-grandchildren had drowned in their car trying to get out of Houston. Pulled them out dead. I guess we all have different priorities in terms of what we pay attention to.

Houston flooding

These are flood buckets, you fill them with cleaning supplies and disinfectants, rubber gloves, sponges, flyspray etc. They will be sent to Houston via our church (Methodist). June Chism and I went to Kerrville Home Depot and filled one each. Home Depot people sent a guy to go with us to find all the stuff on the list.  Adds up to about $80.00.

As I was checking out there was a woman behind me who was very taken with the idea, said she had not heard of it but wanted to do one as well. I told her to get in contact with her local church as that is who is collecting and sending down most of them. She said she was going to do just that.

Then my old friend Doug Rodger in Canada e-mailed me and said he wanted to send the money for me to fill another and so I will. I have to go to Bandera today for several things and will do another flood bucket for Doug.

On the list of things needed and other instructions for the buckets, send by PDF from our minister to all church members about the buckets, there was this:

UMCOR does require that all patriotic symbols be removed from the kit contents. For example if an item in a kit has a stamp that contains the American flag that stamp must be removed, covered, or blacked out.

So June and I stopped at a Hobby Lobby and bought a whole lot of American flag stickers and plastered them all over both buckets, top and sides.

For Doug’s bucket I will put a Canadian flag on top.

Eat unspeakable wastes, cruel snobbish fiends.


Pushkin’s ‘The Bronze Horseman’.

And all of a sudden, just like that, I started to hate statues.

‘The Bronze Horseman’ (ending) by Aleksandir Pushkin, ca. 1833

The poor madman circled around
The foot of the black statue’s mass,
He gazed into the brazen face
Of the half-planet’s ruler, proud.
And was his breast oppressed. He laid
On the cold barrier his forehead.
His eyes were veiled with a mist-cover,
His heart was all caught with a flame,
His blood seethed. Gloomy he became
Before the idol, looming over,
And, having clenched his teeth and fist,
As if possessed by evil powers,
“Well, builder-maker of the marvels,”
He whispered, trembling in a fit,
“You only wait!…”- And to a street,
At once he started to run out –
He fancied: that the great tsar’s face,
With a wrath suddenly embraced,
Was turning slowly around…
And strait along the empty square
He runs and hears as if there were,
Just behind him, the peals of thunder,
Of the hard-ringing hoofs’ reminders, –
A race the empty square across,
Upon the pavement, fiercely tossed;
And by the moon, that palled lighter,
Having stretched his hand over roofs,
The Bronze Horseman rides him after –
On his steed of the ringing hoofs.
And all the night the madman, poor,
Where’er he might direct his steps,
After him the Bronze Horseman
Keeps on the heavy-treading race.

8/2/17 Weird places and things in airports and hotels

airports are great places for weird sculptures and stuff. Hotels have peculiar chairs and sometimes people. Am omitting the people. Have been meaning to put this up for some time, since I started my book tours.


And so this was in the airport in Atlanta, I think…

And this was a giant dinosaur skeleton in Dallas Fort Worth airport

These were strange crown-like things along the airport highway in Tucson

And this is me in Easter egg hotel chair last April in Orlando for Harper-Collins 200th birthday bash. It looks like I wear the sane clothes all the time which is about right. Why not?

Summer Reading Recommendations July 22/2017

My 102 degree F. book corner!

That’s what it is out there today. Books for curling up in the air-conditioning, with cat, dog or animal of your preference.


What you might call ‘historical fantasy’, River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay. Can’t recommend it highly enough. I was so happy when all chores were done and I could get back to it.

Strange sci-fi fantasy — Again highly recommended — John C. Wright’s Awake in the Night Land. A world of people locked into a gigantic construction which allows them to survive a far, far future dead earth and a dead sun. A believable female protagonist goes out into the Nigh Lands to save her brother. Great huge things like mountains creep closer by the day. I think it has been out for about ten years.

Post-apocalypseThe Dog Stars. Starts out very well and then slides off and loses probability.

Dystopian —- The Weaponsmaker 88.3. New.

Poetry —Thomas Merton of course, The Master. Individual poems, ‘Night-Flowering Cactus’, and the long poem ‘The Early Legends,’ which I could read over and over. Naomi Nye —anything from The Yellow Glove and Going Going.

Too funny to pass up/July 20/17

Sorry, couldn’t help myself. The office whiner, in that long endless babble of whines. Too cute.

And so we do not get to hear what Bill thought about all this, probably he stared resolutely at his keyboard and said uh huh uh huh.

Billy the donkey is finally all well. Tried to start a book post for discussion on my Facebook but only one taker. I haven’t been on Facebook for about six years. My page was started by one of the cousins so all us cousins could keep up with each other. But it has undergone some kind of exponential growth and now all kinds of new features are invading every facet of your page. They send you ‘memories’ without your permission, people I never heard of are sending me and everyone pictures of their breakfast, ads ads ads. Once in a while I hear from my cousins, Thank God.

So I’ll do book talks here. Sorry, no replies, I can’t take time to moderate. I am looking for new and unknown good books, which means I have to read them but whatever!

Happy July. It’s 100 here every day.




Heroes and villains/July14/2017

I am re-reading El Cantar de Mio Cid, which a fan sent to me sent I had mentioned loving it and hadn’t really sat down with it for thirty years. This book was a gift and much appreciated, it has the medieval Spanish on one page and the modern Castilian on the facing page. I have to use the dictionary constantly but there’s no dictionary for Spanish of the 11th century. It’s fun to puzzle out.

He was an unlikely hero — always “llorando de los ojos”, in fact lots of people were “llorando de los ojos” although I don’t know where else you would llorar from other than los ojos but it was a country expression I suppose, a dialectical expression. He cried freely, he was told to leave Burgos by a nine-year-old girl who crept out of a doorway in the night and said if anyone helped him then the king would kill them, he cried again, he prayed often, his main concern was to protect his wife and two daughters. Slaughtering the moors takes about four lines, but his long conversation with his wife Jimenea is pages.

Which brings us to heroes; their provenance, their archetype, their journey, their failures and battles and so on. It is a LITERARY figure that is always of deep interest. A human fascination that never ends.

People get into arguments about ‘real’ heroes, but in this post the concern is with the LITERARY construction of the hero, and of course it could take up books. I see many main characters as I search through sci-fi and dystopian novels who are actually victims more than they are heroes.

It comes from the Greek; hero originally meant ‘protector, defender’. El Cid is one; Beowulf of course, and Ilya of Murom the Russian folk hero, and he is quite interesting as he came from the peasants; he was not of the princely class. But he gained wealth and fame and a magic horse and a flying carpet and ran the tartars out of the Kingdom of the Rus. This is of course a STORY. A tale, a narrative, a fictional account of the world.

How the hero is built as a main character, the uses of a ‘hero figure’ as a main character is a technical challenge for the writer.

Also Francis Crawford of Lymond on wiki forums.

For contemporary writers, see Dorothy Dunnett’s Francis Crawford of Lymon character; try here:

and http://washingtonpost/archive/lifestyle/is-this-the-best-writer-you-never-heard-ofpatrick-obrian-the-swashbuckling-recluse/

The second one for Patrick O’Brian’s wonderful Aubrey and Maturin combo, who carried him through twenty-one novels, or stories about life on the high seas. Maturin is perfect; one of the best characters I have ever read of or about. Endlessly fascinating, incredibly real. And Aubrey is not far behind.

You just have to invent a character that has a goal, a set of standards (otherwise he becomes a villain), strength, facility with weapons, determination, field expedience and brains, and a reason for a journey.

These people are fun to be around, in a book. In real life? That’s where everybody tends to bog down. This isn’t real life. Literature is hyperreal life.









It Never Ends/ July 11/17

Okay everybody who longs for a little property outside of the city with maybe a small affectionate donkey and a dog and a cat, let’s not even consider chickens.

Billy my donkey came down with a condition on his legs and heels called at times rain scald, sometimes rain rot, sometimes ‘grease heel’, and all of it is just as off-putting as it sounds but must be treated. Washed down with hot water and soap and then sprayed with iodine. Poor baby. Every. Damn. Day.

Then called the vet after more than a month of this and he said leave it alone and I will give him antibiotics and a steroid shot.

Okay, 700-pound donkey, 11 tablets of high-powered antibiotic have to be crushed into powder every morning in a baggie and then rolled into peanut butter.

So I am on my way down to the corral with the bowl of antibiotic-loaded peanut butter, set it down briefly, and Girl Dog came along and ATE IT.

That’s enough high-powered antibiotic for an 800-lb animal and 35-pound Girl Dog ate it all in one gulp.

That’s Girl Dog — the white one — with cousin Susan holding her back from charging at wild hogs in a pen. She just got all healed up from being hooked by a wild hog, 12 stitches– so I frantically texted the vet, Wiley Skelton, he said she had to throw it up, give her 3 ounces of hydrogen peroxide, which I did. No result. He said try three more, so I did, finally she threw up everything but her toenails and her tail. Saved!!

He said it would have ruined her kidneys.

So. Back to crushing antibiotics for donkey. Girl Dog exhausted and sleeping on the cool floor inside the house. Nice cool morning when I was going to give Buck a bath and go for a ride totally gone. In the future the medication/peanut butter goes in a closed Glad bowl until I get it down Billy.

Then another break in the hose down to the water-trough, had to cut into it and insert hose joint.

Now, finally, time to work on a new book and answer event requests by email and maybe find Jaynell to see if she is still cutting hair and get a haircut and buy 3 bales of hay and unload at the corral and this evening if it is cool by maybe seven-thirty give Billy a scrub-down with hot water and mild soap. I used to joke about giving that donkey away but now he and I have become more acquainted with each other, constantly working with him. He has been really patient through all this treatment and has even become affectionate. Adversity makes friends I suppose. Well, so maybe tomorrow morning I will give Buck his bath and we’ll go for a ride.





Sunday July 9/2017

This was an article in our little Texas Electric co-op magazine, given to me in church this morning by our soprano Caroline McGee. This was the little girl —18 months old, granddaughter of Elizabeth Fitzgerald —  captured by the Kiowa on the Elm Creek raid of 1864, which started Britt Johnson’s story. Thanks Caroline!

Happy Independence Day! July 4/2017

When the Declaration of Independence was signed the Thirteen Colonies had been at war with Great Britain for more than a year.

It was a statement of principles. Under these principles and Thirteen Colonies would then set up a system of organization. That would come later and only after a decade, I think. They first tried the Articles of Confederation before they worked out the Constitution.

Constitutions are important because they set out the rules of the game and a method by which the rules could be changed, with the consent of the governed.

These were astounding and thrilling ideas.

At the time my ancestor Edward Giles was a magistrate in North Carolina, and he had been a magistrate (one of fifteen) on the Court of Quarter Sessions under the British Crown for more than ten years. He by that time had two sons and several daughters. He continued to sit on the court (after all, people die and need death certificates, they sell land and need land titles, they need wills witnessed and they must be married) but according to an invoice issued from the Continental Congress he supplied several wagonloads of corn to the North Carolina troops. I imagine his son Nathaniel fought, but we can find no record, which is not unusual. It was guerilla warfare down there in the hills.

The Court of Quarter Sessions moved from house to house and town to town to keep ahead of the British, invading from South Carolina, but still they held their sessions. If they had been caught, since they were on the side of the Patriots, they would have been hung or shot. Edward Giles, by this time probably more than sixty years old, sat as a magistrate along with his colleagues and kept the business of the county on an even keel. This would be Mecklenberg County.

And so that’s my little story about the Revolutionary War. If Edward Giles heard of the Declaration of Independence, as a magistrate he would have studied it carefully. But I think copies were hard to come by and distributed mostly in the New England colonies.