You would think by now they’d know
That one hole is like another.
The sugar-water will always flow
And they could take turns with each other.

Perhaps it is that they have spent
Too much time watching us;
Watched us push to make the rent,
Shove each other on the bus,

Parking at the mall, pushing for space,
Learned the best goes to the first.
So they buzz and dart and race;
Each wants first to slake their thirst.

Blue Fish Digest~May/June 2015

High Seas

“Avast mate, show us your colors.
Bosun’ assemble a boarding party.
We’re going aboard.”

An old window shade
Precariously nailed
To a discarded mop handle
Makes the main mast
For the HMS Cardboard Box.

Sometimes we lower the standard
And raise the ‘jolly roger’
When goods and gold are scarce.

No matter what the cargo,
The quest is the thing,
That and the battle’s glory.
I sail again. I’d forgotten,
Till you reached five.

‘Treasure Island’ is alive for us both.
We each brought something to the game;
But I’m taking away most.

published in Blue Fish Digest ~ January/February 2015

A Christmas Memory

No matter where life had carried me I always tried to get home for Christmas and New years. If I managed it I always tried to spend some time with Uncle Dub. Uncle Dub was the family story teller. The last year I was with him was Christmas of 65 and I asked him to tell me a story about his memories of Christmas when he was a boy. I came home and wrote it down as well as I could.

“When I was a young’n coming up”, Uncle Dub said, “times was hard. Our old shack sat way on back in the cypress on about a ten acre hammock. We was dirt poor. We was so hard up we had to use a possum for a house-cat. Mama caught Puss when she was a leetle bitty thing about the size a her darning egg. She come in the kitchen holding her and stroking her, saying, “This baby must’ve got raked off her ma’s back and somehow ended up in the pantry. She’s way to leetle to be weened. I wonder if she would drink from a saucer.” 

She got a saucer of fresh cow’s milk. We had a old cow that had follered Pa home. Mama sot that milk saucer down in front of that critter and it took to it like a cracker to grits. Right then Ma said, “I’m gonna name her Puss just like the cat in that story and we’ll just use her till a real cat shows up.”
In no time Ma had taught that critter to cat. I mean it would play with a ball a yarn and foller Ma everywhere and even come rub on her legs when she were hanging out clothes. It was the beatin’est thing. She even taught her how to me-ow after a fashion though it come out as sort of a hiss-ow but it was perty good fer a possum. Old Puss was a fair stand-in. She done all the cat things exceptin’ kill rats and I’ve since learned lots of real cats ain’t ratters neither. I’ll tell you she served our family well.
“What ever happened to Puss, Uncle Dub?” I asked.
“Well, son when I was about twelve we moved from the hammock to town because Pa had found out a new lumber mill was coming and he had got on there. We rented our first house with running water and artificial lights. Before then we had to run after the water and light a knot.
Well, after we got electrified Ma seed one a them fancy three tiered stand pipe lamps and just had to have one. Pa got it for her on Christmas Eve Eve. That very night the topmost lamp burned out. Pa unscrewed the bulb to carry into town to make sure he got a exact replacement. 
Old puss still had some of her possum ways. She was all time climbing around and hangin’ by her tail. I expect she was one confused critter. She clumb up that pole and sorta wrapped her tail around the top most lamp when the tip went right in the socket and put us all in the dark. When Pa got home and figured out the why of it he put a penny in the fuse box. Once we could see again we realized poor Puss was a goner.
 Ever the practical provider Pa skinned her out and swinged her good with hot iron and we baked her up with a mess a sweet taters but Ma was mighty upsot and wouldn’t have none of it. In fact she never et possum agin and it sorta put a rift between the folks. That was the last Christmas they spent together.”
“You mean your parents divorced?” I asked.
“Lord no! Folks back then didn’t get divorced, nor separate much, but Pa started taking me and Jim and Rufus back to the swamp house for a hunting-fishing week at Christmas and Ma started going to spend it with her family. We was better off then and she could afford to travel some plus it served to sort of free them both of Christmas memories of how Puss died and what Pa had done. 
That was just a few years till the memory weren’t so fresh and they was fixing to have a big Christmas together the year Pa got killed by the load a logs, but that’s just too terrible to think on and cost Ma so much for that fancy coffin. See most folks back then didn’t spring for fancy but Ma said after that log load flattened Pa she some how couldn’t bring herself to bury him in a wood coffin and have him spend all that time till Gabriel trumps and then wake up to that sheet a wood over him again.”


Blue Fish Digest~November/December 2014

Dog in the Sun

I envy you your nonchalance.
You never worry in advance.
No future fears, forgotten past,
Attempts to make a moment last.
No willful plans about tomorrow.
No hind-sight causing present sorrow.
I wish that you could teach me how
To leave my past and future now.
To live each second till it’s done,
Just like you live, dog in the sun.
Blue Fish Digest~September/October  2014


Talk to me a few minutes,
I’ll tell you about Daddy.
I won’t say he was a Christian, though he was.
I won’t say he read the bible daily, but he did.
I won’t talk about his wing shooting,
How he seldom missed, often doubled.
I won’t say he could make a dog
Do almost anything but talk,
Nor that he was kind, gentle,
Forgiving and courageous.
What I will tell you is
Not once in twenty-nine years
Did I ever hear him say,
“Not now, son. I’m too busy.”
Daddy ___ BlueFish Disgest ___ May / June 2014

The Kick Fairies

“The Kick Fairies gave me hell last night. I hurt in a dozen places.”
“Do I dare ask what you are talking about?”
“You never heard of a Kick Fairy?”
“Not till now.”
“Must come from your raising. Lotsa city folks don’t know about the natural nor unnatural world. My Aunt Pittsey Mae used to explain all that stuff to me when I was a lee little young’n. You have heard that when you wake up with knots in your hair the witches been riding. They knot your hair to use as stirrups.
“Heard it from you.”
“Mark Twain wrote about it. You don’t think old Mark would lie.”
“Oh no, certainly not.”
Well, never mind that. Aunt Pittsey Mae used to say, when you go to sleep at night there’s times you wake up refreshed, times you don’t, time you wake up with new aches and pains you can’t no wise explain.
That’s cause of the Kick Fairies. There’s Fatigue Fairies, Kick Fairies, just all kinds. Why when Aunt Pittsey Mae would see a boy that wasn’t all boy, or a girl that had the hots for another girl she used to swear it wasn’t their fault but that the Reverse Fairies had got a hold on ‘em.
She said the fairies were what made all sorts of critters act fool, even cars and tractors. She said fairies were to blame for all sorts of things, both good and bad. She said gremlins, gnomes and fairies had a whole nuther world or maybe it was nether world, and they come around when no one was looking. Some come to bless, some come to curse and some just try to worry and frustrate you no end. There was Drought Fairies, Curdle Fairies, and Souring Fairies. You could just about name it and there would be a fairy in it somewheres.
“You aren’t about to tell me you believe that?’
“Well, yes and no. It explains a lot that doesn’t make sense. We accept stuff we don’t understand all the time. I don’t see much difference in accepting fairies. Makes way more sense than believing politicians and God knows people still do that.
I remember one time reading how some girls in England had convinced Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that they had seen Fairies in their garden and a whole bunch of folks was trying to prove it.  Don’t you think if a man that smart could believe in Fairies there must be something to it?
“Where do you get this stuff? ”
“I read a lot, always have. Mama used to subscribe to a bunch of magazines back when I was about ten years old and I read them all. Back then, they all had good stories, by folks with some imagination, fiction and true, but stories was the rule then and I started a habit I never stopped.”
“ How is it that a well read person like you can believe in things like Fairies?”
“ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did. How many folks you heard of believe in ghost? We don’t know everything.  All I know is last night I was laying there minding nobody’s business and suddenly it felt just like somebody kicked me in the calf a my leg and my muscles knotted up something fierce and if that ain’t a Kick Fairy I like to know what it is. I’m just glad I ain’t been troubled by the Drill Fairies.”
“Drill Fairies?”
“Yes, the ones that drill through your skull and steal some of your brains. Every time somebody told Aunt Pittsey Mae something stupid or did something stupid she swore the Drill Fairies had paid them a visit. 
See the bad fairies are sort of in league with Beelzebub but the good fairies hanker more after the old golden rule. 
How you live sort of depends on how serious it gets. The worst I’ve got yet is a now and then visit from the Kick Fairies but some of my family has been set upon by them Drill Fairies so bad and so long why they got hardly nothing left.”
Kick Fairies ____ PKA Advocate _____April / May  2014

What’s In A Name

Deep in a dime novel I bought for three ninety five,
Wondering if my hero would make it out alive.
A gringo from Texas known only as Tex 
Was chased by bad greasers with a leader named Mex.
My mind ricochets like a rocked rifle round.
Went off on a tangent on thoughts less profound.
If a gringo from west Texas was known as Tex
And a greaser from Mexico answered to Mex
Could my next hero be Min from Minnesota
Or could he sport a handle like Dak from Dakota.
Would dudes from the Dakotas be Sou or Nor
Nod, Sod, Nda or Sda. God what are names for?
To avoid confusion, a man needs a name
Or else to be numbered like sports in a game.
Could number eleven still ride for the brand?
Could sixteen and ten help fifteen take a stand?
Would it all get as dull as the old bunk house folk
Who told jokes so long they just numbered each joke?

What’s In A Name. ___ PKA Advocate  October / November 2013

My Private Place

I have a private place that stirs my soul,
And comforts me amidst this world’s confusion.
A realm I can retreat to when my worries,
Surround me with a blues I can’t control.
Just some old stump left when they felled the trees,
In preparation for the pond’s beginning.
A lightered pine, so full of pitch-a-plenty,
That it will stand the test of time for decades,
And so afford a place for me to sit
Whenever I’m in need of consolation.

My Private Place ~ BlueFish Digest ___ September / October 2013

Aunt Kitty

When I was a very small boy my Daddy owned a farm outside the town of North, South Carolina. It was a mile to town and with the exception of one family; all of our neighbors were black. The one white family had a girl about ten years my senior so as I grew up all my playmates were black. Either they share cropped with Daddy or share cropped on the farms of Mr. Scarboro.

In 1948 I was five years old and my mother had pretty well given up on keeping me home. Daddy said any of the neighbors would look out for me. Back then everybody in our neighborhood looked out for children if there was a need. There was no deep water for at least two miles and the dog would keep me off of snakes. Because of Daddy and the neighbors I enjoyed a lot of freedom. I had three older siblings but my closest was a sister and at that time her main interest was dolls. For my early life I had to either amuse myself or count on mama until I was past four and then I was allowed to go visit the nearest neighbors.

I had two close friends named Charles and Poodah. They were brother and sister and lived in the cotton field directly in front of our house. I thought it was so neat to live in the cotton. They had cotton on three sides of their house.

Charles was a year older than me and his sister was a year younger. We practically lived together during daylight hours. Their mother and father were both deaf and mute. They had met and married when they were in a school for death mutes I believe. Charles and Poodah had learned to converse by signing but I never could get it right and Charles had to talk to them for me when I had anything to say. I could yes or no by head shaking but there was no way I could co-ordinate my fingers to sign. Poodah was learning, but still Charles had to help her at times. Charles and his folks could talk a blue streak, even argue. You could tell by their vigorous movements and facial expressions when they were disagreeing.  I adapted to his folks and some of the simpler signing.

At first I had been a little scared of his folks, because on my first exposure I was not aware of muteness. The first time I saw Mr. Lee he was running toward me making a strange grunting sound. I later realized it was to get my Daddy’s attention. Once Daddy acknowledged him he simply pointed to the woods behind us. Daddy saw the smoke and ran to his pickup. He sent me inside to tell Mama, and Daddy and Mr. Lee went to rouse all the able bodied neighbors to help fight the fire. When that was over Daddy explained about the Lee family and suggested I might pay a visit as their kids were about my age.

When first I went to see them we went to Aunt Kitty’s house. She lived directly behind them and frequently kept Charles and Poodah. Charles’s parents seemed to always have work to do. Aunt Kitty always had time for them. That day she had time for me too. Frequently we were sent there to get us out of the way. All the kids in the neighborhood had adopted her. We all called her Aunt Kitty. My Daddy and Mama even called her Aunt Kitty. It was a form of respect.

She was aunt, mother, grandmother, friend and healer to everyone for miles around and I guess I spent as much time there as Mama and Daddy would allow.

I don’t remember when she died because circumstances caused us to move before that happened. I’m glad now because I have no unpleasantness associated with any of her memory and her death would have been hard for me as it was for Charles. Charles and I stayed friends even though circumstances forced us to only meet rarely after we moved and even less frequently as adults. For awhile he lived in Pennsylvania and I lived in Washington, and then I enlisted in the Navy and for the next four years was all over the world. We met again accidentally right after I was discharged and I learned of the deaths of his aunt and his father. His mother had gone to live with Poodah in New York and he was living in Columbia, South Carolina but as soon as he got a stake together he was heading back to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Poodah came to see me about a year or two later. She was settling her mother’s estate and had been to see Charles. He was then living in Swansea, South Carolina. We got together again before he went back to the North. We talked about our childhood, his folks, mine, and of course Aunt Kitty and I came home and wrote this so I’d not forget again.

She was a colored lady and she was always described as a lady by who ever was speaking. She might be a black lady or a colored lady but she was always described as a lady. It was before words changed and took on new meanings and lives of their own. There were no Afro-Americans, no NAACP. The N word wasn’t always bad. Curse words in books were a letter and dashes. Bad language was not on TV because there was no TV. The KKK was a bunch of men so ashamed they hid their faces and were not from around here. It would be two more years before I would learn Charles and I would not go to the same school. It just never came up.

Aunt Kitty was a frequent source of help to anyone in trouble. She was a medicine woman and midwife, if one was needed. She kept a cow and she always had fresh milk and cake or cookies or biscuits and corn bread and if you behaved yourself she would let you help with her work and if you didn’t she would send you home with instructions to tell your folks you had been sent home and why. You did because it never occurred to you, you could do otherwise. It was a bad thing to be sent home from Aunt Kitty’s’. It was treated as a bad thing and you were lectured severely even if you weren’t spanked. You got the “I’m so disappointed in you, you ought to be ashamed” lecture and you didn’t ever want to hear that again.

Aunt Kitty was a wonder. She could take a throw away can and break a piece off any plant, get some of her special dirt and in no time have a beautiful new flower. Every thing she touched seemed to blossom and bear as if it was transformed by magic. She knew which herbs had healing and where to find them and how to use them; and she knew ways to heal hearts as well as hurts and her council and advice was sought often by people that would surprise you. I spent a lot of time there as a boy, any time I could contrive a reason or get permission. She had a fine voice and she loved to sing, old songs I think only she knew and I wish I’d paid more attention. I was very young and she was very old and it was a very long time gone by that will never be again.

I remember she kept flour in a huge can and she used to dump in the eggs and fresh milk and mix the batter rite in the top of the flour can and then bring the dough out and finish it on the board table. She kept chickens and she always had eggs. Daddy said her husband had “gone to glory” and her children were scattered “here and yon'” and for years he or one of the other neighbors looked in on her or brought her things from town. I’m sure her lot in life was a lot harder than I knew because I learned much later our lot was hard too but it seemed to me we always had enough of everything. I thought we were well off and Aunt Kitty was too. Looking back I think I was right and it just got turned around like so much of the world. I had to suffer through a lot and get a lot older to realize that having enough of everything should be enough. I remember her last advice to me was, “Don’t let other people make you as mean as they are.”

AUNT KITTY~PKA’s Advocate~August/September 2011


My interest in raptors goes back to my Daddy. We used to lie on our backs, in the cool grass, and watch hawks soaring high aloft in mating rituals in the early spring. My Daddy used to say he would trade a few years to be able to look down on the world like that. He had read about folks hunting with birds and always thought that would be the next best thing. In a few early movies, late forties and up, I saw an occasional trained falcon. It was in the back of my mind always.

Then I read a book by Dan Mannix, A Sporting Chance and it all came to the fore front, but I learned it was illegal in my state. A chance encounter and meeting my future wife, getting in with her family, a trip to Pennsylvania, and another chance conversation with my lady, led to a letter to Dan Mannix and a gracious invitation to visit him at his home in Malvern. Spent part of a day with him and saw his birds, a South American road hawk, bald eagles, and a caracara. We talked about the use of birds and primitive weapons. That was in seventy three. I remember because I have a picture of Mr. Mannix holding my son in one arm with the hawk on his other.

February of seventy seven an article in the State Newspaper told of plans to legalize falconry in South Carolina. I was determined to be one of the states first licensed falconers.

It got sticky for the next few months. I had to come up with equipment, bathing facilities, perches, two buildings, a protected one, a mew, for bad storms, a weathering area for every day, and most importantly the knowledge to help me pass what I was sure would be a difficult test. I read everything I could get from the library. Jack Sampson’s book was a big help. It let me know how inadequate I was.

I got the buildings thanks to my wife, Jane’s, willingness to make sacrifices and help me. When, Mr. Stansell, the agent from Wildlife and Marine Resources, came to inspect my facilities he let me know I had a long way to go. I couldn’t find swivels but I knew how to make those. They required Aylmeri jesses and I could find no grommet setters that did not require the use of a hammer, or any info on making bracelets and jesses. He happened to drop the fact that all the knowledge I needed and the entire test was based on one book that I had not seen. This was less than two weeks before the exam. He said he would put me with a falconer later, to help me iron out my problems, but for now just concentrate on studying. He was sorry but he had no copy of the book.

We wasted no time after he left tracking down a copy. It was a privately printed book, North American Falconry & Hunting Hawks done by three men, Frank Lyman Beebe, Harold Melvin Webster and James H. Enderson.

I could only find the location of Harold Webster. He was in Denver, Colorado so we just got the operator to give us all the listings for Webster that could be him, started with the Harold’s and on the third call got a man who knew him and gave me his number. Called and got his wife, explained my situation and told them I would wire the money, plus shipping and handling, if they would send the book. She said he was not there now but she was sure he had some extras in his car. I wired the money. I got the book five days before the exam and I read and studied like mad with my wife’s help.

I took the exam that Saturday. There were seven of us taking it as I recall. Mr. Stansell was administrator. Without his efforts there would have been no program. I think everyone passed but I’m not sure. I was introduced to Mr. Kent Nickerson who was to be my master falconer during my three years of apprenticeship. We would develop a relationship over those three years that would be a great help to me but would end the day my apprenticeship ended. We would hawk together and visit in each others home but about the time my three years apprenticeship would end so would his marriage. He would have many problems. I would never see or hear from him again.

Mr. Stansell and I would have a good but brief relationship because he would shortly be moving into a Federal position. Other than these two men, I have never heard from or seen any of the men that took that first exam again. Admittedly, we were all sort of loners engaged in what we considered a rather solitary sport. At the time, all that mattered was I had passed and could legally trap a bird and get on with it.

The Feds misplaced my falconer’s license. It was in a stack of papers on the desk of an officer in Tennessee who had retired suddenly for medical reasons. By the time anyone found it I had six days left in trapping season.

Mid December, 1977 Mr. Stansell called me. He had a full grown but severely injured red tail that he referred to as “Bertha, the Bitch”. Mr. Stansell was seriously over burdened and told me if I would take Bertha he would let it count toward my apprenticeship. I could also get a lot of valuable experience. In the mean time I could try trapping a bird till he got her to me if I preferred and he would wait, because he would not saddle a beginner with two birds. I figured I had little hope of trapping a bird this season as I was working every day but Sunday. I told him to just bring “Bertha, the Bitch”.

For the sake of my children I changed her name to Gypsy.

Gypsy had been the victim of a sorry hunter, a lousy shot, a lawbreaker ignorant about nature, and without scruples or character. I say that because if he had not been all these he would never have wounded a red tail.

Another hunter found her and carried her to a veterinarian who had no idea what to do for her but had contacted the S.C. Wildlife & Marines Resources Dept. Eventually word trickled down to Mr. Stansell. He had trimmed her feathers, set the broken wing and taken care of her. Gypsy was a good new name. Gypsy was a stripper. She stripped all her perches. She stripped a few pieces out of me more than once. She had been treated harshly by humans. She saw no reason to ever trust one again. I’d like to say I won her over; but you don’t do that with hawks. I did get her manned, and in a sort of working relationship. In the end she would never fully recover physically or psychologically. Her wounds would heal but part of the muscles would atrophy. After a two hundred yard flight she would need lots of recovery time and would droop the wing constantly. I loved her but she would never be a hunter and could never live as a wild creature so we sought other venues. She ended her days in a small zoo in Spartanburg. Mr. Stansell transported her as he had made all the arrangements.

That was December 7th, 1978 and on that visit he informed me he was changing jobs and going to the Federal side of the wildlife field and would be moving to Atlanta. He said he had a fully mature female red tail named Linnaeus that he needed to give to someone. She had no hunting experience but had been flown at demonstrations for students and had been used in television specials on ETV. She was an eyas when he got her but was in excellent health. Her nest tree had been blown down in a storm and some folks had rescued her. He had maintained her through her first molt. Would I like to have her? Does a fire want fuel? She was, in his words, everything Bertha was not. He still called Gypsy, Bertha.

On December 14th, 1978 Mr. Stansell delivered Lennie to my door. I was and am deeply indebted to him. It was the start of a relationship that would last twenty four and a half years. After twenty-two years I would release Lennie. We live in the country and she would have lots of room. We would continue to feed her for two and a half more years. The last half year she would return less and less often until one day she would not return ever again.

During those years we would kill a fair number of rabbits and a million rats. I couldn’t say who was more frustrated over the paucity of rabbits. When she got a rat I would lose her for a few hours, some times for a few days. Many times I would roost her and come back in the dark to pick her up at first light.

Once I would almost lose her when she managed to get hung up in her leash. My wife would rescue her. I kept the weathering area locked because of the neighbor’s kid. The one day Lennie got hung I would be thirty miles away with the key in my pocket. Jane got wire cutters and tore a hole big enough to crawl through and free her. Lennie would be unharmed although Jane wouldn’t fare quite so well. I would make extra keys, but fortunately this would never happen again.

Lennie would never try a squirrel in spite of my best efforts. She caught a possum, a snake and dog but she had no interest in squirrels. Once she landed and actually followed a rabbit into a blackberry tangle so thick she could not fly out. I had a tough day that time. She would never work with a dog or hunt well with strangers.

In all those years she would only once exhibit any anger. On a really long and fruitless hunt one day when I finally decided to give up, Lennie was so frustrated she flew toward me and slapped the glove as hard as she could and kept going. It was a welder’s glove and she hit it so hard she burst some stitches but then she immediately banked and came back and was her usual calm self. Lennie was exceptional.

Published in Bells & Whistles SCFA Summer 2006, Vol. 1 Issue 1