Memorial Day Liberty Poem

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From Gettysburg to Kandahar
American bravery spans
Whether saddle, ship, or battle car
On home soil and distant lands
Men and women born free
Risking all to share its promise
That new groups may see
In every corner, town, and province
Liberty for all the battle cry
That hope may flourish and tyranny die

Alaskan Silver Telegram

Edward Mallory got off the boat, and would soon head to Pin and Mayor Lafayette. First, he went to put his suitcase at the hotel. Trouble had been brewing for a while now.

One of his Uncle’s staffers had overheard his plans to protect Pin and to deal with those behind the Pick Axe organization. He had briefed his Uncle, and braced himself for the fierceness of his reaction, but in the end, had found an ally. The staffer was warned there was no place in the party for a blackmail scheme, and buckled.

All of that should have meant returning to smooth waters, until a telegram arrived. Someone in the party was pulling strings. Edward wasn’t sure what they were orchestrating, but it was on a very large scale. Old allies of dangerous people, that had been quiet for years, we’re now resurfacing.

It was time for him to tell them all that he knew. Edward debated if that meant revealing what Harriet and St Louis were really there to do. He struggled with that as he left his hotel room. It was because of this, that he wasn’t paying attention.

Had he been, he may have noticed that he was being watched from a distance. The man had been waiting for days to get Edward. Now, he was out in the open, the boat had been too risky. He buttoned the coat that concealed his weapon, and followed as quietly as he could.

The Battle Of Paynes Bridge


This story about love and perseverance, was inspired by the great teachers and mentors in my life.  Though fictional, it’s set against the backdrop of the region I was born in.  I hope you enjoy the lesson found in The Battle Of Payne’s Bridge.

The battle of Payne’s bridge isn’t a story of smokey battlefields, cannon fire, and military strategy. It’s the story of a man who wanted to better his family. It was in the foothills of Virginia, that Hadley Payne lived with his wife Lindsey, and his two daughters Reilly and Anne. 

Hadley worked in the coal mines of the early 1950’s. Like most at that time, money was short, but they loved each other very much. Hadley and Lindsey did their best to make life enjoyable for their daughters. Which is how the battle of Payne’s bridge began.

The closest town was Grundy, and they lived on one of the nearby mountains. Cider’s mountain was the common name for it, but the girls calked it Grandpa’s mountain. Grandpa Nells had lived there since before they were born. To get to town, they had to go half way around the mountain to reach the main road. The other side was much closer to the highway, except for one thing. Smucker’s pond, a stream off of the Levisa Fork River, separated the mountain from the road.  

The one thing that Hadley Payne and those who inhabited Cider’s mountain were rich in, was timber. It was covered in trees, which weren’t exactly valuable in coal country at the time. It was after Anne, their youngest, had a bout of sickness, that the problem weighed on his mind.

Thoughts such as, ‘What would happen if we needed to get one of the kids to the doctor sooner?’ He dwelt on this through the winter, and into the Spring. One warm Saturday morning, before breakfast, Hadley was on his way.  

He rounded up every friend and relative with a strong back, and a sharp saw, then went to work. Every weekend for months, they cut and shaped timbers. He had never built a bridge before, but that didn’t matter to him.

Hadley reasoned, ‘I never was a coal miner until they hired me, but I’ve done it for twelve years now.’ He knew it would be a tough ordeal, but he was up for the fight. As part research, part recreation, Hadley and his brother Tom swam, and explored how deep Smucker’s pond actually was.  

To their surprise, it was much more shallow than anyone had thought. Confident that their plan would succeed, they went forward. Soon word spread through the county that crazy Hadley Payne and his bunch were planning to build a bridge.

It was these stories that caused Sheriff Tipton to make a trip up the mountain. “Hello Sheriff, what brings you here?” “You do Hadley. People all over are talking about your bridge.” “Well, we’ve needed one for a long time Sheriff. My family aren’t the only ones on this mountain, we need a bridge.”

The Sheriff took off his hat. “Yes, yes, you do. Hadley you’re not an engineer, bridges aren’t in your background.” “That’s true, but the county always says it’s too expensive to build. So far, I’ve proven that wrong.”

“Bridges aren’t just wood timbers, they need to be strong enough to carry cars over.” “Sheriff, this bridge isn’t going to be used like a main road. Families on the mountain may go into town once or twice a month.” 

“Except for us miners that is, and we get up before dawn to take the long way round. This isn’t to tread on every day, it’s for emergencies. What if your child was sick, and it took half the day to get her to a doctor. What would you do?”

The man sighed. “I’d build a bridge over a shallow pond just in case. Still, you know the county isn’t going to let you build it. There’s a hearing next week, until then, the Mayor gave me specific instructions. I’m ordering you to cease and desist, pending the results of the hearing.”

Hadley agreed, and the Sheriff left. They say great strategists never show their hand until they’ve tied their opponents in a knot. Hadley had never been a bridge builder, but he had been a soldier in the war.  

He found the army fascinating, particularly the planning steps which officers undertook to win the war. They would distract their enemy with a diversion, and attack elsewhere. 
One of his old commanders had a favorite way of stating it. ‘If you cry wolf long enough, they may not run back to stop the wolf. They will however, run back to shut you up. That’s when you spring the trap.’  

Hadley had never said that his trees were to be the materials of the bridge, just that he intended to build one. There’s more than one way to build something.  Often simple ideas are more creative, and sneaky, than they seem. No one took the time to inspect the trees the men had shaped. If they had, people would have noticed, they would make a better barn than a bridge.  

The night of the public meeting, the entire city council gathered for a fight. Mayor Cooper, a college graduate, was prepared to reason, degrade, and humiliate this simple coal miner. His opening statement pointed out the dangers of a homespun bridge, as well as how unneeded it was.  

Hadley kept his cool, and his seat, right up until the Mayor’s last statement. It was then that Hadley raised his hand “Mr. Mayor, may I ask a question?” Reluctantly he agreed. “Are you saying that anyone who backs this bridge is crazy?”  

“I wouldn’t say it exactly like that, but I would say they’re somewhat disillusioned.” It was then that Lindsey stifled a smile, and Hadley cleared his throat. “Does that include yourself sir?” “Of course not. I never advocated you building a bridge just to satisfy some whim.”  

Hadley raised his voice. “No sir you didn’t, but you did promise these people five years ago, when you were trying to get elected. You promised them if they’d vote for you, you’d build a road from the other side into town.”

“Last winter, my daughter had to suffer longer than she should, just to get to the doctor. How many kids on that mountain had to suffer because you failed to keep your promise. Sir, like you said, I’m not a bridge builder, I’m just a coal miner, but I know enough to keep my word.”

Hadley sat down. That day, the coal miner beat the politician, and the battle of Payne’s bridge was won. It was completed the next spring, just about the time, Hadley was painting  his new barn.  

Without a single shot, or an engineering degree, Hadley proved something to his daughters. With the right approach, you can build anything. Don’t allow what you don’t have to side track you, instead start with the resources you have. Once you do that, you’ll find passion and determination are much stronger and richer than gold and steel.

2 iPads 4 Questions

I love technology, I have since I was a child. For years now, my primary device has been the iPad. First it was the first generation iPad, a gift from my loved ones. Next, was the first generation iPad Mini. Recently, as an early fortieth birthday gift, I was given the newest iPad Mini.

My wife, for her thirtieth birthday, received the iPad Pro. One of my best friends suggested that I post a review of the iPad Pro. Since we received them both at the same time, I thought it might do well to compare them.

I love to both write, and paint, both with acrylics and digital art. You would expect then, that my first choice would have been the iPad Pro, but it wasn’t. The Pro is a great device, and the Pencil is, in my opinion, the best stylus out there. However, my instrument of choice is still the iPad Mini.

This has nothing to do with the Pro’s abilities. It is an incredible device, with amazing features. The screen is absolutely amazing, as is the audio, thanks to the four speakers. If I were choosing between an iPad Pro and a new laptop, I would choose the Pro.

My problem is, I have fallen in love with the iPad Mini. I use a program called Artrage, which I adore, to draw and paint with. The absence of a stylus doesn’t bother me. Although, if the Apple Pencil were suddenly available for the Mini, I would add it to my toolkit.

The dimensions of the two devices is what it boils down to for me. I love the compact size of the Mini. Most of the time, I use the onscreen keyboard to write and edit, but when I have more time, I use an Ankr brand compact keyboard.

Both the Pro and it’s smaller cousin have beautiful graphics, fast response time, and are wonderfully easy to use. The new features of iOS, such as split screen and picture in picture, are seamless on both.

Technology is about the way you use it. My Best Friends would be lost without their MacBook Pro’s. Where I’m perfectly content 99% of the time, with the exception of spreadsheets and some web design limitation, with my iPad Mini. Now that my wife has the iPad Pro, she would never go back to an iPad Mini again.

In my opinion, when you consider a piece of technology, there are four questions you should ask. What form of computer do you use? Why does it work for you? What do you love and hate about it? Does it meet your needs, and accomplish the tasks you need to perform with it?

These are the primary points someone should focus on in today’s era of devices. Some people, like me, are all Apple. I love my Apple Watch, while others are all Android. Another group is a mixture of the two. It’s about what works for you, the speed of devices and the cost today are less of a barrier than they were ten years ago.

If you’re in the market for a quality tablet, and you love the idea of a large screen to work with, I completely recommend the iPad Pro. If you’re primary concern is how portable your iPad is, then the Mini should be your first choice.

Alaskan Silver Bandages

imageShe had pulled him out, she couldn’t believe it. Estelle hadn’t started the fire, it was an accident, it was the perfect opportunity. He had looked so helpless though, like a little boy. She couldn’t let him die, which made her happy and angry at the same time.

First it meant, that though she was no longer in love with him, she didn’t hate him. When he was in trouble, she wasn’t able to abandon him. Estelle realized now, she was no murderer. That lead to the second thing, it meant everything since the shipwreck had been a waste of time.

The false identity, the medical training, and all the leg work had been a waste. Now she had burns on her hands and arms. The doctor said they were minor, that they would heal. Wynton had escaped without a scratch as usual.

She was feeling absolutely miserable when a man walked in. “Hello ma’am, I’m the Police Sergeant around here, most people call me Pin.” Instantly she was nervous, but did her best to hide it. “I understand your a hero, you saved the Mayor’s advisor. I wanted to thank you.”

She smiled and said thank you. “Is there anything I can do for you? Notify some of your family you’re here?” Estelle felt strange, other than her family, no one had showed her any real kindness since … She pushed the pain to the back of her mind.

Estelle may not hate Wynton enough to kill him, but she was not ready to forgive him either. He had broken her heart by leaving her, and she had promised never to feel that pain again, even in remembering. “Thank you no, I’m pretty alone in the world.”

Pin saw the newspaper laying in her lap. “Well we can’t have that. Do you like to read the newspaper by chance?” She laughed. “Yes I do, but I’m afraid these bandages don’t make it easy right now.” “May I?”

He picked it up and began to read until she fell asleep. Once she did, he slipped out of the room quietly. ‘She has a nice smile.’

He thought to himself, as he hummed a tune from a song he had forgotten the words too. A few weeks later, he would remember the words. ‘I met a girl today, someone across the way.’

Shortly after, Estelle woke and was a little sad, she was alone again. The Sergeant, Pin, had just been nice to her as a courtesy of course. Still, he was entertaining, the way he read the paper. ‘He had a nice smile.’ She thought, as she drifted back off to sleep.

Meet Barney

imageI love short stories. They give you the freedom to share something that can be entertaining in one sitting. Short stories, if written well, can be loved and revisited over and over. I’m excited to announce my latest one, The American Barber on Amazon.

It is a mystery, about a man named Barney Hyatt. Barbers have always been interesting, thanks in no small part to Howard McNear’s portrayal of Floyd on the Andy Griffith show. When it came time to write another detective story, I thought what better protagonist than a barber.

At the same time, I grew up with Sherlock Holmes, Hercules Poirot, Nero Wolfe, and Archie Goodwin. I had already published Coffee Happenstance, my other detective, and I wanted my own form of “cerebral detective”. You’ll meet him in this story too.

For the setting, we chose Washington D.C., because I felt that a unusual detective needed a unique location. Most of my stories take place in other places, so I had to do some research into the local neighborhoods of our capital. It was great fun learning something new about our country.

I’d love to tell you more, but then it is a short story. I hope you stop by Amazon and look up Barney’s shop. I think you’ll be intrigued by The American Barber.

HisBits Escape Route

If you grew up in the heart of the Cold War, you would hardly think of 1940’s Siberia, as a path to freedom. However, that was exactly what it was to some 2,100 Polish Jews. Thanks to a Dutch Consul and a Japanese Diplomat, thousands escaped to freedom via Siberia’s railroad.

After the invasion of Poland in 1939, many of the Jewish population found temporary safety in Lithuania. On June 22, 1941 Hitler’s forces invaded the Soviet Union. They would ultimately fail, and be repelled, but not before a million Jews were slaughtered by Nazi death squads.

It was during this period that Polish Jews sought safe haven in Lithuania. It was there they were blessed with two unlikely heroes. Men who partnered together, working feverishly to spare as many they could. Their names were Jan Zwartendijk, and Chiune Sugihara.

Before the War, Zwartendijk, worked for the Phillips company, a maker of radios and light bulbs. When the Germans invaded the Netherlands and the Soviet’s occupied Lithuania, he became acting Dutch consul in Kovno, Lithuania. Sugihara was the first Japanese diplomat posted in Lithuania. He communicated with the Polish underground to spare as many lives as possible. While Zwartendijk issued visas to the Dutch colony of Curaçao, Sugihara facilitated their path to Tokyo.

In one of the most dangerous times in history, with little or no provision, families boarded rail cars in hope of safety. They traveled via the Trans Siberia rail line to Japan, and from there, made their way to San Francisco. Against the backdrop of Nazi executions, an oppressive Soviet regime, and a hostile Japanese government, these men defied the odds.

Their valor granted thousands the opportunity to make, not only a better future, but any future at all. During the time of the Holocaust, an era of tremendous pain and heartbreak for the Jewish people, these men made a difference. They were normal people in abnormal times, but they answered the call.

A call to do what they could, so others could do what seemed impossible. In signing their name on slips of paper, they too defeated Hitler. They essentially told him, that his plan for annihilation would not win, with every life they spared.

Often, the call to act isn’t a super human feat, but a very simple one. If we will look for it, opportunities are around every corner. On a personal level, who is standing in our path today, that needs our help? It maybe as easy as listening, or sharing a cup of coffee and a smile. A simple act of kindness may enable them to make the journey from fear to personal freedom.