Warm weather, rains, green growing things, frogs singing and — mosquitos!  I am one of those who taste good to skeeters, one reason I mostly enjoy the outside from indoors . . . love the bay window view and listening to the frogs from behind a screen door.

My friend’s blog

reminded me of a couple of my dad’s stories . . . take warning and don’t get eaten.



Skeeters He’p Grandpa Clear Land   by “Uncle” John Fussner

Ah recken you be thinkin’ that were a powerful lot of work fer one man in such a short span o’ time.  Ah gotta hadmit it were, but you see, he had some hep.  ‘Twere a strange sorta he’p, hit were.

When the warm weather hit, hyar come the dad-blamed skeeters.     Big, powerful critters they be!  Well sir, long ’bout sundown, Grandpa would carry a big ole blacksmith hammer down to the woods whar he be clearin’ land.

“Now, how you gonna clear land with a hammer?” you ask.

Grandpa had hit all figgered out, he did.  He stood ‘side a likely-lookin’ tree he wanted moved, and waited fer a skeeter to buzz up.  That old skeeter ‘twould smell Grandpa, take aim, and hyar he come.  Jest afore he got to him, Grandpa ducked behind the tree.  That skeeter ran his beak right through that thar tree, and Grandpa would take his hammer, and with one mighty swing, he clenched that thar skeeter’s bill.  Wharupon the skeeter ‘twould take off, tree an’ all, mostly toward whar Grandpa was buildin’.  ‘Bout time them skeeters got to the cabin, they’d be plumb tuckered out.  Down they’d come, skeeter meat fer hogs and dogs, and logs fer buildin’ an’ burnin’.


Skeeters Ate Grandpa’s Cow  by “Uncle” John Fussner

Grandpa made good use of the skeeters clearin’ land, but as always, hit sort of back-fired on him.  One mornin’ he went out to do the chores an’ Old Bessie the cow war gone, and so was the calf.  After a light breakfast of a half-pound slice of home-cured ham, a half dozen cackle berries, followed by a goodly stack of hot cakes, and washed down with a couple of big mugs of coffee, he allowed as how he’d best be goin’ to fetch old Bessie home.

About the time the sun was noon high, Grandpa came up through the pasture, leadin’ the calf.  Grandma went out to meet him, asking, “Whar be Old Bessie?”

Grandpa said in a sorrowful voice, “Old Bessie hain’t with us no more.  She strayed over to Moonshine Cave, up Skunk Holler, and them dat blamed skeeters done ate her up.  Hain’t nothin’ left of Old Bessie but a pile of bones.  This yare calf got fur ’nuff back inter the cave to whar hit were a leetle tight fer them thar skeeters, or they likely would of got to her, too.”

Well sir, that left Grandpa ‘thout a cow.  He and his brother went off to the sale barn to fetch home another one, but seein’ as how neither one had near ’nuff cash to come close to buyin’ one, they put all thar eggs in one basket so to speak, and bought one cow fer the both of ’em.

Grandpa’s brother havin’ put in the bigger share, he ‘lowed as how the rightful thing to do were to let him pick what half be his.  Grandpa was thinkin’ that since a cow has a right side and a left side, with a back bone markin’ whar they be jined, he ‘lowed as how ‘twould be fair ’nuff.

But as often happens when two people look at the same thing, Grandpa’s brother didn’t see right an’ left, but front an’ back halves.  You all’s seen ’nuff cows to know which end is by far the better half.  Well sir, the brother ‘lowed as how he hankered fer the back half.

Grandpa fed and watered his half fer more’n a month, and come sunup or sundown his brother took a pail of milk out’n his half.  One day Grandpa had all of hit he could take.  Instead of feedin’ his half, he killed hit and dressed out the meat.  Well sir, would you believe hit, his brother’s half up and died, too.

More of my dad’s stories at  and


Yards and Gardens


My father bought a mix called “playground grass” for our yard because “I’m raising children, not lawns,” and our yard was the site of much active play, by us five and half the neighborhood.  Sometimes he’d be asked if a ball player was safe or out, and he’d give his verdict, even if he hadn’t seen the play.  “Doesn’t matter which.  They just need an answer so they can go on playing instead of arguing.”

Dad grew a myriad of plants in his small yard, replacing old with new, just to see how they grew.  Strawberries (which mostly fed the birds), comfrey (he or mom was allergic to it, so out it went), Jerusalem artichokes, castor beans (huge leaves), bamboo (took over half the yard), as well as roses, irises, wild violets, and even cotton one summer, just to see how it grew.  Mom gardened as well, the frog plant was from a tiny plant brought home from Bible school, as was the little pine.  It was something they did together.  Mom told of a robin that followed Dad around as he dug in the garden, throwing her the worms he found, and being scolded as a slacker when he stopped work to talk with Mom.  Robins can be so demanding.

When we were very young, Dad raised rabbits . . .  you can take the boy off the farm but . . .

I bought some kale plants at Anthony’s, even though I was pretty sure the squirrel, deer, woodchucks will chow down before I get much.  So far, they’ve left the kale alone, perhaps because of the clover I have encouraged in the back yard . . .  Must be Dad’s influence.


“Henderson irises” Wayne Gronefeld dug up at the site of Henderson Jr. High (now FHN), rescued from the bulldozer, grew at his home, and then gave rhizomes to teachers when Henderson closed.  Planted at my mother’s house, Sugarwood (this photo), and now at my new home.

The Garden  by “Daddy John” Fussner

Early one morning, Dough Doughy hitched his six big horses to his wagon.  He drove over to Sampson’s house and out to Sampson’s barn.  Then Dough Doughy and Sampson loaded a plow and a harrow on the wagon.  Soon they were heading out the gate and turning into the road.  They Saw Farmer Brown and By-Golly driving their wagons ahead of them.  As they passed Poppo’s house, he ran out and climbed up on the wagon.

Up the hill to the Orphans’ Home they went because it was garden day.  Soon Dough Doughy’s three big teams were pulling plows, and the dirt was really rolling.  Did you ever see a plow work?  If you haven’t, you have missed something worth seeing.  Farmer Brown’s team and By-Golly’s team were pulling harrows.  A harrow is like a big rake, and it breaks the plowed ground up very fine and levels it very smooth.

Dough Doughy, Farmer Brown, By-Golly, and Gramps were all sitting on some chairs and watching the teams.  No, the horses weren’t trained to farm by themselves.  The older boys were taking turns working the teams.  Yes sir, and they were teaching the younger ones how to prepare the garden for planting.

One little boy, just seven years old, was really having a good time.  It was his birthday; so he was the little big shot for the day.  He drove the two big blacks, then the grays, and then the white horses.  He gave the mules a round or two and then ended up riding one of Farmer Brown’s horses while the team was pulling the wooden drag to put the finishing touches to the garden.

By noon, all of the garden was ready, and some of the corn ground was plowed.  After a big dinner, complete with a birthday cake about half as big as the back door of your house, everyone went back to the garden.  Mr. McGregory was there with his planting machine, ready to go to work.  Mr. McGregory’s horses were good farmers, with three or four years of farm work behind them.  They knew how to pull a straight row.

First the sweet corn went in.  Lots of long rows, for everyone likes corn on the cob, and corn is used in soups and frozen and canned for winter use.  Then the beans, green beans, wax beans, red beans, all kinds of beans to eat fresh and to can, freeze, and dry for winter use.  Then the watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, lettuce, and all the other good things it takes to make a garden.

Last, but not least, the six rows next to the yard were planted in cut-and-come-again flowers.  These flowers are used in the Orphans’ Home and in churches in town.  They are also sent to the hospital, the Old Folks’ Home, and to anyone else who likes flowers.  The children have lots of fun giving flowers to others.

Did you ever plant a little seed and watch it grow?  All it takes is a little dirt, a little water, and lots of sunshine and love.  Try it, won’t you?

More of Dad’s stories at



Under the Chicken House

Sam Meets the Striped Kitty Cat     by “Daddy John” Fussner

 Mary in Dog House 5030

One day in late February the sun was shining bright, and the wind was blowing from the south.  There was a promise of spring in the air.  It was warm for late February.  Several red birds could be seen around Dough Doughy’s house, along with a dozen or so robins.  The sparrows were already thinking of building nests, though it was much too early to start.  About a hundred pigeons were sunning themselves on the south side of the barn roof.  There were dark pigeons, white pigeons, old, young, all colors and ages.



Way down in the pasture near the woods, a few deer were grazing on the green grass between the patches of snow.  Near the brier patch, old and young male and female rabbits were busy stuffing themselves with tender green grass and the young shoots of plants making an early growth.  Many little field mice were out looking for food, for they were very hungry after the last cold spell.


Chatty the squirrel lay sunning himself on the big limb of the old oak tree near the creek.  In the creek could be seen little fish looking for food, bigger fish looking for little fish, and the biggest fish looking for all of them.  Tommy Turtle was slowly swimming around, looking for just anything at all to eat.

Turtles and other critters welcome!

Out in the barn, the mice that can always be found in barns were very busy scampering around, looking for stray bits of grain that many have been dropped and keeping an eye open for bits of paper, string, or anything else that would make a warm nest warmer.  Dough Doughy had left the door open so that the warm, fresh air could dry out the barn.

Under the chicken house lived a cute little animal.  She wasn’t very big, and her coat was black except for the white stripes down her back.  She had lived under the chicken house all her life, and she wasn’t afraid of anything in the barnyard.  She would walk under the six big horses much as if their legs were tree trunks.  Dogs worried her not.  They would only try to catch her once.  After that they stayed well away, leaving when she walked near.

She didn’t bother the chickens, except to take an egg once in a while to make her coat shine.  Dough Doughy didn’t mind, for he often fed eggs to his six big horses to make their coats shine.  The only things that tried to get away when she arrived, but didn’t often succeed, were the mice and the very few rats that lived in the barn.  Some of the wiser mice lived in the barn to a ripe old age.  The rats, however, never lasted over a week.   Rats and mice were Petunia’s main food, and with her around, Dough Doughy had few problems.

The warm weather brought Petunia out from her nice dry nest.  She was as hungry as all the other wild citizens of the farm.  She had already eaten everything around the chicken house.  The food Dough Doughy set out for her was filling, but she was a little tired of it; so she was off to the barn.

Petunia hadn’t been to the barn in three weeks; so the mice were playing all over the place.  Petunia entered the open door, stopped, and looked around.  Boy, oh boy!  What a sight for a hungry skunk!  Way, way over near the far end, fully forty feet away, was a big rat, chewing on a bag of feed.  In between Petunia and the rat were about a half dozen mice.

What should she do?  Should she catch a small mouse that she was sure of, or try for the rat, which was forty feet away, but only six feet from his hole in the wall and safety?  What do you think?  Well, sir, almost faster than the eye could follow, Petunia streaked across the forty feet.  Before the rat knew she was coming, it was too late.  Mr. Rat made a fine meal for Petunia.

After a big meal, most animals like to sleep, and Petunia was no different.  She slowly walked out to the chicken house and was soon fast asleep in the sun.  She had been napping for about an hour when she was awakened by a dog barking.  Opening her eyes and springing to her feet, she saw Sam.  He would lunge forward barking loudly and then back off.  He repeated this over and over.  Petunia couldn’t retreat to her den under the chicken house, because Sam was between her and the entrance.

Petunia didn’t want any trouble; so she backed off toward the barn.  Sam kept coming after her, barking every step of the way.  He didn’t know anything about skunks, but he was about to find out.  Petunia reached the barn, still slowly backing away from Sam, when she realized that Sam wasn’t going to stop making a pest of himself.  She turned and ran as fast as she could.  Sam was doing a good job of keeping up with her as they raced across the pasture.

Dough Doughy was out in the pasture rounding up the horses, and he saw Sam chasing Petunia.  “Well, well,” he thought, “Sam is about to learn another lesson the hard way.  He will be a mighty lonely dog before this is over.”

Petunia reached the fence and raced under it and on into the woods, where she holed up in a hollow tree.  The hole was near the ground, but too small for Sam.  Petunia knew she would be safe from harm.  Poor Sam reached the fence and rolled head over tail, unable to stop.  He then had to hunt for a hole under the fence large enough for him to go through.  He soon found the hollow tree where Petunia was holed up.  He barked, he scratched at the hole, and he stuck his head in; he did everything he could to get Petunia.

Soon, enough was enough, and any more was too much.  Petunia turned her tail toward Sam, up went the flag, and out shot the gas, hitting Sam in the face and front.  Sam let out a howl you could hear for a mile or more.  He rolled in the dirt and rubbed his head on the ground, trying to clear his eyes.  After a while, he could see well enough to go home.  Yelping every step of the way, he reached home in record time.

Dough Doughy had waited out by the barn after he drove the horses in.  He listened to Sam as he made his way to the hollow tree.  Dough Doughy knew just what was going on every minute of the time.  When Petunia threw the charge of gas from the glands under her tail,  Dough Doughy heard Sam yelp, and he knew what to do.  Going into the barn, he opened the door in a little cabinet and took out a bottle of medicine for Sam’s eyes.  He then went to the brooder house, where the baby chicks are kept, and filled a big tub with warm water.

  Soon Sam was home, his eyes were taken care of, and he had been given a hot bath, a good drying off, a warm bed in the brooder house, a hot meal, and plenty of time to think about chasing striped kitty cats.  For about a month, no one came near Sam except to bring him his food.

More of Dad’s stories at



Gerald Fierst and Anjel, reading my frog book

Young people give me hope!  Most days at least one student would come up with some new idea that dazzled me. ❤

I was told there would be no jobs for teachers while I was student teaching in an inner-city school (Minneapolis, so still fairly polite).  “She stands short in the front of the room, and will answer my questions” wrote one student 😉   I had wanted to teach since kindergarten, but instead, I spent several years not teaching due to post-baby-boom demographics.  Working for Prudential as secretary and then agent, I learned some organizational and sales skills that helped when I finally got to teach . . . 26 rewarding years.

Storytelling helped to make those years enjoyable and effective (see details on the workshops page).  At our last swap, I remembered a story Ron Adams shared with Gateway several years ago, of a teacher, a special student, and the message “He is risen” . . .  many felt that it couldn’t be told in public schools, so I had to prove it could, and my students loved it.  Here’s a version I found online, similar in most respects.

I have tried to model strength, and may have sometimes succeeded. In a discussion of Night I mused that while I hope I would be brave enough to offer shelter to those in danger, one can’t be sure until tested. One of my young women took a long hard look at me and said, “Yes, yes YOU would.”  I hope so, and it was nice to be affirmed.

I was humbled when meeting up with former students to learn the things they remember, not always the lessons we plan but the moments of kindness, the lessons in grace, often something so small that I don’t remember doing it, but they do.  I was equally humbled and grateful to receive their kindness, always when I most needed it.

Humor got us through long days and affection tempered discipline.  My last week of teaching, I raised my fist and intoned, “As God is my witness, I’ll never set my alarm for 5 a.m. again,” and my first period class clapped . . . 7:25 a.m. is TOO EARLY to start school.

I’m still teaching a little tai chi at the Y.  As Thoreau said, teaching is like being in jail, once it’s on your record, you can’t get away from it.

The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love. — William Wordsworth, poet (1770-1850) 

A story and memories of my first teacher in kindergarten

I just visited another blog and loved these insights into teaching  Loving the connections brought by this A-Z Challenge . . .




Someone at New Salem said, “Sing!  If you don’t sing well, sing louder — revenge!”

My friend Leigh McGee gave me the music to “St. Louis Blues” after we’d requested it from musicians from New Orleans to Istanbul (where I was tricked into singing a bit of it for a large group — and no one booed).  I worked parts of the song into a telling of “Worry Bundles” that I liked very much.

Make your own music however you can . . .

** Post from 1/28/14 — thinking of Pete Seeger and hoping for a grand, unbroken story/music circle . . .

Today my mind is full of the gifts from Pete Seeger —

— the lovely experience of joining in with hundreds of storytellers singing with him in Jonesborough,  the harmony of the multitude of voices joined in pure joy.  I had just completed the “Singing for People Who’ve Been Asked Not To” COCA class, which used his songbook as its text.  It was an extraordinary experience!

—  the time I quietly sang “This Land Was Made for You and Me” to a little boy flying to the U.S. with his adoptive parents, looking out the window just as our plane passed over the first bit of land.

 We were so fortunate to have Pete with us. ❤  “This Land”


The Left-Handed Cricket  by “Daddy John” Fussner

One day Tweedle and Twill were out in the woods counting babies.  They were very busy because they were counting bugs, bees, grasshoppers, etc.  They have their own way to make the count, but we will probably never know just how they do it.  We do know that Twill has a pair of field glasses that he uses only when he’s counting bugs.

Twill had just counted some grasshoppers.  “Mark sixty-six grasshoppers,” he said.

“Right-handed or left-handed?” asked Tweedle with a smile.

“Left-handed,” answered Twill, not knowing that Tweedle was teasing.

Soon Twill called, “Mark twenty-two katy-dids.”

“Right- or left-handed?” asked Tweedle, still teasing.

“Left-handed,” answered Twill, still not knowing Tweedle was teasing.

After a while, Tweedle and Twill went home for lunch.  Just as they started to go into the house, Twill heard some crickets chirping.  Out came the field glasses.  Twill stood very still.  Tweedle sat in the old rocking chair on the front porch.  Twill looked all around with his field glasses.

“Mark eighteen,” called Twill.

“Right-handed or left-handed?” asked Tweedle, still teasing.

“Right-handed,” answered Twill.  “No, no wait!” he shouted.  “It can’t be, but it is.  One of the crickets is left-handed.”

Who are you trying to fool?” asked Tweedle.  “Are you trying to make me believe that crickets, grasshoppers, and katy-dids can be right- or left-handed?”

“No,” answered Twill, “I’m trying to teach you that all crickets are right-handed, that is, all but this one, and he should be.  Also, all grasshoppers, katy-dids, and the other singing insects are left-handed.  If you would just learn to look at what you see, you could find out these things for yourself.”

Now it may seem strange to hear someone say that you should look at what you see, but what Twill means is this:  Take the cricket for an example.  Lots of people see crickets, but how many have really, sure-enough looked at one?  How does he sing?  How does he hold his wings?

The right wing of the cricket overlaps the left wing.  The cricket has a little hook on each of his wings that he scrapes across the opposite wing to make his song, something like a fiddle bow on a fiddle string.  Every cricket holds its right wing over its left wing and uses the hook on the right wing as a fiddle bow to draw or pull across the left wing.

Will our little left-handed cricket be able to play his song with his left wing?  He should be able to.  He has a hook on each wing.  As Twill watched, the cricket tried.  His song was no more than a squeak, just a weak little scrape.  The left-handed cricket waited awhile and tried again.  He still couldn’t make his song.  It seems as if our little left-handed cricket must go through life without a song.  That would be sad, wouldn’t it?

As Tweedle and Twill both watched, our little left-handed cricket moved his wings, and soon, with much hard work for one so small, he had his right wing over his left wing.  After a short rest, our little cricket tried once more to chirp his song.  Well, what do you know?  He did it!  Tweedle and Twill then went into the house, ready to enjoy a big meal and a nap.  Suppose we do the same.

More of Dad’s stories at


Room(s) of Requirement 

We adopted a new name for the spare room formerly named “junk.”  It’s a more positive view of that room and its contents, a reflects a willingness to share.  (more on giving, Wopila)

 It has, among other things produced —

Stationery and ink pens for Moriah and Robin for camp and school,

A shoulder bag for Alan Portman’s  new Tablet, (though we had to branch out to the kitchen stash of more recent bags to find one that exactly met his size specifications)

Some fabric, piles of yarn . . .

Books and tapes and much miscellany.

. . .  and currently, if anyone needs AAA batteries,  I seem to have bought too many, so come on over . . .


 (photo: Mary in the doghouse)

Here’s my dad’s story of a doggie version of that miscellany . . .

Sam the Pup  by “Daddy John” Fussner

Early one morning just as Dough Doughy was sitting down to a nice hot breakfast of hot cakes, bacon, eggs, milk, orange juice, and coffee, he heard a noise at the kitchen door.  Something was whining and scratching, trying to get in!

“What is making that noise?” asked Dough Doughy as he pushed his chair back from the table.  He went over and opened the door, and there stood a small puppy, about ten weeks old.  It was thin, long-legged, big-footed, flop-eared, and crooked-tailed, and its coat looked like it had been made out of left-overs.  Dough Doughy picked up the pup and closed the door.

“Well, well, what do we have here?” asked Dough Doughy.

“I don’t know, but you name it, and you can have it,” laughed his wife.

“Why, madam,” replied Dough Doughy jestingly, “’tis easy to see that he could rightfully have but one name.”

“And what would that noble name be?” asked his loving wife as she placed a small pan of milk on the stove to warm.

“Sam, of course,” answered Dough Doughy.  “It is plain to see that he is a mixture of all breeds, just as the U.S.A. is a mixture of all races of people.  Therefore, I think we ought to name him after our good old Uncle Sam. In looks he seems to have picked up the worst traits of all the breeds, but perhaps he has the best of all the breeds between those two floppy ears of his.”

“Let’s hope he does have a brain,” remarked his wife as she gave Sam a bowl of the warm milk.  “He sure doesn’t have a surplus of good looks.”

Sam was just a pup, no more, no less, a pup that was just there one cold morning.  No one knew or was ever to find out where he came from.  Sam was not a prize-winner for looks when he was a pup, and he didn’t improve any as he grew older.

His feet, though far too big when he was a pup, seemed to be in a race to see which of the four could grow the fastest.  Not to be out-done, his legs seemed to be trying to get as far away from those big feet as they could.  Nobody, but nobody could remember a dog with longer legs.  It was decided that he had the legs of a greyhound, with a few changes.  His feet could only be from the St. Bernard, the large dog of the Alps, which has large feet to help it walk on snow.

His looks surely didn’t improve as your eyes took in the details of his body!  Sam was broad-chested, much like the bull dog.  The length of his body looked as if it was measured for a dachshund, the little sausage dog.  For Sam, it did add a little more space between his long front legs and his longer rear legs, but not nearly enough.  His long rear legs were always trying to pass his front legs.  His front legs acted as if they didn’t even know the back lags, and Sam’s big feet were forever getting all tangled up, tripping him.

Sam’s ears, long when he was small, acted as if they were afraid of being so high off the ground.  The faster Sam’s legs grew, raising Sam higher and higher, the longer his ears grew, reaching in vain for the floor.  Soon they were so long that they would overlap if held together under Sam’s short, fat neck.  While every other part of Sam was running a race, Sam’s neck seemed to stop growing.

Sam’s tail was long, slim, and crooked when he was a pup.  It stayed long, slim, and crooked as he grew.  As for his skin, it looked as if it was a hand-me-down coat.  Take a small three-year-old boy, dress him in his large five-year-old brother’s clothes, and that’s Sam.  No doubt about it, someone in Sam’s family tree was a big, sad-eyed, loose-skinned bloodhound.   Sam’s color, though, was not of that ancestor.  It looked as if Sam’s color came from all of his ancestors at least as far back a Noah’s ark, with a few odd bits picked up from other sources.

It was Sam’s eyes that really were Sam, for the eyes are the windows of the soul.  Sam’s eyes were bright, intelligent, alert, and had a proud, sad look.  Sam’s eyes saw everything, and his brain was a thing of wonder, always alert, always coming up with the right answer, always doing the right thing.  It was only when the body received the command from the brain that things went wrong.  Even the most intelligent, alert brain in the world couldn’t cope with the body poor Sam was stuck with.  For instance, when the brain asked for a burst of speed, Sam’s legs responded like a greyhound’s, but four big feet would trip him, and over and over rolled Sam.

Sam had a normal puppyhood.  He soon learned to bring his master his evening paper, house slippers, and other items.  However, it took Sam a long, long time to learn not to chew on house slippers, newspapers, furniture, and many other items.  For chew he must!  A young puppy’s teeth are growing and need to be used.

At long last he was taught to act as a dog should act around the home.  Dough Doughy was very proud of his dog, Sam.  As he said, “Sam has the best of all the dogs in his family tree, but,” he added, “’tis a shame it was a nut tree.”

More of Dad’s stories at


Quiet — Rest “Donna’s Star”

Quiet — Take Your Nap, Get Your Rest

My sister’s favorite story was the one he told her about nap time and bedtime.

Mom loved to tell of the time Dad volunteered to put me down for a nap.  I tiptoed from the room, finger on lips, “Shh, Daddy’s sleeping.” ❤

Mom had her own “story” at nap time, “Just lie still.  Even if you don’t fall asleep, the rest will do you just as much good.” (I’m sure our lying quietly for an hour or so did HER much good).

I sometimes told myself that same little falsehood when dealing with insomnia.  I also sometimes told myself, “No, tomorrow’s not a workday, and there will be no 5 a.m. alarm,” and I often fell for it, so gullible!

I so easily fall for good stories that when I had a sleep study done, I fell asleep despite the many wires by telling myself “Sheherazade” — “Long ago, in a kingdom far to the east . . . “

Mom, Dad, Donna025

                                                                           Mom, Dad, and Donna

Donna’s Star by “Daddy John” Fussner

Little Donna was sitting on her daddy’s lap one night.  It was just getting dark.  The sun had said good night some time ago.  the last few rays of sunshine were handing from the bottom of the clouds, as if they were trying to keep from going to bed.  Like all little ones, they at last gave up and were seen no more that night.  Soon the moon was peeking over the hill, very quietly, with a soft, soft light, as if he was afraid that he would wake someone up.  One by one, the little stars took their places in the sky, all clean, bright, and twinkly.

Little Donna said, “Daddy, what makes the stars shine so bright, and who hangs them up in the sky?”

“Well,” said Daddy, “that is quite some story; so if you will get all comfy here on my lap, I will tell you all about it.  A long, long time ago, there were very many little fairies and brownies with nothing to do.  When fairies and brownies have nothing to do, they can’t be happy.  You see, they have to help people and do good things to be happy, just as little boys and girls are happy when they help Mommy and Daddy.  The Head Man Brownie and the Fairy Queen thought and thought about how to find more good things for the idle fairies and brownies to do.

“Suddenly, the Head Man Brownie said, ‘I saw Mr. Stork today, and he said that he’s giving many babies to mammas these days.  Maybe we can think of something there.’

“ ‘Why that’s it,’ said the Fairy Queen.  ‘We can give each little baby a fairy and a brownie to watch over him or her and keep him or her from harm.’

“ ‘So be it,’ said the Head Man Brownie.

“That is why every little boy and each little girl has a little fairy and a little brownie of his very own to watch over him.  your fairy and your brownie are watching you every day while you are awake.  When you go play, they go, too.  You may not see them, but they are there.

“When you lie down to take your nap in the afternoon, your little fairy sits close by, where she can see you.  Your little brownie finds a nice, close, quiet corner nearby, opens a little box which he always carries, and takes out a nice little star.  While yo sleep, your little fairy combs her hair as she watches you, and your little brownie shines your star.

“Of course, as soon as you wake up, they must stop, and if you don’t take a nap at all, well, that’s not so good, because then your little fairy can’t comb her pretty long hair, and she doesn’t like that at all.  Your brownie can’s shine your star if you don’t take a nice long nap, and that’s bad too.  Why?  Because when you go to bed at night, the last thing your brownie does before he goes home is to hang up your star for everyone to see.  Now, you wouldn’t want your brownie to have to hang up a dull, dirty star, would you?”

Little Donna said, “No I wouldn’t, but if my brownie hangs my star after I go to sleep, how will I ever see it?”

Her daddy said, “Maybe you won’t, but I see it every night right after you go to bed, and it’s a beautiful shiny star.  Let’s tuck you in for the night, and I’ll come back out and look for it.”

More of Dad’s stories at

Mary, Joy, & Donna034

Mary, Joy, Donna  — bedtime stories to a new generation

Ole Freeze-Up  

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Photo: The house my father and his brothers built and in which the five of us grew up, fitting in somehow . . . and watching lightning from that porch.


I’m hoping winter is behind us, but thinking there might be some long-term effects of this tenacious winter, as in this story by my father, written in dialect and therefore hard to proofread for consistency.

Chuck Larkin told me that these, “Uncle John” stories, unlike the original “Daddy John” bedtime stories, are mostly variations on well-known yarns, but with Dad’s own spin on things.


Ole Freeze-Up by “Uncle John” Fussner

Grandpa had some good and some not so good livestock.  He had an ole mule he called Freeze-Up, ’cause he war borned the winter when everythin’ froze up.  Hit war so cold that yar that the smoke froze up solid in the chimney most ever night, and Grandpa had to take an ax up on the roof and chop the smoke out’n the chimney an’ toss hit down.  By spring, he had a goodly pile, an’ when hit thawed out, ’twas most as bad as a forest fire.

Well sir, on the coldest night whilst the temperature was down to two feet below the bottom of the thermometer, an’ a hard blizzard be tryin’ to blow the farm away and fill the valley with snow, Old Eve gave birth to a big, long-eared mule colt.  He were a tough one, he were, and cold be dam’d, he got up an’ found his breakfast.  Turned out to be the biggest mule Grandpa ever owned, and by far the best worker.

Well sir, long bout the time old Freeze-Up war past ten, goin’ on thirty yars old, thar be the hot dry summer.  Jest to show you all how hot and dry it be, Grandpa be catchin’ five-pound cat fish that didn’t know how to swim.  Had niver bin in ‘nough water to larn how.  an’ hit war so hot that atter catchin’ ’em, you needn’t cook ’em, ’cause they be ready to eat.

Well sir, one day Grandpa war drivin ole Freeze-Up, comin’ down the lane twix two fields of corn.  The sun war gittin’ hotter and hotter, ’til that thar corn started poppin’.  Old Freeze-Up, still ‘memberin’ the winter he war born, thought the poppin’ corn was snow and stopped dead in his tracks, standin’ thar shiverin’ and shakin’  and ’bout as cold as a hot mule kin git.

Grandpa be wantin’ to git home to a big cool drink and yelled, “Freeze-Up, git goin’.”

Well sir, old Freeze-Up did jest that.  He stood right thar and froze to death and went to wharever crazy mixed-up mules go when they depart from this crazy mixed-up old world.

More of Dad’s stories at


“None-Ya” and Name-Calling

My brother dated “Nonya” (none of your business) for a while until he was ready to tell my mother . . . ❤

A friend’s comment on unsolicited opinions, specifically her shoveling snow (because, you know, that’s work for a man) got me thinking about compiling a mental list of potential comebacks for these teachable moments.

My mother once responded to a clueless young man’s comment that my energetic niece was “spoiled” with, “No, they all smell that way.”

An answer beginning with a “Why would you assume . . . ? or ask . . .?” would establish the “non-ya” aspect.

Perhaps, “I arm wrestled the guys for the fun of shoveling, and I always win.”    (A special ed. teacher taking her student back from my class saved his dignity by claiming an arm wrestling victory).

There’s always Miss Manners’ cold stare-down.

Most important, don’t let them spoil anything.



Name-calling, OTOH, lowers the level of discourse in any conversation and is an admission of lack of rational arguments to use.

Maya Angelou once discussed the fact that anyone putting down any person or group would be invited to leave her home because she doesn’t want negativity within her walls.


Dumb and Bell  by “Daddy John” Fussner

Once upon a time, there was a little brownie.  We don’t know what his given name was, because no one ever used it.  This poor little brownie always studied hard, but he could never learn anything.  He always made the lowest grades in his class.  All the other little brownies called him Dumb, just plain Dumb.  Little Dumb didn’t care.  He was a good little brownie and never got mad at anyone or anything.

Well, everything rolled along until one day a cute little fairy started to school.  Her family had just moved into the neighborhood.  Her name was Bell.  She was very quick to learn and could stay at the head of the class easily.  For some strange reason, small, smart little Bell took a liking to poor, fat, friendly Dumb.  Soon, he was carrying her books and she was carrying his lunch.  (Dumb always forgot his lunch).

It didn’t take long for the rest of the brownies to start teasing.  When they saw little Bell and Dumb coming down the road to school, they all started to shout, “Ding, dong.  Ding, dong.  Here comes Dumb Bell.”

Dumb didn’t mind, but Bell didn’t like it at all.  “Stop your teasing at once,” she ordered.  “I don’t like to see anyone teased, and it’s very rude for you to do.  Stop it this very second.”

Well, the brownies stopped, because little Bell looked like she meant it, all, that is, except one.  You guessed it, the big school yard bully kept it up.  “Ding dong.  Ding, dong.  Here comes Dumb Bell.  What ‘cha gonna do about it, huh?”

“I’ll show you soon enough,” said Bell, and before anyone knew what was happening, the bully was down on the ground with Bell sitting on his back with both hands full of the bully’s hair.   The bully didn’t like that at all.  He rolled away and jumped up to run.  Bell jumped him just as he started running and rode him piggy-back.  She pulled his ears to make him turn and tickled his ribs to make him run.  Around and around the school they went, until the bully was so tired that he couldn’t run anymore.  He promised little Bell he would behave; so she turned him loose.

Dumb and Bell had no more trouble from the other children.  Little lady Bell helped Dumb with his schoolwork every day, and soon his grades got better.  As time went on, he slowly climbed to the head of his class.  After he finished school, he went to work in the head man brownie’s office, bought a house, and married Bell.  Soon he had children of his own going to school.

As time ticked on and the years slowly passed, the head man brownie retired to go fishing and hunting.  Who took his job?  Why, Dumb, of course.  He is now the boss and tells all the other brownies what to do.  Yes, even the bully takes orders from easy-going Dumb.

More of Dad’s stories at




Moon and Moonshine

Moon and Moonshine 

How cool that in just a few hours there will be a lunar eclipse (hope the clouds let us see it) a bit less cool that there is snow on April 14.

When I taught in Jamaica,  I learned to like curried goat and akee and Blue Mountain coffee.  I learned that “bats” meant “moths” — the ones I called bats are known as “rat bats.”  When I used everyone’s coffee cups and soda cans to demonstrate how an eclipse works, there was amazement because, “You are an English teacher, not science!”   A photo from home of a late snow on leafed-out bushes called for identification of “those white flowers” followed by, “oh, I have heard of snow.”

Then someone remarked on the pretty moonshine one evening. I told them what moonshine meant back home in Missouri, and we laughed and laughed.




This is another of my father’s dialect stories.

The Sunshine Pump by “Uncle John” Fussner

Seein’ as how Grandpa’s farm was in a narry valley ‘twixt two high mountains, he didn’t git much sunshine.  ‘Twas ’bout midmornin’ afore ole Sol could much more’n peek down at the valley.

As the yars went by, they be more ‘n  more younguns to feed.  Grandpa ‘lowed as how ‘twould he’p iffin’ he’d put a windmill and pump on top of old Smokie to pump the sunshine down to his farm, which he did, and likewise which the pump did.  Things went right well for a couple or three yars, ’til one day the wind didn’t blow fer more’n a week.  Grandpa got plumb restless without the sunshine fer his crops.

Well sir, one morning he told his two fust born boys to take a couple of buckets and fetch down some sunshine.  Them mountins bein’ as high as they were, hit took a whole passel of climbin’ to git to the top.  When at long last, they stood at the very tip top, Eb cast an eye to the sky and said, “Zeb, look at that sun.  Hit’s half gone and none too bright.”

“Don’t fret ’bout that,” answered Zeb.  “We’uns is in the same fix an’ ah reckon ’tis no mind to no one nohow.”

Well sir, them two younguns filled thar pails and started down the mountain.  Zeb slipped and bumped Eb, and ah’m tell’n you all, they skittered down a sight faster’n they climbed up.  When at long last they rolled to a stop, thar be Grandpa lookin’ down at ’em and he twern’t smilin’ nohow.  Zeb got up and tole Grandpa the sorry fix the sun were in.

Grandpa howled, “You addle-brained young’uns, that thar sun you saw were the moon!”  With a howl and a growl, he yanked the pail outen Zeb’s paws and took a big swig.  Atter that he was smilin’ happy.  Yep, thar’s a mite bit of difference ‘twixt sunshine an’ MOONSHINE.


More of Dad’s stories at


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