A Railroad sort of Town

You wouldn’t know the boundaries until you spotted a sign these days.

But once upon a time – soon after the cholera epidemic of 1849 – a ring of independent towns – the early suburbs – formed around St. Louis.

According to local lore, one of them was established by a train man. And as recently as the generation ahead of my own, I heard of commuters to downtown taking the daily train from the station across the tracks from city hall.

The tracks remain. Every day they are used by freight trains delivering coal, rock, and boxcars of other goods. And Amtrack pauses but a moment on its journey across Missouri.

I sit in my car, behind a few others, and wait. 1, 2,3,4…I count the freight cars. 52, 53, 54… the warning bell at the crossing continues to clang. 104, 105, the final car passes and the long black and white crossing bars raise for traffic.

Placed with a good view of the modern, sleeker models as they glide through town.


My Library Shelf – P

One reference book is followed by another. I promise not to do three in a row.

Police Procedure & Investigation: A Guide for Writers

by Lee Lofland

Don’t believe everything you see — on TV or in the movies!

That’s the biggest takeaway in this volume by an experienced police officer.

An evening’s browse through this book will enlighten the reader to some of the education, equipment, and procedures common to all law enforcement agencies in the United States. Specif chapters are devoted to general qualifications plus; training, equipment, fingerprinting, autopsy, courts, and prisons.

So if you are an author — or one of the curious — this is an excellent source to clarify questions like: Would they need a warrant? Who does the officer writing my speeding ticket report to? Who’s a bailiff? How do they transport prisoners from coast-to-coast? This will be a valuable source.

View this as the basics. If you continue to have specific questions seek further guidance at your library or with your local police department. Many of the larger departments have public relations officers or will point you in the direction to help you “get it right”.

A bracelet fashion statement to avoid.

Check for this volume at your library, bookstore, and on-line.


One word – two meanings

A single English word often has more than one meaning. Most frequently these meanings are related. Walk, for example, can refer to the action of moving by foot or the path where you are treading along.

There are a few exceptions.

Lean.  The meanings for this word vary enough that my dictionary gives it two entries. What does it tell you if you saw a lean man lean against a wall?

Personally, I’d want to know more.

Can you find the two meanings of a single word in this photo?

Check out that eyeball in the distance.


My Library Shelf — O

On Yankee Station                                                   by John B. Nichols and Barrett Tillman

This was purchased as a reference book. I was writing a story set during the Vietnam War. The story is one of those hidden in the closet and destined to remain so.

The reference book, however, clarified a great many questions and pre-conceived notions I had developed about life on a US Aircraft Carrier during those tumultuous years.

Clear explanations of military jargon assist the civilian reader. If you are looking for an interesting read dedicated to the navy role in the Vietnam conflict — I highly recommend this slim volume.  It also has photos.


He’s Ready!!!

Farmers have been in the news in recent weeks. The focus of these articles are the larger concerns where the crops are planted in the hundreds (and thousands) of acres and animals number higher.

Today’s topic concerns another sort of farmer. You’ll see him now as spring moves north. (At least I hope spring arrives soon.)

You see the press urging you to buy local. Buy fresh. This is your man. The people tending a booth at your local Farmer’s Market.

Here you find a mix of fruits and vegetables (sometimes meat and cheese) shipped in from other areas of the country and those locally grown.

If my thumb was green enough. If my yard measured in acres instead of square feet. If I had the ambition to tend and water and pick and sell.

Farmer Joe is ready for the season!




My Library Shelf – N

N – it begins so many negative words. No (in several languages). Not. Never.

Today’s volume from the shelf ends on a positive note. But not after some struggle.

No Less Than Victory by Jeff Shaara

This book tells the story of WWII’s European theater after D-Day. The emphasis is on The Battle of the Bulge. The veterans of that battle, that war, are old men and dwindling in number.

But instead of telling you about this particular book — well researched historical fiction — I’d like to draw a larger picture of this author’s work.

He writes of the United States at war. Perhaps the Civil War is some of his best work. It is certainly his most extensive — with volumes centered around the battles of Fredricksburg, The Wilderness, Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Georgia. But he writes well on the subject of the Revolution, the Mexican War, WWI, WWII, and Korea.

With a style which takes you into the viewpoint of the generals, battlefield leaders, and often a common soldier or two — they are the sort of books which could wear that caution label. Careful – you might learn something.

For this and other fine historical fiction: check your local bookstore or library.


Tip Toeing on Many Feet

Several of my friends despise spiders. Myself — it’s usually more startle factor than actual fear of the animal.

That does not mean I lack fear. There are plenty of other animals that I avoid, cringe when I encounter, and haven’t figured out why God lets them survive.

And then there are man-made items. And I have some fears about the ones designed or capable of doing harm to other people – or me.

But have you ever looked at a man-made item and given thanks it’s what it is — and not a living creature seeking supper? Such as…

I am the root monster — and I’m coming to sip at your veins.

(Yes, I’ve seen a few low budget monster movies in my life.)


My Library Shelf – M

History that will keep you reading.

Men to Match My Mountains by Irving Stone

Four western states: California, Nevada, Colorado, and Utah are the core of this book.

These states are followed from the years of exploration, settlement, and early statehood.  There were the traders. The “gold-fever” victims. Mormons. And the adventure seekers.

Maybe I’m a creature of the West. (Yes, I’m aware I was born and raised east of the Mississippi River.) There’s something about the wide vistas and wild beauty of the land — often with the sight of mountains on the horizon. Perhaps fed by the television shows of my youth, daydreams included horses, and cattle, and wagon trains. (And a handsome cowboy or two.)

Check your local bookstore or library for armchair adventure.