The Winemaker Finds a Ghost by Chuck Thurston




It is 1898. Joe Stanton’s Irish immigrant father, grimy and exhausted after a long day’s labor and beaten down under the weight of company store debt, has little hope to pass on to his youngest son. And yet there are the evening fiddle tunes, the dark Irish stories told around the small stove in the miner’s shanty and the wit that never buckles in the face of grinding poverty. Joe has some token schooling, but at 12, he takes his place alongside his father in the mines. He would seem to be yet another “strong back and weak mind” — slaving life away building the wealth of others. But he has a different plan. He does not want the new century to see him coughing up the black flecks that mark his father’s hacking spells.

At nineteen, Joe manages to exchange the coal company scrip from his last month’s work for American cash and heads south across the Piedmont to escape the meager prospects in the West Virginia coal fields. Surely he can put his strong back to work to support himself, and send some “real” money home to help his struggling family.

Granite is being quarried near the small North Carolina town of Mount Barclay. Barclay Mining is run by Millard Wheatley — the latest of several owners. None before him have been able to turn a profit, but, with Wheatley’s influence, a rail spur is being extended to the quarry proper which should finally make the enterprise profitable.

Wheatley is rich, arrogant — and unscrupulous. He controls what he doesn’t own outright in the little town — from cradle to grave. A general store with children’s shoes and candy barrels — and a funeral parlor — sit at opposite ends of Barclay’s single, dusty business district. In between, scattered offices house his land, real estate and lumber interests. The head of the last elk shot in the region is mounted prominently in his hardware store. This building is two stories with a full basement under it – one of the most impressive structures in the small town, and the headquarters of his Mountain Empire.

Wheatley’s quarry boss takes on Joe and is soon pleased with his strength and tireless labor — and his wit and humor. Joe is quick with a joke and a laugh and not given to the complaints and grumblings that mark most of the other laborers. Days spent in the free air of the open quarry are reason enough to lift Joe’s spirit, after the grimy pits of West Virginia. He describes his family’s misery and his gratitude toward his present circumstances to his Tarheel coworkers.

He is soon the most reliable “dynamiter” in the operation — analyzing the granite seams, drilling the holes, placing the charges and finally, lighting the fuses. All this done, he sprints to a safe spot for viewing, and watches with pride as the resultant blast frees exactly the portion of the granite wall he aimed for.

Wheatley doesn’t spend much time at the quarry, but hears enough about Joe to realize that the young Irishman could be useful to him. Young, naive and trusting, Joe is increasingly asked to run personal errands for Wheatley who teaches Joe some rudimentary money handling and soon has him clerking at his hardware store. He begins to mold him into a tool for a scheme that the great man is hatching.

Some of the tycoon’s dealings have caught up with him and he realizes that unless he turns a large profit on one of his enterprises soon, his entire house of cards is apt to tumble. He comes to the conclusion that the hardware store might be his salvation.

The store sits smack in the middle of Mount Barclay’s main thoroughfare, on the east side of the north-south running street. The bottom floor is filled with the paraphernalia of the day: nails, nuts, bolts, horse tack, plow points, metal cookware, axes, knives, shovels, picks, tubs, kegs, — and a thousand other items useful in a nineteenth century town. Wheatley’s hunting trophies occupy any wall space that doesn’t have a bridle or harness hanging on it. A pot-bellied stove sits in the middle surrounded by three or four cane-bottomed chairs. The second floor has a large meeting room and several smaller rooms of stored merchandise and files containing the store’s records. The stoned up cellar houses jugs of turpentine, kerosene and a few bottles of locally made spirits that Wheatley consults on occasion.

But it all has to go. Wheatley has insured the store and its contents to double its real value with the connivance of a bribed insurance auditor. He begins to set in motion a scheme to collect this windfall. The store must be destroyed, but it must be done in a way that throws no suspicion on him — and ideally – directs the blame toward someone else. He has no lack of enemies. He just needs a willing collaborator.

Wheatley cultivates Joe’s trust with patience and cunning. Joe thankfully accepts the credit that Wheatley extends to him. He can, after all, send more of his own cash back to his impoverished West Virginia family. He discovers – with Wheatley’s encouragement — the charms of the whisky collection in the cellar. Wheatley also feeds the gullible young man tales of greed, fraud, bribery and other malfeasances that Wheatley himself is exquisitely familiar with. Wheatley paints a picture of himself as a struggling businessman beset on all sides by others wanting to do him in. Joe remembers his own family’s servitude under unscrupulous mine owners, and he is inclined to believe his employer.

The tycoon concocts a tall tale. He gradually convinces the uneducated Joe that a rapacious insurance company has worked a devious scheme to seize most of his property. Joe is astounded, however, at Wheatley’s carefully described plan to burn down his own hardware store to forestall this takeover. As Wheatley hopes, Joe doesn’t fully comprehend the fallacy of this logic and is seduced into helping his boss carry out the plan.

On a cold, blustery October night in 1899, Wheatley provides Joe with the last of the details. The store ordinarily closes at 5 or 6 in the evening, when Joe locks up and leaves for his boarding-house supper and pint at the Quarry Tavern; Wheatley customarily holds court with a few of his cronies in his upstairs room. On this night, however, there will be a change in the routine.

Wheatley tells Joe that following lock-up, he is to stay behind and clean up the store. The crowded aisles and dusty merchandise have not seen the hand of broom or brush in some time and Joe will busy himself with these chores until he hears Wheatley and his shady crowd leave by the back exterior stairs. The early darkness of autumn will have fallen.

Joe will wait a bit until he is sure that Wheatley and the others have all left, then light a kerosene lantern and take it with him to the cellar. He will hang the lantern on one of the darkened cellar’s supporting posts. Wheatley tells him that he will see an empty whiskey barrel which Wheatley has filled with various combustibles — pitch pine knots, straw, some oily rags. Joe is to drop the lantern in the barrel, make sure that a nice blaze is started and then make his way up the short set of stairs to the cellar’s outside entrance – large swing-out doors opening to a side alley. Wheatley assures Joe that the fire will provide him plenty of light to exit by and that he need not panic. Wheatley will join him at the Quarry Tavern, buy his supper and treat him to a pint of his favorite. They will be dining and toasting long before the flames have raised an alarm in the small town.

Joe carries out the scheme. But Wheatley has added something else to this tub of destruction that he has not told Joe about. As Joe watches the flames catch and begin to devour the barrel’s contents, he hears another sound that chills him to the bone – the unmistakable hiss of a fuse! Wheatley has planted dynamite beneath the top layer of kindling!

Joe is paralyzed for a brief moment, then turns and runs headlong up the three steps and pushes up against the wide cellar doors. But Wheatley has taken no chances that his treachery will be uncovered. The doors have been barred from the outside. Joe realizes the fuses must be short. He backs away from the doors and rushes at them again, putting all of his weight and the strength borne of his terror against them. The old wood splinters and the doors bang open against their frames. He senses briefly the cold, fresh air — then he is enveloped in a light and roar and blown into the windy October night.

The Right Stuff


My wife Heidi and I got an offer I didn’t dare resist last year. Our son and daughter-in-law bought a big barn of a house on a nicely wooded lot at the end of a cul-de-sac in an old established suburb of Charlotte, NC.

“Why don’t the two of you move in with us?” they said.

“Be careful what you wish for,” said I.

Heidi had no such reservations. “How soon?” she asked. The deal was sealed.

So here I am several months later parked at the back of a local liquor store helping one of the staff load my car with cardboard boxes. I have discovered that the boxes liquor is packed in are extraordinarily sturdy and just right for packing up your household items for movement into your new digs.

I had a nice conversation with the fellow helping me load the boxes as I explained their utility in our downsizing. I mentioned that I was amazed at all of the “stuff” that we had accumulated in a 60-year marriage and the toss or keep decisions that had to be made. He responded in a way I hadn’t anticipated.

“My wife passed away last January,” he said. “Her sister helped me clean out the house we had lived in and mentioned that she had filled two boxes of ‘junk’ that could be thrown out. I was about to do this, but decided I’d better take a quick look first. There was my personally autographed picture of Dean Smith! And another autographed picture of Hank Aaron! This was not junk!”

This got us talking about the things that are important to us that have absolutely no meaning to anyone else. These often have a sentimental value. The grade school art of our children or grandchildren. Perhaps a poorly executed painting that we have had framed and cannot bear to give away; an old uniform or dance costume. Our lives gradually become cluttered with much of this and the decisions to throw some of it away is painful.

How much of the stuff we see in flea markets or garage sales is there because of such decisions? I never gave that much thought before, but our own downsizing choices have made me think. My eyes catch site of an old army ruck sack at a flea market table. It was likely worn by a WWII soldier who bought it home with him when he was mustered out. Children and grandchildren played with it. It became a catchall for bungee cords, clothes pins, pieces of cord, balls of twine and whatever didn’t seem to belong anywhere else. It was revered as a keepsake for a good many years until it fell into the hands of a generation for whom it held no meaning. I look it over and guess at its utility, but decide I don’t need anything else hanging off a peg in my garage and I pass it by. It is just more stuff. At one time, though, and to certain people, it was the stuff that dreams are made of.

Right Where They Want Us by Chuck Thurston


Right Where They Want Us

Chuck Thurston

I can envision capitalists of all stripes lying awake in the early morning hours doing a solo brainstorm on coming up with something that the public just can’t do without. As various addictions lose favor, become non-available or are legalized and lose their cachet, American corporations periodically have to scurry around looking for other business opportunities to feed our addictive society. Fortune smiled upon them with the development of the smart phone.

I resisted this movement for a long time. I was happy with my old flip phone. It did what I wanted a phone to do. Let me call you and take your calls. I was not interested in playing games, collecting recipes or taking pictures with it – just make calls and take them. I am long in the tooth but I know a thing or two about electronics. I have repaired and replaced the avionics in Coast Guard seaplanes. I was involved in testing of the onboard computers for the Gemini capsule. I can operate a Blue Ray DVD player. I wasn’t particularly daunted by the prospect of getting a smart phone. I just saw no big need for one. Eventually, though, my tech savvy son talked me into a smart phone. I have been using it for a couple of months now, and am happy with it. We decided that my wife should also upgrade to make our relationship even more compatible.  Here’s how it went. I wont identify the reps or the cell phone carrier, but my recollection is pretty damn accurate, and I suspect there is not a great deal of difference among service providers.

Heidi got one of the newer smart phones, but after two frustrating weeks of trying to figure it out, she exercised her female prerogative to change her mind, and did so. She asked if she could go back to a flip phone of the type she was familiar with. No problem. She plunked down 68 bucks for the exchange and got a spanking new senior flip phone. Now, she wondered, could they possibly move her contact numbers from the smart phone she was abandoning to the new phone? Can’t do that, said a rep, but…and the following exchange ensued:

Rep: How do you watch TV?

Me: I turn it on – find the channel I want, and…

Rep: No, I mean what do you like to watch?

Me: I’m not going to watch anything on a little cell phone screen.

Rep:(forced laughter)No, I mean we have a very nice package; news, sports, shopping channels…for your home television.

Me: Sounds like 200 channels of crap. I have an antenna on my roof. …

Rep: ummmm…

Me: Let’s go, Honey.


Okay, back in two weeks. My wife exercised her prerogative of reversing herself on her earlier mind change and decided she hadn’t given the smart phone a fair trial. Luckily, we had not gotten rid of it, so we brought it back and told a different rep that we wanted to deactivate the new and reactivate the um…old. This is not anything they are used to doing. Here’s my best recollection of the exchange:

Rep: Do you want to take the case off this phone?

Me: (surprised)Why would I want to do that?

Rep: Because you came in here with the case already on this phone and if I break it taking it off, it’s on me.

Me: But if I bought a new case you could install it for me?

Rep: Yes

Me: What if I broke the case taking it off?

Rep: Then it would be on you.

Me: So no matter who breaks the case, I am screwed.

Rep: ummmm

Me: Have you replaced cases before without breaking one?

Rep: Yes.

Me: Well, I have never replaced one. Do it.


Me: Are you going to try and sell me a television package?


Me: The last time I was in here and the rep couldn’t do what I asked, you guys tried to sell me a television package.

Rep:(annoyed, removes the case to reactivate the smart phone.)Here you are.

Me: Great, now can you update the connections on this smart phone with the ones on my smart phone?

Rep: You can do that yourselves. Just go to this app and…(long explanation of how we can do it ourselves).

Me: (with some uncertainty)I guess we can figure that out…tell me, just a few weeks ago we paid 68 bucks for this practically new senior flip phone, what can you allow us to turn it back in.

Rep: There is a 45 dollar re-stocking fee.

Me: We get 45 dollars back?

Rep: No, you pay 45 dollars to turn it back in.

Me: (incredulous)That’s over 100 bucks for a two weeks trial on this phone! We’d be better off taking a hammer to it and throwing it in the trash!

Rep: ummmm…

Me: Let’s go Honey.


So everyday is Black Friday for cell phone companies. They have their hooks in millions of addicted Americans who line up for every refinement and are perfectly willing to put up with this supercilious behavior. At any given time, it appears that half the population is engaging in thumb doodle with their smart phone. They have us right where they want us.

A Reasonable Explanation


I haven’t given this blog the attention it deserves for some time, and I am going to explain the reason for this. Notice that I say “reason.” In the past, when I was lax in updating this space, I had any number of excuses: No time, went on vacation, couldn’t think of anything to write – etc., etc., etc. I have a bona fide reason for my absence this time – and bless the person who knows the difference.

Last fall, I had surgery on my right hand. They essentially rebuilt the thumb joint and put pretty much the whole hand out of commission for 2-3 months.

Naturally, it was my dominant hand. If you have ever had to go without your number one hand for any length of time, you’ll be able to empathize. You have also likely come to realize the extent to which an opposable thumb gives us a hand up (so to speak) over most of the other mammals on the planet. I could wiggle the tips of my fingers a little bit, but that was about it.

So, denied my digital resources, I pouted and grumbled for a couple of months and let my wife cut up my food and perform other tasks I couldn’t handle. I also learned to do a lot of things with my left hand; clumsily in most cases. Keyboarding was out of the question, and I didn’t press Heidi into the service of writing this blog – thus my absence. So there you have it.

Those of you with a suspicious nature will do some mental calculations and note that while my operation was last fall and I mentioned two to three months down time, I am only now – in July – explaining the reason for my absence. Why in the world, you might ask, have you waited this long to resume your work on this blog? Well, let me clarify a few things for you. While I was recuperating, a lot of household tasks piled up that I had to get at; I had also postponed a vacation that we needed; I found myself with very little time left for writing – and I couldn’t think of a damn thing to write about. Cut me some slack, dammit.

Be A Clown by Chuck Thurston


When I was a youngster, there were many stories and films in which adolescent boys succumbed to the draw of the circus, and hopped on an outward-bound circus train to join this life of exciting adventure. I am sorry to tell you this, but the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus closed down in May, 2017. If you still hide a secret hankering to run away and join the circus, your train has left the station. Sorry about that.

I, myself, was immune to this urge, but I was raised on a farm. I had done all the mucking out after cows, pigs and chickens that I cared to. I could only imagine cleaning up after an elephant. A clown, though, was something to shoot for. I could picture a life in makeup and funny clothes – performing antics that made people laugh. I didn’t picture it so strongly that I ran away to pursue it, but as time has gone by, I am beginning to feel that it caught up with me as I grew older. In fact, as I look around me, I see that others in my cohort exhibit the same characteristics!

We eschew lace up shoes – we amble along in clogs or slippers. We appear to be getting shorter – and our pants baggier as a consequence. We haven’t bothered to update our wardrobes, and we are stuck with old, wide, bowties and plaid outfits from the 70’s. We find that our head has grown up through our hair, and the hair fringe fuzzes out from under our ball caps. Our noses are getting redder. We find ourselves acting silly around little children.

We needn’t have worried about missing the circus train and the chance to be a clown. The circus has come to us, my friends.

Hansel and Gretel in February by Chuck Thurston


Come May, Hansel and Gretel will bound and spin out from the wings to the center of a warm lighted stage, and charm an audience with this beloved fairy tale by the Brothers’ Grimm.

But this is February, and it’s a cold and windy Saturday morning outside the drafty old studio. Benjamin is wearing loose pants and a baggy shirt. Kelsey is in leotards and a sweater. They could be kids hanging out at any mall in the country, but on this Saturday they are focused on Anne’s tutelage.

Anne has danced ballet on New York Stages. She has done Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty and Peter Pan and “every role in the ‘Nutcracker,’” she says with a wry smile. This spring’s project, though, is Hansel and Gretel — and Benjamin and Kelsey must master the opening movements on this blustery Saturday morning.

The first time or two, their movements are ragged and unsure. They smirk a bit when Anne reminds them that they are “not a romantic pair, but brother and sister!”

Gradually they assume their characters. They become the woodcutter’s children — skipping and playing, unaware of the dark times ahead. The movements are practiced in silence until Anne thinks the music should be added, and she starts a boom box on a table at one end of the dance floor.

Kelsey has worked with Anne before. On a particular sequence, Anne reminds her, “Kelsey, this is nothing but part of the Sugar Plum Fairy routine!” Benjamin is not quite as polished, but he knows the ballet principles — and his Tai Chi and martial arts training give him body control that he can adapt to the dance.

I am there at Anne’s invitation. I sit on a well-worn metal chair off to the side, but I soon realize that I am invisible to the three people. They are focused on the few square meters of stage on which they perform. Anne often demonstrates particular movements with practiced grace.

I hear snatches of her instruction. “Wait! Wait! Hips and shoulders in alignment! Don’t show your butt to the audience! Both feet flat when lifting, Benjamin!”   When the pair gets it right, I hear a “Bingo!” or “Hah!”

I suddenly realize that I am witnessing something special. I find a scrap of paper in my jacket pocket and a stub of pencil. I try to recollect what I have already seen, and begin taking notes.

There is a short break. Kelsey removes her point shoes for some adjustment or other, and I see that some of her toes are bandaged. I see a spot of blood. A box of Band-Aids is among the contents of her small duffle bag. Hansel doesn’t have to do anything en pointe, and Benjamin has worked in his socks all along.

The break over, he and Kelsey – warmed to a sweat now — are down to T-shirt and tank top as they resume the rehearsal.

Over and over, they do the same opening sequence. The music is added at almost every iteration now, as the piece becomes more polished.

I feel like clapping, but realize that I mustn’t interrupt the concentration of these amazing energies.

Next fall, Benjamin will return to classes at the College of Charleston and Kelsey will enter the University of South Carolina. Before that, though – in May — there is Hansel and Gretel. Benjamin will be wearing lederhosen — those leather britches — and a snappy Tyrolean hat. Gretel will be in braids, and a Bavarian girl’s costume. An appreciative crowd in comfortable seats in a warm auditorium will applaud their skills.

But that’s a long way to go. It’s February and they’re in old clothes and leotards, in a drafty old studio, repeating moves over and over, before an audience of one — and waiting for Anne’s “Bingo!” to let them know when they’ve nailed it.

This story first appeared in Chuck Thurston’s book “Senior Scribbles Unearthed” available on Amazon. Chuck’s son Curt Thurston did the artwork illustrating the story.  You can find Curt’s “day job” stuff at….and Chuck still follows Ballet – and Anne is still teaching it.

The Pumpkin Chronicles by Chuck Thurston


We carved a Jack-O-Lantern every year when our children were little, and after – when they had grown and gone and a crop of grandchildren was hanging around at Halloween. Initially, my wife and I did the initial designs, but eventually the youngsters took over this job. They drew the face on the pumpkin and we wielded the knife to render it. We had some very interesting visages on our porch to greet trick-or-treaters.

Pumpkins once carved, don’t last very long, and they would start to soften up before long. A hard frost would hasten this collapse, and they would slump into faces even more interesting and ominous than the original – nature would add its own unpredictable art. Ultimately what was left was tossed into the garden or compost.

After the youngsters of our own clan had grown up and moved on to establish Halloween traditions with their own offspring, we continued to put a Jack-O-Lantern on our porch for trick-or-treaters, until our neighborhood of older established houses stopped drawing crowds of them and we settled on putting a whole uncarved pumpkin on the porch. These would last a much longer time and we could leave them there until Thanksgiving, where they still seemed appropriate.

Some years later we bought a cabin in the NC foothills. Not a chance for a trick-or-treater up there, but a pumpkin on the porch still seemed like a good idea, until we found that some unknown scavengers – probably deer or raccoons – discovered them. Only occasionally would one last longer than a few nights before their raids.

One year, our neighbors up the hill proposed a game to get rid of any pumpkins that survived the wildlife. We would do a “pumpkin chuck”. We gathered below the deck behind their cabin – overlooking the long, steep meadow and woods below. We would give the pumpkins a vigorous roll and see how far down the hill they would go. We were amazed to see them bounce down the field and disappear into the woods – still carrying an impressive amount of steam. We realized that if they somehow negotiated the woods, they could possibly land on the roof of a cabin further down the hill! We never heard any complaints from that direction, though, so assumed we had gotten away with it. We only tried this game a couple of years, and gave up setting out pumpkins for critter food.

For this past Halloween, we bought a very nice, firm, not too big, not too small symmetrical pumpkin and put it on our porch. As it happened, we didn’t get a single trick-or-treater. In anticipation of this possibility, we had purchased candy that we happened to like.

So Halloween came and went, as did Thanksgiving. The pumpkin sat on the porch, resolute as ever, and as we began decorating for Christmas this past weekend, we began to feel a little self-conscious about this relic from other holidays. But wait, I thought. This is the holiday season! Couldn’t we get a little more mileage out of this round orange gourd? Look, after Thanksgiving we’ve still got Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Day – why somewhere on some South Pacific atoll, some obscure celebration we have never heard of is marking the solstice! Our artsy granddaughter came up with a brilliant idea. We made a quick trip to a local store for a few supplies and she went to work. Thus was Jack–O-Santa born.


Granddaughter Mary Kathryn (Mickey) poses with her creation – our very first Jack-O-Santa. 

The Thanksgiving No-Shows by Chuck Thurston


Several years ago, my family and I drove back to North Carolina after spending Thanksgiving with family in Pennsylvania. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, that Thanksgiving is the most heavily traveled holiday on the American calendar. I learned the hard way. The junction of I-81 and I-77 in southern Virginia was a virtual parking lot. There were long complete stoppages interrupted by slow creeps forward for a few yards. We had gassed up the car, eaten lunch, had made recent rest area calls and carried snacks and drinks in the car – so we were in pretty good shape. We could only guess what discomforts were being experienced in the vehicles around us. For all that, though, most of the travelers seemed sanguine about the experience. Many took the opportunity to leave their cars and stretch; some had footballs they were tossing around.

It struck me that I might be looking at the lingering effects of a good time spent with family and friends – the Thanksgiving after-glow, if you will. For Thanksgiving is recognized as the quintessential family holiday. Perhaps because it is centered around a meal – usually the most elaborate one of the year – and one we feel we must share with those closest to us. It is the one holiday we are either drawn to – or host for others – this “groaning board”.

When I was a youngster in a small, remote country school, we were led in a singing of Lydia Maria Child’s poem “Over the River and Through the Wood” around about Thanksgiving time. The poem is too long to reproduce here, but two stanzas stick in my mind to this day;

Over the river, and through the wood,

To Grandfather’s house we go;

the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh

through the white and drifted snow.


Over the river, and through the wood—

now Grandmother’s cap I spy!

Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?

Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!


So early on, we are introduced to this special holiday, and appreciate its peculiar power to bond us together. Yesterday we celebrated our Thanksgiving 2017 at the home of a dear friend of the family. Much of her clan and a few of ours filled our plates and retired to two tables to work on the traditional offerings: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, rolls, cranberry sauce, casseroles of several varieties and desserts too tempting to ignore; wine, of course, and Irish Coffee afterwards.

As is the case most years, we missed the loving faces of several who could not make it this time. Our hostess had mounted an ingenious display to remind us of them and to include them in our thoughts for the day. Some were enjoying feasts with other family members. Some had other commitments that required their attention. One was out of the country. No matter – their pictures were posted on the door leading into the banquet lest we forget them as we carried our plates to the table.

So, Dear Thanksgiving No-Shows, you weren’t forgotten. We hope that wherever you were on this wonderful day, you didn’t forget us, either. Know that when we said Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Grace, you were included in spirit.

“For each new morning with it’s light,

For rest and shelter of the night,

For health and food,

For Love and Friends,

For everything Thy goodness sends.”



The Twelve Days of Turkey by Heidi Thurston



Now, everyone knows about “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” but how many of you have ever considered “The Twelve Days of Turkey?” Turkey is uniquely American and to most citizens it would not be Thanksgiving without having a meal with a big bird complimented by all the trimmings. But unless you are part of a family consisting of at least a dozen people, a large turkey can create a big problem…namely, leftovers. Most women having spent a small fortune on a turkey will look forward to spending a little less money on meat for the week following Turkey Thursday, and heaven knows, everyone enjoys that. The rest of the family, however, does not always see it that way and a pattern, at least in my family, is set:

On Thanksgiving Day my family says to me, “Oh, what a delicious big turkey.” On the day after Thanksgiving my family says to me, “Boy; those cold turkey sandwiches sure taste good.” On the third day of turkey my family says to me, “Hot turkey sandwiches are a real treat.” On Sunday afternoon, while they all watch football games my family says to me, “Turkey hash goes good with a game.” Coming home Monday, from school and work, my family says to me, “Do we indeed smell turkey soup?” On the sixth day of turkey my family is impressed and says, “We did not know you knew how to make turkey filled crepes.” On the seventh day of straight turkey my family looks resigned and eat turkey chowder and say, “Well, that’s different.”

On Thursday after Thanksgiving the turkey, served with leftover trimmings, receive just a, “Not again!”            By Friday they all yell, “Oh, No!” By the 10th day my family says absolutely nothing at all. On the 11th day, while looking at what’s left of the hated bird, they tell me they are not hungry.

And on the very last day – the 12th – as I sit alone (they all called and said they were sorry but they could not make it home for dinner,) I take what’s left, dump it in the garbage and settle down with a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of milk.

Needless to say, we do not have turkey for Christmas.



Stop Me If You’ve Heard This by Chuck Thurston


I have a friend who has done a lot of writing in various media. To establish his credentials as honest and grounded in reality, I have to point out that he does considerable technical and business writing. In a former life, though, he did script writing for TV shows. That will tend to lower the objectivity bar for many.

Now that he’s earning an honest living, he can look back on his earlier efforts with a critical eye. He told me some time ago that the rise of TV “Reality Shows” was because of a lack of good writing these days. It was far easier to get some interesting folks, put them in an unusual situation, give them a few instructions on what was wanted – and record the results.

The result can’t be entirely without direction, however. The characters are chosen because of their good looks, shapeliness, quirkiness, wiseassery, likelihood of drawing sympathy, etc.  In other words, most of the traits that would have gotten them selected for traditional TV acting roles – if there had been good writers producing these shows now.

The advertisements for these shows are designed to entice the viewer in much the same way that ads for traditional shows did – emphasizing the excitement, adventure and possible eroticism to be displayed.

My wife showed me an ad for The Bachelor in Paradise show, that said  “Ashley takes Jared to a hotel!”

“What could possibly be her motive for that?” she asked.

“Don’t read too much into it,” I said. “That hotel has the best breakfast buffet in town!”



My Grandparents Tug Of War by Heidi Thurston


In everyone’s life there is often a person who leaves an impression so strong that he or she seems to live on forever.  Such a person was my grandfather.

One of the earliest things I recall about him was his consistent battle with my grandmother over the small coal stove in their inner-city apartment. My grandfather was a firm believer in heat of any kind and insisted that the draft on the stove remain open in order to “get the room really warm.” Grandmother, however, through knowledge obtained from books or others, used to inform him, “Too much heat is unhealthy.”  And so they went on arguing winter after winter and with the cool temperatures in Denmark this would often go on from late in the months of August until late in the month of April.

In the summer, of course, things were simple!  The just transferred their bickering during the few summer months to a battle over whether or not the windows should be open or closed. Grandfather wanted them shut and grandmother wanted the fresh air in.

I entered into their arguments many a time when my grandfather would maintain that his little granddaughter should “dress warm,” and this would be fine in November or December when you could count on freezing weather. But when in mid-April he would require that I wear long stockings, sweaters and bloomers over my regular underwear – which used to embarrass me no end since they made me bulge all over the place – I would turn to my grandmother for help.  She would quietly let me remove one of the sweaters, grandfather’s scarf, his woolen cap, and the bloomers after which she would turn around and give her husband a significant look.

About the time he was about to open his mouth and object, I was diplomatically sent out of the room; but that did not keep me from listening to the two of them argue while I stood outside the door.

Shortly after my sixth birthday my grandparents moved into a modern senior citizens apartment complex that featured central warm air. This of course meant no coal stove and no draft over which to argue!

This had my whole family very concerned since so much of my grandparents affection for each other really showed up in their “arguments.” It had been their way of communicating and in going along with their lifelong routine she would close the draft with determination when he went out of the room while he in turn would open it as soon as grandmother went into the kitchen to prepare their meals.

When they moved in to their new home, everyone in the family held their breaths for a week – waiting – and then they all drew a deep sigh of relief when it turned out that the new apartment had a small ventilation door that, when opened, would let in fresh air. It was located up high on the wall behind grandfather’s rocking chair and had a long string attached so it could easily be opened and closed.

And so with this new found ground for a hassle. Grandmother quietly kept opening the vent door to let in fresh air while grandfather, just as quickly kept closing it when she left the room.

Everything was again as usual.