Energy, energy…E=mc²

For CCThis post is by Nancy Jardine.

Energy efficiency in my house, and with my writing, has been the theme of my past week. However, even finding out about it has totally zapped up my physical and emotional reserves. Making the PLAN happen isn’t so straightforward.

We’ve recently had an energy efficiency survey done of our house and our knuckles were well and truly rapped. Making my house super-energy-efficient isn’t possible but there are improvements I can make – given time and whole bundle of cash. Certain improvements will boost the household energy efficiency rating and will reduce its carbon footprint. That’s really important nowadays.

It sounds brilliant, but guess what? The PLAN isn’t a case of take one step at a time. There’s a SEQUENCE fairy out in my garden just waiting to wave her wand before saying ‘Stop, not that one! This improvement has to come first.’

20150128_113722The main front part of my house is an 1820s, solid granite building under the white rendering you see in the photo. Granite is the typical building material in my part of Scotland, Aberdeenshire having a lot of granite quarries that were exploited in centuries gone past. The three-feet thick walls are built to withstand serious howling gales but there has come a time when its ancient roof slates are saying ‘enough is enough’. The slater comes annually to replace slates that have come loose or have fallen off, but I’m sad to say that after such a long time my roof is SICK. ‘Nail sick’ means it’s getting more difficult to pin back slates that come loose. Not a very energy efficient situation because a roof over one’s head (that doesn’t leak) is a useful thing!

I had considered that if my roof needs to be replaced, or I need to have serious repairs done, does it make sense to have PV solar panels (photovoltaics) put in, panels which would generate electricity for my household needs and would be very good for the environment? In Scotland, there’s a major drive on by the government to encourage people to install solar power, a nice green energy production. I’d love to put a big √ on that one. There’s the added bonus that any surplus electrical power generated by an individual house that’s not used can be sold back to the grid- thus making a small profit for the householder.

20150122_101319Sounds like a fantastic idea but… it turns out that my roof style creates too many shaded areas and it doesn’t face directly south- South-south east isn’t good enough! South facing and no shading are  needed for maximum solar energy trap. So, I’m told that I don’t have a suitable roof for putting solar panels on and I’d likely need to cut down my favourite silver birch since the minimal shade it would shed on any panels would make them even more inefficient. Okay, so, maybe roof repairs can go ahead but no solar panels.

However, I can put in ground mounted solar PV panels though that will reduce my garden space by a large chunk. I’m thinking about that one because that would mean no garden chores in that area and more time for writing! *insert smiley face* √ Big tick soon?

Oh, NO!  There’s that SEQUENCING thing again! To get the maximum tariff return on any extra electricity generation that might be produced I need to do the inside of my house energy efficiency measures first! What? Apparently – Yes. I do.

So what are they? Install low energy light bulbs? Already done. √ More roof insulation added. Not done yet, but soon. Similarly for lining the under floor area in my lounge, that’s possible since there’s a cellar below. Interior solid wall insulation? That will have to be done room by room: a lot of redecoration needed afterwards. I have 2 operating coal fires which I love, but they’re very energy inefficient. 80% of the heat goes up the chimney when a fire is lit using up precious fossil fuels like coal or wood. fire 7

Multi-fuel stoves look like they might be in my future –  though not before the solid wall insulation is installed on those fireplace walls. That SEQUENCING thing again.

A new gas boiler/ furnace system for the central heating in the rooms will be much more efficient than my present oil-fired one – even though the price of oil across the globe has recently reduced. But since my efficiency measures are for the long term, I’ve requested gas to be laid into my house. Sadly, that might not happen for a number of weeks. So, which PLAN do I follow in the interim?

Please SEQUENCING fairy tell me what to do? *smiley face here* because I’m not actually despairing, but my budget is very small.

And what of my writing? Am I energy efficient with that? Last week’s writing slots vanished doing seemingly small tasks. However, I can tick some boxes.

√ I’d already used the services of a professional editor for my YA time-travel adventure. (sort of cheating here)

√ I’m now in discussion with a graphic designer who is going to make my cover image.

√ I’ve consulted with some of my author friends who’ve given me self-publishing advice – one of whom is our very own Cher’ley Grogg. Yippee! Cher’ley’s helped with SEQUENCING issues.

I’d thought to publish the ebook version of my YA novel on Amazon first because e-books are great on the carbon footprint trail. √ The paperback version’s not quite so good since it gobbles down those trees…but I really want to have some physical books for selling locally. With Cher’ley’s advice, I now know that the SEQUENCING of publishing a Createspace paperback version first can be followed by the immediate ebook publishing on Amazon,  so that’s my aim. The post – launch promotions could do with a very good and successful SEQUENCE as well, with lots of good energy put into them but right now I need to boost my own vigour before making that PLAN.  Have I got my writing roof on yet? Is that Amazon itself? Or do I need to employ some further insulation in the form of publishing elsewhere like Smashwords to make my venture more efficient and to provide more returns?

Now where did I put those budget sheets? Oh dear, they’re buried under mountains of brochures and estimates for all sorts of improvements.

My weekend is busy making more plans – how about you? Have fun whatever you’re doing!

Nancy Jardine writes historical romantic adventures, contemporary mystery thrillers and YA time travel adventure. Watch this space next time for news about that PUBLISHING date for The Taexali Game.

Nancy Jardine Award Finalist The People's Book Prize 2014Find her writing at Amazon US


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What’s Next?

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

The blue-gray and black Great Dane stretched his large head and giant body from the back seat of my car, as he looked through the rear window of my Subaru Outback. I had just driven away from the home he’d known for the past week, being fostered for an Denver-based organization called Big Dogs Huge Paws. “Blue,” as he was called, was headed for a new home in Montana and I was his ride from a Denver suburb to Casper, where he stayed a few days while awaiting transport to Billings, Montana. Helping dogs go into rescue or go to their new homes is something I thoroughly enjoy, and since I like to travel, transporting dogs for rescue groups fits me to a tee. Yet, like Blue the Great Dane, most rescue animals are nervous about what is happening to them; I am sure they wonder, “What’s happening? What’s next?”

What took me to Denver to begin with earlier this month is also a “what’s next?” story. A dear friend, someone I’ve known more than 30 years, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer just before Thanksgiving. His surgery took place in a Denver hospital the end of December, and he and his wife were staying at an Aurora hotel after he was released from the hospital following a second surgery. I spent time with them during a weekend in mid-January, learning more about the disease and various scenarios of prognosis. My friends planned to stay at the hotel for a few weeks, meeting with the surgeon and other doctors to learn “what’s next?” It’s a scary, uncertain time for them, and it’s been a scary, uncertain time for Blue … and other rescue dogs I’ve known.

baseball_pitcherLife throws curve balls. Whether at an animal that’s lost it’s home for some reason; a bad health report like my friend; a dip in finances due to lack of work as my husband and I experienced last spring; or some other experience we go through – these curve balls trip one off balance, much as a pitcher tries to do to a batter in baseball. We can’t always control what happens to us in life, and when those curve balls are hurled at us, we wonder “what’s next?”

As writers we often come to a point where we don’t know what’s going to happen next to our characters. We can take scenarios from life and throw those at the characters, being the “pitcher” in the story we’re creating. In the pet rescue children’s story I’ve been working on for the past few years (shelved due to the “curve balls” of other writing endeavors such as the magazine article wave that hit me in 2014) Jasmine, my primary dog character, doesn’t know “what’s next” when the owner she’s known for years abandons her; when she is taken into rescue; when she is transported from place to place on her way to her new forever home – just as many of the rescue animals I work with don’t know “what’s next?” As I’ve written the children’s story, at times I wasn’t sure where the story/the character was going next, even though the story is based on a true rescue account. I didn’t know exactly what happened to the real Jasmine after she was abandoned and before she went into rescue, so I created scenes which would be as near to fact as possible (such as after her puppies are born, she has to protect them from predatory coyotes). For characters in our stories, when we as authors are “stuck,” we can draft out potential scenarios, “what ifs,” and see how those possible pathways might play out for our characters, an “if this then that” plot outline.

Jazmine Transport

Doing a “character study” is also valuable. Asking questions of your character(s) helps you get to know them. Here’s a link to a Writer’s Digest article about questions to ask of your characters: Delving more deeply into our character(s) can help sort out the question “What’s next?” for them and for the entire story.

Although we dream and plan for the future in real life, we really don’t know what tomorrow holds. However, as writers we can plot out the tomorrows for our story and its characters, sometimes with a few curve balls thrown in for good measure (just as happens in real life) to generate a page-turning story. So, what are your hopes for “what’s next” in your writing life? In your current story in progress? May the curve balls that come your way help you to hit a home run, in real life and in your stories!


Gayle & Mary outsideGayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two dog devotion boos: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released August 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, Creation Illustrated, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal, River Press, and Douglas Budget newspapers. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at

SageBigAdventureFront-small   SageLearnsShareFront-small  Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover  Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final  Walking_FrontCover_small  Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014

Love What You Do

This post by Jennifer Flaten

I don’t normally watch awards shows, but flipping through the TV channels on Sunday I caught a moment of the SAG awards. Specifically, Francis McDormand’s acceptance speech there she was on stage accepting her award for best actress in a mini-series for her performance in Olive Kitteridge.

What caught my attention about her speech, beside the fact she should give lessons on how to work self-promotion into a conversation. There she is accepting her award and she manages to tell everyone how they should watch her movie (if they haven’t already). She even goes on to give a little primer on where to get the movie.

Then she says the thing that strikes me the most, how much she loves her job. In fact, she spent a good couple of minutes talking about how much she loves what she does.

Well, you would expect that in someone who just won a SAG award, right? I think most of us might love what we do just a tiny bit more if it came with a nice shiny statue. file0001843560607

Still, I can honestly say I love what I do. Although, my job isn’t a straightforward job like novelist or accountant, it’s more of a stay-at-home, work-at-home, go-to-the office a couple days a week mash-up of a couple different things I like it. It suits me.

And, no, I am never going to get a statue (or even a plaque for what I do)….and some days I don’t love it. There are still days where I don’t want to work (whatever that day‘s work entails). I want to spend all day reading, knitting or staring out the window, you know basically anything but what is on that days agenda.

Day to day I think we focus on the things that irritate us about our work (whatever that may be) and we don’t focus enough on what we like about it.

Make today the day you spend a minute thinking about what you like (or hopefully love) about your job.

Browse my jewelry on Etsy

Always Beginning

Steph_2 copy (2)By Stephanie Stamm

I’ve posted elsewhere about my affair with the Marco Polo series on Netflix. Among the many things to enjoy about the series are the beautifully choreographed martial arts scenes—reminiscent of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I have been practicing tai chi since September, and I can see similar moves in the fight scenes. They remind me that the peaceful tai chi I practice for health is a form of martial art. Watching the precisely executed moves of Hundred Eyes, the blind monk who is Marco’s instructor, or Jia Sidao, the Chancellor of the walled city of Xiangyang, I long for the skill acquired by long years of discipline and practice.

This move is called Creeping Low Like a Snake. I can’t begin to get this low yet. Perhaps with time and practice…

Of course, I am but a beginner, and that too is teaching me. When learning something new, you have to approach it with what Zen Buddhism calls “beginner’s mind,” that is, with an attitude of openness and curiosity, a lack of preconceptions, and an eagerness to learn. (Read more about beginner’s mind here.) With beginner’s mind, you can appreciate where you are in the process. It’s not about being right or wrong but about learning.

This move is called Single Whip. It’s repeated a lot in the series.

When we reached the first really complicated move in the tai chi series (there are 108 moves altogether, though some moves are repeated multiple times), I was bewildered. Class ended after the instructor’s demonstration and then our muddled attempt at the move. But the next week, I tried again, I asked questions, and by the end of class, I had grasped the basics, then after practicing at home, I could execute the move—in very beginner style. Now that move is one of my favorites. Still, I am only a beginner, so I know I have more to learn about it and its execution as my body becomes more adept at the practice of tai chi.

I have yet to learn the complete series, though I’ve made it to move 92. Within a week or two, I will have completed the beginning class and gotten through all 108 moves. Then I will continue to practice, moving to a continuing class, even perhaps returning to the beginning class. The moves are not something that are learned and done. Tai chi is a practice. There is no destination, just an ongoing journey.

Learning that in tai chi helps me apply it to my life.

So often we fear being beginners. We want to be experts, to be knowledgeable and accomplished. We attach our worth to our accomplishments, our work, our performance. But we never become accomplished at anything without first beginning—and then putting in many, many hours of practice. And we are not our accomplishments. We are the people who practice those things. Like tai chi or yoga, our work is always a kind of practice, one we stick with over time with discipline, so that we improve.


The concept of beginner’s mind teaches us the importance of remaining a kind of beginner, even as we improve at our practice, so that we can be patient with ourselves when we don’t get something “right” and be open to new learning and improvement.

What new thing have you learned that has made you appreciate being a beginner?


Woman Doing Tai chi from

The Tai chi master Yang Chengfu demonstrating the Single whip, via Wikimedia Commons

World Tai Chi Day by Brian Robinson, [CC BY 2.0 (, via Flickr


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I am the author of the New Adult/Young Adult urban fantasy series, The Light-Bringer:




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Not Losing My Mind by Erin Farwell

IMG_3021_1I recently learned that I carry a gene for early onset Alzheimer’s. While this was startling news, it wasn’t devastating as I know that it is not a diagnosis, simply knowledge that my chances of having this disease are slightly greater than that of the general population.

I am also a firm believer that knowledge is power. So I now take a lot of high quality fish oil, eat lots of veggies, and exercise more frequently. All this is healthy for my body and my brain so it’s all good. Pretty much.

The problem with this knowledge is that life is life. I have always had a great memory but, since experiencing menopause, it isn’t as good as it used to be. I’ve been told that my mind will be back to normal as hormones Memory-Healer-Review-2balance out, but in the mean time I’ve become frustrated that words on the tip of my tongue tend to stay there. I find myself walking into a room and hoping, if I stay there long enough, I’ll remember what I came in there for. Schedules have to be written down rather than live in my head. With the new health information, I now wonder if a brain blip is caused by hormone fluctuations or something more serious. I know, deep down, that I’m fine but at the same time there is this little extra worry that wears me down.

In an effort to improve overall brain-related stuff, I decided to try Lumosity – a website with games designed to increase mental functions. My initial test was rather embarrassing and I ranked really, really low compared to others on the site within my age group. I reminded myself that this was the point, to know where I am and to get better.

I’ve been on the site for almost three months now and I have shown great improvement in every category, except one: problem solving. I find this odd as I have always thought of myself as a great problem solver. When I review my rankings against others in my group, I am in the 73rd to 86th percentiles with comments like “You’re doing well” and “You’re a force to be reckoned with!” Then we get to problem solving. I haven’t broken the 37th percentile. Seriously. The comment there is: Keep trying.

I am trying. I blame my poor score on a game where you’re packing a suitcase and can’t let the camera get squished when the bag closes. My camera is always getting squished. It’s the only game that I haven’t moved up a single level in 3 months. You’d think bspeedPack_icon_mediumy now I’d get it right. How hard could this be? Apparently, for me, really, really hard. So now, in addition to having this Alzheimer’s issue hanging over my head, I am on a mission to pack that stupid camera in the dang suitcase without breaking it.

On the plus side, my general memory processes have improved. I don’t stumble for words as much as I had in recent months and, overall, things seem to be getting back to normal. My profile says that people with my scores are often in art and design. Hmmm. Maybe what I’ve considered good problem solving skills all these years was really just a type of creativity.

I consider myself lucky to live in a time when genetic information is available. Rather than focus on what might be, I use this information to support my physical and mental health. By changing my lifestyle, I increase my odds of avoiding Alzheimer’s. And maybe I’ll get that camera packed without squishing it.

You can learn more about me at:

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Post copyright 2015 by Doris McCraw








I confess to having a love/hate relationship with resources. They are a blessing or a curse to your writing. As I make this journey of being a writer, the use of resources is a must. Writing fiction as Angela Raines, the use of old newspapers, books, and diaries, add that note of authenticity to the stories of the Old West that I write.Writing nonfiction, especially the story of the early women doctors in Colorado, using resources can be a great headache.

For fiction, “At the End of the Santa Fe Trail”, by Sister Blandina Segale, 1850-1941, is a gem for events that occurred during the time of the western expansion as Sister Bandina makes her way alone from the mother house in Cincinnati, Ohio to Trinidad, Colorado and then onto  Santa Fe, New Mexico. Published in 1932, this wonderful book is composed of letters written by Sister Blandina to her sisters ‘The Sisters of Charity’ back east. A Google search of Images of Sister Blandina is quite fascinating.

Another great gem is “Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps” by Sandra Dallas; Photographs by Kendal Atchison. Published in the 1980’s, it is a wealth of tidbits about the time in Colorado, from 1859-1920, when Colorado was the place to be to find gold and silver.

The remains of an old cabin at Dyersville, Colorado. Founded and named for ‘Father Dyer’ a traveling itinerant Methodist preacher.

To write the book on early Colorado women doctors before 1900 is another completely different challenge when it comes to resources. Books like “Medicine in the Old West: a History, 1850-1900” by Jeremy Agnew, published in 2010, offer glimpses of how medicine was used and viewed during the time, but talks little of women physicians except to say they had a difficult time. (Although he does speak of a woman physician in Pueblo, Colorado briefly.) Even the primary source I have on Colorado Women Doctors, “Women Physicians of Colorado”, by Mary De Mund, published in 1976 has errors due to the lack of resources when it was written. Some women doctors, who died before licensing in the state began, are harder to locate. Newspapers have been a good resource as has, but even those can be a minefield. If a woman married, or didn’t advertise, many times they just don’t want to be found. Male and female names that are similar or have changed use with the sex over the years, further complicates the search. Beverly is now a female name, but in the 1800’s it was strictly a male name. Emley B. Queal, while listed in the women physicians of Colorado is actually a male who graduated from Harvard, but was a physician.

Here in Colorado Springs, I have access to cemetery records and the headstones of those buried here. That makes finding these women easier. For those in the rest of the state, well let’s just say there will be many a day spent traveling and ‘camping’ out at local libraries and newspaper offices.  In the meantime, I will leave you with a couple of ‘findings’ on these women you may find interesting.

Dr. Agnes Winzell is listed as graduating from the Nashville College of Eclectic Therapeutics in Indiana in 1897 and receiving her Colorado license, #2966, in 1899. However she shows up in the 1892 Seattle, Washington city directory as Mrs. Agnes Winzell, physician, 27 Douthitt Bldg.

Dr. Edith Root was the first woman to receive a Colorado license. In 1881, the first year Colorado started licensing physicians, Dr. Root applied and received her license #89. She was forty years old at that time. However she is listed in the 1878 Denver city directory as a physician, at 359 Larimer.

So you see, while research is quite fun, in fact I love it, it takes more than one source and many an hour reading unlikely books, newspapers and of course countless hours on the computer. No wonder I have this love/hate relationship with Cursed Recources. So until next time, see you in the research section.


home for his heart angela rainesHOME FOR HIS HEART
also available as an ebook on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.


Doris Gardner-McCraw/Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History

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The thump-thump of the hurting and the dying

This post has been written by me, Mike Staton.
This post has been written by me, Mike Staton.

The tenth-floor hospital room rumbled and shook… thump-thump-thump.

Earlier, I asked, “Is that the bed in the next room?”

“No, I think it’s a medical transport helicopter,” replied my dad’s niece, Belinda Barfield.

Several days before dad rested in a coronary care step-down bed that could be vibrated for massage and bedsore-prevention purposes. A few hours earlier I’d heard and felt the room vibrate just as it had when a nurse activated the vibration option on dad’s bed. It turned out to be the bed of the next-door heart patient. The landing helicopter felt the same way. Well, actually the room’s “helicopter” rumbling was far more powerful. I felt it deep inside my bones.

The tenth is Ruby Memorial’s top floor and on the Morgantown hospital’s roof are two helicopter landing pads. Dad didn’t come to West Virginia University’s teaching hospital by helicopter after his heart attack. Instead, he came by emergency squad from Minnie Hamilton Hospital in Grantsville, a 2.5-hour drive. His life hung in the balance; he’d not just suffered a heart attack, he battled a severe case of the flu and pneumonia. “He may not survive this time,” his wife Linda told me when I called her from my home in Las Vegas.

A medical transport helicopter brings a patient to a hospital in Iowa. Similar helicopters brought patients to the Morgantown hospital where dad was a patient.
A medical transport helicopter brings a patient to a hospital in Iowa. Similar helicopters brought patients to the Morgantown hospital where dad was a patient.

My mind wandered as I listened to the spinning, vibrating blades of the helicopter. I turned philosophical. These helicopters are bringing folks in dire straits to Ruby Memorial from other hospitals all over West Virginia. Auto accident victims, shootings, heart attacks, plane crashes, construction accidents… every reason imaginable, time of the essence, life leaking away unless skilled doctors can keep the hearts beating.

Just like me, family members and friends are sitting in waiting/hospitality rooms or inside hospital rooms, hoping and praying that their loved ones will recover, that their visits are pilgrimages of hope and encouragement, not death watches. It can be a roller-coaster ride. The ups and downs are frustrating, galling. One moment, your loved one is smiling, full of tales of past fun times; the next, he’s in the bed moaning of severe chest pain. That gurgling in his throat that you think is a symptom of pneumonia… you learn it’s actually a throat problem and his food and meds are not reaching his stomach but going down his windpipe into his lungs. Yes, hope one moment; despair the next.

A helicopter can be the difference between living and dying for folks injured in an auto accident.
A helicopter can be the difference between living and dying for folks injured in an auto accident.

Sometimes it’s a precarious balance between hope and despair. We wonder: How will the balance ultimately tip? For dad it’s tipping toward “hope.” Belinda writes today (which is actually January 22): “Uncle Lou slept well last night and got up in the chair this morning to eat. Hopefully, if things keep stable, he will be leaving soon.”

That’s the ultimate hope we all keep close to our hearts. That our loved ones will prevail over the odds against them and return home to hugs and kisses or to a rehab facility for physical therapy to regain strength and stamina. We all want them to walk through the front door if possible, not seated in a wheelchair.

The sounds of the helicopters landing and taking off also tell me that someday I could very well be a patient on a whirlybird. A friend of mine likes to say to me, “Be careful. You break easily.” There’s no “if about it” when it comes to illness, disease and accidents. Something’s going to happen to me and to you in the future – maybe tomorrow or maybe years or decades from now. Chances are great that we are going to end up in a hospital bed hooked up to all kinds of monitoring equipment and IVs, with tubes down our noses and mouths, perhaps even our stomachs. People will be gathered in the hospital room, praying for us, offering encouragement, chastising us when we turn gloomy. Bulwarked by prayers, kisses and doctors’ skills, perhaps we’ll return home to resume our lives. Or maybe not.

When I visited dad at his Grantsville, West Virginia, home, we always walked one block to the restaurants on Main Street for lunch. Here (left to right) are dad's buddy Robert, dad's wife Linda, me, and dad.
When I visited dad at his Grantsville, West Virginia, home, we always walked one block to the restaurants on Main Street for lunch. Here (left to right) are dad’s buddy Robert, dad’s wife Linda, me, and dad.

I’ve heard stories of “visits” to the dying. An uncle heard the fluttering of angels when his cancer-wracked brother died back in the early ‘50s when I was a toddler. When my mom lay dying from ALS in 2003, she claimed that same cancer-wracked brother – Kenny Kurtz – was in the room with us. So I’m ready for the fluttering of angel wings and the reassuring voices of departed loved ones when the time comes to shed my frail earthly body. As the hymn “Amazing Grace” reads, “’Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far, and Grace will lead me home.”

Postscript: Grace led dad home. He passed away at 12:15 a.m., Sunday, January 25.

A Tour to Hole in the Wall

105182105411111CDPBy Neva Bodin

The Hole-in-the-Wall gang, if not already famous, was catapulted into public awareness back in 1969, by a fiction film, based on some fact, about one famous gang that frequented the place in Wyoming known as the hole in the wall: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Paul Newman and Robert Redford were the stars. The gang existed in the late 1800’s.

And, in 1988, Paul Newman opened The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Connecticut so that children coping with serious illnesses could have a special hideout where they could simply be kids.

In Wyoming, the Red Wall is a bluff of red sandstone connecting southwest Johnson County and Natrona County, approximately fifty miles long, It has one narrowing canyon dividing it. This canyon providing access to a valley of grass that nourished stolen cattle, became known as the “Hole-in-the-Wall.”

I have had the privilege of writing some homesteading stories for a local newspaper and interviewed a couple families who mentioned connections to the gang. In my research, I found out it was not just one gang, but several who lived in that area and used the secluded and hard-to-reach spot to hide from the law. It is a beautiful area.

The ruins of one of the cabins in the valley.

Perhaps there is some “honor among thieves” as, according to Wikipedia, the gangs built cabins, left each other to their own pursuits and managed to co-exist. I wonder how they kept the rustled cattle separate, if land boundaries were an issue, and did they get together for card games?

One rancher in this area, (about 30 miles from the hole-in-the-wall) put a notice in the paper that he was coming to get his cattle. The rustlers put an answering notice in, saying basically, “Come and get ‘em. We’re ready.”

One of the red buttes on the trail to Hole-in-the-Wall that makes up the Red Wall.

My husband and I had the privilege of going on a tour of the area in 2013. We had to have a four-wheel drive vehicle, take our place in a long line of 20+ other vehicles and snake our way, perhaps 11 miles, across a prairie surrounded by sharp-edged red buttes. The prairie also hid sudden deep and narrow arroyos to cross that I was sure our pick-up would be wedged into and not able to get out of again.

Me standing on the wheel of the chuckwagon where we ate our lunch on the tour.

It is a very informative tour, beginning with visiting a spot where events of the Johnson County War happened, and culminating with a picnic beside a chuck wagon, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. However, the small canyon where we ate had a trail coming into it that had been a stagecoach trail that became a county road for a time.

And if you could make it over a treacherous fence, a short walk along another arroyo led to petroglyphs on a rock wall.

To add to the ambience of the tour, Butch Cassidy’s great grand-nephew, Bill Betenson, who wrote the book, “Butch Cassidy My Uncle,” was on the tour and we ate lunch while sitting beside him, on a stump at an old wooden picnic table. It was great. Until it started to rain.

We hurried to our vehicles and began a treacherous, slow crawl across a prairie trail, now wet and slick with Bentonite. Bentonite, a clay formed by the decomposition of volcanic ash, is very slippery and can expand to several times its size. It is used in many products, some being cat litter, drilling mud for oil wells, sealants, and in wine purification. Wyoming is full of it.

Turning a sharp corner on that prairie road on the very slippery soil was not easy. Or coming up out of those narrow arroyos.

There is a deep canyon with a cave where the outlaws stayed nearby also. We have camped near there and hiked down…down…down to the river below and into the cave. Artifacts, like a table, etc, have been removed by sight-seers, so one must use imagination when standing in the cave. Some locals remember the items there.

And then one must use much stamina to get back out of the deep canyon—about a half hour crawl back up an almost vertical side. (You slide part of the way down.)

Beauty, awe at what outlaws accomplished and went through to practice their (dare I say craft?) lawlessness, and my meeting someone who actually supplied them with food because some were family, makes the history of this area, and the era of the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, fascinating to me. Oh, if I only knew all the secrets this dusty, red, brown, tan, green, gray and yellow ground holds. And if Butch and the Kid really died in Bolivia, or came back to Wyoming and died in obscurity.

Sick of Winter by Abbie

Abbie J. Taylor 010This post by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Spring can come any time as far as I’m concerned. I’m tired of looking at snow, feeling arctic air on my face, and walking like a little old lady over ice to keep from ending up horizontal. I live on a side street built into a hill. In order to get anywhere on foot, I have to ascend and descend an incline. Sidewalks aren’t always shoveled, and the street is a mess because the city only bothers to plow main thoroughfares. This makes walking out of the question, so since I don’t drive because of my visual impairment, I must depend on the minibus and friends for transportation during this time of year.

Wyoming state welcome sign, along Interstate 8...


I could move to Florida to be closer to my brother, but it’s miserably hot and muggy during the summer, as I discovered last year when I attended his wedding in July. Besides, my house is paid for, and relocating would be a big hassle. I’ve grown attached to Sheridan, despite its idiosyncrasies, so I’ll stay put and complain about winter in Wyoming. The following poem from That’s Life illustrates how I feel about snow now that I’m older and more likely to break bones if I fall.




I knew it was coming,


but silent, unwelcome,


it crept into my awareness.


When I looked out the window,


It was everywhere, the sidewalk,


grass, street all covered in milky white.


Unexpected, unwanted, there it was.


I couldn’t make it go away.


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Another Try

This post by Jennifer Flaten

I picked my daughter up from her first Forensics Tournament on Saturday. I couldn’t wait to hear all the details. After settling herself in my car she answered my initial questions, but in a rather subdued manner, not her usual bubbly self.

I figured she was tired. After all, it was her first tournament one that she had to get up at 5:30am to prep for and the bus ride was over an hour long.  The tournament itself lasted over 10 hours. She agreed she was tired, but there was something else bothering her.

I realized it probably had something to do with her performance. I figured she’d done OK, or at least I hoped she had. Still, I knew she hadn’t come away with any ribbons because I am sure she would  have texted me if she did.

Bracing myself for tears, or a tantrum or who knows what–she is a teenager remember. I asked how she did. She admitted she didn’t do as well as she’d hoped. I told her it was her first one, the one she learns from…still I braced myself for her disappoint, maybe even anger that she didn’t do better. Maybe she would want to quit the team–who knows with kids right?

Later when we were home, after she’d had a chance to eat and relax a bit she told her she loved performing. Yes, she was disappointed and wanted to do better, but…here’s the best part. She wanted try again immediately.

At the beginning of the season she had to pick which tournaments she wanted to participate in and now she didn’t want to wait for her next scheduled tournament. It was in 2 weeks, but she wanted to go to the next one. Success Starts Here Freeway Style Desert Landscape

In order to do that she had to email the coach and ask if she could be a late entry into this weekend’s tournament.

So many components of this make me happy/proud. One, that my most reserved kid is participating in an activity that requires public speaking  and two, that her first time out she didn’t do so great, but her immediate response wasn’t “I’ll give up” or “I’m never doing that again” it was “I want to try this again immediately to see if I can do better”.

Honestly, when I was thirteen I don’t think I would have done any of those things. Certainly, not perform for an audience and certainly not something competitive. I was a truly shy kid.

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