Miss Rutabaga’s Encounter with the Wind Goddess


Miss Rutabaga had a reputation around school. Of course that wasn’t nothing new, everybody in school had a reputation whether they wanted one or not. Nobody knew how these reputations came to be. They just showed up one day and no matter what a person did to shed themselves of such reputations, they persisted like a boll weevil in cotton. Miss Rutabaga didn’t like to waste energy if she could help it, so she decided rather than trying to fight the reputation assigned to her by the gossip gods, she would just try and live up to hers. And that’s how come she came to be known around U-Tsu-Dv High School as the “Hard One.”

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It’s My Party

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Today is my 59th birthday. I can hardly fathom it. I feel like I’ve finally mastered some game that has granted me access to a warp zone where everything goes faster, where the Novembers seem to bump up right next to one another, where the summers get shorter and shorter, and even the winters don’t seem long enough anymore.

Does everyone come to feel that way?

For the past decade, I have spent nearly every birthday on a plane, flying from DC back to Oregon. I’ve taken one detour from that routine, to fulfill a speaking gig in Atlanta. After that gig (one in which I stood behind a platform in a swanky uptown Atlanta hotel and asked a crowd of 800 dark suits how many names of dead and wounded would be enough before they finally decided to put an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ) I swore I’d never miss another Veterans Day in DC.

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Thank a Veteran for that Book You Love


A few years ago, I mentioned Kent State to my university students. You know, First Amendment and all that Right to Assemble business. Only problem was no one in class had ever heard of all that mess at Kent State. They only knew of Kent State as a place where basketball was sometimes played well.

This is what is commonly called as background knowledge. The more background knowledge a person lacks, the less understanding they bring to the page when reading, the bigger the educational gaps.

When it comes to the subject of the American War in Vietnam there’s a wide canyon of misunderstanding and just sheer lack of knowledge. Naturally, I suppose, I make a point of trying to bridge that gap, in my writing and in my teaching.

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Cries from the Canyon

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When I left the beach it was pouring the rain. I had not intended to leave for another day but I got a call that my daughter was ill. She’d texted me the night before and we both had assumed she was suffering from a virus, but by morning she was worse. A trip to urgent care revealed a kidney infection gone awry.

Her sister, the one who isn’t married, doesn’t have children, was having difficulty trying to figure out how to fix a bottle for her nine-month-old nephew.

Should I come? I asked.

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Lady Cop in Stayton


I saw the gal sitting in a booth at the Ixtapa Restaurant in Stayton, Oregon. Her thick Norwegian blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail. A little girl, maybe two-years of age, sat on the inside next to the big picture window. Across the table, munching on chips and salsa, was a boy, maybe nine or ten.

She was dressed in her work uniform.

That of a police officer.

I was listening to Phillip Margolin (yes, the thriller writer Margolin) talk about when he taught Language Arts to kids in the Bronx, back in the day. Margolin was urging me to toss out the high brow literature of Silas Marner and replace it with Mickey Spillane noir fiction.

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