Annie Edson Taylor Over a Barrel

Annie Edson Taylor  was born on October 24, 1838 in Auburn, New York. On October 24, 1901, her 63rd birthday, she became the first person in history to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and survive. Ms. Taylor hoped to secure her financial future with the stunt, but aside from some initial speaking engagements and a memoir she didn’t make much money. Her manager stole the barrel, and she had to use up her savings to hire private detectives to track him and the barrel down again. Annie died in Niagara County and her body is interred in the ‘Stunter’s Rest’ section of the Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls on the New York side of the waters. In her honor I am reprinting a post I wrote after visiting the waterfalls of southern Laos. – Jadi

On our last trip to Laos we headed south to the quiet little city of Pakse in the Chapasak province. We wanted to see old ruins – and really spectacular waterfalls!

For the latter we booked a guide to reach the Bolaven Plateau. Hiking in to some of the waterfalls was a gloriously steep, wet walk.

Later, with the same guide (and boats) we were carried to 4,000 Islands (Si Phan Don). I was beyond amused to notice the signs on some of the guesthouses in  4,000 Islands, announcing that special, magical pancakes were available for breakfast…. My German husband missed the inference and asked why I was laughing. “Guests can get their pancakes laced with the noble herb,” I informed him. [1] Sure enough, plenty of tourists in the 4,000 Islands region spent all their time literally hanging out in hammocks. They were all way too relaxed – or something – to be ambitious. They were in no hurry to explore.

Or move.

The Mekong River splits into branches at this end of Laos and tumbles over  boulders and channels cut through rock.

When the French colonized Laos they came up with a bold (and ultimately quixotic) plan to build a railway through the region. They  wanted to go around the waterfalls and create a faster, easier way to travel and ship goods either to the north, or to the southern Vietnam port of Saigon. The result is what a CNN article wryly refered to as “Laos’ first railway: 14 km of rust” [2].

The Mekong defeated the engineers, and 4,000 Islands is a beautiful sleepy area.

But oh, those waterfalls on the Bolaven Plateau: we hiked in to as many as our young guide was willing to take us to. And we didn’t even need a barrel.

In memory of Annie Taylor,   24 October, 1838 – 29 April, 1921

NOTES: [1] I turned 16 the year that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was released. If you know me, you know this fact explains everything, including what makes me laugh. [2] CNN travel. ©Jadi Campbell 2018. Previously published as The Waterfalls of Laos: South 2. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies for American Book Fest. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the 2020 International Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

 

 

 

For My Friends Who Have Lost Loved Ones to COVID: Calling the Soul

Friends across the globe from all the stages of my life have lost parents, spouses, family members and loved ones to COVID. I have been thinking alot about the ways we are all tied to one another in joy, in grief, in loss, in trying to live together and ease one another’s pain. Here is a story about how a very different culture keeps people they care about literally connected to one another, in a ceremony that creates unity and restores harmony to both the individual and the community. For some reason this post has gotten a lot of views recently. I wrote the essay after several trips to Laos. May it offer some comfort and peace. — Jadi

 

Note the white cotton threads

When we visit the temples in Laos, we often see monks tying special white cotton strings to the wrist of a person’s right hand. Sometimes the monk ties connecting strings to whole groups of people. What are the strings, and what is their significance? The answer, it turns out, varies in the different regions of Laos (as well as the Sipsong Panna autonomous prefecture of the Tai Lü in the extreme south of Yunnan, China, and Northern and Isan Thai cultures). And the meaning depends on time and place….

Full moon Vientiane, Laos

The strings are tied in the Baci ceremony, and their significance depends on the occasion. Take weddings, for instance. According to an old Laotian legend, the cotton threads are tied to ensure a happy marriage. We each have a tree in the heavenly garden, and that tree has branches intertwined with your predestined partner. When our trees come to this earthly existence, the cotton threads binding them are cut and we’re born separated and alone. If you can find your soul mate again after searching for him or her, at your marriage you are rejoined by retying the thread.

In Laos threads are also tied on newborn babies and their mothers [1] or on people going home or departing from home, which explained the many men, women, and children wearing these bracelets we saw at airports. The ceremony is performed for specific life events: success, health (both for the cured and the sick), and annual festivals like the sacred Wax Castle Procession in Vientiane. We witnessed a high number of Baci ceremonies during that time. [2]

The ceremony is done after a death, too, to bring back any wandering  missing spirits and reinforce the harmony of the surviving family members.

The entire ceremony is rich is symbolism. The white color means purity, and the strings are believed to bind the 32 kwan, organs or parts to the soul, to prevent them from wandering away. The Baci ceremony is also known by the term su kwan, “calling of the soul”. [3] When kwan wander away from your body, this creates an imbalance in the soul that may lead to illness and bad luck.

Foundation stones are honored

The ceremonies take place in Buddhist temples, but kwan and the Baci ceremony predate Buddhism. [4] I’ve had strings tied to my right wrist in Buddhist and Hindu temples from Laos to India, but have never taken part in a Baci ceremony. Regardless, the white bracelet should be worn for at least three days. Then the threads can be unknotted or allowed to fall off on their own, but should never be cut.

Dedicated to my friends who have lost loved ones to the pandemic

NOTES: [1] A Baci ceremony for new mothers and their babies is performed to welcome the baby, and to recall any kwan that may have wandered away from the mother during the birth. [2] The Wax Castle Procession falls on an especially auspicious lunar calendar date: the full moon of the seventh lunar month. [3] Concept of Kwan: Kwan are components of the soul but have a more abstract meaning than this. The kwan have been variously described by Westerners as: “vital forces, giving harmony and balance to the body, or part of it”, “the private reality of the body, inherent in the life of men and animals from the moment of their birth,” and simply as “vital breath”. – Pom Outama Khampradith, Bounheng Inversin, and Tiao Nithakhong Somsanith, writing for Lao Heritage Foundation. P.S: Baci in Italian means kisses, and it’s also an awesome chocolate candy that contains a whole hazelnut at the center.

©Jadi Campbell 2018. Previously published as Laos White String Bracelets: The Baci Ceremony. All photos ©Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to  viewpics.de.

To learn more about kwan and the Baci ceremony: Laos-guide-999, Baci, UNESCO

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies for the American Book Fest. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the 2020 International Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts. 

Robert Porter McKimson Senior, Foghorn Leghorn + The Year of the Rooster

To my readers: Welcome to the first post in my new blog thread: A Person + Place/Time/Thing

Robert McKimson was born October 13, 1910 in Denver, Colorado. He worked for Disney for a while, but is best known for animating and directing Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for Warner Bros. Cartoons. He was a contemporary of Chuck Jones.

According to his son in the wonderful short documentary Drawn to Life: The Art of Robert McKimson, McKimson suffered a concussion in an accident. When he recovered, the concussion had improved his powers of visualization, and he became an even faster and better animator.

Robert McKimson created and/or  directed shorts with a stellar list of cartoon stars: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and Bugs Bunny. He also created the Tasmanian Devil. He also created Speedy Gonzales. And, if they weren’t enough, he also created the indomitable Foghorn Leghorn, an oversized rooster with an oversized voice and accent.

As a kid I got such a kick out of Foghorn Leghorn. He was loud, blustering, and incredibly funny (I admit that I still think all these things as an adult, too!).

A few years ago I went to check out the Wong Tai Sin Temple in China’s New Territories. It’s dedicated to the gods of medicine, but upon entering the temple grounds I was met by statues that were oversized animals of the Chinese zodiac including – you guessed it – Foghorn Leghorn’s Asian brother.

In honor of Robert McKimson and his larger-than-life rooster, (“Well I say there, boy! I say!”) I am reprinting the post I wrote describing the statues. – Jadi

I spent a few weeks north of Hong Kong in the New Territories. The transportation system is easy and each day I went exploring. I’d read up, select yet another fascinating place to discover, and off I’d go.

Entering the temple at Wong Tai Sin
Entering the temple at Wong Tai Sin

As a massage therapist I went to pay my respects to Sun Si-miao Zhen Ren, Perfected Master and god of Chinese Medicine. Taoists honor him as a god of healing. Even today, the ill and infirm (or people wishing to stay healthy) visit his temple to make offerings.

IMG_6910

IMG_6922

So I headed to Wong Tai Sin Temple. Inside, I was met by wonderful bronze statues of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac!

IMG_6907

IMG_6908

I managed to photograph all but the ox and dog.

Horse
Horse
Rat
Rat
Rabbit
Rabbit
Snake
Snake
Goat
Goat
Monkey
Monkey
IMG_6888
Tiger
Pig
Pig
Dragon
Dragon
And there he was: Foghorn Leghorn!!

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The temple is just outside a metro stop, smack dab in an urban area. Who would have suspected that Foghorn Leghorn resides there?

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In memory of Robert McKimson, 13 October 1910 – 29 September 1977

Foghorn Leghorn.png
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

NOTES: © 2015 & 2021 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Adventures in China’s New Territories 4: The Gods of Medicine. Photos © Jadi Campbell or Uwe Hartmann. More of Uwe’s images from our earlier trips to China and Hong Kong and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies for American Book Fest. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

My Imaginary Friends: #7 An Insect

When my nephew Niko was quite young, I took him to the Woodlands Park Zoo. Late that afternoon I watched a young man standing at a building; he kept peeping into the box he was holding.

I couldn’t contain my curiosity. “Excuse me,” I said, “but can I ask you, what’s in the box? You keep checking on it.”

He answered me with a solumn look. “I work in a grocery store. One of the stockboys was opening a box of fruit and got bitten by this.” He opened the box and we gazed down at a very large, very irridescent insect with huge pincers. “It was in the box hiding underneath the fruit,” he said. “The store manager’s worried it might be poisonous. I called and made an appointment to come in to the zoo and talk to their entomologists. We don’t know if we should send the guy who got bitten to the hospital.”

A decade later I used that memory to write a scene of Jeremy, a character in my first book Broken In: A Novel in Stories. The insect has morphed into a Thai giant centipede, and Jeremy is bitten. – Jadi

Jeremy unpacked the two crates of baby pineapples and stacked them on their sides in the bin. The sweet smell of the fruit put him in a good mood. Jeremy was humming ever so slightly under his breath as he broke the next exotic produce crate open and began to unpack its contents.

“F**k!” he screamed. The front of the store suddenly went silent and his coworkers came running.

Jeremy knelt on the floor cradling his right forearm and breathing in and out heavily. “Something just bit me,” he said in a strangled voice. He began to hyperventilate.

The day manager Lynnie Wendels pushed through the others wielding a metal stool. “Sit!” she commanded. She somehow got Jeremy onto the stool with his back bent over and his head down between his knees.

The others made a ring and offered suggestions. “Keep your head down, Jeremy! Just try to breathe, long slow deep breaths. That’s it, guy; you’re gonna be okay.”

“What was it?” Lynnie was still trying to ascertain what had happened. Jeremy raised his head and his face was damp from pain and shock. He held out his arm. “What in the -?” Lynnie didn’t finish the sentence. On the inside of Jeremy’s forearm, just above his wrist, two puncture marks stood out against the skin. The wounds were swelling and their red pulsated in angry color.

-from my chapter Punctured in Broken In: A Novel in Stories

Thai giant centipede, Khao Yai National Park, Thailand
Thai giant centipede, Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

NOTES: Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos and images © Uwe Hartmann. To see Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts. 

 Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Dylanphilia

It all began with my friend Charles Urban. He suggested that I read not just one but two brand-new biographies of Bob Dylan.

You want details? Is this ever the book for you

The first book, The Double Life of Bob Dylan: A Restless, Hungry Feeling, 1941-1966 is by Clinton Heylin. Known as the world’s foremost expert on His Bobness, Heylin was asked to examine the papers Dylan sold to Tulsa. When he did so, Heylin decided he needed to revise his Dylan biography. This new book is meticulous and exhaustive.

Weaves a spell like Dylan’s lyrics

The second book, You Lose Yourself, You Reappear. The Many Voices of Bob Dylan was written by Paul Morley. This book is more stream-of-consciousness, weaving back and forth through the influences on Dylan’s life and personas.

I read the books in tandem and had a blast. Not only did they revise my opinion of Bob Dylan (I loved his music but could take or leave his voice). I vanished into Dylan’s myriad rivers’ flows….

Now I listen with fresh appreciation. And the experience of reading about Dylan somehow inspired me to mix and match my own personal, + cultural, + worldly reference points. I became suddenly – and wildly – prolific. In a week I came up with more than fifty (50!!!) posts. A new blog thread was born, which (and what else did I expect after 2 books on Dylan) is actually two new threads spun together: Today’s Birthday and A Person + Place/Time/Things.

My last major blog thread was The Animal Kingdom, written in honor of another Bob – my dad.

Watch this space. Today’s Birthday and A Person + Place/Time/Things will be debuting soon.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021. To see Uwe’s photos from our trips go to viewpics.de. PS: And it keeps growing…. The new blog thread currently has 70 posts in the queue. Thanks Charles!

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. My newest book  The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. My first book, Broken In: A Novel in Stories, was named a semifinalist for the 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Hurdy-Gurdy

We just took our first trip in 17 months. This was the longest we’ve ever gone without traveling. COVID-19 restrictions have made it tricky to leave the country. You never know where the next outbreak is going to come from, and we weren’t excited at the prospect of quarantining for two weeks on a border somewhere. So, we did a road trip inside Germany….

Our first stop was the UNESCO World Heritage city of Würzburg. [1]

Würzburg’s Residential Palace was built from 1720-1744 by Balthasar Neumann and is the most important building from the Southern German Baroque era. Definitely worth a visit! But I want to talk about a little statue I found in the Court Gardens in the back.

‘Twas then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man Came singing songs of love – Donovan

“Look! It’s a hurdy-gurdy player!” I exclaimed.

“What’s that?” Uwe asked.

“A strange instrument that the musician cranks to play: It buzzes and drones. Donovan sang about it.”

See the crank he’s turning?

The hurdy-gurdy is about 900 years old and maybe came from a fiddle. An even earlier version was the organistrum and required two people to play it, one to crank the handle and the second musician to pull up on the keys. It was used for choral music. The hurdy-gurdy or something like it, the lira in the Byzantine Empire, was described by Ibn Khurradadhbih. The next version of the hurdy-gurdy was called the symphonia. It was smaller, with three strings and keys that could be pressed from underneath. Present-day hurdy-gurdies have either a guitar body or a lute back.

Musicians in high courts played the hurdy-gurdy until it fell out of favor, and the hurdy-gurdy is mostly familiar now as an instrument used by roving minstrels. According to Wikipedia, in the Ukraine hurdy-gurdies are still played by itinerant, often blind, hurdy-gurdists called lirnyky. [2]

The instrument was saved from obscurity, helped no doubt by Donovan’s song in 1968. He wrote Hurdy Gurdy Man while studying Transcendental Meditation in India with the Beatles. Apparently, he wanted Jimi Hendrix to perform the song. Now, that would have been one hell of a recording! As it is, George Harrison helped with the lyrics. Jimmy Page, John Bonham and John Paul Jones all performed on the recording before they went on to form a little group named Led Zeppelin.

All my life, Hurdy Gurdy Man is one of those songs that floats in my consciousness. It’s as mystic and magical as a tale told by a wandering troubadour.

Thrown like a star in my vast sleep
I opened my eyes to take a peek
To find that I was by the sea
Gazing with tranquility

‘Twas then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man

Came singing songs of love
Then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Came singing songs of love

“Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy gurdy” he sang

“Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy gurdy” he sang
“Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy gurdy” he sang

Histories of ages past

Unenlightened shadows cast
Down through all eternity
The crying of humanity

‘Tis then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man

Comes singing songs of love
Then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Comes singing songs of love [3]

NOTES: [1] My readers know that Uwe and I make a beeline for World Heritage sites. They’ve always, always been worth the effort! [2] wiki/Hurdy-gurdy [3] Source: LyricFind. Hurdy Gurdy Man lyrics © Peermusic Publishing. PS: I learned a lot writing this post!

© Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was named a semifinalist for the 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Prize.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

 

 

I’m a Semifinalist for the International 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award!

I am extremely honored and very definitely pleased to announce that my first book Broken In: A Novel in Stories is currently a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award. See the list here: Hidden River Arts News

Writers have strange solitary lives and we really do hunch over our desks at all hours, snarling at people to keep away… until moments like this one. Writing honors are rare and seldom! This is the first award listing that Broken In has garnered, and the third of my books to receive one!

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021. Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. My short story collection The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase Broken In: A Novel in Stories or my other books.

 

Hiroshima at 8:15 A.M.

To mark the 76th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, I am reprinting my post 8:15 A.M. This tragedy must never be repeated. – Jadi

At 8:15 a.m. some 65 years later,

Birds perch on the Dome.

It’s startlingly calm. A becalming place

Green, tranquil, filled with standing statues

tourists with cameras and

prayers for peace and

pray-ers for peace and

Classes of school children

running

water everywhere.

They bring chains of 1,000 cranes

folded in loving memory of Sadako Sasaki

Her cranes became tinier

leukemia advancing until

Sadako folded symbols of longevity and healing

with the aid of a pin.

At 8:15 a.m. some 76 years later,

Five cranes hold sentinel on

ruined

blackened

girders

The skeleton now, simply,

called the A-Bomb Dome.

Statues are the world’s countries’ monuments

to Hiroshima reborn, arisen

declaring her residents will,

forever, live

in a place called The City of Peace.

Classes of children, schooled in knowledge of what

unthinkable tragedy

took

place

here

stand for photos before the fountain with the flame

in the center burning

until the last nuclear weapon is dismantled;

Before the cenotaph shielding

names of the dead, reopened, names

added on August 6th.

The Peace Park, the terrible

hypocenter.

And the tourists with cameras?

We bear witness. We come to

ask, Why?

How many

angels danced on the head of a pin?

We come to see The Truth or

as much truth as we can bear.

Seeing demands the clearest sight

possible when your eyes are filled

with the pin pricks of tears

Water,

like the water the burned begged for as they died

The peace fountains spouting outside the museum

the river that flows

calmly, becalmingly

near the A-Bomb Dome,

where the cranes have taken up residence.

(17 October 2010 21:27 p.m. Updated 6 August 2021.)

NOTES: Text © Jadi Campbell 2010.  Previously published as 8:15 A.M.  Photos © Uwe Hartmann. I wrote the first version of this poem while we visited Japan in 2010. The atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima at 8:15 a.m.on August 6, 1945. Sadako Sasaki lived 2 kilometers from the epicenter. She was 2 years old at the time, and died of the radiation exposure 10 years later. Sadako is famous for folding origami cranes. According to the Japanese legend, anyone who folds 1,000 cranes will be granted a wish: Sadako hoped to be healed. Today classrooms of children all around the world send strings of paper cranes to be displayed at Sadako Sasaki’s memorial in the Peace Park. Her statue and story are a powerful reminder of the innocent lives lost.

The cenotaph is opened each August 6th and the newest names of the dead are added. Its arched form provides a shelter to the souls of the victims.

The Peace Park contains statues dedicated by countries around the world; a museum; and monuments. We visited at night and the Dome (the only building left standing after the blast) was occupied by cranes. The image of this World Heritage Monument and the symbolic birds took a powerful hold on my imagination. When we returned at daylight to visit the park it overflowed with classes of laughing children, stunned tourists, and an atmosphere that is impossible to describe. It is a place of shared tragedy, and humanity.

The cranes were still there, perching in the Dome.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out.

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was named a semifinalist for the 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Prize.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

My Imaginary Friends: #6 Rocky

When I was a kid, we spent every summer in the woods. On the day school let out, either early in the afternoon before lunch time, or ten to fifteen minutes before the end of the school day, a scratchy announcement came over the school’s intercom. “Will Jadi, Pam and Barbara Campbell please collect their things and come down to the Principal’s Office?”

All the other kids watched us with round-eyed excitement. “You and your sisters got called the Principal’s Office, what’d you do, you guys must be in biiig trouble!” they chanted.

My parents would be standing at the front doors to the elementary school, chatting with the principal or his secretary. Out in the street the VW bus waited, packed to the gills. If that microbus was a fish, it would have been a stuffed bass.

Tiger the cat lay on the front dashboard. We got a dog a few years later and the family dog and cat accompanied us everywhere.

Once the kids had been collected, my parents drove to the camp we called home from that last day of school until the week before school started again.

**

My father was a research entomologist. He and his Forest Service crew set traps in the woods to see what might be eating gypsy moths. Each year those traps yielded a flying squirrel (one glorious year, two of them). Dad brought them back to the cabin where we’d set up a cage for the creature we inevitably named Rocky.

The campsite we returned to every June had a screened-in porch that filled the side of the building looking at the lake. We put Rocky’s big cage there, built him a nest up by the warmth of the bricks of the back of the fireplace, and let him out each night when he woke up.

Watching Rocky fly through the air of that porch was better than any t.v. show.

 Years later, I wrote about a little girl visiting her cousins. They always have critters, and she meets a flying squirrel for the first time. His name, of course, is Rocky. – Jadi

Flying Squirrel Images | Free Vectors, Stock Photos & PSD
Image courtesy of Free Vectors, Stock Photos & PSD

Hannah and her brother clustered with their cousins in the cabin’s screened-in porch. “What’d you catch this summer?” she asked.

Dom was carefully lifting a cardboard box out of a wide mesh wire cage. “A flying squirrel! We named him Rocky. Right now, he’s sleeping. Flying squirrels are nocturnal. That means they wake and get active at night.” Dom pointed at the wall. “Rocky likes to fly around the porch. We helped Dad build a home for him!”

Hannah saw that Uncle Aaron, with the help of the children, had erected platforms around the backside of the fireplace.

“And he really flies?”

“No, Princess,” Dawn answered. “Rocky has webs of skin between his legs and torso. They spread when he leaps to give him flight conductivity.” Like all the Schroyers, Dawn’s speech became pedantic when she got the chance to explain something. But Hannah wasn’t listening. Exclaiming, she crowded close as Dom gently lifted a tiny furry body out of the box and handed the creature to Ryan. Large black eyes looked at her.

“He kind of looks like a chipmunk. Can I hold him next?” Hannah put out a hand.

Ryan shook his head. “Mom says, never disturb him during the daytime. But we wanted to show you him. Tonight when he’s active we’ll let him out of the cage for a while. When Rocky gets used to you, he’ll eat out of your hands!”

“What else have you got?”

“Alive or dead?”

Hannah looked at Dom in horror.

“She means animals that are living, as in, breathing,” Jake prompted.

“You remember the ranger camp on the north end of the lake?” Dom asked. “Dad knows the head ranger. He brought us Rocky. Remember how last year they brought us a flicker with a broken wing?”

“So, this year we have Rocky, one diamond back turtle, and three frogs,” Dawn listed proudly. “We had a garter snake, but Mom made me let it go already. We put all the others in the fish cage out by the dock for the summer; we’ll let them go later. We have to keep Bello away from the frogs, though! That dumb dog thinks he can eat them!”

Hannah listened, tasting a familiar sour jealousy. Her father was allergic to cats. And dogs. And anything with feathers. They had talked Fred into a tank of guppies one Christmas, and before Easter the fish had floated belly up, covered in lurid, fuzzy moss. That was her family’s single venture into pet ownership.  – from my short story Princess Rain Clouds in The Trail Back Out

NOTES: Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos and images © and property of Jadi Campbell. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

To see Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

 

 

Hard Times in Sugar Town!

Available now for free viewing on YouTube: Hard Times in Sugar Town! This show presents parallels and insights into our present-day crises….

Filmed in nostalgic black and white, Hard Times in Sugar Town is an evening of songs from the Depression Era and an original story by yours truly, featuring Derrick Jenkins, Tiffany Estrada, and Frank Eisele.

Directed by Charles Urban with Enel Kerler as Assistant Director and Susan Schwarz as The Host.

NOTES: Story © Jadi Campbell 2021. Enjoy our show!