That cowboy soul of yours

Looking like the heavens caved in that day, grey hoary clouds drove in encompassing all the northwestern horizon, proceeded by rapacious gales ripping the sage from this nearly worthless patch of earth, followed by flurries of scathing snow like so much ash swirling.  In Baggs, Wyoming, winter had arrived.  Starting with scarcely any warning early in the morning, we mounted to ride out and greet it, my father, Seamus, my brother, Seth, and me.  Galloping off toward the herd of Hereford, we set out to round them up and drive them towards the paddocks and the barn where their hay lay like listless straw soldiers.  Soon the blizzard immersed the spread; my only home, my only heritage.

No more than eight hundred acres, this patch of prairie circumscribed by barbed wire, the Blind Owl Ranch was meager compared to some of the other surrounding ranches.  When storms erupted, the herd gathered at the downwind section of the spread, up against the barbed wire fence—so too that morning.  Stirrup to stirrup, we gamboled towards the southeast corner of the pasture, where the Herefords appeared as apparitions in the blowing snow.  Slowly we drove them back towards the paddock where they’d find forage.  There, none would succumb to the freezing winds.  Turned towards the tempest, the storm stung my face, ice hanging from my horse’s hackamore.  Wheeling off in a new direction, a single Hereford required me to ride him down.  I am Samuel Sutherland.  Here I was born; it is here I will die. Continue reading “That cowboy soul of yours”

Frantic feathers

Scene: Farmer Brown’s barnyard

Time: Sometime before Thanksgiving or Christmas

Characters: Tom Turkey and Tillie Turkey


Tillie: Psst! Psst! Tom, over here by the azalea bushes.

Tom: Tillie, girl, where’ve you been? I’ve looked all over the barnyard for those beautiful feathers. You mad at me?

Tillie: No, I’m not mad but what’s the matter with you? Struttin’ around here like you owned the place. Don’t you know what time of year it is?

Tom: A good time if you ask me. Why I haven’t missed a meal for the past month. Farmer Brown’s been layin’ it on heavy, honey, what with all the extra feed he’s been puttin’ out. You’d think he was tryin’ to fatten me up.

Tillie: Fool! That’s exactly what he’s doing. Ain’t no human gonna buy a scrawny, ole turkey with no meat on its bones.

Tom: What’s the humans got to do with it?

Tillie: I swear,Tom, you get denser every year. Don’t you feel the nip in the morning air? Haven’t the squirrels started gathering their winter supply of nuts?And what do you think has been falling off the trees leavin’ em naked as Jay birds? It’s comin’ up Thanksgiving! For some reason known only to man, our turkey population takes quite a dip around this time. Seems our species is the ‘meat of the day’—never could figure out why. We’re not exactly the best looking fowl on the farm.

Tom:  Well, now Tillie, don’t be selling us short. I’m proud of my plumage and have you ever heard a bigger gobbler?

Tillie: Well, all I know is that Thelma got the axe last Thanksgiving and I haven’t liked the way Farmer Brown has been giving me the eye this fall. So I’m hidin’ out and if you don’t want to become a poster boy for “Butterball”, you best be getting your carcass behind these bushes, too.

Tom: Gee, Tillie, if you really think we’re in danger, we could maybe fly away and hide in the woods.

Tillie: Tom, stop your gobblin’ and think. When’s the last time you managed to fly to the top of the fence? Just because we’ve got wings doesn’t mean we can fly-especially, since you’ve been pigging out on all that corn Farmer Brown’s been dishin’ around.

No, we’ve got to lay low and stay away from Lucy Goose. She knows her kind have been sacrificed as substitute turkeys more than once. She’ll rat on us sure as shootin’. You know she’s always squawkin’.

Tom: You got that right—her beak never stops flappin.’

Tillie: No, I’ve got a plan. Just after dark, when everyone has settled in, we’ll pass the word that fox is on the prowl. That’s good for some noise and commotion and it always gets Farmer Brown’s attention. We’ll keep on the edge of the raucous and as soon as he opens the gate make a B-line for the woods. He’ll be so confused he won’t know whether to chase after us or go for the fox. My money’s on the fox—more to lose if that critter’s in the henhouse.”

Tom: “But Tillie, I don’t run very fast anymore. What if I get caught? It’s curtains for me! You’ll be in the woods with that wild cousin of yours.”

Tillie: “Just look at it this way, Tom. From what I hear, humans rave about us on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but we’re even better the day after!”


By Sylvia Melvin


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How lucky is she

Tess had her mother’s hazel eyes, sharp nose, and chin. But she was tall, like her father. Until things turned out as they had, Angie considered it the only good thing the sixteen-year-old had inherited from his side. .

Tess had been back for eight months.  Angie left little gifts on her bed and bought her favorite ice cream even when it wasn’t on sale. And she tried to be home more, turning down extra shifts at the restaurant and cutting short evenings with Dan. She shrugged when he complained: “Shouldn’t The Princess be the one with a 10 p.m. curfew?”

Angie knew she’d have to tell Tess soon.  They’ll get used to each other, she told herself. Continue reading “How lucky is she”

Moses denied

The perishing sun dove into the shimmering expanse of the desert.  This, the last day of her residency, Christine McDaniel, a gangly redhead, all angles, caught the spectacle through one of the windows of the University of Arizona Medical Center.  No more than momentary, it lifted her spirits.  Achieving adulthood on the East Coast in Boston, she seldom saw the sun, as the clouds always hung over Harvard Square, where she matriculated for undergraduate and medical school.

Tomorrow, July 1st, she would no longer be a resident.  Celebrations were in order; at Maria’s, her favorite Mexican food restaurant, she would dine with Michael Mitchell, her present squeeze.  She’d be accompanied by Vicki Turner, another resident, and her boyfriend, Tom Davidson.  Tomorrow night would be a night of reflection and joy.  In a month she’d ply her profession as a hospitalist at St. Cecilia’s, one of the largest hospitals in Tucson. Continue reading “Moses denied”

Science project

Just like his fifth grade teacher Mr. Young had always

told him, Brian put on his thinking cap.

Brian’s fifth grade teacher’s name was Carl Young.

He was six years old, permanently.

Brian’s name was Brian Old. He was one hundred

years old, permanently. But he had the emotional maturity

and the mentality of a six year old!

Carl Young was the result of gene-splicing and

scientific experimentation. In a futuristic society,

where parents had designer babies, Carl was a gene-

splicing wet dream. With some traces of DNA from

a gene meant to imitate the great psychologist

Carl Jung, Carl was the envy of all the parents

who had ordered designer babies, that had not

come out of the test tube successfully. Continue reading “Science project”

Wash and wipe

“These qualifications are handed out to people in underdeveloped…er…developing…countries on the basis that something is better than nothing” gravely intoned the official at the Department of Education and Science, dismissively handing back Sunil Herath his clip file. “…not intending to be nasty”, was thrown in as an afterthought. Sunil was left to arrive at the inevitable conclusion that he was not qualified for a teaching position in the United Kingdom.  Until that moment, Sunil had fondly believed that all that promised to be his entitlement to a glorious future in a new land, was contained in that clip file.

Vexed though he was, he could not deny that the official was right.  He had not worked as a teacher in his own country, although he had invested the last few years of his life acquiring teaching certificates awarded by the education department of southern Australia.  As a 16-year old school leaver, he had won a Foreign-Aid correspondence scholarship leading to a diploma in primary-school teaching. While engaged in low-paid, mind numbing, routine clerical chores at the municipality during the day, he had pored over cyclostyled notes and paper-bound texts sent by Air Mail from Australia most evenings at home. He assiduously completed all assignments.  Accumulating the annually awarded modular certificates, he fervently hoped that someday these would provide the key to a better life.  It did not occur to him that it was pertinent he had never been inside a classroom in a teaching role. Continue reading “Wash and wipe”

Grand revenge

“I’m sorry! I can’t find your name in the list,” said the officer in charge of clearing scholarships at the Foreign Office.

“What do you mean?” snarled Pendo, pacing to and fro by the counter.

“Have a look.”

“You must be crazy,” she said fumingly, hands akimbo. She threw the list back at him.

“Cool down, Madam.”

However, the more he tried to explain, the more she became uncontrollably hysterical. “I can’t waste my time reading a doctored list.”

“Try to understand.”

“What don’t I understand?” she yelled, trembling with fiery rage.

“Please, go clear it with your parent ministry. We can’t help as it is. I’m sorry,” said a touched officer.

Pendo was raving mad. Pointing accusingly at him, she asked, “What else did you require other than these documents?” Continue reading “Grand revenge”

The travails of Dyke Debenham

In the thin early morning hours on the day that Dyke Debenham was born, the stars were not serene.  Montgomery Debenham, Dyke’s father, tired of anticipating the impending birthing, chose to leave the waiting room, walk outside, and await in the patient’s patio behind the hospital.  Lighting a cigarette from the tobacco that made the Debenham fortune, he gazed up at the stars twirling in their journeys.  Every so many minutes a star, from the Pleides Meteor Shower, shot across the sky, dipping like a flat rock about to skim over a placid body of water.  The night that Dyke was conceived an obscure pact was concluded, for though the Debenhams had a daughter, they did not have a son.  Dyke entered this lonely world a few endless hours after with his dad in attendance in the fathers’ waiting room.  Born weighing eight-and-a-half pounds, he was no less a handful growing up, the scion of the vast Debenham Empire. Continue reading “The travails of Dyke Debenham”

Backstroke or smoke

The Winston family were not the

type to travel together.


But the grandmother, Mabel,

a seasoned cruise taker, felt she didn’t

have long to live, so she wanted to

take her daughter Rebecca, husband

William, and five-year old son Roy

to Aruba.


William, a heavy smoker,

was getting super grouchy on the

airplane and in the airport because

he couldn’t smoke. And customs

confiscated his four cartons of



So in Aruba, he bought a

carton of Marlboro’s, and was annoyed

because in America they have

the surgeon general’s warning,

on cigarettes from Aruba, it simply

says, “SMOKING KILLS.” Continue reading “Backstroke or smoke”

The Path

As I walked the Prairie Path early one evening (around 7:30 I believe), I saw the sights that by now were beyond familiar to me. You see, I walked this same path most evenings around this same time.  Dinner was over, and I had no desire to sit mindlessly in front of the television.  I always chewed not one but two sticks of gum while I walked, and I noted that my chewing action and my steps kept perfect time.

And as I strolled, I saw them.  The dentist engrossed in his smartphone while walking his white and black pug; I imagined he was either watching episodes of that TV series “Deadly Dentists”, or looking at x-rays of the teeth and gums of the patients he would see tomorrow.  The young mother (Kathy was her name) pushed her son in a stroller slightly ahead of me; I watched as her ponytail swung side to side with each step, for unlike me, she did not stroll – this was exercise for her.  I saw the blue house with the two identical front doors side by side (not French doors you see; each of these doors was fully framed and had a doorknob on the same side – the right).  I imagined that each of these doors led to a different era in the life of the house, a time warp of sorts.  Maybe one day I would stop and test my theory. Continue reading “The Path”