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Definitely NOT the Colonel's chicken ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, Colonel Sanders, chicken, chicks, birds, peep, grasshoppers, oatmeal, hot dogs, pigs, pied piper, pork chop, ham hock, bacon, whistle, Wynken, Blynken, Nod, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

Lately I’ve related two anecdotes from my exceptionally brilliant career as a chicken farmer. If you missed out and would like to read them, you'll find them at Not the Colonel's Chicken and Not the Colonel's Chicken, Part II.

It was during that hen-filled stint that some bright person gave the suggestion we should also raise pigs. The idea was so enticing that I talked my husband, Russ, into trying it.


**********
“What shall we call them?” I asked, watching our new little pigs in their pen.

Russ grinned mischievously. “How about naming them Pork-Chop, Ham-Hock, and Bacon?”

I grimaced, covered the ears of our three-year-old and whispered to Russ, “Be careful what you say; Davey doesn’t know we’re going to eat them eventually.”

Russ whispered back, “When were you planning on telling him—as Pork-Chop was sitting on his plate?”

“Obviously before that,” I said, releasing our squirming son.

We watched the oinkers rooting around. Snorts of discovery echoed through the barn. Davey spoke, “We could call them the Three Little Pigs.”

I smoothed the blonde cowlick on his head and said, “That’s a story, Sweetie. It’s not really a name.”

The silence stretched between us as we pondered other ideas. Russ fidgeted, apparently tired of taxing his brain with pig names. “I still think that Pork-Ch—“

“—How about Winken, Blinken and Nod? That’s cute,” I said.

Davey nodded his agreement. Russ raised his eyebrows and stated, “That’s a bedtime story about kids going to sleep.”

“Pigs have to sleep, too, you know.” I harrumphed, waiting for a better suggestion.

Silence reigned. A mouse stuck its nose from under the water trough and then dashed for the feeder. Winken—or maybe it was Blinken; it’s very hard to tell three pink pigs apart—scrambled over, snatched the mouse and gulped it down before I could cover Davey’s eyes.

“Look, Mommy, the pig ate a mouse,” he said.

“Uggg,” I said.

“Cool,” Russ said.

“Cool,” Davey echoed.

And to think I was worried about his tender sensibilities.

My pig manual stated the animals were as smart as dogs. It was true. It didn’t take the porkers long to realize that when we picked up the trough, mice scrambled from beneath. The pigs dashed about, snorting and slurping down rodents. Hearing the ruckus, the cat slunk in. Apparently, oinkers have the ability to extrapolate information. They eyed the cat hungrily. From then on we kept the cat out of the barn.

One day an idea hit. “Why don’t we teach them to come to a whistle?”

Russ shook his head in disbelief. “You fed the chickens oatmeal and hotdogs. And tried to herd grasshoppers to them.”

“You told Daddy about herding the hoppers,” I accused, looking at Davey. He shrugged and grinned.

Russ continued, “The neighbors already think our grain elevator doesn’t go to the top. Now you want to train pigs to a whistle?”

“It might come in handy.”

“I’m sure. Maybe we could use them as substitute hunting dogs, too.” Russ replied.

Months later, we got a phone call. “Your pigs are loose.”

We hopped in the car and sped down the road to the next farmhouse. On arrival, we bailed out. There stood Winken, Blinken and Nod, munching ripe strawberries from the patch.

“Here piggies, nice piggies,” I called. They ignored me.

“Here piggies, stupid piggies,” Russ said. For obvious reasons, they ignored him. He watched the pigs with their berry-red lips and dirt-blackened snouts. “How’re we going to get them home?”

“Herd them,” I suggested.

Russ replied, “That’ll work about as well as a grasshopper roundup.”

Then it came to me. I gave their food whistle and all three turned with a grunt. They waddled over and stuck their snouts in the air, sniffing for scraps. Probably oatmeal or hot dogs.

Russ said, “Walk back with them and we'll follow in the car.”

I nodded and started down the road, whistling. Three one-hundred-pound pigs trooped behind in a line, snuffling and snorting all the way home. It was my agricultural moment of triumph.

I’ll freely admit to everyone—except Russ—that when it came to chickens, I was no Colonel Sanders. But hey … when it came to pigs, I was the best pied piper in the county.

What's playing in my head: This Little Piggy Went to Market (A Mother Goose Nursery rhyme)

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Not the Colonel’s Chicken, Part II, by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, Colonel Sanders, chicken, chicks, birds, peep, grasshoppers, oatmeal, hot dogs, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

Not long ago, I related an anecdote from my exceptionally short career as a chicken farmer. If you missed it, visit "Not the Colonel's Chicken" in the archives for this site.

For those who’ve already read it, you’ll remember I had the brilliant idea to feed our flock of chickens left-over, cooked oatmeal. Waste not; want not—that’s my motto. The hens pecked at the glop, which collected into sticky wads that enlarged as the birds tried to clean their beaks in the dirt. From that experience, I learned poultry have the IQ of a grasshopper—which coincidentally, is how the next event occurred.

**********

“Hey look,” I said to my three-year-old son, Davey. “Chickens eat grasshoppers.” We watched the hens flapping their bronze-red wings as they zeroed in and fought over the helpless bug that had mistakenly leaped into the pen.

It gave me an idea. “We could herd grasshoppers to them,” I said with enthusiasm.
We walked into the weeds 20 feet away and waved our arms, trying to drive the long-legged hoppers into the pen. It was like trying to herd minnows. When we were done, we’d managed to shoo two beetles and a mosquito into a pen of 50 chickens. You can imagine the fight that ensued.

Giving up, Davey and I started back to the house to fix lunch. “Don’t tell Daddy we tried to herd grasshoppers,” I said.

“Why?” he asked, his blue eyes bright with curiosity.

“Because Daddy has this silly notion that Mommy comes up with crazy schemes.”

“Schemes? What’s a ‘schemes’?” he asked.

“The nutball ideas that Daddy thinks up,” I explained.

Lunch was hot dogs—not my favorite. We ended up with a few left on the plate. “What can we do with left-over hot dogs?” I asked Davey.

He replied, “Eat them for supper.” Obviously, a three-year-old is clueless about what constitutes a good meal.

I scratched my head. “Maybe we can feed them to the chickens.”

Davey nodded in agreement. Somehow, it felt like déjà vu.

I consulted my chicken manual. It didn’t say anything about feeding hot dogs to chickens—I don’t know why. Probably a lack of real-world education on the part of the author. But if the birds liked grasshoppers, hot dogs had to be fine.

Remembering the oatmeal fiasco—and opting not to give 50 chickens CPR because they were choking on whole wieners—I sliced the hot dogs into round, one inch pieces.

We marched to the coop, pieces of meat in hand and flung them into the pen. The hens gathered and clucked their excitement at something new.

No sooner was I back in the house when I heard Davey yell, “Mommy, Daddy, something’s wrong with the chickens!”

Definitely déjà vu.

My husband, Russ, and I raced to the hen house. The birds milled about, flapping their wings.
“They must be sick,” I said, watching them shake their heads as if they had palsy.

Russ looked puzzled. “They’ve got something stuck on their beaks.”

“That’s weird.” I replied, wondering if I could beat him back to the house before he figured it out.

“It looks like … like they’ve speared pieces of hot dog,” he said, peering intently at the birds. The hens “ba-wahked” softly as if trying to give him a clue. I turned and stepped toward the house, but before I had a chance to expand my talents as a sprinter, Russ grabbed my hand and said, “What have you tried now?”

“It’s perfectly logical,” I said. “Chickens eat grasshoppers. Grasshoppers are meat. Hot dogs are meat. Therefore, chickens eat hot dogs.”

“Yes, in small bits. Instead, you gave them a bulls-eye to peck.”

I looked at the hens, their beaks held fast by a ring of hot dog. “You know, I don’t think your suggestion of raising poultry was such a good one,” I said.

“My suggestion?” Russ dropped my hand in surprise.

I waved in the direction of the hens, which were still preoccupied with getting hot dogs off their beaks. “Yes, we’re not cut out to be chicken farmers.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Russ replied.

“So the next time an idea like this comes up—” I stepped out of reach and flashed him a wicked grin, “—let’s raise pigs!”


What's playing in my head: The Oscar Mayer Wiener Song (Written by Richard D. Trentlage)

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Book review/interview with author Shirley Bahlmann

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, humor, Shirley Bahlmann, The Pioneers A Course in Miracles, pioneer stories, book review, author interview, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

All right, I heard those groans. You were looking for a little humor and when you read this is a book review and an author interview, you considered clicking elsewhere.

Just wait. Take your finger off that mouse and give this a chance. Shirley Bahlmann is a bubbly, vivacious, LDS author and you'll find an interview with her below the book review.

Talk about a sense of humor ... as Shirley tells her writing class, "I've always got a party going on in my head!"

And she ain't just a kidding!
----------------------------

Book Review of The Pioneers, A Course in Miracles:

“I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure if rolling my little sister up in fencing wire is what nearly killed her. It wasn’t the wire or the rolling up that almost did her in, at least not right away.”

So starts the opening in Shirley Bahlmann’s, The Pioneers, a Course in Miracles. And what an opening! It grabs your attention and pulls you into the story of two bored little girls and their cousins, who start out looking for fun and almost end up with a funeral. This book is another in Shirley’s line of true pioneer stories and is so entertaining and interesting that you will probably find yourself finishing it in one sitting. However, if your reading time is limited, you can zip through one story at a time, in five or ten minute segments, and enjoy the book just as much that way.

The collection of fifteen short stories runs the gamut from true miracles to adventure stories. My two favorites were “Windmill,” the story of the two little girls and the fencing wire, and “Blessed Buffalo,” a heartwarming, tear-jerking story about the rescue of the Willie Handcart Company.

The pioneer tales that Shirley has written contain a wide range of characters that appeal universally across the boundaries of age and gender. They’ll have you laughing one minute and crying the next. As the author, Rachel Nunes, says of Shirley’s books, “My children and I have been fans of Bahlmann’s Odd series for years. We love snuggling together to read entertaining stories based on true pioneer experiences.”

I’ve read a number of Shirley’s books, and have found them not only well written, but heartwarming reading. The Pioneers, a Course in Miracles is destined to become—and remain—one of my favorites.
------
Interview with LDS author, Shirley Bahlmann:

Cindy: I’m standing here in virtual time, for an interview with author, Shirley Bahlmann, at the famous Days of ’47 parade.

Thanks for joining me, Shirley, on this blistering hot day in Salt Lake City. I know that you love the stories of the pioneers and have written a number of books about them. Therefore, I thought I’d ask a few questions about your books, and then see if we can get a glimpse into the personality that’s Shirley Bahlmann.

Cindy: Why did you choose to write pioneer tales and how many pioneer books have you written?

Shirley: It’s funny, I always thought I was a children’s picture book writer until my sister begged me to be on the committee when she was president of the Sanpete Community Theater. Only later did I find out that everyone on the committee had to chair a fundraising event. So I wrote skits to perform during the Mormon Miracle Pageant, and what better subject than pioneers? When I quit doing skits, I couldn’t stand the thought of those stories lying dormant and forgotten on the empty stage floor, so I wrote them into a book so anyone could read and enjoy them at any time. I have now published seven volumes of true pioneer stories. They portray settlers from long ago just as well as those people out there in the parade tripping over their skirts and scratching their beards, because the pioneers were real people with faults, foibles, and feelings, too.

Cindy: Have you written any other types of books?

Shirley: Sure, everything from picture books to fantasy to an epic thwarted-romance/adventure of over 100,000 words. Oh. Did you mean published books? Those include a woman’s near death experience, two adventure novels, and “Life is Like Riding A Unicycle” which includes not only my adventures of teaching myself to ride on one wheel at the ripe old age of 47, but also tells other oldie-but-goodie people’s stories of following their dreams regardless of age. Oh, yeah. And I have a self-published chicken book. You can even roll your own chicken. That one’s called, “When the chicken crossed the road.” People who know the story always smile when they talk about it. They should. It’s really funny. Hey, why aren’t there any chickens in the parade?

Cindy: What’s your favorite short story in your latest book, The Pioneers, A Course in Miracles, and why is it a favorite?

Shirley: I really like the one where the dad who’s on a church mission finds a warm loaf of bread that came from his wife’s kitchen hundreds of miles away. I’d heard rumors of that story before I met a descendant who gave me the low-down, as well as a photo of the old family homestead. I got chills when I spoke to her, and felt really good about the boost of faith that this miraculous story could give to readers.

Cindy: The Days of ’47 Parade is half over. Describe for us, please, what we’re looking at right now, and tell us your favorite part of the parade.

Shirley: Oh, look! Chickens! Hurry! Grab the loose feathers! Come on, get them before they blow away! We can make matching feather boas! You’re not hurrying… hurry… they’re getting away! Humpf. The chickens are gone, Cindy, and you don’t have enough feathers for a whole entire boa. You’ll just have to pin those in your hair, you know. You need to take feather picking lessons, girl. I like the funny parade parts. And the American flag part. And the time my father-in-law drove a WWII jeep because that was the most beautiful thing he saw rolling into Rotterdam, Holland, to free his native Holland from the Germans.

Cindy: I see that you’re wearing cowgirl boots, a safari print dress, glow in the dark earrings and you’re carrying an eggbeater. What’s the eggbeater for?

Shirley: Whipped cream. You can never have too much whipped cream. You forgot to mention my banana net that I’m going to use to catch a banana when they throw them out to the crowds. There is too a banana float. Haven’t you been watching the parade? You brought the ice cream, right?

Cindy: Oops, look out! You almost stepped in something. What is that?

Shirley: Oh, sure, change the subject. You still owe me ice cream. And that leggy thing on the ground, dear Cindy, is an evil spider that wants to crawl up your leg and nest in the hollow of your knee. Do you want me to aim better this time when I put my foot down?

Cindy: I’ve noticed there’s a certain smell in the air. Is that your perfume, and if so, what’s it called? If not, what is it that we smell?

Shirley: If you must know, I have it on good authority that my perfume smells like snowmobile fuel. Stop laughing. This is a true story. A boy at high school told me last year, and he’s an avid snowmobiler. Who am I to argue? I’ve never been on a snowmobile in my life. But… (sniff, sniff…) do you know what? It could be that “Nephite Delight” perfume that my boys and I joke about every time we smell a skunk. We made up a whole story to go along with it, but I didn’t write it down. Ow! Quit slapping my hand or I’ll blend your feathers with my eggbeater!

Cindy: Well, it’s about time to wrap this up and go get a frosty mug of sarsaparilla soda. One more question, though ...

Shirley: Make mine with ice. And I get the big glass, because I’m bigger than you. Uh-huh… uh-huh… uh-huh… oh, is that [your husband] Russ who told us to quit arguing? No, it’s the commentator. They were picking our voices up on their main microphone. So keep it down, willya? Sheesh. Behave yourself.

Cindy: Last year you were learning to ride a unicycle and wrote a book about it called, Life is Like Riding a Unicycle. What was the most interesting incident during your attempts to ride it?

Shirley: Well, it could have been when my 7-year-old asked me what was wrong with my legs because they were all polka-dotted with bruises, but personally I think it was when I desperately wanted to let go and ride, so I sent silent prayer heavenward that if my deceased father was not too busy, perhaps he could give me a push. That’s the first time I landed flat on my back with all the air knocked out of me. As I lay alone and unmoving on the cement basketball court in the darkening evening, I murmured, “Dad, you didn’t have to push so hard.”

Cindy: Thank you for your time, Shirley, and for allowing me to interview you. It’s been fun. Visiting with you is always a treat because you have a great imagination and the ability to help others see the world around you in a unique way. Thanks so much for writing The Pioneers, A Course in Miracles. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and heartily recommend it to others.

Shirley: Thanks, Cindy. Well, looky, there goes the last horse’s tail swishing down the road. What say we go get that ice cream now? We’ll let Russ pay.

You can order Shirley Bahlmann’s book online at Amazon.com or by visiting her website at http://www.shirleybahlmann.com/.

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Not the Colonel’s chicken ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
Keywords: Cindy Beck, Colonel Sanders, chicken, chicks, birds, peep, Rhode Island Reds, oatmeal, YourLDS Neighborhood.com


Several years ago, my husband, Russ, and I had an interesting experience. It was so interesting that it sticks out in my mind like it was just … well … several years ago.

**********

“You should have been at the post office today,” I said to Russ.

“Why’s that?”

“One of the boxes of mail-order chicks broke open and yellow babies were peeping and running all over the place.”

I paused. “What would you think about raising poultry?”

Russ looked dubious. Who can say why? It’s not like my schemes ever backfired or anything.

“We don’t know how,” he said.

“I’ll find a chicken manual,” I replied. “If an old guy like Colonel Sanders can handle them, so can we.”

“Where would we put them?” Russ asked.

“We’d keep them on the porch in a box under a heat lamp. Then when the weather warms, we’ll put them in that old coop in the back.” I had an answer for every objection.

The next day we ordered fifty Rhode Island Reds. And became chicken farmers.

Only things didn’t go quite as planned.

When the chicks came in, we brought them home and opened their box. “Gee, they sound a lot louder in here than I expected,” I said to Russ, as he put pillows over both ears to block the noise.

Then the cat showed up. The birds fled the box and scattered to the four corners of the porch.

The cat thought it was great fun. I thought it was a minor setback. Russ thought it was an omen.

The chicks ate and ate and grew into …well … big chickens. There they were, 50 birds nesting and roosting in our screened porch. And squawking at the break of day. Every day.

Russ moved them to the hen house.

One morning while cleaning up after breakfast, I realized I’d fixed too much cereal. “What can we do with cold, left-over oatmeal?” I asked my son, Davey.

He replied, “Eat it for lunch.” Obviously, a three-year-old is clueless about what constitutes a good meal.

I scratched my head. “Maybe we can feed it to the chickens.”

Davey nodded in agreement. That’s what I love about toddlers—they’ll agree with anything.

I consulted my chicken manual. Everything seemed to indicate it was fine. We marched to the coop, pot and spoon in hand, and ladled the lumpy oatmeal into the feeder. The hens gathered and clucked their excitement at something new.

No sooner was I back in the house when I heard Davey yell, “Mommy, Daddy, something’s wrong with the chickens!”

Oh no. Had one of the cats gotten them?

We raced to the hen house. The birds milled about, their heads low to the ground, none of them clucking.

“They must be sick,” I said to Russ, watching the poor things stagger around and fall over.

Russ looked puzzled. “They’ve got a big wad of something on their beaks.”

“A big wad of something? That’s weird.” I shook my head and tried to think of all the chicken diseases I’d read about that might fit the description.

“It looks like cooked oatmeal,” Russ said. “Where would they get that?” He turned to me with his, “What have you tried now?” look.

“It’s perfectly logical,” I said. “Oatmeal is made from oats. Oats are a grain. Chickens eat grain. It said so in my manual.”

“Yes, but not cooked and in a big, sticky lump,” Russ said.

We watched a few minutes more. The chickens kept rubbing their beaks, trying to get off the goopy cereal. The more they rubbed, the more dirt they picked up in their wads of oatmeal. Pretty soon, some of them had lumps the size of golf balls surrounding their beaks, throwing the poor birds off balance and onto the ground.

“You know what you have to do,” Russ said, opening the gate to the birds’ fenced area and ushering me inside.

“What?” I asked.

“Give 50 chickens a bath.”

Well, all I had to say was those chickens had better taste pretty good once they were on the table. I was sure the Colonel had never gone to this much trouble.

What's playing in my head: Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grow (unknown author)

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Rebel with a cause ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, rebel, TSA, security, dangerous, Star Spangled Banner, revolution, guard, tea, Boston Tea Party, YourLDS Neighborhood.com)

The Transportation and Safety Administration (TSA) guard at airport security looked at us sternly, opened our carry-on suitcase and rummaged around. “You’ve got something in here that could be a problem,” she said.

There we stood in our stocking feet, feeling vulnerable and wondering what we’d done wrong. We were on vacation, and I’d given myself a two-inch streak of gray hair trying to make sure I’d packed correctly. I knew there weren’t any pipe bombs in there, because I’d used my last one the week before. I’d left my dynamite at home, along with our machete. And all my really dangerous chemicals—hair gel, hair spray and toothpaste—were in a Ziploc baggie that had already been cleared by security.

“Ah-ha,” the guard declared. She pulled out two, one ounce, sealed jars of honey—mementos from a restaurant in Hawaii.

What insidious, terrorist plot did she think I’d contrived? Pour the honey on the passengers and stick them together? Throw it in the eyes of the pilot and take over the plane? I’m not admitting I’ve ever done this, but anyone who’s tried to throw honey knows it’s not exactly easy.

I watched as she confiscated the jars, and was certain she was thinking of tomorrow morning’s English muffin—with my honey on it.

The guard groped around in my suitcase again and a grin spread across her face. She pulled out two jars of macadamia nut-caramel popcorn.

Aack! Not my popcorn! I had visions of it growing wings and flying away. I gritted my teeth and gathered courage. History lessons about the Boston Tea Party came to mind—sort of. I couldn’t remember if the rebellion was about confiscation, taxation without representation, or a shortage of Lipton teabags, but I felt a kinship with the early American colonists. No longer would I put up with an infringement on my rights. This popcorn was not being seized without a fight. I could hear the Star-Spangled Banner ringing in my ears and the sound of fife and drums as I prepared my battle plan.

“Russ, you’ve got to save my popcorn,” I whispered.

My husband raised his eyebrows and nodded towards the gun on the guard’s hip. It had a barrel the size of a cannon. Okay, maybe I exaggerate slightly. But she did have a gun. And a deep voice. And a rather flat … um … chest.

Just as I opened my mouth to insist that Russ tell her caramel popcorn was not on the list of items forbidden in carry-on luggage, she smiled at us and said, “I could use these.” She held the two round, 12-ounce jars in front of her chest and said, “If I were to stuff these under my shirt, people would quit thinking I’m a man.”

She didn’t want to eat my popcorn? She wanted to stick the jars in her … ah … underclothing? Visions of a dark-skinned, Hawaiian TSA guard with a chest like Dolly Parton and a voice like Cookie Monster flashed through my head.

The guard said, “Don’t worry, I’m teasing. These can go through just fine,” and put them back into the suitcase.

I laughed. I’m certain it wasn’t hysterically. We picked up our belongings and headed toward the boarding gate. “That was quite the experience,” I said. “But at least all we lost was the honey.”

Then I pulled my ticket out to see when the plane was leaving and the words were blurred. Unreadable. That’s when I realized the honey wasn’t the only thing we’d lost. My glasses were back there, in that tangle of security. Maybe sitting on some guard’s nose.

I could hear the Star-Spangled Banner again, ringing in my ears. I prepared my battle plan.

"Russ, you’ve got to go back and get my glasses.”

He looked at me and said, “You’re crazy. I’m not going through all that again. You can buy another $3 pair from Wal-Mart when we get home.”

Some revolutionary he was.

I’ve got news for the TSA, though. I’m a rebel with a cause. And the next time I go through airport security, I’m not bothering with contraband like honey. I’m bringing along some Lipton tea.

What's playing in my head: Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree written by Georgia Bello


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And the winner is ... by Cindy Beck

© 2008, by Cindy Beck
(Keywords: prize, winner, license plate, contest, Quackers, Corky Porky Pie, rubber ducky, rubber duckie)


The winner of the license plate frame slogan contest is ... ta da ... that Queen of the Clan, Danyelle Ferguson. Danyelle's winning slogan was: This Is My Dream Van . . .Where Are The Dream Gas Prices?

So sad, but so true.

Congratulations to Danyelle. Her official prize of a never-before-used-in-a-bathtub rubber ducky is on its way. Well ... as soon as she sends me her address.

Please note the winning entry was chosen by Quackers, the rubber ducky, and Corky Porky Pie, the dog, who are experts in the field. I don't know in what field, but they're experts.


What's playing in my head: Rubber Duckie, by Ernie the Muppet

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Send Someone Up with a Shoe by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, C.L. Beck, shoe, cockroach, antennae, entomologist, bug, Mother Nature, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

It was six inches long, with wiggly antennae. We were on vacation, in a hotel. My husband, Russ, was asleep with a cold, and I was in a stand-off with Mother Nature.

“Russ, get up. There’s a giant bug.” You’d think an entomologist would say something more precise than, “a giant bug.” I should have mentioned the order and species. But when you’re faced with a bug that’s big enough to consider you dinner, you don’t think rationally.

“Just squash it,” Russ mumbled.

Squash it? Its itty-bitty eyes were tracking my every move!

“We’re in a five-star hotel. I shouldn’t have to squish anything.” Then my scientific nature kicked in. “What kind of bug is that?”

I squinted, trying to focus. The bug would have to have been the size of the Empire State building for me to identify it without my glasses. But if I could get a little closer, that might help.

It was a nutty thing to do, but I crept forward. “Aack!” I screamed, realizing what it was and leaping back.

My scream didn’t scare it, but the movement did. It took off and ran under the hide-a-bed sofa. It certainly knew its way around. How long had it been living here? I knew, from personal experience, that you could suck a bug up with the vacuum cleaner. Why hadn’t housekeeping done that?

Russ snored and I realized a man who was sick enough to sleep through my screaming really needed his rest.

“Russ, wake up. It’s a huge, disgusting cockroach,” I said with a shiver. “What should we do about it?”

I was thinking along the lines of calling the bomb squad to roust the bug. Russ opened his blurry eyes and said, “Ignore it and go to sleep.”

“Who in their right mind can sleep with a monster cockroach in their room?”

“I can,” Russ said. He rolled over and started snoring. What had happened to the man who promised—at the alter—to love, cherish, and defend me from killer bugs?

In all my years of schooling, I learned many things about cockroaches. Things a person should never have to know and that I won’t repeat because they’ll just freak you out. But the most important piece of knowledge was gained living in an apartment in Maryland.

If you turn out the lights, cockroaches creep from their hiding places. When the lights are turned back on, some of them fly at you.

Standing in the dark, waiting for a cockroach to come out rates right up there with going through airport security. If the dumb thing ran across my bare feet or flew in my face, I was going to go out, buy a gun and shoot it.

I flicked off the light. When I flipped it back on there was the bug on the floor, staring at me, daring me to eliminate it. That was all it took. It would never do for an entomologist, turned mom, turned writer, to be outwitted by a bug.

Grabbing a sandal, I shrieked and chased it around the room. It scuttled behind the sofa, along the wall, behind the drapes, but I kept chasing. I threw another shoe in front to block it, and it stopped next to our bed.

“Die, you lousy bug!” I yelled, as I brought the sandal down.

Russ leaned up on one elbow, coughed and in a sleep-muffled voice said, “Did you get it?”

I had no clue. Either it was under my shoe or under our bed. And if it was under my shoe, was it dead? I tilted the shoe. The bug waved its antennae at me. I pushed down hard and it made a sound that can only be described as …

Well, you don’t want to know what it sounded like, but let me say it was now dead.

The next morning, I suggested we call the management and inform them of the cockroach. Russ waved the hotel information card. “This says we’re in a tropical area and so we might see tropical bugs. If we do, we’re supposed to call the front desk and they’ll be happy to take care of the problem.”

The management wasn’t fooling me. I knew what that meant. They’d send someone up with a shoe.

What's playing in my head: La Cucaracha (Unknown authorship)


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Then There was Lunch by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, C.L. Beck, cat, hummingbird, KitKat, spiders, pets, dogs, rabbits, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

When people ask where I get my inspiration for writing, I laugh and look pointedly at my husband, Russ.

Considering that his escapades always show up in my musings—a fact he’s most patient about—I’m giving him a break. Today’s article won’t include any mention of him.

While searching the internet for an alternate topic, I discovered a tabloid article about a man who kept snakes, termites, and poisonous arachnids as pets. It turns out one of his black widow spiders thought he would make a tasty treat and tried him for lunch. Then the other creatures finished him for dessert.

It’s my firm opinion that pets should have certain qualifications. Fur is always nice. So are feathers. And two or four legs are a good idea.

House pets should definitely have two eyes with a single lens in each. No more, no less. Any critter that you’re tempted to name “Compound-Eyed Igor” probably belongs in Frankenstein’s laboratory and not in a ventilated Mason jar under your bed.

My choices for pets are cats, dogs, and Russ. Oh, wait. I said I wasn’t going to bring him into this. Okay, so it’s cats, dogs, and rabbits. They’re affectionate without being overbearing. More importantly, none of them have ever wrapped a web around me and saved me for a snack.

Not too long ago, I was outside enjoying the hummingbirds. Although they fit my qualifications for a pet, I don’t think of them as such. They’re more like teenage children. I feed them and clean up after them—in return, they buzz past me on their way to something more important.

The hummies were feeding heavily, about 50 at a time, and it seemed like the right moment to put my finger on their perch. When they’re in a feeding frenzy, they’ll ignore you—also like teenagers—and land on your finger while sucking nectar.

I pulled a chair under the feeder and climbed up. Standing on tippy-toe, I stretched up as far as possible. My finger just barely touched the perch and my weight was off-balance, but I used the feeder to steady me.

Then the thing tilted. Sugar syrup ran out the little holes and onto my hand.

It was a matter of small consequence. I was determined to have a hummingbird land on my finger.

KitKat showed up. He’s a wonderful pet—furry, fat and loving. Too loving. At that very moment he wasn’t content with me murmuring, “Nice kitty. Sweet KitKat.”

He wanted to be petted. He wanted to assure me of his love. I wanted to assure him he was headed for that great litter box in the sky if he came any closer.

In one bound, his round, orange body was on the chair. “Shoo! Go away!” I nudged him with one foot. The chair wobbled and syrup ran to my elbow as the feeder leaned at a precarious angle.

Just then, 15 hummingbirds decided they wanted to eat… but not with me. They darted at my head using their beaks as swords in an attempt to give me multiple nose and eyebrow piercings—and to chase me off. I bobbed and weaved, the chair rocked, and sticky syrup dripped to my armpit.

Then it happened.

KitKat took a flying leap up my pant leg, purring like a chainsaw. “Cat, get off me!” I yelled, wibble-wobbling back and forth, and shaking my leg wildly.

The hummers took off as if they’d been blitzed. KitKat, on the other hand, was oblivious to the catastrophe and continued to rumble his affection as he whipped around in every direction, still attached to my leg.

By now the feeder was empty—syrup had dripped to my waist. My jeans were shredded from cat claws. I disentangled the still purring feline, dropped him to the ground, and climbed off the chair.

KitKat entwined around my ankles as I made my way to the door. Tripping over him, I fell inside. Safe at last.

So much for affectionate pets; that cat practically killed me with love. But then again, I figure I can count myself lucky … at least he didn’t eat me for lunch.

What's playing in my head: The Eensy Weensy Spider (Unknown authorship)

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The Evil Beasts of Summer by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, ants, bug, bugs, insects, buggers, beasts, invasion, spray, pesticides, Raid, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

The evil beasts of summer have returned.

No, I’m not talking about the kids that ring your doorbell just as you climb into bed—and then run, laughing, into the night—I’m talking about the real deal. Bugs.

The other day my husband, Russ, ran into the house shouting, “There’s an ant invasion. Where’s the bug spray?”

I eyed him suspiciously. “You aren’t really going to use toxic poisons on them, are you?”

Russ and I have an ongoing disagreement about the best way to whack little buggers. I like environmentally friendly solutions. He prefers eradicating them in a cloud of pesticides potent enough to kill an ox.

I said, “Remember when you used Raid outside the kitchen—with the window air conditioner cranking full blast? It sucked in the spray and we had to call HAZMAT.”

“Yeah, but the dog hasn’t had fleas ever since.” Russ leaned over and patted my cheeks. “Would you rather use your wonderful method of spraying them with Windex?”

I considered giving a supercilious look, but remembered from past experience that looking down my nose only crossed my eyeballs and made me feel loopy. “I had it on good faith that Windex would kill bugs. It’s not my fault wasps have compound eyes and one saw me coming.”

Russ raised an eyebrow. “If you stand nose to nose with a creature carrying a harpoon in its butt, you shouldn’t be surprised when you get speared in the forehead.”

“Okay, so it didn’t work, but at least it was eco-friendly,” I said, while simultaneously searching my brain for another method. “What about orange peel? The acid is supposedly lethal.”

“You’re going to place bits of orange peel on 90,000 ants?” Russ held the kitchen door open. “Take a look out there.”

We walked over to a living puddle that pulsated along the foundation of the house and across the sidewalk. My mind searched for alternatives. “Recently, I saw an advertisement for a non-polluting, mechanical process for killings bugs. What if we try that?” I said, eyeballing the ants that teemed over my feet.

“Did you read the whole thing?” Russ swatted at his pant legs. “The device was two blocks of wood. The instructions said to place the bug between blocks and press firmly.”

I wasn’t listening. Ants were racing up my ankles, gnawing at my knees and swarming into uncomfortable places. “Quick, Russ, get the bug spray,” I said, prancing about and partially disrobing.

“If you insist—but don't you think we should try something more environmentally friendly first? Maybe you could massage them with garlic,” Russ replied, as he headed for the can of Raid.


What's playing in my head: The Ants Go Marching One by One (Unknown authorship)

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"Heaven Scent" Book Tour Stop

By C. Lynn Beck
© 2008
Keywords: C. Lynn Beck, Heaven Scent, perfume, Rebecca Talley, author, Rebecca, Aldrich Heights, fragrance, blog tour, forgiveness, religion, Liza, Kyle

Liza has it made. At least that’s what it looks like for Aldrich Heights' star basketball player. Yet, life isn’t as golden on the inside as it appears on the outside. Liza feels abandoned by her father, who places work before family. Once upon a time, Liza and her father were close, but now she wonders if he even loves her anymore. Or if she loves him.

Liza’s mother puts her foot down and Liza’s father promises he’ll change and spend more time with them. Just when Liza starts believing him, tragedy strikes. Everything that matters to Liza is gone in one heart-wrenching moment.

Liza’s path to emotional recovery lies in forgiveness. However, she doesn’t see it that way and fights against the very idea … until Kyle, a boy from her high school, introduces Liza to a new religion. With a little help from Kyle—and from above—Liza learns to view the tragedy, and her life, with the right perspective.

Heaven Scent is a touching story that both young women and adults will enjoy. Just be sure to have a box of tissues and family members nearby when you read it—the tissues for the tears, and the family members so you can hug them and feel grateful that they’re with you.

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Rebecca Cornish Talley, author of Heaven Scent, is not only an excellent writer but also a good sport. She's kindly agreed to let me interview her at a “virtual” beach in California.

Rebecca, thank you for joining me on this sunny day at the ocean. I know you love the beach and lived in California as a young girl. Since other interviews have already covered the technical reasons for why and how you wrote Heaven Scent, I thought I’d ask a few personal questions today.

1. If you wouldn’t mind, why don’t you start by telling us what the beach here looks like?

It might be hard to find this particular beach in CA since it’s tucked away in a secret cove, but the water is a brilliant turquoise and so clear I can see my feet. No seaweed tangling around my legs, thankfully. The water temperature is ideal, too. Cool enough to be refreshing, but warm enough to soothe. The clean, soft, white sand feels like satin under my feet and perfectly-shaped seashells wait along the shore for me to add to my collection. The shoreline seems to run forever in either direction and the sky is a pale blue with wisps of clouds gently moving across its great expanse while waves lap soothingly against the shore.

2. That’s such a cute bathing suit you’re wearing. No one would ever guess you had ten kids! If you could design an ideal bathing suit, what would it look like?

It’d mystically take off 20 pounds, and 20 years, when you wear it, slim you in the middle and give definition up top. It’d be available in iridescent colors that change to match your mood (kind of like the old mood rings) and every time you looked in the mirror, you’d see your inner beauty and strength.

3. In other interviews, you’ve said that your initial inspiration for Heaven Scent came from a distinctive perfume your mom used to wear. You often smelled it in the air, during difficult times, even though your mom had passed away. What are your favorite smells at the ocean?

Green apple bubblegum, coconut suntan lotion, and deep fried taquitos. I also love the smell of saltwater on my skin.

4. You’ve mentioned that your love of basketball was another source of inspiration for the book. You can’t play basketball here in the sand, so what games do you like to play at the beach?

The best games are Chase (the seagulls), Tag (with the waves), and Hide-and-Go-Seek (with the sand crabs).

5. Since you live on a farm and have a number of animals, what’s your favorite saltwater animal? And why?

Seals are my favorite saltwater animals because they’re so playful and friendly. I also enjoy watching them swim next to the boats and sun themselves on the buoys. Getting a seal to smile is especially fun, too.

6. Ooo, I notice you’re cooking something over there. Is that a hibachi? A crock-pot? (Hey, this is a virtual beach … so Rebecca can have a crock-pot if she wants!) Or a bonfire? And what is it that I smell cooking?

S’mores. Roasted, gooey marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate—what more do you need? That’s a balanced meal, right? So it must be a bonfire. And we're singing Primary songs around it 'cause I love Primary songs.

7. I see quite a few young women around. You once said you’ve worked with many young women over the years and that’s why Heaven Scent was written for a YA audience. Are these young women here from your church, or are they your family? Why don’t you tell us a little bit about them? (No names, please, we don’t want any stalkers showing up at our beach party!:)

They’re my daughters and my nieces (12 altogether). Aren’t they beautiful? Some sing, some perform, some draw pictures, some make crafts. Some are tall, some are small, some have long hair, some have short, some have blue eyes, some have hazel, some are shy and some are not. Most of all, they’re daughters of our Heavenly Father who want to live with him again someday.

8. Well, Rebecca, I can see the sun is starting to set, so it’s time to pull on a sweatshirt, sit in the warm sand, and watch the sun slide below the horizon. Why don’t you give us a little detail on what colors we’re seeing tonight and how the sunset makes you feel?

I can see the sun’s reflection dancing along the water as it paints the sky in hues of pink, orange, and red. The gentleness of the sun slipping below the horizon makes me realize that as one days ends, another will begin again, and that there is order in all of God’s creations.

Rebecca, thanks for your time and for allowing me to interview you. It’s been a wonderful visit, and I think your readers have enjoyed this personal glimpse into your life. You’re a talented author, your book is terrific, and the story grabbed me by the heart. Thanks so much for writing Heaven Scent.

Thank you, Cindy, for interviewing me here on our virtual beach. It’s been a blast!