CLINTON  trump

I  had an argument this week with a guy about politics.

The discussion ended with our differences unresolved and with the two of us emotionally upset. Later, I felt that I should have kept my mouth shut.

I was reminded of an old adage: Never discuss politics nor religion. Unfortunately, we often miss the key word, discuss. We bring strong biases to such discussions and often fail to view the subject with any measure of objectivity or through the eyes of the other person.

The candidates for the presidency may serve as an example: How often do we dwell on the negative aspects of a candidate’s personality and/or qualifications to serve in such an office?

Donald Trump is (you fill in the blank). Hillary Clinton is (you fill in the blank). Continue reading TOO FEW PERFECT PEOPLE LIKE ME SEEKING OFFICE


DEAN:blueberry 2016

For more than a half century I have taken steps to improve my vision, clear my arteries, strengthen my blood vessels, prevent urinary tract infections and control my weight.

I accomplish this feat by dining on blueberries throughout the year.

I eat ‘em…

On pancakes,

On cereal,

On ice cream and

Out of the sack.

First, I pick ‘em. Just finished picking 40 pounds, one berry at a time. Must have been about ten thousand of the critters, not counting the bugs, stems and leaves. And a few green ones.

Been picking at a patch west of town for more than 50 years. The late Phil Grenon began planting the bushes while we worked together at a local daily newspaper. Continue reading A BIT OF DAILY BLUE SERVES AS A LIFESAVER FOR PICKER



I am not a voracious reader, but when I read, I tend to pick a memoir or some form of non-fiction. This practice, I understand, is not the acceptable habit of someone who writes fiction.

Nevertheless, I recently enjoyed reading a quartet of books I highly recommend that you consider as you while away the summer at the beach or at some mountain retreat.

I developed a kinship with Lee Smith as she recounted how she left her backwoodsy Virginia environment to get some “culture” only to find that she never really left her home in “Dimestore,” a 100-page memoir that was just published.

Smith, who is now a grandmother, writes about marble cake, moonshine, wading in the river running black with coal debris, folks sitting on the front porch talking about the latest town gossip and how she could run for miles in the hills without the thought of danger.

In the 15 essays she describes how her daddy’s dimestore served as a launching point for exploration of this Appalachian country during her childhood and how she drew on this experience and the people there in her later writing of fiction. Continue reading A BIT OF CULTURE, HOPE MIXED IN READING RECIPE



As I stepped into the entryway of a new house, it looked as though cream and globs of chocolate had been poured on the floor in the adjacent kitchen and living room. The polished floor looked good enough to eat.

I learned that the floor was made of hickory and that I was expected to take off my shoes before entering.

As a boy, I took off my boots and shoes before entering our farm house whose nondescript wood floor was clean but unpolished. This made sense because we worked outdoors with chickens and livestock.

As I walked on the new floor during the July 4th holiday, I thought a lot about hickory because those trees grew in the Ozark Hills of Southern Missouri where I spent a  dozen years of my life.

Hickory, as you know, is hard, stiff, dense and shock resistant. My first set of drumsticks were made of hickory, and we burned hickory to cure and to flavor meat.

I also had a close encounter with hickory while I attended fifth grade in a one-room rural school. You probably have heard the song about “readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic being taught to the tune of a hick’ry stick.” Well, I misbehaved during a picnic outing, and I believe the teacher gave me a licking with a hickory stick.

Baseball bats once were made of hickory. I figure that the bat used by Robert Redford in “The Natural” movie was carved from hickory because it didn’t break. Today, professional players use bats made largely from ash, which often splits. Hickory outweighs ash, which suggests that ball players are more wimpy today than when the Babe swung a bat.

As this year’s Fourth of July holiday wound down and as I watched an aerial display of fireworks, I thought about our nation’s history and about the people who are and have created that history.

Granted, selfish, deranged and dangerous people live among us, but at the core, we’re more like hickory than like ash. That’s why I stand and take off my hat when the flag passes by and why I count my blessings every day that I live in such a great country. The bonus, of course, is that I also reside in Douglas fir country but appreciate hickory enough to take off my shoes when I walk on it.



The author offered me $500 to edit her latest murder mystery manuscript.

“I want you to fix the commas,” she instructed.

PENCILSI offered to share a guide on comma usage that I had developed as a teacher, but she refused.

“I don’t want to worry about commas,” she replied.

A decade later I began editing memoirs written by people who had a story to tell but knew little about the mechanics of the writing craft. Commas were among the most troublesome creatures for many of those writers.

I found it surprising that writers have trouble with punctuation and grammar probably because my mother was an English teacher, and we talked about the language and its usage around the dinner table.

When I began teaching university journalism classes, I soon discovered that too many students had not learned the basics. So, I compiled a simple comma guide and shared it Continue reading COMMAS CAN COMPLICATE CREATING CREDIBLE COPY