Not Enough Clutter

We were asked about yard sales this week. I afraid that I do not have a lot to say on the subject. My children and I have moved a lot over the years and because we have moved so much we have never really accumulated a lot of stuff. When something is no longer used in our house it gets taken to the thrift store. There’s no point letting it sit here to gather dust when someone else could get some use out of it. My kids go through their toys on a regular basis and take out what they haven’t played with and we take them to the thrift store the next time we drive by it. My kids have never put together a yard sale.

We haven’t shopped a yard sale since Jessica and Quinlan were in the double stroller. That’s been about 14  years. I used to enjoy loading the kids into the stroller and walking around town. We didn’t really buy much of anything and looking back I think the only reason we went was so I would have an excuse to be out walking.


When I was a kid we held one yard sale every summer. I remember helping to put masking tape with prices on everything and sitting under the huge tree by the garage helping to read the tags. Mom would allow us to put our initial on the tape so we could each make some spending money. It was fun to see items with an A on the price tag come to the table because I knew I would have more money coming to me. Between the yard sale and my summer lemonade stand I had money whenever the ice cream truck came by.  But by the time I reached middle school the yard sales stopped. My older siblings had real jobs and I started cleaning the church with my grandparents to earn spending money.

Did you help with yard sales as a kid?

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Take my junk… Please!

My daughter loves to have sales. She frequently sets them up in her room, selling a variety of her things, her crafts, and strange things she found along the road. Her prices are not entirely garage sale class. The couch foot she found on the side of the road… $10. With the sale limited to her bedroom or our living room, her customers are lacking.

After her begging, I gave in and hosted an actual yard sale during the city-wide sales. It just happened to be the hottest day of the summer, the kind where you sweat through your clothes just sitting on the steps. The heat drove the kids inside within an hour and I was left in the scorcher for the rest of the day. As the temperature climbed, the customers diminished. It was a very long afternoon. I did make some money, but I ended up carting a whole truck load to the thrift store.

I don’t expect to do another sale any time soon. It’s so much easier to load everything in the truck and haul it away than to prep and hold a sale.

My mother-in-law is a fantastic garage saler and can find wonderful bargains… the super cute Christmas dress in the perfect size for fifty cents and the like. Each summer we give her a list of the kids sizes and she finds all kinds of school clothes for them. It is great, although the kids are getting pickier about what they wear, so it isn’t as easy to choose things without their approval.

When the kids were younger we went to garage sales all the time. I’d load them in the stroller and we’d hike around the neighborhood. They are great places to snatch up barely-used baby and toddler  clothes. But then my kids learned to talk and they figured out how to find the most annoying, ridiculous, and over-priced toy at the sale. Garage sales weren’t fun any more when I had to say no a hundred times at every place.

I’m sure I’ll do more garage saling in the future, probably checking out estate sales for interesting furniture and what-not. I’m always interested in the floorplans of houses and estate sales are a good way to check that out. I drove by one sale several times and didn’t stop because I had just acquired a truck load of estate sale type items from my mother and didn’t have a place for anything new. Then my friend told me how cool the house was, but when I went back the sale was over. The house is for sale now, but last I checked there weren’t any pictures online.
I love finding great treasures at sales, but lately they’ve been more trouble than they are worth.
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One Man’s Junk…

ToysThis week, one of the foxes asked whether we’re yard and garage sale hosts or shoppers. Back when my kids were young, I’d host a garage sale once a year to help clear out clothes and toys we’d outgrown, worn-out furnishings, and things we just didn’t have a use for any more. They took a lot of work, but my girls were very helpful, especially since they got a share of the money we took in. Since we live in a busy suburb, it was a social occasion, where people would come to chat as much as to shop. Once in a while we’d have neighborhood sales, where several homes on the street would have sales on the same day. People from other neighborhoods could park at the end of the street and just walk from house to house.

As the kids left home, so did most of their stuff. I had big plans for the bedrooms they vacated. One room, I decided, would be a guest room, and the other would be my sewing room. But that plan didn’t quite work out. I took a part-time job at a nearby grocery/department store, started teaching at the university, and started writing. I joined two sewing groups, two writing groups, and three musical groups. There was no time to stop at other people’s garage sales, let alone have one of my own. And somehow, even with only two of us in this three-bedroom house, “stuff” accumulates, despite my semi-annual trips to donate clothes and other unused items.

junkI’ve been retired for twelve years now. For some reason, I’ve gotten busier and busier. I still have things that should have been discarded or given away long ago. But I’m not inclined to go through the work of having a sale at my house. It seems they’ve become less popular in my neighborhood. For the past few summers I’ve seen less than a half dozen per year. So this past spring, when I made a resolution to clear out the clutter in the house, I boxed things up and put them in my trunk. I made it a goal to fill at least one box (of things to get rid of) a day during the month of May – and I succeeded! When the trunk was full, I drove to a nearby charity shop and dropped them off. I’ve made seven trips so far, and I don’t seem to have made a dent in the clutter. And now I’ve got to help my mom clear out sixty years of clutter in her home so that she can move to a smaller place. There is enough “stuff” there to supply half a dozen garage sales. I guess the people at the charity shop are going to know me really well by the time I’m through!

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Free Week at 4F,1H and this week has gotten past me.I have been trying to do some catch-up reading, but have gotten in virtually no writing. Not one letter.

I have to admit that I have had people in and out , we’ve had doctors’ appointments for my husband and for myself, two of them out-of-town, which take hours and hours away from the keyboard and away from reading.

One thing in my reading recently that I have found a problem is that some writers throw acronyms at their readers without an initial explanation; that is really bothersome.

I don’t like writers who ‘write-down’ to readers, but to exclude a large number of your readership into your circle seems like an insult. One has to try to guess, which isn’t easy , or one must stop and look up the initials.

For instance, nearly everyone would know that “U.N.” stand for “United Nations”, but how many readily know what the “UNODC” is? It is the “United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime”, in case, like me, you did not know. A person could get the idea of what it DID by reading it in context, but really, I could not decipher the actual organization on my own.

Another book that I just cracked open to check out on the advice of a friend had the narrator talking about AIGA awards. He said it twice. I figured it was for his graphic designs, but I had no idea WHAT the organization was: it is the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Did you know that one? I let it slide the first time but I could not the second time; I had to stop reading to look it up. I am not sure I will finish the book, no matter who suggested it. I found it pretentious.

These are just a few examples. I am a pretty well-read person, who tried to keep up on matters of the world, but don’t you think a writer should incorporate the full name of organizations into their work before they start using acronyms, (even the better known ones)? After all, I think every writer would like to think that readers from all over, (and those in the future), would read their works.

So let me know what you think, and I’ll leave less long-winded post than usual this week!

[By the way, mine above in the title stands for: Authors Confusing Readers Offering Nonhelpful, Yawn-inspiring,Mystifying, Subjects]

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Pet Crow of the Williams Boys

Our Pet Crow

[A true story of the Williams boys in Somerset]
As remembered by Paul H. Williams
Put to paper by Jeffrey L. Salter
April 2009

[NOTE: Halleck and Jesse Fisher Williams had seven children, including four boys. The Williams boys – Eugene, Tommy, Charles, and Paul – (and their three sisters, Lois, Josie, and Opal) had first cousins in the families of Fisher, Neikirk, Barnes, Coomer, and Jasper (among others) — all well-known names in Somerset. This recollection is told from the perspective of Paul Williams – late of Cincinnati – who (at the time of the retelling) was the last surviving sibling of the Williams clan.]

Two of our sisters were already married and our oldest brother [Gene] had joined the Army about two years earlier. So in the spring of 1939 it was Tom, Charles, and me – and our sister Opal – living with our parents in the Williams farmhouse… in the Possum Trot community outside Somerset.

Now Tom could climb anything, but he was especially good at climbing trees. The taller the better. No matter if it had any limbs or not. He’d just wrap his arms and legs around it and shinny up a tree like a monkey.

We were over in G.P.’s [Neikirk] woods, behind what’s now Glen Neikirk’s house. One of us spied a crow’s nest — about 50 feet up, in the top of this tree. Must have been an oak… but hardly any limbs in the lower half. Well, Tom decided he’d climb up there and have a look. So he just scooted up that tree.

When he got up to the crow’s nest, he found four baby crows… so small they couldn’t fly. He tucked them in his coat pockets and then climbed back down to show me and Charles. I don’t know what made us decide to take them home and raise them… but that’s what we did.

Mom really ‘got on’ Tom for climbing that tall tree. But that never kept Tom out of trees… he’d climb anything that was standing.

We took an old bushel basket and filled it with straw… then hung it up on the outside of the smokehouse wall. About 7-8 feet off the ground, so the baby crows would be safe.

We took rolled oats and added a little water. Those crows would sit up in that basket with their mouths wide open and squawk just like they’d do if their mama crow was feeding them. We’d give them just a pinch at a time… they really gobbled down those oats. Later, they ate dry cornbread, too. We almost always had cornbread.

These crows just had real thin hair fuzz when they were little. But before long some tiny feathers came out. They started sitting up on the edge of that basket while we fed them… and sometimes they seemed to perch there just out of natural curiosity.

Before long, they’d jump down to the ground and start walking around. They couldn’t fly yet, but had just enough feathers to drop that far without getting hurt. Well, we’d keep catching them and putting them back up in that basket, for their own protection. But they’d jump right out again.

It was probably about the end of May because the rosebushes had roses. One afternoon, there was a big, hard rain. We looked out and saw three of these crows standing there with their heads back and their mouths open. We thought it was strange and funny-looking so Opal even snapped a picture. But later, after the rain stopped, we found those three crows in that same spot just rolled over dead. We figured they just drank so much rain water that they drowned! If we’d realized that’s what was happening, we would have run out there and brought them inside the barn.

Only one crow lived from that nest, and he became our pet for the next several months. Nobody ever understood why he didn’t drown himself in that rain along with the others.


Charles and Paul Williams, with “Jim” the crow on Paul’s arm. About 1939.

Dad named him Jim. No particular reason that I know of. And Jim grew up to be an adult crow.

Jim was quite a crow. He’d roost in different trees around the farmhouse. Didn’t build a nest… he’d just sit up on a limb. He ate mulberries out of our mulberry tree right next to the road.

We’d holler for Jim and he’d come flying. We’d hold out our arms and Jim would perch on our forearms. He’d follow us everywhere we went… except church. That Jim never once went to church. Now, Charles remembered that Jim DID follow us to church… just like he followed us to school. But I say ole Jim didn’t have any religion at all… and he always stayed home on Sunday mornings.

But when we’d go to school, Jim would follow us. No matter how hard we tried to send him home, he wouldn’t do it. He’d fly up to us, then sit up on a telephone pole. We’d keep walking… and tell Jim to go home. Then he’d fly up to us again and land on the next pole. He did that – pole-to-pole – all the way to school… about a mile and a half.

We had three grades in one room. There were 13 of us in the sixth grade and we were over along the inside wall. The seventh grade was in the middle of that room. Charles and the other eighth graders were along the windows. Mr. Clair Kane was our teacher.

School started in July that year. It was hot and the windows were all the way up, of course. Some of those eighth graders would practically lean out the windows to try to catch a little breeze. Well, one day Jim flew by and saw Charles sitting there, with his arm resting on the windowsill. So Jim figured he’d just land on Charles’ arm like he was accustomed to doing. But Charles wasn’t expecting Jim, so he was kind of startled and shook that crow right off his arm. Well, that unfriendly reaction surprised Jim… and he flapped and hollered a bit. Then he just re-lighted on the windowsill right next to Charles and looked in at all those students.

Mr. Kane got upset… he didn’t want that big ole crow disrupting the three grades in his classroom. Well, Jim just sat there a while and finally he went on home. I don’t think he learned anything at school that day… except that he wasn’t very welcome.

When we worked in the garden, Jim came over there with us. When we’d turn up a clod of dirt and find a cricket or worm, ole Jim would jump right on it.

That spring we had a BIG garden planted… a half acre or more. Over behind the farmhouse and to the side of the barn.

One day, Charles and I had to put in a whole row of pepper plants. This row was probably 90 feet long or maybe more… and that was hard work. Charles poked a hole for each one and dropped in the pepper plant and I’d come behind and tamp the dirt around it. Then Charles would move up a few inches and drop in another one. We did that for hours.

When we finally got to the end, we stood up and looked back down that row. Jim had been right behind us the whole time… and we hadn’t known it. That ole crow had pulled up every single pepper plant! He didn’t eat them or even damage them in any way — just plucked them up and laid them down. The whole row!

I guess Jim thought he was helping us, but we sure didn’t appreciate it. We threw clods of dirt and sent Jim back to the farmhouse. Then we had to go back and replant that whole, long row of peppers.

In the afternoons, Dad would take a break and smoke his pipe. Jim would fly over and sit on top of Dad’s shoulder. After a while, Jim got to where he’d reach over and pluck the cooled ashes out of Dad’s pipe… and eat them. Well, I once had a pig that ate coal, so having a crow that ate tobacco ashes didn’t seem all that strange. Maybe Jim had an addiction to nicotine!

Mom liked Jim well enough, but Jim didn’t really [do much with] her.

In the hot months, it was hard to sleep. The boys’ bedroom – upstairs in the northeast corner – had two windows. We’d often sleep with our heads practically resting on the windowsill to try to catch the cooler outside air.

Charles remembered that Jim would fly over about dawn and land on the windowsill of our bedroom. Then, if we didn’t wake up right away, Jim would peck us on the head until we did. Being pecked on the head by a crow is a more effective wake-up call than any alarm clock I’ve ever had.

The only space around the farmhouse that was paved was the short walk going from our front porch to the concrete steps next to the road. It’s called McKee Circle now, but it was Clifty Road back then. One day I was playing “jacks” out on that walk. Ole Jim zoomed down on me from who-knows-where and snatched one of my jacks. Right on the fly… zoom! Then he flew over and landed on a big rock near the chicken house. Jim just sat there ‘til I reached him… and then he flew off. I don’t know if he flew away with that jack still in his mouth… or if he dropped it somewhere by the chicken house. But I never did find it. So we had to play with nine jacks from then on.

I hate to call Jim a thief, but my jack wasn’t the only thing he stole. Charles remembered this part of Jim’s story. One day, Aunt Lu [Neikirk] took off her wedding ring and set it on the windowsill before she went out to work in her garden. Well, crows like shiny things (like jacks and rings), so Jim just swooped down to that windowsill, snatched Aunt Lu’s ring and flew off. Aunt Lu must have seen Jim at her window, because she knew exactly who took her ring when she didn’t find it where she’d left it. Aunt Lu was a good Christian woman, but she cussed that crow with every bad word she knew.

Jim must have seen the error of his ways, because he later dropped Aunt Lu’s ring right there in her garden, where he knew she’d find it. Which she later did… but even so, Aunt Lu never warmed up to that crow afterwards.

Dad was painting the farmhouse — either late that summer or early fall. White. He was up a tall ladder painting underneath the eaves. Well, Jim zoomed around the house and started aggravating Dad. Jim tried to land on his shoulder, but Dad shook him off. Jim tried to get into the paint to see what it was, but Dad shooed him away.

Finally Dad got so annoyed that he took a swipe at Jim with the paintbrush. Jim ended up with a big stripe of white paint on his chest and belly. That paint stayed on that crow for a long time before it eventually wore off.

This most likely started in early fall. There’d be some crows going by… flying northeast. At first Jim would turn his head sideways, so he could see them, and he’d just watch them fly on by. Jim wouldn’t do anything else though. But later, after he got used to seeing those other crows, Jim got to where he’d call out to them… or call AT them. Not sure which. We used to say that Jim hollered at them, but crows can’t holler.

Then it was late fall — that same year, 1939. One day, Jim wasn’t around. Not the next day either. Or the next.

It had been a full week that Jim was gone and we all figured we’d never see him again.

Dad was working with a construction crew at that time. They all knew about Jim because Dad had told them about our pet crow. They were eating their lunch when one of the workers asked Dad, “Halleck, you hear anything from Jim?”

“No,” Dad replied. “I guess somebody shot him for a crow.” That’s exactly what he said.

Jim was just like a pet dog. We all cried when we realized he surely wasn’t coming back.

Later, we figured that Jim joined up with some of those crows who’d fly by on their way to other places. It was probably his instinct to migrate with them. Even though it meant leaving all of us… who’d raised him as good as his own mama crow could have.


[JLS # 343]

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This summer has simply flown by. It’s hard to believe that school will be back in session in a few weeks. Harder still to believe this is my oldest child’s last year in high school. Where did the time go?

Free time this summer has been spent with appointments, working with my illustrator, researching for a current project, and spending time with my kids.

At night, after all in the house is quiet I’ve been watching Downton Abbey. This is my second time watching the show and I’m enjoying it just as much as I did the first time I saw it. While watching the show I got the urge to write a historical novel set in the early 1900s. I find that time period fascinating but must admit that the thought of actually writing something set in that time period sort of terrifies me. I have heard of people lashing out over historical inaccuracies, writing letters telling the author they shouldn’t be writing at all. I am sure this probably doesn’t happen often but since I’m not a huge history buff I worry about messing up in a very noticeable way.  I realize this will take a lot of research and am looking forward to learning more about this time period. I tend to enjoy research.

Have you ever been inspired by a tv show or movie?

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Finished a Manuscript!

I finished a manuscript last week and sent it to the publisher. You’re probably thinking I’m a really fast writer, because I finished another manuscript just a few months ago, but I’ve been working on both books for an eternity–or like three years. It’s exciting to have them done, but now I’m not entirely sure what to work on next.

Anyway, the new book is related to my last published full-length novel, In for a Pound.


InForAPound-JoselynVaughn-v2-draftJoshua Pounds speeds to Pine Bottom to take care of his ailing dad, expecting to spend his time bouncing between doctors’ appointments and cancer treatments. His first task, however, requires a canoe paddle and helping his father’s friend win the honeymoon of her dreams. He doesn’t count on falling in love with an engaged woman.

Sidney Walker had her life all planned: the wedding, the honeymoon, and the dependable husband –until her fiancé crushes her dreams by putting riches above their relationship.

As her engagement crumbles, her heartbreak rocks Joshua’s confirmed bachelor status. He picks up the pieces, but the challenge threatens both of their ideas about love.

Will Joshua’s resolve to keep his heart untouched break Sidney’s?

If you want to check it out, it’s available at your favorite ebook retailers:


Barnes and Noble:




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