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If Stingrays Could Fly

raysAs I understand it, the correct term is just “sea rays, of which stingrays are one group.”  But yes, they can “fly.”  Just take a look at these photos or the linked video. My point here is that oceans contain many wonders and I feel bad for people in the Midwest who have never seen an ocean.  Of course, Midwesterners would tell us about the wonders in their own lands that we “coasters” ignore as we speed across the middle of the country.ray2

All three of my fiction books involve the ocean.  With which the Waters Swarm is about a herd of North Pacific fur seals threatened with extermination by seal hunters.  The Ages of Oosig is a fantasy about a boy growing up on islands in the Pacific and the adventures he has. My latest collection of short stories, Lefty’s Tavernacle, describes the goings-on of villagers in the small fishing town of Chickamin Bay (a fictional community similar to my hometown). No doubt my infatuation with oceans is because I’ve lived near the Pacific or Atlantic all my life, first in the Pacific Northwest, then in the Mariana Islands, now on the Massachusetts South Shore.

The vastness of the ocean, its power, and the constant pounding of waves on shores capture the imagination. Staring out at the horizon brings visions of long-ago ships and adventurers to mind. I can remember one time when I was commercial salmon fishing with my dad.  Over the radio came a voice saying “I think I just saw a sea monster!”  Turns out, one of the long-time fishermen had encountered his first elephant seal.  I once saw what I assumed was a mother shark and her baby trailing her, each with a dorsal fin sticking up out of the water.  When my father explained, “no, those are the first and second dorsal fins of one big mother of a shark,” I grabbed onto the gunnel of our boat.

I’ve determined that one of the reasons I used the ocean as a backdrop in my books is that it does stir the imagination.  After all, what could be better for an author of fiction that a good imagination?

Something’s Really Fishy Here

imagesIn my upcoming novel, Chickamin Bay, I write about trying to catch a sunfish with a salmon net.  Doesn’t work.  And if you want to know why that’s not a good idea, check out this one that washed up on an Australian beach.  They claim it weighs as much as a car.  Looks like it was carved from wood and that the sculptor got too tired to finish the back end.

The first one I saw was when I was salmon fishing with my dad. I thought it was a shark because all you could see was that fin waving back and forth in the water.

When you see something like this, it makes you wonder why we are bothering to go into outer space.  Seems like there is a lot of inner space that is unexplored.  I remember swimming over a reef in the Mariana Islands of the Pacific and suddenly it dropped off into darkness.  I was almost frightened to swim any farther for fear that I would fall into the abyss.  I thought about how a young eagle feels the first time he flies out of the nest high on a steep cliff. Looking down, I could see larger and larger fish the deeper I peered. I turned around and swam back to shore. {reference: my novel, The Ages of Oosig)

Perhaps Jules Verne wasn’t writing fiction.Still0828_00022_1535467964206_5977353_ver1.0_640_360

When Is a Tavern Not a Tavern?

Lefty’s Tavern in my newest collection of short stories becomes a church on Sunday mornings. That’s why, in a creative moment, I named the collection, Lefty’s Tavernacle (if you don’t get the play on “tabernacle,” it might be time to go back to school–or church).

Lefty's Cover smBased loosely, VERY loosely, on the fishing village where I grew up, the stories all center around Lefty’s Tavern.  Like the real-life Red’s Tavern–my father’s place– it is the only tavern in town.  So if you want the news, want to drink, or want to pick a fight, Lefty’s is the place to go.  Since there is no other building large enough to house the growing parish, Lefty has kindly opened it on Sunday mornings to Reverend Turkington.

The 20 stories in the book have a bunch of colorful characters, a lot of action, some humor, and a few serious moments. I sat with a number of my Oregon relatives over the years to gather similar stories about Charleston, Oregon, the little town I grew up in.  Then I dumped them all into a large shrimp pot, stirred them up, and poured out stories filled with drunks, Indians, fishermen, loggers (some fit all categories) and their families.

If you get a chance to read it, I’d welcome your thoughts.  It, and my previous two novels, With Which the Waters Swarm and The Ages of Oosig are all available on Amazon and other online book stores.

Not All Black Panthers Are Movie Characters

hqdefaultAlthough technically a black leopard, the black cat in Kenya captured on night video recently is extremely rare.  In fact, it’s the first documented there in over 100 years!  Residents of Kenya have claimed to have seen them but no one has been able to verify the sightings until a team of biologists did.  It took them months.

During my last-year’s trip to Kenya and Tanzania, we were lucky to see regular spotted leopards.  They are one of the most elusive animals in Africa.  We watched one in a tree for several hours before I was able to get an acceptable shot of it.

Wild Pigs Are Not Your Average Squirrel

I’ve had a lot of people tell me they did everything they could to get rid of chipmunks and squirrels.  My aunt, for instance, hated seeing squirrels climb up her bird feeder pole so she greased it.  That didn’t stop the dang squirrels; they then started climbing the tree that overhung the feeder and leaped onto it.  I thought she was going to say that she then cut the limbs of the tree, or the tree itself–but no.  She glued pieces of broken glass to the top of the feeder.

Now I know that would be frowned on today but this was back in the 60’s, and anyway, she died years ago so the feds can’t prosecute her.

hogtrapping1That brings me to the point of this post (of course you were waiting patiently).  I recently heard about hunting feral pigs because they were taking over yards and fields and farms.  The farmers actually made money by allowing hunters to fly over their land and blast away at all the wild pigs they could shoot.

I also just came across a website for a company that does wild pig removal. It had a list of removal companies.  Supposedly, there is actually a “right” trap for these critters, although they don’t tell how to build one.  I guess they know you wouldn’t have a need to hire them then.  The site says that once you capture one, “it is advised not to handle them.”  I can buy into that.

To keep wild pigs from coming into your yard, the article suggests letting your dog roam free. Personally, that doesn’t seem like the best idea if the hog in question has tusks.  But , hey, it’s up to you.

ps, let me know if you have wild pigs in your yard.  I’ll email you the link.

Disappearing Giants

At the beginning of the TV show Trophy the other night, a crawl ran across the screen saying that in 1979, there were 1,300,000,000 elephants in Africa; now there are just 130,000.  Last year, 1,100 elephants were shot by hunters, 30,000 were killed by poachers!  Unfortunately, the money raised by regulated hunting and tourist safaris is only a fraction of that needed to stop those who wantonly kill elephants for their tusks and other parts.  At the same time, here in the U.S. government is spending $6.8 billion on pork belly projects for politicians to “bribe” their local constituents.  Hmm, maybe we could donate a little from the pork belly fund to save a few elephants?

Bark, Rover, Bark

I’ll bet, like me, you’ve stood listening to seals or sea lions point their snouts into the air and let out a series of barks.  Perhaps you’ve witnessed an entire herd or them racing frantically around creating a cacophony of sound.  They almost seem frantic to deliver a message.

outdoor projects photo

Thanks to outdoor

There is a spot on the Oregon Coast called Simpson’s Reef where hundreds of seals, sea lions, and other pinnipeds stop to rest while on their migration journey.  If you roll down your car window as you approach, you can hear the barking.  Seeing and hearing them is an awesome experience.

I decided to come up with a story that gives my explanation as to why they do this.  You may or may not agree with me, but, hey, that’s why they call it “fiction.”  I hope you’ll read my first novel, With Which the Waters Swarm, then let me know what you think.  With Which the Waters Swarm is an easy read, for middle-grade readers as well as young adults and adults.

40 Years Later–First Novel Now Available!

swarmcoverFinally! One of my novels is complete.  With Which the Waters Swarm  has just been put up on and will be available other places as well.  It’s available in both print and as an e-book.  I’d love to get some feedback on what you think of it.


NowAvailableIt’s the story of a herd of North Pacific Fur Seals who are threatened by sealers facing a recession. The men therefore ignore all international rules regarding how many seals they can take.  In other words, the seals are being wiped out. During their Great Migration, the seals, absent their protective leaders who were taken by the sealers, must come up with ways they can fight back.

Each seal has an adventure during its Journey that contributes to the knowledge base of the herd.  A grand battle ensues upon their return.  I’ll leave you to read it to learn the outcome.

I started this novel while riding the bus into Boston many years ago.  I’d start writing when I got on the bus for the hour’s ride into the city and not stop until I got off.  Then I would hurry out of work at the end of the day, hop aboard, and continue.  I’ve been “massaging” it ever since. Hopefully, it will be worth the wait.

I think the book will be of interest to everyone from middle school through adult.  But you tell me.


See the Sea


The rugged Oregon coast

One day I realized that I have seldom lived more than a couple of miles from an ocean in my entire  life.  Growing up in a fishing village on the Oregon Coast, I never gave a thought to it.  Our home overlooked the ocean; I worked on my father’s salmon fishing boat during summers; while in college, I had a flagman’s job on a bridge that fishing boats crossed under; I worked at the Sunset Beach State Park.

Then, in the Navy, after boot camp on San Diego Bay, I was surrounded by ocean while stationed on Guam.  I even flew on seaplanes down to many of the small islands in the Mariana Islands, islands where water/land battles were fought during World War II.

Now I live in Massachusetts, on the South Shore below Boston.  One of the contiguous towns to me is Marshfield.  Why I bring this up is that, in Oregon, I lived for a while in Coos Bay, a town that changed its name from Marshfield.  My Oregon history book tells me that settlers there came from Marshfield in Massachusetts.

All of this is a way of saying it’s no wonder that the novel I’m just ready to publish, With Which the Waters Swarm, and the others I’m working on, all involve an ocean or two.  No matter how I’ve tried to steer my writing elsewhere, that darned water won’t let me.  Is that a bad thing?  Of course not.  But what it means is that you readers will have to put up with my infatuation when reading my books.  Of course, that’ll be easy for those of you who also love the ocean.  If you aren’t water fans?  I hope I can convert you.

Waterdogs in the Pond

When I was growing up in a small fishing village on the Oregon Coast, I never gave a second thought to the possibility of running out of natural resources.  Whether lumber, fish, trees, or whatever, there was always an abundance.  I can recall going down to the protective rock jetty at the boat basin with a handmade spear consisting of a stick and a coat hanger and stabbing flounder after flounder as they came in with the tide through the rocks.  Or putting four hooks on a fishing line and dangling it from a boat in the sheltered harbor at Sunset Beach and pulling up four hooks filled with black cod every time we lowered our lines.  My brother and I used to go out behind our home, which was attached to the back of my dad’s tavern.  There were a bunch of old cars turned upside down and sideways in a swampy area.  We would spend hours with our BB buns shooting waterdogs as they rose to the surface.  For those of you who don;t know, these are a type of salamander apparently called mudpuppies in some sections of the country.

We typically did nothing with any of these “prey.” We wouldn’t eat them or give them away.  As far as I remember, we’d just dump them back in the water or probably leave them to rot on a beach.  Looking back, it is embarrassing.  But that was the culture where I lived.  Salmon fisherman were out to take as many cohos and chinooks as they could and they began complaining when the government started talking about setting limits.  Lumber companies–Weyerhauser, Menasha,  Georgia Pacific–raped the steep hillsides of Douglas-Firs, Western Hemlock, and Port Orford Cedar until forced to restock with seedlings and to leave large stands of choice timber alone.

Today, of course, the world faces one of its worst environmental dangers, the potential destruction of our planet  because of greenhouse gases.  As 70 nations meet to discuss the damage and remedies, most of us citizens go about our business polluting just as we always have.  Cutting back on emissions would be a nuisance and an inconvenience. After all, there are plenty more waterdogs in the pond.