Another Year

Another December 31st, another year is ending. Here, in my cozy corner of our big planet, I’m ready with the new calendar going up on the wall to replace the old one now marked with appointments met (and some not met).

As I write this, my mind reflects on the past. It seems as if every year goes past us in such a hurry, which suggests a poem I wrote when I was a youngster at college. It’s more of a lyric than a poem because I structured it around a tune playing in my head at the time. I often wrote poetry that way and could have been a musician if I’d have pursued it. But making art was more important at the time, so…

The poem is called A Day Song.

Our eyes are fixing on the time
On moving hands and sacred signs
And chimes that ring the end of day.

Our minds are wanting time to slow
To have it stop and never go
To celebrate the day that stays.

Our time comes ’round in furrowed lines
In yellowed books and cellar wines
And bells that ring the end of day.

Our hearts are wanting time to slow
To have it stop and never go
To celebrate an endless day.

Old lips are thirsting springtime rain
To feel alive and young again
To taste the times we loved so well.

Our eyes are sad to see time go
To watch it run and always flow
To watch it pass and never dwell.

The end of every year stirs memories of accomplishments and failures. It’s what we do, then make resolutions to do better, accomplish more. While I write this, my mind reflects on my accomplishments and failures of 2021. My biggest failure was not blogging regularly.

I continued writing and stayed serious with my writing goals this year, though I did not post anything here during January. Thus, the month is a big goose egg in my blogging score.

In February, I posted two old Louie & Bruce comic strips from 1982 and received an achievement award from WordPress for blogging with them for ten years. I posted the news and earned a 3 for my score of posts for the year.

I scored a 2 in March for posting two more old Louie & Bruce strip from 1982, and a 1 in April for posting an apple orchard painting and the poem it inspired from 2006.

A Brief Pause in an Apple Orchard
A Brief Pause in an Apple Orchard, Oil Painting

I had nothing in May, which was a busy month of writing my books, designing book covers, replacing my old laptop with a new one, and learning some new writing and art apps that I put on it.

July was a busy blogging month, which I scored a 5 for posting more writing news, as well as reposting a poem about U.S. government’s calamities and a reflection of my stomach surgery in 2020.

I scored deuces in August and again in September. The four posts were about my writing and publishing endeavors. You can see several samples of my book cover art in the September posts.

If you’re still with me, October brought 1 post on Halloween (I love Halloween and frankly, the whole month of October) and another art post in November that features both wildlife and book cover art.

Day of the Fairies e-book cover

And now—ta dah! Today’s post scores me a 4 for the month. Three of them were shameless promotions of my e-book “A Night of Hellhounds” at Amazon. During those posts, I got in a serious quandary here at home over why my spellcheckers hyphenate e-book but not email. No one I’ve talked to knows why. If you do, please leave me a comment telling me why.

So, here we are at the end of this post—number 20 and the last one of 2021. Obviously, my goal for 2022 is to post more than twenty times before December 31st comes again. Another goal is to finish more books and to stay healthy. And it’s good health I wish upon you.

Have a wonderful day and (drumroll—the old end-of-year joke is coming) I’ll see you next year.

Macroscopic Death [repost]

Faces fading like new literature,
soft and pale,
sink into the quicksand of poverty.
Their government turned their dollars into pennies.
One hundred George Washingtons won’t buy a fistfight today.
But a hundred Ben Franklins can get you murdered…
Franklin kicks Washington’s ass every time.

But whose city park does big Ben stand in?
Philadelphia?
Tiananmen Square?
DC, where the crackle of old flesh inside the White House
grows loud above the vomiting whispers from a Chinese whorehouse
fronting the CCP,
UN,
and WTO?

Oblivious,
Washington’s carved face remains proud and noble
in his green erection
where he stands alone in the town park I sit at.
Alabaster pigeon poop covers his broad shoulders.
Cell phones twitter at his feet with news that does not educate;
a horror brought about by the theft of a billion gold Franklins
when our infected financiers sold America at the First World War
for a hero’s seat at Versailles.

Washington died the day Franklin was fitted as bridegroom
for the multiple marriage of our country to the World Bank,
to OPEC,
to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,
to the World Economic Forum,
to the World Council of Churches,
to the World Health Organization,
for unity by assimilation
for control by one government worldwide.

Taken By Surprise, by Polly Smrcka [guest post]

(From Hatch Hollow Tomboy. Used by permission.)

Life on the stony, rolling acres of the family farm was never dull. There were always new and interesting, sometimes frightening, experiences to add to the daily humdrum of endless work. Never were two days alike.

One particular day from early childhood never dims in my memory with the passage of many years since its happening. Let me tell you about it.

It was my turn to help Martin drive the cows home from the pasture for the evening milking. It was one chore that I always enjoyed. It seemed more like play than work. There were all sorts of things to explore on the way to the farthest corner of the pasture where we usually found the cows.

The family dog, Peggy, was our daily companion. The mere presence of the shaggy, sable collie made us feel safe even in the darkest part of the woods that we had to cross to find the cattle. I was also her duty to heel any ornery cow into line with the rest of the herd. It was a duty that Peggy performed instinctively and well.

Although my extravagant imagination often convinced me that there were all kinds of scary things hiding behind every grassy hummock or perching on branches in the shadows of the hemlock thicket that we had to pass along the cowpath, waiting to jump out and scare the wits out of us, I was sure that Peggy would not let anything hurt us.

Dad always reminded us to “be sure you take Peggy along. She will protect you on the way.” Secure in this knowledge, Martin and I took our time to get to the back forty where the cows lay content, chewing their cuds. We took time to check out every bird nest along the way. We stopped at every rabbit hole and dropped in small stones to see if a bunny might scamper out of another hole a few feet away. We poked sharp sticks into every anthill and watched the ants race crazily in all directions, bumping into one another and backing off and heading in another direction.

“Let’s pick some wildflowers for Mom,” I suggested to Martin. “There aren’t any flowers in the garden yet, that Mom will let us pick, so we can pick some here in the pasture. The cows won’t care.”

“Aw, Polly,” scoffed Martin, “You’re such a silly kid. You know that Mom doesn’t like wild buttercups. They make her sneeze too much. C’mon, let’s git the cows home before someone comes lookin’ fer us.”

Martin was right. Mom never let us bring buttercups into the house. But there was still time to stop and pick a handful of ripe, juicy blackberries from a clump of tall brambles near the cowpath. A tomboy’s tummy always had room for a few succulent berries.

The old butternut tree on the bank of the small creek near the back of the pasture was always a favorite place to explore. There were three or four large holes in the trunk. Bushytailed squirrels lived in the biggest hole up in the crotch were several limbs branched toward the blue sky. Martin was a good tree climber and he never missed a chance to check the comings and goings of the squirrel family.

Girls in our family were not allowed to climb trees. My mother lived by strict European ideas. Those ideas held that no decent girl or woman would be caught dead climbing a tree. Think of the shame of it! Some man or boy might come along and see an inch or two beyond your long skirts. How would you ever manage to live down such a scandalous sight? Never mind that feminine legs were fully encased in heavy cotton stockings that usually sagged and bunched around your ankles.

It didn’t seem fair that only boys could do things that were the most fun. But there was no use in trying to change my mother’s views on the way her daughters ought to behave. So I had to be satisfied with poking into the holes closer to the ground. A redheaded woodpecker lived in one and I saw a skunk come out of the hole that went down under the roots of the butternut tree. I could never work up enough courage to poke a stick into the place where the stinky animal lived.

Martin often tried to goad me into disturbing the skunk. “I dare ya t’ even drop a little bitty rock inta his hole,” he taunted wickedly, “jes’ t’ see what the ol’ skunk’il do.”

“If ya wanna know so bad what he’ll do, smarty,” I retorted, “why’n’cha try it yerself. I’m not gonna do it an’ git myself all stunk up!”

Martin knew when his tomboy sister had bested him. He guessed that we’d better be getting the cows home. He walked away from the butternut tree and I followed after I made sure that Peggy trotted ahead of us.

I couldn’t swat fast enough to kill all the pesky deer flies that were out to get their dinner from my bare arms and legs. Martin at least had long sleeves on his blue chambray shirt and he wore long denim overalls to cover his legs. The flies did not bother him too much. But I was soon scratching at least a dozen places.

When we came to a shrubby place at the edge of the bog we walked into a cloud of midges and we knew that a thunderstorm was brewing not too far away. Otherwise the midges would have stayed in the shady bog instead of crawling into our eyes and hair and driving us wild.

By and by the herd came into view. There was a brand new calf trying out its wobbly legs while it looked for the right end of its mother to have its first meal. The cow, a large black and white Holstein, stood patiently while her baby searched and butted her belly. She kept nudging the calf in the right direction but it didn’t seem to understand.

Martin laughed and pointed to the bumbling calf. “Lookit that dumb calf. You’d think it couldn’t help but see where to go to suck for milk. That ol’ cow’s bag is as big as a washtub.”

“Well, how do you expect a new calf to know that? It was just born a little while ago,” I scolded my brother. “You didn’t know how to eat as soon as you were born, either.”

Peggy knew her job, and she lost no time in rounding up the cows and moving them toward home. Martin and I quickly counted heads to be sure that none stayed behind. Martin said we had one too many. I counted again. Sure enough. One cow too many. Where did it come from?

What we didn’t know was that a neighbor’s young bull had jumped over the fence into our pasture for an amorous interlude with one of our bossies.

I will never know why that angry bull chose to chase me instead of my brother. Maybe he simply hated towheaded tomboys, but he showed this one how quickly she could climb a tree.

It was a good thing that the gnarled wild apple tree was close by or I might not be here to tell this tale. I cannot tell how I climbed the tree. But climb I did, faster than you could say Aunt Fannie’s bustle. And there I stayed, precariously perched in the highest branches, my heart pounding a mile a minute. It was a close call.

I guess the bull realized that he could not reach me. But do you think he would admit defeat and go away so I could come down from the treetop? Not on your life! He stayed under the tree and snorted and pawed the dirt and made rumbling noises that sounded like distant thunder. I hoped that he really felt frustrated. Served him right! Maybe he would break off one of those long, sharp horns, too, if he kept on butting the apple tree.

Martin thought my predicament was the most hilarious thing that had happened on the farm all summer. “Ho, ho, ho, Polly,” he laughed, rolling on the ground and clutching his belly with his arms. “Ya better be careful so ya don’t fall outta the tree! It’s gonna be a long, long night up there cuz ya don’t know how ta climb back down.”

I held tightly to the sturdy branch and watched Martin and Peggy drive the cows home. It was the most forlorn feeling I had ever known. I shivered violently in the summer heat and turned my attention back to the ugly bull.

Martin may have looked forward to the prospect of his tomboy sister spending the night up a tree. But it was not to be. As soon as Dad saw that Martin was coming alone with the cows and Peggy, he wanted to know where Martin left me. What could Martin do? He had to tell.

Dad soon came to my rescue. Peggy came with him. The bull left before they came. Dad coaxed me to come down. I sat fast until Dad reassured me that he fixed the broken fence that the bull tore up when he jumped over into our pasture. Dad even pointed at the diminishing form of the bull in the distance in his own pasture, heading for his own barn.

I knew that fright made me climb the apple tree. Now it was fright that kept me from climbing down. But Dad was patient and slowly guided my trembling hands and feet until I felt the solid ground under me and Dad’s strong arms around me.

It was a long, long time until I got over the surprise in the pasture. Martin drove the cows home alone for the rest of the summer.

Copyright © 2000, Polly Smrcka


About Polly

polPolly Smrcka is the author of Hatch Hollow Tomboy and The Way It Was, and wrote the column “Farm Grandma” in the Sunday edition of the Erie (PA) Times-News.

It was the beef boycott of the 1970s that started Polly’s writing career. “Suddenly beef prices at the grocery stores went sky-high,” she recalls. “Everybody blamed the farmers. As a farmer’s daughter and a farmer’s wife, I knew the farmers were not getting all that money. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Erie newspaper about it. The managing editor, Larie Pintea, liked my writing style and asked me to write more about my life growing up. I didn’t think I could do it. I graduated from an eight grade one-room school in seven years, but never considered myself a writer! What could I write about?

“Larie said, ‘Polly, write about your life. Your memory tank will never run dry,’ he said. And it never has. As the newspaper columns about life on the farm in the 1920s and 30s began to pile up, I did think of putting them in a book. But I didn’t do anything about it until someone suggested I contact the Erie County Historical Society. They agreed to publish Hatch Hollow Tomboy in 1999.” Its companion The Way It Was soon followed.

Polly’s books can be purchased by mail from the Erie County Historical Society, 417 State Street, Erie, PA 16501, phone (814) 454-1813, or at The Erie Book Store, or any Barnes & Noble, Borders, and WaldenBooks stores.

Area History, Chapter 10, by Beverley Bittner [guest post]

The Corry Building That Wouldn’t Stay Put.

By Beverley Bittner.

It was built by William Brightman in Wayne Township before the Civil War. Brightman’s father was a Methodist preacher and the 32 by 45 foot building was to be a Methodist church. It was located about one mile northwest of Corry beyond Macadam Hill at a fork in the road, one road leading to Carter Hill and the other to Wheelock – on the south side of the fork. It was built of hand-hewn red beech. An old account says, “The whole surrounding neighborhood, regardless of their spiritual condition, whether saved or not, turned out to help” with the building project.

Before it was finished, the church was used as a recruitment post for the Union Army. An eyewitness reported later that so many young men enlisted that the front cross sill gave way and dropped about five feet to the ground below “carrying with it a company of astonished men and screaming women.” (Corry Evening Journal, August 29, 1917)

The great 10 by 14 foot timber was spliced. Many years later, Rev. John Hatch, who was born and raised in Corry, and pastored here from 1914 to 1919, removed the splice and erected an iron pillar under the “long, splintering break,” as he described it. He remarked that the building was so strongly constructed that ‘‘the builders said it could be rolled end over end without damage except to the plaster.”

The First Move

About 1875 the Methodists decided to move the church to North Corry. Special preparations had to be made for the descent down Macadam Hill. With horses and oxen placed behind the building to create a slow descent, the church made it safely to its new location on East Columbus Avenue, across from Pine Grove Cemetery. For the next forty years it was part of the Methodist circuit at that location.

In 1914 the Corry Christian & Missionary Alliance church, which had been meeting in homes and rented store fronts, purchased the lot at the corner of East Washington and Maple Avenue. The Methodists were willing to sell the building. The optimistic CMA group bought it for $1,000 and prepared to move it for the second time.

The Second Move

Rev. Hatch said, “We hired mover Del McEntarfer of Union City to undertake the job.” The move took three weeks, being completed on November 2, 1914 at the cost of$335. “We had fine cooperation from the men of the church,” Rev. Hatch said. “Fred Shrader, Will Rhodes, Bro Harrison, among others.

“We called upon the contractor to see to it that under no circumstances was cursing and swearing to be permitted,” he added. “The building was so much heavier than the mover anticipated that when it was loaded and the horse started the building didn’t move; instead it just straightened out the pulley hook of the great iron block he was using. However, he got a much heavier pulley and hook and with this performed the job.”

“The Fair Association gave us permission to cut forty feet off their shed stables and move them out of the way so we could come across lots and on to their racing track (now Snyder Circle) and up the track to the south end of their premises and down on to Elk Street. Then we came east on Elk to Wayne, down Wayne to Washington and up to the present site.”

Thirty-six electric, telephone and telegraph poles had to be underdug and tilted at an angle to allow the building to pass. Because of the width of the building the workers had to travel in the ditches along the road all the way to Washington Street. On East Washington six huge poles of the Postal Telegraph Company had to be underdug, jackscrewed between the pavement and curb. The poles were 90-feet tall and embedded five feet into the ground. They were tipped at an angle to permit passage of the building.

Because of fire regulations, Rev. Hatch recalled, it was necessary to cover the wooden structure with brick veneer. “It was so cold the bricks had to be heated and salt put in the mortar to prevent freezing.”

A Corry Evening Journal article on August 29, 1917 said, “It is still in splendid condition and not one stick of the original structure had to be replaced when the building was placed upon its present foundation.”

If you happen to drive past the corner of East Washington Street and Maple Avenue, take note of the brick building and give her a salute. From Army recruiting station to church to business offices, the venerable old building has earned our respect.


About Beverley:

bevBeverley Bittner (1930–2006) was born in Dunkirk, NY, a daughter of Paul and Doris Blakeslee. She was raised and educated in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania where she graduated from Spartansburg High School in 1948. She moved to Corry, Pennsylvania in 1960, and resided there until 1979 when she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, for several years. She was the Associate Editor for the Union Gospel Press in Cleveland, and was a free-lance writer for various religious publications. She had a special interest in history, wrote about veterans of World War II, and wrote and published a series of five novels about the history of western Pennsylvania and the origins of the local oil industry. She founded the Writer’s Block in 1999 after moving back to Corry and served as a mentor to other writers until her death in 2006.