Spotted this message on the island of Curacao in 2015. Photo by Steve Martaindale.

Let’s talk about the people who pass through a child’s life, perhaps making a deep impression with relatively simple acts.

My first thought is of the man who introduced my brother and me to roller skating.

As I remember, he was a friend of my father’s and for some reason suggested one day that he take us to the local skating rink. I would have been no more than 6 years old and Ward a year younger. Nowadays, when a story starts like that, one thinks, “Oh, no,” but there was no drama except for me seeing how fast I could skate without splashing against the rail.

When I first started to write this, I thought of the man’s name as Ray … then Red … and finally Brownie. I’m not positive of either one, but I’m leaning heavily on Brownie at this point, recognizing well it may have been my father’s nickname for him.

I do not remember how long this experience with Brownie lasted, but I enjoyed roller skating into my high school years, thanks to a man I know nothing else about.

Big trip

My sophomore year in high school, our track and field team was awesome and headed into the state meet with a good chance to win it all. I do not recall even trying to wrangle a trip to Austin for the competition. Since our dad owned and ran a convenience store, things like that did not happen easily.

Again, I know not how it came about, but Ward and I were extended the offer of a trip to the state meet. This particular angel I knew a little better. He answered to the nickname Smitty.

We stayed one night in a motel – a LaQuinta on what was then the northern fringes of Austin. Early the next morning, I made my first of what would become many state track meet visits to the University of Texas.

Oh, yeah, our boys team clinched the state championship during the final event, the mile relay.

A village

None of this is new. We’ve all heard the proverb that originated in ancient communal societies, most notably in Africa, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Parents need a hand. At the very least, they can benefit from help.

So many adults – and even older children – contribute to the care and education of youth. Keeping an eye on them while parents run to the store. Housing them during a family emergency. Carrying them to school or to religious services. Helping cover participation fees for events. Coaching youth teams and leading organizations. Providing a sleepover to offer new experiences. Even intervening when a parent is the problem.

Let’s hear it for our villagers.

Of an age

Papa and Mama Martaindale.

Technical issues are preventing the timely posting of this piece. However, it is being written on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, a matter that contains some importance we will get to later.

I had three grandfathers, but only one Papa.

My mother’s biological father died when she was about 5 years old. I’ve always known that, as well as the story he died as the result of an abscessed tooth, but hardly anything more.

My mother acquired a stepfather when she was, I believe, in high school. She called him Leonard and they were obviously not close … something I think is not unusual considering family dynamics. I called him Pa.

Pa was a good enough grandfather, though. I have a number of good memories – picking cotton at his place in West Texas, the pocket watch he kept in the vest of his coveralls, the Christmas morning he insisted we leave our presents to look at a “robin” in the front yard only to reveal a deep wonderland of snow.

He died in June 1974. I took a day off from my summer job to drive to Oklahoma for the funeral, which led to an invitation from my uncle who lived in Idaho that concluded in me taking my first big trip to visit him at the end of the summer.

Finally, my grandfather on my dad’s side was the man I called Papa. This is about him.

I’ve always felt a particular attachment to him, partly because he, my father and I shared a middle name. The truth, though, is I only have three strong memories of him because he died when I was only 3 years old.

Memory No. 1: My brother and I were at his home and he was giving us rides on his back while he ran around the living room floor on his hands and knees. For whatever reason, it was so much fun. I also remember looking through a crack in the floor and seeing the ground underneath.

Memory No. 2: We walked from his home, my younger brother and I each holding one of his hands, to a little store down the street. As I remember, his mission was to pick up a carton of eggs. As a bonus, Ward and I each scored a candy bar.

Memory No. 3: I was standing next to his casket in the funeral home; he was dead of a cerebral hemorrhage, lying inside. Certainly, there was considerable discussion between my parents and perhaps my grandmother as to whether I should have this experience, but I’ve always been thankful for it.

I must add it is likely that another reason I felt a strong attachment to this man I knew so briefly was because his widow, the grandmother I called Mama, lived another 35 years. I spent a lot of time with her and she was always talking about the man she called Jackson – that middle name we shared.

Jan. 24, 2023

Back to this date.

A couple of months ago, I was researching something, came across Papa’s date of death and it struck me: I’m at that age now.

Specifically, on this date, I am 68 years and 107 days old, the age of Papa when he died.

Morbid? Perhaps. But I remember, years and years ago, wondering if I would live to be as old as Papa. It seemed like such a long time. It doesn’t seem quite so long now.

On the road

Our view of Valencia.

Three years after Covid nailed us down, Leah and I are off and running again.

We arrived in Valencia, Spain, on Thursday, to spend three weeks with an incredibly gracious cousin and another week on a nearby island.

The plan was to post columns here as we went. That may happen eventually, but connectivity issues are hampering me right now.

I’m limited to using my phone and I hate typing on it. So, bear with me and I promise to catch you up later.



An alligator soaking up some sun at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas. Photo by Steve Martaindale

And then there was the time I wrestled a wild, live alligator.

It took place in Bay City, Texas. Being less than 20 miles from East Matagorda Bay, and just off the banks of the Colorado River, and with plenty of irrigation canals and storm ditches, the idea of alligators in the area certainly isn’t difficult to believe, but I never thought I’d find one in the middle of town in the bed of a pickup truck.

It was a Sunday, the only day of the week things were not happening at the daily newspaper where I worked. I entered the building and found the keys to the circulation department’s pickup hanging where they were supposed to be.

That was a good start. Without the pickup I was allowed to borrow, moving that piano from our church to our home would not happen and the two or three guys from work who were showing up to help would have done so in vain.

I did a double-take, however, as I approached the door of the truck. Tied up in the bed was an American alligator.

This presented a problem. You see, I really needed this truck.

The gator seemed tied up well enough that it probably couldn’t bite me unless it broke free. The tail was concerning, though. It wasn’t huge, but it was still an alligator. Before I worried too much about those things, I needed a plan for what to do with it.

I surmised (correctly, I later learned) that someone delivering newspapers the previous evening came across the reptile and, for what I must assume they thought was a good reason, decided it needed to be relocated. I knew local game wardens had the habit of taking trespassing alligators to a more remote spot and freeing them.

But what was I to do? Releasing the critter, even if I had the nerve to remove the ropes, was not a good choice, being that we were on a busy thoroughfare with a residential area immediately behind us. I searched the area for an answer.

I really needed this truck.

My eyes landed on a 30-gallon plastic trash can.


I cannot clearly picture in my mind just how I got the alligator into the can. This was about 40 years ago, after all. But I’m pretty sure it had something to do with scooting the can to take in the gator’s head while strategically untying the ropes that had it bound to the truck. Soon enough, the deed was done and I dragged can and gator to a shady area near the door, covered part of the top with cardboard and left a warning message on it.

To my relief, when I later returned the truck, the gator had been removed.

How do you want those eggs?

A good breakfast is a great reward for rising early. Photo by Steve Martaindale

I love breakfasts. Always have. Any time of the day.

Pancakes. Eggs. Bacon. Sausage. Biscuits with sausage gravy. Biscuits and strawberry preserves. Breakfast tacos. Toast. French toast. Doughnuts. Kolaches. Pigs in blankets. Huevos Ranchero. Cinnamon buns. Fruit cobbler. Even oatmeal or Malt-O-Meal.

Now, I’ll also eat an omelet or quiche or eggs Benedict or yogurt or fresh fruit … but they’re not getting me out of bed early.

I probably took breakfast for granted because it always happened at our house, but it became a focal point for me when helping my dad open his grocery store, Martaindale’s 7-Eleven at 3810 W. Marshall, Longview, Texas. Three doors down, across Harrison Road, was Paul’s Grill.

It was Daddy’s routine to get breakfast and coffee every morning before opening the store at 6 a.m. – 7 a.m. on Sundays. During the summer, and most weekends during the school year, either my brother or I would usually accompany him to open the store. The other one often helped close the store at 11 o’clock.

Paul’s was your standard grill … and somewhat magical in my eyes.

The waitresses seemed to keep an eye out for my dad’s pickup. When they spotted it, they put in an order for his usual and would have coffee ready by the time he reached his seat.

During the summers, they would wait until they could see which boy was with him and turn in the respective favorite. Mine was a short stack with sausage. That’s a “stack” of two (or was it three?) pancakes, if you’re not familiar with the term. The sausage was patties. The butter and syrup flowed freely. My drink of choice was hot chocolate.

Life was good.

Leadership lesson

The University of Georgia’s Monday night beatdown of TCU for football’s Division I national championship somehow brought up the memory of what I’ve always held as one of the best lessons I’ve encountered on leadership.

I ask some of you to bear with me. This is not another sports story.

We were entering the final week of the 1995 high school football season in Texas. I had been the editor of the Denison Herald newspaper a little more than a year and our local high school team, the Denison Yellow Jackets, qualified for the state championship game against La Marque.

Back then, schools meeting in playoff games would negotiate where to play, even for the championship. Usually, they would try to choose a nice venue somewhere between the two. For the Denison-La Marque game, there was plenty of room to choose from since it was some 350 miles from Denison on the Red River to La Marque, which was all but on the Gulf of Mexico, but there wasn’t a lot to choose from in the middle of that drive. There were, however, two pearls, one on each end of the string.

The Houston Astrodome sat 39 miles from La Marque. Texas Stadium was 76 miles from Denison. Either was an exciting location for a high school game.

It came down to a coin flip. Winner chooses the venue. La Marque won.

This begins my story.


I was off work on Monday, but that afternoon I got a head’s-up phone call from my city editor about the plans being made in my absence.

Just a little more background. Denison lies next to Sherman, actually meeting each other on U.S. 75 and Texoma Parkway. They are true sister cities, all the way down to sibling rivalries. At that time, each had its own newspaper. To be sure, we were in competition with the Sherman Democrat, but it was in some ways softened by the fact we were both owned by the same company. For example, we used their printing press. Staffers were friends with each other.

So, while I was raking leaves on my day off, the two publishers – doing what publishers often do – sought to figure the most economical way to cover an important event occurring some 320 miles away. Their solution was to send my sports editor to provide stories for both papers and to rely on The Associated Press for photos. Or something like that.

Thanks to Michelle Dooner cluing me in, I was prepared when my publisher arrived Tuesday morning. After he outlined the plan, I said, “OK, now here’s what I want to do.”

The late Mark Palmer was typical of most publishers in that he did not come from the news side of the business. Generally speaking, that’s really a good thing because journalists are not usually that great at worrying about the profit line. A budget left up to newspaper editors would result in a lot of underutilized helicopters.

Back to Mark and me standing in his office; I’m offering my plan:

“I want to send Ty (Benz, our sports editor), Joe (Cole, our photographer) and Don (Munsch, a news reporter who had been doing feature stories throughout the playoffs).” I don’t remember how I framed my presentation except to point out that if La Marque won, we could expect most of the AP photos to feature them. (That proved to be the case.)

While we were discussing this, the paper’s advertising director and assistant publisher, Wes King, walked in.

“Steve tells me I’ve been underestimating the importance of this ball game,” Mark said.

“Oh, yeah,” came the reply.

And this is the lesson on leadership…

First, my publisher actually listened and considered an alternate opinion. He then told me to proceed as I wanted, that he would eat crow, cover the expenses, and work things out with the Sherman publisher (who was also his boss).

Twenty-seven years later, it still ranks as one of my more notable management experiences.

Puttin’ On the Ritz

It was the winter of 1974-75. Co-worker Linnie and I squeezed into a packed movie theater for Mel Brooks’ new release, “Young Frankenstein,” with the enviable acting lineup of Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman and Teri Garr.

If you’ve not seen “Young Frankenstein,” perhaps Brooks’ best movie, find it and view it. Back to the theater.

We were at the scene where Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Wilder) was trying to animate the monster (Boyle), raising the body up a tower during a lightning storm. He yells at Igor (Feldman) to throw the electrical switch for maximum power, even though we can all see the warnings on the equipment to not do so. Igor shrugs, pushes the switch and …

If you’re familiar with the movie, you know what happens next, but that’s not what we saw.

When he threw the switch, the entire screen went black. We laughed. I made some comment that only Mel Brooks would do that. We waited.

Soon, we all began to realize this was going on too long. I looked over my shoulder toward the back wall. Through the small projection room window, a light was on and someone was hurriedly manipulating the equipment.

How I wished to be watching the film with Brooks just to see him slap his forehead and exclaim, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Waxing nostalgic

Ah, a new calendar, brimming with potential, awash with possibilities, stuffed full of hope and promise.

I’ve never gotten seriously caught up in New Year’s resolutions, probably due to a keen self-awareness of my weaknesses. However, I’m entering 2023 with a goal.

Its origin is in a line from my official favorite song, “He Went to Paris,” by Jimmy Buffett. This beautiful ballad says of its protagonist:

Now he lives in the islands
Fishes the pilings
And drinks his green label each day
Writing his memoirs
Losing his hearing
But he don’t care what most people say…

To be honest, however, the memoirs seed was actually planted some 35 years ago. A woman asked me to lightly edit and put into a typesetting program (for those who aren’t aware, Microsoft Word has not always been with us) the handwritten memoirs of her aging father. It was amazing, working through his stories and recollections.

Continue reading Waxing nostalgic

At least it’s Friday

This is you picking out “The Reporter and…” books for your gift list.
This is you rushing around town shopping. (Photos by Steve Martaindale)

Are you yet tired of hearing about Black Friday sales?

Regardless, here’s mine … but with a twist.

All six books in my JP Weiscarver Mystery Series (Yeah, I hear you; I’m trying to get back to work on No. 7.) are sold through and I’ve marked the paperbacks down as low as Amazon will allow.

How low?

It varies by book (due to the cost of printing, which I suppose is based primarily on the number of pages) and starts at $6.69 for The Reporter and the Penguin as well as The Reporter and the Apples, topping off at $8.25 for the Reporter and the Marmot. Wait, there is one exception. For some technical reason, they wouldn’t allow me to make the price change on The Reporter and the Sloth without me repeating the entire publication process, so it still carries the original $12.95 price tag.

And, of course, if you are an Amazon Prime member (#ad), you even get free shipping to most places.

A twist?

OK, I’ve proven I’m no marketing genius, so I might as well fly in the face of professional wisdom here: these prices will stay in effect at least through Christmas, maybe longer. So, yeah, you don’t have to rush, but, come on, you know how you tend to procrastinate.


Why not? Maybe it’s because, after the past few years, I’d like to push something that doesn’t make us scream accusations at each other. Maybe sales will go crazy and I’ll sell enough (Yes, even at the minimum prices, I’ll make more than a dollar per book.) to help fund our next trip. Maybe one of you will gift your favorite JP Weiscarver book(s) to a good publisher friend. Maybe I’m simply in need of attention.

“Why not?” is probably the best answer.


You can just find them on Amazon at this link (#ad) or go to my books tab here for links to each book. Please note the prices for Kindle books and the Dream Chasing 101 books have not changed. Understand that as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

School days

A little trip down memory lane…

I was sitting in my classroom at one of those desks with a fixed work surface that slanted down toward the student. Perhaps you’ll recall they had a little groove cut into the desk, a short distance from the top, where you could place your pen or pencil.

When I picked up my book or paper that day, my pencil started rolling toward me. Probably because my hands were full, I did not catch it. However, as it fell toward my lap, I brought my legs together to keep it from hitting the floor.

It worked.

The pencil came down between my legs and was caught in the squeeze, eraser on my left leg, the point on my right. I might have squeaked a bit when the pencil lead dug into my thigh, but nobody said anything. I didn’t like drawing attention to myself back then.

It didn’t appear to bleed, so I waited until I got home to check it out. The only visible evidence was a dark spot, the approximate color of pencil lead, the skin giving it something of a blue tint.

Today, more than 55 years later, the spot remains on the inside of my right thigh, a few inches above my knee.

Here’s the point.

That was probably the most dangerous thing I experienced during fourth grade at Pine Tree Elementary School in Longview, Texas.

The most bothersome thing for me was never getting up the nerve to tell Wendy I liked her.

But absolutely no school shootings.

One more thing

Per, firearms are the leading cause of death for American children and teens.

Important stuff

What are you, Team Amber or Team Johnny? I can’t say, as I’ve not paid any attention whatsoever to the goings-on.

However, I have some thoughts about the length of the trial.

Back in my reporter days, I covered a handful of murder trials. I suspect none of them garnered headlines outside our area. No celebrities, not even any local heroes. (There was one man convicted of murder who was in a wheelchair, having lost his legs several years earlier; that might have gotten some attention somewhere.)

Here’s the thing.

These murder trials – involving punishing someone for causing the death of another human, involving the question of putting someone in prison for maybe the rest of his life, involving the most basic offenses of humanity – were all conducted and wrapped up in a matter of days. As I recall, only one extended into the second week and lasted only one or two days more.

Yes, almost all of the murder trials were conducted within four or five days.

Meanwhile, this celebrity civil trial is entering its sixth week.


Because defamation is more complicated than murder? More heinous?

Because rich people are more deserving of a carefully considered verdict?

Or maybe because they make “better television”?

I don’t know, but I am confident our judicial system is being misused, if not outright abused.

One more thing

Why do judges wear black robes? According to

“Upon the founding of the United States, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson disagreed on the attire judges should wear. Adams wanted judges to wear red robes and wigs as English judges did. Jefferson wanted judges to simply wear suits. A compromise between these two points of view was reached in which Adams and Jefferson agreed that judges in the United States would wear black robes without the wigs.”


A setting sun struggles to punch its way through evening clouds in central Texas. Photo by Steve Martaindale.

We had our first valid tornado threat of the season a few weeks ago.

Anyone who lives in Tornado Alley (however it’s defined; see this) understands. Anyone who does so in a recreational vehicle or mobile home deeply understands.

Forecasts refused to back down from the threat of severe weather and Leah and I eventually got serious about it as the storm front continued its approach. I started by checking out the laundry / rest rooms building at the RV park. It seemed fairly sound, certainly better than our trailer.

Since the park manager was away on a trip, we started notifying a few people who are older and alone and spread the word to others in case they wanted to join us. The manager’s mother was one we checked on, knowing her daughter and son-in-law were out of town. When she called them, her son-in-law told her to unlock the office for everyone. I didn’t like the windows, but it did have a television so we could track weather reports and, besides, the laundry was right next door.

Honestly, I didn’t expect many to join us, but people begin showing up as the skies darkened. More than a dozen hung out in and around the office.

There we were, mostly strangers, sharing stories and watching meteorologists and eying the skies. We got to know people we’d only waved at before. Stealing the show was a 6-month-old cutie who seemed to assume she was the reason we were all gathered together.

The strongest storms split and skirted us, dropping little rain and no hail. Winds were high but not dangerous. Lightning filled the skies but seemed to stay there. During a break in cloud cover, I looked up and saw Orion’s belt. As we gazed at the stars, we decided it was safe to go home.


Someone pointed to the east, and we spotted what appeared to be a funnel cloud. While it was moving away from us, I think everyone decided to stick around just a little longer.

One more thing

Some parks have designated storm shelters, usually brick and mortar meeting rooms, laundries, office, etc.

Several years ago, we were near Toomsuba, Miss., and sound asleep when someone banged on our door.

“This is Guy, from the office,” he yelled. “We’re under a tornado warning; I suggest you move to the rest rooms at the office.”

After alerting everyone, Guy opened the office, turned on the TV and started a pot of coffee.

A park we’ve visited outside Tulsa has an impressive storm shelter on site. I mean, it’s so tough looking, I bet some folks almost wish to ride out a tornado in it.

On the other end of the spectrum is a park in Kennebec, S.D. While the town has a population of only 281 people, it is the county seat, when means it has a courthouse. Instructions for people staying at the RV park were, in case of a tornado threat, to go to the courthouse. I think it even said the park owner had a key.

Go … uh … team?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare. Photo by Steve Martaindale

The 2022 Major League Baseball season opened today. Remembering that, I clicked over to see how the games were going.

One of the first finals I saw was that the Royals had defeated the Guardians 3-1. Uh … Guardians?

OK, while I enjoy watching baseball, I’m not really one to keep up with all the details. When I saw Guardians is the mascot of the Cleveland team, I recalled they had parted ways with the name Cleveland Indians. Well, what I really remembered was the removal of the Chief Wahoo mascot.

That got me started wondering and a quick Google search showed the team in Cleveland had gone by Indians since 1915. Wow, some 106 years.

But wait; there’s more.

Prior to being the Indians, the team was the Cleveland Napoleons/Naps (1903–1914), the Cleveland Bronchos (1902), the Cleveland Bluebirds/Blues (1901–1902), the Cleveland Lake Shores (1900), and, initially, and the Grand Rapids Rippers (1894–1899).

You certainly know where this is going … what about the other teams’ nicknames?

Atlanta Braves – Atlanta Braves (1966–present), Milwaukee Braves (1953–1965), Boston Braves (1941–1952), Boston Bees (1936–1940), Boston Braves (1912–1935), Boston Rustlers (1911), Boston Doves (1907–1910), Boston Beaneaters (1883–1906), Boston Red Caps (1876–1882), and Boston Red Stockings (1871–1875).

Baltimore Orioles – Baltimore Orioles (1954–present), St. Louis Browns (1902–1953), and Milwaukee Brewers (1901).

Boston Red Sox – Boston Red Sox (1908–present), and Boston Americans (1901–1907).

Chicago Cubs – Chicago Cubs (1903–present), Chicago Orphans (1898–1902), Chicago Colts (1890–1897), and Chicago White Stockings (NL) (1876–1889).

Chicago White Sox – Chicago White Sox (1904–present), and Chicago White Stockings (1900–1903)

Cincinnati Reds – Cincinnati Reds (1959–present), Cincinnati Redlegs (1954–1958), Cincinnati Reds (1890–1953), and Cincinnati Red Stockings (1882–1889).

Houston Astros – Houston Astros (1965–present), and Houston Colt .45s (1962–1964).

Los Angeles Angels – Los Angeles Angels (2016–present), Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (2005–2015), Anaheim Angels (1997–2004), California Angels (1965–1996), and Los Angeles Angels (1961–1965).

Los Angeles Dodgers – Los Angeles Dodgers (1958–present), Brooklyn Dodgers (1932–1957), Brooklyn Robins (1914–1931), Brooklyn Dodgers (1913), Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers (1911–1912), Brooklyn Superbas (1899–1910), Brooklyn Bridegrooms (1896–1898), Brooklyn Grooms (1891–1895), Brooklyn Bridegrooms (1888–1890), Brooklyn Grays (1885–1887), Brooklyn Atlantics (1884), and Brooklyn Grays (1883).

Miami Marlins – Miami Marlins (2012–present), and Florida Marlins (1993–2011).

Milwaukee Brewers – Milwaukee Brewers (1970–present), and Seattle Pilots (1969).

Minnesota Twins – Minnesota Twins (1961–present), Washington Senators (1901–1904, 1956–1960), and Washington Nationals/Senators (1905–1955).

New York Yankees – New York Yankees (1913–present), New York Highlanders (1903–1912), and Baltimore Orioles (1901–1902).

Oakland Athletics – Oakland Athletics (1968–present), Kansas City Athletics (1955–1967), and Philadelphia Athletics (1901–1954).

Philadelphia Phillies – Philadelphia Phillies (1883–present), Philadelphia Blue Jays/Phillies (1944–1949), Philadelphia Quakers/Phillies (1884–1889), and Philadelphia Quakers (1883).

Pittsburgh Pirates – Pittsburgh Pirates (1891–present), Pittsburgh Alleghenys (1887–1890), and Allegheny (1882–1886).

St. Louis Cardinals – St. Louis Cardinals (1900–present), St. Louis Perfectos (1899), St. Louis Browns (1892–1898), St. Louis Browns (1883–1891) (AA), and St. Louis Brown Stockings (1882) (AA).

San Francisco Giants – San Francisco Giants (1958–present), New York Giants (1885–1957), and New York Gothams (1883–1884).

Tampa Bay Rays – Tampa Bay Rays (2008–present), and Tampa Bay Devil Rays (1998–2007).

Texas Rangers – Texas Rangers (1972–present), and Washington Senators (1961–1971).

Washington Nationals – Washington Nationals (2005–present), and Montreal Expos (1969–2004).

The following have had no changes, listed here with their first season: Arizona Diamondbacks (1998), Colorado Rockies (1993), Detroit Tigers (1901), Kansas City Royals (1969), New York Mets (1962), San Diego Padres (1969), Seattle Mariners (1977), and Toronto Blue Jays (1977).

My top takeaways: a team played as the Boston Beaneaters for 23 years, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been just that for 131 years, they actually used the nickname Perfectos in the 19th century, and a team went by Bridegrooms, then Grooms, and back to Bridegrooms over an 11-season period.

One more thing

“Baseball is like church. Many attend, few understand.” ― National Baseball Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher

Hey, batter

A youth baseball complex in Ogallala, Neb. Photo by Steve Martaindale

Ready or not, baseball season is upon us.

Major leaguers and wannabes are wrapping up spring training in Florida and Arizona prior to tossing out the first ball of the season Thursday. Colleges and high schools are well into their seasons.

And, of course, Little League and other youth league participants are practicing their throwing, catching, hitting, running and infield chatter.

Do they still do that?

When I was playing almost mumble-mumble years ago, chatter was a big part of the game. Primary chatterers were at first base, second, third and shortstop. Catchers often took part, too. Pitchers did not because they were busy at the time. Outfielders may have shouted, but it wasn’t as expected.

For anyone not familiar, the chatter was intended to distract the batter, mostly nonsensical things like, “Hey, batter, hey-batter, hey-batter … swing, batter!” There would also be plenty of pep talk for the pitcher, just as steeped in substance, “Put it in there, Alvin, put it in there.” Finally, a little goading was not uncommon, “He can’t hit, he can’t hit.”

It must have worked because players were taught to just block out all the noise whenever at bat.

And that tidbit is a great lesson in life.

Take care of your business and don’t let meaningless chatter distract you.

One more thing

A Roman walks into a bar. He holds up two fingers and says, “Five beers, please!”


This has nothing to do with the Mariner 10 probe to Mercury, but it’s one of few astronomical photos on hand. I shot this hand-held during totality of the Jan. 20-21, 2019, lunar eclipse of a Blood Moon. Photo by Steve Martaindale

On this date, March 29, in 1974, the unmanned U.S. space probe Mariner 10 became the first spacecraft to visit the planet Mercury.

I’ve always enjoyed the on-this-date features in newspapers. Don’t know why, but I seldom skip over them. In fact, I’ll often use one of the factoids for Facebook and Twitter posts. They sometimes make good conversation starters and often carry the potential to serve as reminders of good memories or warnings from bad events.

That’s what I started to do this morning and was impressed by the volume of notable events that have occurred on March 29.

My search began, as it often does, with The Associated Press’ daily column. You might want to bookmark for your use. Another great site is the History Channel at The AP has many more items listed, but gives tremendous depth. It’s from there I grabbed the Mariner 10 info, including that Mercury’s surface temperature varies from 800 degrees Fahrenheit when facing the sun to -279 degrees when facing away.

Back to March 29 through the years. I’m not going to reprint the whole article, but you can find it by clicking here.

Let’s quickly skim over the highlights.

In 1861, President Lincoln ordered a relief expedition to Fort Sumter, S.C.

In 1867, Queen Victoria signed an act creating the Dominion of Canada.

In 1943, World War II rationing of meat, fats and cheese began.

In 1951, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union.

In 1971, Army Lt. William L. Calley Jr. was convicted of murdering 22 Vietnamese civilians in the 1968 My Lai massacre.

In 1971, a jury recommended the death penalty for Charles Manson and three female followers for the 1969 Tate-La Bianca murders.

In 1973, the last U.S. combat troops left South Vietnam.

In 1974, eight Ohio National Guardsmen were indicted on federal charges stemming from the shooting deaths of four students at Kent State University.

In 1984, the Baltimore Colts football team moved to Indianapolis.

In 2004, seven former Soviet-bloc nations (Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Latvia and Estonia) joined NATO.

In 2017, Britain filed for divorce from the European Union.

In 2020, country singer Joe Diffie died at 61 from what a spokesman said were complications from COVID-19.

In 2021, salvage teams dislodged a ship that had blocked the Suez Canal for six days.

But there’s more.

The AP article always ends with today’s birthdays. Those catching my attention were former British Prime Minister Sir John Major, 79; basketball Hall of Famer Walt Frazier, 77; football Hall of Famer Earl Campbell, 67; actor Marina Sirtis, 67; actor Lucy Lawless, 54; and tennis Hall of Famer Jennifer Capriati, 46.

One more thing…

What do history teachers make when they want to get together?


What’s your network?

A tweet from some person in the Twitterverse crossed my screen a few weeks ago in which the writer stated he or she would happily subscribe to a television network which continuously played reruns from a set of four or five specific shows.

Many others chimed in with their own lists, which helped bring to mind a number of series I haven’t seen in years. Of course, it also got me thinking about my personalized network (and don’t you know the technology is there to do that … think of Pandora).

Quite naturally, I wondered what your list would include. Would you share your ideal network lineup? Since it’s not fair, in my opinion, to compare current series with old shows, let’s limit it to shows from the 20th century. I’m leaving it open to those that crossed centuries if the majority of its episodes were prior to 2000.

Pick as many as six shows for your network and share with us. To help fire some aging synapses, I’ve dug out lists of titles and present them in no particular order. Note I did not double-check all the program names to make sure they’re correct, so some might be misrepresented, but you’ll recognize anything you really liked. My pick for Steve’s Personal Network (SPN) will be at the end. Please add your list in a comment.

Get Smart, Sanford & Son, Love American Style, Green Acres, Hawaii Five-O, I Dream of Jeanie, Mr. Ed, Petticoat Junction, Gilligan’s Island, Bewitched, Rockford Files, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Dragnet, Sgt. Bilko, The Honeymooners, Mork, The Jeffersons, Car 54 Where Are You?…

Burns & Allen, The Addams Family, The Munsters, Highway Patrol, My Three Sons, Soupy Sales, The Outer Limits, Lost in Space, I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy, Dick Van Dyke, Cheers, Taxi, Family Affair, The Odd Couple, Love Boat, Courtship of Eddie’s Father, My Favorite Martian, F-Troop, Hogan’s Heroes, Dark Shadows, Night Court, That Girl, Facts of Life…

Bonanza, The Waltons, Combat!, Tales From the Crypt, Maverick, Laugh-In, The Muppet Show, McHale’s Navy, The Midnight Special, Roy Rogers, The Big Valley, Touched by an Angel, Perry Mason, The Fugitive, CHiPs, Emergency, Golden Girls, Perfect Strangers, Bosom Buddies, All in the Family, Harry and the Hendersons, The Beverly Hillbillies…

Police Squad, Hazel, The Monkees, Quincy M.E., Barnaby Jones, Have Gun Will Travel, The Little Rascals, M*A*S*H, Fantasy Island, Saved by the Bell, Leave it to Beaver, Hart to Hart, Matlock, Wagon Train, The Brady Bunch, Rifleman, Adam-12, The Three Stooges, The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle USMC, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Dr. Who, Seinfeld, MacGyver…

Magnum PI, 21 Jump Street, The A-Team, The Cosby Show, Little House on the Prairie, The Dukes of Hazzard, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, The Wonder Years, Married … With Children, Mission: Impossible, Murder She Wrote, Mod Squad, Twin Peaks, Gunsmoke, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Barney Miller, Good Times, What’s Happening?…

Dallas, In Living Color, Thirtysomething, Highway to Heaven, Roseanne, Hill Street Blues, Newhart, The Bob Newhart Show, Frazier, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Columbo, Barreta, The X-Files, Friends, The 6 Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, ALF, The Real McCoys, Wonder Woman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel…

Battlestar Galactica, The Greatest American Hero, The Real McCoys, Alice, Flo, Who’s the Boss?, Growing Pains, Family Ties, and … what else?

Obviously, this is not comprehensive, and someone will come up with a show I’ll be embarrassed to have overlooked.

Without further fanfare, my SPN channel will include: M*A*S*H, Taxi, The Bob Newhart Show, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Barney Miller, and Cheers.

One more thing…

Is there a more used and more helpful mnemonic than, “Righty tighty, lefty loosey”?


Scared? Honestly, I’ve not seen many — any? — successful hiccup cures due to someone trying to startle the hiccups out of the patient. Photo by Steve Martaindale

I’m not sure my pastor believed me.

OK, wait, that statement could lead to a bushel basket of speculation, the validity of which I’m not willing to place under scrutiny; let me try again.

The preacher and I were chatting on the phone last week, something we try to do regularly, especially when Leah and I are on the road, as we’ve been since late May. For the life of me, I do not recall why I brought up the topic, but I asked, “Do you know how to cure hiccups?”

He made a feeble attempt to formulate a smart-aleck answer, possibly something to do with “boo,” but I cut him off: “A spoonful of sugar.”

(Bonus points to all readers who just heard, in their mind’s ear, Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins sing, “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in a most delightful way.”)

Instead of singing, David, our preacher, said something like, “Oh, really.”

You can hear the doubt just reading those words, can’t you?

“Oh, really.”

My confirmation was two-pronged.

One, I have more than 20 years of practical application of the cure. Maybe more than 30 years. During that time, I told him, the very few efforts that failed to chase away hiccups with the first dose, inevitably succeeded with a second dose. Yes, in case you missed it, almost all of my hiccup attacks are vanquished with one spoonful of sugar. Sometimes, a second spoonful is required.

Two, there was actually a study done, published in 1971, that showed the sweet cure was effective in 19 of 20 patients. Like so many wonderful things, they’re not sure why, but the prevalent thought deals with how sugar affects the vagus nerve, which connects the brain and stomach. I don’t care why or how. I just cherish the knowledge that, if hiccups begin torturing me, a spoonful of sugar … well, you know.

Brag away!

Another #MyBrag: I’ve seen some great sunrises. Photo by Steve Martaindale

Came across a tweet today, the effects of which seemed worth sharing.

First of all, I do not know and have not previously followed Gail Simone (@GailSimone on Twitter), whose bio says she is, among other things, a “writer of comics and animation.” Doing a shallow dive to see what I could learn about her, I found all I needed to know in a beautifully heart-wrenching thread about a little boy named Zaadii, which you can find here.

That, however, is not what got me started. It was this tweet.

Get it? The challenge is to brag about something – no reservations, no excuses, just flat out bragging. Isn’t that great? Well, the proof is in the following tweets. Let’s dig into #MyBrag and see what we can pull out of them.

Continue reading Brag away!


A memorial in Lyons, N.Y. Photo by Steve Martaindale

When is Memorial Day in the United States?

Blindside a Baby Boomer with that question and you might initially get the answer May 30. That’s because, until near the end of the Vietnam War, such was the case. Until it was moved to the last Monday in May.

Why the move? Well, a glance at your local grocery store ads this week might give a clue. I can almost guarantee they will feature hot dogs, chips, charcoal briquets and a wide variety of drinks. And you are familiar with the thought the Memorial Day holiday weekend is the kickoff of summer.

Not everyone loves the idea of making a party weekend out of a day designated to honor … honor whom, exactly?

That’s another question that will trip up some people. In this case, I’m guessing, it might more likely be younger Americans.

“Memorial Day honors our veterans!” they might say. Many folks believe so, or at least they treat it as such.

No, Memorial Day has a distinct purpose, as is described in President Joe Biden’s proclamation issued Friday:

“On Memorial Day, we honor and reflect upon the courage, integrity, and selfless dedication of the members of our Armed Forces who have made the greatest sacrifice in service to our Nation.”

Truly recognizing that “greatest sacrifice” means death and understanding that nobody being honored on Memorial Day is able to share in a cookout or a softball game … or a hug or a laugh … certainly should put a damper on festivities.

According to The HISTORY Channel, until his death in 2012, Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii took up the cause of veterans groups opposing the last Monday date, introducing legislation at the beginning of every congressional term for more than 20 years. It shouldn’t surprise anyone moneymaking endeavors win out.

If not opening the community swimming pool and grilling meat byproducts, what is the best thing we could do to honor those who have been lost to war?

Maybe …

Maybe try a lot harder to avoid war.

‘No more wars’

When my wife and I walked the Erie Canal Trailway in 2016, we took off on Memorial Day, which happened to be May 30 that year. All along our route, we saw memorials and monuments to war and its victims, dating back to the American Revolution. We were in Herkimer, N.Y., and walked downtown for a good, old-fashioned parade and speeches.

The highlight was a few words offered by Annemarie Hansel, age 96, who served as a WAVE during World War II.

The first of what she said I didn’t pick up on, but she spoke loudly and clearly with her parting remarks: “No more wars. We’ve got to stop this. Use your brains.”

Working in the Hospital Corps for the Navy, I’m left to assume she had seen enough of the results of war.

What is it good for?

That’s a question asked repeatedly in the counterculture hit “War,” written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for the Motown label and ultimately released as a chart-topping single with a powerful performance by Edwin Starr in 1970.

It is not fair to history for me to immediately follow a discussion about World War II with one about Vietnam. War against the Axis Powers and their drive for world domination can hardly be questioned. Vietnam, on the other hand, could not be adequately justified for Americans, who sacrificed at least 58,318 lives. Some 3 million Vietnamese died, two-thirds of them civilians.

But that, I believe, is what drove Annemarie Hansel’s cry for peace. After seeing at least 60 million deaths during World War II, how can civilized nations enter another war?

Absolutely nothing

But Americans don’t have to go far to see the truest horrors of war.

According to Department of Veterans Affairs, 498,332 American military – Union and Confederate – died in the Civil War, eclipsing even the two world wars.

A friend asked me this past winter to read through a book he wrote. It was amazing and, if and when he publishes it, I’ll let you know. He heavily researched the life and times of his wife’s great-uncle, who fought for the U.S. through much of the Civil War, only to die from wounds suffered at Deep Bottom Run.

As I carefully read through the book, the abominations of this war that pitted brother against brother continually screamed out at me.

War … what is it good for?


This Memorial Day, honor those who gave their lives in military service.

It matters not whether the cause of the conflict was justifiable. There is nothing the fighting man or woman can do about that. However, we can and should attempt everything possible to prevent another person dying in war.

That would be the highest honor.

“All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.” John Steinbeck in “Once There Was a War”

The Reporter and…

Let’s name some characters

Every JP Weiscarver book I’ve written has come about in ways that distinguish it from the others.

For the eighth, instead of writing right off, as has often happened, I felt it more important to get a better grasp of where it was going. Actually, a better grasp of how it would get there. And I decided I really wanted to have the title nailed down first.

I’ll reveal that after we name six characters in the book.

Another first! While I’ve held competitions to name one or more characters in every book, I’ve never done it this early and certainly not for six of them.

First, be aware I’m not deeply interested in background stories; most of those are already lined out in my notes. That being said, feel free to contribute anything you’d like, particularly personal tidbits, as I might work them in somewhere. All of these characters will play sizeable roles in the story. I suspect each nomination will include names for both husband and wife. Suggest names for one couple or up to all three.

Here’s what I’m looking at:

No. 1, female, married to No. 2. Semi-retired. She retired after 20 years in the Army as a unit supply specialist. After that, she wrote romance novels.

No. 2, male, married to No. 1. Retired private detective. Think real world PI, not the TV type.

No. 3, female, married to No. 4. Mostly retired nurse, now working occasional short stints to keep current and make traveling money.

No. 4, male, married to No. 3. Retired middle school principal, a self-proclaimed expert on suspicious actions. “I don’t believe you’re telling me the whole truth.”

No. 5, female, married to No. 6. Retired mall gift store manager. With years of managing teen-age and young adult employees, she understands where No. 4 is coming from.

No. 6, male, married to No. 5. Retired after having numerous different jobs. Most recently worked six years as a security guard. Now really into gardening.

The payoff

As always, those who submit names I use will be acknowledged in the book and will receive an autographed paperback when it comes out.

Submit your suggestions in the comment box here, post it on the Facebook post, message it to me, or email it. Carrier pigeon would probably be too late.

Misty watercolor …

Patchwork clouds. Photo by Steve Martaindale

Think back for just a second.

Back to a time before you started school.

Briefly share with us the first memory you come up with.

My paternal grandfather, the man whose middle name my father and I both carried but who I called Papa, died when I was 4 years old.

My memory is walking with him – me holding one hand and my younger brother holding the other – to a little store a short distance from his home in the Spring Hill community that is now part of Longview, Texas.

I believe our mission was to buy eggs, and maybe we did, but I remember with certainty we returned with my brother and I each eating a piece of candy.

Your turn.

Close to home

“We are grieving with you, as well.”

My wife had her phone on speaker while talking to a friend about the shootings in nearby Bryan, Texas.

“Are you OK?” she asked. I tuned in and it was obvious the woman was crying. Later, she sent me the link to a local newscast, shown above. She said that was what caused her to lose her composure.

It all hit close to home. Our friend termed it a time “when news gets real.”

We do not yet know anything about why the shots were fired. Witnesses have been quoted as saying it appeared obvious the shooter was targeting certain individuals. We know nothing about that, either.

But those types of questions are seldom answered to our satisfaction following senseless brutality.

The point right here, right now, is this shooting may seem more real to locals than other mass shootings in places further removed.

But that is an illusion.

Any act of inhumanity is always real. Some people simply have a closer look at it.

When we all are able to feel the realness, then maybe we’ll become motivated enough to do something about the problem.

Park it

The view from my temporary studio. Photo by Steve Martaindale

Wrestling with some questions Tuesday morning, I took leave from the house for a couple of hours. That’s nothing new; I’ve often hit the backroads to air out thoughts, maybe gain a different perspective.

Such is more challenging now, during a pandemic, because rest rooms can be more difficult to come by. Instead of guiding our little car toward the open roads, I made the 25-minute drive to Veteran’s Park in College Station.

There, I sat in the car, rolled the windows up and down in response to brief rain showers, talked out loud to myself and scribbled entries on my notepad. When necessary, there’s even a rest room.

Do we take parks for granted?

No, that’s too easy an assumption. Let’s not try to overdramatize the point. Instead, consider the joyful memories we have of different parks.


My earliest might be a rural park maintained by the Gregg County Precinct 3 commissioner, I believe near Liberty City, Texas. Then there was the city park where we played Little League baseball. When our family traveled, we would stop at a roadside picnic table to eat a sack lunch. I remember a particular Easter Sunday sunrise service at Teague Park in Longview.

A couple of co-workers and I started shooting basketball after work on Tuesdays at Jackson Street Park in Brenham, Texas. Soon, we had enough guys joining us that we got pretty good games going. When my daughter was 2 years old, we had great bonding time at Le Tulle Park outside Bay City, Texas, feeding ducks and swinging.

Leah and I have also been regular visitors to state parks in Texas. She counted a while back that we’ve been to more than 40 of them. We’ve also enjoyed several state parks in New York, and have hiked most of the trails of the amazing Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

While not as thoroughly, we’ve also been to several national parks, including living and working an entire summer in Yellowstone, the world’s first national park.

Parks are not limited to the United States, though. As that thought crossed my mind, I could easily recall visiting parks in Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Poland, Tobago, Thailand, Mexico and probably most of the others.

What are your favorite park memories?

Parks are one of the great investments of a society. Treasure them, use them, take care of them.

By the way, I came home with plenty of notes and clear answers to my questions.

Time flies like a papaya

Photo by Steve Martaindale

“They” say time flies faster the older we get.

I’m not so certain that’s true. It’s possible time isn’t moving faster, just that we’re moving more slowly.

That is to say … it takes longer and longer to do almost anything.

I’ve no desire to scare off Generations A, B, C, or Whatever. Getting older is definitely worth it; hang in there.

What is there to do about this problem? Maybe the solution is to not fight it. If it takes longer to do something, do less of it.

That’s all I have time to say.


What is your favorite quote?

Seriously. Click the link (either at the top or the bottom, depending on your viewing device) that says something about “Comment” and share. Don’t get too hung up on having to decide your one-favorite-quote-of-all-time. Yeah, think of it as, “What is one of your favorite quotes?” Or two.

Give us the quote, who said it and include any other context you feel is relevant.

One reason I’m lax on the “favorite” part is that I’m not really a fan of picking a one-and-only-one favorite anything. Ask me about quotes, for example, and I’ll quickly give you two of them.

Quote 1

“The most dangerous words in language are, ‘We’ve always done it that way’.” – U.S. Navy Adm. Grace Hopper.

Adm. Hopper was one of the most amazing people who lived during my lifetime (and likely yours; she died in 1992) and yet you may not have heard about her.

Born in 1906, she earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale. She tried to enlist in the Navy during World War II but was denied based on her age and that her position as a mathematician and mathematics professor at Vassar College was valuable to the war effort. She then joined the Navy Reserves, serving there and eventually with the Navy for 42 years, twice retiring only to be returned to active duty. She finally retired at age 79 at the rank of rear admiral.

Her greatest contributions, though, was her work in the early ages of computers, inventing the compiler and laying the groundwork for the development of the computer language COBOL. She was awarded 40 honorary degrees from universities around the world. A residential college at Yale University was renamed after her, as was the U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Hopper. And President Barack Obama posthumously awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.

And that does not do her justice. Read up on Grace Hopper. Let her inspire the youth you know.

Everything I’ve read about her seems to underscore her quote above. I mean, she would have achieved little had she relied on doing everything the way it’s always been done. That can be said of every innovator and inventor.

Quote 2

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Fellowship of the Ring.”

This is a no-brainer for my wife and me. We’ve always loved traveling. We’ve visited all 50 states. I’ve been to all seven continents and Leah’s been to all but Antarctica. We took early retirement in 2013 and – until COVID messed up 2020 – worked 4-5 months each year in another state to feed our travel bug.

Indeed, we sold our house and have been living in an RV just so we can more easily wander. And we’re seldom lost!

Don’t try to slip away without clicking the comment link and sharing one of your favorite quotes.

New-age travel

Am I the only one here? Photo by Steve Martaindale

We had a hotel experience a couple of weeks ago unlike any before. It teeters between neat and eerie.

You decide.

When we rent a room, which isn’t incredibly often, it’s as likely as not a Hampton Inn. Therefore, a few years ago, I downloaded their app to my phone. I’ve used it a time or two to select a room. Once, I tried to utilize the digital key, but something didn’t work right.

The digital key uses your phone’s Bluetooth to pair up with your room lock. Hold your phone near the door, a button lights up on your phone, press it and the door unlocks.

In this pandemic world we’re living in, the idea is even more inviting. By checking in online, picking our room, and utilizing a digital key … we did not have to exchange a credit card, sign anything, receive a key … nothing.

In fact – and this is the eerie part – we never even saw anybody.

Certainly, there was someone in charge of the front desk and would have shown up soon had we not walked right by it.

Surely … right?

We walked through the lobby. I punched the elevator buttons with my elbow. When we reached the room I had selected online, the digital key image on my phone lit up, I pressed it and we walked in.

So, tell me, am I too easily entertained? Maybe you’ve all been doing that for years.

But it hasn’t really gotten weird yet.

After getting settled into our room, we left to get my COVID shot, walking through the lobby. We returned through the lobby. Later, Leah wanted to see the indoor pool and I kind of wanted to see if my digital key would work there as advertised. It worked and we saw nobody.

The next morning, Leah volunteered to go downstairs and pick up breakfast, which they served on disposable plates and asked you to go back to your room to eat. She actually talked to an employee there. Shortly before we were ready to leave, a woman knocked on our door to see if we had left so she could clean it. (I don’t know why, with all this technology, they have to do that.)

I checked out with my phone app and we left, seeing no one but another guest in the hallway.

Neat or eerie?

I like the idea of the digital key and checking in online, but I look forward to again being able to have little conversations with strangers.

Illuminate me!

Balina Beach, New South Wales, Australia might be a fine place to seek illumination. Just a thought. Photo by Steve Martaindale

After years of annoying letters from Nigerian princes trying to assuage their guilt by sharing vast sums of money with me…

Amidst the current trend of people who have already sent me vast sums of money that all I must do is confirm a little information…

Now, I finally get a welcomed email.

Join the Illuminati

“Greetings, from The illuminati world elite empire.”

Yes! I have finally been discovered!

Continue reading Illuminate me!

One thumb up

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Bear Butte, South Dakota. Photo by Steve Martaindale

Let’s show a little love for bad movies.

Not every bad movie’s for everyone, mind you. We each have our own bad movies we love … or at least like … or at the very least endure and enjoy making fun of.

Continue reading One thumb up

Stamp of approval

After receiving our first vaccinations last week, Leah thought about making a button declaring the fact.

There’s some sense to that. Even though we’re all continuing to keep our personal interactions safe (We are, right?), it might ease apprehension a tad if people knew others were vaccinated against COVID-19. Indeed, various countries are looking at issuing vaccination passports, documents that will ease us all back into international travel more easily.

Continue reading Stamp of approval

Old is new again

The past year has felt desolate, but even the most barren-looking areas still hold promises. This is a look across a section of Big Bend National Park. Photo by Steve Martaindale

It’s time to do something new on this page. Actually … something old.

For those who have been around me for more than a few years, you’ll probably understand that I’m longing to get back to the days of yore, back to writing pieces (“columns,” I still call them, as I did in my newspaper days) about … whatever.

The desired result will be more frequent posts, more diverse topics, and – this is a bit new – shorter articles. Like this, for example.

We’ve been shot!

Leah and I received our first COVID-19 vaccinations last week. We will get our follow-up Pfizer shots in a couple of weeks.

To us, that means we’ll feel more comfortable returning to summer jobs this year. While we will continue taking safety precautions (for our sake and for the safety of others), life should be less tense. The prospect of again hugging friends and relatives seems nearer.

But there was a more immediate payoff we were not fully expecting.

There was a deep sense of relief.

It’s been quite a year, beginning with us canceling a long-planned trip with six friends right on the cusp of the outbreak. We lost our summer employment, haven’t had services in church, haven’t been in a restaurant, had friends and family get sick … and lost some to the disease.

We hope this is just the beginning of a rolling wave of welcomed normalcy, such as strolling through a supermarket, Leah reading labels and me calculating cost-per-ounce, squeezing cantaloupes and chatting with strangers.

What’s your status? If you’ve received the vaccine, did you have similar feelings? What are you most looking forward to resuming? How do you expect things to remain different?

If you’re not following this page, enter your email where it says, “Follow Blog via Email” and you’ll receive a notice when new posts go up.

As we go along, please comment and make suggestions. Even those not immediately acted upon often produce fruit over time. Let’s enjoy this ride together.

Free book

First JP mystery free for limited time

Much of the country is hunkered down this weekend, seeking shelter from Winter Storm Uri, while people across the globe are wearily isolating themselves waiting for the COVID storm to recede a year after it started.

This seems like the perfect time to make one of my books available for free download.

NOTE: This offer has since expired. All books remain for sale, however.

“The Reporter, a Ferret and a Hurricane” is the first of a series of cozy mysteries featuring JP Weiscarver, a reporter for the Odds and Ends, a daily newspaper in Oldport on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s actually two stories under one cover. Currently, five more are available in the series.

Download your free electronic version of “The Reporter, a Ferret and a Hurricane” at

Spread the word to your friends. The offer expires at 11:59 p.m., Pacific time, on Tuesday, Feb. 16. If you’re new to this page, please follow where it says, “Follow Blog via Email.”

Let’s get Super

Super Bowl LV kicks off in a little more than five hours, but I’m ready to get started now.

No, I’m not a particular fan of either team (I’m pulling for Tampa Bay because I like fellow Aggie Mike Evans.), not really a big fan of the NFL though I enjoy good competitive games at any level, but there’s another reason for diving into the day.

It’s fun.

It’s even more fun if you totally jump in.

Several times over the past few years, I’ve used Facebook to make running comments about the game, the commentators, the commercials … whatever. Why? It’s fun.

It’s even more fun when others weigh in. I’m using the hashtag #SBwithMe on my posts. At the moment, it does not exist anywhere else on Facebook, so you can use that to follow along, to (please) add to the conversation, even make your own posts with the same hashtag.

Pick a team … or don’t. Let’s do this.


One annual tradition that catches my eye every year is the review of what influential people died since the new calendar flipped over.

Like most of the year-in-review articles, this one comes out before the actual end of the year because, to be honest, news departments find them handy to fill slow news days during the holidays.

The Associated Press published its list before Christmas: “Final goodbye: Recalling influential people who died in 2020.”

It’s an impressive list, giving a nugget of information on each person. I recommend scrolling through it, but if you need a nudge, here are some I noticed:

Continue reading RIP

Book 6 is out!

Book 6
is out!

“The Reporter and the Apples,” the sixth book in my JP Weiscarver Mystery Series, is now available for purchase as a paperback and in Kindle e-book.

Click here to find links to each version (you can toggle between them once you click through).

Yes, almost 52 months since the publication of the fifth book, “The Reporter and the Marmot,” the next miraculously picks up the story only an hour later.

Thank you for waiting patiently (and a special thanks for you inpatient readers who kept prodding me) during a particularly challenging time for me. I hope to see productivity begin to soar, both with the next book (I have not even begun to think about it, though) and with our new project, Dream Chasing 101.

RIP, dear friend

Desolation. Photo by Steve Martaindale

A special friend, one of our summer co-workers, died last weekend after contracting COVID-19.

There’s sadness. Pain. Regret.

And anger.

This did not have to happen, and we must do something about it. We are 45 days from the general election and most states are just a few weeks from being able to vote early. We must register and vote for the hundreds of thousands of people who needlessly suffer every year.

You see, my anger is not just because our right-wing politicians in Washington and many state capitals could not bring themselves to choose lives and health over the economy while failing to mount a defense against COVID-19. The long ongoing support of profit over people is really what took down my friend.

Let me explain chronologically.

He was several years older than we are and, by all measures, should have been able to retire. Leah and I, for example, can exist with our retirement checks; we rely on our summer jobs to finance travel. Our friend never was able to do that. He worked the past several summers at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. In the winters, he pulled his RV to work in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas or Death Valley in California, though he was able to work this past winter at Rushmore.

More than once, he told me he couldn’t afford to not work. I encouraged him to go to Hawaii to visit a close friend there, but he said it was out of the question.

Continue reading RIP, dear friend

We were just…

Crowded party
Sometimes, a simple party can get out of hand. Photo by Steve Martaindale


This is how it works.

Someone carefully plans a little get-together, a chance to taste some semblance of “normalcy” in the middle of a weird, disheartening, nerve-wracking pandemic life.

“I’ve invited three couples over, so that’s only eight people. Everyone has been social-distancing, and each promised to check their temperature before coming over. Each couple brings their own food and drinks and even paper plates and carries their trash home. We’ll stay outside with plenty of room to spread out around the patio. Ideally, nobody will need to go to the bathroom, but I’ll have the hall bath scrubbed down and leave disinfectant and cleaning supplies in there so they can clean their way out. It’s perfect; COVID won’t have a chance to get anyone!”

Continue reading We were just…


8-13-11b (2)
While you’re at it, maybe you could write a cutline for this low-water image. Photo by Steve Martaindale

It is 95 days until the general election.

Today, I’m asking you to write the meat of this post.

Do you, like me, enjoy tossing out a movie quote here and there to be applied to a real-life situation? Yeah, it’s fun.

Do you, like me, find many of your thoughts and perceptions tainted by the current administration in the White House? Such as this quote from the 1985 film, Back to the Future: “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” I hear that and might think, “With the GOP refusing to tax our richest citizens, we soon won’t have any roads.”

Continue reading Badges?


Cutting through
Preferably, one assumes the presidency of a country with a plan — actually, many plans — so as to not spend all of one’s time hacking out a trail to nowhere. Photo by Steve Martaindale

It is 97 days until the general election.

Let’s today look at how we can get a better idea what Joe Biden wants to achieve as president. Instead of making vague promises, his campaign has laid out a number of plans at

For example, he recognizes the frontline workers who have kept things going during the COVID crisis, from healthcare workers to grocery store workers. In addition to a $15 an hour minimum wage, these essential workers should receive “premium pay,” protective equipment and a safe working environment.

Continue reading Planning

Lewis speech

John Lewis spoke today at his own funeral service. The above video begins at the point where his recorded speech starts.

The Voting Rights Act should be restored.

Make sure you vote this fall.

It is 99 days until the election.

Are you registered to vote?

Old Avenue of Flags
View of Mount Rushmore from the old Avenue of Flags. Photo by Steve Martaindale

We are 100 days away from the next general election.

There is much to review between now and then, but I’ll start by concentrating on what will be the prevailing topic: Are you registered to vote?

Continue reading Are you registered to vote?