The Heart of a Dog by Albert Payson Terhune

The Heart of A Dog by Albert Payson TerhuneWhen I was a kid, I read The Heart of a Dog, a collection of short stories by Albert Payson Terhune, over and over. The collection of seven stories is good for adults more so than children. One of the things I did when I first began teaching was to read to my middle school students, and I did read a story, The Meanest Man, from this book to them. Although it was first published in the 1920s, these stories are still very interesting.

All of the stories feature a different member The Sunnybank Collies, and the stories have various themes. One tale of survival, “One Minute Longer,” has a plot wherein a young man gets trapped in some icy water and his life depends on the efforts of his collie friend, Wolf, managing to this convey the situation to the adults back home. This story holds up quite well for modern readers, and it has been used in reading anthologies in the past, but the references to hunting and guns wouldn’t make it past modern censorship. In “Youth Will Be Served” the reader follows the difficult decision of dog show judge Angus McGilead, who wants to award the best in show prize to the old favorite collie, Bruce, but realizes that the young collie Jock, sired by Bruce, should win. Yet, the decision is his, and his alone. Okay, this sounds so boring, but it isn’t because the author does a great job of describing every aspect of the dog show, along with criteria used by dog show judges to pick the best of the best.

“The Meanest Man” is my favorite story. It is about a farmer, Link Harris, a well-trained collie, Chum, and the dog catcher, Eben Shunk. Even those who haven’t read it will know who the meanest man is, but the way that Link and Chum deal with him make this story very amusing, if rather dated. Anyway, my students liked it quite a lot, and according to my notes (still in the book) it takes 45 minutes to read aloud.

I’ve linked to the Kindle edition of this book, because it is a very good deal. The copy of The Heart of a Dog  that I have looks like the one pictured, because it was issued by a children’s book club. If you are ever antiquing and see one of these editions, grab it, because the illustrations are cool, too.

About that new page— WIP

Pam on Dragon webI’m always writing something, but I don’t always publish what I write. Sometimes I write letters (sent and unsent) or emails or fragments. I suppose most people do that. But, I also have manuscripts in progress, and sometimes I get bogged down with those because I truly don’t know if there would be any interest in them. So, I am going to try posting a few excerpts, and if the traffic and/or comments indicate interest, the encouragement might be enough to push me out of procrastination and into finishing mode.

The first WIP is actually one of the most recent, a non-fiction book about motorcycle touring. My first thought was to publish an e-booklet on restaurants in my neck of the woods. Then I thought about creating a blog on motorcycle touring. After a bit more consideration, I asked hubby to read and comment on a manuscript that combines the two topics into one, which is currently at about 7K words. If I go with the original plan, this will be one of a series of short ebooks, which might look like this:

Ride to Eat— in Northeastern Georgia

Ride to Eat— in Western North Carolina

Ride to Eat— in Middle Georgia

As it stands now, the writing part is going fairly well, but I need to add maps, and that is a bit of an issue for an ebook, but I’m still working on it.

Memorial Day

P1010347

As a southerner, we didn’t celebrate Memorial Day the way that folks in the north did, but over time, the concept which began as “Decoration Day” has grown on us. It’s not that we didn’t remember our fallen, because I remember that my uncle’s army photo was on a desk in my grandmother’s living room, and a certificate from the government, signed by President Lyndon Johnson, honoring his death, was framed and on the wall. As a child, I remember playing in the cemetery, while my grandmother tended the grave. Now, my grandparents are buried at the same site, in a small churchyard near Buford, Georgia, where they lived at the time.

My uncle was just 20 when he was killed in action, in Dortmund, on April 12, 1945, just a few days short of the end of military action in Europe. He was in the 9th Army, 75th Infantry, 290th Regiment, Company K. Because my grandparents had a detailed grave marker installed when they buried him, I was able to find some information about his unit’s activities during the big war. There is one site, in particular, that gives quite a bit of information about this group of soldiers, which the site owner calls “Bulgebusters.” Rather than repeat all that, I’ll simply say that he was among a group of soldiers tasked with clearing out remaining pockets of remaining German forces in the industrial area of northern Germany. His platoon encountered heavy enemy fire from machine guns and mortars, so the C.O. ordered them to retreat and A.L. was killed by machine gun fire. According to the account of a survivor, there were five other soldiers in his group, another soldier died, two were wounded, and two returned safely. The military does not supply such details, of course, but my grandparents took out ads in military publications asking for information, and there were a few letters from other soldiers who were part of the same regiment, and they were quite specific as to where, when, and how my uncle died.

As Memorial Day is an annual event, there are usually some canned “news stories” about how we should all remember the fallen heroes who have kept America free, and those are entirely appropriate. But, many families do not have a name, a face, or a grave to remember. I never met A.L. Dodd, but his face is quite familiar, because that original black and white photo is in my living room, still in its antique frame. He’s smiling in the picture, which seems odd, because current military pictures usually depict the subject in a “tough” stance. In his letters home, A.L. spoke of the scenery, saying that spring was coming, and he was sure the lands they were traveling through would be beautiful. These citizen soldiers were effective, for they defeated one of the most evil regimes in all of recorded history, but they were real people, too.

AL Dodd marker

Wes Moss’s “Starting from Scratch”

Wes Moss ScratchI’ve listened to Wes Moss for years now. He’s the host of “Money Matters” on a local radio station, and he seems to be an approachable, common-sense guy. That tone serves him well when he writes, too. Previously, I reviewed his book on “You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think (Business Books),” and it is an excellent book on preparing for retirement. This is an earlier book, but the approach is similar in certain ways.

In this book on entrepreneurship, Moss discusses the best ways to begin a business, and he uses the acronym HUNT to explain the qualities and techniques used by successful business start ups. The H stands for “harness what you have” and the U stands for “underestimate obstacles.” Each of the sections of the book are grouped around a letter, so some of the stories illustrate the H, then some illustrate the U (but also rely on the H, of course.) Later stories deal with N “Notice your network” and finally T for “Take the first step.” Again, each of these is illustrated by several stories (21 or 22 in all, depending on when edition you read.)

The analysis of how to begin and nurture a business is just as common-sense as other Wes Moss’s writings, and the stories of each entrepreneur are short enough to allow quick reading, but in depth enough to realize that these people did what many want to do but can’t quite see the way forward. And, as the stats for success vs. failure in small business are a bit daunting, the stories are inspirational.

If you have ever wondered if you could begin a business, then this book should be a very welcome read. I quite enjoyed it, although I have many irons in the employment fire and no desire to begin yet another venture.

You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think— a book review

I’ve listened to Wes Moss for a few years now, but usually for just a few minutes at a time. His show, Money Matters, is on a local radio station on Sunday mornings, and I usually tune it in as I drive to church. More than once, however, I have sat in my van, in the parking lot, listening for just a few more minutes, because his show is interesting and his advice seems very sound.

So, after hearing him hawk it a few times, I downloaded the Kindle version of You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think, which has a somewhat misleading title. The subtitle is very much the point of the book, “The 5 Secrets of the Happiest Retirees.” And, as someone who is married to a guy contemplating an early retirement, I really wanted the book to be about the main title. Still, I found this an easy and interesting read. According the Amazon listing: After conducting an intensive study of happy retirees to learn the financial practices they hold in common, Moss discovered that it doesn’t take financial genius, millions of dollars, or sophisticated investment skills to ensure a safe, solid retirement. All it takes is five best practices:

Determine what you want and need your retirement money for
Figure out how much you need to save
Create a plan to pay off your mortgage in as little as five years
Develop an income stream from multiple sources
Become an income investor

The retiring sooner part simply comes from the assertion that many folks who want a happy retirement belleve that a number of dollars, i.e. a million or two or even more, is the main way that retirees can leave the workforce. Instead, Moss uses his considerable research to point out that beyond a certain income that more is just more, but not a real factor in retirement bliss. He also includes the option of continued work, although scaled back, as something that modern retirees may want to use. Having known a number of people, mostly teachers, who have a full retirement from the state, and then just teach somewhere else, such as being an adjunct at the college level, I can attest to how well that can work.

His other points include how to manage the money you are putting aside for retirement, what to do in the years prior to retirement (such as paying down debt) and, perhaps most important, to have real interests to fill your time when you no longer work.

Some people do not want to retire. Cool. If a person is able, and wants to keep at it, then I think that is fine. But most of us have something else we want to do before we get too old and feeble, and Moss makes a good case for using multiple income streams to be able to fulfill those dreams. This is a good read, whether it affirms your game plan, motivates you to get your financial house in order, or helps you realize that you don’t need to be a multimillionaire to enjoy being retired.

Two Reviews— Waiting for Superman and Temple Grandin

While I have made most of the money I have ever made (or ever hope to) in public education, I genuinely enjoyed and appreciated the expose of public education called Waiting for Superman. The film is captivating, and somewhat suspenseful for a documentary.

As it opens, viewers meet five young people, of different ages, genders, and ethnicities. Each one has hopes and dreams which can only be fulfilled by a proper education. And each one is in a school which feeds into a “failure factory.” That term is applied to high schools where most students either drop out or fail to have the right background to get into college and succeed there. The facts and figures are playfully represented, and the stories of the five subjects introduced early on unfold gradually, along with commentary from educators.

Viewers will take away different images, I am sure, but I certainly identified with the “hidden camera” video of a classroom where the students were in the back of the room, playing craps, while the teacher sat in front of the room, with a magazine, waiting for his time to be up. My husband found that footage to be shocking, but I did not. Certain classes are like that. Really. I know, because I used to work in a public high school.

My experience tells me what the filmmaker does, and that is the answer to education problems is to hire good teachers and only good teachers. A good teacher is indeed “a work of art.” Of course, making sure that only good teachers are employed in public schools would entail firing bad ones. The filmmaker explains how difficult it can be to fire a bad teacher, and he professes to have an answer for this problem. I enjoyed the film, including the solution part; but as an educator, I am also skeptical that the solution can be so simple. (No, I won’t say what it is, but I hope readers of Pam’s Pages will want to know and will watch Waiting for Superman.) As the film draws to a close, viewers get a glimpse of the future of each of the youngsters, with mixed results, of course.

On a recent evening, our whole family enjoyed the excellent biopic from HBO which explains the life and thought patterns of the most famous autistic person in America, Dr. Temple Grandin. Anyone who has dealt with autism, or merely wants to know more, should see this film. And anyone who likes a good story will probably be just as impressed with it. Clare Danes is simply amazing, as she becomes the namesake of the film, Temple Grandin, in her speech patterns, her mannerisms, and she does a fair job of suppressing her movie star looks to appear more like Grandin would have looked in her earlier years.

Dr. Grandin writes well, and I first learned about her via her articles on how autistic people think. But, before she was famous for speaking out about autism, she was famous for being an expert in animal husbandry, and this biography begins with her summer trip to her aunt’s ranch, which was the beginning of her intense interest in animals and how they think. Grandin believes that there are distinct similarities in the thought processes of animals and autistics, and that is in pictures. Indeed, she has authored several books, as well as becoming a college professor, and one of her books is entitled Thinking in Pictures.

There is quite a bit of humor in this film, as Grandin blunders through social situations, but there is plenty of heart, too, as she is befriended and mentored by various people. As a mother, I do identify with Grandin’s mother, ably portrayed by Julia Armond. There can be no greater task than that of the mother of an autism spectrum child.

Unfortunately, neither of these movies will attract the viewers of the latest sci-fi blockbuster, but they are such worthy films that I hope you’ll go rent them or buy them and then share them so their messages will be spread a bit farther.