Saturday, December 31, 2022

An Interview with Ohio Poet Wendy McVicker

An Interview with Ohio Poet Wendy McVicker
Athens County Ohio 2022 Poet Laureate

The hills of southeastern Ohio are filled with talent. Poetry flows like the many creeks that weave through the hills. One of my favorite local poets is Wendy McVicker. I remember meeting Wendy for the first time at my barn and recognizing her love of words and books. We have met several times since, most often at a poetry workshop or book fair. I connected with her recently and asked her to interview about her writing. Today is the last day of her reign as Athens County Ohio 2022 Poet Laureate. Join me in wishing her well, continued inspiration for her writing, and the best years ahead.

Welcome, Wendy!

GM: What is the premise for your new poetry collection?
WM: My most recent (Zero, a Door; The Orchard Street Press, 2021) focuses on the experiences of being a girl or woman in 20th/21st century America: I didn’t set out to do this, but when it came time to put together the collection, I saw that this was what I had. There’s also a fair amount of landscape in there: woods, rivers; the world I know and love. I draw a connection between the treatment of women and the treatment of the natural world.

GM: As a poet, what do you enjoy capturing in your poetry?  
WM: I would say that I am mostly interested in capturing the fleetingness of feelings and experience; in finding the seed that glows within experience; in celebrating (when I can!) life and the world around me. I often think I’m trying to stop time by naming memory and experience; things too often lost in the flow of daily life. I’m always seeking the kernel of silence at the heart of the words.

GM: A prolific poet and the 2022 Athens County Ohio Poet Laureate, your poetry is engaging. Please share a favorite poem from your collection...
WM: what a kind assessment, thank you! When asked to read, I often turn to the first poem in this collection:


She has fled to this field,
seeking cover in the tall grass
that waves past her shoulders,
fills the air with dust.
She is not afraid of snakes,
or stinging insects, not afraid
of nettles or poison ivy.

She has other fears, other
torments, and they are back
at the house, with its windows
that watch her still.

She keeps her body
quiet, her face blank,
she doesn’t let her eyes flare
or even look up at the sky.

She can hear the river
slipping past on the other
side of the hill, a promise
she cannot keep.                                     

There is a wood, a stand
of silent trees, and among them
one she will enter, pull
around her, become.

Leaf and branch, roots
sinking into darkness.
And her voice, muted: the wind
that wakes us in the night.

GM: A beautiful poem. How do you maintain thoughts and ideas for future poems?
WM: I take notes! I have a notebook by my side, and a smaller one that travels in my pocket or purse. Sometimes I write things down on random scraps of paper: this can be dangerous! I catch phrases I overhear (or mishear!) or that “come” to me and write them down, see where they take me when I sit down for some quiet time.

GM: Who is your favorite poet?  
WM: Oh, gosh! I love so many poets! William Stafford and Mary Oliver are steady favorites — I think of them as my poet-grandparents; continuing that line, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman would be poet-great-grandparents! I’m very excited about Ada Límon becoming our next US Poet Laureate, as I’ve loved her work for years. There are too many contemporaries I love for me to name; I’d feel awful if I left someone out. I’m excited by the greater variety of voices we get to hear these days.

GM: What are you currently reading?
WM: Two new collections by contemporaries: Pauletta Hansell’s Heartbreak Tree, and Hayley Mitchell Haugen’s The Blue Wife Poems.

GM: What are you currently writing?
WM: At the moment I’m winding up loose ends for my term as Athens Poet Laureate, and preparing for a class I’ll be taking in January. Mostly I’m “noodling” or “scribbling” in the early mornings; not sure what will develop from that just yet.

GM: Do you have advice for novice poets?
WM: Read, read, read! Don’t worry about what you’re “supposed” to like, find poetry that speaks to you. Anthologies are great for finding voices that resonate with you. There are lots of poetry podcasts, and lots of sites that will send you a poem a day. It’s easy to find poetry! Read it aloud (to yourself, a loved one, the dog) to feel the words in your mouth. All the while, write, write, write.

GM: I just joined the Ohio Poetry Association. What other memberships/groups can you recommend?
WM: The Ohio Poetry Association does great things! I’m so glad you’ve become a member. They offer so much: workshops (free or very inexpensive) with interesting poets, various get-togethers throughout the year, information about contest and publication opportunities, monthly open mics… I’m not much of a joiner, but love being part of the OPA. I know there are other organizations devoted to poetry out there that are relatively easy to find.

GM: List 10 things your fans may not know about you...
WM: Ten things!! (1) I hold a black belt in karate and (2) I’ve taught karate for many years (3) I lived in Switzerland for seven years (4) My first child was born in Lausanne (5) I always thought I would have horses when I grew up, but that hasn’t happened…yet…! (6) I’m even shorter than you think (7) When I lived in the French-speaking world, dance was my form of creative expression (8) My oldest child’s first words were in French (9) Given the chance, I love to get onto the floor and engage in make-believe with the experts: young children (10) I’d rather be out in the woods than sitting at a desk!

Connect with Wendy…

Monday, December 26, 2022

Milliron Monday: Meme's Musings Part 5


Abbott "Pete" Smith D.V.M.:  June 16, 1938 - February 22, 2010
Virginia Joyann "Jody" Haley Smith: April 2, 1938 - May 9, 2021
Welcome to Milliron Monday where every Monday we celebrate the legacy of Milliron Farm and Clinic, Dr. Pete and Jody Smith. 

"I slipped under the horse's head and I still remember it took forever for the four legs to pass over me. My friend kept yelling, "Let go!" which resulted in a dislocated shoulder and broken arm."
― Virginia Wurl Rhonemus Haley 

Monday greetings! Meme's Musings Part 6, Virginia (aka Meme/Gigi - Jody's mother), writes about her teenage years, including high school graduation and her journey to college.

Olden Days

Mrs. Huellet, our neighbor, had a special cookie jar with my name on it just inside her porch door. She kept it full of cookies, all different kinds. My grandmother only made sugar cookies and I liked Mrs. Huellet's the best. Trity Thursh was a natural when it came to playing the piano. We went to the movies to hear Trity play. There were no 'talkies' or sound. Lines flashed across the bottom of the screen telling the conversation. When the horses galloped on screen, Trity played real fast and loud. When it was sad, she played softly, almost had you crying. For years she played at the movie theater and I'd go just to hear her play.

At home every Friday, it was a great day when the iceman bought a 50 lb. piece of ice that fit in a box so we could keep milk and meat in it for a few days. Also the milk was delivered by the bucket and was nice and fresh. By the next Wednesday it wasn't so good. Ice had melted in the ice box.

We had a basement but not a root cellar which was cooler. When we lived downtown, as many people did back of their stores, we had a house beside the stores. We had a storm cellar which we had to crawl in. Fortunately, we never used it in my time.

My grandfather owned the building which has his grocery. There was a variety store and hat store. The Honeymoon Apartments were above. (It's all torn down now with a filling station and parking lot there). I used to go with Mrs. Waltermire (my grandmother) to get the rent. She would knock on the doors calling out "This is Mrs. Waltermire." Sometimes they would open the door and hand out $5.00 for the months rent. It was a lot of money in those days. Remember there was no running H20 nor washrooms but we had the best six holer in town, with cloth wipers (which, of course, were burned daily), put into the corner, cup of lime, no toilet paper. Folks from the country came in town on Saturday which made the Waltermire Corner a busy place.

1925: I graduated from Forest High. Since I'd been gone all winter I didn't have anyone to walk down the aisle with to get my diploma - so I thought. The new editor of the Forest newspaper had a "ne'er do well" son who didn't have a diploma, so to take up his time he returned to high school - it seemed he was very popular as he was 20 years old - that's a lot of difference from 18. All the girls wanted to down the aisle with him. He said he would rather take a chance with the girl coming back (that was me). They told him how short I was but he said, "Great". He was nice and very attentive so my return was easy and pleasant.

When I decided to go South to college it became a huge adventure. First of all, Mother said, "Anywhere you want to go and accepted, I will see to it you can go." So, I took all the college addresses from Good Housekeeping and other magazines and wrote for information. As the letters came back, I'd save the ones I was interested in. I was accepted at the University of Penna, Agnes Scott, Brenau College, University of Colorado, and a couple more. For two years I had written for information on schools that were advertised in magazines. Finally, I had to make a decision. (Ohio really had the best schools). I put the brochures from each school on the bed, closed my eyes and stabbed one with my grandmother's long hat pin. The hat pin came nearest Brenau College for women in Gainesville, Georgia. We didn't know how to pronounce Brenau - I didn't know anyone who ever went there.

The trip to Brenau in Gainesville, Georgia, was a little scary. Two train changes: a different train at Cincy and Atlanta. Mother had someone meet me in Cincy and Atlanta so I got along okay.  The girls that met me at the railroad station said, "Welcome, little Damn Yankee - let's go get a 'dope'. So when it was served, I said, "This isn't a 'dope', there's no ice cream." Their 'dope' was like a 'Coke'. So I got the name added to Damn Yankee - Dopey - but they were seniors and always remained friendly. 

I lived in the ZTA house. You were supposed to walk to town on one street. One time when I was downtown a woman was walking in the street with a huge bundle on her head and in each arm - a car came way too close to her and she jumped and dropped the bundles. I said, "Poor Soul, let's help the lady." Soon after she showed me a paper that gave her permission to be on that street which saved her two miles to get home. Soon after that, at the drug store, a Senior came to me and said, "You are to get back to Miss Austin's office, now." She was the Dean of Women and took messages and, of course, I thought something must have happened to my Mother or Grandmother. When I got there I was told to sit in the hall so I sat there through the dinner hour. Finally, I knocked on the door and asked why I was there. She went into a long reason that I didn't understand, but I was put on Campus stay for two weeks because I disgraced Brenau by helping the lady in the street. 

So my four years in the South was an extra education. Some of the different ways they said things was weird - I was asked to walk to the banket (curb). You trim a pencil (sharpen). Friday was always a big day, in school and at home. At school, ending various chapters in the books, if we hadn't finished it was up to us to do so. Many times we didn't do it, which made the next chapter less interesting. I always skipped through the chapter so I knew what was coming up. And it paid. 

Things that happened to me

Am told when I was about three years old, a pet rabbit tore the end of my third finger of my right hand off when I was feeding it. I still have the scar.

I was with friends up at Lake Erie and we were wading - hand in hand - they let go of my hand when I slipped into a hole. Not knowing how to swim I got a lot of water in my lungs. I was rescued by a life guard when he could grab my hair and pull me out of the hole. I've been afraid of swimming ever since and I used to love it.

I was always a Tom Boy, climbing trees, getting on top of roofs. I had a swing in the cherry tree and one time the rope broke and I was twisted around the trunk of the tree. Uncle Doc made a brace out of yardsticks and leather which I wore for months to keep my back straight. Remember, there was no drug store and one had to make do.

One Sunday, after church, I went out to a friends home in the country. We decided to ride the horses - farm horses - no bridles or saddles. When they rang the dinner bell the farm horses made a b-line for the barn. The only thing we had to hang onto was their manes. I slipped under the horse's head and I still remember it took forever for the four legs to pass over me. My friend kept yelling, "Let go!" which resulted in a dislocated shoulder and broken arm.

I was about 12 when I fell 32 steps and landed on my neck. Mother was with me and she thought I was dead. The result for a year, my fingers twitched all the time and a rib was pressing a nerve in my neck and back. During the summer I often went up to Lakeside to visit Uncle Beecher (my grandfather's nephew who lived with my grandparents as a 16 year boy after his parents died out West, my grandparents had been married only six months when Uncle Beecher moved in. I think my grandmother resented it). They took me to a friend who was an osteopath (unheard of in medical terms in Forest). I'll never forget the relief he gave me when he pressed his fingers in certain places in my back. He said, "Do you want to jerk again?" as he pressed. "Oh, no!" I yelled. I was cured. He said I would have to be careful because of the length of time I had to wear the yardsticks. 

And then there was Phyllis Diller!

At a high school reunion Phyllis asked that her favorite English teacher and Drama Coach be there for sure. My Mother, Jessie Waltermire Rhonemus, a teacher for more than forty years, was that person.

Phyllis arrived in a long car with a hair dresser, driver and secretary in tow. The perfect specimen of a person that had made the "big time". Of course, she was the whole show and never relinquished the stage to anyone else.

When she met me, she made a very off-color remark as she didn't know that I existed and even a worse word was used when she saw the picture of Mother's family. But years later when Mother was in a nursing home and Phyllis was the main attraction at a fundraising musical event (she always had her own piano with her and played for relaxation before going on the stage) she spent several hours visiting her. And she arrived in all her glory as before. Mother said, "But you don't look like Phyllis." And Phyllis replied, "Of course I don't as I've had all the years of aging removed." She has had many facelifts but that laugh is still there.

Mother always remembered her as the one causing disturbance with remarks made under her breath and getting the kids around her in an uproar. Mother usually had her sit up front of the classroom.

The students called Mother "The Bull Dog" as she made sure they got their assignments. When the students entered the Ohio State schools and it was known that Jessie Rhonemus had been their English teacher, they were excused from some Freshman test as it was known they had had good preparation. And Phyllis was very verbal in her praise of Mother's teaching. Bringing her gifts of flowers, candy and a record of her music.

~ ~ ~ ~

The final episode of Meme's Musings will post next week. Enjoy the journey to 2023! Happy New Year 💓!

Through captivating, powerful, and emotional anecdotes, we celebrate the life of Dr. Abbott P. Smith. His biography takes the reader from smiles to laughter to empathy and tears. Dr. Smith gave us compelling lessons learned from animals; the role animals play in the human condition, the joy of loving an animal, and the awe of their spirituality. A tender and profound look into the life of a skilled veterinarian.


Saturday, December 24, 2022

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

An Interview with Ohio Author T.W. Harvey


An Interview with Ohio Author T.W. Harvey
From Ohio USA, T.W. Harvey is an award-winning historical fiction author, just releasing his second novel Answering Lincoln’s Call: War in America. His new title is a prequel to the first, focusing on his rare collection of family letters from the Civil War era.
Welcome, Tom!
GM: What's the premise for your new book?
TWH: Answering Lincoln’s Call: War in America opens with the Confederate bombardment of the Union Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor in April 1861. President Abraham Lincoln immediately called for 75,000 men of the northern states to enlist in the army to put down the southern uprising down. Lincoln thought his forces could accomplish it in two months, maybe three, but after the Confederate victory at the first Battle at Manassas, it became apparent it was not going to happen that fast and more men were needed.
    Recruitment meetings were held throughout all the northern states including in Muskingum County, Ohio, some 80 miles east of the state capital, Columbus. My great grandfather, Thomas S. Armstrong, and his best friend who would ultimately become his brother-in-law, George W. Porter, enlisted with Tom’s brother, Wilbur, and three other friends in the 78th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, but only after they considered the risks of going into harm’s way for their country.
    We know this because in 1992, we found 250 letters Armstrong and Porter wrote home to their families about their experiences in the Civil War. The letters detailed how difficult the decision to enlist was for some and how easy it was for others. But they went much farther than that as they told us of their experiences through the entire conflict which ended in April 1865. Thus, they became the basis for my historical novels, this one and the two that follow it in the trilogy, Seeing the Elephant: One Man’s Return to the Horrors of the Civil War, which is Tom Armstrong’s story, and From Vicksburg to Bennett Place: The Long March to Victory, George Porter’s story, all three very true.
    Not only did the letters provide extraordinary detail about the war in the Western theater, but they also provide insight into what life at home was like, back in the 1860s, and how different it was from today. Back then, America was an agrarian society, and life was based on working on the farm, going to church every Sunday, and making sure your children went to the closest school and were educated properly. Pretty simple, really, compared to today, but more on that a little later.
GM: How can readers view the original letters written by your ancestors? What is important for readers to know about these letters?
TWH: In 2016, we donated the letters to Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU) since my great grandfather matriculated there in 1859 while my wife and brother enrolled in 1959 with most everyone in the family going there except my wife’s sister, our dads, and me. The letters themselves are in the archives at Beeghly Library at OWU, and they were digitized for anyone to see. Interested readers can go to…
    The letters were written between 1859 and 1866, and we found them in perfect condition. I preserved, transcribed, and catalogued them; thus, they became the basis for the books, beginning in April 1861 and ending with both George and Tom safely at home in July 1865, having survived the horrors of the war that changed America forever.
    It is a unique and rare collection of historical documents as they provide a first-person account of the events of the Civil War. I have been told it may be the only one of very few collections of this magnitude and depth.
GM: Do you have a favorite character in your current novel?
TWH: Yes, my great-grandfather, Thomas Armstrong. I’m named for him, and it was extremely interesting to read his letters that showed his personality in which I saw some of my own traits. For example, he was a teacher before and after the war, and I knew at a very early age that was also what I wanted to do and ultimately did.
    Furthermore, he also thought things through very carefully before making decisions which annoyed George Porter, but that was who Tom was. Now, I don’t always consider things as thoroughly as he did, but I do evaluate alternatives and the effects of decisions and actions. I can’t say I am exactly like him, nobody could be, but his devotion to his family, his faith, the love of books, and the way he communicated through his letters and other writing struck home.
GM: What are your methods for writing fictional scenarios that tie-in with real-life events?
TWH: As mentioned, the letters told the story, thinking about whether to enlist or not and making the final decision, in consideration of the thoughts and feelings of family and friends. Then, enlisting in the 78th Ohio, going to training at Camp Zanesville, being ordered to Kentucky to join General Ulysses S. Grant’s army, where it arrived at Fort Donelson while the battle between North and South was raging; from there it was on to Shiloh in southern Tennessee, the second fight in the Western theater after Fort Donelson that started to turn the war in favor of the union
    With what the letters told me, I  conducted meticulous research into things such as the towns where recruiting meetings took place, the location of Camp Zanesville and what it looked like, the 2nd Street wharf in Zanesville where the 78th boarded the steamers to journey down the Muskingum River to the Ohio, then to the Mississippi, and finally to Fort Donelson.
    Then there were the marches and the battles at Fort Donelson and Shiloh about which volumes have been written. So, all I had to do was fit the letters to the research and then create what human thoughts and actions might have been as the war raged on. What followed were conversations, decisions, and actions that led to the results the research found.
    Was I correct in that? We’ll never know, but folks who have read Seeing the Elephant seem to think so. Many have said they felt like they were involved in those conversations, marching from Camp Zanesville to the wharf in freezing weather, and seeing the dead and wounded at Fort Donelson and Shiloh. That was my aim, and it seems I achieved it.
GM: What was the most difficult scene to write in this book?
TWH:  The 78th Ohio at Shiloh. Upon arriving in southern Tennessee, the 78th Ohio, a part of General Lew Wallace’s 3rd Division of Grant’s Army of the Tennessee was ordered to guard warehouses and destroy Confederate railroad tracks some eight miles north of Shiloh where the battle would take place. On the morning of April 6, 1862, the Confederate army attacked Grant’s forces, and he sent word to Wallace to get to the battlefield on the double to reinforce the 5th Division of General William T. Sherman. So I had to figure out the logistics of that march.
    That would have been easy, but George’s letter told me Wallace chose a road that he believed would satisfy Grant’s order, but it wasn’t to be and he had to retrace his steps back to camp and then find another way, a delay of several hours. That meant I had to find additional detailed maps of southern Tennessee to determine how the march would have continued, including the detours and delays that caused the 3rd Division to arrive  more than ten hours late. Wallace was sacked for his failure to follow orders, dereliction of duties the Union command called it. But trying to figure out how the march took place and then describing it was a challenge.
GM: What would you like readers to take away from your new novel and how can they apply it to current events? 
TWH: As previously noted, both North and South were agrarian cultures in the 1860s although their methods of farming were entirely different. Slavery was an integral element of the Southern way of life while it was not in the North, as members of the family took responsibility for the crops and gardens, putting their own hands in the dirt. It didn’t work that way in the South.
Life was slow back then as opposed to our fast-paced, commercial culture of today, as we are bombarded by the internet, cable television, and cell phones. It is safe to say that Porter and Armstrong would be shocked at things today and most likely would not understand any of it at all.
    Education was important to all in the 1860s as I have said, but today we see children being taught things like critical race theory, trans gender choices, and cancel culture where if you don’t like something, you just make it go away. These subjects should not be taught because children at all levels of school, even high school, do not really understand what they mean. As a result, traditional subjects are not being covered as they should be as we see the understanding of mathematics, reading, science, and history declining as shown by recent lower test scores. Add to that, there is a lack of discipline in the classroom and a disrespect of teachers that have resulted in physical confrontations. It is disturbing to hear about teachers and students in fist fights.
    Religion was also very important as families made it the center of their lives, saying grace at every meal and attending three services every Sunday at the churches near where they lived. Today, at least in many Protestant denominations, we see membership and attendance decreasing.
    If I sound pessimistic, I am, and what is most disturbing, I do not see any way to reverse what I am seeing and hearing.
GM: When writing fictional characters, do you use traits/habits of family and/or friends for your characters?
TWH: No. The letters gave me all I need to know about Tom, George, and their families. In addition to them, I had to include men such as Lew Wallace, Sherman, John Logan, and Grant, so I had to do research on them.

    For locals such as Mortimer Leggett, Zachariah Chandler, leaders of the 78th Ohio, and friends of George and Tom like Bob Hanson, John W.A. Gillespie, and Henry Axline, the letters gave me insight as to who they were.
    But, to make the story work, I had to invent other characters such as Chauncey Wescott, a saloon owner, Tobias Bishop, a sergeant in the 78th, James Ferguson, a banker, and Micah Schwartz, a tailor. About 40% of the characters are fictionalized who I needed for conversations with the main characters and to bring the events the letters told to life.
GM: What are you currently writing?
TWH:  I’m taking a break. However, I am conducting further research on my family through 750 additional letters we found that were written anywhere from 1836 through 1888. These letters and more research on such topics as slavery both prior to and after the Emancipation Proclamation and reconstruction during the Grant presidency will result in books to be undertaken in 2023 going forward.

    In reading these letters and transcribing them, I have discovered they will be entirely different than the trilogy that only describes the experiences of Tom Armstrong and George Porter in the American Civil War.
GM: List 10 things your fans may not know about you...
  1. My Scottish heritage: the castle built by the clan in the 1530s still stands
  2. One brother, no sisters
  3. Always lived in Ohio
  4. Very interested in soccer
  5. Played baseball in Jr. High, Sr. High, and college
  6. Been to 47 of the 50 states
  7. Worked in Russia in 1997 and 1998
  8. Started teaching at the college level in 1999
  9. Received two literary awards for Seeing the Elephant
  10. Been to 18 foreign countries
Connect with T.W. Harvey
Amazon Author Page 

Monday, December 19, 2022

Milliron Monday: Meme's Musings Part 4


Abbott "Pete" Smith D.V.M.:  June 16, 1938 - February 22, 2010
Virginia Joyann "Jody" Haley Smith: April 2, 1938 - May 9, 2021
Welcome to Milliron Monday where every Monday we celebrate the legacy of Milliron Farm and Clinic, Dr. Pete and Jody Smith. 

"I sang in the choir at various churches as part of my training in music. If I wore a brown dress, I'd walk back to the college with Colonel Moore. If blue, I'd walk with Buddy, the Cadet. At Easter, I had a problem. Too many corsages so I wore one from Bart."
― Virginia Wurl Rhonemus Haley 

Here we are again, a new Monday and revisiting Virginia Wurl Rhonemus Haley's pink pamphlet of history. Part 4:

Gloria Swanson Bob (plus the Green Worm)

Soon after returning from camp, because I was complaining about headaches, Uncle Doc was sure they were coming from the heavy 15 curls and my thick hair and I should get a haircut. There were no beauty salons and one woman didn't go to the barber shop and it was too big a job for "home cutting". So I was taken to Toledo which meant a four hour train ride. Opal, Carl's wife, Uncle Doc's daughter-in-law, took me to a big store and by the time the cutting was in progress, people were standing and watching - making all kinds of remarks: "Why would anyone want to get rid of those beautiful curls?" "Wonder, how thick and heavy that hair is?" etc. I got what was known as the Gloria Swanson Bob and oh! did it feel good and the headaches went away.

    When I went to school on Monday, I was center of attention. Finally, the principal had me go into each room and walk around so they could see the Gloria Swanson Bob. The next Saturday, the barber, Whitie Hafer, called Mother and asked her to bring me down to the shop so he could see what it was all about, he had had so many calls. So we walked by a couple of times - women did not go to barber shops - and he came out, asked all kinds of questions. "How long did it take?" "Did they start at the top or underneath?" "How much did it cost?" "What did they do with the gorgeous hair?"
    Mother almost lost her teaching job because she had my hair cut. It was upmost part of the school system and took too much time to get the studies back in the student's minds. Too many complaints from parents that kids were cutting each others hair.
    We were sitting on Uncle Doc's porch and the subject of boys that I had been dating came up on purpose by Uncle Doc as he seemed concerned. He said, "I hear Dick Price's grandson has been calling on you?" I said, "You mean Russell?" "Yes, I am saying I'd rather you would go out with the first man that comes around the corner than for you to get serious with Russell." And the first man came around the corner and he was not the one. Uncle Doc was embarrassed, saying, "The second man." Many years later, I found out Uncle Doc's concern. Russell's mother, Gwen, and my Mother graduated together as the first females to get a high school diploma. That was 1902. And Russell's mother was so thrilled that her son was seeing such a nice girl.
    But Uncle Doc's concern was real. There was a history of consumption and insanity in the families. A story often told was Russell's father went to the barber shop and the barber said, "You got feathers in your hair." Mr. Price said, "Yeah, I know it, why should I bother them when you could do it?"

Men in my life that were friends:

  1. Bart [her future husband]
  2. Uncle Doc, his son Dr. Carl Munday
  3. Justin Myers, the Banker
  4. Mr. Nye, Butcher, always gave me liver for my kitty
  5. Mr. Snider, Baker, always gave me a sweet roll.
  6. Mr. Crum, always put an extra piece of veal on my sandwiches
  7. Leo Jones, helped me with my math
  8. Scrap Weiderman, brought me Whitman Samplers every Tuesday evening.
  9. Daddy Stoll, owner of Camp Twa-ne-ko-tah
  10. Colonel Moore, Brown Uniform
  11. Buddy Blake, Blue Cadet
  12. Robert Thrush, Schoolmate
  13. Walter Crawley, Minister's son studying to be a doctor at Emory Atlanta
    One time we went to Kenton, 12 miles away, to a movie. When we came back I offered him [Scrap] some candy and he said he liked the bottom pieces from the lower layer. So we took the layer off and there wasn't but one piece. He was very upset as his uncle was a distributor and he worked for him. He took the box and gave me another. Later, we found out Uncle Doc and Mother had eaten more than they realized and switched the layers.
    Robert Thrush put our names on the telephone pole in the school yard. He spent a lot of time, sometimes being late, as the sun had to shine just so in the mirror to reflect and burn the writing. He needed a friend as his mother had a little girl and he was 17 and very embarrassed about it. When he was with me, no much was said to him, but alone, the other boys said unpleasant remarks: "How did it happen?" I actually didn't know what it was all about.
    I sang in the choir at various churches as part of my training in music. If I wore a brown dress, I'd walk back to the college with Colonel Moore. If blue, I'd walk with Buddy, the Cadet. At Easter, I had a problem. Too many corsages so I wore one from Bart.
    Before I was actually in the first grade, Mother would take me to school with her to wait on her. Stella Ash, the 1st and 2nd grade teacher, was kind and urged Mother to leave me there anytime, that I was no trouble. But she did something that has stayed with me for many years. She didn't trust me. A boy sat across the aisle and had his head on his desk nearly all the time. Then one day a big green worm came out of his mouth. I ran up to the teacher, pulled on her skirt to come see. She didn't move. I kept pulling and told her about the worm. She said, "Now Virginia, that's not nice to say such a happening, it can't happen. Don't make up such stories," and she continued to write on the blackboard. I kept pulling on her skirt. Finally, she went back to the seats with me and had one look and fell in my seat, then onto the floor. I later found out she had fainted. There was a lot of excitement. I went to find Mother. Years later, Stella married and was Stella Snider and lived next door to us. She tried to be friendly and said I taught her to listen what her pupils said. She and her husband owned a restaurant and bakery. They often would bring cinnamon rolls, which I really like. She never actually mentioned the green worm, but she knew that I knew she was remembering it.

~ ~ ~ ~

Christmas is a week away! We will return to Meme's pink pamphlet next Monday, if Christmas Day isn't too overwhelming at my house. Have a very Merry Christmas!

Through captivating, powerful, and emotional anecdotes, we celebrate the life of Dr. Abbott P. Smith. His biography takes the reader from smiles to laughter to empathy and tears. Dr. Smith gave us compelling lessons learned from animals; the role animals play in the human condition, the joy of loving an animal, and the awe of their spirituality. A tender and profound look into the life of a skilled veterinarian.


Sunday, December 18, 2022

An Interview with Ohio Author Joy MillerUpton

 An Interview with Ohio Author Joy MillerUpton

From southeastern Ohio, Joy MillerUpton is the author of Journeys: Finding Joy on Horseback, a memoir. From Joy’s bio: Born 11 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Joy S. MillerUpton has always felt the tug of history. Journalists, in Joy’s eyes, are historians. After graduating with a BS in Journalism from Ohio University, she began working as a journalist. Over a period of more than four decades Joy’s career has included freelance writing and photography, newspaper journalism, and marketing. She has always valued accuracy and balance in all her forms of storytelling; trying to get it right, for history.

Welcome, Joy!

GM: Your book was released last year. Tell us about your authorship, author journey, and how it has enriched your life...

JMU: I learned to read when I was very young, thanks to parents who were constantly reading both for themselves and to me and my seven siblings. That seemed to naturally lead to writing—I remember my brother and me producing a neighborhood “newspaper” when we were about nine or 10. In the 1950s and 60s we wrote real letters by hand in cursive script. Our family regularly exchanged letters—I still have some from grandparents and from my Dad when he served in the Korean War.

In my second year of college, I chose journalism for a career path. During the past five decades I have been fortunate to make a living from the writing skills I learned. I started out freelancing for magazines and newspapers, then worked for newspapers for 10 years. In 1987 my husband and I formed a writing/photography/publication-design business and provided services for numerous large and small entities until 2005. I also worked fulltime in marketing for a local hospital.

You can’t be a writer without having endless curiosity. I have been privileged to meet people from all levels and walks of life, including criminals, saints, artists, politicians (including a U.S. president’s wife who chewed me out for photographing her applying makeup) as well as what most would term “ordinary” people. I have traveled by horseback, hitchhiked, and rode and lived on a tugboat for a month to produce stories. In the air I’ve traveled by balloon, helicopter and single-engine planes (once with a student earning his instrument rating—the plane was set up so he couldn’t see through the windshield). I have shared meals with jail inmates, Chincoteague pony-swim firefighters (sorry, I couldn’t get the raw oysters down), politicians and folks too poor to have a guest but did so anyway. I have scuba dived with sharks, been dangled out a window several stories high to get the photo, staked out persons-of-interest, hidden from potential gunfire behind my car door, been knocked for a loop by football players while photographing games, stalked Big Foot and drove 35 miles through a blizzard to get to the news office. This is just the tip of the iceberg; and my curiosity is still not sated.

GM: How much do horses define your day-to-day activities?
JMU:  My day is book-ended by horses. They are fed before I eat breakfast (this feeding is often shared by my husband) and again before supper (as I call the last meal of the day). I usually visit them mid-day and give them a one-flake-of-hay snack. On my lucky days I spend several hours with them, grooming, holding for the farrier, riding or just hanging out. Vacations have been non-existent the past few years as finding just the right person to care for multiple animals at least twice a day is difficult. If I’m going to a late-day event, that will require an early feeding time. Then, I feed again after I return home (which usually means a change of clothes—some days it feels like I’m a member of a royal family with three or four clothing changes). The mares have never complained about being fed an extra time!

Several times a year I arrange for and/or pick up hay and other horse- necessities. Fence repair, ground maintenance, stall cleanup, regular vet and farrier visits and tack care are all part of horse ownership responsibilities. We have been fortunate for the past year not to have a sick or injured horse. For the previous two years we treated my husband’s foundered horse, which meant keeping her in a stall 24/7 and more than doubled the work load.

GM: Your book is about many things, including horses and horsemanship. What horses do you currently stable?
JMP: In May, 2020 I had to have my 26-year-old Quarter horse, Oskar, euthanized. He had been with us since he was a four-month-old weanling. That same day I found another home for his pasture-mate (a mule) and also sent along a teenaged horse who was jobless at the time to keep the mule company. I went from six horses to three in one day. It was traumatic at first, as for many years I’d had at least a half-dozen horses.

After the death of my husband’s foundered horse in 2021 we were left with two Quarter horses. Libby came from Bella Run Equine Rescue in 2016 and we purchased Zoe at auction in 2018.

Funny story about Libby’s age. Although Bella Run bought her at auction in an area where many of the horses go for meat, the mare actually had registration papers. When I went to the rescue to look at her there was a second horse shown to me. I thought I was told they were both 15. Libby came home with me and I registered her so I could trace her background. Somehow, I missed correctly checking her age when I got the registration papers. As the years passed I added up her age so that when someone recently asked me how old she is I rattled off “21.” As it happens the person asking knew a lot about western-born Quarter horses (she was born in South Dakota) and he was curious about her lineage. I dragged out her papers and was astonished to see she was a 2004 filly! Not many females get to deduct three years from their age in one day.

A stunning sorrel, Libby definitely has days when her “red” shows. I hired a trainer to get us through the first couple of years. It appeared she had been used as a broodmare more than she had been ridden so we had a number of issues to tackle. But the more I was around her the more I fell in love with her. She is very sensible on trails and will plow through water and mud and easily navigate tangles. She hates being ridden in an arena. She loves to eat more than anything in the world! And, we have developed a great partnership. She is my main mare. And, she is only 18!

I originally bought Zoe as a horse on which I could teach my horse-crazy niece to ride. That may still happen but this lovely gentle animal needs to develop a few more skills first. The trainer who sold her for a client insisted she was 12 years old four years ago. I see nothing to dispute that. (Her registration papers, of course, were “lost.”) A flea-bitten gray with a long flowing mane, she is the picture of any girl’s dream horse.

She is learning to not be pushy and she has come a long way in her attitude about having her feet handled. When asked to “whoa” she almost always does. She loves to roll in the mud and does so without fail every day she can find even a tiny bit of slop. Zoe surprised me with a trick while I was riding her one day—while we were ambling along, she quite suddenly laid down. I stepped off and the trainer we were working with helped me remount and we asked her to trot off. She also pulled her trick on my husband on the trail. There was a bit of slope on the side he stepped off and he rolled down and into a patch of briars. That made him a bit grumpy but he got back on and we continued our ride. He actually loves Zoe and will ride her anytime. She has never laid down with either of us again, but she did lay down with another rider twice in just a few minutes. Naturally, we tell anyone who wants to ride her what to expect.

Libby carried me and Zoe toted a wonderful woman rider several miles to vote in November, 2022. This is a tradition I have abided by as often as possible for 50 years but it was a little more challenging this year due to some health issues I have had. Without my companion rider it would have been very difficult. Libby provided the only drama when she sensed a large field of grass nearby and just about ran off with me to get to it. (Did I mention she loves to eat?) Zoe was a perfect lady.

GM: Describe a day in your life with horses...
JMU: Someone may have warned me about this but I wouldn’t have believed them; as your horses age, so do you! At age 81, some days all my energy goes into caring for my two mares (and two dogs, four cats and a husband). Not to mention taking care of two tourist rental cabins on our 73 acres. Then there is the next book I am writing…

Most days I find the chores are all I can manage, but I do have a plan. I have hired a young woman to come once a week just for the purpose of having someone with a phone in her hand who can dial 911 if needed. That motivates me to get in a little riding, even if just down the lane to the mailbox.

Just walking into the barn two or three times a day really lifts my spirits. Libby always greets me with a low nicker, which becomes a more insistent whinny if I am slow bringing a treat or a flake or two of hay. Zoe hangs back as Libby warns her to, but she still gets treats and scratches; she just has to wait her turn.

The horses have a 40 x 10-foot, three-sided shelter that opens on a big field. Since they spend a lot of their time there, the twice-daily manure cleanup is usually at least two wheelbarrow loads. We have a system that catches water from the barn roof into two water troughs, which we heat in the winter time. The fuzzy-coated mares are a tad overweight on their hay-only diet, which they eat from slow-feed hanging bags. My clothing is always spiky with hay bits from stuffing bags.

I love just hanging out with them. Libby tolerates grooming more than she did when she first arrived here. She now easily picks up all four feet for inspection. Zoe loves to be groomed, but post grooming she frequently heads for a mud hole to reinvent her light coloring. Most of my clothing collects a few ounces of mud after a session with Zoe.

GM: Living in the Hocking Hills, where is your favorite place to trail ride?
JMU: Right out my front door! Since 1972 I have been very fortunate to live on this beautiful piece of our planet. I have developed a series of circular trails on our 73 forested, hilly acres that are perfect for riding and hiking. I am fortunate to also have the Buckeye Trail pass along my property as well as dead-end township roads.

GM: Do you have advice for riders coming to the Hocking Hills for the first time
JMU: Oh, yes! Make sure your horse is in good condition before tackling the steep terrain here. Don’t push your horse too much until you know she can handle the physical challenge of Hocking Hills (and nearby areas too, such as Zaleski). My veterinarian has seen horses die here.

Try to carry a map or have GPS, as sometimes trail markers can be hard to read or may have vanished during storms. Be ready for mud if it has been rainy. Bees can be a problem, especially in heavily-ridden areas in July, August and September. Remember to bring fly spray to help with the variety of biting insects. Before I set off on a ride on public trails I try to talk with horse riders returning from a ride and ask if there are problem areas.

Practice trail courtesy and don’t blow by slower riders.

All that said, there is no more beautiful place to ride!

GM: Back to your book... When is your next author event and how can readers purchase a signed copy of your book?
JMU: Signed copies of Journeys: Finding Joy on Horseback are always available directly from me. I can be contacted at

Pre-signed copies are available at White’s Mill, 2White’s Mill Dr., Athens; LittleProfessor Book Center, 65 S. Court St., Athens; the gift shop at OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital, 55 Hospital Dr., Athens; Homegrown on Main, 65 W. Main St., Logan; DustyBluesGallery, 14775 OH-664, Logan; and at Epilogue Bookery, 201 W. MainSt., Lancaster.

Although a date has not been set, I have been invited to speak at Epilogue Bookery in 2023 and plan several library presentations, including the Logan Hocking County Library. I hope to also speak at the 2023 Big Foot Festival in August.

GM: List 10 things that your fans may not know about you...


  1.   Over the years, one of my favorite equines to ride was our little mule, Barney. At 13.1 hands, I could easily step up on him. The tallest mount I’ve ever ridden was also a mule—he was 18 hands and I had to get on a picnic table to mount.
  2.  Barney never bucked but once he got startled and spun under me, dumped me and then proceeded to walk just a few steps ahead of me, all two miles through the woods to home.
  3. If you want me to sit through a two-hour movie there better be at least one horse in it.
  4.  I am shy.
  5.   But I can talk about horses all day long.
  6. You will never find me without long underwear if the temperature is below 45 degrees. That includes indoors.
  7. When I was five years old I started first grade in Yermo, California (the Mohave Desert) and wore cowboy boots to school every day.
  8.  When I was in the third grade a mean boy sat in front of me. Once I had to defend myself by stabbing him with my pencil. The teacher deemed it self-defense and I didn’t get in trouble.
  9. When I was in 10th grade my family lived in a deep south state. At all assemblies “Dixie” would be played and every one of the 3,000 students but me would stand with their hands over their hearts.
  10.  My instrument of choice for the high school marching band and orchestra was the trombone (I earned first chair for my efforts).
Connect with Joy…

Joy & Calico 1954

Joy & Libby

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