Sample Chapter – Campout


A Dark Fantasy Novel

Sample Chapter 1

Johnny Berg pressed down on the brake pedal, bringing his bike to a rasping halt as the tire scratched a deep gash in the gravel. The smell of fresh mown summer hay from the field on one side of the road filled his nostrils. The June heat of summer had brought a fresh coating of perspiration to wet his shirt. Summer vacation was just starting and already the boys were searching for fresh adventures. Johnny was twelve and at an age that adventures came readily to mind.
His friend, Jim Wester stopped beside him. Jim was a couple of years younger than Johnny, however, the boys hung together because they were neighbors and the only boys that lived along the rural highway that went past their houses.
The boys peered through the summer heat at an abandoned road that poked into the forest, disappearing in a mysterious shadow of darkness.
“Let’s go down that road, Jim,” Johnny said.
“Wow, you can hardly tell it’s a road, Johnny.”
“It’s an old county road that has not been used in a long time. It goes through to the road that the Hicks farm is located on.”
Jim nodded and replied, “I know where it comes out. The other end is as overgrown as this end is. I wonder why they stopped using it.”
“It goes through Laughery Creek,” said Johnny. “Old Charley Nudson said there was a little town back there at one time, right along the creek.”
“It looks like its open enough to ride our bikes through,” said Jim.
“Some of the farmers use it to get to the back of their farms,” Johnny said.
“Have you ever been back there, Johnny?”
Johnny shook his head and answered, “Nope. Grandpa was telling me the other day that him and his friends used to go back once in a while to swim in the creek. But they stopped after a while.”
“Why did they stop?”
Johnny hesitated, and then said, “He didn’t really say. Let’s go on back. I want to see that swimming hole.”
With that, Johnny pedaled off and entered the road with Jim in close pursuit.
The burst of speed did not last long. The roadbed began to descend into the creek valley and became a series of rock ledges that the bikes could not negotiate easily. There were briars and roots obstructing their path. They had to stop frequently to lower the bikes down from one ledge to another.
“Apparently the tractors don’t come back this far, Johnny,” Jim observed as he stopped to survey the abandoned road ahead of them.
“Apparently not,” Johnny said in answer. “We are almost down the creek, though.”
Indeed, they could see water ahead of them through the underbrush.
The rest of the way down was a bit easier as the terrain leveled out as they reached the creek.
“There is the crossing,” said Johnny, pointing to a spot below them. “They slip scraped the banks away. You can see the road continue on the other side of the creek.”
Jim nodded as he wondered, “I wonder where the old town was.”
“I don’t know. Charley said all that is left are stone pillars they used for foundations for some of the buildings and a couple of boarded up old wells.”
“The boards on the wells will be rotted away by now, Johnny.”
“Uh, huh,” the boy agreed as he dismounted his bike. He flipped the kickstand down and rested it on the bedrock slab they were standing on.
“Lets see if we can find it.”
Jim extended his kickstand, put his bike beside Johnny’s, and followed the older boy as he plunged into the forest beside the old road. In just a moment he stopped.
“Here it is,” he said, pointing to a rectangular configuration of stone pillars that jutted up from the forest floor. There were several other remains of similar type scattered along the old road.
“It looks like there may have only been three or four buildings here,” said Johnny.
“There may have been some on the other side of the road,” Jim said as he surveyed the area.
“Maybe. We can look later.”
Johnny walked to the edge of the bank and peered down musing, “This would be a great place for our summer camp out, Jim.”
“It would, but it is a bit hard to get to.”
“We can work on the road, Jim. I saw some spots that we can make it easier to get our bikes down.”
“That would be a lot of work, Johnny.”
“We have all summer, Jim. We usually have our big camp out in August. That gives us almost two months to get a campsite ready down here. Heck, we can camp down here ourselves a couple of times.”
Jim nodded and said, “It does sound like fun if our parents let us.” His face clouded at the thought.
Johnny glanced at Jim saying, “We can’t tell our parents,” he said. They won’t let us camp down here. We have to keep this place secret. It can be our own little hideaway.”
Jim’s face lightened as he said, “That would be neat. No one comes here. We can make a secret camp here. But what about your grandpa? We have to ride past his place to get here.”
Johnny thought a moment before saying, “We can work down here on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Grandpa always goes into town to see his friend Bill Watson on those days. They spend the afternoon talking and always go out for supper at The Dinner Bell and he doesn’t get home until at least seven o’clock. That gives up plenty of time to ride over, get his tools and return them before supper.”
Jim nodded and said, “I like that plan. We should do it.”
The two boys walked about the abandoned town. At length Johnny stopped on a level area near a huge beech tree.
“We can put the tent up here, on this bank overlooking the creek. There is a pretty good hole there that I bet is chock full of bluegill,” Johnny said.
“Yup, we can catch some fish and cook them over the fire. I see a good spot for a campfire on that sandbar. There are a lot of old logs and limbs to use for firewood and we can swim in there when we are done fishing.”
“This is going to be a great spot, Jim. I can’t wait.”
The afternoon was wearing on and the two boys had finished their exploration.
As they got on their bikes, Jim glanced back towards the deserted town and asked, “I wonder why they abandoned this town.”
Johnny shrugged as he replied, “Charley Nudson said that something scared the people off. He didn’t say what.”
Jim shot a quick glance at Johnny and queried, “You mean this place is haunted?”
Johnny, knowing Jim’s aversion to all things supernatural, said carefully, “He didn’t say haunted. He just said something scared the people off. But that was a long time ago, Jim. This place has been deserted for a hundred years. The log cabins that were here have rotted away and all the wooden structures are gone. Whatever scared them is gone a long time ago.”
He glanced at his friend and observed, “This will be a great place for our camp out, Jim.”
Jim, with an unsure smile on his face said, “Yeah, it will. When do you want to start working on that road?”
“Tomorrow. I can’t wait to get us a path down here.”
Their summer project set, the two boys made their way slowly back up the road.
The beech tree near where the boys had laid their plans held a secret of its own. Its innards had, over the many years it stood here, hollowed out, forming a cavernous crevice within it. This crevice, dark and damp, was large enough to hide a person. From this crevice, a figure stepped out and watched as the boys moved off. It watched as they faded from view, listening to the creaking of the bicycle chains as they strained from their labors of propelling the boys up the hill.
The eyes were not happy at this intrusion.

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Sample Chapter – A Stranger Lurks

A Stranger Lurks

Sample Chapter

Chapter One

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Memories fluttered around Margaret’s mind like the butterflies hovering over the buddleia bush. She remembered that it was her mother’s favorite flower. Those were long gone, but the fragrant sweet peas survived, covering the slope below the old house. Black eyes Susan’s, Queen Anne’s lace and other wildflowers also occupied the formerly well-kept lawn. Trees had encroached here, as well. Nature threatened to swallow up what remained of her parent’s life.
Her girlhood home had vanished in a cloud of smoke and fire. Its charred remnants remained, littering the blackened stone foundation. She turned to face the other structure that remained. The round barn built by her great grandfather remained in good shape over a century later. Its stone walls and wooden shingled roof had withstood the storms, rains and snow which nature had thrown at it.
She glanced at the watch on her wrist. He would be here soon. Their appointment was at ten o’clock and it was now five minutes before the hour. She walked down the overgrown sidewalk to her car, parked at the base of the hill below the neglected home site. The July sun was starting to beat down, promising a scorcher of a day.
The southern Indiana forested hills surrounded the old farm. It was a beautiful spot. Additionally the property was close to town and on a good road, not too far off the main highway. It should bring a good price. In some ways, she wished she could sell some of the memories with it. Some of those memories she would like to shuck off and bid farewell.
Selling this place was not something that came easy. It had been in the family for generations. Another glance at the unkempt lawn and fields told the story, though. It was time to let go. She could not keep it up anymore and since the death of her mother, she had lost interest.
The crunch of rubber tires on the gravel driveway announced the arrival of the realtor. He was on time, anyway. She watched as his car bounced down the driveway and pull up beside hers. His arrival marked the end of another chapter of her life. Another would soon open.

Reuben Steen slowed down as he approached the driveway and turned in. He saw that the seller was there awaiting him. Behind her, he could see the old round barn. It was an imposing structure that dominated the scene before him.
He slowed still more as his car bounced. The neglected driveway had grown a good crop of potholes and muddy water splashed over his newly washed car.
Damn, he would have to have it washed again.
His mood brightened as he drew up beside the other car and saw the attractive brunette who awaited him. He had seen her before in the diner he frequented and also at the library. He had not known her name, but now he did.
He opened the door and smiled as he extended his hand.
“Margaret Dreu? My name is Reuben Steen,” he said as he shook the smooth, firm hand she extended to him.
“Yes, I am Margaret Drue,” she replied. “But my friends all call me Peggy.”
“Nice to meet you, Peggy,” Reuben said. “I think I have seen you working in the library.”
“Yes, I handle the kid’s reading programs so I mostly work afternoons and evenings. However, through the summer we switch to a daytime program. I think I have seen you in the library at times in the evening.”
“Yes, I sometimes go in there for research. The courthouse closes at four o’clock. Sometimes I can find the information I need for a property in the old town records in the library. I think I have also seen you in Benny’s Diner.”
“I like to eat breakfast in there. He has some divine Danish rolls. Wanda recommended you to me when I told her I wanted to sell the old farm. She said you sold her brother’s house and he liked you.”
“I will have to give Wanda a bigger tip the next time I go in there.”
“Yes, you will. I am sorry about the driveway but I haven’t been maintaining it. A few months back someone set fire to the house. I thought if the driveway was in bad shape it might deter other trespassers.”
Reuben glanced up the slope at the burned out farmhouse.
“Darn shame,” he said. “It was probably just kids out on a lark.”
“The house was pretty well shot, anyway. No one lived in it for years. I took an apartment in town when Mom moved out and to the nursing home. I needed to be near her. This was too big a place for me to rattle around in anyway. It has become a party place for the local kids. I guess I will have to put up a locked gate to keep them out.”
“At least they didn’t burn this barn. This is a great building. You don’t see many round barns around anymore. I love the windmill on top.”
“My great-grandfather built this barn around 1900. Purdue University was touting it at the time as a great time saver. Grandfather added the windmill later on. He laid a pipe from the well by the house. The windmill pumped water into some big water tanks on the third level. A pipe fed water back to the house. We had great water pressure.”
“Ingenious,” said Reuben. “Does the windmill still work?”
“As far as I know it does. I don’t know about the pump. The water company laid water lines past here a few years back, so there is city water available making the well unnecessary. It is still up by the house, though.”
Reuben pulled a notepad from his pocket and jotted it down, saying, “I will take notes as we go.”
Peggy opened the door and Reuben followed her inside.
“It is wonderful in here. The stone foundation keeps it nice and cool,” said Reuben.
“They built the first level into the side of the hill which rises behind the barn. It is always cool in here in the summer, and warm in the winter.”
Reuben turned in a slow circle, taking it all in.
“It is like a huge, circular tunnel.”
“This lower level was where we kept the livestock. This outer circle goes all the way around the stable area. You can see the openings for the stalls. They pulled wagons in here to load manure on. You could run the cattle around from one stall to another without going out into the weather. You could also run a team of horses around it without having to back up. Of course, my dad had a tractor. It wasn’t on of the big ones you see now. It was small enough to navigate around in here.”
“This was one efficient barn.”
“Yes it was. But the one reason my great grandfather built it he wouldn’t talk about much.”
“What was that?”
“It was an old superstition. The old timers said that in a round barn there weren’t any corners for evil spirits to hide in.”
Reuben laughed and said, “That would be true. There are no corners in here.”
As they walked, one stall door was open. Reuben glanced inside.
“This is the one my father died in. He was forking manure out into the spreader when he died. Mom found him when he didn’t come in for lunch.”
Reuben glanced at a pitchfork that stood against the one wall.
“He left it right there. He had a heart attack. None of us felt like moving that fork, so it is right there where he left it. Mom sold the cows after he died.”
“This place holds some bad memories for you, then?”
“It does. However, it holds many good ones too. One of our cats had kittens in that manger. I wouldn’t let Dad use it until they were big enough to move.”
She smiled, her voice deep in memory, “It was my favorite cat. She was a big calico I named Butterboot, because she was white and black with huge yellow splotches and white boots.”
“It does sound like there were good ones then, too.”
“We were happy here when I was a girl. It is the later ones that are bad. Dad died. Then Mom took sick and I had to take care of her. An aunt moved in to help when I went to college. I moved back after college. Then my aunt got sick and died after that. Mom had a bad stroke and had to go to the nursing home. I moved into town to be near her. That was three years ago and Mom has since passed on. It has set empty ever since. And as you can see, it is too much for me to take care of. So I decided to sell it.”
“I will try my best,” said Reuben. “But it is a slow market right now. It may take some time.”
“I understand,” said Peggy.
They walked down a passageway to the center of the barn.
“This was the feeding area,” Peggy said. There are chutes which they dumped the grain and feed down here, and hay and they lowered the straw using a winch fastened on the roof.”
They climbed a spiral staircase that rose to the second level.
“This floor has a ground level door. They brought the wagons in here for unloading. They raised the hay to the haymow with a winch. They stored grain in the second level.”
“It sounds like an efficient way to farm.”
“It was. Dad still used it. But now, with the larger equipment and different way of housing the animals, it is obsolete.”
Reuben again turned in a circle, studying the barn.
“It looks like the structure is still good. It seems to be the old mortis and tendon construction.”
“It is all native timber.”
Reuben wrote some more in his notepad, musing “I can see this having commercial applications. It would make a great winery. This second level could be a restaurant, tasting room and gift shop.”
“I had the same thought.” Peggy replied with a smile. “It looks like we are on the same page.”
“I think we are,” said Reuben. “I bet there is a great view from up there?”
“There is,” said Peggy as she began ascending the stair. Soon they were looking out one of the windows at the hilly landscape that surrounded the barn.
“This is a great piece of property,” said Reuben. “I would like to get it on the market as soon as possible.”
He looked at the center of the barn. There is where the water tank was. There was a large enclosure near the tank. A door, fastened with a latch, faced him.
“What’s in there?”
“That is where the pump was, as well as tools and other things they needed up here. It still has everything in it, as far as I know.”
Reuben pulled on the latch. The door would not budge. “
“It must be stuck,” he said.
“It shouldn’t be.”
Peggy tugged on the door, but it remained jammed.
“H’mm. It seems to be stuck pretty well,” she said.
“I will have to come back later,” said Reuben. “I forgot my camera. I think I left it by my computer at home. I will bring a few tools along and see if I can get it open. I would like to see that pump.”
The two moved back to the window.
“I will draw up the contract this afternoon,” said Reuben. “Can you stop by the office tomorrow morning to look it over and sign it?”
“I don’t go to work until one o’clock. I can stop by in the morning.”
“Great. Let’s say around 10:30, is that okay?”
Peggy nodded. “I will stop on the way to work.”
“Good. I will get the photos later tonight, and if we can get the paperwork done in the morning I can have it listed by afternoon.”
“That sounds great. The sooner the better,” said Peggy. “It may sound crazy, but the last time I came in here a few days ago, I was alone. It seemed that I felt an evil presence here. I haven’t come back until now.” She shuddered visibly.
The two walked back down the staircase and back to their cars. They stood talking for a while, as Peggy indicated the property lines and told him more things about the property.
After a bit more conversation, they got in their cars and both bounced out the driveway and into town.

In the enclosure in the haymow, the reason the door wouldn’t open waited. As he heard the car doors close, he opened the door and walked to the outer edge of the barn. He watched as the cars drove out the driveway.
It was she. His Margaret. She looked just the same as she looked many years before. That man would be coming back. He would be waiting.
Evil does not always need a corner in which to hide.

Sample Chapter – Demon of Death – Chapter One

Demon of Death

Sample Chapter

Paul R. Wonning

Chapter One

Jason Derr clicked on his calendar and studied the posts. The rest of the day was open. The computer clock read eleven thirty. It had been a busy morning in his small office on Main Street and the afternoon would be a pleasant relief. He decided to take an early lunch and then come back and work on the policy applications he had written up in the morning. He minimized the screen. Cindy’s face peered at him from the desktop. He smiled as he thought of her. Her name was Lucinda Meir, but everyone called her Cindy because she hated her real name.
She would be on duty today, making a perfect excuse to eat lunch at the German Haus where she worked as a waitress. He ate there often. He hit on her several times before she finally agreed to go on a date with him. They had been together now for about five months. He could see her over lunch and perhaps even make a date with her for the evening. He put the computer to sleep, got up from his desk and locked the door on the way out after changing the door sign to “Back at 1:00.”
He crossed the street to the restaurant. The sun was shining and it promised to be a warm day. It was too nice a day to spend cooped up in his office. He walked up the ramp to the entry, opened the door and walked in. The place was just starting to fill up with the lunchtime crowd but there were still numerous tables available. Cindy saw him as he stood in the waiting area. She smiled and walked over to greet him.
“Hey, Jason,” she said, her eyes sparkling with pleasure. “Do you want a table?”
Jason nodded, and Cindy led him to one near the rear of the dining room. He watched her hips swivel in the short dress she wore as she strode along. She had her long black hair drawn back into a ponytail and silver hoop earrings that jingled at each step. She slid a menu on the table as he sat down. He ran his hand over the back of her smooth nylon clad thigh as he slid into his chair. She gave him a menacing look as she gave his hand a light slap. “Not now, finger man.”
“Sorry Cindy, but you look so damned fine I just can’t resist you.”
The menacing look disappeared, replaced by a sly smile. “Hey, I get off at 1:30. How about we hook up for the afternoon?”
A warm thrill ran through Jason’s body. “That sounds good, Cindy. I have had a crazy morning and could use a bit of a break. Should I pick you up here?”
“Yes, my car is in the shop until tomorrow. Mary was going to take me home, but you can do that.”
Jason nodded, saying, “That will give me time to tie up some loose ends in the office.”
“I’ll just walk across the street and meet you there, then. What do you want to eat?”
Jason glanced at Cindy, a mischievous smile on his face as he whispered, “You.”
Her eyes narrowed as she replied, “You can’t do that here, steam boat. What sort of food do you want?”
Jason glanced at the menu and answered, “I’ll just have the special. That will be quick. I can eat fast and go to the office to finish up.”
“Okay,” she said. She swirled and walked away. A few minutes later, she returned with his food. She put the plate on the table and bent to give him a light kiss as she did.
Jason caught the faint scent of her coconut body oil as her lips brushed his. He took her fingers in one hand and peered into her eyes.
“God, I love you,” he said.
She smiled and purred, “I bet you say that to all the girls.”
“Just one.”
He watched her as she walked away. The afternoon had suddenly taken on a quite different flavor.

They rode along the country road, Cindy’s hair flying free in the breeze. The band that had held it in the ponytail lay on the console between them. She had slipped her shoes off and sat, one foot tucked up under her thigh as the convertible hummed along. Her pretty voice was singing along with a song playing on the radio. Jason wanted it to be this way always.
“You could have at least taken me home to change,” she said.
“I have this thing for waitress uniforms,” he replied.
“Where are we going?”
“There is a little quarry pond just off this road I know of. We can toss out a blanket and just lie in the grass and enjoy the day.”
“Don’t the owners ever come here?”
He slowed the car and turned in a narrow gravel lane. Jason could hear the faint rush of the grass in the green strip in the middle of the lane hissing as it brushed against the bottom of the car.
“It doesn’t seem like too many people come back here.”
“They don’t. The owners live in Ohio and only come here on holiday weekends in the summer.”
The reached the end of the lane and Jason pulled the car into grassy spot which overlooked a small lake.
“This is a beautiful spot, Jason. And quiet.”
She slipped her shoes back on, tied them and then brushed her hair back behind her shoulders with both hands.
“This convertible is wonderful, Jason, but it makes a mess of my hair.”
“I think your hair looks wonderful.”
“You would,” she said. She opened the door and got out of the car. She walked to the edge of the pond and asked, “Who mows it?”
“There is a neighbor who likes to come out here in the evenings to fish. He takes care of the place for them. He keeps a close eye on the place on weekends now, to keep the partiers out.”
She stooped to smell some pink flowers that were blooming at the edge of the water.
“These smell divine. I wonder what they are.”
“My mom likes to garden. She has some like that in her flowerbeds. I think they are sweet peas.”
They watched as a butterfly landed on one. Its wings pulsed as it drank the nectar.
“I don’t know what is prettier,” she said, “the butterfly or the flower.”
Jason opened the trunk and pulled out a large blanket.
“Welcome to my pad,” he said as he spread it out over the fragrant grass next to the water. He pulled a cooler from the back seat and laid it beside the blanket.
“I had time to pick up some cold beer at the liquor store,” he said as he reached inside, pulled two out. He untwisted one and handed it to Cindy. She raised the bottle and took a generous drink, the bottle gurgling as air bubbles replaced the liquid inside the bottle.
“That is good,” she said as she sat the bottle down.
Jason took a sip of his.
Cindy sat down on the blanket and took another pull.
“Gosh, Jason, it is quiet out here.”
“We could be the only two people in the whole world, Cindy.”
“Yes, you can’t hear anything except crickets and those cicadas singing in the trees.”
They drank their beers in silence, enjoying the sun and the light breeze that rustled the leaves on the trees.
“It is getting a little warm,” Cindy said as she finished the beer. She reached down and began untying her shoe.
Jason reached for her hand and pulled it away.
“I want to do that,” he said. “I want to take my time with you.”
Their eyes met, both sets filled with anticipation.
He pushed her back on the blanket and kissed her. He felt her hand at the back of his neck as she pulled him closer. He could smell her fragrance and feel the softness of her hair as he stroked it.
He unbuttoned her blouse and felt the warmness of her breasts as he stroked them. The nipples hardened under his gentle caress. She rose slightly, allowing him to unbutton her bra. He removed her blouse and then the bra, laying them in the green grass by the blanket. He unbuttoned the skirt and slid the zipper down. She tilted her buttocks and he slid it off. Then he untied her shoes and removed them. Running his fingers along her long legs, he reached the top of her pantyhose. He pulled them down, sliding them off her soft, pretty feet. He ran his eyes over her, as she lay naked in the shade of the tree.
He removed his own clothing and lay beside her. They made gentle love in the soft breeze of the summer afternoon.

When Jason awoke, he felt Cindy’s soft fingers caressing his cheek. He sat up.
“How long did I sleep?”
“Not long. I did too. But I heard some fish slapping at the surface of the pond and I woke up.”
Jason sat up and looked at the water.
“Why does this pond seem different than other ponds? I don’t see a dam.”
“It is an old quarry pond.”
“What’s a quarry pond?”
“They used to quarry limestone here in the old days. When they quit digging out the stone, it filled with water. There are lots of these around here. Limestone underlies this whole area.”
“The water looks nice and clear. We could go swimming.”
“We don’t have suits.”
“Who needs suits?”
Cindy stood up and walked to the edge of the water. She sat on a large rock at the waters edge.
She looked back at him and noted hesitation on his face.
“What’s wrong, Jason? You look afraid.”
“This pond is haunted.”
Cindy smiled and teased, “Haunted? I have never heard of a haunted pond.”
“They say a man hurled himself in here a long time ago, drowning himself. They say that on dark nights, you can see his ghost as it moves along the surface of the water.”
“Cool, a haunted pond.”
“I saw the ghost myself, Cindy.”
Her fascinated eyes focused on his as she said, “You actually saw this ghost?”
“Yeah. A few of us came out here one Saturday night when I was in high school. We had beer and were having a good time. It was summer and it was a warm night. A couple of the girls suggested skinny-dipping. We all stripped down. Just as I started to get in the water, we saw it.”
“What did it look like?”
Jason paused, remembering.
“It looked like a face. A horrible face. It was sort of misty and illuminated by the moonlight.”
“What happened?”
“We watched it as it sort of slid along under the water. Then it just sort of sank and disappeared.”
“Did you swim?”
“No, we all got dressed, gathered our stuff and left.”
Cindy smiled and said, “End of the party.”
“That’s not all, Cindy. There have been a couple of other drowning accidents here, too. Both were young men and both were good swimmers.”
Cindy touched the water with a bare toe.
“It feels nice and cool, Jason. It would be fun. I have never been skinny dipping before.”
She plunged both feet into the water and said, “Ooh, that feels good, Jason. Come on. It will be cool.”
Jason hesitated. The deaths, after all, were had been a few years ago.
“What about the ghost?”
“Jason, what you saw was mist rising over the water in the moonlight. You had all been drinking.”
“But we all saw it.”
“It was mass hysteria, Jason. One of you thought you saw a ghost and the others thought they saw what you saw. There is no ghost, Jason.”
“What about the drowning deaths?”
“Drownings happen, Jason. Maybe they had been drinking. Maybe they got cramps. There are a lot of reasons, Jason.”
Jason looked at Cindy as she sat on the bank, her long dark hair flowing over her naked shoulders. He caught a glimpse of her breasts as they glowed in the late afternoon sun.
“Okay, we’ll do it.”
Cindy smiled and pushed herself into the cool water. She began swimming towards the center of the pond.
Jason sat on the edge, and followed her in. He swam just behind her. She stopped and stood up.
“There is a big rock out here, Jason.”
Jason was soon standing beside her. They were in the middle of the quarry pond. All around the forest loomed. He could see his little red convertible parked under the tree by the lane.
“Neat,” he said.
Cindy found the edge of the rock and sat down. The water immersed her from the waist down. Water dripped from her nipples, creating small concentric rings as they impacted the water. Jason jumped back into the deeper water, swam in a circle, and approached Cindy who smiled at him from her perch on the rock.
She reached for him as he approached. He felt her arms around him. She bent and they kissed. His feet found a ledge to stand on. Their eyes met. He could feel his body reacting to her body. He felt her long legs encircle him.
They kissed again. She moaned as he entered her.

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© 2017 Paul Wonning

Sample Chapter – Short History of Mail Delivery – Forerunner of UPS Established

Sample Chapter

Short History of Mail Delivery

1907 – American Messenger Company Established – Forerunner of United Parcel Service
18 year old entrepreneurs Henry Casey and Claude Ryan started the American Messenger Company on August 28, 1907.
James Casey (March 29, 1888 – June 6, 1983)
The son of Henry James and Annie Sheehan Casey, James was native to Candelaria, Nevada. The family moved to Seattle, Washington in 1897. His father, a miner, became incapacitated while he was young of miner’s lung disease. Thus Casey quit school at age 11 and started working as a delivery boy for the Bon Marche department store. He improved his $2.50 weekly salary by taking work at a tea store, eventually making $6.00 a week. His younger brothers also assisted in supporting the family by working as well. Casey took a job with the American District Telegraph where he met Claude Ryan. In 1902 his father died. Casey and two friends started a messenger service they called the City Messenger Service, however they business did not succeed. Casey and one of his partners in the messenger service migrated to Nevada to try their hands at mining, however they did not succeed in that endeavor either. Casey moved back to Seattle and partnered up with his friend, Claude Ryan.

The two borrowed $100 and started another messenger service they called the American Messenger Company on August 28, 1907. They started with two telephones, two bicycles and a staff of six boys. Using the motto, “Never promise more than you can deliver, and always deliver what you promise,” this business succeeded. The partners, having previously worked as messengers and delivery people for American District Telegraph and other businesses, they knew the city well. They put up signs all over the city with their phone numbers. Their rates, from 15 cents to 65 cents to deliver a message or 25 cents an hour to run errands, were good enough to cause their business to prosper.

In addition to delivering messages and running errands the partners began delivering packages for department and other stores. The company merged with McCabe’s Motorcycle Delivery Company in 1913 and became Merchants Parcel Delivery. The new company acquired a Model T Ford, painted bright red. They brought in Charlie Soderstrom, who was the head of delivery drivers for one of the leading department stores in Seattle. Soderstrom added the automotive expertise the company needed and originated the concept of painting the company’s vehicles brown, a color that did not show dirt and grime a vehicle acquired by driving on the dirt and gravel roads of that era.

The company continued to grow, gradually taking over the delivery trucks of leading department stores as they acquired their delivery business. They made parcel delivery their specialized business and after World War I ended, they sought to expand beyond Seattle. They acquired Motor Parcel Delivery, based in Oakland, California in 1919. In 1925 the company reorganized and began using the name, United Parcel Service, whose familiar brown trucks deliver packages across the United States. After his death in 1983 Casey was interred in Holyrood Catholic Cemetery in Shoreline, King County, Washington.

Sample Chapter – Short History of the Post Office – Street Address History

Sample Chapter 
Short History of the Post Office
Street Address History
The practice of governments assigning street addresses arose not from the need to provide accurate mail delivery as much as the need to create a system to collect taxes, take censuses and record males eligible for conscription into the military. The practice has its European roots in the first known system devised in Augsburg, Germany in the 16th Century. A similar system arose in France during this same period. House numbering systems emerged in sporadic bursts in France, England and Germany over the next couple of centuries, however it did not become common practice until about the middle of the 18th Century. There is evidence that the people resisted the assignment of house numbers during this era. Numerous accounts exist of residents smearing freshly painted house numbers with mud and filth in an attempt to  thwart the new system.
In the United States
One of the earliest systems in the United States was in New York when apparently the British attempted to impose a system sometime after they captured the city in 1776. Philadelphia apparently led the effort after the revolution when they devised the system of odd numbers on one side of the street and even numbers on the others. They came up with this system in order to conduct the first census in 1790. One problem city planners had was that construction of new buildings after addresses for a city street had been assigned. This often necessitated the need to renumber an entire street Philadelphia also devised the decimal system in 1856, a system that assigned 100 numbers to each city block and made street numbering and renumbering much easier. Cities across the United States quickly adopted these systems. The need for accurate mail delivery sped the process of address assignment after the Post Office adopted free city delivery policies during the Civil War. In the United States there is no national system of assigning street numbers, though most use the even/odd system and decimal system. Address assignment systems can vary considerably across the nation. The development of the 911 emergency system in 1968 led to the elimination of the use of the rural route system of addressing houses and the assignation of individual house numbers for rural residences as a means to allow emergency personnel to find houses quickly.
© 2020 Paul Wonning

Sample Chapter – Short History of Post Office – Mid-1800’s Mail Delivery Systems

Sample Chapter
Short History of Post Office
Mid-1800’s Mail Delivery Systems
By 1845 many different types of mail systems had evolved, including:
Stage Coaches
Horse and Sulky
Post Office
Saltwater Mail System
Ship Letters
Packet boat
Steamboat Companies
Stage Coach Companies
Brutal Travel
The stage coach originated in England in the 13th Century. Stage coach travel was dusty, bumpy and brutal. Most stage coaches seated about nine people on three seats inside the coach. The springless coaches provided for a rough ride over the dirt roads of the time. The stage coach acquired its name because travelers completed their journey in “stages.” Typically, teams of two to six horses pulled the coaches, which could weigh in at about 2.000 pounds. Baggage and mail was stowed in leather compartments called boots at the front and rear of the compartment. More luggage and mail could be placed on top of the coach behind the driver. Leather curtains provided some protection against dust while the leather seats provided little leg room. There was no back support, so passengers riding in the middle of the seat had to cling to a leather strap suspended from the ceiling of the coach.
Periodic Stops
Most stage coach lines had several stops along the way. Minor stops, called “swing” stops, allowed a stop of about ten minutes. These were about twelve miles apart. The stage driver had a small brass horn he tooted before arriving at the stop to alert the attendant the stage was coming. Once at these stops, the horse team would be changed and the passengers allowed out for a few minutes of welcome relief. About every fifty or sixty miles the stage coach stopped at a “home” station. These stations were bigger and usually had a cabin or house for the passengers to catch a few hours sleep and a meal before proceeding on. Sometimes there was a blacksmith on the site. A Butterfield stagecoach could cover about 110 miles per day traveling at about 5 miles per hour.
Influential Lobby
The stage coach lobby evolved into a powerful lobby in Washington D. C. Generally, the Post Office awarded contracts for mail delivery to stage coach companies for four years. In 1838 stage coaches carried mail 29,593,192 total miles for a total cost to the Post Office of $1.889,792. This amounted to about $.06 per mile. Although the bids were supposed to be competitive, allegations existed about rigging in the awarding of these contracts, which could be quite lucrative. Many government officials regarded postal contracts as a way to unofficially subsidize stage coach lines.
Sulky Transportation of Mail
A sulky is a two wheeled cart pulled by one horse and one seat for the driver. Much of the mail during this era was carried on horseback or by sulky. In 1838 sulky mail routes covered 11,575,918 miles at a cost of $831,038. This works out to about $.07 per mile.
Railway Companies
Primitive railway systems began emerging in the United States around 1830. The first public railway, the B & O commenced operations on May 24, 1830 with the opening of 24 miles of track over which horses pulled wagons mounted on tracks. The legendary race between the steam engine Tom Thumb on August 28, 1830 began the move to steam power even though the horse defeated the locomotive in the race. Post Office officials began utilizing the new technology on November 30, 1832 when they awarded a contract to a stage coach line that operated between Philadelphia to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The post office granted the company a $400 per year allowance to carry the mail for a short distance by rail. This practice increased over time. By 1838 the combined mileage for mail carried by rail and steamship totaled 2,413,092 miles at a cost of $410,488. This worked out to about $.17 per mile, however rail was much faster.
1838 – Railroads Designated Post Routes By Congress
The first recorded use of railroads for mail delivery was in Great Britain in 1830. Specially adapted railway carriages were used to carry mail kon the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Historical lore suggests that the South Carolina Rail Road carried the first bags of mail in 1831. Stage coach contractors Samuel Slaymaker and Jesse Tomlinson received the first recorded grant to use the railroad to carry mail regularly in the United States in 1832 from Philadelphia to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Railroads saw increased use as mail carriers between 1832 and 1838. The United States Congress passed a law that designated all railroads as post roads on July 7, 1838. The law limited post riders and horse drawn vehicles to carrying mail to post offices that were not on a rail route.
Saltwater Mail System 
Crews on board the sailing ships that plied the oceans would go weeks, months, or even years away from homes and sweethearts. A letter from home was a tremendous morale booster. Sailors could spend many hours while at sea composing letters to send back home. Sailors, and their loved ones back home, kept in touch using the Saltwater Mailing System that had evolved over the years.
The System
The Saltwater Mail System was simple in concept and horrendously unreliable. A ship leaving port would take mail bags on board with their cargo. If, by chance, they met another ship at sea they would open the mail bag and see if there were any letters addressed to any of the crewmen on the other ship. The letters generally bore vague addresses like, “William Smith, Pacific Ocean.” If by chance they found one or two letters belonging to crewmen, they would hand them over. They would then take any letters the crew, or officers, had written and add them to the mail bag. When they reached port, they would deposit the mail at that port and take on another bag when they departed. The “post offices,” were frequently taverns near the waterfront that ship’s captains would use as a sort of makeshift headquarters when they were in port. Needless to say, this system resulted in many letters taking months or years to reach the recipient. If they even arrived at all.
The Letters
Since postage was calculated by the number of pages, numerous systems evolved to put as much information as they could on one sheet. Many used a system called “cross writing,” to double the amount of words they could put in a letter. Basically, they would write the letter from top to bottom, then turn the page 1/4 turn and continue writing, with these lines intersecting those written earlier.
Ship Letters
The salt water mail system used by sailors was part of a larger, loose knit system of mail often referred to as the ship letter system. Ship captains, both salt water and fresh water, frequently used a public house, or tavern, as an office. Tavern owners encouraged this practice, as a boat captain hanging out in their tavern generally led to and increase in traffic as people looked to boat captains as a source of news and mail. A visit to a tavern when a captain was in attendance would sometimes yield a letter dispatched from a faraway relative, lover or acquaintance. If you received a letter from a captain, it was common practice to pay the captain a fee for the service. Typically, the sender gave the captain 2 cents and the recipient 6 cents for the service. If you had a letter to mail, you would give it to the captain, he would add it to the growing accumulation of letters in his mail bag. Especially in the colonies, the ship letter system was slow and often unreliable. Many times letter writers would make several copies of an important letters and send them on different ships to increase the odds at least one would reach the recipient. Wars between nations could further complicate mail delivery. Ships sunk during naval actions would, of course, never deliver any mail on board. Others were captured and the letters became part of the prize seized by the captors. Piracy could also cause many letters to go undelivered. Ships sunk due to storms were another impediment to mail delivery in this system. A recent effort by the British National Archives to digitize many of the 160,000 letters seized as prize booty during Britain’s wars in the 17th and 18th centuries will cause many of these letters to be digitized. They should provide a valuable insight into life during that time. Many of these letters are still sealed with wax.
Packet boat
In the early days of maritime history ships often sat in port until they had enough cargo and passengers to depart. This could be days, weeks or even months. In 1660 an innovation appeared as regularly scheduled ship departure began carrying mail between Great Britain and Holland. The routes later expanded to include France and Spain. These ships became known as packet ships, because their function in the beginning was to carry packets of mail between ports. At this time, privateers and pirates preyed upon shipping so most of these ships were armed and prepared to defend themselves against attack. Since this was a common danger, the companies offered a standard table of compensation for sailors that lost limbs during an attack. Packet ships were mainly small vessels that plied the oceans, rivers and canals of Europe and the United States. They maintained a regular schedule and eventually evolved into ships capable of carrying freight and passengers as well as mail. The packet trade, as it came to be called, became quite popular, and profitable for ships owners and those that used the service. Packet boats carried multitudes of immigrants to the United States on packet boats. Packet boats on the Erie Canal and others carried immigrants into the interior of the growing nation. By the early part of the Nineteenth Century steamship companies began supplanting packet boats as mail and passenger carriers.
Steamboat Mail Delivery
Robert Fulton and Robert Livingston teamed up to build the first steam powered boat in 1807, forever changing water transportation and the carriage of mail.
Robert Fulton (November 14, 1765 – February 24, 1815)
The son of son of Irish immigrants Robert Fulton and Mary Smith, Fulton received his education at a Quaker school about time he turned eight. His father died in 1774. He became an apprentice at a Philadelphia jewelry shop. While there he developed a talent for painting miniature portraits on lockets and rings. His talent for painting took him to London to seek his fortune in painting. His talent not sufficient for London tastes, he became acquainted with James Watt’s invention, the steam engine. He met Robert R. Livingston and the two teamed up to build the first steamboat in 1807, based on designs Fulton drew. This steamboat, the Clermont, made its first voyage on August 17, 1807. Fulton was also a huge advocate of building the Erie Canal. Fulton died of tuberculosis in 1815.
Fulton’s first riverboats were designed for the deeper eastern American waterways  and didn’t fare so well in the shallower western rivers. He built a boat called the New Orleans to run down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. The New Orleans departed Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in September, 1811. It traveled down the Ohio to Louisville, Kentucky, where it had to wait for the river to rise before it could navigate the Falls of the Ohio region. When the water finally rose, the boat had to navigate in water only five inches deeper the boat drew. Coincidentally, the catastrophic New Madrid earthquake struck as the boat slipped into a pool of water just below the Falls. The shock waves of the quake threw water out of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, felled trees into the rivers, and just created a general mess.  After many delays, the boat finally did reach New Orleans, but it never made the trip again. Rivers like the Ohio, Missouri, and Red Rivers needed boats with shallower drafts. These boats were eventually built, and river traffic at ports along these rivers blossomed.
Ocean Going Paddlewheelers
Paddle wheelers designed to cross the ocean were developed a little later. The Savannah, a converted coastal packet became the first paddle wheeler to cross the Atlantic. It departed Savannah Georgia on May 24, 1819 and arrived in Liverpool, England on the twentieth of June, 1819. Other ships made the trans-Atlantic crossing at irregular times until the British Cunard Line began a regular schedule in 1840. It was 1847 before American ships – the  Herman and Washington began service between America and Europe. The ocean going ships of this era were wooden paddle wheelers also equipped with masts to use to take advantage of favorable winds when they occurred. Freshwater paddle-wheelers were limited to the larger rivers and lakes. Canals were narrower than rivers and travel was discouraged because the turbulence induced by the paddles caused bank erosion.
Fulton died of tuberculosis in 1815.
Early Mail Carriage
Fulton’s steamboats carried mail on some of their first voyages, beginning in 1807. Unofficial carriage of mail, without a contract with the Post Office, continued until 1823, when the United States Congress declared the nation’s waterways as post roads, thus outlawing private carriage of mail. Typically, the unofficial carriage of mail used the ship letter system, however the volume of mail carried using this system created a drop in Post Office volume in many port towns by 1813. The Congress responded by passing a law that authorized local post masters to sign contracts with steamship companies to carry mail on February 27, 1815.
First Mail Contracts
The law that authorized post masters to sign contracts with steam ship companies also required all steam boat captains to deliver any mail they carried to the post office in any port at which they docked. This law compelled steamship companies to sign contracts with local post office officials, the first of which were signed later that same year. By the 1830 steam boats carried mail on the Ohio River, along the East Coast, the Hudson River, Erie Canal and the Mississippi River. By 1855 steamships carried mail a total of 14,619 miles. Two years before California achieved statehood, the Post Office authorized the establishment of post offices in that faraway territory in 1848. Since there was as yet no rail service between California and the eastern United States, steamship companies began forming that would provide a vital mail link between the two widely separated regions.
U.S. Mail Steamship Company
Established in 1848, the U.S. Mail Steamship Company transported mail from New York to New Orleans Havana and to the Isthmus of Panama. Mail arriving at the Isthmus was transported overland to a port on the Pacific Ocean and loaded on to a steam ship bound for California or Oregon. The Pacific Mail Steamship Company formed to transport mail from the west coast of Panama to the western United States coast. The U.S. Mail Steamship Company ceased operations in 1859.
Pacific Mail Steamship Company
A consortium of New York businessmen established the Pacific Mail Steamship Company on April 18, 1848, to carry mail from the western coast of Panama to points in California, Oregon and other points along the Pacific Coast. Initially, the steamship line transported mail and farm produce produced in California, however James W. Marshall’s discover of gold at Sutter’s Mill in California set off the California Gold Rush that same year. The steamship line found itself in the right place at the right time as gold fever set in and the rush of forty-niners streamed west. The company expanded its routes in later years, carrying passengers, mail and freight to Oregon, Washington and Alaska. The company closed in 1949.
Many farmers in the Midwest and other regions did not have a much cash on hand and could not afford to send letters via the Post Office. If they wanted to communicate with a family member or friend located in a distant town or city, they would write the letter and hold it until a local acquaintance was planning to travel to that place. They would entrust the letter to that person, who would deliver it free.
Merchants located in large cities like Philadelphia, New York and Boston developed a sort of informal mailing system. Any merchant that had a need to travel from one large city to another would advertise the fact ahead of time. Any businessman that needed to send a letter to that city would contact him and give him the letter to deliver. This service was performed free, as all businessmen had need of the service. Many could achieve almost daily mail service between the large cities using this method.

Sample Chapter – Short History of the Post Office – Genghis Khan and the Mail

Sample Chapter
Short History of the Post Office 
Genghis Khan and the Mail
Genghis Khan relied heavily upon the messenger service he developed to govern his huge empire.
Genghis Khan (c.1162 – August 18, 1227)
The son of Yesugei Baghatur and Hoelun, Genghis was probably native to Delüün Boldog, Mongolia and given the name Temüjin. His father, a tribal leader of the important Kiyad tribe. Historical lore relates that at birth Temüjin clutched a blood clot in his hand, considered an omen of future greatness. When Temüjin was about 10 years old a rival Tatars tribe’s leader had his father poisoned. Temüjin attempted to claim the leadership position of the tribe, however they did not accept him and abandoned the family. Left to die, the family managed to survive the brutal environment of the Asian Steppe region. Their food consisted mainly of ox carcasses, wild fruit and small game Temüjin and his brothers managed to kill.
Temüjin and his brother Khasar killed their older stepbrother Begter after he began to make claims to the family’s leadership. This would have meant that he could claim Temüjin’s mother Hoelun as his wife. An angry Temüjin and Khasar murdered him. Sometime after this a tribe that had been his father’s ally kidnapped and enslaved him. With the help of two of his father’s loyal followers and a sympathetic guard, Temüjin escaped during the night.
Marriage and Rise to Power
Temüjin married a girl to which he had been previously betrothed, Borte. In addition to the men that had helped him escape, Temüjin was able to gather more of his father’s former allies and then joined Toghril, chief of the Kerait.  Temüjin’s father had once helped the Kerait and thus gained their friendship. Temüjin proved to be a formidible leader and military strategist. His followers began a campaign of subjection over neighboring tribes, a task at which they had tremendous success.
The Great Khan
At this time the Central Asian plateau north of China consisted of dozens of tribes, including Naimans, Merkits, Tatars, Khamag Mongols, and Keraites.  Temüjin and his allies subdued these tribes one by one in a series of brutal, bloody campaigns. At length at a conference of these tribes in 1206 AD on the shores of the Kerulen river the leaders of these tribes awarded Temüjin with the title Great Khan.
Further Conquests
The Khan’s warriors were hardy men that could survive for days riding their tough horses with few provisions and rest. Each rider equipped themselves with up to 16 spare horses, which allowed them extreme mobility and the ability to move quickly over long distances. The Mongols utilized enemy tactics and technology, if it benefited them. Under the Khan’s leadership, this army expanded quickly, as conquered foes were frequently given the choice to either join the Khan or face total annihilation. The area governed by the Khan grew quickly as he attacked the Jin Emperor of China Emperor Xuanzong, eventually causing the fall of the empire by 1234. The conquest was completed by his sons, as Ghengis had died earlier. In addition to these conquests, Khan conquered the Khwarazmian Empire, Georgia, Crimea, Kievan Rus and Volga Bulgaria, adding each of these to his Mongol Empire that at his death in 1227 had become the largest contiguous empire on earth. The empire stretched from the Pacific Ocean to Eastern Europe. 
The Örtöö
Khan developed his messenger service, called the Örtöö, sometime around 1200 AD. The word Örtöö translates as the term checkpoint, which was a relay station on the route. At some point the service became known as the Yam, which is a Tatar word for road, related in turn to the Mongolian name for road, which is Zam. The Örtöö consisted of a series of relay stations located from 20 to 40 miles apart. Each station was equipped with horses, food and shelter. A messenger would arrive at the station, hand his message to the next rider in line, then eat and rest. The system grew to include thousands of relay stations. There were 1400 just in China. The Örtöö at one time had 50,000 horses, 6,700 mules, 1,400 oxen, more than 200 dogs, and 1,150 sheep. The service also owned over 6,000 boats and 400 carts. The system provided a means for the Khan and his officials to send messages, mail and intelligence reports. The Khan allowed merchants to use the service free. Abuse of the privilege led the Khan eventually to charge a fee.
The Messengers
The messengers were trustworthy individuals whose duties to the service superseded everything else. The members of the service enjoyed special privileges and carried a tablet called a  paiza that identified them as members of the service and designated their authority to obtain goods and services from the populace when they needed them. The service evolved into the largest and most efficient ever developed until modern times.

Sample Chapter – The Wizard’s Magic Pipe – A Dark Fantasy Novel

The Wizard’s Magic Pipe

Paul R. Wonning

Sample Chapter

The Wizard’s Magic Pipe

The initial shock of cold water slapped Cecil Barnes awake. As the water heated, he stuck his head under the stream and wetted his hair. He reached for the shampoo, squeezed a small puddle of it into his palm and lathered his hair. The rich smell of the shampoo permeated the steamy air. He felt the hot water sooth the stiff muscles in his neck and back. He hadn’t been sleeping well. He needed a new mattress. As this thought settled into his mind, he knew that his mattress wasn’t all that he needed to change.As he worked the shampoo through his hair, his mind drifted back to grade school.

He remembered something his history teacher, Mrs. Herman, had said many years ago.

“History is more than events which happened long ago. Our lives are a part of this collection of stories. Where we are born, the way we live our lives, those we love and how we die are all elements of this unique story.”

Cecil rinsed the rich lather from his hair. The sudsy water ran down his body and into the drain. His hand sought the washcloth and soap. While he washed himself, he remembered the rest of her lecture.

“Our children, parents and friends are all ingredients of this montage, and we of theirs. In addition to this, we are also part of a much older story, the chronicle of the earth and its people. Each person who ever lived is a thread in this tapestry, and these threads weave together like threads in a tapestry. These tales combine to create the history of our world.”

Cecil felt that if that were true, then his story would be a boring chapter in that history. His job was humdrum, his love life nonexistent, and his chief entertainment consisted of going to flea markets.

Cecil had a plan, though. He would get that new job in Indianapolis, get married, buy a house in the suburbs, and sire a couple of kids. He would also have a cat and a nice car to haul everything. Cecil had no idea as he sat down on the edge of his bed to put on his shoes that his story was about to change. It would change in a way that he could never have anticipated. He slipped on his shoes and began tying the laces.

“Darnn,” Cecil said aloud, as his shoestring broke with a snap.

Since this was his favorite pair of shoes and he had no spare laces, he would have to improvise until he could buy more. As he began loosening the laces, his cell phone rang. His mother’s number was flashing on the display screen.

He picked up the phone and said, “Hey, Mom, what’s up?”

“Hello, Cecil. How are you this morning?” she asked.

“Okay. I am just getting ready to go out.”

“Are you going to the flea market?”

“Yes, Mom, you know I like to go there on Sundays.”

“And eat all that greasy, unhealthy food?”

“Yes, Mom, and eat all that greasy, unhealthy food.”

“I hope you eat healthier the rest of the week.”

“I do,” Cecil said, feeling guilty about the lie.

“Are you still collecting and smoking those nasty old pipes?”

“Yes, Mom, I still collect them, and I do smoke one occasionally.”

He cringed inwardly at the fib. He loved relaxing to music and a pipe of tobacco each evening after work.

“That is a nasty, vile habit. I don’t know how you ever got started with that. You certainly didn’t learn it from me.”

“No, Mom, I didn’t.” 

A memory of sitting in his grandfather’s lap while the old man smoked his favorite pipe crowded into his head. The pipe had a horse’s head, and Cecil could still smell the wonderful fragrance of the tobacco as the old man told him stories.

“Did you talk to that company in Indianapolis again?” His mother’s voice shattered the memory.

“Yes, I am still talking to them. One of their sales reps is going to retire, leaving a position open. It won’t start for two months, and then there is a one year training period before I can start.”

“Why so long? Surely it isn’t that complicated.”

“The owner is a stickler for starting at the bottom. He wants all his sales people to work three months on the receiving dock. Then they work for three months in the warehouse. After that they put in three months processing orders. I work with the retiring sales rep the last three months.”

“But you’ve already done some of that stuff in your current job.”

“Yes, but the owner wants his sales people to know the entire operation so they are knowledgeable with customers.

“As he talked, he managed to get his shoe laces loosened up. He pulled the broken end out far enough to tie it. Then he tightened up the laces again and tied his shoe. The frayed end of the shoelace looked somewhat shabby, but it would have to do.

“Are you going to that flea market alone?”

“Yes, Mom. No, I don’t have a girlfriend yet,” he answered, anticipating her next question. “I don’t want to get tied into a relationship with a girl and then move to Indy.”

“But that isn’t far from Columbus. A girl would move there with you, if you had a good job.”

“There are girls in Indianapolis, too, Mom.”

“Well, maybe,” her tone was uncertain. “They are probably all farm girls with straw sticking out of their ears.”

Cecil rolled his eyes and said, “Hey, Mom, it’s been nice talking, but I have to go.”

“So soon, dear? Gosh, we just got started talking.”

“My cell phone battery is about to die.”

“If you would get a normal phone, we could talk longer. That always happens when I call.”

“Sorry, Mom, but…” he hit the cut off button.

He lay back on the bed, exhausted. She always had that effect on him. A few minutes on the phone with her and he felt like he had run a marathon. He realized that in just a few minutes she had extracted everything that happened of note during the last week.

It hadn’t always been like that. After Cecil’s father died in the car wreck, his mother became overprotective. When he graduated from high school, he left New Jersey for Ohio to gain his freedom. His mother never forgave him for leaving her protective reach.

He lay there musing about their conversation and the state of his life. He was ready for a change and hoped the job in Indianapolis worked out. Then maybe he could find a lady and settle down. He got up, gathered his things, donned his flat hat, and left his apartment.

As he walked out to his car, he reveled in the exhilarating weather. The chill in the air and falling leaves’ fragrance hinted at a fine autumn day. He would find fresh apple cider at the orchard’s stand, which was always one of his favorite treats. There would be honey for his toast as well. He licked his lips in anticipation as he got in his car and drove off.
Cecil loved flea markets. The sights, the sounds and the smells all combined to create a festive, exciting atmosphere. As he entered the savory aroma of sausages broiling behind a greasy glass case greeted him. This smell accompanied pungent, spicy barbecued pork and musky smelling roast beef. He sniffed at the odors of the other high fat, zillion-calorie fare offered. Of medium height and slightly pudgy, he didn’t eat this stuff often, but at the flea market he always partook. It was one of his few guilty pleasures.

Cecil stopped in front of one of the glass cases to peruse the offerings. He decided to start with a beer brat. He would return for one of those cheesy, spicy tacos before going home. He stepped to the back of the line. The woman behind the counter smiled at him when he stepped up to place his order.

“I’ll have one of those beer brats, some onion rings, and a root beer,” he said.

“Sure enough,” she replied as she slapped a brat into a bun. She tossed some of the juicy onion rings into a bag, sloshed some ice into a cup and filled it with the fragrant beverage.

Thus armed, Cecil sat down at a table to eat.

This was what he loved. Watching the people go by as he ate, he saw a rich diversity of people. Young parents with children, excited by the merchandise, waltzed by. There were also older couples enjoying each other’s company as they browsed the vendor’s tables.  He watched one young couple stroll by, holding hands. To be like that would be wonderful. He finished the brat, threw his paper plate and cup in the trash bin, and started out down the first aisle.

Vendors lined the aisles hawking every imaginable type of merchandise. He stopped periodically to look at offerings that interested him. As he rounded the end of one aisle and started down the next, the corner booth opposite him attracted his attention. A swarthy young man was standing behind a richly carved wooden table crowded with a stunning variety of pipes. He stopped to look. These pipes were neat, but expensive. But it would be fun to look and he just might find one to add to his collection.
Sarna’s apprehension grew as he watched the crowd flow by his table. His wares at the flea market this weekend had attracted little attention. Only two elderly men had stopped to peruse his selection of pipes. His master could not use an elderly man.

The anti-tobacco craze, which had surfaced in recent years, was making things difficult. Young men were no longer attracted to pipe smoking the way they once were.

His time was running short. He had to find someone to purchase it. He must find this person soon. Not only did he have to find a buyer, the purchaser must be the right sort of person. He had very little time to make another error.

He noticed a young man coming into view. This young man saw Sarna’s table and stopped. His face displayed interest as he began walking over to the table. Sarna studied him carefully. Over the centuries, Sarna learned to judge character types well. This man displayed the necessary interest. A quick read of his personality revealed that he could be problematic. Sarna didn’t have time for problems.

He glanced at the thinning crowd. Sarna’s experience at flea markets taught him many things. Early arrivals at the market were buyers. Later in the day, the browsers replaced the buyers. This day was drawing to a close. Soon, the market would be empty and he would have to wait another week.He watched as Cecil approached the table. Sarna made a quick decision. He reached under the table, pulled out a carved wooden box and placed it at the rear of the table.
Cecil studied the pipes. Most were ornate and didn’t appeal to his taste.His roving eye stopped at a carved wooden box at the rear of the table.What’s in that one? “”This is my best pipe,” answered the man, handing the case to Cecil.Cecil opened the case. A beautifully colored meerschaum pipe lay inside. He felt something stir in him as he rubbed the pipe with his fingers.

“That is a magic pipe,” the vendor said with a wink. “It brings good fortune to its owner.”

“Good fortune,” said Cecil. “I could use some of that.”
As Cecil felt the smoothness of the pipe, he entered a story that began hundreds of years ago and thousands of miles away. This story was about to catch up with him.

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Sample Chapter – Southern Indiana Wildflowers – Star Chickweed

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Sample Chapter

Southern Indiana Wildflowers

Star Chickweed

Common Name:
Star Chickweed
Botanical Name:
Stellaria pubera
Caryophyllaceae – Pinks
Rich, well drained

Hardiness Zone:
USDA Zone 3- 9
Seed, division, cuttings
Flower Time – Southern Indiana:
Plant Height:
Six – sixteen inches
Flower Color:
Stellaria, or Star Chickweed appears in April in the southeastern Indiana forests. It forms clumps of snow-white flowers on the forest floor. You will find it occupying rocky slopes, mainly above streams, in the deep forest. Stellaria pubera does well in the shaded perennial garden. Seed, dividing the plants, or taking cuttings, may propagate it.
Stellaria comes from the Latin word stellar, which means star like and refers to the shape and color of the flower. The word pubera is Latin for soft, short hairs and describe the hairy stem. Chickweed seeds are a valuable source of food for birds. Foragers may harvest the plant before it flowers. It is a nutritious green, containing copious quantities of vitamins A and C.

Sample Chapter – The New World Discoverers – Bartholomew Gosnold

Sample Chapter
The New World Discoverers
Bartholomew Gosnold
May 15, 1602 – Cape Cod Discovered By English Navigator Bartholomew Gosnold 

Gosnold launched an expedition to attempt permanent settlement in the New World in 1602. Sassafras was one of the major products they wanted. After reaching the southern coast of modern day Maine on May 14, 1602, he sailed south and encountered Cape Cod. John Brereton, who accompanied the expedition as navigator, recorded the voyage in his journal. The publishing of that journal later that year helped publicize the possibilities of the new land.
Bartholomew Gosnold (1571 – 22 August 1607)
Anthony Gosnold and Dorothy Bacon birthed their son, Bartholomew, near Suffolk, England. He attended the University of Cambridge and studied law at Middle Temple. In 1602 he sought, and gained, backing to mount an expedition to the New World to found a permanent settlement. The trading posts up to this time were of short duration. Because of the desirable products they obtained merchants wanted permanent settlements.
John Brereton (ca. 1571/1572 – ca. 1632)
Brereton came from a prosperous Norwich, England merchant family. He attended Cambridge University, receiving his master’s degree in 1593 and his bachelor’s degree in 1596. He entered the ministry by ordination into the Church of England later in 1596. He took a curacy at Lawshall, Suffolk. The parish there included Bartholomew Gosnold’s cousins and it is probably through them that he became acquainted with Bartholomew Gosnold. He served as navigator during Gosnold’s voyage and kept a journal of their experiences. Upon his return he organized and published them as Briefe and True Relation of the Discoverie of the North Part of Virginia in 1602. This account of their experiences helped publicize the New World and aided later colonization efforts.
The Sassafras tree can grow to sixty feet tall, with straight trunks. Virginia and the eastern part of this New World had bountiful stands of this much desired tree. Sassafras produces two things that the English wanted. Its strong, beautiful wood was a durable building material. The fragrant tree produces rich safrole, oil that is useful for many things. All parts of the tree contain this oil, but the root has the biggest concentration. The oil, distilled from the roots, finds use as an ingredient in perfumes and soaps. A tea made from the roots many believed cured the ague and flavored root beer. Sassafras was banned in 1960 because of a link to liver cancer. Safrol free oils are now permitted for flavoring and use as a tonic.
The 1602 Voyage and Settlement
English efforts to colonize North America had so far failed, but many still desired to establish colonies there to trade with the Amerindians for the furs, tobacco, sassafras and other desirable products. Gosnold, Brereton and thirty-one others set sail from Falmouth, England on March 26, 1602. They arrived on May 14 and discovered Cape Cod the next day. On May 16 they discovered, and named, Martha’s Vineyard and Elizabeth Islands. On Elizabeth Island they built a stockade. Brereton planted some experimental crops that included wheat, barley, and peas. These did quite well in the rich soil. The explorers established trading relations with the local tribes and traded with them for the furs, skins, sassafras and other highly desirable items. They considered creating a permanent settlement on that spot, but decided that their numbers were too few and that they had inadequate provisions. They departed for England on July 23, 1602.
Brereton’s account, which is still available to read, describes the explorer’s experiences in what would become Virginia. He detailed the plants, abundant supplies of fish and wildlife present there. He also wrote about the rich soil and how fast his experimental plantings went. He wrote it to promote the bounty of the new land. Gosnold went on to become an influential member of the later successful Jamestown settlement in 1607.