The Subtle Ban

Banning books tends to increase their sales. I can remember when Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling was getting run through the ringer by the public who didn’t want their children exposed to magic. It’s still the best selling book series in history. Currently, there are folks all over the world in an uproar over sexually explicit illustrated books in the school library. I have questions. Honestly, who’s choosing these books? Is this high school or elementary? I, personally, don’t think such books have a place anywhere in a school; be it library, a teacher’s desk, or what have you.

We get a say in what our children are exposed to. Our children are our children – they don’t belong to the state and they don’t belong to the school board. If the parent’s wishes outnumber the parties responsible for choosing what goes onto the book shelves, so be it – make it so. No big deal. Books are for sale at Amazon, available at the public library, whatever. There’s no shortage of books.


That won’t happen until people stop reading.

Some of my own (now adult) children like to read, some don’t. When they were in school, I was glad when they were reading a book, but I usually at least peaked at it – sometimes I read it and sometimes we watched the movie if it’d been made into one. When they were in grade school, I don’t remember any controversial books, aside from the aforementioned H.P. I do remember being concerned about Goosebumps being scary and all – but hey, they were reading, and for some of my children the Goosebumps were the last books they’d read for fun.

I’ve noticed, as a mother and as a grandmother, something happens to reading for pleasure along the way to adulthood. This (click to read an essay on the love of reading, writing, books) is missing from many of our children’s lives. It’s too bad because reading books is good for people on many levels. For instance, reading is credited for being instrumental in the life of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, i.e. reading is knowledge and knowledge is freedom!

I think the true banning of books begins long before the school board has to face an angry group of parents who are protesting the presence of pornography in their school library. It begins before a national outcry against tax-paying, school supporting, teacher-salary-providing parents who express concern about the books available for their children.

I believe the banning of books begins with omission when teachers don’t have D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) time, or when they fail to plan favorite book character days, or celebrate books and reading at all, ever, — in effect they’re aligning books to the often confusing texts of difficult learning as opposed to the exciting adventures in the pages of Goosebumps, Harry Potter, Henry Huggins, etc. The banning of books begins when parents buy more video games than the small rectangular objects, more apps and systems than books, allow more minutes per day on screens than pages. If parents got their kids hooked on good books, guided their reading, discussed what’s on the pages, this true banning by omission would not exist.

“The video arcade is down the street. Here we just sell small rectangular objects. They’re called books. They require a little effort on your part, and make no bee-beep-beeps. On your way please.” — Mr. Koreander, bookseller, The Neverending Story.

Banning something outright often makes it cool, and I’m all for making reading books a cool thing. Perhaps being aware of actual banned books, children will wonder at the mysterious rectangle objects with printed pages. Maybe we should ban more of them on an absolute and public level – perhaps the children would wonder long enough to put the video games down and pick up a book to see what the excitement’s about. This banning by omission is more subtle than the outright protesting of questionable material currently under fire. This invisible banning, this quasi-indifference, this outright apathy, is an ignorance our children will suffer a lifetime for, not just a school term.

Salem is Hypnagogic

Current Fairview property as a community.

Sometimes the reality of Oregon’s history feels deeply surreal. Having grown up in Salem so close to the State Hospital, Fairview home for the mentally disadvantaged, Hillcrest Reformatory school, more than a few prisons, only a thirty minute drive away from Camp Adair where a contingent of the US Army lived, worked and trained from 1942-1946, and the home of serial murderer Jerry Brudos, I’ve always been exposed to the things that make me ask questions.

Nissen Hut, Camp Adair Oregon

All histories have their infirm elements.

At the time Oregon became a state in the Union, it was the law to build all state institutions at the capitol city. Some of the first state buildings in Oregon were the prison, the hospital, the reform school, and so on. Salem is still the host of countless state-owned/operated structures, hosting the revenue department, the Oregon Library, the department of forestry, etc.

Many of them have been empty for two years during the pandemic.

I wonder about many things. I remember when our third grade class took a tour of the capitol building and some of its underground tunnels. I remember horsing around with friends near the state hospital and accessing a door which led us to a labyrinth of tunnels leading us under Center Street. Surreal

I’m curious – are those state buildings really empty? How about the tunnels? I don’t know why they wouldn’t be, but It’s nice to know the kid in me who wonders if such things still exist.


This is a photo of a memorial at the State Hospital in Salem. These canisters contained ashes of the unclaimed who died while in the hospital between 1914 and the 1970’s. The ashes were removed from the more than 3,500 canisters and placed in a columbarium to await being claimed by family.

Living in the state capitol can be hypnagogic.


Some people read 1984 by George Orwell and find it boring, even so much so that they toss it aside and say, “I don’t get it.” At the risk of being shunned from such company, I’m going to admit I’ve read it.


I’d read it again.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to use this post to go on and on explaining every nuance (though there’s not a whole lot of nuance in 1984 – it’s all pretty much in-your-face reality) or every jot and tittle in the book. I wish to share a scene in 1984 which has remained a particular favorite of mine since I first read it some forty years ago.

Our hero, or actually anti-hero – though he does try a bit to be a hero… can he NOT be a hero and that’s why he isn’t? Anyway, for the sake of this blog post, Winston Smith of 1984 is the hero. Our hero has been caught not conforming to the standards of the state (big brother) and finds himself captive on a high cot, a bright light shining in his eyes, and a representative of big brother (O’Brien) before him with a hypodermic needle. As he comes to, memories of his recent torture – beatings from five men with clubs, fists, steal rods, and boots, and also of his subsequent confessions to espionage and other state crimes- flood his thoughts.

There is a dial of pain which goes up to 100 controlled by O’Brien. At level 40, Smith feels his backbone will break under the pressure of it. O’Brien uses the pain to convince our hero to believe what he is told he sees instead of what he actually knows he sees. Alas, our hero becomes an anti-hero.

1984 Turkish edition cover.

The scene:

O’Brien’s manner grew stern again. He laid his hand on the dial.

‘On the contrary,’ he said, ‘you have not controlled it. That is what has brought you here. You are here because you have failed in humility, in self-discipline. You would not make the act of submission which is the price of sanity. You preferred to be a lunatic, a minority of one. Only the disciplined mind can see reality, Winston. You believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right. You also believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.’

He paused for a few moments, as though to allow what he had been saying to sink in.

‘Do you remember,’ he went on, ‘writing in your diary, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four”?’

‘Yes,’ said Winston.

O’Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended.

‘How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?’


‘And if the party says that it is not four but five — then how many?’


The word ended in a gasp of pain. The needle of the dial had shot up to fifty-five. The sweat had sprung out all over Winston’s body. The air tore into his lungs and issued again in deep groans which even by clenching his teeth he could not stop. O’Brien watched him, the four fingers still extended. He drew back the lever. This time the pain was only slightly eased.

‘How many fingers, Winston?’


The needle went up to sixty.

‘How many fingers, Winston?’

‘Four! Four! What else can I say? Four!’

The needle must have risen again, but he did not look at it. The heavy, stern face and the four fingers filled his vision. The fingers stood up before his eyes like pillars, enormous, blurry, and seeming to vibrate, but unmistakably four.

‘How many fingers, Winston?’

‘Four! Stop it, stop it! How can you go on? Four! Four!’

‘How many fingers, Winston?’

‘Five! Five! Five!’

‘No, Winston, that is no use. You are lying. You still think there are four. How many fingers, please?’

‘Four! five! Four! Anything you like. Only stop it, stop the pain!’

Abruptly he was sitting up with O’Brien’s arm round his shoulders. He had perhaps lost consciousness for a few seconds. The bonds that had held his body down were loosened. He felt very cold, he was shaking uncontrollably, his teeth were chattering, the tears were rolling down his cheeks. For a moment he clung to O’Brien like a baby, curiously comforted by the heavy arm round his shoulders. He had the feeling that O’Brien was his protector, that the pain was something that came from outside, from some other source, and that it was O’Brien who would save him from it.

‘You are a slow learner, Winston,’ said O’Brien gently.

‘How can I help it?’ he blubbered. ‘How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.’

‘Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.’

He laid Winston down on the bed. The grip of his limbs tightened again, but the pain had ebbed away and the trembling had stopped, leaving him merely weak and cold. O’Brien motioned with his head to the man in the white coat, who had stood immobile throughout the proceedings. The man in the white coat bent down and looked closely into Winston’s eyes, felt his pulse, laid an ear against his chest, tapped here and there, then he nodded to O’Brien.

‘Again,’ said O’Brien.

The pain flowed into Winston’s body. The needle must be at seventy, seventy-five. He had shut his eyes this time. He knew that the fingers were still there, and still four. All that mattered was somehow to stay alive until the spasm was over. He had ceased to notice whether he was crying out or not. The pain lessened again. He opened his eyes. O’Brien had drawn back the lever.

‘How many fingers, Winston?’

‘Four. I suppose there are four. I would see five if I could. I am trying to see five.’

‘Which do you wish: to persuade me that you see five, or really to see them?’

‘Really to see them.’

‘Again,’ said O’Brien.

Perhaps the needle was eighty — ninety. Winston could not intermittently remember why the pain was happening. Behind his screwed-up eyelids a forest of fingers seemed to be moving in a sort of dance, weaving in and out, disappearing behind one another and reappearing again. He was trying to count them, he could not remember why. He knew only that it was impossible to count them, and that this was somehow due to the mysterious identity between five and four. The pain died down again. When he opened his eyes it was to find that he was still seeing the same thing. Innumerable fingers, like moving trees, were still streaming past in either direction, crossing and recrossing. He shut his eyes again.

‘How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?’

‘I don’t know. I don’t know. You will kill me if you do that again. Four, five, six — in all honesty I don’t know.’

‘Better,’ said O’Brien.

A needle slid into Winston’s arm. Almost in the same instant a blissful, healing warmth spread all through his body. The pain was already half-forgotten. He opened his eyes and looked up gratefully at O’Brien. At sight of the heavy, lined face, so ugly and so intelligent, his heart seemed to turn over. If he could have moved he would have stretched out a hand and laid it on O’Brien arm. He had never loved him so deeply as at this moment, and not merely because he had stopped the pain. The old feeling, that it bottom it did not matter whether O’Brien was a friend or an enemy, had come back. O’Brien was a person who could be talked to. Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood. O’Brien had tortured him to the edge of lunacy, and in a little while, it was certain, he would send him to his death. It made no difference. In some sense that went deeper than friendship, they were intimates: somewhere or other, although the actual words might never be spoken, there was a place where they could meet and talk. O’Brien was looking down at him with an expression which suggested that the same thought might be in his own mind. When he spoke it was in an easy, conversational tone.

You Never Know

Looking under rocks, atop mountain peeks, and even among the tree tops for inspiration is a pretty common thing for adventurers, artists, and creatives of all stripes. In all the years since I’ve been on the internet (since it’s inception), I’ve never written a personal blog. Why is that? I’m a writer – I have a writer’s portfolio, writer friends, a books page of favorite tombs I’ve read, more than one history blog, but never a personal blog. So much fear, I suppose. I had a great fear of putting myself out there.

Oregon Junco in the branches.

Where is that fear now?

Quite honestly, it dissipated, something inspired me when I wasn’t looking under rocks or atop mountains. I didn’t see it coming, didn’t even know I was changing until one day when I was nearly finished reading Humanity’s Grace by Dede Montgomery, I decided to purchase a domain and, as writers do, start writing. Something in the mesh of Montgomery’s book, the characters, the plot, touched me and made me ask myself why I’m not more forthright in my writing and why the novel I’m working, on, Branches, is lacking character development. Montgomery’s story was a beautiful, bold revelation of human experience – shared as a person, a community, heck the entire world with so much trust, faith, and honesty I couldn’t help but applaud her efforts and strive to emulate them. The story encouraged me to share because I know in my heart of hearts that I’m holding something back, I even know what it is but can’t figure out how to overcome it.

In one of the first scenes of Branches, Mason Bouchard finds his pregnant wife dead and covered in blood. I know the way I’ve written it falls very short of the true emotions a person would feel in that situation, and since it’s the introductory scene of Mason it colors the way the reader will see him for the remainder of the book. Montgomery’s Humanity’s Grace has helped me gain a few insights on how to better make Mason’s behavior ring true.

You really never know what will inspire you.

A local park in the fall.

WIP: Branches

Seems controversial enough, I think; getting a reader to care for a person persisting in a profession villainized by the public for forty years or more.

WIP: BRANCHES was born from my interest in local history, – specifically logging history in this case- my granddaughter’s fascination with Native American culture and history, a Bible found inscribed with the name and picture of a 12 year old boy who was killed in Vietnam at age 20, the rise in homeless and/or drug addled persons, and wondering if…when a person dies – do their deeds die or do they live on in the deeds done by those they left behind? — Their branches.


Thirty-four year old Mason Bouchard is the recently widowed father of nine-year-old Madi. After the gruesome and tragic death of his pregnant wife, Reva, Mason and Madi move home with his parents, Nolan and Sybil Bouchard. The parents combat demons of their own, in particular Nolan’s Vietnam War related PTSD and Sybil’s struggle with an overwhelming sense of responsibility to the homeless. The Bouchard’s are a third generation logging family with strong ties to the Willamette Valley in Oregon, where Branches takes place.

Mason begins to question whether Reva was poisoned after some dangerous toxins are found in the well water of their home. Upon realizing the poisoning was possibly caused by an intentional application of Agent Orange from ancient barrels, he begins to search more diligently for who caused the death of Reva and the unborn baby.

As any child would, Madi struggles with the loss of her mother. While camping with her best friend, Amy Stecketee, she falls and is hospitalized. While in a coma, Madi sees her mother and when she awakens, she is comforted by the vision and becomes less apprehensive. Trying to comfort her dad is made difficult by his lack of belief, but Madi’s faith never waivers.

Branches is a 90,000 word family drama with many historical elements from the Vietnam and Afghanistan wars as well as a history of the logging industry and Mason’s own trifecta of a mystery which includes seeking answers about the death of his wife and unborn son, appeasing the protesters who threaten the logging industry, and fighting against Senator Leeza Migford’s Senate Bill. In his quest, Mason finds Carl Cooper, who he initially assumed was behind the poisoning in the watershed but realizes he’s a simple stooge, and Mason helps Carl recover from drug addiction.

Working together as a family and for the community with a book-box project brings Nolan forward out of his PTSD and helps Sybil honor Reva, an important element of her grieving process.

One way to tell if a branch is alive or not is by bending one of its small twigs between two fingers. If it bends easily, then it’s alive. If the twig is brittle and breaks, then it’s likely that the branch is dead.

Back Cover Copy:

The complications of a  still birth take Mason’s wife, leaving him a single father to nine-year-old Madi. As mysteries throw shadows of suspicious circumstances over her death, he becomes enraged as well as determined to find who is responsible. Are there even larger forces at work? The press is lying about him and there’s a crooked Senator staging protests for the purpose of usurping Mason’s logging business.

The Willamette National Forest

My word! The Essays!

An overview of Who Cares? Thoughts on Apathy, an essay collection imagined to be much coveted by the masses.

An Essay Collection


Tami Richards

The Stormy Apex. Cocoa powder on a spoon. Is life fair, or is it what you make of it?

  • EXCERPT:I feel as if I have already climbed to the apex of my life, as if I have done one of the most heroic and utterly courageous things that human beings are capable of, yet as I look around the top of this mountain I don’t see the fanfare. No one is waiting with banners exclaiming, “you’ve done it!” From here, I find that the most astonishing fact is that the dense fog has surrounded me and I am unable to find the trail that leads down. If I were to give hiking the Appalachian Trail a good go, I would make sure I received recognition for that. As it is, I feel lost. My mothering is largely behind me, my duties as a wife are few, and my workday is set to auto-pilot. There are not many challenges before me, and I am celebrating alone what I consider the greatest accomplishment that I will ever achieve; I have raised four happy children.

Skewing My Perception. Homelessness and perception as reality.

  • EXCERPT: What hit me the hardest about the first homeless person that I saw as a child was probably the same initial reaction that most people have. It was when I realized that he had no family, no one who cared about him that I felt sorry for him. The fact that he had a shaggy beard, wore large, misshapen and dirty clothes, and mumbled when he spoke, were all secondary next to the horrific realization that there were people in my still-so-small world who seemed to have no one who gave them a second thought. I will never forget being a child of eight and seeing that homeless man building a fire under the same bridge that my older brother and I often played at. It was a perfectly fearful experience, making such a deep impression on me that one of the first short stories I wrote as an adult was about him, or at least the feelings I had about him. My ineptitude for writing short stories aside, I did manage to sum up my earlier observation in one sentence; “I have learned to sip the soup of humanity through the jagged edge of apathy.” Though not a brighter than average child, I must have realized at that young age that without being a person who cares, my life would have no meaning. For some unexplained reason I wanted my life to have meaning. I wanted to make a difference.

What Made June Cleaver Smile? You know you know. An essay on the tweaked hormones of our modern era causing low sex drives.

  • EXCERPT: It’s a fact that testosterone levels in American men have been declining steadily over the past two decades, according to the Endocrine Society and the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. This would indicate why June Cleaver did indeed need naps and it also explains why she was so levelheaded, even-tempered and damn happy. That’s right, make no mistake, those couples of the 50’s and 60’s were getting it on more often and with more gusto than the couples of today, by far. According to the many magazine headlines, women today are not relaxed, do not regularly feel sexy, and are not on the receiving end of male testosterone nearly as often as they’d like to be. Not only were the senior citizens who are today positioned in our memories as wrinkled and hunched-over with osteoporosis doing it back then, they were doing it with relish. They were doing it with the same ferocious wild abandonment as any generation before or after them, and more often, which would possibly explain the baby boom that delivered countless builders, movers and shakers onto the American landscape, especially when coupled with the low divorce rates of that time period.

The Beauty Inside. Because when Whitney Houston died, people were nasty-mouthed, bitter, ugly, cruel <expletives>! She deserved better than that, the power and strength of her voice speaks.

  • EXCERPT: It is possible that it is the price of fame, the public being more like vultures than doves. Emphasizing a famous person’s failings over their talent becomes a vicious cycle, and how could a famous person possibly overcome the public’s negative consensus once convicted? Once a figure is owned by the public, can she regain autonomy?

Peace of Mind. Lamenting the decline of the front porch.

  • EXCERPT: The sun is painting pink silhouettes along stretched-taffy clouds and a gentle breeze is cooling my skin. Sitting on what constitutes our front porch; a five-foot by fourteen-foot slab of cement covered by the roof’s 6’ overhang, I watch my two granddaughters ride their bikes up and down our quiet street, giggling and careening down the same patch of road that their mother pedaled along at their age. I stretch my sandaled feet out to rest them atop the brick planter that has nourished strawberry plants for twenty-plus years, noting that dandelions are once again growing in the raised beds.

Low Flow, High Water. Low flow faucets getting on my last nerve.

  • EXCERPT: I have foregone the sink-of-soap-bubbles method and instead I simply use a bit of dish soap on a sponge and wash/rinse the dishes under running water. Considering that rinsing dishes under running water is a water-conservation no-no, I do not feel that my method is likely the best approach. It is certainly not the scenario that the low-flow faucet is supposed to create. From a germ standpoint, though, rinsing dishes under warm running water is a cut above letting dishes sit in germ-laden rinse water.

My Time. A foray, an autobiography of my life, written 20 years ago, before things got reaaaalllly interesting.

  • EXCERPT: The first two methods of measuring time are based on the daily rotation of the earth on its axis. One is based on the apparent motion of the sun in the sky, which is called solar time. The other is based on the evident motion of the stars in the sky, which is called sidereal time. A third method is based on the revolution of the earth around the sun, which is ephemeris time. Albert Einstein went to great lengths to dissect time and categorize all of its relations to reality, but time has lately become a concept a little more personal to me than the predictability of celestial marvels or Einstein’s theories of relativity. It consists of a relatively small chunk in the space-time continuum that I like to call my time.

Don’t Give US a king. Basically, my anti-communist manifesto: Death by power: Ze-Dong Mao 30-70,000,000 (depending on how the deaths are attributed) Adolf Hitler 12,000,000 Josef Stalin 5,000,000 Ismail Enver Ottoman, Turkey, 1,200,000 Armenians, 500,000 Assyrians Pol Pot 2,000,000

  • EXCERPT: The histories of countries all around the world abound with kings, queens, and emperors, chancellors, etc. whose biggest role has always been to take responsibility for the daily conditions of those governed. In fact, the United States began as such a country under England’s rule and turned its back on that way of life, insisting that individual persons should not be taxed without representation, among other things. Modern politicians know of the historically recorded tendency of societies to lean toward a Master caregiver and they often take advantage of it by making promises and passing laws to appease the majority of squeaky wheels: People who demand a king. From passing tax laws that actually favor a scant few citizens to enacting edicts to quell the masses; politicians are eager to appease those who would demand a king, because truly, politicians want to be kings.

Readers Expanding and Contracting. Observing how rapidly we succumb to navel gazing though the whole world is literally at our fingertips.

  • EXCERPT:One of the most fascinating things done with e-readers has been through organizations such as, a group that donates e-readers to schools in third world countries. As those in the know are quick to point out, such as Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, authors of “Half The Sky,” the road away from poverty and oppression is paved with education. and other organizations like it are well on their way to proving that educating the masses is the cornerstone for building a successful society. Reading through the blog posts of those involved within the schools of Ghana reveals striking evidence that the project is not only helping these students gain a foothold on the right path, but also is expanding their regional and global outlooks.

Screw the BFD. Cynicism and words.

  • EXCERPT: There was a blue jeans company about this time calling itself the BFD. I think the B was for best and the D for denim – the F was for fitting or something like that. I don’t know about anyone else, but the jeans company totally killed my joy of saying BFD, because it wasn’t long before BFD meant Best Fitting Denim. It is probably my most memorable encounter with a killjoy.

Counterrevolutionary. I wrote this biography about the June 4th incident and Baiqiao Tang, for a contest I didn’t win.

  • EXCERPT: On June 4th 1989 I was seven months pregnant with my third child. It had been a good year for our family so far. My daughters were five and three, we had just bought the house we still live in today, I had several good friends, and I was proud to live in America where I did not have to worry about suffering violent repercussions for expressing my political, social, or religious views. The Tiananmen Massacre that I saw on the news that day in June was the most foreign, surreal and shocking atrocity I had ever seen.

5 Lessons From the Greatest Generation. Buy silver, shop local, it’s up to you (do something), recycle, preserve food.

  • EXCERPT: PRESERVE FOOD. Even in the region known as the great dust bowl, people of the depression era would can food for leaner times. From rabbit meat to sagebrush, foodstuff that could sustain life was the only requisite for canning. Not only are we to preserve foods, we should cook slow food as a way to both save money and to acquire nourishing foods that will sustain us.

Virtually Overwhelming. Writerly gibberish about the internet stealing my soul.

  • EXCERPT: Like many bibliophiles the world over, I have been known to spend many hours searching store shelves for a specific title or a general idea. Though no one could ever accuse me of being a shopper, a person who browses long and studiously down store isles, used bookstores, new bookstores, thrift stores, are the one exception. I have browsed long and patiently in search of books. In these forays into the paper jungle, I have found books that I never knew existed, discovered ideas that I never thought on my own and had never seen put into words before. I have run across books that put my thoughts into plain and simple English and gained serendipitous knowledge. To run my hand along their spines, to open them up and breathe the scent of the inky paper, and to run my fingers across the name of the genius who brought characters, imagined and real, to life is one of the pleasures of book browsing.

We (me) the People. A piece on American manufacturing. Published in OUR USA Magazine, but I like it here in my collection as well.

  • EXCERPT: My appreciation for classic American-made vehicles runs so deep within me as to affect my reading choices. I have read a great memoir by Michael Perry entitled Truck, a love story, about an International Pickup, simply because the word “Truck” appears in the title. I read John Grisham’s short story collection, Ford County, just because the title contained the word “Ford”. Even though I’m not an avid reader of genre fiction, I really enjoyed Grisham’s book, I think that the title itself had a lot to do with it. I’ve also felt that the author who goes by the ingenious name of G.M. Ford would definitely be worth my time and I have added reading at least one of his mystery novels to my “must do” list.

Please, Not at the Table. When it was announced horse flesh would be sold in stores as a meat product…

  • EXCERPT: For these reasons, and many more, like a majority of my fellow American’s, I am not likely to knowingly indulge in the consumption of horse meat. The article “Horse Slaughter Coming Back to U.S. Soon?” posted on the International Business News website, opens with the statement that horse slaughter for human consumption could be a practice returning to the U.S by as soon as January, 2012. A ban on the slaughtering of horses for human consumption was enacted five years ago, partly because the U.S citizens demand that the meat they feed their families be inspected and approved by the USDA, a regulatory process that was not cost-effective by a government with dwindling funds. The author of the article at International Business News states that there is no market in the U.S for horse meat intended for human consumption. Apparently with congress now lifting the ban on the practice, there is funding for USDA inspectors of horse slaughter houses. Will this magically create a market for horse meat at our tables? I seriously doubt it. The consumption of horse meat, to many Americans, may be on a scale of eating one’s pet dog.

Hero is a Woman. My mom! And other amazing women.

  • EXCERPT: Every year in March, as we recognize Women’s History Month, we may find ourselves remembering once viewed images of legendary over-achievers such as Amelia Earheart, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, or Wilma Rudolph. To think of woman’s history may give us pause to consider the novels of Virginia Woolf, the accomplishments of astronaut Sally Ride, or how Clara Barton managed to begin the American Red Cross. We all have our favorite historical figures, those who have captured our attention and have become the heroes of our daily lives, women we look to and wonder at how amazing it is that they managed to make such big impressions in their time.

Building a Coon Tree. A tribute to E.B. White.

  • EXCERPT: White’s essays are so memorable not only because they are unencumbered by a dry list of facts but also because they resonate throughout with a gentle drawing-up of experiences that the reader and writer have in conman. How I wish that I could write a concise, emotion-packed scene such as the beginning of “Coon Tree” where he introduces the setting by way of concrete word usage such as temperature, humidity, a cultural reference to Carol Reed which I am slightly embarrassed to admit I do not understand, a boat, the breeze, and a bee. Apple blossoms are mentioned, and goldfinch and dandelions. Also a goose on the pond and a black fly on the trout brook. In the space of a mere nine introductory sentences, White grabs the reader’s intellect by way of their heart, for he knew, as the poet knows, that it is through the heart that the mind becomes engaged. As we effortlessly read along through “Coon Tree” we learn that not only has he remodeled the kitchen in his house, but there have been studies done which have proven that children who grow up in less than sanitary homes develop a better resistance to diseases, yes even polio and hepatitis.

Knitting Warm Hearts. Amazing hands and why don’t I have them?

  • EXCERPT: Aside from twittering away endless hours on the internet, I have never been successful with learning an indoor hobby that would keep me occupied during the long winter months. Not that I have not attempted new hobbies, mind you. Having tried my hand at everything from baking bread to completing crossword puzzles, I usually lose interest or become discouraged and end up passing the winter curled up with a few good books, throwing in an occasional long bout of tactile solitaire. While in the bookstore searching for those tomes that will carry me into sunny days, I have browsed the seemingly endless array of hobby and craft magazines, finding myself attracted mostly to paper crafts, but every winter I find myself wondering if I could learn such a thing as knitting or crocheting. Not fully confident that I can, I have yet to try.

Cut and Graft. An apple tree, my grandpa and me. Published in Oregon Home, included in this collection because I love it.

  • EXCERPT: I spent many summer days watching my grandfather who was very fascinating to me because he was always busy doing something that a city girl rarely had occasion to observe. I can remember him sawing dead branches from one of his fruit trees and watching him patch the bare spots with tar to keep the bugs out and to prevent further decay.

Dogs and Grandkids Taming the Blues. Children and dogs. Trouble and joy.

  • EXCERPT: Our granddaughters have great moments of joy in the backyard during our brief moments of non-rain this time of year. My husband has built them a playhouse out of large, wooden, machinery-packing crates, and they also have a sort of queen’s haven that they’ve built from large scraps of wood. I like to watch them play as I sit at the dining room table drinking my coffee or tea. If their friends from up the street are over, one girl will sit on the Queen’s throne while all the others are servants awaiting the beck and call of her majesty. Being girls, there is a lot of yelling and screaming and downright riotous fun that is hard not to smile at.

DIY. Don’t try this at home.

  • EXCERPT: In the aforementioned mystery novel, the main character is a gal who inherits a great, old, Victorian house from her aunt. Through the course of the book, while solving a murder of course, the protagonist undertakes the renovation of her newly acquired house. As each step of the process was described in the book, I found myself thinking about the kitchen cupboard doors that I’d taken down more than twenty years ago with the intent of refinishing them. Well, I never did manage to even get started on that project, the time and money never seemed to exist in hand simultaneously. Raising four children requires a generous amount of both time and money, rarely leaving anything to work with as far as elective home repair projects. Reading the fixer-upper repair novel was thrusting those cupboard doors to the forefront of my mind in a big way, and I began thinking the most ridiculous things as I read. Thoughts such as “I can do that,” happily danced into my mind over and over again. It was crazy, for I had never done anything that remotely resembled a home renovation project. I had experience in repairing or attempting to repair things that had broken. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention, but that was the extent of my house manipulating experiences.

WWGD? My grandpa was amazing.

  • EXCERPT: So here we are, on the heals of the outsourcing pundits who have proclaimed to seemingly deaf ears for many years that we were spending our way to joblessness and an economic meltdown. I suggest that we read their books, form a plan, and get ourselves involved in some sort of action besides sitting around and hoping someone will take pity on us. This is not a problem that happened spontaneously, it took time to evolve. Just as it will take time to fix. There is no instant fix, fast solve, or quick run to a retailer that will alleviate our economic suffering.

Sock Magnets. Previously published in Slab Journal but I’m including it here as well.

  • EXCERPT: When I was a child we lived on the edge of town. My brother and I walked everywhere in those days. We walked past storefronts, peering wide-eyed into the display windows at toy trains disappearing into tunnels, dolls lying in bassinets, and mannequins dressed in current fashions. We walked down to the creek and watched crawdads scurry out from rocks we had lifted. We walked to one of two parks, the one that had crab apple trees, or the one that had trees with propeller-type seeds that we used as whistles.

Only Write to Borrow from the Time Thief. When I get weird… I get sooooo weird.

  • EXCERPT: As far as individual thoughts becoming public domain, so to speak, is not an unheard of fear in the writing world. Along the lines of discouraging thought processes is also the reasoning that writers are merely inserting synonyms; for everything worth writing has already been put to paper. This problem has been solved by the common phrase that editors put in their guidelines: they are searching for a “fresh voice.” Still, writers do manage to become bogged down with the whole, “nothing new under the sun,” axiom.

Observations of a Retailer. Actually, no one wants to see this.

  • EXCERPT: Working in retail is sometimes much like waiting on spoiled children who never learned to clean up after themselves. I’ve gone into dressing rooms where expensive gowns were strewn on the floor, visited grocery stores where near-empty fountain drink cups are left on the cereal isle, and been to major toy stores in which the shelves resemble an air-strike zone. I’ve seen old worn-out shoes sitting in a box on the floor at a shoe store, presumably someone tried on the pair from the box and REALLY liked them, ice cream melting in the magazine rack at the grocery check-out, and people throwing tantrums when they can’t use their expired fifty-cents off coupon.

My Idiot Shirt. Goodness, someone’s sassy.

  • EXCERPT: The day before this incident, I had gone to the grocery store and had to double-check for my “Idiot” shirt. Thankfully, I had not worn it. Whoo. At any rate, I’ve noticed for quite awhile now that this particular grocery store feels the need to tell me which buttons to push on the debit card machine even before the readout prompts me. On that particular day, I think I’d had enough of being treated as an imbecile and I’ve decided that from now on I will take cash or write a check at that store. I just can’t stand to have someone tell me how to function in a perfectly navigable situation. I just hope they don’t count my cash out for me while I’m digging it out of my wallet, or offer the date when I haven’t asked them for it while writing a check.

The Road to Community. A dead end (j/k) it’s a sweet mini-bio collection.

  • EXCERPT: No matter the size or shape of the place a person lives, it has always been said that an awareness of community is an important element to acquiring a sense of satisfaction. Some have said that people need to feel needed, that giving to others is a way of belonging, of “becoming real” to paraphrase The Velveteen Rabbit. Though the temptation of hibernating to the drone of a TV may be tempting during the long rains, these people involve themselves in what can enthusiastically be termed enrichment activities.

The Shoes A semi-famous schizophrenic and a homeless person’s shoes.

  • EXCERPT: In 1948, 51-year-old Opal Whiteley was found in a dead-end London street half starved. In her tiny basement apartment was found crate after crate of books stacked upon themselves covering every possible inch of space. It is estimated that the collection contained a total of 10,000 -15,000 books. Each and every book found in Ms. Whiteley’s apartment contained underlining and notes in her handwriting. Later, it was discovered that Ms. Whiteley was working on a book of her own and that she spent every dime she could get her hands on in obtaining the research material for it.

Damming the Willamette. This probably does not belong here.

  • EXCERPT: Seventy percent of Oregon’s residents live in the Willamette Valley, most within a 20 minute drive of the Willamette River. The Valley residents live in harmony with this river all along its 187 mile journey as it travels from just south of Springfield and flows north to spill into the Columbia River. In past years, it was not unusual for flooding to occur in the valley, especially between December and February. Sometimes snow would come to the Cascade mountains, a warm spell would light on it, and the snow melt would run off into the Willamette’s tributaries, causing the Willamette to rise and send all its riverside inhabitants scurrying to higher ground. It was not long after settling in the area that the earliest Euro-Americans experienced a deluge from the Willamette’s 100 year flood tendency and learned how mighty the Willamette can be.

From Fairview to Pringle Creek What an amazing thing they did with the old state property where they used to house the functionally handicapped.

  • EXCERPT: And I imagined all that I knew about the mentally disadvantaged while I sat in that old beige Rambler of my mom’s. I knew such a kid at school who never talked to anyone He was not in my class, but I saw him on the playground every day, walking around without a connection, without a problem, without any engagement. And I think that therein lies the cause of my fear – lack of engagement, lack of him realizing my personhood – perhaps his own personhood he did not even understand, but if that were the case, why would he cry out when he fell down on the playground, or when angered?

Dorothy Anne Hobson Previously published in the Summer 2018 edition of Woods Reader.

EXCERPT: The day we drove to Valsetz was a beautiful spring day; the sun lit our way through the hour-long drive along a private gravel logging road. We drove between towering trees the likes of which I rarely see down in the valley. We drove up a mountain, back down again, and across a valley, once being very closely passed by a logging truck. We were sprinkled on a couple of times, but encountered no real down-pouring of rain, which would not have been unusual considering that Valsetz is an area which receives 140” of rain a year.

A fun discovery!

Here is a review of a very inspirational book by Nava Atlas, The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life from which grew an inspiring and informative website that gets better and better every day; The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life.

The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life is a beautiful work of art, a creative presentation of ideas, and a fanciful tête-à-tête with twelve inspiring female authors from the past such as Alcott, Austen, Brontë, Sand, Woolf, and more. The book contains anecdotes, insights, and musings, about all the elements of the writing life experienced by these twelve women.

Almost every page has a graphic of some sort, anchoring the reader’s eyes and feeding their artistic appreciation. The colors and backgrounds of aged journal entries are calming, the photographs vivid, the graphics such as flowers and books are cheery and those of a vintage typewriter are a sure prompt for the writer.

Atlas’ choice of presentation is so unique as to make the reader feel as though we’re not actually reading a book so much as engaging in a conversation. These aren’t biographies per se, but single ideas explored by individual authors so each person maintains an autonomous voice and doesn’t get lost in a net of “literary ladies.”

Atlas’ writing style was quite inclusive and she shared many things I didn’t know about even some of my favorite authors. I’ll be sure to keep this book by by my keyboard for inspiration because that’s exactly what it is – inspiration!


Whatever happened to Dorothea Lynde Dix and Nelly Bly?

Who Cares? An observation of Dorothea Lynde Dix and Nellie Bly concluding that a society neglecting it’s most vulnerable population is indeed wholly poor in virtue.

“The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.

Proverbs 29:7 NIV.

As a child, Dorothea Lynde Dix (1802-1887) was a pseudo-pauper, for although her paternal grandparents were fairly well-off, her father and mother were rather underfunded, as neither maintained steady employment. Dorothea’s parents, Joseph and Mary Dix, and the family lived on a tract of land owned by Joseph’s father, Elijah Dix, in Hampden, Maine.

Dorothea’s father was known for his fanatical flights of religious fervor equal only to his propensity for strong drink. A Methodist lay pastor by trade, Joseph traveled and distributed tracts of sermons he wrote preaching hellfire and damnation.

Dorothea’s mother suffered from some sort of mental infirmity; the accepted speculations favoring depression, but whatever it was that ailed Dorothea’s mother, she felt it was personal business and never shared the details with anyone. It can be sure the mental infirmities suffered by her mother made a grave impression on the young girl.

There was more than a little bit of mystery and tragedy slapping against the face of Dorothea Lynde Dix’s childhood. By the time she was twelve she grew tired of pasting and sewing her father’s religious tracts together for him and spending all of her remaining time seeing to the household duties her parents neglected in favor of their various oddities, conditions, and pursuits.

One day in 1814, Dorothea appeared on her paternal grandmother’s doorstep in Boston Massachusetts, having had enough of what biographer Francis Tiffany termed as Dorothea’s “immediate parents’ lacking in energetic fibre.” Though her grandmother was a strict disciplinarian, Dorothea preferred the sewing, cooking, and knitting lessons of her grandmother to the arrant disregard of her parents and especially the endless drudgery of the gluing and stitching of her father’s tracts. When Dorothea went to her grandmother’s, her brother, Joseph, was 2 years old, and Mary Dix was expecting a third child.

Without any formal schooling herself, other than having been taught to read by her father, Dorothea began teaching school at the age of 14. She moved in with her great-aunt, Sarah Lynde Duncan, in Worcester and discovered her knack for storytelling, which her cousins deeply enjoyed. Dorothea set up her dame school over the bookstore on Main Street and began teaching the three R’s to any child who would pay the small fee. To the delight of her students, it was with her own favored stories that she taught science to the children as well as devotions and tales with a moral lesson. The school was very successful because even though Dorothea executed fair and strong discipline, she was also gentle and kind.

When she was 17, Dorothea moved back to Boston into her grandmother’s mansion, bringing her little brother Joseph along. Her second brother, Charles Wesley, remained at home. Here she not only continued teaching, but also set up a second school so that poor children could have access to moral training. Dix wrote eight books between 1824 and 1829, including hymns for children, short stories, meditations, and botany. Two examples of the books she wrote are Conversations on Common Things, (reprinted 60 times by 1869) and The Trials of a School Girl,

Raising her brother Joseph, and now her other brother, Charles, as well as caring for her mother, along with teaching at two schools, preparing her own texts, and looking after her aging grandmother, all made for a heavy work load which took a toll on Dix. After about fifteen years of it, all told, she had a nervous breakdown. To recuperate, she quit teaching and took to traveling and visiting friends. In 1836 Dix’s mother and grandmother passed away and left her a legacy which, combined with her own savings and the money she earned from her books published a few years prior, provided funds enough to live on as she recuperated from her malady, which some speculate to have been associated with some form of depressive disorder.

Despite her feeble health, on March 28, 1841, Dix volunteered to teach Sunday school to some twenty female convicts in the East Cambridge jail for a pastor friend of hers. This was where she saw the fate of society’s indigent insane, which propelled her into the political/social-welfare arena. When Dix found the bowels of the East Cambridge jail were over crowded not only with criminals, but also the indigent insane, as well as the mentally and physically handicapped, all herded together in filthy and freezing conditions, her first political act undertaken on behalf of these innocent persons was to present a proposal to the court which won heat to warm the prisoners’ jail cells.

Certain that conditions should be improved for those less fortunate souls, Dix spent the next two years traveling with a notebook to every almshouse and jail from Berkshire to Cape Cod, noting the conditions of each institution along the way. With her notes, she wrote a memorial (report) addressed to the state legislature with the hope of gaining humane living conditions for the innocents who were neglected and abused. In the memorial, Dix wrote:

I proceed, gentlemen, briefly to call your attention to the present state of insane persons within this Commonwealth, in cages, closets, cellars, stalls, pens! Chained, naked, beaten with rods, and lashed into obedience. Lincoln. A woman in a cage. Medford. One idiotic subject chained and, and one in a close stall for seventeen years. Peppernell. One often doubly chained, hand and foot; another violent.

The local newspapers cried that the memorial written by Dix was pure fiction, that there were no almshouses keeping the poor citizens of Massachusetts as prisoners, behind bars, with iron chains around their necks! “Incredible” the citizens argued. “Sensational and scandalous lies!” But Dix would not be discouraged. She garnered the support of politicians and respected statesmen, and after many weeks of heated debate, finally convinced the state legislature to expand the size of the state hospital in Worcester in order to accommodate more patients and provide better care, such as the gentle and therapeutic moral treatment she’d learned from Elizabeth Fry, Samuel, Tuke, and William Rathbone in her travels.

Spurred on by her empathy for so many poor people suffering in jails and almshouses in other states, in three years’ time, Dix traveled over 30,000 miles, visiting institutions all over the United States and lobbying for improved conditions for the poor mentally ill. In New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania. From the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic to the Mississippi, contracting sicknesses, and sometimes bedding with rats and cockroaches. Her practice in each state was the same; she visited every jail and almshouse she could, collected data, prepared a memorial using her meticulously documented research, all to be presented by an affable and well-known politician pressing for better facilities for the indigent insane. The tireless woman carried on this process for ten years, pleading with state after state to provide humane conditions, moral treatment, for the weak-minded who could not afford the care provided in the private hospitals of the wealthy. The moral treatment contended that environmental factors such as beauty in architecture, landscaping, interior design, etc, and pursuits such as reading and enjoying company, all played a significant role on the way to recovery.

One after another, the states began building adequate mental hospitals. In 1845 Dix published a treaty, Remarks on Prisons and Prison Discipline in the United States, which advocated for separating prisoners according to the crimes they’d committed and for educating them in the hopes that the acquisition of knowledge would improve their lives. Throughout the 1850’s Dix advocated for mental health institutions and for the incorporation of moral treatment on an international basis, and her pleas were heard all throughout Europe, Canada, Russia, and Japan. Her intercessions for active reform were building momentum.

With the building of mental institutions all across the United States and even internationally, and on the heels of the failing of a land grant bill she’d spent six years (1848-54) lobbying for, Dix took a much deserved vacation in Europe. She soon discovered a great inequality between the private hospital care provided for the wealthy and the public care facilities relegated to the poor. She managed to get an appointment with Pope Pius IX who verified the research in her statements and set out to make changes in Italy’s system. Upon her return home, Dix again took up the cause of seeing to the needs of the mentally infirm and began to ask the state governments for larger appropriations and more hospitals suited to provide efficient and effective moral treatment.

In 1861, at the age of 59, Dix volunteered her services in the Civil War and was appointed Superintendent of Nurses for the Union Army. This was, as had been all of her previous official activities, an unpaid position. She was responsible for recruiting and training over 2,000 women as nurses, and organizing and procuring all necessities for the Union Army hospitals. Dix was the first woman in such a high federal position. She found herself often confronting doctors about their drinking habits and lack of sanitation and the nurses complained of her severity, but the soldiers called her an angel of mercy. Obviously, she was not politically motivated, as making friends with the drunkard doctors and seemingly uncaring nurses was not in par with getting the needs of the patients met.

After the Civil War, Dix returned to her role as a representative for the impoverished mentally ill. She examined hospitals and tested proposed sites for water purity. She ate the food being served to the residents, inspected the heating systems, looked over the finances; she thoroughly examined all aspects of the asylums that she helped to create. Before her death in 1887 she would help establish 32 of the 110 new mental institutions built in her lifetime. The first institution that Dix helped set up was built in Trenton New Jersey. That institution is where she retired to in 1881 and is the one institution dedicated in her name, for Dix was forever and always the humble empath, proven by the fact that she rarely put a name to any of her endeavors in her lifetime. Even many of her books are void of her name.

Nellie Bly

In the same year as Dix’s death, the journalist Nellie Bly undertook an assignment for the editor of the New York World Newspaper as investigative reporter. Bly was born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in 1864 in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania, a town began by her father, Michael Cochran, a successful miller, store owner, postmaster, and associate judge. Though her father passed away when she was only six, Bly managed to acquire some college education at the Indiana Normal School in Indiana Pennsylvania before financial restraints sent her to help her mother manage a boarding house in Pittsburgh. In 1882, Bly fired off a hot missive to the editor of the Pittsburgh Dispatch rallying against Erasmus Wilson’s recent editorial which stated women who work outside the home were a “monstrosity.” The editor, George Madden, immediately offered her a position at the paper.

By 1885, Bly was becoming increasingly bored at the Dispatch where the editor assigned her to the women’s page and ever further away from a chance for writing exciting journalistic endeavors. Two years later, she managed to move to New York and land a gig with the New York World newspaper. One of her first assignments was to enter, undercover, the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island (now Roosevelt’s Island), an institution for the indigent insane in New York. She was to report on everything she saw there, be it good or upsetting, happy or sad, whatever she experienced, heard, felt, because the editor wanted to know if the reports he’d heard about concerning the asylum’s brutality and neglect were true.

After getting herself committed, which was a clever bit of acting itself as she feigned the demeanor of a person who did not know where she was or whence she came, it wasn’t long before Bly found herself on Blackwell’s Island. The ten days of her incarceration were the first immersion journalist actions ever recorded in an American newspaper. The conditions exposed were far from Dix’s practical philosophy of moral treatment. In the Women’s Lunatic Asylum, Bly witnessed horrid abuses of the women, many who were taken to the closet and beaten by the caretakers and verbally teased into fits of rage or tears. She suffered through eating wretched food, bathing in a cold water dorm-successive tub, forced silence, freezing conditions in thin clothing as the heat was not allowed until October (Bly’s subterfuge took place in September), and witnessing patient’s fingers getting twisted and their faces slapped by the nurses.

With the publication of the two part series of Bly’s report on the women’s asylum, the New York World not only introduced immersion journalism to the reading public, but due to the exposure of the conditions inside, New York City awarded $100,000 in additional funding toward the care of the insane. Bly was proud of her accomplishment in aiding the penniless mentally ill.

Unfortunately, moral treatment for the institutionalized insane who were underfunded was not to make a comeback, as for the first three quarters of the 20th century, state institutions crowded more and more patients into their quarters, anesthetized and sometimes euthanized their souls with medications, straightjackets, frontal or medical lobotomy, shock treatments, wet towel treatments, cold water treatments, foul food, and kept them under observation for experimental purposes.

By 1977 the number of patients housed in institutions fell to 160,000 from 1963’s 600,000, a result of President Kennedy’s enacting of the Community Mental Health Centers Act, an act hoping to afford a more humane treatment to those in need. Those remaining institutionalized tended to be heavily medicated mental hospital patients suffering from dystonia (painful muscle spasms), tardive dyskinesia (stiff, jerky, uncontrollable movements of face and hands), and suicidal tendencies; many test subjects having signed no informed consent form.

The community-state model of moral treatment expanded in the last decades of the 20th century, affording for a meaningful and fruitful life for some. The many advances in medications prescribed by doctors combined with local outreach nonprofits as well as government funded programs and services, became a more attractive treatment resolution to the states.

By the turn of the 21st century, the buildings once toured by curious admirers of impressive architecture reminiscent of castles and cathedrals, manicured landscapes, and the relative order of moral treatment, were lauded as exciting haunted asylum tours. However, without enough spaces available in the underfunded, understaffed, and undertrained care facilities intended to care for the many who needed help, the prison population exploded with mentally ill persons falling through the cracks (Federal prisons: 78,800, state prisons: 705,600, local jails: 479,000. (2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics, BJS) and the streets increasingly became homes for the insane who could not afford private care. Recently, I saw a statistic that a full 33% of the homeless people we see huddling on the sides of roads, cowering near bushes, and curling under plastic tarps suffer from mental illness.

Certainly, there is not one simple and easy answer for the current problem of homeless people who wander aimlessly through the streets, but the original answer wasn’t easy for Ms. Dix as she parried and wrestled with bureaucrats until she tore through their hardened prejudices to expose their humanity. Because the federal government no longer provides funds for long term mental health care and the states can’t afford to provide it for them, are we going to, collectively – as a strong, thriving, robust nation, – ignore those poor souls who’ve lost their connection to their own community?

Who among us will rise from the circumstances dealt us, only to turn around and sleep among rats and cockroaches, heroin needles and feces, in order to secure a dignified future for those we don’t even know, who likely wouldn’t even know us or thank us for our troubles? While the buildings of Ms. Dix’s creations are being dismantled brick by brick, or turned into museums, where will all the people go?

The stresses of Dix’s ideals were to engage with the patients, provide them therapy, music, books, recreation, and meaningful work. Where were the Dorothea Lynde Dix’s in the 20st century? Where were the Nellie Bly’s to expose the perfidy? Where was the humanity? If “a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members” (Mahatma Gandhi), the United States’ lack of moral treatment toward the indigent insane in the 20th century may display the nation under a less than favorable light. It is yet to be seen if we will redeem ourselves in the 21st, a century which, through the lens of modern history, given that we’re confirmed navel gazing screen swipers, looks to have spawned more sloths than doers and more ailments than caregivers.

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Hazel Hall

Literary Ladies Guide has been kind enough to reprint my piece on Hazel Hall  in its entirety.

(February 7, 1886 – May 11, 1924)


Three school girls pass this way each day,

Two of them go in the fluttery way

Of girls, with all that girlhood buys:

But one goes with a dream in her eyes.

Two of them have the eyes of girls

Whose hair is learning scorn of curls,

But the eyes of one are like wide doors

Opening out on misted shores,

And they will go as they go today

On to the end of life’s short way;

Two will have what living buys,

And one will have the dream in her eyes.

Two will die as many must,

and fitly dust will welcome dust;

But dust has nothing to do with one—

She dies as soon as her dream is don (sic)

By 1910, the city of Portland Oregon was becoming a lively city of commerce and community. A bustling population of well over 207,000 established it as the largest city in the Pacific Northwest. From the port side along the Ocean-accessible Columbia River to the West Bank of the roaring Willamette, people spent their days working in factories, window-shopping, strolling hand-in-hand, riding trolleys, and bustling about in all the ways that folks of large cities do.

Though Portland was host to much lively activity and trade, young Hazel Hall could not take part in any of it. Being confined to a wheelchair since she was 12, she sat in the upper room of her home watching life in its myriad of shapes and sizes parade before her. Having limited mobility, Hazel could not stand up to peer out her window so she fashioned a hand-mirror in such a way as to be able to view the streets below in the reflection of the glass.

Hazel Hall was born on February 7, 1886 in St. Paul Minnesota to Montgomery and Mary Garland Hall. She had two sisters, Ruth and Lulu. The family moved to Portland, Oregon when Hazel was yet a toddler. Though young, Hazel romped and played just as exuberantly as any other child until the age of 12 when she fell ill with scarlet fever and was stricken lame ever afterward, binding her to a wheelchair. Not to be discouraged by her strict confinement, Hazel spent her days under the light of her window sewing and adorning fine linens and bridal robes, baby clothes, lingerie, Bishop’s cuffs, and christening gowns. These items were so beautifully embroidered that she became one of the favorite seamstresses of many of Portland’s social elite in the West Hills, bringing her money enough for her to earn her keep.

Hazel’s sister, Ruth, a librarian in the Portland School District, borrowed numerous books for Hazel to read. From classics to science, Hazel read everything that her sister brought home for her, but developed a particular interest in poetry. Emily Dickinson, who passed away the same year of Hazel’s birth, was counted among her favorite poets, along with Robert Frost and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Hazel had always occupied herself by writing and by the age of 30 she accomplished being published in the Boston Evening Transcript. Her poem, To An English Sparrow is a musical piece of rhyme and meter and deep in feeling. The life of the poem resembles the life of a sewing needle, which Hall knew the ins and outs of very well.



Little feathered tufts of gray,

Skipping blithely through the day —

Never resting,

Yet protesting

In your querulous, quick way —

Little sparrow;

You who would the woodland spurn —

Bird-prized haunts of leaf and fern —

Ever grace the crowded street,Seeking man’s companionship

With your chippy-chip chip chirp—

On your wing or tripping feet —

Ever lightly

Always sprightly

Comes your note so nearly sweet,

English sparrow

Following her success of having a poem published in The Boston Evening Transcript, Hazel Hall’s poems appeared in such prestigious magazines as The Century Magazine, Harpers Magazine, The New Republic, The Nation, Yale Review, and Literary Review. In 1920 her poem, Three Girls, was chosen as one of the five best poems of the year by critic William Stanley Braithwaite.

Acquiring only a fifth grade education before becoming fettered to a wheelchair failed to prevent Hazel Hall from reaching out to a world that she could not fully take part in. With her poetry she managed to inspire not only poetic appreciation, but also admiration for the simpler things that life brings one’s way. Her interest in philosophy inspired her to think deeply about humanity and helped her to resist the temptation to become overwhelmed by her circumstances. In many ways it was her circumstances which she considered to be advantageous to writing poetry, for the solitude that she experienced aided in not only thinking through iambs and meters, but also in creating artistic presentations of the seemingly routine.

Many of her poems were included in numerous anthologies, gaining her popularity even in England. Her first book, Curtains, was published in 1921, her second book, Walkers, in 1923, and in 1928 her third book, Cry of Time, was published posthumously by her sister, Ruth. A group of her needlework poems within the pages of Curtains gained Hall the Young Poets Prize from Poetry magazine.

When Hall’s eyesight began to fail her, she no longer wrote poetry about sewing, such as in Curtains, but instead began to write more about the things she spied from the confines of her room. Thus, Walkers, came to be. The editors of The Bookman literary journal gave Hall’s newest book much praise within its pages of the August 1923 issue, calling the poems “genuine, individual, and very lovely,” including in their review a quote from her poem, Protection:

I have envied, I have pitied,Wrapped their sorrows over me

Like a shawl, to keep from knowing

Cold that is colder than the sea.

At the age of 38, Hall succumbed to an illness and passed away in the family home. Within eight short years, from 1916 to 1924, she had managed to touch the hearts of many readers with her poems. Upon her death on May 11, 1924, her obituary was on the front page of the Oregonian newspaper with the headline: “SWEET VOICE OF HAZEL HALL IS HUSHED BY DEATH.”

Yet, it was not hushed for long, thanks to John Witte, English Professor at the University of Oregon. In 2000, Witte collected all three of Hazel Hall’s books into one volume and published (Northwest Readers) The Collected Poems of Hazel Hall, making it possible for Hall’s voice to continue ringing out loud, strong, and sweet, teaching us all how to live life as fully as we are able.

The Oregon Book Award for poetry is named for Hazel Hall and William Stafford (the Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry). The award’s sponsor, LITERARY ARTS, refers to Hall as “The Emily Dickinson of Oregon.” Hall’s home at 106 NW 22nd Place in Portland is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Hazel Hall House. In 1995 the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission built a memorial park, or poetry garden, next to the Hazel Hall House. The park is home to three of Hall’s poems carved in granite; Light Sleep, Things That Grow, and The Listening Macaws.


The Willamette Valley Dams

A new blog post about the dams which make living in the Willamette Valley possible.  It’s posted on my blog, Willamette Valley Heritage: Barns and Structures. This is a three part series of mostly dry (punny) rhetoric which I spent a couple of years researching and writing. Passion! I will not be posting it directly onto this blog, but feel free to click on the link and learn many interesting (I think) things about the dams of the Willamette Valley.

Fern Ridge Dam

Guest Blog Post: Amazing Women in History

Guest Blog Post at Amazing Women in History

In 1629, China was entangled in a war with nature and men. Between fighting with Mongolia, Korea, and Japan, the military stretched the country’s budget to bursting. When China was hit with the longer, colder winters caused by falling average temperatures, famine exploded all over the north. Not enough crops could be grown to provide food and many of the starving soldiers banned together in gangs who ravaged the countryside.

1629 is also the year Lin Siniang (Lean Shinjang) was born to a struggling military family.

Lin Siniang’s family may have been poor, but her father made sure to give her proper instruction in the use of sword, spear, and the martial arts. She was so adept that even at the age of six, people were astounded by her expertise.

When Lin Siniang was a teenager, her parents were killed and she was left with no family to care for her. She became a prostitute, working all day by the Qinhuai River, near modern day Nanjing.

Lin never stopped honing her fighting skills every chance she got. One day as she was improving on her martial arts down by the river, King Zhu Changshu (Chew Chunjoe) happened by and fell deeply in love at the first sight of her. He asked her to come away with him to the palace.

Not long after they were married, the king asked Lin Siniang to teach her fighting skills to all the royal concubines. The women enjoyed the fighting and defending so much that they stuck with it and became an all female army.

A terrible drought and famine in the North brought rebels from the Shaanxi (Sha-she) and Shanxi (Shon-She) provinces in search of food. King Zhu failed to take the threats as seriously as he should have and he was taken hostage by the rebels while at his mountain retreat.

Lin Siniang heard of the king’s capture and responded immediately by rallying her army of concubine soldiers together and leading an attack on the rebel army. At first the enemy was confused at being confronted by women and Lin’s army was quite successful at taking out a large number of the rebels.

The women managed to free the king from captivity but the rebel army eventually overpowered the female military until Lin was the only one who remained alive.

She fought off every punch, kick, sword, and spear until she could stand no longer and was struck down by the blow that would take her life.

It would not take long to share the story of Lin Siniang, perhaps a minute or maybe two, but sometimes it is the smaller things in life that can make the biggest impact. Lin Siniang was only fifteen years old when she died leading her self-trained army in a battle to save the king. Such a great conquest on the heals of living as a peasant, a prostitute, and a princess.

Woods Reader

The People’s Tree

The People’s Tree

Some trees shed their leaves to warm the earth through the cold winter months, some trees are home to eagles and playgrounds for squirrels, and some are sawed down and built into homes which keep families warm and dry for generations. Of all the trillions of trees in the nearly two-hundred million acres of National Forest in the United States, only one tree gets chosen to be THE PEOPLE’S TREE, the one tree chosen each year to adorn the west lawn of the United States Capitol in Washington DC. This tree which stands before the People’s House every holiday season, embellished in sparkling regalia and festive colors, is ultimately chosen by the Architect of the Capitol (AOC), but is initially picked out by the people of the state it is coming from. Every year since 1970 a National Forest has been chosen to provide a tree to adorn the Capitol’s west lawn for the people, by the people, of the people.

This years tree hails from Oregon in commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Oregon Trail. There were 1,000 risk-taking men, women and children who made that first 2,170 mile journey overland from Independence Missouri to Oregon City Oregon in 1843. They drove their wagons loaded with dry goods, cooking utensils, furniture such as beds and dressers, and in some cases even china hutches and they led their livestock; oxen, cattle, mules, etc. all while facing the unknown in the hopes of breaking free from the harsh economic times brought on by the recession of 1837. Once the settlers arrived in The Dalles Oregon it was necessary to take a chance along the churning, roaring Columbia River on either rafts or to pay a ferry, or find another route over the formidable Cascade Mountain range which blocked their path overland. It is fortunate that the fur trappers had been in those parts for better than 50 years and, with the help of the native people, knew how to navigate The Dalles. This first group of settlers landed in Oregon City after approximately six months of hard living along the Trail.

Fifty years ago, the National Trails System Act was established. This is a nationally funded system of trails which are maintained simply for the use of The People much like the national roads which are maintained for driving, only these trails are for walking, biking, hiking, horseback riding, etc. The trails of the national system fall under one of four categories of use; Scenic, Recreation, Historic, and Connecting and Side Trails. National Scenic Trails are trails which are 100 miles long or more, continuous, are non-motorized for the most part and offer amazing recreational opportunities. Trails such as the Appalachian, Continental Divide, the Pacific Crest, and approximately 8 more fall under this category. The National Recreation Trails database boasts of 1,200 trails between less than a mile and up to 485 miles long ranging from nature trails to water trails and bikeways. The National Historic Trails include such trails as the Lewis and Clark trail, the Oregon trail, the Pony Express Trail, and so on. All of these trails utilize Connecting and Side Trails for supporting ease of access and maintenance and are provided to the public for recreation and enjoyment.

In celebration of this duo-anniversary, the theme for the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree is “Find Your Trail,” and the tree itself came from the Sweet Home Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest, approximately 90 miles southeast of where that first wagon train stopped 175 years ago. This is the second tree to hail from Oregon, the first was culled from the Umpqua National Forest in 2002. Oregonians from all over the state were recruited to search the 200,000 acres of forest in the Sweet Home Ranger District for the best candidate to become The People’s Tree. In August an ornament hunt sponsored by the Willamette Valley Visitors Association took place. The group provided a map for locating one of the 200 glass ornaments which were placed along non-wilderness, easy access, trails and they gave away hundreds of prizes, one of which was a trip for two to see the tree lighting in Washington D.C. During the more weather-friendly months, the capitol tree website featured a “trail of the month,” to encourage people to “find your trail,” in the Sweet Home Ranger District in hopes of getting eyes on the tree. The people were instructed to send in GPS coordinates when they found a candidate and the suggestions were handed off to Jim Kaufmann, the Director of the Capitol Grounds and Arboretum at the Architect of the Capitol (AOC), the federal agency which is responsible for the operations and care of the U.S. Capitol buildings and grounds.

The governor of Oregon, Kate Brown, held a letter-writing contest for fourth graders who were asked to write what they enjoy most about Oregon’s outdoors. The contest attracted 1,200 letters and it was the poem by Brigette Harrington from Jackson Grade School in Hillsboro that won a trip for herself and a guardian to Washington D.C where she will join the Speaker of the House in flipping the switch to bring the roughly 10,000 lights on the People’s Tree to life.

From about a half dozen finalists, Mr. Kaufmann of the AOC made the final decision in August. What Mr. Kaufmann evaluated while choosing The People’s Tree were things such as: a conical shape, either a Douglas or a Noble Fir, the tree’s accessibility by crane and semi-truck, the tree had to be between 65 and 85 feet tall and very straight with uniform branching, be naturally thick and between 25-30 feet wide, and have a rich, green color. During the search, Mr. Kaufmann and his crew drove for hours up mountains and down the valley floor, finally deciding on a Noble Fir located about 7 miles down a logging road. This is the first year that a Noble Fir has been chosen as the People’s Tree.

Before cutting the tree, it was wrapped with slings and attached to cranes which supported it so that the tree would not fall and damage its branches or injure any of the 50-plus onlookers and celebrants observing the harvest. It was U.S. Forest Service Hand Crew Supervisor Jonah Gladney of Detroit, OR who had the honor of cutting the 80-foot Noble before the cranes hoisted it onto supports along the flatbed truck which would be its new home until it arrived in DC.

The trail to DC was driven in a huge truck along the Oregon Trail in-reverse. The route included over 25 important stops along the historic trail. Getting the approximately 90-plus foot flatbed truck out of the woods and onto the Oregon trail took some inventive trail-making of its own, after getting stuck in the mud while turning a tight bend on the forest road. Truly without a hitch, though, after that it was on its way to Sweet Home where forestry officials spent the better part of a week preparing the tree for its long journey as panels, some translucent, were added to the flatbed, the tree’s branches were carefully secured, a bladder holding 25-pounds of water, complete with its own heater, was secured to the trunk with wax to keep the tree watered, and the visible part of the tree was adorned with ornaments made by Oregonians.

In Albany, where the tree sat for most of the day on Saturday November 10, thousands of people came to see the tree. Viewing the top of the tree through the Plexiglas panels, people were heard“Ooh”-ing and “aww”-ing at the tiny red, green, and white lights, ornaments such as covered-wagon wheels, log cabins, and colorful paintings, and at the shiny silver star on the top. During the exhibit, the many forestry officials on hand were eager to answer questions, and to show off the tree. This was a day which coincided with Albany’s annual Veteran’s Day Parade, the largest such parade west of the Mississippi, so there were hundreds if not thousands of people on hand to view The People’s Tree and to sign the banners along the truck. As the tree began its journey, this was an excited scene repeated again and again as the truck made many more whistle stops on its way to DC.

The tree arrived in Oregon City, the end of the Oregon Trail and the beginning of this reverse-trail journey, on Tuesday Nov. 13. Because floating upstream along the Columbia was impractical for the long-hauling diesel, it is I-84 that the truck rode along to get to The Dalles, following right alongside the Columbia River that once ferried settlers into the Willamette Valley. From The Dalles they drove ever eastward with stops in Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, and of course, Independence Missouri before reaching the final destination of the lawn of the United States Capitol where its butt was “planted” in a deep hole made special just for it, and the people at the AOC completed decorating the tree.

All along the 3,000 mile journey, the People’s Tree was met with parades and festivities. Not only did the huge 70-foot tree (10 feet were trimmed away during travel preparations) arrive in Washington DC with ornaments handmade by Oregonians, but also 70 “companion trees,” which now adorn many government offices throughout DC. Oregonians made 10,000 ornaments to trim the trees with, 3,500 adorn the big fir on the west lawn and 6,500 were put on the smaller trees.

It is only natural to wonder what happens to the tree after the holidays are over. Perhaps some of it will be cut into logs and burned in someone’s hearth, or some of it milled into lumber to build a warm house, maybe some of it can be made into bird houses or squirrel feeders, or even bark chips to keep the earth warm during the winter. The People’s Tree is such a beautifully recyclable and versatile thing



Obtaining, cutting, transporting, setting, and trimming The People’s Tree is a yearly event organized by volunteers and US Forestry workers, using donations from large corporate sponsors, small businesses and individuals. The People.

The Dalles

Dalles are defined as the rapids of a river running between the walls of a canyon or gorge. The city in Oregon, The Dalles, is located along the Columbia River in a narrowing of the gorge which creates many rapids. This area has a long history of trade between Native Amerians, going back 10,000 years and is considered to be one of the most important archaeological regions in North America.


Woods Reader

In 1941 Dorothy Anne Hobson was a name on the lips of the president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and in the heart of his wife Eleanor. The 12 year old girl from the company town of Valsetz, Oregon was finishing up her third year of editing a newspaper entitled The Valsetz Star which had basked in as much glory as any newspaper could in 1930’s America, gaining readers such as Shirley Temple, and Herbert Hoover. The paper received further fame when it was read on radio stations all around the United States. 1941 is the year in which The Valsetz Star was put to bed, after having been published for three years in Valsetz; the end of a lonely 30-mile stretch of muddy road.

The newspaper was started by 9-year-old Dorothy in 1937 as a way to keep the inhabitants of the small town of Valsetz up to speed on all things noteworthy; dances, important visitors, the weather (rain), fashion, and whatever else came to mind. The logging town of Valsetz was owned by Cobbs and Mitchell, who built it in 1919 in order to effectively and economically process a large tract of timber on the coast range, in an area know today as “The Valley of the Giants.” The railroad used for transporting the timber was the Valley & Siletz Railroad, a bit of clever re-arranging of the letters lends to the name of “Valsetz.” This is an area which receives approximately 120” of rain a year, so those 1,000 residents of Valsetz in the late 1930’s likely needed that monthly newspaper, which was written by Dorothy, to help stave away cabin fever!

With witty and precocious observations it is no wonder that the newspaper edited by the daughter of the cookhouse managers and printed by the company’s Portland office was a national hit:

1937: “We believe in hemlock, fir, kindness and Republicans.”

1939: “Mother has some new corsets for a waist like a wasp, but when she laces them real tight she faints.”

1940: “A few people have written us dreadful letters for supporting Wendell Wilkie (for president), but they did not sign their names. Please don’t be ashamed of your name. We are not ashamed of ours.”

Over time, Valsetz evolved from a booming a logging town to a a mill town, then eventually changing ownership over to Boise Cascade which fell in 1984. Today, the town of Valsetz, and it’s national newspaper, are but memories among a tree farm. There is a group of Valsetzians on social media, and Google Maps can find it. I believe that though the town was raized by it’s owner, Boise Cascade, in 1984, there are still a lot of people who wax nostalgic for Valsetz, Valley of the Giants, town at the end of a 50 minute drive down a 15 mile road. It must have been a beautiful place to live and the Valsetzians likely miss the camaraderie with the woods terribly. The aroma of pine would have been thickly laced in moss, and the trees tall enough for an adventurous youngster to touch the sky. The elk and deer were plentiful, and the fishing stupendous. The law was nil; it was not needed when the company was the law and no stranger is going to drive up that road or ride that train to commit a crime.


WIP: Heroic Vignettes, Around the World With Eighty Heroines


Heroic Vignettes, Around the World with Eighty Heroines

An exploration of an archetype unfettered by geographical and geopolitical restraints and undaunted by time.

By Tami Richards


Introduction ……………………………………………………………………

The Case for a series of Heroic Vignettes ………………………….

Overview ………………………………………………………………………

About the Author ………………………………………………………….

Length and Timetable ……………………………………………………


The hero is a necessary element to the makeup of human experience and has been the quintessential star of the literary world for eons. From Homer’s Odysseus to The New Testament’s Paul of Tarsus, from Chaucer’s Wife of Bath to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, the heroic influencers are long outlived by their stories.

In an ideal model of world building, the heroic trait would be exemplified in all citizens in order to achieve the most efficient method for every aspect of civilization from inventions of needed products such as electricity or automobiles to the creation of life preserving preparations of food and shelter, the heroic trait is what drives people to not only survive, but to thrive. Heroes in literature, then, are necessary to the survival of humankind – heroes teach us that quitters never win.

The twentieth century’s rise of women’s voices in literature created a cacophony of a new sound on the heroic front. The cymbal clash of a long awaited unveiling was heard from the keystrokes of Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, Willa Cather, Maya Angelou, and hundreds more women as they streamed into the hearts and minds of readers everywhere.

We have reached a time where it seems as though nothing is hidden. History’s annals contain records of female doctors, botanists, lawyers, etc. Women have been pirates, dentists, scientists and aviators. Journals of pioneer women of the wagon trains westward were discovered, and letters of long ago poetic, political, and business friends and lovers revealed. History was always being made and there were always women involved! They are heroes, and as it is the heroes who build worlds, their stories must be told.

Book One: Feminine Americans

Book Two: Feminine West Africans

Book Five: Feminine Chinese

Nien Cheng

Book Eight: Feminine South Americans

Anabel Hernandez

Where should we go next?


The revelation of female heroes requires an introduction to not only the struggles they encountered, but also the sacrifices they made. Our heroes are human beings constrained by the forces of reality such as time and space and cannot, therefore, have it all. The more traditional feminine concerns of family and society were often refused by our heroines in order to succeed in their accomplishments.

The heroic attribute is not limited by time or space and can be found anywhere in the world at any time. The series, Heroic Vignettes, reveals the feminine heroes of China, South America, West Africa, and five other regions. Many of the players in the books are lesser known heroes, some are well known, but the thread of greatness binds them together flawlessly in vignettes short enough to inspire the reader quickly without losing interest much like Jason Porath accomplished with his series for younger readers, Rejected Princesses .

Heroic Vignettes aims to engage readers ranging in age from youth to adult. Recently, there welve listings of contemporary books about Babe Ruth in a city children’s library collection, there are only 2 of Babe Didrikson Zaharias who broke records in multiple sports including track and field at the Olympics, golf, and basketball. Granted, Zaharias was not the best baseball player to have ever lived, she was however one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. Her obscurity is embarrassing.


Beginning with the United States and traveling through seven additional countries, Heroic Vignettes aims to fascinate readers with little known tidbits about women around the world in chronological order (within each respective section).

In the United States, we read about Toypurina, the 18th Century Tongva woman who led a revolt against the Spanish Mission encroaching on her tribal grounds in California and Deborah Samson Gannett who dressed in men’s clothing in order to fight in the American Revolution. Next we learn of Dorothea Lynde Dix who butted heads with businessmen, politicians, and doctors to win treatment for the indigent insane (people with mental health issues who could not afford help). Then we meet Madam C.J. Walker, America’s first self-made female millionaire who saw a need for a hair product women of color and made it happen. Mary Jane McLeod Bethune is the next member of the Heroic Vignettes group as we follow her rise from birth to former slaves to enacting many political and social firsts such as … “founded and headed the only college in the South built and financed by a Negro woman…” (Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, MY DAY, March 6, 1948), followed by Hazel Hall, who wrote poetry, still in print today, and earned a living sewing fine linens, baby clothes, wedding dresses, and lingerie from the confines of her wheelchair. Next we meet Dorothea Lange, famed photographer of the great depression, and Katherine Sui Fun Cheung, “America’s first Asian Aviatrix” (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum). Mildred (Babe) Didrikson Zaharias, claiming long list of firsts in American and Olympic sports, is next then we read about Graciela Gil Olivarez who was instrumental in creating social programs such as Head Start, Job Corps, and Community Action Agencies.

The second section of Heroic Vignettes will star heroines from West Africa, a history invisible to eyes searching for records recorded by hand but rich in lore, mysticism, and music. In the twelfth century, Yennenga founded modern day Burkina Faso when she ran away from her father in order to marry. Yennenga’s tale is followed by 16th century’s Queen Idia of Benin and Queen Amina of Nigeria. Next is Queen Abla Pokou of the 18th century Ivory Coast, and Yaa Asantewaa, the sixty year old grandmother who led an uprising to protect her people’s heritage, will represent 20th century Ghana. The 20th Century also brings us Nyimasata Sanneh-Bojang, the first female leader elected to Parliament and a leading activist against FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), and a group of freedom fighters in Guinea-Bissau known as the Warrior Women. The 21st Century brings us Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, of Liberia – the first elected female president in all of Africa, and the Nigerian authors Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, and Buchi Emecheta.

The third and fourth sections of Heroic Vignettes are undecided, but the fifth section will introduce some of the feminine heroes of China’s history starting with Lady Fu Hao (12th century B.C.)the only female General in China’s history, followed by Lu Mu in A.D. 18 who organized the masses in order to usurp unjust rulers. In A.D. 49-120 We find Ban Zhao, China’s first known female historian. From 170 to 249 lived Cai Yan, an accomplished calligrapher and poet, some of her works can still be found. Wu Zetian (624-705) was the only female emperor in Chinese history, and Mu Guiying (960 – 1279) was a general in the Song army until she was 80 years old. Liang Hongyu (1102-1135) fought battles beside her husband and navigated great victorys, and Wang Zhenyi (1768-1797) was a famous astronomer who wrote many volumes explaining the behaviors of the celestial system. Qiu Jin (1875 -1907) who became a great warrior despite the pain in her bound feet, and we finish with Nien Cheng 1915 – 2009 who survived wrongful imprisonment of Communist China and wrote about it.

Sections 6 and 7 remain unexplored, but Section 8 will develop the stories of some of South America’s female heroes. Dandara of Palmares 17th century freedom fighter protecting freed and escaped slaves. Juana Azurduy de Padilla, Bolivia, South America Juana Azurduy was a leader of the Bolivian revolution in the 19th century. She fought for freedom from Spain’s rule with such vigor as to attain the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Minerva, Patria, and Maria Teresa, The Mirabal Sisters confronted a dictator (Rafael Trujillo) who would not take no for an answer in 1950’s Dominican Republic. Anabel Hernandez, (1971- ) Journalist Anabel Hernández broke a story that led to a major investigation into embezzlement at the highest level of government.


Heroic Vignettes, Around the World with Eighty Heroines, is an idea stemming from Tami Richards’ long time interest in the little known, the under celebrated, the forgotten achievements. It is an esoteric uncovering of how we, collective humanity, arrived where we are; a hobbled together group of individuals listening to the echoing cadence of invention, courage, and hope.

Tami Richards has written biographical material for newspapers, magazines, and websites. Most recently published is a piece on the Literary Ladies Guidewebsite about author Beverly Cleary. Upcoming in 2022, the print magazine, Military History, will feature her article about Sarraounia Mangou, a brave West African warrior queen who stood against the colonial scramble for Africa in the 20th Century. Prior biography related publishing credits include a guest blog post on Amazing Women in History about the Ming Dynasty Warrior, Lin Siniang, a piece about Dorothy Hobson’s Valsetz Star for the Woods Reader print magazine, a story about an oncologist battling his own cancer for a local print publication, and a short profile of Oregon’s leading suffragist, Abigail Scott Duniway.

Tami Richards maintains a local history blog and is active on social media FB Twitter Linkedin. Her complete author’s portfolio can be viewed here.


The finished manuscript will be approximately 90,000 words and I will have it finished within a year.

A New Year

This year I’m looking forward, as many, many millions of people around the world are, to getting out on vacation somewhere! I don’t know where, or when, but I’m hoping it’s soon and I’m sure it’s going to be amazing.

Last year Craig and I took a few daycations and in the fall we stayed the weekend in the Bend/Prineville area. We enjoyed seeing the painted hills for the first time, they’re always beautiful and always changing in color according to atmospheric changes such as sunlight, humidity, moisture, etc.

The Painted Hills.

We also walked around the majestic Smith Rock (some people climb – we walked around), and toured the underground lava caves in Redmond. We had a great time. I’m hoping for an end to the pandemic this year. Looking forward to being able to run around unencumbered by masks and/or vaccine conversations.

Smith Rock State Park.
Exploring the caves.

A couple of years ago (Spring 2018), Craig and I were up in Washington State. Just driving you know, seeing the sights, getting lost, etc. We love to do this! We were in our hotel on the last day of our trip and over breakfast I was looking at a map and said “you know, I think if we drove east we could drive through Idaho and into Montana in only a few hours time.

We didn’t take that drive, but it’s on my bucket list.

On that particular Washington State trip we did see Toppenish, a small town which hosts over 75 historic murals, the Yakima Valley (my first time but Craig had worked there before), Zillah, home of the restored teapot shaped gas station built in honor of the teapot dome scandal in 1922 and a touching memorial to local veterans.

Restored teapot gas station roadside museum.
Veteran’s Memorial Park, Zillah Washington.
A mural in Toppenish.
Another one of the many lovely historic murals in Toppenish.

There’s a host of places we didn’t see during our trip, but trust me; they’re on the list. Maybe this year we will jump into our car and head up and over and across three states in one day, or maybe stay in Oregon, which we never tire of. Whatever we decide, it’s going to be better than ever because Craig and I grow better than ever each passing year despite the aches, pains, and occasional bout of cantrememberstuff.

My partner in adventure and yours truly standing in the ghost town of Valsetz Oregon.

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