Finally, here is the version I’ll use for my new SHELBY F SQUIRREL book, The Great FOREST CAPER.  Thanks to Birgie Ludlow for her wonderful computer and design work, and for her patience.

A little about the cover:

When I was more than halfway through the book, it hit me one day that I was echoing my friend’s story, “Stephen”. Sandra Sakofsky wrote it in 2009, telling of a group of animals, and a rat named Stephen leading them, in a well-planned sabotage of the machinery set to level the ground to clear it for a new subdivision. It’s in the book “A Rainbow of Poems  Stories” that Writers Forum published in 2014.

My SHELBY story, begun in 2016, proved how much her story had gone into my head and stayed there in my subconscious mind. Thence the acknowledgement on the cover. Some of the action is very similar to that in “Stephen”.

In this new story, SHELBY’S friends play a large part. So on the cover a few of them are represented, somewhat subtly. The reason for this is that throughout the unfolding of the plot, most of the time they are hiding, on sentry duty, and ready to fight, whenever a threat might appear.

That’s Charlie, the old farm horse, down in the right corner, who has cousins that have experienced the same kinds of things that are happening in the forest.  Peeking out from the large tree trunk is Billy the Goat, whose head-butting skills are put to the test . Perched above is the Wise Old Owl, SHELBY’S long-time mentor and friend, and sitting on the ‘R’ is Rosie. I know she looks like a bluebird here, but in the book she’s a robin. One of those things; call it poetic licence if you will. That’s the only way I can explain it.

Others in the plot include: Sultan the Rooster and his harem, the brown hens /  Billy’s two lady friends, Nanny and Capra / Molly and Polly Raccoon / Marvin F. Mouse /  and even the farm swans. New friends are the skunks, whose special talents come in very handy. And here again, Sandy’s story was the inspiration!!

Thanks, Sandy, for sharing your creativity, and for the years of friendship.


A LIFE LESSON, again….

Spring, April 2013

This lovely photo of my daughter’s beloved cat, Loki, who lived to be 19 years young, reminds me today that one should never stop taking time to ‘smell the roses’ along the path of life.

Visiting with my brother, who is six months into life at a retirement facility and requiring help with day-to-day existence because of Parkinson’s, has awakened this awareness yet again. It’s so easy to slip into lethargy, depression, hopelessness, and it’s terrible to watch someone dangerously close to that edge.

If a person has stayed a cock-eyed optimist through life, through thick and thin, there is a better chance of avoiding this black hole that threatens to swallow my brother.

Yesterday, we both had a rare taste of his ability /  lack of ability to function in the outside world. He needs a hand-hold to walk, or a walker. It’s difficult to figure out how to get up off the chair at Timmy’s, and it was good I could be there as a ‘spotter’. There isn’t anything to hold onto, no arms on the chair, and the table will probably tip if his weight depends on it for the push upward.

Visiting the washroom while out in public worried me.  That was avoided because he is able to last several hours, a talent I would like to re-acquire!! BUT in the event of needing to use the washroom, it would have presented very real problems. Unable to go in with him, hoping he wouldn’t fall while in there, slip on a possibly wet floor, not be able to get his pants back up, is a partial list.

Our trip to Shoppers Home Health was eye-opening as well. We looked at scooters, walkers (the 4-wheel kind with brakes, a seat and a basket), and tested canes. He needed to sit except to test a walker and a couple of canes. Being presented with these actual pieces of equipment will perhaps lead to a clearer idea of what possible independence can still exist for my brother.

The next phase of work to try and help will be to look for volunteer drivers, or visitors. It’s a tall order because talking about sports or the weather doesn’t interest my brother. He would rather get into science or math, inventions, building, electronics etc.  There isn’t any stimulating conversation where my brother lives, it seems that the whole population is beyond that, sad to say. The staff can’t possibly spend the amount of time needed to fill that gap. Both my sister and I live too far away to be there regularly.

What is glaringly obvious and the hardest part to swallow is that not having nurtured a cock-eyed optimist outlook through life has left my brother unable to cope.

So, friends, if nothing else, learn not to brood. Find a way to see the up sides of your day and your life. Remember to be thankful for everything,  no matter how insignificant. Train your brain to be positive!!  But that’s another subject……..



Here is part of Chapter 10: WATERLOO from SHELBY F. SQUIRREL and the GREAT FOREST CAPER:

When the driver and passengers alighted and dug out large chain saws from the truck beds, Petra F. Squirrel waved frantically at Rosie Robin, who took off in a flurry of feathers. Howard Owl was on duty too, and also flew quickly away. The men began to enter the forest, noisily pushing through the dense undergrowth. 
Almost as if on cue, three saws were started up. With their motors burbling and belching fumes they soon had half a dozen small trees felled, and the men systematically moved forward. 
Suddenly the leader roared and fell straight backward, the saw kicking and bucking in his hands. And there stood Billy Goat, pawing the ground like an enraged bull. He charged again and knocked the second man flying. 
The third one started retreating hastily, and suddenly dropped the saw, which stalled as it hit the ground, and started waving his arms like a crazed windmill. An owl flapped wildly past his face, crying a spooky “Hoooo” is it went. In its wake criss-crossed Shelby and Petra. 
The first two men had scrambled to their feet and turned to run, only to face Sultan and both adult swans in a frenzy of flapping wings, hissing, and crowing. That’s when Molly and Polly Raccoon paraded through, looking exactly like inebriated sailors who hadn’t gain their land legs after being at sea. As the men tried to pick up the saws, Rosie and half a dozen other robins dive-bombed them from every direction. 
Shelby had stopped for a quick turn-around when he saw the cameras and announcers circling the scene with rapid-fire commentary, and wide lens coverage of everything that was going on. 
Charlie, the old farm horse, had also arrived and issued a whinny that sent chills up Shelby’s spine, while he raised his front legs high off the ground, snorting, and wild-eyed. Then Billy Goat charged through again, followed by both Nanny and Capra, his companions. The men were frozen to the spot stupefied. Then all three lurched into fantastic dance moves, jiggling one leg, then the other. The field mice escaped in every direction but their sharp teeth had left patterns on the hairy legs under those denim pants. 
All three men were screaming like banshees by then, and running panic-stricken for their trucks. The saws were abandoned on the ground, mercifully stalled so they weren’t a danger to anyone. 
And every second was being recorded right before their eyes! It hit Shelby like a shock-wave when he realized that a couple of the cameras were now concentrating on the upper branches, where all the rest of the flying squirrels sat scrunched anxiously together. Molly and Polly Raccoon had climbed up now after their performance of Rabies symptoms, their parents Ringtail and Lottie had arrived too, and all four were focused on the action below. 
In the next tree a whole row of owls had perched like courtiers viewing royal jesters. 
That’s when the whole family of skunks paraded into the clearing, tails high. 
The news people stood their ground, getting several minutes on film, then turned as one body, tripping over each other, bumping into tree trunks, but realised when nothing happened that it was all a show. The skunks knew who was on their side, and calmly kept walking, now being filmed again, toward the trucks by the road side. 
The three men hadn’t recovered their wits enough to drive off, and were sitting with heaving chests in the cabs. Now seeing the skunks appear they seemed to come alive as if someone had thrown a switch. The engines screeched to life, tires squealed, and gravel flew as the hapless fellows made their escape. 
Shelby caught the satisfied look of the adult skunks, and realised how cleverly they had planned that entrance. It just made the whole melee complete, like the icing on a birthday cake.
The animals had faced their potential Waterloo and together they watched in triumph as the enemy troops departed in defeat .