Category Archives: Art

Includes all art forms: music, poetry, fine art, etc.

The Gift of Taking It

The setting? Summer, 1970 in rural America.  Between the influence of several Looney Tunes scenes, Mary Poppins and some cockamamie scheming, my brother and I devised a childhood plan.

We would gather a bed sheet and an umbrella, climb to the top of the chicken house, leap off the roof and float down to the ground with the aid of our “flight tool” of choice.We both ended up with similar injuries.

We jumped off the twelve foot high roof at the same time, sped toward earth and landed with a thud. Upon impact our knees bent, our body continued toward the ground and then Quentin’s knees gave him a black eye while my knees knocked me silly by whacking the bottom of my jaw.

We laid there, stunned. Hurting. Exhilarated. Sheepish because we both realized the idea was ridiculous as soon as we jumped off the roof. And..laughing as hard as we could because it was SO MUCH FUN!

(This memory may be a bit distorted, but let’s just go with it for right now…)

My brother and I grew up on a farm and part of our social education was this: Don’t hesitate – Just Do It.

For example, if a neighbor called reporting one of our cows were out my mother could be occupied with the pressure cooker, while my father could have been out on the tractor cutting hay. So the message to us could have then been, “Go get the cow back into the pasture.” And we would go.

There wasn’t time to ask questions of “how” or “why.” We knew the why, and we were expected to figure out the how. This is just how things happened on farms – on ours and both my grandparents’. People had to problem solve, act, think for themselves and “go!”

I was reminded of this gift my family gave me tonight when I heard a sketch on an NPR story I hadn’t thought of in years.

I’ve found the video for you just for fun.  If you’ll watch at least the first forty-five seconds or so, you’ll understand the point. Actually, the whole song is pretty great. I present to you, The Smothers Brothers singing “Boil That Cabbage Down.”

In this particular sketch, the joke was all in the, “I don’t want to take it.”  The back and forth, give and take between the Smothers Brothers made them famous in a time when the U.S. was in social upheaval.  Much of the nation was fearful.  Fearful that the Vietnam war wouldn’t end. Fearful that too much change was happening too fast. And probably many of those watching that night laughed extra hard because they completely understood the feeling of “not wanting to take it.”

But, taking it is within me. And, it’s within you too.  Let me demonstrate that with a second video.  Please allow me to introduce you to the wonderful, the one and the only, Mr. Bobby McFerrin.

If you watched to the end, you heard McFerrin say that, “…no matter where [he] goes, people get [the pentatonic scale].”  Those in his audience, whether it’s scientists or children in various countries, are so intrigued by watching McFerrin’s body lead them into singing the next note they’re not thinking, “I can’t.”  They’re simply doing what came without a thought and enjoying the hell out of it.

So my point is this.  When I “take it,” I feel like I can fly even if I knock my jaw silly.  When I over think, hesitate, shrink within myself, or become fearful of risking a vulnerable moment in relation to those around me, I get locked down. I feel stuck, staid, stunted and trapped.

That’s why I am so grateful for the gift of “taking it” when I’m able to enjoy it, and hope to be reminded that the gift IS inside me and can flow freely if I’ll just enjoy the hell out of what I’m doing.

And, I hope that for you too.


The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 51

#51 of 52 : GARY IRELAND
The Imaginary Family Project - Week 51

External Photo Clues:


Gary Ireland was born in a small, isolated town in western Oklahoma of about 1,000 people.  His formative years included World War II when all the resources of the United States were dedicated to the war effort and the subsequent boom years when the men and women involved in the war came home.  His world consisted almost entirely of the events and experiences in his hometown and he experienced both austerity and plenty.  This was a good time and place for a young boy to grow up.

Gary was smaller than most of the other children his age, but he made up for his size with an incredible amount of energy and speed.  His short legs were a blur as he ran around town with his friends, spending most of his free time on the sidewalks, streets, alleys, and vacant lots of his hometown.

Today, this would not seem like a good, or safe, way to grow up.  But, in reality, the children were free to learn and experience things that would stay with them their whole lives.  They created their own forms of entertainment and solutions to problems as they worked it out with each other.  More importantly, every man and woman in town acted as surrogate fathers and mothers as the children ran around and experienced the delights and freedom of their childhood.  Adults observed what happened and they either dealt with any sign of a misdeed or quickly brought it to the attention of the appropriate parents.  Gary’s parents were always among the first to know, as they ran the grocery store on Main Street.  The African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child” was at work in western Oklahoma.

One particular group of older men spent most of the day observing the events in town.  They were known as the “spit and whittle club”, a less-than-complimentary term used by the rest of the town to describe what seemed to be their only activities, chewing tobacco and carving wooden trinkets with their pocketknives.  Their daily schedule was to follow the shade or the sun around town, depending on the season, and to watch and discuss the events around them.  They also had their favorite dry or protected spots when it rained or the north wind howled.  One of their favorite winter expressions was “there’s nothing between us and the North pole, except a barbed-wire fence and it’s been blown down”.

Actually, the spit and whittle club spent their time observing and discussing the human condition, politics, religion, philosophy, sociology, and the weather.  The weather may not seem to fit in that list, but these men were survivors of the Great Depression, the worst of the Dust Bowl, and were located in the middle of Tornado Alley.  One of the deadliest tornadoes in history had happened in 1947 just up the road in Woodward. Continue reading The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 51

Five Reasons Why I Absolutely Hated the X-Factor Finale Show

50 cent & one of many crotch shotsI’ve not seen one episode of the X-Factor until tonight.

I only watch about 2 hours of TV per week during the semester so during the winter break I try to relax while watching a few select shows. I was a speech, drama and debate teacher for eight years so I really love talent shows. They remind me of auditions for our Spring Musicals, only on a massively grandiose and incredibly bankrolled scale.

Thus, I tuned into the X-Factor Finale show. As the show progressed I grew incredibly uncomfortable. And, exponentially even more uncomfortable as hour number two of the show rolled around. Here are my complaints in order as the show progressed:

1. 50 Cent, Astro (evidently from the X-Factor talent pool) and the LA Lakers led a musical rap-type number that was backed up by dancers whose costumes looked like Playboy Bunnies without the ears and tails. The choreography for the women was overly seductive, including women helping women out of bathtubs, gyrating against a grand piano, bending over with their buttocks in seductive positions and gyrating against, and toward, the singers on stage. (The photo above was captured off a screen shot from a hand-held video uploaded on YouTube.  It’s rough, but it demonstrates a bit of the point I’m making.)

One word: ick. The number was sexist, revolting and was played out like a bedroom fantasy in front of America’s families. The women were portrayed as hyper-sexualized while the men were held up as nothing more than the lead stallions of their own private herd of fillies. Sickening…on so many levels. Perhaps the lowest point for me however, was when the young male “Astro” was highlighted in a metaphorical anointing from 50 Cent. The meaning was clear: “Here boy, this will all be yours now. Learn well, and do me proud.”

2 & 3. More of number 1…in two other places: A) A woman played in the snow, encased in a giant snow globe, as one of the final contenders sang; and, B) Another number similar to what was described in my first point performed by Bulldog and Ne-Yo. And yes, they were backed up by more women with beautiful bodies, dancing in just-barely-less-seductive dances than the first number.

But then…they all took their jackets off for the second half, and their black-laced, see through body suits gave exactly the same message. More of the same, with the 50 Cent and the Bulldog led numbers taking up at least 15 minutes of the show total. Was the message clear? Absolutely. Was it received by millions of young girls and boys across the U.S. and possibly the world? Probably. And I’m just so incredibly sad about that.

4. A short commercial highlighting a Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah shocked me. Queen Latifah looked as radiant and strong as usual, but I got two quick glimpses of Dolly’s face…and I must say, I can hardly recognize the highly awarded County and Western Star. Dolly has had so many facial procedures that she looks like a caricature of her former self. Everything that is wrong about cosmetic procedures was evident – the “wolf” grin (widened mouth due to face lifts), “fish lips” due to collagen injections, and unfortunately, jokes interjected into the script to make up for the problem. You know when the writers have no choice but to say out loud what the audience thinks that things are bad.

Dolly – I love your voice, I love your spirit, and I sorely miss whatever face you would have naturally progressed toward by this time. RIP sweet Dolly aged face. Wish I could have known ya.

5. Finally, the finish of the show. This gets me every time when it comes to American Idol. The problem with the X-Factor is, however, that the ante was ramped up five-fold. A FIVE MILLION dollar contract is awarded to the winner who clearly was emotionally undone by the announcement. As was her family and friends in the audience who rushed the stage. As was the normally cool Simon Cowell. No one was in control of their faculties and that’s perfectly normal. Yet, Continue reading Five Reasons Why I Absolutely Hated the X-Factor Finale Show

The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 50

#50 of 52 : EDDY AARON
The Imaginary Family Project - Week 50

External Photo Clues:

Eddy Aaron is a name that I had somehow forgotten until receiving the news of his untimely demise. Feeling nostalgic, I decided to dig through an old box of relics. When I came across this photograph a memory came flooding back; the kind of memory that leaves you wondering how you ever forgot it in the first place.

I knew Eddy from St. Peter’s, a private school for boys in Clinton, MI. We were introduced behind the maintenance shed where some of the students would hang out and share cigarettes, adult magazines, alcohol, and whatever else they had managed to smuggle back from their weekend trips home.

Eddy was a regular at the spot but he wasn’t around at first because he had been on a home suspension for pissing on Coach Davis from the roof of the school. He claimed that he was trying to put out the coach’s cigarette as an act of encouragement. Smoking did not fit into the healthy lifestyle that the coach preached so sternly. By the time Eddy came back to school I had already become somewhat popular thanks to my stories of St. Mary’s.

St. Mary’s was a co-ed school that I had attended before transferring to St. Peter’s. The transfer had simply been an attempt to relieve some of the financial burden created after my dad was laid off and forced to choose a more humble career path. But that’s not the reason I gave my new friends.

It was clear that stories about girls were the quickest way to earn the respect and admiration of my fellow classmates. I started by telling them about how we would frequently hide in the girls’ locker room and watch them shower after gym class. Truthfully, I’m not even certain there was a gym.

When they pressed me for more details I told them about the time I was caught by Veronica, one of the most physically detailed fabrications I ever created. Continue reading The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 50

Christmas Pipes: My Pick of the Top Female Christmas Recordings of the Last Half-Century

When my mind drifts to Christmas music, I’ll frequently hear Bing Crosby crooning, Nat King Cole smoothly balladeering, or perhaps Mark Lowrey’s “Mary Did You Know.”

But when I focus my thoughts on what female artists have contributed to the Christmas recording repertoire this past half-century, I’m truly amazed.

I’ve decided to open up a discussion about the most influential, powerful or classic female Christmas recordings. Below are my selections of true difference makers in the Christmas recording world. There are sixteen in all.

I’ve started with the ones I feel are relevant, but as you near the end of the list you’ll find the ones I feel “win” in incredibly amazing ways.

I’d love to hear your own opinions as well, so please feel free to keep the discussion going as we near our Christmas Holiday. All the best, Red Dirt Kelly


Noted by some as “the best voice in the world,” Sissel sings an arrangement of “In the Bleak MidWinter.” She’s backed up by the Mormon Tabernacle choir. Her simplicity is where her power lies.

At a time when it was extremely rare to see African American women highlighted on T.V., Mahalia Jackson’s 1961 performance of “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” is indeed music to my ears. I wish the quality was better, but at the same time, perhaps it helps us realize that we’re traveling back in time to be at her side as we listen.

Noted for her unusually creative videos and simple, sweet voice, Regina Spektor’s “Because its Christmas” is trendy and pure. Continue reading Christmas Pipes: My Pick of the Top Female Christmas Recordings of the Last Half-Century

The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 49

#49 of 52 : RAYMOND & SADIE
The Imaginary Family Project - Week 49

External Photo Clues:




“Look happy!” Cleo Cliffords knelt down. He pointed the Brownie at little Raymond and Sadie. They looked happy, because they were happy. They played all the time and giggled and really liked each other. It was the one lucky thing in Cleo’s life — his kids were ignorant.

“There’s going to be a scientist who finds out how to get to the moon, but he’s not going to find out happiness. It’s not science.” – Pat Lanegan, Fiftyfold It Comes In: Putting Yourself Out There!

Cleo Cliffords sold things. Or, as he liked to quote Pat Lanegan, he formed relationships with people and they communicated with goods. Continue reading The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 49

Is Waldo Still a Hipster?

On July 31, 2006, the “Where’s Waldo: the Original Hipster” open Facebook group was created. The first wall post read…

“[OMG], how could I have been so blind??”

This was followed by,

this is the greatest group to have ever existed. thank you so much for opening up my eyes.


I wrote a paper because of this group. I’ll post it when it’s done getting edited by my teacher.

And, the posts kept coming.  Until last August.

August 5, 2011 was the last legitimate entry, and prior to that, it was December 7, 2010:

I saw Waldo last night with his GF (girlfriend) in a store and I couldn’t help but blurt out, “Waldo!”, he then turned and gave me a knowing look like he almost knew he was biting Waldos styles. My son then asked me, “what’s a Waldo?” to which I replied, “You will understand when you are older.”

So, here’s what I’m wondering.  Have Hipsters been assimilated?  Or is it just the idea that “Waldo=Hipster” is becoming passe? Further, I’m wondering…how many of YOU wear black-framed glasses, the occasional striped shirt, tight blue jeans and the cross-shoulder strapped mail-bag?

I know I own all of those things, and wear many of them at least once per week. See?

So, what do YOU think about the disappearance or assimilation of hipsters, AND, where does Waldo fit into that puzzle?  Is he now “found” within a good portion of the world population? 

Or, is Waldo just too cool to ever REALLY be found?

The Gift of My Dear Friend’s Catch Phrases

If I were a tree and beneath my branches lay gifts adorned in lovely holiday fare, I would hide the small collection wrapped in gilded sheets of friendship tied with bows of years together.

They are from my friend Cathy, and I would hide them because I know the contents. They fall into the priceless category; not for sale.  Only to be distributed at the perfect times, and with Love’s careful delivery.

The contents are no secret, however, because they have been shared among her family and friends all her adult life.  They are the gifts of her prolific and perfect catchphrases.  Let’s open one, shall we?

Her Exclamations

If we were a comedy team, I would normally play the straight man and she the comic relief.  Cathy wears her emotions on the frayed ends of her sleeves and they are generally punctuated with exclamations such as…

“Coo-Coo for CoCo Puffs!”

“Cripes!,” or “Ye GADS!”

Sometimes she’ll see something, pick it up and exclaim,

“Gad zooks!”

Other times some mission has been foiled and it’s, “Arrrrg!”  Or, perhaps a mission has been accomplished and in her sing-song, deadpan tone I’ll hear, “Yippee Skippy”  or  “Oh joy, oh rapture.”  These exclamations, delivered in perfect monotone, then make said accomplished mission all the richer.

“Hali-Tosis!” makes me giggle. And,

“Groovy, Marcia”

is one of her favorites. I’ve heard it in a hundred different versions.  Go ahead try it. GROO-vy, Marcia.  Groovy, MAR-cia…see?  It works. Continue reading The Gift of My Dear Friend’s Catch Phrases

University FAQs About the World of S-E-X

Photo and project by Kate Dollarhyde

Note – the content in this post is consistent with a PG-13 rating.  Thanks.

I’ve been teaching “Human Sexuality and the Family” for four years and I still find myself surprised about what seems to surprise my students.

Thinking back to my predisposed assumptions regarding what students would, or would not, think through out loud in the classroom now seems ridiculous to me.

For some reason, I honestly believed college students were more sexually savvy than what I now know them to be.  Perhaps this was because of the overt and raucous behavior I would occasionally witness among groups hanging out together on campus, cracking jokes and making continuous, “That’s what she said” interjections.

Perhaps, my misconceptions were because of insecurities on my own part.  It could be that I was intimidated by their attempts to be intimidating…attempts to set up defenses so strongly reinforced that my own fears would keep me at bay from helping them learn what they were afraid to discover.

This group behavior I mentioned, however, tended toward simply masking the struggles and insecurities of thousands of young academics finding their way to adulthood – the majority of whom have little ease or comfort when it comes to really processing their own learning about human sexuality.

I thought it might be helpful to pass along some of the most tangential questions students tend to dwell on over and over.  Understanding what students in their early 20s think about, find curious to discover, or debate about in the classroom could be helpful for our society to continue a dialogue that students seem willing to have.  Therefore, I’ve prepared a few points drawn only from my single perspective in one classroom about who, what, and how sexuality is deconstructed and then reconstructed throughout a semester.

Students are highly curious about the “next life stage” and what that might mean for them and an intimate partner.

The idea of being in a committed relationship and what that might mean sexually is a curious thing for students.  They wonder how they will negotiate long-term birth control decisions.  They wonder what is fair and not fair about Continue reading University FAQs About the World of S-E-X

The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 48

#48 of 52 : GRANDMA, MOM, JOEY
The Imaginary Family Project - Week 48

External Photo Clues:


Betsy Behind the Camera

I didn’t understand why Mom wanted to stop there.  She just pulled the car over into the hard sand next to that deserted road that was taking us south from the Oregon woods of my childhood to the California desert I have spent the rest of my life in.  She didn’t trust Joey with the camera and Grandma insisted she wasn’t touching the new-fangled gadget, so it was up to me to snap the photo that Mom wanted to remember this moment by.  But what moment?  I asked myself that as she tucked the sides of her skirt down—as she always did in those days, to make herself look thinner—as she fussed at Joey fidgeting endlessly with some toy soldier or other, and as Grandma couldn’t decide where to stand, given Mom’s insistence that she drape her hand casually over Joey’s shoulder and lean into him as though this were some family portrait.  “Little man of the house,” she always called him, it having been just the four of us, three women and Joey, since Dad left when I was about Joey’s age.  He never knew Dad, didn’t remember the deep rumble of his laugh in his chest or the fresh soapy scent of him leaving for work.  That’s how he smelled the last morning I saw him—when he went off to work and never came home.  I remembered and I think Mom did but we didn’t talk about it.  We didn’t talk about much in those days, any of us.

That’s part of why I was so surprised that when I got the camera ready and snapped, Grandma asked Mom something I couldn’t hear and she turned away from the camera, her hand still carefully posed on Joey’s shoulder.  My very first time behind a camera, and this is what I got.  You’d never guess from it that just a few years later, after finishing high school, that I would be in art school, turn to photography, and get obsessed with the alien landscape of the desert that, in the moment of this image where I am standing behind the camera, I hated with everything in me.  What were we doing, picking up and moving away from everything and everyone?  How could we leave our home, Dad’s home?  I didn’t care that the photo was probably ruined; I just wanted to go, to keep going, to stop thinking.  So, I waved them back to the car, promising that the photo was great.  When we settled back in to finish the drive, Grandma seemed want to continue the conversation they had started during this photo.

“That sure is a funny tree, Judith.  I can see why you wanted a picture of it.”

“Mmhmm,” Mom assented with her dark red lips firmly closed, sunglasses sliding into place behind her ears.

No one said anything else as we drove on, and by sunset we neared signs of civilization and found our way to our new home: a bungalow in Lakewood, California, that the previous owners had painted a deep yellow.  It had functional shutters even on the upstairs dormer windows of my room, and when I wasn’t shutting out the oddly bright light in those first weeks after the move, I would sit at those windows and look down the street, picturing us as we pulled up.  Tumbling out of the car with dusty shoes, Joey nearly asleep and taking up half of the backseat.  I snapped a picture of the house then, in the golden evening light.  It would have been the next one on the film after this one.

I never saw that house photo, but this photo Mom liked, in spite of its ruined pose.  It just appeared on day about a month after the start of my freshmen year in a small frame on a shelf near the front door, next to a picture she had taken of Dad and me with an infant Joey in front of our old house and a framed wedding announcement for my parents, “Judith and Joshua,” it read in raised letters.  I didn’t know the meaning of that assembly of items, but it had always seemed purposeful, like a shrine to something I couldn’t understand.

Maybe that’s part of what drove me into the desert as my first photographic subject for my senior project a few years later, even when I no longer saw that shrine every day.  I photographed everything out there—from waving grasses to abandoned snakeskin.

It was Laurie, my roommate, who, having grown up in that dead space between the San Francisco and LA suburbs who first said it to me: “Gee, Betsy, what a great Joshua Tree!  It looks like a monster coming out of the sand.”

She was waving a sizeable color print of one of those trees—the ones I first looked at in framing this image with my mother’s old Kodak.  It was one of the few times in over a decade that I had heard my father’s name spoken aloud, and my mind went back to that gathering of objects that had never changed no matter what other redecorating happened in that house.  I thought of this photo then and still think of it now as the last one with my father in it, a kind of goodbye but also a way his place in our new home.  I don’t know if my mother thought the same thing; I never asked her, but I think she knew.

About The Author:
Monica F. Jacobe holds an MFA in creative writing, with a specialization in creative nonfiction, from American University and a Ph.D. in 20th-century American literature from The Catholic University of America. Having taught creative and academic writing for nearly a decade, she currently teaches in the writing program at Princeton University. Monica has earned a number of fellowships to support her creative work, including from the Virginia Center for Creative Arts and Writers @ Work. “Pieces of Her” is drawn from a memoir manuscript that explores what it means to grow into womanhood without a female role model in twenty-first-century America. Other selections from it have appeared in Under the Sun, Del Sol Review, apt, Crosscut, The Ward Six Review, and R-KV-RY, among others.

The Imaginary Family Project on Facebook

About The Imaginary Family Project:
The 2011 Imaginary Family Project is a year-long collective art endeavor coordinated by occasional amateur artist Quentin Bomgardner and co-sponsored by The Red Dirt Chronicles.  This project is based around “lost” vintage photographs, which have been acquired at flea markets, garage sales, estate sales, and eBay – heirloom collections, with no heir.  Every week a different author will “find” one photograph by creating an imagined history around one of its subjects.  At the end of the year, the collection will be compiled and presented as a group.

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1957 Christmas Book: Save the Book, or Write the Series? BOOK!


"...Above all, this is a book to be shared by parents with their children. Gunnar Dybwad, Director, Child Study Association of America."

Editor’s Note – 12/6/2011 ~ Originally published last week, this post was the first installment of what I hoped to be a Christmas story each day for 25 days through Christmas.  Unfortunately, I’ve worked all weekend to try scanning the pages of stories while avoiding tearing the book up.  The book is too old and I’m damaging it for this series.  So, in order to keep the book, I have to give up the series.  I’m sorry about that.  If I find a way to utilize the book without cracking the spine completely up, I’ll try again.  Thanks, RDK

(Originally published the last week of November, 2011) Editor’s note -True story:  I’ve had this post waiting as a “draft” since December, 2010. I can’t tell you how many times I had to try scanning this book to get it right!   ~ RDK

If books could talk, this one would say, “I am not as young as I used to be, but certainly not as old as some.”

This is a 1954 Whitman Publishing Company “Giant Book” and was “planned for the whole family’s Christmas pleasure.  The stories and poems have been selected by the Children’s Book Committee of the Child Study Association to the meet the many interests within a family group.”

How about that?

As young children, my brother and I were read Christmas stories from this book.  Then, we read the stories on our own.  Yellowed and cracking, the pages are in really rough shape, and the spine has been reinforced by thick fabric-based tape.

Since today is December 1st, I thought I would write a short daily series on 25 of the stories within this book.  Some may be funny, some may be literary analysis, and some may be reflective.  But all of them will be written immediately after I re-read a selection from my childhood, some 40 years ago.


Day 1: “Who Is Santa Claus?” by Verna Hills

Well, I’m already smitten.

Reading this story was like listening to the dialogue and vernacular of a Shirley Temple movie, or perhaps a family television show from the 50s and 60s.

There are rainbows in the sky, conversations are optimistic, and there’s always a moral.

The moral of this particular story?  Continue reading 1957 Christmas Book: Save the Book, or Write the Series? BOOK!

The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 47

The Imaginary Family Project - Week 47

External Photo Clues:


The Skin I’m In

Well, she actually sent it. She sent it to my office. I’d never given them my home address. They’d never asked, not that I care. I don’t even understand why I’m even thinking about this. I was sure I’d put them behind me. But, looking at this picture of my ‘family’, I do feel something. I’ve considered waking Nzhinga. She’s great at this sort of thing. I’m not.

I’m looking at the photograph again. I examine the face of Edmund, my ‘brother’. At only 19, his drinking has clearly taken a toll on his body. Apparently, he’s close to his niece, Mildred’s daughter. I almost feel programmed not to look at Mildred. My mother often explained that it was loathsome enough to be ugly on the outside, and the very least I could do was to avoid ugly thoughts. I regard my mother’s countenance. Even though I’m thousands of miles away, I can’t help but to feel like she’s judging me. Her scowl suggests that, as I stand in her judgment, the verdict is unfavorable. It’s as though her disapproval has, somehow traversed the sea, implanting itself into my life. Continue reading The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 47

The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 46

#46 of 52 : HER AUNT
Imaginary Family Project - Week 46

External Photo Clues:

The sun was bright but the air was cool as it blew in across the ocean.

Her feet were bare but there was no joy from the sand squishing her toes.  She recalled that feeling used to give her such joy, but that was a long time ago.

She’s older now but she doesn’t have much to show for all the wear and tear.  She’s tired and sat down but soon regretted it for the grit already made her uncomfortable.

She tried to not let her grump spread.  It’s not the beach’s fault.  It’s a great view, a lovely moment in time.  It is just a reminder such moments haven’t been too forthcoming lately.

Maybe it was her fault?

She was willing to shoulder some of the blame, but not everything that has happened to her was a fair cause and effect.  She was then annoyed with the whiney tone she had taken in her head.  She just let it go and then lay down.  She looked up at the clouds.  She remembered she used to do that too.

Calm. Continue reading The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 46

The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 45

The Imaginary Family Project - Week 45

External Photo Clues:

Most people thought him crazy or just dismissed him completely but my brother and I could see a glimmer of truth in old man Dalton’s eyes as he rambled.  A clever man, disillusioned by the many tales he told – so much so that the lines blurred between fantasy and reality.  Then again, where better to hide the truth than amongst several tall tales, protecting it from the distracted masses where only the most passionate seekers would glimpse it and take hold.

Having been heaved forth from deep within the earth millions of years ago the mere existence of the ancient mountain range beckoned, “Come find me.”  The diverse ecology of the Wichita Mountains provided ample places in which to conceal secrets and fertile ground to inspire treasure stories.  The rocky crags even bore his initials.  Was he “him”?  Did he fake his death?  Was the Mexican loot there, the bounty bank right under our noses?  Oh it was there, every bit of it – and probably more!  We could hear it calling to us, taunting us in a game of hide and seek. 

I mean why else would Frank keep a home near it and visit so often?  A farm that cultivated nothing but late night rides at break-neck speed?  Was he searching for something or wanting to be near a supposedly dead brother?

The Good Book says that a wise man keeps his own counsel and that’s exactly what we did.  An occasional influx of people, mostly curiosity seekers, would cause us to momentarily halt our efforts so as not to arouse suspicions or draw them near us.  Those were the times we found most frustrating, not the endless days of searching bramble, wandering deer trails and moving rubble.

The talk increased and spread so far it caught the government’s attention, which all but crippled our efforts.  They obviously found merit in the yarns because establishing an artillery practice area and a wild life refuge in the same vicinity seemed a bit contradictory and created their own conspiracy theories, thus adding life and validity to the account.

Determination and dreams forge us ahead though.  Indian arrowheads abound as does the occasional artifact and trinket, down payments on the promise.  Only time will tell but, we’re close…oh, so close.  I can feel it in my bones, taste it.  Tomorrow.  Yes, tomorrow.  

About The Author:
Tammy Mullins is a published children’s author has been a contributing author and editor of several text books for legal support staff. She is active in her local church community, the Tulsa Orchid Society, and the Pride of Owasso Marching Band. Tammy resides in Owasso/Collinsville, OK, with her husband and four children.

The Imaginary Family Project on Facebook

About The Imaginary Family Project:
The 2011 Imaginary Family Project is a year-long collective art endeavor coordinated by occasional amateur artist Quentin Bomgardner and co-sponsored by The Red Dirt Chronicles.  This project is based around “lost” vintage photographs, which have been acquired at flea markets, garage sales, estate sales, and eBay – heirloom collections, with no heir.  Every week a different author will “find” one photograph by creating an imagined history around one of its subjects.  At the end of the year, the collection will be compiled and presented as a group.

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The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 44

Imaginary Family Project - Week 44

External Photo Clues:

 As a school assignment, we were asked to write about someone in our life that influenced us greatly. My teacher, Mrs. Fletcher, said that it needed to be someone other than our immediate family. Most of my classmates struggled to come up with someone, because people in rural Oklahoma seldom had meaningful contact with people outside their immediate family. I was one of the fortunate ones. I had known a man of unbelievable depth and character that came to teach me things that would make a far greater human being. The man in the photo above was, and still is, the most influential man I ever met.

It was a hot August day when Maxwell Phineas Qualls, MP for short, came walking up the dirt road that was our driveway. He was accompanied by his dog Scraps. I was on the front porch peeling potatoes for my mother. Continue reading The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 44

Pen or Computer?

Irony number one: My favorite way to write is with a pen, and…I’m writing you this information with a computer.

Irony number two: The image with which I chose to illustrate this post is my romantic ideal of what writing with a pen would be…IF I happened to have a Schaeffer fountain pen handy at the appropriate times.  What I usually write with is a plastic ink pen I find strewn about on the hall floor of the university where I teach.  If I’m lucky, the casing only has a few cracks caused by the pressure of who knows how many students shoes.  We’re a land grant university…it could also have traces of cow manure.

But regardless of the two ironies accompanying this line of thought, there are distinct differences in my psyche between pen and computer that will keep my feet firmly on PEN every time.

When I write with a computer, I push all my words out of my fingers, channeled from my brain and generally sent out for the public-at-large to do with them what they will.  As the word-stream rushes from my brain, down my spine, through my arms and out my fingers, I backtrack. I re-read.  I change, rethink, change and possibly go back.

The path toward the destination of my last line, if traced, would look like a dung-beetle trail in a sandy lot.  Circle-y. Hesitant. Changing.  Smudged; sometimes happenstance.

But when I write with a pen, the words leave my brain, they pass through my heart, and they come out the tip of my pen in a focused stream of consciousness that is more sure.  Solid. Pure. Heady. Confident.

With a keyboard, I outline throughout the process pushing with my fingers.  With a pen, I think first, write second.  And, I always write TO a person.  If it is a journal, I write TO History.  If it is a letter, I write TO the full essence of that Person I hold dear enough to spend my time for them.  If it is toward a purpose, then I write TO that future Hope.

In other words, I write words for others from my computer. But in other-other words, I write my only real words with a pen.

Irony number three: I don’t like this essay because I wrote it on a computer.  I’m going out to my hall to look for a pen on the floor. And then I’m going to write something…pure.


Post Illustration Photo by TMAB2003


The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 43

#43 of 52 : ANN & DEBBIE
Imaginary Family Project - Week 43

External Photo Clues:

Harry stepped forward, then back, to the right and then to the left. He wanted to frame the photo just right. “This is the first day of the rest of your life!” he said to Debbie.

Ann and Harry had been married for almost 2 years when Debbie was born.  Harry doted on Debbie. He named her after his mother. Debbie came early and was sickly. Harry took his job as her father, her protector seriously. Ann didn’t know what to do, but she did her best to take care of her.

Debbie was allergic to almost everything it seemed. Continue reading The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 43

The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 42

#42 of 52 : AUNT CLAIRE
The Imaginary Family Project - Week 42

External Photo Clues:

A ninety- three year old man sitting in a wheelchair by the walkway in front of the old folks’ home.  He’s nervously rubbing his nubby hand which, due to an accident at the old saw mill, hadn’t had five fingers on it since he was fourteen. His “claw”, he would laugh and pat his soft half two fingers with the left good hand. “WAR wasn’t interested in me on count of not enough shootin’ fingers.  Hell don’t bother me none, never really cared for IT neither.” He is waiting for someone but growing impatient as he looks up at the library clock next door. “I don’t know why they put this damn concrete everywhere, nobody uses sidewalks anymore anyway! Everybody drives cars nowadays sept you!” He cried to the young woman running hurriedly towards him. Continue reading The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 42

The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 41

#41 of 52 : CLIFFORD, EDDY, and FRANCES (not shown)
The Imaginary Family Project - Week 41

External Photo Clues:

The afternoon was so hot and still that the only real signs of life were the locusts humming lazily in the trees around the neighborhood. Clifford, Eddy and their next door neighbor, Frances, were sitting in the shade of Frances’s willow tree, discussing their entertainment options, which were a little lean that day. Continue reading The 2011 Imaginary Family Project – Week 41