Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, April 6, 2020


Openers:  Where the wagon road from Toltepec, in the State of Chihuahua, cam up to the Rio Grande, the fording place was known as old Apache Crossing.  This was because the Indians used it in their traffic in and out of Texas from Old Mexico.  It was not a plce of good name and only those traveled it who, for reasons of their own, did not care to go over the river at the new Upper Crossing.

-- "Clay Fisher" (Henry Wilson Allen), "The Tallest Indian in Toltepec"  (from Great Western Stories, edited by the Western Writers of America, 1965)

The source book for this story is accurately titled because the tale won the 1965 Spur Award for Best Short Story from the Western Writers of America.

Henry Wilson "Heck"Allen (1912-1991) began his writing career as a contract screenwriter for MGM's animation division, where he was the writer for many of Tex Avery's best cartoons from 1944 to 1955, working under the names Heck Allen and Henry Allen.    His first novel, No Survivors, was published in 1950 under the pseudonym "Will Henry" because Allen was afraid MGM might object to his moonlighting.  As with many of his later novels, No Survivors is based on a historical incident -- the massacre of General George Custer and his men at Little Big Horn.  His second novel, Red Blizzard, is based on his 1951 Esquire short story of the same name.  By my count, Allen went on to publish another 66 books, most under the names "Will Henry" or "Clay Fisher."

In addition to "The Tallest Indian in Toltepec," Allen was awarded the prestigious Spur Award four times: for From Where the Sun Now Stands (1960), "Isley's Stranger" (1962), "The Gates of the Mountains" (1963), and Chiricahua (1972).

A number of films and television episodes were based on Allen's stories, including The Tall Men (1955), Santa Fe Passage (1955), Pillars of the Sky (1956), Yellowstone Kelly (1959), Journey to Shiloh (1968), Mackenna's Gold (1969), Young Billy Young (1969), Into the Badlands (TV movie, 1991), and Tashunga [a.k.a. The North Star] (1996),  In addition, IMDb lists three television episodes written by Allen -- one for Zane Gray Theater and two for Tales of Wells Fargo.

If you are into westerns (and even you're not), Allen's books are worthwhile, entertaining reads.  And while you're at it, check out some of those old Tex avery cartoons.

That Was the Week That Was:  Another week of the new normal and Americans are facing it with trepidation, uncertainty, and confusion.  The president still has not caught onto the fact that his normal bluster, ignorance, and outright lies will not help him nor the country in this crisis.  Because Trump firmly believes the buck stops anywhere but here, his latest deflection is to blame state governors while praising himself.  His herky-jerky statements about medical supplies and stockpiles have only added to the babble.  His go-to guy for handling the response is his incompetent son-in-law who has proven that he has no idea what he is doing.  Besides tasking Jared Kushner with handling this pandemic, the president has also named Mike Pence as head of the Covid-19 task force in one of his many give-me-a-break moments.  The daily televised task force briefings have become little more than campaign rallies.  The press is constantly under attack for doing its job; even the most innocuous of questions can led to a presidential hissy fit.  The administration is busy retrofitting mission statements to place its incompetence in a better light.  Trump is still contradicting the medical experts and -- in some cases -- silencing them.  He and lawyer toadie continue to extol hydroxychloroquine as a miracle drug in treating Covid-19 (Trump has a "good feeling" about it, you see) despite medical misgivings about the drug and its completely unproven effectiveness for this use. not to mention its high risk of causing heart and vision problems.  (A run on the drug has left some lupus patients without their proven and needed medication.)  Needed medical equipment is sold to private concerns at a discount and then resold to the government at a huge mark-up.  Mr. Trump denies knowing anything about his axing of the government agencies that had been set up to deal with this sort of emergency.  Small and sometimes entirely imaginary actions are being touted as great steps his administration are taking to handle this crisis which he feels will soon be over.  The president has declared that he will not wear a face mask, which, in turn, means that many of his followers will also not wear a mask.  Confusion about both the purpose and the effectiveness of masks just add to the chaos.  Meanwhile people keep dying and people keep getting sick and the numbers do not reflect the reality; how the data is collected and presented ensures that the true numbers are far greater.

Face it, folks:  we are deep into the manure and are sinking fast.  And since this is a global crisis, it might help to know that many other governments are as ineffective and untrustworthy as ours in this pandemic.  It might help to know that but it really doesn't.

What does help is the knowledge that most Americans are doing the right things.  They are self-isolating.  They are responding to this situation is ways both large and small.  Despite the dangers, Americans on the front lines of this crisis -- the medical workers and their support staff, the first responders, the truckers and grocery clerks, the stockers and delivery drivers, and all the others going above and beyond the call of duty -- are all working to help us get through this crisis.  As a nation, out kindness and generosity are on display.  People throughout America are sewing masks, teachers are adapting lessons plans for on-line students, and we are checking on our neighbors who  might be at a greater risk.  As a whole, we are being responsible, sensible, caring, and giving.  And if anything will get us through this pandemic, that will.

Virtual Choirs:  Being quarantined doesn't mean that we can't be together.  Here's the Boston Children's Chorus, the Denver Children's Chorus, the Children's Chorus of Washington, D.C., the Gondwana Chorus (Sydney), and the Cincinnati Boy Choir.


Crafty:  While I try not to pass judgement on others, sometimes I just can't help it.  To judge by YouTube, 103% of the world's population is busy crafting.  Not just crafting, mind you, but specialized crafting.  (Not that there's anything wrong with that, per se.)  And a lot of people do Dollar Tree crafting.  It doesn't have to be Dollar Tree, mind you, any dollar store will do; some of these Dollar Tree crafters are actually doing Hobby Lobby (or other store) crafting.  The object it seems is to get a pile of cheapjack stuff that is of no use to anyone and turn it into a slightly less cheapjack thing that is of no use to anyone.  This means you have to get the latest cheapjack Dollar Tree items (which are never available at your local Dollar Tree) and add some other cheapjack Dollar Tree items (or items you have previously purchased and have stored "just in case," or items you have purchased at Walmart or Hobby Lobby or wherever).  The end result is either A) disgustingly cute, or B) disgustingly ugly.  You can then display the result in your home to show how "creative" you are.  Ptah!

There are some crafts that appear worthwhile and reduce stress.  Knitting is one of them.  Kitty's Uncle Don has been knitting for all of his adult life (he's in his nineties now).  He does blankets and they're beautiful and comfy.  Every child born in the family gets a special baby blanket from Don and every adult gets at least one large blanket and they are cherished.

Here's some hints on getting started:

A cousin to knitting is crocheting and I know a lot of people who enjoy it.  They find it relaxing and there's a large community of like-minded people out there who trade yarn, ideas, and patterns.

If you think learning to crochet might be right for you, here's how to get started:

Perhaps a little less popular but no less interesting is macrame.  Some people like to tie knots and you might be one of them.

Here's how to get started:

One craft that I do not understand or appreciate is decoupage.  If that's your thing, however, I won't stop you:

Another paper "craft" is scrapbooking.  (Is that still popular?  I know it was a few years ago.)  The modern take on scrapbooking mystifies me -- the ones I have seen are cutesy-cutesy and I am not a cutesy-cutesy guy.  I do have one scrapbook that I treasure.  It belonged to my great-grandmother who was born just after the Civil War.  In it are newspaper articles of all sorts, recipes, and poems that struck her fancy.  It's a reflection of a time long gone and of an intelligent woman I remember fondly and who did when I was about 12.  Needles to say, my great-grandmother was not sutesy-cutesy.

Scrapbooking can be a way to pass down your memories and feelings to future generations.  It seems silly to give instructions on how to do this, but you know someone had to:

So there you have it.  Five hobbies that you might be interested in starting while we are self-quarantining.  If you decide to do any of these, good luck!  And let us know how you did.

Kid Stuff:  Believe it or not, being stuck at home with the kids can be a good thing.  Keeping them occupied, however, may be difficult.  Here are 115 "fun activities" to do at home with kids.  Some may seem sappy or boring or impractical, but remember each child (and each parent) is an individual -- different strokes for different folks.  There is bound to be some ideas here that will work for your household.

Other Stuff To Do:

  • My daughter's in-laws have decided to learn how to dance.  Good for them.  I'm too unsteady on my legs to learn dancing but after continually cleaning the cat's litter box I am considering taking an on-line taxidermy course.
  • Tiger King.  Wait.  You've already done that along with the rest of the civilized world.  But there are still a lot of binge-worthy shows, both old and new, to watch on the various streaming services.  A few weeks ago we binged on all five seasons of Justified.  Currently we are working on Supernatural, starting on season one.  If you have the stamina, a comfortable couch, and plenty of popcorn you can binge on your favorites.
  • There is nothing like a good mystery novel to keep you enthralled.  The choices are endless and if you order a book from your local independent bookstore, you are doing a mitzvah.  Your local library is probably closed for the duration (dammit!) but mail order and electronic books are easily available.  Need a recommendation?  Check out these blogs:  The Rap Sheet, The Mystery File Blog, Mystery Fanfare, The New Thrilling Detective Website, or Stop, You're Killing Me.  Or you could go old school and check out the Grandmasters named by The Mystery Writers of America:  1955, Agatha Christie; 1958, Vincent Starrett; 1959, Rex Stout; 1961, "Ellery Queen"; 1962, Erle Stanley Gardner; 1963, John Dickson Carr; 1964, George Harmon Cox; 1966, George Simenon; 1967, Baynard Kendrick; 1969, John Creasey; 1970, James M. Cain; 1971, Mignon G. Eberhart; 1972, John D. MacDonald; 1973, Judson Phillips ("Hugh Pentecost") and Alfred Hitchcock (I know.  He did not write books.  So?); 1974, "Ross MacDonald; 1975, Eric Ambler; 1976, Graham Greene; 1978, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy B. Hughes, and Daphne du Maurier; 1979, Aaron Marc Stein ("George Bagby," "Hampton Stone"); 1980, W. R. Burnett; 1981, Stanley Ellin; 1982, Julian Symons; 1983, Margaret Millar; 1984, John le Carre; 1985, Dorothy Salisbury Davis; 1986, "Ed McBain"; 1987, Michael Gilbert; 1988, Phyllis A. Whitney; 1989, Hillary Waugh; 1990, Helen McCloy; 1991, Tony Hillerman; 1992, Elmore Leonard; 1993, Donald E. Westlake; 1994, Lawrence Block; 1995, Mickey Spillane; 1996, Dick Francis; 1997, Ruth Rendell; 1998, Barbara Mertz ("Elizabeth Peters," "Barbara Michaels"); 1999, P. D. James; 2000, Mary Higgins Clark; 2001, Edward D. Hoch; 2002, Robert B. Parker; 2003, Ira Levin; 2004, Joseph Wambaugh; 2005, Marcia Muller; 2006, Stuart M. Kaminsky; 2007, Stephen King; 2008, Bill Pronzini; 2009, Sue Grafton and James Lee Burke; 2010, Dorothy Gilman; 2011, Sara Paretsky; 2012, Martha Grimes; 2013, Margaret Maron and Ken Follett; 2014, Carolyn Hart and Robert Crais; 2015, James Ellroy and Lois Duncan; 2016, Walter Mosley; 2017, Ellen Hart and Max Allan Collins; 2018, Peter Lovesey and William Link (for the zillion and one television programs he wrote); 2019, Martin Cruz Smith; and 2020, Barbara Neely.  And if that's not enough, you may want to consider my five favorite go-to mystery writers (two of whom have been listed above and two of whom passed away and are greatly missed):  Max Allan Collins, Bill Crider, Ed Gorman, Joe R. Lansdale, and Bill Pronzini.

Memes:  There is a surfeit of memes, parodies, and jokes out there to help relieve the Covid-19 stress.  Here's a recent favorite:

Today's Poem:
Lines on Ale

Filled with mingled cream and amber,
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chamber of my brain.
Quainest thoughts, queerest fancies
Come to life and fade away.
What care I how time advances,
I am drinking ale today.

-- Edgar Allan Poe

Today is New Beer's Eve, the day before National Beer Day.  National Beer Day commemorates the April 7, 1933, the day the Cullen-Harrison Act went into effect.  The act, which allowed for 3,2% beer being sold (as opposed to the .5% beer limit of the Volstead Act) was the beginning of the end of Prohibition and led to the Twenty-first Amendment, which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment.   Whe Franklin d. Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, he was reported to have said, "I think this would be a good time for a beer."  National Beer Day and New Beer's Eve originated in  2009 and has been officially recognized (in Virginia, at least) since 2017.

Because I put the good stuff on my blog.  


  1. I did a lot of those crafts when I had young children at home. And soon learned, anyone, almost anyone, could do them better. A trunkload of quilts sit under my bed. Phil would let me heave them. But now....I just might.

    1. If you are going to heave them, Patti, might I suggest in the direction of a homeless shelter.