Harvesting ice.2

in the 1950’s, my father used to put up the ice from Whitefish Lake in January/February. The process lasted about three-four weeks, and was quite exciting to me. I would show up at the site next to the Bay Point Drive-In Grill after school every day, and get in the way while helping. I wasn’t very big, only a young girl, but I was strong and determined.

Dad’s friend Bert would run the Jeep over the thick ice, going clear out on the lake in front of our cabins at Bay Point, plowing snow until it was slick and clear. Bert would then use a big cutting saw with a gas engine that would whine through the ice and slice it almost through. The resulting floats of many cubes still barely attached at the bottom were pushed by men (and sometimes me) with ten-foot poles, standing on the precarious conveyances and propelling them to the one-cube-wide channel, where the rafts were chopped apart with a huge chunker, built like a straightened-out hoe.

The cubes were shoved one at a time up the channel, a good thing for me to do since I didn’t have to stand on the big rafts and risk a dunking while doing it. My dog Lucky, was always right there, barking and jumping around, excited to be in on the show. Dad tried to keep an eye on me but I wanted to be a part of everything going on, and must have been a trial to him. More than once, both the dog and I slipped on the ice and ended up in the channel. Dad or Bert would come by and lift us out by our coats, poor Lucky not always living up to his name. “Go home, Nancy,” they’d say, send me up to our house and bid me stay there, but usually, I’d find the driest clothes I could and come charging back, convinced they really needed my help.

My self-appointed job was to push the huge ice blocks through the narrow channel up to the ‘go-round’ chain that grabbed them and carried them up to the waiting trucks. Each truck had a muscular driver who would latch on to the sliding cubes with a big ice tong, push it over to the front of the truck, and heft it up on top of another by quickly jerking the cube and kicking it with a knee until it slid on top of the bottom cube. The toughest men could stack three, sometimes four, one on top of the other. Each cube weighed two hundred-fifty pounds or more.

When the back of their truck was full, the drivers would jump down and race off, heading for the big fruit warehouses just off Evergreen, east of the viaduct and next to the railroad tracks. There they would do the operation in reverse, with other workers in the warehouse stacking the ice many tiers high with the use of a motorized belt. The filled warehouses were covered in sawdust to keep the ice cold, waiting until the Chicago trains full of meat or fruit from the packing companies came by and took on a load to keep the food fresh to Seattle. The drivers would roar back to the lake to line up for another load, their pay relying on how many loads they could haul, and the weight of each.

At least once a winter, the Jeep or the saw or both ended up in the drink, and sometimes our big two-ton truck got a dunking. A wrecker would creep out onto the ice and snake a cable down to snag the machinery and bring it back up, dripping. The men would dry the carburetor and start the Jeep or truck back up, ready to go back to work. It was an exciting time, full of masculine happenings and with a feeling of accomplishment. I can still feel the minus twenty-degrees cold, the ice on my dripping mittens, freezing feet, my lungs burning. Good memories.

Nan McKenzie, January, 2015


Ina Albert, Author


It’s late on a Wednesday night, and Franklin Crawford, 52, is pushing a shopping cart around a 24-hour grocery store in Ithaca, New York. He’s found the bananas and cat food he needs, but as he roams the aisles he adds ice cream and other nonessentials to his basket. “This is the meeting place, the agora,” he explains. “It’s the abundance, the people, the bright light. It makes me feel good.”

Crawford visits a store like this almost every day. This one is his favorite because the café stays open until 10 p.m. and the security guard lets him hang out if he buys something. Paying for stuff is not the problem. Crawford is employed. He is also fit, well dressed, and well read. Other good-looking, well-dressed people are also here alone, slowly pushing carts of their own. Most of them don’t seem to be in a hurry, either, but Crawford says he usually doesn’t make eye contact or start conversations. “I don’t think we really want that from each other,” he says. “Sometimes I think maybe we despise each other, because we’re all here instead of home with someone else.”

Today more than 44 million adults over age 45 suffer from chronic loneliness.

Crawford is lonely — but he’s not alone. A groundbreaking AARP The Magazine survey reveals that millions of older Americans suffer from chronic loneliness, and their ranks are swelling: Of the 3,012 people ages 45 and up who participated in our study, 35 percent are chronically lonely (as rated on the UCLA Loneliness Scale, a standard measurement tool), compared with 20 percent in a similar survey a decade ago. Loneliness was equally prevalent regardless of race, gender, or education levels. Unexpectedly, though, age does make a difference: Those who said they are suffering most are not the oldest among us but rather adults in their 40s and 50s.

Chronic loneliness, experts tell us, is an ever-present, self-perpetuating condition that pushes people away from the relationships that sustain us and make us happy. But the chronically lonely are not merely unhappy — they are in danger. “Loneliness has surprisingly broad and profound health effects,” says John T. Cacioppo, Ph.D., director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago and a leading authority on the topic. There is mounting evidence that loneliness significantly increases the chances of diabetes, sleep disorders, and other potentially life-threatening problems. Research has also shown a greater risk of high blood pressure among lonely people, as well as higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, weakened immune systems, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Authors are often lonely. Spending time in our heads doesn’t permit the open expression of our ideas and critiques of our premises.  What better reason to join a group, bring your secret characters to life through someone else’s eyes, express them in a different way and recheck your premises.


Goodbye, New Year Resolutions. Hello, Goal Planning.

Bring that Ouija Board, Maggie 001

Bring the Ouija Board, Maggie. We want to find out where Mom hid the jerky treats.

A few years ago, I made a decision to give up making New Year resolutions. Each preceding year, I had made the same five resolutions that I think most people make.

Lose weight – How do you spell Yo-Yo?

Get organized – No need to add it to the list as this is my year-round quest.

Start an exercise program – Start …stop ….start ….stop ….(you get the picture)

Eat more vegetables, less junk food – We’ve actually made a little progress on this.

Start saving money – My dear, late mother used to say, “Debbie can pinch a penny so tight, she can make Lincoln cry.” Enough said.

If a person’s own backsliding and procrastination aren’t enough to disrupt New Year resolutions, there are always the unknown, unforeseen, and unplanned saboteurs that “pop up” when you least expect them. Saboteurs can be good or bad.

Take last year for example. We planned on Nathan retiring. (Good) We didn’t plan on him getting a hernia and having to have surgery for the first time in 60 years. (Bad). My son decided to go to graduate school while continuing to work full time. (Exhausting, but good). My 87 year old father passed away. (Bad)

Just this past week, I’d planned a day of writing when the phone rang. The lady on the phone explained that our governor, Steve Bullock, was doing a phone conference about healthcare bills concerning Montanans and wanted to know if I would like to ask him a question. You Bet! Yes, I had to wait in the queue, but it was worth it. (Good)  The next day, both microwaves went out. (Bad)  The following day, I slogged to town and spent half the day hunting for the perfect microwave (at a discount, of course).

So you just never know what will pop up and play havoc with your plans or resolutions, which gives someone like me,  a planner by nature, reason enough to abandon making resolutions. So, without a crystal ball or fortune teller to show me the future, I’ll stick to goal planning instead. It’s a better use of my time and makes life’s “pop-ups” easier to integrate into my life plan for 2015.

Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful 2015,


Breaking TWIG Available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook

Breaking TWIG
Available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook

Deborah Epperson

Deborah Epperson


A Few of My Favorite Things — Best Reads of 2014

By Leslie Budewitz

Okay, I know it’s late for a “Best of…” list, but it’s never too late to tell your friends about the books you loved!

Ordinary GraceOrdinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (Atria Books, 2013), winner of the Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity Awards for Best Novel of 2013. Hands-down the best book I read in 2014.

Less a crime novel than a coming-of-age story exploring the effects of death—both accidental and criminal—on a family and on a community, Ordinary Grace is simply stunning. Thirteen year old Frank Drum tells the story of the five deaths in the summer of 1961 in a small Minnesota town, each different, each leaving a permanent mark that makes Frank a different man than he might otherwise have become. He’s the son of a minister, whose experience in the war diverted him from his plans to be a lawyer, and a musician who is not as keen on God as her husband is. Frank’s older sister Ariel is a brilliant musician; his younger brother Jake is both his best friend and a bit of a mystery.

The language is beautiful, but because Krueger is also a mystery writer, it never overwhelms the story, but always serves character and plot.

I read the audio version. (And yes, I read audio books. It is a different experience, but it’s still reading, even though it uses the ears and not the eyes.) The narrator did a terrific job, infusing Frank’s  narration with just the right mixture of knowing and innocence. He also slipped in a bit of the Minnesota accent—but not too much—and captured beautifully the way a Sioux man of Warren Redstone’s age would speak.

A few more faves, not in order:

dead vaulted archesThe Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley (Delacorte Press, 2014) Sixth in the adventures of Flavia de Luce, a precocious eleven year old in post-war England. Like Frank Drum, she thinks she understands more than she does, making these adult novels, not YA, though certainly a mature kid can read and enjoy them. Delightful, and poignant, and not necessarily in that order.

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books, 2013) Ninth in the Inspector Armand Gamache series. This was the year I caught up on the series, which continued with The Long Way Home (2014). The ninth is one of the best in a series that illustrates wonderfully the ways a writer can grow and deepen her work, and ask her readers to dive in more deeply with her.

Boiled Over by Barbara Ross (Kensington, 2014) Cozy mystery is a subgenre that covers a lot of ground, ranging from the very light bathtub reads to those that dig a little deeper into the core conflicts that drive their characters. I try to reach that level, and am inspired when I read a cozy that succeeds. Second in the Maine Clam Bake series.

Most nonfiction I read this year was book research, much of it kitchen lit. The best was Back of the House: The Secret Life of a Restaurant by Scott Haas (Berkley, 2013) A food writer and clinical psychologist spends a year working in the kitchen at a high-end Boston restaurant.

Assault and Pepper     IMalice 2014 me and teapot 2 hope 2014 was a year of great reading for you, and that 2015 is even better!


A Hard Question To answer.

By Marie F Martin

The world of publishing a manuscript is a frightening place.  I received this note on Good Reads as a question under one of my books.  My heart goes out to the writer.  I copied the exact words of the question and my answer.

My first book was butchered by the publisher. overly and grossly edited. what should I do? re-publish it again? give me good advice.  I have a finished manuscript but I am afraid to go to the so called publishers. 

Hi reader, (I am not using the name) I just found your question on Good Reads. Sorry it is 9 days after your question. I would need to know a little more about your book. My best advice would be to really think about what the publisher who edited your work said. Did he offer to publish if you make the changes? If so, this is your best bet to get it published. Sometimes we are so close to our own work that we become protective of it and don’t want to rewrite. My books have been rewritten over and over again until, finally, they make a crafted, readable story. You are in one of the elite places. Not many people get their stories read by a publisher, and I would hate for you to miss this opportunity. Set it aside for a few more days, then get your edited story out and see if you can rewrite it in a way that would satisfy the publisher.

Now, I am worrying if I answered in a positive way.  It is so hard to know how to give advice to potential authors’ questions.

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