A Bucket of Buttons

By Laura Thomas

Memories are stirred as I gaze at the button collection that was once my grandmother’s. While they are not a valuable treasure anyone else, they are a treasure nonetheless to me. For in my mind’s eye I remember not the joy those buttons brought to me, but also memories of my grandparents and of the land I called home. I grew up in Southern Idaho, a desert country full of sagebrush cactus and farming country. This land was brought to life by the canals that brought water, dug not only by shovel and man but of horse power. These canals were and are the life blood of the area and the people that came as pioneers to this arid land, full of promise and cheap land.

My roots run deep in this country, for my grandparents, both maternal and paternal had come as early settlers, forging a path for others to come, to make Idaho one of the top potato producing regions. My father’s father was instrumental in the construction of the canals, working with his shovel and teams of horses, to make not only farming possible but to support his family as well. By the time I came along, my Father’s parents were retired from the farm and living in town.  However, my Mothers parents were still on the farm. Their farm consisted of ten acers, down from what they had originally bought. Here they not only raised pigs, but bought and sold baby dairy cattle. Grandma also had her menagerie of fowl: chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and her prized peacocks, beautiful birds with all the colors a peacock is known for.

Their house, the original home was comprised of only two bedrooms and one bath, a small kitchen and main room. In later years, my grandparents would add a family room, added as a log cabin to the main house. I remember this room as a gathering place for the family and watching TV, a rare treat. This was a large room with an upstairs room to sleep in. Here we kids slept with the window open, not only bringing in cool air, but also the lonely cries of the coyotes out on the desert. The family room was also where she kept her bucket of buttons, they served a purposes, to be serviceable and for her grandchildren to play with.

We spent a lot of time out at our grandparents’ farm and while all of us kids, seven in total, have different memories, I remember always loving the farm. I got to help feed the baby calves, and taught them to drink from a bucket, their warm, moist but rough tongue on my fingers as they sucked the milk. The rides on the hay wagon as grandpa fed the pigs–and boy were they big pigs, as I recall. Now maybe it was because I was much smaller at the time, but I remember grandpas words, “Don’t get into the pens with the pigs, they are mean!” While I took this as serious, I was allowed to go into the sows pens as they gave birth to their young, with my grandmother as she assisted the sow.I was fascinated by this whole  process, the baby pigs so tiny and pink, especially compared with their mom, and razor sharp teeth as I found out.

 As I gaze at the buttons, I also remember the porch where the runts of the litter were kept and bottle fed till they grew to a size to be back out with the rest. The activities of the family as we came together, for home grown meals and as grandmother canned or made her famous fruit cobbler; and of the general hustle and bustle that a small country kitchen holds as people gather, a family. My grandmother has since passed, yet the memories of my grandparents are alive, for I inherited the bucket of buttons and each time I see them, they take me back to not only my grandparent’s farm, but to my childhood.




by Diane E Bokor

Flash nonfiction is creative nonfiction that usually comes in under 750 words.  It is a form that works well for writing memoir, essays and remembered events. There are many challenges to this genre.  You can learn more about writing “flash” in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction edited by Brevity Magazine’s editor, Dinty Moore.  What follows is a piece of my flash nonfiction.

Woke up… got out of bed… ran a comb across my head

It was predawn dark at 4AM when I turned on the radio, set perpetually to NPR.  At that hour, it’s always BBC World News. A guy with a very British accent was going on and on about the various ways social scientists try to measure the homeless population of San Francisco.  Over there, across the pond, they call it “sleeping rough.”

By mid-morning, I received the daily call from my bereft brother.  Except, this week he hasn’t called me for several days in a row. I took this as a good sign, as a new and improved phase since the death of our mother.  Upon her death, he was a howling animal, mad with grief. Each time we talk now, he tears up at some point in the conversation. During this conversation, I found out that he hadn’t been sleeping.  He lives alone now, in our mom’s condo, surrounded by all of her things, their things. He never goes outside, except maybe to check the mail. He tries to sleep. He went to his bed, then to hers, then to the recliner on the lanai, then to the recliner in front of the TV, then to the air-bed in the guest room, where I had been sleeping.  His voice was rough, his mood was rough and it occurred to me that he had found his own form of “sleeping rough.”

By afternoon, my dog needed a walk, so I pulled my SUV into the city park.  Unseasonably cold for early autumn, I was prepared with a cozy coat, a furry hat and a pair of gloves.  As I pulled the key out of the ignition, heavy fatigue hit me. It had been, after all, a very early rise this morning.  That, on top of the brother-worry I carried just below the surface. I explained to my dog (even though, he got the gist of my behavior before I did) that a little nap was in order before our walk.  I flattened the driver’s seat, balled my coat into a pillow, pulled the furry hat down over my weary eyes, curled into a fetal position and faded away. Eventually, I arose from a dream to the sound of lagoon geese honking.  And I thought, am I “sleeping rough?” 

Hours later, after multiple errands, I found myself again walking this patient little dog who seemed thrilled to spend the stop-and-go day with Mom.  It was a weird place for a dog walk. Evergreen is the low-rent end of town and we were behind an abandoned box-store near the grocery of my next errand.  Generally, I love exploring nooks and crannies with this guy, so we took off toward a wooded lot we had never seen (or sniffed) before. There was a fence with an open gate and a beckoning path lined with a jumble of weeds.  In the back of my head, I could hear my mom’s fearful rants to be careful “out there.” It’s a voice I fight with often – adventure and exploration versus safety and comfort. Off we went… There was no one else around, just a woman (me) with her little dog walking into a wooded lot in a sketchy part of town.  I’ve always been a sucker for a curving path in the woods. That’s why my mom was always ranting.

Not too far in, I saw it.  Stopped in my tracks. I squinted hard looking for movement.  Hard to say. Was there a guy in there, under the low-hanging boughs of the ginormous fir tree?  I saw tarps and cardboard boxes. Trash and clothing were strewn about. Was that lump somebody “sleeping rough?”

“Come on, puppy, we’ve got to go!”  I turned on my heels and said a little prayer for that guy, for my brother and for all those in the San Francisco headcount.

At bedtime, my feather pillow was calling my name.  I crawled under a heated blanket and on top of fresh percale.  The mattress was the perfect firmness. The room temperature was controlled.  One of those fake candles on a timer cast a soft golden glow. This was the exact opposite of “sleeping rough” and yet I tossed and turned for hours.  Then got up to put it all into words.                              

(Word count = 720)



May Book News

white coral bellslillies of the valley






LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Oh, my. Spring, at last! Here in NW Montana, we are overjoyed to see you licking at our toes — we don’t even mind you sending pollen up our noses! (Well, okay, I exaggerate a little. But not much.)

mary fieldsAlong with spring, I’m celebrating TWO short story award nominations. My first historical short story, “All God’s Sparrows” (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, May-June 2018), is nominated for the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Short Story, which will be awarded at the Malice Domestic Mystery Convention in Bethesda, MD on May 4. Set in Montana Territory in 1885, it features real-life figure Mary Fields, aka Stagecoach Mary and Black Mary. Wish me luck! (And read the story on my website.)

Another short story, “With My Eyes” (Suspense Magazine, Jan-Feb 2018) is nominated for a Derringer Award, given by the Short Mystery Fiction Society, in the “long story” (4-6,000) words. It features a Seattle banker who sees what he wants to see when he falls for a gorgeous Greek woman, only to have his eyes opened on a trip to Athens. Winners will be announced in early June.chai another day (cover without quote)

And I’m getting ready to celebrate the launch of Chai Another Day, my 4th Spice Shop Mystery, on June 11. When Seattle Spice Shop owner Pepper Reece overhears an argument in an antique shop, she finds herself drawn into a murder that could implicate an old enemy, or ensnare a new friend. Read an excerpt and join me at a signing or book talk (schedule here).

You do know reading on the back deck counts as outdoor activity, right? Enjoy!







Give Away

I just released an audio version of Mrs. Sedwick on audible.com. They provided me with 25 free download codes to pass out to readers in exchange for a honest review on Audible’s sales page for the novel. If you are interested email me mariefmartin312@hotmail.com and I will send the code and Audibles instructions. First come, first served. I have 22 left so far.







Author Susan Purvis

April 2019 Author Sue Purvis  received a Silver Nautilus Award for her memoir, Go Find. Recent busy months found her teaching wilderness medicine courses, talking at a number of different venues and MTNPR radio and magazine interviews. Watch for the coming publication in University of Montana Alumni Magazine, Montanan Magazine, where her story will be a cover feature.

West Shore Community Library Lakeside, MT

Presentation and book signing.

Montanan Magazine photo shoot on Whitefish Mountain