Mail Call – from the “Stories from the Journey” collection

by Bruce A. Smith

Taking the unfamiliar and unsolicited tabloid-sized newspaper out of my mail box, I skimmed through the first few pages until I hit an article about back-to-the-earth folks in Yelm, Washington. After reading their strident fanaticism regarding One World Orders and UFO conspiracies, I shoveled the paper into the waste-paper basket as if it was on fire.

“Christ,” I said out loud, “this newspaper’s a cult.” Continue reading

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Posted in Environment, Ramtha, Stories from the Jounrey | 5 Comments

Of Mice and Men’s Groups – another installment from “Campfire Tales – True Stories not Everyone Believes

By Bruce A. Smith

 A few years ago, my friend Jeff telephoned in a rush to say, “You have to come over right now and watch the Bill Moyers show on TV.” I did. It was a telecast titled: “A Gathering of Men,” and was an introspective on the work of poet Robert Bly and his efforts to help men discover their manhood.

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Posted in Back East, Campfire Tales | 8 Comments

There is Justice in this World – more Campfire Tales

By Bruce A. Smith

Back in the 1980s, I needed to sell one of my company’s pick-up trucks. It was a beat-up ol’ Ford with 154,000 miles on it, and I had put an ad in the paper asking $1,000. I was amazed how many guys called figuring this thousand-dollar beater with 154K on it was going to be a dream machine. Sigh.

So when I had a live customer, a guy much like myself, who wanted to buy the truck as a run-around rig for his masonry business, I was glad to accept his $650 offer.

Down we went to the garage to take the plates off my truck and put on the ones he had brought. “Took ’em off one of my other trucks until I get this one registered,” he said. Then we went back to my kitchen to sign-over the title and exchange the money. Surprisingly, he whipped out a check to write the $650.

Wait a minute, buddy. This is a cash deal,” I said.

Oh, don’t worry. It’s a good check,” he answered.

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Posted in Back East, Campfire Tales, Family, Folk tales and stories | 3 Comments

On Becoming a Hunter – another selection from the “Campfire Tales – True Stories Not Everyone Believes”

By Bruce A. Smith

Of all the things I did when I had a so-called mid-life crisis, the craziest according to my ex-wife was not leaving her, selling my business, nor relocating to Yelm, Washington to join Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment. For her, I truly went off the deep end when I bought a muzzle loading, black powder rifle and became a hunter.

Her consternation was understandable because when I lived with her on Long Island, New York, I too felt disgust seeing dead deer strapped to the hoods of pick-up trucks driving south from the Catskill Mountains.

But here in Yelm, which is halfway between the Seattle suburbs and Cascade Mountains, lots of people hunt. During the season, many of the pick-ups in my local Safeway parking lot have guns in their cab racks as hunters stop to buy groceries on the way home from a plinking session or a hunt. Continue reading

Posted in Campfire Tales, Environment, Folk tales and stories, Mount Rainier, Nature, Self Reliance, Weather | 8 Comments

Death of a Hero – more “Campfire Tales”

By Bruce A. Smith

Some say heroes are made, not born. Perhaps. For me, I’ve only known one true hero, and I say that heroes are simply ordinary guys who know how to do the right thing when trouble happens.

My hero was named Jimmy Gunderson, and when he was sixteen he risked his life off the coast of Long Island to save a man who was having a heart attack. The story didn’t make the evening news, but in my hometown we all knew that Jimmy was a hero.

I knew Jimmy as a buddy from a summer camp that our moms arranged for us to attend together. For three summers we were cabin mates at a YMCA camp in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, and back home on Long Island we would see each other on occasion – family affairs mostly as our mothers were old college friends. In fact, the first fish I ever caught was off the stern of Jimmy’s family cabin cruiser as we trolled the waters of Hempstead Harbor.

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Posted in Campfire Tales, Folk tales and stories, Moth Stories | 2 Comments

My Life as a Shopping Mall Santa Claus – more tales from the Moth Story series

By Bruce A. Smith

The first job I got when I moved to Yelm, Washington from my home in New York was working as a shopping mall Santa Claus. Beginning the day after Thanksgiving in 1991, I pulled four-hour shifts most days at the Capitol Mall in Olympia, along with three other professional Santas. Some days were grueling – try listening to sappy Christmas carols all day long – but a few moments were sublime.

One of them was experiencing the deep mythos that Santa Claus has on people, especially children aged five to eight who still believe. One kid stands out, and I still think about him to this day.

He was a boy about seven-years old, and he came to the Santaland kiosk in a group of several children and three women. He caught my eye because he hung back from that cluster – I assumed that one of the women was his mother and the other two adults were neighbors or friends bringing their own children – and I learned later that his reserved behavior was intentional. Continue reading

Posted in Culture, Moth Stories | 7 Comments

Barbsie Comes Home for Christmas – a submission to the Moth Story series

By Bruce A. Smith

This story is my account of becoming aware of loving someone – in this case my sister – for the first time in my life.

In the fall of 1958, when she was five and I was nine, she had open heart surgery for a congenital birth defect. We called it, “the hole in her heart.”

At the time open-heart surgery was dicey, and my sister, whom we called Barbsie – short for Barbara – was one of the first kids to have the procedure. In fact, only a handful of hospitals performed it. As I recall the operation was an all-day affair, and it took place in the cardiac unit of St. Francis Hospital in Port Washington, New York. Ironically, our father was destined to die of a heart attack in the same place forty-nine years later.

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Posted in Back East, Family, Health, Moth Stories | 3 Comments