The Pine Cone

While conducting research at the Museum of Sycamore Shadows, I found the following brief story in the papers of the late Robinson Hardy, written in the last decade of his life. Although too sappy for my taste, those who prefer sentiment to substance may enjoy it for Valentines Day: We waded to a midstream rock—you might call it a boulder. I’ll point it out when you’re in town. Holding hands we sat and talked, each word a discovery, each smile a delight, telling each other who we were, and I felt as if I could have lifted the rock—the boulder,… Keep reading

Dowd’s Flying Diapers

Birds have wings for one reason: to scatter the output of one of the fastest digestive systems in the animal kingdom. Those who doubt the efficiency of bird plumbing should walk behind a Canada goose for 20 minutes. Nature also gave birds more intelligence than is commonly known, especially the corvids. Send a duck to college—eight years later he’ll graduate as a crow. Sycamore Shadows inventor T. Alva Dowd, the father of Curly Dowd, had a pet crow named Falstaff. I could also write that Falstaff had a dimwitted pet human named T. Alva Dowd. By studying his pet crow… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

In honor of Groundhog Day, Sotty Hoff’s Pub will feature everyone’s favorite rodent on their menu this week. According to Happy Fohl, owner, “The only shadows these groundhogs will see are the ones they make on the potatoes and carrots.” Amos Finch asks why I get to decide which rodent is everyone’s favorite. Minister Easter Westminster, Church of the Lost Sheep, requests that members not put poker chips in the collection plate. Congratulations to Matsuo and Miki Donatu on the birth of their son, Basho Donatu, the first child of Japanese ancestry born in Sycamore Shadows. The Haiku Bakery will… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

SYCAMORE SHADOWS, Ohio. Ernie Stump says that from the way the pads on his headphones have worn, it’s obvious that his right ear is stiffer than his left ear. He wonders if he should see a specialist. Curly Dowd says he has the same problem and believes it’s from driving with the window down. “The left ear flaps in the wind, which loosens it,” Curly explains. “The right ear is inside the car, so it stays stiff. You’ll find the opposite in Great Britain.” John Bleau says Curly Dowd is a liar. Despite her degree, Allison Keene asks that people… Keep reading

Friday’s Footprint

In 2010, Castaway Books owner Kitty Parr purchased an island in Little Rindle Creek, renaming it “Crusoe’s Island” in honor of store founder Milton Dunnacker and the novel he loved so well. To defray some of the cost, Kitty commissioned a commemorative photographic print, recreating an episode from the book, to be taken on the island. Choosing the iconic scene of Crusoe discovering Friday’s footprint, she hired Castor “artist” Julian Rochelle as the photographer. “I wouldn’t do that,” I warned her. “Artists aren’t like the rest of us.” Kitty wouldn’t listen. According to his website, Rochelle specialized in “artistic pastoral nudes,” meaning… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

SYCAMORE SHADOWS, Ohio. Musty Groves was walking near Glen’s Glen when a fox squirrel fell out of a tree and landed dead at his feet. He saved the tail if anyone wants it. Joe Pye says that when he was young, Sycamore Shadows always had a town drunk. According to Minister Westminster, the baptistry heater has broken and the church will accept no baptisms until it is fixed. Anyone needing saved should make other arrangements. Ben Coddler remembers seeing a mobile baptistry in Castor and says the church might look into renting it, but he doesn’t remember the name of… Keep reading


If you carve your feelings in the bark of the beech tree in Sanderling Park, you can’t deny your love later, even if you sicken at the recollection. No matter how long it has been, no matter how much you despise the beast you once embraced, the record remains. Kathleen Boggs swears it isn’t her name on the tree, says she’d rather dip her nose in honey and shove her head in a groundhog hole than kiss Graaf Gribble. “Must have been another Graaf,” Gribble insists, “but if she did put her head in a hole, the groundhogs would think… Keep reading

The Western Method

Reaction to the Sycamore Shadows school district’s “Boys into Men” campaign has been overwhelmingly positive, despite isolated complaints from parents disapproving of John Wayne movies as instructional films, usually those intent on raising pantywaists. To enable parents to decide the issue for themselves, I have studied the movies shown by the school district and present a list of six lessons contained therein: 1. Whiskey is a powerful painkiller. Taken for medicinal purposes, it is a miracle drug. A mere pint will facilitate the removal of bullets and arrowheads from deep in the body cavity with bearable discomfort. A quart is… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

After consulting her attendance book, Ada Sanderling has determined that Edward “Boy Ed” Hotchkiss, owner of the Hotchkiss Filling Station, hasn’t attended church services since 1997, the year she began keeping records. “You can’t worship and pump gas at the same time,” Boy Ed answered when confronted with the accusation. According to Miss Sanderling, Boy Ed’s wife, Edwena “Girl Ed” Hotchkiss, rarely misses a service. Minister Westminster announces that the subject of this week’s Tuesday evening Bible study will be sin. Several people have written in recent weeks to ask where I get my ideas, a question probably better addressed… Keep reading

Erotic Food

Several friends and I were enjoying dinner at the Crawdad Club yesterday when our discussion turned to some of the exotic foods eaten in foreign lands, much of it creatures we spray with insecticides. Wilson Hahn had seen a documentary the previous evening showing an Amazonian native eating a grub, which is basically any white larvae that looks like it’s wearing a brown helmet. Needless to say, we were in agreement that a larvae the size of a Twinkie was something we would not care to have for dinner. I don’t like Twinkies either, but at least they don’t wriggle… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

SYCAMORE SHADOWS, Ohio. While I appreciate all contributions to “Life in the Shadows,” I cannot mention private spats between married couples or siblings. If you want your name in my column, scuffle in public. In Sycamore Shadows, where most people would rather go to bed with dirty feet than without praying, you wouldn’t think public nudity would have such a long history. In the Van Horne Journal of 1808, an important account of the town’s early years, we find the following reference to Aedre Bowman: “…she doth shed her clothing and slip into the water, where she delights in sinful… Keep reading

What Price Your Soul?

Cleb Bowman told this story at the Crawdad Club last evening. Apart from the obscenities, I have transcribed it as related:  “Old Man Chambers only cared for one other thing besides drinking—auctions. Craziest man for auctions I ever saw. Didn’t matter what kind—farm equipment, collectibles, church going out of business—all the same to him. He’d sit in the first row—drunk most likely—and buy things, no matter whether he needed them or not. It was fun going just to see him in action. Amos Finch’d give him free coffee and say ‘Hey, Chambers’ over the PA—make him think he was a… Keep reading

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