Scurrius sniffed the warm evening air, his nose twitching in the breeze. The squirrels had spent the long Sun sitting in their cells again, but at least the Carnival Master had set them in the shade this time.
Most of the Elders were already asleep for the long Moon. The Young Ones were rambunctious as they chittered away at each other. Scurrius chuckled softly as he thought of the old saying, “Young Ones and boredom lead to…more Young Ones.”
Scurrius had stopped dreaming of escape years ago. The Carnival Master did feed them well. Humans loved fat squirrels, so at least there was that. He paused to remember the good ol’ days when some Native Americans believed that the Black Squirrel was responsible for the eclipse of the Sun. “…believed we ate it!” Scurrius laughed to himself.
Scurrius continued to listen to the Young Ones chatter softly, and decided to close his eyes for a minute. Just a minute.
Twitch. Sniff. Girl. Human. Girl Child.
Scurrius’s eyes popped open and he looked directly into the huge face of a young girl child. “Shh.” she whispered. Her warm breath smelled of sweet popcorn and peanuts. “I’m here to save you!”
Scurrius looked over to the cell of the Young Ones. The door was open. Wide open. They all looked at him, their eyes wide and black. “Go!” he yelled. He saw the Elders farther down the row. “Go! Go! Go, now!” he screeched.
The girl child was reaching through the open door of his cell. “I just want to help…” she laid her hand gently down on the floor. “Come on.” He stepped onto her hand slowly, and sucked in his belly full of nuts and fluff so he could squeeze out the cell door. She set him gently on the ground, looking mighty proud of herself. “Go! Be free!”
He knelt at her feet, bowing before her grace and kindness. He could hear her giggling as he hurried after his scurry.
Humans can be slow, so it took longer than it should have, but the Black Squirrel became the gods they were destined to be. The human village erected statues in their honor. There is a yearly celebration of their very existence. Humans come from far away lands to feed and worship them. The scurry scurries freely across the lands of Marysville, Kansas…there is no place like home.
Local legend has it that in Marysville, Kansas in 1912 a child released black squirrels from their cages during a carnival show. The squirrels scattered and their population grew, as it does with squirrels. On August 28, 1972 Marysville adopted the black squirrel as their town mascot, with an accompanying ordinance for the safety of all black squirrels. Today, about 1/5 of the city’s squirrel population is black, with most of them residing in the city park.
The City Park:
Marysville City Park is beautifully shaded with their famous black squirrels maintaining ownership of all the shade trees. This large park includes free camping, a themed playground, a swimming pool with colorful slides, tennis courts and various historical buildings.
Camping spaces are available on a first come, first serve basis. 30 amp/50 amp and 110 is available. Tent camping is welcome as well. The city does request that you limit your stay to five days. There is potable water, a dump station, and restroom facilities on site. Donation information is located at the restrooms.
Black Squirrels on Parade:
34 five-foot fiberglass black squirrels are displayed all throughout Marysville. Each one designed and painted by local and regional artists. You can find squirrel maps at the Visitors Center or at area gas stations for a driving tour of the squirrel statues.
Pony Express Museum:
Marysville features the Home Station No. 1 on the Pony Express route. The home station is a stone barn that was built in 1859, and is the oldest building in Marshall County, Kansas. The building now houses the Home Station Pony Express Museum.
Kansas is full of ghost towns and abandoned homesteads and farms. While staying in Marysville we explored the area to find the beauty of the forgotten.
JUST HERE FOR THE DOGS (A writer’s life update)
by M.D. Parker
While there is plenty of travel-related stories and pictures coming soon, I thought I’d take the time to update people on the world of being a writer on the road, during a pandemic, who got in a fight with his muse, and who has been reevaluating the entire craft and his place in it.
First, let’s tackle the “big” project, THE GENESIS ECHO novel (cue ominous music):
I’ve been working on this saga for 4 years off and on. I’ve completed the book two times, and am currently trying to rewrite and massively overhaul the entire thing. I’m halfway through that. I’ve also managed a full novella, a short story, and now I’ve tried making my #BrickBuiltStories revolving around the same saga, which is of course part of my larger RorriM universe.
My other writings, political essays, and random flash fiction all have suffered and stumbled as badly as the main work in progress.
Sales of my anthologies and my novella are at or near zero for months.
I’m burned out.
I’m exhausted from the dread of the real world, and desperately finding a way(s) I can make an actual difference for the better.
So, that’s where I’ve been at… it’s like a party… in a dumpster… that’s on fire. Yay!
So, what does this mean going forward? Well, I’m about to disappoint 4 of you. THE GENESIS ECHO and the larger RorriM universe are going into hibernation. I’m going to lock them away in a mental closet. For how long? I have no idea. Maybe a month or two, maybe a year, maybe a decade. I need to recharge, wrap myself in the joyous parts of the craft and create. I just need to create. I wish to bring imaginary people into existence and share them with you. I know, it sounds like I have a god complex, but my name does mean “next to god” or “godlike” after all.
I have projects in my mind, notes and ideas jotted down. I have a bookmarked list of more than 50 websites or articles to start research on various horror inducing topics or science fiction explorations. Sometimes those things intermingle. I know I just started my new Brick Built Stories series, but I am going to change it into something more akin to travel and fun. Maybe some shots of Lego Me exploring the place where the real world and the plastic brick world meet.
A lot is happening. I hope you’ll stick around as we continue to write on the road, with our furry companions.
What? What’s that you say?
Oh – you were just here for the dogs – Yeah, us too.
Are we really the things we call ourselves, especially when the actions that make us those things are not being done? Am I becoming less than I was, or just more of something else? Am I worthy of any of the titles I have ever carried? Yes, this is the sound of dread setting in. These are among the numerous questions I’ve spent months toiling over.
2020 was quite the — well let’s use ‘interesting’ as a descriptor — year. Wildfires, murder hornets, UFOs, civil unrest around the world, the loss of a higher than average number of cultural icons, and of course a global pandemic.
At first when the pandemic took off in the U.S.A., we lost focus on other items as we tried to figure out how full-time RVers navigated this confusing and ever-changing time. My writing suffered as I found myself stress-eating, driving to a new location, or just sitting and screaming at an orange tinted, bloviating narcissist, lying to everyone about the dangers as tens (and eventually hundreds) of thousands died. My writing suffered.
As the fall came I began picking my writing up again and finished the 27th draft of The Genesis Echo – part 1. My muse was hanging out with me and my imaginary friends were coming over for coffee in the morning. Then horror struck. The existential dread I’d been battling all year fully shut me down. My writing assistant, my dude, my four-legged best friend, died suddenly.
Still reeling from Milo’s passing, we got a call. My father was in the hospital requiring emergency surgery after falling and breaking his hip and laying helpless for hours (his med-alert button failed). He was going to need us. We returned to Oregon and began caretaking the man who would suffer complications that would run him in and out of the hospital a few times over the next few months.
My writing came to a complete and total halt.
As the first 3 months of 2021 would pass, we’d see difficult, but positive progress on my father and we were beginning to adjust to life without Milo. Our other amazing fur companion, Rusty, was there with us every step of the way.
At the end of March we hit the road again, but I had yet to really hit the keyboard. Just before we pulled away from our home town, we took a peak at the dogs that needed rescued from the shelter.
Our eyes were drawn to a 12-year old boxer mix named Frankie. We told each other we had to go meet her. I wasn’t sure I was ready for another dog just yet, but the thought of this doggo sitting there without a home, knowing that adoption at her age was near impossible, didn’t sit well with our tiny sappy hearts. We scheduled a visit for the same day (COVID restrictions still in place for health and safety, the shelter was forced to work by appointment only, which also lowers the adoption rate).
After meeting us and walking and playing with Rusty, Frankie took it upon herself to jump in our car. She wouldn’t leave. She stared at the both of us, and had responded to every other thing we did or say, except the order to exit the car. She had made her choice — who were we to argue? She remained in the car while I went inside and completed adoption paperwork.
Now, less than a month later, and after a scary illness that hit both her and Rusty hard, and the fear of losing her already, I’ve come to realize how much she has already done for us. She has not replaced the hole in my heart from the loss of the best fur-companion I’ve ever known. Instead she has helped remind me of the lessons Milo tried to teach me. Her presence has allowed the love he put in my heart to expand; shrinking that hole down to a manageable size. Rusty was there to comfort us, to grieve with us, for he had lost his brother as well. Frankie has come to show us, Rusty included, that the best way to heal is to love even more.
So, from the bottom of our damaged little hearts — for myself, my wife, Rusty… and for Milo, I say thank you and welcome to the family Frankie.
Thank you for choosing us.
Please visit PetFinder, or visit your local shelter to adopt a new loved one today.
The fog was light. Summer had arrived on the calendar, but the spring-time temperatures held firm. Most of the soldiers of the 249th Coast Artillery Corp were bedded down for the night. Guard duty shifts were manned, and talk was light.
To the southwest of the fort, just beyond the break point of the waves, a dark figure rose up from the depths. Unseen as it took aim, the Japanese I-25 submarine prepared its attack. The flash of a muzzle and the explosion of the enormous shells striped away the quiet of the night leaving craters in the beachhead. Soldiers scrambled and stumbled from their bunks as they raced to their stations.
Plotters prepared firing orders as spotters watched the muzzle flashes from the submarine, but the order came to hold. Nine shots were fired towards them, all falling short and harmlessly away into the surrounding vegetation. With bated breath everyone waited, and although the submarine retreated and submerged once again, there would be no sleep for the remainder of the night.
– M.D. Parker
Fort Stevens in Hammond, near Astoria, Oregon original construction began in 1863, near the end of the Civil War. By 1904 the fort had expanded. Multiple cannon batteries were constructed with the intention of defending the mouth of the Columbia River.
On June 21, 1942 Fort Stevens was attacked by an Imperial Japanese Navy submarine. The submarine seemed to be shooting blind. They were still looking for a target, not firing at one yet. There was no return fire from Fort Stevens that night. Since the fort remained silent, the Japanese didn’t know where exactly to attack, so they ceased fire and submerged their submarine in retreat.
And the award for hide-n-seek 1942 Summer Championship goes to Fort Stevens!
The majority of the buildings and structures in Fort Stevens are still intact. You are able to enter a lot of the structures, though some only on scheduled tours. There are plenty of volunteers for the guided tours, history lessons, and information. There is an onsite Military Museum with a small rose garden.
The fort is now part of a 4,200 acre Oregon State Park that includes camping, wildlife viewing, more than five miles of hiking and biking trails, Frisbee golf and the ability to explore Fort Stevens remains and buildings. There is also access to the final battery built at Fort Stevens, Battery Russell. Within walking distance is a fresh water lake for swimming and fishing and kayaking. There is easy beach access nearby for walks, beach combing, stunning sunset views, and even a ship wreck.
The campground has around 500 campsites available with various amenities, including yurts, cabins, tents, and various RV hookup sites available. The sites are level with an abundance of trees for shade and wind block. Each loop has it’s own bathroom and shower facilities.
If you manage to see and do everything on your Fort Stevens bucket list, you can also go visit the Lewis and Clark National Park nearby. Nearby towns include Hammond, Warrenton, Seaside, and Astoria.
There are wonderful local restaurants, including plenty of nearby breweries and wineries for the adults, and Seaside has a boardwalk with a few fun rides and games for the kids. We recommend Ship Out Fish and Chips in Astoria for delicious local seafood. The fish is thick, flaky, and crispy and the clam chowder…*chef’s kiss*
In 1915 the Tonopah-Belmont Development Co. began developing the property that would become the Belmont Mine. The Belmont Mine was built about seven miles southwest of the town of Hamilton, which was already a ghost town by 1915.
Belmont Mill was set up as a company town, with mostly employees residing in the camp there. Even though a considerable amount of money was put into the Belmont Mine, the mines were mediocre in production, and the camp and mill were abandoned about ten years after opening.
Today, much of the mine still remains. There are multiple structures, including the main mining building. The main building still has quite a bit of the original mining equipment inside, like a large pulley system to extract the ore from the mine. There are a few large bins hanging from pulley cables that served as counterweights to the ore containers.
The Belmont Mine also has a large aerial tramway that would take the ore from the Belmont Mine main building over to the original Belmont millsite. Apparently, the original millsite is further up the canyon from the still intact buildings of Belmont Mine, but none of the original millsite buildings remain.
Other buildings still intact at the millsite include what looks was a mill office, and what was likely a boarding house for employees.
Belmont Mine is such as impressive site because so many of the buildings are still intact, and the mining equipment seems to just be suspended in time. This ghost millsite looked as though a shift ended, and everyone vacated the desert instead of going back to work the next day.
Vampire Slaying, Stephen King, and a Grand Forking Idea
It all began on a cool, windy, spring day in Bandon, Oregon. Bandon is a beautiful beach town along the Southern Oregon Coast. At the time we lived just a short twenty-five mile jaunt away. We were treating ourselves to a day-date in the “old-town” district.
We went to the Face Rock Creamery, and after sampling enough cheddar variations that we were in danger of being asked to leave, we thought it best to purchase ourselves a couple of blocks to take home.
We walked along the edge of the harbor and darted in and out of the gift shops. We browsed the bookstore (of course), and we left with two books that explain more than I care to admit about our personalities – Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King and the Star Wars Bounty Hunter’s Code.
We dropped our purchases off in our vehicle and decided it was time to feed the beasts that were growling inside us (the more you feed them, the less likely they are to burst from your chest and face-hug all of your friends and family – if only John Hurt could have eaten faster…). Remember, this was an all-day date, so we went to a nice restaurant instead of the seafood stand on the waterfront. I mean, come on, we even got dressed in real pants for the day!
We laughed. We held hands. We ordered an appetizer that was an experiment for both of us. Our food arrived. It was amazing. This is where we would recommend the meal choices, yet, the food is the fuzziest part of the memory. You see, we had always talked about how we wanted to go and visit new things. We shared pictures of places we wanted to go. Someday, we said; someday.
“You know, we could get a travel trailer and strip it out, and just make a library. Yeah, it’d be a library on wheels with nothing but a bed, books… oh, and a toilet,” he said.
She laid her fork down gently as he stuffed another bite in, proud of himself for the lame addition of the toilet joke. Finally a pause in his babbling. She looked directly at him.
“What’s stopping us?” she asked.
“Um…” he said as he tried to swallow down the over-sized bite.
“Seriously, what’s stopping us?”
His lips twisted in thought as his brow furrowed. He looked down at the table and his eyebrows began to raise. He lifted his head and looked into her eyes.
“Uh… I dunno,” he said.
From that point on the rest of the day was spent dropping back into that conversation. The children were out, or old enough to be out of the house. They had their own jobs. But could we? Was this really a possibility or was the mixing odors of new books and seafood causing misfires in the synapses of our brains? Had someone drugged the vampire-slaying cheese?
That night we broke out pen and paper and began a three-day research project. We spoke of it to no one. This was serious deep spy stuff. Satellite images were passed through secret drop spots and we spoke through encryption devices when anyone was around that might hear. (We texted each other from the same room and sent pictures to each other through our social media accounts. Yes, we know, the NSA could have been looking in on our super-secret spy game.)The fate of the world was resting on our shoulders, and the pressure was on to find an answer.
We read blogs of full-time RVers. We did lots of math (well, he did the math, as she has come to believe that math is just a foul language that should not be used in mixed company).
How much will our income drop? Can we afford to live that way? We considered the emotional states of the children, and us. We considered the health of our aging parents. We talked through scenario after scenario. What if we do and something happens back home? What if we do and there’s a major breakdown or one of us gets really sick? What if we get out there and I can’t stand you? (The answer to this one involved a shovel and the use of one of our kids as an alibi.)
We walked around the house and looked in every room and cried out: “What in the world will we do with all this stuff?”
Those questions were answered, and then we tried to break those answers with as many what-ifs as we could. By day three, we realized the truth.
What was the truth you ask?
We were nervous, because we could, we could really do it. Nervousness became excitement which became…
“Oh crap, we have to tell the family.”
Before we get into the trauma (and drama) of the next few days, let us discuss the how-to part of what we did. Believe us when we say we are not the ultimate authorities on how to transform your life into a full-time RVing adventure. In fact, we are regularly learning something new, or getting frustrated at what we don’t know, all the time. (This is a nice way of saying we really don’t have a clue about what we’re doing, but we hope you’ll continue reading anyway.)
The beginning of the “how-to” part boils down to coming up with your recreational vehicle size and type. Everyone has different desires, different needs, and different wants.
That’s a broad statement, how do we translate that into an RV type, you ask. Well, what we did was make a list.
Actually, make three lists.
First, what do you NEED to take with you to survive, we’ll call it the essentials list. We strongly recommend taking clothes, a jacket or two, and maybe even splurge for some soap and a toothbrush. Then a second list of the things that you want – things you think you need. This second list is the almost essential list. Like a regular can opener instead of an old Army P-38 can opener – or a camera instead of the stone tablets and chisels to create a visual record of your adventures. The third list is the I don’t think we need thisbut wouldn’t it be nice to have list. You know things like the espresso machine, or the Roomba™.
These lists are not the final packing lists for your new life. Nope, not a bit. Those “final” lists will change several times and will not be finalized until you are twenty miles down the road in your new rolling forever home on wheels. (Even then, it will change as you discover new things and go more places. Basically, you can throw the lists out.) No, these lists are to give you an idea of what kind of space you need. Do you want something tiny, the size of a Scamp™ or a conversation van? Or do you need a 40-foot 5th wheel behemoth? We’re not judging you either way. This is entirely up to your preference, and because it is, we’ll just walk through the wonderful way we found our first little towed home…
To start with we had a Dodge SUV. It had the bigger V-8, and it’s tow capacity wasn’t horrible so we thought we were halfway there. It meant that 5th wheels were out, and we weren’t fond of towing it behind a motorhome due to its own weight. SUVs tend to be heavy, as heavy, if not more so, than their pick-up truck cousins. So that discussion was fairly short; Travel trailers it is!
New? Used? How old? Fixer-upper? What do we want? Well, with the drastic change (also known as a drop) in income, let’s try to avoid adding a new debt. Let’s go for used, maybe even a fixer-upper, I mean we are crafty people right? Yes dear; and so that part of the discussion was a bit longer, but still relatively short. It’s all settled now, we want a used travel trailer, no leaks, appliances work, other conditions are open to negotiation.
Two days later. Mike is at home performing his house-husband duties (watching cat videos and posting food pictures to social media all while claiming to be writing an important section of his barely started novel manuscript.) when MeLisa contacts him from work. She found something while browsing the internet on her break.
“What’s that?” he asked.
An RV to go check out. Okay, I can do this, he thinks, but wait… did you say it was a motorhome? Yes. We had come to a decision – Travel Trailer it was, and now Mike was off to take a look at a 24-foot Winnebago Class-c motorhome.
It was the first official look either of us had taken at a used RV. It was spacious for its size. Good sized bed. Functioning kitchen area… lots of carpet. It even had carpet up between the front seats and around the console housing. Between the dogs, and an inability to decide what to do with the SUV, we walked away from it. It was on the high end of our price range anyway, we said to ourselves. Secretly both of us had wanted it, and were afraid to admit it until many months later, but we walked away all the same.
That was a Thursday.
Friday we were back to looking at travel trailers and calling on a few. Mike even stopped to look at one that was being sold with a truck. Interesting idea, but alas, still not quite right.
Then came Saturday.
We had been up late Friday. Had a big family dinner, a few drinks, all with music played at one-half notch below the piss-off-the-neighbors level. We both woke early – too early for the tequila and beer from the previous evening. We took care of a few things around the house and decided an early afternoon nap would be just the thing…
Then MeLisa found it. Someone was selling a travel trailer on Facebook.
“Oh, there’s a number. You should call,” she said.
“Wait, how big?”
“It’s only a thousand. Like one-thousand dollars,” she said.
“And it says it all works?”
“And how big?”
“And no leaks, “ she said.
And so he called. No set time, just come down. It’s right here and we’re having a yard sale too, they said. They also said lots of people were calling and that the first one there with the cash takes it.
And so we went. While we were looking it over – at only sixteen feet that takes a LONG time – two other people showed up inquiring about it. Standing alone inside we quickly discussed it…
“It is small,” she said. (Yes, that’s what she said.)
“Might be too small,” he said. (And then she giggled.)
“The cushions are ugly. What is that, Pepto-pink puke color?” she asked.
“Nah. It’s more purple and puke,” he said.
“Do you really think the dogs and us can even fit in here?” she asked herself more than him.
“Look at it this way, I could give it a once over and sell it for more. There’s a line waiting. Let’s take it home, and decide later. If we don’t want it, we can sell it,” he said.
Afraid that someone would get there first we had skipped stopping by the bank on the way, so MeLisa waited there to have awkward introverted conversations with the seller, while Mike ran to the ATM and pulled the cash we were short. We skipped our nap that afternoon as we towed an old tiny trailer to our driveway.
There it sat for a week, while we debated back and forth if it was big enough to handle our needs, while we also kicked the idea back and forth about what we were going to use to tow it. Our inexperience reigned supreme as we learned what tow ratings versus actual weight meant. Our new acquisition was heavy for its size (though we thought it was all normal – remember, inexperience supreme). At a dry weight of 2900 lbs. the math worried us. The tow rating of our SUV was only 4900 lbs. Our assumption was with the stuff we’d pack we’d be at 3600-4000 lbs. if we kept the trailer we had. That was just too close to the rating to make us feel all warm-n-fuzzy when we thought about the Rocky Mountains or the long haul across the high deserts. And what if we get a bigger one? So while we considered whether the tiny trailer taking up all the space in the driveway would work, we set off on selling our Dodge and finding a more capable tow rig.
Again, MeLisa came through.
Eugene, Oregon is just a couple hour drive from our home on the coast and we setup a day trip to look at both privately sold vehicles and a dealer’s lot in Eugene. The long story short; we said no to two different private vehicles and no to the 3 lots we looked at while waiting on our creditors to approve or deny us on the truck that had both of us salivating. An older F-150 with dual shock systems, shift assist, overdrive kill switch, tow package, no rust, all OEM equipment. Shiny! We had to have it.
That same week we decided. The Serenity was christened (geek alert!). The tiny travel trailer was named and a full remodel/refit began. So, because it would be towing the Serenity the truck was named Hoban. (Most people give their vehicles female names, but Hoban just felt male. He even gets a little hot under the collar, but more on that when we get to Nevada.) Yes, as in Hoban Washburne. The Browncoats were going to take to the open roads because “you can’t take the sky…” er… road “from me.”
We had it all set now, we were sure:
We had our tiny (ultra-miniscule is likely the more correct term) home. We had a tow vehicle that we loved and was nice enough that we frequently got compliments on. We had informed the two children still living with us, and the family members who mattered. We had survived the guilt trips from the daughter who had spent years trying to convince us that she was never moving out of the house. We handled all the interpersonal drama from our family that supported and was going to miss us, and those who thought we had lost our collective minds. The latter were certain we must be the first victims of a soon-to-be pandemic level brain devouring disease.
What was left? Just the little details right? You know, things like finishing the remodel of the interior (piece of cake) and then downsizing into our tiny home.
We’d be ready and capable of leaving within a week we were sure. (There was 23 days in that “week” before Serenity was ready. And another month of donations, giveaways, and yard sales to downsize and choose what was truly important to us.) We walked around the house several times and looked at all these things that we seemed to hardly use; yes, downsizing would be as easy as conquering northern Siberia in the dead of winter.
Serenity served us well over the next 10 months. We learned a lot; saw a lot. We followed the trail of Billy The Kid.
We taught a couple of college kids how to play poker (by taking their money at the table).
and we discovered what happens when you leave a window open in a sand storm. We should’ve brought the Roomba™.
We fell in love with this RVing life, and it was time to plan for the long haul. Serenity found her way into the needy arms of a young couple and we found ourselves a new vessel on the roads of adventure. A magical home with wheels that came to be known as Matilda.