23 September 1984

On a warm day in Chile [cultural exchange a year earlier] we sat on the bank of the wide Bío-Bío River with our gracious hosts. In a nearby bowery, a family of poor peasants labored over a hot fire preparing our dinner. As we waited, our hosts asked me for a song. I was well-dressed for a country excursion, the visiting dignitary, trained and experienced as a performer. I took my fine instrument from its tweed case and performed. Then they served us, and after a few moments called an old woman out of the smoky bowery. She wiped her rough hands on her skirt and picked up a battered old guitar that I'm sure never saw the inside of a case. She shook back her greying hair, smiled gently, showing that many teeth were gone, strummed a few chords, and standing there in simple elegance, began to sing. I've never heard singing like that. It sounded like a chicken being mechanically de-boned while still alive.

24 October 2007


Last night John (six) was warning me about the hazards of playing baseball. He said "Dad, if you were younger and stronger instead of old and weak, don't play baseball, because I almost got two black eyes."


And Caitlin (ten) read the first draft of "Boam and Hammy in the Utah War" (my historical novel for fourth-graders). She said I should read a bunch of other books to see how to write one, that it would take her more than a month to tell me all the questions I left unanswered and all the details I left unconnected, and that if I turned it in with only the corrections I have in mind already, the publishing company would fire me.

[The following was retired to Journal Bits Archive 4 January 2008.]

2 July 1980

     This morning at five after one, immediately following a short but intense dream about an enormous ant crawling on my arm, I awoke to find an enormous ant crawling on my arm. I flicked it off, with some difficulty, and knowing it to be quite obviously still alive, began searching for it, lest it should take me again unawares. I found it at last on the curtain, trying to hide, of all things. I killed it, without a license but with good reason, I thought, and measured the carcass with a tape measure. It was five eighths of an inch long. My wife had by now also awakened with some concern and asked what woke me up, to which I replied, "Hoofbeats."