Clarence Hall Had Play Pretties


Saturday was cool and clear. A few dark wisps of cloud scurried along the horizon, clearing away Friday night’s storm. The calves and lambs butted and pranced, skidding in the mud. The first heron of the year croaked at the far end of the pond. The orchard orioles were back. I made John Deere noises as I slid my feet through puddles and cow piles, carrying buckets of feed. There was no way we’d be in the field, today.


After my chores, I got permission, took a handful of coins and hopped astride my rattling bicycle to pay a call on Clarence Hall. After a good mile’s pedal, I arrived at his house. On a wooden frame which held his mail box was a sign that read:

Clarence Hall Third9320494_1

Cousin Abraham

Lincoln All kinds of

Things made here

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I leant my bicycle against the sagging picket fence, slipped the wire over the post and stepped through the squawking gate. His house was a one storey frame building of bare weatherboard, one small room wide by about three long, which had long ago resigned itself to following the contours of the ground between the day lilies and daffodils, probably planted by his mother. It wasimages2 roofed with clapboard shingles which he’d undoubtedly split himself, and the front door and windows were tightly boarded over. On the south, one windowless door opened to face the well and a couple of sheds.

I didn’t see him out and about, so I knocked. An earnest house wren called from somewhere. An house_wrenaluminum measuring cup rocked idly on its wire in the breeze sighing in the cedars. I knocked again and hollered: “Clarence?”

“What?” he barked, throwing open the door, giving me a start. He closed it behind him at once and hooked it as a dank reek of coal oil and foul clothes whirled away into the air. “What d’ye want?”

“I came for a couple of things, really,” I stammered. “Do you have Abe Lincoln’s old gun? Could I…?”

“No!” he barked, giving me a shudder. “I ain’t got hit! They ain’t goin’ ‘o get hit ’cause I ain’t got hit.”

“Well, I thought I might buy one of your toys, if you’ve got any made.”

“Well yea!” he boomed, taking a couple of sudden strides toward his shed to stop short, not turning about. “What’s you ones want with play pretties? Ain’t you a little old for that? I see you go by on your Fordson.”


“Well, I ain’t too old! I won’t tell no one,” he, said as he tramped on to the shed to fiddle with the7595437-man-in-bib-overalls-weeding-the-garden-in-vertical-format latch and throw wide the door. “There ye be. Look ‘ee here. Got all kinds. He scratched at his jaw through his filthy Lincoln-style beard. He gave a brown spit and turned aside to blow his nose into the grass and wipe his hand on his sooty bib overalls. “Got all kinds. Now these’ns be whirligigs and them’s windmills.

“Ah! Somebody’s here,” he said, looking up at the sound of popping gravel by the mailbox. “Here! You get out o’ there. You set on that there stump.”

I took my seat meekly as he tramped into his dark house and came back out, dawning an ancient 300_1805981stove-pipe hat. He stood straight and marched to the gate. “Morning !” he called out, as they clambered out of their new Buick hard top.

“Hi,” said the pasty white driver in Bermuda shorts. “We’re from Oak Park. Ya probably don’t know where that is, but it’s right by Chicago. We’re touring da Lincoln attractions. We’re on our way back from his birthplace in Kentucky. You look like da president himself. You got souvenirs for sale, do ya?”

“Yeap! Right this a-way.”

Here they came single file behind Clarence, Mr. Shorts followed by his two ladies, dressed fit to kill in the latest, latest suburban leisure wear, one as white as a termite pupa, the other bronzed and buttered. They minced along as if the very grass were vulgar. “Hi ya Huckleberry,” scoffed Mr. Shorts as he passed, with the ladies half smiling and avoiding my eyes.


I certainly needed a good reply, but all I managed was to look away mutely in my straw hat, bare feet and breeches rolled up to my knees, all spattered with mud from the rain-soaked barn lot. And I did no better when they passed by on their way back to their car.

“Well they’s gone, “said Clarence from behind. “Do ye still want to look at them play pretties?”


“They’s right where they was.”

I followed him back to the shed. His wares were crude, brightly painted yard ornaments and wind driven novelties, such as ducks and geese with whirligig wings or little men who rocked back and forth in the wind, sawing wood. He had wooden pistols and daggers. He had his shed piled with all sizes of lop-sided rocking chairs, some small enough for doll houses. I picked out a dirty pink one, about a hand and a half high. “Do you have any clappers?”


“Now what’s that?”

“John Best told me about…”

“Oh yea! The new one, little Barbara. Here,” he said, shoving a pile of noise makers at me.1680067534

I picked out one that seemed to work the best. “What do you want for this and the rocking chair?”

“Twenty-nine cents. Twenty-nine cents for each one.”

I pulled out my fist full of change and fingered the coins.

“There! Them two! Them two will do,” he said, pointing to a couple of quarters.


Clarence was slow witted, but he did support himself. Getting a driver’s license might have been beyond him, but he made toys and he helped roof barns, hoe and put up hay. There was indeed a place for him in the neighborhood. I think about this when we drive through modern places with assertive institutions and see bag ladies and bums living out of shopping carts. 


Tom Phipps

Review: A TALE OF TWO WORLDS by Susan Waterwyk

A Tale of Two Worlds, Amazon Imae


A Tale of Two Worlds

“The Earth, once asleep, has awakened, from deep in her belly come cries; her mountains interview 007 (3)1Waterwykand valleys are shaken and seas rise up to the skies.”

The ancient Keepers of Akosh can do nothing to prevent the catastrophes. They have known since the sinking of Atlantis that the living world of Earth would awaken. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis threaten the people of the Earth so the Keepers spent thousands of years terraforming the primitive world of Lantamyra to serve as a sanctuary for the refugees from Earth. Now the Gathering begins.

The dragons that rule the three Great Houses of Lantamyra need the giant myra crystals from Atlantis to strengthen the large array in the House of Gaia Jade to be able to return to their homeworld, Lanluong. The Keepers of Akosh authorize a mission to Earth to locate and retrieve the crystals before the earthquakes bury them deeper in the abysmal depths of the Atlantic Ocean.

Recently arrived from Earth, Tylya Lansing has been trained in the Secrets of the Ways and knows how to use the powerful myra crystals. She is now a keeper of dragons in the House of Gaia Jade, and her first-hand knowledge of modern Earth makes her the best candidate to command the mission to find and retrieve the lost crystals of Atlantis.

Tylya’s lover, Josh Hamilton is also from Earth and trained in the Ways but chose not to serve the dragons. He is a crystalseeker working in the mine at Queen’s Heart located near an active volcano. The job is extremely dangerous since long exposure to myra crystals causes crystal sickness, and worst of all, ghosts of seekers are hungry for living energy and they wait in the myra crystals to feed on him.

Tale of Two Worlds, Review

Tale of two Worlds, Thumbnail

I was enthralled from the very opening paragraph of a Tale of Two Worlds by Susan Waterwyk. This author artfully weaves together just the right balance of descriptive prose and dialogue. She creates a world so vivid and tangible the reader soon feels like a participant in the tale, rather than a mere observer.

A Tale of Two Worlds is the second book of Waterwyk’s planned trilogy about the fantastic world of Lantamyra where dragons rule fairly and justly over the humans that share that world with them. But, Lantamyra’s history is tied to two other “living worlds”, the dragon homeworld, Lanluong, and the human’s homeworld, Earth.

Long ago when the Keepers of Akosh learned to travel between the stars in their fantastic spaceships powered by giant myra crystals, they searched far and wide for other “living worlds” like their own. In time they found a number of these “living worlds” and used their great myra crystals to open portals to travel between them. Unwittingly, the keepers upset the balance of the dragon homeworld causing great upheavals which threatened the very existence of the dragons by the constant use of the portals.

As soon as the Keepers of Akosh realized what they had done they set about rescuing as many of the dragons as they could, relocating them to the safety of Lantamyra where the dragons ruled and lived in peace with the Keepers of Akosh and humans who had come there from Earth to serve dragonkind.

But the dragons longed for the day they might return to their own world of Lanluong and the Keepers felt honor bound to fulfill the dragon’s wish as soon as it was feasible. First however, they had to recover some of the giant myra crystals from the ancient site of Atlantis where the crystals had been submerged under the sea since the isle’s untimely demise.

Once the myra crystals were recovered there was one problem. There would be repercussions for using the crystals on such a massive scale again, only this time it would be planet Earth that would undergo horrendous upheavals that could entirely wipe out the human population. So the Keepers of Akosh had trained a number of chosen humans to aid in the “gathering” of a select number of the human race in order to prevent their extinction from the coming disaster and transport them to Lantamyra where they would be safe. In A Tale of Two Worlds this destined time is at hand.

A Tale of Two Worlds is a highly imaginative and enchanting tale surely destined to become a classic that the reader will remember long after the final page. It is time for “the gathering”. Read A Tale of two Worlds and hope you won’t be left behind.

Review by:
Carol Marrs Phipps



On summer evenings when I was a little squirt, I would bathe in a galvanized tub under the pear tree and put on my pajamas before running up and down the lane or fooling around in the garden whippoorwill00until dark. When I was old enough not to have the whip-poor-wills raise the hair on my arms, I could trot up and down the road, so long as I didn’t follow it so far down into the hollow that I couldn’t hear Mom when she called. As the cricket frogs began their chorus along the banks of the pond and the robins gave roosting calls in the orchard, the bull frogs would join in with their carboniferous grindings. And ‘way over east where the road climbed out of the hollow again, Horace Werden’s guinea hens would start their racket as they found their roosts in the trees about his one room log cabin.



4282148_1_lI was intrigued by Horace and his farm. It was a menagerie, a veritable wonderland of old machines standing in the horse weeds left by the hogs. From imageshis sagging gate, I could see two or three old cars with wooden spoked wheels, a collapsing threshing machine and an iron lugged McCormick tractor. He had a lotmccormick-deering-hand-crank-start-tractor-daniel-hagerman more old implements than could be seen from the road, though. I understood that he had an old steam engine and a Fordson_TractorFordson tractor and a Maxwell touring car, and I longed to go see them. He was called Stormy though, and was said to take an especially dim view of trespassers, so I knew better than to wander onto his place by myself.


I would see him drive by every day in his old blue Buick with plywood replacing one of its windows, on his way to town to see to his several rental properties. He had acquired the deeds to more than a score of houses during the Depression, when he and Fanny had run a grocery store before she had divorced him. Every Christmas he’d call with a huge box of chocolates for us and sit in the kitchen, visiting for an hour or two.


On one such occasion, he stepped in with his arm in a sling and his overcoat about his shoulders like a cape . He grabbed at his shabby felt hat as his box of candy tried to slip away from under his elbow. “Mercy!” he said. “I’d be more dignified if I could see where I was a-going,”

“Let me wipe off your glasses, Horace,” said Mom. “I’m doing laundry in the basement and everything’s steamed over.”

“What the dickens did you tangle with?” said Dad at the sight of the black and blue streak on the side of his head. “Better let me get your coat.”


Horace sat down with a stiff plump. “Eyeballs,” he said, donning his glasses. “I j’ined a Christmas party with my tenants where I was guest of honor, by God! I’ve got this young buck Irishman from Chicago who rents the whole downstairs of the house I’ve got on seventh street. He’s on the first string of Eastern’s football team. His head’s bigger’n the football he throws. School treats him like some kind o’ mascot.

“Well I called on him and the liquor was just a-flowing! He had a bunch o’ his chums in there, letter jackets and all. It’s a mercy theah was no women. Anyway he wasn’t one bit pleased to see me. All I wanted was his arrears. He was just as disrespectful as he could be and one word led to another and directly he took a big step up and hit me in the head! Well by God, I picked up a chair and broke it up all over ‘im, and put the Goddamned son of a bitch in the hospital, I did!


“Mercy, mercy Hilda! It’s times like these ye got to forgive a fellow’s delivery. You know, that was a good hickory caned chair. I don’t know why I ever let them use my furniture. He got me with a floor lamp before I was done with him, but I put him on the floor and give him a proper lesson on the err of his ways with a leg from that bu’sted chair. There for a spell, I thought to my stars that I’d killed him, but he started rolling around a-moaning and a-carrying on by the time the ambulance got there. Made me feel like whacking him some more. ‘Course I didn’t.”

“What kind of shape’s the kid in?” said Dad. “Have you found out?”

“He’s still in the hospital, I reckon. I went to see the president of that whore house of a college, this morning. I had to find him at home. They’ve started their holiday. You ought to see the house that curse is holed up in. We’re a-paying for it with state money, don’t you know. He let me stand in the doorway and talked to me just as smooth as if gravy didn’t run down his chin. Oh, he knew that player all right. Said his daddy was some big lawyer who wrote a big check to Eastern at their last banquet. He said he’d look into it.”


“Uh, oh!” said Dad. “Those types will sue you. Give ’em a slick sidewalk and they’ll take your farm.”

“No problem there, Harry. If he ain’t learnt his manners yet, I’ve still got my chair leg.”

Tom Phipps