by Bobbi Holmes
This is a story I wrote a number of years ago.
My mother always claimed she wasn’t a cat person. Dogs were her preferred pet. It wasn’t that she disliked cats. In truth, Mother loved all animals. She adorned her home with paintings showcasing a variety of wild animals, from cougars to wolves. And while cats weren’t her chosen pet, she was often their choice.
The first cat to come into our household was a feline simply named Mother Cat. Mother Cat first strayed to my sister’s bedroom window, eagerly searching for a handout. This battered, worn, short-haired huntress awaited the baloney and milk my sister and I secretly offered from the open window.
These clandestine meals went on for several weeks until my mom realized why this stray was lingering by our home. Her first reaction was to discourage this animal, certain my father would be unhappy with a new pet.
Ceasing the handouts did not daunt Mother Cat. She persistently staked her claim to her new-found home. When an attempt to actively discourage the animal failed, Mom tried something drastic, especially for an animal lover. She filled a plastic bag with water and threw it on the stray. Mother Cat, drenched to the bone, shook off the water and stood her ground, looking pitifully into Mom’s eyes. My mother, overcome by the callousness of her own actions, sat down on our front steps and broke into tears. The cat was ours. Or should I say we were hers.
Mother Cat came and went at will. Several days after the drenching, she brought us a gift; a wild little ball of gray fur. The kitten we named Walter, in honor of my father, whose own head of hair was prematurely gray.
As the months passed, Walter Cat grew into a beautiful long-haired feline who often fooled people into believing his lineage was Persian Blue rather than alley cat. Walter, whose first weeks were spent living as a wild creature, was always elusive and timid.
About a year after Mother Cat came to us her origins were revealed to our family. A neighbor from down the street came to speak to my mom and spied Mother Cat.
“That’s our cat!” she exclaimed. “I wondered where she went.”
“Oh?” my mother quietly replied.
“She looks pretty good,” the woman mused. “She had kittens and our dog kept killing them,” the woman explained. Then she suddenly spied our beautiful, sweet natured Walter Cat, who was lazily sunning on the porch.
“And that’s one of our kittens!” the woman announced possessively.
“Oh no,” Mother interrupted quickly, fearing the woman was about to lay claim to our precious Walter, “We’ve had that cat for years.”
Several days later the neighbor’s teenage daughter appeared, laying claim to Mother Cat. The girl told us her cat’s true name. It was long and exotic, an Egyptian sounding name, difficult to recall. The girl snatched up Mother Cat and carried her home. Mother Cat returned that afternoon.
Mother Cat and Walter remained with us. Although they were never our cats, our home was theirs.
When Walter was a little over a year old, we noticed his mother was once again pregnant. This of course was in the days when controlling the pet population was not yet an issue. My sister and I were delighted.
Father, who was a contractor, had his office located in the garage. One day my mother decided to fix a comfy bed for the new family and placed it in Dad’s office. She busily filled a large clean box with soft rags, arranging the material carefully. My dad noticed her activity and inquired as to what she was doing. He laughed heartily after she told him.
Dad sweetly reminded Mom that cats have kittens wherever they choose and she was wasting her time deciding such a location for this very independent outdoor feline. Yet, Dad soon discovered he couldn’t have been more wrong. One day, while doing bookwork in his office, he heard noise coming from the box Mom had prepared. There he found Mother Cat giving birth to four mice-like creatures. One would eventually resemble Mother Cat, another favored Walter, the third looked like Sylvester the cartoon cat, and the fourth was a calico, whom I named Gypsy.
Our greatest concern for the kittens was the threat of Walter. We had always heard that male cats kill kittens. My mother went to great lengths to separate Walter from his siblings. But much to her chagrin she soon discovered he was not only visiting his new brother and sisters, but tending for them as would his mother. We were also surprised to find this large, overgrown, Persian Blue look-alike, nursing from his mother.
Later, Mother Cat moved the kittens from the box and began stashing them in assorted locations in the garage. She must not have felt the box offered adequate protection for her offspring.
Once again, my mother intervened and moved all the kittens into a ski boat stored in the garage. Mother Cat loved it there. She could come and go at will, while her kittens were well protected.
Although the kitten experience was exciting, my parents felt it would be prudent to spay Mother Cat before more kittens arrived. The vet informed us the cat’s milk needed to be dried up prior to the operation.
Dad’s solution was to place chicken wire over the boat, preventing Mother Cat from visiting the kittens. The clever cat out maneuvered Dad. We soon found her laying atop the barrier, her nipples dangling through the chicken wire and the kittens standing on their hind legs eagerly nursing.
When it was time for the kittens to leave the boat, we found homes for three and kept the calico. As the weeks progressed our family became cat observers. We marveled as Mother Cat carefully trained Gypsy. The kitten would find her way up our large oak tree. Should she get stuck, Mother Cat would patiently follow her into the tree and lead her down.
We eventually decided to spay Gypsy, as we had her mother. When Walter came home after his first big fight, my parents decided it was time for him to be neutered.
Our three cats never allowed us to take part in their lives, yet they enriched ours. Our home was located in the country, surrounded by oaks, adjacent to a running creek. The backside of our house was a wall of glass doors, looking out to a rustic decking and the outskirts of a wooded area. Through the glass, we spent countless hours observing the relationship between these three animals.
Mother Cat was undoubtedly the dominate, although Gypsy unsuccessfully challenged her dominance throughout their relationship. Walter was simply a mama’s boy, and I’m sure the idea of standing up to his mother never once entered his feline brain. Gypsy, the same fiercely independent animal who tried to match her mother, would turn to a lovesick kitten when near Walter. She adored him. While Walter could never stand up to his mother, he was Gypsy’s master; only because the calico allowed it.
Our back yard became a theater, and as each year passed we watched the unfolding lives of these three animals. They rarely allowed us close enough to pet them and had no tolerance for even a short session of human affection. Yet, they knew they could trust us.
Once my parents heard Walter crying pitifully on the back porch. A thorn had wound tightly around his fur causing the animal great pain. The only way to alleviate the problem was to carefully cut a long strip of fur from his back. Amazingly, Walter, the cat who rarely allowed you close enough to pet him, sat perfectly still for over thirty minutes as my father slowly cut the offending thorn from his fur.
The only significant problem the cats posed came from Mother Cat. Within our house lived a yellow canary named Dicky Bird. Dicky was Mother Cat’s obsession. On sunny days, my mother would place Dicky’s cage in front of a glass window. There Dicky would sing for hours. Outside, sitting up motionless, only her tail swishing from side to side, was Mother Cat. She would concentrate on the pet bird, calculating ways in which to enter our house.
She wanted that bird. She wanted him badly. Several times each year, usually when a large group of people were visiting, Mother Cat would manage to sneak inside. My mother normally kept a close eye on our eldest feline and should the cat sneak past the guard, Mom would yell, “the bird!” and we’d all race to the rescue.
Once, after many years of trying, Mother Cat managed to break poor Dicky’s wing. But, like the cartoon Tweedy Bird, Dicky survived. In fact, the vet told my father he’d never seen a canary that was so old, his feathers had turned gray.
The cats had been with our family for several years when we had to move. Our new home was located even more remotely, in the desert along a lake. There was never a question about if we would take the cats with us or leave them.
Sadly, all three animals contacted cat fever shortly after we relocated. We were able to promptly deliver Walter and Mother Cat to the vet for treatment. But our stubborn little Gypsy just wouldn’t be taken. Some say cats leave home when they are ill, finding a place to die alone. This is apparently what Gypsy wanted to do.
After numerous attempts to catch Gypsy, my father finally succeeded. Almost. He instructed me to fetch a pillow case, in which to drop our wild little calico, and then she could be taken in for treatment. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong pillowcase, for when we dropped her into it, she slipped through a tear in the bottom of the pillowcase.
By the time Gypsy made it to the vet it was too late. The feline who adored her brother and challenged her mother was gone.
Walter survived cat fever and adapted to his new home. Yet, several years later he contracted an inoperable disk problem. My father, the man who never wanted cats, was forced to put down his namesake. Dad was crushed. He vowed he’d never again personally put down an animal.
Mother Cat was once again alone. She mastered the desert wilderness, including warning us of rattlesnakes. Once my father pulled a nasty trick on the old girl. As she was approaching a hose, Dad quickly jerked it, making the poor animal believe it was a snake. She literally jumped several feet, straight up into the air.
She enjoyed visiting the nearby lake and was known to nap in the boats moored at the docks. Perhaps it brought back some wonderful memories of her time with the kittens in our ski boat.
One afternoon my mother, who frequently fed the wild animals, placed a cup of cottage cheese on a large flat rock by our front window. Much to Mother’s amazement, she witnessed Mother Cat eating from one side of the rock, and there, on the opposite side was a young coyote, eating his share of the cottage cheese. The two animals seemed to be oblivious to the other’s existence. Suddenly, Mother Cat looked up, and was more than startled to discover her lunch companion. Cautiously, Mother Cat, her fur standing on end, slowly backed away from the cottage cheese, wisely leaving it to the coyote, who never acknowledged the cat’s presence.
Mother Cat was with our family for about ten years. Then one day she simply disappeared. We don’t know what happened to her. She wasn’t sick, so we don’t think she went off, something Gypsy tried desperately to do. I hope she didn’t grow careless and fall prey to a coyote. Perhaps she fell asleep in someone’s boat and was taken away to discover a new home. She may have left, but the memories she brought us will always remain.
When any of the ghost-seeing-characters of Haunting Danielle encounters a spirit, the spirit typically looks like it did when he or she was alive—maybe a younger or older version. For a spirit with dramatic flair, like Eva Thorndike, mist or other ghostly special effects might be involved.
But of course, there is another type of ghost—the bedsheet ghost–that classic Halloween costume made from a white bedsheet, with two eyes cut out. I suspect the bedsheet ghost may have inspired the cartoonists behind Casper the Ghost.
But who inspired the bedsheet ghost?
According to an article on The Ghost Story, the white bedsheet ghost evolved from the custom of corpses in early Britain being wrapped in white cloth for burial—typically without a coffin. Therefore, one way to scare people into believing you were the departed—dress up in a sheet-like cloth.
An article on TVTropes tells a similar story, but credits the bedsheet adaptation (inspired by burial shrouds) as a way for an actor in the 1800s to be more easily recognized as a ghost when portraying one on stage.
A Daily Beast article, Who Invented the ‘Bedsheet Ghost’ tells a similar story, crediting the theatre for bringing us the bedsheet ghost.
Since burial shrouds aren’t really a thing anymore—at least not in this country—I’d suspect today’s ghosts would look more like Walt and the other spirits of the Haunting Danielle series.
Our Road to Travel
A Short Story by Bobbi Holmes
“We won’t need to see you again for another six months, Mrs. Smith. How would November 8th work for you?” the woman behind the counter at the doctor’s office asked me.
November 8th, how in the hell would I know? They always ask me questions like that, as if I actually know what my plans will be six months down the road. Perhaps the better question, will I even be alive in six months to make any November appointment?
Instead I told her, “Yes, that will be fine.”
“Would you prefer morning or afternoon?”
Let me grab my appointment calendar and see what I’ve got booked for November 8th. Considering my recent social schedule, I might have something exciting planned, like a dentist appointment, meet up with the eye doctor, or a blood test.
“Mornings would be best,” I told her.
“Oh, looks like you have a birthday this week. Happy birthday!”
“Yes, Saturday, thank you.” I started feeling guilty for my silent annoyance. The girl was just doing her job, and she was trying to be friendly.
“Oh, Mrs. Smith, there must be a mistake in the records.” She frowned as she glanced from the file sitting next to her computer, up to my face.
“We must have noted your year of birth incorrectly.” She then read the birth year they had on file for me.
“No, that’s correct,” I told her.
By her puzzled expression, I knew what she was thinking. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard it. Compared to other women my age, I don’t look like someone nearing her 85th birthday. Good genes combined with the fact I never smoked blessed me with a youthful complexion.
Just because I don’t lead an active social life—there are no trips to the senior center, bingo party, or some woman’s church group—doesn’t give me reason to neglect my appearance. I’ve never considered going gray, and unlike my older sister who has been wearing the same hairstyle for the last forty years, my hairdresser keeps me discretely in style.
A decade or so ago I was my dentist’s first patient to have her teeth whitened. It’s true; a bright smile removes years from a person’s appearance. I’ve always taken good care of my teeth. Until a year ago, I could boast (to just myself, of course) that I still had them all. I suppose I technically still do, but six months ago the dentist capped my two front teeth, due to hairline fractures.
Weight also ages a woman. Too thin brings out the wrinkles and too heavy adds years. Unless illness befalls me, I will never be willow thin like some women my age. I’m probably ten pounds thinner than I was ten years ago. I try to eat a healthy, well balanced diet. I regularly read the food labels when grocery shopping, something that seems to annoy my daughter. I wish she would pay a bit more attention to what she is eating.
I make an assertive effort to consume my daily share of almonds, prunes, oatmeal, and fruit to minimize my need for pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, my doctor insists I need both blood pressure and cholesterol medications.
Glaucoma took my mother’s sight. Thus far I’ve kept my glaucoma under control, yet the glare is becoming more an issue of late, and I’ve asked my daughter if we can tint the window in my sitting room. Currently, I am forced to keep the curtains shut due to the blinding glare.
When I finally made it back to the waiting room I found my daughter there. I wondered how long she had been waiting. Normally she runs errands while I visit the doctor, and she waits for me to call her on my cellphone before coming for me.
I try to schedule my appointments so I’m not too much of an inconvenience for Kathy. She works from home, so her schedule is flexible. Yet, I know how she hates running errands and shopping. I gave up my driver’s license years ago. In truth, it was not a great sacrifice. I learned to drive in my thirties and never felt comfortable behind the wheel.
Going from the subdued office lighting to the bright sunlight makes it difficult for me to see. My daughter, Kathy, momentarily forgets that as she marches on ahead, leaving me stumbling nervously on the sidewalk; I’m afraid I might trip. She is forever telling me to stay off the step-ladder (which I need to reach the top shelf in my closet), treating me like some foolish child, reminding me I might break a hip. Ironically, if I break my hip it probably won’t be from a step-ladder fall, but a sidewalk I couldn’t maneuver.
Kathy looked back to see where I was and obviously remembered her oversight. Rushing to my side, she guided me by my elbow, apologized, and then helped me to the car.
During the day, Kathy spends hours in front of her computer. When my son-in-law gets home in the evening, I try to stay in my area of the house, so they can have some privacy. We may reside under the same roof, but I spend little time with my daughter. I wonder if she realizes how little time there really is in life.
When we got home, I was greeted by a phone call from my older daughter, Connie. My husband and I were blessed with two daughters, Connie and Kathy. I’m grateful they are close, like best friends. I love my only sister, but she and I have never been close.
I was much closer to my brothers. I had three of them. In some ways my parents had two families. First came the three boys, and then years later my sister arrived. Dad was thrilled to finally get a girl, yet she didn’t turn out to be the sweet little girl he imagined. Oh, he adored her, but she was always a tomboy with a volatile temper. I arrived two years later, a mistake. However, I never felt like a mistake. I was the surprise blessing, the little girl they had been waiting for.
All but my sister, Mildred, are now gone. I was just a child when Daddy died. I think it was harder on Mildred than on me. I was always a mama’s girl. Mama has been gone for over thirty years now. No one has a clue how profoundly I still miss her. The youngest of the brothers died when we were all young adults. My eldest brother passed away not long after Mama. Days after my husband, Robert, died I lost my last brother.
Of course, they were much older than Robert. Robert was in his early sixties when he died, a lingering death that took two years to complete the unsavory task. Kathy was there, as was our son-in-law, helping us get Robert to the hospital twice a week for medical treatments and witnessing the drastic change in my husband’s personality.
Once, when Kathy expressed her frustration, I gently reminded her it would be over soon enough. I think she forgot her father wasn’t going to live forever, and he really was reaching the end of his road. She preferred to relish in her annoyance at the inconvenience as opposed to facing the harsh truth of death’s finality. Don’t misunderstand me—Kathy loved her daddy dearly. But I suppose we all cope with death in our own way.
“Mom, Uncle Ed called me about Aunt Mildred,” Connie told me. By then, I was sitting in my leather recliner in my small sitting room taking Connie’s call.
“What’s wrong?” I normally spoke to Mildred on a daily basis. She and Ed had moved into the Masonic home almost ten years earlier, a move Mildred resisted yet one Ed had been looking forward to since he was a young man. It was something I always found peculiar. With me living in Texas and Mildred and Ed living in California, we were lucky if we saw each other once a year.
“They’ve moved Mildred into her own room.” I knew immediately what that meant, and my heart fell to the floor. A separate room meant assisted living. They would eventually give Ed a smaller room, where he could go on living independently at the home—free from the burdens of an ailing wife. She would hate it there; I knew Mildred. I told myself I needed to call my nephew, their only child, and make sure he checked on his mother. I didn’t particularly trust Ed to act in the best interest of my sister.
When I finally got off the phone, I went into the living room to tell Kathy the news. I found her sitting on the couch, her laptop computer propped up on her knees.
“Poor Auntie Mildred,” Kathy said sympathetically, after I told her. Maybe Mildred and I were never close like Kathy and Connie, but she tried to be a good aunt to my daughters. I always knew Mildred was jealous, never having daughters of her own. During our regular phone conversations she would remind me of how lucky I was to have two such wonderful girls, commenting how they were always there for me.
Daughters, they are a blessing. I adore my three grandsons, but I wish Connie had also been blessed with a daughter, as was Kathy.
Kathy’s oldest is a boy—my first grandchild. Oh, how I adored that boy. I was never one who longed for grandchildren, and I was quite surprised how totally in love I was with that child—so was Robert. Robert swore he only wanted girls, but when his first grandson, Bobby, arrived, he was over the moon.
Bobby and I were close. He called me Ma, and I remember how he and his younger sister would race after our car when we had to go home, both crying for us to return. Today he is in his early thirties, and I am lucky if he calls me two or three times a year. I can’t really complain, he doesn’t call his mother much either, and when he was little, he was even closer to her.
Connie’s two sons are good boys. Well actually, all three of my grandsons are good boys. Although, they are now men. Her oldest is attending college in Colorado, and I see him as often as I do my eldest grandson. Of the three boys, Jeff, Connie’s youngest, makes more of an effort to reach out to me. Perhaps it is because he is the only one of the three with a child. Family is important to Jeff. I like to think Jeff and I have a special bond.
My only granddaughter, Charlotte, is a constant reminder of why I find daughters so special. Of the four, she lives the farthest away—in Hawaii. Her husband is in the military. In spite of that, she talks daily to her mother on the phone, and she calls me at least once a week.
She’s given me two beautiful great-grandchildren—a boy and a girl. I’ve yet to meet the grandson, but she is coming for a visit in four months. One of the sweetest things she ever shared with me came up when we were discussing guardianship of her children, if the unthinkable ever happened.
“If something had happened to my parents, I would have wanted to live with you, not Aunt Connie,” she told me. I was shocked. Connie adores Charlotte, and the feeling is mutual. Yet, Charlotte explained that for as much as she loved her aunt, I would be the one she felt more at home with if she had lost her parents.
“Mom, this has been a rough few months for you, I’m really sorry,” Kathy commented, as I sat down on the loveseat across from her. She was right, it had been. Last month I lost my last first-cousin, Virginia. Several weeks ago one of my dear friends, George, died from cancer. While I hadn’t seen either in years, I exchanged regular phone calls with both of them.
“I’m also worried about Rachel.” I reminded Kathy. Rachel is another friend of mine, who I keep in touch with by phone. The last time we spoke she was recuperating from a car accident, and she didn’t sound good. When I tried calling her yesterday her phone was disconnected.
“You don’t have her daughter’s phone number?” Kathy asked.
“No, she lives somewhere in Alaska. I don’t remember her last name.”
“Do you want me to check online?” I knew what Kathy meant: the online obituaries. I told her yes, and gave her Rachel’s full name and the town she lived in. I sat quietly as Kathy’s fingers flew over the keyboard, making the search.
“I’m sorry, Mom.”
Something twisted inside of me. Instinctively I knew she wasn’t sorry because she couldn’t find Kate, but because she had.
“When?” I asked.
“Last week. The funeral is tomorrow.”
There was no way I could get to the funeral. I didn’t know any of those people anyway. It seemed all my friends had died already.
“I might as well take my phone out,” I said ruefully. “I can save myself twenty bucks a month.”
Kathy looked at me sympathetically.
My husband had been gone for over twenty years. My best friend had left me a decade ago, yet was still alive. Alzheimer’s took her from me.
Over the last twenty years my good friends have been disappearing—one by one—a steady procession, leaving me behind with my youthful skin, straight white teeth, and stylish hairdo.
I tried to be funny, but this wasn’t funny. Soon, I would have no one left to talk to on the phone. I missed my husband, my parents, my siblings, and my friends. They all left without me.
Kathy set the computer on the coffee table, stood up and, gave me a hug. She told me she loved me and promised me a special day for my birthday. She promised she’d spend the entire day with me. I wondered if she meant it or was again treating me like the child I wasn’t.
I had lost my appetite by the time dinner hour rolled around. Forcing myself to eat, I nibbled on a small portion of chicken, a few carrot sticks, and drank a glass of milk. Emotionally drained, I took an early shower and went to bed.
I’d been asleep for several hours when I rolled over and bumped into Robert. Drowsily, I opened my eyes and saw him sitting up in bed next to me, leaning against a pile of pillows. I’d left the bathroom light on, which helped illuminate my bedroom.
“Are you watching me sleep?” I asked, noting his intent expression.
“You seemed a little depressed tonight.”
“Rachel died,” I told him.
“Yes, I know.”
“Mildred isn’t doing well.”
“No, she isn’t. She’ll be going soon. It’s her time.”
“Robert, I hate this. Everyone is leaving me. I don’t want to stay here anymore.”
“Sweetheart,” Robert said gently, reaching out to brush my forehead. “You have Kathy and Connie, the grandkids, not to mention those beautiful great-grandbabies. Plus, you have a world full of new-friends to meet.”
“I’m too tired and too old to meet new friends,” I said stubbornly. He only laughed.
“It was always difficult for you to meet new people. But your family still needs you here. The rest of us will be waiting when it’s your time. But, you’ve a bit more road left to travel.”
“Do they really need me? I think I’m just in Kathy’s way.”
“Trust me, she needs you. Remember how she was when it was my time? Angry at me for being sick. She wasn’t annoyed because I was a nuisance, she was angry because I was preparing to leave.”
“She doesn’t act like she needs me. And I try to be helpful around here. I help with the housework, do the laundry.”
“She doesn’t need you that way. She needs you like you needed your Mama. Don’t you remember?”
I thought of my Mama and tears filled my eyes. I wanted to go to her, but something held me back.
“Maybe Kathy doesn’t always act like it,” he went on, “but she loves you dearly. She considers you one of her best friends. I also know our other daughter and our grandchildren feel the same way. So remember, even if many of your older friends have moved on, you’ve some precious ones who continue to need you in their lives.”
I sleepily closed my eyes and rolled over. I had a longer road to travel, and I was grateful Robert reminded me I would have plenty of companionship along the way. I would eventually get to the end of the road—just not as soon as many of my old friends.
Originally published as Traveling Companion, under the pen name, Anna J. McIntyre.
I’ve had readers tell me one reason they like the Haunting Danielle series is because they find it realistic. I always find that interesting considering one of the main characters is a ghost. It made me wonder, how many of my readers believe in ghosts?
You want to take the poll? It only takes a minute!
Going through the pictures stored on my computer I came across this photo taken about eleven years ago. It’s the one and only day I’ve ever been in jail. To be honest, it was for charity, a Jailathon fundraiser for our local museum.
The jail is the real deal, used in the early days of Lake Havasu City, a place where authorities would hold prisoners until they were either released or transferred to Kingman. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be locked up in that thing during the summer. It can get over 120° here!
When my author friends share a positive message from a reader—where the reader enjoyed the story enough to contact the author—a common response is something along the line of, “That’s what makes this all worth it!” Now if the reader tells the author the story changed his or her life for the better, magnify the sentiment a hundredfold.
While readers’ positive feedback definitely make it all worth it—it’s not necessarily why most of us write. If that were the case, it would mean writers are nothing more than attention seekers, whose primary goal is to get positive feedback.
The fact is, most writers would probably keep writing if no one ever read our words. Many of the writers I know tend to be introverts and probably have a stack of unread manuscripts, poems, essays, or short stories stashed away.
So, what does it really mean to a writer when a reader sends encouraging words? When a reader tells you your words mattered, or pleads with you for more? I can’t speak for all writers, but for me, it’s the added whipped cream.
And that added whipped cream encourages me not necessarily to write (something I am compelled to do anyway) but it encourages me to publish. It also fuels my creative energy to continue writing along a specific storyline, such as with the Haunting Danielle Series.
To my readers who have taken the time to send me kind words of encouragement, who have left positive reviews or comments on Facebook or my blog—thank you for being my muse, and for the helping of whipped cream atop the slice of chocolate cake that is my writing career.
Almost six years ago, on May 24, 2011, I posted an article I had written on my Havasu Magazine website entitled Ron LaRue, a Havasu Character. Since that time, I have turned my attention to my fiction writing, and the Havasu Magazine website has been revamped and minimalized—which included removing most of the content. I simply no longer had the time to keep it fresh and updated.
However, there were some articles I removed that I want to share here. One of those was about Ron LaRue.
Ron LaRue, a Havasu Character
by Bobbi Ann Johnson Holmes
Ron LaRue bore a striking resemblance to his handsome father, western star, Lash LaRue. Unlike his famous dad, Ron didn’t crave the limelight, yet he did have a zest for life.
I first met Ron LaRue and his wife Patti in the summer of 2002, when Don and I went to work for McCulloch Realty. Like Don and I, Ron and Patti were a husband and wife real estate team. It was after Ron invited us to join them on their annual Lake Powell houseboat trip in 2005 that we became good friends, not just co-workers.
Ron was diagnosed with skin cancer shortly after we went to work for McCulloch Realty. What I recall most about Ron’s fight with cancer, he continued to live, throw himself into those things that interested him, and never seemed to complain.
During his final weeks, when confined at home, yet still cognitive and not yet restricted to his bed, I interviewed Ronnie. We met for the afternoon, me with tape recorder in hand and a list of questions, while we discussed Ronnie’s rich and rewarding life. Several weeks after the interview, Ronnie passed away.
Ron LaRue was born Ronald Alfred Wilson on October 24, 1937, to parents Alfred Wilson and Wilda Cruthers Wilson, in San Francisco California. Ron’s parents were about 18 years old, in love, and Alfred, like Alfred’s mother, was a hairdresser. Alfred had not yet become an entertainer and hadn’t yet changed his surname to LaRue.
According to Wikipedia, Alfred “Lash” LaRue was born Alfred LaRue in Louisiana, yet notes that California death records cite Alfred’s father’s surname as Wilson, and that Alfred was born in Michigan. According to Ronnie, the LaRue was his father’s invention, a stage name he assumed as his legal name. Ron eventually legally changed his own surname from Wilson to LaRue.
Another discrepancy on Wikipedia is Lash’s birthday. Wikipedia cites Lash LaRue’s birth year as 1921, while the California Death Index at Ancestry.com lists the birth year as 1917, which corresponds with the information given to me by Ronnie.
By the time World War II broke out Ron’s parents separated, and Wilda moved to southern California with her young son. Wilda’s parents were longtime residents of San Francisco, but Wilda thought Southern California of the 1940’s would be a healthier environment for her son.
Shortly after Ron and his mother moved to Southern California Alfred moved to the area. Yet, it was not for a reconciliation. After about eight years of marriage Alfred and Wilda officially divorced. Alfred pursued his career as an entertainer, creating the western persona known as Lash LaRue, with his trademark whip.
Wilda was a secretary and researcher working for writer Erwin Stone and for the motion picture industry. She was an expert in the Wyatt Earp era. She would often take her son to lunch at the commissary at the Desilu Studios, yet Ron wasn’t impressed with the Hollywood glitz, nor was he interested in pursuing a career in the motion picture industry.
Ron lived with his mother in Laurel Canyon, California. Coincidently, his father also lived in Laurel Canyon. Yet, until Ron was about 12 years old he rarely, if ever, saw his father. That all changed shortly before his teen years.
Ron told me, “When I was twelve years old I was on my way home, and he had a Cadillac convertible. It had a piece of leather on the side of the car door that said Lash. I hadn’t seen him for a long time, I said, you know what, my dad lives in that house over there, and I knocked on the door…I went up and knocked on the door and said, is Lash here? And they said who are you? Tell him his son is out here.”
After that, Ron saw his father regularly, with the approval of his mother. According to Ronnie, throughout the years Lash and Wilda had an amicable relationship. Wilda married four times, and according to Ron, Lash married about 16 times. One piece of advice Lash gave his son, never talk poorly of an ex-wife, after all…you married her.
Early Years in Laurel Canyon
Ron’s childhood memories included hiking through the canyon and riding his bike. He loved anything mechanical, was passionate about motorcycles and automobiles, and couldn’t wait to get his first car, which was a black, 1940 Chevy.
Ron was also an animal lover, and one of his first pets was a cat, which he hauled with him everywhere, in the basket of his bike.
He attended Hollywood High School during the Rick and David Nelson era, who also attended Hollywood High. Ricky was younger than Ron, and David was older.
Ron’s First Marriage
Ron’s first marriage was to Marlene, granddaughter of evangelist Aimee McPherson, when he was about 18 years old. They first met when he attended a football game at her high school. Ron was immediately smitten, and they lived together for a while before marrying, which was quite scandalous for the era and frowned upon by Marlene’s parents. The famous grandmother had passed away years earlier.
The marriage only lasted for about three years and produced Ron’s only biological child. Ron said he and Marlene fought like cats and dogs and had a turbulent relationship.
Traveling the Carnie Circuit with Lash LaRue
During his first marriage, for the three years after graduating high school Ron and his bride joined Lash LaRue on the road, living the carnival life. The carnival included a freak show, western show, black show, female dancers, and sometimes motorcycles.
They worked during the summer season, staying a week or so in one spot, traveling the Canada circuit. During the first year they traveled the Royal American, a railroad show, and stayed in a stateroom car.
Ron helped keep his dad’s books, worked the midway, and was a barker, calling out to the potential audience. Sometimes there would be friendly competition between the western show and girl’s show, to see who could attract more of an audience.
Ron recalls the experience was a good one, which he enjoyed. Since it was his father’s show, Ron was granted much leeway in how he performed his duties. In later years, Ron was not anxious to do a great deal of traveling, as he’d traveled so much during those brief years with the carnival.
College, the Military, and Beyond
When not with the carnival, Ron attended LA City College, majoring in psychology. Initially he wanted to get into business law. Yet, he only finished about two years of college and went into the army in 1960.
Ron stayed stateside during his army years, advancing to Sergeant within two years, spending most of the time in New York. He considered making it a career and looked back fondly and with pride at his three years in the service.
Ultimately, Ron chose his son over a career in the military. By the time Ronnie joined the army, he was divorced from Marlene and seeing a preacher’s daughter named Elaine, who would become his second wife. While he was in the service, Marlene took her own life. After Marlene’s death, Ron felt it best to get out of the service to care for his son.
After Ron got out of the military he worked for the Teamsters and then for Anheuser-Bush, from which he eventually retired.
Ron and Patti
Ron met Patti long before she and he began to date. Patti’s brother-in-law from her first marriage was Wilda’s third husband, and Ron was close friends with Patti’s husband. When Patti went into labor with her daughter Debbie, she and Debbie’s father were having dinner with Ron and Elaine. Ron drove Patti to the hospital, and according to Patti Ron saw Debbie before she did.
That first meeting with Debbie must have been providence, for when we knew Ronnie, Debbie was as much a daughter to him as she was to Patti, and he adored Debbie’s children. He told me he enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren and being part of their lives.
Ron and Patti got together years later, when Patti moved from Texas to California, and both were divorced. Ron and Patti married in 1972, yet the marriage ended in divorce in 1983. They continued to live together amicably for another year in separate rooms while their house was for sale. After going their separate ways for a time, they reunited and remarried. They remained together until Ronnie’s death on December 12, 2007.
Passion for Life
One thing I remember vividly about Ronnie is how he would throw himself into his passions. In 1980 that passion was flying. He earned his Instrument Rating, Commercial Rating, and became a certified flight instructor. He would have loved a full time flying career, yet by the time he became a pilot, he was considered too old to take it up as a full-time profession.
He became a licensed real estate agent in 1993 and retired from Bush the following year and moved to Lake Havasu City with his wife Patti. He was a top producer with Century 21 and eventually moved to McCulloch Realty. After McCulloch Realty sold to Coldwell Banker, he and Patti moved to Heirloom Realty.
His stepdaughter Debbie also moved to Lake Havasu City and lived practically next door to Ron and Patti. It afforded Ron and Patti ample time to spend with their family, something they both enjoyed. Ron told me he loved Lake Havasu City and that it offered everything he enjoyed.
In his later years, Ronnie became passionate about competitive shooting. We were working with him and Patti at Heirloom Realty, and there were frequent ammunition deliveries to the office. We often teased him that our office was probably on some terrorist watch list.
Ron loved to share his passions. If he thought someone was interested in shooting, even if he barely knew the person, Ron would readily take him or her to the shooting range.
Lake Powell Houseboat Trips
Ronnie loved to water ski and his favorite vacation destination was house boating on Lake
Powell. Don and I joined Ron and Patti on their last two houseboat trips in 2005 and 2006. We weren’t scheduled to go on the 2007 trip, as we had other family commitments, yet by the time the trip rolled around Ron wasn’t up to making the voyage. Instead of house boating that summer we threw a “mock” houseboat trip at Lake Havasu City, gathering together the friends who normally joined them on Lake Powell. It was a special week.
During the interview, I asked Ron a couple random questions. I asked him to recall his favorite childhood memory. He thought a moment and then told me that his grandmother and aunt shared an apartment, and he remembered one Christmas they celebrated there, and recalled the lighting of the tree in the evening. I asked him what made it special; he said he enjoyed having all the people together, the festivities, such as singing Christmas carols and the tree lighting.
Ron the Preacher
I asked Ron about his religious beliefs. His mother’s second husband was Jewish, and during his youth, to please a stepfather he liked, he converted to Judaism. The conversion only lasted as long as the marriage, which was about three years. During those years, they didn’t celebrate Christmas, but they did celebrate Hanukah. Ron told me he considered himself a Christian.
At one time Ron seriously considered attending Bible school. It wasn’t from an overwhelming desire to be closer to God, but a more practical consideration, as he felt he would be able to make a good living as a preacher, seeing himself in the same light as many other charismatic evangelist preachers, considering his experience in the carnival circuit.
While Ron didn’t pursue his notion of becoming a preacher, he reached out in other constructive ways, through his involvement and membership in the Masons, Shriners, and Elks.
Favorite Entertainers and Memories
I asked Ronnie who his favorite movie stars were. He told me he was madly in love with Sophie Loren, and his favorite male actor was Humphrey Bogart. His favorite musician during Ron’s younger years was Elvis Presley.
As for one of his favorite memories, it was when he graduated from basic training. His mother and father went, and Lash entertained. The officers whom had been ordering the men around all during training found themselves at the end of Lash’s whip during the show.
Losing his Parents
His parents died within a decade of each other, with Lash passing away in 1996 and his mother passing in the late 1980’s of breast cancer. When Ron spoke of his mother, he portrayed a woman who was attractive, intelligent and independent, who dressed well, emotionally supported her son, and was an excellent cook.
During his childhood, he considered Thanksgiving the most important of holidays, as it gave his mother an opportunity to display her culinary talents, and it was an occasion for the family to gather. Ron enjoyed gatherings as he enjoyed people and spending time with family and friends.
It’s hard for me to believe it has been 3 ½ years since Ronnie and I sat down with a tape recorder. I do believe that our spirits move on to another plane or existence after we die. I don’t know what that place is or if it resembles the notion that some have of heaven. Yet, whatever or wherever it might be, I am certain Ron is enthusiastically participating in whatever it has to offer.
May 24, 2011
The Ghost of Marlow House (Book 1)
The Ghost Who Loved Diamonds (Book 2)
The Ghost Who Wasn’t (Book 3)
The Ghost Who Wanted Revenge (Book 4)
The Ghost of Halloween Past (Book 5)
The Ghost Who Came for Christmas (Book 6)
The Ghost of Valentine Past (Book 7)
The Ghost from the Sea (Book 8)
The Ghost and the Mystery Writer (Book 9)
The Ghost and the Muse (Book 10)
The Ghost Who Stayed Home (Book 11)
The Ghost and the Leprechaun (Book 12)
The Ghost Who Lied (Book 13)
The Ghost and the Bride (Book 14)
As you probably already noticed, there’s a pattern here…each of my books in the Haunting Danielle series begins with “The Ghost…” But the fact is, when I first started the series, this wasn’t the case.
I originally intended to call the series—and each book in it—Haunting Danielle—followed by a number. Such as: Haunting Danielle, Book 1
At the time, I thought it would be good branding, while helping the readers easily recognize the order of the books in the series. I soon learned, this wasn’t going to work. It seemed this confused many of the eBook vendors.
My designer had already created the basic cover—Marlow House with the “Haunting Danielle” across the upper portion of the cover. I especially liked the Haunting Danielle font and its placement on the artwork, so I decided—with my designer’s input—to leave that and then just add the book title under the series’ name.
I’ve no regrets on my final style design, aside from wishing I hadn’t first released the first two books in the series as Book 1 and Book 2. I ended up renaming them The Ghost of Marlow House and The Ghost Who Loved Diamonds when I released the third book in the series.
I especially confused one reader/reviewer who wrote: “I don’t know why the name of the series gets the biggest font on the cover, unless the author wants to discourage people from reviewing it, since it was a little difficult to find at first.”
I thought that was amusing—the idea I was in some way hiding the name of the book so people wouldn’t review it. The fact was—I just screwed up with titling my books when the series first came out.