Those Answering Machines!

I read an interesting post recently: a blogger writing about her father, a Polish immigrant to the US in 1947. He never quite caught on to the business of answering machines. Read her story here.

I remember folks getting quite creative on their answering machine recordings. Years back I phoned a number — someone advertising something for sale, if I recall rightly — and they weren’t home. Instead I got this C&W verse sung by some fellow with a nasal twang, that went something like:
Hello, so nice of you to call. And how are you, your wife and the kids, your Mom and the dog? A couple more lines, then he launched into a different melody starting with, “Where oh, where, are we today…”

When my daughter got home I called back so she could listen to it, too — hoping no human answered the phone! I wonder how often those folks were told, “Er… Hello. Um…well, I actually didn’t call to talk to you. I…uh…just wanted my friend to hear your answering machine song.”

I was inspired to write a little ballad (set to the tune “Streets of Laredo”) telling the tale of a poor fellow and his answering machine. If you’d like to record it on your machine, feel free. 🙂

I just walked out to the store at the corner;
I thought I’d step out for a bit of fresh air.
Then don’t you know it, my phone started ringing,
and as you will know I just wasn’t all there.

The phone started ringing, my dog started barking,
and woke up my neighbor who sleeps half the day.
He phoned the police and they came in a hurry
and the pound keeper came to take Rover away.

I pleaded my cause and they gave me a warning,
“Get an answering machine or get rid of your hound!”
Well, I love old Rover — my best friend, I tell you!
So I bought this contraption— the best one in town.

Now when I’m outdoors or downtown on an errand
leave your messages here at the sound of the beep.
I’ll be calling you back soon if you leave your number,
but don’t call again. Let my poor neighbor sleep.


The Party Line

I’ve been inspired to write and post this humorous little poem this morning and today I also plan to Reblog a few other bloggers’ poems I’ve found enjoyable and/or inspiring.


Sounds of a Six-O-Phonecrank-telephone

Grandma cranks and cranks
the old wall phone,
rouses Central to connect her
with her sister Margaret,
eager to share the news:
her daughter-in-law just gave birth
upstairs — in double quick time —
to a healthy baby. Number nine.

Margaret’s phone rings,
two long one short. All down the road
telephones tinkle.
Housewives leave their work;
half a dozen hands grab.
Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.
Half a dozen ears pressed to earphones,
listening on the party line.

“Another boy,” Grandma says —
and a whopper. Almost nine pounds!”
“That’s a good size,” says Margaret.
Half a dozen silent nods.
Good size. Good size. Good size.
Good size. Good size. Good size.

Before Margaret can ask
her neighbor Flo interrupts,
“What are they calling him?”
“Billy, after his Uncle Will.”
Half a dozen silent nods
and murmurs all along the line.
“Good choice,” says Margaret. “Won’t Will be pleased!”
Won’t he be pleased! Won’t he be pleased!
Won’t he be pleased! Won’t he be pleased!
Won’t he be pleased! Won’t he be pleased!

Right shortly six more calls
tinkle over the line as six tongues repeat,
“Another boy. Number nine. Good size.
Billy, after Uncle Will. Won’t he be pleased?”

“There’s talk of change,” says Belle
who lives two miles down. “But
how would you ever hear anything?”
Heads nod all down the line.
Anything? Anything? Anything?
Anything? Anything? Anything?
“We need our party line!”



Arthur and the Organ

Nine-year-old Boy Carries 200 lb Organ 17 Miles Across the Prairie

Arthur’s dad had been a “gentleman” back in England. Had his branch of the family fallen on hard times or had he just decided to try making his fortune farming on the prairies? So much advertising in the early days raved about how wonderful the Canadian prairies were, how easy it would be to work the land, how quickly you could build up a sizable farm. The reality was an ice-cold bucket of water.

But whatever brought them here, the family came to Saskatchewan and his father took out a homestead north of Crane Lake, where Arthur was born in 1896. Doctors were few and far between; Dad delivered the baby himself and weighed him on a trout scale.

Art’s father claimed his 160-acre homestead, bought a few cows and horses, but it turned out to be a lot harder and dirtier work than he’d seen in his life. He also went to work for a group of English gentlemen who did their best to set up an English manor on the prairies and live like gentry. Their scheme was too unrealistic but they pretended as best they could until the went bankrupt.

It seems Arthur’s dad had absorbed the same child-training methods as Mr. Bumble in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. A whack on the head made a boy smarter. Arthur soon learned to walk carefully around his Dad and keep his mouth shut or he’d get his ears boxed.

Being of the educated class back home, Art’s father was eager to keep up with the London papers such as “Punch” and when Arthur was about nine his dad figured the boy was old enough to go get the mail. This involved an 18-mile walk over the old rutted trail down to Maple Creek. Arthur would hike into town once a week, get the mail in a sack, and sleep in the livery barn that night. The next morning the old man who ran the livery barn would give him a cup of tea and a hard biscuit, and Arthur would head for home again.

One day there was a slip in their box from the postmaster, telling Arthur to go over to the freight shed to receive a parcel. This “parcel” turned out to be a Foster pedal organ his mother’s family had sent her. It was made of beautiful cherry wood–about a metre long and the same in height — maybe 200 lbs in weight. Of course his first thought was, “How am I ever going to get that home?!”

He pondered the problem for awhile, then borrowed a screwdriver and began to take the thing apart in a corner of the freight shed. What a job! An organ has dozens of parts: pipes, valves, tubes, dowels, pedals, bellows, etc. “I must have been crazy!” he later admits, remembering what a mess it made when it was all laid out on the floor!

The station agent would come around from time to time, fascinated, to watch him. He would shake his head and say every now and then, “You’ve got one big whopper by the tail!”

When Arthur was finished, he put a few parts in his sack and headed off home again. Then, for the next three months, each time he went for the mail he brought back a few more bits until finally he had hauled every last piece of the organ home. The last stick was a big glued piece which he trailed home on a travois like the Indians used. (Three poles lashed together to form a triangle he could drag behind him.)

Though Art had never seen an organ before, he managed to put the thing all together again. Then his mother sat down and played a hymn, then “Rule Britannia” and “God Save the King.” Then she got up and kissed Arthur on both cheeks. The organ worked perfectly.

They never did tell his dad how he’d gotten the organ home. Art was thinking his dad would have given him a good clout for all his pains; he was just that sort of character.

Digging into my DropBox, I came across this account, originally posted on Christine Composes, April 16, 2012. Hope you find it interesting.

The Smell of Murder at Midnight

Word Press Daily Prompt: Pungent

Account taken from my Journal, May 16, 2013

Have you perhaps driven through a town with a pulp and paper mill spewing out sulfurous fumes? Have you ever had a bag of onions go bad in a cupboard where you perchance forgot them for several months. You know the whiff you get when you open that bag and dispose of the stinking things? Have you had a gas leak in the house and smelled the odour they put in natural gas? Or sniffed some perfume gone rancid?

Now imagine all that rolled into one and think of sleeping through it. No way. We were wandering around outside at 1am, seeking some relief.

It’s not that we didn’t know there was a skunk hereabouts. Michelle actually saw one on our step and warned us. However, we never saw it again and, in a supreme act of wishful thinking, we assumed now that spring is here he would have ambled off into the woods beside us and we could all live in relative peace.

It appears said skunk, before he ambled off, started a hole at the edge of our trailer with thoughts of burrowing under – or maybe just hunting mice? However, this past week we caught no more traces of whiffs of skunk and our cats have been using that hole to prowl under the trailer – which they sure wouldn’t have done had there been an occupying skunk. Bob put a log over the hole to discourage this, too.

It was on the To Do list to fill in the hole and put an end to this nonsense.

Thus it may well be that the skunk lived elsewhere and just happened to be passing through the yard last night on his way home. Or maybe he happened to remember his past efforts and decided to see what had become of the burrow he’d started. And he checked around under our step, too, for old times’ sake.

Some people like to portray nature as a gentle force, even speak of Mother Nature and her care of the little critters out there. They say if we could get back to nature a bit more, life would be better and we’d live longer. Nevertheless, our Creator has blessed the pokey skunk with a powerful deterrent spray just in case there are altercations.

It’s hard to imagine that ANYTHING would want to attack and kill a skunk. I’ve read that great-horned owls will because their sense of smell is very poor. But we know this was no owl.

Something frightened that skunk in his amble past – or whatever he was up to. It smells like he was near our back step when this happened, for when Bob opened the door he remarked on the aroma of skunk outside. In skunk’s apprehensive state, he remembered that old hole and chose to take refuge there. That we know. In fact it looks like he dug himself in frantically beside the log Bob had put there to keep him out.

And something went in after him. That we smell.

Just before bed one of our cats wanted in urgently. And yes, I caught the familiar acrid smell, but surely our cats would never tackle a skunk. Angus came in and began sniffing all the registers. The bathroom was taking on a very bad smell, as if a skunk were coming up through the plumbing opening beside the vanity.

My hearing isn’t the best. Even with my hearing aids I didn’t hear the squealing Bob heard, but I did hear a number of thumps just a few minutes later. Slow to catch on, I assumed our cat Pookie was bumping around on the step outside, wanting in. I opened the door and in he rushed. Both cats began sniffing around the heat registers (set in the floor) and the trailer was now full of the stench.

I put old towels over all the register openings; it didn’t help much. We lit candles, opened windows and took refuge outdoors for while. The cats came, too. Out there we could catch a faint whiff from our farmer neighbour’s pig barn, but this was infinitely preferable to the reeking air inside.

Our bedroom is in the addition, on a cement base, so the skunk odour couldn’t come from below us. Enough came in through the hallway, but with windows open and ceiling fans running, I was able to get some sleep there later in the night. Bob chose the recliner in the living room, with all windows open and ceiling fan running.

I’m afraid the smell of murder at midnight is not only a right-then overpowering stench, but will linger for some time to come, too.

Next-day note:
It has. We spent a good part of yesterday away from home.

The Ugly Quarrel

I posted this some time ago on another blog, but it suits the Daily Prompt word so here it is again:


An ugly quarrel showed its face
and ripped apart some brothers.
It gobbled up their happiness
and quickly spread to others.
Then someone said, “I’m sorry,”
and another, “I was wrong”
And another, “Let’s start over,”
and began to sing a song.

The ugly quarrel wilted.
Indeed, it lost its punch.
No longer did it rip at joy
And gobble it for lunch.
A little love and courtesy,
Like sunlight on the frost,
Had melted all ill feelings,
And the quarrel just got lost.


This poem was written by my dear friend, Margaret Penner Toews
and published in her book, FLY HIGH MY KITE
Printed by Lee Printing, Burns, KS 66840

Margaret’s poem books:
Five Loaves and Two Small Fish
Fly High My Kite (children’s poems)
First A Fire
Fourth Watch
All are available from Gospel Publishers
E-mail address:

Border Confrontations

Two tomcats meet on my fence;
in a fanfaronade of frizzled fur
they dispute who owns this particular
property. Tails lash, eyes flash fire
as they hash it out –
militants defending
self-defined borders,
crouched to spring or flee.
After prolonged discussion one
bows to superior yowl power,
cedes territory grudgingly.
You silly cats!
I own this place.
But neither one asks my opinion.


I wrote this poem long ago but it seems quite suitable for the today’s Word Press prompt word: border.

In actual fact the wailing I’m hearing from our cats today is not about territory. It’s about wanting to go outside, but unhappy about having to wade through snow. Oh, well. Our world is still white, but the temperature is warming up and we’re supposed to see a few really nice days now. So the cats will get a little reprieve before winter returns for a long, long stay.

I’ve been reading the news about Hurricane Matthew, which is likely battering the Florida coast as I type this. Here’s wishing all of you who are facing this storm a lot of courage. I pray everyone has found a safe place and is already there. My heart goes out to the poor folks in the south of Haiti; they really got a bashing.