Dad ain’t pleased and I’m payin’ for it

Dad’s been drinking. He sways his way over to me with a look on his sorry-ass face that says, “Ya best answer this next question the way I wanna here it. Where’s Zexie?” He didn’t ask where Pooch was. He could see him lying in the shade by the house.

“What?” I say, trying to keep my axe swinging in the right direction.

“I said where’s Zexie?” he yells.

Unlike Dad, time is standing still and sober like at the picture show, when the film has snapped and nobody knows what to do with themselves. All I know is, I’d been doing what I was told. I was chopping and sharpening, chopping and sharpening all day, the sharpening part being my idea. I have enough wood stacked up to make it through a blizzard.

I say back to him, “I don’t know, haven’t seen her. Been chopping wood all day.”

“Get the gun,” he says. “We’ll follow the trap line. See if she got caught up.” I run inside and get the single shot .22 off the chester drawers and run to catch up with Dad.

Sure enough, Zexie is lying in the first trap we come to, poor little thing. She’s been gnawing on her own leg to get out of that trap. I know I didn’t have anything to do with it. Dad set that goddamn trap, not me. I was only doing what I was told.

Dad pulls the trap open and picks her up, cradling her in one arm like a baby. Then he walks over and slaps the living hell out of me with the other. I stumble back but this time, I don’t fall. I make myself stand up straight.

Dad sure does like dogs.

He hands me the .22 to carry back and starts walking towards the house. Just as I’m thinking, “Don’t turn around you sorry son of a bitch ’cause I’m gonna shoot you in the back of the head,” he turns back around, grabs the .22 right out of my hand, and take the bullets out.

“Here,” he says, and hands the pistol back to me.

He doesn’t trust me, and I don’t trust him. That’s about the sum of it.

I know exactly how it feels to be caught in a trap, and I’ll be damned if I gotta gnaw off my foot to get out of this one. I also know there’s a way to have supper without feeling poisoned. I just have to figure out where that is and which direction I need to go to get there. I’d follow those railroad tracks anywhere about now.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

Author note: This is a true story and I need to tell my readers that Zexie recovered.


A Boxing Tradition-Thanks, Daddy

So recently, my one-year-old granddaughter came to watch me box (see picture below). As many of you know, I love boxing. Not competitively, of course. I do it for fitness. We hit pads and bags, practice defensive, etc. We kick, too, but being a good kicker is not in my DNA. Let me explain.

My paternal grandfather was a carnival boxer in the early 1930’s. That meant he would seek out the carnivals and would box the “main” contender. If he won, which he usually did, he earned 5 buckeroos.

In the later 1940’s, my Dad boxed for the Army as Kid Dennis. I still have his boxing bag, gloves, and trunks that read “Kid.” (The story of Dad’s boxing retaliation against my grandfather is a major plot thread in my novel, No Hill for a Stepper.)

Dad quit boxing when he married my mother but continued the sport by becoming a referee. When my sister was born, he gave her little blue boxing glove rattles. After my parents died, and when my sister and I had to sort through the house, I found them! I told my sister, “I’m keeping these!” (she didn’t fight me for them).  Now, I keep the little rattles in my boxing bag for inspiration.

Here’s my granddaughter holding one of the little rattles.


Baby and Me

Do I think my granddaughter should continue the tradition? It matters not. What does matter is that she learns to defend and stand up for herself. And, as Dad often reminded me, “pay attention to your surroundings at all times.” Sound advice.

Thanks, Daddy.

“20 diversion tactics highly manipulative narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths use to silence you”

“Toxic people such as malignant narcissistspsychopaths and those with antisocial traitsengage in maladaptive behaviors in relationships that ultimately exploit, demean and hurt their intimate partners, family members and friends. They use a plethora of diversionary tactics that distort the reality of their victims and deflect responsibility. Although those who are not narcissistic can employ these tactics as well, abusive narcissists use these to an excessive extent in an effort to escape accountability for their actions.

Here are the 20 diversionary tactics toxic people use to silence and degrade you.”

Here is the link to this outstanding article.



Mornin’ After the Beatin’


Ike and Cono.jpg

Ike on left, grown Cono on right. (my great grandfather and my dad)

After Cono’s dad beats the tar out him the night before, Cono’s grandpa Ike (who witnessed the beating) shows up the next morning with an extra horse and a bit of wisdom. (Cono is ten at this point) No Hill for a Stepper– based on a true story.


  We keep riding until we get close to the stock pond. Ike mashes on one side of his nose and snorts out snot from the other.

            “Damn,” Ike says. “Those dandelion feathers Float up my nose ev’ry time this year. He nods his head toward the water. “That pond o’re yonder?” 


            “That there’s yer Great Grandpa Dennis’ favorite spot. Used ta ride up on him sometimes, saw him sittin’ there starin’ at the water like he was waitin’ for it ta talk to him.”

            “Did it?” I ask.

            “Prob’ly. Guess that’s why he kept goin’ back to it.”

            “Maybe I should sit there sometime.”

            “Wouldn’t do no harm. A little piece’n quiet kin go a long way for a man.”

             I liked that he said that; like he can see the man in me.

            “Kin I ask ye somethin,’ Ike?”

            “Uh huh.”

            “That time P.V. Hail beat the tar outta ye on Main Street? Did ye wanna kill ‘em?”

            “P.V.? Nah. He was jes’t doin’ his job’s all.”

            “But it wadn’t right. He shouldn’t ‘a done that.”

            “Nah, wadn’t right. But some folks feel a little too big fer their own britches.”

            Ike pauses and says, “Besides, it shor’ wouldn’t ‘a been right fer me to kill him. That’s a whole nuther thing. He’s jes’t a piss ant’s all. Kinda like this here horse I’m ridin’.” He reaches down and gives P.A. a couple of pats on his neck.

            “Did ye feel sorry fer yerself?”

            “Fer what?”

            “That you’d been done wrong.”

            “Why a’course not. That’s called pity. Hell, pityin’ yerself don’t do no good. Nobody ever got anywhere by pityin’ themselves.”

            “That a fact?”

            “Which part?”

            “The part that ye really didn’t wanna kill him.”

            “Cono, if I tell ye a rooster wears a pistol…”

            “Jes’t look under its wing,” we finish together.

            “That’s right,” he says.

            “Yer a straight shooter, ain’t ye Ike?”

            “Only way to be.”

           I stare up in the cool and clear Texas sky and picture that rooster standing up on our fence post, his wing back like he’s ready to draw. “Cock-a-doodle doo, you sons ‘a bitches. Now get up!” Then I laugh.

            “What so funny?” says Ike.

            I tell him about the picture I’d put in my head and he says, “He’s prob’ly one’a P.V.s deputies.” And when he lets out his “hee hee hee” laugh, I laugh even harder.

            “Ike,” I say. “I believe what ye say, that a rooster’s under yer wing, when ye tell me he does.” Not only that, I’m thinking that rooster’s got a six-shooter under there ready to unload.

            “Let me tell ye a little somethin’ and I want ya ta listen up.” He pauses, clicking the left side of his cheek like he’s finding the right words and I wait. I can wait all day if need be just to hear what Ike has to say. “When it comes right down to it, yer your own best friend. Most the time, ye can’t trust anybody but yer own self.”

            I think I’ve done figured that out on my own. But I say what I mean. “I trust you though.”

            “Uh huh, but trustin’ yer own self’s even better.”



You Would be 87 today

I wrote this shortly after my father died in 2009. (Happy Birthday, Daddy)

Dear Dad,

I write.  My eyes blur.  I see a cowboy hat with a cowboy underneath it.   You’d say,  “This hat’s worth a lot more than what’s underneath it” .  We knew better each time you said it. You are worth more to me than you’ll ever know.

When I was in the Brownies, we went to a father/daughter banquet at the middle school and your job was to identify my feet under the stage curtain.  I sat behind that curtain for only a short time when I heard you say, “is that you Carolyn?”. “That’s me Daddy” I said. You found my feet before I knew where they were going to take me.  

In Girl Scouts, you told me I had made a fabulous speech in front of a large audience when in fact, I had stood there, a frightened girl in uniform, with all my words stuck in my throat.  I was silent and scared, staring into the crowd of strangers. You were the only one who heard my silent words, like they were loud and clear and perfect. You said I did just fine.  You made me not hate myself that night.

You threw that football with me in the front yard and always encouraged me.  You taught me how to drive.  You said to never forget where my break was.  

You taught me how to love my dogs, how they held our hearts and souls within them, in case we forgot where and who we were.  Thru them and other things, you taught me that your heart was sensitive and kind.  

You told me bedtime stories, like the three little bears.  “AND THERE SHE IS”, you’d say and I’d laugh like it was the first time I’d ever heard it.

And you were the one who taught me how to pray.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was at your house putting on my hands wraps for my boxing class.  You wanted to know how fast I was so you speed-drilled me by putting your hand up. Your past boxing memories were still alive.  You were always in my corner, pulling for me, taking care of me when I was hurt.  My Dad, my cornerman.

On Father’s Day while you laid in bed, I brought you the painting I had done of a cowboy silhouette.  You looked at it and said, “that’s me riding off on my last sunset.”  We all knew you were ready for that ride.  


I believed you when you told me you would always look after Pat and I after you had gone.  You said, “I always take care of my babies”.  And now I hear you say, like you’ve said a thousand times before,  “if I tell you a rooster wears a pistol, look under it’s wing.”

You didn’t plan the first part of your life but you lived it, felt it, analyzed it and learned where you were going next.  You wanted a life with stability, you met my mother and you lived the next 6o years on a level ground.  And then?  When it was time for you to die?  Somehow you figured out how to put all your ducks in a row and be buried on your anniversary.  So Dad, when I get sad I will know where you are, together again with my mother, exactly where you are supposed to be.  

And as your grandpa, Ike, always said with his sarcastic grin, “ well, aren’t you smart.”


Dad on right with his grandfather

And <to my son and daughter>:  Grandpa would want me to remind you of a few things.

1.  trust yourself and learn first to be your own best friend. 

2. whatever you choose to do in life, make sure you love it.

3.  take care of your money

4.  <Son>, it’s not time to go, it’s time to dance.

5. <Daughter>, stay away from hairy legged boys.

And as I was laying in the front room of your house, the night before you died, I realized that the times you hugged me from the outside to the in had ended.   From this point on, your hugs will be from the inside to the out.  And I will feel them always.

You put the “spirit” into my soul, Dad. You were my greatest teacher.

And as you always said, “the cream in the pitcher always rises to the top.”

And there, you are.

With a love that never ends, 


(No Hill for a Stepper is my father’s story about growing up in the Great Depression with an abusive father. My dad broke that chain of abuse)

When Words Kill

Cono Dennis, after realizing his father read his private letters.


Cono Dennis, my father, age 18

I might not have sparred with him but I stopped him cold and I don’t just mean by showing off my defense skills and putting him in a head lock. As sure as a sharp axe can cut through and splinter a log and slice a thin piece of paper, a sharpened pencil can do the same thing. Words are powerful; they can be weapons as sharp as an axe. “Gene, I want to kill my Dad,” words that must have reverberated and Echoed in Dad’s ears just as loud as a sawed off shotgun, or blue lightening bouncing off a cow’s head. And just as loud as his slap across my face. I don’t think I meant for him to find all those letters, but he did.


From No Hill for a Stepper, the novel based upon my father’s life from age two till age eighteen.


Meeting Dixie Dupree!

I rarely write a review on Amazon, but after reading The Education of Dixie Dupree by Donna Everhart, I had to. Here it is:


Readers will learn from Dixie Dupree’s education!

Like every great book, the first chapter of The Education of Dixie Dupree grabs the reader by the collar and makes us yearn to know more. Loved this book!

The author, Donna Everhart, blew so much life and guts into her eleven-year-old protagonist that Dixie Dupree leaped off the page and into my heart from the very beginning. I identified with this young girl’s sassiness and grit, wagged my finger at her mischievous tongue, and, later, screamed at her to speak up and let the words flow.

Set in a small town in Alabama in the late 1960’s, the story revolves around Dixie and her relationship with her mother, father, brother and uncle. Written in first person point-of-view, Dixie shows us the good in her life, and how to survive when it’s anything but.

Some readers may find parts of Dixie’s suffering too troublesome to read. But her suffering is also part of our education. What reader can’t identify with the emotions of guilt, anger, and sadness that may lead to (hopefully temporarily) damaging our being?

But these emotions do not depict the whole story. The Education of Dixie Dupree is also about determination, insightfulness, warm hugs, resolution, and wholeness.

Dixie Dupree deserves a degree for her education—and her creator, Donna Everhart, deserves to be wearing a cap and gown and handed a framed diploma for writing this outstanding novel.

The Shape of Cono’s Being.

In a previous post titled, The Shape of our Being, I mentioned how experiences shape our humanness. Here’s another example of the “shape” of Carolyn’s Being that shows up in my novels.

Disclaimer: I’m betting on my ‘underdog-ness’ again–that part of me who feels uncomfortable with self-promotion. But try, we must. Right?

NOTE: No Hill for a Stepper, is about Cono, my father (and a huge piece of my heart) who died in 2009 before its publication. Don’t worry, he read and loved the first draft.

In 1942, victimized his entire life by his own father,  fourteen-year-old Cono must stand  up against him an protect his mother and little sister.


I hear Mother scream. I snap back into the present, out of my daydream. Maybe she’s woken up, has seen blood on her sheets reflected in moonlight, seen the blood on Dad’s face. I start to get up, but the quiet has taken over; but only for a moment.

I hear a voice I know is Dad’s but different somehow, guttural like a wolf’s growl. I hear Mother say, “Stop it Wayne!”

My feet touch the floor before the rest of me knows what it’s doing. I open my door. Mother is backing towards me, but away from the bloodied-face man holding a butcher knife, glistening from moonlight, shiny like a raccoon’s mirror. He’s stumbling towards her. My mind freezes. It’s a scene from a scary picture show. No, Cono, I tell myself, this is real. Real life, real time.

Dad’s stopped walking. He’s swaying back and forth like an old porch swing. No, more like the swing of a hanged man’s noose. His eyes are glazed like a film of anger is laying on top that he can’t wipe away. He glances once over to the couch where Pooch is sleeping.

“Mother, keep backing up towards me,” I tell her.

She stares at my father but listens to my words. Dad stops at the kitchen table, he puts his empty palm on the table for balance, the butcher knife in the other hand swaying by his side.

“C’mon, Mother, keep coming to me,” I say softly, feeling a surge of calm and determination at the same time.

Mother has backed all the way up me. I pull her behind my door into the bedroom where Delma is still sleeping. Mother is shaking. My hands are doing the same now. I see our .22 sitting on the open shelf just a few feet away. It’s so close I can almost feel it. It’s like the .22 Hoover found, the one I felt in my hands, the cold steel of it. Now, I want to feel the warm safety of it.

A fear invades my body like a sickness. I’m drowning, but not in water. I’m drowning in the fear of what to do next, what I need to do to protect my family from a madman.


Here’s Cono, my dad. My sister had the novel photoshopped into his hands and gave me this awesome framed photo.

A shock from the past moves me forward

Wayne and Elnora

There goes that universe again!  After all the hard work we put into the book tour in Temple, Texas, I was disappointed to see the low turnout for the evening adult event. But there was a reason and now I know what it was.

I was speaking with the few attendees about my book No Hill for a Stepper, a coming of age story about a young boy (my dad, Cono) who grew up with a brutish and violent father in west Texas during the Great Depression.  My grandfather died when I was five years of age, therefore my memories of him came only from those of my father’s.

A few minutes late, a man in his mid seventies walks into the Historical Railroad Museum, sits down and says, “I’ve been waiting to talk to you. I knew your grandfather,” he said. “And he loved his son.”

It is hard to describe my immediate feelings to his statement. First, I had never known anyone outside of the family who knew Wayne. I wanted to hear more, more! And I did. This man, Alton, often with moisture in his eyes, recounted his memories of the Wayne he knew.

Meeting Wayne  around the age of thirteen, Alton remembered Wayne’s notorious fighting abilities -how quickly he could pull a knife out of his pocket and have it opened before anyone saw it.  He talked about Wayne’s aptitude for math and his undefeated skill in dominoes. Since Wayne could tell his opponent three plays out what the score would be, Wayne never played dominoes for money with his friend opponents.  Alton told me of Wayne’s generosity with others (throwing a dollar bill out the window for the town wino) and of his dry sense of humor. And, Alton talked about the intense pain he was in from his spinal arthritis.

Most of these things I already knew. What I didn’t know was that Wayne was proud of his son and bragged about Cono’s intellect and his boxing ability. What I didn’t know, was that a stranger I had just met had given me a new perspective on my grandfather based upon his own memories.  Remembering his wit, kindness and intellect, Alton looked up to the Wayne he knew with admiration and deep respect. “Times were very tough back then in Rotan and in Temple,” he said. “Maybe he was trying to make damn sure his son could take care of himself, kinda like the song ‘A Boy Named Sue’.

Does my new knowledge excuse the way he treated my father when he was a young boy? No. Some of his behaviors were worse than inappropriate in those early years. But it does tell me that my grandfather made very positive impressions on other people and has reminded me that the core of his heart was not evil. Sometimes I wonder if, on that evening at the Historical Railroad Museum, my grandfather sent Alton to help me see his other side.

Had there been a large group that evening in Temple, the possibility of speaking to Alton would have been greatly hindered. But because of the limited number of attendees, I was given the gift of another person’s perspective on a man I thought I knew but who now I know even better.