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Friday, October 9, 2009

Little Crow's Links

Detroit, MI: Not Over yet

Detroit, MI. Once a beautiful, shining city on the hill, built of the automobile industry and populated with hundreds of thousands of people work toward one goal, building a city. Now a perfect example of dysfunctional city planning, selfishness, and the quagmire of single-industry towns once that industry leaves.

The reasons for Detroit's downfall are myriad, and I won't go into it here, but if you would like more information on the history of Detroit go here.

Beyond any doubt, though, the situation in Detroit appears dire. Whole blocks of buildings and houses are falling apart, unemployment is at countrywide highs, and the city itself is nearly bankrupt. Clearly the only way to save this city is through a radical reimagining of urban America, because the current tack is not working. For a good look at what is going on, go here.

But fortunately someone is beginning to look at things differently. I'm not sure this is the answer, but I think it is an answer, and in a place like Detroit, answers are hard to come by.

On the Plains of Marathon

Week Five
Goal: Run 22 miles total with one 6 mile jog.

Miles Run: 22
Actual Miles Run: 20

Endnotes: While on the surface my mile total this week doesn't look very impressive, I am actually extraordinarily happy with my performance this week for two specific reasons: 1.) I only missed my mile goal because I ran out of time last night and had to cut my four-miler to two and 2.) instead of going for a six mile run this week I did an 8 which is the longest I've run in about five years.

I spent the bulk of my running time this week thinking about what I was going to write for my guest spot on Metalsucks this month. Vince Neilstein* and I are going to swapping blogs this month and I've been given the assignment of writing about local ATL Metal heroes Mastodon. So, this week I spent most of my time listening to their latest album Crack the Skye and dreaming up whatever angle I'm going to write about them from. At any rate, after 20 miles, I think I've got it. I will keep you updated on when it posts**.

Week Six
Goal: Run 23 miles with one 7 mile jog.

Mile Total: 23


*He, along with Axl Rosenberg, are the two moderators and thinker-uppers of Metalsucks.net.
**If it actually gets posted, of course.

Weekly Top Five

Halloween Edition!

As far as I'm concerned there is really only one Halloween tale that is so ubiquitous and, to this day, still so creepy that it had to be #1, and that of course is Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". Originally published in 1820 and partly cribbed from a Dutch folktale, Irving's short story is one of the first well-read American stories, and has now become so commonly known that many are surprised to find out that the story is less than 200 years old, and has an author. While the text is somewhat long (too long to publish here) my friends at E-Notes have transcribed the whole thing here for your reading pleasure.

Come, take a peek inside my friends, but don't lose your head in the meantime. HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

5. Harold
4. The Small Lady in Grey
3. Bloody Mary
2. The Michigan Bell Telephone Co. Ghost
1. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Word of the Day!

patrician [puh-trish-un]
-noun
1. A member of one of the original citizen families of ancient Rome.
2. A person of high birth; a nobleman.
3. A person of refined upbringing, manners, and taste.
-adjective
1. Of or pertaining to the patrician families of ancient Rome.
2. Of, pertaining to, or appropriate to, a person of high birth; noble; not plebeian.
3. Befitting or characteristic of refined upbringing, manners, and taste.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Picks of the Week

Week Six

Well, another week down and my record is exactly the same as it was last week, 15 for 30 or 50%. I took some chances last week and they didn’t pay off, i.e. Miss. St. beating GT, but in order to get your percentages up with this sort of thing you have to take chances occasionally. This week there are a lot of good match-ups so I’m excited to see how they flesh out.


No. 21 Nebraska at No. 24 Missouri
With most of the Big 12 occupied with severe mismatch games, this is the only game worth watching from the Big 12 this week, and it will go a long way toward deciding the Big 12 North champion. Whoever comes out of this game will only have to contend with Kansas for the opportunity to play Texas in the Big 12 Championship game. For some reason I like Nebraska. I think they acquitted themselves well against Virginia Tech and I think their D will stifle Mizzou’s Offensive attack.
Nebraska 17 Missouri 14


No. 17 Auburn at Arkansas
Auburn is on a roll and while Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett will probably put up good numbers, I don’t think Auburn will lose in the SEC West until they face ‘Bama in November. Take notice LSU, Auburn is on your heels.
Auburn 24 Arkansas 21


Georgia at Tennessee
This one is for all the marbles, or rather the coveted #2 slot in the SEC East behind Florida. Both UGA and UT have been streaky as all get out lately so who wins this entirely depends on what team shows up. I’ll give the edge to Georgia since UT QB Crompton is just that awful.
Georgia 21 Tennessee 17


No. 3 Alabama at No. 20 Mississippi
Sorry Rebels, you’re gonna be seeing red this weekend…bad.
Alabama 35 Mississippi 14


Wisconsin at No. 9 Ohio State
Finally the Buckeyes actually have to play a real team...not named USC. I think the Badgers are on a roll and will give OSU a run for their money. Look for this one to be close.
Ohio State 28 Wisconsin 24


No. 1 Florida at No. 4 LSU
This is obviously the game of the week, but really it’s only a game if Tebow is not playing. Florida is the better team and even playing in Death Valley, if LSU plays the way it has against Washington, Miss. St., UGA they don’t have a chance of beating a Tebow-led Florida team.
Florida 28 LSU 14


No. 22 Georgia Tech at Florida State
Georgia Tech has finally gotten their engine running and I think they will run right over the Seminoles.
Georgia Tech 35 Florida State 14


Michigan at No. 12 Iowa
While the loss to Michigan State last weekend hurts, it actually does very little to knock UM out of the Big 10 championship running, since the Spartans are already practically out of the race. The real Big 10 season starts this week and if UM can bump off Iowa on the road that will go a long way to proving they deserve to be considered for the crown. In order to win, the Wolverine D needs to step up big time and Tate Forcier needs to realize he can score in the first three quarters of the game and not just in the fourth. If those two things happen, Michigan could win by a couple touchdowns. The Hawkeyes are good, but not that good. I’m going out a limb here*:
Michigan 28 Iowa 17



*And, as I said in the first week of this, I’m never going to not pick Michigan.

Weekly Top Five

Halloween Edition!

I figure at least one of these stories needs to be from my home state of Michigan. I dunno if any of this is true but I certainly have heard of the Michigan Bell Ghost.


4. The Michigan Bell Telephone Co. Ghost
Originally posted at Prairie Ghosts

This modern building, in downtown Grand Rapids, is said to be haunted by two very unhappy, and distinctly un-modern ghosts. These two spirit have wreaked havoc in this building for decades in a way that is strangely unique.... even for the spirit world.

The ghosts that haunt the building are said to be those of Warren and Virginia Randall, a once blissful couple who made their home in Grand Rapids shortly after the turn-of-the-century. In 1907, they moved from Detroit and settled into the Judd-White House, a once prestigious mansion that had lost it's luster and had become a slightly dilapidated boarding house. This was only temporary, of course, as Warren had a good job as a brakeman on the G.R. and Indiana Railroad.

In 1908, Warren met with a tragic accident and he lost his leg in a railway accident. It was replaced with an artificial, wooden one and this signaled the end of the Randall's previously happy marriage. Warren became strange and paranoid, often accusing his wife of having affairs with more desirable men than he. Their disagreements often became violent and local police became used to going to the Randall's house to break up their latest argument. Later that year, Warren was even arrested while chasing his wife down an alley with a straight razor. Virginia didn't press charges but later that summer, she finally left him.

One summer night in 1910, Warren coaxed Virginia into taking a buggy ride with him. Perhaps he hoped to convince her to come back to him, but no one really knows for sure. We do know that they ended up at the Judd-White House and had one last fight where in Warren took off his wooden leg and beat Virginia with it. He knocked her senseless and then proceeded to seal every opening and crevice in the room with towels. He ripped a gas fixture from the wall and let the lethal fumes fill the room. Finally, he took out the straight razor that he had threatened his wife with once before and slashed his throat with it.

The rooming house had been vacant at the time the couple had been living in it and no one seemed to be aware that they had gone into it that night, or were even missing. Next door to the house, however, was an office building and staff members there started to notice a horrible smell from the building about two weeks later. They eventually called the Board of Health to go and investigate.

Several Board members and an employee of the local gas company broke open the door of the house and were nearly overcome by the odor of gas, mixed with the even more noxious smell of decaying flesh. They traced the smell to the locked bedroom door. One of the men was lifted up to look inside through the transom above the door and was greeted with the sight of the Randall's rotting corpses.

The authorities were immediately summoned and they broke open the door to find two bodies that were so blackened with decay that they were only identified by Warren Randall's wooden leg.

The story of the Randall's murder and suicide became public knowledge and the Judd-White house was never occupied again.... at least not by the living. It was said that the house became haunted and people reported strange lights and sounds from the house. Those who dared to go inside claimed that they heard the sound of Warren's wooden leg thumping in the bedroom where the couple met their deaths. Others claimed to hear the screams and cries of Virginia as she begged her husband for mercy. Many who grew up in the area were told by their parents not to play near the abandoned house..... because it was haunted.

The house remained standing for another 10 years or so, when it was finally torn down and the land purchased by the telephone company. They built their offices here in 1924 and they still remain today.

Many claim that the spirits of the Randalls did not vanish with the removal of the Judd-White house. They say that the ghosts moved into the new building and remain there today, still plaguing the employees of the telephone company.... and the citizens of Grand Rapids. It seems that for many years, residents of the city have been harassed by strange, late night telephone calls.... which have been traced to coming from inside the phone company building itself!

5. Harold
4. The Small Lady in Grey
3. Bloody Mary
2. The Michigan Bell Telephone Co. Ghost

Word of the Day!

fait accompli [fay-tah-kom-plee; fet-ah-]
-noun
An accomplished and presumably irreversible deed or fact.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Weekly Top Five

Halloween Edition!

This is a slightly different version of the story than what I've heard in the past, but the fact remains the same: I always have a difficult time looking in a mirror with the lights off.


Bloody Mary
From Spooky Pennsylvania by S.E. Schlosser

She lived deep in the forest in a tiny cottage and sold herbal remedies for a living. Folks living in the town nearby called her Bloody Mary, and said she was a witch. None dared cross the old crone for fear that their cows would go dry, their food-stores rot away before winter, their children take sick of fever, or any number of terrible things that an angry witch could do to her neighbors.

Then the little girls in the village began to disappear, one by one. No one could find out where they had gone. Grief-stricken families searched the woods, the local buildings, and all the houses and barns, but there was no sign of the missing girls. A few brave souls even went to Bloody Mary's home in the woods to see if the witch had taken the girls, but she denied any knowledge of the disappearances. Still, it was noted that her haggard appearance had changed. She looked younger, more attractive. The neighbors were suspicious, but they could find no proof that the witch had taken their young ones.

Then came the night when the daughter of the miller rose from her bed and walked outside, following an enchanted sound no one else could hear. The miller's wife had a toothache and was sitting up in the kitchen treating the tooth with an herbal remedy when her daughter left the house. She screamed for her husband and followed the girl out of the door. The miller came running in his nightshirt. Together, they tried to restrain the girl, but she kept breaking away from them and heading out of town.

The desperate cries of the miller and his wife woke the neighbors. They came to assist the frantic couple. Suddenly, a sharp-eyed farmer gave a shout and pointed towards a strange light at the edge of the woods. A few townsmen followed him out into the field and saw Bloody Mary standing beside a large oak tree, holding a magic wand that was pointed towards the miller's house. She was glowing with an unearthly light as she set her evil spell upon the miller's daughter.

The townsmen grabbed their guns and their pitchforks and ran toward the witch. When she heard the commotion, Bloody Mary broke off her spell and fled back into the woods. The far-sighted farmer had loaded his gun with silver bullets in case the witch ever came after his daughter. Now he took aim and shot at her. The bullet hit Bloody Mary in the hip and she fell to the ground. The angry townsmen leapt upon her and carried her back into the field, where they built a huge bonfire and burned her at the stake.

As she burned, Bloody Mary screamed a curse at the villagers. If anyone mentioned her name aloud before a mirror, she would send her spirit to revenge herself upon them for her terrible death. When she was dead, the villagers went to the house in the wood and found the unmarked graves of the little girls the evil witch had murdered. She had used their blood to make her young again.

From that day to this, anyone foolish enough to chant Bloody Mary's name three times before a darkened mirror will summon the vengeful spirit of the witch. It is said that she will tear their bodies to pieces and rip their souls from their mutilated bodies. The souls of these unfortunate ones will burn in torment as Bloody Mary once was burned, and they will be trapped forever in the mirror.

5. Harold
4. The Small Woman in Grey
3. Bloody Mary

Word of the Day!

truckle [truhk-uhl]
-intransitive verb
To yield or bend obsequiously to the will of another; to act in a subservient manner.
-noun
A small wheel or roller; a caster.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Little Crow's Links

OMG, people!!! Thom Yorke has a new band!!!! AHHHH!! My little four-month-old brain can barely contain the excitement!!


!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Weekly Top Five

Halloween Edition!

I'd never heard of this story until I started researching for this week's WT5, but it resonated with me. So, here you go:

4. THE SMALL WOMAN IN GREY
Originally submitted to Castleofspirits.com

Two gentlemen were working in the town's small general store. The store was quiet and no customers were shopping until she walked in. A small frail woman dressed in grey entered the store, and proceeded toward the dairy section, saying nothing. She picked up a glass container of milk and, without paying for it or even glancing at the gentlemen, walked out of the store.


The men, surprised by the woman's thievery, hurried out of the store after her...but she was gone.

A few days later, the incident occurred again.
The same small woman dressed in the same grey dress entered the store, grabbed a glass container of milk, and left without paying. Again the men tried to follow after her, but found her nowhere to be seen.

After a few weeks, the woman appeared once again.

The same small woman, dressed in the same grey dress, entered the store, paid no attention to the men, snatched a glass container of milk, and vanished out the door. The men, slightly more prepared this time, quickly followed the woman out of the store. She hurried down the town's main street and the men found themselves having to run to keep up with her. She hastily turned down a dirt path, just at the edge of the woods. This is where the men lost her.
They trekked on further and came to a small cemetery neither of them knew existed.

Suddenly, they heard a small noise. Concentrating, they identified it as a baby's cry...it was coming from the ground. The ground from which it was coming from was in front of a gravestone marking the death of a mother and her infant who were buried together. Unsure of what else to do. the men quickly found shovels and exhumed the coffin. The crying became louder as they dug. When they reached the coffin, they pried off the lid and inside found the small, grey-dressed woman...dead...with a live, crying infant in her arms...and three empty glass containers of milk. The poor child was mistakenly buried alive and the spirit of her deceased mother kept her alive until she was found.
4. The Small Woman in Grey

Word of the Day!

tenet [ten-it]
-noun
Any opinion, principle, dogma, belief, or doctrine that a person holds or maintains as true.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Key West: Trinkets in the Sun

Part Two
Click here for Part One

The Sunset Celebration

Between Olivia and I, we had several things we wanted to achieve while in Key West. She wanted to check out the Sunset Celebration, and revisit some of the bars and restaurants that her friends and her had frequented during that infamous girls’ trip; I wanted to visit the Hemingway House and see the Southernmost Point and just get the feel of the place, really soak it in. But most of all, all I wanted was one of those tropical drinks that come in a pineapple and have a little umbrella poking out of the top. I don’t know why but in the days leading up to our trip I’d started to sort of fixate on the idea of this drink and how it would totally like make my trip to Key West. But the sun was starting to set and we were only a few blocks away from Mallory Square so we decided to check out the Celebration first.

One of the most brilliant things about Key West is that for the most part no matter where you are you can walk anywhere else you would want to go. So, to get to Mallory Square all we needed to do was head due north on Duval and snake through an alleyway and there it was, spread before us in all it’s cement and cobblestone and hobo-infested glory. The Sunset Celebration as it turns out is really a sort of loose collection of street performers, who take turns entertaining the crowd with their various talents, and a smattering of painters and beaded jewelry makers peddling their wares. The night we went the dominant vein of street performing was escaping from straitjackets*, so when this gentleman showed up with a ten foot tall unicycle, a bunch of machetes, and flaming brands, my interest was certainly piqued. A crowd quickly formed, most of which was borrowed from a strait-jacket-escaping local on the other side of the square, and the excitement was high. Even a dirty, shirtless guy playing an equally dirty guitar stopped playing Jimmy Buffet covers long enough to see what the heck this uni-cycling maniac was going to do.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, can I get a volunteer?”

What started with that most clich├ęd of street-performer requests ended with a profusely sweating man waggling dangerously back and forth on top of a ten-foot tall unicycle, juggling flaming brands and machetes and shouting something about donations to his most worthy cause. Needless to say this guy stole the night and, having been so enthralled we actually missed the sunset, we decided anything else Mallory Square had to offer that evening wasn’t going to top that guy and headed back through the sidewalk-spanning “Mallory Square” signage and out into the raucous, glittering voltage of Duval St. after dark.


Margaritaville

When Jimmy Buffet arrived in Key West in the early 1970s after a botched gig in Miami, he was drawn instantly to the anything-goes attitude of the locals and the seeming acceptance of even the most bizarre of lifestyles. It was a harbor of sorts, literally and figuratively, for those that wished to be secluded, sheltered from the storm of mainland life, who wished to live day to day as if the next would never come. Duval St., far from the glittery, buzzing hive it is today was filled with boarded up buildings. The island was home to naval servicemen, drug runners, and fishermen who seemed to have little interest in further developing Key West’s innate commercial appeal. But Buffet, beneath the grimy veneer of cheap drugs and under the table alcohol, found a community teeming with life and laughter and endless good times tinged with a hint of sadness for a time that was quickly passing away.

That is the Key West he encountered, an island filled to the brim with feral chickens and drunken seamen and marijuana and organic creativity that seemed to hang down from the trees like Spanish moss. A Key West of modern day pirates, and buried treasure, and frozen tropical drinks, and fresh oysters, and sweltering summer heat, and a dizzying, dangerous blend of Cuban artists and Bahamian outlaws and green, thrill-seeking Americans. That is the Key West he sang about, and the Key West that he built an entire empire eulogizing.

And that is the Key West that hundreds of thousands of visitors each year flock to the island to find.


In Search of the Southernmost Point

The next morning Olivia and I got up early and rented some bicycles from Eaton Bikes, who were so awesome they brought the bikes to us and let us keep them well over the 24 hour period that we rented them for.

We’d taken it easy the night before. After the Sunset Celebration we searched Duval St in vain for my by now increasingly mythic-seeming “pineapple drink” and, finding very little to do but drink overpriced beers and frozen concoctions with colorful names like “Electric Blue Banana” and “Gorilla Piss” and also being extraordinarily tired from an entire day of traveling, we found that we couldn’t hold our liquor quite like we used to when we were in college and laid our tuckered-out, sweaty heads on our pillows by midnight. Ultimately this was to our advantage since we were able to get up and get our bikes ordered first thing in the morning.

The bikes were Olivia’s idea and I’ve got to give credit where credit’s due: it was a great frickin idea. With the amount of the island we got to see in the day and a half we had those bikes we would have had to walk like a billion miles, and to do that in flip-flops would have played Beethoven on hambones on my arches. So, like I said, we woke up first thing, got our bikes and headed out into the melted-wax thick humidity.

Olivia remembered some breakfast place her and the girls had gone to when last she’d visited and seemed to remember the food being good so we struck out in that direction, eventually landing at Camille’s for a breakfast of bacon and eggs. Camille’s, while being neither cheap, all that great, or particularly expedient, was certainly good enough to stave off the hunger demons long enough for Olivia and I to head due south to the only real touristy thing I had any interest in seeing (At that point I didn’t consider the Hemingway House touristy since it is a museum and some of the greatest works of modern literature were written there): The Southernmost Point pier which I’d seen on countless websites and postcards.

As we sped down Whitehead St. I began to see signs proclaiming triumphantly “Southernmost Point ahead” and with each passing sign I got more excited. In hindsight I don’t know why, since anyone can look at a map and see that, in fact, the Southernmost Point pier is not actually located at the southernmost point of the continental United States**, but for some reason I found the idea of it, the idea of standing in this place that had some sort of existential significance, enormously invigorating. Almost like life-affirming.

But as I cruised around the corner, feeling the wind blowing wet, hot kisses in my hair and on my already sunburned cheeks, I saw the pier, standing tall and boisterously-painted like some body-builder with zero in the way of fashion-sense, surrounded by a mob of people with their cameras, trying desperately to get a clear picture of themselves and the pier without actually including anyone there that they didn’t know. I skidded to a halt and watched for a moment, sort of stunned and awed by my own naivety. Here I had been pedaling excitedly to arguably the most famous location on this most famous of islands and somehow expecting to find the pier bereft of anyone else save for Olivia and I and that other lone person who would happen to be there so that s/he could take our picture.

People chirruped around the pier like little birds, squeaking and laughing and waving their hands to let their pictures’ subjects know to move a little to the right, or a little to the left. And even more had actually lined up politely down the sidewalk; like 25-30 adult Americans lined up like school-children with their cameras hanging around their necks and chattering excitedly about the pictures they were going to take in ten or fifteen minutes when it was their turn with the pier. I was reminded of this scene in Don Delillo’s “White Noise” where these two characters go off into the country to visit “The Most Photographed Barn in the World” and end up watching a bunch of people taking pictures of this barn whose only claim to fame is that people take pictures of it.

So here I am, straddling the crossbar of my rented bike, and sweating like someone dumped a bucket of water over my head, with the sky overhead flush with whitish-gray clouds and really really beautiful, and watching all these people literally like teeming and jockeying for position to take a picture of this pier whose only claim to fame really is that a lot of people have attached some make-believe significance to it. And it occurs to me that what all these people are really trying to do is essentially they are trying to take a picture of an idea: the idea of Key West, the end of the world, and the end of worldly cares. The pier is a metaphor for the whole Key West experience, which is really just a sort of short hand for some mythic lifestyle that supposedly still exists, but of which I’d so-far found little evidence outside of postcards and cleverly worded t-shirts.

So, I guess as some sort of homage to the characters in Delillo’s book, I took a picture of all those people taking pictures of the Southernmost Point, which was really just north of the southernmost point but which we’d all agreed to lie to ourselves about so that we could have this sham-mystical location we could all photograph and put on postcards just to, you know, say we’d been there.

As we rode away back north in hopes of catching a gander at the Hemingway House*** something about the spectacle of the pier was sticking in my proverbial craw. It made me sad to think that all these people were trying so hard to convince everyone back home that they’d really done things Key-West-style. And also I realized that I too was complicit in the collective myth-making process. Would I not go home and tell everyone about the great time I had in Key West and about how crazy Olivia and I got, and about how we totally let ourselves go and relaxed and just were really in the moment in a way we couldn’t possibly muster on the mainland? I was sure that I would. I was sure that the picture of people taking pictures would never make it off my computer at home, would never be put in a photo album and showed off as my Mythical Time in Key West. No, I would print out the pictures of Olivia and I smiling in the sun, or on Duval St. or eating Key Lime Pie and show those.

At any rate I thought, as I rode away, the Southernmost Point had certainly given me a lot to think about.



*A feat which Olivia and I witnessed no less than three times over the course of an hour, the magnificence of which was somewhat dulled with every repeat performance. One has to wonder if so many separate individuals on such a small island are able to do this, perhaps the level of difficulty is a little overstated.

**The true southernmost point in the Continental United States is located on the Fort Zachary Naval Base and is not open to the public. It’s true. Google map it.

***Certainly a place dedicated to an author who himself dedicated his life’s work to glorifying the freedoms with which we are all born unto this world and the constraining principles that bind us as we get older would be free to visit. Right?





Weekly Top Five

Halloween Edition!

Ever since I was a child Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I'm not entirely certain why, perhaps it was something in the turning of the seasons and the mixture of fear and fun and the communal spirit of Halloween itself. It's a time when everyone gets together to do one activity, together, which is
something that never really happens at any other time of the year. I'm from a small town in Michigan so Halloween was a special affair, and the whole town would get out and there were always the "good" streets that had the best candy or the best decorations. Heck, I even remember that some people would turn their entire houses into Haunted Mazes and all the little kids we would wander through these strangers' houses. I wonder if that sort of thing still goes on?

Anyway, in honor of my favorite holiday the whole darn month of October is going to be dedicated to Halloween. This first week is devoted to the Five Best Classic Ghost Stories.

This first story has a kind of gory element that you don't find in normal classic ghost stories, and I think that's why it has sat with me for so long ever since I heard it when I was a kid.





Thomas and Alfred were two best friends. Whenever it got hot, they would take their cows up to a cool, green pasture in the mountains. Usually they stayed there with the cows all summer. The work there in the mountains was easy, but really boring. All they did was tend their cows all day. They would return to their tiny hut at night. Every night they ate supper, worked in the garden, and went to sleep.

Then one day, Thomas said "Let's make a life-size doll. We can put it in the garden and use it as a scarecrow." There was a farmer they both hated named Harold, so they decided to name the doll Harold and make it look like him. They made it out of straw and gave it a pointy nose and tiny eyes, like Harold's. Day after day, they would tie Harold to a pole in the garden to scare away the birds. They brought it in the house every night. Sometimes, they would talk to it, saying things like "How's it going?" And the other would say in a weird voice "Not good." Of course, Harold wouldn't appreciate it. When they were in a bad mood, they would even curse at him or kick him.

A while later, when Thomas was taking out his anger on Harold, Alfred swore he heard the doll grunt. "Did you hear that? Harold grunted!" "Impossible, he's just a sack of straw," replied Thomas. Alfred dismissed it, but they both stopped talking to it, kicking it, or even touching it, they just left him neglected in the corner of the room.

After a while, they decided nothing was to be feared. Maybe a few bugs or rats were living in the straw. So they went back to their old routine. Every day, they would take it outside, and bring it back in at night. Then they even started treated him badly again.

One night, Alfred noticed something that scared him. "It looks like Harold is growing." "I was thinking the same," answered Thomas. "Maybe it's just our imagination. I think the elevation is getting to us." The next morning, they saw Harold stand up and walk outstide, climb onto the roof, and he stayed there all night. In the morning, it came down and stood in the pasture. They got very scared and decided to flee. They took their cows and started heading back down for the valley. After going only a mile or so, they realized they had forgotten the milking stools. They knew they didn't have the money to replace them, so Alfred forced himself back to get them. "I'll catch up with you later. You just keep moving." After walking for a while, Thomas looked back at the hut and did not see Alfred. What he did see, however, horrified him. He saw Harold, on the roof of the hut, stretching out a bloody piece of flesh to dry in the sun.

5. Harold

Word of the Day!

ameliorate [uh-meel-yuh-rayt]
-transitive verb
To make better; to improve.
-intransitive verb
To grow better.