Charley & Me — Part 3

Falling Rock was never seen again. Black Deer questioned Grey Owl and Running Wolf when they returned with the trophy, and became suspicious. He delayed his decision and sent all the tribe’s warriors out to look for signs of the missing brave. They came back with no sign of him, but expert trackers believed Falling Rock may have been attacked, had escaped, and might return. So they waited, but they also continued to search. Years passed and Black Deer died, but Shining Fawn never married. … [Read more...]

Granny’s Hands & Travelin’ Dog — Part 2

Part 1 — Part 2 — Part 3 Okay, here's the second part. This is an email I got from friends in Texas: GRANDMA'S  HANDS  (A "must read" ) Grandma, some ninety plus years, sat feebly on the patio bench. She didn't move, just sat with her head down staring at her hands. When I sat down beside her she didn't acknowledge my presence and the longer I sat I wondered if she was OK. Finally, not really wanting to disturb her but wanting to check on her at the same time, I asked her if she was … [Read more...]

Granny’s Hands & Travelin’ Dog — Part 1

Part 1 — Part 2 — Part 3 In this 3-parter, here are two bits of writing, a Christian piece and a secular piece, similar in their heart-tugging content, followed by a short comparison of the two in which I make a point about a certain religious sales strategy. The SECOND one is the text of yet another email I got from my Texas friends Donna Sue and Billy Ray. But this first piece is my own, something I wrote a few years back. It's one of my favorite pieces of my own writing. (You may … [Read more...]

Thank You, Mr. Darwin. Again.


I grew up in Texas in the 50s and 60s. Spent part of my childhood in Alabama. Which means I grew up among racists. So I was a racist. When you grow up when and where I did, you can’t not be. But then the Civil Rights movement came along. For a lot of people, of course it made no difference. They held on to racism like it was a precious human right. (Woe to any black man who walked into our little white neighborhood church; the chill would have frozen him down to his bones.) For most … [Read more...]


Her name was Jean Mullen, but she called herself Green Bean Jean. She played bars in the small California mountain town where I lived at the time, and I first saw her on a night out with some of my mule-packer cowboy friends. She was either skinny and gawky or model-thin and infinitely elegant — it was a time in my earlier life when I was between opinions on women — they might be little girls or alluring goddesses, either one. Eventually, I came down on the side of the goddess. She sat on … [Read more...]

Atheist Culture

I’m going to wade into a subject I’m totally unqualified to discuss: Culture. But hey, it’s me — Well Meaning Doofus. It’s what I do. I was talking to some Hopi friends in Arizona a while back about Hopi culture. The subject of Native American culture was of great interest to me back when I lived in Flagstaff, possibly because at the time I had so little sense of my own culture. … [Read more...]


Hey, America! Do me a favor, okay? Spell this word right: Atheist. … [Read more...]

When Coyotes Danced

It was hot, the day the coyotes danced. It was about 1990, and I was ranch-sitting at a friend's ranch in Bishop, California. The owner was up in the mountains all summer, but there were cattle at the ranch, and somebody needed to be there to look after them. In this particular case, ranch-sitting was a minimalist job. The cattle were out in a pasture with plenty of water and grass, and cattle don’t need much more than that. Really, all I had to do was walk the pastures once a day and make … [Read more...]

Erosion: Chardy At The End of His Life

[This is from a few years back.] It’s spring in the High Sierra, and I’m on vacation from New York. I’ve come back to walk old trails again, trails both of terrain and of memory, and I’m out doing one of my favorite things in the world – taking a dog for a hike out along Convict Creek. My dog-friends Ranger the Valiant Warrior and Tito the Mighty Hunter can’t be with me, but I do have Chardonnay along, a happy-airhead golden retriever. I stopped by to pick him up a short time before, … [Read more...]

Invasion of the Buddy Snatchers

There’s a parasite that eats crabs from the inside. (I read about it in Carl Zimmer's excellent Parasite Rex, reissued this year in a 10-year anniversary edition.) It enters the crab by penetrating a weak spot, then spreads long rootlike tendrils through the crab’s interior. The crab’s immune system fails completely to recognize it, and it soon takes over the hapless crustacean, body and brain. The crab continues to eat, to feed the thing, but it can no longer molt and grow, regrow severed … [Read more...]