Archives for 2016

My Impending Demise

We think we have time. The question is, “how much?” That leads to other questions. Will I be satisfied with how I lived my life? What am I compelled to complete before I die? What legacy will I leave? I recently attended my cousin’s funeral. She was 81. Her son said, “I assumed we’d have another … [Read more...]

Elegy to My Father

Carl John Clemens 1905 – 1986 Born on a Minnesota farm, you milked cows, picked corn, and shocked wheat. You hated farming; that’s why you left Minnesota, that, and your mother always telling you what to do. She cried when you left home; you were only sixteen. You had nine siblings, all with … [Read more...]

Please Let Me Go

1958, Honolulu, Hawaii ~  I had a crush on Bobby. He was blonde, tan, and handsome; a Georgia cracker with a slow Southern drawl and a boyish, white-toothed grin, a swabbie in navy blues or crisp white bell-bottoms. He was 19 and in his third year in the Navy, married to my sister, who was 15 and … [Read more...]

Holy Cards, Hell, and High Water

(listen to audio) Summer 1949 • Sonora ~ Sonora was a backwater with no Catholic school, so every summer five young Franciscan nuns in black habits and white wimples were imported to bring the schoolchildren a proper Catholic education. Father Gilmartin, high in his pulpit, was deeply … [Read more...]

Beginnings and Endings

December 1952, Sonora, California Carleen snapped at us. “For the umpteenth time, I don’t know why she left, when we’ll see her again, or where she went, and no, I don’t know if she’s coming back. Now don’t ask any more questions!” Mom was gone, and this time, Carleen knew she wasn’t coming back. … [Read more...]

On the Woo-Woo Side

Two events occurred on my trip to Southern California that might catch your attention. The first was at the funeral for Kay’s (a high school friend) mom. Family and friends drove in caravan with a police escort to the cemetery after the service at the Mormon Church up the road. As I’m standing … [Read more...]

Private Matters

My father was German and my mother English, which could explain everything. On my dad’s side I’m a generation removed from hardworking, church-going, duty-bound dairy farmers. On my mother’s I come from freewheeling, drinking, smoking, gambling, hell-raising cattle ranchers with a couple of … [Read more...]

To My Wife-In-Law

Rebecca, the best thing that happened to our family was you. How could I not care for someone who loved my children as much as you did. You became my wife-in-law and the boys’ other mother. You filled in pieces that Bob and I didn’t have the ability to bring. I became the father, and you, the … [Read more...]

Visions of Hell on Earth: Chatfield Story

Guest post from my cousins, Terry and Peg Chatfield-McCarty The flood of memories, the details of countless events recalled at late evening fireside, the myriad of horrid private images never shared with anyone—we can only begin to imagine how this original O’Dea Andersonville Lithograph worked the … [Read more...]

Teller of Tales

 Teller of Tales This tale is a history, a fable, a prayer of those gone before me, now gathered with care. The diaries and pictures and letters enclosed deciphered my kin and what they supposed. Those who are living—their stories intact, Those gone before us—who knows what was fact? I met … [Read more...]

Perms, Cowlicks, and School Pictures

(Listen to Audio) Carleen always gave us a Toni the day before school pictures; she was making us beautiful. She shampooed us, yanked our snarls, swore at us to quit sniveling, then sat us in a row at the yellow Formica kitchen table. With old bath towels draped over our shoulders, Betty, Claudia, … [Read more...]

Emily and Those Hoy Boys

As rivers cut canyons through Rockies to bays the Hoys traveled westward in pioneer days. They fought for the Union (Frank, wounded in battle), Then homesteaded Brown's Hole where they branded their cattle. They were ranchers and farmers and bull-whackers of yore, horse breeders, … [Read more...]

Credo For Today

Why am I here? Who am I? What do I believe? How shall I live my life? Where do I stand? When do I speak out? CREDO FOR TODAY Ten Commitments 1. I shall honor Spirit: my God, your God, their gods, and the god within me. 2. I shall honor my word, and take responsibility for what I speak. 3. I … [Read more...]

Two Cents a Cut-Out

From Behind These Doors, a Family Memoir 1945 • Sonora ~ At six, Betty opened her first business. She admired the ads featuring beautiful cigarette girls wearing long gloves, short skirts, high heels, and satin pillbox caps—and particularly applauded the ingenuity of the lacquered trays … [Read more...]


At 4:00 in the morning, I’m jolted from a sound sleep by a long, eerie howl—and by then on high alert with a second one that quickly followed. The ear-splitting cries are coming from the top of the staircase just inside my bedroom door. It was either a deranged human, or a crazed animal. I’ve … [Read more...]

Nothin’ But Trouble

August 1948 • Sonora I was welcomed into the family two years after Mom’s first breakdown, but not by her. She didn’t want another child; she wanted out. As far as she was concerned, I was a fifth burden tacking on eighteen years to her prison sentence. Another eighteen years of not wanting to be a … [Read more...]

Pinball Wizard

1932: Colusa to Los Angeles, California Shortly after marrying, my parents (Carl and Babe) moved to Los Angeles where Dad landed a job with the highway crews building the three-lane Ridge Route Alternate, which later became U.S. Route 99 at Grapevine. A hard worker, Dad was always employed, even … [Read more...]

Queen Bee

I am the Queen Bee. You know how I know? My friends tell me, and I also have a pair of blue bikini panties with a queen bee on them that proves it. I have been known as the Carrot Juice Queen, the Dance Floor Queen, and the Queen of Curb, Gutter and Sidewalk. I don’t like to show country property. … [Read more...]


(Listen to Audio) I am. I am from Leinen and Nigon, from Chamberlin and Hoy. I am from Clemens and Chatfield, from Surdam, Sumner, Smith, Shade, Mastick, and Tomlinson too. From Matthew, Isaac, Finley, and Charles. From Barbara, Eliza, Emily, and Nellie. I am from soldiers who fought for the … [Read more...]

Small Fry Reveries, from Queen Bee

Television Oma, you don’t have a television,” Satchel says to me in surprise. “You’ve known me for four years, and you’ve just noticed?” “Why don’t you like TV?” “I didn’t say I didn’t like TV, I just don’t have one.” “Did you ever?” “Of course. I had one when your dad and Jon were growing up, … [Read more...]

Queen Bee Book Release!

Birthing a book is like birthing a child. It takes a long time, it's a lot of work, and it’s totally worth it. Most of the time. I think. But it’s done, and I’m over the moon. My second book, Queen Bee, Reflections on Life and Other Rude Awakenings, I’m delighted to announce, was released for … [Read more...]