I do believe in ghosts.  Why shouldn’t I?  My home and the surrounding land is full of them.

A ghost, by definition, is the soul or spirit of a dead person or animal that can appear to the living.  Whether the appearance is a sound, like the creaking of my old house settling or a critter treading on the old pine floors. A fleeting glimpse of some unknown something out of the corner of my eye, just beyond my periphery, triggering a long-forgotten memory.  The way certain shadows fall in the moonlight or an old song that conjures up a ghost from the past.  It’s a ghost even if their spirit resides only in my head.

My favorite quote about ghost was made by NCIS agent Mike Franks, a favorite reoccurring character on the long-running TV program NCIS.  In a conversation with Gibbs about ghosts, Franks allows that ghosts were “But the memories we make. We fill the spaces we live in with them. That’s why I’ve always tried to make sure that wherever I live, the longer I live there the spaces become filled with memories of naked women.”  Well, there is only one memory in my living space of a naked woman and thankfully she is not a memory.

But there are other memories….

I arose early as is my infernal habit.  Standing in the dark, also an infernal habit, I looked through the broad window beyond my kitchen sink gazing into the bright moonlight dappling the flat between my home and my stream.  There was a huge full moon, rapidly setting just above the tall trees on the ridge above casting long shadows that danced in the open space below.

Just off to the side, away from the direction I was looking, I saw her in the mottled moonlight.  I saw her white and black markings…as I often do.  When I looked directly at her…she was gone.  She has been gone now for thirteen years…roaming somewhere on the hillside above us.  Ghostly in the way she continues to remind us of her, lost but not forgotten at all.  A ghost never to fear, only to remember and smile.

Sassy Marie came to us, not us to her.  She left the same way…on her terms.  Everything about Sassy Marie was to be savored on her terms.  If she wanted to be petted, she came to us.  If we wanted to pet, she ran away, leery of what our motivation might be.  If she wanted to come into the house, which was very rare until late in her life, she came in, with or without invitation.  Sassy Marie invited herself through the back gate of our hearts and stayed for sixteen years…until she decided it was time for her to leave.

She was a black and white, border collie mix, a discarded puppy or a runaway.  For several days she survived on the small lizards or road kill outside of our little piece of heaven.  If I tried to make friends…she ran away, only to return later in the day.  Linda Gail enticed her through the back gate with morsels of food and the then-unnamed Sassy Marie decided to stay.  I probably should tell that story differently.  Sassy Marie enticed Linda Gail to open the gate and give her food is a truer rendering of the story.

Sassy Marie was the most infuriating, a contrary, disobliging, lovable, caring, wonderous paradox I have ever encountered…well…next to my bride.  She had the uncanny ability, a type of sixth sense, to know when we were talking about giving her a bath.  She would find a way to disappear into our small, fenced in backyard until that bit of foolishness passed.  Put a leash on her?  Not on your life.  She would look at us as if to say, “I was born to be free of the shackles of life…and no I ain’t wearin’ no collar.”

She realized how well she had it.  No way she would ever walk out of an open gate, invited or not.  Even when we had to tear down a part of the fence during renovations she still refused to set foot outside of her kingdom…until she did.  Again, it was her idea…not ours.

We walked an old logging road and prowled over our kingdom.  Every ravine, every stream that cut it was an adventure.  After thirty plus years the adventures are still there.  Sassy Marie would wait patiently for our return, laying at the back gate, next to the torn down sections.  One day she decided to go with us…she decided and enticed Santana the stray, adopted cat to come with us too.  It was an odd caravan.  Santana yelling in cat, “Wait, wait on me,” until she got tired and laid down refusing to go one step further.  Sassy Marie would lead…until she grew tired or aggravated.  We would find ourselves alone and worry when there was no need.  We would return and find her laying at the gate…with Santana close by.

Sassy Marie had grown weary by her sixteenth year…her sixteenth year with us.  She was older, we just didn’t know how much older.  We knew she was not long for our world and so did she.  On the Christmas Day Linda Gail and I were to drive to visit family in Texas, she disappeared.  We got a late start.  We searched high and low, the ridges and the stream beds, as darkness and our feelings fell.  We knew but we hoped and called our house sitters almost hourly.  Sassy Marie had made her decision to leave us on her own terms…just as she joined us.

Flat rocks, cypress cedars, small clumps of daffodils and a birdhouse on a post mark resting places for our special, animal children.  Lovely goats, a one-legged rooster, bunny rabbits, black cats and a slew of puppy dogs rest in special places…around our grounds and in our hearts.

There is no special memorial for Sassy Marie, except in our hearts…and the marbled shadows of the moonlight or the green shaded leaves moved by the wind.  Her spirit moves along the ridges above our house, in the valleys along the stream beds and in the periphery of our vision and our hearts.

Ghost is a selection from Don Miller’s new release “Cornfields…in My Mind.”  It may be downloaded at


Madeline Roo and Matilda Sue just celebrated their twelfth birthdays. They’re not really puppies but will always be OUR PUPPIES. They’re sisters, from a litter holding fourteen little gray and black mottled, squirmy, thieves. That’s right thieves, right down to the “permanent” bandit mask across Maddie’s face. Every day, they continue to steal a little bit of my heart.

It’s early morning and I am watching the eastern sky lighten…I’m also watching Tilly navigate the yard. Tilly doesn’t have a bandit mask but she steals my heart anyway. She comes and sits with me in the early morning as I try to put thoughts and words together on this electronic version of paper. I find it comforting to see her or her sister laying in the recliner next to me, sleeping so very non-canine like, on their backs, feet stuck up in the air. Sometimes they scare me, so deeply asleep I must wake them just to make sure….

Tilly is awake and moving, nose to the ground. Every morning, I watch…just in case. She pauses and then circles around a large clump of periwinkle. She has picked up the scent of the bunny living there. After searching, she continues her voyage of exploration, circumnavigating the yard. At the wood pile, she stops to greet the ground squirrel living behind it. Maddie is upstairs with her mommy but will eventually make the same trip. I’ll watch, just in case.

It’s been over two years since Tilly began to go blind. It was rapid, something about dog years. Her sister followed a year later and they are both now sightless. A genetic defect will claim every one of their litter mates. I wonder if they see when they dream? The question makes me hurt and tear up. They seem to have taken their blindness much better than their mommy and daddy.

They make me smile…knowing they remember. Barking at the squirrel, no longer in the hemlock tree or sitting near the persimmon tree waiting for the possum that is somewhere else to come down. Tilly recently brought me a mole, so proud she wanted to share. While I feel sorry for the mole I’m glad it’s not the possum she used to bring me and yet happy she can still find something to bring.

They make me sad…knowing they can’t see. Maddie reminds me daily when she comes over to the recliner I’m not sitting in to get her belly rubbed. She will paw even though I’m not there. I miss them trying to herd squirrels, birds and each other.

It’s taken some adjustment. Old feed bags filled with newspaper used as buffers against hard and sharp objects. Special care not to block learned pathways. New commands like, “Watch your nose, watch your nose” or “Step, step, steps” have been learned, and yet I am amazed to see Tilly scale a rock wall, just like she did when she could see, and then later come down the same wall.

They still play their blue heeler games. Games only they understand. They are playing now, nose to nose, nipping at each other’s muzzles…somehow knowing where the other one is and able to pull up just short. Friendly growls to remind them it’s just a game…and to remind us about the better things in life.

Those in the know told us we shouldn’t get litter mates. They were incorrect. Despite the recent trials and tribulations, it has been worth it. Maddie and Tilly are happy and in much better health than much younger dogs. Mommy has seen to that. No doubt I’m happier and in much better health because of her too…and my beautiful blind puppies.

Visit Don’s author’s page at or pick up a copy or download his new book, Musings of a Mad Southerner, at


Move it Boss! Move it. The calendar says this is the second day of Spring. Someone should have told the weather. Low thirties are bad enough but there is a biting wind out of the west. West? That means the wind will be in my face as I try to swim against it as I come home. Today I am faced with one of those mornings when my self-speak could keep me inside. Instead I will apply my ten-minute rule.

I have been up since four. I didn’t mean to be. Despite sleeping on my couch I was in a warm and happy place. No I had not been banned to the couch by an irate wife but because of my battle with sciatica. A battle that I seem to be losing or at best locked in a stalemate. I find it more restful to sleep on my couch…restful for Linda Gail who does not have to deal with my squirming to find a comfortable position as I chase sleep or getting up every hour and a half to walk off the pain. Last night was better than most I have experienced recently. I had only gotten up once and that was to relieve a bit of bladder pressure, also a step in the right direction. I was slowly awaking from a great dream and trying not only to stay asleep but trying to hang on to the threads of my dream. Why do the memories of good dreams flee so easily while the nightmares hold on with a death grip?

I am awaking because my puppy Maddie is sick. Battling a rare form of diabetes, she will never be cured but can be treated. Her sickness this morning has nothing to do with diabetes. Girl what in the world did you eat? Sick at both ends it is worse than I expected. Linda is up and trying to eliminate all signs…and smells of Maddie’s accident. How much grass can eleven year old puppy eat? If this sight is not bad enough, after turning on my TV I am reminded why I never watch the news first thing in the morning. Murders, fatal car wrecks, earthquakes, memorials and violent presidential rallies populate the newscast and we are only into the first five minutes. The wonderful and warm place of my earlier dream is long gone and has been replaced by a sorrow I feel deep in my bones that has nothing to do with my sciatica.

I eat breakfast and drink copious amounts of coffee. Linda has returned to her bedroom, Maddie and Tilly with her, they sleep on their backs, contorted but somehow comfortable on their dog beds. I turn off the TV and attempt to write. I do my best writing, if that is possible, in the early morning…but not today. I am reminded of a lyric from “Just Dropped In,” a song Kenny Rogers voiced as a member of The First Edition. “I pushed my soul in a deep dark hole and then I followed it in.” I didn’t want to follow mine in so I decided to apply my ten-minute rule. My exercise is as much for my head as it is for my body and no matter how cold or windy it was, it seemed to be a prescription to ease my pain…or some form of self-medication. After stretching I am off.

It takes me ten minutes to walk to the top of my hill. That’s my ten-minute rule. My path then leads me downhill and reasonably flat for another ten minutes. Yes, I am attempting to “whodo” myself into walking farther and today, like most days, it has worked. Ten minutes later I am faced with a dilemma, a fork in the road. Not the metaphorical fork in the road, a real one. Turn left and I am up a slight incline to the lake, continue straight and it is steeply uphill for about a half mile of screaming lungs, quads and calves before a knee pounding downhill back to the lake. I decide to metaphorically “self-flagellate” and walk the screamer. For once I am glad I did.

There is an escape route halfway up the hill. A left turn puts you on another downhill trek to the lake but much shorter. Above it, feeding in a patch of winter rye or maybe chickweed were thirteen turkeys, a dozen hens and a Tom. The hens seem to be oblivious to my approach but not old Tom. He spreads his wings in defiance and blows up in a stance reminiscent of “The Incredible Hulk” …except for his magnificent tail. What a beautiful spread. I raise my hands in surrender and turned left away from them so as to not interfere with their feeding and found my mood lifting much as a hot air balloon might find flight. I found myself thinking of yesterday and my red headed monkey with banana pudding spread all over her face when we gathered with our family to celebrate birthdays, a glimpse of Linda Gail escaping from the shower, my puppies climbing into my recliner with me, jockeying for position to have their ears stroked. Those are the best things in life along with thirteen turkeys minding their own business and a walker with no intention of hunting them. Sometimes it is best to go through life without suspecting something might be wrong or even turning on the news. Just so you know, Maddie seems to be fine to.

If you enjoyed this post Don Miller has also written three books which may be purchased or downloaded at


My Bennett family friends had given my wife a tape of a minister delivering the African-American version of a hellfire and brimstone sermon using the story of a goat that had fallen into a well to provide an example of “shaking bad things off and then stomping them down.” The old farmer, not sure of what to do, had decided to bury the goat where it was but the old goat had other ideas. As the soil landed on the goat’s back, he would just shake it off and then stomp it down until finally he had raised the level of the bottom of the well so that he could jump right out. The morale of the story being “No matter how bad things are, just shake them off and stomp them down.” As a child I had heard a variation involving a frog that had fallen into a milk pail and saved himself by kicking so hard he churned the milk into butter. Since then I have heard similar stories using a donkey. For my purposes, I’ll stay with the goat because, for a short period of time, we decided to raise goats.

Linda Gail and I did not actively think out the process and say, “We need to go out and get a goat.” No, as you can tell from my other stories, rarely do we think out anything. A friend of my wife had a goat but because of an impending move, he needed to find a home for the aptly, if not creatively named, Nannie. Nannie, a pet from birth, had been imprinted upon by humans and could not understand why she wasn’t included at the dinner table. There were many times she would startle us. After having found a way out of her little compound and seeing the back door open, she would push her way into the kitchen and say hello. Hello!

Later, when I decided that putting a goat on a leash was not a good idea, I created a fenced-in paddock around a stream covered in briars, small trees and Kudzu and complete with a little goat lean-to. We purchased two Alpine milking goats and stood by watching our new acquisitions in the middle of their plush pasture…starving to death. They wouldn’t eat. A local goat authority, and character in his own right, told me they were too “high fa lutin’” and needed a briar goat to teach them what to eat. He didn’t say, “briar”; he said “Brraaaaar goat.” Then he sold me one for thirty-five dollars. Enter Newt, as in neuter or what is known as a steer goat. It was Newt’s responsibility to teach Nugene and Nicholette what to eat…which turned out to be pretty much anything. Did you pick up on the “N” names? Blame my wife.

Newt was a goofy looking thing. Gray in color, heavy bodied with the skinniest of legs, he had two misshapen horns that gave him an expression of perpetual awe. Turning his head to the side, he always had the look of someone who had a question…like maybe “Why did you cut them off?” Also, he was, first and foremost, a pet. Like Nannie, Newt believed he should be included in all family activities… and in many cases was. Our briar goat was more curious than most cats and this sometimes got him into trouble without the safety net of having nine lives. Once, while staked out in a specific area to eat kudzu, he decided to stick his nose into a hornet’s nest. When I saw him next, his head was the size of a basketball. He was about to choke to death because the dog collar tightened due to his rapidly expanding neck. I quickly released him and then waited for him to die when all of the poison from his head reached his heart. I watched his head literally deflate like the oft spoken of “nickel balloon.” After all of that trauma, he still survived!

One of our Alpines once needed a transfusion…at three in the AM. I was sent home to retrieve Newt to bring him back to the animal hospital so he could supply the blood for the transfusion. With no way to actually transport a goat, I stuffed him into the cab of my pickup and off we went. Thank goodness there were few vehicles on the road at three o’clock in the AM… but there was this one drunk. The look I got from him as he eyed the cab was “Son, that is one ugly closing-time honey!”

Periodically, the old cistern that served as our water source needed to be cleaned and serviced. I discovered the hard way that if the level of sand in the bottom of the dyke accumulated too high, that sand would get into the backflow valve causing it to stay open and the pump would lose its prime. One summer morning I found myself having to clean the dyke and to replace the aforementioned valve. Newt decided he would join me, lending whatever “moron” support I might desire. I thought it was cute but would not think so a few minutes later.

My guess is that Newt’s lineage came from a mountain goat because he always liked to climb to the highest point – up onto a stump, or up onto a rock or into the back of my pickup truck and once even onto the cab. As soon as we got to the cistern, he hopped up on top of the corrugated metal sheet cistern cover and disappeared, in the blink of an eye, when the metal sheet gave way. The look on his face was priceless as was mine I am sure. He was a tall goat and I could clearly see his head peering over the top of the cistern, his face mirroring the “What the f…?” question running through my mind. I remembered the story of the goat in the well but decided burying him was out…although when he decided to explore the hollowed out cave behind the dyke I thought I might have to. When he came back into sight, he stumbled and broke off the backflow valve. For a moment, I dared to ponder how goat BBQ might taste.

All’s well that ends well, I guess. With a lot of straining and pulling, I extracted the hundred and fifty-pound goat from the well and then replaced the backflow valve. Later I had to make an uncomfortable phone call to my wife explaining why she might want to boil any water we might drink or cook with for a while. I understood salamander pooh was okay but just wasn’t sure about goat pooh. Was it my imagination or, for a while, did our drinking water taste a lot like a wet wool blanket smelled?

If you enjoyed this story you might also enjoy:
Inspirational true stories in WINNING WAS NEVER THE ONLY THING by Don Miller #1.99 on #Kindle

“STUPID MAN TRICKS” explained in Don Miller’s FLOPPY PARTS $.99 on Kindle

“Baby Boomer History” in Don Miller’s PATHWAYS $3.49 on Kindle


Boomer was named by one of Linda Gail’s basketball players, Cullen Gutshall, during a celebratory gathering to honor their basketball team at the end of a successful season. Celebration wasn’t an unusual occurrence as most of Linda’s basketball and tennis teams were successful. And as usual, I had been roped into assisting. “Have spatula – will grill.” Cullen had decided, with reason, that our large, beautiful, one-eyed and one-legged Rhode Island Red looked like a “Boomer.” I would have named him “Long John Silver” or “Lucky” for obvious reasons…but I am getting ahead of myself.
We had purposely not named any of our chickens for two very good reasons. First, you shouldn’t name what you are planning to eat. Second, chickens and roosters don’t usually come running when you call their names unless, of course, you have a handful of scratch feed to bribe them with. I should clarify that in number one I said planned to eat because I am here to tell you, “We ate nary a one.” Nor did we eat any of the “meat” rabbits we were raising; however, between the rabbits and chickens, we grew wonderful sweet-tasting tomatoes using their droppings as fertilizer. Can you say “organic?”
Boomer was either the luckiest or the unluckiest animal in my barnyard… depending upon your perspective. Unlucky because he was locked in the chicken coop with his son for an entire day. Do you know what two cocks do in order to while away the hours when locked in a chicken coop? I don’t know how long they fought but when I discovered the closed door and opened it, the yet un-named Boomer quickly exited having lost multiple feathers and an eye during the fracas. He had also lost his standing as the flock’s “alpha” male. Boomer did what any loser might do, he ran away and hid. He disappeared for several days until I thought I heard what turned out to be the weakest of “cock-a-doodle-dos.” He had managed to get himself trapped in an old lettuce sack and was in the process of thirsting to death. I had to cut him out as one plastic strand had become wrapped tightly around one of his legs just below where the “drumstick” began. The normally bright yellow shank had turned a shade of sickly gray. I feared he would die from gangrene but instead, several days later, the leg just fell off and he survived! Boomer was as lucky as any one-eyed, one-legged rooster could be!
All things considered, Boomer adapted quite well. He developed a gait that involved stepping with his good leg and then flapping his wings to get him back onto his good leg. It was a “step-flap-step-flap” cadence. When in a hurry, he was quite humorous to watch and as quick as you would expect a one- legged rooster to be. Unfortunately, he was not quick enough. Normally there were two times when he was in a hurry – to get away from the younger rooster or when he was “à la recherche d’amour” …and he was always looking for love. There was a problem. All the hens knew they were faster than he was or knew that all they had to do was hop up onto a fence to escape his advances.
Hopping onto a fence was how he got his name. Cullen watched him use his wings to propel himself onto the fence between two hens. After wobbling like a broken weathervane, he fell off, landing with a thump and a cloud of dust. Cullen laughed like the crazy person she was and exclaimed, “He fell off and went Boom!” After the third or fourth time the name Boomer had stuck. Poor Boomer was no luckier with the ladies than he had been at life. He eventually arrived at the idea of hiding in the shrubbery in hopes that “une jeune fille” might happen by. If he was lucky and a hen walked by, he would explode out of the shrubs and…well this story is rated for all audiences. Unfortunately, the hens adapted and began to stay away from the shrubs. I believe I had said in a previous story that chickens weren’t too bright. I may not have given them enough credit!
I don’t remember how long Boomer lived but I’m sure it was much more than the somewhat average seven years. I am also sure that his longevity was due to the special care and love given to him by Linda Gail. Short of playing the role of a pimp, Linda saw to his every need. Extra food, yummy beetles and caterpillars, a warm place to sleep in the shrubs…I should have had it so good. I’ve always said if the Hindu’s are correct and we are reincarnated, I want to come back as one of Linda’s animals…except the beetles and caterpillars.
Late in his life, Boomer took to lying in the sun in the one spot of the heavily-treed yard that does receive sunlight for a long portion of the day. He would stretch out his wings which were still inky black and the sun would reflect off of them like a freshly-polished black car. The red, orange and yellow on his neck were just as bright as they had been years before. I don’t guess feathers turn gray like hair. Despite his bad luck he had outlived all of our original chickens. In fact, he was so old that he no longer paid attention to the “spring chickens” in our small flock. That was how I found him on his last spring day. He had died quietly in his sleep while lying in the warm sun. When you think about it there might not be a better way in the world to go…in your sleep, contented and warmed by the sun.


Even when Linda and I have attempted to portray ourselves as actual farmers, more times than not, we have found ourselves in a cross between “Green Acres” and a gothic horror story…or gothic comedy. Most of these forays involved our attempt at “domesticating our animals” which at various times have included goats, rabbits, chickens or all three. I have learned lessons from all but will focus on what I learned from raising chickens…other lessons will be shared later.

I learned very quickly not to say “I need…” or “I might get…” or “We ought to…” in front of my father-in-law. I wish I had mastered this lesson before saying, “I might get a few chickens since we have a coop.” Never allowing grass to grow under his feet, my father-in-law Ralph Porter immediately went on a quest to get Don and Linda some “yard fowl.” I had to stop him when our flock topped thirty “mixed bag” laying hens and three roosters to go with them. Ralph had gone anywhere there might have been someone who was trying to get rid of chickens, tossed them into the back of his covered pickup, and transported them to “Hemlock Hills.” Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks and American Bantams Game Hens began to lay more eggs than we could even give away…until the wildlife came by to sample our “bill of fare.” We found out very quickly that our Reds and Rocks were fair game for foxes, raccoons and possums. Never quite getting the coop secure enough, we reduced our “flock” by about two-thirds. For some reason out of the coop the roosters and game hens seemed to be well-suited to escape the critters. So, “free range” roosting became a safer option… but that led to more lessons to be learned.

Of all the animals on “God’s Green Earth,” chickens must have been hiding when the Good Lord was passing out brains. My God, being a humorous God, decided to do them no favors by creating a bird that can’t really fly. Our surviving game hens who were brighter and more mobile than most breeds took offense to our robbing their nest for eggs and decided to take advantage of our free range farming techniques. They just disappeared. After a while we believed they had been kidnapped by Br’er Fox who had been shopping for dinner. Later in the spring, while sitting in my upstairs study, I was startled to hear the “peep, peep, peep” sounds of baby chicks emanating from outside the open second-story window. The game hens had laid their eggs in the squirrel nests high in our hemlock trees and were hatching them out. Temporarily struck stupid in amazement, Linda and I never considered how they would make their way to the ground. Their mothers hadn’t considered it either. Chickens fly only slightly better than rocks. Chicks? They don’t fly at all but simply make a sound reminiscent of a nut being cracked when they hit the ground. Returning from a local coach’s clinic I was greeted with the vision of sheets strung from tree to tree. Linda Gail had decided that sheets strung under the trees was a better option than running around trying to catch the helpless little things with a butterfly net which we didn’t have. My wife is one of the brighter animals God created and was able to save most of the babies.

As if cascading biddies were not enough, one of my two remaining Rhode Island Red roosters seemed intent on committing suicide. He was the Alpha rooster if there was such a thing. He was a beautiful bird with a mostly black body but with the characteristic red, orange and yellow feathers on his neck and back. He was also rather…confused.

One morning after an attack by the local predators I couldn’t find him. I had heard him but had not been able to locate him when I went on a search. As I walked away from his coop I heard him again, “Cock-a-doodle-doooooooo!” His crowing was coming from far above me. When I looked up into the tallest poplar tree in my yard, I spotted him. Had he been any higher in the tree he would have been on a cloud! Imitating a weathervane, he was swaying from side to side in the light morning breeze. He had hopped to the very top of the poplar tree, limb to limb, until he had run out of limbs. “So how are you coming down?” I muttered to myself just as he decided to show me. In a method resembling an old “football” death dive, “Boomer” as he would later be named, jumped into the air, beating his wings frantically. Scientifically, his efforts at “horizontal velocity” had little effect on his downward or “vertical velocity.” In non-scientific terms, HE FELL LIKE A STONE! Just before landing…crashing…totally wiping out, Boomer tried to get his landing gear down but to no avail. It would be his chest and beak that would stop his fall…all five times that he bounced. I knew he was dead and had visions of WKRP’s Les Nessman exclaiming “Oh, the humanity!” But Boomer fooled me. Picking himself up and ruffling his feathers, he looked at me as if to ask, “Hey, how did I stick that landing? A ten right?” More like “any landing you can walk away from is a good one.” Another lesson learned – Roosters are a lot more resilient than turkeys!

Don Miller has self-published three books which may be downloaded or purchased in paperback on Amazon.
A Southern boy comes of age during the Sixties in PATHWAYS
Forty years of coaching and teaching in “WINNING WAS NEVER THE ONLY THING….”
An irreverent look at FLOPPY PARTS


An Excerpt from PATHWAYS

Growing up on a farm allowed me to observe a lot of different types of animals in interesting and educational ways. The milk cow, the plowhorse, pigs and chickens were the main animals available for study. In addition, I was the only kid in our little community to have both a duck and a peafowl hen as pets. The duck would follow me around like a puppy dog but the peafowl just wanted to be left alone and was kind of scary with her high pitched “Help! Help! Help!” call. She would also peck at me if I got too close. Her toxic personality would remind me of one of my exes later on down that pathway of life.

We had two full-grown hogs, not really named Bacon and Sausage, who provided a bit of education. Did you know that hogs wrestle? I know they can run fifteen miles per hour and can even swim. I didn’t know they could wrestle until I saw Bacon climbing onto Sausage during my early childhood. When I asked my grandmother what they were doing Nannie said, “They are just wrestlin’.” Funny, Bacon seemed to be wrestlin’ harder than Sausage. She seemed to be just standing there. Did the stork bring those piglets? Later my schooling would continue when I found out that the cow had a yearly date with someone named Artie. Maybe you have met him? Artie Semination. He must have been a foreigner.

My stories of home in PATHWAYS can be downloaded or purchased in paperback at


I don’t why we subject ourselves to the pain of losing loved ones…furry four-legged loved ones. You know there is going to be a time when they are going to break your heart by dying. Bogart, Bubba, Brody, Jackson, Santana, Little Miss Minny Muffin, Nannie, Sha-na-na, NaeNae, Nugene, Nicholette, Neut, Claude, Claudette and Boomer. Dogs, cats, goats, even a one legged rooster. All found a way to worm their way into our hearts and steal more than just a little piece.

Eleven years ago our most loved Sassy Marie, a part Border Collie part…who knows, deserted us. She had turned up one day out of the clear blue and disappeared twelve or thirteen years later the same way. I have no idea how old she was but Sassy was smart, knew her time was near, and decided to leave us on her own terms. By doing so, Sassy allows us to pretend she is still out there somewhere, alive and well, chasing the rabbits she never chased during the thirteen years she had us.

I told Linda Gail we needed to get over Sassy Marie before we invested our hearts in another pet. Several days later she told me her very good friend Debbie had family with six-week old Blue Heeler puppies. “Linda it is too soon to get another puppy,” said I. “I just want to go look at them. There are fourteen can you believe it?” said Linda. The next day at school I told a friend we were going to look at puppies that afternoon. “You going to get another pet?” asked he. “The question is not if. It’s how many.” Said I. Linda does tell a little different story.

The Blue Heeler is an Australian Cattle Dog, not to be confused with the Australian Shepard which is, despite its name, not Australian. The Australian Cattle Dog, which comes in two forms regardless of being the same breed–the Blue and the Red Heeler. They are the product of breeding a historically long lost “upland” spaniel from England, a Dalmatian and the native Australian wild dog, the Dingo. From this union came a tough, muscular, medium size dog Australian cattlemen used to drive their cattle through the “Outback.” Pretty sure if I had known this we probably would not have owned one, much less two. Sometimes it’s good to go into something uninformed with your eyes shut. This is how Matilda Sue and Madeline Roo came to adopt us.

The owners of Mattie and Tilly raised Blue Heelers to sell but this was no puppy mill. Just one sire named Rebel and two dames named Mia and Gypsy. They were beautiful. Dark “blue merle” undercoat showed through their white topcoat. A bit of “Dingo red” on their forelegs and lower jaw. There was a mask across their eyes called a “Bentley Mark.” Compact muscles rippled under their coat. It was easy to fall in love…easier when we saw fourteen puppies clumped together in their little corral.

One of those puppies crawled out of the tangle of fur, legs and snouts and made her way over to Linda and in “Dog-ese” yapped a greeting which I am sure translated to “Hi, I’m your new puppy and don’t even try to ignore me.” For ten years we haven’t been able to. Another had a crooked tail, which we thought had been broken but was actually a genetic flaw, and a Bentley mark only over one eye. My heart melted. Two was the answer to the question “It’s how many?”

That was almost eleven years ago. They grew into powerful, beautiful companions…and infuriating. Mattie will not be ignored for any reason. Tilly became the ultimate hunter. I am looking at them now as they go through some type of puppy play only they understand, a “mock fight” they have acted out daily. Now they have settled down to sleep…with their ears still at the alert.
They are or were high energy herders and hunters. Even when very young they tried to herd birds, cats, squirrels and lizards. They herded so well I found them missing one evening from their fenced in workshop “puppy house.” I can remember my fear they would be lost forever…or my fear of what Linda was going to do. We found them. Less than three months old they had traversed a small mountain forest and ended up over a half mile away. This is also how they became house dogs.

As hunters, Maddie specializes in snakes and Tilly in possums. With a persimmon tree in our back yard there have been ample opportunities for Tilly and with the tangle of Linda’s “companion gardening” there have been many opportunities for Maddie. I cannot remember how many mornings I have let Maddie and Tilly out, taken my shower, and come back to find a possum “present” laying just inside the door. Luckily possums play possum and I am sure Tilly has brought the same one in dozens of times. Maddie does the same thing but thankfully snakes don’t play dead…although I am sure finding them has scared me out of several lifetimes.

I want to chuckle as I watch both of them sound asleep on their backs, their favorite form of activity. Everyone said, “They will be hand full if you don’t keep them active, they are too smart for their own good.” “You don’t want two from the same litter.” A few times that might have been true but the best thing we ever did was get two. They play, run, keep each other company and if we can’t seem to find Tilly just tell Maddie, “Go find Sissy” and off she goes.

I know they will leave us sooner than we would want but they have been wonderful companions and worth all of the pain we will feel when they do leave us. There is something about unrequited love and ours has been returned ten thousand times. A little food, a scratch behind the ears, a warm couch to curl up on and a lot of love. Isn’t that all we ever need?

My stories of home in PATHWAYS by Don Miller