Tuesday Tidbit: Battle Magic

In which Halwende contemplates the shortness of battles fought using magic.

When he was duke . . . Halwende ate, not tasting the food. He could learn how to be a priest. Maltaria appeared determined to do that as soon as possible. Since Valdher was not known as “Lady of Patience,” he’d probably concentrate on the priest and magic lessons. And if father decides to throw me out in favor of Otto, I’ll have something I can do to survive. Would Duke Hal really do that? Maarsdam knew that the duke had threatened Edwacer and their older half brother with disinheritance at least once a year, not that it meant much when the duke’s temper flared. Would the duke disinherit him? Halwende chewed the trencher and thought hard. Yes, he would. Otto already had more skill and support among the arms-men than he did, Otto was older, and Otto never said the wrong thing or endangered servants. The einar should be the ones to blame for that, not me. True, but when had his grace ever blamed the wildlife? Aside from those few times that his grace went hunting and failed to return with game, of course. Halwende snorted, drank some small-beer and chewed.

Maybe I should study his grace, and do the opposite of whatever he does? Feed servants and sons good food, not anger people so greatly that they set ambushes for his heirs, at least pretend that he cared for his children . . . Halwende caught himself reciting the list. The Valke lands prospered, and aside from the ambush, peace had rested on the lands for a decade. His grace did something right, something that worked. He swallowed, then caught a yawn. Finish eating, then rest. Healer’s orders, priest’s orders, and there is nothing that I must do today. He needed another day to recover before he tried to train with the arms-men. Eticho would do something healer-ish and unkind if he hurt himself being dumb.

The next day, after morning worship, Maltaria caught him. “Please meet me in the smaller training ring before the noon meal. Our sister of the Scavenger has some knowledge of  kinds of non-priestly magic, and can help me see how best to help you train your skills.”

He bowed to her. “Yes, ma’am.” Maltaria made sense, unlike his tutors and his father. And his poor older half-sister, but she was as the gods had made her, simple and sweet. Her mother had found a place for her, Rella be praised, and she served Gember in her own simple way.

Is anyone else worried about seeing the Scavenger’s priestess here? Judging by the concerned looks, and the way the other men all edged along the walls, trying not to attract notice, Halwende suspected so. He wasn’t very happy, either, even though he knew why she visited the training grounds. Maltaria walked beside her associate, deep in conversation about something. Halwende waited beside the gate to the smaller practice ring. None of the arms-men used it at the moment, and they’d probably all find other places to be while the priests lingered. The bright sun didn’t help, burning his eyes and making him sweat. Good for ripening crops, not so good for staying cool and clean during . . . whatever the priests wanted him to do.

“Good,” the voice from inside the black hood declared. The Scavenger’s voice wore practical tunic, trews tucked into boots, a hooded, sleeveless cloak, and black gloves. She carried a staff with a black rat perched on the top. The rat watched the world with glittering silver eyes. “You’ll need practice blade and shield, what you usually carry, little brother.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He fetched them from the rack in the shed and returned. Valdher’s speaker had shed her own cloak and stood, arms folded around her staff, beside her associate.

“I am called Wulfhilde,” the Scavenger’s priestess told him. She sat on the stool tucked into the corner of the practice area and crossed one leg over the other, ankle on knee. “Halwende, battle magic is what I want to test you for. I test by watching you, not by probing you with magic.”

He relaxed a little. “Yes, ma’am.”

The hood nodded. “Battle magic is . . . It is banned, and for good reason. It is not anathema, however, not like making change-creatures, and we,” she waved to her green-clad sister, “keep books and records of what was done and how.” She raised one black finger. “We, your brothers and sisters, are not quite certain what to make of the fact that you might have battle magic as well as temple magic, but are not of Sneelah.” He sensed her giving him a puzzled yet resigned look from the depths of her hood. “If you have it, we need to train it. More than that?” she shrugged.

Maltaria, arms still folded around her staff, shrugged as well. “The gods are not always as clear and forthcoming as we, their servants, might wish. Or perhaps it is just as well that we don’t know.” She unfolded her arms and took a two-handed grip on her staff. “Defend,” she commanded, then lunged and swung.

Halwende started to block with his shield, then ducked under the blow and stabbed up, inside her defenses. He hit something, something he could not see, and his sword hand lost all feeling. The blunted sword hit the ground. Motion to his right warned him and he blocked the next blow, caught it on his shield. Thunk. That arm lost feeling too, and something yanked his feet out from under him. He rolled, then stared at the sky, jaw open. The staff tapped him on the throat, the lightest of touches, then retreated.

“Which is why no one harasses priests twice, unless they are truly stupid.” Wulfhilde chuckled. “That’s god magic, little brother, part of it, purely defensive. It will not help you, Halwende duke of Valke, unless you are acting solely as a priest, not as a noble.” She stood and extended her hand, helping him to his feet. “Why?”

He blinked, shook all over, and blinked again. Because my life is unfair. No that wasn’t the right answer, no matter how much he believed it. He retrieved the practice sword and hung it from the hook on his belt and flexed his hand, trying to get feeling back. “Because if I’m attacked as a noble, like this summer, the gods are not involved? So god magic won’t help? But if I’m acting as priest, um‚—” He looked down at the loose dirt, trying to put his idea into words. “Um, it’s like attacking an imperial courier, or a neutral messenger. You’re not going after the man, but his message or goods, so you are attacking the emperor or noble?”

“He’s fast,” the Scavenger’s voice said.

“He is, and you’re right, little brother.” Maltaria smiled a little. “God magic is for the service of Valdher, not Lord Valke.” She took a defensive stance. “This, not attacking, unless the attack is commanded by the Lady, and then you’ll know.” A snort. “The Lady of the Forests is not subtle at such times.”

Wulfhilde gestured with her left hand. “No. Not subtle. When the gods command attack magic, you will know, and will do whatever they demand. Battle magic, though, can be subtle or dramatic. The emperor favors dramatic, because he has assistance and he seeks to overawe.” She pointed at Halwende. “You, lord Valke, should avoid dramatic.”

He sensed a question, and tried to answer it. “Because some people think battle magic is wrong?”

“In part.” Maltaria folded her arms around her staff again. “One, you lack the sources of power the emperor can draw upon. You have only yourself, and if your head ached yesterday, you have a sense of what even weak magic use can do to you. Two, battle magic can only be used against battle magic. You cannot throw a fireball at an enemy’s horsemen unless they use magic first.”

“What’s the point then?” He heard the whine in his voice and caught himself, looking down at his boot toes. “Your pardon, ma’am.” He looked up again. “Why learn something I may not use and that is forbidden?”

“Because someone else will.” Wufhilde’s words sent the hair on his neck snapping straight up. “Power will be abused by someone with the ability to do it, and the desire. You need to learn and control battle spells so you can stop them. Think about the beast that killed your oldest brother.”

He thought back to what he remembered of the attack. They’d been out at one of the farms, collecting the rent in ovsta. As they walked back to the keep, following the herders and their charges, an oily black thing like a laupen but heavier and with claws that dripped poison had attacked. It had an armored shell on its back, too, something no laupen had. It had savaged his oldest brother before anyone could respond, then tried to drag him into the underbrush of the forest. One of the arms-men had attacked it with his sword, and the thing let go of the body. A priest of the Scavenger and a group of hunters had tracked the thing and killed it, or so he’d heard. “The creature, the changed laupen. That was battle magic, ma’am?”

“A form of it, yes, although not all change creatures are made by living men and women.” Wulfhilde waved toward the forest, hidden by the walls around them. “Have you ever hunted near the Black Spring?”

“No, ma’am, and I don’t want to.”

Maltaria drew something in the dirt with her staff. “Good. Look. Here’s the spring here,” she pointed at a circle in the dirt. “And rocks and twisted trees here, overlooking the Black Spring. According to the priestess of Valdher before me, the laupen came from here. It had been changed by man, but when they tracked it back, they found other things changed by the magic left in the Black Spring.” She met his eyes. “Magic from the Great Cold, from the fighting then. It remains in the land, polluting and twisting it. Our sisters and brothers of the Scavenger, Sneelah, and Valdher work to drain and dilute such when we find them, but they are the result of battle magic.”

He shivered. “Ah, I see why it is banned, and why we’re not supposed to touch it.” He licked dry lips. “Like some kinds of man-trap and snares in the woods.”

“Yes.” Valdher’s priestess locked eyes and he twitched. “To leave a slow-killing trap is an insult to the Lady of the Forest. And cruel. Yoorst has no patience with people who abuse His beasts, no more than our,” she tapped her chest with her free hand, “patron does.”

Halwende nodded. He’d heard stories about the accidents that befell teamsters and others who didn’t properly care for animals.

Wulfhilde clapped gloved hands together. “So. Before my sister scares you out of your boots. See that pile of wood?” She pointed with her own staff at the loose heap at the end of the practice area.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Concentrate at it, and make it catch fire.”

How—? Oh. If nothing happened, then he didn’t have battle magic. Maybe. He turned and looked at the pile. He squinted a little and thought at the pile, seeing fire fall onto the dry wood and ignite it. Nothing happened. He thought harder, forcing the flame into the dry, cracked, brown—

“Ow, dear Lady have mercy ow,” he whimpered, eyes closed, flat on his back again. His hair hurt. Breathing made his head hurt.

A man’s voice—Eticho—said, “What in Rella’s name was that?” He panted. “I felt magic— Oh.” A loud, dramatic sigh made Halwende’s head hurt worse. “I should have guessed.”

Wulfhilde chuckled, a sound that echoed slightly. “The fault is mine. Young lord Halwende acted on my command, and I did not think to ask him for moderation in his efforts.”

Halwende rolled onto his stomach, got to all fours, and breathed. His stomach rejected the morning meal.

“Little brother, that’s a hard way to answer a question,” Eticho said. “In Rella’s name and by Her grace, be lifted.” The pain eased a little, but the nausea remained.

Master Lothar yelled, “Who’s tryin’ to burn down my— Oh, your pardon, sir, ma’am.”

“No damage done, arms master,” Maltaria assured him. “We saw to that. You may resume your other duties.”

A loud gulp. “Yes, ma’am. Thank you, ma’am.”

“Fireballs, check,” Maltaria sighed. “Battle magic, check. That makes him what, one of four we know of?”

“Yes.” Wulfhilde’s voice deepened, and Halwende froze. He could feel the Scavenger speaking despite his terrible headache and weakness. “Four, for now.” The Scavenger departed.

“Yes,” Maltaria’s voice rustled like leaves in the wind and he bowed, as best he could. He felt Valdher’s presence and trembled. “Yes, my pathfinder has the gifts he needs for his task.” The Lady retreated.

Halwende gave up. He rolled onto his side and lay in the dirt, eyes closed, hurting.

That night, he lay in bed, staring up at the faint shadow of the beams and plaster in the darkness. He still hurt, not so much as before. If that was battle magic, they must have been short battles.

(C) 2021 Alma T. C. Boykin All Rights Reserved

That Was Almost Interesting

So there I was, standing in the shooting bay, minding my own business when Bang! The pistol went off!

Which could have been interesting except that I was following all four rules, so the only thing that happened was a hole appeared to the right of where I wanted the hole to be, and I startled, and said to myself, “Self, remember, the trigger on this one is a leeeeeeetle bit lighter than on” [movie announcer voice] “The Snubbie.” [end movie announcer voice]

Usually, I work from lighter trigger to heavier, but this time I wanted to get some things done with the snubbie and Big Pistol* first, including practicing using the speed loaders. So by the time I got to Lighter Trigger, I was hurting. This was partly due to muscle soreness from my heavy workout the day before, and partly because I wasn’t wearing a wrist brace, and partly due to inner perversity on the part of my joints in general. When I hurt, I try to move fast, and I get jerky with my movements, not smooth.

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. And accurate.

So when I had Lighter Trigger loaded and pointed downrange at my target, I raised it, cocked it, had my finger on the trigger, and twitched before I was really ready. Bang. It did what it was supposed to do, just a little before I anticipated it to do that. Nothing aside from my ego was damaged. I know better. When I hurt, when I am tired, I must watch myself and focus on being smooth, no matter which tool, vehicle, or piece of equipment I am dealing with. Guns are tools. Knives are tools. Power drills are tools. All can hurt you if you are not careful, or do expensive damage.

The Four Rules. 1) The gun is always loaded. 2) Do not point the gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. 3) Do not put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot. 4) Always know what is behind your target.

Rules two and three are often interchanged, but rule one is always rule one. Unless the firearm is in multiple pieces on the table, consider it loaded and treat it that way. If you don’t touch the bang switch, it won’t go bang.

You can apply the Four Rules to other things. I use them for power tools, especially tools that have pieces that might come loose (air hammer, rivet gun).

*Big Pistol is not that big, until you compare it to a snub-nosed pistol of a smaller caliber. Then it looks big. It’s not a .45 or a Desert Eagle. And revolvers always look broad in the beam.

Book Review: Geköpft und Gepfhält. Vampires in Archaeology

Franz, Angelika and Nösler, Daniel. Geköpft und Gepfählt: Archäologen auf der Jagd nach den Untoten. (Darmstadt, Germany: Theiss Verlag, 2016)

I needed some books about Central European history, books not available in English. So, while prowling Amazon.de and its cousins, this popped up. It translates “Beheaded and Staked: Archaeologists on the Hunt for the Undead.” It is a fascinating look at the evidence for belief in vampires and other undead, going back to the Paleolithic and as recently as the early 2000s in Romania. Probably more recently, although many cases of “vampire” elimination probably stay very quiet. The authors point out that moderns are the first generation to not believe in the undead, in people coming back to warn or destroy the living. At least, that is, if the archaeology and anthropology prove true.

This book combines popular science and hard science in a readable volume. Yes, it is in German. I’m used to reading archaeological reports and the like, so I could follow it very easily, although I did look up some legal terms.

The authors start with an overview of vampire legends and recent cases, along with accounts of vampire “scares” in the 1700s and 1800s. Then they look at “life and death in the middle ages and modern times,” including burial rituals and beliefs about death. From there they consider all the terms for “vampire:” draugr, morioi, shroud-chewer, and others, and where the names came from. The unhappy undead are found all over Europe, even if they are not called “vampire,” and took many forms and acted in different ways. “Count Dracula” of Bram Stoker and the movies was actually a bit of an exception, in that he did not focus on blood relatives or former neighbors.

From types, the authors move to ways of becoming a vampire. Some are just cursed, others became vampires by living an unjust life, or working in occupations thought to incline people toward sin and injustice (like being a lawyer or a surveyor!) Babies who died without baptism, women who died during childbirth, men who died while denying their sin, all might return to claim the lives of relatives and others.

Written sources from the Middle Ages come next, followed by archaeological evidence for vampires. This is some of the most interesting material, because it goes back, oh, tens of thousands of years. When people find bodies with stones piled on top of them, or a rock wedged into the jaws, or a sickle resting on the throat, or the head removed and jammed between the feet . . . vampire. Buried face down, or with the feet tied, or even cut off? Vampire or some other form of dangerous undead. Even priests and abbots were not immune to fears of their return, as certain burials showed.

The last chapters look at the forensics of the undead, and the process of decay (or lack of decay) that were taken as signs of the body housing a vampire. Then what steps were taken to prevent someone from returning, including putting thorns in the shroud, needles or thorns in the feet (to prevent walking), scattering poppy or sesame seeds in the coffin (the dead would have to count all the seeds and gather them before they could leave the grave), taking a winding route to the graveyard, and a different route back (to confuse the dead), burying possible vampires inside thorn-hedges to keep them from leaving . . . There were as many ways as cultures.

The book concludes with the undead of modern times, including Haitian zombies, and the undead in fiction and popular culture. I found the first four-fifths of the book to be the most interesting, especially the archaeology and the typology of restless undead. Popular culture associates vampires with Romania and the Balkans, or New Orleans (Ann Rice and followers), but the undead are found all over the world, and are generally malevolent. There’s no angst or regret for being a vampire in a German “shroud chewer” or his cousins. They want company, and that means killing relatives and neighbors to come join them.

The bibliography includes sources in English, German, and Romanian. Some are popular accounts, but most are academic papers about archaeology and anthropology. I plan to track down a few of the titles, English and German, for future use.

The book is well written and easy to follow. It helps if you know a little about archaeology and about the topic in general, but it’s not needed. Yes, the book is in German. But not academic German, and I had no trouble reading through, even without having a dictionary on hand. The dictionary helped in places, mostly legal terms and a few medical things I couldn’t suss out on my own. Alas, the book was not cheap, but most of that was postage. Boat freight has gone up since 2018, the last time I ordered books from a shipper in Germany.

I highly recommend this book to people interested in the folklore and archaeology of the undead, in vampires outside of Romania, and interested in popular beliefs about death and sin. A basic knowledge of German is needed, and a good dictionary helps.

FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own use and received no remuneration or consideration from the publisher or authors.

Yes, I’m a Pedant

I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for the movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula. (1992 film) It was very useful for the Lone Hunter’s story, and is a bit different from most Dracula movie scores. However, it had been a while since I’d seen the film, and I didn’t remember all the details, so I went on-line. And remembered why I never finished watching the movie.

I’d hit a wall of disbelief very early on, and had quit. The film depends on a massive theological error in order to make the plot work, and I couldn’t get past that. Now, I re-read the plot, shake my head, and my writer brain kicks in. How could that error become a legit plot point, without making the huge blunders?

OK, I realize that asking Hollywood to get medieval Catholic or Orthodox theology correct is . . . a stretch. However, it could be done. To summarize, in the film Vlad III Tepes is told by a priest that his wife is damned past any hope of salvation because she committed suicide to avoid being captured by the Ottomans*. Vlad loses his temper, to put it mildly, trashes the chapel, and stabs a cross with his sword, swearing that he’ll avenge his wife’s death if he has to draw on the powers of H-ll to do it.

Here’s where I hit the wall. The priest was wrong, at least if you read the Summa Theologica. Suicide was indeed considered one of the fast-tracks to damnation, with a very few exceptions. One of those exceptions was if the person committed suicide to avoid rape. I’m not as conversant with Orthodox theology of the time, but I’ve read that they too had a similar exception. This isn’t the place to argue over theology, but that movie bit was such a blatant error that . . . Yeah. That and that it was Vlad desecrating a painting and the cross*, NOT desecrating a consecrated Host, that damned him as well.

So, here’s where the writer brain kicked in. What if . . . the priest had deliberately lied to Dracula? Why would a priest do that? What if he was in the pay of one of Vlad’s many enemies, and they wanted Vlad out of the picture? What if there was some sort of magical protection tied to being in good standing with the Church, and the priest (who was forsworn, or being blackmailed, or . . .) took the opportunity to push Vlad to the breaking point? Vlad is excommunicate, he loses the shield of faith, and his enemies swoop in. Except he’s a better magic worker than they realize, and he casts a desperation revenge spell that . . . leads to the rest of the movie. And the priest gets what’s coming to him later on, but repents before he dies.

See, that would work, it wouldn’t make me throw things at the screen, and you only add a few elements to the film. But that’s my writer brain, and my having read parts of the Summa and other things. And it would move farther away from Bram Stoker’s book, so Hollywood wouldn’t really be interested.

Edited to add: OK, gang, now I’ve got a mental image of Deborah being all sweet and asking her slightly long-toothed grandfather, “Bunicot, where do Hunters come from?” And Arthur looking thoughtful and saying, “Well, Little One, the tale as it was told to me begins a very long time ago . . . “

*Or out of love when she is told in error that Dracula is dead. Which could still work – again, the corrupted priest or another traitor setting up the situation where Dracula renounces the church and . . .

**OK, I can sort of see the director’s choice here, because Bram Stoker said that using Hosts to deny a vampire access to his resting place was OK, and Van Helsing would have been in as big of a religious mess as Dracula if the director had been consistent. Personally, a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with silver and a few other things would be higher on my list of “things I need to get rid of a vampire.”

Overheard in the Halls: Episode Thirty One

Silent Senior: [pointing with increasing rapidity and intensity at the floor] Squeak!

Sober senior [leaning closer, then sitting up again]: Wow. They really do blend into the carpet!

Me [moving to intercept whatever it is]: Yes, they really do!

I chased the centipede into a corner and whacked at it with my foot until it stopped moving, mostly.

Me [returning to podium]: I need a pair of roach-kickers. Blunt toe boots don’t do it.

Senior snickers followed, and we resumed our discussion of the Hungarian Golden Bull.

*****

The Voice from Above (PA system) chimed. I looked up from writing a lesson outline.

VfA: This is a tumbleweed alert. Those parked in the north lot, be sure to check for tumbleweeds under your vehicles.

Me: SIGH.

Yes, I had tumbleweeds packed under my truck by the end of the day. I started the engine and backed a few meters, releasing the weeds, then turned off the engine and made sure nothing was still around the exhaust. We have not had any flaming tumbleweeds yet, but no one wants to be the first.

*****

Stubborn Junior: But Sister Hygiene, why not?

Sister Hygiene [school nurse, health teacher]: We have a skeleton already. In the closet. I’ll get it out when appropriate.

Jaunty Junior: But Sister, we want the big, giant one. You know, like in the yard at [address redacted].

Sister H. : SIGH! No.

Geek Chorus: Aaawwwwwww.

*****

The fall semester has just begun.

Me [being excited about Salamis]: The Persians attacked here. They outnumbered the Greek fleet—

Speedy Freshman: Clunk. Zzzzzzzzzz. [head hits desk, sleeping ensues]

Me [resigned]: Cross-country season.

Rather later in the semester . . .

Me: This was radical! Locke’s claiming that power was not given to the government by any deity or inheritance, but loaned by the—

Two Tall Freshmen: Clunk. Zzzzzzzzzzzz. [heads hit desk, sleeping ensues]

Me [resigned]: I see that basketball season has begun.

Rest of class nods heads in near unison. Practices for sports are from “oh dark early” until class starts, then again after school.

*****

I’m in the main workroom, checking my in-box for tests.

Mr. Long-Slavic-Last-Name and Mr. Pascal (computer wizard) are studying a small mountain of boxes piled up outside the janitorial closet, waiting to be broken down and recycled.

Mr. Pascal [in best Brain voice]: Are you pondering what I’m pondering?

Sr. Botanica [wandering out of workroom]: We build a fortress and hide from the students?

Four faculty share very broad smiles, then disperse.

Giving Thanks

It is a rare culture or group that doesn’t have some sort of day, festival, or worship service for giving thanks, or showing appreciation for labors and efforts. Harvest festivals are what most of us probably think about, or perhaps offering thanks to the ancestors for deliverance, or thanking a deity for independence, or victory, or the gift of Scripture and teachings, or something. It may be a day set aside on a ritual calendar, or just “when harvest is finished” every year. There’s always been a sense that someone, other than just the people who planted, tended, and harvested, or hunted, or fought, should be given thanks for the good thing that happened.

The US and Canada made that an official day on the calendar. Setting aside a national day of thanks was either the first or second executive order made by President George Washington (historians disagree). The day came and went, and then was made a permanent (this far) holiday, with a set date, in the 1900s. In some places, there are also separate religions days of thanks, like at the church I attended in Not-All-That-Flat state. It was a farming area and a farming town, and every year, when harvest ended, a special service of thanks was held. We also had special harvest and planting devotional guides, and prayer teams for harvest and planting. Yes, it was a very, very important event in the life of the people!

Then we’d have a sort of Harvest Home, minus the alcohol and “corn dollie.” Instead it was hot-dishes, Jellos, ham, and other good things, all cooked by people who did not farm. In part because the farm wives had been doing lots and lots and lots of cooking, and were tired. So the rest of us pitched in instead, and gave them and their families a break. We sang hymns like “Come Ye Thankful People, Come,” and “This is my Father’s World,” and celebrated another year in the bin (as they say in that part of the world.) Harvest was close, it was critical, and we honored it.

Giving thanks means that you acknowledge something outside of yourself. It may be a deity, it may be people who helped you, it may just be gratitude to the world for being so beautiful and good. Looking outside of ourselves is important. It’s easy to get wrapped up in “us,” centered in ourselves in a bad way, and forgetful of what goes on around us. Saying “thank you,” acknowledging effort or generosity makes the way smoother and moves us out of our own heads, so to speak. Thus the frequent religious commands in most faiths that believers are to give thanks to the deity/deities for good things, and to apologize when that thanks is forgotten. It also binds people together in society.

Today, in the year 2021, it seems as if it is hard to give thanks, at least the usual phrases. Things are still off-kilter, more so than two years ago. For some of us it is better than in 2020, for others not so. But we are all here, and alive, and all of us have someone or something to give thanks for, even if it is colorful leaves and a beautiful sunset, or appliances that work and a car that runs, or a close family member still being with us and healthy.

So we in the US give thanks, eat festival foods, and think about the good things that we have been given. Who gave them? That’s up to you to say. I give thanks for readers and stories, for family and friends, for a non-leaking roof and a truck that runs, for a beautiful world with music and leaves and sunsets and amazing wonders in it.

Teddy Bears and Tableware: An Estate Sale

An older gent, perhaps late 60s to early 70s, approached the check out with an armload of teddy bears. The lady two customers behind him had two quilts, both embroidered with teddy bears. The gent set down the bears, gave a sheepish grin as he pulled out his wallet and said, “Grandkids.” I left the mail with a watching family member and got out of the way.

The dear old lady who lived a few houses up the block fell twice more. Her family decided that, despite the lady’s assurances, she needed more than just a five-days-a-week visiting nurse and family checking in on weekends with groceries and household supplies (they either live out of town, or have jobs with rotating shifts.) We her neighbors were both sad and relieved. Sad that she had to move out, but relieved, because we had nightmares about her getting badly hurt, or having a medical crisis and not being found in time despite her cell-phone and emergency button.

The family opted to have an estate sale, once the lady settled into her new home and had taken all the things from the house that would fit in her apartment. The family also took some things, and I heard one young lady saying that she was glad to get the heavy desk and office chair, because it would save her a lot of money trying to find a newer set that fit her (she’s smaller than I am. I feel her pain.) They hired professionals to clean, the arrange everything, and catalogue the estate. Then came the sale.

She collected teddy bears. Almost a hundred, according to MomRed, who had gone over earlier and returned with some bedding, pillows, and things for Little Bit. And two antique hat pins for me (I need to find caps for them. Those always disappear.) When I went later to deliver some mis-delivered mail, I saw teddy bears being carried out, a steady stream of bears. And bear-embroidered quilts and coverlets, bear-bearing plates, and similar. They went to appreciative homes. Books also went quickly, alas, and small items.

The furniture sold fast, per the woman’s grandson-in-law. So had valuable collectibles, and the lawn furniture and some other things.

I’m glad that people wanted the items, and that they will be used and loved. I hate to see good things going to the dump, although I know styles change and some places just don’t have room for, oh, a china cabinet or wardrobe. The house is quiet. Those of us who live around the lady’s house keep an eye on it, just in case, and the family comes by the take care of the lawn and do more things inside.

Times change, people age. The lady is doing OK in her new residence. Moving did not solve her medical problems, but she has full-time care and is much closer to the hospital and her doctors. That’s a blessing.