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When Pigs Fly

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was always the big “family holiday”. We usually went to the farm that my aunt and uncle owned and had a big family dinner with them, but it was always the next couple of days that stuck in my mind.

Don’t get me wrong, though…the turkey and ham that Lucile fixed were wonderful. Her sage dressing, made from homemade breads, was the best you could find. And her pies staggered the imagination. She was an amazing cook, and she never used a recipe or measured anything.

But this was a working farm, and taking the day off on Thursday meant that we had to work hard on Friday and Saturday to make up for lost time.

We did a lot of butchering when we were at my uncle Mike and aunt Lucile’s farm back in Missouri—cattle, hogs, chickens, and even a few goats and sheep, but mostly hogs, followed by cattle.

One year, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, we decided to butcher a big hog Mike had fattened over the spring, summer, and fall. I have no idea how much the hog weighed, but he was huge. Mike was a big man, well over 6 feet, and the hog made him look like a child, not much bigger than my 9-year-old self.

Killing the hog was normally not a big deal. Mike used his old WWII M-1 rifle. One shot to the head, and it was all over. Normally…

This hog was tough. Sort of like a B-Grade sci-fi horror flick…”The Hog That Wouldn’t Die! See the US Army held at bay by the giant killer hog! See rural Missouri in a state of panic! Coming soon to a drive-in theater near you!”

The first shot, from about 6 feet away, bounced off the hog’s forehead! Being from a rural part of the country and growing up poor, I’ve done my share of hunting. I personally have hunted deer. With my own hands, I have used a 30-caliber rifle to kill a deer. Yes, I shot Bambi. At 150 yards, one shot dropped a 6-point buck instantly.

The hog just glared at Mike when shot with the same rifle from only 6 feet away.

Oh, and the hog got mad. Really mad. I can’t say as I blame him.

The hog proceeded to chase Mike around the pen. Quickly. If you have never been around hogs, they can move very fast. Just to look at them, laying there in the mud and the slop, you might think they are slow, sedentary animals. They’re not.

To go with his height, Mike had long legs. And he needed them. He made about three trips around the pen, with Herr Hog in hot pursuit. Mike was moving like, as the song said, his head was on fire and his ass was catching.

To get the full impact of this memory, you need to see the pigpen clearly in your mind…it’s about 30 feet square. Surrounding it is a fence made of 1×6 boards nailed to hand-split posts. As I recall, there were four boards from top to bottom. There may have been only three. There was one walk-through gate latched with a length of chain. The chain was nailed to a post and another nail in the gate was used to drop one of the links over to hold the gate shut.

Oh…did I mention that the mud and slop in the pen is about a foot deep? And it’s not “just mud”. The mud in a pigpen is made up of water and dirt. Mostly. Maybe. You feed hogs corn, other grains, and table scraps—any kind of scraps. It doesn’t matter. They’ll eat it. And hogs aren’t too picky about where the toilet is. So, the “mud” is a mixture of water, dirt, animal and vegetable matter in various stages of decay, and what comes from the business end of the hog. It’s slick, slimy, and it stinks to high heaven.

So, here’s Mike running for his life from the Killer Hog through foot-deep nasty stuff in the pen. He’s wearing knee boots to keep the muck off his feet, mostly. He’s carrying a LOADED 30-caliber rifle. And the hog is, by now, SERIOUSLY pissed off.

If the visual wasn’t enough, the sounds must have been an absolute uproar! I couldn’t hear them, of course, but I could see the hog’s mouth moving as he squealed like…well, like he’d been shot. I saw Mike’s mouth moving as well as he screamed for help. The rest of us were laughing hysterically. At the time, it seemed like a laughing matter.

I can’t really say how long this all went on, but it seemed like a long time. Finally, Mike managed to get over the fence and out of the pen. The hog rammed a post with his head and broke off the 8-inch oak pole flush with the ground. And then it started to snow.

Aunt Lucile, hearing the combined screams of terror and delight, came outside to see what the problem was and why we were “foolin’ around” instead of working.

Mike, covered from head to toe in specks, globs, and larger bits of “mud” told her the story of the bulletproof hog.

She sighed, yanked the gun from his hands, jacked a new cartridge into the chamber, and fired once. The hog hit the ground, twitched one time, and stopped moving. Lucile shoved the rifle back to Mike and stormed off to the house.

Now, the fun began…

Hogs are covered with a coarse hair. Ever heard of “boar bristle” in hairbrushes? That’s what it is. To get the hair off, you scald the hog in hot water and then scrape the flesh with a knife. Sounds simple enough, and in the past, it had been.

We used a 55-gallon drum over a wood fire. We would fill the drum with water and get it boiling, and then dunk the hog in using a chain hoist. Pull him out the same way. Then scrape for all you’re worth. If any hair remains, repeat as needed.

We got the water to a good, fast roll, and we hoisted the now deceased Killer Hog into the air and lowered him into the boiling water. He barely fit in the drum.

All right, class…what happens when you heat something? Anything! Water, steel, plastics, pretty much everything you can think of. What happens to water when you heat it? That’s right, class! It turns to steam, but what else does it do? Does it get smaller, so it will fit in a smaller container? No! That’s correct little Debbie! It gets bigger! We say that it expands.

Yeah…water expands when you heat it. So does steel. And copper. And wood. And hogs.

We couldn’t get the Killer Hog out of the drum of boiling water because he expanded. Mike said the “SOB done swolled up”.

The hog was cooking in there, so we had to get him out.

But that was the least of our problems…

Remember that whole thing about water expanding when it turns to steam? Do you know how a steam engine works? As the water is heated and turns to steam, the expanding steam is used to move a piston in a cylinder. Get a big enough piston and enough pressure from the steam, and you can move a train. Some trains weigh hundreds of tons. A few, thousands. The point here is, for the careful reader, that there is a LOT of energy in steam.

As we stood around wondering how to get the Killer Hog out of the 55-gallon drum, we noticed the drum bulging. My dad and Mike exchanged a quick glance, sort of like that look you get just about the time you realize you did something really stupid. Mike yelled for everyone to get away. He grabbed me. My dad grabbed my cousin Darla. We all landed behind the old 1952 Chevy pickup truck sitting nearby.

I had just a moment to reflect on much I liked that old truck. It was the kind with steps on the sides of the bed. Mike had a homemade wooden cattle rack in the back. We used to ride back there and stand on the rungs of the rack when we went to the river for a swim. It was black. Mostly. There was a lot of rust, too. Just as I was admiring the lettering on the door of the truck with Mike’s name and address, the steam reached a critical point in the drum.

The pressure had to go someplace, and there were two options. The first was that the drum could rupture. That could be either a nice, slow splitting, or it could be explosive. That’s what worried my dad and uncle.

Instead, the other possibility happened.

The Killer Hog blew out of the drum at a high rate of speed. I can’t tell you how fast, exactly. Something the size of a hog shouldn’t be moving that fast, though. It was really fast. Fast enough that the hog went maybe 50 feet in the air. Not quite straight up, mind you, because the swelling of the drum caused it to lean a little…toward the truck.

The hog went way up in the air. One of the first things that the Wright brothers learned is that what goes up must come down. I guess the hog already knew that.

We managed to get away from the truck before the hog hit it.

The tearing of metal made a screaming sound that I actually felt against my skin as the hog gave in to the relentless pull of gravity. The shattering glass flew for many yards in all directions. The snapping of the wood slats making up the stock rack made concussions that slapped my face as hard as the crack of the M-1 used earlier. The hog itself made a sort of dull thud of a shock-wave. I imagine a bag of wet cement dropped from the Sears Tower would do about the same when it hit the streets below.

Today, I know how to figure it out. Without getting mathematical on you, let’s just say that the hog, if he went 50 feet in the air, hit the roof of the truck at about 33 miles per hour.

He also weighed about half as much as the truck.

As I remember, Mike got $75 from the wrecking yard for the remains of the truck. He bought a 1963 Chevy truck for $100. Overall, that wasn’t too bad.

After picking the now badly damaged Killer Hog from the wreckage of the truck, we finished butchering with no more drama or near disasters.

But even today, every time I have bacon or sausage, I watch the skies overhead.

Keep Loving!

Thanksgiving Day 2018

Today, Thanksgiving Day, we are all occupied with thoughts of things we are thankful for in our lives. This perfectly normal and, honestly, what we should all be thinking of.

But I want to take a few minutes to remind you, perhaps, of a few things you should be thankful for that you may have missed in your thoughts…

First, remember to offer thanks to a large group of people I’ll just call “First Responders” since most of you will instinctively understand. This group includes, but by no means is limited to: Police, Firefighters, EMTs, Paramedics, and others. A few more members of this group that you may not think of are: Power Company Employees, Telephone Company Employees, and Highway Workers. The thing all of these people have in common is that they are always there when we need them. They don’t think about the holidays with their friends and family that they miss. In many cases, they don’t even think about the personal dangers they face nearly every day. They think only of the help and services that we, the people they have dedicated their lives to helping and serving, need at any given time. If you encounter any of the members of this group, walk up to them, shake their hand, and tell them how thankful you are that they are there, on the job taking care of us.

Next is another group that most of you will be able to identify with little prompting: Medical Professionals. Doctors and Nurses come to mind first, but don’t forget all of the various technicians and therapists who also care for you when you need them. A few of these members (and again, this is not an all-inclusive list) are: Imaging Techs, Lab Techs, Physical and Occupational Therapists, and more…even the hospital food service, housekeeping, and maintenance staff. Like the First Responders, the Medical Professionals know nothing of holidays with the family. They are there when you need them. They need your thanks.

Now, only to keep this post short, I’ll end with one final group: Retail Workers. You know the ones…the people who work at WalMart, Target, etc. who are at work today (yes…WalMart is open today) in order for you to go shopping. Maybe you forgot to get Cool Whip for the pumpkin pie you baked. No problem! Just drive down to WalMart and pick some up. Just about all retailers are closed only one day a year (Christmas) and many are considering opening for that one extra day. The workers (from the floor sales people up to the store managers) also know nothing of holidays. They are there at work to help us get the things we want instead of being home with their families. You need to tell them how much you appreciate them taking care of you when you go shopping.

As you read through the above, you no doubt thought of many more we should all be thankful for. It is these people who make our lives possible.

Lastly, as you sit around the Thanksgiving feast and offer thanks for your friends and family, take a moment to remember and thank those who make the day a safe, healthy, and complete holiday.

Keep Loving!

THWT Question for 20 NOV 2018

And here is today’s Two Hundred Word Tuesday question:

Are there certain minor characters from your prior stories you would like to go back to?

Keep Loving!

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Two

Number Two

Never Pay To Have Your Book Edited


See also Rules One, Three, and Four as they are closely related to this Rule.

As outlined in Rule Number One, editing is a part of the cost of doing business, but that cost belongs to the publisher, NOT the author. The biggest reason is Rule Number 1 itself, that money flows TO the author, but there are other more subtle reasons.

The biggest of these has to do with the attitude and approach to the editing task.

A contracted editor working for (and being paid by) the writer makes their money by getting writers to come to them to edit their work. A huge percentage of that income is from repeat business where a writer keeps coming back to have books edited. There is also the word-of-mouth advertising where a writer tells their friends how great John Doe edits their books. This all means that the editor has a vested interest in getting the writers to like them.

As a group, writers have pretty big and fragile egos. We sweat blood, laugh, cry, pull our hair out in clumps, fall in love with our characters, learn to hate some other characters, and in general see our stories as our children. Just like a momma bear, we will defend our stories to the death. If someone attacks our story, we will come to hate that person. In business, we will look for someone who treats us—and our stories—better and likes them just the way we write them.

See the problem here?

The contracted editor will tend to tell us what we want to hear. This may or may not be intentional, but the tendency is to say what the writer wants to hear so we like the editor and will come back to them and tell our friends how great they are.

In other words, for a contracted editor, they have no interest in if the book sells or not. Their income is based on how much the writer likes them. The contracted editor must have the writers like them in order to make a living.

Now let’s look at an editor that works for the publisher…

The publisher’s editors are paid by the publisher. They might be paid on salary (or hourly), or they might be paid per book that they edit. Some publishers even pay a royalty to their editors. It varies, but the bottom line is that the publisher—not the writer—pays the editor.

This boils down to the fact that the editor (and publisher) doesn’t care if the writer likes the editor or not. The editor’s job is to massage the story into something that will sell. If they fail to do so, they won’t work for the publisher for very long.

Both of these editors are motivated by money, but the source of the money is the difference…

Contracted editors only make money if the writers like them.

Publisher’s editors only make money if the story sells.

See the difference?

I have seen various authors (and we’re talking about self published authors here) post messages here and there about how wonderful some editor or another is. They rave about what a great job the editor did on their latest book and how it only cost $800 to have their story edited. When I have read some of the books, they are riddled with simple mechanical errors and have issues with flow and logic.

On the other hand, I have seen writers wailing about some editor at a publisher who absolutely shredded their book. The manuscript came back with more red ink than black. I hear how the author cried for a week over how harsh the editor was. And at the end of the message, the writer will say how much better the story was when all was said and done.

In the interest of being totally fair, I have seen a few cases where this was reversed, that is, a contracted editor doing a great job and a publisher’s editor being horrid. It happens on both sides.

Again, with self-publication the writer and publisher are the same person. But this is another reason to keep the two roles isolated in your mind…you The Publisher must be able to attack you The Author and make it stick. Not an easy thing to do!


Keep Loving!

THWT Question for 06 NOV 2018

Here is the US Election Day Two Hundred Word Tuesday question:


Do you write full or part time and what are your plans for your future writing career?


And remember to GET OUT AND VOTE!

Keep Loving!

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number One

Since we are starting over on a new website and blog, I decided to reset my Rules for Authors back to the beginning so as to keep things straight.

Please feel free to comment…I may or may not answer, but I do read every comment. I more or less have to since most are held for moderation to keep the spam level down to something manageable.

So, here we go!


Number One

Money Flows TO The Author


While most of the Rules for Authors are not in any particular order, this is number one for a reason: It is THE most important Rule and actually summarizes many of the other Rules into one easy to understand concept.

So, what does it mean?

Simply stated, the author should always be paid for their work and should never pay in order to create their work. See Rules Two, Three, and Four in particular.

As stated in Rule Number Four, if an author pays a “publisher” for editing, cover art, or anything else, you don’t have a publisher at all…you have a printer.

Think about it…

If you need some business cards, you go to a printer. They will, if you desire, create the artwork, layout, and other technical details for you, and then they will print, cut, and package your cards and ship them to you. You pay the printer for these services, and the printer deserves to be paid for these services. The only place they make any money is by providing those services to you.

A publisher makes their money by selling books. Editing (from acquisitions, to line, to content, and every other stage) is simply getting that product ready for market. The cover art is just marketing. These things are a normal part of the costs of doing business—just like the electric bill—for the publisher.

In other words, these costs are NOT the direct responsibility of the author.

Yes, I know…

The higher the costs of the publisher, the less they can afford to pay the author in terms of royalties, but this is another problem most writers have in their thought processes…an editor (or artist) working for a publisher can process more books for less money than can an independent contractor.

They also do a better job.

If you hire an editor to work on your book, they have a vested interest in saying everything is perfect. Why? Because you are paying them. The more you like them and the more they stroke your ego, the more likely you are to bring them more work in the future.

The publisher’s editors get paid no matter if you like them or not. They keep their job by editing books into something that will sell for the publisher, so they don’t care about your feelings.

And never lose sight of the fact that this is a business. We are all—authors, publishers, editors, artists, etc.—here to make money.

Oh, don’t give me that crap that you write for the joy of writing or that you want to change the world.

You’re going to starve to death with that attitude. Get over it.

Finally, changes in the industry have created a flood of “self published” works. In these cases, the author and the publisher may be the same person. That doesn’t change anything…when you are writing, you wear your author’s hat. When you are publishing, you put on the publisher’s hat. There are a ton of reasons to keep the roles separate, mostly financial…but a few will protect your sanity.

Remember that writing is a lot like sex…

At first you do it for a few close friends.

Then you do it because it’s fun.

But if you’re any good at all, you end up doing it for money.

Keep Loving!

THWT Question for 30 OCT 2018

Here is the Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for this week, and the first question on the new blog/website:

How soon after finishing one book/story do you start seriously working on the next?

Remember to try to answer in less than 200 words!

A New Website

Welcome to my new and (hopefully!) improved website!

The old site was a bit dated and had a few other issues, so as we were ditching Yahoo! (more on this a little later) as our hosting service it seemed like a good time to give the site a face lift.

The menu at the top of each page will let you easily navigate around the site. Simply use the pull-downs to get around.

Some old links in Twitter posts and emails may now be broken, but the full URL of http://www.melodeeaaron.com will always get you to the site. You can use the menus or even do a search of the site from there.

Not everything is done as of this writing…there are more Free Reads to be added (though there are 3 full novels there now) as well as a few other little things. It will also likely be next week before I get back to posting the THWT questions (on Tuesdays) and my Rules for Authors (on Fridays), so please be patient.

Also please note that even if you had an account on my old site, you will need to create a new account in order to post comments to my blog. Once you have created an account, you will be able to post comments, however, your first comment will be held for moderation. Once approved, you will be able to enter comments that will go live immediately.

To create your account, select USERS and then REGISTER from the menu. Other tabs under USERS can be used to manage your account.

Now, I promised you a little more about the split with Yahoo!

In a nutshell, Yahoo! is no longer a very good value. They charge more than twice as much for web hosting than most other providers, their software is typically 3-4 versions out of date (and so a HUGE security risk), and their customer service is all but non-existent. After careful review (we had been with Yahoo! for more than a decade) the decision was made to pull all of the nearly 5,000 web sites we had on Yahoo! hosts and move to a different provider. We will also be pulling almost 10,000 paid email accounts from Yahoo! as well. You might want to sell that stock now.

Sadly, this is a purely business decision based on costs, risks, and other such mundane factors. No matter what, it’s hard to just walk away from a relationship spanning that many years.

And in case you’re wondering, we are now using three different hosts for the varied websites. This particular site is being hosted by siteground.com and we are, so far, very pleased with the service and support.

So, there you have it!

Please check back often as the site is finalized. You may need to refresh your browser (CTRL+F5 on most systems) to get the latest version.

Keep Loving!