The Dog Trot

© 2017 Bill Murphy

Uncle Earle received a letter from Tennessee.  His favorite uncle,  his Half-Uncle Edward, passed away.  This is the story of Edward:

Uncle Earle’s Grandpa Clovis settled in Tennessee, way out in the sticks … in the foothills of the Smokies.  Grandpa married late in life, after he’d started a little pig and tobacco farm,  supplying all the snuff and bacon he wanted!  Back then, you didn’t hire farm hands,  you HAD ‘EM!  So Grandpa Clovis married Adeline Wilson and started a family of farm-hands.

Dog Trot Blog

While she was expecting their first child,  he built a simple,  but comfortable, ‘Dog Trot’ house.  A dog trot was somewhat like two houses joined together,  but sharing one big roof and floor.  The two house areas were separated by an open hallway.  Because this hallway was open,  yard dogs simply trotted through,  hence the name.  It had a porch all the way around,   with bedrooms on one side and kitchen and entertaining on the other. Of course the privy was out back.  Grandpa Clovis expected to have a large family, so he built a three holer.

About that time,  Grandma Adeline’s younger sister Elvira married a fine hunk of a man named Rudolph Benson,  who worked at the local saw mill.  The old saw mill was shabby and barely hanging on by a thread.  The huge yard wide saw was powered by an old stripped down Model-T Ford on blocks,  and with a long belt from Ford to saw.  As I said, the old sawmill was run down.

From time to time, the apparatus that fed logs into the spinning saw needed manual assistance.  And Elvira’s new husband Rudolph provided the muscle,  manhandling a 4 x 4 as a ram to push the logs forward.  If you’ve ever used a table saw,  it’s the same principle.  If you’re not careful,  the spinning blade will KICK the wood back at you.

That’s what happened one day to Rudolph.

One moment Rudolph was pushing a log forward with his 4 x 4 ram,  then suddenly log and ram kicked back.  They struck Rudolph squarely.  The blow crushed his chest like an egg,  killing him instantly.  The rough wood hurled him backward,  slamming him into the Model T and rupturing the gas tank,  splashing Rudolph and everything for six feet in all directions with gasoline.

It was early spring,  with a nip in the air … and they had a fire going in a 55 gallon drum nearby.  WHRRRRRRUMPHHH! … everything exploded in a fireball.  It quickly consumed   the old T-Model,  the saw mill,  Rudolph, and everything.  Everyone escaped but Rudolph. After the fire died down,  all that remained of Elvira’s poor husband was ashes and a few brittle bits of bone,  charred to a snowy white.  Perhaps this was a blessing,  for had Rudolph’s body survive the accident complete … Elvira would have had SOMETHING to cling to,  a tangible OBJECT of her love.  But now all was gone,  except for a small jewelry box of ash and bone.

After the funeral,  Clovis and Adeline invited the grieving Elvira to move in with them … for a while.  Grandpa Clovis converted one of the rooms on the kitchen side of the house into an apartment for her.  ‘For a while’ stretched into years,  and years,  and more years. The three of them lived in that house for the remainder of their lives.

It wasn’t long before the grieving widow and hospitable sister were sharing more than just the kitchen and privy.  And the yard dogs weren’t the only ones trotting back and forth through the hallway.  You see,  Grandpa Clovis and his wife Adeline raised six kids in that old house,  and Grandpa Clovis and Elvira,  (his wife’s sister),  raised five kids there.

“Clovis was no better ‘n a dog his-self,”  raved Aunt May when she first heard the story. “DOG TROT was a fittin’ name,  that’s fer sure!”

Uncle Earle’s father was Clovis’ six child by his legal wife Adeline.  And Uncle Earl’s favorite uncle,  Edward,  was the fifth child of Clovis and Elvira.  So because those two boys were HALF brothers,  Uncle Earle just naturally considered Edward to be his HALF-UNCLE.  Hey!  It makes sense to me!

This story is loosely based on my real great-grandfather!  Names have been changed to protect the ‘innocent.’  The photo, taken in 1937, is believed to be the actual dogtrot.




When The Obvious ‘Ain’t’ Right


© 2017  Bill Murphy

Have you ever found yourself in a hole, and doing the obvious thing to dig yourself out has only gotten you in deeper?  I have.

Here’s a classic example, from when I was first learning to fly radio controlled model airplanes:

When a model plane is flying towards you, and you wish to turn right, you steer left instead. Right is right only if you’re facing in the same direction in which the plane is flying. Duh.

That lesson was easy compared to the next one.

Aircraft, model or the real McCoy, can have a tendency to ‘spin.’  This happens when the plane is somehow ‘over-controlled,’  causing it to loose lift and fall, spiraling to the earth. This happened to me a couple of times, requiring extensive repair to my crashed Q-Tee model plane.

Then an experience flyer told me the ‘trick’ to spin recovery.  As the model is spinning out of control and down to the earth – the obvious thing to do is command it to go back up. Not so! Instead, as it spirals downward, give it the command to go DOWN!

Are you crazy? It’s already going down!

I soon had reason to put this impossible theory to the test. High overhead, I inadvertently got my cutie into another spin! It took everything within me to send the control to go down to an already falling model. But I did. Instantly, she flipped out of the spin and back into calm and serene, controllable, level flight!

Living a Christ-like life is similar. Jesus taught us that the first will be last, and the last – first. He told us that we will find new life when we allow our old nature to die. He taught us that we will have – when we give. I could go on and on.

God is a God of the paradox. I know it’s difficult to do good to those who do evil against us, and to pray for those who ‘obviously’ should be cursed.

Remember: The world tells is what is obvious, obvious to the world’s standards. But the obvious ain’t always right.

Follow His Word, His leading, His teachings, His way!  Just as the obvious ain’t always right – doing the opposite ain’t always either!



Put On Your Thinking Cap

© 2017 Bill Murphy

Oh that it was always that easy. The first step is to find your thinking cap, what ever that is!

I can’t remember the first time I heard that time-honored admonition. But I must have paid attention. Carol says that I can make (or repair) anything using DUCK TAPE. Not so. My Dad was the Duck Tape Hero and Poster Child. He was always Duck Taper of the Month.

Just a few minutes ago, I discovered a sidewalk, solar powered path light which had not survived the last weed-eater edging. It was sheared off at ground level. With thinking cap on my head – hot glue gun, section of coat hanger wire, and a small amount of mandatory duck tape – I repaired the thing. Don’t say that I’m not a chip off the old block! Now that light is (almost) as good as new.

But years ago, the following (simple) problem stumped me.


Everyone SAID it was simple. And now, that I know the solution, I understand that it is.

Using only 4 (FOUR) straight (STRAIGHT) lines,      connect ALL the dots. 

One. Two. Three. GO!


That day on my attempt, my thinking cap did me absolutely no good, much to my shame and embarrassment. It really should have been a snap for me. I’ve always enjoyed picture-based puzzles.

In school, one of my favorite subjects was GEOMETRY! Algebra was a chore, but geometry was a world filled with lines, shapes, and spaces. Pi and square were only concepts – but triangles, rectangles, and circles are REAL things!

And SOLID Geometry was a dream come true! I still use it today in my model airplane building and design.

So – how are you coming so far?

No, I won’t be so crass as to tell you to come back next week to the exciting conclusion of “Put On Your Thinking Cap” and find the solution to this perplexing problem. That would not be nice.

Don’t skip too far ahead – the solution is below.

Don’t cheat!






So here’s the solution: 



So now you know. This problem is the famous one that inspired the phrase “Thinking OUTSIDE of the box.” A simple thinking cap won’t do here. Sorry.



Dirty Pigtails


Writers often use word ‘prompts’ to prod their imagination. These can be single words or short phrases. I enjoy writing from prompts. Last night the words “Dirty Pigtails” came to mind, quite out of the blue. That thought was soon followed by this fictional story. Beware: it’s not an altogether happy story. It’s more tragic than most things I write.Pig Tails


DIRTY PIGTAILS © 2017 Bill Murphy

Today is the anniversary of the death of Katy Winstead. I think of poor Katy often, especially on this date. I always have, and always will. She’s been gone since 1962, when we were in the 6th grade.

People might ask, “Did you love Katie.” Of course I did. But not in a boyfriend/girlfriend sense. We were only 12 at the time, far too young to understand what true love was all about. Yet I loved her still, as much as a friend as anything.

Had she lived, and we’d continued to grow up together, then our relationship might have morphed into something more serious. We’ll never know.

Katie came from what we called back then, ‘the wrong side of the tracks.’ Katie’s father had abandoned the family when Katie was 5 – forcing her under-educated mother to go to work to support the family of 4. Katie was the middle child. The other 2 were boys.

Life was hard for Katie and her family. If something wasn’t broken or in short supply, then it had been stolen from some heartless neighbor. Katie never wore brand-name clothes – it was either thrift shop, garage sale, or do without. I would say that at least Katie was always clean, but I’d not be truthful. She and her clothing always bordered between dingy and dirty. Perhaps there was not enough hot water, or not enough clean clothes, or not enough time. Who knows. Like I said, life was hard for Katie.

Most people at least bathe more than they wash their hair. So Katie’s hair washing was far less frequent than most of us. Katie’s hair was auburn, but most often looking more like brown. And, she always wore it in pigtails.

Katie and I were friends – close friends. We ate together in the lunchroom, hung out together on the playground, and walked to an from school together – at least as far as where our paths intersected. We spent even more time together in the summer, much to my mother’s dismay. She said that our relationship was ‘unhealthy.’ When she said that, it was like she was referring to Katie’s personal hygiene, and I resented it. I always stood up for Katie.

I’m really not sure what drew us together. Our backgrounds were so different. They say that opposites attract, so perhaps that explains it. And like I said, perhaps, just perhaps, Katie and I would still be a pair, if it were not for that terrible night that October.

It was Wednesday night, and I was in church with my family. Katie sometime went with us. Truthfully, Katie would simply ‘just show up.’ But that was because I’d asked her to. But this night – her mother had to work especially late, her older brother was spending the night with a friend, so Katie had to stay home with her younger brother.

The evil, heartless character broke down the back door and walked in. According to her brother, the man grabbed Katie, and took her.

Katie’s neighborhood was nothing like Mayberry of TV. It was a rough and tumble neighborhood. And just over the back tumble down fence, was a sprawling junk yard. The perfect place for vermin like Katie’s captor.

Precious time was wasted before police finally arrived to ‘investigate the situation.’

Katie’s crumpled body wasn’t found until the next morning. The police were amazed by the terrific way she’d fought back. We heard later that her fingernails on both hands had been broken or bent backwards – where she’d clawed fiercely at him over and over again. There was as much of his blood on her as there was of her own.

Her assailant was never found. Perhaps he was from out of town.

But somewhere today, there may still be an evil character walking the earth who looks for all the world as if he’d been mauled by a grizzly bear. Katie didn’t go down without a fight.

Such was Katie – sweet, innocent, Katie. I miss you girl! I do.



When Bad Things Happen To Good People

© 2017 Bill Murphy

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Among the first I want to meet when we get to Heaven is Joseph, the fellow with the coat of many colors, the poster child for ‘When bad things happen to good people.’

Joseph was the favorite of his father’s 12 sons, and his older brothers hated him because of this. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

Joseph dreamed that his brothers bowed down to him, which made them hate him even more. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

His brothers threw him into a deep pit without food or water. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

When Ishmeelite merchants passed by, they sold Joseph to them. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

These merchants took Joseph far away, all the way to Egypt. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

Joseph was sold into slavery to a wealthy Potiphar. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

While in prison, Joseph interpreted dreams for Pharaoh’s Chief Baker and Chief Butler who were also in prison, but they forgot him and neglected to secure help for Joseph’s release. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

Joseph remained in prison for 2 more years! Maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

You know the rest of the story.

After Pharaoh had a dream which no one could interpret, the Chief Butler finally told Pharaoh about Joseph. Pharaoh was so impressed by Joseph and his interpretation (of the impending famine), that Joseph was made 2nd in command of all of Egypt – and ultimately saved all of Egypt, and his own family back in Israel, from starvation. Now that’s a really GOOD thing!

Joseph didn’t just ‘stick it out’ throughout his years of ‘trials and tribulations,’ he always kept his head high, and his eyes firmly focused upon the dream. The pit and the prison were only bumps in the road, stepping stones which lead to the glorious conclusion of his story. If one were to ‘save’ Joseph from any one of these ‘bad’ steps, it would only rob Joseph of his ultimate goal.

Joseph’s long laundry list of ‘bad things,’ in the grand scheme of things, weren’t so bad after all! In truth, they turned out to be GOOD THINGS which led to the happy ending of the story. Wow!






Bare Buns

© 2017 Bill Murphy

When I began this blog, I vowed that I would not stoop to ranting and raving – ever! Therefore, the following is only an OBSERVATION over the course of some 70+ years.

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As for ‘bare buns,’ I’m not speaking of those you see everywhere on 36 inch waist individuals who insist on wearing 48 inch pants – with no belt. I hope this fad soon goes the way of the duck tail haircut. I’m talking about HAMBURGER BUNS.

Hamburgers have an upper and lower bun. Back in ‘my day’ BOTH of these buns were smeared with condiments. Yes, they really were – and at EVERY place that made burgers! But not today.

Today, the bottom half of the bun is as naked as if it were taking a shower! Although I don’t agree with this short cut, I can understand the reasoning behind it.

If you’re in the business of selling burgers, sales volume interrupts into sales profits. Lets say that you can make 100 burgers in and hour and can sell those 100 burgers in an hour. It would not be wise to MAKE only 80 burgers per hour. (You’d lose 20% of your profits!) It takes time to paint that bottom bun with condiments – time that merchants today think of as wasted time. (Who looks at the BOTTOM bun besides Bill Murphy?) So the bottom is left naked.

And then there is the COST of those ‘wasted’ bottom bun condiments. The merchant POCKETS the cost of these un-used/unneeded condiments. (Profits go up!) The boss can now go to Hawaii this Summer!

Also, by their very nature, when you cook hamburger meat, it becomes GREASY. Placed on top of a spread of mayo/mustard/ketchup mix, the grease has no where to go but over the side! Drip, drip, drip. The nude bottom bun gives the hamburger grease a place to soak into. Tasty! Otherwise, time would be WASTED by de-greasing each patty.  And as we have seen, wasted time is wasted money! (The bottom bun serves today as a grease trap.)

And so, there you have it. It’s all a capitalist ploy to make money, at the expense of old geezers like me who remember the good old days of a COMPLETE hamburger. That’s not a rant. It’s “Just the facts, ma’am” – like Sgt. Friday said. Some ‘old fashioned’ things are  ‘good fashioned’ things too!