A Program for School Librarians & Cultural Enrichment for Students

Hurricane Gustav:

Well, once again, nature has turned harsh and ugly. So much for Transcendentalism. My publisher (Pelican Publishing) and many of my friends are along the coast. I hope the storm fizzles out. Seeing Cameron Parish this summer depressed me–even so long after Rita. Michele, my good friend and now staff writer for the Assumption Parish newspaper, should have much to write about after the storm is over.

CelticFest Mississippi in Jackson, Sept. 5-6

Assuming Gustav doesn’t do too much damage and disrupt our life too much, my good friend Tom McCandlish and I will be performing at this festival. We have 4 sets. We call ourselves Angus Dubhghall, naming ourselves after two famous Scot warrior-chieftains. I am also booked for two storytelling sessions for the kiddies. I’ll be selling and signing my Scottish Alphabet books as well. If you like Celtic crafts, music, and culture, you will love this festival. You can read all about this festival and see the other performers here:

Here is my flyer (flier is less correct alternate spelling) I use for my Scottish-Irish (Scots-Irish) school programs. Feel free to copy it and send it to librarians or teachers who may be interested in booking me. I love to travel, so I’ll go anywhere. Since my children’s picture book, The Scottish Alphabet, came out, this program is popular now, as well as my Civil War and Texas History program.

scots-irish flyer

A True Slave Narrative: Ida Atkins 72 Years Old

Here is one of the famous slave narratives that help us understand what life was like for black Americans before, during and after the Civil War. Most libraries have sets of these. If you purchase a set for yourself, make sure you get the complete set as the abridged set has been severely edited and you’ll get a less objective and jaundiced view of the topic of slavery. The account I have below, for example, is one that might be left out of the purged shorter set (that follows an agenda).

According to this site: “From 1936 to 1938, over 2,300 former slaves from across the American South were interviewed by writers and journalists under the aegis of the Works Progress Administration. These former slaves, most born in the last years of the slave regime or during the Civil War, provided first-hand accounts of their experiences on plantations, in cities, and on small farms. Their narratives remain a peerless resource for understanding the lives of America’s four million slaves. What makes the WPA narratives so rich is that they capture the very voices of American slavery, revealing the texture of life as it was experienced and remembered. Each narrative taken alone offers a fragmentary, microcosmic representation of slave life. Read together, they offer a sweeping composite view of slavery in North America, allowing us to explore some of the most compelling themes of nineteenth-century slavery, including labor, resistance and flight, family life, relations with masters, and religious belief.”  Here is the article I selected. In the transcription some of the original dialect may have been cleaned up to ease reading.

Ida Adkins : 72 years old

I was born before the war.  I was about 8 years old when the Yankee soldiers came through.  My mother and father were Hattie and Jim Jeffries and they belonged to Marse Frank Jeffries.  Marse Frank come from Mississippi, but when I was born he and Miss Mary Jane were living down here near Louisburg in North Carolina where they had a big plantation with I-don’t-know how many slaves.  Marse Frank was very good to his slaves – maybe excepting that they never got enough to eat.  He worked ‘em hard on half rations but he didn’t believe in all the time beating or selling his slaves.

My father worked at the stables, he was a good horseman, but my mother worked at the  big house helping Miss Mary Jane.  Mother worked in the weaving room.  I can see her now sitting a the weaving machine and hear the pedals going “plop, plop”, as she treaded them with her feet.  She was a good weaver.  I stayed around the big house too, picking up chips, sweeping the yard and such as that.  Miss Mary Jane was quick as a whip-po-will.  He had black eyes that snapped, an they saw everything.  She could turn her head so quick that she’d catch you every time if you tried to steal a lump of sugar.  I liked Marse Frank better than I did Miss Mary Jane.  All of us little children called him “Big Pappy”.  He’d go to Raleigh about twice a year and every time he would come back he brought all of us children some candy.  Raleigh was a far ways from the plantation – near about sixty miles.  It always took Marse Frank about three days to make the trip.  A day to go, a day to stay in town, and a day to come back.  He would always get back at night unless he rode the horse back instead of the carriage – and then he would get back about sun-down.

Marse Frank did not go to the war, he was too old.  So when the Yankees come through they found him at home.  When Marse Frank saw the Yankees coming down the road, he ran and got his gun.  The Yankees were on horses.  I ain’t never seen so many men.  They was thick as hornets coming down the road in a cloud of dust.  They come up  to the house and tied the horses to the pailin’s of the fence. There were so many they were all around the yard.  When they saw Marse Frank standing on the porch with a gun leveled on them they got mad.  Marse Frank shot one time and a big bully Yankee snatched the gun away and told Marse Frank to hold his hands behind his back.  Then they tied his hands and pushed him down on the floor beside the house and told him that if he moved a inch they would shoot him.  Then they went into the house.

I was scared near about to death, but I ran into the kitchen and got a butcher knife, and when the Yankees were not looking, I tried to cut the rope and set Marse Frank free.  But one of them blue devils saw me an come a running. He said: “What you doin’ you black brat – you stinking little alligator bait!”  He snatched the knife from my hand and told me to
stick out my tongue, that he was gonna cut it off.  I let out a yell and run behind the house.

Some of the Yankees was in the smoke house getting (stealing) the meat, some of them was at the stabled getting(stealing)  the horses, an some of them was in the house getting(stealing)  the silver and things.. I saw them put the big silver pitcher and tea pot in a bag.  Then they took the knives and forks and all the candle sticks and platters off the side board and they went in the parlor and got the gold clock that was Miss Mary Jane’s grand mothers’ clock.  Then they got all the jewelry out of Miss Mary Jane’s box.  And they even went up to Miss Mary Jane and while she looked at them with those black eyes snapping, they took the rings off her fingers, and the gold bracelet off her hand, they even took the ruby ear rings off of her ears and the gold comb out of her hair.

By that time I was done peeping in the window and was standing beside the house when the Yankees come out in the yard with all the stuff they was toting off.  Mares Frank was still on the porch floor with his hands tied and couldn’t do nothing.  About that time I saw all those bee gums in the side yard.   They was a whole line of the gums.  Little as I was I had a notion.  I run and got me a long stick and turned over every one of them gums.  Then I stirred them bees up with the stick till they was so mad I could smell the poison.  An bees!! You ain’t never seen the like of it  – bees everywhere!! They was swarming all over the place.  The sailed into them Yankees like bullets — each one madder then the other. They lit on the Yankees’ horses till the horses looked like they were alive with the varmints.  The horses broke they bridles and tore down the pailings and lit out down the road.  That running wasn’t nothing — to what the Yankees done.  They bust out cussing — but what did a bee care about cuss words! They lit on them blue coats and every time they lit the stuck in a poison sting.  The Yankees forgot all about the meat and things they done stole; they took off down the road on a run, passing the horses.  The bees were right after them in a long line.  They’d zoom and zip and zoom and zip and every time they zip a Yankee would yell.

When they were all gone, Miss Mary Jane untied Marse Frank and then they took all the silver and meat and things the Yankees left behind and buried and hid it so if they came back they couldn’t find it.  Then they called me and said:

Ida Lee, if you hadn’t turned over the bee gums the Yankees would have toted off near about everything fine that we have.  We want to give you something you can keep so you’ll always remember this day and how you ran the Yankees away.  Then Miss Mary Jane took a plain gold ring off her finger and put it on mine.  And I’ve been wearing that ring ever since.

A Story: Green Irish Eyes

Tomorrow, I’ll be performing at the Daily Harvest Bakery and Deli from 9:00 a.m. till 1:00 p.m. I had such a grand time last week. I met so many cool people.  Here is a story I wrote: “Green Irish Eyes.”  I haven’t submitted it yet to anyone, but I thought I’d post it here. Let me know what you think of it,  okay?  (rickeyp@bayou.com)

Green Irish Eyes

“It’s a version of history you won’t find in the books, Neil, ” Seamus said. “The arm of Sinn Fein is long and bloody.  Now, Frankie there, he would know. He’s from Belfast. Was a runner for the People’s Army.  Hey, Frankie!”
Frankie looked up from his mopping.
“When you get a minute, come here and meet my friend Neil. A good Irish boy himself, he is.”
“Be right with you, Seamus.” Frankie took a drag of the cigarette hanging from his mouth, pulled up the sleeve of his long-sleeve T-shirt above his elbow.  A dragon was tattooed on his arm and elbow. As he lifted the cigarette to his mouth, his muscles flexed and the dragon seemed to come to life and roar and the Irish tri-color flag flapped in the dragon’s mouth.
I was not surprised Seamus had a worker who had been with the IRA. Seamus’ pub was an Irish fist in the face of Jackson’s yuppies and bluebloods. On the wall were framed photographs of Michael Collins, Stephen Plunkett, Brendan Behan; there were posters and other ephemera—a tile from the roof of Michael Collin’s house, a Sniper at Work sign taken from a C’maglen street corner, a library marker written in Gaelic.
I held out my hand when Frankie came to our table. “Seamus said you were in the IRA. What did you do?”
Frankie looked at Seamus a moment, then shrugged his shoulders. “They called me a go-to guy. Sent me to make small weapons drops and messages.  What’s it to you?”
The bluntness of tough Irish boys always catches me by surprise, and I sat there thinking of how to answer.
“Don’t get pissy, Frankie. He’s as Irish as we are,” Seamus said.  “Neil is a songwriter with a true gift for words.”
Frankie nodded. “Well, he and I will have a good talk sometime if he’ll buy the drinks. Have you seen Morgan?”
“She’ll be here later tonight.”
“When you see her, tell her I’ll be out with Tommy tonight. We’re going to check out a new club in Mound.”
“You want me to tell my daughter that her fiancée is going to a strip club?”
“Naw. Just tell her I’m going out. We’ll talk later, Neil.”
“Do you know my daughter, Morgan, Neil?”
I nodded.
“She’s a lucky girl to meet a guy like Frankie here. How about you? Do you have a sweetheart?”
“There’s a girl . . . let’s just say the first time I saw her she took my breath away.”
“Does she feel the same?” Seamus asked.
“I don’t know for sure. I’d like to think so.”
Frankie said, “I better get back to work, Seamus.”
“Aye.” Seamus reached out and squeezed Frankie’s arms. “Would you look at those muscles, Neil. He’s got the arms of an Olympic weightlifter. Best bouncer I ever had.”
That’s when I really squirmed.
*    *    *
As the weather was mild, I left the bar for a table on the covered patio. Morgan strolled into the club about eight.  A natural beauty, she carried her slender frame with an air of ease and confidence. Her long red hair was pulled back under a ball cap, and she wore a maroon sweatshirt and jeans.  As I hoped, she sat down at my table.
“How about a beer, Neil?” she said.
“Sure.” I signaled Mary, the waitress, as she bustled by our table. “We’ll each have a pint and a glass.”
The Conleys had launched into another song, and the singer’s voice sounded very Irish, though as far as I knew, he had never been to Ireland.  He pounded his bodhran with a tempo that matched my heart.
Mary returned with our drinks and we lifted our shot glasses. “To Ireland,” I said. “And to a beautiful lady.”
“To Ireland, and a handsome man,” she replied. “And to other things.”
We drained the shots and we sipped our beers.  A little bit of froth from the stout clung to her lips, and she licked it off. It was difficult to not stare and lose myself in those green eyes.
“What are you looking at?” she asked.
“Your eyes.” I quoted a few lines of a poem by Frances Collins:
“So stir the fire and pour the wine,
And let those sea-green eyes divine,
Pour their love-madness into mine.”

“I like that poem. I’ll take your reciting it as a compliment.  Eyes are not usually what a guy notices.”
“Shakespeare called eyes the windows of the heart, and others have said that beauty enters the soul through the eyes. Okay, sorry. I’m rattling. You’re just so cute you make me stupid.”
She laughed. “How do you like my cap?” she asked.
“I like it fine.”
“What does it say?”
“It says, Kiss Me, I’m Irish.”
“Oh,” she said. “Okay.” She leaned over and kissed me.  One of her girlfriends hooted.  Morgan gave her the finger.
I heard Seamus call out, “Morgan!”
“Be right there,” she said. “Well, I’ve got to help my father tonight. He’s a little short on help. Thanks for the drink.  I’ll send Mary out with another Guinness—on me.”
When Morgan left, I moved to another table so I could see inside the bar. She had slung a towel on her shoulder and stuck a bottle opener in her back jeans pocket and as the crowd was picking up, she scurried about from table to table, picking up dishes, wiping off tables, and taking orders. I joined the line at the men’s room.  As she walked from the bar into the kitchen, she passed me, touched my middle-aged waist with her hand and said, “Wish we could talk more, but it’s really busy. I’ll have to catch you later.  How about tomorrow night?”
“I’ll be here.”  I walked out to the car whispering, “Stupid . . . moron . . . what are you doing?”
The next night, I was back at my table.  Seamus nodded when he saw me, but didn’t stop to bullshit like he usually did.  I thought he was just busy till I saw him sitting at the bar gabbing with a few of the customers at the bar.  When I saw Morgan, I forgot about Seamus, about Frankie, about anything but her.  She stopped at the edge of the patio entrance and smiled when she saw me.  She was a striking tableau in her high heels, black pants, and a black tank-type shirt and jacket. Silver earrings dangled from her ears and her hair was folded and clamped.
I waved, like a completely smitten and undone simpleton, and when she made it to my table, I stood and pulled back a chair so she could sit.
We drank more than we should have.  She reached for my hand and squeezed it. I melted, and she knew it.
“Let’s go for a drive,” she said.
She stood and led me by the hand outside.  We took my car and drove to the post office where she mailed some letters.  At least one was addressed to someone in Maze Prison in Northern Ireland.  From there we went to the Wildlife Refuge and looked at the moon and shooting stars. I followed the trail of one heavenly monster as it sliced through the blackness and found myself looking into her eyes.
“We really shouldn’t do this,” she said.
“I know, but I don’t think I can stop myself.”
“I know.”
We kissed, and then I said, “You know what I’d like to do? I’d like to take you to Ireland someday. I want to be away from Jackson, in a world all our own. I want to kiss you whenever I want, to walk down the street holding your hand. I want to belong to you and I want you to belong to me.
She sighed. “I’d like that too.”
“I found a writer, a Madame Delphine Gay de Girardin, who said, ‘A woman whom we truly love is a religion.’ I think she was right. And I think you’re my religion.”
“Enough daydreaming and pretty words, English professor. We know what we’re here for.”
The next day, Morgan called me. “We’ve got to talk, Neil.”
“Okay, I—”
“No, listen. I’m not up to you breaking my heart. I like you—a lot—but I’m not going to see you anymore if it’s not going to go anywhere.”
“I don’t know about you, Morgan, but I’m not going anywhere. I’m sure I’m in love with you.”
“You say that now, but you really don’t know. Let’s give each other a week’s space. If I don’t hear from you, then I’ll know for sure.  It will hurt me, and you might hurt some too, but if we handle it now, it’ll be manageable. We would have real problems anyway.”
“You mean with Frankie?”
“Yes, and with my father too. He wouldn’t handle it well. You’d be losing a friend.”
“You’d be worth any price.”
“We’ll see. Goodbye, Neil. One week.”
I avoided Seamus and the pub all the next week. Sat around the house and drank mostly. The week finally passed, but when the deadline to call her came, I sat and looked at the phone,  unplugged it, and went to bed.  The next night I drank half a fifth of Bushmill’s while I looked at the phone, passed out, and barely made it to the university in time to teach my 8:00 class.  I felt as paralyzed as a Prufrock.  The next night, I drank the other half of the Bushmills.  In spite of my self-medication, I didn’t sleep well that night, and in a hypnagogic state I realized that I couldn’t let her go.  The devil take Frankie and Seamus. If Seamus were a true friend, I figured he’d get over it and he’d help Frankie get over it too. Frankie had more important things to do than to fool with me anyway—like going to strip clubs and killing British soldiers and such.
I called Morgan every hour the next day, but there was no answer. I called the bar and asked Mary if she had seen Morgan.
“No,” she said. “She and Frankie left for New Orleans. I think they’re going to catch a plane to Ireland.”
I opened another bottle of Bushmills, filled a glass, and sat down to think. Only two days late. I flipped through the cable stations looking for a movie to take my mind off of Morgan. It must have been Irish Day or something.  The Devil’s Own, In the Name of the Father, Patriot Games, The Crying Game—none of them suited my mood at the time.
I heard my back door open.  Maybe it was the whiskey, but I said it anyway. “Morgan?”
“No, I’m not Morgan, lad,” a male voice said.  The accent was thick with Irish.
I started to get up from my chair, but a vice-like hand pushed me down. “Just sit right there, lad.”
I looked at him.  He was middle-aged, wore a stocking cap, a thick gray sweater covered by an old British field jacket, and camouflage pants.  “Who are you and what are you doing in my house?”
“My name is Lorcan, a friend of the family you might say.”
“You mean Seamus?”
“I do. Hell, you’re brighter than they said you were.  Well, Neil, you’ve created quite a problem, and I’ve been sent to fix that.”
“Are you with the Ira?”
“That I am. Of course, if I told you that, I’d have to kill you.”
“I don’t care who you are. Get your ass out.” I rose from my chair but his fist hammered my nose and knocked me back down.
“Now, don’t irritate me. Look at you, a bloody mess you are.”  He tossed me a handkerchief. “Wipe your nose, and take yourself another drink of that good Irish whiskey.”
While I chugged down the whiskey, I watched him open his jacket’s side pocket and fish out a roll of duct tape, a pistol, and a Black and Decker drill.  When I set down the bottle he tightly bound my feet and arms with the tape. “Why are you doing this?” I asked.
“You can’t go around breaking a young Irish girl’s heart now, can you, laddie. And you insulted your friend Seamus by sneaking around with her like you did.  Did you think that Seamus wouldn’t notice you were seeing his daughter?  And Frankie, he’s not one to piss off either.”
“Well, tell Seamus I’m sorry. Just have Frankie come over and kick my ass.  I’ll make it up to him.”
“Sorry, laddie. My orders were clear—kneecap you, both legs, then one bullet to the head.”  He taped my mouth shut, held up the drill, and spun the bit. “Now, what is it the doctor says? This is going to sting a little bit.”
Actually, it hurt a great deal, but the pain in my heart screamed almost as loud as I did when the drill bit into my knee. I didn’t even think about how bad the pain was. I had always thought my last thoughts would be significant, peaceful—that they would be emotionally charged, summing up my life, finally fitting together all the jagged pieces of the puzzle—that I would find clarity and meaning in the tragedies, the losses, the failures—even failures like this one.  But my thoughts weren’t about those things at all.
All I could think about was Morgan—and I relieved the dreams I had experienced since the first time I had seen her. I imagined her kiss, the softness of her hands, of walking with her in Ireland.  My last conscious thought was how lost I was in those green eyes.   And my conscience whispered some lines from a Longfellow poem:
A pretty girl, and in her tender eyes
Just that soft shade of green we sometimes see
In evening skies.

A Short One-Act Play based on Linda Pastan’s Poem, “Ethics”

This is a short play I wrote. Educators may freely copy, use, or adapt this play if they wish as long as they include  credit to me as the playwright, my email, and a link to my website or blog:

Author: Rickey E. PIttman, rickeyp@bayou.com

Personal Website
Blog http://southernmissive.booklocker.com/

The Choice: A One-Act Play

Director’s Notes:

See these links for analysis of the poem:
http://www.answers.com/topic/ethics-poem-3   and

This short play is based on Linda Pastan’s poem, “Ethics.” The play begins with the narrator (perhaps the actor who portrays the woman) reading or reciting the poem.

In ethics class so many years ago
our teacher asked this question every fall:
If there were a fire in a museum,
which would you save, a Rembrandt painting
or an old woman who hadn’t many
years left anyhow? Restless on hard chairs
caring little for pictures or old age
we’d opt one year for life, the next for art
and always half-heartedly. Sometimes
the woman borrowed my grandmother’s face
leaving her usual kitchen to wander
some drafty, half imagined museum.
One year, feeling clever, I replied
why not let the woman decide herself?
Linda, the teacher would report, eschews
the burdens of responsibility.
This fall in a real museum I stand
before a real Rembrandt, old woman,
or nearly so, myself. The colors
within this frame are darker than autumn,
darker even than winter—the browns of earth,
though earth’s most radiant elements burn
through the canvas. I know now that woman
and painting and season are almost one
and all beyond saving by children.

(We are in the Masur Art Museum in Monroe, Louisiana. On the set are several hinged flats, on which are hung several Impressionist large canvass paintings. On a small table center stage is a large guest book. Play opens with song, “Starry, Starry Night,” by Don McClean. During the song, the curator is dusting and admiring the various paintings.)


SHERIDAN: The museum curator. Middle-aged. He is an art critic and collector. His work is his life.

WOMAN: An old woman.

MINNIE: The curator’s assistant. She is the new secretary newly hired because of pressure from board. She is a complete idiot and incompetent. Doesn’t know or appreciate the arts.


Scene 1

SHERIDAN: Minnie?  Minnie! Bring me some coffee. It’s time for the museum to open. (He is now holding a painting in his hands.)

(She hurries out to him and hands him cup and saucer. She has a cig in her mouth) Don’t you know that coffee is bad for you? I don’t think I was hired to bring you coffee. (She sets it down and starts going through mail)

SHERIDAN:  (Aside) I didn’t want to hire her at all. She’s the niece of one of the board members. (To Minnie) What is your job description? What were you hired to do?

MINNIE: I’m your secretary. Your administrative assistant.

SHERIDAN: Ridiculous. You can’t even spell that.

MINNIE: I can too! T-H-A-T!  Hmmmph!

(She goes to desk. Phone rings. Curator looks at her. Phone continues ringing.)

SHERIDAN: Would you please answer the phone!

(Minnie answers the phone)

MINNIE: Hello? What do you mean who is this? Who is this? Sheridan? Who is Sheridan?  Yes, this is the museum. Oh, him. Yeah, he’s here. Would you like to speak to him?

(Curator moves to her and tries to take phone. She swats him away and is laughing)

MINNIE: Are you sure? He’s pretty grumpy today. Okay. here he is. (Sticks out tongue)

SHERIDAN: This is Sheridan. Why, yes, I’ll be at the conference. Yes, that is correct. My speech will be about The PreRaphelites and it’s called, “The redheaded models of the PreRaphaelites.” No, my secretary will NOT be coming with me. She said what?  She thought Minneapolis was in Mexico? Well, I think she was joking with you. Must have been, nobody could be that . . . (looks at Minnie. She is doing something goofy, making and throwing airplanes)  Never mind. Yes, I’ll see you.

Minnie, where is my plane ticket?

MINNIE: On your desk somewhere.

(He sorts through papers. Finds plane ticket. Looks at it and gasps. Walks to her, slapping his hand with the paper.)

SHERIDAN: Oh, Minnie . . . This is a one-way ticket.

MINNIE: Yeah. You said to book you a flight to Minneapolis.

SHERIDAN: Did you think I was going to walk back? What did you think I meant? You are a moron!

MINNIE: I hate it when you call me names! I’m going to tell my uncle and he’s going to fire you! (She has meltdown)

(An old woman ambles in, singing. She has a hat on and an umbrella in her, and is dressed in ragged clothes. )

SHERIDAN: Ah, our first visitor of the day! Welcome to the Masur Museum! Would you please sign our guestbook?

WOMAN: Good to meet you, Mr. Masur Museum.  What do you do here?

SHERIDAN: I’m the curator.

WOMAN:  What’s that? An alligator?

SHERIDAN: No curator.

WOMAN: You cure things? Can you cure my arthritis? What’s your name?

SHERIDAN: Sheridan

WOMAN: What kind of name is that? (She looks at Minnie) You must be the manager. I think you need to get rid of Bozo here.

(She strolls around looking at art. She does things like try to draw on painting,)

SHERIDAN: You can’t draw on the paintings. What are you, some kind of Vandal?

(Stops at another painting.)

WOMAN: I want to take this one home to show grandkids.

(Sheridan stands between her and painting.)

SHERIDAN: Please, we mustn’t touch the paintings!  That painting is a Rembrandt. It is worth millions of dollars, a priceless work of art.

WOMAN: You paid too much. Someone cheated you.  What will you give me for this one. (She pulls out painting/drawing with Southpark like figure on it)

SHERIDAN (laughs) Oh, please.  This is the worst piece of art I’ve ever seen.

WOMAN:  My grandson did this. You don’t know a thing about art or grandkids either. I know you from somewhere. (She studies him, snaps fingers)  I know! You were one of those Pittman brats!  I don’t know why the museum would hire you. Kids can’t save art.

(Minnie exits, and then returns in a frantic state)

MINNIE: Fire! Fire! I was smoking in the painting restoration room and I put my cigarette out in this pan of water and the fire started.  I’ve never seen water burn.

SHERIDAN: That was paint thinner, you idiot!

(Minnie runs out screaming)

WOMAN: Don’t you talk to your boss that way! (She starts hitting him with umbrella)

SHERIDAN: Please exit the building now. The building is on fire. (He tries to push her along) Get out! I’ve got to save the Rembrandt!

(The woman falls, starts moaning and can’t get up.)  Help! Help me!

(Sheridan tries to carry both the painting and the woman, but can’t)

WOMAN:  Put down that worthless scribbling and get me out of here.

SHERIDAN: (Aside) If I leave her here, she’ll burn to death. Aren’t we supposed to burn witches? If I help her, the newspaper will say, “Addled curator let’s priceless painting burn in fire to save museum vandal.” The museum will close down and no one will trust me with art again. I know, I’ll tell them she was a terrorist!

WOMAN: Please, help me! What will my grandchildren do without me?

SHERIDAN: (Looks at Rembrandt) Oh . . . She has children. What if this homeless bag lady were my mother? I’ll probably regret this choice (He tosses down the painting and helps her out)

Scene 2

(Narrator announces or parades with sign that reads, Scene Two, Three Months Later)

MINNIE: (Enters) Sherwood, there’s someone to see you.

SHERIDAN: My name is Sheridan. Who is it?

MINNIE: I don’t know but they said they were bored. The last name was Smith I think.

SHERIDAN: Mrs. Smith is the chief board member of the museum, Minnie. Send her in.  (Aside) I’ve never met her.  She is the most generous benefactor the museum has ever had. She’s probably come to fire me for losing the Rembrandt. I should have let that old hag fry in the fire. I saved her life and haven’t heard a word from her.  What will I do?

(A well-dressed lady enters. She holds two paintings. Sheridan falls to his knees)

I’m sorry! She held a gun on me! I had no choice.  I should not have saved that crazy old woman!

WOMAN: What did you say about the woman? (reveals herself or Sheridan recognizes her)

SHERIDAN: (screams) She’s come back from hell.  Maybe it’s her ghost, or her twin sister. There can’t be two of them!

WOMAN: Though you are the oddest curator I’ve ever known, because you saved my life, I have something for you.  Two Rembrandt’s! Actually, for a Pittman, you came out okay. I’m sure glad you weren’t Mama Pittman. She would have let me burn up.

And here’s an early Picasso study if you’d like it.

SHERIDAN: (stutters, babbles) Picasso?

WOMAN: Oh, for land’s sake. Do you have these spells often? Here take them.

(Sheridan and Minnie take the paintings and exit. As they walk, they talk)

MINNIE: This is exciting!  I think I may go to college and become an art major. Sherman, who is Picasso?  Was he a basketball player?

SHERIDAN: I think school is an excellent idea, Minnie. I’ll help you find one that has a good art program.

(Now the old lady is alone.)

WOMAN: I’ve loved and studied art and artists all my life. (She picks up painting) I look at something like this, a beautiful work of art, and I think about the painter’s style, the delicate or harsh strokes of his or her technique, the stories and mysteries the paintings hold, and I realize that art is worth saving. But then, so are people. Even old people.  Sometimes art saves us. Sometimes we must save art.

Various News & Thoughts . . .

College Schedule:

Mon. & Wed: ENG 102, at 2:00 p.m. & 3:30 p.m

ENG 101 5:00-6:15 p.m.

Tues. & Thurs:  Academic Seminar 12:30-1:45 p.m.

Tuesday Only: American Literature till 1865 (ULM) 5:00-7:45 p.m.

Two Important Future Speaking Engagements:

I’ve been booked to speak at the Louisiana Reading Association Conference, Tuesday, October 28, from 3:15-4:15 Shreveport, LA, and at the Arkansas Reading Association Conference, Thursday Nov. 21, 12:30-1:30 p.m.  My topic  for both presentations is: “Why Authors Should Fall to Their Knees and Worship Librarians.”

Reviving Interest in a Forgotten Novel:

Sometime ago at a reading workshop at West Monroe High School on a Saturday, I won a class set of 30 books from Glencoe as a door prize.  They have a very impressive list, but I decided instantly which book I wanted: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I love teaching this novel.  Since I own the books, I decided to assign Frankenstein to one of my ENG 102 classes to be the topic of their research paper. So I checked a copy out to each student, had them sign a promise to pay me $15.00 if the book were lost, and we covered some of the highlights of the novel.

After you get them past the monster/Hollywood version (over a hundred movie versions) and the stereotypes, students learn that Frankenstein is a novel of ideas. The primary one is: What is the responsibility of the creator to his creation? That topic, always present even when unsaid, and the other themes of the novel create much thought. I think that after digesting good books like this, the reader never looks at life the same. Such books feed the mind, are cathartic to the heart, and enrich our cultural and historical understanding. Today, we read “The Golem,” which is the Jewish version of Frankenstein.  In my study and teaching of the Gothic novel of Shelley and the Jewish version, “The Golem,” I’ve learned much about myself, human nature generally, society, and the nature of the universe.

I am going to try to book some high school/college gifted programs focussed on Frankenstein and on World War I poets. I’ve got great workshops put together for both of these topics. I’m sure I’ll have more posts on this topic in the future.

Ed Miller Lyrics and Future Performance

On Oct. 3, at 6:30 p.m. I’ll be performing Irish music and reading Irish poetry at the local Rotary Club’s Irish Whiskey Tasting, which will be held at the West Monroe Convention Center. Help this fine organization out by attending.


Here are the lyrics of another song by Ed Miller, one of my favorite Scottish musicians I’ve mentioned on this blog before. The song is entitled, “My Old Martin Guitar.” As I begin to get more and better bookings for solo performances, this song means more and more to me. I actually own a Taylor and a Guild, though I did attempt to buy a Martin guitar once (It was sold the day before I got the money together, so I bought the old American-made Guild instead) I’ve transcribed the lyrics, so forgive me if I made a mistake.

My Old Martin Guitar

Some people they say I don’t work, boys
My life is all leisure and ease
Well, it’s true that I ramble around, boys
Drink whiskey and do as I please
For I’ve worked all over this country
Know most of the jobs that are gone
But I like best just singing these folk songs
And to play my old Martin guitar

While I have worked on a farm, boys
I’ve helped a forest anew
I’ve been a white collar worker, boys
In a factory I’ve worked with a will
Yes I’ve worked all over this country
I’ve even worked in a bar
But I like best just singing these folk songs
and to play my old Martin guitar

I don’t have much education, boys
So politics, they’re not for me
I just want a life for me family, boys
In a world where we’re equal and free
And I hope for a great day that’s coming
Without hatred, killing or war,
And I hope I might even be helping
As I play my old Martin guitar.

A Blurb and Listing in Scotland for The Scottish Alphabet a children’s picture book by Rickey E. PIttman:

A site called BooksfromScotland.com said this of my new Scottish Alphabet children’s book:

“The ABCs of Scotland are explored in rhyme, imagery, and history. Accompanied by illustrations that capture the beauty of Scotland, folk musician Rickey E. Pittman educates readers to the legendary Scottish way of life in clever rhymes that will entertain readers of all ages.”

You can find that link here:

Illustrators for Children’s Books Wanted

I’m not giving up my adult writing, but I am now officially a children’s picture book author. (Likely, I’ll try my hand at young adult books also). I have two children’s picture books published with Pelican Publishing, and another as soon as they find an illustrator, which brings me to the point of my blog. If you know an artist, or if you are an artist, if you have done artwork for children’s books before, if you don’t mind the hard work and rewrites (in the artist case, re-draws) if you can do research to make your art factually actually accurate as well as beautiful, then you need to apply to Pelican Publishing.  If you’re lucky, you’ll do the artwork for a hard-working author who will move a lot of books. If you’re smart, you’ll try to sell many books yourself. (You split the royalties with the author, so it’s in your favor to hook up with an author who will burn up the roads and do signings at many stores. For example, I did over 110 signings, programs, readings, and presentations last year. My book didn’t do badly, but if my artist had matched my efforts, we could have had a national best seller. )

I have more children’s books that Pelican would like to publish beyond these three I have with them, but they need artists. The one they’re ready to sign a contract on is The Little Confederate’s ABC Book. Please apply to Pelican, or tell a friend who is a good artist to apply. Please do look at the artwork for Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House and my Scottish Alphabet Book for samples of the quality of artwork that is needed.  Here are Pelican’s Guidelines for Artists. If you’d like to team up with me, you need to be interested in and  to do VERY well at Civil War art. You can find the guidelines page yourself here:

Pelican Publishing Company, the largest book publisher in the South, is always interested in talented, hard-working illustrators. All materials that are submitted to us are kept on file and reviewed as new projects arise. We would be very happy to have you send some of your best work for our perusal. Below are our basic guidelines for submissions.

Please Note: Pelican does not accept illustrations submitted via e-mail or the Internet!

Appointments: Pelican prefers submission by mail only. If an appointment is necessary, contact will be made with the artist.

Via Mail: Please send all materials securely packed and insured if necessary. Any materials to be returned must be accompanied by return postage and return packing materials.

Artwork Markings: Be sure all materials have your complete name, address and phone number in case the materials are separated or some are to be returned.

Artwork Format: Try to keep the size of all materials under 8 1/2 x 11 unless they may be folded. Materials are stored in a standard letter file cabinet, so oversize material is returned. Published works are preferable, but color and B/W copies are acceptable. Please do not send faxed materials unless requested.

Suggested Subject Matter: Since the majority of our illustrated books are for (1) children, (2) young adults and (3) technical, work submitted should be in these categories. Our children’s books are generally full color with both whimsical and realistic, human and animal characters. Our young adult books require black/white line work in a mostly realistic style. Technical work would include maps, diagrams, charts etc.

A current resume showing work in the design area (especially books) is helpful.

Pelican address:
All items being sent UPS, USPS or Federal Express materials should be sent to:

1000 Burmaster St.
Gretna, LA 70053
Attn: Production Manager

I have been fortunate to have had two great artists to have illustrated my books so far. Both did meticulous research and the illustrations are beautiful. I realize that their artwork is one reason I can sell and promote the book so easily. You’ll have to pitch your work yourself as it is standard policy for the author to have little decision-making power in regards to the illustrator. I wish you luck. I hope we can work together someday.  You can query the editor of Pelican Publishing (only regarding ideas. Do NOT send artwork via email unless they request it) at this email: nkooij@pelicanpub.com  or you can query them by snail mail at the address listed above.

Why Write Children’s Books?

I write children’s books because they are great tools. I want to teach children, teachers, and parents the great stories of history that have been left out of the history books. In my school programs (email me and I’ll send you a brochure) I’ve seen the joy that good books can bring to children. I’ve seen parents crack up with laughter over a book they read to their children. I’ve seen gifted and talented high school students do great read-alouds with children’s books. Children’s books are here to stay. Parents will keep children’s books when they’ve sold all their others in garage sales.

I didn’t intend to be a children’s book author, but I’m glad I am.

Good News and Schedule

First, the very good news: The Scottish Alphabet (my children’s picture book) is in the Pelican warehouse!  I’ll be delivering copies to those who preordered them soon. This also means that copies will be available for sale at the Jackson Celtic Fest in early September.  I haven’t quite finished my study guide and teacher packet for the book yet, but I’ll get to it.


I will be performing guitar/vocals at the Daily Harvest Bakery and Deli 1105 Forsythe Ave
Monroe, LA 71201 (318) 812-2253, Saturday, August 23; Saturday, August 30. Both days I will perform from 9:00 a.m. till noon or one. The music will be a mixture of Americana, instrumentals, and Scots-Irish music. On Saturday, Sept. 13, I’ll be performing there again, but probably most of the day. Teresa and Gale, the owners/managers, are great ladies. They now have their own cookbook, entitled, Daily Harvest Bakery and Deli Cookbook. If you love to eat healthy but good-for-you food, you need these recipes. You can read all about the book (and order it) here:

Thoughts on Entering Writing Contests . . .

I’ve heard there are folks who are professional sweepstakers, or who make a living entering contests (some requiring skills).  That must be fun, though I know it must be brutal work and require constant focus and a lot of organization.  There are contests for writers too–lots of them! Somewhere along the way, I started entering them, and I’m glad I did.  Winning the Ernest Hemingway Short Story Competition was really the jump start to my writing career. Since then, I’ve won or placed in a few others. I now enter every contest I can, though not as many as I should. Some of them are free, others you have to pay an entry fee for. I’m glad to pay the entry fee since the judges of the contests I enter are usually writers, publishers, or editors, (some of them very influential in the publishing world) and I know that my submission will actually be read instead of discarded or added to an overworked and underpaid editor’s huge slush pile.  There are writing contests for the genres of poetry, drama, fiction (short stories, collections of short fiction, and novels), essays and other nonfiction pieces, songwriting, recipes and a gadzillion others.  Winning contests looks good on one’s resume and the winning, published piece perhaps can catch the eyes of influential editors, agents, and publishers.

Contests for Writers:

For High School Students:  The mother of all writing contests are the Ayn Rand essay contests. BIG bucks. And the Ayn Rand institute will supply teachers with class sets of Rand’s novels in exchange for a commitment (and I would document it) to actually teach the novel.  (The novels are Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged.)  I’ve read these, and I liked them more than I thought I would. These are perfect novels that work well in dystopian studies.

Contests develop students’ writing skills. When I taught high school, I would make it mandatory for my high school students to enter such contests. Some of my high school gifted and honors students won money every year in one contest or another.

The link for the contest with the rules and prizes for the Rand contest  is here:

Other Writing Contests:

1) I enter the Booklocker  24-Hour Short Story Contest, held quarterly. The writing prompt is mailed to you at noon on a Saturday, and you must have it to them by noon on Sunday.  The entry fee is five dollars, and when you enter, guidelines are given. Prize money is good, the judges are excellent. Entering this contest will not only give you a bank of good stories (which I keep and enter in other contests) but will surely raise your computer skills as you wrestle with technological problems. Such timed contests are the ultimate stress-producers, but I believe it’s true that we writers sometimes produce more and better stuff under pressure. The start time is: Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 12:00 p.m. (noon) Central Time. Here is the site for the fall contest. If you decide to enter it, I’d read former winning entries. That will give you some idea of the tastes of the judges.  

2) New Millennium Writings Contest. This is also a quarterly contest, and a prestigious one. Entry fee is $17.00.  You can enter in any or all of the following categories, and with as many entries as you wish: Fiction, Short Fiction, Short-Short Fiction, Poetry, and Nonfiction. Winners get a very nice cash prize and publication. The contest’s website is here:

The magazine’s homepage is here:

I’ll likely post more information on other contests in the future. If you liked this contest information, send me an email at rickeyp@bayou.com

Lessons from Early Readings of Native Americans: Living on Borrowed Time

Somehow, someway, as a boy I developed a passion for reading books related to American Indians and the West. I literally read every book related to those topics in two branches of Dallas libraries. Some say that the books we read as children define us as adults. Perhaps that’s true.

My interest in Native Americans began early, maybe subconsciously. The first book that I ever owned, was given to me by the doctor who performed brain surgery on me. My parents said that they were reading the book with me in the lobby and when they tried to take it away from me, I cried and wailed and my heart was so broken that the doctor gave it to me. This was not a happy time for my parents. They doctor had told them I wouldn’t live more than six months after the surgery. Now, half a century later, that scenario gives me much to think about (the doctor is dead now). I’ve always thought I’ve been living on borrowed time. I know this is one dynamic that drives my friends and those close to me crazy. Especially since the sudden death of my brother last summer, I’ve been more reflective on the subject of mortality. My parents are getting along in years, wearing out from a life of hard work, suffering from the afflictions of age, and I’ve not asked them their perspective of my continued existence. It has been one of the great “unsaids” between family members. I can still see love in their eyes though.

That book the surgeon gave me was my first book. It’s title is Famous Indian Chiefs, written by John W. Moyer (with the Chicago Natural History Museum) and illustrated by James L. Vlasaty. Publisher was M.A,. Donohue & Co. Chicago/New York. The copyright is 1957. The book talks about eleven Indian (in today’s politically correct jargon, Native American) chiefs: Red Jacket, Black Hawk, Tecumseh, Yoholo-Micco, Osceola, Red Cloud, Dull Knife, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Chief Joseph, and Quanah Parker. There is a full color painting and pen and ink drawing illustrations for each chief. As soon as I get a scanner, I’m going to post each of these paintings. The book, my FIRST book, is one that I will never part with. Not for any amount of money.

All of my years of reading about the Native American world deeply affected me in these ways:

1. I became physical, perhaps even health conscious. Many Indians were runners, so I ran. I jogged early in the mornings. Did you know that many of them could outrun a horse in distance, could run 50 miles in a day, and I read and followed the training imposed on them. I never did reach 50 miles in a day. Most I did was 12 miles. Indian warriors took pride in showing no pain. I tried to emulate them.

2. I became a warrior. I studied fighting. I learned archery, made and threw spears at cardboard buffaloes, made war clubs, and studied the great battles between whites and Indians.

3. I became a survivalist. I learned to identify plants for food and medicine. I learned to trap and hunt. I was a Boy Scout so this fit right in with my interests. (achieved Eagle, Order of the Arrow, God and Country Medal, Fifty-Miler Award, Mile Swim, and a Bronze Palm). I went on survival camping trips with only a knife. I made pemmican, learned how to dry meat, start a fire with flint and steel, and many other skills most people today don’t have a clue about.

4. I learned Indian crafts. I learned to do bead-work, both on a loom, and hand sewing in the Plains Indian style. (Grey Owl is a great source of crafts if you’re interested. Their site is here: I made Indian costumes for Boy Scout ceremonies. The way I dressed as a teenager reflected my interest and passion to study the American Indians. I wore fringed moccasins to high school every day of my junior year, had a fringed buckskin jacket, and wore a beaded headband most days.

5. I watched every movie and TV show on American Indians I could find: Some of my favorites about Indians or with Indian characters are: Billy Jack, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Winterhawk, Dances with Wolves, Last of the Mohicans, Renegade, Apache (1954 – a bad movie, but more realistic than the modern Geronimo movie) The Searchers (John Wayne) and many other movies whose titles I have forgotten.

6. I hunted arrowheads ( and spear points, etc.) on my uncle’s farm in Comanche, TX. (Monzelle O’Brien) I just found out that he passed away. Here is his obituary:

Hugh Monselle O’Brien, 95 of Comanche, died Thursday, July 3, 2008 at Comanche County Medical Center.
He was born on Mar. 27, 1914 in Austin to Hugh Marion O’Brien and Emily Gertrude (Bryant) O’Brien.
He was married to Lucille Johnson on Feb. 18, 1947 in Fort Worth.
O’Brien was a World War II veteran, an accomplished writer and a member of First United Methodist Church in Comanche.
He is survived by his wife; daughters Nancy Isham of Comanche, Karen Coplen of Comanche, Christy Fitzsimmons of Garland, Susan Daniel of Odessa and Becky O’Brien of Early; thirteen grandchildren, seven great grandchildren, one great great granddaughter, numerous cousins and many friends.
Funeral services were Sunday, July 6 at First United Methodist Church followed by burial at Taylor’s Chapel Cemetery.
Memorials may be made to the American Cancer Society.

7. I have continued to read about Native Americans, have researched, written many sources for information, and continue to write. Like my writing about the Civil War, not all of what I record is positive, but I hope it tells the truth.