The Hermit’s Handbook

When my breath had slowed I poked my head around the rough bark and faced, for the first time, the little house that Efraim had built, so close to my own. I shook my head. I blinked my eyes and shook my head and blinked again, trying to change what my eyes couldn't understand while the trees bowed and bucked above me -- it was a recurring déjà vu, a dream I had forgotten, a town I had lived in and passed one day by accident: hovering in mid-air, right before my eyes, rose the unmistakable outline that I had first seen, and drawn, and then built to be my own house!

Light poured from every window like smoke, reflecting from the deck and trees and illuminating the outside walls so clearly I could see the shingles and the underside of the overhanging roof. Everything was where I knew it would be, where, in fact, I'd placed it myself: from the overhaing slope of the salt-box roof to the cedar-shingled walls to the little roof over the front door to the wide staircase beaming down from the left side of the front deck; even the windows were arranged in the same places, the biggest one above the front door and flanked by two small ones, the door itself standing between two tall windows of the same size -- he'd copied it all. The little double squeezed stiffly between the tossing trees, an empty box glowing in the night as if it had nothing to do with anything else in this world.

The longer I studied it, though, the more I saw that something wasn't quite right. It was smaller than my house, half the size, so tiny that the windows spanned more space than the walls themselves, each side more light than shadow. And it wasn't as high as a tree house should be, drowpped around the ankles of the trees like a pair of undone pants. Though the general outline was identical to my own house, this was a strangely proportioned box, slope-shouldered, taller than it was wide, its roof stretching out so far that it looked like an upturned top had landed in the mud. It reminded me of a child's crayon drawing of my house, the shape recognizable but each line veering off on its own, the angles dangerously askew. Even the smoke, rising from the middle of the back roof as my own did, curled from the pipe like a child's drawing: and what would I look like, I shivered, if Efraim drew a picture of me?

-- Jack Barry, The Hermit's Handbook (Ashfield, MA: Down-to-Earth Books, 2004), 192-93.

Scout’s Miwok Research

MIwok millstone

1. Google: Miwok kidfriendly

2. Miwok, First People of California: A Set on Flickr

3. Google: Miwok shelter

4. Miwok Material Culture: Indian Life of the Yosemite Region (1933): Shelter

5. Miwok Material Culture: Indian Life of the Yosemite Region (1933): Sweat-House

6. Brandon Smith's Indian Tribe Report

7. Miwok Park Fact Sheet

8. Google: Miwok houses, clothing and food

9. California Indian Food and Culture (PDF)

He Eats the Cat-Patriot

Candle Heating

My favorite fruit -- a broom, but yesterday in the supermarket was just avocado. Sit, eat his civilian clothes, razrezla in half -- and picked one half teaspoon. The second half is on the table. Came the cat, long sniff, and then began this "bury." But that's borscht and fried potatoes with mushrooms, he eats the cat-patriot.

Little Housing Crisis on the Prairie

"It sounds wonderful," Ma said politely in her gentle voice. "And what will our rate be after the introductory period, Mr. Edwards?"

"That depends on those scoundrels in Washington!" Mr. Edwards declared hotly.

"Pa, how much will we pay for the house?" Mary asked.

"What we pay doesn't matter much, Mary," Pa explained. "At 1.5 percent interest, we can easily service the debt on the principal."

Laura was confused. "But when do we pay off the principal, Pa?" she asked.

"She's got you there, Edwards!" Pa laughed. "What about that principal?"

"Those are two mighty smart daughters you have there, Ingalls," Mr. Edwards said admiringly. "Well, it's pretty simple. Your loan will reamortize every 60 months. The minimum payment will be recalculated at that time, but your rate will vary annually according to the then-current prime lending rate. Of course, your regular rate and payment resets will continue to apply, but these will be capped at— Look! A jackrabbit!"

"Good game surely is plentiful in this country," Pa observed.

-- Susan Schorn's "Little Housing Crisis on the Prairie" at McSweeney's