by Steve Liddick

For a few years, while recovering from a back injury that made it impossible to work in my profession as a radio news anchor, I worked for the Sacramento city school district. One day I looked around Cubicle City and said to my friends, Jerry Marquart and Mike Yount, “there sure are a lot of women around this place.”

They looked around the big room and nodded in agreement.

“We ought to get out of here and do stuff that women wouldn’t even want to do,” I said.

We were the only three men in the entire department, not counting the big boss—and who would want to spend another day with that guy?

We three decided to start doing brazenly chauvinistic off-campus activities that excluded women. We would go to movies that had a lot of shooting and fights and loud explosions and car chases and actresses who were not overly concerned with how much of themselves was visible—wardrobe-wise. We would take day trips to places that forbade daintiness or anything painted pink, and maybe even say things you wouldn’t say in front of your mother or others of refined sensibilities. We would spit and cuss and do guy stuff. We would exchange stories of our misspent youths that we would never even tell our doctors, priests, attorneys, psychiatrists or barbers—even though they were sworn to secrecy.

My immediate boss heard about the proposed adventures. She said, “It sounds like fun, can I go?”

We were appalled at the idea that a woman wanted to take part in something specifically designed sans la femme–what Mike suggested we call “Man Town.” I said, “We can’t call it Man Town if there are women involved.” She walked off in a snit.

Our test run involved a Saturday drive to Lake Tahoe where I lost my traditional twenty-dollar gambling limit to a hungry slot machine within mere minutes of our arrival. Then we drove around the area, taking in the awesome view of the lake and making manly comments about bikini-clad fauna on spring break.

On the way back we stopped in the California gold country town of Placerville for lunch and more rowdy fun.

Man Town turned out to be everything we imagined it would be.

Monday morning my boss came to me and said, “So, . . . how was your—Man Town? I thought there was a curl of the lip when she said the words.

“It was great,” I said.

After a long pause, waiting for details and getting none, she said, “So, . . . what did you guys do?”

“I probably shouldn’t tell you,” I said, “but we went to Tahoe and played the slots.”

“That’s it? Then what?”

“Now that I really shouldn’t tell you.”

I let her talk me into telling her.

“On the way back we stopped off at . . . “Sweetie Pies.”

She did a double take, then said, “What’s that, a strip joint?”

“I promised the other guys I wouldn’t tell.”

I let that hang there for awhile before I finally told her it was a Placerville restaurant that specialized in pies.

That was fifteen years ago. All three of us are long retired now and we still get together at least once a month. We still take in the occasional movie, but more often we just have lunch somewhere and insult each other in good fun. One recent adventure series  involved a quest for the world’s best hamburger. The search has taken us all around much of northern California, laughing all the way.

I don’t expect to ever find the ultimate burger. But that isn’t really the object, is it?

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Books by Steve Liddick:

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”






by Steve Liddick

When the county planning commission held a hearing to listen to any objections to the creation of a cemetery adjacent to our acreage, we attended. For years before that, cattle grazed next door. We often reached across the fence between us to scratch a Brahma bull on the forehead. I enjoyed the experience and I assume the bull did, too.

But we knew that when planning commissions meet to hear objections from neighbors about anything, the fix is already in. The decision has already been made. The hearing is being held so they can say they held a hearing.

It was approved, of course.

We figured, how much trouble can a cemetery be? Dead people are well known for being a quiet lot.

Little did we know.

We forgot about visitors, lawn maintenance people, grave-digging machinery, dumpster pickup and delivery trucks, electric water pumps, noisy mufflers, and mourners who bring their loud children with them. In the nearly ten years since the cemetery started there has been a constant din coming across the fence between us.

The live-in maintenance man has a car alarm that goes off day or night. I ask you, why does a car alarm have to be so sensitive? Also, why do you have to set your car alarm in a—for pete sake—cemetery? Who’s gonna steal it? In all these years I have never seen a single zombie car thief.

Just our luck, the master bedroom in our house is at the cemetery end.

Our winds here typically blow from the south. The cemetery is south of us. Wind-blown debris from graves routinely finds its way onto our property; plastic flowers, balloons, flower wrapping papers, and wrappers from candy and fast food items that people—for reasons that baffle me—bring with them.

If the star of the funeral is a person of status, it is not uncommon for hundreds of people to show up to mourn—or to be sure he’s dead. They bring their cars with them, of course, and many of them park those cars along both sides of the busy narrow road bordering our land, blocking through traffic. Many of those cars are parked in front of our mailbox and between the “No Parking Between Signs” signs. On two occasions, cars were parked right in our lane, which is clearly a lane.

We have nearly a thousand neighbors next door to us who never make a sound. But those they left behind sure are a noisy bunch.

It would do no good to complain because, unlike cities, there are no county noise regulations and I know of nowhere that rudeness is against the law, although it should be.

When I’m King things are really going to be different around here.

Please share with your friends.


Books by Steve Liddick:

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”


My Grandmother, (Mrs. Harry R.) Erma Pricilla (Carpenter) Kiner was an amazing woman. She fed and clothed five children through the darkest days of the Great Depression on the $11.00 a week my grandfather, Harry Kiner, earned as a fireman on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Admirable, of course. But one of the things I most admired about her was her mastery of arithmetic. She could do mental calculations much faster than I can do them with the most sophisticated calculator today.

While most farm kids of Grandma’s rural Pennsylvania elementary school years never got past the eighth grade, check out just one test given students of that era:

The next time you hear of someone in those days who only got an eighth grade education, don’t feel sorry for them. You can be sure they had acquired more scholastic skills in elementary school than a lot of today’s students have after four years of college.

Nineteenth century arithmetic was a tough test. History was hard, too, although there was a lot less history way back then than there is now. Not to take anything away from Grandma for that.

The “Good Old Days” were tougher than we think.

It was kind of comical to watch Grandma doing the numbers in her head. She would close her eyes and flutter her eyelashes, bob her head around, mutter the calculations process as she went along, and then rattle off the answer. All this at warp speed.

As I said, she was an amazing woman.

She made a great rhubarb pie, too.


Books by Steve Liddick:

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”



by Steve Liddick

Every morning I have two visitors at the door to my little backyard office.

They are Rhode Island Red roosters who have come for breakfast, which consists of about a quarter slice of bread each and a handful of scratch feed.

One is a shy guy who never gets closer to me than a few yards. The other I have named “Big Red.” I call him Big Red because he’s, . . . well, . . . big—and red. He has more personality than George Clooney and I have come to consider him part of the family.

I know you’re not supposed to have favorites among your children, but I have become very attached to the boy. He stands at my feet and takes the bread right out of my fingers. Sometimes, in his exuberance, he almost takes the finger. I don’t hold it against him. He probably doesn’t get any more food than he finds on the ground. Breakfast, after all, is the most important meal of the day.

Red and his pal are not really ours. They are the property of the handyman at the cemetery next door to our little ranch. For us it’s like having chickens without having chickens.

We are hoping that Red is considered a pet by his legal owner rather than as a future dinner because I like seeing the big galoot far more on my office porch than I ever could on a platter. Frankly, I think he is too old and tough for the menu, but the cemetery handyman next door is also old and tough, so who knows?

The prevailing thought about roosters is that they crow at dawn. Indeed they do. They also crow at midnight, 3 a.m., noon, 4 p.m. and any other time that pleases them. Maybe I should have named him Pavarotti because when he belts out his song it could be heard all the way to the back row of the opera house—or, in this case—rattle our bedroom windows.

His cock-a-doodle-doo interrupt’s my wife’s sleep. Sherry wakes up if one of our cats sighs. Not me. I have been known to sleep through gunfire, explosions, howling coyotes, and cargo planes that fly low over our house.

Taking Chip the Wonder Dawg for a walk is also a challenge. Before Chip and I go out for his twice-daily walks I have to scan the area for renegade chickens. Big Red and Chip don’t like each other.

Since they are each about the same size, it’s a tossup as to who would eat whom if it came to that.


Books by Steve Liddick:

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”




by Steve Liddick

I once worked with an extraordinary man named Jiggs Clouser. He was in charge of the print shop at the Perry County Times, a weekly newspaper where I was an editor for a couple of years. Jiggs could fix anything. He’d take a look at the problem, figure out how it worked—or stopped working—and, before you could say Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, he’d have it diagnosed and back in service. Since he was often working with century-old printing equipment, parts were rarely available and he would have to improvise.

“If all the paper clips I’ve used to fix things were to disappear,” he said, “this whole place would collapse.”

Jiggs passed away a few years ago and I have often wondered how his fixit-skills would survive in this age of plastic. Even Gorilla Glue can’t do much for a material that deteriorates in the hot summer sunshine.

We recently bought a wireless weather station. It is mounted high on a pole in our back yard and transmits information to a screen in the kitchen of our house about the windspeed and direction, the temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, and rainfall amount. It even shows when rain is forecast. It is a truly amazing instrument. But it is made of—you guessed it—plastic. Being a weather device, it is out in—you guessed it again—the weather. Extreme climate conditions and PVC do not get along well, so it’s anyone’s guess as to how long it will last.

I just know that Jiggs Clouser is out there somewhere, looking down at a world largely made of plastic.

I wonder if they have paper clips in Heaven.


Books by Steve Liddick:

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”



Every year, anywhere from the first week of January to the first week in March, we are honored by a visit from a pair of Canada geese. They build their nest on an island in a pond adjacent to our property. The hitch is that it is only an island if it is not a drought year and the water level has come up sufficiently. Otherwise it is just a large clump of dirt in the middle of a huge hole in the ground.

Coyotes like to make a meal out of geese, so it is critical that there is a moat around their birthing grounds. We never know whether there will be enough rain to fill the hole. The Canadas send scouts ahead to make sure it is safe to camp here for the spring and summer. We got lucky this year. The pond is a pond and the geese have arrived.

We think the arrivals are a pair from previous years because when they came close to the back yard they did not fly away when I approached them. I tossed some cracked corn for them, but they didn’t seem especially interested. That will change.

There is a regular routine to building trust. Even though these geese probably have some memory of us buried deep in the back of their little bird brains, they are still cautious at the outset. As time passes, they come closer and enjoy the food we provide.

We will see them both floating on the pond for several weeks. Then, we will only see the male. That means Mother Goose is setting the eggs she has added to the nest one at a time in those weeks that we saw both of them.

The countdown begins.

It takes 21 days to hatch a goose egg. So, three weeks from the day Mom disappears—give or take a couple of days—we can expect to see little fuzz-balls floating on the pond. I say give or take a couple of days because the female has to put the kids through basic training. First she has to waterproof them so they don’t sink. She does that by applying goose oil to their fluffy little bottoms. That done, it’s off to swimming lessons.

I’m sure they go through Survival 101, which consists of Mom telling them that if some critter arrives that is larger than they are—and, at this point, that’s just about everyone—they should skadaddle as fast as their tiny web feet can propel them.

As Tarzan must certainly have said to Jane, “It’s a jungle out there.”

As the weeks go by they will grow larger and larger and come closer and closer to us for their twice-daily rations. By July they will be milling right around our feet, with Dad hissing at us. He knows we’re not going to hurt his babies, but part of the Dad Code requires that he hiss a warning, just in case.

Then, one day we will hear honking. It will mean Pop Goose and the little ones—that are no longer little—are in flight training to prepare them to fly away and join the larger flock to get ready to migrate.

No more than two days later, they are gone without a goodbye or a honk of thanks.

It is always a sad day and the best we can do is hope they will come back to us next year.


Books by Steve Liddick:

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”


My first car was a 1931 Model A Ford sedan. I don’t think Ford called it a sedan. Probably some snooty name like “touring car.”

It cost $50.00 and took me all summer working at a gas station to pay for it. I recently paid $75.00 just to fill up the gas tank on my Chevy pickup truck. For that kind of money I could have bought one-and-a-half Model A Fords. Unfortunately, it’s not 1953 anymore.

I loved that car. But, of course, everyone loves his first car. Having a four-wheeled escape pod meant there was now a whole reachable world out there to explore. Prior to that, I couldn’t get any farther away from home than my bicycle would take me.

As kindly as I felt toward that car, it was also the cause of one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.

I was driving on a road that took me over Ore Bank Hill, on the curviest road in the county. Once you reached the top, it was a steep downhill run for several miles, with nasty switch-backs and curves not banked to accommodate speeding vehicles and centrifugal force.

As I chugged to the top of the hill and started down the other side, I came to the first curve. I was picking up more speed than I was comfortable with, so I slammed on the brake. Teenagers do that a lot. Nothing subtle about most anything they do. A gentle pressing of the brake is not in a teen’s playbook.

Well, the Model A had a rod that connected the foot pedal to the mechanical braking system under the car. The problem was, the rod was made of cast iron. Cast iron does not handle slamming very well and it snapped, leaving me in near free-fall. Those old cars had no compression to help hold the speed down and it was impossible to down-shift in those pre-synchromesh transmission days.

So there I was, on the scariest road imaginable, careening downhill in a top-heavy vehicle with no brakes. I was seventeen years old and certain I would never see eighteen, whipping this way and that, wrestling the non-power steering wheel, skinny 21-inch tires squealing at every curve, picking up speed for several hair-raising miles.

Finally, I got to the bottom of the hill and was able to coast to a stop. Thinking back to that experience I wonder once more how I managed to survive my youth.

Anyone who doesn’t believe in God has never ridden a Model A Ford with no brakes down Ore Bank Hill.


Books by Steve Liddick:

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”


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* * * * * * *

Discontent with the federal government is at a level not seen since the Nixon administration four decades ago.

What’s to be done about it?

Well, we could clean house all around; vote the whole bunch of them out of office. But there is plenty of motivation for those officeholders to stay on the job. Where else could they get health care coverage and retirement plans like that? Not to mention the other perks of office: trips to exotic places to allegedly study this and that. They don’t like to call those trips “junkets” because that sounds too much like what they are: unnecessary luxury freebies at taxpayer expense.

It can cost millions of dollars to win a U.S. Senate or House of Representatives seat that pays $174,00 a year plus health care and retirement benefits far greater than the average American will ever enjoy. And they are fully vested after serving just five years in office. A Senator who has served a single six-year term can retire to a lifetime of luxury. A Representative who serves three two-year terms, likewise.

Ask any voting American—and many who don’t vote, but complain about the situation—what should be the first step toward getting a Congress that actually works in the taxpayer’s interests and you will get the same answer: vote the rascals out.

However, they don’t mean their rascals, they mean your rascals. When election time comes around they routinely vote for the incumbent in their district. “It’s the Senator in Montana who should be kicked out” says the voter in Missouri. “It’s the Congressman in Pennsylvania who should be shown the door,” says the voter from Utah. The power of the incumbency is staggering. In part it is because the person who already holds that office has all manner of promotional opportunities at his and her disposal: free U.S. Mail services; appearance before the media to sing their own praises. The incumbent’s prospective challenger has no such platform.

The number of Senators and Representatives in Congress whose personal fortunes grew while in office is staggering. More than a few Congress members who were dead broke when they took office have retired as millionaires.

Keep in mind that they make the laws that give them those special benefits.

I once knew a state senator—I won’t mention the state—who owned a new car dealership. He didn’t take cash under the table. That would have been illegal. But he did sell a lot of cars to CEOs of companies maneuvering for his support the next time a vote came up that favored that company.

Here is another myth that needs to be debunked. Lawmakers seldom write the laws and industry regulations they sponsor. Those are frequently written by lobbyists who represent special interests. They are full of loopholes that, in effect, mean there is no regulation at all. When confronted with a violation, the company representatives can simply say, “We followed the law.” The law he wrote.

And here is another sad fact: Except for how it affects their chances for reelection and keeping them out of prison, these violators of the public trust don’t really care what you think about it. They will continue to do whatever benefits them.

This November, vote for the opposing candidate so the person you voted out of office can join a lobbying firm and make some real money.

Steve Liddick

Author of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”


Face it, we have all run away from something at some point in our lives. Some things seem easier to avoid than to confront.

Given the choice of fleeing or staying, human nature says we will usually choose the easier option.

Running from a particular situation or an unfulfilling life in general in the hope there is something better ahead is seldom realized. After all, we take ourselves with us everywhere we go.

The dynamics that caused our unrest at the scene of the original discontent are likely to be applied at the next stop. Each of us is a walking, talking Petri dish that—unless we radically change our behaviors—will use our attitudes, prejudices, preferences, expectations, and limitations to brew more of the same stew.

As someone said, “Insanity is doing the same over and over again and expecting different results.”

In the case of flight instructor Jeff Burke and his student, Pete Sunderland, in the novel, Sky Warriors, each was living a life bogged down in unrelenting sameness. Although from very different backgrounds, their discontent was equally intolerable and each was convinced there was nothing to be done about it.

action, adventure, fiction, novelWhen Pete suggests they take a cross-country trip so he can learn to fly under a multitude of weather and airport conditions they take the first step toward doing something different to achieve a different result.

Along the way they happen upon Native Americans whose level of hopelessness was similar—although far more intense—to their own.

By applying their own experiences Jeff and Pete hope to improve the lives of the Indians and, by doing so, bring fulfillment to their own.

Sky Warriors is available in paperback on Amazon.



In the mid 1980’s I had the privilege of meeting some veterans of the 158th Regimental Combat Team, aOLD HEROES - Platform World War II U.S. Army fighting outfit that had been known as the “Bushmasters.” They were attending an East Coast reunion of their old unit near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The Bushmasters took their name from a deadly snake in Panama where the men trained before entering the war in the South Pacific. There they were turned into what was to become known as one of the toughest, most feared American combat units in the Pacific Theater.

When I arrived at the reunion hotel, I was slightly surprised to find a room full of old men. What should I have expected? After all, it was four decades since the end of their war. It occurred to me as I looked at the gray-haired veterans to wonder what it was that made them the fierce fighters so revered by General Douglas MacArthur and so dreaded by Japanese soldiers who had the misfortune of facing them in the jungles and on the beaches in the South Pacific.

While talking with the men, I heard story upon story of incidents during the years they spent in battles from New Guinea to the Philippines. Some of the tales, frankly, appeared far-fetched. But, with each anecdote, twenty or so other men standing within earshot would nod, validating events related by the others.

I happened to mention that some of the incidents sounded familiar and asked whether their stories had ever been dramatized in the movies.

The laughter was deafening.

“Yeah,” one of the men said. “A lot of movies. But the films were usually about the U.S. Marines.”

The 158th was not a large force. It began as an Arizona National Guard unit with approximately three-thousand men. It was an unusually small group considering the big job ahead. Still, undermanned and the odds weighed heavily against them on so many occasions, the American soldiers won the day . . . and a great many terrifying nights.

As Japanese troops who went up against them soon learned, being compared with the reputation of the venomous snake from which the Bushmasters got their name was a frightening understatement.

Most striking was the fact that these old men had retained their humanity. These were not cold killers. They were people just like those we see in the supermarket aisles and those with their families next to us in restaurants, in theater lines, and at the gas pumps. Something happened to them out there that turned those “ordinary” men into extraordinary warriors.

It was their job to save the world. And they did.

There were other WWII combat units, of course. I just happened to have met these men personally. I’m certain other outfits also fought hard and well. “Old Heroes” is a work of fiction. The idea came to me after my brief meeting with the real-life veterans and convinced me that under similar circumstances today, even at their advanced ages, these men and others like them would rise to the challenge again, just as they had during those terrible war years so long ago.

Those I encountered that day in a hotel meeting room and all the men who fought and died on those South Pacific islands deserve my best effort in honoring them. OLD HEROES is a novel that was done with great affection and respect. I hope all those who participated in the war will accept this work in the admiring spirit intended.

Steve Liddick, Author


OLD HEROES is available on Amazon: