Posts Tagged With: Fear




The common warthog is medium-sized species; their head-and-body lengths range from 0.9 to 1.5 m (3.0 to 4.9 ft.) and shoulder height is from 63.5 to 85 cm (25.0 to 33.5 in). Females, at 45 to 75 kg (99 to 165 lb.), are typically a bit smaller and lighter in weight than males, at 60 to 150 kg (130 to 330 lb.).


Years ago our family was on our first African Safari in the Masai Mara. Masai being the name of the local natives; Mara is the name of the wide river running through the area.  The Mara is beautiful, twisting and winding through Kenya, home to herds of hippopotami and the giant Southern crocodiles. The Mara is far more dangerous than the Nile Rivers in the North: it is a fact that most human killings by animals in Africa are by Hippopotami.

We stayed at Kichewa Tembo Camp, in a spacious tent complete with an outdoor toilet, outdoor shower. One morning while my husband and our two (very) young children were sound asleep, I thought I might leave our tent and step outside to watch and photograph the sunrise over the Mara, hoping to see some of the animals living normally, waking and coming out to graze.

On our arrival we were cautioned to walk only on wide bare dirt paths or where native grasses were kept mowed down to nubs. Tall grasses often contain deadly surprises, like lion, cheetah, hyena: all predators laying low, sleeping off an evening of hard work.

On this particular morning, light spread slowly across the sky, first a metallic grey-green turning blue, exposing the short grass, as the first flickers of orange peeked above the horizon. The sun rose tentatively, picking up a rainbow of pinks, taking over the early morning blues; and awakening the inhabitants of the savannah to bask in her full beauty.

Delighted with the display, I sat cross-legged on the prickly short grass in the semi-dark, and indulged my then habit: in the untouched beauty of nature, I lit a lousy menthol cigarette! I smoked and waited, eager to see how this show would progress, confident that I, although alone, was securely seated on the protective short grass, therefore I would be in no danger.

When the sun fully rose above the horizon and spread its light, the gods opened the gates of nature and thundering herds wandered in: wildebeest, zebra, water buffalo, giraffe followed by one delicate Thomson Gazelle: mostly early-morning hooved creatures.

Apparently lion, cheetah, leopard, cervil, and elephant and others were either sound asleep after a night’s marauding or waited for Group One to tear up the earth and kick up some protein or perhaps to drive other predators away. Nature has ways of sequencing to which I am not privy.

I was enthralled with this display, and sat cross-legged and slack jawed with a half-smoked cigarette in my right hand, camera in my lap when I heard something nearby. I heard footsteps. Then I heard an animal make a snorty noise like a sleeping husband and I saw movement to the right of me.

Was it instinct that told me to freeze, to not make any eye-contact with the Leader of this Pack? Or was it because he was plain scary looking? He led his family of four Little Warthogs; Mama brought up the rear. They all slowed down, eyes on me. I froze in the clarity of my situation.

I used my peripheral vision to keep track of them, making no eye contact at all, worried about challenging them with those babies. They stopped for what seemed like a lifetime as I remained a statue. The damn cigarette was burning its way to my finger nails but I dared not move. As I worried about the scent of my burnt nails Papa moved on, but the children wanted to get a closer look at me. And now Mama snorted at them.

I dropped my eyes when I heard Papa turn around, hoping he knew the snort came from Mama, not me. They all went quiet. I felt twelve eyes on me. I kept mine on the grass, avoiding challenge, hoping I would see any flicker of movement; wondering what I might need to do: sling my Nikon at the Dad?

The whole family snorted at me. They then trotted away and disappeared from sight.

I looked at my watch and found it was a heart stopping eight minute encounter.

The cigarette, burnt down to the filter was out and it scorched my fingernail painfully. The odor of burning hair was on me.

Perhaps they moved on because I now smelled worse than they smelled.   I don’t know whether that is good or bad. What I do know, is these Warthog Parents had expectations of their youngsters. They trained them to obey so they could learn how to be safe and stay alive. I guess I was a part of that lesson.

A lot of parents today could learn from that band of Warthogs.


NOTE: Wikipedia is a source I use frequently. They are in need of financial support, approaching a possibility of shut down in the near future. I encourage all who access their information to go to their site and support them J

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My Fellow American


It is a bitter cold day.

His unshaved face is hunched over a grocery cart

Filled with plastic and tin and clothing;

And his eyes are fixed

On disappearing sidewalk.

I pull my car over , and call out “Pops!”

He stops and stares and I see he is of my generation.

I pull a twenty from my wallet,

“How ‘about a cuppa Joe, Joe?”

His eyes light up as he barely

reaches through the window,

Promising he won’t hurt me.

I sigh and shove a bill at him.

He takes it gratefully, and then

He spots the mistake:

With tearful eyes he tries to correct

The error I never made.

“Uh, this is a Jackson, Miss,”

And tries to hand it back.

“No mistake Bud. So get yourself

A piece of pie too, huh.?”

Tears stream,

He makes a sound

Like laughter.

I honk I wave I drive away.

In my rear-view window

He stands tall

He shakes his head and smiles.

For a moment he is a man with a mission.

Melanie Alcorn 8/NOV/2014

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Elisabeth II

I slowed down as I approached the landing at our apartment.  Mom was a tall woman and I was small for my age, and now I wished I could shrink into a piece of nothing and disappear.

“What in hell do you think you are doing, Miss Priss?”  Mom’s voice was low and dangerous. I had no idea of what she was thinking.  I only knew I did something wrong, very wrong. 

She grabbed me by my shoulder and snatched the butterfly dress out of my arms.  Her cup and saucer fell to the floor and shattered.   The white patent shoes landed on the parquet floor with two thuds and my heart slammed still with a third, as she shoved me into the living room, which was really just a corner of our large kitchen/dining/living area. 

Mom pushed me back into the sofa and I sat and watched, frozen with fear, as she took the beautiful dress and tore it apart.  She shredded the puff sleeves, and ripped the skirt off.  Then she wadded it into a ball, marched across the room and shoved everything into the kitchen trashcan and grabbed the dustpan and broom and came back for the shattered cup and saucer.  She swept the broken pottery up, then let me have it.

“I heard you had gone with that woman to the rummage sale!  I suppose you know who’s princess shoes these are, don’t you?”  I looked at her trying to guess whose shoes these might have been.

“These belonged to that little smartass Brenda!  If you wear such fancy shoes our family will be the laughing stock of the whole goddam town!

She stopped sweeping and glared down at me.  My mother was so tall and so scary when she was mad.  I prayed I wouldn’t wet myself.

“I forbid you to wear those shoes!  We will give them to charity.  And you are never to go shopping at a goddam rummage sale again!  Ever!”

Mom grabbed my braids and told me to go to bed with no dinner.

 I went into the room I shared with my brother and laid down on my bed and began to cry. After a while, I heard Bill come home, hungry, asking what was for dinner.


“Well, it’s pretty near the end of the month, so we are stuck with Graveyard Stew. Let’s hope the milk holds up.”

“I hate Graveyard Stew!  Why can’t we have hotdogs or tuna casserole like other people?” 

I heard her suck her breath in, heard the slap across his face and he ran into our room and shoved his bed against the door and threw himself face down on his bed. 

Bill and I went to bed early again.  We listened to our mother pacing and muttering to herself about that Jewess, about pride, about not needing somebody’s damned castoffs.

“What’s a Jewess, Billy?”  Bill turned over; his cheek was still red, but no tears.

“I don’t know, Sis, I never heard of one before.”  He turned away and sighed, “Maybe it’s someone who sells jewelry.”

I crawled into bed with him and he patted me on the head and turned away.  We both waited for sleep to hurry up and come before the growling in our stomachs began.  If we could get to sleep quickly we would not feel the pangs.

The next morning we woke up early and spoke in whispers about whether our mother was over being mad.  We decided to wait until she woke up, and listen to how her feet sounded on the floor.  If she was still mad she stomped, and eventually we would hear her slam the door as she left to walk off her madness.  If she was quiet she was probably crying.  It was safer if she was crying.

We listened and didn’t hear anything.  We dressed quickly, hoping she had already left.  We grabbed our shoes and opened our door. 

Mom was lying on her back on the sofa, one foot resting on the floor, one arm flung over her eyes.  The ashtray was balanced on her belly and it moved a little each time she snored in and let out.  My brother and I tip-toed quietly out the front door.

We reached the bottom step we sat down to put our shoes on.  When I stood up I could see by my shadow on the sidewalk that we weren’t anywhere near noon.  I hoped Elisabeth would bring a lot of food for lunch.  

Billy said he was going over to Al’s house.  They were helping his dad work on an old truck.  Al’s family was Italian and they always had big lunches with pasta and sandwiches.  They fed everybody who was working worked in the garage, paid or not; and anyone who just stopped by to say hello.  I headed down to the swimming pool and see if any kids were there.  They were pretty good about letting us swim for free if we behaved ourselves and helped some with picking up trash that the tourists threw around.  We could usually count on a hot dog in return for keeping the area clean.

Nobody was at the pool yet so I went around back and climbed over the cyclone fence, and dropped softly down on the patch of grass the sunbathers used.  I sat way back in the corner where the fence met the beige stucco wall of the dressing rooms, where nobody could see me, and felt the sun comfort me with warmth. I prayed the rest of the day would please be better.  I imagined my special time with Elisabeth, down at the creek and eating lunch with her.  Meanwhile I leaned against the stucco, feeling cozy in the warmth of the sun and dozed off.

I jumped awake and stood straight up.  Elisabeth!  It was time because my shadow was getting short, so I walked down to the cottages and knocked on the door of Cottage No. 14.  Nobody answered.  So I knocked a little louder. 

The door opened and a chubby grey-haired old lady wearing a blue dress with white daisies said hello to me.  When I asked for Elisabeth, she said she was sorry, but Elisabeth was ill.  She would be leaving for San Francisco once she woke up.

“Aaah, you must be Mellie?”  She smiled down at me when I nodded my head.  “I’m Miss Anna, Elisabeth’s friend.  I know all about you from Elisabeth, and also from Miss Lilly.  Miss Lilly says you are a very brave and a very smart young lady, did you know that?”  I nodded my head yes. 

“Miss Lilly always tells me that.  She says it is the most important thing I need to remember, that I’m very brave and very smart.”

Miss Anna patted my cheek, “So!  You must wake up each morning with this as your very first thought!  Then when you go to sleep each night you must let it be your last thought.  Do this and you will have a very fine life, Mellie, I promise!”

She leaned down and gave me a little hug and a pat on the head. 

“Now run along now and play with your friends.  I think that Elisabeth will be coming back later in the summer.”

I turned and started to walk away.  Then I stopped and looked back at Miss Anna.  She had a hanky in her hand, was wiping her eyes as she turned around and went back in the cottage.  She closed the door.

I ran down Washington Street and took the path down to the creek, and waded in waist deep water out to the logs under the bridge, where the turtle family lived.  I climbed out of the water and hid in the pilings listening to frogs croaking and the sizzle of tires on the bridge above me.  I wiped tears from my cheek as I hoped that everything would be okay when the sun went down and I went home.

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