Walk around the block.

Sizzling heat crisped the grass this summer until it resembled shredded Nabisco Shredded Wheat biscuits. The sun baked my head, because more often than not, I’d forget my hat. The dog refused to walk and instead lay near an air conditioning vent in the house. But yesterday’s soft breeze encouraged him to walk around the block. He actually trotted further than his usual one block or two. That’s how pleasant the morning was.

Nobby invites smiles.

Wherever we walk people smile when they see Nobby and often stop to pet him. Yesterday was no different. We were going along a tree-lined trail when two women approached. “What ‘blend’ is he?” one asked. She cradled Nobby’s head in her cupped hands. He loved her instantly.

“He’s a Golden…”

She finished my sentence, “…Retriever and standard Poodle?” I nodded.

She bent down and passed her hands along his back gently, then she stepped back and said, “Mmm, nice comportment….”  Obviously she knew dogs and probably had a bit of dog-show judge in her DNA.  “What’s his name?”


She laughed. “Is your last name Clarke?”

“Yes,” I said, surprised.  I wondered if she’d seen Peter walking Nobby?

“In England,” she said, “anyone whose surname is Clarke is called ‘Nobby.'”

“Yes, I know! You’re the first person to get that. We named him after my father-in-law.”

“I’m from England,” she said, “and Australia.”

It was my turn to laugh. “I could tell.” I would tell Peter about this when I visited later.

In this university town, old-timers grumble when the slow summertime pace screeches to a stop with the return of students, this year some six thousand more than ever before. Cars race along the main thoroughfares, stores are packed with incoming freshmen and weepy mothers, while
dads look forward to the empty nest back home.

So I wasn’t surprised to see a herd of students running full tilt along the sidewalk toward us half a block from home. I decided they could bloody well go around us rather than forcing me to step off the curb into the street. Nobby and I stayed on course even though I got dirty looks for not stepping aside. As the group, maybe 30 strong, pounded past, one runner stepped into the street, smiled at me and said, “Excuse us, please.”

Ah-h. “Thank you,” I said. What a nice young man.

Yesterday turned hot after the pleasant start, so I stayed inside with the dog. Today, though, was quite cool and London foggy. Nobby was only too happy to go for a walk this morning. We were nearly back home when we startled a flock of chickadees feasting on echinacea seeds in a neighbor’s garden—sunshine on the wing, a yellow watercolor wash, the perfect end to our walk around the block.




2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

Summer’s last hurrah.


Today is Labor Day, summer’s last hurrah. For football lovers, it’s a day to be here, in our little burg.

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Hokie Bird & Brutus Buckeye.

The Ohio State Buckeyes are in town to try to avenge last season’s loss to the Virginia Tech Hokies. Not only is it the only game in town, it is, according to today’s Roanoke Times’ Andy Bitter, “…the most anticipated game in the history of Lane Stadium.”

As a native Ohioan who used to collect buckeyes on my way home from elementary school, there was a time when my adrenaline surged at the sound of the OSU fight song:

“Fight the team across the field
show them Ohio’s here,
set the earth reverberating
with a mighty cheer,
rah rah rah…”

I even remember the 1958 OSU/Michigan game when OSU won in the final seconds, 20-14. Thanksgiving break and I was home from college, Ohio University. I watched the game on t.v., screaming and hollering as if I were an OSU coed, as if I were in Columbus.

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Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra), highly toxic when taken internally.

But, time passed, things changed. Now I live within sight and sound of Virginia Tech’s stadium. We can hear the roar of the crowd, see the glow of the lights, watch the fireworks.

Tailgating started before eight this morning. I passed some hearty-partiers on my morning walk. They may have had coffee for breakfast, but they were already having beer chasers. Cars with orange and maroon flags sailing have been rolling into town since yesterday. Grills are heating up, and there are likely turkey drumsticks on the menus, but not so roasted buckeyes, unless of course, they’re in the locker room after the game.

The only game OSU, the 2014 National Champions, lost last year was to VT, 35-21. Their coach has said they won’t really be national champs until they’ve beaten VT this year.

Yes, OSU has a bone to pick while they’re in town, and it’ll be a brutal match-up. OSU may have the national title and admittedly more depth, but VT has heart. I’ll be woo-hooing and “Hokie
hi-ing” from the comfort of my sofa, listening to my English husband grumble because “This isn’t football, this is a game for sissies who have to stop after every play to get further instruction…”  I’ll boo him and cheer my team until I lose my voice.

First thing this morning, I put my Virginia Tech tee-shirt on.  I’m ready. GO HOKIES! 

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Hokie Bird/Brutus Buckeye photo: Jim Stroup, 9/6/14
Buckeye photo: OSU College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
YouTube video: CFB Film Study, 2014 OSU/VT game.