My new novel is a not too serious mystery set in the Florida Keys. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074MGQN4H
My new novel is a not too serious mystery set in the Florida Keys. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074MGQN4H
My new novel is finished and available at Amazon in ebook form. Paperback soon to follow.
A Bad Year For The Chickens is a trip through the world of antique dealers, auctions, collectors, and fakers. All of which come with varying degrees of intellect, experience, principles, and success. A retired antique faker and several friends plan an expensive sting to punish an extremely disliked and arrogant dealer. The story takes place in a Western North Carolina town and the surrounding area.
By clicking on this link http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0105BEG0S and then clicking on “look inside” which is located above the cover photo, you are able to read almost all of the first three chapters of my new novel.
Flynn’s Gold told how two widowers, Junior and Earl, moved from the North Carolina Mountains to the Florida Keys in search of a treasure in gold and silver coins. Junior’s deceased Uncle who was a rumrunner during prohibition had hidden the treasure. The book follows their search for the treasure and introduces some of the interesting characters that call Ayers Key home. Among their new friends are retired drug smugglers, a fist fighting bar maid, an ex-con, a gun loving camouflage wearing mute woman, a high dollar escort, a weed smoking seascape painter, and a Rottweiler named Sugar Cookie. And it being set in the Keys there are fishing guides, boats, tarpon, sharks, and a waterside tiki hut bar where the central characters hang out.
In Twenty Two Miles to Key West Junior and Earl have comfortably settled into life on Ayers Key. The ever-curious Earl is determined to find out what the source is of the mysterious lights that he sees at night in Lost Man Harbor, and he speculates about the purpose of the unmarked black helicopters that he sees.
Junior and Earl join forces with one of their friends in the search for the long lost wreck site of a pirate’s sloop. The search for the shipwreck leads to a hunt for buried treasure and Earl learns that pirates still walk among us today.
All their friends from Flynn’s Gold are back and they still spend a lot of time at Busted Rick’s bar, The Unloading Zone. It’s everyday life on Ayers Key and there are parties, a Tarpon fishing contest, a poker game, a boat race around Lost Man Harbor at night, and somebody gets punched in the face… really hard.
The print version will be available soon but as of now the eBook version is available at Amazon.com Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0105BEG0S
Thanks for looking!
“Gosh it’s cold in here,” I said entering Earl’s workshop.
“I just built a fire, it will warm up soon,” Earl said as he hunched down by the woodstove trying to get some warmth. “what’s going on?” he asked.
“About the same as always, Earl, I just stopped by to say hello.”
Eventually the shop warmed up and Earl started to work finish grinding some knives that had been forged, rough ground, and heat treated sometime in the past.
“Earl, I have that Wiggins demo knife that I like so much in the truck.”
“So, it’s a tad thick behind the edge for my taste, how about thinning it a little for me while you’re in the mood to grind.”
“Why don’t you get Wiggins to do it?” Earl asked.
“Well, I got him to give me the knife and I sort of hate to ask him to do some more work on it…it might make me look cheap. You know, like I want something else for nothing.”
“So you want me to do it for nothing?”
“I was hoping you would.”
Earl grumbled and went back to grinding, and I went out and got the knife in question out of the truck. Going back into the shop, I sat in the old office chair that was repaired in several places with duct tape. Bullitt the Bulldog came over, got patted a little and then returned to his place beside the stove. He gave me a look that said, “If you want to pat me, you’ll have to sit over here where it’s warm!”, and then he went back to dreaming bulldog dreams. Since he got fixed I suppose those dreams are about cheeseburgers or whipping some poor coyote’s ass. Whipping coyotes is pretty high on Bullitt’s preferred night time activities list according to Earl.
Earl turned the grinder off and held his hand out for the Bill Wiggins knife. “Well, I could thin it down some, but if Wiggins found out he might not think it’s cool for me to be grinding on a knife that he made…”
“He knows it’s thick, Earl,” I said trying to be reassuring and get my way, “It was a demonstration knife, so he had to make it in a short time. Besides, he’ll never know. He probably doesn’t remember how thick it is, I mean that was a year ago!”
“And you won’t give me up?” Earl asked.
“Of course not,” I lied.
Grumbling some more Earl put a different grit belt on the grinder and went to work. In no time he had the knife blade thinned down and finished with a fine grit belt. “How about rubbing it out?” I asked hoping to get Earl to hand finish the blade.
“No,” Earl said firmly, “I’ll Scotch Brite it, but that’s it.”
“If Mike was here he’d rub it out,” I said hopefully, referring to another local knife maker.
“Yes he would, but I’m not going to. So do you want it Scotch Brited or not?” Earl asked.
“Please,” I answered seeing that was all the free work that I was going to get.
When Earl was done, I’ll admit I was pretty happy with the knife. Earl even sharpened it before he gave it back. I was pretty happy with myself too, feeling that in some small way I had gotten the best of Earl, which is a rare thing for me.
After some small talk I thanked Earl and started to leave, “Wait a minute,” Earl said, “here’s your Christmas present.” He handed me a box that was covered in a light coat of grinder dust.
“Can I open it now?”
“Sure,” he answered.
Inside was a really beautiful paring knife blade that Earl had made, and a killer set of figured wood scales. The handle scales were not shaped or attached to the tang of the blade.
“Thank you, Earl, it’s not quite finished though,” I said.
“It’s a kit and I can explain why,” Earl said and then he told me a story that was right up there with the well-known, ‘the dog ate my homework’ excuse. After he was through with his explanation, or excuse depending on how you look at it, he said, “You can put it together, or you can come back in January and we’ll put it together, it won’t take long.”
Bear in mind it’s now the first of December, and if it “won’t take long”, why do I have to wait until January. Well Earl is going deer hunting in some other state until Christmas Eve to hear him tell it, so I guess I have to wait until sometime in January to go back, and get my Christmas present put together. And of course it goes without saying that I’ll need to be bearing some sort of decent gift, if I expect Earl to put my paring knife together… game over, Earl wins.
It is going to be a nice paring knife though, and the Wiggins Demo knife got thinned down.
©Bill North 2014
What follows is a true story from my youth in rural Western North Carolina:
The Go Kart
I don’t remember the exact year that my father came home with the go kart frame, but I believe that I must have been around fourteen or maybe fifteen years old. The frame was new and complete with steering, brakes, wheels, tires and seat. It did not however have a motor.
My father assured me that the lack of a motor was no problem because he owned an old, two cylinder chain saw that was designed for two men to use. He said that big, old motor would do just fine and so we set about putting the chain saw engine on the go kart. After accomplishing that task, we guessed at the gear ratio and got a sprocket that fit the motor, and then were able to run a chain around that sprocket and the one on the axle.
One shortcoming was that it was direct drive, there was no clutch mechanism and so if the motor was running the kart was moving, providing of course that the rear wheels were on the ground. It had to be started by either pushing, or by manually spinning a back tire while the rear of the kart was lifted off the ground. Another slight issue was that the brake was nothing more than flat steel pads that pressed against the surface of the rear tires when the brake pedal was depressed. Certainly not the most sophisticated or efficient of braking systems, but I was far more interested in going that stopping anyway.
The engine didn’t perform very well at lower revolutions, but really seemed to enjoy running wide open. And oh yeah, it was very, very loud. Both of those things suited me and made the whole enterprise more exciting.
Finally one night my dad and I had the thing assembled and the engine running the best we could. He suggested that I take it for a test run and that he would follow me in his car, and I would be able to see to drive by his headlights. I know what you’re thinking, but it made sense to us at the time. It was a week night and there was no traffic to speak of on the rural road where we lived, so the danger from motor vehicles was pretty slim.
We propped the kart up on a cinder block, I sat down and fastened the seat belt that we had installed, and my dad spun a rear tire starting the engine. Then he rushed to his car which was already running with the lights turned on. I shifted my body weight back and forth until the kart slipped of the concrete block and I was off! Down the gravel driveway I went, and then turned right on the paved road with dad right behind me. After going about a hundred yards from our house I was feeling pretty confident and in control. I pressed the gas pedal all the way down.
I can remember to this day that the kart really accelerated, and that I left dad, and unfortunately his headlights as well behind. My eyes started to water as the go kart and I quite rapidly arrived at the place where I was supposed to turn around. I let up on the gas pedal but that act had no effect on anything, the throttle was stuck wide open. I pushed the brake but that also had very little consequence on the kart’s speed. Unable to turn around, I turned left onto another paved road that I was familiar with. Dad’s lights were too far back to be of any use to me, and I knew that soon the pavement ended, and that the road became a twisting, steep, mountain dirt road.
Just before the pavement ended, there was a house on the left that had a long, sweeping semi-circular driveway, and I thought that was my best chance to get turned around. Straining to see in the dark and pushing the brake hoping it might have some effect, I tried turning into the driveway but missed it by just enough to send me across their front yard and through the lower branches of a huge Holly tree. I was however now headed in the right direction and just as I navigated back into the paved road I passed dad coming the other way.
I’m sure that the reader must be asking themselves about now, “Why didn’t he just switch the motor off?” That’s easy to explain, we really were more interested in keeping the cantankerous motor running than shutting it off. During all the testing in the garage the kart had been on blocks and we shut the motor off by using the original switch mounted on the chainsaw’s motor. Believe me, about the time I went through the branches of the Holly tree I was starting to see the value of a kill switch that I could reach while driving!
Eyes watering, I hurtled through the darkness back down the hill to our house and pushing the brake for all I was worth did manage to slow the kart down some and I turned into our driveway, but losing control right at that point I passed between the big wooden gate posts sliding sideways, and thankfully the motor stalled and went silent.
My friend Jim came to visit the next day and I told him about the experience and about passing his house with the throttle stuck wide open the night before. He said that he was in his bedroom and when he heard the noise of the kart going by he asked his mother what it was. She said, “I’m not sure, Jim, but I think they’re moving hell and just came by with the first load!”
A week or so later I took the Kart for a little drive around the neighborhood and somehow lost control in a turn where a preacher lived not far from us. I got the kart under control and back on the road only after running through the flower bed in the front yard of the parsonage. I drove a few more miles at full speed, for the greatest part, and then back home where I found two North Carolina Highway Patrol officers waiting for me. They claimed that they had tried to stop me but that I had outrun them on the crooked roads. I have no idea if that was true or not, but it is possible I suppose because the engine was so noisy that I wouldn’t have heard a siren.
I was cited for no driver’s license, no tag, speeding, failure to stop for the officers, and several other offenses. I had to go to the court of a blind judge who said that I sounded like a good boy, and fined me either eleven or twenty one dollars, I can’t remember which now.
According to my friend who attended a church near where we lived, the next Sunday the preacher said some derogatory things about speeding and go karts in his sermon. I am convinced to this day that it was him that called the Highway Patrol because of a few squashed flowers, and I have had a lingering mistrust of preachers ever since.
copyright Bill North 2014
Red was the first “outlaw” biker I ever met. He looked like what is sometimes described as “a pretty rough customer”, and I guess he might have been just that. It was in the early 1960s, when Red whose last name I either never knew, or which escapes me now, was hired at the Esso service station where I was working washing cars. He was straight out of that Marlin Brando movie, The Wild One, and he had a hat like the one Brando wore. He rode a rat of a Harley Davidson that sported black leather saddle bags that were adorned with nickel plated studs and small, facetted, red glass reflectors. In addition to the Brando hat, he wore one of those big, wide, leather kidney belts decorated across the back with his name in the same fore mentioned nickel plated studs.
After work Red would kick start the Harley. That basic task seemed to require quite a few attempts to accomplish, and then with straight pipes roaring, cross the bridge leading to town trailing a wisp of blue oil smoke. It looked like great fun to me, something that I could foresee perhaps in my future.
One Monday Red showed up at work in a car, and when questioned, explained where his Harley was. It seems that the day before he and some friends were taking a ride to nearby Lake Lure and stopped to smoke a cigarette at a place called Hickory Nut Gap. When he tried to start the motorcycle to leave, it refused all attempts at coaching it into roaring, smoking life. The story ended with Red saying, “So I got my pistol and whiskey out of the saddle bags, kicked the son-of-a-bitch over on its side, took the gas cap off, and lit it on fire. I guess it’s still there.”
One day Red paid another boy and me to wash his car which he was very proud of. It was a black, late fifties Cadillac as I remember. Anyway, as I vacuumed the front floorboard I saw Red’s Smith and Wesson revolver and a pint of whiskey under the driver’s seat. Those that he had salvaged from the now burnt to a crisp Harley I supposed, or perhaps spares that he kept close at hand in case he needed them. A day or so later Red came around and said he’d been fired for some reason that I don’t remember now. He had only worked there for two or three weeks. Anyway, the last time I saw Red he was accelerating across the bridge leading to town in his black Cadillac, trailing a wisp of blue smoke, and wearing that Brando hat.
I imagine that Red left us long ago, and now an upscale hotel stands where the Esso station was. The bridge that leads to town is still there.
copyright Bill North 2014