The Legend of Sleepy Hollow


By Judy Berman

A narrow creek glides thru a quiet, secluded glen that is nestled in a little valley among high hills.

The gurgling brook could lull you to sleep as you wait for a fish to bite. A walk in the woods in the fall as the sun glints among the trees is calming. Autumn leaves litter the forest floor.

By nightfall, that same setting is menacing.

Each innocent sight and sound becomes more ominous. This is what a very superstitious Ichabod Crane encounters in Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

One day, Ichabod, a lean and lanky bookish fellow, wanders into the village of Tarrytown (now known as Sleepy Hollow, New York). Single ladies there consider the new schoolmaster to be quite a catch.

But he longs for the lovely Katrina Van Tassel, the only child of a Dutch farmer.

Ichabod’s attracted to Katrina’s beauty and to the wealth she would inherit when her father, Baltus Van Tassel, dies. Ichabod is consumed by daydreams of overseeing the spacious farmhouse on the “green, fertile banks of the Hudson River.”

Katrina doesn’t lack for suitors. Ichabod’s main rival was Brom Van Brunt, known as Brom Bones. Brom also was courting the very flirtatious Katrina.

One day, a messenger rode up to the schoolhouse and announced that Ichabod was invited to a quilting party that evening at the Van Tassel home.

Ichabod borrowed a broken-down plow horse from Hans Van Ripper, an ill-tempered farmer that he was staying with. The steed, Gunpowder, must have inherited his owner’s very nasty disposition.

Sleepy Hollow cemetery-bridge

At the Van Tassels, Ichabod was delighted to see a mountain of food on the tea table. He danced the whole night with Katrina while Brom Bones brooded and fumed.

When the dance ended, Ichabod joined Baltus and other men on the porch.

They swapped stories about goblins and ghosts. Brom Bones claimed he had a run-in with the Headless Horseman, the main spirit that haunts their region.

“Some people say it is the ghost of a Hessian soldier, whose head was carried away by a cannonball during a battle of the Revolutionary War.”

Locals believe his body is buried in the graveyard of the old Dutch church. At night, they say, his ghost continues to ride in search of his head.

Ichabod was the last to leave the party late that night. It’s believed he proposed to Katrina, and left with a heavy heart when she turned him down

His overactive imagination kicks in as he rides through the dark woods to get home.

As he approached the scene where many of the ghost stories had been set, he began to whistle nervously.

Huge, gnarled limbs appeared to be outstretched human arms. To his relief, Ichabod discovered that it was only a large tree.

Suddenly, there was a groan. Ichabod’s “teeth chattered and his knees knocked furiously against the saddle. Again, it turned out to be another innocent sound: one branch rubbing against another in the breeze.”

He was about to cross the stream when Gunpowder stubbornly refused to move. Ichabod panicked. He dug his heels into the horse and whipped him.

Then, he heard a splash. When Ichabod looked up, he saw a towering black shadow ready to spring on him.

Twice, Ichabod stammered “who are you?” But he got no reply. Soon the race was on between Ichabod and the terrifying figure that appeared to be carrying his head in front of him.

Sleepy Hollow - The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane

Both headed for the church bridge. Gunpowder’s saddle came undone and Ichabod clung to the horse. He heard the goblin’s black horse trample the saddle.

The old horse made it to the bridge and thundered across on the opposite side. But the Headless Horseman did not vanish as the legend said it would, and threw its head (a pumpkin) at Ichabod.

The next morning, Gunpowder was found nibbling the grass outside Van Ripper’s gate. Ichabod didn’t show up at the school house. A search party found no trace of Ichabod – only of the saddle, Ichabod’s hat and a shattered pumpkin.

Shortly after Ichabod’s disappearance, Brom Bones wed the lovely Katrina. When anyone mentioned the pumpkin, Brom burst out in a hearty laugh, leaving some to believe that he knew more than he chose to tell.

Some say that Ichabod fled the area in terror and moved to a new community, where he settled down and got married.

Others insist that he was spirited away by supernatural means. They claim they’ve heard him singing a melancholy tune as they take an evening stroll thru Sleepy Hollow.

Ichabod’s spirit – and that of the Headless Horseman – live on in Sleepy Hollow.

The historic community has hayrides and other events for little ghouls and goblins, and an opportunity to hear about the author, Washington Irving, in “the legend behind the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

Happy Halloween!

What’s your favorite non-gory ghost tale?


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Video: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – a short story by Washington Irving (1820) – narrated by Glenn Close 

Main Photo: Spooky (Ghost Light) – taken 2004 by Popperipopp

Photo: Sleepy Hollow – Cemetery Bridge – used with permission from photographer Jim Logan

Photo Reproduction of artist John Quidor’s “The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane” (1801-1881)

Quotes are from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” – a Treasury of Illustrated Classics adaptation.

Ghost Tour in New Orleans

Misty Graves

By Judy Berman

Fog enveloped Bourbon Street. We stepped inside a dimly lit gift shop in New Orleans where we spotted a book on ghosts.

That inspired us to book a walking ghost tour that weekend. Our guide, Richard, looked like he stepped out of Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles.”

Like Lestat, he was an imposing figure – tall, dressed in black, and blond. But Richard’s hair was long and braided.

He could have passed for an outlaw, but he was a very entertaining storyteller.

Our tour was briefly interrupted outside voodoo Queen Marie LeVeau’s home. I doubt she was resting in peace as a heckler chose that moment to hassle Richard.

Several paying customers urged Richard to move on and continue with his stories. He did. Our next stop was at a voodoo woman’s home.

Except for a huge snake curled up in a cage, lit candles, burnt offering and dolls with pins in them (OK, I made that last part up), the voodoo woman’s home was like any other.

She gave us a quick tour. Then, we gathered in the backyard. The woman asked Richard if he wanted his future told. Perhaps, thinking of the unpleasant encounter, he just shook his head sadly.

“Knowing how bad my past was, I don’t want to know what my future will be,” he said.

The voodoo woman chided him, “If you know your future, your past may look good.”

We laughed and Richard joined in.

After we left her home, we continued our stroll through the French Quarter.

Each block appeared to harbor spirits. Richard stopped at one building, the Old Ursuline Convent on Chartres Street, and told us about suspicions that it was connected to vampires.

Old Ursuline Convent, French Quarter - Chartres side balcony above entrance

In the mid-1700s, young women were brought over from France to be married off to men who settled in Louisiana. The nuns at the convent gave the girls shelter and an education.

While there were women in New Orleans already, some were plying the world’s oldest trade. Definitely not marriage material.

As the legend goes, 50 girls were sent here along with 50 “casquettes” or “caskets.” They were mockingly referred to as ‘casket girls.” (The number varies according to the storyteller.)

Odd! Many were dying in France at the time. So, there should have been a shortage of coffins – not chests – for their clothes and personal effects.

Their chests, containing a dowry, were locked in on the convent’s third floor. They would be opened when the girls married. But Richard said the chests were empty.

The shuttered gable windows on the convent’s third floor are nailed shut, he said. Superstitious residents say that was done to prevent any vampires – believed to be in the coffins – from escaping.

We hastened out steps as we left the sidewalk outside the convent. Would a light from the moon reveal that one of the windows was open?

Far from being repelled by holy things, Richard believes vampires are drawn to them. He said that’s why the vampires were sent to the convent. (I’m sure the church is delighted with this theory.)

Mysteriously, there is no record of what happened to the 50 coffins.

He wrapped up his story by telling us that in Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire,” the vampire has beignets (a pastry with powdered sugar) at Café du Monde.

Cafe du Monde - Cafe au Lait and Beignets, New Orleans

The truly spooky thing is that lighter-than-air beignets do vanish into thin air along with the coffee.

Richard’s stories, however, have stuck with us for many years.


Do you have a non-gory spooky tale to share?


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Music Video: Bobby Bare singing Marie Laveau, voodoo queen from Louisiana 


1.Main Photo: Misty Graves – Easton Maudit churchyard, taken by R. Neil Marshman

2.Photo: Old Ursuline Convent – French Quarter – taken March 1, 2010 by Infrogmation of New Orleans

3.Photo: Café du Monde – café au lait and beignets – taken Jan. 12, 2013 by Ed Johnson

An Unexpected Twist

Pier - sunrise on Indian River, Suntree, Florida

By Judy Berman

How could I not see that coming? That’s often my reaction when I am shocked by how a movie ended. What did I miss?

I have that same reaction to a joke’s punch line that surprises me or to a story that finally reveals a hidden truth.

Most teachers will tell you that they went into teaching because they want to inspire their students. This week, a student turned the tables on me.

We’d been reading Eleanora E. Tates’s short story, “Big Things Come in Small Packages.”

Narrator LaShana Mae tells about her friend, Tucker Willis, who was teased unmercifully about being so short. She recounted his friendship with a man named Richard who said he worked with the U.S. Lifesaving Service.

As captain in the lifesaving service, Richard said he and his men “went into the ocean in the middle of hurricanes and no’easters’ to save passengers and crew members whose ships were sinking.”

Tucker was inspired, but lamented that he couldn’t do the job because of his size.

Richard told Tucker “it wasn’t the size of a person that got the job done. It was how bad the person wanted to do it.” He pointed out that tugboats pull in ships many times their size.

surfer - Huntington_Pier_Surfer

A few days later, Tucker was out surfing near the Atlantic Beach pier. As he rode a wave in, Richard was cheering him on and hollered: “Do it, Tugboat! Pull that ole wave in!”

Tucker remembered Richard’s story about tugboats, and waved back before he swam out to catch another wave.

Then he noticed a storm brewing, and that meant he better get out of the water. A huge wave crashed down on him. Tucker took the wipeout in stride and just got back on his board.

But a man who fell off his raft was thrashing about and “screaming that he couldn’t swim.”

Tucker, 12, swam over to help the man even though he was concerned for his own safety. In a panic, the man lunged at Tucker’s surfboard and they both were struggling.

That’s when Tucker saw Richard and Richard helped both Tucker and the man get safely to shore.

**SPOILER ALERT** (If you plan on reading this story, stop now because I’ll be giving away a key plot detail.)

News reporters crowded around, wanting to hear Tucker’s story. Tucker credited his friend, Richard, for the save. But when Tucker turned around, Richard was no where to be found.

Later, Tucker discovered who Richard was.

In the pier gift shop, Tucker bought a book about the coast guard. That’s when he saw an old photo of Richard and learned that Captain Richard Etheridge died about 70 years earlier in 1900.

Richard was a ghost.

One student, Brandon, amazed me with his insights into the story. He had unraveled the mystery before the author revealed this.

When Brandon told me the clues he’d spotted in the story, I was stunned. I’d missed some of the foreshadowing and the author’s hints.

This put me so much in mind of watching the movie, “Sixth Sense,” with my husband, Dave. Dave had figured out the ending long before it was revealed.

Me? I was clueless until nearly the end of the movie.

We went to see the movie again that same weekend. I wanted to see “Sixth Sense” thru “new eyes” to learn what clues I’d missed.

I did the same with this short story after Brandon shared what tipped him off. On my re-reading, I discovered subtle clues the author dropped throughout her story.

Diana Bedford Pittenger, a friend and teacher, said: “That is so much fun! I love when students can teach us.”

I’m still learning …

What plot twists in a movie or book took you by surprise?

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie Video: “The Pink Panther” Theme Song. Really, did you see those plot twists coming? 

Photo: Pier – Sunrise at Indian River, Suntree, Florida. Photographer – Dave Berman, Sept. 2014

Photo: Surfer – Huntington Pier – Author: Sameer Khan, Aug. 15, 2005


A Black Heart and a Mobster


By Judy Berman

The shadier side of life. It’s a look that few get to see, except in passing or on TV.

As a cops and court reporter, some encounters were brief. But the impressions lasted a lifetime.

In court, how a witness or suspect is perceived is important. Unfortunately, “Jonnie,” a witness in a murder trial, didn’t score well.

The prosecuting attorney said jurors just didn’t like “Jonnie “ Other factors were weighed in, too, of course: how consistent the witnesses’ stories were, how the witnesses held up under direct and cross-examination.

“Jonnie” said he had a “black heart.” I didn’t doubt it.

When “Jonnie” strutted into the courtroom during the retrial, he was a pale imitation of James Dean or tough guy Marlon Brando. He wore a tight, short-sleeved black T-shirt and black jeans. His thin, dirty-blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail.

One thought came to mind: dangerous.

Several times, “Jonnie” turned and gave a cold, hard stare to the defendants at the trial. They’d killed “Jonnie’s” father during a robbery. Neither was convicted of murder. They accepted a plea bargain to a reduced felony charge.

His thinly-disguised contempt for them was palpable.


“Jonnie” agreed to meet me the next afternoon, after the trial, for a follow-up interview. He wanted to meet near where he lived, but I preferred to meet him on more familiar – and less threatening – turf outside the paper I worked for.

He was a no-show. Maybe it was for the best.

Much of what he told me about the men he believed responsible for his father’s death was libelous and slanderous.

Or death threats – which my paper did not provide a platform for.

Those encounters are not confined to the news business.

A waitress, at one of our favorite restaurants in Central New York, once told us about some mobsters who dined at the fancy restaurant she worked at in Florida.

One night, she was serving wine to a large group of huge tippers. They gave $500 to the valet for keeping an eye on all their cars. Others also benefitted by their largesse.

She had difficulty reaching this one man at the end of the table who was up against the wall. When the waitress reached in front of him to pour the wine, another man stopped her and told her it was bad form in their culture.

The waitress, a self-confessed wiseguy, responded: “Whatever.”

Another employee told her that the man at the end of the table was “the man.”

“Right. He’s the man. He’s the man,” she said.

After the group left, she was told that “the man” was John Gotti.

“Here everyone else is getting $500 tips, and I’m worried I’ll be sleeping with the fishes,” she laughed. (They left her no tip.)

John Gotti and Sammy, The Bull, Gravano

The incident rattled her.

Her home was next door to the restaurant. But, as she was nervous about what the mobsters might do, she said she drove a route that took in most of South Florida.


Have you ever had a close encounter of the dangerous kind? Or of a celebrity, or weird kind?


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Music Video: “Bad Company” by “Bad Company”  

  1. Main Photo: Marlon Brando – “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1948) – Photographer: Carl Van Vechten –
  2. Photo: James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955) – publicity still for the film. 
  3. Photo: John Gotti and Sammy “The Bull” Gravano -
  4. Video: Interview with Sammy “The Bull” Gravano and Diane Sawyer

I’m Still Standing

Audrey Hepburn - Breakfast at Tiffany's

By Judy Berman

It was September. The leaves were turning. It’s a time when the elements begin to make me feel hemmed in.

That feeling only intensified when I learned that I was being transferred to the newspaper’s Rome bureau – not the exotic city in Italy, but a small city in Upstate New York.

There were two women in the Rome bureau, a district circulation manager and a receptionist. Within two weeks, they were gone.

I dreaded working in an office all alone.

It hit me – much later – that I was looking at this situation all wrong.

This is where, if this was a music video, the phonograph needle would be scratched across the full surface of the album until your ears bled.

Elton John in 1980s

At times, I felt like the Maytag repairman at the Rome bureau. Few of the calls were for me. Most were from irate customers wondering where their papers were.

The good news? I didn’t have an editor hovering over my desk, pacing back and forth, waiting for me to “send my copy to rewrite, sweetheart.”

The transfer cut my 55-mile, one-way commute to the main office in Utica to 40 miles. Winning!

In winter, however, I might eat up that savings when I shadowed a snowplow at 10-miles-per-hour.

That beautiful white blanket is a deceptive and seductive enchantress. Amnesia sets in each winter, and you forget the misstep that can alter your skip across the highway into a careening, nerve-racking, steering-wheel-clutching, off-road tumble.

Still, I met fascinating people stranded by snowstorms just off the thruway on my way to work. For a reporter, hoping to score a weather quote, perfect!

Mask - Germany

With Christmas fast approaching, I didn’t bother to decorate the office, as I was the only one who would see them. So, time saved twice. I wouldn’t have to put away any decorations, either.

Unlike the residents of Cicely, Alaska, in the TV show, “Northern Exposure,” I wasn’t isolated or trapped in a remote location.

Any time I wanted, I could head down to the police station or city court. While I was gathering info for the police blotter or a story, we’d share a few laughs. There, I learned some things that proved valuable later.

Sometimes, it led to a bigger story. Others, to excellent contacts.

Six months after my transfer, a fellow reporter, Pat Corbett, joined me in the Rome office. We would bounce ideas off each other and joke about some happening that day.

At first, there was only one computer. So we took turns using it to file our stories from the bureau to the main office. Then, we commandeered a second computer from the main office – with permission, of course.

Elton John in 1980s - I'm Still Standing - video

A year after my transfer, I was back in the main office assigned to a job that I really wanted: night cops reporter. I’m grateful that what I learned in Rome paved the way for this beat.

It took a friend of mine at a competing paper in Syracuse to put my transfer into the proper perspective for me. A few years after my move, his paper opened more bureaus.

I asked how he felt about that. With a twinkle in his eye, the reporter joked that the main office was in a shambles. The move for them “is like when the royalty shipped their children to a safe haven during the war so they wouldn’t be hurt.”

Love that warped sense of humor.

Did looking at a situation thru a new lens ever alter your view?

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Music Video: “I’m Still Standing,” by Elton John (1983)

1. Main Photo – Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) – movie trailer screenshot.

2. Photo: Mask – Germany – Author: Gexon from Darmstadt, Germany. Photo taken June 12, 2011.

3. Photo: Elton John in 1980s – author –

4. Photo: Elton John by piano, video screen shot from “I’m Still Standing.”


In the Misty Moonlight


Judy, deer and cousin Tony 2

By Judy Berman

An old, dusty, red tin box, tucked into a corner of the closet, holds a treasure-trove of memories.

Like a time machine, it transports me. The contents, however, might mystify today’s teenagers.

Black round discs with a huge hole in the middle. I smile as I pluck one of the 45s from the stack. The song takes me back to an unforgettable trip to visit my Aunt Martha’s family in Pennsylvania.

Some of my recollections are as foggy as the misty moonlight that hung low in the night sky.

But one thing remains certain. I had a wonderful time.

My aunt lived in Three Square Hollow. Just the name conjures a remote, woodsy place filled with mystery and adventure, and neighbors a distance away.

My Mom told me that I always referred to Aunt Martha as my fabulously wealthy aunt. The reason? I think it had something to do with a spring on her property.

If I close my eyes, I can see it still. In the woods, water tripping over polished stones. I swear that water tasted better than soda pop. That description always cracked Mom up. But it was true.

Aunt Martha wasn’t well-to-do in terms of money stashed away in some bank or hoarded in a secret hiding place.

She was rich beyond measure in kindness, generosity and just plain good fun.

Judy and Aunt Martha2 - Aug. 1993

Her home was nestled in a wonderful place to romp and roam.

Years earlier, when my family visited, a fawn stumbled into their lives. It was abandoned. While I was there, I fed it and the tiny critter squirmed as I held it. Quite a thrill. I never knew what to expect there.

What was not surprising is there were children everywhere. Hardly a surprise. Aunt Martha had 11 children. Some of them were grown and on their own. The ones at home were determined to show me a good time.

One night, we hopped into a car. My cousin, Danny, egged me on to take the wheel. That was pretty courageous on his part, as I didn’t have a driver’s license.

Not a chance of any traffic stops, though. There wasn’t a police car within miles. We had a ball.

When I arrived, I was almost a stranger to them. We rarely saw each other as my family had moved to another state when I was nearly eight. Yet I got a warm welcome and I felt right at home.

Mountains - mists

The night before I was to return home, they really surprised me.

They threw a party for me. It might have included a bonfire, marshmallows and a cookout. I don’t remember.

What I will never forget is this song, “In the Misty Moonlight,” that played that night, and how special my aunt and cousins all made me feel.

Like visiting royalty.


Is there a song that reminds you of a special place or time? Is there a time when others surprised you by doing something special for you?


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Music Video: In the Misty Moonlight by Jerry Wallace 

1. Main Photo: Me holding a fawn and my cousin Tony Barnhart at our Aunt Martha’s.

2. Photo: Me and Aunt Martha – Three Square Hollow, Pennsylvania – 1993

3. Photo: Mountains – mists, Environmental Protection Agency – Date: May 1973

Those Driveway Moments

Sorry Fugo

By Judy Berman

I’m sure it is an unsettling sight to passers-by when they see someone just sitting in a car and laughing.

The motor’s running. For 15 minutes, I am transfixed. I can’t turn off the ignition and leave to go into the store.

These are known as “driveway moments.”

Sometimes, it’s a song you want to hear all the way thru and maybe sing along. Other times, you’re spellbound by the story you hear and wait for the inevitable conclusion.

Still others, you just don’t want the story to end.

One of those stories was T. Coraghessan Boyle’s “Sorry Fugo.”

Albert blames Willa Frank’s caustic review as the reason one of his friend’s businesses went under. The headline over her column read: “Udolpho’s: Troglodytic Cuisine in a Cavelike Atmosphere.”

He shuddered and knew it was only a matter of time before she “slipped like a spy, like a murderess,” into his restaurant, D’Angelo’s and skewered him as she had done to the others.

The night she shows up, the staff is in a tizzy. This night: it’s a disaster. But Albert knew Willa Frank would be back. “Twice more. And he would be ready for her.”

When she did return, “Albert put his soul into each dish, arranged and garnished the plates with all the patient care and shimmering inspiration of a Toulouse-Lautrec bent over a canvas, and watched, defeated, as each came back to the kitchen half-eaten.”

Revenge is a dish best served cold. Albert had a marvelous scheme cooked up for Willa Frank’s final visit.

To tell you how Albert turned the tables on Willa Frank would spoil the story. I will just say the ending was delicious.

Other stories expose us to places, people and things we’d never meet. Some are haunting, like the story about Lucy the chimpanzee who was raised as a human.

Lucy the chimpanzee coloring

Lucy was only two days old when she was adopted by psychologist Dr. Maurice K. Temerlin and his wife Jane. Lucy looked adorable in her little dresses as she drew in a coloring book and learned sign language.

But there came a day when it was necessary for Lucy to leave the family who raised her.

Janis Carter, a University of Oklahoma graduate student, accompanied Lucy and another chimpanzee to the wild in Gambia. They were being released in the coastal West African country.

Lucy the chimpanzee and Janis Carter hugging2

Lucy did not adjust easily. Janis Carter remained with the chimps longer than she intended to help them survive in the wild. For me, the final photo of Lucy hugging Janis Carter as Janis was leaving the area was heartbreaking. (The link to the podcast is below.)

Other stories are laugh-out-loud funny, and I’ve shared them with family and friends.

The tall tale, “The Beard,” by Fred Chappell is a classic example. It’s in his book, “I Am One of You Forever” and is worth picking up.

It centers on Uncle Gurton, who has a long, flowing beard of unknown length, and his visit to 10-year-old Jess and his family. Uncle Gurton’s main talent is eating voraciously.

When asked if he’d like more to eat, Uncle Gurton smiles. About the only thing he does say is: “No thank you. I’ve had an elegant sufficiency. Any more would be a superfluity.” My students delight in that line, much more than the cut-to-the-chase comment: “No thanks. I’ve had enough. Any more and I might burst.”

Then, Uncle Gurton disappears whenever he’s needed to help out with chores.

One night, their curiosity about the beard got the best of Jess and his Dad with hilarious results.


The fast-paced life can wait. Sit back, relax. So what if you’re still in the driveway. Take the time to listen to a really great story. You’ll be glad you did.

Sept. 10th marked my third anniversary on WordPress. Thank you for all your thoughtful and funny comments, for the friendships I’ve found on WordPress, and for your support. I want to especially thank my husband, Dave Berman, who has edited my posts these past three years. Thanks, Honey.

Are there times when the world stands still until that special song or story ends? Please share some of your favorite driveway moments.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

1. Main Photo: “Sorry Fugo” – from a play directed by John Fisher. Word for Word Performing Arts Company, San Francisco, Calif., in 2012.

2. Photo: Lucy the chimpanzee coloring

3. Photo: Lucy the chimpanzee and Janis Carter hugging. (radiolab slide show)

4. Photo: Happy

RadioLab story of “Lucy” – a chimp teaches the ups and downs of growing up human.