Richard Wolkomir & Joyce Rogers Wolkomir

Writers of Fiction & Fact

WHAT THE WALRUS SAID
--Our Authors' Blog--

MURDOCK WISHES YOU HIS HOLIDAY BEST

December 11, 2018

Tags: Animals, Dogs, Murdock, Stray Thoughts, Gracie

Our good friend and frequent visitor, Murdock Morse, sends his holiday greetings to all.

Go romp in the snow, he says. It feels good!

--Joyce & Richard

GRACIE WEIGHS IN TOO!

December 11, 2018

Tags: Animals, Dogs, Murdock, Stray Thoughts, Gracie

Gracie Duke--another good friend of ours--wants to second her pal Murdock's message: celebrate!

It's the darkest days of the year, she says. So get out there and bark! Bark for the return of the light!. Bark loud! It'll come!

Joyce & Richard

WOODCHUCK KARMA

August 6, 2018

Tags: Animals, Stories


We once tried vegetable gardening, but a woodchuck ate most of our carrots and green beans and squash. He got so fat he couldn’t run, only slowly waddle.

We say “he” because of his size. Females are smaller, and possibly more into weight watching.

Woodchucks have western cousins—marmots and prairie dogs—but woodchucks are more eccentric, like old-time New England hill farmers.

For one thing, they’re loners. In early spring, males go roaming the woods, hoping for one-night stands. Otherwise, they’re commitment-phobic. They’re just not that much into each other. No wives, no husbands. They don’t even want friends.

Here’s the karma part.

Two years ago, we had an oddball woodchuck. Big, so probably a male.

Our house sits up on a rise. Behind the house is a large deck, then lawn, sloping down to a pond, with woods beyond. This woodchuck had its burrow behind the pond, in the woods. Perfectly normal. Otherwise, though, this woodchuck broke key woodchuck laws.

One of those laws is: venture out only in early morning and the evening. This one, though, came out any time, to enjoy our salad-bar lawn.

Hawks, foxes, coyotes, fishers? He seemed to scorn them all.

He wandered so far up our lawn he reached our deck. He liked it. So he set up a second burrow, a vacation home, under the deck.

Finally, he began climbing onto the deck and sprawling there, just outside our picture window. He’d sunbathe. He’d take in the mountain view.

We’d check the window before going out. Didn’t want to disturb him.

Around mid-August, woodchucks start getting sleepy. In late September, or October, they go underground to snooze until spring.

One April, our woodchuck never reappeared. Their lifespan is about five years, so maybe he succumbed to old age.

Back to that karma—now we have a new woodchuck.

It appeared this summer, smaller, so maybe a female. More likely, it’s just a young male, because we’ve seen no accompanying little woodchucks.

Here’s the karma part: against all woodchuck etiquette rules, he’s out and about all times of day. Now he’s taken to making his way up the lawn to our deck. Yesterday, he darted under the deck, clearly making it his second burrow.

Just like our former woodchuck neighbor.

We’ve hypothesized: he’s the son (possibly daughter) of our former woodchuck, inheritor of all that oddball behavior.

Maybe, though, if Asian religions have it right, and life is an endless cycle of birth and death and rebirth, this could be….

Who knows?

We’re waiting to see if our new woodchuck starts sprawling on our deck, sunbathing, taking in the view.

It’d be a sign.

--Joyce & Richard

NEVER GET BELLIGERENT WITH A GOOSE

June 5, 2018

Tags: Animals, Stories




We greatly enjoy our animal neighbors, from black bears lumbering across the lawn to Blackburnian warblers up in the sugar maples, but we have our limit.

That limit is…Canada geese.

Yes, the Canada goose is handsome, grayish white with a black neck and head and a white chinstrap. Yes, they mate for life, a devoted couple, and kudos to them for that.

However…

They are large, and a bit thuggish. If the geese land on our pond, the wood ducks and mallards and hooded mergansers don’t come. Mr. and Mrs. Goose sail around our pond like the battleships of an occupying force.

They also leave a noxious mess on the lawn, nothing you want to accidentally step in.
Additionally, geese have a provocative attitude.

For instance, as a teenager, I once faced a flock of domestic geese running at me, long necks extended, hissing and honking, and I ran like a yellow-bellied coward.

I do bear grudges.

Not long ago a pair of Canada geese landed on our pond, sailed around regally, then strutted up onto our lawn, undoubtedly ready to do their worst.

I went Viking berserk.

Instead of a battle axe, I grabbed my jacket and charged down the hill, flapping the jacket at the invading geese, a fearsome sight, I thought.

Apparently, though, not so much.

Both geese regarded me with heads up and a glare that clearly said: “Hey, what’s your problem, Mack?”

They watched me with contempt, running and yelling and flapping, and then—at the ultimate moment—with dignity and cool disdain—they strolled to the pond and swam a ways offshore. They turned to look at me, now stamping along the dam, flapping my jacket at them, and calling them vulgar names.

They glanced at each other, apparently saying, “Man, that guy’s one lunatic goofball.”

Provoked, I ran along the dam, flapping the jacket even harder, until something slippery happened with the concrete under my feet.

A moment later, I found myself neck-deep in cold water, along with my jacket, no longer flapping.

Interested, the geese watched me crawl out of the pond and trudge dripping back up to the house (and a towel).

For another half hour, they swam serenely about, in stately circles. Then, having made their statement, they flew away in a thunder of wings and a downward glare of disdain—they saw me, I believe, in the picture window, wrapped in a bathrobe, watching in shame.

We no longer try to chase away the Canada geese. Their homeland to the north, after all, is our country’s closest ally, and we try to bear that in mind.

—Richard

THE LUCK OF TUX

January 30, 2018

Tags: Animals, Dogs, Stories

Tux When We First Met Him



Tux, the Cardigan Welsh corgi, needed a new home, and that would be iffy.

It would be iffy because, despite being a little charmer, Tux was a little dickens. It also would be difficult because Tux lived with Pam, and she wouldn’t let him go just anywhere.

We first got to know Tux when he was still a puppy—we’d been visiting in Florida that winter and heard about a neighborhood couple with a new corgi. Joyce allows no nearby corgi to go unvisited, if she can help it, so we met Pam and Wayne, and it led to a warm friendship.

Pam and Wayne were Conchs, which is what Key Westers call themselves. They told us wonderful stories about Key West, back in the Hemingway days. They’d brought Tux into their home late in life because Wayne really wanted that dog. Tux turned out to be an imp, super smart, the Energizer Corgi, with a PhD in play and mischief.

Tux runs to his toy box, selects a favorite, plus another, plus a third, manages to stuff all three toys into his mouth, then runs to present them to you, a demand to play multiple-throw-the-toy, or wrestle-for-the-toy.

Tux knows he’s forbidden to climb onto the bed in the guest bedroom, so he slyly waits until nobody’s watching, then jumps on the bed and exuberantly tosses the pillows.

Lots of such things.

Wayne got sick. He fought it, lived far longer than the doctors said he would, but it turned out to be one battle a former Army special forces soldier couldn’t win. At Wayne’s final moment in life, Tux let out a wail.

Now it was just Pam and Tux. A question hung in the air: what if Pam, now alone, no longer could care for Tux?

That day came—Pam, too, fell ill. She no longer could live in her home.
Where could this high-energy corgi find a new home?

Pam had stipulations. He needed a fenced-in yard, where he could safely play. There must be kids in the home. There should be another dog, too, although that might be a problem: Tux liked some dogs, disdained others. A home that already had a corgi would be best, especially if that corgi was close to Tux’s age.

From her hospital bed, with Tux unhappily ensconced in a kennel, Pam desperately tried to find such a home. It seemed hopeless.

Then, unexpectedly, Tux’s vet called: she knew a family in North Carolina, and maybe….

This family consisted of a mom and dad, three young daughters, and a female Pembroke Welsh corgi, just Tux’s age. They had a fenced-in yard. For three years the husband had been seeking a male corgi. Outnumbered in his all-female household, he wanted at least one other male on board.

Mom, dad, and their resident female corgi all drove to Florida to meet Tux, at the kennel, to see if this could possibly work.

Maybe our friend Tux understood he needed a new home. Maybe, no matter what, he wanted to get out of the kennel. For whatever reason, when the family arrived, although it must have strained him, Tux was on his very best behavior.

A getting-to-know-you hour ended with love all around. Tux enthusiastically jumped into his new family’s car and off they all drove, north to North Carolina.

Pam called us, knowing we worried about Tux. Here’s her report—

Her niece mailed Tux’s new family a big box full of his pedigree papers and his favorite toys. Also in the box was a jacket Pam had sewn for him, with a Welsh flag on one side, because he’s a Welsh corgi, and a Scottish flag on the other, honoring Pam’s and Wayne’s own heritage.

Tux knew that jacket. When his new family put it on him, they wrote, he “strutted all around the house like a little prince.”

And there is more good news. Pam now lives in Virginia near one of her sons and his wife, and—slowly—she is regaining strength. She has grit. She has a strong spirit.

So does Tux.

Life goes on.

--Joyce and Richard

Christmas Murdock

December 23, 2017

Tags: Animals, Dogs, Murdock

Murdock and Casey share their Christmas


Our friend Eric Morse sent us this photo of Murdock, the unofficial east-coast dog-race champion, and his friend, Casey, the old cat.

Casey actually does regard Murdock as his best friend. Murdock, not so much. It's complicated.

No matter what, these two, with their Christmas tree and presents, radiate warmth and good will, just right for this season. In these stressful times, we can all use some of that.

So, we're sending out this image, to share with our readers.

Also, we think that Murdock, deep down, likes Casey a lot more than he lets on. Sometimes they snooze side-by-side, don't they?


--Joyce & Richard

BEAR-CUB LOVE, UNREQUITED

October 24, 2017

Tags: Animals, Sights & Sites, Stray Thoughts, Stories



Just as we looked out Joyce’s home-office window, a large black bear hurried up our lawn.

Behind her, struggling to keep up, waddled a dutiful cub, worried Mom would outdistance him (or her—who knows?).

A moment later, at the lawn’s far end, a second cub burst from the bushes. This one stared in alarm at Mom’s receding back, then scrambled up the lawn after her and the dutiful sibling.

Now, her two cubs closely following, the bear stepped over the stone wall and started down the hill by the waterfall. At that moment, out from the bushes, burst yet a third cub. This latecomer eyed the rapidly disappearing family, then bounced up the lawn after them, jauntily—the naughty cub, the rebel, the I’ll-do-it-my-way cub.

Not that Mom seemed to care. She splashed full tilt across the stream below the waterfall, then disappeared into the pine woods, cubs hurrying behind. Mom, apparently, had an important date, probably with somebody’s birdfeeder, and if the cubs wanted to stay parented, they’d better keep up. No hover parent, this ursine tiger mom dished out tough love.

It brought back a memory: once I worked as a zoo’s bear-cub keeper. My twenty-eight charges lived in a broad round pit, with concrete walls they couldn’t scale. At the circular pit’s hub stood their nighttime cub cave, a stone igloo with an iron door. For climbing, they had a two-story dead tree, rising from the igloo’s top. They also had a little swimming pool, for taking a dip.

One of my responsibilities was warning visitors to stop dangling their toddlers down into the pit to pet the bears, an extremely bad idea, because my cubs were all little swatters. It was how they played and expressed themselves. I also cleaned the pit’s sand floor, but my hardest task was herding all twenty-eight cubs into their cave every night and shutting the door.

I’d get three in, go out for more. Meanwhile, the first three would seize the opportunity for a jailbreak.

Heading home in the evening, I’d stop first at my father’s shop—he tarred roofs and installed forced-air furnaces—where the two guys working with him always sniffed, then proclaimed: “Hey, do I smell bear?”

Here’s how tough my cubs were: once two of them got into a fight on top of their climbing tree, and one got swatted off. He plummeted two stories, bounced off the stone igloo, and sat on the pit’s sand floor, glaring up at his rival and literally shaking his fist, or paw.

I’d get home every night with new scratches on my arms. My cubs did love to swat.
They came in black, brown, and cinnamon, although they were just one species, black bears. They also came in assorted ages and sizes, from halfway to my knee (when standing erect on their hind legs) to just above my knee.

My littler cubs loved me. They’d stand up, throw up their arms (front legs) and beg to be lifted and held. Others regarded me with indifference. However, the biggest cub, whom I called “Gargantua,” hated me. I threatened his alpha-cub position, in his mind, and he wanted me to die.

He’d hide behind the igloo and when I passed by, from around the curve, a paw would flash out to swat.

Eventually I gave up trying to make friends and ignored Gargantua, who’d sit off to the side glaring at me. One evening, though, his glare seemed more thoughtful, as if he’d been pondering the situation. Finally, he made up his mind. I’m sure I saw him nod.

He walked to me and held up his front legs, as he’d seen the littlest cubs do, begging to be lifted up and held.

At last, I thought.

I lifted him up. I looked into his brown eyes, he looked into my blue eyes. His expression turned to triumph.

He gave me a powerful swat, on the cheek.

Then he jumped down and I could almost hear him sniggering.

Here’s what: I love bears, and I especially love bear cubs.

And the one I’ve always loved the most was Gargantua, who never loved me.

--Richard

DUCK INVASION

September 23, 2017

Tags: Animals, Stories


I’m looking out my home office window and on the far bank of our large pond I see 15 ducks sitting in a row. Clearly they hatched this spring, and now they’re the equivalent of human teenagers, so full of energy they race every which way, on a whim.

They flew in four weeks ago, at first just a few, but more kept coming. The attraction? Our apple trees.

Now, as if they discussed it, they are suddenly waddling towards the apple tree at the bottom of the lawn, near the pond. For a few weeks now it has been dropping its apples.

Our ducks seem to be a mix of wood ducks, black ducks, and mallards, all supposed to swim in the shallows, tails tipped up, heads underwater, munching pond grasses off the bottom. We’ve never seen them tipping at all. For them, it’s all about apples.

At first, the apples puzzled the ducks. How do you eat these things? Eventually, they found the secret—spear the apples with your bill.

Yes, the ducks actually do this. We have watched them, apples stuck on their bills, like clown noses, waddling at great speed towards the pond, to escape their fellow ducks, who have not succeeded in spearing the apples and want the apple-catching ducks to share. They tear off bits of the apples to eat, although many apples end up bobbing in our pond when the ducks try to free the apples from their bills or to snatch another duck’s apple.

Deer, too, like to gather at the apple tree to munch, but the ducks resent these apple rustlers, and they do something about it. One duck, who we call Braveheart, marched right up to two does, with some of her more timid followers lurching behind her. She walked closer and closer to the deer, until she stood defiantly under their noses. Then she speared an apple from between one doe’s hooves and marched away. Once a fawn came to the apple tree with its mother, and when the ducks waddled toward it, the startled fawn jumped backward, and then bolted for the forest.

It’s not always apples. Sometimes, at high speed, the ducks zig and zag all over our large lawn. It’s hard to see why, except that they’re teenagers. That’s why they have so much energy.

At some point, they will fly south. We will miss them.

--Joyce


HALL OF FAMER

June 27, 2017

Tags: Animals, Dogs, Murdock

Eric & Murdock, just awarded a ribbon for winning a race (again!)


In our celebrity obsessed society, where it seems only People Magazine A-listers rate attention, here’s what we see all around us—talent, ability, accomplishment, decency. In this blog, we try to acknowledge what we see.

So, here’s one….

Our friend Eric was just inducted into the Vermont runners’ Hall of Fame, with these words:

“For the better part of three decades, Eric Morse was the most dominant road runner in Vermont.” And this: “Whenever Eric entered a local race, the only question was who would finish in second behind him.”

Six-times the state’s high-school champion in cross country and track. A running scholarship to college. Then, seven times, a member of the U.S.A Mountain Running Team, competing internationally, often racing up Alpine peaks. Who even knew there was such a sport? Not us, until we met Eric.

He’s retired from Team U.S.A., but he still races. He partners with his super-fast West Highland Terrier, Murdock, and he’s still a champ—he and Murdock miss few “six-legged” races in the U.S. northeast.

They win every one.

--Joyce & Richard

Inspirational Dinosaurs

May 8, 2017

Tags: Animals, Sights & Sites, Writing


This tableau of dinosaurs partially inspired one of Richard’s fantasy stories, “Last Days of the Cretaceous,” in his anthology, Frankie & Johnny, & Nellie Bly.

It’s set in Atlantis, where aristocratic sportsmen hunt the tyrannosaurus rex.

Yes, dinosaurs disappeared long before humans showed up. We all know that.

Yet, here’s this convivial family, grazing at Florida’s Dinosaur World. It shows the huge reptiles and humans can co-exist, if the dinosaurs are made of concrete.

--Richard & Joyce

Murdock Visits Again

December 25, 2016

Tags: Animals, Dogs, Murdock

Muddy Murdock

When our friend Murdock last visited, it was Green Murdock, because he got wet and rolled in the grass. Here he is again, but now it's Muddy Murdock--

Because a dog's gotta do what a dog's gotta do!

Next visit? Who knows?

--Richard & Joyce

WILLOW

November 5, 2016

Tags: Dogs, Animals

Willow--a cat? Maybe.
This is Willow, who lives with our friends, Pam and David. She is a rescue from the local animal shelter.

Here she is helping Pam bake cookies.

Willow is more like a dog than a cat. She loves to be around people and her motto is: Attention must be paid!

We like dogs, but who can resist a cat in a bowl?

We decided she is an honorary dog.

--Joyce & Richard

OUR FRIEND MURDOCK, THE RACING DOG

October 3, 2016

Tags: Dogs, Animals, Murdock

Murdock the Racing Dog



This is a photo of our friend Murdock, who is green because he played with the hose and then rolled in newly mowed grass.

We never know what color Murdock will be when he visits us. We call him “Murdock the Burdock” because he sticks tight to his best pal, Eric Morse. Sometimes, though, Eric’s trips are via airliner, and Murdock can’t go and he stays with us. This time Eric is running across the Grand Canyon, rim to rim.

Eric is a former member of the U.S. Mountain Racing Team. Now he competes in dog-plus-human races, with Murdock, and they always win. Murdock is unofficial Eastern U.S. dog-racing champ.

Murdock’s motto is: “Short legs? Just move ‘em faster.”

He has tons of trophies.

--Richard & Joyce

GASPODE, STREET DOG

October 3, 2016

Tags: Books, Reading, Dogs, Animals, Stray Thoughts

First of Terry Pratchett's 41 "Discworld" novels, where Gaspode eventually appears



I often think about Gaspode, the terrier-like street dog in Terry Pratchett’s brilliantly funny “Discworld” novels.

It’s because Gaspode is so disreputably clever at making his way in his world, which is similar to our world, except that it is flat and rests on four elephants standing on the shell of a vast turtle, swimming in nothingness. Discworld’s dwarfs and trolls despise each other, and its humans disdain all minorities, especially vampires and werewolves. Slums are super-slummy. And a filthy little dog gets no lunch unless he wangles it.

Gaspode has a wangling edge: one night he slept beside Unseen University’s High Energy Magic building, and magical seepage upped his IQ and enabled him to speak. Nobody suspects a dog can talk, so people believe they’re hearing their own thoughts—“Oh, look at that poor little orphan doggie! I should give him half my sandwich!”

Gaspode appears in seven of Sir Terry’s 41 Discworld novels. He’s a lot like Homer’s hero, Odysseus, the only Greek among Troy’s besiegers who demonstrably has a brain.

Besides, Gaspode looks just like our friend Murdock, the west highland terrier who occasionally stays with us, when his buddy Eric is traveling. Also, whether your world’s round or flat, amusement is good.

–Richard

BOOKS & STORIES

Check out our published books
Stories published in literary journals
A "Pleistocene western," published in Reflections Edge magazine
A nonfiction book of stories about disappearing animals, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
An award-winning chronicle of life and caring in a small hospital, published in Smithsonian Magazine
Just when a terrifying illness strikes, a self-confident corgi appears on our deck, seeking a new home, and he becomes our guide.