DO YOU KNOW WHAT MONTH THIS IS?

Mary holding first great-grandchild, Grace

SEPTEMBER, you might say. Or, back-to-school month.

If you’re a writer, did you realize that September is–drum roll, please–“Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month”?

I kid you not; I just don’t know who exactly has the power to designate these special days. But for the sake of celebration, and this post, we’ll accept it. The entire month we’ll be kind to editors and writers. Especially one.

Yesterday, Sept. 1, was Emma M. Nutt Day (she was the first woman telephone operator). And today, Sept. 2, is (brace yourself)  National Beheading Day (In this country? Really?–again, who thinks up these things?)

Sept. 6 is Read A Book Day, which fits our theme better.

Today I’m going to offend whoever decided on making this National Beheading Day. This is my blog, after all, so I’m declaring today “Appreciate Writer Mary Elizabeth Hoover Shepherd Day,” and the illustrated story we’re going to appreciate is “Stubby the Missouri Mule.”

In the state of Missouri, where summers can be dreadfully hot and the winters are beastly cold, all the farmers called him Stubby because he was the most stubborn little mule anyone had ever seen. (I’m going to paraphrase the story and include two of my mother’s hand-drawn illustrations. The story was written in 1961 when Mom was 43, and it most recently appeared in 1991 in “The Writers Bloc” of THE FT. SCOTT TRIBUNE.)

One day, a blizzard moved in quickly. Farmer Jim opened the barn and began moving his animals to safety. But not Stubby; he kicked up his heels and ran farther into the pasture. When his momma called, he pretended not to hear, and when the farmer looked for him, Stubby hid. At first he had great fun. Then it got dark, and cold. And scary. No one came looking for him, and he was lost. He startled a skunk and got sprayed; he was hungry–and smelly–but where was the barn? (Lots of misadventures happen.) Then, after Stubby’s dark, lonely night, by morning light he saw the barn in the distance. Instead of being angry, Farmer Jim welcomed the little mule, and Stubby happily jumped in a snowdrift and rolled and rolled to get clean. That night, when the farmer opened the barn to shelter the animals, Stubby didn’t even have to be called. For once, he’d forgotten to be stubborn.

I apologize for my CLIFF’S NOTES summary of a charming story for children, but I also honor the author, Mary Elizabeth Hoover Shepherd, by declaring today, September 2, as her day on this blog.

September is “Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month.” When a writer is 94 and doesn’t remember her story of a darling stubborn Missouri mule, or any of her other stories, articles and poems, a little kindness and appreciation by those of us who do remember for her is the least we can do.

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29 Comments

Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, spending time with kids, writing

29 responses to “DO YOU KNOW WHAT MONTH THIS IS?

  1. Delightful to read this morning. Just wondering: is the book still in print? Is there still a Writers Bloc at the newspaper? Is there still a writers’ group in Ft. Scott?
    This is a great day for your mom even if she does not realize it…thanks for sharing her story.

    • Aw, bless you, Claudia, but the story was never printed in book form. It appeared in the newspaper and writers’ bulletins as story only, and for years all the charming illustrations waited in folders. A year ago I put together a keepsake book of some of Mom’s stories, articles and poems for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and I had professional copies made of the Stubby illustrations. Since I’m in Ft. Scott to visit Mom every month, I read THE FORT SCOTT TRIBUNE, and only twice, several years ago, did I see “The Writers Bloc.” Which was very sad, as there was a delightful assortment of genres and styles that used to be printed.

  2. juliabarrett

    What a lovely story. So Midwest! I know your mother doesn’t remember, but you have such wonderful memories. And the Anais Nin quote is perfect.

  3. Thanks, Julia. The important thing is that now her grandchildren and great-grandchildren remember, too. And on some of my visits when I read to Mom and include excerpts of her writing, she’ll brighten for a moment and smile. Usually she asks if we know the person who wrote it, but a few times she’s asked if she wrote it, so there are fleeting moments of clarity.

  4. What great story and paintings your mom created, thanks for sharing! Did the story work on her children, to get them to do things when they were supposed to? If so, I’m going to tell it to my boys!

    • Okay (smiling now), keep in mind that when she wrote this story, my brother and I liked it as a story with drawings…we already knew the lessons involved. And Mom sometimes had me be her first “reader” to see what I thought the message was, and did I like the characters and animals. So if you want to try it on your boys, ask them to give you feedback on a children’s story…or draw pictures of the lessons.
      But overall, we already understood the basic lessons she was including in her stories. And your boys probably already know the basic lessons you think are important, too.

      • Oh, they know the rules (I have a list of about 5 of them when we go out) but their impulsivity always seems to trump reason. My four-year old knows that rule #1 when we go somewhere is no running away, but somehow he usually manages to do it within the first few minutes at our destination! His 6-year old brother is better, so I’m waiting for age and reason to outgrow impulse. :-)

      • You gotta love’em, don’t you? Young kids and their unwavering sense of self…and the ways they pick and choose rules to remember.

  5. LOL I had no idea September is about being kind to writers — every month should be like that for us :)

  6. Absolutely, Christy! ;=) But if you’ve ever been an editor, you know a little kindness is also sometimes very welcome. I keep thinking about your wonderful poem, with the masking tape covering the holes…and I would add masking tape as a help for writers’ and editors’ wounds this month!

  7. Loved the story and the drawings, making an exception and raising a glass to all my writer friends, their mothers and in particular to “Mary Elizabeth Hoover Shepherd Day,”

  8. Thank you, Tom. I’ll raise my glass, too, including both of our “mums,” and the mothers of our grandchildren, too. Women–writers, editors, mothers, sisters, wives, aunts, grandmothers, friends–love being toasted and appreciated! And in this spirit of appreciation, I toast you, too, my friend across the sea.

  9. Sam

    Hello Marylin,

    I figured it fitting for me to reply to your story, since our whole family lives in, and I am originally from Missouri. Your mother’s story about Stubby is perfect to the “t” about life in Missouri….although I am sure that the story has a world wide application! Not because it is September, or because she is 94, but because she is a wonderful writer our family will honor your mother this month!

    Thanks, Sam

    • Thank you, Sam, and Marie and Willow, too. I’m glad Mom’s story about Stubby works for you. I grew up hearing her touching and real stories about growing up in the Show-Me State, and I spent a lot of time and holidays with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents in Missouri. Thanks for your comments.

  10. Karen Keim

    Thank you, Marylin, for the Stubby story with drawings. I especially like your mother’s drawing of the mule leaning over the fence. And I smile as I can hear her (Aunt Mary) telling the story!

    Love, Karen

    • That’s my favorite picture, too. There’s another cute one of Stubby with the skunk, but it was torn and faded and couldn’t be photographed clearly. I really appreciate your comments about Mom, the little details you’ve added about her and your mom. It rounds out the picture of Mom’s life for her great-grandchildren. Thank you, Karen.

  11. How beautiful! I am taking care of my mother-in-law right now who has dementia. She was never a writer, but I know how sad it is to watch her retreating farther and farther away into a mind that no longer remembers. Here’s to your momma! Angie

    • It’s so difficult taking care of someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Believe me, I know. Sometimes the only thing we can do is keep trying and do the best we can. And then there are other moments that are clear and real and hopeful. I wish you many of those “other” moments. Thanks for your well wishes for my mother, Angie.

  12. Pat

    Hi – I’d like to nominate you for the One Lovely Blog Award.
    Do pop over and check out my Fluffy Moments Page tomorrow and you will find the details.

  13. Enjoyed the read! Perhaps your mom is with Stubby off on an adventure….when through kicking up their heels, they might wander back for a bit?
    My father-in-law had Alzheimer’s – a long time ago -back when it wasn’t really diagnosed or anyone knew what to do. It’s difficult to watch.
    Nice blog posts

    • Thanks for stopping by, Karen, and for the idea that my mom and Stubby are off on an adventure. I love that image! Mom gets good care and attention where she is now, but she’s reached that stage of dementia where she sleeps most of the time, and when she awakens she doesn’t know where she is. The idea of dreaming she’s with one of her charming characters is wonderful.

  14. Consider her honoured! Definitely better than being beheaded (even Alzheimers is better than that).

  15. A wonder tribute…we weave our stories in memories…

  16. Kathleen Durbin

    Marylin,

    I remember when you spoke to the Fort Scott Writers Club when we were meeting at the Fort Scott Community College. You were so inspiring.

    Our club is still in existence, we meet in the Presbyterian Village Community room on the third Saturday of each month. Although our membership has dwindled, we manage to inspire each other with what we write.

    There is no more “Writers Bloc”, and hasn’t been for several years. One of our members is inquiring to see if our monthly writing creations might be included in the new newspaper here in Fort Scott. I sincerely hope she is successful. I plan to bookmark your site and I have subscribed to your blog.

    Respectfully,
    Kathleen Durbin
    President & Secretary
    Fort Scott Writers Club

    • Thank you, Kathleen. I visit Mom each month, but it’s always on weekdays so I can spend the weekend with our daughter and grandchildren in Chapman when they’re not at work or in school. I hope you can re-establish “Writers Bloc” again; my mom always loved it. She doesn’t write any more, of course, but I do read to her from magazines and the TRIBUNE. Sometimes she responds; sometimes not.
      Good luck to you and other Ft. Scott writers, and thanks for following the blog. Please feel free to jump in and leave “comments” for/about my mom.
      Marylin

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