Crime – Tulee Main

‘The Passing of Tulee Main’ is a story involving a sturdy, honest family in a gentle, rural land – but the tale’s permeated with crime.

“You’re going to kill her” . . . “What’s wrong with you, you drooling idiot?” The story’s barely begun and Brig’s having a hard time with what he’s hearing.

“It ain’t like that, Brig. . . . Maybe I’m helpin’ her along some, but that’s it, Brig,  just helpin’ her along, that’s all. . . . I never done no harm to nobody in all my life, Brig.”

Leaving the story for a moment:

Not long ago, in February of 2012, here in Upper East Tennessee – right where Tyson county is – a young couple were slain early one morning.

(Billy Payne and Billie Jean Hayworth were shot. Subsequently Payne’s throat was slit, apparently to seal the complicity of the accomplice. The couple’s eight month old baby was found, unharmed, in the mother’s arm’s. You can look it up – “Johnson County double murder”, “Marvin Potter”, “Jamie Curd”, “Billie Jean Hayworth” – all lead to relevant articles on Google.)

Why?

The murderers and their family were very upset over the fact that the slain couple had ‘unfriended’ the daughter of the lead attacker on Facebook.

Very upset.

The ‘reasons’ for a crime are often bizarre. The reason given above for the murder of the young couple is real, It’s the actual ‘grievance’ stated by the murderers.

Returning to ‘Tulee’:

The reason for the ongoing attempt on Tulee’s life as we start the story is less bizarre, and maybe more easily understood – it’s greed, pure and simple. Greed, of course, is one of the staple foundations of crime. Lust, envy, jealousy,ego, simple ingrained hatred and, occasionally, something as utterly weird as the ‘reason’ for this young couple’s death are issues we deal with every day in our society. Sometimes we win, sometimes the evil ‘reasons’ win. It’s an on-going battle.

I don’t think I’m being overly pessimistic when I say I think we’re losing that ongoing battle. We have more crime; we hire more police. We have more wide-spread threats; we institute more wide-spread police measures. Does this suppress crime or simply create more public-sector employment?

We now have (in no particular order) DHS, fusion centers, TSA, CIA, NSA, NG-IA, FBI, OoI, DEA, NSGC, the ATF which is actually the BATF and even more formally the BATFE and on . . .  and on and on.

Don’t bother chasing the list down; it’s incomplete and, anyway, there are more coming. We’ll likely run out of alphabet before we run out of Central-Government-funded acronyms to throw at a seemingly ever increasing mob of bad guys, private and political, domestic and foreign.

By no means am I advocating giving up or quitting and letting the bad people roam unchecked but isn’t it possible that our complete dependence on civil, secular solutions is not the way to go? Have we not thought of turning to a simpler, more Christian, more Godly, more humble personal and public code of conduct? Both privately and publicly?

Maybe it can’t be done, but it can’t be done if we’re not willing to start.

Comment at will.

PSK

(This post is intended to complement the narrative and views expressed in “The Passing of Tulee Main”. To learn more about the book, press the ‘Main Site Home Page’  link at the top of this post. (Beyond the on-site material there, the Nook, Kindle and Amazon links have sample chapters available to view.)

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Faith

Faith.

It’s such a small word, just five everyday letters, yet it has been the mightiest of forces.

It kept Moses on a pain-filled, often thankless journey for better than four decades; frequently dealing with the whining, complaining and back-stabbing of the very people God had charged him to deliver.

It kept Caleb, Gideon, Joshua, Jeremiah and a host of others toiling to serve and protect His people from an endless stream of threats and failures, most often brought about by the same people being shepherded.

It caused – after some truly spectacular spiritual stumbles – the apostles to storm the entire world and, ultimately through their spiritual children, to win most of the then-known portion over to the banner of Jesus Christ.

It was largely instrumental in an exodus of sorts from Europe to North America.

It was the foundation of everyday life throughout that new world, including the middle Appalachians settled by the forefathers of Walt and Tulee Main. It’s true that not everyone stood on it without wavering, stumbling and often tumbling completely off – but, still, the foundation was there and everyone knew it – then.

. . . “Used to be there was a right and there was a wrong and we all pretty much understood both. Now, there’s lawyers and there’s CPA’s and the devil take the one who has the fewer of them.”  . . .

Andrew, more formally Pastor Andrew Johnson of Pleasant Hill Baptist, is in the midst of a reply during a neighborly chat with Bart and Liz. It’s part of his answer to Liz’s anguished question, “What’s gone wrong with all of us, Andrew?”

There’s more to the conversation – and much more to the action in ‘Tulee Main’ leading up to that point in the story. It’s way more than  would ever fit in a blog post. We’ll skip all the detail here. Read the book and tell me what you think.

I believe you’ll see that I think we need to get back to . . . ‘there was a right and there was a wrong and we pretty much understood both.’

Comment at will.

PSK

(This post is intended to complement the narrative and views expressed in “The Passing of Tulee Main”. To learn more about the book, press the ‘Main Site Home Page’  link at the top of this post. (Beyond the on-site material there, the Nook, Kindle and Amazon links have sample chapters available to view.)

 

 

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Meth – Close and Personal

As ‘Tulee Main’ continues, we begin to learn more about Vickie; in a way, too much more.

‘The itching on her stomach had kicked in again. Usually it was around her face, but it had been spreading lately . . . Her nails bore into the softness of her mid-section, then ground hard against her ribs as they, too, cried for salvation . . . her hands stopped, and she began to once again aimlessly wander through her mind, looking for solutions.’

Vickie isn’t having a good morning. She hasn’t for awhile. Right now, it looks doubtful she ever will again.

‘ “Where could they go?” . . .  almost screamed at the off-white plastic curtains her fingers had seized when Vickie had bolted up from the chair. They didn’t answer her . . . She turned toward the bed and laboriously burrowed into the blankets, seeking darkness and safety from the danger around her, and from herself as well.’

These are  just little snippets from a single ‘down’ pressing on Vickie. In the story, these small disjointed sections come together with others to lay out Vickie’s life as that life starts to spiral downward.

Still, it’s just a story. In a sense, it’s not ‘real’, is it? Let’s look at ‘real’.

Map showing Meth activity in Tennessee

Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force Map – Suspects, Seizures & Arrests – 2/03 – 1/11

This a map of Tennessee. The map itself is in various shades of green. What you’re seeing are the brown dots showing the residence of suspected purchasers, the yellow dots of meth labs that were seized and the red dots showing individuals arrested at seizure. It looks as though the state had been consumed by some malignant growth – and, in a way it has been.

1,408,020 Suspects
8,741 Lab Seizures
5,757 Arrests
In a peaceful, generally rural stretch of America moving gently downward from the heights of the Appalachians to the banks of the Mississipi.

That’s real.

Comment at will.

PSK

(This post is intended to complement the narrative and views expressed in “The Passing of Tulee Main”. To learn more about the book, press the ‘Main Site Home Page’  link at the top of this post. (Beyond the on-site material there, the Nook, Kindle and Amazon links have sample chapters available to view.)

 

 

 

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The Kitchen – Tulee Main

‘Beautiful Homes’ magazines – whatever their titles – spend a lot of time on pools, patios, ‘great rooms’ and a host of even more gee whiz items.  That’s understandable; the publishers’ aim is often to get out on the edge in order to build interest (and advertising).

Some of those glitzy features are absolutely awe inspiring. True, others appear just silly, but I’ll frequently spend time looking at them.

And – having looked at them, I’ll usually put the magazine down on the little table in the professional’s office where I’ve been waiting and go on with my own life.

My life’s not that different than the life of many others; not much different than that of the Cleburns or Hackers in ‘Tulee Main.’ Here’s a little snippet from those lives: . . . “Ben led the group into the Hacker’s home and a surprised Susan welcomed them to the kitchen.”

Why there?

Page 311 obligingly tells us: “The kitchen was always the first choice for families to gather. The living room was only for people who weren’t known very well.”

In ‘Tulee’, the kitchen is the center stage on which people play out their roles. It’s a place of grief and comfort as Liz learns of Tulee’s death, a place of strength and encouragement as Liz and Bart work through their trials and it’s a place of discovery – as when an innocent eight-year-old girl unknowingly gives her grandparents the information needed to identify the evil Vickie (and they) are up against.

For many of us – including, I suspect, owners of those headliner homes in magazines – the kitchen is the center stage of our real lives as well.

I understand the allure of glossy articles about mega pools, the much bigger, has-it-all yacht, really cool twin turbo-jets or even the imported-from-the-Far-East dinner for two – flash frozen and ready for YOU!

Terrific.

It’s entertaining to read about this stuff, see it on the TV, hear it on the phone (I just hung up on a 2 days to Grand Bahama offer) or get into it on the laptop or smartphone. Sure it is. But listening to those around me, I wonder if the tidal wave of ‘gee whiz’ is flooding out the quiet currents of home, family and days spent together.

Just me, I guess, but I think we need to more often treasure those moments in the family kitchen -  and the families with which we’re blessed. What do you think?

Comment at will.

PSK

(This post is intended to complement the narrative and views expressed in “The Passing of Tulee Main”. To learn more about the book, press the ‘Main Site Home Page’  link at the top of this post. (Beyond the on-site material there, the Nook, Kindle and Amazon links have sample chapters available to view.)

 

 

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Neighbors – Tulee Main’s and Ours

Jack is peering after the car moving out of sight along Porter Road: “Was a time when everybody would at least wave when they saw you. You and me, we’re gettin’ on hard days, Katie.”  (As you read ‘Tulee Main’, you’ll see that Jack’s reaction has far reaching consequences for the man in the car).

To Jack, not offering a friendly word, or at least a wave, is a foreign act.

Now, Jack is a life-long rural Tennessee man, a little set in his ways and he’s talking to his dog for Heaven’s sake! That’s right, Katie’s the dog, but that doesn’t mean Jack hasn’t a point.

Jack is used to neighbors. The whole fabric of Tyson County is composed, mostly, of ‘neighbors’. The Mains, the Morgans, the Sluders; even Ann, the Laurel’s resident busybody, are linked together by multiple common links of family, marriage, location, thoughts and regional opinions. They’re neighbors. Some may not even particularly like others but they’re neighbors.

I think the behavior Jack’s puzzled by has far reaching consequences for us all. Doesn’t look to me as if our social connections have the solid basis they used to have.

We have ‘workplace associates’, ‘acquaintances’ and ‘fellow members’; we have a lot of relationships of one kind or another but, increasingly, we lack ‘neighbors’.

So – do you have to be a rural Southerner to be a neighbor? Certainly not. There can be -  and I’m sure are – just as genuine ‘neighbors’ in the Bronx as there are in Tyson County or anywhere else. It’s the sturdy roots and ‘sense of place’ common to “neighborliness” that I think is missing; not the ‘goodness’ or ‘niceness’ (or political correctness) of the people rubbing elbows with each other.

I guess what’s running around in my head is that, in the past, I’ve seen and lived among a lot of social phoniness. Sorry to put it that way, but I think that’s what it is.

Whether it’s the ‘great friend’ that no longer seems to be around after you get downsized, the jovial ‘associate’ that appears to have just stabbed you in the back over the Cleveland opening or the brotherly ‘fellow member’ who doesn’t recognize you on the street after the homeowners association has found fault with you – there seem to be a lot of elbow rubbing not involving anything like ‘neighbors’.

I bring this up mostly because I’d like to hear what others have to say about this.

Comment at will.

PSK

(This post is intended to complement the narrative and views expressed in “The Passing of Tulee Main”. To learn more about the book, press the ‘Main Site Home Page’  link at the top of this post. (Beyond the on-site material there, the Nook, Kindle and Amazon links have sample chapters available to view.)

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Integrity – Jimmy Brown

In a way, all of ‘The Passing of Tulee Main’ is about integrity. As you read it, you’ll probably see that. But one example in the story may stand out – Jimmy Brown’s innocent honesty.

“Now, as the unusually warm, late June sun broiled Bullins’ tear down slab, Jimmy Brown went slowly through the vehicle for the ‘loose goods,’ . . .

Jimmy works at an auto salvage yard – a junk yard in North Carolina. A certain vehicle, one that will be critical to the story’s resolution, has been dumped there – hopefully to hide its involvement in murder.

Should have worked – it was a good idea. Would have worked – except for Jimmy Brown.

“. . . a paper and, oh, oh, a sharp looking, apparently new, laptop under the passenger’s side front seat.
     How ’bout that? Buggy will sure love to see this! Jimmy thought. He took a break to show his find to Buggy, sitting in the office.”

Not for an instant does it occur to Jimmy Brown to quietly tuck the laptop in a paper or cloth from the trash he’s cleaning out, put it in his own vehicle and take it home to use or sell. Not Jimmy Brown. His only thought is to take it to the boss. It’s not even clear that Jimmy expects to be rewarded – (although Buggy does give him a ten for the find, Jimmy doesn’t know that on the way into the office, and, as we get to know Buggy a little better, it looks like there was good reason for Jimmy to not be expecting much.)

This is such a little thing, a common thing; doing what’s honest in a hum-drum everyday activity. But Jimmy’s small act will snow-ball as the tale goes on and, soon, will become  one of the critical actions allowing the TBI and Tyson County Sheriff over in Tennessee to bring peace to Tulee’s family.

So, is Jimmy’s act looked up to, appreciated? Guess not. There’s a few minutes of activity before this next thought’s recorded in Buggy’s mind:

“That poor dumb Jimmy boy has to be an idiot to work out on the slab in this heat. Gotta be an idiot. Wouldn’t catch me there.” That’s Buggy’s view.

What about the criminals when they figure it out. Do they see themselves as overtaken by the ‘forces of good’.  Guess not. Here’s what they say:

“… You’d think the joe taking the car down would just stick it into his toolbox . . . Must have some real honest or some real stupid workers down there.”

It’s not ever brought out in so many words, but it seems obvious that ‘real stupid’ is the favored assessment.

If you ‘Google’ “integrity”, you’ll get a response indicating that around 19,300,000 entries are available concerning the subject and it took .23 second for Google to discover that. The .23 second seems about right – I have no idea about the 19,300,000 number, I looked at maybe a dozen of them.

‘Integrity’ is talked about a lot these days. Thank God for humble folk such as Jimmy Brown who don’t have to ‘Google’ the term to understand and practice it.

Jimmy Brown – one of ‘the few good people’.

Comment at will.

PSK

(This post is intended to complement the narrative and views expressed in “The Passing of Tulee Main”. To learn more about the book, press the ‘Main Site Home Page’  link at the top of this post. (Beyond the on-site material there, the Nook, Kindle and Amazon links have sample chapters available to view.)

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What Makes it Ours? – A Tennessee Home

What is it that makes a home “ours” in the sense that it’s ‘home’, not just ‘the place’ or ‘the apartment’, ‘the condo’, ‘the pad’ or a dozen different terms we use when we speak of the spot where we now live while, maybe, unconsciously veering away from that old term.

I think we do veer away from it – even if we’re not conscious of doing so. It could be me, but I think that some terms are so loaded with emotion that we may twist away from them without knowing it.

I don’t hear ‘we’re going home’, ‘my home’, ‘the old home’ or just the word ‘home’ as much as I think I used to. I believe, though I certainly can’t prove it, that this is because all those commonly phrased destinations aren’t home. They’re just the spot we stay at these days.

In ‘Tulee Main’, Walt and Tulee had a real home – for decades. Liz still has the same  home, although as the story unfolds, she hasn’t lived there there for about forty years. It’s the old farm up on the hill above Taylorsville where she spent her childhood. Bart still remembers his home, back in the Piney Woods of Texas, even though he was wrenched away from it around a half century ago.

Additionally, Bart and Liz, together, have a home: the warm comfortable place over on Hunt Creek. What makes that so?

For starters, Bart and Liz have invested in the home; not in the money sense or in the ‘gee, look at all our glitz’ manner but in the little personally done things that make something ‘yours’.

“. . . She had planted the casual garden there to cradle friends and neighbors who stopped by on days such as this, and it had become one of the home’s favorite gathering spots. Bart had chipped in the carefully bricked walkways . . . and had repaired and painted some iron furniture to complement Liz’s plantings.”

The two of them did things together. They worked towards some small common goal. Not just this time, but again and again. Gradually, the house became less of a ‘thing’ and more of a ‘home’. I see that coming about because their home was built, not just of  of wood and bricks, but also (perhaps more so) by their shared experiences over the years as they were settling in and raising their daughter.

I believe it’s not the ‘pad’ itself, it’s the experiences built up over years that make a home. Here, it occurs to me that, given our divorce rate, maybe it’s not odd that there are fewer ‘homes’. Hard to build the required experience in a culture where the wedding is rapidly being  replaced by the ‘pre-divorce ceremony’ that many weddings seem to have become, isn’t it?

I think memories and experience trump architecture and location every time when it comes to ‘home’ – no matter what the real estate folks may say. ‘Tulee Main’  may bear that out.

At one point Liz turns to Bart and says, “I think I want to find out something . . . How would you feel about living at the old place? . . . I guess it’s a little sudden, . . . but I’ve been wondering . . .since we first went over after Momma died. I looked around that day and tried to think of her gone and Daddy gone and everything gone, and I just didn’t want it all to be gone.”

Read the story, see how it all turns out.

Comment at will.

PSK

(This post is intended to complement the narrative and views expressed in “The Passing of Tulee Main”. To learn more about the book, press the ‘Main Site Home Page’  link at the top of this post. (Beyond the on-site material there, the Nook, Kindle and Amazon links have sample chapters available to view.)

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The Brutal Cloud – Methamphetamine

In The Passing of Tulee Main, the beauty of the land, the faith of the people, the love the families share, all struggle constantly under the darkness of methamphetamine.
It’s not that Tyson County isn’t a gentle land; it’s not that the Cleburnes, the Morgans and other local families aren’t as solid as the Tennessee hills among which they live. It’s just a fact that this brutal darkness can intrude on anyone, anywhere.

That’s not a fictional device – just some way to build excitement in a novel – it’s a fact. Consider:

Tyson County is fictional; but in the extreme ‘upper right’ corner of Tennessee where Tyson County would be, the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force has, over the past few years,  identified 92 meth manufacturing sites. Ninety two! That’s in a quiet, rural county of somewhere around 20,000 people – total.

That’s not in a violence plagued, fast paced, ugly urban environment. It’s in a beautiful land where people have lived, loved (or patiently tolerated) their neighbors for generations. It’s where many places of business limit their hours or close entirely on Sundays, where beer and mild wine are available in very few spots (certainly not in grocery stores), where ‘hard’ liquor is available somewhere else and where well attended churches seem to cover the countryside. (I believe I’ve counted roughly three dozen Baptist – of one sort or another – churches and they, of course, are outnumbered by the total of other denominations and independents).

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (via the web) tells me that ‘most’ meth plaguing the US comes from large clandestine commercial labs on the West Coast or in Mexico. That may well be true – and it appears to be more common even here in Tennessee. But ‘home grown’ methamphetamine is still a brutal, life and property destroying fact here.

It’s not just the meth but the ‘collateral damage’ created by it that causes loss. Some people in ‘Tulee Main’ such as Eb, Brig and  Johnnie are completely destroyed by it. None of them ever actually touched the stuff but it was meth and its manufacturing method that began their destructive slide in each case.

Even those such as little MarLee’s grandparents can get dangerously caught up in the plague although they personally live good and wholesome lives. So can you.

Meth is a major problem throughout the US and it may be a problem to your loved ones  – when you don’t even know it. I urge you to find out more about the drug and about its effects. Feel free to share your knowledge in the comments.

We’ll come back to meth again and you can get a quick look at the problem by going to ‘page 2′ of the links on this website, but enough for now.

PSK

(This post is intended to complement the narrative and views expressed in “The Passing of Tulee Main”. To learn more about the book, press the ‘Main Site Home Page’  link at the top of this post. (Beyond the on-site material there, the Nook, Kindle and Amazon links have sample chapters available to view.)

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Home

Home

Home   The porch on a sunny June morning

In The Passing of Tulee Main, this little snippet comes up as Bart and Liz head once more to Tyson County:

“In Tyson County . . .’home’ wasn’t a current address. ‘Family’ wasn’t a domestic unit prescribed by Census Bureau standards. Home and family meant a lot here. Twenty, thirty, maybe forty years after heading up into Virginia and beyond, the ‘youngsters’ would come back, now grandparents, and resettle on the family land just as if they had never been away.”

That’s what home was to them. It’s somewhat the same as ‘home’ was to me as I grew up. Even after living on the farm in our quiet valley for fifteen or eighteen years, my mother (and father, as well) would perhaps decide one evening to go ‘over home’.

‘Over home’ usually meant Mountain Lawn, the old farm with the white house, the big barn and the fields spreading across the rolling hills where she had spent her childhood. Sometimes, it would be the small house surrounded by fields a few miles away along a road  overlooking the valley stretching up towards Ashland: my father’s home.

I now live here in Upper East Tennessee among neighbors, some of whom actually did leave as youngsters for the aircraft and auto jobs in the north. There was no work, no money, no future here for a young person. Everyone knew that – and they did the reasonable thing : they went north where the money was. But they never left home.

They’re back here now. Most have been back for a long while. Some are back in the little cemetery across the road from Pleasant Grove Baptist. In whatever way, they’re home. They’re home among children, aunts, uncles, cousins; a large extended family of their own. The fact is, they never left, no matter how long they were gone.

Maybe it’s me, but I think we’re losing ‘home’ and I think we’re losing ‘family’. You may think of this as a long stretch of logic but, with them, I think we’re losing a way of life and, perhaps, a nation.

WHAT’S HOME TO YOU? Comment at will.

PSK

(This post is intended to complement the narrative and views expressed in “The Passing of Tulee Main”. To learn more about the book, press the ‘Main Site Home Page’  link at the top of this post. (Beyond the on-site material there, the Nook, Kindle and Amazon links have sample chapters available to view.)

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This Gentle Land

As you may already know, Tulee begins with the words “It was an exceptionally pleasant day in this gentle land . . .”

In Upper East Tennessee     (the upper right hand section as you look at the map, ‘Northeast Tennessee’ if you’re more ‘modern’, that mountainous chunk of the Volunteer State that butts up against both North Carolina and Virginia, equally)      can be found a truly gentle land.

Not flat or lazily rolling or easy to navigate but gentle. Gentle both in its climate and in the ways of its people. ‘Gentle’ shouldn’t be confused with lack of toughness, shortened endurance or anything approaching ‘wimpy’. This is a steeply mountainous area filled with people equal in spirit to the terrain in which they live.

This gentleness springs instead from the wordless handshake at the ‘viewing’ as the neighbors file slowly between the casket and the grieving family; or from the cow, horse, pet, what-have-you, that’s cared for as long as it takes – whether ‘the folks’ have to go over to the next county or hundreds of miles to the distant home of a distressed family member.

It springs from the almost-muttered “y’alright t’day?” shared as both neighbors and strangers pass by. The funny thing is that it really is a question, not just a ‘social statement.’ Nearly always, if there’s something amiss, you can mention it and the inquirer will actually listen. Won’t be able to do anything about it, but will listen. A lot of times that’s all we really need. Chronic whining won’t meet with a whole lot of enthusiasm but won’t be cut harshly short, either. After all, it may later provide a little entertainment as the listener shares the newest whine with another. (‘Confidences’ are one thing – and will be honored. ‘Whining’ is a different row entirely).

It springs from a hundred little mannerisms shared by the descendants of settlers from the late 1700′s and early 1800′s who still remember the ways of their forefathers in traditions, customs and glorious music.

This gentleness is often modest, self-effacing, quiet, and not well understood by people ‘from away’. That’s too bad. Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to have seen an awful lot of confident, up-scale, socially attuned, consciously ‘relevant’ people ‘from away’ who’ve passed through here with ever-so-slightly upturned noses who could have benefited from looking around a little harder – and seeing a little more – while they were here.

Maybe I’ll expand on that thought someday, but not now.  After all, the subject is gentleness, isn’t it?

PSK

(This post is intended to complement the narrative and views expressed in “The Passing of Tulee Main”. To learn more about the book, press the ‘Main Site Home Page’  link at the top of this post. (Beyond the on-site material there, the Nook, Kindle and Amazon links have sample chapters available to view.)

 

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