Monthly Archives: December 2020

Favorite Short Stories–The Devil and Daniel Webster

Photo by Gabby K on

In this fantasy, author Stephen Vincent Benet brings together people who played a part in American history, for good or evil.

Jabez Stone, a New Hampshire farmer tired of his long string of bad luck, sells his soul to the devil, “Mr. Scratch”. Afterwards, Mr. Stone’s prosperity is as good as his calamities were bad. His wife and family, not knowing what he did, are happy, but Jabez lives in dread of the day the devil will come to claim his soul.

Jabez asks the well-known lawyer/orator Daniel Webster to plead his case with the devil. Daniel agrees and comes to the Stone’s house with Jabez. When Daniel is unable to negotiate with Mr. Scratch, he insists on a trial by an American judge and jury. Mr. Scratch agrees, and the door opens to admit some of the worst villains in American history as judge and jury.

The trial begins and goes badly for Daniel and Jabez Stone. Daniel grows increasingly frustrated as his objections are overruled, but the opponent’s are sustained. His anger within grows hot.

The climax of the story comes when, shortly before addressing the jury, Daniel sees his own anger burning in their eyes. He realizes if he tries to fight the devil with the devil’s own weapons of hatred, inhumanity, and rage, all is lost.

With that realization, he makes his unusual defense. He begins by speaking about simple things–simple joys–all the jurors could recognize. He says without freedom, those things “sicken”. He talks about America, and admits that grievous wrongs were done, but there was good too. Without condemnation, he asserts that whatever the jurors had done, they had all played a part in America.

The trial comes to an unusual conclusion.

Reviewer’s Note: While Daniel Webster, the judge, and most of the named characters of the jury actually lived, Stephen Vincent Benet uses literary license to tell his story.

I first read “The Devil and Daniel Webster” several years ago, and think of it often. As I read it the other day for this review I thought how timely it is, years after its publication. The evil of slavery is referred to in the story; racism is with us today. Freedom is a theme of the story; the fight for freedom is never over, for always there will be groups who seek to put other people under their control. The effects of the devil are seen in the world–hatred, rage, the inhumanity of man towards man, totalitarianism, and more. In the way Daniel handled his anger and the way he addressed the jurors, I saw what could be thought of “anger management”, which is so needed in the world today.

©P. Booher



Filed under Stories that Stick in My Mind

Christmas Reflections

Photo by Jessica Lewis on


I stand in awe that You chose to leave heaven and voluntarily give up the prerogatives You had. You chose to come to earth as a helpless baby. I believe You were glad to do it, because You love us so much. You would rather do that and give us the chance and the choice to live eternally with You, than see heaven without us. In giving up much, You gave us much. Thank You.

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman,…” Galatians 4:4 (KJV)

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…” Isaiah 9:6 (KJV)

“Christ Jesus…made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men…” Philippians 2:5-7 (KJV)

©P. Booher


Filed under Country Ripples

What Am I Focusing On?

Photo by Roxana Ioana Luca on

Today a picture flashed in my mind. It was similar to a dream, but I was wide-awake. In the picture I was standing on a hill, one high enough to gain altitude over everything else. I could see two different ways.
Those ways represented different attitudes in my life. Those attitudes produced different results.

In the first view I saw all the places I wanted to go and never went, the “good-paying” job I wanted, and never got, the experiences I used to envision myself having and never having them. When I looked that way I felt bitterness and a corrosive resentment boil up inside.

Then I turned to look at the second view. There I saw all the places I did go to (like Niagara Falls!); all the books and stories I’ve read; all the jobs I had, the relationships and what I learned on the jobs; all the experiences I’ve had, and what I gained from them. As I looked that way I felt rich. I had no reason to feel bitter or resentful.

The lesson from the picture in my mind is plain to me: my feelings depend on what I focus on. I can look one way and see what I didn’t get, or didn’t have, and be angry or in despair; I can look the other way and see what I got, and what I have, and be grateful and hopeful.

What am I focusing on?

What are you focusing on?

©P. Booher

Niagara Falls Photo Credit: Author


Filed under Country Ripples, Life Lessons

Christmas Music Suggestions

I enjoy listening to music, especially at Christmastime. Music contributes so much to the season.

One of my favorite CDs is by Percy Faith and his orchestra: “Music of Christmas”. The first track is a majestic rendition of “Joy to the World”, followed by carols such as “Silent Night, Holy Night”, “Deck the Halls”, and others thought of as traditional. Bonus tracks include “Toyland”, “March of the Toys”, “Be A Santa”, and “Brazilian Sleigh Bells”. There are 19 tracks on the CD.

Over 20 years ago I heard Mannheim Steamroller’s version of “Silent Night”(“Stille Nacht”) on the radio, from their album titled, “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas”. The ending sent chills–good chills–down my spine, as I envisioned the innocence of the Baby in the manager. I remembered the group’s name and eventually bought the cassette tape, then as it wore out, bought the CD. Mannheim Steamroller brings their unique sound to Christmas carols. The group has other Christmas albums out as well.

John Tesh’s “Christmas Worship” CD is another favorite of mine, along with “Winterlude” and “Piano Winterlude”. These albums give a listener music to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas: God sending His Son to the world, as a baby.

Most of the songs on these CDs are instrumental; as a change of pace I listen to “The Andy Williams Christmas Album”, which is sung by Andy Williams.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

P. Booher

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Filed under From the CD Rack

Friday Photos–Snowy Walk

Black Kitty “hoofing it” through the snow. Black Kitty eventually gave up the wild life, and moved inside.
The woods, the creek, and the old railroad bridge.
Snow and trees all over!
Under the pine tree
Creek and woods

All photos: Author’s collection

©P. Booher

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Filed under Country Cats, Friday Photos

Christmas, 2020–What’s Changed, What Hasn’t Changed

Photo by Jeswin Thomas on

This Christmas will be different from all other years for many people. If you are accustomed to having a lot of family or friends over, you may be re-thinking that tradition. People who can are opting for virtual get-togethers; people without computers or internet access will find other ways to keep in touch. As has been the case since March or so, flexibility is key. Maybe you can’t have it exactly the way you’d like, but if you keep an open mind, options may appear that you never saw before.

The way we celebrate and the traditions we have are changing before our eyes, that’s for sure.

What hasn’t changed??

Consider this: the reason for Christmas (the Mass of Christ) hasn’t changed at all. Christmas wasn’t thought up by Santa Claus or retailers; Christmas was God’s idea. Christmas is still the birth of the Baby Jesus, God Who came to Earth because He loved people so much. “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name, Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matthew 1:21-23, KJV)

Maybe this is the year when we focus less on the way we celebrate and more on the why we celebrate.

©P. Booher

Author’s Note: If you have lost a loved one this year, especially due to COVID-19, please accept my sympathies.
No words can be enough, but I pray you will allow God to bring you comfort.

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Filed under Country Ripples, Faith Matters, Life Issues

What I Am Enjoying Now

Photo by Tomas Anunziata on

As fall ends and winter begins, what am I enjoying now?

  1. The smell of fallen leaves as my boots crunch through them
  2. Feeding the birds
  3. Reading notes friends send with Christmas cards
  4. Making plans to prune bushes and trees when it’s not too cold or snowy (we have a crab apple tree whose branches are rubbing against one another)
  5. Anticipating a new, better job, one more in line with my mental and physical capabilities
  6. Reading
  7. Learning more about writing
  8. Looking forward to getting more control over my emotions with God’s help
  9. Anticipation of spiritual victories with God’s help
  10. Remembering how God met needs this year (for one–a car repair that could’ve cost $1,000 cost just $200)
  11. Seeing some personal growth as I look back over the year
  12. Writing blog pieces! 🙂

©P. Booher

Photo by Oleg Zaicev on


Filed under Country Ripples

A Surprising Remedy for Tiredness

Several years ago I worked as a cashier at a small-town grocery store. One day at work tiredness hit me. I couldn’t do anything about it; I had just started my shift; it would be hours before I could go home. Anxiety tagged along with the tiredness. Customers expected to see perky-looking cashiers, and I felt anything but perky. I knew that was reflected on my face. If a customer noticed that and said something to the manager, I would be disciplined, and I didn’t want that. So on top of being tired, I was also anxious. That was certainly not a good combination at work. What could I do?

After awhile a customer came up to the register. As I began ringing her purchases up, I recalled seeing an item in the paper. She had won an important award from the county. I congratulated her on winning the award. Her face lit up in a bright smile, and she thanked me. The conversation didn’t last long, and she walked out the door. But as she left, I realized my tiredness and anxiety had vanished. I made it through my shift with renewed energy and enthusiasm, and practically skipped out the door at the end of my shift.

Ever since, I’ve reflected on the idea that in making someone else feel better, I receive a benefit too.

©P. Booher


Filed under Country Ripples

Friday Photos–Strange Shapes, A Condo, and Animals’ Grocery Store

What looks like a big snake curling around the decaying, moss-covered log is a wild grapevine.
I call this dead tree with the sharp point (just off-center) a “condo”. I’m sure it’s home for more than one animal or bird!
These acorns make up part of the animals’ grocery store!


Filed under Friday Photos

Low-tech Car Care Tips for Winter

Photo by Mikey Dabro on

Author’s Note: Most of this is a repost from last year. Hoping this helps someone out this winter.

With winter weather here for people living in the Northern Hemisphere, the cold and snow bring challenges in everyday living, especially for those of us who don’t have garages.

Here are a few car-care tips to make life a little easier on cold mornings for those whose vehicles stay outside:

  1. If possible, park your car so the engine faces the morning sun. Even in very cold weather the sun warms the engine, taking a bit of cold-weather stress off the engine, and making it easier to start. This tip came from a co-worker of my mother.
  2. Many newer cars have a more aerodynamic design. For instance, the doors of my car are even with the body. There’s no overhang to protect the door seals from the elements. That presents a problem in winter when a storm hits: depending on the direction the snow or ice comes, the car doors freeze shut even though unlocked.  For awhile I sprayed cooking spray on the seals. Then a co-worker told me cooking spray deteriorates over time and draws moisture. He suggested buying a can of silicone spray from the auto parts store and applying that to the seals. While the silicone spray costs more than the cooking spray, it lubricates the seals better without breaking down. This is a case where spending a bit more is worth it!
  3. This next tip isn’t for the car, but for animals that may be around or under the car: Bang the hood with a broom—make some noise—before starting the vehicle. Cats are known to climb up around the engine, seeking warmth, bringing injury or death to themselves, and perhaps costly damage to the engine when it starts. Taking a few extra seconds to warn any cat or other animal will save the animal and your engine.
  4. This tip may help those who drive light-weight vehicles: put some weight in the back. I drive a light-weight front-wheel-drive car. Come winter, I throw a twenty or twenty-five pound sack of cheap kitty litter in the trunk. This “old-school” trick I picked up from my dad, who routinely put extra weight in the bed of his two-wheel-drive pickup in the winter.

©P. Booher


Filed under Simple Ways to Handle Everyday Problems, Tips to Manage Stress