Quiz Time

This post is intended for critical thinkers. Warning: there are no pictures.

Recently, I attended a three-day writing workshop on the campus of NC State. (Click here to read the column I wrote about my Friday morning parking woes: http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/Patsy-Pridgen/2018/08/12/Campus-parking-poses-a-problem.html

Each participant was asked to submit a writing sample for others to critique. I sent in the beginning of Chapter One from my novel in progress, Life and Death in Narrow Creek.

In the section provided below, part of what I submitted, one astute reader found a content error (not grammar, spelling, or any other mechanics, but something in the story itself). See if you can find what’s wrong.

Post your answer if you don’t mind. I guess it goes without saying that if you want to find the error yourself, you shouldn’t read the responses (if any) before reading the excerpt. I’m curious to see how many people pick up on the mistake.

Chapter 1

My hand-me-down Electrolux was certainly keeping a fuss, as my grandma used to say. Three-year-old Heather, her blonde curls bent over a coloring book, dropped a fat red crayon and clapped her hands over her ears.

“Too much noise!” she shouted. I had to laugh hearing the exact words I often said to her when she ran around the apartment squealing, delighted to be chased by her silly daddy. Her silly daddy and my husband, Joe Bulluck, who on this crisp Saturday morning in October was not at home with us but rather forty miles away in the woods hunting deer.

I cut off the ancient vacuum cleaner I’d bought at the Salvation Army thrift store. It wasn’t working all that well anyway, but I couldn’t splurge on a new one. Joe and I were still in the early years of our marriage and although I’d finally gone to work full-time so that we were now a two-income family, neither of us made a lot of money. …


Did you find it?

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Ciao! (Goodbye Home, Hello Italy)

In just a few weeks, I’ll be in Italy. The Tuscany area, to be exact. Florence, the capital of this beautiful district in central Italy, is where my husband and I will spend the first three nights of our trip.

We’ve been to Florence before, for a one-day excursion on our first trip abroad in 2006. I remember it being magical—and overwhelming.  So much to see in so little time.

blog david

David reproduction in Piazza Del Signoria



Michelangelo’s David is my most distinct memory. This is a statue that is so famous there are reproductions of it worth photographing, which is a good thing since we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the original in the Accademia Gallery.




In Florence, we’ve booked a hotel room in a historical building that was once a former noble residence. Or so the hotel’s website says. We’re supposed to be in a lovely, quiet area just a few steps from the River Arno. Maybe this will be the view from our hotel window.


In 2006, our guided tour stopped at the Ristorante Il Bargello for lunch. I wrote down what I ate and drank that day: lasagna (not the main course), flattened beef with gravy, spinach, potatoes, sparkling water, champagne, and Rosellino Toscano (wine). Lots of food and lots of wine. That’s what I remember about dining in Italy.


One of the days my husband and I are based in Florence will be spent on an excursion to Pisa. On our last trip, we didn’t see what is probably one of the most famous sights in the country: the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Gotta get that wacky tourist photo of me holding up the tower!


After Florence, we’ll join our friends for a week at a villa in the Tuscan countryside. I’ve been reading Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun and picture something rustic yet romantic. Something medieval yet picturesque. I’ll have to let you know how reality measures up to my imagination.


Our group plans to take day trips to various Tuscan towns—maybe Siena, Bologna, Lucca, San Gimignano. We’ll drive (the guys, anyway, who’ve applied for international driving permits) through the beautiful countryside of Tuscany. I expect cypress trees, vineyards, hills, and valleys. Here’s a field of sunflowers I saw in June of 2006.

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I’m excited! Ciao!




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The Dog Days of Summer

The dog days of summer are here. Uncomfortable heat and humidity. It’s a given that temperatures will be in the 90s unless a rare “cold” spell brings the mercury down to the upper 80s.

Parts of my yard are thriving. Parts aren’t. Between my big holly tree and my equally big maple tree, the once-green grass is dead. I guess those trees suck up too much water when the hot days of summer set in. Never mind that I have a sprinkler system.

blog dead grass

The cucumber crop is about shot too, but I think it’s time. As least that’s what I remember from my youngster days when I was a professional cucumber picker. The cucumber season ended in early July, and then I began helping with the tobacco crop.

(See recent Telegram column: http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/Patsy-Pridgen/2018/06/03/What-I-did-on-my-summer-vacation)

I’d rip out these half-dead, yellow vines, but they’re still blooming and I continue to get the occasional cucumber.

blog dead cukes

Other parts of my little backyard garden are thriving. This year’s sleeper hit has to be my okra plants, bought on a whim to replace some pepper plants that had died.

I’ve learned okra are like cucumbers. I need to check my plants every day, or the produce gets too big to be tasty. I’ve harvested quite a bit of okra and have to fry it to get my husband to eat it. I don’t do a lot of frying anymore. It’s time to give some okra to the neighbors.

I’m also proud of my squash, and they’re easier to cook. I simply put a little olive oil in a sauté pan, slice up the squash, and fry/simmer until the vegetable is kinda mushy. Just like my mama used to cook it, except she probably used a few spoonfuls of bacon grease to get things started instead of olive oil.

blog cooked squash

I haven’t spent all of July monitoring my yard, however. This past weekend, I attended an intensive writing workshop.  Intensive as in sit in a classroom from nine to five. Along with some tips for writing fiction and helpful critiquing on a piece I submitted, I also learned there are a lot of smart, gifted people who are serious about the craft.

Blog Writing Workshop

Can you find me in the picture?

As the dog days of summer continue, maybe I’ll just stay in my air-conditioned house and get as serious as this crowd is about writing that great American novel.


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This Land Was Made for You and Me

“This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York island.” July 4th always gets me in a patriotic mood. This year that mood has led me to ponder all the magnificent topography I’ve seen in my travels right here in the good ol’ US of A .

Oh, there are wonders abroad, too, mountains and rivers and shorelines. But it’s hard to think of any country anywhere that has the diversity of natural landscape that we do. Take the continental US spanning from the Atlantic to the Pacific, add Alaska and Hawaii, and you’ve got a land big and beautiful in so many different ways.

I’ve culled these photos from my travel scrapbooks. For more details, check out my column,  http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/Patsy-Pridgen/2018/07/08/America-is-a-land-of-many-sights-and-cultures


Redwoods in California, 2010




Smoke from Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, 2008




Monument Valley, Arizona, 2013



Grand Canyon, Arizona, 2013




Glacier Bay, Alaska, 2016



Miami Beach, Florida, 2018


Volcanoes, deserts, glaciers, valleys, beaches–these different landscapes represent different ways of life, even different cultures.  For example, in Hawaii, I ate poi at a luau; in Alaska, salmon at a fishing lodge.  Miami Beach had a Hispanic vibe; Arizona, a Native American influence.

But vive la difference!  We’re all Americans, privileged to live in the most diversely beautiful country in the world.

Told you I was in a patriotic mood.










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Do You Wanna Dance?

Every July the entire family—my daughters, their husbands and children, my husband and I—all go to “The Conference.” For three nights and four days, we kick back at the Holiday Inn in Wrightsville Beach. We’re not usually people who stay in a hotel for a beach holiday, so the grandkids love the novelty of it. I love the maid service and restaurant.

My husband and daughters go to morning meetings related to the family business, and the rest of us hang out at the pool, the beach, the halls of the hotel, wherever the action is.


On the last night, the action is on the dance floor. After the final conference dinner, a DJ spins tunes for a couple of hours. A few grownups shuffle around to the occasional beach music song, but for the most part, it’s all about the kids. They aren’t one bit shy about showing off their moves. Or bugging their grandmas to dance with them.

This year Sammy, my ten-year-old grandson, insisted I be his partner for a slow dance. “Why don’t you ask Maddie?” I suggested, nodding at a bubbly little thing who’d been jumping all around to every song played.

“Geez, Grandma, she’s only nine,” he answered. So I danced with him. When I thought about it, I was glad he wanted me to. After all, before long he won’t have any problem dancing with a girl who’s only a year younger, and I’ll be on the sideline, yesterday’s meatloaf.


Maddie got a partner anyway. Charlie.  He’s Sammy’s six-year-old brother and evidently didn’t mind dancing with a girl who was not only older but taller.


Eventually, I got to sit down while Sammy went all disco, “stayin’ alive,” with the new buddies he’d made at the conference. The boys of summer, possibly the next generation for a family business.







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Progress Report

As many of you know (I hope), I write a column every week for the Sunday Life Section of the Rocky Mount Telegram.  I’ve just submitted Column #300. How do I know this?

I number my columns when I save them on my flash drive. I’m in year six, with Column #1 dating Sunday, October 14, 2012.

Three hundred ideas for 300 columns. Hope I can think of 300 more.

Now for a different kind of progress report. “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?”  Well, good and not so good.  My cucumber vines are robust, as usual, but the cucumbers themselves are just a tad bitter this year.  I read up on causes and extremely hot weather can be a reason.  Someone set our state on broil in recent weeks (I got that clever line off Facebook), so I’m guessing that’s why my cukes are a tad off this year.


A less than stellar cucumber crop pales in comparison, though, to what’s happened to my tomatoes this year. Look at these vines.  I know I overcrowded the plants, squeezing four into an area where maybe only two should have gone.  (It’s hard to believe they’ll get this big when they’re seedlings.)  But I don’t understand such wilted, dying vines.  I’m getting a few cherry tomatoes, but I think I can kiss those big Better Boys goodbye.


Now for the good gardening news. My okra plants are thriving.  I’ve never tried growing okra before.  My husband doesn’t like it in any form, stewed or fried, so I haven’t had a real incentive to plant any.  But on a whim this year, I picked up four seedlings.  Glad I did.  I like okra in all its forms.


My squash plants are also coming along, which is a little surprising to me. I planted squash as an afterthought, simply digging an at-the-time wet, muddy hole in the shrub bed and plunking in a couple of hills.

Yesterday, I walked around my backyard and picked several cucumbers, a few cherry tomatoes, and my first okra and squash. Before putting everything in the refrigerator, I arranged a still life of my produce and snapped a picture.



Despite some setbacks, looking at this photo makes me feel like a real backyard gardener.



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A Trip to Minnesota

I’m home from my six-day trip to Minnesota (the reason for no post last week). My husband and I went to Duluth to watch our youngest daughter run in Grandma’s Marathon, and then hung around for a few extra days to check out the sights.

Before I talk about “What I Did on My Vacation in Minnesota,” though, let me brag about my daughter. She signed up for Grandma’s Marathon with the goal of running 26.2 miles in under two hours and 45 minutes.  Doing so would qualify her for the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2020.

She succeeded, clocking in at 2:43:09. Here she is moments after crossing the finish line.

Image may contain: 4 people, including Paula Pridgen, people smiling, people standing and outdoor

Making the team for the Olympics, she tells me, is a really long shot for her since there’s lots of competition.  But she’s happy and proud that she’s now qualified to try out.  I’m happy and proud too.

After she went home on Sunday, my husband and I left Duluth and drove an hour north to our accommodations for the next two nights, the Cove Point Lodge in Beaver Bay, located on the shores of Lake Superior. This was our base for exploring up and down the North Shore, the 148 miles of scenic highway and quaint villages stretching from Duluth to the Canadian border.

It’s hard to describe how HUGE Lake Superior is. I’m not sure my picture below does it justice either.



Here are some interesting facts:

  • It’s the largest of the great lakes: in fact, it’s the largest freshwater lake in the world.
  • There is enough water in Lake Superior to cover all of North and South America with water one foot deep.
  • There have been about 350 shipwrecks on Lake Superior, and over 10,000 lives have been lost in her waters.

Okay, I realize your eyes may be glazing over, but having seen it, I find Lake Superior to be SUPERIOR!

My trip wasn’t all about gazing at the lake, however. Food is a priority when I travel.  I try to eat something I wouldn’t have at home.  At the Cove Point Lodge, I treated myself to the Scandinavian breakfast one morning.  What you’re looking at below is pickled herring, a cold boiled egg on crisp rye bread, pickled cucumbers, sausage, and cheese.   Delicious…and different.


A place called Betty’s Pies came highly recommended. Here I ordered a piece of Great Lakes Crunch Pie, liking the name as much as the ingredients: rhubarb, apples, strawberries, and raspberries, with a topping of oatmeal and brown sugar.  Oh, and a big dollop of vanilla ice cream on the side.  Maybe the pie wasn’t as much of a regional specialty as my Scandinavian breakfast, but I don’t often let myself have this kind of treat at home.IMG_1273

Minnesota, the land of ten thousand lakes (including one HUGE one), Grandma’s Marathon, and delicious food.






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