It’s Bubbles and Kites Day!

Today is the day for the annual Bubbles and Kites Day sponsored by the Newfane Optimist Club. The free family event takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Krull Park. Kids can make and fly a kite,  get a hot dog, a balloon animal and tatoo from the clowns and have some fun despite the weather. Pockets the Clown will be there with the Barker Lighthouse clowns; will you?


Sometimes you need cotton candy! Hurray for the new business in town.

Did you ever have one of those days when you wish you could escape from the adult world of restrictions and responsibilities and just go crazy like that proverbial “kid in a candy store?” Well, a short drive to the new Goodie Barn on Quaker Road will bring a smile and treats galore to satisfy the kid in you. Kimberly and Michael Ruffini have opened up the Goodie Barn at 2926 Quaker Road alongside their home, and the cute renovated barn is open from Wednesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The Barn has cotton candy, buttered popcorn, caramel corn and other gourmet popcorns, gourmet covered pretzels, gourmet candied apples and more.  They’ll cook you a hot dog on those quaint rollers or you can get a snow cone (all the usual sweet flavors and even sour lemon!). If all that doesn’t satisfy your sweet tooth, Kim told me that the sometime in the future there will be funnel cakes! Isn’t that fun? It will be like having a mini-carnival to stop by whenever you get the urge. Oh, diets be damned…everyone needs a treat once in a while.

I’ve often got my little great nieces and nephews in tow and I can’t wait to take them to the barn, although it could be habit-forming! The kid in all of us responds to those candied apples and cotton candy clouds of old. Some things never go out of style. While our apples may not have been double dipped in caramel and slathered in M&M’s, the new gourmet types have lots of fans.

The Ruffinis will be bringing some of those goodies to our Thursday Barker Farmer’s Market, beginning June 12 so you’ll get to see their wares, but do stop by the cozy Goodie Barn. It’s like a secret hideaway for smiles on your daily commute. Watch for more on the story in the Union Sun & Journal. Kudos to Kim and Mike for starting a little family business despite shaky economic times. If the calories bother you, convince yourself that you’re supporting your local businesses. It’s a big job, but someone has to do it! Hey, it works for me.

Oh, Deer!

While life in the country is amazingly beautiful, it can also be treacherous. Judging by the increase in road kill as the weather gets nicer, the poor little critters think so as well! I know it’s sometimes unavoidable and the instinct to protect car and human life takes over, but I am such a wuss.

Okay, Okay, I admit to slowing way down to granny speed at night, with brights on, searching the roadsides for glowing eyes ready to dart out in front of me. You would not believe how long it takes me to make the dark ride down Carmen Road from Route 31 to Lake Road after a late movie at the Sunset Drive-in. My family scoffs at me for my hyper-vigilance but, hey, what’s the rush? As long as there’s no traffic to tie up, I prefer to skulk along at high alert. Oh, don’t think it’s just for the sake of the possum family. I do want to save them from extinction but I also want to save myself from crying and upchucking because I killed a living thing. I feel so sorry for the critters on the highway, who died because humans took over the right of way, I offer up a little prayer for their critter souls and pray I don’t add to the mortality rate.

How bad does it get? If I can, I try to open windows and coax flies on their way rather than swat them. I catch spiders and bugs by letting them walk on the end of the paper or whatever and then carry them outside. I HATE flies, wasps, most spiders, anything that buzzes in my ear or bites and other pesky pests. Just because I wish them gone doesn’t mean I can kill them. It’s icky! When I have to swat a fly, and we ALL have to eventually, it bothers me. I just can’t get past the killing thing. Maybe that’s why the sound of guns during hunting season can make me cry. Some early Sunday mornings, so close to wooded areas near my home, I am overwhelmed by the repeated gunfire. It saddens me.

My brother was not yet 18 when he was murdered by a bullet to the head…while on duty at a US Marine Base in Georgia. I was 18 and remember to this day the way his face was inflated by the force of the bullet. One trigger pull and we all suffered for so long. I don’t want to take away anyone’s right to bear arms, but the sight of a gun leaves me weak and breathless. I guess my horror with death was formed way back then. It still holds fast.

I wrote a story once called the “Night of the Bunnies” about a time when my cat decided to raid a rabbit nest and bring home the tiny, defenseless animals, too young to be away from their mothers. It’s a heart-wrenching tale of my long night trying to stop the inevitable loss of life (better left unread, I’m sure). I don’t profess to be a saint. I accept death as part of life and my lifestyle contradicts my feelings on killing. No, I am not a vegan, or vegetarian or whatever (aren’t plants living things after all?). I am a meat lover for sure, and eat more than is probably healthy, but if I had to kill my own dinner I’d be eating a lot of Rice-a-Roni. Nope, just couldn’t do it. I suppose it smacks of hypocrasy that I would let someone else kill my food for me, but I admit it. Not a saint; just a wuss.

Anyway, back to roadside critters. When the frogs in the bogs on Hartland Road start hopping across in bunches, expect to see me slowing down, peering over the steering wheel driving their froggie obstacle course. Ditto for the big fuzzy caterpillars who meander across the road come fall. In the meantime, there are plenty of bigger critters to avoid. My good friend was hit by a deer the other night…again…on West Somerset Road. In the previous incident, her car suffered quite a bit of damage. Well, she has a new car, and even though she was horrified to see the face of the deer hit her car,  she was able to use OnStar to call the sheriff before assessing the damage. She was amazed to see that the plastic fender just popped back out, good as new. The sheriff was out looking for the deer, who may have been seriously wounded. I prefer to think it was just shaken up and went right home to share the tale of its harrowing encounter with a human. I am very, very glad my friend is uninjured and her car is okay, but I need to believe the poor deer is okay, too. I know that most hunters use the venison for food, just the way I love a good steak, and it’s part of the cycle of life. I just can’t deal with strapping the animal onto a vehicle as a big trophy and parading it around. Once I saw a recently killed doe with sunglasses, a bandanna and a fishing cap on, sightless eyes staring from the truck hood, and it filled me with rage. I’m sure there were a lot of beers behind that get-up. To feed your family is a right and necessity. To celebrate killing is callous and sick.

Killing is a scary thing to me. I can’t watch movies or video games that inflict injury or death on living things (aliens and dragons in the fantasy realm excluded). What a contradiction we humans are! The critters must think we’re crazy!



The mother of a soldier
— hats off to her, I say!
The mother of a soldier
who has gone to face the fray;
She gave him to her country
with a blessing on his head —
She found his name this morning
in the long list of the dead:
“Killed — Sergeant Thomas Watkins,
while leading on the rest,
A Bible in his pocket
and a portrait on his breast!”

The mother of a soldier
— she gave him to her land;
She saw him on the transport
as he waved his sun-browned hand;
She kissed him through the teardrops
and she told him to be brave;
Her prayers went night and morning
with her boy upon the wave. 

The mother of a soldier —
her comfort and her joy,
She gave her dearest treasure
when she gave her only boy;
She saw the banners waving,
she heard the people cheer;
She clasped her hands and bravely
looked away to hide a tear.

The mother of a soldier —
ah! cheer the hero deed,
And cheer the brave who battle
‘neath the banner of their creed;
But don’t forget the mothers,
through all the lonely years
That fight the bravest battles
on the sunless field of tears.

Nay, don’t forget the mothers —
the mothers of our men,
Who see them go and never know
that they’ll come back again;
That give them to their country,
to battle and to die,
Because the bugles call them
and the starry banners fly.

The mother of a soldier —
hats off to her, I say!
Whose head is bowed in sorrow
with its tender locks of gray.
She gave without regretting,
though her old heart sorely bled
When she found his name this morning
in the long list of the dead:
“Killed — Sergeant Thomas Watkins,
while leading on the rest,
His dear old mother’s portrait
clasped upon his hero breast!”

~by Folger McKinsey~


We’ve got it all on a sunny Sunday!

Out for a trip to the Olcott Carousel Park with my niece and great niece, it was just 10 miles down the road to a miniature amusement park with 25 cent rides and an amazing old-fashioned carousel. In my 17 year old car with 195,000 miles on it, the round trip was just one gallon of gas! For that $4.08 we got to see the the pleasure boats on the lake and see the beautiful view across the lake to the faint CN Tower in Toronto! There are all sorts of quaint shops and restaurants to take in. It was the first of the weekly car shows in Olcott, so there plenty of people and many picnickers in the shade of the majestic trees in Krull Park. Here were hundreds of city folk traveling long miles to get a taste of what we have in our back yard! It was good to see all the families with little tykes enjoying the rides, and the old folks enjoying the children on the rides. It’s a great place for the young and the young at heart! (And you’re never too old to ride the carousel!!)

Back down Lake Road I had to stop for the first Chatterbox Sundae of the season! Baehr’s Ice Cream Cottage, a local landmark for hungry folks, named a sundae after me in the beginning years of my newspaper column, and it’s still there! Hard vanilla ice cream with sliced banana rounds on top, then gooey hot fudge, a tower of whipped cream and a cherry! See, the bananas act as sort of an insulator to keep the fudge hot and the ice cream unmelted until you can dig in! Yum! Lots of folks were sitting at the tables in the shade of the trees, enjoying lunch or ice cream treats.

One thing we’re used to around here is sharing the road with all sorts of farm machinery! Some of the mechanical giants need to chug down to the roads to the fields and I always try to wave or nod or smile.  On a busy holiday weekend like this, with lots of Sunday drivers, you can see looks of impatience from gawkers looking to speed up and get around those slow-moving hunks of machine. I think of the wonderful harvest they will bring, the fresh fruits and vegetables still warm from the sun, and I’m happy to give them all the right-of-way they need. Farmers are high on my list of VIPs, for sure! They’ll be working in those fields day and night through the growing season so we can enjoy the richness of the farm country we’re so lucky to live in! Yes, sometimes those machines are kicking up huge dust clouds that necessitate a quick wind-up of the windows (ancient car…no power windows here), but it’s almost a game. Less fun is the occasional aroma of cow manure spread out to fertilize those veggies. No one can crank a window up fast enough to stop it and it sneaks in through the vents like a dead skunk! In early spring, between heating and air-conditioning seasons, we throw our windows open wide to clear the stale air of winter and sometimes those spring breezes carry a “cow poop smell” that will curl your toes! You know what? It’s a small price to pay for months and months of produce and the sight of groomed fields and blossoming trees. Yep, all in all, we are lucky to be nestled on the shore of a beautiful lake, surrounded by so many great things to do and places to visit.

This is just the beginning of the season! There’s our beautiful lighthouse, Cobblestone Museum, area parks, farmer’s markets, camping, boating, fireworks and community celebrations of all kinds! I think it’s ironic that so many rural folks can’t wait to drive to “the city” because it’s so boring here. I’ll take this kind of boredom any day.

MEMORIAL DAY PROGRAM REMINDER! At 10 a.m. Monday morning the place to be is in the bleachers at Somerset Town Park! The always- stirring tribute to our fallen heroes and those who serve our country features guest speakers, student singers, the Barker Community Band and lots of local veterans…your neighbors, families and friends. that’s what the “holiday weekend” is all about! See you there! God Bless Our Troops!


Balloons and kids…always fun.

Pockets the clown paid a visit to the Niagara County Campground on Saturday, where kids enjoyed a mini-carnival. A few campground residents recalled seeing Pockets in the rain at WalMart last week! Yep, she’s a pretty noticeable gal. Blessed with a sunny day to kick off the holiday weekend, the kids enjoyed games, won prizes and lined up for balloon animals. The kids love them all, of course, and are very particular about color choices and characters. Nobody wants just “a dog.” They want a wiener dog, a fluffy dog, a dog like my dog loopy at home….or, can you make SpongeBob?? Thankfully they continue to be amazed by swords, bees, hummingbirds and wacky hats and can be distracted from the imperfections of the colorful creations. Just for the record…no SpongeBob.

In the serenity of the campgrounds, kids were outdoors enjoying simple pleasures instead of plugged into video games. That’s a good thing. I did see a few satellite dishes set up at seasonal campsites, but folks were out and about getting exercise and greeting old friends. It was a lazy, relaxing morning topped off by grilled hot dogs and cold soda. Ah, the splendor of the season!

One thing I wasn’t quite ready to see was a handful of brave kids in swimsuits, racing to jump in the little lake at the campground. Sunny as it was, there was a brisk, cool breeze that had the adults shivering when the sun went behind a cloud but it didn’t stop those kids. A few jumped right in and got drenched while others tiptoed in and got wet an inch at a time. Brrrr. They loved it though, and squealed with glee while the adults shivered just watching them! Ah, childhood! Remember the days of careless abandon and throwing caution to the wind? Maybe we should be more like those kids, with no thought of catching a cold, getting an earache, getting pneumonia or picking up some dirt and germs in the unsanitized water. While we adults, older and wiser, count the reasons for not doing something, the kids just jump right in, have fun and damn  the consequences. In an overly sanitized, organized and techno-gizmo world it was somehow reassuring to see kids happy to take on the great outdoors in all its glory. And hey, it was too chilly for mosquitos so that’s a good thing! Here’s wishing everyone some uncomplicated, simple fun this weekend. Aw, go ahead…..the water’s fine!



And the Winner is….

Isn’t it wonderful to live in a world full of “Winners?” Judging by the number of award shows on television we have much to celebrate! Admittedly, I’m not a fan of award shows. Some of the outfits that stroll the red carpet are worth a chuckle after the critics rip them to shreds, but they get  and reprinted endlessly, so there’s no need to watch the original footage. Even the Oscars, once a golden tribute to our greatest talent, has become a tinseltown popularity contest. Then, of course, there are the music awards (in every genre), sports awards, comedy awards and even awards for the best television commercials. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any crazier than that, be sure you don’t miss…

The Movie Trailer Awards, hosted by Sinbad! Seriously. You know those annoying 30 second speed flicks of the best parts of the movie that run incessantly to preview, promote and review current films? Well, now they are going to have their own award show. Am I the only one who thinks we’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel here? The movie makers are already making scads of money; why do they need more awards? It’s not as if the rich and famous don’t need any more “goodie bags” of free stuff worth thousands of dollars. Isn’t it their due to be showered with free stuff in addition to trophies and free publicity? Why, they’re “WINNERS,” after all.

I think I need to start my own awards show. I know plenty of winners who are worth their weight in gold. And the winners are…

The single parents who struggle to support their families financially, emotionally and spiritually are winners. The volunteers who are the backbone of every organization are winners. The people who go out of their way to spread joy and kindness in this world with their sunny dispositions are winners. People who have little in the way of material wealth, who spend their days looking for ways to give generously wherever they can, are winners. People who take in unwanted children, pets and society’s outcasts are winners. I am blessed with some precious friends who deserve the top prize for their love and support. The families who struggle to  hold to religious faith and moral conduct in a world of temptation are winners. Those who choose to be part of the solution rather than the problem are winners. The first responders who face dangers on the streets to keep our families and homes safe are winners. The soldiers who don the uniform of the U.S. Military because of their pride in country and freedom are winners. And the list goes on….

This weekend the award goes to all those who will participate in tributes to our fallen soldiers, those who celebrate the true meaning of Memorial Day. Whether you march in a parade, attend services in church or get together with family for the traditional beginning-of-summer barbecue, remember those who have paid the supreme price and the families who mourn them. Pray. Pray hard for a lasting peace and an end to war.

One more thing. Take a moment this weekend to find a veteran. They are all around, those veterans of WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan and ports around the world. They are usually quiet, unassuming and unused to praise or awards. they carry in their hearts a knowledge of the true horror and sadness of war, scars that sometimes will not heal. Go and shake that veteran’s hand, offer a hug and a simple “thank you” for service to our country. These, my friend, are the champions. To them goes the prize. We may not have goodie bags of cosmetics and electronics to offer them but a little gratitude will go a long way. Gratitude and prayer go hand in hand and the more we offer of both, the more we have to give. God bless our vetrans, here and gone.