by Kenneth Harper Finton

Who in 1960 could imagine life in 2015? Those who did try  to visualize the future were horrified by the novel 1984 and the dictatorial police state that it portrayed. For the generation that grew up in the shadow of nuclear war, their expectations for their own futures were cloudy and uncertain.

The turn of the each century has aways brought grave change to the American landscape and culture. The year 1700 brought to the world the seeds of revolution against monarchal tyranny and religious repression. 1800 heralded a new spirit of expansion into unknown lands with the promise of greater freedom for all than the world had ever known before. 1900 brought dreams of industrial expansion as the railroads opened up the western regions. Capitalists conceived of factories that could bring a better life to all and great profits for those whose dreams and ambitions…

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by Kenneth Harper Finton

She must have come out of the dark of the night, for I awoke one morning and simply found that she was there. Did I wake at all, or did I dream her into my life?

Whether a dream or a mystical succubus, she haunts me to this day. My loins ached for her. As I remember, her parents had been old-time friends of my parents. They stopped for a day to catch up on time that had been lost for a dozen years.

A lassie named Cassie, a vision of grace and elegance. Her very name was a rhyme that rolled off my hungry lips. Had I known where she went I would have crashed the gates of hell to find her, but she came and left like a storm that bent my soul in the winds. Could she still be lazing in the sun or is she standing in the midnight dark waiting on a day that never breaks.

I remember how her father smoked his pipe at breakfast on the day that they arrived. He told us about his work engineering new roads in the West. She said she never stayed the length of time necessary to call a place home. The last place that felt like home was on a desert far to the West among the cactus and the prairie pack rats that stole a birthstone from her dresser top.

Her brother Jess was my age, a tall boy with gangly legs, a wiry frame and short-cropped hair. His husky voice spewed out words fast as an auctioneer. I was sixteen and she was fifteen, every inch of her bursting with the enchanting charms that I desired so much.

In the afternoon the folks all went to town. Cassie and I climbed the creaking stairs to the attic and I brought out a tattered picture album. The thick black pages were loose and filled with dust. She ran back down the stairs and I followed, but she suddenly was gone.

I ran around the house calling out her name, opened a closet door and found her hiding there. She came out of hiding with a laugh and a smile that sent shivers down my spine. Our feet not even touching the ground, we flew straight to the sofa in the hall. She laughed musically and smiled breathlessly as told me that she had never felt like this before. We looked at pictures in the old album for an hour, her head bobbing toward my shoulder, her rounded hips touching my own sun-bronzed leg.

The hour passed as though time has stood still. The light streamed through the window and her hair fell softly down her neck, highlighted by the streaming of the sunlight.

We came upon a picture of a desert plain where steamrolled landscapes were pocked with time-eaten rocks that rose up from the bowels of the earth in grotesquely-shaped tormented forms. She said the the desert looked like that back home and spoke of roaming the sands at night looking up at the ancient stars embedded in a cold desert sky and wondered who her love was meant to be. Silently, she leaned her head my way until it came to rest against my arm. I felt like an angel had lost her cloud and came to rest upon my soul.

Our day was short, just seconds in an hour.

We walked the fence rows with the clinging vines and walked by some malformed trees that were cut long ago with stunted branches flaring up from the stumps. We followed the trail along the brook and sat down on the banks to watch the minnows stir a mist of mud along the bottom of the silver stream. As we edged our way along the hanging suspension bridge, she pretended that she was afraid of falling headlong down into the stream that churned cold over the green, moss-covered rocks.

We brought a picnic lunch and stopped between two pines that stood high on a knoll behind an abandoned house. The cloth she spread is still in place. The shaded spot was cooled by the evergreen and the rumpling, gentle breeze hummed a tune and whispered songs of love in the prickly needles of the pines. I looked into her perfect, loving face––her moist, light lips red as the blood of life.

I hardly dared to kiss her, but I did.

When we walked together back to the house, we knew our moment of separation was near. These precious moments we had shared would become just memories of what once was, something to cherisg while still young and fresh as Spring.

That night the raindrops splattered on the roof. I heard an engine start. a door slam shut, a car pull into the gravel drive and as the sound of the engine slowly disappeared and faded in the night. I knew that she had been swallowed up forever in that swollen mass of people and forgotten dreams. I felt a hollowness within. An emptiness that could never be filled enveloped me.

I promised that I would never forget this memory, this short time that was ours alone forever. For many nights thereafter I lay in awake in bed, wondering if somewhere in a western land, someone stands alone staring at the black and empty sky and wonders who her love was meant to be.

These words were written long ago. The day that stood out like a cat’s eyes at night was choked in the vastness of the days before and the greatness ofd the days to come. Until I found this story on an old trunk, my promise has been broken.

I forgot.



When I was a child I lived about twelve miles from Bear’s Mill. In the  summer I would occasionally ride my bike down the gravel backroads that led from my home to the mill. I would spend some time sticking my hot feet in the  cool waters and watching the waters fall hypnotically over the dam.


At that time, the mill was still a working mill run by a miller that got to know me and my bike from the frequent trips I made. I had one of the first thin-tired Schwinn bikes with three gears in the county. They were called English bikes at the time. The narrow tires made the bike hard to control on the graveled roads.

I know that 99.9% of the people will never get to Bear’s Mill. It matters little, as it is worth knowing about. That is why I write this. I will probably never get to the pyramids, but I still find them of great and abiding interest.


It is not that Bear’s Mill is one of the great wonders of the world that everyone needs to see. It is simply an historic grist mill in Darke County near Greenville, Ohio, the oldest existing industrial building in the county. It was built in 1849 after settlers had cut the trees out of the Ohio wilderness and grew crops on the newly cleared lands. Before it was put into operation it was purchased from Manning Hart, the builder and contractor, by Gabriel Baer. The stones used for grinding the grains were not hard enough, so Baer traveled to France to purchase high quality milling stones that fit his purpose. The original name was Baer’s Mill, but somehow along the way Bear’s Mill became the referred spelling.

The wood siding on the mill has been in place since 1849. It is a hardwood lap siding made from American Black Walnut and has served the building for over 165 years. In the 1970’s the miller retired and turned the mill over to a non-profit organization called Friends of Bear’s Mill. They still use the mill occasionally to grind a limited amount of grain. The bottom floor now contains a gift shop and an art gallery for local midwest artists to show their works. In 1975 the mill was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is both a museum for milling history and a stopping place for tourists who are as fascinated with the mill race and the dam as I was as  a child.


Remnants of the old Indian Toe Path run for half a mile along the creek. The visitors to the mill can take a mild, cooling walk in the summer sizzle where the pioneers and animals walked the hard nine miles to  the settlement at old Fort Green Ville.


An overlook has been built along the creek by the ancient pathway where deer and panthers once roamed and fed.


The steeple of the Darke County Courthouse failed and was replaced in the 1980’s. The old steeple was moved to Bear’s Mill to serve as a memorial to the Viet Nam veterans that died in that horrible war.


The names of the men who died are tagged on the plaque, including one classmate of mine, Gerry Greendyke who never made it home. My classmates and I owe a debt to Gerry and the others that we can never repay. He took our place in the war. He was the one that was killed while we went on to live our own lives. Some came home and many did not. So it is with wars and the young men who fight and die in them.


Away from the memorial, the  woods along the creek remain as they have been for many thousands of years. A cleared path allows the visitors to walk unobstructed in the same spots as ancient mound builders walked ten thousand years ago when the ice sheets were melting and the rivers of Ohio took shape. The birds tweet and the young folk Twitter. And the water, as always, flows forever to the sea.


Click to make the water run on the video.


by Kenneth Harper Finton © 2015


“Did you see what Fred got me for my birthday,” Wilma said. “A brand new pink pistol.”

“You are planning to shoot someone,” Betty replied.

“No, I am not planning to do that.”

“Then what will you do with it?” Betty asked.

“Target practice, I guess. It’s small and fits my purse and hand.”

“Same thing,” Betty said.

img-thing“What do you mean?” asked Wilma.

“Target practice is learning the skills for killing people.”

“Not to me. I enjoy it.”

“What do you think a pistol it for?” Betty asked. “A pistol is for killing people. They aren’t for hunting. Rifles are for hunting. Pistols are made just to kill people.”

“Or target practice,” Wilma reiterated.

“Targets are pretend people. Same difference.”

“Well, I don’t know. Fred got it for me to defend myself.”

5d85615878e42466ab0938cd823f429d“Defend against what?” Betty asked.

“You never know. Maybe a wild animal might attack me or some big guy might come for me in a dark alley.”

“Here in little old Bedrock? This is the safest place I know. The major crimes are jaywalking and spitting on the sidewalk.”

“I could be visiting someplace dangerous and need it. There are lots of dangerous places.”

“You could just stay away from them,” replied Betty.

“But I want to be free to go any place I want,” Wilma said.

“So you will walk into a war zone with a little pink pistol for protection?”

“Maybe not a war zone. It doesn’t have to be a war zone. I could be hiking someplace and a big bear comes at me,” Wilma said.

“Do you know what happens if you shoot that bear? I hear that It is a felony to shoot a wild animal. Uncle Tex just arrested someone for shooting a bear on the trail and that man is looking at several years in jail and a big fine.”

“Well, suppose I am out at night and this rapist comes at me. At least I have my little pink pistol to protect myself.”

“Unless he grabs you before you get it out of your purse or takes it away from you. That is what happens most of the time.” Betty said.

“I would just have to be quicker,” Wilma replied.

“But how would you know he is a rapist until he actually grabs you and throws you down? By then it would be too late to dig for it in your purse.”

“That could happen,” Wilma agreed.

“Besides, I saw a video online once about people who had a pistol in their hands when someone attacked them and they could not pull the trigger. It is a big decision to pull a gun and shoot someone. When it comes right down to it most people freeze up and hesitate. That is how the bad guy gets the gun and takes it away.”

“I could pull the trigger,” Wilma said. “I am sure I could do that.”

“But how do you know what this guy intends to do? How do you recognize a rapist?”

“Maybe they gotta bad look on their face or move at me too quickly.”

“You would shoot someone for that? I don’t think so, Wilma.”

“They could have a knife or a gun that I could see.”

“Could a…  would a … should a… there would not be time to react, Wilma.”

“Maybe not, but I would feel safer knowing my pink pistol is there,” Wilma said.

“Or you could do the sensible thing and not put yourself in such a position to start.”

“That is best,” Wilma agreed. “But I could wake up in the middle of the night when Fred is not there and hear someone in the house. I will have my little pink pistol to protect me.”

“You would go confront this intruder with your pistol and say, ‘Put your hands up?”

*Yes, I could do that.”

“I think you need lessons, Wilma. They could run from you or at you. Then you would have to decide whether to shoot or not. Do you think another person’s life is worth less than your own?”

“Well, that is not something I think about.”

“You’d better think about it,” Betty said. “What would Jesus do? What would Gandhi do? We already know that they would not want violence. They believed in civil disobedience, not violence.”

“Oh, Betty, you make it all so complicated.”

“It is complicated, Wilma. You have to think about the consequences of your actions.”

“Everyone has the right to defend themselves,” Wilma stated.

“Yes, they do and there are lots of ways to do that without a pistol in your hand. Pistols are for killing people. Do you know what pistols are mainly used for?”


“Target practice is for killing. No, most gun deaths are from suicide. Two out of three gun people who die by guns are people who kill themselves.”

“I have heard that, but I am not a suicidal person. Besides, Fred tells me that I have a second amendment right to be armed.”

“To be armed for what, Wilma? Killing somebody?”

“Well, the government could get out of control and we would have to take back our right and our country.”

“With a little pink pistol against drones and tanks and bombs and the world’s best fighting forces?”

“You make it sound futile,” Wilma said,

“It is futile. Convincing people with words and actions are the best way.”

“How do you do that with a burglar or a rapist?”

“You gave to be creative, Wilma. Ask them about their favorite song. Ask them to sing it to you and join them in singing.”

“Oh, sure. I can see them stopping immediately and starting to sing.”

“People always need convincing. That’s the one talent you really are good at. Sing them a happy song and see what happens.”

“Ha! That’s a crock.” Wilma said.

“Maybe,” Betty said, “but being you is your best defense. If anyone gets to know you, they will like you and not want to harm you. That is better than shooting somebody.”

“But Fred gave me the pink pistol for my birthday,” Wilma said.

“Tell him you really do not like pink and do not want to shoot anyone, Wilma. That is true, isn’t it?”

“Hmmm,” Wilma replied, lost in thought.