Never turn your back on a turkey

Inquisitive?

Naw, this bird is just sizing you up.

In my early days as a reporter at Siuslaw News, I was once given the assignment of visiting a local turkey farm to write up a special Thanksgiving piece. As it turned out, “special” wasn’t really the right word after becoming the victim of an unprovoked turkey attack. In my defense, there were five of them (technically known as a “gang” of turkeys) involved in the assault, which started because of my proximity to a preening female turkey named Lucy who had apparently snubbed her suitors in favor of me.

Possibly because she was confused by my chicken legs.

Whatever the reason, the male turkeys didn’t take well to this and decided the best way to handle the situation was to join forces and — one by one — take turns flapping their giant wings at my [censored]. Before I knew it, I was being circled by an agitated turkey gang and wishing my editor had assigned me to something less dangerous, like maybe a Blind Axe Throwers convention. 

The reason I was in this situation was because I was a journalist committed to getting the story, even if it meant risking my own safety by putting myself in harm’s way on the front lines just like those reporters in Ukraine, South Africa or Black Friday shopping at Walmart.

OK, fine. So it was a turkey farm.

And yes, I was under the watchful eye of a highly capable turkey wrangler named Dirk: a man confident in his ability to “throw down” against even the largest bird, including, once, a stray ostrich that had gotten confused and wandered over from a nearby farm. As Dirk explained, he knew something was wrong almost immediately when he noticed, “One of the turkeys looked way too big.”

That’s when he swung into action and, drawing on years of wrangling experience, diffused the situation by calmly approaching the bird… gaining its trust… and then suddenly throwing it into a headlock.

“And when I woke up, the ostrich was gone,” said Dirk.

Secure in the knowledge that my back was covered by Dirk the Turkey Wrangler, I had entered the large pen of turkeys in hopes of getting firsthand experience, which I could use to enhance my story (or possibly my obituary, depending on how quickly things deteriorated.) I should mention that I had been made aware of the potential dangers that arise when turkeys adopt a mob mentality, then signed a waver releasing the farm of any liability should I be: Injured or otherwise decapitated.

“Don’t you mean ‘incapacitated?’” I asked.

“Yeah — that too,” said Dirk.

Standing in the middle of the pen a short time later, the turkeys didn’t seem to be paying much attention to me. This prompted me to engage them so I could get a better feel for their personalities. I crouched; bobbed my head; gobbled a little.

“Ummmm, I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” said Dirk.

At that very instant one turkey, Lucy, extended her head above the others.

“Yirp. Yirp. Yirp.”

As I discovered, this is turkey talk for, “Just because we are two completely different species doesn’t mean we can’t be lovers.”

I suddenly realized I had the attention of every turkey in the pen, particularly five who had been strutting around, chests puffed out, trying to win the affections of “Lucy.”

“Too late,” Dirk said helpfully. “Cover your privates!”

“WHAT..?!?”

Next thing I knew, I was surrounded, dust and feathers flying while trying to avoid five aggressive peckers going after my, well…

I’m happy to say I survived, thanks in part to Dirk’s quick thinking, which was to yell “Get out of there — but keep your privates covered!” over and over until I could get back to the gate.

Admittedly, the experience left me shaken. But it hasn’t keep me from having turkey on Thanksgiving. 

Although I’m still wearing an athletic cup…

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This story was originally published in Siuslaw News in 2015. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Although I should’ve changed mine too, just in case those turkeys are still looking for me…

Are you a writer embarking on the journey of turning their manuscript into a published book or memoir? Easy Writer can help assure your manuscript is tuned up, strapped down, shiny clean and gassed up for the road ahead.  Find out more HERE

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Bad hair is better than no hair… uh, right?

Sometimes, a long look in the mirror is more frightening than you expected…

I start each morning by taking a long look in the mirror and reminding myself of the goals I have for the day, whether it be “Take out the trash,” “Be the change you want to see in the world,” “Chew your food before swallowing,” “Don’t run a social media platform into the ground in less than a week” or, as with this morning, “Dude, do something with that HAIR!

In my defense, I am growing it out for our upcoming community Christmas show where I play an Elvis-like elf named (what else?) “Elfis.” I will also be dying my hair black which, while adding a level of believability to my character for those three performances, will undoubtedly fuel rumors that I am suffering from a midlife crisis every day between now and opening night. I briefly considered just wearing my Elfis jumpsuit any time I have to go out but, as my wife thoughtfully explained, “That is a really terrible idea.”

I’ve simply accepted that my hair will remain taking on a life of its own, growing like a nesting tribble on my head for the next three weeks. But as they say, “When life gives you melons, you might have dyslexia.”

Or that other famous saying, “When life gives you lemons, blah, blah blah.” In that spirit, I used the tornado hair to my advantage by utilizing it in one of the writing tip memes I share for my editing service each day.

How can this be a writing tip and not a promotion for Hair Club for Men, you ask? (You know who you are.)

By comparing a bad hair day to a bad writing day! [Insert thunderclap here]

I know what you’re thinking: How can I get these insightful writing memes in my feed every day?!? (Or possibly: What are the names of his social media sites so I can avoid them and any more hair pictures?)

It’s easy! Not the hair, but finding (or avoiding) my pages on Instagram or Facebook. And because I’m a marketing genius despite the growing pressure on my brain caused by follicle tendrils invading my already undersized cranium, you can also find the link to my editing services website — get this! — on my social media pages! For those who have been following me for a while (Don’t worry, it’s our little secret), you can see I’ve come a long way since promoting my first book back in 2013 by offering a bite of my blueberry scone with every purchase.

The corners went fast. Coincidentally, it was also the number of books I sold during that first festival.

What does all of this mean, aside from a potential endorsement from Hair Club for Men? It means every one of you who made it past the initial photo of my frightening Don King hair is now a witness that I’m NOT having a midlife crisis despite my ever-growing mane of (soon to be) jet black hair. When the rumors begin to spread in our small town, I’m giving you a heads-up that you may receive a phone call or DM from a complete stranger in Florence, Oregon asking to verify this.

As an incentive for your help, I still have some scone left over…

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For any writer embarking on the journey of turning their manuscript into a published book or memoir, Easy Writer can help assure your manuscript is tuned up, strapped down, shiny clean and gassed up for the road ahead.  Find out more HERE

It’s been 16 years since our first ‘I Love You’

Because every day is a gift when you are with the person that speaks to your heart like no one else…

Even though it was only our third date — and her first visit to my (now our) home town — back in 2006, I already knew I loved her. Since early October, we had been emailing every day and talking for hours each night. We knew everything about each other from our life goals and how we approach parenting, to whether we preferred Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip (A deal breaker — and it’s Mayo, by the way).

When we met for the first time on Oct. 28, 2006, the connection was deep, earthshaking and instantaneous. Time stopped, the world disappeared and the moment we took hands I knew — KNEW — this was something amazing and heaven-sent. By the time we had our third date a little over two weeks later, I already knew something else: I absolutely loved her.

I wanted and needed her in my life every day until there were no days left in this world — and for eternity after that. We married two years later on Aug. 6, 2008 and, each day since — in small ways and big ways, day after day, moment to moment — my love for her and the love we share together has only continued to grow stronger, deeper and more complete.

I had to take this moment to say these things. To reflect on this blessing that I dreamed of, hoped for and quietly prayed would happen some day. And after 16 years since that first “I Love You” at the Wildcat Covered Bridge, I can honestly say, while I knew I loved her then, I couldn’t fathom loving her more than I already did.

But each day since, I have been proven wrong.

Happy 16th “I Love You” anniversary, Sweetheart…

I Love You (LFAS), Alicia XOXOXOXO

For better or worse, this elf is OFF the shelf

“Prissy,” “Elfis” and “Sarge” who, unlike my wife’s character, doesn’t swoon or faint whenever I shake my hips — which is probably a good thing…

It’s been two years since I slipped into my sequined, teddy bear-caped, light-up jumpsuit (not to be confused with a different outfit my wife likes me to wear sometimes) to portray “Elfis,” a recurring character each year in our local production of the Holly Jolly Follies. My favorite reason for playing this Elvis-like elf (besides all the ‘nanner sandwiches and hip wiggling) is that I get to play opposite my amazing wife, who portrays “Prissy,” my sweet and completely lovable girlfriend.

Oh, and whenever I shake my hips, Prissy swoons and faints. This is compared to real life, when my wife just asks if I need some prune juice from the store.

The Follies is part variety show, part inspirational holiday story, woven together through the antics of the elves. Because of the large lapse of time since our last production, I had some concerns about re-discovering my “inner Elvis” although, thanks to working out regularly the last two years, my “outer Elvis” has left the building. Playing this character requires a Tennessee accent mixed with Elvis’ own unique speech cadence. It also includes a lot of hip shaking, hand gestures, Elvis poses and a clean shave.

Not to mention having to wear these shoes…

No arch support, traction or even room for Odor Eaters in these babies…

When we showed up for the cast read-through I was a little nervous, wondering if my inner Elvis would, like riding a bicycle, come naturally despite being dormant for so long.

Or if — also like riding a bicycle — I could ride headfirst into a parked car.

I listened as characters “Ruby,” “Sarge,” “Tinsel” and “Prissy” said their lines in perfect elf delivery leading up to my first words: “Well, if I know anything about Santa, it’s that he likes people to figure things out for themselves. That’s how we learn the most important lessons in life — uh-HUH!” (Swivel hips and strike pose)

Our full compliment of elves reacting to a magically appearing apple, which was similar to the reaction they gave to my magically disappearing beard…

I’m happy to say my inner Elvis (not to be confused with “little Elvis”) popped out like an old friend, complete with Tennessee drawl and the King’s distinctive cadence — albeit a little exaggerated because, well… theater. I’m also happy to say that my hip swiveling didn’t lead to an emergency chiropractor visit or even a slathering of Aspercreme.

We’ll be rehearsing through Thanksgiving before moving into tech week and then opening night Dec. 2 at our community event hub, the Florence Events Center. If you happen to be in Florence, Ore., that weekend (or want tickets to livestream the show from anywhere), I hope you’ll grab a seat and kick off your holiday season with the Follies.

Or at the very least, send your wishes to “break a leg” and prayers that I don’t break a hip.

Although, with all these rehearsals, my hip shaking is getting pretty darned good. In fact, I think my wife — while not exactly swooning and fainting — might’ve actually faintly swooned…

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For any writer embarking on the journey of turning their manuscript into a published book or memoir, Easy Writer can help assure your manuscript is tuned up, strapped down, shiny clean and gassed up for the road ahead. https://easywriternovelmanuscripteditingservices.com

On your marks… get set… NaNoWriMo!

Let’s be honest: No one is going to read this.

Why?

Because everyone is busy writing their novel during Nation Novel Writing Month. Who has time to read my blog when they have 40,999 words remaining in their 50,000-word manuscript to finish by Nov. 30! Actually, a lot of writers are feeling the pressure to finish their manuscripts before Nov. 24 because anything can happen once Thanksgiving Day arrives.

No one wants to take the chance of being within 500 words of finishing their manuscript, only to have it consumed in a sudden turkey flashover thanks to the combustable nature of aunt Renee’s new whiskey stuffing recipe. And even supposing a writer and their manuscript make it through the holiday unscathed, there’s still Black Friday to get through. Will they make it back safely? Will they make it back without emotional scarring? Will they make it back at ALL? If not, will their family be taken care of? 

Or more importantly, will there be a ghost writer available to finish their manuscript in before Nov. 30?!? 

Even for writers who have no plan to venture out from their bunker for anything other retrieving their Door Dash delivery from the porch, there’s still the effects of turkey tryptophan to deal with. Those reserves will be coursing through your veins and causing extreme drowsiness for as many as three days! And that’s even if you aren’t watching bowling on TV!

But we’re having Tofurky, so I won’t have to worry about getting sleepy!

That may be true (for which I am very sorry). But keep in mind you can only spend so much time writing while on the commode.

We all know there’s nothing quite like staring at a blank page and knowing that, within a few strokes of the keyboard, you will transform a landscape devoid of life into a living, breathing thing of your own creation.

There’s also nothing quite like finishing that fourth cup of coffee only to find that same blank page staring back at you.

As NaNoWriMo kicks off today, remember: Like any race worth running, it will seems toughest right before the finish line. That’s when your legs feel like they have small children attached. And who knows? That may actually be true in some cases, especially if you write from home between laundry loads.

The fact that you’ve made the commitment is proof that no amount of tryptophan, an exploding turkey or even Black Friday is going to keep you from clearing the final hurdle by midnight Nov. 30.

On behalf of those of us who aren’t actually participating in NaNoWriMo (It’s official; we took a vote), we’d just like to offer our support and cheer everyone on as they begin this month-long writing marathon.

Be proud! Pat yourself on the back! Reflect on your achievements!

But NOT NOW! There’s no time!

Besides, that fourth cup of coffee is probably offering a different kind of inspiration right about now…

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You’d never embark on a journey without making sure your ride is road-ready. The same goes for any writer embarking on the journey of turning their manuscript into a published book or memoir. Easy Writer is your mechanic, confidant, riding partner and navigator, making sure your manuscript is tuned up, strapped down, shiny clean and gassed up for the road ahead. https://easywriternovelmanuscripteditingservices.com

I’m sorry, where were we..?

Sooo where were we..? Let’s see, last time we talked I had dark hair. And was flexible enough to sit headfirst on an ergonomic chair. That’s not so say I couldn’t do it now. It’s just that I’d need to see a chiropractor or, preferably, have one standing by after being dislodged using the jaws of life. I’ve lost some weight, gained a future son-in-law, slowed down life in general while speeding up my road to retirement.

I’m also sporting some ink in tribute to my friend Jason, shaved my beard, celebrated five more wonderful years with my amazing wife, finally got a Harley, survived a pandemic…

Let’s see… what else… what else…

I know I’m forgetting something…

OH YA! I retired from the Siuslaw News a little over a year ago.

It’s hard to believe my first blog post was 10 years ago last January — and equally hard to believe my last post was 5 YEARS ago this past June. Since then, there are folks who began following this blog who haven’t seen a new post since I was in a red thong. That seems particularly cruel. Sort of like witnessing something horrible — like a Tofurkey dinner — moments before losing your sight. I’m sure somewhere out there is a class-action lawsuit waiting for me…

From: Bill Schlependorf, Attorney at Law

Have you lost your sight since seeing this man in a red thong? Do you suffer from any of the following: Nightmares, anxiety, vomiting, loss of appetite, memory loss, diarrhea, acid reflux or erectile dysfunction (we’ve included those last three just to cover all the bases.) Then you may be entitled to monetary compensation! Or at least a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos for your pain and suffering…

So what brings me back (fully clothed)? I think I should probably explain why I left in the first place. It wasn’t you; it was me. After becoming editor-in-chief at our local newspaper in 2016, I felt it was important that I give myself completely to the position. I had a responsibility to focus on what was happening in our community and to assure our paper was a non-biased voice offering honest, neutral truth during a time politics was creating division like I’d never seen before. To do that meant putting aside a part of myself in order to be taken seriously in the editor’s seat. It’s hard to do that while writing a syndicated humor column that talks about things like glow-in-the-dark mice and how the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile left me feeling inadequate.

I made the decision to end my column and, ultimately, put the blog on hiatus. I had always intended to come back; I just wasn’t sure when. In the meantime, I served as editor for five years during a turbulent period that included the 2018 mid-term elections, 2020 presidential election and the pandemic. I’m proud to say our coverage won multiple awards, including “Best Editorial” in 2020. In May of 2021, after 23 years at Siuslaw News, it was time for a change and to get back to that part of myself that I’d put aside. I worked as a mail carrier the past year (I was the one in the vehicle with the squeaky brakes) while I decompressed from journalism and figured out what came next.

On Sept. 30, I left the postal service to get back to my writing roots by — how else? — drinking heavily and taking up smoking!

Ok, not really. I launched my own editing business: Easy Writer Novel & Manuscript Editing Services.

Establishing this business was always going to be my end game once I fully retired. But then I thought: Why wait? I can start my own business and put our financial future in jeopardy RIGHT NOW!

Seriously though, ever since I began posting my weekly Nickel’s Worth on Writing and published my book offering writing tips and inspiration, I’ve wanted to move in the direction of being able to help other writers full time with everything from basic line editing and proofing, to manuscript critique and online coaching. Easy Writer is the culmination of 23 years as a writer, journalist, syndicated columnist and editor, allowing me to take what I’ve learned over the past two decades and share it with other writers. And just like Hair Club for Men, “I’m not just the founder — I’m a client!” Which is to say, while I’m offering advice and direction, I’m also back in the trenches working on my third novel.

All this being said, I just want to thank everyone — readers of this blog, fellow bloggers, the person who messaged me asking “WTF is up with your blog, dude?” — for their support and patience while I seemingly entered a vortex five years ago before returning like Steve Rogers in the last “Avengers” movie with grey hair, age lines and a whole other life lived in the meantime.

I have no idea who of the 8,000 or so people who followed this blog are still doing so. If you are, I hope you’ll drop me a line in the comments. If you’re not, I completely understand and will write something for you.

Regardless, it’s nice to be back at the keyboard and this blog, moving onto the next chapter with you. I promise it’ll be a page-turner…

— Ned

October 29, 2022 (Sheesh! Really?!?)

It’s been two years since I wore a thong; here’s why

imageWe all have skeletons in our closet. Mine just happens to be wearing a red thong.

Two years ago this Friday, hundreds of people tragically lost their eyesight as a result seeing me in a red thong for my role in “The Nedinator,” a 6-minute movie spoof that premiered in our local theater the same night as “The Terminator: Genysis.”

The movie was heralded by critics as “Ned’s best 6-minute performance.”

And my wife agrees.

For anyone who started following this blog since then, or who has wondered why there are so many references in the comments section about my red thong, rest assured you haven’t stumbled into a hive a kinky people. This is where it started. And, thanks to a court order siting “codes of human decency,” also where it ended.

The story behind the mini-movie is a long one, and is just as drama-filled as any Hollywood production — except with less silicone, money, sex, tantrums, Perrier, etc.

So, to celebrate the one-year anniversary…

Actually, “celebrate” might be a bit strong. How about “commemorate?” Like when there’s a tragedy?  Continue reading It’s been two years since I wore a thong; here’s why

Getting that graduation gift doesn’t mean going for bust

image After reading about how the parents of LuLu Diaz gave their daughter $6,000 breast implants for her high school graduation gift, I couldn’t help but be shocked by the idea of a father agreeing to anything that would make his teenaged daughter more enticing to teenaged boys.

As luck would have it, I actually spent several years in my teens. Because of this I can tell you there are many teenaged boys who still haven’t made it past the “breast” portion of this column. Sadly, some may never finish reading it because, in order to break them out of their current hypnotic spell, it will become necessary for a close friend or family member to light them on fire.

Let’s face it: This is the nature of most men until the aging process inspires a level of physical maturity that dethrones sex as the main motivator. While there is no set timeline for this transformation, most experts agree it begins anywhere between six and eight months after death.

Until then, at least from a father’s perspective, men can’t be trusted. Continue reading Getting that graduation gift doesn’t mean going for bust

Old battlefields of racism run deeper than the Deep South

Nearly 30 years ago I stood in the shade of a willow tree overlooking a Civil War battleground in Georgia, contemplating the blood that had been spilled on those now lush, green grasses carpeting the rolling hills of Kennesaw Mountain.

After living in the Deep South for close to 10 years, the last several of which were spent in Atlanta, I felt I had a different perspective from many southerners regarding that period of our nation’s history. Admittedly, having come from Oregon, I felt a certain kinship to The South’s identity as a rebel.

Yet at the same time, I found it hard to walk the thin line between recognizing The South’s undeniable history while overlooking the shadows of racism intertwined with it.  Continue reading Old battlefields of racism run deeper than the Deep South

A little ‘crazy’ is the kind of sanity we need right now

Free Souls bikers enjoy the Grand Floral Parade with families and tourists/Ned Hickson

By Ned Hickson Editor/Siuslaw News

After returning to Florence in 1996, I spent the next 20 years living in Old Town across from the Port of Siuslaw boardwalk. We grew accustomed to the arrival of the Davis Carnival during the annual Rhododendron Festival and living so close that we could practically high-five riders on the Tilt-o-Whirl without leaving the couch.

The banging together of carnival rides late Wednesday night signaled the beginning of four days of craziness that transforms our quiet community of about 8,000 into a beautiful example of controlled chaos shared by upwards of 20,000 diverse visitors.

For those four days I always marvel at how our community transforms into an unlikely concoction of flower enthusiasts, bikers and tourists, all co-mingling over beers, art, carnival rides, fast cars, bacon-wrapped hot dogs and cotton candy.  Continue reading A little ‘crazy’ is the kind of sanity we need right now