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Archive for March, 2010

Dear Hamish,

The weather is as fine as it will ever be in the north of England.  I miss Scotland, but I may take longer on my trip then I thought.  I have met an American.  Not a sheep unfortunately.  That would have been lovely, but, as you know, there are no Scottish Miniature Sheep in the colonies.  It’s off to New Zealand I must go to find a potential sweetie.

We met on the Wall.  Whilst having me elevenses a cat being wearing clothes called out from a top a wall.  She’s an American Indian she says and she has thumbs.  She wears buckskins and she says she hunts the deer herself.  Being only as tall as me, I have me doubts, Hamish.  A wee creature like Pawnee Kitty, that’s her name, taking down a deer.  This I can’t hardly believe.  Then again she got rid of a dog that meant to have me for supper.  She is with a Person also an American.  I’m sure the twins would be amazed.  They’ve not ever even spoken to the Farmer in whose pasture we live.  I’m sure they’d also be taken with this Pawnee Kitty so don’t tell them about her.  You know me Mum and Da don’t abide with the likes of cats even if some can be nice.

I’m going to be walking with them aways.  Again don’t tell me Mum and Da.  They’ll think I’m being kidnapped for the circus or the telly shows.  I’m sure the Person won’t do anything like that for she’s not done it to Pawnee Kitty and if anyone is a candidate for the circus, it is her.  I’ve never seen anyone jump so high before or throw so well.  I’m sure she’s a natural for football.  By the way, I most definitely missed hearing the Edinburgh Rams play Monday.  I’m sure it was a good game.

I’ll write more when I can.  Pawnee Kitty is eyeballing me and I’m not quite sure if that is a sign she wishes to eat me or hug me.  She’s a hugger I can tell you and us sheep aren’t.  I have to keep away from her.  I shall be on me own way soon either way just as soon as I get to the far side of Gilsland.

Your friend.

Angus.  McSheep.

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The Person had to help me with Angus.  To do that she had to crawl over the wall.  It was not a pretty sight and I was very embarrassed.

“I think I’m stuck.”

“Move your right foot to the left.  Your other left.  With your other right foot.”

“You’re not helping.”  She got unstuck and we looked at Angus.  Picture a sheep wearing a kilt and this balloon-y, tarten hat thing on his head.  Put little x’s where the eyes are and make the spaghetti arms and legs twist around and that’s Angus unconscious.  Or… 

“Take a picture.”

“I will not.”  The Person fanned Angus. 

Well.  Why does she have a nice camera if she doesn’t use it for good pictures?  “You’d think he’d be used to people persons by now.  He should have prepared himself better.  Shall we call for help?”

Unfortunately Angus woke up then which was a real pity because I wanted the yellow RAF rescue chopper to come and save him.  Only I don’t think they’ll come for a sheep, still they could do it for practice.

“Are you alright?”

“Haven’t you seen a person before?”

“Of course I have.  It was the sun.” 

Hah!  I lie better then that.  “You were saying you were walking Hadrian’s Wall?”

“I said I was on holiday.”  He finished packing his snack bag by pulling some greens from the ground and cramming it into his bag.

“I have a knapsack.  Don’t you have one?”  The Person got it for me from Build-A-Bear.  “Wanna walk with us?”  I could use someone my size to accompany me.  I’m tired of looking at shoes and socks and the bottoms of trousers.  Bare legs are even worse, but I haven’t seen much of those.

He didn’t want to.

We hadn’t made it half way across the next pasture when something ran by us screaming.  Behind Angus came a dog.  Behind the dog came this guy.  He had the reddest face I’ve ever seen.

“Stop the dog, Pawnee,” the Person shouted as she gave chase.

Really, now how am I supposed to stop a runaway dog?  I dug in my backpack and pulled out a plastic baggie.  When I opened it, the most wonderful smell came out – turkey jerky.  My all time favorite (after buffalo meat) and I make it myself.  By the time I made it to the wall (not THE wall) and half way up, the dog was jumping up and down trying to snap my treats away.

“Hasn’t anyone told you you’re supposed to be on the lead at all times?”  I asked the dog.  It only barked.  Silly dog.

“Thank you.  She just got away from me.  That’s the last time you’ll be coming on a ramble, young lady.  The last time.”  The man fixed the lead and carried the dog away.  I munched a bit of turkey jerky as I went to find my Person.  Then I decided maybe Angus woudn’t like the smell and prefer some grassy thing so, I wiped my paws off good, licked then, then plucked some green thing from the ground.

Angus had fainted again.

“He’s not going to get very far if he keeps doing that,” I pointed out.  I wiggled the greenery under his nose.  It didn’t wake him up.  I tickled his ear with it.  That did the trick.  He woke up rubbing his ear.  I handed him the greenery.  He didn’t want it.

“You wanna walk with us now?”

“Where’s the dog?”

“Gone.”

“It was going to eat me!”  He drew out the eat so it sounded like eeeeeeeat.

“And it didn’t.”  I helped him up.  “How far are you going?”

“Only a wee bit.”  He shook out his kilt, popped his ballooney tam on his head, and found his snack bag.  “Just for a wee bit.”

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My Hadrian’s Wall trip – I meet Angus.  McSheep.

I’m not seeing a lot of wall.  I thought there’d be more wall.  So far I’ve seen more pasture divider walls then Roman walls.  I’d complain but the Person says ‘good luck with that’.  Everyone I need to complain to is dead already for years.  They should have thought ahead is all I can say…. depriving me of scenic sights.  How inconsiderate. 

Still, the walk is nice.  We’ve gone maybe three miles already so far today, mostly through pastures.  We’re not far from the Military road so I hear the cars all the time.  I can’t wait until we get to the hillier sections and be away from the road.

It’s time for a break and we break in a pasture.  The Person doesn’t like to sit on the ground so she sits on the steps of the wall stile.  I sit on the wall and peruse the book to see where the next section of the Roman wall is.  I have to my picture taken with it again.

And then I hear munching sounds.  But there aren’t any sheep around here.  I would have noticed.  Maybe it’s a badger, you know, like Mr. Badger in the Wind of the Willows.  I look down on the other side and see this tartan shape thing.  Then I see these spaghetti legs with hooves on the end.  Now this, I think, is very strange.

“Yoo hoo, down there.”

The tarten thing moves and I see it’s a hat.  There’s a sheep face below it.  “Yoo hoo to up there.”

I hop down.  The sheep has to be as big as me.  I can’t say much for the arms and legs.  And who knew sheep can have opposable hooves?

“I’m Pawnee Kitty.   A resident of North America.”

“Angus.  McSheep.  I’m Scottish.”  He eyed me.  “You’re a cat.”

“Actually no.  Cats look like me and my wonderful species.  Plus I stand upright, have a thumb, two actually.”  I show him my digits.

“And you wear clothes.  And you eat meat.  Sheep meat.”

I admit I thought about all the times I ate lamb.  There’s lamb chops, lamb kabobs, lamb stew.  “No.”

“Yes, you do.  Admit it.”

“No.  Do you live here?”

“I told you.  I’m Scottish.  I come from Scotland.  I’m on holiday.”  He began packing up his snack or gathering grass.  I don’t know.

“You’re walking Hadrian’s Wall.  We are too.”

“There are more of you?”  His eyes went wide.

“There’s me and there’s the Person.”

“The who?” 

I pointed upward and the Person’s who peered down on us.  That’s when Angus fainted.

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Been away for a few days.  I went to a workshop (educational technology) where I soaked up knowledge that I hope to impart next school year.  With the budget cuts and the fact 15 people will be laid off in my school alone, that may not happen, so I am a bit depressed.

Enough of that though.  We covered web 2.0 tools.  One of the classes was on blogs.  I thought maybe to translate some things I learned to this blog, but did not.  But that’s okay.  I have ideas to share with teachers.

On the writing front – I have the second part of my second story to send to critiquers.  I hope to do that today.  Yesterday I worked on polishing my first story, trying to get it ready to send out.  I really need to work on my query letter.   This week.  This week. 

Now let’s see if that happens

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Greetings, Pawnee Kitty fans!

I went on a very exciting hike on Saturday.  We went to the Savannah Wildlife Refuge – home to alligators, wild hogs, and yummy turkeys!  There are birds too and maybe even a wild cat or two although they don’t advertise it. 

We didn’t go out very early Saturday. When we did drive out, we nearly ran out of gas.  Right in the middle of nowhere too.  But we made it to a gas station, gassed up, and drove on.  The road that leads to the refuge is a road that goes to some big on the river industrial places and the big rigs roar down it like Formula One cars.  I got tossed about when we walked along the road to the start of the trail.  But that’s what string is for.  I told Angus to tie one around his middle, but he didn’t listen. Silly sheep.  He was more interested in the grass, wanting to know if it’s edible and that.  So when this really big truck came by really fast, he nearly blew away.  He just managed to hold on with his hooves. 

We got kinda lost, but not really lost.  You know how the Person is, always in the right area – somewhere.  Anyway we ended up on this half burned, half sticky vined path on one of the dikes.  The Person had to climb over the gate while we slipped easily through.  I am such a wonderful size. 

I don’t have time to tell you all the exciting things that happened in this newsletter so I’ll hit the highlights.

The snake – It lay across part of the path and didn’t move when the Person jumped over it.  Angus nearly tripped over it, then started hyperventilating.  I guess I’ve told him too many stories of rattlesnakes and copperheads and water moccasins.  This was a regular snake and too small to eat us.

The first alligator – Unfortunately this beauty was sleeping on the other side of the creek.  I bet it must have been a good eight feet long!  I don’t think Angus got a good look at it because he was still hyperventilating in his paper sack.  The bag blew out big, then got crinkled in, got blown out, then sucked almost flat. It was very interesting. 

The maintenance Yard – We had to walk through this equipment yard.  This is just like in England when you walk through farm yards!  Cool. 

The second alligator – I’ve been hearing alligator noises for a while. They make this splashy noise when they slide back into the water.  Here comes Pawnee Kitty!  They’re escaping and I’m not even alligator hunting.  They must not know they’re protected in here.  A pity.  I do like alligator tail. 

The second alligator was right on the dike and we walked right by it!  I wanted to have my picture taken next to it, but the Person didn’t think that would be a good idea.  What a pity.  A wonderful picture taking opportunity wasted. 

The big alligator by the birds – this was a beaut.  Easy access and everything.  On our way to this wonderful encounter, I pointed out all the spots where the gators come up.  Angus wasn’t very interested.  In fact, he rudely walked ahead, probably thinking herbivore thoughts like grass and is that grass tasty or whatever.  And, oh, pretty birds.

There were a bunch of birds here, all flying around and doing their birdie things.  I had my eye on the alligator – a good six footer if not more, it’s hard to tell when you’re only six inches tall.  Now this is a most wonderful picture taking opportunity.  “Angus, come have your picture taken with this gator,” I called out.  “Maybe he’ll open his mouth.”

He ran down the path.  Silly sheep.  “Take a picture of me then.”  I didn’t get a picture of me taken either.  The Person hurried past the gator too when we got close and I’d forgotten to untie the string that connected us.

The last close gator – We saw another gator in the water, swimming.  “Hey look, it’s gonna come on shore!  We can get great pictures!”

Then Angus fainted so I had to grab him and then the Person started walking really fast down the path.  Another potential picture taking opportunity blown.  Darn.

The long walk to the car – The person being who she is led us the long way to the car.  It may have been longer had she gone on the scenic road tour, but she took a shortcut across a dike.  Angus thought we were lost.  I spotted the road and the Person said she now knew exactly where we were.  Another incident where we might have been led to our doom, but weren’t.

And that’s it.  In a few weeks, we may be going to Pinckney Island by Hilton Head.  More Alligators.  Yay!

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Pawnee Kitty and Angus.  McSheep.

Pawnee Kitty and Angus. McSheep

I’m running late so I’m gonna to post a letter from Angus to his friend Hamish.

Dear Hamish,

I hope you are well.  I had an interesting weekend.  Don’t tell me Mum or Da and especially not the twins.  They’ll be on the next boat to the colonies and I prefer them home.

We went rambling Saturday.  Pawnee Kitty was all excited.   It wasn’t until later I found out why.  If I had known, I would have stayed behind.  

You remember I said rambling isn’t so easy here.  You can’t go through people’s pastures and fields like back home.  Here you have to find hiking paths.  We went to a place called Savannah Wildlife Refuge.  On our way we nearly ran out of petrol and we were in the middle of nowhere although the Person said we weren’t because we could see the motorway.  Pawnee Kitty thought it’d be exciting to run out of petrol.  The Person said she could go get some then if we do.

Savannah Wildlife Refuge is by a river, two rivers – the Savannah and another.  You walk on dikes that made up a rice plantation.  The trails aren’t well marked and we had to guess where to go.  We had to walk along a busy road.  Huge lorries roared by.  Oh, Hamish, I thought I’d be blown in the water!  If I hadn’t hung onto the Person, I would have been lost forever.

When we found the trail there were brambles on it.  You know what that does to me coat and me kilt.  They stick to me and I had to pull meself away several times.  If this got worse, I thought, the quality of me wool will go down and Mum does want to make me a new kilt from it.

There was a snake.  The Person had to take a photograph of it.  I ran down the path a bit.  It was no wee snake and we walked right by it!  Then Pawnee Kitty starts yelling:  Alligator!  Alligator!  A big one!

Oh, I couldna barely take it, Hamish – Alligators!  No wonder Pawnee Kitty was all excited about coming and she’s a wee bit shorter then me (but much rounder, you know).  She’ll make a fine snack for it just like me.  And there are big birds here, you know eagles, hawks, and other little creature eaters.  I feared for me life I can tell you.

The trail ran through a maintenance yard.  I thought, perhaps we can go back, but no, it went on.  Then I thought, perhaps we can take a path back to the motor car.  But no, the Person wasn’t satisfied with our short jaunt.  It’s onward we went and …. more alligators!

Hamish, the first was across the water.  This one was on the side of the dike!  Thank goodness I had spare paper bags with me because I needed them.  I breathed in and out to calm myself while Pawnee Kitty hopped up and down.  How she doesn’t get eaten by those creatures I don’t know.

Then Pawnee Kitty started pointing out everywhere an alligator comes up out of the water and where they lay down and that I shouldn’t worry they’re sleeping, but I’m not sure.  She makes things sound perfectly true and she’s making it all up.

We saw wading birds.  They sat on the dike, tens of them, perhaps a hundred.  The Person began creeping up on them and we got closer and closer and…..  ALLIGATOR!  And there went another paper bag.  It was a big one, Hamish.  So close.  I’m sure it watched every move I made.  You don’t know how glad I was when we finally moved on.  But we stayed there forever while the Person took photographs of the birds, the birds and the alligator, the alligator, me being eaten by the alligator….. Of course you know that last didn’t happen.  I wouldn’t be writing you otherwise.

And that Pawnee Kitty wanted me to stand close to it so I can have me picture taken with it.  She should go close.  Well, she did go close.  Silly Pawnee Kitty.  She could get eaten.

We saw one last Alligator, Hamish and it was the scariest.  It was in the water, swimming and when it saw us, it started to swim to shore!  I was on me way to becoming a sheep butty.  I did what all Scottish Miniature Sheep do in a situation like this – I fainted.  When I woke up, the alligator was behind us, far behind us, and we were on a larger, firmer, much nicer dike heading back to the motorcar.  I’m sure we would have been there in ten minutes only the Person decided to take a path she remembered from the map at the carpark.  It turned out to be much longer then she thought.  I about wore me hooves off.

And that, Hamish, was me weekend. 

Your friend,

Angus. McSheep.

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I got a scare, yesterday, Wednesday, while watching NBC evening news.  They had a segment on the math and English standards and the way they phrased it, reading wouldn’t be required in the first years of school.  By third grade, students should be able to understand Charlotte’s Web when read to them.

The first chance I got, I went on-line to find out more to this.  I was thinking – no reading?  Are these people insane?  As it turns out, students do read. By grade 1 they should be able to read grade appropriate text.

Whew, that’s a relief. 

In the Jan/Feb issues of American Library Journal, I’d just read a short article about the reading bell.  I don’t know what state it’s in, but when students are able to read a book all by themselves, they are taken to the public library where they can ring the ‘reading bell’ to let everyone know there’s a new reader in the city.  I was thinking of that when I saw that newscast.  What a contradiction it would be between these two.

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