Stage, Screen, and Snakeoil Salesmen

If you haven't caught it in a newspaper or maybe Time Magazine, here's the press release I sent out about the book signing this coming Saturday. Let me know what you think of it. (No, it wasn't in Time Magazine ... although I did send it out to about three dozen newspapers, radio and TV stations, and snake oil salesmen. You'd be surprised how hard it is to find a good snake oil salesman outside of Washington, D.C.)

As authors Mark and Emily Hunter promote their book about Noble County history, it was inevitable that they’d find their way back to an Albion location where they’ve already held two book signings—a building that also appears in their newest book.

The Black Building in downtown Albion can be glimpsed several times in Images of America: Albion and Noble County, a photo-filled history book that’s part of Arcadia Publishing’s popular Images of America series. The building is at the junction of State Routes 8 and 9 in Albion, a location once called “Black’s Corner”, across from the Noble County Courthouse and within feet of what was once the geographical center of Noble County.

Currently the Noble Art Gallery, the building held numerous businesses over the years before being purchased by Dan and Lori Gagen. The Gagens invited the Hunters for a third appearance on Saturday, October 3rd, from 1-5 p.m.

Mark and Emily were there before with copies of their other books, including a history of the Albion Fire Department, a humor collection, a young adult adventure, and Mark’s two romantic comedy novels. But Albion and Noble County has a direct connection to the Black Building. In fact, there’s also a photo in the book of the building that used to be in that location, which was also built by the Black family.

Owen Black arrived in Albion in 1856, and built a general merchandise store at Albion’s main intersection, Orange and Main Streets. When fire leveled the whole block in 1867 Black rebuilt, only to lose his dry goods business to another fire in 1879. Black persevered, this time building a fire-resistant three-story brick building, which has stood there for over 135 years. The Black family also stayed, operating several businesses in town and getting involved in local projects and organizations.

The Hunters appeared September 12th at Stone’s Tavern, another location mentioned in Albion and Noble County, during the Stone’s Trace Pioneer Festival. One of their two book signings on October 10th will be at Joanna’s Dealicious Treats, in historic downtown Kendallville. (The other is at the Cupbearer Café in Auburn.)

Albion and Noble County collects well over 200 images of towns, locations, and people in the area. The Hunters’ website is at

Mouse Trap

I’m a little late posting my column, but hopefully you’ve already picked it up on the Kendallville Mall. If not, please check it out for free, or even consider sponsoring my column—but at least leave a comment on its official site here:


My war with mice has gone on for decades. Like the zombie apocalypse, I keep killing ‘em off, and they keep coming back.

Except zombies don’t like peanut butter. I guess it would be better if they did.

If I had to choose between spiders and mice I’d take the mice, although I’d rather not have either. Spiders don’t chew through wiring or eat your food, and as far as I know they don’t do their business in your cupboards. Nobody ever pinned the bubonic plague on a brown recluse. Instead it was that other brown recluse, the rat.

Now, I’m not an animal hater. In fact, thanks to the brush pile I’ve been intending to remove for years, my property is home for rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, and so many varieties of birds that I made the Audubon Society’s honor roll.

At this point the federal government probably wouldn’t even allow me to remove that brush pile. It’s a wildland zone, according to EPA Rule #1A24-782.237-BB1442.

But when they’re outside my house, they’re wildlife. When they’re inside my house, they’re pests. The only animal allowed to roam free inside is our dog, who doesn’t chew on wires and doesn’t do his business in the kitchen cupboards. I’d know if he did. Otherwise we have the fish and Lucius the snake, all in tanks.

Mice are welcome to visit those tanks, but it wouldn’t end well.

After we got the snake I tried some live traps, and if you’re squeamish you might not want to think about why. In my case live traps were very humane indeed, because they never caught any mice.

So I went back to my standby, the good old fashioned spring loaded mousetrap. I own seven thousand of them. Did I mention my house has a mouse problem? They come down with a force strong enough to put a good sized dent in a finger and cause a guy to yell, and I should know.

In a year mice go through seven hundred and forty generations, and they pass down how to get a free meal. So use peanut butter, because it’s sticky; they’ll have to work at it, and that force will mean it’s last meal time.

It works—about half the time.

Mouse hunting season is in the fall, when the little guys go looking for a warm place to spend the winter. If I had the money, I’d head south and leave the place to them.

Over the years I’ve learned their travel patterns: The superhighway is behind the stove, with main streets going to the refrigerator and an elevated freeway to the kitchen counter.

There’s also, oddly, a bit of a side road between the basement and the kitchen. I’ve caught a fair number in the basement, which is odd because it’s cold, and has less nutrition than a bachelor’s diet. Apparently that’s low income mouse housing.

Now, there’s a little ledge in the basement stairway. It’s about eight feet above the concrete basement floor, and I’ve caught more than one mouse in that area. Maybe it’s a little mouse dance hall.

The other day I threw some clothes down the basement stairs—don’t judge me. When I did laundry (it was the same day, I swear), I noticed a mousetrap on the floor. Clearly it had fallen from the ledge; not only had it been tripped, but the peanut butter was gone. Either my thrown clothes caught it and the mice got to it later, or a particularly sneaky little guy got the meal, and dropped the trap like a hot mike at a poetry slam.

Or so I thought.

Later I picked up the last of the laundry and there he was under a t-shirt, dead as a … dead mouse. Not a mark on him. I did some quick physics calculations, and came up with a new scenario:

My friend the mouse managed to get himself a meal all right, but in doing so he tripped the trap. Surprised by the sudden noise, he jumped back.

Only there was no back.

The poor guy managed to get into the house, survive the trap, and you could even say he survived what, to him, would be about a ten story fall.

It was the concrete floor that killed him.

Well … at least he didn’t have to fight off peanut butter eating zombies.

I found some cats to help, but they seemed uninterested in leaving their kitty pool.

Another link in the Chain

What an interesting book signing season it’s been. Back in July, before our newest book came out, we visited the Noble Art Gallery. We even had books available at my daughter’s yard sale, in May. After Albion and Noble County was published, we went to the Kendallville Library, then the Stone’s Trace Pioneer Festival.

A week from today we’re putting in another appearance at the Noble Art Gallery. Then we have dual October 10th book signings, at Joanna’s Dealicious Treats in Kendallville and the Cupbearer Café in Auburn.  I thought that would be the climax of the season.

If I’ve covered everything and counted right, that’s seven author appearances, five of them in two months. And nobody can say they haven’t been eclectic!

But other people have been trying on my behalf, and the other day I got an e-mail from a member of the Arcadia Publishing team. If all goes well, I’ll have one more author appearance, probably around the first of November … at a Barnes and Noble.

Stay tuned!

Speak of the Devil: A Day In The Life Of A Cat

Speak of the Devil: A Day In The Life Of A Cat: And now it is time for the cat to have her say. Your Highness, the floor is yours, so do tell us lowly humans your will. 7:31 AM. ...

Just cut 'em out, doc

Well, it seems I've started my annual round of sinus infections early. All the flowers I've encountered on our walks this year contribute to my sinus problems, but they cheer me up so much I just don't care.

Stone's Trace Photo Slam 4: Out With a Bang

Since Blogger is only letting me post four of these photos at a time (and only three this time before freezing), and I'd previously narrowed the good ones down to "just" 45, I'm going to post the best of the photos over at our Albion and Noble County related website at:

I neglected to get this gentleman's name, for which I'm very sorry. See the cannon and caisson behind him? He built them. Yep. Now he hauls them onto and off of a trailer at these events ... the cannon alone weighs about 900 pounds. He told me he's getting too old for the heavy lifting part, but he had that gleam of love in his eye.

It wasn't just big guns being shot ... in fact, it wasn't just guns, at all. There were competitions for skill at throwing tomahawks, knives, and for the ladies ... cast iron frying pans. Laugh if you will, but have you ever picked up a cast iron pan? I'd rather face a knife.