Category Archives: Willie Nod

Willie Nod the Older and the Ugly Duck(ling)

This one also hit me in the night. But i slept through, waking early in the morning and remembering. So i sat down to simply record the main thoughts. But it wouldn’t let go and i kept writing until just a few minutes ago. i hope you like it. Apologies to Hans Christian Anderson.

Once upon a time in a land and time far, far away, there was an old man who had left Newport, Rhode Island long ago and returned to a different place in an even earlier time.

Willie Nod, the older had been ostracized by everyone, family, friends, and the citizens of his borough. He also had lost his ability to talk to the animals as he aged.  There was one exception to people not liking him.

No one liked old Willie Nod except his beautiful, blonde, young granddaughter who was ten-years old.

Once a week, the little girl, her name was “Lil” for Lily, not “little,” would come over to old Willie Nod’s cabin in the woods, and they would go deeper into the woods and walk around the small pond, a pool from a creek that flowed throughout the year with a small bridge the old man had built over the shallow end of the stream.

Much earlier in this different life, old Willie Nod was quite wealthy with a huge house in a grove of trees with a beautiful garden of vegetables and flowers all maintained by his gardener who also was a close friend who had been the gunner on the barque when old Willie Nod was the second mate. In a sea battle with a pirate ship, the gunner, named Griswold, saved the old man’s life when a pirate was about to decapitate him from behind with a cutlass.

When old Willie Nod left the Navy, he started a business selling goods from ships returning from the Far East to the citizens of the small seaport village on the East Coast. His business flourished and expanded to cities all along the coasts of the country. He became fabulously wealthy and built his mansion with the garden for his wife who bore him a son named Leopold Nod, but she died during the birth of their only child.

The old man returned to the coast, found the barque and found the gunner who had saved his life. Old Willie Nod built the cabin in the woods for Griswold and hired him to be his gardener. Griswold met a lass who was the bartender and waitress in a nearby tavern. They married and lived in the cabin.

Old Willie Nod’s son left soon after becoming of age. Leopold hated his father, blaming him for the death of his mother and vowed to never talk to him again.

Then, Griswold’s wife caught a fever working at the tavern. Griswold cared for her for a month in the cabin before she died. Griswold died within the month. It was never known for sure if he had contracted the disease that killed his wife or if he died of a broken heart.

Old Willie Nod buried Griswold outside the cabin next to the gardener’s wife and moved into the couple’s cabin. He gave his mansion and all of his wealth, except for a small stipend for himself to live on, to his son. But Leopold continued to disavow any connection to the old man and continued to refuse to talk to his father even though they only lived within walking distance of each other.

The townsfolk did not like old Willie Nod. They thought they should have received some of the wealth, blamed him for the death of Griswold and his wife, and believed Leopold was right in blaming the old man for his mother’s death. So old Willie Nod lived pretty much all by himself, going into the town to buy provisions once a month and returning to his cabin in the woods.

Lil, his granddaughter, asked about her grandparents. Leopold’s wife told her the story. Curious, the young girl saw old Willie Nod when he was in town for provisions and followed him when he walked back to his cabin. Old Willie Nod was, of course, delighted when the girl explained to him she was his granddaughter. Thus, she began coming every week, occasionally more often, but her father Leopold thought she was going to see a friend, not his father.

At first, old Willie Nod and his granddaughter would walk to the pond and around it. As they walked, the old man would tell Lil about her grandmother and how beautiful and caring she was. Then he told her about his life and the places he had been and stories about the many people he had met.

After one walk, he brought her into his cabin and gave her a cookie. She saw the many books stacked and piled into every corner and the shelves lining every wall. The old man had saved all of his books when he moved to the cabin and continued to read in all of his spare time of which he had a lot, both spare time and books. When Lil remarked about the books, the old man then began to read books with her. After that, their walks around the pond were spent talking about what they read.

On one walk, there were two swans with six cygnets swimming in the pond, but the last cygnet was different, awkward and with a different color.

“What an ugly duckling,” Lil said when she saw the swans.

“You just wait and see. They all, including the one who does not look like the others, will become beautiful swans like the cob and the pen,” old Willie Nod said, explaining the birds were not ducks, but swans. When she returned the next week, they read Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Ugly Duckling” together.

Throughout the summer and autumn, old Willie Nod and little girl would spend their time together reading and, when the weather allowed, walking to the pond where the swans and their cygnets continued to swim until early November when the birds flew south.

One day after spring came the next year, the two were walking around the pond. As they reached the bridge, seven beautiful swans swept down from the sky and landed in the pond whooping, seemingly happy to be back. The old man and the young girl laughed with each other as they counted the swans. Their count revealed one was missing. About the time they realized there were only seven, they heard a harsh quacking overhead. Suddenly, there was a swoosh and a duck, brown and not very pretty compared to the seven swans, splashed awkwardly onto the pond.

Old Willie Nod and the young girl continued their walks visiting the seven swans and one duck on the pond. The duck became their favorite. Often she would swim to the shore, waddle up to them, and quack loudly making them laugh. They began to bring her bread crumbs. She would eat most of the crumbs before the swans would rush to her, push her away, and eat the remaining crumbs. The duck would quack angrily from a distance but always got more than the swans, which made old Willie Nod and his granddaughter laugh with each other.

You see, an ugly duckling grows up to be an ugly duck, but sometimes that is an advantage.



For Sam: A Story of Long Ago With Some Semblance of Truth

This is a story sort of wrapping up Willie Nod. i wrote it recently. i have sent it to my grandson already.

i haven’t found any more Willie Nod poems but expect i will run across some in some cranny of all the files i have. i intend to write some more. But i thought you might want know how Willie Nod ended up…at least temporarily.

i should stress this is the first draft and Sarah’s drawing is her first draft. As with all Willie Nod works, the writing is mine, copyright jim jewell 2017, and the drawings are Sarah’s, all copyright Sarah Jewell 2017.

For Sam: A Story of Long Ago With Some Semblance of Truth


This is a story that began in my mind a long time ago after one of the most difficult times in my life and just before one of the most magical times in my life.

The hut in this story was real. In 1969, that hut was off of First Beach right behind the house where i rented the upstairs apartment. I think someone actually lived in it.

It was down the rocks from the back yard of my apartment, an old big house really, in Newport, Rhode Island.

A great deal of this is fiction, but it is based on actual places and things in my mind i still believe.

It was really just a hole dug a bit into the hard sand underneath the rocks someone had cleared around the hut’s front facing the beach. The roof was makeshift, made from corrugated tin sheet the builder apparently found somewhere. The rocky shore slanted toward the waters of Newport’s Easton Bay with First Beach to the right, or northward. The tin roof was almost unrecognizable as tin with seaweed and seagull droppings piled upon the roof and only the very front edge of the tin was visible, shakily held up by four by four timbers of ancient vintage. There was a chimney, a metal pipe sticking up near the front with a rain cap of tin beaten into an upside down vee. Old colored glass fishing floats and ramshackle, worn wooden lobster pots littered the rocks above and on the sides of the hut.

Jake Wilson noticed it right after he had rented the upstairs apartment in the large, run-downed old big house at the end of Tuckerman Avenue, which circumvented the point jutting out south into the Atlantic between First and Second beaches.

But Jake had rented the apartment because it was affordable, less expensive than the nicer apartments in Middletown and downtown Newport. He had stumbled onto this place and fallen in love with it.

The small porch off the bedroom’s apartment looked straight across the bay to “The Breakers,” Cornelius Vanderbilt, II’s famous summer mansion. The apartment living room was about twenty-five feet long and fifteen feet wide with an ornate fireplace at the north end. The fireplace inlaid, ornate tiles were hand painted. The rest of the apartment was cramped to say the least. The bedroom itself could barely hold the double-bed. The kitchen was the size of a narrow closet and the kitchen sink served double as the bathroom sink. The bathroom itself was just big enough to turn around amid the shower and the toilet.

However, the view of mansion row across the bay, the rocky shoreline, and the feeling of being next to the sea appealed to Jake. He would wake up in the morning and immediately walk out on the porch and take in the view. It mattered not to him if it was sunny, calm, cloudy, stormy with driving rain, hot or cold. In the evening on return from his ship, he would go directly to the porch and again survey his view from the beach where folks might still be digging for quahogs in the wet sand to the Cliff Walk where couples would be walking past sunset to the mansions down Ochre Point to Land’s End on Sheep’s Point, and of course, the ocean. Before he hit the rack in the evening, Jake once more would return to the port and take in the night lights.

It was three weeks before Jake noticed the hut. It was a warm autumn Saturday morning when he walked out onto his beloved porch with his cup of coffee after breakfast. He was testing the weather, thinking he might drag a chair out on the porch and read through the morning. The weather was just fine, dry, clear, warmer than usual for that time of year. Jake scanned the view he had come to love.

He then noticed the pipe chimney and beaten rain cap for the first time. He spied the lobster pots and glass floats before but assumed they were just debris or possibly jetsam that had floated ashore and up into the rocks at high tide. But seeing the chimney, Jake looked closer. He made out the roof. He wondered when the structure might have been built and why. He guessed it was a really old, abandoned place, maybe even once a playhouse for the children of previous residents when it was a home, not broken into apartments. Jake’s telephone rang inside. He went in to answer and forgot for the time being about the strange construction.

About a week later when the weather had turned cooler and sea winds were brittle and harsh, Jake walked out on the porch in his rain gear. He was a Navy officer and like to think of being on the open bridge of a ship in bad weather. As he was staring out at sea from his porch, he caught a flimsy trail of smoke out of the corner of his eye. When he turned to see the source of the smoke, he discovered it was coming from the pipe chimney of the hut. Someone was living there or at least was using it for a temporary shelter from the wind and the cold.

The next Sunday, he decided to check out the hut and figure out what was going on. The hut sat halfway up the shoreline’s rocky slope. The rocks were slippery, especially when wet. Just seeing the smoke wasn’t worth finding out more about the hut. It was just a relic, he thought, probably someone walking the beach and decided to take a break from the cold. It wasn’t worth the risk of falling to find out. But during the week, Jake stopped at The Tavern on Memorial Avenue for a beer after coming from the ship. He sat at the bar and began talking to a local sitting next to him. The guy told him about the rumors about the hut. He said a whole bunch of folks thought there was a ghost haunting the place. Others said they had seen a bedraggled old man wandering around the beaches and claimed he, whoever he was, lived in that hut. Now Jake wanted to know just exactly what was happening in that hut. He guessed it was most likely a homeless man who holed up in the shelter during bad weather. But he wanted to know for sure and decided he would risk scaling down those rocks to find out.

That Sunday, Jake finished his breakfast of sausage, eggs, and grits (he had found the grits and Tennessee sausage in a small grocery on Thames). He sat in the middle of the large living room with the Sunday edition of The New York Times spread across the floor. He pored over each section until the sun had warmed the autumn morning. When he had finished his reading and his coffee, he pulled on his sneakers, he went down the stairs and out the back entrance to the house, which was actually the front of the house because it faced the bay and not Tuckerman Avenue.

Jake carefully maneuvered down the slick rocks until he reached the side of the hut. “Halloo,” he yelled, “Anybody here?” When there was no answer, he shouted the same query again, only louder.

With no answer again, Jake slid further down and across the rocks to the front of the hut. The old, faded-white door, like it used to be an interior door, was ajar. Jake, inching closer carefully, peered inside. He could make out the “Ben Franklin” stove connected to the old pipe chimney. Further back in the hut was an old canvas cot with blankets and pillows piled high. Jake moved a little closer and saw an old wooden sea chest with brass bindings next to the cot.

Feeling a bit embarrassed like he was intruding into someone’s home, Jake climbed back up the rocks. Once back on the house lawn, he peered up and down the shoreline but saw no one. He gave up and went back to his apartment.

Jake continued to watch the hut closely at every opportunity. Several nights, he spotted smoke coming from the hut’s chimney. It was always late. He never saw anyone coming in or out.

After about a month, Jake was ready for his enjoyable Sunday morning routine again. He had eaten his breakfast of eggs, grits, and sausage. Before breaking out his copy of the Sunday Times, he grabbed his cup of coffee and walked out on his porch. As usual, he scanned the view. As he looked toward First Beach, he spotted the man by the water’s edge below the hut.

As quickly as he could, Jake got dressed, ran down the stairs, ran across the lawn and as quickly as he deemed safe climbed down the rocks.

Halfway down, he stopped to get his bearings. He again located the man at the water’s edge. Jake gasped when he realized the man was leaning over the water. Immediately below the man’s head was a dolphin. The two seemed to be talking to each other although, because of the sound of the surf, Jake couldn’t be sure they were talking.

He studied the man and the mammal. The man appeared to be old but was lithe and agile in his movement. The man had on worn jeans and boat shoes, and a heavy wool sweater. His very long beard was dark rust. His head was covered with a sailor’s heavy weather wool knit cap, a watch cap the sailor’s called them. As the dolphin bobbed up and down, his nose got very close to the man’s face. Jake now was certain the two were talking to each other.

Jake moved closer and yelled, “Halloo!”

The man and the dolphin turned toward Jake. It seemed to him they nodded okay. He moved closer.

Before he got next to them, the old man greeted, “How are you doing on this fine day?”

“Fine,” Jake replied, “How about you?”

“We are just super fine,” the man nodded toward the dolphin who nodded his head and made a dolphin squeal. The man added, nodding toward the dolphin again, “This is my friend Eddie.”

Not quite sure just exactly he should respond to a man and a dolphin, Jake responded, “It’s nice to meet both of you.”

“Eddie says it’s nice to meet you as well but he needs to get back to fishing,” the man translated.

Jake was sure Eddie, the dolphin rose a foot or so more out of the water, nodded his head once or twice, twisted as he dove into the water and disappeared.

Still a bit stunned and a bit unsure of himself, which most of us would be if we met a man talking to a dolphin, Jake apologized, “I’m sorry if I bothered you and interrupted your time with…er, Eddie. But I saw you down here from my apartment up there, and I was curious about what was going on and wondering if you were the one who stayed in that hut up there,” nodding his head up the rocks toward the hut.

“No problem with Eddie; no need to apologize,” the man said, “He and I meet here quite often and talk about things.

“And yes, that is my home up there, also nodding towards the hut.

As they talked, Jake studied the man. He decided the man was not as old as he looked initially, maybe in his fifties, early sixties.

“Wow,” Jake exclaimed, “How long have you lived there?”

“Well, let’s see,” the man mulled, “The original owner of that house where you live…I think his name was McDougall, gave me the okay to dig out this place, make the hut, such as it is, and stay as long as I wanted. I think I have the deed, he wrote out, maybe in that sea chest, but never no mind, I guess to answer your question, I’ve been living here, off and on, for about twenty-five, thirty years.”

“So what do you do?” Jake asked, “How did you live here that long?”

The man expounded:

“Well, when I finally grew up, I joined the Navy and sailed on a bunch of ships. Can’t complain. I saw a whole bunch of the world in about ten years, met a bunch of different animals from all over.

“But I got tired of it, and when my last Navy ship, a destroyer, pulled back into here after a deployment, I just said ‘adieu’ and gave it up.

“I worked on fishing boats and chartered sailboats for a while, but that only lasted for about five years.

“I’ve been sort of wandering around since then. But I always seem to end up back here. This is really the only real home I’ve had since growing up. And it’s one of the few places left where I can talk to my friends.”

Jake was trying to absorb the man’s story, trying to decide what was factual and what was fantasy.

“So what friends do you talk to?” he asked.

“Oh, not as many as I used to,” the man replied and continued, “one of my very favorites, the old silver bird, sort of gave up on me. When I got older, I couldn’t hold on as well. So he and I decided I shouldn’t ride with him on his flights. He just sort of left like Rabbit Smith left me out in the desert a bunch of years ago.

“But there were others,” the man continued, “Most left because I got older. They said they couldn’t trust a grownup. Grownups, they said, are selfish, not as honest, more concerned about getting rather than getting along, they said. They said grownups like to blame others for their problems and just don’t get along with each other, plus they are pretty mean to animals even when they are trying to be helpful.

“Of course, my animals didn’t have it exactly right. They, like us humans, never get it exactly right. Like Rabbit Smith, I think i finally figured out the problem: There’s a difference between caring and worrying. And animals, just like humans, can’t quite figure that difference. At least, Rabbit Smith didn’t worry that much.”

“But anyways, the animals started to not trust me because I became a grownup. So they left.”

“Whoa, whoa,” Jake responded, “Who are these people? The bird who wouldn’t take you flying, was he a pilot? And this Rabbit Smith guy, was he a sailor? And if so, what were you two doing in the desert?”

“Oh, I guess you don’t understand,” the man acknowledged, “The bird really was a silver bird, beautiful, kind old fellow. He used to put me on top of his wings and take me flying. Oh, how we loved to fly together. The first animal I really talked to, outside my dog and cat, of course.

“And Rabbit Smith?” He was a long-eared, Southwestern jack rabbit. Crazier than a loon. Hard headed old coot. But he was a great friend.

“You see, when I was young, I discovered I could talk to a lot of animals. Now I only talk to a few. My dog and cat, and of course, Eddie.”

Jake was flabbergasted, but he decided to trust the man and not question him much further. The man asked Jake about who he was, where he came from, and what he did for a living. They talked for an hour or so. Then Jake climbed back up the rocks and went to his apartment where he turned on the television and watched the Sunday afternoon professional football game.

Jake went down and talked to the man sevneral more times after that. Twice, it was when Eddie was there. Jake would listen to the strange sounds between the man and the dolphin. Then the man would translate. Jake couldn’t come close to learning how to talk to the dolphin.

After a while, Jake’s ship deployed to the Mediterranean for ten months. He had to give up his apartment. When his ship returned, Jake drove over to Tuckerman Avenue and parked on the street next to his old apartment. He walked around the house to the rocky bank down to the shore. He scaled down the rocks to the hut.

There was no sign of the man. The hut was abandoned. The cot and the sea chest were gone. The chimney was broken and the whole place was in disarray as if no one had lived there in quite a while. There was graffiti scrawled across the old, now broken door.

Jake stood outside the hut, staring. He didn’t look at the beach or the mansions across the bay. He looked out to the Atlantic Ocean and wondered where the man had gone.

Staring at the ocean, Jake remembered one of his last meetings with the man. The man had scratched his long, thick beard and then talked about what Rabbit Smith had told him when the two had spent time together in the desert:

“‘Well, Willie,’ Rabbit Smith said to me, ‘if you don’t have a lot of other people to worry about, you don’t worry about yourself so much.’

“Rabbit Smith went on, ‘I’ve never been too much of a worrier; so one day when I was all wrapped up in worrying about all of those other scrawny, bug-eyed rabbits, I decided I was worrying too much. Took off; headed east.’”

Jake wondered if that was what the man had done: got to thinking about worrying about Jake and taken off.

Jake then remembered in their last discussions, Jake had finally asked the man his name. Jake remembered thinking it was a weird name, but seemed fitting for the man, who had replied:

“Willie Nod.”

Willie Nod and Benny Rattler

This poem was not part of the original book i created for Sam in 2014. i keep finding strays like this one and will post them here if they are “pretty good” enough. i think Sarah had some accompanying drawings,but i can’t find them this morning.

Willie Nod and Benny Rattler

Willie Nod finally stayed home for a while.
His parents had a nice home with a large hill at the end of the backyard.
Willie Nod liked to walk up to the top of the hill.
He thought he could see the world from the top of the hill.

One day in the heat of summer, Willie Nod walked up the hill to see the world.
He heard the sound first.
It sounded like a high speed drill his daddy would sometime use in his workshop,
But then Willie spotted the rattlesnake.
The snake was coiled up with his rattlers on his tail shaking and forked tongue hissing.

Now Willie Nod, as we know, had the ability to talk to many animals,
But he had never talked to a snake, especially a rattling, hissing, poisonous one.
Willie Nod had heard snakes can’t hear, so he was worried.
Without many other options, Willie Nod decided to hiss
Because he didn’t think he could rattle.
He still didn’t know if the snake could hear or understand his hissing if the snake could hear.

Surprisingly, the hissing worked. He began talking to the rattlesnake:
“Snake, how come you are being so hostile?
“Why are you acting like you want to bite me with your poison fangs?”
The snake replied,
“I don’t want to hurt you;
“I just want to see the world from the top of my hill.”

The snake relaxed a little bit from his coiling and the rattling ceased.
“I’m not being hostile,” the snake said in his hissing way,
“I’m just being defensive;
“After all, it looked like you were going to step on me
“While i lay on this path with the sun warming me,
“And that would hurt, if not kill me.”

You see, snakes are cold blooded so they like to be warm
like to bathe in the sun when it’s shining to keep warm.

He continued, “And don’t call me ‘Snake’;
“My name is Benny Rattler
“And i’m proud of it.”

“Okay, Benny Rattler,” Willie Nod returned the hissing,
“Then why is it everyone talks about how dangerous you are?”
“Well, you see,” the snake responded,
“We snakes are dangerous when we are threatened.
“I’ve got my wife snake with twelve little rattler babies
“Down in that hole a ground squirrel dug for us;
“If i have to protect them, i am very dangerous.
“But most of the time, i’m just trying to get along
“And not cause any more trouble than a normal snake.”

“Of course,” Benny Rattler continued, “We have a few of us
“Who mess everything up for the rest of us,
“Always trying to cause trouble, hurt people when they haven’t done anything.
“These bad act snakes think they are most important
“And keep trying to prove how big they are when they really are
“Very, very small, not big at all;
“Just big bullies.”

“And then,” Benny Rattler continued and continued,
“A lot of people think all of us are like the bad snakes,
“And they make up tales about us,
“And tell stories about people falling into snake pits,
“And then make movies about us,
“And it scares a lot of folks, especially women,
“But all we really want is to be left alone.”

“Do you want me to leave you alone, Benny Rattler?” Willie Nod asked.
“No, Willie Nod,” Benny Rattler exclaimed,
“I like you.”

So almost every day, Willie Nod walked to the top of the hill.
In addition to seeing the world, Willie Nod and Benny Rattler
Would meet at the top and hiss about all of the things
You think a little boy and a rattlesnake would talk about,
they became good friends.

But Willie Nod never, ever tried to scare Benny Rattler
Nor make him think he was in danger.
their friendship lasted a long, long time.



Willie Nod Growing Up

This was the last poem in my Willie Nod book for Sam at Christmas in 2014. i will add others i have written later. i wrote this while i was in Newport, Rhode Island for “Prospective Executive Officer” training at the Naval Destroyer School. i was at a critical point in my Naval career and headed for my last (although i didn’t know it then) operational tour. i was to be married in two months and facing the fact i might actually have to grow up. Blythe was eleven. i was thinking she was growing up also. So i decided i’d write about how Willie Nod felt about growing up.


Willie Nod Growing Up

Willie Nod
Has been thinking about growing up.
Not that he’s made up his mind,
Mind you:
Just thinking about it;
Thinking about leaving his friends,
Those dogs and cats, ponies, lions, ducks and rabbits,
“Where would he go?
“What would he do?”
You ask?
Well, he would drive his car to work,
Play with lots of paper,
Argue with people,
Not laugh very much,
Drive home again.
Maybe not yet.
Maybe Willie Nod
Won’t even think about it yet.


Willie Nod and the Duck

i wrote at the very first of 1981 just before i flew to Honolulu with Captain Bruce Brunn, USMC, both staff members of Commander, Amphibious Group Five to plan the Hawaii exercises with the composite Marine Air Group and the Marine Landing Force who would board our ships in Pearl Harbor, and after the exercises proceed to the Western Pacific.

It was the year i spent ten months either going to and from or out there, way out there. i loved it, but as i was leaving i was sad about leaving my daughter Blythe and wrote this for her.

Ducks seem to drift in and out of my life. When JD Waits and i were writing our still unpublished leadership book, The Pretty Good Management Book, JD came up with the title of one chapter, “Never Take a Duck to a Cockfight Expecting to Win.” Every time i read “duck,” i think about Willie Nod or JD’s duck.

Willie Nod and the Duck

Willie Nod and this duck got together.
It was a most improbable place where they met:
No pond of water was within miles.
They quacked together for a while
(Willie had learned quacking
On a farm several years before).
They discovered, Willie and the duck,
They had a lot in common.
Willie had lost
All of his other animal friends
Because he moved around so much.
The duck couldn’t tell seasons very well;
All the other ducks in his flock
Had flown off and left him
One spring day.
The duck didn’t mind moving either.
So Willie Nod and this duck got together,
Which is right back where we started.

They were walking down this long flat road
In New Mexico in the summer.
The duck still couldn’t tell seasons.
Willie Nod spoke to his friend,
Quacking of course,
“Duck, do all the things in the world
Seem silly to you?”
Duck replied,
“A little sad perhaps,
“And always funny,
“But never silly.”
In spite of not being able to tell seasons,
He was a wise duck.
Willie Nod and this duck
Were together for a long time
Although the duck couldn’t tell
That it was a long time
For ducks tell time
By the passing of the seasons,
And now we all know
This duck’s problem in that area.
Then one day in autumn,
The duck quacked to Willie Nod,
In his own peculiar way of quacking,
“I’m feeling a chill.
“I do believe my season-telling is coming back.
“I think I’ll fly north.”
Some ducks can never get it completely right.

Willie Nod tried to convince the duck
He still didn’t have season-telling quite right yet,
He should wait
A couple of more seasons.
Duck quacked, wisely again,
“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
“It may not be right for everyone else,
“But you know when it’s right for you,
“And if you don’t do it then,
“You may never get the chance again.”
With that, the duck took wing,
Flying north on that cold fall day.
Willie remembered the duck’s words
As he watched his flight for the last time:
“A little sad perhaps,
“And always funny,
“But never silly.”


Willie Nod and the Geese

Willie Nod and the Geese

Willie Nod was on the eastern seaboard
traveling as Willie Nod was prone to do
more often than not.
Gray November, blustery Thanksgiving eve winds
buffeted against Willie Nod’s wool clothes.
Willie Nod liked the layers of wool clothes:
he felt snug.

As the winds blew, Willie Nod looked up to the gray, close sky.
a small gaggle of geese, seven or so, he figured,
flew low in their formation of vee
heading into the wind, dead south beeline
as they were prone to do,
in November’s gray-slated skies,
much as Willie Nod was prone to travel.

Willie Nod spoke duck and rabbit
but had not much luck with camel,
so he thought he would try goose
quacked to the low flying vee
in a variation of duck.

Surprisingly, the vee veered off its course;
the gaggle rolled over in unison,
banking back toward Willie Nod,
dispersing the vee,
flappingly landing around.
Once aground, they crowded around Willie Nod.

“Hi,” the closest and largest goose honked to Willie Nod in goose.
Willie Nod recognized the difference between duck and goose.
Soon they were all honking in goose about pretty much everything.
The geese told Willie Nod a lot.
They wondered why humans considered them to be noble.
“After all,” they honked,
“We mate for life,
“Tend to each other,
“Take turns at the point of the vee,
“Not because it’s extra right or noble.
“It’s just the way we are.”

Willie Nod noted that it was still rather nice
the world would be much better off if
humans acted more like geese,
although he did admit
the noise might become unbearable if humans honked instead of talked.

The eight geese nodded, bobbing their heads in agreement.

Finally, they noted it was time to be on their way again.

“South, i know,” Willie Nod observed.
“but where south?” he asked.

“Honduras,” the fattest goose replied.
“We use to winter in Florida,” he explained,
“but the old people fed us too much and we got too fat,
so we found this lovely lake up in the Honduran mountains
where people don’t come round very much.”

The geese rose flapping and honking,
quickly forming their vee in the gray sky,
heading south with an occasional good-bye
honk to Willie Nod.

Willie Nod watch the vee
get small in the southern sky and
mumbled to himself,
“Sad that geese don’t get to spend time
in deep snow,
or feel snug in layers of wool clothing.”


Willie Nod in a Foreign Country

This Willie Nod poem was written for Blythe after my adventures in Somalia while aboard the USS Yosemite just after the 1984 New Year. That yarn is already done elsewhere and will be retold in my book about that tour. However, the poem was generated by a drive across the equator to a dinner with a Somalia plantation owner. It did look like West Texas to me, and our chauffeured early sixties Datsun damn near ran into a camel in the middle of the road that was eating the leaves off of an overhanging tree. The ship did go south to Mombassa, Kenya after the stop in Kismayo, Somalia…but Willie nor i talked to any elephants.

Willie Nod in a Foreign Country

Willie Nod
off and went to Somalia,
a land on the equator that looks a lot like West Texas;
he took no friends with him
because he hoped to make new friends;
unlike West Texas, he found Somalia
had lots of people and animals.

But then, Willie Nod did not wander off the road in Somalia;
he figured they might have snakes like West Texas,
although Willie Nod liked animals
could converse in most animal languages,
he hadn’t quite learned to handle hissing.
so, Willie Nod stayed on the road.

since there seemed to be only one road in Somalia,
Willie really didn’t know if all of Somalia looked like West Texas
except for all the people and animals
walking along the roadside and sometimes in the middle of the road.
from that one road, Willie Nod saw herds and herds of camels and goats;
there even were packs of wild boar with fierce-looking tusks
standing along the side of the road chewing grass.

Finally, Willie Nod, being a lover of animals,
could stand it no longer
stopped when he came upon this one lone camel
standing flat in the middle of the road
reaching for some leaves high in a tree overhanging the road.

Now, Willie Nod fancied himself quite a talker with animals,
and as a general rule,
he could talk with animals about as well as anyone:
he quacked with ducks,
roared with lions,
neighed with horses,
silenced with rabbits.

But even though
Willie Nod wanted to talk to camels, especially this one,
standing in the middle of the road,
he had one big problem with camels,
which wasn’t the same problem he had with snakes
(he wasn’t really too hot about learning how to hiss):

He just wasn’t quite sure how camels brayed.
he had brayed with some donkeys down in Mexico once,
camel braying was a great deal different from donkey braying.
Willie Nod’s problem with this particular camel
was made worse by the fact camels,
unlike donkeys (or for that matter, ducks),
are really quite dumb.
i mean, would you think anyone smart would stand
in the middle of the road to eat leaves off of trees?

So Willie Nod looked into the big, soft brown eyes of the camel
tried out some braying on him;
the camel just looked at him with those big sad eyes,
cocked his head to one side every now and then,
rolled those big lips up to show his bucked teeth.

When Willie Nod finally figured out he wasn’t getting anywhere,
he just headed on down the road, the one road in Somalia.
he didn’t stop anymore to try and talk to the wild boar,
or goats,
or even the people
using the road, or rather the side of the road.

Willie Nod decided to go see all the lions and elephants in Kenya
(he really wanted to try and talk to the elephants)
south of Somalia.

Willie Nod decided Somalia
really wouldn’t be all that bad if you liked West Texas
knew how to camel bray.
because there sure were a lot of camels to talk to.

Willie Nod was glad he visited Somalia
he wasn’t too anxious to go back anytime soon.


Atlantic Ocean

March II, 1984

Willie Nod and the Moon

Willie Nod and the Moon

Willie Nod walked with the full moon tonight.
He sailed across the dark heavens with no birds to carry him.
He had no wings as he flew past the stars and the planets.

Willie Nod saw the earth,
the people singing and laughing;
knowing it was good,
Willie Nod was above all of that.

He and the moon held hands
walking across the heavens.
They never laughed at the earth
or the people
or even the sunbefore it took their night away.

Willie Nod waved goodbye to the moon
As the sun took away their night;
He greeted the sun hello.
Willie Nod did not walk with the sun.
He saved that joy for the moon.
No one could take the joy away
from Willie Nod and the moon.


Willie Nod and the Rabbit

This is, quite possibly, my favorite piece about Willie Nod. It is not exactly a poem, but it’s not exactly not a poem, pretty much like all of the stuff i write…i hope. Still it is one of my favorites. It was written in November 1982. It was soon after a golf round where i saw several of the long eared jack rabbits who were plentiful around the course and this neck of the woods. These rabbits were very different from the white fluffy tail rabbits i knew in Tennessee. So i decided to write this to let Blythe know about these different rabbits.

Willie Nod and the Rabbit

Willie Nod decided it was time to have another adventure.
It so happened a rabbit was also ready for an adventure.
Like these things normally start out, Willie Nod and this rabbit ran into each other.
It happened in a field, which i would have liked to have been in Tennessee, but
The rabbit was scrawny, had bug eyes and long, thin, almost sharp ears,
Totally unlike the fuzzy, warm, slightly chubby, floppy-eared Tennessee rabbits,
Although it’s been a long time since i’ve seen rabbits in Tennessee.

Regardless, this particular field was near Yuma, Arizona,
Which partially explains the scrawniness of the rabbit.
This rabbit, by the way, had a name unlike most of Willie Nod’s animal friends.
Rabbits have been known to have names
Like Bugs, Peter, and of course, there was Harvey,
Although technically, Harvey was a puhka.
So this rabbit had a name too.
His name, oddly enough, was Rabbit Smith.

Rabbit Smith and Willie Nod met in this field in Yuma, Arizona.
Rabbit Smith liked the dry, hot weather of Yuma.
That’s why he was skinny and his cousin in Tennessee was fat.
In the shy way of rabbits, he said hello to Willie Nod.
Now most rabbits have lots of relatives.
Rabbit Smith was an exception, as he related to Willie Nod.
It did not make him unhappy, even though it did make him different.
“Well, Willie, if you don’t have a lot of other people to worry about,
You don’t have to worry about yourself so much.
i’ve never been too much of a worrier;
So one day, when i was all wrapped up in worrying about all those other scrawny, bug-eyed rabbits,
I decided I was worrying too much;
Took off; headed east.
All of those scrawny rabbits originated in California.
Those cuddly ones from Tennessee and other places have never really been rabbit enough to associate with us.”
“Anyhow, I got as far east as Yuma and all the rabbits had just about quit being around.
Stayed here ever since.
No worrying about all those other rabbits.
Oh, it sometimes gets a little lonesome, but
There’s always a prairie dog or two when I need to talk.
I figure lonesome is a whole sight better than worrying, or
Even more to the point, being worrisome,
For if I am worrying about all those other rabbits,
They must be worrying about me.”
Willie Nod got about as tired of this spiel as you did,
Wondering where it was all going to end.
It didn’t.
It just sort of stopped.

Willie Nod and Rabbit Smith kicked around together
For a couple of months.
Sometimes they would meet some of Rabbit’s prairie dog friends.
Sometimes they would see some acquaintances of Willie Nod.
Sometimes they would just walk together in the fields near Yuma.

One day, as it always happens, it was time to part ways for Willie Nod and Rabbit Smith.
You see, Rabbit had noticed Willie had a slight cold
The night before, so he made sure Willie Nod had a blanket before going to sleep.
“Willie,” he said the next morning, “I started worrying about you last night.
So I’ve got to go.”
Rabbit Smith went off, lickety-split, over the fields of Yuma.

Willie Nod wished that Rabbit had waited a minute before taking off.
You see, Willie Nod had figured out the problem:
There’s a difference between caring and worrying.
Some rabbits just can’t tell the difference.

At least, Rabbit Smith didn’t worry too much.



Reginald and Rebecca

This is another of the poems omitting Willie Nod. i wrote it in 1978 while at Texas A&M in College Station. i will refrain from describing my situation because it is not something i like to talk about. This poem was to Blythe as all of them were, adding Sarah to the “to” list after 1989. But this one was also to me. i would like most people i know to consider the poem’s intent.

Reginald and Rebecca

The Cat was fat;
his name was Reginald Are-a-Fat
He cackled at birds,
lazed in the sun
most of the day.

Reginald loved a little girl.
They both belonged to a couple,
named Poindexter.
The girl was Rebecca Poindexter.
Reginal followed Rebecca
everywhere Rebecca cared to go,
cackling and lazing in the sun while
waiting for Rebecca.

Rebecca did not appreciate Reginald’s love, but
enjoyed his company and laughed at his cackling.
Reginald had a lot of cat in him.
One day, he did a very cat thing while waiting for Rebecca
outside her friend’s house.
Reginald caught a mouse,
had it in his mouth when
Rebecca came out,
showing it proudly to her.
Rebecca was mad that
Reginald could do such a cat thing.
She swatted at him and chased him away.

Reginald Are-a-Fat was hurt and scared,
running to hide in the woods nearby.
He did not go back to the Poindexter’s house that night.
A big thunderstorm caught Reginald in a tree.
He was wet and afraid.
The Poindexter’s called for Reginald.
They coud not hear his cries above the thunder.

Rebecca cried through the night,
afraid she had driven Reginald away for good.

Cats, however, are very wise animals,
especially Reginald Are-a-Fat, the fat cat.
In the morning, the thunder, lightning and rain quit;
Wet Reginald climbed down from the tree,
dashing to the Poindexter’s door
just as Rebecca was leaving for school.

Rebecca grabbed Reginald and hugged him.
She understood his love and loved him in return.

And they lived happily ever after.

Don’t forget that no matter how a story ends, everyone has a chance to live happily ever after, if they will it so.