Fanfiction Crossover: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and ... Storm Chaser

Some of my newer friends might not know that I used to write fanfiction regularly under the username ozma914, and I'm happy to say it led to over a dozen fanfic writing awards. I've been busy with original fiction, but I miss the stress-relieving fun of working hard on a story I don't have to worry about getting published (because that would be illegal, ya' know).

One of the great fanfiction traditions is crossovers, so to mark the publication of ​Storm Chaser Shorts​ I  crossed my most common fandom, ​Buffy the Vampire Slayer​ , with a character from my own original universe. It's also kind of a crossover with two other fandoms, since once character appeared only in an episode of ​Angel​, and there's mention of another TV show that will be fun for those who watch it.

I had a blast writing this, so if you like the idea of throwing my ​Storm Chaser​ characters into other universes ... I'm open to suggestions!

A/N: This story is set in my post-“Chosen” universe in which the Buffybot and Tara have both been brought back to life – more or less – through magical means. Some of the same magic restored a semblance of sanity to the imbalanced slayer Dana, from the Angel episode “Damages”. Kara Philips is an original character who's been around since my very first fanfic, and those four appear in a series of stories called "Four Friends". This tale, which takes place before the events of Storm Chaser​ or ​Storm Chaser Shorts, first appeared last week on at

Title: License and Registration, Please
Author: Mark R Hunter (ozma914)
Characters: Buffybot, Tara, Dana, Officer Chance Hamlin of ​Storm Chaser​, OC slayer Kara
Rated: PG
Warnings: A little silliness.
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss and co, except for the ones who belong to me.
Summary: Post Chosen: A slayer mission is jeopardized by the Buffybot's driving, and by a traffic cop who's
just a bit too shrewd.  2,200 words

License and Registration, Please
            “I believe that police officer is pulling us over.” The Buffybot broke into a wide smile and steered toward the highway’s berm. “Yay! I love to meet new people!”

            Rousing herself from a half-sleep, Tara looked back to see red and blue lights flashing behind their nondescript Ford. “Bottie, how fast were you going?”

            “Oh, I matched the flow of traffic. Don’t worry, I was going at a safe speed for the conditions.”

            “Uh-oh. What state are we in?”

            “Indiana,” Bottie told her. “US 6, north of Fort Wayne.”

            In the seat behind them, two young slayers who’d staked vampires, beheaded demons, and sauntered through downtown Chicago at 3 a.m. sat back in their seats, wide eyed and pale. Kara nudged Dana. “No talk about what we do for a living.”

            “Why not? Maybe cops should know.”

            “Yeah, and maybe we’d spend the next three days in a psychiatric ward. No talk about a robot and a ghost in the front seat, either.”

            Tugging on her safety belt, Tara reflected on all the ways this could go horribly wrong, not to mention the demonic ceremony they were scheduled to break up in less than ten hours. “Okay, everybody act casual.”

            Kara and Dana sat stiff as statues, their eyes saucers. Buffy threw a hand out the window and waved vigorously.

            Oh, boy. As Tara watched a giant of a man unfold himself from the squad car, she went to plan B. “Okay, everybody act … sexy. It works in the movies.”

            “Kara’s sixteen,” Dana pointed out, sounding shocked.

            “Okay – cute, then.”

            The blue clad trooper slowed as he approached the car, examined the back seat, then bent down to look in Bottie’s window. “Good morning, ladies. Do you know how fast you were going?”

            “Good morning!” Bottie chirped. “Seventy-four. The speedometer’s off by two miles per hour, though.”

            The cop’s eyes were shadowed by the brim of his campaign hat, but his lips quirked as if he was trying to decide whether he was being jerked around. “The speed limit in this area is fifty-five.” He was a looker, Tara realized – the kind of guy who’d make her heart skip if she went that direction. His skin was a bit too tanned to match his blue eyes and blonde sideburns, and muscular arms showed that he skimped on the donuts and not on the exercise.

            Bottie hesitated. “You’re very handsome, officer. We, on the other hand, are all pretty, which is a better description of females. Except for Kara, who’s only cute because she’s underage.”

            Oh, boy.

            The trooper’s lips thinned into a straight line. “License and registration, please.”

            Tara dug into the glove compartment and passed Bottie the registration and insurance information. She took the opportunity to glance into the back seat, to see how the girls were holding up. Kara stared straight ahead, looking as guilty as humanly possible, but it was Dana that Tara worried about most – sometimes she lashed out when she felt trapped.

            To Tara’s surprise Dana seemed considerably more relaxed, and just stared at the trooper with open curiosity.

            “Bottina Elizabeth Summers, of Chicago.” The cop glanced at Bottie. “Bottina?”

            “My parents wanted an original name.”

            Oh my gosh, who came up with that fake ID? It had to have been Andrew.

            “Hm. Wait here.” The trooper headed back to his car.

            The four sat silently for a moment, until Dana’s quite voice murmured from the back. “Trooper Hamlin is going to be encountering a force of nature very soon.”

            Bottie and Tara exchanged glances. Behind them, Kara leaned forward. “Force of nature? Vampire? Demon?”

            “Don’t know. I’m seeing … a young woman. Maybe another slayer? Somebody who’ll have power over him.”

            Someone with power over him? That sounded more like a witch. Tara shook herself. “We can’t tell him anything.”

            “What?” Abandoning her stiff posture, Kara leaned forward. “But Dana said force of nature – that’s our line of business.”

            “We don’t know that,” Tara told her. “Maybe it means a hurricane, with a woman’s name. You know how it goes: We can’t just go around telling people the world is full of supernatural scary stuff.”

            She had to stop there, because the trooper had arrived back at Bottie’s window. His nametag, Tara noticed, did indeed say “Hamlin”.

            “Miss Summers, I take it you’re an employee of the West Chicago School For Girls?”

            Bottie blinked. “Oh – the license plate. Yes, I’m the physical education instructor, and my friend Tara, here, is a teacher. Kara and Dana are students. The name alliteration is completely coincidental, although I think it’s kind of fun.”

            Hamlin’s gaze swept over all of them, then zeroed back in on Bottie. “As a teacher, don’t you think you should be serving as a better example for your students? Or are you working on what not to do? Please tell me you’re not their driving instructor.”

            Looking ashamed, Bottie cast her eyes down. “Yes, officer. You’re right, I’m really sorry.”

            Thank goodness, it looked like they were going to get out of this with nothing more than a speeding ticket.

            “Bottie,” Dana announced, “is very emotional for a robot. And it’s strange how solid Tara is, and how easily she blushes, because ghost can’t usually do that well.”

            Hamlin blinked. “All of you step out of the car, please.”


            The heat hit her as soon as she opened her car door, and not for the first time Tara wondered if those spells that turned her more or less alive again had been such a great idea. Not that they’d been completely voluntary. It was great to be able to enjoy a nice spring day, but the Midwest’s current drought made her wish she could turn it off.

            “Over on the other side of the car, please – we don’t want anyone getting hit by a passing vehicle.”

            Dana lined up with the rest of them, and glanced around at the fields and distant farms before
focusing on the trooper again. “You’re very caring. Do you have a sibling? Or a daughter?”

            Hamlin blinked again. “I have a sister.”

            “My family all died, and I was the slave of a psychotic sociopath.” Dana looked to Bottie. “Did I use the right terminology?”

            “Close enough,” Bottie murmured. Her bubbly personality completely deserted her as she realized what a jam they were in.

            “I’ll need to see all your ID’s.”

            They passed them down, and Hamlin browsed through them. “Tara McHenry, Kara Philips, and Dana …” He squinted at the card.

            “Slaiermonstonkowski,” Dana supplied.

            Andrew, I’m going to turn you into a freaking toad.

            “Hm. Is this an approved field trip?” This time the trooper looked at Kara, who unfortunately had chosen that day to wear her yellow t-shirt emblazoned with the words “will slay for food”. Definitely time to tighten up the dress code.

            “My father’s a teacher at the school,” she said.

            Bottie nodded. “But this isn’t a field trip. We’re taking Dana to a special clinic in Boston, for treatment.”

            “Treatment of …?”

            “Paranoid schizophrenia,” Bottie said. “Tara and I go together, because sometimes she can be a handful.”

            Hamlin looked at Kara again.

            “I’m her best friend … I can help keep her calmed down.”

            “She doesn’t like long car rides,” Bottie added, “so I try to get her there quickly. Sorry about that.”

            My goodness, what a band of liars I’m Watching.

            For a long moment Hamlin hesitated, looking from them to the ID’s. Then he removed his campaign hat, revealing a shock of close cropped blond hair, and stooped a bit to be at Dana’s height. “Dana, how are you feeling now? Can I help you with anything?”

            “The voices are quiet. Your sister would make a good slayer.”

“Well, she’s more into pop music.”

Dana gave him one of her rare smiles. “You should get used to hearing jazz and classic rock. And you should keep your eyes to the sky, because that’s where the danger comes from for you. Do you have any Twizzlers?”

            Hamlin frowned.

            “Like Red Vines … Walter likes them.”

            “I’m afraid not …”

            “Jelly Babies?”

            Bottie caught Tara’s eye, and pantomimed tearing off her own sundress. Tara frantically shook her head. If the officer decided to search their car, even the stripping thing wouldn’t help when he reached the cache of weapons in the trunk.

            “I’m afraid I don’t carry any food at all in my squad car, Dana.”

            “What if you get trapped in a blizzard?”

            “That’s … actually a very good point. I’ll see about stocking some snack bars and bottled water later, but right at the moment I don’t have anything.”

            “Oh.” Her head tipped down, but she kept her gaze aimed up at him in that unsettling way she had. “May I get back in the car?”

            With a glance at the others, Hamlin swept his hand toward the car. “Sure. And you too, Kara … you two others, come to my car with me.”

            Tara half expected to get cuffed and stuffed, but instead Hamlin paused by the police car, leaned against the hood, and crossed his arms. “You’re driving from Chicago to Boston with a mental patient who hates going on long drives.”

            That was actually fairly accurate, but Tara figured saying so would be a mistake. “She has issues with flying. Really, she’s not that bad – she just has a bit of trouble with reality sometimes.” So far, Tara was the only one of the four who’d stuck to the truth. To a degree.

            “And a sixteen year old student has been allowed to take this cross country trip with said mental patient.”

            Having expected that part, Tara pulled an envelope from her skirt’s wide hip pocket, and handed it over. She had the strangest feeling she was playing mental chess.

            He read it over – twice – then looked up. “Wait here.”

            They waited, while he got into his car and closed the door. “You should erase his memory,” Bottie hissed.

            “Wh-what? Bottie, I’m ashamed of you. You know I’d never do that. I’ve told you what – happened.”

            “Okay, but in the interest of the mission? I mean …” Bottie sighed. “I know.”

            “Remember, we really are a school, and Richard really is Kara’s dad. The rest is … negotiable.”

            “Stripping would have distracted him. Maybe I should offer him sex. I used to do that, you know.”

            “Ick.” Tara shook her head, and tried to fight off a feeling of nausea. As far as she knew Bottie’d had only one sex partner, and Tara was no fan of the circumstances.

            It was minutes afterward when Hamlin climbed out of the car and handed her the paperwork. “Well, your story checks out, mostly.”

            “Of course it does!” Bottie chirped.

            “Your Mr. Giles confirmed things. As for your destination in Boston …” He gave Tara a hard stare. “You didn’t mention that the study Dana’s involved in was sanctioned by the FBI.”

            “Oh, well, we’re keeping it low profile.” Okay, she’d had to lie there, since during their rare visits the FBI agents who hung around Walter’s office mostly pretended they didn’t exist … Walter must have pulled some strings to keep them out of trouble. She found it hard to believe he had it together enough to manage that.

            “I see.” Hamlin crossed his arms again. “Miss McHenry, I’m not much into conspiracy theories, but I suspect there’s more to this trip than you’re letting on.”

            “Oh?” She fought to keep her voice steady. “W-well, that’s …” Okay, so she hadn’t thrown in the part about Walter’s role in inventing some interesting demon detecting devices, and how the eccentric scientist’s only real help to Dana had been keeping her supplied with snack food. Or the upcoming demon apocalypse, conveniently also in Boston.

            “Did you talk to Agent Astrid?” Bottie asked. “She’s really nice!”

            The trooper took a deep breath. “Apparently the whole thing is above my pay grade. I don’t have a problem with that –“ He leaned forward, his eyes suddenly menacing “—As long as it doesn’t involve my area. So you slow down, go about your business, and don’t unleash any of whatever it is in northeast Indiana. Are we clear?”

            “Yessir,” Bottie squeaked.

            She should have kept her mouth shut, but as they headed toward their car Tara couldn’t help turning back. “Trooper Hamlin --?”

            “Yes?” He hadn’t budged.

            “Dana’s … special.”

            “I noticed.”

            “No, I mean … look, sometimes she just says nonsensical things. But after knowing her so long … well … I just think you should watch the skies, like she says. I think this time it means something.”

            He glanced up. “I hope it means rain.”

            Five minutes later Bottie got up to cruising speed and, at Tara’s direction, set the cruise control. “So, how did the rest of it go?” Kara asked.

            “We’re apparently on the FBI’s radar. I guess we should have figured as much after the run-in Willow and Kennedy had with that Mulder guy in Sacramento.”

            Dana leaned forward, giving her hand an agitated wave. “Tell someone to keep that guy on our radar.”

            “Why?” Kara asked.

            Her friend fell back, looking frustrated. “Don’t know.”

            “We will,” Bottie assured her. “I’ll do it – he was very handsome!” She glanced down at the car’s dashboard and added, “The speedometer reads 56, but we’re actually going 54. That explains why the guy behind us is so impatient.”

            Tara sighed. It was going to be another long trip.

My Humor Isn't All That's Dry in Indiana


Author’s note: The day I wrote this, it rained all night for the first time in months, and we got another half an inch of rain today. Coincidence? Yeah, probably, but I’m taking credit.

            You know you’re having a bad day when your home town leads on The Weather Channel.
            It hasn’t been quite that bad for northeast Indiana, but mostly because everyone else is having horrible weather, too. “Flooding in Florida, wildfires in Colorado, politicians in West Virginia … and after this commercial break, crop failure in the Midwest.”
            I maintain that when the breadbasket starts charring around the edges, that’s pretty bad news – especially if you like to eat. Of course, I also maintain that The Weather Channel is so busy leaping on the reality show bandwagon that they’ve forgotten the weather, anyway, so what do they know?
            Last time I checked, this area was about eight inches short of the normal amount of rain for the year. That’s pretty bad. We’ve learned a little lesson about the so called “dry heat” around here – we usually have very humid summer weather, and when I saw a humidity reading of 20% the other day I thought I was looking at Congressional approval poll results. (What does it say about America that 20% of us are morons, or at least ignorant?)
            I remember summers where the best way to get through the humid air was to make swimming motions with your arms. Now it’s so dry that trees are chasing dogs around. “Pee here! Pee here!”
            The way I see it, this year’s weather dumps three separate problems on us:
            The first is damage to crops. Really, it’s the worse of the batch. Your grass is brown? That just means you don’t have to mow it. But if the corn and beans don’t get harvested, you’re going to wish you’d kept your yard watered so you can use it for the next dinner’s salad.
            Farmers I’ve talked to tells me that ship has pretty much sailed around here, if you’re pardon the water-based expression. They’ll have to fight for federal disaster aid, and we’ll all have to fight for a decent meal that’s not so expensive we’d be better off just eating the cash.
            Hm … the government is printing enough cash to feed everyone, and it’s high in fiber.
            The second problem is the heat. Even I don’t like the heat, and summer’s my favorite season. A few weeks ago, at a field fire, I was running around in full protective firefighting equipment like a little kid, because the dryness made it seem like the heat wasn’t so bad. Then I dropped like a bag of …. Well, something dry. Dust? I drank three bottles of water straight down, and still didn’t, shall we say, pass water until I got scared by a political attack ad.
            It’s so hot Kim Kardashian’s hair spontaneously combusted. I don’t know why I chose her hair … it just felt like time for a Kardashian joke. I’ll use Donald Trump’s hair, next time.
            Finally, we have the water shortage. Experts tell us there’s plenty of water in what they refer to as a vast underground river beneath the Midwest. These are the same experts who failed to predict the drought in the first place.
            Now they’re saying this is a “flash drought”, a term meaning it came on very suddenly. In other words, they failed to predict it. It was sudden, frightening and attention grabbing, like a flash mob, flash dance, or – speaking of Kardashians – flash in the pan.
            Considering the questionable expertise of the experts, I suggest we work on conserving water – just in case. Here are some fun water conservation ideas that aren’t really all that much fun:
            Compose your food waste instead of running the garbage disposal. I have a compost pile in my back yard; I call it “Vera”. I feel naming it makes us closer, since I hope it will feed me one day.
            Wash fruits and veggies in a pan of water instead of running it from the tap. But do wash them; they may have come from a Vera of their own.
            When you’re done washing healthy food, which I’ve always planned to try someday, use that water for your houseplants. I’m not allowed to touch our surviving houseplants, but my wife can do it.
            Take shorter showers. Save even more by showering with shorter people.
            Sweep your driveway and sidewalk with a broom instead of washing it down with a hose. People still clean their driveways? That explains the dust devil that formed by my garage.
            Don’t let the water run while rinsing dishes. Or better yet, don’t wash dishes at all. You can compost those paper plates, right? Sandblast those pots and pans.
            To avoid evaporation, install covers on pools and spas. Better yet, invite me over; I’ll use them to check for … leaks. Yeah, leaks.
            Use your clothes washer only when you’re fully loaded. I mean, when the washer is. If you’re fully loaded, best to stay away from mechanical devices.
            Make sure sprinklers are watering only your lawn, not the sidewalk or street. Better yet, don’t water anything. Come on, be honest: You haven’t missed mowing, have you?
In theory you can use water runoff from your roof to water your garden, but that kinda takes rain, doesn’t it? Here’s an even better idea: Disconnect your bathtub and sinks, and have them drain directly onto your garden. Don’t try this with toilets. Fertilizer, yeah, but … ew.
However, don’t flush your toilets as often (if you can stand it). Remember, no flush for one, one flush for two. Hey, I just made that up! Trademark pending.
            Finally, save water by drinking your favorite soft drink, instead. It’s bottled elsewhere, honest.
            Think my wife will let me get away with that one?

Speak of the Devil: Beware The Ghost Of Juan Antonio Samaranch

Speak of the Devil: Beware The Ghost Of Juan Antonio Samaranch: "This has been the greatest Winter Olympic games ever!" ~ Juan Antonio Samaranch, Nagano 1998 "You said that last time, you miserable old...

All About the Oz Books at The Desert Rocks

My guest post today at Eve Gaal’s blog is all about Oz – the books, not the movie:

My original piece was way too long, so for those of you who are interested, I put the rest of it up on my website: my slightly off (because that’s what I do) description of L. Frank Baum’s 13 other Oz books:

e-reader advice

I'm trying to catch up a little; this is the first week in months where someone in the family hasn't come down with a new medical problem. I have a lot of writing to catch up on, but at the same time I'm on vacation, and hoping to get a little R&R time along the way.

Meanwhile, does anyone have recommendations for a very cheap e-reader? I'm talking something for reading books only, nothing else. I have a lot of e-books I want to read, including many from writer friends, but I've found hauling my laptop around to my favorite reading places to be too much of a chore. (Doesn't work well in lines and waiting rooms, for instance.) I have a feeling even the least expensive will be beyond my present means, but who knows?

Speak of the Devil: The Dark Knight Triumphant

Speak of the Devil: The Dark Knight Triumphant: The Dark Knight returns one more time in the finale to director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, and like the firs...

Making Fun of Politics, or: Shooting Fish in a Barrel


            I’m sure most of you wondered why I haven’t commented on politics lately, what with this being a Presidential election year and all. You didn’t? Huh.
            I guess no one cares, which is also the reason why we keep putting the same bozos back into those plush Washington offices.
But to a humor columnist, getting material from the political world is like being handed the keys to the chocolate factory: There’s just so much wonderful stuff there, you don’t know where to start.
            It’s a deadly serious business, but it’s also so pretty ridiculous. It’s said that democracy is the worst possible political system – except for all the others – but it’s the best for writers looking to make fun of something.
            How to proceed? Try to understand why the process is so vital and important, and pass that on to the reader? Or stick with satire and allegedly witty wordplay? As a student of history and politics I want Barrack Obama out of office, badly enough to support this year’s Republican third-stringers as they aim political pistols at their own feet.
So shouldn’t I make reasoned arguments, try to get people to understand and make educated decisions of conscience?
            Why worry? I’m not going to change anyone’s mind. An Obama supporter who happens to read me isn’t going to say, “Gee, he’s right: The President’s a dunderhead and his mamma wears combat boots made in another country. I mean the President’s mother, not Mark’s mother. Hers are American all the way.”
Since I’ve already come out as an Obama opponent, I doubt many Republicans are going to send me hate mail addressed to “That pinko lamestream media hack”. Well, we’ll see … I’ve got something to say about Republican candidates, who back at the start looked like the cast of a new reality show: maybe “Tap Dancing With America’s Most Ridiculous Public Video’s”. I’ll work that title out with the network execs.  
What I’m saying is: I’m not going to change anyone’s mind. Add that to the fact that I’m firmly convinced Obama will win the 2012 election, for reasons I’ll probably make fun of in a future column, and the conclusion is clear: What I say doesn’t matter.
So – might as well have some fun with it.
In the best traditions of humorists, maybe in the end I’ll succeed in upsetting just about everyone. If you expect me to be a staunch conservative, forget about it. If anything I’m a moderate libertarian, if you can picture that.
(I took an internet test – just to see – which informed me that I’m an anarchist. I doubt that very much … maybe it’s the test that was anarchist. The second test I took pinned me as a right leaning moderate.)
Besides, Obama has done some things I approved of. He killed that fly with his bare hands, remember? Very cool. I think he’s ready to star in the next Karate Kid movie.
The best I can do for you, the reader, is to make it plain in my headline when I write something about politics, so you can veer off if this kind of thing annoys you.
One of the great tragedies of modern American society is that so many people don’t educate themselves about politics, but while I work hard to keep up with things myself, I wouldn’t expect people to look to me for the straight scoop any more than I’d expect to find balanced coverage from anywhere in the mainstream media … which is another of those great tragedies. In fact, the feeling that sent chills down Chris Matthews’ leg in the 2008 election was journalistic ethics, slinking shamefully away for the last time.
The main difference between me and the rest of the jokesters is that I’ll try to not only stay educated, but keep stuff in context. It’s the least I can do. Besides, by the time this campaign is over opportunities for cheap jokes will be flying through the air, almost as thick as the mud being slung.
When it’s all over, and my side hasn’t won (well, my side won’t really be represented), you can be sure that I will not leave the country in a huff, the way Eddie Vedder, Alec Baldwin, and Robert Altman did to keep their promises when George W. Bush was elected.
What … they didn’t leave?
Well. Looks like I’ve got some writing to do.

Field Fire Photo

I took this picture at a field fire we fought back on July 6th. Thought I'd throw this in because starting later this week I'm doing a two part feature article called "Anatomy of a Field Fire", giving an insider look at what goes on when we get a Big One like this. (Well, it's big for us!) I'll repost that feature here after it's run in the newspaper, but meanwhile here's a teaser photo and the original news article on the fire.

     Five firefighters were hospitalized after spending Friday afternoon in triple digit heat, fighting a blaze that burned over a wheat field and damaged two buildings along CR 600 N, near Sacryder Lake.
     Numerous firefighters were treated for heat exposure at the scene of the fire, which blackened about ten acres near 3388 E 600 N. The incident began at about 3:53 p.m., and although its cause remains under investigation, a combine being used in the field at the time could have caused a spark that started the fire.
     Albion and Orange Township fire trucks were initially dispatched to the call, but when heavy smoke was seen as far away as Albion, firefighters quickly called for mutual aid. Six fire departments sent trucks to the scene. Extra manpower had to be called in because temperatures at the time hovered in the low 100's, quickly sapping the strength of responders wearing protective gear.
     Flames leaped several feet in the air in the standing wheat, while the fire also burned through a drought-dried lawn to surround a home, pole barn, and an old bus parked on the property. Radiant heat curled up the home's siding and spread fire into the walls, forcing firefighters to work fast to keep the two story wood frame home from erupting into flames.
     Minor damage resulted to the house and outbuilding and to several acres of wheat, in a field reportedly owned by Richard Bauman. The flames burned around a propane tank and the bus, but neither seemed to sustain serious damage.
     Noble County EMS personnel treated several firefighters at the scene for heat exposure. Five were reportedly taken to Parkview-Noble Hospital for further treatment: Four for heat exhaustion, and one for a hand injury. Firefighters set up a folding dump tank, usually used to hold water for fighting rural structure fires, and personnel used it as a pool to cool off in.
     The extreme weather heated up the pavement on 600 N so much that turning water tanker trucks damaged the roadway. Noble County Highway personnel were called in to make repairs, and to spread sand over the road's hot tar to prevent further damage and injuries. Noble County Sheriff's Department deputies also came to the scene, as the road had to be shut down between 400 E and 500 E because of the large number of emergency vehicles crowding the area.
     It took over an hour to bring the blaze under control, and emergency units stayed on the scene until about 6:30 p.m. Fire units of the Albion, Orange Township, Avilla, Kendallville, LaOtto, and Ligonier fire departments responded to the scene, while Noble Township fire trucks provided standby coverage at the Albion fire station. Twenty-three Albion firefighters were among those who responded, manning seven units.
     Albion and Orange Township fire units against responded to 600 N Sunday afternoon, when a grass fire was reported about two miles west of the first blaze, but the second was brought quickly under control.

The Desert Rocks: Paybacks Are Hell and Very Scary

It seems I'm not the only one who's been feeling old, lately!

The Desert Rocks: Paybacks Are Hell and Very Scary:      It was bound to happen, after all paybacks are always looking for a way to drag us into the flaming fires of damnation but last week ...

You're Only as Old as You Feel ... and I Feel Old


            Half a century.

           I don’t feel half a century old. I feel … twenty-nine, at most. Except for when I inventory my medications, then I feel fifty.

            They say you’re only as old as you feel. Well, when I look at my actual age I feel old, and I felt even older when I got the idea for this column. What kind of changes, I thought, have happened in the world since my birth? After all, in the cosmic scheme of things fifty years is but the blink of an eye.

            A really big, very slowly blinking, ancient eye.

            The year I was born was 1962. Yeah. In 1962, Decca Records rejected a potential new band with the comment that “guitar groups are on their way out.” Later that year that group, the Beatles, had their first modest hit in “Love Me Do”.

            That same year a group of guys got together to form another group, which they named The Rolling Stones. That explains my abilities with music: The year I was born, all the talent was being divvied up elsewhere.

            In 1962 the US Navy established a new, elite group of fighting men, the Navy SEALS. I’m sure people made fun of the name, with that first group. With the second class, I’m sure nobody did.

            The first James Bond movie, “Dr. No”, came out. The original name had already been taken by an adult movie: “Dr. Yes”.

            President Kennedy had the wild idea of landing a man on the Moon. The earliest memory I have is of that dream being achieved.

            The first Wal-Mart store opened. Yes, there was a time before Wal-Mart. The first K-Mart opened the same year. Yes, there was such a thing as K-Mart.

            Houston plastic surgeons did the first silicone breast implant.

            On an unrelated note, Marilyn Monroe died.

            The Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, but most people knew Fidel Castro couldn’t last long.

            Things were a bit cheaper, back then. You could buy a house for $12,000, go to Harvard University for $1,520, have a new car for $1,400, and get a gallon of gas for 28 cents. No, I didn’t leave out any zeroes.

            They were better times, huh? I mean, except for the whole Cold War/race riots/dead Marilyn Monroe thing.

            A simpler time, certainly, at least in some ways. For instance, our entertainment choices back then were, shall we say, easier.

            We had three TV channels – four on a good reception day. When the President gave a speech, he was on all of them. Twenty-four hour news cycle? Try half an hour of national, half an hour of local. We’d throw a party when odd weather conditions let us pull in a fuzzy fifth station carrying old Western reruns. Cable was what went up to the antenna.

            Every Easter, I’d take the colored cellophane from my Easter basket and hold it up as I watched TV – miraculously, the screen became color. One color, but still. If you had to leave the room the best you could do was crank up the volume and listen to what was happening, because our television was the size of an Apollo space capsule.

I didn’t get my first color TV until the mid-80’s, and a few years later I bought my very first VCR, which was wide as the aforementioned space capsule and twice as heavy.
A cell phone meant you were in jail for something. Otherwise portability came when you had a cord long enough to reach halfway across the kitchen. I grew up out in the country, where you had to very quietly pick up the receiver before calling, to make sure someone wasn’t already on the party line. Stealth was also useful in eavesdropping.

            The closest thing we had to a cell phone was the communicator Kirk carried on Star Trek.

            That was also the closest we had to a computer. Some did exist: They were the size of large rooms, and required a team of technicians to keep the vacuum tubes changed while they made the calculations we can do on our cell phones today.

            You can also take pictures on your cell phones today. Back then you could take pictures, then wait for days until the prints came back from the developer. I remember what a miracle the first Polaroid camera was – a picture you could see within minutes!

            I got my first computer, a Mac Performa, around 1990. Only a few years before that I was still whacking away at a manual typewriter to produce my columns and soon to be rejected short stories.

            That crazy internet thing? In a way, it was born with me: In 1962 the US Air Force began working on a way to decentralize communications systems, in case a nuclear war destroyed command and control systems. Yep, the world wide web started as a military operation, and I was already nine years old when somebody came up with the idea of something they called electronic mail. It wasn’t until 1991 that Al Gore officially invented the internet.

            Lots of stuff was invented after I was born: The audio cassette; video games; Doppler radar; DVD’s; Google; and let’s not forget Viagra. Some say Viagra is the greatest invention in the last half-century, but that’s a stretch.

            Meanwhile, lots of stuff we thought would be around forever is going fast. Phone booths, typewriters, film cameras, VCR’s, video arcades, common sense … some stuff has come and gone in my lifetime. Anyone want some old floppy disks?

            Makes you wonder what will be around fifty years from now. Hopefully not flying cars – imagine the road rage problem.

            But me? I’ll be around. This is the year I start counting backward, so fifty years from now I’ll be born again.