Sunday, November 9, 2014


Dear Driver’s Education Instructors:
               It’s been a long time since I first sat behind the wheel and sallied forth in Sally (I named my first car “Sally” for reasons best left parked in history). A lot has changed since then.
               Motor vehicle operators in this country have all gone crazy.
               I know I can’t hold you solely responsible for all the actions of America’s drivers, but if we’re to get through this humor column, you must take part of the blame.
Let’s look at some of the driver’s education topics covered in the classroom and in-vehicle sessions, and see if we can find where things have gone wrong:
OPERATING A VEHICLE: This may be the heart of the problem.
Everything now is automatic—doors, windows, seat belts, lights, mirrors, trunks—and no keys, no cranks, no handles. How am I supposed to tear open my bag of Cheez-Its without a car key?
What about jumpstarts? There was no better way to meet strangers, when several of them would stop to help you shove your clunker just enough to coast it back to life.  And, you couldn’t beat jumpstarting as the easiest way to run over yourself --- yet another fine character-builder lost to progress.
How about ignitions? Cars should not start by pushing a button. Cars should start when you turn a key, and with another sub-zero winter upon us in this neck of the woods, they should not start when you turn a key.
(Nostalgic humorist’s digression: I remember using a rotary phone, inserting a finger into a numbered dialplate, spinning it, and repeating the process. There was a circuitous, physical search and the tactile beauty of a spring-loaded backspin. It took time. It took some effort and deliberation. Life was a slow-tracking, soft-clicking whirling wheel of anticipation and measured symmetry. Sigh.)
Today we have skid-control, satellite tracking and navigation systems, which have removed the fun & disciplines of knowing when not to apply the brakes, how to fix our own flat tires, and the origami skills needed to accordion-fold a road map and figure out how we didn’t arrive where we aren’t.
And I don’t need or want my car talking to me, especially in a human voice. If I can’t avoid this with the automobiles of today, then I want to choose the voice (Eeyore will do nicely), and I want it interactive, joining me in my futility:
“End of the road approaching, Elwin.  No hope of getting where you’re going.”
“Then, should I turn right now?”
“You could turn right here left, or turn right here right. It doesn’t matter. You’re lost.”
I would love this, because I’ve had some of my best motoring adventures when I didn’t have a clue where I was, where I was going, and I couldn’t be globally positioned from space.
And I still pine for those heady beep-less days, when my car didn’t make an audible alarm if I didn’t shut the door or buckle-up or turn off my lights or remove the key that I no longer needed.
SAFE DRIVING HABITS:  You’re charged with helping our young drivers to form driving behaviors that will keep them and the rest of us safe on the road.
I can’t believe that this instruction includes how to signal right while turning left. Or, signaling and not turning. Or, turning and not signaling. Or, not signaling, not turning, but just stopping suddenly to look at a moose.
Or, as I’ve noticed lately on the interstate, to always drive like your car’s on fire and the only way to extinguish the flames is to go whizzing by me like I was going the other way.
Please, work on it. There are too many of your graduates out here who apparently slept through the turn & burn classes.
TRAFFIC LAWS AND VIOLATIONS: This is a real challenge, because not all driving landscapes are alike, and the rules of the road must be adjusted accordingly. We all know about the Massachusetts law that prohibits you from driving with a gorilla in the back seat, but I’ve just learned that it’s illegal in New York to disrobe in a car, and in Florida, if you leave your elephant parked on the street, you must still feed the meter.
I beg you to include these in your lesson plans, and teach your students how to lawfully curb a pachyderm and keep their pet gorillas fully-clothed up front where they belong.
Yesterday, I saw a sign on one of your driver’s ed vehicles: “Student drivers make mistakes.  Please leave us a little room.”
As a driver now automatically shifting to manual, I’m hoping it’s a room with a better view.

* * * * *
Senior Wire News Service syndicated humor columnist B. Elwin Sherman writes from Bethlehem, NH. His new book, “Walk Tall And Carry A BigWatering Can,” is now available.  You may contact him via his blog at Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


It is my distinct honor & pleasure to announce my marriage to Diane Lillian Church on October 31st at Runaway Pond in Glover, Vermont!

Yes, on Halloween.

Yes, at "Runaway Pond."

We could think of no better place -- at the site of what many consider Vermont's greatest (un)natural disaster -- to let loose our connubial bliss.

You may read all about the illustrious history of Runaway Pond, where a great man-made reshaping of the landscape and waterways took place in June of 1810.

Where better (and on the scariest day of the year) to form a marital partnership, than at a place where such a mighty upheaval occurred?

Perfect, said we.

We love us.  We trust that you will, too.

Elwin & Diane

Wedding of Diane L. Church and B. Elwin Sherman
Oct 31, 2014
Runaway Pond Park


My name is Joan Alexander. I am one of the Justices of the Peace here in Glover, and I am honored to officiate at this marriage of Diane and Elwin. How cool to have chosen this wild, historic spot, the site of Runaway Pond, as the place for your wedding.

What a beautiful spot to choose, surrounded by hills and trees, in the dry bed of a pond that was here until just a little over 200 years ago. The history of the place makes it a very fitting place to start a marriage.  In fact, the story of the Runaway Pond if filled with tips for a newlywed couple.

Though this is the first wedding ever to be held here (that we know of!), it is not the first celebration. In 1810, about 60 men and boys gathered here on June Training Day, a holiday some of the early settlers had brought with them from New Hampshire. They had hatched a plan to use some of the water of this pond to power the grist and saw mill just north of here—the Barton River was just a trickle after a very dry summer the year before. If they dug a trench and allowed just a little of the two billion of gallons of water in Long Pond water to flow north, all would be well. The trail along the easterly ridge through the wilderness to get here,  at Long Pond was known to some of the men—there was already a raft here for fishing—but many from further away did not know the way, and they depended on the blasts of a tin horn to find their way.

Tip #1: When obstacles are presented, be resourceful, consider all options, and be creative. Don’t feel like you have to tackle problems alone.  Don’t hesitate to call on 60 of your closest friends to help.

The boys had fun fishing, and the men commenced the dig. By lunch time, they were done—they had dug the channel to Mud Pond, just to the north over the bank, leaving just a short piece between the north end of the lake and the beginning of the trench intact, to be dug after kicking back and enjoying their lunch.

Tip #2: Even when tasks surround you, stop and take time to appreciate each other, and the fellowship of family and friends. Don’t forget to eat, drink and be merry!

After lunch, it was back to work. The trench was completed, the water started flowing, and the job was done. The men cheered and congratulated each other, and one man hopped on a tree trunk that was flowing along with the new stream for a fun ride.

Tip #3: Celebrate life and your achievements! Never lose touch of the child in you.

But within minutes, things started to go south—though in this case, it was north. The little stream of water disappeared, and then started gushing out further below, not just trickling out. The soil beneath the hardpan they had worked so hard with their picks and shovels to dig out turned to quicksand when the Long Pond waters reached it, and the whole bank was giving way. The diggers quickly realized what was happening and the danger it meant. The Pond was giving way, the stream was turning into a raging river, growing wider and wider as they watched with horror and disbelief.

Tip #4: Don’t take anything for granted. Even your best laid plans may go awry. Don’t be surprised when life throws something new at you. Rise to the challenge!

They sprung into action, hauled the log rider out of the rushing water in the nick of time by the hair on this head, and quickly considered the consequences. The miller’s wife, back at that mill—she would surely be swept to her death when all this water reached her. The miller’s husband set off running, but the men knew he would never make it. The men called him back, and started hollering for the fastest runner to go. His name was Spencer Chamberlain, and the call went out: “Run, Chamberlain, Run!”

Spencer Chamberlain was a tall, muscular man of 24, known for his strength and speed (which everyone attributed to the fact that he was part Indian.)  He took off running along the waters toward the mill, which was 5 miles north. He was able to get ahead of the rush when the trees that the waters uprooted got tangled up and created dams between the banks of the valleys and it took a while for the force of the water to break through, or when the water spread out in the flat places. In his mad rush, he lost his coat and hat. (Legend has it that he once to stopped at a home along the ridge and wolfed down a pie, and that another time he stopped for a swig of whiskey.) He reached the mill seconds before the water did, pulling the miller’s wife to safety.

Tip #5: Be brave. Be strong. Do not cower when dangers threaten. Do what you think you cannot do. Protect each other. Never turn down a piece of pie.

By nightfall, the waters had traveled in a torrent all the way to Lake Memphremagog, 26 miles away. People hearing the thunderous noise of the waters had thought it was the arrival of Judgment Day, and one preacher’s wife had taken to her bed and pulled the covers up to await death.  Along the way, one horse and some sheep had been swept to their death, several mills had been wiped out, but, miraculously, no people had been killed. The path the waters took had cleared a swath all the way to Newport, littered here and there with piles of uprooted trees.

Even though we always hear “What doesn’t kill you will make your stronger,” reports say that Spencer Chamberlain, though he did live 40 more years,  never did regain his level of strength again; the run had permanently damaged his lungs.
Tip #6: Be careful. What you say and do could be more powerful than you ever dreamed. Tread gently with each other’s feelings.

Years went by. The people of Glover came to think of the letting out of Long Pond not only as the “Wonderful Casualty” it had first been called, but as an event that brought some good things. The rushing waters had left behind lots of toppled trees and dirt and filled the swampy lands between the Glover hills. People thought the valley would now be a good place to live, and they moved down from the hills; fourteen years later, Glover village had sprung up.

Tip #7: Look for the silver lining. Grow from all the challenges you meet and rocky places you will travel. May the forces of love and caring that have brought you together sustain you in all the years to come and may your love endure. May the story of your love last through the centuries just as this story of Runaway Pond has.

Now, let’s leave the history of this place and make some new history! Diane and Elwin, you have written your own vows that you will now speak to each other.


Today, in this special place where the landscape and waterways were long ago forever changed by Man, let us pledge to forever change our lives together. Let this day be the beginning of our new world.

It makes sense to us that a piece of paper declaring a union is not the power of our binding tie. That power lies in our bodies, our hearts, our minds, our souls.

Our definition of love will be the ‘perfection of differences.’ And we will perfect our differences, over and over again, through the rest of our lives together.

We will never intentionally hurt each other, and we will be sad when we unintentionally do so. We will guard our permanence and protect our union, our freedoms, our strengths and our vulnerabilities. We will take care of each other.

We are afflicted with love, and today we vow to cure this by living in the words of the poet: “The only remedy for love, is to love more.”

And … we will laugh. We will have rhythm. And music, lots of music. And when our days together are done, the one who still lives will rejoice in the love we lived, not bemoan the love lost.

Today, we pledge ourselves to be joined forever as best friends, as only lovers, as wife and husband.



By the authority vested in me by the State of Vermont, I now pronounce you husband and wife. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


             (Time once again for “Dear Witbones -- Ask A Humorist!” my agony uncle advice column for the laughlorn. This month: New Hampshire cars and winter weather)

            DEAR WITBONES:
            This may be outside your area of expertise, but I either have a car problem or a terrain problem. I live at the bottom of a steep hill in the New Hampshire North Country, and whenever I accelerate rapidly, my car hesitates, almost like it’s going to stall, then I hear a sound which I can only describe as a “kah-tick-bang-whoosh.” This repeats a few times, then the car takes off like I was shot out of a cannon. What gives? Signed: JUICED UP IN JACKSON
            DEAR JUICED:
You didn’t mention your automobile’s year, make & model, but this is a common problem with any car made between 1902 and 2014, and any rural NH car salesman will tell you that every car is supposed to go “kah-tick-bang-whoosh.”
            We might first examine why you’re finding it necessary to “accelerate rapidly.” Unless you’re robbing banks, I don’t understand your need for speed off the line. It greatly reduces gas mileage and increases your need to decelerate rapidly, depending on the weather, local police whereabouts, and proximity of the moose.
            And, you’re right about my lack of mechanical prowess. I am familiar with a “kah-tick-bang-whooshy” sound when I first get up in the morning, but I’m seeing a doctor for it.
            I do know that combustion engines here best start and run smoothly by integrating the right amounts of gasoline, oil, prayer, cursing and pounding the steering wheel.
            And, try to remember that there are people in this world who make their livings being shot out of cannons. You might consider it.
             DEAR WITBONES:   
            The days are rapidly getting shorter and colder, and I’ve thought of leaving New Hampshire and going to Florida this winter but I’m afraid of manatees. How can I last until spring? Signed: HUNKERED DOWN IN HAVERHILL
            DEAR HUNKERED:
            I don’t want to alarm you, and try not to think about this, but manatees have been spotted as far north as Cape Cod. This means that if one of them turned left into Connecticut and followed the river, with a portage or two it could eventually make its way into Haverhill, NH, coming ashore at Bedell Bridge State Park, and with the help of a sympathetic motorist, flap-beat a path to your house.
            If you hear a heavy thudding sound on your porch, I wouldn’t answer the door.
            Meanwhile, try a sun lamp, and take comfort in the fact that manatees don’t do well on ice.
            DEAR WITBONES:
            I know it’s not politically correct and I feel guilty about saying it, but with another New Hampshire winter upon us, I’m looking forward to global warming. A friend says that I don’t know the difference between climate and weather. I say they’re the same thing. Am I wrong?  Signed: DEFROSTING IN DALTON
            DEAR DEFROSTING:
            Here’s a simple test: Have you ever asked anyone with a hangover if they’re feeling “under the climate”?
            I see that you’re finding it hard to reconcile the difference, especially when The Farmer’s Almanac says that we’re in for a record-setting cold winter, but you must try to apply the same “you can’t get there from here” logic that we’re so fond of here. Or there, if you can make it.
            Thus, if you’re guilt-struck because you find the notion of retreating glaciers, rising oceans, ozone depletion and species extinction preferable to a couple extra weeks of scraping your windshield, perhaps you have a problem with what psychiatrists like to call “sanity.”
            I suggest you bundle up and stop reading advice columns from humorists.

* * * * *

Copyright 2014 by B. Elwin Sherman. All rights reserved. Questions for his agony uncle “WITBONES - Ask A Humorist!" column may be submitted to: WITBONES, c/o B. Elwin Sherman, P.O. Box 300, Bethlehem, NH, 03574. Or, you may e-mail Elwin via his blog.   

Monday, September 8, 2014


Straddlin' the Cog on "The Rock Pile."

23 windchilling degrees atop Mt. Washington.

Just another mild summer day.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


THIS COLUMN'S A BIT OF A DEPARTURE FOR ME, but If your life is touched by Parkinson's disease or other chronic illness, I hope you'll be well-served by it.

Please click on "Steps With Sam And Cecelia." 

Walk along for a bit.

      Sam and Cecilia had been together for fifty years when I entered their lives as one of Sam’s home caregivers. Sam had Parkinson’s disease. So did Cecilia. Sam’s was seated in his brain and body. Cecelia, as Sam’s lifelong partner, had it in her heart and soul.
     This is the crux of the challenge for any healthcare professional providing direct patient care in any home or clinical environment: recognizing that all our patients come to us with problems that also deeply disaffect the lives of others, and that our assessments and interventions must always include the patient’s “inner circle” of support.
     In my 35 years of nursing practice, I’ve tried to operate from a self-imposed simple premise: meet people where they are, not where you want them to be. Easy to say, but also easy to overlook when one is so focused on fixing and healing everything (as caregivers are wont to do), even when curing has been removed from the language.
     I emphasize the latter, because aside from right here, “healing” and “curing” have no business in the same sentence. I’ve witnessed extraordinary healing when curing has turned from elusive to improbable to impossible. No matter the critical mass, there is always healing to be done up to the moment of a passing … and beyond the loss, for those left behind.
     To meet people where they are, we need only call up the words of Florence Nightingale: “Let whoever is in charge keep this simple question in their head: not how can I always do this right thing myself, but how can I provide for this right thing to be always done?”
     With Sam and Cecelia, this presented clearly, but a clear path alone does not provide the ability needed to navigate it. As Sam’s caregiver, my plan was to help both him and Cecelia create an environment where they could enjoy optimum quality of life, and provide times and places where they could best take what Confucius called “action steps” --- measures that helped them remain true to their true characters and life together, especially when the goals changed or became unattainable due to the intractable constraints of PD.
      Here, we needn’t belabor the host of variables that come with Parkinson’s, and how what is universal in all sufferers presents itself on so many levels. What works for one patient has little or no effect on another. Even more challenging, what works today, or even this hour to ease pain and keep one purposeful, may not work tomorrow or an hour from now.
     As time passed, I watched Sam’s form and function change. My interventions, often invented on the spot, had near miraculous effects in the resulting behaviors, or they had no impact at all. Frustrating for Sam and disheartening for Cecelia, as she watched her husband transform from the man she’d intimately known for half a century into a figure that she hardly recognized. Worse, and most difficult to bear … into a man who didn’t recognize her.
     My job (never forgetting Ms. Nightingale) was not to do the right things, but to help create ways for the right things to be always done.
     I constantly discussed Sam’s changing cognition and somatic functions with Cecelia, and we worked together to deal with what she called “little pieces of him falling away,” and to find venues that Sam could effectively use in adapting to those losses, even the ones for which he was becoming increasingly unaware.
     As he had more “freezing” episodes, we’d switch his walking cues from using a metronome, to following a laser pen light dot on the floor, to setting “the blue stick” down (a colored ruler that, when placed in front of him, somehow “triggered” his legs to move).
     Sometimes, it was as simple as a tug on his sleeve, or a repeated verbal cue, or an awful limerick, or a suggestion of a song. Sam had sung professionally for years, and giving him the opening lyric to “As Time Goes By,” could send him into a lucid and soulful rendition of it, and for reasons that only poets can explain, immediately set his feet in motion.
     Using input from Cecelia on their times gone by together, I could sidetrack Sam from his difficulty finding words which he might voice as nonsensical, by showing him old photographs, taking him for rides in the country past boyhood haunts, even once visiting the cemetery where his parents were buried, prompting him to regale me with anecdotes of them and other relatives lined up there.
     Those little reorientations helped to keep Sam Sam --- the Sam who knew Cecelia as his long-beloved, and who was still giving and receiving that love.
     Even near the end, as Sam’s tremors and halting gait increased, as his speech became softer and less intelligible, as the medications were less effective, as his windows of cognition closed, there were flashes of good humor and returns to the now.
     At one late lunch, I asked Sam how he liked the pizza. He froze, holding a slice in mid-air. Several minutes passed. We sat in silence. Finally, he grinned, looked up at me and faintly said, with just a hint of his all-Sam mischievousness: “If you’re waiting for me to speak, you might have a long wait.”
     Later, Cecelia told me: “I can see more and more that it’s becoming one step up and two steps back … but we’re still walking them together.”
     Action steps.
     Healing as time goes by.

* * * * *

Senior Wire News Service Syndicated Humor 
Columnist B. Elwin Sherman writes from 
Bethlehem, NH. He is an author, humorist 
and long-time eldercare and hospice nurse. 
His latest book is “Walk Tall and Carry a Big 
Watering Can,” from Plaidswede Publishing. 
 Copyright 2014. Photo by B. Elwin Sherman. All rights 
reserved. Used here with permission.