Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie



Mom and I like to feature new talent and fresh voices from time to time.  Today it’s author Gib Check.  Okay. So it’s not exactly “today.” This post is actually from  2011. (Yeah. One of us is older than dirt. I won’t tell you who.) Gib was one of our very first guest authors. So we’re honoring him today with a revisit of one of his submissions from yesteryear.

So grab a chair and sit down for some chuckles and “oh yeah!” moments with Gib’s humorous ode to modern day technology, Tech-Save Us. Does this sound familiar?

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How A World-Class Acrophobic Survived Pyramid Peak (sort of) & Writing It Real

Disclaimer: I may have done some pretty stupid things back when I was young and foolish – like yesterday – but nothing like hiking Pyramid Peak. At least not in the last 10 minutes. (Kids, don’t try this at home.)


You know that saying about “There’s dangerous and doable and then there’s dangerous and stupid?” (If you’ve never heard it before, don’t worry. I just made it up.) Well, guess which category the Pyramid Peak hike fell into?

My husband, aka Snuggle Bunny, and I planned to do what we always do to celebrate our anniversary: hike the hinterlands. I mean, who needs romantic candlelit dinners and tiramisu when you can chug through every mosquito-ridden, rock-strewn traipse known to man in knee-deep mud and cushion your every fall with a nice, thick slab of granite while enjoying The Great Outdoors?

Pyramid Peak 2

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‘Training Sammie’

One of the purposes of this blog is to give new writers an opportunity to share their work and give them some visibility*. Every so often I come across an up-and-coming writer who’s a real “diamond in the rough.” Gib Check is one of them. That’s why I’m re-publishing this post from 2011.  Enjoy! Don’t forget to thank him in the comments section. (And thanks again, Gib!)

By Gib Check

           Can you better-informed cat owners tell my wife and me how to train ours? Sammie, our part-Siamese, was already house-trained when we got her, or so we thought. We figured she’d do fine with adjusting to our household routines. Instead, she’s had us jumping through her hoops ever since.

For openers, how does she know to wait until exactly 4:30 AM before she starts pawing insistently at the bedroom door? Cats are too dumb to read the time on our clocks, right? Yet, give or take a few minutes, that’s when she wants us up to start her day.


As I make the bed, she circles my feet meowing impatiently to tell me it’s time for our wrestling match. And yep, I said wrestling. Her previous owner also had a dog with whom he rough-housed a bit. Jealous of the attention the dog was getting, Sammie would join in. So, growling like a wrestler, I tumble her around atop the bedspread for a few minutes. If I don’t, she pesters me until I do.

Next is her water and food bowl ritual. Even if they’re full, I must at least pretend to add more, otherwise she’s displeased. Once I’ve made a big show of dribbling in more of each, she’s satisfied.

Oddly, she thinks using the water bowl is boring at times. Whenever we forget to drop the cover over the toilet bowl, she finds it far more entertaining to scoop up water out of there. Ruthie will head for the john, only to cry out a minute later, “Gilbert! Your dumb cat splashed water on the seat!” (Whenever Sammie is naughty, she’s my cat).

A glutton for being fussed over day and night, she absolutely hates it when we leave on trips. Thinking Uh-oh! at seeing suitcases appear, she begins sounding off and keeps it up as we’re heading out the door. She’s mollified not at all by our friend who cat-sits for us. Upon our return, Sammie scolds us unmercifully the rest of the day.

Contrarily, whenever her snooty Siamese aloofness kicks in, she keeps to herself as if our presence has suddenly become bothersome. During one of her disappearing acts, we realized we hadn’t seen her all day. Suddenly worried she might have escaped outside somehow, we spent until dark looking up and down our block, but no Sammie. Even though she could be a pain in the butt at times, we’d grown quite fond of our temperamental little critter.

Making a final search indoors, I heard sounds coming from behind a dresser set diagonally into a corner. When I peeked in back, there she was! While playing around atop the dresser, she’d fallen behind it and gotten trapped. Totally unconcerned, she must’ve spent the rest of the day catching up on her beauty sleep. Glaring down at her, I exclaimed with a mix of exasperation and relief, “You little goof!” Ignoring me, she nonchalantly began licking a paw to groom her furry face. Beautifying herself is also very important, you see.

Carrying her to the den, I showed her to Ruthie. “Look who I found behind the dresser!”

Blowing out her own sigh of relief, Ruthie laughed, “Can you believe this cat? Back there all this time and never made a sound!”

It’s clear her stubborn streak of independence has convinced her that our house is actually hers and that she can darned-well do or not do whatever she pleases. And so, is there hope Sammie can be re-trained? On second thought maybe I should be asking; is there some way my wife and I can escape being trained by her?

Author Gib Check

Retired from construction, I live on a Wisconsin lake with wife Ruthie and am finally exploring being an author. When I write about our travel adventures, I focus on the fun we have meeting people and exploring these places. I’m also big on hiking, biking, canoeing, and thrill to stargazing. (I keep hinting to Ruthie and the kids about a new ‘scope). But always, it’s the writing I love.

* Have a short story, anecdote, travelogue or “slice of life” piece you’d like to see featured on Road Diverged? Let me know in the comments section or shoot me a line at:


A “Writer” Is…

Public domain

Public domain

Long ago and far away, when I was young and foolish – like last week – I had this image of what A Writer was or is.   A “writer” is  someone who keeps weird hours, drinks bad coffee, roams their own reality,  swings from euphoria to depression at the drop of a hat, and smokes Maduros like a chimney.  A writer is reclusive, creative, eccentric. Elusive. Can stand almost anything except being interrupted when on the cusp of a brilliant stroke of genius. Every five minutes. Has a spouse who understands that when I’m looking at the window, I am ‘working.’

Guess I better work on that Maduro thing.

What does “writer” mean to you?


Laughing All the Way: 10 Tips for the Hilarity Highway

Being a freelance humorist has its benefits.  You can set your own schedule, show up for work in your jammies, or hammer down on raspberry white chocolate cheesecake whenever your feel like it.  One of the biggest perks of being your own boss – besides firing and rehiring yourself at will – is that you choose your own topics.  Today it’s humorous travel writing.

If you’re wondering how to connect travel and humor, you haven’t seen enough of Clark Griswold.  Let me illustrate with Easter on the O.P.  This delightful piece is an incredibly compelling narrative about a family hike on the Olympic Peninsula (excerpted from my soon-to-be bestseller, how I got to be 50 and other atrocities):

“The Heather Park-Lake Angeles Loop Trail is one of the premier day hikes on the Olympic Peninsula” gushes our handy-dandy trail guide.  “You’ll climb from deep forest to airy cliffs and pass a sapphire lake tucked in a snowy cirque.”

Doesn’t that sound delicious?  They left out the part about a trail so steep you have to be part mountain goat to navigate, sluicing down ice-clogged creeks, and traipsing through every type of debris, tangle foot and treacherous traipse known to humanity.

We strike out on this “premier day hike” and, Energizer-Bunny like, keep going and going and … Scrambling over downed logs.  Skittering over snow.  Crossing streams on foot bridges so narrow the chipmunks have to scamper sideways.

“Buck up, kids,” Snuggle Bunny chirps.  “It could be worse.  At least we have the trail all to ourselves.”

Of course we do.  Everyone with brains stayed home.

Temperatures are dropping by the minute.  Our breath exhales in frosty plumes.  The higher we climb, the colder it gets.

“I can’t feel my toes,” son Josiah whines.  “I can’t feel my nose,” complains Sam the other son.  We bribe them with Gatorade and enough Ho-Hos to buy stock in Hostess.

“Not to worry, kids.  Ya gotta love the great outdoors,” I huff and puff.  “Besides, it’s all part of the adventure.”

“Yeah, and it could be worse,” Snuggles chimes in cheerfully.  “Let’s be thankful it’s not snowing.”

Ten minutes later: it’s snowing.  And I don’t mean the light, feathery, wuss snow.  I’m talking the Real Deal.  Like someone just dumped a giant package of powdered sugar out of the sky. We slog on, punching through hip-deep drifts and floundering through terrain that’d give a Yetti cause for pause.

Is this place great, or what?

That’s just for starters.  With a little curmudgeonly creativity, you can turn any outdoor expedition into sheer misery, too.  Here are ten tips to take on the hilarity highway:

1.                  Start strong. Don’t expect your audience to stay with you into the backstretch if you haven’t corralled ‘em at the starting gate.  You get a nano-second to saddle an editor’s interest, spur them into the next paragraph and gallop to the finish like Secretariat.  Take that bit in your teeth and surge ahead strong.

2.                  Be unique. No one wants to read the millionth version of “It was a dark and stormy night.”  Even if it was.  Come up with something new.  Even if it kills you.  This is especially tricky if you’re writing about a well-worn tourist spot that hasn’t seen a drop in visitors since before the Ark landed.  So either make funeral arrangements now, or see Tip #3:

3.                  Keep it fresh. Readers gag on pre-chewed leftovers.  Angle for a unique angle.  Writing about the Grand Canyon?  Avoid words like “stunning,” “spectacular” and “gorgeous.”  They taste like milk that’s been left out since last Christmas.

4.                  Keep it original. Related to the brilliant tip above, don’t rehash the geology, geography, or donkey trails at the Grand Canyon.  Half the population of the Free World has beaten you to it.  Write about what happened when grandpa leaned over the railing for that chipmunk photo…

5.                  Select your target audience. Ask, “Who’s my main audience?  How do I want them to react to this piece?  What experience or expertise can I offer that will connect with my readers?”  Direct your writing toward a specific target rather than the entire world.

6.                  If you can’t or won’t target a specific audience for your next riotous romp, do what political pollsters do: shoot the stuffin’ out of everyone.  You’re bound to hit something.  (If you’re lucky, you might put a campaign commercial out of our misery.)

7.                  Write what you know or have experienced first-hand. If you’re a childless senior, writing trail tips for parents of toddlers may not be your best bet.  If you’ve never ventured south of the Mason-Dixon line, you may want to forego that piece on the best B&B in Cajun country or the tastiest hush puppies in Atlanta.

8.                  Know your potential publisher. Study their product.  What kind of tone, style, and topics find their way into print?  Make sure you pitch the right article to the right publisher.  Trotting out Hamlet and Ophelia for a droll stroll through Grit and Grunge magazine may not be a great idea.

9.                  Submission guidelines are road maps.  Follow them to the letter. If a 700 word maximum, double-spaced, sent in the body of an email is specified, DO NOT submit a 5,000 word, single-spaced magnum opus as an attachment and stalk off in a blue funk when it’s rejected.

10.              Finish well. When wrapping up your latest masterpiece, don’t just stop.  This leaves readers with concussions.  They feel like they’ve been dropped on their heads.  Close any loops and swoop onto the tarmac with a smooth landing, not one that requires a crash truck.

When it comes to travel writing, tired tedium is worse than crossing the English Channel without your Dramamine.  So ride that funny bone until it laughs out loud. Trust me, it’s a lot more fun than firing yourself.

A Little Lowder * Twitter * Facebook


Up next:

A five-part mini-series: Write Away…