Friday, April 11, 2014


My theme for A to Z this year is a wildly different, but very exciting, HERE'S TO YOU all month long. 26 posts to be precise. The most difficult part was narrowing down the 26. All of you deserve your own post. What you will find here is a post by the featured blogger, with traveling music chosen by me that complements said post, and two links. One will link back to the original post and the other to the main page. This year's A to Z is all about making new friends!

JJ Botta writes a wonderful blog called The Disconnected Writer. I am fortunate in that I have had the opportunity to meet JJ and his lovely wife in person... several times. Each visit is a joy. JJ is passionate about his family, the environment, this country, and his friends. If you are lucky enough to hear some of his stories, you will fully understand that he is a person who has LIVED. We should all be so lucky to pack as much living into our own lives. JJ is the person I want to be when I grow up!

And now for your traveling music:

Somehow Kids Get Lucky # 1 by JJ Botta


Last night, around 3:00 am, I awoke in a cold sweat. I had been dreaming of an incident from my childhood, and I thought I would share it with my fellow bloggers.

Growing up, I found myself inextricably linked to a number of people in our community. The memories linger to this day. Looking back at my childhood, I am convinced that kids, especially those like me, luck out now and then. I did.

A neighbor owned a large sand pit, which he no longer operated commercially since he developed some medical issues and retired. None of the neighborhood children were allowed near the property, but my friends and I never knew why. On a daily basis, we took some large metal saucers designed for sliding down hills in the snow and used them to ride the sand piles.

On the other side of the pit lived a strange man. We never knew his name. He lived alone with his elderly parents, and as with the sand pit, we were not allowed near him either. Although young, we were aware of his odd personality. The man was huge, with the face of a monster, and never smiled. To this day, I do not know whether he could speak. All we knew is to run whenever he peered at us through his kitchen window.

One summer day, under the guise of going fishing, I accompanied four of my friends to the sand pit for a few rides down the hill. Half the fun was trying to stay in our saucers. Falling out on the way down the sand pile filled a boy’s pants with burrs and caused the other kids to laugh hysterically all afternoon. However, on this day, upon our arrival at the pit, we formulated a plan based on a story we had seen on TV the evening before.

We figured it would be a pretty cool idea to build underground forts in the sand pile to hide from our enemies, usually Indian warriors on the rampage, or Nazi tank battalions trying to capture us. Most of the sand pit was what we called “un-diggable,” because the sand re-filled the hole as fast as we could shovel with our saucers. Grant found a hard packed section that was a little moist, where the rain the night before had mixed the sand with muddy dirt. We found our spot.

Billy and I dug our fort on the left side of the hill. Grant, Richie, and Dave dug on the right. I have only the memory of a ten-year old boy, but the dugouts seemed quite deep to us. They must have been because they hid our bodies from our imaginary foes. Nevertheless, it did not take long for the forts to collapse. Billy and I were fortunate, but the other three not so much. When the structures caved in, the sand from the side of the pit filled their cave like an avalanche, covering the fort and the boys.

Billy and I dug frantically, in vain, in an attempt to free our friends, no longer in sight. It seemed like hours, but I am certain it was less than a minute.

It was at this point I awakened from my dream last night, yet I still vividly remember what occurred. Out of nowhere, the huge, odd, monstrous neighbor who had been peering through his kitchen vantage point appeared on the scene. I remember being tossed aside while he rapidly extricated my friends from their cave fort. They all survived, and probably lost more sleep than I did over the years.

Who knows why kids do these things, and how they manage to escape. I suppose it was traumatic, since I still recollect the fear so many years later. I also remember telling my mother I was fishing, but got skunked.

Did that make your heart rate jump? It did mine. JJ writes the best stories... and they are true! I hope you take a moment and check out his blog. You won't be disappointed!


  1. I know JJ!
    That was a scary experience. That guy couldn't have been all monster if he appeared in time to dig out JJ's friends.

  2. The monster neighbor reminds me of Boo Radley.

    1. That's what I thought too, Tim. A little To Kill a Mockingbird vibe to that story. Or the Sandbox. Well done, JJ.

  3. JJ is an excelent choice. He's one of my favorite bloggers. He knows how to tell a story that holds one's interest for a long time after the story is finished.

  4. Wow. That would've given me bad dreams, too!

  5. Great story. Things certainly could have turned out very tragically for the kids. I remember doing things as a child that could have turned out very badly.

    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  6. I just popped over from Old Kitty's blog. I'm your latest follower.

  7. Yes, a mother has a heart attack reading about things like that. And the guy who everyone tells you to avoid is the guy who saves the day. That's when I would have known, parents don't always tell us the whole story about 'things to avoid'. We played around an old quarry which had No Trespassing signs. This place had quicksand, though, not just piles of sand. Thanks for the info about Botta, I have visited his blog on occasion and will today.

  8. Very cool story! Reading it was like watching a scene in a movie. Sometimes "real life" really does seem like a movie. (And sometimes I'd really like to change the channel.)

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  9. Alex ~ I suspect that the guy was retarded and looked different. And, usually, those folks are the kindest people you will ever meet. They just don't put any brain power into hate and junk like that.

    Tim ~ Yes. I dedicated the Boo Radley scene from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD to JJ after this post:)

    Manzi ~ I agree. I often ponder his writing for a long time after.

    Sherry ~ It is strange how things from our childhood come back in dreams like that.

    Arlee ~ As he says... sometimes kids get lucky.

    Rick ~ Welcome to the blog. Things get crazy here sometimes. I hope you have a seat belt.

    D.G. ~ Parents seem to think that a vague dire warning will do the trick. You'd think they'd know better... after all, they were kids once!

    StMc ~ Yeah, it does feel like something out of a movie. You aren't the only one who wishes for a Life Remote. Ha!

  10. It's really fun to meet fellow bloggers in person. Man what a story. You have to be careful with fort building. Someone lost their life in a snow fort just down the street from me before I moved here. Glad everyone survived this sandy ordeal. :)

  11. Kids think adventure, feeling death is a far off thing. Sigh. Too many horror stories like JJ's I've heard as a counselor. Riveting guest post.

  12. JJ is great, and this is one of my favorite stories! JJ is very passionate about making the world a better place. Robin, I always get a kick out of reading your comments when JJ has a heated political discussion. The two of you probably also talk in person for hours on end!


  13. Yes, sort of Harper Lee. I don't know JJ, but I'll look for his writing now. Thanks.

  14. This tells me that we shouldn't throw away people because they don't look or act like what we think is the norm.

  15. Hi Robin,

    I certainly got absorbed in that story. It also shows that perceptions, misconceptions can be so very wrong. Excellent story. Have a lovely weekend.

    Gary :)

  16. Hi, Robin,

    Yes, JJ is terrific and a very passionate blogger, I always enjoy his posts. Hopefully the next time I visit Florida, we can all get together.

    I've met at least six of my blogger pals over the years, but it's SO NOT ENOUGH! I hope to meet them all!

  17. Thanks for introducing me to JJ. I just came back from visiting his blog. Wow, quite the life indeed. Great recommendation!

  18. Ms. Robin: In words from my father's day, you are the cat's pajamas!

  19. This is so vividly described, I fully understand years of nightmares. I may even have one. Very well relayed, JJ. Thanks for the intro, Robin.

    Happy Friday and weekend.

  20. This sounds terrifying - yet it's very heartwarming too. I've seen many news items where kids and adults have been buried in sand. Many of them weren't lucky enough to have a neighbor rescue them. Thought provoking.

  21. It reminds me, somehow, of Boo Radley saving Jim and Scout, and makes me know one more time, how fine the line is between safety and things much worse.

  22. David ~ Kids just never think of the bad things that can happen.

    Roland ~ I bet you do get a lot of them as a counselor. That would be tough for me... I think.

    Julie ~ Hahahaha. Yes. The conversation does last hours!!! It's always hard to get up and go home.

    debi ~ I hope you enjoy your visit.

    J.L. ~ There were SO MANY take-aways from this story, but that was definitely one of them.

    Gary ~ Yes. There a lack of perception about the danger involved in the fort building, AND a lack of perception about the mysterious neighbor who was "scary" looking.

    Michael ~ I heartily agree. And we all MUST get together when you move back to sunny FLA.

    Elsie ~ :)

    JJ ~ The cat's pajamas???? Okay, well I'll take that.

    Robyn ~ It was a breath-holder, wasn't it?

    Lexa ~ Yes, both. It could have easily been a tragedy.... but sometimes kids get lucky!

    Liza ~ Well said, Miss Liza.

  23. Right, things in our youth, oy! It's amazing we survived. No wonder we don't let our kids roam free anymore. ;)

    LOL at Liza's Boo Radley reference. I loved that story so. :)

    I just visited your friend's blog, and the quicksand, aye!

  24. I forgot to say Happy Weekend to you!

  25. Great story- and great lesson. There was always a good reason to stay out of those places.

  26. Great Story, JJ. Kids do all kinds of things their parents don't know about.

  27. That must have been absolutely terrifying!

  28. Ah yes, we all love JJ. He is such a gem!

  29. JJ is a wonderful writer... I hope to cross paths with him this summer... that would be fun!!

    Great post!



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