Around 11 PM last night, Birch was angry about this guy:

He treed him, and patrolled the perimeter for a while to make sure there were no more incursions.

Around 12:30 I heard my wife shouting for help: Birch and the Raccoon were engaged in combat to the death in the backyard. It was no small feat to get him away - finally got a hand on his tail and his collar while they went at it, tooth and fangs flashing, hideous hissing and deadly-serious kill-mode sounds.

Off to the vet this morning, just to be sure he was okay. No limping, no bites we didn’t catch, and they gave him his distemper and rabies shots early. He wasn’t crazy about going in to the office - balked, planted, had to be picked up - but once outside he was in sharp form, tail up, ready for another day.

The vet tech said her dog ignores everything but raccoons. Gentle Golden, loves everyone, but turns into a wild beast when a raccoon comes along. It’s disheartening if you ignore the whole “Animal” portion of your little friend, I suppose, but they can turn fast if the situation requires it. And one of those masked bastards wandering into your domain is definitely The Situation.

Years ago before a trip to Europe - back in the days when we got on a plane and went somewhere and saw new things and boarded magnificent vessels and climbed to the top when the ship pulled out, so you could see the glories of Venice slide past, or edge your way through a narrow estuary before entering a sea of windmills that rose from the water like magic wands, conjuring sparks from the breath of the gods - I put a hundred dollars on a special Visa debit card.

I called it “TRAVEL,” because I am a professional writer who has a way with these things.

The idea was to have an emergency card in case everything else was stolen. Silly, but I’m like that. A few years ago I realized that this emergency measure was probably unnecessary, and bled it down on a dinner somewhere. No idea what we had, but it felt . . . like it was a free meal! That hundo had been factored into things long ago. No reason to let it sit there.

The balance on the card was $4.88.

For a long time.

Ding! Wristwatch buzzes. Bank Alert: Your account has dropped to zero

Uh hold on STROKE AND HEART ATTACK oh, it’s that account. Well, I can go online and cancel it. Open up the website, use the password manager, enter my credentials -


What do you assume at this moment? Right? Absolutely everything is GONE. All of your money. GONE. Somehow. What I didn’t figure out was that the pw manager on my main computer accessed an older version of my pw database. It’s complicated and you can guar-an-fargin’-tee I’ve rectified this, but eventually I changed my password, got back in, and everything was there.

(Now, as I write this, I have a sudden urge to see if everything is indeed still there)

(Be right back)


Anyway. There was no reason for the TRAVEL account to go to zero, but hey, FEES, you know. FEES. It costs money for them to keep track of my money. There’s some guy whose job consists of tracking these small orphan accounts. I see him as a harried balding guy, maybe Bob Balaban, patiently explaining (at first, anyway, as the conversation progresses he becomes exponentially irritated with your failure to understand what is involved here) why the fees are necessary, and how your money is actually a liability, and it’s your fault for burdening the bank with this responsibility in the first place.









I have no idea why I went to Marked Tree, Alabama, except perhaps because of the name. Probably a matchbook. I’m looking at the first one I clipped long ago, and it’s not promising.

I’d say it was a bank once, right?

Perhaps I was intrigued by this: the odd street and elevated sidewalk, with a lone building surviving from a once . . . well, bigger main street district.

Someone tried


It’s as if it was ripped out, by angry violence.

Here’s a hint about why I was intrigued: that old glass sign.

The twin stores in one building. Someone was investing in Marked Tree.

Antiques now, of course. The detritus and flotsam of the farms always comes tumbling down to these old storefronts.

Evidence of something, and I’m not sure what.

Modernization! So long ago, but modern then.

Then, boom: something clean, a going concern.

I have a dim memory of that word, NYAL, and I think that was the matchbook that sent me here. You’ll find out some day.

Didn’t expect this, did you?

It’s almost history-proof. Its attempts to fit in made someone design it in a style that belongs in no decade.

That’s . . . different, as we passive-aggressive Minnesotans say.

E. Ritter, 1910.

Let's turn the corner:

Hmm. That sign on the left -

Hmm. That building -

Across the street . . .

Hey now

It’s all Ritter.

I conclude Mr. Ritter was something of a mover and shaker here abouts, don’t you?

Unto this day:

Arnold, 60, is the fourth-generation executive of E. Ritter & Co., the milling and agricultural enterprise begun in 1886 by great-granddad Ernest Herman Ritter, who begat Louis Vernon Ritter and a telephone utility. Ernest Herman Ritter is the documented “petitioner” of the Poinsett County Circuit Court to incorporate Marked Tree in 1897.

Ernest Ritter pursued the first municipal water system. He was also proprietor of the town’s first general store and pioneer of its electric lines.

One of Louis Vernon Ritter’s daughters is Mary Ann Ritter Arnold, the 88-year-old mayor of Marked Tree.

There's something so Dynasty about it, eh?

That'll do. Nothing about the news today. If you wanted news about news, stay tuned; there are other sources, of course. If you thought it was nice to think about other things, I'm with you, and that's why I did it.





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