Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Bucket Full of Silver and Gold Coins

What if you possessed a bucket full of real gold and silver coins? Some of your coins are rare. All of them are valuable. Would you convert them to cash you could spend? Would you buy a new muscle car...diamond rings or tennis bracelets...designer shoes...beautiful clothes? Would you tithe your money?
What if you didn’t have to pay income tax on your bucket of money? Impossible, you say.

But it’s possible in my dream world. In the day of The Dream Bucket, which was 1909, income tax in the United States didn’t exist.  According to “Taxation History of the United States” in Wikipedia, the United States imposed income taxes briefly during the Civil War and again in the 1890’s. The federal government began collecting income tax on a permanent basis in 1913.
I enjoy reading about the early twentieth century because of its simplicity. While I sit in an airport and type on my laptop as I research a subject on my cellphone, I can dream of a time when life was simple. The air conditioning feels good, and I like eating nuts from a little package.

A family in The Dream Bucket had a tax-free bucket of money when the coins were worth their weight in gold and silver. They saved it and planned to take a trip on a train. I won’t spoil the story by telling you what happened to the bucket.

Back to you—what would you do if you saved a pile of money? You would pay your taxes.

I did.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

#Freebie--The Dream Bucket

One Day Only

THE DREAM BUCKET will be free as a Kindle book on Amazon.

Date of #Freebie: April 28, 2017.

Monday, April 10, 2017

What I Didn’t Eat—Food Left on the Table

One more time I’m trying to change my lifestyle. I realized last week that I’m running out of opportunities.

One method to reduce food consumption is to take a picture of all the food—plated or unplated—you eat in a day’s time. Near the end of the day you can calculate your food values, or maybe you can realize when you’ve eaten enough.

But I don’t want to....

My doctor strongly suggested I cut back on the consumption of carbohydrates. Another method to reduce my intake of food blossomed out of that suggestion.

I’m photographing what I don’t eat.

For example, in a restaurant I’m routinely served rice, potatoes, crackers, and bread I don’t need. I’ve decided to photograph what I don’t eat. Yesterday, Sunday, I ate lunch in a group of four. Two of us decided to leave off the bread. Here’s the picture.

Today my sweetheart parked his car 2000 steps away from the restaurant where we wanted to go for lunch. We walked, and when we arrived we had salads. The server brought me three packages of crackers. Here’s a picture.

I’ve tried to hide any brand identification because I don’t want to cast an aspersion on these lovely crackers—some of my favorites.

Calculating on my phone, I realized that if I walked 10,000 steps more than my accustomed 4,000 per day and omitted 300 calories of carbohydrates each day, I can achieve my ideal weight within one year.

I’d love for you to send comments here or to post on Facebook what you didn’t eat.


Mary Lou Cheatham and Sarah Walker Gorrell are the authors of Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Lost Collard Crop

What could be healthier than growing your own collards in the back yard?

Collard greens benefit the health of those who eat them. They’re loaded with vitamins and minerals. Constantly we hear that we should eat food grown close to home.

In the past years, I’ve grown wonderful collards in my yard—plenty of them.
 This year I planted collard greens in only two clay pots on the little two-feet-high brick wall on the edge of the patio.
  We’ve been watering them, and they’ve grown beautifully.

They had been free of any of the critters that like to feast on greens.  After I went for a three-day trip out of town though, the collards took on the appearance of blue-green Swiss cheese. Some worms or something seemed to realize the collards weren’t being observed, and they moved in destroying the crop.  

It would be interesting to know what other people do to keep worms and bugs from eating the collards before the humans have an opportunity.


(Mary Lou Cheatham and Sarah Walker Gorrell are the authors of  Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek.)

Monday, April 03, 2017

Writer’s Block

Sunday afternoon, Matt, John’s dear friend... also my friend, came by for a chat and a cup of coffee. He asked me how my writing was going. I told him I have a wonderful book in my head, but lately I haven’t had time to put it on paper.

Then I trailed into a long explanation of how I’d been busy working on income tax, traveling, re-organizing my closet, blogging etc.

“I hope you get over your writer’s block soon.” Matt looked at me knowingly. “And I hope I start playing the piano again.”

“You play all the time at church and at your gigs,” I said.

“I am talking about playing for ME. And practicing too.”


“Mary, give yourself an hour of each day to work on the thing you love. Write your book.”
Writer’s block can be insidious.  

Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek Trailer

Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek

A Snippet from Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek

Jeremy, a boy full of curiosity about the world, seems strange to some of his schoolmates. He has gone with his class to the library, and he’s hungry for the knowledge waiting for him between the covers of a book he checked out.

We lined up and started walking back to the classroom. I read as I stumbled along. The book riveted my imagination so much that I bumped into the girl in front of me.

“Stop it, you silly bookworm.” She turned around and slapped the book out of my hands.

“I’m sorry.” I was also mad, but I didn’t tell her.

“Serves you right to drop your stupid book.” She reached toward her spine. “That hurt.”

Math class followed library time. Back in my desk, I hid the library book—now open to an interesting picture—under my notebook. Glancing at it, I yearned to study what I wanted to learn about. Visions of soldiers mounted on horseback charging off to battle occupied my thoughts. Maybe Walthere’s ancestors rode along the ancient Silk Road. Men carried black tents. Women with babies tied to them held their small children’s hands. I wondered if it happened that way. It was so long ago. Who knew the truth?

“What did you get for problem number seven?” Mrs. Tetley must have called on me. “Jeremy, pay attention. Did you do your homework?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

My classmates snickered.

“How can you check it if you don’t pay attention? Tomorrow we’ll have to start exchanging papers because of this.”

Recess came. Breaking the rule against taking books onto the playground, I sneaked the library book under my shirt. I couldn’t wait to start reading. Hoping to avoid a discussion with the teacher, I slid out the door.

“Jeremy,” Mrs. Tetley, sitting at her desk and looking over her spectacles, called.

I turned back into the room. Maybe we could get this over with quickly. “Yes, ma’am.”

“How is your mother?” Teacher looked all dewy-eyed.

“She’s doing very well, ma’am.” I forced a smile so big it made my face feel tight.

“Really?” She raised an eyebrow. “I’m glad she’s better. I thought—”

“It’s almost like she was never sick.” I squirmed so she wouldn’t see my book. I didn’t want to waste a precious minute of recess. I valued my time, yet other people used my share of it.

One day when I’d become a man, I planned to find a way I could decide how I used my time. At school, the teachers took all of it. At home I had no spare time in the afternoon. At night I couldn’t sleep for the spooky things that went on in the yard.

“Son, you know if you need to be excused, it’s all right to ask.”

“I know.”

“Go on.” She stood and started writing assignments on the chalkboard.

“Thank you.” I stepped lively to the door.

By that time, I did have to go to the outhouse. Whew—another chunk of recess wasted.

Near the willow tree where Trudy and I planned to meet, I opened the book to look for a section I wanted to share with her. In the blinding sun, I squinted to read. My foot tripped on a rock.

The people who left India and became the Romani started emigrating before 1000 A D. I wondered whether some of them really did go with Abraham to Egypt. My Sunday School teacher taught us that Abraham lived about 2000 years before Christ. Could the beginning of the Romanies go back to such an early time?

By studying languages, historians determined the migration began before 400 A D. I found the book a little hard to read, but it seemed to say the people left in several little dribbles. It would be fun to tell Walthere something about his ancestors he didn’t know. Some of them left because of lost wars in the land, but these tortured persons didn’t need a war to send them away.

My reading was interrupted.

Meaty hands jerked the book from my fingers, ripped it along the spine into two pieces, each flying a different direction.

“You push my brother?”

With caution, I raised my eyes...I knew it. Those cotton-picking Felty boys showed up at school.

Why they ever came to school I didn’t know.

Junior Felty glared down at me. “I don’t take to no Gypsy lover pushing Little Joe.”

“I didn’t mean to.” I spoke in a low voice, with the hope not to start something.

“Watch where you’re going.” Junior pushed my shoulder. “I’ll show you how it feels to push somebody.”

“I’m sorry.” I lied.

My eyes caught Trudy running first to my left to pick up the piece of the book. A few seconds later, she dashed to the right and grabbed the other piece.

“And you can tell your Gypsy flunky he’s lucky my pa ain’t had him put in jail for shooting at under-aged boys.” Junior lunged at me.

Oh, so he called himself an under-aged boy. How could he brag about his pa sending anybody to jail when that was where Red Felty seemed to have taken up residence? In a few days he’d go to court for trying to kill my pa. I’d have bet anything old Red was going to Parchman.

For a time that seemed to have no end, I stood my ground, fists clinched but not moving. Then Trudy and Will, along with a row of boys who were my friends lined up beside me. One of the boys in the line called out, “Your ma’s a whore, and your pa’s a drunk jailbird.”

I felt sorry for the Felty brothers. I didn’t feel sorry enough to take up for them. No, sirree.

“Who wants to fight?” Will asked.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Djelem Djelem, Song of a People without a Nation--Romani

Go to YouTube for the Barcelona Gipsy Klezmer Orchestra performance. Click on the above link.

After experiencing firsthand the incarceration of Roma during the Porajmos (the Romani Holocaust of World War II), [Žarko] Jovanović later composed the lyrics of "Gelem, Gelem" and set them to a traditional melody in 1949. The song was first adopted by delegates of the first World Romani Congress held in 1971.” Quoted from Wikipedia

The lyrics of Djelem Djelem:

Gelem, gelem, lungone dromensa
Maladilem bakhtale Romensa
A Romale, katar tumen aven,
E tsarensa bakhtale dromensa?
A Romale, A Chavale
Sas vi man yekh bari familiya,
Mundardyas la e Kali Legiya
Aven mansa sa lumnyake Roma,
Kai putardile e Romane droma
Ake vriama, usti Rom akana,
Amen khutasa misto kai kerasa
A Romale, A Chavale
Puter Devla le parne vudara
Te shai dikhav kai si me manusha
Pale ka zhav lungone dromendar
Thai ka phirav bakhtale Romensa
A Romalen, A chavalen
Opre Rroma, si bakht akana
Aven mansa sa lumnyake Roma
O kalo mui thai e kale yakha
Kamav len sar e kale drakha
A Romalen, A chavalen.
I went, I went on long roads
I met happy Roma
O Roma, where do you come from,
With tents happy on the road?
O Roma, O Romani youths!
I once had a great family,
The Black Legion murdered them
Come with me, Roma from all the world
For the Roma, roads have opened
Now is the time, rise up Roma now,
We will rise high if we act
O Roma, O Romani youths!
Open, God, White doors
So I can see where are my people.
Come back to tour the roads
And walk with happy Roma
O Roma, O Romani youths!
Up, Romani people! Now is the time
Come with me, Roma from all the world
Dark face and dark eyes,
I want them like dark grapes
O Roma, O Romani youths!
(from Wikipedia)

(Mary Lou Cheatham, along with Sarah Walker Gorrell, authored a novel depicting life of the Romanies in Mississippi in the early 1900's:  Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek.)


Tuesday, March 28, 2017


I googled Books about Gypsies, Gypsies in Romance, and Novels about Gypsies.  The results: I didn’t find a single reference to our book, Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek. But...I found quite a few books, some looked good, others not too.
We didn’t place the word Gypsy in our title. We chose Travelers instead because Gypsy has an unpleasant connotation for many people, especially the Romani people. We wanted to be kind, and we feel that we wrote a book that is kind, objective, and at the same time humorous.
Readers are not finding our book as often as we’d hoped. Therefore, this blog entry is to tell you part of what our novel is about: Gypsies. We wrote about some wonderful people who are invisible in the United States. We told about what their lives were like a century ago; in many ways, as their lives were the same a millennium ago; and their lives, which have not changed much over the last one hundred years.

Despite their intelligence, gentle ways, and loyalty to their own people, these beautiful ones go unnoticed. Those who are Gypsies seldom call attention to themselves. Did you know a recent President of the United States descended from the Romani people? Did you know that more than a few famous entertainers have come from the Gypsy heritage?
People’s attitudes toward Gypsies have been unkind. According to a Gypsy is, a member of a nomadic, Caucasoid people of generally swarthy complexion, who migrated originally from India, settling in various parts of Asia, Europe, and, most recently, North America.”

Or a Gypsy could be “a person held to resemble a gypsy, especially in physical characteristics or in a traditionally ascribed freedom or inclination to move from place to place.”

Scrolling down the definitions of we find that a Gypsy may be “an independent, usually nonunion trucker, hauler, operator, etc.” or “a chorus dancer, especially in the Broadway theater.”
When we decided to tell our story about the Gypsies, which we call Romanies or Travelers, we learned about the beautiful humanity of these people. We haven’t glorified them. We’ve merely tried to present a true-to-life picture. Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek is full of brilliant characters, stooges, noble people, and criminals. Good and evil exist universally.

(Mary Lou Cheatham and Sarah Walker Gorrell have co-authored Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek, a book of fiction. Much of the novel reflects stories told to them by their parents and grandparents.)

Monday, March 27, 2017


As I’ve walked on the treadmill, I've listened to the text-to-speech version of The Transformational Consumer by Tara-Nicholle Nelson. Although the book is nonfiction, I have enjoyed it as much as a novel.

It is designed to help men and women working in businesses obtain more customers.  The subtitle says it all: “Fuel a love affair with your customers by helping them get healthier, wealthier, and wiser.”
I suppose one reason I’ve gained so much from this book is that it hits a problem my friend, Sarah Walker Gorrell, and I are facing. It hits the problem right in the bull’s eye.

As co-authors of a novel, Sarah and I believe we have something to give people. I have needed the advice and teaching Ms. Nelson provides. She’s talking about companies; on an informal level, Sarah and I are a kind of company. We have written a novel that is based on our love for our readers and all those who will be our future readers. We wrote it to entertain, but also to love those who open the pages and become acquainted with the characters presented therein. We want our readers to go along with us as we show how our characters lived in their situations.
(We hope the words we have placed in the Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek will bring health, wealth, and wisdom. We want to give renewed hope and tolerance of the downtrodden...wisdom. Although making money isn’t the main theme, we show how our characters earn money in unlikely ways—sometimes amusing, sometimes whacky—and how they squander or manage money...wealth.  We show wisely functional families and dysfunctional families, we present caretakers, an abusive parent, the results of unfortunate love I don’t want to get too much into this discussion. Instead, I just want you to read the book and think about it.)

One principal I have grasped from Tara-Nicholle’s writing is the importance of working with others. In any endeavor, promoting a novel included, no man is an island. Yes, we do want to promote this book. We didn’t write it just to have it sit on the shelf. We want to share the joys and struggles found here.
Tara-Nicholle, who is Black, tells of growing up in a Black Baptist Church. Every church service was interactive—not with a mere occasional Amen but in active participation by the congregation.  On p. 130, she makes me laugh and teaches something important.

It reminds me of some of my experiences. In the early 1970’s the Black students gave up their school and joined us.  As a high school English teacher in a large public school in Mississippi, I was shocked at what happened when I put away the literature book one day and pulled out the grammar textbook. “We like grammar,” the Black eleventh graders told me.  
(Do you remember the grammar exercises in the English books?)

In previous years,  I’d always discussed the grammar rules for the day. Then we’d gone over some of the drills. It had been my habit to call on students one sentence at a time.
Suddenly everything was different. When I started explaining the rules, the whole class talked with me. It was as though a bright light had been turned on. Then when we hit the exercises, they all chimed in. It was an electric moment.

I said something to them about being orderly. At the end of the lesson, although I'd enjoyed the class, I felt the need to correct our behavior.  I thought they were rebelling somehow.

“No, Mrs. Cheatham. We love this. We’re helping you.”

Now, Sarah and I need you to help us that same way. We need help from all of you who have read Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek. Please go to Amazon or  Goodreads and give us a few words to show us you care about what happens to us as writers.  Please give us some good word-of-mouth participation so others will find our novel and read it.

Another Step from Fat to Fit

Fighting the good fight, running the good race...

This afternoon, my sweet husband and I bought bathing suits. The suit I wore last year was too tight three years ago. Looking in a full-length mirror at myself in a bathing suit challenges me. I’m trying not to let it defeat me.

At the new YMCA in Shreveport, we can go to water aerobics. I loved the water aerobics classes at Louisiana Tech in Ruston, and I’ve missed them since I moved away.  After leaving that class and the cardiac rehab program at North Louisiana Medical Center, I’ve gradually increased my girth. My sweetheart has been kind.

It would help to hear from my friends who are going through these struggles.  I believe most of you are doing a better job traveling along the road toward fitness then I am.  Drop me a note on Facebook Messenger.


(Mary Lou Cheatham worked with Sarah Walker Gorrell to write  Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek.)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Living in the Land of the Fat

In  "These Are the Fattest Cities in America"  Joanna Fantozzi calls attention to the obesity epidemic. What she means by the fattest cities is unclear. I assume she is talking about the percentage of people who are fat.

I am walking down the sidewalk of a city in the top five listed as the fattest cities. I am fat. In my opinion, I could afford to lose forty pound (I’m being kind to myself.) At 73 I feel healthy—young and vibrant. People tell me I look young, but I think my adipose tissue deceives their eyes.

Grandma is on my mind. She always ate well and often walked long distances. She ate a simple high-fiber diet mostly consisting of vegetables. She was never overweight.  Despite her simple life, she died when she was 74.  

I’m trying to improve. Today I have walked 12, 000 steps. As I walk the loop my husband and I have mapped out for ourselves, I smell hamburgers and French fry grease from two fast food restaurants. Around the corner, I see people flocking into a fried fish restaurant. The smell of frying fish drifts through the neighborhood.

I don’t like being fat, and I’m sad that the beautiful city I live in is one of the fattest cities in the United States. I’m trying to change—trying to lose weight—and yet I know being overweight is only one of the unhealthy habits that hurt people.

Back at home I grill tilapia.

(Mary Lou Cheatham and Sarah Walker Gorrell are the authors of   Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek.)

Taking Care of Mama

Jeremy stayed with Mathilda, his mother, while his father, Caleb Smitherlin, went to town to buy groceries and take handcrafted leather goods to the Mercantile. Someone needed to be with Mama all the time. Her illness had consumed her strength. Jeremy tried to do his best taking care of Mama, but the challenge of the job surpassed his capabilities.

Jeremy, a young teen, tells about his efforts to take care of Mathilda:

I stayed all day with Mama. Papa made me do it. He even went to town and left me there, nobody but the two of us.

Mama wasn’t good that day. Every time I went into their bedroom, she was wailing and crying. The spit pan on her table had globs of blood in it. The smell—oh how I hated it, but she was my mama. I loved her.

I found something else for her to spit in and took the other one to rinse it out.

“Go away, Spike.” I cleaned the blood out with an old rag and tossed the mess into the trash-burning barrel. Back at the well, I rinsed out the pan.

As fast as I could, I went back to Mama’s room. I brushed her stringy, dishwater blonde hair back with my hand. What thin hair she had was tangled in caked blood. Pale and splotched, she reached for me with her limp hands.

In her weak, whiny voice, Mama cried out to me, “Why, Jeremy? Why is God letting this happen to me? Why do I hurt so much? Help me, son, please help me! Oh, God.”

I was only a kid. I didn’t know what to do. I got cold washrags and wiped her face and pushed her hair back. It didn’t help. Nothing helped. Mama was dying and there wasn’t nothing I could do to stop it.

She choked on clots of blood as she spat them from her throat.

I couldn’t keep up with the mess.


Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek by Mary Lou Cheatham and Sarah Walker Gorrell begins with Jeremy’s efforts as a nurse. He considered himself too young and inexperienced to do the job. Besides, he thought his mother needed a woman to help her with chores that embarrassed him.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Children as Nurses

At times in life, a child may need to nurse his parent. Maybe the child might feel stressed, but so many times the child can come through the difficulties and rise to the occasion. Most of the stories I hear about modern children who have to take on this responsibility are about situations where the child has to take control of an emergency with the help of responders reached by calling 9-1-1.
Year after year—my dad used to say it happened seven years in a row but I don’t know—my mother had pneumonia. Dad stayed with her as much as he could, but he needed help. Even before I reached the age of double digits, I missed school so I could nurse my mom. I was the youngest, the only girl left at home. Mother needed a girl to help her. Sometimes I missed school as much as two weeks at a time. My teachers, who were sweet to me, seemed to understand. They often excused me from the work I missed.
Dad placed a cot in the dining room, where she could be warm. From that location, she supervised my cooking activities when she had lucid moments. I remember how we propped the foot of Mother’s cot up in what I learned later in nursing school was a position known as reverse keep her from fainting. We turned her on her side so she could cough effectively.
The antibiotics she took made her hallucinate, and the strong medication nauseated her.  We made a mixture of chicken broth with cornmeal cooked in it. We wrapped her in a quilt and dangled her feet over the side of the bed. One spoonful at a time, we fed her.  
 Daddy went to town and returned with paper bags of supplies. Among these was a little bottle of bootlegged white lightening. “If you’ll take this, Myrtle, it will help your cough, and you’ll get better.”
Mother, who was a teetotaler, protested, but she was too weak to offer effective resistance. We spooned the liquid into her every time she had a coughing fit.  I wasn’t sure whether the medications or the whiskey cured her. I never felt self-pity. Instead, I enjoyed the break from school. My mother was acting so goofy she made me laugh.
I had a special mama, who cheerfully nursed her children through whatever happened. I was not a special kid. I merely did what families had to do before the days of home health care. Every winter, I was glad my mother didn’t die from pneumonia.
And then there were times when my wonderful daughter helped take care of her parents, but that's another story....
(Mary Cooke, whose pen name is Mary Lou Cheatham, has co-authored with Sarah Walker Gorrell a poignant novel, Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek, about a young boy trying to take care of his mother, who suffers with cancer.)

Friday, March 24, 2017

When a loved one needs constant care...

Aunt Haley and Uncle Carl moved often.  Except for the tools in his woodworking shop, along with the whatnots he made, and except for her wheelchair and crutches, they didn’t have many material things.  They rented little houses near Taylorsville, in north Laurel, and close to Ellisville—all within a small loop in south Mississippi.  Uncle Carl was a cabinet maker. My maternal grandmother’s sister, Aunt Haley, suffered. They had no children.

Her rheumatoid arthritis resisted all the treatments the doctors tried.  I can remember when she had gold shots. Sterile saline injections would have helped just as much.  Her neck wouldn’t allow her to move her head, which was stuck turned to the side. When I was a little girl, she’d come and spend a few weeks with us in the summer. Back then, she could walk a few steps.  I remember her corduroy house slippers had holes cut out to accommodate. 

Despite her suffering, Aunt Haley had a witty sense of humor.

When I was a teenager, my aunt and uncle moved to the outskirts of the little Jones County town of Ellisville. Uncle Carl was working somewhere. I think he was building kitchen cabinets.  That summer for two months, my mother drove the twenty-five-mile trip from Taylorsville to Ellisville almost every weekday. Carl left her at home alone. He had to go to work. Back in the 1950’s she didn’t have home health care. I went with my mother most days and helped with her care. Sometimes I shelled beans or peas in the yard. The closest neighbor was a cute boy a year older than I was.

I still have olfactory memories of her. Gangrene developed in her twisted toes. It smelled so bad that the stench pricked our nostrils before we stepped out of our cars.  We didn’t have air conditioning in our car, and in her house she stayed cool with open windows and a large electric fan.  In all my life, I’ve never smelled anything worse than Aunt Haley’s gangrenous infection.

At first her toes were black. Days passed, and the stinky greenish-purplish-blackness climbed up her legs. She went to the doctor, who said he would amputate when the time was right.  My mother bathed her, helped her with all her hygiene needs, cooked lunch, fed Aunt Haley, changed her bed, cleaned her house. My mother did all this work cheerfully. Aunt Haley was Grandma’s youngest sister, and Mother never recovered from the grief of losing Grandma.

Eventually Haley had a bilateral AKA, above-the knees amputation. The wounds didn’t heal, and the surgeon re-operated. After the second operation, Aunt Haley’s legs were so short she couldn’t sit up.

The experience of helping care for Aunt Haley affected the rest of my life. I knew someday I’d do something in health care. Finally, when I was forty, I attended Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, LA, and became a registered nurse.  Later Robert (Bobby) Cheatham, my first husband, now deceased, spent five years paralyzed, but his illness is another story.

(Mary Cooke, whose pen name is Mary Lou Cheatham has co-authored with Sarah Walker Gorrell a poignant novel, Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek, about a young boy trying to take care of his mother, who suffers with cancer.)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

It's a Freebie!!!

Today is the last day of our give-away splurge. I took this note about it from Sarah's Front Porch.

Ever so often.....we (Mary Cooke and I) get in a "giving" mood.

Mary - who writes as Mary Lou Cheatham called and asked me....."how do you feel about giving something away?" She caught me on a day when I was in a Benevolent Mood! I asked, "what do you have in mind?"  And she said....."let's create some interest in our book.....let's give away some Kindle downloads of Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek!"

"We really need to get people to write reviews," said Mary Lou "and .....well.....they have to read it first!"

So, it was said and so it was decided.....

We'd do a giveaway.....

People like to get "something for nothing"  ....and when that "something" is a good book,,,,,like Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay brings a smile to so many faces.

So, from today through Thursday (3/20 - 3/23) to your Kindle. Did you know you can also download a FREE Kindle app to your laptop ....or your iPad.

Download Free Book to your Kindle.....or the App on your Laptop or iPad.

We ask that you leave a review, on Amazon, after reading our book.
You don't have to write much....just "I liked it"...."I didn't like it"  ....or more if you have more to say.

We are judged by the NUMBER of please, please, please....after you've read it....write something!!


I meant to read a good book, but I turned on the news. I’m too upset to read.

The above statement was in a newsfeed I read recently. I understand. Whether you are using your left wing or your right wing, you may feel grounded.  I totally understand. I’m upset too.

In the meantime, authors are publishing books you may like to read at a bargain...or maybe they are letting you download them without charge.  Why not stock up on some of those great Kindle e-books now?  You could find you enjoy the distraction more than you thought you would.

My co-author, Sarah Walker Gorrell, and I have been giving away our new book, Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek. All we ask in return is an honest review. Amazon allows some authors to give away certain books a few days per year. Today, March 23, 2017, is the last day of our current freebie campaign.

We don’t want you to miss it. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can read it on your computer or your cell phone. Go ahead and download it.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


BLOG TOWARD HEALTH by Mary Cooke.  Using the pen-name, Mary Lou Cheatham,  co-authored  Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek with Sarah Walker Gorrell.

Chinese food—how I love it!  I confess that throughout my life I’ve eaten heavily battered and fried food, which I considered fine Chinese cuisine. Wrong.
My daughter has decided I should learn to use chopsticks.  Lately she’s cooked irresistible meals of Asian-flavored vegetables with fish and insisted we use chopsticks. I’ve lived a long and happy life without acquiring the skills of using chopsticks. I just poke my food with a fork and stuff my mouth. Imagine eating at her house. She serves meals with no silverware on the table.

Now in my seventies I’m learning to eat with two sticks held by arthritic hands. I’m overweight. I've discovered the need to slow down, enjoy conversation over dinner, and eat at a move civilized speed. At least, I need to do so when I’m eating Asian dishes. Obviously, I’m consuming fewer calories and eating more nutritious food.
Practicing this ancient art, which is new to me, I’m learning to use chopsticks to eat stir-fried food. We stir fry chicken with a variety of our favorite vegetables often. We season our stir fry with Chinese Five Spice and a tiny bit of soy sauce, low-sodium formula. I like to add copious amounts of ginger. I'm sloppy with the chopsticks, but my technique is improving.
Mastering the use of chopsticks is one way we are loving our healthy habits without going on a punitive diet.

Through March 23, 2017, my newest novel, which I co-authored with Sarah Walker Gorrell, is free as a Kindle e-book.  Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek shows what happens when Travelers (Gypsies) moved near south Mississippi pioneering families in the early twentieth century. Please download a copy and give us a review on Amazon. It doesn’t have to be long, although we like long. Sarah and I will be happy with “I liked it because....”

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ivor, an Ancient Hero

Travelers in Painted Wagons--free as a Kindle e-book through March 23, 2017. Available for free as an Audible book as long as supplies last. (Contact Mary Cooke at Facebook Messenger for details.)

No strings attached, but we crave a review from you.

 Link to Free Kindle Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek
Within the pages of Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek are mysterious tales about Gypsies. Here's the beginning of one of the stories. ("Ancient" as used in the title of this blog refers to the nineteenth century, and it's an exaggeration here.)

Wallachia, 1844


In the Balkan province of Wallachia, a young man named Ivor served in the mansion of an affluent master. The overseer of the serving staff couldn’t find enough chores for the multitude of slaves assigned to the household.

By the great room of the master, Ivor stood in the hall with the other servants in a row. Looking around without moving his head enough to attract attention, he saw the men’s eyes turned toward Ginger, the most beautiful slave in the master’s harem. Every feature of her face related to the others in perfect proportions.

Sullen in a way men found alluring, she played her violin. Never making eye contact with the royalty adoring her music, she danced around in a trance. Her dresses were elegant, but she owned no shoes.

“You should be proud,” a nearby slave whispered to him.

Ivor felt regret instead of pride, remorse instead of joy, compassion for his mother, who brought him forth into the world from her womb in 1830.

Fourteen years passed. He seldom had a chance to speak to his mother, even though they lived inside the same mansion. Since he was intelligent and handsome, he received what he needed. From efficient staff members, he received essential affection and instruction about the ways of aristocracy in his master’s household. Because his mother displayed magnificent musicianship, he received violin lessons, with the hope that he inherited her talent.

Ivor and Ginger passed in the corridors and spent stolen moments. How he wished they could escape.

“Who is my father?” Ivor deserved an answer. He hoped she’d answer him.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Easy and Delicious Collard Greens

1.       Collards! Hardly any vegetable is more nutritious than collard greens, the Cinderella of vegetables.  And they are delicious when prepared well.

2.       Buy two bunches of fresh collards at the grocery story. These are usually prewashed.

3.       Select a big deep pot. A four-quart stainless steel sauce pan would be perfect. Chop one large onion and sauté it in two teaspoons coconut oil and one teaspoon olive oil. Turn off the heat and let the onion rest while you prepare the collards.

4.       On a cutting board, use a large sharp knife to remove the thick stalky collard stems. With the point of the knife trace along either side of each stem. Stack the leaves on the board.

5.       Roll two or three leaves like a cigar and hack down the middle of each roll while you hole the roll tight. With the knife cut the greens into chiffonades (slivers).  As you work, place the chopped greens into a colander.

6.       Wash the greens and dump them into the cooking pan, which should be full. If you have more collards than space in the pan, don’t worry. They will cook down and you can add the others.  

7.       Don’t add water at this stage. Cover the collard greens and cook them at high heat for five minutes. Check them every minute, stir, and return the lid to its position.

8.       Chop or crumble a pound of sausage and add it to the mixture. (Turkey is the healthy choice.) Cook at high heat five more minutes.

9.       Meanwhile peel and slice three large carrots, which will provide natural sweetness, interesting color, and a variation in texture. Add the carrots.

10.   Add a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Or you may want to shake in some Cajun seasoning. Sprinkle some garlic powder in there too. Pour an entire can of tomatoes with green chilies into the mix.

11.   If you wish, you may include some other vegetables and fruits, such as spinach, finely chopped cabbage, a chopped apple, some large chunks of potatoes, or a few raisins.

12.   Add one half cup water, lower the heat, and simmer until tender. Don’t cook them too long—thirty minutes at the most. Collards are much tastier if they are not mushy.

13.   Serve with a pan of cornbread and some vinegar of hot pepper sauce if you like. If you live in Georgia or you are from there, serve pinto beans as a side dish. If you are from Mississippi, serve field peas or black-eyed peas instead. Baked sweet potatoes go well with collards.


A good book to read while your collards are cooking is Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek by Mary Lou Cheatham and Sarah Walker Gorrell. It’s free through March 23, 2017, as a Kindle e-book. Download the book here: Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek
And leave us a review. Okay, Cher?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Tools to Help You Win

John and I go to the YMCA several times a week.  We’ve noticed earphones in most exercisers’ ears, and we decided to try it. John grew tired of listening to the news. He does enough of that at home, and he’d like to take a break from it.

I’ve been listening to my Kindle Fire. Today I walked thirty minutes on the treadmill while I listened to a robotic reading of a book.  (By the way, the robotic readings have changed. They’re much better than they used to be.) The thirty minutes flew by, and I can’t wait to get back to my talking book.

We have a plan to improve our health by slimming our bodies with sensible exercise.

Did you know that many Kindle books allow test-to-speech? For example, Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek allows you to click a little icon on the bottom right-hand corner of your Kindle Fire so you can listen to the text through the earphones. This week, Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek is free as a Kindle book.

Also, many books have recordings on Audible. Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek is free with a trial membership. You can listen to an audible book on your I-pad or on your phone. Amazing.

So, what’s this all about? Sarah and I are offering you our novel at a bargain to help you exercise. Sarah and her guy are exercising almost every day, and so our John and I. Let’s get healthier.