16. The Red Tomato Caper

16.  The Red Tomato Caper

What am I doing crawling on my hands and knees in the dirt in the middle of the night?  I was following Daddy, with Mom behind me as we snuck into our neighbors garden sometime after midnight.  I hoped their dog didn’t discover us – he was a big dog and I knew he slept outdoors.

Early in the spring, Daddy and I had visited the Yonans who had the apple orchard just south of us.  Narsai Yonan always had a big garden, and Daddy wanted to see what he had planted early.  Narsai was showing us his tomato plants which were growing nicely.  “I’ll have a ripe tomato by the Fourth of July,” he announced proudly.

Daddy countered, “Really?  I’ll bet you five dollars you don’t have one ripe by the 4th.”  Narsai accepted the bet.

So here we were, crawling in Yonan’s garden the night of July 3rd, looking for a tomato!  There were lots of big green tomatoes, and none were ripe, which was exactly what Daddy wanted.  While I held the flashlight, Mom painted a big green tomato a bright red with her nail polish.  Mission accomplished – we went home.

The next day we went down and called on Narsai.  Daddy said, “we came to see who won the tomato bet.”  There were no ripe tomatoes in the garden south of the house.  Finally, Narsai led us to the place where he spotted the red tomato, and picked it.  Daddy, with a straight face declared, “Well Narse, it looks like you win the bet,  and handed him five dollars.”  Narsai looked a little bewildered, but played along with the joke and took the money.  We went home, laughing all the way.

Daddy was a fun loving guy, and always came up with good things to laugh about.

A Cutie Christmas Story

 A Christmas Cutie

There are lots of programs and ways each year to celebrate the birthday of our Lord, Jesus of Nazareth. Is your church doing a Christmas Eve service?  I remember going to a church program that had the choir singing, and a narration of the Christmas story.

One of our friends called to tell us about her family going to church for a program featuring a live nativity scene. When the scene ended, her granddaughter looked up and asked, “Grandma, where is the mouse?”

Of course, she had read my book, “Mouse in the Manger”, so we had a big smile over her innocent question.  We are delighted that children are reading and remembering Micah the mouse who was present at the birth of Jesus.  Hopefully, they will also remember who He is, as savior of the world.

Just in case you don’t know where the mouse is, link over to robertzhicks.com and take a look. The story of the birth of Christ is not just for Christmas, but all year long. In fact, it is a good baby shower gift for all life long.

Enjoy Christmas, and have a wonderful, blessed New Year!


15. Daddy the Joker

15.   Daddy the Joker

One of my mail order purchases required a $10.00 money order, so I went to the bank and bought it.  The clerk who helped me was a lady I knew from church, so we were chatting about the choir, and other things when she printed out the money order.

At home, as I prepared an envelope to send for the mail order, I noticed the money order didn’t look quite right – too many zeros. So, I called out to Mom and Daddy, asking if they always put so many zeros on money orders.  It read, $1,000,000.00.

Oops, the lady at the bank had misplaced the decimal point! 

I said, “Wow, we better take this back to the bank and get a correct one.  Daddy said, “No, let me have it, I want to have some fun first.”  That night, Daddy reported going into the diner he frequented and ordering a cup of coffee.  Then he asked the owner if he could cash a money order for him. “Sure,” the man said.  He took the money order check and headed for the cash register, suddenly stopped and came back to Daddy.  “Hey Bob, this is for a million dollars!”  Daddy was laughing, and quipped, “You don’t have that much in your cash register?”  He explained the mistake I am sure.

Next, Daddy took the money order to the post office and asked for a roll of stamps. The clerk was the husband of the lady at the bank who gave me the million dollar money order.  When Daddy explained where the money order came from, he was just a little concerned that his wife would get in trouble.  I’m sure Daddy reassured him we would not make a fuss.

Finally, Daddy took the money order back to the lady at the bank, who was aghast at her mistake, and relieved to make the exchange.  Enough fun for one day, Daddy brought me the $10.00 money order so I could finish my purchase order.

Ladybug Lil Wins An Award


Ladybug Lil Wins An Awar

Just learned that my picture book, The Ladybug Known as Lil, won the Bronze Award in the prestigious Royal Palm Literary Awards (RPLA) competition given by the Florida Writer’s Association (FWA). The 2019 awards were announced at FWA’s four-day annual conference in Altamonte Springs, Florida. 

The Royal Palm Literary Awards competition is a service of the Florida Writers Association established to recognize excellence in its members published and unpublished works while providing objective and constructive written assessments for all entrants.  I’ve had good results with this organization and the contest!

Chris Coward, RPLA chairperson, declared, “This year was the most competitive RPLA we’ve ever had,” In all, there were 513 qualified submissions in 28 adult genres and 5 youth genres, with published and unpublished entries considered separately.

The Ladybug Known as Lil, won the Bronze award for Unpublished Children’s Picture Books.  My other entry, Danny the Dragon, was a Finalist in the Published Children’s Picture Books.

Mouse in the Manager was a Finalist in the 2015 RPLA, and Tommie Turtle’s Secret was best Children’s Picture Book and Book of the Year in 2008. All three books have been endorsed by the American Dyslexia Association for easy reading for children.

In case you’ve forgotten the story of Ladybug Lil — Ladybug Lil, star singer at the Pumpkin Club, rides her roach through the night to find sheriff Bugaboo, and ride with the posse to save Pumpkin Town from the invasion of the dreaded Aphid Gang.

There is an extensive THINGS TO LEARN section with information about the insects in the story.  It’s a good introduction to entomology, the study of insects.

Visit www.RobertZHicks.com for information about my award winning books.

14. Deputy Daddy

14.   Deputy Daddy

When I was very young, I liked to pretend I was an Indian, and try to walk silently through grass or in the barn. One day, “Indian Bobby” crept into the barn.  Stepping down into the cattle part of the barn, I carefully avoided walking on the planks because they would rattle.  As I approached the door leading to the big barn, I heard voices.  That’s strange, I thought, no one is working at the farm.  No one should be in the barn.

I peeked through the door.  No one was in sight, but the voices were coming from under the barn floorboards.  “Indian Bobby” carefully retraced his way out of the barn, and ran as fast as I could to the house.  I told Mom about the men hiding under the barn floor, and she called Daddy, who called the sheriff.  Daddy arrived first and got his 10 gauge shotgun, then followed the sheriff’s deputy to the barn as backup.

Daddy shared later that the deputy was skeptical of my story, especially when there was no one under the floor.  But, he condescended to climb the high ladder to look in the loft over the sheep shed.  Daddy laughed and told us that the deputy almost dropped his gun, trying to get it out when he saw the two men were there.

They had rifles stolen from the sport shop a half mile south of us the night before.  They were two young guys who had escaped from the medium security prison outside of Ionia the day before.   With no food, and getting dirty, and tired from running, they decided to give up peacefully.

13. Fishing with Daddy

13.  Fishing with Daddy

I felt Daddy’s hand shaking my shoulder, and opened one eye in the dark room.  “It’s 5:30” he whispered, “time to go.”  I snapped awake; we were going fishing; just Daddy and me!  We had acquired bamboo poles and worms at the sports shop the day before, and Daddy had his old tackle box full of hooks and lures.

We went to Woodard Lake, a small lake not far from where we live, where Daddy had arranged for a row boat.  We anchored not far from shore, and dropped our baited lines in the water.  Almost immediately, we started catching fish; small bluegills, all too small to keep. 

Across the lake, we could see another fisherman pulling them in and keeping them.  “He knows where the fish are, he lives here.”  After he left, we rowed to the spot where he had been.  Not one bite!  The fish had moved on.  Later when we were leaving, the man came around and told us he had caught more than the limit, would we like some?  Yes!  At least we had fish to take home and fresh fish for dinner.

Daddy and I went fishing one more time at Long Lake.  Long Lake was much bigger than Woodard, and had more and bigger fish.  Daddy rented a rowboat at the pavilion, and we rowed along the shore until we were away from waterfront cottages.  Then Daddy stood up in the tippy rowboat to cast for bass.  I sat in the rear of the boat frantically trying to balance the rolling boat so we wouldn’t tip over, or Daddy fall overboard.  Fishing was supposed to be fun, not frightening, so I never asked to go again.  We never caught any fish anyhow.

Fishing did not catch my interest, and Daddy didn’t seem enthused, so our fishing trips turned out to be a passing father-son time together.

12. The Chicken Tragedy

12.  The Chicken Tragedy 

In 1943 Daddy answered an ad to make money raising chickens for food for the army.  The company supplied baby chicks and brooder huts.  We were to feed and raise the chickens three months to edible size, and then the company would buy them back.  It was win-win, help the war effort, and make some money.

The truck arrived with three men to build the huts.  One of the men had one arm, and I was fascinated to watch him stick a nail in the Celotex, a fiber board, then whip up his hammer to drive it through with one blow.  The huts were small, and seemed to be placed haphazardly wherever the material came off the truck.  There were half a dozen huts back of the chicken coop and shop, and several randomly placed south of the driveway by the maple tree.  A small kerosene stove provided heat in each hut.

The chicks arrived, and we were in business.  I think there were 1000 chicks, 100 in each hut.  Daddy carried chick feed around, and my job was to keep water in the tray in each hut.

March, 1943, a late winter storm swept across Lake Michigan with strong winds blowing snow, and freezing temperatures.  A freak 100 year storm they said.  Daddy braved the blizzard several times during the night to check, but the wind blew the heaters out, and the cheap fiber board was not meant to keep out freezing temperatures.

Next morning, I will never forget the drained and forlorn look on Daddy’s face as he carried bushel baskets of dead chicks to dispose of them.  It was a total loss. The huts set empty for several years until Daddy dismantled them. 

Daddy grew up on a farm, and understood the vicious nature of the weather. But like the strong man written about in the Bible, 2 Corinthians, 4:9, “…cast down, but not destroyed,” he grieved in silence awhile, then moved on with his life.

Journey to Wellness

Journey to Wellness 

Betty and I just had our annual physical check with our primary doctor.

We were pleased that our blood work showed all items in or close to the normal ranges, and nothing of concern.   

Our doctor went through the required protocol questions, even though he knew the answers.

Did we get a flu shot?  Did we want any vaccInes?  Did we want a bone density test?  There were other questions, but, our answer was “No”.

Our doctor told us we were doing great, and he would see us next year.

As he prepared to leave, he said, “I’m not paternal.  You have the right to manage your own health, and you are doing better than most people.”

We were affirmed to know we are doing great, and, we’d like to share what we do to manage our health.  

The following is a summary of what we’ve learned over the years that has kept us well and medication-free.

Wakeup Call

Our quest for good health began about 1972.  Betty and I had been married for seven years, and we had moved from Hilo on the big island of Hawaii, to Honolulu, where I taught at the university.

I was struggling with multiple allergies, and saw the allergist often for testing and treatment.  Dr. Neilson knew about the residuals from the encephalitis which had paralyzed me when I was a teenager.  On one visit, Dr. Neilson took Betty aside, and said, “Mrs. Hicks, your husband is like an automobile with eight cylinders, with only four working.  You need to keep those four working as best as you can.”

What a wakeup call!  We were motivated!  But motivation requires action and an openness to learn and try new things. 

Coincidentally, or providentially in God’s timing, we learned the components of a healthy lifestyle.

The Change

A friend referred us to Dr. John McDougall, MD, an internist who had become disillusioned with pharmaceuticals and was using diet to help his patients. 

Betty went to one of Dr. McDougall’s meetings, and came home to tell me she had signed up for a cooking class with the doctor and his wife Mary.

They were testing recipes to go in their first book, The McDougall Plan. 

Each week, a group of McDougall patients would meet in the kitchen of a Home Economics Department of a local school, and cook food provided by Mary – all vegetarian.   I could attend as a guest, and eat the food.  It turned out to be great!

However, there was a “catch”!  Betty had signed an agreement to eat vegetarian according to the McDougall Plan for sixty days. I exclaimed: “What! No hamburgers for breakfast; no hot dogs; no ham and cheese sandwiches at bedtime”!  I finally conceded that I could probably survive sixty days without meat.

After eating the delicious food at the cooking class for six weeks, and two months vegetarian, we could tell the difference, and Dr. McDougall’s complex carbohydrate based diet became our nutritional foundation. 

Like I mentioned before, first, motivation, then a willingness to try new things to make a change.

Dr. McDougall mentioned at one of his meetings, that his patients who followed the vegetarian diet lost their allergies to food. I forget how long it took, but my allergies gradually disappeared. Hurrah!   No more antihistamines.  No more allergy tests!

Not By Choice    a tough decision we had to make.  

During the 1980’s we had the opportunity to take a week’s training for certification to teach weight loss workshops.  We were already eating vegetarian, a low cholesterol diet, so we jumped in.  

It was a lot of fun teaching the workshops!  Each week we had a potluck supper with participants bringing a low fat, low cholesterol dish. 

Unfortunately the products that went along with the program were “chemical cuisine.”  We had yet to learn there is a better way to get good nutritious food.

On the supposition that if a little was good, more was better, we kept adding supplements.  Multivitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin D, etc. etc.  Every January or February, like clockwork, I got an upper respiratory infection and laryngitis.  In spite of all we were doing, I was slipping downhill.  

Because of the repeated laryngitis, the college kept reducing my teaching load.  My voice wouldn’t hold up for the 75 minute classes.  Finally, in 1989, one year away from reaching the requirement for retirement, the administration offered me a year’s leave of absence, without pay, so I wouldn’t lose retirement benefits.  I took it!  

Then we realized, one can’t live long in Hawaii without income.  Moving from Hawaii was not by choice.  We loved Hawaii having lived there 24 years.  Leaving our friends was hard.  We have many fond memories of all the fun things we did.  

Our journey to wellness now took us to Florida, to consolidate with Betty’s mother, who coincidentally was needing help also. 

For us it was a difficult change, but God had a good serendipity planned for us.  

The Serendipity

It was difficult!  But, we made it to Florida.  Our first priority was to find help for Betty’s mother.  Eating vegetarian with us was making a big difference, and Mother was already reducing medications and looking and feeling better.  

The serendipity was meeting Dale, a nutritionist who had a big impact on our lives!  

Dale’s session with Mother was eye-opening, so we made an appointment for us.  Betty emptied a shopping bag of vitamins and supplements on his desk.  The pile was the culmination of our using the assumption “if a little is good – more is better.”  But – not so! 

 Dale said, “Betty, I can tell you first, that you have very expensive urine.”  

We learned that isolated supplements were only a part of a food, and not utilized very well by the body but just passed on in the urine.  Dale pointed out that processed food had much of the nutritional value removed, and we were consuming chemicals; preservatives, artificial flavors, colors, bulking additives, etc!

We had to make a paradigm shift in our thinking!

Dale introduced us to real food, and whole food concentrates.  It was not long before Mother and I were both much better.  I was physically and mentally improved!

We attended Dale’s seminars, and ended up working with him teaching Healthy Living classes.  Betty would take groups on a “field trip” to a local grocery store for a “treasure hunt” of finding food items that were low in fat, cholesterol, and salt.  The idea was that by taking the time to read labels, it was possible to find healthier alternatives for the foods they were choosing.

That lasted twenty years, with us learning a lot about health, and earning income to supplement my retirement and social security income.

We were now eating fresh and frozen vegetables, and avoiding processed packaged “food” with chemicals.  Our complex carb based meals were now supplemented by whole-food concentrates, not supplements that were parts of food or isolated chemicals.  

Perhaps the most important thing we learned was that our bodies are best when chemically alkaline.  Cancer, and other diseases thrive in an acid environment, so our diet should be 80% alkaline residue food, and 2% acid residue.  

Everything seemed to be in place; we were healthy and medication free.  What more could we need? 

Anti-Aging    Discovering how to slow down the aging process!I  

The latest new-to-us big thing we learned was how important it is for the body to have hormone systems in balance.  Hormones are messengers made by endocrine glands such as the pituitary, that send a cascade of messages to all parts of the body to do their work.  

Endocrine glands such as the thyroid, pituitary, pancreas, and adrenal, send hormones to control use of food (metabolism), body growth, reproduction, healing, blood sugar levels, mood, body temperature, and blood pressure.

After 30 years of age, hormone production declines, and people began to see symptoms of aging.  And, toxins change normal body functions, which can lead to disease conditions. 

We found an anti-aging Gel that boosts hormone production and helps to balance the hormone systems.  One ingredient in the Gel is bio-identical to those from the pituitary gland to slow the aging process!  Other ingredients address the adrenal and thyroid glands to balance the hormone systems.

We both have been using the Gel now for 11 months and we know the Gel works!  One of the first benefits was better and deeper sleep.

In my next blog, I will share in more detail about the benefits we have experienced so far.

What we have learned has given us a lot of hope for making our journey longer and healthier!!

We love to share what we’ve learned over the years, and love to hear people report improvements in their health as a result of implementing our information.  

If you would like information about the Gel, for you or someone you care about, please email or call us.    727-842-8314.

We hope sharing our story has inspired you to make positive changes for your journey to wellness. 

11. Appleseed Corners Fireworks & Fox Hunt

11.  Appleseed Corners Fireworks & Fox Hunt

The Hicks family always bought fireworks for the Fourth of July holiday.  It was an exciting and fun time shooting roman candles, pop-bottle rockets and crackers of all sizes.  We were very disappointed when the State of Michigan outlawed fireworks, and considered getting some out of state, but breaking the law was not our kind of solution.

Then Daddy discovered that fireworks could be purchased for “community display,” and he officially organized the “Appleseed Corners Community” consisting of the Hicks, Yonans and Yeoman’s families — our neighbors. Walter Yeomans was a crop farmer, and the Yonans had a large commercial apple orchard. Their orchard and our small orchard across the road from them was the basis for the “Appleseed Corners” name. They joined us for a back porch barbecue of hot dogs and hamburgers, and legal fireworks on the Fourth of July – what fun!

Walter Yeomans probably knew Daddy had been trapping muskrats in our pond, and selling the pelts.  He asked Daddy if he thought the traps might be big enough to catch a fox that was nosing around his chicken coop.  If so, could he borrow a couple? 

Sure.  Of course.  But, now that a fox was brought up, Daddy said he had seen a hole under a big tree at the back of our property across the road and adjacent to the Yeoman’s that very well could be the fox’s den.  Daddy exclaimed, “We can get him there!”  The Appleseed Corners fox hunt idea must have sprung into his mind – and planning began.  A date set, Daddy called and invited the Yonans to join us, I think Alan came too.  Mom and Daddy, Walter and Lucille, Nars and Olive, and me, Bobby, were the total company for the “hunt”. 

I may have been 9 or 10, because I faintly recall having my bugle and blowing “Attention” as we gathered in our driveway and piled into a pickup truck and one car.  Daddy had his 10 gauge shotgun, and instructed everyone to be very quiet. 

After driving down the lane to about thirty yards from the tree, we dismounted, and Daddy waved at Walter to follow him as he moved toward the big tree – the others followed at a distance.  As Daddy rounded the tree he fired his shotgun at the base, and yelled, “I got him!  Walter – grab him, he’s going down the hole!” Walter was quick to respond and leaped to the hole at the base of the tree – saw the fox tail protruding – and grabbed it – yanked it hard – and then stood there holding Mom’s fox fur neckpiece high in the air!

Daddy was laughing uproariously, and the others joined in as the reality of the joke hit Walter.  I think he finally broke down and started laughing too.  Daddy had gotten Mom’s fur piece, left over from the fashions of the ‘20s, from the trunk in the attic, and put it in the hole at the base of the tree the day before.

The “Great Appleseed Corners Fox Hunt” was over, and I presume considered a huge success by everyone… except maybe Walter.

Did Walter trap the fox?  I don’t know.  But for sure, the fox never returned to the big tree!

10. Pheasant Hunt

10.   Pheasant Hunt

After I was presented with my 4-10 shotgun, Daddy suggested we go pheasant hunting.  I was certainly excited to go hunting with Daddy!

We crossed the highway and walked slowly through the tall grass in the field on the east side of our property.  Daddy carried his 10 gauge shotgun over his shoulder.  As I had been taught, I kept my gun carefully pointed safely at the ground in front of my feet.

Suddenly, a pheasant burst from the thick grass a few feet in front of me.  Startled, I jerked back, firing the gun!  The bird dropped dead, a direct hit!  I had accidentally bagged a prime rooster pheasant.

That night, as we enjoyed dinner, we had to carefully spit out the bee-bee shot in the bird meat.  Daddy said to me, “Robbie, next time let the bird get further away before you shoot.”  I said “sure”, but I was too embarrassed to tell him my shot was not on purpose, but an accident of my being startled.

I just enjoyed the compliments for bagging a pheasant on my first hunting trip.

After seeing the beautiful dead bird, and thinking how easy it was to accidentally fire a gun, I decided hunting was not for me.  We never went hunting again.