Tag Archives: Congo

No Neutral Words

Word PowerWord Power

The first summer after I came to the United States my parents sent me to spend the summer on the same farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania where my father had spent his summers while growing up.

English: The midway at the Orange County Fair,...

At the end of haying season the farmer took us all for a day away from haying to the county fair. Like most everything those first few months away from my home in the Congo, everything was new, startling and amazing. I had never seen anything like the midway at a county fair.

One of the attractions was called, Power of Sound. I don’t remember what the banners in front of the tent said, but I remember the brilliant colors of: red, silver, gold, yellow, orange and the black of words and objects exploding.

I remember the barker saying something like, “Come in and see what your words look like. – Not the printed letters, but an actual picture of the sound of your words.”

I am sure that he said it in a more irresistible way than that because I paid some of my hard-earned summers pay to go in and see what sounds looked like.

There weren’t many in that tent. None of Clarence’s three sons were interested in that show so I bravely went in alone. Now you have to remember that I was just recently out of the jungle, so to speak, and most things in the civilized world were, if not a little frightening, somewhat intimidating.

Heathkit Oscilloscope OM-2

The showman had some kinds of electronic gadgets and one with a glowing porthole like thing with cross-lines in it. I later learned it was an oscilloscope of some kind.

He started out by telling his audience that all sounds had electronic energy called frequency that could be seen visually on the screen. Even as he talked into the mike the white line moved across the screen.

He played a few notes on a trumpet, fired a cap pistol and each time the line moved differently. He invited people up from the audience and showed how each person’s voice was different.

His final act was to put a wine glass on a stand next to the oscilloscope. A large but attractive woman came out and started to sing. I didn’t much care for what she was singing. It was the opera kind of stuff that my mother liked to listen to on the radio on Saturday afternoons after we got to the States. But on the radio there was usually instrument playing along with the singing.

The woman kept singing, the line on the oscilloscope changed along with her singing. She hit a real high note. The line on the oscilloscope jumped and the glass on the stand shattered.

I walked out of that tent wondering if it was a trick or not, but at the same time aware that the words I speak had a force to them. I have since learned that the shattered glass was not a trick, but was done by the high frequency of the note that woman sang.

I have also learned that there are no neutral words; you are either speaking encouragement or fear. I am a writer, among other things, and like most writers I am pleased when someone likes what I’ve written. Whether or not someone reads what I have written is entirely up to them, but what I say is entirely up to me. The words I speak have an energy to both build up or shatter others and myself and I should be very careful what I say and how I say it.


Paul’s book The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing is now available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99. – Soon to be available as an audiobook.

Murder Sets Sail  now available from Second Wind Publishing and on AmazonKindle and Nook versions just $4.99,

Body On the Church Steps coming soon from Second Wind Publishing.


Filed under books, fiction, writing

The Mouse and the Elephant – An African Fable

I have always liked this fable which I first heard growing up as a kid in the Northeast corner of the Congo. So here it is.

Central Rock-rat (Zyzomys pedunculatus)

There was a mouse who built a nest. All know that of all the animals of the field, the mouse is the least.

A female African Bush Elephant raises her trun...

An elephant, a bull, full-grown, with tusks the length of a man, made his way through the grass to drink at the water hole. He saw the nest of the mouse in the grass and said to himself, “That is only the nest of a mouse. What can a mouse do to me?” And he stepped on the nest of the mouse.

The mouse said, “He is an elephant, what can I do to him? He is so big, and I am so small,” and so the mouse built another nest somewhere else. But the elephant came another day from a different direction and stepped again on the nest. The mouse built a third nest and the elephant stepped on that also.

The mouse said to himself, “If I would live peacefully in my nest I must get rid of the elephant. To get rid of the elephant, I must first learn the ways of the elephant.”

So the mouse followed the elephant. He saw the elephant pull up the grass with his trunk and put it in his mouth. He pulled down branches from the trees and ate them also. At the water hole the elephant sucked up the water in his trunk and put it in his mouth. He sucked up the water and blew it over himself to cool off from the hot sun and all the time the mouse was saying, “The elephant is too large. How can I come against so strong an elephant?”

The elephant lay down to sleep, its stomach full with grass and water. The elephant said to himself, “I am full and content. I am large and strong. Nothing can hurt me while I sleep.”

The mouse saw the elephant sleeping and said to himself, “I am small and weak. The elephant is big and strong. I must use cunning, not strength.”

When the elephant slept the mouse ran up into his trunk. The elephant tried to blow the mouse out of his trunk, but the mouse crawled up farther; scratching and tickling. The little squeaking of the mouse sounded loud inside the elephant’s trunk. The elephant shrieked in anger, but the mouse stayed right there, scratching and tickling and squeaking.

The elephant beat his trunk against the ground, but the mouse stayed right there, scratching and tickling and squeaking. The elephant got up and started running among the trees; bellowing, waving his trunk, beating his trunk against the trees. The mouse just kept scratching, tickling and squeaking.

Whenever the elephant would try to eat, the mouse would scratch and tickle and squeak. When he tried to drink the mouse would scratch, and tickle and squeak and the elephant would wave his trunk or beat it against the trees, until finally it became so sore and bleeding that he could not use his trunk to feed himself or water himself.

So, the elephant lay down again, bleeding from beating his trunk against the trees, tired from running from tree to tree, hungry from not being able to feed, thirsty from not being able to drink and the mouse ran out of the trunk. The elephant died and the mouse built a nest.

Tell me now, which is stronger, the dead elephant, or the live mouse? There is no strength in death, and to be cunning is to be wise.

A fable from the Northeast Congo.

Copyright © 2012 by Paul J. Stam
All rights reserved


Paul’s book The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing is now available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99. The Telephone Killer is also available as an audiobook.

Another new novel of mine, Murder Sets Sail, will be coming soon from Second Wind Publishing.


Filed under books, fiction, writing

It’s All In The name

Cover of "It's All in the Name (Hey L'il ...

Funny the way people get nicknames. It is said that Earvin “Magic” Johnson got his nickname from the way he handled a basketball. Another guy I knew has the nickname “Birdie.” I am told he got that name because he was an avid hand glider.

When I was a kid my best friend’s name was Lawrence. No one called him Larry, which I guess is the common nickname for Lawrence, but everybody called him “Skip.” I have known more people named “Skip” than any other nickname I know.

I had a cousin named Paul. Just like my name. Everyone called him Skip. Then he had a son who they named Paul, but everyone called him Skip also. Then that Skip (Paul) had a son whose real name was Paul and they called him Skip too. It just don’t figure, but I guess if you can’t think of a different first name it’s not likely you’d come up with a different nickname.

I’ve had some strange nicknames in my day. In fact all of mine were a little weird except the one I didn’t like and the reason I didn’t like it was because it was true.

Growing up the natives had a nickname for me. They never called me it when talking about me to my parents or other missionaries, but used it when talking about me among themselves and to me. My native nickname was, “Mbekede.” The closest translation of “Mbekede” would be “Smartass.” I kind of liked that name.


I came to the United States when I was 15 and got introduced to a bunch of food I had never tasted growing up in the Congo. I discovered such things as potato chips, Baby Ruth candy bars (the 1/2 pound size) in abundance, and Coca-Cola. Those foods had a direct influence on me and the next thing I knew I had the nickname of “Fatso.” Sure didn’t like that nickname, but I had earned it.

But I lost that excess weight and went in the Navy and I got another nickname, “Postage.” Sometimes it was, “Hey, Post office,” but usually it was, “Hey, Postage…” That came about because at muster, or for a work detail they called you out by the last name and the initial of the first name. Obviously if my name; Stam. P. was said real fast, or if there was a typo on the roster sheet it came out – Stamp. Got out of the Navy and was never called “Postage” again.

Then for years; through college, with all kinds of jobs such as teaching, or construction work or sailing, I was simply Paul. Now suddenly, just because I put my website address on the bottom of all my potter instead of my name, people around the studio are calling me “WW.” They don’t even make it “WWW” but I guess some nicknames are shortened versions of the real name like “Sal” for Sally or Salvatore.

So, what’s in a name anyway?


The Telephone Killer is available from Amazon, the publisher, Second Wind Publishing and other bookstores for $15.50 and the Kindle and Nook editions are only $4.99.

View the video here.

Please feel free to re blog any of my posts.


Filed under Humor, musings, writing