Mammy’s Lamp

It’s time again to get Mammy’s lamp down to clean and shine. Then I put the big red bow on  to make it more festive for Christmas. Oh, what wonderful memories that old kerosene lamp brings back to me.

Down in Kentucky, where I was born, my paternal great-grandparents owned and operated the only general store within miles of the nearest town, for many years.  Therefore, my great-grandmother was known far and wide as Aunt Nanny.  Her name was Nancy Elizabeth Cochran Hale, but to my Grandma Taylor, my brother and I, she was simply Mammy.  Sadly, she died in April 1963 and my Aunt Fan (her daughter) gave me one of Mammy’s lamps. It is a treasure I will hand down to my kids, grandkids and great-grandchild one day, God willing it remains intact.

As I was cleaning it, I wondered how long the original used-up fixture that had been on top had been on Mammy’s lamp. I have owned it for fifty-three years and had never changed it until two years ago. I don’t know how long Mammy had it or if anything on it had ever been changed by her.  She had electricity for many years before her death, so it had become a mere decoration  she paid little attention to. We use it whenever the electric goes off at night for any length of time.

Thinking back to when I was a kid and the lamp was actually lit and burning regularly at night, it rekindled a lot of wonderful memories with people in my family who are all now gone. My late big brother and I spent all of our childhood summers with our paternal grandparents, who lived close to Mammy.  The three of us would walk the two miles down the hill and over the creek to Mammy’s house almost every day and hike back up before dinner.  Mammy was a quiet woman with a heart of gold and a large, happy family.  Nobody entered her house without being seated at the enormous dining  table piled high with food. It didn’t matter which meal of the day was being served, nobody left hungry.

The little toy lamp to the right is the last present given to my mother by her mother (Sarah Elilzabeth Murphy Lee) before her death in 1928. Each child received one for Christmas and this is the only one left. It is eighty-nine years old and I’ve had it twenty-three years.

The little owl is a Cybus and was given to me by my late ex-husband on the twentieth anniversary of the day we met. That was sixty years ago when I was collecting owls. Now that he is also gone, it has a special place in my heart.

Perhaps there is a message being sent to me by those lost ones right now at Christmas time. The message might be to treasure those you love and let them know that you do because one day they will no longer be around.  Some insignificant item they once owned will be the thing you remember them by when you take the time to actually look at it…and truly see it…and remember all the good times.

Merry Christmas! May Your Memories All Be Happy!

Posted in Author Jackie Taylor Zortman, family, Family heirlooms, love, memories | 12 Comments


Does the time fly because my husband and I are growing older or is it simply the fast pace of today’s crazy world? Summer absolutely zinged past and if we had a fall season, I must have blinked because here we sit, staring Thanksgiving right in the face.

On New Year’s Eve, I believed with my heart that 2017 was going to be an outstandingly wonderful year. However, we had one disaster after another every single month, right up until now. But that’s not to say there weren’t many blessings, as well. Sometimes I  have to remind myself to stop and count those, too. I was surprised how it balances out nicely.

One of the greatest blessings was having our middle grandson and his sweet wife present us with our very first great-grandchild. She unexpectedly arrived an entire month early,  absolutely picture perfect. As Shakespeare said, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.”  That quote also fits our granddaughter who graduated from college with her hard-earned Bachelor Degree. Her parents had a combined celebration of graduation and Mother’s Day that was the word extravaganza personified.

Unfortunately, that event was the last time I was ever to see my ex-husband and the father of my children. He passed away five weeks later. We were married for twenty-five years, but he was in my life for sixty years. It was then I learned, when such things happen, we only remember the good times. He will forever be missed.

Five days later, my husband of 31 years had serious shoulder surgery for a fall he’d taken two months earlier. He finally came through the numerous excruciatingly difficult weeks after, during which I felt like we’d both walked through the fires of hell. Four and a half hours of anesthetic and that miserable, bulky sling became trials for us both. It took time and tears, but we made it and he’s doing well. A week ago, he asked our family doctor if he could  carry our snow blower up to our front deck. My son was in Mexico and we’d had five and a half inches of snow. Doc’s answer was NO.  He then said, after his office hours, he’d drive to our house and carry it up to the front deck himself, just to save my husband’s surgical repair. And he did. It was 7:30 and dark before he had the time to do it. Bless him.

That is an example of the many wonderful perks of living in a small, Colorado mountain town. It’s not always easy to live here. It takes hard work and true grit. But it’s worth the trade-off. As I’ve said before, good people with caring hearts gather here…and they stay.



Posted in Author Jackie Taylor Zortman, blogs, Colorado, Thanksgiving | 9 Comments


What a nice surprise to discover my book FOOTPRINTS IN THE FROST lists among the five most intriguing mysteries Caleb Pirtle III has read this year. He has 70 books on the market and a long and impressive career as a writer. You can check it out at
As a note, I recently took my rights back from Oak Tree Press and am now publishing with Aakenbaaken & Kent. They are in Georgia and were in Hurricane Irma, so as my publisher, Mike, words it, “…the queue is long, so expect delays.” I’m not sure how many copies Amazon still has of my books, but A & K will soon have them up there again. 
Meantime, if you want to buy a copy, you can get it from me. Just drop me an e-mail, find me on Facebook, Twitter or here.  I have a few copies I ordered to have on hand before I left OTP.
Posted in Author Jackie Taylor Zortman, BLOG: Here Comes A Mystery-Caleb & Linda Pirtle, blogs, books, FOOTPRINTS IN THE FROST, mysteries, Venture Galleries - Caleb Pirtle III | 2 Comments

TRAGEDY IN LAS VEGAS by Keith Bettinger

It is Tuesday October 3. I spent part of the day in the parking lot opposite the Mandalay Bay hotel helping my friends in the Fraternal Order of Police feed and hydrate the first responders working at the murder scene.  Police officers are working twelve hour shifts, yet they are friendly and professional.  They never pass up a chance to thank us for coming to help them.  It was also the day I found out the lady I was trying to locate the night before, is one of the fatalities.

The community of Las Vegas, known as Sin City, may have lost whatever innocence it had, but it has not lost its heart.  Hotel marquees display messages of sorrow for the victims and praise for the first responders.  People are pulling up with food, beverages and ice saying “I just want to help”.  The generosity has been so great some of the collection places have had to turn people and their gifts away and redirect them to other locations because they are over supplied.  All the people are coming near the tragedy scene trying to give something back to the first responders.  Hotels are sending food and sandwiches.  Ice, snack packs, water, Gatorade, soft drinks, pizza, pastries and just about anything you can think of is offered freely by the people wanting to help and thank someone for what the first responders did.

It was eerie looking up at the two broken out golden windows and realizing how much death and pain rained down from them.  It makes me feel once again like I did back on 9/11.  Tomorrow I will be back with my friends from the local Fraternal Order of Police lodges, trying to help take care of the first responders and wondering where do these brave people come from? 

It is Wednesday, October 4 President Trump has arrived in Las Vegas with the first lady.  They have travelled to two important locations; the trauma center at UMC (University Medical Center) to meet with survivors of this horrific event and the headquarters of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.  I have spent the morning with fellow Fraternal Order of Police friends making coffee and making sure first responders have enough nourishment and fluid to help them make it through their current assignment. 

When we arrived at seven o’clock this morning waiting to greet us was the lid of a cardboard box from a restaurant.  On it were messages of thanks for the police officers, thanking them for what they have done while providing them with a little rest and nourishment.   

Part of the afternoon was spent helping the first responders do their overwhelming jobs.  Our members went shopping on short notice and arrived back at our trailer with hamburgers, apples, tangerines, bananas, snack packs, beverages, and energy drinks.  We fed between 140 and 200 specialists who were then responsible to reenter and investigate this overwhelming crime scene.  You have never met so many people who were thankful for a simple hamburger, some fresh fruit and above all else, energy drinks. All they asked was would we promise to be back on site the following day.  How could we say no to such a thankful group of people?  

The people who are with the FBI are measuring as well as posting on maps where each piece of evidence from Sunday night is located.   The agents of the Nevada State Attorney General’s office must reenter the killing zone and recover all the personal effects left behind.  While there, they will tag, document, identify, and attempt to contact either the owner whose property they now possess, or make a notification to the next of kin that the loved one’s property has been found and available to be claimed.

Time is winding down like it does with any crisis in life.  Tomorrow we will arrive a little later in the day and once again provide sustenance to the evidence gatherers as well as any first responder, but with shortened hours on site.  The people, who attended the concert and escaped to safety, are returning home.  We will stay on site but not as long as we did when we first responded.  For those that lost loved ones, many of the casino/hotels are offering free rooms.  Some of the airlines, are offering to fly the human remains home for free. 

I have been wiping tears and sometimes struggling to finish sentences without crying in front of someone.  A simple thank you from a first responder can bring tears to your eyes as he or she takes a couple bottles of water or energy drinks back out on the road to continue their twelve hour assignments.  This can reduce you to tears.  They have done so much and we have done so little, trying to make their day just a little easier, a little better and maybe a little more hopeful.

Tomorrow I will return with my friends, maybe our stay will be shorter, maybe it will be longer.  We serve our first responders and their needs.  They make the hours worthwhile because they never leave us without saying thank you. 

            Thursday was another day helping take care of the first responders.  The evidence technicians continue their tiring task of gathering evidence and retrieving victims’ lost property.  It seems every day the authorities give back to the residents some of the roped off areas and open up some of the streets that have been closed. 

Two ladies arrived at our command post site and delivered care packages containing sandwiches, snacks, fruit and bottles of water.  These were put together by members of their church.  They wanted to do something to help and they have, yet they thank us for allowing them to help. 

            Today I was told some happy news.  A dog was found and reunited with his owner.  The owner is one of the survivors of the mayhem.  The dog is a therapy dog.  They became separated during the slaughter.

 Sergeant Bernie Moss of the Corpus Christi police department once wrote a story, You’re Not A Cop Until You Taste Them.    It’s about a time early in his career and being told by an old timer you’re not a cop until you taste them, and then saying nothing more.  One day Bernie handled a horrific event one night and while changing clothes in the locker room he was crying.  The old timer came over and put his hand on Bernie’s shoulder and said, “Now you’ve tasted them.” 

Tears have a special taste all their own and also have a cathartic effect.  I have tasted my tears during this tragic time, but in my case they aren’t tears of sadness or hurt.  They are tears of gratitude for the wonderful people who are trying to help.  They are tears for the work the first responders continue doing no matter how terrible.  They are tears of thanks for allowing me to help and be part of Las Vegas’ recovery.  Eventually, this horrific event will be part of my past, not my present.  



Keith Bettinger is a retired Suffolk County (N.Y.) Police Officer. He’s been writing for law enforcement publications for more than 25 years and has received 19 awards for his articles, stories, poems, and books. He has a Master’s Degree in Human Relations with a major in Clinical Counseling. During his career he received the department’s Bravery Medal, Silver Shield Award, Meritorious Police Service Award, Special Service Award, Professionalization Award, Department Recognition Award, five Headquarters commendations and six Precinct commendations. He also was a field training officer and an instructor on Post Shooting Trauma and Critical Incidents.

Keith has written three books, FIGHTING CRIME WITH “SOME “DAY AND LENNY, END OF WATCH AND MURDER IN McHENRY. He has also contributed stories to the following anthologies: I Pledge Allegiance,  Cop Tales 2000, Charity, True Blue, To Protect and Serve, and Dad’s Bow Tie. He also shares with Jack Miller, the screenplay Master Cheat. Keith lives in Las Vegas with his wife Lynn.

It is my pleasure to host my good friend, Keith Bettinger. In addition to the things mentioned in his bio, he was also at the 9/11 Ground Zero. Being the  author who reviewed the manuscript for my first book, “We Are Different Now – a grandparents journey through grief”, he had a big impact on my first becoming a published author. We hope you’ll  leave a comment to let us know you stopped by to enjoy his article.

Posted in Crime, Jackie Taylor Zortman, Keith Bettinger, Las Vegas, mass shootings, Public Safety Writers Association | 13 Comments


Okay, all you writers and published authors out there, here’s a question for you to ponder and, hopefully, share your answer.

Due to two years of my publishing house being dormant, I recently took back the rights to my two  books and then signed a contract with a different publisher for both of them as second editions.

At about the same time, I finished the manuscript for my third book called Snow AngelIt has been professionally edited, read by beta readers and polished by another author and someone proficient in English and grammar. This book has the same characters and locale as Footprints in the Frost.  However, I wrote it as a totally stand-alone book, meaning you don’t have to read the first book to understand the second one.  But it can be called a sequel or #2 in a series, if that’s  desired.

So, I submitted the manuscript to my present publisher and others for consideration. One senior editor (not from my publisher) wrote back to me and said the contract rules of first right of refusal would still exist if that is in the contract with my new publishing house, because Snow Angel has the same characters as Footprints in the Frost.  Even if both books stand alone, with the same characters in both, they are still related. Thus, my publisher either has to reject my submission (hope not) or give me a release of the first right of refusal in order for other houses to look at Snow Angel. What a surprise.

I whipped out my contract and assume she is referring to, in my contract, #7. “The Author agrees they will not publish or allow to be published by any third party any abridged, expanded or alternate versions of Footprints in the Frost and/or We Are Different Now.”

Knowing that some of you have written sequels and series, here’s my question.  Is this correct?  Even after five years in the book business, I’m still learning. I had no clue that contract clause included totally separate books.

Tell me what you know about this little glitch.


Posted in Author Jackie Taylor Zortman, books, fiction, First right of refusal, FOOTPRINTS IN THE FROST, WE ARE DIFFERENT NOW | 6 Comments


A few months ago, one of our smoke alarms…of course, the one right outside our bedroom door, began “chirping” off and on…most often in the middle of the night.  My husband was sleeping on the main floor in a recliner after shoulder surgery, so it didn’t bother him, nor could he fix it if it did.  Finally, in desperation, I got the step ladder in the daylight, unplugged it and jerked that thing down. After pulling out the battery, I was stunned to hear it continue to chirp.  Shortly, it did a rather weak chirppppppp and that was the end of that.

I got on-line and ordered the model recommended for replacement of the ones we had, which were 17 years old and past their prime.  When they arrived, I called a local electrician and he came and installed two new ones in a flash. But alas, four nights later, the same alarm outside the bedroom door began chirping, first 4:00 a.m. and then again at 6:45 a.m. That was last night.

First Alert 120 VAC hardwired with battery backup – our new alarms.

The electrician told us they all will chirp and usually in the wee hours when it is coldest. The ones in his house do and they are interconnected. He also said he’s found spiders in them that were the cause, as well as dust. Back on-line to read the comments for the particular ones we have.  One man said he found little green bugs inside his that caused the chirping. Others have never figured out what’s making it happen.

Okay, here’s my question, especially for, but certainly not limited to,  those of you who are firemen/women. I know there are several in the PSWA group and among my Facebook friends.  In your opinion, what’s the best brand/kind of smoke detector to buy?  And what’s going on with this chirping with a product that’s only been up four days and was installed by a professional electrician? Ours are hard-wired with battery backup.

Where the light is shining is the alarm. The peak is above the Double Happiness emblem backed in black.

For everyone reading this, tell me what brand and kind you have in your house and how they are working.  Do they ever chirp?  Do you know why? As the electrician immediately suggested, I tossed the cheap “free” battery that came with them into the trash and provided alkaline 9 volt replacements. Lithium is my next purchase. But until I find out what’s making it chirp, it probably won’t matter.

Here is one possible cause, though no problems for 17 years, even when burning a wood-stove full-time in winter.  The picture on the right shows where the alarm is located outside our bedroom door, which is right off our loft office.  As you can see above the black-backed Chinese Double Happiness emblem the great room is beside and below the loft and the peak of the ceiling is 24 feet. Could that cause a problem?

Someone please tell me what you know and think. Help!

Posted in Author Jackie Taylor Zortman, Fire Departments, Public Safety Writers Association, Smoke detectors, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


When Glen Campbell recently left this earth, someone posted his rendition of “Amazing Grace” on Facebook.  In that version, he played the bagpipes.  I have to say it is the first time I’ve ever thought bagpipes sounded absolutely beautiful.  Did you even know he played them?  I knew he played a multitude of musical instruments, but bagpipes never entered my mind. You will find it on his album “Jesus and Me”.

But one of my personal favorites is “Wichita Lineman”. My husband is from Wichita. He was a detective with the Wichita PD for twenty years. My best friend worked for the telephone company there. First she worked in the Wichita office and then decided to become a lineman, which was not usual for a female back in those days. She stayed with the phone company for thirty years, still working outside in fiber optics after she moved back to her Colorado hometown.  But she had once actually been a Wichita lineman. I got to see her climb a telephone pole on the job right here on our property years ago and it was quite impressive.

I  loved so many of Glen Campbell’s songs at the height of his fame.  During a business trip, I recall standing in the sun on a pier in Topolobampo, Mexico, staring at the ocean and listening to him sing “Sitting On the Dock of the Bay” as it played from the deck of a nearby yacht. Today I always associate the song with that moment in Mexico.

Recently, I wanted to know if he wrote “Wichita Lineman” and why. He did not. The writer of the song was Jimmy Webb. He was driving along an Oklahoma highway (I assume into Kansas) when he spied a single telephone lineman on one of the poles with an ear piece attached to it. It evoked loneliness in Mr. Webb’s mind. If you’ve ever driven across Kansas, you certainly understand why. He wondered what the lineman was saying. Was it about a lost love or was it strictly business?

Remember the wall phones? We still have one in the gunsmith shop.

When winds blow over small wires, like those of a long stretch of telephone line, it can make them whine. The wind rarely stops blowing in Kansas. Part of the lyrics to the song refer to that eerie sound – “I can hear you through the whine…”. The song changes keys in both verses and the subject of the lyrics change each time the key changes.  In other words, one key speaks about the job and the other key is about the lineman’s romantic life. How clever and unique is that?

When we lost Glen Campbell,  we lost one of the most talented musicians this world has ever known. It is said he was as kind and unassuming as he was talented. The angels must be thrilled to have his voice in their heavenly choir.

Author Jackie Taylor Zortman

Posted in Author Jackie Taylor Zortman, blogs, Celebrities, Glen Campbell, Kansas, music | 4 Comments