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THE RIVER AND I


JUNE 1906 TO SEPT. 1907


by Jay Willard Sterner

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DRAMATIS PERSONAE ED - Edwin Leuffer Nevin Glass, b. July 4th, 1890. Father a West-Pointer killed in that last 1890 Indian Uprising. When this Diary starts he has a brother Beaumont 5 or 6 years older than I who was my violin teacher; and a sister Virginia, perhaps three years older than I. The family, for reasons unknown, often spent the winter in Washington. They lived at 308 Fifth Ave. * * * Harry Cooper - Lived over his father's store at the N.E. corner of 6th and F Street. About 4 years older than I. Was going to New York Law School in winter - had summer job as a mail-carrier. Younger brother Clarence (Pete) a year younger than I. * * * "Glubbie" - Thomas Gillespie Ross, son of Milan Ross the Asbury Park Real-Estate man. My age and classmate. Young- er brother Mitchel (Mike) 2 years younger than we. Both dead - Glubby in Hawaii, Mike in Paris. * * * Miss Cook - Elizabeth Christine Cook, English teacher, age 27 at this time. Lived in Northampton, Mass., daughter of Captain Cook who commanded the Brooklyn at the Battle of Santiago. Before her death she got her M.A. and her Lit.D. at Columbia and, at the end, was Professor of English at Barnard. Her B.A. was from Smith. [Same teacher? -Todd] * * * Barnard - B. Bradford Bush, my age and a classmate. Sister Selma two years older and attending Smith. Father gener- ally mysteriously absent in California whence they hailed, Barnard died of T.B. in the 20's at Phoenix, Arizona. * * * Dorothy Dean - 2 years younger. Father dead - he was a reporter on the old Boston Traveller, known as Daisy Dean. She lived with her mother, two younger sisters Marjory
DRAMATIS PERSONAE and Lillian and a kid brother Harry. Spent summer of 1907 in Ocean Grove. Mrs. Dean's brother was Oliver Schadt, father of the current fish-market Schadts here in Asbury. The Schadts were from Allentown, Pa. and were crossed with the Sterners somewhere not too far back. * * * BEAN - Nothin' but a hound dog, a nondescript mongrel be- longing to no one but who considered himself the joint property of Harry Cooper and me. And we more or less ac- knowledged this in a shame-faced sort of way. * * * Of course there will appear many other characters but these I here mention are the most important. Stranger, pause and look - From the dust of ages Lift this battered book, Torn the tattered pages. Read me; do not let me die! Edna St. V. Millay
THE RIVER AND I The title for this, the third volume, suggested it- self naturally. But the River you will here read about is gone - cribbed, cabined, and confined by `developers' till somewhere during the process it died. Gone too is the boy who scattered the first person singular so lav- ishly over these pages. Only the memory of both remains very clearly in my mind. In the years that have passed since 1906, I have accumulated many other memories, gorgeous pictures of other spots that are much more obviously beautiful than my River ever was. I remember climbing up through the opening forest of the Cote d'Or Mountains and seeing the first beams of the morning sun tinting the summit of Mount Blanc, glowing there over a hundred miles away like a pink, tenuous cloud. I remember another sunrise on the blue Carribean, coming in to our anchorage at Cap Ha- tien, a slow-heaving, glassy sea which waveringly reflect- ed the purple mountains that reared, remote and jagged, against the crimson sky. I grew to love the deep, deep blue of the mid-Atlantic rollers, their surfaces wind- crinkled by the warm, strong trade wind. And I loved the Pampa in the still heat of the noon-day, the cool of early dawn with the east just beginning to lighten, the black rush of the pampero with the lightening flashing and the choking clouds of dust, or the quiet empty lonliness of its vastness under the moon. But behind it all, back of my love for this great globe they have loaned us for a brief while, was my love for my River. The River was the first part of our world that I grew to know intimately, the first that really became a part of me. I loved its quaking, grassy sedges and the heavy stench of the blue mud. I can still see its surface 1
THE RIVER AND I flashing bright and blue in the summer sun, steel gray in the equinoxial storms, or frozen still and white in zero weather. I knew and loved it in every mood, even in its nastiest when it had me powerless in its grip the night I first looked straight into the empty eyes of death. I have had to face that vacant-skulled menace many times since then - on the Pampa, in France, here at home - but thanks perhaps to what the River taught me, I have ever since been able to face him down - with fear, annoyance, even rage, but never panic. The River taught me more than that. Rightly or wrongly it taught me that whetever is in Nature, is beautiful and right - even wanton cruelty. I shot so many harmless little creatures; in these pages you will find a record of horrible, senseless slaughter. I am a- shamed of it. And yet - where would these creatures be now if I hadn't raised my gun and fired? Would they be more alive today than they are in these pages? Here, at least, they live again if only dimly, briefly, and will continue to live while anyone reads these lines. Am I trying to rationalize the inexcuseable? Probably. But the gun I carried was mostly camouflage, truly just an excuse for something else. I lived in a world, I still do, that accepts hunting as right and manly but smiles pityingly at any weakness for dark pines against the sun- set, the smell of the dawn-wind heavy with the dank stench of swamps, the blue, cold fire of Phosphor- escent life in the black water under the quiet night sky. But the River is gone now. In Argentine Interlude I spoke of the destroyer's first appearance when they started filling in the sedges east of the F Street bridge, chopped down our old wind-twisted cedars, and created a `restricted' residential district there. Later, other forward looking people bulk-headed the west shore and 2
THE RIVER AND I and then, with tons of sand and ravaged oysterbeds pump- ed from the river bottom, buried the quivering sedges, filled in the mud holes where the heron and I had hunted, slashed streets through the wooded hills, and parcelled out the land into small lots upon which mean little houses were erected by little people who had never known the real River. Some kindred spirit has recently come up with the perfect, brilliant phrase for this type of ac- tivity - Bull-dozer Blight. Well, the boy who wrote these things is gone too - lost perhaps somewhere at sea coming back to our work-a- day world from the land of the lonely pampa, or blasted out of sight in the rain-soaked mud of Northern France. All that remains now is this very hum-drum individual you call your father. You three are now on the threshold of your own od- dysies. I hope you too will be able to cram your memor- ies with pictures as varied and beautiful as mine. You too will be blessed - or cursed - with eyes that will see these things, with senses that will respond to them. Perhaps I am wrong - I almost hope I am. J.W.S. Belmar November 1942 3
THE RIVER AND I Thursday, June 7th, 1906. Here I am trying to have another turn at keeping a diary again. I suppose I shall have given it up a week from now, but I hope not. This morning, as I was translating in Die Journa- listen' about Bolz being rescued from the fire, our fire bell began to ring. It rang last night when I was trans- lating the same passage but that time it was only because Willie Robinson, Jr. was lost again. It really was a fire this morning at the Melrose Inn, but I don't think much damage was done. This evening, when I got home from making blue- prints over at school, I learned that Ed Glass had just come back from Washington and so I posted up there. At supper I learned that Papa had found a place with some Mr. White for Bob and so he has gone and won't be biting anyone else - not on our property, anyway. Friday, June 8th. Went down to Ed's this afternoon. We took Ralph Shinn's boat and rowed down to the Inlet past the jetties which the last storm has pitched and twisted into heaps all over, with the water swirling between them about a mile a minute. The oarlocks were no good so we had to paddle. We were almost upset two or three times in the surf but finally got back in against the current and were just setting out for home when two men asked us to row them over to Avon shore. The boat isn't very big and the four of us loaded it to the gunwales - at least to within three inches - but we first went pretty high up stream and then headed diagonally across. We got into 4

1906 the slack water behind a mass of wreckage in the middle but when we came out on the other side, the current caught the bow the minute it appeared and heeled us over so quickly that we took in a couple inches of water. On the second attempt we both paddled on the side away from the current and managed to get across without shipping much more. When we landed them safely they offered us a quar- ter and I was going to refuse but Ed took it for cart- ridges. Saturday, June 9th. Began the day by sweeping the cellar, cleaning the chicken house, and sifting all the week's ashes for what good coal they might contain. What was left of the morn- ing I spent fixing up the old battleship model for a tar- get and took two ranging shots with longs. Ed bought two boxes of shorts and I one so this af- ternoon we started across the river in Ralph's boat with old Bean-dog and my Savage rifle. We soon landed on the N.W.W. side and, hiding our oars, tramped through the brush in the sweltering heat but didn't get a shot. Then we re-embarked and amused ourselves shooting at crabs, having to allow for the distorting effect of water. We got seven (this is Ed's official report; we really hit only one) and gave them (it) to a man we met. Then we let out for the spring opposite Money Hill. Just as we were about to land, we heard a clap of thunder. Looking up, we could see a big, white, fleecy cloud roll- ing up out of the west but by the time our bow touched shore it had reached the sun and suddenly the cloud and everything else grew black. We ran the boat up on the gravelly beach as quickly as we could, turned it bottom- up over a log, and had barely time to cut a couple of branches and crawl under when the rain came crashing down. It hid everything out on the river from view. Although 5
1906 it quickly got rather damp, we enjoyed it immensely ex- cept that Bean seemed worried and kept whining, and it was all the better when hail began to rattle down. Some of the stones were as large as dimes and were flattened like jujubees. We ate all we could get hold of and amused ourselves by banging away without result at a lot of fish- hawks circling overhead. About this time the water began to run in under the boat and before long it was decidedly uncomfortable. As soon as it slacked off a bit, we rolled out and dug a ditch along the higher side to carry away the water and cut more branches so that, when in a minute or two it came down harder than ever, we were quite prepared. Bean seemed really frightened by now and hid his head under my coat and trembled. Finally it cleared a little and we started off for something to shoot at. We didn't find anything and the rain kept drizzling down but Ed decided he wanted a fish- hawk so we waited at the foot of a tree in the top of which was a nest. Eventually the proprietor of the nest appeared and, after circling around screaming at us for about half an hour in the rain, he settled on a branch and Ed shot him through the body on the left side. The bullet went through him like paper and he came whirling down with a crash. I shot him through the neck after- wards so that he wouldn't suffer and he died at once. By now the rain had stopped so we started for home. Soon, however, it began to cloud up in the west again and the thunder started rumbling, but we rowed as hard as we could. The sky grew blacker and blacker and the lightning was bright and forked. By the time we landed at Seventh Ave. it was so dark we could hardly see. I had my rifle and an oar, Ed the hawk and the other one as we set out on a run for home. Going through the 6
1906 woods back of VanNortwick's (I never spelled or saw this written before) Ed ran into the bushes and hid the corpse while I waited, and then we ran on together. Just as we turned into my yard the big drops began to fall and the wind started howling like a banshee. I put on dry clothes and lent Ed a pair of shoes and socks and he stayed for supper. The storm was something fierce and lots of trees were blown down. After supper I saw Harry Cooper who is going to law school, sitting on the Girard House porch where the Coopers have their meals and he said the fine for shooting fish-hawks and sea gulls was $25.00 Sunday, June 10th. `Brite and fair'. The Childrens' Day excercises were held in the church this morning. Miss Godfrey, the business teacher from High School, honored us with her presence. The orchestra didn't play and the secretary- ship didn't keep Harry and me very long. This is the last Sunday for the rest of the summer that we'll have Sunday School in the afternoon - 9:45 in the morning af- ter this so that we'll have the rest of the day for the beach and what-not. After dinner Ed and I went to pick up the fish-hawk but, Lo & Behold, when we reached the spot we couldn't get to it. During the storm two huge oaks had fallen, one on top of the other, right on the precise spot where Ed had hidden it. We worked in vain to rescue it but had to give up finally. Some day the body will be discovered and the finder will no doubt explain how this hawk had taken refuge from the storm and had been pinned down when the tree fell. Papa says he can give me a place this summer work- ing in the Lumber Office at $3.00 a week. So that is all settled. 7
1906 Monday, June 11th. Nothing doing. Stayed over this afternoon and was- ted a lot of time writing up my Physics note-book. In the natural order of events this chronicle will cease and desist in a day or two. I hope not for I am looking forward to raeading it some rainy afternoon forty or fifty years from now. Tuesday, June 12th. Stayed over again this afternoon and put in the time playing with electric motors etc. Our Junior Finals begin tomorrow - Physics first, from the beginning of the second half. Outcome doubtful. Have been making geometric figures out of cardboard for Miss Briggs that I was told to get in before Easter. Gillespie Ross - ditto. Wednesday, June 13th. Had Physics exam. Cinch. Hope I passed. This afternoon Harry Cooper and I went in swimming at the R.R. Bridge. The water was pretty good but we didn't stay in long - I wanted to get busy on my Geometry. Thursday, June 14th. Geometry fierce; Latin fierce. Rather dubious about Latin tomorrow. Friday. German cinch; Latin fierce. Tomorrow I start work at the office. Saturday, June 16th. This morning I started in over at Lewis's. The work was easy enough onlly there was nothing at all to do. A little excitement at noon when I got home. A man was run over by an automobile at Sixteenth Ave. and was seriously injured. The afternoon was the same as the morning but rainy all the latter half. When I was coming home and the 8
1906 trolley was half-way across the bridge, a shower came tearing across the river. It looked like a white blank- et of fog and it obliterated everything in its path. By the time the car reached 6th Ave. it struck us and I got soaked running the half block from F Street. For the day's work I was paid 83. Technically it should have been 83 2/3 cents but actually all the work I did wasn't worth ten. Sunday, June 17th. Loafed all day except when I went to Sunday School at 9:45. Later read `Yankee in King Arthur's Court', part of `Treasure Island' also. But today only a break between two storms. LAst week was pretty tough but tomorrow at 3:45 the forerun- ner of the real gale will swoop down upon me and will last till 5:30 in the shape of the Physics tests as devised by the Board of Regents. Then there will be a brief lull of a few hours but the next morning it will overwhelm me with a roar. The first awful blow will last till 12:00 during which three hours I shall be wrestling with Geometry. Then, from 1:30 to 3:30, I shall revel in Ancyent Historie. After a fifteen minute breather it will leap upon me with redoubled force - German till 5:30. So it will keep up without respite through six Latin exams - not to mention the others - all the rest of the week. Monday, June 18th. Here I am resting after the Physics exam. However, it wasn't much to rest over for it was a cinch. I'm ra- ther afraid of our own school Physics exam though for Miss Coffin remarked to me today that I `thought I was so smart, you nearly flunked'. She is so childish. I sup- pose she'll mark me down as low as she possibly can, so I may as well be prepared for it. Miss Briggs says that none of us got below 85 (I suppose that means I got 86) 9
1906 and Miss Nichols says I got second best in the Latin class - first would, of course, be Constance Wilbur. P.S. - 11:00 P.M. - I am just back from the Class Night Hurrah (noun). It was all right. Florence Wilbur wrote the Class Poem and it was all the merry. Gil- lespie and I went down town after some ice for the punch and got a pail-full at Winkler's (ice, not punch). Then we went down and treated the Board of Education. I came home with Harry Ogden who is staying with his uncle, Dr. Treat at 603 across the street from our house. He showed me the room where he and Stew Appleby are going to live this summer. He was more enthusiastic over than I was impressed by their quarters. He's cultivating the smok- ing habit and smokes `Lucky Strike' tobacco he informed me. How interesting! We came home in the car with Effie Brown. So end- eth this eventful day and I know not what the morrow will bring forth as I have a fever blister on my tongue and another in the corner of my mouth but I hope the billious attack will hold off till Saturday. Thursday, June 21st. At last the Regents Exams are about over. There have been so many things going on I haven't been able to get at this. Last night I was over at the Graduating Exercises selling the Beacon. All the afternoon I was a- cross the river in a canoe I hired from Buhler's. Ed and the two Jones kids, Kim and Tom, are building a log cabin over back of the spring a good way up the hill and deep in the woods. After visiting them, I went up the creek. I didn't get home till seven and then had to dress in a hurry to get over to the Graduation at eight. Today we had Cicero and Latin Prose and Grammar (elementary) - all much harder than anything we've had yet, Caesar yesterday being easy. After the exams Edgar 10
1906 Baumgartner, Glubby, and I amused ourselves with a battery in the Laboratory. Tomorrow English and advanced Latin Prose. Friday, June 22nd. The exams came out all right, I think, although I didn't quite finish my English. After it was all over had a shocking good time in the Laboratory with Glubby Ross and Barnard Bush. Barnard was in the middle while we held hands and were taking three batteries with only two and a fraction ohms resistance and our hands were all trembling. Barnard told Gillespie to shut it off and, after waiting a suitable time, Glubby started to do so, but his hands were shaking so that he knocked the switch over to one ohm. Barnard began yelling at the top of his lungs - `Cut it off! Cut it off!' but neither of us could for several seconds till Glubby, who was nearest, managed to give the switch a knock and break the connect- ion. At least it distracted us from those exams. Went over to the Neptune High Graduation. Rotten! Saturday, June 23rd. I have had the most gorgeous time today. This mor- ning I sent off my Beacons to all our exchanges, swept the cellar etc. and cut the grass. This afternoon I went down to Ed's after reading a little in `Innocents Abroad'. We went up to Ed's room in the attic of the Fourth Ave. house and I examined his collection of half-dime novels while he was shooting a 31 ca. Model 1843 Colt that had belonged to his grand- father. It is a beautifully balanced muzzle-loading re- volver. We were both instructing Ralph Shinn in the HORR- RORS OF WAR!! Finally Ed suggested that we go across the river and so I went for my rifle while he brought Ralph's boat down to Mount's where I was to meet him. 11
1906 When we were half way across the river the fun began. A shower came up out of the west and it rained quite hard for five minutes. It's surprising how much rain can fall sometimes without getting you very wet - this was that kind. Presently we discerned on the starboard bow a man waving frantically for assistance. The wind was blowing quite hard and the waves were almost high enough to come aboard. In the boat with him was a most beauti- ful damsel with a kid, the latter weeping bitter, bitter tears. It developed that they had lost an oar and the wind had already carried them some distance from it, but the elderly idiot didn't have sense enough to scull after it, so he yelled. After rescuing the oar, I was for abs- conding with it as rightful salvage and then watching his reactions at a safe distance, but Ed dissuaded me from this fell intent so, after handing over the oar, we pro- ceeded on our way. We reached the spring without further adventure and, after hauling up the boat and overturning it, we started for the hut. On our way we fell in with two hawks, or they may have been owls our glimpse of them was so fleeting, and I let fly at them through the trees but must have missed. Then Ed took the rifle and went career- ing after them but not a shot did he get. He gave up fi- nally and we went on to the hut which is in a tiny clear- ing in the dense woods. It is a crude affair, made of logs half way up, laid criss-cross log cabin wise when I guess they got tir- ed of cutting down trees, for the rest is made of plain strips like cloth props. The roof is a few boards laid on any way with a piece of sail-cloth covering about half and the rest is roofed with branches. There is a little lizard who permeates this weird structure whom Ed calls Clarence; said he thought of that name himself and likes 12
1906 it. He further stated that these lizards throw off their tails whenever they are scared and that on each stump two more then grow etc. etc. ad infinitum. Ed often gets off on these fantasies. It was now about 4 P.M. and we started off down the Colt's Neck road which is about 100 yards west of the hut, and crosses the White Bridge further on. When I asked Ed how he knew this was the Colt's Neck road, he said he was sure it was because a man in a buggy stopped him the other day and asked - `Is this Colt's Neck Road?' to which Ed had replied - `Yes'. By and by we came to a fish-hawk's nest, in fact the scene of the former tragedy, and just as we were a- bout to turn back, we heard one scream so we made for the tree. Well, we hid there for about half an hour and then, all of a sudden, there was a crash of thunder and the rain came down in torrents. We tried to find shelter un- der the bushes but this rain was very keen and soon fer- reted us out. Then we resolved to "beat it" to the hut and, after much debate pro and con, did so. We arrived finally, I drenched clear through my outer shell but still dry inside, in a manner of speaking. Ed had left his coat in the hut and was really soaked. But in his dry coat were matches and we soon had a fire going. We built a miniature chimney of dry twigs and filled the inside with paper and chips. It was soon roaring so that we had to strip back part of the sail to let out the smoke. After we got fairly dry we waited and waited for the rain to stop but it did nothing of the sort; it drizzled right along with mean and pig-headed persistence. Somewhere around seven Ed suggested that we start and I finally consented to leave our now warm and comfortable quarters. Taking a big board to sit on in the boat and keep dry, we started. 13
1906 We reached the boat alright and quickly pushed off. Ed rowed while I sat in the stern and leaned my back against the board to keep off the rain and also to catch the brisk westerly wind which was helping us along. When we were off Money Hill, Ed motioned for me to turn around and I saw a white wall of rain and spray approaching us, not awfully rapidly but swiftly. Ed was getting a little tired so we quickly changed places and I could now watch the squall coming across the water, blotting out everything as it came. When it struck us, we heeled away over and, as for the rain, I never felt anything like it - for I could see nothing the way it was whipping against my face. The waves came right over the gunwales if we turned anything but our stern to it and we took in about three inches of water altogether. It was great fun rid- ing over the waves. We almost upset a dozen times and, if we had, my rifle would probably have been lost for the water is about eight feet deep there. So we just held her Straight and drove before it till we were just beginning to see the shore through the surface spray, when the squall passed and we could see it disappearing across Belmar. The rain was quite warm and was all right while it lasted but when it stopped we began to feel cold. We didn't get in to Seventh Ave. till eight o'clock and I straightaway took a hot bath. After supper I cleaned my rifle and then went to bed. Sunday, June 24th. Tomorrow I begin work for good over at Lewis's. Bean visited Sunday School this morning as usual but Harry wasn't there at first and he grew uneasy. In the middle of prayer he strolled into the main church and began to roll around on the floor, scratching his back on the red rung, grunting loudly in canine extacy. 14
1906 Monday, June 25th. My job seems to be quite a cinch if it were not for the loafing making the time pass so slowly. Everyone seems busy but I. I have to make extensions of lumber lists and run errands etc. but I dont do four hours real work in this day. This morning an Italian was run over at the Spring- wood Ave. crossing and was killed. Tuesday. Same as yesterday, loafing included but nobody kill- ed at R.R. crossing. Got a letter from Miss Cook. Have been writing up this darned book. Wednesday. A plague on this monster anyway. Now that I've st started it, it is never appeased. I dont mind writing about something that really is interesting, but I do hate to pad it up like this. However, I have no choice for if I dont keep writing it up every night the blamed thing will just lapse as it always has heretofor. Nothing whatever happened today. This evening I've been copying "The Avenging of Isis" which, by the way, I had across the river Saturday and it got soaked. Sunday, July 1st. Alas! We are going to have a rainy Fourth. I know this is so for this morning, while I was swimming with my new bathing suit, which I bought yesterday ($3.00), I met Ed and we are going across the river. It seems un- reasonable to deprive so many people of the chance for a clear holiday just because Ed and I want to have a little fun, but I cant miss the opportunity to enjoy myself just because it always rains whenever we journey westward out of Belmar. During my swim at the Inlet this morning, I got all sunburned and my shoulders are as red as beets. 15
1906 Monday, July 2nd. And as raw as fresh beef. I am forever being interrupted by someone coming up stairs. Doubtless, before I have finished this page, I shall be interrupted again. I dont dare let anyone read this any more. There was a time when I wrote my diary in plain open sight and everyone knew it. Donald each evening would bring the book out after I had written up the day and read it aloud before the assembled family; when Donald forgot, Mamma didn't. That time I kept the diary just eight days. I dont let them catch me now, I hope. If anyone is reading this, I hope you are thro- oughly ashamed of such sneakiness. I didn't go swimming this afternoon for I have a bad stomach ache and my arms are still sunburned. I wasn't interrupted. Wednesday, July 4th. Sure enough it rained and so hard that even we couldn't go across. It may be just as well for I had an invitation from Annie Crowther to go sailing with a bunch of others today but the rain spoiled that, too, so there was no conflict with Ed. Anyway, he said he had a stomach ache and couldn't go, rain or no rain. In the afternoon Papa, Donald and I went swimming down at the Inlet but the water was icy and we didn't en- joy it very much although Papa had bought a bathing suit for the occasion. After we got home we shot at a mark in the back yard with my rifle until the rifle got so hot that we couldn't hit a thing. I wanted to let it cool and give it a swab or two but Papa flew into a rage and said I didn't wam to shoot it. In the evening we went down to the Belmar Club House at the corner of 11th and Ocean and watched the fire-works. They were all right, I guess, but it gets 16
1906

(Note: I am attempting to add to this as days go by. Please keep checking back. -Todd (7/22/2015)

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First put up on web: January 09, 1998.
Previous update: January 12, 1998.
Last update: May 10, 2001.

Todd L. Sherman (afn09444@afn.org)
© Copyright 1998-2001 by Todd L. Sherman. All Rights Reserved.