I've been away for a couple of days and just got back to it.
It's finally working, thanks so much for your help I believe "file" instead of "virtual" was my initial hangup
Here's how it's set up
1) htaccess file located in the directory containing the html pages (named .htm) with the following two lines
2) On the pages I want the includes on they are called for called for by
<!--#include virtual="footer.htm" --> (no underscores)
3) the file permissions for the pages having includes set at
that was my last sticking point somehow when I changed the group and other permissions to x the owner was set to rw only, once i corrected that it's working fine.
the .shtml worked, however my pages have been indexed for many years and have first page placement for several search strings. I'm freshening the site and working on improving placement and wasn't going to rename my files and start from scratch, to save some time when I update files.
Now I'm a little further along - by the way we have a horsedrawn carriage company. http://loonmeadowfarm.com/