My Zucchini Boats are Sinkin’

In a post from the spring a year ago, I bemoaned my inability to grow zucchini squash. I also found out as I reread the post, I misspelled catalog four times. Where were the grammar Nazis when I needed them? Misspelled words are the least of my worries.  My worry is zucchini.

I grow zucchini fine…the plants…up to a point. I have the deepest green, tropical looking leaves. Locals come from miles around just to sit in their shade.  Too much nitrogen? Maybe.

Huge plants grow to blot out the sun. Just about the time the fruit begins to form the squash bugs hit. Whamo! Midget Mesozoic Era looking thingees that suck the very life out of my plants. That’s if the plants survive the squash borers or too much rain or too much dry heat or too much whatever. I don’t know how REAL farmers survive.

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The leaves once so big and green turn yellow, then gray, then brown. It is as if every bit of moisture is sucked out of them. They curl in the sun and when I pick up the Sahara dry leaves little gray things run willy nilly. If I’m lucky, I find the little orange eggs before they become little gray things and scrap them off.  If not I look like Jarabe Tapatio doing the Mexican hat dance on their beady little heads.

Bug control

I tried to do the organic thing on all my veggies not just zucchini. Organic fertilizers, Neem Oil, Liquid soap spray, diogenous earth. Prayers to Zeus, Demeter, Persephone, and Hades. This is after prayers to Jehovah were never answered. I considered animal sacrifices or contacting a Voodoo priestess.  Anyone know any witches?

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Mostly I pick the little good for nothing rascals off and squeeze them until poop shoots out their little bottoms. I like the satisfying crunch as their exoskeleton implodes between my thumb and forefinger. Too graphic?

Every morning latex gloves shield my hands from the smell of greenish brown, bug juice. I wonder if they can hear me coming…crunch, crunch, crunch. Staring up as my shadow blots out the sun, I can almost hear their squeaky little Mr. Bill voices yelling, “Oh nooooo! Sluggo has returned! Run, run, run.” Well, you can run but you can’t hide…well I guess you can.

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Satisfaction in the fear they must feel. Satisfaction masquerading as greenish brown bug juice. Satisfaction when I hit the lottery and crushed the two I caught in the act of “faire crac crac boum boum”. Need I offer a translation? Did they die with a smile on their ugly, little, bug faces?  I have to say, “That’s an interesting way to make whoopie.” 

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Well, I figured it out this year. I thought about my grandmother. Her response to squash bugs was Sevin dust. Actually, her reaction to any unwanted critter was Sevin dust or sending the grandkids out to pick the critters off.  Organic gardening was not her long suit.  I know, I know. “You can’t claim to be organic now!” I DON’T CARE! I HAVE A BUMPER CROP OF ZUCCHINI INSTEAD OF SQUASH BUGS!
Now I have another problem. “What the firetruck do I do with all of this zucchini?” You got your boiled zucchini, fried zucchini, roasted zucchini, grilled zucchini, zucchini casserole, zucchini bread, zucchini spaghetti…you got your zucchini boats.

Come at the zucchini, you best not miss.

For more “stuff” or a boatload of zucchini, like Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Anyone with interesting ways to use zucchini is welcome to leave a comment.

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Dad’s Day

Some thoughts on Father’s Day.

Reflections Of A Gasbag

Sunday is Father’s Day. Father’s Day has never meant too much to me. Both my parents died when I was young so I never really got to know either of them and I have never been a father. I never really dwell on either. One I had no control, the other was a mutual decision. Seeing a young girl dressed like a hooker or a young boy wearing skinny jeans with a man bun has made me wonder what kind of Dad I may have been and just imagining if they were the demon like I was as a kid really gave me pause on the whole child thing. Having a crazy dog has shed many of insights on my parenting skills. I have learned that I more than likely would have sucked and my life had been spared jail time for murdering a boyfriend.

There is a downside of…

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Possum Holler and Pig Trails

 

I grew up just south of Possum Holler on an unnamed dirt road that ran west before paralleling the Catawba River north toward the Sugar Creek…well, I guess the dirt road had a name after all.  The River Road…the problem was there were many unnamed river roads in the area and its name has nothing to do with the pig trails my brain is taking me down.  Or does it?

I saw a request for historical information as to how Possum Holler Road might have gotten its name.  You reckin’ cuz there might have been a few “possums in that there holler”…that’s the way folks said it back then.  Not hollow but holler…and the same folks pronounced yellow…yeller.  I’m not making fun of anyone who changes their w’s to r’s.  I’ve been known to revert when I get a few shots of brown liquor in my gullet.  I tend to drop my gs too.  But it’s not about the way people talk.

It’s about places like Possum Holler, or Frog Level or my absolute favorites, Sugar Tit and Happy Bottom…and hundreds or thousands of others.  Mostly small places, some nothing more than wide places in the road.  I’ve always enjoyed places with the “Now Entering So and So” and the “Now Leaving So and So” sign on the same post.

It’s about discovery.  Discoveries you must get off the interstate to see.  Pig trails leading to crossroads where you flip a coin to decide which direction to turn and end up in a place you didn’t know you would miss if you hadn’t found it.  Pig trails you purposely get lost on.  “Which way do you think?”  “I don’t know…turn left?”  Can one be lost if one doesn’t care where one is going?

Some of the pig trails have names like the Natchez Trace, the Woodpecker Trail…or Scenic Highway 11, the pig trail I live on.  Even those have become too crowded…like the Possum Holler of my youth.  One must get off those well-traveled roads.  One must take a chance; you can’t get lost if you don’t know where you are going and have a full tank of gas.

Back in the day, when my bride and I ransomed our monetary souls for our little piece of heaven…our monetary souls are still ransomed, our car and the myriads of pig trails and wide places populating our realm became an outlet.  Instead of a knightly steed, we explored our domain in an ’87 Thunderbird to the tune of two hundred and sixteen thousand miles.

When we were really brave we took my old Toyota Landcruiser up over Glassy and Chestnut Mountains before the rich developers closed them off to the serfs and peons.  Golfers in Mercedes replaced the rednecks in four-wheel drives.

Still, we stranded ourselves on more than one occasion.  Being stranded ain’t too bad when you are crazy in love and have friends who will come and yank you back upright.

When we visited family or friends in far off places, we made sure we got off the interstate. We would pour over road atlases looking for pig trails leading through interesting places.  We spent the night in a long-dead Mississippi River boat captains’ home near Shiloh Church, ate dinner in a haunted restaurant in Natchez Under the Hill, made love in an Antebellum mansion in Vicksburg, and stopped to read every historical marker we saw.  Too much information?

We visited a baseball coach’s nirvana, Rosenblatt in Omaha during the most wonderful time of the year, The College World Series.  But we got off the interstate.

We drove from New Orleans to Pensacola off the interstate, stopping at all the little coastal towns.  Took forever…it was wonderful.  We even had to argue with our GPS in the delta when it said our destination was a mile straight ahead despite the Mississippi River saying otherwise.

After the Thunderbird came a Mustang convertible and our road trips became even more fun.  Even Sugar Tit looks different when the top is down and the wind is blowing through your hair.

We’ve gotten out of the habit…no we’ve gotten lazy.  Sometimes life gets in the way, other times you use it as an excuse.  We’ve become old and boring.  We make excuses not to pack a lunch and the puppies into the car and head out to Coosawatchie, or Hell’s Half Acre which is right next to Happy Bottom.

They all exist right here in South Carolina although those might be too far away for the puppies. See?  Excuses.  We should load them and drive up to Rocky Bottom, it’s close by…that’s right we must drive UP to get DOWN to Rocky Bottom.

We have to do better.  We’re not getting any younger and someone said time slows for no one.  I don’t know where this week has gone so that someone must be correct.

Time to find a pig trail heading to Tuxedo and maybe on to Climax.  They’re in close by North Carolina.  Possum Holler is too populated these days…and not with possums.

For those of you in the area, Possum Holler should not be confused with the Possum Kingdom.  They are not the same except for being humorously named.

The image came from Possum Holler Road located in Indian Land, South Carolina in Lancaster County.  I guess Indian Land is another interesting name.

Apologies to those who stopped to read thinking this was about possums or pigs.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found AND LIKED at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

 

A Life Well Juggled

“If you’re trying to change someone you love, you don’t love them. It’s the oddnesses, the most unique imperfections that you’d miss the most. That’s the stuff you can’t replace. Everything else is easy to come by.”
Crystal Woods

A family visitation, a funeral, a granddaughter’s graduation from pre-school and a ninetieth birthday party for my wife’s stepmother’s sister, all in the space of twenty-four hours.  My wife is up to her chin in all of them it seems…at least in her own mind.  She seems happiest when up to her chin in alligators while juggling the flaming batons of life.  She is happy a lot.

She is the wild mustang unencumbered by a bridle or rider, mane blowing in the wind as she runs hither and yon. Life, for me, is easier when she can run amok like a chicken with her head cut off. After nearly thirty-two years I realize, “She ain’t gonna change” and now I’m not sure I want her to.

She juggles OUR lives, flaming torches or razor-sharp knives be damned. She reminds me of a Lucille Ball skit, having to stuff chocolate into her mouth or blouse. Lucy and Ethyl just trying to keep up with a conveyor belt full of chocolate…hers is the conveyor belt of life.

I see her as the tuxedo-clad dandy spinning plates on sticks on the old Ed Sullivan Show. Running from pole to pole as the plates begin to slow and wobble, spinning them faster, attempting to keep them from falling off.

When all is done, she never quite loses a plate and all the chocolates are lined up neatly in boxes instead of her bra. Life can be difficult and sometimes she gets nicked or burned as she juggles but never enough for her to quit.

She said, “I’m not getting involved in this party! No way, no how!  She has sons, let them….” Translation: “She’s up to her chin alligator poop.” And by association, so am I.

Our home and yard may be wrecks but somehow, we have time to take over the party preparations because “It needs to be done right.”  That might translate into, “It needs to be done my way.” 

In between the funeral and graduation, she runs around arranging tables and chairs…again and again, and, again.  She agrees to pick up ice cream and a cake. She has plenty of time after all. 

Creating flower arrangements, she purchased plants a month ago…and two weeks ago…and yesterday.  Standing back with her head cocked to the side, deciding if it is perfect enough or does putting in a bit of greenery make it more perfect.  If one New Guinea impatient will work, a dozen will be a dozen times more perfect. Two dozen?

It is eight a. m. before the party at three.  She’s headed out to do her magic.  What is magic is how she got all of those plants, containers and pink tissue into one vehicle the size of a Jeep instead of a transfer truck.  Sorcery?

I’m left to care for the puppies, who don’t need my care.  In their youth, they feared thunderstorms and we are getting our gracious plenty.  They are so terrified, they are sacked out around my feet.  One lying on her back, the other curled up with a paw across its nose.  Really terrified.

Still, her orders, “Take care of my puppies.  Give them some love.”  They are the puppies we weren’t going to bring home fourteen years ago, “We’re not getting one, we are just going to look.” She was correct, we didn’t get one…we got two. They are blind and old now. They only have a mind’s eye for their mommy.

It’s a ploy I’ve seen through for years.  She just wants to do the preparations herself. It is just her “thing” and I’m not about to change her “thing”. Telling me to care for the puppies while she is gone is just her way of keeping me involved…without involving me.

In her mind, she is still twenty-five…and in my mind too I guess. She’s not twenty-five but that doesn’t stop her from running from hot spot to hot spot, putting out fires that need to be put out. Sometimes starting wildfires, sometimes adding gasoline, sometimes supplying a match before figuring out how to put out the fire she started.

The thoughts of her running about like “the roof ain’t nailed on tight” causes me to smile.

I wonder how a body as small as hers accommodates such a huge heart. A heart intent on doing good deeds.  A heart blind enough to say “Yes” to a two-time loser when I asked her to marry me.

I’m thankful for all her quirks and downright insanities…if we can just get through the next few hours.

The quote came from Write Like Nobody Is Reading by Crystal Woods.

The image is from https://www.scarlettentertainment.com/page/uk-fire-jugglers

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Little Bastards: Deja Vu…Again

 

Heat and humidity have drawn out the gazillions of itchy, bitey, stingy and just irritating little bastards that make Southern summers challenging.

It’s early June and I’ve already run afoul of a red wasp.  Ugly thing.  A refugee from a 1950s Japanese horror film with a sting as fiery as Godzilla’s breath.  Popped me right on top of the hand and sent me inside for a poultice of chewing tobacco and baking soda.

Chewing tobacco and baking soda?  The old-time remedy draws out the poison…maybe, I don’t know.  As I create this masterpiece of literary art my hand is still swollen, red and itchy…and painful…did I mention painful?  Did I mention I hate the taste of chewing tobacco?

Why Noah?  Did you have to bring the little bastards on board two by two?  Couldn’t you have replaced them all with a couple of unicorns?

Challenging it is.  Wasps, yellow jackets, Russian hornets…are Russian hornets payback for winning the Cold War?  “Big bastards they are,” said Yoda in my head…or was it Dr. Suess.

A memory flashes from a decade ago.  On an early morning run and despite the low light, I saw the B52 sized insect invading my airspace.  I zigged. It did too.  I zagged.  The hornet followed my movements like a GPS led, nuclear-tipped cruise missile and exploded just as hotly.

My upper lip and its stinger intersected at a point some two miles from my home.  By the time I returned to my recliner and my too familiar poultice, I could see my upper lip poking out beyond my nose and felt the fire from a thousand dragons burning hotter than a Game of Thrones episode.  The pain was exquisite…and long lasting.

Some of the little bastards of summer don’t sting.  They are just irritating.  Gnats…Gah…zillions of Gah…nats.  I just returned from my early morning walk with the remains of thousands of gnats strained through my teeth, rubbing gnats out of my eyes and sneezing from gnats snorted up my nose.  Challenging…yes, and I’m ignoring mosquitoes and deer flies.  They are irritating too.

Nothing matches my war with yellow jackets.  The original little bastards.  They lie in wait in high grass, under the pile of matted leaves I should have raked up last fall.  They buzz in looking for moisture…and anything they might sting…usually me.

They remind me of the villainous Borg from Star Trek fame.  Yellow jackets…and the Borg, are of one mind, a hive mentality, and seem to have my DNA on file.  If one little bastard gets angry, they all become angry…all angry at me.  A buzzing, stinging cloud of pain and agony with one intent, to cover me in baking soda and chewing tobacco and put me to sleep with Benadryl.   Resistance is futile…just run.

I remember stepping into a yellow jacket’s nest soon after we moved to our little piece of heaven.  Satan’s spawn rose from the ground, I slapped and ran.  They go for your legs trying to take you down before moving in for the kill.  I decided slapping was futile and ran to the house howling at the top of my lungs.  My wife locked the door in my face.

“Don’t bring them in here!”  she shouted.  Thank you, my darling.  I guess love doesn’t conquer all when it comes to stinging insects.  More chewing tobacco and baking soda.  Later, calamine lotion and Benadryl.  “Little bastards you are,” said Yoda.

I turned into a pacifist and conservationist in my old age…except for my personal war with yellow jackets, wasps and hornets.  With most animals, crawley things, and insects around my little piece of heaven, I tend to “live and let live.”  Not yellow jackets.   “Die you little bastards, die!”  Huh, that wasn’t Yoda.

I’m girding myself for battle despite the knowledge Mother Nature’s minions will ultimately win in the end.  Mother Nature always wins.  Nevertheless… spray cans of wasp and hornet killer are locked and loaded.  Despite the futility of resistance, I will go down fighting…

Note to self: Check your hoard of chewing tobacco.  May the force be with you.

For more of Don Miller’s wanderings, go to his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LOo22BkM94

“Celebrating” Memorial Day

 

Grills will be lit; beer will be iced.  Pool parties will be scheduled.  Many will celebrate a three-day weekend.  Many will not consider, “What cost?”

Memorial Day is a remembrance of horror; the costs of war, in blood and bone, in flesh, in broken bodies and minds.  It is a remembrance of loss.  The day should not be a celebration but too many of us treat it as if it was.

We have fallen in love with the idea of war.  We have been at war for far too long.  I was born during the Korean “Conflict”, came of age during the Cold War and Vietnam.  I have lived through too many wars, lived through what has become almost continuous.

We glorify our military conquests and denigrate anything other than total victory.  Memorial Day should be a sobering recognition of what glorification cost instead of a drunken celebration of war.

Local VFWs and other veterans’ groups will sponsor parades and tributes to our fallen heroes.  Old men in ill-fitting uniforms will stand at attention saluting as marching bands play.  Small flags will flutter in front of grave markers and trumpets will sound over cemeteries in villages, towns and cities alike.

TMC will broadcast an all-day marathon of war movies featuring brave men dying for a cause.  We should remember, these matinée idols are playing a role; the men and women they portray did not get to go home after a day in front of a camera.  Many of these roles never came home at all and no one is left unscathed when the battle is over.

For those who returned, far too many servicemen and women came home having left a part of themselves on battlefields around the world.  In deserts and swamps, they left more than their footprints, they left a piece of their humanity and a bit of their sanity.  War is not always a noble enterprise even though most of the men and women who fight it are quite noble and brave.  War is not a movie on a screen.

I once enjoyed watching movies with John Wayne facing down the enemy.  Sitting with my father, a World War Two veteran, the Sunday Matinee might offer “The Fighting Seabees”, “The Sands of Iwo Jima”, “Flying Leathernecks”, “In Harm’s Way”, “The Horse Soldiers” and “They Were Expendable”.  The craggy-faced, steely-eyed hero squinting down his gun barrel, facing insurmountable odds and yet somehow prevailing…too often at the cost of his own life but never at the cost of his humanity.  His bravery displayed in technicolor on the silver screen.

I have become a pacifist.  I never intended to be one, it just happened.  As a youth, I was gung-ho with my mother’s metal mixing bowl upside down on my head, defending the red clay hill behind my house against the enemies of the “American Way” with my Mattel Thompson machine gun.

I know in my Autumn years I’ve become just that, a pacifist.  I suspect my course of study in college, Kurt Vonnegut, the effects of living through the Vietnam War years and an almost continuous series of military conflicts during my lifetime are to blame for my change.  Too many dead, too many broken.

War, policing actions or skirmishes are all the same to the dead and wounded.  Young people fighting old men’s wars.  The poor fighting for the rich.  All dying for ideology, religion or to line the pockets of those who benefit from the business of war.  I have become quite cynical and am not apologetic.

I was a participant in the first Vietnam draft lottery, my brass ring was number two hundred seventeen.  I say brass ring because the number was never called.  I knew I was a coward and didn’t want to go fight in Southeast Asia or anywhere else for that matter.  I also knew I would be the bravest coward in the world if called up.  I would go and fight if asked to.  I could do nothing else.  I would do what was expected by friends, family and my nation.  I wonder how many called to fight felt the same way.  How many were called up and went because it was expected? I felt I must have been the only one.

We have become too fond of war.  We eat and digest the propaganda.  War makes too many people rich, too many people powerful…too many people dead.

We have a love affair with our expensive and destructive toys of war.  The one percent pushing the ninety-nine percent to the brink.  Pulling our six-guns and coming out blazing.  Let God sort it out in the end because diplomacy doesn’t make enough money.

The greatest “celebration” to our fallen would be to end the killing and bring our people home, ceasing to create more fallen.  But there is no money to be made in bringing our people home and we learned from Vietnam, there can be no hint of defeat.  I fear we will continue to memorialize until there is no one left.

As an anonymous philosopher once posed, “War does not determine who is right — only who is left.”   I visualize a lone man celebrating victory as the world burns around him.

Yes, I am cynical…and quite morose this morning.  I can think of no better way to “celebrate” Memorial Day.

To those who serve, to those who have given all, to those who have lost their loved ones, you have my gratitude and I hope, the gratitude of a nation.

The image of Arlington Nationa Cemetary courtesy of https://www.military.com

Don Miller’s author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Hot Spells

 

“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.”

–Russell Baker

We appear to be suffering a hot spell here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Marilyn Monroe dances in my mind, a song echos in my head, “We’re having a heatwave…a tropical heat wave….”  Seeing her costume in my mind, I wonder what was causing the heat wave.

The humidity is not quite high enough to be tropical but it is as if a heavy weight has descended from the mountains, pressing the air down around us, compressing it and turning it more liquid than gaseous.  This high-pressure weather system has added to my misery in the same way collard greens wilt in a pot of boiling water.  As I mow the grass this morning it is as if the oxygen has been squeezed out of the air.

The weather is July-August hot.  F. Scott Fitzgerald would probably describe the weather as “sultry.”  Sounds real nice.  Maybe like a 1920s flapper dancing the Charleston or Lindy Hop. Sultry.  I wouldn’t describe the weather that way unless the flapper had been dancing for hours in the unairconditioned Cotton Club in August wearing a fur coat.  The problem with our “sultry” July-August hot spell is…it is just now late May.  Doesn’t bode well for July and August.

Humid enough to be uncomfortable but not so humid to give us any rain.  The sky is a brilliant blue with no clouds to block the sun.  The weather pundits say our air is too stable and will remain so for at least another week.  If you say so.

We were flooding in the cold a month ago.  Now we are drier than camel bones in the Sahara.  We water something every day which adds to the muggy misery…and seems to attract the mosquitos and gnats.  God, I love it.

The people living in the mid-west would love to have the mosquitos and gnats.  Theirs have drowned or blown away.  I am not attempting to make light of their disastrous weather.  Major thunderstorms, tornadoes, and floods should not be made light of…nor should the results of global warming.

Several years ago I suffered through an early season baseball practice featuring near-freezing temperatures and snow flurries.  I swore never to gripe about the heat of summer again.  My resolve is eroding…and we haven’t made it to June yet.

My weather conditions trigger memories.  I grew up without air conditioning and wonder how I survived. We spent our days outdoors working or playing in brutal heat and humidity, or if indoors, where it seemed even hotter.  You’ve never been hot like in the middle of a cotton or hayfield hot or inside of a cotton mill hot.  How did we survive?

I would attempt to sleep, fitfully at best, my head at the foot of my bed trying to catch what little bit of breeze might find its way into my small bedroom from the one window.  Laying spread eagle making sure body parts never touched, adding to the heat, humidity, and discomfort if they did.  I wish I had been smart enough to invest in the talcum powder industry.   Later when my parents bought a small window air-conditioning unit for their bedroom, I found heaven when I inherited their window fan.  Blow baby blow.

The same was true of the old school building I attended.  Tall, wide, screenless windows allowed everything to enter…except a cool breeze in the late spring and early fall.  Taking notes while trying to keep the college ruled paper dry was almost impossible.

Sundays were no better.  Church windows wide open, hellfire and brimstone could be no hotter than those pews.  Funeral home fans fluttered in the breeze doing nothing more than moving the heat around.  Shirt sticking to the pew heat and humidity.  On a particularly brutal Sunday morning, the minister shouted to the heavens, “If you think it’s hot now just wait.  Hell is a lot hotter.”  I don’t know.  Heat seems relative.

Yesterday evening I ventured into my garden.  I waited until the shade had found my tomato and squash plants but found them wilted in the oppressive humidity and heat.  The beans didn’t look too much better.  The one crop that should be loving it, okra, refuses to peek above the hot ground.

Despite having watered the day before, dust swirled wherever my hoe contacted the ground.  A clink rang out as my hoe struck rock…seems I have a bumper crop of rocks this year…like every year, no matter how many I throw into the creek behind my garden.  Rocks and weeds…my bumper crops.  Along with squash bugs and bean beetles.

The metallic clink took me back to my grandmother’s garden as did the sweat running off my nose.  It never was too brutal to keep her out of her garden and the old sack dress she wore would run with sweat.  My grandmother was a Southern woman but unlike the heroines of a Faulkner or Wolfe novel, she did not glisten with perspiration, she sweated like a horse.

I paused, leaning on my hoe.  It was her pose I saw in my mind’s eye.  An old woman, with a face browned by the sun, wearing a big straw hat leaning on her hoe.  She was framed in bright summer sunlight, sweat running down her face.  She always defied the hot spells and I shall too.

I have memories of ice cold sweet tea and a watermelon cooling in the nearby stream.  Somehow the heat has made the memories a bit more sweeter…despite my sweating.

Don Miller has published several books.  To access them click on the following link.  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image came from worldatlas.com

Crime Sprees, Black Snakes, and Killer Birds

 

Pondering the meaning of life,  why nature can be so cruel, and the evil of man began with the theft of a trailer and continued with the murder of four wren hatchlings we had been monitoring in their little nest perched precariously above the front porch fan.  Four wren hatchlings we had been protecting from attacks from below when we should have been more concerned with attacks from above.

I find I’m much more distraught about the loss of four birds than the pilfering of my trailer.

I watched as a  juvenile black rat snake climbed the front porch swing chain looking for a way to traverse from chain to fan to what his reptilian brain saw as lunch.  I moved him…and later, the big brother he brought with him a half dozen times before my minuscule brain realized that if I took down the swing, he’d have to find another restaurant.

Sneaky snake must have enjoyed our time together.  He still hangs around as if waiting for me to pick him up again.  Ride me, Daddy?

It didn’t bother me the snake was trying to dine on jeune oiseau…after all, he was a snake doing what snakes do.  More importantly, I had stopped him.  The killer birds…I didn’t know I needed to stop them.

I never knew sparrow parents would attack wren young and kill them to ensure there is a steady food source for their young.  They must be new to the neighborhood.  There is no lack of food sources.  My wife has made sure of that.

I saw them hanging or flying around but was too stupid to realize they were up to no good.  We found the little broken and pecked bodies on the porch floor and with their distraught parents flitting about, felt their loss. 

I am telling myself, it is the way of nature.  I haven’t convinced myself.

And then there are the evils of man.  The trailer was just one of several grand heists over the years.    Bad people are found everywhere…and bad birds too.

The thefts began with a tractor stolen from the middle of my “hundred-acre woods.”  I ran out of fuel and didn’t return to where I had left it, literally in the middle of my forest, until a couple of days later.  I couldn’t find the John Deere and Winnie the Pooh wouldn’t help me look.  I guess Winnie was trying to get his nose out of his honey jar.  My nose was just out of joint.

An antique FJ 40 Landcruiser was taken from my front yard.  It was returned much the worse from wear.   A beautiful piece of Japanese engineering turned into junk.  The one time it ran after its return, “Kamikaze Cruiser” caught fire.  I hope the thief joins my beloved cruiser and burns in hell…well…metaphorically, I reckon…may be.

Not that everything has been “take, take, take.”  A would be Robin Hood decided to share the wealth.  A stolen pickup truck with two weeks worth of trash loaded in it, missed the curve at a high rate of speed, flipped and crashed into my creek.  It was laying on it’s top mocking a dead cockroach, two weeks of trash scattered hither and yon.  The old Ford had taken down my fence and my billy goat stood on top of the truck’s bottom as if he had ruled triumphant in a game of king of the hill.

I felt satisfaction when I learned of the malefactor’s capture, a young man found battered and bruised at a nearby restaurant frequented by our local constabulary.  I doubt the owner of the totaled truck got any satisfaction and I was left to clean up the mess that was left and mend my own fences.

There were other occasions to call the authorities.  Enough occasions to put together a pattern.  Every deputy who came out to investigate uttered the same family name.  “I’ll bet you  ‘Old so-and-so’ is responsible.”  “Old so-and-so just got out of jail, bet he’s at it again.”

I’m not going to say the name because I really don’t know if they stole my trailer or not.  If they didn’t it would be a first.  True to form though, as I met the deputy about my trailer, he brought up the same name again.  “You live pretty near Old so-and-so.  Bet it was him or one of his sons.”  Now grandsons.

I still haven’t seen my trailer, but the backcountry crime family tried to strike again.  This time it was my neighbor.  I slept through most of the event despite the blue and red lights flooding my yard at one until three A.M.  My neighbor filled me in.

A young man with the same last name as the redneck crime lord, a grandchild, was apprehended attempting to steal my neighbor’s travel trailer with a truck the boy had stolen earlier and elsewhere.  He even posed for a picture before attempting to flee after he realized no one wanted his autograph.

Attempting to escape in the stolen truck the clown prince of crime found himself reduced to running when the vehicle broke down at the scene and caught fire.  Poor baby.  He was later found hiding in a kudzu filled ditch…kudzu covering blackberry filled ditch.

I wish I had seen his dismay when he dove face first into the ditch only to find his soft landing impeded by blackberry thorns.  That had to smart…I wish it had been multiflora rose.  I do feel great satisfaction envisioning his surprise landing and ask for no forgiveness as I smile.

It seems the torch has been passed from one generation to another.  Grandfather to son to grandchild.  I wonder if the godfather of redneck crime is proud.  The old man showed up and according to my neighbor, just shook his head as if to say, “I thought I taught him better than that.”

My father told me once he could tolerate a thief more than a liar.  The reasons for his comment will remain between my father and me but I was in the wrong.  I understand his sentiment but would pose to him, “One might go hand in hand with the other.”

The image of the angry bird is from https://twistedsifter.com/2012/04/40-actual-real-life-angry-looking-birds/

Further tomfoolery may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

“Thank You For Accepting People as They Are”

 

There was an envelope in my mailbox.  Addressed to my wife I turned it over and saw “Thank you for accepting people as they are.”  Maybe some of you have received this envelope after having contributed to the Special Olympics.  I didn’t directly contribute but my wife has always made sure we contributed and during our teaching years were actively involved…as in she involved me during her days as an elementary physical education instructor and while cosponsoring the high school’s service-learning program.  I am thankful for that.

She has always been the poster child for accepting people at face value.  Accepting people at what they were.  Offering love and discipline but no criticisms as to what they were or where they came from.

I remember visiting her while she taught on occasion.  Smiling, snotty-nosed children of different genders and races rushed gleefully into her class, expecting to receive and returning hugs, refusing to be denied.  Sneezes, mucus, mud be damned.  Terms of endearment flowed from Miss PE, “Sugar or Honey Lamb, Snookems, Babydoll,” etc.  I saw love and acceptance.

Don’t be fooled.  She could get after them pretty good when they failed to get to or remain on their spots, but she distanced the person from the offense.  She accepted people as they were.  I wondered as I looked at the envelope…and fell down Alice’s rabbit hole.

When I saw the phrase on the back of the envelope, I asked myself, “What if we accepted people as they are?”  Gay, different races, transgender, poor, different religions, forget where they came from and accept who they are as opposed to what they are.

We are quick to criticize people who look differently, speak differently, have different religious beliefs than us.  People who don’t love the way we love or eat the same foods that we eat.  We seem to get upset because we must press one for English.  How many seconds of our life does it really cost us?

We create divides by pontificating loudly and listening little, passing judgment on one before delivering our sentences to all.  Our loud language and sharply delivered words can only be interpreted one way by those they are directed toward.

We are quick to label people with all sorts of names, explain that they are bad or different because they are a product of a lax home environment and because we have thrown god from the halls of education.   We don’t like their pink hair, their tattoo or their nose piercing and we look no deeper.  We don’t make the effort to listen to what they might want to tell us…what we might actually learn.

We make no effort to understand their thinking or consider what they might have woke up to or went to bed to.  We don’t seem to care they might have gone to bed hungry and went out into the world the next morning the same way.  Again, we pontificate loudly that it is not our responsibility.

We dismiss many kids as kooks, fruitcakes, freaks, goofballs, wingnuts, mentally ill and the one that knifes me the most…retards.  Honestly, I don’t like the label “special”, but we must have a label of some type.  After all, we are the normal ones with our normal convictions and conventions.  We must have a way to delineate the differences between us and them to make ourselves feel more important, more worthy.

I hurt for our teens.  Teens at best are troubled and all we’ve done is add to their troubles.  Dealing with those raging hormones is bad enough…and now we call them crazy because…well because.  We tell them they’ll never amount to much.  They are lazy and the worst generation ever.  They are the most disrespectful…but I notice it is always the other person’s child.

If you tell a kid enough times that he is a duck, at some time or another he will begin to waddle.  We get what we expect.  If you expect nothing you won’t be disappointed.  I notice we point our fingers but offer little cure…especially if it costs money.

We bully, we attempt to push their little round bodies into little square holes. As they attempt to find themselves, we attempt to make them into the image of ourselves.

I taught forever plus a day and found that the most interesting students, who became the most interesting adults, were the kooks and fruitcakes.  The ones who thought outside of the box, colored outside of the lines and looked at the world sideways and created something beautiful.  They were the leaders who refused to follow tired old lines.  They were the ones who hated to hear “We’ve done it this way for….”

There was a time when we put a premium on free thinkers.  Now it seems we don’t want free thinkers.  They might be left thinkers and that just wouldn’t be right.

We want our mini-mes to toe the party line, drinking deeply from the propaganda Kool-Aid.  It seems we want everyone lined up in rows like dominos, standing at attention, all boringly the same…and like a row of dominos when one tips over, they all tip over.

What if we just accepted people as they are.  Nurtured instead of ridiculed.  What is wrong with nurturing?  You can be nurturing and not be soft.  Put their little seeds in the ground not caring what the seed might be.  Add water and fertilizer, weed the bed occasionally and see what they turn into.   Provide a fertile bed for plants instead of chopping them off at the roots like weeds.

What if we accept people as they are?

Don Miller’s author’s page can be followed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

“No Unloved Flowers”

 

“A weed is but an unloved flower.” ― Ella Wheeler Wilcox

There are no unloved flowers on my little piece of heaven.  My bride makes sure.  From wild morning glory to thistle; she loves them all…much to my vexation.

My little piece of heaven is a wildlife refuge; a jungle, the bush, the wilds, at times a rain forest.  Ninty acres of tangles, bramble, and bushes.   No area is more tangled than in my backyard.

No animal is unwelcomed, no reptile reviled, not even the juvenile black rat snake I’ve twice moved from the porch as he tries to find a way to the wren’s nest built on the fan.

Squirrels and ground squirrels battle cardinals for the sunflower seeds I carefully place in the bird feeders…bird feeders Linda Gail…they are bird feeders.  Make that squirrel and bird feeders.

A passing raccoon looks up and briefly contemplates making them raccoon feeders.  I’m sure she’ll be back once she comes up with a plan to scale the deck the feeders rest under.

More importantly and to the point, there is no blossom too small not to be called a flower.  Miss PE has never met a weed; flora, fauna or human.

If it were cold it would be blackberry winter, but it is already blackberry summer.  The white blooms are so bright they seem to glow in the dark.

It is the spring grass cutting season and my bride’s proclivities bring us into conflict.

I have spent a goodly portion of my life cutting grass, endlessly walking or riding in mindless circles.  From cutting hay in fields of tall fescue or oats as a youngster to the well-manicured Bermuda playing fields of my coaching career.  From pristine lawns of zoysia…to, my weed-filled yard.  No more mindless circles with Miss Linda in control… she is, most certainly, in control.

Don’t cut the clover, bees and rabbits love it.  Stay away from the small yellow flowers put off by the wood sorrel that’s mixed in with the white blossoms of the wild strawberries.  Nice little red strawberries that taste…they have no taste at all.

Those little purple thingies…No! No! No!  We have plenty of Vinca minor and periwinkle.  They put off bigger purple thingies!  The wild violets and purple basil, No! No! No! Not unless you want to lose a body part.

Don’t touch the milkweed, butterflies feed on it…except that’s not milkweed, it’s burnweed.  It never blooms and the butterflies have plenty of other plants to feed upon.  We will have these stalky things all over the place.  Six feet tall if an inch and not one butterfly flying about its blooms because there are no blooms.  Not going to argue, who knows it may bloom this year.

We have plenty of butterflies on other blooms.  Butterflies and bees, and yellow jackets building in the ground under the grass I’ve been forced to leave uncut.  Mosquitoes by the gazillions hiding in all our greenery.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I love wildflowers, real wildflowers.  Our trillium, the wild sweet peas, the honeysuckle, wild iris, and other plants I have no name for.

I don’t like pokeweed.  The birds don’t seem to like it either. And dammit, the privet is blooming…it is quite pretty.  Pretty like my bride and a big pain in the butt to control.  You are free to think about what I am thinking but I won’t say it for fear she might hear.

She was right about the native honeysuckle.  I suggested we trim it up a bit…to the ground?  Oh no!  My fences are now covered in yellow and white. The yard smells wonderfully no matter which direction the wind blows and I just saw three hummingbirds and a half dozen butterflies buzzing about.  See, we don’t need those spiky things.

The red-throated anole likes to hide in the honeysuckle.  He suns himself on the gate, bright green in the sunshine. He blows out his little red-pink neck before running for cover when I approach. I hope he continues to hide well. My persistent black rat snake is now stalking him I think.

I must face the music.  She’s right about everything…even when she’s not.

In case there is not enough color in the yard she’s made friends with a local nursery owner…flowers in baskets are everywhere.  She can’t drive by the nursery without turning in.  Cana lilies and begonias because our Tiger lilies and old-fashioned begonias haven’t bloomed yet I guess.  Caladiums in and around the irises that are just now blooming.  Colorful baskets of cascading blooms because…just because.

Despite the color they add, my yard will look like a jungle until fall when she finally lets me clean it up.  Gee.  I was hoping for a long summer anyway.

The image is from https://phys.org/news/2017-05-dandelion-seeds-pipette-lab.html

Don Miller’s author’s page can be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM