“If I had known…”

If I had known last March it would be the last time I sat in a restaurant for nearly eight months, I would have ordered dessert.“ Unknown

I don’t know who is responsible for the quote, I just know it wasn’t me. I also know what I didn’t know then.  Despite all of the misinformation floating around, no truer words have been spoken.  When there is a next time, I will order dessert.

I didn’t buy the President’s spiel that COVID-19 would be over in the heat of summer, but I also didn’t buy I would be contemplating a Thanksgiving without friends and family…and then there is Christmas.

None of my aunt’s dressing and butterscotch pies.  None of my brother’s newest culinary creation or a cousin’s broccoli casserole.  None of Bob’s ham or turkey.  No visiting with the girl cousins who are more like sisters. At least I will have my bride’s tomato pies all to myself and will hear no one ask, “What about that election.”

No visit with Ashley, Justin, and the grands.  No tall tales, no hearty laughter, no catching up.  Instead I’ll burn up the phone lines, I guess., and maybe a Cornish hen on the grill. 

No post dinner nap while pretending to watch the Cowboys take it on the chin again.

Next time and until the Lord takes me home, I will always order dessert.

The date in early March eludes me.  I know it was before my brother’s birthday on the thirteenth because we didn’t celebrate it…or mine…or anyone else’s.   Maybe it was late February….

There have been few celebrations over the past seven months. I guess not being one of the two hundred and sixty some odd fatalities is celebration enough.  For some reason, my thought has a “hurray for me and the hell with everyone else” ring that is not intended.

I was at a BBQ joint with my bride on that day in February or March.  A large pulled pork BBQ sandwich with ‘yaller’ sauce, mayonnaise cabbage slaw, and a couple of orders of deeply fried, battered okra sat before me.

All were washed down with a Damn Yankee, Narragansett beer or three.  Maybe fifteen hundred calories…not counting the calories from cleaning up my bride’s plate…so the dessert was declined.  I will never allow that to happen again.  I will always order dessert. Maybe I’ll eat dessert first.

I’ve learned several things about myself as I’ve sat in my self-imposed isolation wishing for BBQ and dessert…wishing for Aunt Joyce’s dressing…wishing the kids were about….wishing for Thanksgiving celebrations.

I’ve learned I really do like being around my wife, otherwise we would have killed each other by now.  I realize the jury is still out from her perspective…and I’ve hidden all of the weapons just to make sure.

After seven months my hair still hasn’t grown long enough to put into a ponytail.   It is more of a ragged mullet. MacGyver would not covet it. Could be due to the absence of hair I began with.  I am going to keep trying.  Maybe I’ll start an “inverted Mohawk” ponytail/mullet movement for hippies in their seventies.

I have learned boredom is no motivation to getting things done. All those jobs that need to be completed, I can’t even get them started.  I just let more things go. ..more things that need to be done.

I haven’t even found new and more interesting ways to stay bored.  How many reruns of NCIS New Orleans or Star Trek The Next Generation can I watch? Is The Hallmark Channel next?

I’ve found rips to the grocery store to be scary, even double or triple masked up…considering the idiots ignoring masking rules along with the directional arrows.   It’s a political statement? Possibly more dangerous than a simultaneous four-way stop or the new traffic circle built next to Wally World in TR. I do have to eat but I’ll never use the traffic circle.

I’ve learned I’m not the hermit I thought I was.  I find myself chatting with frogs, snakes, turtles, ground squirrels, and birds…even the little snail that somehow found it’s way onto my shower curtain.  I don’t think he is listening. I would talk to my bride but then she might involve me in a conversation where she talks and I listen.

When the wildlife is not around, I talk to myself. Unfortunately, with cold weather ahead, the frogs, turtles, and snakes will be self-isolating and I’ve found I don’t make much sense even to myself.  Just ask the snail on the shower curtain…I think I may have talked him to death.

As I contemplate Thanksgiving, if I am fortunate to sit down at an indoor restaurant table again, I will order dessert….maybe two. 

If you are throwing caution to the wind and visiting family and friends this 2020 Thanksgiving, first of all, be careful, wear your mask and social distance. It is not a political statement, it is an intelligence statement.

Secondly, eat that extra bowl of banana puddin’ or German Chocolate cake.  Put an extra dab of cranberry salad on your turkey sandwich and maybe a wedge of dressing.  Enjoy the sweet potato casserole or pumpkin pie. Do it for me but if you have Bourbon pecan cheesecake…don’t tell me, it might break my heart. 

Happy Thanksgiving.

***

Don Miller writes in a variety of genres. He will release his newest historical novel, Long Ride to Paradise, after Thanksgiving, The tale takes place during the historical period known as Reconstruction.

Don’s authors page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1iraxbHHzYu2km-B4PsMVtsrBn9_NwN3OCmVKqxkn3Kq9qOpHWGOUhW9w.

The image is of Bourbon Pecan Cheesecake and I am drooling. Recipe at www.tastykitchen.com

Long Ride To Paradise

From The Tales of the Drunken Irishman Saloon: Long Ride to Paradise. Coming in early December, it is the second of the Drunken Irishman Trilogy.

Chapter One

September 1874

The Canal Street Custom House, New Orleans

Allen Kell Edwards had gotten himself into another fine mess.  The politics of the issue smelled like rotten fish.  Neither the Republicans nor the fusion Democrats were on the side of the angels.  There was no truth in politics in 1874.

A warm bed with a warmer body waited for him at home but home was several days’ travel at a saloon named The Drunken Irishman in Trinity, Louisiana.  “Oh, Lucretia, why didn’t you try and stop me?  Instead of stroking your sweet bottom, I’m holed up in the Canal Street Custom House with James Longstreet.” 

Theirs was a diverse group.  Longstreet, the former Confederate general, was the commander of the black militia.  Under his command was James Edwards, Allen Kell’s former slave, now, a member of the New Orleans Metropolitan Police.  They had been charged with defending the lawful Republican governor, William Pitt Kellogg, and his cabinet.  Yes, a fine mess…one he had not asked for.  He had come for a visit, but they had convinced him they needed him. 

What a fine mess!” They, along with Longstreet, the Republican governor and his cabinet, the metropolitan police superintendent and a mixed bag of police and militia were under siege in the Customs House.  

“A siege but at least nobody’s shooting right now.  Everyone seems to be waiting.”  Allen Kell stroked his chin thinking, “At least my quare feeling is quiet.”  Allen Kell seemed to have a sixth sense when it came to trouble, something he called his ‘quare’ feeling.

There had been plenty of shooting earlier in the day.  The battle had raged around Canal Street as Longstreet failed to stop the White League from receiving weapons being unloaded onto the New Orleans docks where they sat.  At his old commander’s request, Allen Kell had stood with the militia as they were attacked…and were routed.  

“I couldn’t lead a starving man to a St. Louis steak”, thought Allen Kell.  

Longstreet had been hit with a spent bullet which had done no damage before being pulled off his horse by members of the White League, some of whom he had probably commanded.   Allen Kell had fought frantically to free his former commander and managed to whisk him away to the custom house.  

The Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police, Sidney Badger was not as lucky.  He had been severely injured and there was talk he might lose his leg.

Allen Kell felt rather than saw the shadow falling across him.  Longstreet had cast a large shadow during the days of the Civil War, especially at Gettysburg and the defense of Petersburg.   “Old Pete” had changed little.  His beard was a bit grayer than at Petersburg, and with better vittles, his form had filled out.  

The fact he was working for the Republicans and was a friend of Sam Grant had made him a controversial figure in the nine years following the war.  Allen Kell had heard former Confederates calling Longstreet a scalawag…Allen guessed his present predicament made him one too.

“Sergeant Edwards, it appears you have failed to save my bacon once again,” Longstreet’s eyes twinkled as he said it.

Allen Kell thought he should stand and struggled through his tiredness to find his feet.

“Stay down boy, you don’t need to stand.”

Allen Kell settled and forced a smile, “General, I agree beings we’re holed up here with the entire Republican government,” surrounded, as they were, by the Louisiana State White Militia, waiting on the Federals to show up.  

“Sir, I’m a bit tired of fightin’ on the wrong side of history.”

“Son, you got me here and I’d say we’ll have to die to be on the right side of history.  Old Sam’ll send troops soon enough and these hoodlums ain’t nothing more than a white militia wanting to overthrow the rule of law.  Kellogg has wired Grant, appraising him of the situation.”

Life had not calmed after Allen Kell had returned home.  Political and racial strife erupted immediately as the state and parish governments moved to limit the rights of the newly freed slaves and return to pre-Civil War normalcy. 

Democrats, white and mostly Confederate veterans, clashed with Republicans, mostly black or if white, Northern carpetbaggers or Southern scalawags.  Violence seemed to crescendo before each election.  It had begun back in 1866 with a riot in New Orleans and spilled northward to include the Colfax riot last year.  Colfax was spitting distance from Allen Kell’s home, Edwards Crossroads and Trinity City.

“Riot?  James called it a massacre”, thought Allen Kell.  Fifty colored men, who surrendered to the White League, had been executed and thrown into the Red River according to James. Another hundred had been killed in the riot itself.  His friends, Alexandré and Shailene Dupreé֒ had been smart to leave for Barbados.  He wondered how they were faring under British control.

“General, how’s Badger?”  The Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police, Algernon Sidney Badger had been nearly crushed when his dead horse fell on him.

“Touch and go but I believe Superintendent Badger will recover from his physical wounds if he can recover from the shock of losing his leg…I’m not sure either of us will recover our good names.  Well, I will leave you to your ruminations.  I thank you for your efforts.”

“Wait, General.” Allen Kell stood, “General, I’d like to shake your hand if I might.  Our war was a bloody waste but if I had to serve, I’m glad I had a chance to serve under you.”  Longstreet nodded his thanks, shook Allen Kell’s hand, and saluted him.  Smartly Allen Kell returned it.   Watching Longstreet march off, it would be the last time he would speak with “Old Pete.”

When published, Long Ride to Paradise, along with Don Miller’s other books will be available at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR09QzUebNCSmqTEoOnCRjpbQ4FuMoyAcB3cBnUPsmVqQIdAV3GlPMeqhw4

Fair Winds

The warm and freshening breeze blowing across the lake brought memories flowing as swiftly as the breeze itself. Most were as warm as the wind driving them. The ones that weren’t were forced away by the bright sunshine.

According to the sign the trail we walk is 1.25 miles. I don’t believe the distance is accurate, but the lake it surrounds is much too small for me to be thinking about sailing.  Yet I was.

Ordinarily my bride would have had me talking or listening to her prattles, pointing out strangely shaped mushrooms or having me wait impatiently as she took pictures of the waterfall she has taken pictures of for the past three hundred and sixty-five days. Instead, she was quiet, as deeply into her own thoughts as I was in mine.  I did not know her thoughts, scary I’ll admit, but I knew mine. 

As I watched the wind driven ripples race across the lake, I thought of a twenty-two-foot sloop with a Bermuda rig from a time far, far distant. Mostly I thought of the people who crewed the boat…some gone but not forgotten.

The warm for November breeze stiffened in my face as I thought, “This would be a great day to be sailing,”  or for partying with friends while sailing.

In my mind’s eye I saw the white sailboat on a close haul, mainsail and jib pulled in tight, the sails singing as the wind’s pressure heeled the boat, the gunnels dipping perilously toward the water. I see us scurrying to the high side to keep from being capsized.  The high side of life?

Battling the tiller for control of the rudder as the speed and water pressure builds. Could this be a metaphor for life…my life? Where did my runaway thoughts come from and why did I quit sailing?

The little boat, narrow of beam with a swing keel, was quick and nimble with her racing rigged main and jib.  I’m surprised I remember any nautical terms; it has been nearly forty years since I gripped the tiller with an unsteady hand.

“Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be.  Just a dream and the wind to carry me, and soon I will be free.”  Damn, Christopher Cross is playing in my head…can “Southern Cross” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash without Young be far behind.  “So we cheated and we lied and we tested, and we never failed to fail it was the easiest thing to do. You will survive being bested, somebody fine will come along make me forget about loving you…
And the southern cross.”

It was in the late Seventies when I was invited to my first of many sailing weekends.  “Bring a date, spend the weekend.  You’ll love it.”  I did. Bill, Koon, Bobbi, Sybil, myself and a date.  There were a few others who sailed in and out on occasion.

Six of us on a small sailboat on a large inland lake in South Carolina.  Coolers filled with adult beverages or the mixers for a liquor drink.  The alcohol loosened our tongues and greased our laughter. Bill, our captain, always managed to sail us back to our home port, sometimes in the dead of night.

Too much liquor, well grilled steaks, great friends sitting around a wood fire, and a plus one…whomever she might have been at the time, there were not that many. ..or there were too many. Laughter was abundant. Good times. 

Any good time you survive should qualify as a great time.  Great times.  Somehow, we survived our youthful foolishness.  I remember nothing but clear, bright sunshine and fair winds…am I dreaming? No, I don’t think so.

Taking the tiller for the first time, I might well have been at the wheel of the Queen Anne’s Revenge awaiting Blackbeard’s next order.  “Arrr, let them eat steel maties”…or have another mixed drink.

Manning the tiller may be a metaphor for my life.  Sometimes it is hard to stay on course. Life, like tacking against the wind, tends to be made in zigs and zags.  Some zigs are short, some zags exceptionally long…or seem that way. Coming about into the wind can have painful outcomes if you aren’t paying attention.

For some reason my sailing days came to an end.  The storms of depression left me dead in the water. It was my actions I’m sure. There were bad times, dark times.  Depressed times. 

Times improved with understanding and a little wisp of a girl who calmed the winds and seas…except when our own hurricanes blew up.  Our foundation must have been built upon the rock of understanding…we are still here and still together. Our breezes are mostly warm and caressing like today but for some reason I never got back to sailing.

I purged those ill winds from my mind to keep from being driven crazy upon the rocks of life.  I keep them locked tightly away until a fresh, warm breeze hits me in the face allowing only the good memories to flow. 

In my depression I cut myself off from people who didn’t deserve to be cut off.  That was a failure on my part…I demasted myself and lost my rudder to boot. Like a solitary sailor, I battled my storm tossed seas alone…until my North Star became my guide.

I choose to remember the fair winds.  A bow cleaving the water. Great sailing in bright sunshine.  Sybil sitting on the bow, her legs straddling the bowsprit mocking a figurehead on an ancient sailing ship.  Koon’s big laugh and smile with a liquor drink in her hand.  “Now let me tell you one thing….” Blowing off steam in the sun and the wind on a small sailboat.  Sharing the joy and laughter with friends.

Sybil and Koon are silent now as is one of my plus ones.  Silent in the physical world.  Quite alive in the memories on a close haul through my mind.

I couldn’t help but smile as the warm breeze caressed the lake’s shoreline and my face. I miss them but see them sailing across the firmament at dusk. A small sailboat sailing close to the solar winds, white sails glowing red in the sunset.

Fair winds and following seas my friends.  May warm breezes caress you. You are missed.

Sailing by Christopher Cross

The image is from https://www.yacht-rent.com/talking-the-talk-basic-nautical-terms

Don Miller’s author’s page https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3BYeO7eRpFl647KXrqSJD31DxD_NP-u4TMGa1hRS_EpP7vZ-4xQ06JjvM

Venus Rising, Cynicism in Retrograde

Idealism according to the Oxford Online Dictionary is “the practice of forming or pursuing ideals, especially unrealistically” as in  “the idealism of youth” who we all know are ALL unrealistic.  Youthful Don Quixotes, chasing their unrealistic, idealistic, and impractical windmills…oh, how I love and miss thee.

The online dictionary supplied synonyms, one which caught my eye. Romanticism, “a movement in the arts and literature that originated in the late eighteenth century, emphasizing inspiration, subjectivity, and the primacy of the individual.”

I began thinking about idealism and from Romanticism, subjectivity, “the quality of being based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions”. I thought as I waited to hear the outcome of our election.  I have been thinking about idealism and subjectivity for the past four days as I write this…and maybe will be thinking about it for a while longer. 

My musings began as I watched Venus rise the morning after the election…Venus the Morning Star…“morning not mourning” I thought. Venus was the brightest light in the morning sky and was showing quite large to my eye…the Morning Star heralding a new day.

Like Venus, I am an early riser who, on good weather days, goes out and sits in his chair, lights a cigar, and meditates for a few minutes  while enjoying a cup of Folgers. “The best part of waking up is…” at my age, the best part of waking up is waking up.

I do not know which I noticed first, Venus or the cynicism oozing through my thoughts…I was depressed to boot, my thoughts scrambled like the broken kaleidoscope I have written about previously. 

Instead of brooding, I focused on Venus. The appearance of that heavenly body along with my meditations gave me a bit of hopefulness, based on nothing more than my “personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.” 

It is another day and Venus is just where it was yesterday, give or take a few minutes, a few degrees above or below its former position on the horizon.  The gas shrouded planet is where it was a thousand years ago, cosmological changes not withstanding.  I imagined The Morning Star might be near by in another thousand years.  My hopefulness grew.

It dawned upon me I might not be as jaded as I thought.  Mentally at least, I’m still the young idealist that left my teenage years for the adult world in the late Sixties and early Seventies.  I may be one of the nation’s older teenagers…an old hippie still waiting for the “dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”

I pondered over my idealism and subjectivity. I am dominated by my feelings.  Not very objective. Do not confuse me with the facts so to speak.  I either “feel” someone is right or “feel” something is wrong or if uncertain, according to my grandmother’s advice, assume it is wrong until proven otherwise. 

I have an open mind, I can be convinced of the error of my ways, but again, all things being equal, with no solid facts available, I go with my gut, my feelings.  If it feels wrong, it is wrong. I even took a personality tests that proved that very fact.

So…I have nothing solid to base my hopefulness upon other than my idealism and my subjectivity but, “Its going to be alright.”  There are more good people than bad, and I am hopeful. There are more forward thinkers than backward non-thinkers regardless of political affiliation, regardless of what state you reside in, regardless of religious affiliation.

I was hopeful as my best friend and I began our weekly morning walk at 6:45 on Friday. Venus had disappeared into the sunrise as we talked of peace, elections, religion and a plethora of other problems we could not solve. Maybe we walk too fast…or talk too slowly. We are Southerners.

We are polar opposites in our outlook on life. He the lifelong Republican, I the left leaning Independent who voted Democrat this cycle. He’s the life long Southern Baptist, I the…I’m no longer sure. I am hopeful because we have found common ground for over forty years and friendship upstages political or religious affiliation.

I am hopeful because of the smiling young lady who serves us coffee at our afterwalk haunt, The Tree House Cafe. The haunt is an eclectic and welcoming little hole in the wall and Lindi’s eight a. m. smile and laugh are brighter than the colorful tattoos peeking from below the sleeves of her sweat shirt. A bright and hopeful youth with oodles of energy early on a Friday morning…not mourning.

There are a group of high school students sitting around a large table, their laptops open and at the ready. I am told by Kristen, one of the owners, they are a study group from the local high school. Kristen is bright, smiling, and welcoming as always. An art teacher and artist, my guess is we share a bit of the same idealism.

The retired teacher in me wanted to admonish the students for not wearing facemasks but instead kept my mouth shut. The same old teacher watched their work from afar, their flurries of activity surrounding burst of laughter bringing a smile to my face. I’m hopeful despite the lack of masks and amazed at their early morning energy. I miss my days of warping the minds of our youth.

Our hope…our salvation is our youth, young people like Lindi, the study group, and young folk like them.

Despite my idealism it is time for an aging “dudeist” like myself to step aside and turn the world over to the young. We baby boomers had our time and royally screwed things up in my mind…my “personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.”  We need to see if the young can do a better job. We know longer live in the world of our youth…the new world doesn’t run the same way.

I’m hopeful the “rising” generation will be our “Venus Rising.” I am hopeful they will continue to pursue their unrealistic ideals and put wings to their dreams. I am hopeful they will ignore all of us who continue to try and put them in a box not of their choosing. I hope cynicism continues in retrograde even if it is just my own.

As I finished these musings I walked outside again. Venus was obscured by the predawn cloud cover and my hopefulness was tempered but only for a moment. The cloud passed and Venus reappeared heralding a bright new morning, allowing me to be hopeful again.

(For a definition of Dudeism, see below)

***

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR23wUPDyCrxyhUiWI0EHKFTmJjLwrAAXOC4Z5Y9Foz95T-JdxM4CkFZFB0

Because I couldn’t find a picture of the planet that I liked I chose SANDRO BOTTICELLI’S THE BIRTH OF VENUS, C. 1486…a picture of a painting I do like.

“Dudeism” is a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle inspired by “The Dude”, the protagonist of the Coen Brothers’ 1998 film The Big Lebowski. Dudeism advocates and encourages the practice of “going with the flow”, “being cool headed”, and “taking it easy” in the face of life’s difficulties, believing that this is the only way to live in harmony with our inner nature and the challenges of interacting with other people. I am a fully ordained Dudeist Priest.

Clearing Off Showers

We had a tropical storm roar through the area…odd for the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  We are more likely to experience late evening thunderstorms…in July and August, not the weekend of Halloween.  The weekend of Halloween we are normally dreading the impending snow apocalypse, the teacup full of snow we receive in late January or February. 

I fear tropical storms roaring through our area may become more frequent if we continue to deny and do nothing about global climate change…this isn’t about global warming unless we are talking about temperature increases involving my bride when she is mad.  She can cause the temperature in a room to soar like the afternoons in August…sometimes like the center of a thermonuclear detonation.

When I stepped out to enjoy my predawn cigar and meditation before the rains, I noticed the sticky feel, the oppressive humidity.  The temperature hit me in the face and reminded me of heat radiated from a pot bellied stove turning pink from the fire inside.  There was a freshening breeze that grew in intensity, violently twisting the hemlocks, poplars, and walnuts.   While I worried as the electric power failed, I thought about “clearing off showers” that had nothing to do with the weather. 

The storm front blew through leaving a deep blue sky above and a carpet of ;eaves. limbs and twigs below.  The winds still raged as I spent the afternoon glancing at the sky as I removed litter from underfoot.  It became a metaphor for life, at least my life, including the litter I still must deal with. 

The morning after, 4:30 in the A. M., plenty of litter remains but the nearly full moon is sharp and bright, back lighting a sky with thousands of visible stars.  As the sun made its appearance, so did a deep blue, cloudless sky as if the storm had scrubbed the air clean…a clearing off shower as I heard the old folks say…now I’m one of the old folks.

My marriage is similar…the basis for my metaphor.  My bride and I tend to tiptoe around each other, avoiding contention as best we can until the air we breathe becomes filled with the dirt and grit of annoyances and vexations.  Choking us…the smog and ash of past resentments and displeasure.  The muck that congests us and our love for each other.

There will be an explosion that jars us like a nearby lightning strike, the thunderclap loud and rumbling, the vibrations felt deeply in our hearts and soul.  There maybe a heavy rain before storm fully passes.  Once the clouds abate, the sun comes out, the air is clean and crisp.  Our love is once again clean and shiny like a freshly cleaned mirror…a mirror to our souls. 

Clearing off showers…necessary for the flowers and trees to grow.  Necessary for love to grow…for love to bloom.  

***

While Don Miller doesn’t normally wax poetic his author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3Wjns8dEtr4Q8oisuqEKWNHeNuNUhqwkPoakQ2W1ydhRHJgmGEMPQMxQk

The image is from http://www.musicforbodyandspirit.com/relaxing-music-and-soft-rain-sleep-music-music-for-studying/

Bull Nuts…Black Walnuts

I do not know how many black walnut trees I have in and around my yard, at least a half dozen maybe a couple of more. Too many this time of year. I know having one is too many. Worse, this appears to be a banner year for walnuts. 

“Deez nuts”, big ole bull testicle sized fruit lurking in the grass, just waiting to cause an ankle turn or if there is a breeze, just waiting to drop from the heavens like a World War Two Dam Buster bomb.  Thump, thump, thump. “Lawd hep you if you are under one of them.”

I’m watching one of my squirrels trying to carry one. He is funny, he can’t get the walnut through the chain link fence. Okay, he’s figured it out and is up and over. They can only carry them one at a time but they are carrying them with a frenzy. Every squirrel frequenting my bird feeders could work from now until all the cows come home and I’d still be tripping over walnuts.

Red Squirrel Workout | Body Soul and Spirit
Poor guy. https://bodysoulspiritwp.wordpress.com/2008/10/25/red-squirrel-workout/

Black walnuts have already shredded two hot houses forcing me to cut polymer sheeting to protect my bride’s tender plants.  Judging from the nuts still hanging from the trees, I’ll probably be cutting more. Gazing heavenward I wondered if I was beating a dead mule or whether I should head inside for the old football helmet to protect my head. 

Walnuts are not pretty trees.  Walnut trees produce wonderful milled lumber, pretty on the inside, not on the outside.  Sounds like the description of a blind date I once had.  “Well old son, she don’t sweat much and she’s got a great personality.”

When my bride and I renovated our farmhouse, we used black walnut and pecan that came from the property after a run in with a tornado.  Still…I periodically check the counter tops to make sure there are not black walnuts being produced.

The trees themselves are the last to put on their leaves in the spring and the first to shed in the fall.  They don’t shed single leaves but rather they shed entire “fans” of leaves.  Thin, twiggy shoots that clog gutters and defy leaf rakes and blowers and stain the green metal roof black. No beautiful leaf colors unless you like brown.  Left to me I would cut them all down…but of course, it isn’t left to me.

I am in the process of picking up the bull nuts…I mean walnuts.  Big green pods…maybe Jolly Green Giant nuts are a better descriptor? Big green pods turning black, the size of a cue ball.  You look at them and think, “Boy that’s a big nut with plenty of seed.” 

Big nut? No, that is the outer covering, the husk.  The husk is pungently acrid, turns your hands brownish black, and when striped away reveals a small, brown, hard, and corrugated nut.  The actual nut is about the size of a human…no, not a good descriptor. 

U.S.: Commercial black walnut production a "long-term goal" at Hammons -  FreshFruitPortal.com
https://www.freshfruitportal.com/news/2017/11/20/u-s-commercial-black-walnut-production-long-term-goal-hammons/

I should alert you; the easiest labor is picking them up.  Getting the husk off to reveal the nut is messy.  You will discover the nut itself is so hard it will withstand a hundred megaton nuclear strike.  All nuclear bunkers should be armored with black walnuts.  Okay, just a bit of an embellishment but when someone uses the descriptor that someone “is a hard nut to crack” they were talking about black walnuts. They are nothing like their thin skinned cousin, the English walnut.

An anvil and a five-pound sledge?  Crush them with a vice? Bagging them in a croaker sack and running over them with a car?  Dropping them from the International Space Station?  So much work for so little reward.  Impossible to get the nut out whole. 

Black Walnut: A Favorite for Flavor - State Parks Blogs
Well done whomever you are. https://blindpigandtheacorn./com/cracking-black-walnuts

Oh, but black walnut cookies are so tasty you say…and black walnut pie, or black walnut pound cake.  Sorry, I will take peanut butter cookies, pecan pie, and plain pound cake…or go to the grocery store and buy English walnuts for the banana-nut bread.

I guess good things take an effort.  I remember black walnuts spread out in my grandmother’s old crib drying, the green husks turning black and shriveling like scrotums in cold weather…shriveling, not turning black…unless you are Black of course.

I remember my grandfather’s anvil and ball and peen hammer in use before Thanksgiving and Christmas…I just do not remember the desserts created from them.  My grandmother was not known for her desserts it would seem.  Pounds and pounds of nuts to get a handful of meat.  A lot of hard work invested for low reward. 

I am not even close to getting them all off the ground and have already filled one garden trailer and begun my second load.  I wonder if I can give them away for Christmas gifts.  Here Bro, here is your croaker sack filled with black walnuts…”What, you expected me to crack them.  I love you but I love no one that much.”  “Wait…you can sell them for fifteen smackaroos per pound shelled?  Still not worth it.  I’ll give them away whole.”

The Hunt for Black Walnuts Yields Highest-Ever Price and Tasty Treats -  Hammons Black Walnuts
https://black-walnuts.com/press-release/hunt-black-walnuts-yields-highest-ever-price-tasty-treats/

Well, it is breezy and a bit wet so for my own well being I will not venture out today to the black walnuts.  It already sounds like boulders are being thrown on to our metal roof.  Tomorrow could be a long day. Bull Nuts!!!!

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1DzBqVKFYXlRQRirpJrr5VAdCV9O8YZto-krRTOrnbHNm1h9UWk85RPH8

Featured image of the squirrel on a chain link fence is from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/199002877267587450/?nic_v2=1a3SbW1kc

Southern Horror

I guess I should add a disclaimer from the get-go.  My post is not about the horror of an unexpected swallow of unsweetened tea or being served grits without salt, butter, or cheese.  No, that goes well beyond horror.  This is about the horror genre and its effects on the unexpecting.  The effects of being so scared your feet refuse to move. 

A pair of New Englanders find themselves lost, stuck up to the axles of their ’56 Ford in the middle of a Southern piney woods.  The light is quickly failing over a dilapidated Southern mansion sitting at the end of an overgrown drive.  Brothers, they discuss what to do and decide to spend the night in the abandoned mansion.  Never a smart move if you are familiar with Southern Gothic.

The Pendleton-Graves Home in Sparta, Georgia.
The Pendleton-Graves Home in Sparta, Georgia.
Photo by David Bulit

As they walk to the mansion a flock of pigeons are spooked…the makings of a Southern Gothic horror story for sure.  I can think of dozens of reasons it is a bad idea to spend the night in an abandoned mansion but then I have seen too many movie and TV episodes and have read too many horror stories.

I can tell you exactly when I fell in love with Gothic Horror, specifically Southern Gothic Horror. That would be June 6, 1961.  It was a Monday night in front of a black and white TV.  I watched and listened to a lisping Boris Karloff introduce this week’s Thriller episode, “Pigeon’s From Hell.”  Murder by ax, Voodoo, Zombies, the Blassenville family with a history of abuse, all with bad Southern accents dripping from the screen like Spanish moss hanging from cypress trees.  

I jumped when character Johnny Banner is caught in the afore mentioned flock of pigeons, pigeons that represented the lost souls murdered. Later, I hid my eyes when the same character attempts to split his brother Timothy’s skull with a hatchet.  He does this after having had his own skull split by persons or “things” unknown. 

Love me some murdering Zombies with split skulls although my former Haitian baseball player says Zombies are a movie creation…wait was he Haitian or Jamaican?  Does it make a difference to Zombies? 

A Thriller a Day...: Pigeons From Hell: Season 1 Episode 36
Johnny ready to give forty whacks…wait, wrong movie.

Many years later I would read the short story with the same title the TV episode drew from.  It was written by pulp fiction icon and the creator of Conan the Barbarian, Robert E. Howard.  The story was published posthumously in Weird Tales, a fantasy and horror magazine in 1938.  Despite “Thirties noir speak”, it is a good short story and a better story line than the TV version. 

Weird Tales - Wikipedia
Image from our favorite Free Encyclopedia, Wikipedia

There is something baleful about abandoned Southern mansions, with or without pigeons or Zombies.  Doors and shutters hanging askew, broken windowpanes, paint peeling to expose the silver of many layers of whitewash underneath, old chimneys collapsing under their own weight.  Columns…one can almost hear the voices of the dead and abused in the breeze especially if you have an active eleven-year-old imagination…even an active seventy-year-old imagination.

A Thriller a Day...: Pigeons From Hell: Season 1 Episode 36
The decaying Blassenville sisters killed by…well, you’ll have to watch the episode on YouTube to find out.

In the late Sixties, our group of high school friends decided to explore the Brattonsville Plantation house near Rock Hill, SC…in the dead of night, near what is universally known as the witching hour.  Alcohol might have been a contributing factor; I don’t rightly remember.  I do remember there was a Mars/Venus component as we males wanted to impress the young women among our group.  Young women make young men stupid…stupider.

I won’t deny feeling a bit of trepidation as I thought about how close the name Blassenville was to Brattonsville and wondered if anyone had been practicing Voodoo within its less than comfy confines.  Pigeons?  Are there pigeons?

During those days Brattonsville was the perfect example of a “rundown” and abandoned Southern plantation.  The homeplace has since been renovated to its Antebellum glory as have the other buildings but I do not remember them that way. The mental vision I have is of a place perfect for Southern Gothic Horror.

I remember there was a full or near full moon and the unkept grounds seemed to glow with a light of their own as we made our way to the huge mansion house. In my mind I see the first story entryway door standing open, under the twin galleries’ roofs. The darkness beyond is inviting the lambs to a possible slaughter. 

Homestead House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Restoration of the Homestead began in 1975 and it was opened to the public a year later. http://chmuseums.org/history-hb/

One of the members of our group was well versed in Brattonville’s “supposed” history and regaled us with stories of a less than sane family, abused slaves, the Klu Klux Klan, cruel medical experiments and a Yankee spy hung from a pulley above an attic window.  Owned since before the Revolutionary War by a series of doctors, our historian told tales that made the Bratton doctors seem to be the combinations of Doctors Jekyll, Frankenstein, and Phibes.

We explored all the rooms and made our way to the third-floor attic, site of the medical laboratory and the hanging according to my date’s history lesson.  I had overcome my initial fear and found myself leading the group, not because of my bravery I assure you, but because I had the only flashlight.

Built for John Simpson Bratton Jr. and his wife Harriet Rainey Bratton in 1856. Then called “Forrest Hall,” it is now known as “Hightower Hall”. It could have been its own haunted mansion. https://chmuseums.org/hightower-hall-hb/

As my cute historian told her story of hangings and medical experiments, I found myself in the narrow and empty attic lab…not exactly empty.  There appeared to be examination tables and I fully expected to see a medical skeleton. Instead, a breeze drew my attention to an open window and the figure hung with a perfect hangman’s noose suspended there.   

I froze in place while my five friends took off like scalded haints.  My brain said run, my feet refused.  I might as well have been a tree rooted in place.  I froze long enough to realize what I was seeing was a department store mannequin.  The plastic kind…in fact one of its legs had fallen off.

As my fright dissipated, I found my feet and walked closer.  As the mannequin slowly turned in the breeze, I noticed a note held around its neck by a cord.  My flash revealed a single sentence written in red lipstick…”Mickey Mouse is a Jew.”  Yeah, kind of anti-climactic but a sentence that has kept me wondering for over fifty years. 

My friends? They didn’t leave me…I had the car keys. It did take a while to gather them up.

Historic Brattonsville main house.jpg
The Main House at Brattonsville with the memorable attic window visible
Picture by Zan Maddox of LaValla Maddox Design.

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The history of Brattonsville (documented history) includes  

The original home was built in 1776 by Colonel William Bratton who participated in the nearby Revolutionary War Battle between Patriots and Loyalist, The Battle of Huck’s Defeat. Brattonsville was used in the filming of the movie, The Patriot, starring Mel Gibson.

There was a one night stay by Jefferson Davis as he fled the surrender of Richmond in hopes of reaching Confederate troops in the South or West. (Supposedly this is when the spy was hung but I can find no documentation.)

Dr. J. Rufus Bratton, a York County Klan leader, was the inspiration for the book The Clansman and the 1918 movie it spawned, Birth of a Nation. I am not telling this with any sort of pride but history is history. My guess is Dr. Rufus Bratton was not a nice person when it came to race relations.

***

Don Miller’s authors page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0pjOyQmBib8Mbptaegd7cbdhBk1Dqd3AwEssRjtjCtVGq4zxV2P_c9zKk

***

The featured image is from another Southern Gothic film, Swamp Water, starring Walter Brennan, Dana Andrews, and Walter Huston.

Oh Lawd, I’m Out of Crisco

Just had my yearly physical.  So far so good.  Blood pressure was great as was my pulse rate.  Weighed less than I did last year.  I still have some work to do.  Gotta go to the orthopedist next week about my nasty shoulder.  If you don’t remember, go to my post “Ha, Ha, Ha! Stupid Man Goes Boom!”  The post will explain if the shoulder if the title doesn’t.  I’ll leave the link at the end. 

I’m anxiously awaiting my blood work results…you know lipids, cholesterol, triglycerides, PSAs and such.  There’s a lot in the report I have no clue about.  Hopefully my doctor does.

Sugar…don’t forget the sugar…don’t want to come down with the sugar.  That’s Southern for sugar “diabetus” said in a ghostly Wilford Brimley’s voice.

I’m also several quarts of cooking oil low. Fourteen years ago, I made a lifestyle change.  I didn’t want to make the change exactly.  If you are more intellectually gifted than a rock, a heart attack and the resulting aftermath will cause you make lifestyle changes.  My Father’s voice joins Wilford’s, “Son, it is for your own good.”  Maybe, but I don’t have to like it.

While I might lean farther left politically than many of my Southern brethren, make no ham hock bones about it.  I am a son of the South when it comes to food and drink.  Southern fried anything, Southern iced tea so sweet it makes your teeth hurt, banana puddin’, bourbon glazed…anything.  Just don’t use the drinkin’ bourbon for the glaze.  I like to marinate myself while the ribs are smokin’.  The cheap stuff is on top of the fridge, the good hidden in the pantry. 

Make that once was a son of the South when it came to food and drink.  I gave up much to have good blood work.  No Southern fried grits nuggets…um, um, good.  If Paula Deen can deep fry mac and cheese, I can deep fry grits. 

As I write this, I’m considering what snacks I might eat while watching this evening’s viewing choices.  Some people might think popcorn…pretzels may be.  I’m thinking about breaded okra deep fried golden brown in Crisco with a side of pulled pork barbeque on white bread dripping with a yellow mustard barbeque sauce.  Maybe mayonnaise slaw for a veggie…wait okra is a veggie.  I’ve not gone off the rails. Just wishing…my snacks will probably involve air popped Orville’s.

Crisco…the “healthy” replacement for hog lard back in the day.  Growing up, it was a major cooking condiment. How quickly things change.  All those nasty trans fats. Crisco has removed them but still can’t outrun its reputation.

A solid at room temperature it melted in a hot frying pan and had a high smoking point.  Perfect to pan fried battered chicken or catfish.  Cheap, it was more easily accessible more than it was healthy. Crisco allowed us to save the butter for more important delicacies like buttering biscuits or making crust for pies.

I don’t know when my Nannie made the conversion from lard to Crisco.  She was a young girl when Smucker introduced the first one-hundred percent vegetable shortening made from cottonseed oil in 1911.  Cottonseed oil?  Cotton is a vegetable? There was a lot of cotton around, but if memory serves, we never ate it.  Now it is made with soybean oil.

The name Crisco is a modification of “crystallized cottonseed oil.”  Yum. Originally the name Chryst was suggested, with religious implications galore.  “Fry with Crisco! It’ll bring Grandma back from the grave!” Here in the South I don’t know if that would have been a selling point or blasphemy…I’m guessing the Southern Baptist would have eaten it up.

“You might be Southern Baptist if you woke up one morning craving fried chicken and interpreted that as a call to preach or you believe you’re supposed to take a covered dish to heaven when you die.” (www.kaydacus.com)

I remember the large blue tin with the red letters framed in an oval white.  It sat on a shelf within easy reach of the gas stove.  Seemed every meal featured something fried in Crisco.  Fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, catfish and hushpuppies, livermush. 

Tall and fluffy cathead biscuits made by cutting the Crisco into the flour with buttermilk.  The sound of cornbread batter being poured into a hot cast iron frying pan.  That explosive sizzle as cold batter met screaming hot Crisco oil.  I am salivating. 

If we weren’t frying with Crisco, we were frying something like fatback or bacon.  “Don’t you dare throw than bacon grease away!  Put it in this old Crisco tin, I’ll use it later.”  Flavoring gold it was.  Crisco is flavor neutral, bacon grease is not. Fried eggs, vegetables, hash browns (fried taters for my Southern friends) are simply better in bacon grease…as I remember.  “It’s been so long…Oh heavy sigh!”

In my transformed kitchen it is oven baked chicken in lemon juice, olive oil, and pepper, a crisp green salad with a vinaigrette, and sweet potato fries…the menu sounds pretty good. It just ain’t crispy fried chicken, potato salad, and turnip greens cooked with fatback, bacon grease, hog jowls or all three.

Well.  I just got my blood work back.  I’m as healthy as a ox…how do we know the ox is healthy? Anyway, cholesterol great, lipids great…and my sugar…my sugar is wonderful.  I think I’m going to celebrate.  Fried okra is in my near future.  It’s a year before I have to have blood work done again so I may add that pulled pork BBQ side dish.  Yeah, cornbread battered okra deep fried in Crisco.  No air popped popcorn for me.  “What do you mean we’re out of Crisco?…haven’t had it in years?”

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Link to Ha, Ha, Ha! Stupid Man Goes Boom! https://cigarman501.wordpress.com/2020/08/16/ha-ha-ha-stupid-man-goes-boom/

Link to Don Miller’s author’s page https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2gV2t9D5mJMRXox9JEm7959hs95fSapi1K30KIYtQuAax8JRWvyZtuc70

Images of Crisco cans from https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/vintage-advertising-tins-crisco-paper-1727753671

“What a Wonderful Day For an Exorcism”

I was looking for a quote from a horror film or story. Something cute to go with a post I was writing and accidentally came across Sumerian demon Pazuzu’s quote from The Exorcist, “What a wonderful day for an exorcism.” 

Pazuzu (The Exorcist) - Wikipedia
Only a face a demon can love. Reagan possessed by Pazuzu The Exorcist Wikipedia

I paused for a moment…can we exorcise the demon possessing the White House in 2020? What about the demons in Congress? The Media? Qanon and the rest of the conspiracists? Can we exorcise the memories of the first three quarters of 2020? Will the last quarter be any better and what about 2021? Remember the first Mad Max movie? It took place in 2021.

The quote didn’t actually come from Pazuzu but from fourteen-year-old Linda Blair playing the possessed twelve-year-old Reagan MacNeil.  The demon had invaded Reagan and the little devil was having a conversation with Fathers Karras and Merrin who were attempting to exorcise him from the young girl. 

The quote was quite possibly the nicest thing Pazuzu voiced through Reagan in the movie.  If my Nannie had been around, she would have asked, “Do you eat with that mouth? And where did a fourteen year old learn language like that? You go break me off a switch. I’m gonna switch dem legs!”

Nannie, I taught middle school. I’ve heard worse and they all seemed to be possessed by Sumerian demons.

Pazuzu was holding on to his possession of Reagan as tenaciously as the coronavirus and most of his comments were meant to shock.…especially coming from the mouth of a supposed twelve-year-old.  And who could forget the throwing up of green slime with the force of a fire hose? Reminded me of some of our politicians TV advertisements.

Sphinx's Spooky Spectacular Horror Film Review - The Exorcist — GameZilla  Media
The aftermath. Nasty green pea soup The Exorcist Sphinx’s Spooky Spectacular Horror Film Review – The Exorcist — GameZilla Media

None of this has anything to do with the point I might be making…if I knew what that point might be.

I share on my Facebook page what I call “Don’s Fun Facts”.  Most are shared from either a humorous or historical standpoint, or both.  There is no rhyme or reason, just some thought that hits me.  Just something positive and informative.

I fell into “Don’s Fun Facts” like the quicksand I worried so much about as a child. In the Fifties and Sixties TV world, it seemed people died all the time by falling in to quicksand. Did you know there were two “I’m gonna die” quicksand scenes in the Sixties TV program Lost in Space? Really worried about that space quicksand but it seems quicksand was not the problem I thought it might be as a child.

Back to the point, “Don’s Fun Facts” is an attempt to lighten my little part of a world that has become as dark as the storm clouds settling over Sigourney Weaver’s high rise in Ghostbusters.  Her character, Dana, was possessed by a fake Mesopotamian demon, Zuul.  What is there about the Fertile Crescent that breeds demons?

I’m not sure what demon has possessed 2020…maybe all of them.

Again, back to the point. This is one of my two favorite times of the year, what I call Halloweenber. In its honor, I have begun to share Halloween Fun Facts intermixed with facts about the horror genre that helps drive it. 

I like the horror genre, books or movies, anytime of the year.  From reading Poe and Stroker to watching Jamie lee Curtis scream in Halloween and The Fog, I like a chill or two. If I can combine horror with a mystery story, I am in a reader’s heaven of sorts.  I just don’t want the tale to be too real.  I want space aliens, monsters, vampires, werewolves, zombies, or immortal killers wearing a William Shatner mask. I don’t want the real thing.

Halloween' 1978: The Times Finally Reviews a Horror Classic - The New York  Times
Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle wearing his Captain Kirk mask. New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/17/movies/halloween-1978-review.html

I’m much more comfortable with make believe monsters than I am with monsters who might actually walk the earth.  An alien clown named Pennywise who goes about tempting children into rain sewers I’m okay with.  It’s not real…scary but not real.

Real serial killers dressing up like clowns, say John Wayne Gacy, I’m not okay with.  John Wayne Gacy murdering thirty-three victims is too real…just like 2020 is too real.

Killer Clown' John Wayne Gacy, who assaulted and killed 33 teenage boys in  US
The Killer Clown, John Wayne Gacy https://www.indiatvnews.com/crime/news/killer-clown-john-wayne-gacy-who-assaulted-and-killed-teen-2872.html?page=1

If 2020 were a serial killer it would be dressed like “The Killer Clown” John Wayne Gacy. I guess 2020 is a serial killer of sorts carrying a ventilator while dressed in “clown” scrubs with red face paint resembling blood drying around its fang-filled mouth.

I didn’t know at the time but the beginning chapters of Stephen King’s The Stand were too real as a deadly influenza bioweapon is released. Now we have the very real coronavirus.  Obviously, Corvid-19 is not as deadly as Captain Trips but it makes me pause to wonder…influenza season is here. I read Michael Crichton’s along the same lines, The Andromeda Strain.  Saw the movie too. “Quit it!” I’m scaring myself…good horror is not real, good horror is not real, good horror is not real! If I close my eyes the monster will go away.

Pictured (l-r): Jovan Adepo as Larry Underwood and Heather Graham as Rita Blakemoor of the the CBS All Access series THE STAND. Photo Cr: Best Possible Screengrab/CBS ©2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Abandoned cars and two survivors of Captain Trips in a scene from the yet unreleased The Stand remake. https://www.rollingstone.com/tv/tv-news/the-stand-stephen-king-release-date-2020-1049649/

No, I’d rather watch Godzilla destroy a major world city on TV or Bela Lugosi bare his fangs and fade to black than watch a movie or read a book about a mega volcano in the heartland or an asteroid kerplunking into the middle of the Pacific like a  bowling ball dropped into a bowl of chocolate pudding.  Too real.

There is something about the idea of an exorcism that keeps coming back to me like chickens coming home to roost…killer chickens with fangs and razor sharp talons.  The orange rooster yells, “Go for the eyes! If they can’t see the truth….”

hens Archives - Karen Goat Keeper
An orange rooster from Quatro Knows Blog

Maybe we could get all the Catholic priests in the world to carry out a world-wide exorcism of the demons of 2020.  Teachers, we could do it virtually, right?  “Ala Kazam, begone! Especially you, you orange faced incubus!”

Vodun priests and priestesses can cast a spells on the little imp? Pins in dolls? No, according to a former baseball player I coached from Haiti, “It’s a bunch of movie hoodoo.”  If true Moise,  “Why were there chicken bones in your bat bag? Forget to clean up after your last trip to KFC? I think not” Besides, I’ve seen The Serpent and the Rainbow and The Skeleton Key.

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) - IMDb
“Don’t bury me, I’m not dead.” The Serpent and the Rainbow https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096071/

I think an exorcism should be the order of the day…just not this day.  We should wait a month unless you are doing mail in or absentee voting. We don’t need priests or priestesses of any religion to cast a vote.  We can attempt to cast out our demons at the ballot box. Show up and vote.  January 20 would be “a wonderful day for an exorcism.”

Vote by Mail Drop-off Ballot Box | Oviatt Library
Exercising your Constitutional Right to cast out demons. I mailed mine in yesterday!

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Don Miller’s author’s page is found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR35xJvzdxZiEkwOZ9X-zSJaHJPWe_2zlp_F52tyGagyOUCajeDIa9TNwFo

Vodun, also spelled Voodoo, Voudou, Vodou , or French Vaudou, is a religion practiced in Haiti that transported with slaves to the Southern United States, especially Louisiana. The spelling voodoo, once very common, is now generally avoided by Haitian practitioners and scholars when referring to the Haitian religion. Wikipedia

Incidentally, the term Hoodoo used by my Haitian baseball player is a traditional African-American spirituality created by enslaved African-Americans in the New World. It is linked to Vodun, or Vodou, but is different. Hoodoo is very prevalent in Lowcountry South Carolina and coastal Georgia.

The “head spinning” image is from The Exorcist and taken from Pinterest.

YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!

As soon as I read the headline and before I read the article, “Trump Announces, ‘Patriotic Education’ Commission”, I thought of Colonel Jessup’s tirade in the movie, “A Few Good Men”, “You Can’t Handle The Truth!”  I felt no different after I read it.

It seems our President and a good part of our population can’t or won’t handle the truth.  Worse, I believe a portion of our population knows the truth, they just don’t care to acknowledge it.  They like things just the way they are or rather they would like to cycle them back to those thrilling days of yesteryear. Am I cynical much?

I read the article but my thoughts continued to collide with the force of a cue ball breaking a rack. Dark thoughts of a time past that seems to be determine to resurrect itself.

“Trump Announces, ‘Patriotic Education’ Commission”. Hummm…I was a product of “Patriotic Education”.  It was called Civics, taught in the backdrop of the Civil Right struggle and the Cold War.  There was a lot of wrapping the Bible in the Red, White, and Blue to boot.  “Our God is better than your god,” with Biblical quotations to prove it. 

Civics wasn’t pure propaganda but there was propaganda.  I did learn about our constitution and our federal system, but I also learned that the self-evident truths of “All men are created equal” were weak aspirations in my part of the world, not necessarily a truth. 

As my blond haired, crew cut sporting instructor explained, “We have the retarded, the dummies and mute, ni@@#*s and Indians.”  Yes, he said that.  My memory is faulty, it could have been in US History rather than Civics.

One of the more troubling thoughts among many is how much this person meant to me.  How much I wanted to be just like him.  How I followed his lead to college and then on to teaching.  How I majored in history and taught it for most of forty-one years…most likely, because of him. 

It was the Sixties and as I have found in most men, there is good, there is bad, and I hope, there is change. Don’t you hate it when your heroes prove to be mere mortals?

In the article I read, President Trump decried what he called a “twisted web of lies” being taught in U.S. classrooms about systemic racism in America, calling it “a form of child abuse.” He made similar comments at Mount Rushmore in July.

“Teaching this horrible doctrine to our children is a form of child abuse, the truest sense,” Trump said. “For many years now, the radicals have mistaken Americans’ silence for weakness. They’re wrong. There is no more powerful force than a parent’s love for their children. And patriotic moms and dads are going to demand that their children are no longer fed hateful lies about this country.” 

At best, our President has an uncomfortable relationship with the truth. Most often, the truth and the President do not reside in the same zip code. I question what “hateful lies about this country” he is channelling.  It seems to me we are again wrapping the flag around our racism and using a religion to support it.

I do not want to beat a dead mule; I have written to this theme before.  Until recently, and even that depends on where you reside in our great country, we have never taught history from an all-encompassing point of view.  We have never taught history “warts and all.”  We seem to be afraid of the truth.

Most teachers try, but standards and textbooks have only recently begun to change, attitudes even less. Those teachers who don’t try should not be teaching. I still see a type of history being taught accompanied by cheerleaders sporting red, white, and blue pom poms. “Go, Fight, Win!”

Why would we not want to teach the truth?  Does truth somehow undermine our love for our country?  Am I wrong to believe we can be patriotic and love our country despite knowing we committed travesties along the way?  Can we not wish to correct those ills and make ourselves an even better country? Is it unbearable to admit to the wrongs of our forefathers?

Change. The word seems to be the truth we can’t handle and the resistance to change seems to come from my own contemporaries…those of us who were indoctrinated to believe “My Country, Right or Wrong” not that our country ever did any wrong.  Worse, many are not contemporaries but are those I taught.

Many former students have taken to pointing out, “We are not a democracy we are a Republic.”  To what end? Why do you make this argument?  Is there an ulterior motive?  Am I being cynical to believe people pointing this out have an agenda and a need to undermine?

The word “republic” has the same meaning as the term “representative democracy.” A representative democracy is a form of democracy in the same way that a ‘purple top’ is a form of turnip. We wouldn’t say it’s inaccurate to use “turnip” to describe a purple top turnip, so it’s OK to follow in the footsteps of many founding fathers, along with Webster, and Chief Justice Marshall and simply call our “representative democracy” a “democracy.”

I would also want to point out, at the local level many of our decisions are made as a ‘direct’ democracy. Again, I wonder about motives. I wonder about truth. I feel to the depth of my bones, many would rather have a more autocratic form of government even if it is led by a former reality TV star.

My brother will now say, chill.  Go out and walk, smell the flowers, have a beer, watch a football game.  He is right, and I will, but my cynical petty coats is showing cow poo and it stinks.  I have hope in our system but it is being undermined.  My truth is becoming, “We are what we are.  This is who we’ve been and we ain’t gonna’ change.” 

We are being taken advantage of.  I’m not the world’s most intelligent guy but even I can see the seeds of division that have been planted are flourishing, both within and without.  The far right and the far left are not our friends.  Neither are any of the autocratic leaders our President seems to want to cozy up to. 

No, not our friends. Neither is the media attempting to sell advertising, a President attempting to sell blivits, and congressmen and women attempting to sell themselves. (A blivit is two pounds of manure in a one pound bag. The origin is from Kalamazoo College around 1960.)

The President’s initiative to create “Patriotic Education” is a blivit and he is sowing more seeds of discord and playing to a base that includes those who believe equality for all is somehow taking their own rights away and an affront to God. 

Watercolor by John Coffee. Line from The Green Mile

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Don Miller’s author’s page is found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR22iSzDHKzxCzPBS64mqKyX_iqjwVDmJXrd_1iVmF5be_YAnetohuhpwQI

Article quoted, Trump Announces ‘Patriotic Education’ Commission, A Largely Political Move, from NPR, September 17, 2020, Alana Wise, https://www.npr.org/2020/09/17/914127266/trump-announces-patriotic-education-commission-a-largely-political-move?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&fbclid=IwAR3pJHVlB7rxiAiDhMXODozLxk0my-rRZNfaA94Y7ekugnE5Zqr8EhJ08II

The image, from JoeBlogs