Boycott the Boycotts

#BoycotttheBoycotts

Oh my, Ben and Jerry’s has squatted and fallen backwards onto a political cow patty…they have stepped in several over the years, but this is the one I’m sure will soil their starched khakis forever.  This time SOME members from the Right has called for a boycott.  This was a podcast chat or YouTube video with Jane Fonda.  Ole Hanoi Jane strikes again.  What did they discuss? I have no idea. #BoycottAllVideos

More food wars…more calls to boycott something.  Nascar, football…ice cream.  I say #BoycotttheBoycotts.

I’m really sick of calls to boycott.  It’s like listening to the greatest music hit of 2020. (As if there is any great music in 2020.) The ditty is good the first time, maybe the tenth time, but it gets so much air play, it gets old.   Calls to boycott because football players joining arms or wearing a “unity” or BLM sticker on their helmets?  That gets old.  Really unity? #BoycottUnityBoycott

When attempting to find a place to eat or a substance to eat how many of you Google, “What is the local ‘choke and puke’s’ political stance?”  No one right? Do you really?  Let’s see, boycott a bowl of “Booots on the Moon” because of a stand on Global Warming or White Supremacy?  I see, #BoycottBenandJerrys.

I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten Ben and Jerry’s ice cream but it has nothing to do with a boycott or a political stance.  I’m sure someone just shook their head in disbelief.  I don’t remember eating it, but I assure you it’s not because they are soooo liberal.  I mean I will eat at Chick-fil-a if I can’t get to Bojangles or Popeyes. Nothing to do with their conservatism…I just like my chicken spicy. More on that later.

Firstly, Liberals can make ice cream.  Secondly, when you are so far right, everything in the center looks radical. 

When I’m not making my own ice cream, I’m a Breyers or a Blue Bell guy, OUT OF HABIT…not politics.  Guess what?  I have no idea who makes Breyers or what their political slant is.  Same with Blue Bell.  I…COULD…CARE…LESS! 

As long as they aren’t serial killers, rapist, or abusers I…DON”T…CARE! Well there was Blue Bell’s  2015 listeriosis outbreak and Breyers cutting their milk content to the point some of their offerings were called ‘frozen desserts’ rather than ice cream.  #BoycottListeriosis, #BoycottFrozenDesserts! 

Boycotting is as ridiculous as the chicken sandwich wars from a while back.  God’s Chick-fil-a sandwich versus Satan’s Popeye’s sandwich.  I just heard Chick-fil-a is going to offer a spicier version of their chicken sandwich.  Does that mean they have gone over to the dark side? #BoycottGodlessSpicyChickenSandwich!

We’ve had some pretty effective boycotts over history.  Stamp Act’s “Taxation Without Representation”, The Montgomery Bus Boycott, Gandhi’s Salt March and Boycott, US sanctions against South Africa to end Apartheid and free Nelson Mandela.

Yeah, the Ben and Jerry’s Boycott of 2020 fits right in with those.  That will stop all their liberal shenanigans, supporting Black Lives, calling out White Supremacists, videoing with Jane Fonda.  A real travesty.  #FreetheChocolateChip…#BoycottJane #BoycotttheBoycotts

Most boycotts are pointless and harmful. Have you considered what a successful boycott might entail?  LOST AMERICAN JOBS!  You know those athletes you are grinding on?  They are already rich.  They probably didn’t start out rich, but they are now.  The owners are rich.  The networks are rich.  They can outlast you. 

What about the towel guy, or the court sweeper, or the Zamboni driver?  The guy that runs out to mop up sweat from LeBron’s brow? What about the janitorial staff?  The equipment guys?  What about the guy in the paper hat that scoops your chocolate chip mint into your cone?  They are the ones who will pay for your stupid boycott. #BoycottProSportsBoycotts

#BoycotttheBoycotts!  If I don’t like the pregame political statements I’ll wait until it’s over turn it on or put my hands over my ears, close my eyes and yell “La, La, La, La” at the top of my lungs until it is over.  I suggest you do the same. I won’t turn it off and walk away.

If my ice cream is made by a right-wing wingnut, I’ll eat it if it is deliciously sweet and creamy.  I won’t eat it but once if it is not. 

If a protest for social justice is so reprehensible you wish to boycott it…you should boycott me.  #BoycottMe

Well, I’m going to prepare brunch for my bride now.  Guess what I’m not going to do?  I’m not going to worry about the political statements made by the chicken that laid the egg, the corn that grits were ground from, or the pig who gave its all for my sausage.  The farmer who supplied them?  We’re good regardless of what sign he puts in his field. 

I’m not going to worry about the stance of the workers who picked the broccoli, mushrooms, and spinach that will make up the filling of my omelet.  I don’t care if the cheddar cheese maker is a liberal or a conservative, a libertarian or a flat earther. 

I may have a bowl of ice cream later while watching a football game…it may be Ben and Jerry’s…it may not.  #BoycotttheBoycott!

***

The image is from Aaron Fooks, Protest Pointless Boycotts, The Chimes. https://chimesnewspaper.com/23827/opinions/protest-pointless-boycotts/

Stop by Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0G7zFoynNmQ5cF2WE-usnYnFgJUY_9NjLXDIRhTJmS5F_ipFre6D0NGOk

Sunday September 15, 1963

Sunday September 15, 1963…I doubt I paid much attention to the happenings in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.  I probably paid more attention on Monday when Walter brought the CBS Nightly News as the family gathered around the black and white TV, chewing soggy TV dinner fried chicken and cardboard mac and cheese. 

I pay more attention now. The past can be painful. Ignoring the past can be moreso. Four young girls, Addie Mae Collins (age 14, born April 18, 1949); Carol Denise McNair (age 11, born November 17, 1951); Carole Rosanond Robertson (age 14, born April 24, 1949); and Cynthia Dionne Wesley (age 14, born April 30, 1949), were killed in the attack as they attended Sunday school…Sunday school. Addie Mae’s sister, 12 year old Sarah, had twenty-one shards of glass embedded in her face. She was blinded in one eye. Fourteen others were injured and there was another death. Some nineteen or more casualties to the war that was Civil Rights.

1963: Bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church
Sarah Collins recovering from the attack. Photograph by Dawoud Bey.

I do not know what I thought.  I do not know what my family thought.  We were not the types to sit around the dinner table discussing Civil Rights, race relations, and the deaths of four young girls in the city that became known as “Bombingham.” I honestly don’t know where my parents stood on racism and Civil Rights. Considering all possibilities I guess that is not a bad thing.

I don’t know for sure what my classmates thought during school that Monday morning. There was no discussion of the travesty that had occured in my eighth grade civics class…my all white class in my all white little school.

I was thirteen. Just about the ages of the girls killed at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.  I wonder what I thought.  I am sure I was more concerned about the pennant race in the National League than four deaths in Alabama.  The Dodgers were battling it out with the Cardinals and held a one game lead.  On September sixteenth they would begin a series with the Dodgers one game up.  In the American League the Yankees had run away and hid in 1963.  I knew baseball standings, but I didn’t know the names of the girls now gone.

It is not that I was unfeeling, I was thirteen, probably an immature thirteen.  I was more concerned about baseball and the Playboy magazine I had snuck into my bedroom.  There was that little blond-haired girl that stirred feelings and reactions I simply did not understand.  Alabama was a place far, far away and the lives lost unknown to me.

Occasionally thoughts would enter my teenage mind.  “How is this right?”  I was not ready to go marching with Martin Luther King but images of burning buses, fire hoses, and now rubble were having an effect…a lasting effect.

My grandmother had taught the Golden Rule. I couldn’t understand why we weren’t treating these people the way we wished to be treated.  Why were people so angry and why did they all look like me? Why didn’t I have the guts to act?

I couldn’t understand the lack of empathy from friends either…as I can’t understand now.

The last of the three bombers died in prison this past June.  I will not speak his name. He was eighty-two.  He was not brought to justice until 2001…none were brought to justice in 1963, not because their identities were unknown, because of the system that was in place…a system that is still hanging on in many places.  The three freely lived their lives as if nothing had happened, one for thirty-seven years.  He lived freely thrice as long as the little girls whose lives he helped to take. 

I’m thankful I’m not the same person I was in 1963.  I was a child of the time and carried my racism with me well into my adulthood.  My change occurred over time, there was no sudden flipped switch.  It was the realization that what I saw and heard was at odds with what I had learned despite my grandmother’s best teachings.

I still have my moments.  I still carry my racism. Thoughts I wish I didn’t have, thoughts I pray forgiveness for.  I pray for understanding, pray for peace among all God’s children.  Prayers that don’t include forgetting but do include forgiveness.  Prayers for taking the first step toward healing which is the recognition and acceptance for our sins. 

Don Miller writes on various subjects that bothers him so. His author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0C336Kj_qD1fHk40ybRg8b7CHHd6f8KYcGIC44-qIqsbZJGjv0WdXaeKI

  

Memories of the Coming Good

Not the ‘B’ side of the Johnny Rivers’ hit, “Summer Rain.” Memories of the Coming Good” was a repetitive instrumental. I don’t know why it was even used or why I even remember it but for some reason the title spurred a memory as I thought about the 9/11 attack that occurred nineteen years ago. 

Maybe it was the other way around.  Maybe it was memories of 9/11 and the aftermath that spurred the memory of a bad song with a great title.

As I look back on the days and weeks after 9/11, for a moment in time, the aftermath became Memories of the Coming Good.  The memories of the way Americans pulled together…pulled together regardless of race, creed, color, or political standing.  For a brief time, there was one goal…to recover from our mourning, to overcome what had happened. To rise Phoenix-like from the ashes of Ground Zero.

We awoke the next day to a different world…a world that has become even scarier over the past nineteen years. Still, for a period of time we were united.

I wish our country could go back to the day after.  Not the actual day but to the unity, the purpose. 

I wish we could return to the way the country rallied behind New York, behind the first responders, behind the country, behind the people lost and injured, behind their families.  Americans rallying to each other, for each other.  Americans willing to sacrifice for the coming good.

In the years since his presidency, I’ve become a George W. Bush fan.  Not so much George Bush the President, but a fan of the man himself.  I’m a fan of the way he reacted and a fan of the way he responded in those dark days following the attack.  I knew he was hurt just as much as New York and the rest of the country.  His pain was as real as the rest of ours.

I remember his bullhorn speech standing atop the rubble at Ground Zero.  He was a calming anodyne and you knew we would recover.  We would be okay.

He was a man who might stumble in the ways he reacted or possibly overreacted, but you knew where his heart was. His heart was on his sleeve for all to see and it bled red, white, and blue.  We knew he had been stabbed in the heart just like the rest of the country.

I wish I still had those feelings of a coming good.  I wish I had the joy I felt when Osama bin Laden was run to ground. It was a measure of justice for what we had lost.

Until recently, Americans have always rallied around the common good when times were dire.  Before I was born, the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor and World War Two, 9/11 and natural disasters after I was born.  We rallied.  We responded.  We overcame.

To quote FDR, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”  I think we have forgotten that.  We have found our fears and allowed them to rule us.

We move from conspiracy theory to conspiracy theory, putting our faith in QAnon or Revelationist, creating reasons to be fearful when there are real dangers to be addressed and overcome, reasons to worry there is no coming good ahead of us.

I wish we were not so divided. I wish we could rally to each other as we did after 9/11 and no I am not wishing for something catastrophic to give us a reason to rally.  If a pandemic with nearly two hundred thousand dead, wildfires raging on the west coast, devastating weather, demonstrations for social justice, and looting in our major cities cannot rally us, I do not want to consider what might.

There is still time to rally ourselves, but time is running out.  Our memories can be of a coming good or not.  It is for us to decide…if not for us, for our children and grandchildren.

As we remind ourselves of what this solemn day represents, take a moment to think.  Think about not only our losses but our responses.  Think about our rallying, think about the memories of a coming good.   

Iconic 9/11 flag, missing for years, returns to New York City - CNN
Thomas E. Franklin’s Firefighters Raising the Flag published in Newsweek

    

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3-0ovpLqEZAnuKfEmXu0e8AGiMnEE1zS31TkH6pZhaMz5-3OqZz_A_Fh4

The image used is courtesy of USAToday.

Knuckleheads and Other Winners

A former player and I were conversing via social media.  At the end of our conversation, he thanked me for putting up with the knucklehead he had been during his youth.  Knucklehead was his word but he used it honestly.  At the time, twenty years ago, I probably would have said worse…but with all the love in the world. 

Damn him…his comment took me down a rabbit hole populated with knuckleheads jumping out at me as if I were riding a tunnel of horrors…well, not horrors, a tunnel of laughs.  Instead of ghouls, skeletons, and ax murders, they were former baseball players dressed in clown paint with big floppy shoes.  Ah, the memories.

My years as a high school coach were packed tighter than a sardine can with knuckleheads…as if I might have attracted them.  Knuckleheads…not sardines.  I would have never used the word knucklehead but I’m trying to remember what I would have used…that is fit to print…Goofy blond headed kid? Not likely.

I can slide backward in time and find one or two knuckleheads for every one of the forty-four years I coached.  Some years entire teams were filled with knuckleheads. I’m sure it had nothing to do with my personality. 

I had them in all of the sports I coached, but with the down time associated with baseball, between innings and when we batted, it seemed my dugout cup runneth over with knuckleheads…or maybe it is just the game of baseball itself.  Baseball is a game fraught with player shenanigans. 

It is funny odd.  With all the successes associated with those days when I talk to former players, invariably, the conversation turns to “Do you remember when ‘so and so’ did ‘such and such’?”  Yeah, I remember.  During those days, I feigned anger when I really wanted to laugh…sometimes I feigned badly and laughed anyway. 

As I continued down my rabbit trail, I realized that all the really good teams were loaded with knuckleheads, many as crazy as bed bugs, usually pitchers.  If I were to award an All Knucklehead Team, the top five would include…four pitchers. I can think of two immediately who were crazy as bed bugs.

They all used their craziness to defuse tense situations…for themselves and their teammates. Gatorade bottles fill with rock noisemakers, Gatorade cup binoculars, rally monkeys, fins up hats, and hand jives. Dug out Voodoo one team called it. At least they didn’t cheer like softball teams.

The teams were much looser than I was or at least they hid it better.  I sat on my ten gallon baseball bucket undergoing butt pucker while they chilled under fire, shaking their noisemakers or dancing with the rally monkey. 

The teams taught me as much as I taught them, maybe more.  Over time they taught me I didn’t have to be a cross between Attila the Hun and Billy Martin to be a good coach.  I could use my own personality; I could be me no matter which version I was at the time. 

They taught me that getting close was better than remaining distant no matter the pain closeness sometimes brought.  Mostly they taught me it wasn’t about the game but the people who played it. 

The knucklehead I was conversing with almost caused a brawl when he laid a bunt down late in a game we were well ahead in.  He had broken one of baseball’s unwritten rules.  You don’t rub another team’s nose in it, instead you call off the dogs. 

My next batter received a fastball between the shoulder blades because of the faux pas.  Ordinarily, such would not go unanswered, but it seemed an appropriate response at the time even if the wrong knucklehead got hit.  To the original knucklehead’s defense, we failed to tell him the dogs were off…I guess I was the knucklehead.

I have learned a few things since retiring.  Mostly I’ve learned I miss the camaraderie from those earlier years.  I miss the youthful exuberance of teenagers. I miss watching them play the game. I still watch the game but it is not the same. I don’t know the players. They aren’t mine.

I don’t miss the long hours, the foot numbing cold of the early season games, or the long rear numbing bus rides to and from games. What I miss are the kids…the young men who grew from knuckleheads into successful citizens.  I’d like to think I might have contributed to some of their successes.   

 My first attempt at writing badly was, “Winning Was Never the Only Thing…” It chronicalled many of the knuckleheads I was blessed to have coached. Winning wasn’t the only thing but it was written about the winners who made winning possible and my life much sweeter.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2xmv7S1RJWskEhZZ2zdJyRNTfnKZaA-0fvcaXh2Qoht0TimSO42uLa6I4

The image is of Jose Lobaton with his Gatorade Glasses courtesy of the Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/

Heroes

I watched Black Panther last night and the tribute to Chadwick Boseman that followed, the young man from Anderson, South Carolina who died much too young from colon cancer.  A movie star some have called heroic.

The news of his death at forty-three struck a discordant note and triggered my own memories of young men gone to soon.  Over the last decade I have lost two former players to colon cancer, one in his early thirties, the other in his early forties. 

I watched their deterioration and the devastation the disease wreaked upon their families.  I witnessed firsthand the bravery they displayed as the sands ran too quickly from their hourglass. It seems Chadwick fought his battle silently and worked nearly up to the end. Like my players I’m sure he fought heroically and at his age could have easily been one of my students or players.

Because he was from South Carolina, I had heard a great deal about Chadwick. I followed his career but Black Panther was the first movie I saw despite having been impressed with excerpts from 42 and with the interviews I had watched. I had been too self-absorbed and lazy to actually go to a movie theater. 

2020 has been tough on role models.  Kobe Bryant and John Lewis passed before Boseman, all prominent African Americans in their respective fields, athletics, Civil Rights, and film.  Joining them today, as I write this, was legendary Georgetown coach, John Thompson. 

There are others who have passed, of all races and many different fields.  People who were important to other people whether they knew them or not.  Many who were role models and heroes in their own right. Still, I could not help myself, I wondered, “Why had Chadwick Boseman been elevated to ‘Superhero Role Model’?”

I knew the answer but as I read reactions to his death, responses to media presentations, and the final straw for fragile, triggered, white folks from his home state, the lowering of the flags to half-mast that fly over our state capital.  Small fire fights raged over social media to the point I shut my computer down to put them out.

I was surprised at the negative comments.  “He is an actor, not a hero. He is playing a part”, “It’s just because he’s black”, “It’s the liberal media’s agenda”, “It’s all about politics.”  Those were not the worst of the comments.

I decided to do a bit of introspection.  After my self-study, the answer swimming around in my mind had not changed.  I had stayed silent when certain people enumerated the failings of Kobe Bryant and John Lewis, trying to make them seem less heroic and more human. I’m not going to be silent today.

People need heroes.  We always have needed them, whether they were actors playing a part or athletes playing a game or living heroic figures.  I had mine, from John Wayne’s ‘Whistling’ Dan Roman in the movie The High and the Mighty to Mickey Mantle and Bobby Richardson to JFK.  All were important to me.

They were heroic figures for a young white boy named Donnie.  They were also flawed humans…discovered to be flawed by the adult named Don.  When I was the child we did not seem to have the need to tear our heroes down as we do now.  Heroes were heroes, villains were villains. You could tell the good guys by their white hats unless your hero was Hopalong Cassidy.

Today, we elevate normal humans to godly status just before doing our best to explode our idols by exposing the failings that make them human.  Hero worship to hero bashing.  Why?

I do not have an answer to why…except that it is 2020 and for the previous decade our capacity for hatred has steadily expanded.  I guess we have always mined for veins of corrosion in someone else’s hero’s armor.  As far as the comments about Chadwick Boseman, it seems much darker.

I restate, “People need heroes.”  For Black Americans and other hyphenated Americans, heroes have been few and far between.  Not because they were not any, there were plenty, but because heroes of color were whitewashed by the “White European” history we taught…I taught into the present century. 

The Thurgood Marshalls and Jackie Robinsons were relegated to “footnotes” during the Civil Rights Era while others were crammed into the shortest month of the year, “Black History Month.” 

Chadwick Boseman helped bring those historical figures to life for a new generation of Black kids.  Chadwick Boseman gave little black youngsters a hero…even if he was playing James Brown or The Black Panther.  Chadwick Boseman gave an entire race a sense of pride that had been rendered almost invisible in many history books. 

Before you question me, I know I am correct because I taught United States History off and on for forty-one years and I only realized the errors of my ways late in my career.  I am sorely sorry for that.  In God I trust but I now know I should not have trusted my “Lost Cause” education or the textbooks I taught from.  It appears I did a good job of teaching as the propaganda I taught is often regurgitated back into my face. 

Please understand, my failings went far past presenting Black Americans in the shadows.  My shortcomings included Native Americans, Spanish speaking Americans, Asian Americans, and women of all races.  

I taught a sanitized version of history, as most of us did.  I taught the good instead of adding the bad and the ugly.  I now believe if we do not confront our history, we truly are doomed to repeat it.  We needed Chadwick Boseman along with actors and actresses like him to bring that history to life…and provide a bit of escapism too.

Is Chadwick Boseman a hero? I think we throw the term around too easily and too often.  He is a positive role model, not just for black kids but for all kids in general.  From a small Southern town, to college, to Oxford, to a pinnacle of stages and red carpets.  More than an actor in a role, a good man, an intelligent man, a humanitarian, and philanthropist.  Maybe not a hero in the heroic sense but a culture hero for sure and the best of role models.    

I thought for two hours and fifteen minutes Sunday night Chadwick Boseman was heroic, the same way John Wayne was heroic in the movie In Harms Way or The Horse Soldiers. There were certainly creases, maybe huge dents and rends in John’s armor and yet I still tune in everytime those movies are on.

We need heroes even if they are playing a part or a sport. We need heroes even if they are human with human failings. Boseman’s heroism went much further than just the screen of my TV.

Don Miller’s author page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1eQLwKCHwi-dJ92ECz70HcFU6lwIeP6pKv8-4vBA_gJEqpQiGtI3Ic1H8

The image of Chadwick Boseman was mined from the New York Times.

Of Bees, Snake Doctors, and Many Things Yellow

In the wildlife preserve that is my home, a change of season is rapidly approaching.  Approaching but not yet here and in all likelihood, we will not experience significant temperature and humidity changes for another six weeks or so. 

I calculate the middle of October, or thereabouts, before any serious changes.  There will be some cool mornings followed by blistering afternoons. Maybe a frost in late October followed by a forty or fifty degree temperature increase by afternoon…but it is 2020 and I will not wager a bet or even venture a guess on anything weather related. 

The calendar tells me it is slightly less than a month from the Autumn Equinox but it is still ‘dead of Summer’ hot and humid with myriads of mosquitoes and gnats in my little piece of heaven. 

As I type this, a hurricane is pumping tropical air our way, but the crystal gazers of weather say lower humidity is filling in behind it.  I hope their crystal ball is not broken but trust them no more than a midway carney playing three-card monte or a fortune-teller named Momma Amelia.

I predict that mosquitoes and gnats, along with the humidity, will be with us well past Indian Summer…maybe well past Christmas.  Such is the world I live in.  Since it is 2020, hurricanes may be with us until the new year.

Despite the heat and humidity, there is a difference I both feel and see.  The sunlight is a bit more golden, the wind angling from a slightly different direction, the days a bit shorter and myriads of yellow wildflowers of different types are blooming with bees working them with a frenzy driven by the change of seasons. 

It is as if all the insects have decided they must “make hay while the sun shines.”  Even the “snake doctors” residing at the lake where I meander are more numerous and in an eating hysteria. They are voracious and eat just about anything, mosquitoes, tadpoles, fish, other insect larvae, and even each other.  With the numbers of mosquitoes present, I would say dragonfly cannibalism has been placed on the back burner.

Yellow is the color of the season.  Bees, bugs, caterpillars, and butterflies seem to incorporate yellows and golds to match the sunshine.  The new wildflowers are yellow, Black, and Brown-eyed Susan, the bane to my existence, goldenrod, and varieties I have no clue as to their names.  There are none of my favorites, my sunflowers. For some reason, not one planted survived. The curse of 2020…or deer and raccoons.

There are colors other than yellow, some purple or light blue, maybe a hint of pink. The white and pink Abelia shrub attracts black and yellow butterflies…or is it yellow and black butterflies? There are black and blue ones also.

South Carolina - State Butterfly - Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail…the SC state butterfly https://sites.google.com/site/southcarolinauplandbutterflies/

I have massive Pokeweed with purple berries the birds seem to ignore but not my t-shirt as I saunter past. More than once my bride has panicked “What have you done to yourself?” “Nothing my love…this time at least.” I understand her concern.

Insects are not alone in their frenzy.  I just startled a chipmunk with a mouth stretched tight with sunflower seeds, cute little chubby cheeked thing. A squirrel was seen burying a black walnut in my wife’s planter.  Will he remember where it is when he needs it?

I’ve seen evidence of my wild turkeys and deer. They have been absent all summer but may be on the move. There are tracks and scratches everywhere. I know the turtles are moving, their yellow and orange splotches shining in the sun. I moved three from the road today and two from the path I was cutting.

Eastern Box Turtle | South Carolina Public Radio
Eastern Box Turtle with a leaf stuck to its shell

It won’t be long until the long vees of ducks and geese will be seen. I wonder if the old coot at the lake will stay or make his migration. Where do coots go in the fall?

I am reminded of the fable of the grasshopper and ant.  The ant worked his behind off all summer long while the grasshopper jumped and sang the summer away.  As the seasons change, I feel much more like the grasshopper than the ant.  I admit I don’t jump quite as high and my song may be a bit off-key. I also admit I haven’t gotten a lot done this season.

Well, there is the rest of the summer to make hay…or cut wood…or put in the fall garden…or clean-up the yard that I’ve allowed to revert back to an old-growth forest.  Yep, there is time…right after I jump and sing and after a short nap.     

From 1934 The Grasshopper and the Ants

Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies The Grasshopper and Ant,
http://www.youtube.com

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3-Y9SE4wsP0I2tn3R8VkrP6WR89h6xUmPGnjRksOLNSeBKswbUoCgHNsY

The image of sunflowers is from https://www.housebeautiful.com/lifestyle/gardening/a27545572/save-the-bees-plant-sunflowers/

Adventures in Paradise

Martin Denny’s “Quiet Village” is playing in my head.  An early morning conversation with Margaret Dacko cued the music along with a mental side trip to a sandy beach with palm trees and tropical blue-green waters.

I gleefully follow the rabbit trails my mind takes me down.  Wandering is therapeutic, even if it is in your head.  I try to stop short of falling into Alice’s rabbit hole but sometimes….  “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there” or even better, “If you don’t know where you are going you cannot get lost.” 

My rabbit track resembled a jungle waterway filled with alligators, crocodiles, and hippos.  Parrots and other exotics darted in and out of the lush foliage that bordered both sides of the waterway.  Eventually it led to a pristine shoreline complete with coconut trees, emerald blue waters, ivory white sands, and of course native girls in coconut bras waiting on me hand and foot.  There may be a boat drink complete with umbrella in my near future..but doubt the appearance of a native girl.  Is that a sailing ship I see on my horizon?

Margaret Dacko is a former teaching chum and dear friend who shares my curse, being unable to sleep like normal people.  Sometimes, like this morning, we converse during the early, still dark hours via Facebook. 

Our conversation led me to Martin Denny, James A. Michener, Gardner McKay, and the South Pacific or Caribbean Islands of my youthful dreams.  There may be a jungle or two residing there too.

I wander down my rabbit trail to a Monday night in 1959 and an ABC program, Adventures in Paradise,  A program I sometimes was able to watch depending upon atmospheric conditions.  A snowy Gardner McKay starring as Captain Adam Troy of the sailing schooner Tiki.  Sailing around the South Pacific for an hour minus commercials, searching for adventure and romance, always finding a reasonable facsimile around the Tiki’s home port in Tahiti or the Pacific beyond. 

Theme from Adventures in Paradise along with stills from the series. YouTube

Our conversation continued and now I’m playing Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song” in my head, “Day-O, Day, Day, Ohhh! Daylight come and me want to go home.”  Later my memories trade Harry and Gardner for Perez Prado’s “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,” from the movie Underwater featuring Jane Russell’s breasts in a swimsuit.  I was a young teen when I saw them on NBC Saturday Night at the Movies…I mean it, saw it, the movie, saw the movie. I just remembered Jacqueline Bisset in the movie The Deep. Nice T-Shirt.

Perez Prado and his orchestra. YouTube
Underwater! | Trailers From Hell
A pair of nice ones…Richard Egan and Jane Russell. Movie Underwater. https://trailersfromhell.com/underwater/

As a child and young teen, I was drawn to my grandmother’s National Geographic magazines.  Monthly windows into a world far from the landlocked upper state of South Carolina.  Family vacations to Myrtle Beach or Florida would be as close as I would get to the exotic far off places I read about or dreamed of.  My pirate ship was a small Sunfish sailboat sailed on local lakes…my jungles, the forests of Upstate South Carolina. The Sunfish would be as close to sailing off into the sunset to a tropical island or jungle as I would come.

There would be other books or programs that drew my interest to the exotic, Mitchener, James Clavell or John C. McDonald.  Thor Heyerdahl’s real life exploits aboard the Kon-Tiki.  Marlin Perkins battling an anaconda on the Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.   Of course, there was Magnum P.I‘s Hawaiian paradise and the short lived Tales of the Gold Monkey as I moved into adulthood.

There were movies galore in my youth, usually B-movies shown late at night or Sunday afternoons after church. Tarzan or Jungle Jim with Johnny Weissmuller seemed to be a weekly offering. The Saturday morning lineup included reruns of Jon Hall’s Ramar of the Jungle and for some reason I’m seeing Rita Hayworth singing and dancing in Miss Sadie Thompson…hummm, “The Heat is On”. All would be considered socially unacceptable today but were important to my “Beach Boy” attitude.

The Heat is On Rita Hayworth

Even today, much that I read occurs in sunny tropical or at least coastal settings.  I seem to still be drawn to the exotic.

Pat Conroy’s stories set in Charleston, James Lee Burke dark mysteries along the Gulf coast and New Orleans, or Randy Wayne White’s Sanibel Island hero, Doc Ford.  I always thought I wanted to live at a coast…which is why I live as far from the ocean as I can live in South Carolina and still remain in the state of South Carolina. 

I haven’t gone to Tahiti or ventured below the equator to see the Southern Cross.  I still read about soft tropical breezes while roasting my own jerked chicken or coconut shrimp on my Weber listening to Margaritaville on Sirius.  I get to live vicariously through others in my Hawaiian shirt without leaving my recliner or backyard. Still I feel a bit of wanderlust…to the fridge for a Dos Equis or the margarita mix.

Maybe when I finally grow up, I’ll make that trip to Australia.  Maybe move to the Pacific side of South America or a Caribbean island, living my autumn years as an incognito Norte Americano expatriate, all mysterious, an odd little man.  Or maybe I’ll just keep reading, living the life of a want to be beach bum in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  I think I’ll get a flagpole and run up a pirate flag.  Now I’m hearing Buffett sing “A Pirate Looks at Forty” even though that is a birthday distant in my rear-view mirror.

A Pirate Looks at Forty, Jimmy Buffett YouTube

Thanks for the memories Margaret.    

My little piece of exotica. Martin Denny is again playing in my head.

The featured image is from Adventures in Paradise with Captain Troy at the wheel and an unknown guest star who I should know.

Please take a moment to like Don’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3nOBjsp8pBzGU8xJQhoSoZk0SvTPWGEhJEdHkZbe8Y14MMdUFm1IPSyBI

Ha, Ha, Ha! Stupid Man Goes Boom!

Figs, Fig Beetles, A Step Ladder, and Me

What Not To Do When You Fall Out of Your Treestand
A Figeater Beetle from the National History Museum https://nhm.org/stories/when-fig-beetles-attack

It was a beautiful morning.  I had a perfect view of the bright blue sky and the puffy white clouds chasing each other across it.  I turned my head to the left and noted the grass was a well-manicured, deep green and thankfully plush against my back.  To my right was a somewhat mangled step ladder.

I was reminded of the many times I lay in the grass as a child watching clouds, attempting to imagine what their shapes might be.  I might see a horse, or the North American continent maybe.  Chewing on a piece of grass watching Lassie with Timmy giving chase across the sky.  Godzilla headed toward Tokyo to stomp it flat.  This was not one of those times.

My mother-in-law has a huuuuuge fig tree.  Not just huge…it is huuuuuge!  And it is loaded with figs.  Three pickings into August and there are still ‘all the figs in the world’…plus one.  There are also all the yellow jackets, wasps, and huge figeater beetles in the world.  “Every rose has its thorns” and every fig tree little stinging bastards or beetles…big green, droning beetles with the grace of a C-17 Globemaster.  Maybe the weight too.

I hate to be wasteful and there seemed to be thousands of figs just out of reach, dangling just above my outstretched hand.  Enough to fill a dozen or more canning jars with preserves and enough left over for roasted figs in balsamic vinegar wrapped in prosciutto, or honey-fried figs smothering a buttered, cathead biscuit.  All I needed was the step ladder…and a biscuit.

I was doing well, balancing myself on the step ladder.  The little neighbor kid watching from the fence. A child of four or five.

I’d picked two Walmart bags full of figs.  Shake the limb so any biting bastards would skedaddle…but the fig beetles, some were slow to move…and even slower to change direction.  They isssss huuuuge too…some an inch long!  Lawdy mercy.  Big and metallic green, they have the agility of a drunken elephant.  It also appears they are easily confused.

These droning, drunken beetles are scarabs.  The same scarabs made famous by the ancient Egyptians.  The same family of beetles that includes dung beetles that spend their days rolling cow poop into little balls.  They are known to bury two-hundred and fifty times their weight in dung in one night. 

Why I asked myself.  Wish I had not asked.  They eat poop and hollow out the balls as a mating chamber.  How romantic.  What wine goes with poop?

Dung Beetle chilling on a dung ball. http://www.livescience.com

They are hard-bodied, not so little, muthaf@#$as that will knock you off a step ladder when they make solid contact directly between your eyes. 

I moved more slowly than it did, but I moved which caused the step ladder to mimic a drunken sailor bouncing off of alleyway walls.  Not so suddenly, I was laying in the grass watching clouds chase each other across a brilliant blue sky…and why I’m sitting here icing a shoulder and a hip.

What really intrigued me was how long it took me to fall from the fourth or fifth step of the ten-foot step ladder to the ground where I landed with a thump and a bounce.  In my mind I heard the kid snicker, “Stupid man went boom…ha, ha, ha!” 

I understand gravity, bodies accelerate at nine point eight meters per second squared.  With nothing to impede your fall, like say air or fig tree limbs, a body will accelerate at nine point eight meters per second for every second the body falls until it reaches terminal velocity. 

Newton lied!  It took me forever to fall from up there to down there and my feet were no more than a meter and a half, say six or eight feet, off the ground.  Well, they were probably higher when my feet and head exchanged places.  Thankfully, I never reached a terminal velocity, just a painful one.

I had time to think through my entire life story…but I did not.  While falling to my death, I did not want to think about why the little blond threw me over in the eighth grade. 

Instead, I thought about how stupid I was to get knocked off a step ladder by a big dung rolling bug. I still had time to plan on executing a tuck and roll when I hit.  Funny, it was more a flounder and flop in a cloud of dust…except there was no dust, just wet grass. “Ha, ha, ha! Stupid man goes boom!” Again the four-year-old in my head laughed.

Suddenly, there was the question, “Am I ever going to breathe again?”  That old air just exploded right out of my lungs.  Lawdy Mercy!  Logically, I knew if I just let myself pass out; I would breathe again…maybe.

The next few minutes were spent evaluating pain.  I’m still evaluating.  Painful bruise on the hip but not too bad…vivid colors to come.  My shoulder took the brunt of my death dive.  It hurts bigly! 

I worry I might have torn a rotator cuff.  That would be bad, I still have hopes of pitching in the Bigs…well, maybe I can try out for America’s Got Talent…me and my dancing step ladder.  Fig beetles will be not be allowed. 

Figeater Beetles on a Fig. Picture from wwwgardenbetty.com

Featured image was taken by Julian Paul and appeared in Wide Open Spaces: https://www.wideopenspaces.com/what-not-to-do-when-you-fall-out-of-your-treestand/

Don Miller is a retired teacher and coach who has taken up writing for his own amusement. He writes on various subjects and in various genres. Some would say he can’t figure out what he wants to be. His author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2I89J5GhYSWyipVxhVM2uJ16pfbTOd6lpYyuWOE6iBVwhvj7GKq2QubU0

  

When Football Comes Back Again…

 

…and it will…someday.

It is the middle of the second week in August and there should be sounds, sights, and smells associated with the religion that is football.

There should be the scent of freshly cut grass, the visions of early morning mists rising off the practice fields and sharp white lines gridded on dark green.  There should be the “thump” heard ‘round the world when leather shoe meets the leather ball.

There should be aromas of Cramergesic ointment or Atomic Bomb…and ammonia from sweat-drenched athletic wear left to dry overnight and smelly athletic socks.  There should be grunts and pops, and a groan or two as large bodies running fast make contact with each other.

From a parking lot or distant practice field, the shouts of band directors, trumpet blasts, and drumbeats should be piercing the heavy, humid air.  They should be the clarions of the upcoming season.  There should be a rattle of equipment as they rush to their spots before the silence of parade rest.

Somewhere a chunky kid with a sousaphone wrapped around his chubby body should trip and fall on his way to his spot.  Laughter should reign before the silence of concern.

Spinning flags should be cutting through the air as flag lines practice their half-time routines.  Twisting school colors flying toward the morning sun.  Instead, there is the silence of the Covid-19 Twilight Zone.

Cheerleaders would be joining the band’s spinning flags with flips, cartwheels, and tumbles of their own as they practice their cheers and their routines.  “Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar, all for ‘so and so’ stand up and holler!”  Unfortunately, like London Bridge, their human pyramids have all fallen, the little girl at the top has crashed and burned.

There are no sounds, sights, or scents…at least near my little piece of heaven.  Football season is on hold for a bit longer, maybe the beginning of next month…maybe not.  “All activities shut down until further notice,” due to corona concerns.  The powers that be may make another decision this week.

At Hardee’s, the weekly meeting of old men wearing high crowned baseball caps should be discussing the chances of the local high school having a winning season in between bites of sausage biscuits and sips of coffee.  If it weren’t banned, Marlboros and Salems would send smoke from their fine Virginia tobacco skyward.

Instead, they are discussing the chances of having a season at all along with pontifications of, “They just ain’t as tough as we’s used to be.  We’d uh played through the Bubonic Plague if in we had to.  You remember when ole Roger played an entire season with two broke lags and his helmet knocked bass-ackwards.  Yeah, these coaches and players ain’t nothing but a bunch of wussies”.  Says the equipment manager from 1968.

The local universities have begun “teeing” it up, giving us hope, as smaller colleges await word as to whether their seasons will even take place.  Entire conferences have canceled seasons or pushed them back to the spring.  Telling a player to check his facemask takes on a new meaning in the anything but normal environment of Covid-19.

I miss football.  Not just the “I played it and coached it for so long, there seems to be something missing” missing football.  This year is different.  Every year since my retirement I’ve battled myself, attempting to silence the little football voice in my head that whispers this time of year.

“Go on up to the local high school.  I’m sure they could use your expertise and experience.”  As I’ve gotten older and creakier, the voice has been easier to silence but the little worm is still there.  There still seems to be something missing.

The voice I hear today is a different voice.  This is the low bass rattle of James Earle Jones telling me football will be canceled for this year.  It is as bad as the Beatles telling me “God is dead”.

Bordering upon sacrilege, Southern football is akin to a religion with its sacraments and cathedrals.  We have our revered gods, Bear, Pat, Vince, Bobby, and Danny.  Yes, I know Danny is still among the living and Bobby is Bobby Dodd, never Bobby Bowden.

One hundred thousand seat sanctuaries sitting empty.  The choirs of bands and cheerleaders silent.  Tailgating prayer meetings canceled, stadium parking lots noiseless and unoccupied.  Sacramental beer and pulled pork barbeque abandoned for another year…maybe.  “My Dabo, my Nick! Why have thou forsaken me?”  Will “Go Tigers” or “Roll Tide” be heard at all this year?

I have hope but my hope is tempered with concern.  If football is played someone will come down with the disease…maybe entire teams.  Even with a fatality rate of less than one percent, are we willing to sacrifice less than one percent of our athletes for a football season?  Are we willing to sacrifice our children to football gods?  Was that blasphemous?

Football is a dangerous sport.  It is something that I lived with when I played and when I coached.  You are one wrong step from a career-ending knee injury or an illegal hit away from permanent brain damage.  Some would say you are brain damaged just playing the game.

My greatest fear as a coach was losing someone to a bad hit or heat issues.  We have done much to reduce the possibility of injury or death, but it is still there.  Football is a sport that requires contact in close quarters.  I don’t know how you reduce the contact and contact is what transmits the disease.

1968 equipment managers and ‘wannabes’ are chastising those who opt-out of this season.  I don’t chastise.  I understand the fear.  If I had a son, I don’t know if I would push him toward football even in the best-case scenario.

Football teaches lessons I don’t believe can be taught in other sports.  I just don’t know if those lessons are worth ‘acceptable losses’ and I don’t believe my desires have to be those of my son or daughter.  Except for the desire for them to be safe.

Despite what I once thought, football is not life or even a reasonable facsimile. It is a distraction for most of us, a diversion, and I don’t believe our distractions should cost even one person his life.

***

Don Miller was primarily a high school teacher for forty-one years and a coach for forty-five years.  Twenty-nine of those seasons were spent coaching football in what is a football Mecca…the Deep South.  His author’s page is at  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3H6APy6s1iIg6N1Cz5-RgcsnXmdrL3L47f2X_zzO1dKChLRG-NShnjbsk

The image is from Pinterest.  Clemson QB Jimmy Addison handing the ball off in the late Sixties.

 

If It Feels Illegal, It Must Be Tater Tots

Oh Cassie, Cassie, Cassie!  Cassie posed the question on a media post, “What feels illegal but isn’t” and my mind immediately went to tater tots.  Tater tots?  Anything that feels illegal but isn’t…probably involves food but tater tots?  Where did that thought come from?  Why is my mind a runaway train derailing because of thoughts of tater tots?

“All the good things in life are immoral, illegal, or fattening.”  There are many variations of the saying originally attributed to Frank Rand but tater tots?  I don’t know the last time I’ve had tater tots.  It has literally been years.  A side order at a local restaurant…with a southern pimento and cheese dip to go with it.?

Oh pooh!  I want them now, with or without the pimento and cheese, and in copious amounts.  The power of suggestion is strong and I am so weak.

I’ve reached that GPS location on my pathway of life that suggests immoral or illegal probably…probably aren’t going to happen.  Illegal is possible I guess, immoral?  I should look up the definition for immorality just to make sure.  Wickedness, evil, debauchery, perversion…okay…fattening as in gluttony, I got that one, but tater tots won’t be illegal or immoral unless I steal them.

Is there some way I can steal the tater tots and combine it with debauchery?  That would be the trifecta.  An orgy of debauchery involving stolen, fried tater tots.

“Our naked bodies dripped with Crisco and stolen tater tot crumbs as the light danced across our distended bellies. We were fat and finally satiated in our prison cell, joyously burping from our tater tot stoked revelry.”  An incarcerated, naked, Rubenesque crowd dripping in oil is not the mental picture I need this morning, yet, there it is.

I admit, there is something about crispy fried, perfectly salted tater tots that makes me feel like I might be getting away with something illegal…but done right, they are tasty. Tasty but a killer.  My arteries are closing just contemplating them.  Oh nooooo!  Now I’m visualizing them smothered in sawmill gravy.

I don’t know when to quit so it is easier not to begin.  I lied, I do know when to quit…”You mean that’s all of them?  I’VE EATEN THEM ALL!!!  OH, THE HUMANITY.”  I truly have no willpower.

I’m the same way about ice cream, specifically milkshakes.  Something else that feels illegal.  I keep my addiction controlled by not keeping ice cream in the house.  I’m a thirty-minute drive from the nearest emporium of gluttony, an ice cream parlor, so if I don’t have it in my freezer, I’m pretty safe.  I admit to opening the freezer door and gazing longingly at the empty space reserved for butter pecan or chocolate chip mint…peach?  Vanilla? STOP IT!

When I break down and buy a half-gallon…it calls to me.  I can literally hear its seductive Marilyn Monroe voice calling from the fridge, “Eat me…eat me…ARE YOU DEAF!  COME EAT ME!”  That’s while I’m already eating a thick, chocolate chip mint milkshake and as you can tell, it starts out like a siren’s call, but it finishes as a screaming banshee.

Left to my own devices, I will eat the entire half-gallon at one sitting.  My wife is now tying me to my recliner and looking for beeswax.  She knows I’ll end up on that “Rock Candy Mountain” quicker than you can say, Odysseus.

Good food is my “What feels illegal but is not” Achilles heel.  Who am I kidding, it doesn’t have to be “good” food.  I’m sorry Linda, I did eat the last…fill in the blank.

I hate to admit it, but Cassie’s media post has old Paris of Greek Mythology limbering up his bow and arrow…I just don’t know why instead of an arrowhead there is an old fashioned, red and white checkerboard, paper boat filled with tater tots covered with sawmill gravy.

No sense walking to the fridge, there are no tater tots or ice cream…but tomorrow is a shopping day.  I just have to figure out some type of Trojan Horse to sneak them past my bride in.

Americans consume nearly four billion tater tots yearly.  That’s thirty-five thousand tons of tater tots.  The average may go up if I have my way.  Thank you Ore-Ida.

***

For more of Don Miller’s meanderings, https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0veH8Qsf0rEMd5TiBmn6Zd0vMtZABIY8cRxLHaDbc5yLMSzy4PNFCDl-g