Honeysuckle Spring

Honeysuckle Spring

This is my favorite time of the year…If Mother Nature takes her meds and decides it is going to be a mild spring or a hot spring.  We seem to be yoyoing just a bit.  I can take either just not both during the same week…or within the same twenty-four-hour period.

We may have just finished “blackberry winter” with morning temps dipping into the thirties, but I’m not sure…we’ve been fooled before and the forecast is for cooler temps after this weekend’s dose of summer.

This is the time of year between tree pollen season when my hemlock trees coat everything with a fine, yellow-green powder that hardens like a coating of concrete after a heavy dew and the peak of mosquito and stinging insect season.  I say the peak of mosquito season because mosquito season in my part of the world lasts from January 1st through…through…forever.  It peaks during the sultry, moist, yeast filled days of summer but never really going away.

We are not celebrating or decrying summer yet despite the weather forecasts of near ninety temperatures this coming weekend.  The weather guessers have now backed off a bit saying mid-eighties.  The low seventies are forecast later in the week.

Summer heat and humidity will descend soon enough with thunderstorms followed by clouds of mosquitoes, gnats, “no see ‘ems” and yellow jackets erupting from holes in the ground.  We have already had several thunderstorms with hale and tornadoes but no huge clouds of mosquitoes…just little clouds of mosquitoes rising from the soggy earth looking for a bite.

This time of year is filled with wonderful scents should my allergies calm down enough for me to savor them.  My nose is running like a criminal from the scene of a crime, but at least my sinuses are not slamming shut like a jailhouse door.

Like mosquito season my allergy season is a year-long affliction.  My allergies peak in early spring with the yellow blossoms of forsythia and the green-yellow pollen from my hemlock trees before receding slightly before peaking again in late summer or early fall when the ragweed ramps it up again.  I wish winter would end the allergies and the mosquitoes…but no.  One more reason to hate winter.

Today seems to be the one day my allergies have ebbed enough for me to actually stop and smell the roses…or honeysuckle, multiflora roses, jasmine, and privet.  All are putting off their heady perfume and reminding me why my bride doesn’t let me cut them back, especially the honeysuckle.  The sweet smells allows me to travel back in my mind to a much simpler time.

The perfume of honeysuckle and privet dominated my childhood home, despite my grandmother’s best attempt to eradicate the honeysuckle.  Not that she didn’t like it or the hummingbirds it attracted but like the wisteria vine she also grew, honeysuckle had to know its place.  Its place was somewhere “out there” along the woodline, not “in here” near the garden.

I remember inhaling the aroma of honeysuckle blossoms before picking and carefully pulling out the style through the bottom of the blossom and treating myself to the small drop of nectar that came out with it.  A small, sweet treat I cheated the hummingbirds out of.  I’m still cheating the hummingbirds out of it.

My grandmother was an avid gardener, both in the fields she and my grandfather toiled in and the rock gardens she created from the stones she pulled from the rock-filled ground she tried to farm.  Milky, white quartz stones were highly prized and displayed prominently among the roses, iris, lilies, and hollyhocks she cultivated.  Except for the roses, none were as aromatic as the honeysuckle or privet hedges that surrounded the old farmhouse, she lived in.  None take me back to the days of playing alongside the dusty, dirt road I lived on like the sweet smell of honeysuckle and privet.

As I welcomed the dawn from my backdoor this morning, a sweet fragrance hung heavily and welcomed in the still air.  Honeysuckle with hints of privet hedge and jasmine…the multiflora rose is too far away but if I turn my back for a minute it may cover my drive.

It seems to be a perfect morning with Goldilocks and the Three Bears temperatures and a beautiful crescent moon showing clearly in the southeastern sky.  A bird roosting in the camellia bush sings loudly in agreement.

My little piece of heaven has honeysuckle and privet galore, out of control on fence lines and creeping toward my garden, threatening to overrun my home.  Like a good general, I pick my battles where I can, battles I can win against my memories and my wife.  My goal is not to win the war on honeysuckle and privet, just to continue to keep it stalemated.

Who am I kidding? I am losing but the sweet scents soften the blow.

Tomorrow I will arm myself with a weed eater and chainsaw while girding myself with a floppy brimmed booney hat, face gaiter, goggles, boots, and leather work gloves.  Blue jeans will replace my work shorts protecting me from the blackberries which are also in a war of dominance with the privet and lest I forget, the emerging kudzu.

The scent of Deep Wood’s Off and Banana Boat SPF 100 will briefly blot out the scents of honeysuckle and privet…but only briefly.  I will create a line in the sand, “Cross at your own peril!”…and the line will be ignored.   Deep down, I am glad.  The sweet smelling war will continue.

Further writings by Don Miller can be purchased and downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2xADU9Tanwff98vrukeigPx7fK6H1brWnklDG5Od_95wYn1PEpniUDvMQ

 

 

ALS Awareness Month

ALS took my Mother

May is ALS awareness month…I am quite aware.  It is also the month of Mother’s Day and my mother’s birth month.  They are all related.  I lost my mother due to complications of ALS on January 2, 1969.  I’m quite aware and have never come to grips with it..

ALS, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, it is commonly called Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  It is not one of the more prolific diseases, only six-thousand new cases per year, only two deaths per one hundred thousand.  There is no cure.  My mother heard it’s banshee howl in 1963 and passed during my Freshman year in college.  Five plus years…the upper end of the projected life span after diagnosis.  I find little comfort in those facts.

The disease causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles.  Death of neurons causes the affected muscles to weaken and atrophy.  The heart is a muscle as is the diaphragm that allows you lungs to work.  The disease allows the brain to stay strong and aware…aware that their bodies are dying around it.

ALS is one of those diseases you get to watch your loved one waste away in slow motion.  Her symptoms began with a limp and a twitch in her foot.  She became unable to work, then unable to walk, unable to sit for more than a short period of time.  Finally, she became hospitalized…well not finally, I guess.  Finally, she died.

She spent Christmas with us that year.  She wanted to come home one more time.  An ambulance carried her home from Columbia and then returned her.  We visited on the 1st. I remember sneaking a visit to the waiting room, pausing to watch OJ Simpson take off on an eighty-yard run before his USC Trojans fell to Rex Kern’s Ohio State Buckeyes.  The odd things you remember when trying to forget your mother’s struggle to breathe.

She died just after midnight.  She was forty-eight but the ravages made her look older.

My mother, Eldora at home, Mary at work, Mom to me, was a robust red head, covered in freckles with a complexion that turned lobster red after a brief walk in the sun.  She did not tan.  A true Irish, fish-belly white redhead, she blistered.

I remember a woman who was quick to laugh but few of her pictures show her smiling. I just don’t remember what her laugh sounded like.  I don’t remember her voice.  I try to hear her voice in my aunt’s voice but I’m unsure.  I want to remember the voice that goes with my vision.  I’ll have to be satisfied remembering her smile, something she didn’t do enough.

The disease robbed me of memories.  I remember snatches of things, her teaching me how to find a breakout on a loom, and tying a weaver’s knot comes to mind and I really don’t know why.  There are other memories, some good…some bad.

Despite her laugh, I have the memory of a woman who was shy and somewhat proper…reserved?  If she was my grandmother’s child, she was reserved.   I remember her dressing in shorts around the house or on vacation, but I can never remember seeing her in pants…she dressed to the nines whenever out and about.

She was a weaver at Springs Mill and for some reason, her work seemed to dominate her life and my memories.  There was church,  the whole family sitting on the “special” pew. There was friends, trips to town, and visits to see family and friends.

Most Sundays were dominated by the church, an early morning breakfast of pancakes prepared by my dad before I polished my shoes and dressed.  After lunch a visit to either the Yarbrough’s, Wilson’s, or Sutton’s home or a visit by them to ours.  Sometimes it was family…a lot of the time it was family.

We always ate supper at home.  Regardless of the work schedule, we ate supper together.  Many nights it was a TV dinner, but we ate together.  Spaghetti on Saturday nights was a staple and Sunday’s dinner was always prepared at home after church.  There seems to have been more hours in the day back then.

I see her dressed for work, a pale-colored, cotton blouse with a rope of thread looped around her neck.  An A-line, lightweight skirt with an apron, never pants or shorts, her reed hook, and scissors in little pouches sewn into the apron.  A fashion statement?  She loved her job, a hard job but she loved it just the same.  Her job was where many friends who called her Mary were…and my father, Ernest, was there too.

The disease robbed her.  She was forced to go on disability shortly after I began my brief career working summers in the same weave room.  I had one summer with her.  It was almost as if my father, her loom fixer, was cheating on her as he fixed looms for another weaver.

I never gave my father enough credit for what he did while he was alive.  I didn’t understand how much he loved her.  He was attentive to a fault…there were fights…but he was there, by her side, doing what he needed to do.  I remember some nights when she was in the hospital he played solitare, tears in his eyes.

Playing solitare when he should have been resting for the six A. M. shift the next morning. It must have been painful watching his beautiful wife waste away.  Once she was in the hospital in far Columbia, he worked Monday thru Saturday, sometimes extra shifts before going to Columbia, every weekend, before starting over again on Monday.

She was chosen for a medical study.  I’m not sure they found out much.  Too much iron in her spinal fluid but there is still no cure.  I don’t know what we would have done had she not been accepted.  I know she wouldn’t have lived as long as she did without it.

Most weekends we traveled the seventy-seven miles to the State Hospital, first on Bull Street, later a closer new building just off I-26.  I remember the visits as painful.  I now realize how selfish I was, how I wished I could have been anywhere else, now wishing I could have a do over.

She took up painting when she became disabled, something to while away the hours.  I don’t know if she was good or not, I thought she was a Rembrandt.  The disease didn’t take that from her until the end.  Normally a disease that attacks men, ALS usually begins in the hands and arms.  Hers began in her legs and progressed upward.  Gradually it affected her breathing but never got to her hands.  Atypical…except her death.

The disease robbed her…and her children.  She never had the opportunity to see her grandchild or see her eldest son finally get “it” right.  Her youngest son got it right, to begin with.  She would be proud of the man he grew into and I’m sorry his memories are different than mine.

She would have been sixty-six when Ashley, my daughter, was born and would have loved Ashley and Linda and they would have loved her.  She would have been ninety-seven when Miller Kate was born.  Not impossible…not possible.

Yes, it is ALS Awareness Month.  It is easy to be aware when famous people are diagnosed or fall to the disease.  The famous like Lou Gehrig, Stephen Hawking, Dwight Clark, Sam Sheppard, and Jim Hunter come to mind.  They were robbed too.  Their families were robbed.  It is impossible for their families to think of them without thinking of being robbed by ALS.  I know this for a fact.

I had five years to prepare myself for her death, but I wasn’t prepared.  I refused to think about it, refused to believe it right up until I awoke just after midnight on the second of January.  I remember looking at the clock just before the phone rang.  I have successfully purged the time from my memory.

I wish I could remember my mother’s laugh.

The image is of Mary Eldora Miller at the beach in the late 1950s before the ravages of ALS…still she doesn’t smile.

 

Addendum

It turns out my Mother did smile…a picture from my brother.

Mom 2

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0FpZWCw_9me-FJa090w819hiX7LbcAUATfvvwRGENNYrUw_sol75s7tj4.

Proceeds from any book purchased or downloaded during May will be matched and donated to the National ALS Association to help support their research efforts.

Getting’ Away From it All

 

I once heard Jerry Clower, “The Mouth of Mississippi”, a Southern comedic philosopher of sorts, described visiting kinfolk who lived back in the ‘sticks.’  He was a city boy from Liberty, Mississippi, population seven hundred or so.  He described a trek down a ‘holler’ split by a creek into a heavily wooded area on a narrow footpath.  Miles and miles he went,  hopping over stumps and climbing up banks with only animal calls, bird twitters, and the babble of the creek to accompany him before finally arriving at a rustic, moss-covered cabin.  As he stepped onto the low front porch, he saw a piece of paper thumbtacked to the front door.  It was a single, scrawled sentence, “Gone to get away from it all, be back soon.”

Old house 3

Abandoned Home on Chinquapin Road at Langford Circle

Once upon a time country folk had already gotten away from it all and didn’t need to trek far.  They might go hunting in the woods, picking blackberries or fishing on a riverbank.  The weekly trip to the general store was a big deal.  They were in the middle of their getaway…or the middle of nowhere.  I guess those times have changed for some folk.

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One of the small waterfalls around our ‘little piece of heaven’

When my bride and I moved to 3300 Highway 11, the scenic Cherokee-Foothills Highway, we were in the sticks.  On land that was described as gently rolling, I learned real estate agents lie.  Thirty years or so later, you’d still think we lived in the sticks if it just wasn’t for the traffic and the golf courses.  Like Daniel Boone, I feel civilization squeezing in.

The land around us is covered in hemlocks, black walnuts, and a mostly hardwood forest.  Mountain laurel and rhododendron, wild iris, blueberries, and wild azaleas are abundant. Tall hillsides form the basin our hundred and twenty-year-old farmhouse sits in. Cut by ravines, ‘hollers’, and seven year-round streams “my little piece of heaven” is the perfect place to “get away from it all.”

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Mountain Laurel will soon be joined by Rhododendron

The peaceful, scenic former Cherokee trading path, Highway 11,  winds past lakes, deep green mixed forests, peach farms budding pink, nearby small mountains, and hollers with names like Hogback, Glassy, Table Rock, Rocky Bottom or Mush Creek.

Spring @ Table Rock -- Hike 2 to the Rock - Tue, Nov 3 2020

Table Rock from across the lake

And golf courses…I forgot…golf courses.  The path has become too well-traveled.  Transfer trucks, Harley Davidsons, and big tricked out pick-up trucks with glass packs pulling bass boats have been joined by BMWs and Mercedes with golf bags nestled in the trunk or bike racks on the deck lid.  It makes me want to get “further away from it all.”

The self-quarantine due to the Corona-19 has not stopped the traffic noise but it certainly has made me ponder the wildlife preserve my wife and I have created.   You might want to read in “too lazy to cut anything other than pathways between the wild strawberries, honeysuckle, and blooming clover”…and the ferns…the ferns that are taking over.  The problem is my bride.  She doesn’t want anything cut that “might” put off a brief flush of color no matter how small the bloom or how fast it disappears.  Still, it is one of the reasons I try not to venture out where people are…that, and I don’t want to die on a ventilator.

 

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One of the overgrown pathways and the fern that ate my yard

Retirement has made being stuck at the homeplace easier, or is it just being lazy? We’ve spent hours watching playful chipmunks, newly born, playing under the bird feeders.  They mingle with the mourning doves, robins, and sparrows on the ground while purple and goldfinches, cardinals, grosbeaks, nuthatches, tanagers, and woodpeckers jockey for position to eat black sunflower seeds or suet from the feeders.  There has been a squirrel or two dozen also.  I don’t bother to shoo them away anymore; I just buy more feed…the money I ordinarily would be spending on walk-in dining or “boat drinks” now goes toward bird feed.

Grossbeak

My first rose chested grosbeak

I caught a flash of brown sprinting across one of the flat areas behind the house.  Fox? Coyote?  I only caught a flash.  It would make sense if either.  Deer and turkeys returned to the flat behind the house that is cut by a rocky stream leading out of my own holler.  They were visible in the early spring through my kitchen window and I’ve seen tracks in my garden.  The deer and turkeys are absent right now, but they’ll be back as soon as their newborns are older, hopefully staying out of the garden.  A red-tail hawk is teaching her little one how to hunt, perched on a stick up in my yard waste pile.

As darkness descends the night shift takes over as hootie owls call to each other from the hillsides around us.  No lightnin’ bugs yet or whipporwills but soon….  Two mornings in a row I’ve found my suet feeder torn down and holes dug in the pathway leading to back gate   Make that four days in a row and it is Rocky Raccoon, too smart to get nabbed in my gum.  It appears he enjoyed the meal I left.  He was in no hurry to leave.

Raccoon STANDS stock still like a human when it is caught sneaking ...

Not my picture but it could have been.  He didn’t seem the least bit scared.

With all the wildflowers, or weeds, obscuring my path, I’ve had to be vigilant.  Mr. No Shoulders has made an appearance in the protein-rich environment.  I’ve had to move the black rat snake away from nests and almost stepped on him once.  From years past I realize, he is persistent.  He is also hardheaded, there are plenty of field mice to feed on…maybe house mice too.  I guess baby birds are easier.

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Wild ?

My bride and I have rediscovered a joy that had been missing…our morning walks…strolls…saunters.  I do my fitness walk and then she joins me for a slower, mental fitness walkabout ramble.  “Ooh look! A butterfly.”

Sometimes we hike our hilly property, but more likely we walk around the nearby lake.  The normally busy non-denominational “Look-up” Christian camp it sits in is deserted and wildlife and wildflowers are abundant…without the sounds associated with people…except from the distant highway.

Lake

Lake Chinquapin

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An interesting tree on a steep hillside

We have taken to counting the turtles we see sunbathing on the docks and downed trees at the camp.  We do have “a little piece of heaven”  to get away from it all.  Yesterday there were twenty-six turtles and my bride took pictures of them all.  Next week I’m sure she will have them named.

Turtles (2)

Turtles sunning on a downed tree

All images were taken with my Android phone except for Rocky Raccoon, which explains the less than perfect presentation.

Rocky Raccoon courtesy of The Daily Mail  https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7864069/Raccoon-STANDS-stock-like-human-caught-sneaking-backyard-night.html

Linda in white dres

The prettiest flower of them all, my bride, Linda Porter-Miller

The feature image is of the honeysuckle choked bell in front of our home.  The picture was used for the cover of the book “Through the Front Gate”.  The book and others may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2SZmtwsbKyfX4PZGu3fFgPr9WRCtr-lE_LKs9rliC9ztLwWzG0TZu8AEo

 

Remembering Kent State

For those of us who were young adults or near adults, it should be a bit of a somber day. Fifty years ago, today, four Kent State students were shot, nine others wounded, one paralyzed.  Twenty-eight Ohio National Guardsmen fired approximately seventy rounds in less than fifteen seconds into students, some protesting President Nixon’s “Cambodian Incursion” by the US military, others who were simply watching from a distance, one was walking from one class to another.  Nixon had promised the day before to get us out of the war.

It had been a contentious period in our history, “The Kent State Massacre” was neither the beginning of the violence nor would it be the concluding chapter.  Three protesting students were killed and some thirty injured during a protest at South Carolina State in Orangeburg, SC in February.  Several days after Kent State, two students were killed, and a dozen injured at Jackson State.  Both were confrontations with the police and on a small scale exemplified the student unrest over the Vietnam War and Civil Rights.

Kent State had been a hot spot for student protest beginning in the middle Sixties.  Students For a Democratic Society (SDS), the Black Student Organization and the Youth International Party, (Yippies) all staged sit-ins, marches and other protests, including an attempted take over of the Administrative Offices by the SDS that led to fifty-eight students being arrested by the Ohio Highway Patrol.  There had been scattered violence, including the burning of the ROTC building, but no deaths until May 4, 1970.

Monday, May Fourth. was the culmination of four days of unrest that began the previous Friday after President Nixon announced the Cambodian Incursion on the previous Thursday.  From the aforementioned fire, a protest march, beer bottles and rocks being thrown at police, bonfires in the street, and numerous arrests, violence reared its ugly head, violence from the students, and from groups sworn to protect them.

Unconfirmed rumors of students with caches of arms, spiking the local water supply with LSD, and of students building tunnels for the purpose of blowing up the town’s main buildings added gasoline to an already volatile cocktail.  The city mayor requested National Guard Troops from the governor and the request was granted.  They came armed with loaded M-1 Garands, bayonets, tear gas, and smoke grenades.

The National Guard first became entangled on the Third, breaking up a rally and a sit-in, using tear gas and even bayoneting students.  A noon rally of some 2000 students on the Fourth became the catalyst for the shooting.  Again, rocks and tear gas were involved until the shots rang out.  It became a they said-they said situation after the gunpowder had cleared.

I was a struggling sophomore in college, less than a month past my twentieth birthday when news of the massacre flashed across the community tv screen in the basement of Brokaw Hall.  I remember the silence that followed and the debate that issued later.  Despite being a Southern liberal arts college, Newberry was not a fertile ground for liberal thoughts.

Near the end of the semester, I was more concerned about the effect exams might have on my grades than what had taken place in faraway Ohio or nearby Orangeburg.  I was also mourning the end of my first serious relationship, one I characterized as a hurricane waiting to happen.  You knew you were in for a big storm you just didn’t know when or where it would happen.  It had happened.  A hurricane that had turned my grades into a shambles.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t aware, I was.  A male, I had just participated in the first draft lottery and hadn’t won but I hadn’t lost either…April 9th came up 219…kinda in the middle.  My awareness was focused on my poor but improving grades and fear.

I had no desire to die in a rice paddy in a Southeast Asian country but like many of the young men surrounding me, I would have gone to my death rather than disappointing my family and friends.  I would do what was expected.

As I look back, I am both proud and ashamed.  Happy I wasn’t called while feeling I missed something by not being called to serve.  Ashamed for not taking a more active interest in protesting the war.  Confliction but I am a conflicted person.

There were several veterans on third floor Brokaw my freshman year taking advantage of the GI Bill.  They were good guys, damaged good guys.  Few returned for our sophomore year, fewer still graduated.   They were just too damaged.

I wondered which was worse, dying in a jungle or leaving a part of your soul there.  They all participated in the activities of college life, but it seemed they only participated from the periphery.  All still had the “Thousand Yard Stare.”

One vet, of Marine Force Recon, had been our protector during our freshman year.  I didn’t know what Force Recon was, I just knew from the whispers he was a badass dude.  He was much older and became a buffer against Rat Week and later the fraternity bull pledges whose grades were so low they had been moved out of fraternity housing and onto the freshman halls.  They weren’t happy and wanted to take it out on the ‘rats’.  Force Recon would have none of it and the bull pledges left us alone.

He sat next to me as Walter told us about Kent State.  A man of few words, he leaned over and asked, “Who gives fucking National Guardsmen live ammo against students?”  I wondered myself.  Several friends were National Guardsmen and I wouldn’t have trusted them with a pea shooter.  Thankfully, they were members of the SC National Guard Band.  They blew into their instruments instead of blowing things up.

Later, Force Recon would suggest in a bit of a drunken stupor, “If you get drafted, run to Canada.  It ain’t worth dying for.”  This from the same man who ‘liberated’ a Christmas tree from the Winn Dixie parking lot late one night so we could decorate with toilet paper and beer cans in our community restroom…good times.  Coming from a veteran I began to rethink the war.

Violence begets violence and the violence didn’t end in May of 1970.  Many more Americans, Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians would die before that little policing action was over.

The shootings at Kent State would trigger more protests, one in Washington estimated at a hundred thousand that caused President Nixon to be whisked away to Camp David.  Hundreds of college campuses would close involving over four million students due to student protest.  Eleven students were bayoneted at the University of New Mexico during a peace rally and peace protesters battled pro-Nixon construction workers in what became known as the Hard Hat Riots.

1968 was bad, ‘69 was a bit of reprieve if you didn’t look past the moon landing to the Manson Murders and Mai Lai.  ‘70 was a return to the bad but as some smart someone said, “it gets darkest just before the dawn.”  It would be five long years before dawn and the Vietnam War ended but the US had been out of the warzone for the last two.  I must believe Kent State and the protests that followed helped get us out of a war we should never have been involved in.  Helped to stop the killing.

***

I drew from a lot of sources but since I am not selling this I’m not going to footnote.   If you question something other than my sanity I will go back and do so.

The featured image is the iconic photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the body of student Jeffrey Miller, who was killed by Ohio National Guard troops during an antiwar demonstration at Kent State University on May 4, 1970.

Don Miller writes on various subjects and various genres.  His authors page is at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2Iyegsi5CjQ4ZNPU2nA9C1e3q7jekDZ6e3T8qw5QUgwNhM9Yj_-dKOag4

 

For What It’s Worth

 

The song has been running in my head since I heard it early this morning as I tromped up and down the hills around my foothills home. The pain of the steep hills has been replaced by the pain of my broken mind. I’m not depressed, am I? “Children what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down” reminds me of a flushed toilet with its contents circling before disappearing. Maybe I am depressed.  Thank you, Buffalo Springfield and my playlist.

The song became an anthem for the anti-war crowd in the late Sixties and early Seventies but was not written as such. It was written to protest a curfew put into place around the famed Whiskey a Go-Go, a West Hollywood music venue. The status quo (read conservative adults) had become upset about the noise, loitering and traffic congestion caused by crazy kids high on life, “Young people speakin’ their minds, are getting so much resistance far behind.” The culture clash became known as the Sunset Strip curfew riots and featured counterculture clashes with the Los Angeles Police.

My thoughts, my thoughts…. In the late Sixties, I was not a member of the counterculture. I was still the proud, flat-top sporting, John Wayne adoring, “my country right or wrong” conservative.  I’m still proud just not as conservative as I once was.  My country can be and has been wrong.

I grew out of my flat-top during my high school and college years but no one would have confused me with a long-haired hippie freak.  I ignored protest music for the soulful sounds of rhythm and blues and Beach Music, and bells and Jesus sandles for Weegins and stifly starched khakis.  Afterall if it didn’t effect me why should I worry…well, I’m worried.

Because of my worry I have become the aging, white-bearded, balding hippie, embracing those things I should have embraced fifty years ago, although I still toke on cigars rather than weed and find the conservative drug of choice, beer, and Jack Daniels, more palatable…beer and Jack Daniels separately, not mixed. Certain libations transcend social and political orientations.

I had flirted with the left but hadn’t gone ape-shit liberal until my Autumn years when I found Jimi Hendrix and Janice Joplin more in line with my musical and political taste than Florida-Georgia Line. Country?  That ain’t country.

It always begins with the devil’s music…even if it was from the Sixties.  Having ignored it in my youth it was as if I had discovered Coronado’s Seven Cities of Gold.  First, it’s Rock-n-Roll and before you know it, sex and drugs along with a good dose of liberalism are rearing their radical heads.

I’m a little long of tooth for “free love” and “psychedelics” but my middle of the road liberalism seemed to fit better with what I believe are the ills facing our world; global climate change, hunger, lack of clean water, wage inequality, unchecked capitalism, and a government that reminds me more of a Russian oligarchy.  Funny…my change coincided with the birth of grand children.

My thoughts ramble, I am astounded.  “Something’s happin’ here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.” Those people I considered liberal in my childhood and my early adulthood have become the status quo of today, the conservative adults wondering what has happened to the youth of today…or their aging hippie teacher.

This from the former blue jean, mini-skirted, halter topped or John Travolta “catch me, f@#$ me” leisure suited crowd, now nattily dressed in their dark blue suits and red ties. They are now the conservatives resisting social and political change, many to the point of embracing any conspiracy related to the evils hiding under their beds.

My “outlaw”, dope-smoking brother even became the paragon of the conservative status quo, forgoing Seventies drug use and briefly flirting with Tea Party politics.  Well, he is still a tee shirt, cargo pants kind of guy.  At least he wears his UNC cap “fore and aft.”  I believe it might have something to do with marriage and business ownership.  Settling down?

My characterization is unfair, my brother is the epitome of the too-often quoted, “social liberal, fiscal conservative.” He helped start and continues to support a food kitchen and other social programs.

The give away is his musical tastes.  They are “neo-hippie” and “Americana”…kind of like mine. He doesn’t think modern country is country either.  It seems his square pegs won’t fit in my round holes…maybe I should take a look at my own square pegs.

Truth?  We don’t stray far from each other’s political or social beliefs. We enjoy many of the same things, and share a live and let live attitude.  I just find it necessary to give grief to my younger brother.

What amazes…and concerns me are the protests popping up.  I should say the types of protests.  Stanchly conservative, dare I say right-wing reactionaries…protestors dressed in camo and battle gear, sporting assault-style weapons have replaced hippies putting flowers down the barrel of rifles.  What?

Make Love, not War does not seem to be their mantra. I think the lyrics from Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower, might fit them better.“All along the watchtower, princes kept the view.  While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.”  It seems they want to keep the masses in view…and under their thumb.Based on Isaiah, I like the Hendrix version the best.

It was just a few years, months ago, the same folk were shaming “liberal” teachers for walking out of their classes for more pay and smaller class sizes, global climate change idiots led by a sixteen year old, railing against Black Lives Matter, and cheering when Native Americans were arrested or water blasted for protesting an oil pipeline through their native lands. Oil pipe…peace pipe…hum…water pipe.

The hippie legions from fifty years ago are either rolling in their graves or wondering what kind of bad shit was in those edibles or ‘srooms.

“What a field day for the heat.  A thousand people in the street.  Singing songs and a carryin’ signs.  Mostly say, “hooray for our side.” 

It’s time we stopped.  Hey, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.”

Stephen Stills was quoted saying, “It (For What it’s Worth) turned out to be indicative of what was about to happen.” And I would add, “Continues to happen.” The only changes are the participants and the battlefields they argue over.

“There’s battle lines being drawn and nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong”

***

Added note:  I don’t want to be  accused of viewing history through rose colored granny glasses.  Not all left led protest were peaceful and the violence was not necessarily prompted by the minions of the status quo.  At least the police didn’t face protestors with AR-15s.

I decided to include All Along the Watchtower….

YouTube.  Jimi Hendrix live in Munster, 1/14/69

Buffalo Springfield, YouTube Vid of them at the Hollywood Palace in 1967.

The Flower Power photograph is by Bernie Boston, taken during “March on The Pentagon”, 21 October 1967.

Featured image is of protesters of the Michagin shelter in place order.

 

The More Things Change…

 

…the more they remain the same.

Doing a little light reading…taking a little look-see at the Bubonic Plague.  Wow…the greatest of all pandemics.

I’m bored.  The better half is watching the Hallmark Channel which is like the greatest all-time worse things to do during a self-quarantine due to our most recent pandemic.  Oh, it’s baseball season…but it’s not.  At least it is the Hallmark Mystery Channel.

As I did my light reading, I could not help but notice similarities in our reaction to our present pandemic, Corvid-19, and the way our fourteenth-century forefathers reacted.  There may be something to this “history repeating itself.”

What concerns me is that despite some seven hundred years of information and knowledge-gathering, we do not seem to be any better prepared to deal with it scientifically than we were then.

Short history lesson.  The Black Death probably came from Central or East Asia along what was known as the Silk Road.  Traders transported their goods to major European cities but also carried stowaways in the form of rats.  These rats carried other stowaways, fleas.  The fleas carried a bacterium, Yersinia Pestis.  The fleas require a live host, the rats, and when the rats died, the fleas carrying Y Pestis simply jumped to the next closest host…another rat or a person.  Y Pestis carrying rats caused the Bubonic Plague.

During the Middle Ages, even the late Middle Ages, hygiene was…not…very…hygienic.  It wasn’t as bad as it has been portrayed but the flea carrying rats found a fertile environment to procreate in and a somewhat overcrowded population in cities chock full of hosts.  In other words, soap and water would have helped during these times as would a goodly amount of D’con had it been available or the invention of a better rat trap.

“Healers,” monarchs, and religious leaders never connected the plague with rats, fleas, and Y Pestis.  I kinda want to give them a pass.  They hadn’t developed past barbers overseeing bleedings, leeches to help keep the four humors of the body in balance and the burning of incense and sulfur…as well as rosemary, amber, musk, and fragrant flowers.  When they walked, people took their scents with them, carrying packets of herbs…

What is our excuse?  Despite advanced warning, people in high places chose to ignore the danger in hopes it would go away with the April warmth and humidity…It’s April 21 and it is still here.

I ask the question because it seems we would rather latch on to any conspiracy theory rather than science.  We would rather believe the opinion of a college dropout trying to sell advertisements on YouTube or on certain “news” channels or an Indian with a ‘piled high and deep’ degree in military science rather than epidemiologists with an MD following their names.  I digress.

Maybe we need a Jew to sacrifice to the purifying flames of a good ole witch burnin’.  Maybe we can use vestal virgins to keep the fires going.  We seem to be stoking the fires of disharmony, willing to burn our country to the ground instead of pulling together, not that our European forefathers were any better…but then we do benefit from scientific knowledge over superstition.  Don’t we?

Consider this, many Europeans at the time believed the supernatural, earthquakes and conspiracies were to blame.  God’s wrath, bad air released by earthquakes and the Jews, friars, witches, foreigners, beggars, pilgrims, lepers, and Romani were to blame.  Scapegoats, we must have scapegoats! 

Like those going before us, a large group believes, “It couldn’t just be a virus?”  There must be some ulterior motive behind it, even though the science says otherwise.  At least our forefathers knew nothing of viruses or bacteria.

One widely-held Middle Ages’ conspiracy theory was that the Jews were poisoning the water supplies.  Some old Jewish guy was seen feeding cracked grain to the ducks probably.  Christians had good reason to wonder, I guess.  Jews didn’t come down with the black, oozing lymph nodes as often as Christian Europeans, but no one considered Jews bathed more often and kept their homes clean and free of rats.  Hygiene, simple hygiene.

There is a parallel right there.  Have you seen the news shows and YouTube videos teaching us how we should wash our hands?  Seems after seven hundred years we would have progressed farther.

Another point to ponder, Jews lived separately from Christians in a type of “mandatory” self-quarantine before the Black Death hit and had a higher survival rate as an added result.  The Christian response was to burn them out…homes and entire towns.  They would have done better to have burned their own towns, killing the fleas and the rats that carried them.  That would have slowed down the plague more than burning a witch or a Jewish town or two.

Our response to stay home orders or quarantine?  Marching men, blocking traffic with automatic weapons.  Gonna shoot that bad, boy virus?  No, but you can’t force me to tempt fate…or the health of my family and friends.  Much love to the healthcare worker who stared some of them down.

At least we are not burning Jewish towns but violence against Asians has risen.  Chinese bioweapons are poisoning our air supply with 5G carrier waves after all or is it Bill Gates?  When he squints behind those hornrims, he looks a bit Chinese.  Scapegoats, we must have scapegoats with a conspiracy theory or two…just like my European forefathers.

An interesting fact during the Black Death.  The poor had a much lower incidence of survival.  They were already compromised.  Broken down by poorer diets and a harsher lifestyle, the serfs were the first to die from God’s wrath and went to their maker in much higher numbers.

Is there a parallel there?  I’m sure if I looked at the great flu pandemic of 1918-1919, I would see the same thing.  The poor dying in greater percentages.  I can see men sitting in their tall office buildings shrugging their shoulders and nodding in approval of “survival of the fittest” while their workers died, or men in business suits saying sacrificing our family members for the good of the economy is an honor.

During the Corvid-19 scare, we are seeing it again.  Compromised groups, groups without access to healthcare, people we call “essential workers” are being sacrificed for the greater good of our economy.  We are seeing high numbers infected by racial profile and interestingly, among grocery workers.  Along with them are the aged and those with underlying issues.  People we should be protecting instead of shrugging off as simply a statistic of “selective” Darwinism.

The response of some, “Well it’s not Corvid-19 killing these people, it’s their underlying conditions.”  Really?  Maybe you should go bleed yourself…a gallon should end the problem.

Every pandemic has caused major social upheaval.  Corvid -19 will be no different.  The Black Death led to the rise of towns and the middle class, the collapse of feudalism, the Reformation, just to name a few historical changes.  Maybe you should read about the changes caused by the Black Death to get an idea of what might be ahead for us.   Don’t I’ll probably write about it eventually.

The first thing you should keep in mind, the Black Death only peaked in the mid-1300s, it didn’t go away.  It came back again and again.  Corvid-19 will spike again if we choose superstition over science.

***

Superstition is not the best word, but I don’t know what might be.  We have a cult that believes nothing put forth by our scientists, medical doctors or news reporters and that a robust stock market somehow helps us all.

The picture of the rat…I personally have nothing against four-legged rats as long as they stay in the wild.  I don’t like the two-legged version anywhere.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0KTel1ZOkEs6ionAjK8k5jwlt8q9QKXKdsazPkJQYrwJD2ZPhwsMtCpZs

 

Questions With No Answers

 

Before social distancing became the in thing, I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in thirty years…jeez…more like forty.  I was excited to see her…considering our history excited is not the best descriptor.  Thrilled is a better word.  I was thrilled to see her.

We had a short-term tryst back in the day…just scratching certain itches.  Nothing heavy, a “friends with benefits” kind of thing before “friends with benefits” was a thing…it was the “free love” Seventies after all.  As I think back, I realize there was nothing free about love or even its unreasonable facsimile, lust.

She didn’t recognize me, even when I tried to explain who I was.  Despite the empty feeling in my stomach, I didn’t push it.  She seemed anxious in a bad way.  I think she’s had a stroke or is self-medicating…am I being narcissistic?  Maybe it was my beard, the balding head?  No, I believe there was something wrong.

She seemed frail and infirm.  A woman who once strode through the world confidently was reduced to little shuffles reminiscent of a Chinese woman who had had her feet bound.  The strong alto voice lacked volume and power.  The tall, long-legged, pleasing body seemed to be collapsing in on itself.  Always slender in a good way, she was much too thin.  Maybe it was me looking back on memories through my rose-colored reading glasses.

We remained friends after we both moved on to other places and people…at least I thought we had.  At some point, she seemed to disappear…but, not from memory.  I’ve thought of her often over the years wondering what happened to her.  Wondering if she was happy.  Remembering how foolish I had been.

I wondered if she had moved to a distant part of the world.  Whenever I asked friends, “Have you heard from….”, the answer was always in the negative.

In the mid-80s she decided she was gay and fell under the influence of a “stereotypical” lesbian woman.  You may substitute whatever “stereotype” you wish.  This woman is much more than a stereotype and stereotypes are such oversimplifications.

Still, the time was the Eighties and I was shocked and full of questions.  I’ve often wondered if she crossed over because she was truly lesbian or was it because she had been wounded so many times by people of my gender…or was it I was such a bad lover and friend I drove her to it.  Insecure much?  Ah…yes!

She stumbled and fell over several relationships during those late Seventies and early Eighties.  I wonder if I helped to trip her up as she attempted to recover.  An unwanted splinter under the fingernail of life.  You can tell she is an enigma, she always was.

Are my concerns more about me and my own guilt?  Is it about my own narcissism?  Is it my over-inflated self-importance?  Questions I can’t answer.  Maybe questions I fear to answer.  My greatest question, “Are you happy?”  I hope the answer is yes.

There are questions I can’t even ask.  My friend has dropped off the face of the earth even though she lives exactly where she has always lived.

I think about the crowd we ran with during those thrilling days of yesteryear.  Those days we were lucky to survive.  Those of us still alive have remained in touch.  More so as we have gotten older.  It is as if she has cut all ties with those days and the people who inhabited them with her.   Maybe she wanted to move forward while the rest of us are pulled toward the past.  I know I once did the same thing when my own mistakes became too much of a burden.  Memories too painful to remember…except you do.

Questions, more questions.  Answers, no answers.

***

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0813oF-UzSxgl3eyxNYLytu5JhnD70NuizUBdFlbjT2LTyVAXjPEBJZZE

I’m Havin’ a Birthday….

 

Seventy years ago, today, April 9, the world was blessed with a bouncing baby boy…me.  Said with a big grin, “I remember it well; it was a clear and crisp Easter Sunday”…I actually don’t remember anything about it.

If family stories are to be believed, my father went to bed on April the eighth moaning about an early morning Sunrise Service he really didn’t want to attend.  Ernest got up earlier than he intended.  I got my mother up quite early.  I was weeks ahead of my arrival date.

True to form, I have little patience, but I did make them wait until I was ready to emerge and conquer the world.  I understand it was a long day, especially for my mother.  I was worth it, I’m sure, but I am still waiting to conquer the world and time is running out.

Freaking seventy?  Where did the time go?  Wasn’t it just yesterday I was standing to wait for the bus to take me to my first day of school?  When it comes to birthdays, time flies whether you are having fun or not…I’m having fun right now, I’m just having it slowly.

As I sit typing away, I don’t feel seventy…until I get up maybe.  The fibrous materials holding these old bones together will protest the rapid movement associated with standing and walking but compared to many of my peers I’m doing okay.  I’ll run (eye roll) and walk three and a half miles as the sun creeps above the horizon.  I’m pretty proud of that but in the back of my mind, I hope I survive the day.

The mirror tells no lies.  I look at peers and wonder, “Why do I look so much younger than they do?”  Then I’ll look in the mirror and wonder, “Who is that guy?”  Maybe it’s the harsh light…of reality.  Wasn’t it just yesterday I was the good-looking kid with the crewcut?  Now I’m the old balding guy with the big nose and ears.

Did you know the only body parts that continue to grow as you age are your ears and nose?  If I live long enough, I’ll resemble Dumbo the Elephant.  A little boy points, his voice shrills with fear, “Look, look Mom!  The old man just tripped over his ears?”

I expect I might trip the light fandango through the memories of previous years.  I try to be forward-thinking and there are plenty of warm and fuzzies but I’m thinking about family and friends I have lost over the years.  They flash across the face of my mind.  Snatches of people, some in black and white.  The problem is as you get older, the list grows longer.

No!  I’m not lamenting my birthday.  The alternative is not good.  My memories are all happy ones, a young boy surrounded by family, blowing out the candles on his cake.

I am lamenting the quarantine.  It’s been six weeks since I’ve seen my daughter’s family except in pictures.  I remember the last time I saw the grandbabies.  I can feel their arms wrapping around my legs…maybe I shouldn’t go there.

So, it’s my birthday.  One of those momentous ones.  Born in a year ending in zero it’s too easy to keep up with them.  I’ve heard all the trite sayings about age being just a number,  I’m not old I’m a classic, etc., but the fact is the road ahead is much shorter than the road behind.  The Bible says I am living on borrowed time so once more I’m going to try and make this trip around the sun a bit more momentous…I’m not going to jump out of any airplanes.

Happy Birthday to me and a bit of Jimmy Buffett.

“Trip Around the Sun” is a song by American country music artists Jimmy Buffett and Martina McBride in August 2004 as the second single from Buffett’s album License to Chill.

Don Miller writes poorly at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0uOIommkv9nnhPm29GnLeOczmiq5eFTsr_nl-20jF2_0Bt_8fAOyIqkT0

 

Boy! I Say, Boy! You Can’t Quarantine Stupid

 

In 2015 I wrote about our Southern reluctance to embrace change.  In the post, “Sot in our Ways”, using a regional pronunciation of the word set, I chronicled our propensity for looking backward.  The phrase forward-thinking is not a part of the vocabulary for many who surround me.  With the invasion of the Corvid-19 virus, I’ve found we haven’t changed in the five years since the original was published…in fact, we’ve become even more resistant with the current political environment.

Our Foghorn Leghorn sounding “guv’nah” (No insult intended, I like his Southern accent.  One should look for something to like in a person)…our governor, Henry McMaster, seems to be resistant to the idea of issuing a “stay at home” order, making my state, South Carolina, a bastion of coronavirus dissent in the region of the Southeast.  Governor McMaster has instead called on all South Carolinians to “use common sense.”  I am afraid…very afraid.

To his defense, according to Charleston’s Post and Courier, Governor McMaster doesn’t believe he can legally issue a stay at home or shelter-in-place order on what I assume are First Amendment grounds.  Judging from the number of people driving around and on the lakes, I would say a large percentage of his constituents agree with him.

Consequently, at this time, he has issued twelve executive orders, closing schools, and other nonessential businesses…wait, schools aren’t essential? Despite these executive orders, SOME have ignored the orders at worse, or tried to find ways around it at best “cuz yur takin’ way mah rights”.  No, you can’t quarantine stupid.

The governor closed furniture and shoe stores while deciding liquor and gun stores were essential.   I wonder how many spouses of either gender will be drunkenly maimed or killed by newly purchased firearms before the quarantine is over.  “Put on your high heeled sneakers….”   (I heard this morning there has been a spike in domestic crimes.  Who didn’t see this coming?)

Breaking News:  As of 5:00 today, April 7, we will be under a “Home or Work” order which will change little that wasn’t in place at 4:59.  It does limit the number of people who can be inside of businesses at one time.  It does not force church closures but it is suggested.

As a retired history teacher, I am quite familiar with our last major attempt at dissent…that was in December of 1860.  I hope our modern-day dissent doesn’t reap the same outcomes ‘cause the last one didn’t go too well.  South Carolina lost 18,000 to 21,000 men, or one of every fourteen white South Carolinians in the Civil War, due more to disease than by shot, saber or Minié ball.  It seems we didn’t keep very good records concerning our slave or civilian populations but I’m sure you could add a few of them to the overall number.

Sorry, back to modern times.  While the US response to the budding pandemic was slow, a great many states in the South were even slower to react against Corvid-19, not just South Carolina,  There are eight other states reluctant to issue stay at home or shelter-in-place orders, none Southern unless you count Arkansas.  We have a large portion of our population who believes not staying at home is somehow “standing up to tyranny”.  I did not know a virus could be so tyrannical but explains why gun stores are still open.

Southerners just don’t like being told what to do by that damn Yankee “gubment” in Washington or its ‘flunkies’ in Columbia.  It doesn’t matter if sheltering might be a good thing to do, might save lives.  It’s the principle of it all, I guess.  Ain’t nobody tellin’ me what to do no matter how stupid I look or if it kills me.  Remember the famous last words, “Hey Y’all watch dis!”

As I drove through the nearby town of Travelers Rest, my facemask and latex gloves already in place, I noticed the downtown streets were somewhat deserted.  That was because everyone was at Walmart or down the road at Lowes.  Lines to the Chik-fil-a Drive Through stretched out to the street.

I used to like my Walmart; it had a higher class of a redneck than most.  Not sure now.  Social distancing be damned, the parking lot was wall to wall with no one particularly concerned with keeping a six-foot cushion.  When I broke down and grocery shopped this early Sunday morning I saw few wearing gloves and fewer wearing masks.  Social distancing?  Not likely.

I think we are confused by the social part of social distancing.  Our teachers did a great job teaching what it means to be social…not so much on distancing.  It’s the opposite of being social.  We shouldn’t be social.  I’ve heard physical distancing used, maybe Guv’nah  Leghorn should use the term.  “Boy!  I say, Boy! Maintain your physical distancing!”  I don’t think it will matter…someone will hear physical and think it means we should get freaky. 

It’s all a government coverup anyway.  Right?  A test run to sweep away our rights just like when the United Nations was invading us during the Obama years.  They’re here to steal our guns….  They didn’t get yours?  You didn’t see them?

Friends and former student’s social media posts make me wonder how we became so susceptible to conspiracy theories.  I remember intelligent kids…maybe I’m losing my memory or maybe they weren’t as bright as I thought.  They don’t seem to know which is going to kill more of us; the virus, the new 5G network or the Democrats attempt to crash the economy to get at Trump.  Let’s combine a few conspiracy theories, shall we?

You did know the coronavirus was created by the Chinese government to weaken our economy. driving down the stock market so they can purchase what little of the United States they don’t already own?  Or, is it part of a human depopulation scheme by the world-class villain, Microsoft’s Bill Gates?  Or, did it stem from a tainted batch of children’s blood that the world’s liberal celebrities drink to stay young?

None of those are correct and have nothing to do with a tainted, undercooked bat sandwich either.  It is a Turkmenistanian bioweapon transmitted over the airways by the 5G death ray, all financed by George Soros, and genetically engineered by Bill Gates to target conservatives only.  I’m sure there is a counter-theory involving the Koch Brothers and liberal bones being burned and crushed into fertilizer.  

Attempting to be humorous, I posted my theory with a LOL emoji in response to a meme.  I had people agreeing and commenting on what that dastardly George Soros might do next.  “For real?” Mentally I see many nodding their heads in agreement.  I actually saw a similar theory expressed today.

Dammit, folks! Everything is not a conspiracy.  Sometimes things are just…things…a deadly coronavirus is just a deadly coronavirus.  Every attempted change is not a bad thing.  Do you resist changing your underwear?  Don’t answer that, just think about it and if you don’t, do so now.  Personal hygiene is important even if not taking the quarantine seriously.

Six feet, wash your hands, keep your hands out of your nose and mouth, stay at home unless you are an “essential.”  For sweet Baby James’s sake, self-quarantine for the good of mankind.

From a smart former student, something I found hopeful,                                                    “It’s okay to take this Coronavirus pandemic seriously…and still find joy in life.  It’s okay to worry about what will happen next week, next month, or next year…and still, make jokes and laugh with friends.  It’s okay to be fearful… .and still have faith that God’s will is going to be done.”

Be hopeful, just be smart.

Addendum

Before my Southern friends and family tar and feather me, I do know there are idiots and conspiracists in all regions.  It is not just a Southern reaction.  I pick on “us” because I know “us”…and if the shoe fits….

The quote is from Katie Orr, a former Tamassee-Salem student, now a teacher, and mother.

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

The image of Foghorn Leghorn https://www.pinterest.com/susiewjones/foghorn-leghorn-best-cartoon-ever/

If you are interested in reading ”Sot in our Ways”  https://cigarman501.wordpress.com/2015/09/24/sot-in-our-ways/

A Young Toad-Frog’s Fancy

 

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I am happier, and usually saner, with the advent of spring and the end of winter than I am with the death of summer and fall.  Certain birds finding their way to my feeders that weren’t there a few weeks ago, the finches and mourning doves, the return of my Redtail Hawks. They came early this year.  The deer eating my privet, not eating enough privet, certain flowers blooming at certain times and my toad.

I first wrote about “The Toad in the Corner” a year or two ago, a huge American toad that has appeared outside my back door for years.  I found it comforting to see her having backed herself into a shady spot at the corner of my foundation and rock wall during the heat of the day.  Coming out to wreak havoc on the insect population at night, sitting on a flat rock, all fat and sassy.  Unconcerned about my entrance into her realm.

Despite her ambivalence toward me, I worry about her.  The average lifespan for a toad in the wild is about a year.  She’s been extremely lucky for some five seasons now, somehow avoiding Mr. Herbert No-Shoulders, the huge black rat snake that resides in the same area along with Mrs. No-shoulders and her brood…maybe Toady has just gotten too big to eat.  She is uuuuuuuge!

I found her waiting for me early this morning while I waited for my fifteen-year-old puppy dog to find her spot.  Toady was sitting on her flat rock, but she wasn’t alone.  She had a friend, a friend with benefits I might guess.

At first glance, I thought something was wrong.  She looked deformed.  Was it that bad a winter?  I looked closer and saw what I thought was a deformity was a much smaller toad riding high on her back.  I was reminded of a baby riding on one of his parent’s backs.

I don’t think she was his momma…or maybe she was his “Hot Momma.”  I’ve seen her several times during the day and her suiter is still riding on her back.  She walks, he rides.  Mentally I make a note to look up the range of an American toad…as far as a mile from their breeding sites.  Now I’m Googling their breeding habits.

You can tell this quarantine thing is getting to me.  Combined with sciatica, rainy weather and a sick tractor, I’ve got too much time on my hands…and there is laziness too.

Through research, I found out it is not unusual for the female to carry her suitor to her breeding grounds…the breeding pool of water which I assume is the stream below my home.  For some reason, I thought about frog gigolos, “Hey baby, goin’ my way?  How ‘bout a lift.  What’s your sign?  Can I buy you a drink?”  Louis Prima is singing “Just a Gigolo” in my head.  I guess it could be the David Lee Roth version.  I’m thinking of disco, glitter balls and lime-green leisure suits, colorful, long collared “catch me, f@#$ me” shirts and gold bling.

I found out if females are scarce it is not unusual for many waiting males to climb on board creating a “toad ball.”  The orgy scene from Caligula flashed briefly before my eyes…I only read about it…maybe.  I really wanted to laugh but as I read on, I found it is usually fatal for the female.  “I love you to death” takes on a new meaning.

Image result for Toad ball

I obviously need more humor injected into my life and something productive to do.  Something is very wrong contemplating the sex life of toads and frogs or as we say here, toad frogs.  Well, it is spring when a “young man’s fancy turns to love” or a young toad’s fancy is to ride around on a big ole’ momma toad waiting for her to make the trek to her egg-laying site.  I just hope she survives her “La danse de l’amour.”  French is such a sexy language…even when describing toads.

 

Don Miller writes about whatever strikes his fancy.  His author’ page is https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0Tk_BUmCRpeCR63Kr59dyLywOMUia36e7djQlIDqefkK6aKUYyW9svuK4

The featured and last images are from https://www.ephotozine.com/photo/toad–mating–ball–53338916

The first image is of Toady and her suitor.