THE DAY BEGINS

Excerpt from the book PATHWAYS. One of my pathways of life led into the textile mills of South Carolina. This excerpt is about my first shift working in the weave room of the White Plant in Fort Mill, SC at the tender age of fourteen.

THE DAY BEGINS…

If you are into “titles”, my first “position” with Springs was as a spare hand. A spare hand was, in modern parlance, a daily “at-will” employee. I would go in and wait at a specified work bench until the second hand came to us and sent us to do a certain job or if there were not a job, send us back home. I never got sent home even though after many year-long, eight-hour shifts, I wish they had.

There was an almost military type of hierarchy in the weave room and, I am sure, the cotton mill itself. The plant manager was the general; many “white shirts” in ties were the staff officers; the room managers the lieutenants or captains; and the second hands were the sergeants. Within the “enlisted” ranks there was a peaking order: weavers and loom fixers and over haulers at the top; warpers, battery fillers, oilers, blow-off hands, sweepers, and doffers at the bottom. Spare hands? If the mill had been a caste system, we would have been “the great ignored”…until we screwed up!

My second hand was Coley Spinx.(Sp?) At the time I believed that if I needed to look up the word “intimidating” in the dictionary, a picture of Coley would accompany the definition. A friend of my father’s, the former World War Two Marine had Popeye-sized forearms that sported the requisite Marine Corp Eagle, Globe and Anchor tattoos that all Marines are so proud of. Built like a rain barrel, with arms and legs to match, it was easy to visualize him in his fatigues and wearing a jaunty but useless “tin hat.” With a half-smoked cigar jammed in his teeth, I imagined him defending his squad with a fifty-caliber machine gun clutched in one ham-sized fist and a bazooka in the other. You should probably remember that this was the fertile mind of a fourteen-year-old growing up in a period when kids still “played” war games. I am still in awe of old Marines…and young ones, too.

Fourteen sounds young to be working in a cotton mill…it is, but we did, in fact, have child labor laws in the summer of 1964 – just not like those of today. It had not been that many years removed from ten-year-olds or younger spending ten or twelve hours doing the mind-numbing and body-breaking labor in our industrial plants. As I studied the Industrial Age or prepared lesson plans to teach it, I could not help but contrast the mills of the late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century with the first mill where I worked. Springs provided their employees with a well-lighted and clean (if any cotton mill can be called clean) working environment that had large restrooms and a cafeteria that produced full course meals, if desired, and if you had the time to eat one. I would find out later working in other mills that these amenities would be the exception and not the rule.

An ill at ease, nay scared, fourteen-year-old “Donnie” awaited his fate in his now sweat-soaked tee shirt and jeans. Eight hours later, the tee and jeans would still be sweat-soaked and anything but clean. Lint, rust, oil, grease, and general dirt combined with the blood from a first hour on the job accident and eight hours of sweat made my clothes look like I had spent the day in a coal mine before being dragged home behind a horse with a terrible case of diarrhea. Come to think of it, my clothes smelled the same way and my body wasn’t in much better shape. I knew what I was going to buy with my first paycheck. A radio? A movie and a meal for my girlfriend? A vacation to Disneyland? Come on… I was only fourteen, had no girl friend and was making minimum wage which I think was a buck twenty-five an hour or about seven bucks an hour in today’s money. No, tee shirts in any color other than white and several pairs of pants made from the lightest cotton duck I could find would be my first purchases. While jeans were fine in the fields where the air tended to dry them and contact with briars required them, the eight hours of constant sweating and an unhealthy intake of salt tablets had left me galled from waist to knees. Baby powder and lighter, softer trousers seemed to be a ticket for the destination known as “on-the-job” comfort.

If you enjoyed this story from PATHWAYS, you may download or purchase it or Don’s other books at the following links:
Inspirational true stories in WINNING WAS NEVER THE ONLY THING by Don Miller #1.99 on #Kindle
http://goo.gl/DiO1hcX

“STUPID MAN TRICKS” explained in Don Miller’s FLOPPY PARTS $.99 on Kindle http://goo.gl/Ot0KIu

“Baby Boomer History” in Don Miller’s PATHWAYS $3.49 on Kindle http://goo.gl/ZFIu4V

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A GOAT IN THE WELL

My Bennett family friends had given my wife a tape of a minister delivering the African-American version of a hellfire and brimstone sermon using the story of a goat that had fallen into a well to provide an example of “shaking bad things off and then stomping them down.” The old farmer, not sure of what to do, had decided to bury the goat where it was but the old goat had other ideas. As the soil landed on the goat’s back, he would just shake it off and then stomp it down until finally he had raised the level of the bottom of the well so that he could jump right out. The morale of the story being “No matter how bad things are, just shake them off and stomp them down.” As a child I had heard a variation involving a frog that had fallen into a milk pail and saved himself by kicking so hard he churned the milk into butter. Since then I have heard similar stories using a donkey. For my purposes, I’ll stay with the goat because, for a short period of time, we decided to raise goats.

Linda Gail and I did not actively think out the process and say, “We need to go out and get a goat.” No, as you can tell from my other stories, rarely do we think out anything. A friend of my wife had a goat but because of an impending move, he needed to find a home for the aptly, if not creatively named, Nannie. Nannie, a pet from birth, had been imprinted upon by humans and could not understand why she wasn’t included at the dinner table. There were many times she would startle us. After having found a way out of her little compound and seeing the back door open, she would push her way into the kitchen and say hello. Hello!

Later, when I decided that putting a goat on a leash was not a good idea, I created a fenced-in paddock around a stream covered in briars, small trees and Kudzu and complete with a little goat lean-to. We purchased two Alpine milking goats and stood by watching our new acquisitions in the middle of their plush pasture…starving to death. They wouldn’t eat. A local goat authority, and character in his own right, told me they were too “high fa lutin’” and needed a briar goat to teach them what to eat. He didn’t say, “briar”; he said “Brraaaaar goat.” Then he sold me one for thirty-five dollars. Enter Newt, as in neuter or what is known as a steer goat. It was Newt’s responsibility to teach Nugene and Nicholette what to eat…which turned out to be pretty much anything. Did you pick up on the “N” names? Blame my wife.

Newt was a goofy looking thing. Gray in color, heavy bodied with the skinniest of legs, he had two misshapen horns that gave him an expression of perpetual awe. Turning his head to the side, he always had the look of someone who had a question…like maybe “Why did you cut them off?” Also, he was, first and foremost, a pet. Like Nannie, Newt believed he should be included in all family activities… and in many cases was. Our briar goat was more curious than most cats and this sometimes got him into trouble without the safety net of having nine lives. Once, while staked out in a specific area to eat kudzu, he decided to stick his nose into a hornet’s nest. When I saw him next, his head was the size of a basketball. He was about to choke to death because the dog collar tightened due to his rapidly expanding neck. I quickly released him and then waited for him to die when all of the poison from his head reached his heart. I watched his head literally deflate like the oft spoken of “nickel balloon.” After all of that trauma, he still survived!

One of our Alpines once needed a transfusion…at three in the AM. I was sent home to retrieve Newt to bring him back to the animal hospital so he could supply the blood for the transfusion. With no way to actually transport a goat, I stuffed him into the cab of my pickup and off we went. Thank goodness there were few vehicles on the road at three o’clock in the AM… but there was this one drunk. The look I got from him as he eyed the cab was “Son, that is one ugly closing-time honey!”

Periodically, the old cistern that served as our water source needed to be cleaned and serviced. I discovered the hard way that if the level of sand in the bottom of the dyke accumulated too high, that sand would get into the backflow valve causing it to stay open and the pump would lose its prime. One summer morning I found myself having to clean the dyke and to replace the aforementioned valve. Newt decided he would join me, lending whatever “moron” support I might desire. I thought it was cute but would not think so a few minutes later.

My guess is that Newt’s lineage came from a mountain goat because he always liked to climb to the highest point – up onto a stump, or up onto a rock or into the back of my pickup truck and once even onto the cab. As soon as we got to the cistern, he hopped up on top of the corrugated metal sheet cistern cover and disappeared, in the blink of an eye, when the metal sheet gave way. The look on his face was priceless as was mine I am sure. He was a tall goat and I could clearly see his head peering over the top of the cistern, his face mirroring the “What the f…?” question running through my mind. I remembered the story of the goat in the well but decided burying him was out…although when he decided to explore the hollowed out cave behind the dyke I thought I might have to. When he came back into sight, he stumbled and broke off the backflow valve. For a moment, I dared to ponder how goat BBQ might taste.

All’s well that ends well, I guess. With a lot of straining and pulling, I extracted the hundred and fifty-pound goat from the well and then replaced the backflow valve. Later I had to make an uncomfortable phone call to my wife explaining why she might want to boil any water we might drink or cook with for a while. I understood salamander pooh was okay but just wasn’t sure about goat pooh. Was it my imagination or, for a while, did our drinking water taste a lot like a wet wool blanket smelled?

If you enjoyed this story you might also enjoy:
Inspirational true stories in WINNING WAS NEVER THE ONLY THING by Don Miller #1.99 on #Kindle goo.gl/DiO1hcX

“STUPID MAN TRICKS” explained in Don Miller’s FLOPPY PARTS $.99 on Kindle
http://goo.gl/Ot0KIu

“Baby Boomer History” in Don Miller’s PATHWAYS $3.49 on Kindle http://goo.gl/ZFIu4V

IT AIN’T BRAGGIN’…IF YOU’RE DABBIN’

I am old school…although I “fully” admit to be having embraced my “hippy” gene in my old age. Despite the discovery of this hippy gene, I am sure my former players and coaching chums will be somewhat surprised to read the view I am going to express. “Act like you’ve been there before” was a mantra I used or have heard used a thousand times that had been expressed by the immortal Bear Bryant. If you are in athletics you understand, “Act like you’ve been there before,” is an old school statement about celebrating…a score, or now, even a first down. Old school was all about anything other than “self-expression.” “There is no ‘ME’ in TEAM!” Whether it is the “Ickey Shuffle,” “Lambeau Leap” or “dabbin’,” I still would like to see them score and just hand the ball to the official but we are in a “hey look at me world,” in a game that should be about having fun. What’s so bad about that?

Cam Newton has re-defined the definition of “having fun” …and the position of quarterback along with the word “polarizing.” Loved by Panther fans and hated by everyone else, I would predict that he could care less about those who use detractions like, “showboat,” “braggart,” and “classless,” which are some of the mild ones I have seen. In fact, by his own admission, he uses the detractors as motivation. With the frame and strength of a linebacker, a strong arm and better than average “pro” speed, he is the “freak of nature personified” and probably does not need any more motivation to be successful. With good looks and a “million dollar” smile, I do admit to a bit of a man crush.

Do I wish Cam would just hand the ball to the official when he scores? Once I did, but seeing the faces of the youngsters who have received his game ball “gifts”, I have to agree with his particular brand of “having fun” even when he goes into his Superman pose. I once described a very good high school baseball player as having a “little league” mentality. This description was not a putdown. I was remarking about his ability to “have fun” in the same way as a “wide-eyed” little leaguer despite the pressure to receive a college scholarship or becoming a draft pick. He received both and had a career in the major leagues, both as a player and as a coach. I see Cam the same way, as in playing as a youth league player. There seems to be a “child-like” wonderment along with the “million dollar” smile. Yeah, he makes a boat load of money playing a child’s game but I would bet “his” money that money is not his primary motivation.

I try to live by, “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” or at least keep my mouth shut and only “sin” in my mind. With many of our sports idols and “role models” I find myself asking, “What were you thinking” when it comes to some of their “off of the field” activities. As Johnny Manziel is finding out, Social Media is not your friend when you, yourself, are your own worst enemy. When one Google’s Cam Newton, there is very little “smut” to dig up. No arrests, no drugs, no spousal or girlfriend abuse. Yeah Cam had the wreck with many assuming incorrectly it was drug or alcohol related, and there is an “out of wedlock” child that he recognizes and takes responsibility for despite the lack of wedding band on his hand. He brought some baggage with him from Auburn, but was it his fault or the fault of an overly involved father or the climate that is college football? Not as tame as Tim Tebow but a far cry from Johnny Manziel. More importantly is his foundation for disadvantaged kids and his many activities giving back to the Charlotte and Atlanta communities. Not only does he provide money but he also invests his time. Gee, I hope he is a good guy…did I forget the “Santa Cam’s Surprise Sleigh?”

Professional athletes have the opportunity to do much good and it is heartwarming for a retired teacher and coach to see a young man who GETS IT and DOES IT. Johnny maybe you should go talk to Cam about what you might do with your time. Is Cam perfect? No way! Most twenty-six-year-old men will have skeletons in their closet that, in twenty or thirty years from now, they will wish weren’t there. I am sure Cam will be no different…than I was.

Viewing this year’s Super Bowl will be interesting and a win-win for me regardless of the outcome. I will pull for the local Panthers and their brash young quarterback but can’t help but pull for “old school” Peyton Manning and hope he gets to ride off into the sunset with a second ring. I will be disappointed whichever team comes up short and I guess I will be pulling for both offenses.

When I watch Cam Newton “having fun” I think of a brash pitcher from the 1930’s who was once quoted to have said, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it.” Dizzy Dean had predicted that he and his brother would combine to win forty-five games in 1934. He was wrong…they won forty-nine. Win or lose on Super Bowl Sunday, Cam ain’t braggin’…but I guess we will have to wait and see how the game plays out to see if he is dabbin’.

Don Miller has written and self-published three books that may be purchased through or downloaded on any device with a Kindle app.

Inspirational true stories in WINNING WAS NEVER THE ONLY THING by Don Miller #1.99 on #Kindle goo.gl/DiO1hcX

“STUPID MAN TRICKS” explained in Don Miller’s FLOPPY PARTS $.99 on Kindle http://goo.gl/Ot0KIu

“Baby Boomer History” in Don Miller’s PATHWAYS $3.49 on Kindle http://goo.gl/ZFIu4V

DEJA VU….

Am I the only person who sees similarities between the political division and social protest we are experiencing today and the protest and division related to the Sixties? There was unrest as African-Americans oh so slowly gained SOME Civil Rights and social justice. Protests became violent as civil rights marchers were opposed by fire hoses, police dogs and batons. Inflammatory rhetoric was spoken on all sides – the far reactionary right and radical left…AND BY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES. Both the KKK or Black Panthers resorted to bombs, bank robberies, riots and assassinations in an attempt to slow down or speed up the process depending upon their particular world view. Riots in major cities were sparked by MLK’s assassination. I am sure no one of my age can forget the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Young people violently protested the Vietnam War along with other social issues. They burned draft cards or American Flags while facing down policemen in riot gear and Mayor Daily’s political machine. The drug culture of the Sixties with the “Make love not war” Hippy movement gave our parents pause to shake their heads in dismay. Appalled conservatives believed we had a real problem of lacking respect for authority and law and order.

The names of the wars have changed as have the names of the politicians who wage them and the names of the young people who are dying in their stead. Today we are not fighting over political dogmas but rather over religious beliefs…supposedly. The only people winning are those who are paid off to promote war and those who actually sell the weapons of death. It was the same in the Sixties as it is today- war mongers and arms dealers rake in the cash. Even though the weapons have become more efficiently destructive, death certainly has not changed nor has the sorrow or cost in life and devastation caused by those weapons.

We still do not have a religious, political or economic system inclusive to all. The extremists are either still battling to move things along more quickly or to insure that they move back to the way they were. Even the motion picture industry is under fire with protests and a call to boycott the Oscars over the issue of diversity. I hear the same arguments that highlighted the Civil Rights movement in the Sixties reverberating from both sides. These arguments now include lesbians and gays or Christians and Muslims or gun control. Instead of being about societal concerns, student protests seem to be more “me” oriented. I both hope and fear that my perception is one that has been packaged and perpetuated by the media “trolls” on both sides for a deeper, more ominous reason, perhaps for increasing ratings or possibly to create more unrest. With recent police-involved shootings and the “Black Lives Matter” reactions to them, I can hear the distant cries about “police brutality” and to “barbeque a pig” echoing through the fog of time. Our own population seems to be hell-bent on self-destruction …just as it seemed to be in the Sixties and for many of the same reasons.

The ’68 Presidential election experienced some of the same disunity we see in debates for the upcoming 2016 election. The leading Democratic candidate Bobby Kennedy was assassinated by a Jordanian Arab, Sirhan Sirhan, over Kennedy’s pro-Israel position. The left anti-communist, pro-civil rights liberal Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey attempted to unify a party divided over a “civil rights plank” in the party’s platform and failed to do so. Pro-segregationist and state’s rights candidate George Wallace took five Southern states in the election and many other votes away from Humphrey and helped hand “Tricky Dick” Nixon the presidency. Nixon even had his own “Southern Strategy” to pull Southern Democrats into the Republican fold, expediting the Democratic Party’s “liberalization” that began with Truman’s desegregation of the Army in the early Fifties and which gained momentum after Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Earlier there was a “liberal” court ruling overthrowing Plessy v Ferguson for Brown v Board in 1954 that wasn’t fully implemented until the late Sixties and early Seventies. It is both interesting and disconcerting that during the past fifty years, we still haven’t moved past division caused by sectionalism, race, executive orders, liberal courts and the Middle East.

I once stood in front of a US History class and remarked that it was my belief that 1968 was the most polarizing and divisive year since the Civil War. Assassinations, Tet, riots over Civil Rights and the war all boiled over and did not conclude during the Democratic Convention. Later the massacre at Mai Lai would come to light and create more discord over the war…justified I would guess. I also remarked that, as I look back in retrospect, I am surprised we were able to survive it as a country. I don’t know if I could make the same statement today about 1968. With things as turbulent as they are right now, I can only hope that we survive until 2018 to celebrate the fifty years since 1968. The scary thought is that conditions may get worse before they get better.

As the Watergate scandal was still a few years down the road after 1968, what do we have looming in our present day world? Will we be faced with a confrontation with Iran or with Russia or with more race riots? Let us learn from history that names may change but the same thing will continue to happen again unless we have a spiritual revolution… Maybe what we really we need is another Woodstock, world-wide, to finally get people to whole-heartedly desire love and peace and harmony!

EARLY THIRTY

Too many years of getting up early at early thirty I guess. I am standing in front of my western facing kitchen sink window admiring the full moon as I prepare my morning coffee. It is cold and crisp with not even a whisper of a breeze. “La Luna Llena” seems so close that I might be able to reach up and touch it and I have no clue as to why I think of it in Spanish. The moon light is causing the snow that still lays on the ground to glow brightly and seems to brighten my backyard forest, illuminating it in an eerie light.

I normally don’t have to set an alarm to wake up by five o’clock despite having no place special to be and an icy driveway that would prevent me from going out anyway. This morning my rambling “dream thoughts” awoke me at four thirty along with a puppy dog wanting to go outside. It is mornings like this that I am glad my “dream puppy” awoke me. Most mornings in a time gone by I would get up at four-thirty so I could run or walk before school. This habit has been hard to break. I always knew that if I waited, my labors would not get done and I really didn’t want to feel that elephant sitting on my chest again that I associate with an earlier heart attack. As scary as the outside darkness could be, even with my “miner’s lamp” style flash light, I loved running, probably more so walking, on mornings like this…even with the twenty degree temperatures.

The light cast from the full moon was so bright that most of the time I really didn’t need to use a flashlight. I would climb up the hill on Airline Road and crossover Highway 11 to the drive leading into Lookup Lodge. It was as if the moon was following me, always right over my left shoulder until it disappeared behind the small mountains to the west. Above me, and to the east, Orion still hunted despite the pre-dawn glow of the still unrisen sun. As I chugged, wheezing and gasping, out of what I called the hole and climbed the asphalt path up toward the lake, I always knew that both the moon and Orion would be waiting for me as soon as I topped the next hill and found my way to the eastern side of the lake. I also knew that I would pause, stop timing my run, and admire the scene of the setting full moon over the lake.

It is still too icy for me to get out this morning and with an attack of sciatica trying to hang on, I will resist my urge to do so. I think I am going set my alarm for four-thirty tomorrow, just in case. I think there will be enough light from an almost full moon left to make it worth it. If not, it will still be worth it.

TOTALLY ILL EQUIPPED

BELIEVE IT! Our forefathers were built of sterner stuff!
Our power is off and I am writing this by virtue of the wonderful modern technology we possess, a battery powered laptop. I am also freezing despite the roaring fire I have going and the worry I feel that my lower than normal wood reserves will dwindle to nothing before Blue Ridge Coop gets the power back on. It can’t be much above freezing in here. I also wonder how previous generations survived. You see, here in the “Dark Corner” of upstate South Carolina, we are having a major winter event. I live in the South where most of our “snow storms” would be classified as a mist if it were rain and an inch of snow can bring everything to a screeching halt…except the dairy and bread baking industry. Ours was a doomsday forecast with copious amounts of predicted snow falling followed by freezing rain and sleet followed by more snow. We are on the thin line separating more freezing rain from more snow. I pray we are on the snow side of that line and as dawn breaks I see we probably were. It looks to be some six to eight inches of compacted snow and ice. So let’s get the power back on okay?

Nearly thirty years ago, my wife and I decided to purchase a farmhouse built in 1888. Built on top of oak timbers milled from the land, it had bead board walls and ceilings, pine flooring, wavy lead glass windows, all covered by tin shingles. Thirty years ago we were big on “ambience,” today we are big on “KEEPING WARM!”

The old house sat empty from the Forties until 1956. It also sat bathroom-less with no plumbing or electricity and no heating system other than the five fire places and the wood “cook stove” sitting in the kitchen. It is my guess most of the winter functions “back in the day” took place in the small kitchen due to the heat produced by that the cook stove…and the kitchen’s close proximity to the path that lead to the distant outhouse. The old house also had no insulation until 1956 when shredded paper insulation was blown into the walls. Sixty years later my guess is the insulation has compressed just a wee bit. Thankfully we added a modern “edition” that is well insulated but still the temperature just can’t be much above freezing in here…can it?

Can you imagine keeping five fireplaces and a wood stove fed during the winter months? We found a broken cross cut saw, forgotten in a closet, which I am sure is a tribute to the “stuff” the original owner’s had. I have a top of the line, modern chainsaw and since my last bout of sciatica from splitting wood with an axe and maul, a yearning for a hydraulic splitter. I can’t imagine keeping those fireplaces fed with modern technology much less with just an axe and crosscut saw. Did they just freeze if someone comes down with sciatica? I hear people “yearning for the good old days.” Really? Maybe simpler, less stressed out days. More time to spend with family instead of trekking to and from the office maybe…. Just remember “more family time” might be sitting around the kitchen stove for the heat or family wood cutting and splitting expeditions.

YEAAAAAAA! THE POWER’S BACK ON! Quick turn up the heat! Wait, the furnace thermostat says it’s a balmy sixty degrees. Sure seemed colder. Yes, they were built of sterner stuff…or thicker blood.

LIBERATION

I read that the Buffalo Bills have hired a new assistant coach. Ordinarily news like this would not find its way out of the city of Buffalo but today it is nationally news worthy. And why would that be? Their new, full-time, specialty teams, quality control coach is a female and the first of her kind. Kathryn Smith is the first full-time NFL assistant coach. This comes on the heels of Jill Welter’s internship as she served as an Arizona Cardinal linebacker coach during the summer. Back in April of 2015, Sarah Thomas became the first female NFL official. I guess these would be major steps in women’s rights. It doesn’t seem that long ago women newscasters were arguing with the league for access to the side lines and, GASP, the locker room. My guess is, once the furor and the abusive and stereotypical comments die down, they will be successful in this bastion of testosterone. I do find it interesting many men still believe that “A woman’s place….”

I have been involved with many firsts when relates to Women’s Rights. I taught for the first female principal in Greenville County, South Carolina, coached the first female to be allowed to play high school soccer and the first coed to play football at the varsity level. I was looking for none of these firsts and had the media not made an issue of it I would not have known. Title IX now that’s another story.

I wrote the story “Liberation” for the book FLOPPY PARTS and with the news of the day decided to dust it off. I hope you enjoy.

LIBERATION
Even though Charlotte, NC was close by, we were sheltered from the rapidly changing outside world. It was a long twenty miles to the Queen City on a two-lane blacktop and, by the way we grew up, possibly a decade in time removed. We had gone through the duck and cover drills that assured us that any textbook would protect us from a nuclear attack provided we took all sharp objects from our pockets. We were raised to be stoic and to be seen and not heard. In some ways we were raised to be “un-included.” Words like duty, reverence and respect were a part of our vocabularies. We still believed in the “American Exceptionalism” of the post-World War Two United States despite the warts we tended to ignore. We were decidedly Republican and my grandmother openly worried more about having a Roman Catholic in the White House than a democrat.

Still, being typically male, I was more aware of my floppy parts than world affairs, and, beginning in the late Sixties, they both got tied in knots.
Even though any available female was fair game and a target for our raging hormones, we had been taught to respect women. It was okay to pursue, but you didn’t lay a hand on a woman. You gave up your seat to women and you opened doors for women. As males, we did this not because we viewed women as weaker but as a sign of respect, the same way we were taught to say “Yes, Ma’am” or “No, Ma’am.” Most importantly No Meant No and not maybe. It was easier in those waning days of the Sixties because the girls had been taught the same way… and they didn’t have The Pill. I admit I may be looking through “rose-colored” glasses because I had been surrounded by such STRONG female role models. I believe with all my heart that women who grew up in rural settings during the depression and World War Two were taught to be stronger than their urban counter parts. I remember asking my grandmother to describe the changes she experienced during the Great Depression. She laughed and said, “We were farming on the lien and it was so hard already we never noticed.” That would be that she was out in the fields with my grandfather doing hard “man’s work.”

Regardless of my beliefs, all of them began to change as I welcomed the new decade and my address changed to Newberry. There were many movements spawned by the period. Native American Rights, Gay Rights and environmentalism were a few that joined Civil Rights during the “Age of Love”. Also, there was my favorite – Women’s Rights. There was one positive about the Women’s Liberation Movement – bra burning. Whether they were wearing a bra or not, women deserved to have the same rights as men despite the chauvinist argument “I don’t know why they want to climb down off of their pedestals?” After watching MAD MEN I wonder how high that pedestal actually was and who really had the power. I am sure this portrayal was “exactly” the way it was in the Sixties.
Liberation was a battle ground where if you picked sides you were either labeled a eunuch, if you agreed with the cause, or a chauvinist pig if you didn’t. Most of the Newberry coeds were southern gals (Is my chauvinism showing?) and had grown up under the same Biblical tenants as mine. The “times they were ah changing” and it wasn’t unusual to hear discussions about “Who should pay for the cost of birth control?” or “Who should make the decision about getting an abortion?” Fifty years later I still avoid expressing opinions on those questions because to do so would be to spoil for a fight.

Women’s Lib finally tied me in knots in the early Seventies. I remember walking up to the campus library door and seeing the reflection of a coed approaching me from behind in the door’s polished glass. Her reflection was dressed in bell bottoms and a pea coat, fashion staples of the period for those individuals who took political positions somewhere left of center. I also had time to notice her really short dark hair and the narrow, hawkish shape of her face. Nevertheless, I paused and opened the door for her. Smiling, I nodded my head and then got my ears pinned back. With a face that truly had turned hawkish she spat, “What are you asking me to do? Inviting me into to your male-dominated world? Baby Dicked Chauvinist Pig!” If you are waiting for my snappy comeback, hell may freeze over first. I still don’t have one. I should add, she still managed to enter the library ahead of me through the still-opened door but then so did the next fifteen people as I stood with jaw “slack and agape.” Baby dicked? Where did that come from?

Despite wearing khakis, oxford cloth and penny loafers during most of my adult life, I find myself embracing my “Old Hippy” side with flip flops, blue jeans and tee shirts to accommodate my move to the center left of politics as I have retired. Hawaiian shirts are a far cry from bells and pea coats but I wear them proudly. I believe in equality above all else. Equal rights, whether racial, gender, sexual, religious or economic, should be our goal as a country or as a people of that country. Women should have the same opportunities to succeed or to fail as men and it should be for the same pay. I was again sheltered when I chose teaching as my vocation. Teaching opportunities and pay were always equal and, as far as pay was concerned…Sorry, wrong movement. Now, I don’t know about upward mobility into administration but I do know that if I were ranking principals, women would take the top two positions as the best of the many I have had. The best one asked me during my interview in 1974 if I would have a problem working for a woman. She kind of leaned in as if she were going to tell me a dirty joke when she asked me. I thought, to myself, “I want this job so badly I would work for an orangutan.” To her I simply answered, “No problems whatsoever, I love women. My mother was a woman.”

I think there might have been a price for the equality so deserved by women. I read more about the rise of attacks against women or spousal abuse and see that doors are not opened and seats not given up nearly as often as they used to be even here in this hotbed of Southern chivalry. I guess I should add despite a little hawk-faced witch from 1970. Could that be the price that women pay? Maybe they did knock themselves off of their pedestal.

During the late Seventies, athletics were equalized due to Title IX legislation…except it wasn’t, at least in the school district in which I toiled. Rather than add resources to girl’s athletics, resources were taken away from men’s athletics which left a bitter taste in most male coaches’ mouths. I remember being told that, as a baseball coach, half of any money raised by my baseball team could be spent by the softball team whether they participated in the fund raiser or not. Luckily I had great relationships with my softball coaches and this never happened. Everyone didn’t have those great relationships that I fostered with malice and forethought.

While sitting quietly in a graduate course that included a study of the distribution of monies for athletics, a young female coach commented that it did not matter. “God Football” gets it all and until they fire all of the football coaches, girls would get nothing. At a break I could not help myself and strolled over to advise her that, while her feelings might be warranted, expressing them in an open forum might not be the best idea, especially if she were looking for a job. I also pointed out that football paid the bills and probably was what allowed her to have a job. She said something about having to “audition instead of interview” and that she was not “giving up the cause” just to get a job and that “maybe I should wait until my advice was asked for.” Her bell bottoms and pea coat were showing and no good deed goes unpunished. Several months later as we were looking for a girls’ softball coach, I received a call from my principal informing me that he was sending a prospective coach to be interviewed. Yeah, it was her and the look on her face was priceless. No, she didn’t get the job. Instead, we hired a softball coach who was also an offensive line coach. To her credit, she didn’t back down either, but then I am sure she knew she was doomed from the start. Does this make me a chauvinist? I don’t think so… but I do admit to being a realist.

If you enjoyed this story you may download it and other “STUPID MAN TRICKS” in Don Miller’s FLOPPY PARTS $.99 on Kindle http://goo.gl/Ot0KIu

SUMMER OF LOVE

This is an excerpt from a story, “Summer of Love,” that can be download with the book PATHWAYS using the link http://goo.gl/ZFIu4V

How did I react? I was pretty much oblivious. I knew about the war and did not want to go fight in a distant rice paddy. The Summer of Love decade in San Francisco, however, was nothing like the summer of love decade for me in Indian Land. From 1964 until 1969 I was so in love I could not think about anything that did not involve my raging hormones. A little blond girl had me by the short hairs and would not let go even when we weren’t seeing each other. For five years we drifted into and out of each other’s lives until I figured out the dynamics that were at play and managed to end it for good. Even then she may have contributed to a divorce in 1978, despite the fact I have not seen or spoken to her since 1969. I was a late-blooming baby boomer who was primarily a blooming idiot. The day we met, in the late summer before our freshman year in high school, I was walking up the dirt road from the river to my home after an afternoon of hay hauling. Not exactly dressed to impress in hay and mud-covered blue jeans, a tee shirt covered in sweat and grime, and “s@#$ kickers” that got their name honestly. I might have had on a straw cowboy hat but it would not have been described as “jaunty.” I am sure I did not make a great first impression. I am also positive when I stammered a greeting of “Hey, how y’all doing?” her first estimation of me was even further reduced. Sharon Leigh Busch, however, made my heart stop or, at least, flutter. Already “full-figured” in a Rubenesque way, fourteen-year-old Sharon Leigh had the attention of the fourteen-year-old me, even though she was dressed quite sedately in her longish shorts and fully-buttoned oxford cloth blouse. With short blond hair and blue eyes to go with the clear, alabaster skin poems are written about, her lips were red without benefit of lipstick. Not fully understanding why I was attracted to those lips, I am sure I was a sight standing there with jaws slack and agape, acting like the country hick that I was.

Don Miller has also published two other books

Inspirational true stories in WINNING WAS NEVER THE ONLY THING by Don Miller #1.99 on #Kindle goo.gl/DiO1hcX

“STUPID MAN TRICKS” explained in Don Miller’s FLOPPY PARTS $.99 on Kindle http://goo.gl/Ot0KIu

All books may be purchased in paperback.

OUR FIRST WINTER

I normally post on M-W-F but decided to post this in the expectation of the two snowflakes that we may receive here in the foothills of Greenville County, South Carolina. I hope you enjoy. For some reason the forecast of possible snow has lost its appeal since I retired from teaching.

OUR FIRST WINTER OR HOW LONG WAS IT BEFORE THE DONNER PARTY BEGAN TO EAT EACH OTHER?

We moved into our little piece of heaven in November of 1987 over Thanksgiving break from school. We had five short days to get it done. Thirty years later we are still trying to finish unpacking. No, just joking…maybe. It was a close thing. Mr. Copeland really didn’t want to leave so he dragged his feet. His second wife, a woman thirty years his junior, wanted to leave and go back to her little piece of heaven in…Union County? The things we do for our ladies! He finally just gave up packing his “treasures” and departed. He left a whole bunch of stuff behind – books, papers, old records, even a bed. A complete set of 1956 edition Funk and Wagnall’s remained where they had always sat. Okay, younger readers, there used to be a company called Funk and Wagnall that produced encyclopedias. They were sold in grocery stores and…Encyclopedia? Oh no! Think of it as the boring part of the internet in book form. Books?

From Mr. Copeland we also “inherited” several pickup truckloads of junk. I had a 1972 blue Chevy work truck. Let me say, it looked older than its fifteen years and the two hundred or so thousand miles it had on it. Driven hard and put up wet, the paint was so bad that whatever was not rust was filmy oxidized blue. There was just enough metal to hold the rust together. The “powers that be” at our condominium complex had requested, nay demanded, that the truck not be left on the street to be seen. As I finished loading the last of Mr. Copeland’s “treasures” and began the five-mile trek to the trash dump, my faithful steed gave up the ghost or so I thought. As I coasted to a stop at the base of my drive I had just enough forward momentum to pull off to the side. A day or two later a Hispanic gentleman stopped and asked if it was for sale. I said it could be. He asked what I meant and I answered him saying that he would have to get it running. This began a really odd form of bargaining. He countered with, “If I get it running, what are you asking?” I said, “That depends. If I have to unload the trash $300. If you unload it, I’ll let it go for $250.” He unloaded it. You know, I kind of miss that old truck.

We were in our new home, well new to us. At that time, we were “younger” and stupid. We had five fireplaces and a wood stove to go with a thirty-year-old fuel oil furnace as we faced our first winter. Okay, wood stoves and fireplaces take wood and we had plenty of deadfall wood lying around but did I have a chainsaw? No, I did not even have an axe. I had not used a chainsaw in a decade. With no heat upstairs, just a couple of fireplaces, I was going to have to reintroduce myself to one. Did I have a method of transporting said wood? Oh yeah, I had just sold my truck.

That winter we received seventeen inches of snow over two days during a late winter storm. With temperatures refusing to climb above freezing, everything shut down and we were stranded for a week. With a forecast of a hundred-year storm, I purchased a chainsaw and in lieu of a truck, a wheelbarrow. “Barrowing” loads of wood sure made me miss my old Chevy. At least, we wouldn’t freeze to death if we lost power.

Our little piece of heaven is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains at the foot of what is known as the Blue Ridge Escarpment, or according to my Funk and Wagnall’s “a long, steep slope, especially one at the edge of a plateau or separating areas of land at different heights.” We sit a little over twelve hundred feet above sea level and our land rises to about fifteen hundred feet behind us. We don’t get a lot of snow at twelve hundred feet compared to what we get at fifteen and, in contrast to our northern brethren, even our big snows are lacking. Before you Damn Yankees snicker just understand seventeen inches of snow in South Carolina is like six feet of snow in Buffalo. Linda and I actually live in an area known as the Thermal Belt that is, for some reason not understood by me, a little warmer than the surrounding areas. We usually have to go “in search of snow” because of the extra warmth we receive. Again let me say it will still get cold! It especially gets cold in an old 1880’s farm house that had insulation blown into the walls about 1956. Sixty years later, insulation or not, in winter the house is still…BURRRRR!

Seventeen inches of snow closes everything in South Carolina…okay two inches will close us down like Blue Laws on a Sunday. The mere hint of snow or ice sends people into a frenzy of shopping…for milk and bread. At one time there was a theory suggesting that the dairy farmers had entered into some type of cabal with the weather services to boost milk sales. “Just sayin’!” I mean… why not a frenzy of canned goods buying? Sardines will last. With sardines, crackers and mustard I’m good for a while, especially if you replace the milk with beer or Jack Daniels. Should you not also see an increase in peanut butter and toilet paper sales?

In a song by Jimmy Buffett, “Boat Drinks,” the singer laments the cold weather and being stuck watching a hockey match. “I just shot six holes in my freezer; I think I’ve got cabin fever.” I understood the feeling. With three puppies, Linda and a TV that received only two channels “some” of the time, my incarceration was fun…for about forty-eight hours. Even hiking in the snow got old since I had forgotten to get insulated and waterproof boots. After five days of this misery, I was willing to try anything; however, with a Volkswagen bug and a Thunderbird our options were limited. We found out that the little VW got around in the snow pretty well once it could clear the drifts. I swore I would never be without four-wheel drive again and haven’t been since! Funny thing, after I bought it, I have needed it only once…for snow. But I must confess that I do use it often to haul wood…lots and lots of wood.

WORK TO BE DONE

Harry Smith, the longtime NBC journalist, presented a report this past Sunday morning recognizing the impact of Dr. Martin Luther King as we celebrate his birthday. If Harry’s intent was to get people to think he was successful in at least one case. He asked, and this is not a direct quote but what I heard, “If Dr. King was still alive today what would he think about present condition of Civil Rights in the United States?”

I grew up “white” in the Fifties and Sixties in the South. Like most preteens or teenagers, I wasn’t a particularly socially aware person and believe I was somewhat sheltered from the realities of race relations by both my family and the area I grew up in…or it could have been my own form of “white privilege” rearing its head. I have very vivid memories of the stories that played out on our black and white RCA. School desegregation in Little Rock, Freedom Rider buses burning in Anniston and nonviolent marches and protest, turning violent in far off places like Selma. I remember wondering why were the white folk so angry? One outcome was to make me wonder if I should have been angry to.

Throughout these times, filling my TV screen, Martin Luther King was quite visible and the center of much of what was going on. I remember a man with a powerful, yet soft baritone voice and a slow Southern drawl to go with it. I would not fully comprehend the full power of his voice or his personage until I watched a History Channel presentation on his “I HAVE A DREAM” speech, too many years later, as I actually tried to explain the impact and power of his words to a “lily white” US History class more than twenty years after his death. Sometimes I truly find myself quite late to the dance.

As hard as he worked to promote positive social change, I also remember the furor created when John Conyers and Edward Brooke co-authored a bill to recognize King’s birthday as a holiday. It would be fiercely opposed not only in the South, as one might expect, but also in states like Arizona. Arguments against its recognition included King’s beliefs on “Marxism or Communism” and his stance against the Viet Nam War along with personal attacks that I won’t speak to. South Carolina, my home state, would be the last to recognize it in 2000. I really don’t have to wonder why?

As I finally return to Smith’s question, I would believe Dr. King would be disappointed. He would recognize there has been some improvement in “individual” race relations but would find we still have a framework in place that is systematically discriminatory toward large numbers of our population. I believe he would say that we have lost ground overall and become less willing to cause any type of meaningful change. I also believe Dr. King would point a finger directly at our government shenanigans starting with a President who should have done more for race relations and trailing down to a Congress that would not let him. Dr. King’s biggest disappointment, however, would be would be reserved for “We the People” because we are ALL still “judged by the color of (our) skin,” (rather than) “by the content of (our) character.” I would also add judged by our creed, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, and lately our political orientation. Like Harry Smith, I believe Dr. King would say “There is much more work to be done.”