Our Hypocrisy

I am laughing to keep from crying.  People arguing why one side is less or more hypocritical than another side.  A strange Bud Light commercial with old white men in business suits yelling “Taste Great! Less Filling!”

To my unsophisticated taste buds, the reduction in calories is not worth the shitty taste light beer leaves in my mouth.  I feel the same way about arguments involving hypocrisy between those of the left and those of the right.  It’s not worth the shitty taste I get…but yet, here I am biting down on a turd.

The bad taste is about John McCain.  In death, a man of the right who is suddenly embraced by the left because he stood up to Donald Trump and now, maligned by the certain members of the right for the same reason.

Let me first admit to my own hypocrisy.  Anyone in politics standing up to Donald Trump gets my vote…well, like Doc Holiday, ‘My hypocrisy only goes so far’, I have no respect for Omarosa.

McCain?  I thought very little about McCain until he ran for the countries highest position…with Sara Palin.  Despite what I considered to be a poor choice in running mate, he intrigued me. Part of the intrigue was his service record during the Viet Nam War.  If not a hero, as some on the right are NOW trying to convince me, a heroic man at the very least.  I almost voted for him despite his running mate.

A heroic man in one respect and just a man in the other.  Heroic to have survived almost six years as a prisoner of war and yet somewhat prone to bad mistakes or at least bad luck.  He did survive five crashed airplanes in his career.

He was a war hawk from a military family and supported many military ‘excursions’ that I now deem misguided.  Again, my hypocrisy is showing.  At the time, I might have supported such excursions but now am blessed with perfect twenty-twenty hindsight.  As I have moved into the Autumn of my time, I am more prone to supporting peace over action.

As soon as McCain passed, maybe sooner, articles surfaced maligning McCain’s service record, both in the military and in Congress.  Rumors of Songbird, Presidential pardons, and causing a fire that cost one hundred and thirty-three lives were paraded over social media.  Many were shared by ardent Trump supporters, others by people I considered the middle of the roaders.  Regardless, they were rumors I’ve found no truth in.

Not so long ago, these were rumors supported and pushed by the left when McCain ran for Presidency and defended as “nothing but poppycock” by the right.  Fast forward.  These same rumors are NOW supported and pushed by certain members of the right and NOW defended as “nothing but poppycock” by the left.  Our hypocrisy has come full circle it would seem, but there is still little if any credibility to many allegations being circulated.

Even after saying, “I like people who weren’t captured,” our President made a tactical withdrawal by saying, “I respect his service to the country.”  I’m not sure this qualifies as hypocrisy but Mr. Trump first questioned Mr. McCain’s heroism publicly in 1999 despite having never having served himself…just like me, although I never sought or paid for deferments.  Is it hypocritical of me to say that?  If it is, I will wear it.

Our heroes don’t walk on water.  Some are heroes due to extreme bravery at the moment, others because of a lifetime of service.  They are all mere mortals prone to making mistakes in judgment, morality or ethics…just like me and I’m not the least bit heroic.  Just like you, just like anyone regardless of political affiliation.  Should we focus on heroic efforts without ignoring faults and missteps or should we just tell the truth?  Should we ignore our own hypocrisy while focusing on the hypocrisy of others?

I’m a retired history teacher and while I’ve allowed myself to be fooled, I do have a love affair with the truth…as long as it is the truth about someone else.  “My hypocrisy knows no bounds” I guess.  Maybe I’m choosing to believe the good about, or in, John McCain.  I believe there was a great deal of good to be found.

For more of Don Miller’s “stuff” that bothers him so… https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Waiting for Indian Summer

 

We are four days past the end of the “Dog Days” of summer…the calendar lies!  The “Dog Days” are the hot, humid, sultry, thunderstorm ridden days following the rise of Sirius the Dog Star.  I didn’t tell my puppy dogs the Dog Days were over, they would have thought I was lying.

In the foothills of the Blue Ridge it appears thirty-degree temperature swings with a good chance on thunderstorms by the middle of the week. Oh my! Bless your heart Mother Nature.  The arrow grass is a little worse from wear.

We had a small dose of fall like weather last week which makes this blast of heat and humidity hard to handle.  We are a month, minus four days, from the first day of fall…if we actually have a fall this year.  I really don’t want to wish my life away, but….  Later, after our first frost, there will be Indian Summer.

There was still a hint of fall this morning as I walked my three point two miles.  Sixty-eight degrees and a very light breeze originating from the north as I walked around Lookup Lake.  No leaves are changing, we are six weeks or so away from the start of that.  The temperature had risen quickly by the time I returned.  The yucca didn’t seem to mind the heat.

Despite the heat, butterflies were working “like crazy” on the yellow, gold or purple wild flowers marking my path.  A sure sign they know their time is limited.  Bees and small wasps seemed to be in frantic mode working on my woody hydrangea.  And those damn little bastard yellow jackets…one got me on the inside of my thigh.  Nothing on the wild daisy?

My path was blocked by spider webs as I made my way around the lake.  Sorry Mr. Orb Spider, I just wasn’t paying attention.  You’ve caught me, but I don’t think I’ll let you eat me.  I know you will build another web, you do so daily, but I hate to make your work harder.  I didn’t appreciate your webs until I found out you ate mosquitoes.

There are other colors too, reds, purples and whites.  Wild plants I’m unfamiliar with and the sickly-sweet smell of purple and white kudzu blooms.  It seems nothing can deter kudzu, not even the web worms covering one group of blooms.

I have no red tomatoes or yellow corn; my vegetables are done for the season.  I did notice my muscadine grapes were turning from green to bronze.  Soon they will turn a dull purple and it will be time for muscadine hull pie.  Yum!

Such is life.  Change is inevitable.  I am aware of life’s changes every time I glance in a mirror or stiffly crawl out of bed.  Like the changes in season I hope to make it to Indian Summer myself.

Image of the Coot, and all other images were taken by an “Old Coot” using his Android phone.  I’m sure you thought I was a professional…chortle, chortle.

More of Don Miller’s musings can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Musings of a Retired Teacher

“It would seem that you have no useful skill or talent whatsoever,” he said. “Have you thought of going into teaching?” ― Terry Pratchett, Mort

The quote comes from a fantasy novel written by Terry Pratchett in 1986 and took me on one of those silly pig trails I sometimes travel down.  Twisting and winding through briar patches and blackberry brambles, my trail is strewn with rocks and roots just waiting to trip me or rip me to shreds…just like teaching.

Tomorrow, around the foothills of the Blue Ridge, teachers will report to their schools for their first day with students.  The mushy portion of my brain will fool me into thinking I should be there with them.

I taught full time for forty years.  Almost a half years’ worth of teacher workdays, days that we really got little work done as it related to the students we would meet on our first day.  In-services on dress codes, discipline, bloodborne pathogens, safety issues, textbooks, teacher accountability, etc.  I don’t want to even imagine what was discussed in this year’s in-services.  Protecting your students in an active shooter situation?  No, I don’t wish to imagine.

Forty-first days of school.  Conservatively, some five thousand smiling faces waiting for me to impart knowledge and wisdom in an interesting, engrossing and riveting way…and be a role model, mentor and in many cases a parental figure.  Another three first days as I taught part-time for three years as a long-term sub.  Even though I’m beginning my third year of full retirement it would be ridiculous to believe I wouldn’t think I should be somewhere at eight o’clock or so tomorrow morning.  Agreed?

Teachers, too, will be smiling as they welcome their new students, despite their apprehensions.  If they are not smiling they should probably think about another profession.  I would say apprehension would be normal too.  I remember forty-three sleep disturbed nights the day before my first day with students as both my apprehension and excitement built.

I worry about my teaching friends and peers.  So much written about public education is negative…and unwarranted.  I’m not sure where education is headed, or society.  I just know teachers are called on to be much more than just teachers, confidants, mentors and parental figures in our modern world…and due to teacher accountability, teaching to the standards and testing, less time to be “everything” to those children…especially those who need it the most.  And yet, teachers are maligned in so many ways by people who have no clue or with multiple axes to grind.  I “summon” you to use such sentiments as your “battle standard.”

There is a reason, or are reasons, why we are experiencing teacher shortages and rapid teacher burn out.  When teachers need more planning and collaborative time they seem to be getting less.  With shortages in numbers of teachers, class sizes can only go up, taxing people who are only human even more.

First-year teachers? Oh my god, your student teaching experience has not prepared you for what you are about to face.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and experienced teachers, please offer it.  Hang in there, teachers have had to learn on the job since there was the first teacher.  If you can survive until Christmas, you’ve got it made…tee, he, he.

In my first attempt at writing badly I shared the following quote from Jim Henson of Kermit fame, “[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”  While I admit to not always knowing what I was, since my retirement from teaching I’ve found the quote to be true.  I wish I had realized such my first year and made the quote my mantra.  I challenge you to remember this quote.

Teaching is much more than teaching and I miss it every day…well, I miss the students every day.  Keep yourself grounded in the knowledge that it’s not teaching the three “R’s” or teaching to the test.  It is about teaching kids.  Don’t be afraid to get close to your students even though some won’t let you.  You will all be better because you tried.  Be proud of the path you have chosen.  I am proud of you all.

There is no greater joy than to run into a former student.  They always tell you, you were their favorite…even if you weren’t.

For more of Don Miller’s musings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Image from https://www.teepublic.com/t-shirt/2201031-retired-but-forever-a-teacher-at-heart-t-shirt

 

 

 

A TURN OF A KEY

 

Woolgathering doesn’t quite define it.  I wasn’t pleasantly lost in my thoughts…well…the triggering mechanism wasn’t pleasant.  Word came that a former player has died and then Aretha left us the next day.  Their deaths sent me down the metaphorical pig trails my wife often talks about.  I never met Aretha but Pat…Pat played for me and deserved better from his former coach.

I see him with his arms crossed over an ample belly, chin on his chest, his helmet cocked back on his head during a break in practice.  His head is cocked to the side as he listens to our diminutive offensive line coach pontificate.  They share a joke, both belly laughing and after a bit of back slapping went on about their business.  Seeing them in my mind is a prized memory.

He was a big youngster, playing offensive tackle, gregarious and fun-loving…except when he was trying to get in on the defensive side of the ball.  A pest with a huge grin enveloping his whole face, “Come on Coach Miller, I can do this.  I can make a play.”

He wasn’t the quickest kid, built for comfort not speed.  I tended to put runners on the defensive side, nasty folk who could fly to the ball…he wasn’t a runner…nor was he a bird.  He could be football nasty on occasion…and was.

Maybe I should have rethought my philosophy.  In a goal-line situation, we sent him in to add a bit of beef on the line of scrimmage and he came up with a fumble recovery.  I clearly see him running on to the field, chin and face mask jutting forward in determination, arms windmilling.  Smiling, I see him fist pumping in celebration as he took his place in what had become the offensive huddle.

His junior year we caught lightning in a bottle six times and had our hearts broken four.  The four losses were all heartbreakingly close and as their coach, I should have figured out a way to win a couple of them.  The last one cost us a trip to the playoffs.

Six and four was the best we could muster during my four-year tenure…back when I thought I was a football coach. There is much guilt, regret and now sorrow associated with those years.

He is gone, stolen from us in the middle of the night.  I’m still regretful…regretful I haven’t kept in contact. I forgot I coached kids, not football.  He and the rest of them deserved better because winning was never the only thing.

My pride was hurt and according to the Bible, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  I don’t know about the haughty spirit, but pride made me push the memories aside.  My “embarrassments” were placed in a mental “lockbox” and stored in a far corner of my mind.  I turned a key and walked away thinking it would hurt less.   “Out of sight, out of mind” meant the good recollections and warm feelings were locked away too.

There are too many good memories to hide them away…and too many good friends…the coaches and players.  People I should still be in touch with.  There is too little time to allow bad memories to overshadow the good.

Pat, I’m sorry it is too late for us.  I’m sorry about your beautiful family and their pain.  I know they are hurting.  I know too, they will have wonderful memories to fall back on when they are ready.

The key has turned and the lid has opened flooding me with memories.  The bad ones are still there but overshadowed by the good ones.  Bad memories can be handled when you have so many warm ones.

Rest in peace Pat knowing you will be missed…and adored.

The image was stolen from https://www.escapeyourfateup.com/store/p3/Multi-Room_Experience.html

For more of Don Miller’s musings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

TECHNOLOGY…THE DEVIL’S SPAWN

A word of caution to my teaching friends and peers who will soon return to the education wars.

“Please allow me to introduce myself

I’m a man of wealth and taste

I’ve been around for a long, long year

Stole many a man’s soul to waste”

“Sympathy for the Devil”-The Rolling Stones

 

The technology advances from writing on wet clay tablets to the Promethium Boards of today has been a great boom for teachers…except when it wasn’t.  There is always a learning curve for a teacher that continues to slope upward especially as it relates to students and how well they use or misuse technology.  For every website blocking program utilized, there is a technology savvy student ready, willing and able to hack it.

With the invention and use of iPhones, technology abuse is at an all-time high with little chance of thwarting it.  Teachers, on the other hand, have had trouble dealing with technology even when it was something as old school as the use of video.

It is true that the “best-laid plans of mice and men sometimes go asunder”.  During the late Seventies or early Eighties, teachers and coaches, along with the rest of the world, made the transition from eight and sixteen-millimeter film to video equipment.  First Beta and then VHS, the video was a great teaching tool and we not only used in the classroom but also used it to film practices and games.  What made it a great tool was that it was easy to use, instantaneous and would provide immediate feedback.  If it was easy to use, it was also easy to abuse.  At a nearby high school, teaching and tool would take on a new meaning.

A scrimmage had been videotaped and afterward the video camera, with scrimmage tape still installed, was placed in the locker room.  One of the team clowns, we all have had them, decided that it would be humorous to turn on the video camera and point it at the entrance to the shower room, not realizing that it was taping on the end of the scrimmage video.  Bozo further complicated his crime by telling people that it was taping.  Boys being boys, many decided to display their man parts by shaking and twirling, some even attempting to make one man part twirl in one direction and others twirl in another.  All of this could have been considered stupid and innocent fun but sometimes reality rears its ugly head, pun intended.

The coaching staff watched and graded the video, showed it to the team and did the normal film breakdown associated with high school football.  Each time the film was viewed, as soon as the last play was shown the video would be stopped and rewound, never showing the innocent but stupid fun.  That was until the video camera and tape found its way into Ms. Crump’s senior public speaking class.

The video equipment had been purchased from the library budget and was to be shared with any teacher who wanted to use it when not being utilized by the athletic department.  Ms. Crump, a very innovative teacher, decided it would be a good idea to video her classes’ first attempts at speech making and then critique it during the class.  It would have been a better idea to have used a fresh videotape rather than recording over the previously mentioned scrimmage, but she was using what she had been sent.

I can only imagine the class’s reaction to “Little Johnny” holding his man part and pointing it right at the camera while yelling “S&*k my d@#$!” after the final speech ran out.  I don’t know if they had to resuscitate Ms. Crump or not, but I do know that the powers tried unsuccessfully to fire the head football coach.  I don’t know if “Little Johnny” got any takers or not.

In a related story, there was a much respected English teacher, who for years had shown the same version of Macbeth to her English classes. She would go to the local video store, rent it for a day to show to her classes.  There is a pornographic version of the same film and no I have not seen it.  I do know Lady Macbeth spends most of the film “au natural”.

Someone at the local video rental accidentally, I hope, placed the porn version in the original PG version’s sleeve.  We all learned a valuable lesson that day; preview all videos to be shown during class no matter how many times you have shown it previous.  Popcorn anyone?

Excerpt from “Winning was Never the Only Thing….” which may be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Image from https://drawception.com/game/Xwb3Ectqd9/nerdy-demon/

The Dark Side

 

The new school year is just around the corner and I find myself feeling as if I should be somewhere other than sitting in my recliner typing this.  I expect the feeling will pass but my thoughts are on the teachers who will soon be welcoming students into their classrooms and those students themselves.

With all the political debate over private and public education, South Carolina’s dismal ranking, teacher pay, House Bill 610, vouchers and the like, I wondered if I was just lucky and somehow caught lightning in a bottle late in my career as I ventured over to the “dark side.”… to a charter school.

A traditional public-school teacher my entire career, I had not been a supporter of the charter school programs, considering them to be havens for the elitist and entitled offsprings of parents who “Didn’t want THEIR kids going to school with those other kids.”

I was confusing charter schools with elitist and entitled private schools like…I’ll let you fill in that blank.  I also believed charter schools were just the educational program “de jure” and, like dozens of other “innovations” I had taught through, would eventually run their course and disappear from the landscape of education.  I was wrong…and rightly so.

One might ask if I was so against the charter school programs, why was I teaching in one?  I wanted a job.  I had retired six years previous and had enrolled myself into the Teacher and Employee Retention Program, TERI for short, which allowed me to teach after retirement while building a “nest egg” for later down my life’s pathway.  NO, IT IS NOT DOUBLE DIPPING!  My TERI had run out and I had become an “at-will” employee and could be terminated without cause which is exactly what happened.

My timing was not the best…it never has been.  With a declining economy, my district did not want to pay a thirty-nine-year veteran with multiple advanced degrees when they could pay a first-year teacher less than half of what I was making.  A sound fiscal policy?  My argument was of course, “I was worth every penny damn of my salary!”

In 2009 I found myself, along with six other teachers, a secretary, and an administrator, opening a new charter school, Greer Middle College Charter High School.  A mouth full.  I was teaching geography to 90 or so fresh-faced freshmen who might have been the most diverse, curious and interesting group I had ever taught.

Many of my students were refugees from “normal” public schools (If there is such a thing).  Some had attended Christian private schools their entire lives; others had been homeschooled and only a few had made it through the public-school system…unscathed and without some type of baggage.  We had a few who were combinations of all three and carrying steamer trunks loaded with baggage.

This was not what made them curious…and delightful.  They were all over the political and religious spectrum.  Third generation “flower power” hippies interacting with the religiously fundamental and politically way right.  I consider myself to be a political and religious moderate which put me far to their political left and religiously…a heathen despite my Methodist up bring and my public dunking into the Baptist Church.  Somehow, we all got along and there is a lesson there somewhere.

During a mandatory student-parental conference, one parent offered to pray for me because of my “liberal” belief that the earth was a bit older than her belief of six thousand years.  I thanked her and considering my many indiscretions decided to allow her to intercede on my behalf.

Due to a glitch, we opened our first year in a church far from what would eventually be our campus and in very tight quarters.  Sausage casing tight.  Everyone knew exactly what every other teacher was teaching, and which student was in trouble.

During my last five years of teaching, I would find I missed the comradery developed with those students and teachers in those close quarters.  It turned out not to be the dark side at all.

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

Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson can found at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

Image from https://steemit.com/funny/@lordvader/one-of-your-teachers-needs-to-learn-a-lesson

 

Liberal Christian is not an Oxymoron

 

I used to believe I was a moderate, a centrist (?)…hmmmm, maybe not…but a moderate independent none-the-less.  I knew I leaned left on certain issues, leaned left not the whole hog left.  I refuse to say social liberal, fiscal conservative because I can’t seem to keep my bank account balanced.  I am a social liberal.

I am being pushed farther and farther left though my beliefs haven’t changed much over the years.  As I have aged, if anything at all, I have found my way back to a path I had fallen off earlier.  The political spectrum has moved and taken religious beliefs with it…or is it the other way around?

Normally, a person’s religious beliefs are fine with me…provided no one loses a body part, gets disparaged or called an abomination while being publicly stoned…with a rock stoned.

I look at different “Christian” religions as “different flavors” of the same dessert.  Cherry cheesecake or strawberry cheesecake kinds of differences, both are tasty but different flavors of tasty.  Different religions?  Desserts from different ovens?  Yes, there are certain desserts I’m not going to eat and certain denominations I will not follow.

Two days ago, instead of cheesecake, I received a shaving cream pie to the face for expressing my belief that I am a left-leaning Christian.  The shaving cream is burning more than my eyes…a location considerably south of my eyes.

My anger has bothered me greatly, biblically (?), and for two days I have prayed for enlightenment and some anodyne to soothe the burning.  I’ve seen no light and my metaphorical Preparation H seems to be acting like Atomic Bomb.  Therefore, I will burden you, both of my faithful readers.

The comment I made was in regard to what I felt was spreading hatred and division, what I deemed to be hatred and division.  I typed, ”I am a left-leaning Christian, this (the meme) is simply not true about liberals.”  I thought but didn’t type, “Shouldn’t religion be about love and inclusion?”  I should have known better.  The responses immediately went sideways and took on a political slant…no a political jump off a cliff.

Had I left off the words “left-leaning” I would have gone unscathed, but that was my point.  I chose not to engage and barely survived being pummeled by “true believers’” welding social media generated “family Bibles.”  I turned off the notifications and whimpered off into the night.

Not what I was expecting but maybe I should have.  I shared a post about a fence post that started an argument over cement.  Maybe they were funnin’ me…maybe.

Is it just about abortion?  I was told in a different post, reasonably civil, that I was copping out for not basing my entire belief structure and political affiliation on one issue.  Maybe I am skirting the issue…but it is my belief structure and not my issue.  A belief structure involving not only black and white but subtle shades of grays.

I believe I can hate abortion and still believe it is not my right to dictate what a woman or a couple decide for themselves.  If that is copping out I’m not the least bit sorry.  I must answer to my God.  For me, it goes deeper than one issue…albeit,  a big issue.

A really, big issue…but so is war and supporting the death merchants who benefit from it.  So is the gun lobby and our highest percentage rating of gun deaths in the first world.  So is ignoring science for corporate greed while fouling the air and water my grandchildren will have to breath.  Allowing children to go hungry and without medical care while pharmaceutical corporations continue to stuff their offshore bank accounts.

What about an equal education for all?  One that not only teaches people to think but prepares all to compete in a MODERN world.  How do we treat our LGBT friends and their rights?  What are their civil rights?  Why has there been a rise in open hostility some have toward people of color and other religions?

Just some of the issues I discussed with myself as I walked Saturday morning.  There are others, but I only walked for ninety minutes.  I also discussed the question, “Is the other political side any better?”  For now, I say yes but will continue to ask for guidance…and a prescription to calm my anger.

I do not believe Liberal Christian is an oxymoron.  I believe people who say so are using religion to further divide a divided humanity.  Why would we want to do that…or who would want US to do that?  Do not all our Christian religions follow a Middle Eastern man who was, by every modern definition of liberal, a liberal Jew.  I just started to feel better.

For lighter fare try Don Miller at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

For romantic adventure try Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

Image from TheChristianLeft.Org and http://whatwouldjackdo.net/blog.html

GOOD NEIGHBORS

“Don’t throw stones at your neighbors if your own windows are glass”-Ben Franklin

After thirty years in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, we still haven’t met a lot of the local folk.  We aren’t anti-social…oh…maybe we are.  Since retiring, we have gotten better at meeting our neighbors but the people around here, the “my family has lived here for one hundred and fifty years” people, are a little slow to “warm up” and will look at “foreigners” with a “jaundiced eye” until you’ve been in the area for a while.  After nearly thirty years, our church family still refers to us as the “new couple” that moved in across from the Runyon’s old place…and the Runyon’s haven’t lived here in a decade or more.

Our “original” across the road neighbors, Farrell and Libby Runyon, were “interesting” in every GOOD way you could use the word.  Retired Baptist missionaries to Africa, our Methodist friends characterized them as “good Baptist brethren.”  With over forty years spent in the southern and western areas of Africa, the Runyons were a fount of information, some that could be applied to the “Dark Corner” where we lived.

During a conversation taking place in the middle of Dr. Runyon’s pasture, he periodically would raise his hands above his head.  After the fourth or fifth time, I could not control my curiosity.  “Dr. Runyon, what are you doing?”  “Keeping the gnats out of my face.”  To emphasize, he raised his arms and sure enough, the gnats not only left his face but mine too…and hovered around his armpits.  I was impressed…and concerned over Dr. Runyon’s personal hygiene…and my own as I apply this “jewel” of knowledge during the hot, humid and gnat filled days of summer.

Dr. Runyon also had the ability to make me feel like a fool…an easy task?  A beekeeper, one of his little minions took offense to me bush hogging too close to their hive and nailed me right on my upper lip.  During the ensuing conversation, as my lip swelled out past my nose, I asked the good doctor how they dealt with the “African” killer bees we had heard was invading the southern United States.  His comment?  “You know Don, all bees in Africa are ‘African’.”  Really?  Silly me.

One morning, after an explosive, expletive-laced argument with Linda Gail the evening before, she met Dr. Runyon at our mailboxes.  Gently and with great tact he informed her that “You know, sound really travels well in this little valley.”  A somewhat puzzled Linda walked to the house contemplating the significance of his comment when the consequences of arguing in our backyard fell on her, and later me, with the weight of the proverbial “ton of bricks.”  Oh my, he heard everything we said.

As good as the Runyons were, so was “Dodger,” but with “Dodger,” the ravages of an ill-lived life might have caught up with him.  He moved into a converted barn type building straight from Home Depot that was sitting in a clump of kudzu a quarter of a mile down Airline Road.  “Dodger” later moved his new girlfriend in and they cleared kudzu, planted flowers and attempted to build their little piece of the American Dream.  With no running water except what ran down the stream in front of their little mansion, they showered at the nearby park and used their outhouse for “other” needs.  Just like our mixed breed, Sassy Marie, Linda Gail adopted them but stopped short of inviting them into the yard to stay.

“Dodger” could be a fount of useful information…usually as it related to “folk” remedies and sometimes even better information if it was early in the day.  He taught us what to look for to treat poison ivy, jewelweed, a plant that grows almost as abundantly as poison ivy around our home.  He even brought Linda Gail a “tea” made from Yarrow to treat gastric issues.  We still use the jewelweed remedy but Linda Gail was a bit reluctant to try the Yarrow tea…as I was to sample his homebrew…smooooooooth.

“Dodger” had run out of luck and “gubment assistance” by the time we met and despite his best attempts, could not quite get his life together.  It wasn’t because he was lazy, the man worked harder than people who were being paid money…except when he was in his “cups.”  A former heavy equipment operator, his issues might have been the alcohol he made or begged off of his girlfriend and consumed at any time during the day or night.

I would say it was alcohol that betrayed his efforts.  “Dodger” had refined his inebriation to an art form, never “stumbling” drunk but not quite sober either.  When “not quite sober” he could talk the “horns off of a billy goat” and remember, I said he was always “not quite sober.”  I also don’t believe “Dodger” liked being told what to do even though he did do “handyman” projects for Linda Gail.  Seems she picks her part-time helpers according to who is the most interesting and needy.  I’m not sure what that says about me.

Hesiod, the Greek poet, once wrote, “A bad neighbor is a misfortune, as much as a good one is a blessing.”  We honestly don’t know about bad neighbors.

This piece was re-written from the book by Don Miller, “Through the Front Gate.” It and others may be purchased or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

If you are interested in an erotic, romantic adventure, you might be interested Don Miller writing as Lena Christianson.  Her site may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19