Truth….

I was once asked to run for public office…not a high office…it was the county planning commission during the days of “Save Our Saluda.”  While flattered, I didn’t have to ponder running for even an instant.  “No way, no how!”  My refusal wasn’t that I didn’t care about the Saluda River or our environment.  I do and attempt to be a good steward of the environment I live in…or on.

My reason for turning the opportunity down was primarily what has played out in the news for the previous week(s), on social media and what will be played out in the tarnished halls of the Senate today (Thursday).

I feared copious amounts of dirty laundry might be made visible from the drying line that was my previous life.  I also admit to being lazy and somewhat apolitical at the time but my laziness and apoliticalism (word?) paled in comparison to what I perceived was my lack of morality from my rebellious twenties…and thirties.  When it came to rebellion I was a late bloomer.

Today there will be a hearing in the halls of the Senate, in fact, it has already begun as I write this.  The hearing won’t be for some low-level public office but for the highest court in the land.  At the center is a man accused of sexual assault thirty-five years after the fact.  That is worrisome.  Worrisome because thirty-five years ago I would have been a year away from enlightenment…and hopefully, atonement.

Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged dirty laundry will be displayed along with Christine Blasely Ford’s.  What will not be displayed are the facts.  The hearing will simply be “he said, she said” proposition at best.  No corroborative testimony will be offered.  On social media, both participants will be crucified along party lines and the outcome will have no effect on the confirmation vote to come.  My cynicism is showing.

Worse, I believe, the conclusions we arrive at today will be the same conclusions we had when we began the day…conclusions partly arrived at by our own personal cognitive dissonance and subject to party affiliation.  Conclusions that have little to do with the actual truth.

Blame will be laid, one’s sides blame will be different than the other’s and we will still be just as divided when this day ends as we were when it began.

A microcosm of the sorry state of politics and society in the United States today?  The outcome will be about the hypocrisy of the people in the room, those who support them and those who simply bought into a specific party line.  The idea that the only truth that matters is the truth you believe in.  The issue is partisan hypocrisy and neither group is without blame.  Truth is the biggest loser.  Whose truth I wonder?  When this day is over I still will not know.

The image is from The Foundation of Economic Education at https://fee.org/articles/the-media-and-trump-are-both-to-blame-for-the-death-of-truth/

Further musings by Don Miller can be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

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Calliope of Lights

I awoke from a deep sleep, my bladder bursting, hustling me out of my warm and comfortable bed.  It was three hours ’til dawn but deep down I knew my sleep was over for the night.

I tried to write but my block stopped me cold, a book to read maybe?  Some real writer to motivate me.  The words on James Lee Burke’s pages didn’t seem to catch my interest.  I knew it wasn’t Burke…it was me.

With Dish’s Top 250 how can you find nothing to pique your interest on TV?  It wasn’t Dish…or Netflix and Amazon Prime…it was me…and the infomercials about “CrepErase.”  Anyone remember “Psychic Friends?”

I was up and antsy staring at the darkness from my French doors.  There was still two hours before the break of dawn.  My bride was still asleep, her puppies protecting her, blocking anyone’s path to the bed.  I sure did not want to wake her, stumbling into something in the dark.

I decided to do what I had done during the years I was a contributing member of society…the days before I retired.  When I taught, I ran or walked in the darkness before school, from five until six-thirty every morning.  I don’t run any longer thanks to arthritic knees, but I do walk, and it seemed “there is no time like the present.”

The light from my headlamp reflected back into my eyes as the mist swirled, the road as dead and silent as the inside of a coffin.  I shuttered a bit as goosebumps chased each other over my body.  The mist was closing in on me and quite eery.  As my pathway rose to the ridge and highway above, the mist seemed to clear allowing me to observe a light show I had somehow forgotten.

Droplets of dew hung from the greenery lining the sides of the road and showed all the colors of the rainbow as I walked past illuminating them.  Each little droplet acted as its own prism.  Tiny stars twinkling red, green, yellow and a pale blue.  It was as if Christmas had come early along with a birthday celebration.

An orb spider had strung her web across my path and it appeared festooned with diamonds.  The large arachnid sat in the middle of her glittering domain, choosing to sit on her tiara rather than wear it.   I ducked to keep from disturbing the web and Miss Spider.

A leopard frog froze in the beam of my light reminding me of a previous predawn walk at the lake at Lookup.  Dozens of frogs lined up on the lake path, facing the lake in hopes breakfast would fly by.  Their yellow-orange eyes glowing in the beam of my spotlight along with their black, green and yellow patterns.

There were other glints of light, some that moved.  I looked closely at a limb and the greenish mote of light reflecting from it…an insect of some type, tiny with pale white legs and a greenish exoskeleton.  I had moved too close to see the twinkle and backed away to make sure it was real and still there.

I reminded myself of a walk on a moonless, predawn hike during my former life.  As the light on my head bounced from side to side I saw an unfamiliar, heart-shaped flower reflecting in the distance.  Reflecting white in the grass, the “flower” was heart-shaped and looked as if there were two stamens instead of one.  As I moved closer to examine it, the flower moved and the stamens blazed orange-red back at me.  It was the tiny face of a very young possum.  It looked at me with no fear or maybe it was simply blinded by the light.  I briefly worried about its mother until I heard a rustling in the dry leaves beyond the grass.  Mom was still close by, her own eyes blazing in my lamp, and I decided I would make sure I wasn’t close by.

There was a type of harmony to the lights.  So different, yet fitting together like a symphony…a symphony of light rather than sound.  Calliope was the Greek muse presiding over poetry and eloquence, known for her harmonious voice.  I am neither poetic or eloquent and my singing voice is certainly not harmonious.  I hope Calliope doesn’t mind me thinking of her as I think of my own calliope of light.

I will pay for my early morning later in the day, but the price of admission was worth it.  I believe I might do it again tomorrow…maybe I’ll just change my schedule to accommodate more of them.

Don Miller writes on a variety of subjects.  To visit his author’s page go to https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from http://alistairduncan.co.uk/portfolio/possibility

Mudslides, the Bakkers and “Murphy in the Morning”

 

With the discussion of mudslides in the mountains above us triggered by Hurricane Florence, I went sideways on a pig trail that led back in time to Charlotte’s BIG WAYS RADIO in the mid-Seventies and their irreverent morning personality, Robert Murphy.  A focus for Murphy and sidekick Larry Sprinkle was his “PASS THE LOOT” Club, a parody of Jim Bakker’s PTL Club, short for “Praise the Lord” Club.

One of their primary targets was Bakker’s heavily made-up wife, Tammy Faye Bakker.  Made-up as in make-up.  Murphy’s irreverent parodies gave me pause to not only laugh but to self-examine as well.  Some of my examinations made me wonder why I might be smelling burning sulfur.

So how did possible mudslides being forecasts lead me to Robert Murphy’s “Murphy in the Morning”, Jim Bakker and his wife Tammy Faye?  Patience, sometimes pig trails a slow going.

For six years Murphy used humor and parody to poke fun at the locals with characters such as The Great Dildoni and skits including Battlestar Gastonia and Another World-Waxhaw.  He seemed to take delight in railing against the extravagance and rumors of shady business activities emanating from Bakker’s Heritage USA, a Charismatic Christian empire including but was not limited to, a satellite cable Christian network, a family theme park and an air-conditioned dog house for Tammy Faye’s fur babies.

Murphy’s main character, The Reverend Billy Takker would create ways to separate people from their money in the name of the Lord, from selling Indulgences to forecasting worldwide catastrophes, including the end of the world, which only he could put off…for a monetary donation of course.

One episode, causing me to blow coffee through my nose, involved “A catastrophe of Biblical proportions” occurring when Tammy Takker’s copiously applied make-up slid off her face blocking the local interstate.  See, patience is a virtue and I got there…it was a pig trail after all.

Murphy and Sprinkle would continue to parody Jim and Tammy until facts became stranger than fiction and a real sexual and financial scandal rocked Heritage USA forcing Bakker out of the PTL Club and Tammy’s bedroom.

Murphy, his mission accomplished, would leave Big Ways and Charlotte for a fifty-year career, and a big paycheck, in radio in Chicago.  I miss him.

This post should not be taken as a minimalization of the danger from mudslides…or charismatic Christianity.  I’m doing neither.  It is just the way my broken mind works and includes a belief that my God is a humorous God who gets a good laugh from parodies calling out those who prey on believers for the sake of money.   As a Christ follower, I believe we need more Murphys and fewer Bakkers.

While Tammy Faye has gone on to collect her just desserts, Jim is still actively separating believers from their money.  He sells “survival” food to his audience on the syndicated Jim Bakker Show in preparation for the rapture.  I didn’t realize we would need to pack a lunch.

For an example of Murphy spoofing the PTL Club, click the link below.

https://youtu.be/7QJYjHVgLUI

 

Don Miller primarily writes nonfiction, “Things that bother him so”, and can be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM.

The image of Jim and Tammy Faye http://www.whosdatedwho.com/dating/jim-bakker-and-tammy-faye-bakker

A FLOOD OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS

Excerpt fromThrough the Front Gate.  With the drowning we are receiving from Hurricane Florence, I thought about a flood and the weather “bullets” we have dodged here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Enjoy.

We are fifteen feet or more above the closest water, a shallow stream, but we are drowning.  I had an idea how the victims of sinking ships felt as they fought their way to the upper decks, in the dark as a river of water hit them in the face.  According to legend, a ragtime band played “Nearer My God to Thee” as the Titanic went to her watery grave taking some fifteen hundred passengers and crew with her.  The good news is that there were only two of us drowning.  The bad?  Linda Gail was singing hymns and one could have been “Nearer My God to Thee.”  (Actually, the band probably played “Autumn” but that doesn’t fit my story does it?)

Over our thirty years living at “Hemlock Hills” we’ve lived through bad weather and managed to dodge a few bullets…or tornadoes.  Not long after we moved in a twister took down a huge pecan tree which in turn took down several black walnuts along with the power to the house.  I had noted how green the clouds were and how calm, yet oppressive the air felt right before Linda Gail and I, along with three terrified puppies, made for the “perceived” safety of our hallway.

The pecan landed close enough to the house that we just stood outside shaking our heads in disbelief.  A few days later an ancient black walnut weakened by the storm fell into Highway 11 taking our power again before blocking the highway for several hours.  We sold the downed trees for the cost of removal to a self-employed contractor friend who, a couple of years later, sold them back to us in the form of flooring, cabinets, and countertops when he was hired to renovate.  Funny, I remember paying a lot more for the wood we got back than he paid for the trees originally.

Speaking of renovations, the day before ours was to begin we had a particularly violent thunderstorm that seemed to send lightning bolts bouncing off of our metal roof but never knocked off our power.  After a power outage, I always had to go prime our old pump.  I couldn’t understand why we had no water and remember repeating a silent prayer, “Lord please don’t let it be a lightning strike” over and over again as I made my way into the woods.  Sometimes you get exactly what you ask for.  The stream that fed our cistern came out of the ground from under a huge oak tree before being captured in a brick cistern.  A tornado twisted the old oak into kindling but not before landing it on top of our pump house and cistern, crushing them both.  Renovations were delayed for two weeks as we drilled a new well…one a bit closer to the house that never needs priming.

A third tornado hit us in 2012 and again we sorta dodged a bullet.  I went out to get my bike off of my car and noticed how still and tropical the air was along with the green-tinted clouds, “Deja vu” again.  I heard the sound of a freight train coming over the mountain behind us and ran for cover.  The wind portion of the storm was over in about thirty seconds although it rained for several hours.  We had dozens of trees down in the ravine behind us but only two were in the yard and only one had hit anything important, an outer building opened up like a tin can.  Luckily most of the contents were unhurt but Linda Gail was again singing hymns.  We didn’t even know we had been hit until the next morning when our puppies began to bring trash in from a flattened trash can.  My neighbor and nearby Lookup Lodge were hit much harder.

As scary as those tornadoes were, they were not as scary as the Great Flood of 2001.  This summer day was like any other summer day; hot, humid with air so heavy it seemed to envelop you like a wet, wool blanket.  In the nineties, both the temperature and humidity, it was the day that we were having our roof replaced.  The old metal shingles were in bad shape and we were replacing them to match the green metal sheets on the newer addition.  Big mistake.

The “good old boy” crew hired to do the job did not get finished…probably too many water breaks but that is unfair.  Before leaving for the day, they covered the open part of the roof with tarps assuring us they would be back first thing in the morning not knowing that first thing in the morning would be about one A.M. and also not knowing we were about to get six inches of thunderstorm driven rain in FIFTEEN MINUTES!  I hope it was the storm of the century because if it was not….

We learned the difference between “water proof” and “water resistant” that night but in all fairness to “water resistant,” I don’t think “water proof” could have withstood enough water to fill a swimming pool dumped on top of your house all at once.  I was also reminded how cool “under fire” Linda Gail is…despite singing “Shall We Gather at the River” or “Showers of Blessing.”  I remember dropping the “ladder” that leads to the attic and getting a face full of wind-driven rainwater for my trouble.  Over the course of the next “lifetime”, we yelled at each other angrily, cried, and alternately cursed then prayed.  Somehow we got the attic contents moved to the dry side of the attic and tarps down over the floor.  All the while Linda Gail sang hymns while looking like a drowned rat.

Her hymn singing and praying must have worked because as I look back into the fog of time, the damage was minimal.  Insulation gets really yucky when it gets wet and has to be removed, the wall paper in Ashley’s upstairs bedroom had to be redone in places and there are still water stains on the old parlor walls underneath.  We call it character.

I’m sure the old blown insulation washed to the bottom of the exterior walls.  The “good old” boys from Pickens rushed back and by two AM had “waterproof” tarps in place that they had purchased from an all-night Walmart.  I smile at the memory of my wife, mad as a “wet hen” at the “boys” one moment, full of concern and fear the next, as they battled high winds, lightning, and thunder, in the dark and on a metal roof while getting the new tarps into place.  I also smile at the “hang dog” looks and repeated apologies from the “good old” boys from Pickens.

I am experiencing this “flood” of memories because we are having a heavy late afternoon thunderstorm.  The last time I went outside I knew we were primed to get one.  Hot and humid with the air full of mosquitos, the only question was when not if.

Our “weather dog,” Tilly, is letting us know a storm is eminent.  Lightning is crackling, thunder booming and a puppy dog shivering as Linda Gail sings to her.  No hymn this time, it’s more along the lines of “Hush Little Puppy Don’t You Cry.”  We have dodged a bullet again.  No high winds or hail, just copious amounts of rain.  I see I have to clean out a gutter tomorrow morning.  I am happy not to be embracing Linda Gail while saying “You know It could have been much worse.”

For more musings please go to Don Miller’s author’s page  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Through the Front Gate

The image came from http://www.mdpparish.com/2014/09/stem-cell-issue-throws-cold-water-on-ice-bucket-challenge/ who probably got it from somewhere else.

Knocked your Noggin’

 

“Watch your head!” followed by “Oops! Knocked your noggin’.”  My beloved says it a dozen times a day…mostly to our blind puppy dogs…but sometimes to me.  With blind puppy dogs, we have had to “puppy proof” all the sharp edges inside and outside our old farmhouse.  Feed bags filled with feed bags to guard and cushion sharp corners or narrow pasteboard boxes turned on their side to keep lost puppies from wandering where they shouldn’t.  I should probably just dress in bubble wrap.

The puppies, Maddie and Tilly, do well considering their disability.  Much better than their master.  I have my vision and still run into things.  I seem to bark my shins or forehead with an increasing frequency.

Coming in and removing my cap, I hear, “What did you do to your head?”  My beloved’s voice is fraught with faux concern, a mischievous grin plays on her lips and an impish twinkle flashes from her hazel eyes.

I’ll have none of it, “You know damn well I scrapped it on your cartop day before yesterday.  It’s just taken this long to scab over.”

If it had not been her canvas convertible top, it would have been something else.  It seems as my birthdays have increased and the hair on my head has decreased I can’t keep my scalp intact and unmarred.  Some mornings I awake and, while brushing my “tooth”, find I have been mugged during the night if the mirror is to be believed.  “Where the hell did that come from?”

I am my father’s son and he and WKRP’s Les Nessman could have been brothers.  Dad would come in from work wearing a band-aid, bandage or dressing on something, usually on his nose or forehead.  The wounded area was usually somewhere not easily camouflaged and in a different spot from the previous one.

Working with him at Springs Mills during my high school days I remember an early morning shift after a late-night football game.  I had dragged a beaten and bruised body into work and found myself emptying quill boxes, quill being the bobbins after they had been emptied of tread.  It was a job I could do on autopilot but probably shouldn’t have.  My father would agree.

I pushed a quill buggy up and down the long allies of looms working myself into a sweaty rhythm.  Push the buggy down the ally, stop, turn to the right, pull out the heavy metal box, carefully empty it into the quill buggy, carefully slam the box back into the loom, turn to the left and repeat.  Yep, autopilot…until you hit something that shouldn’t be there.

If I had been paying attention I would have seen him sprawled in the ally in front of me, but I was on autopilot.  The buggy bounced back at me, both startling me and waking me from my walking nap.  I was soon facing an angry father with blood dripping down his face.  I had startled him as he worked under the loom causing him to sit up quickly.

There are a lot of sharp and hard angles with metal gears under a loom.  Ernest’s forehead had found one and blood was already dripping down his nose…”Oops! Knocked your noggin’” never came to my mind.  The gear teeth left an ugly mark until covered by his pre “Les Nessman” band-aid.

Now, where did I put those band-aids?  I’m going out to work on my tractor.  I’m sure I’ll need one before the day is done.

The image is of Les Nessman sporting his trademark band-aid from the late Seventies comedy series WKRP in Cinncinati.

For more musings by Don Miller https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM