“Be the Man My Puppies Think I Am.”

For four of the previous five years, I’ve limped into the new year.  Physically for sure and mentally…maybe.  Recently I wondered if it might be tied to the trials and tribulations associated with the age I live in…or the life I’ve aged into.  “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”  Thanks, Matthew, the end is not yet but sometimes I believe I can see it from here and livin’ in the Age of Trump ain’t helpin’.

This is not about resolutions…I don’t think.  I don’t do resolutions…I do have ambitions like certain fitness goals, and once again I have fallen short as 2018 closes…as I did in 2017…as I did in 2016…. I’ve actually lost most of the weight I gained from my last bout with prednisone.  Unfortunately, that was an additional ten pounds on top of the ten pounds I originally wanted to lose…a net loss of…nothing.

My body just doesn’t absorb doughnut calories as well as it used to…could be that bone on bone rubbing in my knee slowing calorie absorption down.  It also keeps me from doing any kind of running so the “bucket list” marathon is probably out.

Back to the subject…if there is one.  I don’t do resolutions anymore, but if I did, I would use the trite, too often used, “Be the man my puppies think I am.” I am good to them, I treat them better than I treat my fellow man.  Not a bad thing…but not the best thing.  I realize I need to be a part of something bigger than me and my puppies…something I go out and do rather than just pointing my finger at it while stating the obvious, “There is something wrong there.  Someone should do something.”

Our world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket…I know there are many people suffering despite the “trickle down” we received.   My puppies don’t think their world is going to hell in a handbasket.  If Mommy Linda is around, their lives are pretty good.  If there is reincarnation, I want to come back as one of Mommy Linda’s puppy dogs.  Maybe I should treat the world like my puppy dogs.

I watch the people I interact with and if I watch closely enough, concentrate enough, it is easy to see there are still good people in this world…trying to do go things.  Their efforts transcend race, sexual orientation, politics, and religious affiliation.  I see what their love can accomplish…even on the microscopic level.

My best friend, Mike Hawkins, carries blankets around to give to the homeless he runs into…runs into on purpose.  He doesn’t just avert his eyes in hopes the panhandler won’t see him.  Hoping to be invisible to those less fortunate.

My brother, Steve Miller, saw a need and works to support a soup kitchen.  A soup kitchen that has expanded into its own building, feeding and clothing hundreds a week…making life just a bit more livable for those in need.

Church friends Leland and Emily Browder model what it means to be a follower of Christ and have passed on their beliefs of service to their God and humanity to their children and grandchildren.  Mission trips to foreign countries or foreign communities in their own country.  I give thanks to them and others.

In a climate breeding boorish behavior, an atmosphere extolling disrespect for those who you disagree with, when your humility is portrayed as a weakness rather than a strength, men, and women like Mike, Steve, Emily, and Leland go about their daily business of doing good while thumbing their noses at those who believe showing humanity or empathy for others are weaknesses…or that somehow “these others” deserve exactly what they are getting and deserve nothing from them.  Putting action to their words.

Watching their efforts has made me aware of my shortcomings as a caring and gracious human being.  It is time to get off the sidelines and quit watching.  We all need to quit spectating, get into the game and leave our political beliefs in the stands.

At a “meet for coffee on Friday” with Hawk, we met a guy.  Another older fart, just a smarter old fart.  “Forget about national and state-level stuff.  If you want to do something positive if you want to help if you really want to effect change, do it at the local level where it has the most effect.”

As I said last year about this time, I’m not going to attempt to start a movement, run for office or pontificate ad nauseum.    I’m just going to try and make a difference, one person at a time…for real this time.

If interested in donating or volunteering and live in the foothills of South Carolina, I suggest Daily Bread Ministries.  Their webpage may be found at https://www.greersoupkitchen.com/

The verse was Matthew 24.6 KJV

For more of Don Miller’s pontifications, you might be interested in clicking on the following link:   https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

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I Love Music As Long As It’s Groovy….

My brother may be the writer I aspire to be. Enjoy.

Reflections Of A Gasbag

Studio where Bob Seeger, Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Steve Miller basically most everything in the 70’s were recorded here.

I love music. It is my passion. Always has been. From the time I was a little kid listening to to the Beatle 45’s on the orange and yellow Capitol Records label, or The Dave Clark 5, I was hooked. I had Beatle cards, Beatle dolls (still have Paul and George). Then British Invasion swept to America. Rolling Stones, The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, The Zombies, The Kinks, Freddie and the Dreamers, The Hollies. I’d watch Ed Sullivan every Sunday night to see who he would have on his “really big shew. “ Then I would adjust the rabbit ears, eat my chicken ala king that I had just boiled in the pouch and watch Shindig or Hullabaloo. I lusted after Petula Clark as she sang “Downtown” and I remember playing “Knights…

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Old Ghosts Calling to Me 

I have a “thing” for old structures; old farmhouses, slab-sided barns or an aging general mercantile.  I grew up in and around them…like ghosts, they are only memories.  It is not the architecture they represent, but the history that speaks to me.  Old ghosts calling my name.

Decaying, hand-hewn structures…I just wonder about the hands that constructed them.  I feel the same way about fields of rusting cars covered in kudzu or the tools that once maintained them I find in antique shops or “high dollar” junkyards.  It’s about who drove the car, who repaired it…it’s about the history…about the ghosts.

Image result for dorothea lange country store.  Who colorized the picture

I first saw this photograph while researching lesson plans on the depression.  The black and white Dorothea Lange photograph whispered softly to me for some reason.  It was titled, “Country store on a dirt road. Sunday afternoon. July 1939. Gordonton, North Carolina.”

The structure spoke to me, but the ghosts were quiet.  My eyes were drawn to the old metal signs advertising different brands of cigarettes, Coca-Cola, the “Sweet Scotch Snuff.”  I listened to the Texaco gas and kerosene pumps, rough cut and unfinished lumber, a long porch gallery supported by stacked stones.  Cedar trees stripped of limbs used as porch columns and roof rafters that aren’t quite plumb.  I “heard” it, rather than “heard” them.

What I “heard” changed when I discovered the colorized version by Jordan J. Lloyd.  It drew my attention to the men and their ghosts spoke to me.  It became about the people instead of the structure.

Related image

The picture is described as “A lazy Sunday afternoon on a country road.”  Five black men relaxing on a “workless” Sunday with the brother of the white owner leaning in the doorway.  Smiles to go around as stories were told…embellished for listening enjoyment I’m quite sure.  The ghosts spoke but I am hard of hearing and I don’t really know their voices.  But I can research and create.

The colors are vivid…as vivid as khaki and denim can be.  Overalls over a white shirt, rolled up shirt sleeves and pant’s legs.  Dusty, beat up shoes and brogans.  Sweat stained fedoras and baseball caps pushed back on heads.  A “dope” drained to the last drop and the aroma of fine Virginia tobacco wafting in the breeze, “mildness with no unpleasant aftertaste.”

July 1939 in the South…in North Carolina…in the cotton belt.  The depression had been ongoing for ten years and would continue until the soaring production of World War Two finally buried it.  Farmers had been steamrolled by the depression as early as 1920 while boll weevils ate their fill and cotton prices dropping as low as five cents a pound….  Ever pick cotton?  I have.  A pound of cotton is a lot of picking for a nickel and boll weevils wiped out as much as eighty percent of cotton crops during the Twenties.

The depression was particularly hard on people of color in the South.  Many, only sixty or seventy years removed from slavery, found themselves forced into a type of pseudo-slavery, sharecropping and tenant farming…except many poor whites found themselves paddling in the same boat.  The difference? Post-slavery Jim Crow segregation.  As bad as things are, at least you “ain’t colored.” Separate and “unequal.”

Except maybe on “A lazy Sunday afternoon on a country road.”  I smile.  I see four men of color reacting to something said by the fifth man on the left while the white man is slow to get the point or at least react.  A slow smile coming to his face.  Men gathering to shoot the bull on their day of rest.  The simple enjoyment of not having to be someplace…not having to work your fingers to the bone for someone else’s profit.

Image result for dorothea lange country store.  Who colorized the picture

The old store on a dusty, country road still exists.  The road is now paved and the store is no longer open which for me seems a shame.  Boarded up and abandoned, I wonder if the ghosts still gather on the porch, talking of days past and the hard times they endured.  Seeing it closed I am sad for them…and for me.

The first photo is by Dorothea Lang.

The colorized photo is by Jordan J. Lloyd

The last photo was made by Wayne Jacobs.

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

Christmas Wishes

 

“If wishes and buts were candies and nuts we’d all have a Merry Christmas.”

Not the exact quote from “Dandy” Don Meredith of Dallas Cowboy and Monday Night Football fame but the original “If ifs and buts were candies and nuts we’d all have a Merry Christmas” does not quite fit.  Unfortunately, the “wish in one hand, pee in the other and see which one fills up the fastest” seems to better exemplify my feelings at this moment.

I remind myself this is my “blue” time of the year.  “I’ll have a bah-looooo Christmasssssss without you” …without the sun.  Shortened days lead to increased depression…at least the after solstice the days will begin to lengthen and spring will soon be here…yeah…right!  Did you hear Elvis’s voice in your head as you read the quote?  I did as I wrote it.

I have memories of Christmases past that do not include “sugar plum fairies”  or being “snug in (my) bed.”   I remember candy and nuts in handsome, handmade, patchwork stockings…”hung by the chimney with care” or handed out by my grandmother to her five grandchildren.  Pencils and pens, pocket notebooks, a pocket New Testament and citrus fruits joined unshelled mixed nuts along with peppermint and butter mint candies.  My grandmother was quite the practical gift giver having lived in a time where fruit or a handmade doll for Christmas might be the norm.  She made many of her gifts; patchwork quilts, hand stitched with needle and thread, or small strips of lace tatted into bookmarks.  I wish she still filled those stockings with memories…or made those quilts.

My father often made a trip to the small town of Monroe, North Carolina, on Christmas Eve morning.  A twenty-mile drive, he took me with him, probably to keep us both out of my mother’s hair as she prepared to receive guests that evening.  I remember the “busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style”, the crush of people scurrying to finish their last-minute shopping, holding his hand to keep from being lost in the rush.

Pausing to watch the mechanical Christmas scene in the Belk Brothers storefront before seeing a legless man sitting on a type of mechanic’s creeper selling pencils. I remember the tears in my father’s eyes as he bought a pencil…for five dollars.  Stopping here and there, finally at Woolworth’s Five and Dime for a bag of warm cashew nuts that we hurried to eat before they cooled. I don’t know where to get warmed cashews anymore and wish I didn’t tear up thinking about them.

My mother spent weeks decorating for Christmas and preparing for our Christmas Eve gathering of family at my grandmothers, later at our home.  A huge tree in a small living room sat in the corner between the picture window and fireplace.  Silver tinsel over white plastic icicles and bubbling lights.  The bubble lights…they don’t seem to make them like hers anymore…real glass, not those plastic things.

I intently watched them, their gurgling heralding sweet ambrosia, Missouri cookies, chocolate covered cherries and the excitement and anticipation of Christmas morning.  Sneaking around the corner of my bedroom to see if Santa Claus had left my Schwinn Tornado, wondering how he got it down the chimney.  I wish I could hear the gurgle of those bubble lights again.

Some wishes still come true.  My life with Linda Gail has fostered more memories.  She truly is Ms. Peter Pan dressed as Santa’s helper, never having quite grown up.  We don’t exchange gifts anymore, just cards.  What do you give people who found everything with each other?  Like my grandmother, sometimes I try to make memories for my bride.  Primitive art in the form of birdhouses or grapevine wreaths, an arbor made from broken mountain laurel.  Hollowed out trees, broken limbs and rusting tin repurposed.

I just chuckled remembering a rock I gave her one Christmas.  It wasn’t a diamond, just a rock she “found interesting” from as far back in the woods as we could be and still be in South Carolina.  “Sure would be nice if we could bring this home.  It would look nice in front of the fireplace.”  The heavy “boulder” sits in front of the fireplace reminding me of its punishing trip from the woods.  Punishing for me, not the rock.  The pain was worth the smile on her face when she unwrapped it on Christmas morning.  I wish for more memories giving me chuckles of joy.

Ashley joining us on Christmas Eve as the circle of life made us the eldest family members and the purveyor of Christmas memories.  No, not true.  Linda Gail is the purveyor of Christmas memories…trying to make them special…for Ashley and her brood and for my brother Steve and wife Rebecca…or anyone who shows up.  Just like our parents.

Years ago, there was always a poignant trip home late in the night to return Ashley to her mother.  A slow ride in a red VW bug or as she got older shifting the gears in my old FJ 40…larger hand on a smaller hand, running through the gears. running through the night.  A bittersweet ride in quiet darkness lit by Christmas lights…showing the way home.  I miss those special times, Ashley trying hard not to nod off while I just smiled.  A wish and a memory in the back of my mind.  Memories…just warm memories…just warm wishes.

My Christmas wish is for new memories.  Tonight we gather at Ashley’s and Justin’s to accommodate the two monkeys that are our grandbabies.  We are still joined by brother Steve and his wife, Rebecca.  Francis, Linda’s stepmother comes too.

I know Linda has her own Christmas wishes and memories.  Memories of her parents, like mine, now gone, and of a family in faraway Texas.  Memories of the first Christmas we spent in our little piece of heaven.  Memories memorialized in pictures; a childlike Ashley, her beautiful dark-haired great-grandmother she was too young know and the elf of a man who was Linda Gail’s father, a man I miss as much as my own dad.  More memories and wishes…for Linda and me.

The monkeys are two-year-old Nolan and five-year-old Miller.  They grow so fast.  They will be excited…on a normal day, they are wide open.  Wide open yet clingy to their parents until they adjust to the company.  Good parents, loving parents, just as I would have wished.  The babies’ clinginess will ebb as soon as Santa’s elf in the form of Grandmommy Linda begins to pass out gifts.  I’m sure Nolan will enjoy the boxes as much as his treasure trove.

I worry my Christmas wish for the world is too extreme.  I wish we truly embraced “peace on earth and good will toward all”.  I wish we might enfold the unattainable for a millennium instead of a few hours on Christmas Eve or Day.  Love thy neighbor both near and far, known and unknown, and live and let live.  Put the divisiveness away for good…beat swords into plowshares.  A hand extended in friendship and grasped with a grin on our faces.  Jesus preached it, we should embrace it.  It is my greatest wish.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all.  May all of your Christmas wishes come true.

The image is of Nolan and Miller Kate and this year’s Christmas tree.

Looking for more musings?  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Nineteen Seconds….

 

Nineteen seconds…doesn’t sound very long…it’s not very long considering the eighty-six thousand, four hundred seconds in a day.  But it may be the motivation I need to continue living.  Compared to yesterday, nineteen additional seconds of…blessed sunlight.  Say it blesssss-eddddd!  Nineteen additional seconds as the sun begins its annual climb into the sky, a full minute of glorious sunshine by Wednesday.  Overly dramatic?  Not at all.  The Winter Solstice is once again behind me.

I have a mild case of depression.  Mild.  I laugh at the thought.  Chuckle, chortle, guffaw!  Today my depression is mild, like soft spring rains.  My mind only slightly fragmented.  A thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle fresh from the box fragmented.  Only a bit of anxiety as I prepare for Christmas.

Blam!  Tomorrow my depression may land like a warm, wet, stinking cow patty from a, particularly tall cow.  Unknown sorrows bringing a squirting, diarrheic, torrent of melancholy gloom, doom and despair for no reason at all…other than it just is.  Splat…Rumble…Rumble…Rumble…Splat!

Similar to the symptoms of diarrhea, I never know when my depression will hit any more than I know when it will end…I just know it will hit…usually in the darkest hours the winter when sunlight is at a premium.  I know not when it will end…I only hope it will end.  Oh, glorious sunshine, how I wish to feel your warm caress.

What a quandary…dilemma…predicament.  At my age, I shouldn’t be wishing my life away.  How many winters do I have left?  Yesterday it seems I celebrated a birthday…and here is another…right around the corner.  Still…I hate living from a bout of depression to bout of depression.  Is it living?  Oh sunshine, why have you forsaken me?  Bring on the heat, humidity, mosquitos, and longgggggg days of sunshine!

You think my depression might be magnified by the season?  I’ve never been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, but you don’t have to be a savant to realize what is going on…summers with mild bouts of depression, winters with “Oh my god, I’m as crazy as an outhouse mouse!”  I’m in real trouble, my humor is not even funny to me.

What to do, what to do?  The sun is trying to peep above the ridgeline.  A walk before church?  It’s thirty degrees…ordinarily not a deterrent.  Today?  My disability is getting in the way…but there’s “gold in them thar hills,” beautiful golden sunshine.  Dress warmly, my friends.

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

The image is from http://7-themes.com/6937886-forest-morning-sunshine.html

 

If Jesus Came To Greenville — Reflections Of A Gasbag

From my Brother’s Blog Reflections Of a Gasbag.  Give it a look you might like it.

On December 24th 1989 Rolfe Neill wrote a article in “The Charlotte Observer” asking what Jesus would do if he came to Charlotte on Christmas. I thought it was an interesting article back then so I cut it out and kept it. I recently found it and it got me thinking about if Jesus would […]

via If Jesus Came To Greenville — Reflections Of A Gasbag

 

Hippies, Good Ole Boys, and my Grandmother: A Rambling

 

Speaking to a gathering of Baby Boomers, I suggested professorially, “We are a product of the generation we grew up in” and proceeded to talk about my grandparents and their life during the depression.  As my brother made clear without saying so, it didn’t sound like a very interesting subject but the people listening to the presentation seemed to enjoy it and I enjoyed giving it…nah, nah…nah, nah, nah!  Only a handful fell asleep.

My grandparents were defined by the age of the Great Depression and to a certain extent, World War Two.  If stories are to be believed, they certainly did their part during the war but continued to “live” the depression right up until the day they died.  My parents?  The depression and World War Two, of course, along with the era of American Exceptionalism.

As I drove home, I thought about my life and the history that had defined it.  Somewhere around the small town of Blacksburg, I began to think about hippies.  An idle mind can be a terrible thing.

I was aware of hippies, as I was aware of the Cold War, Viet Nam, and the Civil Rights movement.  I was aware from a distance.  I was also aware of the protests of the Sixties that went with these events, all playing out in black and white while my brother and I ate our Swanson’s TV dinners watching Walter Cronkite on TV.  Sometimes it was hard to stomach, the TV dinners and the evening news.

The events of the Sixties and early Seventies helped mold my beliefs, but I didn’t realize how much until recently.  I also knew, despite the flattop I wore in the mid-Sixties, I felt a tug toward the counter-culture, one I withstood until recently.

I’ve always felt I was in a battle with two generations, one wearing conservative oxford cloth and khaki, the other a more liberal tie-dye and denim.  Lately, the generation of Weejuns is losing to the generation of “Jesus” sandals.

I have become more “hippie-like” as I have slogged into my “autumn” years and wonder if it is “my generation” defining me or was it my grandmother’s attitude toward her world.  No, my grandmother was not a hippie, but she had some hippie like attitudes.  Some attitudes one might attribute to the greatest hippie cult leader of all, Jesus of Nazareth.

Beliefs the earth’s bounties should be protected and shared with each other and future generations, loving thy neighbor as thyself, and despite her prejudices of the day, live and let live regardless of race, creed, color or religious affiliation.  No, she wasn’t perfect…well…except in my eyes.

Raised in the church she was devout but more to the point, she was spiritual and rooted solidly in the earth.  She planted and fished by the phases of the moon, seasonal “signs” and the Farmer’s Almanac.  Connected to the depression, she lived by the three ‘R’s’; recycle, repurpose, reuse.  Nothing was ever thrown away unless the question, “Can I use this for something else?” was answered.  Yep, my hippie grandmother.

Often, I feel I am an oddity, a “seasoned” man of Caucasian persuasion who has grown more liberal as he has grown older…more liberal than just adopting blue jeans and tee shirts as his primary wardrobe choice since retiring.  Is it that I’ve become more liberal or has liberalism grown more me?  Despite my question, I’ve decided the term hippie transcends the poles of a political spectrum.

When I say hippie, I’m not talking about those who didn’t walk the walk.  Sometimes “hippie” is used as a broad stroke.  There has been much written about Haight-Ashbury’s “Summer of Love”, the Grateful Dead, and Timothy O’Leary’s slogan, “Turn on, tune in, drop out”.

I understand the message but believe there were those in attendance just for the drugs, music, and the siren’s call of “free love.”  Mr. Khaki and Oxford Cloth did none of those things…certainly, I never turned on and making love never came without a price tag…but if “marijahoochie” becomes legal in my part of the world…I might turn on…especially as my arthritis gets worse.  Okay, I would turn on for sure and maybe I’ve already dropped out.

Many young people walked the walk desiring to make the world a better place, idealistically believing they could stand up against “the man.”  Some weren’t hippies at all, just young people who thought the war was wrong, all people were created equally, and had no desire to become radioactive dust.  They wanted to create a positive life and were simply lumped into the counter-culture with the long-haired, Commie, hippy freak, “make love, not war”, ni@@%^ loving bunch.  Lumped by the conservative right or “Moral Majority”, something still happening today.  Lumped despite the crewcuts that didn’t allow for “wear(ing) flowers in (their) hair.”1

We have enclaves of “hippie freak” types in areas around us…especially in the rougher and more isolated areas of the Blue Ridge Escarpment.  Not exactly communes, they are more like small villages of likeminded people, some living in small cabins, motor homes or aged out school buses.  All attempting to reduce their footprint on the face of the earth.  Most just want to live and let live while loving their neighbors no matter their sexual preference, skin color or religious affiliation.  I might add, regardless of political affiliation.  A lesson we should all learn from I believe.

“Hippies” living a life of self-reliance, the artsy types welding sculptures made from iron collected from the side of the road or junkyard.  Creating colorful paper from kudzu vines and leaves collected from the hillsides near their homes.  Potters throwing local clay and molding it into interesting desirables.  A particularly old “hippie” living near me creates sculptures from the burl wood he searches for from the seat of his wheelchair.  They are all quite liberal in belief…except when they are not.

Others live off the land, creating, and selling organically grown food…and drink…and certain inhalables.  Some create moonshine legally, others not so much.  Some grow marijuana in amongst their tomato and eggplants.  They come from all sides of the political spectrum, united with the belief that the government shouldn’t restrict their freedom of expression and leisure activities.

They still have causes, liberal only because they wish to effect change.  Like me, many folks in my “Dark Corner”2 are concerned about the water and air we breathe and drink and the environment we will leave behind to future generations.

I attended a gathering of like-minded people who were attempting to halt the domestication of a wild, local river in the name of progress.  The meeting was attended by trout fishermen, tree hugging, Sierra Club environmentalist types, and good ole boys who were just worried about the effects a lack of environmental management might have on their “tax-free” alcohol production.  I’m guessing there were more than a few folks attending who preferred to take their herbal supplements in deeply inhaled form.

Weejuns, brogans, work boots, Keen sandals, and motorcycle boots were all found under a picnic table, their wearers breaking bread…well…pulling pork and drinking beer.  There was as much flannel as tie-dye, khaki as denim, buzz cuts as long hair.  From this and other gatherings, the environmental advocacy group, “Save the Saluda”, was born.  My grandmother would have approved.

I’m happy to see young people or those young at heart standing up for issues they believe in, those who peacefully take to the streets or rally for a cause.  I don’t agree with some of their causes. I don’t have to and they shouldn’t care.  They aren’t my causes.  Like my “hippie” neighbors, they come in all shapes and sizes, buzz cuts to long hair, tee shirts and oxford cloth, high school seniors and lifetime seniors.  All want their voices heard.

As I made my landfall from Blacksburg, I still didn’t exactly know what a hippie was or if I am one.  I just know for me it is more state of mind than where I sit on a political spectrum, or whether I choose oxford cloth or tie-dye.  Let’s tie-dye our oxford cloth.  Please label me if you must, I will wear a liberal, hippie freak badge proudly.  Just remember, it is your label for me, not mine.  I am much more than a label…as are you.

“And the sign said, “Everybody welcome. Come in, kneel down and pray”
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all
I didn’t have a penny to pay
So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign
I said, ‘Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ’bout me. I’m alive and doin’ fine'”3

  1. San Fransico (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) sung by Scott McKenzie and written by John Phillips.  Verse paraphrased by me to fit.
  2. The “Dark Corner” of South Carolina is the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills area of Greenville and Spartanburg Counties, known for resisting nullification and embracing illegal moonshine production during the Great Depression.
  3. Signs, sung by The Five Man Electrical Band and written by Les Emmerson

For other musings by Don Miller go to his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Image from https://hippiesonhaight.weebly.com/summer-of-love.html

 

So I Decided To Write A Blog

My Brother’s new blog. I wish I had thought of the title.

Reflections Of A Gasbag

So I have decided to start a blog.  I have found out as I have gotten older that I enjoy writing.  It runs in the family, my grandmother and my mother wrote poetry and my grandmother journaled back before jouraling became popular. My brother has a blog and also has written several books, so now I guess it is my turn.  I can’t see myself writing a book and honestly I can’t see anyone really reading this blog so mostly it is for my own entertainment.  Call it therapy, I guess. Occasionally there may be something that someone in passing may find interesting and if that is the case, please tell me. I pondered for awhile on what to name this thing, because every blog has to have a catchy name.  I was listening to Dan Le Batard on ESPN radio and he speaks of all the gasbag coaches at press…

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Not Pioneering Stock

 

I am not pioneering stock.  My prayers were not answered.  My satellite went out at two and my power followed at five…in the AM.  It’s seven seventeen and it already seems like a lifetime.  Too much time stuck inside my head with nothing to distract me is the main problem.  At least the morning is brightening…a gray light, but at least I can see without a flashlight.

There is a beautiful winter scene outside my window…hemlocks and cedars laden with snow, their fronds drooping toward the ground.  There is an underlying silence, the sounds muffled by the snow…until a tree snaps under the extra weight of snow, sleet, and ice.  It sounds as if a war is being fought on the ridgeline above us.

It is eight oh two and the “Snowpocalypse” is upon us.  There is nothing to do but wait.  A cheery fire in the fireplace…cheery but not near warm enough.  A cast iron Dutch oven is heating water.  Cheese grits are on the menu…instant cheese grits.  Uck!  At least my coffee had perked before the power went off.

Stepping outside to bring in the wood I heard the winds on the ridges above us.  The sound of an old steam locomotive running at top speed…without the steam whistle of course.  Just a rapid chugga-chugga sound I associate with old movies I watched in my youth.  So far, we have been sheltered from the wind, but I see movement in the cypress cedar just beyond my backyard fence.

The snow, flakes once large and wet, have now changed over to sleet.  I can see my clothesline and it is covered with ice…much ice.  This does not bode well for trees or powerlines I would think.  My hothouse is without power and I worry about Linda’s plants…particularly her thirty-year-old scheffleras.  Worry…but there is not a damn thing I can do about it except feel her pain if they die.

Old poots like me are always talking about the good old days and how much better it was back then.  I wonder?  I surely wonder about the good old days the former tenants of my little piece of heaven had.  Three different sets of families left their imprints and memories before we began to add ours.  I wish their ghosts would speak to me.  I have many questions like, “How did you keep those fireplaces fed?”

Built in 1892, the old farmhouse had five fireplaces.  I am only trying to keep one burning and maybe later an old wood stove to cook on if necessary.  I can’t imagine…don’t want to imagine what it was like feeding four open fireplaces and the wood stove pumping smoke out smoke one end and heat from the other.

No, I’m not sure about those good old days especially as I look at the expanse of white between my house and the old privy.  A book comes to mind, “Ten Miles to the Outhouse,” by Willie Makeit and illustrated by Betty Don’t.  I think the cold is addling my brain…or the Jack and Coke.  Five o’clock in the PM and we still have no power, but we have seen power trucks on the move…and the power flickered once…dashed hopes in the blink of an eye.

I’ve also seen turkeys on the move.  A dozen or so all puffed up against the cold.  They look comical taking high steps trying to navigate the now five or so inches of hard packed sleet, freezing rain, and snow.  Thankfully the temperature is now hovering above freezing and it is now more snow than sleet.

The wind is still up.  Trees are popping all around.  Cannon reports in the distance.  Even if the power comes on soon there is no assurance that it will stay on, but I’ll take what I can get…damn!  A hemlock limb just hit the fence.

Light, heat, and water have returned.  At six PM the lights flickered and then held.  There was the welcome sound of air handlers kicking in and the feel of warm air.  Quick microwave something warm to eat.

This is not the worse “storm” we’ve ridden out.  Our first winter was in 1987-88 and in January we lay buried under eighteen inches…for those of you above the Mason-Dixon, that’s like you getting eighteen feet.  We were in complete shutdown mode for a week with only a VW Beetle and a Thunderbird to motivate with.  I swore I would never be without four-wheel drive again.  I think I’ve HAD to use it once since then.  An ice storm with a hurricane came through in ’93 but the four-wheel drive doesn’t work on ice.  I’ve used my four-wheel drive a lot but not because the weather dictated it.

No, I’m not pioneering stock.  There was once a time.  Now I have grown old and lazy…and hate the cold.  I think my next acquisition will be a generator.  Hopefully, I won’t need it any more than I have needed four-wheel drive.

“Bread and Milk?”

 

I am waiting out the approach of our first snowstorm of the winter…except it’s not winter yet!  I despise winter and for the second year in a row, winter is here early.  Mother Nature…what did I ever do to you?

Our local weather prognosticators have predicted anywhere from a dusting below us to an accumulation of twenty inches above us; possible rain, snow, sleet or freezing rain…all the previous possible or none of the previous Imma thinkin’ or hoping.  In the foothills of the Blue Ridge, we are bracing for six to eight inches…of something.  A “Snowpocalypse” by Southern standards.  I’m just going to sit here and wait until it is over and melted.  Just let the meteorologist tell me how much we got.  Since retiring from teaching, snow offers no perks for me.

The impending “Snowmageddon” has claimed its first victim…me.  I’m sitting not because snow is falling, it isn’t yet…wait was that a wet snowflake or a big, slow raindrop?  I’m sitting because I hyperextended my knee while cutting and splitting “emergency” wood in preparation for the attack by “Snowzilla.”  If the monster is successful with its evil-minded plan, I will at least have wood to burn should the power go out.  By the way, I’m okay, just feeling clumsy and stiff.  Thanks for askin’.

The injured knee was once called my good knee and I guess there is no particular advantage to having one good knee as opposed to having two bad ones…. I do have to flip a coin to decide which knee I should limp on and I’d just “ah soon” not to lose power by the way.  I don’t want to limp out and bring in wood to feed my fireplace.

I went grocery shopping yesterday morning before the slip with an eighteen-inch diameter log and screw up your knee event.  A stop by at Wally World is a normal activity for a Friday morning…right after my two-hour walk and coffee with a best friend, “Hawk.”

As I approached the bread area, I found bare shelves and the aisle deserted.  I expected to see customers locked in an epic battle over a loaf of French bread or such.  Maybe two ordinarily sane mothers pulling at each other’s hair, fighting for the last loaf of cinnamon-raisin bread.

The fresh Italian bread I usually buy, gone.  So was yesterday’s Italian bread and all other bread.  Same was true with the milk shelves…and eggs it seems…bare.  The milk and eggs were, to quote John Hiatt:

“Gone like a Nixon file

Gone like my landlord smile

Gone like the furniture

Gone like the rest of her”

There may be no French toast in my future.

I really don’t understand the rush on milk and bread.  I always wondered if there was a conspiracy between the weather services, bakers and the dairy industry.  Payoffs slipped under the table to just mention the possibility of snow.  If I were going to stockpile for the blizzard of the century it would include bourbon and barbeque…not bread and milk.

It is not just a “Southern Thang” I found out.  Those odd cultures above the Mason-Dixon line also rush out and sweep the bread and milk shelves clean.  Who knew.  It’s wasn’t even begun by Southerners…I believe they lie.

I am ready.  Bring your best Snow Monster.  Books to read if the satellite goes out.  Wood to burn if the power goes and batteries for the flashlights and lanterns.  Most importantly, Jack Daniels in the pantry and pulled pork barbeque in the fridge….  Okay, I did find a loaf of day-old French bread and a dozen extra-large eggs.  My bride boiled up a half-dozen but kept six for French toast.  Like a true country boy, I will survive.

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

Lyrics from John Hiatt’s song “Gone”.

Snow image was liberated from https://marcusashley.com/artwork/elm-tree-blizzard