Skeeter Killin’ Season

 

Got my first one of the season! March 26, 2019.  A little after nine in the p.m.  Little bastard flew in front of my computer screen and I squished him flatter than a toad frog on a four-lane. I had to clean him off the screen, but the screen needed cleaning anyway and I got him before he got me.  Let the war begin.

I am eccentric for many reasons, one of which is, I welcome Skeeter Killin’ Season with a smile on my face.  I celebrate Skeeter Killin’ Season like Christmas.  I drink toasts with Myers dark rum and tonic while doing a happy dance in honor of Skeeter Killin’ Season despite living in a target rich environment.  Not as rich as our coastal regions but still, very rich.

I live in the foothills of South Carolina and for most of three seasons we have the little bastards along with gnats, no see ums but you feel em, deer flies, horse flies, chiggers, ticks, hornets, wasps and yellow jackets.  All bite, sting or fly up your nose and at their best are just annoying.  At their worst, they are damn painful.

Why then, am I doing a happy dance?  A better question might be, why do I try to dance?  My dance resembles Joe Cocker holding on to a live battery cable and gets worse as I continue to toast the season with my adult beverage.

Skeeter Killin’ Season coincides with the sun rising higher and higher in the sky and staying there for longer periods of the day. Yes, it coincides with rising temperatures and humidity.  I don’t care…happy dance, happy dance, happy dance!

Never will I gripe about the heat.  I have found over the years I tolerate heat and humidity much better than the short, gray days and the cold temperatures of winter.  If this country boy has Deep Woods OFF, he will survive…and an air conditioner he can escape to.

I can’t escape the short days of winter.  I can’t escape the cold seeping into my bones and the depression quashing my will to survive.  There will still be the occasional depressing day but the sun, high in the sky, will beckon and the melancholy will be as short-lived as a late afternoon thunderstorm.

It is the season of rebirth, blooming colors of white, yellow, gold, pink, orange and purple.  Green leaves, green grass, green mold, and green mucous discharges.

It is the season of planting and playing in the dirt while anxiously awaiting tomato sandwiches running in Duke’s Mayonnaise, garden fresh corn on the cob and fried okra.  It is the season for rising spirits despite the stinging insects, heat, humidity, and allergies.

I still must deal with the skeeters and have tried about everything except a Bug Zapper…homemade traps, bombs, and sprays, lanterns with the smell of citronella wafting through the evening air…mixing with an aroma of OFF.  All with limited success or to no avail.

When the bloodsuckers are thicker than a cold bowl of cheese grits,  I try to forget a winter drive along the coast when I battled both the low winter sun AND the little sucking bastards.  On a lonely highway through black water swamps and pine forests, I felt the call of nature and pulled off onto a double track dirt road leading through a turpentine camp to relieve myself.  Damn, little bastards tried to take off with my man part while my wife laughed and laughed and laughed. 

Further musings and a book or eight can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

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A Game… Under a Psychedelic Sun in a Tangerine Sky: An Excerpt

I felt my heart rate and respiration jump.  At least I hadn’t screamed.  I need to get up…wait, “What the….”  In the morning light escaping around the pulled blinds, I saw nothing that looked familiar.  I was in a king-sized bed in what appeared to be in an old-fashioned bedroom complete with a patchwork quilt, wainscoted walls, a dry sink with pitcher and bowl.  Heavily stuffed chairs resembled prehistoric animals gazing at me from the corners.  Glancing at the other side of the bed, I saw it had not been slept in…”What the f….”

“Okay I get it, it’s a dream within a dream.  I only think I’m awake.  The scene is too real.  If this is a dream within a dream, why do I feel the urge to pee?”

As I stood over the urinal, I noticed something was wrong…well…different.  The lower body I looked at didn’t resemble mine in the least nor did the dragon I was draining.  Short, thick legs were now long and slender, bowling ball sized calves replaced with long, supple, athletic ones. The “over Sixty” paunch I worked so hard and failed to eliminate was gone, replaced by toned abs and a chest covered in dark, curly hair.

Turning on the light at the bathroom sink, the mirror reflected a face and upper body that wasn’t mine.  Looking back at me, mimicking my every move was Tom Selleck.  Not the Blue Bloods or Jesse Stone Tom Selleck, the Magnum P.I. Tom Selleck.  The shaggy dark hair and matching mustache, dimples that deepened like the Grand Canyon when I smiled Tom Selleck.  “Man, what a dream.”  Dipping my head a bit and angling it to the side, my face became the winking Tom Selleck’s.

The body didn’t feel like mine either.  I usually groaned when I got out of bed.  The body I looked at in the mirror didn’t ache at all.  Locking my knees, I bent and reached toward my toes…“Man, what a dream.”

Looking around the room, my gaze fell on the armoire that housed a television set above its pullout drawers.  A folded notecard made from expensive stock sat to one side of the TV, a remote to the other.  Picking up the notecard, I felt chills chase themselves up and down my spine, ‘Welcome to Pearly Gates Bed and Breakfast,’ was embossed in gold on the front. The inside also etched in gold, welcomed me. ‘We hope to make your transition enjoyable and stress-free.’  It was signed, Petra Saint, Proprietor.  I pondered…”I’m missing something.”

A gentle knock to my door brought me back to the here and now, where ever the here and now was.

***

Through the peephole, I saw a shapely petite woman with a clear, coffee and cream complexion and short blue-black hair.  She tapped a pen against a clipboard before placing it under her arm and straightening her clothes.  The woman had an “all business” look on her a pretty face.  A familiar silhouette stood on shapely, well-formed legs, displayed in a black leather skirt.  Black moderately heeled pumps made her calf muscles stand out.  A matching leather jacket covered a blazing white blouse with a moderate neckline covered in frills.

I recognized her.  I had watched her on TV the night before as I fell asleep, Tamron Hall on the ID Channel.  I kept the TV on to blot out the sounds buzzing in my ears…except my ears were no longer buzzing.

An excerpt from the short story


The short story A Game… Under a Psychedelic Sun in a Tangerine Sky may be downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Q18P2NQ

Don Miller’s Author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Trippin’ Over a Root Revisited

 

I love days like today.  Spring ain’t quite here but it is close enough to see.  Jonquils and have popped up and shown their yellow heads, turkeys are active as are the red tail hawks, a pair of nuthatches are building their nest in the same box for the third year in a row.  A beautiful day.  Just the kind of day to fall flat on your ass.   I saw four Canadian geese and was reminded of a similar day two years ago when I fell flat on my ass and my front side too.  Enjoy the rewritten post from this time two years ago.

At exactly one point eight-three miles into my workout, according to my GPS app, I kicked a freakin’ root.  I wasn’t paying attention to the rock and root strewed path…I was paying attention to a half-dozen Canadian geese who were stopping by from…Canada?  When they landed, I watched and tripped over the root banging my arthritic toe.  The geese didn’t stay long, instead, they took off to another part of the lake.  It might have been the loud cursing erupting from my mouth.

As I hobbled on and gazed heavenward contemplating my pain and the distance my expletives might have traveled, I kicked another root.  Same foot, same big toe…the big toe I’m trying put off surgery on until winter comes around again and I am worthless…ah, more worthless.

The second kick was even more solid than the first.  Mortar Forker!  This time I bent over, hands on knees, in agony and stood still, waiting for the pain exploding from my toe to ebb along with the tears the pain it had brought.  I’m still waiting…sorta.  The neurons responsible for pain have abated from the torrent exiting through the top of my head to a trickle of electrical charges radiating outward and surrounding my forefoot.  Four hours later, the pain is still there letting me know…it is still there!

Did I mention, it’s cold.  Late March, less than a week from Easter.  A moist, northeastern wind makes it seem colder…not tongue stuck to a flagpole cold but it’s not helping the throbbing in my toe or the way I’m reacting to it.  No, I am not going to put an ice pack on it.  I just shivered.

Earlier in the story, just after I had kicked the second root, I finally straightened up and again looked heavenward.  I found myself peering, jaw slack and agape, at a hornet’s nest the size of a medium watermelon less than three feet from my face.  You might guess where this is going and it ain’t a good trip.

Despite knowing it was too cold for hornets, I backed up quickly…tripping over the initial root I had banged my toe on.  This time I went down hard on my butt, jarring my teeth, and decided to stay there.   As I sat, I contemplated…how badly was I injured and “Help I’ve Fallen, and I Can’t Get Up!” briefly ran through my mind.

Mainly, I contemplated, how had the nest survived the winter and how had I not seen it?  What?  I’ve walked this trail a hundred times since last spring…why am I just now seeing this thing?  It’s hugeeeeeee!

I pondered on the pain the little suckers could have wreaked…and the providence that kept them from causing pain to me or the hundreds of kids attending the camp at Lookup Lodge.  Maybe I should have paid more attention to the name of the camp instead of looking down at my feet…then that hadn’t worked out well when I watched the geese.  My thoughts didn’t help the pain in my foot but did take me down a pig trail memory.

On a very cool, late fall day during my early teaching career, I was startled when an entire class exited their room as if the devil himself were after them.  Kids yelling and screaming, slapping at themselves and each other.  Seems a “Little Johnny” had found a hornet’s nest and brought it to school for show and tell.  Probably should have waited until the hornets died.  As the room heated up so did the little bastards.  Ouch.  Some students were treated for stings, others for bruises caused by over exuberant classmates.  I laughed and laughed and laughed…until my toe reminded me of why I was sitting on my butt having the memory.  Fother Muck!

Image from http://goalorientedrunner.blogspot.com/2017/02/blog-post.html

For more of Musings from a Mad Southerner https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Boy those Yankee fans sure are nice….Said no one ever. — Reflections Of A Gasbag

One of the greatest phrases in the English language to me is, “Pitchers and catchers will be reporting in two weeks.” Number One, it tells me that spring is just around the corner, and it also tells me the Bravos are getting ready for camp and that in a matter of months my heart will […]

via Boy those Yankee fans sure are nice….Said no one ever. — Reflections Of A Gasbag

Psychedelic Baseball under Tangerine Skies…

 

A tangerine sky had been painted above an old textile baseball field.  Above the bleachers and avocado green grandstand, a child’s hand-drawn clouds chased each other around a hippie-inspired sun of brilliant yellows and oranges.  Old Sol featured a smiling, female face with almond shaped, green-blue eyes.

A stiff breeze blew out to right field but clouds seemed to move in any direction they wished.  The US flag, in vivid colors I didn’t recognize, and pennants in mauve, purple and gold, snapped and popped as the wind swirled.  A pink, blue and green, paisley print flamingo soared above the thermals, riding the wind…high, higher, highest.

Wooden bleachers built when Methuselah was a child, were weathered to a gray patina, the boards rough, warped and twisted.  The roof of the old grandstand was rotted with jagged holes allowing bright sunshine to leak through, highlighting men in white dress shirts, sleeves rolled up above their elbows, their fedoras pushed back on their heads.  I saw them in black, white and gray, as if from an old newsreel.

The one women I saw was surrounded by pastel colors from a Monet painting as she strolled on boardwalks that shouldn’t have been in a ballpark.  Twirling her parasol, she strolled by in a long-sleeved and high necked dress.  The hem of the ethereal gown, lacy in pinkish beige, swept the old boards of the esplanade.

Her gaze was distant and pensive under hair piled high and restrained by a straw boater. The flat brimmed hat was pushed forward at a jaunty angle to accommodate her dark brown tresses but her stare was anything but gleeful.

Watching from my vantage point in my head I wondered how she could sit wearing such a large bustle and how she could stand the corset that made her waist so small.

The field was of dark green, perfectly maintained grass…grass marred with red clay and sand baselines and infield cutout.  Sharp white lines were arrow straight and ran toward the infinity of the outfield foul posts.  Sack bases gleamed in the technicolor sunshine as a ground crew finished the field with earth movers and bulldozers.

It wasn’t an LSD trip, just a dream…a dream that featured a heavenly figure dressed in Yankee pinstripes and a Satan in tie-dye.  God was a midget who looked like Yogi Berra, Satan could be no one else other than Billy Martin.  Martin glared at me from behind dark sunglasses his cigarette smoke twisting and turning, rising into the tangerine sky.  He held up a martini glass in an empty salute…as empty as the glass itself.

I was playing right field…I think it was me.  I looked like Tom Selleck in Mr. Baseball and I openly wondered why Babe Ruth or Roger Maris wasn’t available.  Yogi said Maris was on a mountain top contemplating the asterisk after the number sixty-one in the “Good Book”.  Ruth was holding court in street clothes, smoking a cigar while drinking a beer and eating a hotdog.  A high school chum was there too but he looked more like Thurmond Munson than the friend I remembered from fifty years ago.

I don’t normally dream so vividly.  I blame it on a sinus infection, the drugs that treat it and the left-over quesadillas my wife brought me after her luncheon with a friend.  There is something about cilantro that sometimes fuels my more psychedelic dreams.  Cheaper and less dangerous than peyote or hallucinogenic mushrooms, not that I really know.

I had died in my dream, the casualty of a falling treetop and found myself in a heaven of my own creation.  No blazing white mansions or streets of gold.  No old, bearded white men in long gowns, No call to a warm and embracing light. Just a perfectly laid out baseball field and hot dogs to die for, an all-star team of dead Yankees playing an all-star team of devil’s minions.  Both teams cheered on by men in a black and white newsreel and a woman in pastels.  The call was to the Big Leagues not into the light.

It seemed I had awakened from one dream into another, my death from being shish kebabed by a treetop to a heavenly baseball game.  Speaking in cliches, Yogi told me the game was being played for all the marbles, good versus evil, winner takes all.   As I jogged to right field he growled, “Don’t forget!  It gets late early out there.”

Though I desperately tried to stay asleep, my dream ended before the game was decided.  With the game tied and a runner on second in the ninth, Ty Cobb stepped to the plate, or a devil’s imp appearing to be Ty Cobb.  Depending on whose history you read, in real life, he might have been the devil incarnate.  Razor sharp cleats glinted in the tangerine light as he taped the dirt off them with his bat.  Watching him step into the batter’s box,  I awoke as a puppy dog pawed me, blind eyes saying “Open the door, I need to potty.”

I don’t normally remember dreams but this one was just too vivid, just too real…just too troubling  This one I want to remember despite the fear I felt in the pit of my stomach.  It’s too good of a subject for a short story and I can end it any way I wish.

I need to remember it today because my plans were to cut down the dead tree that killed the dream me.  I think I will let Mother Nature do her part and cut it up after it falls.

The image I used is TANGERINE SKY by Fran Slade.  It may be purchased at https://artpublish.glopal.com

Books by Don Miller may be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

As the Word Turns…

 

                        “A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought.”                  Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night

I don’t think I’ve ever had an original thought, well there was a quote in the local newspaper after a state championship victory, “I was tighter than a tick on a fat dog.”  Don’t know where my quote came from, I’m sure it wasn’t original even though I created it on the spot.  Later I heard someone say they were “as tight as a flea’s ass over a rain barrel.”

I had been a bit tense before the game, as in “You couldn’t have slammed a twenty-one gauge needle up my ass with a sledgehammer” tense.  Somewhat graphic but you do get the point.  Ouch!

I have taken to sharing daily quotes on social media.  Quotes that I find uplifting or thought-provoking.  Quotes made by other people, smart people, creative people.  Everything I am not.

Like many things I do, these quotes lead to other thoughts, down rabbit holes and pig trails, the piling on effect.  My meanderings led me to the distinct language we Southerners have created from what was once English.  Our slang and sayings we have created from the “King’s English.”

Good Southerner writers seem to have the capacity to turn a word or phrase that means one thing into something else entirely and because I am incapable of original thought, I’ve used many phrases and idioms created by someone else.

I am not only Southern but as “country as a cow patty”.  I grew up “over yonder on the edge of nothin’” and moved to a place that is not quite “the end of the world but you can sure see it from there.”  I tend to “drop my gees” when I talk and sometimes when I write.

“I was as happy as a dead pig in sunshine” might be my favorite saying and I’ve used it often to describe my first true love.  Unfortunately, I was not the little blonde’s first true love…seems she had many true loves, some simultaneously.  “You couldn’t stir ’em with a stick.”  Despite her somewhat crowded pool of suitors, when she finally gave me “the time of day”, I found myself as happy as a “dead pig in sunshine” for most of our relationship.

If a pig were to die and is left in the sunshine for any length of time the skin will dry out…and it will “smell to high heaven”.  As the skin dries, the lips tend to pull away from the pig’s teeth giving the little, porcine feller a smile as if he is quite happy to be dead.  In other words, blissful ignorance of reality…yep that was me, blissfully ignorant she was going to crush my heart flatter than “a toad frog on a country highway”.  Come to think of it I was blissfully ignorant during most of my romantic episodes.

During many occasions chasing true love, I was as “stubborn as an old mud cooter.”  First, the use of the word cooter has nothing to do with its modern-day slang meaning; a woman’s “holiest of holies.”  Cooter is a West African word we Southerners appropriated to describe a water turtle.

If you have ever been unlucky enough to hook a snapping turtle while fishing, you will quickly find out how stubborn they are.  The old mossy back will head to the bottom and dig in.  If they’re big enough you won’t get them off the bottom until they run out of oxygen and come up for air.  If you are willing to wait until that happens and land him without losing a body part, there is the possibility of eating cooter stew, not really “eating high on the hog” but delicious none the less.  If not, you just have to cut your line and move on.  When it came to love, I never really knew how to cut my line…or my loses.  That has nothing to do with “fish or cut bait”, cus it ain’t Southern.

“A blind hog can find an acorn” or “capture lightning in a bottle” as I did when I met Miss Linda thirty-five years ago.  She and I do get “catawampus” on occasion, but mostly I’ve been “sugar in her hand.”  Yep, I have been “sh@#ing in high cotton” nigh on to thirty-two years of matrimony.  Maybe you can make “silk purses out of sow’s ears” after all.

“Bless your (his/her) heart” is a bit more diverse and complicated.  It is a phrase that can be used as sarcasm while gossiping about some unfortunate, “Well bless her heart.  If her brains were gunpowder she couldn’t blow her nose” or face to face, speaking in a slow drawl to a friend, “Bless your heart you are ’bout as smart as a sack of rocks.”  It is rumored to be the Southern Baptist lady’s equivalent of f@#$ you…rumored now, I don’t know for sure.

A major problem with “bless your heart” is it can also be used in a loving and sincere manner.  “Oh, I heard you lost your pet goldfish.  Bless your heart can I bring you a casserole or some potato salad?”  It’s all about inflection and yes, I have heard it directed toward me using every inflection possible.  Being Southern I’ve eaten a lot of casseroles and potato salad too.

“The phrase ‘bless your heart’ is like chicken and waffles.  It can be sweet.  It can be spicy and it’s perfect for any situation.” It’s A Southern Thing https://www.southernthing.com/bless-your-heart-is-all-about-the-tone-2581652582.html?rebelltitem=2#rebelltitem2

For more musings or a book or five, https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from Amazon.com