A Changing of the Guard

 

John McKissick has died.  The picture in the first obituary I read reminded me of a similar pose by General Douglas MacArthur…a green and gold baseball cap instead of a military-style hat with scrambled eggs on the visor, no corncob pipe, but the same jutting, strong chin, and intense look.  Arms crossed in front of his body, he was an imposing figure despite the hint of a smile.  The picture reminded me that along with soldiers, old coaches never die.  They live on in our memories, especially if they are legendary.  McKissick was legendary as was MacArthur…but without MacArthur’s narcissism.

I knew Coach McKissick…but I didn’t know Coach McKissick.  A big man, I shook hands with him and his hand swallowed mine.  He was the legend.  I was just starting out, a wet behind my athletic whistle young coach.  He was on his way to becoming the winningest coach in high school football, not just in South Carolina but nationally.  No one has won more games, 621, ten of them State Championship games.

Perspective.  He became the head coach at Summerville High School when I was two years old and retired the same year I did.  I coached for forty-five years.  He spent sixty-three years as the head coach at the same school.  Over five thousand players…in some cases, three generations of players.  Further perspective, he won 604 more games as a head football coach than I did.

Coach McKissick was a legend and I was a peon; a child and we all know children should be seen not heard.  I learned over time Coach McKissick would have never thought of me that way.  It was my own insecurities melting me under his gaze.

I misstated earlier.  Coach McKissick is a legend.  He still lives on in the hearts of his former players and coaches…and some people he never really knew.

At a clinic in the late Seventies, I sat just outside of his orbit making sure to be seen but not heard.  His orbit included the rest of South Carolina’s Football Trinity, Willie Varner and Pinky Babb.  They were the archangels of the religion known as Southern football…at least in South Carolina.  Together they have 1340 victories.  There were other angels at the altar of football but these three men were the most legendary of the legendary and McKissick would eventually fly higher than any with almost half of their total.

In the periphery of his orbit, I scribbled notes, hanging on his every word, hoping to pick up some tidbit to make my Xs better than someone else’s Os.  I should have listened more and quit writing notes.  For McKissick, as I learned, it was never about Xs and Os, it was about kids.  He was never a master strategist; he was a leader of men.

His former players use such descriptors as honest, motivating, inspiring, and inspirational.  Some use the greatest descriptor, a father figure.  These men speak of life lessons, those he taught and they learned.  They speak of how John McKissick was the town and school of Summerville.  Not one speaks of Xs and Os.

In an interview in Charleston’s Post and Courier by Gene Sapakoff, Coach McKissick refused to let his light shine when asked the keys to his success.  I quote directly from the Post and Courier, “I was in a good place and I was surrounded by good people; coaches, administrators, and some good players,” McKissick said. “I’ve always heard that if you surround yourself with good people who work hard, good things will happen.”

I dare say, it took a special coach to pull it all together and keep it going for sixty-three years.

The old guard was changing before Coach McKissick retired.  Babb and Varner had crossed over to their hereafter and many others of the old school had retired.  New coaches were lining up to take their places.  New legends in waiting…they’ll never be McKissick.

Football, the game, was evolving from a straight-ahead, three yards and a cloud of dust, bust you in the chops game to a more pass-happy, spread you out, finesse rather than smack you in the face game.  Honestly, I don’t recognize it sometimes.

I’m sure Coach McKissick changed how he attacked other people’s Os with his Xs but I’m also sure he never changed the way he coached.  You don’t have to change the way you coach when you coach kids and not a game.

Rest in peace Coach McKissick, rest in peace.

Featured image from USA Today, (Photo: Associated Press)

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

I love Thanksgiving….. Could you please pass the Vodka, I mean potatoes? — Reflections Of A Gasbag

Thanksgiving is here. I feel bad for Thanksgiving because it slowly but surely being nudged and squeezed out of the holiday traditions. The end of October, it is all about Halloween. People dress up and put orange lights out in their yards with pumpkin’s everywhere, drinking the most God awful pumpkin spice concoction being put […]

via I love Thanksgiving….. Could you please pass the Vodka, I mean potatoes? — Reflections Of A Gasbag

Hidden in the Shadows

I hadn’t entered a Roses…since…since…I worked in one during my college years.   I took a summer off from working textiles to take some summer school classes and needed a part-time job to keep my head above water.  I scored the position of stock room supervisor…a lofty title ruling over a staff of exactly one, me.

Today my wife had sent me to Roses on a quest, not for a holy grail but for a special type mop that Walmart didn’t seem to carry.  It became more than a quest.

The man called to me from the shadows created by the storefront at Roses.  I heard him but I couldn’t see him right off.  I could hear him but wasn’t close enough to understand him.  Cupping my ear with my hand I walked toward him.

He was an old man of color, skin a deep coffee with just a hint of cream.  He was clean-shaven, with skin smooth and clear.  His eyes were bright and twinkling although a bit sunken I thought.  He was dressed in old clothes consistent with an old man…something I might wear.  A faded army field coat over a blue and white plaid shirt worn over, threadbare, shiny khaki cords.  I saw slender ankles disappearing into scuffed but polished tie-up shoes.  The clothes were worn but clean.  The jacket and shirt swallowed him and later I noticed his belt caused his pants to bunch around his waist.  He held a cane across his lap.

His smile showed oversized false teeth, “Captain, can you spare some change?  I need a little food to keep the wolves away.”  His voice was deep and gravelly and somewhat melodic.

I am leery of panhandlers and have seen the video of one getting into her Mercedes after a long day of standing on the street.  As she placed her hand-lettered, cardboard sign in the trunk of her E class the interviewer asked a why question.  She ignored the microphone thrust into her face and roared off into the sunset without answering.

I looked at him with a sideways fisheye and reading my mind, he volunteered without me asking, “Naw sir, I ain’t drunk no al-ke-hall in over five years.  I’m just a little short between gubmint checks.  If you can’t hep me I understand.”

As I pulled out my wallet, I asked the old man, “If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you?”

“I just turned sixty-nine last week.  I’s born November 13, 1950.”

I was stunned.  The old man was six months younger than me.  It was almost a kick to the danglies.

“I’m six months older than you.  April 9, 1950.”

He grinned, “Yeah?  Looks like I might have a bit mo mileage on my speedo.”  I nodded and thought, “I sure hope so.”

Looking in my wallet I found three twenties and two ones.  “Listen, I’ll be right back,” and went in to complete the search for my holy grail but failed to find it.  No mop with my wife’s specifications.  I called her admitting to my failure and explaining what I was about to do.

The old man was still there…funny how I thought of him as an old man still.  “Come on, let’s go across to Wendy’s and I’ll spring for a burger.  What do you say?”

He paused and pondered…finally, I tried to assure him, “Look, I’m harmless, come on.”

He stood and I slowly walked with him finally helping him into my old Ram 1500.

Once in the truck, he volunteered, “Ya know, I ain’t homeless.  I live over yonder in them gubmint houses.  I just come up short this month.”  He signed,  “Pay my bills or eat.  Tough choice sometimes.”

I glanced at him, “No need to explain.  I’ve had hard times too.”   Compared to him I knew I was lying.

“My name’s Don, incidentally.”

He extended his hand, gnarled and callused, “I’m Herbert…Herbert Perry.  Pleased to meet chu.”

Once inside he held back until I prodded, “Go on get what you want, Herbert.”

He stepped forward and in his gravelly voice slowly asked the woman behind the counter, “Kin I get me one of them double burgers with bacon?  How’s your coffee?  Fresh?”

I stepped forward and added, “Throw in an order of fries for him and a second double burger with bacon.  Also, large vanilla Frosty.”   One of the voices in my head laughed saying, “Eatin’ high on the hog ain’tcha?”

We sat in a corner, him eating his burger, me drinking my Frosty,

“My son comes by an looks in on me but he’s out of town.  He goes to where the work is with his company.  In Colorado now…been gone a month.  ‘Posed to be back this week.  He’ll slide me a bit of money until my check comes in.  Doctor’s bill cut into my social and the little bit of retirement money I get from Southern Weavin’.”

“What’s wrong if you don’t mind me asking.”

“I got the sugar and neuropathy.  Medicare don’t quite cover it.”

Food or medicine, what a choice.

“Did you grow up in Greenville?”

“Naw, down near Orangeburg…little place called St. Matthews.  My parents and grandparents were sharecroppers.  We moved to Greenville when the mills started hirin’ coloreds in the late Sixties.  I finished my senior year at Sterlin’ High.  You know of it?”

“Yeah, I drove a bus during summers takin’ kids to the pool at the old Sterlin’ gym.”

He laughed…”I reckon you looked like a pimple on a black face didn’t you?”

I laughed, “Yeah, I did.  But the people were nice and the kids…they were kids.”  I went on to explain my choice of vocations, a teacher and a coach for forty-five years.  I began teaching just after schools were totally desegregated.

“I worked at Southern Weavin’ until the jobs went south.  Nearly thirty years.  I did odd jobs after that.  I’ve always been good with my hands.  Dorothy, my wife, was a nurse until the cancer got her.  I kind of fell into a bottle for a while.  I crawled out about five years ago.”

“It happens.  You say you got a son, any others?”

The conversation shifted to families, children, and grandchildren.  I was happy an old black man and an old white man had so much in common.

“Captain, you not going to eat that burger?”

“No, that Frosty filled me up…I thought I’d let you take it home for supper.”  I didn’t fool him at all but we both ignored the lie.

“Why you doin’ this?”

I shook my head, “I don’t know.  Someone in my head told me it was the right thing to do and I hope I’ve made a friend.”

He nodded, “Could be.”

“Why don’t you let me take you home.  That way I’ll know where my new friend lives.”

I again watched his slow trek to the truck and offered him a hand.  He was quiet for the short trip to his home…a government-supported group of duplexes.  It was well maintained but had a gridded and boring sameness.

Kids, home from school, played along the streets.  Chasing each other, along with Frisbees and colorful balls.  Carefully I wove through them and at his direction pulled up to a corner unit and got out to help him down.  A little girl of my granddaughter’s age ran up to him.  Wearing a pink Minnie Mouse tee-shirt, she hugged him around his knees.

“Where you been Mr. Herb?”

“My friend and I just went for lunch Lizzie.  You go on and play now I’ll be out in a bit to watch chu.”

To me, he added, “Somethin’ about the noise kids create makes you forget your troubles.  I likes to sit out and watch ‘em.”

Leaning on his cane, “I ‘preciate the meal.  Maybe you come by sometimes and I’ll stand you one.”

I nodded and smiled, shook his hand and walked back to the truck.  I watched him slowly hobble to his door.  Turning, he waved as I cranked my old truck before disappearing into his home.

As I drove home, I had time to think.  I was reminded of an old phrase from some educational advertisement and adjusted it to “A mind is a terrible thing….”

I wondered how many people were having to make decisions on whether to eat or pay for a prescription.  How many people became homeless.  Bankrupt because they got sick.  I also gave a silent thanks for more blessings than I deserve.

In this country we continue to tout ourselves as the greatest in the world, we have people dying because they can’t afford health care…people who don’t have to die.  People who are dying because of corporate greed.  Being told to “pull themselves up by the bootstraps…or get another job.” How many are hiding in the shadows?

We have a family member who has “the sugar” and neuropathy.  He also lives in government-subsidized housing and his “social” doesn’t quite cover some months.  He is not an alky or drug addict.  He made some bad business choices and picked the month’s just before the Great Recession to try and start a company, sinking all of his resources into it.

The company went under and everything went with it.  His home, his car, his equipment, his country club membership, his life.  He went to work cleaning offices or selling everything from shoes to his soul, his wages garnished to pay off the loans made in good faith that had been sunk into a business that sank like a stone because of greedy mortgage lenders and Wall Street tycoons.

He has survived but could just as easily been hidden in the shadows.  Survived because of the family…but what of those who have none.  One “social” check short of the street.   Eat or buy meds, buy meds or pay the rent.

I tire of pontificators spreading the lies of the “welfare queens” living on the taxpayer’s teat.  Are there abuses, of course.  There are always people who play the system…some might say that billion-dollar corporations paying no taxes might be playing the system.  An excessive number of “welfare queens” are retired or disabled folk.  In many cases, they are people working multiple jobs to keep the wolves away.

Enough of the rant…  I hope I’ll follow through with my thoughts…Herb is a bit old to be adopted but maybe I can shine a bit of light into his shadows.

Don Miller writes on various subjects, some that bother him so.  His author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The Day Kennedy Died

 

I was six months past my thirteenth birthday when I learned of President Kennedy’s assassination, and I admit I had the political awareness of a rock…a very dumb rock.  I knew Kennedy was big dodo but I’m really not sure I completely knew why until I became a history major five years later.  I still had the political awareness of a rock but at least I came to understand the political history of the past.

We were called back to homeroom from our eighth grade PE class.  We weren’t happy.  During those days PE was a welcomed break from the academic day.  When we arrived at Mrs. Biggerstaff’s room we could tell something was wrong just by the look on her face.

I’ve tried to remember the feelings.  Can’t quite conger up what they were.  My age and cynicism are interfering.  I remember how quiet the class grew, quite unusual for an eighth-grade class full of hormone-driven early teens.  Sounds seemed muted.  Even the bus ride home was quiet.  Quiet as “inside of a tomb” quiet.

The young Kennedy was a handsome man with a beautiful wife and family.  He spoke in that “funny Yankee” accent but for some reason made people want to listen.   I remember reading accounts of his bravery during World War Two and later attending the movie made about his exploits.  I remember feeling sorry for his wife, especially after seeing her in her blood-soaked dress as a solemn LBJ was sworn in.

Fridays were “go to town day” normally a family adventure.  Monroe, NC, was the destination only because there was a bank that stayed open longer than any in much closer Fort Mill.  Mom, Dad, Nannie, and little brother Stevie joined me inside our nearly brand new ’63 Galaxy 500.  I can remember how we sat, and I can remember the faces on the people we met as we drove the eighteen miles to town.

My grandmother, a staunch Protestant Republican who worried the Catholic Kennedy might steal the White House silverware couldn’t believe someone would assassinate him.  Catholic or Protestant it was just wrong.

Maybe I am merely projecting but everyone seemed to have a pained look on their faces…even on the main street of Monroe.  There was a kind of reverie to the day.  People moved as if in a trance.

I’m sure Kennedy’s legacy has grown over the years.  He attempted much and was thwarted, much of his New Frontier collapsed under the weight of Republicans and Southern Democrats.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 would not be implemented until after his death.  There was also the Bay of Pigs, the assassination of Diem and the beginning escalation of the Vietnam War.

On the plus side, he championed Civil Rights, stood up to the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis, established the Peace Corps and challenged us to leave our earthly confines.  Some of his New Frontier proposals were implemented after his death.

There was a hope with Kennedy that we could be more, do more, that we could be a type of Camelot.  An idealism that we could make a difference.  Maybe that was what I was feeling…a simple loss of hope for a world that could be better…or maybe I’ve gotten old and cynical.

A very conservative acquaintance stated that Kennedy was the last great Democrat.  I countered with “and Eisenhower was the last great Republican.”  It was a somewhat argumentative conversation.  I don’t know.  Maybe it was my youthful idealism and propensity for chasing windmills…something I am happy to say I haven’t put aside.  I wish we had another Kennedy or Eisenhower…and the political parties who supported them.

Don Miller writes on various subjects, non-fiction, and fiction.  His author’s page is at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The featured image is a picture from the Chicago Tribune.

Flatter Than a Toad Frog…

 

…on a four-lane highway.

It’s mid-November and I’m cold…freezing in my fleece sweats.  I feel the cold deep in my bones and today was quite mild.  The cold days are long, but the nights are even longer.  The darkness fogs my brain and waterlogs my soul….even in the brightest sunlight.

It’s months before the days begin to lengthen…well, a month before the Winter Solstice.  I can’t be wishing my life away; I don’t have enough life left.  This is the winter before my seventieth year.  What is it?  Four scores and seven…and we are certainly not guaranteed that.

Mid-November and I’m flatter than a toad frog on a four-lane.  December, January, and February could be a test of my waning resolve.  My cornbread already ain’t done in the middle and maybe a gooey mess before I feel the winds of March.

There is absolutely no reason for me to be flat…well, I’ve been seeing Christmas decorations in stores since mid-August it seems.  It’s Halloween, then Thanksgiving and then Christmas.  I’m waiting on April Fool’s Day.  For some reason holidays are tough.

It’s five forty-three in the evening.  We have a small mountain range to our west. The sun disappeared a half-hour ago.  It is five-fifty now and darker than the inside of a cow.  I think I know why people went to bed and rose with the chickens…boredom.  I also know why old-timey farm families were huge.

I try to stay busy during the in-between time when it is too dark to do anything constructive and too early to go to bed.  I fill the time as best I can.  Obviously, I write badly, I read, I watch TV, I play online Scrabble, I click on Facebook…sometimes I do all at the same time, slowly flipping from one to the other and then back again.  Sometimes I catch myself simply staring off into space.  Everything in a dim, soft focus, wondering how long I’ve sat with my mind in neutral.

It’s part of my affliction.  I can’t seem to stay focused on any one thing.  I’m fragmented. If I didn’t know I was clinically depressed I’d swear I was suffering from ADD on steroids.  Anxiety?  I’m driving my wife to distraction.  When I’m not bouncing from thought to thought I have a desire to sleep but even my dreams are fragmented.  At night, when I do sleep, dreams are wild and in 3D.  Luckily that is all I remember.

“Are you listening to me?” she asked.  “I told you that five minutes ago.”  “How many times are you going to ask me that?”  “You sure are sleeping a lot.”  “I’m beginning to worry about you.”  Like you don’t have worries of your own.  I have no answers to her questions or her observations.

Clinical depression with a good dose of SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder.  I just searched Amazon for a Happy Light…I do spend too much time in the dark.  I should have been a vampire…or a mushroom.

What I hate most?  The depression strips you of the desire to be productive but not the guilt of failing productivity.  Like a vampire, it saps your energy upon rising from bed.  It is a thief stealing my joy and happiness.

The very idea of going for my morning walk triggers an argument with the voices screaming in my head.  Faceless voices screaming “Gooooo!  It will do you good!”  Other’s yelling, “Stayyyyy!  Keep your rear end in that recliner!”  That might be a wee embellishment or I’m actually crazier than even I thought.

Like many, I am high functioning.  I hide my sadness and anxiety from those around me.  I am the subject of Smokey Robinson’s opening lyrics from “Tracks of My Tears”, “People say I’m the life of the party ‘cause I tell a joke or two.  Although I might be laughing loud and hard, deep inside I’m blue.”  It is easier to share this with people I don’t know on a blog than to confess to those closest to me.

Time drags, sleep is fitful and dream-filled.  it is the next morning, exactly twelve hours since I began this pity party, and it is even darker than it was last night.  It seems an unexpected rain shower decided to make its way north and camp over my head.  I must have been playing Scrabble during last night’s weather report.

Over an hour before the official sunrise…add another fifteen minutes for Old Sol to climb above the ridge and its trees to the east.  I guess I will add gloomy to the darkness.  Hopefully, the front will get out soon enough to trigger my morning voices spatting over to walk or not to walk.  That is always the question.

The good news?  I haven’t given in yet.  The bad?  I so want to.  My resolve is eroding.  I want to take to my bed and suck on my thumb.  Instead, I will put on my shoes and begin the day putting one foot in front of the other.  I’ll put on my rain gear and be confident no one will see the “tracks of my tears.” I will battle with myself.  I will climb the hills and try to use music to drown out my voices.  Hopefully, the walk back will be easier, hopefully, the malaise will pass…as it does.

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

The image was from https://werunandride.com/2017/07/11/frogs-on-the-highway/ July 11, 2017

 

 

…Than Owl Sh!t?

 

Image result for Slicker than owl shit"

I stepped out into the cold to check the temperatures in our hothouses and immediately thought, “Its colder than owl sh!t.”  This simple thought took me down a mental path that was “slicker than owl sh!t” and quite soon, I felt “dumber than owl sh!t” as I stepped on an overnight gift left behind by one of my canine children.  I was “luckier than owl sh!t” because the gift was frozen solid.  I avoided a sprained ankle as my foot rolled over the frozen “Baby Ruth” rather than my ankle.  I also avoided the nasty cleanup of my spiffy bunny slippers.

It was colder than owl sh!t and I wished it was hotter than owl sh!t, still.  Twenty-three degrees with a light breeze making me shiver despite my heavy coat.  It’s November 13, still fall, and the morning low for Nome, Alaska is twenty-four.  Crazier than owl sh!t.  I know many of you would have said it was “colder than a titches witty in a brass bra” or “colder than a well digger’s a$$ in January.”  For some reason my mind didn’t go there.

You can tell what has grabbed the attention of my feeble brain.  How did “…than owl    sh!t” become such a versatile descriptor and why do I feel the need to insert an exclamation point for the i in sh!t?

I grew up near the sandhills of South Carolina in an area that was cut by red clay and rocky slate.  I lived in a farming area and am as “country as a cow patty.”  I have spent my entire life in the state including the last thirty-two in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.

What little time I have spent out of South Carolina has primarily been spent in other Southern states.  I’ve just had no desire to head any farther north than Maryland.  I did head to Nebraska but that was where the College World Series was held.  A fine South Carolina institution won it that year.  Who am I kidding, I was a Clemson fan and they were there but didn’t win.

I was and am a purebred “country bumpkin”, now hillbilly, with hayseed and lint in his hair and wrapped tightly in kudzu vine.  Maybe more inbred than purebred as I think on it.  You might even use the term, Redneck.

I only bring up the place of my birth because I have heard about every old-time descriptive idiom one might expect to hear in the South…or at least South Carolina.  None work better, in so many ways  than “whatever than owl sh!t.”  Well Found under carnal knowledge” probably has more usage but doesn’t seem to have the flare.

“…hotter than owl sh!t” is more descriptive than “F…ing hot” but as I think on it, “hotter than a Billy goat’s a$$ in a hot pepper patch” gives one a much more interesting mental image than saying “it’s hotter than hell.”    I just thought of randy Billy goat descriptor, “Hornier than a double di@ked Billy goat,” and the cuter, “As happy as a puppy dog with two p@t@rs.”  No more, no more.

Obviously, I’ve slid further down my “slicker than owl sh!t” rabbit hole and it has branched toward more descriptive Southern idioms that come to mind.

An old friend commenting on the current crop of politicians, “My dad always said if you’re going to be stupid, you better be tough.”  Yep, and Lyndon B. Johnson put it a different way, “Being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There’s nothing to do but to stand there and take it.”  No, I’m not saying LBJ was stupid and it wasn’t an idiom…maybe.  I wish our current president would stand there and take it and stay off twitter.  No more politics.

My wife’s favorite Southernism describing one of her basketball teams, “You can’t make silk purses out of sow’s ears” shows what a fine lady she is.  I have used a similar description to chronical some of my own teams involving chicken salad and chicken ka ka.  I’m not a fine lady.

She also informed me after I bloodied my thumb doing something stupid, “If you’re looking for sympathy, you can find it in Webster’s.”  I’m guessing she won’t kiss it to make it better and was “madder than a wet hen” as I bled on her floor.

One idiom made me stop and ponder “it was thicker and richer than three feet up a bull’s a$$.”  Interesting considering the Baptist deacon using it was describing fine, thick and rich banana pudding at a church social.  Somehow this is a good thing?  “Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit.”  Some sayings defy all understanding.

I began my morning ramble because of checking hothouse temperatures.  For some reason, my wife has never found a plant she didn’t want to save or overwinter.  It doesn’t keep her from buying more plants in the spring, summer, and fall.  A bit compulsive, she has more plants than “you can shake a stick at” and as I await the delivery of our third hothouse I wonder if we are on our way to “more hot houses than you can shake a stick at.”  As I said, somethings defy all understanding.

“Shaking a stick at” is an interesting saying and as I researched it was surprised to find out it was first used in a damn Yankee newspaper in the early 1800s, the Lancaster (Pa) Journal in 1818.  Well, we certainly kidnapped it.  What does it mean?  I have no clue except shaking a stick at anything is threatening and my wife’s plants are threatening my good nature.  “I’m as anxious as a whore in Sunday school.”

Well, I see it is now thirty degrees and today’s temperature is to climb only into the low forties.  I’m going to wait until the red alcohol in my thermometer climbs above thirty-two before I go for my morning walk.  At this rate, it could be an afternoon walk.  I just don’t want to “bust my a$$ because the roads are slicker than owl sh!t.”

***

If any of you have similar idioms, I would appreciate you dropping them in a comment.

***

Further ramblings in book form may be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The startled owl image from The Daily Record https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/weird-news/meet-worlds-most-startled-owl-6266419

Gif from https://www.theodysseyonline.com/best-southern-sayings  Some other good sayings.

“Forgive me Father….”

 

While discussing our health and eating habits, I lamented to my best friend during our weekly early morning walk together, “I’ve got to get ah hold of my diet.”  Six months ago, I needed to lose five pounds…I now need to lose five additional….  My friend’s weight hasn’t varied a pound in the last decade.  I hate him just a little.

I know I could have said “get hold of” but I’m Southern and “get ah hold of” is perfectly acceptable.  I could have said, “get ah holt to” too, also perfectly acceptable from a man who was born, reared and has lived his entire life south of the Mason Dixon.

The point, I actually have one…oatmeal.  Oatmeal is one of the ways I get “ah holt” of my diet despite the fact I don’t like cooked breakfast oatmeal ah tall (at all).  I realize it is good for me.  I know this because of the red heart on the round tubed package with the smiling Quaker on the label.  Oatmeal seems to go well with the concept of diet and exercise…or as I think of it, starvation and torture.

Be clear!  I don’t hate oatmeal, I hate cooked breakfast oatmeal.  I’m a grits guy and all the unhealthy additions used to make it palatable…extra-sharp cheese, butter…maybe some sausage crumbles.  All my non-Southern friends roll their eyes and remark, “I don’t know how you eat grits, they’re so bland.”  Oatmeals not? And a painter’s canvas is white until the paint is applied.  Grits are the same way.  Grits are a blank canvas for the chef’s art.

I told my friend, hoping by saying it out loud I would follow through, “I’m waiting until the first frost and changing over to oatmeal again.”  For some reason, oatmeal seems better suited for the cold, barren, bland, and dark days of winter.  Well, we had our first frost a few days ago and I’ve had my first bowl of steaming hot Quaker Steel-cut Oats.  Yum…not.

I also converted from beer to Jack.  Jack seems better suited to help me through those cold, barren, bland, and dark days of winter.  Oats with a shot of Jack?  It’s five o’clock somewhere.

There is something about the mouthfeel of cooked oatmeal…is that something?  Mouthfeel?  I heard the term on one of those cooking shows that I noticed never cooks oatmeal.  Consistency?  Sometimes it seems the more I chew, the bigger the wad of oatmeal gets.  Sometimes I swallow without chewing.  I like the mouthfeel of grits and I never swallow without chewing because of the added accoutrements.  I used the French pronunciation in my head to make it sound better.  I guess I used the French spelling too.  I just can’t do that with oatmeal with a straight face.

I try to disguise the oatmeal, using it like a gray, chef’s canvas, I guess.  Almonds, yogurt, and frozen blueberries, or cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter, sometimes molasses and walnuts, maybe chocolate chips…okay, I seem to be making it less healthy as I go, and it doesn’t change the mouthfeel.  Oatmeal gets worse as you compare it to the mouthfeel of what you are putting in it.  Kind of like the feel of a silky negligee as opposed to a knobby wool nightshirt.

I like oatmeal’s mouthfeel fine in Missouri cookies or granola…I won’t turn down a raisin oatmeal cookie.  That’s pronounced Missour…rah cookies.  Raw oats, cocoa, butter, sugar, milk, and peanut butter…it has peanut butter, what’s not to like?  No-bake, easy, tasty but probably not very heart-healthy.  Granola is toasted but is pretty calorie-dense with all the honey and nuts.  Sometimes I add it to my yogurt and leave the cooked oats out.

Choices, choices and all are bad.  My bud suggested, “Why don’t you eat multi-grain Cheerios or Kashi?  They stand up well in milk, high in protein.  I eat them with fruit.”  Yeah, a good mouthfeel I guess and they have the little red heart symbol on their package.

Good idea but I think I now realize, eating boiled oats is my own form of self-flagellation for previous nutritional choices leading to my heart attack.  I am paying for my sinful eating habits.  Too much pizza, too much red meat, and fried chicken…drinking eggnog while eating sausage cheese balls at Christmastime, cut in lard cathead biscuits running with butter and King syrup, fried everything….too many sins to enumerate.

I need absolution.  I should be confessing to a food priest…”Forgive me, father, for I have sinned, I ate a fried hamburger last week…with mayo…and cheese.”  My penance would probably be another bowl of breakfast oatmeal served sans anything.  I may be sick.  “Hail Oatmeal, full of grace….”

The featured image came from UrbanDaddy https://www.urbandaddy.com/articles/37513/chicago/the-state-of-chicago-burgers-10-beautiful-burgers-one-beautiful-slideshow   Please forgive me for showing a Yankee hamburger but somethings transcend region.

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

Diddlin’ Where You Ought not to Diddle

 

When I found myself in a position which allowed me to impart coaching wisdom acquired over my forty-five year career, half-jokingly I advised, in no particular order, “Don’t diddle where you ought not diddle, avoid messin’ with money, win over the Mommas while avoiding diddin’ where you ought not diddle, and wear good shoes, your feet will appreciate it.”  During my career, I only ran afoul of one…oh, so you want to know which one?  My feet hurt…a lot.

Since my last brush with a surgeon’s knife, I realized I should have added a fifth nugget of wisdom, “Big floppy hats and sunscreen are a must.”  Might even add long-sleeved tees and long pants.  I’ve found out your skin will appreciate it.  Unless you like doctors diddling in your calf with a scalpel and suturing you up after.

My fifth surgery to remove skin cancer!   Not a good way to lose weight.  One on an ear, three on my lower legs, and one I don’t understand at all…the sun ain’t evah seen my lily-white butt…ocks.  Well, there was the time a hornet flew up my short britches leg.  Shucking them, the sun wasn’t the only thing that saw my lily-white ass.  There were several cars and a church bus along with the various plants, animals and insects in my garden.  I didn’t get stung…well…nobody whistled or cheered their approval and that stung a bit.

Too many years battling the summer sun on the farm or the athletic fields in minimal attire has come back to bite me.  I guess I shouldn’t have diddled in the sun wearing shorts, tees and a baseball cap.  When I had a physique, I would bronze myself too.  Shirtless, skimpy gym shorts and kicks riding round and round on a tractor, hatless and brainless until I lost most of my hair.  A smart person would have put on SPF 50 or at least a hat.  I’m not sure sunscreen had even been invented.

My best friend chose the same vocation, is my age, and eat up with the same affliction.  Never believing in half measures, he might as well be a vampire.  He runs and walks in the dark to stay out of the sun.  Does his yard work in the early morning hours much to the chagrin of the people who are sleeping in.

If my friend has to venture out into the midday sun, he puts on so much sunscreen he looks like Bo Derek painted white in Tarzan the Ape Man…no that’s a lie and now I’ve got a mental picture I can’t get out of my head.  I think I’ll have to Google a picture of Bo just to replace it.  A bad excuse is better than none.

My grandmother worked in the sun all her life.  She wore feed sack dresses and a huge floppy straw hat  No sunscreen, no skin cancer.  A  farmer all her life, she worked side by side with her father, then my grandfather and continued to plant and hoe her beans, maters, and taters for forty more years after his death.  No skin cancer but a complexion resembling old shoe leather.  I guess I should have paid better attention.

It seems like there is more skin cancer these days than say fifty years ago…or am I just aware of it since being afflicted?  Are we losing our ozone layer, more pollution, and chemicals in the air?  Global Climate change?  Marvin the Martian’s Immodium Q-36 Space Modulator?  Probably I’m just more aware or they ignored it fifty years ago.

I should have worn floppy straw hats…my legs aren’t good enough to do justice to a feed sack dress.

Oh well. The damage has been done.  No sense crying over spilled milk, but I truly hate giving a little piece here and a little there.  Now Janis has joined Bo in my head, singing in my head, “Take it! Take another little piece of my heart now, baby! Break it!  Break another little bit of my heart now, honey.”

I need to stick another song in my head cause if the surgeon takes a little piece of my heart, I’m in deep do-do.  Maybe Katrina and the Waves, “Walking on Sunshine”…can you get skin cancer listening to a tune in your head?  At least I didn’t diddle where I ought not to diddle…maybe.

Okay, ice and elevate.

For those of you who are concerned, don’t be.   I see a doctor every three months to keep a handle on it.   I’ve done better wearing my big floppy hats, long-sleeved tees, face shields and applying sunscreen.   Now if I can do something about my feet.

The featured image is from http://www.webesailing.com/activities.htm

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