Deep Impact

 

If you hope to be successful in life there are people who impact you.  I don’t know how successful I was but I certainly had people who guided me, mentored me, people I wanted to emulate.  Marilyn Koon Hendrix had the impact of a pile driver as far as my life is concerned.

I don’t know what I expected.  I didn’t know how a principal was supposed to act, but “Koon” certainly wasn’t what I expected.  She was a friend, a mother figure…maybe a god figure.  She was the standard I measured all other principals by.

She was certainly the queen of her realm.  Everyone knew who was in charge but not in a heavy-handed way.  No one would accuse her of being a micromanager.  She wanted to lead, taking you along because you wanted to go, not dragging you along because you had to go.

Mrs. Hendrix allowed you to teach or coach in your own way.  She was comfortable allowing you to learn by making mistakes, backing you the first time and expecting you to gain wisdom and not repeat the mistake.  I made plenty of mistakes those first few years and she made sure I learned from them.  My wisdom?  I made sure I didn’t make the same mistake again.

Koon was a big woman or maybe I should say, she had a big presence.  She cast a huge shadow, bigger than life.  To me, she was an Amazon in every way. A deep raspy voice and a hardy laugh she liked to use.  Koon worked hard and she played hard, she expected the same for those who worked under her.  She had an “if it ain’t fun, I ain’t wantin’ to do it” attitude and her attitude translated to all around her.  I tried to adopt her attitude throughout my career, always trying to find fun in what I was doing.

I was young and impressionable trying to soak up as much knowledge and wisdom as I possibly could.  I was a twenty-three or four-year-old child who couldn’t bear the idea of disappointing his parents or Ms. Koon…although I’m sure I did.

The youthful me was “country come to town” when I entered her office for my interview.  It was a casual affair…a sit down on the couch, she in her rocking chair.  A let’s get to know you kind of interview.  I found out we grew up in the same county, she the “huge” metropolis of Lancaster, me in a wide place in the road near a cow patty, eighteen miles north.

I’ve often looked back on that moment.  I’ve often wondered what she saw in an immature hayseed from Indian Land, but she offered me a job teaching Physical Science and coaching and my life’s course had been set.

As the interview ended, I remember she leaned in as if to tell me a secret, instead asking a question, “Do you think you can work for a woman?”  An odd question in today’s era but this was the early Seventies and she was the first female principal in Greenville County.  I wanted the job badly and would have worked for an Orangutan.  No, I never said such and working for a woman was no problem.  Working for Koon was a joy of a lifetime.

If you are successful there are usually one or two people who impact you.  I was lucky…I had many impactful role models just at Mauldin, many who never realized their effect on my life.  Many who are now gone but not forgotten.

I was fortunate, I got to tell Marilyn how much she meant to me a year or so ago.  One person I didn’t get to tell was Jay Lunceford who passed too quickly to tell.  I find it particularly ironic to have learned of Marilyn’s passing on the anniversary of Jay’s.

Saddening but then the memories come flooding in.  I’m not sure how we survived to have memories.  God takes care of the young and stupid.  Oh, the stories I could tell but won’t…some of the people involved are still alive.

Koon will be missed but she’ll never really die either.  I have too much love.  Too many people owe her much…much love.  Too many people have the warm glow you associate with the warm morning sun and with Koon.

I have hopes she and Jay have met up somewhere in the cosmos, telling tales, laughing with each other, reminding us of what it was to be a Mauldin Maverick back in the day. “Do you remember when….”  You bet I do.

Koon, I’ll miss you, but I’ll still be laughing with you, telling tales of those days…the good old days.

***

Clarification:  Jay Lunceford was the head football coach and athletic director at Mauldin High School…and the father figure to Marilyn’s mother figure.  He too had a significant impact on my life.  Unfortunately, he passed way too soon in the late Seventies due to a brain tumor.  I believe he was thirty-two.

Don Miller writes on various subjects and his author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from an old yearbook.  Marilyn Koon Hendrix when she was still Marilyn Koon.  I pray she’s not looking down pointing a finger at me.

Roots….

As we grow, if we are fortunate, we put our roots deep into the deep, rich soil of life.  We anchor ourselves in the lessons we have learned.  No matter how far away the branches of our limbs reach, we are still anchored, still attached…to home.

As I’ve gotten older, old, I find myself slowly meandering back toward my roots, the memories, the lessons, the people of a place that no longer exists.  Not true, it exists quite clearly in my mind.

I was triggered by a rerun of an episode of The Waltons.  John Boy reads an editorial he had written that spoke to family roots and the destruction of an old home in the name of progress.  Before the quote was completed and fully formed in my mind, I was wondering why progress seems to create so much destruction.

Once more, my broken kaleidoscope of a mind sent me down a pathway toward home, a home that only exists in my mind.  A home that was destroyed in the name of progress.  A dusty dirt road, a white clapboard house with hip roofs sitting on a hill, a wide front porch, gently rolling fields of hay and stands of pine trees, people and places gone but not forgotten.

The often-quoted African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” comes to my mind.  It was true in the 1950s and 1960s as I grew up and may still be true in some isolated areas.  Unfortunately, the villages have been swallowed up by a monster named Urban Sprawl and the changes in the world we live in have destroyed extended and nuclear families and the pearls of wisdom they might have imparted.

Growing up on my particular wide place in the road, I was surrounded by family on all sides…it seemed I was related to everyone.  Aunts, uncles, and cousins from one side of the family on a hill beside us, aunts, uncles, and cousins from the other side of the family on the hill opposite.  My grandparent’s home sat on a hill above us…looking down to protect and teach lessons for a lifetime.

Further on up or down the road, more family.  On a five or six-mile stretch of highway between my grandparent’s home and my great grandparent’s home it seemed every other house was occupied by a family member, some distantly related, others more closely.  Cousins, aunts and uncles, family friends, all intent upon raising all the village children.

As I moved into my dating years a discussion of who might have been on my family tree was a must it seemed.  Even then I sometimes went out with distant female cousins.  The pool of eligible consorts was very, very small.

The area east of a western meander by the Catawba was sprinkled with small villages.  Most took the name of the church that was close by…or maybe the opposite, the church took the village’s name.  Belair, Pleasant Hill or Pleasant Valley, Osceola, Steel Hill.  In addition to the church, usually, there would be a small general store to serve the smattering of homes around it. These communities tended to overlap and were a part of a bigger area named Indian Land.

There were names like Yarbrough Town or Camp Cox and six or seven miles to the southeast, a true village, Van Wyche.  Northeast there was the town of Fort Mill and right across the river, a true city, Rock Hill.  Additional family members had settled there, raising us too.

When I was young, I didn’t appreciate the “village raising the child.”  It seemed any news of trouble I might have gotten into traveled at light speed, alerting my parents or grandparents before I got home.  Punishment would be quick and decisive…more often than not, it was well deserved. “Whatever you get at school, you’ll get double at home.”

I’m sure time has softened the focus of those days…maybe my memories are of a time I wished to be rather than was.  The front porch probably wasn’t quite as big as I remember but the roots of my family tree have dug deeper into the fertile ground I remember.

The villages are gone, and family dynamics have changed.  Monsters and socioeconomics have changed them.  Few parents can make ends meet on a single salary; others find themselves working multiple jobs.  Latch key children and helicopter parents are a rule, no longer the exception.  Child care is expensive and does little for family dynamics.

Grandparents are working longer and can’t provide or are unwilling to provide the safety net my grandparents provided.  We are unable to go back to those “thrilling days of yesteryear” but must somehow realize children don’t raise themselves.

I’ve got to do a better job of imparting my own lessons.  Actions over words, practice what you preach.  I have grandchildren who are growing up too fast.  I feel I have been somewhat absent, an absence they can’t afford…I can’t afford.  I’m not a village but I have lessons to be taught, stories to be told.  I hope there is still time to teach and to tell…time to impart wisdom and lessons.  Past time to help them put roots into fertile ground.

“Work for a cause, not for applause.  Remember to live your life to express, not to impress, don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.”     —Gail Lictenstein

***

Don Miller, a retired teacher, and coach writes on various subjects.  His author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The interesting image is a drawing by Jillian Deluca and may be purchased at https://www.saatchiart.com/print/Drawing-Deep-Roots/985383/3619990/view

 

Fifty Years Ago…

 

Section 5377 of the Code of Laws of South Carolina of 1942: “It shall be unlawful for pupils of one race to attend the schools provided by boards of trustees for persons of another race.”

Fifty years ago, yesterday, The School District of Greenville County became one of the last school districts in one of the last states to comply with the “spirit” of the Supreme Court Case Brown v Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas.  It had only taken sixteen years to accomplish this compliance.

1954’s Brown v Board included a South Carolina case filed by then Civil Rights lawyer, future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall on behalf of Harry and Eliza Briggs and 20 other families living in Summerton, SC, a small town in Clarendon County.  Filed in 1947, Briggs v Elliott challenged school segregation in Clarendon County, South Carolina.  It was the first case filed of five cases combined under the Brown umbrella

Unanimously, the Justices found that separate was inherently unequal and that “public school segregation was unconstitutional.” They also found segregation “fostered feelings of inferiority among black children that could harm their educational futures.”

Brown overthrew Plessy v Ferguson’s “Separate but Equal”, a railroad case from the 1890s that had been applied to education.  Mandated segregation in South Carolina was over…defacto segregation wasn’t.

I used the word “spirit” earlier because for sixteen years South Carolina lawmakers systematically attempted to put off the inevitable by increasing spending on black schools, implementing “pseudo” freedom of choice, and an end-run with what became known as “token” integration.

State Senator Strom Thurmond of Dixiecrat fame helped to pen what became known as the Southern Manifesto, pledging, along with one hundred other federal lawmakers, the intent to resist integration as far as the law would allow.

It seemed South Carolina and other states, mostly Southern, were intent on being deliberate rather than speedy when instructed by the Supreme Court to integrate their schools “with all deliberate speed” in 1954.

With a Mississippi Federal Court ruling, segregation ended over a long weekend in Greenville County on February 17, 1970, with the busing of sixty percent of the black school populations to various schools distant from their own neighborhoods.  Only ten percent of white children were bused.  Five hundred educators found themselves cleaning out their desks and moving to different desks in different schools as well.  This was done to reflect the racial makeup of the county, 80% white, 20% black.

What had been black high schools, some quite new became middle schools or closed that weekend.  These centers of pride for many communities, like Sterling High or Lincoln High, were now empty; only living on in the memories of many people of color.

I was a second semester junior in college at the time and not very concerned about the politics of my state.  The next year, my senior year, I would find myself an unpaid assistant baseball coach while doing my student teaching at a local high school.  It would be my first-time interacting with black students and athletes.  It would probably be some of their first interactions with white teachers and coaches.  Somehow we survived.

From all I can glean from friends and fellow educators who taught during the period, the change was relatively peaceful.  I imagine there was some selective memory loss but unlike other states, few buses, if any, were pelted with rocks. There were no rabid white crowds shouting expletives to little schoolgirls. The governor did not stand on the schoolhouse steps shouting, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

Still…I can’t imagine what those thousands of students were thinking at the time as they rode school buses to new locations.  I’m unable to fathom the fear of the unknown that prevailed, both black and white.  I can only imagine what might have gone on in restrooms, locker rooms, in the parking lot, on buses…out of range of teacher’s and administrator’s ears.

By the time I became a full-time teacher and coach in 1973, I found race relations still raw and contentious.  Generally, the question of race relations simmered just beneath the surface on briefly exposing itself.  There were just enough brief flareups to remind us.  Beliefs don’t go gently into the night just because judges tell them to.

For years we had been indoctrinated to believe races should be kept separate as a benefit to both, and then in the blink of an eye it was over…or was it?

There were still arguments made and old white men continued to try and find ways around the law.  Court cases would still be heard, especially over busing.  Isolated areas would still attempt to hang on to the old ways.  Affluent white folk found another way to be separate.

One hundred and thirty-four private schools and academies opened in South Carolina during the period, one hundred and thirty-one were opened to whites only.  Many still exist today, many still are all white with names featuring Lee, Davis or Calhoun.

Over fifty thousand white students fled to private schools and today one in seven public schools in South Carolina are considered “highly segregated” still.  “Separate but equal” seems to have a firm foothold all over the South and it appears the Secretary of Education is intent on strengthening its foothold nationwide while weakening an already weakened public school system.

I often hear or read, “We need to move on.  That was so long ago.  I don’t understand why it is always about race.”  I find it is often people of my race who make these comments.  The same people who insist their heritage is under attack when certain flags are removed from federal buildings.

I point out that Jim Crow was still entrenched during the years of my youth well into my college days.  As I reach a major birthday in a month and a half, I find that 1970 doesn’t seem that long ago.  If it is during my lifetime it can’t be that long ago.

I remember the signs stating, “White’s Only.”  I remember fire hoses, German Shepards and burning buses.  I didn’t fight for my Civil Rights, I didn’t have to.  I’m sure for those who fought for their Civil Rights…continue to fight for their Civil Rights, it seems like only yesterday.

Addendum 

According to various accounts, although Brown resulted in a legal victory against segregation, it was a costly victory for those associated with the Briggs case.

Reverend Joseph De Laine, the generally acknowledged leader of Summerton’s African-American community at the time, was fired from his post as principal at a local school in Silver. His wife Mattie was also fired from her position as a teacher at Scott’s Branch school, as were all the other signers of the original petition.

De Laine’s church was also burned and he moved to Buffalo, New York in 1955 after surviving an attempted drive-by shooting.  He never returned to South Carolina.

Harry and Eliza Briggs, on behalf of whose children the suit was filed, both lost their jobs in what was called “economic retribution.”  They both left South Carolina.

After death threats and by a joint resolution of the South Carolina House of Representatives, Federal Judge Walter Waring was forced to leave South Carolina for good.  He had sided with the petitioners.

An interesting article I just read, https://www.greenvilleonline.com/get-access/?return=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.greenvilleonline.com%2Fstory%2Fnews%2F2020%2F02%2F17%2Fdesegregation-1-out-of-7-south-carolina-schools-highly-segregated%2F2843394001%2F

***

Don Miller is a retired educator and athletic coach.  He writes on various subjects using various genres.  His author’s page can be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from “A New Wave of School Integration”, The Century Foundation, https://tcf.org/content/report/a-new-wave-of-school-integration/?session=1

***

Sources

https://brownvboard.org/content/brown-case-briggs-v-elliott

http://www.scequalizationschools.org/briggs-v-elliott.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Briggs_v._Elliott

 

Valentine’s Day…the Horror

The build-up to Valentine’s Day is stressful.  I’m so happy it’s over.  You would think after near forty years with my bride I’d get it right….  I’d rather be the first victim in a slasher movie.  At least it’s over for another year…maybe I’ll die before it comes around again.

I don’t do well with picking “meaningful” gifts or planning “meaningful” events.  Don’t do well?  And the Grand Canyon is a big hole in Arizona.  I’m better at spontaneity, flying by the seat of my pants, spur of the moment.  Who am I foolin’?  Damn, I’ve got an anniversary bearing down on me in late June.

My bride doesn’t like traditional Valentine’s Day gifts…you know…roses or chocolate.  Stress!  I mean she likes roses, but she’d rather have a bare-root rose to plant in the spring…you know the gift that keeps on giving…season after season.  I did that one year.  It died.

Chocolate would be fine if we celebrated at an intimate little Belgium chocolate shop we once discovered in Charleston…the owner, a Belgian Jew whose family fled to the United States as Nazi tanks began rolling toward France, died a while back.  How dare she.  The son who took over was…was…delicate and high strung, prone to fainting.  He couldn’t take the pressure of making handmade chocolate delights.  He sold out and for some reason, it’s just not the same.  It’s like the shop died too.

One of the first Valentine’s Days we celebrated after moving to the foothills of the Blue Ridge, I found a nearby inn offering a romantic dinner for two on Valentine’s Day.  I jumped on it…it snowed.

The owner called us saying, “They say the roads are cleared.  We’re open but have no power.  We’ll be preparing your meal over an open fire if you can get here.”  We’ll get there.  They lied!

“Have four-wheel drive, will travel” which explains why we opted to take the Thunderbird instead of the old Landcruiser.  The Landcruiser just wasn’t sexy enough for Valentine’s Day.  “Fools rush in….”  Up the Saluda Grade for twelve or so miles.  Everything was fine until we hit the North Carolina line.  Snowplows?  Even South Carolina has heard of them.

It was a drive through the mountains that reminded me of the scenes from the movie “Battle of the Bulge.”  The road looked like it had been bombed.  Trees and powerlines down, six inches of snow on the ground with a heavy fog rising as it melted.  Instead of Nazis directing mortar fire on us, power crews in yellow helmets directed us around obstructions.  No artillery shells exploded, just transformers lighting up the approaching darkness.  We made it.  How are we getting home?  I’m sure the inn is full…it was.

Saluda, North Carolina is a rustic little village filled with memories of past days when it was a stop for the railroad.  The inn, built to serve the railroad elite, was located on the far side of town and welcomed us with hurricane lamps that gave the old structure a turn of the Twentieth Century feel.

Oil lamps provided a warm glow with a hint of kerosene wafting through the air.  An intimate table for two covered in red and white checkerboard.  A flickering candle in the center of the table caused shadows to dapple around us as if bathed in soft moonlight.

There was a view of snow-covered mountains as we sat next to an open fireplace that could have burned a giant Sequoia tree.  Everything was warm and cheery…and of course, romantic.  None of the waitresses called anyone honey or sweetheart.  The offer was of a young red wine, not sweet Southern tea.

The bill of fare included mushrooms stuffed with duck liver pâté, Caesar salad, a healthy cut of filet mignon sided with asparagus and roasted potatoes…can you believe I can remember a dinner from over thirty years ago?

A chocolate cheesecake topped with a cherry sauce finished the meal…a decadent, triple-digit priced meal…worth every penny…to me…but not to my bride which is the only reason I had come here anyway.  She enjoyed the meal when she ate it, later…not so much.

We decided to take the long way home by interstate…the interstate had to be clear.  The wide four lanes had to be safer than the two-lane we had traveled up.  We found it clear of snow.  We also found it shrouded in a heavy fog rising from the asphalt as thick as (insert your own cliché here).

Worse still, my bride was sick.

“Honey, you need to pull over,” she said weakly.  She looked a bit green in the light cast by passing headlights.

“What?”

Said with emphasis, “YOU NEED TO PULL OVER!  I’M GOING TO THROW UP!”

Slowing and easing to the side of the road, “STOP THE DAMN CAR WILL YOU!”  Okay, not fast enough.

I watched in horror as half of a triple-digit meal landed on the pavement with the force of a high-pressure hose.  Think Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.”

Once I helped her into the car, I pointed out, “The pâté….”  I shouldn’t have brought up food.

“What?”

“It had to be the pâté.”

“Oh, just shut up and get me home!  NO WAIT.  STOP THE CAR…NOWWWWW!

So much for the after-dinner festivities.

I’m only sharing because it exemplifies the horror that is Valentine’s Day…and it is more subtly humorous in retrospect than at the time.  The ‘meal from hell’ is not the exception; it is the rule.  So bad are my Valentine’s Day memories, I’ve blocked most of them, locking them away somewhere in my head and throwing away the key.

What can you expect from a celebration of love named for the patron saint of epilepsy?  A man beaten, clubbed and beheaded for trying to convert prisoners into Christians.  Nothing says “Be my Valentine” like a bloody, headless corpse.

I thought long and hard about this Valentine’s Day…just like every other one.  It’s been a rough month in a rough year.  I needed inspiration and I got it.  Right on a social media page as if it had read my mind.

A handmade (chortle) necklace…a cheap, fake silver locket in the shape of a sunflower on a cheap, fake silver chain.  The sunflower splits apart to expose an engraved message, “You are my sunshine.”  It’s beautiful.  Perfect.  She is my sunshine.  Sentiment over substance.

And it was…perfect, so far…but she hasn’t eaten my shrimp and grits yet so there’s room for disaster yet.

***

The image is from Horror Fuel http://horrorfuel.com/2017/02/13/love-horror-12-horror-films-watch-valentines-day/

Don Miller writes on various subjects, some fictional, some nonfictional, some at the same time…both.   His author’s page may be accessed  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

To Block or Not to Block….

 

Alert:  This ain’t about football…

I unfriended and blocked a poster on my social media account.  I normally have a hard and fast rule, I don’t block people unless they become threatening.  Stupid and illogical are okay…well they aren’t okay, but I like knowing those who are stupid and illogical…but if you are threatening, WHAM!  YOU ARE SACKED LIKE Y. A. TITTLE!

I went against my rule yesterday simply because I became tired of the irritation.  The poster, a woman I may be related to due to the twisted branches of my family tree and by marriage, became an irritant. It should have been a minor annoyance, reminiscent of jock itch.   Seeking relief from the itch I blocked her going straight to Defcon One using a good dose of Atomic Balm.  I’m unhappy with my decision, blocking was not the soothing anodyne I expected.

Like-minded friends engaged in the unarmed combat of social media have asked me on more than one occasion, “Why do you put up with So and So?  You have more patience than I do.”  It is not about patience, I taught school for forty-one years and coached for forty-five.  My patience ran out a long time ago.

Until yesterday, I had an easy answer to my friends’ questions.  My act of blocking would be an admission that I gave the “block-ee” control over me.  I am logical, I can argue my point…except when I’m not…and can’t.  I believe blocking is an admission of their control over my thoughts and my inability to positively argue my position.

The comment I made to her post was about empathy for someone, a public figure, who “might” be suffering from a family member’s terrible illness.  Her original post discounted his pain and made it about politics.  I countered with logic, she tried to check me with conspiracy before browbeating me with, “Since you are such a liberal maybe you should block me and go back to watching CNN.”  That isn’t the exact quote but captures the flavor of her comment.  At least she didn’t use the descriptor snowflake.

Sure, I lean middle-left but I’m not a raging radical and haven’t watched CNN in forever plus a day.  She had triggered me and I dropped the hammer on her.  I answered her with, “Done but not because you are a conservative….”  I blocked her before I could add, “…but because you are not a nice person and have the sympathy of a gnat and the empathy of an amoeba.”  Sorry amoebas and gnats.  Did I drop the hammer on her…or on me?

I had blocked her simply to be rid of her.  My attempted expungement failed.  Her Ka lingers like the smell of fried fish or liver and onions from the previous day’s supper.

Another reason I don’t block people derives from a saying from Sun Tzu’s  The Art of War.  “Know your enemy” …except they’re really not my enemies.  It’s easy to think of them as enemy combatants but they are Americans who simply share a different point of view and how does one argue logically if you don’t know your countryman’s position?  She was simply another American with a different point of view…and a nasty personality.

Blocking people with different opinions leads to interacting only with people who share your own beliefs and opinions.  I would think this “vacuum” of only like opinions might help move us farther and farther apart from those who disagree with us.  It moves us farther and farther from discovering common ground.

Walt Kelly’s intellectual opossum Pogo comes to mind. “We have met the enemy and he is us” or in this case, me.

Image result for we have met the enemy and he is us

As soon as I touched “Enter” one of the voices in my head smirked and made itself known, “You just did exactly what she wanted.  She gets her jollies from being blocked.  She’s bragging right now about how she melted a liberal snowflake.”  

My real voice agreed, “Yep if you can’t take the heat stay out of the kitchen. ” Another head voice added, “and you just gave her control over YOU.  You let her bully you into blocking her.”  I’ve also allowed her to trouble my thoughts since.  I’m not sure how to counter my ruminations.  I’m certainly not going to send another friend request to her.

The one logical voice in my head tells me my triggering is the dislike for PC culture taken to a level of bullying.  Sometimes it is best not to say exactly what is on your mind if your intent is to win friends and influence enemies.

I’ve never believed the “words can never hurt you” rhyme.  I hope my own dislike for political correctness is tempered by my humanity, empathy, and the belief people should be treated with respect until all else fails.

I’m not sure I did that.  I’m not sure all else failed.  The same voice also points out, “She ain’t worth the effort to analyze.”  Maybe.  Maybe I’m trying to analyze me.

Many more of my illogical voices are yelling too but as is their nature, quite mindlessly.  All they do is confuse an already confused issue.   

Like two offensive linemen unsure who should block the three hundred pound gorilla in the gap across from them, both decide it is the other guy’s responsibility and the quarterback pays the price as the gorilla, untouched, smashes him into the turf.  I think our country is paying for our confusion…and for the lies told to us that we pass along without a fare the well of research.

Oh well, I’m not sure writing this has helped but the morning is breaking and there should be enough to do around the foothills of the Blue Ridge to take my mind off this subject.

As I wrote this, the sunrise through my French doors was a brilliant orange making the ridgeline look as if it was on fire.  When I went out to enjoy the first hit of my cigar, I found the temperatures quite nice for early-February.  Since then, the rain has put out the fire and the temperatures have receded to normal February levels.  After temperatures in the seventies, thunderstorms, and tornadoes…it snowed.  It appears Mother Nature is confused too.

Sunrise

An early morning jog to go with my walk might just the “soothing salve” I need.  The pain of running seems to displace all other pains and takes my mind away from everything but the pain of putting one foot in front of the other.  I guess it is just replacing one pain with a more acceptable one.

Good day to all.

***

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

Images:  The featured image: The Wisconsin Badgers appear to have a body on everybody except the guy crashing from the backside.  From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blocking_(American_football)

In this 1964 photo, New York Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle kneels after being sacked by John Baker of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  “A dazed Tittle on his knees in the end zone, helmet off, blood trickling from his balding head.”  https://www.newsobserver.com/sports/nfl/article178031466.html

A colorized version of Walt Kelly’s cartoon strip, Pogo.   https://www.myjewishlearning.com/rabbis-without-borders/we-have-met-the-enemy/

Houston Texan’s QB, DeShaun Watson, pays the price for a missed block.  https://texanswire.usatoday.com/2018/12/21/texans-qb-sean-ryan-deshaun-watson-nfl-high-sack/

A view from the ridgeline above my house.

 

Like A Bowl of Gumbo….

 

I was triggered but I was proud of myself.  I said my peace and disengaged.  I recognized that anything I might say would make no difference.  I think most arguments these days are best left…unargued.  There was an upside, my “triggering” sent me down a pig trail to Alice’s rabbit hole.  I found the Mad Hatter, but he wasn’t drinking tea, he was offering me a bowl of gumbo and an Abita instead.

The tiff was over a “Fun Fact” I had posted about Black History Month.  I share “Daily Doses” of witticisms or “Fun Facts” about the world we live in.  Anything to cut the greasy derision abounding today.  Since we celebrate Black History Month in February, I decided to avail myself of the subject although I am sure there will be fun facts about Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras thrown in for good measure.

A comment made about my “Fun Fact” ruffled my feathers.  I felt the response was inappropriate and told the responder so.  He didn’t take it well…or maybe I didn’t take it well.  I opted to say my peace and disengage.  Instead, I punched up a playlist that included Jimmy Buffett’s “I Will Play for Gumbo.”  One of the choruses goes….

“A piece of French bread

With which to wipe my bowl,

Good for the body.

Good for the soul.

It’s a little like religion

And a lot like sex.

You should never know

When you’re gonna get it next.

At midnight in the quarter or noon in Thibodeaux

I will play for gumbo

Yes, I will play for gumbo.”

 

It’s a fun song and it had me seat dancing in my recliner, forgetting about my triggered self.  I might have had a Pavlovian response to boot.  The ditty made me think about diversity…also a good subject for Black History Month.  I know of no other bowls of goodness that are more diverse in ingredients, origin…and full of tasty joy.  If I had to come up with the last meal it would probably include gumbo with a side of shrimp and grits.

The word gumbo derives from West Africa, ki ngombo or quingombo, from the Niger-Congo language spoken by many of the West African slaves who survived the Middle Passage and were forced to settle and perform back-breaking labor.  The words mean okra, a plant the slaves brought with them.

Gumbo can be served without okra but why would one want it without okra?  It was also Africans who introduced serving okra with rice, and rice is generally served with gumbo.

Sometime later, it was the Louisiana French, some who came by way of Canada, who probably shortened the African words to gumbo.

The Choctaw, who gave the dish filé, ground sassafras leaves, called the tasty dish, kombo.

The dish is most closely associated with Nawlins, Loo-see-Anna but can be found in bowls across the United States.

Like gumbo, New Orleans is about as diverse as one place can be.  The Spanish conquistadores wrestled the area from the Natives in the middle 1760s while fighting off the French before secretly giving it to Napoleon’s France in 1800.  The area was heavily explored and settled by both the French and Spanish lending to the diversity.  Napoleon, feeling a money pinch from his many wars, sold New Orleans and a bunch more to the United States in 1803.  All the while, African slaves and Native Americans added to the diversity whether they wanted to or not.

Gumbo varies according to the Cajun style or Creole style…or your style.  All make use of a dark roux (French, although darker than most French styles), some use okra (African) to thicken, others use filé powder, (Choctaw).  Still, others use both.  Seafood or chicken, both or none, can be combined with Andouille sausage (French but with a heavy German influence).  Gumbo’s first cousins, Jambalaya and red beans and rice, are probably Spanish introductions and akin to the Spanish rice dish, paella, so I must believe there are Spanish influences in gumbo too.

What I like about gumbo, besides its taste, is its diversity.  It is made with diverse ingredients that vary, of course, depending on who’s making it.  It can be made with table scraps, shrimp, sausage, chicken or alligator, I guess.

Gumbo in a wide mouth bowl crosses lines of class, rich or poor.  It crosses race and ethnicity and probably religion too.  Louisiana cooks call the combination of celery, bell pepper and onion the “Holy Trinity” after all.  As tasty as it is, I’m sure there might be a bit of West African Voodoo involved.  Gumbo is truly a melding of ingredients, tastes, and people.

Gumbo is both labor and love intensive.  You just can’t put it all together and then walk away.  There is much stirring before you can cut the temperature down to low and let those flavors get to know each other.  People should cut the temperature down and get to know each other too.

Sometimes I wonder if it is the sweat off the chief’s brow that adds to the spice as much as that “Loo-see-Anna” hot sauce…Its gotta be love that makes it so tasty.

“Maybe it’s the sausage or those pretty pink shrimp

Or that popcorn rice that makes me blow up like a blimp.

Maybe it’s that voodoo from Marie Leveaux,

But I will play for gumbo

Yeah, I will play for gumbo

The sauce boss does his cookin’ on the stage,

Stirrin’ and a singing for his nightly wage.

Sweating and frettin’ from his head to his toe,

Playin’ and swayin’ with the gumbo

Prayin’ and buffetin’ with the gumbo.”

 

Lyrics courtesy of AZlyrics.com, Jimmy Buffett, I Will Play For Gumbo, written and performed by Jimmy Buffett.  From the 1999 album Beach House on the Moon.  Video courtesy of YouTube

Featured Image of New Orleans Creole Gumbo from Big Oven https://www.bigoven.com/recipe/new-orleans-creole-gumbo/170608

My favorite Gumbo Recipe from Emeril Lagasse, Gumbo Ya-Ya https://parade.com/27003/emerillagasse/gumbo-ya-ya/

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