A Young Toad-Frog’s Fancy

 

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I am happier, and usually saner, with the advent of spring and the end of winter than I am with the death of summer and fall.  Certain birds finding their way to my feeders that weren’t there a few weeks ago, the finches and mourning doves, the return of my Redtail Hawks. They came early this year.  The deer eating my privet, not eating enough privet, certain flowers blooming at certain times and my toad.

I first wrote about “The Toad in the Corner” a year or two ago, a huge American toad that has appeared outside my back door for years.  I found it comforting to see her having backed herself into a shady spot at the corner of my foundation and rock wall during the heat of the day.  Coming out to wreak havoc on the insect population at night, sitting on a flat rock, all fat and sassy.  Unconcerned about my entrance into her realm.

Despite her ambivalence toward me, I worry about her.  The average lifespan for a toad in the wild is about a year.  She’s been extremely lucky for some five seasons now, somehow avoiding Mr. Herbert No-Shoulders, the huge black rat snake that resides in the same area along with Mrs. No-shoulders and her brood…maybe Toady has just gotten too big to eat.  She is uuuuuuuge!

I found her waiting for me early this morning while I waited for my fifteen-year-old puppy dog to find her spot.  Toady was sitting on her flat rock, but she wasn’t alone.  She had a friend, a friend with benefits I might guess.

At first glance, I thought something was wrong.  She looked deformed.  Was it that bad a winter?  I looked closer and saw what I thought was a deformity was a much smaller toad riding high on her back.  I was reminded of a baby riding on one of his parent’s backs.

I don’t think she was his momma…or maybe she was his “Hot Momma.”  I’ve seen her several times during the day and her suiter is still riding on her back.  She walks, he rides.  Mentally I make a note to look up the range of an American toad…as far as a mile from their breeding sites.  Now I’m Googling their breeding habits.

You can tell this quarantine thing is getting to me.  Combined with sciatica, rainy weather and a sick tractor, I’ve got too much time on my hands…and there is laziness too.

Through research, I found out it is not unusual for the female to carry her suitor to her breeding grounds…the breeding pool of water which I assume is the stream below my home.  For some reason, I thought about frog gigolos, “Hey baby, goin’ my way?  How ‘bout a lift.  What’s your sign?  Can I buy you a drink?”  Louis Prima is singing “Just a Gigolo” in my head.  I guess it could be the David Lee Roth version.  I’m thinking of disco, glitter balls and lime-green leisure suits, colorful, long collared “catch me, f@#$ me” shirts and gold bling.

I found out if females are scarce it is not unusual for many waiting males to climb on board creating a “toad ball.”  The orgy scene from Caligula flashed briefly before my eyes…I only read about it…maybe.  I really wanted to laugh but as I read on, I found it is usually fatal for the female.  “I love you to death” takes on a new meaning.

Image result for Toad ball

I obviously need more humor injected into my life and something productive to do.  Something is very wrong contemplating the sex life of toads and frogs or as we say here, toad frogs.  Well, it is spring when a “young man’s fancy turns to love” or a young toad’s fancy is to ride around on a big ole’ momma toad waiting for her to make the trek to her egg-laying site.  I just hope she survives her “La danse de l’amour.”  French is such a sexy language…even when describing toads.

 

Don Miller writes about whatever strikes his fancy.  His author’ page is https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0Tk_BUmCRpeCR63Kr59dyLywOMUia36e7djQlIDqefkK6aKUYyW9svuK4

The featured and last images are from https://www.ephotozine.com/photo/toad–mating–ball–53338916

The first image is of Toady and her suitor.

 

Textile Strikes, Labor Unions, and Ella May Wiggins-History Repeated

 

During research for a novel I hope to write, I ran across the novel, The Last Ballad, written by Wiley Cash.  Cash’s novel is a fictionalized glimpse into the life and final months of union organizer and balladeer, Ella May Wiggins.  The story was inspired by actual events that hit a little too close to home.  Cash paints a historical picture that is both historically accurate and vivid, yet is as dark as the interiors of the textile mills he writes about and the lives of the people forced to work in them.  It’s a novel I wish I could have written.

Image result for ella may wiggins

Wiggins, a spinner at Bessemer City’s American Textile Mill #2 with a history of bad choices for many right reasons and some not so right, was shot and killed in 1929 during labor unrest leading up to the Loray Mill Strike in Gastonia, North Carolina, April 1,1929 and ending in the collapse of the strike after Wiggins’s death in September of the same year.

It was the end of the period called “The Roaring Twenties” which for the textile workers and farmers of the South, were anything but roaring.  While Wiggins did not live to see the great Wall Street crash, times were already hard for those who toiled in textiles, many who had just earlier been left destitute from falling farm prices.  As my grandmother often stated, “We lived so hard we didn’t notice the Great Depression.”

For anyone with empathy, the book is a tough read.  It is painful on many levels, not just Wiggins’s death.  It is disturbing because I see a certain parallel with “history repeating itself.”

I grew up a “hill milly”.  My youth was tied both to the fields of corn and beans of my grandparents and to the textile mills of my parents. By the time I cleaned the cow manure off my boots and traded square bales of hay for the lint, heat, and noise of the Springs Mills’ White Plant in Fort Mill, South Carolina, conditions, pay, and hours had markedly improved from Ella May’s day.  Improved, but still some of the hardest physical labor I ever did under some of the most taxing physical conditions.

On my first day, I was two months past my fourteenth birthday.  I was summer labor, a spare hand, working a six until two shift at whatever hell my second hand decided.   Doffing cloth, filling batteries, taking up quill and skinning them were my primary chores.  I must have done okay, I was invited to continue, working weekends during the school year.

The early shift allowed enough daylight in the evening to pull four additional hours hoeing corn, picking beans or tossing square bales onto the bed of an old flatbed for two dollars a day.  I was bone-weary at the end of the day and slept the sleep of the exhaustedly pure of heart, but in my immature brain, I was rich.

A dollar sixty-five an hour, time and a half for overtime over forty hours, plus the six dollars a week I got for tossing hay.  $93.80 a week before taxes for seventy-two hours counting four overtime hours…all hard work.  That was in 1964 and I wasn’t as rich as I thought.  My parents took half my take-home pay for room and board and I was forced to save half of my half for the college days looming in the near future.

My week’s take came out to about fifteen dollars a week in my pocket…more than what Ella May made for seventy-two hours in 1929.  Six days a week, twelve hours a day for $9.00 a week in conditions you can’t believe unless you lived it. $9.00 to house, feed and clothe herself and her five living children.  She had lost two children in early childhood who developed rickets due to malnutrition.  She was pregnant at the time of her death.

Image result for springs cotton mills fort mill sc

South Carolina has never been receptive to unions…the South has never been receptive to unions.  As of 2017, only 2.6 percent of the Southern workforce was unionized. During Ella May Wiggins’s day, unions had only just begun to move south and were met with a solid, often violent, effort to keep them out.

On my first day at Springs, a cousin, Charlie Wilson, took me aside and yelled his whisper above the din of eleven hundred looms, “Never mention the word union if you want to keep your job.”  I’m not sure I had heard of the word at the time but never mentioned it even though many days I doubted I really “wanted to keep my job.”

Despite the mind-numbing sound and physical labor, I was spoiled and didn’t know it until I went to work for another cotton mill during my college days.  Springs Mills was a Cadillac of cotton mills.  Well lit, it was reasonably modern and technologically advanced, cleaner than most, with a family atmosphere.

The two mills I worked at in Newberry, SC, during my college years were everything Springs wasn’t including an “every man for himself” atmosphere.  Dimly lit, the old Draper looms were contrary and dangerous, the closed painted over windows a reminder of what was just on the other side…bright sunshine and clean air as opposed to the oppressive, lint filled atmosphere and heat inside.

As I lived through a week that saw a major drop in the stock market and a toilet paper panic, I am somberly amused at some of the similarities that exist today as in those thrilling days of yesteryear.  Conservatives attempting to hold the line, liberals clamoring for change.  Name-calling, finger-pointing and unfortunately threats to our democratic system if not our very person.

I hope most threats are coming from internet trolls with nothing to do as we “hunker down”, self-isolating ourselves from the coronavirus, worrying about where our next toilet paper score might occur.  We can’t even agree if this disease is a health threat or simply the flu blown up by a liberal media controlled by communists and George Soros.  I digress with tongue in cheek.

The reason for the Loray strike were workers protesting for better working conditions, a forty-hour workweek, a minimum $20 weekly wage, union recognition, and the abolition of the stretch-out system, a system that doubled worker’s labor but reduced their wages as textiles fell on hard times after The Great War and the drying up of government contracts.

An estimated 1,000 strikers at Loray Mills, Gastonia, 1929. -- Millican Pictorial History Museum

The numbers and issues may be different, our responses have been eerily similar.  It would be during the middle of the Great Depression before minimum wage, the forty-hour workweek and child labor, along with the Social Security safety net, would finally be addressed…all maligned at the time as at best socialism, at worse communism, both a threat to American capitalism and the owners it made rich.

In 1929, company men labeled any check to unlimited capitalism as Marxist, socialist or communist, and yes there were more than a few of them around. Ella May’s National Textile Workers Union certainly had communist ties, not that Ella May and her fellow workers knew what a communist was.  She was simply seeking a better life for her children and herself.

I see the same labels raised when we debate increasing the minimum wage, health care, safety nets or educational opportunities.  Labeling has become quite acute with both our political parties battling to pass a coronavirus relief bill.

Union enrollment is on the decline while finger-pointing increases.  There is no middle ground.  Signs of the time…or as my Evangelical friends shout, “Signs of the Apocalypse.  The time is nigh.”

I wonder if we are nearing a tipping point when the national guard, new wave strikebreakers, and the police force will be employed to evict and expel people whose opinions simply differ.  Couldn’t happen, could it?  Yet in 1929 it did, and the violence would continue well into the Thirties.

Violence spurred by unchecked capitalism, fears of communism and being forced to work side by side with those of a different race.  All supported by a sympathetic conservative media, and government “for and by” the “Captains of Industries.”

On April 1, 1929, eighteen hundred workers walked off the job at Loray in Gastonia, mostly women, some marching with babes in arms.  Management evicted them from company housing, throwing their meager possessions into the street.  One striker was killed, many beaten.

The North Carolina National Guard was called out on the third of April, violence erupted sporadically over the next several months.  The police chief was killed, strikers and company men shot or beaten, and in September, a truck carrying twenty-two strikers was chased down and shot up.  The pregnant organizer and singer of ballads, Ella May Wiggins, was killed, shot through her chest.  Her children sent to an orphanage until their eighteenth birthdays.

Image result for ella may wiggins

A general wave of vigilantism washed across the countryside, company men arriving in the middle of the night, forcing strike participants out of the county in exile.  These were their neighbors, people they knew by name, people they might have worked with just a few weeks before.  People threatened with bodily harm if they returned.

The struggle continues today just not in US textiles.  Textiles left the South for climates more receptive to low pay and long hours.  There are a few specialty mills around but we simply can’t compete.   Our standard of living requires we have a higher level of poverty than places like China, India, and Pakistan.   Hopefully a higher level of empathy for our workers…but I am unsure.

***

I recommend The Last Ballad.  Again, I warn you, it is a painful history brought to life by Wiley Cash.  It is a history I was unfamiliar with even though I possess a history degree and lived within an hour of Gastonia and the Loray Mill site.  We Southerners have a tendency to overlook or twist some of our more unsavory histories.  This one seems to have been ignored.

The book may be purchased on Amazon or if you have a library card, downloaded to a Kindle or computer with a Kindle App for free.  Yes, I’m cheap.  https://www.amazon.com/Last-Ballad-Novel-Wiley-Cash/dp/0062313118

Image result for The Last Ballad

Don Miller is a retired educator and coach.  He writes on various topics and his author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Images

Featured Image:  A member of the NC National Guard forcing two female strikers back. https://wilsoncountylocalhistorylibrary.wordpress.com/tag/ella-may-wiggins/

The first image is of Ella May (spelled Mae on her grave marker) Wiggins just before her death, https://www.charlotteobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article175129556.html

The second image is of a young girl tending spinning frames in the early 1900s  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/83457399315355531/

The third image is of Loray Mill strikers who walked out on April 1, 1929.

The fourth image is of the truck that carried Ella May Wiggins to her death.  https://www.shelbystar.com/news/20190405/1929-loray-mill-strike-gastonia-violence-makes-waves

 

Cravins’ of the Worst Kind

 

Biscuits and sawmill gravy…biscuits and sawmill gravy…biscuits and sawmill gravy.

BISCUITS AND SAWMILL GRAVY!

It’s four in the AM and I’m thinking about biscuits and sawmill gravy.  My nearly fifteen-year-old puppy dog can’t decide if she wants to go to the potty or not and is keeping me from going back to sleep.  Did I mention she’s blind and on a drug regimen too?  I’m thinking about drugs, but my drug thoughts involve food.  Might as well write about it, the chance of returning to dreamland is nil.

Someone posted a recipe about two weeks ago and accompanied it with a photo of biscuits ‘runnin’’ in the heavenly manna called sawmill gravy.  I have been craving this staple from my childhood every day since.

Big ole tall biscuits split and dripping butter in a puddle of creamy white gravy with bits of pork sausage and black pepper flakes doing the backstroke as if in an Olympic pool.  I could hear the plaque swelling in my veins and have been fighting the urge like a pregnant woman craving vanilla ice cream smothered in sardines at three AM in the morning.

I reckin’ there are worse urges, but it is not the healthiest dish in the world, and I’m concerned about health.  I’ve been having a lot of unhealthy urges, most of them involving pork, beef or chicken parts deep-fried or slow-cooked and if not smothered in gravy, running in fat…oh man, bacon fat.

I tend to run off the rails when it concerns my diet.  I don’t do anything by half measures.  I’m planning lunch and supper while I’m eating breakfast.  A day of excess turns into a month of penance and metaphorical self-flagellation.  Why eat a cup of ice cream when a half-gallon is available.

I can hear the half-gallon calling to me from the fridge, “Eattttt me, EATttttt me, EATTTT ME!”  The call starts with a soft, ethereal, childlike voice…and ends in a scream from a horror film.  It begins as a suggestion and ends with a demand.  A demand I will pay for in my head.

Food is my drug of choice.  I will have a liquor drink or a light amber pilsner beer on occasion, but Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniels doesn’t scream at me in a gruff, Tennessee accent from the liquor cabinet, “Y’ALL DRINKKKK ME!” 

“This little piggy” who should have gone to market is rooting around in my head instead.  Pulled pork BBQ, bacon, country-fried pork chops…yum!

I have waged a battle with my weight for the best part of six decades.  I was a picky eater until my tonsils and adenoids were removed in the late Fifties.  It was as if my taste buds suddenly activated.  Active taste buds and low willpower are a deadly mix when weight is involved.

Now the memory of my grandmother’s peanut butter cookies is calling to me.  “EATTTT ME!”  She died twenty years ago and took her cookie and biscuit recipe with her.  If not, I might be makin’ biscuits with a side of sawmill gravy and a dessert of peanut butter cookies at five AM this morning instead of writing this.

My grandmother is one of the reasons I’ve tried every fad weight loss regimen known to man with only short-term successes.  She had a bad habit of showing her love through food.   “Good boy, Donnie.  I love you, have a cookie…” or five.

Lost seventy pounds on the Atkins diet, tried and failed going vegan with the MacDougal Diet, counted fat grams, the beer diet…no not really.  I finally stumbled on to something that worked in the mid-2000s.  A heart attack.

Exercise with a low fat, taste at a minimum, plant-based diet to stay alive so I could meet my grandchildren.  Heavy doses of running and walking.  Meat and fried foods…once in a blue moon….  I’m sorry, I grew up Southern with food deep or pan-fried, highly seasoned by the spirits of my ancestors, “That’ll do honey chile.  Ease back on that salt but put in another dash of those Cajun seasonings.”

Because I tend to run off the rails, I worry about giving in to my urges.  Biscuits and sawmill gravy now, fried livermush and onions later, fried catfish filets with grilled cheese and onion grits forever…all covered in pan drippings that probably involve bacon.

I’m not sure grilled salmon on a bed of greens with a simple vinaigrette is going to satiate me.

A still, small voice calls to me, “Eattttt me, EATttttt me, EATTTT ME!”  Damn it!  I did.

***

Historical-  “The legend of biscuits and sawmill gravy is that, prior to the Civil War, the gravy was created in logging camps or sawmills to give lumberjacks extra energy for a long day of chopping down trees.”

“The dish started with cooking sausages in a pan and then making a roux by tossing flour and/or cornmeal into the pan and cooking to a light blonde color. Cooks deglazed the pan with milk and scraped off the sausage bits stuck to the pan, called fondly by the French, “fond”. If the gravy was served too thick and chunky, lumberjacks were said to accuse the cooks of adding sawdust to the recipe. The original recipe most likely consisted of only breakfast sausage, pan drippings, milk, and black pepper.”

From AmazingRibs.com, Classic Southern Biscuits And Gravy (Sawmill Gravy) Recipe By Meathead Goldwyn

As Easy as Pie…

 

I’m sitting when I should be doing…but I’m thinking…is that doing?

It’s Pi Day.  The celebration of 3.14159265359, originally the ratio of a circle’s ratio to diameter. It now has various equivalent definitions and appears in many formulas in all areas of mathematics and physics.  Pi is also known as Archimedes’ constant.  But then you didn’t need a mathematics lesson and it is not the pie I’m thinking of.

For some reason or another, my mind goes to food by default and one of my favorite foods is pie.  Pizza Pie…”When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.”  I don’t know Dean, more like when it hits my taste buds that’s amore.  I could eat pizza every day and twice on Sunday…even Hawaiian Pizza which is not even Hawaiian.  Extra pineapple, please.

Not just pizza, Shepard’s pie, my grandmother’s chicken pot pie, my bride’s tomato pie, “Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye, Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.”  Ah, no, but just about any savory pie will do.

Or sweet pie.  Key lime even if it’s Mrs. Edward’s, my momma’s cherry cheesecake which is more a pie than cake to me…and her butterscotch pie.  Bourbon Pecan pie with Jack Daniels.  Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pie is my way of introducing more vegetables into my diet.  Sweet potatoes are not vegetables you say?  Drat…okay a way to introduce more starches into my diet then.

I don’t know where the colloquial idiom “as easy as pie” came from, it’s first use is traced back to a yarn written by a teenaged Zane Grey in 1886.  That would have made him fourteen at the time.  Writing must have been “easy as pie” for the young writer.

What I do know is, eating pie is easy, making pie is not…if it involves a crust.  Making a flaky crust seems to be an exercise in futility…for me.

I’ve tried to bake pies and have had some successes.  Outdoor grilled pizza pie and a grits pie I tried because it sounded interesting and well, I’m a Southerner who loves grits.  I’ll attach a recipe at the end, but it cheats.  It uses a prebaked crust.  As easy as pie doesn’t work for a homemade pie crust.  I know, I tried.  It wasn’t easy as pie, it was awful.

How awful?  My puppy dogs wouldn’t eat it and they ate just about anything including cat poop.  Who knew you just couldn’t add sugar to a biscuit batter and roll it out thin?  The damn pie swelled and swelled forcing blackberries out onto the baking dish I had thankfully placed under it.  Who knew you had to work the batter when it was very, very cold?  Who knew I should use all-purpose flour instead of self-rising?  I know now and it is useless information.  I’ll cheat and get a prebaked crust if I ever feel the motivation again.

I feel the need to celebrate Pi Day with a pie…but then I’ll celebrate anything with a pie.  I’m not sure which pie only that it will be bought not homemade.  Why go to the trouble when Mrs. Edwards or Patti LaBelle can do the cooking.  Maybe an “all-everything thin crust pizza” pie topped off by a slice of key lime or buttermilk pie.  As easy as pie.  Just climb in your car and go get one.

A Paula Dean Grits Pie recipe https://www.pauladeenmagazine.com/grits-pie/

“When the moon hits your eyes….” is from the 1953 song, That’s Amore, sung by Dean Martin and written by composer Harry Warren and lyricist Jack Brooks.  For some reason, I heard it a lot and I’m not Italian. 

Don Miller writes of a variety of topics.  You can find him at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM   

The image of the key lime pie is from https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/key-lime-pie-recipe/

Etiquette Lost

 

“Yes, ma’am, No, ma’am, Thank you, ma’am, Please!”  The little ditty echos inside of my head like basketballs rebounding off of walls.  We’re tryin’ to help our daughter and son in law teach our grandbabies to consistently say “Yes, ma’am, Yes, sir….”  My bride, Grandmommy Linda, is big on this little saying which is why it is repeating over and over again like a never-ending loop.

In the world we presently live in, the learning process is somewhat tougher than it used to be.

Etiquette is not a Southern exclusive but there was a time when Southerners of any class, race, or religious affiliation displayed good manners.  It was a priority.  Our good manners were a badge of pride.  Remember “Southern Hospitality?”  We seem to be less hospitable these days, displaying poor manners.

I don’t mean knowing which spoon or fork to use, outside in folks, but the polite, “good” manners which seem to be eroding as I write this.  Some folks would ask, “Who died and made you Lord of the Manners?”  It’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to.

When I coached, I periodically admonished my charges to “Remember where you come from (your parents), who you are representing (your parents, your school, me), and what you stand for. (Truth, Justice, and the American Way?)”  In other words, “Don’t disappoint your mommas and daddies.”  Disappointing momma was a big deal.  Good behavior was an expectation and most of the time it was realized.  That included baseball caps taken off inside the building and worn with the bill pointing forward.  I am old school.

It seems we have misplaced our manners and please don’t think I’m denigrating today’s generation; I’m not.  They are not the guilty ones.  Erosion takes place over time and today’s generation reflects what they are being taught and those who taught them…or didn’t.  Some of us are failing our charges, failing the next generation, and this has been going on for multiple generations.

Please don’t point a finger, blow out your chest, and pontificate, “Not me!”  We can all do better and there is no one cause.  That being said….

I happened upon an article in Southern Living, “20 Unspoken Rules of Etiquette That Every Southerner Follows.”  Should have said, “used to follow” but to their defense, it was an old article.

Using today’s world view some of these seemed Draconian.  If you read the article one might think most Southern manners revolve around eating and they do.  I learned most of mine while eating fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, and washing it down with sweet tea so sugary it set my teeth on edge.

I’ll come back to the article in a bit, but I just had a thought.  The undermining of Southern manners may have coincided with the rise of fast-food eateries specializing in fried chicken.  KFC, Chick-fil-a, Popeyes, Spinx…wait…Spinx?

Spinx is a glorified gas station founded in South Carolina offering gas, oil and about anything else you might need to outfit a wilderness trek through the Australian Outback.  Offerings also include slow service but pretty good Southern fried chicken.  You know the kind, crisp and greasy at the same time.

The problem is not Spinx but what I call “stand up food”.  The food rests on waxed paper and you stand around eating out of cute little pasteboard “boats” in red and white checkerboard.  Greasy fingers wiped on dirty jeans; baseball caps still perched backward on heads kind of food.  There’s the problem.  There isn’t a table to learn your manners around and the people you are eating with have no better manners than you do.

Once upon a time, Grandmamma went out and chopped the chicken’s head off, gutted it, dipped it in boiling water and plucked it clean.  All before she got around to cutting it up, dipping each individual piece in the batter of her choice and frying it to a golden brown.  You damn well were going to sit at a table, “minding your manners”, while you ate it.

If you didn’t mind your manners, you might find yourself going to bed without your supper instead of waiting for the adults to be served so you could get your chicken wing.  I was twenty-five before I evah got a pully bone.  Manners have eroded with the death of the sit-down, family meal.

Matching the world we live in, we have become grab and go consumers.  I am just as guilty of grabbing a piece of pepperoni pizza after gassing up my truck…having never left the gas station.

Let’s look at the article, shall we?  I won’t hit all the points because I am assuming you can read as well if not better than I can write.  These are just some “manners” that were hammered into my head…or beaten into my backside.

“Never eat with your mouth open or talk with your mouth full”  Son, you are sprayin’ food everywhere!  At least cover your mouth.  Alternative reminder, “Children should be seen and nevah, evah heard.”

“Get your elbows off the table!  If you are that tired you can go on to bed.”  As I stood in line at the local Chick-fil-a, I saw a bunch of folks who needed a nap.

“Never wear a hat to the table…or inside a building.”  This one…!  For some reason this is the pinnacle of rudeness for no other reason than my father, who worked in a greasy, lint filled cotton mill weave room, always removed his hat when he entered the cafeteria.  It was the polite thing to do and if I didn’t remove mine it might be nailed to my head ala Vlad the Impaler.

Addendum, “Always take your hat off in the presence of a lady…and all women are ladies until proven otherwise.”  If the sun was particularly bright and hot, one might get away with a simple tug on the bill or brim and a nod.  Sunstroke and sunburn trumps manners.

“Never sing or whistle at the table or talk about unpleasantries.”  This one was tough if asked, “Did you behave at school today?”  Sometimes the answer might prove to be unpleasant in regard to the response.  I didn’t understand the singin’ or whistlin’ but never did I….

Addendum for the next eight months, “Nevah, evah talk politics at the supper table.”  Definite unpleasantries.

It seems like there are many Southern manners related to gender, doors, and entries…”Ladies and girls first”, “Always open the door for a woman, a girl or your elders”, “Adult ladies first in the food line”, “Always stand when a woman enters the room (and when she sits, stands or leaves the room} and pull out the chair and help her seat herself.”  Not that she needs help, it is just the gentlemanly thing to do.  I think assisted seatings dates from the days of corsets and layer upon layer of petticoats and crinolines.

I ran afoul of the “opening the door” thing back in the late Sixties when I opened the library door for a cute, little coed.  There was an ulterior motive.  This was during the “burn your bra” period of history.  She burned me a new one and it wasn’t a bra.  Turns out she needed no help from a man.  I knew such but old habits are hard to break.  I still open the door for my wife, and she seems to appreciate it.

“Never go to a gathering empty-handed.”  The South is the casserole and banana puddin’ capital of the world for this very reason.  It doesn’t matter if it is a house warmin’ or a funeral, bring something other than yourself.

Politeness, civility, and graciousness seem to be the casualties of today’s war on political correctness.  Bullying, apathy, and indifference have replaced our good manners.  I don’t know we will ever get them back.  In lieu of manners, just be kind.

Please feel free to add any you are enamored with, in the comments section.  I’d love to hear from you.  Y’all hurry back now.

***

The article may be accessed at https://www.southernliving.com/culture/unspoken-etiquette-rules

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

I Always Wonder….

There is an abandoned house I walk past every morning when I force myself out to walk or run.  Yeah, I’m trying to jog a bit these days.  Slow and easy…slow and not so easy.  Try not to have a second heart attack or pull a muscle.

At a curve of the road below what has become my ‘hill from hell’, an old home sits forlornly surrounded by broom straw, English ivy, hemlock, and juvenal river birch.  It has sat empty for the past thirty years.  I vaguely remember people living there a long time ago.  They were solitary people who looked at you side-eyed when you drove by.  They were here today gone tomorrow folks it seems.

I stood, stretching after a five-minute warm-up.  Trying to steel myself for the quarter-mile trek up the hill, I paused and took a picture as I paused.

Have I said that I like old structures?  I like wandering through them looking at how they were built.  I like wondering about who lived there.  I hate to see old houses abandoned into ruin.

Once, a lifetime ago, I dared to investigate.  I’m not built for creeping or sneaking a look through windows.   Sometimes my curiosity gets the better of me.  Don’t fear, I’m not a Peeping Tom.  I knew the place was empty.  I just wondered why they had left in such a hurry.  Looking through windows gave me no clue, only more questions.

Much of the furniture was still in place as if the people who lived there just went off to work or out for dinner, locked the door behind them, and never came back.  A plush easy chair and matching settee but no TV.  No lightened spaces on the walls where paintings or pictures might have hung.  I wonder why furniture and kitchen implements were left behind?   Why did the previous tenants skedaddle leaving so much behind?

There had been people there recently.  A stack of pyramided beer cans attested to their visitation.  Uninvited visitors disturbing the mice, taking advantage of an empty house.  Young people looking for a place to hang out but twenty or thirty years later it’s not a place I would want to spend any kind of “quality” time.

As I took the picture I saw only remnants of Venetian blinds and shredded curtains hanging in the windows.  Windowpanes have been knocked out and I imagine the furniture is covered in black mold or worse.  Still, I wonder…but not enough to go check.  It is a shame and a bit heartbreaking.

The house sits in a steep-sided ‘holler’ split by the road I walk. It is at the base of ‘The Hill From Hell.’  I’ve officially named it.  It rises two hundred feet over two-tenths of a mile.  There was a time when I ran it…that time has run out.

A rocky, shallow stream runs under the road and in front of the house with juvenal river birch taking over between the stream and porch.  Despite its shallowness, the stream runs quite fast.  I wonder why the original owners decided to put their home in a hole that gets very little sunlight.  Access to the water I wonder?

The original house was a sturdy, shed-roofed affair with a narrow screened in front porch.  What appears to be a rebuilt chimney dominates one side.  It looks too new…despite having been there for at least thirty years.  I wonder what the original chimney looked like.  Was it rock like mine, made from stones found in the area?  Was it added as an afterthought during summer after a long, cold winter?

A low and long addition was built on the opposite side.  It matches the original building like a scary horror movie and has not held up well to being left empty.  Loneliness destroys us all.

The screens on the porch are shredded and the tar paper and asphalt shingles have not held up as well as the metal sheets on the original.  The roof reminds me of an old swayback plow horse.

I wonder how many generations lived there, how they survived, what they did for a living.  What were their dreams?  I wonder how they lived and loved, what they ate, what games they played.  Were their lives as hard as my imagination leads me to believe.

Spring is three weeks away and the daffodils are showing themselves near the ditch that separates the house site from the road.  They have pushed up through a stand of blue-purple blossomed periwinkle.

Soon they will be spent and replaced by moon vine in mid-summer and the sickly, sweet smell of blossoming kudzu in the fall.    If enough sunlight can reach the yard, wildflowers will bloom in the late summer.  I wonder if someone once tended to their flowers long, long ago.

Each summer kudzu above the old house creeps closer and closer.  I wonder if it will eventually cover the old house or if someone will come along and knock the house down putting it out of its misery.  Either way, it will disappear from sight…disappear from history leaving no trace of itself or the people who lived there.  I wonder.

***

Don Miller is a retired teacher and coach who writes on various subjects, in both fiction and non-fiction.  Visit his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM.

The image is of the lonesome old house taken with my phone.