A BACK PEW BAPODIST

I wish I had never become logical…mostly logical…wishing I were logical.

When I became logical, I began to question.  I miss those days as a child when I took things at face value…especially as I move from my autumn years into the cold reality of winter.  But, I mean, at my age, I should cover all my bases, right?

“Is this what old people do?”  Do old people begin to question their beliefs?  Or do old people discount any questions as an assault on their beliefs?  I don’t know what old people do; I’ve never been old before.  “With age comes wisdom” might be the worst lie ever told.

I am habit driven and as soon as I complete my morning ablutions, I step out into the dawning morning and try to complete my absolutions or metaphorical self-flagellation.  Equal parts prayer and meditation, I try to find the moon or Sirius to focus on.  I can usually tell what kind of day I’m going to have if I can focus at all. 

I give thanks for my many blessings, ask for forgiveness of my many sins, “past and future, real and imagined.” Finally, I discuss those things that bother me so or as Buffett might sing in “He Went to Paris”, “Looking for answers to questions that bothered him so.”  I’m not going to Paris unless it is Paris, Texas and so far, my discussion is quite one sided, my questions unanswered which is quite bothersome.

My issue, problem, concern is the lack of answers forthcoming for old questions which simply create more questions de jour.  The silence is deafening.  Except for night birds, tree frogs, and a raccoon rustling in the periwinkle, I hear quiet, a hush, a stillness.  It is tranquil but tranquility is not my goal.  Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions and now I’m hearing the buzzing of mosquitoes.

I grew up in the church…a conservative, Welch’s Grape Juice and Saltines at Communion, Methodist Church.  Little Donnie in his Sunday best, shoes polished, Bible in hand, sitting in the pew designated as “Oh, don’t sit there, that’s the Miller’s pew.”

I joined the church when I was a pre-teen, I still have the Bible they presented me, a Revised Standard, my name etched in gold leaf. I even thought I might become a man of the cloth…although it was more what my mother wanted.  Sorry Mom, I know I disappointed you more than once. 

Left home the fall of my eighteenth year for a conservative Lutheran school of higher learning in the late Sixties and married a Southern Baptist woman…a couple of Baptist women.    Went through the public dunking to join the Baptist Church before sending off an email to become a Dudeist thirty years later…now a Dudeist priest I might add. “Mom, you got your wish!” Some might say I have retreated from the “light.” I say I’ve become a “recovering” Baptist. Is there a twelve-step program that includes giving up your casserole dish?

There are some Christian sects (cults?) (denominations?) that would not use Methodist or Lutheran and Conservative in the same breath.  I counter, in my little church, there was a gracious plenty of hellfire and brimstone preachin’ and long, long alter calls until someone finally stood up and made their way to the front of the church. Are preachers paid according to the number of people who answer an alter call?

Give me that old time religion” singin’, Bible thumpin’, Amen shoutin’, and summer revivals kind of church.  Pretty much I found myself inside my church’s four walls three or four times a week.  That’s a lot for a Methodist. Singing in the choir, progressing from going to vacation Bible school to teaching vacation Bible school, to teaching Sunday school. Dear God, at what point did I fall off of the straight and narrow and onto the primrose path. Another story for another time.

A side trip. I find it interesting as early as 1873, when “Give Me That Old Time Religion” became a standard in Protestant hymnals, people seemed to be dissatisfied and were singing and wishing for “that old time religion.”  Some modern day Christians still sing it but I am unsure what “old time” they are embracing. Many around my little piece of heaven seem to be combining their old time religion with “Old times they are not forgotten, Look Away, Look Away, Look Away, Dixie Land.”

Today’s question de jour, I have a problem with the “Wrath of God”.  I’ll take it one step further, the “Genocide of God”.  I’m not a fan of the Old Testament unless it is Proverbs or Psalms.  I don’t understand how a somewhat more “loving” God of the New Testament could be so harsh, angry, and vengeful to completely annihilate entire city-states in the Old. That’s one of those questions “that bothers me so.” It seems “He’s not the same God” is not the answer but that statement has its own set of questions.

In Deuteronomy 20:16–18, Moses gives these instructions: “As for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded.”  Men, women, children, and animals.  At times, it seems the Old Testament God, Yahweh, didn’t care about proselyting, opting instead for mass carnage of non-believers and I see too many embracing this mind set around the world. “Resistance is futile. Assimilate or die.”

When I was young, I was awed by the triumphant Israelites as they dispatched their enemies. I think I associated them with the triumphant Allies over evil in World War Two. Abraham, Moses, Daniel, David, and Sampson became Eisenhower, MacArthur, Nimitz, Halsey, and Patton. What I didn’t associate was the annihilations of entire city-states.

Trumpeting the fall of Jericho, banners flying.  Glory be to God, all in the name of God. Afterwards, Ai, then the people of Makkedah and Libnah and Lachish and Eglon and Debir—every man, woman, and child slaughtered and dedicated to God. In the end, the entire populations of thirty-one city-states were destroyed…and their animals. Shades of Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki but their destruction maybe more in line with Sodom and Gomorrah as “hellfire rained down from the heavens.” More questions?

I see too much of the Old Testament anger and vengeance in some of today’s so called religious folks.  Not just Christian folk. I still consider myself a Christian, just a lost one. There are very outspoken groups that spew hatred toward those who believe differently on the one hand and lament the loss of membership on the other.  I wonder if those two outcomes are related.  I guess what I consider hatred, they consider obedience to their God. That is not my cup of communion grape juice.

Too much of the world’s violence is created by religious beliefs, I think, sometimes doing more harm than good. Look no further than the Middle East. Too many wars fought with a religious component of my God is better than your god.  Too many songs like “Onward Christian Soldiers”. I’m not attacking Christianity. Well, may be I am but I’m sure other religions have similar tunes to rally them to their religion’s ideology and I am attacking them too.  I worry most for those who attach their religious leanings to their political and military leanings. At least in Christianity you can walk away without losing your head.

Worse, I have a hard time dealing with a New Testament God that would allow The Holocaust, mass shootings, the rape of Nanking, abortion, plagues, poverty, and hunger galore. I see no Divine hand at work, just the evil in the heart of man.

I’m not a theologian and not likely to be but I can’t buy it as a just God’s plan. I can’t relate to “that” God. Maybe the old Deist were correct. God set the Universe in motion like a clock and walked away. I’m sure he is shaking his head, wondering what went wrong…or maybe the joke is on us.

My next question, “Did I just sign my lease for a flat in hell for questioning God?”

Note: Dudeism is a religion/philosophy based on Taoism that preaches non-preachiness and practices as little as possible. It is the result of the movie, The Big Lebowski. It is not related to Deism which believes in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not intervene in the universe. Maybe they are related.

Mellow out, man

Don Miller writes on many subjects, good, bad, fiction, non-fiction. Rants, raves, etc. https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR31n_M2GoO3Us0peAwKvRMb001kyhZbwgGbY5MnU5wTKq_hy19h6qdbtiY

Yelling God image from Canva.

A Last Conversation

I remember the last conversation I had with my Father in the mid Nineteen Nineties.  I was sick with pneumonia and racked with a cough that shook me to the bottoms of my feet and chills the heavy quilts couldn’t quite shake. My head buzzed from codeine, antibiotics, and aspirin my doctor had prescribed.  I was feverish and out of my head.  Finally, I slept.

My father sat quietly on the corner of my bed watching me.  He was a small man; five foot six inches and his feet didn’t quite touch the floor.  He crossed his legs and clasped his hands on his knees. Nodding his head, he seemed younger than the last time I had seen him in the mid-Seventies.

“Son, you do know sickness is God’s way of telling you to slow down.  Death means you should have listened.” 

He said “Son” in the voice that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  “Son” was usually followed by gothic organ music and the statement, “This is going to hurt me more than you.” 

Right Dad, I don’t believe you now, and I didn’t believe you then.”

We talked for a while. I caught him up on the twenty years since his passing and even made him laugh a couple of times, something I don’t remember doing too much of when he was alive. 

We reminisced telling stories, mostly focusing on the times I screwed up, maybe times when I disappointed him. Running into him with a quill buggy while he worked under a loom causing him to sit up and bark his forehead on a worm gear. A lot of blood and a look that could have curdled milk.  The looms were too loud for me to hear the names he called me.

“The first time I heard you curse was when I pulled the starter cord on the mower when you were holding the spark plug wire.”  That was a real knee slapper.  He nodded and smiled. 

I remembered a note he left me one morning before going to work.  I was eleven or twelve.  “It has been three days.  Either use the mower or get it out of the front yard.”  Crazy things you remember.

“You weren’t a screamer, but you could give the talk…you know the talk.”  The “Please just hit me and end this” talk.  “You had a long fuse but there was a line I didn’t step across.”

I remembered striking out with the bat on my shoulder during a baseball game to end an inning and tossing my bat in anger.  Bad move, but a learning experience.  You called me over to the chicken wire backstop and punched a finger into my chest.

“The bat didn’t strike out, you did.  If I ever see you throw a bat, I’ll jerk you off this field and jerk a knot in your butt in front of everyone.” I believed him and told every one of my own baseball teams the story before adding, “And, I’ll do the same.”

I was able to say all the things I wanted to say but didn’t when I had the chance.  I got to tell him I loved him, how I appreciated all the sacrifices he made for our family.  I thanked him for how he treated my mother during her sickness.  I forgave him for marrying the stepmother from Hades…more on my brother’s behalf than mine. He laughed and nodded his head.

I awoke from my dream and looked for him.  He had gone wherever ghosts from codeine-fueled dreams go.  I felt a greater loss from a dream than I felt when he died twenty years before. 

I like to think that if there is an afterlife, somehow the dream was real…the conversation real…his ghost real. I can’t remember my last real conversation with him, but the dream was as real as it gets.  The dream somehow gave me a bit of closure, more than I got in 1976.

Many times, I only remember small snatches of my father, and other times I say something that came right out of his mouth. I see him sitting in his rocking chair, reading glasses down on his nose as he worked the crossword.  He was usually a calming factor, slow to react, a man of few words but words with weight.  I wish I saw more of him in me.

For more of Don Miller, https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3-8bMeUK9KNiS9JIFsT1PJHnKDdWomHwXGcfvTatfiESPeifFFSaM1GkA

A Funeral Without a Casserole is Just a Funeral

Southern funerals have always been equal parts family reunion and social gathering. I think it dates to the days when Southern families were so spread out and isolated.  It was a chance to reconnect and be social even if it was a sad event. It was time to serve those who needed it the most.

You can’t have a social gathering without food whether it was a cotillion or a funeral. Funerals were where the “church ladies” came in and ran the show.  They may not be allowed to be preachers or deacons but in times of need, they are the backbone of the church.  All the while, wearing their pearls and white gloves, their little pillbox hats on their blue-white heads.  They all seemed to smell of lilac or gardenia and had names like Miss Agnes or Miss Minnie. 

I know every section of the US has its own set of traditions, but the South knows…or knew how to do “grief” food.  With the gathering of friends and out-of-town family, the grieving family didn’t need to worry about preparing food.  This was a time to tell stories and relate memories associated with the deceased. Maybe even tell a joke or two if the dearly departed is the butt of it.  “You remember when ole Earl blew up his still?  Told him he ought not to hide it in the chicken coop.  Chicken feathers was flyin’ everywhere.” 

It’s not a time for the grieving family members to be planning menus.  Enter close friends and the “church ladies.”  Bless their little blue-haired heads.

Platters of food begin to arrive before the body is cold.  A half dozen versions of fried chicken, everyone’s Grandma “So and So’s” deviled eggs, mac and cheese, and “forty-leven” different deserts ranging from red velvet cake to banana puddin’.  It is as if they had prepared ahead of time just in case someone died. Do good Baptists have a casserole frozen and stashed away just in case?

“You know, old Earl looked kinda peeked at church Sundee.  I’m gonna make this caramel cake usin’ Grandma Earlean’s recipe just in case he kicks the bucket.”

Comfort food in a person’s time of need.  There is a reason comfort food is called comfort food.  It makes you feel better in the worst situations until you step on the scales or feel that sudden “There’s an elephant sittin’ on my chest” feeling.  This is of no concern to the church ladies and when the body has made its final six foot trip, there is room for one more meal. 

Doesn’t matter that the grieving family can’t close the refrigerator door for the casserole dishes or that both the microwave and convection oven are filled with six different versions of the same protein.   The post burial meal must be observed.

More mainstays are laid out. Fried chicken, again, or maybe, baked ham, more deviled eggs, more mac and cheese, a dozen congealed salads, what we called Jell-O salad, and several different potato salads.  Depending upon the time of year, fried okra or fresh creamed corn might find a place at the long tables covered in white linen tablecloths. 

A church lady directs us down both sides of the table as soon as the grieving family is served and settled…and  in a stringy, sharp voice and pointing a white-gloved finger, “Y’all the desert table and sweet tea are over yonder.”  She nudges me, “You better hurry if you want some of my chicken pot pie. I knows how much you like it! And get you some of Miss Sally’s banana puddin’ before it gets gone.”  Can’t fault her, Miss Mamie was correct.

How many casseroles can there be?” Several dozen casseroles of different types it would seem.  I’m sure the church ladies formed a telephone chain,  in fact, in distant times, they may have been on the same party line. “I’m gonna do a green bean casserole if I can find that can of Campbell’s Mushroom Soup and a can of those fried onions.  Why don’t you do broccoli?”  Or squash, or funeral potatoes, or chicken pot pie, or if someone is creative or from the low country, chicken bog.

This is the way it should be, comfort food for the grieving, but something has gone amiss. 

I found myself at a recent funeral.  I could not believe it…I refuse to believe it! 

Chicken provided by KFC and Bojangles.  What?  They didn’t even take it out of the box. Hard ole biscuits and that watery potato salad. Slaw so sweet it set your teeth on edge. I didn’t even try the tea. I know we live in different times but this…this…this is sacrilege. “Blasphemy I say!!!!” And this was in a Southern Baptist institution. 

Not even one, three-quart casserole dish with a name taped to the bottom.  What have we come to?  What have we become? Where is the banana pudding?

I can’t believe the lack of respect shown for the dearly departed family. I didn’t know the family. I just stopped in for the food.

More of Don Miller’s ramblings may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3gtYqKmk1eSIHBoTiQc5rg12E6_7eZY6AHLuMDN323mC4bdmKMRfn-fKY

The image is of a traditional “funeral” potato casserole.

A Smiling Possum with a Corn Cob

All is not well in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. We’ve found our little piece of heaven comes with unintended consequences. 

As the area around us began to build up as others decided to carve out their own little pieces of heaven, we made the decision to turn ours into a wilderness preserve.  Ninety acres of mixed forest, rolling hills (that’s a lie perpetuated by a realtor, more like small mountains), and wildlife galore. 

We can live in harmony with most but some of the wildlife are…well…quite brazen.  The bear that periodically tears down my fence and scatters the trash comes to mind or the deer that samples my Hosta.  The brood of chipmunks who make me laugh until they dig into the flower pots and seed bag. I can live with them.  It is we who are encroaching on them.  I can pick up the trash and the Hosta grows back.  The chain link I don’t like anyway. 

Our latest issue is a raccoon.  Brazen little….  He began raiding my suet cakes until I acted.  He is not a happy camper.  Tonight, he stood upright looking through the window into our sunken den.  My bride was enthralled and tried to snap a picture.  I knew this wasn’t going to end well. 

Raccoon hanging on our window screen waiting for a peanut butter sandwich |  Animals, Raccoon, Critter
Hey, is that a peanut butter sandwich? Photo from Pinterest.

“Oh, he’s hungry.  What can we feed him?”

“Nothing, he’s a wild animal and besides, there are berries everywhere.” 

“We have that old dogfood, do you think….”

In a very conservative friend’s voice I thought but didn’t say, “He needs to get off his ass and go to work.  See what free handouts get you?” Believe me it was my friends voice, not mine. I have not problems with handouts for the needy.  I didn’t say it because my bride had already walked out the door with dry dogfood. I hope Rocky Raccoon doesn’t have a family.

I fully expect this little bandit to knock on the door and ask, “When is supper served? Should I bring a red or a white?” 

I now bring the suet cakes in at night and if he figures out how to reach the bird feeders, I’m sure I’ll have to bring them in too. He doesn’t seem to like sunflower seeds.  Lord help us if he figures out the door handles.  I see him rifling through the fridge and writing out a shopping list.

As the morning dawned, I stood in front of the kitchen sink playing the previous evening’s festivities over in my mind.  Dawn was just breaking, and I turned off the light to get a better view of the flat and creek behind the house. Colors were still mostly muted blues and gray with a hint of green but light enough for me to see.

I caught movement from the corner of my eye and saw a possum waddling by. He was inside of the fence, a fresh corncob from my compost bin was held in his mouth.  The possum paused looking up at the fence as if to say, “A preposition is anything a possum with a corncob in his mouth can do to a fence.  Go over it, around it, under it, or through it.”  My fourth or fifth grade English teacher should be proud but he won’t go through it with the corn cob.

I tapped on the windowpane and the possum turned toward the noise, dropped the cob, and grinned. “Like a possum eating persimmons”, I thought despite the fact we are months from ripe persimmons.  When I tapped again, he grabbed his booty and slowly made his way over the fence before disappearing into the Tiger lilies.

I fell into a warm memory.  Warm now, not so much then.  My beautiful puppies, Mattie and Tilly, would bring me gifts in the form of possums they had caught climbing down from the persimmon tree.  Caught but in most cases not killed.  It is called playing possum for a reason.

I can see them clearly in my mind’s eye, sitting and puppy dog smiling, tails wagging as they waited for their “good puppy” treat.  A possum laying at their feet as if sacrificed to their puppy dog god. Damn, I miss those puppies.

One possum revived itself and tried to make an escape through our dining room door causing a scene from the “Keystone Cops” to play out as we attempted to chase her into a pasteboard box.  Success was attained but it was a near thing.

Another worried us to death because of the eight babies latched onto her back.  Worried until the critter opened an eye and winked.  Not to fear, she wandered off after being deposited outside of the fence, the babies hanging on for dear life.

Many is the time I have said prayers of thanks that their gifts were possums and not skunks.  I’m sure we have them too, but sometimes good fortune can’t be explained. 

Sometimes all it takes to brighten a day is a grinning possum with a corncob.

Figure 2. Juvenile opossums hanging out.
My favorite possum picture. Credit: Frank Lukasseck/Corbis, backyardzoologist.wordpress.com. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/

 ***

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2L-7MYr7YwIZvXAu4uKWCZ-MWUeCQ3hBRpraJcjGpH8yJ7KPVmbMgPVRI

Flower Moons, Bream Beds, and Cooter Soup

The May, full “Flower Moon” had risen just above the tree line along my southeast horizon. Big with a pinkish tint, I watched it rise although the warm pre-dawn felt more like July or August in the foothills of the Blue Ridge than May.  Temperatures climbing to the low nineties didn’t sound bad if you live in south Texas or Arizona but as you are aware, “It ain’t the heat, it’s the humidity”. The humidity seemed to be building despite there being little chance of rain. 

It has been drier than my first wife’s sense of humor for most of May and the weather liars allowed there would be no relief soon…maybe the early June weekend.  They predicted wide spread showers by Thursday but we’ll see…they have been known to lie before.

My garden is suffering despite the hose and sprinkler I pulled from my house.  Even my crabgrass seems droopy, and the row middles are harder than baked brick.  My tiller bucks and kicks up dust but doesn’t dig deeply enough to remove the crabgrass. Dry, windy air is not good for my garden…or my psoriasis…or my mood.

Not too dry or hot to walk.  It is a habit I look forward to and the world might quit spinnin’ if I were to miss a day.  I have three routes I use but recently I’ve have stuck to my lake route.  The three and a half mile trek is cooler and there is plenty of shade…and plenty to see.

I paused on the lake bank and watched the activity ten or twenty feet from the shoreline.  Dozens of pothole bream beds were visible in the shallow water.  Dark torpedo shapes darted in and out.  The bream seemed to be playing a child’s game of chase.

Full moon, wind favorable.  Might be time to dust off the rod and reel.  It has been a while.  This lake is catch and release but that’s okay.  My freezer is full of food, I don’t think I’ll starve. I’m also not fond of cleaning fish.

I used to fish every chance I got until I lost my fishing partner.  I heard my grandmother’s voice in my head, “Can’t you smell ’em? They’re here close by.”  She’d drop a squirming worm on a number six, gold hook from a cane pole and be rewarded.  I couldn’t smell them then…still can’t but I could see them guarding their beds, dark shapes silhouetted against the sandy bottom.

My grandmother taught me about fishing.  How to tie on a hook and work the worm on to it.  “Make sure you get the tip covered. The breams is smart.”  “Fish facin’ the sun, so they don’t get spooked by your shadow.”  Except when they are on the bed.  They’ll bite about anything on the bed and don’t really care about shadows…mostly out of anger, I think.  Once she ran out of bait and used a flower blossom successfully to catch “just one more.” I’m reminded of “shooting fish in a barrel.” Don’t rightly seem fair but then my grandmother didn’t fish for sport, she fished to eat.

Nannie fished without a bobber mostly and only the smallest split shot weight.  Slowly moving the pole tip back and forth, changing the depth up and down.  Moving up and down the bank until she locked herself in mortal battle with a warmouth or bluegill bream.  She didn’t throw any away.  The smaller ones made it to the garden as fertilizer, the “eatin’ size” into a frying pan.  I’ve tried pan frying and can’t seem to get it right. I’ve just about quit trying.

I walked out before sunrise the next morning carrying an old Zebco 33, a pail with redworms, and a pocket filled with a few extra number six hooks, red and white bobbers, and split shot weights.  The Flower Moon was still visible in the dark western sky. A mile and a half there and a mile and a half back, I could have been ten years old again walking down the river road toward Bower’s Lake, my grandmother and Trixie the puppy leading the way.  Maybe Miss Maggie would be with us too.

The Zebco wasn’t much different than the one I saved up for and bought at Pettus’ store sixty years ago.  If memory serves, it’s my fourth 33.  It’s a cheap, no frills reel perfect for a cheap, no frills guy. It is also beat up despite not having been used much in the past decade.  The cork handle of the rod is peeling, and I noticed I had made a hasty repair on an eyelet with electrician’s tape.  Whatever works.

The fish were active and the action swift.  Pumpkinseed and blue gills, some bigger than my hand, battled for the opportunity to hang themselves on my hook.  In an hour I probably caught two dozen keepers, some I probably caught more than once.  I know my grandmother was spinning in her grave as I let everyone of them go. 

An alligator snapping turtle paid a visit as did several Eastern water turtles.  I’m sure they were looking for a free meal from a stringer that wasn’t there. We called them cooters back in the day, from the West African word kuta.  With a modern change in usage I have to be careful when using the name.

The beast’s shell was as big around as an old-fashioned Caddy hubcap.  Again my grandmother spoke in my head, “Don’t let a snapping turtle bite you ’cause it won’t let go till it thunders.” I don’t know about that Nannie, but I know he’ll take a finger off.

I made the mistake of casting near him trying to scare him away.  Despite his size he was quick in the water.  He submerged and took the worm and hung himself on the hook.  I tried to keep him from heading to the bottom expecting him to break my line.  The line didn’t break, instead he stripped the gears in my old reel and hunkered down on the bottom to wait me out.  Looks like I’m in the market for a fifth Zebco. 

My grandmother would make cooter soup from the turtles she caught or those that happen to wander through her yard.  During those days, Southern farmers who survived the depression days still prepared cooter soup, or catfish stew, or fried rabbit. I think they did it to remind themselves of the bad, old times…the “worser times.” At least she stopped short of possum. She said it was too greasy. I’ll have to take her word that it is.

I understand turtle soup is now considered a delicacy. Don’t believe my grandmother would agree. To her it was a free meat when times were hard.

I remember a big iron pot on an outdoor fire boiling water to dip the cooter in to loosen its shell and skin. It was a lot of work to crack open the shell and skin and bone the meat, being careful to remove the eggs and liver. Rich looking dark meat ground like hamburger, sautéed with onion before being cooked like vegetable soup.  Soup heavy with tomatoes, potatoes, corn, beans, and okra to thicken. Maybe celery or carrots thrown in for good measure. Basic soup with a twist.  Everything harvested from her garden, sometimes even the turtle.  The old cooter tasted like chicken with the consistency of beef…or was it the other way around?

How long can a cooter stay down? Still waiting after a half hour, I tugged on the line and felt the load on the end move. Hand over hand I hoped the line wouldn’t cut me if he ran. He didn’t run and I took out my MacGyver knife and waited to get him close. I cut my line as close as I dared and watched my line and the old mossback disappear into deep water.

Walking back home I carried no fish but there was a spring in my step as I thought the best of life has to offer sometimes requires a lot of work…and provides sweet memories too. An evening in late summer came to my mind. Two old women in flour sack dresses and wide straw hats and a small boy sharing a load. Carrying three stringers full of hand sized or better home and sitting out under the privet bushes and stars next to the garden cleaning them all. Nannie, Miss Maggie Cureton, and a young boy. Listening to them laugh and tell stories of the “worser” old days that didn’t seem so bad. Enough fish for three families to feast on the next day. A memory to feast on for life.

Don Miller writes about various subjects, nonfiction, fiction and some with elements of both. His author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3MGRivTC9YRWjMTAbB1FsY7cD3V0OLEHDQLxd3M7T2ka0A4gkmY5YWW-g