Swingin’ into Spring

 

It’s spring in the foothills of the Blue Ridge…and rainy…and humid when it’s not rainy.  Thank a low-pressure system located somewhere in distant Florida.  The weather liars say five more days of this on and off and on-again rain.  We’ll see if they lie.  I walked this morning and the air was humid…as in I was drowning in my own sweat by nine in the AM humid.  I need to go out earlier but, in a month, it won’t matter, it will be humid no matter what time I walk.

I’m drowning tonight.  Drowning my aches and pains with a dark amber liquid.  Watching my bride swing on the front porch, a Jack Daniels in my left hand and a cigar in the right.  Jimmy Buffett croons softly in the background reminding me “if we weren’t all crazy we’d all go insane.”  If this is drowning, I’ll gladly go to my maker.  Swinging back and forth going nowhere, with nowhere to go.  The smooth bite of the brown liquor, the aroma of burning tobacco, and the rhythmic creaking of the swing chain keeping time to the music.  Telling stories to my love who has heard them all before.

The tree frogs must feel the humidity building with the clouds to the south.  They are singing at the top of their lungs.  Their high-frequency chirping must be calling the rain because it’s beginning to spit a bit.   I love their song, so comforting, so soothing…so “nature-all”…along with the cadence of the raindrops falling above my head.

I look out at in my Garden of Eden…make that the Wilderness of Linda, Linda my bride.  With her jumbled greenery, there are biting or stinging rascals hiding in the darkness just outside my front porch oasis.  The overhead fan stirs the smoke from the three citronella candles surrounding the porch.  Citronella must work, I haven’t been bitten yet… which is a false sense of prosperity.  The little vampires are lurking, buzzing about somewhere.  I don’t think mosquitoes ever really leave our little piece of heaven.

Oops!  I killed my first mosquito and lightning flashes are followed by a distant rumble.  A spring thunderstorm in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Close enough to be concerned, close enough to drive us in.

There was a time, some thirty years ago, before we air-conditioned our ancient farmhouse.  We sat on the front porch to escape the heat that had built inside the house during the day.  Sat talking about our workday, the kids we taught or coached, the dreams we had until we had to go to bed, heat be damned, ceiling fans working on high.  Early beginnings to another work day were the cause.

Despite being retired with no schedule, and no alarm clock, it’s too easy to escape to the air conditioning, to the TV with hundreds of channels but no programming we want to watch…or to the laptop I use to write this.  Sometimes I miss those days when we were simply swingin’ into spring.

More of Don Miller’s ramblings or a book or six may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

If you are interested in romantic suspense, “mommy porn”, you might want to try Don Miller’s alter ego, Lena Christenson, at  https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

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My Writing Sucks….

 

I’m absolutely at war with myself.  The problem is I’ve been reading when I should be writing…or cutting grass or weeding the garden.  Actually, I’ve done them all.  Anything to avoid writing.  I did cut grass and weeded the garden and I’ve read Roy Blount Jr., Julia Reed, Rick Bragg, and James Lee Burke…it’s Burke’s fault…and Jeri Lynn Wolfe Cooper.

I didn’t know I had the desire to write until my former student, Jeri Lynn, put a bug in my ear…or up my butt.  A burr under my saddle.  A bee in my bonnet…any others?  After twenty-five years we reconnected through another bane of my existence, social media.  She was Lynn Wolfe thirty years ago…she’s Lynn Cooper now but I liked the way Jeri Lynn rolled off the tongue of my Southern brain back then.  Still, do.

Wouldn’t you know it?  She’s a writer.  Anyway, my bad writing career is her fault.  “You always told great stories…you should write them down.”  I did…and try to force you to read them.

I studied other people’s writings, Lynn’s included.  I say  “Lynn’s included” because Lynn writes hot, romantic tales, something my wife says I know nothing about.  “Honey, I’m just taking notes for later.”  She didn’t buy it…I don’t guess I bought it either. ..but I still buy Lynn’s books.

Sometimes I have a hard time reconciling the sweet young woman who used to sit in my sociology class with the writer who pens scorching, passionate fiction.  Really scorching, real quality.  Her writing would be good even if it wasn’t sizzling.  I can reconcile it after all.

It’s the way Lynn’s words flow and roll off the page, the way she creates vividly erotic scenes without being graphic,  it’s her deeply painted descriptions of characters…my characters look like stick figures.

My excuse is that my last English class was over forty-five years ago.  I’m having to learn on the run…jog…walk.  The only creative writing course I took was exactly fifty years ago.  I remember writing about the sex life of a door knob…it was the “free love” Sixties but a daunting task for an eighteen-year-old virgin.  It’s all I remember about the course.

My writing experience involved forty-five years of creating lesson and practice plans with the occasional grocery list thrown in for good measure.  So, I’m struggling, and the Thesaurus is not my friend.  I’m in the “my writing sucks” frame of mind as I attempt to hammer out a thousand words…words someone might want to read.  Hmmm, “If it doesn’t fit use a bigger hammer.”  I don’t think that will work.

Since we seemed to have skipped spring this year, I picked up James Lee Burke’s latest to avoid the heat of the midday sun.  I had finished my weeding, and my potatoes and tomatoes are doing quite well.  I’m not going to say anything about my squash, I’m sure the squash bugs are listening and waiting to pounce.

Maybe I can get an idea, maybe I can learn something…maybe I can just enjoy Burke’s writing.  I learned I can study a dictionary from now until death takes me and I’ll never ever have anything near James Lee Burke’s vocabulary.  Should have picked up a “Dick and Jane” book instead.  ”See Spot run….”

James Lee Burke writes about pain and he describes it in a way you feel the pain like an abscessed tooth.  He writes about people and doesn’t just describe them, you become them.  Their pain and suffering is your pain and suffering.  He writes about the good and evil in man…sometimes contained in the same flawed person.  He paints with a vivid brush.  Oh, how I wish.

Okay back to the next great American novel…or I can wash my car.  My car really needs washing…

If you are interested in hot, romantic short stories and novellas you might wish to drop by Lynn’s author’s page at  https://www.amazon.com/Lynn-Cooper/e/B00LPX4HGO

If you are interested in nonfiction or historical fiction you might try Don Miller’s page at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B018IT38GM

If you are interested in Don Miller writing romantic adventure as Lena Christenson, her page is at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19  My beloved still wonders what I might know about romance.  Well, I read books.

Image from https://allthatjazzblogdotcom.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/of-struggling-scribes-and-pain/

 

BUCK NEKKID’ IN THE BEAN PATCH

 

In honor of World Naked Gardening Day 2018, an excerpt from “Cornfields…in my mind.”

My apologies.  There are times it’s okay to show your naked, lily-white derriere.  Taking a bath or shower, weighing oneself, sleeping in the buff, skinny dippin’ or faire l’amour…which I guess the last two or three could be related.  I would say, unless you are in a nudist colony, baring your butt outdoors in your bean patch ain’t one of those times.  ‘Specially if your bean patch is adjacent to a well-traveled highway.

My apologies are for the three carloads of folk and the loaded church bus passing by while I was trying to get out of my shorts and skivvies.  My intent was to run and get behind my small stand of raccoon ravaged corn.  I was embarrassed because it’s hard to get out of your shorts if you’re not trying to get out of your boots first.  I was embarrassed because there were no cheers emanating from any those vehicles as I displayed my butt and other body parts.  I guess it could’a been the shock.  I was also embarrassed by the face and head plant into the crooked necked squash plant when I became tangled in my shorts.  It could have been worse; the cops could have shown up.

In a previous post, I admitted to weed-eating while wearing shorts because I found myself to be less susceptible to multiple yellow jacket stings that way.  Well…to be honest I wear shorts all the time this time of year unless I am picking blackberries or raspberries.  For some reason, one of the devil’s stinging minions decided my pant leg would be a great place to fly up and into.  Note to self, when wearing shorts choose jockey style underwear and not boxer style.  With the little bastard zeroing in on my soft inner thigh, just under my dangling body parts, you understand why I wasn’t too concerned with embarrassing myself.

Sometime later, as I was readjusted my clothes and inspected body parts behind the stand of corn, I remembered a childhood experience.  At a very young age, four or five, I had followed my grandmother into her garden.  As I did whatever four or five-year old’s do, I noticed my grandmother’s movements suddenly becoming reminiscent of a body being possessed by some devilish spirit.  Her gyrations were quite violent and featured a lot of slapping and yelling.  Suddenly, to my surprise, she began stripping off her “feed sack” dress in the attempt to rid herself of what we called a Russian hornet.  It had flown up her dress and was in attack mode.  Her revelations did not scar me for life, but I was momentarily struck blind by her whiteness.  “Them” body parts ain’t never, ever seen the light of day.

Oh well, in case you were wondering, I avoided major injury or an insect sting to my physical person, but my pride might have suffered just a bit…and I don’t think some of the crooked neck squash will survive…hope the folks on the church bus do.

This is an excerpt from the book “Cornfields…in my mind” and can be downloaded or purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Image from CNN Entertainment

 

LIFE, BASEBALL, AND A TRANSISTOR RADIO

 

There was once a young boy who went to sleep listening to his small transistor radio.  The circular dial on its front was more than a tuner, it was the young boy’s window to a far away world…the destination depending upon atmospheric conditions.

AM radio, Amplitude Modulation,  is still iffy in perfect conditions and FM, Frequency Modulation, was the new-fangled, next big thing of the early Sixties.  AM radio stations blasting rock and roll so clearly during the daylight hours became impossible to pick up due to changes in the ionosphere or went off the air entirely.

Magically it seemed to the young boy,  AM transmitters bounced their signal off the charged layer of the atmosphere.  Honestly, the old man who replaced the young boy still believes it is magic.  The young boy knew none of the science, he just knew night time brought in far off places and in the summer, brought him baseball games played late into the night.

Just last night I was reminded of the young boy, now wrinkled and gray.  As I drove home in the early evening, my satellite radio brought in a far off, crystal-clear signal from somewhere on the left coast.  Not the crackling, fading in or out signal from his childhood.

The little transistor radio brought him games played by  “Mr. Sunshine”, Ernie Banks of the Cubbies or “The Killer”, Harmon Killebrew of the Twins…depending upon atmospheric condition.  Sometimes it brought games from southern climes with sportscasters speaking in an excited, rapid-fire language the young boy did not understand.  On very special nights, the atmospheric gods brought him the Detroit Tigers and their star outfielder Al Kaline.  I remember the young boy struggling to stay awake long enough to hear the last out recorded.

This was a time when baseball was the American Pastime…before the breakneck speed of our lives, the internet, iPhones, and interactive video games made baseball seem too slow.  This was a time when we built up our athletic idols instead of finding ways to tear them down.  A time before the designated hitter and performance-enhancing drugs.  It was an era when bases were bags and sandlots and playgrounds were filled with youth dreaming of being the next “Mick” or “Sandy” or “The Say Hey Kid.”  It was a time before life got in the way.

I listened to a broadcaster whose voice I didn’t recognize, announcing players I did not know, playing for a team that didn’t exist when the young boy listened to his transistor radio.  For a moment I was sad until I remembered the young boy.  The young boy grew up to play the game he loved and later coached it for a goodly part of his life.

Baseball may no longer be the American Pastime, but it still mimics life.  Life involves so much failure and successful people find ways to rise above their missteps.  Baseball is the same, a game built on failure.  A great hitter fails seventy percent of the time.  A hitter may do everything right and still get robbed, his line drive somehow finding a glove.  A pitcher may make the perfect pitch that ends with a “fourteen hopper” somehow finding its way through a drawn-in infield.  Baseball gives, and it takes away…just like life.

For more wit and witticisms from Don Miller  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Image of Ernie Banks from CBS News

The Smiles of Spring

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It’s five in the morning.  I’ve been awake for an hour.  I sometimes awaken early, too early…a full bladder or my arthritic body forcing me out of bed.  I wish it wasn’t so, but this morning’s awakening is different.  My heart is glad and the sounds from outside have put a smile on my face.

Two barred owls have been serenading me for the past hour.  “Who-ha-ha-whoooooo!”  They are close, very close.  Close enough to wake me up.  Walking out to my backyard I have pinpointed the pecan tree outside of my back door and a close by black walnut they have perched in.  They are not the least bit concerned that I have crashed their party.  It is still too dark to see them but the pink showing above the hillside tells me the sun will once again rise in the east.

I wonder if it is a mating…

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The Smiles of Spring

 

It’s five in the morning.  I’ve been awake for an hour.  I sometimes awaken early, too early…a full bladder or my arthritic body forcing me out of bed.  I wish it wasn’t so, but this morning’s awakening is different.  My heart is glad and the sounds from outside have put a smile on my face.

Two barred owls have been serenading me for the past hour.  “Who-ha-ha-whoooooo!”  They are close, very close.  Close enough to wake me up.  Walking out to my backyard I have pinpointed the pecan tree outside of my back door and a close by black walnut they have perched in.  They are not the least bit concerned that I have crashed their party.  It is still too dark to see them but the pink showing above the hillside tells me the sun will once again rise in the east.

I wonder if it is a mating call…or just two old friends making contact again.  The romantic in me hopes it’s a lover’s serenade and their calls have changed a bit.  Their hooting has begun to overlap, and it seems they have moved closer together…maybe into the same tree.  My mind is filled with thoughts of owl porn or maybe they are just sharing a meal.  I’m sure field mice are plentiful in my wife’s backyard wildlife and weed preserve.  I smile wondering what wine goes with roast field rat.  Yuk!

The morning has grown brighter and my owls have grown quiet, their hoots replaced by the chirps of the day shift.  The early birds looking for their worms.

The sounds of spring make me glad and hopeful.  I don’t think my two feathered lovers are concerned about anything other than their lives…and loves.  I think I should be like them.

Don Miller is a multi-genre writer, which means he writes a bunch of stuff but has mastered none of it.  If interested you may click on the following link for more of his works.  Please be interested.  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Image of the mating pair of barred owls from  https://stevetaboneblog.com/2014/04/23/barred-owls-mating/  He appears sooooo angry.

JOCKSTRAPS and OTHER DIGRESSIONS

 

Sometimes the derivation of words gets lost over time…and sends me down a rabbit hole.  I don’t know why I felt the need to research the history of the jockstrap…I just did.

There was a time I would not be caught dead without an athletic supporter once I knew what they were and what they were designed to do.  This was not due to the science behind the jockey strap but in response to my naivety in the1960s and certain scare tactics employed to make sure we were wearing them.  Our coaches would explain in a very serious and hushed tone, “You do want to have children when you grow up don’t you?” or “If you don’t wear that thing your ding a ling will fall off!” or “If you keep doing that you will go blind!” … oops, the wrong scare tactic. This leads me to the less than extensive research I have done about the athletic supporter or what is known as the jockstrap, jockey strap or just plain ole “jock.”

It would be a logical leap to believe that the athletic supporter became known as a jockey strap because jockeys wore them. Logical yes, but that is not correct.  Jockey simply means rider.  Jockey straps were invented for Boston bicycle riders and not the diminutive munchkins riding horses in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness.

In 1874, the first jockstrap was invented by Charles Bennett, a worker for Sharp & Smith, a Chicago hosiery company.  He created it to remedy what he called “floppy man parts” as cyclists rode over the cobblestone streets of Boston.  In their advertisement, our little friends were referred to as “floppy man parts.”  There were so many complaints about jiggling jewels the jockey strap was invented to keep our little man friends tucked safely up and out of harm’s way.

I have to digress.  The first jockstraps used in team sports was by hockey players, also in 1874.  It would 1979 before helmet use would be required in hockey.  Took a while to figure out which head was important.

The first jockstrap was a type of bike jockey strap, not to be confused with a type of Bike Jockey Strap.  The Bike Company, producer of over three hundred and fifty million jock- straps bought the patent and went into business.  If you are thinking there is a tie-in between the Bike Company and bike riders, again you would be wrong.  The Number One manufacturer of athletic supporters began life as the Bike Web Company years before.

The lineage of the jock strap likely can be traced back to when Babylonian men “girded their loins” before a battle in the Fertile Crescent some five thousand years ago or as Roman soldiers using a leather belt with flaps hanging over their “danglies” conquered an empire.

The history gets a bit bizarre in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries when European men were men and women could not help but notice it.  During this time, men liked to flaunt their packages even if their packages were lacking “flaunt-ability” by use of a pouch-like accouterment called the codpiece.

Cod means, and since I really don’t care if this is in good taste or not, scrotum as derived from the Greeks.  From this word derives the slightly off-color description, “cod sack.”  In some cases, the codpiece was used as a false advertisement somewhat like the modern “Wonder Bra” or “falsie” but stopped short of being like the “fake boob”.  Can you really call something like a boob fake?  I really need to do some hands-on research on the subject.  The codpiece of old gave you an impression of more where there wasn’t necessarily more.  It was like driving a big four by four to compensate for certain “little man” inadequacies.

You might have seen codpieces and not known it.  They seem to be a part of costumes associated with Heavy Metal bands in the Seventies or singers like Gene Simmons of KISS, along with male ballet dancers.  Dancers I understand but who knew singers had to worry about jiggling and flopping.  Maybe they reach those high notes by using too tight codpieces or felt a need to be protected from all those teen groupies.

No matter how bizarrely Heavy Metal bands dressed, none were as bizarre as the actual codpieces produced and worn in what I thought was the less brazen period of the fifteen and sixteenth centuries.  I was mistaken at least when it came to men.  Men adorned the front of their armor or trousers with what resembled…ah…well…very large…erect…man parts.  Some were adorned with angry heads resembling serpents, animals and my personal favorite a plumed bird.  “Want to touch the birdy?  It might chirp at you.”

During the Seventies, the use of jockey straps seemed to decline.  It wasn’t that we weren’t still concerned about our little friends or because it was the era of “free love,” it was just that technology had advanced to the point that they weren’t needed as much.  Compression shorts, football girdles and baseball sliding shorts all made appearances and kept your man parts out of the way.  I have even traded my jock strap for what a female friend of mine calls “Mandex”, compression shorts made from Spandex.

I should point out that I do not run around in Spandex.  I have taken the time to look at myself in a mirror, notice what other men my age look like in spandex running or bike shorts and have mandated the use of running shorts over my “Mandex.”

During my years as a football coach, our players wore what were called girdles which resembled the ladies’ apparel of the same name.  In addition to keeping our player’s “jewels” in place and out of harm’s way, they had pouches where their hip and thigh pads were inserted.  Despite this technological advance, some of our players would still wear jockstraps, some in interesting ways including over their girdle.

When stretching before practice I noticed one of my defensive end’s posterior had pink hearts showing through his white practice pants when he stretched.  Because I have an inquiring mind and am easily distracted I could not help wondering why he wore his jock over his girdle and then decided to put his underwear on top before putting on his football pants…I still wonder.

From the book “Floppy Parts” by Don Miller.  It can be purchased or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Pigeons from Nowhere?

 

I awoke terrified, unable to breathe…not quite true.  Once I realized where I was, I also realized I was holding my breath and was more than a little congested.  Because of my allergies, I was sleeping upright in my recliner and had had the “DREAM”.  Thank goodness I had not awakened the house screaming.  Seeing puppy dog Tilly looking at me made me wonder if that had been the case.  At least there was no movement upstairs.

My first lucid thought was of an old “THRILLER” episode from the Sixties…the early Sixties.  June of 1961 to be exact.  When it comes to exactness, I might be a bit anal retentive, so I looked it up.  I would have been a month or so past my eleventh birthday when I watched “Pigeons from Hell”, adapted from a short story written by Robert E. Howard in 1934.  THRILLER was hosted by Boris Karloff of “FRANKENSTEIN” fame and I could hear his distinctive lisp echoing in my head.

My first lucid thought is always about “Pigeons from Hell” after the dream.  A car stuck in the mud on a lonely, Southern road.  A bright, darkness casting scary shadows as two young brothers approach an old mansion surrounded by pigeons.  A decision to spend the night that leads to a hatchet splitting the skull of one…I won’t bore you…but if you are interested you can YouTube the old black and white episode…I did.  Despite its age and knowing the outcome, it is still quite good.

I won’t bore you because my dream has nothing to do with pigeons from anywhere, hatchets splitting skulls or being stuck in the mud…there are close friends who might disagree with the last assertion.  Instead, I will bore you with my dream…my terrifying, very mundane dream.  An old mansion that I have lost…somewhere in the fog time and the fog obscuring the dream.

In this dream, reoccurring since entering early adult life, I’m lying on the steps outside an old mansion.  A mansion I am quite familiar with for reasons I don’t understand.  The faded-white, lap boarded mansion is being renovated, I clearly see the spider webbing of scaffolding along the sides of the two-story building.  Above me, between the ivy-covered columns is a sign.  It flutters slightly in the breeze, fog swirling about it, obscuring its message…a message I know I don’t want to read.  Why?  I have no idea, I just know I don’t.

As if being levitated, I move closer to the sign, it’s message becoming clearer, and am filled with fear…no I’m terrified despite knowing “it is just a dream” and begin to scream myself awake.  So far, I’ve been successful, I’ve never read the sign.  I’ve also been successful scaring the bejesus out of my wife as I transition from screaming in my head to screaming out loud.

I knew exactly where that old mansion was.  I knew I had ridden by it dozens of times it seemed, the memory etched sharply in my remembrances.  On a trip home during the decade of my twenties, I decided to look at the renovations and drove to where I knew the mansion was…but it wasn’t.  I drove around searching, my mind in turmoil.  It is not where I knew it to be on a street corner occupied by a small cottage, my heart sinking into my feet.

The dream has taken on a new spirit, the mansion my “holy grail.”  Every time I have the dream I rack my memories trying to figure out where the mansion exists…other than in my mind.  The memory is just too clear to be a dream…and what of the dream?  What does it mean?  What might Freud have said?  If “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”, a dream is but a dream?  The dream is just too real…but then so was “Pigeons from Hell” when I watched it in 1961.

I wonder if I will ever understand it…will I ever read the letters etched on the swinging board?  My adult brain tells me I will never find the mansion in my dreams and for some reason, I am saddened.  A sense of loss?  Maybe that is the message in the dream.

Further insights into Don Miller’s craziness may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

If you are interested in “Pigeon’s from Hell” the following link will get you there.

Ghosts

I do believe in ghosts.  Why shouldn’t I?  A ghost, by definition, is the soul or spirit of a dead person or animal that can appear to the living.  Whether the appearance is a sound, like the creaking of my old house settling, reminding me of someone, now gone, treading on the old pine floors. A fleeting glimpse of some unknown something out of the corner of my eye, just beyond my periphery, triggering a long-forgotten memory.  The way certain shadows fall in the moonlight or an old song that conjures up a ghost from the past.  It’s a ghost even if their spirit resides only in my head.

My favorite quote about ghost was made by NCIS agent Mike Franks, a favorite reoccurring character on the long-running TV program NCIS.  In a conversation with Gibbs about ghosts, Franks allows that ghost were “But the memories we make. We fill the spaces we live in with them. That’s why I’ve always tried to make sure that wherever I live, the longer I live there the spaces become filled with memories of naked women.”  Well, there is only one memory in my living space of a naked woman and thankfully she is not a memory.

But there are other memories….

I arose early as is my infernal habit.  Standing in the dark, also an infernal habit, I looked through the broad window beyond my kitchen sink gazing into the bright moonlight dappling the flat between my home and my stream.  There was a huge full moon, rapidly setting just above the tall trees on the ridge above casting long shadows that danced in the open space below.

Just off to the side, away from the direction I was looking, I saw her in the mottled moonlight.  I saw her white and black markings…as I often do.  When I looked directly at her…she was gone.  She has been gone now for thirteen years…roaming somewhere on the hillside above us.  Ghostly in the way she continues to remind us of her, lost but not forgotten at all.  A ghost never to fear, only to remember and smile.

Sassy Marie came to us, not us to her.  She left the same way…on her terms.  Everything about Sassy Marie was to be savored on her terms.  If she wanted to be petted, she came to us.  If we wanted to pet, she ran away, leery of what our motivation might be.  If she wanted to come into the house, which was very rare until late in her life, she came in, with or without invitation.  Sassy Marie invited herself through the back gate of our hearts and stayed for sixteen years…until she decided it was time for her to leave.

She was a black and white, border collie mix, a discarded puppy or a runaway.  For several days she survived on the small lizards or road kill outside of our little piece of heaven.  If I tried to make friends…she ran away, only to return later in the day.  Linda Gail enticed her through the back gate with morsels of food and the then-unnamed Sassy Marie decided to stay.  I probably should tell that story differently.  Sassy Marie enticed Linda Gail to open the gate and give her food is a truer rendering of the story.

Sassy Marie was the most infuriating, contrary, disobliging, lovable, caring, wonderous paradox I have ever encountered…well…next to my bride.  She had the uncanny ability, a type of sixth sense, to know when we were talking about giving her a bath.  She would find a way to disappear into our small, fenced in yard until that bit of foolishness passed.  Put a leash on her?  Not on your life.  She would look at us as if to say, “I was born to be free of the shackles of life…and no I ain’t wearin’ no collar.”

She realized how well she had it.  No way she would ever walk out of an open gate, invited or not.  Even when we had to tear down a part of the fence during renovations she still refused to set foot outside of her kingdom…until she did.  Again, it was her idea…not ours.

We walked an old logging road and prowled over our kingdom.  Every ravine, every stream that cut it was an adventure.  After thirty plus years the adventures are still there.  Sassy Marie would wait patiently for our return, laying at the back gate, next to the torn down sections.  One day she decided to go with us…she decided and enticed Santana the stray, adopted cat to come with us too.  It was an odd caravan.  Santana yelling in cat, “Wait, wait on me,” until she got tired and laid down refusing to go one step further.  Sassy Marie would lead…until she grew tired or aggravated.  We would find ourselves alone and worry when there was no need.  We would return and find her laying at the gate…with Santana close by.

Sassy Marie had grown weary by her sixteenth year…her sixteenth year with us.  She was older, we just didn’t know how much older.  We knew she was not long for our world and so did she.  On the Christmas Day Linda Gail and I were to drive to visit family in Texas, she disappeared.  We got a late start.  We searched high and low, the ridges and the stream beds, as darkness and our feelings fell.  We knew but we hoped and called our house sitters almost hourly.  Sassy Marie had made her decision to leave us on her own terms…just as she joined us.

Flat rocks, cypress cedars, small clumps of daffodils and a birdhouse on a postmark resting places for our special, animal children.  Lovely goats, a one-legged rooster, bunny rabbits, black cats and a slew of puppy dogs rest in special places…around our grounds and in our hearts.

There is no special memorial for Sassy Marie, except in our hearts…and the marbled shadows of the moonlight or the green shaded leaves moved by the wind.  Her spirit moves along the ridges above our house, in the valleys along the stream beds and in the periphery of our vision and our hearts.

Ghost is a selection from Don Miller’s new release “Cornfields…in My Mind.”  It may be downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CBSV237

Why?

If I go missing interrogate the squirrels, they are the ones gathering nuts.

Allow me the illusion I am not crazy…rephrase…allow me the illusion I am not insane.  I am crazy but not to the point of tearing wings off flies, wearing tin foil hats or using those last words so familiar to country boys like me, “Hey Y’all watch this.”

I’m more like Jimmy Buffett’s “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, if we weren’t all crazy we’d all go insane” crazy.  However, I do hear voices and am crazy enough to believe they are attempting to tell me something…possibly something important.  It has grown quite crowded in my head as a chorus of voices attempts to lead me down a path that is curvy and twisted as a mountain road.  Those twist backs are murder.

The voices I hear are usually having some type of debate…or an argument may be a better description.  I am reminded of the angel and devil from Animal House or maybe the food fight from the same movie.  Yes, more like dozens of angels and devils throwing food at each other while they debate the eternal damnation of my very soul.

A chorus of former acquaintances metaphorically yelling “F@#$ her, F@#$ her brains out,” followed by the chorus of former dead church members, led by the angelic voice of my mother, countering with “For shame Donald, I am surprised at you!”  All the while, creamed potatoes are flying.  Maybe I should rethink my declaration of sanity.

For the last few days, my voices have sounded like shrill blue jays having such a particularly raucous squabble, my earbuds and running can’t seem to drown them out.  Usually running will drown out everything except the pain of my running.

These are depressing voices…trying to pull me down by taking advantage of my predisposition toward depression.  Voices heralding the end of the world, protest, death… disrespect.  For some reason, Stephen Stills voice reverberates with the words from “For What It’s Worth,” …” Paranoia strikes deep, into your life it will creep, it starts when you’re always afraid, you step out of line, the man comes and take you away.”

Unfortunately, the song disintegrates into “They’re coming to take me away…to the funny farm where life is beautiful all the time, and I’ll be happy to see those nice young men, in their clean white coats, they’re coming to take me away”

A voice with a professorial lilt I can’t recognize points out, “Maybe the world hasn’t changed much, maybe we are still protesting the same things.  Maybe this is a never-ending film loop.  Maybe….”

I wonder about the order of issues bellowed out by my voices; end of the world in nuclear fire, protest, death by gunfire or abortion…disrespect….  Another voice is now asking if a lack of respect for ourselves is the underlying culprit.  Yet another is shouting “No it is the devaluation of life…if there is a lack of respect it is for the sanctity of life…my life and the lives of those I love.”  A fourth is screeching, “Bullying, bullying, bullying.”  A fifth, sounding like Billy Graham, softly states, “You’ve turned your back on God!”

More cacophony of dissonance…or is it?  My angel and devil have now become a mob and taken on the persona of our politicians except I don’t know which might be which, angels or devils.

It is a beautiful Sunday morning for a walk and run before church, but I worry my voices will ruin it for me.  Despite my trepidation, I push on.  My exertions seem to have quieted the voices.  They became quieter and quieter as I run along.  While not in unison, as they quiet themselves, the voices began to ask the same question, a simple one-word question…” Why?”  Their silence now worries me more than their question.  Could it be their silence is an admission there is no answer to the question?

The Why? meme is by Sami from the Meme Center at https://www.memecenter.com/fun/293612/why-meme

Please stop by Don Miller’s writer’s pages and at least like them if you don’t want to purchase a book…or five.

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