Hope Shines From Far Away….

It was the awful summer of 1969.  A continuation of the previous bad year, a protraction of bad times that would continue well into the Seventies.  As a country, we were reeling from assassinations of revered figures, a war we could not win but were hell-bent on continuing.  Later a President would use his version of the “Southern Strategy” to help win an election and later give permission for criminal activity to hold on to his office.  In amongst, there were protests and all types of lies and deceit.  I seemed to be watching our American Exceptionalism crumble before my eyes.

We staggered when the “most trusted man in America” stated that the Vietnam War was at best a stalemate and unwinnable.  Watched in sorrow and wept as news of King’s and Kennedy’s assassinations and the civil unrest that followed hit the presses.  Protestors at the Democratic Convention shot birds and thumbed their noses at the police in Chicago before being beaten by those same policemen.

On a lighter note, the Yippies nominated Pigesus, a live pig, for President.  It was lighter until they were arrested, even Pigesus.  I wonder if there was a BBQ.

In the later part of ’69, after having been covered up for over a year, we asked how My Lai could happen, weren’t we better than this? The Pentagon Papers proved we weren’t.

We cheered and shed tears watching the POW’s coming home before listening to a President shout to the cameras, “I am not a crook.”  We found out over several tortuous months that he was just that.

On the home front I had lost my mother on January 1, 1969, and later in the spring when my “fancy (should have) lightly turn(ed) to thoughts of love”, my “one and forever” true love fell under the spell of another…smashing my heart flatter than a toad on a four-lane highway.

My second-semester grades had suffered as I used alcohol and chased co-eds to ease the pain of both loses…chased but rarely caught.  I had barely hung on by my knawed down fingernails.

My wise father decided the best life-lesson would be a summer job with a local construction company charged with building bridges over Interstate Seventy-Seven in Charlotte.  I remember the summer as being one of the more brutal of my life and can’t drive I-77 without worrying a bridge might collapse.

For a few days in July 1969, I put my personal trials away and our country, its woes.  The world gazed skyward and at black and white TVs for news of hope.  Apollo Eleven had lifted off and was headed to the moon.  I and billions of others followed their trek with every newscast and special report.

I watched in awe and fear as the lunar module separated from the orbiter and touched down.  It was late Sunday afternoon on the 20th when I heard “The Eagle Has Landed.”

Neil Armstrong wasn’t scheduled to step onto the lunar surface until well after midnight.  I decided I had plenty of time to partake of an evening I usually dedicated to one last grasp at the weekend.

The Catalinas were playing at The Cellar and I’d be damned if I would let a little thing like the moon landing persuade me to stay home.  All I had to look forward to were five days of ten-hour hells awaiting me in the morning.  Maybe I could catch the “giant leap” on tomorrow’s late news.

I didn’t have much money but then you didn’t need much at The Cellar, a live music venue catering to college-age kids and featuring Beach Music bands.  Dollar cover and twenty-five cent drafts meant I had enough to ask if my latest companion in crime wanted to go…a pretty brunette I had known for most of my life and who, despite being unwilling to be a soothing anodyne for my broken heart, would be a good time “Charlene” on the dance floor.

The crowd was raucous, the band mellow, and the beer…well, it was cheap and cold.  We shagged, twisted and shouted and gave everyone the soul finger to the songs of summer and the Carolina shores.  We sweated like day laborers on the unairconditioned dance floor and cooled off with a draft beer in paper cups out in the parking lot.

The one TV set located over the bar was tuned to the local CBS affiliate with a fuzzy and grainy Walter Cronkite keeping us updated.  As we started to leave for home, the word spread; they were stepping out early.  As if controlled by one mind, we moved to the bar, the band quit playing and the crowd became quiet.  I remember putting an arm around the pretty brunette and she reciprocated with an arm around my waist.  It may have been as close as we would ever come…physically or metaphorically.

We waited, speaking in whispers as Walter kept us abreast of the schedule.  Finally, a little before eleven Eastern Daylight Savings Time, Neil Armstrong’s foot became visible on the lunar module’s ladder and we held our collective breaths until he had both feet planted on the lunar surface.  We cheered, we jumped up and down, we kissed and hugged people we didn’t know.  Hope had turned into a reality and we were so proud.

It’s funny the things I conjure in my aging brain.  The sticky dance floor from too many spilled beers.  The huge oak tree that sat just outside the entryway, a root sticking out of the ground that you had to navigate in order to prove you were sober enough to go inside.  The press of the brunette’s hip against mine as the crowd pressed in under the one TV set.  Walter Cronkite wiping tears from his eyes.

I remember feeling proud…and hopeful.  I’m thankful for having been there with people I didn’t know.  People celebrating the same accomplishment.  The good feelings didn’t last and we as a country would continue to tailspin into Watergate.  Still, it makes me hopeful today.

Despite what my former students might have thought, I’m too young to have lived through the Civil War but the Civil Rights Era and the years of ’68 and ’69, followed by Watergate were as bad as I want to remember…until now.  Our present situation may be worse, or it may be because I have some wear and tear on me…no it is bad.

We need some hope from far away…or next door.  We need something positive to focus on.  We need something positive to pull us together, NOT another war or some catastrophe.

We need to be a POSITIVE leader in the world with positive leadership.  Whether it is ending bigotry and hate or Global Warming, committing to alternative energy, or landing a man on Mars.  We need to be that “city on the hill” that people want to emulate instead of the “Angry American”.  We need to be the “light” that reflects off the good found in others instead of attempting to absorb their light.

The fiftieth anniversary is on Saturday.  It can’t be…but it is.  If The Cellar of my youth was The Cellar of today, I’d take another cute brunette and hoist one in celebration.  Instead, weather permitting I’ll be outside to watch the moon rise.  I’ll remember the hope I felt from far away and hoist one for the many heroes who made it all possible.

 

A modern rendering of the entrance to The Cellar, Charlotte, NC.  Origin unknown.

Don Miller is a retired teacher and coach who writes for his own amusement.  Having said that, and since I can’t live off amusement, should anyone like to purchase a book they can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Featured Image by Steve Penley, Moon Landing http://www.matregallery.com/penleyprints/icons

Apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s for cannibalizing his quote, “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” From the poem Locksley Hall

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The Toad in the Corner Revisited

I first wrote about the toad in the corner a year or so ago.  I find it somewhat interesting that I gauge the passing of time by certain events.  When the wild turkeys and Red-tailed Hawks show up, the fireflies, the figs ripening on the tree, my first ‘mater’ sandwich, the change of leaves in the fall. I guess our forefathers gauged it the same way. I know my grandmother fished and planted her garden by the phases of the moon. 

I find it interesting the happiness I feel when old friends show up after an extended absence, even if the old friend is Toady the Toad or Herbert the Rat Snake.  Not so happy when the little bastards, the yellow jackets, first explode for the ground.  Herbert has been around since spring, but Toady just showed up…still sitting in the corner between my rock wall and foundation.

I am bad.  I continue to smoke my one cigar a day…unless it turns into two…never more than two.  I just executed a mental eye roll.  Normally I sit under the massive tulip poplar in my backyard and enjoy an adult beverage while I feed my addiction.  Do I enjoy the cigar due to my addiction or because of the joy it brings me? That is a discussion for a later date.

It’s been hot and humid, and I’ve taken to sitting on my back stoop instead of taking the long, sweaty twenty-five-yard walk to the tree and the chair sitting under it.  My picture should go beside the definition of lazy in the latest dictionary.  It is more about the mosquitoes infesting the shrubbery around my normal imbibing location.  There doesn’t seem to be as many bloodsuckers at my stoop and I may know one of the reasons why.

I sat watching the smoke curl from the smoldering end of my stogie, contemplating nothing more than my navel when I saw her.  In the corner where the rock wall and foundation meet, where the leaves have built up due to my earlier admission of laziness.  A large toad has backed herself into the corner and is also watching the smoke curl from the cigar.

She is an American Toad…I think.  Might be a Southern Toad.  Could be a Fowler’s but I am not an authority on amphibians…and don’t want to be but I am better versed in toad activities than I once was.  Thank you, Google.

Despite my research, I don’t even know if she is really a she but shes are usually larger than hes and she is one of the largest toads I’ve seen.  There is also a smaller toad that seems to want to be around her.  “Oh la saison de l’amour.”  Do toads speak French or mate on dry land?

Toady has been in the corner for two weeks now.  She sits patiently waiting for the darkness and the relative cool of the evening.  I see her often sitting under the flood light, bathing in its glow or waiting for a juicy morsel to fly by?  In the dark I see her sitting on the flat stones or in one instance crawling out of my overturned boot.  In the morning she is right back in the corner.

I check on her often…not just when I feed my addiction.  I don’t know why I check.  I guess to reassure myself that all is right in the world.  I have seen her around for years…maybe it was her, all American toads seem to look alike.  Well, she was still there five minutes ago at least.  Looking fat and sassy from a night of eating mosquitoes.

I didn’t name her at first because Herbert the Rat Snake and his kin are skulking around waiting for a meal.  As I understand it, from the extensive research on toads I tried to reframe from doing.  I probably could name her.   Seems she is not too tasty…does Mr. No Shoulders have taste buds or does Toady just give him gas?  More research to come and I guess I have named her.

For more musings go to https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM

If you are interested in sexy, romantic adventure, Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson can be found at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

Featured image is from Remember the Hamilton http://joenolan.com/blog/?p=6739

Oh Summer Days

 

“Summer in the deep South is not only a season, a climate, it’s a dimension. Floating in it, one must be either proud or submerged.”- Eugene Walter, The Untidy Pilgrim

It is five in the a. m. and I’m standing outside smoking a cigar.  Don’t ask…it’s become the new, old normal.  Blame a life of getting old and blind puppy dogs who don’t know it is the middle of the night when they come looking for belly rubs and snacks…yes, they have trained me well.

Despite being as dark as the inside of a cow…whatever Mark Twain meant by that seems to be accurate although I’ve never actually been inside of a cow…anyway, despite being as dark as the inside of a cow, one could tell there were low clouds pressing down with humidity as thick as a wet, wool blanket.

I wonder who first used that descriptor and to my knowledge I’ve never worn a wet, wool blanket.  Dark and oppressively humid would have described the predawn morning but not nearly as colorfully and with many fewer words.  I also fear I will be submerged and drowning by mid-morning.  Ah, Southern summers.

We have been without more than a few drops of rain for over two weeks.  As warm, humid and still this morning is, I worry the fifty percent chance of thundershowers might become strong thunderstorms.  I also worry we will get no rain at all.

Except for a lone whippoorwill, there are no night sounds.  The lonesome bird is muted even though it is nearby.  “As quiet as the inside of a tomb”…ok, I’ll quit…maybe.

Later when the darkness has turned to a muted light, a woodpecker is beating its brains out against an oak tree but there are no chirps from the songbirds I normally hear.  Maybe the worms were resting in cooler places and the early birds had given up the hunt.

At five the thermometer read seventy-six, but it felt ten degrees warmer.  I decided to wander back inside to work on the next, great American novel.  Right.  I will settle for semi-great or even not so great, but “he has some potential”.  I’d really just like to sell a book to keep me interested.

By seven a. m. the sun might have been above the ridgeline to my east, but you couldn’t be sure.  Gray clouds hung low as I began my morning walk.  The humidity felt heavy against my skin and soon the cotton tee I shouldn’t have worn was saturated.  I’m a Southern male, I do not glisten.  I sweat like a horse and cotton does not wick well.

The air is heavy and still.  The surface of the lake I walk around as flat as a mirror.  Fish must be laying low, not even a ripple.  The sun comes out briefly causing the air to boil around me.  Sweat is now pooling in my unmentionables bathing certain parts in a wet, steamy and I’m sure yeasty film.  I probably should have added some Body Glide or Boudreaux’s Butt Paste before I left…too much information?

The campers I encounter are taking advantage of the relative cool of the foothills of the Blue Ridge at Lookup Lodge.  They are out and about and wondering if they were sold a bill of goods.  “Cool Mountain Mornings?”  These are kids along with their counselors, high schoolers or early college I think…maybe middle school, they all look so young and the sweat is fouling my eyes.

Normally blusterous, their movements are slow, and the usual raucous chattering muted as they line up for breakfast.  The smell of cinnamon rolls permeates the area and my salivary glands add to the relative humidity.

Around the lake, I find my way blocked by a downed tulip poplar laying across one of the wooden footbridges.  As I’m contemplating turning back a younger, female runner passes me and scrambles over the tree leaving me in her dust…humid dust.  She points out how stupid we are, “This is the most humid time of the day” she shouts over her shoulder.  The runner reminds of the days I used to run the same path stubbing my toes on various roots, crashing and burning.  Now I just walk and burn in the humidity. “Hot fun in the Summertime…” sings Sly Stone in my head.

She is correct about our stupidity and the humidity.  I’m reminded of my youthful, ‘early thirty’ mornings hoeing corn or chunkin’ hay bales onto a flatbed along the river bottoms. The heavy dew on broad corn leaves or narrow hay stubble seemed to melt into the air almost choking you with its warm thickness before dissipating into a dusty, dry, throat-searing heat by midmorning.

Julys and Augusts are oppressive in the South, slowing time to crawl.  Was it not for modern conveniences would time stop altogether?  Our ancestors survived with high ceilings, wide, tall windows and broad, tree-shaded verandas.  As a child, I survived with nothing more than a window fan exchanging hot air for hot air.  For some reason, the sun didn’t seem as hot nor the humidity as thick in the hazy fog of my memories.

Today I’m just thankful to have the choice to stay out in the thick, sticky humidity or come into the air-conditioned comfort of my home.  You can probably guess which one I will choose.

For more ramblings go to Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Featured image is of Salvadore Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory”  and was lifted from Flickr.

Tin Soldier

The grilled chicken thighs and fingerling potato salad are just memories now…even the leftovers.  Later in the day ribs and chicken wings were served at the Bennett Fourth of July fest along with Carol Ann’s killer potato salad.  I’m sure there will be lingering side effects to an evening of eating and drinking what I normally don’t eat or drink.  Still, I almost feel sacrilegious not having pulled pork as a side with the ribs.  Anti-American?  No, just trying to cheat the Grim Reaper a few seconds longer.

Despite the enjoyment of seeing friends, some for the first time since the last Fourth, I would prefer a small gathering with my bride and two blind puppy dogs to be my only concession to the celebration of the Fourth of July.  Very sedate until the crazies above us begin to set off M-80s and Cherry Bombs.  Not very patriotic by some people’s standards.  Typical…or rather than typical, maybe it is simply the new normal for me.  I celebrated my own birthday in the same way.

I’m truly not feeling it.  Not feeling it but certainly thinking about it…it being my patriotism.

I am patriotic and wish my country a happy birthday.  I simply don’t believe everything wrapped in a red, white and blue flag is patriotism.  I’m not blindly patriotic…odd perspective for a guy who grew up during the period of “American Exceptionalism” and the indoctrination I now associate with the Cold War Sixties.  “My Country Right or Wrong”, “The only good Commie is a dead Commie”,  “I’d rather be dead than Red.”  I remember my eighth-grade civics class being equal parts academic and propagandistic …maybe more propaganda than substance as I sit pondering.

I watched a recent news program, not fake news if we can still believe the black and white photographs the program featured.  I had certainly seen them before.  Black and white photographs high lighting certain moments in time…in history…my history.  Some were colorized photos but there was something stark and depressing about the ones in black and white.  The photos triggered memories of the old black and white film clips I saw featured during the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.  “And that’s the way it is…” or was.

John Kennedy standing in front of a map trying to explain where Vietnam was, later his son saluting as his father’s body rolled past.  LBJ looking haggard stating he would not run again.  A photograph of a naked Vietnamese child, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, running from a napalm attack.  Major General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner after Tet, bodies laying a ditch outside Mai Lai.  Much different photographs from the ones I saw from World War Two.  Different and as I look back, projecting the loss of a certain innocence I wish I could find again.

Growing up I always believed we were the stalwart protectors of what was right and just.  A courageous country wearing white hats or knights in shiny armor.  We were the virtuous and righteous battling the minions of the devil.  Shining a light on the cockroaches of evil and sending them scurrying from sight. Vietnam and Watergate took my innocence and not in a good way.  Bobbi Jo Bedell did that but I doubt either innocence will be returned to me.

Black and white pictures of Richard Nixon, arms raised with fingers veed in victory…later a finger pointed at the camera, “I am not a crook.”  A color shot in front of Marine One, Nixon’s arms raised with fingers veed despite his disgrace.  Like an alcoholic wanting to recover, I hoped we had reached rock bottom.

I feel I’ve witnessed our decline firsthand.  Like my vision, it has taken place in small increments.  My failing eyesight was gradual until sharp lines became fuzzy and my arms became too short to bring the written word in to focus.  I’m not sure if we can make lenses strong enough to correct the vision of our nation.

Declines of civilizations are usually slow and all civilizations decline.  It is inevitable. Some disappear totally. Most don’t disappear due to a cataclysmic event, but rather, they die rotting from the inside.

A rotting social, economic, political system mated with an ineffective and excessive military brought the Roman and French Empires to an end.  It was gradually at first before running downhill like a runaway freight.  They collapsed under their own excesses and attempting to maintain the status quo.

I’ve been witnessed our rot for fifty years and I wonder if we have reached the point of no return.  I certainly believe our white hats are stained and our armor dented and rusty.  We are more concerned about filling our pockets than being the “shining light upon the hill.”

Some reading this will say “We’re still the best country in the world.”  Maybe, but what are we doing to keep ourselves on our lofty pedestal?  Is it a pedestal that exists only in our minds?

We deny science and accept myth.  We politicize religion and use it as a weapon against our fellow man.  We choose partisan politics over the good of the many and create a bogey man and call it socialism.  We create social outcasts with our hatred and more and more enemies with our bombs.  Our greed is more important than the planet we live on.  As a country, we are living on other people’s money and giving it to people who don’t need it…or deserve it.

My biggest worry is our hatred and greed which seems to drive everything else.  I’m reminded of the old Billy Jack movie from the early Sixties.  Not the movie exactly, the theme, “One Tin Soldier Rides Away” by Caste.

As a battle rages over a perceived treasure, the valley people kill the mountain people, who would have given them their treasure had they just asked.

“Now they stood before the treasure

On the mountain dark and red

Turned the stone and looked beneath it

Peace on earth was all it said.”

 

Others will read this and suggest that maybe I should relocate to another country since I hate America so much.  I don’t hate America, I hate what America has become…if it was ever anything else.  To quote James Baldwin,

“I love America more than any other country in this world,

and, exactly for this reason,

I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Usually, essays have a closing statement which draws everything together and ties a bright red bow around it.  I can’t do that because the story is still being written and the end hasn’t been reached.  What that ending is, is up to us.  We must find common ground or “There won’t be any trumpets blowing Come the judgment day.”

 

Featured Image:  By The Late Mitchell Warren (Author of “The End of the Magical Kingdom” series) http://subversify.com/2010/10/15/who-is-the-one-tin-soldier/

Video:

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at http://subversify.com/2010/10/15/who-is-the-one-tin-soldier/

 

Twitter Storm: 1776 

 

Dateline Philadelphia July 5th, 1776.  Lester Holt’s great, great, great, great grandpa dressed in colonial garb, including powder wig and tricornered hat, is reporting live from outside of the Pennsylvania State House.  “Since learning that twelve of the thirteen British colonies have declared their independence from the English crown, King George III has erupted in a storm of angry twitter posts directed at the Second Continental Congress in general and specifically outspoken members such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, his brother Samuel along with Ben Franklin.  The last exchange was just minutes ago with the king tweeting, “I dare you!” and Tom Jefferson responding, “Yo Mama!”  (New York did not sign the original document until later.)

A former student sent me down that pig trail which led me to Alice’s rabbit hole. Tom Meilinger posted, “What would it be like if there were social media in 1776? Would King George and Thomas Jefferson be in a Twitter war? Would British citizens be commenting on how the colonists should find a new colony to move to if they didn’t like the British empire? Would they hope their British nine pin team might lose to another country because someone on it wasn’t a loyalist?”  I wondered too and Tom and I don’t usually agree on much.

Tom triggered a mental vision King George III sitting on a porcelain throne, his considerable girth covered by a gold, terry cloth robe, hammering out angry tweet after angry tweet.  There are some things that can’t be unseen…the mental vision will haunt me for a while.

Image result for George the Third

Understand, there was plenty of propaganda that flowed from both sides of the Atlantic during the lead up to our revolutionary war.  I say our revolutionary war because our little skirmish was just a small part of what became a larger conflict, The Anglo-French War.  The difference with propaganda then was that correspondence was considerably slower than our current form.  A month or more to get the news out as opposed to instantaneous.

Benjamin Franklin drew this now-famous cartoon of a disjointed snake in 1754 — telling fragmented colonies that if they didn't join the fight, they would perish.

Patriots such as Ben Franklin and Paul Revere created stunning propaganda art including Revere’s copper engraving depicting a highly sensationalized version of the 1770 “Boston Massacre.”  Newspapers, pamphlets, and periodicals on both sides were guilty of sensationalizing any and everything.  Kind of like today only not at light speed.

This copper engraving by Paul Revere is a sensationalized depiction of the

Can you imagine the meme’s that could have been created over the Boston Massacre?  Jackbooted English lobster backs firing on innocent colonists throwing snowballs.  “Just boys liquored up and having a bit of fun.”  Or from the other side, Crispus Attucks dressed in a hoody and portrayed as an “Antifa Thug!”

Image result for Cyprus Attucks

I doubt King George would be tweeting that there were fine people on both sides and please realize, the Patriots were the Antifa of 1776 or at least the Anti-monarchy…Antima?  See…that could have sparked a heated social media argument…and may still.

Three years later drunken members of the Sons of Liberty would badly disguise themselves as Native Americans and dump chests of “cheap” British Tea into Boston Harbor.  Were they really upset over the Tea Tax or was it that, even with the tax, Britain had undercut the black marketeers?  “How can an honest criminal make a living?”  Tweets would fly.  “How dare they dress as Native Americans?  Racist liberal scum.”  Tweets from loyalists, Royalists, King’s Men, or Tories would fly, only to be returned by patriots, revolutionaries, continentals, colonials, rebels, Yankees, or Whigs.  Pick a name…any name.

Image result for Boston Tea Party

On April 19,1775, Emerson’s “Shot heard ‘round the world” would find its way onto a million Facebook memes as Minute Men sent British Troops packing back to Boston from Concord and Lexington.  King George would tweet, “Bunch of chickens!  Very bad, hiding behind trees.  Real men fight out in the open.”  Thomas Jefferson would counter with “Yo Mama wears combat boots!”

The next eight years would give ample fodder for tweets, Instagram posts and of course Facebook.  Most non-combatants viewed the war as a football game between rivals…except football hadn’t been invented.  It’s okay, neither had social media.

Early on it didn’t go well for the colonists and loyalist could post hateful GIFs, Thomas Jefferson being hung while the loyalist chanted “Shimmy up a toothpick, slide down a pine, look on the scoreboard and see who’s behind”.

Later as the winds of fortune shifted to the continentals, tweets about Patrick Ferguson, the only British soldier killed at the Battle of Kings Mountain, would erupt along with chants like “Chewing tobacco, chewing tobacco, spit, spit, spit, Exlax, Exlax, go team go” or “Don’t come round these here hills stirring up trouble.”

Related image

In October of 1783, an end run by the French fleet and Washington’s Continental Army supported by the French under Comte de Rochambeau caught Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown and led to hundreds of tweets about how unfair it was.  “Battles should be fought one on one.”  “Cheaters, cheaters, cheaters.”   “We were having to play against the officials too.”

George the Third was beside himself as he tweeted, “I should have fired Cornwallis after Guilford Courthouse.  He couldn’t find his butt with both hands.  So very sad.”

Image result for cornwallis leaves yorktown

Yes, Tom, it would be interesting if social media existed in 1776…well…as interesting as it is today.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM.  Stop by and give him a little love.

Image 1:  George the Third of Great Britain  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_III_of_the_United_Kingdom

Image 2:   Ben Franklin’s cartoon of a disjointed snake https://www.businessinsider.com/pro-independence-propaganda-from-the-american-revolution-2015-7#this-parchment-was-used-to-call-american-patriots-to-arms-as-the-war-heated-up-1

Image 3:  Paul Revere’s copper engraving of the Boston Massacre https://www.businessinsider.com/pro-independence-propaganda-from-the-american-revolution-2015-7#this-parchment-was-used-to-call-american-patriots-to-arms-as-the-war-heated-up-1

Image 4:  Crispus Attucks, one of five killed by British fire during the Boston Massacre http://crispusattucks.org/about/who-was-crispus-attucks/

Image 5:  Sons of Liberty at the Boston Tea Party.  They weren’t that well disguised.  https://chapinus.fandom.com/wiki/Boston_Tea_Party_(Final_Draft)

Image 6:  Patrick Ferguson, the only Briton killed at the Battle of Kings Mountain.  The rest were Loyalist or “Over the Mountain Boys.”  https://www.knowitall.org/photo/major-patrick-ferguson-kings-mountain

Image 7: Cornwallis’s surrender.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornwallis_in_North_America

Featured Image: Some of the signers, https://www.historyextra.com/period/georgian/why-does-united-states-america-celebrate-independence-day-4th-fourth-july-declaration-holiday/

Serendipity

I had no intention of getting married again.  I had no intention of falling into love again.  The previous memories and missteps were too painful….

Providence would intervene…has intervened for thirty-three years now…and still counting, I hope.  I am sometimes amazed I asked for your hand and am even more amazed you said yes.

I had no intention of meeting my bride on top of a football stadium’s press box or again at Halloween with an inflatable pumpkin perched upon her head.  I wasn’t looking…I was still recovering.  But she refused to be ignored.

Fate will not be denied.  Serendipity would intervene in the form of a hazel eyed, dark-haired sprite who would torment my thoughts, inappropriate thoughts because she was dating my roommate.  Destiny would step in when they broke up.

I can’t comprehend her not being around, it’s as if she has been around forever.  “Dear God, please take us together or take me first….”

I did fight it…the feeling REO Speedwagon sang about.  A song that tormented me every time it played.  I fought the feeling.  Even after she and my roommate broke their ties.  My loyalty is well defined and sometimes misplaced, and remember, I was never going to fall in love again.  We danced around the issue…maybe…maybe I danced around the issue.

We found ourselves at school and athletic functions, enjoying each other’s company.  She was a teacher and coach too.  She laughed at my stupid jokes…not as much now as she once did…she has heard them all, thirty-three years worth.

I found her captivating, intoxicating and any other ‘ating’ one might think of except ‘dating.’  I couldn’t quite pull the trigger and ask her out…I wasn’t worthy…I’m still not.  Finally, she tired of my tap dance and asked me out.  I’m slow but I’m not stupid.

A chance to accompany her to a local dive bar to hear an old friend of hers sing the blues?  Sure, why not?  It quickly turned into something else.  I’m the one who has been singing now for thirty-three years…but not the blues.

We go to family gatherings, get-togethers with friends, the occasional party…I would find myself close by…preferring to talk with her more than anyone else…close enough to touch and whisper in her ear.  I’m not being snobbish; I would just rather talk to her.  She has always been the most interesting person in the room.

We are more like leaves caught in a whirlwind…blown wherever our whims and chance send us.  Serendipity again.  She just doesn’t like to plan.  Where is the fun in that?

I remember an early anniversary when we decided to drive to the coast the weekend after our June twenty-ninth wedding celebration.  Our decision was an impulse masquerading as a great idea…a romantic idea.  I’m sure it was her idea.

As we rolled the old VW Bug into Georgetown it dawned upon us the weekend after our wedding anniversary was the Fourth of July weekend.  There were no rooms in the inn, and we weren’t Mary and Joseph.  Once again happenstance saved us in the form of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce.  One bed and breakfast with a room was available and for a price anything is possible.

According to Otto von Bismarck, “A special Providence takes care of fools, drunkards, and the United States.”  I don’t know about the drunks and the United States but for thirty-three years Providence has taken a liking to two fools in love…still in love.

Sometimes our safe harbor has been storm-tossed and I’m sure it will be again.  But we have each other to hold on to as the waves come crashing in.

I wish I had met her sooner…had fallen in love with her sooner…but then we weren’t the people we would become…I wasn’t.  I had to bleed first before she could apply her soothing anodyne.

Linda Gail, I love you and would do it all over again a thousand times.  My heart breaks at the thought that I might sometime lose you.

To my best friend, my lover, my wife…Ashley’s other mother, Grandmommy Linda to MK and Noie and mother of my beautiful, blind puppies, I love you.  I’m so glad you were crazy enough to say yes.

Call it serendipity, chance, a fluke, good luck, good fortune, fortuity, fortuitousness, happy coincidence, or a special alignment of the stars, you have made my life a wonder and wonderful.  Here’s to thirty-three more.

Lyrics and video Can’t Fight This Feeling by REO Speedwagon.

“What started out this friendship has grown stronger
I only wish I had the strength to let it show
I tell myself that I can’t hold out forever
I said there is no reason for my fear
‘Cause I feel so secure when we’re together
You give my life direction
You make everything so clear
And even as I wander
I’m keeping you in sight
You’re a candle in the window
On a cold, dark winter’s night
And I’m getting closer than I ever thought I might”

 

For more “stuff” go to Don Miller’s author’s page at                 https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

My Zucchini Boats are Sinkin’

In a post from the spring a year ago, I bemoaned my inability to grow zucchini squash. I also found out as I reread the post, I misspelled catalog four times. Where were the grammar Nazis when I needed them? Misspelled words are the least of my worries.  My worry is zucchini.

I grow zucchini fine…the plants…up to a point. I have the deepest green, tropical looking leaves. Locals come from miles around just to sit in their shade.  Too much nitrogen? Maybe.

Huge plants grow to blot out the sun. Just about the time the fruit begins to form the squash bugs hit. Whamo! Midget Mesozoic Era looking thingees that suck the very life out of my plants. That’s if the plants survive the squash borers or too much rain or too much dry heat or too much whatever. I don’t know how REAL farmers survive.

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The leaves once so big and green turn yellow, then gray, then brown. It is as if every bit of moisture is sucked out of them. They curl in the sun and when I pick up the Sahara dry leaves little gray things run willy nilly. If I’m lucky, I find the little orange eggs before they become little gray things and scrap them off.  If not I look like Jarabe Tapatio doing the Mexican hat dance on their beady little heads.

Bug control

I tried to do the organic thing on all my veggies not just zucchini. Organic fertilizers, Neem Oil, Liquid soap spray, diogenous earth. Prayers to Zeus, Demeter, Persephone, and Hades. This is after prayers to Jehovah were never answered. I considered animal sacrifices or contacting a Voodoo priestess.  Anyone know any witches?

Image result for macbeth witches gif

Mostly I pick the little good for nothing rascals off and squeeze them until poop shoots out their little bottoms. I like the satisfying crunch as their exoskeleton implodes between my thumb and forefinger. Too graphic?

Every morning latex gloves shield my hands from the smell of greenish brown, bug juice. I wonder if they can hear me coming…crunch, crunch, crunch. Staring up as my shadow blots out the sun, I can almost hear their squeaky little Mr. Bill voices yelling, “Oh nooooo! Sluggo has returned! Run, run, run.” Well, you can run but you can’t hide…well I guess you can.

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Satisfaction in the fear they must feel. Satisfaction masquerading as greenish brown bug juice. Satisfaction when I hit the lottery and crushed the two I caught in the act of “faire crac crac boum boum”. Need I offer a translation? Did they die with a smile on their ugly, little, bug faces?  I have to say, “That’s an interesting way to make whoopie.” 

Image result for squash bugs

Well, I figured it out this year. I thought about my grandmother. Her response to squash bugs was Sevin dust. Actually, her reaction to any unwanted critter was Sevin dust or sending the grandkids out to pick the critters off.  Organic gardening was not her long suit.  I know, I know. “You can’t claim to be organic now!” I DON’T CARE! I HAVE A BUMPER CROP OF ZUCCHINI INSTEAD OF SQUASH BUGS!
Now I have another problem. “What the firetruck do I do with all of this zucchini?” You got your boiled zucchini, fried zucchini, roasted zucchini, grilled zucchini, zucchini casserole, zucchini bread, zucchini spaghetti…you got your zucchini boats.

Come at the zucchini, you best not miss.

For more “stuff” or a boatload of zucchini, like Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Anyone with interesting ways to use zucchini is welcome to leave a comment.

Possum Holler and Pig Trails

 

I grew up just south of Possum Holler on an unnamed dirt road that ran west before paralleling the Catawba River north toward the Sugar Creek…well, I guess the dirt road had a name after all.  The River Road…the problem was there were many unnamed river roads in the area and its name has nothing to do with the pig trails my brain is taking me down.  Or does it?

I saw a request for historical information as to how Possum Holler Road might have gotten its name.  You reckin’ cuz there might have been a few “possums in that there holler”…that’s the way folks said it back then.  Not hollow but holler…and the same folks pronounced yellow…yeller.  I’m not making fun of anyone who changes their w’s to r’s.  I’ve been known to revert when I get a few shots of brown liquor in my gullet.  I tend to drop my gs too.  But it’s not about the way people talk.

It’s about places like Possum Holler, or Frog Level or my absolute favorites, Sugar Tit and Happy Bottom…and hundreds or thousands of others.  Mostly small places, some nothing more than wide places in the road.  I’ve always enjoyed places with the “Now Entering So and So” and the “Now Leaving So and So” sign on the same post.

It’s about discovery.  Discoveries you must get off the interstate to see.  Pig trails leading to crossroads where you flip a coin to decide which direction to turn and end up in a place you didn’t know you would miss if you hadn’t found it.  Pig trails you purposely get lost on.  “Which way do you think?”  “I don’t know…turn left?”  Can one be lost if one doesn’t care where one is going?

Some of the pig trails have names like the Natchez Trace, the Woodpecker Trail…or Scenic Highway 11, the pig trail I live on.  Even those have become too crowded…like the Possum Holler of my youth.  One must get off those well-traveled roads.  One must take a chance; you can’t get lost if you don’t know where you are going and have a full tank of gas.

Back in the day, when my bride and I ransomed our monetary souls for our little piece of heaven…our monetary souls are still ransomed, our car and the myriads of pig trails and wide places populating our realm became an outlet.  Instead of a knightly steed, we explored our domain in an ’87 Thunderbird to the tune of two hundred and sixteen thousand miles.

When we were really brave we took my old Toyota Landcruiser up over Glassy and Chestnut Mountains before the rich developers closed them off to the serfs and peons.  Golfers in Mercedes replaced the rednecks in four-wheel drives.

Still, we stranded ourselves on more than one occasion.  Being stranded ain’t too bad when you are crazy in love and have friends who will come and yank you back upright.

When we visited family or friends in far off places, we made sure we got off the interstate. We would pour over road atlases looking for pig trails leading through interesting places.  We spent the night in a long-dead Mississippi River boat captains’ home near Shiloh Church, ate dinner in a haunted restaurant in Natchez Under the Hill, made love in an Antebellum mansion in Vicksburg, and stopped to read every historical marker we saw.  Too much information?

We visited a baseball coach’s nirvana, Rosenblatt in Omaha during the most wonderful time of the year, The College World Series.  But we got off the interstate.

We drove from New Orleans to Pensacola off the interstate, stopping at all the little coastal towns.  Took forever…it was wonderful.  We even had to argue with our GPS in the delta when it said our destination was a mile straight ahead despite the Mississippi River saying otherwise.

After the Thunderbird came a Mustang convertible and our road trips became even more fun.  Even Sugar Tit looks different when the top is down and the wind is blowing through your hair.

We’ve gotten out of the habit…no we’ve gotten lazy.  Sometimes life gets in the way, other times you use it as an excuse.  We’ve become old and boring.  We make excuses not to pack a lunch and the puppies into the car and head out to Coosawatchie, or Hell’s Half Acre which is right next to Happy Bottom.

They all exist right here in South Carolina although those might be too far away for the puppies. See?  Excuses.  We should load them and drive up to Rocky Bottom, it’s close by…that’s right we must drive UP to get DOWN to Rocky Bottom.

We have to do better.  We’re not getting any younger and someone said time slows for no one.  I don’t know where this week has gone so that someone must be correct.

Time to find a pig trail heading to Tuxedo and maybe on to Climax.  They’re in close by North Carolina.  Possum Holler is too populated these days…and not with possums.

For those of you in the area, Possum Holler should not be confused with the Possum Kingdom.  They are not the same except for being humorously named.

The image came from Possum Holler Road located in Indian Land, South Carolina in Lancaster County.  I guess Indian Land is another interesting name.

Apologies to those who stopped to read thinking this was about possums or pigs.

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

 

 

A Life Well Juggled

“If you’re trying to change someone you love, you don’t love them. It’s the oddnesses, the most unique imperfections that you’d miss the most. That’s the stuff you can’t replace. Everything else is easy to come by.”
Crystal Woods

A family visitation, a funeral, a granddaughter’s graduation from pre-school and a ninetieth birthday party for my wife’s stepmother’s sister, all in the space of twenty-four hours.  My wife is up to her chin in all of them it seems…at least in her own mind.  She seems happiest when up to her chin in alligators while juggling the flaming batons of life.  She is happy a lot.

She is the wild mustang unencumbered by a bridle or rider, mane blowing in the wind as she runs hither and yon. Life, for me, is easier when she can run amok like a chicken with her head cut off. After nearly thirty-two years I realize, “She ain’t gonna change” and now I’m not sure I want her to.

She juggles OUR lives, flaming torches or razor-sharp knives be damned. She reminds me of a Lucille Ball skit, having to stuff chocolate into her mouth or blouse. Lucy and Ethyl just trying to keep up with a conveyor belt full of chocolate…hers is the conveyor belt of life.

I see her as the tuxedo-clad dandy spinning plates on sticks on the old Ed Sullivan Show. Running from pole to pole as the plates begin to slow and wobble, spinning them faster, attempting to keep them from falling off.

When all is done, she never quite loses a plate and all the chocolates are lined up neatly in boxes instead of her bra. Life can be difficult and sometimes she gets nicked or burned as she juggles but never enough for her to quit.

She said, “I’m not getting involved in this party! No way, no how!  She has sons, let them….” Translation: “She’s up to her chin alligator poop.” And by association, so am I.

Our home and yard may be wrecks but somehow, we have time to take over the party preparations because “It needs to be done right.”  That might translate into, “It needs to be done my way.” 

In between the funeral and graduation, she runs around arranging tables and chairs…again and again, and, again.  She agrees to pick up ice cream and a cake. She has plenty of time after all. 

Creating flower arrangements, she purchased plants a month ago…and two weeks ago…and yesterday.  Standing back with her head cocked to the side, deciding if it is perfect enough or does putting in a bit of greenery make it more perfect.  If one New Guinea impatient will work, a dozen will be a dozen times more perfect. Two dozen?

It is eight a. m. before the party at three.  She’s headed out to do her magic.  What is magic is how she got all of those plants, containers and pink tissue into one vehicle the size of a Jeep instead of a transfer truck.  Sorcery?

I’m left to care for the puppies, who don’t need my care.  In their youth, they feared thunderstorms and we are getting our gracious plenty.  They are so terrified, they are sacked out around my feet.  One lying on her back, the other curled up with a paw across its nose.  Really terrified.

Still, her orders, “Take care of my puppies.  Give them some love.”  They are the puppies we weren’t going to bring home fourteen years ago, “We’re not getting one, we are just going to look.” She was correct, we didn’t get one…we got two. They are blind and old now. They only have a mind’s eye for their mommy.

It’s a ploy I’ve seen through for years.  She just wants to do the preparations herself. It is just her “thing” and I’m not about to change her “thing”. Telling me to care for the puppies while she is gone is just her way of keeping me involved…without involving me.

In her mind, she is still twenty-five…and in my mind too I guess. She’s not twenty-five but that doesn’t stop her from running from hot spot to hot spot, putting out fires that need to be put out. Sometimes starting wildfires, sometimes adding gasoline, sometimes supplying a match before figuring out how to put out the fire she started.

The thoughts of her running about like “the roof ain’t nailed on tight” causes me to smile.

I wonder how a body as small as hers accommodates such a huge heart. A heart intent on doing good deeds.  A heart blind enough to say “Yes” to a two-time loser when I asked her to marry me.

I’m thankful for all her quirks and downright insanities…if we can just get through the next few hours.

The quote came from Write Like Nobody Is Reading by Crystal Woods.

The image is from https://www.scarlettentertainment.com/page/uk-fire-jugglers

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

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Little Bastards: Deja Vu…Again

 

Heat and humidity have drawn out the gazillions of itchy, bitey, stingy and just irritating little bastards that make Southern summers challenging.

It’s early June and I’ve already run afoul of a red wasp.  Ugly thing.  A refugee from a 1950s Japanese horror film with a sting as fiery as Godzilla’s breath.  Popped me right on top of the hand and sent me inside for a poultice of chewing tobacco and baking soda.

Chewing tobacco and baking soda?  The old-time remedy draws out the poison…maybe, I don’t know.  As I create this masterpiece of literary art my hand is still swollen, red and itchy…and painful…did I mention painful?  Did I mention I hate the taste of chewing tobacco?

Why Noah?  Did you have to bring the little bastards on board two by two?  Couldn’t you have replaced them all with a couple of unicorns?

Challenging it is.  Wasps, yellow jackets, Russian hornets…are Russian hornets payback for winning the Cold War?  “Big bastards they are,” said Yoda in my head…or was it Dr. Suess.

A memory flashes from a decade ago.  On an early morning run and despite the low light, I saw the B52 sized insect invading my airspace.  I zigged. It did too.  I zagged.  The hornet followed my movements like a GPS led, nuclear-tipped cruise missile and exploded just as hotly.

My upper lip and its stinger intersected at a point some two miles from my home.  By the time I returned to my recliner and my too familiar poultice, I could see my upper lip poking out beyond my nose and felt the fire from a thousand dragons burning hotter than a Game of Thrones episode.  The pain was exquisite…and long lasting.

Some of the little bastards of summer don’t sting.  They are just irritating.  Gnats…Gah…zillions of Gah…nats.  I just returned from my early morning walk with the remains of thousands of gnats strained through my teeth, rubbing gnats out of my eyes and sneezing from gnats snorted up my nose.  Challenging…yes, and I’m ignoring mosquitoes and deer flies.  They are irritating too.

Nothing matches my war with yellow jackets.  The original little bastards.  They lie in wait in high grass, under the pile of matted leaves I should have raked up last fall.  They buzz in looking for moisture…and anything they might sting…usually me.

They remind me of the villainous Borg from Star Trek fame.  Yellow jackets…and the Borg, are of one mind, a hive mentality, and seem to have my DNA on file.  If one little bastard gets angry, they all become angry…all angry at me.  A buzzing, stinging cloud of pain and agony with one intent, to cover me in baking soda and chewing tobacco and put me to sleep with Benadryl.   Resistance is futile…just run.

I remember stepping into a yellow jacket’s nest soon after we moved to our little piece of heaven.  Satan’s spawn rose from the ground, I slapped and ran.  They go for your legs trying to take you down before moving in for the kill.  I decided slapping was futile and ran to the house howling at the top of my lungs.  My wife locked the door in my face.

“Don’t bring them in here!”  she shouted.  Thank you, my darling.  I guess love doesn’t conquer all when it comes to stinging insects.  More chewing tobacco and baking soda.  Later, calamine lotion and Benadryl.  “Little bastards you are,” said Yoda.

I turned into a pacifist and conservationist in my old age…except for my personal war with yellow jackets, wasps and hornets.  With most animals, crawley things, and insects around my little piece of heaven, I tend to “live and let live.”  Not yellow jackets.   “Die you little bastards, die!”  Huh, that wasn’t Yoda.

I’m girding myself for battle despite the knowledge Mother Nature’s minions will ultimately win in the end.  Mother Nature always wins.  Nevertheless… spray cans of wasp and hornet killer are locked and loaded.  Despite the futility of resistance, I will go down fighting…

Note to self: Check your hoard of chewing tobacco.  May the force be with you.

For more of Don Miller’s wanderings, go to his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LOo22BkM94