If It Feels Illegal, It Must Be Tater Tots

Oh Cassie, Cassie, Cassie!  Cassie posed the question on a media post, “What feels illegal but isn’t” and my mind immediately went to tater tots.  Tater tots?  Anything that feels illegal but isn’t…probably involves food but tater tots?  Where did that thought come from?  Why is my mind a runaway train derailing because of thoughts of tater tots?

“All the good things in life are immoral, illegal, or fattening.”  There are many variations of the saying originally attributed to Frank Rand but tater tots?  I don’t know the last time I’ve had tater tots.  It has literally been years.  A side order at a local restaurant…with a southern pimento and cheese dip to go with it.?

Oh pooh!  I want them now, with or without the pimento and cheese, and in copious amounts.  The power of suggestion is strong and I am so weak.

I’ve reached that GPS location on my pathway of life that suggests immoral or illegal probably…probably aren’t going to happen.  Illegal is possible I guess, immoral?  I should look up the definition for immorality just to make sure.  Wickedness, evil, debauchery, perversion…okay…fattening as in gluttony, I got that one, but tater tots won’t be illegal or immoral unless I steal them.

Is there some way I can steal the tater tots and combine it with debauchery?  That would be the trifecta.  An orgy of debauchery involving stolen, fried tater tots.

“Our naked bodies dripped with Crisco and stolen tater tot crumbs as the light danced across our distended bellies. We were fat and finally satiated in our prison cell, joyously burping from our tater tot stoked revelry.”  An incarcerated, naked, Rubenesque crowd dripping in oil is not the mental picture I need this morning, yet, there it is.

I admit, there is something about crispy fried, perfectly salted tater tots that makes me feel like I might be getting away with something illegal…but done right, they are tasty. Tasty but a killer.  My arteries are closing just contemplating them.  Oh nooooo!  Now I’m visualizing them smothered in sawmill gravy.

I don’t know when to quit so it is easier not to begin.  I lied, I do know when to quit…”You mean that’s all of them?  I’VE EATEN THEM ALL!!!  OH, THE HUMANITY.”  I truly have no willpower.

I’m the same way about ice cream, specifically milkshakes.  Something else that feels illegal.  I keep my addiction controlled by not keeping ice cream in the house.  I’m a thirty-minute drive from the nearest emporium of gluttony, an ice cream parlor, so if I don’t have it in my freezer, I’m pretty safe.  I admit to opening the freezer door and gazing longingly at the empty space reserved for butter pecan or chocolate chip mint…peach?  Vanilla? STOP IT!

When I break down and buy a half-gallon…it calls to me.  I can literally hear its seductive Marilyn Monroe voice calling from the fridge, “Eat me…eat me…ARE YOU DEAF!  COME EAT ME!”  That’s while I’m already eating a thick, chocolate chip mint milkshake and as you can tell, it starts out like a siren’s call, but it finishes as a screaming banshee.

Left to my own devices, I will eat the entire half-gallon at one sitting.  My wife is now tying me to my recliner and looking for beeswax.  She knows I’ll end up on that “Rock Candy Mountain” quicker than you can say, Odysseus.

Good food is my “What feels illegal but is not” Achilles heel.  Who am I kidding, it doesn’t have to be “good” food.  I’m sorry Linda, I did eat the last…fill in the blank.

I hate to admit it, but Cassie’s media post has old Paris of Greek Mythology limbering up his bow and arrow…I just don’t know why instead of an arrowhead there is an old fashioned, red and white checkerboard, paper boat filled with tater tots covered with sawmill gravy.

No sense walking to the fridge, there are no tater tots or ice cream…but tomorrow is a shopping day.  I just have to figure out some type of Trojan Horse to sneak them past my bride in.

Americans consume nearly four billion tater tots yearly.  That’s thirty-five thousand tons of tater tots.  The average may go up if I have my way.  Thank you Ore-Ida.

***

For more of Don Miller’s meanderings, https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0veH8Qsf0rEMd5TiBmn6Zd0vMtZABIY8cRxLHaDbc5yLMSzy4PNFCDl-g

The Art of Lookin’ Busy

 

A big for his age youth sporting a lint covered flattop staggered through his first day at the Springs Mills White Plant.  Staggered because in the first hour the man tasked with teaching the youth the art of ‘takin’ up quills’ attempted to crush the youth’s skull with one of the metal quill cans.  It was the youth’s fault, not the young man’s.  The youth was bloodied and staggered, and it was the beginning of a series of the first day on the job accidents, but that is a story for another time.  Clumsy much?

(In textile parlance, a quill is or was the wooden part of a bobbin the thread is wound on.   The bobbin would seat into a shuttle running perpendicularly to the warp threads. When the thread in the shuttle ended or broke, the bobbin was kicked out into a metal ‘can’ and replaced automatically from a magical gizmo called a battery.  I’m a bit short on the science of it all and you aren’t here for a lesson.  A battery with bobbins is shown below.  The wooden portion of the bobbin is the quill.)

I was the big for my age, crew-cut sporting youngster.  Tall for my age, and I got no taller, I was immature by anyone’s standards at any age.  Big for my age and dumb might have been a requisite for the job I was doing.  A spare hand, I did the jobs regularly employed folks were glad they didn’t have to do or filled in where needed.

I understood hard work having grown up on a farm and having been hired out as farm labor since I had turned eleven or twelve.  Farm labor is hard, but cotton mill labor is a horse of a different color as the old farmers might say.

I had worked at Springs for a week and was worn to the bone…battered and bruised, to the point of tears at various times. The narrow alleyways between the looms left my shoulders marked with scrapes and abrasions.  My body was a skin covered sack of pain.  It was a Saturday and all I could think of was the day off on Sunday…except it would be followed by a Monday when it all would begin again.

When I ran into a much older cousin in the water house I received a life lesson I didn’t know I needed. The water house in mill parlance is a combination bathroom, smoking area, and an escape from the noise and heat of the mill.  An oasis of relatively cool, quiet, and stinky aromas.

As I started to walk out, Charles, a much older cousin who had grown up just below my home, stopped me and put his arm across my sweaty, lint covered, bruised shoulders.

“I been watchin’ you boy,” tapping me on a sore arm with his pointer finger.  Charles was what was called a warp hand who worked out to the tie-in room.  It seemed to me warp hands had a good bit of time for watchin’…or playing practical jokes.  Charles, and his buddy Tommy, were masters at playing practical jokes, “Go down to the parts room and get me a loom stretcher, will you?”   It was the first of many practical jokes endured by the young group of spare hands.  I wasn’t singled out any more than anyone else.

The man in the part’s room cocked his head giving me the side-eye, “Loom stretcher, huh?  Charles sent you down, didn’t he?”  Got me.   

Northrop Loom - Wikipedia

Loom with visible battery and warp.  The warp is the big spool of thread.  A quill can is seen below the battery.  Image https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/industrial-revolution-1750-1900-f8002b6a-a164-4f2c-bea9-a0d54908556d

Back to Charles in the water house.

“You work hard but you got to learn to work smart.”  What Charles really meant was “learn to not work if you don’t have to.”

Beings Charles was an elder I decided I was supposed to listen intently…plus he had a scholarly look going…in a Howdy Doody kind of way.  I really felt I needed to learn how to work smarter.

“This ain’t no horse race and you ain’t learned the art of lookin’ busy when you ain’t.  You got to slowwwww things down.  Shifts are eight hours and you doin’ more than your buck sixty-five an hour.  Whatchu’ do after you finish your quill job?”

“I have to strip quills.”  Nothing provocative, I had to remove the leftover thread from the bobbins so the quills could be reused by the spinning room.

“An what do you do when you get through strippin’ quills?”

I pondered a moment wondering if this was a test, “I don’t know, I’ve never gotten through.”

He popped me on the shoulder as if I had had a major philosophical breakthrough.

“There you go.  You ain’t nevah gonna get through.  You could work a month of Sundays an’ you’ll nevah, evah get through.  The only time you’ll be through is when you die.”

So profound, I pondered too long on his words and Charles began again.

“Pretend you do get through.  Whatchu’ think gonna happen then?”

“They’ll find something else for me to do?”

Shooting me with his pointer finger and thumb, he exclaimed, “Bingo!  You nevah get through or if you do, ole Coley Spinks is gonna come along and give you something else to do.  You got to learn the art of lookin’ busy while doing nothin’, boy.”

Just then, as if to add an exclamation point, Coley Spinks, the second hand walked in.  Folding his Popeye sized forearms sporting the Marine Corp ‘globe and anchor’ tattoo across his ample chest, Coley gave us a head jerk which translated to, “You’ve spent too much time in here, get out and earn you wage.”

Charles scooted out the door with me behind, but Coley planted a flat palm against my chest, jolting me to a stop, “I don’t know what line of bull Charles was spouting but don’t listen to a damn thing he says.”  The age-old disagreement between management and the workers?

“Yes sir, Mr. Spinks.” 

But I did listen to Charlie and endured his harmless practical jokes even if I never quite mastered the art of looking busy or falling for practical jokes.  I practiced a great deal and ran into many fellow workers who had truly turned it into an art form.

I am more of a “git er done, git er over with” kind of guy and I guess it served me well.  Mr. Spinks came to me on my last Saturday before the school year began and proposed, “We’d like you to work Saturdays during the school year if you are a mind to.”  Eight hours of hell for $13.20 before taxes.  “Yeah, okay.  Thanks.” 

I’d work there for three more summers and Saturdays during the school year.  Later, I would work part-time in a cotton mill during my college days.  I never did get done. whether it was stripping quill or some other grunt job, and I ain’t dead yet.  Instead, I moved on to another vocation I never finished until retirement.

It was the mills themselves that died at the end of the last century…something I find saddening.  I would never want to return but I do appreciate the lessons I learned.

***

For more of Don Miller’s shenanigans, visit his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3EyTJntrwvN_Yq4p_rpDH3Ynurn688xmdNvzJhe_fH7NSBku3Zen-6yb0

The image is of belt driven looms take from one of the Lowell Mills.  https://www.newschoolers.com/news/read/The-List-Newschoolers-Member

Buck Nekked in the Bean Patch…Revisited

It is that time of the year.  The corn is high and filled out, and the raccoons and deer have not devastated it yet.  Green beans are producing more than I ever want to eat.  My zucchini is doing what it normally does, nothing.  I may be the only person in the world who can’t grow zucchini.  I have had six plants produce exactly five zucchini squash.  The tomatoes were put in late and I’m still waiting for my first BLT with a home-grown tomato.

Butter beans need to be picked and the flying, biting, stinging critters are so thick you “can’t stir ‘em with a stick”.  The thick, moist air is suddenly filled with a droning and it’s not a passing motorcycle or airplane.  The big-bodied hornet drones by, ignoring me this time, but I am reminded of a time when I was not so lucky…and neither was the church bus.

Buck Nekked in the Bean Patch…With Apologies to the Church Bus

My apologies.  There are times when it is okay to show your naked, lily-white derriere. Taking a bath or shower, weighing oneself, sleeping in the buff, skinny dippin’, or participating in 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 ‘tourons’ and the loaded church bus passing by while I was attempting to get out of my shorts and skivvies.  My intent was to run and get behind my small stand of raccoon ravaged corn before I actually stripped.

I was em-bare-assed because it is hard to get out of your shorts if you are not trying to get out of your boots first.  There just wasn’t time and I didn’t quite make it.

I was em-bare-assed because there were no cheers emanating from any of those vehicles as I displayed my butt and other body parts.  I guess it could have been the shock.

I was also em-bare-assed by the face and head plant into the crooked necked squash plants when my boots became tangled in my shorts.  It could have been worse; the cops could have shown up or the bus might have wreaked.

In a previous post, I admitted 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.

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 and working in the garden, 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, one might understand why I was not too concerned with em-bare-assing 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 young age, four or five, I had followed my grandmother into her garden.  As I did whatever four or five-year-old children 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 a hornet sting to my physical person.  I do not know how but assume the Lord took mercy upon my bare assed, lily-white soul.

My pride might have been damaged a bit…and I do not think some of the crooked neck squash plants will recover…hope the folks on the church bus survive without any major mental distress.

The original Buck Nekkid in the Bean Patch is contained within the book “Cornfields…in my mind”  which may be purchased in paperback or ebook at https://www.amazon.com/Cornfields-My-Mind-Don-Miller/dp/1980783926.

The image is not of my bean patch, it would have been better if it was, I could have hidden behind it.  The image is from http://fxcuisine.com/default.asp?language=2&Display=265&resolution=high

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2xCJfJ2g8EJ67nGS7i5lqp0QZqicUuyk0rNLM0jkfbhMdhUCie0ws0p_M

Summers Now Past

Or when I reaized Peter Pan had died.

My best summers are behind me not ahead.  If memory serves me, my best summers ended when my hand could reach around the end of a hoe handle or I became strong enough to heft a square bale of hay and toss it onto the back of a flatbed truck.  It certainly ended the summer I walked into the den of heat and noise that was Springs Mills.  Peter Pan died that day.  Despite my best efforts I had grown up.

The last day of school before the summer break.  Elementary school kids squirming in their seats waiting to cast off the chains of their forced imprisonment.  “I’m free, I’m free!”  And just like that, it was September again.

No more Tonka toys and little green soldiers in a sandy ditch.  No more corn cob fights with Mickey and Donnie Ray around the barn. No more playing war in red clay banks around the cornfield.  Fewer trips to the river to check trotlines or intently watching a bobber while praying for a bit of a nibble just to let me know something was down there.

Ode to youth now past.

Here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge a high-pressure dome is making life unbearable.  Hot, hot, hot.  Humid, humid, humid…but no rain.  Hotter than two mice mating in a wool sock and even the devil is bitching about the humidity.  Despite the humidity and the thunder that rumbled around yesterday, my garden is dryer than a popcorn fart.

There is something about the heat and humidity that brings the memories back.  I question how I survived without air conditioning but somehow, I did.  Tall screenless windows at school, perspiration dripping on notebook paper as I practice my letters.  A wasp flies through the window causing a momentary lull in the activities.

No reprieve at home or at church on Sunday.  Humidity and heat causing my shirt to stick to the lacquered seatback.  Ladies in pillbox hats, gloves, and long sleeves fanning as if their lives depend on it, and it may have.  Men in suits and ties sitting stoically in their own perspiration.  The minister announces with a thump of his Bible, “If you think it’s hot now…just wait.  Benediction please.”

As I remembered, my back was bent toward the ground as I straddled the short row of beans.  Perspiration ran down my nose and was soaked up by the dusty soil underneath me as the rivulets landed with a plop.  My sweat ran like the Catawba River during the rainy season when my revelation occurred.  I was thinking of a simpler time.  In my mind my grandmother is beside me, both of us straddling a row, the sweat running down both our noses.

Summer was the time to make hay while the sun shone…tomatoes, beans, squash, okra, watermelons, and corn too.  The sun shone hotly and pulled the moisture into the air encapsulating me in what seemed like a wet, wool blanket.  Hot, moist sun-heated air.  Squash and cucumbers wilting, corn stalk leaves drooping in the afternoon heat…humans wilting and drooping as if they were plants.

As I shift briefly to the present, I realize, there will be good Summers ahead…they will just be different.  Miller Kate and Noli cavorting, splashing in the pool remind me of their mother searching for crawdads and salamanders in the stream by the house.  A memory that brings the smile to my face.  It is about their memories and dreams now.  Mine are still focused on the past.

I remember the welcomed afternoon thunderstorms.  The smell of ozone heralding the cooling winds to come…a few minutes of chill until the sun returned…heat and humidity with it.  Storm clouds outlining the distant water tower in Waxhaw to the east, the western sun reflects off of the tower and makes the thunderheads seem ominous.

My grandmother’s admonishment, “Don’t stand in the draft you might get hit by lightning” or “Get away from the sink!  Lightning will fry you like fatback.”  Needless to say, nothing electrical was turned on especially the TV.  Lightning strikes were worrisome on her hilltop if the lightning rods on the hip roof of my grandmother’s house were to be believed.

Despite sitting in a low ‘holler’, the transformer down the river road from my house was hit a few times and I remember mini lightning flashes jumping between the telephone and the lights over the kitchen bar.  Probably shouldn’t answer the phone.

Ball jars filled with water and wrapped in newspaper to keep it cool.  It didn’t work.  Water was welcomed even warm.  There were times I would have sucked the water from a mud puddle if I could have found one.  Those transcontinental rows of corn that needed to be hoed or forty ‘leven thousand hay bales to toss and stack.  There is nothing much hotter than corn, hay, or cotton fields during July and August.

Inside the relative cool of a non-airconditioned kitchen, sweet Southern iced tea, or a glass of chilled buttermilk, helped to quench your thirst.  Drops of condensation succumbing to gravity on the side of an iced jelly glass…Sylvester the Cat staring back at me, a huge grin on his face.  He knew how much I enjoyed the tea and the peanut butter cookie that accompanied it.  

Late in the harvest season, a watermelon might be picked and put in a nearby stream to cool.  Maybe a ripe tomato or two.  Late afternoons we would crack open the bounty and fight off the horse flies as watermelon juice mixed with the sweat and dripped from our fingers and faces.

In this new timeline, I think about cracking open the Tanqueray and adding some tonic and lime.  What? We have no lime?  Wait! Ah, I found one.

I stare out of my French Doors wondering if I really want to leave the air conditioning to cut grass or pick beans…or do anything else…  How did I get so old?  I also know that the extra piece of watermelon I want to eat will add at least two trips to the bathroom during the night.

I once had an old man tell me the problem with getting old.  “Young man, you know what is bad about gettin’ old?”  I think I was fifty at the time.  In his overalls with a fedora pushed back on his head, he answered the question I had not asked, “There are no dreams left for old men.”

I thought I knew what he meant.  Dreams of love, or an unreasonable facsimile. Getting ahead in the world, earning triumphs and victories, winning another state championship, and overcoming the disappointments of being close but no cigar.

The old man was correct.  There are no pursuits of state championships any more but I would edit his comment.  “There are no young man’s dreams but there are dreams.”

Dreams of a different time when Peter Pan was still alive.  Dreams of summers without a care in the world…a time when I knew I never wanted to grow up…but yet I did.

Still, I shan’t be sad.  There will be good summers ahead as long as my sun continues to rise.  I won’t dream only of the past.  Even dreams must change with time.

***+

The image is of a summer sunset from Pixabay and found on The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3YwCXc-tSERSihnz93ceDKB3PzxGIYX3lVWrJx3-mYmPV89rNT4j7PvxA.

Echo Chambers

 

“An environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own so that their existing views are reinforced, and alternative ideas are not considered.”

After three rousing interactions on my Facebook page, more than one person questioned, “Why do you allow this person on your Facebook page?  Block them!  Unfriend them!”  In defense of my rightwing friends, it was not the same person on all interactions and I have a very right-leaning friend’s list.

The three though, had a very clear message, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up.”  Granted, they were arguing with someone whose mind was also made up and sometimes stumbles over “the facts”.

One of the many voices in my head points out, “That doesn’t answer the question. Why is this person on your wall?”  The voice is shrill and edgy…fingernails on a chalkboard ear-piercing.

It is painful to deal with derision, contempt, and  humans with “a cranium harder than a brick, one he or she has managed to stick up their ass.”  Somehow they were able to fit their square peg of a brickbat head into their round hole.  I guess my head is hard and square too.

Such encounters are painful.  I feel I am attempting to referee a game I do not understand.  “The rules, the rules…are what?” shouts my real head voice.  A game between large monsters with sharp teeth and claws.  It is impossible to argue or officiate without suffering wounds.

One more time, a different voice commands, “Answer the fracking question.  Why?”  He sounds like my highschool football coach who would never have used fracking.

Again the real voice in my head answeres, “I don’t know.  I am trying to write my way into understanding.”  Let’s try this.

I do not think it serves me well to only communicate with people who think like me.  As much as Dennis Praeger, Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, and now, conservative darling Candice Owens, turn my stomach at times, I force myself to listen to them.  There are others, some local, and I spend a great deal of time shaking my head in disbelief…but I listen or read, and I attempt to understand.  Hopefully, those who don’t normally watch CNN are doing the same.

I cannot listen to them for an extended time, but I like to know what “friends” who identify with the far-right, I hope far-right, are thinking and why.  As much as I disagree with their closed and reactionary minds, sometimes they stumble over an acorn of truth, no matter how far they twist it to fit their message.

You can be against abortion and still vote Democrat, or be for stricter gun control and vote Republican.  Can’t you?  The echo chambers would tell you no.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”  Sun Tzu.

The Gandhi voice in my head asks, “Do you really look at the other side as enemies?”

My real head voice stomps its foot like an elementary school girl, “Why do you keep asking me more questions? I haven’t answered the first one yet.”

The far-right and far-left…they are enemies of us all…enemies of “truth, justice, and the American way” to quote Bill Kennedy, the narrator on the old Superman TV show, the one with George Reeves as Superman.    See that is a lie. It was coined on the original radio show, “The Adventures of Superman”.  Now all of the voices in my head sound like Kennedy.

I digress.

The far-right and far-left are enemies of fair and truthful American political discourse.  They are enemies of all I hold dear; truth, justice, and what I thought was the American way.  The radical left and reactionary right seem to be the only ones talking…screaming.  They provide us with worse case scenarios or outright conspiracy theories.  Truth and justice mean nothing.  Their American Way is not mine.

I feel alone in my little spot, slightly left of center.  I am sure there are people who feel the same way who are slightly right of center.  For some reason, I not hearing from either group.

I fear our political bell curve more resembles a Bactrian camel than a dromedary and the two humps are being pulled farther and farther apart depending upon which conspiracy is being presented.  Like a slow moving glacier, I feel both sides drifting farther and farther apart and the ice under my feet becoming thinner and thinner.

“That is just not true,” says a voice who sounds like the Daily Planet‘s Perry White.  His might be the voice of logic, “The middle is not thin, just quiet. “

From what I have read there are about forty percent of us feeling we are standing on thin ice.  Forty percent of us who are political party orphans.  Forty percent who have not been helped that the Republicans have shed their liberal wing and the Democrats have shed their conservative wing.  Choices should be blurred not stark.

To the original question, Clark Kent queries,“Why do you allow them to ramble on and on?  Why do you engage with a symbolic broad sword and chain mail?” 

Shaking my head, “I fear locking myself into an echo chamber and why don’t you find a telephone booth and help me.”

Clark hangs his head, “There are no telephone booths anymore, only echo chambers.”

Echo chambers present us with either perfect reverberations of our own cognitive dissonance or creates noise distorting or covering up the message we are attempting to hear.  It depends upon which surfaces the sound bounces off of.

Neither is productive. One provides undeserved comfort and a feeling of righteousness, the other, manipulate the message because we can’t hear it for the noise.

So…that is why I don’t block people unless they are threatening.  That is why I allow locomotives to run out of control until they derail.  Maybe Superman will come along to save the day.

Stepping out of the echo chamber is at best as uncomfortable as jockey itch or at worst, as painful as an unnumbed root canal.  Seeking truth can be painful that way.  Echo chambers twist the truth.

Stepping out of the echo chamber and listening intently will help you determine if your agenda is “built upon shifting sands.”  Open the door of the echo chamber and step out.

“Everyone who hears these words of mine (Jesus), and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house, and it fell—and great was its fall.”

***

Just for the heck of it, the 1951 opening sequence from Superman.  Thank you YouTube.

The Featured Image used is from https://countercurrents.org/2020/06/echo-chambers-post-truth-era-and-the-fear-of-missing-out-a-millennials-tale/

Quote by Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Biblical quote  Matthew 7:24–27, World English Bible

Don Miller’s author’s page my be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR153Ecvm-S8rh39n1zuxHHUQPrep-MkKu21vMvRFIGr84Zg2lrqopw4ICQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Historia Arcana

“The deeper you penetrated into the true South, a Protestant land of moral absolutes, Baptist blue laws, tent revivals, fire and brimstone, heaven and hell, good and evil, black and white, and damn little room between.”  Greg Iles, The Bone Tree

And bitter hypocrisy thrown in for good measure.

According to a “too large” number of my Southern brethren, racism hasn’t existed in a while…and if it does it is reverse racism.  All groups supporting social justice and the removal of monuments and flags are Marxist and radical, and the worst danger facing our country has nothing to do with the reactionary right.  Our President has even given us a new group to hate, the “radical fascist” which sets my teeth on edge just thinking about it.

Histories are written by the victors…or are they?

In the middle of the Sixth Century, the last great ancient Western historian, Procopius of Caesarea, wrote Historia Arcana which translates to The Secret History.  He hoped it would never be published, and it was not until well after his death.  It was to be his if needed, ‘get out of jail’ card.

The history chronicled the seedier sides of Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and his wife, Empress Theodora.  It is not a glowing history and shows the author’s disillusionment with the Byzantine Empire.  Justinian is portrayed as cruel and incompetent, Theodora, vulgar, and lustfully insatiable.  I feel some of Procopius’ disillusionment today.

No, it is not the history Theodora and Justinian would want to be published and it was not published until nearly a thousand years later.  The sixth-century power couple would go on to be sainted by the Greek Orthodox Church.  Their hidden history remained hidden until it no longer mattered.

I have seen the same with some of our own “sainted” folk.  The heroes of Southern culture and heritage.  In the South, we guard our “historia arcana” with a tenacity unmatched by the rest of our nation.  Families of now-departed men and women hope their histories remain secret.

I’m reading Greg Iles’ Natchez Is Burning trilogy and stumbled upon the above quote on the first page of the second novel, The Bone Tree.  The original book, Natchez is Burning, while fictional, is based on a period in our history that anyone south of the Ohio River would like to forget.

The novel is fictional but based upon historical facts…the treatment of African-Americans during the Fifties and Sixties and how white men got away with the murder of black men and women simply because they could.  A period we are being asked to move on from without recognizing how evil it was or how events from forty or fifty years ago…or one hundred and sixty years ago…or four hundred years ago could actually affect the time we live in now.  Just move on…there is nothing here.

Any Southern town, large or small, has its share of “secret” histories…histories that display our dirty unmentionables, the soiled petticoats displayed as we try to navigate the deep mud puddles of Southern history before quickly dropping our antebellum gown to cover our ankles and muddy shoes.  Like Justinian and Theodora, it is a history we would prefer not to read in print and only speak to in whispered tones if we speak of them at all.

The mud stains are still on our shoes but we do our best to make sure they are out of sight.  Historical accounts we have purged from our memories it seems…or at least the “dark” part of our histories.  Histories so well hidden, a Southern, seventy-year-old retired history teacher didn’t know they existed.

Accounts we claim never existed at worse or were not as bad as were made out at best.  “Why can’t we just move on?” is a question reserved for the propagator, not the victims.  Maybe I should again pick up Faulkner, O’Conner, Williams, Yerby, or Gaines again.  Even in their fiction are large kernels of truth.

Men and women are human, with human failings.  Men and women can be both good and bad at the same time.  Bad…good old Baptist guilt or Calvinist repression, not necessarily the point.  This is more collective guilt…a collective guilt we refuse to accept or acknowledge.  The guilt we have turned into a “Lost Cause” and “Forget Hell” is only reserved for one side of the argument.

As we debate the removal of statues and memorials, the elimination of one hundred and sixty-year-old eulogies made of cloth, disclaimers added to eighty-one-year-old motion pictures, and the changing of aging athletic nicknames and mascots, we pontificate about what seems to be different histories from the same place and from the same time.  Some pray to the gods of the status quo, the good old days, while others are breaking under the burdens we refuse to remove.

Good men doing bad things or is it bad men doing good things…or is it just human nature to cover or change what is unpalatable for us?  Is it human nature to resist change or just a Southern cultural trait?

There is the fear factor too.  Fear that somehow we will lose control of what we have controlled for so long.  Similar to the old question asked by good Protestant ministers so long ago, “What will we do when they run off with our wives and daughters?”  We still look for boogie men under our beds and label them as Marxist or radically “fascist” whatever that is.

I do not know where to stand on statues and memorials.  I know, despite my deep Southern roots, I will not stand next to them in defense.  My great, great and great, great, great grandfathers may be rolling in their graves.

Our statues and memorials are tributes to men and to histories most unsavory but they themselves are not history.  They should not be celebratory, should they? They are reminders of not only heritage but the hate some of that heritage rests upon.

Having taught history, I never used a statue or memorial as a teaching tool but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used as teaching implements…provided those monuments are teaching the “real” histories which are found not on lists of gallant Confederate dead etched in stone or on mountains, but in the pages of primary documents and historical works.

We must focus less on gallant propaganda and more on the facts.  We need to recognize that our history didn’t end with the beginning of the Civil War.  We need to question why some men died to “make men free” and why others resisted…no matter how bitter the taste of the fruit of that resistance might be.

All countries have shame.  We are not unique.  Many countries have tread on the weak for national and economic gain.  We are no different.  We are not even the only country that has not come to grips with the travesties we have committed.  We are not the only country to ignore our travesties and attempt to squash the message of those tread upon.  Unfortunately, as a child in the Fifties, I bought the propaganda of American Exceptionalism.  I really believed we were supposed to be better than other nations.

I  admit to ignoring problems in hopes they might go away.  They do not.  They only grow worse and ours has festered for over one hundred and fifty years.  I have also learned when faced with an issue, the most unappealing and unappetizing option is probably the correct one.

Here in the Bible Belt, we are filled with religious indignation and justification toward anyone who questions authority…unless it is a fellow Christian of a certain race.  It is as if by conforming to a God’s will we give up the right to think on our own.

Here in the Bible Belt, we have tied our Christianity to our politics, and any afront to our politics is perceived as an affront to our religion.  I am seeing this more and more concerning “peaceful” protesters and reactions to “other” religions.  Too many “good” Christians wrapping their Bible in a flag and calling their racism and bigotry patriotism.

As I read Iles’ quote I thought back to my youth and own privilege.  I grew up a Methodist Protestant, graduated from a Lutheran institution of higher learning, and committed the mortal sin of marrying three Baptist women.  If at first, you fail….  I once considered taking up the mantle of religion…God does work in mysterious ways.  It is my historia arcana.

Moral absolutes were something I obviously had a problem with as did others.  I have just now learned others did a better job of covering theirs up and have throughout history.  In towns large and small, men and women have been willing to hide their moral absolutes away when it suited.  Good men and women doing bad things and praying for absolution on Sunday morning? Justinian and Theodora?  Or was I just cursed with the ability to see grays in among the blacks and whites?

I remember the revivals and the Blue Laws, the hellfire and brimstone sermons conjuring the smell of sulfur.  Hot and sticky Southern Sunday morning humidity with funeral fans working against the oppressive heat.  The preacher pounding his Bible before issuing his alter call, a closing hymn…benediction, please.

There was no gray, only heaven or hell, no in-between.  I remember the Wednesday night and Sunday morning Christians, the amen corners, the tv evangelist, and faith healers.  Billy Graham’s piety on display in black and white while George Beverly Shea sang “How Great Thou Art.”

I remember being taught from the pulpit, white was good and black was bad.  When white was virtuous and black was evil.  I remember when we used the same arguments a lifetime ago that we recycle now.  I remember our historia arcana and feel the shame that we can’t seem to overcome it or even admit it.

***

Iles, Greg The Bone Tree: A Novel (Penn Cage Book 5) (p. 1). William Morrow. Kindle Edition

The image is from The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture’s online portal.  https://nmaahc.si.edu/

Don Miller writes on various subjects that bother him so and in various genres.  His author’s page is https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2syCHGI2Eb96lK63frT528V_cBY995j2m_hd_LOLFPdV4KqqoZQn1J7Fs

A Mess of Green Beans

 

It’s early morning and I’m bent over strong green plants, their bounty hanging from the underside of deep, green leaves.  I’m proud of my green beans.

It’s my second picking and I am getting more than from my first.  Despite the early hour, perspiration…nay sweat is trickling down my nose.  It’s not hard work, pickin’ beans, but my back is creaking and sweat is running into my underwear when I straighten it.

I’ll pick, wash and then snap before washing again.  I don’t know what I’ll do with these.  I’m still eating on my first pickin’…my first mess…from archaic French, messe, a portion of food.

It is a word I learned from my grandmother…and a process.  Nothing wasted, not even the pot liquor.  Beans are to be eaten until they are gone…or go rancid, the pot liquor sopped up with cornbread.  Just for clarification, these are not served al dente, they are cooked to death, the Southern way.

Mine are not likely to go rancid soon.  The biological process is aided by meat products and mine have none.  I’ve had to adjust my tastes since a heart attack a decade and a half ago.  No flavorful bacon grease or fried fatback will be added.  Just potatoes, onions, and a touch of salt and pepper.  They are not as flavorful as I remember my grandmother’s but my wife’s cornbread that is served with it is much better.  Sorry Nanny, your cornbread was too dry.

There was always a “mess” of beans on my grandmother’s stove.  Green beans early in the summer, butter beans later, and finally crowder peas in the early fall.  Whatever was canned found its way to the stovetop during the winter and spring.

I’ve tried to keep her schedule along with squash and tomatoes.  I wish I could figure out how to get my tomatoes to mature at the same time my beans do.  It would appear I’m still a few weeks away from my first tomato sandwich.  My garden is late this year due to April rains.

As I pick, I step back in time.  It is Monday as I write this.  A lifetime ago Mondays were days to finish gathering and prepping for Tuesdays which was, along with Thursdays, canning days at my countrified local school.  A cannery subsidized I’m sure by that Yankee ‘gubment’ in Washington or the nearby state one in Columbia. It was cheap, a penny a can, it had to be subsidized by someone.

It was a hot and humid place in the middle of hot and humid summers.  People came from all around to avail themselves.  It was a cheap way to preserve their summer bounty for the cold winter days ahead.  There was so much activity I am reminded of the story of the ant and the grasshopper.  No lazy grasshoppers here, just hard-working ants.

At my grandmothers there would be a flurry of activity on Mondays that would run well into the evening.  It would end with family from the hill above and the ‘holler’ below joining us.  Aunts, Uncles, and cousins sitting on the front porch snapping or shelling the last of the beans or prepping soup mix.  There was a good dose of gossip to go with the shelling.

A hushed voice asks, “Did you hear about so and so?”

Another query, “Didn’t she run off with….?”

A third with shaking head, “Oh my, you don’t say?  I know her momma is besides herself with worry.”

A fourth would ask, “Y’all want some sweet tea?”

The menfolk in fedoras and overalls sitting on one side of the L shaped porch, the women in feed sack dresses on the other.  I don’t really know what the menfolk discussed, what juicy details were talked about but their conversation probably revolved around work or what malady their car might be suffering.  Seemed everything revolved around scratching out a living or driving.

I remember falling asleep on the metal glider surrounded by the aromas of Prince Albert pipe tobacco and Camel or Lucky Strike unfiltered.  It was a different time and somehow, I always woke up in my bed with no memory of how I got there.

The cannery was operated by the Leapharts, my school’s home economics, and agriculture teachers and their offsprings.  They operated it but everyone shared in the responsibilities.  Communal effort is always a farming community’s way.

Sterilized cans were filled with bounty before salt and water added.  Cans ran through some sort of magical machine that steamed and sealed the cans before tops were added and another magical machine sealed them.

The finished product placed in a water bath and allowed to cool until Thursday when we picked them up.  I remember being responsible for adding the water, a steamy job in the steamy, humidity filled days of summer but one suited for a boy my age.

I’ve tried canning with varying degrees of success…the glass Ball jars and rings.  I freeze a lot but for some reason, it does not quite taste the same.  I guess it could be the absence of bacon grease or fatback, but I don’t think so.  It might have been the people and the process.

I remember phone calls to my grandmother when I left for college and later for the real world.  Summertime calls were always accompanied by a canning tally and the weather forecast, “Well I did twenty-five cans of green beans, eighteen butter beans, and a dozen of soup mix.  It has sure been hot and dry.  I can’t remember the last time it rained.”   If she’d been fishing I got that report too.

When I came home to visit from the real world, I always returned with cans of love from her pantry.  A mess of green beans and potatoes with some raw onion and a wedge of cornbread.  Good eats…good memories.

My senses are a funny thing.  Smells trigger many memories…or sweat running down my nose or a song on my playlist.  There is something about the smell of tomatoes or green beans boiling in a pot.  I go back to those days when the humidity didn’t seem so bad when there was always a pot of beans on my grandmother’s stovetop and cornbread or biscuits close by.

****

Don Miller writes on various subjects and in various genres.  His author’s page https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3ISpnFiIcskj6u17soo9sN1uvFBdpA59noucO8m0LdgN9k0rhPlAxRa2g

The image is from Simple Home Preparedness at https://simplefamilypreparedness.com/home-canned-green-beans-in-3-easy-steps/

 

Mojo, Blivits, and  the Space-Time Continuum

 

♬Oh, where or where has my Mojo gone, oh where, oh where can it be?♬

It’s early summer and the days are long, the sunlight abundant.  I am not suffering from SAD. I am not depressed.  If anything, I’m manic…something I never am.  Downright squirrely.

John Phillips just reminded me, “The Mississippi River runs like molasses in the summertime.”  I don’t live near the Mississippi but I’ve been outside and the humidity is sticking like molasses in the summertime and it is not July yet.

I shouldn’t be running around sweating like this looking for my metaphorical gris-gris bag while searching for my juju.  Another way of saying, I can’t get my poop together?    And if I were able, I probably couldn’t pick it up because my hands are sweating too much from the humidity.

What mojo I had has galloped over the horizon into the distant sunset I am still waiting to light up from the Saharan dust storm.  Clouds, clouds, clouds.

As you can tell, my thoughts are fragmented and muddled, dancing about like Looney Tunes’ Tazmanian Devil.

I can’t get anything done.  My life is a nasty “blivit”, ten pounds of poo in a five-pound bag.  I flit from project to project while adding others, staring off into space, tapping my toes, contemplating, ruminating, and completing nothing.  COMPLETING!  I’m not even starting.

I sit knowing I should be doing something but doing nothing.  Maybe I should make it my goal to do nothing.  One can’t foul themselves with a “blivit” if you don’t touch it.

Some of you may think I’m speaking metaphorically or allegorically about irregularity…I am but it is more than a couple of failed bathroom trips although all of my problems may center around constipation rather than the time-space continuum I am contemplating.  I just don’t know.

There are four storylines waiting to be finished, waiting for most of a year.  They aren’t finished because they suck largely.  A garden that needs extreme weeding and a yard that resembles an Amazon rain forest, a porch needing repainting, a home we’ve turned into a hoarder’s paradise…and today is my anniversary.  I have lost all control over my life, my yard, my mojo, and possibly my bodily functions, but I did not forget my anniversary…I think my bride did but she recovered nicely.

And the virus…and the protests complete with looting, rioting, teargas, and downright nasty social media arguments.  I’m not going to wish my life away because there is no guarantee 2021 will be any better.  I just going to wish for a little movement…and soon.

Well, it is raining…dripping would be a better descriptor.  I see the sun trying to punch its way through the overcast. “Ole Sol” seems to be winning but the dripping gives me an out.  Instead of heading to weed my tomatoes, I sit writing this…This…whatever THIS is.

I have a theory.  Want to hear it?  You’re going to.

Writing is a way for me to face what is disturbing me.  The problem is I don’t know which disturbance has caused my mojo to run screaming into the day?  I have a plethora of disturbances.

The way my thoughts bounce around something must have happened to the time-space continuum.  There must be a rift in time.

In my head, a calm Picard orders, “Make it so, Number One,” while Commander Scott, the Scottish engineer implores, “But Captain, The engines won’t take anymore.”  In the background, I hear Benjamin Sisko’s father saying, “The soufflé will either rise or it won’t, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.”

I know, I just combined Star Treks serieses, and unfortunately, in my condition, the Sisko quote makes perfect sense.  I told you, time and space are funky as is my colon…I mean my brain.

There must be some magic charm, some talisman, some spell that will make my mojo come back.

Maybe I’m looking in the wrong venue.  Time to appropriate someone else’s culture.  Surely there is a wise, old, New Orleans, Hoodoo priestess willing to cast good luck juju upon this humble soul.  What do you mean, Voodoo dolls aren’t used in Voodoo?

Despite the facts, I feel I must have a hat pin jammed deeply into my head…or parts south.

I can’t seem to concentrate on any one thing for any period of time if that period of time is longer than seconds.  I do a little research, a little writing, a little reading, pop up to watch a bit of a DVRed episode of The Kitchen, oh wow, grilled fish tacos, a little checking of social media, walk to the refrigerator, open and close the door without retrieving anything, head down to the garden, forget why I went down there, then out to the yard and find only ten minutes have passed despite my head telling me it has been hours.  IT IS a run-on sentence and it fits perfectly with the way my brain and colon are not working right now.

Okay, so Voodoo is out.  Maybe my mojo IS lost in the space-time continuum.  Captain Kirk, lost between dimensions in The Tholian Web, came back.  Data died in one movie only to return in another series.  Spock died in one movie and came back in another, he even lost and re-acquired his brain in the same episode, Spock’s Brain.  So maybe my mojo will return!  More than likely it will be my “chickens coming home to roost” first…or maybe I should just eat more fiber.

John Phillips sings Mississippi on YouTube.

According to Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,

A gris-gris bag is a Voodoo amulet originating in Africa which is believed to protect the wearer from evil or bring luck. It consists of a small cloth bag, usually inscribed with verses from an African ancestor containing a ritual number of small objects, worn on the person.

JuJu is a spiritual belief system incorporating objects, such as amulets, and spells used in religious practice, as part of witchcraft in West Africa especially the people of Nigeria.

Hoodoo is a traditional African-American Spirituality created by enslaved African-Americans in the New World. It is specific to the distinct African-American lineage in North America. Hoodoo is the product of enslaved people and was a rebellion against absolute mental and spiritual domination by Europeans. Also known as Lowcountry Voodoo in the Gullah Lowcountry of South Carolina, Hoodoo is an amalgamation of spiritual practices, traditions, and beliefs that were held in secret away from White slaveholders. In some cases, Hoodoo was accompanied by Catholicism or Christianity.

Don Miller writes in different genres when not constipated and his author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1-nlM-kc0EFF7g5-W4Vtkeary-O49oUk3PF_i7Z615YELZdIoxgnvCezk

The image is from Quora.com

***A Master of None

 

That’s me.  A jack of no trades and a master of none.

Some people should not be turned loose with a screwdriver…or hammer.  Some people should not be allowed to open a circuit box…or change a washer, or make any household repairs no matter how simple.

Simple?  There is no such thing.  As you can guess I have odd jobs to complete.  Maybe I won’t burn down the house or flood the bathroom.

When in doubt, call the plumber.  Call the electrician.  I should always be in doubt.

Some men are born without the “jack of all trades” handyman genes.  I am one of those men.  I am not a handyman.  I am lucky to still have all of my fingers.  I am also stupid because I still try to lose them.

I know my way around a screwdriver, hammer, or wrench…even a drill.  I know which end to use and after that…I’ve found I’m pretty much useless…worse than useless.  A disaster looking for a place to happen.

“How to” YouTube videos suddenly become Godzilla movies in real life as I wreak havoc on unsuspecting circuit boards or faucet valves and innocent pieces of wood.  Can you be arrested for “wood slaughter” or nail bending?

I should have thought of my shortcomings before moving into a house that is a century and a quarter old…well…the older home does seem to be better put together than the newer edition.  They really don’t make things like they used to…I’m a walking example of that.

Wood?  It was made to burn.

I think I got my destructive gene honestly.  My dad fixed looms in a cotton mill but when he got home…not so much.  To his defense, we had no looms at home.

The memory of my Dad is not being too much of a “handy guy.”  Like me, maybe replacing a washer or pull cord on a lawnmower, but Ernest also ruined more lumber than he ever put up.  I have turned a lot of good wood into kindling over the years.

I can’t drive a nail or cut a board straight with a nailgun held to my head.  Well, I can drive it straight if it doesn’t matter what it looks like but just as soon as I try to put that tee tiny finishing nail in…I find not only have I ruined the nail but the board I’m trying to put it into.  Trim work?  Surely you jest.  They ain’t made enough wood filler yet.

There is a certain amount of pressure to perform.  Do the “manly” things of life.  My wife standing by, watching my every move.  Patting her toe, her fists clenched and resting on her hips does not help.

“So, you really want me to use this pipe wrench?  Do you have the plumber’s telephone number close by?  You know, just in case.

It is her dad’s fault.  Ole Ralph Bolt would try anything right up to microsurgery.  No job too hard or too complicated.  Not that he was any more successful, he just knew how to hide his catastrophes better than I do.

He reminded me of an organ grinder’s monkey…not in looks but actions.  He was small and light on his feet…and fearless.  Scrambling up and down ladders or across the roof.  Even into his eighties, he was willing to climb up scaffolding or step over to the edge of an overhang to drive a nail.

Banging away he would pause after miss hitting, eyeball the nail before exclaiming either, “Shi…” and reversing the hammerhead to draw the nail out or giving it the side-eye, “Well, that’s okay for ‘gubmint’ work.”

Maybe that is my problem.  I’m trying to be to pleasing…too perfect.  It just needs to be good enough for ‘gubmint’ work.  I don’t know, I think not.

I have nightmares about whether that switch I replaced is just waiting to short out and burn down our house or the valve on the water tank will fail, causing the flood of the century.

From YouTube, The Talking Heads, Burning Down the House.  Released in 1983 on the album Speaking in Tongues.

Don Miller writes at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0wlB0DlAkqvTEshPUaqSmD10vEAKU1T70bzCJ6nhfEgrOqh3J-TAFTvNs

The image of the burning house from Photo by kolyaeg via Pixababy.

Out in Front and Over the Top

 

In a coaching career spanning forty years, I admit to yelling this a time or two.  For whatever reason, the batter is looking for a fastball and gets something else entirely.  Old “Uncle Charlie” or a changeup comes in looking like a beach ball and then breaks down while shrinking to the size of an aspirin tablet.  “A swinnnnng, and a miss!” Bob Uecker shouts into the microphone.

The pitcher fools the batter causing him to commit early, “out in front”, and swing “over the top” of the off-speed pitch as it dives down and out of the strike zone.  If the batter makes contact, it is a weak fourteen hopper to the shortstop.  If no contact is made, the batter just looks foolish.

In real life, we shake our heads, “Life threw me curveball.”  Something that was unexpected, usually with ill-intent, some might call it karma.  If it is unexpected and good, we usually describe it as a “windfall.”  Curveballs usually don’t bode well for the batter or in real life, but sometimes….

I’m a planner.  I like everything 1, 2, 3….  My bride is not.  She is life’s counter puncher and tends to find joy in upsetting my perfectly aligned apple cart.  After bringing her a cup of coffee she asks, “What did you have planned for today?” She has just telegraphed her pitch, her intent to throw me a curve.

I remember Ron Polk, famed Mississippi State baseball coach, answering the question, “What is the best way to handle a curveball?”  Coach Polk pushed his cap back on his head and pursed his lips before answering, “There ain’t no best way.  Don’t swing at it unless you have to.”  Sage advice.

I knew exactly what I had planned for the day, a quick fitness walk, weeding the garden if it was dry enough, a long, slow wife walk, a bit of grass cutting and weed eating…in that order and that was just the morning.  When she asked her question Coach Polk’s advice popped into my head.  I didn’t swing and answered, “Nothing honey, why?”

Sometimes the pitcher will throw a curveball that doesn’t break or a changeup that’s become a batting practice fastball.  A pitch that doesn’t move enough or is not quite slow enough to miss the bat.  A belt-high or above curveball carrying a big ole sign that says, “Hit me, hit me, hit me!”  A curveball that doesn’t break or if it does, it breaks right onto the sweet spot of your bat.  Suddenly you are Mickey Mantle hammering a hung curve into the outfield bleachers at Yankee Stadium.

She answered my question, “Let’s go for a ride like we used to.”  I don’t know if she said “like we used to” but I thought it.  When we were younger and squeezing pennies until they screamed, “taking a ride” was a recreational outlet.  Living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge there are rabbit tracts and pig trails galore to explore.  We had bought our Jeep to do just that and hadn’t utilized it in the manner in which it had been purchased.

In our younger and more foolish days, we would load up the old Toyota Landcruiser with snacks and beer looking for ways to get ourselves in trouble.  Usually, we were successful.  From ripping a sidewall out and finding the jack missing forcing a five-mile hike off a mountainside, to getting too close to a ditch and finding ourselves on our side when the ditch crumbled.  We got lost more than once which was A-Okay. We were young, foolish, and in love.  It didn’t matter if we swung badly at a curveball…mostly we did it on purpose.  You can’t get lost if you don’t know where you going.  I think we have become too comfortable.

Our “ride” was a curveball we hit out of the park.  Late spring is a wonderful time in our little bit of heaven.  Mountain scenery, twisting roads alongside rocky and roaring mountain creeks, blooming rhododendron, a wild turkey seemingly wanting to race alongside us.  Yes, the best way to handle a curve is to hit it out of the park.

With Corvid-19 we’ve chosen to quarantine as much as possible.  We hope not seeing the grandbabies now will translate into seeing much more of them later, but we’ve probably used it as an excuse to be hermits.  Yesterday’s curveball may have changed that.

I still have some weeding to do and a good portion of the front yard to cut.  Today I will be cutting inside of the fence and letting my mind wander to those thrilling days of yesteryear.  A beat-up Landcruiser, an AM radio blaring the “Oldies but Goodies”, a cooler, and my bride exchanged for a four-door Jeep, Sirrus Radio, but the same beautiful bride and cooler.  Later, who knows, maybe I’ll get to swing at another curveball, “out in front and over the top.”

Don Miller’s authors page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR376tJHvxdTy4kxSV33etrGJi4wesRRjYWppO6j5ejOqgzTuFYnOelGw4w

The image was found at https://www.vbriefly.com/2014/09/23/swing-and-a-miss-part-1-silly-things-debaters-believe-about-theory-for-no-reason-by-leah-shapiro-and-christian-tarsney/