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

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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!”

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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.”

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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/

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.

Image result for squash bugs

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

Hot Spells

 

“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.”

–Russell Baker

We appear to be suffering a hot spell here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Marilyn Monroe dances in my mind, a song echos in my head, “We’re having a heatwave…a tropical heat wave….”  Seeing her costume in my mind, I wonder what was causing the heat wave.

The humidity is not quite high enough to be tropical but it is as if a heavy weight has descended from the mountains, pressing the air down around us, compressing it and turning it more liquid than gaseous.  This high-pressure weather system has added to my misery in the same way collard greens wilt in a pot of boiling water.  As I mow the grass this morning it is as if the oxygen has been squeezed out of the air.

The weather is July-August hot.  F. Scott Fitzgerald would probably describe the weather as “sultry.”  Sounds real nice.  Maybe like a 1920s flapper dancing the Charleston or Lindy Hop. Sultry.  I wouldn’t describe the weather that way unless the flapper had been dancing for hours in the unairconditioned Cotton Club in August wearing a fur coat.  The problem with our “sultry” July-August hot spell is…it is just now late May.  Doesn’t bode well for July and August.

Humid enough to be uncomfortable but not so humid to give us any rain.  The sky is a brilliant blue with no clouds to block the sun.  The weather pundits say our air is too stable and will remain so for at least another week.  If you say so.

We were flooding in the cold a month ago.  Now we are drier than camel bones in the Sahara.  We water something every day which adds to the muggy misery…and seems to attract the mosquitos and gnats.  God, I love it.

The people living in the mid-west would love to have the mosquitos and gnats.  Theirs have drowned or blown away.  I am not attempting to make light of their disastrous weather.  Major thunderstorms, tornadoes, and floods should not be made light of…nor should the results of global warming.

Several years ago I suffered through an early season baseball practice featuring near-freezing temperatures and snow flurries.  I swore never to gripe about the heat of summer again.  My resolve is eroding…and we haven’t made it to June yet.

My weather conditions trigger memories.  I grew up without air conditioning and wonder how I survived. We spent our days outdoors working or playing in brutal heat and humidity, or if indoors, where it seemed even hotter.  You’ve never been hot like in the middle of a cotton or hayfield hot or inside of a cotton mill hot.  How did we survive?

I would attempt to sleep, fitfully at best, my head at the foot of my bed trying to catch what little bit of breeze might find its way into my small bedroom from the one window.  Laying spread eagle making sure body parts never touched, adding to the heat, humidity, and discomfort if they did.  I wish I had been smart enough to invest in the talcum powder industry.   Later when my parents bought a small window air-conditioning unit for their bedroom, I found heaven when I inherited their window fan.  Blow baby blow.

The same was true of the old school building I attended.  Tall, wide, screenless windows allowed everything to enter…except a cool breeze in the late spring and early fall.  Taking notes while trying to keep the college ruled paper dry was almost impossible.

Sundays were no better.  Church windows wide open, hellfire and brimstone could be no hotter than those pews.  Funeral home fans fluttered in the breeze doing nothing more than moving the heat around.  Shirt sticking to the pew heat and humidity.  On a particularly brutal Sunday morning, the minister shouted to the heavens, “If you think it’s hot now just wait.  Hell is a lot hotter.”  I don’t know.  Heat seems relative.

Yesterday evening I ventured into my garden.  I waited until the shade had found my tomato and squash plants but found them wilted in the oppressive humidity and heat.  The beans didn’t look too much better.  The one crop that should be loving it, okra, refuses to peek above the hot ground.

Despite having watered the day before, dust swirled wherever my hoe contacted the ground.  A clink rang out as my hoe struck rock…seems I have a bumper crop of rocks this year…like every year, no matter how many I throw into the creek behind my garden.  Rocks and weeds…my bumper crops.  Along with squash bugs and bean beetles.

The metallic clink took me back to my grandmother’s garden as did the sweat running off my nose.  It never was too brutal to keep her out of her garden and the old sack dress she wore would run with sweat.  My grandmother was a Southern woman but unlike the heroines of a Faulkner or Wolfe novel, she did not glisten with perspiration, she sweated like a horse.

I paused, leaning on my hoe.  It was her pose I saw in my mind’s eye.  An old woman, with a face browned by the sun, wearing a big straw hat leaning on her hoe.  She was framed in bright summer sunlight, sweat running down her face.  She always defied the hot spells and I shall too.

I have memories of ice cold sweet tea and a watermelon cooling in the nearby stream.  Somehow the heat has made the memories a bit more sweeter…despite my sweating.

Don Miller has published several books.  To access them click on the following link.  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image came from worldatlas.com

Crime Sprees, Black Snakes, and Killer Birds

 

Pondering the meaning of life,  why nature can be so cruel, and the evil of man began with the theft of a trailer and continued with the murder of four wren hatchlings we had been monitoring in their little nest perched precariously above the front porch fan.  Four wren hatchlings we had been protecting from attacks from below when we should have been more concerned with attacks from above.

I find I’m much more distraught about the loss of four birds than the pilfering of my trailer.

I watched as a  juvenile black rat snake climbed the front porch swing chain looking for a way to traverse from chain to fan to what his reptilian brain saw as lunch.  I moved him…and later, the big brother he brought with him a half dozen times before my minuscule brain realized that if I took down the swing, he’d have to find another restaurant.

Sneaky snake must have enjoyed our time together.  He still hangs around as if waiting for me to pick him up again.  Ride me, Daddy?

It didn’t bother me the snake was trying to dine on jeune oiseau…after all, he was a snake doing what snakes do.  More importantly, I had stopped him.  The killer birds…I didn’t know I needed to stop them.

I never knew sparrow parents would attack wren young and kill them to ensure there is a steady food source for their young.  They must be new to the neighborhood.  There is no lack of food sources.  My wife has made sure of that.

I saw them hanging or flying around but was too stupid to realize they were up to no good.  We found the little broken and pecked bodies on the porch floor and with their distraught parents flitting about, felt their loss. 

I am telling myself, it is the way of nature.  I haven’t convinced myself.

And then there are the evils of man.  The trailer was just one of several grand heists over the years.    Bad people are found everywhere…and bad birds too.

The thefts began with a tractor stolen from the middle of my “hundred-acre woods.”  I ran out of fuel and didn’t return to where I had left it, literally in the middle of my forest, until a couple of days later.  I couldn’t find the John Deere and Winnie the Pooh wouldn’t help me look.  I guess Winnie was trying to get his nose out of his honey jar.  My nose was just out of joint.

An antique FJ 40 Landcruiser was taken from my front yard.  It was returned much the worse from wear.   A beautiful piece of Japanese engineering turned into junk.  The one time it ran after its return, “Kamikaze Cruiser” caught fire.  I hope the thief joins my beloved cruiser and burns in hell…well…metaphorically, I reckon…may be.

Not that everything has been “take, take, take.”  A would be Robin Hood decided to share the wealth.  A stolen pickup truck with two weeks worth of trash loaded in it, missed the curve at a high rate of speed, flipped and crashed into my creek.  It was laying on it’s top mocking a dead cockroach, two weeks of trash scattered hither and yon.  The old Ford had taken down my fence and my billy goat stood on top of the truck’s bottom as if he had ruled triumphant in a game of king of the hill.

I felt satisfaction when I learned of the malefactor’s capture, a young man found battered and bruised at a nearby restaurant frequented by our local constabulary.  I doubt the owner of the totaled truck got any satisfaction and I was left to clean up the mess that was left and mend my own fences.

There were other occasions to call the authorities.  Enough occasions to put together a pattern.  Every deputy who came out to investigate uttered the same family name.  “I’ll bet you  ‘Old so-and-so’ is responsible.”  “Old so-and-so just got out of jail, bet he’s at it again.”

I’m not going to say the name because I really don’t know if they stole my trailer or not.  If they didn’t it would be a first.  True to form though, as I met the deputy about my trailer, he brought up the same name again.  “You live pretty near Old so-and-so.  Bet it was him or one of his sons.”  Now grandsons.

I still haven’t seen my trailer, but the backcountry crime family tried to strike again.  This time it was my neighbor.  I slept through most of the event despite the blue and red lights flooding my yard at one until three A.M.  My neighbor filled me in.

A young man with the same last name as the redneck crime lord, a grandchild, was apprehended attempting to steal my neighbor’s travel trailer with a truck the boy had stolen earlier and elsewhere.  He even posed for a picture before attempting to flee after he realized no one wanted his autograph.

Attempting to escape in the stolen truck the clown prince of crime found himself reduced to running when the vehicle broke down at the scene and caught fire.  Poor baby.  He was later found hiding in a kudzu filled ditch…kudzu covering blackberry filled ditch.

I wish I had seen his dismay when he dove face first into the ditch only to find his soft landing impeded by blackberry thorns.  That had to smart…I wish it had been multiflora rose.  I do feel great satisfaction envisioning his surprise landing and ask for no forgiveness as I smile.

It seems the torch has been passed from one generation to another.  Grandfather to son to grandchild.  I wonder if the godfather of redneck crime is proud.  The old man showed up and according to my neighbor, just shook his head as if to say, “I thought I taught him better than that.”

My father told me once he could tolerate a thief more than a liar.  The reasons for his comment will remain between my father and me but I was in the wrong.  I understand his sentiment but would pose to him, “One might go hand in hand with the other.”

The image of the angry bird is from https://twistedsifter.com/2012/04/40-actual-real-life-angry-looking-birds/

Further tomfoolery may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Apologies to the Church Bus

 

In honor of World Naked Gardening Day, a short story of semi-nakedly “tripping the light fantastic.”

My apologies.  There are times when it’s okay to show one’s naked, blindingly bright derriere…well, my blindingly bright derriere.  Taking a bath or shower, weighing oneself, sleeping in the buff, skinny dippin’ or faire l’amour…I guess the last two or three could be related.  You’ll notice gardening wasn’t on my list because Southern gardens ain’t a good place to be naked.

I would say, unless you are in a nudist colony, baring your butt outdoors in your bean patch should be avoided.  ‘Specially if your bean patch is adjacent to a well-traveled highway during the height of mosquito season.

I should point out, here in the South, we have some three gazillion forms of stinging or biting insects just looking for the chance to attack a warm, yeasty area of the body.  We have another gazillion insects that are just downright irritating even if they don’t sting.

I digress, back to my point.  My apologies are for the three carloads of folk and the loaded church bus passing by while I was trying to get out of my shorts and skivvies.  My intent was to run and get behind my small stand of raccoon ravaged corn. Best laid plans and all.

I was embarrassed because it’s hard to get out of your shorts if you’re not trying to get out of your boots first and I just didn’t have the time.  I was embarrassed because there were no cheers emanating from any those vehicles as I displayed my butt and other body parts.  I guess it could have been the shock.

I was also embarrassed by the face and head plant into the stand of crooked necked squash plants when my boots became tangled in my shorts.  It could have been worse; the cops could have shown up.

Why was I trying to get out of my shorts and underwear one might ask? I promise yea shall be enlightened.

In a previous post, I admitted to weed-eating while wearing shorts because I found myself to be less susceptible to multiple yellow jacket stings that way.  Well…to be honest I wear shorts all the time this time of year unless I am picking blackberries or raspberries.  I have found yellow jackets to be the meanest of God’s stinging minions and can’t really understand why they were allowed on Noah’s Ark.  They’ll sting you just for the sheer joy of it.

One of the devil’s stinging minions decided my pant’s leg would be a great place to fly up and into.  Note to self, when wearing shorts choose jockey style underwear and not boxer style.  With the little bastard zeroing in on my soft inner thigh, just under my danglys, one might understand why I wasn’t too concerned about embarrassing myself in front of a church bus full of passengers.

Oh well, in case you were wondering, I avoided major injury or a hornet sting to my physical person.  I think the little devil was laughing too hard to sting me.  My pride might have suffered just a bit…and I don’t think some of my crooked neck squash plants will survive…hope the folks on the church bus do.  I’m sure they might have been blinded by the glare.

Hope y’all enjoy World Naked Gardening Day…me?  I’m staying out of the garden today.

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

Image from CNN Entertainment

 

Silly Little Birds

 

With forecasts of impending storms this weekend, we decided to move Linda’s spider plants indoors from the front porch to avoid the possibility of hanging baskets being blown all over “hell’s half acre.”  As soon as the plants were tucked away safely in the hallway two silly little birds began to flit and flutter hither and yond leaving my bride and I to shake our heads and question, “Again?”

Opening doors and turning on outdoor lights while extinguishing indoor lights solved the problem.  I wonder where they will spend the night since we moved their first choice of accommodations.

It is an act that plays out often around our house, usually in the late fall rather than spring.  A silly little bird hunkers down for the night in a spider plant, waits patiently as we move the plant indoors and then decides to take flight.  I should probably say something about the silly little man who forgets to check the basket to see if there is anything in it besides a spider plant.

I don’t know how many generations of Carolina Wrens we’ve raised on our front porch, but they come back, year after year, to lay their eggs and add to the population that brings joy to “God’s half acre”.   I’m sure we have become multi-generational…to the point, we’re running out of room.

I make primitive art out of interesting pieces of hollow wood and old tin.  Interesting to me at least.  More primitive than actual art, and more decorative than with actual functionality…except to our silly little birds.

What was to be bird feeder became a bird house before I could even fill it with seed.

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A painted gourd that looks like it might have been created by a three-year-old has raised multiple clutches over the past decade…except for this season.  They have avoided it this year…so far.

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A sheared off piece of wood with a hole makes a great place for a nest.  I think they like my artistic endeavors…although they did make a nest in a discarded boot I left unattended for a minute or two.

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Now the silly little birds have moved beyond my ability to create.  They have built a nest on top of the fan that helps to keep heat, humidity, and mosquitoes at bay as we sit on the front porch.  Don’t believe the fan will keep anything away this year…except maybe us.

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Addendum, I found this today.  Won’t be using the chipper any time soon.

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Silly but fun to watch.  Silly but they bring much joy.  I just hope their latest construction lasts until the end of hatching season.

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