Of Blind Pigs and Acorns…of Genes and Superstition…

and Pedro Cerrano.

I used an old saying I had heard all my life in my latest endeavor to write the greatest American novel. My stalwart hero used “A ghost walking across your grave” to describe a shiver felt by my heroine. I found myself on one of my pig trails.  The path twisted and turned before falling into a rabbit hole of old sayings, superstitions, and baseball as I researched where the saying had come from and my own genetics.  Once and a while, a blind pig might find more than an acorn.

One side of my family is diverse if family traditions are to be believed.  A large piece of my genetic pie on my mother’s side of the family is Scot Irish. According to family lore there are dashes of a Native American princess and an African seaman to spice up my pie.  I haven’t had a DNA test and may not.  I’d rather trust what I believe than find out the stories are fairy tales or out and out lies.

I am certain about the Scot Irish piece of the pie. All I have to do is look at a picture of my red headed, freckled faced, alabaster skinned mother and early pictures of my red headed and bearded brother.  When I gaze into my own mirror, I see an argument for more than a dash of Native American or African seaman…or maybe an argument for a Bavarian named Miller or Müller on my father’s side…ah diversity.      

In the early to middle 1700s settlers with the names of Perry, Rogers, Griffin and Morrow made their way South from the chilly North through Virginia’s and North Carolina‘s Appalachia.  Eventually they would settle in the fertile area around the Catawba River in northern South Carolina and bring sayings and superstitions picked up along the way. 

I ’m not sure how the side of my family with the surname Miller got here.  There seems to be an argument over its English or German roots. More research is needed.

Shivering a bit, I found that the saying that sent me down my rabbit hole should have in fact been, “A rabbit (or goose) ran across my grave.”  According to Appalachian lore, your final resting place is preordained and anytime an animal runs across the site of your grave to be, you shiver. 

I don’t remember my family being overtly superstitious…well my father with his Miller surname, always spit on the windshield of our car (yuck) and made the sign of an X any time a black cat crossed our path. 

From the Appalachians, the practice is believed to ward off any bad luck that some say follows the four-legged creature, long seen as an ominous sign of bad luck in the Southern Appalachians.  From my research, it appears that the sign must be made three times and that spit is not needed to ward off the bad luck.

Also, from Appalachian folklore, toss a pinch of the spilt salt over your left shoulder into the face of the Devil who lurks there. Always leave a building using the same door as you entered to avoid bad luck. “Nevah, evah” nudge an empty rocking chair lest you invite the wrath of evil spirits.

My favorite might be holding your breath as you pass by a cemetery so you do not accidentally inhale a recently departed soul.  That makes sense. I have enough voices in my head without adding a departed soul.

One that didn’t make sense to me was gathering acorns amid a thunderstorm and placing them on the windowsills to protect their home from lightning strikes. Not sure about that one, seems gathering acorns from under a tall oak tree during a lightning storm might be counterproductive as in dangerous. 

Another, for those of us with apple trees, remember to leave a single apple hanging from at the end of the harvest, lest they attract the Devil.

I coached baseball most of my teaching career and while studies show that the passing on of Appalachian superstitions is in cultural decline, I assure you, in baseball superstitions are alive and well. Much effort is made attempting to please the baseball gods.

In an age of non-wood bats, if someone goes on a hitting spree; everyone wants to use his bat.  Anyone in a zero forever slump, their bat was avoided like the plague.

If a pitcher is pitching a no hitter late, never mention it, don’t talk about it even in whispered voices. In fact just ignore the pitcher totally.

One of my teams used a “rally monkey”, dugout Ju Ju in the form of hand jives, and even had a model toilet to flush their frustrations down. Anything that might help appease the gods of the diamond.

As a manager, I never stepped on the white line entering or exiting the field of play.  That is bad Ju Ju for sure.  No, I don’t know why? 

I always looked for a red head to rub for good luck.  Not sure the young lady in the first-row bleachers seats appreciated me rubbing her. A bad joke. I looked for a red headed player to rub his head.

One of my biggest superstitions was to make sure I changed everything except my uniform when on a winning streak.  Baseball players are notorious for wearing the same underwear or socks, over and over again, unwashed until a streak comes to an end.  I made sure I stayed clear of dirty socks or underwear.

One of my teams went on a twenty-two-game winning streak.  No one washed their socks…except me and I only washed mine.  I didn’t check their underwear. I changed everything every game.  Socks and underwear as fresh as Arm and Hammer could make them. My players? The aroma from their socks was strong. Left unattended the socks might walk off on their own.  When the streak was over, we had a ceremonial burial of the socks in the deep centerfield outfield. Grass still refuses to grow there.

There are plenty of superstition in baseball. Eating special pregame meals, jumping over foul lines, putting an X or writing a message in the corner of the batters box or behind the mound, talking to the ball or bat while going through batting rituals, ala Mike Hargrove, the “Human Rain Delay.”

My favorite baseball film is the 1989 comedy, Major League. Much was comedy but so much of the comedy happens in real life or at least real baseball life.  The reason it is a favorite is the character Pedro Cerrano, the Cuban player who couldn’t hit a curve ball believing his bat was afraid. Pedro tries to cure his bat by using chicken bones, snakes, and a nonexistent Vodun god named Jobu.

From the movie:

Pedro Cerrano : Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straight ball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come.

Eddie Harris : You know you might think about taking Jesus Christ as your savior instead of fooling around with all this stuff.

Pedro Cerrano : Jesus, (Hey Suse) I like him very much, but he no help with curveball.

Eddie Harris : You trying to say Jesus Christ can’t hit a curveball?

I had a player who carried around chicken bones in his bat bag hoping the bat would gain favor with the baseball gods. No snakes, no cigars or rum…may be. I don’t know how he felt about Jesus Christ but he was Catholic.  Like most players, he struggled with hitting anything that bent unless it bent badly.

Me?  In a Pedro Cerrano voice, “I like to drink de rum and smoke de cigar. That is good Ju Ju for me.” I couldn’t hit a curveball consistently and I don’t think it was the bat’s fault. And Eddie Harris, I’m not sure Jesus could hit one either.

Enjoy Pedro in Major League via YouTube.

For more of Don Miller, https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3PWD3_Jlf68shjooz-h5Ll_pyiL0QWZXXc9w3K_UMn2eVm8-sdp4KydlA

An Accidental Comedian

“A misplaced modifier can make you an accidental comedian.”

I like hole-in-the wall bars but dark, dirty, and rundown drinks…no.

My friend Shupee, laminating business losses during early shutdowns due to the pandemic, presented me with a humorous mental picture…humorous and a bit X rated…but then that is the way my mind works.  Instead of offering some sort of moral support, he got a goofy smile.  What?  Everyone will find out in a bit.  First, I have to scurry down a pig trail looking for a rabbit hole. 

Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg address while traveling from Washington to Gettysburg on the back of an envelope.”  A large envelope I guess, Ole Abe was a tall man.

Being a retired history teacher, I wondered…did I ever? I probably did.  I remember a lot of stupid things I said…some on purpose.  As a faux writer and a non-English major, I have found another reason for my anxiety level to increase.  I wondered if my rabbit hole might turn out to be a buried landmine.  As if bad analogies weren’t worry enough, now I have to worry about misplaced modifiers.  As far as bad analogies, “The dew glistened like nose hair after a sneeze.”  “As tight as a tick on a fat dog.”  I actually used one of those, you can guess which.

My pig trail took me to Google, and there I found some of my favorite misplaced modifiers.

“Dressed in a diaper and drooling, Grandpa read a book to his granddaughter.”  I’m a Granddad with a granddaughter and I am at an age I worry about diapers and drooling.

“The patient was referred to a psychologist with several emotional problems.”  I suffer from clinical depression; do I really need a psychologist with more emotional problems than I have?

“David waited patiently behind a teenager with baggy jeans carrying a full load.” I’m cracking up a little.

“The homeowner chased the intruder wearing nothing but his underwear.”  Was the intruder trying to do a load of wash while he was intruding?

“The waitress passed the platter to the guest that was heaped with tangy barbequed ribs.” Well, I have covered myself with BBQ sauce.

Okay back to my original pig trail and it is a bit risqué. 

My friend lamented that he couldn’t afford to keep both of his workers, Doris or Jack.  In his West Tennessee voice he lamented, “I don’t know what to do. I’m gonna have to lay Doris or Jack off.” 

Smiling, I couldn’t help myself, commenting, “Well, I sure hope Doris doesn’t have a headache.”

He got it and I hope you do too.

Please leave any of your favorites in the comment section. I would love to hear them.

***

Most of my examples came from https://www.proofreadnow.com/blog/the-funny-business-of-misplaced-modifiers

Further of my meanderings can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3H8MbofI2YlIhiXG4jeByOO3vlOXPG1kGsP6xNJMnSfnA76bWPv3iaeQM

Image from Pinterest

You Know You Are in the South If…

Some kind soul sent me down a rabbit hole by asking, “If you’ve been away from the South for any length of time, how do you know you are home.” The question had more to do with “state of mind” than location. I took the thought and ran with it like a rabbit being chased by a haint.

I don’t know if all are unique to the South but decided to poke a bit of fun at our Southern peculiarities. Enjoy and don’t judge too harshly.

You know you are in the South if…

Travel a mile in any direction and see multiple Dollar Trees or Dollar Generals and three Baptist Churches on the same stretch of rural road or two liquor stores and two Baptist Churches on adjacent street corners. 

A church member introduces you as the new couple that moved in across from the “so and sos” when you’ve lived here for thirty years and the “so and sos” have been dead for a decade or more.

You can get a hunting license, bait, a tire fixed, a gas fill up, and a hot meal…out of the same building.

Your girlfriend…or wife can field dress and butcher a deer better than you can.

You hear the words “cooter stew” and immediately realize they are talking about a soup made with water turtle, not a woman’s “holiest of holies”.

Finally scoring a parking place at Mom’s Dinner and finding mac ‘n cheese, cheesy grits, and biscuits and gravy are all in the vegetable offerings.

At a wedding on a Saturday during football season you find the groom checking his ESPN App while the service is taking place.  Actually, a wedding during football season is poor planning.

After a funeral, the “Church Ladies” serve a meal consisting of a dozen casseroles and a like number of plates of fried chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs, and banana pudding.

On a two-lane highway to nowhere you see signs saying, “Repent!”…”The”…”Time”…”Is”…”Near” or Bible verses displayed one word per sign.

You pass “Now Entering ……” and “A Thirty-Five Mile per Hour Speed Limit Strictly Enforced” sign five miles from the actual town.

You are introduced to someone’s parents and must explain “where you came from” which has nothing to do with a location but rather with lineage.

Getting or giving directions that don’t involve map directionals but landmarks, “You know where that Jook Joint is, turn left.” or “If you pass the split rail fence you’ve missed it”, “It’s just t a little piece past the Tastee-Freez”, or “We’re right across from the red barn.”

“Over yonder” and “down the road ah piece” are valid directions and you know exactly where they are sending you.   

You use a heater and an air conditioner on the same day or you put up Christmas decorations in shorts and flip flops.

Service stations have overhangs with rocking chairs or benches for old men in overalls, rockin’ and spittin’. Oh, and lyin’.

You are unsure whether the tickle you feel in the small of your back is from perspiration or a mosquito.

When being told what someone is going to do, they use “ah fixin’ to” as in “I’m ah fixin’ to beat your ass.”

You are offered pickled eggs and a beer as a meal.                                               

You must change planes in Atlanta because you can’t get anywhere in the South without going through Atlanta.

The waitress at the Waffle House calls you “Honey, Sweetie, Baby, or Sweet Pea” with a Pall Mall unfiltered stuck to her lower lip.

Your History teacher was also the football coach and you got extra credit for attending the games.

You are having baseball practice but pause so one of the parents can showoff the “trophy” boar hog they just “kilt”.

You see people selling boiled peanuts out of the bed of their truck on the side of the road and drawing a crowd.

When preparing to make a casserole you turn the bowl over and see there is a name on the bottom that is not yours.

You realize there are more restaurants than you can shake a stick at with the word “biscuit” in their name and there seems to be a Cracker Barrell at every interstate exit.

There are more people who say, “can shake a stick at” than you can shake a stick at.

One hears Ma’am and Sir along with “Bless yo heart” a lot.

When you ask directions to the nearest bar, you receive a fisheye look and are told, “Bar?  You’re in the Bible Belt and this here is the Buckle!”

Or, the strip clubs are closed on Sunday so the girls can go to church.

You exclaim “Good Gravy”, and everyone knows it has nothing to do with gravy.

You find “to layer up” means sunscreen, bug spray, and lip balm.

You ask for a coke and the feller behind the counter asks, “What kind…we’s got Pepsi, Coca Cola, Nehi Grape, Sunkist, Mountain Dew?”

You find people will drink water before drinking unsweetened tea and the sweetened tea will set your teeth to hurtin’.

Beginning to say goodbye in the living room and finally finishing in the driveway forty-five minutes later.

Y’all come back real soon, ya hear.

Don Miller is a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, trying to become a successful author. You might help him by going to his author’s site and buying a book. https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR010oCvAXUraE8HYz65Dff8OYPrGxE5zuRZYqEV5U8cV8jCmbiQymwUG5s

Don Miller’s newest fictional offering, “Long Ride to Paradise”, can be purchased or downloaded at https://tinyurl.com/y8gx9q7m

Long Ride to Paradise: Tales of the Drunken Irishman Saloon by [Don Miller]

The map is from Wikipedia.

Venus Rising, Cynicism in Retrograde

Idealism according to the Oxford Online Dictionary is “the practice of forming or pursuing ideals, especially unrealistically” as in  “the idealism of youth” who we all know are ALL unrealistic.  Youthful Don Quixotes, chasing their unrealistic, idealistic, and impractical windmills…oh, how I love and miss thee.

The online dictionary supplied synonyms, one which caught my eye. Romanticism, “a movement in the arts and literature that originated in the late eighteenth century, emphasizing inspiration, subjectivity, and the primacy of the individual.”

I began thinking about idealism and from Romanticism, subjectivity, “the quality of being based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions”. I thought as I waited to hear the outcome of our election.  I have been thinking about idealism and subjectivity for the past four days as I write this…and maybe will be thinking about it for a while longer. 

My musings began as I watched Venus rise the morning after the election…Venus the Morning Star…“morning not mourning” I thought. Venus was the brightest light in the morning sky and was showing quite large to my eye…the Morning Star heralding a new day.

Like Venus, I am an early riser who, on good weather days, goes out and sits in his chair, lights a cigar, and meditates for a few minutes  while enjoying a cup of Folgers. “The best part of waking up is…” at my age, the best part of waking up is waking up.

I do not know which I noticed first, Venus or the cynicism oozing through my thoughts…I was depressed to boot, my thoughts scrambled like the broken kaleidoscope I have written about previously. 

Instead of brooding, I focused on Venus. The appearance of that heavenly body along with my meditations gave me a bit of hopefulness, based on nothing more than my “personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.” 

It is another day and Venus is just where it was yesterday, give or take a few minutes, a few degrees above or below its former position on the horizon.  The gas shrouded planet is where it was a thousand years ago, cosmological changes not withstanding.  I imagined The Morning Star might be near by in another thousand years.  My hopefulness grew.

It dawned upon me I might not be as jaded as I thought.  Mentally at least, I’m still the young idealist that left my teenage years for the adult world in the late Sixties and early Seventies.  I may be one of the nation’s older teenagers…an old hippie still waiting for the “dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”

I pondered over my idealism and subjectivity. I am dominated by my feelings.  Not very objective. Do not confuse me with the facts so to speak.  I either “feel” someone is right or “feel” something is wrong or if uncertain, according to my grandmother’s advice, assume it is wrong until proven otherwise. 

I have an open mind, I can be convinced of the error of my ways, but again, all things being equal, with no solid facts available, I go with my gut, my feelings.  If it feels wrong, it is wrong. I even took a personality tests that proved that very fact.

So…I have nothing solid to base my hopefulness upon other than my idealism and my subjectivity but, “Its going to be alright.”  There are more good people than bad, and I am hopeful. There are more forward thinkers than backward non-thinkers regardless of political affiliation, regardless of what state you reside in, regardless of religious affiliation.

I was hopeful as my best friend and I began our weekly morning walk at 6:45 on Friday. Venus had disappeared into the sunrise as we talked of peace, elections, religion and a plethora of other problems we could not solve. Maybe we walk too fast…or talk too slowly. We are Southerners.

We are polar opposites in our outlook on life. He the lifelong Republican, I the left leaning Independent who voted Democrat this cycle. He’s the life long Southern Baptist, I the…I’m no longer sure. I am hopeful because we have found common ground for over forty years and friendship upstages political or religious affiliation.

I am hopeful because of the smiling young lady who serves us coffee at our afterwalk haunt, The Tree House Cafe. The haunt is an eclectic and welcoming little hole in the wall and Lindi’s eight a. m. smile and laugh are brighter than the colorful tattoos peeking from below the sleeves of her sweat shirt. A bright and hopeful youth with oodles of energy early on a Friday morning…not mourning.

There are a group of high school students sitting around a large table, their laptops open and at the ready. I am told by Kristen, one of the owners, they are a study group from the local high school. Kristen is bright, smiling, and welcoming as always. An art teacher and artist, my guess is we share a bit of the same idealism.

The retired teacher in me wanted to admonish the students for not wearing facemasks but instead kept my mouth shut. The same old teacher watched their work from afar, their flurries of activity surrounding burst of laughter bringing a smile to my face. I’m hopeful despite the lack of masks and amazed at their early morning energy. I miss my days of warping the minds of our youth.

Our hope…our salvation is our youth, young people like Lindi, the study group, and young folk like them.

Despite my idealism it is time for an aging “dudeist” like myself to step aside and turn the world over to the young. We baby boomers had our time and royally screwed things up in my mind…my “personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.”  We need to see if the young can do a better job. We know longer live in the world of our youth…the new world doesn’t run the same way.

I’m hopeful the “rising” generation will be our “Venus Rising.” I am hopeful they will continue to pursue their unrealistic ideals and put wings to their dreams. I am hopeful they will ignore all of us who continue to try and put them in a box not of their choosing. I hope cynicism continues in retrograde even if it is just my own.

As I finished these musings I walked outside again. Venus was obscured by the predawn cloud cover and my hopefulness was tempered but only for a moment. The cloud passed and Venus reappeared heralding a bright new morning, allowing me to be hopeful again.

(For a definition of Dudeism, see below)

***

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR23wUPDyCrxyhUiWI0EHKFTmJjLwrAAXOC4Z5Y9Foz95T-JdxM4CkFZFB0

Because I couldn’t find a picture of the planet that I liked I chose SANDRO BOTTICELLI’S THE BIRTH OF VENUS, C. 1486…a picture of a painting I do like.

“Dudeism” is a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle inspired by “The Dude”, the protagonist of the Coen Brothers’ 1998 film The Big Lebowski. Dudeism advocates and encourages the practice of “going with the flow”, “being cool headed”, and “taking it easy” in the face of life’s difficulties, believing that this is the only way to live in harmony with our inner nature and the challenges of interacting with other people. I am a fully ordained Dudeist Priest.

Bull Nuts…Black Walnuts

I do not know how many black walnut trees I have in and around my yard, at least a half dozen maybe a couple of more. Too many this time of year. I know having one is too many. Worse, this appears to be a banner year for walnuts. 

“Deez nuts”, big ole bull testicle sized fruit lurking in the grass, just waiting to cause an ankle turn or if there is a breeze, just waiting to drop from the heavens like a World War Two Dam Buster bomb.  Thump, thump, thump. “Lawd hep you if you are under one of them.”

I’m watching one of my squirrels trying to carry one. He is funny, he can’t get the walnut through the chain link fence. Okay, he’s figured it out and is up and over. They can only carry them one at a time but they are carrying them with a frenzy. Every squirrel frequenting my bird feeders could work from now until all the cows come home and I’d still be tripping over walnuts.

Red Squirrel Workout | Body Soul and Spirit
Poor guy. https://bodysoulspiritwp.wordpress.com/2008/10/25/red-squirrel-workout/

Black walnuts have already shredded two hot houses forcing me to cut polymer sheeting to protect my bride’s tender plants.  Judging from the nuts still hanging from the trees, I’ll probably be cutting more. Gazing heavenward I wondered if I was beating a dead mule or whether I should head inside for the old football helmet to protect my head. 

Walnuts are not pretty trees.  Walnut trees produce wonderful milled lumber, pretty on the inside, not on the outside.  Sounds like the description of a blind date I once had.  “Well old son, she don’t sweat much and she’s got a great personality.”

When my bride and I renovated our farmhouse, we used black walnut and pecan that came from the property after a run in with a tornado.  Still…I periodically check the counter tops to make sure there are not black walnuts being produced.

The trees themselves are the last to put on their leaves in the spring and the first to shed in the fall.  They don’t shed single leaves but rather they shed entire “fans” of leaves.  Thin, twiggy shoots that clog gutters and defy leaf rakes and blowers and stain the green metal roof black. No beautiful leaf colors unless you like brown.  Left to me I would cut them all down…but of course, it isn’t left to me.

I am in the process of picking up the bull nuts…I mean walnuts.  Big green pods…maybe Jolly Green Giant nuts are a better descriptor? Big green pods turning black, the size of a cue ball.  You look at them and think, “Boy that’s a big nut with plenty of seed.” 

Big nut? No, that is the outer covering, the husk.  The husk is pungently acrid, turns your hands brownish black, and when striped away reveals a small, brown, hard, and corrugated nut.  The actual nut is about the size of a human…no, not a good descriptor. 

U.S.: Commercial black walnut production a "long-term goal" at Hammons -  FreshFruitPortal.com
https://www.freshfruitportal.com/news/2017/11/20/u-s-commercial-black-walnut-production-long-term-goal-hammons/

I should alert you; the easiest labor is picking them up.  Getting the husk off to reveal the nut is messy.  You will discover the nut itself is so hard it will withstand a hundred megaton nuclear strike.  All nuclear bunkers should be armored with black walnuts.  Okay, just a bit of an embellishment but when someone uses the descriptor that someone “is a hard nut to crack” they were talking about black walnuts. They are nothing like their thin skinned cousin, the English walnut.

An anvil and a five-pound sledge?  Crush them with a vice? Bagging them in a croaker sack and running over them with a car?  Dropping them from the International Space Station?  So much work for so little reward.  Impossible to get the nut out whole. 

Black Walnut: A Favorite for Flavor - State Parks Blogs
Well done whomever you are. https://blindpigandtheacorn./com/cracking-black-walnuts

Oh, but black walnut cookies are so tasty you say…and black walnut pie, or black walnut pound cake.  Sorry, I will take peanut butter cookies, pecan pie, and plain pound cake…or go to the grocery store and buy English walnuts for the banana-nut bread.

I guess good things take an effort.  I remember black walnuts spread out in my grandmother’s old crib drying, the green husks turning black and shriveling like scrotums in cold weather…shriveling, not turning black…unless you are Black of course.

I remember my grandfather’s anvil and ball and peen hammer in use before Thanksgiving and Christmas…I just do not remember the desserts created from them.  My grandmother was not known for her desserts it would seem.  Pounds and pounds of nuts to get a handful of meat.  A lot of hard work invested for low reward. 

I am not even close to getting them all off the ground and have already filled one garden trailer and begun my second load.  I wonder if I can give them away for Christmas gifts.  Here Bro, here is your croaker sack filled with black walnuts…”What, you expected me to crack them.  I love you but I love no one that much.”  “Wait…you can sell them for fifteen smackaroos per pound shelled?  Still not worth it.  I’ll give them away whole.”

The Hunt for Black Walnuts Yields Highest-Ever Price and Tasty Treats -  Hammons Black Walnuts
https://black-walnuts.com/press-release/hunt-black-walnuts-yields-highest-ever-price-tasty-treats/

Well, it is breezy and a bit wet so for my own well being I will not venture out today to the black walnuts.  It already sounds like boulders are being thrown on to our metal roof.  Tomorrow could be a long day. Bull Nuts!!!!

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1DzBqVKFYXlRQRirpJrr5VAdCV9O8YZto-krRTOrnbHNm1h9UWk85RPH8

Featured image of the squirrel on a chain link fence is from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/199002877267587450/?nic_v2=1a3SbW1kc

Oh Lawd, I’m Out of Crisco

Just had my yearly physical.  So far so good.  Blood pressure was great as was my pulse rate.  Weighed less than I did last year.  I still have some work to do.  Gotta go to the orthopedist next week about my nasty shoulder.  If you don’t remember, go to my post “Ha, Ha, Ha! Stupid Man Goes Boom!”  The post will explain if the shoulder if the title doesn’t.  I’ll leave the link at the end. 

I’m anxiously awaiting my blood work results…you know lipids, cholesterol, triglycerides, PSAs and such.  There’s a lot in the report I have no clue about.  Hopefully my doctor does.

Sugar…don’t forget the sugar…don’t want to come down with the sugar.  That’s Southern for sugar “diabetus” said in a ghostly Wilford Brimley’s voice.

I’m also several quarts of cooking oil low. Fourteen years ago, I made a lifestyle change.  I didn’t want to make the change exactly.  If you are more intellectually gifted than a rock, a heart attack and the resulting aftermath will cause you make lifestyle changes.  My Father’s voice joins Wilford’s, “Son, it is for your own good.”  Maybe, but I don’t have to like it.

While I might lean farther left politically than many of my Southern brethren, make no ham hock bones about it.  I am a son of the South when it comes to food and drink.  Southern fried anything, Southern iced tea so sweet it makes your teeth hurt, banana puddin’, bourbon glazed…anything.  Just don’t use the drinkin’ bourbon for the glaze.  I like to marinate myself while the ribs are smokin’.  The cheap stuff is on top of the fridge, the good hidden in the pantry. 

Make that once was a son of the South when it came to food and drink.  I gave up much to have good blood work.  No Southern fried grits nuggets…um, um, good.  If Paula Deen can deep fry mac and cheese, I can deep fry grits. 

As I write this, I’m considering what snacks I might eat while watching this evening’s viewing choices.  Some people might think popcorn…pretzels may be.  I’m thinking about breaded okra deep fried golden brown in Crisco with a side of pulled pork barbeque on white bread dripping with a yellow mustard barbeque sauce.  Maybe mayonnaise slaw for a veggie…wait okra is a veggie.  I’ve not gone off the rails. Just wishing…my snacks will probably involve air popped Orville’s.

Crisco…the “healthy” replacement for hog lard back in the day.  Growing up, it was a major cooking condiment. How quickly things change.  All those nasty trans fats. Crisco has removed them but still can’t outrun its reputation.

A solid at room temperature it melted in a hot frying pan and had a high smoking point.  Perfect to pan fried battered chicken or catfish.  Cheap, it was more easily accessible more than it was healthy. Crisco allowed us to save the butter for more important delicacies like buttering biscuits or making crust for pies.

I don’t know when my Nannie made the conversion from lard to Crisco.  She was a young girl when Smucker introduced the first one-hundred percent vegetable shortening made from cottonseed oil in 1911.  Cottonseed oil?  Cotton is a vegetable? There was a lot of cotton around, but if memory serves, we never ate it.  Now it is made with soybean oil.

The name Crisco is a modification of “crystallized cottonseed oil.”  Yum. Originally the name Chryst was suggested, with religious implications galore.  “Fry with Crisco! It’ll bring Grandma back from the grave!” Here in the South I don’t know if that would have been a selling point or blasphemy…I’m guessing the Southern Baptist would have eaten it up.

“You might be Southern Baptist if you woke up one morning craving fried chicken and interpreted that as a call to preach or you believe you’re supposed to take a covered dish to heaven when you die.” (www.kaydacus.com)

I remember the large blue tin with the red letters framed in an oval white.  It sat on a shelf within easy reach of the gas stove.  Seemed every meal featured something fried in Crisco.  Fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, catfish and hushpuppies, livermush. 

Tall and fluffy cathead biscuits made by cutting the Crisco into the flour with buttermilk.  The sound of cornbread batter being poured into a hot cast iron frying pan.  That explosive sizzle as cold batter met screaming hot Crisco oil.  I am salivating. 

If we weren’t frying with Crisco, we were frying something like fatback or bacon.  “Don’t you dare throw than bacon grease away!  Put it in this old Crisco tin, I’ll use it later.”  Flavoring gold it was.  Crisco is flavor neutral, bacon grease is not. Fried eggs, vegetables, hash browns (fried taters for my Southern friends) are simply better in bacon grease…as I remember.  “It’s been so long…Oh heavy sigh!”

In my transformed kitchen it is oven baked chicken in lemon juice, olive oil, and pepper, a crisp green salad with a vinaigrette, and sweet potato fries…the menu sounds pretty good. It just ain’t crispy fried chicken, potato salad, and turnip greens cooked with fatback, bacon grease, hog jowls or all three.

Well.  I just got my blood work back.  I’m as healthy as a ox…how do we know the ox is healthy? Anyway, cholesterol great, lipids great…and my sugar…my sugar is wonderful.  I think I’m going to celebrate.  Fried okra is in my near future.  It’s a year before I have to have blood work done again so I may add that pulled pork BBQ side dish.  Yeah, cornbread battered okra deep fried in Crisco.  No air popped popcorn for me.  “What do you mean we’re out of Crisco?…haven’t had it in years?”

***

Link to Ha, Ha, Ha! Stupid Man Goes Boom! https://cigarman501.wordpress.com/2020/08/16/ha-ha-ha-stupid-man-goes-boom/

Link to Don Miller’s author’s page https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2gV2t9D5mJMRXox9JEm7959hs95fSapi1K30KIYtQuAax8JRWvyZtuc70

Images of Crisco cans from https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/vintage-advertising-tins-crisco-paper-1727753671

Boycott the Boycotts

#BoycotttheBoycotts

Oh my, Ben and Jerry’s has squatted and fallen backwards onto a political cow patty…they have stepped in several over the years, but this is the one I’m sure will soil their starched khakis forever.  This time SOME members from the Right has called for a boycott.  This was a podcast chat or YouTube video with Jane Fonda.  Ole Hanoi Jane strikes again.  What did they discuss? I have no idea. #BoycottAllVideos

More food wars…more calls to boycott something.  Nascar, football…ice cream.  I say #BoycotttheBoycotts.

I’m really sick of calls to boycott.  It’s like listening to the greatest music hit of 2020. (As if there is any great music in 2020.) The ditty is good the first time, maybe the tenth time, but it gets so much air play, it gets old.   Calls to boycott because football players joining arms or wearing a “unity” or BLM sticker on their helmets?  That gets old.  Really unity? #BoycottUnityBoycott

When attempting to find a place to eat or a substance to eat how many of you Google, “What is the local ‘choke and puke’s’ political stance?”  No one right? Do you really?  Let’s see, boycott a bowl of “Booots on the Moon” because of a stand on Global Warming or White Supremacy?  I see, #BoycottBenandJerrys.

I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten Ben and Jerry’s ice cream but it has nothing to do with a boycott or a political stance.  I’m sure someone just shook their head in disbelief.  I don’t remember eating it, but I assure you it’s not because they are soooo liberal.  I mean I will eat at Chick-fil-a if I can’t get to Bojangles or Popeyes. Nothing to do with their conservatism…I just like my chicken spicy. More on that later.

Firstly, Liberals can make ice cream.  Secondly, when you are so far right, everything in the center looks radical. 

When I’m not making my own ice cream, I’m a Breyers or a Blue Bell guy, OUT OF HABIT…not politics.  Guess what?  I have no idea who makes Breyers or what their political slant is.  Same with Blue Bell.  I…COULD…CARE…LESS! 

As long as they aren’t serial killers, rapist, or abusers I…DON”T…CARE! Well there was Blue Bell’s  2015 listeriosis outbreak and Breyers cutting their milk content to the point some of their offerings were called ‘frozen desserts’ rather than ice cream.  #BoycottListeriosis, #BoycottFrozenDesserts! 

Boycotting is as ridiculous as the chicken sandwich wars from a while back.  God’s Chick-fil-a sandwich versus Satan’s Popeye’s sandwich.  I just heard Chick-fil-a is going to offer a spicier version of their chicken sandwich.  Does that mean they have gone over to the dark side? #BoycottGodlessSpicyChickenSandwich!

We’ve had some pretty effective boycotts over history.  Stamp Act’s “Taxation Without Representation”, The Montgomery Bus Boycott, Gandhi’s Salt March and Boycott, US sanctions against South Africa to end Apartheid and free Nelson Mandela.

Yeah, the Ben and Jerry’s Boycott of 2020 fits right in with those.  That will stop all their liberal shenanigans, supporting Black Lives, calling out White Supremacists, videoing with Jane Fonda.  A real travesty.  #FreetheChocolateChip…#BoycottJane #BoycotttheBoycotts

Most boycotts are pointless and harmful. Have you considered what a successful boycott might entail?  LOST AMERICAN JOBS!  You know those athletes you are grinding on?  They are already rich.  They probably didn’t start out rich, but they are now.  The owners are rich.  The networks are rich.  They can outlast you. 

What about the towel guy, or the court sweeper, or the Zamboni driver?  The guy that runs out to mop up sweat from LeBron’s brow? What about the janitorial staff?  The equipment guys?  What about the guy in the paper hat that scoops your chocolate chip mint into your cone?  They are the ones who will pay for your stupid boycott. #BoycottProSportsBoycotts

#BoycotttheBoycotts!  If I don’t like the pregame political statements I’ll wait until it’s over turn it on or put my hands over my ears, close my eyes and yell “La, La, La, La” at the top of my lungs until it is over.  I suggest you do the same. I won’t turn it off and walk away. #Boycottthewalkaway

If my ice cream is made by a right-wing wingnut, I’ll eat it if it is deliciously sweet and creamy.  I won’t eat it but once if it is not. 

If a protest for social justice is so reprehensible you wish to boycott it…you should boycott me.  #BoycottMe

Well, I’m going to prepare brunch for my bride now.  Guess what I’m not going to do?  I’m not going to worry about the political statements made by the chicken that laid the egg, the corn that grits were ground from, or the pig who gave its all for my sausage.  The farmer who supplied them?  We’re good regardless of what sign he puts in his field. 

I’m not going to worry about the stance of the workers who picked the broccoli, mushrooms, and spinach that will make up the filling of my omelet.  I don’t care if the cheddar cheese maker is a liberal or a conservative, a libertarian or a flat earther. 

I may have a bowl of ice cream later while watching a football game…it may be Ben and Jerry’s…it may not.  #BoycotttheBoycott!

***

The image is from Aaron Fooks, Protest Pointless Boycotts, The Chimes. https://chimesnewspaper.com/23827/opinions/protest-pointless-boycotts/

Stop by Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0G7zFoynNmQ5cF2WE-usnYnFgJUY_9NjLXDIRhTJmS5F_ipFre6D0NGOk

Adventures in Paradise

Martin Denny’s “Quiet Village” is playing in my head.  An early morning conversation with Margaret Dacko cued the music along with a mental side trip to a sandy beach with palm trees and tropical blue-green waters.

I gleefully follow the rabbit trails my mind takes me down.  Wandering is therapeutic, even if it is in your head.  I try to stop short of falling into Alice’s rabbit hole but sometimes….  “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there” or even better, “If you don’t know where you are going you cannot get lost.” 

My rabbit track resembled a jungle waterway filled with alligators, crocodiles, and hippos.  Parrots and other exotics darted in and out of the lush foliage that bordered both sides of the waterway.  Eventually it led to a pristine shoreline complete with coconut trees, emerald blue waters, ivory white sands, and of course native girls in coconut bras waiting on me hand and foot.  There may be a boat drink complete with umbrella in my near future..but doubt the appearance of a native girl.  Is that a sailing ship I see on my horizon?

Margaret Dacko is a former teaching chum and dear friend who shares my curse, being unable to sleep like normal people.  Sometimes, like this morning, we converse during the early, still dark hours via Facebook. 

Our conversation led me to Martin Denny, James A. Michener, Gardner McKay, and the South Pacific or Caribbean Islands of my youthful dreams.  There may be a jungle or two residing there too.

I wander down my rabbit trail to a Monday night in 1959 and an ABC program, Adventures in Paradise,  A program I sometimes was able to watch depending upon atmospheric conditions.  A snowy Gardner McKay starring as Captain Adam Troy of the sailing schooner Tiki.  Sailing around the South Pacific for an hour minus commercials, searching for adventure and romance, always finding a reasonable facsimile around the Tiki’s home port in Tahiti or the Pacific beyond. 

Theme from Adventures in Paradise along with stills from the series. YouTube

Our conversation continued and now I’m playing Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song” in my head, “Day-O, Day, Day, Ohhh! Daylight come and me want to go home.”  Later my memories trade Harry and Gardner for Perez Prado’s “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,” from the movie Underwater featuring Jane Russell’s breasts in a swimsuit.  I was a young teen when I saw them on NBC Saturday Night at the Movies…I mean it, saw it, the movie, saw the movie. I just remembered Jacqueline Bisset in the movie The Deep. Nice T-Shirt.

Perez Prado and his orchestra. YouTube
Underwater! | Trailers From Hell
A pair of nice ones…Richard Egan and Jane Russell. Movie Underwater. https://trailersfromhell.com/underwater/

As a child and young teen, I was drawn to my grandmother’s National Geographic magazines.  Monthly windows into a world far from the landlocked upper state of South Carolina.  Family vacations to Myrtle Beach or Florida would be as close as I would get to the exotic far off places I read about or dreamed of.  My pirate ship was a small Sunfish sailboat sailed on local lakes…my jungles, the forests of Upstate South Carolina. The Sunfish would be as close to sailing off into the sunset to a tropical island or jungle as I would come.

There would be other books or programs that drew my interest to the exotic, Mitchener, James Clavell or John C. McDonald.  Thor Heyerdahl’s real life exploits aboard the Kon-Tiki.  Marlin Perkins battling an anaconda on the Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.   Of course, there was Magnum P.I‘s Hawaiian paradise and the short lived Tales of the Gold Monkey as I moved into adulthood.

There were movies galore in my youth, usually B-movies shown late at night or Sunday afternoons after church. Tarzan or Jungle Jim with Johnny Weissmuller seemed to be a weekly offering. The Saturday morning lineup included reruns of Jon Hall’s Ramar of the Jungle and for some reason I’m seeing Rita Hayworth singing and dancing in Miss Sadie Thompson…hummm, “The Heat is On”. All would be considered socially unacceptable today but were important to my “Beach Boy” attitude.

The Heat is On Rita Hayworth

Even today, much that I read occurs in sunny tropical or at least coastal settings.  I seem to still be drawn to the exotic.

Pat Conroy’s stories set in Charleston, James Lee Burke dark mysteries along the Gulf coast and New Orleans, or Randy Wayne White’s Sanibel Island hero, Doc Ford.  I always thought I wanted to live at a coast…which is why I live as far from the ocean as I can live in South Carolina and still remain in the state of South Carolina. 

I haven’t gone to Tahiti or ventured below the equator to see the Southern Cross.  I still read about soft tropical breezes while roasting my own jerked chicken or coconut shrimp on my Weber listening to Margaritaville on Sirius.  I get to live vicariously through others in my Hawaiian shirt without leaving my recliner or backyard. Still I feel a bit of wanderlust…to the fridge for a Dos Equis or the margarita mix.

Maybe when I finally grow up, I’ll make that trip to Australia.  Maybe move to the Pacific side of South America or a Caribbean island, living my autumn years as an incognito Norte Americano expatriate, all mysterious, an odd little man.  Or maybe I’ll just keep reading, living the life of a want to be beach bum in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  I think I’ll get a flagpole and run up a pirate flag.  Now I’m hearing Buffett sing “A Pirate Looks at Forty” even though that is a birthday distant in my rear-view mirror.

A Pirate Looks at Forty, Jimmy Buffett YouTube

Thanks for the memories Margaret.    

My little piece of exotica. Martin Denny is again playing in my head.

The featured image is from Adventures in Paradise with Captain Troy at the wheel and an unknown guest star who I should know.

Please take a moment to like Don’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3nOBjsp8pBzGU8xJQhoSoZk0SvTPWGEhJEdHkZbe8Y14MMdUFm1IPSyBI

Ha, Ha, Ha! Stupid Man Goes Boom!

Figs, Fig Beetles, A Step Ladder, and Me

What Not To Do When You Fall Out of Your Treestand
A Figeater Beetle from the National History Museum https://nhm.org/stories/when-fig-beetles-attack

It was a beautiful morning.  I had a perfect view of the bright blue sky and the puffy white clouds chasing each other across it.  I turned my head to the left and noted the grass was a well-manicured, deep green and thankfully plush against my back.  To my right was a somewhat mangled step ladder.

I was reminded of the many times I lay in the grass as a child watching clouds, attempting to imagine what their shapes might be.  I might see a horse, or the North American continent maybe.  Chewing on a piece of grass watching Lassie with Timmy giving chase across the sky.  Godzilla headed toward Tokyo to stomp it flat.  This was not one of those times.

My mother-in-law has a huuuuuge fig tree.  Not just huge…it is huuuuuge!  And it is loaded with figs.  Three pickings into August and there are still ‘all the figs in the world’…plus one.  There are also all the yellow jackets, wasps, and huge figeater beetles in the world.  “Every rose has its thorns” and every fig tree little stinging bastards or beetles…big green, droning beetles with the grace of a C-17 Globemaster.  Maybe the weight too.

I hate to be wasteful and there seemed to be thousands of figs just out of reach, dangling just above my outstretched hand.  Enough to fill a dozen or more canning jars with preserves and enough left over for roasted figs in balsamic vinegar wrapped in prosciutto, or honey-fried figs smothering a buttered, cathead biscuit.  All I needed was the step ladder…and a biscuit.

I was doing well, balancing myself on the step ladder.  The little neighbor kid watching from the fence. A child of four or five.

I’d picked two Walmart bags full of figs.  Shake the limb so any biting bastards would skedaddle…but the fig beetles, some were slow to move…and even slower to change direction.  They isssss huuuuge too…some an inch long!  Lawdy mercy.  Big and metallic green, they have the agility of a drunken elephant.  It also appears they are easily confused.

These droning, drunken beetles are scarabs.  The same scarabs made famous by the ancient Egyptians.  The same family of beetles that includes dung beetles that spend their days rolling cow poop into little balls.  They are known to bury two-hundred and fifty times their weight in dung in one night. 

Why I asked myself.  Wish I had not asked.  They eat poop and hollow out the balls as a mating chamber.  How romantic.  What wine goes with poop?

Dung Beetle chilling on a dung ball. http://www.livescience.com

They are hard-bodied, not so little, muthaf@#$as that will knock you off a step ladder when they make solid contact directly between your eyes. 

I moved more slowly than it did, but I moved which caused the step ladder to mimic a drunken sailor bouncing off of alleyway walls.  Not so suddenly, I was laying in the grass watching clouds chase each other across a brilliant blue sky…and why I’m sitting here icing a shoulder and a hip.

What really intrigued me was how long it took me to fall from the fourth or fifth step of the ten-foot step ladder to the ground where I landed with a thump and a bounce.  In my mind I heard the kid snicker, “Stupid man went boom…ha, ha, ha!” 

I understand gravity, bodies accelerate at nine point eight meters per second squared.  With nothing to impede your fall, like say air or fig tree limbs, a body will accelerate at nine point eight meters per second for every second the body falls until it reaches terminal velocity. 

Newton lied!  It took me forever to fall from up there to down there and my feet were no more than a meter and a half, say six or eight feet, off the ground.  Well, they were probably higher when my feet and head exchanged places.  Thankfully, I never reached a terminal velocity, just a painful one.

I had time to think through my entire life story…but I did not.  While falling to my death, I did not want to think about why the little blond threw me over in the eighth grade. 

Instead, I thought about how stupid I was to get knocked off a step ladder by a big dung rolling bug. I still had time to plan on executing a tuck and roll when I hit.  Funny, it was more a flounder and flop in a cloud of dust…except there was no dust, just wet grass. “Ha, ha, ha! Stupid man goes boom!” Again the four-year-old in my head laughed.

Suddenly, there was the question, “Am I ever going to breathe again?”  That old air just exploded right out of my lungs.  Lawdy Mercy!  Logically, I knew if I just let myself pass out; I would breathe again…maybe.

The next few minutes were spent evaluating pain.  I’m still evaluating.  Painful bruise on the hip but not too bad…vivid colors to come.  My shoulder took the brunt of my death dive.  It hurts bigly! 

I worry I might have torn a rotator cuff.  That would be bad, I still have hopes of pitching in the Bigs…well, maybe I can try out for America’s Got Talent…me and my dancing step ladder.  Fig beetles will be not be allowed. 

Figeater Beetles on a Fig. Picture from wwwgardenbetty.com

Featured image was taken by Julian Paul and appeared in Wide Open Spaces: https://www.wideopenspaces.com/what-not-to-do-when-you-fall-out-of-your-treestand/

Don Miller is a retired teacher and coach who has taken up writing for his own amusement. He writes on various subjects and in various genres. Some would say he can’t figure out what he wants to be. His author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2I89J5GhYSWyipVxhVM2uJ16pfbTOd6lpYyuWOE6iBVwhvj7GKq2QubU0

  

When Football Comes Back Again…

 

…and it will…someday.

It is the middle of the second week in August and there should be sounds, sights, and smells associated with the religion that is football.

There should be the scent of freshly cut grass, the visions of early morning mists rising off the practice fields and sharp white lines gridded on dark green.  There should be the “thump” heard ‘round the world when leather shoe meets the leather ball.

There should be aromas of Cramergesic ointment or Atomic Bomb…and ammonia from sweat-drenched athletic wear left to dry overnight and smelly athletic socks.  There should be grunts and pops, and a groan or two as large bodies running fast make contact with each other.

From a parking lot or distant practice field, the shouts of band directors, trumpet blasts, and drumbeats should be piercing the heavy, humid air.  They should be the clarions of the upcoming season.  There should be a rattle of equipment as they rush to their spots before the silence of parade rest.

Somewhere a chunky kid with a sousaphone wrapped around his chubby body should trip and fall on his way to his spot.  Laughter should reign before the silence of concern.

Spinning flags should be cutting through the air as flag lines practice their half-time routines.  Twisting school colors flying toward the morning sun.  Instead, there is the silence of the Covid-19 Twilight Zone.

Cheerleaders would be joining the band’s spinning flags with flips, cartwheels, and tumbles of their own as they practice their cheers and their routines.  “Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar, all for ‘so and so’ stand up and holler!”  Unfortunately, like London Bridge, their human pyramids have all fallen, the little girl at the top has crashed and burned.

There are no sounds, sights, or scents…at least near my little piece of heaven.  Football season is on hold for a bit longer, maybe the beginning of next month…maybe not.  “All activities shut down until further notice,” due to corona concerns.  The powers that be may make another decision this week.

At Hardee’s, the weekly meeting of old men wearing high crowned baseball caps should be discussing the chances of the local high school having a winning season in between bites of sausage biscuits and sips of coffee.  If it weren’t banned, Marlboros and Salems would send smoke from their fine Virginia tobacco skyward.

Instead, they are discussing the chances of having a season at all along with pontifications of, “They just ain’t as tough as we’s used to be.  We’d uh played through the Bubonic Plague if in we had to.  You remember when ole Roger played an entire season with two broke lags and his helmet knocked bass-ackwards.  Yeah, these coaches and players ain’t nothing but a bunch of wussies”.  Says the equipment manager from 1968.

The local universities have begun “teeing” it up, giving us hope, as smaller colleges await word as to whether their seasons will even take place.  Entire conferences have canceled seasons or pushed them back to the spring.  Telling a player to check his facemask takes on a new meaning in the anything but normal environment of Covid-19.

I miss football.  Not just the “I played it and coached it for so long, there seems to be something missing” missing football.  This year is different.  Every year since my retirement I’ve battled myself, attempting to silence the little football voice in my head that whispers this time of year.

“Go on up to the local high school.  I’m sure they could use your expertise and experience.”  As I’ve gotten older and creakier, the voice has been easier to silence but the little worm is still there.  There still seems to be something missing.

The voice I hear today is a different voice.  This is the low bass rattle of James Earle Jones telling me football will be canceled for this year.  It is as bad as the Beatles telling me “God is dead”.

Bordering upon sacrilege, Southern football is akin to a religion with its sacraments and cathedrals.  We have our revered gods, Bear, Pat, Vince, Bobby, and Danny.  Yes, I know Danny is still among the living and Bobby is Bobby Dodd, never Bobby Bowden.

One hundred thousand seat sanctuaries sitting empty.  The choirs of bands and cheerleaders silent.  Tailgating prayer meetings canceled, stadium parking lots noiseless and unoccupied.  Sacramental beer and pulled pork barbeque abandoned for another year…maybe.  “My Dabo, my Nick! Why have thou forsaken me?”  Will “Go Tigers” or “Roll Tide” be heard at all this year?

I have hope but my hope is tempered with concern.  If football is played someone will come down with the disease…maybe entire teams.  Even with a fatality rate of less than one percent, are we willing to sacrifice less than one percent of our athletes for a football season?  Are we willing to sacrifice our children to football gods?  Was that blasphemous?

Football is a dangerous sport.  It is something that I lived with when I played and when I coached.  You are one wrong step from a career-ending knee injury or an illegal hit away from permanent brain damage.  Some would say you are brain damaged just playing the game.

My greatest fear as a coach was losing someone to a bad hit or heat issues.  We have done much to reduce the possibility of injury or death, but it is still there.  Football is a sport that requires contact in close quarters.  I don’t know how you reduce the contact and contact is what transmits the disease.

1968 equipment managers and ‘wannabes’ are chastising those who opt-out of this season.  I don’t chastise.  I understand the fear.  If I had a son, I don’t know if I would push him toward football even in the best-case scenario.

Football teaches lessons I don’t believe can be taught in other sports.  I just don’t know if those lessons are worth ‘acceptable losses’ and I don’t believe my desires have to be those of my son or daughter.  Except for the desire for them to be safe.

Despite what I once thought, football is not life or even a reasonable facsimile. It is a distraction for most of us, a diversion, and I don’t believe our distractions should cost even one person his life.

***

Don Miller was primarily a high school teacher for forty-one years and a coach for forty-five years.  Twenty-nine of those seasons were spent coaching football in what is a football Mecca…the Deep South.  His author’s page is at  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3H6APy6s1iIg6N1Cz5-RgcsnXmdrL3L47f2X_zzO1dKChLRG-NShnjbsk

The image is from Pinterest.  Clemson QB Jimmy Addison handing the ball off in the late Sixties.