Summer’s End

 

We need water badly.  Little rain for the past month has taken the starch out of the leaves, fall blossoms…and me.  A wet early summer has turned into a dry late summer.  A cold front is on the way…a dry cold front.  Rain is as likely as me eating Pumpkin Spice Spam…well, Spam period.

The dry weather seems to have angered the already angry yellow jackets too…I think my mere presence angers the yellow jackets.  I water my bride’s flowers daily so she doesn’t get carried off or bled dry by mosquitoes.  The yellow jackets appreciate the water, they just don’t appreciate the person laying it down.  Three have expressed a stinging rebuke of me over the past week along with two red wasps adding their own firey reprimand.  Fair is fair.  I dislike them too and retaliate with wasp and hornet spray.  “Die you little bastards, DIE!”  I may be as angry the yellow jackets.

My own anger comes from more than the lack of water or hostile flying assholes.  Less than a week from the Fall Equinox, despite the summer-like temperatures, I can tell the seasons are changing.

“All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven.”  Or, if you like the Byrds better, “To everything, turn, turn, turn.  There is a season, turn, turn, turn”…so forth and so on.

A change in wind direction causes falling leaves to swirl.   The wind still blows warm but the fallen leaves crunching underfoot turns the backyard into a minefield of sorts.  Searching for puppy leavings and not finding any until I step on them.  Not realizing I stepped on a turd taco until I get back into the house.

Being knocked unconscious by this year’s bumper crop of falling black walnuts or rolling an ankle over on those already on the ground when not paying attention.  I hate black walnuts almost as much as yellow jackets.

Oh, Lawd, gutters to clean out and what to do with Linda’s plants as the temperatures fall.  The power washing I didn’t get to do in the spring.  Wood to cut and split. Time to pay the piper I suppose.  “All things have their season” and ’tis the season of doing today what you should have done three months ago.

I’m of two minds…both very small.  I welcome the fall temperatures while lamenting the end of summer and the shortened days.  I don’t know why I lament.  I’ve been very non-productive this summer…can I be less productive in the fall?  Yeah….

Will we even have a fall?  Some years autumn in the foothills of the Blue Ridge lasts for a whole two hours on the third Tuesday of October.  Otherwise, it is straight from summer to winter.  The weather has been so crazy maybe this year summer will last through winter…”But the mosquitoes!”  It doesn’t seem to matter about the mosquitoes.  If they can survive in the sub-Arctic tundra, they will have no problem here.

Bonfires, hoodies, boots traded for flip-flops, Wranglers for shorts…there will be no bonfires if we don’t get some rain and I don’t ever totally put away my flips.

Store promotions ignoring Halloween and Thanksgiving while attempting to sell Christmas tree lights and tinsel.  It’s a month and a half till Halloween Wally World, two to Thanksgiving.  You’ve already turned your garden area into a bicycle area.  Slow it down a bit okay?

Pumpkin spice…pumpkin spice everywhere.  In an autumn beer?  In Spam?  Pumpkin spice should be limited to pumpkin pie and pumpkin pie…well…should be limited.  Does citronella come in pumpkin spice scent?  Pumpkin spice scented Deep Woods OFF!  I’m sure the mosquitoes would love it.

“To every season” maybe my problem.  Every time I turn around it seems I’m facing a changing season.  The realization that there are fewer seasons ahead than behind?  As God or the Byrd’s song reminds me, “A time to be born, a time to die, A time to plant, a time to reap, A time to kill, a time to heal, A time to laugh, a time to weep.”  I don’t know if I should laugh or weep.

Quotes are from:

Ecclesiastes 3, 1-8

“Turn, Turn, Turn” The Byrds, 1965

The image of Pumpkin Spice Spam https://www.spam.com/varieties/pumpkin-spice

For more click on https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

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Chicken Sandwich Wars and Other Useless Thoughts

“And just like that everyone forgot about the Amazon burning and started fighting over chicken sandwiches.” – Forrest Gump

Is the Amazon still burning?  Have seen nothing since Popeyes and Chick-Fil-A began to duke it out.  The battle has been joined by several other fast food empires as they try to control our cholesterol intake.

I wonder what has happened to the real arguments we once picked.  Pumpkin spice creamed coffee, green and red coffee cups that said Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, “taste great, less filling”, a tan suit and a certain President.  The battles we pick amaze me, much in the same way a bit of tainted chicken turns me into a porcelain throne hugging quivering coward.

Just saw this one….

Popeye's

I know this is posted as a joke but there are people who believe this.  If you are in a closet (Not a Pun), we had a Cat 4-5 Hurricane named Dorian slamming the Bahamas and presently looking as if it will miss most of the East Coast of the USA.  God must have forgiven most of us for eating at Popeyes despite its founding in Sin City South, New Orleans.  I see Charleston and the coast of North Carolina might be in harm’s way.  What did you do to incur God’s wrath?  Maybe you should “eat more chickin’.”

Has the Twitter war that began over chicken sandwiches turned into a religious war of words over good versus evil?  God’s anointed sandwich versus the Devil’s spawn?  If so I find myself on the wrong side once again.  Maybe…I really need humor or satire alerts.  I can’t seem to tell the difference these days.

I’ve never enjoyed Chick Fil A to the degree some people worship it and have been a Popeyes fan since I first ate its popcorn shrimp, dirty rice and slaw in Pensacola back in the middle Eighties.  Love those Cajun spices but I wouldn’t turn down a Chick Fil A sandwich and have purchased one or two or two thousand in my life. Nothing religious, just my eating habits.  My taste buds prefer Popeyes over most fast-food chains involving chicken…Bojangles’s Chicken Filet Biscuit’s pretty good too…Spicy!  You know, warm like the tropical breezes from Dante’s Inferno.

There have been calls to boycott one or the other for various reasons, LGBTQ rights or lack thereof and there have been not so subtle jabs since Popeyes ran out of their chicken sandwich and the fact Chick Fil A doesn’t open on Sundays.

chickfila-popeyes

Boycott?  Not very likely…unless it is KFC’s plant-based, fake as a certain President’s phone call to China, fried imitation chicken.  There are just some things a Southerner can’t eat and still bear to look at himself in a mirror.

kfc

I have consumed my fair share of fast-food chicken dating back to when Colonel Sanders was a young man and hadn’t yet been brought back from the dead by George Hamilton or…gasp…Reba McEntire.  Bizarro …Both Reba and George’s fake tan.  I prefer George Costanza’s reanimation of Col. Sanders anyway.  Let the Col. Sanders wars begin.

Gal

As a child, I would never eat fast food chicken any more than I would eat fast food fried bologna or fast-food TV dinners.  They were staples at my home.  Why would I want to eat something I ate many times during the week?  Fast food was for some exotic meal I didn’t usually get at home…like, I don’t know, a fifteen cent overcooked hamburger with a single dollop each of mustard and catsup along with a single dill pickle resting between two halves of a sesame seed bun.  Did we have hamburger wars between Hardee’s and MacDonald’s?  No, and we didn’t have folks on social media stoking religious disharmony either.  Wait…Wendy’s.

Wendy

I would say food wars should be fought over beef or chicken…again wait…one of the combatants in the chicken sandwich war has already thrown down that gauntlet.

Maybe the war should be over plant-based fake meat products served as chicken or hamburger.  That’s a war I get behind.  Tofu covered in barbeque sauce is still tofu and “parts is parts” shouldn’t include ground-up vegetables masquerading as meat.

tofu

Update:  A Tennessee man has filed suit against Popeyes.  Their crime?  False advertising because they ran out of sandwiches.  “Oh, the humanity….”

Not to be outdone a disgruntled Houston man pulled his weapon on his local Popeyes’s staff when told they were out of chicken sandwiches.  Somewhere there is a Florida man thinking, “Hold my beer.”

Guess I’m gonna have to get one of the devils’ sandwiches just as soon as they reappear.

Featured Image source was Twitter.

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

 

 

 

The Champagne of Bottle Beer 

 

I can remember the best beer I ever drank…can you?

I have a love-hate kind of relationship with beer.  Mentally I think, “I love beer,” in my best Brett Kavanaugh voice.  Mentally I should think, “I love ‘good’ beer.”  I’m not sure Justice Kavanaugh cares if it is good beer or not, just cold and in large quantities.  I also understand ‘good’ beer is a subjective term and I might not know what a good beer is should it bite me on my ass.  I’ve had many bad beers bite me on the ass too and any beer past three is a bad beer.

A video of a very young country “singer” triggered my thoughts.  Thanks, so much for sending me that at five in the morning Leland.  The young crooner was singing of “ice-cold root beer in long-necked bottles” and the thought of ice-cold beer took me down a pig trail to a hot summer on a loading dock or in my case an unloading dock.  I was between year four and five of my teaching career and working summers to help make ends meet.

Ten-hour days, eight on Friday.  Time and a half over forty unloading goods for a five and dime chain.  Big boxy trailers that had made the long ocean voyage from China, offloaded on our left coast and stacked on flatbed railroad cars headed east.  Off-loaded again in Greenville and hauled to me to be unloaded and broken down before being distributed all over the Southeast.  I remember thinking of my Asian counterpart slaving away loading the trailer I was now unloading.  He or she got the ball rolling as these goods would be loaded and unloaded at least one more time before they found their way to shelves near you.

I wondered why he had loaded so much dust and filth with the flimsy boxes I manhandled out the back of those trailers.  Now I wonder what life-threatening timebombs are waiting to go off in my body from that filth and dust.  Get back on the subject, please.

The subject was beer, the best beer I ever drank.

A six a.m. to four p.m. shift had ended and it was still hotter than forty kinds of hell.  The day had been spent in an airless trailer pulling out corrugated boxes filled with who knows what and covered with who knows what.  Every box I moved sent dust swirling in the airless trailer.  Even on the dock, the mid-July sun and humidity was merciless, pounding me like a superheated hammer on the anvil that was my head.

Bone weary and headachy, I drug myself to my car.  With no air conditioning, I dropped the top of the ’76 MG and headed home, fifteen miles away.  I remember being dry as the Sahara and stopped at a country mercantile featuring peeling white paint and rusting Esso and ice-cold Pepsi signs.  I could think of nothing better than an ice-cold Pepsi to relive the dryness in my parched head and made my way straight to the old waist-high blue cooler with Pepsi in red across a white field.

Pepsi

Opening it I found no Pepsis…or Coke.  There were no soft drinks in this cooler.  Instead, tall long-necked bottles of Miller High Life beckoned to me and I contemplated a change in beverage.

The woman behind the counter, a peroxide blond fireplug with too much makeup and carrying an extra fifty pounds in weight cautioned me, “That’s the coldest beer you’ll ever find as long as you keep the top closed.  You’re lettin’ the cold out.  You need to make up your mind.”

Sufficiently chastised, I made up my mind and was rewarded.  As I removed a Champagne of Bottle Beer there was an audible crunch as the ice gave way.  It was so cold it was stuck to the bottom of the cooler.  Promptly I picked a second one and after paying the blond fireplug headed to my car.

Huge oak trees formed a canopy over a wide pull off and I decided to enjoy my heavenly elixir picnic style.  I was rewarded with ice crystals in my first swallow…and the second.  I drained that amber potation in seconds.  I remember holding the still cold empty against my forehead, the condensation providing a cool bath.

After wiping my mouth with the back of my hand, I twisted the top off the second and drained it almost as quickly.  The beer went straight to my head and I was still a dozen miles from home.

I broke the law, but the law didn’t win.  It was a different time and I was still young and stupid.  This wouldn’t be the last time I drove impaired but maybe God does take care of drunks and fools.  At this stage of my life, I was certainly equal parts of both.

It would be the last time I had a beer, two beers, so good.  Believe me, I’ve searched high and low, and stopped at the little country mercantile enough times during the summer that remained to find out the blond fireplug was named Ramona.  She was a nice lady with a boisterous laugh and a bawdy sense of humor.

Miller High Life, The Champagne of Bottle Beer.  I do love a crisp pilsner so cold you have to snap it off the bottom of an ancient Pepsi cooler.  I wonder…no…I’m sure it would be a wasted trip.  I’m sure the general mercantile only exists in my mind…just like the best beer I ever had.

6bf4dc5d857e7596f4fbc5c76aafa61c--beer-signs-tin-signs

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

 

King of Syrups, All Hail King

 

I have a sweet tooth I must guard as tenaciously as we should be guarding our nuclear launch codes…not a good analogy because I slip up and let my guard down.  While letting my sweet tooth guard down might equate to an increase of a pound or five on my bathroom scales, letting your guard down concerning the launch codes could equate to increases in radiation levels and nuclear ash swirling about.  I’ve seen too many end of the world movies.  This morning my end of the world scenario involves my sugar and fat cravings.

I awoke with a hankering.  I flat out fancy something sweet.  To avoid such scenarios, I have made my fridge and pantry a post-apocalyptic, barren wasteland of sweet treats.  If not, I would be chin deep licking the container from a former half-gallon of Breyer’s Chocolate Chip Mint ice cream or reaching into the bottom of a bag of Hersey’s Dark Chocolate minis I had just opened.

Absolutely…No…Willpower.  Twice I’ve walked over to the freezer to see if there was something sweet hiding behind those frozen Lean Cuisines.  This is despite knowing, “There ain’t nothing there!”  Wait…I wonder if Linda has something stashed in her purse…“F@#$ Me!”

My cravings have taken me down one of Alice’s rabbit holes.  Instead of enjoying a cup of tea with the Mad Hatter I’m thinking about thick, lard infused, buttermilk biscuits, “runnin’” in butter, topped with King Brand Golden Syrup.  Even those cravins’ are for naught.  No lard, no freshly churned butter, and no King Syrup.

As I mentally toast the Mad Hatter’s similar insanity, I regale him with stories of peanut butter and Missouri cookies served by my grandmother.  They too are favorites from my youth, but for some reason, this morning it’s biscuits and King Brand Golden Syrup.

Biscuits and honey, you say Mad Hatter?  I would not turn it down…it’s just that in the memories of my youth it wasn’t honey, it was Golden Syrup…or maybe molasses…”Wait! I have molasses…a little toast drizzled in blackstrap molasses!”  Nope!  It ain’t what I want.

Growing up in a Southern rural area one might think I would crave honey…or sorghum.  One would be wrong.  I found sticky, sweet heaven in a large, red labeled metal can featuring a lion’s head and a pry-off lid.  Made in Maryland, somehow the syrupy ambrosia found its way South to the shelves of Pettus’s Store.  From there the contents had found their way onto the cathead biscuits my grandmother had made and placed before me.   A dessert fit for a King…or made by a King…All Hail!

Some people don’t consider biscuits and sawmill gravy a meal.  My guess…those same people would not consider butter covered biscuits drowning in a King Syrup a dessert.  Their loss…and mine cuz I ain’t got none.

Well, Mad Hatter…I’ve no biscuits and no King Syrup.  All I have are the memories of a small kitchen and the narrow dining area that went with it.  The warm biscuits on a chipped china plate with freshly churned butter. and the red labeled tin waiting at the ready.

My heart is thankful for the memories and much “heart” healthier because the memories are all I have…until I get myself to a grocery store.

For further trips down a rabbit hole, Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

Bookmarks From My Book of Life

 

I’ve sung, played and danced badly all my life.  Some of my earliest memories include the old upright in my grandmother’s hallway, my uncle’s mandolin and the whiny bluegrass he sang…”Blue moon of Kentucky….”  Singing, first in the youth choir at church, then in the adult choir, the high school chorus and playing in the concert band, the college band and a brief stint as a discordant sax playing rock star.

Participating in a men’s quartet singing “Just Have a Little Talk With Jesus,” my thin baritone joining in at the Fifth Sunday Night Sing.  My Uncle James making a not so joyful noise unto the Lord, my cousins and I trapped in the cab of the old flatbed truck as we moved hay bales or corn to the songs he sang.  I’ll say this, he sang praise tunes with great gusto and vigor, but if notes were water molecules, he couldn’t have found one while standing in the ocean.  It didn’t stop him from trying.

I guess what I’m trying to say, on this fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock and the death of Easy Rider’s Peter Fonda, music has played prominently in my life…if not a backdrop for my life, a bookmark.  “Don Miller, A Rock Opera.”

Dancing in the privacy of my room to the songs played on WLS, Chicago.  Beach Music at The Cellar as a young adult.  A cute redhead, and Eddie Floyd singing “Knock on Wood” as I danced badly with her at a rural jook joint outside Newberry.  We danced badly around a divorce later.  Not all bookmarks lead to soothing anodynes.  Some are like sleeping in a patch of prickly pear cactus.

Doing the horizontal rumba for the first time in the backseat of an old Ford while Lou Christy sang “Rhapsody in the Rain”.  Humm.  That earlier relationship didn’t end well either, but I don’t believe it had anything to do with the music.

The movie Easy Rider was an eye-opener and for me heralded a change…although it might have taken forty years for the change to occur.  I’ve only recently embraced my hippie self.  I was a rhythm and blues, beach music, soul music kind of guy…probably still am but sitting at a drive-in with the cute redhead who became ex-wife number one, I became mesmerized, not by the film but by the soundtrack.  Later, I would add the complete Woodstock to my album collection…wonder what happened to those bookmarks, the albums not the ex-wife.

I walked today as I do nearly every day, my playlist playing in my earbuds, just like every day.  Today there was a little dance step to my walk as I thought about Peter Fonda.  I decided to dial up my Easy Rider playlist that includes three different versions of “The Weight”.  One can never get too much of a good song.  

I think I scared a local woman smoking an early morning cigarette on her front porch as I belted out “Born to be Wild”.  I flushed a pair of mourning doves, mourning my off keyed version of “A Little Help From My Friends” while doing my best Joe Cocker impersonation on the double lane. “Don’t Bogart that joint my friend….”  Fun memories bookmarked in my mind.

Some of the bookmarks haunt me but even those trigger warm memories. Ghost stories of friends now gone.  My coconspirators in crime the summers of ’68 and ’69 are both gone to the great cosmic rock concert that is the afterlife.  I miss them almost as much as my lost youth of the same time period.

I wrote about a haunted pink iPod in an earlier blog from a couple of years ago.  A former love now dead gave me the Crosby, Stills and Nash album that featured the song “Southern Cross.”  It’s a song about a long boat trip taken by a man trying to heal his wounds after a bad divorce…what is a good divorce?

We were both wounded, and the song spoke to us as we tried to console each other in ways men and women have been consoling each other for all recorded time, I guess.  After she died, I put the song on my playlist and for some reason, no matter how many times I changed the playlists, the lament was always there…haunting me along with her.

“When you see the Southern Cross for the first time

You understand now why you came this way

‘Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small

But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a coming day”

 

We were never truly in love, more like friends with benefits, but she is still one of the bookmarks that haunts me.  The old iPod is long since been retired but she is a bookmark, like Easy Rider soundtrack or an old Gospel tune that triggers warm memories in my book of life.

“So I’m sailing for tomorrow, my dreams are a dyin’

And my love is an anchor tied to you, tied with a silver chain

I have my ship and all her flags are a-flyin’

She is all I have left and music is her name”

Music is her name and I call to it often.  For the complete song…

 

 

Quotes and video are from the song “Southern Cross” and the album Daylight Again by Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

Don Miller writes badly about many subjects, both fictional and only somewhat embellished.  For more, go to his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The featured image is of Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson, and Dennis Hopper.  It is from a movie review https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/easy-rider-review-movie-1969-1221117

Aging Gracelessly Redux…. 

 

Oh,  I’m feelin’ it this mornin’, the morning after my weekly visit with Hawk.  Five miles on the Swamp Rabbit, solving all the world’s problems before enjoying an after-walk cup of coffee at the Tree House.  That’s just in case it’s been a problematic week and we need more time to solve those problems.  Lately, they’ve all been problematic, and no one listens to us anyway…well, they listen to us at the Tree House and that’s one of the reasons we keep going.  They think we are the bee’s knees.

Yeah, I’m feelin’ it as in feeling old, very old.

I do about twenty-five miles of walking during the week hoping to put distance between myself and the ominous figure caring the old-fashioned scythe.  Despite my best efforts, the distance between us is shortening.  As Hawk continues to tell me, “We ain’t gettin’ out of this alive.”  No, but I’m going out kicking and screaming…just like he is.  I want to be a burden on my child and grandchildren for a long time.

Hawkday Friday is the only day of the week I set an alarm and it throws my whole system out of whack.  Aging creates creatures of habit, I guess.  I am so out of sorts waiting for the Big Ben to go off.  “Did I remember to wind it?” Am I the only guy who must get up two hours ahead of time to make sure all systems “are a go?”  Friday mornings my “systems” always send out messages.  “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” 

I take my wife a cup of coffee at five-thirty because she is as crazy as I am and invariably, she mutters, “I don’t know why in the “firetruck” y’all can’t walk at a decent hour.”  I don’t know either except that it is easier to deal with my own disfunction than Hawk’s.  “And besides, you went to high school with him and learned similar dysfunctions.” He wants to walk at six to keep away from the sun and just because. I want to walk at seven-thirty to get into the sun and just because.  Opposites do attract.

So, I’m up at three-thirty and feeling like a dead man.  I had trouble falling asleep.  Late at one end of the day, early at the other makes for a grumbly old guy.  I could blame Hawk’s goofiness but to be honest, it’s just as much mine.  “How long before the alarm goes off?”

Who lays awake worrying about lying awake?  I do, that’s who.  When my bladder drives me out of bed in the middle of the night I worry about when the alarm is going off.  “Don’t look at your watch, you’ll only worry about going back to sleep.  Don’t look I said.  You’re a dumbass, you looked.  Jeez, I gotta get up in an hour.”  I might as well get up now, all I’m going to do is worry about having to get up.  Jeez, forty-five minutes, thirty minutes, etc. and finally I fall back to sleep…thirty seconds before the alarm goes off.

I feel as though I have been beaten.  My aging body has become an alien thing…as alien as Ripley’s Alien Queen and just as nasty at times.  An ever-changing sack of tiny aches and pains, a “thousand little paper cuts” kind of agony.  Nothing major, just my sagging bag of bones letting me know what I did yesterday, maybe the day before, maybe the hit I took in a football game fifty years ago.

Once I jumped out of bed in anticipation of the day to come, now I ease-out, one toe at a time, hoping I don’t pull something before my feet hit the floor.

Sagging bag of bones…. Did you know besides your hair and nails, your nose and ears are the only body parts that continue to grow as you age?  I don’t mean stretch as in sag…that’s kind of funny looking.  It would be funnier if it was someone else. Damn you gravity.

I mean body parts that actually continue to increase in size.  God must have a twisted sense of humor.  If I live long enough, I’m gonna look like a caricature of Ross Perot…according to the mirror, I already do.  A truly loving God would have given me hope in another area and a reason to get rid of my big ole four by four.

Every morning I wake up as the dark-headed, dark bearded young man of forty years ago.  I walk into the bathroom and yell in my head, “Don’t look in the mirror.  Don’t do it!  Boo, you looked.”  The vision in my head is a mirage, replaced by the image in the harsh light of the mirror.  An old guy with a bigger nose and ears than last night, with less hair and more wrinkles turning into crevasses.

Still, as Hawk and I discussed, we are better off than a lot of our peers.  We’re still mobile, hostile, agile…and delusional.  Youth is a state of mind and we are still in diapers…or are heading back to diapers?  We still have a childlike wonder about the world.  We still wonder what we are going to do when we grow up.

I’m a gluten for punishment and out of habit I walk again this morning.  I walk alone with my earbuds until I meet a pretty blond runner, her long ponytail bouncing, blue eyes twinkling.  For a moment I remember being thirty.  As I continue my walk, we pass each other three more times.

Finally, I ask, “How far are you going today?”

A big smile followed, “I’m doing eleven.”

I shook my head and returned her smile, “I remember those days, long runs on Saturdays.”

“How far are you walking?”

“Near five.”  She smiled, gave me a thumbs up and shouted “Great job” before continuing on her way.

My heart melted a bit and I thought, “You know your knees feel pretty good.  Maybe a little running next week. Maybe if I’m careful I can do a marathon by the time I grow up.”  I don’t know, I’m sure a nap will cure those thoughts.

For the clarification of those who don’t live in the area:

The Swamp Rabbit Trail is a fitness trail that runs from above Travelers Rest, SC through Greenville, SC.  It was named after and follows the route of a short spur railway once called The Swamp Rabbit.

The Tree House is the Tree House Cafe and Studio, which sits next to the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Travelers Rest.  Great coffee, sandwiches, great service, and great company.

Don Miller writes on various subjects, non-fictional and fictional, and can be found at  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM.

Lena Christenson, Don Miller’s feminine pen, has released a new book, Dark Tempest, a suspenseful romance with a hint of the erotic.  Lena can found at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

The image, Old Man Loves Smoking Cigars, is by Greg Cartmell and may be purchased at https://gregcartmell.com/product/old-man-loves-smoking-cigars/

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

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