Running Delight

 

A simple joy?  I ran…I jogged…I shuffled my feet…slowly.  Call it what you want but “jogging” seven minutes out of fifty-six brought a river of “good” endorphins and a bit of hard breathing.  Little “feel good” opioid peptides that have raised my spirits at a time when my spirits have been quite low.

To think, I sooooo hated running…I still hate the actual act of running.

I flirted with exercise my entire adult life.  Flirted like the unsure introvert gazing wishfully at the beautiful homecoming queen from across the room.  I’d contemplate asking her to dance and then take a good look in the mirror as I straighten my tie.  Why would she be interested in dancing with me?

Similar to the pain of rejection, running was painful.  Aching muscles, being short of breath, the queasy stomach after strenuous exercise…and…left to my natural state, I’m basically lazy.

The mirror suggested, “You don’t look like a runner…you are too round, your legs are too short, your feet are too big.”  Compared to a thoroughbred horse, I was at best a mule, at worst a donkey…built for carrying burdens not speed.

A birthday gift from hell changed the way I looked at myself in the mirror.  I embarked on a running program six weeks after a birthday heart attack in 2006.  After the heart attack, I decided the homecoming queen could be damned.

Four stents overcame a life filled with Southern cooking, I completed cardiac rehab and embarked on a walking program.  An old school coach, I just didn’t feel the “no pain, no gain.”  I needed to hurt…and I did.  I needed to pay for those caloric indiscretions of my youth…and I did.  I used the “Couch to 5K”1 workout and found the pain to be manageable.  I also found there were unforeseen benefits.

My feet were still too big, my legs will always be too short, but I wasn’t as round…sixty-two pounds less round.  Those changes or lack thereof were foreseen.  It was the changes in my mind I didn’t foresee.

I have battled depression for over forty years and suddenly my broken kaleidoscope of a brain seemed to reset itself.  There were days I still battled but the din of battle had quieted.  The voices in my head whispered instead of yelling.

There were (are) still days when I didn’t want to get out of bed, but they were less numerous and harsh.  I had a reason to get out of bed…my early morning run.

Running for me was like the guy hitting himself in the head with a hammer.  It hurt like hell while I did it but, “It felt so good when I stopped.”

I wasn’t satisfied with 5Ks and continued to push through 10Ks and half-marathons.  I even wrote down a marathon on my bucket list and began to train.  For five or six days a week, I battled my body instead of my mind.  I was addicted.  I wasn’t fast and would win no races.  I might win in my age group if everyone in my age group had died.

My running wasn’t about competing with others it was about competing with myself.  My running was about finishing a workout or finishing a race.  I could put a 13.1 bumper sticker on my Jeep and look in a mirror and say, “I am a runner!”

And then I wasn’t.  On my last run before a half-marathon in 2015, a misstep opened a can of worms.  For two years I hobbled through workouts, tried to prepare to run only to reinjure myself until I decided I was being hardheaded and put my pain into a doctor’s hands. A torn meniscus was an issue…also the discovery of early-onset osteoarthritis.  “A knee replacement is in your future,” he said.  I wish I had never gone.  I wish I had never found out.

For two years I have walked or rode a bicycle and mentally bitched over every mile. Walking doesn’t do it for me.  Cycling doesn’t blot out the voices in my head no matter how much I crank up the volume.  Walking fails to reset my brain.

This winter season has been the worst.  The SAD and depression had laid me low until the New Year.  I decided to run…jog…shuffle my feet.  A different program, a thirty-second jog out of every two and a half minutes the first week, a minute out of three the second, the same next week.2  Twelve weeks to a 5K.  I feel like a baby taking his first steps, but I am hopeful.  Even my walking days have been…hopeful.

I am also going to be smart.  Three days a week only, on the grass, not the pavement, no back to back days no matter how many workouts are rained ut.  Good shoes and braces.

I scratched the marathon off my bucket list.  It will never happen.  I do hope to do a 5K even if it is a walk/run…jog…shuffle.  Anything to reset my mind.  Anything to keep the negative voices at bay.  Anything to repair the broken kaleidoscope.  Anything to get my mojo back.

1 Couch to 5K  http://www.c25k.com/

2 None to Run Plan https://www.nonetorun.com/

Don Miller writes on many subjects, fiction, and nonfiction.  His author’s page is https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 Sittin’ on a Cactus

 

“Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it.”  Joyce Meyer

I’m trying to be positive, but I hold no notion 2020 will be any better than 2019 unless I take the cacti by the thorns.  I remember thinking 2018 was awful….  Now 2019 has been awful.  I think you get what you expect, and I’ve been expecting nothin’ if not the worse.

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions anymore per se.  Why take the time when you are going to break them.  I set goals…I break them too but try to climb back on the horse whenever I fall off…until lately.  Lately, I’ve chosen the easy way, to lay in my bed of cactus and sleep in it.

As I look at the “coming New Year” posts I made from 2016, 2017, and 2018, it would appear we are…or I am…in a downward spiral.  A toilet bowl kind of spiral.  I have a vision of a large turd with my face on it going around, and round, and down. and down.  Too dramatic?  Sorry, just the way I feel.

I am sitting in the dark, listening to rain pelt down against my metal roof trying to take inventory of the previous year.  I probably need to turn on some lights, my depression is getting the better of me.  My inventory tells me I haven’t accomplished very much…and sadly, I’m feeling okay with having done absolutely nothing I needed to do in 2019…2018…etc.

I once looked at the New Year as a painter looks at a blank canvas.  What kind of brilliant colors can I put on my canvas?  Who am I kidding? I can’t draw a stick figure that looks like a stick figure and my 2019 canvas is still blank…blank?  Blank to the point of being transparent.  I seem to be sucking the color out of my life and planting more cacti.

Even the simple things seem to escape me.  I’m still trying to lose the ten pounds I needed to lose in 2016.  By God!  I’m going to do it this year!  Or maybe next.  Should I put a check in the box because it is still just ten pounds…maybe, I haven’t weighed today, and yesterday and the day before were long days of TV football and pizza eating.  Let’s look shall we…nope can’t check that box.  Tomorrow?  2021?

I’d like to resolve to enjoy life more…something I’m not doing…and so little time left.  If I resolve I make a resolution so I can’t do that for fear of breaking it.  

Sometimes my lack of motivations are external forces at work but this morning I look in the mirror, I point a finger, scrunch up my face and yell, “Really?  It’s your fault.  Get off your ass and do something with that potted cactus.”  It is my fault.  I am choosing to sit on the cactus.  It seems easier to deal with the pain than do something about it.

Years ago, I had an old fart tell me his biggest issue with growing old was having no dreams.  The old fart was younger than I now am.  Not sleep dreams, old farts still have those.  Accomplishment dreams, relationship dreams, aspirational dreams are no longer there.  Young men have dreams, old men have memories…or regrets.  I believed him to be full of ”**it.”  Not so much now.

My goal is to change my outlook.  I still won’t have aspirational dreams; those days are gone unless it is aspiring to get out of bed.  I can have accomplishment dreams and relationship dreams.  I can add to my memories…somehow.  I have some ideas, some things to think about.  Positive thoughts on how to change the direction my brain is taking me.  We’ll see.  You’ll have to wait until the end of 2020 to find out.  “Tune in next year….”

If I made a New Year’s resolution, it would be to“quit wallerin’ on a cactus and destroying the blooms”…the good things.

Set some easy goals at first like losing a pound ten times instead of saying you had to lose ten pounds all at once…or fifteen and if you fall off the wagon, climb out of the cacti.  Maybe quit eating Oreos and drinking chocolate milk as a midnight snack…that might get the job done right there…but the Oreos!

Take care of the little things, the easy things daily, and maybe the big things won’t overwhelm you.  Remember that no problem ever gets better on its own.

To all a Happy New Year and a wish for us all…

“I hope there are days when your coffee tastes like magic, your playlist makes you dance, strangers make you smile, and the night sky touches your soul. I hope there are days when you fall in love with being alive.”–Brooke Hampton

Don Miller writes on various subjects both fiction and non-fiction.  His author’s page may be found at https://www.facebook.com/cigarman501/?eid=ARBT–kBkSHJV1fxQoDO_FML7NeUu6ktF4-9U4AQ6u3WdIzjy__fU6WDa_wF0AlHkp3VPIxEzVnOBjkb

Or https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

A Pig in a Poke

 

The dryer went out last night.  This morning I’ve already ordered a replacement heating element and watched a video on how to replace it.  I can do this…if I can stay away from one of the voices in my head.  It’s Natasha Negative, she’s reminding me that I’m a f@#$ up when it comes to home repairs.

The element won’t be here until tomorrow and it is pouring rain outside.  I have plenty of time to follow the pig trails my thoughts have traveled this morning…like ordering a heating element sight unseen from a very large and rich internet company.  I have ordered a ‘pig in a poke’…and it ain’t my first time.

It’s a saying I’ve heard all my life but for some reason, in the darkness of this rainy pre-dawn morning, I decided to search the whys and the wherefores…which led me to some other why and wherefore…and then to another why and wherefore…just the “pig trails” my mind sometimes follows.  Kind of like the free history lesson you didn’t want but are going to get if you keep reading.

After the Scot-Irish portion of my ancestry made the trip from across the big pond to Pennsylvania or Virginia in the early 1700s they meandered southward until happening upon “the Indian Lands” bordering on the Catawba River sometime after 1750.  They brought words and sayings with them as they came…and probably made up a few new ones too.

Located in the tiny panhandle of South Carolina, between the Queen City of Charlotte and the Red Rose City of Lancaster, my ancestors found the land fertile and the natives receptive.  So receptive were the natives, they gave up their rights to their own ancestral lands believing it was not theirs to sell and that no one really could own it.  That belief was a mistake until they were awarded a settlement that kept the city of Rock Hill from falling into their hands.

A thriving agrarian society was founded and those remaining Native Americans who didn’t cross the river to live on their reservation, assimilated into white society taking Scot-Irish names such as Pettus, Rodgers, Griffin, Wilson….

My grandmother, a Rodgers who became a Griffin, continued to use words and sayings brought from the ‘old countries’ from years ago along with others acquired by our forefathers as they trekked southward through the mountains of Appalachia in Virginia and North Carolina.

We were never children, we were ‘chaps’ who wore ‘britches’.  We ‘hollered’ up the ‘holler’ and were ‘fixin’ to go someplace or do something.   We had paper bags called ‘pokes’ and burlap bags called ‘croaker sacks’ (croker sacks?) which are the pig trails my mind chose to follow.  Pokeweed, poke sallet or poke salad, poke a hornet’s nest, paper poke.

‘Poke sallet’ (poke salad) has nothing to do with paper bags…and having eaten it, little to do with salad either.  It would be more closely related to a ‘mess of turnip greens’ or a cooked salad (sallet) of greens.  Even the use of the word poke is different.  The poke in ‘paper poke’ comes from the French word poque, meaning pouch, while the ‘poke sallet’ poke is an Algonquian or Powhattan word meaning blood or dye.  Pokeweed has red berries that will produce a blood-red dye and red stems that will produce…I have no idea.

Poke a hornet’s nest is pretty self-explanatory and should be avoided.

Pokeweed grows wild in the South and despite being poisonous, its tender immature leaves can be cooked, carefully, in the same manner as turnip or mustard greens.  Carefully means that you should bring the chopped leaves to a boil and drain off the water, repeat four or five times before finally preparing them as one might prepare turnip greens…you know with fatback or ham hocks, some vinegar and red pepper flakes along with a slab of cornbread runnin’ in butter…sorry I got carried away.

As usual, I drift.  My ‘pig trail’ began with a ‘pig in a poke’ and took a sharp left at ‘letting the cat out of the bag’ before colliding with the unrelated ‘croaker sack’.

Some English farmers, a deceptive group it would seem, attempted to pull the wool over the naïve eyes of some unsuspecting souls by substituting a cat for a purchased suckling piglet.  The old bait and switch, I reckon.  The unsuspecting mark would take the poke home and not discover the switch until ‘he let the cat out of the bag.’  I was this day old when I realized the two sayings were related.

I was also this day old when I learned ‘pulling the wool over one’s eyes’ has nothing to do with sheep…and why would it?  It dates from the days when English judges began to wear wigs.  The saying came from pulling the wool or wig over the judge’s eyes so he could not see the truth despite it being right in front of his face…the truth was as clear as the nose on his face.  Maybe not.

I have gone far afield from pigs and paper bags.  A symptom of my affliction?

My meanderings came to a screeching halt with ‘croaker sacks’ which has nothing to do with pokes unless it relates to a paper poke I guess.  My ancestors were masters at recycling, reusing or repurposing and heavy burlap bags were no different.  Burlap bags usually contained feed but after their primary use had been realized, are great to contain other stuff that needs containing, especially those that need to stay wet…like fish or frogs.

There is a croaker fish, several versions found off the Atlantic shores.  I’ve caught them but never put them in a burlap bag before cleaning, battering, frying and serving with tartar sauce and lemon slices.  It’s still early but I’m getting a hankerin’ for fried fish with some hush puppies and cabbage slaw.

I have used burlap bags to store frogs in.  Frogs croak…croaker sack.  It can’t be a coincidence.

Been frog gigging?  I have but it has been a while and my guess is it will be in another life before I go again.  In the dead of night on a pond bank or in a shallow draft boat, shine a strong light ashore which both freezes the frog and causes his little eyes to light up, gig him, and put him in the bag…a ‘croaker sack’.

Sounds cruel and I guess it is, but fried frog legs are sho nuff good.  Battered or unbattered, served with stone-ground grits smothered in pan gravy, maybe a salad and a glass of sweet Southern tea. They do taste like chicken and also kick around when they hit the hot grease.  Hum.  “Jumpin’ like a frog leg in hot grease.”  Not sure I’ve heard that one before, but I’ll go have a ‘look see’ on Google.

Ya’ll don’t take no pigs in a poke now…or wooden nickels.   I’ll see you on down the road a piece.

Don Millers Author’s Page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/265938/what-does-it-s-always-a-pig-in-a-poke-so-why-not-a-pig-who-pokes-mean

Nothing

 

It’s Tuesday…I have been sharing my great wisdom and sense of humor on Tuesdays.  Sometimes I rant on all the subjects that bother me so….  Sometimes people even read them.  It’s Tuesday and I got nothing… nil, nada, zip, zero, zilch, nowt or is it spelled naught.  Hey, that’s something.

For a week I have been awaiting something to trigger a thought, something that I might find interesting to write about.  Something uplifting on World Human Rights Day?  Nothing!  I have waited patiently for divine motivation.  Nothing has sparked my interest.  I…GOT…NOTHING!

Clear your mind, something will manifest…I… GOT…NOTHING.

My mind is literally filled with thousands of subjects, nothing very interesting.  Nothing whispering, “Now this is something you need to blog about.”  No cute stories about forgotten youth, flamingoes, puppy dogs, or coming of age.  No rants on the joke that is the state of national affairs.  N-O-T-H-I-N-G!  At least nothing I’ve not spoken to.

Be honest.  There is something.  Anger.  I’ve turned into an angry old man. Angry because I’ve got nothing.  Angry because I’m afraid.  Afraid I’m running out of stories.  Angry because I can’t seem to get motivated beyond the occasional shower and change of underwear.

I have a vision of an old man sitting in his recliner surrounded by empty beer cans and molding pizza boxes.  Flies buzz overhead.  An ashtray is overflowing with cigar butts.  His tomato sauce stained t-shirt is covered in ashes and burn holes from the embers falling from his cigar.  He is staring at his TV set wondering where he hid the remote, deciding the infomercial about incontinence is better than getting up and searching for something to change the channel.

Is thinking about nothing thinking about something?  Elevate your mind…but ‘maryhoochie’ is still illegal in this state.

I need to do something positive…but I want to do nothing.  Is stepping out into the rain and removing overnight puppy turds positive?  I guess avoiding stepping in dog sh!t is positive.

Oh, my poor daughter.  “What is your father’s legacy?”  “Writing about dog turds.”  I have become an embarrassment to my wife, daughter, grandchildren, puppy dogs…and myself.

Okay, I’ll quit the self-pity.  Writing about nothing has done nothing for my mood.  I’m sure it has done nothing for yours either.  Tune in next Tuesday…it’s got to be better.

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

Viennas, Nabs, and Cherry-Lemon Sundrops

 

Or as is said ’round heah, Vienners…a somewhat heavy accent mark on the “ners”.  “Vi-en-NERS”.  Some of us end words with “er” that don’t require it, like yeller instead of yellow.

If you are North American and happen to find yourself in Germany with an intense hankering for a Vienna sausage…and, if you can actually get a vendor to understand your Southern accent, you’re probably not going to get what you are expecting; a “baker’s” half dozen of two-inch or so sausages in a jelly-like substance, all contained in a small can with a pull tab.  I remember when you had to us a “key“ to open the top of the can by inserting it into a metal band you twisted off.  Lawd have mercy if the little band twisted or broke, you might starve to death.

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Image result for vienna sausages in jelly"

What you’re going to get in Germany is a long, slender sausage that we Nordamerikanisch would call a skinny hot dog wiener.  They are called Wiener Würstchen in the Germanic states.

Image result for vienna sausages pinterst"

I’m sure, by now many who haven’t clicked to a more interesting post are wondering, “What the hell is he babblin’ about.“  A better question might be “Why is he talkin’ about whatever the hell he is babblin’ bout?“  I’m getting there.

Recently, I handed a new friend twenty dollars to tide him over until his “gubmint” check arrived.  We had become friends that very day but that’s another story.  After thanking me he pointed out, “This’ll buy a lot of  Vienners at the Dollar Store.”

I commented, “And some soda crackers, too.”

As I drove home, I thought, “or buy a lot of Spam…or Potted Meat…or Deviled Ham…which might just be disguised potted meat.”  Nope, I just researched potted meat and wish I hadn’t.  Potted meat is not Deviled Ham.

While I haven’t eaten any of the above in decades, they do hold a warm spot in my heart and as my new friend pointed out, “They’ll hep keep the wolves away.”  I’m also sure they contributed to my 2006 heart attack because as a child I ate a great deal of the highly salted and fatted proteins, what I call “mystery meat”  as in it is a mystery as to what meat parts were used to make it.  I suggest you not read the ingredients if you actually like them.  Ignorance is bliss.

During the summer of my twelfth (12) year, I went to work in the fields alongside my cousins and an uncle.  It’s not like I hadn’t been working in the fields before, this work paid money…mullah…greenbacks…two dollars a day, ten dollars for five early thirty to dark thirty days per week.  Cash money every Friday evening.  Ten brand new Silver Certificates.  There was a caveat.  Two bucks a day plus midday meal.

Two bucks a day plus midday meal to load and haul hay, hoe and pull corn, clean out animal stalls and load their leavings into a manure spreader to…what else…spread manure.  Saturdays, I worked alongside another set of cousins on another uncle’s chicken farm.  The two farms were nothing alike except shoveling poop stinks no matter what animal it comes from and two dollars a day ain’t enough even with the midday meal.   Especially when the midday meal usually consisted of Vienna Sausage or Deviled Ham, soda crackers and a MoonPie or pack of nabs…all washed down from a jug of warm water.  Yummy.

Nabs?  For the uninitiated, nabs is Southern lingo for the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) which first produced small sandwich crackers usually filled with cheese or peanut butter.  Here in the South, we ate Lance’s, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, or Tom’s from Columbus, Georgia, but we still called them nabs.

Tom’s was eventually absorbed by Lance’s but still retains its name and is better known for its peanuts, while Lance is better known for its nabs.  Walk into any Southern mercantile and ask for a pack of nabs and a dope, they know exactly what you want.  You do have to provide which one of the gazillion choices you desire.1

Image result for nabs crackers"

That leads me down another rabbit trail.  Tom’s peanuts and Pepsi Cola.  In the afternoons my uncle would head out to the closest mercantile and bring back a Pepsi Cola, still called a “dope” in my neck of the woods, and a pack of Tom’s peanuts.   Any soft drink was called dope because the original Coca-Cola formula contained cocaine.  Back in the day, Southern soda shops were referred to as “hop joints” and Coke delivery trucks as “dope wagons.”2

For some reason, Tom’s peanuts go perfectly with Pepsi Cola.  I should have said goes perfectly IN a Pepsi Cola.  We’d pour our little bag of peanuts into the Pepsi Cola bottle and consume with gusto.  You could put them in any soft drink, but my choice was Pepsi.  A needed jolt of sugar for energy to get you to dark thirty and the salt from the peanuts helped to replenish what your body had lost as you tried not to die from heat castration 3 in a Southern hayfield.  I don’t know if it contained cocaine but it did seem to refresh you.

Image result for peanuts in pepsi bottle"

Another Southern staple was the MoonPie.  MoonPie?  I’ve never been enamored by the MoonPie, two huge graham cracker cookies with a marshmallow filling dipped in chocolate…originally.  You can get a MoonPie in many flavors now…banana, double yuk.  Not being enamored doesn’t mean I haven’t consumed a gracious plenty of them.  You eat what you have and what you can afford.

The MoonPie is truly a Southern creation, born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1907 at a local bakery.  As the story goes, visiting coal miners asked the owner to create a “man-sized” cookie that could serve as a “workingman’s lunch”.  When asked how big, the miner replied, “As big as the moon.”  We know how it got its name but not how MoonPie became associated with RC Cola, but it seems one cannot be consumed without the other.

Image result for moonpie and rc cola"

How RC or Royal Crown Cola, another Southern creation born in Columbus, Georgia became associated with MoonPie is a depression-era story that has been lost in the mists of time.  For a nickel, each, Southern laborers, textile workers or Kentucky coal miners could afford a filling lunch for a dime.  “An RC and a MoonPie” became a part of Southern culture with no help from advertising moguls.4

Flirting with Southern blasphemy, I said earlier I was never enamored with the MoonPie.  Nothing sacrilegious, I don’t like marshmallows and if I wasn’t drinking Pepsi, I might have a Cheerwine rather than an RC.  Cheerwine…I haven’t had one in years.  Honestly, unless Jack Daniels is in the glass I haven’t had any soft drink in years.

Cheerwine is a cherry-flavored cola produced in Salisbury, North Carolina since 1917.  Sweetened with cane syrup and containing a higher percentage of carbonation, a culture of its own sprang up.  Cheerwine cream-filled Krispy Creme donuts, Cheerwine flavored ice cream, Cheerwine pickles, the base for a barbeque sauce, and my favorite, a cherry, lemon, Sun Drop cola made with Cheerwine. 5

Sun Drop? You don’t know about Sun Drop? A citrus-flavored soda made in Missouri which is almost Southern.

Image result for cheerwine old fashioned"

Memories of sitting in the shade of huge water oaks next to the river, the humidity, and heat finding its way into the shade.  Slappin’ to keep the mosquitos from carryin’ you off before you finished your lunch.  At least the Vienna Sausages were warm and the gelatinous gunk has turned into an oily liquid that could be shaken off.  Ooh, I just remembered what the hands holding the sausage looked like.  Well, a bit of dirt or manure never hurt anyone…”ain’t hurt nobody.”

A twelve-year-old doing his first grown-up job, laughing with his cousins, listening to his uncle sing old-timey hymns just before pinning back the twelve-year old’s ears with a language he had never heard before because of something stupid he had done.  Learning lessons needing to be learned.

Learning to drive a tractor and then the big ole flatbed.  Learning you never pick up a bale of hay on the river bottoms without flipping it first.  “How did that moccasin get under there?”

Staring at long rows of corn, hoe in hand.  That sinking feeling that you’re going to be there all day, a long day.

Watching the early morning mist from the river find its way into the bottomland and the sun creep above the water oaks.

The late afternoon thunderheads forming beyond those same water oaks, praying the would wash out the rest of the day…or at least cool it down.

Lessons and memories at the finest…even if the food wasn’t.

Acknowledgment:  I realize Vienna Sausage is not a Southern creation but like all cultures “We ain’t above stealin’ an idea.”

Footnotes:

1 “A Nab is a Nab is a Nab”  Southern Food Ways https://www.southernfoodways.org/a-nab-is-a-nab-is-a-nab/

2 “Is it true Coca-Cola once contained cocaine?”  The Straight Dope https://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/384/is-it-true-coca-cola-once-contained-cocaine/

Heat Castration:  A non-recognized medical affliction caused by heat and humidity resulting in the “Sweating of one’s testicles off.”

4 “A Brief History of Tennessee Moon Pies” The Culture Trip https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/tennessee/articles/a-brief-history-of-tennessee-moon-pies/

5 “Ten things you didn’t know about Cheerwine” Wide Open Country https://www.wideopencountry.com/10-things-didnt-know-cheerwine/

The Illustrating images were all stolen from Pinterest as was the featured image.

Don Miller’s books, fiction, and non-fiction may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

…Than Owl Sh!t?

 

Image result for Slicker than owl shit"

I stepped out into the cold to check the temperatures in our hothouses and immediately thought, “Its colder than owl sh!t.”  This simple thought took me down a mental path that was “slicker than owl sh!t” and quite soon, I felt “dumber than owl sh!t” as I stepped on an overnight gift left behind by one of my canine children.  I was “luckier than owl sh!t” because the gift was frozen solid.  I avoided a sprained ankle as my foot rolled over the frozen “Baby Ruth” rather than my ankle.  I also avoided the nasty cleanup of my spiffy bunny slippers.

It was colder than owl sh!t and I wished it was hotter than owl sh!t, still.  Twenty-three degrees with a light breeze making me shiver despite my heavy coat.  It’s November 13, still fall, and the morning low for Nome, Alaska is twenty-four.  Crazier than owl sh!t.  I know many of you would have said it was “colder than a titches witty in a brass bra” or “colder than a well digger’s a$$ in January.”  For some reason my mind didn’t go there.

You can tell what has grabbed the attention of my feeble brain.  How did “…than owl    sh!t” become such a versatile descriptor and why do I feel the need to insert an exclamation point for the i in sh!t?

I grew up near the sandhills of South Carolina in an area that was cut by red clay and rocky slate.  I lived in a farming area and am as “country as a cow patty.”  I have spent my entire life in the state including the last thirty-two in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.

What little time I have spent out of South Carolina has primarily been spent in other Southern states.  I’ve just had no desire to head any farther north than Maryland.  I did head to Nebraska but that was where the College World Series was held.  A fine South Carolina institution won it that year.  Who am I kidding, I was a Clemson fan and they were there but didn’t win.

I was and am a purebred “country bumpkin”, now hillbilly, with hayseed and lint in his hair and wrapped tightly in kudzu vine.  Maybe more inbred than purebred as I think on it.  You might even use the term, Redneck.

I only bring up the place of my birth because I have heard about every old-time descriptive idiom one might expect to hear in the South…or at least South Carolina.  None work better, in so many ways  than “whatever than owl sh!t.”  Well Found under carnal knowledge” probably has more usage but doesn’t seem to have the flare.

“…hotter than owl sh!t” is more descriptive than “F…ing hot” but as I think on it, “hotter than a Billy goat’s a$$ in a hot pepper patch” gives one a much more interesting mental image than saying “it’s hotter than hell.”    I just thought of randy Billy goat descriptor, “Hornier than a double di@ked Billy goat,” and the cuter, “As happy as a puppy dog with two p@t@rs.”  No more, no more.

Obviously, I’ve slid further down my “slicker than owl sh!t” rabbit hole and it has branched toward more descriptive Southern idioms that come to mind.

An old friend commenting on the current crop of politicians, “My dad always said if you’re going to be stupid, you better be tough.”  Yep, and Lyndon B. Johnson put it a different way, “Being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There’s nothing to do but to stand there and take it.”  No, I’m not saying LBJ was stupid and it wasn’t an idiom…maybe.  I wish our current president would stand there and take it and stay off twitter.  No more politics.

My wife’s favorite Southernism describing one of her basketball teams, “You can’t make silk purses out of sow’s ears” shows what a fine lady she is.  I have used a similar description to chronical some of my own teams involving chicken salad and chicken ka ka.  I’m not a fine lady.

She also informed me after I bloodied my thumb doing something stupid, “If you’re looking for sympathy, you can find it in Webster’s.”  I’m guessing she won’t kiss it to make it better and was “madder than a wet hen” as I bled on her floor.

One idiom made me stop and ponder “it was thicker and richer than three feet up a bull’s a$$.”  Interesting considering the Baptist deacon using it was describing fine, thick and rich banana pudding at a church social.  Somehow this is a good thing?  “Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit.”  Some sayings defy all understanding.

I began my morning ramble because of checking hothouse temperatures.  For some reason, my wife has never found a plant she didn’t want to save or overwinter.  It doesn’t keep her from buying more plants in the spring, summer, and fall.  A bit compulsive, she has more plants than “you can shake a stick at” and as I await the delivery of our third hothouse I wonder if we are on our way to “more hot houses than you can shake a stick at.”  As I said, somethings defy all understanding.

“Shaking a stick at” is an interesting saying and as I researched it was surprised to find out it was first used in a damn Yankee newspaper in the early 1800s, the Lancaster (Pa) Journal in 1818.  Well, we certainly kidnapped it.  What does it mean?  I have no clue except shaking a stick at anything is threatening and my wife’s plants are threatening my good nature.  “I’m as anxious as a whore in Sunday school.”

Well, I see it is now thirty degrees and today’s temperature is to climb only into the low forties.  I’m going to wait until the red alcohol in my thermometer climbs above thirty-two before I go for my morning walk.  At this rate, it could be an afternoon walk.  I just don’t want to “bust my a$$ because the roads are slicker than owl sh!t.”

***

If any of you have similar idioms, I would appreciate you dropping them in a comment.

***

Further ramblings in book form may be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The startled owl image from The Daily Record https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/weird-news/meet-worlds-most-startled-owl-6266419

Gif from https://www.theodysseyonline.com/best-southern-sayings  Some other good sayings.

“Forgive me Father….”

 

While discussing our health and eating habits, I lamented to my best friend during our weekly early morning walk together, “I’ve got to get ah hold of my diet.”  Six months ago, I needed to lose five pounds…I now need to lose five additional….  My friend’s weight hasn’t varied a pound in the last decade.  I hate him just a little.

I know I could have said “get hold of” but I’m Southern and “get ah hold of” is perfectly acceptable.  I could have said, “get ah holt to” too, also perfectly acceptable from a man who was born, reared and has lived his entire life south of the Mason Dixon.

The point, I actually have one…oatmeal.  Oatmeal is one of the ways I get “ah holt” of my diet despite the fact I don’t like cooked breakfast oatmeal ah tall (at all).  I realize it is good for me.  I know this because of the red heart on the round tubed package with the smiling Quaker on the label.  Oatmeal seems to go well with the concept of diet and exercise…or as I think of it, starvation and torture.

Be clear!  I don’t hate oatmeal, I hate cooked breakfast oatmeal.  I’m a grits guy and all the unhealthy additions used to make it palatable…extra-sharp cheese, butter…maybe some sausage crumbles.  All my non-Southern friends roll their eyes and remark, “I don’t know how you eat grits, they’re so bland.”  Oatmeals not? And a painter’s canvas is white until the paint is applied.  Grits are the same way.  Grits are a blank canvas for the chef’s art.

I told my friend, hoping by saying it out loud I would follow through, “I’m waiting until the first frost and changing over to oatmeal again.”  For some reason, oatmeal seems better suited for the cold, barren, bland, and dark days of winter.  Well, we had our first frost a few days ago and I’ve had my first bowl of steaming hot Quaker Steel-cut Oats.  Yum…not.

I also converted from beer to Jack.  Jack seems better suited to help me through those cold, barren, bland, and dark days of winter.  Oats with a shot of Jack?  It’s five o’clock somewhere.

There is something about the mouthfeel of cooked oatmeal…is that something?  Mouthfeel?  I heard the term on one of those cooking shows that I noticed never cooks oatmeal.  Consistency?  Sometimes it seems the more I chew, the bigger the wad of oatmeal gets.  Sometimes I swallow without chewing.  I like the mouthfeel of grits and I never swallow without chewing because of the added accoutrements.  I used the French pronunciation in my head to make it sound better.  I guess I used the French spelling too.  I just can’t do that with oatmeal with a straight face.

I try to disguise the oatmeal, using it like a gray, chef’s canvas, I guess.  Almonds, yogurt, and frozen blueberries, or cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter, sometimes molasses and walnuts, maybe chocolate chips…okay, I seem to be making it less healthy as I go, and it doesn’t change the mouthfeel.  Oatmeal gets worse as you compare it to the mouthfeel of what you are putting in it.  Kind of like the feel of a silky negligee as opposed to a knobby wool nightshirt.

I like oatmeal’s mouthfeel fine in Missouri cookies or granola…I won’t turn down a raisin oatmeal cookie.  That’s pronounced Missour…rah cookies.  Raw oats, cocoa, butter, sugar, milk, and peanut butter…it has peanut butter, what’s not to like?  No-bake, easy, tasty but probably not very heart-healthy.  Granola is toasted but is pretty calorie-dense with all the honey and nuts.  Sometimes I add it to my yogurt and leave the cooked oats out.

Choices, choices and all are bad.  My bud suggested, “Why don’t you eat multi-grain Cheerios or Kashi?  They stand up well in milk, high in protein.  I eat them with fruit.”  Yeah, a good mouthfeel I guess and they have the little red heart symbol on their package.

Good idea but I think I now realize, eating boiled oats is my own form of self-flagellation for previous nutritional choices leading to my heart attack.  I am paying for my sinful eating habits.  Too much pizza, too much red meat, and fried chicken…drinking eggnog while eating sausage cheese balls at Christmastime, cut in lard cathead biscuits running with butter and King syrup, fried everything….too many sins to enumerate.

I need absolution.  I should be confessing to a food priest…”Forgive me, father, for I have sinned, I ate a fried hamburger last week…with mayo…and cheese.”  My penance would probably be another bowl of breakfast oatmeal served sans anything.  I may be sick.  “Hail Oatmeal, full of grace….”

The featured image came from UrbanDaddy https://www.urbandaddy.com/articles/37513/chicago/the-state-of-chicago-burgers-10-beautiful-burgers-one-beautiful-slideshow   Please forgive me for showing a Yankee hamburger but somethings transcend region.

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

Diddlin’ Where You Ought not to Diddle

 

When I found myself in a position which allowed me to impart coaching wisdom acquired over my forty-five year career, half-jokingly I advised, in no particular order, “Don’t diddle where you ought not diddle, avoid messin’ with money, win over the Mommas while avoiding diddin’ where you ought not diddle, and wear good shoes, your feet will appreciate it.”  During my career, I only ran afoul of one…oh, so you want to know which one?  My feet hurt…a lot.

Since my last brush with a surgeon’s knife, I realized I should have added a fifth nugget of wisdom, “Big floppy hats and sunscreen are a must.”  Might even add long-sleeved tees and long pants.  I’ve found out your skin will appreciate it.  Unless you like doctors diddling in your calf with a scalpel and suturing you up after.

My fifth surgery to remove skin cancer!   Not a good way to lose weight.  One on an ear, three on my lower legs, and one I don’t understand at all…the sun ain’t evah seen my lily-white butt…ocks.  Well, there was the time a hornet flew up my short britches leg.  Shucking them, the sun wasn’t the only thing that saw my lily-white ass.  There were several cars and a church bus along with the various plants, animals and insects in my garden.  I didn’t get stung…well…nobody whistled or cheered their approval and that stung a bit.

Too many years battling the summer sun on the farm or the athletic fields in minimal attire has come back to bite me.  I guess I shouldn’t have diddled in the sun wearing shorts, tees and a baseball cap.  When I had a physique, I would bronze myself too.  Shirtless, skimpy gym shorts and kicks riding round and round on a tractor, hatless and brainless until I lost most of my hair.  A smart person would have put on SPF 50 or at least a hat.  I’m not sure sunscreen had even been invented.

My best friend chose the same vocation, is my age, and eat up with the same affliction.  Never believing in half measures, he might as well be a vampire.  He runs and walks in the dark to stay out of the sun.  Does his yard work in the early morning hours much to the chagrin of the people who are sleeping in.

If my friend has to venture out into the midday sun, he puts on so much sunscreen he looks like Bo Derek painted white in Tarzan the Ape Man…no that’s a lie and now I’ve got a mental picture I can’t get out of my head.  I think I’ll have to Google a picture of Bo just to replace it.  A bad excuse is better than none.

My grandmother worked in the sun all her life.  She wore feed sack dresses and a huge floppy straw hat  No sunscreen, no skin cancer.  A  farmer all her life, she worked side by side with her father, then my grandfather and continued to plant and hoe her beans, maters, and taters for forty more years after his death.  No skin cancer but a complexion resembling old shoe leather.  I guess I should have paid better attention.

It seems like there is more skin cancer these days than say fifty years ago…or am I just aware of it since being afflicted?  Are we losing our ozone layer, more pollution, and chemicals in the air?  Global Climate change?  Marvin the Martian’s Immodium Q-36 Space Modulator?  Probably I’m just more aware or they ignored it fifty years ago.

I should have worn floppy straw hats…my legs aren’t good enough to do justice to a feed sack dress.

Oh well. The damage has been done.  No sense crying over spilled milk, but I truly hate giving a little piece here and a little there.  Now Janis has joined Bo in my head, singing in my head, “Take it! Take another little piece of my heart now, baby! Break it!  Break another little bit of my heart now, honey.”

I need to stick another song in my head cause if the surgeon takes a little piece of my heart, I’m in deep do-do.  Maybe Katrina and the Waves, “Walking on Sunshine”…can you get skin cancer listening to a tune in your head?  At least I didn’t diddle where I ought not to diddle…maybe.

Okay, ice and elevate.

For those of you who are concerned, don’t be.   I see a doctor every three months to keep a handle on it.   I’ve done better wearing my big floppy hats, long-sleeved tees, face shields and applying sunscreen.   Now if I can do something about my feet.

The featured image is from http://www.webesailing.com/activities.htm

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

 

 

The Things You Don’t Expect to See…

 

…that can’t be unseen.

It’s cloudy and mostly dark…it’s supposed to be dark.  It’s seven-thirty on a very late October morning.  If it had cleared I would have noted that the sun was still below the horizon as I began my morning exercise, a three or four-mile walk through my little piece of heaven.

I’ve seen animals, reptiles, and birds of all sorts on my early morning walks.  I’ve been dive-bombed by hawks, pulled up short by a brown bear, sent back to the house by a pack of red eyes peering back at me, reflected in the light of my headlamp.  There have been deer and turkeys a plenty.  I’ve been ankle attacked by a pigmy potbellied pig, but I ain’t never seen nothin’ like ‘is.

I’ve passed vehicles parked along the little spur of a road called Airline Lane.  Usually, they are hunters this time of year or maybe a carload of college kids who had an impromptu party at the lone pull off and decided to stay and sleep it off.  Much safer than defying fate by driving drunk and sneaking back onto the campus of the nearby Christian university.

Not quite wide enough to be a double track, the gravel road was recently paved and is not wide enough for people to really pull off onto a shoulder that does not exist.  Not quite enough road for the big Ram 2500 with big ole tires and a big ole covered trailer.

The behemoth sat quietly right in the middle of the road like a sedated prehistoric mammoth.  I approached it from behind unable to see anything in the truck.  I walked up on the driver’s side making sure I was visible in the big west coast mirrors.  It didn’t matter, they weren’t paying attention to anything but themselves.

I was careful, unsure of what I might run into.  I’ve seen too many slasher films and fully expected to find a mutilated dead body or five.  If they were still in this world, I didn’t want to scare them and get myself shot.  I didn’t scare them, and I didn’t get shot…I did get shocked.  An old saying ran through my mind, “Please put some clothes on, you’re scaring the animals.”

Glancing inside of the cab I found they wuz nekid as jaybirds and enjoying the fine morning in a way I only faintly remember.  I resisted knocking on the window and asking, “Hey y’all.  What y’all doin’ this fine morning.”

I applaud their passion…especially at the crack of dawn on a lonely country road.  How romantic…or moronic.  If I were rating them like an Olympic event it would have been near-perfect score…not that they cared.  They were as oblivious as I was embarrassed.  Thankfully they never saw me.  I wish I hadn’t seen them.  Talk about a broad expanse of white.  That boy’s butt ain’t never seen the light of day and girl watch out you might break the window pushing on it like that.

I’ve seen passion on a country road before, but it always involved farm animals.  I wondered if they simply pulled off for a nap during the night and woke up in an amorous mood that morning or if at the crack of dawn, the urge hit them, and throwing caution to the wind, conveniently chose my little lane as the site for their acte d’amour.

I am reminded of earlier days from a lifetime ago, but no I ain’t nevah done that.  Pondered on it but I tended to scout my sparkin’ spots ahead of time.  There is something to be said for spontaneity…or stupidity in the name of lust.

Oh well, maybe a scene for a future book.  To be young and foolish again…in love or at least, in a reasonable facsimile.  I tip my hat to you and am glad you had exited my little piece of heaven by the time I returned.

Don Miller’s rants, raves, and humor can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

Unredeemed it Would Seem

 

As I read the book, The Redeemers by Ace Atkins, a quote caught my eye and stung like an accidental splash of toothpaste to the same eye.  Am I the only idiot figuring out a way to get toothpaste in his eye and actually doing it more than once?

Is comparing a quote to a stinging eyeball a horrible analogy?  “His quote stung like toothpaste rubbed in my eye.”  It probably explains why I’m using an Ace Atkins quote instead of one of my own and why I try to avoid using analogies.  “Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.”

The quote from the book, “There is nothing that Southerners hate more than self-examination,” resonated and sparked my own self-examination of the paradoxes which seem to surround me.  The quote was thoroughly accurate as far as my own moral failings are concerned and honestly it is more about my own self-examination.

Before I’m accused of broad stroking an entire group of people, I’m not.  If this shoe doesn’t fit, don’t try to force your foot into it.  That is on you and you may find your foot, along with your shoe, stuck in your mouth and my foot stuck somewhere else…metaphorically of course.  I’m not talking to or about you if the shoe is not yours.  If the shoe fits…well that is between you and your lord and I just want you to ponder as I do.

The South has been accused of having many paradoxes, like pointing out someone’s moral failings while ignoring one’s own or railing against someone else’s corruption, moral or monetary, while disregarding the corruption or moral failings of your favorite politician as long as it advances your political agenda.  All one has to do is look at the histories of our state governments to find great examples.  Wilbur Mill’s reelection after running afoul of Fannie Foxe, the “Tidal Basin Bombshell” comes to mind.  Southerners haven’t cornered the market on moral failings or paradoxes, we just get caught with great style and dash.

Some paradoxes are quaint or cute, others not so much.  As you might imagine, my essay will eventually turn from the cute or quaint.  It will turn toward paradoxes that revolve around religion and politics.   I’m sure other parts of the country have their own paradoxes…and issues with religion as it relates to politics but again we Southerners do it with such elegance.  

“Religion, Religion! Oh, there is a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.”  The words shouted in Jimmy Buffett’s ditty, Fruitcakes came to mind when country-western icon Vince Gill and his wife, the “Queen of Christian Pop” music Amy Grant were discussing the paradoxes of their relationship during an interview.  Vince pointed out that they weren’t that different.  They were actually singing to the same clientele.  He was singing to the drunks and hell raisers on Saturday night and she was singing to the same drunks and hell raisers, now recovering and praying for redemption, on Sunday morning.

Not a direct quote but the crux of one paradox.  It’s also one of the cute or quaint paradoxes.  There are a lot of “Sunday morning and Wednesday night Christians” who will enjoy ‘several’ too many shots of brown liquor on a Saturday night and pray for forgiveness through a blinding hangover on Sunday morning.  Bless our pea-pickin’ hearts and please help me remember exactly what sins I committed last Saturday night…or maybe I really don’t want to know.

Saturday night might be relative.  I know Fannie Foxe’s foray into the Washington Tidal Basin took place on a late Monday night and while not stopping Wilbur’s reelection to the House of Representatives, might have derailed his dream of a much higher office.

I live in the Bible Belt and like a stereotypical big-bellied sheriff’s Sam Brown Belt, we wrap our religious mantle tightly around us…except when we don’t.  Sometimes we even make jokes about it.   “What’s the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist?
The Methodist will say hello to you in the liquor store.”  “How does a Baptist get into Heaven?  They bring a casserole.”

Only recently were we less conservative, Jesus loving, Agnostic, Deist, Buddhaptists allowed to enjoy a store-bought adult beverage during a Sunday lunch out on the town as Blue Laws were relaxed.  While I struggle with my religious beliefs I do believe in something, “I believe I’ll have another drink.”

Like the good Methodist turned Baptist that I am, anytime I publically order a beer I look around first to see if any of my former students or my church peers are in attendance.  I’m still gonna order, I’ll just make sure I avoid eye contact.

Religion even gets intertwined with our eating habits.  We had an advertising war that took on religious overtones.   An anti-LGBTQ, we ain’t gonna open on a Sunday, chicken sandwich chain was purported to have divine support over the spicy, straight from Satan’s “sin city of the South”, fried chicken chain.  Chanting and making the sign of the cross with crossed fingers, “My God loves X’s chicken sandwiches better than those of the Devil’s Minion!”  See, we can be insanely funny.  Accent on insane.  Yep, I like the spicy chicken place better…”Get thee behind me Satan!”

Insanity could explain some of our choices during election cycles.  I lean left in a deeply Southern red state and sometimes I believe we’ve lost our minds…just not as badly as some other deep red Southern states  In the most recent cycle a deep South state almost elected an accused pedophile rather than electing a…gasp…Democrat.  Politics over family values just as Jesus intended.

We tend to wrap our religion tightly with the flag along with our patriotism and tie them all together…I’m just not sure which flag, the national flag or the Confederate Battle Flag.  If we were on the side of the angels why did God allow us to lose?   Did someone sin?

Some Southerners will ridicule and threaten to tar and feather you if you don’t stand for the National Anthem at a football game while wearing a “Forget Hell” belt buckle and flying the battle flag from pickup trucks displaying several Son’s of Confederate Veteran bumper stickers.  Confusing ain’t it.

I have “bigly” concerns over our touting of the “sacred” Second Amendment while ignoring the parts of the First Amendment that include “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Certain more conservative than me religious groups would like to put iconic stone tablets into every government building or school but would get a might squirrelly if a coven of witches wanted to honor the goddess of fertility, Ostara…by dancing ‘nekid’ on the town square next to the Confederate War monument.  Beware of what you wish for, it may have unwanted repercussions.  One should be just as unconstitutional as the other and I don’t wish to live in your theocracy.

Paradoxes aside, a quote by Flannery O’Conner, “I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted” sparked more self-examination.

I am haunted by the days when I sat attentively beside my brother, in between our parents on the short pew no other church member would dare sit on because “That’s where the Miller’s sit.”  Haunted days before I began to think for myself and question motivations.  Days when I didn’t wonder if Jesus’s message was being bastardized and the Bible weaponized.  Days when religions had not moved so far right…or is that the paradox.  Have I just moved left?

Don Miller writes on a variety of subjects, non-fiction, and fiction.  You may access his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Fruitcakes by Jimmy Buffett

 

The featured image is from https://imgur.com/gallery/D0FKLsK/comment/1073493907.  I actually had this done.  A cyst on my wrist was thumped with the family Bible and for a time disappeared.  It came back, much like my self-examination and self-ridicule.