Doodlebug, Doodlebug…

Fly away home! Yer house is on far (fire) and yer children are gone! Appalachian Rhyme

Oh, the things we did to engage ourselves and forgo boredom when we were children. Boredom?  I don’t remember being bored as a child.  The days were filled with activities, many forced upon us, but boredom is not a word I would have used. Most days we were allowed to be creative…sometimes to our own distress.

I also don’t remember being very successful chanting Doodlebug, Doodlebug, either, which considering the little insect we were attempting to vacate from his abode might have been fortuitous. Behold! The Doodlebug.

Antlion larva…a doodlebug. Looks like something out of a 50s horror flick on its way to attack Tokyo.

At this point, unless you are of a certain age, you may be asking, “What in the heck is a doodlebug?” I doubt kids today have a clue about doodlebugs.

So, what’s a doodlebug? It depends kiddies and I’m going to further confuse the issue.  A doodlebug is, according to www.merriam-webster.com 1: the larva of an antlion also: any of several other insects. 2: a device (such as a divining rod) used in attempting to locate underground gas, water, oil, or ores. 3: a buzz bomb.

You might still be confused.  Let me clarify.  The doodlebug of rhyme is the larva of the antlion, an insect that primarily subsists on ants.  Divining, also called dowsing, or water witching uses a forked tree branch, called a doodlebug, from a witch-hazel bush, or metal rods to find water or certain minerals.  Finally, a buzz bomb was a World War Two unguided flying bomb used by Nazi Germany to bomb London.  The British called it a doodlebug because of the sound it made. Still, confused? Me too! I’ve never heard a doodlebug make a sound.

The adult antlion: It eats ants.

The divining rod, dowser, or water witch. It finds water…maybe. I’m a bit doubtful of the science behind it…there is none, but the site of our well was found using one.

And finally the Buzz Bomb or the doodlebug as the British called it because of the sound it made. Over ten thousand were launched toward England, six thousand or so landed in London. It goes boom.

Enough! Back to the rhyme.  As a child, I was instructed to find a moon crater-looking depression in dry sandy soil.  Sitting next to it I, along with my brother and cousins, would all chant, “Doodlebug, doodlebug, fly away home. Your house is on fire and your children are gone.”  Because of my Southern Appalachian accent, it might have come out of my mouth differently and there are many other variations of the chant, some not very cheery. 

“Doodlebug doodlebug, come out of your house; it’s burning up with your wife and all your children, except Mary-she’s under the dishpan.” What are we teaching our children? It has no rhyme and the rhythm is awful.

The chant, along with dropping grains of sands down its hole, supposedly caused the critter to come out.  If that didn’t work a small twig was inserted for the larva to latch onto.  That didn’t work either.  I have a lifetime batting average of zero enticing doodlebugs.  My guess is it was a ploy to keep the young ’uns occupied while the adults kept busy with their chores.

My friends and I did a good job of keeping ourselves busy without assistance from a doodlebug…or our parents. We played other childhood games, mostly made up games played from TV shows we had seen or books we had read. We fought and refought battles with corncobs, created pirate ships from a treehouse thrown together with scrap lumber, used my grandmother’s front porch as Fort Apache, although Trixie looked nothing like Rin Tin Tin, and swung from “vine” ropes screaming our best Tarzan yells.

There was one little issue when a friend tried to jump off the hayloft imitating Roy Rogers jumping out of a second story window onto Trigger’s back. Problem was, my friend’s steed was his Schwinn bicycle. He missed the first time and only tried once more. It was a success…maybe. Don’t know if he was ever able to “go forth and multiply.”

We also learned we could fling a Chinese orange a country mile by stobbing (stabbing) it onto the end of a slender sapling and whipping it through the air. We inadvertently on purpose bounced one off the top of Mr. Jimmy’s ’49 Chevy as it motored down the highway. Didn’t hurt anything but gave the old man a bit of a start. Also got our hides tanned.

I know, I know. Some of you of a certain age are wondering, “Did you tie thread around the legs of a June bug and fly it in circles?” No but I know some who did. Always felt it was cruel treatment even for a bug.

Speaking of cruel treatment. The only deed I am truly embarrassed about was strapping a tin can to several large bottle rockets taped together and putting a frog in it. Honestly, it was Mickey Morris’ idea and I really thought the rocket would reach escape velocity. First Frog on the Moon! It may have been the first, we never found the frog.

Further writings can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1vjrkVD5tHLACNvQM7kjc3RUUE2PROcwIT_xxvLhagMX_376LxmGSM_I0

A July Flies’ Sweet Song

…or everything you thought you wanted to know about July flies but were afraid to ask.

Heard my first July fly…I know, some of you have been dealing with the Brood X Cicada for a while now but this is significant. Yours are dying down, mine are just beginning to sing. I heard my July fly on July the First.  Significant, right?  I lead a simple life. It is significant to me!

His song singing might be a little early by the calendar, but I don’t think July flies worry much about the calendar. Probably something about his circadian rhythm.  Maybe daylight savings time screwed his up his rhythms as it did mine.

I’m pretty sure this was an annual cicada and after nearly a year underground as a nymph he was probably happy to see daylight.  The little big-eyed monster was singing to beat the band.  I hope little Suzy Q was listening. It was neat to hear an individual cicada’s distinctive voice. One voice seems to get lost when a million are singing. Individually it sounded more like the rapid clicks made by one of the old “cricket” clickers from my childhood. Very rapid I might add.

PLYMOUTH CRICKET Vintage Metal Clicker Toy Noise Maker Chrysler Car Advertising
Toy “clicker” used to advertise Chrysler products. Press it, it clicks.

I know this cicada was a male because female July flies don’t sing.  They don’t have the ability because they don’t have something called tymbals, membranes on the cicada’s exoskeleton used to produce sounds. All the females can do is flick their wings to make a faint clicking sound…or maybe they are just playing hard to get.

Noisy Cicadas Are Widely Misunderstood
A Brood X hanging out. Getty Image

Male July flies on the other hand have several tunes they sing.  For instance, they have the cicada equivalent of “Hey Baby!  You lookin’ good.  What’s your sign? Come on give me a little wing.”  If the female flicks her wings, she is answering, “Hey big boy, how ’bout you come over and see me some time.” If he accepts the invitation, and he will, it is time for faire l’amour.

The males have a defensive song; it is the one you hear when you pick one up.  Sounds like a bee as in, “I’m trying to fool you into thinking I’m a hornet. Put me down this instance!” 

Then there are the male’s most favorite song, the “Ooh Baby, Baby. That was great, how was it for you? Cigarette? Wanna make me a sandwich?” song. 

I have been using July fly and cicada interchangeably because I grew up calling the cicada a July fly.  Something about my Southern upbringing I do reckon. When I Googled July flies to make sure, I did not get a definitive answer.  Some places call the cicada locusts, others Jar flies, or Dog Day flies, still others call them Harvest flies. I’m pretty sure they aren’t locusts because we have locusts too and they look nothing like my childhood cicadas/July flies. As a child, I played with enough cicada shells to know the difference.

Cicada Shell

I grew up in the Fifties and Sixties BAC. BAC as in, Before Air Conditioning.  Oh, it had been invented, it just hadn’t found its way to my abode on Route 2, Highway 521, Fort Mill, SC.  Cicadas, on the other hand, had found their way there and in quantity.  Over the sound of my sweat glands trying to drown me and a window fan, I remember the cycling sound of gazillions of male cicadas singing to their one true love. They usually reached their peak in mid to late July and early August.  I tend to relate them to the hottest days of summer.  The days of ripening corn, tomatoes, and armpits. The Summer days of a gracious plenty of humidity and mosquitoes.

When my bride and I first moved into our “little piece of heaven”, air conditioning hadn’t found its way to our ancient farmhouse in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, either.  My five-year-old daughter came down from her bedroom rubbing the sleep from her eyes and made a whimpering sound as she asked, “Can you turn them off?”  

“Turn what off, Sweet Pea?”

“Those thing-ees, outside my window.  They’re so loud.”

It probably wasn’t the last time I failed her.  July fly choirs are loud reaching ninety decibels which is the same decibel level as a lawnmower.  “Sorry baby.  I can’t turn them off.  Try to think of it as a lullaby.” 

When their singing crescendos in late July, their song seems to cycle into a clackety-clickety, clackety-clickety, clackety-clickety resonance.  The cycling reminds me of dark mornings when I stood outside of a cotton mill weave room waiting for the light to flash foretelling eight hours of what I thought of as hell on earth.   The seven hundred and fifty Draper looms cycled the same way from a distance.  When the weave room door opened, the cycling was replaced by a den of sound with no boundaries.  I doubt many of you know the sound I’m talking about since weave rooms are far and in between these days.

The July flies only live for a few weeks so I will not begrudge them their singing.  The males will sing, the females will click their wings and lay their eggs in twigs and leaves.  In a few weeks, the eggs will hatch, the nymphs will fall to the ground and burrow in for another one, thirteen, or seventeen years.  The “cicadian” cycle will begin again. 

Side trip: “You say circadian, I say cicadian. Let’s call the whole thing off.” It turns out I have been missaying “cicadian rhythm” for years…since I first mis-learned the word. I understand I’m not the only person confused. While cicadas have circadian rhythms they do not have cicadian rhythms. The term “circadian” stems from the Latin “circa” (which means “around“) and “diem” (which means “day”). It has nothing to do with cicadas despite their own rhythms and my own faulty hearing.

A second side trip: “Cricket clickers” were used by paratroopers in World War Two to identify each other after a night jump such as the night before Operation Overlord, the D-Day landing. A single click was to be followed by a double click. If it wasn’t, someone might end up dead. That was the plan at least.

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Cicada painting by Louise Holland

Books by Don Miller may be published at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1Smn0AExgDblqvTnANFmKq44x7fzmXw07t9WNlbgdBSpzqv4-X7Pt1EfE

A Funeral Without a Casserole is Just a Funeral

Southern funerals have always been equal parts family reunion and social gathering. I think it dates to the days when Southern families were so spread out and isolated.  It was a chance to reconnect and be social even if it was a sad event. It was time to serve those who needed it the most.

You can’t have a social gathering without food whether it was a cotillion or a funeral. Funerals were where the “church ladies” came in and ran the show.  They may not be allowed to be preachers or deacons but in times of need, they are the backbone of the church.  All the while, wearing their pearls and white gloves, their little pillbox hats on their blue-white heads.  They all seemed to smell of lilac or gardenia and had names like Miss Agnes or Miss Minnie. 

I know every section of the US has its own set of traditions, but the South knows…or knew how to do “grief” food.  With the gathering of friends and out-of-town family, the grieving family didn’t need to worry about preparing food.  This was a time to tell stories and relate memories associated with the deceased. Maybe even tell a joke or two if the dearly departed is the butt of it.  “You remember when ole Earl blew up his still?  Told him he ought not to hide it in the chicken coop.  Chicken feathers was flyin’ everywhere.” 

It’s not a time for the grieving family members to be planning menus.  Enter close friends and the “church ladies.”  Bless their little blue-haired heads.

Platters of food begin to arrive before the body is cold.  A half dozen versions of fried chicken, everyone’s Grandma “So and So’s” deviled eggs, mac and cheese, and “forty-leven” different deserts ranging from red velvet cake to banana puddin’.  It is as if they had prepared ahead of time just in case someone died. Do good Baptists have a casserole frozen and stashed away just in case?

“You know, old Earl looked kinda peeked at church Sundee.  I’m gonna make this caramel cake usin’ Grandma Earlean’s recipe just in case he kicks the bucket.”

Comfort food in a person’s time of need.  There is a reason comfort food is called comfort food.  It makes you feel better in the worst situations until you step on the scales or feel that sudden “There’s an elephant sittin’ on my chest” feeling.  This is of no concern to the church ladies and when the body has made its final six foot trip, there is room for one more meal. 

Doesn’t matter that the grieving family can’t close the refrigerator door for the casserole dishes or that both the microwave and convection oven are filled with six different versions of the same protein.   The post burial meal must be observed.

More mainstays are laid out. Fried chicken, again, or maybe, baked ham, more deviled eggs, more mac and cheese, a dozen congealed salads, what we called Jell-O salad, and several different potato salads.  Depending upon the time of year, fried okra or fresh creamed corn might find a place at the long tables covered in white linen tablecloths. 

A church lady directs us down both sides of the table as soon as the grieving family is served and settled…and  in a stringy, sharp voice and pointing a white-gloved finger, “Y’all the desert table and sweet tea are over yonder.”  She nudges me, “You better hurry if you want some of my chicken pot pie. I knows how much you like it! And get you some of Miss Sally’s banana puddin’ before it gets gone.”  Can’t fault her, Miss Mamie was correct.

How many casseroles can there be?” Several dozen casseroles of different types it would seem.  I’m sure the church ladies formed a telephone chain,  in fact, in distant times, they may have been on the same party line. “I’m gonna do a green bean casserole if I can find that can of Campbell’s Mushroom Soup and a can of those fried onions.  Why don’t you do broccoli?”  Or squash, or funeral potatoes, or chicken pot pie, or if someone is creative or from the low country, chicken bog.

This is the way it should be, comfort food for the grieving, but something has gone amiss. 

I found myself at a recent funeral.  I could not believe it…I refuse to believe it! 

Chicken provided by KFC and Bojangles.  What?  They didn’t even take it out of the box. Hard ole biscuits and that watery potato salad. Slaw so sweet it set your teeth on edge. I didn’t even try the tea. I know we live in different times but this…this…this is sacrilege. “Blasphemy I say!!!!” And this was in a Southern Baptist institution. 

Not even one, three-quart casserole dish with a name taped to the bottom.  What have we come to?  What have we become? Where is the banana pudding?

I can’t believe the lack of respect shown for the dearly departed family. I didn’t know the family. I just stopped in for the food.

More of Don Miller’s ramblings may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3gtYqKmk1eSIHBoTiQc5rg12E6_7eZY6AHLuMDN323mC4bdmKMRfn-fKY

The image is of a traditional “funeral” potato casserole.

A Smiling Possum with a Corn Cob

All is not well in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. We’ve found our little piece of heaven comes with unintended consequences. 

As the area around us began to build up as others decided to carve out their own little pieces of heaven, we made the decision to turn ours into a wilderness preserve.  Ninety acres of mixed forest, rolling hills (that’s a lie perpetuated by a realtor, more like small mountains), and wildlife galore. 

We can live in harmony with most but some of the wildlife are…well…quite brazen.  The bear that periodically tears down my fence and scatters the trash comes to mind or the deer that samples my Hosta.  The brood of chipmunks who make me laugh until they dig into the flower pots and seed bag. I can live with them.  It is we who are encroaching on them.  I can pick up the trash and the Hosta grows back.  The chain link I don’t like anyway. 

Our latest issue is a raccoon.  Brazen little….  He began raiding my suet cakes until I acted.  He is not a happy camper.  Tonight, he stood upright looking through the window into our sunken den.  My bride was enthralled and tried to snap a picture.  I knew this wasn’t going to end well. 

Raccoon hanging on our window screen waiting for a peanut butter sandwich |  Animals, Raccoon, Critter
Hey, is that a peanut butter sandwich? Photo from Pinterest.

“Oh, he’s hungry.  What can we feed him?”

“Nothing, he’s a wild animal and besides, there are berries everywhere.” 

“We have that old dogfood, do you think….”

In a very conservative friend’s voice I thought but didn’t say, “He needs to get off his ass and go to work.  See what free handouts get you?” Believe me it was my friends voice, not mine. I have not problems with handouts for the needy.  I didn’t say it because my bride had already walked out the door with dry dogfood. I hope Rocky Raccoon doesn’t have a family.

I fully expect this little bandit to knock on the door and ask, “When is supper served? Should I bring a red or a white?” 

I now bring the suet cakes in at night and if he figures out how to reach the bird feeders, I’m sure I’ll have to bring them in too. He doesn’t seem to like sunflower seeds.  Lord help us if he figures out the door handles.  I see him rifling through the fridge and writing out a shopping list.

As the morning dawned, I stood in front of the kitchen sink playing the previous evening’s festivities over in my mind.  Dawn was just breaking, and I turned off the light to get a better view of the flat and creek behind the house. Colors were still mostly muted blues and gray with a hint of green but light enough for me to see.

I caught movement from the corner of my eye and saw a possum waddling by. He was inside of the fence, a fresh corncob from my compost bin was held in his mouth.  The possum paused looking up at the fence as if to say, “A preposition is anything a possum with a corncob in his mouth can do to a fence.  Go over it, around it, under it, or through it.”  My fourth or fifth grade English teacher should be proud but he won’t go through it with the corn cob.

I tapped on the windowpane and the possum turned toward the noise, dropped the cob, and grinned. “Like a possum eating persimmons”, I thought despite the fact we are months from ripe persimmons.  When I tapped again, he grabbed his booty and slowly made his way over the fence before disappearing into the Tiger lilies.

I fell into a warm memory.  Warm now, not so much then.  My beautiful puppies, Mattie and Tilly, would bring me gifts in the form of possums they had caught climbing down from the persimmon tree.  Caught but in most cases not killed.  It is called playing possum for a reason.

I can see them clearly in my mind’s eye, sitting and puppy dog smiling, tails wagging as they waited for their “good puppy” treat.  A possum laying at their feet as if sacrificed to their puppy dog god. Damn, I miss those puppies.

One possum revived itself and tried to make an escape through our dining room door causing a scene from the “Keystone Cops” to play out as we attempted to chase her into a pasteboard box.  Success was attained but it was a near thing.

Another worried us to death because of the eight babies latched onto her back.  Worried until the critter opened an eye and winked.  Not to fear, she wandered off after being deposited outside of the fence, the babies hanging on for dear life.

Many is the time I have said prayers of thanks that their gifts were possums and not skunks.  I’m sure we have them too, but sometimes good fortune can’t be explained. 

Sometimes all it takes to brighten a day is a grinning possum with a corncob.

Figure 2. Juvenile opossums hanging out.
My favorite possum picture. Credit: Frank Lukasseck/Corbis, backyardzoologist.wordpress.com. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/

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Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2L-7MYr7YwIZvXAu4uKWCZ-MWUeCQ3hBRpraJcjGpH8yJ7KPVmbMgPVRI

Flower Moons, Bream Beds, and Cooter Soup

The May, full “Flower Moon” had risen just above the tree line along my southeast horizon. Big with a pinkish tint, I watched it rise although the warm pre-dawn felt more like July or August in the foothills of the Blue Ridge than May.  Temperatures climbing to the low nineties didn’t sound bad if you live in south Texas or Arizona but as you are aware, “It ain’t the heat, it’s the humidity”. The humidity seemed to be building despite there being little chance of rain. 

It has been drier than my first wife’s sense of humor for most of May and the weather liars allowed there would be no relief soon…maybe the early June weekend.  They predicted wide spread showers by Thursday but we’ll see…they have been known to lie before.

My garden is suffering despite the hose and sprinkler I pulled from my house.  Even my crabgrass seems droopy, and the row middles are harder than baked brick.  My tiller bucks and kicks up dust but doesn’t dig deeply enough to remove the crabgrass. Dry, windy air is not good for my garden…or my psoriasis…or my mood.

Not too dry or hot to walk.  It is a habit I look forward to and the world might quit spinnin’ if I were to miss a day.  I have three routes I use but recently I’ve have stuck to my lake route.  The three and a half mile trek is cooler and there is plenty of shade…and plenty to see.

I paused on the lake bank and watched the activity ten or twenty feet from the shoreline.  Dozens of pothole bream beds were visible in the shallow water.  Dark torpedo shapes darted in and out.  The bream seemed to be playing a child’s game of chase.

Full moon, wind favorable.  Might be time to dust off the rod and reel.  It has been a while.  This lake is catch and release but that’s okay.  My freezer is full of food, I don’t think I’ll starve. I’m also not fond of cleaning fish.

I used to fish every chance I got until I lost my fishing partner.  I heard my grandmother’s voice in my head, “Can’t you smell ’em? They’re here close by.”  She’d drop a squirming worm on a number six, gold hook from a cane pole and be rewarded.  I couldn’t smell them then…still can’t but I could see them guarding their beds, dark shapes silhouetted against the sandy bottom.

My grandmother taught me about fishing.  How to tie on a hook and work the worm on to it.  “Make sure you get the tip covered. The breams is smart.”  “Fish facin’ the sun, so they don’t get spooked by your shadow.”  Except when they are on the bed.  They’ll bite about anything on the bed and don’t really care about shadows…mostly out of anger, I think.  Once she ran out of bait and used a flower blossom successfully to catch “just one more.” I’m reminded of “shooting fish in a barrel.” Don’t rightly seem fair but then my grandmother didn’t fish for sport, she fished to eat.

Nannie fished without a bobber mostly and only the smallest split shot weight.  Slowly moving the pole tip back and forth, changing the depth up and down.  Moving up and down the bank until she locked herself in mortal battle with a warmouth or bluegill bream.  She didn’t throw any away.  The smaller ones made it to the garden as fertilizer, the “eatin’ size” into a frying pan.  I’ve tried pan frying and can’t seem to get it right. I’ve just about quit trying.

I walked out before sunrise the next morning carrying an old Zebco 33, a pail with redworms, and a pocket filled with a few extra number six hooks, red and white bobbers, and split shot weights.  The Flower Moon was still visible in the dark western sky. A mile and a half there and a mile and a half back, I could have been ten years old again walking down the river road toward Bower’s Lake, my grandmother and Trixie the puppy leading the way.  Maybe Miss Maggie would be with us too.

The Zebco wasn’t much different than the one I saved up for and bought at Pettus’ store sixty years ago.  If memory serves, it’s my fourth 33.  It’s a cheap, no frills reel perfect for a cheap, no frills guy. It is also beat up despite not having been used much in the past decade.  The cork handle of the rod is peeling, and I noticed I had made a hasty repair on an eyelet with electrician’s tape.  Whatever works.

The fish were active and the action swift.  Pumpkinseed and blue gills, some bigger than my hand, battled for the opportunity to hang themselves on my hook.  In an hour I probably caught two dozen keepers, some I probably caught more than once.  I know my grandmother was spinning in her grave as I let everyone of them go. 

An alligator snapping turtle paid a visit as did several Eastern water turtles.  I’m sure they were looking for a free meal from a stringer that wasn’t there. We called them cooters back in the day, from the West African word kuta.  With a modern change in usage I have to be careful when using the name.

The beast’s shell was as big around as an old-fashioned Caddy hubcap.  Again my grandmother spoke in my head, “Don’t let a snapping turtle bite you ’cause it won’t let go till it thunders.” I don’t know about that Nannie, but I know he’ll take a finger off.

I made the mistake of casting near him trying to scare him away.  Despite his size he was quick in the water.  He submerged and took the worm and hung himself on the hook.  I tried to keep him from heading to the bottom expecting him to break my line.  The line didn’t break, instead he stripped the gears in my old reel and hunkered down on the bottom to wait me out.  Looks like I’m in the market for a fifth Zebco. 

My grandmother would make cooter soup from the turtles she caught or those that happen to wander through her yard.  During those days, Southern farmers who survived the depression days still prepared cooter soup, or catfish stew, or fried rabbit. I think they did it to remind themselves of the bad, old times…the “worser times.” At least she stopped short of possum. She said it was too greasy. I’ll have to take her word that it is.

I understand turtle soup is now considered a delicacy. Don’t believe my grandmother would agree. To her it was a free meat when times were hard.

I remember a big iron pot on an outdoor fire boiling water to dip the cooter in to loosen its shell and skin. It was a lot of work to crack open the shell and skin and bone the meat, being careful to remove the eggs and liver. Rich looking dark meat ground like hamburger, sautéed with onion before being cooked like vegetable soup.  Soup heavy with tomatoes, potatoes, corn, beans, and okra to thicken. Maybe celery or carrots thrown in for good measure. Basic soup with a twist.  Everything harvested from her garden, sometimes even the turtle.  The old cooter tasted like chicken with the consistency of beef…or was it the other way around?

How long can a cooter stay down? Still waiting after a half hour, I tugged on the line and felt the load on the end move. Hand over hand I hoped the line wouldn’t cut me if he ran. He didn’t run and I took out my MacGyver knife and waited to get him close. I cut my line as close as I dared and watched my line and the old mossback disappear into deep water.

Walking back home I carried no fish but there was a spring in my step as I thought the best of life has to offer sometimes requires a lot of work…and provides sweet memories too. An evening in late summer came to my mind. Two old women in flour sack dresses and wide straw hats and a small boy sharing a load. Carrying three stringers full of hand sized or better home and sitting out under the privet bushes and stars next to the garden cleaning them all. Nannie, Miss Maggie Cureton, and a young boy. Listening to them laugh and tell stories of the “worser” old days that didn’t seem so bad. Enough fish for three families to feast on the next day. A memory to feast on for life.

Don Miller writes about various subjects, nonfiction, fiction and some with elements of both. His author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3MGRivTC9YRWjMTAbB1FsY7cD3V0OLEHDQLxd3M7T2ka0A4gkmY5YWW-g

Psychedelic Tangerine Dreams

I’ve awoke with a start.  Another one of those dreams that I usually reserve for nights after too many Margaritas and seafood tacos.  I can’t tell you the last time I had a Margarita…or a seafood taco.  It wasn’t last night. 

This dream was too vivid, and it wasn’t the first one. Good news, it wasn’t a nightmare…maybe.

There was once an old man who walked the two-lane road in front of my house.  My dream included him.  His name was Bap.  My guess…Bap was a nickname.  Being young I referred to him as Mr. Wolfe.  After rubbing the sleep from my eyes I remembered what the old folks said about Bap, “He ain’t right in the head.” Maybe I’m not either.

Dressed in bib overalls and a dusty, sweat-stained fedora, he would walk until approached by a car.  As the car drew near, he would recoil, clearly fearing the car might suddenly lose control and run him down.  His eyes were dark and brooding, boring into the driver as if Bap could somehow create a visual barrier that might protect him from being squashed flat like an unlucky possum.  His head followed the movement of the car until it was well past. Thankfully there were few cars during those days but I don’t think Bap had much to do anyway.

There were stories told around campfires by preteen boys that claimed Bap had been kidnapped by nefarious teenagers up to no good, taken on a wild ride in someone’s jalopy and let out far from home.  Somehow this had translated into a fear of cars instead of a fear of nefarious teenagers.

When I asked my father about him my dad simply replied, “Ole Bab is just a quare bird.  Don’t worry, he’s harmless.”  I guess he was, I remember him only as a reluctant and fearful walker and no threat to society. 

I dreamt about him last night.  Bap, not my father.  I’ve had a series of dreams that, while none are exactly the same, my series follows the same theme.  I’m lost and as the dream progresses, I get more lost and quite anxious about it.

Last night was the sixth in the series since the beginning of this month, a variation on a theme once or twice a week. Having reoccurring dreams is not new to me but I feel something is amiss, I’m a bubble off plumb. More so than usual I should say.

Why am I dreaming in psychedelic tangerine and blue paisley?  Why am I having a dream that includes a man long dead, a man I haven’t thought about in decades? Why am I having dreams that include unicorns and oiled up body builders hitting a bell with sledge hammers.

In the dream I can see my destination clearly in the distance even though I don’t really know what my destination is.  I just know it is there. I’m on a high hill under a haze filled sky with a brightly lit city spread out below.  I see my destination but  somehow, I get lost.  I see it again and again from different vantage points. 

I see it over and over and over and over again its location changes and I’m further away.  Short cuts avail themselves, but they turn into lengthy long cuts as I find myself in mazes that include textile mills, construction sites, athletic complexes, even a cruise ship. 

I find myself in dimly lit corridors or brightly lit shopping malls.  In one I open a door to a disco lounge complete with shiny disco ball, swirling women in dresses made of ethereal fabrics, and John Travolta in his white suit.  At least the Bee Gees aren’t singing in the background, “Staying alive, staying alive, oh, oh, oh….” Instead I hear Jimmy Buffett singing, “My whole life lies waiting behind door number three.” Great, Monty Hall may be in my next dream.

I open doors and am led further from my destination or to rooms with no exits.  In one, Bap stands against the wall staring at me with the look he reserved for cars, no white suit just bib overalls, a dark stare above a mouth formed into an “O”. 

All along the way there are people, in many places there is a crush of bodies.  People from my far past like Bap or people from my near past.  Friends long dead, others quite alive.  Family members galore. Folks I haven’t spoken to in decades and others I talked to yesterday including the little blond runner with the bouncing ponytail.  No rhyme or reason in psychedelic colors.

If I were an electrical media device, I’d attempt a hard reset.  For some reason an engine seems more appropriate. I think my timing gear is off and I might be missing on a couple of cylinders. I’m in need of a tune up, BIGGLY!

Despite so much color in the dream I have awakened feeling like a threadbare cotton tee shirt, its logo faded from view.

I awake and remember the dreams vividly…and the colors I dream in.  The colors are psychedelic. Tangerine and pink acrylics in a swirling paisley and that’s just the unicorns walking around an azure blue lake in the middle of a football field.  Did someone sneak LSD into the corn salad I made for myself last night? The oiled up body builders beating the bell with sledge hammers? Turns out my alarm was going off. I don’t know why the resemble Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

I don’t know what the dreams mean…do they mean anything?  I’ve always believed dreams to be the discharge of random, unneeded data…a cleansing of unneeded (unwanted?) memories.  Freud and Jung would disagree, I guess.   

Most of my dreams fade over time. Not this one. The tangerine is still quite bright. 

I should be happy.  They are not nightmares…at least not yet.  My concern is probably much to do about nothing and I am actually looking forward to meeting up with people I haven’t seen in a while…even in a dream.  I should take the stance that you really can’t be lost if you don’t have any idea where you are going anyway. Maybe I should go ahead and have a spicy fish taco and a tequila drink…or three. Who knows how lost I might get or who I might meet up with.

Door Number Three sung by Jimmy Buffett on the album AIA.

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR02mav138M8WD5XAa0evj0FzgjRW4oesksttngRRqYeqHwSRc-6AoUmN4Q

Best Laid Plans

Or the Midas touch in reverse.  Everything I touch is turning into something other than gold.

What did I do to deserve this?  Early in the week my tractor went down, just deader than the preverbal door nail…what is a dead door nail exactly?  I can’t answer the question because my iffy internet is down…and back up…and down again.  Wait it is back…thank you William Shakespeare.  “A nail driven into a door that has been clenched or bent and therefore unlikely to be resurrected for further use.” I’m still a bit confused.

I’ve tried jumping the tractor but that hasn’t worked…nor has checking the battery, jiggling wires, or saying prayers to the gods of John Deere tractors and burning a cigar in hopes of evoking good Ju Ju.  I’m almost sure it is a neutral safety switch but repairing it is beyond me.  Anything beyond “shakin’ wars” is beyond me.  Can you shoot a tractor and put it out of its misery?

Probably not.  I backed the truck into it because it died where I don’t usually park it.  You guessed it.  No damage to the tractor.  My bumper however is scarred for life as am I since my bride saw it. I tried to play dumb, an easy task, until she saw the green paint. She watches too many Crossing Jordan and Rizzoli and Isles reruns.

This is the time of year I really need my tractor.  I can hear the grass growing and pretty much see the kudzu creeping toward my garden.  It is hard to run the tiller or bush hog without it.  I don’t mind picking up a hoe, but I’ve got too much to cut for a sling blade and I’m really afraid to try and crank my weed eater.

I grew up with big ole John Deere tractors. They truly ran like a deer. So did the first two I owned. This one is the third and it is not a charm. I’m thinking about going orange with a Kubota after I shoot the green one.

In the same week I lost the mouse pointer on my laptop which makes copying and pasting impossible for fat, clumsy fingers.  Writing has become interesting but as you can read, not impossible. 

Three sessions with “The Geek Squad” have failed to find my disappearing mouse pointer.  The little arrow is visible and then it isn’t just like a really good magic trick. Except good magic tricks usually involve the reappearance of what disappeared.  Maybe David Copperfield can help me or at least find a quarter behind my ear.

I need to cut grass, but the pipeline cyber-attack has caused gasoline supplies to dry up. The African Sahel is less dry. We are “sun high in the sky over parched ground dry”. My friends and neighbors filling up shopping bags and milk jugs, blowing their cars up. Shopping bags? Really? Eventually there will be gasoline enough to go buy more toilet paper. I see that Chick-Fil-A is running short on sauce. Quick! Go stock up and leave the gasoline alone. 

I had enough gasoline to put in one mower so I of course, riding my wave of frustration, picked the wrong one. I picked the riding mower with the flat tire…a tire I can’t get to inflate because it has pulled away from the rim.  I even tried spraying starter fluid and igniting it. I did not burn anything or lose a body part but the tire is still flat.

A tire I can’t change unless I use the tractor that isn’t running to pick it up or dig a hole under it for a jack to fit.  Maybe I can conjure up old Archimedes to help me lever the front end up.  No, I’m on a downhill drag. I’m gonna wait till Monday.

I’m afraid to attempt to crank or turn on anything else.  The Midas touch in reverse.  Nothing bright and shiny for my troubles just piles of ooey gooey brown smelly stuff.

I’m thinking I should take a break from frustration to go for a walk…maybe not, if I break something else it might be a limb.  Can I hurt myself sitting in my recliner? I’m going for a walk, I’ll check back if I’m not in the hospital.

Seductive and Sensual….

Maybe even Erotic…Hamburger Eroticism that is.

Am I the only person who talks in naughty whispers to their hamburger?  Is it normal? What is normal? Am I the crazy Southern uncle or grandfather being paraded out to entertain the kiddies?  Am I the guy the youngin’s talk about in their own whispered tones, “Don’t mind him, he’s harmless. Just a degree or two off of plumb. He’s talking about hamburgers not…you know.”

Talking to a hamburger as if it were an alluring female striping down to her unmentionables is not normal, but I guess it is because I eat so few.   Get your mind out of the gutter, you degenerate, I’m talking about hamburgers.

When the rare hamburger finds its way onto my menu, I tend to cook them myself.  I think I should give up my “man card”. Grilled, dry, ninety-ten blends that don’t satisfy me at all. All in the name of health. I don’t think hamburgers and heart health should be used in the same thought. But then again, hamburgers shouldn’t be a sexual experience either. Can you guess what kind I just ate? The hamburger equivalent of a cracker.

Soooo…not just any hamburger gets the sexy talk, but the kind that starts out as a ball of ground beef the size of a baseball and is squashed flat by a spatula onto a greasy griddle.  A miraculous metamorphosis occurs. More flavor is imparted and an even sear too.  Crisp on the outside and oh so moist and juicy on the inside.  It is the difference between a silk nightgown and a wool nightshirt. I’m having both a Pavlovian and an erotic reaction. My very own “Cheeseburger in Paradise” moment but hold the cheese, please.

If I were writing a book my short order cook would be more round than tall, wearing a stained white apron and wearing a hairnet under one of those paper hats that resembles a World War Two garrison cap.  The hat would be worn at a jaunty angle and have grease stained finger prints all over it. With a toothpick wedged into the side of his mouth, the cook would answer to the name Earl or Mose…or maybe Ike. He would be as greasy as his hamburgers. The Chesterfield unfiltered resting behind one ear is optional.  He’s not sexy…he’s my pimp.  If hamburgers were violins he would be Antonius Stradivarius.

My first “foodgasam” occurred in college. I was seduced as an immature Newberry College freshman and my “affaire de l’estomac” lasted for the next four years.  It was not my first hamburger. I had been around the corner once or twice, Porter’s Grill, The Wagon Wheel, The Clock. No, I was not a burger virgin but this was like seeing my first Playboy centerfold…live and in living color without air brushing or filters…or clothes. The only difference was, unlike the Playboy centerfold, this hamburger was going home with me. 

I was sorely tempted and was finally worn down. I gave into what would become “heaven waiting in a brown paper bag”, the “Dopey Burger.” Dopey, who looked nothing like the cook I created earlier, ran a hole in the wall hamburger joint named The Tomahawk Café across the street from Cromer Hall, the jock dorm. He had a real name, John Edwards, but everyone just called him Dopey and the café, Dopey’s and not the Tomahawk.

Names didn’t matter…we were two nameless ships passing in the night. This was a “third rate romance, low rent rendezvous.” built on nothing more than lust…the lust for the best burger I have ever stuffed into my mouth. A burger featuring a huge handmade patty, fried on a grill before being bedded down on a soft and sensual sesame seed bun. 

I watched wantonly as he placed a ball of meat on the griddle before smashing it flat. I felt my heart skip a beat and my breathing become labored when Dopey went about spreading mayonnaise copiously on both bun halves, edge to edge.

With a sweet onion slice, I really didn’t need the lettuce and tomato on the burger but watching him add them reminded me of a beautiful, long legged redhead wearing a sexy negligee…in reverse I guess, putting it on rather than taking it off.  And any hair color is acceptable, just no catsup or mustard please.

I snuck out the diner like a man guilty of breaking one of the Lord’s commandments…I wasn’t breaking a commandment but I’m sure I hit a couple of the deadly sins. Let me see, lusting for a burger…check. Gluttony, self explanatory…check. Sloth…as I lay in my bunk glistening with hamburger grease and burping contentedly…check. Three out of seven ain’t bad.

Despite the paper bag and its wax paper covering, I fondled and felt its seductive shape as I made my way back to my dorm room. As soon as I closed my door behind me, I locked it and turned down the lights. This was for my eyes only! Peeking inside the bag and…oh my.  I couldn’t control myself.  The bun was buttered and toasted. I understand why porn addicts have issues breaking their habit.

Taking the burger out and slowly undressing it from its wax paper wrapper, I exposed it naked to the world and my salivating lips. It’s very scent played to my basest instinct, my greatest sin, gluttony.

Mayonnaise and grease leaked out, ran down my hand, covering my fingers…more dripped down my chin…staining the paper napkins on my desk…I licked my fingers carnally giving into my depravity.  I took a bite, and then another. I was out of control.

As I looked at the last bite I asked, “Was it good for you? Not so much?” I’m not satiated either…but I ordered two. My own little ménage à trois. Just me and two beguiling Dopey burgers. I promised to take more time with the second one…I lied.

Unfortunately, my love affair ended badly.  I was addicted and found myself broke.

“Where will I get my next fix? “, asked the Dopey Burger addict.

“You can run a tab payable at the end of the semester?”, said the Dopey Burger dealing pimp.

“Like water to a thirsty man. I’ll have two.”

Four years later, “I can’t graduate until I pay how much?” 

To quote author Rick Bragg, “I know magic when I taste it.” This was magic and Dopey was the wizard, his spatula replacing his magic staff.

Unfortunately the magic that was my love affair is no more. Like the memory of my first kiss, Dopey and the Dopey Burger are lost among the sands of time. The “brothel of hamburger delights” transitioned to where ever hole in the wall diners transition several years ago. I’m sure the rats and roaches were devastated. Progress sucks.

Still I search. Especially after I eat one of my own creations. Like Sir Galahad, I search for the hamburger holy grail…or maybe more like Monty Python. My grail is a hamburger that reminds me of a Dopey Burger. My quest continues.

Note: After Newberry College changed their mascot from The Indians to The Wolves, The Tomahawk Café became known simply as Dopey’s Café. Dopey’s closed for good in 2017 after sixty plus years, the building and its memories torn down. Progress sucks bigly…lust like my hamburgers.

***

For more of Don Miller’s ramblings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1dxW98rKV_5v4REICuZyvVsL-B5lN00AMMqszuAzBo49ox2ksFDHl-wm8

His latest release is the second historical novel featuring the Edwards’ clan in the Drunken Irishman Saloon Series: Long Ride to Paradise.

21289 Steps

21289 steps….the average of the number of steps I took yesterday as shown by my Fitbit, an app that came with my iPhone, and an app I downloaded later.  Three ways to count steps!!! That does not include the Runtastic app that analyzes distance, time, pace, average pace, and a dozen other fitness markers. Having four ways to “anal-ize” my steps might be excessive.  I might be more obsessive or anal retentive than I credit myself.  Or maybe, I don’t trust my Fitbit. 

Taking the time to average my number of steps from my three tracking apps might be a symptom of my peculiar brand of insanity.  Even my insanity has insanities.  Taking 21289 steps might be excessive, period.  Some of my steps were not easy.  The morning after my knees are decrying my brutality…and stupidity.  Where did I put my Tylenol?

21289 steps are over twice the recommended number of steps the fitness gods say should be our fitness goal. The fitness “gold” standard, ten thousand steps accompanied by gothic organ music. 

One of the more inquisitive voices in my head asked, “Why is it ten thousand steps…why not 9999 steps or 10001 steps?  Why can’t we be fit eating a slab of bacon?”  The call to wander down a pig trail was strong.  “Indeed, why are ten thousand steps the fitness gold standard?”

“Turns out, it is not based on anything scientific!”…or should I say, it did not start out that way.  Ten thousand steps was nothing more than a marketing ploy.

“There doesn’t appear to be any scientific basis for the idea that 10,000 steps should be everyone’s daily fitness goal”, according to I-Min Lee, professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. I quoted Ms. Lee but understand, there are other studies that parrot her.

Ten Thousand steps turns out to be a marketing strategy, propaganda?  Lie?  Shades of the parental phrase I remember, “drink your milk so you’ll have strong bones.” That propaganda certainly sold more milk. No really.  Calcium and Vitamin D are good for you but do not guarantee strong bones.  While we are exploding myths, “Superman couldn’t have turned coal into a diamond either.” What?

In the early 1960s, a Japanese company introduced their pedometer with the interesting name, manpo-kei.  Interesting?  Hell, I can’t even pronounce it.  I can however translate it, “10,000-step meter.” “man” stands for 10,000, “po” for step and “kei” for gauge. “Well, ain’t that the catfish in the trap?” (Southern idiom for surprise)

Okay, before you go out and trash your pedometers and fitness trackers and trade them for a bacon wrapped cheeseburger, do not.  Studies made since the 1960s bear out the science behind ten thousand steps…not as a “gold” standard, but a worthy and attainable goal.

Without boring you anymore than usual, in a 2010 “step” study, it was found, on an average the Japanese walk 7,168 per day and the Swiss at 9,650 per day.  A 2004 study showed Amish men “pickin’ ‘em up” at an average of 18,425 steps a day.  Wow, I outwalked an Amish man yesterday.  All three of these samples are healthier as an overall population than your average American.  And yes, there are other studies from other places and demographics that agree with this.

In the same 2010 study, Americans averaged less than five thousand steps per day, and Americans are getting fatter, and dying sooner than most “advanced” nations.  I know, our diet doesn’t help either.  Bacon, bacon, bacon!!!!  I admit I would rather be sedentary with a BLT in my mouth that going out in the wee morning hours or rain and hoofing it for three or four miles. I do not walk in the rain if I can help it.  There are limits to my obsession.

My 2006 heart attack changed my outlook but not my desires.  There is nothing more sensual than disrobing a wax paper wrapped bacon cheeseburger on a soft sesame seed bun.  The tomato and onion slices, along with lettuce peeking seductively out from the edges of the bun. Tantalizingly and teasingly licking the juices running down my fingers.  Fried onion rings looking on quietly awaiting the orgy. “Was it good for you,” I asked my taste buds…it was until I felt the tightening in my chest.  It was not desire and there was no passionate release…until the four stints were “surfed” into my blocked arteries.   

Ten thousand steps became my daily obsession, but my neurotic fascination with the number did not begin that way.  My first post heart attack walk was one third of a mile, seven or eight hundred steps at best.  My legs felt like over cooked spaghetti, my perspiration resembled Niagara Falls after a hurricane, my respiration sounded like an overworked steam locomotive.  My bride had to walk back and bring the car to get me back home.  She wondered out loud, “Should I take you to the emergency room or the funeral home?”  “Thanks hon, just get me in the house and let me die in peace.”

I didn’t die and have come a long way since that day.  My screaming knees do not let me run any longer, my dreams of marathons are mute, but I walk twenty to twenty-five miles a week and average ten thousand steps six out of seven days.  Most days Tylenol takes the edge off my efforts and I am marginally productive. 

Whether ten thousand steps was based upon science originally or not does not really matter.  Get up and out, move, stay healthy.  Move, move, move not bacon, bacon, bacon!

***

Don Miller writes on various subjects and has recently released his second “Drunken Irishman Saloon” tale. It can be purchased or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Long+ride+to+paradise+Don+Miller&ref=nb_sb_noss

Long Ride to Paradise: Tales of the Drunken Irishman Saloon

To access his authors page go to https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0podOBekn70hQc7jZnq2H5vZVw-3P7aKLsRI1slX-lVK-vWml-uR2KYJU

Of Blind Pigs and Acorns…of Genes and Superstition…

and Pedro Cerrano.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the movie:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy Pedro in Major League via YouTube.

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