“No Unloved Flowers”

 

“A weed is but an unloved flower.” ― Ella Wheeler Wilcox

There are no unloved flowers on my little piece of heaven.  My bride makes sure.  From wild morning glory to thistle; she loves them all…much to my vexation.

My little piece of heaven is a wildlife refuge; a jungle, the bush, the wilds, at times a rain forest.  Ninty acres of tangles, bramble, and bushes.   No area is more tangled than in my backyard.

No animal is unwelcomed, no reptile reviled, not even the juvenile black rat snake I’ve twice moved from the porch as he tries to find a way to the wren’s nest built on the fan.

Squirrels and ground squirrels battle cardinals for the sunflower seeds I carefully place in the bird feeders…bird feeders Linda Gail…they are bird feeders.  Make that squirrel and bird feeders.

A passing raccoon looks up and briefly contemplates making them raccoon feeders.  I’m sure she’ll be back once she comes up with a plan to scale the deck the feeders rest under.

More importantly and to the point, there is no blossom too small not to be called a flower.  Miss PE has never met a weed; flora, fauna or human.

If it were cold it would be blackberry winter, but it is already blackberry summer.  The white blooms are so bright they seem to glow in the dark.

It is the spring grass cutting season and my bride’s proclivities bring us into conflict.

I have spent a goodly portion of my life cutting grass, endlessly walking or riding in mindless circles.  From cutting hay in fields of tall fescue or oats as a youngster to the well-manicured Bermuda playing fields of my coaching career.  From pristine lawns of zoysia…to, my weed-filled yard.  No more mindless circles with Miss Linda in control… she is, most certainly, in control.

Don’t cut the clover, bees and rabbits love it.  Stay away from the small yellow flowers put off by the wood sorrel that’s mixed in with the white blossoms of the wild strawberries.  Nice little red strawberries that taste…they have no taste at all.

Those little purple thingies…No! No! No!  We have plenty of Vinca minor and periwinkle.  They put off bigger purple thingies!  The wild violets and purple basil, No! No! No! Not unless you want to lose a body part.

Don’t touch the milkweed, butterflies feed on it…except that’s not milkweed, it’s burnweed.  It never blooms and the butterflies have plenty of other plants to feed upon.  We will have these stalky things all over the place.  Six feet tall if an inch and not one butterfly flying about its blooms because there are no blooms.  Not going to argue, who knows it may bloom this year.

We have plenty of butterflies on other blooms.  Butterflies and bees, and yellow jackets building in the ground under the grass I’ve been forced to leave uncut.  Mosquitoes by the gazillions hiding in all our greenery.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I love wildflowers, real wildflowers.  Our trillium, the wild sweet peas, the honeysuckle, wild iris, and other plants I have no name for.

I don’t like pokeweed.  The birds don’t seem to like it either. And dammit, the privet is blooming…it is quite pretty.  Pretty like my bride and a big pain in the butt to control.  You are free to think about what I am thinking but I won’t say it for fear she might hear.

She was right about the native honeysuckle.  I suggested we trim it up a bit…to the ground?  Oh no!  My fences are now covered in yellow and white. The yard smells wonderfully no matter which direction the wind blows and I just saw three hummingbirds and a half dozen butterflies buzzing about.  See, we don’t need those spiky things.

The red-throated anole likes to hide in the honeysuckle.  He suns himself on the gate, bright green in the sunshine. He blows out his little red-pink neck before running for cover when I approach. I hope he continues to hide well. My persistent black rat snake is now stalking him I think.

I must face the music.  She’s right about everything…even when she’s not.

In case there is not enough color in the yard she’s made friends with a local nursery owner…flowers in baskets are everywhere.  She can’t drive by the nursery without turning in.  Cana lilies and begonias because our Tiger lilies and old-fashioned begonias haven’t bloomed yet I guess.  Caladiums in and around the irises that are just now blooming.  Colorful baskets of cascading blooms because…just because.

Despite the color they add, my yard will look like a jungle until fall when she finally lets me clean it up.  Gee.  I was hoping for a long summer anyway.

The image is from https://phys.org/news/2017-05-dandelion-seeds-pipette-lab.html

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

 

 

 

 

 

As the Word Turns…

 

                        “A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought.”                  Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night

I don’t think I’ve ever had an original thought, well there was a quote in the local newspaper after a state championship victory, “I was tighter than a tick on a fat dog.”  Don’t know where my quote came from, I’m sure it wasn’t original even though I created it on the spot.  Later I heard someone say they were “as tight as a flea’s ass over a rain barrel.”

I had been a bit tense before the game, as in “You couldn’t have slammed a twenty-one gauge needle up my ass with a sledgehammer” tense.  Somewhat graphic but you do get the point.  Ouch!

I have taken to sharing daily quotes on social media.  Quotes that I find uplifting or thought-provoking.  Quotes made by other people, smart people, creative people.  Everything I am not.

Like many things I do, these quotes lead to other thoughts, down rabbit holes and pig trails, the piling on effect.  My meanderings led me to the distinct language we Southerners have created from what was once English.  Our slang and sayings we have created from the “King’s English.”

Good Southerner writers seem to have the capacity to turn a word or phrase that means one thing into something else entirely and because I am incapable of original thought, I’ve used many phrases and idioms created by someone else.

I am not only Southern but as “country as a cow patty”.  I grew up “over yonder on the edge of nothin’” and moved to a place that is not quite “the end of the world but you can sure see it from there.”  I tend to “drop my gees” when I talk and sometimes when I write.

“I was as happy as a dead pig in sunshine” might be my favorite saying and I’ve used it often to describe my first true love.  Unfortunately, I was not the little blonde’s first true love…seems she had many true loves, some simultaneously.  “You couldn’t stir ’em with a stick.”  Despite her somewhat crowded pool of suitors, when she finally gave me “the time of day”, I found myself as happy as a “dead pig in sunshine” for most of our relationship.

If a pig were to die and is left in the sunshine for any length of time the skin will dry out…and it will “smell to high heaven”.  As the skin dries, the lips tend to pull away from the pig’s teeth giving the little, porcine feller a smile as if he is quite happy to be dead.  In other words, blissful ignorance of reality…yep that was me, blissfully ignorant she was going to crush my heart flatter than “a toad frog on a country highway”.  Come to think of it I was blissfully ignorant during most of my romantic episodes.

During many occasions chasing true love, I was as “stubborn as an old mud cooter.”  First, the use of the word cooter has nothing to do with its modern-day slang meaning; a woman’s “holiest of holies.”  Cooter is a West African word we Southerners appropriated to describe a water turtle.

If you have ever been unlucky enough to hook a snapping turtle while fishing, you will quickly find out how stubborn they are.  The old mossy back will head to the bottom and dig in.  If they’re big enough you won’t get them off the bottom until they run out of oxygen and come up for air.  If you are willing to wait until that happens and land him without losing a body part, there is the possibility of eating cooter stew, not really “eating high on the hog” but delicious none the less.  If not, you just have to cut your line and move on.  When it came to love, I never really knew how to cut my line…or my loses.  That has nothing to do with “fish or cut bait”, cus it ain’t Southern.

“A blind hog can find an acorn” or “capture lightning in a bottle” as I did when I met Miss Linda thirty-five years ago.  She and I do get “catawampus” on occasion, but mostly I’ve been “sugar in her hand.”  Yep, I have been “sh@#ing in high cotton” nigh on to thirty-two years of matrimony.  Maybe you can make “silk purses out of sow’s ears” after all.

“Bless your (his/her) heart” is a bit more diverse and complicated.  It is a phrase that can be used as sarcasm while gossiping about some unfortunate, “Well bless her heart.  If her brains were gunpowder she couldn’t blow her nose” or face to face, speaking in a slow drawl to a friend, “Bless your heart you are ’bout as smart as a sack of rocks.”  It is rumored to be the Southern Baptist lady’s equivalent of f@#$ you…rumored now, I don’t know for sure.

A major problem with “bless your heart” is it can also be used in a loving and sincere manner.  “Oh, I heard you lost your pet goldfish.  Bless your heart can I bring you a casserole or some potato salad?”  It’s all about inflection and yes, I have heard it directed toward me using every inflection possible.  Being Southern I’ve eaten a lot of casseroles and potato salad too.

“The phrase ‘bless your heart’ is like chicken and waffles.  It can be sweet.  It can be spicy and it’s perfect for any situation.” It’s A Southern Thing https://www.southernthing.com/bless-your-heart-is-all-about-the-tone-2581652582.html?rebelltitem=2#rebelltitem2

For more musings or a book or five, https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from Amazon.com

 

True Believers?

 

True Believer?

true believer. noun. One who is deeply, sometimes fanatically devoted to a cause, organization, or person

  1. (ecclesiastical) A strict follower of a religious doctrine.
  2. (idiomatic) One who sticks to one’s dogma or beliefs irrespective of the facts

 

I wish I was a “true believer,” all smug and sure of my beliefs on politics and religion.  I’m not.  As I interact with those who are, I find myself questioning my own beliefs and other people’s motives.  They say I only need to read the Bible to find the answers.  According to Biblegateway.com, there are over two hundred different translations of the Christian Bible in over sixty languages…”Which translation is the true word?”

There has been a positive outcome to my self-imposed abasement, my metaphorical self-flagellation.  I’ve found I am continually trying to answer the question, “What do I really believe” and continue to question my God as I make my quest.  I also wonder if “questing” is a sin.  According to some of these same “true believers”…maybe.

I grew up in the Methodist Church.  A very structured, high liturgical Methodist Church in a then-rural area with very “give me that old time religion” religious values.  In a previous writing, I might have referred to the church of my youth as a very “tight-assed” church.  “Tight-assed” as in very conventional, very orthodox…just like me at the time.

I have become less so as I have grown older but still consider myself a ‘way too’ conventional person who’s a want-to-be flower child.  Know any flower children hiding in an inhibited and repressed body?  I just can’t seem to dance like no one is watching. No matter how much I wish to be the aging 60’s hippy, I’m still…just…too…tight-assed.  Maybe if they legalize that there “marijahoochie….”  My Mother is rolling in her grave.

I left my tight-assed little rural church in 1968 and went on to attend a tight-assed Lutheran school of higher learning and received a liberal arts degree in history and education.  Again, a very conventional ‘I went to Vespers and Chapel kind of education’, and even considered becoming a man of the cloth until Greek and Latin got in the way.

For some reason, some “true believers” have been deemed my education “totally useless” even a “waste of time”.  With my recently vilified “Liberal Arts” diploma, my equally liberal advanced degrees in secondary education, I taught and coached for forty-five years, warping the minds of our youth.

I taught in schools that are being denigrated by some of my political and Christian right (far right?) friends as “hotbeds” of liberalism.  According to them, instead of teaching the three R’s we quote Marx and Lenin, create project-based lesson plans on the ‘Joys of Communism’ and begin every school day with a silent prayer to the Vodun Goddess Mahu.

I might have exaggerated a bit, but one exfriend deemed I had no worthwhile, “real” life experiences and did not understand “day to day” struggles of “real” men.  “As weak as preacher’s piss,” he said.  I’m guessing his educational experiences weren’t very positive.  Another brought by vocabulary in to question, “Simply showing off” because I used the term cognitive dissonance.   Well, bless your heart.

Reality is: teachers do none of the above, they do have the day to day struggles and I’ve known few weak ones.  Teachers are forced to teach to a test they’ve never seen or been allowed to ask questions about and administered at the end of the year.  They have little time to devote to politics or religion, liberal or conservative.  Also, I talk like I talk.

Teachers do pray, silently just after cursing under their breath, every time there is a full moon, the day very being. Teachers pray to Jehovah, Yahweh, “Sweet Baby Jesus wrapped in fleece” or the patron saint of educators, Saint John-Baptiste de la Salle.  They pray to anyone listening for survival and until “true believers” walk in their shoes, they should be quiet and sit down.  Too strong?  Sorry…now be quiet and sit down.

I don’t like combining politics and religion…or teaching for that matter.  Tying “a” religion to politics is destructive to both…and is against the Constitution, something “true believers” seem to forget unless it is the Second Amendment.  The recent political battle between Progressives and Populists has pulled the middle toward opposite poles and taken religion with it…or maybe religion began the tug of war.  It bears pointing out, neither side is being productive doing it.

Despite my heresy…or blasphemy, I talk to God daily, multiple times.  As I ponder what I am typing now, I continue to ask to be “refreshed” and shown the true light.  I get no answer and take his or her silence to mean, “You’re on the right track, Bubba.”

Most of my conversations with Him revolve around my beliefs.  I continue to search for the path and question why so many “true believers” seem to express so much hatred toward their fellow humans.  Their expressions seem to be so contrary to the Good News I’ve read in the Gospels of Jesus Christ.

Let’s be clear.  I’m not speaking of all “true believers”.  Just those who believe theirs is the only way, those who are so sure of themselves religiously or politically, those who believe there is only black and white.  Those whose beliefs are hurtful to those who have no sin other than to be different.  Those who cross the boundary between deeply believing to extreme fanaticism.

My problem, if it truly is a problem, is that I view life in shades of gray.  There is no black or white…and no one hundred percent certainty.  There is no ‘ALL’ or ‘EVERY’.  There is only uncertainty.

An Indian philosopher, Bara Dada, in a quote restructured and attributed falsely to Gandhi, said, “Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians, you are not like him.”  I don’t believe this is true of all, but I believe the number of “not like Christ” Christians are growing to the point that I self-identify as a “Christ Follower” and not with a specific religion…I know, I still attend a Baptist Church.

Please don’t take my rant as being “holier than thou.”  I’m not.  Refer to the paragraph beginning “My problem….”  I just don’t understand why we are arguing our beliefs as if they were playing a rival football game…or a war.  “My god is better than yours?”  I should also point out, I have atheist friends and friends who practice non-Christian beliefs.  They seem to be more “Christ-like” and embracing than me.

I have just now realized my concerns are not about beliefs…it is about actions.  Your actions tell me all I need to know.  I believe words carry the same weight as actions.  My actions and words have weight.

It doesn’t matter what you call your God or god.  Be it Elohim, Jehovah, Yahweh or Joe, do you rationalize your hate with your religion?  How do you rationalize it?  Maybe I’m not the one who needs to self-evaluate…but I will continue to do so.

For more gentle rantings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is the Church of Uncertain sign near Uncertain, Texas 

 

 

A Love For Horror

 

We are a week away from our annual celebration of St. Hallows Eve, originally a Christian three-day observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.  It has turned into something else but that to is okay.  I don’t have a problem with little ghouls and goblins running about begging for treats…the tricks I worry about.

As with many subjects I choose to write about, the pathway I followed was a crooked one leading from sharing cute posts about “scary” things that have become a staple for Halloween to books and movies about horror.  Not “real” horror.  With what I read in the news, on social media and see on my local TV news stations, there is too much “real” horror.

I fell in love with the horror genre sitting in a lit class in high school.  We were assigned Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart”.  I was hooked.  Later I would pound out a C+ book report on an old Royal typewriter after reading  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles, a yarn that combined the supernatural allure of a hound from hell, murder, and Sherlock Holmes.  The book report was just average but I was still hooked.

Poe and Doyle were followed by Stoker’s Dracula and it’s underlying sexual innuendos.  Vampires living off the blood of virgins… I read it in the “free love” Sixties, a vampire might have starved…well, not where I grew up.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, a book written in a competition suggested by her lover and future husband Percy and poet Lord Byron, was not well received at first, especially when the twenty-year-old authoress was identified, and religious debates ensued.  I found it enthralling and didn’t understand the religious implications at the time.

I honestly don’t remember if I watched the movies based upon these books on late night “horrorfests” or read the books first.  Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff scaring me on late-night reruns.  I don’t guess it mattered to the chicken which came first or why it crossed the road so I’m not going to concern myself with the order of my interests, just that I have them.

I have watched all of the horror movies in the world plus one and probably just as many books on that subject.  Why does someone enjoy getting the bejesus scared out of himself?  I don’t know.  Adrenaline rush?  The release of extreme emotion without the specter of reality hanging over his head?  Maybe.  I know it is an experience best shared with someone.

Years, and years ago I became enthralled reading Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, a rousing vampire yarn that gives wayyyyyyy too much information on how the bloodsuckers operate.  They can’t come into your home unless you invite them, but they can hypnotize you into asking.  Not fair.  After reading a scene in which a character is levitating outside his older brother’s second-story window, tapping to get his attention, I heard “tap, tap, tap” on my second-story window.  I was in bed alone and not about to go look.  It was probably a limb from a tree planted too close to the building…maybe.

Later, when I coached high school football, I found it hard to sleep after Friday night games and would while away the sleepless hours watching an all-night horror marathon on the Turner mega station, TBS.

Some of those movies were awful, others comedic but one with the humorous name, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, scared me out of my wits on a night when I was alone, with no one to hold on to, my screams heard by no one, no one to call.  No, Ghostbusters hadn’t been released yet not that I would have known their phone number.

I’m not a fan of most of what passes for horror in these modern days…there is the new Halloween sequel…I’ll probably go see it…Maybe.  The modern special effects are too graphic, and I tend to lean toward modern Sci-Fi now.

I come from a time when the best special effects were those imagined.  Well, I did just see a commercial for an LG phone involving zombie lovers and the song “You Sexy Thing”…it was funny when his arm fell off.

Many TV stations are having “fright week” to honor Halloween so maybe I can get a fix on some classic horror.  If not there is Netflix and I’ll remember the quote to Larry Talbot, The Wolf Man, from almost everyone in his small hamlet “Even a man who is pure in heart, and says his prayers by night; may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.”

I don’t think we have wolfbane around here.

The video is a voice-over from Paul Anderson at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9ZAIej7jkg.

The image was liberated from http://rebekahganiere.com/tag/monster-mash/

For more of Don Miller’s musings or a book or six go to his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Mudslides, the Bakkers and “Murphy in the Morning”

 

With the discussion of mudslides in the mountains above us triggered by Hurricane Florence, I went sideways on a pig trail that led back in time to Charlotte’s BIG WAYS RADIO in the mid-Seventies and their irreverent morning personality, Robert Murphy.  A focus for Murphy and sidekick Larry Sprinkle was his “PASS THE LOOT” Club, a parody of Jim Bakker’s PTL Club, short for “Praise the Lord” Club.

One of their primary targets was Bakker’s heavily made-up wife, Tammy Faye Bakker.  Made-up as in make-up.  Murphy’s irreverent parodies gave me pause to not only laugh but to self-examine as well.  Some of my examinations made me wonder why I might be smelling burning sulfur.

So how did possible mudslides being forecasts lead me to Robert Murphy’s “Murphy in the Morning”, Jim Bakker and his wife Tammy Faye?  Patience, sometimes pig trails a slow going.

For six years Murphy used humor and parody to poke fun at the locals with characters such as The Great Dildoni and skits including Battlestar Gastonia and Another World-Waxhaw.  He seemed to take delight in railing against the extravagance and rumors of shady business activities emanating from Bakker’s Heritage USA, a Charismatic Christian empire including but was not limited to, a satellite cable Christian network, a family theme park and an air-conditioned dog house for Tammy Faye’s fur babies.

Murphy’s main character, The Reverend Billy Takker would create ways to separate people from their money in the name of the Lord, from selling Indulgences to forecasting worldwide catastrophes, including the end of the world, which only he could put off…for a monetary donation of course.

One episode, causing me to blow coffee through my nose, involved “A catastrophe of Biblical proportions” occurring when Tammy Takker’s copiously applied make-up slid off her face blocking the local interstate.  See, patience is a virtue and I got there…it was a pig trail after all.

Murphy and Sprinkle would continue to parody Jim and Tammy until facts became stranger than fiction and a real sexual and financial scandal rocked Heritage USA forcing Bakker out of the PTL Club and Tammy’s bedroom.

Murphy, his mission accomplished, would leave Big Ways and Charlotte for a fifty-year career, and a big paycheck, in radio in Chicago.  I miss him.

This post should not be taken as a minimalization of the danger from mudslides…or charismatic Christianity.  I’m doing neither.  It is just the way my broken mind works and includes a belief that my God is a humorous God who gets a good laugh from parodies calling out those who prey on believers for the sake of money.   As a Christ follower, I believe we need more Murphys and fewer Bakkers.

While Tammy Faye has gone on to collect her just desserts, Jim is still actively separating believers from their money.  He sells “survival” food to his audience on the syndicated Jim Bakker Show in preparation for the rapture.  I didn’t realize we would need to pack a lunch.

For an example of Murphy spoofing the PTL Club, click the link below.

https://youtu.be/7QJYjHVgLUI

 

Don Miller primarily writes nonfiction, “Things that bother him so”, and can be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM.

The image of Jim and Tammy Faye http://www.whosdatedwho.com/dating/jim-bakker-and-tammy-faye-bakker

A FLOOD OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS

Excerpt fromThrough the Front Gate.  With the drowning we are receiving from Hurricane Florence, I thought about a flood and the weather “bullets” we have dodged here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Enjoy.

We are fifteen feet or more above the closest water, a shallow stream, but we are drowning.  I had an idea how the victims of sinking ships felt as they fought their way to the upper decks, in the dark as a river of water hit them in the face.  According to legend, a ragtime band played “Nearer My God to Thee” as the Titanic went to her watery grave taking some fifteen hundred passengers and crew with her.  The good news is that there were only two of us drowning.  The bad?  Linda Gail was singing hymns and one could have been “Nearer My God to Thee.”  (Actually, the band probably played “Autumn” but that doesn’t fit my story does it?)

Over our thirty years living at “Hemlock Hills” we’ve lived through bad weather and managed to dodge a few bullets…or tornadoes.  Not long after we moved in a twister took down a huge pecan tree which in turn took down several black walnuts along with the power to the house.  I had noted how green the clouds were and how calm, yet oppressive the air felt right before Linda Gail and I, along with three terrified puppies, made for the “perceived” safety of our hallway.

The pecan landed close enough to the house that we just stood outside shaking our heads in disbelief.  A few days later an ancient black walnut weakened by the storm fell into Highway 11 taking our power again before blocking the highway for several hours.  We sold the downed trees for the cost of removal to a self-employed contractor friend who, a couple of years later, sold them back to us in the form of flooring, cabinets, and countertops when he was hired to renovate.  Funny, I remember paying a lot more for the wood we got back than he paid for the trees originally.

Speaking of renovations, the day before ours was to begin we had a particularly violent thunderstorm that seemed to send lightning bolts bouncing off of our metal roof but never knocked off our power.  After a power outage, I always had to go prime our old pump.  I couldn’t understand why we had no water and remember repeating a silent prayer, “Lord please don’t let it be a lightning strike” over and over again as I made my way into the woods.  Sometimes you get exactly what you ask for.  The stream that fed our cistern came out of the ground from under a huge oak tree before being captured in a brick cistern.  A tornado twisted the old oak into kindling but not before landing it on top of our pump house and cistern, crushing them both.  Renovations were delayed for two weeks as we drilled a new well…one a bit closer to the house that never needs priming.

A third tornado hit us in 2012 and again we sorta dodged a bullet.  I went out to get my bike off of my car and noticed how still and tropical the air was along with the green-tinted clouds, “Deja vu” again.  I heard the sound of a freight train coming over the mountain behind us and ran for cover.  The wind portion of the storm was over in about thirty seconds although it rained for several hours.  We had dozens of trees down in the ravine behind us but only two were in the yard and only one had hit anything important, an outer building opened up like a tin can.  Luckily most of the contents were unhurt but Linda Gail was again singing hymns.  We didn’t even know we had been hit until the next morning when our puppies began to bring trash in from a flattened trash can.  My neighbor and nearby Lookup Lodge were hit much harder.

As scary as those tornadoes were, they were not as scary as the Great Flood of 2001.  This summer day was like any other summer day; hot, humid with air so heavy it seemed to envelop you like a wet, wool blanket.  In the nineties, both the temperature and humidity, it was the day that we were having our roof replaced.  The old metal shingles were in bad shape and we were replacing them to match the green metal sheets on the newer addition.  Big mistake.

The “good old boy” crew hired to do the job did not get finished…probably too many water breaks but that is unfair.  Before leaving for the day, they covered the open part of the roof with tarps assuring us they would be back first thing in the morning not knowing that first thing in the morning would be about one A.M. and also not knowing we were about to get six inches of thunderstorm driven rain in FIFTEEN MINUTES!  I hope it was the storm of the century because if it was not….

We learned the difference between “water proof” and “water resistant” that night but in all fairness to “water resistant,” I don’t think “water proof” could have withstood enough water to fill a swimming pool dumped on top of your house all at once.  I was also reminded how cool “under fire” Linda Gail is…despite singing “Shall We Gather at the River” or “Showers of Blessing.”  I remember dropping the “ladder” that leads to the attic and getting a face full of wind-driven rainwater for my trouble.  Over the course of the next “lifetime”, we yelled at each other angrily, cried, and alternately cursed then prayed.  Somehow we got the attic contents moved to the dry side of the attic and tarps down over the floor.  All the while Linda Gail sang hymns while looking like a drowned rat.

Her hymn singing and praying must have worked because as I look back into the fog of time, the damage was minimal.  Insulation gets really yucky when it gets wet and has to be removed, the wall paper in Ashley’s upstairs bedroom had to be redone in places and there are still water stains on the old parlor walls underneath.  We call it character.

I’m sure the old blown insulation washed to the bottom of the exterior walls.  The “good old” boys from Pickens rushed back and by two AM had “waterproof” tarps in place that they had purchased from an all-night Walmart.  I smile at the memory of my wife, mad as a “wet hen” at the “boys” one moment, full of concern and fear the next, as they battled high winds, lightning, and thunder, in the dark and on a metal roof while getting the new tarps into place.  I also smile at the “hang dog” looks and repeated apologies from the “good old” boys from Pickens.

I am experiencing this “flood” of memories because we are having a heavy late afternoon thunderstorm.  The last time I went outside I knew we were primed to get one.  Hot and humid with the air full of mosquitos, the only question was when not if.

Our “weather dog,” Tilly, is letting us know a storm is eminent.  Lightning is crackling, thunder booming and a puppy dog shivering as Linda Gail sings to her.  No hymn this time, it’s more along the lines of “Hush Little Puppy Don’t You Cry.”  We have dodged a bullet again.  No high winds or hail, just copious amounts of rain.  I see I have to clean out a gutter tomorrow morning.  I am happy not to be embracing Linda Gail while saying “You know It could have been much worse.”

For more musings please go to Don Miller’s author’s page  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Through the Front Gate

The image came from http://www.mdpparish.com/2014/09/stem-cell-issue-throws-cold-water-on-ice-bucket-challenge/ who probably got it from somewhere else.

Knocked your Noggin’

 

“Watch your head!” followed by “Oops! Knocked your noggin’.”  My beloved says it a dozen times a day…mostly to our blind puppy dogs…but sometimes to me.  With blind puppy dogs, we have had to “puppy proof” all the sharp edges inside and outside our old farmhouse.  Feed bags filled with feed bags to guard and cushion sharp corners or narrow pasteboard boxes turned on their side to keep lost puppies from wandering where they shouldn’t.  I should probably just dress in bubble wrap.

The puppies, Maddie and Tilly, do well considering their disability.  Much better than their master.  I have my vision and still run into things.  I seem to bark my shins or forehead with an increasing frequency.

Coming in and removing my cap, I hear, “What did you do to your head?”  My beloved’s voice is fraught with faux concern, a mischievous grin plays on her lips and an impish twinkle flashes from her hazel eyes.

I’ll have none of it, “You know damn well I scrapped it on your cartop day before yesterday.  It’s just taken this long to scab over.”

If it had not been her canvas convertible top, it would have been something else.  It seems as my birthdays have increased and the hair on my head has decreased I can’t keep my scalp intact and unmarred.  Some mornings I awake and, while brushing my “tooth”, find I have been mugged during the night if the mirror is to be believed.  “Where the hell did that come from?”

I am my father’s son and he and WKRP’s Les Nessman could have been brothers.  Dad would come in from work wearing a band-aid, bandage or dressing on something, usually on his nose or forehead.  The wounded area was usually somewhere not easily camouflaged and in a different spot from the previous one.

Working with him at Springs Mills during my high school days I remember an early morning shift after a late-night football game.  I had dragged a beaten and bruised body into work and found myself emptying quill boxes, quill being the bobbins after they had been emptied of tread.  It was a job I could do on autopilot but probably shouldn’t have.  My father would agree.

I pushed a quill buggy up and down the long allies of looms working myself into a sweaty rhythm.  Push the buggy down the ally, stop, turn to the right, pull out the heavy metal box, carefully empty it into the quill buggy, carefully slam the box back into the loom, turn to the left and repeat.  Yep, autopilot…until you hit something that shouldn’t be there.

If I had been paying attention I would have seen him sprawled in the ally in front of me, but I was on autopilot.  The buggy bounced back at me, both startling me and waking me from my walking nap.  I was soon facing an angry father with blood dripping down his face.  I had startled him as he worked under the loom causing him to sit up quickly.

There are a lot of sharp and hard angles with metal gears under a loom.  Ernest’s forehead had found one and blood was already dripping down his nose…”Oops! Knocked your noggin’” never came to my mind.  The gear teeth left an ugly mark until covered by his pre “Les Nessman” band-aid.

Now, where did I put those band-aids?  I’m going out to work on my tractor.  I’m sure I’ll need one before the day is done.

The image is of Les Nessman sporting his trademark band-aid from the late Seventies comedy series WKRP in Cinncinati.

For more musings by Don Miller https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Musings of a Retired Teacher

“It would seem that you have no useful skill or talent whatsoever,” he said. “Have you thought of going into teaching?” ― Terry Pratchett, Mort

The quote comes from a fantasy novel written by Terry Pratchett in 1986 and took me on one of those silly pig trails I sometimes travel down.  Twisting and winding through briar patches and blackberry brambles, my trail is strewn with rocks and roots just waiting to trip me or rip me to shreds…just like teaching.

Tomorrow, around the foothills of the Blue Ridge, teachers will report to their schools for their first day with students.  The mushy portion of my brain will fool me into thinking I should be there with them.

I taught full time for forty years.  Almost a half years’ worth of teacher workdays, days that we really got little work done as it related to the students we would meet on our first day.  In-services on dress codes, discipline, bloodborne pathogens, safety issues, textbooks, teacher accountability, etc.  I don’t want to even imagine what was discussed in this year’s in-services.  Protecting your students in an active shooter situation?  No, I don’t wish to imagine.

Forty-first days of school.  Conservatively, some five thousand smiling faces waiting for me to impart knowledge and wisdom in an interesting, engrossing and riveting way…and be a role model, mentor and in many cases a parental figure.  Another three first days as I taught part-time for three years as a long-term sub.  Even though I’m beginning my third year of full retirement it would be ridiculous to believe I wouldn’t think I should be somewhere at eight o’clock or so tomorrow morning.  Agreed?

Teachers, too, will be smiling as they welcome their new students, despite their apprehensions.  If they are not smiling they should probably think about another profession.  I would say apprehension would be normal too.  I remember forty-three sleep disturbed nights the day before my first day with students as both my apprehension and excitement built.

I worry about my teaching friends and peers.  So much written about public education is negative…and unwarranted.  I’m not sure where education is headed, or society.  I just know teachers are called on to be much more than just teachers, confidants, mentors and parental figures in our modern world…and due to teacher accountability, teaching to the standards and testing, less time to be “everything” to those children…especially those who need it the most.  And yet, teachers are maligned in so many ways by people who have no clue or with multiple axes to grind.  I “summon” you to use such sentiments as your “battle standard.”

There is a reason, or are reasons, why we are experiencing teacher shortages and rapid teacher burn out.  When teachers need more planning and collaborative time they seem to be getting less.  With shortages in numbers of teachers, class sizes can only go up, taxing people who are only human even more.

First-year teachers? Oh my god, your student teaching experience has not prepared you for what you are about to face.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and experienced teachers, please offer it.  Hang in there, teachers have had to learn on the job since there was the first teacher.  If you can survive until Christmas, you’ve got it made…tee, he, he.

In my first attempt at writing badly I shared the following quote from Jim Henson of Kermit fame, “[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”  While I admit to not always knowing what I was, since my retirement from teaching I’ve found the quote to be true.  I wish I had realized such my first year and made the quote my mantra.  I challenge you to remember this quote.

Teaching is much more than teaching and I miss it every day…well, I miss the students every day.  Keep yourself grounded in the knowledge that it’s not teaching the three “R’s” or teaching to the test.  It is about teaching kids.  Don’t be afraid to get close to your students even though some won’t let you.  You will all be better because you tried.  Be proud of the path you have chosen.  I am proud of you all.

There is no greater joy than to run into a former student.  They always tell you, you were their favorite…even if you weren’t.

For more of Don Miller’s musings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Image from https://www.teepublic.com/t-shirt/2201031-retired-but-forever-a-teacher-at-heart-t-shirt

 

 

 

TECHNOLOGY…THE DEVIL’S SPAWN

A word of caution to my teaching friends and peers who will soon return to the education wars.

“Please allow me to introduce myself

I’m a man of wealth and taste

I’ve been around for a long, long year

Stole many a man’s soul to waste”

“Sympathy for the Devil”-The Rolling Stones

 

The technology advances from writing on wet clay tablets to the Promethium Boards of today has been a great boom for teachers…except when it wasn’t.  There is always a learning curve for a teacher that continues to slope upward especially as it relates to students and how well they use or misuse technology.  For every website blocking program utilized, there is a technology savvy student ready, willing and able to hack it.

With the invention and use of iPhones, technology abuse is at an all-time high with little chance of thwarting it.  Teachers, on the other hand, have had trouble dealing with technology even when it was something as old school as the use of video.

It is true that the “best-laid plans of mice and men sometimes go asunder”.  During the late Seventies or early Eighties, teachers and coaches, along with the rest of the world, made the transition from eight and sixteen-millimeter film to video equipment.  First Beta and then VHS, the video was a great teaching tool and we not only used in the classroom but also used it to film practices and games.  What made it a great tool was that it was easy to use, instantaneous and would provide immediate feedback.  If it was easy to use, it was also easy to abuse.  At a nearby high school, teaching and tool would take on a new meaning.

A scrimmage had been videotaped and afterward the video camera, with scrimmage tape still installed, was placed in the locker room.  One of the team clowns, we all have had them, decided that it would be humorous to turn on the video camera and point it at the entrance to the shower room, not realizing that it was taping on the end of the scrimmage video.  Bozo further complicated his crime by telling people that it was taping.  Boys being boys, many decided to display their man parts by shaking and twirling, some even attempting to make one man part twirl in one direction and others twirl in another.  All of this could have been considered stupid and innocent fun but sometimes reality rears its ugly head, pun intended.

The coaching staff watched and graded the video, showed it to the team and did the normal film breakdown associated with high school football.  Each time the film was viewed, as soon as the last play was shown the video would be stopped and rewound, never showing the innocent but stupid fun.  That was until the video camera and tape found its way into Ms. Crump’s senior public speaking class.

The video equipment had been purchased from the library budget and was to be shared with any teacher who wanted to use it when not being utilized by the athletic department.  Ms. Crump, a very innovative teacher, decided it would be a good idea to video her classes’ first attempts at speech making and then critique it during the class.  It would have been a better idea to have used a fresh videotape rather than recording over the previously mentioned scrimmage, but she was using what she had been sent.

I can only imagine the class’s reaction to “Little Johnny” holding his man part and pointing it right at the camera while yelling “S&*k my d@#$!” after the final speech ran out.  I don’t know if they had to resuscitate Ms. Crump or not, but I do know that the powers tried unsuccessfully to fire the head football coach.  I don’t know if “Little Johnny” got any takers or not.

In a related story, there was a much respected English teacher, who for years had shown the same version of Macbeth to her English classes. She would go to the local video store, rent it for a day to show to her classes.  There is a pornographic version of the same film and no I have not seen it.  I do know Lady Macbeth spends most of the film “au natural”.

Someone at the local video rental accidentally, I hope, placed the porn version in the original PG version’s sleeve.  We all learned a valuable lesson that day; preview all videos to be shown during class no matter how many times you have shown it previous.  Popcorn anyone?

Excerpt from “Winning was Never the Only Thing….” which may be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Image from https://drawception.com/game/Xwb3Ectqd9/nerdy-demon/

Southern Ju-Ju

“What sorcery is this?!”  William Shakespeare

“Juju or ju-ju (French: joujou) is a spiritual belief system incorporating objects, such as amulets, (or in this case a butter bean) and spells used in religious practice, as part of witchcraft in West Africa. The term has been applied to traditional African religions.”1

On my morning walk, I looked down at my hand.  My arthritis was (is) bothering me and to add insult to injury, I have poison ivy breaking out on the same hand.  My attention was drawn to the star-shaped scar glowing palely on my ring finger…it dawned on me it had been fifty years since I received it.  Memories flooded back about the witchcraft that created it.

I was preparing to head to football practice, the second of the two-a-days we suffered through back then.  In between, I spent my downtime loading hay in the August heat and humidity and had just finished my second shower of three for the day.  My mother’s friend Gracie Deason had dropped by to visit.  Oddly she didn’t look like a witch doctor.

I found them sitting in the den, newspapers spread across their laps filled with unshelled butter beans.  They were shelling them out while laughing at Gracie’s antics and jokes.  Seemed there were more jokes and laughter than shellin’.  Her voice was as Southern as sausage gravy spread on a buttermilk biscuit.  Gracie was larger than life.  She was loud, funny, boisterous and unconventional for the time, the late Sixties.

I don’t remember ever seeing her in a skirt or dress, although that may be the product of faulty memory.  She was much more prone to wearing blue jeans and oversized men’s work shirts.  She was ahead of her time I guess.  She was also very kind to my ailing mother who suffered from ALS and would submit to it a year and a half later.  Gracie suffered too, from Lupus, but it never seemed to slow her down or dampen her sense of humor.

When she clasped my hand, much to my embarrassment, her hand fell upon the wart located on the top of my ring finger.  I had used topical wart removers but this one just wouldn’t go away.

Loud enough to be heard down the road at Pettus’s store, she exclaimed, “Whatcha’ got there Donnie?  A wart?”

In a much quieter voice, I replied, “Yes ma’am.  I guess I’m going to have to have the doctor remove it.”

“You know I can talk it off.”

“Ma’am?”

“Yep, kneel down here and give me your hand.”

I admit to being just a bit unsettled over the prospect.  I also admit to thinking, “Ain’t no way in hell” but because of my respect for my elders, I did what she asked.

Taking my hand in hers she picked up a freshly shelled butter bean and began rubbing it over my wart.  She also began to speak in a tongue I could not understand or translate.  Maybe a combination of an even more slurred “In a godda la vida”, “Wrapped up like a douche, another rubber in the night,” with a bit of “Good Golly Miss Molly” thrown in for good measure.

When she finished she said in a voice oozing with confidence, “It will be gone before the sun rises tomorrow.”  With a flourish, she threw the butter bean back into the pot to be cooked later.  It has been fifty years for the ramifications of her flourish to dawn upon me.  Yuk.

I did my best to sound grateful but somewhere in the back of my head I thought, with a head shake and mental eye-roll, “Sure it will.”

I didn’t have to wait until sunrise.  The wart was gone just about the time the sun disappeared below the horizon that evening.  It left me just after I had thrown a body block as a running back made his cut…right…on…top…of…my…outstretched…hand.  Specifically, one of his cleats landed on top of my ring finger and the wart sitting on top of it.

It really didn’t hurt, just a sting…until I saw the blood pouring down my hand.  Then it smarted quite intensely.  My coach “with the heart of gold” slapped athletic tape around my ring finger to stanch the bleeding saying, “You’ll be fine.  Get back in there and hit somebody.”  A Mount Everest of compassion.

No Band-Aid, no gauze, just sticky athletic tape.  No hydrogen peroxide or disinfectant…just sticky athletic tape.  Could have been worse, he could have spit chewing tobacco on it or slathered it with Atomic Bomb or poured Tincture of Iodine over it.

Later, after practice I cut the tape and had Al Stevenson yank it off, causing me to use words I had not learned at home.  Displaying itself in the middle of the bloody tape was my wart in all its glory.  I did not float it in alcohol for prosperity’s sake…I couldn’t get it loose from the tape.

Gracie didn’t seem to be very excited when I called to thank her and tell her the great news.  It was more of a “What did I tell you” kind of reaction.  Still, I had a new respect for Southern ju-ju with a butter bean.  Wonder if someone can “talk” away my arthritis and poison ivy?  I’ll supply the butter bean.

1 Mockler-Ferryman, Augustus (1898). Imperial Africa: The Rise, Progress and Future of the British Possessions in Africa. Imperial Press, limited. p. 392.

Image attributed to Lindsay Turner in an article from Sputniknews.com

For more Southern JuJu go to Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

For hot, romantic adventure go to Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson at https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B07B6BDD19?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true