Skeeter Killin’ Season

 

Got my first one of the season! March 26, 2019.  A little after nine in the p.m.  Little bastard flew in front of my computer screen and I squished him flatter than a toad frog on a four-lane. I had to clean him off the screen, but the screen needed cleaning anyway and I got him before he got me.  Let the war begin.

I am eccentric for many reasons, one of which is, I welcome Skeeter Killin’ Season with a smile on my face.  I celebrate Skeeter Killin’ Season like Christmas.  I drink toasts with Myers dark rum and tonic while doing a happy dance in honor of Skeeter Killin’ Season despite living in a target rich environment.  Not as rich as our coastal regions but still, very rich.

I live in the foothills of South Carolina and for most of three seasons we have the little bastards along with gnats, no see ums but you feel em, deer flies, horse flies, chiggers, ticks, hornets, wasps and yellow jackets.  All bite, sting or fly up your nose and at their best are just annoying.  At their worst, they are damn painful.

Why then, am I doing a happy dance?  A better question might be, why do I try to dance?  My dance resembles Joe Cocker holding on to a live battery cable and gets worse as I continue to toast the season with my adult beverage.

Skeeter Killin’ Season coincides with the sun rising higher and higher in the sky and staying there for longer periods of the day. Yes, it coincides with rising temperatures and humidity.  I don’t care…happy dance, happy dance, happy dance!

Never will I gripe about the heat.  I have found over the years I tolerate heat and humidity much better than the short, gray days and the cold temperatures of winter.  If this country boy has Deep Woods OFF, he will survive…and an air conditioner he can escape to.

I can’t escape the short days of winter.  I can’t escape the cold seeping into my bones and the depression quashing my will to survive.  There will still be the occasional depressing day but the sun, high in the sky, will beckon and the melancholy will be as short-lived as a late afternoon thunderstorm.

It is the season of rebirth, blooming colors of white, yellow, gold, pink, orange and purple.  Green leaves, green grass, green mold, and green mucous discharges.

It is the season of planting and playing in the dirt while anxiously awaiting tomato sandwiches running in Duke’s Mayonnaise, garden fresh corn on the cob and fried okra.  It is the season for rising spirits despite the stinging insects, heat, humidity, and allergies.

I still must deal with the skeeters and have tried about everything except a Bug Zapper…homemade traps, bombs, and sprays, lanterns with the smell of citronella wafting through the evening air…mixing with an aroma of OFF.  All with limited success or to no avail.

When the bloodsuckers are thicker than a cold bowl of cheese grits,  I try to forget a winter drive along the coast when I battled both the low winter sun AND the little sucking bastards.  On a lonely highway through black water swamps and pine forests, I felt the call of nature and pulled off onto a double track dirt road leading through a turpentine camp to relieve myself.  Damn, little bastards tried to take off with my man part while my wife laughed and laughed and laughed. 

Further musings and a book or eight can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

A Hope of Spring

It is a lovely spring day…in the early winter.  We are only seventeen days past the Winter Solstice.  There will be many cold and gray days ahead before spring truly arrives.  Days like today give me a reason to hope.

The days have lengthened five whole minutes since the solstice.  Five more minutes of beautiful, bright sunlight.  I am still waiting for the sun to appear above the hill that shields my view.  The sun’s ascent shows pink above the pines.  It is a hint of the spring that will not truly come until late March…or early April.  Spring’s arrival will not come soon enough but there is nothing I can do about the calendar except hope.

As I walk, the morning is cool but not cold.  Bracing?  The lake I walk around seems welcoming as the sunlight finally touches it.  Flashing light shows in the ripples caused by a gentle breeze.  The sunlight is not warming yet, but there is hope for later.

Yesterday and today are those wonderful days, days that a person hopes for during winter.  Blue, cloudless skies following a wet week in a wet month in a wet year.  Temperatures will climb above sixty under bright, clean, blue skies.

Birds flitting and playing around their feeders.  Cardinals, titmice, chickadees, a couple of woodpeckers.  They seem hopeful too.  Squirrels chase each other around the base of a hemlock tree.  A truly glorious morning in what is going to be a glorious day.

A ride in the mountains and a stop at a nearby BBQ joint after church seemed in order.  My bride agrees.  The people on the streets of the small town seem happier than usual…maybe it is because I’m happier than the usual on this unusual January day.  They too bask in the sunlight.

There will be other hopeful days during this unhopeful season until warm and humid breezes find their way here to chase my blues away.  What a lovely spring day in the early winter.

Image of the winter sun is from https://www.thelocal.de/20180301/report-berlin-and-brandenburg-sunniest-german-states-this-winter

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

Red, Gold, and Brown

 

I awoke troubled this Sunday morning…not unusual for any morning.  Nothing earth-shattering…maybe our biannual changing of the clocks or the impending trip to my polling station on Tuesday…or the possible outcomes I will find out about later in the night.  I just don’t know where we are headed.  The time may not be the only thing falling back with the season.

Still, I had a beautiful morning walk.  Well, it ended beautifully.  It began cool and crisp.  Fall is finally here…or early winter, it was thirty-nine as I set out.  There were trees with leaves of gold and red.  Leaves carpeted the narrow road I walked, silencing my footfalls but not my thoughts.

I was still troubled and tried to bury myself in the music coming from my earbuds until the earbuds died.  An irritating voice informed me of “low power.”  Need to recharge them more often…me or the earbuds?  There was nothing to drown out my thoughts, so I was forced to deal with them.

I worked on my latest book…in my head.  An action romance, I’m struggling with an ending…no I’m just struggling.  I worked on how my sterling hero could ride in and save the day.  I came up with a plot twist…maybe.  If I don’t go on and write it down  I’ll soon forget it.

Finally, I had nothing to do but look around at my surroundings.

Glancing down I did a hop, skip and a jump, scuttling sideways to avoid the snake.  “Little guy, what are you doing here?”, a corn snake, all red, gold and brown.  With our screwy weather, he hadn’t realized he should be hibernating and was attempting to raise his body temperature on the side of the tar and gravel road.

So cold!  I thought he was dead until I touched him with the toe of my shoe.  He moved…not much but he moved.  What to do?  If I leave him here, he is likely to get run over.  Oh goodness, I’m going to have to pick him up…I hate touching snakes even though I know they are not cold and slimy as I thought as a child…well, this one was pretty cold.

I saw a moss-covered flat rock and a patch of grass bathed in sunlight.  The brown blades of grass glowed gold, the mica in the rock flashed like diamonds.  Unfortunately, they were in different places.   The rock would soon be shaded as the sun rose.

“Stay here little guy, I’ll get you to a sunny spot.”  I needn’t have worried.  He was still too cold to move.  Picking up the rock I moved it to the sun and then carefully moved “Corny” to a perch on top of it before bidding him a fond adieu.

The lake was as calm, not a ripple.  Fog rose three or four feet before disappearing into the air.  Fish rolled in the shadows and the trees were reflected in the water.  There were more reds and golds and a single purple wildflower.  I paused to bask in the golden sunlight finally appearing from the southeast.  I don’t believe I could have summoned a nicer morning with a Vodun spell.

I had to get back home to clean up and dress for church but not before I checked on “Corny.”  He was gone, and I was glad…he must have taken my troubling thoughts with him.

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

The image came from http://www.outdooralabama.com

Birds of a Feather?

Normally I don’t use the word blessing when talking about this time of year, but this Saturday was one of those wondrous days we occasionally have in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. Warm and bright for a late January day. Warm and bright enough to melt the left-over snow and ice from a few days ago…I hope. The sky a brilliant blue and there is not a cloud in the sky. A great day for a walk…or a great day to sit in the backyard with a Blue Moon and a Dutch Master contemplating nothing of any importance. I did both instead of gathering up and disposing of the winter yard waste from the wildlife refuge that is my backyard. My wife is out visiting…hopefully, she won’t notice that I have done nothing except deal with my own mental self-health.

I’m watching my birds now. I can claim them as my own…I feed them, and they live close by. They love the black sunflower seed I dutifully put in my bird feeders and are flitting hither and yon. The squirrels and chipmunks like it too…and I don’t care. Redbirds, titmice, chickadees, wrens and my favorite, the little upside-down birds, the nuthatch and downy woodpeckers all visit, eat their fill and fly off to who knows where. There is a redhead woodpecker and a pileated woodpecker that visits occasionally. The pileated woodpecker seems to laugh at me with its distinctive and goofy call.

Underneath the feeders, I see robins, their red chests lying about the nearness of spring. They are joined by brown thrashers, mourning doves and an occasional tanager. The cooing sounds made by the doves are somewhat forlorn but not so forlorn it ruins my bright mood. I’m also sure the tanager will tell his friends.

Occasionally I see an indigo bunting or a bluebird, the reflected sun flashing blue off its tiny body as it zips through my yard. For the life of me, I can’t entice them to stay. I see them on the fence looking in at the free-for-all at the feeders. Are they resting or trying to make up their minds about the food I am offering? They seem to prefer the open, flat area around my garden. Oh well.

It won’t be long until the feeders draw the gold and purple finches. I’ll start adding thistle to the feeding area when I see my first one. I thought I saw a male goldfinch this morning except for the red topnotch. Turns out it is a refugee from more northern climes called a redpoll. I guess he was lost or just looking for warmer temperatures.

With the spring, if it ever gets here, there will be others making their presence known. The whistle of “my” redtail hawks, the clucking of turkeys, the lonesome calls of the whippoorwills along with owls hooting from the hillsides behind my house. Even with the hum of mosquitoes, I can’t wait.

My grandmother was a lover of birds, watching the feeder as she made biscuits in her kitchen or listening to their calls while working in the field. Telling her oldest grandson that we were hearing a mockingbird or a catbird. She loved them, filling up spiral bound notebooks with descriptions, buying stamps with images of birds and painting pictures of the birds that populated her environment. It has taken me to my autumn years to appreciate the birds that populate my environment. One more connection I have with my grandmother I guess.

I don’t reckon my birds are very concerned about government shutdowns, Dreamers or border security. A wall is probably not going to keep them out…the birds I mean. I think I’ll try to be more like my birds. If it’s not a sweet sound, I’m probably not going to make it or allow myself to hear it.

Don Miller is a multi-genre writer who has written two fictional novels and four books of non-fiction. If you are interested in further readings, please access his writer’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The picture of the pileated woodpecker came from the National Wildlife Federation at https://www.nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife/Food/Supplemental-Feeders. It was taken by Beau Liddell.

Walkin’ in the Snow

There was a time…a time when I ran in the snow.  We don’t get much snow here in the foothills of the South Carolina Blue Ridge.  You Yankees think we are crazy, running out and grabbing all the bread, milk and toilet paper we can carry.  Don’t tell anyone, I think we’re crazy too.  Why grab milk and bread when you can just as easily grab Jack Daniels and pulled pork barbeque.  I just got off subject, but I do agree with the toilet paper part of the equation.

We are lucky (unlucky?) to receive one or two four-inch snows a year…if that…and we go batshit crazy when we get it.  Few of us really know how to drive in it and those who do have to worry about those who don’t.  Don’t worry too much though.  If you find yourself in the ditch a “good ole” boy with a four by four and a tow rope will be by directly.

I go crazy too but for other reasons.  I enjoyed going out in it and running.  Years ago, before retirement, I would go out before sunup and tackle it…getting a run in before getting the word school had been canceled.  Snowflakes reflecting in the light of my running lamp against the backdrop of the darkness.  The way the snow seemed to glow on its own when I cut the lamp off.  A man against the elements…no.  Putting on my running shoes and going out on a cold morning was “against the elements” enough.  There was something about sticking my tongue out allowing snowflakes to land., the muted sounds of the event, even the frozen toes due to the ice buildup on the toes of my shoes.

I can’t run anymore…maybe…I still have hopes and dreams that cause me to hobble out daily.  Today I went out and walked my old running trail, up to the top of the hill, down to and around the lake before reversing again.  I DID wait until several hours after sunup.  It was colder without the exertion of my running but at least my toes didn’t freeze, my thermal hiking boots made sure of that.  Sounds were still muted, and I still caught snowflakes on my tongue.  The snow was powdery and light, easy to walk in…not good for snowmen or snowball fights but enjoyable to walk in.

A young man riding on his ATV disturbed the silence but was thoughtful enough to stop and ask if would like a ride.  I smiled and thanked him.  I told him I was enjoying my walk too much to spoil it with a ride.  He smiled too before riding on into the white.

If you enjoyed this might like to stop by Don Miller’s writer’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38G

The picture is from Run-Karla-Run and is credited to Phil Hospod.

SLEEPING PUPPY DOGS

 

I don’t know when God created puppy dogs.  It couldn’t be in the original seven days.  Anything so special would have to have their own special day.  Maybe the eighth day, “and God created puppy dogs.”

I’m watching them sleep.  It’s their sleepy time…something that has increased as they have gotten older.  Twelve their last birthday.  Old in doggy years…even older than me in human years.  They will always be our puppies no matter what age.  Maddie is on her back, paws in motion as she chases her dream rabbit.  Tilly has curled into a not so little ball with a paw warming her nose…as always, her ears are standing at attention.

They amaze me.  Maddie and Tilly are both blind, a problem with the genetics of their litter.  Still, often you would swear they could see…other times they forget they are blind and run into things….  “Oops, knocked your noggin.”  They still know where the persimmon tree is and when a possum is sampling the ripened fruit.  The “girls” lay, patiently waiting, not realizing the possum has exited the tree and has walked away from them.  They bring me little gifts; a mouse, a mole, a snake.  While I appreciate their effort, their time could have been better spent.

Maddie and Tilly have awakened long enough to move outside.  With me following, they zigzag down the narrow path to the rapidly disappearing sunlight.  Stretching out, they allow the beams of the fall sun warm them.  I follow suit and allow the sun and the vision of my puppies to warm me.

At night, Maddie sleeps at the foot of our bed, Tilly beside Linda Gail…until they change…sometimes crawling under the bed to do so.  If there is reincarnation I want to return as one of Linda Gail’s puppies.  Their love for her knows no bounds.  It is infinite…like mine.  When she leaves to run errands, Tilly sometimes heads for the bedroom and lays down beside the bed, waiting until “Mommie” returns.  Maddie will “lay” guard on the front steps…waiting…barking loudly when she returns, somehow knowing the sound Linda Gail’s car makes.  I don’t bark but I am just as happy when she finds her way back to us.

It’s Thanksgiving.  I find it easy to give thanks for the big things.  Linda Gail, the woman of my dreams that has never been a nightmare.  Ashley, and her husband Justin.  The grandbabies, Miller Kate the monkey and Noland the…Noie.  My brother Steve and his wife Rebecca.  Francis, Linda Gail’s stepmother.  The family at home we are going to visit.  Family in Texas, too far to visit this year.  I give thanks for the memories of people no longer able to gather…thanks that they still gather in my mind.  I’m thankful for friends who have stood by me in good times and bad…and thankful there have been more good times than bad.

The big things are easy, I want to give thanks for the little things.  The sunrise through my French doors as I write.  A red-tailed hawk soaring on a thermal, calling to its mate.  Squirrels trying to make their getaway through a chainlink fence with black walnuts from the yard.  Friday coffee with Hawk.  My early morning walks and my return to find Linda Gail puttering in the kitchen.

I give thanks for two puppies, now older and blind…and other puppies no longer with us.  Thanks for the love and smiles you provide.  The warm memories you have bestowed upon us.  We should all take time to think about and give thanks for the big things in our lives.  I hope we all take a moment to consider the little things that provide joy and love with no strings attached…like blind puppy dogs.  I hope everyone has a thankful and joyful Thanksgiving.

In addition to maintaining his blog, Don Miller is a multi-genre author.  If you enjoyed this post, please stop by and follow his author’s page at http://amazon.com/author/cigarman501.  Thanks for dropping by.