You Are My Sunshine….

My thoughts were triggered by a fuzzy and out of focus black and white photograph a high school chum sent me. Our parents had been friends since the Nineteen Thirties until their deaths. My high school friend was the first girl I ever kissed. We were two or three years old sitting on top of a sliding board but that is a different story…not a very interesting one. While we remained friends the kiss didn’t quite take.

In the photo my mother and father are sitting in a prewar sedan complete with suicide doors. So young. Dad in a snap brim fedora with the brim turned up, an unlit Lucky Strike hidden from the camera. My mother’s gaze is drawn away from my father…maybe father to be. They are both looking out in the distance…maybe at their futures.

I draw a purely fictional mental picture of the next frame. My mother turning and resting her chin on his shoulder, eyes twinkling with a “Mona Lisa” smile just showing on her lips. His Humphrey Bogart to her Lauren Bacall complete with coffin nail hanging from his lip? I imagine the photo was made in the early Forties before my Dad shipped out to the Pacific. This was during their “courting” days.

Sorry about the focus

It is hard to think of my parents young, fancy free, and all lovey-dovey.  My father trying to be suave and debonair, attempting to sweep the red-haired fair maiden, my mother, off her feet.  It must have worked. I don’t believe I made my appearance due to immaculate conception but still…my brain might explode. The thoughts of parental romance made my shoulders all shivery as goosebumps race across them.

In a family not known for displays of conspicuous affection, I don’t remember many overt displays but somehow, I knew my parents loved each other.  Sometimes it is how you treat people and not just overt displays.  Sometimes it is about the stories you create in your mind, stories that might be more fact than fiction.

As a child, I remember an old RCA Victor tabletop radio/turntable and the old 78 RPM records it played.  There were stacks and stacks.  Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and “Big Bands” seemed to be favorites.  I’m sure there was a fortune in those old platters now resting in a landfill someplace.

I suspect my Mother was the motivation for the music.  The old RCA Victor was traded in for a cabinet model in the Sixties and a Columbia Record Club subscription followed.  She seemed to be partial to Billy Vaughn and his mellow saxophones.

I’ve created a mental image of her carefully seating a record or tuning into “Your Hit Parade” on a Saturday night.  I don’t remember my Dad sitting and listening, he was more “sit and work” the crossword puzzle guy. I didn’t think my Father was much of a “Music Man” but he would fool me…something I would not find out until after my Mother’s death. 

There was another musical form that caught my ear on those early 78s.  Early country music…called hillbilly, Western, or Western Swing music before the late Forties when it became known as Country-Western.  A heartbroken Ernest Tubbs was walking the floor over his one true love, and Hank Williams seemed to be very lonesome…so lonesome he could cry.  Eddy Arnold, the Tennessee Plowboy, sang “That’s How Much I Love You” in a scratchy baritone, scratchy because of the record, not his baritone.  Vaughn Monroe and the Sons of the Pioneers were desperate for “Cool Water.” 

With enough imagination, I can almost see my parents waltzing to Bill Monroe’s nasal tenor singing “Blue Moon of Kentucky” while the Blue Grass Boys added their instruments.  Almost.  It is easier to envision my parents holding hands in front of the old RCA, listening to the Grand Ole Opry on a Saturday night date. Holding hands? Stealing a kiss?

Ernest and Mary Eldora Miller during their “courting days” Again sorry about the focus.

I stood in my garden this morning thinking of my “unromantic” parents.  If I had neighbors to watch me, I’m sure they would have been curious as to why I was standing so still in front of my sunflowers.  My mind had taken a pig trail and followed it down a rabbit hole in between picking tomatoes and moving toward my okra. 

My pig trail took me from sunflowers turning their heads toward the sunshine to “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.  You make me happy when skies are gray.”  It was a song my father sang to my mother, I’m sure.  Not fiction, but fact.  I have it in writing.  I’m sure he didn’t sing it well, but am sure he sang it with feeling.  Of that, I’m sure too, although I have no recording.

I knew it was “their” song.  I read a letter sent from my father to my mother from somewhere in the Pacific during World War Two.  I found a packet of those letters in a King Edward’s cigar box after her death. They were hidden away in a cedar hope chest, still in their unique airmail envelopes with the red, white, and blue edging and bound with a light blue ribbon. Occasionally there would be lines or words blacked out by censors.  There were other lines I wish had been censored.  There was nothing X rated but my Father…the romantic?  No.

My father quoted the song and lamented his separation and his desire to return to “his sunshine”, an ocean and a continent away.  He promised to sing it to her upon his return. Maybe he did or it might be fiction, created in my head. I like to think he did.

There was a well-used 78 record by the same title in that stack of records from the Thirties and Forties.  I don’t remember the artist but suppose it could have been Gene Autry or maybe the original sung by The Pine Ridge Boys.  It doesn’t matter.  I just know I think of my parents whenever I hear the song by any artist and follow a pig trail when I see a sunflower.

Hillbilly Music at its best…which may not be good at all. “You Are My Sunshine” by The Pine Ridge Boys

Further writings by Don Miller may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2RFMbKqFgEKWPLbpeiVotmz3GATsjIROGRGUqnRwt_XPe2uanDwztdlcE

Image is of a 78 RPM RCA Victor Recording of “You Are My Sunshine” by the Pine Ridge Boys. Distributed by Bluebird Records.

Possum Holler and Pig Trails

 

I grew up just south of Possum Holler on an unnamed dirt road that ran west before paralleling the Catawba River north toward the Sugar Creek…well, I guess the dirt road had a name after all.  The River Road…the problem was there were many unnamed river roads in the area and its name has nothing to do with the pig trails my brain is taking me down.  Or does it?

I saw a request for historical information as to how Possum Holler Road might have gotten its name.  You reckin’ cuz there might have been a few “possums in that there holler”…that’s the way folks said it back then.  Not hollow but holler…and the same folks pronounced yellow…yeller.  I’m not making fun of anyone who changes their w’s to r’s.  I’ve been known to revert when I get a few shots of brown liquor in my gullet.  I tend to drop my gs too.  But it’s not about the way people talk.

It’s about places like Possum Holler, or Frog Level or my absolute favorites, Sugar Tit and Happy Bottom…and hundreds or thousands of others.  Mostly small places, some nothing more than wide places in the road.  I’ve always enjoyed places with the “Now Entering So and So” and the “Now Leaving So and So” sign on the same post.

It’s about discovery.  Discoveries you must get off the interstate to see.  Pig trails leading to crossroads where you flip a coin to decide which direction to turn and end up in a place you didn’t know you would miss if you hadn’t found it.  Pig trails you purposely get lost on.  “Which way do you think?”  “I don’t know…turn left?”  Can one be lost if one doesn’t care where one is going?

Some of the pig trails have names like the Natchez Trace, the Woodpecker Trail…or Scenic Highway 11, the pig trail I live on.  Even those have become too crowded…like the Possum Holler of my youth.  One must get off those well-traveled roads.  One must take a chance; you can’t get lost if you don’t know where you are going and have a full tank of gas.

Back in the day, when my bride and I ransomed our monetary souls for our little piece of heaven…our monetary souls are still ransomed, our car and the myriads of pig trails and wide places populating our realm became an outlet.  Instead of a knightly steed, we explored our domain in an ’87 Thunderbird to the tune of two hundred and sixteen thousand miles.

When we were really brave we took my old Toyota Landcruiser up over Glassy and Chestnut Mountains before the rich developers closed them off to the serfs and peons.  Golfers in Mercedes replaced the rednecks in four-wheel drives.

Still, we stranded ourselves on more than one occasion.  Being stranded ain’t too bad when you are crazy in love and have friends who will come and yank you back upright.

When we visited family or friends in far off places, we made sure we got off the interstate. We would pour over road atlases looking for pig trails leading through interesting places.  We spent the night in a long-dead Mississippi River boat captains’ home near Shiloh Church, ate dinner in a haunted restaurant in Natchez Under the Hill, made love in an Antebellum mansion in Vicksburg, and stopped to read every historical marker we saw.  Too much information?

We visited a baseball coach’s nirvana, Rosenblatt in Omaha during the most wonderful time of the year, The College World Series.  But we got off the interstate.

We drove from New Orleans to Pensacola off the interstate, stopping at all the little coastal towns.  Took forever…it was wonderful.  We even had to argue with our GPS in the delta when it said our destination was a mile straight ahead despite the Mississippi River saying otherwise.

After the Thunderbird came a Mustang convertible and our road trips became even more fun.  Even Sugar Tit looks different when the top is down and the wind is blowing through your hair.

We’ve gotten out of the habit…no we’ve gotten lazy.  Sometimes life gets in the way, other times you use it as an excuse.  We’ve become old and boring.  We make excuses not to pack a lunch and the puppies into the car and head out to Coosawatchie, or Hell’s Half Acre which is right next to Happy Bottom.

They all exist right here in South Carolina although those might be too far away for the puppies. See?  Excuses.  We should load them and drive up to Rocky Bottom, it’s close by…that’s right we must drive UP to get DOWN to Rocky Bottom.

We have to do better.  We’re not getting any younger and someone said time slows for no one.  I don’t know where this week has gone so that someone must be correct.

Time to find a pig trail heading to Tuxedo and maybe on to Climax.  They’re in close by North Carolina.  Possum Holler is too populated these days…and not with possums.

For those of you in the area, Possum Holler should not be confused with the Possum Kingdom.  They are not the same except for being humorously named.

The image came from Possum Holler Road located in Indian Land, South Carolina in Lancaster County.  I guess Indian Land is another interesting name.

Apologies to those who stopped to read thinking this was about possums or pigs.

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