JOCKSTRAPS and OTHER DIGRESSIONS

 

Sometimes the derivation of words gets lost over time…and sends me down a rabbit hole.  I don’t know why I felt the need to research the history of the jockstrap…I just did.

There was a time I would not be caught dead without an athletic supporter once I knew what they were and what they were designed to do.  This was not due to the science behind the jockey strap but in response to my naivety in the1960s and certain scare tactics employed to make sure we were wearing them.  Our coaches would explain in a very serious and hushed tone, “You do want to have children when you grow up don’t you?” or “If you don’t wear that thing your ding a ling will fall off!” or “If you keep doing that you will go blind!” … oops, the wrong scare tactic. This leads me to the less than extensive research I have done about the athletic supporter or what is known as the jockstrap, jockey strap or just plain ole “jock.”

It would be a logical leap to believe that the athletic supporter became known as a jockey strap because jockeys wore them. Logical yes, but that is not correct.  Jockey simply means rider.  Jockey straps were invented for Boston bicycle riders and not the diminutive munchkins riding horses in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness.

In 1874, the first jockstrap was invented by Charles Bennett, a worker for Sharp & Smith, a Chicago hosiery company.  He created it to remedy what he called “floppy man parts” as cyclists rode over the cobblestone streets of Boston.  In their advertisement, our little friends were referred to as “floppy man parts.”  There were so many complaints about jiggling jewels the jockey strap was invented to keep our little man friends tucked safely up and out of harm’s way.

I have to digress.  The first jockstraps used in team sports was by hockey players, also in 1874.  It would 1979 before helmet use would be required in hockey.  Took a while to figure out which head was important.

The first jockstrap was a type of bike jockey strap, not to be confused with a type of Bike Jockey Strap.  The Bike Company, producer of over three hundred and fifty million jock- straps bought the patent and went into business.  If you are thinking there is a tie-in between the Bike Company and bike riders, again you would be wrong.  The Number One manufacturer of athletic supporters began life as the Bike Web Company years before.

The lineage of the jock strap likely can be traced back to when Babylonian men “girded their loins” before a battle in the Fertile Crescent some five thousand years ago or as Roman soldiers using a leather belt with flaps hanging over their “danglies” conquered an empire.

The history gets a bit bizarre in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries when European men were men and women could not help but notice it.  During this time, men liked to flaunt their packages even if their packages were lacking “flaunt-ability” by use of a pouch-like accouterment called the codpiece.

Cod means, and since I really don’t care if this is in good taste or not, scrotum as derived from the Greeks.  From this word derives the slightly off-color description, “cod sack.”  In some cases, the codpiece was used as a false advertisement somewhat like the modern “Wonder Bra” or “falsie” but stopped short of being like the “fake boob”.  Can you really call something like a boob fake?  I really need to do some hands-on research on the subject.  The codpiece of old gave you an impression of more where there wasn’t necessarily more.  It was like driving a big four by four to compensate for certain “little man” inadequacies.

You might have seen codpieces and not known it.  They seem to be a part of costumes associated with Heavy Metal bands in the Seventies or singers like Gene Simmons of KISS, along with male ballet dancers.  Dancers I understand but who knew singers had to worry about jiggling and flopping.  Maybe they reach those high notes by using too tight codpieces or felt a need to be protected from all those teen groupies.

No matter how bizarrely Heavy Metal bands dressed, none were as bizarre as the actual codpieces produced and worn in what I thought was the less brazen period of the fifteen and sixteenth centuries.  I was mistaken at least when it came to men.  Men adorned the front of their armor or trousers with what resembled…ah…well…very large…erect…man parts.  Some were adorned with angry heads resembling serpents, animals and my personal favorite a plumed bird.  “Want to touch the birdy?  It might chirp at you.”

During the Seventies, the use of jockey straps seemed to decline.  It wasn’t that we weren’t still concerned about our little friends or because it was the era of “free love,” it was just that technology had advanced to the point that they weren’t needed as much.  Compression shorts, football girdles and baseball sliding shorts all made appearances and kept your man parts out of the way.  I have even traded my jock strap for what a female friend of mine calls “Mandex”, compression shorts made from Spandex.

I should point out that I do not run around in Spandex.  I have taken the time to look at myself in a mirror, notice what other men my age look like in spandex running or bike shorts and have mandated the use of running shorts over my “Mandex.”

During my years as a football coach, our players wore what were called girdles which resembled the ladies’ apparel of the same name.  In addition to keeping our player’s “jewels” in place and out of harm’s way, they had pouches where their hip and thigh pads were inserted.  Despite this technological advance, some of our players would still wear jockstraps, some in interesting ways including over their girdle.

When stretching before practice I noticed one of my defensive end’s posterior had pink hearts showing through his white practice pants when he stretched.  Because I have an inquiring mind and am easily distracted I could not help wondering why he wore his jock over his girdle and then decided to put his underwear on top before putting on his football pants…I still wonder.

From the book “Floppy Parts” by Don Miller.  It can be purchased or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

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Pigeons from Nowhere?

 

I awoke terrified, unable to breathe…not quite true.  Once I realized where I was, I also realized I was holding my breath and was more than a little congested.  Because of my allergies, I was sleeping upright in my recliner and had had the “DREAM”.  Thank goodness I had not awakened the house screaming.  Seeing puppy dog Tilly looking at me made me wonder if that had been the case.  At least there was no movement upstairs.

My first lucid thought was of an old “THRILLER” episode from the Sixties…the early Sixties.  June of 1961 to be exact.  When it comes to exactness, I might be a bit anal retentive, so I looked it up.  I would have been a month or so past my eleventh birthday when I watched “Pigeons from Hell”, adapted from a short story written by Robert E. Howard in 1934.  THRILLER was hosted by Boris Karloff of “FRANKENSTEIN” fame and I could hear his distinctive lisp echoing in my head.

My first lucid thought is always about “Pigeons from Hell” after the dream.  A car stuck in the mud on a lonely, Southern road.  A bright, darkness casting scary shadows as two young brothers approach an old mansion surrounded by pigeons.  A decision to spend the night that leads to a hatchet splitting the skull of one…I won’t bore you…but if you are interested you can YouTube the old black and white episode…I did.  Despite its age and knowing the outcome, it is still quite good.

I won’t bore you because my dream has nothing to do with pigeons from anywhere, hatchets splitting skulls or being stuck in the mud…there are close friends who might disagree with the last assertion.  Instead, I will bore you with my dream…my terrifying, very mundane dream.  An old mansion that I have lost…somewhere in the fog time and the fog obscuring the dream.

In this dream, reoccurring since entering early adult life, I’m lying on the steps outside an old mansion.  A mansion I am quite familiar with for reasons I don’t understand.  The faded-white, lap boarded mansion is being renovated, I clearly see the spider webbing of scaffolding along the sides of the two-story building.  Above me, between the ivy-covered columns is a sign.  It flutters slightly in the breeze, fog swirling about it, obscuring its message…a message I know I don’t want to read.  Why?  I have no idea, I just know I don’t.

As if being levitated, I move closer to the sign, it’s message becoming clearer, and am filled with fear…no I’m terrified despite knowing “it is just a dream” and begin to scream myself awake.  So far, I’ve been successful, I’ve never read the sign.  I’ve also been successful scaring the bejesus out of my wife as I transition from screaming in my head to screaming out loud.

I knew exactly where that old mansion was.  I knew I had ridden by it dozens of times it seemed, the memory etched sharply in my remembrances.  On a trip home during the decade of my twenties, I decided to look at the renovations and drove to where I knew the mansion was…but it wasn’t.  I drove around searching, my mind in turmoil.  It is not where I knew it to be on a street corner occupied by a small cottage, my heart sinking into my feet.

The dream has taken on a new spirit, the mansion my “holy grail.”  Every time I have the dream I rack my memories trying to figure out where the mansion exists…other than in my mind.  The memory is just too clear to be a dream…and what of the dream?  What does it mean?  What might Freud have said?  If “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”, a dream is but a dream?  The dream is just too real…but then so was “Pigeons from Hell” when I watched it in 1961.

I wonder if I will ever understand it…will I ever read the letters etched on the swinging board?  My adult brain tells me I will never find the mansion in my dreams and for some reason, I am saddened.  A sense of loss?  Maybe that is the message in the dream.

Further insights into Don Miller’s craziness may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

If you are interested in “Pigeon’s from Hell” the following link will get you there.

Ghosts

I do believe in ghosts.  Why shouldn’t I?  A ghost, by definition, is the soul or spirit of a dead person or animal that can appear to the living.  Whether the appearance is a sound, like the creaking of my old house settling, reminding me of someone, now gone, treading on the old pine floors. A fleeting glimpse of some unknown something out of the corner of my eye, just beyond my periphery, triggering a long-forgotten memory.  The way certain shadows fall in the moonlight or an old song that conjures up a ghost from the past.  It’s a ghost even if their spirit resides only in my head.

My favorite quote about ghost was made by NCIS agent Mike Franks, a favorite reoccurring character on the long-running TV program NCIS.  In a conversation with Gibbs about ghosts, Franks allows that ghost were “But the memories we make. We fill the spaces we live in with them. That’s why I’ve always tried to make sure that wherever I live, the longer I live there the spaces become filled with memories of naked women.”  Well, there is only one memory in my living space of a naked woman and thankfully she is not a memory.

But there are other memories….

I arose early as is my infernal habit.  Standing in the dark, also an infernal habit, I looked through the broad window beyond my kitchen sink gazing into the bright moonlight dappling the flat between my home and my stream.  There was a huge full moon, rapidly setting just above the tall trees on the ridge above casting long shadows that danced in the open space below.

Just off to the side, away from the direction I was looking, I saw her in the mottled moonlight.  I saw her white and black markings…as I often do.  When I looked directly at her…she was gone.  She has been gone now for thirteen years…roaming somewhere on the hillside above us.  Ghostly in the way she continues to remind us of her, lost but not forgotten at all.  A ghost never to fear, only to remember and smile.

Sassy Marie came to us, not us to her.  She left the same way…on her terms.  Everything about Sassy Marie was to be savored on her terms.  If she wanted to be petted, she came to us.  If we wanted to pet, she ran away, leery of what our motivation might be.  If she wanted to come into the house, which was very rare until late in her life, she came in, with or without invitation.  Sassy Marie invited herself through the back gate of our hearts and stayed for sixteen years…until she decided it was time for her to leave.

She was a black and white, border collie mix, a discarded puppy or a runaway.  For several days she survived on the small lizards or road kill outside of our little piece of heaven.  If I tried to make friends…she ran away, only to return later in the day.  Linda Gail enticed her through the back gate with morsels of food and the then-unnamed Sassy Marie decided to stay.  I probably should tell that story differently.  Sassy Marie enticed Linda Gail to open the gate and give her food is a truer rendering of the story.

Sassy Marie was the most infuriating, contrary, disobliging, lovable, caring, wonderous paradox I have ever encountered…well…next to my bride.  She had the uncanny ability, a type of sixth sense, to know when we were talking about giving her a bath.  She would find a way to disappear into our small, fenced in yard until that bit of foolishness passed.  Put a leash on her?  Not on your life.  She would look at us as if to say, “I was born to be free of the shackles of life…and no I ain’t wearin’ no collar.”

She realized how well she had it.  No way she would ever walk out of an open gate, invited or not.  Even when we had to tear down a part of the fence during renovations she still refused to set foot outside of her kingdom…until she did.  Again, it was her idea…not ours.

We walked an old logging road and prowled over our kingdom.  Every ravine, every stream that cut it was an adventure.  After thirty plus years the adventures are still there.  Sassy Marie would wait patiently for our return, laying at the back gate, next to the torn down sections.  One day she decided to go with us…she decided and enticed Santana the stray, adopted cat to come with us too.  It was an odd caravan.  Santana yelling in cat, “Wait, wait on me,” until she got tired and laid down refusing to go one step further.  Sassy Marie would lead…until she grew tired or aggravated.  We would find ourselves alone and worry when there was no need.  We would return and find her laying at the gate…with Santana close by.

Sassy Marie had grown weary by her sixteenth year…her sixteenth year with us.  She was older, we just didn’t know how much older.  We knew she was not long for our world and so did she.  On the Christmas Day Linda Gail and I were to drive to visit family in Texas, she disappeared.  We got a late start.  We searched high and low, the ridges and the stream beds, as darkness and our feelings fell.  We knew but we hoped and called our house sitters almost hourly.  Sassy Marie had made her decision to leave us on her own terms…just as she joined us.

Flat rocks, cypress cedars, small clumps of daffodils and a birdhouse on a postmark resting places for our special, animal children.  Lovely goats, a one-legged rooster, bunny rabbits, black cats and a slew of puppy dogs rest in special places…around our grounds and in our hearts.

There is no special memorial for Sassy Marie, except in our hearts…and the marbled shadows of the moonlight or the green shaded leaves moved by the wind.  Her spirit moves along the ridges above our house, in the valleys along the stream beds and in the periphery of our vision and our hearts.

Ghost is a selection from Don Miller’s new release “Cornfields…in My Mind.”  It may be downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CBSV237

Why?

If I go missing interrogate the squirrels, they are the ones gathering nuts.

Allow me the illusion I am not crazy…rephrase…allow me the illusion I am not insane.  I am crazy but not to the point of tearing wings off flies, wearing tin foil hats or using those last words so familiar to country boys like me, “Hey Y’all watch this.”

I’m more like Jimmy Buffett’s “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, if we weren’t all crazy we’d all go insane” crazy.  However, I do hear voices and am crazy enough to believe they are attempting to tell me something…possibly something important.  It has grown quite crowded in my head as a chorus of voices attempts to lead me down a path that is curvy and twisted as a mountain road.  Those twist backs are murder.

The voices I hear are usually having some type of debate…or an argument may be a better description.  I am reminded of the angel and devil from Animal House or maybe the food fight from the same movie.  Yes, more like dozens of angels and devils throwing food at each other while they debate the eternal damnation of my very soul.

A chorus of former acquaintances metaphorically yelling “F@#$ her, F@#$ her brains out,” followed by the chorus of former dead church members, led by the angelic voice of my mother, countering with “For shame Donald, I am surprised at you!”  All the while, creamed potatoes are flying.  Maybe I should rethink my declaration of sanity.

For the last few days, my voices have sounded like shrill blue jays having such a particularly raucous squabble, my earbuds and running can’t seem to drown them out.  Usually running will drown out everything except the pain of my running.

These are depressing voices…trying to pull me down by taking advantage of my predisposition toward depression.  Voices heralding the end of the world, protest, death… disrespect.  For some reason, Stephen Stills voice reverberates with the words from “For What It’s Worth,” …” Paranoia strikes deep, into your life it will creep, it starts when you’re always afraid, you step out of line, the man comes and take you away.”

Unfortunately, the song disintegrates into “They’re coming to take me away…to the funny farm where life is beautiful all the time, and I’ll be happy to see those nice young men, in their clean white coats, they’re coming to take me away”

A voice with a professorial lilt I can’t recognize points out, “Maybe the world hasn’t changed much, maybe we are still protesting the same things.  Maybe this is a never-ending film loop.  Maybe….”

I wonder about the order of issues bellowed out by my voices; end of the world in nuclear fire, protest, death by gunfire or abortion…disrespect….  Another voice is now asking if a lack of respect for ourselves is the underlying culprit.  Yet another is shouting “No it is the devaluation of life…if there is a lack of respect it is for the sanctity of life…my life and the lives of those I love.”  A fourth is screeching, “Bullying, bullying, bullying.”  A fifth, sounding like Billy Graham, softly states, “You’ve turned your back on God!”

More cacophony of dissonance…or is it?  My angel and devil have now become a mob and taken on the persona of our politicians except I don’t know which might be which, angels or devils.

It is a beautiful Sunday morning for a walk and run before church, but I worry my voices will ruin it for me.  Despite my trepidation, I push on.  My exertions seem to have quieted the voices.  They became quieter and quieter as I run along.  While not in unison, as they quiet themselves, the voices began to ask the same question, a simple one-word question…” Why?”  Their silence now worries me more than their question.  Could it be their silence is an admission there is no answer to the question?

The Why? meme is by Sami from the Meme Center at https://www.memecenter.com/fun/293612/why-meme

Please stop by Don Miller’s writer’s pages and at least like them if you don’t want to purchase a book…or five.

At Facebook https://www.facebook.com/cigarman501/

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

 

Kudzu, Cotton and Red Clay Banks

 

I’ve battled kudzu for the past thirty years.  Some bright soul decided to import it from Japan and somehow the smothering vine has found a growing spot near my garden and is trying to cover a gully cut by a stream.

Kudzu became a great erosion control method, so great it has been called the “Plant that ate the South.”  Below my garden, near the creek, I saw my first Kudzu runner this morning.  The war begins again, a war that I am gradually losing.

Sorry, you’ll have to allow me a “pig trail” memory.  I remember cotton growing in the huge field across from my childhood home…and kudzu growing in the eroded ravine bordering that huge field.  It reminded me of the old Tarzan movies we watched on a black and white television on Sundays after church.  It was a jungle and I feared walking near it.  My childish mind imagined a tropical rainforest flourishing just across the road…lions and tigers and big snakes, oh my!

There was a smaller field of cotton growing behind my house above an eroded red clay bank separating the cotton from the field of corn growing below it.  There was no kudzu growing on the bank but should have been.  Broom straw was all that grew on its banks.

That’s not quite true, my mother grew there too…grew weary of having to clean my permanently red-stained clothes after I played on it.  Until I was old enough to pick cotton or pull corn I honed my imagination playing on those eroded red clay banks.

Tonka toy trucks and earthmovers created redoubts and ramparts to protect little green plastic soldiers who fought for their lives in the battles I created.  Later, as I outgrew the trucks and soldiers, my friends would join me as we refought World War Two battles with cap pistols and my Combat, the television show, Thompson Sub-Machine gun.  Sergeant Saunders would have been proud.  Momma wasn’t.  She still battled my clothing and was a bit peeved when she found me using her aluminum mixing bowl as an army helmet.

None of those items exist anymore…except…the kudzu.  The fields have given over to condominiums. Tonka toys passed down to my younger siblings as I outgrew them, green soldiers became lost somewhere in the sands of time.  Plastic, green soldier heaven I guess…or hell.  My machine gun, carelessly abandoned, run over in the prime of its life by an uncaring bicyclist.

I don’t see a lot of cotton grown near my upstate home.  I see a lot of kudzu.  On trips to the coast in the late fall, I once saw expansive fields growing cotton.  Cotton bolls bursting white in the fall as the fields sped by outside of my car window.  Big green, red or orange machines rolling in unison, replacing the slaves, sharecroppers and po’ white trash who picked it by hand in a time long past.  Even with mechanization, much of the cotton has been replaced by soybeans.

I say po’ white trash because I can.  I used to be a part of the po’ white trash or po’ white at least.  I never thought of us as trash…nor even poor I guess.  Sometimes life is quite rich without the need for money.  Even the owners of the lands we worked were “landed” rich with little actual money.  We worked side by side with the black sharecroppers, their hands callused over from the daylight to dark of night days making four dollars a day…1950s and 60s money.  Let’s see…that’s about forty dollars a day in today’s money, less than three hundred a week in today’s green money for a six-day week.  Not a lot of money to realize your dreams.

Kudzu was planted in the United States in the late nineteenth century as a foul joke.  Not really, it was a novelty, touted as fodder for livestock.  I admit my goats loved it.  When they grazed was the last time I had the vine controlled.  Shouldn’t have gotten rid of the goats.  Good grazing but not good to dry and bail.  Too heavy and wet.

On a bad day, a vine of kudzu will grow six inches in a twenty-four-hour period.  I don’t think kudzu has ever known a bad day.  In optimum growing conditions, which seems to be any humid, Southern summer day, it will grow a foot a day.  I swear on my dead mother’s grave the statement is not an embellishment.  I’ve watched it do it.

Roundup doesn’t work despite spraying it every two weeks and by “All Things Holy,” don’t burn it…it just grows back stronger than before.  I once attached a chain to a large root and tried to pull it up with my thirty-two-horsepower green tractor that does not run like a deer…the root pulled my front end off the ground before the root broke.  As far as I know, the root is still growing toward China.  I guess I need to mend my fences and get a goat.

In the 1930’s many cotton fields had played out and been abandoned due to the depression and the low prices accompanying it.  Erosion had begun to do its dirty deed in fields over plowed and undernourished.  Kudzu was used successfully for erosion control…too successfully.  I’ve seen stands of fifty-foot pines covered, bending under the weight, and abandoned cabins totally enveloped by the vine.  During the winter their gray outlines are almost ghostly.

Beware if you are living next to a stand.  Be vigilant and do not leave your windows open.  A person might wake up trapped in their bed by long green vines.

Like Don Miller’s writer’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is of an abandoned home about a week from being covered in Kudzu courtesy of http://www.discover.uga.edu

RETURN OF THE RED TAILS

They are back and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the Easter season, Spring and the rebirth it brings.

cigarman501

I heard a shrill whistle from above and looked up into a late January sky. It was a beautiful January day, warmer than normal although the day felt cooler with a gusty breeze blowing from the northwest. The sky was cloudless and of a deep blue color poems are written about. Circling in the middle of the blue expanse was my red-tailed hawk.

I know she’s not mine any more that I’m hers but it’s the way I think of her…if she is a “her.” I believe she is a her because of her size. She and I met several years ago when I got too near her nest and was dive bombed by either “herself”or her mate. A bright reddish-brown flash had me ducking low to the ground while uttering several expletives as I scurried to safety. For several days, I searched with binoculars until I found her nest…

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Spring….

She came back with two friends.

cigarman501

Spring is finally here in the Foothills of the Blue Ridge.  A high of seventy-one today if the weather liars are to be believed…and a high of forty-eight tomorrow.  Thunderstorms with copious lightning and rainfall moved through the area on the last night of winter.  Three to five inches of snow is expected in the mountains above us on the first night of Spring.  Come on Mother Nature…I have a therapist I can suggest who might help you with your dysfunction.

I awoke this morning with a tremendous pressure…on my bladder.  Five a.m. and like every morning I had to go drain the lizard.  I stepped out my back door…I live in the country, if I want to relieve myself out my backdoor it’s okay and I am conserving water.

The light from my hallway displayed scraps of fog, torn and driven by the light morning breeze.  It had been almost…

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Trippin’…Over a Root

 

At exactly one point three-three miles into my workout, according to my GPS app, I kicked a freakin’ root.  I wasn’t paying attention to the rock and root strewed path…I was paying attention to a half-dozen Canadian geese who were stopping by from…Canada?  When they landed I watched and tripped over the root banging my arthritic toe.  The geese didn’t stay long, instead, they took off to another part of the lake.  It might have been the loud cursing erupting from my mouth.

As I hobbled on and gazed heavenward contemplating my pain and the distance my expletives might have traveled heavenward, I kicked another root.  Same foot, same big toe…the big toe I’m trying put off surgery on until winter comes around again and I am worthless…ah, more worthless.

The second kick was even more solid than the first.  Mortar Forker!  This time I bent over, hands on knees, in agony and stood still, waiting for the pain exploding from my toe to ebb along with the tears the pain had brought.  I’m still waiting…sorta.  The neurons responsible for pain have abated from the torrent exiting through the top of my head to a trickle of electrical charges radiating outward and surrounding my forefoot.  Four hours later, the pain is still there letting me know…it is still there!

Did I mention, it’s cold.  Late March, less than a week from Easter.  A moist, northeastern wind makes it seem colder…not tongue stuck to a flagpole cold but it’s not helping the throbbing in my toe or the way I’m reacting to it.  No, I am not going to put an ice pack on it.  I just shivered.

Earlier in the story, just after I had kicked the second root, I finally straightened up and again looked heavenward.  I found myself peering, jaw slack and agape, at a hornet’s nest the size of a medium watermelon less than three feet from my face.  You might guess where this is going and it ain’t a good trip.

Despite knowing it was too cold for hornets, I backed up quickly…tripping over the initial root I had banged my toe on.  This time I went down hard on my butt, jarring my teeth, and decided to stay there.   As I sat, I contemplated…how badly was I injured and “Help I’ve Fallen, and I Can’t Get Up!” briefly ran through my mind.

Mainly, I contemplated, how had the nest survived the winter and how had I not seen it?  What?  I’ve walked this trail a hundred times since last spring…why am I just now seeing this thing?  It’s hugeeeeeee!

I pondered on the pain the little suckers could have wreaked…and the providence that kept them from causing pain to me or the hundreds of kids attending the camp at Lookup Lodge.  Maybe I should have paid more attention to the name of the camp instead of looking down at my feet…then that hadn’t worked out well when I watched the geese.  My thoughts didn’t help the pain in my foot but did take me down a pig trail memory.

On a very cool, late fall day during my early teaching career, I was startled when an entire class exited their room as if the devil himself were after them.  Kids yelling and screaming, slapping at themselves and each other.  Seems a “Little Johnny” had found a hornet’s nest and brought it to school for show and tell.  Probably should have waited until the hornets died.  As the room heated up so did they.  Ouch.  Some students were treated for stings, others for bruises caused by over exuberant classmates.  I laughed and laughed and laughed…until my toe reminded me of why I was sitting on my butt having the memory.  Fother Muck!

Image from http://goalorientedrunner.blogspot.com/2017/02/blog-post.html

For more of ravings from a mad Southerner https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

 

“Warm Biscuits on a Sunday….”

 

I absolutely love Kelly Clarkson, her voice, her sass, and her sense of humor.  If I were younger…and unmarried, I’d go to Nashville and camp out on her front doorstep…wait, she’s married?  To Reba McEntire’s son, you say?  Well, I’m not going to break up her marriage over something she said.

Southern and brazen,  with a voice as rich as Tennessee whiskey and biting as corn likker, Kelly likened a singer’s voice to “warm biscuits on a Sunday with butter drizzlin’ off of em’?”  How Southern is that!

An inner voice asked, “What does it mean?”

Another inner voice attempted to clarify, “Well…I guess…um…well…butter my butt and call me a biscuit, I don’t have a clue.”

I never heard that exclamation of surprise until I was an adult and I am not sure how authentic it is.  It does sound Southern.  “Buttah mah butt and call me ah biscuit.”  Yeah, rolls off of the tongue Southern but why would you wish your biscuit to fall out of your mouth?  That question came from the crazier of the voices in my head.  It does get crowded in there but never boring.

I’m not totally sure what Kelly meant.  I think it probably means “damn good” because biscuits drizzled in butter on a Sunday are “damn good” and, at least for me, a little bit poignant.

I love homemade biscuits and can’t think of anything better than a buttered, homemade biscuit on a Sunday…or any other day of the week for that matter.  Light, flaky, golden brown on the outside, light and soft on the inside.  Runnin’ in REAL butter, not the oleo stuff.  Just add a side of eggs for breakfast.  Slathered in King Syrup or honey for a dessert.  Stuffed with a slab of Neese’s liver mush for lunch.  Smothered with sawmill gravy for…heaven on a plate.  I assure you, biscuits and sawmill gravy are a heavenly meal unto themselves.  Never allow anyone to try and convince you otherwise.

We have several sayings from below the Mason Dixon involving biscuits…unless we stole em’ from somebody above it.  “A cat can have kittens in an oven, but that don’t make ‘em biscuits.”  Yankees may understand a derivation, “Just because you live in a garage, don’t make you a car.”  Here in the South, it might mean, just cause you’ve lived here for five generations and say Y’all don’t make you Southern.

We even express our undying affection with affirmations of love such as, “I could put you on a plate and sop you up with a biscuit.”  This is making me hungry and missin’ my grand momma.

I associate biscuits and love to my grandmother. Nannie was a somewhat stoic woman who had trouble overtly expressing her love.  I’m not sure I remember a time when I got an “I love you,” from my Nannie.  I was much more likely to get a whack on the ass than a pat on the back.  She did not abide foolishness.

I knew she loved me and the rest of the grandkids.  I knew it as well as I knew Nannie’s biscuits would be light and flaky.  Love was displayed by example, not expression.  Examples like buttered biscuits on a Wednesday…for lunch.  Her greatest expression of love was, “Donnie you’ve been a good boy, want another biscuit?”  This also explains why I have fought a war with my weight for most of my life…food was the language of love and of positive reinforcement.  She was the same with her peanut butter cookies…I loved them too.

As a small child, I remember watching her as she went about making her biscuits in the tiny kitchen of her home.  Standing in front of her window to the world, watching the birds in their domain,  she made her biscuits.  With me playing on the linoleum floor, she would be cutting in the lard and adding buttermilk to give it a bit of a tang.  She was careful not to overwork the dough to keep it light and flaky, before rolling it out and cutting rounds with her red handled biscuit cutter.  Rolling up the scraps into mini-biscuits, nothing was wasted, before painting the tops with melted butter.  She only glanced at her efforts and relied on feel as she watched “her” birds cavorting around her bird feeder.

Late in her life, I asked about her recipe.  She didn’t have one.  It was a little of this and a lot of that until it all came together, nothing exact.  You learn to make biscuits by making biscuits.  I must not make them enough.  Mine are not light and flaky, some so hard the puppies won’t eat them.  As I said in another essay, maybe it’s the lard…or the love.

Thank you, Kelly, for sending me down a lovely rabbit hole.

Coming soon “Cornfields and Cow Patties.”  Until then, check out Don at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Spring….

 

Spring is finally here in the Foothills of the Blue Ridge.  A high of seventy-one today if the weather liars are to be believed…and a high of forty-eight tomorrow.  Thunderstorms with copious lightning and rainfall moved through the area on the last night of winter.  Three to five inches of snow is expected in the mountains above us on the first night of Spring.  Come on Mother Nature…I have a therapist I can suggest who might help you with your dysfunction.

I awoke this morning with a tremendous pressure…on my bladder.  Five a.m. and like every morning I had to go drain the lizard.  I stepped out my back door…I live in the country, if I want to relieve myself out my backdoor it’s okay and I am conserving water.

The light from my hallway displayed scraps of fog, torn and driven by the light morning breeze.  It had been almost tropical the night before, before the storms.  This morning it was just a pea soup fog being rendered by the wind.  The fog was ghostly as it slid by in the reflected light.  The specter didn’t scare me, nor did it scare the big doe staring at me from across the fence.  I must not have been too terrifying either as I hosed the ground between us.

She stood facing me as if thinking, “Son…please cover yourself.”  Slowly I did, and she still didn’t move.  “No, not very impressed, are we?”  She just stood there showing me those beautiful brown eyes and “big ole ears” standing at attention.  She was as beautiful as anything I had seen since first seeing my granddaughter.

I decided to take a step toward her and she held her ground.  She let me move within a yard before her tail stood up and she leaped into the darkness.  A deer’s tail disappearing into the darkness may be one of the most delightful sights I’ve ever seen.  How in the world can you shoot one of these animals for sport?

I walk, daily, for exercise since my knees and feet have worn out.  As soon as it was light enough I went out for my five-mile commune with nature.  There she was again, this time across the road on my walking path.  Again, she stood as if to say, “What took you so long, come on, just follow me.”  I did.  I followed her beautiful tail until it disappeared.

The doe started me thinking about Native American “spirit guides.”  I know I run a chance of being called “Pocahontas” or rather “Walking Bear” by our Name Caller in Chief, but according to family lore, Native Americans blood courses in my veins…no, I haven’t had a DNA test, but Pocahontas may be a distant relative.  My thoughts caused me to wonder.  If I rate a “spirit guide,” I think I want it to be that doe.  Somehow, we seemed to connect.  We’ll see if she returns and if she does, where she might lead me.

Happy Spring Days and Nights.

Image from https://tsfphotoscartoons.com/2016/06/07/woods-in-the-fog/

Please stop by and visit Don Miller’s writer’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM  or his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/cigarman501/