“You Deserve a Break Today…at the White House”

Ordinarily, I don’t make two blog posts on the same day but…today is different.  I feel a-callin’!  Some folks have gotten on the wrong side of this old coach.

I’m a Clemson fan.  I hold a master’s degree from Clemson and no I didn’t drive by campus with the window open and have a diploma thrown through it as some from folks in the middle of the state might think.  I also hold a master’s plus thirty, primarily bestowed from USC East, but I’m still a Clemson fan.

I’m not a fan of the present resident of our White House nor am I a fan of McDonald’s.  I’m a Burger King guy if I feel the need to up my cholesterol count with fast food.  I tend to limit the number of Whoppers I consume to “once in a blue moon”…sorta like Gamecock victories over the Tigers.

Last night the Clemson National Championship Football Team was hosted to a fast food feast at the White House.  Big Macs, Wendy’s Hot and Juicy’s, Whoppers and pizza of an unknown brand were served on White House porcelain.  People have gone crazy over it.  Your craziness is misplaced!

Going to the White House to be recognized for athletic excellence has never been about what President happens to reside there at the time…unless you are a professional.  It is about the recognition of student-athletes…and reward…even if it involves “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onion on a sesame bun” served on official White House China.  I don’t like the sauce or the President but that is not the point.

I’ve lived in South Carolina for my entire life and find it tedious to explain why we rank low in areas we shouldn’t rank low in, or rank high in areas we shouldn’t rank high in.  It’s not tedious because I can’t explain it.  Those are other battles. I find it refreshing to have something to be radiant “orange” over.

Last night was a joy for me…and the team, coaches and support staff.  It was a joy for people wearing orange from all over the United States.  It was not about the President, what I disagree with him about, or what he decided to serve as a meal.

Last night was a moment to recognize young men who have worked hard to attain a goal and for a state to feel pride vicariously through them.  Give it a break!  There are young men who would never travel outside of a fifty-mile radius of the home they were born into were it not for Clemson…or U of SC football…or other athletic teams.  They would never in their wildest dreams expect to shake the hand of a United States’ President or sit at a table of honor in the White House.

Call me a hypocrite.  If I were in their shoes, I’d be right in line to get my handshake…I would use a hand sanitizer before I picked up my double meat Whopper, but I’d shake the President’s hand and consider it a lifetime moment.  This should have nothing to do with politics or what food was served…or if the President was using it as a positive “press” opportunity.  As quarterback Trevor Lawrence said, “It was awesome.”  I agree.

Image of Tiger players loading up from Sports Illustrated at https://www.si.com/college-football/2019/01/14/clemson-tigers-white-house-visit-mcdonalds-wendys-fast-food

For further musings, https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

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Is it Always About Race?

 

The question is not mine although I mentally argue the subject with myself quite often.  The person who asked the question pointed out, “You seem to be obsessed by race” meaning race relations.  He is intelligent, both well read and with common sense.  Because of his intelligence and his view of the world, I had to wonder if he might be correct.  If I am obsessed, what about people of color.

I have been told, “We must move on.  No one alive today has owned slaves or picked cotton as a slaveMove on!”  Having picked cotton as a small child I might dispute that assertion except I was “paid” with a BB Bat occasionally and was not living in a home that sharecropping was an only vocation available.  Okay, for argument’s sake I’ll give you that assertion but would add the word legally…but then there are those prisons who still rent out inmates for profit, the Angola Plantation of modern times.

I would also ask you to shift your thinking to the years of my lifetime.  I began life in the Jim Crow South.  The Brown case that overturned Plessy v Ferguson landed like a wet cow patty in my part of the world in 1954.  Being four at the time, I didn’t notice.  I was much more interested in Tonka Toys, recreating the Gunfight at the Ok Corral, and defeating the Imperial Japanese Army with little green soldiers than worrying about a court case I had no understanding of.  The youngster of color I played with didn’t notice either…until 1956 when we both went off to our still “separate but equal” schools.

For the next fourteen years South Carolina, along with the rest of the South, drug their collective feet, rushing like runaway snails toward complete integration, kicking and screaming all the way.  Southerners heard “deliberate” and ignored “speed” in “with all deliberate speed”1, first ignoring it, then instituting “token” integration before going the whole hog and integrating all public schools in 1970…that was in my little piece of the South…again, during my lifetime.  The last public school to integrate was in Mississippi in 2016, sixty-two years after Brown.  Yes, for some folk, it is still about race.

Desegregation was not well received, integration even worse.  Our collective “white” anger was not just limited to the South.  Some of the most racist areas still exist, and they are not restricted to the states seceding in late 1860 and early 1861.  Boston, Massachusetts, for instance, didn’t integrate their schools until 1976, with rioting in addition to kicking and screaming.

During my lifetime, I have very vivid memories of people who made it about race.  Memories of our “kicking and screaming” in the form of bombs blowing up churches, burning buses, election workers buried under a dam, firehoses and Billy clubs, what was once human beings hung from a tree, and police dogs.  If I have those hateful memories of events during my lifetime…what about people of color?  Should we all ignore these memories or should we approach it head on and accept our racist past by getting rid of it in our racist present and banning it from our future?

I’ve specified years beginning in 1954.  My lifetime.  Brown in ’54, Little Rock Nine in ’57, the Greensboro sit-ins in ’60, a bomb in Birmingham in ’63, Dr. King’s assassination and a hell of a lot more in ’68, Mother Emmanuel in 2015, Senator Steve King in 2019 wondering when “white nationalist and white supremacist” became offensive words.

I jumped a few years for expediency and just listed a few to make a point.  There are seventy-four million Baby Boomers of all races alive today who have lived through Jim Crow or institutional racism in education, the justice system, prisons, housing, jobs, voting, just to name a few.  Those memories are real as is the discrimination many still face in 2019.

What discrimination?  Before you say, “But….”  I’ve researched the data and you can too.  I’m not going to do it for you.  The numbers are skewed for a reason.  You should research if you still believe in science and data…if not, please go elsewhere and harass some other poor soul.

With forethought, those who came before us, systematically placed restrictions on people they considered the other.  Even “Po white trash” facilitate their own dilemmas by allowing and even assisting in white supremacy.  The least racist of us perpetuate the system covertly because “Those are the lessons we grew up with and learned.”

“But….”  I know.  You have Black or Hispanic friends, maybe po white trash friends too.  Jeffery Dahmer had friends he didn’t eat.  He was still a serial cannibal.

Stereotypes still exist and people around me perpetuate them all the time.  I have been guilty of taking the path of least resistance…and maybe even perpetuating.  No longer.  If we are going to end inequalities in the system who should heft the banner?  Those who are still unequal in the eyes of the ruling class?  White supremacy will not end on its own nor will it end by the efforts from people of color alone.  White supremacy must end by the efforts of whites.

“But….”  I know, there will always be racist people.  Laws passed will not make racism and white supremacy magically disappear.  People with racist attitudes do not need to be in positions of power ala Senator Steve King.  They don’t need to be bosses, policemen or educators either.  It is up to the white race to call out those of our own who are.

I do realize that every action or slight doesn’t have to be about race and there are some who just want to make “everything” about race…certainly our media it would seem.  Until we truly believe, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (people) are created equal”, it will be about race…or bigotry…or misogyny…or…?  Equal must be equal…it cannot be by degrees, by social class or by race.”

Dr. King would have turned ninety today had he lived.  One of his most famous quotes, from one of his most famous speeches, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” is oft repeated. It is a substantial quote but in the light of today’s cultural atmosphere, I believe the final paragraph of the speech is more relevant.  Speaking of freedom, Dr. King said,

“And when this (freedom) happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men, and white men, Jews, and Gentiles, Protestants, and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: ‘Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.’”2

I don’t know if I will see true freedom for all in my lifetime.  I doubt it.  I pray my daughter and grandchildren see it.  A time when everyone’s children “will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin (or religion, gender, etc.) but by the content of their character.”  

1 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)

2 Source: Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have A Dream: Writings and Speeches that Changed the World, ed. James Melvin Washington (San Francisco: Harper, 1986), 102-106.

The image is from Richmond 2Day http://richmond2day.com/city-host-dr-martin-luther-king-jr-day-program-encourages-residents-volunteer/mlk/

Further musings may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

A Quiet Before a Storm

 

Despite the overcast skies I decided to hike my old logging roads.  I needed to walk them, I haven’t since the snow apocalypse and the following high winds from before Christmas.  I wasn’t surprised or disappointed.  I have downed pine trees everywhere.  With a tractor and chainsaw, I will prevail…if the tractor runs. When I bought it back in the day, I was told: “nothing runs like a Deere.”  They lied…I guess John Deere even produces lemons on occasion.

I walked slowly up the incline, climbing over and ducking under downed trees along my route.  The three-hundred-foot elevation gain over about a third of a mile caused me to huff and puff a bit.  The temperature was noticeably cooler, the clouds seemed closer and denser.  The weather folk says it is going to be a minor winter event…my knee says maybe not.  Is there a difference between a single throbbing knee weather event and a double?

Stopping along the crest of a ridge to catch my breath, I was surprised at the quiet.  Just my inhalations were heard.  I fought to bring them under control…it seemed important.  Silent and still, not a hint of a breeze.  Even the hum from the distant four-lane seemed muted.  A quiet before a storm?  The birds seem to be hiding, as are the squirrels.  Not a chirp, not even the caw of a crow or a squirrel rustling the leaves disturbed the silence.

I continued to listen as I walked and searched the trees for movement.  There were signs.  Disturbed leaves from turkeys looking for seed or a grub.  The silent deer stands on the portion of my logging road that is not really mine.  They stood quietly, like empty watch towers…no game in sight.

Up to Chinquapin and then down to a second ridge crest.  I lost the old road for a moment and wondered what footprints my own feet might be following.  Five hundred years ago this was a Native American trading route.  It was still the land of the Cherokee, black bears, and the Carolina panther…today they have all had to make room for golfers and cyclist…and a moonshiner or two.

It is so quiet.  It is easy to walk and reflect on the thirty years I have resided here.  Reflections that make me smile…little that makes me frown.  While the Cherokee have moved north, the wildlife is still here…maybe they are reflecting too.  Reflecting on a quiet before a storm and the wonderful place they live.

For more reflections, rants or musings, https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Championship Emotions

As I watched last night’s National Championship game, I seemed to drift to days of yesteryear.  Not that the game wasn’t interesting…well…anytime you pop the bully in the mouth it is interesting.  My memories were of young men competing on fields marked with white lines that seemed to glow with their own light.  Days when I still coached football, at a different level, in a different time.  But it was football.  I thought of an early spring evening at a coaching clinic held at Clemson University in 1981.

Danny Ford was my guy in 1981…still is my guy.  I miss his visage and demeanor on the sidelines at Death Valley.  A personable, country come to town, baseball cap pushed back on his head, a piece of grass stuck between his lip’s kind of guy.

Danny spoke two languages, football, and Alabama redneck.  He had a look that could freeze your heart or melt it.  He is still my guy.  Danny had recruited our school as an assistant, and our staff had developed a closeness with him during those days that carried over after he was named head coach.  Not that the present head coach isn’t my guy, Dabo is…its just different…despite being an Alabama boy too.

During those days I had dreams and aspirations.  Dreams and aspirations that never quite came to fruition.  I am now a spectator instead of a participant.  Sounds like I might be bitter.  Hmm.  Thoughts for another day.

Being young and foolish, our high school staff “closed” the clinic in the spring of 1981.  Late in the evening, sitting around a table were maybe a dozen of us “hardcore partiers”.  Ford knew how to throw a clinic.  After the football X’s and O’s were done, he served us beer in sixteen-ounce Hardee’s cups, pulled pork sandwiches with fixings and entertained us with a tree climbing hound dog while a bluegrass band played in the background.  The festivities had ended, the band packed up, with just a few of us sitting around a knockdown table.

In my world of coaching, I sat in the rarified air of coaching elite.  Successful high school head coaches sat close by while I thought it was smart for children and young coaches to be seen and not heard.  I admit to feeling somewhat invisible but listened intently hoping for a coaching nugget to stick in my brain.  Funny, Danny Ford was just two years older.

Normally jovial and full of country colloquialisms, this version was depressed and subdued.  Hat pulled down over his eyes, crying in his beer depressed.  Inside of a coffin subdued.  Clemson had just come off a terrible six and five season and he was feeling pressure from the administration and alumni.  A well-known, South Carolina High School Hall of Fame coach gradually drew him out before pushing a Hardee’s cup toward him saying, “Son, all you can do is coach ‘em up and love ‘em.  Other than that, what’s gonna happen is gonna happen.”

Something happened.  Clemson’s first National Championship was won ten months later as the Tigers beat Nebraska to cap the first storybook season.  The first of three storybook seasons…so far.

I ran into Danny recently…literally not figuratively.  I’m smiling.  At a small mercantile in the middle of nowhere, I walked into him as I exited the door with a package of cigars.  He was entering to get a pouch of Red Man and a hotdog.  Some things never change.  We both paused waiting as neurons slowly crackled in recognition.

Pointing a sausage sized finger at me, he drawled, “I know you.  You were with Lunceford and Bradburn at Mauldin.”  It was nice to be remembered.  I shivered a bit.

We stood outside, leaning on truck tailgates, reminiscing about times gone by and people we’ve lost, highs and lows, hemp farming, raising cows, grandchildren, and retirement.  “Whatever happened to….”  He seems quite happy to be out of the spotlight butI don’t think Danny Ford will ever retire.  Our meeting left me both proud and a bit melancholy, like what I am feeling this early, early morning as the talking heads analyze Clemson’s throttling of the Crimson Tide.

It seems we’re a lot alike…except I’m not a National Championship coach from a major university.  Neither of us misses the long hours but miss the people.  We miss the competition and prowling the sidelines on game night.  We don’t miss the practices held in hot and humid August and September.  I guess he is still competing in a way, now from astride a tractor, trying to resurrect a hemp industry while raising cattle.  At least the cab is airconditioned.

The memories we shared were warm, but I think we both fear there will come a time when memories are all we will have left…or maybe it is only my fear.  I guess I do miss “coaching them up and loving them.”  I also realize my time has passed.  Another reason to be melancholy.  The game has passed me by…but I’m not sorry.  I still have the memories and the attending emotions of young men competing on brightly lit green fields striped in white.

For those of you, not football fans, Dabo is Dabo Swinney, head football coach of the 2018 National Champion Clemson Tigers.

For further musings, https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is of Danny Ford being carried off of the field after Clemson’s 22-15 victory over Nebraska in 1981 National Championship.

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

From “the Rooter to the Tooter”

Sorry.  The year is only three hours or so old and I am entering it like a derailing steam locomotive.  I have completely run off the rails.  It’s three-thirty in the morning, do you know where your mind is?  I don’t.  I apologize for my rambling.

I got food on my mind while researching how a Southern community might have survived in the days following the Civil War and Reconstruction.  I was led down a pig trail by an article on “Southern Poverty Food, How the Other 90% Ate.”1   The article brought back childhood memories of my most favorite subject, food and the diversity of the people who created it.

I never thought about growing up poor but understand being in the “Other 90%”.  We certainly weren’t rich and compared to the rest of the families living along the Charlotte-Lancaster Highway, we all appeared to be in the same boat…a boat full of the rural working class.

While never having everything I wished for, I certainly had everything I needed.  I was surrounded by family and there were always vittles on the table.  The food certainly wasn’t filet mignon and caviar, but I never thought of it as “Poverty Food”.

“You chaps go on out an get me a mess of greens,” echoes brightly in my head.  I ate a bunch of greens, and then some, through those first two decades of life; mustard, turnip, collards.  Like green beans in the summer, there was usually a mess of greens warming on my grandmother’s stove in the winter.  She never threw any away, she just added to the pot liquor that might have been fermenting for weeks it seems.  Sometimes I thought, “If I have to eat one more bite of turnip greens….”  But I ate it anyway or went hungry.

Cooked in the renderings of fried, salt pork, what we called fatback, greens were seasoned with a bit of this and a bit of that.  Maybe some vinegar, hot sauce or left-over bacon or ham.  It was always accompanied with cornbread and a glass of tart buttermilk. One had to have something to sop up the pot liquor.

If we were eating “high on the hog,” the garden’s bounty was accompanied by a cut of meat, usually pork.  The greens might be served with the fried fatback itself, salty and crunchy between two pieces of cornbread or maybe short ribs slow cooked in the Dutch oven.

Pigs were important to Southern Poverty Food it seems…thankfully.  High on the hog….  Pigs were always one of the mainstays of Southern cuisine.  Easy to raise, with eight to twelve in a litter.  Left alone they would “root hog or die” and even a blind one “will find an acorn if they root hog hard enough.”

Recognizable cuts were usually breaded and fried or roasted over open fires or above hardwood coals.  Sometimes, on special or large celebrations, whole hogs were buried in a deep hole filled with hardwood, then covered with wet burlap bags and left to slow cook all day.  Thinking of it has triggered a Pavlovian reaction.

Unrecognizable portions were turned into sausage,  livermush, hash or head cheese…which is not cheese at all.  There was also fresh bacon to serve with brains and eggs the first morning after a hog was slaughtered.

Slow cookin’ over glowing embers was something we picked up from indigenous folk before we uprooted them and marched them west to the “Indian Lands”.  Something else we picked up was using the hog “from rooter to the tooter” but not from the Native Americans.  From pig’s snouts to chitlins’, loin to pig’s feet, little was wasted.  We picked that up that habit from folks bought, paid for and shipped from another continent.  People who weren’t allowed to eat “high off the hog” during earlier times.

Pigs were not indigenous to North America, either.  Interestingly, I was “today old” when I discovered the infamous explorer, Hernando de Soto, brought the first pigs to North America.  Thirteen originally, they must be prodigious breeders if the wild hogs in our area are an indication.  I was a history major and teacher, shouldn’t I have known that?  I guess I wasn’t paying attention that day or maybe I did know it and forgot it.

The Spanish invaders saw Taino Indians of the West Indies cooking meat and fish over a pit of coals on a framework of green wooden sticks. The Spanish spelling of the Indian name for that framework was “barbacoa”.  A tradition and a name were born.

I wonder why my own Southern “rearing” had so much in common with the people of color or Native Americans that lived in nearby enclaves.  Enclaves created by the enforced segregation of the period.  I remember the wariness and fear that undercut the period and the relationships, the period of hard fought for Civil Rights.

Our food was the same…just not seasoned as well.

There were a few people of color who lived in old sharecropper shanties in the area of my childhood and many Native Americans who had adopted the same names as my Scot-Irish forefathers, intermarrying and moving to a place named “Indian Land”, just south of “Indian Trail”, west of “the Waxhaws” and east of the Catawba River.  What is in a name?

Regardless of race, creed or color, we all seemed to share the same love affair for slow-cooked pork, and the creative use of “certain” pig parts.  Served with a wedge of cornbread, red-hulled peas with onion and the “greens de jour.”  When I say we, I am speaking of the family I grew up with, in the area I grew up in although it seems Neo-Southern cuisine has caught on again, both above and west of the Mason-Dixon.  A “new” cuisine that features greens and pork extensively.

I have drawn a line.  I draw it just before the tooter in “from rooter to the tooter.”  I probably shouldn’t limit myself but I have not participated in a chitlin strut or dined on the porcine version of Mountain Oysters, sometimes called”pig fries”.  I probably won’t…although I can’t guarantee what might have been in the barbeque hash served over white rice…don’t know what’s in it, don’t care what’s in it…um, um, good…as are pig knuckles, brains and eggs, and livermush.   Okay, maybe I should rethink the chitlins and pig fries.  Nothing ventured…a New Year’s resolution?

By the time you read this, it will be New Year’s Day.  The tradition of serving collard greens and black-eyed peas will be observed in my little piece of heaven…a tradition I have not varied from ever during my lifetime.  A superstitious fear.  Peas for luck and collards for money.  Not that I have great amounts of luck or money, I’ m just afraid I will lose what little I have.

The meal will be seasoned with pig renderings, a dash of vinegar and hot sauce.  Pork chops and cornbread will accompany but they won’t be the main course.  Greens and black-eyed peas are the stars on this day.

May your 2019 be everything you want…or at least everything you need.

From The Cook’s Cook: Southern Poverty Food: How the Other 90% Ate,  May 2018,  https://thecookscook.com/features/southern-poverty-food-how-the-other-90-ate/

The Image was lifted from Wikipedia with malice and forethought.

 

For further readings about any subjects under the sun, go to https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

“Be the Man My Puppies Think I Am.”

For four of the previous five years, I’ve limped into the new year.  Physically for sure and mentally…maybe.  Recently I wondered if it might be tied to the trials and tribulations associated with the age I live in…or the life I’ve aged into.  “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”  Thanks, Matthew, the end is not yet but sometimes I believe I can see it from here and livin’ in the Age of Trump ain’t helpin’.

This is not about resolutions…I don’t think.  I don’t do resolutions…I do have ambitions like certain fitness goals, and once again I have fallen short as 2018 closes…as I did in 2017…as I did in 2016…. I’ve actually lost most of the weight I gained from my last bout with prednisone.  Unfortunately, that was an additional ten pounds on top of the ten pounds I originally wanted to lose…a net loss of…nothing.

My body just doesn’t absorb doughnut calories as well as it used to…could be that bone on bone rubbing in my knee slowing calorie absorption down.  It also keeps me from doing any kind of running so the “bucket list” marathon is probably out.

Back to the subject…if there is one.  I don’t do resolutions anymore, but if I did, I would use the trite, too often used, “Be the man my puppies think I am.” I am good to them, I treat them better than I treat my fellow man.  Not a bad thing…but not the best thing.  I realize I need to be a part of something bigger than me and my puppies…something I go out and do rather than just pointing my finger at it while stating the obvious, “There is something wrong there.  Someone should do something.”

Our world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket…I know there are many people suffering despite the “trickle down” we received.   My puppies don’t think their world is going to hell in a handbasket.  If Mommy Linda is around, their lives are pretty good.  If there is reincarnation, I want to come back as one of Mommy Linda’s puppy dogs.  Maybe I should treat the world like my puppy dogs.

I watch the people I interact with and if I watch closely enough, concentrate enough, it is easy to see there are still good people in this world…trying to do go things.  Their efforts transcend race, sexual orientation, politics, and religious affiliation.  I see what their love can accomplish…even on the microscopic level.

My best friend, Mike Hawkins, carries blankets around to give to the homeless he runs into…runs into on purpose.  He doesn’t just avert his eyes in hopes the panhandler won’t see him.  Hoping to be invisible to those less fortunate.

My brother, Steve Miller, saw a need and works to support a soup kitchen.  A soup kitchen that has expanded into its own building, feeding and clothing hundreds a week…making life just a bit more livable for those in need.

Church friends Leland and Emily Browder model what it means to be a follower of Christ and have passed on their beliefs of service to their God and humanity to their children and grandchildren.  Mission trips to foreign countries or foreign communities in their own country.  I give thanks to them and others.

In a climate breeding boorish behavior, an atmosphere extolling disrespect for those who you disagree with, when your humility is portrayed as a weakness rather than a strength, men, and women like Mike, Steve, Emily, and Leland go about their daily business of doing good while thumbing their noses at those who believe showing humanity or empathy for others are weaknesses…or that somehow “these others” deserve exactly what they are getting and deserve nothing from them.  Putting action to their words.

Watching their efforts has made me aware of my shortcomings as a caring and gracious human being.  It is time to get off the sidelines and quit watching.  We all need to quit spectating, get into the game and leave our political beliefs in the stands.

At a “meet for coffee on Friday” with Hawk, we met a guy.  Another older fart, just a smarter old fart.  “Forget about national and state-level stuff.  If you want to do something positive if you want to help if you really want to effect change, do it at the local level where it has the most effect.”

As I said last year about this time, I’m not going to attempt to start a movement, run for office or pontificate ad nauseum.    I’m just going to try and make a difference, one person at a time…for real this time.

If interested in donating or volunteering and live in the foothills of South Carolina, I suggest Daily Bread Ministries.  Their webpage may be found at https://www.greersoupkitchen.com/

The verse was Matthew 24.6 KJV

For more of Don Miller’s pontifications, you might be interested in clicking on the following link:   https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

I Love Music As Long As It’s Groovy….

My brother may be the writer I aspire to be. Enjoy.

Reflections Of A Gasbag

Studio where Bob Seeger, Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Steve Miller basically most everything in the 70’s were recorded here.

I love music. It is my passion. Always has been. From the time I was a little kid listening to to the Beatle 45’s on the orange and yellow Capitol Records label, or The Dave Clark 5, I was hooked. I had Beatle cards, Beatle dolls (still have Paul and George). Then British Invasion swept to America. Rolling Stones, The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, The Zombies, The Kinks, Freddie and the Dreamers, The Hollies. I’d watch Ed Sullivan every Sunday night to see who he would have on his “really big shew. “ Then I would adjust the rabbit ears, eat my chicken ala king that I had just boiled in the pouch and watch Shindig or Hullabaloo. I lusted after Petula Clark as she sang “Downtown” and I remember playing “Knights…

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Old Ghosts Calling to Me 

I have a “thing” for old structures; old farmhouses, slab-sided barns or an aging general mercantile.  I grew up in and around them…like ghosts, they are only memories.  It is not the architecture they represent, but the history that speaks to me.  Old ghosts calling my name.

Decaying, hand-hewn structures…I just wonder about the hands that constructed them.  I feel the same way about fields of rusting cars covered in kudzu or the tools that once maintained them I find in antique shops or “high dollar” junkyards.  It’s about who drove the car, who repaired it…it’s about the history…about the ghosts.

Image result for dorothea lange country store.  Who colorized the picture

I first saw this photograph while researching lesson plans on the depression.  The black and white Dorothea Lange photograph whispered softly to me for some reason.  It was titled, “Country store on a dirt road. Sunday afternoon. July 1939. Gordonton, North Carolina.”

The structure spoke to me, but the ghosts were quiet.  My eyes were drawn to the old metal signs advertising different brands of cigarettes, Coca-Cola, the “Sweet Scotch Snuff.”  I listened to the Texaco gas and kerosene pumps, rough cut and unfinished lumber, a long porch gallery supported by stacked stones.  Cedar trees stripped of limbs used as porch columns and roof rafters that aren’t quite plumb.  I “heard” it, rather than “heard” them.

What I “heard” changed when I discovered the colorized version by Jordan J. Lloyd.  It drew my attention to the men and their ghosts spoke to me.  It became about the people instead of the structure.

Related image

The picture is described as “A lazy Sunday afternoon on a country road.”  Five black men relaxing on a “workless” Sunday with the brother of the white owner leaning in the doorway.  Smiles to go around as stories were told…embellished for listening enjoyment I’m quite sure.  The ghosts spoke but I am hard of hearing and I don’t really know their voices.  But I can research and create.

The colors are vivid…as vivid as khaki and denim can be.  Overalls over a white shirt, rolled up shirt sleeves and pant’s legs.  Dusty, beat up shoes and brogans.  Sweat stained fedoras and baseball caps pushed back on heads.  A “dope” drained to the last drop and the aroma of fine Virginia tobacco wafting in the breeze, “mildness with no unpleasant aftertaste.”

July 1939 in the South…in North Carolina…in the cotton belt.  The depression had been ongoing for ten years and would continue until the soaring production of World War Two finally buried it.  Farmers had been steamrolled by the depression as early as 1920 while boll weevils ate their fill and cotton prices dropping as low as five cents a pound….  Ever pick cotton?  I have.  A pound of cotton is a lot of picking for a nickel and boll weevils wiped out as much as eighty percent of cotton crops during the Twenties.

The depression was particularly hard on people of color in the South.  Many, only sixty or seventy years removed from slavery, found themselves forced into a type of pseudo-slavery, sharecropping and tenant farming…except many poor whites found themselves paddling in the same boat.  The difference? Post-slavery Jim Crow segregation.  As bad as things are, at least you “ain’t colored.” Separate and “unequal.”

Except maybe on “A lazy Sunday afternoon on a country road.”  I smile.  I see four men of color reacting to something said by the fifth man on the left while the white man is slow to get the point or at least react.  A slow smile coming to his face.  Men gathering to shoot the bull on their day of rest.  The simple enjoyment of not having to be someplace…not having to work your fingers to the bone for someone else’s profit.

Image result for dorothea lange country store.  Who colorized the picture

The old store on a dusty, country road still exists.  The road is now paved and the store is no longer open which for me seems a shame.  Boarded up and abandoned, I wonder if the ghosts still gather on the porch, talking of days past and the hard times they endured.  Seeing it closed I am sad for them…and for me.

The first photo is by Dorothea Lang.

The colorized photo is by Jordan J. Lloyd

The last photo was made by Wayne Jacobs.

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

Christmas Wishes

 

“If wishes and buts were candies and nuts we’d all have a Merry Christmas.”

Not the exact quote from “Dandy” Don Meredith of Dallas Cowboy and Monday Night Football fame but the original “If ifs and buts were candies and nuts we’d all have a Merry Christmas” does not quite fit.  Unfortunately, the “wish in one hand, pee in the other and see which one fills up the fastest” seems to better exemplify my feelings at this moment.

I remind myself this is my “blue” time of the year.  “I’ll have a bah-looooo Christmasssssss without you” …without the sun.  Shortened days lead to increased depression…at least the after solstice the days will begin to lengthen and spring will soon be here…yeah…right!  Did you hear Elvis’s voice in your head as you read the quote?  I did as I wrote it.

I have memories of Christmases past that do not include “sugar plum fairies”  or being “snug in (my) bed.”   I remember candy and nuts in handsome, handmade, patchwork stockings…”hung by the chimney with care” or handed out by my grandmother to her five grandchildren.  Pencils and pens, pocket notebooks, a pocket New Testament and citrus fruits joined unshelled mixed nuts along with peppermint and butter mint candies.  My grandmother was quite the practical gift giver having lived in a time where fruit or a handmade doll for Christmas might be the norm.  She made many of her gifts; patchwork quilts, hand stitched with needle and thread, or small strips of lace tatted into bookmarks.  I wish she still filled those stockings with memories…or made those quilts.

My father often made a trip to the small town of Monroe, North Carolina, on Christmas Eve morning.  A twenty-mile drive, he took me with him, probably to keep us both out of my mother’s hair as she prepared to receive guests that evening.  I remember the “busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style”, the crush of people scurrying to finish their last-minute shopping, holding his hand to keep from being lost in the rush.

Pausing to watch the mechanical Christmas scene in the Belk Brothers storefront before seeing a legless man sitting on a type of mechanic’s creeper selling pencils. I remember the tears in my father’s eyes as he bought a pencil…for five dollars.  Stopping here and there, finally at Woolworth’s Five and Dime for a bag of warm cashew nuts that we hurried to eat before they cooled. I don’t know where to get warmed cashews anymore and wish I didn’t tear up thinking about them.

My mother spent weeks decorating for Christmas and preparing for our Christmas Eve gathering of family at my grandmothers, later at our home.  A huge tree in a small living room sat in the corner between the picture window and fireplace.  Silver tinsel over white plastic icicles and bubbling lights.  The bubble lights…they don’t seem to make them like hers anymore…real glass, not those plastic things.

I intently watched them, their gurgling heralding sweet ambrosia, Missouri cookies, chocolate covered cherries and the excitement and anticipation of Christmas morning.  Sneaking around the corner of my bedroom to see if Santa Claus had left my Schwinn Tornado, wondering how he got it down the chimney.  I wish I could hear the gurgle of those bubble lights again.

Some wishes still come true.  My life with Linda Gail has fostered more memories.  She truly is Ms. Peter Pan dressed as Santa’s helper, never having quite grown up.  We don’t exchange gifts anymore, just cards.  What do you give people who found everything with each other?  Like my grandmother, sometimes I try to make memories for my bride.  Primitive art in the form of birdhouses or grapevine wreaths, an arbor made from broken mountain laurel.  Hollowed out trees, broken limbs and rusting tin repurposed.

I just chuckled remembering a rock I gave her one Christmas.  It wasn’t a diamond, just a rock she “found interesting” from as far back in the woods as we could be and still be in South Carolina.  “Sure would be nice if we could bring this home.  It would look nice in front of the fireplace.”  The heavy “boulder” sits in front of the fireplace reminding me of its punishing trip from the woods.  Punishing for me, not the rock.  The pain was worth the smile on her face when she unwrapped it on Christmas morning.  I wish for more memories giving me chuckles of joy.

Ashley joining us on Christmas Eve as the circle of life made us the eldest family members and the purveyor of Christmas memories.  No, not true.  Linda Gail is the purveyor of Christmas memories…trying to make them special…for Ashley and her brood and for my brother Steve and wife Rebecca…or anyone who shows up.  Just like our parents.

Years ago, there was always a poignant trip home late in the night to return Ashley to her mother.  A slow ride in a red VW bug or as she got older shifting the gears in my old FJ 40…larger hand on a smaller hand, running through the gears. running through the night.  A bittersweet ride in quiet darkness lit by Christmas lights…showing the way home.  I miss those special times, Ashley trying hard not to nod off while I just smiled.  A wish and a memory in the back of my mind.  Memories…just warm memories…just warm wishes.

My Christmas wish is for new memories.  Tonight we gather at Ashley’s and Justin’s to accommodate the two monkeys that are our grandbabies.  We are still joined by brother Steve and his wife, Rebecca.  Francis, Linda’s stepmother comes too.

I know Linda has her own Christmas wishes and memories.  Memories of her parents, like mine, now gone, and of a family in faraway Texas.  Memories of the first Christmas we spent in our little piece of heaven.  Memories memorialized in pictures; a childlike Ashley, her beautiful dark-haired great-grandmother she was too young know and the elf of a man who was Linda Gail’s father, a man I miss as much as my own dad.  More memories and wishes…for Linda and me.

The monkeys are two-year-old Nolan and five-year-old Miller.  They grow so fast.  They will be excited…on a normal day, they are wide open.  Wide open yet clingy to their parents until they adjust to the company.  Good parents, loving parents, just as I would have wished.  The babies’ clinginess will ebb as soon as Santa’s elf in the form of Grandmommy Linda begins to pass out gifts.  I’m sure Nolan will enjoy the boxes as much as his treasure trove.

I worry my Christmas wish for the world is too extreme.  I wish we truly embraced “peace on earth and good will toward all”.  I wish we might enfold the unattainable for a millennium instead of a few hours on Christmas Eve or Day.  Love thy neighbor both near and far, known and unknown, and live and let live.  Put the divisiveness away for good…beat swords into plowshares.  A hand extended in friendship and grasped with a grin on our faces.  Jesus preached it, we should embrace it.  It is my greatest wish.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all.  May all of your Christmas wishes come true.

The image is of Nolan and Miller Kate and this year’s Christmas tree.

Looking for more musings?  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM