Did You Ask it a Question it Couldn’t Answer?

No dammit!  I just encountered one of the many minefields my bride plants around the house.  Minefields in the shape of sharp edges on objects of significance just waiting to jump out and pound my toe.

My bride…my bride…my bride.  I swear she puts things in my path just for the sheer joy of taking me to task over my perceived clumsiness…maybe not so perceived.  What I do not falsely perceive is the maniacal grin on her face as I hop around and curse loudly and at length.

“Did you break your toe sweety?”

Déjà vu all over again, my big toe contacts the edge of a box that wasn’t there yesterday, I cursed quite loudly and at length…again! To which she questioned, “What did you do this time?  You are the clumsiest human….”

“I stumped my toe against this !@#$%^& box you left in my path!”

“Stumped your toe? What did you do, ask it a question it couldn’t answer?”

As tears formed in my eyes, “What are you talking about?  I rammed my toe into the box you moved into my way just for that purpose.”

A toss of her hair and an eyeroll before giving me a side eye, “That box hasn’t been moved in months and it is stubbed not stumped.

Stubbed?  As the mist from my pain filled eyes began to dissipate, I questioned, “Stubbed, that doesn’t even make sense.”  As I said it a thought formed at light speed, “Neither does stumped.”  Could it be I’ve been misunderstanding stumped for my entire life?  I know my hearing is bad, but it didn’t used to be.

One thing I’m not misunderstanding is the pain and since bad news travels in threes I’ve got at least one more date with an object of significance and I doubt it will be a pillow. 

No, I’m quite sure it is “stumped my toe.” Inquiring minds though. I suggest it is right there with “barking one’s shin.”

I ran a social media poll.  The outcome was split. I realized I was not going to be vindicated but also I realized I wasn’t stupid.  Some folk actually say ‘stump’. I would not be able to stand in front of my bride, nodding my head in superiority while grinning, “You know that stumping my toe thing you ridiculed…Well….”  There will be no “Well….”

It turns out either is correct…and therefore incorrect, I guess.  Stumped seems to be a little more archaic and more English.  My guess it has something to do with my forefathers leaving England for Virginia, the Appalachians and finally South Carolina.  There seems to be a lot of odd words that found their way into my vocabulary.  “Lawd hep us” if Nannie started a sentence with, “You chaps…” or ended it with “getting too big for your britches.”

Come to think of it, my big toe is all “stoved up”, another archaic English idiom that found its way to the American South. It means incapacitated or damaged and comes from the English word “stave”. I’m also sure there is something lurking about waiting to bark a shin or stump a toe. If not my wife will have it into position soon enough.

The image is the cover of Shawn Byous’s Children’s Book Because I Stubbed My Toe It may be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Because-I-Stubbed-My-Toe/dp/1623700884

Don Miller’s latest release, Long Ride to Paradise, may be purchased at

Pearl Harbor…Revisited…Again

I was nearly a decade away from even being a glimmer in my parent’s eyes when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor occurred on December 7, 1941, so I have no true remembrances of the “Day Which Will Live in Infamy”. My remembrances come from listening to my father and his buddies talking, history books, documentaries, and movies.

My father, a single, twenty-five-year-old at the time, did what many patriotic young men did and with several friends headed to the Marine recruitment center to join up…only to find out he was 4F due to a birth defect he didn’t even know he had. Determined, he attempted to enlist in the Navy and Army but was turned down.

Two years later, the now-married twenty-Seven-year-old, would receive a letter that might have begun “Greetings, your friends and neighbors….” Drafting a married, twenty-seven year-old missing an entire row of ribs and vertebrae they attached to should tell you how dire the situation was in late 1943.

My Father, a mechanic, was eventually assigned to amphibious assault teams training in Carrabelle, Florida.  Later he would join MacArthur in time to assault the Philippines, Okinawa, and finally would step ashore on mainland Japan as a part of the occupation force.  I wish I knew more but his military records were destroyed in a fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri.

I remember sitting as a family in front of our black and white television on a Sunday evening, December 3, 1961. Walter Cronkite was the narrator of the CBS documentary program, The Twentieth Century. On this night, the Sunday prior to the fifteenth anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, we sat as a family watching and listening.

The episode was “The Man Who Spied on Pearl Harbor” and Cronkite’s distinctive voice narrated the black and white action scenes, some made as the attack occurred, most staged for propaganda use during the war itself, as we remembered Pearl Harbor…and as I remember that night in 1961.

Over the years my thirst for knowledge about Pearl Harbor and my father’s war has caused me to read, watch or listen to almost every available documentary, book, movie, or interview about Pearl Harbor specifically and World War Two generally. Thankfully, I had access to the History Channel when it aired programs about history rather than programing about Alaskan truck drivers or pawn shops. I continue to remember Pearl Harbor, the men who lived it, died during the attack, the ships that were sunk, some later resurrected…and my father who was thousands of miles away at the time.

Many of my father’s friends served and I remember their visits. Stories told around a dining room table.  Older men, cigarette smoke swirling toward the ceiling, coffee left to get cold as they talked. Like many veterans of any wars their stories didn’t focus on death and violence but on humor and comradery. 

One story even involved my mother.  She did her patriotic duty working in a munitions plant.  If one of my father’s friends was to be believed, sitting in rain filled foxholes with artillery shells were being fired over their heads at unseen Japanese positions in the Philippines, one landed short and didn’t explode.  My somewhat taciturn father was quoted to have said, “That must have been one of Eldora’s.”

I have never outgrown my interest in World War Two movies seen repeatedly over again, especially those taking place in the Pacific Theater, the theater my father said he didn’t fight in.

“What did you do in the war, Daddy?”

“Son, I was so far away from the fighting the nurses went in before we did.” His admission did not deter my interest…or my pride.

My favorite movies and stories were those involving Pearl Harbor on the periphery, not quite the center stage like “Tora, Tora, Tora”. Instead, it was  Fred Zimmerman’s “From Here to Eternity”, John Ford’s “They Were Expendable”, and my absolute favorite, Otto Preminger’s “In Harm’s Way”.

A line from “in Harm’s Way” has always stuck in my head.  It was uttered by Henry Fonda  portraying Admiral Chester Nimitz, “On the most exalted throne in the world, we are seated on nothing but our own arses.” Good words to remember whether at war or sitting in your recliner.

The featured image I used is a colorized picture of the iconic USS Arizona burning after the attack.  I met a survivor of the attack in the late Seventies.  A career Navy man he had “joined” up after the War to End All Wars as an eighteen-year-old and served for thirty years.  He served in dozens of Pacific stations from China to San Diego.  One of those ports was in Pearl Harbor on board the USS Arizona.

Among his many duties was manning an anti-aircraft gun should there be an attack.  He never got the opportunity.  Providence intervened that day.  Off duty, he met a friend ashore and watched helplessly as 1,177 of his shipmates and his ship were sent to glory.  Despite the life he was able to live…to create, he never quite forgave himself for surviving.

As I’ve gotten older and a bit of a peacenik, I find myself watching less the movies about the valor and courage of our fighting men and more about the periphery, the politics, our own cruelties…which are simply the cruelties of war itself.

I hope we continue to “Remember Pearl Harbor” and the generation characterized by Tom Brokaw as the “Greatest Generation”. We need to remember the sacrifices they made in our last righteous war before the concepts of good versus evil became so blurred during the Cold War and in the Middle East.

For more of Don Miller’s unique views of life, humor, and Southern stories of a bygone time, try http://goo.gl/lomuQf

Red Sky in Morning…along the Missouri

Or as my grandmother might have said, “Jesus said, ‘When in evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: For the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today; for the sky is red and lowering.’”  Which has nothing to do with what I’m writing about except the great photo below.

Courtesy of Jimmy Griffin

The sunrise over my little piece o f heaven this morning is clear and golden but a former Mauldin High School student, Jimmy Griffin, took the above picture near Virgelle, Montana which is just across the Missouri River from Bum Fornicate, Egypt, for all I know. 

Seriously, Virgelle is located in a ‘v’ shaped bend of the Missouri River just southwest of Coal Banks Landing.  I’m guessing you still don’t know much because I don’t and I googled it on a map.  Virgelle looks like a destination someone living deep in the sticks might go to in order to get away from it all. To clarify, it is just south of,“There ain’t nothin’ there atall.” Which is just the way I would like it. Grocery store, liquor store, internet access, I’m good.

When I zoomed out on my Google map, there were no cities…towns or villages within the frame…just Virgelle. 

But on Jimmy’s Facebook page there are beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

Courtesy of Jimmy Griffin

I wondered to myself, how does a boy from Mauldin, South Carolina end up in Virgelle, Montana with a population of less than six thousand in an  entire county?  It had to be a woman, right?    No. I think more like wanderlust or the call of the wild. “Go West, Young Man!”  To be certain I asked.

I’m a little bit jealous.  Jimmy went for a visit and stayed. Jimmy took a chance, one that didn’t include nine to five hours or a cubicle in front of a computer screen.  I didn’t take a couple of chances…and I have a wonderful life.  Still I wonder, “Should I have wandered?” Whatever, I think I want to visit Virgelle at the very least.

I came to my first fork in the road in ’68.  Join the Navy or head off to college? I headed to college…it was the Vietnam years after all. Another decision came up in ’72…whether to continue my education and become a teacher or take more Spanish and head off to Guatemala for a life of running textile mills…in a foreign country…with a population prone to shouting “Yankee Go Home” and kidnapping American industrialist.  I made the safe choice….

I’m not sure Jimmy chose the safe road when he came to his fork.  He decided, his college degree be damned, he’d rather run a ferry across the Missouri, help run an outfitters at a B & B, all located at or near an old mercantile rather than a real nine to five job…that’s not fair.  These are just additions to his chosen vocation, crop insurance adjuster contractor.  What the …? Whatever it is, I’m guessing he has more fun running that old ferry and his days don’t involve cubicles and computer screens.

I get a mental picture of “man against the elements”, long Grizzly Adams beards and animal furs, mountain men kind of images.  The American West, frontier, Americana. Man against his environment. Self reliant and self imposed isolation from all that is bad in our world. Photographs like this back those images except I see no mountains.  I also shiver a bit…I’m at an age I don’t like the cold and the grayness associated with it. Still, it is a great sunset.

Courtesy of Jimmy Griffin

No, if I had a choice, I’d spend Spring and Summer being the somewhat odd “character” running the ferry across the Missouri in Montana and in Fall and Winter barking at a Florida alligator farm when not strolling through trees covered with Spanish moss. I believe I could play the aging hippie in either place.

 I guess I have settled into my “character” moniker despite my lack of wonderlust.  You know, “Old Miller, down the road there, now he’s a quare duck if ever I saw one.”  I guessing Jimmy has become a character in his own right and probably has better stories to tell than I do. 

The Image for the blog is also Jimmy’s and I would suggest he should add photographer to his résumé

Don Miller writes on various subjects and just released his second book in the Tales of The Drunken Irishman Saloon Series, “Long Ride to Paradise.” A direct link is https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08P81W6LZ

His author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3rvGbwgvJskPdR8Ne7W4xd-CBPdSuwkQ6GvCGVeHVH8IZBg5qePYIwrig

Football and the Fairer Sex

This is an odd day for me to make a blog post but after reading some of the posts concerning the Vandy kicker I felt a call to arms.  I felt a call to turn myself into a transgender female.  After reading some of the comments I was ashamed to be a male.  But then I saw some of the negative posts were from women…okay I did not want an operation anyway and I doubt I have the legs for a skirt.

You know the story.  Sarah Fuller, Vanderbilt’s star goalkeeper goes from helping the Lady Commodores soccer team win an SEC Championship to winning an audition as a kicker for the Vanderbilt football team.  The Vanderbilt kickers have a problem with Covid-19.

The Vanderbilt football squad has a problem with offense…and defense. She only had one chance to kick, a squib kick-off to open the second half and people went overboard with comments in both directions. Too much praise, too much criticism.  It was just a well-executed squib kick. No runback and the primitives among us didn’t get to see her crushed.

Do we call male soccer players for Vanderbilt Gentlemen Commodores?  No, there is no Gentlemen Commodore soccer team and I know of no program that refers to their football…or futbol team as “Gentlemen.”

Why can’t we praise people for their efforts?  Maybe it was a publicity stunt, at 0 and forever, Vandy needs good pub or to find a good pub. 

Maybe it was to stir up interest for a Gentlemen’s Commodore soccer team. 

Maybe it was what it was.  She was the best option at the time. She is still the best option but they are playing Georgia so we may again only see her once.

Nah, more than likely George Soros, the liberal boogie man, agreed to pay off the head coach’s buy out so they could fire him if the school agreed to make a spectacle of Miss Fuller.  Could happen.  The head coach did get fired. I’ve read crazier conspiracy theories.

I don’t understand why my male compadres…and their female counterparts were anxious for a person they don’t know to be turned into a pretzel by three hundred pound monster linemen. 

Fact is, she’s most likely tougher than you think, and women have been outperforming men’s expectations…and outcomes since…since…since cave dwellers went out to hunt wooly mammoths. 

She is a goalkeeper you know?  Goalkeepers are tough.  They don’t flop, grab an ankle and wallow like a limb has been torn from their bodies when being breathed on by an opposing player.  Goalkeepers cause strikers to flop, grab an ankle and wallow because a limb has been torn from their body. 

My daughter was a goalkeeper and part of me cringed when she came out on a breakaway, throwing her body at the ball while body blocking the attacking player.  Part of me cheered too, but usually not until after the play was over and Ashley was back on her feet.  “Got all your teeth, Boo?” No, I would never call her Boo.  “Got all your teeth, Spike?”

During my football coaching days, we had a kicker who happened to be a girl…and we were a first.  Said in a kind of mealy-mouthed way, “First high school football team to play a girl.  Play a girrrrrrrl.”  Said as if we might have bit down on a dog turd,Why does she get all the publicity?”  BECAUSE WE WERE TERRIBLE, NUMB NUTS!

None of the italics are true…except the terrible part.  We had “logistic” issues as in where she dressed but she was accepted as a “team member”, just like every other kid who came out. 

That’s also not to say there wasn’t some gnashing of teeth.  We’re already bad and some felt having a girl on the team made us look even worse.  “You’ve got a girrrrrrrl on your team.”

We were probably as bad as Vandy in a high school way, and she wasn’t the strongest kicker, but she did get the opportunity to kick a few extra points and succeeded.  Let me rephrase, she earned the opportunity to kick a few extra points. She was like any other reserve, we played her when we could.  She was also a soccer player and a tough nut to boot.  Bet Miss Fuller is too.

 I still don’t understand why a person would hope someone would break both her legs. Did this somehow make a mockery of football? 

Wait.  Did this somehow make a mockery of your manhood?  I think some men are afraid.  Afraid of being replaced maybe.  Afraid they will somehow be less important.  I keep reading, “Men should have roles, women should have roles.”  Usually with a Biblical reference followed by barefoot and pregnant. 

It was the same reaction when women went out and proved they could be firefighters, or law enforcement officers, soldiers, pilots, etc.  Not so secretly, men expressed their displeasure…as did some women.  Not because women weren’t capable, they have more than proven they are, but because somehow it has upset the belief people should be limited by the antiquated roles we perceive they should have. There should be no limits.

Has she proven herself an American football player? No, and she probably won’t.  She is a kicker and kickers aren’t noticed until they miss.  My hope is she proves herself to be a kicker.  She’s already proven herself to be an athlete.  A lot of other people have proven to be knuckle-dragging cretins.

Don Miller has just released the second of his Drunken Irishman Saloon series, Long Ride to Paradise. The link is https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08P81W6LZ.

His author’s page is https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3CBHKrwrcnRx38KnvopTelH0W56XFsG7wnRRL5lUD1JpiZ4TfUy2YcxfE

“If I had known…”

If I had known last March it would be the last time I sat in a restaurant for nearly eight months, I would have ordered dessert.“ Unknown

I don’t know who is responsible for the quote, I just know it wasn’t me. I also know what I didn’t know then.  Despite all of the misinformation floating around, no truer words have been spoken.  When there is a next time, I will order dessert.

I didn’t buy the President’s spiel that COVID-19 would be over in the heat of summer, but I also didn’t buy I would be contemplating a Thanksgiving without friends and family…and then there is Christmas.

None of my aunt’s dressing and butterscotch pies.  None of my brother’s newest culinary creation or a cousin’s broccoli casserole.  None of Bob’s ham or turkey.  No visiting with the girl cousins who are more like sisters. At least I will have my bride’s tomato pies all to myself and will hear no one ask, “What about that election.”

No visit with Ashley, Justin, and the grands.  No tall tales, no hearty laughter, no catching up.  Instead I’ll burn up the phone lines, I guess., and maybe a Cornish hen on the grill. 

No post dinner nap while pretending to watch the Cowboys take it on the chin again.

Next time and until the Lord takes me home, I will always order dessert.

The date in early March eludes me.  I know it was before my brother’s birthday on the thirteenth because we didn’t celebrate it…or mine…or anyone else’s.   Maybe it was late February….

There have been few celebrations over the past seven months. I guess not being one of the two hundred and sixty some odd fatalities is celebration enough.  For some reason, my thought has a “hurray for me and the hell with everyone else” ring that is not intended.

I was at a BBQ joint with my bride on that day in February or March.  A large pulled pork BBQ sandwich with ‘yaller’ sauce, mayonnaise cabbage slaw, and a couple of orders of deeply fried, battered okra sat before me.

All were washed down with a Damn Yankee, Narragansett beer or three.  Maybe fifteen hundred calories…not counting the calories from cleaning up my bride’s plate…so the dessert was declined.  I will never allow that to happen again.  I will always order dessert. Maybe I’ll eat dessert first.

I’ve learned several things about myself as I’ve sat in my self-imposed isolation wishing for BBQ and dessert…wishing for Aunt Joyce’s dressing…wishing the kids were about….wishing for Thanksgiving celebrations.

I’ve learned I really do like being around my wife, otherwise we would have killed each other by now.  I realize the jury is still out from her perspective…and I’ve hidden all of the weapons just to make sure.

After seven months my hair still hasn’t grown long enough to put into a ponytail.   It is more of a ragged mullet. MacGyver would not covet it. Could be due to the absence of hair I began with.  I am going to keep trying.  Maybe I’ll start an “inverted Mohawk” ponytail/mullet movement for hippies in their seventies.

I have learned boredom is no motivation to getting things done. All those jobs that need to be completed, I can’t even get them started.  I just let more things go. ..more things that need to be done.

I haven’t even found new and more interesting ways to stay bored.  How many reruns of NCIS New Orleans or Star Trek The Next Generation can I watch? Is The Hallmark Channel next?

I’ve found rips to the grocery store to be scary, even double or triple masked up…considering the idiots ignoring masking rules along with the directional arrows.   It’s a political statement? Possibly more dangerous than a simultaneous four-way stop or the new traffic circle built next to Wally World in TR. I do have to eat but I’ll never use the traffic circle.

I’ve learned I’m not the hermit I thought I was.  I find myself chatting with frogs, snakes, turtles, ground squirrels, and birds…even the little snail that somehow found it’s way onto my shower curtain.  I don’t think he is listening. I would talk to my bride but then she might involve me in a conversation where she talks and I listen.

When the wildlife is not around, I talk to myself. Unfortunately, with cold weather ahead, the frogs, turtles, and snakes will be self-isolating and I’ve found I don’t make much sense even to myself.  Just ask the snail on the shower curtain…I think I may have talked him to death.

As I contemplate Thanksgiving, if I am fortunate to sit down at an indoor restaurant table again, I will order dessert….maybe two. 

If you are throwing caution to the wind and visiting family and friends this 2020 Thanksgiving, first of all, be careful, wear your mask and social distance. It is not a political statement, it is an intelligence statement.

Secondly, eat that extra bowl of banana puddin’ or German Chocolate cake.  Put an extra dab of cranberry salad on your turkey sandwich and maybe a wedge of dressing.  Enjoy the sweet potato casserole or pumpkin pie. Do it for me but if you have Bourbon pecan cheesecake…don’t tell me, it might break my heart. 

Happy Thanksgiving.

***

Don Miller writes in a variety of genres. He will release his newest historical novel, Long Ride to Paradise, after Thanksgiving, The tale takes place during the historical period known as Reconstruction.

Don’s authors page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1iraxbHHzYu2km-B4PsMVtsrBn9_NwN3OCmVKqxkn3Kq9qOpHWGOUhW9w.

The image is of Bourbon Pecan Cheesecake and I am drooling. Recipe at www.tastykitchen.com

Fair Winds

The warm and freshening breeze blowing across the lake brought memories flowing as swiftly as the breeze itself. Most were as warm as the wind driving them. The ones that weren’t were forced away by the bright sunshine.

According to the sign the trail we walk is 1.25 miles. I don’t believe the distance is accurate, but the lake it surrounds is much too small for me to be thinking about sailing.  Yet I was.

Ordinarily my bride would have had me talking or listening to her prattles, pointing out strangely shaped mushrooms or having me wait impatiently as she took pictures of the waterfall she has taken pictures of for the past three hundred and sixty-five days. Instead, she was quiet, as deeply into her own thoughts as I was in mine.  I did not know her thoughts, scary I’ll admit, but I knew mine. 

As I watched the wind driven ripples race across the lake, I thought of a twenty-two-foot sloop with a Bermuda rig from a time far, far distant. Mostly I thought of the people who crewed the boat…some gone but not forgotten.

The warm for November breeze stiffened in my face as I thought, “This would be a great day to be sailing,”  or for partying with friends while sailing.

In my mind’s eye I saw the white sailboat on a close haul, mainsail and jib pulled in tight, the sails singing as the wind’s pressure heeled the boat, the gunnels dipping perilously toward the water. I see us scurrying to the high side to keep from being capsized.  The high side of life?

Battling the tiller for control of the rudder as the speed and water pressure builds. Could this be a metaphor for life…my life? Where did my runaway thoughts come from and why did I quit sailing?

The little boat, narrow of beam with a swing keel, was quick and nimble with her racing rigged main and jib.  I’m surprised I remember any nautical terms; it has been nearly forty years since I gripped the tiller with an unsteady hand.

“Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be.  Just a dream and the wind to carry me, and soon I will be free.”  Damn, Christopher Cross is playing in my head…can “Southern Cross” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash without Young be far behind.  “So we cheated and we lied and we tested, and we never failed to fail it was the easiest thing to do. You will survive being bested, somebody fine will come along make me forget about loving you…
And the southern cross.”

It was in the late Seventies when I was invited to my first of many sailing weekends.  “Bring a date, spend the weekend.  You’ll love it.”  I did. Bill, Koon, Bobbi, Sybil, myself and a date.  There were a few others who sailed in and out on occasion.

Six of us on a small sailboat on a large inland lake in South Carolina.  Coolers filled with adult beverages or the mixers for a liquor drink.  The alcohol loosened our tongues and greased our laughter. Bill, our captain, always managed to sail us back to our home port, sometimes in the dead of night.

Too much liquor, well grilled steaks, great friends sitting around a wood fire, and a plus one…whomever she might have been at the time, there were not that many. ..or there were too many. Laughter was abundant. Good times. 

Any good time you survive should qualify as a great time.  Great times.  Somehow, we survived our youthful foolishness.  I remember nothing but clear, bright sunshine and fair winds…am I dreaming? No, I don’t think so.

Taking the tiller for the first time, I might well have been at the wheel of the Queen Anne’s Revenge awaiting Blackbeard’s next order.  “Arrr, let them eat steel maties”…or have another mixed drink.

Manning the tiller may be a metaphor for my life.  Sometimes it is hard to stay on course. Life, like tacking against the wind, tends to be made in zigs and zags.  Some zigs are short, some zags exceptionally long…or seem that way. Coming about into the wind can have painful outcomes if you aren’t paying attention.

For some reason my sailing days came to an end.  The storms of depression left me dead in the water. It was my actions I’m sure. There were bad times, dark times.  Depressed times. 

Times improved with understanding and a little wisp of a girl who calmed the winds and seas…except when our own hurricanes blew up.  Our foundation must have been built upon the rock of understanding…we are still here and still together. Our breezes are mostly warm and caressing like today but for some reason I never got back to sailing.

I purged those ill winds from my mind to keep from being driven crazy upon the rocks of life.  I keep them locked tightly away until a fresh, warm breeze hits me in the face allowing only the good memories to flow. 

In my depression I cut myself off from people who didn’t deserve to be cut off.  That was a failure on my part…I demasted myself and lost my rudder to boot. Like a solitary sailor, I battled my storm tossed seas alone…until my North Star became my guide.

I choose to remember the fair winds.  A bow cleaving the water. Great sailing in bright sunshine.  Sybil sitting on the bow, her legs straddling the bowsprit mocking a figurehead on an ancient sailing ship.  Koon’s big laugh and smile with a liquor drink in her hand.  “Now let me tell you one thing….” Blowing off steam in the sun and the wind on a small sailboat.  Sharing the joy and laughter with friends.

Sybil and Koon are silent now as is one of my plus ones.  Silent in the physical world.  Quite alive in the memories on a close haul through my mind.

I couldn’t help but smile as the warm breeze caressed the lake’s shoreline and my face. I miss them but see them sailing across the firmament at dusk. A small sailboat sailing close to the solar winds, white sails glowing red in the sunset.

Fair winds and following seas my friends.  May warm breezes caress you. You are missed.

Sailing by Christopher Cross

The image is from https://www.yacht-rent.com/talking-the-talk-basic-nautical-terms

Don Miller’s author’s page https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3BYeO7eRpFl647KXrqSJD31DxD_NP-u4TMGa1hRS_EpP7vZ-4xQ06JjvM

When Football Comes Back Again…

 

…and it will…someday.

It is the middle of the second week in August and there should be sounds, sights, and smells associated with the religion that is football.

There should be the scent of freshly cut grass, the visions of early morning mists rising off the practice fields and sharp white lines gridded on dark green.  There should be the “thump” heard ‘round the world when leather shoe meets the leather ball.

There should be aromas of Cramergesic ointment or Atomic Bomb…and ammonia from sweat-drenched athletic wear left to dry overnight and smelly athletic socks.  There should be grunts and pops, and a groan or two as large bodies running fast make contact with each other.

From a parking lot or distant practice field, the shouts of band directors, trumpet blasts, and drumbeats should be piercing the heavy, humid air.  They should be the clarions of the upcoming season.  There should be a rattle of equipment as they rush to their spots before the silence of parade rest.

Somewhere a chunky kid with a sousaphone wrapped around his chubby body should trip and fall on his way to his spot.  Laughter should reign before the silence of concern.

Spinning flags should be cutting through the air as flag lines practice their half-time routines.  Twisting school colors flying toward the morning sun.  Instead, there is the silence of the Covid-19 Twilight Zone.

Cheerleaders would be joining the band’s spinning flags with flips, cartwheels, and tumbles of their own as they practice their cheers and their routines.  “Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar, all for ‘so and so’ stand up and holler!”  Unfortunately, like London Bridge, their human pyramids have all fallen, the little girl at the top has crashed and burned.

There are no sounds, sights, or scents…at least near my little piece of heaven.  Football season is on hold for a bit longer, maybe the beginning of next month…maybe not.  “All activities shut down until further notice,” due to corona concerns.  The powers that be may make another decision this week.

At Hardee’s, the weekly meeting of old men wearing high crowned baseball caps should be discussing the chances of the local high school having a winning season in between bites of sausage biscuits and sips of coffee.  If it weren’t banned, Marlboros and Salems would send smoke from their fine Virginia tobacco skyward.

Instead, they are discussing the chances of having a season at all along with pontifications of, “They just ain’t as tough as we’s used to be.  We’d uh played through the Bubonic Plague if in we had to.  You remember when ole Roger played an entire season with two broke lags and his helmet knocked bass-ackwards.  Yeah, these coaches and players ain’t nothing but a bunch of wussies”.  Says the equipment manager from 1968.

The local universities have begun “teeing” it up, giving us hope, as smaller colleges await word as to whether their seasons will even take place.  Entire conferences have canceled seasons or pushed them back to the spring.  Telling a player to check his facemask takes on a new meaning in the anything but normal environment of Covid-19.

I miss football.  Not just the “I played it and coached it for so long, there seems to be something missing” missing football.  This year is different.  Every year since my retirement I’ve battled myself, attempting to silence the little football voice in my head that whispers this time of year.

“Go on up to the local high school.  I’m sure they could use your expertise and experience.”  As I’ve gotten older and creakier, the voice has been easier to silence but the little worm is still there.  There still seems to be something missing.

The voice I hear today is a different voice.  This is the low bass rattle of James Earle Jones telling me football will be canceled for this year.  It is as bad as the Beatles telling me “God is dead”.

Bordering upon sacrilege, Southern football is akin to a religion with its sacraments and cathedrals.  We have our revered gods, Bear, Pat, Vince, Bobby, and Danny.  Yes, I know Danny is still among the living and Bobby is Bobby Dodd, never Bobby Bowden.

One hundred thousand seat sanctuaries sitting empty.  The choirs of bands and cheerleaders silent.  Tailgating prayer meetings canceled, stadium parking lots noiseless and unoccupied.  Sacramental beer and pulled pork barbeque abandoned for another year…maybe.  “My Dabo, my Nick! Why have thou forsaken me?”  Will “Go Tigers” or “Roll Tide” be heard at all this year?

I have hope but my hope is tempered with concern.  If football is played someone will come down with the disease…maybe entire teams.  Even with a fatality rate of less than one percent, are we willing to sacrifice less than one percent of our athletes for a football season?  Are we willing to sacrifice our children to football gods?  Was that blasphemous?

Football is a dangerous sport.  It is something that I lived with when I played and when I coached.  You are one wrong step from a career-ending knee injury or an illegal hit away from permanent brain damage.  Some would say you are brain damaged just playing the game.

My greatest fear as a coach was losing someone to a bad hit or heat issues.  We have done much to reduce the possibility of injury or death, but it is still there.  Football is a sport that requires contact in close quarters.  I don’t know how you reduce the contact and contact is what transmits the disease.

1968 equipment managers and ‘wannabes’ are chastising those who opt-out of this season.  I don’t chastise.  I understand the fear.  If I had a son, I don’t know if I would push him toward football even in the best-case scenario.

Football teaches lessons I don’t believe can be taught in other sports.  I just don’t know if those lessons are worth ‘acceptable losses’ and I don’t believe my desires have to be those of my son or daughter.  Except for the desire for them to be safe.

Despite what I once thought, football is not life or even a reasonable facsimile. It is a distraction for most of us, a diversion, and I don’t believe our distractions should cost even one person his life.

***

Don Miller was primarily a high school teacher for forty-one years and a coach for forty-five years.  Twenty-nine of those seasons were spent coaching football in what is a football Mecca…the Deep South.  His author’s page is at  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3H6APy6s1iIg6N1Cz5-RgcsnXmdrL3L47f2X_zzO1dKChLRG-NShnjbsk

The image is from Pinterest.  Clemson QB Jimmy Addison handing the ball off in the late Sixties.

 

The Art of Lookin’ Busy

 

A big for his age youth sporting a lint covered flattop staggered through his first day at the Springs Mills White Plant.  Staggered because in the first hour the man tasked with teaching the youth the art of ‘takin’ up quills’ attempted to crush the youth’s skull with one of the metal quill cans.  It was the youth’s fault, not the young man’s.  The youth was bloodied and staggered, and it was the beginning of a series of the first day on the job accidents, but that is a story for another time.  Clumsy much?

(In textile parlance, a quill is or was the wooden part of a bobbin the thread is wound on.   The bobbin would seat into a shuttle running perpendicularly to the warp threads. When the thread in the shuttle ended or broke, the bobbin was kicked out into a metal ‘can’ and replaced automatically from a magical gizmo called a battery.  I’m a bit short on the science of it all and you aren’t here for a lesson.  A battery with bobbins is shown below.  The wooden portion of the bobbin is the quill.)

I was the big for my age, crew-cut sporting youngster.  Tall for my age, and I got no taller, I was immature by anyone’s standards at any age.  Big for my age and dumb might have been a requisite for the job I was doing.  A spare hand, I did the jobs regularly employed folks were glad they didn’t have to do or filled in where needed.

I understood hard work having grown up on a farm and having been hired out as farm labor since I had turned eleven or twelve.  Farm labor is hard, but cotton mill labor is a horse of a different color as the old farmers might say.

I had worked at Springs for a week and was worn to the bone…battered and bruised, to the point of tears at various times. The narrow alleyways between the looms left my shoulders marked with scrapes and abrasions.  My body was a skin covered sack of pain.  It was a Saturday and all I could think of was the day off on Sunday…except it would be followed by a Monday when it all would begin again.

When I ran into a much older cousin in the water house I received a life lesson I didn’t know I needed. The water house in mill parlance is a combination bathroom, smoking area, and an escape from the noise and heat of the mill.  An oasis of relatively cool, quiet, and stinky aromas.

As I started to walk out, Charles, a much older cousin who had grown up just below my home, stopped me and put his arm across my sweaty, lint covered, bruised shoulders.

“I been watchin’ you boy,” tapping me on a sore arm with his pointer finger.  Charles was what was called a warp hand who worked out to the tie-in room.  It seemed to me warp hands had a good bit of time for watchin’…or playing practical jokes.  Charles, and his buddy Tommy, were masters at playing practical jokes, “Go down to the parts room and get me a loom stretcher, will you?”   It was the first of many practical jokes endured by the young group of spare hands.  I wasn’t singled out any more than anyone else.

The man in the part’s room cocked his head giving me the side-eye, “Loom stretcher, huh?  Charles sent you down, didn’t he?”  Got me.   

Northrop Loom - Wikipedia

Loom with visible battery and warp.  The warp is the big spool of thread.  A quill can is seen below the battery.  Image https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/industrial-revolution-1750-1900-f8002b6a-a164-4f2c-bea9-a0d54908556d

Back to Charles in the water house.

“You work hard but you got to learn to work smart.”  What Charles really meant was “learn to not work if you don’t have to.”

Beings Charles was an elder I decided I was supposed to listen intently…plus he had a scholarly look going…in a Howdy Doody kind of way.  I really felt I needed to learn how to work smarter.

“This ain’t no horse race and you ain’t learned the art of lookin’ busy when you ain’t.  You got to slowwwww things down.  Shifts are eight hours and you doin’ more than your buck sixty-five an hour.  Whatchu’ do after you finish your quill job?”

“I have to strip quills.”  Nothing provocative, I had to remove the leftover thread from the bobbins so the quills could be reused by the spinning room.

“An what do you do when you get through strippin’ quills?”

I pondered a moment wondering if this was a test, “I don’t know, I’ve never gotten through.”

He popped me on the shoulder as if I had had a major philosophical breakthrough.

“There you go.  You ain’t nevah gonna get through.  You could work a month of Sundays an’ you’ll nevah, evah get through.  The only time you’ll be through is when you die.”

So profound, I pondered too long on his words and Charles began again.

“Pretend you do get through.  Whatchu’ think gonna happen then?”

“They’ll find something else for me to do?”

Shooting me with his pointer finger and thumb, he exclaimed, “Bingo!  You nevah get through or if you do, ole Coley Spinks is gonna come along and give you something else to do.  You got to learn the art of lookin’ busy while doing nothin’, boy.”

Just then, as if to add an exclamation point, Coley Spinks, the second hand walked in.  Folding his Popeye sized forearms sporting the Marine Corp ‘globe and anchor’ tattoo across his ample chest, Coley gave us a head jerk which translated to, “You’ve spent too much time in here, get out and earn you wage.”

Charles scooted out the door with me behind, but Coley planted a flat palm against my chest, jolting me to a stop, “I don’t know what line of bull Charles was spouting but don’t listen to a damn thing he says.”  The age-old disagreement between management and the workers?

“Yes sir, Mr. Spinks.” 

But I did listen to Charlie and endured his harmless practical jokes even if I never quite mastered the art of looking busy or falling for practical jokes.  I practiced a great deal and ran into many fellow workers who had truly turned it into an art form.

I am more of a “git er done, git er over with” kind of guy and I guess it served me well.  Mr. Spinks came to me on my last Saturday before the school year began and proposed, “We’d like you to work Saturdays during the school year if you are a mind to.”  Eight hours of hell for $13.20 before taxes.  “Yeah, okay.  Thanks.” 

I’d work there for three more summers and Saturdays during the school year.  Later, I would work part-time in a cotton mill during my college days.  I never did get done. whether it was stripping quill or some other grunt job, and I ain’t dead yet.  Instead, I moved on to another vocation I never finished until retirement.

It was the mills themselves that died at the end of the last century…something I find saddening.  I would never want to return but I do appreciate the lessons I learned.

***

For more of Don Miller’s shenanigans, visit his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3EyTJntrwvN_Yq4p_rpDH3Ynurn688xmdNvzJhe_fH7NSBku3Zen-6yb0

The image is of belt driven looms take from one of the Lowell Mills.  https://www.newschoolers.com/news/read/The-List-Newschoolers-Member

Echo Chambers

 

“An environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own so that their existing views are reinforced, and alternative ideas are not considered.”

After three rousing interactions on my Facebook page, more than one person questioned, “Why do you allow this person on your Facebook page?  Block them!  Unfriend them!”  In defense of my rightwing friends, it was not the same person on all interactions and I have a very right-leaning friend’s list.

The three though, had a very clear message, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up.”  Granted, they were arguing with someone whose mind was also made up and sometimes stumbles over “the facts”.

One of the many voices in my head points out, “That doesn’t answer the question. Why is this person on your wall?”  The voice is shrill and edgy…fingernails on a chalkboard ear-piercing.

It is painful to deal with derision, contempt, and  humans with “a cranium harder than a brick, one he or she has managed to stick up their ass.”  Somehow they were able to fit their square peg of a brickbat head into their round hole.  I guess my head is hard and square too.

Such encounters are painful.  I feel I am attempting to referee a game I do not understand.  “The rules, the rules…are what?” shouts my real head voice.  A game between large monsters with sharp teeth and claws.  It is impossible to argue or officiate without suffering wounds.

One more time, a different voice commands, “Answer the fracking question.  Why?”  He sounds like my highschool football coach who would never have used fracking.

Again the real voice in my head answeres, “I don’t know.  I am trying to write my way into understanding.”  Let’s try this.

I do not think it serves me well to only communicate with people who think like me.  As much as Dennis Praeger, Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, and now, conservative darling Candice Owens, turn my stomach at times, I force myself to listen to them.  There are others, some local, and I spend a great deal of time shaking my head in disbelief…but I listen or read, and I attempt to understand.  Hopefully, those who don’t normally watch CNN are doing the same.

I cannot listen to them for an extended time, but I like to know what “friends” who identify with the far-right, I hope far-right, are thinking and why.  As much as I disagree with their closed and reactionary minds, sometimes they stumble over an acorn of truth, no matter how far they twist it to fit their message.

You can be against abortion and still vote Democrat, or be for stricter gun control and vote Republican.  Can’t you?  The echo chambers would tell you no.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”  Sun Tzu.

The Gandhi voice in my head asks, “Do you really look at the other side as enemies?”

My real head voice stomps its foot like an elementary school girl, “Why do you keep asking me more questions? I haven’t answered the first one yet.”

The far-right and far-left…they are enemies of us all…enemies of “truth, justice, and the American way” to quote Bill Kennedy, the narrator on the old Superman TV show, the one with George Reeves as Superman.    See that is a lie. It was coined on the original radio show, “The Adventures of Superman”.  Now all of the voices in my head sound like Kennedy.

I digress.

The far-right and far-left are enemies of fair and truthful American political discourse.  They are enemies of all I hold dear; truth, justice, and what I thought was the American way.  The radical left and reactionary right seem to be the only ones talking…screaming.  They provide us with worse case scenarios or outright conspiracy theories.  Truth and justice mean nothing.  Their American Way is not mine.

I feel alone in my little spot, slightly left of center.  I am sure there are people who feel the same way who are slightly right of center.  For some reason, I not hearing from either group.

I fear our political bell curve more resembles a Bactrian camel than a dromedary and the two humps are being pulled farther and farther apart depending upon which conspiracy is being presented.  Like a slow moving glacier, I feel both sides drifting farther and farther apart and the ice under my feet becoming thinner and thinner.

“That is just not true,” says a voice who sounds like the Daily Planet‘s Perry White.  His might be the voice of logic, “The middle is not thin, just quiet. “

From what I have read there are about forty percent of us feeling we are standing on thin ice.  Forty percent of us who are political party orphans.  Forty percent who have not been helped that the Republicans have shed their liberal wing and the Democrats have shed their conservative wing.  Choices should be blurred not stark.

To the original question, Clark Kent queries,“Why do you allow them to ramble on and on?  Why do you engage with a symbolic broad sword and chain mail?” 

Shaking my head, “I fear locking myself into an echo chamber and why don’t you find a telephone booth and help me.”

Clark hangs his head, “There are no telephone booths anymore, only echo chambers.”

Echo chambers present us with either perfect reverberations of our own cognitive dissonance or creates noise distorting or covering up the message we are attempting to hear.  It depends upon which surfaces the sound bounces off of.

Neither is productive. One provides undeserved comfort and a feeling of righteousness, the other, manipulate the message because we can’t hear it for the noise.

So…that is why I don’t block people unless they are threatening.  That is why I allow locomotives to run out of control until they derail.  Maybe Superman will come along to save the day.

Stepping out of the echo chamber is at best as uncomfortable as jockey itch or at worst, as painful as an unnumbed root canal.  Seeking truth can be painful that way.  Echo chambers twist the truth.

Stepping out of the echo chamber and listening intently will help you determine if your agenda is “built upon shifting sands.”  Open the door of the echo chamber and step out.

“Everyone who hears these words of mine (Jesus), and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house, and it fell—and great was its fall.”

***

Just for the heck of it, the 1951 opening sequence from Superman.  Thank you YouTube.

The Featured Image used is from https://countercurrents.org/2020/06/echo-chambers-post-truth-era-and-the-fear-of-missing-out-a-millennials-tale/

Quote by Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Biblical quote  Matthew 7:24–27, World English Bible

Don Miller’s author’s page my be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR153Ecvm-S8rh39n1zuxHHUQPrep-MkKu21vMvRFIGr84Zg2lrqopw4ICQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Curse of Chapter Fifty-Two

Hemingway

…or cursing Chapter Fifty-Two

I sit with my fingertips poised over the keyboard waiting for divine intervention.  It is not forthcoming.  Divine or any other type of intervention does not seem imminent.  It’s not writer’s block.  I know it is not the accursed writer’s block because I’m writing this.  Right?  Okay, it’s writers block.

I’m one chapter from finishing the first draft of my latest ‘great American novel’.  It’s not even the final chapter, I’ve already written the finale.  Tied up everything with a nice red bow except Chapter Fifty-Two.  I’m not gnashing teeth and shouting, “I can’t get it right.”  I’m shouting, “I can’t get it started.”  I’ll settle for getting it wrong.

Since divine intervention is not coming to my aid, maybe I should be working out a deal with the devil.  I read about someone doing that and if memory serves, it didn’t work out well for the author.  Do they have Voodoo priestesses near my little bit of heaven?

It has been a month or more since I first decided to skip over Chapter Fifty-Two and go ahead and write the end of my historical novel. My thought was, “I’ll just come back to it.  It will come.”  It hasn’t.  Blank pages from an even blanker mind.

The yarn is not exactly a western unless you consider the setting is in western Louisiana during the later days of Reconstruction.  It was a “wild and wooly” time in our history on the Texas-Louisiana border.  There needs to be gunplay but for some reason my stalwart hero, Allen Kell, is having problems dispatching the villainous Amory Hache.  Can I write it without killing off Hache?  I want to kill off Hache.

I’ve tried my normal go-to.  Getting slightly bleary-eyed with a couple of Jack Daniels.  Jack seems to soften and unfocus my mind leading to unexpected breakthroughs. Being unfocused can be a good thing unless you are out driving around. The idea, I become unfocused, write what I need to write, and then edit out all the useless meanderings the next day.  “Write drunk, edit sober” but wait until the hangover subsides.

After editing out all my useless meanderings in Chapter Fifty-Two, I’m left with a blank page except for the heading…Chapter Fifty-Two.  I even went back and deleted the heading but to no avail.  IT seems I have wasted a perfectly good buzz.

As April ended and May began, I decided to put my novel down and pick someone else’s novel up.  Maybe I can get a trigger from someone who is actually good at writing.  Twelve read novels later I’m still waiting for the firing “pen” to fall on something other than an empty cylinder.

This past Sunday I suspended all reading, writing, and drinking for a Scify series on Amazon matching a series of novels I had read during my month of May reading blitz.  Ten hours later my bride was checking to see if I had a pulse.  Like a silver-gray alien hand, the series had grabbed my attention.  Wow, was that as bad as it sounds in my head?  Maybe I should rethink writing anything.

I’m two episodes into the second season of The Expanse but I’m no closer to finishing…nay starting Chapter Fifty-Two.  The third episode of the second season of The Expanse is calling to me but so is the workweek.  Good thing I’m retired.

An idea?  I’ll skip Chapter Fifty-Two and make it Chapter Fifty-Three.  I’ll have to change the headings of the chapters that follow but I’ve got to rewrite anyway.  Or, under the heading Chapter Fifty-Two I’ll simply write something witty like, “Go to Chapter Fifty-Three because Chapter Fifty-Two is cursed”…or accursed.  That’s what I’ll do…right after I finish episode three of season two.

***

A reminder.  May is ALS Awareness Month.  Proceeds from purchases and downloads will be matched and donated to ALS research.  Don Miller’s author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3iBSWAqMGAmDe6L-iNMNwIituOo73IuMxudgo7jClvOl7dEjoqfcKEq50

***

The cute Voodoo Doll is from Learning Religions https://www.learnreligions.com/breaking-curses-or-hexes-2562588

Image of Hemingway with famous quote from PrawfsBlawg https://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2018/03/write-drunk-edit-sober.html