Southern Horror

I guess I should add a disclaimer from the get-go.  My post is not about the horror of an unexpected swallow of unsweetened tea or being served grits without salt, butter, or cheese.  No, that goes well beyond horror.  This is about the horror genre and its effects on the unexpecting.  The effects of being so scared your feet refuse to move. 

A pair of New Englanders find themselves lost, stuck up to the axles of their ’56 Ford in the middle of a Southern piney woods.  The light is quickly failing over a dilapidated Southern mansion sitting at the end of an overgrown drive.  Brothers, they discuss what to do and decide to spend the night in the abandoned mansion.  Never a smart move if you are familiar with Southern Gothic.

The Pendleton-Graves Home in Sparta, Georgia.
The Pendleton-Graves Home in Sparta, Georgia.
Photo by David Bulit

As they walk to the mansion a flock of pigeons are spooked…the makings of a Southern Gothic horror story for sure.  I can think of dozens of reasons it is a bad idea to spend the night in an abandoned mansion but then I have seen too many movie and TV episodes and have read too many horror stories.

I can tell you exactly when I fell in love with Gothic Horror, specifically Southern Gothic Horror. That would be June 6, 1961.  It was a Monday night in front of a black and white TV.  I watched and listened to a lisping Boris Karloff introduce this week’s Thriller episode, “Pigeon’s From Hell.”  Murder by ax, Voodoo, Zombies, the Blassenville family with a history of abuse, all with bad Southern accents dripping from the screen like Spanish moss hanging from cypress trees.  

I jumped when character Johnny Banner is caught in the afore mentioned flock of pigeons, pigeons that represented the lost souls murdered. Later, I hid my eyes when the same character attempts to split his brother Timothy’s skull with a hatchet.  He does this after having had his own skull split by persons or “things” unknown. 

Love me some murdering Zombies with split skulls although my former Haitian baseball player says Zombies are a movie creation…wait was he Haitian or Jamaican?  Does it make a difference to Zombies? 

A Thriller a Day...: Pigeons From Hell: Season 1 Episode 36
Johnny ready to give forty whacks…wait, wrong movie.

Many years later I would read the short story with the same title the TV episode drew from.  It was written by pulp fiction icon and the creator of Conan the Barbarian, Robert E. Howard.  The story was published posthumously in Weird Tales, a fantasy and horror magazine in 1938.  Despite “Thirties noir speak”, it is a good short story and a better story line than the TV version. 

Weird Tales - Wikipedia
Image from our favorite Free Encyclopedia, Wikipedia

There is something baleful about abandoned Southern mansions, with or without pigeons or Zombies.  Doors and shutters hanging askew, broken windowpanes, paint peeling to expose the silver of many layers of whitewash underneath, old chimneys collapsing under their own weight.  Columns…one can almost hear the voices of the dead and abused in the breeze especially if you have an active eleven-year-old imagination…even an active seventy-year-old imagination.

A Thriller a Day...: Pigeons From Hell: Season 1 Episode 36
The decaying Blassenville sisters killed by…well, you’ll have to watch the episode on YouTube to find out.

In the late Sixties, our group of high school friends decided to explore the Brattonsville Plantation house near Rock Hill, SC…in the dead of night, near what is universally known as the witching hour.  Alcohol might have been a contributing factor; I don’t rightly remember.  I do remember there was a Mars/Venus component as we males wanted to impress the young women among our group.  Young women make young men stupid…stupider.

I won’t deny feeling a bit of trepidation as I thought about how close the name Blassenville was to Brattonsville and wondered if anyone had been practicing Voodoo within its less than comfy confines.  Pigeons?  Are there pigeons?

During those days Brattonsville was the perfect example of a “rundown” and abandoned Southern plantation.  The homeplace has since been renovated to its Antebellum glory as have the other buildings but I do not remember them that way. The mental vision I have is of a place perfect for Southern Gothic Horror.

I remember there was a full or near full moon and the unkept grounds seemed to glow with a light of their own as we made our way to the huge mansion house. In my mind I see the first story entryway door standing open, under the twin galleries’ roofs. The darkness beyond is inviting the lambs to a possible slaughter. 

Homestead House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Restoration of the Homestead began in 1975 and it was opened to the public a year later. http://chmuseums.org/history-hb/

One of the members of our group was well versed in Brattonville’s “supposed” history and regaled us with stories of a less than sane family, abused slaves, the Klu Klux Klan, cruel medical experiments and a Yankee spy hung from a pulley above an attic window.  Owned since before the Revolutionary War by a series of doctors, our historian told tales that made the Bratton doctors seem to be the combinations of Doctors Jekyll, Frankenstein, and Phibes.

We explored all the rooms and made our way to the third-floor attic, site of the medical laboratory and the hanging according to my date’s history lesson.  I had overcome my initial fear and found myself leading the group, not because of my bravery I assure you, but because I had the only flashlight.

Built for John Simpson Bratton Jr. and his wife Harriet Rainey Bratton in 1856. Then called “Forrest Hall,” it is now known as “Hightower Hall”. It could have been its own haunted mansion. https://chmuseums.org/hightower-hall-hb/

As my cute historian told her story of hangings and medical experiments, I found myself in the narrow and empty attic lab…not exactly empty.  There appeared to be examination tables and I fully expected to see a medical skeleton. Instead, a breeze drew my attention to an open window and the figure hung with a perfect hangman’s noose suspended there.   

I froze in place while my five friends took off like scalded haints.  My brain said run, my feet refused.  I might as well have been a tree rooted in place.  I froze long enough to realize what I was seeing was a department store mannequin.  The plastic kind…in fact one of its legs had fallen off.

As my fright dissipated, I found my feet and walked closer.  As the mannequin slowly turned in the breeze, I noticed a note held around its neck by a cord.  My flash revealed a single sentence written in red lipstick…”Mickey Mouse is a Jew.”  Yeah, kind of anti-climactic but a sentence that has kept me wondering for over fifty years. 

My friends? They didn’t leave me…I had the car keys. It did take a while to gather them up.

Historic Brattonsville main house.jpg
The Main House at Brattonsville with the memorable attic window visible
Picture by Zan Maddox of LaValla Maddox Design.

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The history of Brattonsville (documented history) includes  

The original home was built in 1776 by Colonel William Bratton who participated in the nearby Revolutionary War Battle between Patriots and Loyalist, The Battle of Huck’s Defeat. Brattonsville was used in the filming of the movie, The Patriot, starring Mel Gibson.

There was a one night stay by Jefferson Davis as he fled the surrender of Richmond in hopes of reaching Confederate troops in the South or West. (Supposedly this is when the spy was hung but I can find no documentation.)

Dr. J. Rufus Bratton, a York County Klan leader, was the inspiration for the book The Clansman and the 1918 movie it spawned, Birth of a Nation. I am not telling this with any sort of pride but history is history. My guess is Dr. Rufus Bratton was not a nice person when it came to race relations.

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Don Miller’s authors page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0pjOyQmBib8Mbptaegd7cbdhBk1Dqd3AwEssRjtjCtVGq4zxV2P_c9zKk

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The featured image is from another Southern Gothic film, Swamp Water, starring Walter Brennan, Dana Andrews, and Walter Huston.

Oh Lawd, I’m Out of Crisco

Just had my yearly physical.  So far so good.  Blood pressure was great as was my pulse rate.  Weighed less than I did last year.  I still have some work to do.  Gotta go to the orthopedist next week about my nasty shoulder.  If you don’t remember, go to my post “Ha, Ha, Ha! Stupid Man Goes Boom!”  The post will explain if the shoulder if the title doesn’t.  I’ll leave the link at the end. 

I’m anxiously awaiting my blood work results…you know lipids, cholesterol, triglycerides, PSAs and such.  There’s a lot in the report I have no clue about.  Hopefully my doctor does.

Sugar…don’t forget the sugar…don’t want to come down with the sugar.  That’s Southern for sugar “diabetus” said in a ghostly Wilford Brimley’s voice.

I’m also several quarts of cooking oil low. Fourteen years ago, I made a lifestyle change.  I didn’t want to make the change exactly.  If you are more intellectually gifted than a rock, a heart attack and the resulting aftermath will cause you make lifestyle changes.  My Father’s voice joins Wilford’s, “Son, it is for your own good.”  Maybe, but I don’t have to like it.

While I might lean farther left politically than many of my Southern brethren, make no ham hock bones about it.  I am a son of the South when it comes to food and drink.  Southern fried anything, Southern iced tea so sweet it makes your teeth hurt, banana puddin’, bourbon glazed…anything.  Just don’t use the drinkin’ bourbon for the glaze.  I like to marinate myself while the ribs are smokin’.  The cheap stuff is on top of the fridge, the good hidden in the pantry. 

Make that once was a son of the South when it came to food and drink.  I gave up much to have good blood work.  No Southern fried grits nuggets…um, um, good.  If Paula Deen can deep fry mac and cheese, I can deep fry grits. 

As I write this, I’m considering what snacks I might eat while watching this evening’s viewing choices.  Some people might think popcorn…pretzels may be.  I’m thinking about breaded okra deep fried golden brown in Crisco with a side of pulled pork barbeque on white bread dripping with a yellow mustard barbeque sauce.  Maybe mayonnaise slaw for a veggie…wait okra is a veggie.  I’ve not gone off the rails. Just wishing…my snacks will probably involve air popped Orville’s.

Crisco…the “healthy” replacement for hog lard back in the day.  Growing up, it was a major cooking condiment. How quickly things change.  All those nasty trans fats. Crisco has removed them but still can’t outrun its reputation.

A solid at room temperature it melted in a hot frying pan and had a high smoking point.  Perfect to pan fried battered chicken or catfish.  Cheap, it was more easily accessible more than it was healthy. Crisco allowed us to save the butter for more important delicacies like buttering biscuits or making crust for pies.

I don’t know when my Nannie made the conversion from lard to Crisco.  She was a young girl when Smucker introduced the first one-hundred percent vegetable shortening made from cottonseed oil in 1911.  Cottonseed oil?  Cotton is a vegetable? There was a lot of cotton around, but if memory serves, we never ate it.  Now it is made with soybean oil.

The name Crisco is a modification of “crystallized cottonseed oil.”  Yum. Originally the name Chryst was suggested, with religious implications galore.  “Fry with Crisco! It’ll bring Grandma back from the grave!” Here in the South I don’t know if that would have been a selling point or blasphemy…I’m guessing the Southern Baptist would have eaten it up.

“You might be Southern Baptist if you woke up one morning craving fried chicken and interpreted that as a call to preach or you believe you’re supposed to take a covered dish to heaven when you die.” (www.kaydacus.com)

I remember the large blue tin with the red letters framed in an oval white.  It sat on a shelf within easy reach of the gas stove.  Seemed every meal featured something fried in Crisco.  Fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, catfish and hushpuppies, livermush. 

Tall and fluffy cathead biscuits made by cutting the Crisco into the flour with buttermilk.  The sound of cornbread batter being poured into a hot cast iron frying pan.  That explosive sizzle as cold batter met screaming hot Crisco oil.  I am salivating. 

If we weren’t frying with Crisco, we were frying something like fatback or bacon.  “Don’t you dare throw than bacon grease away!  Put it in this old Crisco tin, I’ll use it later.”  Flavoring gold it was.  Crisco is flavor neutral, bacon grease is not. Fried eggs, vegetables, hash browns (fried taters for my Southern friends) are simply better in bacon grease…as I remember.  “It’s been so long…Oh heavy sigh!”

In my transformed kitchen it is oven baked chicken in lemon juice, olive oil, and pepper, a crisp green salad with a vinaigrette, and sweet potato fries…the menu sounds pretty good. It just ain’t crispy fried chicken, potato salad, and turnip greens cooked with fatback, bacon grease, hog jowls or all three.

Well.  I just got my blood work back.  I’m as healthy as a ox…how do we know the ox is healthy? Anyway, cholesterol great, lipids great…and my sugar…my sugar is wonderful.  I think I’m going to celebrate.  Fried okra is in my near future.  It’s a year before I have to have blood work done again so I may add that pulled pork BBQ side dish.  Yeah, cornbread battered okra deep fried in Crisco.  No air popped popcorn for me.  “What do you mean we’re out of Crisco?…haven’t had it in years?”

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Link to Ha, Ha, Ha! Stupid Man Goes Boom! https://cigarman501.wordpress.com/2020/08/16/ha-ha-ha-stupid-man-goes-boom/

Link to Don Miller’s author’s page https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2gV2t9D5mJMRXox9JEm7959hs95fSapi1K30KIYtQuAax8JRWvyZtuc70

Images of Crisco cans from https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/vintage-advertising-tins-crisco-paper-1727753671

“What a Wonderful Day For an Exorcism”

I was looking for a quote from a horror film or story. Something cute to go with a post I was writing and accidentally came across Sumerian demon Pazuzu’s quote from The Exorcist, “What a wonderful day for an exorcism.” 

Pazuzu (The Exorcist) - Wikipedia
Only a face a demon can love. Reagan possessed by Pazuzu The Exorcist Wikipedia

I paused for a moment…can we exorcise the demon possessing the White House in 2020? What about the demons in Congress? The Media? Qanon and the rest of the conspiracists? Can we exorcise the memories of the first three quarters of 2020? Will the last quarter be any better and what about 2021? Remember the first Mad Max movie? It took place in 2021.

The quote didn’t actually come from Pazuzu but from fourteen-year-old Linda Blair playing the possessed twelve-year-old Reagan MacNeil.  The demon had invaded Reagan and the little devil was having a conversation with Fathers Karras and Merrin who were attempting to exorcise him from the young girl. 

The quote was quite possibly the nicest thing Pazuzu voiced through Reagan in the movie.  If my Nannie had been around, she would have asked, “Do you eat with that mouth? And where did a fourteen year old learn language like that? You go break me off a switch. I’m gonna switch dem legs!”

Nannie, I taught middle school. I’ve heard worse and they all seemed to be possessed by Sumerian demons.

Pazuzu was holding on to his possession of Reagan as tenaciously as the coronavirus and most of his comments were meant to shock.…especially coming from the mouth of a supposed twelve-year-old.  And who could forget the throwing up of green slime with the force of a fire hose? Reminded me of some of our politicians TV advertisements.

Sphinx's Spooky Spectacular Horror Film Review - The Exorcist — GameZilla  Media
The aftermath. Nasty green pea soup The Exorcist Sphinx’s Spooky Spectacular Horror Film Review – The Exorcist — GameZilla Media

None of this has anything to do with the point I might be making…if I knew what that point might be.

I share on my Facebook page what I call “Don’s Fun Facts”.  Most are shared from either a humorous or historical standpoint, or both.  There is no rhyme or reason, just some thought that hits me.  Just something positive and informative.

I fell into “Don’s Fun Facts” like the quicksand I worried so much about as a child. In the Fifties and Sixties TV world, it seemed people died all the time by falling in to quicksand. Did you know there were two “I’m gonna die” quicksand scenes in the Sixties TV program Lost in Space? Really worried about that space quicksand but it seems quicksand was not the problem I thought it might be as a child.

Back to the point, “Don’s Fun Facts” is an attempt to lighten my little part of a world that has become as dark as the storm clouds settling over Sigourney Weaver’s high rise in Ghostbusters.  Her character, Dana, was possessed by a fake Mesopotamian demon, Zuul.  What is there about the Fertile Crescent that breeds demons?

I’m not sure what demon has possessed 2020…maybe all of them.

Again, back to the point. This is one of my two favorite times of the year, what I call Halloweenber. In its honor, I have begun to share Halloween Fun Facts intermixed with facts about the horror genre that helps drive it. 

I like the horror genre, books or movies, anytime of the year.  From reading Poe and Stroker to watching Jamie lee Curtis scream in Halloween and The Fog, I like a chill or two. If I can combine horror with a mystery story, I am in a reader’s heaven of sorts.  I just don’t want the tale to be too real.  I want space aliens, monsters, vampires, werewolves, zombies, or immortal killers wearing a William Shatner mask. I don’t want the real thing.

Halloween' 1978: The Times Finally Reviews a Horror Classic - The New York  Times
Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle wearing his Captain Kirk mask. New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/17/movies/halloween-1978-review.html

I’m much more comfortable with make believe monsters than I am with monsters who might actually walk the earth.  An alien clown named Pennywise who goes about tempting children into rain sewers I’m okay with.  It’s not real…scary but not real.

Real serial killers dressing up like clowns, say John Wayne Gacy, I’m not okay with.  John Wayne Gacy murdering thirty-three victims is too real…just like 2020 is too real.

Killer Clown' John Wayne Gacy, who assaulted and killed 33 teenage boys in  US
The Killer Clown, John Wayne Gacy https://www.indiatvnews.com/crime/news/killer-clown-john-wayne-gacy-who-assaulted-and-killed-teen-2872.html?page=1

If 2020 were a serial killer it would be dressed like “The Killer Clown” John Wayne Gacy. I guess 2020 is a serial killer of sorts carrying a ventilator while dressed in “clown” scrubs with red face paint resembling blood drying around its fang-filled mouth.

I didn’t know at the time but the beginning chapters of Stephen King’s The Stand were too real as a deadly influenza bioweapon is released. Now we have the very real coronavirus.  Obviously, Corvid-19 is not as deadly as Captain Trips but it makes me pause to wonder…influenza season is here. I read Michael Crichton’s along the same lines, The Andromeda Strain.  Saw the movie too. “Quit it!” I’m scaring myself…good horror is not real, good horror is not real, good horror is not real! If I close my eyes the monster will go away.

Pictured (l-r): Jovan Adepo as Larry Underwood and Heather Graham as Rita Blakemoor of the the CBS All Access series THE STAND. Photo Cr: Best Possible Screengrab/CBS ©2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Abandoned cars and two survivors of Captain Trips in a scene from the yet unreleased The Stand remake. https://www.rollingstone.com/tv/tv-news/the-stand-stephen-king-release-date-2020-1049649/

No, I’d rather watch Godzilla destroy a major world city on TV or Bela Lugosi bare his fangs and fade to black than watch a movie or read a book about a mega volcano in the heartland or an asteroid kerplunking into the middle of the Pacific like a  bowling ball dropped into a bowl of chocolate pudding.  Too real.

There is something about the idea of an exorcism that keeps coming back to me like chickens coming home to roost…killer chickens with fangs and razor sharp talons.  The orange rooster yells, “Go for the eyes! If they can’t see the truth….”

hens Archives - Karen Goat Keeper
An orange rooster from Quatro Knows Blog

Maybe we could get all the Catholic priests in the world to carry out a world-wide exorcism of the demons of 2020.  Teachers, we could do it virtually, right?  “Ala Kazam, begone! Especially you, you orange faced incubus!”

Vodun priests and priestesses can cast a spells on the little imp? Pins in dolls? No, according to a former baseball player I coached from Haiti, “It’s a bunch of movie hoodoo.”  If true Moise,  “Why were there chicken bones in your bat bag? Forget to clean up after your last trip to KFC? I think not” Besides, I’ve seen The Serpent and the Rainbow and The Skeleton Key.

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) - IMDb
“Don’t bury me, I’m not dead.” The Serpent and the Rainbow https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096071/

I think an exorcism should be the order of the day…just not this day.  We should wait a month unless you are doing mail in or absentee voting. We don’t need priests or priestesses of any religion to cast a vote.  We can attempt to cast out our demons at the ballot box. Show up and vote.  January 20 would be “a wonderful day for an exorcism.”

Vote by Mail Drop-off Ballot Box | Oviatt Library
Exercising your Constitutional Right to cast out demons. I mailed mine in yesterday!

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Don Miller’s author’s page is found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR35xJvzdxZiEkwOZ9X-zSJaHJPWe_2zlp_F52tyGagyOUCajeDIa9TNwFo

Vodun, also spelled Voodoo, Voudou, Vodou , or French Vaudou, is a religion practiced in Haiti that transported with slaves to the Southern United States, especially Louisiana. The spelling voodoo, once very common, is now generally avoided by Haitian practitioners and scholars when referring to the Haitian religion. Wikipedia

Incidentally, the term Hoodoo used by my Haitian baseball player is a traditional African-American spirituality created by enslaved African-Americans in the New World. It is linked to Vodun, or Vodou, but is different. Hoodoo is very prevalent in Lowcountry South Carolina and coastal Georgia.

The “head spinning” image is from The Exorcist and taken from Pinterest.

YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!

As soon as I read the headline and before I read the article, “Trump Announces, ‘Patriotic Education’ Commission”, I thought of Colonel Jessup’s tirade in the movie, “A Few Good Men”, “You Can’t Handle The Truth!”  I felt no different after I read it.

It seems our President and a good part of our population can’t or won’t handle the truth.  Worse, I believe a portion of our population knows the truth, they just don’t care to acknowledge it.  They like things just the way they are or rather they would like to cycle them back to those thrilling days of yesteryear. Am I cynical much?

I read the article but my thoughts continued to collide with the force of a cue ball breaking a rack. Dark thoughts of a time past that seems to be determine to resurrect itself.

“Trump Announces, ‘Patriotic Education’ Commission”. Hummm…I was a product of “Patriotic Education”.  It was called Civics, taught in the backdrop of the Civil Right struggle and the Cold War.  There was a lot of wrapping the Bible in the Red, White, and Blue to boot.  “Our God is better than your god,” with Biblical quotations to prove it. 

Civics wasn’t pure propaganda but there was propaganda.  I did learn about our constitution and our federal system, but I also learned that the self-evident truths of “All men are created equal” were weak aspirations in my part of the world, not necessarily a truth. 

As my blond haired, crew cut sporting instructor explained, “We have the retarded, the dummies and mute, ni@@#*s and Indians.”  Yes, he said that.  My memory is faulty, it could have been in US History rather than Civics.

One of the more troubling thoughts among many is how much this person meant to me.  How much I wanted to be just like him.  How I followed his lead to college and then on to teaching.  How I majored in history and taught it for most of forty-one years…most likely, because of him. 

It was the Sixties and as I have found in most men, there is good, there is bad, and I hope, there is change. Don’t you hate it when your heroes prove to be mere mortals?

In the article I read, President Trump decried what he called a “twisted web of lies” being taught in U.S. classrooms about systemic racism in America, calling it “a form of child abuse.” He made similar comments at Mount Rushmore in July.

“Teaching this horrible doctrine to our children is a form of child abuse, the truest sense,” Trump said. “For many years now, the radicals have mistaken Americans’ silence for weakness. They’re wrong. There is no more powerful force than a parent’s love for their children. And patriotic moms and dads are going to demand that their children are no longer fed hateful lies about this country.” 

At best, our President has an uncomfortable relationship with the truth. Most often, the truth and the President do not reside in the same zip code. I question what “hateful lies about this country” he is channelling.  It seems to me we are again wrapping the flag around our racism and using a religion to support it.

I do not want to beat a dead mule; I have written to this theme before.  Until recently, and even that depends on where you reside in our great country, we have never taught history from an all-encompassing point of view.  We have never taught history “warts and all.”  We seem to be afraid of the truth.

Most teachers try, but standards and textbooks have only recently begun to change, attitudes even less. Those teachers who don’t try should not be teaching. I still see a type of history being taught accompanied by cheerleaders sporting red, white, and blue pom poms. “Go, Fight, Win!”

Why would we not want to teach the truth?  Does truth somehow undermine our love for our country?  Am I wrong to believe we can be patriotic and love our country despite knowing we committed travesties along the way?  Can we not wish to correct those ills and make ourselves an even better country? Is it unbearable to admit to the wrongs of our forefathers?

Change. The word seems to be the truth we can’t handle and the resistance to change seems to come from my own contemporaries…those of us who were indoctrinated to believe “My Country, Right or Wrong” not that our country ever did any wrong.  Worse, many are not contemporaries but are those I taught.

Many former students have taken to pointing out, “We are not a democracy we are a Republic.”  To what end? Why do you make this argument?  Is there an ulterior motive?  Am I being cynical to believe people pointing this out have an agenda and a need to undermine?

The word “republic” has the same meaning as the term “representative democracy.” A representative democracy is a form of democracy in the same way that a ‘purple top’ is a form of turnip. We wouldn’t say it’s inaccurate to use “turnip” to describe a purple top turnip, so it’s OK to follow in the footsteps of many founding fathers, along with Webster, and Chief Justice Marshall and simply call our “representative democracy” a “democracy.”

I would also want to point out, at the local level many of our decisions are made as a ‘direct’ democracy. Again, I wonder about motives. I wonder about truth. I feel to the depth of my bones, many would rather have a more autocratic form of government even if it is led by a former reality TV star.

My brother will now say, chill.  Go out and walk, smell the flowers, have a beer, watch a football game.  He is right, and I will, but my cynical petty coats is showing cow poo and it stinks.  I have hope in our system but it is being undermined.  My truth is becoming, “We are what we are.  This is who we’ve been and we ain’t gonna’ change.” 

We are being taken advantage of.  I’m not the world’s most intelligent guy but even I can see the seeds of division that have been planted are flourishing, both within and without.  The far right and the far left are not our friends.  Neither are any of the autocratic leaders our President seems to want to cozy up to. 

No, not our friends. Neither is the media attempting to sell advertising, a President attempting to sell blivits, and congressmen and women attempting to sell themselves. (A blivit is two pounds of manure in a one pound bag. The origin is from Kalamazoo College around 1960.)

The President’s initiative to create “Patriotic Education” is a blivit and he is sowing more seeds of discord and playing to a base that includes those who believe equality for all is somehow taking their own rights away and an affront to God. 

Watercolor by John Coffee. Line from The Green Mile

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Don Miller’s author’s page is found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR22iSzDHKzxCzPBS64mqKyX_iqjwVDmJXrd_1iVmF5be_YAnetohuhpwQI

Article quoted, Trump Announces ‘Patriotic Education’ Commission, A Largely Political Move, from NPR, September 17, 2020, Alana Wise, https://www.npr.org/2020/09/17/914127266/trump-announces-patriotic-education-commission-a-largely-political-move?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&fbclid=IwAR3pJHVlB7rxiAiDhMXODozLxk0my-rRZNfaA94Y7ekugnE5Zqr8EhJ08II

The image, from JoeBlogs

Boycott the Boycotts

#BoycotttheBoycotts

Oh my, Ben and Jerry’s has squatted and fallen backwards onto a political cow patty…they have stepped in several over the years, but this is the one I’m sure will soil their starched khakis forever.  This time SOME members from the Right has called for a boycott.  This was a podcast chat or YouTube video with Jane Fonda.  Ole Hanoi Jane strikes again.  What did they discuss? I have no idea. #BoycottAllVideos

More food wars…more calls to boycott something.  Nascar, football…ice cream.  I say #BoycotttheBoycotts.

I’m really sick of calls to boycott.  It’s like listening to the greatest music hit of 2020. (As if there is any great music in 2020.) The ditty is good the first time, maybe the tenth time, but it gets so much air play, it gets old.   Calls to boycott because football players joining arms or wearing a “unity” or BLM sticker on their helmets?  That gets old.  Really unity? #BoycottUnityBoycott

When attempting to find a place to eat or a substance to eat how many of you Google, “What is the local ‘choke and puke’s’ political stance?”  No one right? Do you really?  Let’s see, boycott a bowl of “Booots on the Moon” because of a stand on Global Warming or White Supremacy?  I see, #BoycottBenandJerrys.

I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten Ben and Jerry’s ice cream but it has nothing to do with a boycott or a political stance.  I’m sure someone just shook their head in disbelief.  I don’t remember eating it, but I assure you it’s not because they are soooo liberal.  I mean I will eat at Chick-fil-a if I can’t get to Bojangles or Popeyes. Nothing to do with their conservatism…I just like my chicken spicy. More on that later.

Firstly, Liberals can make ice cream.  Secondly, when you are so far right, everything in the center looks radical. 

When I’m not making my own ice cream, I’m a Breyers or a Blue Bell guy, OUT OF HABIT…not politics.  Guess what?  I have no idea who makes Breyers or what their political slant is.  Same with Blue Bell.  I…COULD…CARE…LESS! 

As long as they aren’t serial killers, rapist, or abusers I…DON”T…CARE! Well there was Blue Bell’s  2015 listeriosis outbreak and Breyers cutting their milk content to the point some of their offerings were called ‘frozen desserts’ rather than ice cream.  #BoycottListeriosis, #BoycottFrozenDesserts! 

Boycotting is as ridiculous as the chicken sandwich wars from a while back.  God’s Chick-fil-a sandwich versus Satan’s Popeye’s sandwich.  I just heard Chick-fil-a is going to offer a spicier version of their chicken sandwich.  Does that mean they have gone over to the dark side? #BoycottGodlessSpicyChickenSandwich!

We’ve had some pretty effective boycotts over history.  Stamp Act’s “Taxation Without Representation”, The Montgomery Bus Boycott, Gandhi’s Salt March and Boycott, US sanctions against South Africa to end Apartheid and free Nelson Mandela.

Yeah, the Ben and Jerry’s Boycott of 2020 fits right in with those.  That will stop all their liberal shenanigans, supporting Black Lives, calling out White Supremacists, videoing with Jane Fonda.  A real travesty.  #FreetheChocolateChip…#BoycottJane #BoycotttheBoycotts

Most boycotts are pointless and harmful. Have you considered what a successful boycott might entail?  LOST AMERICAN JOBS!  You know those athletes you are grinding on?  They are already rich.  They probably didn’t start out rich, but they are now.  The owners are rich.  The networks are rich.  They can outlast you. 

What about the towel guy, or the court sweeper, or the Zamboni driver?  The guy that runs out to mop up sweat from LeBron’s brow? What about the janitorial staff?  The equipment guys?  What about the guy in the paper hat that scoops your chocolate chip mint into your cone?  They are the ones who will pay for your stupid boycott. #BoycottProSportsBoycotts

#BoycotttheBoycotts!  If I don’t like the pregame political statements I’ll wait until it’s over turn it on or put my hands over my ears, close my eyes and yell “La, La, La, La” at the top of my lungs until it is over.  I suggest you do the same. I won’t turn it off and walk away.

If my ice cream is made by a right-wing wingnut, I’ll eat it if it is deliciously sweet and creamy.  I won’t eat it but once if it is not. 

If a protest for social justice is so reprehensible you wish to boycott it…you should boycott me.  #BoycottMe

Well, I’m going to prepare brunch for my bride now.  Guess what I’m not going to do?  I’m not going to worry about the political statements made by the chicken that laid the egg, the corn that grits were ground from, or the pig who gave its all for my sausage.  The farmer who supplied them?  We’re good regardless of what sign he puts in his field. 

I’m not going to worry about the stance of the workers who picked the broccoli, mushrooms, and spinach that will make up the filling of my omelet.  I don’t care if the cheddar cheese maker is a liberal or a conservative, a libertarian or a flat earther. 

I may have a bowl of ice cream later while watching a football game…it may be Ben and Jerry’s…it may not.  #BoycotttheBoycott!

***

The image is from Aaron Fooks, Protest Pointless Boycotts, The Chimes. https://chimesnewspaper.com/23827/opinions/protest-pointless-boycotts/

Stop by Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0G7zFoynNmQ5cF2WE-usnYnFgJUY_9NjLXDIRhTJmS5F_ipFre6D0NGOk

Sunday September 15, 1963

Sunday September 15, 1963…I doubt I paid much attention to the happenings in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.  I probably paid more attention on Monday when Walter brought the CBS Nightly News as the family gathered around the black and white TV, chewing soggy TV dinner fried chicken and cardboard mac and cheese. 

I pay more attention now. The past can be painful. Ignoring the past can be moreso. Four young girls, Addie Mae Collins (age 14, born April 18, 1949); Carol Denise McNair (age 11, born November 17, 1951); Carole Rosanond Robertson (age 14, born April 24, 1949); and Cynthia Dionne Wesley (age 14, born April 30, 1949), were killed in the attack as they attended Sunday school…Sunday school. Addie Mae’s sister, 12 year old Sarah, had twenty-one shards of glass embedded in her face. She was blinded in one eye. Fourteen others were injured and there was another death. Some nineteen or more casualties to the war that was Civil Rights.

1963: Bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church
Sarah Collins recovering from the attack. Photograph by Dawoud Bey.

I do not know what I thought.  I do not know what my family thought.  We were not the types to sit around the dinner table discussing Civil Rights, race relations, and the deaths of four young girls in the city that became known as “Bombingham.” I honestly don’t know where my parents stood on racism and Civil Rights. Considering all possibilities I guess that is not a bad thing.

I don’t know for sure what my classmates thought during school that Monday morning. There was no discussion of the travesty that had occured in my eighth grade civics class…my all white class in my all white little school.

I was thirteen. Just about the ages of the girls killed at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.  I wonder what I thought.  I am sure I was more concerned about the pennant race in the National League than four deaths in Alabama.  The Dodgers were battling it out with the Cardinals and held a one game lead.  On September sixteenth they would begin a series with the Dodgers one game up.  In the American League the Yankees had run away and hid in 1963.  I knew baseball standings, but I didn’t know the names of the girls now gone.

It is not that I was unfeeling, I was thirteen, probably an immature thirteen.  I was more concerned about baseball and the Playboy magazine I had snuck into my bedroom.  There was that little blond-haired girl that stirred feelings and reactions I simply did not understand.  Alabama was a place far, far away and the lives lost unknown to me.

Occasionally thoughts would enter my teenage mind.  “How is this right?”  I was not ready to go marching with Martin Luther King but images of burning buses, fire hoses, and now rubble were having an effect…a lasting effect.

My grandmother had taught the Golden Rule. I couldn’t understand why we weren’t treating these people the way we wished to be treated.  Why were people so angry and why did they all look like me? Why didn’t I have the guts to act?

I couldn’t understand the lack of empathy from friends either…as I can’t understand now.

The last of the three bombers died in prison this past June.  I will not speak his name. He was eighty-two.  He was not brought to justice until 2001…none were brought to justice in 1963, not because their identities were unknown, because of the system that was in place…a system that is still hanging on in many places.  The three freely lived their lives as if nothing had happened, one for thirty-seven years.  He lived freely thrice as long as the little girls whose lives he helped to take. 

I’m thankful I’m not the same person I was in 1963.  I was a child of the time and carried my racism with me well into my adulthood.  My change occurred over time, there was no sudden flipped switch.  It was the realization that what I saw and heard was at odds with what I had learned despite my grandmother’s best teachings.

I still have my moments.  I still carry my racism. Thoughts I wish I didn’t have, thoughts I pray forgiveness for.  I pray for understanding, pray for peace among all God’s children.  Prayers that don’t include forgetting but do include forgiveness.  Prayers for taking the first step toward healing which is the recognition and acceptance for our sins. 

Don Miller writes on various subjects that bothers him so. His author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0C336Kj_qD1fHk40ybRg8b7CHHd6f8KYcGIC44-qIqsbZJGjv0WdXaeKI

  

Memories of the Coming Good

Not the ‘B’ side of the Johnny Rivers’ hit, “Summer Rain.” Memories of the Coming Good” was a repetitive instrumental. I don’t know why it was even used or why I even remember it but for some reason the title spurred a memory as I thought about the 9/11 attack that occurred nineteen years ago. 

Maybe it was the other way around.  Maybe it was memories of 9/11 and the aftermath that spurred the memory of a bad song with a great title.

As I look back on the days and weeks after 9/11, for a moment in time, the aftermath became Memories of the Coming Good.  The memories of the way Americans pulled together…pulled together regardless of race, creed, color, or political standing.  For a brief time, there was one goal…to recover from our mourning, to overcome what had happened. To rise Phoenix-like from the ashes of Ground Zero.

We awoke the next day to a different world…a world that has become even scarier over the past nineteen years. Still, for a period of time we were united.

I wish our country could go back to the day after.  Not the actual day but to the unity, the purpose. 

I wish we could return to the way the country rallied behind New York, behind the first responders, behind the country, behind the people lost and injured, behind their families.  Americans rallying to each other, for each other.  Americans willing to sacrifice for the coming good.

In the years since his presidency, I’ve become a George W. Bush fan.  Not so much George Bush the President, but a fan of the man himself.  I’m a fan of the way he reacted and a fan of the way he responded in those dark days following the attack.  I knew he was hurt just as much as New York and the rest of the country.  His pain was as real as the rest of ours.

I remember his bullhorn speech standing atop the rubble at Ground Zero.  He was a calming anodyne and you knew we would recover.  We would be okay.

He was a man who might stumble in the ways he reacted or possibly overreacted, but you knew where his heart was. His heart was on his sleeve for all to see and it bled red, white, and blue.  We knew he had been stabbed in the heart just like the rest of the country.

I wish I still had those feelings of a coming good.  I wish I had the joy I felt when Osama bin Laden was run to ground. It was a measure of justice for what we had lost.

Until recently, Americans have always rallied around the common good when times were dire.  Before I was born, the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor and World War Two, 9/11 and natural disasters after I was born.  We rallied.  We responded.  We overcame.

To quote FDR, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”  I think we have forgotten that.  We have found our fears and allowed them to rule us.

We move from conspiracy theory to conspiracy theory, putting our faith in QAnon or Revelationist, creating reasons to be fearful when there are real dangers to be addressed and overcome, reasons to worry there is no coming good ahead of us.

I wish we were not so divided. I wish we could rally to each other as we did after 9/11 and no I am not wishing for something catastrophic to give us a reason to rally.  If a pandemic with nearly two hundred thousand dead, wildfires raging on the west coast, devastating weather, demonstrations for social justice, and looting in our major cities cannot rally us, I do not want to consider what might.

There is still time to rally ourselves, but time is running out.  Our memories can be of a coming good or not.  It is for us to decide…if not for us, for our children and grandchildren.

As we remind ourselves of what this solemn day represents, take a moment to think.  Think about not only our losses but our responses.  Think about our rallying, think about the memories of a coming good.   

Iconic 9/11 flag, missing for years, returns to New York City - CNN
Thomas E. Franklin’s Firefighters Raising the Flag published in Newsweek

    

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3-0ovpLqEZAnuKfEmXu0e8AGiMnEE1zS31TkH6pZhaMz5-3OqZz_A_Fh4

The image used is courtesy of USAToday.

Knuckleheads and Other Winners

A former player and I were conversing via social media.  At the end of our conversation, he thanked me for putting up with the knucklehead he had been during his youth.  Knucklehead was his word but he used it honestly.  At the time, twenty years ago, I probably would have said worse…but with all the love in the world. 

Damn him…his comment took me down a rabbit hole populated with knuckleheads jumping out at me as if I were riding a tunnel of horrors…well, not horrors, a tunnel of laughs.  Instead of ghouls, skeletons, and ax murders, they were former baseball players dressed in clown paint with big floppy shoes.  Ah, the memories.

My years as a high school coach were packed tighter than a sardine can with knuckleheads…as if I might have attracted them.  Knuckleheads…not sardines.  I would have never used the word knucklehead but I’m trying to remember what I would have used…that is fit to print…Goofy blond headed kid? Not likely.

I can slide backward in time and find one or two knuckleheads for every one of the forty-four years I coached.  Some years entire teams were filled with knuckleheads. I’m sure it had nothing to do with my personality. 

I had them in all of the sports I coached, but with the down time associated with baseball, between innings and when we batted, it seemed my dugout cup runneth over with knuckleheads…or maybe it is just the game of baseball itself.  Baseball is a game fraught with player shenanigans. 

It is funny odd.  With all the successes associated with those days when I talk to former players, invariably, the conversation turns to “Do you remember when ‘so and so’ did ‘such and such’?”  Yeah, I remember.  During those days, I feigned anger when I really wanted to laugh…sometimes I feigned badly and laughed anyway. 

As I continued down my rabbit trail, I realized that all the really good teams were loaded with knuckleheads, many as crazy as bed bugs, usually pitchers.  If I were to award an All Knucklehead Team, the top five would include…four pitchers. I can think of two immediately who were crazy as bed bugs.

They all used their craziness to defuse tense situations…for themselves and their teammates. Gatorade bottles fill with rock noisemakers, Gatorade cup binoculars, rally monkeys, fins up hats, and hand jives. Dug out Voodoo one team called it. At least they didn’t cheer like softball teams.

The teams were much looser than I was or at least they hid it better.  I sat on my ten gallon baseball bucket undergoing butt pucker while they chilled under fire, shaking their noisemakers or dancing with the rally monkey. 

The teams taught me as much as I taught them, maybe more.  Over time they taught me I didn’t have to be a cross between Attila the Hun and Billy Martin to be a good coach.  I could use my own personality; I could be me no matter which version I was at the time. 

They taught me that getting close was better than remaining distant no matter the pain closeness sometimes brought.  Mostly they taught me it wasn’t about the game but the people who played it. 

The knucklehead I was conversing with almost caused a brawl when he laid a bunt down late in a game we were well ahead in.  He had broken one of baseball’s unwritten rules.  You don’t rub another team’s nose in it, instead you call off the dogs. 

My next batter received a fastball between the shoulder blades because of the faux pas.  Ordinarily, such would not go unanswered, but it seemed an appropriate response at the time even if the wrong knucklehead got hit.  To the original knucklehead’s defense, we failed to tell him the dogs were off…I guess I was the knucklehead.

I have learned a few things since retiring.  Mostly I’ve learned I miss the camaraderie from those earlier years.  I miss the youthful exuberance of teenagers. I miss watching them play the game. I still watch the game but it is not the same. I don’t know the players. They aren’t mine.

I don’t miss the long hours, the foot numbing cold of the early season games, or the long rear numbing bus rides to and from games. What I miss are the kids…the young men who grew from knuckleheads into successful citizens.  I’d like to think I might have contributed to some of their successes.   

 My first attempt at writing badly was, “Winning Was Never the Only Thing…” It chronicalled many of the knuckleheads I was blessed to have coached. Winning wasn’t the only thing but it was written about the winners who made winning possible and my life much sweeter.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2xmv7S1RJWskEhZZ2zdJyRNTfnKZaA-0fvcaXh2Qoht0TimSO42uLa6I4

The image is of Jose Lobaton with his Gatorade Glasses courtesy of the Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/

Heroes

I watched Black Panther last night and the tribute to Chadwick Boseman that followed, the young man from Anderson, South Carolina who died much too young from colon cancer.  A movie star some have called heroic.

The news of his death at forty-three struck a discordant note and triggered my own memories of young men gone to soon.  Over the last decade I have lost two former players to colon cancer, one in his early thirties, the other in his early forties. 

I watched their deterioration and the devastation the disease wreaked upon their families.  I witnessed firsthand the bravery they displayed as the sands ran too quickly from their hourglass. It seems Chadwick fought his battle silently and worked nearly up to the end. Like my players I’m sure he fought heroically and at his age could have easily been one of my students or players.

Because he was from South Carolina, I had heard a great deal about Chadwick. I followed his career but Black Panther was the first movie I saw despite having been impressed with excerpts from 42 and with the interviews I had watched. I had been too self-absorbed and lazy to actually go to a movie theater. 

2020 has been tough on role models.  Kobe Bryant and John Lewis passed before Boseman, all prominent African Americans in their respective fields, athletics, Civil Rights, and film.  Joining them today, as I write this, was legendary Georgetown coach, John Thompson. 

There are others who have passed, of all races and many different fields.  People who were important to other people whether they knew them or not.  Many who were role models and heroes in their own right. Still, I could not help myself, I wondered, “Why had Chadwick Boseman been elevated to ‘Superhero Role Model’?”

I knew the answer but as I read reactions to his death, responses to media presentations, and the final straw for fragile, triggered, white folks from his home state, the lowering of the flags to half-mast that fly over our state capital.  Small fire fights raged over social media to the point I shut my computer down to put them out.

I was surprised at the negative comments.  “He is an actor, not a hero. He is playing a part”, “It’s just because he’s black”, “It’s the liberal media’s agenda”, “It’s all about politics.”  Those were not the worst of the comments.

I decided to do a bit of introspection.  After my self-study, the answer swimming around in my mind had not changed.  I had stayed silent when certain people enumerated the failings of Kobe Bryant and John Lewis, trying to make them seem less heroic and more human. I’m not going to be silent today.

People need heroes.  We always have needed them, whether they were actors playing a part or athletes playing a game or living heroic figures.  I had mine, from John Wayne’s ‘Whistling’ Dan Roman in the movie The High and the Mighty to Mickey Mantle and Bobby Richardson to JFK.  All were important to me.

They were heroic figures for a young white boy named Donnie.  They were also flawed humans…discovered to be flawed by the adult named Don.  When I was the child we did not seem to have the need to tear our heroes down as we do now.  Heroes were heroes, villains were villains. You could tell the good guys by their white hats unless your hero was Hopalong Cassidy.

Today, we elevate normal humans to godly status just before doing our best to explode our idols by exposing the failings that make them human.  Hero worship to hero bashing.  Why?

I do not have an answer to why…except that it is 2020 and for the previous decade our capacity for hatred has steadily expanded.  I guess we have always mined for veins of corrosion in someone else’s hero’s armor.  As far as the comments about Chadwick Boseman, it seems much darker.

I restate, “People need heroes.”  For Black Americans and other hyphenated Americans, heroes have been few and far between.  Not because they were not any, there were plenty, but because heroes of color were whitewashed by the “White European” history we taught…I taught into the present century. 

The Thurgood Marshalls and Jackie Robinsons were relegated to “footnotes” during the Civil Rights Era while others were crammed into the shortest month of the year, “Black History Month.” 

Chadwick Boseman helped bring those historical figures to life for a new generation of Black kids.  Chadwick Boseman gave little black youngsters a hero…even if he was playing James Brown or The Black Panther.  Chadwick Boseman gave an entire race a sense of pride that had been rendered almost invisible in many history books. 

Before you question me, I know I am correct because I taught United States History off and on for forty-one years and I only realized the errors of my ways late in my career.  I am sorely sorry for that.  In God I trust but I now know I should not have trusted my “Lost Cause” education or the textbooks I taught from.  It appears I did a good job of teaching as the propaganda I taught is often regurgitated back into my face. 

Please understand, my failings went far past presenting Black Americans in the shadows.  My shortcomings included Native Americans, Spanish speaking Americans, Asian Americans, and women of all races.  

I taught a sanitized version of history, as most of us did.  I taught the good instead of adding the bad and the ugly.  I now believe if we do not confront our history, we truly are doomed to repeat it.  We needed Chadwick Boseman along with actors and actresses like him to bring that history to life…and provide a bit of escapism too.

Is Chadwick Boseman a hero? I think we throw the term around too easily and too often.  He is a positive role model, not just for black kids but for all kids in general.  From a small Southern town, to college, to Oxford, to a pinnacle of stages and red carpets.  More than an actor in a role, a good man, an intelligent man, a humanitarian, and philanthropist.  Maybe not a hero in the heroic sense but a culture hero for sure and the best of role models.    

I thought for two hours and fifteen minutes Sunday night Chadwick Boseman was heroic, the same way John Wayne was heroic in the movie In Harms Way or The Horse Soldiers. There were certainly creases, maybe huge dents and rends in John’s armor and yet I still tune in everytime those movies are on.

We need heroes even if they are playing a part or a sport. We need heroes even if they are human with human failings. Boseman’s heroism went much further than just the screen of my TV.

Don Miller’s author page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1eQLwKCHwi-dJ92ECz70HcFU6lwIeP6pKv8-4vBA_gJEqpQiGtI3Ic1H8

The image of Chadwick Boseman was mined from the New York Times.

Of Bees, Snake Doctors, and Many Things Yellow

In the wildlife preserve that is my home, a change of season is rapidly approaching.  Approaching but not yet here and in all likelihood, we will not experience significant temperature and humidity changes for another six weeks or so. 

I calculate the middle of October, or thereabouts, before any serious changes.  There will be some cool mornings followed by blistering afternoons. Maybe a frost in late October followed by a forty or fifty degree temperature increase by afternoon…but it is 2020 and I will not wager a bet or even venture a guess on anything weather related. 

The calendar tells me it is slightly less than a month from the Autumn Equinox but it is still ‘dead of Summer’ hot and humid with myriads of mosquitoes and gnats in my little piece of heaven. 

As I type this, a hurricane is pumping tropical air our way, but the crystal gazers of weather say lower humidity is filling in behind it.  I hope their crystal ball is not broken but trust them no more than a midway carney playing three-card monte or a fortune-teller named Momma Amelia.

I predict that mosquitoes and gnats, along with the humidity, will be with us well past Indian Summer…maybe well past Christmas.  Such is the world I live in.  Since it is 2020, hurricanes may be with us until the new year.

Despite the heat and humidity, there is a difference I both feel and see.  The sunlight is a bit more golden, the wind angling from a slightly different direction, the days a bit shorter and myriads of yellow wildflowers of different types are blooming with bees working them with a frenzy driven by the change of seasons. 

It is as if all the insects have decided they must “make hay while the sun shines.”  Even the “snake doctors” residing at the lake where I meander are more numerous and in an eating hysteria. They are voracious and eat just about anything, mosquitoes, tadpoles, fish, other insect larvae, and even each other.  With the numbers of mosquitoes present, I would say dragonfly cannibalism has been placed on the back burner.

Yellow is the color of the season.  Bees, bugs, caterpillars, and butterflies seem to incorporate yellows and golds to match the sunshine.  The new wildflowers are yellow, Black, and Brown-eyed Susan, the bane to my existence, goldenrod, and varieties I have no clue as to their names.  There are none of my favorites, my sunflowers. For some reason, not one planted survived. The curse of 2020…or deer and raccoons.

There are colors other than yellow, some purple or light blue, maybe a hint of pink. The white and pink Abelia shrub attracts black and yellow butterflies…or is it yellow and black butterflies? There are black and blue ones also.

South Carolina - State Butterfly - Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail…the SC state butterfly https://sites.google.com/site/southcarolinauplandbutterflies/

I have massive Pokeweed with purple berries the birds seem to ignore but not my t-shirt as I saunter past. More than once my bride has panicked “What have you done to yourself?” “Nothing my love…this time at least.” I understand her concern.

Insects are not alone in their frenzy.  I just startled a chipmunk with a mouth stretched tight with sunflower seeds, cute little chubby cheeked thing. A squirrel was seen burying a black walnut in my wife’s planter.  Will he remember where it is when he needs it?

I’ve seen evidence of my wild turkeys and deer. They have been absent all summer but may be on the move. There are tracks and scratches everywhere. I know the turtles are moving, their yellow and orange splotches shining in the sun. I moved three from the road today and two from the path I was cutting.

Eastern Box Turtle | South Carolina Public Radio
Eastern Box Turtle with a leaf stuck to its shell

It won’t be long until the long vees of ducks and geese will be seen. I wonder if the old coot at the lake will stay or make his migration. Where do coots go in the fall?

I am reminded of the fable of the grasshopper and ant.  The ant worked his behind off all summer long while the grasshopper jumped and sang the summer away.  As the seasons change, I feel much more like the grasshopper than the ant.  I admit I don’t jump quite as high and my song may be a bit off-key. I also admit I haven’t gotten a lot done this season.

Well, there is the rest of the summer to make hay…or cut wood…or put in the fall garden…or clean-up the yard that I’ve allowed to revert back to an old-growth forest.  Yep, there is time…right after I jump and sing and after a short nap.     

From 1934 The Grasshopper and the Ants

Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies The Grasshopper and Ant,
http://www.youtube.com

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3-Y9SE4wsP0I2tn3R8VkrP6WR89h6xUmPGnjRksOLNSeBKswbUoCgHNsY

The image of sunflowers is from https://www.housebeautiful.com/lifestyle/gardening/a27545572/save-the-bees-plant-sunflowers/