21289 Steps

21289 steps….the average of the number of steps I took yesterday as shown by my Fitbit, an app that came with my iPhone, and an app I downloaded later.  Three ways to count steps!!! That does not include the Runtastic app that analyzes distance, time, pace, average pace, and a dozen other fitness markers. Having four ways to “anal-ize” my steps might be excessive.  I might be more obsessive or anal retentive than I credit myself.  Or maybe, I don’t trust my Fitbit. 

Taking the time to average my number of steps from my three tracking apps might be a symptom of my peculiar brand of insanity.  Even my insanity has insanities.  Taking 21289 steps might be excessive, period.  Some of my steps were not easy.  The morning after my knees are decrying my brutality…and stupidity.  Where did I put my Tylenol?

21289 steps are over twice the recommended number of steps the fitness gods say should be our fitness goal. The fitness “gold” standard, ten thousand steps accompanied by gothic organ music. 

One of the more inquisitive voices in my head asked, “Why is it ten thousand steps…why not 9999 steps or 10001 steps?  Why can’t we be fit eating a slab of bacon?”  The call to wander down a pig trail was strong.  “Indeed, why are ten thousand steps the fitness gold standard?”

“Turns out, it is not based on anything scientific!”…or should I say, it did not start out that way.  Ten thousand steps was nothing more than a marketing ploy.

“There doesn’t appear to be any scientific basis for the idea that 10,000 steps should be everyone’s daily fitness goal”, according to I-Min Lee, professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. I quoted Ms. Lee but understand, there are other studies that parrot her.

Ten Thousand steps turns out to be a marketing strategy, propaganda?  Lie?  Shades of the parental phrase I remember, “drink your milk so you’ll have strong bones.” That propaganda certainly sold more milk. No really.  Calcium and Vitamin D are good for you but do not guarantee strong bones.  While we are exploding myths, “Superman couldn’t have turned coal into a diamond either.” What?

In the early 1960s, a Japanese company introduced their pedometer with the interesting name, manpo-kei.  Interesting?  Hell, I can’t even pronounce it.  I can however translate it, “10,000-step meter.” “man” stands for 10,000, “po” for step and “kei” for gauge. “Well, ain’t that the catfish in the trap?” (Southern idiom for surprise)

Okay, before you go out and trash your pedometers and fitness trackers and trade them for a bacon wrapped cheeseburger, do not.  Studies made since the 1960s bear out the science behind ten thousand steps…not as a “gold” standard, but a worthy and attainable goal.

Without boring you anymore than usual, in a 2010 “step” study, it was found, on an average the Japanese walk 7,168 per day and the Swiss at 9,650 per day.  A 2004 study showed Amish men “pickin’ ‘em up” at an average of 18,425 steps a day.  Wow, I outwalked an Amish man yesterday.  All three of these samples are healthier as an overall population than your average American.  And yes, there are other studies from other places and demographics that agree with this.

In the same 2010 study, Americans averaged less than five thousand steps per day, and Americans are getting fatter, and dying sooner than most “advanced” nations.  I know, our diet doesn’t help either.  Bacon, bacon, bacon!!!!  I admit I would rather be sedentary with a BLT in my mouth that going out in the wee morning hours or rain and hoofing it for three or four miles. I do not walk in the rain if I can help it.  There are limits to my obsession.

My 2006 heart attack changed my outlook but not my desires.  There is nothing more sensual than disrobing a wax paper wrapped bacon cheeseburger on a soft sesame seed bun.  The tomato and onion slices, along with lettuce peeking seductively out from the edges of the bun. Tantalizingly and teasingly licking the juices running down my fingers.  Fried onion rings looking on quietly awaiting the orgy. “Was it good for you,” I asked my taste buds…it was until I felt the tightening in my chest.  It was not desire and there was no passionate release…until the four stints were “surfed” into my blocked arteries.   

Ten thousand steps became my daily obsession, but my neurotic fascination with the number did not begin that way.  My first post heart attack walk was one third of a mile, seven or eight hundred steps at best.  My legs felt like over cooked spaghetti, my perspiration resembled Niagara Falls after a hurricane, my respiration sounded like an overworked steam locomotive.  My bride had to walk back and bring the car to get me back home.  She wondered out loud, “Should I take you to the emergency room or the funeral home?”  “Thanks hon, just get me in the house and let me die in peace.”

I didn’t die and have come a long way since that day.  My screaming knees do not let me run any longer, my dreams of marathons are mute, but I walk twenty to twenty-five miles a week and average ten thousand steps six out of seven days.  Most days Tylenol takes the edge off my efforts and I am marginally productive. 

Whether ten thousand steps was based upon science originally or not does not really matter.  Get up and out, move, stay healthy.  Move, move, move not bacon, bacon, bacon!

***

Don Miller writes on various subjects and has recently released his second “Drunken Irishman Saloon” tale. It can be purchased or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Long+ride+to+paradise+Don+Miller&ref=nb_sb_noss

Long Ride to Paradise: Tales of the Drunken Irishman Saloon

To access his authors page go to https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0podOBekn70hQc7jZnq2H5vZVw-3P7aKLsRI1slX-lVK-vWml-uR2KYJU

Of Blind Pigs and Acorns…of Genes and Superstition…

and Pedro Cerrano.

I used an old saying I had heard all my life in my latest endeavor to write the greatest American novel. My stalwart hero used “A ghost walking across your grave” to describe a shiver felt by my heroine. I found myself on one of my pig trails.  The path twisted and turned before falling into a rabbit hole of old sayings, superstitions, and baseball as I researched where the saying had come from and my own genetics.  Once and a while, a blind pig might find more than an acorn.

One side of my family is diverse if family traditions are to be believed.  A large piece of my genetic pie on my mother’s side of the family is Scot Irish. According to family lore there are dashes of a Native American princess and an African seaman to spice up my pie.  I haven’t had a DNA test and may not.  I’d rather trust what I believe than find out the stories are fairy tales or out and out lies.

I am certain about the Scot Irish piece of the pie. All I have to do is look at a picture of my red headed, freckled faced, alabaster skinned mother and early pictures of my red headed and bearded brother.  When I gaze into my own mirror, I see an argument for more than a dash of Native American or African seaman…or maybe an argument for a Bavarian named Miller or Müller on my father’s side…ah diversity.      

In the early to middle 1700s settlers with the names of Perry, Rogers, Griffin and Morrow made their way South from the chilly North through Virginia’s and North Carolina‘s Appalachia.  Eventually they would settle in the fertile area around the Catawba River in northern South Carolina and bring sayings and superstitions picked up along the way. 

I ’m not sure how the side of my family with the surname Miller got here.  There seems to be an argument over its English or German roots. More research is needed.

Shivering a bit, I found that the saying that sent me down my rabbit hole should have in fact been, “A rabbit (or goose) ran across my grave.”  According to Appalachian lore, your final resting place is preordained and anytime an animal runs across the site of your grave to be, you shiver. 

I don’t remember my family being overtly superstitious…well my father with his Miller surname, always spit on the windshield of our car (yuck) and made the sign of an X any time a black cat crossed our path. 

From the Appalachians, the practice is believed to ward off any bad luck that some say follows the four-legged creature, long seen as an ominous sign of bad luck in the Southern Appalachians.  From my research, it appears that the sign must be made three times and that spit is not needed to ward off the bad luck.

Also, from Appalachian folklore, toss a pinch of the spilt salt over your left shoulder into the face of the Devil who lurks there. Always leave a building using the same door as you entered to avoid bad luck. “Nevah, evah” nudge an empty rocking chair lest you invite the wrath of evil spirits.

My favorite might be holding your breath as you pass by a cemetery so you do not accidentally inhale a recently departed soul.  That makes sense. I have enough voices in my head without adding a departed soul.

One that didn’t make sense to me was gathering acorns amid a thunderstorm and placing them on the windowsills to protect their home from lightning strikes. Not sure about that one, seems gathering acorns from under a tall oak tree during a lightning storm might be counterproductive as in dangerous. 

Another, for those of us with apple trees, remember to leave a single apple hanging from at the end of the harvest, lest they attract the Devil.

I coached baseball most of my teaching career and while studies show that the passing on of Appalachian superstitions is in cultural decline, I assure you, in baseball superstitions are alive and well. Much effort is made attempting to please the baseball gods.

In an age of non-wood bats, if someone goes on a hitting spree; everyone wants to use his bat.  Anyone in a zero forever slump, their bat was avoided like the plague.

If a pitcher is pitching a no hitter late, never mention it, don’t talk about it even in whispered voices. In fact just ignore the pitcher totally.

One of my teams used a “rally monkey”, dugout Ju Ju in the form of hand jives, and even had a model toilet to flush their frustrations down. Anything that might help appease the gods of the diamond.

As a manager, I never stepped on the white line entering or exiting the field of play.  That is bad Ju Ju for sure.  No, I don’t know why? 

I always looked for a red head to rub for good luck.  Not sure the young lady in the first-row bleachers seats appreciated me rubbing her. A bad joke. I looked for a red headed player to rub his head.

One of my biggest superstitions was to make sure I changed everything except my uniform when on a winning streak.  Baseball players are notorious for wearing the same underwear or socks, over and over again, unwashed until a streak comes to an end.  I made sure I stayed clear of dirty socks or underwear.

One of my teams went on a twenty-two-game winning streak.  No one washed their socks…except me and I only washed mine.  I didn’t check their underwear. I changed everything every game.  Socks and underwear as fresh as Arm and Hammer could make them. My players? The aroma from their socks was strong. Left unattended the socks might walk off on their own.  When the streak was over, we had a ceremonial burial of the socks in the deep centerfield outfield. Grass still refuses to grow there.

There are plenty of superstition in baseball. Eating special pregame meals, jumping over foul lines, putting an X or writing a message in the corner of the batters box or behind the mound, talking to the ball or bat while going through batting rituals, ala Mike Hargrove, the “Human Rain Delay.”

My favorite baseball film is the 1989 comedy, Major League. Much was comedy but so much of the comedy happens in real life or at least real baseball life.  The reason it is a favorite is the character Pedro Cerrano, the Cuban player who couldn’t hit a curve ball believing his bat was afraid. Pedro tries to cure his bat by using chicken bones, snakes, and a nonexistent Vodun god named Jobu.

From the movie:

Pedro Cerrano : Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straight ball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come.

Eddie Harris : You know you might think about taking Jesus Christ as your savior instead of fooling around with all this stuff.

Pedro Cerrano : Jesus, (Hey Suse) I like him very much, but he no help with curveball.

Eddie Harris : You trying to say Jesus Christ can’t hit a curveball?

I had a player who carried around chicken bones in his bat bag hoping the bat would gain favor with the baseball gods. No snakes, no cigars or rum…may be. I don’t know how he felt about Jesus Christ but he was Catholic.  Like most players, he struggled with hitting anything that bent unless it bent badly.

Me?  In a Pedro Cerrano voice, “I like to drink de rum and smoke de cigar. That is good Ju Ju for me.” I couldn’t hit a curveball consistently and I don’t think it was the bat’s fault. And Eddie Harris, I’m not sure Jesus could hit one either.

Enjoy Pedro in Major League via YouTube.

For more of Don Miller, https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3PWD3_Jlf68shjooz-h5Ll_pyiL0QWZXXc9w3K_UMn2eVm8-sdp4KydlA

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

Venus Rising, Cynicism in Retrograde

Idealism according to the Oxford Online Dictionary is “the practice of forming or pursuing ideals, especially unrealistically” as in  “the idealism of youth” who we all know are ALL unrealistic.  Youthful Don Quixotes, chasing their unrealistic, idealistic, and impractical windmills…oh, how I love and miss thee.

The online dictionary supplied synonyms, one which caught my eye. Romanticism, “a movement in the arts and literature that originated in the late eighteenth century, emphasizing inspiration, subjectivity, and the primacy of the individual.”

I began thinking about idealism and from Romanticism, subjectivity, “the quality of being based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions”. I thought as I waited to hear the outcome of our election.  I have been thinking about idealism and subjectivity for the past four days as I write this…and maybe will be thinking about it for a while longer. 

My musings began as I watched Venus rise the morning after the election…Venus the Morning Star…“morning not mourning” I thought. Venus was the brightest light in the morning sky and was showing quite large to my eye…the Morning Star heralding a new day.

Like Venus, I am an early riser who, on good weather days, goes out and sits in his chair, lights a cigar, and meditates for a few minutes  while enjoying a cup of Folgers. “The best part of waking up is…” at my age, the best part of waking up is waking up.

I do not know which I noticed first, Venus or the cynicism oozing through my thoughts…I was depressed to boot, my thoughts scrambled like the broken kaleidoscope I have written about previously. 

Instead of brooding, I focused on Venus. The appearance of that heavenly body along with my meditations gave me a bit of hopefulness, based on nothing more than my “personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.” 

It is another day and Venus is just where it was yesterday, give or take a few minutes, a few degrees above or below its former position on the horizon.  The gas shrouded planet is where it was a thousand years ago, cosmological changes not withstanding.  I imagined The Morning Star might be near by in another thousand years.  My hopefulness grew.

It dawned upon me I might not be as jaded as I thought.  Mentally at least, I’m still the young idealist that left my teenage years for the adult world in the late Sixties and early Seventies.  I may be one of the nation’s older teenagers…an old hippie still waiting for the “dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”

I pondered over my idealism and subjectivity. I am dominated by my feelings.  Not very objective. Do not confuse me with the facts so to speak.  I either “feel” someone is right or “feel” something is wrong or if uncertain, according to my grandmother’s advice, assume it is wrong until proven otherwise. 

I have an open mind, I can be convinced of the error of my ways, but again, all things being equal, with no solid facts available, I go with my gut, my feelings.  If it feels wrong, it is wrong. I even took a personality tests that proved that very fact.

So…I have nothing solid to base my hopefulness upon other than my idealism and my subjectivity but, “Its going to be alright.”  There are more good people than bad, and I am hopeful. There are more forward thinkers than backward non-thinkers regardless of political affiliation, regardless of what state you reside in, regardless of religious affiliation.

I was hopeful as my best friend and I began our weekly morning walk at 6:45 on Friday. Venus had disappeared into the sunrise as we talked of peace, elections, religion and a plethora of other problems we could not solve. Maybe we walk too fast…or talk too slowly. We are Southerners.

We are polar opposites in our outlook on life. He the lifelong Republican, I the left leaning Independent who voted Democrat this cycle. He’s the life long Southern Baptist, I the…I’m no longer sure. I am hopeful because we have found common ground for over forty years and friendship upstages political or religious affiliation.

I am hopeful because of the smiling young lady who serves us coffee at our afterwalk haunt, The Tree House Cafe. The haunt is an eclectic and welcoming little hole in the wall and Lindi’s eight a. m. smile and laugh are brighter than the colorful tattoos peeking from below the sleeves of her sweat shirt. A bright and hopeful youth with oodles of energy early on a Friday morning…not mourning.

There are a group of high school students sitting around a large table, their laptops open and at the ready. I am told by Kristen, one of the owners, they are a study group from the local high school. Kristen is bright, smiling, and welcoming as always. An art teacher and artist, my guess is we share a bit of the same idealism.

The retired teacher in me wanted to admonish the students for not wearing facemasks but instead kept my mouth shut. The same old teacher watched their work from afar, their flurries of activity surrounding burst of laughter bringing a smile to my face. I’m hopeful despite the lack of masks and amazed at their early morning energy. I miss my days of warping the minds of our youth.

Our hope…our salvation is our youth, young people like Lindi, the study group, and young folk like them.

Despite my idealism it is time for an aging “dudeist” like myself to step aside and turn the world over to the young. We baby boomers had our time and royally screwed things up in my mind…my “personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.”  We need to see if the young can do a better job. We know longer live in the world of our youth…the new world doesn’t run the same way.

I’m hopeful the “rising” generation will be our “Venus Rising.” I am hopeful they will continue to pursue their unrealistic ideals and put wings to their dreams. I am hopeful they will ignore all of us who continue to try and put them in a box not of their choosing. I hope cynicism continues in retrograde even if it is just my own.

As I finished these musings I walked outside again. Venus was obscured by the predawn cloud cover and my hopefulness was tempered but only for a moment. The cloud passed and Venus reappeared heralding a bright new morning, allowing me to be hopeful again.

(For a definition of Dudeism, see below)

***

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR23wUPDyCrxyhUiWI0EHKFTmJjLwrAAXOC4Z5Y9Foz95T-JdxM4CkFZFB0

Because I couldn’t find a picture of the planet that I liked I chose SANDRO BOTTICELLI’S THE BIRTH OF VENUS, C. 1486…a picture of a painting I do like.

“Dudeism” is a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle inspired by “The Dude”, the protagonist of the Coen Brothers’ 1998 film The Big Lebowski. Dudeism advocates and encourages the practice of “going with the flow”, “being cool headed”, and “taking it easy” in the face of life’s difficulties, believing that this is the only way to live in harmony with our inner nature and the challenges of interacting with other people. I am a fully ordained Dudeist Priest.

Bull Nuts…Black Walnuts

I do not know how many black walnut trees I have in and around my yard, at least a half dozen maybe a couple of more. Too many this time of year. I know having one is too many. Worse, this appears to be a banner year for walnuts. 

“Deez nuts”, big ole bull testicle sized fruit lurking in the grass, just waiting to cause an ankle turn or if there is a breeze, just waiting to drop from the heavens like a World War Two Dam Buster bomb.  Thump, thump, thump. “Lawd hep you if you are under one of them.”

I’m watching one of my squirrels trying to carry one. He is funny, he can’t get the walnut through the chain link fence. Okay, he’s figured it out and is up and over. They can only carry them one at a time but they are carrying them with a frenzy. Every squirrel frequenting my bird feeders could work from now until all the cows come home and I’d still be tripping over walnuts.

Red Squirrel Workout | Body Soul and Spirit
Poor guy. https://bodysoulspiritwp.wordpress.com/2008/10/25/red-squirrel-workout/

Black walnuts have already shredded two hot houses forcing me to cut polymer sheeting to protect my bride’s tender plants.  Judging from the nuts still hanging from the trees, I’ll probably be cutting more. Gazing heavenward I wondered if I was beating a dead mule or whether I should head inside for the old football helmet to protect my head. 

Walnuts are not pretty trees.  Walnut trees produce wonderful milled lumber, pretty on the inside, not on the outside.  Sounds like the description of a blind date I once had.  “Well old son, she don’t sweat much and she’s got a great personality.”

When my bride and I renovated our farmhouse, we used black walnut and pecan that came from the property after a run in with a tornado.  Still…I periodically check the counter tops to make sure there are not black walnuts being produced.

The trees themselves are the last to put on their leaves in the spring and the first to shed in the fall.  They don’t shed single leaves but rather they shed entire “fans” of leaves.  Thin, twiggy shoots that clog gutters and defy leaf rakes and blowers and stain the green metal roof black. No beautiful leaf colors unless you like brown.  Left to me I would cut them all down…but of course, it isn’t left to me.

I am in the process of picking up the bull nuts…I mean walnuts.  Big green pods…maybe Jolly Green Giant nuts are a better descriptor? Big green pods turning black, the size of a cue ball.  You look at them and think, “Boy that’s a big nut with plenty of seed.” 

Big nut? No, that is the outer covering, the husk.  The husk is pungently acrid, turns your hands brownish black, and when striped away reveals a small, brown, hard, and corrugated nut.  The actual nut is about the size of a human…no, not a good descriptor. 

U.S.: Commercial black walnut production a "long-term goal" at Hammons -  FreshFruitPortal.com
https://www.freshfruitportal.com/news/2017/11/20/u-s-commercial-black-walnut-production-long-term-goal-hammons/

I should alert you; the easiest labor is picking them up.  Getting the husk off to reveal the nut is messy.  You will discover the nut itself is so hard it will withstand a hundred megaton nuclear strike.  All nuclear bunkers should be armored with black walnuts.  Okay, just a bit of an embellishment but when someone uses the descriptor that someone “is a hard nut to crack” they were talking about black walnuts. They are nothing like their thin skinned cousin, the English walnut.

An anvil and a five-pound sledge?  Crush them with a vice? Bagging them in a croaker sack and running over them with a car?  Dropping them from the International Space Station?  So much work for so little reward.  Impossible to get the nut out whole. 

Black Walnut: A Favorite for Flavor - State Parks Blogs
Well done whomever you are. https://blindpigandtheacorn./com/cracking-black-walnuts

Oh, but black walnut cookies are so tasty you say…and black walnut pie, or black walnut pound cake.  Sorry, I will take peanut butter cookies, pecan pie, and plain pound cake…or go to the grocery store and buy English walnuts for the banana-nut bread.

I guess good things take an effort.  I remember black walnuts spread out in my grandmother’s old crib drying, the green husks turning black and shriveling like scrotums in cold weather…shriveling, not turning black…unless you are Black of course.

I remember my grandfather’s anvil and ball and peen hammer in use before Thanksgiving and Christmas…I just do not remember the desserts created from them.  My grandmother was not known for her desserts it would seem.  Pounds and pounds of nuts to get a handful of meat.  A lot of hard work invested for low reward. 

I am not even close to getting them all off the ground and have already filled one garden trailer and begun my second load.  I wonder if I can give them away for Christmas gifts.  Here Bro, here is your croaker sack filled with black walnuts…”What, you expected me to crack them.  I love you but I love no one that much.”  “Wait…you can sell them for fifteen smackaroos per pound shelled?  Still not worth it.  I’ll give them away whole.”

The Hunt for Black Walnuts Yields Highest-Ever Price and Tasty Treats -  Hammons Black Walnuts
https://black-walnuts.com/press-release/hunt-black-walnuts-yields-highest-ever-price-tasty-treats/

Well, it is breezy and a bit wet so for my own well being I will not venture out today to the black walnuts.  It already sounds like boulders are being thrown on to our metal roof.  Tomorrow could be a long day. Bull Nuts!!!!

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1DzBqVKFYXlRQRirpJrr5VAdCV9O8YZto-krRTOrnbHNm1h9UWk85RPH8

Featured image of the squirrel on a chain link fence is from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/199002877267587450/?nic_v2=1a3SbW1kc

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?”

***

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

Adventures in Paradise

Martin Denny’s “Quiet Village” is playing in my head.  An early morning conversation with Margaret Dacko cued the music along with a mental side trip to a sandy beach with palm trees and tropical blue-green waters.

I gleefully follow the rabbit trails my mind takes me down.  Wandering is therapeutic, even if it is in your head.  I try to stop short of falling into Alice’s rabbit hole but sometimes….  “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there” or even better, “If you don’t know where you are going you cannot get lost.” 

My rabbit track resembled a jungle waterway filled with alligators, crocodiles, and hippos.  Parrots and other exotics darted in and out of the lush foliage that bordered both sides of the waterway.  Eventually it led to a pristine shoreline complete with coconut trees, emerald blue waters, ivory white sands, and of course native girls in coconut bras waiting on me hand and foot.  There may be a boat drink complete with umbrella in my near future..but doubt the appearance of a native girl.  Is that a sailing ship I see on my horizon?

Margaret Dacko is a former teaching chum and dear friend who shares my curse, being unable to sleep like normal people.  Sometimes, like this morning, we converse during the early, still dark hours via Facebook. 

Our conversation led me to Martin Denny, James A. Michener, Gardner McKay, and the South Pacific or Caribbean Islands of my youthful dreams.  There may be a jungle or two residing there too.

I wander down my rabbit trail to a Monday night in 1959 and an ABC program, Adventures in Paradise,  A program I sometimes was able to watch depending upon atmospheric conditions.  A snowy Gardner McKay starring as Captain Adam Troy of the sailing schooner Tiki.  Sailing around the South Pacific for an hour minus commercials, searching for adventure and romance, always finding a reasonable facsimile around the Tiki’s home port in Tahiti or the Pacific beyond. 

Theme from Adventures in Paradise along with stills from the series. YouTube

Our conversation continued and now I’m playing Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song” in my head, “Day-O, Day, Day, Ohhh! Daylight come and me want to go home.”  Later my memories trade Harry and Gardner for Perez Prado’s “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,” from the movie Underwater featuring Jane Russell’s breasts in a swimsuit.  I was a young teen when I saw them on NBC Saturday Night at the Movies…I mean it, saw it, the movie, saw the movie. I just remembered Jacqueline Bisset in the movie The Deep. Nice T-Shirt.

Perez Prado and his orchestra. YouTube
Underwater! | Trailers From Hell
A pair of nice ones…Richard Egan and Jane Russell. Movie Underwater. https://trailersfromhell.com/underwater/

As a child and young teen, I was drawn to my grandmother’s National Geographic magazines.  Monthly windows into a world far from the landlocked upper state of South Carolina.  Family vacations to Myrtle Beach or Florida would be as close as I would get to the exotic far off places I read about or dreamed of.  My pirate ship was a small Sunfish sailboat sailed on local lakes…my jungles, the forests of Upstate South Carolina. The Sunfish would be as close to sailing off into the sunset to a tropical island or jungle as I would come.

There would be other books or programs that drew my interest to the exotic, Mitchener, James Clavell or John C. McDonald.  Thor Heyerdahl’s real life exploits aboard the Kon-Tiki.  Marlin Perkins battling an anaconda on the Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.   Of course, there was Magnum P.I‘s Hawaiian paradise and the short lived Tales of the Gold Monkey as I moved into adulthood.

There were movies galore in my youth, usually B-movies shown late at night or Sunday afternoons after church. Tarzan or Jungle Jim with Johnny Weissmuller seemed to be a weekly offering. The Saturday morning lineup included reruns of Jon Hall’s Ramar of the Jungle and for some reason I’m seeing Rita Hayworth singing and dancing in Miss Sadie Thompson…hummm, “The Heat is On”. All would be considered socially unacceptable today but were important to my “Beach Boy” attitude.

The Heat is On Rita Hayworth

Even today, much that I read occurs in sunny tropical or at least coastal settings.  I seem to still be drawn to the exotic.

Pat Conroy’s stories set in Charleston, James Lee Burke dark mysteries along the Gulf coast and New Orleans, or Randy Wayne White’s Sanibel Island hero, Doc Ford.  I always thought I wanted to live at a coast…which is why I live as far from the ocean as I can live in South Carolina and still remain in the state of South Carolina. 

I haven’t gone to Tahiti or ventured below the equator to see the Southern Cross.  I still read about soft tropical breezes while roasting my own jerked chicken or coconut shrimp on my Weber listening to Margaritaville on Sirius.  I get to live vicariously through others in my Hawaiian shirt without leaving my recliner or backyard. Still I feel a bit of wanderlust…to the fridge for a Dos Equis or the margarita mix.

Maybe when I finally grow up, I’ll make that trip to Australia.  Maybe move to the Pacific side of South America or a Caribbean island, living my autumn years as an incognito Norte Americano expatriate, all mysterious, an odd little man.  Or maybe I’ll just keep reading, living the life of a want to be beach bum in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  I think I’ll get a flagpole and run up a pirate flag.  Now I’m hearing Buffett sing “A Pirate Looks at Forty” even though that is a birthday distant in my rear-view mirror.

A Pirate Looks at Forty, Jimmy Buffett YouTube

Thanks for the memories Margaret.    

My little piece of exotica. Martin Denny is again playing in my head.

The featured image is from Adventures in Paradise with Captain Troy at the wheel and an unknown guest star who I should know.

Please take a moment to like Don’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3nOBjsp8pBzGU8xJQhoSoZk0SvTPWGEhJEdHkZbe8Y14MMdUFm1IPSyBI

Ha, Ha, Ha! Stupid Man Goes Boom!

Figs, Fig Beetles, A Step Ladder, and Me

What Not To Do When You Fall Out of Your Treestand
A Figeater Beetle from the National History Museum https://nhm.org/stories/when-fig-beetles-attack

It was a beautiful morning.  I had a perfect view of the bright blue sky and the puffy white clouds chasing each other across it.  I turned my head to the left and noted the grass was a well-manicured, deep green and thankfully plush against my back.  To my right was a somewhat mangled step ladder.

I was reminded of the many times I lay in the grass as a child watching clouds, attempting to imagine what their shapes might be.  I might see a horse, or the North American continent maybe.  Chewing on a piece of grass watching Lassie with Timmy giving chase across the sky.  Godzilla headed toward Tokyo to stomp it flat.  This was not one of those times.

My mother-in-law has a huuuuuge fig tree.  Not just huge…it is huuuuuge!  And it is loaded with figs.  Three pickings into August and there are still ‘all the figs in the world’…plus one.  There are also all the yellow jackets, wasps, and huge figeater beetles in the world.  “Every rose has its thorns” and every fig tree little stinging bastards or beetles…big green, droning beetles with the grace of a C-17 Globemaster.  Maybe the weight too.

I hate to be wasteful and there seemed to be thousands of figs just out of reach, dangling just above my outstretched hand.  Enough to fill a dozen or more canning jars with preserves and enough left over for roasted figs in balsamic vinegar wrapped in prosciutto, or honey-fried figs smothering a buttered, cathead biscuit.  All I needed was the step ladder…and a biscuit.

I was doing well, balancing myself on the step ladder.  The little neighbor kid watching from the fence. A child of four or five.

I’d picked two Walmart bags full of figs.  Shake the limb so any biting bastards would skedaddle…but the fig beetles, some were slow to move…and even slower to change direction.  They isssss huuuuge too…some an inch long!  Lawdy mercy.  Big and metallic green, they have the agility of a drunken elephant.  It also appears they are easily confused.

These droning, drunken beetles are scarabs.  The same scarabs made famous by the ancient Egyptians.  The same family of beetles that includes dung beetles that spend their days rolling cow poop into little balls.  They are known to bury two-hundred and fifty times their weight in dung in one night. 

Why I asked myself.  Wish I had not asked.  They eat poop and hollow out the balls as a mating chamber.  How romantic.  What wine goes with poop?

Dung Beetle chilling on a dung ball. http://www.livescience.com

They are hard-bodied, not so little, muthaf@#$as that will knock you off a step ladder when they make solid contact directly between your eyes. 

I moved more slowly than it did, but I moved which caused the step ladder to mimic a drunken sailor bouncing off of alleyway walls.  Not so suddenly, I was laying in the grass watching clouds chase each other across a brilliant blue sky…and why I’m sitting here icing a shoulder and a hip.

What really intrigued me was how long it took me to fall from the fourth or fifth step of the ten-foot step ladder to the ground where I landed with a thump and a bounce.  In my mind I heard the kid snicker, “Stupid man went boom…ha, ha, ha!” 

I understand gravity, bodies accelerate at nine point eight meters per second squared.  With nothing to impede your fall, like say air or fig tree limbs, a body will accelerate at nine point eight meters per second for every second the body falls until it reaches terminal velocity. 

Newton lied!  It took me forever to fall from up there to down there and my feet were no more than a meter and a half, say six or eight feet, off the ground.  Well, they were probably higher when my feet and head exchanged places.  Thankfully, I never reached a terminal velocity, just a painful one.

I had time to think through my entire life story…but I did not.  While falling to my death, I did not want to think about why the little blond threw me over in the eighth grade. 

Instead, I thought about how stupid I was to get knocked off a step ladder by a big dung rolling bug. I still had time to plan on executing a tuck and roll when I hit.  Funny, it was more a flounder and flop in a cloud of dust…except there was no dust, just wet grass. “Ha, ha, ha! Stupid man goes boom!” Again the four-year-old in my head laughed.

Suddenly, there was the question, “Am I ever going to breathe again?”  That old air just exploded right out of my lungs.  Lawdy Mercy!  Logically, I knew if I just let myself pass out; I would breathe again…maybe.

The next few minutes were spent evaluating pain.  I’m still evaluating.  Painful bruise on the hip but not too bad…vivid colors to come.  My shoulder took the brunt of my death dive.  It hurts bigly! 

I worry I might have torn a rotator cuff.  That would be bad, I still have hopes of pitching in the Bigs…well, maybe I can try out for America’s Got Talent…me and my dancing step ladder.  Fig beetles will be not be allowed. 

Figeater Beetles on a Fig. Picture from wwwgardenbetty.com

Featured image was taken by Julian Paul and appeared in Wide Open Spaces: https://www.wideopenspaces.com/what-not-to-do-when-you-fall-out-of-your-treestand/

Don Miller is a retired teacher and coach who has taken up writing for his own amusement. He writes on various subjects and in various genres. Some would say he can’t figure out what he wants to be. His author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2I89J5GhYSWyipVxhVM2uJ16pfbTOd6lpYyuWOE6iBVwhvj7GKq2QubU0