Fair Winds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sailing by Christopher Cross

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

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

Questions With No Answers

 

Before social distancing became the in thing, I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in thirty years…jeez…more like forty.  I was excited to see her…considering our history excited is not the best descriptor.  Thrilled is a better word.  I was thrilled to see her.

We had a short-term tryst back in the day…just scratching certain itches.  Nothing heavy, a “friends with benefits” kind of thing before “friends with benefits” was a thing…it was the “free love” Seventies after all.  As I think back, I realize there was nothing free about love or even its unreasonable facsimile, lust.

She didn’t recognize me, even when I tried to explain who I was.  Despite the empty feeling in my stomach, I didn’t push it.  She seemed anxious in a bad way.  I think she’s had a stroke or is self-medicating…am I being narcissistic?  Maybe it was my beard, the balding head?  No, I believe there was something wrong.

She seemed frail and infirm.  A woman who once strode through the world confidently was reduced to little shuffles reminiscent of a Chinese woman who had had her feet bound.  The strong alto voice lacked volume and power.  The tall, long-legged, pleasing body seemed to be collapsing in on itself.  Always slender in a good way, she was much too thin.  Maybe it was me looking back on memories through my rose-colored reading glasses.

We remained friends after we both moved on to other places and people…at least I thought we had.  At some point, she seemed to disappear…but, not from memory.  I’ve thought of her often over the years wondering what happened to her.  Wondering if she was happy.  Remembering how foolish I had been.

I wondered if she had moved to a distant part of the world.  Whenever I asked friends, “Have you heard from….”, the answer was always in the negative.

In the mid-80s she decided she was gay and fell under the influence of a “stereotypical” lesbian woman.  You may substitute whatever “stereotype” you wish.  This woman is much more than a stereotype and stereotypes are such oversimplifications.

Still, the time was the Eighties and I was shocked and full of questions.  I’ve often wondered if she crossed over because she was truly lesbian or was it because she had been wounded so many times by people of my gender…or was it I was such a bad lover and friend I drove her to it.  Insecure much?  Ah…yes!

She stumbled and fell over several relationships during those late Seventies and early Eighties.  I wonder if I helped to trip her up as she attempted to recover.  An unwanted splinter under the fingernail of life.  You can tell she is an enigma, she always was.

Are my concerns more about me and my own guilt?  Is it about my own narcissism?  Is it my over-inflated self-importance?  Questions I can’t answer.  Maybe questions I fear to answer.  My greatest question, “Are you happy?”  I hope the answer is yes.

There are questions I can’t even ask.  My friend has dropped off the face of the earth even though she lives exactly where she has always lived.

I think about the crowd we ran with during those thrilling days of yesteryear.  Those days we were lucky to survive.  Those of us still alive have remained in touch.  More so as we have gotten older.  It is as if she has cut all ties with those days and the people who inhabited them with her.   Maybe she wanted to move forward while the rest of us are pulled toward the past.  I know I once did the same thing when my own mistakes became too much of a burden.  Memories too painful to remember…except you do.

Questions, more questions.  Answers, no answers.

***

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0813oF-UzSxgl3eyxNYLytu5JhnD70NuizUBdFlbjT2LTyVAXjPEBJZZE

Life in Black and White

 

I share quotes on my social media accounts.  Quotes I can’t create because I’m not bright enough or because someone said what I wanted to say first…and said it better.  I wish I could be profound but instead, I rely on the words of others to enlighten, humor or sometimes, provoke.

I call these quotes, Don’s Daily Dose because a former student suggested the moniker after reading a few day’s worths.  I’m thankful to her for suggesting the title and helping me to realize someone was actually reading them.

I share these quotes along with some form of artwork to emphasize the point…or just because I liked the snake wrapped around an arm attached to a hand holding an apple… the quote was about temptation after all.  The apple different shades of red, the snake a bright kaleidoscope of color…I find the painting tempting.

2-original-sin-raluca-nedelcu

Original Sin by Raluca Nedelcu https://fineartamerica.com/featured/original-sin-raluca-nedelcu.html?product=art-print

Usually, the art I choose is psychedelic, me embracing my inner hippie.  Vibrant and wild colors from the LSD trip I never took; peace signs, VW microbuses, Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix….  Sometimes I use the book covers from the authors I quote from.  I lean toward bold colors with purple and pink being favorites.

Then I quoted Ansel Adams and looked for art to go with my quote.  I was awed by his landscapes in black and white.  The quote was about the environment, something Adams photographed in black and white, his mode of artistic expression.  Mother Nature stark and sharply in focus…maybe auster.  Nature laid bare, no makeup to soften its features.

The picture I chose of a two-lane blacktop took me back to those thrilling days of yesteryear when “filmed in Technicolor” was the exception, not the norm.  Stark blacks and whites along with muted grays were the standards, life laid bare in living black and white.

Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams Road, Nevada Desert, 1960

Movies, television, stills from Life magazine, most were in black and white in those days.  If I wanted color I thumbed through my grandmother’s National Geographic.  Wild animals and bare-breasted native girls filmed better in color.  In this modern-day, life is replicated exactly as it is on large screened TVs, tablets and I Phones. I still find black and white to be more poignant, more shocking, more potent.

Doretha Lange’s depression-era Migrant Mother does not reflect her pain in its colorized form.  Color is too soft.  Her turned down mouth with fingers stroking the side of her chin…pondering her lot in life it would seem. Her furrowed brow, two of her seven children hiding their faces from the camera.  There are no soft colors, just sharp black, and white pain.

DortheaLange

Destitute mother of seven, Age 32 Doretha Lange https://www.wdl.org/en/item/81/

Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski pleading for “Stella”, wearing a torn and dirty T-shirt, his hands clasped against his head…Same in Technicolor?  Only if his head explodes.  Stanley Kowalski was not a nice person, black and white suits him.

streetcar named

Marlon Brando, A Streetcar Named Desire https://macmcentire.com/2017/04/03/random-warner-bros-a-streetcar-named-desire/

I watched Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald, Freedom Rider buses burn, and Walter Cronkite tell the nation a war was unwinnable after Tet, all and more on a black and white TV.  Those depressing moments were befitting of black and white.  No color necessary, no sugarcoating with pastels, no bold makeup.  Just stark black and white.

Jack Ruby

Jack Ruby shoots Lee Harvey Oswald as Detective James R. Leavelle looks on.  Leavelle passed away on August 2019.  He was 99.  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/29/us/james-leavelle-dead.html

Most of my childhood memories are in black and white.  Friends and family posing, smiling on three, frozen as a Kodak catches their likenesses.  My parents so young in their courting pictures, people long dead, their faces faded in the old albums I liberated after my father’s death.

I sigh, exhaling heavily as I think about them. My winter depression may be sneaking up, edging closer.  It is a bit early yet but it always catches me by surprise like those “backshooters” in the black and white “oaters” I watched as a child.  Bad men willing to do their worst to the Lone Ranger and Tonto.  Willing but not able as they live on in the reruns of life.

It is still pre-dawn as I edit this and there are no colors other than black and gray of night.  Not even a hint of the sunrise to come.  The almost full moon nearing the western horizon doesn’t give enough light for colors to reflect.  I seem to do my best writing in the dark, surrounded by blacks and whites.   My best writing is relative and it is not the way I want to spend the rest of my life.

Life in black and white seems harsh and I’ve had my black and white moments.  Life needs a few black and white moments to give depth and meaning to the warm colors in between.  Profound.  Maybe I am capable of a good quote after all.  Time to greet the sun.

sun2

Autumn Sun by David Galchutt in 2019 | Fall | Sun art, Moon …

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

The featured image was lifted from https://pearlsofprofundity.wordpress.com/2014/07/12/life-in-black-and-white/

 

 

 

Confessions of a Coaching Fraud…

 

My induction into a former high school’s athletic hall of fame has me flitting hither and yon over memories from forty-plus years of teaching and coaching.  For some reason, I don’t feel very worthy of the accolades.

It was great to see former players now conquering their own lives and being successful by any standard applied. Former students, coaching peers, and parents stopping by and pumping my hand or hugging my neck.  It wasn’t great, it was wonderful.

Still, I wonder in the back of my head, “Why?”  “How?”  “Am I a fraud?”  Sometimes things were too easy…except when they weren’t.

Dozens have extended congratulations and well wishes on social media and email.  Despite my pride and delight…I don’t feel worthy.

The festivities were poignant, my plaque sitting alongside Tim Bright’s, a player who passed too soon due to colon cancer.  A player who was, along with hundreds of others, responsible for my success.  I wonder what he might have accomplished had he not left us.  His family is so dedicated to his memory.  His charity is still doing great things for those who suffered as he did.

My wife…a former coach herself and far superior in my estimation.  As always, standing by my side.  Always supportive, always ready with a meaningful critique of the last game’s outcome.  Greatest supporter and greatest critic.  “Just let them play and quit bunting so much.”  “Why did you do….”  I do miss her voice distinguishable from anywhere in a stadium no matter how large or loud the crowd was.  “Come on Coach, run your other play!”  I am so lucky and so unworthy.

As I look back, it seemed too easy.  I know I’m looking through the sands of time and the time is becoming a sandstorm.  Still, great assistant coaches, great players, and great parents made my successes.  I just walked around being me.

I’ve heard so many horror stories that I never experienced.  There were just a few bad apples, just a few obstacles…maybe they weren’t bad apples…maybe I just did find the key to unlock their potential.  I do feel like the king of frauds.

There were laughs and tears but the tears were minimal.  When we gather and exclaim, “Do you remember…?”, the question is always about the laughs.  It is easy to remember the good times.

Through the magnifying glass of retrospection, even the bad seasons were good.  Seasons we knew we were bad but managed to get better.  Sometimes a seven-win season could be as rewarding as a state championship season.  Seasons you really didn’t know how good or bad you were.  Seasons you just put in the work that didn’t seem like work and hoped for the best.  I believe I always received the best they had.  I hope they received mine.

When I first began my coaching journey, I was terrible.  Some might say, “Nothing ever changed.” It is a fact I’m comfortable with because I believe I grew despite feeling apologetic to those early teams.

I grew and turned a corner of sorts after a bitter loss. I lamented to the offending coach. “I don’t know what to do.”  His answer was, “You love them.  Remember, you’re not coaching football, you’re coaching kids.  Win or lose you love them.”  I tried to apply his nugget through the rest of my career.

Names and faces blur over time but I can honestly and unapologetically say, “I loved them.”  I didn’t coach football, soccer or baseball, I coached kids.  Maybe I’m not as big a fraud as I believe.

It has been three years since I last stalked a sideline or a dugout.  I honestly haven’t missed the practices or the games.  Every time I think I might return to a grassy field my body does something to remind me of the beating it has taken over the years and those feelings pass.

What I miss is the comradery.  I miss the interactions with my players, the coaches and the opponents staring back at me from the opposing dugout or sideline.  Those were good times and I miss them.

I still feel like a fraud.  It was too much fun, it was too easy.  Great players make for good coaches.  I had a cornucopia of great players. Thanks for the memories guys, thanks for the effort, thanks for my successes.  Thanks for letting me be me and letting me be a part of your lives.

HOF

Don Miller writes at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The featured image was lifted from https://eic.rsc.org/feature/coaching-for-success/3010068.article.

The whistle is the symbol of the coaching profession.  I find it interesting that I rarely used one.

Bookmarks From My Book of Life

 

I’ve sung, played and danced badly all my life.  Some of my earliest memories include the old upright in my grandmother’s hallway, my uncle’s mandolin and the whiny bluegrass he sang…”Blue moon of Kentucky….”  Singing, first in the youth choir at church, then in the adult choir, the high school chorus and playing in the concert band, the college band and a brief stint as a discordant sax playing rock star.

Participating in a men’s quartet singing “Just Have a Little Talk With Jesus,” my thin baritone joining in at the Fifth Sunday Night Sing.  My Uncle James making a not so joyful noise unto the Lord, my cousins and I trapped in the cab of the old flatbed truck as we moved hay bales or corn to the songs he sang.  I’ll say this, he sang praise tunes with great gusto and vigor, but if notes were water molecules, he couldn’t have found one while standing in the ocean.  It didn’t stop him from trying.

I guess what I’m trying to say, on this fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock and the death of Easy Rider’s Peter Fonda, music has played prominently in my life…if not a backdrop for my life, a bookmark.  “Don Miller, A Rock Opera.”

Dancing in the privacy of my room to the songs played on WLS, Chicago.  Beach Music at The Cellar as a young adult.  A cute redhead, and Eddie Floyd singing “Knock on Wood” as I danced badly with her at a rural jook joint outside Newberry.  We danced badly around a divorce later.  Not all bookmarks lead to soothing anodynes.  Some are like sleeping in a patch of prickly pear cactus.

Doing the horizontal rumba for the first time in the backseat of an old Ford while Lou Christy sang “Rhapsody in the Rain”.  Humm.  That earlier relationship didn’t end well either, but I don’t believe it had anything to do with the music.

The movie Easy Rider was an eye-opener and for me heralded a change…although it might have taken forty years for the change to occur.  I’ve only recently embraced my hippie self.  I was a rhythm and blues, beach music, soul music kind of guy…probably still am but sitting at a drive-in with the cute redhead who became ex-wife number one, I became mesmerized, not by the film but by the soundtrack.  Later, I would add the complete Woodstock to my album collection…wonder what happened to those bookmarks, the albums not the ex-wife.

I walked today as I do nearly every day, my playlist playing in my earbuds, just like every day.  Today there was a little dance step to my walk as I thought about Peter Fonda.  I decided to dial up my Easy Rider playlist that includes three different versions of “The Weight”.  One can never get too much of a good song.  

I think I scared a local woman smoking an early morning cigarette on her front porch as I belted out “Born to be Wild”.  I flushed a pair of mourning doves, mourning my off keyed version of “A Little Help From My Friends” while doing my best Joe Cocker impersonation on the double lane. “Don’t Bogart that joint my friend….”  Fun memories bookmarked in my mind.

Some of the bookmarks haunt me but even those trigger warm memories. Ghost stories of friends now gone.  My coconspirators in crime the summers of ’68 and ’69 are both gone to the great cosmic rock concert that is the afterlife.  I miss them almost as much as my lost youth of the same time period.

I wrote about a haunted pink iPod in an earlier blog from a couple of years ago.  A former love now dead gave me the Crosby, Stills and Nash album that featured the song “Southern Cross.”  It’s a song about a long boat trip taken by a man trying to heal his wounds after a bad divorce…what is a good divorce?

We were both wounded, and the song spoke to us as we tried to console each other in ways men and women have been consoling each other for all recorded time, I guess.  After she died, I put the song on my playlist and for some reason, no matter how many times I changed the playlists, the lament was always there…haunting me along with her.

“When you see the Southern Cross for the first time

You understand now why you came this way

‘Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small

But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a coming day”

 

We were never truly in love, more like friends with benefits, but she is still one of the bookmarks that haunts me.  The old iPod is long since been retired but she is a bookmark, like Easy Rider soundtrack or an old Gospel tune that triggers warm memories in my book of life.

“So I’m sailing for tomorrow, my dreams are a dyin’

And my love is an anchor tied to you, tied with a silver chain

I have my ship and all her flags are a-flyin’

She is all I have left and music is her name”

Music is her name and I call to it often.  For the complete song…

 

 

Quotes and video are from the song “Southern Cross” and the album Daylight Again by Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

Don Miller writes badly about many subjects, both fictional and only somewhat embellished.  For more, go to his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The featured image is of Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson, and Dennis Hopper.  It is from a movie review https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/easy-rider-review-movie-1969-1221117

Possum Holler and Pig Trails

 

I grew up just south of Possum Holler on an unnamed dirt road that ran west before paralleling the Catawba River north toward the Sugar Creek…well, I guess the dirt road had a name after all.  The River Road…the problem was there were many unnamed river roads in the area and its name has nothing to do with the pig trails my brain is taking me down.  Or does it?

I saw a request for historical information as to how Possum Holler Road might have gotten its name.  You reckin’ cuz there might have been a few “possums in that there holler”…that’s the way folks said it back then.  Not hollow but holler…and the same folks pronounced yellow…yeller.  I’m not making fun of anyone who changes their w’s to r’s.  I’ve been known to revert when I get a few shots of brown liquor in my gullet.  I tend to drop my gs too.  But it’s not about the way people talk.

It’s about places like Possum Holler, or Frog Level or my absolute favorites, Sugar Tit and Happy Bottom…and hundreds or thousands of others.  Mostly small places, some nothing more than wide places in the road.  I’ve always enjoyed places with the “Now Entering So and So” and the “Now Leaving So and So” sign on the same post.

It’s about discovery.  Discoveries you must get off the interstate to see.  Pig trails leading to crossroads where you flip a coin to decide which direction to turn and end up in a place you didn’t know you would miss if you hadn’t found it.  Pig trails you purposely get lost on.  “Which way do you think?”  “I don’t know…turn left?”  Can one be lost if one doesn’t care where one is going?

Some of the pig trails have names like the Natchez Trace, the Woodpecker Trail…or Scenic Highway 11, the pig trail I live on.  Even those have become too crowded…like the Possum Holler of my youth.  One must get off those well-traveled roads.  One must take a chance; you can’t get lost if you don’t know where you are going and have a full tank of gas.

Back in the day, when my bride and I ransomed our monetary souls for our little piece of heaven…our monetary souls are still ransomed, our car and the myriads of pig trails and wide places populating our realm became an outlet.  Instead of a knightly steed, we explored our domain in an ’87 Thunderbird to the tune of two hundred and sixteen thousand miles.

When we were really brave we took my old Toyota Landcruiser up over Glassy and Chestnut Mountains before the rich developers closed them off to the serfs and peons.  Golfers in Mercedes replaced the rednecks in four-wheel drives.

Still, we stranded ourselves on more than one occasion.  Being stranded ain’t too bad when you are crazy in love and have friends who will come and yank you back upright.

When we visited family or friends in far off places, we made sure we got off the interstate. We would pour over road atlases looking for pig trails leading through interesting places.  We spent the night in a long-dead Mississippi River boat captains’ home near Shiloh Church, ate dinner in a haunted restaurant in Natchez Under the Hill, made love in an Antebellum mansion in Vicksburg, and stopped to read every historical marker we saw.  Too much information?

We visited a baseball coach’s nirvana, Rosenblatt in Omaha during the most wonderful time of the year, The College World Series.  But we got off the interstate.

We drove from New Orleans to Pensacola off the interstate, stopping at all the little coastal towns.  Took forever…it was wonderful.  We even had to argue with our GPS in the delta when it said our destination was a mile straight ahead despite the Mississippi River saying otherwise.

After the Thunderbird came a Mustang convertible and our road trips became even more fun.  Even Sugar Tit looks different when the top is down and the wind is blowing through your hair.

We’ve gotten out of the habit…no we’ve gotten lazy.  Sometimes life gets in the way, other times you use it as an excuse.  We’ve become old and boring.  We make excuses not to pack a lunch and the puppies into the car and head out to Coosawatchie, or Hell’s Half Acre which is right next to Happy Bottom.

They all exist right here in South Carolina although those might be too far away for the puppies. See?  Excuses.  We should load them and drive up to Rocky Bottom, it’s close by…that’s right we must drive UP to get DOWN to Rocky Bottom.

We have to do better.  We’re not getting any younger and someone said time slows for no one.  I don’t know where this week has gone so that someone must be correct.

Time to find a pig trail heading to Tuxedo and maybe on to Climax.  They’re in close by North Carolina.  Possum Holler is too populated these days…and not with possums.

For those of you in the area, Possum Holler should not be confused with the Possum Kingdom.  They are not the same except for being humorously named.

The image came from Possum Holler Road located in Indian Land, South Carolina in Lancaster County.  I guess Indian Land is another interesting name.

Apologies to those who stopped to read thinking this was about possums or pigs.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found AND LIKED at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

 

The Toad in the Corner

 

I am bad.  I continue to smoke my one cigar a day…unless it turns into two…never more than two.  I just executed a mental eye roll.  Normally I sit under the massive tulip poplar in my backyard and enjoy an adult beverage while I feed my addiction.  Do I enjoy the cigar due to my addiction or because of the joy it brings me? That is a discussion for a later date.

It’s been hot and humid, and I’ve taken to sitting on my back stoop instead of taking the long, sweaty twenty-five-yard walk to the tree and the chair sitting under it.  My picture should go beside the definition of lazy in the latest dictionary.  It is more about the mosquitoes infesting the shrubbery around my normal imbibing location.  There doesn’t seem to be as many bloodsuckers at my stoop and I may know one of the reasons why.

I sat watching the smoke curl from the smoldering end of my stogie, contemplating nothing more than my navel when I saw her.  In the corner where the rock wall and foundation meet, where the leaves have built up due to my earlier admission of laziness, a large toad had backed herself into the corner and is also watching the smoke curl from the cigar.

She is an American Toad…I think.  Could be a Fowler’s but I am not an authority on amphibians…and don’t want to be but I am better versed in toad activities than I once was.  Thank you, Google.  Despite my research, I don’t even know if she is really a she but shes are usually larger than hes and she is one of the largest toads I’ve seen.

Toady has been in the corner for weeks now.  She sits patiently waiting for the darkness and the relative cool of the evening.  I see her often sitting under the flood light, bathing in its glow or waiting for a juicy morsel to fly by?

I check on her often…not just when I feed my addiction.  I don’t know why I check.  I guess to reassure myself that all is right in the world.  I have seen her around for years…maybe it was her, all American toads seem to look alike.  Well, she was still there five minutes ago at least.  Looking fat and sassy from a night of eating mosquitoes I hope.

I’ve not named her because I worry Herbert the Rat Snake and his kin are skulking around waiting for a meal.  As I understand it, from the extensive research on toads I tried to reframe from doing.  I probably could name her.   Seems she is not too tasty…does Mr. No Shoulders have taste buds or does Toady just give him gas?  More research to come and maybe I have named her.

For more musings go to https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

If you are interested in sexy, romantic adventure, Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson can be found at https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B07B6BDD19?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

LIFE, BASEBALL, AND A TRANSISTOR RADIO

 

There was once a young boy who went to sleep listening to his small transistor radio.  The circular dial on its front was more than a tuner, it was the young boy’s window to a far away world…the destination depending upon atmospheric conditions.

AM radio, Amplitude Modulation,  is still iffy in perfect conditions and FM, Frequency Modulation, was the new-fangled, next big thing of the early Sixties.  AM radio stations blasting rock and roll so clearly during the daylight hours became impossible to pick up due to changes in the ionosphere or went off the air entirely.

Magically it seemed to the young boy,  AM transmitters bounced their signal off the charged layer of the atmosphere.  Honestly, the old man who replaced the young boy still believes it is magic.  The young boy knew none of the science, he just knew night time brought in far off places and in the summer, brought him baseball games played late into the night.

Just last night I was reminded of the young boy, now wrinkled and gray.  As I drove home in the early evening, my satellite radio brought in a far off, crystal-clear signal from somewhere on the left coast.  Not the crackling, fading in or out signal from his childhood.

The little transistor radio brought him games played by  “Mr. Sunshine”, Ernie Banks of the Cubbies or “The Killer”, Harmon Killebrew of the Twins…depending upon atmospheric condition.  Sometimes it brought games from southern climes with sportscasters speaking in an excited, rapid-fire language the young boy did not understand.  On very special nights, the atmospheric gods brought him the Detroit Tigers and their star outfielder Al Kaline.  I remember the young boy struggling to stay awake long enough to hear the last out recorded.

This was a time when baseball was the American Pastime…before the breakneck speed of our lives, the internet, iPhones, and interactive video games made baseball seem too slow.  This was a time when we built up our athletic idols instead of finding ways to tear them down.  A time before the designated hitter and performance-enhancing drugs.  It was an era when bases were bags and sandlots and playgrounds were filled with youth dreaming of being the next “Mick” or “Sandy” or “The Say Hey Kid.”  It was a time before life got in the way.

I listened to a broadcaster whose voice I didn’t recognize, announcing players I did not know, playing for a team that didn’t exist when the young boy listened to his transistor radio.  For a moment I was sad until I remembered the young boy.  The young boy grew up to play the game he loved and later coached it for a goodly part of his life.

Baseball may no longer be the American Pastime, but it still mimics life.  Life involves so much failure and successful people find ways to rise above their missteps.  Baseball is the same, a game built on failure.  A great hitter fails seventy percent of the time.  A hitter may do everything right and still get robbed, his line drive somehow finding a glove.  A pitcher may make the perfect pitch that ends with a “fourteen hopper” somehow finding its way through a drawn-in infield.  Baseball gives, and it takes away…just like life.

For more wit and witticisms from Don Miller  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Image of Ernie Banks from CBS News

Cornfields…in My Mind

 

It’s early February, it’s been cold here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge…not Chicago or Moscow cold…but for us thin-blooded Southerners it’s been damn cold.  It’s warmer today but that’s because it is raining to beat the band or to beat my metal roof.  Despite the elements, thanks to my son-in-law’s mother, I’m thinking about cornfields.  A bit early in the season to be thinking about cornfields but my thoughts tell me Kimberly’s memories of cornfields are a little different from mine…maybe.

Kimberly, Justin’s mother, posted a cornfield meme extolling the joys of running and playing in the cornfields of her youth and the memories they elicit.  I’m happy for Kimberly and her memories…mine are different and not the least bit warm and fuzzy.

I tend to lump cornfields and hayfields together…except I don’t eat hay.  Corn I love…in any form including liquid and I’m not speaking of corn syrup.  Sorry, the train went off the rails for a moment.

I remember corn and hayfields as places to stay away from if possible.  It was impossible for me to stay away from them, it was part of the job…or just part of my childhood.  There was always a lot of work associated with them both and to this day I break out in hives when I see square bales drying in a hayfield.

I associate corn and hayfields with loneliness, extreme heat, humidity, stinging bugs and venomous snakes.  You’ve never been hot and sweaty like cornfield or hayfield hot.  Drowning in your own sweat hot.  You’ve never been scared like flipping a hay bale over and finding a moccasin scared, the wrong end of the snake bound up in the bale.  You’ve never been scared like plowing a cornfield near the bottoms and having a black snake fall out of a tree and land on your shoulder scared.  You’ve never been stung like stepping into a yellow jacket’s nest stung…wherever, it really doesn’t have to be in a cornfield or hayfield.

As scary or painful as those examples were, I associate corn and hayfields most with loneliness.  You’ve never been lonely until being set out on the river bottoms, watching the old Chevy flatbed disappear.  Hoe in hand, a paper bag lunch of Vienna sausages and soda crackers, a jar of water wrapped in newspaper to keep it cool, knowing you are going to be there ALL DAY LONG, ALONE.  Alone with only your thoughts, your fears, the heat and humidity, the stinging bugs and the reptiles.  Endless rows of corn, thousands of miles long.  All day until you saw that old Chevy flatbed coming back to get you.  Hoping, as the thunderheads built on the other side of the river, that that old truck would get there before the thunderstorms and the lightning they would bring.

I do have good memories too, not about playing in the cornfields or hayfields, but the aftermath.  Laughing with my Uncle James, Mike and Rusty…after the hayin’ day was done.  Playing football in the fields and scratching yourself to death if you fell in the stubble.  Watching the sweat fall from my grandmother’s brow as she cut sweet corn to cream or turn into soup mix.  Eating that first roastin’ ear of the season.  Maybe tastin’ just a touch of corn likker.

Thanks, Kimberly…thanks for triggering a bright and warm memory on a drab, gray day.

For more of Don Miller’s writings, you may find him at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Birds of a Feather?

Normally I don’t use the word blessing when talking about this time of year, but this Saturday was one of those wondrous days we occasionally have in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. Warm and bright for a late January day. Warm and bright enough to melt the left-over snow and ice from a few days ago…I hope. The sky a brilliant blue and there is not a cloud in the sky. A great day for a walk…or a great day to sit in the backyard with a Blue Moon and a Dutch Master contemplating nothing of any importance. I did both instead of gathering up and disposing of the winter yard waste from the wildlife refuge that is my backyard. My wife is out visiting…hopefully, she won’t notice that I have done nothing except deal with my own mental self-health.

I’m watching my birds now. I can claim them as my own…I feed them, and they live close by. They love the black sunflower seed I dutifully put in my bird feeders and are flitting hither and yon. The squirrels and chipmunks like it too…and I don’t care. Redbirds, titmice, chickadees, wrens and my favorite, the little upside-down birds, the nuthatch and downy woodpeckers all visit, eat their fill and fly off to who knows where. There is a redhead woodpecker and a pileated woodpecker that visits occasionally. The pileated woodpecker seems to laugh at me with its distinctive and goofy call.

Underneath the feeders, I see robins, their red chests lying about the nearness of spring. They are joined by brown thrashers, mourning doves and an occasional tanager. The cooing sounds made by the doves are somewhat forlorn but not so forlorn it ruins my bright mood. I’m also sure the tanager will tell his friends.

Occasionally I see an indigo bunting or a bluebird, the reflected sun flashing blue off its tiny body as it zips through my yard. For the life of me, I can’t entice them to stay. I see them on the fence looking in at the free-for-all at the feeders. Are they resting or trying to make up their minds about the food I am offering? They seem to prefer the open, flat area around my garden. Oh well.

It won’t be long until the feeders draw the gold and purple finches. I’ll start adding thistle to the feeding area when I see my first one. I thought I saw a male goldfinch this morning except for the red topnotch. Turns out it is a refugee from more northern climes called a redpoll. I guess he was lost or just looking for warmer temperatures.

With the spring, if it ever gets here, there will be others making their presence known. The whistle of “my” redtail hawks, the clucking of turkeys, the lonesome calls of the whippoorwills along with owls hooting from the hillsides behind my house. Even with the hum of mosquitoes, I can’t wait.

My grandmother was a lover of birds, watching the feeder as she made biscuits in her kitchen or listening to their calls while working in the field. Telling her oldest grandson that we were hearing a mockingbird or a catbird. She loved them, filling up spiral bound notebooks with descriptions, buying stamps with images of birds and painting pictures of the birds that populated her environment. It has taken me to my autumn years to appreciate the birds that populate my environment. One more connection I have with my grandmother I guess.

I don’t reckon my birds are very concerned about government shutdowns, Dreamers or border security. A wall is probably not going to keep them out…the birds I mean. I think I’ll try to be more like my birds. If it’s not a sweet sound, I’m probably not going to make it or allow myself to hear it.

Don Miller is a multi-genre writer who has written two fictional novels and four books of non-fiction. If you are interested in further readings, please access his writer’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The picture of the pileated woodpecker came from the National Wildlife Federation at https://www.nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife/Food/Supplemental-Feeders. It was taken by Beau Liddell.