Baby Love

I saw that Mary Wilson had passed away this morning.  Another one gone.  According to the Righteous Brothers,  

“If you believe in forever, then life is just a one-night stand, if there’s a rock and roll heaven,
well you know they’ve got a hell of a band.”

To many of my teen idols are leaving me.

Mary Wilson’s death took me along a pig trail that led to a rabbit hole.  A teenage boy with his new transistor radio, a Christmas present during his fourteenth year.  It opened up a universe I could only dream about.

A Deep South, land locked surfer boy who swam like a rock listening to The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, dreaming of Surfer Girls, Surfing Safaris and Sidewalk Surfing in far off California, until one fateful night his tuner pulled in distant Chicago and WLS.  A window to a different world had just opened.

I listened to the local radio station in the daylight hours. Big Ways radio, an AM station that went off of the air as nightfall fell. At night I had to search and one cold winter’s night hit radio gold.

There was a smorgasbord of sounds.  The Beach Boys made me wonder, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older?”  There were huge doses of British invaders.  I really did want to “Hold Her Hand.”  The little blond girl who would make my life equal parts heaven and hell for the next four years.  There were soulful sounds too and they took a teenager’s heart and made it swell or “crushed it flat”. 

WLS was as close to Motown as I would get.  I never could pull in anything from Detroit, but there were plenty of soulful sounds emanating magically from distant Chicago or sometimes Fort Wayne, Indiana’s WOWO.  Jerry Butler, “Make it Easy on Yourself” or with Betty Everett, “Let it Be Me.”  God, I had it bad for that little blond girl.

The Impressions, The Miracles, The Temptations and The Four Tops joined the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean…and The Beatles and Stones. They were joined that same year by a different group, The Supremes.  A ‘girl group’ who helped turn the British invasion with the song “Where Did Our Love Go?” It would vault to the Billboard’s number one single and be followed by four more number one singles and a Grammy nomination.

I first saw them on the Ed Sullivan Show.  A white boy living in the Jim Crow South, sprinting home from the Sunday Methodist Youth Fellowship gathering to watch three Black girls from Detroit.  Somehow, music unites us all. 

Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard appeared 15 times with Ed Sullivan from December 1964 through May 1967.  I remember, as if yesterday, their medley with The Temptations in 1967. 

They were elegant and glamourous.  Shimmering gowns or mini-dresses in black and white, exotic and for a teenage boy, erotic.  With the big-eyed, big voiced, slender girl fronting, Florence and Mary were almost an afterthought, but they could sing and all looked good doing it. They look even better now that I can see them in color.

My musical choices have changed over the years but there is still huge doses of Motown, Soul and Rhythm and Blues on my playlist.  I still want to get up and move a little bit when I hear Diana Ross’ version of “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?”  I might even wonder a bit, “What happened to that little blond-haired girl that kept me twisted in a knot?”

Rest in peace Mary.  Thanks for helping to open a new world and a new way of thinking.  You are missed.  Thanks for the pig trail and the warm memories that it conjured…even the little blond girl.

The Supremes and The Temptations, 1967 The Ed Sullivan Show

Further ramblings may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1PwFnOZx8KriCNpkLfMuyJj-qRRkXkpBuD1uDcQGZ7-3JbrKLAdlH7ZHs

Pink Coconut and a Hard Candy Christmas

The Christmas holidays are full of traditions for many, Christians, non-Christians, and those who are unsure. People of different religions and cultures raise and decorate trees, drape their homes in blinking lights, hang stockings, bake gingerbread cookies, and exchange gifts even though they aren’t Christian in their beliefs.  It is a crossover holiday celebrated all over the world by diverse cultures.  Families with diverse backgrounds gather during the holiday seasons to celebrate not only the birth of the Christian Jesus, but also themselves and their own traditions. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to traditions, I have reached an age when it is easier to look back on Christmas than look ahead.  Ahead shows a much shorter road to travel. I find myself somewhat emotional…but in a good way I guess.

As I gathered nature’s Christmas decorations for my bride; grape vine, evergreen garlands, pinecones, birch limbs with golden leaves, and holly berries, I ‘barked’ up a finger.  I cut it and it is barking like a bit dog.  Watching the blood ooze, I was transported down an old dirt road, a pathway home to my past.

My mother was a child who failed to fall into the adult trap when it came to Christmas. Activity swirled for what seemed like weeks as she prepared for our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day family celebration. Baking was one of my mother’s chores despite working eight hour shifts at the local textile mill.

Fruitcake, fruitcake cookies, yule candy logs, Missouri “no-bake” cookies, pies, and cakes galore, and her very favorite, ambrosia, a dish loaded with pineapple, canned mandarin orange slices or fresh orange sections, miniature marshmallows, and coconut…fresh coconut.

In the days before shredded coconut could be purchased at your local supermarket, it was my father’s responsibility to break open and shred the coconut Momma would use for her ambrosia and coconut cake. He would use a small ball peen hammer to punch a hole in one of the coconut’s eyes so the milk could be drained. The milk would be used in the coconut cake to insure its moistness. 

A larger hammer would break the coconut open and a sharp knife would separate the meat from the husk. If my father were not bleeding by this time he soon would be as his knuckles contacted the hand grater. My Christmas memories always include pink shredded coconut and I smile with the memory.  I  am not a lover of coconut but will eat one coconut containing dessert in memory of him. Hopefully, if it is pink it is due to a maraschino cherry.

As the blood on my finger finally coagulates, I continued to be triggered.  Memories of my mother stringing bubble lights over the tree.  Old timey bubble lights that had to warm up before they began to gurgle.  Billy Vaughn’s saxophones or Percy Faith’s singers are playing in the background.  She hums as someone sings “Oh Little Town in Bethlehem” on the radio.

Watching a fuzzy, black and white TV’s many Christmas specials. There were many but Perry Como and Andy Williams were mandatory. A Christmas Carol and What a Wonderful Life were too. It was a wonderful life….

Hand-made patchwork quilt stockings made by my grandmother, Nannie, adorn the fireplace.  They will eventually be filled with oranges, apples, and nuts…and peppermint swirls.  Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas” is now playing in my head.  I am a bit sad, but I am hopeful too…just like the song.

Christmas is a celebration loaded with emotion and I feel mine ramping out of control despite it being several days in the future. 

Chills chase themselves up my back as I am reminded of a trip to nearby Monroe on a Christmas Eve morning.  It is only my father and me.  I remember the crush of people.  A small town of sixty or so years ago, its entire population must have crowded onto main street.  People scurrying to do last minute shopping, dressed in Christmas finery.

The red and green lights strung from light poles. Being lifted into my father’s arms to see more clearly the Christmas scenes in the original Belk Brothers store window. The man with no legs who sat nearby, a tin cup full of pencils and a small American flag sitting in front of his splayed stumps. The tears in my Father’s eyes as he put a five-dollar bill in the tin cup and offered a salute.  Things you remember that bring tears to your own eyes.

Finally, a short stop at Woolworths and a small bag of warm salted cashews for the trip home from their nut and candy counter.  The cashews were a secret we shared. I can almost taste them…almost.

Something has triggered a memory of splitting wood on a Christmas Eve morning and delivering it with my cousin…a cousin who has now transitioned to his heavenly rewards. Maybe it is because I am standing in a corpse of hemlocks with the sharp aroma of evergreens.

We delivered our pickup load to an old former plantation house, the old Nesbitt place, a bit rundown at the time but decorated with greens and reds with candles twinkling in every window. The lady of the house took us on an impromptu tour of the downstairs, decorated for the Christmas season, a tree in every room.

Later, I remember sitting in his pickup after unloading the wood, drinking a PBR, counting my half of the money and thinking how adult I was. Adultism is a disease to be avoided at all costs…especially at Christmastime. Now instead of the money, or beer, I think of him and the old plantation home. I think of Christmas trees, their star tipped tops pressing near ceilings in every room.

We gather now at my daughters.  A new generation, a new tradition.  It is one I’m not quite comfortable with. Ten of us will gather this year, Covid-19 protocols will be observed but so will the wonder of a four-year-old and a seven-year-old as they open their gifts from their Popi and Grandmommy and uncle and aunt.   It will be different, and I hope face coverings are not to become a tradition like the pink coconut became.

Whatever you culture, however you celebrate the holidays, I wish you a Happy Holiday and a Merry Christmas.  I hope your Christmas Season will be loaded with wonderful memories as will the coming year…memories of Christmas past and of Christmas future. Take the time to enjoy your Christmas present while you enjoy Dolly and the ladies from the “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

From the movie “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”

Don Miller writes on various subjects “that bother him so.” https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0iqIBEnIxXiIoowO7bX6UV-1RY03y2ts7HHF-RYE46dSMt-hvZ_5AsCHs

Pearl Harbor…Revisited…Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What did you do in the war, Daddy?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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/

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

Summers Now Past

Or when I reaized Peter Pan had died.

My best summers are behind me not ahead.  If memory serves me, my best summers ended when my hand could reach around the end of a hoe handle or I became strong enough to heft a square bale of hay and toss it onto the back of a flatbed truck.  It certainly ended the summer I walked into the den of heat and noise that was Springs Mills.  Peter Pan died that day.  Despite my best efforts I had grown up.

The last day of school before the summer break.  Elementary school kids squirming in their seats waiting to cast off the chains of their forced imprisonment.  “I’m free, I’m free!”  And just like that, it was September again.

No more Tonka toys and little green soldiers in a sandy ditch.  No more corn cob fights with Mickey and Donnie Ray around the barn. No more playing war in red clay banks around the cornfield.  Fewer trips to the river to check trotlines or intently watching a bobber while praying for a bit of a nibble just to let me know something was down there.

Ode to youth now past.

Here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge a high-pressure dome is making life unbearable.  Hot, hot, hot.  Humid, humid, humid…but no rain.  Hotter than two mice mating in a wool sock and even the devil is bitching about the humidity.  Despite the humidity and the thunder that rumbled around yesterday, my garden is dryer than a popcorn fart.

There is something about the heat and humidity that brings the memories back.  I question how I survived without air conditioning but somehow, I did.  Tall screenless windows at school, perspiration dripping on notebook paper as I practice my letters.  A wasp flies through the window causing a momentary lull in the activities.

No reprieve at home or at church on Sunday.  Humidity and heat causing my shirt to stick to the lacquered seatback.  Ladies in pillbox hats, gloves, and long sleeves fanning as if their lives depend on it, and it may have.  Men in suits and ties sitting stoically in their own perspiration.  The minister announces with a thump of his Bible, “If you think it’s hot now…just wait.  Benediction please.”

As I remembered, my back was bent toward the ground as I straddled the short row of beans.  Perspiration ran down my nose and was soaked up by the dusty soil underneath me as the rivulets landed with a plop.  My sweat ran like the Catawba River during the rainy season when my revelation occurred.  I was thinking of a simpler time.  In my mind my grandmother is beside me, both of us straddling a row, the sweat running down both our noses.

Summer was the time to make hay while the sun shone…tomatoes, beans, squash, okra, watermelons, and corn too.  The sun shone hotly and pulled the moisture into the air encapsulating me in what seemed like a wet, wool blanket.  Hot, moist sun-heated air.  Squash and cucumbers wilting, corn stalk leaves drooping in the afternoon heat…humans wilting and drooping as if they were plants.

As I shift briefly to the present, I realize, there will be good Summers ahead…they will just be different.  Miller Kate and Noli cavorting, splashing in the pool remind me of their mother searching for crawdads and salamanders in the stream by the house.  A memory that brings the smile to my face.  It is about their memories and dreams now.  Mine are still focused on the past.

I remember the welcomed afternoon thunderstorms.  The smell of ozone heralding the cooling winds to come…a few minutes of chill until the sun returned…heat and humidity with it.  Storm clouds outlining the distant water tower in Waxhaw to the east, the western sun reflects off of the tower and makes the thunderheads seem ominous.

My grandmother’s admonishment, “Don’t stand in the draft you might get hit by lightning” or “Get away from the sink!  Lightning will fry you like fatback.”  Needless to say, nothing electrical was turned on especially the TV.  Lightning strikes were worrisome on her hilltop if the lightning rods on the hip roof of my grandmother’s house were to be believed.

Despite sitting in a low ‘holler’, the transformer down the river road from my house was hit a few times and I remember mini lightning flashes jumping between the telephone and the lights over the kitchen bar.  Probably shouldn’t answer the phone.

Ball jars filled with water and wrapped in newspaper to keep it cool.  It didn’t work.  Water was welcomed even warm.  There were times I would have sucked the water from a mud puddle if I could have found one.  Those transcontinental rows of corn that needed to be hoed or forty ‘leven thousand hay bales to toss and stack.  There is nothing much hotter than corn, hay, or cotton fields during July and August.

Inside the relative cool of a non-airconditioned kitchen, sweet Southern iced tea, or a glass of chilled buttermilk, helped to quench your thirst.  Drops of condensation succumbing to gravity on the side of an iced jelly glass…Sylvester the Cat staring back at me, a huge grin on his face.  He knew how much I enjoyed the tea and the peanut butter cookie that accompanied it.  

Late in the harvest season, a watermelon might be picked and put in a nearby stream to cool.  Maybe a ripe tomato or two.  Late afternoons we would crack open the bounty and fight off the horse flies as watermelon juice mixed with the sweat and dripped from our fingers and faces.

In this new timeline, I think about cracking open the Tanqueray and adding some tonic and lime.  What? We have no lime?  Wait! Ah, I found one.

I stare out of my French Doors wondering if I really want to leave the air conditioning to cut grass or pick beans…or do anything else…  How did I get so old?  I also know that the extra piece of watermelon I want to eat will add at least two trips to the bathroom during the night.

I once had an old man tell me the problem with getting old.  “Young man, you know what is bad about gettin’ old?”  I think I was fifty at the time.  In his overalls with a fedora pushed back on his head, he answered the question I had not asked, “There are no dreams left for old men.”

I thought I knew what he meant.  Dreams of love, or an unreasonable facsimile. Getting ahead in the world, earning triumphs and victories, winning another state championship, and overcoming the disappointments of being close but no cigar.

The old man was correct.  There are no pursuits of state championships any more but I would edit his comment.  “There are no young man’s dreams but there are dreams.”

Dreams of a different time when Peter Pan was still alive.  Dreams of summers without a care in the world…a time when I knew I never wanted to grow up…but yet I did.

Still, I shan’t be sad.  There will be good summers ahead as long as my sun continues to rise.  I won’t dream only of the past.  Even dreams must change with time.

***+

The image is of a summer sunset from Pixabay and found on The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3YwCXc-tSERSihnz93ceDKB3PzxGIYX3lVWrJx3-mYmPV89rNT4j7PvxA.

A Mess of Green Beans

 

It’s early morning and I’m bent over strong green plants, their bounty hanging from the underside of deep, green leaves.  I’m proud of my green beans.

It’s my second picking and I am getting more than from my first.  Despite the early hour, perspiration…nay sweat is trickling down my nose.  It’s not hard work, pickin’ beans, but my back is creaking and sweat is running into my underwear when I straighten it.

I’ll pick, wash and then snap before washing again.  I don’t know what I’ll do with these.  I’m still eating on my first pickin’…my first mess…from archaic French, messe, a portion of food.

It is a word I learned from my grandmother…and a process.  Nothing wasted, not even the pot liquor.  Beans are to be eaten until they are gone…or go rancid, the pot liquor sopped up with cornbread.  Just for clarification, these are not served al dente, they are cooked to death, the Southern way.

Mine are not likely to go rancid soon.  The biological process is aided by meat products and mine have none.  I’ve had to adjust my tastes since a heart attack a decade and a half ago.  No flavorful bacon grease or fried fatback will be added.  Just potatoes, onions, and a touch of salt and pepper.  They are not as flavorful as I remember my grandmother’s but my wife’s cornbread that is served with it is much better.  Sorry Nanny, your cornbread was too dry.

There was always a “mess” of beans on my grandmother’s stove.  Green beans early in the summer, butter beans later, and finally crowder peas in the early fall.  Whatever was canned found its way to the stovetop during the winter and spring.

I’ve tried to keep her schedule along with squash and tomatoes.  I wish I could figure out how to get my tomatoes to mature at the same time my beans do.  It would appear I’m still a few weeks away from my first tomato sandwich.  My garden is late this year due to April rains.

As I pick, I step back in time.  It is Monday as I write this.  A lifetime ago Mondays were days to finish gathering and prepping for Tuesdays which was, along with Thursdays, canning days at my countrified local school.  A cannery subsidized I’m sure by that Yankee ‘gubment’ in Washington or the nearby state one in Columbia. It was cheap, a penny a can, it had to be subsidized by someone.

It was a hot and humid place in the middle of hot and humid summers.  People came from all around to avail themselves.  It was a cheap way to preserve their summer bounty for the cold winter days ahead.  There was so much activity I am reminded of the story of the ant and the grasshopper.  No lazy grasshoppers here, just hard-working ants.

At my grandmothers there would be a flurry of activity on Mondays that would run well into the evening.  It would end with family from the hill above and the ‘holler’ below joining us.  Aunts, Uncles, and cousins sitting on the front porch snapping or shelling the last of the beans or prepping soup mix.  There was a good dose of gossip to go with the shelling.

A hushed voice asks, “Did you hear about so and so?”

Another query, “Didn’t she run off with….?”

A third with shaking head, “Oh my, you don’t say?  I know her momma is besides herself with worry.”

A fourth would ask, “Y’all want some sweet tea?”

The menfolk in fedoras and overalls sitting on one side of the L shaped porch, the women in feed sack dresses on the other.  I don’t really know what the menfolk discussed, what juicy details were talked about but their conversation probably revolved around work or what malady their car might be suffering.  Seemed everything revolved around scratching out a living or driving.

I remember falling asleep on the metal glider surrounded by the aromas of Prince Albert pipe tobacco and Camel or Lucky Strike unfiltered.  It was a different time and somehow, I always woke up in my bed with no memory of how I got there.

The cannery was operated by the Leapharts, my school’s home economics, and agriculture teachers and their offsprings.  They operated it but everyone shared in the responsibilities.  Communal effort is always a farming community’s way.

Sterilized cans were filled with bounty before salt and water added.  Cans ran through some sort of magical machine that steamed and sealed the cans before tops were added and another magical machine sealed them.

The finished product placed in a water bath and allowed to cool until Thursday when we picked them up.  I remember being responsible for adding the water, a steamy job in the steamy, humidity filled days of summer but one suited for a boy my age.

I’ve tried canning with varying degrees of success…the glass Ball jars and rings.  I freeze a lot but for some reason, it does not quite taste the same.  I guess it could be the absence of bacon grease or fatback, but I don’t think so.  It might have been the people and the process.

I remember phone calls to my grandmother when I left for college and later for the real world.  Summertime calls were always accompanied by a canning tally and the weather forecast, “Well I did twenty-five cans of green beans, eighteen butter beans, and a dozen of soup mix.  It has sure been hot and dry.  I can’t remember the last time it rained.”   If she’d been fishing I got that report too.

When I came home to visit from the real world, I always returned with cans of love from her pantry.  A mess of green beans and potatoes with some raw onion and a wedge of cornbread.  Good eats…good memories.

My senses are a funny thing.  Smells trigger many memories…or sweat running down my nose or a song on my playlist.  There is something about the smell of tomatoes or green beans boiling in a pot.  I go back to those days when the humidity didn’t seem so bad when there was always a pot of beans on my grandmother’s stovetop and cornbread or biscuits close by.

****

Don Miller writes on various subjects and in various genres.  His author’s page https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3ISpnFiIcskj6u17soo9sN1uvFBdpA59noucO8m0LdgN9k0rhPlAxRa2g

The image is from Simple Home Preparedness at https://simplefamilypreparedness.com/home-canned-green-beans-in-3-easy-steps/

 

Where the Hoe Meets Rock

“What were you thinkin’?” I propped myself on my hoe and contemplated my folly of thirty years ago.  Who picks a former ravine to make into a garden.  When Highway 11 was originally built, “fill dirt” was used to fill up the creek cut ravine, the newly created creek banks stabilized by what else, kudzu. The scourge of the South…at least one of them.

Who tries to transform a broom straw laden, kudzu encroaching, rocky, and sandy wasteland into a garden?  Easy peasy, I did.  I had no choice if I was going to have a garden.  The flat area flanked on one side by a creek and kudzu and a highway and swamp on the other is the only place that receives the necessary eight hours of sunlight.

It has remained a folly despite the years I’ve spent amending with compost, wood chips, grass clippings, even ground up cardboard.  After thirty years I have about four inches of arable soil…and the rocks continue to do the dirty and multiply.

A whiney voice in my head asks, “Why do you do this to yourself.  The roads around your house are dotted with produce stands.  Walmart has corn for twenty-five cents an ear.”  I hear many voices but this one is irritating.  It is the voice that makes a yearly visit this time of the year.  Outloud, I tell it to shut up.

My grandmother is in my head too, she speaks in a voice I barely remember, “You better clean out those middles.  Look at that crabgrass.  What about the Johnson grass coming up?  While you’re at it do something about the kudzu across the fence.”

“Yes Nannie, I know…and soon the bastard wiregrass will begin its slow crawl.”  Common bermuda grass will grow on hot pavement.

My tiller is down and I’m waiting for a part.  It’s supposed to be here Monday but who knows, it may not get here, and I have the mechanical abilities of a brick.  I should probably use this hoe for something other than a leaning post.

A thick morning cloud rolled in and for a moment I think I will be saved.  There was no rain in the cloud despite the “rain” frogs in the swamp singing.  The crows in the distance cawed their good mornings as my hoe contacted one of the many rocks.  Bending over to pick it up I watched a drop of perspiration from my nose land next to my hand.  I was suddenly a small child sitting under a tree as the sun came out again.

My grandparents farmed lands too far from the river to benefit from the fertile silt deposited by seasonal floods.  Bottomlands were for the rich.  My grandparents weren’t rich…at least not monetarily.  They farmed on the lien until my granddaddy, Paw Paw, went to work in a textile mill.  Their soil was red with clay and filled with rocks too.  Their life was hard…much harder than mine, harder than the rocks they threw out of the field.

Even with steady money, my grandfather couldn’t stay out of the fields.  After eight hours in the mill, he would harness the plow horse and do his farm chores before grabbing a bit of sleep in the afternoon.  Sometimes he would head out in the early evenings too.

Corn was our staple, for both humans and animals.  Somehow the poor soil yielded the needed corn along with beans, squash, okra, and tomatoes.  There was nothing exotic in their garden not even a bell pepper.  They weren’t the exotic kind.  They were the survival kind.

I have a mental vision of a man of medium height with a sweat-stained fedora or cap.  Thinning gray hair cut short, a wide nose, and dark-framed glasses.  A man I can’t remember smiling except when he was in the fields.  A man who watched over my brother and I as we played in a sandy ditch with Tonka toys and green army men.  We didn’t know he was slowly dying from a melanoma found too late.  I was nine when he died.  He was fifty-eight or nine.

I’ve gotten into a rhythm.  Hoe the hard ground toward me for a minute or two before pushing the dirt back.  Bend over and pick up the uncovered rocks and throw the rocks toward the creek.  Rest on the hoe for a minute, stretch my back, and start over.  I don’t have the arm I used to have, or the creek has moved further away.  At least the rocks seem smaller than they used to.

Again my grandmother spoke in my head, “Get back to work, you can think and work at the same time.”  I wish I had asked more questions, “What did you think about Nannie?”

As a small child, most of my mornings were spent under a tree with a book in my hands.  Nannie’s rule was “read or come out and pick up a hoe.”  I developed my love for reading under a cedar tree or in a clump of privet.  I remember the sounds her hoe made when it contacted a rock.  I can’t remember her real voice but I remember that sound.

When I got older, I didn’t have a choice.  Hand-picking bugs, hand watering tomato plants, and hoeing middles.  Putting out chemical fertilizer that made my hands burn.  Later she would invest in a front tine tiller that most days beat me to death.

I guess there is something meditative about hoeing…except for this blister between my thumb and pointer finger that interrupts my rumination.  My grand parent’s hands were much tougher.  Hands like tanned shoe leather with thick calluses.  I remember my grandmother’s deeply lined and sun-baked face too.

I don’t know if I could call my grandmother pretty.  She had a broad face and wide-set eyes.  A thick, strong body built for farm work.  Her face was cut with deep crevasses but I remember when she laughed.  Her whole face lit up.  She didn’t laugh enough.

The frogs have grown silent as have the crows.  The voices in my head are still there and I try to shush them with the sound of the hoe.  It is humid and the weather liars say it will reach near-ninety today.  As I watched the sweat fly from my arms I realized the liars might be right.

My garden is late.  Mother Nature has been an unwholesome witch for most of March, April, and May.  If June follows suit, it will make a hard, left turn into hell.  Too cold, too wet, thunderstorms and hail in March, snow in April.  Near record rains in May and a tropical storm kickin’ up a ruckus in the Gulf and it is just the first week of June.

In between tropical systems, I finally planted tomato plants on May the fifteenth…exactly one month past our last frost date.  The two-foot-tall plants are standing proudly and filling out in their cages, but it will be a while before my first tomato sandwich.  I have one small tomato, it reminds me of a green marble.  My guess is summer will be as harsh as the spring, but hope does spring eternal.  Sure hope there is no Duke Mayonaise or white bread shortage.

It does not matter.  For what I spend in plants, seeds, and fertilizer I could buy from the produce stands cheaper.  It is not about the tomatoes, squash, and beans.

My gardening is about connections.  Connections to the past, connections to past generations.  I see my grandfather in his overalls leaning against his hoe, fedora on his head.  My grandmother is in her feed sack dress, perspiration dripping off her nose, a huge straw hat on her head.

It is about connections to the land, even lands filled with rocks.  I welcome the clank made the hoe making contact with a rock.  I smile when it happens.

Don Miller’s author’s page  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3YVEkI2WW4ZAZbqiYKWyhVQdkGDO6zt6QzExlP8lFCl6FVitonudcbAPQ

The image used is  a watercolor, “Hoeing Turnips”, by Sir George Clausen http://www.artnet.com/artists/sir-george-clausen/hoeing-turnips-m85xrTGVVoEQTDt3k_TMhg2