Red Sky in Morning…along the Missouri

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

Courtesy of Jimmy Griffin

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of Jimmy Griffin

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of Jimmy Griffin

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

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

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

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

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

Bull Nuts…Black Walnuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting’ Away From it All

 

I once heard Jerry Clower, “The Mouth of Mississippi”, a Southern comedic philosopher of sorts, described visiting kinfolk who lived back in the ‘sticks.’  He was a city boy from Liberty, Mississippi, population seven hundred or so.  He described a trek down a ‘holler’ split by a creek into a heavily wooded area on a narrow footpath.  Miles and miles he went,  hopping over stumps and climbing up banks with only animal calls, bird twitters, and the babble of the creek to accompany him before finally arriving at a rustic, moss-covered cabin.  As he stepped onto the low front porch, he saw a piece of paper thumbtacked to the front door.  It was a single, scrawled sentence, “Gone to get away from it all, be back soon.”

Old house 3

Abandoned Home on Chinquapin Road at Langford Circle

Once upon a time country folk had already gotten away from it all and didn’t need to trek far.  They might go hunting in the woods, picking blackberries or fishing on a riverbank.  The weekly trip to the general store was a big deal.  They were in the middle of their getaway…or the middle of nowhere.  I guess those times have changed for some folk.

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One of the small waterfalls around our ‘little piece of heaven’

When my bride and I moved to 3300 Highway 11, the scenic Cherokee-Foothills Highway, we were in the sticks.  On land that was described as gently rolling, I learned real estate agents lie.  Thirty years or so later, you’d still think we lived in the sticks if it just wasn’t for the traffic and the golf courses.  Like Daniel Boone, I feel civilization squeezing in.

The land around us is covered in hemlocks, black walnuts, and a mostly hardwood forest.  Mountain laurel and rhododendron, wild iris, blueberries, and wild azaleas are abundant. Tall hillsides form the basin our hundred and twenty-year-old farmhouse sits in. Cut by ravines, ‘hollers’, and seven year-round streams “my little piece of heaven” is the perfect place to “get away from it all.”

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Mountain Laurel will soon be joined by Rhododendron

The peaceful, scenic former Cherokee trading path, Highway 11,  winds past lakes, deep green mixed forests, peach farms budding pink, nearby small mountains, and hollers with names like Hogback, Glassy, Table Rock, Rocky Bottom or Mush Creek.

Spring @ Table Rock -- Hike 2 to the Rock - Tue, Nov 3 2020

Table Rock from across the lake

And golf courses…I forgot…golf courses.  The path has become too well-traveled.  Transfer trucks, Harley Davidsons, and big tricked out pick-up trucks with glass packs pulling bass boats have been joined by BMWs and Mercedes with golf bags nestled in the trunk or bike racks on the deck lid.  It makes me want to get “further away from it all.”

The self-quarantine due to the Corona-19 has not stopped the traffic noise but it certainly has made me ponder the wildlife preserve my wife and I have created.   You might want to read in “too lazy to cut anything other than pathways between the wild strawberries, honeysuckle, and blooming clover”…and the ferns…the ferns that are taking over.  The problem is my bride.  She doesn’t want anything cut that “might” put off a brief flush of color no matter how small the bloom or how fast it disappears.  Still, it is one of the reasons I try not to venture out where people are…that, and I don’t want to die on a ventilator.

 

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One of the overgrown pathways and the fern that ate my yard

Retirement has made being stuck at the homeplace easier, or is it just being lazy? We’ve spent hours watching playful chipmunks, newly born, playing under the bird feeders.  They mingle with the mourning doves, robins, and sparrows on the ground while purple and goldfinches, cardinals, grosbeaks, nuthatches, tanagers, and woodpeckers jockey for position to eat black sunflower seeds or suet from the feeders.  There has been a squirrel or two dozen also.  I don’t bother to shoo them away anymore; I just buy more feed…the money I ordinarily would be spending on walk-in dining or “boat drinks” now goes toward bird feed.

Grossbeak

My first rose chested grosbeak

I caught a flash of brown sprinting across one of the flat areas behind the house.  Fox? Coyote?  I only caught a flash.  It would make sense if either.  Deer and turkeys returned to the flat behind the house that is cut by a rocky stream leading out of my own holler.  They were visible in the early spring through my kitchen window and I’ve seen tracks in my garden.  The deer and turkeys are absent right now, but they’ll be back as soon as their newborns are older, hopefully staying out of the garden.  A red-tail hawk is teaching her little one how to hunt, perched on a stick up in my yard waste pile.

As darkness descends the night shift takes over as hootie owls call to each other from the hillsides around us.  No lightnin’ bugs yet or whipporwills but soon….  Two mornings in a row I’ve found my suet feeder torn down and holes dug in the pathway leading to back gate   Make that four days in a row and it is Rocky Raccoon, too smart to get nabbed in my gum.  It appears he enjoyed the meal I left.  He was in no hurry to leave.

Raccoon STANDS stock still like a human when it is caught sneaking ...

Not my picture but it could have been.  He didn’t seem the least bit scared.

With all the wildflowers, or weeds, obscuring my path, I’ve had to be vigilant.  Mr. No Shoulders has made an appearance in the protein-rich environment.  I’ve had to move the black rat snake away from nests and almost stepped on him once.  From years past I realize, he is persistent.  He is also hardheaded, there are plenty of field mice to feed on…maybe house mice too.  I guess baby birds are easier.

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Wild ?

My bride and I have rediscovered a joy that had been missing…our morning walks…strolls…saunters.  I do my fitness walk and then she joins me for a slower, mental fitness walkabout ramble.  “Ooh look! A butterfly.”

Sometimes we hike our hilly property, but more likely we walk around the nearby lake.  The normally busy non-denominational “Look-up” Christian camp it sits in is deserted and wildlife and wildflowers are abundant…without the sounds associated with people…except from the distant highway.

Lake

Lake Chinquapin

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An interesting tree on a steep hillside

We have taken to counting the turtles we see sunbathing on the docks and downed trees at the camp.  We do have “a little piece of heaven”  to get away from it all.  Yesterday there were twenty-six turtles and my bride took pictures of them all.  Next week I’m sure she will have them named.

Turtles (2)

Turtles sunning on a downed tree

All images were taken with my Android phone except for Rocky Raccoon, which explains the less than perfect presentation.

Rocky Raccoon courtesy of The Daily Mail  https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7864069/Raccoon-STANDS-stock-like-human-caught-sneaking-backyard-night.html

Linda in white dres

The prettiest flower of them all, my bride, Linda Porter-Miller

The feature image is of the honeysuckle choked bell in front of our home.  The picture was used for the cover of the book “Through the Front Gate”.  The book and others may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2SZmtwsbKyfX4PZGu3fFgPr9WRCtr-lE_LKs9rliC9ztLwWzG0TZu8AEo

 

A Young Toad-Frog’s Fancy

 

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I am happier, and usually saner, with the advent of spring and the end of winter than I am with the death of summer and fall.  Certain birds finding their way to my feeders that weren’t there a few weeks ago, the finches and mourning doves, the return of my Redtail Hawks. They came early this year.  The deer eating my privet, not eating enough privet, certain flowers blooming at certain times and my toad.

I first wrote about “The Toad in the Corner” a year or two ago, a huge American toad that has appeared outside my back door for years.  I found it comforting to see her having backed herself into a shady spot at the corner of my foundation and rock wall during the heat of the day.  Coming out to wreak havoc on the insect population at night, sitting on a flat rock, all fat and sassy.  Unconcerned about my entrance into her realm.

Despite her ambivalence toward me, I worry about her.  The average lifespan for a toad in the wild is about a year.  She’s been extremely lucky for some five seasons now, somehow avoiding Mr. Herbert No-Shoulders, the huge black rat snake that resides in the same area along with Mrs. No-shoulders and her brood…maybe Toady has just gotten too big to eat.  She is uuuuuuuge!

I found her waiting for me early this morning while I waited for my fifteen-year-old puppy dog to find her spot.  Toady was sitting on her flat rock, but she wasn’t alone.  She had a friend, a friend with benefits I might guess.

At first glance, I thought something was wrong.  She looked deformed.  Was it that bad a winter?  I looked closer and saw what I thought was a deformity was a much smaller toad riding high on her back.  I was reminded of a baby riding on one of his parent’s backs.

I don’t think she was his momma…or maybe she was his “Hot Momma.”  I’ve seen her several times during the day and her suiter is still riding on her back.  She walks, he rides.  Mentally I make a note to look up the range of an American toad…as far as a mile from their breeding sites.  Now I’m Googling their breeding habits.

You can tell this quarantine thing is getting to me.  Combined with sciatica, rainy weather and a sick tractor, I’ve got too much time on my hands…and there is laziness too.

Through research, I found out it is not unusual for the female to carry her suitor to her breeding grounds…the breeding pool of water which I assume is the stream below my home.  For some reason, I thought about frog gigolos, “Hey baby, goin’ my way?  How ‘bout a lift.  What’s your sign?  Can I buy you a drink?”  Louis Prima is singing “Just a Gigolo” in my head.  I guess it could be the David Lee Roth version.  I’m thinking of disco, glitter balls and lime-green leisure suits, colorful, long collared “catch me, f@#$ me” shirts and gold bling.

I found out if females are scarce it is not unusual for many waiting males to climb on board creating a “toad ball.”  The orgy scene from Caligula flashed briefly before my eyes…I only read about it…maybe.  I really wanted to laugh but as I read on, I found it is usually fatal for the female.  “I love you to death” takes on a new meaning.

Image result for Toad ball

I obviously need more humor injected into my life and something productive to do.  Something is very wrong contemplating the sex life of toads and frogs or as we say here, toad frogs.  Well, it is spring when a “young man’s fancy turns to love” or a young toad’s fancy is to ride around on a big ole’ momma toad waiting for her to make the trek to her egg-laying site.  I just hope she survives her “La danse de l’amour.”  French is such a sexy language…even when describing toads.

 

Don Miller writes about whatever strikes his fancy.  His author’ page is https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0Tk_BUmCRpeCR63Kr59dyLywOMUia36e7djQlIDqefkK6aKUYyW9svuK4

The featured and last images are from https://www.ephotozine.com/photo/toad–mating–ball–53338916

The first image is of Toady and her suitor.

 

Hot Spells

 

“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.”

–Russell Baker

We appear to be suffering a hot spell here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Marilyn Monroe dances in my mind, a song echos in my head, “We’re having a heatwave…a tropical heat wave….”  Seeing her costume in my mind, I wonder what was causing the heat wave.

The humidity is not quite high enough to be tropical but it is as if a heavy weight has descended from the mountains, pressing the air down around us, compressing it and turning it more liquid than gaseous.  This high-pressure weather system has added to my misery in the same way collard greens wilt in a pot of boiling water.  As I mow the grass this morning it is as if the oxygen has been squeezed out of the air.

The weather is July-August hot.  F. Scott Fitzgerald would probably describe the weather as “sultry.”  Sounds real nice.  Maybe like a 1920s flapper dancing the Charleston or Lindy Hop. Sultry.  I wouldn’t describe the weather that way unless the flapper had been dancing for hours in the unairconditioned Cotton Club in August wearing a fur coat.  The problem with our “sultry” July-August hot spell is…it is just now late May.  Doesn’t bode well for July and August.

Humid enough to be uncomfortable but not so humid to give us any rain.  The sky is a brilliant blue with no clouds to block the sun.  The weather pundits say our air is too stable and will remain so for at least another week.  If you say so.

We were flooding in the cold a month ago.  Now we are drier than camel bones in the Sahara.  We water something every day which adds to the muggy misery…and seems to attract the mosquitos and gnats.  God, I love it.

The people living in the mid-west would love to have the mosquitos and gnats.  Theirs have drowned or blown away.  I am not attempting to make light of their disastrous weather.  Major thunderstorms, tornadoes, and floods should not be made light of…nor should the results of global warming.

Several years ago I suffered through an early season baseball practice featuring near-freezing temperatures and snow flurries.  I swore never to gripe about the heat of summer again.  My resolve is eroding…and we haven’t made it to June yet.

My weather conditions trigger memories.  I grew up without air conditioning and wonder how I survived. We spent our days outdoors working or playing in brutal heat and humidity, or if indoors, where it seemed even hotter.  You’ve never been hot like in the middle of a cotton or hayfield hot or inside of a cotton mill hot.  How did we survive?

I would attempt to sleep, fitfully at best, my head at the foot of my bed trying to catch what little bit of breeze might find its way into my small bedroom from the one window.  Laying spread eagle making sure body parts never touched, adding to the heat, humidity, and discomfort if they did.  I wish I had been smart enough to invest in the talcum powder industry.   Later when my parents bought a small window air-conditioning unit for their bedroom, I found heaven when I inherited their window fan.  Blow baby blow.

The same was true of the old school building I attended.  Tall, wide, screenless windows allowed everything to enter…except a cool breeze in the late spring and early fall.  Taking notes while trying to keep the college ruled paper dry was almost impossible.

Sundays were no better.  Church windows wide open, hellfire and brimstone could be no hotter than those pews.  Funeral home fans fluttered in the breeze doing nothing more than moving the heat around.  Shirt sticking to the pew heat and humidity.  On a particularly brutal Sunday morning, the minister shouted to the heavens, “If you think it’s hot now just wait.  Hell is a lot hotter.”  I don’t know.  Heat seems relative.

Yesterday evening I ventured into my garden.  I waited until the shade had found my tomato and squash plants but found them wilted in the oppressive humidity and heat.  The beans didn’t look too much better.  The one crop that should be loving it, okra, refuses to peek above the hot ground.

Despite having watered the day before, dust swirled wherever my hoe contacted the ground.  A clink rang out as my hoe struck rock…seems I have a bumper crop of rocks this year…like every year, no matter how many I throw into the creek behind my garden.  Rocks and weeds…my bumper crops.  Along with squash bugs and bean beetles.

The metallic clink took me back to my grandmother’s garden as did the sweat running off my nose.  It never was too brutal to keep her out of her garden and the old sack dress she wore would run with sweat.  My grandmother was a Southern woman but unlike the heroines of a Faulkner or Wolfe novel, she did not glisten with perspiration, she sweated like a horse.

I paused, leaning on my hoe.  It was her pose I saw in my mind’s eye.  An old woman, with a face browned by the sun, wearing a big straw hat leaning on her hoe.  She was framed in bright summer sunlight, sweat running down her face.  She always defied the hot spells and I shall too.

I have memories of ice cold sweet tea and a watermelon cooling in the nearby stream.  Somehow the heat has made the memories a bit more sweeter…despite my sweating.

Don Miller has published several books.  To access them click on the following link.  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image came from worldatlas.com

Crime Sprees, Black Snakes, and Killer Birds

 

Pondering the meaning of life,  why nature can be so cruel, and the evil of man began with the theft of a trailer and continued with the murder of four wren hatchlings we had been monitoring in their little nest perched precariously above the front porch fan.  Four wren hatchlings we had been protecting from attacks from below when we should have been more concerned with attacks from above.

I find I’m much more distraught about the loss of four birds than the pilfering of my trailer.

I watched as a  juvenile black rat snake climbed the front porch swing chain looking for a way to traverse from chain to fan to what his reptilian brain saw as lunch.  I moved him…and later, the big brother he brought with him a half dozen times before my minuscule brain realized that if I took down the swing, he’d have to find another restaurant.

Sneaky snake must have enjoyed our time together.  He still hangs around as if waiting for me to pick him up again.  Ride me, Daddy?

It didn’t bother me the snake was trying to dine on jeune oiseau…after all, he was a snake doing what snakes do.  More importantly, I had stopped him.  The killer birds…I didn’t know I needed to stop them.

I never knew sparrow parents would attack wren young and kill them to ensure there is a steady food source for their young.  They must be new to the neighborhood.  There is no lack of food sources.  My wife has made sure of that.

I saw them hanging or flying around but was too stupid to realize they were up to no good.  We found the little broken and pecked bodies on the porch floor and with their distraught parents flitting about, felt their loss. 

I am telling myself, it is the way of nature.  I haven’t convinced myself.

And then there are the evils of man.  The trailer was just one of several grand heists over the years.    Bad people are found everywhere…and bad birds too.

The thefts began with a tractor stolen from the middle of my “hundred-acre woods.”  I ran out of fuel and didn’t return to where I had left it, literally in the middle of my forest, until a couple of days later.  I couldn’t find the John Deere and Winnie the Pooh wouldn’t help me look.  I guess Winnie was trying to get his nose out of his honey jar.  My nose was just out of joint.

An antique FJ 40 Landcruiser was taken from my front yard.  It was returned much the worse from wear.   A beautiful piece of Japanese engineering turned into junk.  The one time it ran after its return, “Kamikaze Cruiser” caught fire.  I hope the thief joins my beloved cruiser and burns in hell…well…metaphorically, I reckon…may be.

Not that everything has been “take, take, take.”  A would be Robin Hood decided to share the wealth.  A stolen pickup truck with two weeks worth of trash loaded in it, missed the curve at a high rate of speed, flipped and crashed into my creek.  It was laying on it’s top mocking a dead cockroach, two weeks of trash scattered hither and yon.  The old Ford had taken down my fence and my billy goat stood on top of the truck’s bottom as if he had ruled triumphant in a game of king of the hill.

I felt satisfaction when I learned of the malefactor’s capture, a young man found battered and bruised at a nearby restaurant frequented by our local constabulary.  I doubt the owner of the totaled truck got any satisfaction and I was left to clean up the mess that was left and mend my own fences.

There were other occasions to call the authorities.  Enough occasions to put together a pattern.  Every deputy who came out to investigate uttered the same family name.  “I’ll bet you  ‘Old so-and-so’ is responsible.”  “Old so-and-so just got out of jail, bet he’s at it again.”

I’m not going to say the name because I really don’t know if they stole my trailer or not.  If they didn’t it would be a first.  True to form though, as I met the deputy about my trailer, he brought up the same name again.  “You live pretty near Old so-and-so.  Bet it was him or one of his sons.”  Now grandsons.

I still haven’t seen my trailer, but the backcountry crime family tried to strike again.  This time it was my neighbor.  I slept through most of the event despite the blue and red lights flooding my yard at one until three A.M.  My neighbor filled me in.

A young man with the same last name as the redneck crime lord, a grandchild, was apprehended attempting to steal my neighbor’s travel trailer with a truck the boy had stolen earlier and elsewhere.  He even posed for a picture before attempting to flee after he realized no one wanted his autograph.

Attempting to escape in the stolen truck the clown prince of crime found himself reduced to running when the vehicle broke down at the scene and caught fire.  Poor baby.  He was later found hiding in a kudzu filled ditch…kudzu covering blackberry filled ditch.

I wish I had seen his dismay when he dove face first into the ditch only to find his soft landing impeded by blackberry thorns.  That had to smart…I wish it had been multiflora rose.  I do feel great satisfaction envisioning his surprise landing and ask for no forgiveness as I smile.

It seems the torch has been passed from one generation to another.  Grandfather to son to grandchild.  I wonder if the godfather of redneck crime is proud.  The old man showed up and according to my neighbor, just shook his head as if to say, “I thought I taught him better than that.”

My father told me once he could tolerate a thief more than a liar.  The reasons for his comment will remain between my father and me but I was in the wrong.  I understand his sentiment but would pose to him, “One might go hand in hand with the other.”

The image of the angry bird is from https://twistedsifter.com/2012/04/40-actual-real-life-angry-looking-birds/

Further tomfoolery may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Calliope of Lights

I awoke from a deep sleep, my bladder bursting, hustling me out of my warm and comfortable bed.  It was three hours ’til dawn but deep down I knew my sleep was over for the night.

I tried to write but my block stopped me cold, a book to read maybe?  Some real writer to motivate me.  The words on James Lee Burke’s pages didn’t seem to catch my interest.  I knew it wasn’t Burke…it was me.

With Dish’s Top 250 how can you find nothing to pique your interest on TV?  It wasn’t Dish…or Netflix and Amazon Prime…it was me…and the infomercials about “CrepErase.”  Anyone remember “Psychic Friends?”

I was up and antsy staring at the darkness from my French doors.  There was still two hours before the break of dawn.  My bride was still asleep, her puppies protecting her, blocking anyone’s path to the bed.  I sure did not want to wake her, stumbling into something in the dark.

I decided to do what I had done during the years I was a contributing member of society…the days before I retired.  When I taught, I ran or walked in the darkness before school, from five until six-thirty every morning.  I don’t run any longer thanks to arthritic knees, but I do walk, and it seemed “there is no time like the present.”

The light from my headlamp reflected back into my eyes as the mist swirled, the road as dead and silent as the inside of a coffin.  I shuttered a bit as goosebumps chased each other over my body.  The mist was closing in on me and quite eery.  As my pathway rose to the ridge and highway above, the mist seemed to clear allowing me to observe a light show I had somehow forgotten.

Droplets of dew hung from the greenery lining the sides of the road and showed all the colors of the rainbow as I walked past illuminating them.  Each little droplet acted as its own prism.  Tiny stars twinkling red, green, yellow and a pale blue.  It was as if Christmas had come early along with a birthday celebration.

An orb spider had strung her web across my path and it appeared festooned with diamonds.  The large arachnid sat in the middle of her glittering domain, choosing to sit on her tiara rather than wear it.   I ducked to keep from disturbing the web and Miss Spider.

A leopard frog froze in the beam of my light reminding me of a previous predawn walk at the lake at Lookup.  Dozens of frogs lined up on the lake path, facing the lake in hopes breakfast would fly by.  Their yellow-orange eyes glowing in the beam of my spotlight along with their black, green and yellow patterns.

There were other glints of light, some that moved.  I looked closely at a limb and the greenish mote of light reflecting from it…an insect of some type, tiny with pale white legs and a greenish exoskeleton.  I had moved too close to see the twinkle and backed away to make sure it was real and still there.

I reminded myself of a walk on a moonless, predawn hike during my former life.  As the light on my head bounced from side to side I saw an unfamiliar, heart-shaped flower reflecting in the distance.  Reflecting white in the grass, the “flower” was heart-shaped and looked as if there were two stamens instead of one.  As I moved closer to examine it, the flower moved and the stamens blazed orange-red back at me.  It was the tiny face of a very young possum.  It looked at me with no fear or maybe it was simply blinded by the light.  I briefly worried about its mother until I heard a rustling in the dry leaves beyond the grass.  Mom was still close by, her own eyes blazing in my lamp, and I decided I would make sure I wasn’t close by.

There was a type of harmony to the lights.  So different, yet fitting together like a symphony…a symphony of light rather than sound.  Calliope was the Greek muse presiding over poetry and eloquence, known for her harmonious voice.  I am neither poetic or eloquent and my singing voice is certainly not harmonious.  I hope Calliope doesn’t mind me thinking of her as I think of my own calliope of light.

I will pay for my early morning later in the day, but the price of admission was worth it.  I believe I might do it again tomorrow…maybe I’ll just change my schedule to accommodate more of them.

Don Miller writes on a variety of subjects.  To visit his author’s page go to https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from http://alistairduncan.co.uk/portfolio/possibility

Spring….

 

Spring is finally here in the Foothills of the Blue Ridge.  A high of seventy-one today if the weather liars are to be believed…and a high of forty-eight tomorrow.  Thunderstorms with copious lightning and rainfall moved through the area on the last night of winter.  Three to five inches of snow is expected in the mountains above us on the first night of Spring.  Come on Mother Nature…I have a therapist I can suggest who might help you with your dysfunction.

I awoke this morning with a tremendous pressure…on my bladder.  Five a.m. and like every morning I had to go drain the lizard.  I stepped out my back door…I live in the country, if I want to relieve myself out my backdoor it’s okay and I am conserving water.

The light from my hallway displayed scraps of fog, torn and driven by the light morning breeze.  It had been almost tropical the night before, before the storms.  This morning it was just a pea soup fog being rendered by the wind.  The fog was ghostly as it slid by in the reflected light.  The specter didn’t scare me, nor did it scare the big doe staring at me from across the fence.  I must not have been too terrifying either as I hosed the ground between us.

She stood facing me as if thinking, “Son…please cover yourself.”  Slowly I did, and she still didn’t move.  “No, not very impressed, are we?”  She just stood there showing me those beautiful brown eyes and “big ole ears” standing at attention.  She was as beautiful as anything I had seen since first seeing my granddaughter.

I decided to take a step toward her and she held her ground.  She let me move within a yard before her tail stood up and she leaped into the darkness.  A deer’s tail disappearing into the darkness may be one of the most delightful sights I’ve ever seen.  How in the world can you shoot one of these animals for sport?

I walk, daily, for exercise since my knees and feet have worn out.  As soon as it was light enough I went out for my five-mile commune with nature.  There she was again, this time across the road on my walking path.  Again, she stood as if to say, “What took you so long, come on, just follow me.”  I did.  I followed her beautiful tail until it disappeared.

The doe started me thinking about Native American “spirit guides.”  I know I run a chance of being called “Pocahontas” or rather “Walking Bear” by our Name Caller in Chief, but according to family lore, Native Americans blood courses in my veins…no, I haven’t had a DNA test, but Pocahontas may be a distant relative.  My thoughts caused me to wonder.  If I rate a “spirit guide,” I think I want it to be that doe.  Somehow, we seemed to connect.  We’ll see if she returns and if she does, where she might lead me.

Happy Spring Days and Nights.

Image from https://tsfphotoscartoons.com/2016/06/07/woods-in-the-fog/

Please stop by and visit Don Miller’s writer’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM  or his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/cigarman501/

MUSINGS OF A MAD SOUTHERNER

With the GENTLE insistence of a former student, now a writer, now a mentor, and forever a friend, Lynn Cooper, I decided to test the blogging waters in 2015. Lynn had insisted I was a natural blogger and I decided to take her word for it. I am sure there are people who might disagree with Lynn after my nearly two years of blogging history but it has allowed me to empty my head of all the content which “bothers me so.”

When I began to blog I was mad, as in angry. Dylan Roof had turned our state on its head, murdering nine church worshippers who didn’t look like him in the name of white supremacy. Our governor and legislative assembly promptly lit a firestorm over the needed removal of the Confederate Flag from our statehouse grounds. I was angry because of what I believed to be misplaced divisiveness over our Southern heritage as opposed to our racial hate. Neither side of the argument seemed willing to concede the other might have a point. Consequently, I decided on “Ravings of a Mad Southerner” as the title for my blog.

No matter. The flag is now gone, if not forgotten, and not a moment too soon to my way of thinking. Dylan Roof has been sentenced to die and I’m no longer angry about the divisiveness over the flag because divisiveness has been replaced by a nationwide derisiveness over our new president.

As you are aware, mad can be defined as anger but also as mental illness or craziness or having enthusiasm for someone or something as in “I am mad about my wife Linda Gail or a big ole plate of shrimp and grits.” My madness and enthusiasm have taken over my anger and I have written about my wife, childhood memories and family now gone, Southern paradoxes and perceptions, food, friends, perceived enemies, battles with my depression and again, “things that bother me so,” such as my colonoscopy. I have blogged in anger over politics, bigotry, and racism but will attempt to keep them to a minimum. I decided to include many of my posts in a collection of short non-fictional stories entitled “Musings of a Mad Southerner.” Unlike my blog, I will attempt to group them with rhyme and reason but can’t really guarantee I will be successful. Sometimes random rules my day and my madness. Yeah…random it is.

New Release from Don Miller. Purchase or download today on Amazon at https://goo.gl/Cedc7B

HARBINGERS OF AUTUMN

Despite the thermometer’s reading and the gallons of perspiration I am wringing from my tee-shirt after this morning’s run, FALL IS IN THE AIR. It is just a hint mind you but it is there. Could it be that the humidity is just a bit lower, or the direction of the wind a bit different? I guess it could be the fact I went to a football game this past weekend. In the South at least, fall means football even if the heat index is near one hundred and play must be stopped to dodge a thunderstorm or five. Nothing stops a Southerner’s worship at the altar of the religion known as football.

I have learned over the years that there are more subtle changes taking place. The bees and butterflies are frantically working over anything with a bloom. There seems to be a late summer “weed” that puts off a yellow flower the bees are in love with…frantically in love with. Milkweed is covered with beautiful black, orange and yellow butterflies as are any blooming purple…including cocklebur, beggar lice plants along with the sweet smelling kudzu. Linda Gail, my better half for the past thirty years, and I have different ideas as to what a backyard should look like. I coached for over forty years and believe they should look like well-manicured ball fields. She believes any plant that puts off the smallest bit of color is a flower, no matter what that flower might produce later. Linda Gail also loves morning glories and they must have something to grow up on right? This time of year with all of the activity I guess I am glad I acquiesce to her desires…plus it makes my life much easier in the long run…even if I have to clean up the mess in the winter. At least she lets me cut the kudzu regardless of their long purple blooms and sweet, almost sickly aroma.

My oaks don’t quite have the “leaves of green” they had earlier but they haven’t started to change yet but they do look different. I expect to see vast “V” formations of ducks and geese any time now… right after I walk into a painted spider’s web. The woodpeckers and red birds have returned to my bird feeders. For the past couple of months, they have been more concerned with gathering protein rich bugs for their young and I am sure food has been plentiful. Now they are looking for a handout I guess. They will get one if they can beat the squirrels to it. Poke salad has changed into Pokeweed and “my” mourning doves are anxiously awaiting the purple berries growing from magenta stalks.

As I sat on my front porch enjoying a “post run cigar” which sounds absurd but is one of MY Southern paradoxes. Let’s try again. As I sat on my front porch the bunny born this spring in a heavy patch of periwinkle made an appearance. “Bugs” is still all legs and ears but was attempting to put on some weight by eating some of Linda Gail’s potted plants…until he saw me. “Wascally wabbit!” With my puppies too old and blind to chase him off I guess I better look up what “wabbits” eat so he won’t starve when fall turns to winter. For now, I will just wait for summer to change to fall…which for me at least, is the most wonderful time of the year.

For more unique life stories by Don Miller visit his author’s page at http://goo.gl/lomuQf