🎶 Time to turn so you don’t burn! 🎶

“During this heatwave, please remember to dress for the body you have, not the body you want.”                – Unknown

There was a time when I lived for the sun and joined in with the sunbathing crowd. In high school it might have been the old swimmin’ hole or the pool in Fort Mill or Springs Park…Springmaid Beach on vacation.

Later there was the green grass known as Cromer Beach at Newberry College next to the women’s dorm or Macedonia Beach near the church with the same name on Lake Murry. The local radio station would periodically issue a burn alert accompanied by the ding of an oven timer.

The aroma of Coppertone was heavy in the air. The smell of nubile, young women in bathing suits laying around the pool, rendering in Johnson’s Baby Oil or some coconut butter “tanning lotion”. Young men cannon balling off the diving board trying to get the attention of that certain someone.

There is something about the scent of Coppertone that brings back memories. A black two piece on a deeply tanned, dark-haired senior coed who took pity on a tongue-tied Sophomore one Sunday at Macedonia Beach. Epic.

The Coppertone Girl and Puppy

Now it is about the smell of burning flesh as I have another batch of cancer cells cut from my body and the incision cauterized. “Be sure your sins will find you out.” There will be a time when you must “pay the piper.” When it comes to the sun, I have been found out and the piper continues to insist upon his “cut”.

Now it is more about sitting around the pool under a massive umbrella covered in SP100 with the smell of BBQ rendering in its own fat. Ribs or butts being prepared by someone else. If I have my “druthers” I sit inside in the air conditioning swilling a gin and tonic or Meyer’s Dark Rum and tonic, with a twist of lime…a beer will do but I must get my dose of citrus.

Covered in sunscreen Blogspot.com

I’ve become the old fart who pontificates about the good old days. Stories embellished from a lifetime mired in the past. The nubile young hanging on my every word are neither as nubile nor young as I remember.

To quote Buffett…again, “One day soon I’ll be a grandpa. All the pretty girls will call me, “Sir”. Now where they’re asking me how things are, soon they’ll ask me how things were.” I hate to tell you Jimmy, we’ve both reached that milepost…and it is in our rear-view mirror.

In addition to losing the skin encasing my body, I don’t sweat well. At any temperature above seventy-five my sweat glands work like Niagara Falls after the spring snow melt. I don’t glisten like a Southern Belle; I gush and continue to gush well after I quit my activity.

Photo by Fabio Pelegrino on Pexels.com

I didn’t notice it so much during my younger days. I guess I was too intent on the young females in skimpy bathing suits. I did notice it in the hay, corn, and cotton fields of my youth but then there were no girls about to distract me. There was no scent of Coppertone to inhale, just the scent of “Ode de Don” as certain areas became yeasty with the heat generated from my effort.

I was reminded of this, this past weekend. My walking friend was out of town, and I decided to do our weekly walk without him. During my days running before my knees let me down, Saturdays were what I called LSD runs…you had to be tripping to do them…especially in the summer. No, LSD stood for long, slow distance. For me, during those days of yesteryear, it was usually a ten miler. Now, in real time, it is a five miler, walking.

Due to so much uncluttered time with no one to talk to, I was forced to do something I rarely do…think.  What I thought about was how thankful I was to be on the trail this beautiful if humid morning. What made me more thankful were the large numbers of people who appeared to be, like me, refugees from a geriatric ward. 

These were “seasoned” men and women who were trying to outride, outrun, or out walk the grim reaper.  I was particularly motivated by the much older couple who strolled up the slight incline using walking canes while holding hands.  There was a young man who came screaming up the incline on his low-slung hand powered bicycle, useless legs just along for the ride.  AMAZING AND MOTIVATING!

I want to apologize to the three older men I met.  Not for what I thought or said, but for the fact my jaw went slack and agape when I saw the large expanse of white skin and hair from their shirtless bodies.  Guys, I know it was hot and humid, but you should not run without a shirt. In fact, anything you might do without a shirt should be privately contained.  “Guys, I apologize for my facial expression, but you looked like three very pale Mr. Potato Heads.

My tee shirt had gained about a pound of sweat, but I would never take it off in a public place…not even at a pool. I am in fairly good shape…for my age…but have reached the age that I now try to sneak up on mirrors when naked or partially naked. 

From Pinterest.com

Despite all the bicep curls I do; my arms are sticklike.  Pushups can’t keep my chest from falling into my stomach, sit ups and planks can’t keep my stomach from collapsing into my rear, and I don’t know where my rear is going. I guess into my feet because they are still growing.

My years of sunbathing, waiting for the transistor radio to alert me when to turn are over. So are my ten-mile LSD runs. I still reserve the right to ogle ladies in swimsuits and spandex. The cute little girl, probably thirty plus, who ran by me, her ponytail bouncing, was like a chocolate dessert. She smiled sweetly as she sprinted by, and I watched in appreciation of the female form. It is okay to look if I don’t touch. I would be like an old dog chasing a car. If I caught it, I wouldn’t know what to do with it anyway.

Jimmy Buffett’s ode to aging. “Nothing But a Breeze.”

Don Miller writes at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3U6N5NmXWSwpqgCTf-ex4Akj7DmVnUX6kcaN6hEyBC-iHxGtJMeKQrMz0

Lies My TV Taught Me

“The Wild West didn’t have much in the way of forensics; when you saw the bullet hole you’d say, ‘That’s prob’ly what kilt ‘im’.”P.K. Vandcast

My recent trip to Texas got me chasing a pig trail looking for a “Western” rabbit hole.

I am from a generation that learned Wild West history on the “Silver Screen”, both the large one and the smaller one. Many of the producers of Wild West movies and TV programing learned theirs from “dime novels”, the forerunner of comic books, written about Wild West heroes and outlaws alike, and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show which opened to European audiences in 1887. Much that was learned was not actual history.

I admit I also learned Wild West history through authors like Max Brand and Zane Grey. Later I would add Louis Lamour and Elmore Leonard to my list of western authors read. Since…James Lee Burke’s Holland family series has made the list.

Unfortunately, most of that history, while founded on ‘glimpses’ of the real West, is based upon romanticized lies…romanticized because the truth can be quite boring.

William F. Cody, Buffalo Bill, had firsthand knowledge of the West, he was a rider for the Pony Express, an American soldier, bison hunter, and army scout. He even won a Medal of Honor in 1872. It was revoked in 1917 due to a change in military regulations. The medal was won for gallantry, but Army Scouts were “civilian” scouts. It, along with four others, was restored in the 1980s.

Poster from PBS’s American Experience

More to my point, Cody was a showman and knew what was needed to sell tickets. He sold a lot of tickets. His show would run for thirty years, mostly to sold out crowds, even though Cody had to have help mounting his horse during his later years. The show would tour Europe eight times.

The show featured gun fights, bank robberies, cattle drives, battles with Native Americans and a Wild West version of “Ben Hur’s” chariot race, with chuck wagons. Like any good Wild West show, the good guys always won…usually shooting down a “dark hat” with a six gun.

As many as one thousand actors participated in the three or four hour show and included the likes of Ned Buntline, Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickok, and Black rodeo star, Bill Pickett. Unlike the early movies, real Plains Indians and other Native Americans were employed, along with many women and Mexican cowboys. Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Chief Joseph, and Red Cloud, all toured with the show. Cody was in some ways an equal opportunity employer.

Rodeo star Bill Pickett-Trend Magazine

His show, along with the print media of the time would go on to influence the motion picture industry during its infancy and to a certain extent still does. The romantic Old West is still portrayed today and is just as inaccurate. Lies build upon lies. This is true of the smaller screen, TV, too.

The first motion picture ever made although that is disputed, was “The Great Train Robbery, a1903 American silent Western film made by Edwin S. Porter for the Edison Manufacturing Company. During the radio days, pre-TV, Saturday Matinees featured westerns. In 1949 the first western debuted on TV, The Hopalong Cassidy Show. By 1959 there were thirty western TV shows and another fourteen aired the following year.

Frame from the Great Train Robbery

Most of those shows featured the steely eyed hero rather than working cowboys, Rawhide and a few others excepted. “Good Guys with a Gun”, square jawed, squinting eyes and a bedrock sense of what is right and wrong…and a way to enforce the right…the six gun. Matt Dillon facing the gunslinger at High Noon. Every Friday night, on TV, the bad guy drew first, and Matt still sent him to his just desserts.

Actual gunfights in the Old West were exceedingly rare, few and far between despite what we would like to believe. Fewer gunfights took place in the middle of the street at high noon. In the cow town of Dodge City, there was only one. There were shootings at the famous Long Branch Saloon but there were no “rules”. Men didn’t face off in the street at twenty paces and the quickest draw didn’t always win.

The famous Gunfight at the OK Corral didn’t take place at the OK Corral, but in a vacant lot behind it. According to all accounts, it lasted about thirty seconds, a gunfight between the bad guys and the not quite so bad guys. Good and bad were not always clearcut in the Old West.

Gunfights were violent affairs where not one, but several gunshots were usually fired. Six shooters were wildly inaccurate. Often onlookers were hit. And unlike in the movies, easy shots were often missed. Often the two shooters just continued firing until they had completely emptied their pistols and called it a day. If no one was hit, drinks might follow with a lot of backslapping. “Belly up to the bar, boys.”

Gun slingers weren’t even called gun slingers. The more authentic terms for the period would have been “gunman”, “pistoleer”, “shootist,” or just “bad man.” The term gunslinger wasn’t used until the 1920 movie, Drag Harlan. The term was adopted by Western writers and movie makers after the fact.

Most experts on the Old West also agree, it was not the “fastest gun” who won. Most gunfights went to the more accurate shot with the coolest head. Those same historians also agree, if you were shot dead it was probably with a rifle or a shotgun…and likely from behind. Like today, long guns, repeaters like the Henry or Winchester, were preferred because of range, accuracy, and rate of fire.

Still, many associate the American West with the “good guy” with a gun, the lone knight in black instead of shining armor ala Paladin in “Have Gun, Will Travel”. A Colt Single-Action tied down against his thigh instead of a sword. Overall, they are both myths, even though with most myths…there are kernels of truth.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Westerns. “High Noon” with Gary Cooper’s Will Kane I consider to be the greatest Western ever put on film…maybe the greatest film period.  Man versus man, man versus elements, man versus himself. A moral dilemma, stay and fight or take his new bride and run. Kane is loyal, brave, and prideful…even when abandoned by his own town.

Will Kane (Gary Cooper) in High Noon ABC News

Will knows that it would be easier if he and his wife merely ran away from killer Frank Miller and his three henchmen, but Kane is emphatic, “They’re making me run,” he says. “I’ve never run from anybody before.” His bride saves the day and Tex Ritter provides a song now playing in my head, “Oh, don’t forsake me oh my darlin’….”

Scenes from High Noon and Oh Don’t Forsake Me Oh My Darlin’ at the end

Westerns shouldn’t be remembered just for their inaccuracies. Hollywood has reflected American culture at its best and its worse, against the backdrop of the politics and social issues of whatever time they are produced. I grew up during the Cold War and cowboys were a bit darker than Roy Rogers or Gene Autrey singing as they rode into the sunset. John Wayne in The Searchers and Alan Ladd in Shane are early examples. Clint Eastwood as the antihero “man with no name” in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. Westerns were uniquely American even when they moved to Italy.

Westerns have provided a vehicle to discuss thorny issues in American history too. Dancing with Wolves, Brokeback Mountain, Django Unchained, The Harder They Fall all made political or social statements.  

According to director Quentin Tarantino, “One of the things that’s interesting about westerns in particular is there’s no other genre that reflects the decade that they were made and the morals and the feelings of Americans during that decade [more] than westerns. Westerns are always a magnifying glass as far as that’s concerned.”

I wish our culture weren’t tied so tightly to guns and the fictitious “good guy with a gun”. I have to believe the Westerns my generation grew up with contributed to the mindset. You’re not manly enough if you aren’t willing to settle it man to man with your fists or a gun.

Gun culture is so uniquely American that it is estimated that Clint Eastwood killed almost four hundred victims to the cheers of his adoring fans. According to MovieBodyCounts.com that is good for fifth place on their top twenty-five behind Arnold Schwarzenegger. Don’t despair, Clint was tops in western movies, but John Wayne didn’t make the list. John was more selective about who he killed. Having an internet site devoted to body counts should tell us much about the culture we have created.

Clint Eastwood in a “Fistful of Dollars”

In the American West created by the likes of Max Brand, Zane Grey, or Buffalo Bill, the “good guy with the gun” always wins, kisses the girl…or his horse, and rides off into the sunset. I wish this were true in real life. In real life the good guy is usually out gunned and ends up dead.

***

Don Miller writes on various subjects and in both fiction and nonfiction. https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2uADIyymZJmWtp4LzVSDsEk6HTplFqkJAjPIfc3SKJGMLL0FFdP6ENR5o

Blog image of John Wayne and Natalie Wood in the movie The Searchers.

“Big Hat, No Cattle”

 “I was feeling real good and real manly. Until a real cowboy walked by and told me I had my hat on backwards. So much for my career as a cowboy.” – Michael Biehn

Okay, the title is an old Texas saying about someone who is all talk but brings nothing but his mouth to the table of life. A variation is “All Hat, No Cattle.” I began following a pig trail that involved Texans and their cowboy hats…or the lack thereof.

We have family in Texas…no we don’t say that in whispers despite Governor Greg Abbott and Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz being two of my least favorite people. It is my bride’s family anyway. I have plausible deniability. To be clear, we are not from Texas…no, we’re from South Carolina. Oh, the irony.

We have just returned from a week plus in Texas due to a family emergency. My bride’s brother had some issues, and we loaded the modern Conestoga, threw Quigley the Blue Heeler in the back, and drove straight through…as much as our bladders would allow to drive straight through. Including painful gasoline stops, fifteen hours to Richardson just outside of Dallas. I don’t suggest you do that even though we did the same thing coming back.

The brother is recovering, thanks for asking, but it was touch and go for a bit. I’m not sure Quigley will recover…or my back.

I grew up watching “oaters”, western movie reruns and TV programs, on a black and white TV. Many focused in Texas. The Lone Ranger for instance was a former Texas Ranger. I’m sure John Wayne played a Texan at some point in his nearly two hundred movies. Turns out, 1959’s Rio Bravo, its unnecessary 1967 remake El Dorado, and other sixties-era westerns like The Sons of Katie Elder, The Comancheros, and The Undefeated were all filmed in Texas.

Tom Tryon, with his turned-up Stetson, played real life Texas lawman, “Texas John Slaughter”, “who made ’em do what they oughta, and if they didn’t, they died.” That might be the Texas motto, or at least Governor Greg Abbott’s. Chuck Norris in “Walker Texas Ranger?” Too new? Maybe.

Texas is one of those places whose size is only dwarfed by their attitude of self-importance, but I found it interesting that I saw only one cowboy hat. One, and it wasn’t a ten-gallon one or a Stetson. I know they live near the urban center that is Dallas but even JR Ewing of “Dallas” fame, wore a big Stetson, usually white. I thought the good guys wore white hats.

The Texans I saw dressed just like the people from South Carolina. Baseball caps and “do rags” were the fashion choices. There were plenty of wide brimmed, floppy Boonie hats, too. Good thing, it was bright, sunny, and 99 degrees. The heat index? As a Texan so colorfully expressed, “Hotter than three feet up the Devil’s colon.”

The one cowboy hat I saw was obviously on the head of a working cowboy. It wasn’t the hat that was the giveaway but his cowsh!t incrusted cowboy boots. These weren’t boots for looks, these were boots that had stepped in a lot of manure. In between the hat and boots were faded Levi’s, a plain, big, buckled cowboy belt, and a long-sleeved denim snap button shirt. Yes, this fellow was the real deal.

His face was beetle brown, both from the sun and his ethnic background, and etched with crevasses. There seemed to be the permanent squint associated with staring into the sun.  I paused to watch him walk past to see if he had John Wayne’s practiced gait. He didn’t.

John Wayne saunters across the street in Rio Bravo

My thoughts circled, as they often do. I wondered what this fellow thought about the “Saturday Night” cowboys I sometimes see in my home state. Pointy toed cowboy boots, starched jeans with sharply ironed creases, a faded circle caused by a tin of Copenhagen Snuff in the back pocket, colorful western shirt, and a cowboy hat. All contained in a jacked up four by four that costs more than my house and requires a step ladder to climb into.

For some reason, the term “Dime Store Cowboy” comes to mind. I don’t know when I first heard the descriptor but according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, “1: one who wears cowboy clothes but has had no experience as a cowboy. 2: one who loafs on street corners and in drugstores.”

“Dime Store” Cowboy? From Urban Cowboy Apparel

One of the most popular films of the 1980s was “Urban Cowboy.” It’s the story of a Houston oil rig roustabout (John Travolta) and a feisty young thing (Debra Winger) that looked great in her jeans. “Bud and Sissy” were “lookin’ for love in all the wrong places” according to Johnny Lee. Mostly the film’s action centered around the real-life Country-Western hot spot known as Gilley’s Club and helped elevate country-western music to the forefront.

The movie influenced me…not in a clever way. I hate to admit it, I had a big ole straw cowboy hat with a feathered hat band that put Richard Petty to shame and tried to learn the Texas Two Step. I mean, its two steps, how hard can it be?

I even rode a mechanical bull in an inebriated state once, just once. It was after my first run with Jose Cuervo. That would make me a dime store cowboy, and I don’t think it positively affected my ability to attract cowgirls in tight Levi’s.

Famed Race Car Driver Richard Petty with a hat I always wanted to pet.

Later, the lyrics to a Jimmy Buffett tune ran in my head, “Livingston Saturday Night.” “You got your Tony Lama’s on your jeans pressed tight. You take a few tokes make you feel all right. Rockin’ and a rollin’ on a Livingston Saturday Night.”

“Pickup’s washed and you just got paid. With any luck at all you might even get laid. ‘Cause they’re pickin’ and a kickin’ on a Livingston Saturday night.”

For the uneducated, Tony Lama’s refer to cowboy boots…expensive cowboy boots. I perused their site and the cheapest I saw were on sale for $695.00. I’ve bought cars for less. A Stetson El Presidente worn by JR to top off his western business look was a cool $919.00. Maybe that is why I didn’t see but one cowboy hat and it was the cheaper straw variety. Boy Howdy.

Cowboys wearing wide brimmed ten-gallon hats were a myth perpetuated by their depiction in early movies. Early western film star, Tom Mix wore the biggest in almost three hundred, mostly silent films. Of course, he was more flamboyant matinee idol than cowboy although he was an excellent rider and shot in real life. He was also friendly with Wyatt Earp of OK Corral fame, who didn’t wear a ten-gallon hat. He wore a medium brimmed, somewhat tall, crowned hat in photographs.

Tom Mix in a white ten gallon plus hat

The hat of choice by western cowboys, outlaws, and lawmen? The Derby, often called a Bowler. Narrow brimmed, it stayed on their heads in high winds and still protected from the sun. Renowned lawman Bat Masterson, renowned outlaw Butch Cassidy, and renowned killer or a misunderstood young man, William Bonney, known as Billy the Kid, shared that fashion statement. So did many of their contemporaries who were not as famous.

Butch Cassady and the Hole in the Wall Gang

To be clear, all cowboys didn’t wear one type of hat, but it was more about what they could get their hands on. Wild Bill Hickok even wore a ladies’ pancake hat.

The man with the cowboy hat seemed out of place in an area that should have been awash in cowboy hats. Out of place but then I realized I saw him in a Walmart. Nothing is out of place in a Walmart whether in South Carolina or Texas.

Gene Autry’s ode to the dime store cowboy before there were dime stores. “I’m an Old Cowhand.”

Don Miller’s writings can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1l23Kv0gebvmz3IbLqYeEtFUuZyUvj4_kM3k59LhVQjCr0bkmbp6V_Hd4

Goodbye HoJo, I Thought You Had Already Died

“Little roadside restaurant we artfully complain, Rudy tells the waitress that his chicken died in vain” – Opening Lyrics of Jimmy Buffett’s Coast of Carolina

Earlier in the week I made note of the passing of the last, orange roofed, Howard Johnson’s restaurant. Once it boasted hundreds of restaurants along with motels. First the motels were sold off to Marriott, who later sold them themselves. The restaurants were closed until there was only one left standing in St. George, New York. I was surprised to learn that it still existed. I also noted that as a child I referred to it as Howard and Johnson’s. Stupid kid thoughts.

Yes, “Another baby-boomer icon has bitten the dust. The last remaining Howard Johnson’s restaurant, the orange-roofed baby-boomer favorite known for fried clams and twenty-eight flavors of ice cream including both peanut and pecan brittle, shut its doors, bringing down the curtain on a chain that once boasted 1,000 locations across the nation, the Times Union reported. The outlet, in Lake George, New York, closed this spring after almost 70 years.”

I am a baby-boomer, but I am not a gourmet of wine or food…I don’t speak French either. I do know what I like, and Howard Johnson’s was never what I liked…ice cream not included. I can’t remember any ice cream I didn’t like.

I ‘m certainly am not making a definitive epicurean review but when I hear the lyric, “Rudy tells the waitress that his chicken died in vain,” several restaurants come to mind, HoJo being one of them along with the cafeteria style S & S my father and brother and I frequented when we visited my mother in the State Hospital in Columbia.

My mother was part of a study of ALS, known as Lou Gerig’s Disease, at the state mental hospital, less than affectionally known as the crazy house. Our Sunday visit lunch choice was the S & S. I do not have fond memories of the S & S, but it is more about the death of my mother than their food offerings. Well, there was their green Jell-O salad.

Cafeteria style right down to the plastic plates and glasses. Good, cheap food…well cheap at least. With their different food choices and ambiance, I shouldn’t equate HoJo’s and S & S to each other, except their “facture de tarif” should have been accompanied by a gastric SOS. Facture de tarif is bill of fare, but I had to look it up.

Howard Johnson’s died due to the fast-food industry and the lifestyles we are forced to live. Most of us don’t have the means or the time to sit down for even a cafeteria style meal. There are other restaurants that died too, thanks to the fast-food hamburgers and fried chicken…along with some of their fans as ground beef patties fried in fat clogged their arteries.

The first hamburger chain in the States was White Castle opened in 1921. It was opened by Billy Ingram and Walter Anderson who started with the first White Castle restaurant in Wichita in 1916. They had a small menu which had cheap, square shaped hamburgers and they sold them in large numbers. The first franchises appeared in 1921 (A&W Root Beer franchised their syrup) and the first restaurant franchise appeared in the 1930s by Howard Johnson.

Johnson didn’t know he was contributing to the eventual demise of his restaurant and honestly it didn’t begin to snowball until the Fifties when the American love for cars became associated with suburbs, drive-ins and in my part of the world, the Hardee’s fifteen cent hamburger that made its appearance during the Fifties and Colonel Sanders’ KFC sold its first franchise in1952.

As bad as I thought Howard Johnson’s food was, it didn’t die because of its chicken dying in vain. It was American lifestyle changes. Well, the chicken might have contributed.

I do feel remorse that another symbol of my youth is gone even though the orange roof had been previously forgotten by me. I also regret all fast food doesn’t taste like Burger King hamburgers smell. But then Burger King hamburgers don’t taste like they smell.

May all your fast-food hamburger patties be larger than the pickle slice topping it and may you not die of a heart attack from eating them.

A little live Buffett for your listening enjoyment. No, not Cheeseburger in Paradise.

Don’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3Gpuu1x2MckONqCD6fIVcrtZbn6FG4595ZSgRqE2sDiwZAzECxvPAF7lI