Thanksgiving Blessings? It Could Be Worse.

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”-Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

It is easy to be depressed on Thanksgiving, 2022…or lately any Thanksgiving this decade. Then I think about my Native American brethren and realize that it has been a rough two and a half centuries for them. I don’t know who thought celebrating Native American Heritage Month in the same month as the Native American National Day of Mourning, aka Thanksgiving, was a great idea. Regardless, President Bush signed it into law in 1990.

While I identify with my Native American blood brothers, there are reasons to celebrate and be thankful.

I’m thankful that a (cisgender) veteran attended Club Q in Colorado Springs. They were celebrating Transgender Remembrance Day, a day to remember those lost to violence against or suicide. With the help of a Drag Queen in high heels, they were able to limit the death and destruction that claimed five lives, taking down a shooter armed with a “long gun” and pistol.  I am also thankful for the darkly humorous image of a Drag Queen dressed in his/her finery dancing on the murderer’s head in stiletto heels. Too soon? There is a reason they are called “stiletto” heels.

I’m also thankful that the veteran and his family were at a Queer venue celebrating people who have, for a too long, been considered the others by others who don’t believe people outside of the “box” deserve such basic rights as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I’m sorry they lost their daughter’s boyfriend to the carnage. I’m also sorry that the best we can offer to the families and friends of those lost in the previous seven hundred or so mass shootings this year is thoughts and prayers.

I would like to be thankful for the absence of hatred in the world but instead will celebrate an Iranian men’s soccer team who stood in mute solidarity protesting the treatment of Iranian women at home as their national anthem played at the World Cup and the English team who knelt during theirs supporting social justice for all. The American team did nothing but tie with Wales. Sorry American right-wingers, nothing for you to ridicule and celebrate against. I’m thankful for that too.

These are going to sound like a litany of “hurray for me and the hell with everyone else” and they might be.

I’m thankful that despite inflation numbers and high gas and food prices, I’m doing okay. I have money in the bank and a retirement. I’m thankful inflation will correct itself, eventually. I am thankful that despite gas prices, I will make the road trip to my family’s gathering instead of being sequestered during a pandemic. I’m also unhappy that because of the road trip I will not have the opportunity to sample any brown liquor.

I’m thankful I haven’t lost any family members or friends recently to the pandemic and pray that the building “triple threat” burns itself out quickly.

I’m thankful that I recently came through my yearly bank of physicals and am in “fine fiddle “although with Afib, the fiddle might be a bit out of tune. There are many my age who are not as healthy. I’m thankful I look so much younger than those my age. LOL.

I’m thankful I am sitting in an airish old farmhouse with heat and electricity and a running refrigerator with food in it. I could gripe about the price of electricity, but I could also be sitting in a cold and dark Ukrainian flat as missiles and artillery shells rain down.

I’m thankful I’m not on a dusty South American road trekking to gain asylum in a country that doesn’t seem to want me despite the quote on the Statue of Liberty,

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
― Emma Lazarus

I’m thankful for a family to visit over Thanksgiving and celebrate memories of family members no longer with us. So many folks had less than the childhood I lived. I was truly blessed.

I’m thankful for and proud of my immediate family.

My rock Linda Gail, I can’t contemplate a world without you. The fact we found each other makes me believe there actually is a God.

Ashley and Justin. I am proud of the people you are and the parents you are. I still think you’ve too many irons in the fire. You are wonderful, rocks in your own right.

Kate and Nolan, you are both heart breakers. I’m so proud of your confidence and fearlessness…some of your fearlessness causes my heart to stop but if you survive, it will serve you well.

Steve and Rebecca, I’m proud to call you brother and sister-in-law. I live much of my life vicariously through you…so you went to Folly Beach, did you? I just committed the sin of envy.

Joyce, I’m thankful you treated me much like the son you never had, and for keeping me tied to home, and with it, my mother, and my grandmother.

Kim, Lynn, and Terri, thanks for being the sisters I never had and like your mother, tying me to my home that once existed along a dusty dirt road.

Bob, thanks for being Lynn’s rock, I know it is a challenge.

Lawrence and Stephanie, I’m thankful you have the family you always wanted and am proud to call you kin.

Hawk, I consider you family. Thanks for being there buddy, and thanks for your perspective on the world and God…I don’t necessarily agree but perspectives are like M&M’s, assorted colors, and flavors.

Lynn C, thanks for letting me bounce ideas off your head and your support. Glad we reconnected after such a long time.

I am quite blessed it seems…and I almost forgot. Quigley and Cora, thanks for your unconditional love and the puppy kisses I receive despite knowing where your tongues have been.

To all my friends, known and unknown, especially those of you who take time to read these, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. To my family, Happy Thanksgiving.

***

Postscript

This was written before the murder of six people at a Walmart in Virginia and the suicide of their murderer. Seven-gun deaths means it is jusanother day in America and I refuse to send empty thoughts and prayers.

***

Don Miller’s most recent releases is the historical fiction “Thunder Along the Copperhead” and the nonfiction “Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes.” Both may be purchased in paperback or downloaded on Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0LGf5HUb84nQnPB-sFQF7KaqSOW6sGsSSu1_ltf1FuWh1Wj2nSIad1uYQ

Chasing Orion

“There is a light that shines in the darkness, which is only visible there.”
― Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark

Too many years of getting up early at early thirty, I guess. I am standing in front of my western facing kitchen sink window admiring the moon as I prepare my morning coffee. It is cold and crisp with a strong northern breeze. The waning but bright “La Luna Llena” seems so close that I might be able to reach up and touch it and I have no clue as to why I think of it in Spanish.

I normally don’t have to set an alarm to wake up by five o’clock despite having no special place to be and an icy driveway that would prevent me from going out anyway. This morning my rambling “dream thoughts” awoke me at four thirty along with a puppy dog wanting to go outside.

It is mornings like this that I am glad my “dream puppy” awoke me. Most mornings in a time gone by I would get up at four-thirty so I could run or walk before school. This habit has been hard to break.

This morning as Quigley and Cora attended their ablutions, I braced myself in the chilly wind and looked heavenward into a sky filled with stars. It was wonderful to see and for a moment transported me to an earlier time. It was nice to see Orion was still hunting across the southwestern sky.

I ran or walked early, before school or before the summer heat and humidity. I always knew that if I waited, my labors would not get done and I really didn’t want to feel that elephant sitting on my chest again that I associate with an earlier heart attack.

As scary as the outside darkness could be, even with my “miner’s lamp” style flashlight, I loved running, probably more so walking, on mornings like this…even with the coldest temperatures of the season.

The light cast from the moon was so bright I really didn’t need to use a flashlight. I would climb up the hill on Airline Road and crossover Highway 11 to the drive leading into Lookup Lodge. It was as if the moon was following me, always right over my left shoulder until it disappeared behind the small mountains to the west.

Above me Orion hunted despite the pre-dawn glow of the still unrisen sun. As I chugged, wheezing and gasping, out of what I called the hole and climbed the asphalt path up toward the lake, I always knew that both the moon and Orion would be waiting for me as soon as I topped the next hill and found my way to the eastern side of the lake. I also knew that I would pause, stop timing my run, and admire the scene of the moon setting over the lake.

I miss running and I miss the cold, morning air with its full dose of oxygen. I miss the feeling of accomplishment. I still get up at dark thirty, but I wait until a civilized hour to walk. It isn’t the same, but it is something.

It is time to feed the puppies and a cup of coffee…and my nose is getting numb in the windchill.

If you enjoy historical fiction with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure, try Don Miller’s latest release, Thunder Along the Copperhead. Available for download or in paperback at https://rb.gy/2s3wbx

Political Merry-go-round

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”― Isaac Asimov

Many of the founding fathers believed that most of our population was too ignorant, or not intellectual enough, to trust with the running of our country. It was in fact, one of the reasons our constitutional republic is a representative democracy…an indirect democracy. Well. What happens when the candidates and elected officials act like a crazy uncle two thirds of the way into a quart Mason jar of white lightning? A crazy uncle sporting a rifle…or a hammer.

This seems to be where we have arrived at the point where the candidate that yells the loudest conspiracy theory is the one who gets elected. Candidates have always lied but we have a group who are following Hitler’s and Goebbels’ playbook. No lie too bizarre and we eat it up like a fried apple pie at the state fair.

Politics reminds me of a carousel…a merry-go-round featuring beautifully painted horses in various galloping poses. Beautiful, all shined up to take our minds off what is really happening. We ride them round and round to blaring, garish music, hoping for a chance to grab a brass ring. What do we get when the ride is over? Nothing. We are where we started, nothing has changed.

No matter which horse you decide to ride, you arrive right back where you started, no better than you were when you started. It doesn’t matter how beautifully painted or what pose attracted you. The music may change, you may change the colors of horses, but you end up right where you started and politically, we are in deep doo, doo.

Our political system is on a downward spiral. No matter who holds the power, there are only minor changes on a fundamental level. Fundamental change is too hard. It is easier to just slap a thin coat of paint over the horse you are riding and hope the termites and decay doesn’t cause the horse to crumble under you…just one more ride please.

“Politics: the art of using euphemisms, lies, emotionalism and fear-mongering to dupe average people into accepting–or even demanding–their own enslavement.”― Larken Rose

We’re two days away from the mid-terms and the end of political commercials that rely on fear and hatred of the other candidate rather than substance as to what you will do to correct what ails us as a country.  They rally their colors with buzz words used to insight anger, fear and division; fascist, communist, woke, Dumocrats, Repugs, etc. Just a little paint to cover our rot.

I don’t know who will win any of the elections this mid-term, but I know who will lose. We, the riders of this system. Our election system may be the best in the world, but it is flawed because we buy the dog and pony show that is being advertised. Geared to emotion instead of intelligence, our partisan two-party system is turning us into the “shithole” country that we so fear.

I’ve fretted about where we are heading as a nation, but fretting is just as bad as spending good money to ride the merry-go-round. We will either grab the brass ring or not, a brass ring that is worth little anyway. The Brass Ring is just a symbol and like the symbol we once were, it is becoming increasingly tarnished. It is a shame; the shining light is growing dimmer. The horses need more than just a coat of paint to keep the carousel from spinning out of control. Maybe a toilet is a better metaphor.

 “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” – FDR

***

Thunder Along the Copperhead is Don Miller’s latest novel. The year is 1933 and life around Copperhead Creek is harsh. Farm foreclosures, a looming textile strike in nearby Greyston Falls, and violence threaten both Lucas Perry and Sela Jean Morrow’s budding romance. Download or purchase in paperback at https://rb.gy/2s3wbx

Happy Halloween-Southern Style

‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ – William Faulkner

To me there is nothing better than Southern Gothic Horror…on Halloween or any day. To quote 11 Southern Gothic novels every horror fan needs to read (southernthing.com), “In the world of the Southern Gothic, the Deep South is a deeply weird and haunted place: one of tumbledown mansions sinking into swamps, wild-eyed snake handling preachers, mad dog killers, restless spirits, old families with dark secrets, and closets full to bursting with skeletons. It’s spooky stuff …”

And don’t forget the dark. In the dark Southerners embrace darker themes. Throw in a bit of Voodoo or Hoodoo, ghostly strands of Spanish moss hanging from fog shrouded cypress trees, the sounds of what might be tortured slaves carried by the breeze, you get the idea. Much has to do with our suspect history.

It might ‘be in your face’ horror but much of it is subtle ala Flannery O’Conner’s A Good Man is Hard to Find. In some there is violent horror, in others it is the plot and flawed character development that makes the horror. They are scary but not scary like Michael Myers ‘slasher’ scary. Still, there is usually violence in a rural setting even if it is the mental or emotional type.  

Who can forget the immortal words in Deliverance, “Squeal like a pig?” Thank you, James Dickey, or In Cold Blood by Truman Capote…I know it took place in Kansas, but it fits. I mean having your brains blown out by a shotgun held inches from your face is horrific. I don’t know if non-fiction can be Southern Gothic but there’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt. It takes place in Savannah and yes, I know, Berendt is a ‘damn Yankee.’ Like all good novels, these were made into good movies.

I can tell you exactly when I fell in love with Gothic Horror, specifically Southern Gothic Horror. That would be June 6, 1961.  It was a Monday night in front of a black and white TV.  I watched and listened to a lisping Boris Karloff introduce this week’s Thriller episode, “Pigeon’s from Hell.”  Murder by ax, Voodoo, Zombies, the Blassenville family with a closet full of skeletons…literally and figuratively, all with bad Southern accents dripping from the screen like Spanish moss hanging from cypress trees.  

A pair of New Englanders find themselves lost, stuck up to the axles of their ’56 Ford in the middle of a Southern piney woods.  The light is quickly failing over a dilapidated Southern mansion sitting at the end of an overgrown drive.  The brothers discuss what to do and decide to spend the night in the abandoned mansion.  Never an intelligent move if you are familiar with Southern Gothic.

I jumped when the character, Johnny Banner, is caught in a spooked flock of pigeons, pigeons that represent the lost souls murdered in earlier days. Later, I hid my eyes when the same character attempts to split his brother Timothy’s skull with a hatchet.  He does this after having had his own skull split by persons or “things” unknown. 

Many years later I would read the short story with the same title the TV episode drew from.  It was written by pulp fiction icon and the creator of Conan the Barbarian, Robert E. Howard.  The story was published posthumously in Weird Tales, a fantasy and horror magazine in 1938.  Despite “Thirties noir speak,” it is a good short story and a better story line than the TV version. 

There is something baleful about abandoned Southern mansions, with or without pigeons or Zombies.  Doors and shutters hanging askew, broken windowpanes, paint peeling to expose the silver of many layers of whitewash underneath, old chimneys collapsing under their own weight.  Columns…one can almost hear the voices of the dead and abused in the breeze especially if you have an active eleven-year-old imagination…even an active seventy-two-year-old imagination. Old mansions…why do people always run up the stairs trying to escape? Do they expect to grow wings?

I hope none of you have outgrown celebrating Halloween and accept with glee the little ghost and goblins that will come calling. I don’t live in a mansion; I live in a one hundred- and twenty-year-old farmhouse that sits midway up the side of a tree-covered hill. We don’t have a swamp or Spanish moss swaying in the fog but in the thirty-five Halloweens we have lived here, we have not had one trick or treater. We do have the ghosts of the four families who lived here but no vampires or Zombies that I know of. 

Still, Happy Halloween to you all.

I have released a new novel, Thunder Along the Copperhead. Not Gothic horror, it is a historical romance with plenty of history of the depression year of 1933. An almost destitute farm woman, a damaged World War One veteran who moonshines on the side are the primary characters. Please help a struggling author by downloading or purchasing it in paperback. Thanks, I know you will.

Thunder Along the Copperhead

Thunder Along the Copperhead will be published either October 26 or November 2. Until then enjoy this excerpt.

Chapter Two

Hours earlier, a mile to the east on Copperhead Creek Road a man also dreamed…a dream that was always the same.  Lucas knew he was dreaming but could do nothing about it.  Realizing it was a dream didn’t make it any less terrifying…or any less heartbreaking.  It began…

…with the broken rolls of barbed wire tearing at his battledress. Ghostly, broken trees were backlit from fires started by the late evening’s artillery barrage and from star shells bursting overhead.  Patches of yellow-green mustard gas were carried by the breeze, rendered by the concussions caused by exploding shells.  Machine gun fire, sporadic due to the hundreds of high explosive rounds that earlier rained down on the German positions, kicked up mud clods around him.  Mortar rounds burst ahead of him…the cries of the wounded swelled in his head.

A thousand Marines had stepped off at seventeen hundred hours to plug a gap torn in the French lines by an unexpected German assault.  It was now midnight the following day.  For nearly thirty hours they had fought almost nonstop.  The battalion had been raked by machine gun and mortar fire, become entangled in barbed wire but had blunted a German counterattack. 

His squad had engaged in hand-to-hand combat as they forced the Germans out of their positions or held on to their own.  Many of the men had been reduced to fighting with bayonets or rocks as ammunition ran low.  Food and water were nonexistent. The Marine’s advance had ground to a halt and despite their best efforts, the fight had become another stalemate.

The Third Battalion; Sixth Marines had been shattered but the remnants were still fighting.  As darkness had captured the second day, Lucas had no way of knowing but four hundred of his fellow Marines had been killed or wounded.  Still, the Americans had a foothold…maybe just a toe hold in one of the most decisive battles of the Great War.  Just six months past his eighteenth birthday and already a two-year veteran, Corporal Lucas Perry was the highest-ranking Marine remaining at the foot of a low, unnamed hill in Belleau Wood. 

“When in doubt, advance,” rang in his head and was what he was doing.  Rallying the dozen or so Marines near him, they advanced from shell hole to shell hole, shattered tree trunk to shattered tree trunk to take the low-lying hill still bristling with machine guns, mortars, and who knew what else. 

His vision is limited by the gas mask he is wearing, and he could hear his own breathing above the sounds of explosions and screams of men.  He wills himself to breathe.  The air in the mask is humid and has a chemical smell. 

For the thousandth time, he checked the Winchester Model 1897 trench gun.  He is down to the five rounds chambered in the shotgun but still has his M1911 along with a Springfield, picked up on the hillside, strapped to his back.  Private Jackson is to his left and slightly ahead.  Lance Corporal Patrick is behind and to his right.

Lucas knows what happens next and tries to scream himself awake but can find no voice.  He knows he is holding his breath, almost smothering himself.  

As a star shell explodes, a silhouette in a strange helmet suddenly appears and is just as quickly shredded by the buckshot from Lucas’s shotgun.  As he turns toward Jackson the mortar round lands at the doomed Marine’s feet turning the young private into a pink mist.  Milliseconds later the concussion filled with blood, bone, and shrapnel knocks him down.  The last thing he sees is Patrick holding his throat where a piece of shrapnel has ripped it open.

Facedown in the mud, Lucas feels no pain and seems to be encased in silence.  His head is too heavy to move, and his eyes won’t quite focus.  It is as if he is looking through a broken window.

Something new…Lucas can hear Nate calling his name.  “Why is Nate in my dream?”  Suddenly he is awake staring into Nate’s face.

“Man, you with the living?  You groanin’ likes you about to die.”

Lucas could see Nate’s concern in the low light provided by the gas burner and kerosene lamp.  The book he had been reading is lying open on his lap.

“What time is it?”  Lucas’s head ached and there was a foul taste in his mouth.

“Twelve thirty.  You wuz groanin’ in your sleep.  Good thing you ‘vested in this gas burner or we’d be having to make this run again.  Head temperature sittin’ right on one seventy-five.  I cut it down just a bit.  The tails should bes fine.  You know with this set up there’s no reason for us to keep cookin’ at night.  Ain’t no smoke for the gubmint man to see.  We invest in a submarine still en it would cut our time down even mo and increase the output.  This ole turnip seen its better days anyways.”

If you want more, you will have to wait. Thunder Along the Copperhead is coming soon. Available in paperback or to download. https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0wwP8j5Yo5wuctkwPAluIXwfiO77_nKyJv8c5beGqmSiCejNHKmoY_2aY

Memorial to My Sense of Humor

“I have a knack for finding humor in all sorts of things, no matter how grim. My sense of humor is wry and a bit on the warped side. (Well, more than a bit, depending on whom you ask.)” ― Gerri R. Gray

Once I had a sense of humor…mostly teenage kind of humor, bathroom, potty mouthed, laugh at farts kind of humor. “Here, pull on my finger.” I would like to think I have evolved but I still get a good laugh when someone slips on a banana peel…I make sure they aren’t hurt first. I have evolved.

I found humor in the grim. You know, hiding my fear and pain behind a suspect joke at the expense of a dearly departed friend or family member. From my home state’s Department of Social Services, Greenville, South Carolina: Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 2013 because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances.

My problem is I’ve become too fearful or the grim has become too grim and I believe I’m not in a small boat in my thinking.

American politics were once a perfect target for humor. During the worst times, even our politicians could poke fun at each other. Their constituents could still laugh at them or themselves. Now any joke is taken as a challenge to a duel.

I’ve become too politically correct. No, I’ve always been too politically correct. I’ve never wanted to hurt someone’s feelings just for the sake of hurting someone’s feelings but “roasting” someone was always fair game. Now there is a movement that uses political correctness to become incensed over every little thing and another movement that uses its distain for political correctness to bully.

Americans have lost their sense of humor. I miss George Carlin’s, Dick Gregory’s, Lenny Bruce’s, and Richard Pryor’s sharp and irreverent wit poking fun at society and government in the Sixties and Seventies. We need Laugh-in’s “Laugh-in Looks at the News” or “The Wonderful World of Whoopee Award” or the political satire and irreverence of the Smothers Brothers. I miss Johnny Carson wise cracking, “There is a power struggle going on between President Reagan’s advisers. Moe and Curly are out. Larry is still in.” Somehow it was funnier when he said it, cha ching.

According to Mark Twain…or maybe Steve Allen, “Humor is tragedy plus time.” I don’t guess we have had enough time to find the humor of today’s tragic political environment. I fear in today’s environment, Mark or Steve would be cancelled the way CBS smothered the Smothers Brothers.

Now we have Laura Ingram, Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson…what do you mean? They aren’t comedians?

Even our politicians were funny…I’m not talking about their lawmaking abilities; some of those are quite hilarious. Some were funny not meaning to be, like Gerald Ford slipping and falling and Chevy Chase making a career spoofing it.

I swear I didn’t laugh until I knew he was okay.

I’m talking about the ability to turn a phrase or humorously bash their opponent. The comedic looking Winston Churchill for instance, speaking of politics in general, “Politics is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.”

My favorite humorous Churchill quotes involved Nancy Astor, Lady Astor, an American who married an English nobleman and had been elected to Parliament. They didn’t like each other very much and were always good for a humorous quip.

Lady Astor: “Mr. Churchill, you’re drunk!”

Winston Churchill: “Yes, and you, Madam, are ugly. But tomorrow, I shall be sober.”

I’m not sure that one would fly in today’s political environment. Still, it is funny.

Another and then I shall move on

Lady Astor: “Winston, if I were your wife, I’d put poison in your coffee.”

Winston Churchill: “Nancy, if I were your husband, I’d drink it.”

Politicians from another age knew how to think and realized well thought out words carried more weight than stupidly bludgeoning opponents. Simple barbs yet thoughtful that were more intelligent than name calling or disparaging someone’s wife.

Some favored quips

Bob Dole on Carter, Ford, and Nixon: “History buffs probably noted the reunion at a Washington party a few weeks ago of three ex-presidents: Carter, Ford, and Nixon — See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Evil.”

Pat Buchanan on Bill Clinton: “Bill Clinton’s foreign policy experience is pretty much confined to having had breakfast once at the International House of Pancakes.”

Senator William E. Jenner on New York Governor W. Averell Harriman: “He’s thin, boys. He’s thin as piss on a hot rock.”

Texas Governor Ann Richards on George W. Bush: “Poor George, he can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

Politicians were more creative…. about many things.

Maybe it is just me. I guess I should cremate my sense of humor and put the ashes in a pretty urn. I’ve let mass shootings, politics, the impending doom of Climate Change, inflation, etcetera suck the humor out of my humor. If it is a humor vampire, I’ll hang a bobble head of George Carlin around my neck instead of a cross to keep it away.

The truth is, we have lost the ability to poke fun at ourselves and the only humor we find funny must be directed toward what we perceive to be the opposition.

Don Miller’s latest offering is “Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes” and may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0yXYm7o67oNCZe580f0IHGFtOAndQ4-x_K4txNuTEUZlTfZIvoD-apLtU

Political Football…Woah Nellie!!! They’re Taking it to the House.

“You really do own your illiteracy, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I’m thinking about moving to America and running for public office.”
― Alexis Hall, Boyfriend Material

I coached high school football for twenty-nine years. I understood the game as it was played at that time, but I assure you I’ve never understood American politics. Just like football today doesn’t resemble the game I played and coached, politics do not resemble the “game” I grew up with. While American football has become more entertaining, Political football has not. It has become painful.

Politics has always seemed a bit dishonest to me, but today, politicians are hiding their dishonesty in plain sight. Politics is not about morals. It’s not about ethics. It’s not about governing. It’s about power. Win at all costs! If American politics were college football, both teams would have received the NCAA “Death Penalty.”

The fans in red shout, “Push ’em back, push ’em back, wayyyyy back!”

It is political football season, and the United States is down late in the game and facing a third down and a taxi ride…third down and forever. For those who don’t understand “football-ese” there are no plays for third down and ridiculously long yardage that gives a coach any hope for success. Yet here we are facing what I think is a mid-term, third down, “Hail Mary” at best.

Our political system is broken, that shouldn’t be a news flash. The breakage has been going on forever plus a day and it is growing worse…on both sidelines. If the system were a football, it belonged to Tom Brady during Deflategate. It gets worse, both teams have lost their starting quarterbacks and are down to their third string linemen. Negative yardage plays are the rule not the exception. They should think about punting on first down.

What is the game plan? There doesn’t seem to be one. Let’s pull a play out of a helmet and see if it works. Punch them in the face and hope for a snot bubble. Games are not won by who yells the loudest and politics shouldn’t be about who yells the most heated rhetoric. But…here we are hurling insults at the other team…I mean political party. Just insults and no substance.

The cheerleaders in blue yell, “Shimmy up a toothpick, slide down a pine, look at the scoreboard and see who’s behind…YOU!!!”

My hopeful voice tells me it will be okay, brighter heads will prevail and the lamebrains will be voted out. Then a blond lamebrain already elected reminds me otherwise. My cynical voice tells me there is no way because we are playing a political game of football with selfish and mentally challenged coaches and ethically challenged players who only care about the numbers on the back of their jerseys. The fans? They only know the colors of the jerseys, red or blue, and their allegiance is to a color not the country.

Fans in red yell while pointing, “Kill ’em, Kill ’em we don’t care, we’ve got a graveyard over there,” they honestly mean it. This is not a metaphor. (This was a cheer at my college alma mater. There was a cemetery next to the stadium. It was metaphor.)

The political ad season is upon us. The political ad playbook is to misinform and propagandize and it works. Hitler’s big lie is alive and well and we swallow it like a greasy stadium chili dog washed down with flat beer…and we like it and ask for more. Research? This is football not a physics lab.

Our teams use every misdirection play in the playbook from reverses to flea flickers to lonesome ends, but our favorite is the hidden truth…I mean the hidden ball trick. Distract and confuse the opposition’s fan base who is also distracting and confusing their opposition’s fan base. Where has truth gone and why do we allow ourselves to be lied to? Is lying the first rule of political football? Is accepting lies the second rule?

Again, I hear the cheerleaders dressed in blue chanting, “Chewin’ tobacco, chewin’ tobacco spit, spit, spit. Ex-lax, Ex-lax, go team go!”

In my deeply red state of SC, I think I shall vomit into my facemask. Thank goodness I can DVR and run past the ads. One gubernatorial candidate, the incumbent, launches forward passes of “We don’t do that down here” while his liberal, Commie loving opponent brings up football as a metaphor.

It doesn’t matter that the liberal is not a Commie, the red team will win easily because it is easier to support the team rather than the truth and it is the fans’ fault because they could care less about the truth and just hate the word liberal. Being called a liberal in South Carolina is like waving a red cape in front of a bull. Nothing good will come of it.

Just a few South Carolina truth bombs. “Go Deep Henry!” Preferably out of the end zone, through the runway and out of the stadium. Take your ball home with you.

We rank in the top ten of the worst states for domestic violence, infrastructure, education, equality, and obesity according to the latest US News statistics. We rank in the bottom fifteen in public healthcare and access to healthcare, and despite a top twenty economy, rank in the bottom fifteen in economic opportunity. We rank 47th. of fifty in infant mortality.

None of those rankings matter as long as “We don’t do that down here” and thumb our noses at Washington. We will continue to vote against our best interest because “That’s how my daddy and his daddy voted.”

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t totally blame you, Henry. You are the quarterback but only as good as the players on your team and the fans that continue to cheer for their side regardless of truth.

The facts are this, the red team has been in total control of South Carolina, the Governor’s office, the Senate, and the House, for nineteen consecutive years. Yea team!!!! We rank forty-fourth overall among the fifty states. As we like to say, “Thank God for Mississippi.”

One blue fan base yell, “Go back, go back, go back into the woods, your momma dresses funny and your team ain’t no good!

The red counters with, Go back, go back, go back into the woods! Your breath smells like cat piss and your girl does too.” Infantile? Yes, we are.

We have abandoned all truths. We’ve abandoned those truths that made us what we were, and our political parties hold much of the blame for turning our country into the football game from hell. We the fans share the blame…are to blame. We allow it. We vote for the same old tired rhetoric our grandparents voted for. Our loyalty is to the team and not to the game. Ethics? We can’t spell the word because we rank 44th. in education.

In real football games, one team wins, and one team loses. In most cases, when the clock runs out, we shake hands and go to the local watering hole, forget our good-natured hazing, and raise a few whiles discussing what went right or wrong. In political football, no one wins except the politicians and their rich supporters, and we go to the local watering hole and try to bludgeon each other to death.

Let’s face facts about political football, it’s not about morals. It’s not about ethics. It’s not about governing. It’s all about power. A recent quote, “I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate,” from former NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch sums it up. She added that “winning is a virtue.”

Just like a football game where winning is the only thing, we really don’t care about lies and deceit and who paid how much for a blue chip QB. We just care about the W and the political National Championship.

How else do you explain a football great who is running for the Georgia Senate that obviously took too many helmets to the head or a woman in SC running for Superintendent of Education who has never stood in front of a classroom and has yet to meet the qualifications to run? These are just a couple of examples.

I don’t know what November must hold. There will be fumbles and interceptions. Crushing defeats and winning by the skin of our teeth. There will be bizarre plays and goal line stands. This will also be repeated in 2024.

I know, I will be glad when the political football season is over, win, lose, or draw. I would never say that about American football.

Interested in reading more of Don Miller’s thoughts? His authors page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3U-N4HtAUsEOnyjKd_cVNPL6ywvzooknWm93aa0gGRAVnaIpKPPzIjlDc

Thunder Across the Copperhead

Excerpt from Don Miller’s soon to be released, Thunder Across the Copperhead, a historical novel set against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the textile strife the depression helped to trigger.

Near Copperhead Creek, 1933

Sela Jean Morrow sat in the easy chair, wondering if this was the way the condemned felt awaiting execution.  The thought was accompanied by a shiver having nothing to do with the cold.  “Why did I allow Sarah and the Vicar to talk me into this?” 

It didn’t matter, the Vicar had pointed out. “The church could raise the missed payments, but it would only put off the inevitable.” 

Later the Bishop had resonated the same before saying, “It’s better to own part of something than all of nothing.”  What other options did she have? 

“You can turn to whoring in Elizabeth City,” Her mother’s voice echoed in her head.

Sela thought, “Or I can offer to share the marriage bed with a man I don’t know in exchange…doubt there’s much difference.”

Looking around the study she tried to get a feel for the man who resided within.  Books lined the two inner walls, more in low bookcases under the windows and behind the desk.  There were dozens of volumes.  Most had the worn look of use.  There were many subjects and Lucas Perry had them organized according to author and subject.  Histories, historical novels, mysteries, and science fiction seemed to be preferred.  An organized man…everything in its place.

Rising, she unbuttoned and removed her coat, carefully laying it on the arm of the chair.  Moving about, she noted that aside from the books, there was little in the room to give her a clue to the man’s personality.  Old photographs of his family sat on the mantle, she recognized a five or six-year-old Sarah and Lucas at ten or eleven.  A photograph from Lucas’s boot camp graduation, taken from such a distance she couldn’t tell which Marine Lucas was.  Framed discharged papers, and a shadowbox containing battle ribbons, badges, two chevrons, and three medals. 

Sela Jean paused at his desk.  A lamp and a stack of unlined letter-writing paper along with a composition notebook sat on the right, a pen and inkwell in the center and a framed, hand-colorized photograph of a pretty, young, blond nurse sat to the left along with a fuzzy, black, and white of Lucas and the unknown nurse sitting at a table, gayly smiling into each other’s eyes.  Picking it up she wondered….

“Please put that down,” Lucas’ deep baritone caused her to jump.

Glancing over her shoulder, she saw him standing inside the glass doorway.  She put the photograph down but decided she would not allow this man to intimidate her even if it was his home.

Turning toward him, she leaned against the desk before saying, “She is a beautiful woman.  You both look so happy.  Who is she?”

Lucas noted the deep, alto voice before answering, “Was, who was she?  She was the love of my life.  I’m sure Sarah told you about Jenny Malone.”

“Why would Sarah tell me about your love life?”

Hearing Archie’s Dodge crank, Sela Jean glanced out of the window.

“I told the vicar I’d take you home.  I hope that is agreeable.” Before she could answer, he continued, “Miss Morrow, I’m not a player of games.  My earlier conversation with my sister leads me to believe she is in league with the vicar and bishop and your cockamamie plan.”

“Their cockamamie plan.  Mr. Perry, I’m just trying to survive and have no plan.  And yes, it is fine.  I can always walk from here if necessary.  I’m three and a half weeks from being kicked to the ditch with no option other than joining the working girls in Elizabeth City or moving to the county home.  It may well be cockamamie, but it is all I have.” Her voice was filled with anger.

“Please sit and cool off. I’m Lucas, okay?”

“I’m Sela then.”

Moving back to the chair, she sat stiffly upright, her hands together in her lap, and fixed Lucas with her dark eyes.  Lucas found it disconcerting.  She was a most attractive woman with her coppery complexion, freckles, and upturned nose.  Her lips were full though pulled into a tight, straight line.  What was more disconcerting was the intelligence and defiance he saw in her eyes.  Suddenly the silence between them became oppressive.

As if needing a barrier, Lucas moved behind his desk and sat down, resting his elbows, and clasping his hands in front of him.

She broke the silence with a question, “You have a large library.  Have you read them all?”

Leaning back in his seat he answered, “Yes, some more than once.  I view them as windows to a world I’m not likely to visit.  The same with the Radiola.”

“Most of the men I’ve met are not readers…unfairly, the thought uneducated comes to mind.”

Nodding agreement, “I would probably qualify.”

“You don’t sound uneducated.”

“I am self-educated.  My mother instilled a love of books and words.  As I traveled with the Marine Corps, she would send me books.  Unless I was on liberty, reading and letter or journal writing were the only outlets I had other than card playing or craps, neither of which I am particularly good at.”

“What are you good at?”

“Interesting question…one I’ve not thought about.”  Sela Jean noticed he squirmed as if the question made him uncomfortable.  Finally, he relaxed and leaned back in his chair.

“I fix things.  I seem to understand the inner workings of machinery even if I’ve never seen the machine before.”

“And now it is proposed you fix me….  Would you come over and sit next to me?”  He hesitated but stood and came to the chair next to hers.

“Show me your hands.”

Again, he hesitated before asking, “Pardon?”

Smiling for the first time, she asked, “Am I speaking in tongues?  Let me see your hands.”

He held them out and she took one and then the other.  Her hands were not soft like Jenny’s but callused like his own, her nails cut short and, in some cases, broken.  Still, her touch was as soft and light as a hummingbird.

Releasing them she sat back, “My mother always said you could tell a great deal about a man by his hands.  Yours are familiar with work…but then I knew that.  They are also clean as are your fingernails.”

“What does that mean?”

She smiled and shrugged, “That you have clean hands and fingernails…hygiene is important.  You take the time to clean them.”  Her smile made him laugh.  He had a hardy laugh and it irritated her that she liked it.

Nodding toward the shadow box, she asked, “What do your medals mean?”

“That I survived, I guess.  Except for the wound and overseas chevron, I never understood why I received them, and others didn’t.”

“What are they?”

Lucas stood and took the shadow box down, wiping a bit of dust before returning to sit beside her.  He realized she could get him to talk.  He wasn’t sure if that was good or not.

Pointing, “These are service ribbons at the top, the three medals are the Navy Cross in the middle, the French Legion of Honor on the right, and the Croix de Guerre on the left.  The Wound Chevron is on the bottom left and Overseas Combat Chevron is on the right.  The lanyard is the Fourragère which was awarded by the French to the Fifth and Sixth Marines.”

“Do you miss the Corps?”

“Maybe…until I think about Jenny and Haiti.”

“Jenny and Haiti?”

Until this novel is published, Don’s two other historical fictions, South from Sutherland’s Station, and Long Ride to Paradise are available at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

My Body is not a Temple

“Middle age is when a narrow waist and a broad mind begin to change places.” – Anonymous

At best I’ve never had a narrow waist and my mind may be broader than it has ever been. Middle Age? I passed that landmark a while ago.

My body was never a temple, more like an old barn, some of its weathered cladding falling off, the tin roof turning reddish brown with rust, and one door sagging on its hinges like a drunken sailor on liberty. If I could see inside, broken down stalls would be filled with old, dried-up horse apples and cow patties. Let’s face it, middle age is in my rear-view mirror along with a steadily approaching figure known as the grim reaper.

With the approaching fall, the dreaded “physical” season is upon me. It began midweek with a full body “search” for nasty squamous cells, basil cells, or any other carcinoma that might be found. As I looked into a strategically placed mirror, I saw an alien old man who’s pale and scrawny shoulders and chest had fallen into his waist and his waist into his ass. My only six pack is cooling in the fridge. Not a pear shape exactly, more of a triangle. Note to self, stay out of eyeshot of mirrors, it is easier to lie to yourself that way and not as depressing.

The scan went well considering. I stood in my underwear in front of my extremely attractive and pregnant dermatologist and her attractive nonpregnant nurse. I didn’t know I could suck in my stomach for that long. Oh, the vanity of it all and they are young enough to be granddaughters.

One suspicious area was biopsied and three pre-cancers burned off, one squarely in the middle of my forehead.  Cue the “Did you forget to duck” comments.

Early next month I have my general physical with all its bloodwork and a week later a physical with my cardiologist with the sticky and ice-cold patches reading electrical impulses for the EKG. It is a known fact they store them in a freezer. I don’t expect any unwelcome news, but they do trigger reflection.  The physicals will all confirm what I already know, I’m old…but I’m still alive.

Two quotes about aging by baseball great, Satchel Paige are stuck in my head. Born in 1906, Paige pitched his last professional game in 1966, just weeks before his sixtieth birthday. Due to the Major League’s color barrier, he pitched for over twenty years combining time with the Negro Leagues, barnstorming and semi-pro ball before getting an opportunity to pitch in the Majors for the Cleveland Indians. Owner Bill Veeck knew a draw when he saw one and knew Paige would put people in seats.

Paige was forty-two and two days old when he threw his first pitch, still the oldest rookie to debut. When reporters asked about his age, Paige replied, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” Sage words. Time is a human construct used to torture us with thoughts of our own pending mortality.

A 42-year-old rookie warms up for the then Cleveland Indians

In the two and a half months left in the 1948 season, Paige finished with a 6–1 record and a 2.48 ERA, pitched two, nine inning shutouts, struck out forty-three against twenty-two walks and gave up sixty-one base hits in 72 and 2⁄3 innings. And Cleveland? They won the World Series in six games; the last time Cleveland won a World Series. Not bad for a rookie of any age.

The second notable Paige quote rattling in the empty drum that is my mind, “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” I know the grim reaper is drawing closer, but I rather not know when he will place his bony hand upon my shoulder. No need to dwell on the inevitable. I hope I wake up dead one morning with a surprised look on my face.

Three additional quotes from Satchel Paige:

“You win a few, you lose a few. Some get rained out. But you got to dress for all of them.” (Metaphor for life)

“I ain’t ever had a job, I just always played baseball.” (When you enjoy what you do it is hard to call it work)

“Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way. And don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.” (Don’t just pray when things are bad.)

Don Miller’s authors page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

Sunday September 15, 1963

It is that day again. A reblog from a few years ago because it needs to be remembered by us all, whether it makes us feel uncomfortable or not…I hope it makes many of us feel uncomfortable.

Ravings of a Mad Southerner

Sunday September 15, 1963…I doubt I paid much attention to the happenings in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.  I paid more attention on Monday when Walter brought the CBS Nightly News as the family gathered around the black and white TV, chewing soggy TV dinner fried chicken and cardboard mac and cheese. 

I pay more attention now. The past can be painful. Ignoring the past can be more so. Four young girls, Addie Mae Collins (age 14, born April 18, 1949); Carol Denise McNair (age 11, born November 17, 1951); Carole Rosanond Robertson (age 14, born April 24, 1949); and Cynthia Dionne Wesley (age 14, born April 30, 1949), were killed in the attack as they attended Sunday school…Sunday school. Addie Mae’s sister, 12-year-old Sarah, had twenty-one shards of glass embedded in her face. She was blinded in one eye. Some twenty others were injured and there was another death. Some…

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