Spam…balaya, Crawfish Pie, Filé Gumbo….

“100% True Fact: Spam means; Sizzle, Pork and Mmmm. Someone tell me I’m wrong…”― Skylar Blue

SPAM actually stands for spiced ham according to its producer Hormel.

A pig trail ran through shredded Spam and scrambled eggs, twisted to lettuce, tomato, and Spam sammies, switched back to Spam and fried potatoes, to a now dead college chum and his recipe for Spambalaya. Johnny Bolt, you little bald-headed demon, I miss you, I do.

Miracle Meat not Mystery Meat

If you are newer to this earth, Spam is tech lingo for unwanted, unsolicited mass communications. While the term is most associated with email, it can also be used to refer to spam comments on blogs and social media, physical junk mail, robocalls, and more.

The newer description is an assault on a once proud delicacy created by Hormel in 1937 to sell more pork shoulder, the weakest selling part of the pig at the time. For those not in the know, pork butts are not butts but pork shoulder. Back in the day, they were shipped in what were known as butts (barrels), after being butchered in New England or Boston. That’s how they got their name, Boston Butts, but more importantly, they are the star ingredient in pulled pork barbeque…and Spam.

According to Wikipedia, Spam is sold in forty-one countries, trademarked in one hundred, and sold on six continents. It tends to freeze too easily in Antarctica I reckon. In the U.S., Hawaii is the state with the highest per capita consumption of Spam, which has become a major ingredient in Hawaiian cuisine.

Muriel Miura’s Hawaiian Spam Cookbook

Why did it become such a seller? During World War II, the U.S. government sent Spam to the troops because it was easier to deliver than fresh meat. It came precooked in a can, so it didn’t need to be refrigerated or cooked to consume, necessities under battlefield conditions.

By mid-war, Hormel was producing fifteen million cans of Spam for the troops each week. Hormel was buying 1.6 million hogs each year, and 90 percent of the canned goods were going to the military. After the war, soldiers returned home with either a taste or disdain for this odd product, and Spam has adorned grocery store shelves ever since.

We also supplied it to our allies including England and the Soviet Union. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev wrote in his autobiography, “Without Spam, we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army.” Before she became the English Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, a teen at the time called it, “a war-time delicacy.” “Spam the food that won the war!!!”

Spamville somewhere in the Pacific during WW 2

My father was a World War II vet, and he brought home a taste for the salty processed canned pork made primarily from pork shoulder and ham…with a bunch of nastier ingredients like fat, sodium, and preservatives. People were not deterred by its high fat and sodium content. Austin, Texas even celebrates it with their annual “Spamarama.”

During my childhood, we ate it a lot along with bologna, deviled ham, and Vienna sausages. We considered Spam to be a higher quality meat. Bologna, deviled ham, and Viennas were lunch selections, what we call dinner here in the South. Spam was reserved for a simple supper, the evening meal.

“Don’t knock it till you’ve fried it” was once a catch phrase for Spam. I honestly haven’t seen a Spam commercial since…well…since the last time I ate it which has run into decades ago. I don’t know why.

It is not a healthy meat choice, but I would say I wasn’t eating it well before I turned my lifestyle around after a 2006 heart attack. I’m not inclined to run out and grab a tin, but if I do, I might try Johnny Bolt’s recipe.

Johnny passed over a decade ago. Our lives first tangled in college the fall of 1968. He was a cocky little fellow, mostly bald by age eighteen. By the time his hair fell out, he had quit growing upward, topping off at about five-five.

When it came to playing the saxophone, he had an ego the size of a sperm whale. I was the only member of the saxophone section of our jazz ensemble that wasn’t a music major and played like it. Johnny was at the other end of the spectrum, and I guess I was a bit jealous. What is it they say? “It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it?” Johnny could do it.

We both became teachers; he was band director, and I became a science and history teaching football and baseball coach. It was inevitable we would run across each other when our schools faced off, but in the early Nineties, we found ourselves teaching at the same school.

It was at Riverside High School that the powers that were decided we should publish a “Cookbook” as a fund raiser. Johnny’s submission was “Spambalya so good it will make you want to slap your momma.” Before you ask, I did “Chicken Cooked in the Ground,” one of the only things I learned in the Boy Scouts.

As it turns out Johnny’s recipe for Spambalaya came directly from a Spam cookbook from the Fifties. Teachers are adept at stealing good lesson plans, why not a recipe? I did add some spices to “kick” it up a bit.

“Spambalya so Good it Will Make You Want to Slap Your Momma!”

Ingredients

1 (12 ounce) can spam luncheon meat, cubed (It called for lite, but I’d use regular. Why bother.)

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

1 cup chopped onion.

2⁄3 cup chopped green bell pepper.

1⁄2 cup chopped celery.

A tablespoon of chopped garlic

1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes (use liquid from tomatoes)

1 (10 3/4 ounce) low sodium chicken broth (I use regular)

1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 1⁄2 – 2 teaspoons hot sauce (recipe read 6 to 8 drops)

1 bay leaf

1 cup long grain rice

1 tablespoon chopped parsley.

If you wish to add shrimp or chicken, please do.

Cajun spice mix, if you desire, and I would.

Directions

In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, sauté spam until browned.

Add vegetable oil, onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic. Cook until all vegetables are tender.

Except for rice and parsley, add remaining ingredients.

Bring to a boil and add rice.

Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is done.

Remove bay leaf, and sprinkle with parsley.

Best served with an ice-cold pilsner beer. Put on some Zydeco and laissez les bons temps rouler.

***

I could not find a live version of Jambalaya On the Bayou. This will have to do.

Don Miller writes in various genres and on various subjects. His author’s page is found at https://www.amazon.com/stores/Don-Miller/author/B018IT38GM?ref=ap_rdr&store_ref=ap_rdr&isDramIntegrated=true&shoppingPortalEnabled=true

Peacocks in Synthetic Polyester

“Breakfast cereals that come in the same colors as polyester leisure suits make oversleeping a virtue.” -Fran Lebowitz

Memories of men dressed in colorful synthetics, strutting like peacocks. Instead of spreading their tail feathers they wore paisley or geometric patterns, platform shoes, and flare-legged trousers with large plaids in mismatched colors. You shouldn’t wear plaids with stripes? Welcome to the Seventies where everything went together if it was accessorized with a white belt.

My guess is there is a white belt and two-toned platform shoes not shown.

I entered the 1970s at age nineteen and exited it a lifetime later it seems. It is as if I slept walked through most of the decade or just locked certain memories away to maintain my sanity. There was much to like about the Seventies I suppose. I just don’t remember what. There were good movies and good television, but the music was dubious, and fashion? Read on my children.

It is easier for me to hate the Seventies than love those years. Politically Viet Nam, Nixon, Watergate, and Disco. Economically, the Gas Embargo and Disco. Personally, a marriage, a divorce, clinical depression, and Disco…by now you probably get the idea I’m not a fan of Disco. I had a challenging time mastering the basic moves of the “Twist” in the Sixties, no way I was going to try Disco. Thank goodness for the “Bump” and KC and the Sunshine Band singing, ”Get Down Tonight….”

I don’t know if I should be proud or embarrassed to say this. I’ve never seen “Saturday Night Fever,” ever. Oh, I’ve seen clips on YouTube or dare I admit it, MTV. “Stayin’ Alive, Stayin’ Alive”, but I’ve never seen the movie in its entirety. I listened to the music; “Disco Inferno” is still on my exercise play list.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I just went to YouTube and watched clips of John Travolta dancing. Simply research mind you.

I had beltless flared pants or white belted flared pants and a long-collared shirt or two, but never did I ever wear a leisure suit or a solid white three piece. The white belt for pants with belt loops? Forgive me Fashion Father, I did. Thirty Hail Travoltas in front of a Disco ball as penance.

Travolta could dance…I couldn’t, and he looked better in his flared polyester. Tall, slender, and athletic as opposed to short, chunky, and challenged. Liked him better with Debra Winger in “Urban Cowboy” wearing denim but I’ve never owned two toned cowboy boots or a big cowboy hat with a feathered hat band. I have tried the Texas Two-Step and even rode a mechanical bull. Tequila brings out the worst in me.

John Travolta and a Disco Ball

In addition to the Disco dance craze, there was the fashion revolution. Some fashion statements were quite appealing…especially if it was on the female form. Minis and Middies, grannie dresses, patterned hose or without, bell bottom jeans, halter tops and halter jumpsuits, peasant blouses and I must admit the female fashions from the Disco age were quite appealing. Ethereal fabrics swirling around spinning hips…yes quite appealing. Just thought about Charlie’s Angels and a promotional picture of Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter, in a halter dress. Sorry ladies, I didn’t know what objectifying was in the 1970s.

Original Angels ready for the Disco objectification.

Men…what were we thinking. Lime green leisure suits featuring long collared “catch me, f*** me” shirts unbuttoned to show off our chest hair accessorized with gold chains. All above two-toned platform shoes. Fish belly white kids running around with blown out Afros added to the insanity.

We were brightly clothed for a change…peacocks in synthetic polyester.

Please understand, this is not the breathable, water wicking athletic wear of today. No, no. This was like wearing plastic food wrap. It trapped every bit of perspiration between your body and your colorful, polyester nylon, paisley print shirt and your synthetic bold plaid trousers. Your platform shoes? They became a vessel for the perspiration that poured south of your underwear. I sloshed walking off the dance floor.

A bit of bold plaid, beltless and flared

I remember taking a young lady to The Cellar in Charlotte, a dance venue transitioning from Beach Music to “Do the Hustle.” After dancing the night away, I led her back to my car, opening the door for her like the Southern gentleman I am. Returning to the driver’s side I slid across the Naugahyde seat with my still damp synthetic polyester trousers. Do you know the sound wet polyester makes sliding across fake leather seats? Remember the campfire scene from “Blazing Saddles” or the sounds made a few hours after eating tacos with a side of refried beans. Embarrassing.

Saying I hate Seventies polyester is not strong enough. Hot and stinky in the summertime and offering zero protection from the elements in the winter. Nope, nope, nope.

Seventies polyester was also a fire hazard. It had to do with the fact they were wrinkle free, a major selling point…until you accidentally dried them on high. Your colorful nylon long-collared shirt turned into a colorful wad of plastic. If you happened to be close to an open flame, it didn’t flare up, it melted…into you.

My tastes may have changed. That doesn’t look terrible…nah.

A female friend of mine pointed out that this was the beginning of the polyester pant suits as professional wear for women too. Still, I’m sure it looked better on you even if it was brown “earth toned” plaid and wrinkle free.

I’m a natural fiber guy or at the very least a blend kind of guy. I know cotton doesn’t wick moisture away like the “new” unnatural fibers but then I’m not running marathons anymore. Cotton gets heavy with perspiration, but I don’t care. Cotton, linen, or bamboo…yes bamboo, I have several bamboo fiber shirts. Can’t tell them from linen or cotton…or hemp. Don’t try to smoke your clothes Cheech and Chong.

To be honest, since my retirement, I’ve become a blue jean, cotton tee shirt wearing hippie in my seventies…not from the Seventies. I still listen to The Eagles and Linda Ronstadt more than Cool and the Gang and KC and the Sunshine Band…but I don’t turn them off when they come up.

I have a dress suit for funerals…someone else’s…not mine. The suit is a polyester blend…of course it is. I will not wear my suit as I make my heavenly transition. I will leave this world the way I came into it. I hope that visual doesn’t stay in your mind for too long…but it still beats synthetic polyester.

Enjoy a little blast from the Seventies, a dance mashup. Can you name all the programs or movies?

***

Note: I do realize that polyester fabric is synthetic. Saying synthetic polyester is redundant. I just like the way synthetic polyester rolled off my tongue.

***

Blog image from Peacock Blues – © Xanda O’Peagrim

***

“Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes” The best things in life are friends, family, Jack Daniels, and a good cigar. Maybe a good yarn or two with pulled pork BBQ or ribs. Humorous nonfiction from Don Miller https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09GQSNYL2  

Possum! Um, Um, Good

“Reagan promised everyone a seven-course dinner. Ours turned out to be a possum and a six-pack.”  -Jim Hightower

I am not sure about what got me thinking about possums. It could be the three flattened bodies I saw between the mile and a quarter drive from Highway 25 to my driveway. It seems like they commit mass suicide every so often. I thought of another quote, “Why did the chicken cross the road? To prove to the possum that it could be done.”  S. Truett Cathy said it, but I’m not sure the possums were paying attention.

I’ve had a love hate relationship with possums. I loved the little one on the side of my running path, its heart shaped head glowing in the reflection of my running lamp. I thought it was some unknown flower bloom until I saw its eyes blink. Little one must have fallen out of momma’s pouch. Never fear, momma was close by and when I returned the little joey was absent. Joey is what baby possums are called. Cute name but the adult versions are anything but cute. Only a face a Momma could love.

I remember another trying to escape my chain link fence with a corn cob in its mouth. He couldn’t quite figure out how to get the cob through the chain link. Eventually he turned toward me and grinned like a possum eating persimmons before scurrying over the fence. I tossed the cob after him. I hope he appreciated it.

Yawning Baby possum playing in flowerbed showing all his teeth.

Don’t get me wrong. Possums get a bad rap. Rarely do they get the rabies they are accused of carrying and they are quite beneficial, scavenging for rotting fruit and vegetables, eating ticks and other icky insects.

Despite their mouths full of misshapen teeth, they are very docile. They may show you their teeth and hiss, but it is a ruse. If threatened, they play dead…no, they really do. They don’t have a choice; it is an involuntary physiological response to danger. Think of it as a fainting spell due to seeing a mouse sort of reaction. That is where my hate relationship with possums comes in.

I have a couple of persimmon trees in my yard and possums love overripe persimmons. I also have Blue Heelers puppy dogs. Persimmons, possums, and puppy dogs are a bad mix. During persimmon season, when I let my pups out for their pre-dawn constitutional, many mornings they would intercept Mrs. Possum coming down from the persimmon tree, catching the marsupial on the ground.

Proud of themselves, Maddie or Tilly would bring their prize indoors and stand over the possum waiting for their “Good Dog” treat. Many mornings I came out of my bathroom to find a possum playing dead…and then suddenly it would resurrect, and I would find myself chasing a wild animal around the house trying to capture it in a pasteboard box before my puppies turned it into a bloody mess. The present two heelers, Quigley and Cora, have yet to discover possums…chipmunks are a different subject.

Note: I’m guessing that Maddie and Tilly caught the same possum several times.

I love them more than I hate them, but I don’t love them enough to want to eat them. Oh, the thought. While they have a rat like tail, they are not rodents, but I can’t get the vision of eating a rat out of my head. Squirrels you say. Well don’t that beat all. Squirrels are rodents. Might need to rethink those squirrel dumplins’.

My great grandfather ate possum. I know this because periodically my grandmother would capture one for him. He’d say, “Addie, I have a hankerin’ for some possum.” Being a dutiful daughter, she would set up a rabbit gum under the persimmon tree in her yard and check it every morning until she caught one. She might catch a rabbit or two before she caught the possum…or maybe a raccoon. She’d put the possum in a cage to fatten it on corn for a couple of weeks and then take it to her mother to turn into possum stew…which might have been eatable had you left out the possum.

I made the mistake of researching possum recipes. One I loved, one I hated…see, love hate relationship.

This one is from the 1941 New American Cookbook. Nothing says America like roast possum. Try not to gag.

Plunge a 2–3-pound possum into very hot but not boiling water for 2 minutes. Pull out or scrape off hair without damaging skin. Slit belly from throat to hind legs. Remove entrails, feet, eyes, and brains. Do not remove the head or tail. Wash thoroughly. If possible, freeze for 3 or 4 days. That would be a hard NO! Are we leaving the head on so that we know it isn’t a dog?

When ready to cook, wipe the possum with a cold, damp cloth. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put in roasting pan. Add 1 cup water and juice of 1 lemon. Bake in hot oven (400°F) for 15 minutes, turning once. Cover. Reduce heat and bake in moderate oven (350°F) for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Enjoy.

The second recipe is much better.

 Southern Possum Pie. Recipe from https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/218440/southern-possum-pie/

Ingredients

2 (3 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

¾ cup confectioners’ sugar

1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust

¼ cup chopped pecans

⅓ cup instant chocolate pudding mix

¼ cup instant vanilla pudding mix

2 cups cold milk

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup heavy cream, whipped

30 pecan halves

Directions

Beat softened cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread mixture into the bottom of prepared graham cracker crust. Sprinkle chopped pecans over mixture.

Stir chocolate and vanilla pudding mixes together in a separate large bowl; pour in milk and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for 2 minutes, spoon into the pie pan.

Cover the pie and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Top with prepared whipped cream and pecan halves.

I do love any possum recipe that doesn’t include possum!

***

Don Miller writes in various genres. His author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/stores/Don-Miller/author/B018IT38GM?ref=ap_rdr&store_ref=ap_rdr&isDramIntegrated=true&shoppingPortalEnabled=true

Grillin’ Season is Upon Me

“Everybody says, ‘I have problems overcooking steak on the grill. Just take it off earlier!” – Bobby Flay

I know Bobby. Grilling isn’t rocket science but there seems to be a fine line between slightly under cooked and incinerated.

Not to belabor a point that I have made before, and despite what your favorite dictionary might tell you, barbeque is a noun not a verb…or an adverb…or adjective…maybe. My English teachers are looking down from heaven shaking their heads.

Okay, after much thought, it is okay to say you ate barbequed pork or chicken. That denotes it is a type of chicken or barbeque, not an action. I am belaboring a point, but one prepares barbeque. One eats barbeque. One does not say “I’m going to a barbeque for chicken or steaks in the backyard.” That is grillin’.

Moving along, my subject is grillin’. My subject is not serving succulent meat slowly cooked over wood coals for most of the day before the meat succumbs to gravity and falls off the bones. That is barbeque, usually pork in my part of the world. I didn’t move along far, did I?

My subject matter today is the rapid roasting of meat, hamburgers, or hotdogs…or in my case chicken. I do try to feed my obsession with food in a healthy manner…not really. I also like to prepare it slowly over indirect heat out of regard for my Southern, slow-cookin’ roots. Indirect heat allows me a margin of error.

I rarely grill beef. A man must know his limitations. I can’t seem to get it right. Goldilocks I could never be because nothing is “just right.” Beef requires perfect grill marks on the outside and a pink juicy middle. I blame my grandmother and mother. To them steak wasn’t done until it was crisp. Honestly, I never ate steak anyway other than crisp until I was out of college.

To defend my mother and grandmother, I grew up in an age when round worms could still be found in beef and pork. Yuck. Round worms cause trichinellosis, a parasitic disease that is muy malo. Don’t hear of it much in the United States because we have standards…FDA standards. We also didn’t cook many “premium” cuts of meat. Cubed steak, Chicken fried steak, or hamburgers were about the best we could expect.

Hamburgers on a griddle I can do but the grilled ones end up over cooked and dry, hotdogs that are exactly right suddenly become crispy critters as I look for my misplaced tongs to remove them from the grill. Do I have to give up my “man card?” Laud help me if I decide to grill expensive cuts of beef. Have you eaten filet de ash covered splinter?

For some reason, chicken seems to be more forgiving. Maybe because I didn’t ring the poor creature’s neck myself. Fact is, chicken should be served over done rather than underdone…that is a salmonella fact. So how do you keep it from drying out and becoming tough? Brine it, marinade it, pound it with a mallet, use dry rubs, or cook it over indirect heat…or all.

I find the perfect way to prepare grilled chicken is whole, roasted over the indirect heat provided by my thirty-year-old Weber Kettle grill. The grill is really that old. The legs rusted off a decade ago and I built a stand for it. I’ve contemplated a new one but decided to wait until the bottom rusts out of the old one.

Here is my favorite recipe for whole chicken. Note, you may brine it, use your favorite marinade, or dry rub. You can’t pound it. You must use indirect heat.

Don’s Beer Butt Chicken- File under grillin’ and I didn’t create the recipe, I just perfected it.

Ingredients

1 cup butter, divided (I guess you could use vegetable oil, but I’ve never tried.)

2 tablespoons of your favorite rubbing spices, divided

2 tablespoons of paprika, divided

salt and pepper to taste

1 (12 fluid ounce) can of beer

1 (4 pound) whole, washed and patted dry chicken

Put on your favorite grillin’ apron. Mine says “I like my butt rubbed and my pork pulled” but then this is about chicken not pork.

I am a traditionalist or a “charcoalist” I use charcoal. I don’t use starter fluid and start it with a tower. There are no unwanted chemicals affecting the taste of the chicken. I set the heat vents on both the top and bottom to barely open. You may use a propane grill, just heat on one side, and cook on the other. You may have to adjust the time.

While my charcoal is catching fire, I combine half of my spices, salt and pepper, and paprika while drinking half a can of my favorite beer in a can. Set the remaining beer aside for later.

I rub down my washed and dried chicken with half of the butter and then sprinkle half of my spices over the chicken, on all sides and inside, and pat them down into the butter.

By now the coals should be caught and I divide the coals leaving the middle of the grill clear of charcoal. If you want to add wood chips, now is the time. I would suggest pecan or apple wood.

In a small sauce pan I melt the remaining butter and when melted mix in the remaining spices. When combined, I CAREFULLY add it to the beer can with the remaining beer. BE CAREFUL, the beer will foam.

On a grill pan, I place the chicken with the beer can stuffed up its butt forming a tripod with the chicken’s legs. Carefully place the chicken on the grill pan, in the middle of the grill and cover with the grill lid. Note, there is a stand that you can purchase to hold the chicken and beer can in place but as I said, I’m a traditionalist.

I cover the grill and then walk away for forty-five minutes, about two to three beers in time. Don’t peek, that just allows the heat to escape.

After forty-five minutes, using a meat thermometer, I check the breast, which should be 165 degrees F. and the thigh which should be 170 degrees F. If not at the correct temperature, drink another beer and check again. If chicken has reached the correct temperature, remove it from grill and wrap in aluminum foil and let rest for ten minutes. Drink another beer if you want but remember you might not want to pass out before eating your chicken.

Read more at https://www.amazon.com/stores/Don-Miller/author/B018IT38GM?ref=ap_rdr&store_ref=ap_rdr&isDramIntegrated=true&shoppingPortalEnabled=true

I Can’t Stick the Ending

“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?”
― Kurt Vonnegut

My malady isn’t really writer’s block. Much has been written. I have been working on a novel since at least October of 2019 and despite putting seventy thousand words into word processing, I appear to be no closer to finishing it than I was in 2019. Five different endings reside in a folder daring me to open and pick one…or create a new one.

I’m hoping by sharing this excerpt, I might regain my mojo. It is part of the beginning when I created Gideon Bates and Maudie Jenkins, the stars of my great American novel. I need all who read to feed my narcissism and make comments about how wonderful the beginning of the novel with the working title Jenkins Gap is…I can’t even settle on a title.

To set the scene, Gideon Bates’ is on the run and his motorcycle has broken down on a lonely country road leading to a small village named Jenkins Gap. Contemplating his few options, fate intercedes when Maudie Jenkins stops and lends a hand to save the day.

***

The sound of a distant rumble brought him out of his ruminations. An old pick-up pulling a trailer began to labor as it inched up the incline. A thin stream of gray-blue smoke followed the truck as did the rumble of a gutted muffler. Gideon felt his spirits rise but he had to keep them in check. Many people would not stop for anyone, much less a long-haired, somewhat scruffy, hippie type…. “At least I don’t look like a stereotypical Hell’s Angels type.” 

Gideon was a shade over six foot two and well put together. Wide-set blue-gray eyes sat above a chiseled, slightly askew nose and below a broad forehead and bushy eyebrows. Wavy, dark blond hair was pulled back away from his square face which was reddened by the sun, wind, and Native American genes. Thin lips surrounded even white teeth. In his blue jeans, scuffed Red Wing boots, pink Jimmy Buffett t-shirt, and ancient leather flight jacket, he resembled the original MacGyver guy…if the original MacGyver had tried to field a ground ball with his nose.

Holding his thumb out he watched the truck slowly pull past him. Just as he thought, “Shit! They’re going to pass me by,” the old truck pulled over and shuddered to a stop. This wasn’t just any pickup. An early Sixties Ford painted in psychedelic colors and designs. “I’ve seen this design before…the Partridge Family’s bus? No, Janis Joplin’s Porsche. It is painted just like Janis Joplin’s Porsche.” 

Just for reference: Janis Joplin’s 1964 Porshe

An older woman hopped from the cab dressed as Janis Joplin might have dressed had she lived. Gideon placed her age somewhere north of sixty and she had an old-school, aging hippie vibe. She was painfully slender and tall, dressed in low riding faded and flare-bottomed blue jeans held below her narrow waist with a wide cloth belt featuring a peace sign belt buckle. A scooped neck long-sleeved tie-dyed tee emphasized her narrow shoulders and was worn above the jeans and leather “Jesus” sandals below.

Wild gray hair framed a face bronzed by the sun, still pretty despite the deep crevasses that cut her cheeks and the lines around her eyes and mouth. Brown eyes that twinkled sat below the oversized, round sunglasses she pushed atop her forehead. The mouth below her wide nose broke into a wide grin, her laugh lines deepening.

Her voice was a growl as she commented, “Young man I can tell from your aura you are in a bit of trouble.”  Grasping his hand with both of hers, she continued, “Hi, I’m Maudie Jenkins. The gods sent me to help you.”  The woman’s voice was a gravely, low alto that bespoke of too many late nights and cigarettes.

Before Gideon could speak, she continued, pumping his hand with great vigor, “That is a beautiful bike…it’s not a Sportster. What is it? My boyfriend and I rode a Sportster back in the Sixties…chasin’ the dream from Hot Lanta through NOLA to San Francisco and back again. Well…I came back again. Now, who did you say you were? My memory is not as good as it used to be…you haven’t told me your name, have you?”  She continued to hold Gideon’s hand as she chased her rabbits.

Gideon’s smile showed straight white teeth and laugh lines of his own, “No ma’am. I’m Gideon Bates and no it isn’t a Sportster; the bike is a 1964 Duo-Glide…or was. I believe a death knell has sounded for my engine.”

Again, pumping his hand, “Well Gideon Bates, I’m pleased to make your acquaintance. I’m sorry about your faithful steed, but had it not died we wouldn’t have met, and the intersection of our auras was destined to be.”

She stopped and pondered for a moment, “Gideon was the son of Joash and a great Israelite general. He won a great battle over the Midianites despite being outnumbered. Your aura tells me you were once a great leader and are destined to be one again.”

“Auras?”

Walking to the back of the trailer she answered, “Everyone puts off an aura but only a few can see it. Fewer still can read them.”  Winking she continued, “I am one of the few…the blessed…or cursed.”  Her smile was impish as if she might be pulling one’s leg. Gideon was unsure.

Together they dropped the trailer’s tailgate, “Your aura is of a man who is troubled by more than a broken motorcycle, but one who is destined to do important things and find great happiness.  You were a great leader, weren’t you?”

Looking at his scuffed Red Wings before looking up and smiling, “I don’t know. I was in the army….”

“Yes, you were, an officer I’ll wager…or one of the real leaders, a sergeant. A leader of men just the same. A man soon to be on a knightly quest. I’ll help you roll your lame steed onto the trailer, and then run you into town. You are lucky, I just took several containers of old clothes to the clothes bank at the Presbyterian church in Waynesville and needed the trailer to get them there. We’ll drop your injured mount off at Shupee Dupree’s Busted Knuckle and he’ll have it right as rain in two shakes of a sheep’s tail.”

“Ms. Jenkins….”

“Maudie, please Gideon.”

Breathing deeply, “Maudie, I’m a little strapped for available cash….”

The aging hippie was like a child at a birthday party, wanting to open her gifts but forced to wait until the singing was done and candles are blown out, “Of course you are, now don’t you worry none. I know you are good for any expenses. I’ve been down on my luck myself.”

“I have money, I just have to get to an ATM….”

“Chile, I said don’t worry.”

“But Maudie….”

“Lawd have mercy boy, I said don’t worry, I was destiny that put us together today.”

***

So, it begins…if I could just stick the ending…and everything in between.

***

Don’s last fictional novel is “Thunder Along the Copperhead”, a depression era historical romance. You may enjoy it by downloading or purchasing in paperback at https://rb.gy/2s3wbx.

The Bible Doesn’t Say That…Does it?

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)….” ― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Talking to a close friend who has a family member hoeing a tough row should have made me think when he said, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Usually, as he laments his child’s mental illness and his inability to take away his daughter’s pain, I do little more than listen. I may add a few “Yeses”, an “I understand” or two but I realize, I am a board to let him bounce his thoughts off and we are comfortable with each other’s silences.

He was tired and overworked and when he said, “I know God will never give me more than I can handle,” warning bells and lights should have gone off but didn’t until a later day when I saw the same thought expressed on a bumper sticker. Theology on the bumper of a car?

Being in my own car with a broken radio, I had time to think, and I realized how untrue and dangerous this assertion was. When I did a search, I found the scripture doesn’t exist. One of the closest scriptures, there are several, is 1 Corinthians 10:13, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

Many of us quote or misquote scripture to fit our own devices but the Corinthians quote is about temptation…not about trials, tribulations, and futility. For someone who has suffered from depression during various times in my life, I realized that expressing this misquote to the wrong person could have deadly outcomes…as could another quote often used that isn’t quite Biblical but is Persian, “This too shall pass.” Having battled a mental illness for most of my life, I know that it will never pass. Your best hope is to have more good days than bad.

I disagree with Paul on many issues, but occasionally even blind hogs will find an acorn. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul was talking about Israel’s sins of idolatry, sexual immorality, testing God, and grumbling. He isn’t talking about trials and suffering. So, when Paul writes 1 Corinthians 10:13 we must understand he is writing about temptation to sin and not about days that try men’s souls. (https://www.christiantoday.com/article/why-its-time-to-stop-saying-god-wont-give-you-more-than-you-handle/92915.htm)

Try to be logical for a moment. What is served telling a grieving mother or father who has lost a child or spouse in a traffic accident, “God will never give you more than you can handle?” What about a neighbor who has lost everything to a fire or tornado? What does it say to the victim of domestic violence, or of any abuse for that matter? Or a Stage IV form of Cancer? What does this say to those fleeing war-torn countries or gunfire in their school or workplace?

What does it say to the person mired in a deeply dark, gut-wrenching depression? What it says to me is that I might as well have pulled the trigger on the pistol whose barrel I once looked down. How many people have committed suicide because they felt God had abandoned them and given them more than they could handle?

Along the same lines is the suggestion that “I believe in the power of prayer, maybe you aren’t praying enough.” A subtle way of saying, “Your belief is not strong enough and that is why you are depressed.” You should not infer from this statement that I believe you should not pray. Just don’t attempt to tell a person sick or dying that their circumstance is due to lack of prayer.

As I traveled down my road toward “religious emancipation”, I was told this twice. Once, as my mother was dying from ALS, a well-meaning but bumbling man of the cloth told me that the reason my mother was dying was because her belief wasn’t strong enough and she wasn’t praying enough. “The power of prayer will heal her.” It didn’t and I hated God for a long time because of the misplaced words of this man.

Later as I suffered with clinical depression, caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, a well-meaning friend told me, “You can pray your depression away.” I found the power in prescription drugs was far greater than the power of prayer and once again I questioned “well meaning” Christians.

I know these people do not mean any harm, but harm is what they do. Suffering is a complex and difficult enough subject for us to understand as it is, without throwing in the unbiblical idea that God is somehow dishing it out to us based on how resilient He thinks we are. To be honest, even if it was Biblical, I would not agree that “God will never give you more than you can handle.” At some point we can all reach our breaking point.

***

Image: The Apple as the “forbidden fruit.”

Despite the use of a picture with a serpent and apple to illustrate my post, nowhere in the Bible does it say that the “Forbidden Fruit” was an apple. It could have been a fig, or grape, or pomegranate…or any other fruit. The apple doesn’t appear until the artistic renditions of the Eden story appeared in France, in the early 12th century. An illustrated psalter from the Church of St. Fuscien in northern France (1180–90) shows Adam about to eat a round fruit with what appears to be an apple stem.

Later the apple received outside help from Johannes Guttenberg and the inestimable cultural impact of the printing press. The 1550 edition of Martin Luther’s Bible translation incorporated the first “Fall of Man” scene, it was an apple-tradition woodcut by Hans Brosamer. With help from the printing press, the apple as the “forbidden fruit” became solidified in Europe and beyond. https://www.thetorah.com/article/how-the-forbidden-fruit-became-an-apple

***

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, and this is just an opinion…educated opinion, I hope. You are free to disagree or agree, just keep the comments “Christlike”.

***

Don Miller’s Author Page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/stores/Don-Miller/author/B018IT38GM?ref=ap_rdr&store_ref=ap_rdr&isDramIntegrated=true&shoppingPortalEnabled=true

Beating a Dead Mule

“When the mule dies bury it! Quit yellin’ giddy-up, it ain’t gonna pull that plow no more” – Don Miller

I’m not in an arguin’ mood so let me clarify. “Beating a dead horse” is probably used more but where I came from, mules were used more than horses. In fact, my first riding partner was a domestic equine hybrid animal named “Joe.” So there. That should avoid an argument…but won’t.

Beating a dead mule, or horse, is a sweaty, stinky endeavor that serves no purpose except to stir up copious amounts of blue bottle flies trying to lay their eggs in rotting meat, and yet, metaphorically, I find myself doing it again, and again. Convincing someone of the facts on social media is just as stinky in its own way and as I have found, serves no purpose other than to infuriate me.

Just to be clear, I’ve never beaten a dead or live mule in any way other than metaphorically. My image is also not a dead mule but a very live burro.

I am three days into an argument on my preferred social media site. A comment about a reaction to gun violence has turned into a religious argument and then back to the sacred Second Amendment argument again. Saying preferred social media site is like saying my preferred laxative and to some folk, Second Amendment arguments are religious arguments.

Along the same lines is, “I’m plowin’ over ground that has already been plowed” …over and over again. Like the “Dust Bowl” during the Great Depression, I have reploughed my drought ravished field into a fine powder. Fine particles fly around me with no substance.

How many times have you involved yourself in verbal joisting on social media and had your opponent stop you and exclaim, “Sir, you have bested me, I yield.” That would be never. It is time for me to unsaddle and get off my dead mule.

If I were the least bit knightly, I would compare myself to Don Quixote “tilting at windmills.” But alas, I am not knightly. I more resemble Sancho Panza riding an ass…or being one. I am unsure of which.

I believe people read the title of an article or blog and immediately make their minds up before reading any farther. No matter how much research is provided and cited, facts don’t matter. Facts or statistics are viewed by many as little tidbits that are meant to confuse rather than educate. Facts interfere with our deep-seated cognitive dissonance.

On my blog site I find that hash tagging the words politics, religion, gun control, LGBTQ+ rights, immigration, education, and parental rights provide me with the most views…and arguments. I find myself weighing my narcissistic need for views versus the pain some of the comments bring.

What is infuriating is that most of these “discussions” are over before they begin. I get a comment “That’s bullshit” or “You ain’t nothin; but a woke, liberal, commie!” My favorite? “If you don’t like it here, move.” I never hear from them again. Really? That is all that you have to say? No citations as to why you believe my comment to be a big cow patty. Come on, give me something to work with. You might even change my mind…now you’re beating the dead mule.

No! No matter how much we beat dead mules, we are not going to change anyone’s mind. That may be the only truth I am sure of.

I live in South Carolina, a state that, according to US News ranks 42nd when comparing seventy-one metrics. What drags us down? Education (44), Public Safety (46), Equality (46), and rate of Domestic Violence (43). We rank eighth highest in gun deaths per capita.  

In all honesty few of our metrics rank in the top half of states except our economy which ranks 19th. I wonder who is getting rich? We rank eighth in the highest poverty rates. Something does not compute.

Oh, it’s not who is getting rich…it is who is getting fat. We have the third highest obesity rate for children between 10 and 17 and has an obesity rate of 22 percent, which is well above the national average of about 15 percent

Why do I point this out? Because no matter how much I and like-minded South Carolinians beat our dead mules, we ain’t changin’ nothin’. We continue to vote against our own best interests ‘cause “them ‘gubment’ people ain’t gonna tell us what to do.” We have been doing that since April 12, 1861.

Do I climb out of the saddle and drag my stead’s dead carcass into the ditch, or do I keep beating it? I’m climbing out of the saddle…for now…until the next mule dies.

For more Don Miller go to his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/stores/Don-Miller/author/B018IT38GM?ref=ap_rdr&store_ref=ap_rdr&isDramIntegrated=true&shoppingPortalEnabled=true

Break Out the New Duds

“At Easter let your clothes be new; Or else for sure you will it rue.”  A 15th-century proverb

There was a time. I remember. Little Donnie, a flat topped, big eared and nosed, slender boy of eight or nine, dressed in his Easter duds. His little brother isn’t smiling but frowning in the bright, pre-Sunday School light. A clip-on bowtie fastened to a short-sleeved button-down Oxford cloth shirt over pants held up by suspenders. I’m sure my mother dressed us, and I blame her for our lack of fashion sense. He looks like he just uttered a profanity for being dressed this way. “This is bull…!”

Another picture from the scrapbook of life shows us a year or two older, better dressed in front of our ’58 Ford. New clothes in front of what might be a new car and my neck is too skinny to hold up my head it appears.

I’m listening to the song Easter Parade in my head with Bing Crosby singing it. “In your Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it, you’ll be the grandest lady, in the Easter parade.” I don’t remember my mother, despite being the grandest lady, wearing anything other than a pillbox hat but my wife…she loves wide brimmed hats with “all the frills upon it.”

New clothes at Easter were once a tradition, they may still be, but I am unsure. With all the Targets or Old Navies, we tend to buy clothes quite often instead of once or twice a year…if we can afford to buy and in the greatest country in the world many can’t. My fashion choices tend to be tee shirts and blue jeans anyway, the older the better. I still remember being told we were headed to Belks to pick out our new Easter Sunday clothes and the excitement that insued.

The tradition of wearing new clothes pre-dates the Christian celebration of Easter and crosses religions and ethnic groups. Like Easter bunnies and eggs, the tradition dates to the Pagans and their festival honoring Ostera, the Germanic Goddess of Spring. The German Pagans believed wearing new clothes brought good luck.

The Iranian new year, celebrated on the first day of Spring, has traditions rooted in the ancient pre-Islamic past. These traditions include spring cleaning and wearing new clothes to signify renewal and optimism.

Similarly, the Chinese celebrate their Lunar New Year wearing new clothes. It symbolized not only new beginnings, but the idea that people have more than they need.

So why did Christians make the wearing of new clothes a tradition? During the early Roman days of the Church, newly baptized Christians wore new, white linen robes at Easter to symbolize spiritual rebirth and new life.

New clothes became the law around 300 A.D., at least for Patricians, the Roman upper class. Roman Emperor Constantine made it mandatory to wear them in his court on Easter. Eventually, the tradition came to mark the end of Lent, when after wearing weeks of the same clothes, worshipers discarded the old clothes for new ones.

It took a while for the Easter traditions to take hold in the United States. You can thank the Puritans and their Protestant offshoots who didn’t believe such celebrations were necessary or called for. Many Puritans saw traditional feasts of the established Anglican Church, such as All Saints’ Day and Easter, as abominations because the Bible does not mention them. Others claimed that it was derivative of pagan practices that were incompatible with Christianity. It would take a terrible event to make Easter celebrations a part of Americana…The Civil War.

After the death and devastation of the war, churches saw Easter as a source of hope for Americans…a true rebirth. Easter became “The Sunday of Joy,” and women traded the dark colors of mourning for the happier colors of spring.

One of the more famous displays of “wearing of new clothes”, including Easter bonnets, began in 1870s with the New York Easter Parade. It has evolved into the ultimate “dress up day.” Men and women don their finest, even dressing their pets, and stroll down Fifth Avenue. New Yorkers celebrate the Easter parade and bonnet festival with great enthusiasm and of course, it is a boom the for retailers who sell the clothes and bonnets.

During the mid-Twentieth Century the wearing of new clothes became more secular than religious. even patriotic. It was about American prosperity and, in some ways, became a part of the Cold War’s battle of words between Capitalism and Communism.

During the Sixties I had given up my bowties for a necktie and blue oxford cloth shirts and starched khakis became mainstays. The flat top was traded for longer, but not long, hair featuring longer sideburns. A light blue sports coat covered it all. It was another family Easter picture in front of my grandmother’s birdbath and flower garden. Iris, roses, and lilies had yet to show their Spring colors.

The picture is poignant to me. My mother is not showing the ravages of ALS that would cause her to trade the lawn chair for a wheelchair within two years. Except for my brother, have you seen an unhappier looking group?

I remember my mother being child-like celebrating Easter. Big smiles and laughter as she helped us dye Easter eggs. The expected Easter ham and deviled eggs for Easter lunch. Delighting in hiding the eggs and helping us find them. Chocolate bunnies and malted milk eggs. For some reason, a chocolate cake for dessert.

After lunch and the Easter Egg hunt there might have been a rerun of The Robe or Easter Parade on one of our two local TV channels. Either would have been acceptable to watch and napping might have warranted.

I’ve become more spiritual and less religious over the years but will still celebrate the day. In addition to the Christian and Pagan celebrations of resurrection and rebirth, I was born on an Easter Sunday and will celebrate my birthday this Easter Sunday.  I expect both my celebrations will be spent quietly. No Easter parade, just family.

Happy Easter to all who read this, may you all experience your own form of rebirth.

***

Related: https://cigarman501.com/2022/04/17/intersecting-easter/

Most of my research drew from https://www.fabrictopia.net/blogs/news/93018497-easter-fashion-a-history-and-a-look-ahead#:~:text=Before%20Easter%20became%20a%20majestic%20celebration%20of%20spring%2C,in%20the%20new%20season%20following%20the%20vernal%20equinox.

and

The collection of short stories, “Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes”, is available for download or in paperback at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09GQSNYL2/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o07_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Culture of the Gun Revisited…Again

“I am saddened and horrified. What I am not is surprised.” –Don Miller

Let the war of words begin. It is sad, but by the time I share this the furor over violence will have moved on until the next act of violence against our children. It has been six whole days.

Most of the reactions will follow a familiar path, “thoughts and prayers”, media outcries for change, pro-gun rights folks debate limited-gun rights folks and anti-gun rights folks. Time passes with nothing changing except more guns are bought until the furor dies and we are again shocked with the next school shooting. The debate begins again and honestly…we don’t seem to be as shocked as we once were. It has become another day in America.

This battle of words will be different this time. While most school shooters are male, this time the LGBTQ+ community will be the center of political arguments…and conspiracy theories and “false flag” conspiracies. If you follow the “there are only two genders” logic the shooter was male, if not she was a female. Does it matter to the dead?

I’ve seen suggestions resurfacing to arm teachers, my least favorite out of myriads of least favorites, to we must “harden the targets.” That sounds like something from a war zone or a “sh!th@le” country once described by a naval orange dressed in a blue suit. All ignore the underlying issue. A culture that embraces violence over diplomacy with access to vast amounts of weapons to execute that violence.

The arming of teachers I find reprehensible. Blaming teachers for every educational ill, accusing them of “grooming” or “indoctrination”, questioning their ability to choose books and now your wish is to put them armed in a class with your juvenile delinquents? I don’t really believe they are juvenile delinquents but wanted you to know that words hurt…so does a round from a rifle or pistol.

Another suggests “evil exists, and laws will not change that.” Why do we have laws at all then? Are laws for honest people? Evil does exist but why are we not keeping weapons out of the hands of evil?

Do I believe this latest killer is evil? No. I believe she was a troubled person who committed an evil act. An evil act that she is responsible for. I also believe there were contributing factors. I blame her for pulling the trigger, but I also blame those who helped put the trigger in her hand.

Let me be fair. It is not just about school, church, or supermarket shootings. It is the drive by in LA, or gang violence in Chicago or Baltimore, or the drunken good ole boy who decides to William Tell a PBR can off his friend’s head and misses a bit low with his hunting rifle. It is about domestic murder in the South and the death of college students in the Midwest.

It’s about students wounded while walking to their prom.  It is about gunfire due to road rage and looking cross eyed at the wrong person. It’s about good old boys strapping AR-15s to their back when they get a coffee at the local coffee shop. It is about a lack of empathy and ignoring the sanctity of life in favor of an amendment to the Constitution.

I’ve shared this before but in case you missed it, in 2020, the last year for complete data, gun violence became the leading cause of youth deaths surpassing automobile accidents. Most were suicides. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2020, 54% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides (24,292), while 43% were murders (19,384). The numbers came from the CDC and were backed by other sources.

According to CNN, personal safety tops the list of reasons why American gun owners say they own a firearm, yet 63% of US gun-related deaths are self-inflicted from a gun in their home. Please check my research. You might learn something.

It is a fact that it took a finger to pull the trigger, the gun didn’t do it on its own, and these Pew and CDC statistics do not reflect accidental gun deaths or where guns were a contributing factor but not the cause of death.

An undeniable truth is that we live in a gun rich environment. Five percent of the world’s population owns 44-46% of the world’s civilian firearms depending on the study you might be reading. According to a recent CNN study, we own more guns than we have people, one hundred-twenty guns per one hundred people. In 2022, 1.65 million guns were purchased by Americans, which is a slight decline from 2020. One Point Six Five Million.

According to a Scientific American study in 2015, and from what I’ve pieced together it hasn’t changed, assaults with a firearm were 6.8 times more common in states that had the most guns, compared to the least and the data is limited since until recently the federal government was effectively barred from gathering it. Thank the NRA and the “Dicky Amendment.” More than a dozen studies have revealed that if you had a gun at home, you were twice as likely to be killed as someone who didn’t.

Research from the Harvard School of Public Health determined that states with higher gun ownership levels have higher rates of homicide. Data even tells us that where gun shops or gun dealers open for business, killings go up. There are always exceptions to the rule, but some politicians would have you ignore the overall data and quote the exceptions rather than the rule.

Guns are big money. In an article by Fortune Magazine published by Yahoo, Gun rights groups spent $15.8 million on lobbying in 2020, compared to just $2.9 million in lobbying from gun control groups. Beyond lobbying, gun groups have contributed $50.5 million to federal candidates and party committees between 1989 and 2022, with most of those contributions going to Republicans. They spent especially heavily in the 2020 election, with $16.6 million in outside spending.

Oh, but the Second Amendment…. I’m not going to debate it except to say that one side always ignores two words, “well regulated.”

Will there be a change? If history repeats, I expect not. I don’t believe I am an overly cynical person but why would I expect change? Guns are as much a part of our culture as mom, apple pie, and Chevrolet. Other than exchanging duck and cover drills for active shooter drills little has changed.

Our history is rife with violence, mostly involving a gun. Our country was born from violence and expanded using violence, facts we don’t want our school children to hear. Do we have a greater propensity for violence than other countries? I believe so but if not, other countries have done a better job of curbing theirs.

We have violent games, violent movies glorifying the gun and the heroic figure welding it. I’m just as guilty. Several of my novels include violence…gun violence but the good guy with the gun always saved the day…unlike real life. 

When I read my comic books, Zane Grey, or Louis Lamoure, I knew it was fiction. James Arness or John Wayne wasn’t really gunning them down in the streets. After I became a history student, I found out their fiction was…based on fiction.  There were few gunfights in the streets and the Gunfight at the OK Corral lasted about thirty seconds. My novels are no different. They are fictional…but…real violence is real.

Other cultures have violent games, movies, and literature, but they don’t have real-life violence like we do here. Should we work to keep guns out of the hands of the violent? Should we look at the underlying issues that lead to violence and attempt to correct them?

It is mental illness. I believe someone who goes out and kills multiple children and adults is mentally ill…but that doesn’t give that person a free pass. As I said before, she pulled the trigger but if you are going to blame it on mental illness, other countries with much lower murder rates have mental illnesses too. Could it have something to do with our health system? Should we work to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill?

It is parenting, but why? Single parent homes? Parents having to work multiple jobs leaving their children to their own devices? Cycles of poverty? Again, among the states and cities in those states, statistics show that the higher the poverty rate, the higher the homicide rate…the higher the overall crime rate. This is true across all races and ethnicities and in blue, red, or purple states. Should we work to end poverty?

Criminals will always find a way…yes probably. Should we cut off access at the source? Gunmakers and smugglers? Everything is done after the murder instead of trying to prevent it. Could it be gunmakers and politicians are making too much money off the sale of legal and illegal firearms? Should we limit contributions from the gun lobby and NRA?

Maryland was one of the outliers in the Pew study. Strict gun laws but a higher number of gun deaths. Sixty-five percent of the guns used in violence in Maryland that could be traced came from other states with laxer gun laws. I don’t know the numbers but the same can be said about Chicago, I’m sure. Just something to ponder. Should we strengthen our gun laws?

Cain killed Abel with a rock. Yep, if the Bible is to be believed. I would rather confront a killer walking around with a bag of rocks than a bag of thirty round magazines and a rifle or pistol to put them in.

Along the same lines, “We’ve taken God out of … fill in the blank.” There are many countries who aren’t considered “Christian Countries” who have much lower gun homicide rates. Research Shinto Japan and while you are at it research their gun laws. Japan has a very violent history at times. How did these less Christian countries overcome the problem?

It does seem we have lost our appreciation for the sanctity of life…all life. Our hatred for others leads us to violence. Rhetoric against the Trans Community will increase due to this act, so will acts of violence toward them. Disagreement has become life threatening. We pick some “other” to spew our hateful rhetoric on.

Some Christians will say it is because we have become Godless, I will say that some Christians have driven me from organized religion because they are Jesus-less as they have replaced him with an idol in the shape of an assault-style rifle. If you can’t appreciate the Earth and the people who live on it, I want no part of you or your religion.

I don’t expect any of this will change anyone’s mind about guns…or violence…or mental illness and I don’t believe any effective change will occur. Gun violence is too engrained in our culture, and we pass it on to our children. I fear it is who we are.

***

Research cited


https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-science-is-clear-gun-control-saves-lives/

https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/26/world/us-gun-culture-world-comparison-intl-cmd/index.html?fbclid=IwAR2vEhlMbsPbVhwBEXTyXtC6iUkx2VAkGf37uCdLzyMABlHEDSPSANOacV0

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/lobbying-gun-rights-

https://www.fortune.com/

Harvard School of Public Health

Related: https://cigarman501.com/2018/02/15/thoughts-and-prayers/

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Don Miller’s violent fiction may be purchased through Amazon. So can his less than violent non-fiction. The link is https://www.amazon.com/stores/Don-Miller/author/B018IT38GM?ref=ap_rdr&store_ref=ap_rdr&isDramIntegrated=true&shoppingPortalEnabled=true

Southern Fried Schoolin’

True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.”
― Kurt Vonnegut

For some reason, a memory of a manure spreader hooked to the back of a pickup truck as they waited in the school’s carpool line wandered through my mind. A smelly, just used manure spreader at that. It is just a normal day in the rural South. A manure spreader one day, a hay bailer the next…just another day in the sunny South. Why am I thinking about manure spreaders? I don’t know but I’m sure the thought was triggered by something one of our politicians said.

This is the tenth-year anniversary of my last year teaching full time. Time flies and I’m amazed at the changes that have occurred in public education in the decade since I retired. Changes that I saw on the horizon ten years ago. I was fortunate to escape the ‘looney bin’ that has become public education. I was lucky they didn’t lock the doors until after I escaped.

As I look back on my career, memories allow me to smile. As I look to the future I realize, if faced with the same two choices of careers when I graduated from college, I would pick the other. There doesn’t seem to be much joy in teaching these days and that is a shame. It is better to focus on warm memories than the cold future of education. Hopefully, you will smile too.  

Just like politics, there are differences between schoolin’ in an urban setting and a rural setting…and even more so, in a Southern rural setting. I received my “schoolin’” in a Southern rural school and was lucky to teach in a couple of small rural middle and high schools over my forty plus years.

In a Southern rural school, one sees and hears things you do not see anywhere else. I am somewhat of an authority having taught both in urban, inner-city schools, affluent suburban schools, and Southern rural schools, one tucked so far back into the sticks the only air pollution was the tart smell of a nearby moonshine still or the woodsmoke from the fire cookin’ the corn liquor.

During my high school days, I took agriculture classes as electives and was an active participant in the FFA. I was a member of the cattle judging and soil judging teams…soil judging? I judge you to be dirty. I can honestly say, “I’ve never used what I learned about cows or soil in my everyday life.” I do try to grow tomatoes, so I guess soil judging paid off.

Frequently the agriculture class would travel to local farms in the springtime to assist in the castration of bull calves. Always a fun time to be had by all except the calves we wrestled to the ground. Holding on to a rear leg for dear life, the scared animal decided to spray us with solid waste. I doubt an urban school would have an entire class dismissed because they were covered in cow poop.

Later, during my teaching career, I found myself tardy for an interview because of a small wagon being pulled by a team of burros on a narrow and curvy country road. Passing was impossible and the gentleman handling the rig was in no mood to pull over. I found out it was just the local drunk who had lost his driver’s license and was on his way to pick up his daily allotment of MD 2020 or Boones Farm. I guess if you are sober enough to hitch up a team of burros, you are sober enough to drive them.

One of my teaching stops celebrated “ride your horse to school day” in the early Fall and another “drive your tractor to school day” in the late Spring. They weren’t school sanctioned, just something that happened. In between there were rodeos and turkey shoots that many of the students from both schools participated in.

One Spring Fling, held on the baseball field, required an outfield cleanup before we could play again after the “cow patty drop” fund raiser. The outfield was gridded and numbered; each grid sold for five dollars. Ole Betty the cow was led out and turned loose. Whichever grid Betty first pooped in won some lucky soul half the pot, the other half was donated to the athletic department. Anything to make a dollar and it could have been worse, “cow patty toss?”

One school might as well have called off school on the first day of deer hunting season as our attendance went down by at least a third. Most days there was someone dressed in camo with an orange or yellow vest sitting in class who had been in the woods very, very early. I’m sure there were shotguns hidden behind the seats of many pickups in the student parking lot so their owners could get a jump on an evening spent in a deer stand.

I once told my classes that I didn’t care if they ate snacks if they did it quietly and shared with the rest of the class…and their teacher. I’ve never understood keeping growing teenagers from eating despite school rules to the contrary. One student brought a large tub of boiled peanuts and a fresh roll of paper towels for us all to eat on. Another provided me with homemade deer jerky on a weekly basis during deer season. Boiled peanuts and homemade deer jerky were acceptable as classroom snacks or party appetizers and were some of the best Christmas presents, I ever received. You can keep your shiny red apple or fruit cake.

At the urban schools where I taught, I never paused baseball practice to watch a deer sprint across the outfield before escaping by jumping the left centerfield fence or stopped practice when a parent brought by the five-hundred-pound boar hog he had killed. We were the only folks around to show off for I guess, and we stood around the truck bed and expressed our awe to the proud hunter. We ate slow cooked Boar BBQ two days later. Being nice does pay off.

While I’m on pigs, being late to school because “the pigs got out” was an acceptable reason to be tardy…or goats, cows, chickens, and horses.

A teaching peer once asked me, “What was the difference between teaching at the affluent, suburban (so and so) High School and the poorer, rural (the other) High School?”

I smiled, “At (so and so) High School if the conversation included ‘I shot’ it was about golf. At (the other) High School, it was about hunting.”

If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy one of Don Miller’s nonfiction works. His latest nonfiction is “Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes” and may be purchase in paper back or downloaded through Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Pig-Trails-Rabbit-Holes-Southerner/dp/B09GQSNYL2/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3QCP1VFAVULJY&keywords=Pig+Trails+and+Rabbit+Holes&qid=1679679089&sprefix=pig+trails+and+rabbit+holes%2Caps%2C213&sr=8-1